[Don’t] Stop this Train.

Tamil Lesson #2: Nandri –> “Thank You”
Cultural Lesson #2: Security lines at airports are gendered.

One week down, and apparently another week down too. You know time is a funny thing here. We go so fast during the day that it feels we are rushing through our program; on the other hand, we’re only on day 11 out of 36.

But let’s drop straight to this weeks highlights. Our grand cultural experience for the week was a 35 hour train ride across the country, departing from Chennai and arriving in Delhi. As my experience got a bit de-railed (punny, eh) I thought you’d enjoy hearing the experience through the eyes of my fellow Gator, Ashleigh:

Hello! This is the guest speaker for the week, Ashleigh Elkins, reporting in from india! I am an environmental science major with the intentions of working in the renewable energy sector of the future. This trip immediately appealed to me because I hope to work for a non profit in the future that installs renewable energy structures in villages to provide electricity and lighting for the citizens. I am here to talk about our experience on our train ride from Chennai (south India) to Delhi (North India)! India has the largest railway system in the world and it is very common for the citizens to travel this way. From the moment we got into the parking lot, everything got very chaotic. Our travel guide told us once we get out, go in a single file line and don’t lose sight of the person in front of you. When we stepped off the bus, there were sooooo many people so it made sense why he directed this at us. We sped through the train station, while giant carts of luggage and groups of people would try to break our line. However, we finally made it and got into our train in time. Once on the train, we had to find our respective beds which was a whole different process because of the amount of people on the train in comparison to the space available. We all were thinking the train would be more Harry Potter style. Yet, our vision was a bit off. We eventually made our way to our seats which were 4 bunks to a room and your seat would turn into a bed when you were ready to sleep. Vendors would walk through the aisles selling various items like teas and tomato soup. We were on the train for 2 nights and one day. Our food got delivered to us – the most popular meal was the bread omelet (also known as an egg sandwich in the states)! However, something interesting about the meal is that it came with a pickle. When we heard this, we were expecting a pickled cucumber. However, pickles in India are mangos and various fruits in a spicy sauce served in a packet – very different! The train ride had it’s ups and downs. We had lecture during the day (what an experience) and got to know our classmates even more. I loved bonding with my friends and sitting by the window watching the countryside pass by. At the train stops, people could come on the train to sell things to us. One hard part on the trip was seeing the children come on the train. One little boy in particular really resonated within me – he was very skinny and came through our cart on his hands and knees with a broom sweeping the ground, begging for food in return for his services. This is one of the difficult realities of developing worlds – poverty even with children. On a more positive note, I received new bunk mates the second night – an old Hindu couple. They were very sweet, polite and spiritual. Their presence made me feel at ease. In the morning when we woke up (very early) to prepare for our station in Delhi, I sat with them on their seat. They were meditating and humming mantras. I decided to join in their meditation which was very peaceful for me. Afterwards, I offered them some of my bottled water – a very simple gesture. They were so grateful for my offer that the woman came over and gave me a hug and kissed my cheek! It was the sweetest thing ever. I felt so much love from them – even though they were just strangers on the train. That is my favorite part about India. The hospitality and kindness. Even in brief passing, the kindness that embodies this country cannot be missed. When we got off, I passed the old couple while walking and they flashed the biggest smile towards me and bowed their heads. I will always remember them. Overall, the train was a crazy experience that will definitely go down in the books!

Now that we’ve arrived in Delhi, we’re taking a day tour of the twin cities-New Delhi, and Old Delhi as our guide calls it. At the present moment, we also have the privelege to see the Hindu pilgrimage to the Ganges River, as it is bringing many men along the roads beside our bus. In this journey, individuals carry water to the Ganges in a spiritual manner, walking for hundreds of kilometers. Our guide said that this annual pilgrimage always happens at the end of the monsoon season, providing us the perfect timing to see this world famous phenomenon.

So, whats on tap for the rest of this week you ask? Well, it may include a very famous marble structure tomorrow. Maybe you’ve heard of it? Um how do you say, Taj Mahal? Right. So there’s a sneak peak into the next leg of the trip.

Stay well until next time mes amis!

-Elle

Our drive through the New Delhi Western Extension Area

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