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Brittany Blackmore, Aurangabad, Maharastra, India

Sunrise Rotary, District 5080 

               I have been on exchange in India for just over four months. It has been fantastic! It is absolutely incredible to be in a culture so different from my own. At times it can also be very challenging. 

               When I first arrived at the end of October I had some idea of what to expect but no amount of research and reading could have prepared me for landing in the huge city of Mumbai. Being from a small town I was immediately overwhelmed with the amount of people and noise, and it was 1 AM! My host mom who received me told me that I was lucky the streets were dead! 

               The next morning I arrived in my host city Aurangabad and was absolutely shocked by everything in site. First of all people drive on the opposite side of the road so every turn felt like a head on collision. Then everyone is honking out of ‘courtesy’ to the other drivers and there is no enforcement of traffic rules. For a westerner it is pretty shocking to see a motorcycle ride by with up to 4 passengers all not wearing helmets. Also there is a wide assortment of farm animals having full range of the streets; it’s not uncommon to see a herd of buffalo or goats being guided through the city. Combine that with fruit wallas, auto-rickshaws and crowds of people makes for a pretty harrowing first impression. 

              

 

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In the first month of my stay here my family celebrated the Hindu festival called Diwali. Diwali is basically the Hindu equivalent of Christmas; all the family gets together, there is a huge feast, and gift giving. Because Diwali is the festival of lights I got to help my host mom light almost 80 candles every morning and night on the 5 days of Diwali and put them in auspicious places around the house. The whole entire interior and exterior of the house was completely decorated with flowers and fairy lights. On the actual Diwali day the friends and family of my host parents came to the house to celebrate bringing gifts of sweets and dried fruits. Then we all spent the evening dressed in traditional clothing ‘bursting crackers’ and enjoying the delicious Diwali feast. 

               Since I have arrived the Rotary has taken us on many trips all over India. We have been to the states Goa, Orissa, Kerala, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh, and Tamil Nadu and have explored our own state of Maharastra. On each of our trips we visit many temples, palaces, beaches, and other spots of interest. My favourites have been the Taj Mahal in Agra and the Sun Temple in Konark. Both of these wonders of India are absolutely breathtaking! 

               Of all the trips we have been on I liked Rajasthan the best, it’s all the things we westerners imagine India to be. It is filled with the palace’s of late Maharaja’s, a pink city, a blue city, and forts from hundreds of years ago!  There are camels walking down the street and snake charmers sitting on the sidewalks. While we were there our group went on a camel safari in the desert after spending the day visiting a temple completely dedicated to rats! It was an absolutely amazing experience! 

               My first host family was very western and modern and my second is a lot more traditional! In this family we eat our dinner on the floor with our hands (there isn’t a table, chairs or eating utensils).  I also have learned to take a bath with a bucket and a scoop and do my laundry in the same bucket and hang it out on a line. There are many other things to get used to, like eating with only your right hand and washing your feet after using the washroom and when you come in the house. It’s also really hard to get used to the servants that are there for everything. Most middle class Indian families have one or more servants or “moushies”. There is one for washing the floor and the bathroom, one for washing the dishes, and one for preparing chapatti. 

               It is very strange to be a visible minority; I have almost gotten used to all the pointing and staring. More then once a day people will come with a cell phone or camera and ask for a photo. Occasionally they even hand me their baby and ask me to stand with their family. These things I can get used to but it gets frustrating when I get charged a “white fee” or a “foreign tax.” 

               My schooling has been really frustrating because it’s not compulsory for teachers to attend so it’s not rare for us to go an entire day with out instruction. That is the only trouble with the Rotary here, they think we don’t want to go to the school because we don’t want to learn or because we aren’t understanding.  All of the classes are in English and I have taken the subject matter 2 years ago, the problem is there is no one to teach us and no opportunity to learn anything new from the school. It is almost time for the summer holidays and I have started a yoga, naturopathy, massage and ayurveda course that is everyday for the remainder of my exchange. It is the perfect for my learning needs and is at the very respected Mahatma Ghandi Institute in my city. J 

               All in all I’m enjoying my exchange very much. The city I’m living in is just the right size to get a really Indian experience. I’m also really loving my Indian families and the Rotary family here. J J

 
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