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Kara Loveday
Thammasat University, Thailand

So I’ve not blogged for a while because I’ve had little to blog about. This is because as most of you know, I’ve been sick the last few weeks. I thought I would omit this part of my trip from the records but now have decided “What the heck”, sickness abroad is worth blogging about. For those of you who’ve been sick abroad, I’d imagine my three weeks worth of sickness would bring you to sympathize with me. As for those of you who have not yet been sick abroad, it’s terrible. At times you feel like you are on your death bed, waiting for the Good Lord to take you from your misery. I’m pretty sure that the rest of the time you literally are on your death bed, slowing dying. I have now been to two different hospitals, three different times, seen three different doctors, had a shot, blood taken, prescribed everything in the book, and been reminded of how much my decaying body weighs multiple times (the best part of course).
Despite the feeling like death and constant reminder that Bangkok has it out for me, I’ve had a pretty awesome support system and think that I might just make it out alive. Being sick abroad is nothing like being sick at home: different pillow, different bed, weird smells, and a sewage system that doesn’t quite support the mess that your body is ridding. The positive thing about being sick abroad is that you get to see how willing those around you are to help out. I’ll take this time to give a shout out to my awesome roommate Lorraine who’s taken wonderful care of me , my neighbor Le’Chelle who’s always checking on me, and my teacher who cares enough about her students to make a doctor’s appointment for one of them. I’d have to say I’ve been placed in pretty good hands while dying in Bangkok. I’ve also had some seasoned travelers (my parents) who have been able to show me where I went wrong (Ohh, you actually meant it when you said not to eat raw veggies, drink the water, and be careful of street foods). Got ya. So now I officially can give first hand advice to future travelers- don’t eat raw veggies or fruit without peelings, don’t drink the water, and be cautious when partaking in street vending. Oh, and listen to your parents who’ve spent over 20% of their lives abroad.
So as I wait for my test results I can happily say that I feel much better and have hit a milestone in my life that most cannot claim. That is that I’ve officially, successfully lived in Bangkok, Thailand for a month and although Bangkok has come after my life pretty hard, I’m still alive and kicking. So here’s to you Bangkok, bring it on.
Also, this picture has no significance other that it was taken on my way home from the hospital. It’s the UN building in Thailand!

To follow more of Kara's adventures in Thailand check out her blog Mai Pen Rai at http://karaloveday.wordpress.com/

 
 
Harper Ganick
Hyderabad University, India
An Excerpt from her blog post "Back Again" 
http://harperganick.blogspot.com/2013/02/back-again.html

The second week I was here, some girls were watching a cricket match on campus and a professor approached them and asked them if they wanted to set up an intramural team at Tagore. So when they started to ask around at Tagore I agreed, thinking it would be a fun way to meet new people and ridiculous to see a bunch of white girls playing cricket for the first time in India.
The first meeting/practice was on a Sunday afternoon, so me and a few of the girls walked across campus to meet up with the group. We met for about 2hr with the professor and a couple of students who had agreed to help out. Basically, there was a tournament being held the next week and since we had a team we'd be playing in it. At the end of practice the coach set up our next practice time, which was the next day at 6 in the fucking morning. He asked if that worked for everyone, and I was absolutely the most vocal in expressing that that did not work for me. I mean, thinking about me even participating in an organized sport is laughable, but then expecting me to wake up before noon to play that said sport is absurd. I politely informed the group that I would not be attending the 6am practices, but I was more than happy to practice outside Tagore with them between tea time and dinner (5-7pm). They said that was fine, therefore I did not even pretend to make an effort to get up for practice.

We were originally supposed to play our first game that coming Thursday, but India being India, our game was postponed until the next Tuesday. The tournament was "you lose, you're out style," and even though our coach told the girls that they weren't the worst he'd ever seen (allegedly, I wasn't there in the mornings to actually hear him say this), in no way did we expect to win any games.
So as Tuesday loomed closer we practiced almost every afternoon and were feeling semi-confident. We showed up to our game on Tuesday in total style, all wearing our hideously matching SIP polos we were given and black leggings. As fate would have it, we had 13 girls ready to play, but only 11 players are ever on the field. I was the first to volunteer to sit out, seeing as I didn't commit myself to go to any of the practices and would've only been a hindrance on the field anyway. I designated myself official bag and water girl and cheered 'til I was hoarse. A little into the game some more Tagorians came with signs to cheer us on. We may have been the oddest group there, but we absolutely had the most spirit.
Despite the fact that we were a bunch of white girls who had been playing cricket for only a week, we played a really good game! I mean, we still lost, but only by 4 points! The referee/announcer said he was really impressed by us and told us that there would be another tournament in March. So hopefully we'll regroup, and I'll actually practice, so we can make a come back.

To read more about Harper's adventures in India visit her blog There and Back Again: A Ginger's Tale
http://harperganick.blogspot.com
 
 
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Harper Ganick
Hyderabad University, India

This is an excerpt from her blog post 
"Home for the Holidays" at http://harperganick.blogspot.com/2013/02/home-for-holidays.html

At home, people would ask me to tell them about all of my “adventures,” but I just had no idea what to say. I ended up talking a lot about the cows, which I did miss a lot, but it’s really hard to describe India to people who have never experienced it. God, I hate saying that because I know how pretentious I must sound, but it doesn’t make it any less true.

Traveling opens a person up to new and different worlds and perspectives, but India isn’t just a different world, it’s a whole different universe! I’ve come to the conclusion that no one, regardless of caste/socio-economic class or heritage, lives in India; you have to survive India. 

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I mean, it is hard to live here, especially being a young, white, ginger woman. While its a general consensus that America is a patriarchal society, just saying that in India is laughable, just because it’s so damn obvious. Three facts about India: 1) It runs on Indian Standard Time 2) It’s the world’s largest (most populous) democracy 3) It’s a patriarchal society. 

My guy friends here have no problem going off and traveling on their own, using couchsurfing and having great experiences, but you just cannot do that being a woman. India can be so backwards; they’ve had a woman prime minister, something the US still hasn’t managed, but whenever a group of us go out the rickshaw drivers and waiters always direct all of their questions toward the men in our group. 

This is definitely a tangent that arguably doesn’t have anything to do about my holiday back home, but the thing I hate most about India is that I’m not just a “person,” I am a women and I am white, and here that makes a difference in every aspect of life. 

I can’t put into words what I like about India, because I do really like it here. Maybe I don’t know. But that’s clearly a goal for this semester, to find out what about this huge subcontinent makes me keep coming back. 

 
 
Harper Ganick
Hyderabad University, India
An Excerpt from her blog post “City of Dead” 
http://harperganick.blogspot.com/2013/01/city-of-dead.html

Let me say, Varanasi is, hands down, my favorite city that I've yet visited in India. The city was originally dedicated to Shiva (the Hindu god I've always favored) and is situated right alongside the Ganges river. Of course, the Ganges is seen as an incredibly holy river and Hindus believe that if you wash in it you will be cleansed of all your sins, and if you're cleansed in it and burned by it after you die your soul immediately reaches "nirvana."

We stayed in Varanasi's Old City, which is located right behind the Ghats (which are the "steps" they burn the bodies on). The Old City wasn't so much a city as it was just a labyrinth of alleyways and narrow streets. Cars and rickshaws can't drive through it, so it's very quiet considering how conglomerated and populated the area is. Of course, it was all too normal for a single cow to block an entire street and we'd frequently have to step to the side when funeral processions passed, carrying the dead wrapped on a colorful stretcher over their heads.

Most bodies are burned at the Manikarnika Ghat. Passerbys are welcomed to stop and watch the cremations take place, but pictures are not allowed, something which you'll be told 1000 times if you have a camera over your shoulder. We were told that any Hindu is welcomed to be buried at the Ghats, unless it's a pregnant women, a child under 10, or someone who died of leprosy or a snake bite. Behind this ghat there is a huge well that is supposed to have been dug by Vishnu after his wife, Parvati, dropped her earring down it.

The Ganges has a reputation as being a horribly polluted and disgusting river and we found no evidence to the contrary. We didn't see any floating bodies, thank goodness, but hundreds of people bathe in it and drink the water. I had every intention of bathing in it as well, but then Diana talked me into reading some health reports about it. For instance, did you know that over 10million gallons of untreated sewage are dumped in the Ganges on a daily basis? I decided against having my soul purified.

Behind the ghats, in the Old City, there are a lot of shopping and restaurants catered to Western tourists and backpackers, so, like always, we ate really well in Varanasi. Its incredibly easy to get lost walking through the Old City. In fact, I think I only didn't get lost going back to our hostel just once or twice. One afternoon I took off on my own and purposefully got lost for a few hours. I had a blast and found a cafe with awesome scones that we went back to the next day.

The ghats stretch on for miles and miles, so walking along them and just taking in the sights was something we did nearly every day. That's got to be one of the reasons why I like Varanasi so much; yes, it is definitely a touristy city, but on the ghats it is just so unashamedly Hindu. Cremating bodies on the Ganges is something that has been going on for centuries, and even though a lot of white people come to watch, nobody stops what they're doing to try and accomodate for them.

Some of my friend's had a hard time watching the bodies being cremated, but it really didn't bother me and I found it beautifully fascinating. I find putting dead bodies in coffins and then in the ground incredibly disturbing to begin with, so I was just a lot more comfortable with the total acceptance of cremation. I just found it so awe-inspiring that no one was trying to hide the fact that this city has become famed for death. Even though its a daily occurrence all over the world, its very respected and ritualized here. It's just another part of the normal, Varanasi life.

When it gets down to it, I think thats what bothers me so much about death rituals in the United States. We treat death as if it's always so unexpected and sudden, and though it certainly can be, but really it is just as natural as birth. It's just the end of a cycle, but not the end of every cycle. Its just another beginning, and that beginning is sure made a hell of a lot easier if you aren't pumped up with embalming fluid, stuffed in a synthetic coffin and buried in the vicinity of thousands of other identical corpses.

 
 

Kara Loveday
Thammasat University, Thailand

So this past weekend we decided that we’d hope on a greyhound and head to the beach. For those of you who have never been by bus anywhere, it is quite the experience and one that everyone should have at least once. The bus was just like an airplane that would never leave the ground with seat numbers, a ticket, and an uncomfortably small and gross bathroom. Perfection. As we made this short trip to Pattaya beach, we drove past the non Bangkok part of Thailand. This was the Thailand that looked familiar and less foreign until we drove past small fires on the sides of the road that were unattended with possibly no intentions of becoming attended. Once we arrived at Pattaya we realized that this was no ordinary Myrtle Beach. It was a place primarily for single men. Despite this fact, we had fun with it and stayed away from the madness that it is known for. The beach is lined with vendors selling you a prime piece of real state on the sand and various foods and souvenirs. For someone who would like to be catered to, this was the perfect spot. Your entire job was to sit while anything you wanted or needed was within reach. What I learned from this experience is two things: first, although something is deemed a certain way, you do not have to conform to that and second, nothing is free in Thailand including a place in the sand.

To follow more of Kara's adventures in Thailand check out her blog Mai Pen Rai at http://karaloveday.wordpress.com/
 
 
Kara Loveday
Thammasat University, Thailand

So yesterday, after sitting through a course about Thai food, we decided to become more gutsy about what we were eating here. For the first few days, everything looks foreign and dangerous to eat. This is partly due to the fact that I do not understand the language in which things are described in and more so because everything is cooked on the street. As an American, I have been raised to believe that what we eat should be of the most quality in terms of freshness, cleanlyness, and type of food. That’s why we eat McDonalds and Taco Bell. This week I’ve learned to come away from the traditional views about food and try something new. The picture is of the most amazing street food! It’s rice with fresh veggies and chicken. The lady who made it literally cut the veggies in front of my face. There is also egg in this dish. Egg that had been sitting out on a hot street corner all day. As an American I think how dangerous the egg is without refridigeration but the truth is that fresh eggs do not need to be refriderated. It was amazing and way more than I could ever imagin eating. This fresh meal cost me $1. So my lesson I’ve learned this week is eat to learn about the area, culture, truth about food and also learn to eat things that might not seems so appealing at first.

To follow more of Kara's adventures in Thailand check out her blog Mai Pen Rai at http://karaloveday.wordpress.com/
 
 
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Kara Loveday
Thammasat University, Thailand

This week I have learned many things about the Thai culture, one of which I feel is very important for those who truly want to emerse themselves in it. This is the wai. The wai is a traditional Thai greeting that is displayed in a few different forms. Because Thai culture is based traditionally on hirachy, each wai is developed from ones status in society. For example, if I was to wai at a monk, it would look very reverent because he is of a high status in Thai society. My hands would be at the top of my forehead, pressed firmly together, with my sholders bowed toward the monk. If I was greating a child, my hands would be at my chest, pressed firmly together, with a slight bow in my sholders.
As a person in a foreign land, showing reverence for those who claim this culture is important. It signifies an understanding of their culture, even if you do not agree with the the ideas behind it. Respect the hiarchy and follow it traditonally. Do not do it to fit in or look like you belong. Wai because you understand and embrace the culture. Wai because you respect the Thai people. Remember, you are on someone else’s turf so do as they do, wai.

This week I have learned many things about the Thai culture, one of which I feel is very important for those who truly want to emerse themselves in it. This is the wai. The wai is a traditional Thai greeting that is displayed in a few different forms. Because Thai culture is based traditionally on hirachy, each wai is developed from ones status in society. For example, if I was to wai at a monk, it would look very reverent because he is of a high status in Thai society. My hands would be at the top of my forehead, pressed firmly together, with my sholders bowed toward the monk. If I was greating a child, my hands would be at my chest, pressed firmly together, with a slight bow in my sholders.
As a person in a foreign land, showing reverence for those who claim this culture is important. It signifies an understanding of their culture, even if you do not agree with the the ideas behind it. Respect the hiarchy and follow it traditonally. Do not do it to fit in or look like you belong. Wai because you understand and embrace the culture. Wai because you respect the Thai people. Remember, you are on someone else’s turf so do as they do, wai.

To follow more of Kara's adventures in Thailand check out her blog Mai Pen Rai at http://karaloveday.wordpress.com/


 
 
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Tara Townsend  
Yonsei University 

Now that the time is soon coming to a close, mixed emotions are flying. I've made great friends and had a good experience overall. Yet at the same time I know I must go back to finish what I started,  one of my korean friends who went abroad to the States was trying to explain all these emotions I am feeling. I think to have friends that have gone through similar situations is what really helps. I think by trying to meet all sorts of people, has in a way been a stepping stone to me becoming a mature adult. But it's not just about meeting people that will help, but also the experiences I have had. I didnt do anything like go to concerts or anything big; but the small moments--visitng families, actually starving for a weeks, going through depression, laughing with friends in their room, having hot chocolate with a professor and classmate. These are what made my trip worth remembering, so that as I continue my adventure elsewhere, I will not forget what I went through in Korea. I think now that I am able to sit and ponder, its finally hitting me that I want to come back and maybe teach children here for awhile. I know that I want to go to grad school, yet at the same time I want to do something different than sociology for right now. If I allow myself to explore a little more, I truly believe that when it comes time to go to grad school, I will be ready with a purpose and course of action. Yesterday was great, I had hot chocolate with one of my  professors and a classmate, but I also got to meet a grad student at Yonsei--sociology major actually. I really enjoyed talking with her,  though she is just beginning grad school; it was nice to get her thoughts. 

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The one downfall of this, the classes were good but they didnt give me any homework :( Yea that I wasnt prepared for and didnt know how to cope while others had lots of homework. And of course now that it is getting down to the end, they want to give essays and finals. But in all honesty, I'm taking four classes, one class I have quiz every week and one final, my other three I just have final essay and thats it. Easy ride all the way through.  I will miss my professors, they truly made me feel welcomed and valued my input as a foreigner. 

Thank you Korea^^ Lets meet again!

 
 
Tara Townsend  
Yonsei University 

Time doesnt seem to care what you are doing, or even where you are at. I still can't believe that I've been in South Korea about four months. I can still remember going through security and boarding the plane, wow, time sure does fly. I have enjoyed every moment of my journey and still am; I have had the opportunity to meet new people, eat great food, and see another part of the world that some might never get to see. The moments that I have gone through, I think have helped in some way shape my character. It will later reflect later in life, when I am in a job or interacting with other people in another country. I recently just returned from a small town on the outskirts of Seoul with a friend of mine. I loved it so much that I didnt want to leave but I knew that I had to :( While with my friend, we visited her family and there I got to see how the family interacted, plus I got to help with making kimchi, samgapsa (grilled pork) all of it was delicious. It was fun being surrounded by the family who loved having me. 
  My classes are fairly easy and are taught in English, though my one professor after lectures if there is time left over will give a Korean overview of the lecture for the Koreans in the class. I stay and listen which makes the material a little more interesting. I think all my classes are fairly interesting because each has something unqiue about them. The only downfall is the reading, I don't have homework just reading :-/ I have to say that this is way better than loads of homework but after awhile it becomes boring. 
Weeks ago, I had an encounter with a mother and baby at the red light. We were waiting to cross the street together and I couldnt help but look over and there was a mom with a baby strapped to her in the front. The baby was all cheeks and just stared at me, well I couldnt help but smile and try to make the baby smile. No such luck, the baby kept staring and nothing else. The mom who noticed my attempt smiled at me and would occasionally look at her baby to see the reaction. The babies I noticed are in my opinion a little more cuter than some American babies; I'm not sure if it's because of the extra chubbiness or what but they are.
Only five more weeks and then vacation. I won't know what to do with myself but when it does come, I'll only think about eating, sleeping and relaxing!
 

Mumbai

11/18/2012

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Harper Ganick
Hyderabad University, India
An Excerpt from her blog post “Mumbai” 
http://harperganick.blogspot.com/2012/11/mumbai.html

One of the most striking things about India, and Mumbai in particular, is how close in proximity the rich and poor live together. I've been in India for about 5months now, and I've never seen as many beggars as I did in Mumbai, particularly children. Mumbai is home to Dharavi Slum, Asia's largest slum, in population, not area, and its located between two major railways in the middle of the city. Strangely enough, the shape of the slum is actually quite similar to a heart, so the slum is also called "The Heart of Mumbai."

I know this is going to sound weird, but one of the best things we did was go on a slum tour. It was recommended to us by both Lonely Planet and another group of friends that went to Mumbai several weeks earlier. We went with a company called Reality Tours, and they put 80% of the money you pay for the tour back into the slum. They've built schools, a community center, and various art projects. A couple of the girls had reservations about taking a slum tour, for obvious reasons, but I actually didn't. I felt really good about going with Reality Tours, but part of me also knew that if we didn't take a slum tour I probably would've just taken it upon myself to walk through the slum, which definitely would not have been safe.

The Industrial District is definitely the most dangerous and poorest part of the slum. The working conditions are horrible and ridiculously unhealthy. I mean, these men are melting plastic bottles and aluminum cans all day and inhaling all of those toxic fumes. According to our guide, these workers come from small farming villages up North when its no longer harvest season. The factory owners let them sleep in the factory at night (which also provides the factory with free security) so the workers are always on time. Depending on the factory owner, some of the workers are compensated for on-the-job injuries, but not always. Most of the factories provide protective wear, but in the Mumbai heat wearing a thick suit and gloves while working around an incinerator all day is not ideal. 

One of the most enlightening things I learned was that nearly everyone living in the slum has a stable job. Of course the Muslim women can't work, but people who live in Dharavi are taxi drivers, waiters, janitors, ect. I had always kind of assumed that the beggars we encountered wandered around the streets during the day, but then went back to their house in the slum at night. While the people living in Dharavi are poor, they aren't living on the streets, which means that the beggars who live on the street literally have nothing except what they can carry on their person, and considering all the street children there are in Mumbai, realizing that is very unsettling. 

The Muslim area was very cramped, with tight winding passages and stacked, multi-story buildings. However, the Hindu area had more open-air and was noticeably cleaner (Our guide said this was because keeping a clean house was so important in Hinduism, but I think he was Hindu so I'm sure he's biased). 

Near the Muslim-Hindu community divide there was an open space, covered in garbage, where a bunch of kids were playing cricket and running around. Unless a child is potty trained I think Indian parents find it pointless to even put pants on that child, so there was a whole bunch of naked toddlers running around Mumbai. Consequently, I don't think I've ever seen so many little toddler penises and I'll be quite fine if I never see so many again. However, while we were in the area where the kids were playing we kind of integrated ourselves with the kids and played with them for a bit. I put myself on official "pants-patrol," so if any little kid that actually had pants was showing a half-moon or a bit of crack I'd walk over and help to pull their pants back up.