Hyderabad University, India
An Excerpt from her blog post "Back Again"
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
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.
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.
Hyderabad University, India
An Excerpt from her blog post “City of Dead”
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.
Hyderabad University, India
An Excerpt from her blog post “Mumbai”
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.
University of Hyderabad, India
Today is Gandhi's birthday and the very beginning of October, which means that I've been living in India for nearly three months now! And when I say "living in India" I very much mean that I'm "living" here. As in I have a residential permit with the Andra Pradesh government, which, personally, I think is petty damn cool.
However, when I say that I'm "living" in India, it could also be taken that I'm "living life to the fullest" and "living new experiences" and "finding the meaning of life." As of yet, not all of those things are particularly true. I'm still not sure what the meaning of life is... sorry. But I do feel like I'm becoming an Indian, or at least as Indian as a pale American ginger can.
I no longer have to psych myself up about leaving campus and going out into the Indian world. When I first got here, going out into India was an all day commitment. It was, and still can be, exhausting and completely over stimulating. We'd come back to Tagore dirty and irritable from being stared at all day. There would be some weekends where we just weren't up for India, so we'd stay around campus and if we went out it'd be to the more Western parts of the city.
Now I'm finding that I no longer need to be in the "right mood" to face India. I can just pop into the city or Lingampoli (the neighborhood close to campus) to run to the store or for the afternoon, and when I get back I don't feel like I'm totally drained and wiped out. Yeah, I'm still dirty and it's always annoying as fuck when people stare at me, but I've learned to deal with it. While it still bothers me, I've definitely learned to ignore it and go on my way.
In the first couple of days when we first got here one of the women at orientation told us that to properly navigate the Indian streets we needed a third "Indian eye," which Indians were born with but foreigners had to develop. While my Indian eye may not be fully developed, I think it's definitely there. I went to the grocery store in Lingampoli by myself the other day and I was effortlessly, consciencely aware of everything around me. I know how many people were walking behind me, I knew what type of vehicle was coming my way and how fast, but knowing that didn't seem to extol any extra energy. It was all just something I was aware of, as part of my environment.
To learn more about MC Study Abroad Student Harper Ganick’s adventures in India visit http://harperganick.blogspot.com/
to read her blog "There and Back Again: A Ginger’s Tale"
Hyderabad University, India
An Excerpt from her blog post at
At least twenty people decided to travel to Goa, which sounded like a lot of fun because it is basically just a giant beach and tons of people I know would be there.
We were all changed and on the beach by 10am, and thats where we stayed for the rest of the day. The others we knew that had already been there were kind of wandering around the area with their rented motor bikes, but we saw them throughout the day. The beach was beautiful and hot. The sand, other than being absurdly annoying, was made up of very small pieces of shells, so if you looked closely it was full of beautiful colors. I collected a few really fascinating shells. While the beach was fabulous, it did have a major downfall: Indian women.
Alanna and her horde
As soon as we laid out on our towels we were immediately surrounded by Indian women trying to sell us jewelry, trinkets, henna, ect. And they wouldn't leave. I mean, I felt like a total bitch but the only way to get them to go away was just to completely ignore them. You couldn't say "No thank you," or "Maybe later," because as soon as you gave them an inkling of attention they latched onto you like a spider monkey. Eventually they wandered away, but Alanna had it really bad. She just couldn't ignore them, so I'm actually not sure if she had any beach time without being surrounded. Even though the rest of us were trying to ignore them, they would just sit at the edge of our towels and stare at us. I was getting extremely hostile so I had to put in my headphones.
I just had a problem with the whole system revolving around these women. Some of these sellers were children who should've been in school, and I have always had a huge problem with working/begging children. Some of the other people that we met up with said that the women that were following them openly admitted to be beaten if they didn't sell enough, and they said it as if it was just no big deal, because to them thats an acceptable norm. Another woman, visibly pregnant (or at least with a tumor/cloth bump) told Diana that her husband wouldn't give her money to go to the doctor. Even if these stories were true, which they probably were, the entire exchange is solely targeted towards Westerners. The groups of women don't congregate around Indian families on the beach. One time Diana even pointed to an Indian couple and said, "Why don't you go ask them?" and the woman said "No, they're Indian."
I refused to buy anything or even acknowledge these women, because I would not support their system. Yes, it might've given them money that day, but it's an unsustainable and abusive system.
Really this is just a continuation of my hatred of being targeted because I'm white.
Hyderabad University, India
An Excerpt from her blog post "A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood"
Last Saturday some friends and I went and visited the Qutb Shahi Tombs
, which I learned about in my Lonely Planet
before I even got here. We've been meaning to go and see them for a few weeks now, but we've gotten side tracked or been away from Hyderabad. No one here has even mentioned them to us as a suggestion to "go see" and we didn't know anyone who had been to them so far, so we really had no idea what to expect. In fact, I really just expected an old grave yard with some ancient "mausoleum" type structures. Not for the first time, we were totally unprepared for the reality that is
These tombs were all pre-Moghul, ranging from the 15th to 17th century, and all in various states of decay. However, their disrepair made them all that much incredible. Each tomb, like a smaller version of the Taj Mahal but in stone, still has an attendant, and the actual tombs inside are still decorated with shawls, incense, and flowers.
After the first tomb there were another ten, at least, behind a fenced in area. Some were smaller than others, but all were beautiful. The vegetation and life growing through the hundreds of year old stone made them even more beautiful than they might have been when they were first erected.
Not only were our surroundings amazing, but the day was great too; hot, blue skies, and not too humid. Unfortunately I chose to wear jeans that day... We spent all afternoon there, just wandering around and taking pictures.
Indian Giant Squirrel
University of Hyderabad, India
This is an excerpt from Harper's post "Monsoon Vacation"
Our very lofty goal was to see wild elephants, but it's best to see them in the early morning and even then only if you're lucky. Almost as soon as we began our hike we saw a Giant Indian Squirrel (which is classified as threatened). It was cool, but mostly just weird lookin'. Not too cute. That and a snake that Kaia nearly stepped on (just a teeny-tiny brown one) was the only wildlife we saw. However, we saw signs of elephants everywhere, including elephant poop from that very morning! and tracks leading to the river.
If you've ever gone hiking with me, or just walked with me outside, you'll know that I'm a very slow hiker because I have to see and touch everything. So me and one of the guides brought up the rear, which turned out to be just fine because he told me neat things about what we were seeing and hearing. one of the coolest things was a low-laying branch that was polished smooth by elephants scratching their backs up against it! Our trek culminated in a beautiful, giant waterfall. Our guides didn't really speak much English, but they made it clear that I wasn't supposed to go to near the waterfall. However, I thought that was dumb because I was wearing my bouldering shoes and I know how to climb on slippery things. Once Diana said that she wanted to go closer as well I made my move. I don't think I ignored our guides, I just feigned ignorance as they motioned for me not to go further up the waterfall. Then Diana followed me, so we kind of pressured one of the guides to follow us up the whole side of the waterfall until we were way up and behind it. Right before we left I got my first chance to wash my hair since we left the boat (and by "first chance" I mean that I refused to shower in the freezing water in the guesthouse, and by "wash" I mean stuck my head in the river and beat my hair with rocks).