First of all, Namaste from India! The 3CMGM group is enjoying their fourth week of the semester in Bhubaneswar. So far we have been able to cover much more than was anticipated academically, socially and at the same time have time to do extra activities such as sports or hitting the gym (which is right outside our residence!).
Part of the iconic semester that we are currently undertaking is the Rural Visit that we had last week. Most of us were not sure what to anticipate or expect, and I must admit that some thought we would actually sleep in village homes. The reception was however totally unexpected. We were hosted in a really lavish scientist hostel (we consider ourselves management scientists), and the views from the balconies of our rooms were spectacularly scenic, overseeing the bay of Chilika Lake. With the winter period Belgium is experiencing, I must warn you that the pictures posted will have you grinning with envy.
The first day we went bird watching and we had to take a boat to the site. It was unbelievably possible to fit 26 people in a boat that is suited for only 10! Everyone had to sit in a particular way to strive for balance, which was exhilarating and scary at the same time. This however did not top the experience of the third day when we took separate boats to go to an island within the lake. In this particular instance one of the boats started to leak and there was water getting into the boat, so much such that the boat operators had to start using cans to draw water out of the boat! This threw everyone into a frenzy and the result was that we all started laughing at our own reactions! Memories were surely made on the trip.
The rural exposure was fascinating in many ways, and learning about the facts that make this lake special in India was something in itself. Lake Chilika is a great source of the fish consumed in this part of India and other parts of the world including Europe and the US. This was the reason why we got to eat a lot of fish during our stay there. The kitchen department treated us to amazing South Indian dishes and sea food such as crabs, shrimps, prawns and fish. Every day was an eating experience on its own.
The lessons learned were even greater. We got to see firsthand the lives of the fishermen in the surrounding villages. We rode with them in their fishing boats, we visited the markets and saw how they conducted business and we came face to face with extreme poverty as some of us met a family of nine living in a shack covered with plastic papers just by the shores of the lake where the children had no clothes on. It was disheartening and eye opening at the same time. This gave us a chance to write documents and present them on our experiences as groups. We proposed recommendations, with the hope that they will be presented to the Chilika Development Authority and the local government for consideration.
The trip was not devoid of some fun, especially with the two days of intense work that we had to undergo. We had a cultural night where the local villagers and their children performed Indian traditional dances to us and the class soon joined them on stage to dance too! And on the last day we went to the beach where the boys got to play a bit of football before heading back to the campus.
Now we definitely look forward to the TATA Camp coming next week and the lessons we shall learn there.
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