Highlights From Our Indian Semester

Sleeper Train!

Last week marked the end of our Indian semester. It was starting to get unbearably hot so we were kind of glad to get out of there, but at the same time we were sad that we would leave some incredible memories that we made while there. The knowledge and networks acquired were invaluable. Here are some of the best highlights we had.

1. We got to celebrate 7 birthdays this semester! The birthday kids were Ameyo, Ashley, Nipun, Lisa, Katarin, Femke and Thomas crowned the end of the semester with his birthday party that was combined with our end of semester party. Most of us were celebrating our birthdays away from home but we made it special for each other.

2. The visit to Chilika Lake was spectacular. We highlighted the series of events in our previous blog. You can follow the link right here.

3. We had an outdoor leadership camp hosted by Tata Steel Adventure Foundation. Four days of team building activities that included rock climbing, zip lining, sleeping in camping tents, mountain climbing and still water rafting. The best part of the week was when we got chicken from a neighbouring village and Aman emerged from the bushes at night with a pot of chicken, sneaky chicken is tasteful. Watching the stars from the top of a flat rock and cooking for ourselves using firewood was also incredible. Here is a blog I wrote about the value of this experience.

4. Most of us got to have a taste of Delhi and the incomparable Taj Mahal, one of the wonders of the world. The iconic building is crafted to perfection, the marble is carved amazingly, so well maintained such that you need shoe covers to walk around it. If you get a chance to visit India, Taj Mahal is a must go, they say that in January and February they receive an average of 5000 visitors a day!

5. We got to experience an Indian wedding. This is something that is incredibly amazing! Vidisha’s elder brother was getting married and we got to attend two out of 5 days of the wedding. The experience was invaluable and is highlighted in my blog. I am a wedding lover, this was definitely worth it.

6. Using sleeper trains was a new phenomenon. India is a vast nation, so there is a great chance that you will need to use a sleeper train. These trains have air conditioning and tiny beds, they offer you bedsheets, a blanket and a pillow. We had trips several times, but the longest we ever had was the trip from Patna to Bhubaneswar, 16 hours of hearing vendors shouting Paanee (water), chaiiii (tea) and biriyani.

7. Volunteering at Asha Kiran, this is a girls’ orphanage that houses 21 orphaned and destitute girls. Seeing these girls was such a blessing, and we got to leave an impact in their lives by purchasing beds for them, they were previously sleeping on the floor with no mattresses. We even got to donate home supplies and bedding for them. At the end of it all Pratap the founder got us flowers to bid us goodbye at the airport.

8. How could I forget the tuk tuks and the madness that is on the roads, by the end of the semester we became experts at bargaining for tuk tuks, we knew how to get line tuk tuks that are super cheap. Like 5 rupees cheap, that is like 5 cents. Boy was life cheap in India… The traffic is crazy but it all works seamlessly, and that is the beauty of it all.

9. Our favourite restaurants that we frequented in Bhubaneswar included Tulus, X Cafe, the mess, Fusion Cafe, Green Chillies and Sonu’s Cave. These restaurants offered both Indian and continental cuisines. not forgetting the fresh fruit salad vendor and Mr. Most Welcome. (He was a shop vendor who always told us “Most Welcome” after selling us stuff, sweetest guy ever).