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Visions of India Semester, Fall 2012


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On Mon, Nov 26, 2012 at 11:48 PM, maya ali<mayabear94@gmail.com>wrote:
Yak Yak:

I neglected to mention our lovely trip to Bodh Gaya in my last Yak. It was lovely, peaceful and a nice break from the constant rush of Varanasi. The four hour car ride passed quickly because the car was constantly filled with dancing and signing to Indian songs being played through the radio speakers. Even spending 3 days in Bodh Gaya I started missing my home here in Varanasi. Then there was the Bodhi tree. Siting under it, watching all types of people pass by and pay their respects to the tree. With all the candles lighting up the surroundings as the darkness of night started to settle I understood what a holy place I was sitting in. The chanting was non-stop, and a bit haunting but the energy was so calm and serene that I felt content just siting and observing.

On Nov. 13th there was a festival called Divawli. It was lovely but also quite intense. People experimenting with fireworks and firecrackers everywhere, in the streets, alleys, and on roofs of houses . It was like a battlefield and never ceased to startle me. But ofor the most part its a happy holiday and people really seem to enjoy it.

Otherwise I'm sitting in Hindi class, writing verb tenses. Music floating into the classroom from one of the neighboring houses. Today some of the music was Arab, so funny that hearing it made me homesick. Anyways back to learning Hindi, we are learning to make sentences, which is so exciting. I have really found my passion for language, it's really blossomed over here. Being so immersed in the culture and having to use the Hindi we learn on the daily. I hope that I never lose this interest and appetite to learn and understand different languages, it's such a window into other cultures. I have realized that I really love being taken out of my comfort zone and guided into a new one in terms of language. I have been really happy with this realization because it gives me good insight into what I want to do/study in the future.

All in all, this was an INCREDIBLE trip. I don't think I would go back and change anything about it! I've learned a lot here, that I really hope to take home with me and apply to my life. One of the things I've learned here is that everything in your life really isn't in your control. Even when you think you know what you are doing and where it will take you, the universe can give you somethingcompletelydifferent. Life is chaos, and it becomes really apparent here in Varanasi. This place really throws you, the skill is to find ways to enjoy, laugh, revive and survive through all that the city puts you through. It makes you climb your way back up, define what's what and what-what you really need and what makes you happy. What makes you okay. I'm sure I have much more to learn from this city-but for now it is goodbye and down to Bangalore for me. [post_title] => Goodbye Varanasi-city of light [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => goodbye-varanasi-city-of-light [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2012-12-07 00:00:00 [post_modified_gmt] => 1970-01-01 00:00:00 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://yakyak.chandigarhsoftware.com/?p=39306 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw [categories] => Array ( [0] => WP_Term Object ( [term_id] => 283 [name] => Visions of India Semester, Fall 2012 [slug] => visions-of-india-semester-fall-2012 [term_group] => 0 [term_taxonomy_id] => 283 [taxonomy] => category [description] => [parent] => 243 [count] => 106 [filter] => raw [term_order] => 14.1 [cat_ID] => 283 [category_count] => 106 [category_description] => [cat_name] => Visions of India Semester, Fall 2012 [category_nicename] => visions-of-india-semester-fall-2012 [category_parent] => 243 [link] => https://my.wheretherebedragons.com/category/fall-2012/visions-of-india-semester-fall-2012/ ) ) [category_links] => Visions of India Semester, Fall 2012 )

Visions of India Semester, Fall 2012

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Goodbye Varanasi-city of light

Maya Katz-Ali,Visions of India Semester, Fall 2012

Description

On Mon, Nov 26, 2012 at 11:48 PM, maya ali<mayabear94@gmail.com>wrote: Yak Yak: I neglected to mention our lovely trip to Bodh Gaya in my last Yak. It was lovely, peaceful and a nice break from the constant rush of Varanasi. The four hour car ride passed quickly because the car was constantly filled with dancing […]

Posted On

12/7/12

Author

Maya Katz-Ali

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Dear Family and Friends,

We just got back from dropping the students off at the airport in New Delhi. After three incredible months together, our (courageous, magical, brilliant) students are on their way home ready to integrate all that they have learned in India into their lives in America. We have spent the last week preparing for their return. After a few days of reflection at a lodge near the grove where the Buddha gave his first teachings, a trip to the Taj Mahal, and lots of long, celebratory meals, the students are feeling strong, healthy, and ready to see what their next chapter holds.

We instructors have derived such joy from baring witness to the greatness your children/grandchildren/siblings/cousins/friends have displayed during this semester in India. Walking alongside these students has really, truly been a gift.

Sincerely,

Matt (Anand) & Jyoti (Elizabeth)

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Visions of India Semester, Fall 2012

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Students on their way home!

Matt & Elizabeth,Visions of India Semester, Fall 2012

Description

Dear Family and Friends, We just got back from dropping the students off at the airport in New Delhi. After three incredible months together, our (courageous, magical, brilliant) students are on their way home ready to integrate all that they have learned in India into their lives in America. We have spent the last week […]

Posted On

12/6/12

Author

Matt & Elizabeth

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Dear India Watchers,

Last week, I made a trip to Varanasi. We’re about to send out a Dragons Newsletter, in which I’ve written a reflection on an encounter I once had with a baby elephant. Wanting a personal connection with this elephant, as one might a puppy (the elephant was only a few months old,) I stepped into its pen and was subsequently knocked over and nearly killed. That was in Africa, many years ago. But when I was just in India, talking about this and the lessons learned – that authentic experience works with the “elephants in the room,” and not just the ones that one wishes for – I had no sooner uttered the word “elephant,” when one walked by.

Varanasi is a place where anything and everything happens. The most logical person can become unraveled by the inexplicable; the most unraveled person can find order. Elephants, real and metaphorical, are there to remind a person that the world isn’t the one we want, but is the one that is.

In this place where Shiva reigns and pilgrims seek, where the sounds of drums and bells mingle with a gauzy haze of dust and smoke, I met an incredible group of kids. I joined them as they presented on the arts they’d studied, and the lessons they’d learned. I watched them hold onto one another with genuine affection. I looked into their eyes and saw a remarkable comfort in their beings, (even as their bellies sat unsettled.)

I joined the group on an evening similar in many ways to most, and dissimilar for the attention given to the decoration of the Ghats, when millions – more than millions – of oil lamps lit up the stairs that front the river, and when worshippers thronged the river-front; when more of everything thronged the river-front: hawkers and beggars and the beautifully dressed and the nearly naked and the singers and dancers and the distinguished and the destitute. We rented a boat and traveled down river, to see the “golden sari” that had been laid along the riverbank, in the form of oil lamps.

Though my time in Varanasi was short, the images I’ve brought home will last me a lifetime. The pageantry and drama of the place always affects. But I’m most going to remember the light I saw in the eyes of these students.

Sincerely,

Chris Yager

Executive Director/Founder

Where There Be Dragons

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Visions of India Semester, Fall 2012

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November 28th, Varanasi

Chris Yager,Visions of India Semester, Fall 2012

Description

Dear India Watchers, Last week, I made a trip to Varanasi. We’re about to send out a Dragons Newsletter, in which I’ve written a reflection on an encounter I once had with a baby elephant. Wanting a personal connection with this elephant, as one might a puppy (the elephant was only a few months old,) […]

Posted On

12/5/12

Author

Chris Yager

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In these, the Dragons’ final hours in Benares, before it’s too late, we’d like to say thank you to a bunch of people.

Three months and a thousand years ago, we glimpsed 13 kids sitting on the floor in a grubby corner of Newark Airport, clutching their fresh passports, exchanging first hellos, nervously sizing each other up, and preparing to embark on the adventure of a lifetime. To us, they seemed like children, but it is clear they are returning home children no more. Thanks to WTBD, and to their own strength of character, they are coming back to us stronger and wiser, more adaptable, more resilient and more open than when they left. Back then, they were American citizens; now they are citizens of the world.

Through our son’s frequent communiqués (thank you Sean for that), and through everyone’s yak postings, we have closely followed your passage not only to India, but deep into your own hearts. We have been blown away by the eloquence and beauty of your yaks, by their insight and compassion and emotional honesty.

In Lake Wobegon, Garrison Keillor assures us, all the children are above average; the participants in this fall’s Visions of India semester are way, way beyond that. The average 18-year-old, fresh out of high school, is eager to get to college and start partying. This exceptional, self-selected group chose instead to travel half-a-world away, leaving behind all that was safely familiar to dive into the unknown, voluntarily bound by Red Rules in a toilet paper-free zone. You all are anything but average.

To each of you, thank you for supporting one another through shared fears and tears-- for opening your hands and hearts to each other in joyous and tough times alike. The bonds you have forged in India are going to last a long, long time. You deserve each other.

Thanks too to the administrative support team back in Boulder. Without you, we realize, none of this is possible. You’ve always been quick to answer even our most dim-witted queries, and quicker still to call us with updates when one of our kids was sick, reassuring us when we needed it most.

And finally, a hundred times over, thank you Jyotiji and Mattji, and Bantu, and Jacky too, who spent nights on our son’s floor when he was feverish with the terrifying Dengue. You guys are amazing! We entrusted you with the most precious beings in our lives, and boy, were you ever worthy of that trust. You have given them so much, way beyond the call. It’s not just that you taught them the street smarts to navigate an ancient culture so unlike any they had known, and to do so without the crass insensitivity of tourists. By the power of your example, you fostered among them authentic human connections. By your vigilance, concern and reassurance, you provided a safety net that allowed each to discover India for him or herself. Equally invaluable, you made possible their individual journeys of self-discovery, encouraging them to reach beyond their limits and comfort zones. When they were ill, or suffering in ways no thermometer can measure, you were fully present for them, even when you yourselves were feeling worse. You were their rocks, their shoulders to lean on, there for them no less than we ourselves would have been. Thank you for toughening them and softening them, all at the same time. Thank you for giving them memories that will last a lifetime. Back in early October, Elizabeth wrote, “We could not ask for more inspired or mindful beings.” They in turn could not have asked for more inspired or mindful instructors. To read their collective yaks these past months is to understand that not only are you admired, respected and honored by your gang, but that you are loved.

Soon now they will come home to us --awake, fully alive, hearts on fire-- and begin to share their deeply felt visions of the far-flung land that has been their home these many weeks. More than any high school or college, this was the start of their education, an education no classroom could match. A 5-year-old boy holding his baby sister, begging for something to help them survive another day… Harvard could never teach you how to deal with that one.

Our sons and daughters return with much to teach us, and from them we have much to learn. They will broaden our understanding of other worlds here on earth. In the teeming City of Light, in the shadow of the Bodhi Tree, in their morning meditations, they have been living in the spirit, and from that energy we can all be uplifted. Starting with their trek in the Himalayas, where they lived closer to the stars than most of us ever will, this indelible experience will change them, and in turn those whom they touch, in ways unforeseen for the rest of their lives. Here’s what we believe: the ripples created by these 13 beautiful, compassionate, conscious young men and women will turn into waves, and those waves can change the world.

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Visions of India Semester, Fall 2012

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Gratitude

Cal Fentress & Andy Schweitzer,Visions of India Semester, Fall 2012

Description

In these, the Dragons’ final hours in Benares, before it’s too late, we’d like to say thank you to a bunch of people. Three months and a thousand years ago, we glimpsed 13 kids sitting on the floor in a grubby corner of Newark Airport, clutching their fresh passports, exchanging first hellos, nervously sizing each […]

Posted On

11/28/12

Author

Cal Fentress & Andy Schweitzer

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    [post_content] => These last two weeksin Banaras Ihave tried to slow down so much, trying to squeeze in all the things i want to get done and all the things and memories I want to take home. It has been a tough go, though, as I have been physically slowed and sometimes stopped by illnesses. It has also been a frustrating last week here because of being stressed out by the looming finale to thecourses i am taking for college credit, so closure in this trip has been hard to come by. I want to feel completely liberated to roam around here as much as i can, but because of my work i have not been able to do that as much as i would like. I am starting to worry if Iwill regret anything I didnt do herein the future, like bonding with my homestay family and other familiar faces around Assi Ghat, but i just have to remind myself that regret for the sake of regret is pointless. The time here now to wrap everything up, to pack up our lives and move out of this city we have called home, has come as quickly as we arrived on the train two months ago. I may feel ready to leave Banaras at the moment and enjoy the comforts of home once again, but I know I will feel something strange missing very soon after. 
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Visions of India Semester, Fall 2012

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Wrapping it all up

Sammy Denenberg,Visions of India Semester, Fall 2012

Description

These last two weeksin Banaras Ihave tried to slow down so much, trying to squeeze in all the things i want to get done and all the things and memories I want to take home. It has been a tough go, though, as I have been physically slowed and sometimes stopped by illnesses. It has […]

Posted On

11/27/12

Author

Sammy Denenberg

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Dear Mom and Dad,


I would like to redeem myself for the countless one word answers to the
question of "How was your day?" I know this is on the internet, and it's
not that I meant to write it in an email. I am proud to proclaim that I
love you.
We went to a classical kathak dancer's house this past Sunday, and it only
affirmed what I have always known. Sarala-ji danced, while her son played
sitar, and her husband and daughter nodded and snapped along. They were all
shared the essence of rhythm and that inexplicable
swing. We have that too; I picture us at home in our sanctuary of a living
room - Dad on the rocking chair, Mom lying flat on the couch with Scout
snuggled up next to her, and me, sprawled out on the rug - all sharing
stories from our respective classroom. What more is there than
understanding the cosmos of truth and authenticity in each child? It would
be impossible to deny the grandiose impact you've had on my existence. I've
attempted a plethora of pursuits (remember swimming lessons at Asphalt
Green? Or cello? Or being the next Rachel Carson?), but none have stuck the
way that my interest in education has. I don't have to work to make it be a
passion, because it just makes sense. So thank you for Maurice Sendack and
John Dewey, and the the pattern blocks and paper clips in your pocket at
the end of each day. I know the life cycle of a monarch butterfly and the
best walnut to dye wool with, just as well as I have come to know the
admirable effort it takes to do what you both do.

I search daily for the answer of what I'm supposed to be doing in this
lifetime, and how to focus my energy. I can't be paralyzed by an ego that is yearning for separation, but rather surrender to the beautiful forces of my truth. It's time to embrace my nature. I want to internalize the warm and unintentional guidance you've given to me. And to clarify, it is "unintentional" because you're wisdom is so embedded in your nature that your inclinations are in accordance with your philosophy. It is just what makes sense.

I can't imagine now what more I was looking for. You drove through snow and
rain for seven consecutive years of PACE rehearsals. And you were always
smiling. I can count on there being a full stock of blueberries in the
refrigerator. I am given space. I am loved. And I have been learning from the most amazing role models about how to empower a child over casual dinner discourse.


I don't want to wander into the kitchen while you're cooking anymore, and run away when you ask if I want to help. I claimed I had homework to finish, but I was probably working on a scrapbook. I'll wash the dishes more. I'll slowly begin to return all the articles of clothing I've hoarded over the years. I'll sit through a movie. (And I'll make snacks.) I'll remember that I wrote this.


All my love,
Natalia

P.S. Happy Thanksgiving! And I would have said this any day of the year.

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Visions of India Semester, Fall 2012

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A Public Display of Affection

Natalia Shevin,Visions of India Semester, Fall 2012

Description

Dear Mom and Dad, I would like to redeem myself for the countless one word answers to the question of "How was your day?" I know this is on the internet, and it’s not that I meant to write it in an email. I am proud to proclaim that I love you.We went to a […]

Posted On

11/23/12

Author

Natalia Shevin

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A journal entry from two nights ago:

"It's nights like these when I am sure, absolutely sure, with all the bones of my life, all the years in my body...that there is a plan. That the stars, those huge and lovingly stoic stars that looked back at me on the trek, are really just our map. That the distance between us and them, our time and theirs, is directly quantifiable to the number of people on this earth at every given moment. That the light years and black holes and universal booms all join together, gather in the sky for us, to be our map and that all we have to do, on nights like these, is know that they've got our back, meteors and all.

On Sunday, something fell all the way apart inside of me. Feeling the nearing termination of a home I felt would never end brought fears to the foreground. Will I be me, this me, this me that I really have always wanted to be, at home? Can I find my needs at home? How will I cope now with the stimulus and pain of a place I left 3 months ago? What will I remember? Who will I forget?...

And I struggled with these internally for a Sunday, a Monday and then, like a godsend, a dear friend and mentor, Miss J. Spit, asked me this morn that instead of "spending the day alone and figuring it out," (like I told her I was planning to do) If I wanted to have breakfast with her instead. A challenge. Sarah...can you let someone in? Can you unorganize your thoughts with another human being watching? Will she understand your questions and scars? Can you even show them?

So I left a 6 am Chat Puja, an experience that deserves a symphony of yak postings itself, and went for my cool morning shower. I met miss Jenna at 7 and for the next 2 hours, I began to understand, thanks to her grace, that the journey STARTS now.

She led me in an out of stories, I brought her to some heavily guarded dark corners, that she of course, deconstructed and dusted, and we talked about ourselves, each other, and questioned deeper truths.

By 9 am, I understood that I was going to be okay, but I'm not sure I felt it. But by 9 pm, after a long dinner date with Jyoti-ji, the knowing woman of all women, I felt that sensation, that ringing soul sensation, that everything..really, worldwide..EVERYTHING.. is alright, okay, just fine.

She got me to this place by helping me see life through hers, she got me to this place by helping me understand my journey here, she got me to this place by telling that surely, all this really is...is a dance between your heart's fears and diving into a grand river.

The journey is continuous. All of my unanswered questions and unquestioned answeres about life ARE life itself. That what we are all doing each day, as we live our own world, is in essence, all there is to it. That this spinning, flowing, broken, spontaneous, gorgeous, sad, lopsided but yet perfectly balanced THING that we are all now alive for, is just something to give into...to flow INTO.

And all the time I've spent up until now, judging life, thinking about a four letter concept that cannot be conceptualized, is time well spent but now...India has taught me beyond that frame of mind. India has brought me into my heart. Carried me, through old rickshaws and strong-eyes, into that river...that unbuckatable, unpackagable water that is this endless unambered moment.

So the journey isn't India for 3 months, it isn't knowing what happened here or closing anything at all, it isn't an old me and a new me, or a physically lost family...

The journey is finding the river and jumping in as often as I can.

I feel tonight, that I am being carried, by the milkyway with it's loving shining white polka dots and their plan, their ideas for my life.

I feel now that it's all because of this perfect day. Because of Jenna-ji and Jyoti-ji, that I can rest tonight in.the.palm."

A few days later, I feel lost again. Breaking down, sharing, crying, lost and found over and over again before noon. But this is what I'm talking about. This is where I have to listen to my own words from a few nights before. This is the journey, the ebb and flow. The lessons and the suffering and the times you are beaten to a pulp by a severly broken world, to the times you realize in your heart of hearts that all is love. Today I opened myself even more, sat in the park with Jenna-ji and Natalia-ji and spat out my fears of loss, and found the truth again. That all is love...that regardless of how many tears fall today, regardless of how many times I decide that I've found "the answer to it all"...there is no such thing. It's all a grand river, and my heart has many years ahead to dance.

Lastly, it's thanksgiving so I must just say THANK YOU to the 12 students on this trip, who support, listen, and love me every day. Thank you to mum, dad, Anand-ji, Jyoti-ji, Gma, Bubba, Nana, Gpa Pete...Thank you to all of the real human beings I cannot live without at home and elsewhere. You are all outrageously beauty-full people. Who would I be, had I not loved you all?

Thank you to the runner of this universe, wherever you are, stars.

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Best Notes From The Field, Visions of India Semester, Fall 2012

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Out of the Palm

Sarah Knapp,Best Notes From The Field, Visions of India Semester, Fall 2012

Description

A journal entry from two nights ago: "It’s nights like these when I am sure, absolutely sure, with all the bones of my life, all the years in my body…that there is a plan. That the stars, those huge and lovingly stoic stars that looked back at me on the trek, are really just our […]

Posted On

11/23/12

Author

Sarah Knapp

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As we are well aware, Thanksgiving is the holiday where we remember how the pilgrims and the Indians, excuse me, Native Americans, came together to become best of friends, then had a big feast, over indulged on sweet potatoes, and had a food hangover the next day from too much pumpkin pie. This became known as Thanksgiving. It is also the holiday were we worship idols such as a giant air balloon snoopy and fight over the nicest looking turkey at Costco. For many young children it is the holiday where they perform an innocent school play depicting friendly and co-functioning pilgrims and native Americans feasting side by side and for many high-schoolers, it's a 5 day weekend of pure gorging. For all it is a celebration of gluttony, intoxication, and stress to prepare the perfect meal where the actual feast is short lived and glamorized by thanks giving specials. Thank Shiva this isn't Thanksgiving.

How we know of thanksgiving today has been glamorized and altered from its original state. Sadly, there is no way we can divorce the misconceptions surrounding the people responsible for the American Thanksgiving tradition. Contrary to popular opinion,their first harvest festival and subsequent “thanksgivings” weren’t held to thank the local natives for saving their lives. The pilgrims, after fleeing religious persecution of the church of England, came to the new land to seek a home where they could worship as they saw fit. When they got there, they found a desolate land in which they were ignorant in how to farm and within six months, half of Pilgrims had perished. Finally, after much famine and loss, they discovered and began to utilize corn. There is much debate over how they discovered the usage of corn - some say it was from the help of the native Americans, others would say that it was taken from the native Americans, though I am no historian nor was I present so I have no credence to any of the arguments. But the Pilgrims didn't just attribute the discovery of corn to their prosperity; they attributed it to their devotion to god. So the story goes that their Thanksgiving was held on the last Thursday of November celebrate a bountiful harvest and to give thanks to God and his grace. So now, almost 400 years later, the tradition lives on by being held on the fourth Thursday in November, commemorating a harvest festival celebrated by the Pilgrims in 1621 honoring a good harvest, the utilization of corn, and grace to god.

So why, almost 400 years later, do we continue on the tradition of commemorating that bountiful harvest? That harvest seems so distant. Well, I don't know about you but I don't give a damn about their harvest. But what I do know is that I am thankful.

The true essence of thanksgiving is within the name - giving thanks and acknowledging the blessings in your life. It is a holiday that transcends every religion -Hindu, Muslim, Seik, Buddhist, Jain, Christian, Jew, and the non-religious - it is a holiday of giving thanks. It is a holiday where families gather together, hold the fighting until after the holidays, and appreciate how lucky they are to have one another. It is a holiday where you step back and reflect on your good fortune, your experiences, your position and footprint in this world, and especially your failures which can be treasured as lessons. During this holiday, we should look at the food in front of us, laboriously harvested by the farmer and the prepared for hours with love and care by the cook, and be grateful that we have such a bounty of wonderful food. As we sit around a table, under a roofed house, with a heater, electricity, and other luxuries to make it a catalogue thanksgiving - feel grateful because there are countless of people in our country sharing a thanksgiving meal on a lunch table surrounded by complete strangers who are just happy to have a meal and ashelterover there head. Some might have lost the true essence of the holiday, but we should always remember that it is about being thankful for what we have, what we’ve always had, and what we will have.

Now being in Varanasi the familiar Thanksgiving ambiance is not polluting the air but even with its absences, we can still live in the mentality of being thankful. I don't know about you, but I feel beyond thankful for this indescribable experience. I know we all do. We can acknowledge how blessed we are to have traveled so far and see such a variety of life. To have been given a home stay that has cared for each of us as their own. They have taken us into their homes, given us shelter, fed us, and especially created an environment filled with love, laughter, and a sense of safety. In many aspects they have been a pillar and a constant source of joy to all of us in this foreign land we now call home. To walk down the streets of the most ancient and sacred city, passing slums of malnourished children and emancipated rickshaw drivers and know we always have three secure meals a day and a comfy bed of our own, we should feel thanks. We should look at our bodies - two arms, two legs, a head, and a functioning army of organs. We are so incredibly lucky. Though currently we might not be thearchetypeof perfect physical condition, we are healthy, strong, and posses the ability and freedom to enjoy life. How can we not be thankful for our parents at home as well as siblings, grandparents, aunts, uncles, and a plethora of people that enrich our lives on a daily basis?Their loveallowsus to follow our hearts, gifts us with the opportunity to develop our interest, enable us to discover the world, and grants us the courage to spread our wings.We are the people we are today because of them. I give thanks to thembecauseif it wasn't for them, I wouldn't be addressing a group of such admirable and brilliant people. We are blessed to have instructors and gurus who truly care for us with hearts and patience worthy of saints. With love and devotion they watch over us like children of their ownand have been guiding angels through thisturbulent yet amazing ride. They were there the second we’ve learned to craw, to helping us take our first steps, to running by our sides, to now stepping back to watch us soar; they’ve always been there with love and admiration. For them I am eternally thankful.

Now look at the person next to you, look at the person across from you, look at the person sitting across the circle - it doesn't matter where your gaze falls because I assure you, you will find love. Realize how lucky we are to have formed such as family. This group is a family of strong individuals with outstandingvirtues and qualities that every parent can only dream of possessing a child with. This family sitting here that we’ve developed and strengthened through laughter, tears, sickness, and most especially love is beyond words. All I can say is I feel honored and humbled to be amongst you as my peers and friends. I feel blessed by all that I’ve experienced with you and to have met you all. From the deepest and purest place in my heart, I love you all and thank you.

Now this thanksgiving, whether you are giving puja to the Ganga, praying to Buddha, giving offerings to Shiva, praising the Lord, meditating on what good has touched your life, chanting to Allah, or just smiling about all the beauty you see around you, be thankful. Give thanks, be grateful, and appreciate everything within in this moment because although everything is impermanent, it is a damn beautiful moment.

Namaste

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Visions of India Semester, Fall 2012

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Thanksgiving Grace

Lucky Ladd Jackson,Visions of India Semester, Fall 2012

Description

As we are well aware, Thanksgiving is the holiday where we remember how the pilgrims and the Indians, excuse me, Native Americans, came together to become best of friends, then had a big feast, over indulged on sweet potatoes, and had a food hangover the next day from too much pumpkin pie. This became known […]

Posted On

11/22/12

Author

Lucky Ladd Jackson

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Imagine waking up in an infant's body. Your mind is still at the same intellectual level that it was yesterday, but your body seems somehow smaller and weaker. Lying on your back, staring at the ceiling, you're a little confused about what to do next. Movement is a strange and frustrating concept to you, and in this moment left and right are too foreign to exist in your world. So you start slow because your adult mind tells you that's probably a good idea. first you wiggle your toes, then you flex your fingers, tapping each one to the mattress. Then you move your arm- just a little! Don't be hasty... That's right, nice and slow. Does it hurt? No? Good. Now try the other one. So far so good.

Somehow, you think, I must be a little more vertical than this...
You manage to roll to your... left? No, your right side, and then slowly, using both hands, you manage to push yourself to an upright position. Steady, steady, don't fall back down. Hold onto the mattress for balance if you need to. That's it. Now you take a look around the room. See all the faces.(when did they get here?)They came just to see you. You're big news, you know. They're smiling at you, they're so happy to see you, and they're waiting. (For what?) One offers you their hand, why? Then it hits you. (My legs! They want me to stand up!)You shake your head- left, right, left- and they drop their hand but stand close and ready to catch you all the same. Staring at the floor (holy cow! it's so far away!) you take a deep breath, placing all your trust in your legs you push off onto them. Please, dear God, let them catch you. And you're up! And they're all so excited to see you standing all by yourself! And now you're swaying a little bit, falling a little bit- head for the wall, but hold out your arms first! See it? See the wall? (Stop spinning, wall!) Head for the wall, let it hold you up! Almost there! Wait! Something's caught you. Oh good, it's one of the smiling faces (one of my friends...) You let them hold you up for a little bit, just until the room stops spinning, and then you let go. Movement, all on your own. It's been days, hasn't it? (Yes, days and days in the dark.) Well they've all come to see you, and they're all waiting outside.

When I woke up on Thursday morning, it was to the sound of familiar friendly voices. I'd been in bed for days with dengue fever, and this morning my peers had had enough. They were having morning circle with me, and if I couldn't go to them, they would come to me. So we sat in the little courtyard just outside my bedroom, and for the first time in a little over a week I got to see almost all of their beautiful faces at once. I never thought I'd miss hearing about how many poops people made in the last twenty four hours, and on a scale of one to ten, how solid was it? That morning I think I memorized everybody's Wednesday poops, and I have a feeling that they will be etched in my heart forever. It was a beautiful moment, perfected by the little sparrows up in the tree branches, pooping on us for good luck.
These past few days have played tricks on my body and my mind. Sometimes I feel like an old woman, with very slow, very precise movements. Other times I feel like I'm a child learning to walk, getting overly excited when I get it right and ending up running into a wall, or tripping over my own feet. It feels like I'm starting over, or like I've been gone for a long time and am just returning to Varanasi. I guess in a way that's accurate, but the fact is I wasn't gone, not really. I was barely even moving, because moving hurt, laying down hurt, everything hurt. The pain went all the way to the center of my bones, turning them into cracking iron, so heavy, so fragile, and breaking from the inside. While it was happening, I hated hearing how lucky I was to be where I was, in the comfort of my room, how lucky that I got the weaker strain, that my fever, though constant, was relatively low. While it was happening, the only thing I could really count myself lucky for was that my bones weren't actually breaking, and that I had someone with me pretty much all the time to help me through it. Now that the pain is gone, I can think back and say, "yes, it's great that it wasn't worse, a bit of good luck to follow a mosquito bite of bad luck." Now that the pain is gone, I want to go around hugging everyone all the time. I want to hug the cow that sticks its face through my gate, give it a big kiss and say "Hello, cow. I'm back, did you miss me? I missed you." But I hold back because for one thing that's generally not socially appropriate, but more importantly the cow might feel a bit distressed by my affection.
I'm not really sure where to focus my energy now, the energy that I'm slowly building back up. I'll be home in a little less than three weeks, leaving Varanasi in a little less than two. Where is my time going? I've already lost so much, and it's thrown me into a weird place. Everything I feel is accompanied by its opposite. Gratitude, resentment, excitement, fear, calm, stressed. All I can say is that during the time I spend with the group, all of that disappears and I am truly in the moment celebrating that you all exist. I keep hearing I didn't miss anything, to which I reply, "I missed all of you."
Let's make up for lost time.
Eva
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Visions of India Semester, Fall 2012

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Starting Over

Eva Horner,Visions of India Semester, Fall 2012

Description

Imagine waking up in an infant’s body. Your mind is still at the same intellectual level that it was yesterday, but your body seems somehow smaller and weaker. Lying on your back, staring at the ceiling, you’re a little confused about what to do next. Movement is a strange and frustrating concept to you, and […]

Posted On

11/18/12

Author

Eva Horner

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The morning ofNovember7th I walk into the program house to find a few of my group mates huddled around theTVperched in the corner of our classroom, the screen glowing as CNN told of the electionoccurringa world away. I thought I had arrived early to watch the live coverage but as I sat down and sleepily asked how long everyone had been there it became apparent that I was a little late to the party. My friends nervously bounced their legs on the floor or fidgeted uncomfortably as the results from each state flashed by one by one. Seeing the night New York sky and Times Square decorated with red, white, and blue didn't feel real as the sun rose out the window over Varanasi, and through a combination of calling our parents and checking in on the television, we watched as each candidates electoral votes crawled slowly towards 270. Over the course of the next two hours the room filled and everyone saw as ABC somewhat casually announced that it looked as though there was no way Romney could win it at this point. As a wave of what I can describe only as relief washed over me, I recalled theoverwhelmingexcitement that the 2008 victory caused in myself and all those around me and was slightly saddened to the contrast of the relatively quiet room of teenagers. Granted, this was a very different situation, location, and group of people I was in than four years ago, but overall the election felt slightlyanticlimactic. I think this is because of a few things, the first being that it was a sense of relief, a sense that things would continue as they had and any fear of extreme change was behind us on the horizon, and the fact that our new president is just our old president was more comforting than it was exciting. Secondly, for the few hours up until the official call was made it appeared as though Romney was winning by a small margin, and the idea of him claiming the title of president seemed for just a moment to be a very, very real possibility. But once every vote was counted and it became clear that, perhaps more importantly, Obama won not only the electoral college but also won the popular vote by a semi-comfortable margin, the thrill surrounding a close race faded.

That afternoon some of us headed to Open Hand, a local cafe to get free "Obama Shakes" they were serving specially for the election. The moment I left the program house and started the walk down Assi Road I was hit with a tidal wave of sameness. Nothing was different, not the cow sleeping in thetrash pileor the children in the park, not the motorcyclist saying hello, or the rickshawwallahasking where you are going. Later when myhome stayparents asked me about the election or what I thought, they were unsure of the candidates name other than Obama. Having such an intense disconnected from the issues and the candidates and the coverage and even the actual day and the celebration or grieving friends and family made the whole day feel like a dream. That isn't to say I would have wanted my election to go any differently. Being surrounded by such sharp minds as those of my group mates and being in such a comfortableenvironmentwhereeveryone'sthoughts were and are heard made watching the race to thewhite housea truly memorable one. The conversations and light debates that flowed as we nervously tuned in reminded me how grateful I am to be surrounded by people that honestly just know exactly what to say and exactly what they are talking about.

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Visions of India Semester, Fall 2012

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Week of November 7th- The election

Ellie Tremayne,Visions of India Semester, Fall 2012

Description

The morning ofNovember7th I walk into the program house to find a few of my group mates huddled around theTVperched in the corner of our classroom, the screen glowing as CNN told of the electionoccurringa world away. I thought I had arrived early to watch the live coverage but as I sat down and sleepily […]

Posted On

11/17/12

Author

Ellie Tremayne

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