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Super market breakdowns, jet-lag, and reverse culture shock were things I expected to greet me as I stepped off that 15 hour flight one month ago. Instead, I found my two bleary eyed (but smiling!) parents, my cell phone and full night’s sleep waiting for me in the Newark baggage claim area. And I was disappointed. Why wasn’t I having trouble adjusting? Maybe I didn’t do this whole India thing right? I had a shockingly easy transition home. I stayed up the whole day and slept through the first night, I unpacked my things, gave my gifts, failed miserably at making Indian food, and (regrettably) got right back into my old social media habits. When people ask me if I changed, I don’t really know what to say, how can I know if I’ve changed? Isn’t that something I should be asking other people? I can’t tell if I’ve changed any more than I can tell how much my finger nails have grown today. This frightened and disappointed me, but I still respond “Yes” because I felt like that is the right answer and what everyone really wanted to hear. 

I watched as Maya, Margaret, Maren and Emma have posted their photos on Facebook, looked back at the photos, remembered the moments and felt the trip become farther and farther away. I don’t feel like I’ve spent three months in India. It doesn’t feel like I spent this fall weaving my way through busy streets, between motorbikes and cows while my peers are navigating college parties and all-nighters.  It’s all starting to feel 7,636 miles away. 

But today, as I was scrolling though Facebook, I came across an article that caught my eye. The first thing I saw was an Instagram shot of a woman sitting on one of my favorite ghats in Varanasi. It hit me like a train. I started to cry. This woman (wearing completely culturally inappropriate clothes by the way) (god I am still such a snob), was sitting in a place that I sat so many times, with Emma, with Isa and Maren and by myself, and all of a sudden, I wasn’t sitting on my bed, in my apartment in New York City, I was on the ghats, people were splashing in the Ganga below me, and there were honking cars and half naked men walking to the river. I was back in Varanasi. I thought about my walk to and from the program house each day, and just as I would do when I was in India, I worked out the time difference in my head and thought about what must be happening at that moment, on the opposite side of the world. Right now, on the corner of Assi Crossing, the Dobiwallah is probably scrubbing laundry, Chen Chen is coming home from school, a cow is standing vacantly in the middle of the road and men are drinking chai for 5 rupees at the chai stall. I can see, smell, and hear it all. And it has never felt closer in my life. In the those weeks we spent in Varanasi, I got to know that small section of the city so well. And in the split second I saw that picture, I realized how much I love it and miss it, and I finally saw how I’ve changed, because now I know there is another place in this world that I can call home. It was my own Vision of India.

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Visions of India

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My Vision Of India

Maggie Perkins,Visions of India

Description

Super market breakdowns, jet-lag, and reverse culture shock were things I expected to greet me as I stepped off that 15 hour flight one month ago. Instead, I found my two bleary eyed (but smiling!) parents, my cell phone and full night’s sleep waiting for me in the Newark baggage claim area. And I was […]

Posted On

01/14/16

Author

Maggie Perkins

Category

Visions of India

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    [post_content] => "It's good to have an end to journey toward; but it is the journey that matters in the end." Ernest Hemingway. Photo: VOI students and instructors hang prayer flags above Mahakala Caves, Bodh Gaya, Bihar.

During our last week of course, we asked to the students to respond to a few questions about their experiences over the past three months. What follows are a selection of their answers in anonymous form:

What is a misconception that you had about India that has been dispelled or challenged over the course of this trip?

I guess there weren’t too many things that I expected and didn’t see delivered. I expected extreme poverty and extreme beauty. I was told I would definitely get sick and I did. Maybe my misconceptions is that India is the most foreign place and you’ll witness the most unbelievable sights. And yes to a certain extend it is true. But also we witnessed everyday life and even if it’s foreign to us, we adjusted and began to view it like that.

I thought I would be overwhelmed by the amount of colors here and I wasn’t. I didn’t expect it to be so difficult a place to travel as it turned out to be. But I also was able to adapt to travelling here over time.

I guess I had this picture in my head of India being one crazy chaotic traffic jam set beside the glamorous background of the Taj Mahal and Bollywood scenes. It didn’t really occur to me that this country could be so diverse and there’s so many parts of it I haven’t even seen yet.

I had some concept of India as one central concept (aka there is one whole India). However I learned throughout our travels that different parts of India may as well be different countries. Often there is very little heritage shared between places other than they were ruled by the British at some point. There is a wide variety of religion, language, culture, style, and appearance throughout India.

Beyond some very superficial misinformation (I thought bindis were purely religious and that only Hindus wore sarees) I cannot specifically cite an instance where a misconception was dispensed. All I can honestly say is that India or that tiny sliver of it that experienced is not what I originally envisioned. The poverty is not so staggering, the stench not so strong, the burning ghats not so terrifying. Nor are the colors so vibrant, the spices so fragrant, or the people so exotic. What I learned is that like the rest of the world, India is just somewhere that people live. Their clothes are often different but often not and the same goes for language. In-laws still frustrate, husbands still sneak cigarettes they swear they’ve long ago quit and your mother will still panic if your are home past curfew. I tried to prepare myself for India by reading but this place is not lifted from the pages of a novel. Though it is different from home on the surfaces I realized that I was doing just as I would in the states, I was living. If I were reading this before my trip I would think how boring, how lackluster, but I know now how valuable it has been to remove not only my fear of a place but also its sexy exotic call and live there in earnest.

I’m having trouble recalling my general perception of India pre-VOI. Maybe all of those pre-concieved notions have been broken beyond recollection...hmm...let’s see. Oh here’s one. I thought people would be more into soccer here. Nope, it’s all about cricket. That’s not very profound (not that it needs to be) but maybe I can find something more. I guess I also imagined India as just a little less influenced by Western culture. And there are certainly places that met that expectation but right now as I write this in my hotel room staring out the window at the park below, I recall how I never imagined any of my gap year in India would take places in a environment strangely reminiscent of my own culture.

How have you been impacted by the discussions, the itinerary, or the experiences that we have had on this trip?

This questions is like pretty crazy to answer. I’m not a whole new person or anything but I’ve never really tried to express something like this before. Anyways, I guess the biggest thing is the way this trip has caused me to doubt, maybe that’s not the right word, let’s say questions the big answers fully. By that I mean we (or at least I) are always pondering over the big questions. What will I do with my life? How can I find truth? How can I live meaningfully? How can I be happy? What is my purpose? These kinds of things, the big questions, are associated with so much of our anxiety and fears and dissonance we feel in life, so it’s extremely tempting to find some big answers to these questions as soon as possible. I may not readily admit it but I often act as though the sooner I can answer these questions the sooner I can get on and enjoy my life. It sounds a little silly written out which I suppose is a good reason to write it. If this trip has taught me anything it’s this: here, in the 21st century, there are so many diverse lifestyles being led, more than could ever be written down in all the books I’ve read or likely will ever read. Each of them is living out their own big answers. So I only hope next time I feel pressured to have all the answers, I will remember how diverse the world is and how I needn’t rush to be sure of anything.

I think the challenges we faced together in Ladakh were super meaningful. The time we spent there was unexpected and unadvertised. It stretched us and even if we didn’t want to be there we learned how to feel useless in a place and that sometimes no matter what you thought or what you wanted you can’t control your surroundings. I think for that reason our time in Ladakh was incredibly valuable.

I’ve learned a lot about myself by focusing on things that aren’t myself. By being in a completely new situation and caring about different things (like poop) than I do at home.

I have been impacted by the various philosophies and schools of thought that Dragon’s facilitated the introduction to. Included are SECMOL, the Root Institute, the Krishnamurti center, and a wide variety of guest lectures.

Overall I feel like this trip has made me a stronger and more adaptable person. For example, when I first took the overnight train from Delhi to Varanasi I was pretty uncomfortable. This was partly because I was sick but also because taking an overnight train, especially here in India, was a very new thing for me. However as the trip continued, I started to feel more comfortable taking the trains and I adapted to this experience. Another thing this trip has taught me/reminded me of is how much I love the outdoors. From out trek in Ladakh at the beginning of our trip, to our excursions on camel back out into the deserts of Jaisalmer, I have had numerous chances to experiences the outdoors.

The group discussions we had on this trip were almost always interesting and I feel like everyone really supported each other throughout the trip.

My emotional responses to experiences and discussions have been so wildly different that it is hard to explore them side by side. Perhaps it is actually the only way thought in almost every experience from getting terrifyingly lost to becoming a regular at a chai stall on a far away ghat, I have found myself filled with confidence and utter joy. Alone, in groups, early morning or late evening, whenever I am moving I am pleased. However in the quieter moments when the group slows to discuss our experience or I call home to a flurry of questions, I begin to doubt it all. The more I analyze my time here, the more panicked I feel. What have I learned? What have I achieved? Has it been enough? Has it all been worth it? Did I make a mistake? Even now in the final week of my time in India, I am still confused by the duality of my experience here. Perhaps this will be resolved at home and perhaps not and I suppose I’ll have to be okay with that.

What should friends and family know about me when I return home?

For one, I do not believe there will be a way for me to fully share my experiences with anyone who had not gone through the same experiences. However, I will try my best. Additionally I feel like I have become a more independent person far more capable of dealing with problems by myself than I was before the trip. Lastly I don’t really know how I’ve changed throughout this trip so don’t expect to be given a satisfying answer if you ask.

That I’ve changed in ways I’m not even aware of yet and that being back home in a Western middle-class household after 3 months in India will have put me in a place of mixed and confusing emotions that they will likely not understand. That I will probably spend a lot of time enclosed in my room listening/dancing to Bollywood music.

I cannot predict all the ways I will charge or stay the same. One thing I think/hope I will take away is a more critical, questioning thought process. Not necessarily critical in trying to find holes in every argument or viewpoint, but critically engaging new ideas in ways that build both myself and the new ideas and help me grow.

Friends and family should know that while I spent 3 months in India, I still can’t possibly understand it. That though I learned Hindi I can’t speak it. That no matter what I say, I can’t tell you how this journey has impacked me because I don’t know myself but also you should know that I won’t want to talk about or stop talking about it.

On the very first day of the trek we set hopes for ourselves for the rest of our time in India. Mine was to open myself to love and be loved. I’m glad to say I have never felt so loving or loved as I have been on this trip. That is not to say I haven’t cried myself to sleep from loneliness or yelled at those trying to help me but never in my life have I felt to grateful for everyone at home. This being said I have never in my life felt so angry and confused so lost and so regretful. I genuinely have no way to sum up my experiences here so if my response to your questions are as scattered and contradictory as my open letter to you all here I am sorry. Just know that for every compliant there was a moment to beautiful I could not express and for every funny story there was something vaguely traumatizing. Through it all though I loved you and I loved this place and I cannot wait to share with you what I can.

I’m not sure. Probably that I won’t have answers to all their questions or at least satisfying ones. If I say only positive things about the trip I’m definitely not telling the whole truth but if you ask me about the rougher parts of the trip I’ll probably have a story or two to tell. Finally I guess people should know how influential this trip was and how although I may act indifferent times or appear unchanged and how struggles I faced when I left may greet me as I return, I needed this trip and its impact will not leave me.
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I will remember how diverse the world is and how I needn’t rush to be sure of anything.

Visions of india Students,Visions of India

Description

“It’s good to have an end to journey toward; but it is the journey that matters in the end.” Ernest Hemingway. Photo: VOI students and instructors hang prayer flags above Mahakala Caves, Bodh Gaya, Bihar. During our last week of course, we asked to the students to respond to a few questions about their experiences […]

Posted On

12/6/15

Author

Visions of india Students

Category

Visions of India

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    [post_content] => The Visions of India Fall 2015 group is at the airport in Delhi! Their flight is delayed slightly (about 2 hours), and is scheduled to arrive at Newark on December 6, 5:45 AM (arriving about one hour after the scheduled time). The students will text the Boulder office once they have arrived in Newark.

The Instructor Team is so grateful for these past few months with the students! We will reflect more in the coming days, but for now, please know that we have had such an amazing journey together: thank you for sharing your loved ones with us!
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On Their Way Home!

Instructor Team,Visions of India

Description

The Visions of India Fall 2015 group is at the airport in Delhi! Their flight is delayed slightly (about 2 hours), and is scheduled to arrive at Newark on December 6, 5:45 AM (arriving about one hour after the scheduled time). The students will text the Boulder office once they have arrived in Newark. The […]

Posted On

12/5/15

Author

Instructor Team

Category

Visions of India

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Namaste friends and family! I just received a message from the instructors saying that the students are having a wonderful time at Transference. Right now the group is together in the Golden City of Jaisalmer in the state of Rajasthan, famous for the Jaisalmer Fort, a UNESCO World Heritage site constructed in 1156 AD. Last night the students rode camels into the desert and spent the night out in nature, reflecting on their semester together in India. Internet contact has been limited during this time, but you can expect some final reflections posted on the Yak Board before students head to Delhi to catch their group flight on the evening of December 5th. As students reflect on their time in India, I know loved ones are eagerly waiting at home to share stories and celebrate the meaningful return of each young person from what has been an incredible rite of passage. Thanks for sharing this journey with us! Jenny [post_title] => Reflections in Rajasthan [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => closed [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => reflections-in-rajasthan [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2016-01-20 10:59:32 [post_modified_gmt] => 2016-01-20 17:59:32 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => https://wheretherebedragons.com/?p=128655 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw [categories] => Array ( [0] => WP_Term Object ( [term_id] => 122 [name] => Visions of India [slug] => india-fall-2015 [term_group] => 0 [term_taxonomy_id] => 122 [taxonomy] => category [description] => [parent] => 236 [count] => 99 [filter] => raw [term_order] => 4.1 [cat_ID] => 122 [category_count] => 99 [category_description] => [cat_name] => Visions of India [category_nicename] => india-fall-2015 [category_parent] => 236 [link] => https://my.wheretherebedragons.com/category/fall-2015/india-fall-2015/ ) ) [category_links] => Visions of India )

Visions of India

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Reflections in Rajasthan

Jenny Wagner,Visions of India

Description

Namaste friends and family! I just received a message from the instructors saying that the students are having a wonderful time at Transference. Right now the group is together in the Golden City of Jaisalmer in the state of Rajasthan, famous for the Jaisalmer Fort, a UNESCO World Heritage site constructed in 1156 AD. Last night […]

Posted On

12/2/15

Author

Jenny Wagner

Category

Visions of India

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    [post_content] => Dear India Students & Families,

It is hard to believe that 3 months have passed since embarking on this incredible adventure! It won’t be long and students will be boarding their planes back home. We are sure you are anxiously awaiting their arrival!

Below is a reminder of the return group flight information for eagerly awaiting families:

December 5th, 2015

United Airlines #083

Depart: Delhi 11:35 pm

Arrive: Newark 4:40 am (December 6th)

We will have a Dragons Administrator on call for the duration of the travel day.   Starting on Saturday, 12/5, should you need any assistance after regular office hours, please call our “on-call” number at 303-921-6078.

We wish all students a great trip home!

Sincerely,

Boulder Admin
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Visions of India

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Return Flight Information

Anne Koenning,Visions of India

Description

Dear India Students & Families, It is hard to believe that 3 months have passed since embarking on this incredible adventure! It won’t be long and students will be boarding their planes back home. We are sure you are anxiously awaiting their arrival! Below is a reminder of the return group flight information for eagerly […]

Posted On

12/2/15

Author

Anne Koenning

Category

Visions of India

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    [post_content] => We said goodbye in a doorway
With lumps in our throats
And tears in our eyes.

She held me and wiped my tears
Like my real mother would.
She was crying too

We said hello in a doorway
With nerves and expectations
Making my hands sweat.

She hugged me and made me feel welcome
And together we made dinner
The onions making my eyes stream.

We said goodbye in a doorway
The smell of sandalwood lingering in the air
Hanging like smoke over a river

We said goodbye in a doorway
Exiting in different directions
To mountains, to desert.

We said goodbye in a doorway
And we both cried
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Visions of India

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In A Doorway

Maggie Perkins,Visions of India

Description

We said goodbye in a doorway With lumps in our throats And tears in our eyes. She held me and wiped my tears Like my real mother would. She was crying too We said hello in a doorway With nerves and expectations Making my hands sweat. She hugged me and made me feel welcome And […]

Posted On

11/27/15

Author

Maggie Perkins

Category

Visions of India

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    [post_content] => Hello friends and family of VOI,

On November 27th, the Dragons will say goodbye to our host families and friends here in Varanasi and begin our journey into the deserts of Rajasthan. We will spend four days reflecting on our experience and expressing our gratitude for each other before returning to Delhi to prepare for the flight home. As we will be in rural Rajasthan the students will not have access to internet or phones though they will get a chance to check email once we reach Delhi on December 4th.

Peace and love,

Visions of India
    [post_title] => Thinking Deep Thoughts in the Desert
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Thinking Deep Thoughts in the Desert

Instructors,Visions of India

Description

Hello friends and family of VOI, On November 27th, the Dragons will say goodbye to our host families and friends here in Varanasi and begin our journey into the deserts of Rajasthan. We will spend four days reflecting on our experience and expressing our gratitude for each other before returning to Delhi to prepare for […]

Posted On

11/27/15

Author

Instructors

Category

Visions of India

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    [post_content] => What is this yak about you may ask? Have I become a self cannibalistic cannibal in my two months in India? Well, don't you worry Mom and Dad, I haven't eaten any of my limbs or extremities just yet. The title refers to the beloved and only recently unbanned Maggi Noodles. Why banned you may ask? Lead. The Maggi noodles of yore were made with delicious, flavorful lead. But rejoice, Maggi lovers of the world, for Maggi has returned, theoretically lead free!!
My quest for the legendary instant noodles began early in the course when Saurabh-Ji began to call me Maggi Noodles. Bemused and confused, I learned of India's love for my namesake noodles, and suddenly all the smiles when I introduced myself made sense. It's like naming your child Ramen.
Anyway, much to my dismay, I learned Maggi Noodles had been banned from India for obvious reasons. Still, lead or no lead, I was determined to eat myself.
Lucky for me and everyone else in India, Maggi has returned and lead-free! Imagine my excitement when I bought my first pack! And just recently, huddled around a small pot in Bantu-Ji's kitchen with his two kids and Maren, I had my first, legendary bite of Maggi Noodles.
    [post_title] => In Which I Eat Myself
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View post

In Which I Eat Myself

aaron,Visions of India

Description

What is this yak about you may ask? Have I become a self cannibalistic cannibal in my two months in India? Well, don’t you worry Mom and Dad, I haven’t eaten any of my limbs or extremities just yet. The title refers to the beloved and only recently unbanned Maggi Noodles. Why banned you may […]

Posted On

11/24/15

Author

aaron

Category

Visions of India

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    [post_content] => To try and put into words the truly incredible, hilarious, and wild time that is my daily astrology lecture would be like trying to argue that Rakeshji doesn't have one of the most impressive mustaches in the world, which is to say: entirely impossible.

Each day me and my fellow amateur astrologist, Isa (Ascendant Leo, Moon Sign Capricorn), sit in our respective seats taking pages and pages of notes about the planets; malign and benign, friendly and unfriendly, aspecting or in retrograde,what house they're in, etc. Based off of these and many more calculations we can now (sort of) determine innumerable things about any person in question, including but not limited to: their relationship with their parents, where their pen might be, whether it's a good day for them, they're relationship with their lovers (including how good said relations are), and of course their overall personality.

Each day is filled with meaningful eye contact and strategic sips of chai (it's just really hard not to laugh when discussing the 7th house). Each walk back to Assi filled with conversations ranging from "that was weirdly accurate" to incongruent laughter over how compatibility is determined. And in between Rakeshji will talk, hair delicately flapping in the fan, often being hilarious (his list of dangerous sports was rugby, pole vaulting, and water polo), occasionally giving really sweet advice.

Last night, as we discussed marital issues, Rakeshji told us how to fix or improve any relationship. His strategy (don't worry, he assured us that he gives this advice freely, with no copyright) is to mentally love the person who is having issues with you or you are having issues with. Imagine them, he says, and think of good things for them, wish them well. Then, he suggests, you garland them with all sorts of beautiful smelling flowers. And once you garland them and think of them with love, when you meet again they will have "a good feeling in their heart." Also, he assures us, this is the easiest way to do it because you don't even need to see them in person!

And, in Rakeshji's words: "You may think: what is this? Well I'll tell you what this is. It is life!"
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Visions of India

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This Is The Dawning Of The Age Of Aquarius

Emma Miner,Visions of India

Description

To try and put into words the truly incredible, hilarious, and wild time that is my daily astrology lecture would be like trying to argue that Rakeshji doesn’t have one of the most impressive mustaches in the world, which is to say: entirely impossible. Each day me and my fellow amateur astrologist, Isa (Ascendant Leo, […]

Posted On

11/22/15

Author

Emma Miner

Category

Visions of India

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    [post_date] => 2015-11-17 07:36:49
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    [post_content] => Hey everyone,

We're back with another installment into our series of yaks. Last you heard from us we were in Delhi, green from having just stepped off the train into this strange new land. Now, however, you'll find us changed men. Our beards have grown thick upon our chins and they work great for catching the delicious indian food that slips from our roti. Our wits have sharpened and we easily distinguish between those cows likely to spear us, and those that allow us to pass in peace. Our speech is rich with the local dialect of Hindi, and our conversations filled with thik hei's and hearty namaste's.

Two months later, to answer some of those questions we posed in our first yak two months ago, we have this to say as the two month anniversary of asking those question is today, two months from the beginning of our trip, which started two months ago.

1.The bathrooms seems to be nowhere.....and everywhere.

2.The toilet paper is back in the United States.

3. You can't avoid getting hit by a car on the street.

4. How long before I get sick? Ben: 13 days Charlie: 8 days

5. It is getting a little cooler, now, two months later.

 

I hope this update, two months after our first one, has appeased all our subscribers and fans. We really appreciate everyone's support in keeping this blog alive! Keep your eyes peeled for our next update approximately two months from now.

PEACE OUT

B&C

 
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Visions of India

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We’re back with more

aaron,Visions of India

Description

Hey everyone, We’re back with another installment into our series of yaks. Last you heard from us we were in Delhi, green from having just stepped off the train into this strange new land. Now, however, you’ll find us changed men. Our beards have grown thick upon our chins and they work great for catching […]

Posted On

11/17/15

Author

aaron

Category

Visions of India

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