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Visions of India
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Prayer Flags Monestary Stupa Leh Ladakh

Prayer Flags Monestary Stupa Leh Ladakh

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    [post_content] => It has been a true journey these last three months!

Here are some final thoughts from the students in anonymous fashion:

 

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

I believed that Kashmir was just a desert full of goats and men with AK-47s that Led Zeppelin wrote a song about, not one of the most amazing, beautiful, and geographically, culturally, ethnically, religiously, and linguistically diverse places that I have ever been to.

One misconception that I had about India was that there was a consistent culture that would be the same or similar in all regions of the countries. I was surprised by the diversity from region to region. Even the religion and gods were different. I learned that India as a cohesive identity was fairly new, and that country supports many languages, customs, and beliefs.

I honestly didn't have many expectations coming to India on this journey. Mostly, I had general knowledge about stuff, but nothing too specific.

Before I came on this trip, I thought the caste system was horrible and everyone wanted to get rid of these old ways. What I found out was that many people would rather keep it. The system gives people stable guidelines to live by socially and economically.

Before coming to India, I thought that the caste system was going to dominate Indian society. However, I learned during my time here that that was not necessarily true. In cities, especially, more and more rights and opportunities have been created for the people from each caste. Although entirely equal rights have not been established, the transition to a more just social environmental is definitely happening.

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

I feel like I have learned a lot about myself and about how to better deal with different situations. I have become more interested and curious about the world and different cultures. I feel that this experience and the things that I have learned during this experience have made me more interested in exploring the world and have made me so much more open minded.

I feel so much less certain of my understanding of pretty much everything.

This trip has created a space for me to ask all the big questions in life and I have begun to learn about self-awareness, leadership, and global citizenship. I’ve stopped to ask myself how I impact my community and the world. How do I impact others? How does my self-dialogue impact my own experiences?

I have loved our discussions and how meaningful they have been. I love all the quotes that have been read to us.

I’ve learned a lot over these past three months. I’ve learned about Hinduism, Buddhism and Islam. I’ve learned about our environment and what I can do to lead a more sustainable life. I’ve learned how to be a better leader, how to ask for help, and how to question things that I don’t understand. Most importantly though, I’ve learned a lot about myself— my motivations, values, and what inspires me. I was challenged a lot over this trip, but the lessons that came from it are what made this such a special experience.

I have been impacted in lots of ways. I’m really still figuring out just how I was affected.

I think that my time in India has made me consider my impact on the people around me. I found through talks on environmental issues and service to be really insightful. I now want to be more intentional about my actions.

Everything that I have experienced on this trip has made me question what I believe in and what I value. I have thought and discussed deeply some of life’s biggest questions. Although I now have a broader view on the world, I have come to know myself and my values much more.

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

Friends and family should expect me to be a little confused about my role in American society. I’m used to something different now and the adjustment could be frustrating and maybe lonely. Be patient with me. You should also know that I am excited for the future. I’ve learned what gives my life meaning: deep connection, constant curiosity, personal growth, and new adventures.

I feel that I have gone through a lot of changes and I am still trying to work through and process all of them. Please have patience with me.

I miss you all a ton. I’ve had an amazing time on this trip and I can’t express how thankful I am for supporting me with this decision. One thing you should know though, I’ve changed a bit. I now think a bit differently. I enjoy having deep, meaningful conversation. I care a lot about the environment. I have new views and opinions. So please try to be patient with me and I will certainly be patient with you. I am still your same old son/brother/friend that likes to laugh, talk about sports, go to mass, and most importantly I will forever love you no matter what.

They should know that I want to talk about a lot of deeper subjects like spirituality, social issues, environmentalism, etc.

That I am tired. But I need lots of adventure and inspiration.

You should know that I love them all so much. I am now even more full of curiosity, adventure, love, passion and I thirst for knowledge much more than before. I have a much wider range of interests than I ever thought I would have. I aspire to travel to many new places. You all should know that I love life so much!

Let me tell you, we are going to have a LONG talk when I get back.

Oh boy, do I have a lot to tell you!
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The world is round and what you think of an end is really a beginning

Visions of India Students,Best Notes From The Field, Picture of the Week, Visions of India

Description

It has been a true journey these last three months! Here are some final thoughts from the students in anonymous fashion:   1. What is a misconception that you had about India that has been dispelled or challenged over the course of this trip? I believed that Kashmir was just a desert full of goats […]

Posted On

05/9/15

Author

Visions of India Students

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    [post_content] => Students are checked in for their international flight which will be taking off in about an hour.

 

Safe travels!

with love,
    [post_title] => Students checked in for their international flight
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Students checked in for their international flight

instructors ,Visions of India

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Students are checked in for their international flight which will be taking off in about an hour.   Safe travels! with love,

Posted On

05/9/15

Author

instructors

Category

Visions of India

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    [post_date] => 2015-05-05 15:51:09
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    [post_content] => Dear India Semester 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:

May 9th, 2015
United Airlines #083
Depart: Delhi (DEL) 11:30pm
Arrive: Newark (EWR) 5:10am (May 10th)

We will have a Dragons Administrator on call for the duration of the travel day.   Starting on Friday, 5/8, 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 Group Flight Information

Anna Stevens,Visions of India

Description

Dear India Semester 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 […]

Posted On

05/5/15

Author

Anna Stevens

Category

Visions of India

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    [post_content] => I can not even begin to describe how magical a place the Himalayas are. If I could I would give you my eyes so you could see how majestic this place relay is. Stepping off the plane into Leh was incredibly overwhelming. First of all I was exhausted from the horrible E. coli I just had and also the mountains were HUGE! The Himalayas are supposed to be big but they were right there towering over me, massive giants with little white pointy hats.

We have now been in Laddahk for almost a month and I am still not over how crazy this place is. It reminds me of something out of a story book, and I keep having to remind myself that they are real.
    [post_title] => A Magical Place
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Visions of India

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A Magical Place

Lily Denmeade,Visions of India

Description

I can not even begin to describe how magical a place the Himalayas are. If I could I would give you my eyes so you could see how majestic this place relay is. Stepping off the plane into Leh was incredibly overwhelming. First of all I was exhausted from the horrible E. coli I just had […]

Posted On

05/4/15

Author

Lily Denmeade

Category

Visions of India

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    [post_content] => I was born a female in a time of radical change; a time in which an increasing number of women are coming to terms with the millennia of oppression they are fighting. That being said, we are nowhere near done with our fight. Despite having been born in a country that is considered progressive in terms of gender roles, I still feel as though I was born into a caste. Historically, the Indian caste system was a way to divide society, both professionally and socially, beginning at birth. There were, and still are, social rules that dictate interactions between and within them. Although “untouchability”, the practice of considering the casteless “polluting” (that is, not touching them or anything they have touched until it has been washed) has been illegal for over six decades and a series of laws have been enacted banning discrimination by caste, it is still prevalent in Indian society. Not enough steps have been taken to ensure that every single Indian, regardless of caste, is considered inherently equal. In a similar way, even though gender equality is on the rise word wide, many women are still told their place in life from birth and how to interact with men, creating a society that systematically discriminates against women and that has not done enough to ensure equal treatment.

The more I research caste, the less it makes sense, but one of the things I was able to make sense of and that I was unaware of before I came to India is that the caste system is split up into Jatis and Varnas. Jatis are thousands of hereditary groups that determine occupation and are not specifically Hindu. What are specifically Hindu and what we think of as caste in the west are the Varnas. The Varnas are the four classifications of the Jatis, starting with Brahmans (traditionally priests), followed by the Ksatriyas (nobles or warriors), then the Vaisyas (merchants), and finally, the Sudras (laborers). At the bottom of the bottom, are the Untouchables (Dalits, as they call themselves today), those that are excluded from the Varnas and traditionally do the dirtiest work in society. Every Indian has a Jati, however, only Hindus have Varnas. Historians are unsure of exactly where the entire caste system comes from, although the Varnas can be found in the Hindu Vedas. Evidence suggests that prior to British Colonization, the caste system was more fluid, but the British made it rigid in order to conduct administrative business more effectively.

The world Dalit in Sanksrit means “crushed or broken”, and according to Dr. Vinod Sonkkar, a professor at Delhi University, fifteen percent of a population of 1.2 billion is still marginalized due to the concept of untouchability. Dr. Sonkar himself is a Dalit, indicating that it is possible to move up in society, yet because of teasing due to his lack of caste, he was forced to complete on of his degrees via correspondence. Furthermore, Dalits are nearly always absent in the most prominent and lucrative sectors of society. There have been only two Dalit Supreme Court justices in the last sixty five years and a recent survey by the Center for the Study of Developing Societies showed that out of 315 important decision makers in thirty seven Delhi-based publications and television channels, there were no Dalits. Just four percent of the 315 people were from other “backward classes” (Shudra castes that are considered economically backwards). Another recent survey by the National Council of Applied Economic Research showed that twenty seven percent of Indians still practice caste untouchability, meaning that they do not let Dalits into their kitchens or let them use any of their utensils. A campaign called Article 17 (the constitutional amendment banning untouchability), run by an Indian organization called Video Volunteers is now preparing to file a lawsuit in the Supreme Court, asking the government to take extra measures in stopping the practice of untouchability. They gathered video evidence from Dalit communities all over India and discovered that there are children who are made to eat lunch separately because of caste, barbers who refuse to cut the hair of Dalits, and women who cannot use the public tap in their village and have to walk for hours to fetch water. According to the video evidence, however, things are slowly changing for the better.

Many states have or have had Dalit chief ministers, there has been a Dalit president, the current prime minister is from a lower caste, there are now affirmative action programs for Dalits in government jobs and higher education, and there are laws that are meant to protect them, even if they need to be better enforced. Although there is progress, it has not erased discrimination by caste. How can we erase a system of horrendous discrimination that is so deeply rooted in a society, a culture and a religion?  What are small steps India can take to fully abolish caste? Do all Indians even want caste abolished? Clearly, the answer to that last question is no. Still, these are questions I ask myself every day, just as I ask myself if discrimination against women will ever disappear. Things are better today than they were fifty years ago, but India still needs to make the concept that every human is created equal an integral part of its society. Only when the youngest of the young are taught that, Brahman or Dalit, everybody is equal, will discrimination by caste end. It is extremely challenging, however, to do away with the religious element of caste and I cannot pretend I know how to do that. All I know is that I would like equality and that for those of lower castes and for women, it has yet to come. The world has not gone far enough in the push for equality, and the myth that women are treated equal to men needs to disappear because it is a delusion.

In the United States and in the rest of the world, the fight for gender equality needs to be real and needs to be urgent. Women are, by and large, not yet treated like equals in society. In Varanasi, there are moments when I do not feel safe around men. I am afraid of walking around alone at night and whenever I buy a lassi, I order it take away so I do not have to stand in the streets eating it alone. That being said, I do not always feel safe around men in America either. I do not walk alone at night or usually engage with men I do not know. In Varanasi, the females in my host family do not leave the house unless they have a real purpose, like an errand to run, a job, or school to go to. There are no walks or trips to the movie theatre. I feel so lucky because where I live, I can do those things, however, that does not mean I do not face gender discrimination. While on a run, I sometimes am catcalled by a group of rowdy teenage boys crammed into a speeding car. In attending to my daily life, I have gotten told to smile by older, male strangers, as if girls always need to be smiling and docile. I have been banned from carrying props on tech crew because a boy joined us, even though I had proven myself perfectly capable the year before. I have been groped in the streets and whistled at in front of my father. I have been underestimated and verbally abused. I have been treated like an object, a toy and less than human. And finally, I have been raped. I have to be skinny, but not a stick, ambitious, but not more ambitious than my male counterparts, and wear make-up, but look natural. I have to be independent, but put the needs and dreams of my husband or boyfriend before my own. If I sleep around, I am a slut, but if I wait, I am a prude. If I take charge, I am bossy, but if I do not, I am meek. Despite all of my privilege and opportunity, I still feel oppressed by the world I live in. Unfortunately, I do not think I am the only one who feels this way. Alarming statistics evidence the systematic discrimination against women.

In America, women earn seventy six cents to every man’s dollar. In April and September of 2014, Republicans in the Senate blocked votes on the Paycheck Fairness Act. As of 2012, women held only seventeen percent of the seats in congress. There has never been a female president, even though countries that are considered less developed, like India and Argentina, have had them or do have them. Our constitution does not even guarantee equal rights for both sexes. In fact, the Equal Rights Amendment, written in 1922 by suffragist Alice Paul, is still three states short of ratification. The Institute for Women’s policy research at the University of California Hastings College of Law ranks the United States twentieth out of twenty industrialized countries when measuring means to make workplaces family friendly (alternative work arrangements, family leave, part time employment, ect.). Furthermore, every other industrialized nation in the world mandates paid parental leave and just sixteen percent of United States employees are granted paid maternity leave. Abortion is legal, but about eighty five percent of American counties do not have a provider and, at the state level, more restrictions on abortion were enacted in the past three years than in the previous decade. Under the Affordable Care Act, twenty five states restrict abortion coverage in the insurance exchange and nine do not allow private insurers to cover abortions. Women comprise the majority of Americans living in poverty, making up sixty percent of minimum wage workers and about two thirds of America’s part time workers are women. As of 2010, only 6.2 percent of top earning positions were occupied by women and just twenty one percent of the S&P 500s list of CEOs are women. The leading cause of death of a pregnant female in America is murder by their partners and the Center for Disease Control estimates that 19.3 percent of American women have been raped in their lifetime. That is nearly one in five or twenty three million women. Approximately 1.9 million are victims of attempted or completed rape each year. The United States Bureau of Justice Statistics defines rape as “Forced sexual intercourse including both psychological coercion as well as physical force. Forced sexual intercourse means penetration by the offender(s). Included attempted rapes, male and well as female victims, and both heterosexual and homosexual victims. Attempted rape included verbal threats of rape.” Ninety eight percent of rapists in the United States will never spend a day in jail. And instead of teaching how not to rape, we teach how not to get raped. Women and girls are told that they were “asking for it” because of their behavior or their dress, but let me tell you right now, I certainly never asked for it.

On my bad days, I start believe that I do in fact have less inherent worth than my male counterparts. I feel lesser, and how could I not? When I was told that the lines were blurred and was accused of lying, how could I not? When I hear of widespread abuse of women and know what it means to feel dehumanized by rape, how could I not? I am so heartbroken that we live in a world where so many men have not learned to respect the very people that carry their children and where so many women leave their houses, fearing for their safety. It is true that things have gotten better for us, just as it has for lower caste Indians, but it is simply not enough until we live in a world where it is not regarded as strange for a woman to build houses and for a man to practice ballet. It will not be enough until we are not groped and grabbed in crowded areas and until women are given all the opportunities and freedoms that men are given. I want to live in a world in which I feel free and equal. Equality, to me, does not mean being regarded as exactly the same as men. Men and women do have some inherent differences. Equality means being given the same opportunities and freedoms as men, as I mentioned above. It means not being pushed around and underestimated because I am a woman. We teach girls that they are equal to boys, but they grow up being treated differently and wonder why. Where I live, I can now vote, own property, divorce without becoming a pariah, choose whether or not I want to get married, become a CEO, and be elected to public office. I have the liberty to voice my opinions and criticize societal norms, but again, it is just not enough. We need to stop teaching our girls and boys that we are living in a time of gender equality, because that is not true. Instead, we need to teach them how to achieve gender equality. It mostly boils down to education. Educate boys and girls about rape and how to respect others. Educate the youth on gender inequality. Teach them that they have the same inherent worth as every other human being on this planet. I cannot pretend that I have all the answers; I can only look at the world around me, recognize the good and the bad, and try to come up with my own solutions.None of this means, however, that I think men are bad. Most are not, in fact, and there are plenty of women who are violent or sexist against men. Furthermore, not all women are victims and none of this means that there are not women who are thriving all over the world, because there are. It simply means that it is harder to thrive in society as a woman than as a man.

So many women are still told how to behave around men (myself included), who to marry, what to do with their lives, and how to dress. This is what caste does as well. It tells Indians what they can and cannot do and who they can and cannot marry. Why is the United States pretending that we are so high above caste? We are not. Caste is gender and gender is caste. How long will it take to undo this monster we have created? I am so tired of feeling tired and so tired of this oppression. How much have we lost just because we told one human being that they were less than their neighbors? As a collective society, we need to understand how detrimental oppression is to the human race. Every time a child is banished from a lunch table because he is a Dalit, we have failed him and every time a woman receives a paycheck that is less than her male co-workers, we have failed her. It may turn out to be nearly impossible to abolish all oppression and discrimination, but we can try.

    [post_title] => Regional Seminar Final Project- The Myth of Equality
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Visions of India

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Regional Seminar Final Project- The Myth of Equality

Julia Aagesen ,Visions of India

Description

I was born a female in a time of radical change; a time in which an increasing number of women are coming to terms with the millennia of oppression they are fighting. That being said, we are nowhere near done with our fight. Despite having been born in a country that is considered progressive in […]

Posted On

05/4/15

Author

Julia Aagesen

Category

Visions of India

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    [post_date] => 2015-05-01 10:22:17
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    [post_content] => I was weary to the bone. I could not get myself warm enough or get enough sleep. My thirst for water was never quenched and I was never hungry at the right times. I could smell myself, even outside, and it was easy to feel the clumps of grease in my hair. My lips were dry and cracked and I was chafing in all the wrong places. My knees ached and both of my shins were splintered. My feet were cold and peeling and my cuticles were a disaster. Yet somehow, none of that discomfort mattered.

I nearly chose to go on a different program, simply because of the trek. I knew that the trek would take a physical and mental toll on me. I also knew that I would be the slowest and probably the most anxious. I was so afraid and rightfully so, I think. I wound up being the slowest by far and I was anxious about every aspect of the trek. It turns out that the trek was one of the most physically, mentally, and emotionally challenging things I've ever done and I make no apologies for having trouble with it. It was so hard and so excruciatingly painful at times, yet I am so thrilled I did not let my fear of trekking stop me from doing so.

All my life, I've struggled with self doubt. On rare occasions, I believe in who I am, but most days, I wish I could be someone else. Perseverance and the understanding that oftentimes the journey matters more than the destination are not things that come naturally to me. I constantly focus on where I’m going instead of where I am. On the trek, however, something magical happened. I finally realized an inherent beauty in the journey. It finally hit me that wherever I’m going does not always matter as much as where I am. The destination matters less than what I do along the way.

I remember the first two days of the trek. There was about six inches of snow on the ground and our feet were so cold, we were putting them on each others stomachs to warm them up. It was so beautiful though, the snow. It covered our campsite like a blanket, glistening in the faint morning light.

I remember how much I struggled those first few days, not believing that my legs could climb up those hills. I watched everyone walk in front of me (except for whoever was carrying the med bag that day) with the knowledge that I was not physically capable of walking as fast as they were walking. I wanted the walk to be over, or, at the very least, for it to be downhill.

I remember crying in front of the entire group one morning and learning that I do, in fact, wear my heart on my sleeve. I was so tired of being an anxious person. I wanted to forget about the medicine and the years of therapy that started when I was eight years old. I wanted to be like “everybody else”. As I told Jeff this, through enormous sobs, he said to me, “Julia, there is no everybody else.” And, boy was he right. I learned that day that it is not me and then everybody else; it is instead all of us, lost and confused, together.

I remember how hard the hike was for me, the day that I cried. Rebecca was a champion, offering me moral support the entire last part of the hike. When we at last arrived at the supposed campsite, we learned that we still had a half hour left to go because there was no water where we were. I remember thinking that that was impossible, that we had to have arrived and that I could not possibly keep going. By that point, my entire body was almost numb. It was hailing and I felt myself starting to shut down, but miraculously, I did keep going. I know now that the only reason I reached our campsite was because I told myself I could—and strangely enough, that last half hour was the best part of the day.

I remember looking up and seeing the summit. I could actually see the pass we were about to cross, finally. Maeve was behind me with the med bag the entire time, supporting and encouraging me. “We’re almost there!” I kept hearing, and “You can do it, Julia!” Suddenly, I was there. I was up and over the pass. I was gasping for breath because of the altitude and my legs felt like they were on fire, but I was there. I had done what I thought I was never going to be able to do. That day happens to be one of the best days of my life. I’m not sure how to describe how beautiful it was there or how good I felt about the journey that day. Once we had climbed as high as we were planning on climbing, we went even higher to release biodegradable Tibetan prayer flags into the air. While releasing the flags into bursts of wind, we thought of well wishes to go along with them. I don’t even remember what I was thinking. I only remember that I sent happiness into the wind that day.

I remember throwing my arms into the air and feeling the cool wind on my face. I turned around and around, taking in the stunning snow capped peaks, knowing that I would probably never have the same opportunity again. I smiled and shouted something in Ladakhi, filled with an overwhelming joy which, truthfully, is the feeling I live for. I may be making it sound like the destination mattered more, but I can tell you that it didn't. The struggle of the journey was fundamentally more important to me. I was so happy when I made it because it turned out to be so difficult to get there. I learned so much more about who I am on the way there than at the top. What I learned at the top, however, is that, as we talked about at dinner one night, it would not have been the same had I been able to drive or fly there.

It was such an incredible experience because I had to struggle. I know now that I am made of so much more than I can imagine. During the journey, I learned that I can persevere. I learned that I can lean on other people without necessarily getting hurt. I learned that I am worth something. I do not have to justify my existence and I have the right to exist without apologizing for everything I do. I have the obligation to support others as they have supported me. If I could put how the trek changed my life into a perfect sentence, I would, but I can’t. I’m not sure I can even comprehend how it changed my life right now, but I can say that it was a single step. It was the beginning of the rest of my life and the first step in a journey of thousands of step. I will remember it for the rest of my life as the first time ever that I understood what it means for a journey to be even more beautiful than the destination because of what is learned along the way. It was a single step in the right direction. It was my single step towards happiness.
    [post_title] => My Single Step
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Best Notes From The Field, Visions of India

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My Single Step

Julia Aagesen ,Best Notes From The Field, Visions of India

Description

I was weary to the bone. I could not get myself warm enough or get enough sleep. My thirst for water was never quenched and I was never hungry at the right times. I could smell myself, even outside, and it was easy to feel the clumps of grease in my hair. My lips were […]

Posted On

05/1/15

Author

Julia Aagesen

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    [post_content] => When your hands are numb from the cold the last thing you want to do is take down a tent. When your shoulders are stiff and knotted the last thing you want to do is strap on a pack. And when your feet are sore and blistered the last thing you want to do is set out on a day long trek in high altitude valleys and passes.

 

But you do it anyway.

 

Human growth happens just outside the comfort zone, in the things we are not quite ready for, and nobody is ever truly ready for the wilderness. When you think it will be a certain temperature, it will be lower, when you think there will be only so much snow there will be more, and when the Ladakhi guides tell you a hike will be flat and you will get there in time for lunch, you will reach the camp around 4 PM and find you have gained one thousand feet in vertical climb.

 

Growth also requires self-awareness, and the wilderness certainly makes you aware of yourself. You feel every blister, every numb finger and toe, every aching muscle. When you are truly aware of your body, you know that you can take that extra weight, you can go that extra mile, and you can set up the tent even though it is snowing and windy and you are freezing and tired. And you realize how you need to take care of your body, whether that means eating more food that you thought you could contain, or asking someone else to carry your weight for a while. The wilderness has a silence I have never experienced in my busy modern life, and without distractions and background noise, all that is left is my own thoughts and feeling. Being alone with myself always forces some introspection upon me, some awareness of my inner self. I see these moments as chances to look over my decisions, question what I believe, and decide what I want in life. I think the gift of wilderness is all the opportunities to grow, because nature isn’t stagnant, but always shifting, changing and growing.

 

One of the most profound feelings that came out of this time in the wilderness was that I began to sense myself as an individual, but also as a part of a group. There is something about mountains that makes me realize how small I am compared to the world around me. Over the trip I spent time at both ends of the line, and at first I began comparing myself to others in the group, feeling proud to be at the front, and embarrassed when I found myself at the rear. After a few days the question of where am I? and How do I compare? faded into a more important questions: Where does the group need me to be? Once I started thinking this way it really didn’t matter if I felt strong that day and could take more weight, or if I was trailing and needed help. I was just one person and all I could do was help the last person get to camp.
I think the wilderness makes me realize what is truly important. The wilderness forced  me to  make decisions about what belongings are worth carrying along and also helped me see my role in a group. I hope to take this experience home with me and spend more times in the mountains and wilderness around me. I want to keep pushing my limits, testing the waters, climbing to higher summits, and do what every self-respecting plant or animal does: growing.
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Visions of India

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Reflections on Wilderness

Olivia Machetanz,Visions of India

Description

When your hands are numb from the cold the last thing you want to do is take down a tent. When your shoulders are stiff and knotted the last thing you want to do is strap on a pack. And when your feet are sore and blistered the last thing you want to do is […]

Posted On

05/1/15

Author

Olivia Machetanz

Category

Visions of India

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    [post_date] => 2015-05-01 10:18:02
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    [post_content] => As we sat on the floor peeling vegetables, Lakshmi, the adorable fourteen year old daughter of the program house cook, asked me whether I would have a love marriage or an arranged marriage. I replied, saying that I would have a love marriage because that is the custom in the United States. She proceeded to tell me that she wants a love marriage, but will not be able to have one because if she had one her family would stop talking to her. She then added that she has to marry within her caste as well. I wasn’t quite sure how to react to a fourteen year old telling me the rules of her marriage. It’s not something I am used to.

I certainly never thought of the possibility that if one doesn't marry by arrangement and within caste, they might be excommunicated from their family. Frankly, I am not sure how I feel about love marriages versus arranged marriages. Although this might be an unpopular belief in cultures where love marriages are the norm, I do not think that love marriages are necessarily better than arranged marriages. That being said, I do not necessarily think that arranged marriages are better than love marriages either. What I do think is wrong; however, is the concept of caste and marrying within it. In my opinion, caste is a horrendous system of social stratification that is oppressive beyond belief.

Yet who am I to judge? I can have my opinions and I can say that I wish Lakshmi were able to marry in whatever way she wants to, but I do not understand Indian society. I have a tendency, maybe as an American or as a Westerner, who knows, to judge different societies by comparing them to my own. Yes, I believe caste is unequivocally bad, but who am I to pretend we don’t have unofficial caste systems in the United States (sex, race, class)? Who am I to say that I come from a place that is better when I don’t even understand where I am or where I come from?

What if I were an Indian? Would I think that caste is bad or would I be in favor of it? Would I want an arranged marriage or a love marriage? I really can’t say. I can’t say that I would be totally opposed to the Indian caste system even though I wish I could. I didn't grow up in Indian society so how do I know? I believe in what I believe in partially due to my society. My society tells me that love marriages are what I should want. It tells me that caste is bad (which it is), yet every day it enforces many American caste systems of its own. I may not be used to India’s society and I may not agree with it, but it is certainly not my place to judge it.
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Visions of India

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Who Am I to Judge?

Julia Aagesen ,Visions of India

Description

As we sat on the floor peeling vegetables, Lakshmi, the adorable fourteen year old daughter of the program house cook, asked me whether I would have a love marriage or an arranged marriage. I replied, saying that I would have a love marriage because that is the custom in the United States. She proceeded to […]

Posted On

05/1/15

Author

Julia Aagesen

Category

Visions of India

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    [post_date] => 2015-05-01 10:16:21
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    [post_content] => We just finished an 11 day trek in and around the Stok mountain range in Ladakh. I learned a lot:

Mountains are pretty.

My lungs hold up well at high altitudes.

My dainty hip bones dont hold up so well to backpack straps.

Trekking and chatting with your friends is a great way to try and figure out your confusing and awkward and privileged teenage life. Trekking in silence, with only the crunching of the boots in front of you and the gurgle of a stream at your side, is a great way to notice the beautiful little purple rocks with white spots that look like broken pieces of night sky, and the lizards that bolt under them when they realize you're there, and the weird shaggy mountain spirit beyond time earth god yaks who don't care that you're there, and the yak poop bleached to blinding white in the sun, and the yak skulls dyed red, lying atop piles of rocks inscribed with meticulous mantras. Trekking in silence beyond silence, after you've run back down the trail for your fallen sunglasses, and found yourself out of sight and earshot of the group, at the bottom of a snow-rimmed bowl of rocks, and lost youself somewhere out of time along the slope in the crushing stillness in communion with the lichen, is a great time to find yourself again alive, small and temporary.

There is a time to be small, and supplicate deferently before the mountain, and be in awe of infinity, but there is also a time to stare the mountain down and say "what up fool, get ready because I'm boutta hike the shit out of you, you're goin' down," and to throw yourself at the mountain and attack it, straining legs and pumping arms, sunglasses jiggling on the bridge of your nose and lungs grabbing furiously at air that isn't there and sinews burning with desire for a peak that every instant seems to recede. Eventually it's no longer a mountain, just every rock that rushes towards you, past your eyes and under your feet. There is no peak, in the same way that there is nothing but the peak, and there's nowhere and no way to go, and theres nothing to do but go, so you go. After some insant eternity you look up and the going is gone beyond and you're still. the icy fringes of the sky are still too. You spin around, sit down lamely, chest heaving and with a wild smile and glazed eyes, and drink your juice box.

Mango juice is great on a long trek beccause it makes me burp, so I can taste it all day, yum,
    [post_title] => Mountain Lessons
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Visions of India

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Mountain Lessons

Nicholas Uva,Visions of India

Description

We just finished an 11 day trek in and around the Stok mountain range in Ladakh. I learned a lot: Mountains are pretty. My lungs hold up well at high altitudes. My dainty hip bones dont hold up so well to backpack straps. Trekking and chatting with your friends is a great way to try […]

Posted On

05/1/15

Author

Nicholas Uva

Category

Visions of India

WP_Post Object
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    [post_date] => 2015-05-01 10:14:35
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    [post_content] => In the United States, we take our trash out to the curb a few times a week to be picked up by a man who dangles off of the back of a truck with gloves riding up his arms. This man in the city maintenance suit then takes the collected waste to a dump or landfill. The trash then goes into a pile, into an incinerator and in some rural areas under the dirt, creating a small trash hill. Where I live in Maine, I have seen many small trash mountains. In the winter time, children sled down the finished trashy product like it is a proud part of the Himalayas. Some trash we create does not so simply end up in artificially beautiful sliding spots or in city incinerators. The EPA estimates that fifty to eighty percent of waste from technology that we put in “recycling” often ends up traveling overseas to Asia to be broken down into precious metals and toxic chemicals. These neurotoxins are breathed into workers lungs like a fairy dust drug--minimal pay being the high.

 

In Varanasi India, and in many other parts of the state Uttar Pradesh, the trash is taken out street side every morning –un-bagged and in a large pile on the corner. Jumping the gun to incineration, the neighbors will light the unwanted items on fire until they no longer have to see what they are disposing of. This practice saves the fuel resources, time, and money of public waste services. When I first saw this happening in India, I was horrified. Plastics were being burned in front of my eyes and cows and dogs would come and fight over steaming crumb packets and sleep in the ashes each night.

Throughout the day these piles are where food scraps are placed for disposal and where these animals eat.  This Indian waste management system is in your face. It burns your nose with melting plastics and literal rotten eggs; the smoke drifts up and peeps under your sunglasses making your eyes water. Maybe this act is the trash’s last words to us, or maybe, the United States has become too disconnected to the waste we create. First and for-most, this disposal system is not environmentally healthy, although it is a brutally eye opening way to be connected to what we see as waste. The United States is five percent of the world’s population, yet it creates thirty percent of the world’s garbage. There is a short and sweet video (compared to the dense read that is the book) that my group watched while at S.E.C.M.O.L (Students Educational and Cultural Movement of Ladakh) called “The Story of Stuff”. The writer and producer of the book and video, Annie Leonard, talks about her views of waste reduction in the United States. Leonard believes this shift should happen on a cultural level. Jumping over the idea of recycling, Leonard acknowledges the benefits, but believes our waste problem can be cured simply by reducing what we “need”. By educating others on creating less waste to begin with, Leonard is not saying to change all of your daily practices. She’s not saying to never eat out in fear of obtaining those non-biodegradable Styrofoam containers, or keeping that shirt even though it is merely a pipe dream that it will ever fit. Her philosophy suggests, however, that if you feel that you are going for the full poo-poo platter then maybe bring your own Tupperware, or give away your old shirt to a thrift store. Practicing awareness with products that we truly need can be tricky in our consumerist culture.

 

United States culture revolves around status. We the people like to look good—thus we create more trash. For example, every once in a while big sweaters are in fashion, so we go to a big trendy box store and purchase them. When the big sweater craze stops looking so good, thanks to social medias, many Americans will discard them. Not all Americans can afford to live this way, but many wish to in order to feel better connected with society. Even after 9/11, the conservative President G.W. Bush did not ask the nation to pray, donate to hospitals, or to affected firefighters, he asked us to shop. “Go shopping and fly frequently”, he said, and only two weeks after the attacks he voiced “Take your families and enjoy life the way we want it to be enjoyed”.  What? We base our entire society—even when in devastation, off of consumerism. I remember my cousin living in the way Bush told her to live. She listened to these words as gospel and went out and bought half of a new wardrobe because it was the right American thing to do. I personally do not think that Chinese sweatshop dresses really helped anyone gain confidence that they would no longer have to fear terrorism.

 

In many tropical parts of India, like the Uttar Pradesh region, people have a tendency to throw trash on the ground at random. This is because no system outside of neighborhood burnings is available frequently in most areas. The high humidity decomposes garbage, leaves, and animal wastes (especially of the cow variety) very quickly making it another disconnecting process of waste management. The natural wastes can visibly be seen going away slowly, but underneath lies plastic and chemically based materials that will not biodegrade. These products of a developed and factory-born culture are becoming more and more common as global consumption is on the rise. The difficult part of these trashy issues in developed and in developing countries is the idea of a “right” and of a “wrong”. It is impossible to step into a culture that has been thriving for centuries and offer a new, more difficult way, to dispose of their unwanted goods. The solution will always be better education. The students we had the pleasure of hanging out with at S.E.C.M.O.L learned about their traditional culture, the English language, and most importantly, environmental sustainability. These students would reuse everything that would break as if it was simply meant to be something else. There is no absolute right or wrong in the issues of waste management, although through global education, trash can become apart of our natural cycle. In the United States, if we simply practice awareness in our daily lives, trash and consumption can reduce along with pollution.
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Best Notes From The Field, Visions of India

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Trash Talk-Regional Seminar Final Ideas

Stefanie Burchill,Best Notes From The Field, Visions of India

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In the United States, we take our trash out to the curb a few times a week to be picked up by a man who dangles off of the back of a truck with gloves riding up his arms. This man in the city maintenance suit then takes the collected waste to a dump or […]

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05/1/15

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Stefanie Burchill

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