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India – Spring 2007

Journal 8

Varanasi is the city of silk, temples and learning. It’s a major pilgrimage site for Hindus, especially since it is right along the Ganges River, also called Ganga. Our experience in Varanasi was really interesting. We saw where people cremate their relatives and put the ashes in the river, since this is supposed to aid in achievement of salvation or nirvana. Right next to those people were others who were bathing in these waters for the same purpose. This seemed very disturbing to us but the Ganges River is seen as a god to the Hindu people. Thus, they worship it and think of it as much more than a dirty river filled with disease.

Another interesting site right along the banks of the river is the many Sadhus, which are naked holy men. They are Hindus who have set themselves apart from society. They cover themselves in ashes and walk around as holy men seeking out moksha. They are the only people in this culture who are actually allowed to walk around naked and will not get in trouble. Also while being here, we visited temples and took bicycle rickshaw rides through the city. Varanasi was one of the more dangerous cities we’ve been in though so we didn’t do much exploring on our own and we had to be more cautious of our bags.

It is interesting to be living with 28 white people while traveling through India. At times you feel like the minority, going to stores and getting ripped off by shopkeepers just because you have a white face and don’t speak the language. Other times you get tired of being with the same 30 people all the time. I think our group is at the point where the dreamy honeymoon stage of the cross cultural is over and now we have good days and bad days, as well as thing we love and things we hate. Overall, I am having so much fun this semester and never will forget this experience.

- Felicia Wideman