Pacrim Video!

Hello again!

I just found out that the pacrim video that I helped make is now online, and I wanted to share! This is an overview of what’s happened over the past four months. I think it turned out pretty well, and we’re already filming for part 2. Enjoy!

Pacrim Video: 1st Semester

*edit: The official pacrim blog has also been updated! Check it out here.

Adjusting to India

Today marks the end of my first week in Mysore. Adjusting to India has had its ups and downs, but my overall impression is that the next few months will be a little difficult, but fun.

The palace Illumination

One of the first things we did in Mysore was take a trip into town to see the palace all lit up. They do this every Sunday and on holidays, and in previous trips we were told the group has missed it, so we were very lucky. The palace was beautiful at night, and we had a great time wandering the grounds.

The next few days we had an orientation to the Vivekananda Institute whose facilities we are using, and two classes from a sanskritist. He told us the stories of the two great Indian epics, the Ramayana and the Mahabarata, which are so engrained in Indian life. While telling us the stories he would sometimes recite a few lines of the original Sanskrit in song, so they were very entertaining classes. The next day we had our first field trip to Chamundi Hill, the cite of a famous temple in Mysore, and then we went back to the palace in the day time.

Entrance to Chamundi hill Temple

The tour was underwhelming, and my favorite part was when we stopped by the statue of Nandi, the bull who serves as the god Shiva’s mount. The caretakers were in the process of putting in Nandi’s teeth when we got there, which we quickly realized were actually bananas.

Rachael, Luisa and me in front of the 2nd largest bull in India

Once our tour was over we were given free reign to explore the city, so naturally I went shopping. Since I’m in India, I went looking for sarees. I didn’t think I was going to get one, since I can’t imagine wearing it after leaving India, but once we got to the shop there was no turning back. Saree shops are amazing, since you basically wander in, sit at the counter, and then pick as many fabrics as you want from the shelves upon shelves of sarees. They’re sold as a long piece of fabric, which you then take to a tailor where they make the blouse and finish the edges. But the colors and patterns are so beautiful, it was great.

A Pile of Sarees!

The next event on our calendar was India’s 63rd Republic Day. We had to go over to the center at around 7:30am to watch them raise the flag and sing the national anthem. It was sort of cool, but mostly I was just tired. A man gave a long speech and I spent the entire time watching a bird that was walking around behind him. I’ve found that I have a hard time paying attention with Indian speakers, since they repeat themselves a lot, and spend most of the time talking about either how India was doing all these modern things long before the West, or how they’re catching up and doing better than the West today. I’m not super big on the competition, and occasionally I feel just a tiny bit insulted, but I’m just going to have to learn to let that one go.

Decorations for Republic Day

The more fun part of the ceremonies was when they had a bunch of dance groups perform for us. They were all local kids studying at the institute, and it was pretty fun. Afterward I went back into town to have my saree tailored, and had a great time hanging out with my friends again.

A holy cow outside Chamundi Hill

Friday was meant to be a free day, but as it turned out we had to register with the local police station for some reason or another. We were told it would be a serious ordeal, since India is the land of signatures, stamps, and bribes, but luckily the woman who runs our hostel was able to smooth everything out for us, and the whole thing took 20 minutes. We were going to go see a bollywood film, but we were informed last minute that the classical dance class I’d signed up for happened to be meeting in the afternoon, so I went to that instead.

Saturday we took an all day field trip to Sharvanabelagola and Belur to see a giant statue and a temple. The statue was at the top of a hill with 600 steps, and by the end of the climb I was extremely tired. Guess I gotta get in shape for that Himalayan trek…

Scenic view of Shravanabelagola from the big hill

The temple we went to afterward was really interesting, but I was too tired to really enjoy it, and I didn’t really want take my shoes off to go into another religious site. Again, that’s just something I’m going to have to get used to.

Entrance to Belur Temple

Today was my lazy day, and I was very happy to sleep in for once. 7:30am breakfast everyday really isn’t my thing, so this was a nice change. Tomorrow we start classes for real, and Thursday I have to give my research presentation, which I’m really nervous about. So I’ll be very busy for the next few days. Also, I’ve been assured that after we leave Mysore, there will be very scarce internet for the next month or so. Guess I’ll have to get my facebook fix in now!

The next three and a half months starts now!

Hello everyone, I’m finally in India! I guess this means Pac Rim is without a doubt over halfway over, since this is the last country I’m visiting. That’s a scary thought… But, with that said, I do have another three months to explore India, which is basically its own sub-continent, and Luisa and I have been thinking about adding a European leg on to the end of our journey. We’ll see what happens.

As for India, it is certainly an interesting place. I’ve been in the country for five days now, and I’m not exactly sure what to think about it. I guess the first thing is that it’s obnoxiously bureaucratic. Flying through Mumbai was the biggest pain in the but I can possibly imagine. As Prof. B told us, this is the land of stamps and signatures, and she really wasn’t kidding. Every carry on needed its own stamp, as did our boarding passes, and we had to get in and out of line at security several times to ensure we had all of these, because naturally they didn’t tell us we needed them until we were at the front of the line. When we got through security, about half an hour after our plane was supposed to leave, they still hadn’t announced our gate. After another half hour or so, the gate was announced, and we boarded a bus to take us to the plane. The bus then sat next to the plane for 15 minutes without letting us off for no apparent reason. It was a long and very trying day, but around 1am we got to the hotel safe and sound, bringing our total travel time to about 18 hours.

Our first day in India was pretty uneventful, especially compared to the previous day. I slept in, and then went out to see what was around. We started out in Bengaluru, previously named Bangalore, which is India’s third largest city. It seemed like a pretty busy place, with a very interesting mix of modern and rustic. We had trouble finding somewhere to eat, so Luisa, Erin and I ended up having a fancy meal with a bunch of business men. It was very good, but a bit expensive. Later on we had dinner with the whole group in traditional South Indian style, which was great, and we learned the proper way to eat with our hands, since silverware is very optional here. So far, I’d say the food is all pretty good, but very heavy, and a bit overly spicy for my tastes. I anticipate a very unhappy stomach for the next few months, but I planned ahead and stocked up on probiotics, so fingers crossed that helps.

We only spent two full days in Bengaluru, and the second day was my favorite in India so far. We all went shopping for punjabi suits, which are basically tunics with pants and a scarf made of light weight material. Some of them are beautiful, and they are generally pretty flattering. I bought a few, and spent the whole day looking in stores with Luisa, Sam and Rachael, and afterward we all went to a Bollywood film. We saw a movie called “Players,” which was basically the Indian version of the Italian Job, right down to the mini coopers. The whole thing was in Hindi without subtitles, but it was over the top enough that we generally understood all three hours of it. We had a lot of fun, and most of us intend to see as many movies as possible while we’re here.

A few styles of punjabi suits

Bringing you up to date, I’m now in Mysore, the second largest city in the state of Karnatika, where I will be continuing my art history class at a nearby university. We’re in a very quiet area, about a 20 minute auto-rickshaw ride from anything interesting, so I’ll hopefully be getting a lot of work done on my research paper. I also have decent internet here, so the next two weeks are a great time to get in touch with me, because I have no idea what the future holds.

I promise my next post will have pictures, but the blogging mood hit me today, and I haven’t seen much that’s picture-worthy yet. We’re going sari shopping on Wednesday, so that should provide plenty of interesting photos, and maybe even video.

Holiday in Cambodia

Hello again!

Posing as apsaras at Bayon Srei

I’ve spent the last week and a half thoroughly enjoying Siem Reap, Cambodia with the rest of Pac Rim. Break was fun, but it was definitely nice to rejoin the group.

Here in Cambodia we’re taking the second part of our art history of Angkor class, though I have yet to figure out which part is art history… The first part was Hindu religion, and this part seems to be combination religion and philosophy, neither of which I’m particularly into, but oh well. I really like our professor, Stuart Smithers. He’s a really interesting guy, and he was really excited about all of the issues we discussed. The temples themselves are amazing, and it’s really cool that every other day of our class was going to see ruins. We saw 4 temples and some sort of significant river with ruins (I didn’t fully understand that one). The ruins are stunning, and we’re pretty much given free reign to explore them, which is great.

I’m so tiny compared to the center tower at Angkor Wat (and this is up close, near the top!)

Besides the ruins, Cambodia is a really interesting place. They use USD here, which is odd to begin with, and it seems to have developed overnight into a very westernized tourist hotspot. There’s great food everywhere, even a Mexican restaurant down the street (and it’s good!). The main form of transportation is the “tuk tuk,” which is essentially a mini taxi cart hooked to a motor bike. You can get a tuk tuk anywhere for between $1 and $13 (the highest being a full day driver). I really liked that the drivers would decorate their tuk tuks, and we saw batman tuk tuks, spiderman tuk tuks, and even a playboy tuk tuk. It was really entertaining.

Besides class, most of my time was spent hanging out in the markets, wandering the streets, and basically just relaxing. There are a lot of charities operating out of Siem Reap that have shops around, and that was interesting to see too. It’s amazing to see how functional and relaxed the country seems since it hasn’t been that long since they had a terrible genocide, though you can still see remnants of the horrible things that happened there. I’ve never seen more burn victims in my life, and you can’t walk off of the trails or out of the city, because there are still active land mines all over. It’s really sad.

Angkor Wat

But, on a brighter note, my time in Cambodia was totally explosion-free, and I would happily come back some day. I met some great people, saw some amazing sights, and overall really enjoyed myself. Now, it’s on to India, the land of holy cows! Should be fun.

Sunset at Angkor Wat

Cambodian Shadow Puppets

As a head’s up, I have no idea what the Internet will be like in India. We’ll see what happens with the blog!

Winter Break!

Marie Antoinette probably never did this

Hello readers! I’m back! For now. Maybe. I think I spoiled everyone with the frequency of my updates the first month or so. As always, I have no idea what the coming months will hold, internet-wise (or otherwise), but I will try to update y’all when I can.

That said, the school blog is updated, not regularly, but more often than mine, I think. You can check it out here. Every student on our trip is required to make one entry per semester, and mine will be showing up sometime in the near future.

My business project group at our farewell lunch

So, what have I been up to the last few months? Well, a lot, for starters. The last entry I made was in Vietnam, which, once all was said and done, ended up being my favorite country so far. I’m actually in the Saigon airport eating a free bowl of pho as I type this, wishing I could go outside and enjoy the warm weather! But I’m just here on a layover. Anyway, to wrap up the rest of my time in Ha Noi, I’d just like to say that the food was excellent, the people were wonderful, and everything was fantastic.

Traditional house replica at a museum in Ha Noi

One of my favorite parts,  however, was our last weekend, when we all went to a resort in Ha Long Bay. Not only was it one of the most amazing places I’ve ever seen, we got to hang out on a beach, have a midnight swim in the pool, and we turned the resort bar into a karaoke bar on our last night. It was just too much fun!

Hanging out in the pool


Luisa, Annin and me at Ha Long Bay

After leaving Vietnam we all went to Fuzhou, China where we lived and studied at Hwa Nan Women’s College. While there, we were each assigned a student buddy who would show us the city and help us out. Mine was Tibby, and we had a lot of fun exploring Fuzhou.

Thanksgiving dinner with our Chinese buddies

One of the big events in Fuzhou was Thanksgiving, where we all made food for 80 people, and it was quite the production. I stayed clear of the kitchen, instead opting to be on the decorations committee. I made lots and lots of hand turkeys. My kindergarten art teacher would be so proud.

We still aren't sure why there were giant mushrooms in a fortress, but we went with it

While in China we studied philosophy, and spent our weekends traveling. We went to Xiamen and Wuyishan, which were both a lot of fun. In Xiamen we had no idea what was going on or why we were there, but there were cool views, a weird military fortress that seemed to be more like a weird sculpture park, and a ride on a bullet train.

Halfway up the steps to the scenic view, we decided traveling by horse would be faster. Sadly, the horses felt otherwise.

Wuyishan was technically a class trip, but I enjoyed it far too much for that to have been true. We went on a bamboo raft ride, climbed a mountain, and generally had a lot of fun in a very beautiful place.

Luisa and I at Wuyishan

Overall, China was very fun, and I had a great time. When we left Fuzhou, we went to Hong Kong for the pacrim holiday party. I didn’t have much time to explore Hong Kong, but I did get dim sum, and Luisa and I went a bit crazy for the hello kitty key chains in 7-Eleven.

Professor Benard, Nima, and me at the holiday party

The holiday part itself was fun, mostly because I like getting dressed up, and have had very few occasions to do so this year. I wore my Vietnamese ao dai (“long dress), and most of the girls wore their Chinese qipao.

All of the girls dressed up for the party

After dinner a bunch of us went up on the roof to see the view of Hong Kong lit up at night. It was really cool, and we had a great time being silly with the camera, since it was our last night together for a few weeks.

Christmas eve in Hong Kong

And that brings me to break. I met my parents and sister for the holidays in London, and we had a great time exploring the city. We went to the Tower of London, saw Oxford, did a nice amount of shopping, and went to a show in Piccadilly Circus. Then it was off to Paris, where we had a few days in which to take in the sights. I think my favorite things about Paris were the food and the architecture. All around, it was great to see my family and awesome to get back to countries that eat cheese on a regular basis.

Silly hats in Xiamen

That brings us up to date. I’m off to start semester #2 in two hours, and I’m very excited. I helped put together a video of the year so far for the holiday party, and I’ll post it as soon as it’s uploaded to youtube.

Happy 2012!!