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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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…
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.
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!