Sunday, July 20, 2014

India Part 4

On Friday, July 4 we hopped on a plane and traveled to Varanasi. IMG_9122
I loved seeing all of the unique sights in India when we were driving. These folks were bringing along a cow while puttering around on their moped. They weren’t going fast. The cow was trotting on along like a dog.
We visited Baranas Hindu University. One of our UGA researchers was educated there and he has some really good contacts. We visited their library and got to see their special documents collection that included books and items like the inscribed palm fronds below. These items were HUNDREDS of years old. We also toured Bharat Kala Bhawan, a museum that housed priceless works of art and sculpture that were up to a thousand years old. It was amazing to see works of art that were that old and to get a personal tour of the pieces.
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The university is also home to the largest university computer lab in Asia. It is housed in their gorgeous library facility. The only downside was that the stacks weren’t air conditioned. I would definitely focus my energy on working in the air conditioned computer labs if I were a student there, too!
We visited a small test farm where researchers were designing a complete system so a farmer in India can diversify his or her crop rotation on one hectare of land. They designed it for perennial crops including citrus and mangos, livestock, and row crops. It was an interesting concept and one that I hope Justin and I can model our homestead after. I have always said I just want one or two cows, a few chickens, an orchard, and an awesome garden.
After the farm tour, we visited Kashi Viswanath University temple. This is the centerpiece of BHU. This Hindu temple is a place of worship for not only students and staff, but the general public as well. It was an incredible building full of ornate detailing and architecture.
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BHU was the first (and only, thankfully!) place I encountered a non-Western bathroom. I’ll be honest—the bathroom situation was one of the things I was most concerned about when preparing for my trip to India. It was a different experience to say the least but at least I can say I did it. I know that cultures are different and that our Western bathrooms might seem foreign to others, so I can appreciate differences in practice.
That night, we were all just a bit homesick thinking about our family and friends celebrating the Fourth of July and the US’s independence. We saw a McDonald’s on the way to our hotel and decided to walk down to it to get a small taste of the American experience, even if hamburgers were not an option. As we were walking out of the hotel lobby, we noticed a large crowd of finely dressed Indians and could hear drums and music approaching. We stumbled right into the procession of an Indian groom and his wedding party walking up to meet with the bride and her family! The lights, sounds, and festive atmosphere were almost as good as any firework celebration back home. We even captured the attention of the videographer and photographer. They snapped pictures of us enjoying the festivities from a distance. It was amazing to see such a celebration live and in person. I had seen TV shows that document the extravagance of some Indian wedding festivities, but this was beyond what the cameras could demonstrate. I am so glad we stumbled onto this event taking place.
After the excitement of the groom’s procession, we actually did make our way to McDonald’s, but opted for some Baskin Robbins ice cream instead. It was seeing the similarities and differences of the McDonald’s in India compared to what we were used to. I actually got a meal from Mickey D’s in the airport on our last night when we were flying home. The fries and Coke were exactly like what we get here in the US, but my spicy chicken sandwich was a bit different.

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