Exploration Seminar

Farewell India!

Friday, September 18th, 2009

Cecilia (1)I honestly can’t believe the time flew by so fast! I am all packed up and down to my last 24 hours in India. I am sitting in front of my computer as one hot sticky mess, thanks to a coating of sunscreen and bug spray, preparing myself to spend my last night alone due to the fact that both my roommates leave tonight.  It really did take me the first two weeks of the trip to start to get used to life in India and now that it is coming to a close I feel that I am at a point where I could stay longer. That is, until I realized I subconsciously started scratching my bug bites, and come to the conclusion that my body will welcome the change.

Last weekend, we went on a trip to Tiravannamalai and visited some Hindu temples and got to see sacred caves and even experienced two “poojas.” One of which involved two other members of the group and me trekking our way up a mountain at four in the morning. There we were following a barefoot guide and accompanied by two village dogs in the dark with our flashlights and water bottles. Part of me would have preferred to go at a later, shall we say, more reasonable time, but by the amount we were sweating andCecilia (2) number of breaks we had to take, I can’t imagine it doing it at a later time when the sun has risen and it is several degrees hotter. As it was, once we finally made it to the top we were able to be cleansed of our bad karma and given chai before we headed down the mountain to meditate at certain caves. It was quite the experience and once we made our way down the mountain we returned to our hotel and met up with our group, who were excited to hear about what happened.  When our two-day excursion came to an end we were all ready to go “home.”

In my last week, I tried to take advantage of all the opportunities available. There was a “Tofu and Soymilk Workshop” one day and so a couple of us from our group went to check it out. An Italian man led the workshop, which was such a treat seeing as two of us previously studied abroad in Rome and enjoyed hearing the beautiful language again. Another day I visited Deepam, a school for handicapped children, and it was nice to see that there are resources allotted to help children who need extra help. Some of these students are very bright and the school has helped parents recover faith that their children have gifts to offer. On Tuesday, I had my last day at Solitude, the organic farm (more…)

Dehli vs. Mumbai

Thursday, September 10th, 2009
India Exploration Seminar Group

India Exploration Seminar Group

I am pretty sure everyone agrees that Mumbai is much more exciting than Delhi, and we are all sad to leave it tonight.

Delhi was a very big culture shock. Crazy traffic, tons of people just sleeping on the street, many vendors determine to get you to buy their products, extreme heat and humitity, etc.

Mumbai has been a much calmer experience. There are not as many people, I feel safe when riding in a taxi, lots of fun little shops, and many interesting people. We actually had a chance to hang out with students from a university in Mumbai yesterday while visiting Tata Motors and a local call center.

I think the best thing so far in India is the shopping. I am one of the few that absolutely loves to haggle. Any chance I get I try to go lower. I think the most important thing to do is to be willing to walk away and it works almost every time.

Oh and the wild life is exciting. The night we got off the airplane we almost ran into an elephant on the road, there was a lizard in our bus one day, and tons of monkeys in Agra. Cows, goats, and sheep all wander the streets  and slow down traffic constantly.

I think the best part so far was both of our trips to the slums. We had a chance to go to two different slums. Both areas seemed to be in the same condition–impossible to imagine living in, but I felt safer there than in any other place in India. The people were kind, all of them smiled, waved, and said hello. Of course they were all staring–everyone here stares at us, but they were friendly, and I enjoyed having a chance to talk to them. Plus the children love getting their pictures taken! Also, while in the slums there were no beggars at all. My biggest fear when visiting was to be uncomfortable and to be attacked by children asking for money, but not one person asked for anything. They would come up and shake our hands and walk with us. Being around these people really changed my view on the slums. I would still never choose to live in a place like that, but I could see why they choose to live there. It was a really strong community and they all seemed to care about each other greatly. I was glad to experience it.
I know this post is kind of scattered, but I don’t like paying for internet and I am not in the comfort of my own room writing this!

Life in Auroville

Saturday, September 5th, 2009

cecilia2.jpgI am just about to hit the half-way point in my program, and I have started to get used to the sweltering heat, the ravenous bugs, and life in this part of the world. Living in the American Pavilion, has led me to experience what it means to ” live green” seeing as our electricity runs off of solar energy, the water we use is mostly rainwater, and we have compost-able toilets.

My program has changed slightly as I have decided to focus on studying sustainable farm practices, and I have taken to going to Solitude, a sustainable organic farm, close to our pavilion most days. I showed up on my first day eager to help them out, dressed in yoga pants, t-shirt and tennis shoes. I soon learned I was over-dressed upon noticing that most guys were shirtless and barefoot. My first task was to plant some lady finger seeds. In the first 5 minutes, I discovered that my arms were sweating and after a while I accepted the fact that every pore on my body was sweating.

After planting, I got the opportunity to cut up sticks for mulch and engaged in conversations with the other workers who came from places like England, Spain, the Dominican Republiccecilia1.jpg and Texas.  The woman from the Dominican Republic had brought her four-year old son with her, and I delighted in seeing his rampages around the farm. He gathered sticks that were twice his size and climbed the ladder of the water tower, and while many mothers would fret about their son being at such dangerous heights his mother allowed him to explore on his own accepting the fact that he would adventure wherever he pleased. It was clear to me that India could be a child’s favorite playground. We were able to see some unique little red bugs that come out after it rains. They are a bright red color and feel like velvet to the touch, and I delighted in seeing them as I worked.

India: Am I in the 19th or 21st century?

Wednesday, September 2nd, 2009

My name is Rina Thi, and I am studying information systems at the Foster School of Business. Last September, I went on an Exploration Seminar to South Africa and enjoyed it so much, I decided to enroll in a second. One of the biggest advantages of an Exploration Seminar is its short time frame. I was able to do an internship and a 3 week study abroad experience in the course of one summer. For those of us in a time crunch, an Exploration Seminar certainly serves well.

Hauz Khas Village

Hauz Khas Village

I have been in New Delhi, India for 3 days. Upon stepping into India, I was hit with humidity, constant glares, and an indescribable smell. I also saw traffic at its worse: two lane roads with over five cars squeezing their way in, honking that never seems to cease, random cows in the streets, and the brave tourists willing to try crossing the jam packed streets.

After a long day of visiting Boeing India, the Lotus Temple, Hauz Khas Village, and Old Delhi, I am more than glad to soak in everything I’ve seen through this journal entry. Being a true Seattleite, I was excited to see Boeing’s presence in India – and I wasn’t disappointed. It’s unlike the facilities in Everett, WA, but the energy from the employees was enough proof of Boeing’s achievements in India and in the world. We headed to the Lotus Temple, where people of all faiths were welcomed in to pray. With its design based off the Sydney Opera House, the Lotus Temple is an architectural masterpiece. Our next adventure was in Hauz Khas Village, a market village for high class shoppers and designer products (and prices!). With empty stores aligning the deserted streets, Hauz Khas didn’t quite look like a place to find designer clothing. Tucked behind the village were the ruins of an old prison. The village definitely had a ‘Resident Evil’ feel to the place. After Hauz Khas, we headed out to Old Delhi, the walled city of Delhi. Just when I thought India wasn’t hectic enough, I was

Old Delhi

Old Delhi

proven wrong. Once entering Old Delhi, I saw auto rickshaws, bicyclists, and cattle navigating through the narrow and crowded streets. In the center of the Old Delhi is the oldest mosque in India. As I was bargaining to drop the price of a scarf, the owner finally gave in because it was time to pray and break fast for Ramadan. As I heard the call of prayer (an Islam ritual before the daily 5 prayers), people closed their shops and rushed to the mosque as others quickly served food to eat. If anybody decides to visit New Delhi, I strongly suggest dropping by Old Delhi. In Old Delhi, I found a hidden jewel of India. I started the morning with the one of the biggest company globally and ended the day with a tour of Old Delhi….two different worlds, but all within one country.

A very long day and tomorrow…..we head to the Taj Mahal in Agra!

First Impressions

Tuesday, September 1st, 2009

alan-hon-1.JPGHi my name is Alan, and I’m currently an accounting student on an exploration seminar at Tsinghua University in Beijing. I studied Chinese at UW for the past year, so this program seemed perfect for me to connect the language skills I learned in the classroom to the culture of China. After a long flight from Seattle to Seoul, South Korea and a transfer from Seoul to Beijing, we finally arrived. My first impression when our group got outside the airport was that Beijing was very hot and very humid. The bus ride to Tsinghua University provided a view of many landmarks such as the Water Cube and the Bird’s Nest. Since we got in quite late to our dorms, our teacher already had food waiting for us. Ironically our first meal in Beijing was McDonald’s. So after a full day of traveling and a stomach full of McDonald’s we all headed to bed to rest up for our first day in Beijing.

Surprisingly I wasn’t jet lagged at all and had no trouble waking up in the morning. Following breakfast we went to culture class on Chinese government, Chinese culture, and Chinese history. Wealan-hon-2.JPG learned a lot of basic information such as how the Chinese government works and some background on Chinese culture and customs. After class we had lunch and then went on a tour of the Tsinghua campus with a few current students. The campus is so big that it seems like its own village. Unlike the schools in the States, Tsinghua isn’t just inhabited by students, but there are many ordinary citizens that set up shops, use the facilities, and work at the university. The rest of the week is packed with exciting activities such as visiting the Temple of Heaven, Great Wall, and the Forbidden City. I look forward to visiting these landmarks and being able to share these experiences with you guys.

Arrival in Auroville!

Friday, August 28th, 2009

cecilia1.jpgMy name is Cecilia Velazquez. I am a senior studying accounting at the Michael G. Foster School of Business.  For the next month I will be participating in an exploration seminar that takes place in the village of Auroville in India. Previously, I had studied abroad in Rome, loved the experience, and wanted the opportunity to go abroad again. The exploration seminars offered provided the perfect opportunity to get a taste of another country right before starting up classes in the fall.

As a college honors student, I am required to complete three science classes, and I decided to ad-hoc my seminar to meet this science requirement. During my time in Auroville, I will be conducting a three-week long internship under the direction of the Center for Scientific Research (CSR) with a professor at the UW-Bothell campus to understand renewable energies and focusing primarily on solar power.

I arrived early on Tuesday morning after a day and a half of traveling and only two hours of sleep. I was told that “India attacks your senses”, and I have found this to be true as I confront new sights, cecilia2.jpgtastes and smells all around me. Although I have done some traveling in warm climates, India’s constant high temperatures and even more prevalent insect population have proven to be a handful. Nevertheless, I am excited to see what  the next couple of weeks have in store. The group I am traveling with is small, and we come from a variety of different disciplines. We are finishing up our first week of orientation where we traveled to the various sites where members of our group will be doing their internships. So far I have tried all the food that has been offered to me, which includes eating a meal solely with my hands, and I have not gotten sick and hope that my lucky streak continues.