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04

May

The Life I’ve Built

My last day in India. I’ve accomplished packing all of my belongings that I’ve accumulated over the past 4 and and half months into my baggage, barely making it under the weight limit. I’m becoming to realize that I’m really going to miss the life I’ve been living abroad. 

I feel like it was yesterday when I was dreaming and hoping that my parents would let me come. Thinking that India is so crazy. So out there. So out of the ordinary. I could go anywhere…why India? It was a gut feeling from the second I opened up the study abroad brochure. Fate. 

But as you all have followed my journey you must have figured out that it was a perfect choice by now. Every single moment has brought me to a greater good. Each experience had an impact on me that I will never forget. From seeing some of the most beautiful places on earth, to rickshaw rides, to working for the NGO of my dreams, to getting sick, to missing home…everything changed me. It would take me hours upon hours to pin point what I’ve learned while I’ve been here. So I narrowed it down.

One, I’ve learned that I can really be happy if I set me mind to it. Anyone can be. Before I came here I don’t think I really understood what it meant to live a hard life. I’ve had my tough moments and some very hard losses but I took for granted so much. Here every single day I meet and see countless people who don’t even know where their next meal is coming from but they still have a smile on their face. Whether it’s migrant workers on the side of the road working in 110 degree weather or if it’s slum children living in the world’s worst living conditions they laugh and smile for the new day and living life to the fullest. Positivity is so important to the well being of all of our lives. Sure we ALL have our moments. It’s okay to cry and scream into your pillow or vent to a good friend. But to hate life is cruel. Now that I’ve been here, I will never say that I hate my life. I’ve experienced the heat, the dirt, the sickness and all the crazy things we complain about as foreigners. But I get to go home tomorrow. To the life that I’ve missed so much. However, some people call here home and they love it for all that it is. Anyone can be happy wherever they are, its what you make of it. For the rest of my life when I feel like giving up or I get frustrated over something I should be thankful for Im going to take a deep breath and remember India. I can be happy and I can do anything!

This leads me into my next MAJOR lesson learned. Cultural sensitivity. I remember being younger on a camping trip with my parents and we had a conversation about cultural sensitivity when it came to poking fun at the Chinese tourists. I understood that it was about being respectful but that was that. Good manners. It seemed like a simple and obvious thing to do to be a better person. What I didn’t understand till now it how it shapes how we all see each other in a global society. Coming here I thought of all the  things you hear about India. The poverty, the sexism the extreme religious groups. Then when it came to having to adapt to a culture like the one here in India you learn what respect really means. After a conversation with one of the Voice 4 Girls girls, I learned about Indian arranged marriage. It completely changed my views. At first I thought of it as obscene. But after that conversation I understood that it’s not forced and it’s like your parents being your own personal e-harmony. Yes, theres always the exception, of a bad arranged marriage. But what’s the divorce rate in the U.S. again? Studying abroad in India was all about understanding a culture so different from mine with a open mind. Then with working with Voice 4 Girls we used this understanding all the time to help the girls.

Yes, there is a problem with girls in low income communities not realizing that they have their OWN choice to make when it comes to their OWN lives. But we had to respect their culture and families beliefs. It’s a team effort. When it comes to the gender discrimination, it took us awhile to understand. Yeah it was hard to cover up everywhere we went. But we couldn’t just wear whatever we wanted because we felt as though we are liberated women. We had to respect that women covering up was part of the Indian culture. RESPECT. It’s simple but it can change the world. We have to work together.

And to sum things up I can’t tell you how much I’ve learned about what it really means to be thankful. When I walk of that plane the happiness I’m going to be filled with is going to be unexplainable. To see my family and friends that I’ve missed so much it going to be one of the happiest moments of my life. I’ve missed everyone and everything so in turn you can see I’m going to be very thankful for everyone and everything. India’s made me a very, very happy person.

To think of how far I’ve come makes me feel so confident. I’ve tackled some of my biggest obstacles while I’ve been here. I know I’ve changed and I hope you all see the changes when I get home too. 

Last night we had our final dinner as a full group. As we ate amazing food and chatted about our adventures you can just see the joy in everyone’s eyes. We’ve all grown so much and I can’t wait to have all of them be part of my life forever. 

There’s so much I’m going to miss. Maybe even the things I hate, I’ll miss. The challenge the adventure, the children I work with. I’m going to miss it all. I guess that’s why I plan on traveling for the rest of my life. It’s a addiction. 

The people of India will always be my inspiration for traveling the world and trying my best to make the world a better place. And to study extra hard for my foreign service exam down the line. Or maybe the LSAT…who really knows what I’m going to decide. 

India will always hold a piece of my heart. I wouldn’t be who I’ve become without this experience. It really did change my life.

I couldn’t be more thankful for the life I’ve built in just 20 years and there’s so much to look forward to! First thing being coming back to the land and the people I love. See you all soon!

Namaste

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02

May

Farewell dinner with the Voice 4 Girls Family tonight. I couldn’t have asked for more inspirational and strong women to work with over the past 4 months. They have all taught me so much about passion, dedication and life in general. Here we are working with girls to help them realize their fullest potential and their dreams and I’m leaving back to the States learning about all of that for myself. I’m looking forward to continuing my work with Voice back home and the girls we work with will always be my motivation and inspiration for fighting for women’s rights around the world. After a night of great food including a cheesecake that said “Happy Jouney” and white wine peach sangria I couldn’t tell you how much I’m going to miss going into the office and the schools with these women. I wish my Voice family all the best going into next week’s full week for camp! I already can’t wait for our next Skype conference call! Who know’s what’s next for Voice 4 Girls? I see a bright future.

Shout out to Averil, Allie, Kashay, Claire, Deb, Jenna, Lauren, Libby and the rest of the Voice girls for everything!

Special shout out to my fabulous Boss and friend for life Averil. I can’t wait to hike the seven summits!

*If you haven’t seen the new CAMPERSHIPS page on our website voice4girls.org…check out the program I designed over the past months where you can donate to send a girl to camp, a group of friends to camp or a whole school to host camp for young girls in India to help them make the choice for a bigger and brighter future! 

Empowering women around the world is the key to a better world. We are the change! As strong women ourselves it is our duty to reach out to the young girls around the world to open their eyes to the bright future for women everywhere. Whether it’s fighting for our right to our own bodies in the United States to our right to go to school in India, we all have something to stand up for as women of the world! EQUALITY! 

30

Apr

God’s Own Country: Kerala

It was finally time to step into the part of India I had only dreamed about until now. Kerala. The rainforest, the waterfalls, the tea plantations, the people. My trip to Munnar and Kochi Kerala with my roommate and soul friend Erin was what we’ve been waiting for! Finals are over and we had to walk out of India having experienced “God’s Own Country.” We left Thursday afternoon ready for an adventure to wrap up our time here in India. After a harmless flight to the Cochin Airport we were picked up by a driver, Gege, arranged by the home stay we would be at for the next couple days. It was pouring rain and the air was humid and musky but our surroundings were beautiful. We rushed with our backpacks to the cab and started our decent up to the mountains of Munnar.

Munnar is a mountain city about three hours away from the air port. As we started driving through the windy roads through the rain and dark we could barely see the outlines of our surroundings and with just that sight our ipods were out, our jaws open and our eyes gazing into the unknown beauty we would discover when we woke up. Curve after swerve after curve and we finally arrived to our darling, quaint home stay, Rose Gardens. As we pulled into the drive way Tomy and Raji, the owners of the home, greeted us will smiles ear to ear. As we raced to the front door from the down pour of rain dinner was waiting for us on the dining room table. It was late and we we’re hungry twenty-ish somethings. Raji cooked us mango curry, chopped green beans, chipati, spicy fried egg, rice and the gran finale: BEEF! Yes, BEEF! You see, the predominant religion in Kerala is Christianity. (I’ve come to the conclusion that it makes sense that they believe in God because Munnar especially is proof that God and Heaven definitely do exist). After Tomy and Raji had filled us up to the point of explosion they showed us to our room off the porch overlooking the rainforest which doubled as our back yard. Tomy nonchalantly pointed out the fireflies as I had a tear dripping from my cheek. Fireflies!? Are you kidding me! Real fireflies that aren’t in the Pirates of the Caribbean ride at Disneyland!? I could leave for home happy now. Scratch that… I meant happier. As we wobbled off to our beds from the obscene amount of delicious food we were fed we felt right at home. We just kept on asking each other “have you been to heaven?” and “if it’s this beautiful in the dark what do you think it’s going to look like when we wake up?” and we just kept on repeating “I just want to go to sleep so we can open up our eyes!” And for that very reason we fell sound asleep to the sweet sound of rain falling onto the valleys below. 

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In the morning we rushed to the porch to find the lush green backdrop to our little home for the weekend. Yep, just as we thought, this is nature’s piece of perfection. At breakfast we were greeted with a spread of everything and anything pineapple. You see in the real, natural world you eat what’s in season. So we had pineapple jam with toast, fresh cut pineapple perfectly ripe, home made pineapple dumpling/empanada like delicacies, and fresh honey from the hive. We were full and ready for our day once we played around with our little house brother watching cartoons and discussed our day activities with Tomy and got a detailed tour of the home and garden, we gathered our things and took a quick walk up the road to a viewpoint, famously featured in the NY Times while we waited for the cab. As we strolled for about five minutes we came to a small tea shop situated on the curve of the road over looking the valleys and mountains. 

Breathtaking. We stood at the edge and sat on a bench and just watched nature and it’s beauty below. There’s something so beautiful about looking at the world below. It seemed as though we were the only ones on earth, the only ones wh had ever seen such a sight. 

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After we brushed off the shock of pure beauty, we got into the cab waved good bye to our Kerelan family and started our journey further up the mountain. Our first stop was the Dare Factory. It’s set up by Tata corporations to give the mentally impaired jobs. They make paper products, silk products, jams, candles, the list goes on and on. It’s on a beautiful property with flowers lining the drives. As we got tours of each factory we met some of the very happy workers who were all proud to show off their craft. My favorite part, besides the smiles, were the inspirational quotes written all over the walls. My favorite “a stormy sea makes for a skilled sailor.” Now ain’t that the truth. Of course we just had to hit up the gift shop. Shopping is never my weakness.

After a quick vist to a tea museum that wasn’t too inspirational just a good place to snap some humorous pictures with some tea we were off the the very tip top of the mountains of Munnar, which the local folk villages have termed Top Station. After we drove through the tea plantations we finally reach the top. It was beginning to drizzle and as we started our hike we were stepping into the clouds. The mist and fog were heavy but that didn’t stop us from walking down the steps, down the muddy trail. Just as soon as we were becoming disappointed with the view the clouds began to part and the outlines of the mountains began to appear. It was such a marvelous sight. We felt like birds, stars, Gods. It was so beautiful that Mother Nature quickly covered the view back up with a blanket of fog. Just that short moment was worth the hike. Then we began to play in the rain, just gazing up as the purest of water fell upon our faces. It’s about learning to dance in the rain right! After our hike we were hungry so we grabbed some freshly cooked corn from and young girl and her mother on the side of the trail. The perfect hiking snack. 

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Once we returned to our home stay we rushed to our rooms to change into some warm clothes and we sat on the porch, ate some homemade chocolate and tea and read to the pitter patter of rain drops. Monsoon season much? By the time it was dinner more guests had arrived. We enjoyed a fabulous dinner with a French Women who was on a “Eat, Pray, Love” kind of a deal and a French Mother and Daughter and the Daughter’s German Boyfriend who she met at Grad School in Manhattan. The couple was working in Mumbai and the mother was visiting for Holiday. It was nice to share stories, experiences and knowledge. It was a international dinner party! 

As we were stuffed once agin we drifted back to sleep and a minor set back of me getting terribly sick in the middle of the night, we were up bright and early to watch the sun rise. We walked up to the view point and watched as the clouds rose and the sun emerges lighting up the dark sky with slight shades of orange and pink. That was the ultimate way to start our day. Watching the sun rise is something everyone should add to their list of to do’s . Not you’re bucket list because it’s something you should do more than once.

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After a wonderful breakfast we hopped in Tomy’s car and went on a short drive through some villages to get to the head of our hike. He took us on a trek on a local trail with no tourist in sight. We walked through tea plantations, through tea workers (Tea wallas) villages were the children greeted us with laughs and questions. As we passed various waterfalls you couldn’t help but feel overcome with the power of the earth and the universe. We have to learn to answer to the earth, for we do not own it, it owns us. After jumping over the waterfall to sit on top of another, we sat gazing. It was a time to relax and reflect on our four months here. I’ll save that fun stuff for a future blog but I’ll leave a cliff hanger: I found myself.

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After our hike we stopped for a quick lunch, tea and fried fresh bananas. It’s always a good time for tea when you’re surrounded with tea plantations. After tea we hopped right back into a cab to get Ayurvedic Massages. I’m not going to go into detail here. It was an experience. I felt free, liberated and it involved lots and lots of hot oil. Instense? Epic? Violating? Erin and I still have a hard time wrapping our heads around it. Need less to say, after some spice shopping, we felt great, smooth and we slept like babies. 

And how could I forget! We had our cooking lesson that night. Our house Mom, Raji welcomed us into her sacred kitchen to learn the tricks of the trade. For the most part we got to watch her as she cut vegetables with unbelievable speed. We did get to stir the dishes and learn what spices to add and how much. And the best part was I learned that I’m a pro chapati maker. I know how to roll a roller. Perfect circles! We made a delicious meal: chicken curry, curried cabbage, rice, chopped okra, and chapati.

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That morning we got up early to say good bye to the beauty. On the day of Tomy and Raji’s Anniversary. 22 years! Munnar was the experience of a life time. It’s a little piece of heaven that so few have travled. I highly recommend it for anyone traveling to India or looking for nature at its best. It was sad to leave our little home in the mountains but we were happy to say that we would be returning to our real home in less than a week.

After a long, long, long drive down the mountain we arrived a Kochi. We stayed in Kochi for the afternoon and night before our flight the next day. We checked into a quaint little Tourist Lodge on Princess Street in the heart of Fort Kochi. Right on the beach, Fort Kochi is swarming with Europeans who enjoy the Dutch influence with touch of India. It is complete with little street shops and cafes. As we walked the beach and watch the fishermen, grabbed some seafood and some beers, we soaked in the humid air. We ended up getting dinner at a fancy hotel right on the beach where we had the best red snapper stuffed with shrimp. To end our day in Kochi we strolled down a street to a cafe called the Tea Pot for dessert that was decorated with the cutest antique furnishing and tea accessories. We called it a night and fell right asleep only to be awakened by the thunder storms.

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It was a perfect get away. It’s been my favorite destination in India. It’s a perfect mix of everything and has something to offer for everyone! It’s that slice of nature that makes you love the earth that much more. I literally can’t believe that I’m going to be home in about 5 days! I just don’t believe it’s possible. It’s going to be a trip to be back home but I’m so excited to see everyone!

I’ll be traveling around Hyderabad for the remainder of my time trying to fit in some last minute adventures. 

Until next time I’ll leave you with a quote and a great Indie Folk Playlist so we can get back to our roots:

"Payer of the Woods: I am the heat of your hearth on the cold winter nights, the friendly shade screening you from the summer sun, and my fruits are refreshing draughts quenching your thirst as you journey on. I am the beam that holds your house. The board of your table, the bed on which you lie, and the timber that builds your boat. I am the handle of your hoe, the door to your homestead, the wood of your cradle, and the shell of your coffin. I am the bread of kindness and the flower of beauty. Ye who pass by listen to my prayer: HARM ME NOT!"

Indie Folk: http://8tracks.com/shelteredbeats/home-let-me-come-home

25

Apr

Finals are over! Which also means it’s time to say good-bye to Professors who have taught me so much and the one and only Sumana. Each one of them helped me on my path through India and I couldn’t have done it without them And Sumana, our Indian Mother, who kept us safe and loved while we were so far from home. I’m going to miss her so much! A visit later in life is in the cards. (Yoshoda (Yoga Professor) Left, Sumana right)

Finals are over! Which also means it’s time to say good-bye to Professors who have taught me so much and the one and only Sumana. Each one of them helped me on my path through India and I couldn’t have done it without them And Sumana, our Indian Mother, who kept us safe and loved while we were so far from home. I’m going to miss her so much! A visit later in life is in the cards. (Yoshoda (Yoga Professor) Left, Sumana right)

24

Apr

"To be Thrown Back In"

“The closer it gets to actually coming home to “real life” the more complicated. Reverse culture shock it going to be the worst thing ever. I’ve been praying for the days to pass by quickly for so long but now that coming home is almost here it’s a little nerve racking. I’m even dreading being attached to a cell phone and texting, having so many plans and places to be and things to do. I’ve been so disconnected, watching from the outside, and now I’m about to be thrown back in. I need to remind myself I’m just in India and it’s not like I’m coming back from the dead. It’s going to be hard to communicate with people about what’s been going on with our lives for the last four months. Don’t get me wrong I can’t wait to see everyone that I love. But man, coming home is going to be a lot rougher than I expected. Overwhelming? Underwhelming? I have no clue? I just hope to be over joyed with finally seeing everyone again and we can just pick up where we left off. That’s all I really hope for. I’m definitely thinking to much, but that’s what this blog is for right? So I can look back and laugh at the fact that I was nervous to come home? I suppose I’m just anxious excited to get back to the place and the people I’ve missed for way too long!”

20

Apr

For the past week, Rebecca, my best friend from London came to visit me in Hyderabad before she goes off to tour the rest of India! How lucky am I? We spent the week visiting some of my favorite restaurants and places in Hyderabad. Along the way we got caught in a monsoon,  ate lots of yummy food I’m going to miss, and went shopping a lot and laughed the whole way through. Yesterday we went to the Charminar and I bought henna henna and more henna and tons of bangles for gifts. When we went to the top of the Charminar one of the guards was obviously bored and was our personal photographer. He was too hilarious! the day before we went spice shopping with my Director Sumana and I started to realize how much I really am going to miss Indian food. Luckily I bought some spices and chutney to remind me of some of my favorite tastes of India. 

Libby also left Wednesday for a trip around Europe before she meets up with us on our return flight to the U.S. It was very sad to see her go as my partner in crime with Voice 4 Girls and all our crazy adventures out in the city. Catching a rickshaw will never be the same without her. Luckily I trying to think of a way to visit her to experience the South where I can use “ya’ll” for real! As Libby’s eating cheese, rasberries and drinking wine and Starbucks (Ah so Jealous) we’ll be missing her till we’re reunited at the Heathrow Airport in London. 

I’m so lucky to have experienced India with such amazing friends! I couldn’t have done it without them. I’m sad to see both of them go but our love for travel will bring us all together again! North Carolina and London will be next on my travel list! I’m so blessed to have friends all around the world!

Today marks the day 15 on the countdown to Home! Like my Mom said, now that we’re so close it feels like it’s taking forever!! I just can’t wait to be home! Next week I have my last final then Erin and I jet off to Munnar, Kerala! I couldn’t be more excited to hike the mountains and see all the tea plantations and breath in the fresh, misty air! Then I’ll be on my way home! Insanity! I can’t believe it’s all coming to an end! 

16

Apr

That awkward moment when you have to study for finals when you’re studying abroad…

That awkward moment when you have to study for finals when you’re studying abroad…

15

Apr

This week has been filled with the beginning of the ending celebrations of our time here in Hyderabad. On Tuesday the SIP (Study in India Program) put on a cultural event where those of us who had talent shared their gift. Followed by visiting some favorite places around Hyderbad, last night we had a dinner at our Indian Mother’s home. It was so nice to be in a home again with such a beautiful family, we will all miss dearly. It got us very excited for us to be home in just 20 days with our own families! We ate an amazing meal (including a cucumber salad that I’m definitely planning on making when I get back to the states), we had a jam sesh where Libby, Paige and Paressa graced us with their mad, crazy, beautiful skills. We shared what we would miss and we stepped out to go get ice cream. Our time here is coming to an end and I can’t believe it! I won’t know how much I’ve changed till I’m back home but I know that India will always hold a piece of my heart. Time to go cherish these last moments! (Video and Talent credit to Libby Childers)

09

Apr

A City Built for a Queen: Mumbai

Mumbai was absolutely spectacular. It was a little bit of everything you would want in a city. We left Hyderabad Thursday around noon-ish and headed to the airport to fly to the coast. As we landed we were greeted with the old fashioned British Taxi’s lined up waiting for the next tourist. We hoped it and drove along Marine Drive along the ocean and the walkways looking over the skyline of Mumbai. We stayed in Colaba. The streets were clean and manicured to perfection. The streets were cobblestoned and every way you turned you were greeted face to face with British colonial architecture. We finally arrived to our Hotel, The Chateau Windsor, and checked in. Mumbai isn’t the cheapest place to stay and we had sacrificed a finger or two for the hotel. We really aren’t used to spending so much money. We were slightly disappointed for the room we received but continued on being extremely stoked about just being in Mumbai, right in the heart of the city. 

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That night we met up with a few girls we had connected with through mutual friends. We hit the classic tourist attractions. For dinner we ate at  Cafe Mondegar, known for it famous cartooned walls. We ordered our food and chatted about our different adventures. The two girls we met with were doing a fellowship, one was stationed in Mumbai and the other in Chennai. After a great meal and the great feeling we got from the obscene amount of tourists at the Cafe we hopped on over to Cafe Leopold, established in 1871 and being extremely famous for being featured in the Indian novel Shantaram. These two cafes are rivals and they battle for the attention from the vacationing tourists. It had a very Indian vibe. The spinning ceiling fans and the humid hot are made the experience complete. At tables you saw everyone and anyone who was in Mumbai. There was a table of Germans, one with a French family, us Americans and backpackers scattered all around, you get the gist of it. Over a few beers we soaked in the great vibes. It was so great to be surrounded by tourists and backpackers that had chosen India. We aren’t used to many tourists in Hyderabad so this was a great change. It definitely made us feel like we were on vacation.

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As we headed back to the hotel we decided to check out the prices of the accommodations at the Ambassador hotel that was located right next to our Chateau Windsor. Thinking that it was going to be godly expensive we didn’t think there was a way we could stay. We approached the desk in the lobby (Our hotel didn’t even have a lobby…). The clerk helped us figure out the prices and hell it was about the same as where we were staying and it came with a buffet continental breakfast! Long story short, you can see where this is going, we booked the next two nights at The Ambassador and canceled our reservations at the Chateau Windsor which was a total rip off! 

That next morning we checked out of the Chateau Windsor and checked into the beautiful, luxurious Ambassador Hotel. It completed our classy Mumbai weekend no doubt. After freshening up, we decided to spend the day exploring. We strolled down the streets of Colaba passing by beautiful stone buildings. It was like we stepped into a different time. Each building made me feel like I was going to see ladies in victorian dresses walk out onto the sidewalk. It reminded us so much of Europe, it was a nice change of pace. We walked back to The Causeway in Colaba to eat breakfast back a Leopolds, because we just loved it that much. Long, long ago we had decided that we were going to take complete and full advantage of the fact that Mumbai is home to all types of worldly cuisine. So no Indian food allowed, we had been deprived from other types of food for much too long. So let me follow that statement up with the fact that all nutritional value was also thrown out the window. Therefor for was was more like brunch, I had garlic bread and a mango-passion fruit smoothie. Uh delicious! After brunch, we walked through the streets to get to the National Gallery of Modern Art. (Let me note that if you ever find yourself on vacation and your lost you should think to yourself that you should have brought me along. My keen sense of direction is helpful, especially in India. I don’t really know how I do it but it works and makes life a lot easier!). 

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The National Gallery of Modern Art had a featured exhibit called Open  Mumbai, that I’m going to coin as a conservational and environmental movement. The exhibit featured before and after plans and pictures of what Mumbai see’s in it’s future. This included building parks, reinventing walkways and bike lanes on busy streets, and making Nullahs (the rivers throughout the city built to prevent flooding that are known for being completely trashed and used as a dump sight) a attraction for all. Building walkways and landscaping to get people out into nature. The whole exhibit was so well done and made me very excited for the future of Mumbai. If Mumbai could accomplish making itself a “green city” they would be golden. The tourist industry would sky rocket. Everyone would want to be in Mumbai!     

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After the modern art museum we went to the Gateway of India where the British marked their “territory.” The gateway over looks the Arabian Sea and symbolizes to the amount of power the British held. We took some touristy snap shots and walked around it admiring the boats in the water. We also got to marvel at the sight of the Taj Mahal Hotel. The Taj is known as one of the best hotels in the world. And what a sight it is! Absolutely gorgeous. We had made the plan in our heads that we would have to go check it out at some point.

After some sort of magic spell came over us giving us the energy to have British accents for the remainder of the trip, we headed to the one and only Gandhi’s House. It was in the “Fort Area” of the city in a quaint traditional and colonial district. It’s a simple brown three story home with a huge study and library. Every inch of the walls where covered with memorabilia taking you on a journey through Gandhi’s life. A truly remarkable man. It was amazing to stand in his office and library imagining him standing in that very spot, theorizing and thinking of things that made history. Right when you walk in there was a shadow box with a “peace rock” that was given to the house turned museum by Barrack and Michelle Obama. Very cool that they visited Mumbai and appreciated the museum for the peace and happiness it offered to admires of Gandhi’s great work.

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After awhile of walking around and trying desperately to find a cab we went to the famous Persian restaurant Britannia. It was such a darling place nestled away from the hustle of the city. It had a rustic, colonial feel with ancient chandeliers hanging from the ceiling. It was packed with all types of people enjoying the potent aromas and delicious food that was exotic and delicious. The energy was amazing. The owner and host were spectacular. The owner must be in his early 90’s, serving is customers for years. He takes everyone’s order and strikes up a conversation. We soon fond that he was a fan of Hillary Clinton and was very excited to hear about my role with the Clinton Global Initiative. We can to the conclusion that she needs to run for Presidency in 2016. He was so sweet. He also made it clear that he did not like Bush and that he is good friends with the Queen of England. He was such a sweet old man. We ordered Chicken Berry Pulao and Rasberry Sodas. It was so delicious! Berry Pulao is a traditional Persian dish that is served on rice. It’s a savory gravy poured over chicken, mutton or veggies sprinkled with dried berries. It was like an exotic twist on a Thanksgiving casserole. And oh my goodness the rasberry soda was heavenly, among many food choices we made for the rest of the trip! Thank goodness!

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It had been a long day in the hot and humid air so we headed back to the hotel to take showers and naps. Since our life revolved around food the whole weekend it was off to dinner. We went back down by the water and went to Indigo Delicatessen. It was just like a swanky deli in New York City with all the necessities. They even brought us bread and butter. It feels like years since real bread. I got a Reuben sandwich with real meat. Real meat! It was fantastic! After a slight food coma we went back and crashed at the hotel after a busy, busy day. 

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We woke up early Saturday morning and headed to the Churchgate train station down the street from our hotel. We were going on a Reality Tour of the Dharavi Slum, the largest slum in all of Asia. And a reality tour it was. We were in a group of a family from Australia, a few Swedes and a group of older cruise goers for the U.S. Our tour guide was named Ganesh and took us on a tour of the harsh living conditions. But what I really want to stress was that if anything the tour showcased the sense of community and the productivity that goes on in the slum. It was broken up into areas of occupation. We went through areas where they recycled, crafter pottery and leather products and clothing and where they cooked. It was so intricate and organized. Everyone was busy, doing something. The “streets” were walkways just small enough for one person to pass through. Towered above us where homes upon homes the size of a walk in closet where a whole family would live. As we walked though we were not allowed to take pictures and we had to really keep a happy or straight face which was hard. Every smell was horrid and unexplainable. There were a few times where I had to really try hard not to vomit. But even though these people where living like this the people were so friendly. The small children welcomed us and waved frantically. They welcomed us into their homes and workshops (often the same room) and were proud of what they are able to accomplish regardless of their living situation. It slaps you in the face. These people are happy living their life one day at a time. Thankful for what they have and not expecting anything more that appreciation for what they’ve made out of nothing. I was an eye-opening experience for sure. What’s great is that the tour company is a NGO. The proceeds go right back to the slum. 

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After a long look at reality we went back to Colaba and grabbed lunch at a French Bakery where we had chicken pesto and pear sandwiches and a strawberry tart. Food makes everyone so happy when you do it right. You can’t buy happiness until you can buy a strawberry tart that tastes like the best day of your life. To the hotel because we reeked and were super dirty. I’m thankful for the life I live. For the next 24 hours all we could smell was “slum.” We had to scrub down and blow our noses dozens of times to finally escape the smell. After we digested everything we had just witnessed we headed to the Taj to experience the fancy life. 

As we walked it we were in awe. The lobby was unbelievable. Waterfalls, flowers, marble, crystal, gold. It was a palace. As we walked the hall ways we saw the lavish, tropical pool and walked passed the Louie Vuitton and Dior shops and we tried not to droll and play the part of a princess. “Keep calm and act like Kate Middleton.” After checking everything out we went to the bar on the first floor. As we were surrounded by Indian business men and rich European couples sipping on thousands of dollars of champagne, we ordered a few specialty cocktails. When in Rome right? I ordered the specialty cocktail of the bar and boy they weren’t joking. After we demolished the complimentary bar snacks the waiter brought over THE DRINK. It was a whole presentation. Some of the alcohol and juice was in a glass over an open flame as he told a story of how the drink was inspired by two American travelers in the days of the prohibition in the States who came to India in search for the perfect drink to satisfy their needs. The bartender at the Taj made this drink for them and “had been making it ever since.” It was quite the show and it tasted like Christmas. SO spectacular! After living the high life we were in need for some Italian food. So we found ourselves back at the Indigo Deli enjoying spaghetti and meatballs and sun dried tomato pizza. Just what we needed. Then the celebrations began.

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My roommate Erin was turning 21 at midnight. So like we should be took her out for a few rounds of drinks. We wanted her to feel like she was experiencing a real 21st Birthday. Which it was. Filled with dancing to Kesha and maybe a few shots for a good cause. It was a great time and I’d say celebrating your Birthday in Mumbai is about the coolest place to be. It was a night to remember.

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After we slept peacefully through the night in our oh so comfy hotel beds we packed up, went down to breakfast and checked out of the hotel. The hotel kept our bags for the day as we did some last minute sight seeing. Too leave Britain and get back to India we went to the Shree Siddhivinayak Ganapati Mandir Hindi Temple that honored lord Ganesh (The Elephant God of good luck and fortune). It was packed. We were the only Christians at a Hind Temple on Easter Sunday, that;s for sure. As we stood in line to get in we were surrounded by flower markets selling leis and leis on flowers. So gorgeous. People carried with them flowers, coconuts, figures, rupees and even new born babies to be blessed inside the temple. We were shoved into the chaos as we watched as people prayed and wished for Ganesh to bless them with a joyous and lucky life. It was real. It so amazing to see the Indian people’s spirituality so alive. Children at such a young age have so much passion for their beliefs and religion, it’s a beautiful thing to be a part of. 

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After the temple our experienced and friendly cab driver took us to the Dhobi Ghat, the largest fresh air laundry service in the world. Over a slum were thousands of linens drying and being washed in the open air. Quite a sight to see.

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It was time for our last meal in Mumbai and man did we save the BEST FOR LAST. You know when someone asks you what they best meal of your life as been and you don’t know what to say or you have a ridiculous story to share. Well here’s my ridiculous story about the best meal of my life. It was at a French Bakery called Theobroma. Credit to Lonely Planet, it was food of the Gods. It was a small, quaint little place filled with brownies, cakes, macaroons and croissants. We were starving so we each ordered and sandwich. I got a sandwich called the Butty, their signature dish. After waiting for its arrival and thinking it was just going to be an ordinary sandwich and what I really need to be worried about is what I was going to get for dessert IT CAME! THE BUTTY! It was a thick layer of perfectly golden french fries coated with a creamy garlic sauce toped of with caramelized bacon on a freshly baked bun. HEAVEN! PURE HEAVEN! Your mouth is watering right! You should all come to Mumbai just for this sandwich. Granted it may give you a heart attack but it would be worth it! After experiencing all of that oozing goodness we ordered dessert. I opted for a pistachio macaroon and a chocolate truffle slice of cake. SO delicious, melt in your mouth amazing. If I was Oprah I would get this meal delivered and made for me back home. IT WAS TO DIE FOR!

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To work it all off we went to the Prince of Whales Museum and walked around in the very humid heat. After sweating buckets and taking in the last minute sights of the gorgeous architecture, it was time to leave back for Hyderbad. Bombay, now called Mumbai by the modern world, is a place everyone must go. It was such a delight and had a little bit of everything for everyone! Absolutely heavenly! Once we got back to our home in Tagore I Skype the family and Easter Brunch and got to say hello to everyone and even listen and take part in grace. It was the perfect ending to my weekend and made me that much more excited to just get home. I have three finals to get through, a trip to Kerela and 28 more days and I’m home. I can’t wait but I don’t want this crazy adventure to ever end. Time is flying by way to fast and not fast enough all at the same time. Insanity! Until next time, Namaste!     

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