01 July 2010

The End...

In spite of the fact that a great deal happened to us in India between the beginning of April and the time we left at the end of May, this will be our last post. Our daughter, Molly, was born shortly after our arrival in Chicago and has taken up most of our free time. To see the latest pictures and read the latest news about Molly, you can check out our new blog. We'll try updating it as soon as possible! Thanks for reading all of our exploits in India!

Dave and Beth

08 April 2010

Indian Travel

Sometimes, it's best just to sleep while the taxi is taking you to your destination. If you do, then you miss frightening scenes like this.

Thankfully, there was enough room for the giant truck to get by without killing us.

Dave and Beth

Dharamsala

The second big stop on our quarter break trip was Dharamsala. This has been the home of the Dalai Lama since he fled from Tibet in 1959. There is still a large Tibetan community here and this is usually the first port of call for newly-exiled Tibetans fleeing the country. The main Buddhist temple in the town was a popular tourist destination, as well as a place of pilgrimage for the faithful.

There was, of course, an abundance of Buddhist art there.

There were lots of monks wandering around the town and they were often engaged in devotional acts.
In addition to the preservation of religious practice, the Tibetan exile community in Dharamsala does its best to preserve their cultural identity. There were lots of arts and crafts centers where traditional Tibetan jewelry, rugs, and clothes were being produced. There were also some monks participating in what is apparently the traditional style of Tibetan debate, with lots of foot-stamping and hand-clapping.
video
Of course, we also took advantage of the traditional Tibetan food available in the town.
Because our quarter break was scheduled over the holiday, we ended up in Dharamsala on Easter morning. We found an old Victorian church that was open for a service that morning and made plans to visit.
In addition to a beautiful old building and a friendly pastor, the church had a great old cemetery and fantastic views of the Himalayas.
After being in the big city of Amritsar, it was definitely a nice change to be in a more slow-paced and relaxed town like Dharamsala.

Dave and Beth

07 April 2010

Good Advice

We saw the following sign in our quarter break trip to Dharamsala. Always good advice!

Dave and Beth

Border Bravado

While we were in Amritsar over quarter break, we decided to take a look at the India-Pakistan border ceremony. There is only one place where these two countries allow traffic to flow between the border and it is a little ways outside of Amritsar. The sculpture of hands clasped in peace and friendship below is a bit misleading. The ceremony was a crass display of nationalism at its worst.

When we arrived, Pakistan and India both had their flags flying high to signify that the border was still open. The ceremony that we were to attend would end with the closing of the border and the lowering of the flags.

Soldiers on both sides of the line were wearing their elaborate dress uniforms.

We could not see the Pakistan side of things very well from where we were sitting, but the Indian soldiers had a bizarre display of goose-stepping and foot-stomping all to show that they were better than their neighbors.

Any time any of the soldiers neared the actual border line, there was a fierce stare-down of the soldiers on the other side.

In the end, the two countries flags were lowered simultaneously so that they could both be equal. As soon as it was down, the soldiers grabbed India's flag and goose-stepped it back to their barracks. The border was then officially closed and no more buses could get through until the next day.
It seems likely that this is as close as we'll ever get to Pakistan. It was interesting to see such a spectacle and we're definitely glad that our national relations with Canada are a bit more civil.

Dave and Beth

06 April 2010

We're Golden

This past weekend was our quarter break here at Woodstock and we decided to have one last traveling hurrah. Our ambitious plan involved traveling to Amritsar and Dharamsala. The first stop on our trip was the Golden Temple in Amritsar. This is the holiest site in the world for followers of the Sikh religion. Naturally, at such a sacred site, we were required to wash our feet before entering. This essentially involved stepping into a shallow pool of gross-looking water, but it seems to have gotten the job done.

The Golden Temple itself is situated in the middle of a large pool. Sikhs like to go for a quick dip to be blessed and cure illnesses. The lifeguards on duty had pretty sweet uniforms and mean-looking sticks.

We decided against swimming in the pool, but a lot of the faithful decided to take the plunge.

Another part of the Sikh religion is that men need to have their hair covered at all times. In the Golden Temple complex, the head-covering rule was extended to anyone that visited, so we made sure to keep ours covered.

One of the best parts of the Sikh religion in general and the Golden Temple in particular is the desire to feed those that come to visit. If you go to any gurudwara (Sikh temple), they will probably give you something to eat. Because the Golden Temple is such a big pilgrimage site and a big tourist destination, they have to feed lots of visitors. The whole operation involved several large rooms where people were cycled in an out. It also involves a lot of plates and cutlery.

Just outside the dining room was a huge open air kitchen. The big cauldrons below are full of dal being cooked for the guests. There were also teams of women making dough and rolling our chapatis. The man with the long stick below is actually cooking the chapatis that the women are making. We were not too trusting of the sanitary conditions of the kitchen and we're not huge fans of dal, so we decided to have lunch elsewhere.

The Golden Temple is free to visit, so after seeing some of the other sites of Amritsar, we thought we'd stop in again to see the building at night. It was a beautiful site.
People have told us that Amritsar is an overwhelming city and that we shouldn't have planned to go there over break. We found it to be no different from other large cities in India and really enjoyed our experience at the famous Golden Temple. We don't need to plan any return trips in the near future, but we're glad we visited.

Dave and Beth

28 March 2010

India's Got Talent

The big event this past weekend was the annual staff talent show. Last year, we had the show in the fall, but this year it was moved to the spring. Rather than jumping right into the talent this year, we started with a fashion show. We decided to sit this part out because we're just not that fashionable. There were some great examples of Indian, African, Tibetan, and other clothes from our wonderful colleagues.


The actual talent section of the program was full of the usual songs, skits, and dances. There are definitely some talented folks on the staff here.

There are also some ridiculous members of staff. Dave and three other male co-workers decided to do a dance to the song Maniac from the movie Flashdance. They were all decked out in tights, leg-warmers, and cut-off sweatshirts. The dance even included the iconic scene of water being dumped on stretching dancers. It was great fun, even if the students ended up having nightmares that night.

The final event of the show was an all-staff Bollywood dance number. Dave had changed out of his tights by then and we wowed the crowd with our great dance moves.
The night was fun and a bit embarrassing. Thankfully, Dave won't be able to do an encore performance of his dance next year.

Dave and Beth
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