Monday, July 30, 2012

Final Thoughts

"Traveling will change you like little else can. It will put you in places that will force you to care for issues that are bigger than you. You will begin to understand that the world is both very large and very small. You will have a newfound respect for pain and suffering, having seen that two-thirds of humanity struggle to simply get a meal each day."

So my program in India has come to an end.  [Luckily my family is coming to meet me and we will continue to travel to Nepal and back through India on our way to the United States].  This experience has truely been life-changing for me.  I will forever be grateful that SMU has included this immersion into their Masters of Advertising program.  The opportunities we were given throughout this month have been endless.  We were able to meet insightful professors, businessmen and women, advertisers, designers, hoteliers, taxi drivers, bus drivers, tour guides, children....the list is endless.  I never thought I would be given the opportunity to travel to a country as captivating as India.

-  1.2 billion people
-  34 states
-  22 officially recognized languages
-  Birthplace of 4 of the World's major religions
-  Home to 40% of the World's poor
-  Home to the largest slum in Asia
-  Home to one of the 7 Modern Wonders of the World

As you know, before coming on this trip we were given the task of pre-reading five books to help us gain a deeper understanding of the Indian culture.  Each of these books has added an incredible depth to the experience I have been able to have here in India.  India is a country so different from ours that often times it stopped me in my tracks.  That's what makes it so incredible.  There really is no other word to describe it. I have been able to see the most severe cases of poverty and the most brilliant forms of wealth. I have been able to interact with undoubtedly the friendliest human beings on the planet.  I have been able to meet some of the most fascinating people that I may ever come in contact with.

Prior to this trip I had my views about what India may or may not be like.  My expectations were beyond exceeded.  Our group was welcome with open arms.  We were able to see so much of the country and observe a great deal about the culture.  Yes, things are very different here, yet somehow they are still the same.  We buy our fruit and vegetables from the grocery store, they go to the local vendors that line the streets.  Men in the states go to barbershops, men in India go to a chair and mirror set up on the sidewalk.  We (usually) drive mid sized cars, they travel by any number of options.  We may not always be friendly, they are.  It's these little things that an outsider would never be able to notice without coming and immersing themselves in the Indian culture.  One of the readings we completed over the summer, Ethnography for Marketers, talks about how by observing consumers in their natural environments; you are better able to gain insights into consumer language, myths and aspirations, all the while permitting a more holistic view of how consumers live, eat, shop, work and play.  Without coming to India, I would have never been able to see, hear, smell, and experience half of the things I was able to by immersing myself into this way of life for 30 days.  

India is an inspiring country.  Do yourself a favor and come experience it for yourself.  Hopefully these blog posts and pictures have shown you a sliver of this country's depth and diversity.  Words will never be able to describe how amazing this past month has been and I can only hope everyone is adding India to their bucket lists as we speak...

Today, We Roll....

Today we roll(ed) through Old Delhi.  On a bicycle rickshaw.  This is a tiny fraction of what we were able to see...

One of the MANY forms of transportation in Old Delhi...
Woah.  Can you say electrical mayhem?  So. Many. Wires.
Gorgeous flowers at a local street vendor.  This particular "nook" was located on one of the narrowest streets we traveled down.  Since these narrow streets are so common, only bicycle rickshaws and motorbikes are able to travel throughout the majority of the city.  
Posing for the picture on top of what appears to be sacks of rice?  Our friends here noticed I was taking a picture of them and decided to put on a little show. Now they know how we feel! :)
Street vendor selling....??
This is what you call an Old Delhi traffic jam.  There were cars, buses, animals, motorbikes, took tooks, bicycle rickshaws and the like EVERYWHERE.  Can you imagine driving, walking, riding, or even watching this kind of traffic on a daily basis!?

Spice Market in Old Delhi = sensory overload!

Thursday, July 26, 2012


"And if you’re not as young as you’d like (few of us are), travel anyway. It may not be easy or practical, but it’s worth it. Traveling allows you to feel more connected to your fellow human beings in a deep and lasting way, like little else can. In other words, it makes you more human."

great article via

Passport. Check.

Nepal Visa. Check.

India Visa. Check.

Camera. Check.

My awesome new stealth pack. Check.

Malaria meds and Z Pak. Check. (just in case...)

One last "American" meal at the Boulder Farmer's market. Check.

Namaskār :)

Random Musings

Posted Sign:  "Parking for villagers only.  All other tires will be slashed." Straight to the point.  Love the directness.  This is not uncommon here.  

Took- took transportation is hilarious, terrifying, inexpensive, hot, breezy,  and efficient.  Also, four people do not fit inside one very well, which raises the do people manage to fit 8 into one of these?  I think took-tooks are made to seat maybe three people tops, yet somehow entire families will fit in.  Sitting on laps, sidebars, hanging out the side....whatever they need to do.        

Our bus assistant is adorable.  Every time we get a new bus, we get a new driver and a new assistant.  We have had the same bus since Jaipur and will stay in this one until the end of the trip -  meaning I get to crush on the assistant for another week. He is the sweetest thing ever.  Doesn't speak much English, and may or may not be seventeen years old, but he smiles and waves and namastes non-stop.  I really wish he spoke more English so we could chat about life and so he would be able to understand me when I told him that I am currently raising funds to fly him back to the U.S.
UPDATE: He left us yesterday :(.

Our actual bus is bumpy with TOURIST plastered across the front.  When the doors open, nine of us file out with massive canons/nikons hanging from our necks.  We definitely screamed tourist before, but now we are traveling in a bus that actually spells it out for everyone.  Fantastic.  

Truck "rest" stops seem to be like covered picnic areas lined with cots and attached restaurants. I don't know if these would actually be the equivalent of truck stops in the States but there were tons of trucks parked outside each one.  They also had little watering holes that many appeared to be bathing in.  They looked pretty dang comfortable.  The trucks themselves are awesome.  So colorful and decorative.  

Tourist rest stops:  overpriced handicrafts.  We have stopped at two separate places that are right off the highway, both selling extremely overpriced goods.  They did, however, have a pair of shoes I want (and might go back to get).

The swaying of the head from left to right often means yes, no, and maybe.  Indians have a different way of "nodding".  We nod up and down to signal "yes" while they nod from right to left.  There was also a magnet that displayed this.  It was great.  I stare out the window (a lot) on the drives from city to city and love seeing all of the heads bobbing from side to side.  We practice every once in a while to see if we can do it, but it's never as fluid as we'd like.  

Beggars are persistent.  Case in point:  today we went to a local bazaar.  We finished a little sooner than expected so we stood on the street for about 5 minutes waiting for the bus (and adorable assistant). There were 3 or 4 little girls that asked us to buy their necklaces for 5 minutes straight even though we didn't say a word back.  They were still holding up the necklaces as the bus drove away.  I can't lie, it's hard to ignore them when they are so darn cute and just trying to make a living.  

Rural India is beautiful.  We have been driving from city to city recently and have had the opportunity to see more of rural India.  It is gorgeous.  Bright green fields with women working in stunning orange saris.  Rural India seems so peaceful.  As we drive on the highways through the more rural part of the country where many of those at the "bottom of the pyramid" reside, it's interesting to see how life here seems to change.  I look out of the windows to never-ending fields with these tiny dirt paths weaving their way around.  They appear to be "roads," but rather than cars, rickshaws and buses, there are just people walking.  Such a simple way of life, all the while incredibly working hard to bring money back to their families and provide a better life for their children.  Right-on!

Everyone here has perfect teeth.  I'm slightly OCD when it comes to teeth.  There is nothing better than a straight, white smile and EVERYONE here seems to have one.  I'm assuming they didn't all have braces, but a lot were definitely gifted with a pretty nice set of chompers.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Only in Boulder

Your friend's hot air balloon making a surprise (near) highway landing on your way to work...

An over-capacity Handle Bar

The "laid back" piano player
Gourmet camping cooking with Haystack Mountain goat cheese
Old man passed out in his car with a full keg in the passenger seat, parked on the main drag of Pearl st.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Speed Bumps and Elephant Rides

Speed Bumps...or shall I say "speed beakers"?

I'm not sure if I didn't notice them the first half of the trip or if they just happen to be more intense this last half.  Whatever the case may be, speed bumps are SERIOUS here.  They are either huge (I'm talking a couple feet long) or they place numerous speedbumps in a row leading to a somewhat hilarious outcome.  For example, we were getting dropped off at the airport the other day when we came upon a few of these consecutive speed beakers.  We approached the first one, no biggie.  The second one, a little air.  The third one, RIDICULOUS air.  My friend was sitting cross-legged and she literally hit her head on the top of the bus.

As you can see, they don't mess around with their speed bumps.  In Mother Pious Lady they say that India may not build the best roads but they sure know how to build great speed beakers.  And that they do.   Considering that any of the following may be found on the road at any given time - car, bus, truck, taxi, auto rickshaw, camel, horse, cow, dog, people, monkey, goat - these speed beakers are not such a bad idea. They provide some sort of order to an otherwise chaotic transportation system. Chaotic from an outsiders perspective yet normal for those who live here.

What got me to thinking about these speed bumps, you ask?  Today we rode elephants.  The ride felt like 30 minutes of consecutive speed beakers.  It was one of the coolest experiences ever.  We were able to ride the elephants to the top of Amber Fort in Jaipur complete with stunning views of the mountains that surround and protect the fort.  I felt bad for the elephant gang at the beginning but was reassured by our guide that the elephants are only able to transport people up to the fort for two hours throughout the day and are typically finished around 10:30am before the extreme heat of the day arrives.  I never thought I would have the option of seeing an elephant (other than the zoo), much less riding one...

UPDATE: I realized on the way to dinner tonight that they are actually called "speed breakers" but that doesn't sound nearly as cool so I am going to just stick with speed beakers.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Oh boy...

So we have made our way to Jaipur.  Holy cow.  The shopping here is insane.  It is slightly stressful because I want to buy every single thing I see.  This in turn stresses me out because not only do I want everything I see, but I want to buy everything I see for my sister and mom (don't get your hopes up guys, I don't have enough money for that) and then feel bad if I don't buy it.  BUT I did buy a rug -- and it's not small.  Big enough for me to have to ship it back to the States.  It will get there in 15 days....hopefully.

Why did I buy a rug you ask  (considering I'm currently living with my parents where my dogs happen to think any rug is their bathroom)?  I'll tell you why.  We went to a place where they not only make the rugs, but also where block printing is done and it was paradise.  We had a little tour of how both are done and then we were to shop...and shop we did.  Unfortunately, I didn't have time to take a picture of the rug I bought seeing as the moment I showed  interest in it, it was rolled, packed, and on it's way to the US, but I can assure you it is GORGEOUS!!  I am seriously in love.

Everything here is stunning.  If I could wear the things they do without looking like a fool, I would in a heartbeat.  The prints, the colors, the fabrics, everything is to die for! In We Are Like That Only  the author compares India to an auto rickshaw saying that at times it may be ugly, noisy, and inconvenient, yet still has the ability to weave it's way in and out of utter confusion and serves it's purpose at incredibly low prices. I like to think this relates to some of the market/bazaar shopping in India as well. They are definitely noisy and often times utterly confusing, but they definitely serve their purpose at INCREDIBLY low prices. What's even more fun is bargaining. We were told to go down 50% and then bargain up from there so it's a bit of a thrill to find out what you can actually get things for. It's interesting to see how others around you bargain too.  I have a feeling they are a bit quicker then we are, but we get the job done eventually. The locals have it down pat seeing as though they bargain for anything from apparel and jewelry to fruits and vegetables. We have done pretty well if I do say so myself  - pants for $6, bangles for 30 cents, shoes for $20.  I could get used to this.  I could ramble on and on and on about everything I want and don't have the money for, but instead I'll just leave you with some pictures of the prints I'm currently obsessing over.

UPDATE: We had the day off today so a couple of us hit up two of the local markets. You know how I said if I could wear the things they did without looking like a fool then I would? Wellllll I bought some of the pants they wear here thinking they would look decent on me and boy was I wrong (yet still plan on wearing them). Despite the failed pants purchase, we still came out on top. Look at these shoes I picked up for the equivalent of $18. TO. DIE. FOR.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

The Land of Forts

Golkonda Fort in Hyderabad
Golkonda Fort

Golkonda Fort

Golkonda Fort

Amber Fort in Jaipur

Amber Fort

Amber Fort

Amber Fort

One of my favorite pictures from the trip so far - offerings at the temple inside Golkonda Fort

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Hotels, Resorts, and Palaces, Oh My!

This post is going to be a little different.  The majority of the updates I've done thus far have addressed the lower standard of living that a large portion of India faces. What I haven't talked about is the other side - the extravagant and wealthy portion of the country and population.  I have had the absolute PLEASURE of experiencing this firsthand.

Palace in Hyderabad

We have been staying in INCREDIBLE hotels since we arrived here in India.  I'm talking as five star as they get.  I have never stayed in hotels this nice in the United States.  What impresses me more than the hotel itself is the staff.  The staff will bend over backwards to help you here.  They bring chocolates to your door in the middle of the afternoon.  They dry your clothes for you (complimentary).  The leave towel animals for you.  They pack breakfast and lunch for you.  They call to make sure your Internet is working okay.  They do all of this with the biggest smiles on their faces.  They are the bomb.  My personal favorite has been Kenny in our most recent hotel here in Hyderabad.  His opening line to me was, "If you need anything, Kenny is there."  Is that not just the sweetest thing!?

Palace/hotel in Jaipur

The point of this post is to try to give you an idea of a totally different side of India that I have yet to speak about,  regrettably because it is not that different than life in the US.  I say regrettably because it really is unfortunate that I am much less shocked to see the affluent side of India than to see the way the less fortunate live in crowded slums.  That's not to say I have experience living an extravagant lifestyle - I don't - but I have been blessed with an amazing life in an amazing country. A country where the wealthy/extravagant lifestyle is glamorized and showcased more often (aka every single show on Bravo, and most reality shows for that matter).  One thing I heard repeatedly about India, prior to coming, was that the country is full of some of the greatest poverty and some of the greatest wealth in the world.  Sounds pretty accurate to me.

Palace/hotel in Jaipur

India is full of amazing hotels, resorts and palaces.  For instance, we had to opportunity to go to high tea at the Taj Palace in Hyderabad this past week.  It was INCREDIBLE.  For all of you interior design would have died.  We were also able to visit a number of other palaces that were just as jaw-dropping.  A number of the readings we completed before the trip discussed the influx of affluent tourists to India and I can certainly see why.  The country is booming with potential and it's already full of staggering wealth.  In Branding India, the author gave an example of this when speaking about the area of Kerala, describing how affluent tourists have inspired world class resorts that are traditional in flavor but modern in amenities.  This couldn't be any more accurate.  So many of the places we have been or seen have been just that....a mixture of modern and traditional.  It's pointless to try to explain how marvelous these places are - you won't understand until you see pictures.  Luckily, I took enough pictures to last a lifetime.  

High tea at the Taj Palace in Hyderabad
Palace/ hotel in Jaipur

Palace in Jaipur

Palace in Jaipur

Palace in Hyderabad

A girl can dream, right?  Ok, now you can pick your jaw up off the ground...