Day 9 (Sunday, May 11): Peace in the Mountains

First time wearing a kurti today! It’s made of a silky material with a blue swirly pattern. The size is a little too loose, but extremely comfy. Fellow group members commented on the kurti. I questioned “doesn’t this look like PJs?” and they responded “but that’s the best part.” Very true. I am planning to wear this kurti to sleep in the states. Even though the material is so light, I am still sweating.

We took a 45-minute bus ride to a temple on the mountain. A MPH student named Sandeep accompanied us on the trip. Had a nice talk with him about our group & objectives in this study abroad program and about his future career plans. He graduated from university, worked as a nurse for two years, went back to school to get his MPH and he is now graduating in July. He asked what other trips we go on. I said Mysore, and he said that’s like a 9-hour drive but the weather is less humid. The drive to the temple was beautiful – full of lush and green vegetation. On the way up the mountain, there were a lot of hairpin loops as indicated by the road signs. The first thoughts that popped in my head were biochemistry and molecular genetics. Bahaha (#sciencenerdforev). First monkey family siting on the side of the road! Too cute.

Image We stopped at Sunset Point where an overhang was available for seeing the view.

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We took a group picture and selfies were inevitable. A lot of flies and bugs were buzzing around the pavilion. Near the bus on a stone ledge, people placed a lot of mini bananas to attract monkeys. One popped up as I was walking over there, and I got a selfie along with a regular pic of Sahanna and I with it. I feel connected to monkeys because I was born in the year of the monkey according to the Chinese zodiac.

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We rode another 10 minutes or so to the temple. We took off and checked our shoes at an office shack. We went in a couple temples and observed while others prayed. Sandeep and Sahanna participated in some rituals. There was a river where patrons wash themselves before praying. Large fishes that looked like baby sharks were splashing around in the water too. Adam is now infamously known to take candid pictures of everyone so I made it a mission to catch a candid of him.

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We went into a dining hall filled with rows and rows of people sitting on the marble floor. Silver pans were being passed out. I was really nervous about the situation at first because I am not used to eating with only my hands. I feel less sanitary. I ended up eating the larger chunks of rice that weren’t soaked in the curry. Filmed a quality vlog segment with Lauren and Lindsey in the dining hall.

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The washroom turned into the exit and I felt uncomfortable walking bare foot in there because the floors were wet. I normally don’t walk barefoot anywhere. I was scared of contracting bacteria, but then we walked on the extremely hot asphalt so hopefully that cleansed the feet. Lindsey was holding a baby and taking a picture with it when I came out of the washroom. I noticed that a lot of people there were fascinated by Americans. We walked to the entrance of the temple and attempted to retrieve our shoes but needed Sandeep’s token. It turns out Kelsey F. lost us somewhere and never got to eat so Sandeep went with her. I caught a good candid of Adam on the way to the entrance. Muahaha. We waited in the tunnel entrance and endured many many stares and laughs. We stood along the wall for probably 20 minutes and Lindsey got asked by or simply was handed a baby from like seven families who wanted pictures with her. She enjoyed it. I think her Kurti outfit and America appearance attracted them.

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I was wondering what the reasoning for this fascination was. I am thinking it is because India is so homogenous that they do not see people of different color on the streets. The homogeny is probably exacerbated at temples. I think Sahanna was the one who shared this with us at the beach, but she said that people like taking pictures with Americans because they like to show off that they have an American “friend”. I later find out that parents throw their babies or children into an American’s arms because they think it foreshadows good fortune. I think I’m too “Asian” to be different here.

After Sandeep came back, we retrieved our shoes and were harassed by women beggars with babies. I remember someone telling me not to give money to beggars.

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On the descent down the mountain, several boys in wife beaters were jamming to music from their car on the side of the road waving around tree branches. I like the free spirit haha.

Next stop, 1000 temples. Napping on the bus while maneuvering on a mountain feels like a rollercoaster. Soothing in a way. The Jain temple is noted to have 1000 pillars. A third religious site that housed a naked statue man was planned, but it was closed so we headed back to Manipal. Hopped off bus feeling tired and dirty. Thanked Sandeep for accompanying us. Wish we got to talk to him more – nice guy.

Tea time: pastry with curried veggies inside (dip in ketchup) and chocolate brownie that doesn’t have the same taste as US brownies. Some people started saying it tastes like chap stick. The consistency was the same and I couldn’t stop thinking about chap stick as I was eating it but in the end reminded myself that this might be a different kind of chocolate.

Walked back to hostel around 6pm. There I uploaded pics to computer, washed clothes, used make-up wipes for face, washed feet and wrote for blog. Cafeteria food for dinner was spicy, but got to try the doughnut-like dessert that you always have to ask for for them to give it to you (this time they included it). Pretty tasty. Went with Kelsey R. to buy dessert from the stores in the back of the cafeteria. She purchased a mango milkshake (50 rupees) and I got a mango smoothie (120 rupees). Common consensus said mine tasted better so I guess you pay for the quality. Kelsey, Lauren and I left together.

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At the Manipal round-about intersection, I was aware of two people sitting on some stairs overlooking the road. I was just walking and minding my own business when a friendly face was lit up by car lights and he was staring back at me. Me in my head- “do I know you?” He starts smiling and waved. I gave a shy wave and smiled back. It was Raushan, my friend! It’s an interesting and heartwarming feeling to have someone you’ve become acquainted with in a foreign country with whom you are able to greet every time you see them. #blessed

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