Day 14 (Friday, May 16): Familiarity

*Real-time update: Completing these blog posts is actually more time-consuming than I thought so I apologize once again for not finishing on July 7, 2014. I’m sure none of you are on the edge of your seat waiting for me to write them all, so I don’t think anyone is too disappointed. I do promise to post at least one a day until I reach day 29 (woohoo half-way point) 🙂

Everyone in our 8-person room woke up within minutes of one other around 7:30am. Breakfast was delayed by half an hour, but Taniqua and I went down early to put our bags in Chand’s van. Then, we filled our water bottles. Shortly after, breakfast was served. Breakfast was on the heavier side with round soft bread, bean curry and basil-like sauce.

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I didn’t get too much food. Drank some coffee, which tasted good. Outside, Sesen asked me if I liked my seat in the van and I jokingly said “yeah you tryin to steal my seat?” She said no, she feels bad that she’s squishing Lindsey in the back and said I probably liked the middle seat because I’m half-sized and proceeded to tell people in the van the lunch story from yesterday. Haha.

First stop was Abbi Falls.

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The trail down to the waterfall was lined by luscious green foliage.

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Tibetan monks clad in their red robes were visiting the area that day. There was a bridge that people can stand on in front of the waterfall, which made for perfect picture opportunities.

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On the way back, Lindsey and I speedily climbed up the trail. It felt like running stadium stairs – great workout!

Second stop was an elephant camp.

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After exiting the van, our driver asked Sesen a series of questions: “what’s your name?” “what’s your religion?” “Are you married?” She joked to Alvian that she has another suitor. Several of us needed to use the restroom, and it was pay-and-use. Vlogged the mini boat ride across the lake/river to reach the camp.

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We waited in a long line for the elephant. At one point, an elephant got mad and turned around. Not sure what the context was, but made me think about animal treatment again. Lauren and I conversed with a couple next to us in line. They were curious about who we were and what we were studying in India. We asked them about where they’re from. I love spontaneous conversations with strangers. The ride was quick. I rode with Lauren, Adam, Kelsey R and Taniqua.

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An elephant sneezed on some of our students while they were riding it. Afterwards, we checked out the nearby elephant reserve. It was an open green field with one elephant and several cows/bulls.

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Then, we travelled by boat back to the other side and got in the van.

Lunch: first place was closed so we ended up at a hotel restaurant called Planter’s Inn. We got a balcony view on the fourth floor. Sat with Dan, Sesen and Alvian. Then, what seemed like fireworks resounded from below. Most of us got up out of our seats and peered over the balcony.

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A large number of people were gathered on the streets, and we were told it had something to do with the elections.

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I ordered mango juice and also had a sip of Sesen’s bottled coke. It tasted good, but I couldn’t compare it to anything because I stopped drinking soda many years ago. I got the Hong Kong noodles. Sesen got aloo palak (potato and spinach curry). Alvian got dragon chicken. Dan got Singapore noodles. Sesen and Dan ordered strawberry ice cream for dessert, and they offered a taste. The flavor was very artificial. I was pleasantly surprised the restroom had toilet paper and hand soap, but it was the ground type. I don’t know if I’ve mentioned this yet, but it’s always a good idea to carry a stash of toilet paper with you at all times.

Third stop: entered Tibetan settlement to visit the Golden Temple.

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I jokingly said to Sesen and Alvian that I feel like I belonged here because I saw a lot of people of East Asian descent. Lindsey shared that she learned about Buddhism in her lit and religion course. Tibet is a country, but China is trying to claim it, so many have emigrated. I felt so enlightened at the temple because I knew I had some family history with the religion (my grandma use to practice when I was little and I remember her praying with incense at her Buddha shrine). We walked up some steps with a white lion statue and entered a doorway with an elaborate golden knob covered by a curtain of beads.

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Three intricate golden Buddha statues lined the front wall and the rest of the walls were filled with colorful patterned images.

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I wasn’t sure what type of ritual was taking place, but rows of monks clad in gold and red robes were sitting on the floor behind long tables. One person was rhythmically hitting a drum. Transcendental-like prayer/music permeated the temple and around its occupants. Two guys brought offerings to the crowd watching the ritual.

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Sahanna got one and asked if I wanted to split. I said “yes.” She took one bite and gave the rest to me. It tasted like some Chinese cookie I’ve eaten before – very good.

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We walked to another building to see incense and offerings on a table, which closely resembled something my grandma used to have at her house.

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Anna, Adam and I were having a conversation with Dr. Raj. Adam asked how he met his wife. At first, he was like “I don’t have to answer all these questions… but I will.” They met in Mysore with an educational purpose. He added he was the one to ask her. Haha. So cute. Dr. Raj was intrigued in listening to Lindsey talk more about Buddhism. She shared that Buddhists believe everyone is suffering and the way to go is to detach yourself from materialism. It’s a religion of happiness. At the temple entrance, we were all intrigued with a little shop there. They had lots of gift-able items, and I was so excited to purchase some for my family!

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Something I noticed at the temple is that people actually made eye contact with me, which is something I didn’t experience at Manipal despite the large population of Asian/Malaysian students there. Even in the US, Asian people often make eye contact with one another just because we feel some sort of connection I guess?

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On the roads to Mysore, we encountered speed bumps and saw a cemetery for the first time. As always, the music was good, but much more interesting this time: Arabic and Indian songs, “Kiss Me through the Phone” by Soulja Boy remixed with an Indian song, “Gangnam Style” by Psy remixed with an Indian song and Akon “Right na na na”.

Reached Mysore at night. I immediately noticed how modern the city was, but it still resembled some poverty. I saw traffic lights that cars actually obeyed, a Shell gas station, a large fancy lit-up wedding hall and car dealerships. I was laughing to myself when a song with a series of machine sounds (car, airplane, lawnmower) came on. I looked around and everyone was either asleep or unamused. I don’t know why I found it so funny. Then, a dog barking song and a chicken song played. I began cracking up again. This time, people were awake and teased me. I said I can’t stop laughing at this weird music because I’m in a laughing mood right now. We turned left into a driveway lined with mini water fountains and saw the hotel sign, Sandesh the Prince.

10014534_10152142336131279_6254741312243869436_nThe grandeur appearance of the exterior made me believe it was a five star hotel. A bell hop in a regal costume was ready at the front door to greet us all. We walked in to see a 3-D cricket momento on the ground, glass elevators and large metal décor lining the wall and ceiling.

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Very pristine and grandiose. A man in a black suit welcomed us by serving a bluish-purple drink of Shiva.

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I liked it, but couldn’t pinpoint what it was exactly. I was in room 1031 with Lindsey. Everything was really clean and the shower was refreshing because it was western style. The bed felt like clouds that night.

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