North Country woman learns

(The following is part two of a two-part report of Redford resident Erin Griffins recent time spent studying abroad in India.) During her experience exploring the culture of India, Erin spent some time in the western state of Dujarat where they stayed at Gandianasharan, a place where they worked in return for their room and board. There was an orphanage and schools there, and the students spent much of their time with the girls in the secondary school, becoming good friends, despite the fact the girls spoke Dujarati and only a little Hindi. They took day trips to important temples in the area. At the end of their stay in Dujarat, the students were granted a four-day break. Erin and several others went to Udaitur in the desert state of Rajasthan and relaxed, explored and shopped. The group congregated again in Jaipur, a city in Rajasthan of about two to three million. They split up in pairs and stayed with an Indian family for a month. They met three times weekly for lectures and Hindi classes and spent considerable amounts of time working on their individual research projects. They were there during a major Hindu holiday season with three major religious festivals being celebrated that month. The students got to observe their host families, who were Hindu, as they celebrated Navratri, Dusshera, and Diwali. The celebration of Dusshera involved the burning of demon statues, one as high ten stories. The latter two celebrations were quite loud, as they involved huge quantities of fireworks, especially Diwali, when they were set off all night long in every direction. After Jaipur, the group traveled to Varanasi, a city on the banks of the Ganga River, which the Hindus consider to be the holiest river in India. They believe taking a dip in the river will wash away their sins. About 60,000 people dip in the river daily. Many people throw the cremated ashes of their loved ones in the river. The river is filthy, Erin said. The biggest problem is sewage flowing into the river, yet people wash their clothes and dishes in the river. As a result, many people have skin diseases and illnesses from the polluted water. You see people dumping garbage in the river, and then someone throwing ashes in the river, and then youll see someone brushing their teeth in the river, she continued. The students spent a total of two and a half weeks in Varanasi, spending much of that time visiting religious sites. One of those sites was the temple where Buddha gave his first sermon, a big pilgrimage spot for Buddhists. One day 3 suicide bombers set off bombs in Northern India targeted at the court system. One of those was set of by a bomber on a bike in Varanasi. The students were told to call their parents and inform them they were alright and to not venture out that day. For a few days, they felt uneasy near people on bikes, and there are people on bikes all over the city. The program wrapped up where it began, in Delhi where the students completed their research and gave presentations on their research. Upon completion of their research papers, all of the students will earn a full semester of credits. While the other students flew back to the states, Erin and two other girls opted to stay on by themselves for an additional week. They flew to the state of Kerala on the Arabian Sea in Southwest India. It was very different from Northern India, Erin noted. There was a striking difference in their cultures. Kerala is the state in India that is doing the best, she explained. They have an almost 100% literacy rate and a low poverty rate. Erin arrived back in Redford shortly before Christmas, overflowing with a wealth of new knowledge and stories to tell. It was a great experience, but one of the most difficult things I have ever done, she said. To leave behind your personal clothing, language, culture, family, friends, and food was a lot harder than I expected it to be. Erin is once again enjoying all those things she left behind. That is when she is not working on that 30 to 40 page research paper about localized nature worship practices in India, why they are declining, and what institutions are taking their place.

Vote on this Story by clicking on the Icon


Use the comment form below to begin a discussion about this content.

Sign in to comment