Tuesday, July 20, 2010


There are so many moments when in the midst of chaos that there is a moment of clarity--a moment when I say to myself "this is why I love doing this class!" There was just such a moment this weekend.

This weekend provided each in our group a host of challenges and opportunities (depending on how you look at it!): taking a train through the Indian countryside and using the "hole to the tracks" bathroom, winding our way up the Yercaud mountains with 20 hairpin turns while our drivers passed slow moving vehicles on the curves, sleeping on hard mats in our tents while it rained and the wind whipped outside, hiking down a thorny, billy goat trail with machete and sticks to a beautiful waterfall, driving another 6 hours with numerous near misses to reach Pondicherry, exploring a new city, getting blessed by Lakshmi the elephant, and finally returning "home" to Chennai. But each individual rose to the challenges and made them into opportunities--opportunities to connect with each other, to prove that they weren't a quitter, to understand another culture just a little better, to try something new, to explore the unknown or untried--and in the end, we all benefited from it.

But there was a moment of unity and connection when the class was gathered on the top of a mountain and a student was presenting on the benefits of ayurvedic breathing for physical and emotional health. A moment in time when you stop and think that this is the whole point of travel learning--the whole point of exploring another culture while exploring who you are as a human--the whole point of connecting with the self and the other.

Our students rose to the challenge and marked a moment in time.


We woke up early this morning hoping to fit in all the sights of Pondicherry before a noon departure time. First on the list - the market place. What an adventure. We arrived when unloading produce was still in process but the market was well underway. Weaving through the fish, we made our way to the produce section and finally to the flowers. With each step came stares as we were definitely the only foreigners in sight. Individuals either avoided the camera or asked to have their picture taken. New sights and smells surrounded us as we got lost in the bustling of the crowded market.


This weekend we transformed from city folk of Chennai to humble campers. I have always been torn when thinking about which environment I prefer, the city or the great, open outdoors. I have settled on the fact that I favor both, equally. However, there are pro's and con's to both atmospheres. I will use this blog post to settle the differences my peers and I experienced while on this trip.
The city of Chennai.. Pro's: extreme visual stimulation, many options for dining, shopping, site seeing, a fast-paced flow that makes you feel that moving quickly is your only option and it can be exhilarating, observing how many people can fit on one motorcycle seat (I have seen 5). Con's: Pollution that makes your throat sting, the fear that crossing the street could be your last moment on earth.

Camping in Yercaud... Pro's: Beautifully breathtaking landscapes, fresh air, silence, animal life, less stimulation that allows for your mind to be clear. Con's: Sleeping on the hard earth, ants that bite, thorns on branches
that are so small you cannot see them, but they
prick you just as hard.