Culture shocks tend to be the things we can’t prepare for or foresee experiencing. Before embarking on the journey, I had done research and tried to keep an open mind. I roughly knew what the culture was like, the style of cuisine, and the level of poverty. I knew cows were sacred, dogs roamed, and to not trust street food. India is full of life, abundant with diversity, and visitors are treated like gods. And so you may ask, what’s your first culture shock, Anneka? Well…With no sleep in the last 26+ hours, we had landed in Australia (yes, you read that right, Auz, not India); we had just learnt that our 1hr layover was going to be about 6hr, and we were going to miss our domestic flight in India. So sad, too bad, not relevant at the moment. What is relevant at the moment is that Australians call Burger King, Hungry Jacks. Atrocious! Isn’t it?! And don’t get me wrong, the Burger and chips were banging, but Hungry Jacks? No, Australians, you have gone too far.
Our program facilitator believes India is one of, if not the most diverse place on earth and in the last week, we have experienced this diversity in its fullest context. We visited a serene cave temple that’s thousands of years old and a bustling, lively Hindu temple. Indian, south Indian and French food was consumed in Pondicherry with simple, modest vegetarian food at the Isha foundation (intentional religious community (kinda)), and yes, I have not seen cutlery for the last few days. We visited Auroville and Hidesign and watched the sun rise over the ocean. Cows, dogs, and monkeys crossed our path, and wild elephants and boars watched our bus roll past. We have absorbed peace and silence but also vitality and sound.