Well here it is. The last blog post for the trip. What a fantastic 6 weeks it has been. The journey has definitely not been easy, but I feel I’m all the better for it.
Some of the most basic things that I have learnt include;
- Indians do not speak ‘Indian’. Also, not everyone speaks Hindi or English. From going to places such as Tamil Nadu, we learnt that people speak, read and write in multiple different languages including Tamil, Gujarati and Punjabi to name a few. However, it’s interesting that English is used as the bridge language, and despite differences in languages, there is so much harmony and celebration of each of these languages and the cultures carried along with them.
- Indians do not only eat ‘curry’ and not everything is spicy. In fact the variety of food within India is so wide, and really varies between regions and religions. Additionally, mirroring the differences in climate and environment. For example, in the more southern parts of India, there are cool foods such as Idly and Dosas, which are more rice-based cuisines because the weather means it is easier to grow rice.
- Vegetarianism is a HUGE thing over here. It was really surprising to learn that some states are exclusively vegetarian (and/or exclusively no alcohol!). Imagine not being able to eat meat in such a big location! You might think that this might really limit the palate, but I can kid you not, I have found eating vegetarian really great, I didn’t know that vegetables could be that tasty.
- India is still developing. Although India is definitely a global power (the Country will be hosting the G20 summit this year), there is still a lot of issues the Country is facing. Some basic necessities which us New Zealanders may take for granted, such as basic access to safe drinking water is still largely inaccessible. We visited some NGOs which provide food for children in poorer schools, although it’s great to see this kind of work being done, the fact that food is still a major attraction for kids to go to school shows that there is still a lot of poverty and difficulty in access for kids to go to school and across communities.
- India is an amazing place which you must visit.India provides an example of how multiple cultures can exist and the the amazing potential and opportunities which can be provided if this phenomena is allowed to happen and supported to grow. This has been especially relevant to Aotearoa New Zealand and shows the importance of respecting Te Tiriti because it is a cornerstone of ensuring that Māori culture is recognised, respected and honoured. For example, in India a large proportion of the population is also Muslim. Without accepting and respecting the Muslim culture in India, India would not feel as vibrant and diverse. Seeing the harmony and friendship between Muslim and Hindu cultures shows that Māori, English and other cultures can also co-exist, while being respected and enhances each other to make our society more accepting and beautiful.
Some of my highlights from this trip has been;
- Visiting so many different areas in India!!! This trip was amazing because we got to explore so many cities and see the different parts of India. Personally, my favourite place was Bangalore (although for others I know it might’ve been their least favourite place), because it felt like the most modern and fastest growing city! Bangalore feels like the current epicentre of India, due to it’s ties with both Northern and Southern India. We visited large corporates such as Flipkart as well as start-ups such as We-work. Unlike other cities, Bangalore didn’t feel very old and historical, or very, very political, or felt like it was heaving with people which I liked. I liked the art scene such as the Museum of Art and Photography, and watching the contemporary dances.
- The food. Oh my god. I really, really liked the curries (especially the aloo gobi!), the dahl, the sweet lime sodas, Soan papdi (ginger tasting sweet floss), Jalebi and curd. In India, the food is usually cooked fresh as the concept of leftovers isn’t really a thing there. This may be potentially due to the lack of refrigeration as well as just the culture of always having food fresh! I will really miss the food, I’m already planning my next trip to an Indian restaurant, and hopefully my experiences and knowledge of India will be put to the test from how much of the menu I’ll be able to recognise!!!
- The school visits. We were able to go to visit different schools and visit kids in places such as Ahmedabad, Jaipur and Dehli. Going to these schools was such a precious memory, because it was really cool to see these kids with so much energy and being so excited to see us! One of the coolest things I found was trying to teach some kids in Jaipur how to play a thumb war, giving fruit bursts to kids in Ahmedabad and talking to kids about BTS in Dehli. However, my favourite bit was when they went a bit nuts when we performed bollywood dances in front of them. 10/10 a great time.
- The stories. I have gained so many cool, random stories from the trip, and experienced heaps of weird, sensational things. For example, seeing an actual elephant in the wild and having the bus stop for it to cross was pretty cool. Seeing just the odd cow on the street, and in Mysore, when it was painted yellow in tumeric for the Pongal festival was another cool sight. Going to a temple in Pondicherry and watching a pre-marriage ritual of a couple carrying a carriage of a god and circling inside the temple also felt really special. Honestly, there’s so many I’ve left out because India is buzzing with new and unexpected experiences. I thought being Chinese, I wouldn’t be very surprised at a lot of stuff, as I’m pretty used to squat toilets, carrying toilet paper and rickshaws, but what I didn’t account for was the amazing vibrancy and centrality of religion and temples.
- Lastly, the people. The 20 students and 4 mentors on the trip that I met were so unique and amazing in their own way. I honestly think the trip would not have been as enjoyable if I hadn’t met and travelled with the people on the trip. I enjoyed talking to people I probably wouldn’t have really bumped into, and seeing the commonalities and differences we each had. The different personalities, goals and career hopes which people had really showed me that New Zealand is so diverse. I really hope we’ll all continue to be friends and stay in touch with people from the study tour in the future.
There it is. It’s Friday the 3rd of March, and I’m just finishing the feedback surveys, bits and pieces, and this last blog post. Even though I was intending to write something every week (definitely overestimated myself), I’m glad I had the opportunity to write up my thoughts and experiences with this blog.
Lastly, thank you to Indogenius (Nick and Meetu, Gilles and Susie) for providing this amazing opportunity and the University of Auckland 360 team and ENZ for making this opportunity happen. I am so so grateful for the memories I have made, the experiences I have felt and the opportunity to meet and make new friends.