Friday, May 3, 2013

One adventure closed, new ones abound

This is my blog from when I lived in India for 6 months in 2007. It was an awesome time, full of craziness and adventure on so many levels.

Since this trip I've been back to India several times and to many other countries, but this initial experience diving into living on the opposite side of the world with such wide-eyed innocence will always hold a special place in my heart.

My favorite entries in this blog map to three experiences that remain some of the most interesting of my life:

1) Wearing a burkha to the souk at Charminar, escorted by my Muslim friends from the Google office, Parveen and Nazia, who wanted me to "experience real India."

This is me

2) Traveling to Chennai with my friend, Ramya, and staying with her family in their home. I slept without air-conditioning when it was 100 degrees with 100% humidity, rode side-saddle on a moped in a saree to the Hindu temple, and went to a real Brahmin fortune-teller.

Me and Ramya (I didn't actually drive the scooter....I rode side-saddle on the back...)

3) Visiting the school in Baroda, Gujarat that my great aunt May Needham founded in the early 20th century under the auspices of the British Raj and the Maharaja of Baroda. Despite the complicated and unpleasant politics of colonialism, one human truth is that one woman, out of the kindness of her heart, moved across the world to create educational opportunities for girls. She succeeded and the school and students are some of the most successful in India almost 100 years after she started it (pictures in a separate post).

Maharani girls' school in Baroda - providing the best english girls' education in Gujarat for almost 100 years. While working at Google in Hyderabad I met numerous women who had gone to this school. Baroda continues to have a reputation as one of the top educational opportunities in India and is open to students from all backgrounds.

These three experiences were my strongest glimpses into real India. A world away from tourist activities, these experiences were about normal people going out of their way to cross cultures and build deep, empathetic understanding with someone from across the world. I had the unusual privilege to experience the culture as only a local can, and as only a woman can, thanks to the kind openness and curiosity of others.

These experiences set a standard for my travel expectations that continue to drive me to go beyond the obvious and to appreciate the vivid color that cultural similarities and differences provide to this world.

This trip is now history, but my adventures continue!

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