in Shiva's city...
Kempie in Color
Sanghamitra and Tracy keeping a watchful eye on the Holi festivities
Only a few traces remain...the hot pink splash on the chai seller's shirt, spatters of florescent color on the roads, goats, and dogs...The water buffalos and cows gnaw on the remnants from the trash piles by the side of the road. Memories of joyfully playing colors with the group and dancing the night away (until 9pm) on the rooftop of the program house linger in my mind. Life has returned to normal or at least the normality of Benares. I'm thoroughly impressed with how quickly the students have taken to the City of Lights in all of its choas, complexities, and intimacies.
Everyone has become very engaged with their ISPs. Matt and Noah are exploring the life and surroundings of a milk product seller at the crossroads of Assi Ghat and are also learning the fine techniques of sitar playing. Sarah, Caitlin, and Remy are learning the rhythms of the tablas from one of Varanasi's best teachers. Chris is pioneering a boat building apprenticeship. While Caitlin continues her yoga practice, other students have immersed themselves in meditative practices with Tracy. J.B. is learning to navigate the world of pilgrims in the various religious contexts that Varanasi has to offer. Some of the students are also trying their hand at the fine art of Indian cooking.
In addition to ISPs, we have welcomed knowledgeable professors and scholars to speak about the world we are immersed in in order to understand it better. Lecture topics have included women's issues and role in Indian society, the caste system and Dalit activism, the ancient philosophy and science of Ayurveda, and a thought-provoking lecture on Hinduism that the students enjoyed so much that we invited our speaker to give another talk! And to top it all off, we have been embracing the challenges of learning Hindi.
Religion surrounds every aspect of our daily lives here and I'm excited to see the students' curiosity stirred by all there is to understand. Although we are currently in Shiva's sacred city, we took a quick trip to Sarnath last week in which we got our first taste of Buddhism at the site where the Buddha gave his first teachings detailing the 4 Noble Truths. We visited a Tibetan Buddhist temple (gompa) and two informative museums, ate some delightful Indian sweets, and had an insightful discussion on Buddhism, Hinduism, and the role and function of religion cross-culturally. I look forward to witnessing how the students (and my) ideas develop as the trip progresses.