A WHOLE NEW WORLD

After nearly two days of travel, we made it to Delhi. And let me tell you, it’s a whole new world. We stepped off the plane completely disoriented, I mean it was night and my body thought it was day… we’re all still recovering from jet lag. When the doors of the airport opened and we officially walked into Delhi, I quickly realized we weren’t in America anymore. The air was thick with fog, and the smell was pungent but not foul by any means. Indians lined the street with rickshaws, buses and well, stares.

 

image

 

 

image

 

We’ve been staying in a hotel the first few days as we become oriented to the city. I say that as if I feel oriented already which is FAR from the truth. I have so much to learn and to understand about this culture.

 

image

 

Our first day of “orientation” was beyond exciting. Our fearless leaders Abid-Ji and Bhavna-Ji welcomed us with fresh-flower lays, bracelets and a traditional Indian marking on the center of the forehead for good luck. We have a chai break every morning… chai tea in America and chai are completely different. Chai is the vernacular for ‘tea.’ So we’ve been having a milk tea (black tea with boiling hot milk). It’s absolutely delicious.

 

image

 

 

image

 

 

image

 

 

image

 

Some other activities we have experienced in the past few days,

 

image

 

The site in which part of Ghandi’s ashes were buried—a very stunning site to see.

 

image

 

My first Indian dining out experience. I had no idea what I ordered, and there was most definitely a language barrier; however, it was the bomb.com. Everything here is so spicy and full of flavor, I’ve loved everything I have tried (no shock there).

 

image

 

Along with the excitement of a new place—this is the first time in my entire life that I have ever truly felt alien. I mean I do not look like the people, I do not speak like the people, I do not think like the people, and I don’t believe or behave like the people. Staring is not rude in Indian culture and boy do we get started at. We watched the same motorcycle drive by three times in a span of 5 minutes. When we were visiting the Ghandi site, people were trying to take photographs with us.  It’s flattering to an extent, but it’s also a constant reminder of how different I am from these people. (the bus with tourist pasted on it certainly didn’t help)

We stopped at a department store this afternoon to buy traditional Indian outfits. I hate shopping in America because I get overwhelmed, imagine this chick trying to shop for a completely foreign outfit. Also— get this, blue is apparently not a bright enough color… Bhavna Ji told us to stay away from blues and greens. However, as I always do, I wanted the blue. And after trying it on, Bhavna Ji agreed! (pictures to come later)

 

image

 

Delhi is one of the dirtiest yet amazing places. There are piles of trash along the roads along with debris (bricks, dirt, cement, etc). It’s also the dry season so everything is very dusty. Also, animals just roam—mostly stray dogs and an occasional cow. Despite what would be dirty in American culture; this city and its culture is unlike any I’ve experienced and consequently has left me in utter amazement.

 

image

 

 

image

 

 

The driving here is mass chaos. I swear we’ve almost been hit by a car/rickshaw/motorcycle at least two or three times every day we’ve been here. AND HOLY HONK! These people honk like they get paid for doing it. Seriously, it’s not “rude” but a way to say, “HAY! I’m here and I’m taking this opportunity to get in front of you.”

 

image

 

We rode the metro. The metro itself was clean, smooth and crowded.  What really left all of us a little perplexed was that there’s a separation of gender. They have a side of the train for women only and a side of the train for men only. For Americans this is completely shocking, but my question is whether Indian women find it oppressive or is it just a safety precaution? There are so many facets of this culture that I do not understand and who am I to question it? It is in my American nature to want to “fix” what I believe is wrong, but we were correctly reminded that as students, it is our job to learn—to try and understand why things are the way they are. Not to ask how can I make this more like MY culture.

Needless to say, this truly is a whole new world (a dazzling place I never knew), and I have a lot of learning to do. Bring on the stares, magmonster’s taking on Delhi.

Categories: Uncategorized | Leave a comment

JAI HO

The time has FINALLY come for us to leave the great US of A and head onto our world travels.  Not that NOLA should ever be considered less of an adventure. I have learned more about my strengths and weaknesses in two weeks than I ever thought possible. I’ve made some pretty great friends that I look forward to getting to know better, and I had a blast in a truly unique city. Here’s some photos from the past few days:

 

image

 

What’s another round of beignets?

 

image

 

The best tacos I have ever had. (brisket, jerked chicken and chopped shrimp)

 

image

 

The pharmacy museum we were so excited to see… that was closed.

 

image

 

My first macaroons…hazelnut, salted caramel and king cake…yummmmm!

 

image

 

This photo is outside of the National World War II Museum which was truly one of my favorite parts of the trip. I am such a history nerd, and I loved every minute of it… like my father at a marina. I left with the realization that I should major in US History with a minor in SC History (don’t kill me Grace)… biology will have to do.

And here’s to many new friends:

 

image

 

 

image

 

Our experiences in NOLA have been more than entertainment, but also a time to learn what it takes to challenge yourself to ask the appropriate questions to truly grasp circumstances, culture and people very different than yourself.

NOLA RECAP:

FAVORITE CLASS: NGO Day

FAVORITE MOMENT: Country Dinners

FAVORITE FOOD: Don’t do that to me.

FAVORITE PART OF NOLA: The Music.

My last American hoo-rah:

image

 

I’m sure I can have DC in India, but I highly doubt it will be cold. And ice is a no-no.

 

image

 

AND WE’RE OFF! Delhi, here we come.

Categories: Uncategorized | Leave a comment

RECAP

It’s mind-blowing how much this program can pack into a few days. We’ve become NOLA public transportation pros (well, kind of), we’ve been challenged with conflicting information about Katrina, and we’ve continued to grow closer as a group.

We were sent out on our first adventure with the task to uncover the operations and culture of Tremé, Mid-City and Marigny neighborhoods in the Orleans parish.

 

image

 

I’m sure I was supposed to take away a magnitude of lessons from the experience, but the one thing that I truly took away from the day was that every individual has a story and if you take the time to listen, you’ll learn far more than you would expect.

Since then, we have delved into the horror of Katrina and how it has significantly impacted the area.  This topic of discussion has been especially challenging for me for reasons I really can’t put my finger on. After a few days of letting it all soak in, I’ve come to terms with the fact that natural disaster is out of anyone’s control.  It’s hard to fathom the destruction and hardship that resulted from Katrina, not only for New Orleans but for the entire gulf coast… people lost everything. Something no one can understand until it happens to you. And when you’re disconnected from the happenings—when it’s not your home or your family— there’s a disconnect. And because this is the first time that a lot of these people have been faced with the horror of this disaster, I think it’s been especially hard to listen to the discussion when I feel that there are so many pieces missing from the story (i.e. The destruction to the coast of Mississippi). There are many, many unanswered questions too that I feel have been answered with nothing but personal opinions. I’ve struggled immensely for reasons the general population doesn’t want or need to hear, but I’ve also found some peace in knowing that people are moving forward and rebuilding the best they can.

After all of this difficulty, we went to visit a few sites of rebuilding. We began in the upper ninth ward with Habitat for Humanity’s Musician’s Village. We were able to hear all about Habitat’s vision and logistics. We were also given the pleasure of touring the Music Center they have for the area.  We were privileged with a performance by Al “Carnival Time” Johnson. And were also able to hear about all of the wonderful programs and initiatives the center has for the community. Not to mention our early arrival earned us at least thirty minutes of playing time in the toddler pocket park.

 

image

 

After our time with habitat in the upper ninth ward, we crossed the industrial canal into the lower ninth ward—one of the most destroyed areas of the city (it was completely under water).  We were able to see the work of Common Ground Relief to restore the area.  We also saw the houses of Brad Pitt’s Make it Right program… if I am being completely honest, the houses are a bit out of place. They are very modern and geometric and if you know anything about New Orleans/southern architecture in coastal towns… modern and geometric just don’t quite fit.  Although there is a long way to go, at least there was an effort to rebuild homes. It was uplifting to see that there was progress even if it was very little. Slower is better than none at all. After our visit with Common Ground Relief, we walked down to the rebuilt levees…which are hopefully (and surely) stronger than ever.

 

image

 

Today, we FINALLY had an ENTIRE day to do WHATEVER we wanted. Some of us began with Backstreet Cultural Museum (all expenses paid). We learned about the Mardi Gras Indians… the outfits that they make are jaw-dropping. The attention to detail, the thought and the time invested were like nothing I’ve ever witnessed.

 

image

 

We also finally made it to Bourbon street last night. The only word I can think of to semi-adequately describe Bourbon street is: debauchery. However, I am so glad we made an effort to experience the debauchery ourselves. Whether you are disgusted or amazed, it is a sight to be seen. We had such an unbelievably GREAT time getting OUT of the hostel and experiencing this town like a true tourist. Tonight, we’re planning to make our way to Frenchmen Street to hear jazz music until our soul’s are content

Categories: Uncategorized | Leave a comment

MAKE THE FAMILIAR STRANGE AND THE STRANGE FAMILIAR

NOLA is an amazing city, but since the program launch, I’ve noticed that more so than NOLA, these people are amazing. We’ve hit the ground running with program bonding, deep discussion and really analyzing the way to handle being abroad and the sensitive situations we’re going to witness… and I mean 9-5 learning.

The conversation we held about comparative learning (since we will be comparing across four countries) and how to truly experience another culture centered with the instructions to:

Make the familiar strange, and the strange familiar

To really step outside of yourself and question your beliefs and your norms. To take what you know as familiar and view it as a strange. Then take the culture your experiencing and realize it as the familiar. The hope is that you’re able to better identify the differences and common threads from culture to culture. It was a profound discussion that we held and we went much deeper than just that.

I’m finding that we’re putting this method into practice already as we get to know each other. As we discuss the differing cultures from our own home states. We attempt to put aside what we feel is normal and familiar, and it’s amazing how easily we all do it… it’s as if we are completely willing to experience the unknown. It’s a beautiful coincidence. Even though I bring to the table a COMPLETELY different perspective than most of these wonderful people, they are COMPLETELY accepting and intrigued by what I have to say. I’ve never been able to experience so many humble, brilliant people in one place. It’s an amazing experience in and of itself. They are TRULY interested in culture other than their own (Allison and I have planned to make grits for the hostel next week).

We have been here for what, fourish days now? And we can all agree that we’ve become best friends already. It could be because we have spent every waking minute together, but we’re currently bonding on the floor of our very humid room laughing and giggling about everything (cocaine was found in Justin Beiber’s house) …it’s like we’ve been friends forever.  Maybe it’s because this program requires a specific kind of a person that we’ve bonded so quickly. I don’t know, but it’s phenomenal. The experience I’ve had alone in getting to know these people… I can’t imagine what will happen when we begin to experience the healthcare components of this program too (starts tomorrow!).

We had half the group make the hostel dinner tonight. It was a blast, an absolute blast. It was a huge celebration in honor of learning to make the familiar strange and the strange familiar.

 

image

Categories: Uncategorized | Leave a comment

THE BIG EASY

I’ve finally made it to New Orleans and there is so much to share!  I spent Friday and Saturday morning with my wonderful parents.  We spent Friday in the French Quarter doing all the things that tourists do…including butchering the street name, Tchopitoulas when asking for directions. Say that one ten times really fast.

We began our tourist adventure at Cafe Du Monde with beignets and cafe au lait… it was absolutely delicious. A beignet is in essence a fluffier funnel cake. Needless to say, it was the perfect (and delectable) way to kick off our New Orleans experience.

 

 

image

 

Following our cafe experience, we walked through the St. Louis Cathedral to appreciate the beautiful architecture. Right outside the cathedral the street is FILLED with artisans—palm readers, musicians, street performers, artists, caricature artists… it’s truly indescribable. Probably a tourist trap if I’ve ever seen one but a sight to be seen none the less.

The artists were of particular interest to this tourist. I love art and was immediately drawn to the various styles, subject matter and media of these various artists. One in particular caught my eye for his use of vibrant colors and brush technique. After some serious thought, I decided that the coloring, the movement created by the brush strokes, and the composition itself captured the energy of the city that I was feeling at the time. It is the perfect souvenir. In fact, I think I will seek a piece of art in each of the countries I visit this semester.

 

image

 

After watching a street performance and enjoying the amazing view of the Mississippi River, Mom and I enjoyed a carriage tour. Very touristy I know, but we learned so much about the city and the French Quarter. The history of this city alone is phenomenal. The apartment building built for house Napoleon Bonaparte during his exile was pointed out (top right). However, we also learned that Napoleon cheated on his wife Josephine and never made it.

 

image

 

During the evening, we made the walk to Preservation Hall to listen to the wonderful sounds of jazz music. Much to our dismay, there was no saxophone but the trumpet, clarinet and trombone still made for an extraordinary experience followed by a very memorable and well, very interesting stroll down Bourbon street.

 

image

 

Saturday morning, we visited “Mardi Gras World.” We learned a bit about the history of Mardi Gras and also took a tour of a working factory for Mardi Gras floats.  The props that these artists make are AH-MAZING! They’re HUGE, detailed and well, they’re made of styrofoam. I watched the artists in sheer envy—not to mention they work with a view of the Mississippi River… I was ready to drop all future endeavors and chase being a Mardi Gras float artist, no joke. But honestly, the work that these individuals create are beyond me. It was intriguing that an entire industry could be created based on one event, but the amount of revenue produced by the tourism for Mardi Gras is probably incomprehensible.

 

image

 

Next came, MORE FOOD…at the Gumbo Shop. It was probably the best creole I’ve ever had—we began with a bloody mary, followed by a seafood gumbo and then completed with Jambalaya. It was the perfect conclusion to my time with my parents. Which was followed with a power walk to the car to get to the program launch…and in true Stroud fashion, we were running late.

 

image

 

The Big Easy is an indescribable place, a place to be experienced. There is live music on what seems to be every corner, delectable food to be eaten on every street, local venues to be discovered and friendly people everywhere you go. It’s a city so full of life and energy, but now that I’m into the program, I can’t wait to experience this city from a whole new perspective (the non-tourist perspective).

 

image

 

Quickly on the program, I love it. We’ve so far only experienced an orientation, but the people are amazing. We each bring such a different perspective to our discussions but still have a common expectation and hope for this program—for it to be absolutely, positively mind-blowing.

Categories: Uncategorized | Leave a comment

TWAS THE NIGHT BEFORE DEPARTURE

Twas the night before departure and all through the house, not a creature was stirring… PSYCH! I’m all over the place. I am bouncing off walls with excitement and a bit of angst. However, I’m really, really, really

…really not done. I should be spending this time completing my packing and tidying up my rather messy room, but that would make too much sense.

I’ve got my clothes packed after all…

 

image

 

But there’s still ALL of this…

 

image

 

BUT… I’ve got the morning for that.  I began the beginning of this week in an anxious panic (as mentioned in previous post), but when I put my big girl pants on and just did the thing, I seriously AM SO EXCITED.

Yesterday, I signed up for my very first credit card… that I signed for! It’s my first step towards the real world finances. While this is a bit dreadful, I cannot deny the thrill I felt at my first step towards adulthood. And the small amount of extra cash cushion I wanted before I left the country.

Today, I finally received the three month supply of malaria pills I will need. But the best part of today was receiving this:

 

image

 

A note from one of the greatest people I know that I am so sadly and reluctantly leaving behind at Wofford this semester. This is possibly one of the most challenging parts of leaving the country. The girl keeps my head straight and my feet grounded. Needless to say, this bad boy will be traveling the world with me since I can’t take her too. (If you’re reading this, I love you G)

Despite the fact that it sounds like everything is coming together. I realized today that I made several major errors in my preparation. Therefore, I have listed out all of the mistakes I made for all future “abroaders” to avoid:

(1) Do not wait until the week of departure to visit the bank. Chances are you need a month for processing.

(2) Do not wait until the day before you leave to see the doctor for all necessary prescriptions… that was stupid of me but slightly unavoidable.

(3) Begin packing two weeks before…not three days. This gives you plenty of shopping time. (and pant hemming if your vertically challenged like yours truly)

(4) Don’t forget about the pre-departure assignment.

(5) Get your computer/phone/electronics insured at least two weeks before blast off.

(7) No matter how badly you want taco dog on Friday night that first semester, don’t get it. You will thank yourself when you have that extra $10 for your spring break to Patagonia…SAVE. SAVE. SAVE.

(8) Have a job lined up for the holidays for extra spending money, but make sure you have at least 3 days a week off to work on these things.

(9) Save.

Regardless, I made the mistakes. And tomorrow, I leave this beautiful place I call home:

 

image

 

I’m ready for this amazing journey, this monstrous adventure, this chance of a lifetime tomorrow.NOLA, HERE I COME!

Categories: Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Goldilocks and the Three Continents

One year ago, I had never stepped foot on a plane…and now, I’m about to travel the world.  And I mean the world, starting in New Orleans (never been there before) then to Delhi, India onwards to Buenos Aires, Argentina and finishing in Bushbuck Ridge, South Africa…and potentially an extended stay in Capetown.

That’s right, I’m traveling to three different continents…hence the clever title that one of my best friends coined. Needless to say, I’m pretty excited for all of the adventures and experiences that lie ahead.

T minus 14 days until the adventure begins!

The journey ahead.

Categories: Uncategorized | Leave a comment

PRE-DEPARTURE PANIC

HAPPY NEW YEAR! Now that the holidays are coming to a close, departure is right around the corner.  Yesterday, my closest friends and I celebrated the new year with one last lunch together before we take on the world. I think it was at this point that I realized, holy cow I’m really doing this, WE’RE really doing this. As hard as it was to say good bye, I am so excited for each of us to take on these new places. I know that we will each grow and discover in ways we didn’t know were possible.

image

 

After entirely too much celebrating, I returned to work/reality today. The day passed, and my mental to-do list began to grow. The to do list included the rather extensive pre-departure assignment that I so conveniently forgot about. By the end of the day, I found myself texting my best  friend, “I’m having a moment of panic.” He told me I was overreacting… even though he was being a jealous butt-head, he was right. There is too much opportunity here to be worried about assignments and packing.

image

 

So tonight I took a deep a breath, I printed my packing list, took over my sister’s room and began the packing process… I’ve got a long way to go, but it’s a start!

image

I have all of the pre-departure readings downloaded and ready for reading, the mental to-do list is now on paper and my India visa is on the way. I think it’s fair to say that departure preparation week has begun!

Needless to say, the panic has diminished and the excitement is replenished. See ya in a week NOLA!

Categories: Uncategorized | Leave a comment