Train, Plane, Automobile… Elephant?

Fisher undergraduates Hanna Atiyeh, Roni Groebner, Elizabeth Navarre, Adela Pang and Joe Wimer share their cultural and professional development experience during their 3-week Global Projects Program in Jaisalmer, India.

Jaisalmer to Jodhpur to Delhi to Jaipur to Agra and back to Delhi. The second half of our time in India proved to be quite the road trip. Throughout the first two weeks of the Global Projects Program, the India Team was lucky enough to have amazing cultural experiences, shown in the first blog. We all thought it would be hard to top the generosity, history, and culture of Jaisalmer; however, I think we all fell in love with every city we visited.

We arrived in Jodhpur by train – a cultural experience itself. Traveling across India by train, watching the various towns pass by and interacting with domestic and foreign passengers, was certainly an unforgettable adventure. When we arrived in Jodhpur, we were welcomed by the most interesting couple who offered up their gorgeous haveli to us. The Canadian wife and Italian husband showed us another side to life in India as they had met in the city and lived there for over 20 years.

View of "Blue City"

The fort within the city of Jodhpur was well maintained and beautiful to any tourist who visited. Our group, however, received a top of the line experience with a tour given by the curator of the museum. He was able to explain, in depth, history, cultural significance, and even take us to various areas of the fort that were restricted to the general public. The “Blue City”, aptly named due to the blue hue of houses around the city, was a stunning site to see from the top of the fort. Our time in Jodhpur was short, but special.

After some unexpected delays in Delhi, we were able to hit the road to Jaipur – the “Pink City”. This time the Nepal team was with us. Driving through Jaipur showed great contrast to our time in Jaisalmer. The city was massive, monkeys were swinging from shop to shop, and the pink glow of the bustling city illuminated its beauty. In Jaipur, we also stayed at an amazing haveli. During our stay, we were able to watch traditional Indian dancing and even got an amusing puppet show.

Roni and Hanna riding an elephant

While the city was beautiful, I think almost all of us agreed that our favorite part was the elephant ride up the Amber fort. Yes, elephants! These gentle giants carried us up to the top of the Amber fort where our tour guide showed us another stunning piece of history. Not only did we get to see the Amber fort, we also were able to see an old-fashioned textile shop with hand blocking and looming. The shop created intricate works of art and offered us all more background on how they came to be. The adventures of Jaipur wore us all out enough to make the five-hour drive to Agra pass quickly.

About an hour outside of the city of Agra, we had time to stop by the Sufi Shrine. Recommended to us by Prince Chaitanya Raj Sing, we made sure to add this stop to our list – and we are lucky we did because it was another rich and diverse part of Indian culture. Our tour guide took us into the shrine and around the palace. From the pandering children to the emanate worshipping, this visit allowed us another glimpse into Indian culture. We all headed to bed shortly after arriving in Agra due to an early morning ahead of us. A departure time of 5 am seemed cruel, but proved to be a wise decision made by our tour guide. The early morning allowed us to visit the Taj Mahal during the sunrise and with minimal crowds; indeed, standing in one of the new Seven Wonders of the World among so few people in one of the most populated countries in the world was an enigma.

Taj Mahal

The beauty of the Taj Mahal was not exaggerated. From the blue pools to the detailed white marble on the Taj Mahal, our jaws were permanently dropped. The Taj Mahal truly wrapped up our trip to India in the most beautiful way. I know our experiences, the people we’ve met, the cultures we’ve grown to love (definitely including chai at every meal), and all the places we’ve visited will stay with the Global Projects Program teams forever.

Go Bucks!

Oh, The Places You’ll Go

Fisher undergraduates Hanna Atiyeh, Roni Groebner, Elizabeth Navarre, Adela Pang and Joe Wimer share their cultural and professional development experience during their 3-week Global Projects Program in Jaisalmer, India.

We can all remember the classic Dr. Seuss book read to us as youngsters by our beloved mothers, fathers, and teachers. However, if you asked any of our parents where in the world we would be, come summer of 2017, India would be close to the last place they would guess. Even two months ago, not one of our group members knew that May 2017 would be spent in the beautiful and culturally rich city of Jaisalmer. We use Dr. Seuss’s story as comparison because just like in the book, our journey has been one of excitement, adventure, frustration, and admiration. The time has come where we are on our own in a foreign place taking with us only the knowledge provided by our schooling and loving parents, and our physical bodies with their limitations that we would find soon enough.

[We] have brains in [our] head[s].
[We] have feet in [our] shoes.
[We] can steer [ourselves] any
direction [we] choose.
[We]’re on [our] own.
And [we] know what [we] know.

That being said, we would not ask for a different set of students for this trip. Our team is composed of five bright, intelligent Buckeyes with the common characteristics of adaptability and compassion. Adela Pang is a soft-spoken, inquisitive, food-courageous young woman. Elizabeth Navarre keeps things animated with her enthusiastic attitude and never-ending desire to understand culture, history, and personal narratives especially when interviewing new people. Joe Wimer can be described in one word: surprising. Joe is a man of many hidden talents and the rest of us often find ourselves taken aback by his unforeseen hobbies, interests, and stories. As for the two of us, Hanna and Roni, we honestly still have no idea how we made it this far.

After four flights and one bumpy car ride we finally arrived in Jaisalmer, the Golden City, home to the world’s oldest living fort. We not only have had the opportunity to see this amazing fort, but to reside in a hotel within the fort. The first few days were spent following our Ohio State contact, Priya Kurle, around the city like little ducklings. Truth be told, the five of us are enormously grateful for Priya’s help and guidance the first couple of days; indeed, we might not have made it without her. Our first thoughts of the city were hot, very hot, and extremely hot, but as we opened our eyes and ears we started to notice how colorful and full of life the city is. We can hear nightly Jain worship chants from our hotel balcony, the constant honks and beeps of motorbikes and rickshaws in the city below, the barks of dogs in the streets, and the hymns of school children in the morning. Each day we take in the infinite colors that the women wear, the gold sandstone repeated throughout the fort and surrounding city, and the kindness each person shows not only to each other, but to every living thing. Everyone told us that when we get here there would be cows – but did we truly understand what they were saying? No! All of us were intrigued by how many cows are in the streets. We estimate the cow to dog to person ratio to be about 1:2:8.

Anyone in Jaisalmer will tell you that tourists come for the fort and the desert; however, we have come to find that even though this is true, tourists stay for the people. Everyone has been very welcoming of our arrival, and not a fake or surface-level attitude. They authentically want us to be comfortable and experience their culture. We have spent many of our afternoons here talking with the most interesting locals in a backroom of a handicraft shop. These guys have looked out for us during our time here and conversed with us about topics ranging from our project to Indian history to American politics to Tom Hanks films. Where some  Americans may be more reserved to open up right away, our Indian family was able to joke around and make us feel comfortable from day one. Everywhere we go we are offered Chai Tea. Unlike the United States, where it is customary for a guest to either refuse or accept a beverage, in Jaisalmer you accept the beverage. Although we initially were hesitant about hot chai tea in 115 degree weather, we politely accepted. This hospitable practice has now become one of our favorite parts of this city.

We cannot begin to express how grateful we are for this experience. The things we have learned, the relationships we have built, and the memories we have made will all stay with us for the rest of our lives. One day, we will be telling our grandkids about the time we woke up to the biggest sand storm we had experienced, the time we saw some locals in Jaisalmer splinting the broken leg of a stray dog, or even the time we were escorted through the street by the Crown Prince of Jaisalmer. We appreciate all the efforts that got us here that have allowed us to experience all of the above. Our trip is still ongoing and we are all excited to see what else India has to offer – although, it will be hard to beat Jaisalmer!

Go Bucks!