And We’re Back! Tales from Travel Week Episode 1

So after a long hiatus (got cancelled kinda like Futurama, but then Comedy Central brought us back on the air!) were back!  A couple of weeks ago I left on a nine day tour of Karnataka, the state I’ve been living in for the last two moths.  So for your reading pleasure I will recount the tales of awe and delight, terror and misfortune, and lastly something dramatic and something even MOAR dramatic!

On our first night we took an hour long bus ride from Manipal (our tiny university town) to Mangalore (one of the largest sea ports in the region).  An hour long bus ride in India can be REALLY draining if you’re not used to it, so by the time I got to the airport in Mangalore a comfy airplane seat was most requited.  After a short plane ride (and my knife getting taken away by security :/), TADAH! We had arrived in Bangalore (Bengaluru)! Heres a pic of one of my friends as we go through the Bangalore Gate.

That night we crashed in random guest hostel (the name of which totally slips my mind), then the next morning we got to drive through Bangalore and finally I got to see some remnant of graffiti in India with this delightful addition to this sun.

After getting breakfast we went to the Legislative Assembly and got to see most of the building.  The Legislative Assembly is the state government of Karnataka and its HUGE! We got to see all the different Ministerial offices and finally got to go into the Assembly Room.  It was gigantic, room for more than 225 Members of the Legislative Assembly to preside.  It was amazing going through and watching as the age old technique of binding stacks of paper together with string was used to keep track of the enormous bureaucracy of a government agency.

I got to make a friend with a trashcan! These were all over the place at the Legislative Assembly building, so for once there was a place without piles of litter! Hurrah!

Later that night we got to unload all of our stuff at the famous and ritzy Bangalore Club.  This club has been the center of high-life in Bangalore for over a century.  Even Winston Churchill spent some time at the club and left with a debt of 13 rupees!  Heres a picture of me pointing to his name with my nose.  The place was really nice and well furnished and it was great getting a hot shower for once!

For dinner that evening the whole Study Abroad Program (SAP) group went out to dinner at this restaurant near the 13th Floor (Bangalore’s best bar).  We had a table that looked out from the 13th floor across the beautiful night sky of Bangalore, a city of outstanding nightlife.  This was the first time that I had the chance to get a beef steak my whole time in India, so while I have been tending towards a vegetarian cuisine, but this was a delicious and delightful meal! Beef and I had a long separation, but that just made our reunion so sweet!

The next day we went around town and got coffee at Cafe Coffee Day (Starbucks equivalent-ish) then went to the Botanical Gardens of Bangalore.  There were some really awesome gardens and a beautiful pond, but here we have the SAP crew gathered together under a HUGE tree that we came to just before happening upon a massive undulating crowd of pigeons.

The trees grew so tall and in clusters so close they would blot out the sun, heres one of my favorite pictures of the day.

Later on we went to Tipu Sultan’s summer palace where he would hold court.  Tipu Sultan would sit over his court to the left and oversee the whole spectacle.  There used to be tigers and other wild animals chained up on the lawn and Tipu Sultan was an avid fan of tiger hunting, you know REAL MAN stuff (beeteedubs there’ll be some sick pics from Tipu Sultans other palace later on in our story).

And from there we got on the train off to Hampi.  Thus concluded our time in Bangalore!  It was crazy being in the city after staying in Manipal for so long, but geez was that needed!

Next time on Tales From Travel Week!  Episode 2 Hampi at 3/5 of a Kilometer in 10 Seconds

Til then…

Namaste Y’all!

Festivals, Delectables, and Temples, Oh My!

Without wiping your feet this time....

So this Friday we had another Field Visit to T.M.A Pai Private Hospital and while we were waiting a few of the students in our class showed us over to this beautiful flower carpet.  It was in celebration of Onam, a festival going on in the state south of here, Kerala, a rice harvesting festival connectedwith an ancient Keralan king.

Take it down low, low, low

 

 

 

Walking through the streets we saw tons of stands selling flowers for the festival in all different colors and weaved into different patterns.

 

 

Crumbz in Manipal

Moar Cakes at Cumbz

Later that day Nithin, a buddy I met here in Manipal who’s from Austin and has been studying medicine for 3 years, took me to this place called Crumbz that I had heard has amazing cakes and brownies.  They had such a variety!  There were all different kinds of chocolate cake and Lychee cake (also known as soapberry).  I ended up getting a piece of Raspberry cake.  From what I’m told, cakes and baking aren’t terribly popular over here but there are some great sweet shops.

Yesterday the Study Abroad Program group visited two Jain temples at Karkala and Moodibidri.

There were a lotta itsy bitsy teeny weeny stairs that we all were climbing

 

 

 

 

At one of the pilgrimage sites in Karkala we had to climb a few stairs to get to it, but once you get to the top of this hill there’s just the most amazing view!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Inside the walls there is a 42′ statue of a saint who was the first man to attain moksha (enlightenment) in the modern age (Kaliyuga).

The story goes that he and his brother had a huge war where the brother was killed and afterwards the man went off to meditate for several years, the whole time standing perfectly still.  That is why there are vines crawling up the statue.

 

The statue and a near by temple, Padmavathi Kere Basadi, started being built by 1432.  Something about how old things can be is just so humbling.

From the statue site looking over to Padmavathi Kere Basadi

 

 

 

 

There were also 18 out of 24 other saints that are  kept behind the main statue, each of these are men who have attained moksha.

 

18 saints walk into a bar naked...

 

 

 

 

 

 

Later we went to Padmavathi Kere Basadi, a temple that you can see from the pilgrimage site known for its four doors.  The temple is dedicated to the 16th, 17th, and 18th saints who attained moksha.

Padmavathi Kere Basadi from just inside its walls.

It was really dark and creepy and reminded me of Indiana Jones.  It was great to just meander through the whole thing and check it out, hell even the spider webs were really cool!

Upon entering the Temple of a Thousand Pillars

 

 

 

 

After this we went to Moodibidri to see the Temple of a Thousand Pillars.  The pictures explain it all.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The courtyard had three cows just grazing around and every wall was covered with either writing or pictures telling different stories.

But we weren’t allowed to go all the way into the temple, though I snapped a couple photos of the main idol and inner sanctum.

Inner sanctum at the Temple of a Thousand Pillars

Oh and finally, Zik a dark psy-trance artist from Greece is playing on the 15th! One of my first buddies here, Shaantanu, knows the guy who’s putting the show on and its gonna be crazy.

Ziiiiiiiiiiiik

If you can't tell, he's smiling.

 

And I’ll be dancing with my buddy here, so get ready for it :D.

 

 

 

Til then, Namaste Y’all!

Food Glorious Food!

Typical School Cafeteria Food 

Here we’ve got a typical vegetarian Indian meal with rice, a type of roti (ie. flat bread) in this case its chapathi, curries (in the different bowls), and a dish of steamed vegetables (on the right).  It’s really interesting because there’s a technique to eating the meal.  First you tear off a little piece of roti and use it to scoop up your curries and cooked vegetables (or meat if inclined) and throw it all back.  Its great cause you don’t need utensils!  I’ve been mixing up my curries, cooked veg, and rice and just eating that with the roti.  However most people will finish eating with the roti and then mix the curries and mixed veg with the rice and eat it with a spoon, but there comes a point where youre just over spoons.  It happens.

Roti and Curry and Curds... Oh My!

At a Restraunt in a town just outside of Manipal

Here you’ve got everything from the cafeteria meal and a few additions.  First off on the left there is a variety of buttermilk (a sour drink, an acquired taste from what I’m told), sour curds and sweet curds.  It looks similar to plain yogurt and I honestly have since avoided it (dont like unsweetened yogurt).  There are also these fried vegetable chips at the bottom of the picture you can use to scoop up some curry or curd.  And lastly there was something on the plate towards the back right, but the fella I was sitting with didn’t eat his so I chose to avoid it as well, it was a piece of veg/meat with some sauce on it.

All in all it was a great meal, loads better than the cafeteria food, but it puts eating at the SU Commons to shame.  A meal like this’ll run you 45 rupees, which is roughly $1.  Absolutely awesome.

Mango & Watermelon Smoothie

The smoothie is absolutely ubiquitous here in Manipal, theres really no comparison in the states.  I suppose if you were to compare it to anything itd be like getting a nice Italian soda at a restaurant or something similar to that.  But regardless they are delicious!  I had a Musumbi smoothie yesterday and it was just killer!

Always super chunky though smooth and absolutely delicious!

 

Shankarpalaa - A yummy sweet snack

My friend Raj brought some home made Shankarpalaa from home for me to try and it was delicious.  Im not exactly sure whats in it, but it tastes like a slightly sweetened graham cracker but fried instead of baked.  They are awesome, I could totally see myself just sitting on the couch chowing on these :D!

The Chimichanga: Concensus - Pretty Good for India

I gotta admit when I heard there was a new Tex-Mex restaurant opening I was pretty pumped.  Then when I heard it was being opened by a woman from Alabama I figured she’ll have it under control and I’ll be chowing on good ol’ tex-mex in no time.  But I gotta admit to didnt match up to my high expectations.
Alrighty thats all she wrote for this week.  I’m kind of at a quandry as to what I oughtta write about so if you wanna do me a HUGE FAVOR lemme know what you wanna see here in India, I got ideas brewing but if you got any do share.
Namaste Y’all!

Classes Sink In, Routine Come

So last week was my first actual week of classes, so far taking Traditional Indian Thought and Philosophy, Basic Epidemiology, Public Health Systems, Global Health Problems, and Contemporary Indian Society.  We went on this field visit last week where we got to observe a Primary Healthcare Center and get an introduction into the public health system here in India.  I was just blown away.  Theres a tendency toward a forlorn sigh when you mention healthcare in a foreign country, but I was more than surprised by what I found.  For ever man, woman, and child in India there is a place set up by the government where people can go and receive free and consistent healthcare.  There are vaccination programs in place to reach out to a diverse array of people.  America likes to consider itself a melting pot, but India is the OG.  This being my first foray into public health all I have for my background is a summer working in the ER and I have hit the ground running.  School has been tough, but right now all the classes I’m taking are graduate level.  Remember when you heard that you get to learn on your own in college and its totally different from highschool?  Yeah that happened, again!

My first day in Public Health Systems and I show up late.  I had had a philosophy class which ran late and I stumbled into class right as it was beginning.  The professor, Dr. Lobo, was asking questions about the American Healthcare system and the room was silent.  I raised my hand, stood up, and Dr. Lobo asked that I come and speak to the class on public health in America.  I hadn’t even gotten a syllabus yet.  But there I was presenting to the class  on American healthcare.  I swear to god, this place is simply amazing.

But what else is there to do?  I had the pleasure of getting the best haircut ever last week.  And it was perfect, the man gave me exactly what I wanted and I didnt even have to wash my hair first! But as he finished he offered me a head massage with oil, and let me tell you the man knew how to give a damn good head massage, which turned into a back and arm massage.  Thoroughly relaxed and ready to greet the rest of the day he then offers me a facial massage, how could I say no.  Oh and a steam treatment to boot? Why sure I’ve been needing a good day at the spa, lets friggin do this!  By the end of it I was grinning from ear to ear and physically feeling better than never before.  In total this cost me 150 rupees, AKA just over $3.

While that sinks in, this next week I’ll be checking out all the food around Manipal WHICH MEANS PICTURES!!!!! So be sure to check in and there are new photos to be seen here.

Namaste Til next week!

First Week and I’m Home

So I finally have internet access in India! It took a long time because we had a week of settling in and getting paperwork sorted out.  But I have had my mind blown seven times over (at least).  This place is so amazing!  You can check out pictures here.

I am at Manipal University in Manipal, and its a smaller kinda town but really open minded and much more relaxed, so I ain’t too home sick for Austin yet.  I’ve already been making friends and getting to know so many people, played a digiridoo (i know, Australian, but absolutely awesome with techno).  My first day there was a geopolitics grad student named Shaantanu who decided he was gonna show me the town on a city wide tour and so we got to be chill pretty quick.  I’ve gotten to see two temples to Shiva (Krishna and Shankara) and driven up through the Western Ghats .   There’s just sooooo much!  There were all these presentations and warnings about ‘culture shock’ while we are here and I have just been taking every opportunity to fit into this place and lose that sense of foreign-ness, and with the 40 C weather and constant 100% humidity + ubiquitous spicy food, it feels just like home in Texas.  We had our first classes today and so I got to go to an Ayurvedic practicum class (traditional Indian medicine, which actually has new scientific research backing it), then after that I had my Global Health Systems class, but we just went to this presentation on Cancer Registries in India, kinda interesting but I missed a little of it cause I was signing up for internet.

This Friday I got to go to a Primary Healthcare Center(PHC) with a bunch of students from my Basic Epidemiology course.  We drove out there for 2.5 hours down all these roads riddled with pot-holes.  Luckily I was the last dude on the bus and got to sit in the waaaaay back.  I was just hanging out getting ready to throw a pair of head phones on and work on the journal when Anand Verna decided he’d strike up a conversation.  He had just finished his dentistry degree and is just starting his Masters of Public Health.  From what I gathered the medical system in India seemed a lot more organized and thought out than anything we have even considered in the US.  When we got there I had no idea what we were supposed to do, turns out none of the Study Abroad Program students had gotten a syllabus and we were all confused about how to keep up.  Thats one thing most necessary to living here, being able to switch gears and turn proactive on a dime. But we walked through the whole PHC learning about what is done where and it was really cool to see a more holistic approach to modern medicine and bringing treatment to the masses.

Then last night the whole Study Abroad Program went out together! It was awesome just hanging out and being rambunctious together.  Now I’ve gotta go register with the Police Station so they know I am here in Manipal.  Roll out the red carpet!

Egotistical blurbs aside… Be well.

Prior to Departure

Alright, so everything is all packed, still got itineraries and travel guides/whatnot to print off, but I do believe I have everything for my trip.  Oh except my visa. That is at the Indian Consulate in Houston… Drat.  So hopefully I’ll be driving down there today to pick it up in time for my trip tomorrow!

So tomorrow I am leaving for Mangalore, India to study public health at Manipal University in Karnataka.  Honestly, I’ve been trying to figure out where that is and so far no luck (granted I am awful at using the internet).  Be sure to check back periodically, I’m hoping to post pretty regularly on here.

Til then, be well.

Winston