Monday, May 31, 2010

Toshi Dele (probably spelled wrong)

Hello from Dharmsala,
Despite all of the fun and exciting things we've done on our adventures in India, today was one of the more powerful experiences for me. Today we met the Karmapa Lama who, for those who don't know, is the leader of one of the four Buddhist schools. He is very good friends with the Dali Lama. But the part that I didn't know that was most interesting to me was that the Karmapa and the Dali Lama are both people who have been reincarnated since the 12th century!!! They find them at a young age by a series of tests and strange happenings. For example, at the age of two and a half the current Dali Lama was found because he knew detailed names of people he had never met before but people that the last Dali Lama had knew explicitly. Exciting right?!?!? Anyway, we got to sit down and just ask the Karmapa any questions that came to mind. He was really cool. He was young so he wasn't as advanced in some of his answers like his goals or past lives but he gave the best advice just for everyday life. It was really quite moving to be that close to such an important and holy figure. Breathtaking lol. Anyway, until next time.

with love,


This is my absolute first time writing a blog ever. I'm here in India and i' having the time of my life. I think my most memorable experience has been in Rishikesh. Yeah someone already wrote about this but, I want you to hear this from a standpoint of someone that fully partook in the activity. Rafting in the Ganges River was my absolute favorite. I had been anticipating this since the time we stepped foot in Rishikesh. The guy taught us to properly use the ores, how to hold them etc. basically a little crash course. Going through the rapids for the first time was a bit freighting. Our guide person was telling us "left- back, right-front" and at one point we hit a huge rapid and he was yelling "fast, fast, and then front I tell you!" You had to hear the way he said it. I thought I had seen my life flash before my eyes, but I love the thrill in that . At one point a few of us were almost removed from the raft. I believe that rapid was called the roller coaster. There were maybe 7 or more rapids in total. We all did get a chance to jump in the river and I tell you that was the coldest I had ever been while being here. My showers here aren't even cold (I know TMI) : ) Going in for the first time was life changing. This is the same river ( according to their beliefs here) purifies you of your sins so to actually be apart of something like this was something major. I did get a mouth full of water when I went in because apparently I don't know how to keep my mouth closed (smiles) but it was worth it. We went up a few more rapids and had some lunch then back to paddling. This time the girls were in front (girl power!)Lindsay and I held it down! It was all smooth sailing than the guide asked if we wanted to jump off a cliff. My eyes literally got bug as quarters because I've always pictured myself doing this. We climbed to the top of this cliff which wasn't really tall but once I was there and actually about to do it, it was the scariest thing in the world (lets not forget I looovvveee thrill) So I'm waiting and maybe 5 minutes go by along with 5 people who jumped in the river before me that should have been after, but because I hadn't yet built up my confidence I couldn't go. I slowly back away from the tip of the cliff running to the edge I closed my eyes and screamed as I jumped. My feet felt like they were never going to reach earth again and there was like this empty feeling in my stomach. Finally I hit the water with a big splash! I DID IT!!!! This is all I really have time for right now, but I will be writing soon.


Friday, May 28, 2010


FYI for people reading international news, we were NOT involved in the train crash in eastern India. Read about the crash here:

We're all doing great, and looking forward to the rest of our adventure. :-)

~ Burns
Namaste again everyone

Today we went rafting on the holy Ganga in Rishikesh. Rishikesh is in the Himalaya mountains, for those not inclined to geography.

It was magnificent and apart from some sunburns, quite enjoyable. I enjoy being near the water much more than in the cities. It was my first rafting experience, which was quite exciting. One o the rapids was NUTS. The guide said it was a class 4 but Burns said he hadn't been on one that big, so it must have been insane. We were in the rapids and then all of a sudden, the sky is dark. We were in like a water tunnel. I look up and Kristen is just flying at me. Naturally I duck and cover like a little girl.

Our hotel is really neat and comfortable. We have a bath! and a Western toilet! I stayed up with Burns last night to watch a beautiful storm on the mountains and Ganga. It was the first time it's rained since we left the country and it was very comforting. Seeing a storm that intense over a river that sacred was incredible.

Every morning we have been doing yoga out on the lawn, which is delightful. I'm feeling very mellow and relaxed.

Time goes by so fast here and I keep losing track of days and time here. Before you know it, we will be back in the states.

Since my last post, we've seen the Taj Mahal and been to Allahabad. I was extremely impressed with the Taj; it is huge, beautiful and can definitely be compared to paradise. I find myself thinking about what it would have looked like when it was first finished. It's extremely hard to think about.

Allahabad wasn't the best place in the world. My only real memory is falling on my butt at the museum. No worries, I'm fine, but of course the battle versus gravity has only just begun.

In the chronicles of "Sam Touching Strange Animals in India," I did get to feed some adorable chipmunks out of my hand. I gave them some trail mix and they seemed to it.

Can't wait to hear from you all again!


Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Hi again everyone!

Today we went to the Taj Mahal, and Fatephur Sikri. Yesterday we visited the Agra Fort, which I loved. What has been exciting me more than anything are the trips to various archaeological sites. There are places that I have known that I wanted to visit someday, that I never imagined being able to go to, and we've been to a few of them by now! That is what I love most about this trip. The downtimes are fun in different ways, but the visiting of the sites are the highlights for me.
I'm sure everyone will get pretty tired of seeing 100's of detail pictures of every site we visit, courtesy of me. I feel like I'm looking harder than everyone else seems to be, at the tiny details on every wall. For example, I saw a peacock flying in a field today, and everyone else missed it. I wish that I could stay here and explore forever...But I do want to go home at the same time. It's a strange feeling, wanting to both stay and go at the same time.

Something funny I did today was look furiously for these wooden cobras. I saw them as we went into the Taj Mahal, but you can't carry anything inside other than a bottle of water, so I didn't get one. When I came out, I couldn't find any! You have to understand that the people selling things are relentless, and it was strange I could find 0 cobras! I looked and looked, with the help of Wes. We had to leave to get on a bus to go see Fatephur Sikri, and when we got back, Wes and I reconvened the search party. As we got down at the end of a pretty long street, Dr. Maher called Wes to let him know that a person selling the fabled snakes had just walked up to him. So Wes and I made out way back to get me some cobras! It was really strange that out of all day, I only saw the cobra seller once....




So we are currently in Agra which is a wonderful place. Today we visited the Taj Mahal which is spectacular. I can not descibe it really becuase one can not understand until it is right in front in you. But.. if I had to compare it to something I would compare it to a football player looking at a football field the night before a huge game. The football player is standing on the football field anxious about playing in the game for he is uncertain of his teams fate. The feeling at the Taj Mahal is similar in that while looking at it from a distance you are unsure of its reality, but when you get beside it the white stone and tall pillars are overwhelming. The people here are also wonderful. We met a young boy named Vickie who is very nice and helpful. He has been a joy to talk to and learn from about the Indian culture. Well that is all for now tootaloo!

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Update from Allahabad

We have just arrived in Allahabad after several days in Varanasi. I'm sure the people following this blog will have heard about the plane running off the runway in India. I just wanted to make people aware that all is well with our group. We are healthy, and we're looking forward to a busy day tomorrow looking at some important Hindu pilgrimage sites and some locations connected to the Indian independence movement.


Thursday, May 20, 2010



India is lovely.

Aside from some heat stroke inducing weather, I am having a great time in Varanasi. From our hotel room, you can see the Ganges or Ganga, as we've all started calling it.

Traveling in such a huge group has been pretty taxing, but amusing. I think Katie detailed the rickshaw adventures. Well, let's say they're the best thing ever. I want one for back home.

I've been thinking about the hierarchy of horns here, in our terrifying drive back from the Tibetan monastery to Assi Ghat. Obviously the lay of the land is that the bigger vehicle has the right of way, except for scooters who will try every possible means to get in any possible gap. Anyways. Cars only have one stopping point: cows. Don't hit the cow.

Cows seemed to be the oddest part of this trip for me. It's never been in my mind to avoid one animal constantly. I'm constantly watching where I step so as not to step in cow dung, watching ahead of me to not run into a cow, and definitely smelling cows constantly.

Speaking of animals, I touched a goat yesterday.

I don't have much to say right now and this computer chair is verrry uncomfortable.

Blog again from Allahabad,


Wednesday, May 19, 2010

First days in India

I love it here. It is so much different than the State. The experiences in Delhi and Varanasi have opened my eyes to the other side of the world. I don't want to leave. In Delhi. we visited so ancient tombs of past kings of ancient empires, learned the daily life of a Indian, but most importantly survived the rikshaw. This trip has made me more confident in my own future travels.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Hi everyone!

I guess that I am the first to write an entry. We've all been pretty busy, but tonight we've got some down time. For only having been here for 3 full days, we've sure done a lot of things. Saturday we arrived in Delhi around 8:30p our time, and went straight to the hotel.
The first thing you notice stepping out of the plane is the heat. It's not super sticky all the time like in Greenville, but it can be. It's been around 110F during the day, and 90F or so at night. VERY hot. We're all drinking the most water we ever have in our lives...

The next thing I noticed was the super-crazy traffic. At first glance there seem to be no rules at all. Everyone is honking their horns, as a kind of "Hello, I'm over here" and you can see cars and trucks with "horn please" or "please honk" painted on the back. In fact I can hear a lot of horns outside the Internet cafe right now. There aren't lanes on the road, and of there are, no one uses them.Our bus would pull up between a truck and a guy on a scooter would pull up between us, or even a rickshaw if there was not enough room. Cows walk around, just going about thier business (which I mean in many ways) and people just go around them. I think the hierarchy of the road is that the bigger you are, the more right of way you get, unless you are a cow. Cows are on the top of the right-of-way pyramid.

Speaking of rickshaws, I think the rides we've had in them have been the most fun parts for me so far. This is a rickshaw. Now, imagine at least 4 adults squeezed in one of those things, darting between cars, cows, bicycles, other rickshaws, and whoever is walking on the road. Today, six of us squeezed in one, with 4 in the back and one on each side of the driver, and we rode about 3km, and it was only just over $1! Rickshaws are sooo much fun to ride in, and I'm sure others will mention the awesomeness of rickshaws in their posts, haha.

After Saturday, we stayed again in Delhi, and visited the Baha'i temple and Humayun's tomb. Two places I've always wanted to see! Monday was a day for a Hindi movie. The thatre was really nice, and had heavy security. You weren't allowed to take backpacks in, and before you got to go in, you had to go through 2 metal detectors, and one pat down. The movie we saw was called Badmaash Company. It was over 3 hours long, and very over-dramatic. It was pretty fun to go see to say the least.

Last night we got on a train out of Delhi, headed towards Varanasi. The ride was about 14 hours long, but I slept better than I did on the plane! I had never been in a sleeper car of a train, or on many trains for that matter. If you've seen the movie The Darjeeling Limited.... it's all wrong, haha. The trains aren't nearly as nice, but they are quite enjoyable.

We all miss you and are thinking of you, and if we haven't already, I'm sure we will be contacting everyone asap! Goodnight!


Friday, May 14, 2010

Welcome to ECU in India

For the fifth year in a row, I am leading a study abroad program to India on behalf of the Religious Studies Program of East Carolina University. We invite you to follow our experiences as we visit locations sacred to Bahais, Buddhists, Christians, Hindus, Jains, Muslims, Sikhs, and others.

Derek F. Maher, PhD
Religious Studies, Director
East Carolina University

Saturday, May 8, 2010

First Post!

This is the first post for the ECU Visits India 2010 blog. You can look forward to more content in the coming weeks.

~ Burns