Thursday, January 6, 2011

Courtney Winterberger dispatches from India.

Second India dispatch from Courtney Winterberger, student at Capital University and Ohio District Governor, Circle K International. January 5, 2011.

Hi Kurt,

I'm sorry I don't have much experience with news releases yet. Internet access here is few and far between, so I have taken to writing about the first half of our trip, which is below. You can break it up as you see fit, because I am not sure when I will next be able to access my email.

We spent our first week in Delhi, the nation's capital. It was a week full of tours, site seeing, new sights, sounds, and smells. the traffic here is unbelieveable. Besides the fact that they drive on the other side of the road, the cars are all much smaller, and rickshaws, motorcycles, buses, goods carriers, bicycles and people on foot fill every inch of the roadway. While there are dividing lines, I don't think anyone pays attention to them. Horns are used freely, and seem to be the way drivers inform each other of their presence.

The sites we have seen are simply breathtaking. Three professors from IPSL have accompanied us to each location, and given us a brief history of the place before we are let free to roam and explore. Such sites have included Humayuns tomb, the Taj Majal, Agra Fort, a photo exibit of Raja Deen Dayal, Sanskriti Museums of terra cotta, everyday art, and indian textiles, the Devi Art Foundation, Qutub Minar, Fort Tughlaqabad, Lodi Garden, Safdarjang's Tomb, Dakshineshurar Hindu temple, and Parasharnath Jain temple. As you can see by the length of the list, it has been a busy and sometimes exhausting schedule, but the places we have seen have painted a colorful picture of the history and culture of this otherwise foreign land. I know personally I sometimes felt ignorant knowing virtually nothing of an entire nation, and so I greatly appreciate the many lessons and classes we are taking in the evenings after our travels. My two favorite spots were the Taj Majal and the president's house. In these two places, the sence of being somewhere few Westerners have set foot was great. We got to stand in the hall where India was offically declared independant from Great Britian in 1947! (I encourage you to look up the many sites for pictures, as I am unable to send pictures or video at this time).

On New Year's Day we flew from Delhi to Kolkata, where we will reside for our remaining two weeks. In Delhi we had always traveled together in a tour bus, which was nice because it sat above traffic and allowed for great views. In Kolkata only four cars waited to carry us and our luggage off to the guest house where we are staying. We realized as we were driving away from the airport that our tour bus wouldn't have made it through the streets of Kolkata. A native of the city informed us that Delhi receives most of the government's funds for road construction and other civic projects, and it was evident in the numerous ruts and potholes our driver had to weave around, combined with the traffic and crowds. At first, I found myself constantly clutching my seat and holding my breath in fear or anticipation of a wreck, but after about three days on the roads, you get used to it. We have joked that Columbus will seem empty and peaceful after this!

The first three days in Kolkata have been spent touring all of the sites at which we could potentially serve. These included a slum school, English instruction center, St. Joseph's home for the Elderly, and Mother Teresa's homes Nirmal Hriday (for the destitute and Dying) Prem Dan (translated, "give love") and Shishu Bhavan (home for orphans). All of us had a hard time choosing where we would most like to serve. Our service will last from eight AM to noon every morning except Thursdays and Sundays. Today was our first hands on day, and we were mostly cleaning, but also talking with the patients, who were very happy to be visited by American students.

Everyone in the group (I feel) has done a wonderful job of adjusting to this new world. Of course there are new things we find odd every day. Loudly burping, spitting, clearing the throat and even public urination are all common. We have got quite a few blatant stares as a group of light skinned, light haired people. Body languange is very different here. The most common gesture is a sort of head bobble, which could mean yes, no, or that the listener simply understands what you are saying. Their gesture for come is our gesture for go away. Little things like that have caused a few misunderstandings. Not knowing the names of any foods, we have been overall pleasantly surprised by the fare. Most of it is stereotypically spicy, but we have found ourselves gaining a higher spice tolerance with every meal. The flavors are unbelievale--even breakfast olf poori and pari (bread like pita and dipping sauces) is flavorful. The days are long here and full of new challenges, but the experience is one that couldn't be found anywhere else on the planet.

Let me know if there are any specific aspects of our experience that you would like me to elaborate on in the future. I hope this is what you were looking for.

First India dispatch by Courtney Winterberger, student at Capital University and Ohio District Governor, Circle K International. December 31, 2010.

Hello Kurt,

This first email will be short, and just more of an introduction
rather than an indebth look at what we have been doing. It is my
understanding that we will have more reliable internet access once we
reach Kolkata tomorrow, so I will take the time to write a more
expanded account then. For now, here is a brief introduction to the

We were off to a bit of a bumpy start, as our flight from Chicago's
airport to Delhi was delayed for eight hours due to fog. We ended up
spending 16 hours in O'Hare airport, plus a 16 hour flight across the
Atlantic. It was the longest flight any of us had taken, but we kept
ourselves entertained with books, iPods, and a TV monitor in front of
us that could play select television shows, movies, and even games. I
was interested to see everything was available in English, Hindi (the
two most common languages in India), as well as six other common
Indian languages including Punjabi, Farsi, Bengali, and Urdu.

We landed in Dehli at 4:30am their time, and the first thing we
noticed was the fog they spoke of as delaying our flight. It turns out
is a smog that perpetually hangs over the city due to the use of
leaded gasoline in their cars and their ability to build fires out of
whatever garbage materials they find. It is a dissapointment, because
one can never see farther than maybe a quarter mile through the smog
to the beautiful monuments of the city.

Old and age are things I constantly think of when we are driving
through the city. It is quite mind boggling to see monuments that are
from the mideval(spelling? no spell check on this computer) era, when
in the United States, you don't see anything older than maybe 200
years. There are all these huge monuments rising next to living
spaces, I just couldn't imagine living this close to so much history.

I'll give you a more in debth rendition of what we have experienced
thus far after we have arrived in Kolkata. Thanks again for this

In Service,
Courtney Winterberger
Governor, Ohio District
Circle K International


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Design is copyright 2011. All rights reserved. Bexley Public Radio Foundation. Text and photos are copyright 2011. All rights reserved. Courtney Winterberger.

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