After a long flight, the students have arrived in India! I am already amazed by their resilience and enthusiasm. We stayed briefly and Delhi andWe took a flight to Amritsar. the group met with Rohit and Rahul, the incredible photographers coordinating the photojournalism curriculum. We stayed in a unique guest house that used to be military barracks, then had an early morning tour of the Golden Temple where students learned about Sikhism and culture. The students took pictures following the Rule of Thirds, and will be analyzing their work tomorrow.
Today we are heading to the home base in Dharamsala. I can’t wait for the rest of the program- this group is truly awesome and I can’t wait to see how they make this program truly their own.
Stay tuned for more blog posts from the students!
Laura, International Director
June 22, 2017
A byproduct of both jetlag and enthusiasm, Thursday began as early as 4:55 AM for some brave souls who chose to watch the sunrise from home base’s rooftop. For the first full day after what seemed like eons of traveling, friendships had already begun to form and everyone was enthusiastic to get into the city of Dharamsala. In beginning our photography curriculum, we learnt the rudimentary skills required to finally switch the camera to manual mode as well. For some, photography seemed to come naturally (or from years of practice), while for many of us it was a steep learning curve away from the iPhone. In the afternoon, we became accustomed to both the busy market streets via a scavenger hunt of sorts, as well as the utter fearlessness of drivers. Everyone returned in the evening understandably tired, yet excited for the weeks to come.
June 25, 2017
The perpetual honking of a car horn. That would be the main sound that fills the humid Indian air. Just like any country, industrialization has slowly engulfed the cultural traditions that once permeated throughout the physical and spiritual landscape of India. There is asylum, however, in the Hindu temples that continue to preserve sanctity, purity, and connection to the primal sense of true humanity. Inside the Hindu temple that celebrated Vishnu, walked the Babajii; men with long entangled dreads that fell along their backs and chests. Their robes fell loosely around their appendages, granting them the freedom to move swiftly and lightly. As I walked, I tried to replicate the softness of their footsteps, looking to keep the serenity and harmony of the temple. The main spiritual calling of the temple was the eternal flame. A conflagration that has stayed alight for five hundred years, fueled by the unwavering dedication of the Babajii. The Babajii were a generational being, a relic from the past that continued to sustain a bright future. Walking further there was a river that symbolized the holy spirit of Vishnu, a raging blessing that secured passage to spiritual connection. The river retained a divine atmosphere, an entitlement to cleanliness that replicates the providence of Vishnu and offers decontamination to those who wake in its water. My feet were my medium to spirituality. They were my stability as well as a gateway to the ancient holiness of the relics and natural phenomena. I slowly walked into the raging water, trying to engage in the spirituality that the native Indians had practiced relentlessly to obtain. The waters lacked any direct connection to the eternal flame, aside from both containing the admiration and divinity that the Hindi worshiped, as well as being in the caring hands of the Babajii. Despite the non-existent connection of the two that would be solidified by the ancient Hindi texts, the raging waters seemed warm. As if the heat and luminance of the eternal flame mitigated the cold and raging complexion of the river.
A day in India
June 29, 2017
My fellow GLA students and I awoke to peaceful rain and a perfect temperature of seventy degrees. As our capstone project approaches its deadline, we began to discuss game plans and ideas for our soon to be masterpieces. Our late morning activities consisted of our visit to the daycare, where we practiced patience while getting in a challenging workout.
At lunchtime we played intense card games and continued to outline the elements in our assignment. The group work transitioned into the afternoon, and we ended the evening with a documentary, dinner, and mentor groups.
Throughout my time here I have had the song “Imagine” by John Lennon playing in my head on repeat. Everyday I spend here in my temporary home, I relate to each song lyric and a feeling of humbleness and gratitude spend here in my temporary home I relate to each song lyric and a feeling of humbleness and gratitude washes over me.
“Imagine there’s no heaven
It’s easy if you try
No hell below us
Above us only sky
Imagine all the people
Living for today.”
Although we are exploring a country that holds some of the most religious practices I have ever seen, I have also witnessed a few native people who live and make choices without consideration nor fear. At the daycare, we arrived the scene with shy and respectful pupils. However, they quickly opened up, allowing themselves to act like children. As they stole our phones and cameras and laughed uncontrollably whenever we did something embarrassing, the beauty of not caring about the next moment, day, or week shined through their eyes. Their curiosity, innocence, and intelligence taught me more than any classroom could.
“Imagine no possessions
I wonder if you can
No need for greed or hunger
A brotherhood of man
Imagine all the people
Sharing all the world.”
Coming from a country where self esteem is often built on possessions, I had the opportunity to soften my greedy heart when I went to a local market. Macy and I were searching for souvenirs when we made conversation with the store owner. We discussed American politics, the Indian education system, and the cause of this town’s corruption. After our knowledge-filled discussion, I presented the items I wanted to purchase. To my surprise, the man shook his head and said “Take it.” I insisted that he should take my money, since I was trying to support his business. He responded, “You paid me by speaking to me, we are blessed to have you staying here.” My heart sunk. I gave him a hug and requested to take a picture of him and his brother. I will never forget this man. A man who has close to nothing but is willing to give anything.
“You may say I’m a dreamer
But I’m not the only one
I hope one day you’ll join us
And the world will be as one.”
My most treasured discovery of this trip has been the connections I’ve made with my fellow travelers. Never have I felt more understood by so many people. Every student here has so much in common. The most important similarity is our passion. We are all ready and eager to lead our generation to a more equal world. As the self-driven, supportive GLA India group furthers the journey in India, we will continue to become masters of photography, fluent journalists, and brothers and sisters. But most of all we are dreamers, hoping to better the world one step at a time.
Saturday, July 1st
We started off the morning with our usual 8am breakfast, however, some came down feeling better than others due to the endless barking of a certain pup which filled the previous night. After breakfast, each capstone group gathered and allocated their time in a way of their choice. This could have been anything from interviewing locals to editing video clips to writing and photographing aspects of a culture. A little before lunch, we came together on the roof to get a quick lesson from Raoul and Rajit about portrait photography lighting. We then had some more free time to practice the lighting skills we had just learned, and reconvened for lunch around 1pm. An hour after lunch, we gathered our things and drove about 15 minutes up the mountain to the village of McCloud Ganj, where we were given 3 hours to spend as we chose. We strolled the streets, filling our time with lots of browsing, the occasional spending, and some quality food (the best chocolate cake and iced mocha I’ve ever had.) 3 hours and 20 fatigued kids later, we head back to the cabs and drove down the mountain to return to home base. After a little but of time to figure out and show off what all had been bought in the previous hours, we were treated to an early dinner of pizza!!!! After dinner we gathered around the screen to watch Chimamanda Adichie’s TED talk The Danger of a Single Story. The video was followed by meeting with mentor groups, in which we discussed what we would take with us after returning home, and how we would adjust back to life in the US.
July 4, 2017
Today the group spent all of our time exploring Priyanka’s (GLA staff member) family farm. Whether it was picking mangoes and Jamun straight from the trees or helping out in the rice fields learning about the growing process, we were all fully immersed in the agricultural life of a local farm in the mountains of India. During our time at the farm, we were split into groups of 4 or 5 and asked to photograph different aspects of life on the property as it pertained to our group’s assignment. Through this we were able to converse with elders and gain insight into their perspectives on culture and tradition. Additionally we got the opportunity to watch chai tea be made from scratch and see traditional meals being cooked. A part of this process involved eating a delicious meal made by the family members who owned the farm. To wrap up the day, we were given a final tour of the farm and all the fresh produce grown on its property. Afterwards we said our goodbyes and headed back to home base for a final evening meal before ending that day’s festivities.
The group planting rice near the farm
July 5, 2017
We began our day with the usual amazing breakfast and afterwards spent the morning working on our Capstone projects. Everyone is either nearly done or making great progress on the educational and fun presentations which allow us to immerse ourselves more into the culture’s past and present. Afterwards, we received our beautiful specially tailored traditional Saris that everyone was ecstatic to put on and show off. After lunch we all quickly got ready to go to the Dalai Lama’s temple in McLeod Ganj where one of our leaders, Priyanka, gave us a tour. She explained the traditions and history of the temple and the significance of each intricate aspect and shrine. Being in such a sacred and beautiful place was surreal and an amazing honor. Then we spent a few hours shopping in the market and practicing our bargaining skills while trying to find the perfect gifts for ourselves and loved ones. We went out to dinner at a Tibetan restaurant and loved every bite. When we got home we played games and enjoyed Coca-Cola and Fanta ice cream floats(because apparently root beer doesn’t exist in India) to celebrate the Fourth of July in our own way. It was the perfect ending to a perfect day.
6 July 2017 : INDIA FUN DAY