Picture: Pilgrims after Ganges
Bath, Haridwar, April 1998.
Goals: To experience Indian culture, to understand better the history and relationships of three religious communities (Hindus, Muslims, and Sikhs), to cultivate the larger sense of identity, purpose and perspective historically associated with travel, and to have a good time. Personal transformation through experience is the Holy Grail of J-term trips--but cannot be guaranteed.
Description: This class is a January study tour, in which we will encounter three contemporary Indian religious communities--Hindus, Muslims, and Sikhs. India is a strong example of a religiously pluralistic nation, with both the benefits and problems arising from such pluralism. During our travels we will see the daily life of each of these groups, examine the interactions between them, and attempt to discern how these interactions have been (and continue to be) shaped by their historical and cultural context. The tour will visit four north Indian cities:
Pushkar/Ajmer: Contiguous cities that have an important Hindu pilgrimage site, and the most important Sufi tomb in India.
These cities are within a day's travel of each other, so most of our time will be spent being IN places, rather than going to places. Most intercity travel will be by rail, usually in air-conditioned class. Aside from the gentler pace of train travel, these travel days will also supply some time for rest, reflection, and informal discussion.
Projected Cost is $2400 for the 22 day
What's Covered: airfare (the most expensive item), hotels, all transportation (local and longer distance), speaker and monument fees, and a daily per diem for meals..
What's Not: Your visa, immunizations and medications, laundry, postage, shopping, and personal expenses.
Delhi's average high in January is 73 degrees, and the average low is 44. Do not be fooled by these averages. Early January is often foggy, which means days could be damp and in the 50s, and this can feel freezing cold, since Indian buildings are not heated. Haridwar and Amritsar are probably a little chillier than Delhi; Agra and Pushkar a little warmer.
To prepare for such temperature swings, bring pieces of clothing that can be layered as the temperature rises or falls. Rain is possible, but unlikely. Shawls and hats (but not gloves) are readily available in the markets. Bring footwear that is comfortable for walking (since we will be doing plenty of this) and for wearing all day. Remember that you can WASH YOUR CLOTHES (or have them washed for you) and thus you don't need to bring 21 different outfits--I usually bring (including what I'm wearing) 5 shirts, 2 pairs of pants, and underwear and socks for a week. My outer layers are a light fleece and a waterproof shell.
Packing: Do not take more than you can easily carry for at least 3 blocks. In my last two trips I have not checked a bag as a strategy to what I take. My personal preference is for a backpack. Suitcases are not recommended (even the ones with wheels, since Indian roads tend to be uneven). Your carry-on luggage should contain at least one change of clothes, and anything else you can't afford to lose (electronics, medications, etc.) Any baggage you check should be lockable--this could be as simple as a lock that you put through the zipper tabs.
Here's a link to my personal packing list, which I hope will be helpful.
Here are links to Doug Dyment (guru of one-bag packing): A short one showing how to pack everything in one bag, and the more in-depth information at his full site, www.onebag.com, (which also gives all sort of product reviews and advice about what sort of things to buy to minimize your space needs).
Warnings and Requirements
Daily Meetings. We will meet as a group at least once every day. You must be there, and be on time. These meetings will provide a chance to talk about the things we will see, and as a forum to discuss and review how people are doing, and to answer your questions.
The Three Required Items: A money belt or other device to keep your valuables secure (see below), a timepiece WITH AN ALARM, and a lock (padlock or combination).
Security: Every person on the tour MUST have a secure device (pouch or money belt) that is worn UNDER your clothing, to hold your passport, airplane ticket, credit cards, and money. You can take this off when you sleep and when you bathe, but you must wear it at all other times. Keep your "walking around money" (200-500 rupees) in a more easily accessible place so that you don't have to expose your valuables for every purchase. For end-of-trip shopping, most Delhi stores take credit cards; Delhi also has lots of ATMs.
Personal Safety: Be prudent, and
be aware of your surroundings; petty theft and fraud (particularly the "buy
here, sell there" scam) are common enough. There are also distressing cases of travelers
drinking a cup of tea with friendly people, and waking up to find all their stuff gone. For this
reason, YOU SHOULD NOT ACCEPT FOOD OR DRINK FROM ANYONE YOU DO NOT KNOW. If
they insist, thank them kindly, and tell them that you are keeping a religious
fast on that day, and thus are unable to oblige them.
Harassment: Women should travel in pairs--or with a man--to minimize trouble (which is more likely to consist of smart-ass remarks rather than any genuine physical danger).
Police: Should always be addressed politely. Do not harass, annoy, or antagonize them. High level officers are usually sophisticated and well-educated, but many of the "beat police" are not (they don't call them "beat" police for nothing).
Alcohol and Drugs: Do not do anything to impair your judgment/perception of your surroundings (see "Personal Safety" above).. Though alcohol is available in Delhi, note that the legal drinking age is 25 years. Alcohol also carries a social stigma, of being a gutter-dwelling low-life. Marijuana, hashish, and opiates are highly illegal, and can land you in an Indian jail, where you may wait SEVERAL YEARS BEFORE COMING TO TRIAL. In one common sting, drug sellers work with police to trap tourists.
Arrest: US citizenship provides no special protection for persons taken into legal custody by Indian authorities, and it may even constitute a liability. Although Carthage may attempt to be helpful to students in this circumstance, the College does not provide legal or diplomatic services or fund special efforts to secure the release of such an individual. Please, please DON'T get arrested.
Early Return: Especially egregious conduct by a student may result in expulsion from the tour, and an untimely return to Chicago O'Hare Airport. Such conduct includes but is not limited to any activity classified as a felony under US or Indian law. What constitutes "especially egregious conduct?" As the tour leader, this is my call, but drugs and "paid friends" would certainly qualify.
Guest Behavior: As guests in another country, participants should try to act appropriately not offend local sensibilities. For example, shoes are ALWAYS removed before entering any place of worship, and men and women should cover their heads (except in Hindu temples, in which only women usually do so). Indians generally overlook errors if people are clearly trying to do the right thing. Be assertive when necessary, but speak courteously.
Bargaining: Is assumed in Indian culture. Bargaining is less likely in any store with prices marked on items (unless you buy multiple items), but any item for sale on the street will be highly inflated, and here you should bargain.
Laundry: Some or our hotels have laundry facilities, but otherwise you will be washing your clothes in a bucket. I strongly advise dark-colored clothing that will hide the dirt a little better.
Electricity: India uses 220 volt 50 hertz electrical service with an outlet unlike those used in the US. Converters are available in travel shops, or (often) at places such as Radio Shack. Over the years I have brought less and less that needs plugging in, and am now down to nothing.
Ipod/.MPG/Personal Music Players are not allowed on the trip. My rationale is that these serve as filters to insulate you from the experience at hand, to which I want you to give your full attention. They also isolate us from each other, and this trip is a chance to interact with them. Games of any sort (board, card, etc.) are both allowed and encouraged.
Consumer Goods: Any toiletries you need will be widely available, with two possible exceptions: 1) If you wear contact lenses, you should bring adequate supplies of everything you will need to take care of them, and 2) Indian toilet paper--though vastly improved--will never be Charmin (and most Indians don't use it anyway, and think that using paper is disgusting--many toilets are now equipped with a little kitchen-sink type sprayer to use for cleaning).
Communications: Check with your wireless carrier to see whether your phone will work in India--many of the higher end ones do, and texts are often relatively inexpensive to send and receive. Many shops have a booth from which one can make international calls. These invariably have a meter with a red LCD display, and when you hang up you pay the amount on the meter. Remember that Indian standard time is 11 1/2 hours ahead of Central Time, which means that you should probably call people in the morning or the evening, rather than midday. Internet cafes have become relatively common, and you are generally charged by the minute (and it is cheap, the most common rate is Rs. 40/hour, about a dollar). In many places (e.g., Delhi) police regulations require them to make a copy of patrons' passport and visa pages--you may want to make some copies of these so that they don't carry your passport away.
Changing Money: Changing cash is fast and easy in Delhi, Amritsar, and Pushkar, but slower in other places. ATM machines work like magic, but may incur fees from your bank. .
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These pages are in progress.
Page maintained by James G. Lochtefeld.
Last modified 24 August 2011