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Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Part 2- The Trip of a Lifetime

Recently, an eager group of Girl Scouts joined San Diego council staff and experienced the excitement of Indian life in the global atmosphere of Sangam: Indian food, outdoor markets, sari shopping, famous sites and Indian art with 11 of their Girl Scout sisters.

Enjoy this series of posts from Karina, one of the Girl Scouts who just returned from the trip of a lifetime! This is number two out of four installments. Enjoy -- and let is know what you think!

WAGGGS (World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts) has four world centers: Sangam is one of them (the other three are in México, Switzerland and England). GSUSA is a part of WAGGGS. Any of the 10 million members of WAGGGS can stay in a world centre. When we arrived we filled out paperwork and went straight to bed… after taking our shoes off before entering the dorm. Wondering about the shoes part? It is a social rule to remove your footwear if you’re walking into a house, temple, etc. So if you go to India then do NOT use knee-high Converse (none of us did but just saying).

We had a blast in Pune, the city where Sangam is. Pune is in Maharastra, a state whose capital is India’s largest city, Mumbai. The state is located in the west side of India, and has a population of almost 98 million people. Pune is Maharastra’s 2nd largest city, with four million inhabitants and streets full of trucks, motorcycles, bicycles, cows, goats, cars, pedestrians and rickshaws (three wheeled kind of motorcycles which are like taxi cabs and are supposed to fit only three persons). In Sangam, we were mixed up with visitors from Canada, Australia, Nashville and Michigan to be divided in patrols, which were our teams. We got to share adventures, laughs and exhausting walks together.

The program we all did included some challenges (The Amazing Race with “chikoos” and rupees blending in). For example, on the “Wadi Challenge” we found out that you could buy like six bananas for a bit less than a dollar; on our way to Ganesh’s Temple (hindi god with an elephant head). We found a two story internet café (the ceiling on the 2nd story was about 5’2 feet high), the computers were powered by car batteries that were piled up next to me…cost 10 rupees an hour! (about 25 cents).

On another challenge, we went to Laxmi Road, with its markets and shops and alleys. Like the bangle alley! With shops covered with bangles of all colors. Random fact: traditionally in the state of Maharastra, green bangles indicate that a woman is married. There are other ways that show if a woman is married: if she wears toe rings, a red bindi (dot on the forehead), a Mangalsutra (necklace with black beads and gold pendants), etc.

We had fun shopping, but cool bangles do not compare to the main course: SARIS. Have you seen those somehow-tied-up dresses that Indian women wear? Well, shopping for those is another level of shopping…it’s looking at walls COVERED in hundreds of 6 yard-long pieces of fabric that are gorgeous and colorful and of all designs and price ranges and they call you and captivate you because there’s a fan in the shop and the fabric flows in the wind…and suddenly you just purchased a sari.

But then there’s a problem, I mean, your sari can feel lonely so before you realize it you also bought a new Punjabi (dress, scarf and pants combo). And don’t even get me started with silk scarves…

Aside from the shopping, we did some Bollywood dancing (Hollywood in Mumbai), ate LOTS of delicious food with curry and ginger and some other 100000+ spices, went to SOS Children’s Village (an orphanage) where we played with the kids for hours and then went back there another day because we wanted to see them again.

Next, truly making a connectionw ith the people in India.

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