May 23, 2016
Is it really March already? It just seems like two weeks ago that I arrived in India, although at the same time it seems like I have experienced enough to fill a year! Time runs at an extremely weird pace here. On the one hand, you hardly ever feel in a hurry, because “the result is always more important than the due date”. On the other hand, it seems like I’m always short on time to do all the things I wanna do.
March started in a relatively relaxed way. We got a few weeks of to arrange our US visa for the New York trimester and attend the Indian wedding in Patna. During the first week of March, I succeeded in finishing all my schoolwork and most of my part of the master project. I planned it this way, so that I wouldn’t have anything left to do when I went on my trips.
Off the Beaten Track in Bargarh
That Sunday, I left for the small town of Bargarh, where my batchmate Abhisek is from. I met his family – and half the village – while getting a feel of the atmosphere in one of India’s many villages yet to be discovered by tourists. It was a nice and unique experience. Also, I can now confrm that also in India homecooked meals are the best! Being here during an important festival in honor of the god Shiva, also gave me the possibility to celebrate Shivratri with the locals. During that evening, I visited a Shiva temple and was politely invited to try the strange green goo everybody was having.
Indian Wedding in Patna
After two days in Bargarh, we took the train to Patna, where the wedding would take place. The journey took 17h (jikes!), but I was exhausted from all the impressions in Bargarh and was able to sleep for a few hours. It definitely required a significant amount of energy to 1) socialize all day long (as an introvert) 2) in my best Inglish. The whole story on attending an Indian wedding and why it’s totally spectacular you can read in this post.
The Visa Procedure in Kolkata
On the 13th of March, we arrived in Kolkata. Here, we would attempt to get our US visas for the last trimester at Fordham University in New York. I had been looking forward to coming here, because everyone who had visited the former capital city of India before was really excited about it. The only recurring doubt was that it is even hotter here than in Bhubaneswar! And even though it seemed impossible that this could be the case… it was definitely true! My tips for must-dos in Kolkata you can read in this post from last month.
The Last Few Days at XIMB
After a long ride on the nightbus, we arrived back in Bhubaneswar on a Thursday. The next few days were calmer again. We finished the master project and attended the last few classes of GHRM, for which I also passed an exam.
The last class was canceled because we were too distracted by the explosions that were taking place at Brussels airport and Maalbeek’s subway station. Yes, even in India we heard about it! We watched the Belgian news with the projector on the big screen in the classroom. It was very weird. It was hard to grasp just how tragic these terrorist attacks were, because it was happening so, so far away. We stayed in touch with our homebase while watching the news. Only seeing how affected the news anchor was, gave us an idea of the gravity of the situation. (Note: it is only now that I am home that I can feel how emotional these events still make every single Belgian citizen, and now also myself. Especially because it happened right in front of my former workplace.)
The evening after the exam we had a farewell dinner (we also had one in Antwerp, but this one was obviously with Indian food!) and through all of this I also started packing my suitcase and struggled – but succeeded! – in getting my evening gown and saree in there! Hallellujah!
Celebrating the Original Holi Festival
My last full day in Bhubaneswar revolved almost entirely around the Holi festival, which took place on the 24th that year. It started already early in the morning. As soon (and as fast) as we could we poured coconut oil over our hair and bodyparts that weren’t covered with clothes. Unfortunately, we didn’t take the advice of the students from the previous year seriously enough. They suggested wearing a swimming cap over our hair, because it is superhard to get the paint out (and no, the coconut oil didn’t seem to have helped all that much…
During the first moments of this color war, it is common to have this drink called bhaang. I don’t exactly know what is in it, but afterwards I heard there is some cannabis in it! So that is why I felt so high! Apparently it is a very indian thing, so I had to try it even though I didn’t know what it was. Such a strange experience it was…
When we finished the bhaang, we took all our powder paint to the cricket field to start throwing holi colors at the other XIMB students. People were also throwing water around, students were being dragged over the muddy ground and at a certain moment – apparently this is also a tradition, but specifically from Orissa – the boys literally started ripping each other’s shirts off!
Holi was kinda fun, although you get very filthy and my hair still looked bright yellow and pink after a whole month…. Even my skin kept looking bright pink and green for days, no matter how often I scrubbed and washed my skin. At first I considered it to be a good conversation starter while traveling with my dad, but soon it was just a bit annoying that I would have yellow hair in all the pictures… The clothes I wore I had to throw away, obviously, but I was prepared for that.
That evening, when the effects of the bhaang were gone, I got a bit sad. How could the second trimester already be over?? My stay in India had been impressive, unique, life changing, exhausting, educational and so many more things! And now, all of the sudden, it is over… In the blink of an eye. So what a relief it is to know I will be discovering more of this country for three more weeks!