søndag den 2. november 2014

Thoughts from the plane



As we get ready to leave India and return to Denmark, we begin to consider the numerous differences, as well as the similarities, between the two countries. We will be comparing the ways and customs of the two countries, because this matter has had a great impact on the students who participated in this trip.

Witnesses to Indian life

When travelling around India, we students had many experiences, both positive and negative, but one of the things that had the greatest impact on us as foreigners was walking on the streets and simply witnessing how life is for the locals. A small, homeless girl of about 10 years carrying her baby sibling while walking from car to car, lightly tapping on the windows and asking for a couple of rupees for a small meal, perhaps the only one she will get that day, while wealthy government officials drive around in their expensive, imported cars, conceivably paid for by money gained by corruption. This is but one example of the contrast of overall life quality seen everywhere in India. 

Mentality

However, the contrast between India and Denmark lies not only in huge difference in material wealth, it lies also in the mentality. In most of the Western world, most people with means and social standing see it as their duty to help those less fortunate than themselves, whereas the Indian social elite sees the calamitous situation of the poor as normal and a standard part of life.

Staying in families

When we were housed with an Indian family in Jaipur it was also clear to see the differences in how a home is run in the two countries. In Denmark guests are treated with respect and courtesy, like most places around the world. However, in India they have a saying that means ‘the guest is god’. It was almost as if we were in charge, as if we could have anything we wanted simply by asking. For us Danes, this felt strange as we are used to equality between host and guest. This shows that, although the less fortunate are not considered to be of any significance at all in the eyes of the Indians, when they have a guest, the Indian people are ever so respectful and gracious, meaning that they are not a heartless people, as it would seem when considering their view on the poor, they simply have a different view on the matter than we Westerners do.

Religion and cows

Religion plays a huge role in the daily life of the Indian society, and determines their self-consciousness. This can easily be seen by simply strolling down the street. You will almost certainly notice the billions of religious symbols and signs, like the fact that they will not disturb the cows at all due to their religious significance. This can be seen in the way they treat cows, as they are of religious significance. It is not at all strange if a cow were to cause a traffic jam simply by laying in the middle of the road, because people do not wish to disturb the holy animal. Opposite to this is the role religion plays in Denmark, where almost eighty percent of the population is non-religious.

St. Anselm

On our last day, we visited a catholic school, St. Anselm, where the principal of the school, who also happened to be the high priest, gave us his explanation to this cultural difference. He thought there was a connection between the wealth of the population and the size of the role religion plays on the population. He thought that the higher income an individual has, the less interest would the individual have in religion, and opposite. That explains the difference between religion’s role in Denmark and India.
This theory seems at first trustworthy, but why is the upper class in India still as religious as lowest classes?

Georg, Andy and Oliver

lørdag den 1. november 2014

Tenpacks and ten hours of school



It’s a dark alley. The five main characters of the newest Bollywood movie “Happy New Year” are fit to fight the small army of black hooded bodyguards. They are surrounded as the men are getting closer and closer. Suddenly steam start blowing out of Jack’s (one of the five) ear and his shirt rips off to reveal his fit stomach. 

Happy New Year

“Happy New Year” is a typical Bollywood movie production. It contains a love story between a beautiful heroine and a badass hero, in this case the “King” of Bollywood Shahrukh Kahn and his famous tenpack. Apart form the love story there are catchy songs, colourful costumes, corny jokes and lots of clichés.

Four hours earlier two thousand Indian students were standing in straight military-like lines. They were all wearing identical uniforms – the boys in white shirts and white trousers, the girls in similar white shirts and dark blue plaid skirt covering their knees. They were singing the national anthem with hands on their chest and serious expressions.

St Xavier's

The students at Saint Xavier’s St. Sec. School in Jaipur are amongst the best in Rajasthan. They have regular classes every day from 8.00 am to 2.00 pm and afterwards many of them will receive private tutoring sessions. When they get back home they will do their homework and study for the following day. Therefore, the students can easily have a ten hours school day. This is necessary to keep up with the very competitive and ambitious Indian youth. The best universities of India require a final exam score of 95%. Our friends from Saint Xavier’s all said that without a degree from one of the best universities you wouldn’t be qualified for a proper and well-paid job.

Escape?

As Danish students we find it difficult to relate to their everyday life. They spend their whole youth studying, leading them to a job devoted to their whole adulthood. For us, this seems like an unbearable way to spend our youth. We think that the occasional visits to the colourful and surreal Bollywood world is a way if escaping an otherwise harsh reality.



Indian Families


After the first night at the host families we can already see many differences between the Indian host families and our own families back in Denmark. One of the first differences we meet is that the grandparents often live with the family, where in Denmark the grandparents live by themselves or in nursing homes. This gives us the impression that the Indian family ties are very strong. Most of the families have very traditional family roles where the mother takes care of the home while the father earns the money. Religion plays a much bigger role in the Indian families than it does in a typical Danish family. Another thing we noticed is that many of the families we lived with had servants (drivers etc.). Hardly any people in Denmark have that.

Their way to welcome you is fantastic. You couldn't feel any more welcome than when you are entering an Indian home. The families are so sweet and you can really feel that they have prepared a lot for our visit and they seem to have thought about every little detail.





The Indian families are very fond of giving their guests presents. An example of this in one of the families we lived with where the host mother came into the room and gave us some incredibly beautiful Indian jewelry together with a pair of matching shoes. It made us feel so special and it is a gift that we will save forever. We brought gifts for our host families too, but learned that it is not polite for the mother to accept gift from girls who are younger than herself. Where in Denmark it would be rude not to accept the gifts.





The Indians are really happy to show us India and every second is planned and there are always something to do or visit. An example of that is today where we had a busy program. First we visited Amber Fort where we went riding elephants, then we went to a museum, then to a palace and we ended the day with some time alone with our host families where some of us went to a shopping mall.

Living with the Indian families has really made this trip extraordinary. When that said we are to mention that our experiences with our host families are completely individual.


 Caroline, Sina and Ida

torsdag den 30. oktober 2014

Accommodation in the host families


We have now visited Delhi, Agra, and after a fantastic time in lovely Pushkar, we are now heading towards our last stop on this tour, Jaipur, to our, hopefully, best and most Indian time.

Hostfamilies

This morning the bus was full of exited and nervous (in a good way) students, who almost had no idea of with whom, where and how they were going to spend their next days in Jaipur. The class knew most of the students who were hosting a student from 2.L, because most of the Indian students were a part of the exchange program this April between St Xavier's and Gefion Gymnasiym, and some of the students from 2.L are going to stay with the Indian student that they hosted, when they were in Denmark. But as we have experienced earlier, there might changes, so we cannot be sure with whom we are staying. And that is even be more exciting.

Welcome

The bus ride was approximately 3 hours plus a quick stop to have lunch, which meant that we arrived at St. Xavier's School about 3 pm, which was right on time. We had a very warm welcome and for the 4th or 5th time we got wreaths of flowers. Also, the students at St Xavier’s were just as eager to meet us. From the school the students from 2.L drove with their new Indian families back to their houses, some with a private driver, and some had the pleasure of experiencing their Indian host driving the car by himself.

Back at the houses the students had some lunch and got to know their new Indian family. Some went on a quick sightseeing in Jaipur after lunch, and some just stayed home and had a short rest.

Students Gustav and Kira eating lunch with Gustavs host family. The man in the right side of the picture is Gustav’s host, Baljinder’s father, and behind Kira is Baljinder’s cousin. In the left side of the picture we see Baljinder’s sister (in red) and his mother (in pink) and behind the mother is the house-help. What you cannot see on this picture is the rest of the family, who was invited over to meet us and to observe the new the foreign students.


Families

The families with which 2L live are very different. Some students stay in a house where they have their own floor, and some of us have our own room. Some stay with a very religious family (as Gustav’s family, they are all Sikhs) and some may stay with a third kind of family. Only one thing is sure to conclude, and that is, no matter what kind of family we stay with, these days will for sure be the most interesting, challenging and fun days on this tour.

Gustav, Jens and Lucas

Traditions in India


Diwali is a festival similar to our Christmas, where families meet up, eat together and exchange gifts. Diwali is also known as the "festival of lights": an ancient Hindu festival, celebrated in autumn every year. As part of the celebration, the Indians have fireworks in the streets like we have New Year’s Eve.  Diwali spiritually signifies the victory of light over darkness, knowledge over ignorance, good over evil, and hope over despair. The festival preparations extend over a 5 day period, but the main festival night of Diwali coincides with the darkest, new moon night of the Hindu Lunisolar month Kartika. We were lucky enough to experience the main festival night of Diwali; a dance of colors illuminated the starry night sky in their wake while the momentary sonic booms - only comparable to the sounds stemming from Georg’s bathroom (should have stayed away from the curry) – deafened our hearing. 

Camels

We also experienced other traditional Indian ways of life, like camel riding in Pushkar. Camels have always been a way to transport wares and people. Today, they are also used to entertain tourists with a  “traditional” Indian safari trip into the desert.  


Pushkar 

India has a very diverse culture and is a large nation with many different people. Everyone has their own beliefs and traditions: despite of this, the festival of lights unites the Indian people, which was fantastic to experience. Walking down the streets of Pushkar, we saw a town much different from Delhi, which is one of the biggest cities in India. There, we saw both the slums and the privileged areas and not many tourists. Many people took pictures of us like they had never seen a white person before. When we arrived in Pushkar we saw many white tourists, like ourselves, so we saw Pushkar as the tourist city in India. What we didn’t think would happen in Pushkar was people still taking pictures like we were aliens. Pushkar is a very westernized city, there are tourists everywhere and the restaurants have Italian food. The shops selling clothes have a lot of t-shirts and dresses like we dress in in Denmark, and you find a souvenir shop at every corner.

The India we see is a changing country, that used to be ruled by its traditions and now is trying to fit in to globalization. 

Cilja, Karoline, Ronja og Kira