By Charloe Koloma

Namaste to those at home.

This past week was our group’s time for student-directed travel, naturally creating a hectic but exciting time for all of us.

We started off our week in the city of Bikaner to celebrate Thanksgiving with each other and go on a two-day camel trek in the desert. The day before our trek was Thanksgiving so we decided to split off into groups and get decorations, food, drinks, and deserts to bring back to the hostel for dinner. We primarily grabbed our favorite Indian dishes (malai kofta, veg. korma, etc.) and devoured tons of cake and ice cream afterward. Obviously, it was not like home but we still had a very enjoyable time.

Following Friendsgiving was our two-day camel trek in the desert. It was very dusty but also therapeutic for most as we were surrounded by primarily sand and wide open space. When we arrived at our campsite that night, we ate some delicious food, had a large bonfire, and slept in small tents. It felt very natural and lively, enjoying conversations among ourselves beneath the immensely clear starry sky with either Max or Ben playing guitar somewhere off in the sand. We then woke up with the sun to finish our trek that afternoon around 4pm.

After arriving back at the hostel some of us had enough energy to go to the Rat Temple. The Rat Temple is a Hindu temple in Bikaner with thousands of rats scurrying around the corners and floors, completely unfazed by the presence of humans. The rats are considered holy at this temple, especially the white ones, so many people offer them food and prayer. It was a strange but exciting experience, especially when a rat would run over your bare feet.

Following Bikaner, we headed to Jaipur to see sites like the Amber Fort and Monkey Temple. All of us seemed to enjoy Jaipur because of its beautiful Rajasthani architecture, food, and expansive shopping scene.

Overall, our student-directed travel was surprisingly successful and extremely fast. It was fun turning the OE’s into students and taking control of the trip.