By Isabel Armas
Let’s just start off with how we got to Varanasi; it was quite the experience. Our departure day started amazingly. We ate with the “family,” said bye to Kolkata, and made it 2 hours early to the train station. It was about 30 minutes in when we realized that we missed our train. Whoops. Rawr. Our amazing leaders, Kate and Doug, were able to get us tickets on a different train in general class later that evening. Once it was time to get on the train, it was go time. What looked like a stampede across the distance was just the locals boarding the general class cars of the train. We were frightened. But luckily a security officer helped us get into a nearly empty car in which we were able to have a comfortable sleep for the night ride to Varanasi. The day ride was a different story and can be told later (spoiler: LOTS of people!), but we made it to Varanasi about even though the train was delayed 6 hours later then it should have been. We met our driver and arrived at the hostel with tired faces. We met the legend PinkuJi and had dinner at Ashshi Cafe, which soon became our go-to restaurant.
The next day we were able to explore the different art classes we could take. The classes were jewelry making, stone carving, henna, cooking, ayurvedic medicine, and fire dancing. All very interesting. By the end of the day we all had a sense of what the rest of our week was going to look like. I won’t go into detail about every day in Varanasi but I’ll give the highlights!
October 26th was Tuckerrr Josephhhh Pertersonss birthday so of course we had to celebrante. We celebrated with THE BEST gulabjomans in India, Taylor Swift’s song “22”, dancing, ice cream, cake, and a singing candle that failed us. ‘Twas very fun.
The 27th we started our classes! Tucker and I went off to jewelry making while the rest of the group went to stone carving or fire dancing. Some also went to cooking class. We also started our Hindi classes with Pinku Ji. We learned a lot from his class.
On the 28th we woke up at the break of dawn, got on a boat and watched the sunrise from the Ganges River. It was one of the most breathtaking views so far. Everything felt just right at that moment. We then toured old city and went to our classes.
The 29th we visited Sarnath, the burning ghats, and had some good lassis from Blue Lassi. Sarnath was where the Buddha gave his first teachings and where we learned more about Buddhism by our man Jed. It was nice to be surrounded by Buddhism again. The burning ghats, the cremation sites on the edge of the Ganga river, were interesting to see and allowed us to understand the Hindu culture a bit more.
On to the 30th were all of us did a whole bunch of stone carving. Maya was on, like, her fourth pendant by this time, while we were all still struggling to finish one. Maya was a natural. We all became pretty close with the stoner carving teacher and we were invited to his son’s 19th birthday party. We ate some good Thalis and sang happy birthday to him. It was pretty fun and a little confusing but that’s just India for ya.
Halloween. The 31st. It ‘twas a very spooky day in India. Just kidding. It was a very exciting day actually. We were able to see how saris were made by going on a sari factory tour with PinkuJi, watched Doug, Sarah, Kate, and Hannah perform some dope fire spinning, and had a Halloween partyyyy. Avery really went full out on the party and was able to make it into a Halloween we will never forget. We did apple bobbing, ate chocolate, had some ice cream, and finished the night off with the movie Hocus Pocus.
But then November 1st came around and we had to say our goodbyes. We will truly miss Varanasi and everyone who we met there. We learned so much and we are all very grateful for our time here. Now we are off to Dharamshala and onto a bus for 12 hours with no bathroom. Dunn dun dunnnnn.