With five days in India under my belt, I figured it was about time to update all of my anxious readers on the wonders of Pune. Rest assured, India is a fascinating and exciting place. After 20 hours of travel, I was rejuvenated by my first Indian meal in the Mumbai hotel that the Alliance lodged us in for our first night. My mind was actually boggled by how delicious it was. (I apologize in advanced, as this blog will probably discuss food 95 percent of the time!) The roti was fresh and the dal perfectly spicy. We also had a “lime soda” that was simply fresh lime-juice with sparkling water and salt. It was so refreshing and I have been craving it ever since. After staying in the hotel, we drove a few hours to Pune. The drive itself was such a beautiful experience as Pune is located in the Western Ghat Mountains and there were wonderful views at every turn. Unsurprisingly, our lunch upon arrival and first dinner that night was just as great of an experience. Everyday, I feel like there is a new dish to try with new spices and ingredients to experiment with. To make our first dinner with our host family even better, our Aunty and Uncle bought a black forest cake to celebrate my birthday. I originally celebrated on the plane by myself so this was far better. (Not to mention that Aunty, in typical Indian fashion, kindly fed it to me and sang happy birthday.)
Besides food and cake, it has been hectic but incredibly interesting these first few days getting to know the other foreign students as well as some local students from the neighboring college. They have been showing us around the city and brought us to both a Sikh temple and Hindu temple. In addition, they have helped me (an incredibly directionally challenged individual) navigate Pune’s hectic layout as well as the organized but chaotic traffic. They also told us all about Dahi Handi, a festival celebrating the deity Krishna’s birthday. Although we were “warned” about the wild music, dancing and noise, being able to actually walk through the streets and and experience the festival first hand was such a beautiful introduction into Hindu tradition and a truly effective way of learning the sometimes confusing layout of our local neighborhood. Following hours of dancing, groups of people made human ladders (while being sprayed with water) to smash lanterns hung high in the air.  Luckily, this was just the first of many festivals that occur throughout the fall and I cannot wait to experience each and every one! In all, India so far is a whirlwind of amazing food, great people and a touch of beautiful chaos. I look forward to expanding my understanding of the city and learning more about India in its entirety when we start classes Monday!