Friendships are for Keeps

Sorry this post took so long. It was actually more difficult to find wifi in countryside China than in India. But here it is! Enjoy.

Being in a foreign country definitely comes with its fair share of hardships. It was difficult, even with the amount of help that I received; I have no idea how I could have survived these 10 weeks without the people that showed me so much hospitality. Whenever people ask what my favourite thing about India is, I would always respond food and people intertwined in the perfect but distinct orientation. I would not be able to differentiate the two, but sadly (and it breaks my heart stomach) this post isn’t about food.

One of the many wonderful things about visiting this country is the amount of stares that you get, the blank stares, the creepy stares. But wait…… there’s more. I have had countless incidences where a little head nod and a biiiiggggggggg smile would turn those stares into such pleasant faces. They are really friendly people; we may be different from what they are used to, and if I were in their situation, I wouldn’t know better than to stare. Us LEAP Interns, we are really attractive people.

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Anyways, I have made it one of my personal hobbies to try to elicit as many smiles from others as possible. I mean for the long bus rides around Northern India, one has got to entertain him/herself. What better way than to share joy? I think that because I looked different, people stared. But a smile from me would elicit so much excitement in them. I was thinking the whole time: “Why not?”

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(Sorry, I thought that taking pictures of others random people staring and smiling at me would be too creepy.)

One morning, I decided to rise around 5:30 in the morning (apparently this is when all of India rises too). The weather was amazing. It was moderately cool for once, with only a tad hint of humidity. But for the spoiled Vancouver brat that I am, this was already uncomfortable. But no worries, I was there to explore the country at 5:30 in the morning and indeed exploration I intended.

It turned out to be a fascinating idea to go for a run. There were just so much going on already in the grass field in front of small complex building that we are staying at inside the school. After a few laps through narrow lanes of the school corridors on the outside and in between buildings, I ran into a group resting on the side. And guess what I saw beside them? Badminton rackets. I love badminton!

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Look at how happy we are

I asked if I could play with them for a little bit, and they are more enthusiastic than I way. After a few rallies and many more words of flattery, we sat down and got the chance to chat about each other’s countries and preferences.

The weekend that we, the amazing LEAP people, visited Dharmsala and saw the amazing CORD people with another lovely friend also doing IIP in Chandigard (HI MARA! How are you?), we had the chance to travel all together and explore a more rural region of Northern India. It was with great farmlands and rural development setting that CORD gets to work in. The scenery was amazing. Look at how amazing we look in the impressive background!

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Look at how much fun we were having jumping over stepping stones!

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Natural beauty is the best beauty

But here’s not the best part! Through the friend of a friend of a friend (or more like one of CORD’s security staff), we all got invited to the equivalent wedding reception. We were a 9-man crew and just like that, we got to enjoy amazing, and I mean amazing food! And it wasn’t alone in a secluded room, “reserved for foreigners” or anything, sorta like this:

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Oh nose! I thought this picture captured everything, but on the top right corner, it says “Foreigner Gallery”

This picture was taken on the Wagah border between India and Pakistan for the daily border flag lowering ceremony. It’s been 3 weeks, I still don’t know how I feel about this :/

No, it was in a courtyard with lines and lines of people eating wave after wave. It was intense how good the food was, almost as impressive as the quantity that was made. Look at how much fun everyone (especially me) is having! The colors, the smells, and joy.

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First time, but definitely not my last time eat with my hands. My mom looks at me weird now. Oh well~

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Look at how happy we were dancing

Well, back at home (This is what I got to call Yamuna Nagar for such a long time ^_^ ), I also stumbled into a really nice group that play badminton every day, from 6:30pm to 8pm without fail. Most of the days when LEAP does pay us extra to keep us overtime, I join them. They love me and I love them. Sadly, when school started in early July we were not allowed to use the facilities anymore. But happy memories remains happy memories.

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I also just recently gotten an India popular haircut at that time. Do you guys like?

Okay, one weekend, we decided to stay in Delhi and tour the amazing city that it is. So after I woke up for an early journey to the Chinese Visa Center (and secretly enjoyed a coffee at Saket Mall; it’s a really nice mall), I joined the rest of the interns at the Lotus temple. So I offered to take a photo for a family at the beautiful Lotus Temple. They were an adorable family…. All of whom poses with 5 inches between each person. So I put their camera around my neck and tried my best to squeeze them more together. So they had a better family picture. So I met up with Leora, Laura, and Eileen, stayed a bit at the temple and were stalked by tuktuk drivers (big surprise there) when we left. When we got to Humayun’s tomb, we were again sadden by the fact that our entrance is 25 times that of Indian citizens (oh that’s alright, we don’t pay taxes in this country). So it turned out that they entered just behind us, and they recognized me! So when I found out that they were actually Australian, I jokingly asked if they sneaked in with the Indian price, and they told me that they had family who is in charge of the tomb. Our jaws dropped. So they had a guy lead us through intricate tunnels of bats and bat droppings. So we ended up on top of the tomb with breathtaking views, ones not open to the general public. And so voilà, here’s me with a Fedora that belonged to the son:

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And there’s us fooling around!

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People are so pleasant. Especially you Puneet and your family!

I cannot leave out the two wonderful human beings at the corner store just by the back gate of the school campus that we worked at, Daman Deep Singh and his father! They own a humble little shop where they would make the best Lassi and give me the biggest smiles. Without them, the rest of the interns and me would have definitely died of thirst. Thanks for keeping us alive!

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I also cannot leave out how hospital one particular propeller student was. Jaskirat was one of the more mature students, who invited me to go play volleyball with his friends on the first days of his summer session. I definitely could not have passed off this opportunity. Throughout my stay he would always bug me about visiting more of the city with him. However, time wasn’t on either of our sides. Thanks for the all the great memories Jaskirat! I will definitely see you and all of the other propeller students again!

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You can see the net in the background, as well as the group of students trying to dislodge the volleyball from the tree. Hehe it was fun to watch. Jaskirat has such a big smile.

But most of all, the LEAP team is one that made our stay the unbelievably amazing experience that it turned out to be. Each member contributed a unique trait into the LEAP crucible. It was hot at days when even the backup generators gave out; but nevertheless, in the hot cauldron of India, each dynamic personality blended so well together. It was such an honor to work alongside such motivated and captivating people. Without them, our experience could not even begin to approach how the glamorous that it was.

These few stories are only the tip of the iceberg to the overwhelming hospitality this country offered me! What I am trying to express with this post is the amount of gratitude that is due for such an amazing trip. The friendships made, the relationships forged; in such a foreign country, I felt at home. What make the trip that CASI allowed me to embark on different from just a visit to the country. This is the difference. We were given a home instead of a location. We were given a chance to feel instead of just see (although we also did plenty of that). We were given a chance to be thoroughly immersed, rather than glancing over the food, the people in a frenzied haze. But most of all, we were given the opportunity to love and be loved by so many diverse people, each of whom leaving lasting impressions. This is absolutely more than I asked for. Friends will be for keeps even when everything else is for grabs 🙂

Your favourite,

Bill

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About Bill He

Class of 2018, Computer Engineering. Intern at LEAP in Yamuna Nagar, Haryana in Summer 2015. Education is scalable. Considering that I am also an international student at Penn, I find it fitting to contribute back to the international community. I find great joy in transforming my learning into a form of knowledge for others. Especially passionate about engineering, I believe I may be able to tackle issues from different perspectives and make it fun for others while doing so.