Elizabeth in India

Elizabeth is a sophomore majoring in mechanical engineering in the Lyle School of Engineering. She was awarded a Maguire and Irby Family Foundation Public Service Internship for summer 2013 from the Cary M. Maguire Center for Ethics and Public Responsibility at SMU. Elizabeth will be working in Bangalore, India, with the Leave UR Mark organization on a water conservation and literacy design project.

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Where my feet have led

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My feet are scratched, bruised, calloused, blistered, and I am pretty sure my baby toe is broken. I have never been in so desperate need of a pedicure in my life. That being said, I have never appreciated my feet more. It is custom in Indian culture to take off your shoes before entering a building, so it is very normal to wear flip-flops everywhere, and once people get to where they need to go, it is even more normal to walk around barefoot. Thus, I walk around barefoot. It took some time to get used to, but once I got past how disgusting my feet were every day, I learned to take pride in all that my feet can accomplish.

This past weekend, I went to Hampi, a town in Karnataka that is completely covered with rocks and boulders. It is the absolute perfect location for hiking, from a non-hiker’s perspective. Which is a good thing, because in order to reach the majority of the temples, it is necessary to climb. I spent more time barefoot than I did in shoes. Pardon my transcendental moment for a second, but I have never felt so connected to nature like I did when I climbed barefoot. It felt so natural, and my feet felt so strong… until I smashed my poor baby toe. Then the transcendental moment passed.

The other interns and I were taken to an overview of Hampi. The view was absolutely breathtaking, and after an hour of yoga and silence, it felt as if I was on top of the world… no matter how cliché that may sound. Before coming to India, I did not consider myself a nature person. I try not to sweat, and I am pretty sure I have expressed my hatred for bugs, but when such beauty surrounds me, I could not care less about those things. Especially when the Hanuman (monkey) temple is 570 steps above ground level – try not sweating then. I will admit, I complained the entire way up, and the locals made fun of how heavy I was breathing, but it was SO worth it. Monkeys are the happiest animals, in my opinion. I just can’t help but smile when I see them!

The rest of my time in Hampi was spent eating amazing food. OH! And the hotel I stayed at had a hair dryer. It’s amazing how much of an emotional response that stirred in me. I know people say that they learn to appreciate the little things after going abroad, but I did not realize just how true it is until I saw the hair dryer. It is definitely the little things in life. :)

From Hampi, I traveled back to Gadag for my boss’s daughter’s wedding… well, I tried to travel there. All I had to do was catch one bus that went directly to Gadag. Easy enough. Too bad the bus never came. I waited for two hours before I gave up and began looking for other options. I went around the bus station looking for people who spoke English until I found a brother and a sister who were waiting for the same bus as me. Now that was lucky. They were so nice and helpful, and they took me under their wing as their own responsibility. I ended up following them on a bus to another town in order to catch a bus to Gadag. When we finally got the bus we needed, it was so crowded that we had to stand – for two hours.

DSC02542The Indian wedding was incredible. After hours spent researching the different traditions, I have determined that I will never know what I witnessed. It was all so intricate and detailed. The bride and groom didn’t even know what to do half the time. It was beautiful chaos. There were so many people running around, eating food, and taking pictures. The little kids latched onto me, and for the afternoon I was their plaything. They helped me wear a traditional sari, and gave me a bindi and jasmine to put in my hair. It was so much fun!

I have officially entered my last week of work. It is so surreal to think that two months has passed so quickly. What is even more bizarre, though, is there is a new intern working with me. All of a sudden I became the expert on India. I answer all of her questions and walk her through daily life in India. Can someone please explain to me when I started actually knowing what I was doing? I think I have reached the point where I have been in Indian for so long, that I will definitely miss it when I go home: 11 days!! I have settled into a routine with work. I occasionally get to do cool things still, but I finished my book project and there currently is not any work left for me. Especially since there is a new intern. So I basically hang out with the family and do small tasks around the office. I cannot complain.

I cannot wait to see where else my beat-up feet take me for the rest of my time here. I predict that they may carry me to Delhi! I hope that for the rest of my life I keep the same sense of adventure – and that I never stop traveling.

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