INDIA EXPERIENCE: Realization of a dream
We awoke today at Loyola hostel well rested and ready to experience our first full day in "Gods Own Country", Kerala. They prepared us traditional Kerala breakfast. Loyola assigned two cooks for our needs. Our academic program began with a reflection session. There, we discussed our long journey to Kerala, the food we ate thus far and the people and places we had experienced. Then we talked about our upcoming events and the course work requirements. I was thrilled then to meet the Loyola university administration including Reverend George, the former Rector President of Loyola University, Reverend Antony ( Loyola - CSU program coordinator) and Loyola College Principal and head of the social work department. They spoke about the mission and goals of the Loyola institutions. At about 11.30 am the students and faculty gave us a very warm reception in the Loyola University Auditorium. The students clapped for us and there was sea of smiles as we introduced ourselves to our new family.
One of the Indian students sang a traditional Indian folk song and we got to hear his beautiful voice. We then broke into ten groups where the Indian students asked us questions about U S educational institutions and our personal backgrounds. They made us feel like celebrities constantly smiling. They asked about our families. We laughed, talked and started a bond that we hope will last the rest of our lives. After lunch, we packed for our two day out of tour trip. We then took a trip to our first host family. Mr. Gopalakrishnan Nair and his family welcomed us into his beautiful house for an overnight stay. For the first part of the afternoon at the Nair's we made interesting figures and shapes out of coconut leaves. We climbed coconut trees and ate and drink fresh coconut. We then attended a pooja service at the Nair's family temple. They call it the temple of goddess Saraswathy which is where the goddess of knowledge lies. We were very moved at the sight of the priest offering gifts to the goddess. I closed my eyes as I applied the religious makeup to my fore head and neck. The children and family lit (Deepam) librettos and said prayers in Sanskrit, the oldest language in the world. Although we were unfamiliar with some of the rituals in the temple we were warmly accepted in the pooja. The Nair family invited us to come back Sunday for the daughter's engagement ceremony. Our hearts yearn to take in more of these beautiful people and their homelands for the duration of the trip.
"In the past couple of days I have experienced things that few Americans have experienced. From the warm welcome by the Loyola students to climbing a coconut tree at Gopalakrishnan Nair's estate, I will cherish these memories and I look forward for more exciting adventures".
"Only after two days of visiting beautiful Kerala, I have found a home away from home. I will always appreciate the comforts of all that Kerala provides."
"Everything that I assumed Kerala would be like was basically shattered because Kerala and its people are so beautiful in so many ways, that are so difficult to explain at this time. Overall my experience has been one that I will cherish for a long time."
"I am just beginning to tap into the amazing spirituality in Kerala. The next month will truly be a growing experience"
"These surreal landscapes reminds me more of a fantastic dream rather than the usual reality of a much colder variety."
"My experience in Kerala so far has been very humbling. I have learned the importance of denying oneself pleasure in order to adapt."
"There are no words to describe the beauty and wonder of Kerala. I am absolutely loving it here. I am grateful for everyone's kindness in welcoming and accommodating us."
"Yesterday the Nair family welcomed us into their home. We enjoyed the lunch there. Many students climbed the coconut tree and drank the liquid straight from the fruit. We also enjoyed a delicious dinner. I can't thank the Nair Family enough for welcoming us into their beautiful home. We are all looking forward to joining the celebration of their daughter's engagement on Sunday."
"I have never felt so welcome from so many strangers. Everybody has such a wonderful smile on their face."
"I was very much interested by the conversation yesterday. It left me with many more questions about the Indian culture. I was astonished by the immense wealth of Mr. Nair.
Today I awoke before sunrise and watched it with the full moon. It put me in a very good mood. I was glad for the coolness of the rain and am looking forward the engagement. The entire Nair family were extremely gracious and all seemed very happy for our visit."
to the Photo Session
1. Meeting at Loyola
2. Loyola Orientation Reception
3. Host Family
to Summer 2001