Monday, May 08, 2006


Dreaming of Delhi... One more week!

I have a friend at ECU who works across the street from me. Apparently she has “Erica leaves for India” marked on her calendar. It was she who reminded me May 1 that India was 15 days away. It was she who called a few days later (well, five) and said: “Wow! Ten Days! Are you packed?”

It was she who so lovingly recorded for me Jeremy Priven’s two-part Travel Channel tour through India. I have my suspicions regarding her enthusiasm, however. It would not surprise me if I saw her on the 14-hour flight to Indira Gandhi International Airport or if she was spotted in an auto rickshaw in Connaught Circle or scaling the walls of the Red Fort. Truth be told, she has been somewhat of a cheerleader for my trip. A few months ago, I didn’t think I could get more excited about leaving for India. But I am. The countdown is here!

It will be a week from today that our little group from East Carolina University leaves for India. I am beyond thrilled at the prospect, and yes, I am all but packed. I need to pick up a watch battery at lunch, grab House of Mirth by Edith Wharton downtown at Parker Kenneybrook booksellers in Greenville. Oh Yes. I must also send out a gaggle of news releases and photos of the students who will no doubt become good friends by the end of this 32-day journey. I have added a few stock photos of the sites we'll visit. In descending order, after our group photo, we have: the Taj Mahal, Varanasi, the Red Fort in Delhi and the Mahabodhi Temple in Bodh Gaya.

Speaking of the students… they are all fabulous. There are 15 in all, plus Derek (the director of our program) and me.

Each student is so different, as far as abilities and talents and insights. Josh and Nathan plan to study music, such as sacred chant and musical philosophy. J.T., a theater major, will study traditional Tibetan theater. Lynda graduated from ECU this month and will enter the Brody School of Medicine in the fall. She and Nabeel, a biology major with plans to attend medical school, plan to research eastern and traditional Indian medicine with the hope of informing their studies.

Wes, Forrest and Bret plan to study the history and politics of Tibet. Wes, who will stay on longer than the 32-day trip, will also have an opportunity to conduct research at the National Archives in Delhi. Danielle (who enjoys archery) and Ashley (who plans to work in foreign service) are producing a film on women’s issues. Jamie, who plans to become a math teacher, will look at education in India. James (a black belt in Karate) and Geoff (a master swimmer and budding physicist) plan to deepen their understanding of meditation practice and eastern religion.

Two students are non-traditional. Bob is a professor of metals/jewelry at ECU’s School of Art. Aleta, who is married to Bob, is a Greenville reflexologist and artist who hails from Colorado. Aleta would like to further her meditation practice and possibly look into traditional arts practices, including paper making, fabric design or Thangka painting.

Derek, our guide and all-around Man in Charge, is a religious studies professor at East Carolina University. He teaches courses in Buddhism and Islam. He has lived and studied in India for two years, but this is his first attempt to conduct a study abroad program.

With thanks to Thomas Bland of Raleigh and Scott Wells of ECU, I am joining this group as a writer. My plan is to capture and record the essence of this experience for ECU and the communities in which these students live. I have traveled and studied in Nepal and India and hope my past knowledge of the region will come in handy.

Listen for us on Public Radio East (88.1 FM) from time to time. I’ve managed to figure out how to take audio recordings and will air a few Travel Diaries from the road.

Accounts of our adventures will also appear in the Daily Reflector in Greenville; the Wake Weekly; the Cary News; the Holly Springs Gazette; the Pamlico News; the Elizabeth City Advance; the Rocky Mount Telegram; the News Argus in Goldsboro; the Garner News; and the Carteret County News-Times. Send us links, if you see them online! And don’t forget to post your comments and observations!

Scaling the Red Fort? You'll see me way before that, Erica, since I'm stowing away in your suitcase. But seriously, I'm so excited about your trip and can't wait for your blog entries from India!
Arrivederci! Oh wait... adieu. Cheerio. Namaste? Friends, how do we say goodbye? (Insert Hindi vocab lesson here.) Best of luck!
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