Rocks, Rishikesh, and Rapids


For the first time since I arrived to my new home, commonly referred to as “48” by the regulars, there is some peace and quiet, so I’m taking advantage of the break to get another post up. Most surprisingly, theres not even going to be a party here tonight. If you knew where I lived, you would understand why this is surprising.


Now, what’s behind the name 48? As I mentioned before, Chandigarh is a planned city with sectors, while nice and organized it also lacks a little creativity. Instead of street names and subdivision names like “Finch” or “Sherwood,” you have numbers and letters. For example, I live in sector 48. In my apartment there are people from all over, and there are constantly new people coming and going, arriving and leaving.


Our place is also the defaulty party house for AIESEC interns and their friends. So now, “48” is a part of my regular vocabulary, most phone calls beginning with “Hey are you in 48?” or “Hey, yeah, I’m in 48.” Its a fun time, but it can also get a little crazy when you’re having a party where you can identify close to 20 nationalities in one room with one thing in common. They all know how to have a good time.


So, now for a few random little stories from the last few weeks.


Rock Garden-Chandigarh is not necessarily a “tourist” destination. However, there is one site that the city is famous for, called the Rock Garden. The story behind the rock garden goes back to the beginning of Chandigarh. Before the city was planned, there were some villages in the city, but overall, there wasn’t really much here before the 50s but bush. Some villages and settlements had to be torn down to make way for the new planned city, so there was also a fair amount of garbage. So this one man, working independently at first, found a secluded spot and spent years building a garden complex out of rocks and garbage. Not an artists typical supplies, but the result is pretty impressive.


When the garden was discovered, instead of it being destroyed to make way for the city, it was preserved and the man was given workers to help him complete his project. Now, it is a bit of a labrynth of many many many sections divided up by walls. Each wall has only two small holes or “doorways”: one to come in, one to go out. In each section, there is a wide assortment of carvings and statues, of people, of animals, and some abstract figures, typically made from rock and all sorts of random materials. Glass, porcelain, discarded jewlery, plastics, you name it. Unless you get up real close though, you’d never know it. Some sections also had waterfalls, lots of greenery, things like that.


Don’t get me wrong, the Rock Garden is nice, but there is obviously a reason I find it worth talking about. As I said, each section has only two very small doors, only enough for one person to walk through at a time. Now, ideally, everyone would flow through the labrynth in the same direction, kind of like going with the flow of traffic on a one way street. Well, somehow us foreigners missed a huge entrance sign, and instead slipped in through the exit. At first we didn’t notice, we passed a few people travelling in the opposite direction, occassionally had to wait for someone to clear through the door. But then, after we got about halfway, the crowd arrived.


Hordes upon hordes of Indians crammed the labrynth, some locals of Chandigarh out with the family for a Sunday afternoon, others were Indians who had travelled for miles to see the site. Since traffic only flows in one direction through tiny little doors, you could imagine, that when you’re going against traffic, it can get a little difficult. But, being stubborn and/or determined, we refused to turn around and forced our way through the hordes for the next hour or two. Out of a few thousand people at the garden, we were the only ones who didn’t have this figured out. We have the tendency to draw attention to ourselves, but I think we drew some additonal stares as the crazy foreigners who were just doing their own thing.


The Parade-After finishing off our exhausting up hill battle at the Rock Garden, I started to veture off on my own to go pick up my friend Steph from the train station. I called up the AIESEC member who was supposed to pick her up to see if I could tag along. It was about 4, and she was arriving at 7. The AIESECer was nearby, so he came to pick me up and brought me to an event that was being hosted by the lake here to kill some time.


20 minutes later? I’m at the very front of a parade for an HIV/AIDS awareness event with about 800 people in tow. Yup, I’m wearing pins, a red sash, a campaign hat, under a big banner, and I’m holding a candle that is dropping burning hot wax on to my hand. Better yet, there are photographers for local news papers snapping picture of me all the while.


How did this happen? Well, I was walking in the opposite direction of the parade, just chatting with someone, when a stranger in the parade grabbed my arm and kept insistign that I help them and join their parade (they were going for the foreign effect obviously), before I could even respond,a candle is shoved into my hand, someone is dressing me, and I’m being ushered to the front.


Moments later, the other interns I had gone to the rock garden with, who thought that I had left to go to the train station about twenty minutes before walk into view. At that moment, I’m sure they began asking themselves: “Is that Matt…at the front of a..parade…with a candle? How the hell did that happen…” You just never know what’ll happen.


Rishikesh-Tucked away in the foothills of the Himalayas is a small little town called Rishikesh, a wondrous little place where once upon a time the Beatles themselves escaped to in order to seek spiritual guidance from a guru. I kid you not, if you’re not familar, look up the title “the Happy Rishikesh song” by John Lennon.


Now, the town is referred to as the “yoga capital of the world.” It was a really cool place, definitely more touristy than Chandigarh, with lots of foreigners. All of them hippies for the most part, rocking the dreadlocks and sandals. There are a few different Sikh and Hindu temples, and every where you turn there a spritual men roaming the streets in robes of various colors, but often orange. Incense was burning everywhere, and you could hear Hindi music playing loudly on the streets. It was really cool place with a really cool vibe.


And no, surprisingly, I didn’t do yoga while I was there, although I would like to go back for that, there are classes and even places where you can stay for a week and just live in an ashram and learn yoga and clear your head.


However, I did do something in Rishikesh. That thing, was white water rafting.


White water rafting for the first time, in a valley in the Himalayas, in the middle of India was probably one of the coolest things I’v done up until now. I mean, who travels to India to go rafting? It was a lot of fun, and it was really quite a rush and it really gets your heart rate up, and most of the time I kept thinking about how great it will be when I get to do it again with my friends back home (a certain little getaway at the end of August perhaps? Even more stoked now!). Rafting was also quite a workout, what most people fail to realize is that, yes, you do have to paddle. A lot. Sometimes your life even seems to count on how fast you can paddle in order to avoid some jagged rocks.


After a hard days work on the rapids, whats better than going for a legit “ayurvedic full body massage?” Thats right, the next day, I was pretty sore, and got talked into going for an hour long massage for a whopping $11.


It was heaven. It even included a hand, face, and head massage, which were interesting,


It’s a Small World Afterall- So, everything about the world being a small place, it gets truer and truer everday. Believe it or not, I managed to meet a mutual friend in Chandigarh of all places last night. For AIESEC members at Carleton who were around back in the day, you might remeber a certain gal named Danai. Well, apperantly last night I met one of her close friends from back home in Athens.


Almost two years ago, Danai came to Carleton through AIESEC and worked with us for a few months. Last night, I met an intern from Greece who had also been an active AIESEC member back home in Greece, at the same local committee in Athens. Know that dumb urge to be like, “hey you must know Dave from Canada!?” Well, sometimes it does work that way. I just mentioned the name Danai, and she immediately knew who I was talking about when it clicked in her mind that Danai had spent time in Ottawa years ago. Crazy coincidence and what a place to meet up!

Well, I have a pile of laundry that is begging to be washed by hand (something I did not miss after leaving Cameroon), so thats all for now!


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