First look at the University

Trip Start Jul 03, 2008
1
6
19
Trip End Dec 07, 2008


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Flag of India  , Union Territory of Pondicherry,
Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Tuesday, July 8th, 2008
 
            Today was nice because we actually got to go out and see the university and hostel where we will be living for the next 6 months. The campus is around 800 acres and very lush, with an odd blend of architecture that had some elements of American style and Indian utility.  The windows especially were very interesting, almost capturing some elements of medieval windows.  We also had another jolt of culture shock: as Miss Priya took us around on a tour, we had a meeting with one of the International Studies professors.  We chatted a bit and had the usual pleasantries, but at the end of our time there he said, "let me give you a business card" the assumption being that all of us would receive one. But this was not to be; he made some off-hand remark about gender equality and then handed one to me, the only male, even though the hands of all the female students were outstretched.  Awkward silence abound. 
 
    Despite this one bump, we enjoyed seeing the Foreign Students Hostel where we will be living.  The floors are a beautiful red marble from north India and the rooms have more of the modern conveniences we wimpy American students depend on.  Hooray for the end of bucket showers!  At this time I'm also considering substituting one of my politics classes for a yoga class taught by a world famous instructor at a local ashram.  So in essence I hope to take conversational Tamil (the local language in Pondicherry and the state of Tamil Nadu), the Yoga class, and 3 Politics classes involving Indo-US relations and the like.
As for the renowned food of South India (reputed to be MUCH spicier that the fare of the North) we haven't had the opportunity to be too adventurous, at the insistence of our instructor, but the food at the Vegetarian Restaurant beneath the hotel has treated us pretty well.  I am taking to the spice and gastrointestinal tribulations better than some of my compatriots; I thankfully seem to have inherited my mother's "iron stomach." Still no street vendors though, I'm not that much of a masochist J
After our excursion to Pondi U, we visited a proto-Utopian meditation community known as Auroville, about 15kms outside of Pondi. Drawing people of all nations, the primary inhabitants do tend to be French expatriates, and the goal is to create a community of the future.  It is not your stereotypical commune: people have residences and so forth, but the ethos is more centered on sustainability and self-improvement than the eschewing of material goods.  They have utilized wind and solar power as well as composting, and they are entirely energy self-sufficient and carbon neutral, in addition to manufacturing many of their own goods for use.  They also have a marvel of engineering in a large golden "golf-ball" known as the Mahtramandir, a world famous meditation center. We enjoyed seeing this community very much, as it was a needed break from the hustle and bustle of Pondi city.
 
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