By Sophia Hill
The first thing you think when you step onto the streets of India is: It’s hot. But the constant honking of horns and crowds of people soon have you swept up in a vibrant and whimsical display of sensory overload. There is something happening at every corner, whether it is a woman in a brightly colored sari bartering for fruit or rickshaws weaving in and out of traffic as if in a real-life video game. The air was thick with the smell of street foods and sweat. It was obvious we weren’t in Phoenix anymore.
Thirteen of us, from all four grade-levels at Phoenix Country Day School, ventured onto a fourteen-day trip to one of the world’s most exotic countries. Our schedule was jam-packed full of little adventures. We arrived in Delhi, where we were shown around by an organization called The Salaam Baalak Trust. The trust’s main goals are centered on teaching, mentoring, and housing street children, and transforming them into successful students who later go onto university. Interacting with these children was an absolute joy for our group; we even had a dance party to the soundtrack of Mamma Mia.
A few days later, we jetted off to Agra: the home of the Taj Mahal. Sometimes, when you visit famous monuments, they can be smaller or a little lack luster in person. This was not the case with the Taj. The spectacular marble tomb stood magnificently aside the bank of the Yamuna River. We had the unique pleasure of going to see the Taj at sunrise, and it was breathtaking. The sense of peace and calm that we experienced at the site was unlike any other. It truly lived up to its title as one of the Seven Wonders of the World.
Our trip continued with a few nights stay in Jaipur, otherwise known as the “Pink City.” Here, we rode colorfully decorated elephants to the top of the Amber Fort, which resides on a hill overlooking the city. We also got a little shopping done at one of the city’s infamous street markets, which had everything from camel-leather bags to hand-sewn pillowcases.
The next stop on this fast-paced adventure was to a village in the state Rajasthan, where we got to stay with a local family for three days. In the village, we helped a local Sheppard construct a part of his home that had washed away and fallen apart in a particularly bad storm. Whilst the work was difficult, at the end it was all worth it because we had helped them start building the walls to the house, and had done the equivalent of two months worth of work. All while sipping one of the most delicious drinks in the world: Chia Masala.
On the last day, we visited the Caramel Convent School, on the outskirts of Delhi. This school has helped the non-profit organization Squalor to Scholar, which was started by an alumnus of our school John Schupbach. The organization focuses on helping children from the nearby slums receive an education in hopes to rise above the means they started with. We were given the exclusive opportunity to tour the school and the slums surrounding the area. And though the Indian slums are known to be some of the poorest areas in the world, I found my experience there to be very different. They buzzed with an energy that was unparalleled: smiling children waved at us through windows, working men and women cooked delicacies on carts through the streets, and barking dogs ran from house to house in hopes of finding little scraps of food.
Our trip was life changing, not to sound corny. I personally came back with a new- found sense of maturity and a self-awareness that I did not possess before. And as each of the PCDS students and I continue on our own journeys, the memories of India shall remind us that in order to experience the greatest tastes of life, sometimes you have to go outside your comfort zone.
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