Sunday, August 30, 2009


The past few days have been busy settling into our life at ICSA and getting used to the crazy hustle and bustle of Chennai! We have had a great time exploring the area around ICSA, visiting shops, soaking up the local culture, and people watching (an easy thing to do as there are always people out and about!). Our tolerance for spicy food has also dramatically increased in the last 4 days as we sample more and more local dishes. The food is fantastic, and we are being forced to run in the mornings before class to try and burn off all the calories we are eating.

Yesterday morning we had our first Tamil lesson which we are all trying to put into use. At the moment, we are still limited to hello, thank you, goodbye, and how much, but with practice our vocabulary will grow. People here are always excited to hear that we are learning Tamil, so we are trying extra hard!

The real excitement of yesterday was sari shopping in busy downtown Chennai. It was an incredibly overwhelming experience - we've never seen so many people in our lives!- but we all emerged victorious with our first saris (or lungis for the men of the group)! We are all looking forward to our first opportunity to wear them!

We have lots of exciting classes coming up this week and trips out into the city, and are ready to really see Chennai!

Friday, August 28, 2009

Safely in Chennai!

We just wanted to update that we made it safely to Chennai. First of all, this morning we (half of our group, Lisa, Susan, Bryan, and Dianna) got to the airport late because our travel itinerary changed. Secondly, we were told to wait in all the wrong lines by the airport staff, so when we found the right one, it was closed. The other half of our group had a taxi break down, but managed to find the right line to wait in. They thought we were inside and on the plane already. Finally those of us not checked in went to the information counter and asked them to call the gate, and finally Jet Airways sent a manager to specially escort us through the airport with our checked baggage right up to the plane to ensure it was put onto the plane. I think our success of finally making it was aided by Lisa's wonderful hormonal caused tears ;)...Anyway, we got on the plane 5 minutes before takeoff...I don't know what it is with this group and airports, but hopefully from here on out we will be able to arrive on time with our flights and be able to relax in airports rather than sprint.

Anyway, now we arrived at the airport in Chennai, and we called ICSA to see if they were coming to pick us up. Well, they thought we were arriving at 10PM tonight and we were here at 10 we had to figure out the taxi service, luckily, some guy with a cell phone came up to us to call ICSA for us, then he helped us arrange a prepaid taxi so as not to be charged too much. Finally, he even offered us a ride, although we had too many people for him to bring with. The ride to ICSA was the scariest thing ever. Our taxi driver did not speak English, and somehow he managed to attempt to drop us off three times in places nowhere near ICSA. Luckily, we refused to put up with it and talked to many people about finding the right location. He was finally through with us and just dropped us off on the side of the street while demanding fifty more rupees, and to our convenience, we met up with a reverend who was studying at ICSA right there. Since we had not exchanged money yet, we could not pay him, so the reverend paid him. He then walked us the three blocks to the place we were staying. I'm not sure what we would have done without his help. Luckily, the other taxi made it safely about twenty minutes earlier. Oh language barriers :)

The food thus far at ICSA has been outstanding. Dinner was chicken curry with chapati bread, we get hard-boiled eggs at every meal, and this morning we had poori and chapati bread. Life at ICSA has been very nice thus far. They treat us like we are VIPs of India. The accomodations are superb, and they refill the water jugs in our room daily, so there is plenty of pure water to drink. I don't think it will be quite this nice all the way through, but who knows? Anyway, it is almost time for a delicious lunch, then class this afternoon. Hope everything is superb back in the United States!

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

So our stay in Kuala Lumpur is coming to a close.

Yesterday we began the day with a quick visit to the Petronas Towers. Though it is free to go to the top, sadly, groups have to get their by about 7am to get tickets and alas it was about 10:30. However our adventures were not thwarted since we soon were in a cab on our way to Batu caves and took the 272 stairs to the top. The limestone caves over look the whole city and the combination of the rock formations, the lighting and the colorful Hindu Shrines make it very beautiful and a popular pilgrimage site. We also dawned helmets, head lamps and books for an educational tour of the caves and saw all types of bats, cockroaches, a very poisonous long legged centipede whose bite will give you a rash and a fever for over 2 weeks.

We were a bit disappointed with the nightlife of Kuala Lumpur for we were continuously thwarted in our attempts to find a karaoke bar. Sad day. Apparently the thing around here is something called a karaoke "box" which is an overpriced clear room in which you sing to a screen. We also learned that if you do find a karaoke bar they might not let you in if you are wearing sandals, which is unfortunate because together we have 7 chaco wearers and one pair of keens. Anyways, we soon forgot our woes over bonding and card games.

Today we took a bus Kuantan to visit the beach! It was a little cloudy but the temperature was comfortable for the first time all week. It was a gorgeous beach and at first we were the only ones on it. Toward the end of our stay more people joined and then we were the only females wearing bathing suits. We saw more monkeys and tons of crabs which created little sand balls and burrows that covered the entire beach. I think a few of us were stung by jellyfish as well but we aren't certain. Because of Ramadan food vendors finally started opening at about 7:20 (we had lunch at McDonald's and KFC). Though the food was new and delicious the market area we were in was a bit sketchy so we were happy to get back on the bus and go home.

Now its off to India!

Monday, August 24, 2009

Killer Monkeys in Kuala Lumpur

Okay, not actual killer monkeys...but here's the story: We were walking through the city today seeing the sites, large radio tower, China Town, and some random national forest in the middle of the city. We were walking through the woods, when all of a sudden a pine cone rolls across our path. We think nothing of it, until two seconds later two monkeys swung out of the woods and came right up to us. We made sure not to get too close, but it was unbelievably bizarre to have that experience. Other than that, today was just about arriving, which finally happened around 3 at our hostel. Then, we had a meal, and then went sightseeing, just to come home by about 730 to pass out after an early morning and long flight for three of us. We are looking forward to the beach tomorrow.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Group picture at Danshui, out of the city and near the ocean :)

Beautiful waterfall on one of our many adventures

At the Longshan Temple, we saw a man meditating with his iPod :)

Then, we had the Confucius Temple to ourselves that night, so we joined in the fun.

Here's a picture of the sunset near Danshui!

We went to the Shihlin Night Market

Here we are taking a break from the hot weather at the National Palace Museum.

Lisa shows the jello like consistency of some Orange Fanta...
The ladies show their best Russian imitation waiting on the train home.
Our adventures were many and fun, we tried many new foods and saw many new things; our three day trek through Taiwan really was quite a fantastic way to start our journey to India :)

Saturday, August 22, 2009


A picture from the Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA). What a gorgeous group...

No longer bagless!

It is now 9AM on Sunday morning. Yesterday was a fantastic day in Taipei. We started off the morning stressed about our bags because sadly nobody at the airport speaks English :( We tried calling like 4 or 5 times but the payphone gets expensive over time. Eventually we got in touch with our hostel owner Magos, and she was the nicest lady and helped us figure it out. In conclusion, our bags were delivered to us yesterday. After that was figured out, we went to the Taipei Museum of Contemporary Art...AMAZING! It was so unbelievably interesting. There was a ton of multimedia art and just complete randomness! It was a lot of fun. During the afterrnoon we visited Taipei 101 and the Longshan Temple. The temple was very beautiful. Then after the sun set we went to the Confucius temple, and it was completely empty...we hung out in the peaceful beautiful smelling temple and just relaxed. It was SO peaceful. Then we went to the Shihlin Food Market, and we had some of the best "smoothies" EVER! As the night progressed, we made our way to Shihlin Night Market and found some great shopping. Eventually we made our way back to our hostel and showed off our new buys, but not until about 4 hours later than last night! We are actually on a normal sleep schedule finally. It was a great day! Pictures will come soon!

Friday, August 21, 2009

First Day in Taiwan!

It is now 7pm here and we are all ready to pass out, but we did have an exciting day before getting to this point. We all woke up around 1am on the airplane, and landed around 530am, then spent an hour and a half in the airport filing baggage claims for our lost luggage. Then, we spent about an hour getting to our hostel. Finally, we decided to go out for the day and go to the National Palace Museum. It had unbelievably intricate and auspicious (that word is for Lisa) art. We spent a good chunk of the day wandering the museum and the garden outside the museum. We bought some Fanta from a vending machine to learn that here, Fanta is like Jello (very awkward texture). When we were done at the Palace Museum, we went to walk around some various markets. It was very fun, and we had to buy some clothing/toiletries as we are still bagless. After we were hot and tired and hungry, we decided to eat at a sushi bar, and we all got a little raw fish in our stomachs! Lots of fun; learned how to use the public transportation system, and now we are back at our hostel ready to pass out looking forward to a fun day tomorrow.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Miraculous Arrival!

We made it! Despite a crazy series of weather events, all five of us made it safely to Taipei. However, our baggage was not so lucky. The Minneapolis and Detroit crew (ie everyone except Susan) is luggage-less due to our tight connection in LAX. So for the moment, we are traveling light. The benefit to all of this - we got some exercise before our 13 hour flight as we sprinted through to catch our flight. But we are all together and getting ready to set out on our first adventure. We plan to explore the city and a few museums and parks, and try our first attempt at ordering food in Mandarin. We are all very excited to be starting this whole experience, and can't wait for the rest of the Oles (and our luggage) to join us! More updates to come...!