Today we got off to an early start so we could make the 5 hour (ish) trek to Camp in Chiplun. We got to check out some great views along the way as we left the busy city and drove through villages and smaller towns. Whether it was the crazy organized (debatable) chaos of Indian traffic, the random fruit vendors and people, or the large assortment of monkeys, cows, chickens, and dogs on the side of the road, there was never a dull moment when looking out the window! After the 5 (give or take 3 hours) bus ride we pulled up to Camp to be pleasantly surprised that this year Camp is being held at a hotel called Hotel Shalom! We are here for a 4 day semi annual retreat with some of the Jewish youth from India. There are about 50 of us in all and we are already having a great time getting to know each other.
As we got off the bus we felt like celebrities because this small village rarely hosts Western visitors and pictures with us were in high demand…we obviously loved the attention! We went to a museum and park, and returned for dinner, reflection, and a brief trivia game testing our combined knowledge of India, America, and Israel. Aside from our extreme jet lag we are feeling great and excited about the next few days at “Camp”. Tomorrow we head to a beach and into our Shabbat celebration. Got to get to bed so we can tap into all that pent up Maryland energy….goodnight mom and dad! Love, your little Terps
The group was off to an early start with 8am breakfast. We were each personally served an omelet with toast and chai (tea), in s smaller than normal dinning room. As we finished eating we went downstairs to look around the gated community we are staying in, and found some school children getting ready for a sporting activity that seemed like the India equivalent to color war. We sat down to observe. Unfortunately, before the games even started, we were ushered off onto the bus for a very full day.
If the traffic was not enough, out first stop really exposed us to the Indian culture. We went to the cities Laundromat, where you could get your clothes picked up, cleaned, bleached, dried, ironed, and returned all for about ten rupees per shirt. This Laundromat was outside, using stream water, and overall a very different approach than the American way. After our brief stop we were off to an overlook of the city and Mumbai’s “Hanging Gardens.” Here, we not only got to see a beautiful view of the city, but felt like movie stars as local school children gave us high fives and jumped into pictures with us.
After the gardens we were off to the Mumbai home of Ghandi. The museum gave a brief overview of Ghandi’s philosophy and life. The group felt a strong emotional connection to him and gained significant insight into the strife of the country before its independence and struggle for its freedom. We then went to see one of Mumbai’s most famous landmarks, the Gateway of India, where we took many pictures.
After being exposed to Mumbai in a broad sense, we began getting down to the more direct part of the trip and went o visit the Knesset Eliyahu Synagogue. At this beautiful Bagdadian synagogue we were told historical details about the Jewish community in India. Then finally, we were off to lunch.
After stuffing our faces with fine Indian cuisine, we returned to the JCC for our first group reflection. We discussed how our experience in India has been thus far, and what our “rose, thorn, and bud,” the thing we enjoyed the most so far, the thing we detested the most, and the thing we were looking forward to the most in the day to come. Our conversation then segued into talking about community- How does one define community? What does it mean to be an individual in a community? What are our communities? These questions opened up some very interesting dialogue that will become an essential theme of our trip.
After reflection we traveled to the Mumbai suburb, Thane. At Thane we davened Ma’ariv, the evening prayer, at the Thane Synagogue, and learned about its fascinating history. We were then given the unique experience of watching the pre-circumcision ritual that is customary of Indian Jewry. We ate dinner at the Synagogue with some Indian youth and locals, then returned back to the hotel to get some much needed sleep.
Eitan Lefkowitz and Saul Shamash
December 23, 2010
Namaskaar (greetings in an informal Indian dialect) from Chiplun, India,
All is going great.
Yesterday was a day of getting to know mumbai. We visited and saw the place where Gandhi worked and lived, the gateway to India arch and visited a synagogue. That night we were welcomed at a local synagogue and participated in a community member’s pre-briss, a tradition special to the Indian Jewish community. We were introduced to the organized chaos that is Mumbai traffic. One can understand a city with 19 million people can get busy.
After our scenic bus ride this morning and some group singing to pass the time we arrived in Chiplun, 6 hours, 7 monkeys, 20 oxen and one giant traffic jam later. After another delicious Indian lunch we headed to a museum and a garden where everyone got a much needed chance to stretch. Now we are sipping chai (tea), another Indian tradition and getting to know the young Jewish Indians that are with us on the retreat.
The farther we move away from Mumbai the more our light skin designates us for rock star status. People come up to us and ask to take pictures with us. Quite the experience. Everywhere we go what we see remains surreal from the mountains to the day to day life on the streets.
We are looking forward to getting to know our new peers better and are excited about going to the beach tomorrow!
The 19 dost (friends).