Monday, February 8, 2010

Back in Delhi

We came back to our fun little C Park Inn Hotel and had some free time to roam the city. After our plans to see a movie were thrwarted, Rebecca, David, Jonathan, Ethan, and I ended up taking a three-stop trip in a taxi (an actual yellow, New York-style taxi). Making stops in rickshaws and taxis lowers the price of the trip by a lot and you get a chance to come across some cool (albeit more expensive) stores because the drivers get commission from the stores for bringing new customers. So, we first went to a really expensive tourist shop where they tried to sell us clothes, carpets, jewelery, and other items for a pretty penny. Their stuff was really neat and their english was almost impeccable but you could tell they pick on the rich tourists for all of their business. Our next stop was a neat little tea shop where we got to try a really good chai massala and an even better Darjeeling tea. We also got taken to another clothing store where we picked up a few scarves because they were much cheaper. We finally ended up back at our hotel for an easy 50 rupees. It was definitely different than any other shopping experience I've ever had, but was fun because you never know which store you are going to next!

We went to JNU for a university exchange where we did our presentations again and got to mingle with a few more students. They served us these really good samosas and then presented a few of their own works on bioinformatics. The rest of the day was a free do to do some last minute shopping and exploration.

1/26 The Republic Day Parade
This was nuts. The entire city was shut down for this parade and security was very extensive. There were sandbag barriers, lots of soldiers with big guns, and riot police vehicles within a ten block radius of the parade route. When we went to the parade our ricksaw driver had to drop us off ten blocks away because the police had closed all the roads. Thousands and thousands of people went to this parade and each of us were searched and checked with metal detectors because we couldn't bring anything in with us, and I mean anything. We couldn't bring a bottle of water, a cell phone, a camera, or even a pen!
It's really too bad that we couldn't bring any cameras becuase this was a really cool parade. There were lots of military regiments that marched through. One section of them were all on camels, including their band! I have no idea how they were playing wind instruments while riding a camel. They also had floats that told about India's history and culture and weapons that strolled through such as missile launching vehicles and tanks. The President was the first person to drive through the parade route (his appearance was a main reason for all the security). The first finale was the amazing motorcycle show. These people were fantastic! All of the drivers were military personnel and they did crazy things on their motorcycles. One of the first was a guy who had a ladder with four of five rungs on it and he would put his bike on cruise and then put his ladder on his motorcycle seat and then walk up it! He steered by leaning on the top of the ladder. Another one was a motorcycle that had five or six people on it all leaning off either side like a circus act. The last one consisten of five motorcycles riding in paralled about five feet apart and somehow there were 36 people linked together on the top of these motorcycles! It was a magnificent sight.
The real finale was when their fighter planes did a fly-by and then split off in opposite directions Blue Angel style.
We finally got through all the crowds and got back to our hotel for dinner.

We had some complications in flying back to the states which included a 10 hour delay in the Delhi airport due to the fog. This was a bit of a bummer, but we did get to stay in a really nice hotel for a few hours from about 1am to 6am. The 16 hour flight from Delhi was really long but was actually OK since we were all wiped out. It was weird with the time difference though. For instance, we received breakfast on the flight at 10:30am and then were served again 12 hours later at 10:30am the same day! I was curious if they were going to serve breakfast again, but they served us lunch instead. We had about a five hour layover in Chicago and then flew to Seattle and then eventually Spokane. Overall, it was about 36 hour of travel. Not something I want to do again anytime soon, but it was well worth it.

-Scott Pfursich

Saturday, January 23, 2010


This picture is of the water palace in Jaipur. The lake is on the outskirts of Jaipur, and right before we took this picture, we had been up on top of a mountain looking down on this site. The sun was setting and the scene was potentially more beautiful than this picture. On the day this picture was taken, we visited Amber fort. It was amazing, and the walls that extended from the palace were simply amazing. They ran all over the country side. We could see them from the top of the palace. Another really cool thing about this fort was that it was basically a labyrinth. Not like a labyrinth that you'd get horribly lost in, but a labyrinth that was really fun to explore. I spent like 2 hours just running around these dark passageways trying to find ways to get to the top floor or to the balcony that overlooked the courtyard. For dinner that night we ate on top of the hotel that we were staying at. The service wasn't exactly the fastest, but it was still one of my favorite nights on the trip. The entire dinner took about 3 hours, but we all took it in stride and spent it talking and reflecting. I learned a lot about my travel-mates that I never would have, so I really had a good time. Plus the place that we ate in was really cool. It was basically this huge tent that was on the very top of the hotel. The weather was pleasant, and we could step outside to enjoy the clear night sky. Overall Jaipur was a very pleasant experience.

This picture below practically explains it's self. We're obviously creating a human replica of the Taj Mahal.
-Josh Boyden
The Taj Mahal was absolutely fantastic. I was blown away at the size of it since pictures cannot even get close to showing off its immense dimensions. The back left tower in our great recreation in this picture is missing because security was really tight here and apparently climbing on someone else's back is a security threat, so we got whistled before we could complete it.

We stayed here for several hours and just admired the marble architecture.
Leaving the Taj we were all bombarded again with shop owners begging us to come in. They were even more persistent here than normal, and they would actually barter with each other to prove that they had the lowest prices. Two sellers were going after my business and I just sat back and watched as they offered me the same thing for lower and lower prices. It eventually got down to 5 rupess from 250!
The Taj Hotel where we stayed left a few things to be desired, but we met several other world travelers at the bon-fire and talked for hours into the night. We left the next day to go back to Delhi.
-Scott Pfursich

Josh's First Day in Delhi

Okay so our first day in Delhi was pretty sweet. The city is huge. It is much different from any of the other cities that we have visited.

Our first stop was the Qutub Minar. This was another ancient site built by one of the first Muslim rulers of Delhi. Basically it's this huge cream and red spire. It's 72.5 meters tall and is the worlds tallest brick minaret. Built in 1311 A.D., it's an astounding structure. It's hard to believe how much work must have gone into it's construction.

Baha'i House of Worship was our next stop. Baha'i is a religion that is supportive of all faiths and believe that the gods from every religion are all manifestations of a single god-head. I spent some time talking to the volunteers that were working at the temple. They came from all over the globe to live in Delhi, and work at the temple. The temple itself was very beautiful. It is often called the Lotus Temple, because of it's distinct lotus flower shape. It is ivory white, and sports 27 petals that make up the structure of the building. Inside there are numerous solid marble benches that can hold up to 1300 people. It was completely silent, and visitors were encouraged to spend time in silent meditation.
Joshua Daniel Boyden


On Sunday January 17th, we made our journey to Mumbai. We left Spicer Memorial College (where Kent lived as a child) at 7:30 AM and loaded on the bus. Traveling from Pune to Mumbai (AKA Bombay) was beautiful, especially travel down the "Ghats." This was the edge of a plateu that just dropped down with cliffs everywhere, it was amazing.

Once we got to Mumbai, we stopped at the Hard Rock Cafe! The service was really slow, but it was fun to look at all of the merchandise and eat beaf (only time on this trip so far)! Probably the most entertaining moment was Kent getting up and dancing for a good minute while we all all just starred with our jaws dropped with shock and laughter. After the Hard Rock Cafe we went over to the Gateway to India and the Taj Hotel.

The Taj Hotel was still being repaired from the terrorist attack that happpened a little over a year ago. The Gateway to India was masssive and imposing! We then made our way to the Train Station and started our journey to Dehli. What an amazing trip this is with all of the amazing sights we are blessed to see! Please continue to keep us in your prayers, and priase God for our safety so far.

-Jonathan Deal

Sinhagad Fort

On January 16th we went to church on campus at Spicer College. It was a Seventh Day Adventist church. It lasted about 2 hours. After that we were invited to a potluck lunch where we got to meet the president of the college. That was pretty cool. The plan for the day was to visit Sinhagad Fort also known as The Lion’s Fort. The road up to the fort was so narrow that our bus was not allowed to go up to it. So instead we took some jeeps up to fort. Going up the cliffside road in a jeep was a very exciting experience for all of us.

The fort itself rests on a hill about 800 meters high. It played an important role in major battles throughout the years but the most important battle was the battle of Singhad in 1670. The way it was taken was very interesting. The Maratha used monitor lizards with ropes attached to climb up the walls of the fort. Once they made it up to top they used little children to climb the ropes since they were lightweight and they had bigger ropes attached to them so the soldiers could climb them. Then the Maratha soldiers climbed up the ropes but after over 300 of them got to top the rope gave out and those who were still climbing up the rope fell to their deaths. This whole plan took place at night so they took the fort completely by surprise.

David Watne

Ellora Caves

We are currently in Delhi for the last bit of our time here in India. It’s been an amazing trip so far with plenty of crazy and amazing experiences. We have all started to acquire the Indian head bob while talking to other people and now require our food to be extremely spicy in order for it to taste right. We have all pretty much become seasoned professionals at snagging a good deal with the rickshaw drivers and bartering down the prices at all the shops for as much as 1/50th of the original price. India is a totally different culture than what we are used to, and it has been so fantastic to be able to start to blend in here. Well, we will always be stared at as we walk down the street in a single file line as the only white people in the entire city, but we are starting to get much more confident in knowing where we are going and what we are doing. Only a few people have had collisions with motorcycles while trying to cross the street, and I managed to get head butted by a cow yesterday, but we’ve all managed to make it without injuries even though we’ve had a few close calls. Oh how we love India.

We’ve been incredibly busy exploring everything Kent has planned for us to see, it’s been somewhat difficult to keep the blog up to date, so I’m going to write a little bit about one of my favorite places we got to visit here. On January 15th we were in Aurangabad and went to visit a place called the Ellora Caves. These 36 caves were built between the 7th and the 9th century, and were carved out of solid rock from the side of a mountain. Caves 1-15 were Buddhist, 16-28 were Hindu and the rest were Jain. We spent several hours running around the caves and exploring all of the dark rooms and tunnels full of bats. We climbed any staircase we could find, hiked up the mountain to see the view below and took pictures of the many detailed carvings. The most magnificent cave was cave 16 which is a giant Hindu temple that is so huge and so detailed it’s almost impossible for pictures to capture. We had an amazing time exploring these caves and it was a definite highlight of the trip for everyone.

-Rebecca Meyer

Daulatabad Fort

Thursday (1/14) we hiked through Daulatabad Fort in Aurangabad. I say hiked because the fort's walls begin over a quarter mile from the base of the main fort, a small mountain probably 400 to 600 feet high. The fort's original builders cut the sides of the mountain away, so that it stands on 100 feet of flat rock on all sides. It took us a few hours to reach the top, but even if you didn't stop to site see, it would take most people at least half an hour to get from front gate to mountain top on foot. We were all amazed.
Kent told us about a Marathi leader named Shivaji. At age 19 he began to fight the Moghuls, whom his father had served, using guerilla tactics. Kent told us how he conquered one fort, thought impenetrable, using monitor lizards. At night, they attached ropes to the lizards, which then climbed over the flat walls at the rear of the fort. Then the soldiers pulled on the ropes so that the lizards got stuck, and boys climbed up and attached more ropes for the men. Shivaji swiftly conquered several sea and mountain forts using only small forces and lots of cunning, establishing a kingdom that continued for 100 years after his death.
Daulatabad was conquered at least once by a Persian ruler. He built a 110 foot tall minaret called the Chad Minar, or Victory Tower.
Daulatabad has many layers of defense, beginning with two outer walls which enclose an impressive section of land. Then there are several towers and walls along the route to the top. After that you have to cross the enormous moat surrounding the high walls I mentioned above, and get past a small inner fortress, which includes stairwells that are dark without torches. I imagine they could have put out all lights during an attack, and speared attackers -unfamiliar with the passageways- in the dark. (We also saw many bats hanging from the ceilings and heard them squeeking. Some of us found them ugly or creepy, but I thought they were cute. However, they did make the air very unpleasant, and Jonathan was the victim of some of their, err, refuse.) Then there are more stairs in the open, until finally you reach the summer palace (built by some of the intermediary owners). Of course there is one more small tower higher on the hill. Maybe it was a watch tower.
There were many cannons lying around the fort, some of which were probably brought in recently just for looks. (One cannon, someone noticed, was from Amsterdam.) There was also a very large, ornate cannon lying on top of one of the towers. We discovered that it was perfect for a bench, plus it was cold. It's comparable in size to many modern cannons. If it was ever used to defend Daulatabad, it must have been pretty destructive.
In some places, high on the facade of the royal prison (one ruler was held there under house arrest for some time) for instance, you can still see some of the designs that used to cover many structures in the fort. Nearly all the fort is now dark grey, and trash covers the ground in many places (though they keep most of the fort pretty trash free where possible). Probably more impressive is the surviving wood in the summer palace. As some of us said over and over as we walked through the fort, it must have been breathtaking in its hay day.
Another feature that was interesting was a giant, square, stone hole inside the second wall. It was filled with water at one time, and guards were trained to do aquatic combat so they would be prepared to fight inside the moat. The moat used to be home to dangerous animals, so defending it would have been an interesting operation.

-David Winiecki

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

A Quick Update

On the eighth we had traveled to Bangalore by train experiencing the beautiful Indian countryside. In Bangalore we visited many places including WiPro and the zoo. When at the zoo two of the popular exhibits were geese and pigeons, two exhibits I neglected to see. Instead I hit the more exotic animals such as zebras, jaguars, crocodiles and elephants. While in the safari vehicle a bear came up and leaned on the bus to many people’s delight. We are currently staying at Asha Kiran and while a pleasant stay
many of my cohorts have been eaten alive by insects. Even with DEET on, my bunkmate has counted around a 100 bite marks.
- Ethan Elmenhurst

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Bangalore is a pretty dang sweet city. We visited many different establishments which included mingling with the "MindTree minds" (aka employees), hanging out with dudes at the Microsoft Research center, and wrangling with workers at Wipro. In plain terms we traveled to different technology companies and learned about their business practices. MindTree is a company that participates in BPOs. They receive work from all over the world. Most of their work is outsourced from other places that want MindTree to do the work for cheaper. Wipro is a huge company that focuses on software testing, but they have their hands in all sorts of other things. I think that Microsoft is self explanatory. Overall, Bangalore feels like a completely different country from Chennai. The city is very modern, and is growing at an enormous rate (which is very evident in the traffic and construction sites).

While in Bangalore we had the privilege to stay at Asha Kiran (pictured). Asha Kiran is a special needs school for Indian children. We sure liked it a lot. The kids were all very friendly, and we spent some good quality time playing cricket with them. One day we got to do a service learning project helping out the school. That was legit. There were all sorts of different jobs that we did. We cleaned out a closet, painted a map of India, made some kind of craft out of string for the kids to finish, and painted a ceiling.

The train station. Out of control. Preposterous. When the train pulled up to the station, all the third class passengers stormed the train car, trying to push their way onto car for the best seats. Never before have I seen such an outlandish display of people shoving each other to get a good seat on the train.

Up next was a good solid twenty hour train ride from Bangalore to Pune. The good news is we got to sleep for most of that, the bad news is that sleeping on a train leaves much to be desired. The bunks were a bit rowdy and boisterous with rambunctious behavior due to cabin fever. There were several spottings of mice and cockroaches, but we all handled it with the grace of a swan. No big deal. So in summary, the train ride was ballin'. And we all arrived safely in Pune. Morale is high. The group has molded into one cohesive unit. No injuries or major illnesses to report.

On Sunday we had the opportunity to attend a Methodist Church. Though it was placed in the middle of a city, it was beautiful. The inside of the church was completely lit by the sun. Surprisingly the service was very similar to one back home. A youth band played songs for us, and we sang soothing hymns. The speaker was from Georgia, and he talked about counseling, and how the church needs work on being better counselors. All of this was very interesting, and we learned a lot.

General surprises and things we did not expect...

  1. Litter. Everywhere we go there are mounds of litter all over India. No place is safe. Pollution is also a large concern for the cities because of the massive number of cars and factories.

  2. Kent Jones. This man is amazing. I'd probably describe him as a modern day Indiana Jones. They share the last name, and they share the tenacity. Kent is up every morning, ready to go, full of excitement. I'm pretty sure we'd all be dead in a ditch right now if it weren't for his hand of oversight.

  3. Friendliness. The general mentality of the Indian people is so refreshing. When you walk up to talk to somebody they instantly start treating you as a friend and not an outsider. Though this has not been the case with street vendors who take a bit more of an aggressive position.

<3 The Blogmasters Josh and Kyle

Thursday, January 7, 2010

1st! oh, wait... Blog #2

So its my turn to do the blog, eh? Well, I suppose I could give y'all a little bit of an idea as to whats going down here. Well, where to start. Let me check and see what Andy and Scott wrote... ok here goes.
So basically, today we woke up to the breakfast that we have come to treasure dearly. Not unlike Loretta's omlets, it is a highly anticipated treat. This morning, we were greeted by some curry, dosai, idly, and other delicious things with odd names. Yesterday, I really enjoyed the fresh grape juice, and this morning, I was given a glass of fresh squeezed watermelon-y goodness instead. Amazing stuff.
After breakfast, we travelled to IIT (picture of us in the tree), where we spent most of the day. Kent, Garrett, and Andy gave their presentations (for Andy, this is the first of, like, 50 he has to do), we toured the school, and were allowed to sit in on a decision making processes in memory class. I think that was the name. Ask me later when I am not as tired. Anyway, we then saw some of the amazing tech coming out of the college, such as a 15km range WiFi sort of deal and a really (comparatively) inexpensive ATMs for the rural areas of India. Again, more specifics at a later date.

From IIT, we left for a Hindu (props to Dr. K.) temple.

Can't currently remember the name, but the intricate carvings were astonishing. The main temple was OVER 9000 inches high (actually, more like 100ft) and was multi-tiered. Each tier held many, many carvings of gods and goddesses and were painted as many or more different colors. At least, I was told they were colorful. I happen to be slightly colorblind, so I will take their word for it. We also went to see the butter ball, which was this amazingly large rock that was balanced on the edge of another rock at a tilted over at an angle.

This evening, we went to the Spencer's mall. This place is absolutely gigantic. Aside from the Mall of America, this is the largets shopping complex I have been in. Three or four stories in three or four different sections. Massive. Also, first power outage experienced at this mall. All the lights went out while Scott, Ethan and I were trying to buy ice cream. It was a little odd at first, but not too bad.
Finally we hopped rick-shaws (I hope I am spelling that correctly) back to the hotel and to the restaurant for dinner. Ricks are interesting. The guys who drive them seem to be either the coolest or most stick-in-the-mud people around. There is something about being on a covered tricycle going 50mph litterally 6 inches or less away from other cars that reminds you you're alive. Lots of fun, kinda scary. There is no way that their driving is efficient. Its not log(n). Not even linear. I would say, probably somewhere in the n^n efficiency range...
I feel as though, like Andy said, I cannot give a detailed enough description of what's going on here (though by this point you have probably checked to see how much longer this goes on. Should have found the .length when you started...) There are so many stories, inside jokes, and general hilarity that ensues so often that I can scarcely scratch the surface, and its only day 2. So, I will leave you to your imaginations and will just say that we are well, God is good, we love you all, and keep praying for us. The prayer cover has already helped immensely, and I can't even imagine what we would do without the support you are all lending.

Missing my fiancee and wanting a PB&J sammich,
Jason Heide

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Blog post #1

Hello to everyone, and welcome to blog post #1! (Since this is a computer science trip, I had to make sure the posts indexed from zero. For everyone that doesn’t get that joke, I’m sorry. For everyone who does...well, I’m sorry too. It was in bad taste.)
That being said, greetings to all who have been thinking of us and making mention of us in your prayers. First of all, let me express my gratitude for that. Let me tell you -- when you're in India, riding on roads with rules no one follows, you really place value on those prayers. In case you aren't familiar with Indian road etiquette, here are some guidelines:
1. Unlike America and England, where people drive on the right or left side of the road respectively, people in India drive equally on both sides. This makes for some interesting situations.
2. Horns are used for everything here. Some common uses include:
• “Get out of my way”
• “I have a horn, and love the 120 db sound it can produce”
• “I am currently tailgating you and don’t want to die”
• “I just took a breath of air”
• “I have yet to fill my ‘Horn Quota’ for the month”
3. There is never too small a space for a car, motorcycle, or rickshaw to squeeze into. No joke, we missed hitting other cars by mere centimeters at times.
Needless to say, it’s been insane. I’m pretty sure I’ll be much more maniacal of a driver when I get back to the states. Just kidding, Mom and Dad!
We also appreciate your prayers in allowing things to move smoothly. Going into this trip, we knew our plans would foremost be written on the fly (again, my apologies for the bad CS puns). So, it came as no surprise when all of our checked baggage didn’t arrive at the airport with us. A bit unfortunate I must admit, but the airline assured us that it will be here tomorrow (Thursday the 7th), and that they will deliver it to our hotel. Just in time, too. I haven’t brushed my teeth in like five days now, and I feel like I have OVER 9000 cavities (if my dentist is reading this, then sorry...actually, if my dentist is reading this, I’ll be pretty creeped out).
That’s about all I feel the need to say for now. I wish I could summarize India in a pithy phrase or two (and maybe even work in another bad CS pun), but this experience of the senses – both spiritual and physical – in such stark contrast to what we’re all accustomed to, is too much to limit to words. (Sorry for how epic that last sentence was – I didn’t mean to sound like Aragorn rallying his troops.) Personally, I love answering pointed questions about India. Send us emails. Remind us we’re loved. And continue to keep us in your prayers.
Andy Throgmorton

Monday, January 4, 2010

Heading Out - By Scott Pfursich

Going off little or no sleep from the previous night, about half of us got together in Spokane and made a 5am flight to Seattle on a Horizon prop plane to meet up with the rest of the crew. We have a two hour layover here in Seattle and then we are flying over to Chicago. After that we are off to Brussels and then finally Chennai.

Overall, we will travel 11,010 miles in the air over the course of just a day and a half!

We are all trying to start the adjustment to the large 13.5 hour time difference from here to India by carefully planning our sleeping time.

We are very excited but still fairly nervous of leaving most of our comforts behind and exploring a very, very different part of the world. We will update this blog as often as we can, which depends on where we can get internet access, so keep checking back to get updates!

Please keep us in your prayers for good health and safety.