Alton School

India 2018, by Megan Kelly

When writing this report, it is hard to know where to begin. Much like India itself, our experience was so colourful, so loud, so busy and so incredible, it is hard to put into words how emotional and life-changing the expedition really was. Little did we know, standing in Heathrow airport what we would experience and how it would shape our lives.
We began our trip in Varanasi meeting Peter and Lissy, our amazing guides who have a long history of looking after Alton school in India and making our trip the very best it could be. Varanasi dates back to the 11th century B.C. and is regarded as the spiritual capital of India for Hinduism. Walking through the city, being immersed in India culture and witnessing the sunrise over the iconic river Ganges was definitely worth the early start on the first morning. Teaching English to classes numbering sixty in St Joseph’s school, visiting mother Teresa’s orphanage, visiting a school for the deaf, trying on traditional saris and having an exciting trip on a rickshaw were just some of the wonderful experiences of Varanasi. We also sightseeing of traditional sites such as Hindu temples, Dhamek Stupa (site of Buddha’s cremation) and getting to witness the beautiful Hindi Aarti ceremony on the river Ganges.

Additionally, having the opportunity to meet the rainbow children was so heartwarming. These are girls who are looked after by the sisters and live in convent. We grew such an attachment to these lovely girls, regularly visiting for tea and biscuits and also teaching them ‘what’s the time Mr. wolf’! We also went to an Indian mass with the sisters, which was different to our masses here, but there were still the strong spiritual elements.

We also got to meet some of the novitiates who are being trained by sister Meera and some of the other sisters. Just having the chance to sit and talk to these girls was so amazing and they were so friendly and welcoming, preparing us a big buffet lunch and we had a good time singing with them!
After 10 days in Varanasi and an emotional goodbye, we began the next phase of the sight sightseeing. We flew to the pink city, Jaipur, and visited Hawa Mahal and the
World famous Amber fort. We saw Indian elephants, watched Indian dancing, rode camels and watched a snake charmer. The sights were spectacular sights but we weren’t in Jaipur for long and had to travel to Agra to witness a wonder of the world- the Taj Mahal. The morning visit to the Taj-Mahal was absolutely amazing, the moment we first saw the monument was indescribable- just incredible. Our next stop was Amritsar, the city that lies on the border of India and Pakistan. We witnessed and took part in the changing of the flag ceremony. Before the ceremony we got to run with the Indian flag and dance with the India women in the centre of the stadium, definitely a once in a lifetime experience! The next day included a visit to the golden temple. After Amritsar, it was time for our final destination, the capital city of Delhi. We visited the Red Fort, India gate, Jama Masjid and Gandhi’s house. Before packing our bags and heading to the airport we had an emotional goodbye to Peter, Lissie and India.

Writing this report and reminiscing about one of the greatest experiences of my life, I would encourage absolutely everyone to experience the incredible food, sights, sounds, colour, people and culture of India!