India was the latest stop for Ryan Akiba and his shipmates on their Semester at Sea trip.
This stop was different however, Akiba, and 20 of his friends and faculty from the ship, were hosted by a local family. The group enjoyed their “Erode Homestay” for three nights. They visited schools, dined on traditional food, swam in the local watering hole and relaxed in their host family’s courtyard.
“They were a truly giving and generous family who provided all 20 of us with food, bedding, and transportation,” Akiba wrote in a recent email.
The food stuck out in Akiba’s mind as noteworthy, specifically the way it was eaten. Everything, from chicken to rice and even pudding and sauce, is eaten by using only the right hand, for cleanliness reasons.
The food was seasoned with a combination of various spices, what many Americans generalize as curry, Akiba wrote. Each meal had five or six completely different dishes which were all eaten on one large platter by hand.
The method of transportation was also noteworthy, and a bit startling, Akiba wrote.
“The travel in India is by three-wheeled scooter-style “auto rickshaws” which are unbelievably dangerous,” he wrote. “According to my ship, India has only one percent of the world’s cars, but 10 percent of the world’s traffic accidents – you can understand my concern.”
Shopping was enjoyed by all as well, Akiba wrote. The exchange rate is very high so items like luxurious handmade, silk shawls were about $10 and entire meals could cost less than $5.
When he got back onboard the MV Explorer (the SAS ship) ammenties like toilet paper and clean water were greatly appreciated.
“India, though not necessarily as “eye-opening” as some of the other ports, served to give us all a greater sense of gratitude for the minute, seemingly given, aspects of life we tend to overlook and forget,” Akiba wrote.
Overall, Akiba enjoyed his experience in India.
“What an experience,” Akiba wrote. “Despite the initially rather shockingly dirty and unkempt appearance of the port, the city of Chennai, as well as the other areas of India to which I traveled, (it) panned out to be a very enjoyable and unique place to be.”
See photos from his visit to India here.