Ohhhh I’m Gonna Miss India

This morning we will leave for the airport and say goodbye to India.

Although we were able to sleep in until 10am today, my eyes still peered open by 8:00. We adopted a very specific lifestyle here in the last couple weeks. Wake up early, find time in the afternoon to nap and stay up late finishing up with project work. Last night, beyond staying up getting more henna, I packed my things, trying my best to fit the clothes, journals and gifts I hadn’t planned on buying into my pack.

This trip has been amazing and I haven’t yet accepted that we’re leaving. Yesterday we lost two members of the team, Megan and T’mikah, and this morning we’ll part ways with Liza. The group slowly dissipating only vaguely reminds me of the coming separation from India. I’m still in a daze. I guess we’re all exhausted from the last few nights of finalizing our projects, so general consciousness is difficult to hold onto.

I’m noticing all the last things that will happen in the next little while towards the airport. Last breakfast at the hotel with rice pancakes, samba and coconut chutney. Last time I gather my sink washed clothes hung around the bathroom the night before. Last morning that we scrounge for paper wifi codes fallen under the couch, lost within the mess of our living room.

Last time Raksha ushers us into the bus with her foghorn call: “Let’s goooo.”


We throw everything into the back of the van and pack into the bus.

Goodbye Jasminn!


It was always enjoyable to sit in the bus and watch the streets pass us by. This time was especially nice. Faint with exhaustion and disbelief of departure, we stared out the windows, some slept or listened to music and it was overall a serene ride. For one last time I soak in the colours of the buildings, the vegetation and the baurs and birds we pass by on our way to the airport.

Here comes our last airport adventure.


As it comes time to board the flight, Genevieve, Jake, Maddy, Melih, Michael and I say our goodbyes to Sarah. Once again we are on our own. I am extremely thankful that this program was put into place and it’s feeling more and more real that we were are now splitting up from the close knit group we had formed over our time in India.

Bye Goa!


Landing in New Delhi, Genevieve leaves us to begin her own journey of travelling India. The rest of us prepare for a 30 hour flight journey home. Before coming to India I wanted to instill a less stressed mentality about things. Our culture seems to be rushed the majority of the time and I easily fall into this busy lifestyle. Instead I’ve wanted to become comfortable sitting and being without letting my mind run towards what to do next, what to accomplish next. India helped reinforce this state of mind. The airplane journeys definitely helped reinforce this idea – slow down, allow for boredom to pass by, but be able to enjoy being present without having to be constantly stimulated.

We were all warned about the culture shock when going to India, but I never thought about the potential culture shock coming back to Canada. It’s been such an immersive experience that I’m not sure how to immerse myself back into my former life. Something I do expect is a more critical perspective of the way I live in Toronto.

On the airplane, I give the newspaper a good look, expecting it to be the last Indian newspaper I’ll read for a while. It’s clear to me that I’m going to miss a lot of things about India, newspaper articles are definitely in that list.


With a 10 hour layover in Delhi, Maddy, Melih, Michael, Jake and I count down the hours by playing cards, enjoying a cappuccino and chocolate muffin deal and exploring different shops. I’m finding that time passes more quickly than you would think. pic7

We stayed in one store for quite some time, listening to their live music band, looking at the memento merchandise and sitting with our feet in a pool of water. A very commercial view of India, but quite the calming stop for an airport.


This is also where Maddy realized that it was her birthday! And so began her 33 and a half hour birthday across three different continents and time zones.

I feel very lucky to have joined this group and had the opportunity to go to India. We’ve seen so many new ways of life and it only makes me want to learn more about the world.

You can build an idea of a country, you can read books or articles about a culture and hear about people’s lifestyles second hand, but it is so different to step into a space and walk within a culture. I am so glad that we were able to see what we did of India. One of the most important things I’ve left with is the understanding that I will never have a full understanding of India, or any country for that matter. This isn’t a disappointment and it’s in no way discouraging. I think it’s rather humbling and exciting to understand that the world is so vast that there will always be more mystery to explore.

Wednesday, hump day, a day of clarity

The days seem to be stretching out beyond the hours of the sun.

Tomorrow, Project 2 is due and both of our groups must prepare a presentation of the interviews we have conducted so far. The Oscar’s Junction group has finished their interviews and space analyses since yesterday and are planning for a full day of work at the villa. Start time – 9:30 am. Our Tara Trust group still has several interviews up ahead and today we are preparing to meet two different hotel owners.

At the moment, I still have blanks in my mind about the direction of our project. Having had meetings with the group of women working for Tara Trust on Monday and a meeting with a Park Hyatt employee on Tuesday, the interview notes that we have gathered thus far still feel disconnected. However, things started coming together after a meeting with an inspiring woman, both stylistically and project-wise. After breakfast (with scrambled eggs and omelets!), Sarah, T’mika, Melih, Liza, Megan and I piled into a car while Raksha sped along side on her motor bike. At 10:30 am, we arrived at a quaint looking boutique hotel, the Vivenda Dos Palhacos. We were first greeted by two dogs, long and floppy looking beagles.


Then walked out Charlotte, a nicely put together British woman, dressed in various shades of pink. Her greeting was immediately warm and inviting, which we soon saw reflected in her hotel. Walking to a table outside, we began to see into her curious boutique hotel. It was very different from the Hyatt property that we toured yesterday. Rather than striving for convenience, comfort and a more universal idea of luxury, Charlotte aims to intrigue her guests and allow for a charming and unique stay. I particularly enjoyed her active role in her guests stay. She makes it a point to initiate conversation and relationship between guests. The best part is that there are so often connections between her guests. People realize that they’ve gone to the same school in elementary or that they live on the same street back home. The coincidences of this world are endless.

Sitting around the table in the courtyard, we were served fresh water lime sodas as Sarah introduced the project to Charlotte. She was excited, motivated and gave a lot of input. The session passed by with ideas and examples of materials, marketing and typical Goan styles thrown around.


Silk scarves, playing cards, a match box, books and another NGO product example were all passed around for us to take a gander. It was a big moment of brainstorming and expanding on the ideas we already had for Hyatt. After this, we toured the space.


Each room was completely unique and the décor was gathered as an eclectic grouping of items from all around India. The architecture and interior decorations become a combination of local Indian, Portuguese and Western style. From a charming and intimate pool to humorous framed images, Charlotte managed to piece together a hotel like no other.

The space was so nice that Melih had an impromptu photo shoot!


Ninoshka and Silke, working with us from Tara Trust shared some of the past items made by the women of the Zari community. When looking at the tote bags, paper baskets and notebooks Charlotte did not hold back on her criticism. She explained that products needed more character, more of a story towards the wonderful initiative and people behind them. Why would I buy this generic tote bag over any other? I don’t know who made it. Be brave and people will love it. Be adventurous. Her words stood strongly in the space between us. It was refreshing and a necessary thought to add to our further exploration of materials, products and branding.

We eventually said our goodbyes and returned to the hotel.

The next few hours were filled with lunch and more process work. The Oscar’s junction group has been making good strides towards product and material analysis. Testing bags on motorcycles and testing fabrics thresholds with soda bottles, books and pillows. A limited summary of their process from what I know so far, it’ll be probably be best to have our presentations tomorrow.

Around 5pm, Manish, the owner of the hotel we are staying at, became available for an interview. Manish sat down with us in his restaurant and was very open about his business ideologies. He not only shared information about hotel management, but also showed excited interest in the Tara Trust initiative and the women’s products. Another potential client! Things are moving! The foggy front end that Sarah warned us about is lifting!

We toured different rooms and spaces around the property as Manish continued to spew information and insights. But even more than this, he led us to another person of interest. It turns out that there is a business owner that sells local artisan works online, and she is staying in the villa right next to ours. A funny continuation of coincidences… We now have another interview to set up and further considerations to make with Tara Trust’s trajectory.

Finally, the sun set and we made our way back to the villa to catch dinner. It had been a long day at this point, but the night was not over yet. DJ Terry Tunes is playing by the poolside tonight and we get to have dinner at the restaurant!


A moment in the strobe lights of fame for both Melih and Megan.

Let alone dancing to a couple tunes sung by Terry before finally heading back home.

A blurry capturing of Raksha and Megan’s salsa skills. The dancing never stops.


Project 2 is still due tomorrow morning and we know that it’s going to be a long night. While finalizing our presentations and interview summaries, some trail in and out of sleep and others stay awake with the motivation of late night, left over pasta.


One by one we close our laptops and head to bed. 3:30 am marks my threshold for the evening. Goodnight and see you all bright and early.

And so we begin!

Landing in Goa, the humidity and vegetation make for a beautiful landscape and it seems that the vibrant colours of India only become more saturated after rainfall. Having travelled 10 days earlier in Rajasthan with Jacob and Maddy, we had seen more desert areas of India and were able to experience parts of Indian climate and culture before the start of the program.

In the morning, after breakfast and an overview of Beyond Boarders, we piled into a bus and drove around to familiarize ourselves with our surroundings. Everything is overly intriguing, from the varying architecture of buildings to the various brands of cookies in a grocery store. I’m doing my best to accept looking like a tourist. I want to feel ok with looking like a fool at times too, being able to laugh at stupid moments, under rehearsed or completely ignorant, it’s fair to be clueless and I want to connect to that emotion as much as any other during this. Why else are we here but to learn?

We ended the evening by catching the sunset on Colva beach, grazing past shops, taking selfies and attempting our first haggles. I find a relaxed and fun, yet purposeful dynamic with this group and I am excited to begin these 3 weeks of collaboration.

*Thanks to Melih for the first 2 photos of the day!