"Wow!" is all I can say about Rishikesh. Everyone has thoroughly enjoyed their time here and definitely does not want to leave (although this is a common theme of each location). Today we woke in the early morning in order to do yoga on the mountainside while it was still a comfortable temperature. Following yoga and a great breakfast we drove further into the Himalayas to get upstream of Rishikesh on the Ganges. Somehow all of us students managed to muster up the courage to raft all the way back to our location. Many of us, including myself, had never rafted before... thrilling! In the past couple of days we also visited a very large site of Jain importance. Jainism is a very interesting religion: extreme nonviolence (ahimsa) and a very strict diet.
My thoughts always seem to wander back to our train ride to Rishikesh though. We were situated beside a family from Haridwar. There was a mother, father, and son who spent their time sleeping, eating, and playing boardgames. After many polite smiles and initial hesitancy, the mother, Yogita, and I began talking. We spoke about the US, where her sister is an engineer, and about India. I hadn't had many extensive conversations with many Indians yet, and it was my first informal one with an older woman. By the end of the conversation I knew how to exchange pleasantries and the numbers one through ten in Hindi. Conversations like these prove very valuable to me in understanding how we can get past our differences to see that we are so much more alike than we realize; even though age, race, religion, and thousands of miles would usually separate Yogita and I.
Other sites we have visited include the Beatles Ashram and a waterfall. We are learning a lot and excited for wherever the journey physically, spiritually, and mentally takes us next.