The Conference and the Epic Ride Home

Yes, I’m long overdue for an update. See the plan was to come back to Canada, do my 4 midterms and then wrap up my blog about India. However,  I was welcomed back to Canada with food poisoning. Luckily for me, the food poisoning kicked in the next day after my midterm (I was out from 12 – 6). The next day I ended up at a new level of sickness. I swear, if there was a level after fever, I was there. This new level of sickness kept me immobile for 3 days, and so many of my midterms were pushed and my assignments just racked up. But I’ve caught up and now it’s time to go back to Amritsar (if only that was possible)…

The ride to Amritsar was a long and adventurous one. It was suppose to start at 5am (since the MC asked us to get to the venue by noon) but it ended starting at 9 with us getting into a car with the other FACIs from the area (a total of 4 of us) and then being dropped off in a random (my opinion) location. We then had to walk to a bus stop and take a local bus. It was actually quite enjoyable, it felt just like a Toronto bus (I said felt, not look).  However, I knew we weren’t going to make it at the rate we were going but the other FACIs just said to enjoy the ride, and that’s exactly what I did.

The bus we took to Amritsar was not a volvo. It was not even an AC bus (no idea what they are as I never ended up taking one during my time in India), but it was one of their very basic buses. If I had to compare it to a bus here, I’d have to compare it to a school bus with non bumby material seats, 2 doors, and about 50 odd seats. We took over the last row (since it was a row for 5 but we dumped all our luggage to make one seat) and we made ourselves quite comfortable. The best part about the location for me was the back door was right there so there was almost always a “breeze” coming at me (of course the others found it too cold). We were all lacking sleep and so we dozed off for most of the ride. Or so I thought it’d be most of the ride. I guess we stopped by a high traffic area and a lot of people just got on our “5th seat” disappeared and so it got a little less comfortable. But by then my adrenaline was active and I was just enjoying watching people run after the bus to get on. There was a ticket issuer going back and forth collecting money from the people who were panting for breath (not really, the buses weren’t moving that fast, too much traffic). As for safety and whatnot, I didn’t feel threatened at all. The only time was when someone was trying to move my luggage to get into their seat, but that was my fault.

So the rest of this was written after my final exams (probably 7 weeks after I got back). I have some notes written down about my trip, but most of this is out of memory. Forgive me if I do not go into detail for certain events (especially at the conferences).

On our way to Amritsar, we had to get off at a place called Jaipur because one of the FACI said that he left his luggage with another AIESECer here so he could pick it up later. Not sure how that really worked but this was my first experience getting off a (slowly) moving bus. The most difficult part was the fact that I had such a big luggage to get off as well, but I did end up getting off. However, the moment I got off, traffic got loose and the bus made a right turn and so the others didn’t get a chance to get of… So there I was, with no cell phone, trying to figure out how to meet up with the others or get on the next bus to Amritsar. I vaguely recalled them mentioning that there was a bus terminal in Jaipur as well and that the bus should stop there so I decided to try my luck and follow the way the bus turned. I thought I was handling it pretty well, but a voice from behind told me to slow down. It ended up that one of them were able to get off with me. It also turned out that there was a lot of traffic where the bus turned and so the others were able to get off as well. So hey, it all worked out right?

While waiting for the AIESECer to come by to deliver the luggage, a lot of autos stopped and asked where we were going. We always replied with Amritsar and the autos just took off. I knew the distance was far too much for an auto, but I didn’t think it’d be another 3 hour bus ride… However, the bus we got on this time empty enough for me to get my own row so I made a bed for myself. Also, this bus was even better because the back door was completely broken. It was open all the way when the bus is in motion and smash semi shut when the bus comes to a sudden stop. That didn’t stop me from getting at least an hours worth of sleep. After all, I had the row right next to the slamming door so I got plenty of cool gusts of air. When I woke up, I was very surprised to see a sea of green. It turned out we hit a farm land, and I must say, it was very pleasing on the eyes. I tried to get some pictures but the door was also moving back and forth so I decided to prop the door open with my leg and take my pictures and videos. Of course that means that I had to stand up to do so, but man was that some amazing breeze and scenery.

It wasn’t long until we reached Amritsar’s bus terminal. By then we were hungry and were deciding on different sketchy stalls. Of course I was worried, but my luck / tolerance seemed to have improved over the trip so I said why not. And man, was that the right decision. It was nice to eat cheap food that tasted good. It was even better to not have any sort of digestive problem after the meal. And of course, I don’t really know what I had. It was naan and the sides were: some yellow dish, some white dish and I think there were 2 others, of which none of them were meat. After our meal, we decided that we might as well go see the Golden Temple and to put the blame on me since I was the guest. Of course I wasn’t too pleased with the idea, after all, I’m not very interested in tourist attractions, but after they checked the status at the venue and found out that the MC has missed their flight, we caught the next auto and headed off to the Golden Temple.

It’s weird how fast one adjusts to society. I was so used to seeing guards / police with rifles, that I was already expecting the same at the Golden Temple. However, I was wrong, they did not carry rifles (nor did they carry and semi automatics), but carried spears instead. We stayed at the Golden Temple for 2 – 3 hours but there is not much to talk about, after all, I’m not into tourist attractions. We were suppose to order my train ticket back to Delhi here, but I forgot to remind them and so we left.

Something about conferences is that they are always advertised to be in a certain city. When I think of a city, I’m usually thinking either downtown or near a lot different things. However, I think I’m starting to get the hang of it. Why pay that premium when one wouldn’t even have the time to go out. This venue followed the same thing. There was nothing around so the auto ride there was quite a journey. It was also the first time I saw an auto break down. By the time we reached the venue, it was 7pm, 7hours later than what we were originally asked to make it for. However, besides the host LC, we were the first ones there. It turned out the reason the MC missed their flight was because they just got off some other flight when theirs took off. They were just coming back from another regional conferences (ain’t it “great” to be on the MC~). The 4(can’t remember if it was 4 or 5) MC reached an hour later. It turned out the other FACIs were going to come with their delegation so it turned out to be a quiet night, which I took advantage of and talked to the MC team that was here (there were 2 regional conferences happening on the same time and some international conference so they split up). Sadly, I didn’t note down what we talked about, but it was mostly about realities and how I’m very impressed and touched that they use AIESEC as a platform to bridge the social gaps and tackle national issues. Besides finding out that they rented out the whole venue, I was surprised to find out that we were to fit 5 FACIs in one bedroom that consisted of a triple (if those exist). Of course, I’m quite flexible and it never bothered me.

Like every other conference, breakfast starts at 8 and the day ends at 10pm. As this is a new member conference, majority of the events had them in something called homegroups (where various members from each local chapter (LC) are part of one homegroup) so that they can meet others from other LC. The FACIs were the homegroup leaders, but sadly I did not get a chance to have my own group as I had to leave before the conference to catch my plane back home.

As I don’t really remember each day vividly anymore, I can’t really comment on a lot of the activities that went on. However the following are things that stuck with me:
In India, the first session they delivered was something called state of the world. In this session, not only were the new members asked about their opinions on issues both within India and around the world, but they were asked how they could minimize these issues.  This was probably one of my favourite sessions and one of the key take aways from my whole trip. I really like the fact that India uses AIESEC to help gain awareness on social issues within their countries and how a lot of their members are motivated to change the course of their country. I feel like this is something that Canada does not seem to do. Maybe we are, but the words just aren’t reaching the members or maybe it’s because as people from a “first world”, we tend not to see these issues or tend to ignore it.
Another thing that AIESEC in India  does a lot better than AIESEC in Canada is the amount of spirit their members have. Every single time there was even a moment of silence that was not during a session, you would hear whole LCs participating in cheers. One of the LCs has a cheer where the girls are screeching for most of it and I suggested to them  to maybe slow down the amount of time they use that cheer. But they just looked at me and laughed saying it’s far too much fun. Of course most of them lost their voice by day 3, but the ones who still didn’t kept at it.
I don’t know what this is about but at every conference, each LC comes up with a new dance (known as a jive in India).

One more thing that I found quite cute was the fact that on their last night, they have the event prom. From my knowledge, prom is not something that these guys get to experience in secondary institutions so when the team mentioned that they will have prom on the last night, SO many guys came up to me asking for tips as to how to ask a girl out. The girls were more interested in knowing who I was going to ask to prom. Sadly, I didnt get to partake in this event as I had to leave before that. Another fun thing that they did was auction off the FACI, MC and anyone that stood  out this conference. The way their auctioning process works is they sit the people in the middle and tell the delegates to line up. Each delegate then gets a certain amount of time to woo the person and by the end, the people being auctioned will have to choose one of them.

So, I think during this conference, the MC team chose me as a FACI to lead a team. However, after finding out my flight schedule, I ended up being a presenter instead. I decided to present the personality test one mainly because it was the one that has helped understand others at a much better level. The presentation was about 30minutes but time went by so quickly! Another amazing thing about India was that the delegates were not afraid to share their thoughts and opinions. After my presentation, I had to leave to bus, then flight. But not before I got a group hug. And what a group hug that was. The whole plenary ended up surrounding me and cheering, it’s something that I will never forget.

So that was pretty much my trip. India was a serious life changing event for me and when people ask how my time was there, I always tell them “amazing does not do my experience justice”. This is a country that has so many amazing people wanting to create a change  and just love having guests over. I will definitely need to go back, next time, hopefully as an actual exchange participant.

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