Welcome back dear parents and friends of Gaia
Over the December holidays, I was fortunate enough to go overseas on a great adventure, and spent a whole month exploring and travelling through India with my husband.
We spent the months leading up to our trip, saving, researching and planning our itinerary. But nothing could possibly have prepared us for India. We arrived in Mumbai at midnight on a Friday evening and were totally overwhelmed by the number of people that were buzzing about us. Literally hundreds (if not thousands) of people all going about their business, all on a mission at that time of night, hustling and bustling past us as we made our way from the airport to our hotel. The air was warm and there was a distinct smell of Butane gas and curry.
We spent the first couple of days “acclimatising” to this new world where everything was so completely different from what we were familiar with and perhaps even expecting.
Our first destination was to Varanassi which is in the North West part of India. It is one of the oldest cities of the world and dates back to 1400 BC. Known for its religious tradition, and world famous Ganges River, Varanasi is the spiritual hub of India. We spent eight days exploring this magnificent city. It felt as if we had landed in the Middle Ages. Once again the streets were teeming with people, mostly being carted about on bicycle rickshaws, haggling with vegetable sellers alongside their old wooden carts or simply hanging about sipping “chai”. In amongst the crowds, large cows were wondering aimlessly about and stray dogs and cats were sniffing the piles of rubbish as a never ending echo of honking horns filled the air.
As we made our way towards the Ganges, we became more familiar with the intricate and fascinating maize of alleyways that all seemed to have secret passage ways leading to the great river. At dawn, Pilgrims from all parts of India, gather daily along a string of bathing steps which they all refer to as the “ghats” to perform their “puja” (an offering of prayer) along the banks of the Ganges. At dusk thousands of people gather at Dasaswamedh Ghat to watch the “aarti” ceremony, which is a colourful ritual performed by young monks, with music, ringing bells, candles, incense and incredible ambience.
Although we were sad to leave Varanassi, we continued on our journey by train and made a quick stop in Agra where we visited the Taj Mahal, one of the Seven Wonders of the World and an architectural masterpiece.
Our next city was the beautiful “pink city” of Jaipur situated in Rajasthan. Here we visited many glorious temples, beautiful palaces with intricate architectural designs and huge hilltop forts.
The streets were busy and congested and often lined with stalls making up their bazaars – a shopper’s paradise! By this stage we had been travelling for almost three weeks and were quite exhausted. We decided we needed a “break” and impulsively changed our itinerary and headed for the coast Goa. Our days were spent relaxing on the beaches, swimming in the warm Arabian Sea, dining in the beach shacks and exploring this magical city by scooter. The landscape and architecture was very different to the rest of India.
Most streets were dirt roads, lined with tall thin palm trees alongside rice paddies and elaborate cathedrals (due to the strong Roman Catholic and Portuguese influence). Before we knew it, we had three days left in India and we made our way back to Mumbai to round off this adventure. I was delighted to learn that Mumbai have their very own Waldorf School and naturally I made enquiries. Before long I was invited to visit Tridha Waldorf School. My husband and I caught a train to Andheri where remarkably we managed to find the school. Situated in a typical Indian setting of busy bustling streets with market stalls and auto rickshaws zooming past, was this six story building. As I entered the foyer, I immediately felt at home. The class 1’s were practicing “roly-poly’” and the class 6’s were training for their Greek Olympics. We were taken around the school on a little tour, where I had a few peeks into class rooms and met a couple of Waldorf teachers and one or two classes. My heart was filled with joy as I experienced this great sense of familiarity. From the paintings on the walls, the beautiful workbooks, the black board artwork, the verses to the warm and friendly, nurturing and kind teachers. How amazing, that in a world, so full of contrasts and so completely different to our own, there exists a very well established Waldorf School. This visit affirmed that the same values, principles and vision are upheld as at Gaia. For the first time I had a real sense that Waldorf is truly universal.
Wishing you a wonderful year.
With love and light Vienie MacShane Class 7 Teacher