Friday, May 23, 2008

Mefloquin, Varanasi, and Group Dynamics

Friday: Mefloquin Day. I told you I would elaborate on this gem of a vaccination more in my last post and I know all my readers have been hanging from the edge of your seat, eagerly anticipating this weeks edition. For those who don't know, Mefloquin is a Malaria vaccination that I had to start taking a week before arrival in India, each week after arrival, and for four weeks after returning to America. This fine example of western medicine does have some odd effects: mainly lengthy, vivid dreams. It has been interesting every morning to trade stories with my comrades about where our Mefloquin influenced minds have taken us the previous night. On a more tangible note, we are in the holiest Hindu city of India, Varanasi. The big story from traditional Hindu myths is that if one dies in Varanasi, automatic moksha is given; this is a really big deal as one person may normally be reborn hundreds or thousands of times. In contrast to Delhi and Agra, there are many less tourist targeted market areas and far fewer and less accostive sales-people. Only in the largest tourist spots, such as Sarnath (just outside of Varanasi,) where Buddha gave his first sermon, do those hawking their wares completely ignore your personal space and a polite no thank you. Rishikesh and Ganges River swimming is next (which is likely to be a Mefloquin dream tonight,) which I am very excited about, especially considering the heat has only escalated since our arrival. Our group grows together every day and it seems to me as though we have all changed in our own ways; we encounter things we have not before and it makes us stronger, together, as a result. I look forward to seeing how this continues to progress almost as much as the actual places we are seeing on the remainder of the trip.

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