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June 13, 2011

Cell Phones, Smart Phones? Please leave Them Behind

Global LAB often receives inquiries regarding the use of cell/smart phones on our programs. Here are our thoughts on cell/smart phones...

Can I bring a cell/smart phone on the program?

As Global LAB's programs emphasize cultural immersion, possession of personal cell phones or smart phones (e.g. iPhones) is strongly discouraged. Our experience has shown that personal cell/smart phones are often conducive to distraction, detraction, and divisiveness: they distract from the cultural immersion experience by a perpetual connectivity to friends/family back home; they detract from appreciating the immediacy of the moment and hinder understanding/interaction with cultures lacking these technologies; and they can create divisiveness between students who possess them and those who do not, negatively affecting group dynamics. In addition, near-constant contact with family/friends often can have the unintended consequence of stirring significant home-sickness, detrimental to fulfilling your experience and maintaining the group's cohesion.

Pre-travel Immunizations

Please reference the CDC website for the latest recommendations and for general health information for travelers to India: http://wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel/destinations/india.aspx. You will want to make a medical appointment for yourself and check in with your doctor about pre-travel immunizations. In this meeting, the issue of malaria prevention might be discussed. Please note that the mosquitoes that carry malaria are not present in the majority of the places where the group goes in India, as malarial mosquitoes are not able to survive at elevated heights. With that said, the decision to take malaria medicine or not is for you and your doctor to determine. Should you decide to take malaria medicine, we want to let you know that we have personally seen many people react negatively to the strong side effects of Larium (generic name mefloquine). While we cannot advise you on what medicine you should/should not take, we strongly suggest and encourage you and your doctor to look at other options besides Laruim for malaria prevention. Also, some people develop allergic reactions to Malarone so, should you be advised to take this, you might want to ask your doctor to prescribe a trial dose to see if you tolerate it in case you should be one of those people who has adverse reactions.

Passport Health, a travel clinic, has offices in Manhattan, Brooklyn, and Queens and work with people under the age of 18 years old. They charge an initial consultation fee of $65 in which they review the specific travel itinerary and discuss vaccine recommendations and there is then an additional fee based on whatever immunizations are actually given.

Food for Thought

We hope you are actively thinking about your upcoming adventure and want to offer you some different perspectives on travel, cultural awareness, and documenting your journey.

Check out these links for starters. And feel free to comment, share your own links, ideas, questions...

5 Reasons Why Slow Travel Beats Going on Vacation

10 Indian Customs to Know Before Visiting India

Top Ten Reasons to Keep a Journal or Travel Blog

India Visa - Here's How to Get One!

In order to go to India, you will need to obtain a Tourist Visa. Travisa Outsourcing is the company that handles India's visa applications. Please look at the website for application information: https://indiavisa.travisaoutsourcing.com. While getting a visa for the first time can sometimes be confusing, Travisa has very clear instructions that guide you along every step of the way.

In addition, Global LAB has put together a document that outlines the visa application process, highlights requirements, and gives you important information that is necessary for completing the application. Please read this document carefully. Download Here

If you do not have a Passport, you must apply for one now! Since processing time is currently 4-6 weeks, you will need to expedite the service. For more information on how to obtain a passport visit the Department of State's Website: http://travel.state.gov/passport/passport_1738.html. You can also apply for a passport at any US Post Office: http://www.usps.com/passport.

"In Light of India" by Octavio Paz

This passage reflects on food as a rich portal to understanding culture...

"Food, more than mystical speculations, is a reliable way to approach a people and its culture. I have mentioned that many of the flavors of Indian food are the same as Mexican. There is, however, one essential difference, not in flavor but in presentation: Mexican cuisine consists of a succession of dishes....In European cooking, the order of the dishes is quite precise. It is a diachronic cuisine, as Claude Levi Strauss has said, in the which the dishes follow one after the other in a sort of parade interrupted by brief pauses. It is a succession that evokes the image of a military march or a religious procession. It is in itself a theory (italics by Paz), in the philosophical meaning of the word: European cuisine is a demonstration.....A radical difference: in India, the various dishes come together on a single plate. Neither a succession nor a parade, but a conglomeration and superimposition of things and tastes: a synchronic cuisine. A fusion of flavors, a fusion of times."

Check Out These Books and Films

Namaste Everyone,

We've collected a list of some highly recommended books and movies which might help you better prepare for your experiences in India. You can find many of these at your local library, and we also have several in our portable library in Delhi. There is certainly more out there, so let us know what you find.

Feel free to comment on this entry and let us all know what you've watched/read/enjoyed already!


Mahatma Gandhi. (Louis Fischer, ed.) The Essential Gandhi, Vintage, 1962.

Avedon, John. In Exile From the Land of Snows, NY: A Knopf, 1984
This excellent book as it offers a clear and concise background on Tibetan culture, and details the events surrounding the occupation of Tibet by the Chinese.

Tenzin Gyatso, H. H. the Dalai Lama. My Land and My People. NY: Potala, 1983
This is an autobiographical account of the history of modern Tibet, told by His Holiness Tenzin Gyatso, the XIVth Dalai Lama. We also recommend any other publication by His Holiness such as Ethics for a New Millennium , The Art of Happiness and The World of Tibetan Buddhism.

Goldstein, Melvyn C. The Snow Lion and the Dragon: China, Tibet, and the Dalai Lama. CA: The University of California Press, 1997

Mahatma Gandhi. Autobiography: The Story of My Experiments with Truth. Beacon Press, 1993.

Gita Mehta. Karma Cola: Marketing the Mystic East. Vintage Books, 1991.

Diana Eck. Banaras, City of Light. Knopf, 1982.

Travel/ Historical Fiction

Greg Mortenson and David Olivier Relin. Three Cups of Tea: One Man's Mission to Promote Peace... One School at a Time. Penguin Books, 2006.

Rudyard Kipling. Kim. Bantam Classics and Loveswept, 1983 - Traditionally "Kipling" account of silk road adventures. We'll visit Ladakh, who's capital city, Leh, was once a major stop on the silk road.

Satyajit Ray. Twenty Stories. Penguin Books Ltd., 1993. - Ray is a well-known, edgy Indian film maker. These are some of his short stories, but check out his movies as well.

Peter Mathessien. The Snow Leopard. Penguin Nature Classics, 1978.

Herman Hesse. Siddhartha. NY: New Directions, 1951 - Yes, it's fiction. Let's discuss!

Arundhati Roy. The God of Small Things. Harper Collins, 1998. - Though set in the state of Kerala in South India (we'll not travel there), Roy presents her riveting story and shakes our paradigm of time and relationships.

Rushdie, Salman et al. Mirrorwork: 50 Years of Indian Writing 1947-1997. Henry Holt & Co., 1997. (an excellent anthology; a good way to sample many authors who have written about India)


Ethan Nichtern. One City: A Declaration of Interdependence. Wisdom Publications, 2007. - Nichtern is a practitioner of Shambhala Buddhism and founder of the Interdependence Project, an organization promoting social awareness and personal responsibility based out of New York City but existing in cyberspace as well. He's young, hip, and can explain Buddhism to our younger generation in a completely engaging fashion.

Diana Eck. Darshan. Columbia University Press, 1998.

Aiden Rankin. The Jain Path: Ancient Wisdom for the West. O Books, 2006.

Michele Martin. Music in the Sky: The Life, Art & Teachings of the 17th Karmapa Ogyen Trinley Dorje. Snow Lion Publications, 2002. - If our karma permits, we'll be able to have an audience with this Karmapa who is the head of the Karma Kagyud sect of Tibetan Buddhism.

John Powers. An Introduction to Tibetan Buddhism. Ithaca, NY: Snow Lion Publications, 1995.

Walpola Sri Rahula. What the Buddha Taught. Grove/Atlantic Press, 1974.

A.L. Herman. A Brief Introduction to Hinduism: Religion, Philosophy and the Ways of Liberation. Westview Press, 1991.

Kim Knott. Hinduism: A Very Short Introduction. Oxford University Press, 1999. - These "very shorts" are great for getting some content info about what we'll see. There's also one on Buddhism and Sikhism.

Juan Mascaro, ed. The Bhagavad Gita. Viking Press, 1983. - Other great epics in the Hindu tradition to check out are the Mahayana and the Ramayana. These all greatly inform Indian culture.

Films (Available at your local public library and most video rental stores)

Regarding India:
The Namesake (2006), Gandhi (1982), Earth (1998), Fire (1996), Water (2005), Om Shanti Om (2007), Dhoom 2 (2006), Outsourced (2006)

Regarding Tibet:
Kundun (1997), Windhorse (1997), The Cup (1999), Seven Years in Tibet (1997), Cry of the Snow Lion (2002), Sun Behind the Clouds (2009), Tibet in Song (2009)

Get Ready, Get Set, Start Packing!

International Leadership Program 2011

"He who would travel happily must travel light." - Antoine de Saint-Exupery

Lugging a heavy pack around for the entire time we are in India can be extremely tiresome for you, and for the rest of the group. There will be plenty of times when we'll be traveling around and we don't want to end up like this. Since you will be responsible for carrying your own luggage, seriously challenge yourself to pack light. An old traveler's trick is to lie out everything you think you need, then pack half of it and return the rest to your closet. Then, carry your bag around your house for 15 minutes to make sure you are able to easily carry it by yourself. If not, take some more items out! Remember, you will be able to purchase anything you forget in India.

A NOTE ON DRESS: Since we will be visitors in India, we strive to be respectful of our hosts. This means that the clothing and the way we dress will probably be different than what we are used to at home. Indian and Tibetan cultures are more modest than that of the US and showing ones shoulders, legs, and cleavage is considered extremely inappropriate and provocative. Also, in India, it is valued to look clean, put together, and respectable. By dressing in accordance with the local culture, it conveys to others "I understand I am not in my own country, I did my homework and learned about the cultural norms in India and I respect them."

So, when packing please do not bring tank tops, sleeveless shirts, pants that come too high above your ankle (i.e. shorts, short skirts, mid calf capris), low-cut shirts, T-shirts sporting inappropriate phrases, cut-off jeans, clothing with rips or holes, tight fitting clothing, etc.

By dressing in loose fitting clothing that covers your legs and shoulders, you are being respectful to the local culture as well as protecting your safety as inappropriate clothes draw more attention to you. In addition, you are protecting your skin from the sun and mosquitoes. And, loose fitting clothing is a lot more comfortable in the heat than tight clothes!


  • Internal Frame Backpack, Duffle Bag, or Suitcase - Your main "suitcase" should be comfortable, durable, and as light as possible. Make sure it is easy for you to carry, as you are responsible for your luggage.

  • Daypack - A small backpack for day trips. This should also be your carry-on bag.

  • Ziploc Bags - These can be invaluable for keeping things organized and dry.

  • Plastic Bags - This is good for wet and/or dirty clothes.


  • Passport - Valid for at least 6 months from the beginning of your program.

  • Visa - Valid 6 month multiple entry visa.

  • Extra Copy of Passport - to be stored apart from passport.

  • Spending Money - This, of course, depends a great deal on your personal spending/shopping habits. Personal spending money is usually used to buy snacks and souvenirs. In our experience, some people spend less than $100 while others spend well over $500. We suggest bringing at least $100 in cash in a mix of $20 and $50 denominations. ATM cards can be used in some of our destinations though the machines are not as reliable as they are in the US and they will probably charge you a big fee to use. Also, "Cash Gift Cards" (available at some banks and through American Express) do not always work at ATMs or moneychangers.


  • Money Belt - A very important item to wear daily, under your clothes, safely hiding your passport, money, etc. A passport-sized neck pouch can serve the same purpose.

  • Water Bottle - Please bring one, one-quart, metal or plastic bottle.

  • Flashlight or Head Lamp and batteries - Flashlights are okay, but headlamps are more convenient.

  • Alarm Clock/Watch - Travel-size, to make sure you are up on time! This should not be your cell phone.

  • Umbrella - A lightweight, travel umbrella can serve you well in rain or shine.

  • Towel -Small and light beach towel size (and ideally fast-drying).


  • Rain Coat, Poncho, or Waterproof Jacket

  • Sweater or Fleece

  • 4-5 T-Shirts

  • 1-3 Lightweight Long-Sleeve Shirts

  • 1 Nice Shirt - This is for special occasions (i.e. evening cultural programs)

  • 2 Lightweight Pants - Comfortable and not too tight fitting.

  • Skirt/ Dress - Ankle-length skirt or dress with long sleeves. This is not necessary though it is a good idea for women.

  • 5 Pairs of Socks

  • 5 Pair of Underwear - Plus bras for females

  • Bathing suit - this is for the hotel in Agra. Please make sure it is a modest bathing suit (i.e. one-piece for the females)

  • Sleepwear

  • Comfortable Walking Shoes or Sneakers - Waterproof, durable, and comfortable for daily wear.

  • Sandals, Flip-flops, or Crocs - Make sure these are comfortable, good for walking, and waterproof.

  • Visor/Sunhat - for sun protection

  • Sunglasses

PLEASE NOTE: There will be opportunities for you to do laundry while in India.

TOILETRIES (Just the basics! No hair driers, hot irons, etc.)

  • Toothbrush & Toothpaste

  • Hair brush/Comb

  • Shampoo/Conditioner

  • Sunscreen (SPF 30 or higher)

  • Lip Protection

  • Glasses/Contacts/Contact Solution - Bring extra pairs of glasses and contact lenses.

  • Purell - A small bottle of anti-bacterial hand gel or anti-bacterial hand-wipes.

  • Insect Repellent (non-aerosol)

  • "After-bite"

  • Pads/Tampons - Bring enough for the duration of the program.

PLEASE NOTE: Any toiletry items that you would like to bring in your carry-on luggage need to be 3oz or less and need to be stored in a quart-sized clear plastic bag.


  • Prescription Medications - Make sure to keep any medications or vitamins in their original containers and bring enough for the entire duration of your program. Also, bring a paper copy of your prescription from your doctor in case you lose your medication. Travel with all essential medications in your carry-on luggage.

  • Other Medicine - While we will have an entire first aid kit, please bring the medication you normally use for minor ailments like body aches and upset stomachs.


  • Notebook/Journal

  • Pen/Pencil

  • Book - Ideally about India or Tibet (we can swap around to minimize weight)

  • Photos - Pull together a small book of photos to share with fellow participants and your homestay family. The photos can show the area that you are from and people who are important in your life.

  • Camera, Extra Film, and Charger - Film is widely available in Asia. You should bring an extra camera battery and memory card if using a digital camera. Remember to pack your camera charger. You can also bring your Camera USB Cord - This will allow you to plug your camera into a computer to post pictures onto the blog.

  • Homestay Family Gift - Please bring a small gift from home for your homestay family as a small token of gratitude. Something that has a connection to your own country, culture, city, town, and/or neighborhood is always appreciated (i.e. a coffee table book of your home town, a small calendar with something significant to you on it, your favorite game, a picture or drawing that you made, etc.)

  • Donation of Coloring Book and Crayons or Markers - This is to give to the children at the orphanage at the Tibet Children's Village school.

  • Electrical Converter and Adapter

Electrical Converter - The electricity in India is 220-240 volts while the United States uses 110-120 volts of electricity. If you try to plug an American appliance into an outlet of a different voltage, you may destroy the appliance and cause yourself injury. Check your appliances (i.e. camera charger) to make sure it is dual voltage, which means it will work on 220-240 volts without a converter. If the symbol 110/220 is present on the device then it has dual voltage capabilities. If it does not, then you will need to purchase a converter to change the 220-240 volt electricity into 110-120 volt electricity in order to use your US device in India.
Electrical Adapter - You will need to bring an adapter so that you can plug your US appliance into the outlets in India. American appliances have two flat parallel prongs whereas the outlets in India are mostly for two round prongs. There are a variety of plugs in India, so please click here to see what the outlets look like.
They sell combination voltage converter and plug adapter as well as an all-around adapter plug set (to allow you to use any type of outlets). For more information, please check the Electricity Around the World Website: Click Here


  • Bandana - These can serve multiple purposes while traveling.

  • Duct Tape - Wrap some around your water bottles and take it off when you need it.

  • Playing Cards - Just for fun!

  • Extra Duffel Bag - While you will want to be able to fit all of your things in a backpack and daypack, an extra duffel bag can be handy for the trip back to the U.S (for any new purchases). This bag should be nylon and durable.

  • Swiss Army Knife - Pack this in your checked luggage, not in your carry-on bag.

  • Stuff Sacks - These are lightweight and compact sacks bring order to your packing as they allow you to separate your belongings (i.e. clothes, food, toiletries).

PLEASE LEAVE CELL PHONES AND LAPTOPS AT HOME: As Global LAB's programs emphasize cultural immersion, possession of personal cell phones or smart phones (e.g. iPhones) is strongly discouraged. Our experience has shown that personal cell/smart phones are often conducive to distraction, detraction, and divisiveness: they distract from the cultural immersion experience by a perpetual connectivity to friends/family back home; they detract from appreciating the immediacy of the moment and hinder understanding/interaction with cultures lacking these technologies; and they can create divisiveness between students who possess them and those who do not, negatively affecting group dynamics. In addition, near-constant contact with family/friends often can have the unintended consequence of stirring significant home-sickness, detrimental to fulfilling your experience and maintaining the group's cohesion.

All Global LAB destinations will have periodic access to phone and Internet communications during the course of the semester, and these times will afford students an opportunity to check personal email, make personal phone calls, etc. Global LAB leaders carry cell phones in the field for use in the event of emergencies or other urgent needs to communicate directly with your family. If you believe you have an exceptional personal need to possess a personal cell/smart phone on your semester program, please discuss this with your Global LAB Program Leader in advance of departure.

As for iPods and other similar devices, Global LAB discourages their possession but does not prohibit them. As with cell/smart phones, iPods have the capacity to detract from the cultural immersion and human interaction experience by "tuning out"; however, we realize that there will be suitable times during the semester for such downtime (i.e. long bus rides, at night when you're alone). As long as you are disciplined and respectful in its use, iPods can be packed. On the other hand, if you feel that it will be a constant companion, we strongly encourage you to leave this at home. If you have questions on appropriate usage during the course of the semester, please consult with your Global LAB Program Leader.

A NOTE ABOUT WATER: A water filter is not needed. While tap water in India is not drinkable, we will always have access to filtered and/or boiled water.

ONE LAST THING TO PACK: There's one more crucial element that you need to bring aside from what's on the packing list: AN OPEN MIND. You will take part in new and different experiences every step of the way, many of which may take you outside of your comfort zone. Having an open mind is essential to making this experience all that it can be for yourself and the group as a whole.

To download a copy of the Packing List Click Here

June 14, 2011

Travel Medical Insurance

The Core Travel Insurance Program: Global LAB provides international emergency/medical insurance for all of our program participants. For more information, please download Global LAB's Core Travel Insurance Program FAQs.

For more information on your insurance coverage, please go www.coretravelinsurance.com and enter the following information:

First Name
Last Name
Date of Birth
Organization (please write Global LAB)

Then click on "Go to your Profile". Here you will be able to find more information on your coverage as well as print out a wallet size insurance card for your travels.

If you would like to upgrade your limits of coverage from the "The Coreā„¢Plan" to another level of coverage, you can do so by going to your profile and clicking on "Purchase Options." You must then fill out the online application and pay for the additional benefits with a credit card before your Global LAB program starts. You will receive a confirmation of your order by email. Once you have begun your Global-LAB program, however, your limits of insurance coverage cannot change.

For questions or addition information, please contact the CORE administrator directly at email.

June 17, 2011

Exploring South Asian Food and Culture in Jackson Heights (6/03/11)

My visit to Jackson Heights was like a mini culture shock. It was nothing like I had anticipated. I have never immersed myself so deep inside another culture that wasn't my own and it was a new and fun experience that I thoroughly enjoyed.

We explored the supermarkets filled with a huge variety of spices that I had never seen before. We also cruised around an emporium that had so many different types of decorations, jewelry, and music.

Jackson Heights, despite the fact that it's located in New York City, has opened my eyes to a foreign culture that is rich in every way possible. What's even more astounding is that this whole encounter happened in just a few hours. I saw the colorful decorations women put on their forehead called bindis; I felt the soft fabric that make up a sari, a beautiful piece of clothing that women wear.

And I had an awesome hands-on (literally!) experience eating traditional Indian and Tibetan cuisine at the Himalayan Yak restaurant.

All in all, I couldn't have asked for a better experience in Jackson Heights and I hope to visit this neighborhood again in the future.

-Jeannely L.

June 19, 2011

Visiting the Ganesh Temple in Flushing, Queens (6/17/11)

Mr. G. Padmanabhan (GP-Ji, for short), the temple's resident expert, provided a wonderful introduction to some of the many fascinating Hindu deities and practices we will be encountering in India. Plus, GP-Ji invited us back to the temple on September 4th to join the parade and celebration of Lord Ganesha's Birthday. Stay tuned for student reflections about our visit to the amazing Ganesh Temple!

Thank you, G.P.-ji, for welcoming us so warmly to your wonderful temple and for enlightening our group about so many aspects of Hinduism, including:

The story of how Ganesh came into being and his unique powers as one of the many, many Hindu deities.

What "puja" means.

The role that the planets play in the Hindu belief system.

Why woman can be scholars and teachers of Hinduism, but not formal priests.

When to ask for Saraswati's help and when to ask Lakshmi for her blessing.

And so much else, like where to break the devotional coconuts.

We look forward to seeing you again at Ganesha's birthday parade and maybe for this year's Diwali festival, too!