Your travel date is only a couple of days away. Are you getting excited? (We are!)
Thanks to everyone for posting their introductions. We enjoyed getting to know a little bit about each of you before we meet in person. Reading your yaks and talking to you on the phone, we are so excited to see you all. We wanted to give you some information about clothing as well as general packing tips. Don’t feel overwhelmed by the length of this post. The Course Preparation Manual you were sent has lots of good information but some of it is outdated so if you get conflicting information, go with what we are telling you here.
The key to successful packing for this trip is to bring what you need. Not any more and not any less.
We will be carrying a comprehensive medical kit with first aid supplies, OTC medications, and so there is no need to bring your own supply of OTC meds. Just bring your prescription medications with instructions on its use and dosage.
Most of this is covered in the Course Preparation Manual but there are a few things we would like to emphasize.
Clothing in Varanasi
Varanasi, where we will be spending most of our time, is a conservative city in a conservative state in a still largely conservative country. During our time there, you will undoubtedly see foreign tourists dressed in all manner of clothing. But as we are trying to integrate into the local community we want to hold ourselves to a higher standard. Wearing Indian clothing will help you garner the respect of your neighbors and you will receive a lot of compliments from locals. Indian clothes are comfortable, attractive and well-suited to the climate, both hot and cold. Do not bring a lot of Western clothes. Past students have regularly found that they keep most of their Western clothes in their bag the whole trip and wish they had brought fewer.
Female students are expected to wear Indian clothes while we stay in Varanasi. In Varanasi, most Indian women your age wear salwar kameez. This is a comfortable outfit containing loose-fitting pants called salwar or leggings called churidar. These are paired with a tunic called a kameez or kurta, and a scarf called a dupatta. You can buy these as a set or mix and match individual pieces. We will have opportunities early in the program to buy ready-made clothes as well as buy fabric to take to a tailor.
We recommend you don’t bring many Western clothes. Leggings that reach your ankles are fine as you can wear them with Indian tunics. Skirts and dresses should probably be left at home, as we will not be wearing them in Varanasi. If you must bring one, it should be mid-calf length or longer. Shorts of any length and sleeveless shirts/dresses should be left at home.
Male students are expected to wear pants and a button down or polo shirt while we are in Varanasi. Your pants shouldn’t be ripped or stained and, although we want you to wear nicer shirts in Varanasi, clean and well maintained t-shirts will be fine elsewhere in the country. Shorts should be left at home, though you can bring a pair of basketball-length shorts to sleep in. You also have the option of wearing Indian clothes. Traditionally in North India, men wear a kurta-pyjama – a long tunic and narrow pant. These days, many younger men save this outfit for special occasions. You will see many men wearing a short kurta with jeans or khakis. We can also buy fabric to take to a tailor. Even if you don’t want a lot of Indian clothes, you may want to consider budgeting for some tailored shirts. Indian tailors are adept at making Western shirts as well as Indians ones.
Other Clothing Tips
We have an great opportunity to practice yoga in Varnansi. Indians tend to practice yoga in long, flowing clothes so please do not bring yoga clothes that are tight or revealing. We will be arriving in Varanasi as winter starts and the weather will be getting cold, especially at night. Houses in Varanasi do not have insulation or central heating and are generally made of stone or cement. This means it can get quite cold inside the house. Please bring warm layers.
Wow that was a lot! Hopefully this has helped to clarify some packing questions you may be having. If you have any questions or clarifications, please ask. It’s better to clear up confusions here than after you’ve come to India with stuff you don’t need (or having neglected to bring important stuff!)