What They Saw There
More than half of Hamilton students spend at least one semester studying off-campus in the College’s programs and those of affiliated institutions.
Hundreds of them go abroad for study, devoting themselves not only to classes and research, but to the rich opportunities offered by immersion in other cultures. Each year, the Worldview Photo Contest provides us with tantalizing glimpses of those cultures — photos taken by students abroad who add depth and substance to the images with their own written accounts. The Alumni Review last published Worldview photos in 2009, and we return this year with a renewed sense of a complex, diverse global community — and our students’ ability to depict it with a sense of wonder and appreciation.
For more Worldview images and information on study abroad, go to www.hamilton.edu/offcampusstudy.
I saw the thunderstorm approaching as I walked to my basket weaver’s house. Realizing my outside meeting was going to be cut short, I went to Olivia and Kenzie’s room to wait the storm out. The sky was incredible as usual. Every time it is about to rain, you get a warning by the wind. Gales whip across the top of the hill and blow clothes off the lines. We scurried to collect the laundry as the rain began to pelt us. Seeing the rain as an opportunity for a shower, Olivia, Kenzie, their host sisters and I grabbed some shampoo and soap and lathered up. I snapped a few pictures of our shower-turned-water-fight and then joined them. I had not been that clean since my arrival. I have always loved playing in the rain, and that half-hour was perfect. The bond shared in an instance like that is different from any other that I have experienced. Language barrier or not, there is a permanent connection created during a moment of complete elation.
I took this photograph on an autumn afternoon during a two-week stay with the Darkhad people of the region. I had spent the day picking tart red berries on a mountainside with this man, whose name I do not know, and several other friends. Before heading back to my host family’s ger, we stopped for what turned out to be an afternoon tea. Even though we shared no language, we patiently pantomimed and laughed our way through our tea break in the woods. The photograph shows a tea libation, a shamanic practice in which freshly brewed tea — in this case, yak butter tea with natural salts — is tossed to the ancestor spirits in each of the four cardinal directions. I love this photograph because, to me, it precisely captures that particular moment in Mongolia — the slowly fading sunlight, the billowing sweet smoke, the patient offering of tea to the spirits in the East, accompanied by the distinctly rugged yet gentle Mongolian smile.
On my first day in the city of Varanasi, I stumbled upon this celebration where a statue of one of the Hindu deities was being carried through the streets and down to the holy Ganges River. The crowd was throwing flower petals at the statue and taking pictures. One of the most interesting aspects of this photograph is the juxtaposition of the Hindu shrine and a man taking a picture of it with his cell phone. Hinduism is thousands of years old — one of the world’s oldest religions — while the cell phone, with its capacity to take a picture so easily and instantaneously, is perhaps one of the most defining features of our society today.
Varanasi is one of the holiest cities in India — vibrant in both color and sacrosanct stature. It is located along the banks of the venerated holy Ganges River. Two northern tributaries, the Varuna and Assi rivers, form the Ganges. The blending of the rivers’ names is how the colloquial name, Varanasi, was formed. The city Varanasi is also called Banaras, “city of light,” or Kashi, which means “luminous one.” In this picture, vibrant “light” melds with a luminous depiction of life by the river. Here an Indian man is simply walking along the Ghats (steps down to the holy water) after his morning holy bath. The image poignantly depicts him not only following the water but also following in the steps of a holy cow. Many people bathe in the holy waters every day. This individual appears to be on his daily mission without fanfare, replicating the day-to-day holy bathing that is an “everyday thing” for so many Indians. It is a divine, purifying and revered act of one’s existence in the land of Varanasi.
Aoraki has New Zealand’s highest mountains and largest glaciers. Its pristine alpine wilderness looks and feels prehistoric and very mysterious. I could almost see the Megalosaurus showing up behind the next turn of our path. The moment captured in my photo was one of the rare days when we encountered someone deep in the wilderness — Jaz, a 62-year-old Kiwi hiker and climber whose kindness and generosity impressed us even more than his stamina. When my friends and I ran into him on the last day of our hike, we were hurrying down the mountain in order to drive back to Dunedin before Monday morning. To our shock, Jaz offered the keys to his car after having talked to us for no more than 15 minutes! Our own vehicles were at the very end of the park, a good three-hour walk farther than his. Filled with gratitude, we used his car to transport our heavy loads of tents, sleeping bags, crampons, ice axes and helmets. We reached Dunedin by 2 instead of 5 a.m. — and I was ready to go to my Environmental History of New Zealand lecture in the morning to learn more about the unique relationship between Kiwi culture and the island’s nature.