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April 16, 2024

That time I was almost sold for monkeys

By Ellen Brait | October 18, 2012

When I was a mere sophomore in high school, I decided it would a brilliant idea to travel to India on a service project with my school, despite the fact that I cannot stand spicy food. I would spend the two weeks there eating lots of naan bread and not much else.

If you’ve never been to India, it is something I wholeheartedly suggest doing. My trip was completely eye-opening and life-changing. This was partially due to the work we did building a school for girls in a rural area that needed better education facilities, and partially because of the many situations I found myself in. Below I will cover the highlights of my trip. Keep in mind, my experiences are extremely unlikely and probably more a product of the ridiculous nature of my life than anything else.

Since it was a school trip, there were many rules to be followed. For example, we were not to leave the fort we were staying in without adult supervision. Being the rebel I was, a friend and I decided to leave the fort and cross the street to buy local candy from a vendor. We saw no chance of being caught, since the expedition would take a total of five minutes and we would be back before anyone noticed. Of course, we did not take into account the fact that we were in rural India.

After we had procured our candy, we turned back to cross the street, only to find hundreds — or perhaps even thousands — of sheep being herded down the street. For about five seconds, I contemplated trying to cross but decided that being sent home after being trampled by sheep was not an ideal situation. This led to us being caught and accordingly lectured.

This was just the first of many ridiculous happenings.

We were working with an all-boys school, and spent a few days exploring their school campus. One day, we decided to actually eat lunch in their dining hall at the same time as the other students. The only other girl on the trip was sick that day, a fact I did not notice until we arrived to lunch.

As soon as I entered the large dining hall filled with hundreds of boys eating lunch, the room went deathly silent. People had literally frozen at my arrival. Never have I eaten a more uncomfortable meal. As I ate my excessive amount of naan, I felt the eyes of every single person in that room on me. Awkward.

The boys that we worked with were characters themselves, but quickly got over the novelty of a Caucasian girl. One night during the wee hours of the morning, as I waited up for my roommate to return, I felt myself drifting off. I was suddenly woken up by the door to our room bursting open and about seven masked men rushing into the room yelling. Obviously, I freaked out. The men seemed surprised by my presence and left just as quickly as they had come. It was not until the next day that the boys on the trip embarrassingly told me that they had meant to scare my roommate and not me. I did not feel bad about locking the door behind them and locking my roommate out for the night after the near heart attack I had.

The boys did prove useful in some instances though. For example, we explored a local market at one point so I could pick up gifts for friends and family back home. When we entered a square, a man with probably about forty monkeys approached and began rapidly speaking to me. I stood by in complete ignorance, smiling at the man as he smiled at me.

It was not until later that day that I found out he had wanted to trade some monkeys for me, and the Indian boys had refused. I didn’t have the courage to ask how many monkeys I was worth.

The trip had many moments like this. From the other girl on the trip being proposed to (keep in mind that we were about 15 years old at this time), to my Capri pants being viewed as completely scandalous (exposed ankles, the audacity!), to the beef-free menu at McDonald’s, it was certainly an adventure.

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