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Gili revealed itself to me as two antagonistic worlds, radially distributed: a touristic ring — border by the beach — which is attractive, superb, comfortable and another central layer — the locals' village, which is the opposite, a modest settlement inhabited by humble yet serene and happy people. The locals organise one-day or half-day mini-excursions by boat around the three islets: Gili Meno, Gili Air and Gili Trawangan. The tour comprises a group of 10 tourists who, together with the captain and the two supervisors fill out the capacity of the motorboat.

The excursion consists of four-five stops in the middle of the foto: Laura Dianu. This is possible thanks to the equipment which consists of special glasses and a series of other accessories which facilitate swimming. Watching fish shoals — many, colourful, slippery, floating unencumbered in the clear waters — was a source of relaxation I had not expected. There was something soothing in the fluidity of the fish's movements, the literal sensation of flooding due to the salty water and the autism of the aquatic universe in contrast to the other world unfolding at the surface.

The group I went snorkelling with consisted of nice and smiling people. It is nice when those you meet during holidays are pleasant and relaxed. The interactions thus become jovial and fully satisfying. The majority of Bali tourists are from Australia. I thought then that I would like to travel to Australia next time, to check whether being jovial is a general trait of Aussies or it was the result of having met them on holiday.

During the tour a German lady my age caught my attention. She explained to us that she was starting a half-year or perhaps longer holiday, in which she decided to start off in the East, in New Zealand, and travel back towards the West, in one of the Middle Eastern countries, where she would look for a job.

Her plan was to make a stop in the majority of the countries between these two points as a tourist.

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The idea of a half-year holiday surprised me. I thought one has to experience a feeling of relief at taking such a long break from the routine of a steady job and travelling and accumulating new experiences in a concentrated manner. On the other hand, I wondered how she could be relaxed without a clear plan regarding her future. The truth is that her life choices made a strong impression on me. The road to the mountains, once returned in Bali, consisted of many scooters, dust, crowding, and noise. The closer we got to the mountain area, the more the temples full of scooters parked in front that we discovered.

The locals in colourful outfits, with prints and glaring colours, walked along the side of the road carrying gigantic boxes on their heads. Their luggage comprised either offerings for the temple or merchandise to sell to the tourists they came across. In Ubud I stayed at Doctor Keitut's house. I chose it specifically, because I had watched the film Eat, Pray, Love and loved it. Upon finding out that the location in Bali where it was filmed was up for rent, I knew I had to spend at least one night there.

In Doctor Keitut's house I understood what a Zen garden means. In the front, a sort of religious pavilion made of stone and wood nearly blocks the entrance to the bed and breakfast. A local woman was crocheting surrounded by cats, serene and smiling. To the left there was I found out afterwards Doctor Keitut's dwelling. Between the two, down a metre-long alley, one entered the reception area. The reception, covered but in an open space, is part of one of the two touristic setups in the garden. A third setup is the restaurant, and this is in open air, with wooden tables covered by reed pavilions.

Between all three are the pool and the garden. Everywhere, rich vegetation, low and medium, of a profound green.

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The leaves' peaks are coloured in bright red and orange tones which, complementary to the green, create a superb visual effect. The circulation takes place through alleyways of natural stone, scattered through the grass. In the garden there are many stone statues, probably Buddhist gods.

The temperature is low;.

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The whole ensemble is so beautifully and sensitively arranged that it is easy to find peace in a quiet and timeless contemplation. The forest of monkeys, for instance, is an unusual experience. It has lanes and roads marked for tourists, which are crowded by numerous monkeys which live free. Tourists offer them bananas, take photographs with them and have fun observing their behaviour. Nevertheless, there are everywhere images that warn against getting too close to the monkeys, as they can become aggressive.

In fact, I saw multiple times specimens who would jump from a tree onto the tourists' shoulders and then would either steal their glasses or accessories, or pulled their hair. Rice plantations are equally impressive. They represent a space of monumental nature: wave in a see of green, spread vertically.

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Ubud is essentially an exotic collection of interesting places which deserve to be explored. Among these: the monkey forest, the rice terraces, coffee plantations, shops with wooden statues, silver workshops, Tegenungau waterfall, the fairs of traditional products. Everything is unusual, strange, fun and the atmosphere thanks to the locals is of happy peace. I took leave of these places thinking that Australia can wait: my next holiday I will be here again! Today, together with the impressive economic growth and the development of the nationalist democracy, India takes up an ambiguous role in the world.

I admit I had wanted to see this country for a long time. Let me tell you how it all started, how I set off on my journey towards a dream. This year I had the opportunity to attend, for a second time, together with another 11 students of the National College, the prestigious International Mathematics Competition IMC , which was set to take place in Lucknow, India. Every year Mathematics enthusiasts from 40 countries in all 5 continents take part in this competition.

I was happy to be among those selected, feeling at the same time the desire not to let anyone down. After three months of intense preparation with Dr. Iulian Stoleriu as well as the teachers at the National College and "Negruzzi" College, the time we were all waiting for came, the moment of departure.


It was a hour long flight with a short layover in Dubai. I personally expected something completely different from this city so written about, a completely different atmosphere. Two years earlier, when I went to Qatar — a place I considered similar — I found the difference more evident between us and the Arabs, the way a woman is treated in Europe and there, respectively; I had set off with the impression that women represented nothing, that they had few rights and hardly allowed a word.

This time, it felt different.

This is likely due to the presence of many European and American tourists who travel to Dubai, but also to the policy of opening up the country to Occidental investors. Returning to my lived experience, Lucknow, Agra, Jaipur and New Delhi represent, from my standpoint, totally different facets of India. Because of the airport where insects of all kinds would move around unencumbered, where propellers were used as air conditioning and where doors did not close automatically but with a thick rusted chain.

Upon coming out, we were met with fanfare and the competition's organisers. We took photographs and received biscuits and coffee. Not even 10 metres away were stood Indians, staring at us as if we were aliens. I couldn't exactly tell why that was. Perhaps because we were European, perhaps because they might have liked our biscuits or perhaps because we were not wearing the same dirty and torn clothes they did. What was certain was that they were studying us head to toe. It was the first time I had realised that not everybody has a roof over their heads to sleep, food to eat as they please, the possibility of a decent life.

Still, the surprises did not end there, as what followed was a half-an-hour journey to the campus where we woudl stay for the next 5 days.

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  8. I saw houses which were delapidated, unfinished, which had improvised sticks instead of scaffolding, litter everywhere, stands that sold bags of crisps or fruit that seemed to have lain there for many days and children walking barefoot in dirty puddles. What shocked me was that there was no street crossing, no traffic lights.

    Everyone moved around following their own rules. Seeing a car was rare, the majority of the locals having bicycles, motorcycles or rickshaws — a three-wheeled vehicle used for transport. Due to the numerous population, the streets were extremely crowded, people driving very slowly and honking every. I remember on the third day I saw a rickshaw going on the counter, a few millimetres from the other vehicles, one of these a police car no less. And yet, the agents had no intention for even one second of pulling the rickshaw over, probably used to such situations. In all this chaos, there was only one constant element: the presence of cows every hundred metres.

    As they are considered sacred animals, no one disturbs them regardless of them being in the middle of the road or not. Once we had arrived on campus, everything changed, starting with the atmosphere. Finding myself next to other young people my own age from different countries, from Canada to Zimbabwe, I realised that, although we belonged in places which seemed to have nothing in common, what united us was our passion for Mathematics, the desire to communicate, the pleasure of meeting as many people as possible and discover new places.

    Right from the opening ceremony, the hosts tried to familiarise us with the cultural specifics of the country, as we witnessed a traditional dance of great ampleness and full of colour. I was impressed by the school principal where we stayed: a sober presence, balanced but authoritative. I can hear her words in my ears even now, " Learn, learn and always fight for what you deserve. The one that stayed in my mind was the Australian group, who challenged us to a set of questions about their country and culture, the winner receiving an inflatable kangaroo of considerable dimensions, very cute.

    It was a fun and ingenious idea, an opportunity to learn countless things less well-known.