Category Archives: Study Trips

Reflections on my visit to the Sikh Gurudwara of North Carolina

One Sunday morning earlier this year a group of OLLI members drove to Durham to the Sikh Gurudwara excited to be able to participate in the weekly service.  We were met by Kulpreet Singh who grew up in Durham. He introduced members of OLLI to the Sikh faith in a lively and interesting lecture in our classroom at NC State University prior to our visit to the Gurudwara of North Carolina.

One of the most poignant things for me as a first time visitor was the Durham County Sheriff stationed outside the building. I also noticed there was a sign on the fence which prohibits meat or eggs from being taken inside.

Upon entering the Gurudwara, visitors and members removed shoes and placed them on shelves. Women’s heads must be covered with scarves so we all went prepared.  Hats or caps are not allowed in lieu of scarves.  Men sit on the left side of the sanctuary and women sit on the right side.  Children are allowed to move freely throughout the sanctuary during the time of worship.  This was not disruptive.  Even the smallest child had a scarf or small hat covering her/his head.  The women wore exquisite, brilliant saris. The colors bathed the otherwise unadorned space.

During the worship, four men played musical instruments and sung Punjabi songs.  The words were translated on two white screens.  After the men finished singing and playing instruments, four women followed providing music and songs.  The priest waved a bouquet of white feathers above the Guru which is the Holy Book of Naanak, the founder of the Sikh faith, as a cleansing ritual. Following the music performances the priest read from the Guru. Although the service was conducted in the Punjabi language there were translations on large screens that explained to us the messages of the faith, a cleansing through righteous living and attention to the guru.

After the service we were invited to the langar. This is a meal prepared by volunteers and served to the congregation. It signifies the equality of all humans since all comers to the Gurudwara, regardless of their status, sit at the same level and eat the same food from the same kitchen prepared by the same people. We enjoyed a delicious meal of lentil stew, Basmati rice which grows in the Punjab region of India, an eggplant stew, a piece of flat wheat bread, some pickled onions with green chilies and water to drink. Creamy natural yogurt was available to reduce the spiciness. We were delighted to be able to dine with members of the Sikh community.


For me, the clearest theme as a visitor was the enormous amount of hospitality extended to all visitors regardless of religious persuasion, food was offered freely. Kulpreet is always happy to talk about his faith and gave us a great amount of information regarding Sikh symbols – the dagger, the bracelet, and the holy place reserved for the guru in the Sikh home.  For example the dagger is used to cut away any enmity to the person or to his/her faith and we learned that the holy room housing the guru is established in the Sikh home before any other room is decorated.

We were all so grateful that we took advantage of the opportunity to visit the Durham Gurudwara and deepen our understanding and appreciation of the Sikh faith. Visitors are welcome to any of the regular services.

Barbara Turner Harvey

Take Me Away, OLLI!


We were in our seats and waiting for “takeoff,” but this was different: So many of the “passengers” seemed to know one another! In fact, I had seen a friend at the doorway. We had chosen seats next to each other and were catching up.

A studious looking man came around the seats and stepped up to the podium. No, this was not a limited-space airliner, but an auditorium in the McKimmon Center of NC State University. For just ten dollars, I was about to “travel” overseas, and hear fascinating stories and unparalleled information about the archeology of Petra, the anthropological UNESCO World Heritage Site, a place most likely created in the fourth century BC. With the aid of photographic technology, I would see pieces of human existence from the settlement that took place at Petra, and hear a lead instructor of the dig tells us the Petra story!

This fall, OLLI members can choose to be “taken” across the Atlantic twice, once to Turkey to experience a bit of the life of a Phrygian during the time of King Midas, and another to the Johannesburg area of South Africa where scientists have discovered many very, very old human fossils with a link to the discovery of a previously unfound species of human ancestry. Imagine!

This armchair travel is a privilege of membership in the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute at North Carolina State University. Great friendships and added social life are the desirable and free extra.

The overseas travel study trips offered by OLLI are not only by proxy, however! In past years, study trips have included going to Costa Rica, Cuba, and last year, Spain. In spring 2017, OLLI will offer travel to Croatia and the Adriatic Coast, with an itinerary to rival any world travelers’ plans.

Study trips and lectures also transport us to sites within the US, North Carolina, and here in Raleigh. Some trips come about in coordination with a course which has taken place that year, through the instructor of a course, or in response to a local event or media article. Stimulation abounds throughout any trip, and all of them come with friends and unbeatable long-lasting memories.

Take me away, OLLI!

Phoebe Johnston – OLLI Member