My time in India is drawing to a close so I thought I would do a post on the things that I had thought of very differently when I arrived, and I now consider ordinary plus things that have surprised me about my life here.
|from left to right: Amanda, Rosie, Kevin, Julie, Chris.|
I arrived in New Delhi with Amanda, Julie, Alan, Kevin, Chris, Angie, Rosie and Gera on the 5th March 2012. It was early morning, 5.30am, and we were met by Manmadha from the VSO Programme Office. As we were driven through the increasingly busy streets all my senses were absorbing the smells, colours, noises of a completely new culture and lifestyle I would gradually be acclimatising to. I tried to keep an open mind during my time in New Delhi: the hectic roads, extremely spicy food, everything smelling of chili, stares from men as we walked down the streets, were all very alien to me.
|Breakfast in Old Delhi, Alan, Drew, Maeve and Angie|
|The bustling streets of Old Delhi|
The time in Delhi was a gentle way of easing us into a new culture and way of life. By the middle of the 3 weeks we were all like 'goats on a rope': eager to get to our placements and the next stage of the adventure. My only trepidations were: 36hour train journey (2 nights on a train on my own) and riding the motor bike in a country with seemingly few enforced traffic rules!.
Reviewing my early diary entries I see my first impressions of Puri were: 'hot, dirty, and noisy': in April, 6pm and the temp was still about 35degs C; rubbish just thrown in the streets; motor bike, auto rickshaw, car and bus drivers sound their horns just to say 'get out of my way!'
The beach was a welcome sight but nothing like I had imagined: the current is too strong for proper swimming; the beach is always busy, you are never left alone for long; the sea breeze lacks that refreshing saltiness of the English coastline.
|Intricate Sand Art on Puri Beach|
|Sand Art to Celebrate the Lord Ganesha Festival|
One of the most interesting discoveries has been the amazing creations out of sand by local artists.
Like English beaches though it is a focus point for all tourists to Puri and the main shopping area that runs parallel, known as C.T Road, is full of Hotels, restaurants and souvenir shops. There were not many tourists when I first arrived but now with more temperate weather conditions there are always other Europeans to be seen in this area.
I soon gave up on the motorbike idea and my colleageus at work have been kind enough to drive me around when needed, they even gave me a bicycle for getting around Puri, saving me a small fortune on rickshaw fares.
My first few days cycling down the Grand Road in Puri I felt like a fish out of water - how would I ever find the things I needed? How would I ever get the 'Indian' rate for food? (everything seems expensive when they quote you the tourist price). The chaos of the traffic was daunting on my bicycle as motorbikes cut in front of me where I knew I had right of way.
|Holy Bull to be quickly and quietly passed by|
Traffic seemed to be more respectful of the cows milling around the main highways than a woman on a bicycle! The only set of traffic lights in Puri is in the centre at 'Medical Square' - lining up there on my bike reminds me of the cartoon 'whacky racers' - who would be first off the mark? Who would come closest to a scrape but miss by a hairs breadth? Honking horns and sleeping cows besides! Now I simply queue with the rest of them and hedge my way forward with the masses when the light turns amber rather than waiting to be honked by impatient auto rickshaw drivers.
|A local fish and chicken stall|
The work and trips to The Field to see the Children in their homes, planning training sessions and getting positive feedback made it all worthwhile though. The cows still wonder the streets - even huge ferocious looking bulls! There are semi-wild dogs everywhere and monkeys occasionally startle me by shaking a branch in a tree overhead!
|Parallel bars in place and a very happy Rosalin and Debusmita|
Now the Service Support finally has the parallel bars I requested 5 months ago, the children are attending regularly, some have made huge leaps forwards in mobility and activities of daily living: I am very proud of all my co-workers for their dedicated work. I will miss them all as well as the children.
I am sure there are many more things about living in India that will come to mind nearer my return home on 13 January 2013. I am going to Panjim in Goa for Christmas and New Year, and shall be meeting fellow Volunteers Rosie and Gera.
I wish everyone who reads this a very merry Christmas and a happy, healthy and prosperous New Year!