Friday, 30 June 2017

To Goa

Today was better! I still felt a bit weird but managed to pack my stuff for goa and go and visit the boys at the orphanage. We just played for like an hour before buying some snacks for the journey. We got a tuk tuk and caught the metro to the airport which took about an hour and a half but was very easy and only cost us about £1.20.

We arrived and checked in our bags, and were told that our flight was delayed from 15.55 to 18.15 which was annoying, though I think we were all secretly glad of extra time in McDonald's. We sat around for ages then it got delayed again until 8pm which was so annoying, but we finally took off. The weather was so awful there was the worst turbulence I've ever experienced. Luckily we did make it and landed fine, collected our bags and got a taxi to our accommodation.

I try so hard not to be fussy but we arrived at reaaally basic accommodation. There were beds which were damp, a fan, no WiFi and loads of bugs on the walls. It was a no from me. The family who ran it were lovely but it was so awkward as we wanted a nice little holiday break. We had a whispered discussion about leaving in the morning and then went to bed.

Laura x

Thursday, 29 June 2017

Food poisoning

Today was a bit of a shit day. Literally. I was awake pretty much all night with food poisoning, vomited into a bin and slept on the bathroom floor for a while. Cute! I finally got to sleep about 7am and slept pretty much all day, taking a break about 4pm to walk to the shops for some crisps. I started to feel better in the evening but couldn't manage to do anything except sleep. This was really annoying because I'm off to Goa tomorrow and wanted to have a good last day with the other volunteers but thought it was better not to push myself. Another girl has the same thing and she was part of the group we went away with this weekend, so we think that is was probably something we picked up there. Sorry for the very boring post but hey this is the reality of travelling!

Laura x

Wednesday, 28 June 2017

Today had another early start, with my alarm going off at 4.45. Cry. We got dressed (Dazi had to put my saree on for me) and began the 1km walk to the temple. It was a struggle to walk in my saree as I could hardly move my legs! We walked around and then found a spot to sit to watch the sunrise, where we stayed, taking selfies with locals and taking photos. Eventually we headed back, this time opting for a tuk tuk as I was already boiling and tired. We got back to the hostel around 7.30 and slept for a few hours.

When we woke up we decided to go out for some lunch, and other people at the hostel were up for it too. We headed out and went to a really nice restaurant where we shared a few curries and different breads. They were delicious! Afterwards we were dropped off at a fabric shop and bought a variety of things.

We got back to the hostel about 3 and packed up our stuff, before going to a tour of a local village at 4. It was so much fun; we made pakora, milked a cow, learned how to put on a turban, rode a bull cart and played an Indian sport. We were all very tired, muddy and sweaty as we boarded the tuk tuk back to the hostel.  After collecting our stuff we got a tuk tuk to the night bus, leaving sam who wanted to stay another night. The bus left just after 10 and was air conditioned but tbh night buses are never fun. I was very sad to be leaving Amritsar!

Laura x
Today was one of my favourite days of the trip so far, mainly due to the food tour we went on!!! We woke up about 9.30, showered and had some chai, and then at 11 ish set off. We were told it was a 5km walk where we would try as many dishes as we could manage.

The food was all amazing; we tried loads of different curries, filled breads, desserts and lassi. It was honestly amazing and some of the best food I'd ever eaten. My massive appetite finally paid off and I was able to eat it all. Though I didn't need to eat for a solid 21 hours afterwards. The tour finished with some amazing chai, and then we were picked up by a tuk tuk to go to the India-Pakistani border. The journey took about 45 minutes, and we arrived to literally chaos. There is a daily ceremony at the border which was cool, but there were crowds to get in and we were told by people that the ceremony was full. However, one flash of the British passport and suddenly we were allowed to stroll in. Inside the chaos continued. We had to climb through a fence, and there were armed guards stopping people doing it. But again, we were white, so it was fine. It was really bad, but we do pay much higher prices for attractions with a fee, so I kind of felt like we were getting something back from that. Inside there was a kind of stadium, with steps going up. We tried to go as high as possible to get a good view, and someone said to me 'you're foreign so you can go through' and we got a good view.

It was boiling, like I don't think I've ever sweated so much in my life, and although it was really cool seeing the guards on both sides doing almost a dance-off, it was almost a relief when it ended as the sweat could end. We headed back to our tuk tuk and went back to the hostel, arriving at about 10.

Laura x

Tuesday, 27 June 2017

Sorry I've got so behind on blogging but catching up now! Friday started with a cute 4.25am wake up.. our taxi was due at 4.40 but at 4.28 I got a message to say it was here. I've never moved so quickly! We set off, me sat in the boot of the car which was an experience, and arrived at the train station at about 5.40. Our trains were at 6.40 and 7.20 but we were told to allow lots of time before them as they're very unpredictable. We sat on the floor and waited for a while before the others went to get their 6.40 train, and soon ours arrived. The journey took about 6 and a half hours, and we were served 'breakfast' at about 8.30. It was some kind of veggie patties, 2 fries and a spoonful of peas with 2 slices of bread. Very odd!

We slept a lot of the way which was good, and arrived at 2ish. The others' train turned out to arrive later than ours which was strange as they left earlier than us. We got some crisps and sat in a waiting room for about an hour until they arrived. Our coordinator knows the people there and arranged for them to pick us up which ended up being a bit problematic as we didn't know who was picking us up and every time someone came up to us to ask for a selfie we thought it was him picking us up.

Eventually we tracked him down and had a 15 minute ish journey to the hostel. We checked in and found our beds, then sat in the communal area chatting to people. One of the hostel workers showed us to the roof which was cool but it was soo hot. I said I needed to go to an ATM and he offered to take me on his scooter. I wish I had pictures because it was amazing!! Literally the best thing ever it was soooo much fun! I got cash out and we went back, and signed up the golden temple tour that evening. We left around 8pm and walked the 1km to the temple. We had a guide who you pay a donation to, dome through the hostel, and we saw the temple and then went to the community kitchen. It was amazing to see; it's the holiest Sikh temple in the world, and they feed between 50,000-100,000 people every day with free meals. We had Dahl, flatbed and rice pudding which was so nice but the experience of it was the best part.

We finished the tour at about 11 and walked back to the hostel. We had planned to go and watch the sunrise the next morning but we decided we were too tired and to go on Sunday instead. We were all still really tired though so went to bed pretty quickly anyway.

Laura x

Friday, 23 June 2017

We had project in the morning which was fun. Today I taught some first aid and English, though it was quite difficult trying to translate words like choking, so had to do some questionable acting... Afterwards we headed back and had lunch, and at 2.30 we got a tuk tuk to the metro station to go to Delhi to book train tickets. There was a lot of us so it was a bit confusing trying to navigate our way around, especially as New Delhi Metro Station is pretty mental and there were no signs anywhere to get to the tourist information centre.

We did eventually find it though, and had a very confusing time trying to book a train. The plan was for 5 of us to go on friday at some point on the train and come back on Sunday, but at the last minute 2 girls decided to come with us. The train was sold out, but they keep 5 foreign tickets per train. However obviously with 7 of us this was never going to work. They had seats in non air conditioned, and they also had 7 seats on separate classes, with trains arriving 45 minutes apart. We did a lot of debating as the different classes varied in price, and no one wanted to go without air con. The two girls who joined late wanted us all to go Saturday to Monday but I didn't want to miss placement as I'm missing a lot next week and two of the girls are doing it as their uni placement, so we thought that those two could come a day later, which they weren't happy with.

We finally decided to go without air con, went up to book and found out that that was only available to go in saturday night and arrive Sunday morning... We had another debate, decided to pay for the trains with different classes and all put in more money for the people who got the higher classes and just pull straws. We went up to book after like an hour during which the others (who aren't coming away with us) just sat for ages, only to discover that there were no trains coming back on Saturday.

It was super annoying, but we called our coordinator to see if we could get a bus, and he said he'd look into it and call back, and in the meantime we went to a local market. I love the markets here, but this one was particularly impressive. The prices were pretty much fixed but it was soooo cheap! I bought some souvenirs but definitely want to go back before I leave. I got a massive wall hanging for £3, and there were just so many pretty things which I wanted! Half way round the coordinator called back to say that we could get a bus back for £10 on Sunday night, so we decided to go back to the train station (which was luckily only opposite the market). At this point the 2 girls decided they didn't want to go after all.. so the 5 of us headed back and booked it, with a bit of a pause tracking down a passport (could anything else have gone wrong?!). By the time we'd finished it had gone 7 and we were going to find somewhere to get food but decided to just head back to town to do it and get some snacks for the way back.

The metro took about an hour and was quite busy, but we arrived back and got a tuk tuk to the house. There turned out to be lots of food left so we all sat and had pasta, before starting our packing. The boys at the orphanage wanted to Skype a long term volunteer who left a while ago, and we'd arranged this for tonight, so I headed over and they videocalled her for about 45 minutes. After that I finished packing, spoke to the coordinator about the place we're going and headed to bed with an alarm set for 4.25am..

Laura x

Monkey temple !

Today was another day at the project! I woke up around 9 and had breakfast and showered before heading off in the tuk tuk. The roads here are so bumpy it's unreal.

We arrived around 10.20 and were invited in to some sort of assembly. We thought it would last until like half past, so we stood at the back, but when it showed no sign of stopping all sat down as the heat was awful. It went on until half 11 and was like an assembly in hindi and then some yoga as it's international yoga day. When it finished they said it would be dance class and then english which was so annoying as we leave at 1 so would only have half an hour to teach.

Fortunately one woman chose to do english instead of dance so we had one pupil, and more came in over the rest of the time. We did different games and tested them on tenses, and they seemed more confident to talk now that they'd met us for a second time.

We got a tuk tuk back at one and had lunch, and then attempted to plan this weekend's trip. The trains only have waiting lists for seats now, but there are ways around it because there are extra seats for tourists, and so we have to go into delhi tomorrow to sort out the ticket, which is a bit annoying but an excuse to go into delhi so still good.

I went to chat to the children playing in the park next to where we live. They're from the slum like next door to the house and they're all tiny and so sweet. They ways sprint up to us to shake our hand and introduce themselves and rush to do it. They were sat on the fence chatting and the tiniest one (probably about 2) couldn't climb up to chat, so walked round on her own. I was scared she'd hurt herself so picked her up and carried her over, but later she just strolled on back despite the glass being covered in rubbish and broken glass. The kids are literally fearless.

I was holding a water bottle which I bought for about £1.80 from the local market and they all wanted some water so I poured some into their hands but the tiny one just drank from the bottle. They were all very excited by it that I just gave up trying to get it back and let them have it.

At 4 we went to the monkey temple which I visited last year. You stop off en route to buy bananas and feed loads of monkeys. The more I see them the less scared I'm becoming which is good, and I even let one take the banana out of my hand! We got back around 7 and sat before dinner. I really like the food here but today's was especially good; we had samosas, dumplings, a tomato and onion curry and chapatis. Mmmm.

We spent the evening on the roof playing cards and drinking which was nice.

Laura x

Wednesday, 21 June 2017

Today we actually started project, so I woke up at half 8, showered and had toast and got the tuk tuk to project at 10. We had 2 classes of women to teach english to at a local college, and did a mixture of exercises and games like hangman. It was a bit difficult as there's a real range of abilities and you have to really try to include the quieter, less confident ones or they don't get included, which can be a struggle as the confident ones are so keen to show off what they know.

After our 2 hours of teaching there was a spare half an hour so we went into the beauty parlour section of the college and had our nails painted and washed them cutting and braiding hair which was cool!

We got picked up at 1 and headed back to get some lunch. I wanted to have a productive afternoon but ended up spending ages sorting out my stuff in my bag, and went to see the boys at the orphanage for a while.

At 4 we got a minibus into delhi to visit an amazing temple. It was soooo pretty-much more spectacular than the taj mahal, but you're not allowed to take any photos there or even take phones in so I have nothing to show. We spent the evening there and had thali in the food court which was really nice, before watching a really cool water and light show. It finished at around 8.30 and we headed back to the minibus, arriving back in faridabad just after 10. We spent the rest of the evening trying to book our flights for goa next week, which I finally managed to on the terrible wifi after a solid 2 hours of trying.

Laura x
Today was our first day of volunteering, but we had an induction day to ease us in. After breakfast at around 9 we had a talk about the projects and our time here, with like rules and expectations. I didn't have this last year and it was really useful! I also decided to get a sim card so that I can connect to the Internet when I'm out without wifi.

We headed into town just to the local shops which was a bit of an intrepid journey thanks to loads of flooding. We took a really long route to avoid it which was annoying. India has no drainage system in place on the roads so you just have to wait until the water dries up, which is understandably annoying during monsoon season.

I went to see the boys at the orphanage for a bit and arrange for them to have a Skype call with one of the long term volunteers, which they are very excited for.

At about 4 we caught a tuk tuk across town to visit a bigger orphanage. The children's English was very limited but we did colouring, games and dancing with them which was cute. I got so hot though after running around and was in serious need of a cold shower after a couple of minutes.

That evening we sat on the roof playing cards and chatting until the 11.30pm curfew.

Laura x

Day in delhi

Today new volunteers started arriving, and at about 9.30 the guy who runs the project asked if I wanted to go into delhi because a new girl wanted to. I had plans to go with some other volunteers so we agreed to go at about 11, which ended up being 12 because the new girls needed to exchange some money. I went over to the orphanage to spend some time with the boys. We played a bit of football and they did their homework and it was nice. They're going to video call one of the longterm volunteers who's been lots of times and they're really excited.

At 12, 9 of us set off in a tuk tuk to the metro station, and we got the metro to a big market. It was £1 to enter and a pretty fancy market. We had a quick browse, got some free water and then got some lunch. I had a Dahl and roti for about £1.50. We continued browsing and I picked up some souvenirs and gifts. We started to get really hot, as it was about 3.30pm and over 36°c, and soon we got a tuk tuk to another market nearby. This was more local and less touristy, and I got a top for £1 and two of the other girls got sarees for about £5.

After browsing for a while we got a tuk tuk back to the metro station and came back to the volunteer house, at about 6.15pm. I had dinner pretty soon but no one came up to eat when I did it. I'd used up all my rupees so I walked into town to get cash. Annoyingly the ATM wasn't working so I had to go to another one. When I got back I skyped family, and then went upstairs to meet the new volunteers who were having breakfast.

I then went back down to my room and met the new girl in it. She's really nice and we were just chatting and then showered, and then the project coordinator came to tell us that people were sat drinking on the roof if we wanted to join. We went over and sat with them for a few hours which was really nice, before coming back to go to bed.

Laura x 

Sunday, 18 June 2017

Exploring delhi solo

The friends I had made on friday were away for the weekend which was a shame. Of the 3 of us left, one was leaving at midday and the other was meeting a friend in delhi. I didn't want to waste a day off, so after breakfast I spent some time with the boys from the orphanage who did actually remember me!! So cute.

At 12 we set off to the metro station and stopped off at the post office so a girl could send some stuff home and it took forever. I think we waited for about 40 minutes, but luckily it wasn't hot. We finally set off and got to the metro station where we bought our tickets and got on. I got off after about an hour and started walking to the lotus temple which was about a 5 minute walk. I joined a queue and had my bag searched and then went in. It's a bahà'ì temple and made of marble. It was so beautiful and we got to sit inside in complete silence which was really calming.

Afterwards I got back on the metro and went a couple more stops, and then got a tuk tuk type thing which was essentially a bike which rode me to the market. It was a really nice, more western market, selling clothes from mango and zara really cheaply. I had a browse and went into starbucks to get some lunch and use the wifi and skyped a friend.

I had another browse and bought some trousers, a top and 2 pairs of earrings before getting another tuk tuk thing, then getting the metro back and another tuk tuk. I got back to the house at about 5, and just sat in the room until dinner.

The girl I'm sharing a room with got back shortly after, and we just sat and chatted. We were going to go up to the roof with the others but were so tired we ended up just going to sleep.

Laura x

Friday, 16 June 2017

First day!

Usually volunteering is from Monday- Friday, but for some reason Friday was being taken as a day off which was excellent news for me as I was really tired. I still woke up about 8.30am though, and showered and got ready while the other girls slept. I had some toast and bananas for breakfast and then went to talk to the guy who owns the project. He told me about changes that have been made over the year and asked about what I'd been doing. There's a project coordinator who stays for 3 months over the summer, and he said if he'd known I was coming back I could have been it this year!

We were planning to visit a water park but the weather was the coldest it's been in weeks (it was about 28°c) and so we decided to do it another day. Most of the other girls are going to Dharamshala tonight (I went last year) and had to be back by half 4, so instead after lunch we went into the town to get massages. It's so cheap here; I got a back and shoulder massage for £2.50 and an underarm wax for 40p.. crazy!

Afterwards we walked back and the others got some snacks for their night bus and I got a 7p samosa which was delicious. The coordinator then gave me a tour of the houses as a lot has changed around, and we saw the boys from the orphanage who didn't recognise me (sad times).

The other girls left and then me, a girl who is leaving tomorrow and the coordinator just sat and chatted for a few hours and then ate dinner, and then a guy who had been in delhi that day came back. He'd missed dinner so we went into town to get him some food, and it was cool to see how the town woke up at night.

We headed back and started watching a film before the wifi gave up, though I was secretly glad as I was shattered and fell asleep just after 10 pm.

Laura x

Off to India!

Today has been crazy! Idk why days with multiple flights just make me so disorientated and confused. I got up at 8.20 and went to the gym (gotta get the money's worth right) and showered before checking out. I decided not to get an uber to the airport so headed to the metro station and paid £1.30 for the half hour journey. After checking in my bag I went to get some food and for some reason opted for a curry even though I have a solid month of them from now lol.

After going through security I wandered around the shops in search for a t shirt as I only have 2 for india, but ended up getting distracted and buying gym leggings and a sports bra. My psychology placement involves some yoga though so telling myself they'll be useful for that... got some more food because I was so bored and then found my gate and boarded at about 1.30pm.

My first flight was about 4 hours, and I thought I had the row to myself until the last minute where two women sat next to me. Luckily they were lovely; the one next to me asked how long the flight was and then told me I had a beautiful smile and eyes which was very sweet as I saw my reflection in the bathroom mirror and looked like an egg. Later she asked about where I was from, going etc. and I'm pretty sure invited me to her house In Chennai where the flight went to. Just before we landed she said that she and her friend had been discussing how cute I was lol. Had forgotten how weird the celebrity treatment is here...

Was quickly reminded though as after going through customs and collecting my bag I headed out of the arrivals lounge and being a 200m ish walk to departures. A local guy from my flight was walking a metre or so behind me, when a random man outside the airport approached. He said hi and after the plane ladies' friendliness I replied and he asked the same classic questions, but it became weird when I asked if I was married and then followed us into the lift at the airport saying he wanted my number. I declined and when he put his hand out to shake it he kissed my hand at which point and laughed and walked away quickly. Luckily the guy walking with me had sensed that I was uncomfortable and walked with me and when I didn't understand the other guy's heavily accented questions would kind of sigh or laugh so that I knew that he was just a randomer. He wasn't scary or intimidating and once I turned him down he left immediately but it's weird how some men here feel so strangely entitled once they know you're not married, which from now on I'll be saying I am.

I had a very confusing check in, simply because I forgot to check in my rucksack and reacher the security check before noticing I was the only person with luggage. I eventually made it through and got a kfc- I find it so weird that out of everywhere I've visited india has by far the best selection of vegetarian fast food, and then wandered around for an hour or so. Spending a lot of time alone makes me pretty disorientated and I'm not even completely sure how so much time passed, though a couple of strangers asked where I was from and a man let me use his phone charger. I also drank a couple of litres of water from a water fountain which was followed closely by a lot of stomach cramps, so possibly not my wisest decision.

At 6.15pm ish I boarded my second flight to Delhi, which I again thought I had the whole row and then someone sat there at the last minute. I was in a state of confused sleep and kept drifting in and out of consciousness for the flight. After arriving and getting my bag at about 9.3pm I headed out to find the exit where the driver meets us, only to realise I was at domestic arrivals not international, and the right exit was 3.5km away. A man told me there was an airport shuttle bus for 25p but I had no change. I messaged the owner of the project on whatsapp and he said the driver would arrive soon, and luckily 10 minutes later he arrived at domestic arrivals.

I had a 1 hour taxi ride to the project where I met the owner from last year and was shown to my room and to meet the other girls. It was a bit overwhelming as I was tired and there were soooo many but they all seemed so nice that it was reassuring before going to sleep.

Laura x

Thursday, 15 June 2017

Last day before india!

Today the others left me and it was well sad!! We woke up at 11 after way too many drinks and packed up our stuff which was scattered around the room before checking out and heading to McDonald's (classic). My hangover couldn't be cured by 2 veggie burgers which was worrying but we were all so dead that we just sat in McDonald's and then Starbucks for a couple of hours, utilising the free WiFi and air con.

Early afternoon we headed back to the hostel and I booked a hotel for the night. We then proceeded to sit/lie in the like communal area for several more hours. So quite a productive day?? I did write a blog post and write postcards though which I really need to send...

At 5 the others got an uber to the airport and there was an anticlimatic goodbye before it sunk in that I was now all alone. Sad times. Luckily my hotel was like a 600m walk and so I headed off and found it quickly, checked in and went to my room. It was pretty nice, think I paid about £65 in total, but the guest before me had clearly smoked loads in the room which was cute. I went down and used the gym and the pool before showering and heading out for some food. There was a mall thing nearby and I finally had kaya toast which half boiled eggs which we had loads last year! I got some snacks and headed back to the room, where I started packing my stuff and watched some TV before getting an early night before tomorrow's flights.

Laura x

Wednesday, 14 June 2017

Busy day in singapore

As the only full day here we wanted to take full advantage, however only I seemed keen for an 8am wake up call and so we didn't actually make it to the buffet breakfast until it ended at 10. We headed out abut 10.30 and made our way to the gardens by the bay. Eddy and I paid to go in the cloud forest which was soooo cool and we wandered round the outside with the others before getting some lunch.

It was really hot and we caught an uber to an art museum where some of Collette's relatives had worked, and took a photo and then headed back to the room. We spent a while getting ready then bought some cider in 7/11 and went to a happy bar at a bar next to our hostel before heading to Raffles.

We all got a singapore sling which was actually so nice, but for like £18 we could only afford one each. It's the only place where littering is legal in Singapore so the ground was covered in peanut shells which was weird.

Afterwards we caught an uber to Marina Bay Sands and got the lift up to the 57th floor where we went slightly crazy buying drinks. The views were incredible and it was weird pretending to have loads of money after having some 75p noodoes for dinner a couple of hours earlier.

After a couple of hours there we headed to where the clubs are but were all too tired/poor at this point so just got one drink and caught an uber back to our hostel (via getting some chips of course.

Laura x