27.5.15; DEHRADUN, India

I’m ill, AGAIN… I swear, there’s not a week goes by that something isn’t wrong with me. What is it this time? THE BLOODY FLU. Seriously. In possibly the hottest place I’ve ever lived, I have a cold.

Thanks, Satan.

Last Tuesday, I finally made good on my promise to the girls, and we went to Shruti’s house to watch the first part of Breaking Dawn; for my sins, I have already seen all the Twilight films, and loathe though I am to promote the ridiculous and unhealthy relationship depicted within them, the girls seem to love it. *cue distressed sighing*

Disclaimer: In no way did I enjoy this film. Any outward appearance of enjoying it will probably have been caused by tiredness and a lack of light in the room required to read the book I’d brought with me in anticipation of boredom and mild amusement at the film. Anyone claiming that I enjoyed it will be sued for slander and defamation of character.

This led to the girls quoting a few scenes from it OVER AND OVER again for the next few days, which is admittedly quite funny, especially when I do it in the required American accents. I concede amusement value, at least.

Continue reading “27.5.15; DEHRADUN, India”

18.5.15; DEHRADUN, India

Thursday was spent pretty much on alert for any unwelcome visits from the hideous in-laws again, but no sign of anybody, and I don’t remember having done anything else in particular that day. Dull note to start on, apologies! Later in the day on Friday, I went to a ticket agent with Hema to book my train ticket to Delhi for June 12th. I should probably contact my prospective couch surfing hosts again, actually, to make sure I actually have somewhere to stay…

The booking agent’s office was… interesting. A few people crowding around a not particularly official-looking desk where a guy would book your seat for you. I ended up paying 850Rs for the 5 or more hour journey from Dehradun to Delhi, and that’s in First Class A/C, so probably fairly luxurious. I’d rather have travelled in something a bit cheaper as it’s not an overnight train, but there wasn’t much available. And less than £10 for a first class long train ride? YES PLEASE!

In the evening, I went to Pacific Mall with Shruti, and we got some iced coffee, and I bought a pair of earrings from the Saheli Trust stand. Happily, I also saw some of the earrings I’d made myself on sale! I had assumed their terrible quality would more likely have sent them to the bin, but they were on display with all the others! We ate dinner at the house of one of Shruti’s relatives; the daughter in the family was a couple of years older than me, and is doing a medical internship. Despite having a medical degree, she was very shy and wouldn’t really speak to me in English. It seems like a symptom of a problem concerning so many young women in India; they’re worried people will laugh or think badly of them and so they’re used to not making themselves heard at all. If I lived in a culture like that all the time, it would drive me mad!

Continue reading “18.5.15; DEHRADUN, India”

14.5.15; DEHRADUN, India

Thursday 7th May was a big day for me! I was up bright and early to get to Shruti’s house for 6.45; we had to be in Rishikesh before 9am, to catch the bus from the booking office up to the BUNGEE PLATFORM!

I’ve wanted to do a bungee jump for such a long time; it’s been on my bucket list for years, but until I saw some advertisements in Rishikesh on my first trip there, I didn’t realise that I’d get to fulfil it so soon! It’s one of those things where you think, “I’ll do it one day…”, but never give all that much thought to what you would think if that day happened to be tomorrow. The company we decided to book the jump through is called “Jumpin Heights”, and their bridge is the highest bungee platform in India, at 83m above the valley floor just outside Rishikesh, over the Ganges.

The company seemed not only very professional with very good reviews, but they also had specialists from New Zealand working with them and catered for many visitors to the area; all seemed legit so we had booked a jump each for that day. The prices seemed almost too good to be true, like everything here.

In England, you’d pay £100 at the very least for a bungee jump. Here, I did mine for Rs 3000 – about £30 – and can confirm that the safety precautions were very good and the staff extremely professional. Another thing I didn’t tell my parents about beforehand; back home, I’m sure that the cheap price might have seemed an indicator of bad quality, but here in India, it’s quite a lot of money.

Continue reading “14.5.15; DEHRADUN, India”

6.5.15; DEHRADUN, India

On Saturday, I somewhat foolishly agreed to Shruti’s suggestion of a morning walk. I can safely say that won’t be happening again! Got up at 5am and went for a two hour walk (this bit is my fault, I said it was okay to keep going!), to the border of the Radaji National Park which is fairly close to where I’m staying. It was really beautiful to see the sunset and to be up and about so early, and I had the opportunity for a long chat with Shruti about so many different things, but it completely knocked me out for the whole rest of the day! I did an hour in the school (school ends at 10.30am on Saturdays) when we got back, and then had to take a nap straight away! Pretty much exhausted myself with that, and although the sunrise was nice, I think I’ll stick to seeing the sunsets! Not much else to report from Saturday that I can recall…

On Sunday, a couple of girls came to visit the shelter; in their mid-twenties, one has started her own NGO called “TeachGirls”, working for educating women and girls in the slum areas around Dehradun. It was interesting to talk to them as one had studied in England, at Cambridge University, for a year, and so we talked a lot about the differences between British and Indian Higher Education. I think we might meet up at some point during my stay and do something.

Afterwards, I went for a walk by myself out to the little temple in the wooded area, it’s a nice place to just sit and think for a while. Before the mosquitoes start biting at least… Went out to Pacific Mall after that to collect Radha from work. Had another quick browse around the shops but I’m finding that shops aren’t really doing it for me here; it’s far cheaper and more interesting to go to the market! When I got back, I tested a couple of the girls on some English vocab which I’d gone through with them the previous day.

Continue reading “6.5.15; DEHRADUN, India”

2.5.15; DEHRADUN, India

Thursday 30th April was my mother’s birthday. I’m quite sad I couldn’t be at home with her to celebrate; but the case will be the same for my own birthday in a month’s time! Regardless, although I wouldn’t really say that I miss my parents as such, it’s annoying to miss birthdays and things. I’m also going to miss the birthdays of my two very best friends (sorry, Fran and Phoebe, belated celebrations for all of us and Em once I’m home, yeah?). Can’t be helped, I suppose! Also, I haven’t been able to find a single place selling postcards, let alone greeting cards.

I spent the morning having a minor lie-in, as we were taking Ayushi to the hospital for her gallstones operation later on in the morning. Once, again, when we got there I was struck by the long waiting times and lack of development even in private hospitals in this part of India. Each patient’s room is very bare, with only a metal bed and table at the side, and a bed for overnight visitors. I imagine they all had adjoining bathrooms too. It doesn’t really bode well for serious treatment and operations that even a paid-for hospital, where the doctors and nurses are obviously well-trained and competent, is not particularly clean or well-equipped. Very thankful once again for the NHS!

Continue reading “2.5.15; DEHRADUN, India”

29.4.15; DEHRADUN, India

My Sunday began with a lie-in, as usual, but the rest of the day was not at all relaxing; as I’d been out on Saturday, I’d not heard the news of the terrible earthquake in Nepal until I went to Shruti’s apartment to pick up a letter from my parents. I’ve already made a post on this, but the news shook me a lot; I stayed there for a while to watch the English news on the earthquake. The fact that I am geographically so close to the disaster area really hit home just how vulnerable this part of the world is, and how easily I could have been in a similar situation to the thousands who are dead, injured or missing.

However, it was lovely to receive a letter from my parents; the week-long wait is a bit better than the two weeks it usually took for post to reach me in America when I was there last summer! Mum really does like to write letters; I suppose it’s a fragment of light in her dull life without me… (Joking, Mother!) Took me a while to write back, as usual! Always feel a bit guilty getting my mum’s letters; they’re so detailed and I’m really rubbish at writing back. I didn’t do much for the rest of the day except nap and check emails and things.

I went back to school again on Monday, again took some time to watch the news; the death toll had risen to nearly 3000 at that point. Terribly high but nowhere near the latest count of around 7200. I don’t know if anything had been mentioned in the school about it, but when I was teaching a Humanities class later in the day, I decided to skip a couple of chapters to talk about natural disasters, and preparation for and response to them. Topical, at least. The children didn’t seem to have much of an idea about what was going on in Nepal at that point.

Continue reading “29.4.15; DEHRADUN, India”

26.4.15; DEHRADUN, India

Saturday was my first proper trip out of Dehradun; I took the bus with Hema to the nearby city of Rishikesh. It’s on the bank of the River Ganges, and an extremely popular place for both tourist and local people due to the abundance of temples, ashrams and leisure activities in the vicinity, not to mention the fact that it is a popular site for bathing in the river, whose waters are believed to cleanse people of their sins.

First off, the bus. The “bus station” in Dehradun, ISBT, is more of a haphazard assortment of buses parked in the road than an organised station as such. Thankfully I was not alone this time, as the signs on the buses were all written in Hindi, and once Hema had identified the right one, we were off!

I’ve said this before, but Indian public transport is an utter health hazard. I love it though. The bus was fairly rickety and the driver went unwisely fast during the hour-long journey to Rishikesh. A few fear-for-your-life moments on the winding uphill road but nothing too terrible. There were signs at the sides of the road saying to watch out for elephants! A little different from the pheasant warnings you see more often in the South West of England.

Continue reading “26.4.15; DEHRADUN, India”

24.4.15; DEHRADUN, India

On Thursday, I made it in after the morning session as I still didn’t feel great, and taught half a day in the school. The good thing about school starting and ending so early with only one short break, is that everyone is out by 1.30, and you have the whole rest of the day! I feel like I have more time than I know what to do with.

When I got back to the shelter today, there was a new boy sitting with Shruti and Dr Pandey; they were speaking to him in Hindi so I didn’t find out much about him for a while. His English was non-existent, though he later told me he wanted to learn. The boy had run away from home to earn money, but had ended up being pretty much enslaved in a local bakery where he worked for two months with no pay at all. He stayed for a couple of days, managing to make a bit of an annoyance of himself in terms of hanging around in my room and generally being a bit odd.

(I later found out that the boy was in fact addicted to drugs, and seemed to be causing some disruption and so was moved to another shelter.)

Continue reading “24.4.15; DEHRADUN, India”

22.4.15; DEHRADUN, India

Worst luck; ill again on Tuesday. Spent most of the time in bed working on le blog and reading whichever books I can get my hands on. I uploaded a few photos I’ve taken so far onto my computer and showed them to the girls, who seem very interested in anything computer related!

In the afternoon, Dr Pandey and Shruti came by as usual, and we had something of a conversation class with the girls. I have found that the girls are far more forthcoming with their answers and attempts at English when they aren’t in a big group being quizzed! Understandable, as most of them speak only very poor, broken English and so often don’t have a clue when someone asks them a question.

In some ways, it’s difficult and frustrating to teach them, especially when just getting started. But once they’re stuck into something, they do seem willing to learn; less willing to do outside work and studying though!

Continue reading “22.4.15; DEHRADUN, India”

20.4.15; DEHRADUN, India

Got to have a lie in on Sunday (YES). Can’t believe that the kids wake up at 5.30am every day. If I’m lucky I get up at 6.30 but usually later. I have to be at the school for 8am and unlike the kids, I don’t do chores. I have offered to help with some things but been vehemently turned away. Boo.Bit of a change from rolling out of bed in time for a 9am lecture…

Sunday is the only rest day in the week for the kids, but most shops are open, business as usual. More teaching of the songs! The function for the 2nd Anniversary of the Saheli Trust was on Monday, and Sunday was the last chance to practice! Little ones getting on well with Wheels on the Bus and the older girls mainly had “Titanium” learnt by heart. Couldn’t say the same for myself but I don’t think I was really the focus!

For the rest of the day, I went to visit the “Mindrolling Monastery”, locally called the Buddha Temple, a Buddhist Stupa in Dehradun. It’s an amazing place; after the usual taking off of shoes, you can go into the temple and look at the amazing decorative work inside (no pictures though, stern monks patrolling!). The grounds are really beautiful and I took some time to sit outside before getting an iced coffee (Costa withdrawal!). Also saw another monastery, smaller but with another huge monument; a statue of the Buddha.

Continue reading “20.4.15; DEHRADUN, India”