Friday, October 9, 2009

We made it to Delhi

By Laurie Wong
Bachelor of Physical Education and Coaching graduate

It was a long 24-hour plane ride with a transfer in Taipei. The meals on the plane were quite good but it was hard to sleep. The airport was definitely an experience as we had to haul 35 pieces of baggage in five taxis – yeah, stacked on car roofs! The roads were quite crazy with five to six cars driving in a three-lane street. It is cloudy and muggy here and it drizzled a bit earlier – it’s about 28°C with a slight breeze.

Welcome to the neighbourhood
We are staying in an old Tibetan 'camp' that's converted to a small hotel near old Delhi. This is a normal neighbourhood with many people hanging around the back alley and selling things. Some interesting things I’ve seen so far are a family of five riding on a motor bike and young girls selling flowers to us at an intersection.

We were all quite tired from the trip and feeling jet lagged. I am sharing my room with Maggie and the air conditioner is not working! I was so tired yesterday that I slept from 5pm ’til 3:30am. I had a bit of a headache when I woke up but took an Advil and was fine. I could not sleep once I woke up so I wrote in my journal.

Temple tours
Our second day was quite an interesting one in old Delhi. We went to the Sikh temple and wow, I couldn't believe the amount of people who go and worship. We had to wear scarves on our heads before going in. We walked in bare feet but Sikhs actually drank the water where we walked (Holy water). They have a kitchen with volunteers who prepare foods to feed over 1,000 people a day.

We also visited a Jain temple and saw the temple with both European and Muslim influences. Our guide Naveena was fantastic! She is a fourth-generation with PhD – she basically comes from a well-educated family and shared many things about different religions in India with us. The swastika is actually a symbol from the Jain religion. A married woman would draw it on the door of her parents to give them health and prosperous blessings after she visited. Also, if the symbol goes clockwise it represents a male symbol and counterclockwise represents females. Hitler actually used the female symbol without realizing it.

Some contrasts to life at home

We walked through various parts in old Delhi and it was amazing that we all survived! The streets were for pedestrians, cycle rickshaws, cars, auto rickshaws and all sorts of vehicles. We basically had to walk with the flow and any hesitation would have killed us. We watched the locals and they watched us...equal amount of curiosity on both sides.

Poverty is very real in India. There were people sleeping on streets everywhere – a whole family would sit near a Muslim mosque and the children would beg for money. Manual labour is at its highest in Delhi. Women and children would be sorting rocks in road construction sites, men would be carrying huge loads on their shoulders or heads and a couple of men would be pushing a bicycle with parcels stacked 10 feet high.

In contrast to this, we had a nice westernized breakfast this morning with eggs, toast, coffee (very good black coffee) and milk tea. For us, things are inexpensive in India. Internet usage is 30 INR (Indian rupees) an hour which is about 75 cents CAD. Our lunch at a local cafeteria was $2 and the food was very good.

Laurie Wong is in India with the Professional Development Program (PDP) at SFU as part of the International Teacher Education Module. She will be filing stories for doug during her adventures in India – stay tuned.