On Sunday, Esther, Matt and I wanted to explore more of Delhi. Sarita recommended we should check out a temple called Akshardham – a one and a half hour ride from Delhi by subway but worth it. We grabbed our daypacks and headed that way.
The temple was impressive. It is probably one of the most gorgeous ones I’ve seen. We weren’t allowed to bring cameras inside so I don’t have any photos, but I borrowed this one from the Internet to share with you the beauty:
The temple was built – among other things – to spread the teachings of Bhagwan Swaminarayan – a guru who advocated for having a life of sharing, selflessness and love for all living creatures. An important reminder, especially in the times we live in.
We spent the day there walking around the site and seeing the different exhibitions. One of them was very Universal-Studios-like where you get on a boat to go through an indoor fake river with animatronics illustrating some of the contributions the Indians made through history. We invented chess! We invented yoga and meditation! We even invented plastic surgery! Granted the Indians invented a ton of things – but plastic surgery, really?
In any case and disregarding fighting the 99 degree weather, we had a good time exploring this unique architectural masterpiece.
If you ever come to India, make sure to add this to your list – and if not, I invite you to read about it here: http://www.akshardham.com.
On Monday we started orientation week. This is the period during the volunteer program where we learn about Indian culture, Hindi language, do some sightseeing with the group and get ready for our different programs the following week.
After breakfast, we all went to the living room at Sarita’s house where Ananta – the volunteer coordinator – and his staff were waiting for us to get started.
Ananta asked us to introduce ourselves and then talked for a while. He told us about the history of India, geography, economy, the caste system, arranged marriages and other topics. The context is important before we volunteer so we have a better understanding of where we are. I was glad this class was arranged.
I’m fascinated by how things operate around here based on the information Ananta provided and what I’ve seen so far. India has 1.3 billion people that speak 864 different dialects and 19 languages, with more than 7 religions. They interact every day and somehow manage to coexist under one sovereign nation. Matt and I are in the midst of it, scratching our heads and asking ourselves how this not-so-organized chaotic world keeps turning. We will report back with our findings.
In the middle of orientation, Sarita appeared running around, “They are here! They are here!” We had no idea what she was talking about until we learned that the local press was outside the house wanting to interview us. Apparently, Faridabad is on a mission to bring more tourism to the city and we were a good opportunity for the media to promote it.
Ananta explained this to us, and minutes later they joined our study group.
Two men interviewed Matt and I, along with some other volunteers about what we think of Faridabad and India in general.
Sarita was so excited – it seemed like she was waiting for this her whole life, although the same happened a month ago with the volunteers that were here before us, so maybe she just gets excited for the free advertising of her homestay.
Orientation continued with a lesson of basic Hindi words:
Hello – Namaste
Thank you – Sukriya / Danevaad
Good Night – Subha ratri
Please – Kripya
Yes – Ha
No – Nahi
Sorry – Maaf kijiye
It’s ok – Thik hai
See you later – Phir milenge
Nice to meet you – Aapse milkar achaa laga
No thanks – Nahi sukriya
And with that, we had more tools to be of help when our time comes to volunteer.
Orientation finished around 2pm and after lunch some of us decided to go to the local market. Though we got lost getting there, when we arrived we found something that for me was like stumbling upon a buried treasure (and exactly why I love to travel): women with sarees of different colors, fruit carts, children running around, clothes stands, piles of rice, ginger and garlic, etc. It was a festival for the senses.
Once we figured out how to not get run over by all the rickshaws, motorcycles and cars passing through the center of the market, we were able to do some crazy cheap shopping (dresses for $3 USD, pants for $2 USD and so on) and walk away with some nice photos.
Here are some:
More lessons learned:
– When going to the market, if the sign reads “Emporium” it means the quality is supposed to be better so the items are more expensive. When you travel on a budget like we are, you stay away from these.
– “Masala” means spices.
– Some items that have been life savers to bring from home: hand sanitizer and pocket tissues – the bathrooms here deserve an entire different blog…
** A special thank you to Matt who always pushes me to find the right words. This blog is no exception. I love you very much.