Wrapping it up, finally.
Since I was so, so bad at posting anything for the last 5 days of my trip, I will attempt to (very) briefly recap them. I’ll supplement this with pictures in another post.
A very small group of us visited the Haryana area, where we talked with women from the villages. This area is known for having the most stringent cast system rules, and has the highest rate of honor killings. Interviewing those women and sipping tea in their homes was probably the highlight of the entire trip for me. The life story of one particular woman I interviewed made me bawl.
Did something tourist-y and visited the Taj! Definitely worthy of it’s wonder-of-the-world title. I could’ve done without the seven hour bus drive to get there though.. wasn’t feeling tip top that day.
Work, work, work. Some people (like me) had to play catch up to finish up stories before packing for home. We basically spent the whole day in the offices editing video, writing, etc. Here’s the final product of that day’s work!
An intense session of shopping where I got some really cool pants- thanks Jenn- among other things. I also got to see the Lotus temple, but of course did not have my camera with me, so… google it. It’s cool. And then we were whisked off to the airport!
I have mixed feelings about leaving India. I was ready to come home, but I think that’s because I was so exhausted from all the intensity we packed into those two weeks. We did a lot of several-hour commutes to get to places outside of Delhi, which was great, but draining. Three weeks would have been ideal for this trip. I wish we could’ve settled in and done some tourist-y stuff for an entire week, and then had two full weeks to focus on journalism. Regardless, I have no regrets from this trip.
On a less serious note, what’s up with Indian food service? Does it really take 30 minutes to get people their bills? Should it take more than 15 to mix warm milk with a drop of chocolate syrup and call it a milkshake?
Don’t be offended, India, it’s all in good fun. And other than the food service, there’s going to be a lot to miss, particularly getting to know a really cool group of people, both American and Indian.
This trip was unforgettable. I know part of me has changed because of it, but I’m still not sure what. I’ll let you know once I figure it out, I just know it’s a good thing.
I’m in love…
With this country’s landscape, colors, and most importantly, its people.
The weekend we spent in Lucknow took my breath away, and brought tears to my eyes. The welcome we received from the village’s school on Saturday was unforgettable. The children and teachers had to have spent hours the day before dyeing rice to arrange in beautiful designs on the ground, hanging streamers, stringing together flower necklaces, and so much more. They sang to us and marked us with tika, a traditional red paint, and led us in a procession to the school grounds.
I’ve never experienced a welcome like this. It was incredible.
If that wasn’t enough, children would take our hands and pull us to their groups of friends to take pictures with us. Lots and lots of pictures. We also played a little cricket with them, but only after confirming that the school did not have a soccer ball. I WILL be sending those children a soccer ball.
The villagers also prepared a traditional meal for us that we ate in a large room on the floor.
^—The plates were made with woven leaves!
I was also able to chat with a group of really cool girls around my age. I posted a picture of me standing with them earlier- we were trying to take a “silly” picture, but they didn’t want to make any funny faces, even after I showed them how… Anyway, most of them are teachers for the girls in the village, and are living examples for these young girls of how a woman can, and should be educated and career driven.
We were also given a tour of the village, which really turned into a parade due to our growing numbers. All of the village people wanted to follow us around, and accommodate us with several cups of chai tea, cookies, and fresh fruit. They may or may not have also offered marijuana, but we politely turned it down, of course. Again, it is not possible for these people to have shown more hospitality.
The villagers work hard and live simply, their homes are small huts with dirt floors and few possessions. By our standards back in the U.S., they don’t own many things, but they have so much. They are the happiest, most welcoming people I have ever met.
Sweaty, Exhausted, and Content
Alright, I’m borderline dead from exhaustion, but I’m going to try to squeak out something of a post for all my loyal readers out there. (Shout-out to the Rutfords.)
The past two days have been pretty strenuous, but extremely rewarding at the same time, with lots of shooting for my story. The plans changed a little since the second day, so now I’m partnered with a man named Saurabh. Yesterday he took me to an area called Nizamuddin, a place that a lot of homeless people call home.
We talked to a family that has lived under the same tree for 16 years. Their economic situation might not be the greatest, but Kulsum and her husband are happy and hopeful for their children. All three of the kids got picked up by the Hope Project, which provides education for children who might not otherwise get the opportunity to be in school.
We tracked down the little girl’s school, where she also lives until she’s caught up with her studies. Her name is Ambia, she’s 9 years old and absolutely stunning, like her mother. I don’t have pictures because I was shooting video, but once my story is finished (probably next week) you can see for yourself.
After Saurabh and I finished filming, we caught up with the rest of the group at a VERY busy market called Chandni Chowk. Emphasis on the very. We took the metro to get there, which was also interesting, and crowded, but carefully maintained and very clean. There are a couple of women’s cars on every train, which us ladies took advantage of on the way back.
The narrow sidewalks of Chandni Chowk were bustling with people. There were clothing, jewelry, and food stalls galore, but after awhile most of us were ready to go. I think after a long, hot day, being in such a busy place was a bit overwhelming. We also visited the Red Fort, which used to be the palace of a Mughal emperor.
^— Red Fort, photo courtesy of Wikipedia.
And now, a random assortment of pictures from the past few days:
^— Cow near the Business India building. This is the same park we played cricket with the kids.
^— The rickshaws we sometimes ride to get around.
^— A street-side restaurant.
Tomorrow morning we leave for Lucknow for the weekend. I’m excited to see the contrasts between crazy Delhi life and a that of a smaller rural city. More pictures and videos to come!
I honestly can’t grasp the fact that it’s only been two days in Delhi.. we’ve done so much and seen so much that it feels like a week has gone by.
We split into groups the first day and tackled a mini-story while wandering through the markets of Dilli Haat and INA. My group profiled three brothers that had a stall in Dilli Haat- the more artsy of the two markets- who make and perform with puppets. They were very excited to introduce their family and share their traditions with us, so it was fun to get to know them. They invited us right into their stall to sit down, and put a photo album in our laps that displayed their large family performing dances at various festivals.
Today we met with some students and graduates from IMII, and split into groups according to story interests. Sarah and I are working with a woman named Dipali, who is a freelance print writer, and appears to be very driven. She had an awesome idea to do a story on families with “businesses on the streets.” These are the people who literally live on the pavement, and scrape out a living by selling trinkets and things on the street. Dipali said she’s been watching a family that sells toy airplanes to cars waiting at red lights, and we hope they will be willing to talk to us.
After a delicious lunch of chicken manchurian, vegetable fried rice and chicken chow mein, I decided I am a big fan of Dipali. She has a labrador that Sarah and I are invited to go play with when we get some down time. Uh, yes please? His name is Sultan!
Other highlights from the day include checking out our new “digs,” as Scott calls them, in a building not too far from our hotel. Here is where we’ll be making contacts and working on our stories. Bigger highlight: there were school children playing right outside as we were leaving, so I jumped in and played a little cricket with Matt. I should probably stick to soccer…
I’m hoping that with all the sweating I’m doing here in India, I won’t gain weight from all the ridiculously tasty food. Lots of naan, lots of curried chicken, lots of rice= LOTS of carbs.
If I can finally get around to charging my camera, I’ll take some pictures to put up. The park where a group of us have been running in the morning is incredible; it’s just like the Lied Jungle in the Omaha Zoo, complete with wandering cows and peacocks.
Video I compiled for our first mini-story in Delhi! These guys are puppet-makers and performers who have a stall in Dilli Haat, an arts and crafts market in the city.
"We are good people, like me!"
After a long, long day of traveling- I can’t believe it- we’re here!
Nice to meet you, New Delhi.
After picking up our bags and stepping into the humid Delhi air, we were greeted by honking horns, a mess of tiny cars flowing away from the airport, women in glittering salwar kameez, and something like excitement in the air. Or it might have been severe exhaustion from the 13-hour flight. Regardless, I’m feeling good.
We then crammed into a bus with all of our luggage, and sped off to our hotel- Forest Green. Along the way, I soaked in as much of Delhi as I could from my window seat. Luckily, Rawad (pronounced Ra-vat), an energetic fellow who works for the hotel, sat next to me and was able to answer my bombardment of questions. He told me about the construction going on near the airport, pointed out public schools, and even stopped the bus for a few seconds to present a women’s college with a name similar to mine- Kamla. He said, “the people here may not have very much money, but we are good people, like me!” This made me smile. Other things I saw didn’t, though.
We passed a lot of trash in the streets, stray dogs (and cows), and plenty of homeless people. They were sleeping on cots right by the sidewalk, on a patch of grass, or simply right on the cement. I saw one family huddling together on a median in the middle of the road. These are the kinds of things I expected to see, but I still felt unprepared. On the other hand, I loved the energy of the people, and how it was normal for small restaurants to be grilling meat and stores to have customers at 10:00 p.m. on a Sunday.
Is this getting long? I feel like I have so much to share! I’ll wrap it up by saying I can’t wait to get started on our projects and explore the city. It’s also nearly two in the morning (but feels like 3:30 p.m.) and a group of us are going running in six hours.
The time has come
Well, today was my birthday. It was definitely a little different than past years, if I recall correctly, because I don’t think I ever had to GET READY TO GO TO INDIA THE NEXT MORNING!
I actually thought about my friend/roommate Shannon today, because she just got back from a big trip to Kenya. Pretty cool, really. But packing and getting all prepared for a two-week international trip is pretty stressful, as I can imagine Shannon felt as well. So, I figured I’d show you the emotional progression of my day. Using Shannon’s face.
Naturally, I left all my packing to be done today, the day before we depart. Oh, and I had to run to Best Buy to pick up some last minute electronics, make copies of my passport and visa, do laundry, and freak out for a little bit because I couldn’t find my favorite pair of running shorts.
But you know what, everything is going to work out. And I get to eat lots of yummy, spicy Indian food in less than 48 hours!
Wait… what was that? I’m not going to be able to carry on my camera bag AND my tripod because it’s technically going over the one carry-on item limit?
No, it’ll be fine. Great, even. If worse comes to worst, I’ll figure out a way to shove the thing into my checked bag. Or use clothing to disguise it as a baby.
India, here I come!