Heat, traffic, smell, whirlwind, beauty, excitement and exhaustion. These are the words that go through my head as I think back on the first two days of our time in India.
After a seamless commute and manoeuvre through London to Heathrow Airport all the way to Delhi, we arrived mid Saturday morning to plough our way through customs to finally set foot on official Indian soil. I was given a quick awakening to the life that is India. Sarah, Tina, Candela, Elaine and I found our taxi and crammed ourselves in with our bags to experience our first tour of India as we were driven across the busy city to our hotel.
Traffic lights seemed merely a suggestion as our taxi driver, skilfully navigated us through. As we’ve been taught in our driving instructing, we always leave a car’s length between each for safety and there are clear giveaway rules that we must follow that everyone understands. Well the rules here consist of beeping to tell your neighbouring cars that you’re here and to be fearless.
The images of cars and traffic are unreal and I can honestly say that it’s nothing I’ve ever experienced. Drivers are not angry; they stay calm and focused, pedestrians are confident and strong with the little pavement (mostly road) that they work with. I felt and still do feel safe, I would never attempt to drive here, mind you. I do wonder what a driving test would look like. While it’s hectic, there’s an art of patience to it that is just accepted with pace of the city. As we peered out the window, passing side road, cars, scooters, bikes, rickshaws etc all would be waiting in no distinct order or line up to drive through the organised chaos to the other side.
We five girls arrived at the hotel not too long after midday to meet the remainder of our team, Mark and Simon, and familiarise ourselves with the lay of the land. We were soon chatting and laughing over our first tastes of true Indian delicacy, ensuring that we were going to be able to come to grips of what this coming week had in store for with the comfort of each other’s support and high spirits; a strong team, no doubt. Tina quickly impressed us with her use of Hindi and Simon had us all in laughter with his wacky stories.
To cement this, after a well deserved kip to fight the jet lag, we took our first venture out and took on the markets of Delhi with some much anticipated bartering. We had competitions to see who could get the best deal and were soon comparing notes on the best strategies. No one had quite admitted who was best yet, and we certainly cannot claim to be experts.
Sunday was another whirlwind of a day. We all made it up and out by 5.30 to attempt to beat the rush to the Taj Mahal, this time finding our feet even further with the experience of being taxi passengers. 3 hours away from our base camp, the scenery left me in awe; both the Taj and the country side in between. We all had cameras out all day but no photograph could justify the beauty that was in front of our eyes. Its regal presence commanded our eyes and the crowds that had flocked to see it were immense, both locally and internationally, just to gaze at this wonder. Many selfies were taken. Mark, who is taller than all of us, had his own following of people asking for selfies and photos with family members. Elaine and I turned the corner at one point to find him holding a baby with its mother. His height had people in awe.
We were thankful enough to arrive back at the hotel early enough to relax before preparing for the week to come. As Elaine and I met with STiR (our on the ground partner in India), we quickly got in to gear to make things happen. Excitement and trepidation ensues in my head, and a lot of questions are waiting to be answered: what lessons will I see being taught, how will teachers and students react to our presence, who will I meet first?
Contribution from Alexandra Drabczynska. To read about our previous teacher training trips see the rest of our blogs here!