Came home with a little more than just memories

Body floating next to bathers in Ganges

It’s a mean little  bug that’s laid me very low and stopped my back-packing adventures mid-flight.

I have no idea how I caught it – it could be due to the extremely hot weather, or something waterborn from the Ganges (hardly surprising), or perhaps some microbe living in the filthy backstreets, or maybe it was the result of six weeks hard travelling (I was the only woman of 60 backpacking that I knew of)  – but one day I was fine and looking forward to moving onto Vietnam, and the next I was most certainly not.

I had had enough of Varanasi by the time I fell sick, and  I was determined to catch the one hour flight back Delhi so I could at least hole up in the Anoop Hotel for a couple of days before my flight was due to leave for Hanoi. Continue reading “Came home with a little more than just memories”

The perils of Indian taxi drivers and a visit to the Wagah Border

Non existent lane discipline

When I drive towards a roundabout, husband Mark is always banging on at me about ‘lane discipline.’

Well, he would have a field day with Indian taxi drivers, or come to that, anyone courageous enough – or stupid enough– to get behind a wheel on Indian roads.

There are basically two modes of driving.  One:  full pelt ahead. Two: slamming on brakes. Yet, I am astounded by how skilful these drivers are at avoiding collisions (although the death toll on Indian roads is horrendously high).

Continue reading “The perils of Indian taxi drivers and a visit to the Wagah Border”

Just another ordinary day…

The handsome Dr Kumar

I awoke yesterday morning at 5.30am  to the delightful sounds of Payma’s mum gobbing up outside my bedroom window.

But my day really started when she came into my room at 6.00am to clean The Dalai Lama’s altar and light two large incense sticks.

She disappeared for a couple of minutes, to reappear with a large canister on chains full of red hot charcoal. She swung this in front of the altar several times, filling the room with smoke.

Time to make an early exit up the hill to wait for the cafe to open. Continue reading “Just another ordinary day…”

A Teaching with the Dalai Lama

Inside the Temple

Teaching English to Tibetan monks is one thing, but to see the Dalai Lama in person is quite another.

From Thursday to Saturday here in Dharamsala, he has been holding twice-daily open audiences at the Temple.

As 6,000 people are expected at each session, I was thrilled when Kunchok, a senior monk who runs the English teaching programme at the Temple, showed me a special area set aside for guests of the Temple office. This included those of us who teach English to the monks.

The area is outside the Temple itself, beside a large open widow promising a great view of his Holiness.

Continue reading “A Teaching with the Dalai Lama”

Rhonda’s advice for older volunteers

Rhonda – a rare species!

I knew the average age for an IVHQ volunteer is mid to late twenties, but I hadn’t expected older volunteers (people over fifty) to be such a rare breed.

Therefore I was delighted to bump into Rhonda, a gutsy fifty-five year old Australian, who has been volunteering in different parts of India for several years. I asked her how many older volunteers she had encountered during her travels.

‘One’, she said. ‘A woman in her sixties, and not one single older man.’

We both agreed this was a shame, and decided it could be due to a lack of information aimed specifically at this age group.

So, over a long cool Kingfisher beer, I asked Rhonda for any advice she would give an older person who might be thinking of signing up as a volunteer (although what follows is sound guidance for anyone planning a trip). Continue reading “Rhonda’s advice for older volunteers”

A gruelling bus journey soothed by the Dalai Lama, himself!

Okay, so the bus stop in the middle of a Delhi slum wasn’t exactly London’s Victoria Coach station, and the road certainly wasn’t a motorway, but this was a journey I’m glad I didn’t miss.

It started for me (I was travelling with four other IVHQ volunteers) with two delicious potato cakes from a food stall holder for the massive sum of four rupees (around five pence).

Lulled into a false sense of camaraderie with the locals, I handed my suitcase to a lean, just post-pubescent youth with a wispy beard and moustache who was loading luggage underneath the air-conditioned bus to Dharamsala. Continue reading “A gruelling bus journey soothed by the Dalai Lama, himself!”

Almost off on my IVHQ adventures!

Almost there.  Within 48 hours (all going well) I will be at Mumbai airport, boarding the two hour Kingfisher flight to Delhi.

I am feeling a mixture of excitement and anxiety, but good news!  The EFT tapping seems to have worked.  The prospect of a nine hour flight to India does not fill me with the usual dread (although, of course, I might feel differently as I clip my seatbelt on for take-off).  So a heartfelt thank you to Eva, and keep at it.  There’s lots of nervous folk out there who need your help.

The build up to my departure has been a delightful slowing down, seeing lots of friends, and having a  jolly good clearing out.  There is not a cupboard in the house which has not had me bottom up, hurling things over my shoulder into the charity bag or into another one labelled ‘the dump.’  Some of this stuff has been with me for years, festering in drawers rarely opened and even, shamefully, moving house with me eight years ago.  I guess you can only get rid of things when you’re ready. Continue reading “Almost off on my IVHQ adventures!”

Countdown to IVHQ adventures and dealing with fear of turbulence

It’s count down to my big IVHQ (International Volunteer Headquarters) Indian/Vietnam adventure.

In nine days I climb aboard my flight to Mumbai, and hope to catch the connecting Kingfisher flight to Delhi a few hours after my arrival.  That’s not looking too hopeful at the moment.  Kingfisher pilots are striking because they haven’t been paid for a while.

Oh well, that’s travelling for you. But there’s always the Mumbai Rajdhani Express from Mumbai Central station to New Delhi. It takes a good eighteen hours but I love the magic and mayhem of Indian rail journeys and the food is always sensational – although the loos can be interesting. Continue reading “Countdown to IVHQ adventures and dealing with fear of turbulence”

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