Before I write more about our volunteering experience, I thought I would use this entry to talk about what we have been up to when we were not working. In between various illnesses James and I have used our weekends as an opportunity to explore some of Delhi's monuments and hot spots. So far we have been to Humayun's tomb, (we call it Hermiones tomb as we don't know the correct pronounciation) Red fort, Chandni Chowk, Chandni Bazaar, Hazrat Nizam-ud-din Dargah, Connaught Place, Presidents Estate and India gate.
Humayun's Tomb was our first peek outside of 'home' in the Paranganj area. It is situated in the more upmarket South Delhi and although we had read some positive things about the monument (the Obama's visited) we really had no idea what to expect. We took the metro, where I was groped twice by the same pervy guy, this was not pleasant but the first time this has happened since arriving and hopefully the last. According to the map the tomb looked relatively close to the station but when you start walking, especially in the humidity, it was not that close and the rickshaw driver option seemed much more appealing! In the end we found it easy enough and surrounding the tomb were lush gardens circling the monument. It immediately gave the hectic Delhi life a relaxing breath and despite being recommended not to visit during weekends we found it quiet and peaceful. The monument itself was remarkable, a more humble version of how we imagine the Taj. We took some pictures and wandered around my favourite part was the grand tomb made for Humayan's favourite Barber! We got lots of pictures taken of us, as it always seems to be in Asian countries, what they do with all these photos of white people is beyond me. After a visit to the more famous Red Fort we found Humayan's tomb to be much more favourable. Don't get me wrong, the Red Fort was impressive and interesting but the outside is the best bit! The area of Old Delhi is a trip in itself and when walking along Chandni Chowk road, an extremely mental part of Old Delhi and you look up to see this huge fort it is very impressive. On our way back from Chandni Chowk we were supposed to take the metro but the queue for the men's security gate was ridiculous, we decided to get a rickshaw back to speed things up and plus we hadn't been in a rickshaw. The journey was one of my best experiences. There was a lot of traffic (even for Delhi) so much so that the vehicles weren't even moving on the main roads. Our driver took us all up and down the tiny nooks and crannys of Old Delhi to avoid the roads. We went past the butchery streets, metal streets, fruit markets, optician's road and all the while bouncing around in the back avoiding goats, other vehicles and pedestrians. It was an uncomfortable but eye opening journey. To top it off when we ran out of tiny lanes and were forced back onto the main road we saw an Elephant sauntering passed us, it was awesome!
The craziness of Old Delhi is definitely something to behold but it can sometimes get overwhelming so we occasionally visit the more 'western' area in New Delhi called Connaught Place. It is not far from Pahanganj but seems a million miles away. There are still beggars in the area but the shops and restaurants are much more upmarket and shops that we recognise, for example Costa, McDonalds and even Marks and Spencers (clothes, not food I was disappointed but not really sure what we were expecting-percy pigs?!). It is a good place to get food, something different from our usual haunts on the Main Bazaar. Another much more upmarket area is the President's Estate. It is an over the top grand building hosting the widest road in Delhi, with, without a doubt the fewest cars. The road from the President's Estate stretches all the way to India gate and it is a fabulous view. James and I decided to walk the length and despite the many offers from tuk tuk drivers and with a little help from two ice lollies we did it!
After contacting a friend who has been travelling in India she recommended that we visited Hazrat Nazim Mosque on a Thursday evening. James and I went with Elle, Alex (volunteers with us at DMRC) Gracie and Kiran (volunteers at the temporary shelter). It was a struggle to find as the festivities start after evening prayer so with the unknown streets and darkness it was a little tricky. Luckily it is quite a well visited spot so the locals pointed us in the right direction whenever we reached an intersection. When we got there it was already packed with pilgrims and after a few mishaps we managed to find the singers and sat, crammed in with the locals. I was lucky enough to be next to the nicest old woman who fanned me the whole time we sat there. The music was mesmerising and James found it more preferable to the usual call for prayer! The few mishaps went something like… 1) We caused some attention when I befriended a very cute little girl and her family then wanted lots of pictures with us, when he had a photo with Elle they were shaking hands, so weird! 2) We were encouraged to visit a praying area and none of us knew what to do so after an awkward few moments sitting next to people praying we left. 3) As is usual in India there was a section for men and a section for women. Alex (who is a man) had to come and sit with us women as he was wearing shorts, we mocked him! 4) James was sent back with our bag of shoes as they are not allowed to be in the mosque, not even in a bag. And finally the biggest mishap of the night happened when we left the mosque. Elle, James and I got into a tuk tuk with the other three just behind us. We waited at the metro station for at least ½ hour and then, presuming they had been dropped at another station we went back to Paranganj. They weren't at the volunteer flat or at the restaurant we had mentioned but luckily they were safe. Their tuk tuk driver decided to drop them off a few kilometres short of the metro station and they had to walk! Elle, James and I on the other hand had a nice meal in our favourite Kathmandu restaurant (worrying the whole time of course!).
Most of our evenings in Delhi are spent in our local area of Paranganj. We eat along the main bazaar with a few favourite restaurants being our regular spot offs, a bit like Connaught Avenue or the West end of Darlington! We were even lucky enough to randomly meet Flo, one of the lovely Chilean girls we had met in Boracay in our favourite restaurant. We went out with her one three consecutive nights sharing stories over a few beers. It is nice to see a familiar(ish) face and she went on the SBT city walk after our recommendation so we are also spreading the word! We still have two weeks here in Delhi so I am sure there will be some more stories and places to write about. I will also write about our experience teaching our boys at SBT.