Wednesday, 8 April 2009

Xi'an III

The stories seem to get repetitive though the actual experience is quite different every time I set foot in my favourite Chinese city Xi’an. The towering city walls, the cozy Muslim quarter with its delicious street food, the busy street life with a blend of nationalities, and of course the outstanding hostel where I really begin to feel at home every time I spend another night there… they all make for a solid basis that guarantees a great weekend.
This time I was lucky to meet Min-Soo from South Korea straight from the start as we had a joint pick up from the train station. Later our group grew as a bunch of girls from Hong Kong and a guy from Australia joined. The great thing about meeting people in a hostel is that everyone has their own story and their own unique experiences, which makes for excellent and interesting conversations in the cozy courtyards of the hostel.
One of the highlights of my stay this weekend was the dinner plus performance we got to enjoy the Saturday evening. After having eaten a wide variety of dumplings (unlimited supply) a show of traditional Chinese dance and music started. Artists wore beautiful clothing and the feat gave some fine insights into Chinese culture. Of course the night ended drinking beer in the bar of the hostel with the finishing touch of some amazing nightly prepared street noodles! Tops all!
As it is Wednesday evening now it’s less than two days before I shall set foot in Beijing again. I’m nigh halfway my term here and as Antonia from Denmark pays me another visit I got some days off to travel around a bit. Soon more on that!

Tuesday, 31 March 2009

Kaifeng and Jason, Jason and Kaifeng

You can’t name one without mentioning the other.. Jason and his city are entangled as strongly as polar bears and the North Pole, something which many people have hitherto found out by visiting Kaifeng.
After having disposed of the various taxi drivers who wanted to take me somewhere whilst I had more important matters on my mind (finishing the delicious breakfast I had just bought for twenty cent) a guy on a rickshaw approached me. His expression was one of concentration, as if looking for some words he had difficulty remembering, and naturally I assumed the bloke wanted to share some of his five-word strong English vocabulary. Utterly surprised I was however when his introduction was in Dutch, not so much of the fact that he knew the words but rather that he knew I was from the Netherlands! It appeared that he was kind of famous for taking foreigners around the city and hence his English was of a level I had not run into in China outside the school grounds. Proudly he showed me the newspapers in which articles about his business were written and his treasure.. the diaries in which hitherto 508 foreign tourists had written something about their experience in Kaifeng with Jason. One could not have supplied me with a more convincing argument and hence I entrusted Jason with showing me Kaifeng. And that he did. Elaborating about historic stories at the various sights we visited, taking me to the best food markets and, above all, being pleasant company during the day Jason made my weekend! I have posted plenty of pictures below as well as some videos. In one of them one can see Jason showing one of his precious diaries, one to which I have also contributed by now!









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Wednesday, 25 March 2009

some football... finally!

Last weekend was the first one since the tenth of January that I did not undertake a journey of some sort. On its own a very pitiful occurrence, but I must say my first weekend spent in Sanmenxia was a good one. The dinner I got to enjoy on Friday night was not the one and only time I got to enjoy Chinese hospitality as the Saturday night and Sunday afternoon held similar happenings. The remaining time I spent with playing a lot of sports, something I gravely lacked hitherto.

Coming weekend a journey to Kaifeng is scheduled, after which I shall return once again to my beloved Xi’an the subsequent weekend. Now I am sitting behind my laptop with aching muscles, a feeling I really missed, from the intense football I enjoyed this afternoon with Jhao and a bunch of students.

Friday, 20 March 2009

Getting to know the Chinese culture

It is one of the main motives to take on jobs like these.. the unique insights in a culture that one gains. This very evening I was yet again invited for a social gathering, and once more it exceeded expectations!

One of my colleagues, a lady called Helen who teaches English to the first grade, invited me on behalf of her family and friends for a dinner. The location was not, as I had assumed, a house but rather one of the city’s best restaurants! Upon arrival I was introduced to the friends of Helen and her husband after which we took our seats in a private dining room. The round table at which we sat was huge and overloaded with different dishes. And then I don’t mean five or ten, I think there may have been over twenty different plates, platters and bowls with delicious food. The glass plateau on which this all was placed could be turned around at the preference of those who were eating and about three waitresses and a cook ensured perfect service during the meal.

As I get to enjoy more and more of these social gatherings I notice one outstanding fact; Chinese like to drink. Wine, beer and liquor are abundantly served and the question of how much I can drink has been stated more than once each respective evening.
All in all great ways to meet new people and enjoy local customs!

Monday, 16 March 2009

Amber!

or well, that's the name I've given her after she asked whether I could find an English name for her. This 3rd year student visits me whenever her schedule allows it and two weeks ago I was even invited at her parents' home for dinner! Those are the local cultural insights that are unique for jobs as these and hence a main driving force for me to pursue working as an English teacher in mainland China. The great hospitality and superb food made a memorable evening and I am happy to make such friends among students.

Sunday, 15 March 2009

Xi'an II; more and better!

The heading may suggest that my life in China consists solely of weekends and related trips, as nothing whatsoever has been posted since my last voyage to Xi’an a week ago. And that is probably how I will look back on this period; discovering China during the weekends and an occasional holiday and a grey blur of routine that fills the weekdays. Don’t get me wrong, I still enjoy teaching most of the time, but now that a certain rhythm has kicked in and the excitement has ceased long since I get somewhat restless in the small town that Sanmenxia is. Fortunately weekends such as the most recent one make up for this.

The best time spent since I left India by far, as I got to meet plenty of new people and consumed a proper quantity of beer for a Friday and Saturday night. The hostel I resided at was great, with free internet access, cleans showers and toilets, great staff, pool / table tennis tables, Terra the Golden Retriever, a cozy dinner / chill out room, and last but not least a great bar in the basement. And it was there that I spent the Friday night, drinking decent quality Chinese beer and chatting with some nice people I had met. The next night I hit the bar street with Mark from England to watch Man U – Liverpool and Arsenal – Blackburn. It’s been ages ago since I’ve seen a football match live and hence I enjoyed it most!

During the day I mainly chilled out, walked the 14 km city walls, and played football with Mico anc Charley whom I had met the previous weekend. Now it’s Monday afternoon and soon I’ll head for another two classes to teach, but time flies and it will be soon again that I pack my backpack and take off to the train station early Saturday morning.

Tuesday, 10 March 2009

Xi'an


Of course not all time was spent gazing at the mighty terracotta warriors last weekend, as Xi’an had a lot to offer on itself as well. Roaming around the first day in the Muslim quarter, visiting the famous Bell tower and Drum tower (pictures), watching the seemingly biggest fountain show in Asia and playing chess at the hostel with Yuki.. Xi’an made my weekend!

Two Chinese dudes who invited me for a beer at the hostel were studying at the local university and invited me to play football with their friends that afternoon. Since I had not taken any clothes in which I could sport we agreed upon doing this the next time I’d go to Xi’an, which will be soon enough! As there is loads of other stuff to visit I’ve already booked my ticket for coming weekend, and I’m sure that even once I’ve seen all the sights Xi’an will appeal to me just for the sake of being in an ancient city which has the current day backpacker lots to offer!

Sunday, 8 March 2009

Terracotta Units

Maybe my expectations had been a little bit too high. Maybe a tiny little bit. Of course I was impressed, and naturally I enjoyed the ancient treasures exposed a lot. But unconsciously hopes had been rising for something mind numbing, and that the mighty Terracotta Army did not accomplish. On the second day of my Xi’an visit (later more on that) I took a bus together with Yuki, a Japanese guy whom I had met the previous night at the hostel, heading for the village close to which the first discovery of the army had taken place. As usual I had not taken my student card so the 50 % reduction was relinquished yet again (I should change that habit) but the sights were worth the full price nevertheless. Three pits, with the largest one displaying around 7000 ancient warriors, created decennia ago on the command of Qin Shi Huang, the first emperor to unite China. The informative movie made sure of some decent background knowledge and I must admit that the ‘eight wonder of the world’ deserves this entitlement more than the over hyped Taj Mahal. Pictures and videos visualize some of all this!

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Wednesday, 4 March 2009

Random Sanmenxia Experiences

Outstanding these four months are of course the trips I intend to undertake each and every weekend, but there’s also a lot of time spent during weekdays. Here some random happenings of the past days.

As I strolled the central square last night in search for a public phone I ran into a crowd of about one thousand women doing some synchronized dance on music that came from various speakers. Some white-clad people were leading the moves and the crowd followed surprisingly accurately. Weird habits these Chinese people have!

What’s more.. The enthusiasm I cherish for the majority of my students seems to be mutual as girls from my classes repeatedly pay me visits to hand me written cards, drawings, folded flowers, and gifts.. (!) Today a young lady from the third grade (which I don’t even teach) came to bring me a personal welcome letter and a nicely wrapped package of tea. I feel very much appreciated and am about to write her something back soon.

Last but not least I’d like to share with you the most random fact that I’ve ‘discovered’ a nice coffee place on the way downtown. The warmth and coziness of my room was tempting today after having taught my classes and having done the grocery shopping, but spending too much time in the same space makes me want to go out and hence I set off towards a big ‘Coffee’ sign I had spotted some days back. The place turned out to be a top of the class coffee house, beautifully decorated, with excellent service and live classic piano music. Prices are Western but the coffee I got to drink was truly one of the very best I’ve ever had! Definitely I shall pay this place a visit again very soon, it is the ideal location to read a book whilst enjoying the luxuries of superb coffee and a great environment.

Sunday, 1 March 2009

Longmen Caves

The temptation to ignore the ringing alarm clock, stay in bed, and forget about the whole Longmen Caves was strong this very morning, especially since I had closed my eyes a mere four hours prior to this moment. Fortunately I managed to get out of my bed and set of for what would become a two hour bus drive to Luoyang, a city that finds the famous caves in close proximity. And it was well worth it. Carved out of sheer rock by the first Buddhists who settled in China the statues vary widely in size but have all in common the devotion dedicated to carving the sculptures perfectly in the details. All in all my second weekend trip was a great success and I deem it not unlikely that I shall return to this historical setting. Tomorrow classes start again, but plans are already materialising for coming weekend.. If all goes as intended I will visit Xi'an for the first time!

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Friday, 27 February 2009

Thursday, 26 February 2009

My students!

Rather pleasantly surprised hitherto I am with the attitude of the students in my classes. Children are often fairly eager to learn despite the enormous burden of their classes (on average about ten a day, twelve days in a row). One would think that matters such as concentration would marginally decrease with an increase in classes per day but students appear lively and at the same time obedient when I demand so. Very much to my liking!. The three girls depicted above came to my room recently to ask if we could become friends and since then they have paid me visits twice! Very sweet and I feel very much appreciated. :)


As you can see, winter is ruthlessly sweeping away the few Goa images I still cherished in my mind as the weather could not be in bigger contrast. Snow is daily practice now and my hopes for a sunny weekend have little ground. But sun I need because the next trip is already planned, coming Sunday I will honour the ‘Ten thousand Buddha Cave in Longmen Caves’ in Luoyang with a visit! Soon more on that!

Tuesday, 24 February 2009

Cooking with Jack and Jao


Picture and video displayed visualise the recent happening of Jack and Jao cooking at my place, preparing some tasty Chinese food. My endeavours of the night preceding that Friday of making something that should resemble an Italian pasta were, given the very limited ingredients I had at my disposal, not a total fiasco and hence Jack was eager to make me something tasty as well. Contrary to the food which is served at lunch in the canteen, which is of superb quality as I get to eat with the ‘leaders’, the meals served for supper are less tasty and hence I intend to utilize my kitchen more regularly during the evenings. This is also a great way to spend some good time with Jack and Jao, with whom I get along really well! The video also shows those sections of my 'apartment' that I have not displayed yet.
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Monday, 23 February 2009

Qingdao!

The trip from Sanmenxia to Qingdao was forced on me by the threat of being illegally employed in China, not something many people would fancy, without having the requested employment or business visa in my possession. Endeavours of obtaining one of these items locally sprouted the scenario of doom that my Chinese adventure may come to a soon and sudden end as I was bluntly and decisively told that there was no way of acquiring the requested legal items. The organization which had linked me to the school had been promising from the very beginning on that they would take care of the visa process but their vague answers and sporadic replies by email suggested that they had as little notion about the crucial visa procedures as about the best way to grow eco-friendly strawberries on the North pole. Hence the hazy reference I eventually got to a certain ‘Miss Zhang’ did little to rouse my conviction of total incompetence of the bureaucratic mess I found myself in. Yet China keeps surprising you, and this time the surprise was as pleasant as much as the previous ones had been less favoured. The lady who was referred to as Miss Zhang called herself Linda, and besides her lovely looks she was more than competent of dealing with the visa mess. (insight that I gained later that she was working for a different organisation whose services mine had profited from temporarily shed a clarifying light on the initial paradox of skewed efficiency) Hence I took an overnight bus to Qingdao (big struggle, too long a story for now) and was well received by Linda the next morning. I utilised the Sunday to visit the city and on Monday I was led by Linda to various bureaucratic strongholds which were surprisingly easily dealt with and thus in no-time a valid 6-month F visa showed proudly on my passport.

The city of Qingdao is famous for its German heritage and, interrelated to the German occupation, for its tasty beer. The old town displays a variety of architecture and churches which would lure one into the feeling of finding himself in a cozy German provincial town, though a look at the skyscrapers which line the coast underlines the very fact that Qingdao is a well established Chinese city. Strolling around Qingdao made my first weekend trip, and plans are to continue the sequence in five days by visiting nearby Luoyang. Soon more on that!

Saturday, 21 February 2009

Off to Qingdao!

in about five minutes I'll head for the bus station where a sleeper bus will take me to Qingdao, all the way at the coast. I'll have to settle my visa dispute there, but since the place is worth visiting I've taken an extra day to do some sightseeing.. So time and money are not utterly wasted ;)
When I've returned more on the visa experience and about Qingdao!

Tuesday, 17 February 2009

Teaching and living at ‘Sanmenxia foreign language middle school’

Of course the cliché feelings of being here for only a few days but having the feeling that it has been weeks are applicable to my situation in Sanmenxia. The last days have been ones of integrating, getting settled, buying the necessary clothes / sport shoes / apartment utilities, and meeting new (Chinese) people. And of course my first days as a teacher here! Monday and today I have spent as my first official working days and as of now I am happy to have started! Classes of sixty kids each, twenty different classes a week.. you do the math, that’s 1200 new faces.. Fortunately order is more of a virtue here than in India where even the smallest classes were in turmoil from time to time and hence I am confident that my ‘oral English classes’ will run as smooth as I intend. Yes.. oral classes. Since it’s a foreign language school there’s loads of Chinese English teachers here but their oral skills are as limited as the flexibility of the bureaucracy here. They do a good job in general though, as I was positively surprised by the English skills of my 2nd grade kids. However, the job as an oral teacher is far more intensive than a regular teacher’s job as during the whole class it’s either me talking or having a student talk. But well.. just another challenge eh :)

I am definitely more positive about my apartment than I was at first glance.. the concrete cold rooms with scarce furniture have been transformed into a new home for me during the last days. I’ve bought a big mirror, some carpet to cover the floor next to my bed with, have had twelve big pictures printed and spread them out over the walls.. The air conditioner is fortunately also capable to share warm air so that my room is warm and cozy compared to the rest of the dorm buildings, be it with the exception of my kitchen and bathroom. And it is in my bedroom, under the heater, that I write this story now.. Soon more and better!

the video below shows you my bedroom.. the other rooms are too cold for me to enter now ;)
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Monday, 16 February 2009

And yesss I have internet in my room! Since I have a class to teach in 15 minutes I will just quickly upload two pictures; one is with Jack, the guy who's helping me out here, and the other one is of the school grounds. Soon more!

Saturday, 14 February 2009

getting settled in Sanmenxia

yeah finally I got here.. Sanmenxia! As of now I do not have internet in my room, I have been promised that it will be arranged as soon as possible but of course those words are subject to a whole range of different cultural interpretations.
From the first second I set foot on Sanmenxian soil I was accompanied by Jack. The name Jack may spur an imagine of an American bloke in his late twenties, with short black hair, a motor jacket and a cool smile, but in China 'Jack' is the nickname chosen by my 'buddy' who's been chosen to help me out during my stay here. He's 24 and an English teacher here at the secondary school where I will be teaching and I am really happy for his company and help. Since I'm the only non-chinese person in the whole area it's nice to meet Chinese people with whom you get along well, and this certainly holds for Jack.
Bit of a bugbear however is my visa, as I am here on a one-month tourist visa I need to get an appropriate one that lasts for four months asap and up till now there's been little action regarding that matter. Anyway, we'll see how that works out!
In my next post I hope I'll be able to post the pictures I have taken so far, if the promised internet access has been realised by then you'll be supplied with a visual image of the scenario on the ground here!
As for now, all the best from China!

Tuesday, 10 February 2009

China!

Last Friday I departed for what would become a 24 hour journey from the door of my Kalkaji flat in New Delhi to the very hotel I am still residing in now. Saying goodbye to the very good friends I have made in Delhi was not easy but I knew I’d see them back in Europe so all in all I was mainly excited to go to a new country! Plan is to teach in China for four months, starting coming Monday. Since my arrival Saturday evening in Jinan I have spent my time in a hotel and it is only from tomorrow on that I will move on to the town of my school. More details about that will follow later!

China itself is truly a new experience; the people, the food, the cities, the infrastructure, everything is so very different than India! I love it though, and the lays days I’ve spent at least two hours each day just roaming around the city, buying random food from the street without having a clue what I’m eating, drinking tea in various teahouses, and especially looking around and being excited to be in China. The city of Jinan itself would by most Western people be regarded as very ugly and grey, as it depicts much of what communism does to architecture and such, but .. it intrigues me. Like at the time I studied in Poland, I can wander around the concrete flats and square blocks and be fascinated about the people who live here and what it must be like to live in such a culture.

Chinese people are very kind and although hardly anyone speaks a word of English here they are willing to help you out. My first encounter was the taxi driver at the airport of Beijing.. think of it, the capital of China where the Olympics had just been held, you’d think the guy spoke some English. But no, he had no clue whatsoever what I meant by ‘train station’, nor had the guy in the yellow outfit who directed people to the respective taxis. Anyway, I decided to draw a train on a piece of paper and name the name of the city I had to go to. The yellow outfit guy shot a glance at the paper, made a sound that slightly resembled the whistle of a locomotive from the 30’s, and we were on the same line again. :D And well.. that’s how I deal with people here. ;)

More news about my new city will follow shortly! As for now, all the best from Jinan!

Monday, 9 February 2009

Last night in Delhi!

Last Thursday was my last night in Delhi.. after a nice small scale goodbye drink the night before Wojtek, Johan, Karin and I made the last night on to remember by going out to Urban Pind. In itself nothing special, actually fairly random on a Thursday eve, but plenty of 'Romanov' made the mood exceptionally suitable for a great night out. This time the pictures do a better job than words, so please take a look ...





Small remark here.. depicted are one of the guards in front of our house and Johan who wants to borrow the guy's stick.. He didn't let him ;)

Thursday, 5 February 2009

part five of 'Mumbai, Goa, and Kerala'

(continued from part four)


The next day we took on the famous ‘elephant shower’ that had been our main motivation to make the journey all the way to the East, or I should say, my main motivation which dragged Marieke along. ‘Washing an elephant’ had been the metaphor for my main impetus to make the whole journey down south in the first place. Hence we sat on the back of one of those units the next day while the guy guiding the animal maximally exploited the capacity of our camera by constantly taking the most random pictures, initially appreciated but later slightly scrutinized by us as during later stages (the actual shower) the device had almost run out of battery. After the ride we took the elephant to a basin where it lied down to be washed. Along with its caretakers we used pieces of coconut shell to scrub off dirt and dung from its body (we actually paid a whole lot for this :P ) while cooling it down with water from a tube. After washing the elephant it was time to take turns, as I got to sit on its back once more but now to be given a shower! Taking water from a bucket with its trunk in order to subsequently splash it all over me the elephant returned the favour of a good cold midday bath! Truly an exceptional experience that was worth all the money we overpaid for it.

The last day of our trip was spent in Fort Kochi, a lovely Portuguese town with picturesque streets, charming cafes and houses, pretty white churches and view on the harbour. The Dutch palace we visited was Dutch nor worth visiting but the two rupee entrance fee was not a big loss. On the airplane several hours later (after the usual rush within too tight a schedule and the slight touch of excitement that goes along with it) neither of us felt like going back to Delhi (to express it decently) but inevitably we ended up back home. Sitting in a cab Sunday night with my backpack full of dirty clothing next to me thoughts drifted back to the scene depicted below..

(the end)

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Wednesday, 4 February 2009

Part four of 'Mumbai, Goa, and Kerala'

(continued from part three)
The next day we took a two and a half hour boat to this village from where a five hour bus would take us to this place all the way to the East, deep in Jungle covered mountain area Kerala, where a Tiger Preservation park was located. That night be booked our full day tour for the next day, starting off with a safari tour by jeep, followed up by a trek through the jungle and some peddling over the lake by boat. We actually happened to see some fairly interesting animals but nothing spectacular, none of the 48 tigers currently inhabiting the vast park was spotted (which was to be expected) but neither did we see any of the wild elephants. Witnessing from big heaps of elephant dung and the unmistaken tracks these massive mammals leave behind their presence was badly concealed but the actual animals remained surprisingly well hidden, given their size. What we did see were giant buffalos, a whole bunch of uninteresting birds, a wide variety of monkeys, and a squirrel the size of a small dog. The latter still managed to swoop from branch to branch as if it was not restricted by the law of gravity that usually keeps creatures of such size closer to the ground, be it with the exception of the previously mentioned monkeys who spend more time floating in midair than actually sitting in a tree. All in all the beautiful flora and fauna was something to appreciate as well; the combination of mountains and jungle provides a beautiful landscape to roam around.




(to be continued in part five)

part three 'Mumbai, Goa, and Kerala'

(continued from part two)

Since we had only two days to spend in Goa, partially due to our previous delay and partially because we had a train booked that departed Monday evening, we decided that another full day at the beach would be a bit of a waste since Goa has so much more to offer. Hence we rented a scooter, grabbed a map of the state, and took off down south. Goa is a little paradise, as all you encounter on your way is beautiful and cozy and brings along an overwhelming feeling of holidays. As an ex-colony of Portugal it’s flooded with churches and Mediterranean looking houses, fortresses, and other features that the North of India so desperately misses. We followed the road down to an old Portuguese fortress which name I could not even remember every time we had to ask for directions and thus have no clue about now but which was certainly worth visiting. The fort itself was nothing special, just some remnants of the old walls and a church in the middle, but the view from one of the towers was breathtaking. The picture I attached does the scenery no justice but it is the closest thing I can supply you with.


The train to Kerala was two hours delayed, two hours which we could have spent on the beach that we had left behind with so much regret, but that’s India. Come to think of it, the train had departed in Amritsar (from the Golden temple, remember?) and had thus already covered quite some kilometers since Punjab finds itself totally in the North of India. This time we actually spent some time on the train planning our journey ahead and after repeatedly consulting our hope and salvation on the road – the Lonely Planet – we had decided on a plan: the backwaters! It took us another bus ride of two hours but eventually we had a houseboat arranged to cover the famous backwaters with, departing the next morning. Quite an expensive 22 hours, but the presence of three men with the sole devotion of making our journey as pleasant as possible, a great bedroom, welcome coconut drink and flower necklace, great lunch, even better dinner, and fantastic views on the way made it all worth it. The backwaters are waterways that function as roads in an area covered mainly by rice fields and jungle, and on the way we saw various houses, schools, villages, and plantations. Children go to school by school bus / boat, people go to church by boat, and selling fresh fish has become the profession of more than a few families.

(to be continued in part four)


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Monday, 2 February 2009

Part Two of 'Mumbai, Goa, and Kerala'

(continued from part 1)

Getting on the bus that night was quite a struggle again, with a far too tight time schedule that later ended up being totally superfluous as our bus was about three hours late. But in the very end we found ourselves in a comfy sleeper bus with a nice double cabin and an annoying air conditioner that we could not switch off. Being totally unaware of where to go, despite having waited for three hours with the lonely planet in our hands without looking in it and another, say, twelve on the bus, we got off in Goa with no clue what to do or where to go. A slightly lonely planet guided gamble brought us to a nice affordable guesthouse about five minutes from the beach. Spending the first day lying in the sun, drinking cocktails on the beach, swimming in the warm and rather clean sea.. Goa treats its guests well. Moment supreme was dinner that night. During the day we had already witnessed two men with fishing nets entering the sea, and when I went inside the restaurant in front of which we had stationed ourselves to pay for our cocktails I saw various fish hanging from hooks. ‘Hammer shark’ the guy whom I handed over the money to said, pointing at the biggest fish the size of my lower arm. Unconsciously I knew it already, but it took me some time to decide that that would be my dinner for the night. And there we sat at half past nine in the evening.. looking out on the sea and an ink dark sky, dotted with stars. Light came from nicely decorated slightly dimmed lamps and various candles, the Eagles were playing softly from the speakers.. and in front of me, on a giant plate, my hammer shark. It was deliciously prepared and truly one of the very best meals I have ever had, with finger chips and salad artistically cut and arranged accordingly on the sides and a candle shining from within a tomato. The cocktails we took as a dessert as well as the imported cold beer made the whole dinner complete, as we had already had enjoyed a great starter to warm up for the ‘big fish’ ;)


(to be continued in part three)

Part One of 'Mumbai, Goa, and Kerala'

It all started off rather impulsively, asking a co-trainee of mine whether she was in for some travelling. Sure, where do you want to go? Goa and Kerala? Sounds good. With that set of mind Marieke and I got on the airplane to Mumbai.

The plan, insofar one could call this a plan, was to catch a night bus to Goa once we got off the plane. However, these buses tend to leave around eight p.m. if on time and up to eleven o’clock if late and thus our endeavours of finding one at 1 a.m. proved to be rather fruitless. Almost equally difficult to realise was Plan B; finding a room to spend the night. It took around seven negative responses of hotels in the area before we got admitted to a very shady place with grumpy employees who did not appreciate being woken up in the middle of the night by two random backpackers. They money we paid for the few hours of sleep could have gotten us a week in a guesthouse in Goa but once necessity arises these arguments are pushed back and the prospect of a shower and a bed are stronger than any monetarily dominated reasoning.

Mumbai by day treated us far better and I have to admit that it has everything that Delhi lacks; pubs and bars, the sea, a (modest) skyline, nice looking buildings, churches, efficient buses.. and apparently even nightlife (!). Things are definitely expensive though, as a city as such requires Westerners to live there for a while to know how to get around. But all in all a big plus for India’s biggest city, and it seems we’re in the wrong metropolis of India.

(to be continued in part two)

Sunday, 1 February 2009

Back in Delhi..

Back in Delhi, after an amazing journey through the South of India. This deserves better treatment than the regular superficial coverage that most stories here reflect. However, few of you will be willing to spend an hour reading about my recent experiences, however interesting those may be. Therefore I will divide the story I am about to write in five different parts and post one each respective day of this week, to be started this afternoon. Of course I will brighten up my words with pictures and videos, although the wonders of the South cannot be done justice with those, one has to go there physically to enjoy all that it has to offer. But I will make an effort that, or so I hope, will give you a hint of what’s all there.


You may wonder, doesn’t the guy have to work? All I write about is partying and travelling. Well, I finished my work as a teacher at the slum school just before Christmas. All in all it was a great experience and I got to become really close with the people but I really felt like taking on a new challenge. And that is why I disclose hereby my next stage in life.. China! Coming Friday I will fly via Honk Kong to Beijing where I will take a train to Jinan. More information on this will follow once I’m on the ground, for now a coverage of the previous two weeks will dominate my posts!

Tuesday, 27 January 2009

hello from Kerala!

From 35 degrees and humid Kerala I have found some time to brief you about my experiences in the south so far. After being stuck in Mumbai for one day we managed to get on a night bus to Goa where we spent two great days. Once I get home I will post a more elaborated story about these experiences! :D

Last night a night train took us to Kerala where we just booked a boat trip for tomorrow morning. The trip will take 22 hours and is supposed to cover all the beauty that seems to be hidden in the so called back waters. At the moment I fervently hope all this will be worth the money we're paying for it ;)

Flight back to Delhi is scheduled for Sunday afternoon and Monday I will post some detailed stories about all this! Of course with the related pictures and videos..!

Thursday, 22 January 2009

Upcoming trips!

Hey all!

as of now I am preparing for a journey to Goa and Kerala! Goa is the state in India well known for its beaches whereas Kerala is famous for its forests and jungle! Tonight I will depart from the domestic airport, off to Mumbai, from where a nightbus will take us to Goa. Spending some days over there after which a train will take us to Kerala. At least, that's the plan! A full update will follow as soon as I get back, but for the next ten days I will probably not be able to post any stories!


Below you see a picture taken some time ago. Chilling out at the Taj during sunset.. Good times..

Monday, 19 January 2009

Amritsar!

Friday night, eight o’clock, stuck in Delhi traffic, with a train to catch in a few minutes. No way to make it in time, whereas the detours of the rickshaw driver did not help much. Fortunately the train was delayed (quite rare and therefore not anticipated upon by us) and we could still make it to our destination: Amritsar!

Capital of Punjab, centre of the Sikh religion, Amritsar is home to the famous Golden Temple. In addition to other Sikh temples, where visitors get food offered 24/7, the Golden temple also offers ‘peoples of all classes’ a place to spend the night. All involved in the temple are volunteers; the men working in the cloakroom where you have to leave your shoes behind (even cleaning them from time to time!), the men preparing and serving the food, the guards.. And being told that rich people come to the temple to help clean dishes because the respect gained is so enormous.. It is all really admirable and impressive.

After having visited the temple in the morning we rented a cab that brought us to the Indian – Pakistani border where we witnessed the change of guard. Basically it comes down to the ‘border guard’ doing some ceremony which is witnessed by thousands of people. Spectator seats are set up all around the road so that all who want to are able to view the happening. A mirror image is drawn up at the Pakistani side of the border, and all moves by the soldiers are similar at the other side of the gate.

To be honest I found the whole thing rather pathetic. The soldiers were supposed to be marching synchronized, which they didn’t, as some tripped over the feet of the soldier leading the session or slipped over the ninety degrees turns in the march. Lifting their feet as high as their faces, rigid and apparently practiced infinitely, with the crowds going totally wild on it.. A lot of cheering and screaming and yelling, as in some kind of football match, with rage and pride on their faces.. The whole thing took a whole afternoon and I had the feeling to be the only one (perhaps with some other ‘outsiders’) who regarded the whole situation as rather excessive. Especially when you realize that the same thing happens every day ;)

But that may just be an outsider’s view?

Friday, 16 January 2009

With picture..

Just to enable you guys to visualise the party recently mentioned.. :)

Wednesday, 14 January 2009

Lhori!

A Punjab festival, characterised by bonfires and punjabi dances. The festival is related to the Sikh, which form a separate religious unity in India. They have played a prominent role in India's history and are easy to recognise by their ever present turbans.

The party I attended last night with three fellow trainees from kalkaji was organised to celebrate this particular festival. On the rooftop of one of the trainee houses in Delhi's outskirts a big bonfire was lit. The party was complete with a complete DJ stand and coloured lights. I can state without doubt that parties like these keep the life of a trainee interesting enough!

Sunday, 11 January 2009

Going out in Delhi

New Delhi’s nightlife has little to offer compared to the size of its city. And although my intentions for crossing continents’ borders was not for the sake of having a good night out, no shortage of this before departure, it was rather welcome after a few months of abstaining from this.

The only locations where parties are allowed to continue for as long as they have to, besides our trainee houses ;), are five start hotels where guests have to pay up to 3000 rps (50 euro) as far as entrance is concerned. Working as a volunteer does not really allow this kind of behaviour I must admit.

But there was an outcome, and one that all the trainees have gratefully taken. Urban Pind organises an ‘expat’ night every Thursday, which basically comes down to foreigners not paying entrance in a decent bar. Closure time fluctuates around 1 am, but as all of us have to work the next day it’s a burden that we managed to overcome.

Wednesday, 7 January 2009

integration..

At this moment I am at an unprecedented stage of integration in the Indian subcontinent, something I had never expected four months ago. During my first days, weeks, months even, my perception of the Indian culture was not all too positive to say the least. The initial adjustment phase of, say, two weeks is misleading in the sense that you feel rather comfortable but actually have not adjusted fully to anything. The attitude of people, the chaos on the streets, it is all still annoying even though you got used to it.

Things have definitely taken a turn in that respect. I cannot say that I am fully integrated after less than half a year, but definitely some positive line has set in over the last months that has brought me to a point I thought I would never reach.



I think this development is best illustrated by an example. As Johan and I left work today by auto-rickshaw after bargaining long and skillfully enough until the requested price was reached we directed the driver through the busy Delhi traffic to a stop close to our house. After paying the guy Johan set off to buy two glasses of freshly made orange juice from a street vendor whereas I did the same across the street by buying two omelets with bread, fried in a mix of spices. As we enjoyed the food and drinks we leaned comfortably against the barrow of the juice vendor whilst the parked motorbike next to us served as a tray to put our glasses on. A satisfying five minutes later we took a stroll, dodging auto-rickshaws and bicycles on the road and ignoring the ever present horning of cars. We don’t even hear that anymore. Waving at the broker who we could distinguish in his office, walking the streets without having to think of which road to take.. New Delhi has become a new home and I have come to appreciate and love it.

Monday, 5 January 2009

Travelling through Rajasthan



It’s the fifth of January now and it is freezing cold.. Or at least that is how I perceive the, say, twelve degree Celsius temperature we face outside. After four months of seemingly never ending summer the sudden shift in temperature is quite unwelcome. Worst part is that buildings here are not equipped with central heating and the like because eleven out of twelve months those facilities are rather superfluous. Now however the fans at the ceiling haven’t moved in weeks and the cold in creeping in through the walls, we are wearing jackets and scarves inside the house and at night several layers of blankets are necessary for a good night of sleep. Another surprise of India I’d say.

Little hinder from cold I had the days in between Christmas and New year’s eve, when I was travelling with Antonia from Denmark, a good friend of mine who came over for ten days. Rajasthan is known as the ‘desert state’ of India and the clear blue skies and the ever present sun make weather conditions even pleasant this time of the year. Five days and four nights our journey took and we have visited some of the most beautiful places of India. Not having slept in a hotel room even once during this time must be a good indication of the distance we have covered, as the nights were consecutively spent on a train, a bus, the desert and again on a bus.

Udaipur is a lovely town with cozy buildings, a beautiful inner city, foothills with wild parks surrounding the conglomerations, and the famous lake palace as the outstanding tourist attraction. After having spent one day there –far too little but lack of time made us do so- we moved on to Jaisalmer, where we engaged in a so called desert safari by camel. Spending the night under the starts with nothing more to cover ourselves than some dirty blankets was definitely a great experience!


The journey back to Delhi by bus took another 21 hours but was definitely enjoyed to the fullest extend. Please take a look at the pictures, I hope they can supply some insight in the great time we had!

Thursday, 1 January 2009

happy newyear!

About four and a half hours earlier than most of you the countdown in Kalkaji, New Delhi, led the way to a new year. In our flat a big newyear's eve party was organised and loads of people from other trainee houses showed up. However, since the party began rather early and alcohol was readily available in a seemingly infinite supply the party scene ceased drastically after two a.m. Quite unprecedented to be heading for your bed at three in the morning at the first day of the new year, sth that has not happened for as long as I can remember! India seems to be different in every aspect...

Soon an elaborated story will be posted about my most recent journey into Rajastan!
As for now, a very happy 2009!