A Travellerspoint blog

Organized Chaos

Delhi, India

Namaste everyone!

Well I've made it to India, the last real stop on my adventure! Can't believe I'm already here...

Getting here was an adventure in itself. My flight left Ghana fine and originally I was supposed to have a 4 hour layover in Addis Ababa, but apparently there were weather problems in Delhi and my flight was delayed one hour, then two hours...finally 3 hours late we left. When I got into Delhi the line for immigration easily had 300 people in it...and only two people behind the counter! Oh India...two hours later I was through customs and immigration, and miraculously my bag AND the driver from the hostel were both waiting for me..I was shocked!

My hostel is in Paharganj, a crazy, seedy neighbourhood that consists of one main street lined with shops, rickshaws, and tour agencies, and many tiny alleyways; my hostel (and most others) is on one of these alleys. Delhi is just as crazy, dirty, crowded, chaotic as you imagine it - and there really are cows walking around the streets! The poverty and the dirtiness and the crowds are all things I've dealt with in other countries so the adjustment hasn't been too bad, but I can imagine how hard it must be to come to India straight from a western country. Talk about culture shock! I think my trip has really prepared me for the chaos here. The one thing that is hard to get used to is the hassle - about 100 times worse than anywhere I've ever been! In Ghana when strangers talk to you on the street, usually you say hi back, answer where you're from, and move on or stop to have a nice chat. But here if you do that, which I did on my first day since I wasn't used to India, they will follow you for the rest of the day! At one point I had 4 younger guys following me as well as a tour agent trying to sell me a $1000 tour of Rajasthan! Craziness...yesterday walking around I realized that you just have to be rude and not answer anyone who calls after you...which is hard for me - I'm a good Canadian girl and very polite! The other annoying thing about the men here is that they stare at you and deliberately bump into you when walking by...but I can get used to that. And Delhi is supposed to be the craziest, most crowded place in India so it doesn't get any worse than this, and I've had a fine few days!

Yesterday I spent the day in Connaught Place, the heart of New Delhi. After walking around awhile I stopped in a small heaven - a coffee shop. Then I went to the Tibetan market and bought lots of new clothes that are more India-appropriate. While the hassle from the men was annoying, it's not all bad - I couldn't find the way into the coffee place because of construction, and a very nice man showed me the way and then wished me a good day! And then in the coffee place, another man was trying to flirt with me, and started singing Celine Dion's My Heart Will Go On...I couldn't help but laugh at him!!!

Today I met a lovely couple who met on a travel buddies website, traveled South America together, and fell in love! So romantic. She's from Argentina and he's from Holland, and after they finish traveling India she's moving to Holland! We also wandered around with an older guy from the US. We went for a fabulous lunch - can't stop eating here I love the food so much! - and then went to Jama Masjid, the largest mosque in Delhi. I wasn't really impressed - the architecture is beautiful, but the mosque is in terrible shape and really needs repair. For the most important mosque in the city it really needs work! We were able to climb up the tower and get a great (although smoggy) view of Old Delhi. Then we wandered the chaotic markets in Old Delhi before heading back to the hostel, completely exhausted!

Tomorrow I have a very early train to Agra, where I'll spend the day at the Taj Mahal. Then tomorrow night I take a train to Jaipur where I'll spend a few days shopping and sight seeing. Matt, the American guy, is taking the same train so we'll go to the station together (wasn't looking forward to walking there myself at 5:30 in the morning) and then spend the day at the Taj together.

India is absolutely crazy, but there's something about it I really love. I'm hooked!!

Pictures coming soon...internet here is unreliable (even in a city as big as Delhi!) so I'm going to try to upload them in small batches...

xx

Posted by meggiep 04:59 Comments (0)

Goodbye Ghana..

Accra, Ghana

Hey guys!

Sadly, today was my last day at the autism centre and in Ghana. I really don't want to go (but I guess I say that every time I leave somewhere!!)

Last week was a good week at the centre. I worked with the program director to develop some new programs for the kids, and also to help him incorporate some sensory activities into the programs, and help him with increasing motivation for the kids. Hopefully it'll help a bit! Yesterday a new volunteer started at the centre so I spent the past two days trying to teach her everything I've learned about how things run and giving her a few ideas on projects to continue and start...I'm really hoping that some of the things I've started at the centre will continue! Today I also trained the staff on providing motivation and positive reinforcement to the students, as well as sensory needs and the importance of sensory breaks. The staff really want to learn as much as they can so I'm hopeful that they'll use some of the strategies. They gave me a necklace and earrings made by one of the staff and a card and I hugged the kids all day!

Had a very relaxed weekend here in Accra. We were planning on traveling up the coast to a beach, but it was too hot and we were too lazy. Son

I'm very sad to leave Ghana...I've made such good friends with the other volunteers here and had so much fun. Working at the autism centre has been difficult but also has taught me just how quickly I can adapt to difficult situations, and how I can change the way I work to adapt to the working conditions and resources. I've also discovered that I can put up with some pretty tough situations - constant harassment from men, open sewage systems, extreme heat, being dirty all the time, everything taking 10 times longer than it should...I guess I'm really ready for India! Ghana is a wonderful country though - I can't walk to work without chatting to vendors along the way about where I'm going and where I'm from. Everyone wants to be your friend and learn your story. Some days it can be a little much, but most of the time it's really nice to get all that friendly energy from other people. I'll especially miss passing kids in the street, who yell 'obruni obruni!' at me, and break into beautiful smiles when I smile and wave at them!

Most of all I'll miss my lovely kids at the centre...I love them all so much and I hope that before they grow up there will be more services for autism available in Ghana. Maybe I've found a project for myself when I get home!

Tonight we're going out for Indian food (to get me excited) and then drinks to celebrate a great month here. I have two flights tomorrow (with an annoying layover in Addis Ababa...probably not going to be the nicest airport!) I'll arrive in Delhi after 20 hours of traveling Thursday morning their time...and begin the last part of my adventure! When I started this trip India seemed like such a faraway idea...can't believe I'm going there TOMORROW!!

Added a few more pictures...enjoy!

http://www.facebook.com/album.php?aid=2350584&id=13604534&l=70e517fde3

xx

Posted by meggiep 08:03 Comments (0)

Christmas and New Years, Ghana-style

Accra, Ghana

Happy New Year everyone!!!

I've had a fantastic week celebrating Christmas the West African way - by partying like crazy!

Christmas eve was lovely - we decided to cook a massive meal (there were 7 volunteers at the house over Christmas). We all cooked something and ate and drank a ton (I made my world famous chocolate chip cookies - which managed to taste the same despite using a gas oven measured in Celsius and having no measuring cups or spoons). I got a great surprise on Christmas eve - the package my mum sent finally arrived! It was so nice to get it just in time for Christmas...even though you have to pay to have it 'released' (basically a bribe to the postal worker to NOT steal your package...very annoying).

Christmas day was so much fun! We exchanged our secret santa gifts, and since some of us got fireworks from santa, we decided to set them all off! We made a bunch of paper cranes and attached fireworks to them, in what we called 'the traditional lighting of the bird'! Then we exploded a few cans...all good fun. After a few very competitive rounds of badminton we went to a Chinese restaurant for dinner, and then out dancing at a karaoke bar! Definitely a very different Christmas, but I had a blast!

Boxing day we decided to have a snail race - we bought some giant snails from the market down the street, taped pictures of MarioKart characters to them, and raced them! Mine decided not to even move from the starting gate...I was definitely not impressed. We decided that we'd all gone a bit crazy, but it was so much fun! That afternoon I went with Katy to the school she's volunteering at for a Christmas party with all the staff and kids. The kids were so cute - every time they saw our cameras, they'd crowd around for a picture! Saturday night we headed to Osu, a wealthy, 'obruni' neighbourhood, for the street carnival. We spent most of the night dancing at our favourite street bar!

The past few days have been very relaxing - we went to a posh hotel pool Monday and then Monday night saw Avatar (a few hours in a movie theatre definitely made me forget I was in Ghana!) Tuesday we went to the Art market to buy a few more souvenirs, and Wednesday we lay around and watched movies.

Last night was tons of fun. Most of the volunteers have gone up the coast for a few days, but Tom, Katy, and I stayed here since we didn't feel like dealing with the hassle of traveling. Katy and I went to a little store up the road and bought pretty dresses (for only around $15!) and got all dressed up. We went for dinner and headed to a very posh hotel bar for a few drinks. There weren't many Ghanaians around - we asked someone about it and apparently they were all in church until midnight! We went to our favourite street bar for dancing and a few more drinks, and when the clock struck midnight people went crazy!(Well actually, since this is Ghana, people went crazy about 10 minutes after midnight...everything runs late here, even the new year!) Suddenly everyone was exploding fireworks in the middle of the crowded street! It was fun at first, but then these Gypsie children got hold of some and started throwing lit fireworks at people so we decided to come back home. We had some friends come over, had two bottles of sparking wine and ended up staying up very late...such a great night!

Yesterday was definitely a quiet day...we all needed to recover! Today I was supposed to go into work with everyone else to set up the classrooms and get ready for the new term, but of course I got up early, got there, waited for half an hour in the heat and no one showed up...so I'm going to the pool instead! Typical Ghana...

FINALLY able to put up pictures...enjoy!
http://www.facebook.com/album.php?aid=2350584&id=13604534&l=70e517fde3

Hope everyone had a fabulous Christmas and New Years!
xxxx

Posted by meggiep 04:44 Comments (2)

Party Party Party!

Accra

Hey everyone!!

Can't believe it's almost Christmas! I've had a much better week at the autism centre. On Monday I discussed with the program director what I want to do while I'm here, specifically working more on sensory issues with each child and creating a sensory play time every day, making a plan for meltdowns, and increasing the use of reinforcement. All the staff are really open to suggestions I have, and before the kids get back from the break, I'm going in to work with the program director on programs for the upcoming year. We'll also be doing assessments of each child once the break is over..lots of work, but I'm really excited about it!

I managed to do some good work with the kids on Monday and Tuesday, and am already getting very attached to them! Some of them just like to come up to me for hugs, which I obviously love..it'll be very hard to say goodbye to them! Today we had a big party all day since it's the last day before Christmas - massive amounts of food (I'm pretty sure every family brought enough food to feed us all for a week...) lots of loud Ghanaian music playing, and dancing, drumming, and just having fun. The kids generally enjoyed it, although one of my guys really didn't like the change in routine - he stayed inside most of the day and we did work (since that's what he wanted to do!) and he periodically went to the window to see what was going on outside...he seemed scared by all the loud music and balloons. I eventually got him to come sit with me outside though!

Last night I went with two other volunteers, Katie and Jess, to the massive arts market here. It was absolutely insane, with people coming up to us constantly to say 'hello my friend, come into my store, looking is free, it's nice to be nice!' We got a lot of hassle, but managed to find some cool stuff (I MUST stop shopping!!!) Jess is going home tomorrow, but the rest of us will be here for Christmas. I'm not sure what we're doing yet, but I'm sure it will involve lots of eating! Currently our water is not working, but hopefully it will come back on tomorrow...cooking just isn't as fun when you have to wash the dishes with water from a storage bin!

It'll definitely be a different Christmas, but I think it will be very memorable. A part of me definitely wishes I could have snow and see my family, just for one day, but Ghanaians love Christmas so I know I'll have a fun one.

MERRY CHRISTMAS EVERYONE!! I miss you all terribly!!!!
xxxx
love meg

Posted by meggiep 11:49 Comments (0)

Weekend Adventures

Accra and Cape Coast, Ghana

Hey everyone!

It's been another very eventful few days here in Ghana...nothing is ever easy here!

Friday was a better day at the autism centre, but still tough...there's so much I want to do there to help out, but I'm only here for a month so I have to really think about things I want to suggest. Friday night Jessica, another volunteer, and I headed up the coast to the town of Cape Coast. We caught a really lovely air conditioned tro-tro there and arrived after dark, at about 8. Unfortunately, the hotel we wanted to stay in was booked, but they suggested another place 'just down the road'. After wandering the unmarked, unlit streets and asking 4 different people for directions (all gave us 4 different answers, but the last woman decided to just take us there herself...so wonderful!) we arrived. It was a strange little place, weirdly set up and not so nice. Our first room had a working fan but it wouldn't point at the bed, so we switched. This room had a fan, but as we discovered later, the light flickered on and off...fun! Anyway, we went to the rooftop restaurant to grab some food before bed. We tried to get sandwiches but they had no bread, so we tried to get rice...no rice either. We had to settle for the only thing they did have - french fries! We went to bed, and much to our annoyance, the fan shut off at about 6am (it's already quite hot at that time!) We tried to get breakfast at the restaurant upstairs, but they had no pancakes, cheese, or eggs, so we just gave up and went back to the first hotel to eat and see if they had room. They were still full, but we did manage to have a yummy breakfast.

Next we headed to the castle, the main attraction in the town. It was built in the 1600s by the Swedish, and then changed hands between the Danish and the Dutch before the English finally took over. The castle was the main trading point for the trans-Atlantic slave trade. People were brought there and sorted, and then put into these horrible, cramped, underground dungeons, sometimes over 1000 of them, for up to 3 months at a time.. People who tried to escape, or women who resisted the guards, were put in a separate cell, chained to the wall, and left to die. It was pretty chilling. We left the castle and finally found a room at a hotel, that had a working fan, light, and clean sheets! It was very exciting. We tried to grab lunch at a few recommended restaurants but they were all either closed or we couldn't find them...so we headed to a restaurant by the beach and spent the afternoon relaxing (in the shade). We ate dinner there and watched this amazing children's culture group perform drumming and dancing..so cool!

This morning we were up early, and took a taxi to Kakum National Park, where we went on an amazing canopy walk. The walkway is just a plank of wood suspended up to 50 meters above the ground, just supported by ropes...so much fun! We got some great pictures of the top of the jungle, and then headed back into town, where we took a tro-tro (unfortunately not air conditioned) back to Accra. It was so nice to get back home, where no one was yelling 'obruni obruni!' after us all the time (obruni means white person...not so fun when it's yelled at you constantly).

I work for 3 days this week before having the rest of the week and next week off..I have to say I'm looking forward to it! Ghana is definitely exhausting...

xxx

Posted by meggiep 06:31 Comments (0)

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