After an interesting start we have made it to Palampur and are all loving our Indian experience. We spent our first day in Delhi with our FutureSense coordinator, exploring the city and seeing what is has to offer. Everybody always says that visiting India is like an explosion of the senses but it really is true: market stalls fill the streets (even in the rural North), the aroma of spices and delicious food is everywhere and in the bustling Delhi the noise of the city is almost overwhelming. It is such an amazing city to see, we visited such a variety of places in one day within a very small area, from more modern parts such as shops and restaurants to the tomb of an ancient Indian Emperor and a beautiful park with monkeys and other wildlife.
From Delhi we started our journey towards Palampur, our home for the next few weeks while we complete our project. As part of our trip we got the chance to take an overnight sleeper train which was an interesting experience to say the least! The beds were all bunks and the ladders were incredibly dubious, with curtains separating each bed from the strangers sleeping beside us. The air conditioning was blasting all night which, unexpectedly, was actually really cold and a few of us struggled to sleep at times - a huge contrast from the heat in our hostel the previous night in Delhi.
Despite this we all quite enjoyed the sleeper train experience and got off excited to see what Palampur would be like. After a 4 hour bus journey through the mountains, stopping off at a beautiful cafe for lunch on route, we arrived in the town, seeing the guest house which would be our home for the next few weeks for the first time. The view is absolutely stunning from our rooms, as was to be expected from such an amazing place, and our rooms are a lot better than most of us were expecting. After a bit of time to relax after a long couple of days we headed into town to explore and wandered into the celebrations as part of Indian Independence Day. We saw a marching army band, fighters demonstrating their skills and weapons and a few other groups which included fire and stunts. The huge crowds gathering in the square were testament to the standard of the performance; we all enjoyed it so much!
Yesterday was really fun for all of us (especially the girls) as we we able to head into town and choose from an array of beautiful fabrics to have tailor made traditional Indian suits put together for us - we all can’t wait to pick these up next week and see how they look! Today again was another amazing experience which, although incredibly different from anything you could find in the UK, had a feel of Englishness about it: TEA! We visited the Kangra Valley tea plantation and were able to walk through the gardens, observing the tea pickers at work in addition to seeing the mechanical process of grounding the tea and being able to buy some ourselves. Between us we bought 31 boxes of different varieties of tea each containing around 30 tea bags: our friends and relatives are going to be drinking Indian tea for a while to come.
Before I end this post I think it’s pretty important to mention the spoon or later posts are going to sound really random! At the end of each day a painted wooden spoon is awarded to the person who has done the silliest thing and they have to wear it around their neck until it is awarded to someone else the next day. For example I got it for leaving all of my stuff everywhere and Meg was given it for her daredevil antics while we were travelling. Tonight Lily was given the spoon for almost falling off a Tuk Tuk and sitting on one of the brown Indian sweets that we bought from the market earlier today.
We are all currently getting ready to get some sleep ready for a busy day ahead of us starting our project in the school and are so excited. From busy Delhi to rural Palampur I feel like we have all experienced so much already and really can’t wait to see what the next few weeks have in store for our group!