End of travels and back to normality.

It’s taken me ages to get round to writing this post. Partly because I’ve been so busy, partly because I wasn’t quite sure what to write, and partly because I couldn’t be arsed.

I’ve been back over 8 weeks I think. In my head it feels a bit longer and a bit shorter all at once. Rollercoaster with loads going on. Catching up with lots of friends and family, trips daaaaan South interspersed with job applications and sorting out paperwork and shit.

It’s been really strange. Right now, it seems like all those experiences and all my travel was a long, long time ago. A bit of a distant memory. And yet I’m not ‘back to normality’. Whatever that is. You see, my normality now is a bit different I guess. I’ve learnt lots, seen lots that can’t be undone. I don’t want to live the same life I did before, as easy as that would be. My normality right now is flitting from one place and having lots of free time, although I know that will change. Which I’m looking forward to. Having my own base, even though the new job I’ve got (oh yes, I’ve got a job but that’s maybe another post) is going to mean I’m all over the place during the week.

I wanted to write about how I felt about finishing travelling and coming home. And it’s weird, because it’s pretty much changed every day so I’ve never been sure when or what to write. I didn’t know how I would feel, so I’ve just been rolling with it. I’ve had to adjust a bit, and get used to living in limbo for a while. At the moment I don’t feel like I belong anywhere. I’m just a hobo that’s still a hobo, even when in familiar places surrounded by familiar people. It’s quite unsettling.

I’ve come back from travelling even less sure about stuff than before. Everything seems to have been tilted and flipped upside down. More options have been opened. It just kind of feels like I have even more choices than before now, because I know what’s out there and I know it’s all possible. And I seem to have become indecisive and fluffy.

I had an absolute ball travelling. I really did. Having some time out of life and to be able to spend my time doing what I wanted to do, when I wanted to do it was brilliant. Exploring all those countries and meeting all those people; it was incredible. My life feels so much richer for having done it. My life has been changed and will never be the same again, but yet I feel here I am back in Lincolnshire feeling like actually nothing has changed. I guess I’m waiting for the next bit of my life to start, which I feel will happen once I start my new job and find somewhere to live again. My job starts in a couple of weeks but I’ll have to wait a couple of months before I get my own place. So, I’m determined to still enjoy each moment, and not sit waiting for something to happen.

I suspect this post is a bit waffly; but that’s kind of how my brain feels right now. A bit jumbled, a bit fluffy and not quite with it. I wonder whether that’s a result of being back in a comfort zone that I’ve not been in for over a year? It’s confused me. I kind of feel like I need a bit of time to myself, to reflect and think about what I want, but yet being back around people I know has meant I also crave that company. Maybe because subconsciously this all still feels temporary and I know sometime soon I’m going to be moving on again. Not travelling, but I’m going to be busy, less available and more than likely living alone in a new city, where I know that although it’s not a million miles away, after a few novelty visits I’ll probably not see a lot of people that often. Real life will get in the way, people have other commitments, families etc. and I’ll just become that old friend who doesn’t live close by any more. Oh I know I’ll make new friends, and have things to keep me occupied, and I’m looking forward to a new challenge and again it will probably end up being one of the best things I’ll ever have done, but right now it’s these kind of things that make me feel like I don’t quite fit or belong anywhere right now.

I was going to write a travel round up post, but it’s not really happened. I suppose I’ve told a lot of you in person some of my travel tales by now, so it seems a bit late in the day. And also I’ve written about my travels as I’ve gone along, so I’d hate to repeat myself. But, here’s a little round up, based on the questions I’ve tended to have been asked since I’ve been back. Oh, and if you want to know anything specific about any part of my trip, just ask me 🙂

  • Favourite country: Australia – mainly Tasmania just because of my biking adventure. I had the most amazing time, challenged myself and met some wonderful people. I’d never done anything like it before and didn’t even know if I could. Well, I know now.
  • Favourite sight: Taj Mahal – it’s really is a sight that took my breath away. It’s the most beautiful building I have ever seen.
  • Saddest moment: Saying goodbye to my little Irish pal after our wonderful week together in New Zealand. I think this was probably the only time I cried while I was away. I do wonder what he’s up to now, I really wish I had his contact details.
  • Weirdest food eaten – fried bugs/insects in SE Asia. They didn’t really taste of a lot but it took me a while to eat one. Probably wouldn’t do it again.
  • Worst moment: Gravel hell day cycling over 40 km of gravel road in Tasmania in 35+ heat, no shade and hills after taking a wrong turning.
  • Best thing about travelling: The people. I heard it so many times before I went away from other travellers but it really is true. I met loads and loads of people, all of them wonderful in their own way. Some of which will be friends for a long time, some of which I will never see or speak to again because it was just a fleeting encounter. All will have changed me or my perceptions in some way, no matter how small the meeting.
  • Item I wouldn’t have been without: my iPhone. I could do (and did) everything on there. From making phone calls, checking my emails, taking photos, my banking, confirming flight details, accessing my travel documents, using the compass and maps and everything in between. I’d have been lost without it (literally, in some cases).
  • Best item: my travel tap bottle from Drinksafe systems. It’s a drinks bottle with a water filter that makes any kind of water safe – really handy in those countries where it’s not advised to drink the water, especially as a lot of those countries also then have environmental issues due to plastic bottles.
  • Best ‘bottle-that’ moment: there’s so many really. Too many to list, each that little bit different. Like in SE Asia with Nick, getting to a new place and finding somewhere to have a beer and watching the sun set while putting the world to rights. With that on-holiday relaxed feeling, nowhere to be or nothing to do but just enjoy the moment. Or the view from the top of Mt John at Lake Tekapo. It was a steep climb, made harder by my broken rib but the view at the top was one of the first glimpses for me at the South Island scenery. I was transfixed and just sat there for about an hour, just staring and thinking. Or the nights spent star gazing in Zambia, Laos and New Zealand. Each one of these was with different people and there’s just something special about laying on the ground looking up at the stars and chatting about everything and anything. There’s also the moment I walked (well ran) through arrivals at Heathrow and saw my parents waiting for me.
  • Best item of clothing: my Salomon walking shoes/trainers. They were so bloody comfy, I wore them everywhere. They’re a completely different colour now than when I started but not really worn at all, still in good shape and keep my feet toasty and dry. I’ll be keeping ’em until they fall apart.
  • Most painful moment: Breaking my rib. Or rather, the days after I broke my rib. The actual break didn’t hurt at all, probably due to the large amount of beer I’d imbibed. I didn’t go to the hospital or take any painkillers until 5 days later. Why the hell not I have no idea, I think I only realised how much it hurt after I’d taken the super-strong painkillers from the hospital and noticed the change.

I was going to write about what I learnt, but I suspect there’s so much it would take me ages. There’s the stuff I know I’ve learnt and the stuff I don’t know but have still learnt (if you know what I mean?). I know I’ve changed, even if you don’t think I have. I had to do loads of things out of my comfort zone. Things I just did, because you have to do. Just getting on with it, because things needed doing. There was no one else to do it for me. Patience, practicality, difficult conversations or situations. Figuring stuff out, making things, teaching people, budgeting, planning. All that shizzle. Loving and liking your own company. Making decisions, choosing stuff.

Travel HAS made me a better person I think, a better version of me. I’m a bit more focused in some ways about what I missed when I was away and what’s important to me. I’ve always been up for trying new things, but even more so now. I know things aren’t that scary, and feel a lot more laid back and chilled about things.

I’m pretty sure there will be some more travel for me in time, but right now I’m looking forward to the future, whatever it looks like. At the moment I don’t know, and in some ways it’s nice to just let it unfold before me. That’s part of the adventure right? And my adventure right now is what most people would call life or normality. Whatever you do in life, it’s all an adventure. After all, it’s what you make of it, so I’m going to make sure I spend mine filled with things and people that make me happy. After all, you only get one, right?

And right now, I am mainly spending time running and biking in the summer sunshine, making the most of all my free time before I become a corporate slave again. And I am absolutely LOVING it. I realise now how much running (and other exercise) is a part of me now. Because it’s what I love doing. I don’t do it because I HAVE to, I do it because I WANT to. I don’t do it because I want to look a certain way, I do it because I ENJOY it.

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Back to the fold.

I’m back in Melbourne now after my Tasmania adventure (and a little blog hiatus). And what an adventure. I had an incredible time; Tasmania is one of the most wonderful places I have been to so far. I fell in love with it and I’m pretty sure I’ll be back there one day.

I’ll be working on a blog post over the next few days, and I’m pretty sure it might just be an interesting one. Stay peeled! In the meantime, here’s a few photos to give you a bit of a taster…

Vietnam vagabond adventures.

The second bit of my Vietnam adventure took in the cities of Hue (pronounced h-way, not huey, like the guy from Yorkshire on our sleeper bus insisted it was), Hoi An and Ho Chi Minh City (and a lot of loooooong bus journeys in between each one). We’d already booked our sleeper bus tickets in Ninh Binh before we saw on the news that the super typhoon was due to hit Vietnam right on the central coast – right on Hue, the next day – exactly the time we were due to get there. Hmm, not exactly ideal. Luckily for us, it decided to change it’s course and ended up missing the coast completely, although the first day we got there it was very rainy and windy all day (some remnants from the typhoon) so we could do nothing more but have a chill out day. Part of a rainy day in Hue for us resulted in an Indian FEAST because the local Indian restaurant was only a few doors down. Exactly what we did on the first day in Luang Prabang in Laos so we decided to make a tradition. I felt more stuffed than a shop full of teddy bears afterwards but, damn, it was worth it. After weeks of noodles and the like it was bloody lovely to have a change, and reminded me when I was in India back in July.

Hue is an old city with a lot of history, and an imperial city that’s not dissimilar to the Forbidden City in Beijing (although nowhere near as big). Over the couple of [dry] days we had there, we just spent a fair bit of time wandering around the city and hired bikes to get out into some small villages out in the countryside. It was one of my favourite places, mainly because I just had so much fun. My Hue Highlights:

  • Hiring bikes and getting out into the villages. We didn’t have a set route, we just set off down one of the roads out of the city with no map, just a vague sense of direction. We ended up biking through some really small little villages, where I guessed they don’t see many Westerners. Or indeed any at all, judging by the amount of children shouting hello, waving and running after us or taking photos of us and the adults who would nudge the people they were stood next to, and point and stare, mouths almost wide open. Which soon changed into big massive grins when we shouted “hello” to them in Vietnamese. Add to that pretty incredible scenery, the best hire bikes we’ve had so far, and you’ve got one of my most special memories of Vietnam. The real Vietnam.

  • The baguette lady just down the street from our hotel. She did the BEST egg baguettes for breakfast which were cheap as chips, and she was lovely and happy and smiley too. I don’t know what she did to the eggs to make them taste so good but I think it was all in the salt and pepper. We went there every day, and I might have even had two some days, they were that good.

  • The little cafe just down the street from our hotel. We managed to strike a deal with them to get cheap Bia Saigon. They even moved one of their tables and chairs for us so we could sit on the pavement and watch the world go by. We might have just gone there both afternoons for lazy afternoon drinking in the sun.

  • The hotel. We stayed in a really nice place. We managed to bargain the price down making it super cheap (around £2.30 each a night) but it felt like we had splashed out and treated ourselves. It was nice and clean, had air conditioning, the best shower yet, and they even came in every day to make the beds and give us fresh towels! The luxury!

  • The architecture and history. The city, especially the old citadel, is very pretty, in a bit of an old run down kind of way. Lots of old buildings and stuff to look at and photograph. Lots of flowers and green stuff too.

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After Hue, Hoi An was a completely different kettle of fish. Old and historic, but in a completely different way. Very French-colonial and quaint, with lots of old wooden and coloured buildings along the river covered in lanterns swaying in the breeze. It’s an UNESCO world heritage site, just like Luang Prabang in Laos, and it reminded me of LP too. Even down to how touristy it was, Yep, the few old streets near to the river were just full to the brim of tourists strolling round, and all the shops were either art galleries, tailors, handicrafts or bars and restaurants. Vendors from pretty much every shop would shout out as we walked past. When we sat down to have a beer or some food, people would try to sell you stuff while you were sat there, or even eating. I found it a pain in the arse, and I’m even more patient nowadays. Luckily we had learnt the Vietnamese for ‘No thank you’ and ‘I’m not interested’ so once you trotted that out they soon disappeared, but imagine saying it 50 times a day over and over again (and I’m not even exaggerating). Arrghhhh. That aside, it’s a very pretty place, but I couldn’t help but have the feeling that it wasn’t the real Hoi An. Those pretty 3 streets down near the river just all seemed to be geared towards the visitors. The real Hoi An was away from the river, which we managed to explore a little bit before the floods. We found lovely baguette sellers (the Vietnamese like their sandwiches), a smashing little cafe with the friendliest people and the cheapest beers (only about 15p each and buy 2 get 1 free) and the best food stalls for dinner. We never got to explore the beaches because of the floods which is a shame, but all in all I enjoyed my time here, and in fact those few days ended up being a proper little adventure, that I couldn’t have predicted, and that’s what makes Hoi An memorable for me.

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Heard of Saigon? Or Ho Chi Minh City? It’s the same place, a big sprawling city in South Vietnam. It was renamed HCMC in 1976 but it’s still commonly referred to as Saigon (which I think I like better). It’s a 24 hour bus journey from Hoi An. Yep, that’s right, 24 hours. Honestly, it’s not as bad as it sounds. Really. It was actually two 12 hour journeys, split with an hours wait in the middle to change buses. After all my travelling this year, long journeys are now the norm. It’s short journeys that are out of the ordinary. My next flight, from Cambodia to Singapore, is only 2 hours. How exciting, I can’t wait! It’s going to seem like a bit of a treat, haha. I then have a 6 hour wait in Singapore before a 7 hour flight, but hey, that’s not the point.

HCMC is big, loud, brash, noisy, hot, dirty, a bit seedy and IN YOUR FACE. Just how I like a city to be. Well, maybe not the seedy part. The traffic is a nightmare, there’s thousands of scooters and trying to cross the road is like running the gauntlet. Moto drivers and bar owners constantly shout at you to get your business, and the usual baguette and noodle stands line every corner. I have to admit, I was getting a bit ‘city-ed’ out by the time we arrived here. Still, in true travelling style there was a big city out there to be explored, so we spent a few days walking lots, eating, finding cheap beers (naturally) and visiting a museum and war tunnel or two.

In no particular order, my favourite things about Saigon:

  • The scooters. Thousands of them. I love just stepping out into the road and crossing, having them all weave their way around you. I love watching as people transport everything under the sun on them, as well as trying to eat, drink, talk or text all at the same time. I love the scooter helmets and all the different designs.
  • The food. Oh the food. We found some places that were so good we didn’t really go anywhere else. I had one of the best chicken noodle soups I’ve had, only 50p for a huge bowlful, in a little local cafe that would show films opposite a glass factory and a place that sold ice. We spent a few afternoons just sitting, eating and watching Vietnamese life go on. We saw a woman delivering a massive pane of glass on the back of a scooter (at first glance you couldn’t see the glass and we just thought she was throwing her hands in the air like she just didn’t care). We saw the young guy delivering ice on the back of his scooter, dripping water and soaking from where he’d been sat up against the bags. We watched a bit of Terminator 3 and drank iced tea after our soup. We found a little family run egg baguette place where we’d go every morning; they’d bring stools out for us to sit on, give us water to drink, and sometimes a bit of fruit. While eating some of the tastiest egg sandwiches I’ve had we’d try and have conversations with them but none of us spoke much in the other’s language.
  • The war remnants museum. It was heavily propaganda-ised, however there was an excellent display of press photographs from the war and some related articles, which helped balance it all out a bit. After this last trip here I finally felt like I’d learnt what I wanted to learn about the war.
  • Cheap beer. We found a great little cafe on one of the main streets where they served cheap beer and we could sit and people watch from the tables outside on the street. We went here a few times; the first night resulted in many beers here, then to a lively bar where we drank loads of rum buckets, met some strange people and had a 5am bedtime. Another time we had to move from the front tables on the street because the police came round and were enforcing the pavement space rules (which seemed slightly strange, as the bar was opposite the police station and they saw the tables there every day, and then saw us get up and move the tables away while they were watching. A bit of a bizarre practice.).
  • The people. The local people in Vietnam are cheeky, spirited and generous to a tee. I very much enjoyed the interactions I had with them, especially some of the street hawkers that would come and pester us when we were sat outside drinking beer.
  • City wandering. We had a good old wander and saw parks, cathedral, the post office (we scoffed at people taking photographs inside until we went in ourselves and did the same thing – beautiful building!), statues, skyscrapers, Christmas decorations, posh hotels, the river and other general city stuff. Saigon has a lot of old and new architecture, and quite often both are side by side, and make quite a stunning view.
  • The Cu Chi tunnels. You can go and visit the tunnels made by the Vietnamese during the war, where many people lived underground for years. They were incredible. They’ve been widened by 35% and lights added but blimey, how people lived and used them is beyond me. They are really hot and humid, claustrophobic and even just going about 100m through them was enough for most of us. Seeing the booby traps they used to maim and kill American soldiers was pretty sobering too. A lot of people died in those tunnels. Hugely saddening.
  • Meeting people. We met some interesting people in Saigon; people who were travelling or just on holiday, and people who were living and working there. We also bumped into a few people we’d met in Laos previously. It’s a small travelling world, especially the North>South Vietnam trail so it’s not really surprising, and a wonderful bonus. I love meeting all different kinds of people when travelling; the conversations to be had can be anything from light hearted and fun, to serious, challenging and in depth. I get to find out about how people live in other countries, how they travel, what their beliefs are, what their viewpoints are and it just keeps on opening my eyes even wider to understand all the things that make the world go round.

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I loved Vietnam. I really, really did. I’ve wanted to visit for years, and I’m well chuffed that I now have. I learnt loads, had lots of fun, met some great people, saw some beautiful scenery and had a brill adventure. It’s been my most favourite SE Asian country so far but I can’t quite put my finger on why. Just a feeling. I think I’ll be back someday. There’s so much more of the country to explore, and maybe next time I’ll make it even more of an adventure. And get me one of those scooters.

By the border.

Mae Sot is a border town; it’s not really a tourist/traveller destination. It’s not visited that much, it’s a bit out of the way and doesn’t really have many attractions as such. So, that was kind of the attraction for us. Let’s check out what others don’t.

It had a very different feel to the other places in Thailand that I’ve been to. Being a border town, and there being a Burmese refugee camp nearby, there was a large mix of different cultures and people, and it felt a bit like a town with no purpose and no character. A bit soulless I guess, and the people didn’t seem to be as friendly or welcoming as other places we’d been.

I was in a bit of a travel funk in Mae Sot I think. A bit tired from all the travelling, the guesthouse we stayed in was really hot and the fan didn’t really do much apart from just circulate hot air, and I wonder whether I was just a bit fed up for no particular reason, so I’m not sure whether this affected how I viewed the place. I’m pleased we went to visit, I’m pleased we saw it and I did have a good time and enjoyed all the stuff we did. But, I wasn’t too fussed to leave and I wouldn’t go back.

It had a huge and bustling market, where you could buy pretty much any fish, meat or vegetable you wanted. I even saw Angry Birds on sticks. No idea what they were made out of, and I probably don’t want to know. We’ve visited loads of markets now, and they’re all the same but different. All the smells, the sights and the stuff they’re selling. The market community, the food and the hustle and bustle. No matter how many we’ve been round, it never gets boring or the same. We love it.

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We hired bikes to get out into the countryside, to do a bit of exploring. This was an awesome day. The sun was out, the countryside was pretty, a lot of the people we saw we friendly and smiley and there were a few hills for a bit of cardio exercise, which is something I’m still not doing as much as I’d like. Oh, and these bikes had a much softer seat than the ones in Kanchanaburi. I felt about 10 years old again, free wheeling down the hills with my legs stuck out and then remembering that the brakes were a bit shit. Luckily there wasn’t any traffic, bar the odd farmer or old man on a motorbike, who, incidentally, appeared to find the simple fact we were cycling down the road highly amusing.

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The couple of days was topped off by some smokin’ Japanese food out of the back of a pick up van and the fact that there was a beer shop next door to the guesthouse that sold cheap beer. Although, the fact that I was in a travel funk meant I didn’t join Nick in any beers. Oh, and I nearly forgot to mention that we ate the cheapest meal we have had there. And cheap price did not mean bad food. Cheap price=very good food. 25 baht for a plateful. That’s 50p. 50p for a plateful of curry/vegetable/meat and rice. Ba-rg-ain.

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Like I said, I’m pleased we went, I’m pleased we experienced it, and I did have a good time. But, there was just something about the place that didn’t gel with me. But I can’t expect that everywhere will. I guess it’s just the first place that hasn’t really, and it surprised me.  

Delhi. How you surprised me.

So, I arrived in Delhi. Or, rather, I was hit smack bang in the face by Delhi after around 18 hours travelling. It’s what people say. India, culture shock. Loud, noisy, smelly, dirty, bright, colourful and lots of people, animals and litter. Which, if you’re not used to it or haven’t been anywhere like it before, can be a bit of an assault on the senses. All of them.

And it’s exactly that. Like a punch in the face, you know you’re in Delhi.

It’s loud and noisy: scooters, rickshaws and cars are all beeping their horns. Constantly. Street sellers are shouting, people are shouting.

It’s smelly: all kinds of smells. Walking down a small part of one street I can smell spices, incense, food, sewage, animals and rotting food, all one after another.

It’s dirty: there is litter everywhere. Mud, crap you name it, it’s there. There are open urinals at a lot of the entrances to side streets, which, I’m sure you can imagine, has a certain smell in 35+ degree heat. Some of them are right next to food carts. Nice.

It’s bright and colourful: from the many millions of shops selling clothes, saris, scarves and fabric of all colours and patterns to the most wonderfully bright saris and clothes worn by the Indian women and the different colours of the buildings and rickshaws, there is colour galore here. How I’d love to visit during Holi where the streets and everything in them get covered in multi coloured powder.

There are lots of people and animals: everywhere. Day and night. Well, 16.75 million people do live here after all. So, imagine your home town as busy as it can be. Maybe the High Street. Got that picture? Good. Now imagine everyone walking in opposite directions, then changing, walking on the road, trying to get your attention, stopping or walking in front of you. Then add in a few cows. Some dogs. Maybe some small children. People sat on the ground. Then add in bikes, cars, rickshaws and scooters. Oh, and this High Street is sometimes only 10 feet wide. Yes, it’s a bit crazy.

But, you know what? I LOVE it. I really do. It’s so crazy, so busy and bustling, so hot and humid but it’s intriguing and alive. It’s real life. Real life that’s so completely different to my own, it’s wonderful to be able to be a part of it for a short while. To experience it myself, right here, right now. Not through TV, or a book, or someone else’s photos. But to live and breathe it. Smells and all.

I’ve been here two days, part of which was spent catching up on sleep. But I’ve seen so much already. I’ve wandered around the backstreets of Old Delhi, spent time with the chipmunks at the Red Fort, marvelled at the Bahá’í House of Worship (Lotus Temple), strolled down Rajpath with an ice cream after finding the India Gate, bought a scarf for 66p and enjoyed zipping around Delhi on the Metro. Every time I step outside the hotel there’s something new to see or experience. Here’s just a few examples:

  • A boy having a fight with a goat.
  • Live chickens in a cage for sale.
  • Quite a few cows (they are sacred here).
  • A man with a stuck on beard (why?).
  • The women only carriages on the Metro. Much less crowded that the mixed ones, and with air con. Bliss!
  • Many inappropriately named shops (for example: Doggy Style Hot Dog Shop or Shag En Beauty Shop)
  • Nearly being mowed down by a scooter. And rickshaw. And car. You get the idea.
  • I’ve been chatted to by many different people; all men. The majority of the time they’re trying to scam you, by trying to send you to different agencies, to get more money off you. They see a westerner, especially a woman and think money, unfortunately. A chap read my aura this afternoon. He was quite good, wrote things on paper then asked me questions and all the answers on the paper were right. He also said I am sincere and have a good heart but lack concentration and my head is full of butterflies, which I’d say does just about sum me up, especially right now. I told him from the very off I didn’t have any money, he said he wasn’t after money. Eventually, he was going to tell me the secret of how I could sort my ‘insane’ brain out, but I’d have to pay. Surprise surprise. Have to say, I was intrigued at what he would say but wasn’t prepared to pay for it. And I’m not sure I want to fix myself, I’m quite happy how I am, butterflies and all.
  • I was invited out for a drink by a chap who started chatting to me along the road. I politely declined, but it’s been a while since anyone has asked me out, haha. Incidentally, after telling him I wanted a quiet night and meal alone, a German guy called Mark joined me and I chatted to him all night. But, not quite the same. Mark was a traveller too, on his way to trek in Ladakh, and had a girlfriend.
  • Two guys who worked at the railway station tried their hardest to scam me when I went to get my train tickets. They stopped me before I could get to the building to say the Tourist Information Office (where you buy tickets and which there are signs for) has moved, and showed me on a map where to go and tried to get a rickshaw to take me. They were very good but I’d read about the scam before, and had been given directions from the chap at my hotel (which, by the way was great. Clean, great location, great staff – can’t fault it). They still stopped me from going any further so I decided to go back to the hotel, check with the staff again exactly where I needed to go. I went back, avoided the crowds outside and managed to get inside to where I needed to be. Not everyone was so lucky; a couple of girls at the hotel had just been ripped off by this scam. I can see why; they’re very convincing, especially when they work at the station.
  • I got stared at A LOT. All westerners do, especially women by the Indian men. It’s just how things are, and you get used to it. A lot of them will try to chat to you, shout out. You just have to perfect the art of walking along and ignoring.
  • Despite the above. I’ve never felt unsafe. Not even once. Not walking around at night by myself, or when walking through the tiny backstreets of Old Delhi and being the only westerner around.

I’m leaving tomorrow. I’ll be spending nearly 9 hours on two trains to go to a place called Shimla up in the mountains. I’ll be pleased to escape the Delhi heat and humidity.  You know that feeling when you open an oven that’s been cooking something for a while and you get hit in the face with that host blast of air? Well that’s kind of what it’s like here. It certainly was the first night I was here in my room, no air con and just a fan blowing very hot air around. I relented and went to pay the extra to have the air con. So, so pleased I did. It’s only an extra £2.70 a night, but, when the hotel room is only costing £6 a night it’s quite a bit extra. Bloody worth it for my sanity and sleep though.

So, it’s fair to say I’ve enjoyed Delhi, and will most likely be back here for a day again before I fly onto China at the end of the month. I’m looking forward to the mountains though, and train ride number 2: the Shimla Toy Train. Although a relatively short journey in km, it takes hours. It’s twisty, goes over bridges and through tunnels (103 of them), all in, as I understand it, pretty cool scenery. Let’s hope so, I do like a good landscape.

Old DelhiSONY DSC

Bahá’í House of Worship (Named The Lotus Temple, because it’s shaped like a lotus flower)SONY DSC

Waiting for the women only carriage of the MetroIMG_4857

The Red FortSONY DSC

India GateSONY DSC

Kids of Zambia.

Today it feels wrong to say it’s been a good day, but it has been a day of mixed feelings. Unfortunately I received some sad news first thing, and, although it was something I was expecting at some point, it’s still a shock and this morning left me feeling far away from home and unable to give support to those who need it most right now. You know I’m thinking of you all though, so much love sent and please take care of yourselves and look after each other to get through this difficult time.

Today was my first day of teaching. Actual teaching of children in a school. Teaching English, Maths and Literacy. Me. Someone who’s not a teacher, hasn’t got any teaching quals and who hasn’t done anything like this before (OK, so I’ve done loads of training and presentations but that’s at work and I’m not sure training someone how to make a posting on Origin or talking about a project I’ve managed is quite in the same league). I’ve had to think about how to explain the stuff that I learnt years ago, already know and just take for granted. Anyone want to explain long division or multiplying fractions? Or sentence construction? To kids? Who speak a different language? You can perhaps see why I was bricking it this morning.

My brother said to just take it in my stride. I just decided to take the same approach I always have when doing stuff like this. Like presentations, training, speeches or interviews. Prepare as much as I can and then just blag it. Sometimes it comes off, sometimes it doesn’t. Most of the time it does. And most of the time no one else will realise you’re blagging it anyway.

And you know what? It was great fun. Yep, definitely daunting. And nerve wracking. But, I think I got the hang of it. And now I’ve done it once I can do it again. And it will be easier next time, and the time after that. I know [roughly] what I’m doing now. I’m getting an idea of the levels of the kids and what and how much they need to be taught.

I have Grade 5, which isn’t really a set age as such, more that they are grouped by ability as the Zambian school system isn’t compulsory and consists of 7 years of primary schooling (with an official entry age of 7) and 5 years of secondary schooling. My class are a great bunch of kids, so happy and keen to learn. They were fascinated by my iPhone and taking pictures, or having pictures taken of them. I let them loose with it and they took hundreds of photos on my phone, posing with each other and then all gathering round squealing at the finished picture. It was so funny to watch. I taught them a few poses 😉

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Getting there is a bit of a challenge too. It’s the most rural school we go to. Right in the middle of the bush. The [mud] houses are all over the place and so many kids have miles to walk to get there. And if they’re late they have to sweep the yard, or do other chores before school starts. Although I’m not quite sure I get this as that makes classes start later anyway. But, although they have a syllabus and lesson plans, it’s still very flexible and they don’t seem to be stuck to as rigidly as you’d find in England so I guess it all goes hand-in-hand. This morning we got driven in one of the pickups. The double cab one. Which, on the face of it, seemed a great bet; it’s chilly here in the morning so whizzing along in the back of a pick up or in the safari truck would have been cold, cold, cold. However, it was a journey that reminded me of playing Daytona rally with my brother in the arcades when I was little. High trees either side of a single sandy track – hard right, hard left – with the morning sun just glistening through the trees. Bloody hell, you don’t half get shaken about though, uneven ground and tight corners. As I got out of the truck at the end I felt like my back surely must be broken. I am pleased to report it wasn’t. Oh, and there’s also a bit of the road where you have to drive through the river to carry on.

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Only in Africa.

Oh, and one last thing about today? Dad, you’ll never guess what we got given for lunch. Frankfurter sausages and salad. How I chuckled. No mini eclairs in sight though 😛