Adventures from Here and There

Delhi Time! March 19, 2012

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Delhi time! i arrived here on thursday night…well at 2am…i was picked up from the airport this time and all went smoothly. I have had a bit of an issue with accommodation, but now that I am here, I can sort that out. This trip is only 10 days, so I can survive it. I may be back here in April for a week, but that is still tbd. May, 2 weeks, all of June, and 2 to 3 weeks in July. Yes, the grossest time of the year in terms of weather!

Delhi has been good so far. I feel quite comfortable and safe on my own…even though I keep hearing horror stories. The rickshaw driver only got me lost once, and he was really nice about it. I just couldn’t find another one and walked miles to the main road and that was late at night, but it was totally fine. No one has really bothered me here, compared to my trip ten years ago. Knock on wood. I have found Connaught Place, known as CP to most, and it brings back memories of my last trip here. It does not seemed to have changed much.  Khan Market is a more upscale area, lots of expats and well off Indians. There are a ton of restaurants, cafes, shops and salons in the small block. Needless to say, I have found my fav. Delhi salon. The set up is strange in that 3 floors of a building are occupied. So a restuarant can be on the top floor and you wouldn’t even know unless you were really familiar with the place.

The streets of Delhi are packed with people, but no surprise. Tuk tuks and cars swerve in and out of every lane and the constant honking…well how can one get used to that? It is ever polluted and smoggy and I have not yet seen blue skies. The streets are full of dirt and garbage, some areas more than others.

Yesterday, I ended up going to the Delhi Jazz festival, which was really nice. It was closing day and there were 3 bands, one from Germany, Mexico and Spain. The music was fantastic and the crowd was totally into it. It was set in Nehru Park. People had brought their blankets, snacks and other concotions. I ended up going there with a friend of friends who is with the Spanish Embassy and helped to organize the whole event. So it was a good great experience for me. My first red carpet in Delhi.

Oh yes, there is a metro now, works well. There are women’s only compartments too, which is really helpful. What’s cute is that there are no doors closing off the women’s apartment that is connected to the unisex one and that one is always packed with men, perhaps trying to find their suitable girl. Love it.

I have not done a whole lot of sight seeing yet, as I do have some time, being back and forth here from now until July. It will be interesting to see how the 3 lives unfold over the next few months – the life in the field with the local people, the expatriate in Delhi life, and the life with the better off Indians. It will be somewhat similar to Kenya I suppose. Balance.

I love chai!


I Love London! December 7, 2011

Filed under: Travel — travelchokri @ 8:57 am
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the last 10 days or so were spent in the UK – weekends in London and the remainder of the time in Oxford. I was on a Monitoring and Evaluation training there and had a meeting in London as well, but mostly, london was play time. Oxford was great. Met some interesting people and know how to use an impact grid now! I went into the city centre every single day, only getting lost on the first day when i got off at the wrong bus stop and had to walk what felt like miles in the rain! but i had U2 to keep me company. met up with farid, a friend from university, who is now doing his MBA there. the last time we met up was 5 years ago, while he was in Egypt. he looks the same.

london – well, as amazing as it always is. i fell in love with that city the second i landed in 2000, after i ran away from home. okay, not really from home, but yes, i did run away from stuff. for some reason, i felt like i had to go to london. so i quit my job at Saatchi & Saatchi, in the hopes of a new life. I did go to S&S there, where it all began, but my heart told me to…well…forget about a ‘real’ job and work at a wine bar. i lasted a day. next, a member’s lounge in knightsbridge. so what if i knocked over 6 champagne flutes on the first day, after that, it was easy sailing! after a month and half or so, it was time to return home. and so i did…and entered a new career path – teaching. years later, i would return to london again, on the run once again. this time though, i had the not so wonderful opportunity to supply teach. everyone knows that unless you are insane, you do not take something like that up in london. i remember a grade 3 girl telling me to F off. so 2 months went by and i returned home again. back to this trip, i felt alive….more than usual. the city was buzzing and the fact that it was the holiday season made it even more bustling. people hate the crowds. i love them. especially in london. it was nice to see girlfriends and i realized how much i miss them in my life. it was a bit tough to leave them this time, without feeling that horrible feeling that one does in the pit for their stomach when it is time to go. i also met up with ex academy kids. that was interesting. i had never partied with them in nairobi, but it was time.

i ate and drank like the world was coming to an end. from red velvet cupcakes to chocolate souffle. the things you can get in london! M&S in the best! so much good food you can takeaway. i do not have those options in geneva. a few going out nights and dinners, now i shall be fine for a couple of weeks, until i return home to do the same. home? where is home? canada is still home.

london is a place for friends, lovers, singletons, families, mad people and all walks of life. every area offers something different…from artsy notting hill to swanky knightsbridge. i love it all!


Bliss November 27, 2011

Filed under: Travel — travelchokri @ 11:47 pm

landed in london on saturday morning. was a nice day. was staying with farrah. the streets were so insane that we could not even move! met up with shy, a friend from nairobi, who is now in london and we had yummy burgers! headed back to her place in portman square and had a few drinks…was different to see her out of the kenya context. glad she is happy. went to the valmont at night for fj’s birthday…the other fj. had a nice time dancing again. i have eaten way too many cakes, cupcakes, chocolates, etc. went to the hilton park lane spa with aliyah today but we were late so we missed one of our treatments. our half and hour massage was not half an hour…15 mins! we were not thrilled, but very tactfully, is that a word, complained. so we may be back there next sunday. the afternoon tea was wonderful though, with scones and sandwiches. rich black tea and bellinis. i am now in oxford. training begins tomorrow for a week. i like oxford. this cute little hotel is so xmasy too. i love it. the train ride was nice…strange…everyone around me was on facebook. what an addiction…seriously…everyone around me, including me, seems so engulfed by this social networking site! i love london. and when i get here, things are totally in perspective again. it is hard to hold on to that though once i leave. well…that is all for now.


The Italian Job November 7, 2011

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Florence, Italy, November 4-6.

Good times.

Jesse Cook.  Hotel Party. New Order.

Random street dancing.

Food galore! And walking madness!


Bicycles and lovers.

Fabulous drive.

Round and round.

Thanks FA.


Rasputin September 23, 2011

Filed under: Travel — travelchokri @ 7:59 pm
day 10
went to Yekaterinburg for a night to see programmes related to RfC. Was becoming a bit difficult because noone spoke english and I sat through a 2 hour seminar, long discussions, meetings, all in russian or pamiran. S was great to translate, but since she was conducting the seminar, she could not translate then. it was cold, but not so bad. rainy. overall, the visit was tiring, but we know how to move forward! i leave this evening for Geneva.
day 7
anyone want a ‘pip’ show? or some rubs?

Inside Red Square

day 6

good meetings today. one with a central library and one with another ngo. there are just too many laws here that one  must follow and figure out in order to get any sort of programme running. ‘Russia for Russians’ was a term used. every building is super secure. keypad outside to get into the main building. then a bell to get into the office you want to get into.  met with a lovely lady at the ngo today, who was so enthusiastic and believed in the cause. we had tea in a little room that reminded me of a cottage with old saucers and plates. sort of like a home in london. spent a lot of time in the car.

finally made it to the city centre. red square. kremlin, etc. getting there was a mission though. i mean there is no english written anywhere. even the russian alphabet is different. i took the metro and there are no names on the wall at each station to let you know where you are. so i got to the right station and then getting out was a problem. i think there are 3 levels with trains in the stations and way too many people, that  you feel like you are in a can of sardines. fire hazard! so i followed the masses, thinking they would lead me out. instead i kept ending up on other platforms. finally, someone assisted me in english. i spent a good 20 minutes in the station going up and down escalators! i probably looked like a lost child.

now i have seen part of the city centre i suppose. not real busy. doesn’t feel like a ‘downtown’. ended up at GUM department store, of course. Names like Dior, Armani and Zara. found a cute cobblestone street with a starbucks, obviously. what can i say, free wifi and great music. the  man next to me is sketching a picture of two girls. he’s not bad actually.

the women here love their heels…like super high heels. and knee high boots.

i guess i need to figure out how to get back to the hotel now. that will be interesting.


day 5

The Madness of Moscow

A mixture of the new and old.

Tons of people everywhere,

Even a lady in only her underwear!

Colourful babushkas,

And everywhere hookahs.

Busy streets, lots of bustle,

Saucy ads, not much muscle!

Madness of Moscow.

day 4

first time on the moscow public transport. some of the stations are beautiful. high, old ceilings. where did all the people come from? non rush hour times are busier than london or new york rush hour. but i guess it is much bigger of a city with way more people. the first subway we got on felt like a rollercoaster. it was super fast and just had no control. next, a taxi. but not a legit one because i have not seen those yet. how do you flag a taxi? well you stand by the side of the road and stick your hand out, as you would in an other city, but random cars will stop. you then find out if they know where to go, negotiate a price and then hop into the stranger’s car! yes, that is what 3 of us did today. gypsy taxi as one of them said. very normal for the other 2 girls. of course, i would not do this on my own. then on the way back from our meeting, we took another form of transport, a van. a public van. the latter part of the afternoon was spent this way. my appetite is definitely back. im okay. had some really good sushi today. still cold. i will have to get into the central city area before the weekend, as then, im off to another are in russia for 2 days. people keep speaking russian to me.

check out the subway system

 day 3

parent workshop all day. good to see a few fathers out. difficult to sit through a whole day and not understand the language. translation is there, but even that sometimes becomes tiring. nothing superbly exciting to blog. found my second home…starbucks. having a chai and a red velvet cupcake. this is the first meal i have been able to finish in about a week and a half. appetite is gone. not such a bad thing i suppose. moscow is cold and gloomy. hoping to see more in the week.  life is full of surprises…some are alright….like a red velvet cupcake in moscow – even if it did not taste quite so.

day 2

long day. this is kind of different from being in the ‘field’, in that it is not quite in the field. cannot really say moscow is the ‘field.’ went to valdamir region, 3 hours there and 3 hours back. felt like a 10 hour drive. however, it was nothing like the beautiful drives through the mountains or the bumpy adventures on dirt roads. all i saw was highway.

tajikis/pamiris in russia are our focus for this particular programme. cute baby caught my attention after ages. nice visit. i thought kyrgyzstan was the only place i would get that traditional bread…but no…i had an authentic pamiri meal which consisted of that same bread! i had tea in a special cup today. it was a message to me, ‘my best wish is your happiness’. getting that cup today, from all days, was a nice way to get the message. i was not sure how i was going to feel today and that message came at the right time.

the funniest thing happened today. a lady at bp would not sell me water and toothpaste until the person filling gas in our car paid first. but he had already paid, and then she still wouldn’t ring me in. of course, i left my stuff on the counter and walked out. so strange.

tomorrow is sunday.  a full day workshop for parents.

 day 1

landed in moscow a little after 6, local time. a bit delayed. how do people not board their flight and still not make it to the aircraft in the time it takes to remove their bags off the plane? the traffic into town was brutal. first thoughts: not such a pretty place in terms of natural beauty. unless of course you count the russian women. concrete. new and old. skyscrapers scattered here and there. great 5 lane roads. many one way roads. bright signs. big malls. ikea. marks and spencer. no flowers. english is not a problem. interesting that every driver i meet here, or in kyrgyz is named alexander!

went to an indian restaurant for dinner. what a view. the moscow state university was the most magnificent building in the skyline.  there are 7 buildings (sister) that look the same. like…wow. this weekend is a full day to evening work weekend so tonight i had a briefing. the food was great and i have a much better understanding of the programmes and why they began. it was only difficult to hear one another, every 10 to 15 minutes when the music was pumped and the russian dancer came out to belly dance! we watched her perform 5 times. what to do.

moscow has more billionaires living in the area than any other city in the world. i will have to check out tret’yakovskiy proezd and if i get time, though it does not look like it based on my schedule, hit the russian ballet.

get to sleep in a bit tomorrow…until 9 so that will be nice. it is friday, midnight. i found an english TV channel. god only knows what i am watching though. the ‘radio’ channel is wicked.

nice to be back out in the field after a couple of months.



Back to the Motherland September 21, 2011

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june 24

the glamour girls and laura and nadeem’s wedding party

 It has been some time. To my aunt’s who told my mom they had not heard from me at all…this is for you! Okay, not just for you!
I have had a fruitful visit to EA. Spent one week in Mombasa, traveling to Kingango and Kwale and had a bit of time of time to hang out in the evening with friends. The work on the ground was intense, with 4 hour drives each day, 3 hour school visits and 1 hour follow-up discussions. But all worth it. On the second last day I attended a meeting where I was thrown into an unexpected situation and ended up providing training to 41 individuals that are involved in the Reading to Learn programme- the programme that I was visiting. It was a great session. The last day was kept aside for meeting with government officials etc to discuss the way forward.
Uganda was even more hectic. Flew into Kampala and then drove straight to Soroti, about 5.5 hours. Small town. Small hotel with no hot water, etc. We were traveling to Dokollo and Alomotar each day, about 2.5 hours one way on bumpy, dirt roads in a pick up truck. I think I am still bruised. Kenya seems to be a bit more ahead in the plans than Uganda. But the visits there were also enlightening.
On my way to EA I stopped off in London for a friend’s stagette. We had a nice time…must say certain parts of that night were also very enlightening! I still love london.
Got to spend a weekend in nairobi on the way to uganda. quick trip. landed friday night and was off again on sunday morning. had friday night dinner, attended a pre wedding party and had a small brunch. went out on saturday night as well to the… usual.
I am back in kampala and off to geneva later tonight. Will have some time to recouperate over the weekend and then back to work on monday…i leave for portugal on thursday for 5 days. wedding. looking forward to that!

   Brunching at Art

  Great Time with Gal Pals (and boy pals).


Aliyah and Farouq got married in Cascais. I spent one night in Lisbon before that. It was nice to connect with old friends, and meet some new. We did maja!

Aliyah and Farouq's Wedding in Portugal, July 2& 3

  Munira, Saira and I have known each other since we were about 5 years old. Growing up in 2 different small towns, we met on Friday’s at the mosque. Munira left us when it was time, and heading to  U of T. Saira and I followed a year later, but we both decided on Western. Saira and I then heading to the same school in toronto, to do our post grad stuff – her in human resources and me in marketing management. Saira went on her path and me in mine, in the wonderful world of Saatchi & Saatchi. We both lived in toronto, but grew apart as the years went on. Now, we are back on track. It was great to re-connect with the Grimsby girls. Nice to have them around again. And of course, we have already planned a trip for December 2011! Trouble is about to begin…

the ex farrah sunderji, now farrah jamal and I

farrah…there is just too much to write about this strong and amazing woman. one lady i know that i can always count on. love you.


The Man up There

Filed under: Travel — travelchokri @ 8:52 am

may 10

I reached this country (kyrgyzstan) about a day ago, some odd time in the morning. Landed in Bishkek and spent a night at UCA (university of central asia) building where the offices are. I was staying in a great apt, 10 times bigger than my geneva one…and  nicer. It was good to catch up on sleep, despite the fact that is was Victory Day, celebrated with sirens and fireworks. Bishkek is the capital for those of you who are unfamiliar with this area. Early this morning I caught another flight to Osh and the day has passed with meetings and discussions on the work that i will be doing here for the next 2 weeks. We passed over snow-covered mountains on the way here, just stunning to be so close and are surrounded by views as we drive through osh. The office seems organized and believe it or not, there is an online taxi service in this small town. And unlike Pakistan, the lunch is brief and therefore I do not have to sit through Russian and Krygz convos for an hour. Oromo, some type of pastry with potatoes, onions and meat is quite yummy.
Kyrgyzstan, in central asia used to be part of the Soviet Union.   Life seemed easier and better during Soviet times. The level of culture was higher and provision was comprehensive and reliable, whether for job availability, books or fruit prices. The challenges of democratic transition, especially in the context of the country’s ethnic diversity and accompanying tensions, have given rise to considerable unrest in the years following independence. Even in the more secure Soviet times, Kyrgyzstan was among the poorest states in central asia, and almost a third of the population lived below the Soviet poverty line.After the break-up of the Soviet Union in the 1990s, the economy fell into crisis and the standard of living dropped dramatically. Many facilities closed down across the country – factories, schools, theatres, hospitals – Kyrgyzstan became poor even in global terms. Although an education system remained in place after independence, many of its elements deteriorated.  A reduced national budget made it difficult to invest in infrastructure and provide adequate training or pay for teachers or to allow for the changes. Enrollment in schools dropped amongst both girls and boys as well as the literacy rates. Scores on international tests are some of the lowest amongst developing countries. There is therefore a great need for solid and sustainable programmes that meet the needs of the communities. Being a farming population, many migrate to different areas through the summer, disrupting their children’s education. Satellite kindergartens and jailoos – large tents that move around with the families to meet some of these challenges have been initiated. Anyway, that was just a bit of history and background. I am here to follow-up on the RfC, reading for children programme, which is one of the programmes that has implemented in the region, to conduct an impact assessment since initiation -more qualitative rather than quantitative.

may 14

So it has been about a week since I landed in Krygyzstan. I have been in Osh for the last 5 days and have been heading out for field visits in the Alai district. The drive is about 2.5 to 3 hours each way and it is the same drive each day. But it is so beautiful on that side, that you look at the mountains and nature in a different light each day.
I have been visiting the mini libraries and the reading for children programme in different villages. Of course, everyone is happy with the books and the work that is being done for them. It is very difficult to assess the overall impact a programme has had by just speaking to, and observing people in their homes for a short while. Of course, if an outsider is coming, behaviours will change automatically. Think about it, if your boss or an external evaluator was coming to do an assessment on your work, would you not slightly change the way that you do things, perhaps even unknowingly?
Today we had a great family visit. Most of the grandparents take care of the children as  parents are in russia for work. These grandparents were amazing, doing role plays with their grandchildren. At one point the grandpa pulled out his accordion and they all sang together! Being poor here is very different from being poor in other parts of the world. The poor here have tvs and satellite dishes and proper houses and food. Some even have cars.
On a personal level, it has been somewhat interesting and at times tough. The kitchen at the guest house in undergoing renovation, so no meals, and the food we get in the day consists of bread and lard. No joke, pure lard.We eat at the family homes, which they insist on. So first, we are putting them out and secondly, you know it is not hygienic and the tummy suffers hours later. So poor eating habits, but I have been trying to exercise a bit, taking walks etc.
In addition to that, I have been attacked by bed bugs and though the room has been disinfected the last 2 days, I woke up again today with big, red spots. I wonder why I am okay with this? There is no way in the developed world that I would be alright with this. So why here? I finally moved rooms today. Yes, i have experienced all of this before at some point in my life, but been there, done that! And of course, they say this is the first time this has happened to anyone in the guest house! Not surprised.
Travelling on your own in such places can be tough. Especially when you do not speak the language. there is no one to laugh about such things with or just vent –  someone to just listen. This morning, I had a small crying session and I wondered at what point does it make sense to say something. You do not want to seem high maintenance but at the same time, when is it considered ok to make a big deal out of something? I know some of my gal pals would’ve walked out of  this guest house on the first day and then you have my sister and mom, and they prob think that none of this is a big deal.  While I have grown up climbing trees, playing ball, getting beaten up by boys and yes, falling off of washing machines, i can only be ‘tough’ to a certain degree. But my upbringing has def. given me the strength that i need! but i am definitely not that thick skinned!  this is something that i will need to figure out as I will be traveling and encountering these type of experiences often…and those that i did in pakistan. 
I did go out yesterday with someone who I met, another expat, for a meal and some chat. it was nice and needed. I am meeting a lady by the name of gulzar tomorrow who is who experienced in writing children’s stories. will be great to meet her and learn about all her experiences! then we head out to Alai as she would like to see some of the sites. another day in the field!

typical meals

i do not think i have eaten as much bread in my life than i did for 7 days straight.


Interesting Things:
Bride kidnapping – basically if a man sees you and he wants to get married to you, he and is friends kidnap you. They take you to his family home and then his whole family convinces you to stay or they will curse you and put your family to shame. If you insist on leaving, the grandmother is known to throw herself on the ground and say go ahead and disrespect me…climb over me.
Vodka and cigarettes are cheaper here than a meal. It is no wonder everyone smokes and drinks. There is a joke amongst friends in kenya…there should be beer being sold on the roadside or drinks…well it is no joke here. for less than fifty cents you can purchase vodka on the roadside in a container that looks like a jello pudding one, sealed, and have yourself a drink.
Horse milk – i passed on that one but it is their traditional drink
I shared a pee with 2 other grown women in a washroom, like 3 men in a urinal would do. That was interesting.
A cute child peed on me today. Not so cute after that.
All the women have a row of gold teeth, either the top or bottom. In Russia they say it is a sign of wealth. I think here that was the only affordable option.

the most mystifying part of the trip
imagine we need to fly from osh to naryn. i am on a helicopter with 12 other people (3 crew) – 9 I don’t know. one of the crew members tells us that it’s going to be a bumpy ride. i feel a little anxious at this point and ask if i can get my bag from the storage area to take a relaxant (something that erum from pakistan had advised me to do after tha crazy plane ride from islamabad to multan). so i take it and all is fine. the ride was slow and steady. i hoped it to be somewhat like in the movies, now that i was prepared and all. we hit stormy skies. helicopter shook…crew said we could not go any further as they could  not see the mountains. and so we landed…in the middle of absolutely nowhere. it was cold. a couple of the guys walked to the main road and after only a few minutes were able to flag down a van, bus thingie. people traveling from new zealand had hired a whole van to themselves. you would not believe how many spare seats there were…yes 9…9 seats for exactly 9 of us out in the middle of nowhere! how do you explain that one?? and of course that pill had made me so relaxed that i couldn’t keep m head up the remainder of the journey, 4 hours. Strangers have pictures of me swaying all over the place.

Pakistan Zindabad!

Filed under: Travel — travelchokri @ 8:33 am

emails from march/april 2011. first trip back since 1997.

march 27

i made it to islamabad, after a bit of drama of course. shez styles… like losing luggage, arranged driver did not show up at the airport. it was 3am. i took a random taxi and mumtaz, aka mommie, took me to the wrong hotel, despite me telling him a few times. then he got directions for the right one and he still could not find it.  we ran out of gas in the middle of nowhere and it was now 5am…we waited on the side of the road for an hour…a random friend of his shows up…i change cars and finally i say…just take me to the serena! which was the original plan! hotel was fully booked but after i told them it was not 630 and i had landed at 3, and i was tired and i would cry right there, they sorted it all out! it was all worth it in the end! i went to town today and to the local market with jane, a women who is running the ECD workshops. i did not take my camera, as i will be going there often i am sure, in the month that i am here. the fruits were luscious and the strawberries…amazingly red. the people were all kind and answered our many, perhaps odd questions. our driver imtiaz, thought that we were crazy and laughed at us the entire time, esp. with my lack of urdu! we were meant to leave for gilgit today but flights had been cancelled the last couple of days due to the weather. the The helicopter finally returned from tajikstan and my director, along with a few others from bangladesh took it but had to return to islamabad half way through due to the bad weather. so one more night in the serena…glad we did not have to drive…though it would have been lovely…it would have taken us 22 hours. so far it has been fun and games, but starting tomorrow, the work begins. so, i leave the fab serena. the people have been amazing. my computer crashed yest night, i took it in this afternoon and by this evening imitiaz, brought it back…fully functioning! the food has been…wow…and the hotel is wonderfully done up, islamic but modern. i have to say that is by far my fav serena. check out all the pics on facebook you can take a look at them. of course, i will  not be here for the whole month, of course. upon my return, i will be staying at a guest house not far from the office. i plan on heading to both karachi and lahore for a weekend, the busy and vibrant cities, so they say.i am looking forward to heading to gilgit tomorrow to see what changes have been made since 1997. i truly hope that i can get to singhal, the village that i had stayed in for a month and a half, to find my host family, along with the teachers. I wonder what they are up to 14 years later!

  have some local outfits now…so i will be strutting in those for the most part!
 april 20 
I am in Quetta right now. Got here on Tues and back to Islamabad tomorrow afternoon. This place is much different from the rest of Pakistan. Dry, different landscape entirely. And there seems to be a little more insecurity here. There were 2 bomb blasts targeted at ngos today as we were heading to Pishin. Not everyone is open to progression. 
Another girl from the Islamabad office, who joined a week and a half ago joined me on this trip. We went to 2 girls schools, 1 boys school and a training centre today where we met with teachers. The boys school was the highlight of the day. The 5 and boys were something else – all so adorable. I wanted to take home this one tiny chap. Nasibwallah was his name. He had these big brown eyes and he was so attentive to everything that was going on. They learnt how to say good bye, after I said it as i left the classroom, and then could not stop chanting it as they left the school gate. It became a ‘goodbye’ song for them. There teacher was equally great. The first male teacher I have interacted with on this trip, as most are women. However, in the boys schools the teachers are all males. 
One can really see how this programme (RCC) has benefited the children and the community as a whole. Unfortunately, I did not make it to Gilgit or Chitral due to flight cancellations so I was not able to develop an entire picture of the programme’s impact. 

the flight from quetta to multan was horrifying. turbulence all the way. the flight attendant and 3 others were throwing up. the pilot was either unexperienced or drunk. nothing was wrong with the weather. multan was the connection. we still had to get to islamabad. erum and i refused to get back on and one of the men started yelling at us. we told him to go talk to the pilot first. he must’ve been flying too low because we were fine the rest of our journey. gees.
Last weekend I headed to Lahore with a lady that is here for a year on TKN  – volunteer programme. We had a nice time, though the visit felt short.

something funny about the flight from islamabad to karachi on PIA

in the inflight presentation actually told passengers and showed in the video, things to not throw in the toilet. i could not control myself when i saw  – no forks,  no knives, no cups! almina, a lady i had met in islamabad and i were traveling together. i don’t know what was funnier, the video or her face when i asked her if people take their meal trays into the washroom with them! haha


This is India!

Filed under: Travel — travelchokri @ 8:08 am
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Vibrant, smoggy, individualistic and manic- this is India! If you land in Mumbai at an odd hour (530am) get into your pre-paid cab and head to juhu beach. Pick a hotel to gather your thoughts in. juhu hotel, with its friendly staff won’t mind if you drop your luggage off while you pace up and down the beach with hundreds of others, all on a mission to go…nowhere! How nice it is to begin the work day at 10am. Take a look around and notice the yoga-doers, the 2 or 3 white faces, the dried up seaweed, the rubbish and the gazillion birds being fed. Yes, the birds are being fed in a country that still has one of the highest poverty rates. What’s the source of income for them? The two minute stop while the traffic stops at a red. Little girls carrying girls even younger than them. Whose children are they anyway? At the same time, you just want to be left alone.

Too many rickshaws, cars and bicycles. Constant honking. There are days declared for no honking…but then it just wouldn’t be Mumbai! Why bother having any lanes and pedestrian walks? Whizzing on a moped in the streets is exhilarating. But hold on when those speed bumps arise, as you may land on your bare head. If you dare, take the public train and hang out the door from one station to the next. There are just too many people in this city. Yes, the entire population of Kenya is less than this one city alone!

One can get overwhelmed by all the shops and malls randomly spread out through the different districts. Pashminas in every colour and beads in various shapes and sizes can be found at one of the many stalls in the colaba area. Just around the corner, you have the Gate of India, under construction, and across, the grand Taj Palace Hotel. Stroll through and window shop at the only louis vuitton. Take a walk on the side streets and admire the old architecture and washed out buildings. After a while, colaba, juhu and bandra can all look the same…especially when the night falls. Chor bazaar is anarchic, especially on Fridays. If you don’t need a stereo or a car part, don’t bother!

Bhel puri, pani puri, you got it. But the deprived can relish in a maharajah mac or tandoori chicken pizza from pizza hut..everyday. tantalize your taste buds with fresh mango smoothies or a cold lassi. If spice is not your forte, do not forget to ask for mild butter chicken or yellow daal.

If you are lucky enough, you may see a movie shoot or meet up with people working in the industry of bollywood. Yes, it is larger than Hollywood! And make sure you get the low down. But where are those john Abraham look a likes and the gals that look like ashwariya? Definitely not gallivanting on the streets of Mumbai. Young lovers stroll down chowpatty beach, coyly, but hand in hand. Flocks of girls strut their stuff on the beach wearing the latest jeans from fashion street. On either side, high rises continue to go up; ones that only the real swanky can afford. Yes, for a million dollars, you too can breathe in the smog of Mumbai. Mumbai is definitely a city for walking about and discovering. You never know what you will see or who you will meet!

Bangalore, the silicon valley of India; pretty and much less hectic than Mumbai. This place shuts down at 11pm, including the bars. There isn’t a whole lot of sight seeing to do, but stroll through the streets of Brigade area and find man made parks, gardens rather, where residents do their walking exercises. check out the leela kempinski. Unless you have an exact address to where you would like to go, you will surely get lost, even if you take a rickshaw.

If you are looking for some peace of mind or enlightenment then find an ashram in the outskirts of Bangalore. The art of living centre provides and intro course that lasts about 3-4 days. Be prepared to get back to the basics and follow the 10pm curfew. Enjoy the harmonious bhajans at satsang, a celebration, every evening.

Be lazy in kerala. The best Indian food perhaps, comes from the south; colourful and delectable. Girls, don’t stay out past 11pm or you may get scolded by the police. The beaches in trivandrum are not much to brag about, but you can definitely lose time on the strip browsing for jewelry and sipping on interesting concoctions. Head to alleppey, about 2 hours away by car and rent a houseboat for 22 hours. They come in different shapes and sizes, some equipped with TVs and DVD players. Let your private chef serve you south Indian breakfasts, lunches and dinners as you float through the backwaters. Enjoy the sounds of the birds or take part in a photo shoot! Overnight, you will dock in a small village. Take a walk around the rice fields and remember to bring plenty of pens!

Do not forget to put your sunblock on. And bug spray, a necessity. People are generally friendly, though language differences can be a communication barrier. Watch out for cab drivers taking you on longer routes and then trying to overcharge you! If you have lots of time, then take the train at least once from one city to the next. If you are limited in time, there are plenty of domestic airlines to chose from, all reasonably priced. There is just too much to see and do! So pace yourself and make sure you have a good pair of shoes on!

Julia and I in Kerala