Spice Diaries – Vol 1

August 18, 2007 No Comments »

Photo: Market in Old Delhi preparing temple flowers

I have arrived in India…everyone said that it would be an assault to your senses, that it would be overwhelming, that it would be hard – after all, India is the big leagues for vagabonds like myself. Yet, I arrived here 5 days ago – and I’ve felt none of this. It’s been a simple transition so far – yet I proceed cautiously. My only explanation for this is that my past travel experiences have seasoned me – and for that, I’m immensely proud. I wear a big grin on my face and think to myself…India…try to shock me!

Granted – my ease with India also has to do with the fact that I’m not doing the normal travel thing through this country. Instead, I have decided to slow down a bit and give back. Traveling around the world for 15 months is a privilege and I am thankful for my opportunities every day – yet at some point, being thankful isn’t enough. When you become a global citizen, you want to give back. So that’s why I’m here…I want to do something for this world…and I chose India. I am ‘employed’ by a US based volunteer organization named Cross Cultural Solutions. I use the word employed loosely as I actually paid them to be here . That was my first myth of volunteering that I learned about…volunteering isn’t free. Cross Cultural Solutions (CCS) has a Delhi office and an efficient organized operation in India. They partner with the local Non Government Organizations (NGO’s) and assign the volunteers to work for these various local agencies. It’s the responsibility of CCS to take care of our daily needs though. They put the volunteers up in a middle income neighborhood flat, and they teach us about cultural exchange, Indian history, volunteering, and generally the staff supports us while we are in the country. This is a cultural exchange volunteer program – we provide our services and in exchange – we learn about the culture here and really try to integrate into it.

As I arrived in Delhi, a member of the CCS staff picked me up, gave me a welcome packet, dodged the cows in the middle of the road (no, I’m not joking) dropped me at my new apartment which I share with 5 other volunteers, and started orienting me to the local area and my upcoming work. This isn’t my usual off the plane experience (except for the cow) – so maybe that’s why it is going to smoothly so far. Oh yeah….CCS also employs full time cooks that provide us all of our meals….Indian meals…yum!

Photo: Humayun’s Tomb in Delhi
Lest you think this is about pampering…it isn’t. This is work. I will be teaching teenage kids who are impoverished and cannot attend regular school. I will be teaching them conversational English and general computer skills so that they can have a better chance to get a job without any formal schooling. One other thing…I don’t speak Hindi…so this is not going to be a walk in the park!

The weekends are our freetime to do whatever we want. I hope to have time to explore India from more of a traveling perspective – In addition to Delhi in depth, I hope to spend time in Jaipur, Agra, and Udaipur.

Since my time here in India is a little different from my previous travel experiences ( I actually have to set an alarm and get up and go to work…god forbid), I’m not real sure how well I will keep the website up to date. In addition there are daily power outages and a lack of good internet cafes in my new neighborhood. I actually have to take my free time to prepare lesson plans. Therefore, I think that I will be able to do short little posts – to let you know how things are going. I will call them Spice Diaries. Short little diary entries on my experience as a volunteer – good and bad – and not really edited – I will just keep it as more of a true diary. Once I finish my assignment I will focus on doing some more in depth travel writing again. This may come as a relief to some of you who complain to me that you are unable to keep up with my website!

So – use this time wisely – catch up on the site and the photos. Check into the site every now and then and read the Spice Diaries…and see what happens when an 11 month unemployed vagabonder has to go back to work for 4 weeks in a Third World country. Namaste!

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