Delhi – by Maisie

I don’t know where to start because there’s so much to say and do. The best thing has been the cycle rickshaws I liked these because you can go up hills without any work.
India is very hot, noisy, stinky, and humid and that’s why I love it.

Today we went to The National Museum, it was great there but I was looking forward
to the ghost mask it was a monster made out of paper and material, but it was moved somewhere else.
We saw Buddha, Vishnu and Ganesh who are Hindu gods. We saw very old coins and how they made them, there were small ones, really thick ones and square ones.

In the afternoon we went to Lodi Gardens, me and Ali went and took lots of photos.
There were lots of chinchillas and birds that I looked at through our binoculars.
I saw green parrots, blue throats and jackdaws.
Then we went and had soup for lunch and a I had chocolate mousse for pudding (yum, yum!).

Lodi gardens

We had a bad start to today; we had planned to go to The National Museum and got up early, I decided before we came away that we would get up every day at 8.30 at the latest and we were all showered and ready to go by 9 o’clock.

I don’t know whether it was because I didn’t have any breakfast or more to do with breathing in so many fumes or the way but by the time we got to the museum I was feeling ill and unfortunately was sick in the entrance. This quickly spread to Alister who was also sick and whilst I was scrabbling through my bag for wet wipes I realised I couldn’t find all my 3 credit cards.

Several hours, and a bit of panicking later and chips and coke for breakfast we were all feeling fine and ready to go and check out the Hindu gods, the museum was great and we got lots of photo’s to record our time there.
The kids seem to have learnt a lot and we are learning quickly that you have to be very flexible and open minded about the approach to their schooling and take the opportunity to teach them stuff as it arises.
Today we spent a long time talking about The Kohinoor Diamond, this was taken from the Red Fort by Nadir Shah in the 18th century and taken to Persia, at the museum the Nadir Shah’s axe was on display which was a good discussion point and we are going to look up more information on the web tomorrow about how it ended up as part of the British Crown Jewels.

After the museum we went to Lodi gardens, these are beautiful and so peaceful; we saw lots of different kinds of birds and the kids photographed each other in the temples.
We have definitely seen a very different side to Delhi and following some scrummy lunch at gorgeous Lodi Garden restaurant we sit there and look at the time. It is 1000 am in the UK, on a Tuesday morning I would be on a busy ward round, it doesn’t get much better than this, perfect weather, lovely surroundings and great food this is definitely the life!!

Its 10pm now we have come back to our hotel a bit earlier and are going to try and get an early night, we have a 16 hour train journey ahead of us tomorrow evening to Varanasi- can’t wait.

Sorting stuff out day

Today we have to go to New Delhi train station and book our tickets to Varanasi.
I am dreading this, we are staying very close to this station and when we went to check it out yesterday it was absolutely packed and someone squeezed my bum when I brushed past them which was a bit creepy.
Its all amazingly easy though, foreigners have to buy their tickets from a separate area and as advised we ignore several people who insist the International Tourist Bureau is closed and leave the station 20 minutes later with our tickets to Varanasi and onwards tickets to Agra.

Next to do is go and buy Ali a new chain, we have our travel talismans that were bought for us by our friends Marie, Carl and Ben and my workmates and I bought Alister a St Christopher, in true Ali style he has broken the chain 3 days later so we get that replaced for him for 200 rupees.

We are moving hotel today and repack our rucksacks, mine is so heavy it nearly pulls me over and I can’t imagine how I am going to walk anywhere with it on my back, will have to cross that bridge later I guess! Our new hotel is just across from where we are staying at the moment in the Main Bazaar (cheaper, only six quid a night) and no bar.

That’s fine, as the old place had a sign saying no guns/ ammunition allowed in their bar we never really went in it! Sorry mum if you are reading this but we have moved on now and it really was fine there!

We start the kids schooling today, they have both woken up very tired and have absolutely no enthusiasm whatsoever when I tell them its time for a bit of learning.
We set a time limit of an hour’s formal schooling a day and start with some English. We have bought study support books with us and decide to write a story about the life of a dog in Delhi, they plan it together and then Maisie writes the story.
Ali writes the fight scene where he (Reefer) gets bitten and catches rabies from another dog and we spend a long time discussing Reefers feelings about his life of poverty in Paharganj. We then correct all their spellings and punctuation together and are all surprised to see that an hour and forty minutes have passed.
School is out for the rest of the day!

Six o’clock and we head back to the hotel, I have totally screwed up this afternoon and arranged for us to go to visit the Indira Gandhi Memorial Museum in West Delhi, which as Simon points out to me afterwards is shut on a Monday and is in South Delhi.
I blame him as I feel he should know after 8 years together that firstly I am crap at organising stuff and secondly map reading has never been one of my strongest points!

I wash my hair tonight using Lush solid shampoo, good purchase, it does the trick and after drying and straightening my hair ( I’m so glad I packed the GHD’s) feel completely human , for someone who usually washes my hair every day I think I have done well to last four days.
Ali proudly announces he hasn’t changed his pants since we arrived in India, that’s my boy! He makes me laugh so much and I suggest to him that although the shower is cold it’s probably a good idea.
Lastly we are sitting in a rooftop restaurant, Dad asked me to think of him and Pauline if i am anywhere that i think he would like – Well in the warm air with Bob Dylan in the background – Dad i reckon you would really like it here !

The Red Fort

Before our arrival in Delhi I felt quite anxious about what I would find, I tell Simon when we wake up that I don’t know how anyone wouldn’t like it here and he laughs at me and says apart from the amazing noise level, filth, dust, pollution, crowds and poverty he thinks my parents would love it.
I know what he’s saying but for me it feels absolutely alive and I think it’s wicked

After breakfast which was lovely – salty porridge for me, Indian breakfast for Simon and eggs, toast and jam for Ali and Maisie we decide to head off to see the Red Fort and Jama Masjid – the largest mosque in India.

Our chosen mode of transport is a sort of bike/carriage that is cycled by a fella, I feel guilty when we have to go up a big hill and offer to get out and walk but he won’t hear of it although his mate makes him swap over half way (he has Simon and Ali in his)

I have read about foreign women attracting lots of attention from men here and although I am well covered up, Maisie and I receive lots of stares and calling out, but it isn’t threatening (quite good natured and friendly) and doesn’t make me feel uncomfortable. When some teenage boys touch my hand and I snatch it away they all laugh at me and I feel stupid not offended or annoyed.
I do realise though not to stare at men or make eye contact, as they seem to regard it as blatant come on.

The Red Fort makes for a great few hours sightseeing, the kids learn about the British Empire rule in India and both agree, that although the museum explains India & Mughal history and eventual independence and they are very glad the Indian people are no longer “chained by the British Invaders” its still great to be a foreigner here as you get to jump massive queues at least 2 miles long.

Eight o’clock and we are heading out for some food we seem to be doing ok I don’t feel like anyone has skinned us on our first few days and so far the money seems to be going ok. Simon is asked if he wants to buy Hashish twice within 200 yards of the hotel, which I guess, means he is beginning to look like a traveler. I’m pleased to say no one offers me any which is good news – still feeling fairly glam although 3 days since I washed my hair – going to try and buy some flowers to put in it tomorrow, that’ll do the trick.

Delhi

I didn’t think I was going to be trying any extreme sports at least until we arrived in New Zealand but then I hadn’t foreseen the madness that is the traffic in Delhi.

We are staying in Pahargani which the Lonely Planet describes as bursting with budget accommodation, shops and human traffic. I reckon that’s a fairly good description and there seems to be lots of backpackers around.

The first thing that we noticed of course was the weather, it is lovely and warm not too hot or humid with a gentle breeze. The noise here is unreal- people shouting, constant banging, Hindustani music, children chattering and car horns blasting non stop.
Everywhere smells, some smells are good like frying samosas on the sides of the streets and burning incense sticks, other smells remind me of Glastonbury toilets so strong they make your eyes bleed absolutely horrible and Maisie grabs my hand and rushes us past!

We arrive at our 3 star hotel which would be lucky to scrape half a star in the UK but surprisingly for me I don’t even bat an eyelid when |Simon tells me the toilet seat isn’t actually attached to anything.

I do feel very anxious about the potential risk of malaria though and conscious that we haven’t taken our tablets today, we head off to find an ATM so we can buy some water and take our tablets.

Six o’clock and we are back at the hotel, the kids are completely exhausted, I feel pleased that we have managed to negotiate our way around successfully without getting lost and have eaten some vegetarian curry, a couple of chapattis and some spicy vegetable rice for less than three quid. Ali is a star and clears his plate and for the millionth time I thank god that he will give anything a go. (Apart from mushrooms of course)

We get our children into bed and I think about the little children that have grabbed my hand today and asked me for money. Filthy dirty little kids only 3 or 4 years old, dressed in raggedy clothes with nothing on their feet.
Maisie looks at me and I don’t say anything as I gently pull her away from a little toddler only a bit older than her beloved cousin Josh what can I say to her? Whatever – it would seem completely inadequate and I know from the look on her face that although she is only ten she shares my mixed feelings of compassion and guilt.
I always used to say I wanted Alister and Maisie to know there is more to life than Disneyland and I guess tonight for them its true and they get my point.

On the plane and heading off around the world for a year! Who’d a thought it?

Really not sure how I feel, at the moment, having just given up the job which I was beginning to become established in (Some at PCMC are sure to disagree, but hey everyone is entitled to their opinion..!!).
Still sitting here at the moment it feels like the best decision I’ve made. The family and I are about to embark on something special.
People we speak to are mostly amazed at what we plan to do; some are mildly jealous and fall into the “wish I could do something like that!” category. Others are “You’re so brave; I could never do something like that.”
It really gives me a buzz when we speak to people who can really see it the way we do.

For example the other day I met a young woman, trying to flog broadband in the new shopping mall in Plymouth (Hi Nora if you’re reading), who was just so enthusiastic about what a life experience it would be for the kids, it really put everything into perspective and the couple in the check-in queue who were “like WOW!!”
All these little buzzes add up to re-enforce the benefits that we see coming from the trip.

Sure there are worries, like waking up on the morning of your scheduled departure to find water coming through the bathroom ceiling. You begin to think ‘has somebody got it in for me?’ ‘This has got to be a wind-up? Leaving the house with the all the bathroom floor pulled up, confirmed it wasn’t!!!

Have been reading a bit more of the India Lonely Planet guide, past experience tells us these are an invaluable starting point when entering a new country. Past experience also tells us that no matter how well prepared are, you will always get fleeced a few times on your first day. The only difference being that you realise a little sooner.

Battery is about to die on the laptop, so this will do for now Delhi here we come ..

Leaving Day

Awoke at 6.30am, it seems unreal that today has actually arrived at last.
I lie in bed for about 10 minutes and then decide I am feeling sick, go into the bathroom there’s no loo roll and I’m sick everywhere.
Simon goes downstairs to make a drink and informs me there is water dripping through the kitchen ceiling- our long awaited trip has arrived – what a fantastic start to the day!

Several hours later, the bathroom floor has been ripped up, the shower and bath dismantled; and I have made several calls to the insurance company’s emergency helpline, the moderate amount of water dripping through the ceiling would be better described now as pissing through, my nausea hasn’t improved and I’m sick again and Maisie tells me she has a rash.

Things can only get better I think!!

Four o’clock and we have arrived at Heathrow starving hungry, Maisie asks for a pasty for tea and has to settle for a bagel which seems to hit the spot for us all and things are definitely looking up.
I ask the kids to keep an eye out for David and Victoria Beckham and they look at me pityingly as if I am some sad creature from space, a shame really, as last year when we traveled to Thailand and I asked them the same question they both got quite excited at the prospect.

I am reminded again of how quickly they are growing up and it strengthens my resolve to get on that plane and go and show our children the world.

Maisie and I go shopping- we buy The Raconteurs CD in Virgin and get told off for fiddling with the make up in Dior, several large sprays of Jo Malone later and we are ready to board.
As we’re waiting to take off I read lots of texts and listen to some messages from my friends. What a great bunch of mates I’ll miss them a lot – I guess they will be having a few Corona’s for us tonight.

Yeah you lot, you know who you are!!

Its 11 o’clock now been struggling with this for the last hour so am going to try and get some sleep so goodnight children hopefully when we wake up we will be in India, and that – will be another story.

Last day at work

Today I finished work, what a strange day; it started as usual with our regular Friday morning meeting which felt a bit weird, knowing that I wouldn’t hear the outcome of decisions being made about patients care left me feeling a bit out of it and disconnected from my colleagues.

It’s hard to describe how I feel – I’m so excited I can’t stop smiling, when we were driving to work I kept thinking this is the last time I do this for a year and it felt great. I seem to have spent years daydreaming about today and I’m going to make the most of it.

Work flat out for next few hours, Amanda tells me she is getting her pound of flesh and I don’t blame her! I have a few calls and cards from patients wishing me good luck which is really nice and I feel a bit choked.

I cleared my desk and removed all my photo’s from the wall, taking down The Serenity Prayer that I read every day felt a bit strange but I guess I will need it more over the next year than I ever did in our department so it’s going with me!

Then speak to a friend on the phone, knowing that I will be saying goodbye to them soon for a year feels really difficult and I try not to think about it too much, that’s the spirit I think to myself – be brave but I am worried about next week saying goodbye to all the people I love will be hard for me.

Lunchtime arrives and we all go out to the leisure centre – a bit of a treat as we usually eat in our offices in front of the computer and it makes a lovely change.

Jon tries to frighten me and regales us with scare stories of – I quote “Arse tap” and advises me on where to buy PVC pants in case of an upset tummy, (how pleasant- over a panini and chips) I tell him I will be going commando for a year to save on space and he completely redeems himself by paying for lunch for us all – hurray!

Back to the office and we have coffee and cakes, they’ve bought me a lovely necklace and as Amanda fastens it on for me I make up my mind to keep it on for the year to remind me of them all. I know that’s a good idea when she tells me that the moonstone is a talisman for travellers and the feminine stone.

Soon it’s the end of the afternoon and nearly time to go, I say goodbye to my workmates one by one, we are a small and close team of eight and I feel emotional as we all exchange hugs and they tell me to make sure I come back !

Lastly its just me and Amanda, my friend and more recently my manager, we have shared a lot over the last 6 years, we walk downstairs and both cry – it will be weird without her around, we spend a lot of time together and I will miss her a lot. She walks off to the carpark and I take one last look at the hospital before I go – see you in a year I think.