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Mumbai

Namaste! 

As I am writing this post I am sitting again back home in cold Norway. It feels good to be back but before I go into detail about how it was to say goodbye, leave and then see my family again I want to show you the beautiful city of Mumbai. 

The evening before our flight to Mumbai I was a bit nervous, mostly because we had to pack everything in Jaipur before leaving and because I was afraid Mumbai would be a total disaster. Loud, crowded, dirty.  But when we first got there I could not really believe it, a city so modern yet still representing the Indian culture better than ever. The contrast between old and new, poor and rich were clear but it did not make you as depressed as it did with me in other places. Everything was alive, the vibes from the people more positive and open. It was the perfect transition from rural India to Europe, a nice way of bidding the country farewell.

PS: I did not see any Bollywood actors, even though I kept an eye open. ;)

The skyline of Mumbai seen from the Marine Drive.

Walking with Babu on the Marine Drive, starting on the Nariman Point all the way down to Chowpatty Beach.



The High Court, if my memory is correct, behind a big park where cricket is played at all times.



Sangeeta and Babu ❤❤

The Hanging Garden in the evening sun.

Mumbai is situated at the ocean and has therefore an almost tropical climate, palm trees can be seen everywhere.

The lovely streets in the heart of the city with the old victorian mansions, old trees and "black and yellow" cabs.

The train station, the last scene of "Slumdog Millionaire" was shot there.



Gateway of India

The famous Taj Hotel.



The Sassoon Docks where all the fish trade is happening, the smell was overwhelming.



The Afghan church in Colaba.





Of course we had to stop by Leopold's. All of you who have read Shantaram know what I am talking about. 





Crowded streets? Incredible how many people are living in Mumbai.

The Global Pagoda, a buddhist meditation hall. As we had no experience in meditating we got the possibility to take a small course in one of the outbuildings.

A must in Mumbai, a visit to the Gandhi museum.

Dhobi Ghat, the world largest open air laundry where family since generations wash clothes from hotels and other institutes.

Tried sugar cane juice for the first time. In the beginning I thought they were shredding bamboo for some reason until I found out people are making sweet, refreshing juice.



The contrast that can be seen at all times.

Nehru Park

Spent our last evening at Chowpatty Beach together with Babu.

It seemed like the whole city enjoyed the evening breeze at the beach.

A drive over the Sea Link bridge where you have a stunning view over the whole skyline of Mumbai, especially at night.



The little prince, miss him so much already.

  • 0

    Monkey Temple

    Good afternoon! Yesterday we finally decided to visit the monkey temple. Early in the morning we started the excursion, first driving there and then hiking up a small mountain. On our way, like the name of the temple says, we saw many monkeys, all looking for food. They are all so cute and everything but after that one incident in the Himalayas where one almost bit me, I don't trust them anymore. Babu though enjoyed the walk so much, pointing at every animal shouting "Ena, Cow! Monkey!". We made it safe to the top after a few breaks in between and were rewarded by an amazing view over the entire city.







    A beautiful peacock we spotted on our way home.

    Later in the afternoon Julie made a sign for Ida's parents who arrived the same evening at the Jaipur airport where we all welcomed them. And as she hugged them, I kind of teared up, can't wait to come home now. Still it gets harder and harder to say goodbye to everybody and everything here. 



  • 0

    The Last Days

    Hello there! 

    The last days have just flown by and even though there are barely two weeks left of my stay, I feel more relaxed than ever. I kind of made peace with myself and are fully able to enjoy the remaining time and to look forward to go home. Our days are now filled with packing (our living room looks like a bomb has exploded, imagine five girls packing all their stuff after living here for almost one year), visiting friends for the last time and generally doing things for the last time, something that feels so weird as India was always about doing things for the first time. 

    We took a trip to the outskirts of the Pink City to visit the Anoukhi museum, a place that is dedicated to traditional block printing. It was super hot that day, we felt like we would melt any second in the burning sun, but the building, a traditional haveli (mansion) was surprisingly chilled because of the way the house was built.





    I finally made it to McDonalds to try their paneer burger, it was delicious and for some reason vegetarian fast food feels way less unhealthy than non-vegatarian.

    How we all felt after a long day shopping in the PInk City. 





    Last lunch date with friends.



     Last dinner out with the family.

                                                       

    Babu with his friends. :)

    A super nice afternoon with a friend from my dance class.



    Out for a walk in the park.



                          

    And lastly a picture that demonstrates how difficult it sometimes can be to cross the road. ;)

  • 0

    Andaman Islands

    Hello, long time no see. But hey I am still alive and back from vacation. It was our last travel together and it was a wonderful way of wrapping this year up. Now that we are back in Jaipur and barely have two weeks left before heading to Mumbai, we try to fill the remaining days with things that are left to do. 

    But now back to best and most anticipated journey from my whole exchange year, one week in the Andaman Islands. A group of still quite unknown islands east of India in the Bay of Bengal. We arrived there in the capital Port Blair on friday after a stop with the plane in Calcutta. Outside, after getting our passports stamped, we were met by a stream of hot humid air and palm trees everywhere you looked. On the short drive to our hotel we got to see a bit of the city, it resembled Goa a lot and seemed very clean and wealthy. Later in the afternoon we took our first swim at a beach nearby and in the evening made the first contact with the islands insect variety, hahaha.

         

    The next morning we were all ready for a whole day sightseeing. First of was a marine museum filled with information about the fauna and flora of the islands. They are well known for their lovely coral reefs but a big part was destroyed during the tsunami in 2004. In addition I got to know more about the natives who still live separately on their own islands, there is even a tribe that has absolutely no contact with people around.

    Afterwards we visited a Saw Mill and another museum before we got to see the highlight of the day, the cellular jail or temple of freedom fighters. The building is from the times of the british empire and was built when the islands still were used as penal settlement. Many Indian freedom fighters suffered there and it seemed very similar to Robben Island. 

    Next we took a small boat over to Ross Island, a small island where the British had their own little paradise villas with a pool, tennis ground and everything. Today though nature had taken over and left nothing but ruins covered in roots of jungle trees. 

    For the last event of the day we drove back to the cellular jail in evening to watch a sound and light show but of course we missed the english version and were stuck with the hindi one. So I sat one hour there and tried to hide my present from all the mosquitos while not exactly understanding what was going on.



    Walking over a bomb crater from the WWII.



    Got to love the life vests :)

    On Ross Islands all animals were tame and not afraid of humans at all.





    The tree of life.

    The next morning, before taking the ferry over to Havelock in the afternoon, we visited a beach in a nature reservation. It looked amazing, just as we imagined, crystal clear water, white sand beach and palm trees. BUT suddenly a sign caught our eyes. Beware of crocodiles. My heart skipped a beat but then considering the fact that around 50 Indians were in the water and that they would be eaten before me if I stayed near the beach, I took the chance and went swimming as well.

    In the afternoon we then took a small ferry to Havelock, the probably most famous island where all the tourists eventually end up. After a few hours with cockroaches as an additional company in the boat we stepped into paradise, literally. 


                

                  



    The following morning we went right to the Radhanagar Beach, a beach that looks like it has been painted, so beautiful. We spent the whole day there in the crystal clear water, swimming and snorkeling (I saw a turtle!!!) until sunset. It was so relaxing to stay there, people were friendly and didn't look at you, I even saw Indians in bathing suits and bikinis. 


    Tasted starfruit for the first time.

    After a good nights sleep we were ready for a new adventure, scuba diving. Of course it was just a try out, for real diving you need to have all kind of certificates. But still I felt pretty fancy with all that equipment. But all that stuff made me kind of nervous, too. So much that could go wrong. Luckily everybody had their own supervisor both over and under water. The experience was amazing, the feeling of being under water and seeing a real coral reef with all those fishes and creatures, still I couldn't relax completely, I just didn't feel too comfortable and just clumsy, I even managed to scratch my knee on a coral and probably destroyed it. 

    Back on land we had the wonderful idea to rent bicycles. So the rest of the day we cruised around on the whole islands, met many people and found a few lovely hide outs. It was wonderful to bike again and feel the wind in your hair. 

    Nemo!



                 

    On our second last day we drove with our bicycles to Elephanta Beach. The bike ride there was very nice and hot but no one told us you had to walk a couple of kilometers through the jungle to get there. Totally exhausted we arrived there and were a bit disappointed. It was mainly coral reefs so it was meant more for snorkeling than swimming but that was okay. 



    On our last day we went back to Radhanagar Beach and enjoyed our last hours there before taking back the boat to Port Blair and then the plane to Delhi where Sangeeta picked us up. 

    So many stray dogs.



    This is how we will smuggle Babu to Norway :)

  • 2

    Random Facts

    Namaste!

    After having been in India for soon 9 months I thought it is time to mention some weird differences you get to notice after having stayed here for a while. For most of them it takes time to understand or even realize them. The once listed below are a few I just couldn't ignore, so have fun reading about those. :)

    ❖ Whitening Cream

    In Europe the beauty ideal is to have a nice tanned skin. In India it is the opposite, here you have to be pale. In the beginning I couldn't understand why people would want to look white but now looking at the people back home I do realize we are just as crazy as Indians. We have solariums and self tanning products while here you can buy everything from deodorant for white armpits to body lotion which is supposed to make 60% fairer in 10 days. But here it is not just about beauty but also status, if you are rich you can stay inside and hide from the sun. It is just so weird that we humans are never satisfied with what we have. 


    ❖ It's all about the pictures

    Whenever you do something you need to document it in form of pictures. We have group pictures with friends you take on every occasion you meet, awkward profile pictures in front of shopping malls, food pictures, sneak pictures of foreigners, selfies and more pictures of yourself in front of totally not important buildings. 


    ❖ Masala

    Originally masala is a spice mixture made out of different spices, varying from cook to cook, but when you come to India you will realize it is much more than just that. First of all there a different spice masalas, a few examples are garam masala or chat masala. Then we have all kind of foods that contain masala and are therefore named after it as well like masala paan, chai masala, masala gum, juice with masala and even masala soda. But we are not done yet, the Indian film industry has named an film genre after masala as well. It is defined as a mix of different genres. And now don't laugh there is also a movie called masala.

     

    ❖ Traffic

    As I have mentioned before the traffic here is more than chaotic. But the far most annoying thing is that because no traffic rules exist everybody just honks to mark there arriving. That doesn't sound that bad but imagine yourself standing all innocent by the road and every single car that passes you, swings around a corner or just thinks the car ahead is too slow honks at least twice. And some of the busses or trucks make you feel like you have lost your hearing. Another thing you will notice is the incredible capacity a simple vehicle can have. It is not unusual to spot a whole family sitting on a motorbike, including father, mother, two children and the grocery bags. 


    ❖ Language confusion

    Hindi is the main language in most parts of India. I have tried and given up to learn simply because it is so confusing. You can't compare it to the European languages, just to learn how the alphabet was build up took me a week. Luckily you can do most stuff through communicating in English but now imagine all Indians learning English, a language totally different from their own. As you can guess communicating is not always that easy. First of all you have the accent, well known but difficult to understand. Then there is the fact that most people just now a few phrases and if you ask something they will always say yes. Lastly you will hear quite many weird phrases that don't seem to make sense. Now that I have learned a bit Hindi I know there are direct translations and they therefore sound totally strange. For example most people will ask for you "good" name and often adjectives are said twice instead of saying "a lot" or "more".


    Toilets

    Now to a topic that no one speaks about but still is very important to all of us. Here in India the usual toilets are not like the "western" ones we are used to. They look more like a whole in the ground. That seems a bit shocking in the beginning but after a while you loose all inhibitions and in some way they are even more hygienic since you don't have to touch the toilet seat. A funny thing is many people don't know how to use a western toilet and stand on the seat. But then we come to the real problem, toilet paper. Something you rarely find since everybody somehow manages to clean themselves with water. I have seriously wondered how the heck to they manage not to get all wet when they don't have paper?? Haha, I haven't dared to ask someone yet. 

         

    Being direct

    In India there is no such thing as private life. People are very direct and within a family everybody knows everything. For a foreigner it can almost seem rude when you get confronted with questions. Not long ago I was asked, in front of a whole group, how much I weighed and I was almost like "Excuse me, you don't ask a girl about her weight in public!".  You are also never alone, everywhere you go someone comes up to you and ask about something. It is most annoying when you go shopping and at lest two people walk besides you recommending this product or showing you that. It takes some time to get used to that but I kind of miss how people keep their privacy back home.

    Beauty Ideal

    In every society we have some kind of beauty ideal and way of dressing. As far as I have observed women in India should have long, shiny black hair and fair skin. Make-up wise they use extreme amounts of kajal all around the eye and a hint of dark lipstick. Most women also wax their arms but tend to forget the legs. Men have mostly a mustache which seems like they get when they turn 14 and a short and neat haircut. When it comes to fashion men mostly wear western clothes while women tend to stick to traditional clothing but the younger generations also wear skinny jeans and singlets. 


    Indian time

    In India nothing is ever on time. I have probably waisted days just waiting for things. Nowadays I am starting to get ready 15 minutes after we are supposed to do something. The only good aspect I can see about it is that you never need to stress and you never need an excuse for coming late. 

    Saying sorry

    That fact is funny. The first time I witnessed an Indian saying sorry was when Sangeeta told us something while holding her ears. We didn't understand a thing, did she hurt her ears or something? Later it turned out that by holding your ears you show someone that you are truly sorry.

                                       

     

    Security Checks

    Before entering any big public place you have to go through a security check. You are checked for weapons, bags are opened and bills are stamped even if you just go grocery shopping. After buying something a guard will check the bill and stamp it, shopping bags need to be left at the entrance and when entering the cinema you are not allowed to bring any food. It sounds very strictly but in real life it is more like a joke, Julie managed to get a 1 liter bottle with water into the plane.

     

                                                        

     Chai

    Chai is the well known Indian tea made with fresh spices and milk. People love chai and enjoy it at least once a day. Along roads you will always find a small chai shop where you can see people drinking their beloved tea from small paper cups. If you believe it or not you can actually become addicted to chai according to Sangeeta and I believe in India people have a chai stomach instead of a beer one.



  • 0

    Holi

     

    Happy Holi!

    Now I also got to celebrate the most fun and colorful festival here in India. Honestly I don't know where exactly to start, the whole day was just laughter and colors. So I will begin with yesterday when we went to see the traditional bonfire where the demon Holika was burned. This is a ritual that happens the day before Holi and the whole neighborhood gathered to see. It felt a bit like midsummer night but Holi is more a celebration for the beginning of spring.

    The next day we woke up early and after breakfast we started to prepare for the big celebration. Sangeeta recommended to put coconut oil in our hair and on the skin to prevent color stains, so we ended up looking like some bodybuilding models at a photo shoot all covered in oil. :) All dressed up in old clothes and greasy hair we got our colors and the fun began. In the beginning we were still careful with the colors powder but after a while when all the volunteers arrived, everybody lost their inhibitions and behaved like small children. Shooting with water guns at each other, splashing color, dancing to music and just constantly laughing. Random people passed by wishing you a happy Holi, snacks were served and people had a blast. I personally loved this festival and I already want to come back next year to celebrate with Sangeeta, Babu and the girls. 













    After a while the colors mixed with water and each other so we ended up looking like trolls or zombies that fell into mud or something.

    In the afternoon the fun was over and the cleaning started. I still have colors everywhere.

  • 0

    M.I. Road

    This wednesday we explored a new part of the city, a big main road where you can find many shops mainly the famous jewelry stores. It was quite noisy and dusty but we found a nice restaurant and got to see some landmarks. The shops were all spread along the road and it took a while to find them as well. 

    Panch Batti



    A cute hidden bookshop 



    Food!!!!



  • 6

    Because I'm happy

    The day has finally arrived! Got all my papers and report card today and now I am so done with my school here. Can't believe I actually made it, the first day feels like yesterday. Somehow it happened and I even have great grades, probably with a little help from the person who wrote them, hahah. Got just A's except in maths with a B. Either way I am more then happy and I will just pray I'll get this year approved. 

    Wouldn't have survived without them ❤



    The last days the whole city has prepared for Holi. Yesterday I had my last dance class before the holidays and got surprised with a Holi dance party. Came home all covered in colors but about that I will write more in detail when I get the pictures. :) Today we also went to see a traditional bonfire in the neighborhood where the demon Holika was burned. Now everything is ready for the big celebration tomorrow. Can't wait to throw colors at everybody, play with water and just have fun all day with friends, good food and loud music. 

  • 0

    Rainy Days

    Hello there, here comes a quick update from my last week. As the title suggests the lovely summer weather abandoned us and left us behind with heavy rain and one thunderstorm after the other. Out of nowhere the temperatures dropped and the already forgotten sweaters and socks had to be pulled out of the drawer again. Our moods were accordingly not that good, no one expected any rain until the monsoon in the autumn. But there was nothing to do about it and we made the best out of it by taking relaxing to a new level, hahaha. That means not leaving your bed except for food.



    Besides that we had our LAST schoolday ever. I can't believe I acctually survived that system they call school here. Never ever have I to wear those ugly, uncomfortable uniforms, take the bus at 6.20 in the morning, hear the honking from our crazy bus driver, feel like a stupid, out of place "child" or hear the screaming and shouting from thousands of kids and angry teachers. I know I sound very negative but the school was the one thing I never got to understand or to like. Maybe because it was the one thing I had expectations for and I got disappointed badly. I couldn't stop myself with comparing it to the norwegian school and well, I still can't believe how fantastic the school back home acctually is. But now back to our last day which we anticipated since the day they started to put us in the library for the whole day with nothing to do. In the morning I tried to feel at least a bit nostalgic, after all it would be the very last time doing so many things, but it just didn't happend. Later in the day we met with our coordinator, submitted the remaining maths project (which was the worst thing ever, I have never seen so mean exercises) and talked about our report cards which we hopefully receive this week. We also got some feedback on our projects and let's just say I might get this year approved with top grades even though I barely have lifted a finger. I feel kind of bad for my fellow Indian students who right now are writing their board exams. It is their chance to make it or break it, literally.

    Will not miss that sight...

    Here you can see the gate and the guards who guard it and never let anyone leave until they have the principals permission,     

                   

    Happy to be home and to get out of the school uniforms.




    So now we have officially summer holidays even though we kind of had vacation all year round. But now it is definite and it took a heavy weight from my shoulders. Suddenly I can do what ever I want and truly enjoy my last weeks here. We girls have already looked up all the places we need to visit before we leave and made lists with stuff we need to buy. The cinema finally decided to take back some english movies and as a thanks that Emma and me fixed the maths projects for everyone we got a free cinema visit with caramel popcorn. :)

    Little monkey

                             

  • 4

    Rajma & Paratha

    Hello there, now it has been several months since I last wrote something about Indian food. Since then a lot has changed, I kind of got enough of all that paneer and my new favorite dish is Rajma, also called Bean Dal, which is way healthier and easier to make. In combination with fresh Paratha bread it is an easily prepared and delicious lunch or dinner that allows you to taste a piece of the tasteful Indian cuisine. Bon Appetite!

    Rajma 




    Ingredients (8 servings)

    ❊ 3 onions, chopped

    ❊ 1 garlic or 9-10 fedds

    ❊ 1 small fresh ginger

    ❊ 1 small bowl of kidney beans

    ❊ 2 big chopped tomatoes

    ❊ spices 

     ✬ 1ts cumin

     ✬ 1 pinch asafoetida (an almost forgotten spice that helps digestions and enhances flavor)

     ✬ 1/s ts tumeric

     ✬ 1/s ts red chili powder

     ✬ 1/2 ts garam masala

     

    Preparation

    1. Soak the beans 3-4 hours in water before cooking them until they are cooked.

    2. Crush the garlic and ginger. 

    3. Heat a pan with 1 tbs oil and add cumin and asafoetida into the hot oil.

    4. Add the onions, stir until fried and then add the garlic and ginger.

    5. Make a paste out of the remaining spices together with water and add this together with the chopped tomatoes to the pan. 

    6. Put on a lid and let it cook for 5-10 minutes.

    7. Add salt (taste wise) 

    8. Lastly, add the beans and 2 cups of water. For a final touch put the lid back on and let it boil for another 10 minutes.


    Paratha



    Ingredients

    For the dough:

    ❊ 5dl flour

    ❊ 1 pinch of salt

    ❊ water

    For preparing:

    ❊ oil

    ❊ flour

    ❊ a rolling pin

    ❊ pan

    Preparation

    1. Make a dough and let it stand for a while.

    2. Roll out the dough and cut it into small pieces.

    3. Form the pieces into small buns and sprinkle some flour on both sides.

    4. Roll the buns out so you get a circle, then fold it first to an half-circle and then fold the half-circle once more so end up with a quarter of a circle. Roll it out until you have something that looks like a triangle.

    5. Add oil to the pan and fry your triangle shaped dough piece until it becomes golden brown on both sides. Add oil or butter on the hot paratha before serving.




  • 2

    Under the Stars

    Since the beginning of our stay we girls have said to at least once have a sleepover on our amazing rooftop terrace. A night under the stars. Maybe not the best location to admire the night sky but you can see surprisingly much despite the pollution and city lights. Well, yesterday evening we spontaneously decided better now then never and carried our madrases upstairs. Luckily the mosquitos haven't made an appearance yet but I did misjudge the temperatures during night in a desert even though the temperatures at day are now well over 30 degrees. Still we had a great nights sleep and it was definitely wonderful to fall asleep at the sight of thousands of stars. ☆

    In the morning we woke up to sunshine and decided to just stay where we were for the rest of the day. So today was a real sunday consisting of relaxing in the sun, reading and watching Babu. We also had a cooking class, the recipe will probably come tomorrow. 




    Our attempt to capture some stars in a picture ...

    Good morning sunshine!


    Bad ass Ida is knitting while tanning ;)





  • 0

    Sangeeta's Birthday

     

     

    A tradition in India is to put cake in the face of the birthday child and of course we had to do that too.

    Namaste! 

    Yesterday evening we celebrated our one and only Indian mum, Sangeeta. Of course she didn't tell us that it was her birthday that day but luckily we found out and surprised her with cupcakes and a gift. I think she got a bit touched but it was just nice to see her smile and give something back. Without her India would not have been the same and she has really helped us through a lot. 

    Babu enjoyed the whole thing as well and when we baked he of course had to join and do exactly the same thing. A few moments later a very satisfied Babu was already covered in flour from head to toe. During the evening he suddenly sat down in a bucket with his blanket and stayed in there during dinner. With his had covered in the blanket while sticking out of the bucket gave all of us a good reason to laugh. :)


                           


     

  • 0

    Time

    Namaste!

    Once again the weekend is over and we are already half way through february. Time is flying by like a rocket and you can do nothing to even slow it down. A few days ago I got my flight tickets back to Oslo and now that I have an exact date the remaining time in India seems suddenly so little. The coutdown on my phone, showing that there is just two months left, fills me with a feeling I can't really place. I want to do so much before I leave, at the same time I am just sitting and waiting. There is so much I will miss and so much I am tired of. I am afraid that this whole year will feel like something that never took place since my whole life here is like a dream, a life that has nothing to do with anything back home. But simultaneously all this is the realest thing I ever have experienced and I wonder how that will affect me once I leave. I can't wait to get home but I don't want to leave everything behind me either. I litterally will have to pack up my life here, only left with a bunch of vibrant memories.

    Okay, now I really sound overdramatic but this is something I have been thinking about a lot the last couple of days. The best thing would probably be to just forget about it and live in the moment but that's not exactly the easiest thing either. I am kind of torn apart by the two feeling telling me totally different things. In addition there is an uncertanity about everything back home. What has happened while I was gone? And how will it feel to return?

    Now I hope you didn't get bored and that if you are an exchange student can relate at least a little bit to me. And as dramatic everything sounds I do have a lovely time here. Summer has for sure returned and the last couple of days we have just been tanning in the sun while reading. Babu and Sangeeta have also finally returned from Goa and I couldn't wait to hug my little baby again. ❤



  • 1

    Kerala Part 2

    Day 4, Periyar ➜ Kumarakom

    On this day we drove again towards the coast and finally we could admire the famous backwaters of Kerala. And once we reached the temperatures rised together with the humidity and after a few seconds you were drenched in sweat. Because of that climate change we all suddenly collapsed with fever and a cold, so this day was spent reading in a hammock under a palmtree.

    Mini-bananas

    Such a clean road, maybe it is because Kerala is the richest state in India and almost 90% of the people can read. That's a big differnece compared to Rajasthan with its poor 57%.

    On our way to Kumarakom we stopped at this viewpoint in the mountains. You had a stunning view if you look away from the terrible wind.







    Day 5, Houseboat

    This day was by far the best one. We spent a whole day on a houseboat, which basically is a hotel on a boat. Our rooms had big windows so while sitting on bed we had the most amazing view over water, palmtrees and the sunset. Of course we had a problem with the motor and our roundtour got delayed but we managed to persuade Sangeeta to allow us to take a swim.



    Relaxing :)







































    Day 6, Kumarakom ➜ Chochin

    Originally we were supposed to have a full day of sightseeing in Chochin, the capital of Kerala, but we girls kind of felt for something else. We have been on so much sightseeing and normally it is a bit boring so instead we visited a amusement park, Wonderla. It was super fun even though I had a near-to-death experience in one of the hardcore carousels which gave me several bruises and I was shaking minutes after. Still it was a nice afternoon and the whole thing just cost 460 rupees (ca. 50 NOK).



    Day 7, Chochin ➜ Delhi

    Our last day we spent on a beach not far away from the city. I had a real flashback to Goa but now it was almost even warmer. The water was like a warm tub and you could almost not walk on the sand since it was so hot. After a whole day swimming we drove back to the airport in the evening and arrived late at night in Delhi from where we drove home to Jaipur the next day. Back at the studenthouse I needed a couple of days to recover from my cold and to get back to the daily life routines. Now five days after everything is back to normal, I am just a bit annoyed by my neighbour who once again has a party with music so loud that the house is litterally shaking.





  • 0

    Kerala Part 1

    Hi, sorry for the delay of this post but since we came home everything seems to fall apart here at the studenthouse, the internet refuses to cooperate, the shower almost gave up and our washingmashin has now been "fixed" for the firth or sixth time. Hahah, looking forward till Sangeeta is coming back from her vacation in Goa. Until then we just have to live with it. So without further due ado, I present to you our trip to Kerala. :)

    Day 1, Dehli ➜ Chochin ➜ Munnar

    Our journey started at the Delhi Domestic Airport early in the morning. The day before we drove to the capital and did some shopping in one of the gigantic malls where you could find absolute everything. But unluckily we all were not on top, everyone had some kind of cold and we just hoped the planes in India are of the same standard as in Europe. Kind of nervous and super tired we arrived at our Terminal 4 o'clock in the morning and before even entering all of us went through several securtity checks, my bag was scanned thrice and my passport and boarding pass checked my at least six people. As we stepped into the plane itself I was more then positively surprised, a complete new plane even more comfortable than the ones in Norway. Reassured that I was somehow safe flying, I fell asleep almost immediately and woke up 3 hours later at the Cochin International Airport.

    Look how cute the illustrations are. :)

    Stepping out of the modern building we were met by a wave of hot air and a super excited Babu who took the train with Sangeeta and her husband. Right afterwards we drove away from the coast into the country to a place called Munnar where we would stay the next two days. On our way we stopped several times to admire the beautiful nature, lovely forests, waterfalls, wild flowers and fruit plantations. In the afternoon, when we arrived at the hotel we just relaxed and enjoyed the fact that summer was back.

    A pineapple plantation ( Am I the only one who always thought pineapples are growing on trees?)

    People waiting to go to church. In Kerala you can find, similarly to Goa, many christians.

    Day 2, Munnar

    The next day was filled with sightseeing. First up was a rose garden but I have to mention the incredible tea gardens you couldn't miss while driving there. Every hill was a gigantic tea plantation, it looked so pittoresque and surreal and most of all green and luxuriant.





    Wild honey in the tree top.

    I ate my first typical Kerala Thali, all the small bowls you see were part of the one thing I ordered.

    Ida's lovely lunch, haha. In Kerala you can find seafood in very restaurant but then you get the whole thing.

    More food pictures. Homemade chocolate that is sold eveywhere, we just doubt it was homemade by judging the quality.

    Eventually we arrived at the rose garden and had a nice promenade there, strolling through a ocean of colouful flowers.

    Last up was a lake surrounded by hills covered in forest. Originally we were also supposed to visit a national park but that was closed so we called it a day.

    Day 3, Munnar ➜ Periyar

    The next morning everyone got ready for our drive to Periyar, a couple of hours away. As we arrived we had a real traditional meal, served on a banana leaf with no cutlery. After a few clumsy attempts I acctually managed to eat the food with just my hands!



    After lunch we visited the Periyar Tiger Sanctuary. Here we took a boat safari on the lake with the purpose to see a tiger but we were not that lucky I guess. Instead there were monkeys everywhere and I know they look all cute and stuff but after my "traumatic" incident in the Himalayas with the monkey that almost bit me, I am afraid of them. And it does not help that there are signs on every corner saying not to feed the monkeys but what are all the tourists doing, buying cookies.

    We tried to see some animals but everytime there was something to see our view looked like that...

    Fun with Babu.



     

  • 2

    ❦ Indian wedding ❦

    Hi!

    Now it has been a long time since you heard from me and I can just say a lot has happened. The last days we have been traveling in the lovely south of India, Kerala and there is so much to tell about. But before that I should first start with the last event before our one week vacation, an Indian wedding.

    Yes, finally we have been invited to one! I was seriously worried that my stay in India would go by without a traditional wedding. But lastly it luckily happened and friday afternoon we all got ready and dressed up in suits, which are more comfortable than saris and more worn by the youth. Excited we arrived and had some difficulties to even find the venue since the wedding season is on its peak and on every lawn you can find a wedding reception. After a short while we found the right one and were welcomed by an elephant, a crowd of dancing people, drums and entertainers. The big lawn was filled with the 1500 guest (a small wedding) all wearing their best clothes, food stalls, servants carrying refreshments, lights and to complete the whole scenery, loud music and fireworks. Most of the people thought probably it was so interesting to see us at such an event and a friend of Ida, whose brother got married and who invited us, was kind of enjoying his job of showing us around. We got introduced to members of the family and explained what kind of food was served. I probably tasted 50 different dishes, included juice with masala spices. 

    A while later the bride and groom appeared and were welcomed by a dancing crowd and an even bigger crowd of cameras and flashes. Of course we were pulled into both the dancing and the pictures, hahaha. But I felt a bit sorry for the couple, a wedding in India lasts for days, all filled with rituals, celebrations, picture posing and smiling for the family. You could see in their faces how exhausting the whole thing must have been, in addition the wedding was arranged as well and maybe they barely knew each other. At least the guests and we enjoyed the party a lot, something which seems like the most important part rather than the couple having their time of their lives at an Indian wedding. 



  • 0

    Graduation Night

    Namaste! 

    Last night I closed one more chapter of my life here in India, I officially survived the school year! I am not totally done yet, still need to meet up till the middle of march but for the rest of my classmates there are just the exams and one months preparation left. And since I am not taking the exams I will probably and most likely continue to sit in the library and read one book by another until I get my grades. 

    But let's not talk about that any more, over to something a bit more fun. The farewell party. First of all the dress code, a sari. My first thought "Yeeesss!" and the second one "How am I supposed to dance? Or use the bathroom? And my poor feet, they still feel the heels from Diwali. Can I even climb the stairs or get into the taxi?". Hahah, I really do like the sari and I feel like a real princess but I can't understand how women can wear it on daily bases. Like sitting on a bike, working or even jog. I somehow felt more comfortable now and during the evening I could even dance, or what you call desperate attempts to keep up with all the others. :) 

    The evening itself was nice, got to meet everybody and have fun. All my friends were a bit more emotional something I can understand, they went there to school for so long, so many memories to look back too and they had kind of a good relationship with everyone. For me this school was a way of appreciating the norwegian school so much more and understanding how lucky I am. 



    Always time for chai.

    The 11th grade did a great job organizing the whole thing, loved the entertainment part especially the dancing and the band!

  • 0

    Jaipur Literature Festival

    Hi and a Happy Republic Day!

    Today the whole country celebrated and Obama himself watched the parade in New Delhi together with the prime minister. Of course we sat all morning glued to the tv as well to see the famous parade which turned out to be more of a military show off. Either way we did have a holiday which was very welcoming considering the fact that the weekend was exhausting, in a good way though.

    From wednesday until sunday Jaipur once again hosted asia's biggest free literature festival. Authors, celebrities and other personalities from all over the world join and create something very unique.

    Not knowing what to expect we did not get a chance to go until Saturday. Before entering any of the venues we needed an entry pass whom we had to wait for quite a while. All the time more and more people arrived and it felt like the place would at one point just explode because of the gigantic crowd. Luckily it didn't and as we entered the place it kind of took us to a different place, away from the streets of Jaipur. The atmosphere was great and as we understood how things worked out and got to listen to some of the sessions at least I felt inspired by all the interesting people. This day we mainly spend strolling around, attending an intersting discussion about the middle east situation and eating a nice lunch at tapri which is just five minutes away. To round up that afternoon we took a short walk in central park as well, the city's best known and biggest park.

    The second day we got up quite early to reach the festival before 10 o'clock so we could listen to an interview of Chetan Bhagat, one of india's best known authors (even I have a book by him!). That was very interesting and I love his way of changing India into a better version. Besides that we listened to a discussion about the CIA and the cultural revolution in china, a topic I have no knowledge of which made me want to learn more about it. All in all these two days made me feel so "smart", hahaha, sitting there listening to smart people talking about important themes. It is defenitely a must if you should ever be around at this time of the year and are a booklover.

    Crowded....

    Food!

    The gang + Emma

    Chetan Bhagat

    My first waffles in 7 months.




  • 0

    Back to normal

    Namaste!

    Once again another week passed since the last post and as the headline says things have been pretty normal lately. School started again and we finally got to deliver our projects. Now that we have taken the P.E practical as well we just need one more maths assignment. After that I am all set with Indian school. Right on time to celebrate that we have our graduation next week, like in Norway it is before you actually have passed your exams which my classmates will have in march. For that celebration I will finally have the opportunity to wear my sari again, yay! 

    Besides school, I have my dance classes every day. So besides being kind of sore all the time of all the training, I also take a tuk-tuk at least twice a day. And while hiring one you get to experience so many people. Some drivers are real douche bags, think that you are stupid, give you a creepy smile and charge crazy amounts. But then you have the real nice ones that actually are honest and try to be polite and nice. Once I had a driver that had his little daughter with him which was so cute or like today when a driver offered me chai and cookies (I didn't take it though since you never know with strangers but it was a nice gesture and he ended up drinking the chai he bought for me). 

    Today the biggest literature festival in Asia started here in Jaipur and we'll probably go there in the weekend when we have some time. I also took a day off from school and went out with some friends. I got to meet new people, talk a lot about everything and ate some good food. It is always nice to do something together with Indians since I feel so much more integrated and not like just a foreigner wandering around in the city.

    Delicious salad at Anoukhi's

    A funny sign in World Trade Park



    Babu dressed his teddy which he calls for Babu. He is just so incredible cute and I just can't think about leaving him in just a couple of months.

  • 0

    The Kite Festival



    Happy Makar Sankranti!

    The last day the whole country has celebrated the Kite festival. On every rooftop you could spot people flying kites and the air was filled with  loud music and dancing colorful paper pieces. This tradition marks the beginning of summer and finally we can say the winter is over. 

    Of course we had to give the kite flying  try, it did not seem that difficult. But it just looked easy, after numerous tries, a couple of destroyed kites, many crashes and a lot of fun for the people who watched my desperate, clumsy attempts to get the paper dragon in the sky, I gave up for the day. At least I was not the only one, everybody gave it a try, old and young, but just our driver succeeded. He and the other grown ups were like small kids again, playing around and having so much fun. 



    Later on we got company from the volunteer house and the roof turned into a dance party. 



    Of course we also ate a lot of good food, everything from Pakora to Parantha but my new favorite is this peanut cookie thing called chikki.



  • 0

    Tea, a castle and more temples

    Our two last days we spent in Palampur we used for sightseeing in the nearby areas. In this remaining time we managed to cover a lot, from a tea factory to an ancient castle in the mountains. 

    The famous Kangra Fort, situated nearby the city of Kangra. From the castle itself there is not much left but it is still very impressive and you have a gorgeous view over the valley and the canyons around. Foreigners have to pay 20x more for the entrance but for a change we had audio guides.

    We also visited a quite famous temple in Kangra, hidden in a bazaar. Every time we go to a temple, I try to be enthusiastic in hopes to maybe see something extraordinary and afraid to miss out on something if I don't go but after a while the temples all look the same and I feel out of place. Now we mostly go there because it is so important to Sangeeta, she gets so happy and thanks us after every trip that we gave her the possibilities to visit so many magnificent places.

    A beautiful old tree, growing in the temple yard. The red fabric pieces you can see, tied all over the branches, are put there every time somebody has a wish. And if the wish is fulfilled you come back and take off your fabric piece.

    The next day we visited a small art gallery in a village. Nothing spectacular. 

    One of the highlights was the visit to the tea factory of Palampur. Here all the tea from the gardens around is processed and packed. Now in the winter the season is over so we could take a look in the factory itself. Back outside we all also purchased some tea.

    Last up was once more a temple, this time a very old one with stunning stone carvings and a beautiful park around.



    A good reason to smile: fresh oranges right from the tree. :)

  • 0

    Manali & Shimla

    #jesuischarlie

    The 2nd january we continued our journey towards the city of Manali. The drive was supposed to take not more than four hours but ended up to be eight. Tired, cold and hungry we arrived in the dark at the hotel. Our hopes of getting a nice warm room and a hot shower were not fulfilled and that in combination with bad food and rude hotel personal led to some grumpy emotional discussions. Staying the rest of the night in bed, wearing several layers of clothing we awaited the next day in hope to turn out better. But lucky as we were we started the day with a cold rain and fog and because of all the tourists we ended up stuck in traffic. Hopelessly delayed we just managed to visit one temple which I not even entered since I refused to take off my shoes. Before moving one to Shimla we ate a cozy restaurant where everybody refilled their lost energy with amazing food and most importantly a fireplace. We may have looked like half to death frozen people. 

    Babu's cute norwegian suit. 



    Late in the evening we finally arrived in Shimla and once again we had trouble with the hotel (it was even worst than the first one). This time we actually changed and ended up with not just a warm shower but also a comfortable bed.

    A lot happier and recovered from what seemed like a big detour we started the next day with a visit to Kufri, a small place near Shimla. Driving there the road was once again totally blocked and Emma and me just decided to walk up all the way. It actually turned out to be faster (and safer, the car almost crashed several times on the icy road) and the walk through the winter wonderland was lovely, too. On the top there was not much to see or do, Indians just come there to see snow, so once we reached we went down right away. 

    In the afternoon we took a long promenade through the beautiful old city called The Mall Road. The city in general and especially this place are shaped from colonial times and have a British flair. We spent the time strolling around, admiring the view and the sunset over the hills and drinking hot chocolate.

    The last day Sangeeta surprised us with a train ride. Apparently they did the same thing in one of her favorite movies so she loved the idea of it. Driving through deep forest, stone tunnels and small villages we could enjoy the stunning view over the hills and the city. 

    Last up were two temples which could we reached by walking up a steep hill. Here you could spot monkeys everywhere and maybe that is how the temple was named after Hanuman, the monkey god. Monkeys are truly fascinating, looking so much like humans and so cute but if you first see their teeth it is suddenly not that funny to have ten sitting around you. I got to experience that when Emma and I were out for a run and I seriously thought a monkey would bite me in my leg.




  • 0

    The Roof of the World

    The far best part of the trip so far was the trekking into the mountains up to a place called Triund, 2785 m. It was on the first mountain range of the Himalayas and after three more ranges you can finally see the Mount Everest. We started early in the morning from McLeod Ganj, each carrying a backpack with us. Our guide almost ran up the mountain but we were already catching our breaths after a few minutes. Luckily it got better after some time, maybe we needed to get used to the thin air. At least we hoped it was that and not the fact that we got out of form.

    On the way up we walked through beautiful untouched nature and suddenly I realized the forrest was nothing else than big rhododendron bushes. In that moment I promised myself I would definitely come back when they would blossom and the whole place would be covered in a ocean of red flowers.

    Another sweet thing was that two cute street dogs followed us all the way up to the top and even stayed there the night with us until we went down the next day after going even higher up to the snow line, 3250 m. I have never been on a place of that height but looking up to the mountains in the north you still felt so small.

    All together this experience was amazing and a absolute must if you are in the region. Besides the ice cold night in the tents, a slightly sunburn and sore muscles I absolutely loved it. I missed the nature and mountains more than I imagined. So without further due I let the pictures tell the rest of the story. 











  • 0

    McLeod Ganj

    Belated Happy New Year! I hope everybody had a great start and celebrated well with family and friends. Here in India the celebration was not that big,  you couldn't spot a single firework at least not here in the mountains. We spent the evening eating a big dinner and chatting around the bonfire for the rest of the night until 12 o'clock. 

    The days before had been a bit more adventurous. The 28th we drove to the small village of McLeod Ganj where the Dalai Lama has his residence when he is not traveling around. On the way we could marvel at the beautiful nature as we drove on the small winding road up and down. The hills were covered in forest, deep canyons cut trough the landscape and once in a while a small village or town showed up with its colorful houses and small front yard gardens. In between terrace fields and orchards took over and at all times the majestic mountains with their white and sharp peaks elevated above us. 

    At noon we almost reached our destiny because the road was totally blocked by all the tourist vehicles. After some discussions and a lot of waiting we managed to walk the remaining part to our hotel and later in the afternoon we took a walk to the monastery and the market. The place was overcrowded with tourist from all over the world and in between you could spot a Buddhistic monk with their red clothes. I don't know if I am just following the cliches like so many others but all of them looked so friendly, peaceful and nice. The monastery itself was very simple but had a calming atmosphere. Back outside I bought some clothes for the trekking the next day from one of the numerous stores that are run by many of the Tibetans that live there. 

    Too much waiting?.


                   

    Our life described in one picture: Sangeeta talking on the phone, we walking behind her having no clue while watching Babu :)



  • 0

    The Wagah Border



    After a cold night in Amritsar we started our day with a visit to the Jallianwala-Bagh Memorial. The memorial is situated in the city and reminds of the massacre from the 13. April 1919 when British soldiers fired on a crowd of non-violent protesters. Today this place is very important to many Indians as it reminds of the people who fought for a free and independent India. 

    The fog which covered the whole area made the atmosphere sorrowful. It was only a bit destroyed by all the Indians who took selfies while posing in front of every thing. 





    Afterwards we drove towards the border between India and Pakistan to a place which is known as the Wagah Border. Here, right between the two countries, a ceremony takes place every afternoon known as The Beating Retreat Ceremony. It is followed since 1959 by the military forces of India and Pakistan. And of soldiers we could see a lot, just on the way there we were stopped and the car had to be searched. As we reached a roadblock we stopped at a parking lot where everything was empty and even on the big highway, Grand Trunk Road, no car was to be seen. After talking to one of the few people in a shady street restaurant we found out nothing would happen until 3 o'clock. So to kill some time we ate our lunch consisting of Maggi with masala. That doesn't sound that tasty but Indians have taken instant noodles to a new level where they actually taste like real food.

     

    Later in the afternoon a big crowd of people appeared all headed towards the border. We were placed in a separate queue for foreigners after showing both passport and visa and being checked for weapons at least three times. It was really scary walking down that road where soldiers with machine guns stood and every few meters you could spot a sign with sayings like "Don't pick up abandoned luggage it may be a BOMB" when you grew up in such a peaceful country as Norway. The whole atmosphere was really weird and suddenly the people started running towards the platforms to get a seat. Luckily we got places with a good view and during one hour all seats were occupied. From there I could see the whole area. Ahead was the border with the iron gates, guarded by soldiers and maybe fifty meters away both India and Pakistan had a big gate and in between again both countries set up platforms on the sides of the main road. 






    At around 4 o'clock the ceremony finally started and on both sides incredible loud music was played. It almost seemed like each side tried to be louder than the other. After a while the soldiers in their fancy uniforms showed up and started their marching and shouting while on the other side the exact same thing took place. A bit later people started shouting patriotic words towards the people on the other side and I just stood there not knowing if the whole thing was a act or if it was as aggressive as it seemed. But considering the fact that India and Pakistan don't have the best relationship this whole thing is in my opinion not exactly the best way to become more close again. Either way most people seemed to enjoy it and towards the end the flags were taken in. Minutes later every thing was over and the crowd streamed back to the parking lots. A bit confused, at least I was, we drove to Himachal where I am right now. The trip was more than cold and in the beginning you could barely see the street because of all the fog. But as we drove higher into the mountains the air cleared up and we reached the Idex camp safe late in the evening.






  • 3

    The Golden Temple

    Good Morning!

    The 26th december we arrived safely in Amritsar after more then 20 hours traveling. Coming out of the train station we were met by a cold breeze and a city hidden in a cold fog which made it impossible to see further than 50 meters. Since we were delayed by several hours all our plans changed and right after a quick lunch we drove into the city, wearing layers over layers with warm clothes, to see the famous golden temple. As we arrived there I was very surprised how everything looked because I always imagined the temple was placed in the middle of a big lake and quite big as well. But it was nothing like that, first we stepped into a gigantic white building complex where we needed to take off our shoes and socks. That is a normal procedure when entering a Sikh temple but in the middle of the winter it seemed kind of crucial to walk barefoot on ice-cold stone floor. Somehow we managed and as we walked further we almost forgot our freezing feet by the sight of the golden temple, sparkling in the night. It was placed in the middle of a small lake, surrounded by white buildings. Even in the late evening people streamed towards the entrance mostly Sikhs, which you can easily recognize by their colorful turbans, as it is their holiest temple. We followed the crowd, walked once around the whole lake and entered the temple as well. Inside everything was golden and embellished and even more golden. In such places I always feel kind of misplaced if I do not belong to that religion and just try to aim what everyone else is doing and not to offend anybody. Outside again we moved quickly back to the hotel to get some heat back into our feet. :)

    Right now I am in Palampur, having a great view over the Himalaya mountains. The sun is shining, the sky is blue and on the mountain tops I can even spot some snow. After lunch we will drive towards Dharamsala and McLeod Ganj where we will go tracking tomorrow. An update of yesterday, when we visited the Wagah border will come as soon as I get time and the internet is willingly to cooperate with me. :)




  • 5

    ✩Merry Christmas✩

    Merry Christmas!

    Even here in India the christmas spirit sneaked into our house and before you could imagine Christmas Eve was here. We started the day with a late pajama's breakfast down in the living room which we decorated the day before. Somehow we even managed to carry down two of the gigantic tables. After a lot of food we moved to the Tv corner to watch the traditional "Three nuts for Cinderella" accompanied with some hot chocolate and lusseboller. Later in the afternoon we had our dinner for which we basically stood in the kitchen for several days. But the result was amazing and the desert buffet even better. I think I never ate so much food. :) When it got dark we started opening the secret santa gifts and Sangeeta and Babu opened theirs. The atmosphere was so cozy, lights and candles everywhere, christmas music jamming in the background and a fake fireplace sparking. The rest of the lovely evening we spent chatting, dancing, watching Babu playing with his new toys and eating more food. All in all the holidays have been so much better than expected and I really enjoyed it even though it was so different.

    Sooo much food!



    My little Santa ❤

    Opening gifts :)

    So happy!

    Even more food...

    Santa distributing gifts :)



    Today we have spent cleaning up after yesterday and packing for our 15 day trip to the Himalayas which we will start today in the evening. Our first stop will be Amritsar and then we'll go to Himachal Pradesh. Can't wait to see the mountains and hopefully some snow!

  • 0

    Taco Sunday

    This weekend was welcomed by me with open arms and now they don't want to let it slip away by the thought of one last school day tomorrow, but it is the last one of 2014 and then I officially take my holidays even though the school kids do not get any holidays before after christmas because almost no one celebrates. Thinking about that, it is crazy that the 4th advent already is over and if it wouldn't be for my advent calendar or a watch I would loose all feelings over time. This whole year has been kind of like this, living in a small bubble, almost totally isolated from my life back home, where time has nothing to say and the sun shines all year  long. But we do have calendars and they do tell us that christmas is now just three days away and I am so looking forward to celebrate. This year's celebration will be slightly different for everybody but all together we have made a great plan and now the day can just come. :)

    And since today is our kitchen day we tried out something most of us missed a lot. TACO! The recipe is super easy, vegetarian and has a slightly Indian twist. Instead of the traditional Tortilla we just asked the cook to make bigger chapati's and for the meat we used dark lentils mixed with tomatoes and homemade taco spices. All put together it did not just look like a real taco but it tasted almost better than the one's back at home. The idea to use lentils instead of meat is not just cheaper but also healthier and better for you and the environment. A simple recipe can you find here.

              

    Today we also bought some nice lights to put around our beds and the result turned out to be great. Everything is much cozier and mine will definitely stay there for the rest of the year. 

    Babu sitting in one of our beds while wearing Julie's cap. This together with sweaters, thick socks and gloves has been one of the necessary things we needed to buy at GT Bazaar and WTP for our trip to the Himalays. Just yesterday at breakfast we heard from Sangeeta that it snowed a lot up in the places we are going to visit and I really do hope we get to see some snow. ❄❄❄



  • 0

    Gingerbread & co

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    Long time no see. A lot has happened since last time. The temperatures have suddenly dropped and even though it is not cold in comparison to Norway it is so cold since the temperatures inside are the same as outside which means something around 10-20 degrees. Isolation has not been invented yet and that means thick sweaters, hot chai and woolen socks  are the only solution to keep you warm. Luckily we found a small heater so our room is at least a bit warmer than the rest of the house and if the sun shines you can actually sit outside without a jacket. 

    Besides freezing and missing the crazy hot summer we have been baking a ton of gingerbreads. They turned out surprisingly good if we consider that we didn't have any syrup, bicarbonate or food coloring just honey, regular baking soda and some weird salty Indian orange food color. Babu enjoyed the whole thing very much, especially eating the dough. 




    We also found a fake christmas tree hidden somewhere in the house and put it in our room. And since we are leaving for the Himalayas as early as the 25th we couldn't wait to decorate the tree already now. 


                                    

                             
                             


    I have also joined a dance class since I have so much free time. The training is monday to friday and everybody is so talented, the Indians for sure have a lot more rhythm than we in the north. Over half of the group are also boys because dance here is not considered as a girl thing. Talking about dancing we went to Ida's annual function and watched her dance and sing together with Cornelius, Freja and their classmates.



  • 2

    2. Advent

    Happy 2. Advent!

    Hope you all had a nice sunday celebrating. We once again tried our best to keep some of the christmas traditions from home alive so Julie and Emma stood in the kitchen for several hours making potatoes, vegisterkaker and brown sauce. Super delicious and weird to eat some real norwegian food again. 

    In the afternoon we drove into the city to a restaurant called "Taruveda" to meet two friends from my class. None of us had been there before but we will go there again as soon as possible. The place was amazing, the interior cozy and the food tasty maybe a bit pricy. When it got dark they lit lights everywhere while music played softly in the background. The atmosphere was almost a bit christmas like and we spent the whole afternoon chatting over a good dessert.

    On our way back home we drove past so many wedding parties that it is almost strange that we haven't been invited yet. Really desperate to go to a wedding and to wear my Sari again! 



    Tried to squeeze everybody in one picture. :)

  • 1

    Shopping in the Pink City

    Namaste!

    On saturday Julie, Sangeeta, Babu the cook and me drove in to the Pink City to do some serious shopping for the upcoming christmas season. After a delicious breakfast with healthy American pancakes we all squeezed in one tuk-tuk. The drive was once again bumpy and very loud because of all the vehicles honking and producing toxic. But still we made it safe into the city and were met by a crowded bazaar which surprisingly had everything you need to decorate your house with all kind of christmas decorations. After some searching and asking we even found cookie cutters! We continued strolling through the maze of narrow streets filled with shops and booths and for some reason Julie and me were treated like Indians. Almost no one stared and not a single person bothered us. Maybe I finally look or at least behave a bit more like an Indian than a tourist. :) That made the whole day really enjoyable and a lot less stressing. Sangeeta was in a real shopping mood as well and bought almost everything we asked for and by the end of the day we barely fit in the tuk-tuk with all the bags. Back home I basically stayed in my bed for the rest of the evening, watching Prison Break with the others. All of us are totally addicted and originally we had planed to have a marathon, finishing season one but just after three episodes we all kind of fell asleep even though the neighbors are having a marriage party going on. That means deafening music for at least a couple of days as the Indian weddings last for over a week. I would love to say that I get used to noise now but thats sadly not true. Better said I have kind of enough with Indian music after one week with the complete lecture of Lord Krishna's life accompanied with singing and music which took place just across the street. So earplugs and a lot of patience are the key to get some sleep here. :)

               

               



  • 1

    Aaj ka din acha hai!

    Today is a good day! And that is true. We had masala paneer for lunch and the weather is absolutely great, sunshine, blue sky and 28 degrees in december. Can't complain about that? We also have a lot of  free time since in school most of our project work is done and we basically just meet up to get some kind of attendance twice a week. To fill the remaining five days with something meaningful Emma and me have finally decided that we are going to learn Hindi. Two weeks ago we at last got a real super nice teacher and when Emma found out that you should practice 3 hours a day, we use all morning for that. I really have the motivation for it right now and  Í am progressing but honestly Hindi is so confusing and difficult, just the alphabet (which is not even a real alphabet) is challenging.

    Besides this activity we almost made it a tradition to take a walk in the park and feed the puppies there. Babu is also coming along, something Sangeeta is very happy for since he always is tired afterwards. He can be really lazy but in the park we make him walk and run by himself and he loves to explore all the things there

    I also work a lot with my norwegian school books so I will manage next year and it is actually nice to do something and understand it which is not really the case with my Indian books. 

    For the rest of the day we have planned to go to the cinema, again. :) But before that I will join the others in the rooftop, sitting in the sun and reading a book.❤

  • 2

    ❄ Christmas Spirit ❄

    Hi, yet another week has passed and today is already the 1st advent and tomorrow the first hatch of the christmas calendar waits to be opened. Here in India the effort to get a christmas atmosphere is big but the last days our pre-christmas preparations have really given us some serious christmas spirit. After several hours with Michael Bublé's christmas album on full volume our room was decorated with lights, a christmas star and drawings while outside in the living room my masterpiece of an christmas calendar is placed. It took me quite a while but with the help and patience from the others we managed to put it up in time. My grandma also kind of saved me when she sent me a whole package with her homemade cookies and a chocolate calendar.  

    In addition we have also planned to have an extra special dinner/lunch every sunday until Christmas eve. This time we had delicious norwegian porridge and a christmas bread. It almost tasted like home and I can't wait till we start baking ginger bread and cookies.

     



    Besides we had a relaxed week, with walks in the park, girls nights and a nice dinner at "Little Italy". Unluckily Ida and me got sick afterwards and last time we were there some got ill as well, so we'll never go there again. But the food was still good though.



    To balance the delicious food part ;) And Babu enjoys it too.

  • 0

    Chokhi Dhani

    Sunday evening we visited one of Jaipur's most visited places, Chokhi Dhani, a typical Indian village. In my opinion it looked a bit more like some kind of Indian Disney land. Inside you find many typical Rajasthani attraction; buildings, dance performances, camel and elephant riding, a big market, games and a lot of food and snacks. After strolling around, exploring everything and behaving like a real tourist, we sat down in one of the restaurants. In order to make everything seem very traditional we sat on the floor next to small tables where our food was served in dishes made out of leaves. The food was delicious especially the dessert, I think we all ate more than one serving. The atmosphere was for once nice with all the candles and lamps standing around leaving the area with a warm glow. The waiters wore turbans and because this was the tourist place number one we had to put them on smiling for a picture. Babu liked the turbans more than anybody else and wouldn't take his off for the rest of the evening. :) 



    And once again a huge thanks to Emma for letting me use her photos. ❤

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    The key to happiness ❤

    Happy weekend! I started my saturday with a nice morning walk in the park together with Julie and Emma. As we strolled down the way we caught the sight of five adorable puppies sitting in a field. Right away our morning became much better, smiling we sat down, cuddling with them while their mother looked after. Our hearts melted right away and if we could we would have taken them all to the student house in order to adopt them.  It is so sad to see so many street dogs here, they are everywhere and have none to look after them. Often they are thin and injured, and seem so alone. But those puppies we found seemed to have a relatively good start into their life if you think about the circumstances. All the people who walk in the park bring their food left overs and give it to the dogs or one of the by passing cows.


             

              

    Puppy selfie ❤






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    Tapri Teahouse

    Hi!

    On wednesday we drove into the city to the well-known Tapri teahouse. The others had been there several times before and many of my  classmates have highly recommended the place which lies right besides Central Park. As it finally was my time to enter the café, I fell in love at once. Just the interior made my day, rustic but still comfy. And let's not even talk about the dozens of teas they have. The food looked delicious but sadly some dishes like the pasta or the wraps are so spicy you just sit there with tears in your eyes looking at the food you barely can eat. So if you ever, for some reason, should end up in Jaipur I recommend this place just ask for no added chili flakes. :)

    Can you spot the elephant?




  • 0

    Typical India

    Good afternoon! 

    I just realized we are approaching 150 days in India and that will be the halfway mark. Crazy how fast everything went but I am actually starting to look forward to be back home. Don't misunderstand me India is great but some things here have started to annoy me like crazy. As a tourist you may not see or experience them even if you try to not be one. The daily life things will just show if staying here for a long, long time while doing normal everyday life things. So without further talking, here is a list of typical, Indian and sometimes annoying habits/traditions/behaviors. 

    Being treated like a child

    This is by far off the most annoying thing. To say it short everybody who still is in school is looked upon as a child, not a teenager nor an almost grown up. In school the teachers refer to all the students as children sometimes even as babies. And as you are called a child they don't hesitate to treat you like one despite the fact that you may be 18 already. Having plenty of time left over in school where we observed the people there, we came to one conclusion; in India you are a child until you have your diploma, so you better behave like one until that day. That means respecting everybody who is older than you even if they are idiots (something they can't be since they are older and have so much more knowledge than you; a small, stupid child that knows absolute nothing).

    Independent thinking

    That is something that barely exists here. As for the children I understand since everything they do in school is copy some written down answers but when you look on the older ones you sometimes ask yourself where they left their brains. No decisions can be made without the permission from someone else and just thinking five minutes ahead seems often like an impossible task. From times to times it can seem like they simply haven't learnt to think all alone by themselves, having an opinion and using common sense.

    Public behavior

    I am well aware that there are other norms and traditions that rule here still there are some things I just can't ignore. First up the fact that half of the cities' male population has no problem with taking a toilet break in public, meaning they literally piss on the nearest wall. Another not so charming observations is the freedom people feel to fart and pick their nose. The list could go on and on but one other thing I have to mention is the lack of having queues. In supermarkets or while buying tickets for the cinema people just press themselves in the front not caring about the ones who actually wait.

    Sense for cleanliness

    Indians are very clean people, a neat haircut and unsoiled clothes are a must. But for some weird reason they almost never have soap in restrooms despite the fact that they don't use toilet paper but water and the left hand. Talking about washrooms, mostly they seem to not have been cleaned since the day they were built while the rest of the building is relatively hygienic. In common feet are looked at as dirty so shoes are always taken off and you normally need to wash your feet before entering any temple. Still I have so often notice people when sitting, massaging their feet like their life dependent on that and afterwards using the same hands to eat.

    Taking care of the Environment

    Well, that is a major problem but it is bigger than I ever imagined. It is not just that people don't sort the garbage but they just don't even inhibit to throw whatever trash they have right on the floor. A public garbage collection is not existing either so people just tend to collect their waste somewhere where it eventually gets burned, eaten by the cows or the dogs and searched through by the poorest of the poor. And worst of them all most people don't even care or know what is going on. Once I had a light bulb and asked where I should throw it. The answer I got was simple, in the normal dust bin because it is not emptied on a place where cows reach. So the cows were the only concern but what about the rest of the planet? 

    Sexuell harrassment

    India is very old fashion and the idea of  women and men being equal has not reached everyone yet. During the day you mostly see men in the streets and arranged marriages are still the most common even in the upper classes. Sex before marriage is of course a no-no and talking about sex in general is a complete taboo. So just imagine me, quite grown-up and independent, being here in India stared at like a piece of meat just because I am a girl who is white. I really don't know what kind of twisted view they have of the west but nothing can make up for some of those creepy looks. Most of the time it is just so incredible annoying and just rude but sometimes you just want to punch them right in the face. 

    Taking consideration

    This country has many people and as a result the privacy level is low. But that should be enough reason to be extra careful to maybe give some a little privacy once in a while. Well, the opposite takes place. There are a few persons who but others before them, it is a competition to survive here so logically you put yourself first not considering others as much. Our buss driver has no problem with honking like crazy at 6.30 in the morning in a sleeping neighborhood and that someone starts a loud conversation with their mum in a room where people try to do yoga as happened as well. The neighbors love to start garden parties early in the morning that last till the late evening accompanied by Indian music. Or our cleaning lady that always turns off the water not thinking that we also need water. 

    Being on time

    Let's just say Indians are rarely or never on time. And that is so incredible annoying. As you wait you can't do anything since the thing you wait for can happen or arrive at any moment. I don't know how many hours I have wasted with that just because someone couldn't use a watch. Meanwhile I just don't bother any more or at least try to.

    I think that was it and I hope nobody was insulted. It is simple how I see things and sometimes I am so confused what to think. Maybe I am just not adapting to the culture or I even may be "right" in some of the points. Either way it was nice to get those subjective opinions out of my mind and I wish you all a fabulous tuesday.



    ♥♥♥

  • 0

    Through my Phone

    Hello, I am back and still alive. Last week has been kind of a down. Almost everybody had a flue and let me tell you being sick not having your mum or dad around is really sad. So just sitting in my bed with a headache feeling sorry for myself and so alone, I did almost nothing this week. Mostly we sat in our room watching movies, drinking tea and once we dragged us up for school which was a very bad idea. Moving on to the end of this horrible week, we started feeling better, went to the cinema to watch "Interstellar". And that was a good idea because that movie was seriously good. If you haven't seen it yet go and do it right away. Else we finished the last christmas shopping, sent all the packages and visited a café called Anhoki. Another great idea, the food is amazing. They have organic, sugar free food and even sell "knekkebrød"!! Besides nothing exciting happened, so I shall put some random pictures in here that haven't made it onto the blog yet. :)



    Doing some homework on our terrace today since the weather was so nice, 28 degrees and sun.



    Finally received our super pretty winter uniforms. In the mornings it is actually quite chilly.





    The air is so polluted, so many people here wear scarfs over the mouth and face. We also started to that and it has another nice benefit; people don't stare that much.


    Pokerfaces while shopping.



    Lunch with the others. And eating vegetarian fast food doesn't feel that unhealthy.


    Eating a gigantic chocolate cake at Costa's. We did share though.


    Babu is too influenced by us girls.

    Well, I guess that was everything for today. Next week I'll try to be a bit more productive. So good night! 

  • 0

    Haridwar & Rishikesh

    Suddenly november arrived and even here in Jaipur you can finally feel a change in the weather. The mornings as well as the evenings have started to be chilly and dark but once the sun is up, the sweat is dripping again. Still you feel that the summer is slowly saying goodbye and I am looking forward to the new season, 4 months with heat made me appreciate the cold. Acctually I can't wait to wear cozy sweaters and thick socks while drinking some hot chai.

    Another thing november brought was a new trip, this time to Haridwar and Rishikesh, two cities by the Ganges in northern India.

    Tuesday 4. November

    Tuesday morning we arrived at the train station in Haridwar, afer a quite short train ride. Just 13 hours but a night without sleep makes you feel like a zombie. I had been really unlucky with my seat neighbours. We can just say that there is no use in getting upset and angry, you just need to accept the fact that privacy is defined differently here.




    But enough of that, the fresh and cold air that met us outside the train blew some of the tiredness away and we realized how quiet the city was. A nice and welcomed thing. Our hotel was hidden in one of the narrow streets, not far away from the Ganges our destiny for the evening. Until then we just recovered and after tea time we left, walking through the city. The whole way was one gigantic bazaar filled with all kind of stores. Since the climate is a tick colder here, many already started selling winter clothes and quite a few people were completely dressed up with thick jackets, scarfs and boots while I actually enjoyed the temperature wearing a t-shirt.




    As we reached the end of the market we could finally spot the Ganges. Walking along the river promenade we ended up in an even bigger crowd than in the market. Apparently we were supposed to witness the daily holy ceremony the Hindus have here in Hardiwar. But because we came right before it started we ended up standig at the outskirts of the crowd not knowing what was going on and aiming after the people in front of us. Judging by the little we saw, the ceremony looked a bit like in Varanasi. Returning back home, we stopped by some street food sellers eating some really good food.



    Babu had surprisingly much energy left, maybe because we carried him all day long, and did really scared us when he managed to run into a bicycle-rikshaw. He started crying badly and got a cut over his eyebrow. Luckily the people here are super nice and in a restaurant he was pampered up again and just five minutes later the old him was back charming everybody with his personality.

     

    Wednesday 5. November

    Today it was time for sightseeing in Haridwar. After eating breakfast and checking out of the hotel, we drove to the outskirts of the city, into the hills. Here, after waiting several hours in line, we took a lift to a mountaintop to see a temple. The ride was nice and the view over the city, the hills and the Ganges stunning but way to short in comparison to the time we spent in a queue.



      


    On top we had to wait once again and were pushed and pressed at from all angles. Moving in to the temple, people almost fought in order to see something. I couldn't exactely feel any holy spirit there but for the Indians it was kind of a big deal to be there. As we moved out, we rushed all the way back to find some place to eat lunch and ended up in a quite shady restaurant. But something we found out is that the shadier and more dirty the place, the better the food. Strange but true. Last up was another temple and another place. The procedure here was the same, the ambience was just nicer and on top we skipped the crowded temple and instead walked around enjoying the view and taking picures of the monkeys.





    Back in the car we drove to Rishikesh, the neighbor town one hour away. In the evening we arrived at our stay for the night, an Ashram. It looked very nice and all the people were very welcoming and nice. Tired of the day and looking forward to a morning yoga lesson we all went to bed early.



    Thursday 6. November

    After a surprisingly cold night in our simple room in the Ashram, Emma and me met one of the yoga teachers to have an one hour session. The location was the top part of the round building which had carpet floor, yoga mats and a small «alter» place. The one hour flew by fast, the teacher was good and so flexible but I am still waiting for a real yoga experience. After breakfast we suddenly changed our plan for the day and spontanously went to a bungee jumping place (don't be scared I didn't do it). Just the ride there was scary enough, bumps and humps every second and the road so narrow and close to the edge of the cliffs. As we got there I was way to scared to do the bungee jumping so Julie and me stuck to Asia's longest rope way while the rest of the group dared to jump. The ropeway was so much fun, a bit scary in the beginning but after it was over you wanted to do it all over again just because of the view you had hanging over a hundred meters over the ground.





    With the adrenaline still in the blood we continued the day with extreme sport, namely rafting on the Ganges. Fully dressed up with wetsuits, jackets, helmets and wests we were ready for the 9 km long ride. The current was very strong and everybody was splashed over with water in the rafts. In between you also had parts with quiet water where we could take a swim and oh my god the water was cold but so clear and blue. The scenery was stunning; high mountains, big rocks, green forest where could see the monkeys climbing in the trees and an amazing red-glowing sun that set behind the horizon.






    Back on land Sangeeta surprised us with a night's stay at an outdoor camp at the banks of the river. Not expecting that much because you never have expectations in India since you will get disappointed often, we arrived and couldn't stop telling Sangeeta what a great idea she had. The camp was amazing with new tents, super comfortable beds, delicious food and nice staff people of which half where from Canada. All evening we sat around the big bonfire talking and telling stories while drinking chai and placing our feet in the sand.

     

    Friday 7. November

    Next morning we woke up early to get most out of the few hours we had left. Enjoying the amazing sourrounding we couldn't see in the dark the day before, we waited for the sun to reach the bottom of the canyon. As this happened the cold finally disappeared and we went hiking, played badminton and I also took a quick morning swim in the Ganges.







    The train ride was to say it short horrible. For one weird reason we just received two seats even though we paid for eight. Luckily we ended up with for beds but I still slept one hour and when we reached Jaipur we all were near a mental breakdown. Reaching home we all went straight to bed. And even though the journey back home was terrible the trip itself was great and I can't wait to go to Rishikesh again.

  • 0

    The student house

    Namaste!

    I just finished eating lunch, masala paneer. My new favorite. Besides I did some homework today, watched after Babu and went around in the house to take some pictures of the place. It is quite a big house and we are very few students this year but that's just nice so we have a lot of space and we have really become a family. Sometimes when you stay inside you even forget you are in India and that gives you a small break from everything that is happening outside. 

    The entry door which is always closed and our sign-in & sign-out list in which we always need to write when leaving the house.

    The staircase. 

    Our living room, with a fridge, a tv, a sofa and many madrases where you just can lay down and relax. Here we often meet in the evenings for our movie nights and monday meetings.

    And this is our dining area with the adjoining kitchen. Here we eat three times a day and do a lot of other stuff like baking, celebrating birthdays or eating midnight snacks and talk for hours about everything and nothing. Up here we also have our washing machine which is at least from the last century.



    The lovely roof top. During the day it is way too hot to stay up there and you just go there to hang up our clothes but in the afternoon it is the perfect place for to workout while having an amazing view over the city in the light of the sunset.




    The neighborhood.



    And last but not least the sign to our neighborhood.

  • 0

    Diwali

    Happy Diwali! 

    Here in India we have celebrated Diwali and the beginning of the new year for the last days. This festival is the biggest and most celebrated and is also known as the festival of lights. And it truly is, people decorate their houses so that they end up looking like palaces, hundreds of crackers and fireworks are fired and you can see the small diya-lights in front of every house.

    The story behind this is different in every part of India but in the north it sounds something like this. The day god Rama and his wife Sita and his brother Lakshmana came back to the city Ayodhya after living for 14 years in exile it was dark and they couldn't see the road. Therefore the people lightened up lights and candles along their way so they would safely arrive. 



               

    The celebration lasts for several days and people prepare well for it. The houses are cleaned, new clothes are bought, gifts and sweets are purchased and of course decorations are put in place. For the three most important days I stayed at a friend from school to really experience Diwali. The first day I got there is called Choti Diwali which means small Diwali. On this day people fix the last things before the big day. We bought three bags full with crackers and some diya lights and in the evening the first crackers were fired as well. The next morning the whole house was cleaned a last time and we three girls made two big Rangoli. Those are made to attract the goddess Lakshmi to come to your house and bring you lots of love and money.

    Later that day we all got dressed up and I could finally wear my saree! I was so excited for that and could not wait. But to put on a saree is quite difficult but my host mother did luckily help me and after some time I even felt comfortable. I managed to walk (with heels in addition!), sit down and even get in and out of a car. I just hope I can the wear to more often because you feel like a real princess. ❤





                 

    Afterwards the whole family gathered and sat down in front of the house temple for the prayer. The ceremony took quite a while and by the end we rang the puja bell, got a simple bracelet which shall protect and a bindi.

    And after we visited their super nice family and ate dinner, it was finally time for the fireworks!



    It was really nice to celebrate Diwali especially with my friends! ❤ I am looking forward to the time I can celebrate it again, it was a bit like christmas and new years eve in the same night. Talking about christmas, we already started the christmas shopping since it takes so long to send something. Now it is not long until november and we will be traveling again but right now I am still enjoying the holidays.

  • 0

    Last day of school

    Just kidding. But kind of the last day with regular classes for the 12th grade. And for the lucky me who is not taking any exams there is just project work left to do. For you that may sound really strange and you may wonder what the heck is going on at an Indian school. Therefore I decided to write a post about this incredible confusing topic, trying to enlighten you. I am first writing about this now because it took some time to process the things happening there and I wanted to be there for some time trying to give an equitable judgement. But also because I was avoiding it since it really was kind of a shock. So be prepared.

    First of some basic information. The school I am attending is called Step by Step High School and has around 3000 students from 1st to 12th grade. I was placed in 12 Science A, a class with around 40 students. School starts at 7.15 a.m and ends at 1.25 p.m. In the middle of the day we have a lunch break for 20 minutes but we get kind of a break between each of the 7 periods since most of the teachers are way to late for their classes. We have school from monday to friday but normally there are also half days at saturdays which we luckily can skip. The school itself is a very big building, not that old but still not modern at all. Behind the school there is a big public sports place which is not that great mostly just stones, sand and dust. 



    Moving on to school uniforms. Something we don't have in Norway. Here every school has its and everybody wears a school uniform. In my case a jeans trouser or skirt and a white shirt with the logo of the school. In addition we have an ugly pair of white sneakers. At first I thought it is so cool to have an uniform but my enthusiasm faded away quite quickly. All people look the same and it was so funny to see people in normal clothes for the first time because the uniforms makes you seriously ugly. It is also not even comfortable but the Indians think they are just so western and sporty. Talking about sports, no one changes to other clothes. Now imagine 40 people sitting in a classroom after a period with P.E with 40 degrees outside. Yes, not that attractive but you get used to it. My problem is that I can't do anything in a skirt so every time I need to run to the washrooms and change. Still there are a few nice things about uniforms. You know what to wear and since make-up is not allowed you are ready in 10 minutes. And that is nice when you need to get up at 5.30 a.m and just have 45 minutes to get ready and one bathroom for 4 girls. 

    Next up, the "wonderful" bus ride to school. This is the most demanding part of the whole day. We sit in an old bus without any type of shock absorbers, which are kind of essential with Indian roads, for almost 2 hours every single day. Our bus driver is a psychopath with no sense for humanity. He drives like crazy, not knowing about traffic rules or brakes and for some reason he thinks it is so much fun to honk. Those honks are extremely loud, so loud that your ears hurt and the heart from an old person easily can stop. And this we have to hear at least once a minute. It is just a question of time until he kills someone. The bus has no windows either and the seats just reach up to the middle of your back, so it is almost impossible to sleep without getting bruises or a concussion.






    In school I go straight to my class room, a simple room with a blackboard and many super uncomfortable chairs and tables. We start the day with a morning prayer and our class teacher checks the attendance. Now we also need to turn in our phones because they are not allowed at all. One day some of the guards which are trying to get silence and tidiness in the hallways while screaming and blowing in their whistles, came into the class searching through all bags looking for phones. Yes that is allowed and the teachers can be very strict. You need to be polite, greet, say sir or m'am and always respect their opinion. They treat even us in 12th grade like children and also make us feel like that. And the people behave like children. They are childish, scream, shout and there is chaos almost everywhere. You can't take decisions yourself, you always need to ask for permission. You can't criticize them, they are always right and if you don't like them you have to put on a fake smile and pretend. For me this is not really working out since I have been treated like a grown-up and independent person for the last years. 

    The teaching methods are also ? different. In Norway we would consider them very old-fashioned. The teacher is basically just standing in front of the class, reading out loud the things you need to know and you need to write down every single word. In the beginning this was so difficult. The teacher speaking so fast with an really heavy Indian accent and you don't even know what he is talking about. But after a couple of weeks I improved my writing skills enormously and would consider myself now as a quite fast writer. The things we learn are extremely difficult. I chose science which is extra advanced but I also was placed in 12th grade which is like Vg3. That means most of the time I have absolutely no clue what they talk about and if I manage to solve a maths equation myself in the same time as my classmates it feels like winning a jackpot. Another difficult things is the fact that many teacher don't care that this is an international school where you are supposed to speak English and just teach in Hindi. A language that I don't understand. As horrible this sounds I still learn a lot, it just takes time and effort. 

    Luckily I don't need to write any tests or exams, I will be graded on basis of to projects in every subject. That sounds quite easy and is not that difficult either but it makes it difficult that most of the teachers don't care about you at all. If they hear you don't write the tests you are air. You don't get the information you need and always have to ask twice. They just give you a random project you can work on for two weeks, a fake grade to keep the schools reputation good (no one wants to hear that the exchange students failed) and everybody is happy. As long as I get this year approved I will be so happy. But it doesn't feels nice to not know what is going on and always feel like an outsider because you are not treated like the others. I also hate the feeling of not understanding or simply feeling stupid. In the first week I almost had a mental breakdown in the office of my physics teacher when he showed me the physics book of the 12th grade and didn't understood a single word. I felt so stupid and blamed myself for it. 

    All the things we learn while rushing through the thick books are based on different exam schemes like CBSE. Because in 12th grade no test or grades are used to apply for college just the board and pre-board exam by the end of the year. One exam in every subject decides your future. They are extremely difficult and people are just studying for them. In class we go through all questions and answers of all possible questions and you need to remember all answers the teacher gives you. Therefor people need to spend even more time learning and have tuitions every afternoon in addition to tests and homework. School is very important, it decides your future but leaves you almost no time to enjoy life or prepare you for the real life outside home. I feel like the people are treated like children because they have no time to become independent and think for themselves. It just takes too much time and effort in a country with 1.5 billion people all trying to somehow survive. They need to grow up when they go to college and that must be a shock to suddenly be all alone in the big world.

    Now onto something nice after all that negativity. I still enjoy going to school. I learn so much, not only school related things but also about life and myself. Some classes are really interesting and fun too. I love the chemistry lab classes where we do so many fancy experiments all by ourselves wearing lab coats and glasses. Feeling like a pro. P.E is also nice, finally I could join athletics. A few teachers are nice and even enjoy talking to you. But most of all I enjoy going to school because of my friends. They really do lighten up my day and I don't know how I would have survived until now without them. They help me when I am totally lost, show me new things about India and even try to do something with me after school or in weekends despite the fact that they actually don't have time for that. I also appreciated the Norwegian school system so much more and next year I will probably be the most motivated student Norway has ever seen.

    As i wrote in the beginning friday was their last day before the exam time starts which will last until march. From now on they will just prepare and repeat all the things they have learned. But on friday it was the last real day of high school and that needed to be celebrated. We all sat together and we had some kind of ceremony in our class where every single person was given a title based on memories, personalities and character. Speeches were held, tears were shed, people laughed and even I received a title. "Yeh sab ho kya raha hai?" which basically means "What is happening all around?" .That name is just perfect since I most of the time sit in the class wondering what is going on.



    I hope that you now know a bit more. And even though this was quite a long blog post I could have written a book about this topic. 

  • 2

    Paradise ❤

    Hello! I hope everybody had nice holidays, mine were perfect. A week in Goa or should I say paradise? 

    Friday

    Friday morning we all went to the train, well prepared to stay there for the next 30 hours. With the company of the others and Babu, movies, a book and a lot of food and chai those hours didn't even feel that long and already in the afternoon we reached Goa, India's smallest state located on the west coast.

    Saturday

    After we arrived at the Idex camp near by the city of Madgaon, we got our rooms and freshened up which was kind of impossible since it is super humid. Therefore we almost forced Sangeeta to get us to a beach so we finally could see the ocean, the sand and just smell the salt in the air. Luckily the beautiful Majorda beach was just 5 minutes away so we could spend the whole evening there, swimming and watching the sunset. The water was really salty but it had the perfect temperature, not too cold and not too warm either. It was strange to go and swim with just a bikini after living three months in India always covering everything up but it didn't seem to be a problem. Sometimes people gave you a weird look but not more than that.

    Sunday

    Sunday really was a relaxing day. The whole day we spent at Colva beach, swimming, relaxing, tanning and eating ice cream.  

    Monday

    Monday was a busy day with a thight schedule. First we drove all the way to Old Goa where we visited Bom Jesus church which was built by the Portuguese. They brought christianity to India and still a lot of people are christen especially in Goa. Afterwards we also went to a museum learning about Goa's history.

    Our little monkey got tired of walking after a while.

    After a long ride through the beautiful nature of Goa we arrived at a spice plantation. Here we got a guided tour through the forrest. Honestly I didn't get much of the information, I was more busy with not getting killed by the mosquitos and everybody was so hungry that we all just wanted food. But we could see cashew trees and a many spice plants and bushes like cinnamon and carnation. 

    Next up was a visit by one of many waterfalls. Some of us even jumped in the water but after 10 minutes a real thunderstorm started and it seemed like the sky opened up letting gigantic masses of water falling down. After a few seconds everything was soaked in water and the roads turned into rivers. 

    Tuesday

    Tuesday was yet another sightseeing day. First up was some kind of market at a famous beach promenade. From a viewpoint there you had an amazing view over the ocean and the coast. Not far away we had a quick visit at an old fort. Not especially interesting, everybody was melting in the incredible heat and looking forward to the beach.

    As we finally arrived at the beach it was bit of a disappointment. It was crowded, looked like a party place, there was a super strong flow in the water so two of us even needed help from the lifeguards to get up again and the most annoying thing; Indian guys taking pictures of you. They were so disgusting, not taking the hint that we were not interested in them. Julie got so angry she even threw sand at them and after a while we just shouted after Sangeeta as soon we saw a guy with a phone so she could yell at them in Hindi. Later we did some shopping in Goa's capital and went back home super tired.

    Wednesday

    This was the best day from the whole trip. We went to Palolem beach, which I highly recommend. There we would sleep for one night in small huts right by the beach before going back to the camp next morning. The entire day we stayed at the beach, swimming or just relaxing on our air mattresses. Later that day we also went on a boat trip to a small island and on our way there we even saw dolphins! 

    Trying to build a sand castle. :)

    Thursday

    Tired after a short night in the hut (we discovered a cockroach!!!) we ate south Indian breakfast in a small restaurant. Back home we all ran back to the beach to enjoy the last hours there. Here a scary fun thing happened. As you know the cows in India are walking free so you also find them on the beach. And one those cows was very interested in our food, first it rammed Emma before it stubbornly stood on Julie's things eating all her cookies. We needed the help from two other people with sticks to remove it.

    Since we came home right before lunch we decided to take a walk in the neighborhood. In the pictures you can see how cute the houses are there. We all decided to once in our lifetime move to Goa, buying a small house and enjoy the relaxed life there. The atmosphere is so much better than in the north and people seem more open and kind. As a girl or women you can for example walk in a dress or shorts without anybody judging you. People are also not staring at you and that felt so nice.

    Friday

    This was our last day and we spent it at our local beach. After a few hours we got bored and decided to walk home instead of getting picked up. On our way we stopped at an Amul ice cream shop. The ice cream there was so good that we all ate FOUR scoops! 

    Indian irony.

    In the afternoon we went to a bazaar and a supermarket which had absolutely everything to buy supplies for the long trip back home that we would start in the middle of the night.

    Saturday

    This train trip was exhausting. We got on the train in the middle of the night, I couldn't sleep at all and a person which was just traveling with our group really annoyed me. In the morning people started praying, talking, selling and listening to music at 6 a.m. Not really happy we always needed to wait hours for our food since half part of the group sat in a different part of the train. They had all of our food and to give it to us they had to wait for the train to stop at a big station so they could run to our compartment and back again. But luckily we had two super cute nuns next to us that supplied us with food and loved to talk to us.

    Right now I am back home, preparing for school tomorrow. Almost forgot that I even have school but it will be nice to be back to everyday life and meeting people. And next week we already have Diwali. So excited!

  • 1

    Dandiya Night

    Hello!

    Finally the holidays are here! One week with no school and tomorrow I will already sit on the train on my way to Goa. This is the perfect way to celebrate my 100th day in India and just writing this I realized how fast the time flies by. It feels like yesterday that I arrived, scared and excited I stood at the airport not knowing what would happen. And now I am here, still scared and excited but also more confident and stronger than before. I have already experienced so much more than I ever expected and found another place on this beautiful planet which I can call home.

    On to something else, last night was probably one of the best evenings I ever had. Everyone from the student house was invited to a Dandiya night at a college in the neighborhood. Dandiya means basically stick and it is a tradition to perform a dance with two sticks along with other dances. This festival is one of many in october which is the festival season in India. Like every other festival, Dandiya also has a dress code at least for the women which is a suit or a lehenga. In addition you can put on as much jewelry you want, the more you have the better. One thing we didn't knew when we went there was  that we were honored guest so going in everybody clapped and we were seated in the front row. Poor Ida also had to give an interview in front of the whole college, parents and principal before the show began. The super loud music made me kind of deaf but the dance performances were really good. So much spirit and rhythm, sad we don't have that back home. Until this point everything was quite boring but then suddenly we were dragged up the stage and found ourselves performing awkward dance moves. Luckily the situation got more and more relaxed after most of the people went home and we just had fun, dancing to bollywood music, laughing and dancing even more.

     

    For some reason we got an award! I have no idea why but who says no to an award?




  • 1

    My Room

    Hi!

    Today has been a really productive day and it is not even 3 o'clock yet. I stayed home from school because my class is writing a physics exam on wednesday and are therefore staying home today to study and prepare. I could have gone but I didn't want to have classes all by my own so I decided to take the day off. In the morning I cleaned the bathroom and went running in the park together with Ida and Cornelius. Afterwards, sweaty and filled with endorphins we ate breakfast . Just an hour later we were all already on our way to a supermarket to buy some necessary stuff and driving back home I finally bought some flowers!! At once i arrived home, I quickly tidied up the room and put the flowers in pots. They were the last missing piece in our room.

    The finished result is a cozy,nice room that feels like a home to us four girls. Here we live, sleep and lough together. It is not the most fancy room but it is more luxurious than most other peoples. In the beginning the room itself was kind of empty and impersonal so we started the project "decorating".  Some weeks later we are now proud owners of candles, flowers, a lamp, a bathroom rug, a scale and a few other things. In addition to all that stuff we also really needed a name and ended up with "Morokulien". That was perfect since we are both norwegians and a swede and Morokulien is an "independent" place between Norway and Sweden. A symbol of peace and friendship.❤ 





  • 3

    #tbt

    Good afternoon!

    I hope everybody had a great monday and still has enough energy to survive for the rest of the week. :) In my case, I felt the weekend was way too short but right now I have THE best motivation. Drum-roll. In just 10 days I will be relaxing on the beach in Goa, drinking coconut water and swimming in the ocean! This holiday is much needed right now and it will be fun to be back near the place I already have visited once before when I was small. Surprisingly I still have a lot of memories from back then and maybe some more will find their way into the present after being hidden somewhere in my brain for over 13 years. For that occasion I scrolled through my pictures and found those, such a long time ago. ❤



  • 0

    The right to live

    «It's funny how humans can wrap their mind around things and fit them into their version of reality.» Rick Riordan, The Lightning Thief

    Since the dawn of human history a lot has changed, we developed and learned from our mistakes but one essential thing many of us seemed to have forgotten; our humanity. Throughout all those years of mankind we killed, discriminated and oppressed. Many excuses were found to justify those cruelties and the hatred against others but the sad truth is often the unknown scares us and because of the human ignorance and selfishness it is so much easier for us to blame someone else for our problems.

    But beyond all cultural diversities, country borders, interests and appearances we all are just humans. Simple, vulnerable creatures seeking for love and attention. No one can change that. Those humans who realize this and acctually open their heart and mind are the once who are free from prejudices and hatred against the people being different. Even though I grew up learning to treat and respect everybody equally, I truly understood what that meant first after beeing in India, a place so different from everything I knew. And because of that I could see, more clear than ever, that despite all the differences, deep inside each of the 7 262 143 650 persons living on this planet, a human soul is hiding with the same right to live as you and me.



  • 0

    Everyday, all day long

    Happy weekend! First of all I am really sorry for not posting any post lately. To be more precise for the last two weeks. The motivation just hasn't been there and nothing too special happened either but here I am with a big summary of the last days. :) 

    Last weekend the other girls were invited to the cinema by a girl from their class and happily they were so kind to let me join. I feel like we are going to the cinema quite often but it is so cheap compared to Norway and the caramel popcorn is just magic. For the Indians it seems like they enjoy going to the movies a lot and most of the people I know go there almost every weekend. Okay, back to what we did. This time we saw a Bollywood movie called "Finding Fanny". All of us were kind of surprised in a positive way and not just because it actually was in English. The only annoying thing was that you never know how cold or warm it is in an room with air-condition and this time I wasn't lucky at all so I sat throughout the whole movie freezing.

    Afterwards I did a little shopping, I need a small treat once in a while. This time in form of a chic and cute pair of shoes from Zara. And I finally tasted the vegetarian Paneer burger from KFC (paneer is some kind of cheese and it tastes very good). I had high expectations and was deeply disappointed since some kind of super spicy sauce just burned all my taste senses. 

    In the weekdays the normal everyday ruled over my life. That means school, food, homework, daily activities and sleep. Okay it is not that boring because we live in India there is always happening something unexpected and funny. Like this week when we missed the school bus and had to take a tuk-tuk to school. Of course none of the drivers knew were the school was and neither did we so we just stood there pointing at the logo of our school uniform. We ended up in a tuk-tuk which drove in the completely opposite direction. Totally stressed out and irritated by the driver who constantly smiled and didn't spoke a single word English. After five minutes Julie tok action and with the help of a GPS map and the beloved internet, she guided the driver through the morning traffic. Still the driver couldn't believe we actually knew the way, I mean we are girls and white so there is just no possibility that we know anything. Several times we all needed to scream "Left, drive to the left, drive to the f***ing left!". I think that was the first time he got commands from a girl. Haha! Luckily we made it to the school in time because if you don't show up in time there is no way you pass the mean guards at the gate.

    Speaking of school, I had my first test and it went fine! Yes, no F! But I am so glad I don't need to write test unless I want or can and that's just the case in English, French and P.E. In the rest of the subjects I just have normal homework and projects. 

    I mean look at this? 



    I also received a nice postcard from my grandparents! Every time I receive a letter in the post the whole day is just brighter, so don't hesitate to send me anything. :) Lately I have been reading quite a lot considering the fact that I feel like the days have don't have enough hours. Nowadays I am obsessed with  "Angels and Demons"  by Dan Brown. 

    We also had a goodbye dinner for Daniel who went back to Germany after three months here. That was kind of strange saying goodbye and knowing that you have been here for 90 days and still have so much time left. But that is good because the time is flying past and in just two weeks I will already be in Goa relaxing on the beach! ❤

  • 0

    Varanasi Day 3: Breakfast, shopping and back home

    Hey,

    on our last day in Varanasi, most of the other exchange students left early in the morning since they continued their journey to Nepal but I, Julie, Emma, Marte and Leo stayed one more day taking the train back to Jaipur in the evening. We started the day with an outstanding breakfast/brunch at a small restaurant called "Brown Bread Bakery". By chance I found this place which is hidden deep in the narrow streets of the old city, by chance in the internet where it was recommended by everyone. And I am so glad I got to know about this place, they had actual bread! Real, brown bread. So good. The restaurant had a stunning view over the whole city and the ganges since it was on a rooftop so you could feel the fresh breeze.

    Afterwards we went through the narrow crowded streets, trying to bargain with the crazy shop keepers who always charge unbelievable amounts of money. But I am quite proud of myself getting everything I wanted for a much lower price. But it takes so much energy to be out in the streets, the incredible heat and all the people trying to get your attention. Late in the afternoon we went back to the Italian restaurant with the amazing location and food.

    In the early evening we were back in the train after waiting and waiting. This trip was much better than the first one because now I knew how everything worked and I even got enough sleep to be able to go right back to school on monday after arriving at the student house sunday afternoon. 



  • 2

    Varanasi Day 2: Sunrise, Buddha, Sarees and Pizza

    Hello, the second day in Varanasi we all got up way to early to see the sun rise on the Ganges. At 04.30 we drove through a quiet and deserted city and arrived at the riverside where we sat down in a little boat. Slowly we rowed on the river, saw the sun rising and the city waking up. We could see people washing their clothes, swimming, praying and also the well known places where the dead are burned. This boat trip was one of the best things I have done so far, this morning was so peaceful and you could experience Varanasi from its best side. 





    After breakfast we drove a little outside the city to see the famous place were Buddha held his first speech. On our way I finally tasted fresh coconut water, it doesn't taste that much but it's nice and refreshening. 



    And we girls finally got to do some saree shopping! Sangeeta knew a place where they are manufactured and sold right away for a much lower price than in regular stores. But oh my god, Sarees are so pretty and there were so many different colors and patterns? I think only girls know this problem. Although I managed to choose one of the beauties to be mine. ❤ Looking forward to wear them but I need some practise to put them on or even walk in them.

    In the evening we ate in a super cozy Italian restaurant with a view over the river. The food was A-M-A-Z-I-N-G! Real pizza and pasta and a delicious apple pie with ice cream were the perfect finale for this long day.

     

  • 0

    Varanasi Day 1: Trains, Henna and the Ganges

    Namaste! Finally I am back after a the long trip to Varanasi and there is so much to tell and show. Lets start with our departure in Jaipur wednesday afternoon. Excited we all waited for the train at the railway station, everybody having their own expectations and thoughts on the fact that we had to stay in the train for 18 hours, a night included. I myself was a bit afraid, I heard so many horror stories but luckily it wasn't bad at all. Or let me take that back, the toilets were horrible. Everything went basically right on the railway, dirt everywhere and to top everything I noticed a paper on the door showing when the last pest control was! But the rest of the train was actually quite cozy, we had clean, small bunk beads and with the company of the others, food and music time passed by astonishingly fast. But sleeping was kind of difficult though. I was so afraid someone would steel my bag and all the time people turned on light or snored, but I survived.

    In the late morning we arrived in Varanasi, quite shocked of the incredible heat after spending the last hours with air-condition. On the platform we were met by Sangeeta's husband who still lives and works here. After an exhausting ride with a tuk-tuk through Varanasi's bumpy, narrow streets to the hotel, we all needed a good brunch and a few hours with rest. 



    Suddenly, in the afternoon, Sangeeta surprised us girls with henna tattoos. Three women came to my and Julie's room where everybody received their henna really quick (around 15 minutes per person) because we were supposed to see a ceremony in the evening. The tattoos were so beautiful but something I need to remember for next time is to be completely dressed and ready to leave. Because this time I wore a pair of shorts and you can't go like this in India, so I had to change but that was kind of a challenge when both of your hands have wet henna all over. I had to get some assistance and after a while the henna dried, so we could just peel it of and show off the final result.





    In the evening we went to the Ganges to see a ceremony which Varanasi is well known for. Something you should now about the city is that it is shaped like a half-moon placed at only one riverside of the holy Ganges. Along the banks you will find numerous Ghats, stairs which lead to the water where people pray, swim, wash and burn the dead. We visited one of the biggest Ghats, where every evening, a ceremony is performed. In those hours we really could see India, the atmosphere was magical. What I saw and experienced there is difficult to put into words, so I hope you at least get a little insight when you look at the pictures.





    Afterwards we ate south Indian food in a little restaurant. My new favorite dish is called "Uttapam", so good! Back in the hotel I fell asleep the second my head touched the pillow. Just a few hours later we had to get up again to see something really special but about that I will tell you tomorrow. Good night!

  • 0

    03.09.2014

    Good morning!

    Just wanted to give you a short update and tell you about my plans for the next couple of days. In a few hours we are traveling to Varanasi, a holy city in the state Uttar Pradesh. Since we are going to live in a hotel there for the next days and I am not sure if we have internet I will probably not be able to write anything here. In addition I don't take my computer with me because we are going to take the train (20 hours, yey!!) and I don't want to take risk to loose it there. But as soon as I get back I will let you know all the amazing things we did. A little sneak peak: a boat trip on the ganges while watching the sunrise, henna tattoos, saree shopping??.

    Here are just some pictures I had to show you! May I present to you: Umpalumpa, the dwarf cow. She lives in our neighbor hood and we named her after the movie "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory". Isn't she adorable?



  • 2

    Dinner out

    Hello!

    This weekend was really relaxing and consisted mostly of doing nothing. We four girls had the brilliant idea to move the TV from the living room into our room, so that we can sit in our beds while watching "One Tree Hill". In addition we can actually sit with a blanket, which is so nice and cozy because we have our air-condition at low "scandinavian temperatures". And to end those wonderful lazy days, we ate dinner at a restaurant with the whole student house, as we always do by the end of the month. I forgot the name of place where we went but the atmosphere was not nice at all. No cozy interior, floodlights and no music in the background, just a TV showing a match of the Indian game Kabaddi. But I will stop complaining because the most important thing, the food, was delicious! They had a salad bar, soups, pizza, garlic bread, dessert and so much more good stuff. By the end of the evening my stomach was definitely very full. 

    This is one type of Indian mouth freshener which you always get at the of a meal. They are supposed to help the digestion and give you a fresh breath.

    Look what a beautiful sunset we had! It was such a magical moment. ❤



  • 4

    Hair

    Hi, today we went to a hairdresser to cut some hair. My ends were so dry and split and now my hair finally looks healthy again. Marthe and Julie did something a little more drastic and cut quite a lot but in this heat here it is so nice to have short hair. The hairdresser was a really sweet women who had a beauty salon in the neighbor hood. There you could do everything: cutting hair, waxing, massages or buying beauty products or accessories. It was very cheap too, so I just paid 125 rupees (12.5 NOK) for a haircut, two beautiful hair clips and a headband. Afterwards we were invited to drink some chai and when we went home she even gave us umbrellas because it was raining. We will definitely go back there! ❤

    Chai is so good and if you take some crackers (like Ritz) and put them in the chai for a few seconds they taste so delicious!

  • 0

    Jaipur Garden

    Good evening! Today we had no school because of the birthday celebration of the Indian god Ganesh. So our day was chilled and we worked on the project "brighten-up our room". Soon I will show you the result when everything is finished. But after having stayed in the whole day we needed some fresh air and decided therefore to go for a walk in a park nearby. It is called "Jaipur Garden" and just 5 minutes away but you need to cross the main road to get there and that's not easy at all. But if you managed that you can take a long and relaxing walk in the "nature".

    Look a peacock! 

  • 0

    Weekend with friends

    Hi there, hope all of you had a great weekend and a good start into the new week! My weekend has been so much fun, early saturday morning everybody left to visit a host family except me and Julie, since we I was invited by two boys in my class to watch a Hindi movie in the cinema. The movie "Singham returns" was about a police man in Mumbai who tried to protect the city from an evil mafia guy or something. It was filled with overdramatic action and also contained a love story but it was in hindi and some other indian language so throughout the whole film the guys had to explain what was going on. The amazing caramel popcorn they sell made the three hours a bit shorter and after the movie they showed me and Julie around in the city. We stopped by a shop where we bought mouth freshener, paan, which tasted really interesting and sweet. Finally I also got the opportunity to visit one of the well known temples in Jaipur. Outside we had to off our shoes and because the monsoon already is over it has become so incredible hot again, so I managed to burn my feet on the floor! 

    Aashish, Gargic, me and Julie :) (Sorry for my face expression but the sun was shining way to bright)

    On sunday I finally met some of my friends from school. It is so difficult to find a day where everybody is free because I travel so much and they always have to study, do homework or are at tutions after school. We all met at Shivalika's place, ate a super good lunch there, played Indian monopoly and chatted a lot. In the afternoon they took me out for some local shopping and to show me how to bargain properly (I am so bad at it) . The shopping was great and a few pieces went home with me. Afterwards we ate some delicious ice cream to cool ourselves down from the heat and did some window shopping at World Trade Park.

    Shivalika, me, Sharvari and Jia ❤

  • 0

    Volunteering

    Hi! I am really sorry for being absent for such a long time, but time is precious here. On a normal school day I just don't get time to blog because it takes a lot of energy to survive school and in addition to homework we also have organized activities almost every day in the student home. So in the evening we all go to bed really early and fall asleep immediately. Last weekend I also got a cold and wasn't feeling good at all, therefore my energy levels haven't been on top the last days. But now I feel finally good again and today in the afternoon, we visited a school in a "slum" area where we had some activities with children. In the beginning we all felt so stupid because we all went there not knowing what to do with 20 children for one hour. They all sat there looking at us but afraid to talk with the little english they know. Luckily the atmosphere got better after playing some games in the street and by the end they didn't wanted us to leave. 

    But honestly I feel that those "volunteering" projects are more for the volunteers than for the children. We get no real information about the project or the children and since we have to go there after school we are only able to play games with the kids because they are also tired after school. We go there with no idea what to do and it doesn't feel like we are making a difference. This time we and the children at least had fun and we could make them smile. ❤



    On our way home we witnessed a really sad thing. Nearby our colony there is a slum, a real slum. People are living in tents and they have absolutely nothing. Of course their villages are illegal and once in a while the government wants to get rid of them, so they send police or military people to remove everything. Exactly this happened today. There were police men everywhere, forcing people to pack their belongings and to leave the area, at least they didn't showed up with a bulldozer. I got so upset because this is so wrong and it makes the whole thing even worse both for poor people and the government. 

  • 0

    50 Days

    This week I have been in India for over 50 days! What?! I have no idea where all the days went and it feels like I came here yesterday. But you say that time flies by fast if you are in good company, and I surely am!  And to celebrate our "50 day anniversary" we all went to a place called KK-square. There you find a gigantic bookstore and a nice restaurant, called "Little Italy". For me this is the perfect combination, I love to read and there is just something about the smell from new books and I absolutely love good food as well. 

    Me, Marte, Emma, Julie, Freja and Ida (who took the picture).

    KK-square with an interior in the ground floor, a Crossword store in the 1st floor and two restaurants on the top, Little Italy and Little India.

    The restaurant was cozy and the food delicious. It was nice to eat some real Italian food after so many days with Indian food. I ordered some kind of lasagne and for desert I had chocolate and vanilla ice cream. I know it is kind of risky to eat ice cream here, but I haven't been sick and after 50 days I felt ready to try it. So far it went well and the ice cream was soooo good! The whole afternoon was great and I am looking forward to the future. ♥

  • 0

    Independence Day

    Happy Independence Day! 

    On the 15 august 1947 India was finally an independent country and free from the British rule. The celebration on the independence day is big and very important to most Indians. We started the day with watching the speech of the prime minister on TV and then we went to school to celebrate there. Of course we came 20 minutes to late and missed the flag hoisting, but the rest of the day was really great. The whole school gathered in the aula where people held speeches and students danced, sang and performed. All in all it took around 2 hours, which didn't felt that long because of the good atmosphere, but it was so nice stretch out your legs after sitting on the floor the entire time. It was also fun to see that all the women only wore the colors white, green and orange, the colors of the Indian flag. 

    One teacher performed a dance routine and it was so much fun to watch and the audience loved it !

    video:mvi1023

     

     

     

  • 0

    Indian traffic

    Good morning! ♥

    Today I wanted to tell you something about the Indian traffic. If there is one word to describe it, it would be chaotic. At first sight there are no traffic rules at all, but after a while you can see a system which seems to work most of the time. And I say most of the time, because somehow the majority finds their way trough the chaos, but not everyone.

    I myself got to experience that as well. It was a normal school day and I and the others were joking about how strange it was that we had not seen a single car accident so far. But speaking of the devil, our car crashed with a motorbike on our way home from the volunteering. For me it was like shock, suddenly you heard and felt that the car hit something. During a few seconds the crossing was filled with people and cars, everybody tried to catch a glimpse of what was happening. We in the car could not see if anybody was seriously injured, so our driver stepped outside to clear the situation. Out of nowhere one of guys on the motorbike hit the driver right in the face and they started a real fight. The situation completely changed, now even more people flocked towards us and some even stared hitting on the windows. Still nobody looked after the other guy who was actually bleeding from his shoulder. I started to get afraid, the crowd turned into a mob and I didn't know what was going to happen next. After minutes which felt like ages, the driver managed to get back and he was supposed to drive to a "parking place" so they could continue fighting/finding out who the guilty one was. But we did not stop and just drove away. People got so angry, they tried to break the windows and someone even followed us. The car race topped everything and you felt you were in a bad movie. Totally exhausted we arrived at home. I was almost crying, didn't know how to react to what I had seen. The only thoughts in my had were "Why did no one call the police or the ambulance? And why did nobody care about the hurt man? Why did they need to fight?". 

    To give myself some answers I searched for information and statistics about Indian traffic. I found some surprising facts and combined with my experiences i shall try to give you a small insight into the traffic.

    The first thing that is unusual is the fact that you drive on the left side on the road and driver therefore sits at the right side of the car. Sometimes you just sit in he car and suddenly you almost get a heart attack because you think you drive on the wrong side. And  is not even uncommon to just drive on the opposite side because the lanes are separated from each other by walls and if you want to change the line you need to find a gap in order to get on the other side. The road conditions are really bad, gaps and bumps everywhere. When you sit in a car you can forget about sleeping, you need to hold onto something. Enough talk about the road, let's talk about what's on it! Cows, pigs, people, cars (both new and old, but most are white, small and produced by Asian companies), motorbikes, horses, tuk-tuks, dogs, trucks, bicycles, tractors, elephants, camels, busses?? The vehicles are normally completely filled up with people. It is not unusual to see a car with 10 people inside or a whole family on a motorbike. And if there is no space inside, you just sit on the roof or find a way to hold onto something on the outside. So all this is on the roads, driving like crazy, always trying to be there before everyone else and honking every 10 seconds. Some busses and trucks even have different honking sounds to choose from! Many vehicles don't have wing mirrors, only the driver has a seatbelt and helmets are not always used.

    And because of all the above mentioned facts, India is the country with the most dangerous traffic and has accordingly the most car accidents. On the countryside these accidents often end deadly, but in the cities you have better chances because speed limits are around 30-40 km/h. If you have an accident you have to deal with it right away. Almost no one has an insurance so hit-and-run driving is common. 

    Here are some pictures as well and I hope the text wasn't too long! :) 



  • 0

    Pushkar

    This friday we all were ready for a new adventurous trip. Our destination was the small city of Pushkar, which is placed near by the Thar desert. In the summer the nature around the city seems like a desert, but during and after the monsoon everything suddenly the life of the plants returns and the place is transformed into beautiful nature. The city itself is quite small, still full of life and people. But it is a real culture shock place. Narrow streets, people everywhere, rain, mud on the streets, pigs digging in garbage and so many poor people. Rajasthan is one of the poorest states in India, especially on the countryside you will notice. You could really see it and it hurts, so much. Big eyes looking at you, a small hand that touches yours and you don't know what do or where to look, and by the end you just walk by. The brain just shuts down a wall to protect you, if not you get crazy.


     



    After the bazaar visit we got ready for our first camel safari! Camels are in my opinion really weird animals. They always smile and are calm, but as soon as they walk, sit down or get up it seems like their thin, long legs are put together in a wrong way and twisted in all directions. But the 2 hour ride was still more comfortable than expected, even though I got a sore butt and bruises on my knee. 





    The night we camped in the breathtaking nature and slept in tents. Unfortunately we were not that lucky with the weather and it rained several times, but still had it fun and cozy sitting around a bonfire, wrapped up in warm clothes, eating good food and listening to songs. We also survived the night in the not - water proof tents, but were kind of happy to be able to take a shower back in the hotel :)

     

    Saturday after returning home, eating breakfast and taking a shower, we visited the only Brahma temple in India and the holy lake of Pushkar.








  • 0

    Update

    Hi, already one week since we came back home from Agra and a lot has happened, so here is an big update from the last seven days. Tuesday in the late evening we arrived in Jaipur, tired and happy to be able to sleep in our own beds again. Since we needed a day off after traveling the whole weekend we were allowed to stay home the next day instead of going to school. Most of the time was used to clean out bags, cleaning our room and I also did some homework. In the afternoon we went to a mall as we do every wednesday to buy groceries and other important supplies. The supermarket we normally go to, Hyper City, is until now far the best one if you want a large selection of goods, and they even have some western food. On thursday we thought we were supposed to go to school, but apparently it was some kind of strike, so all schools were closed. Of course we didn't know and no one told us about that until we were ready to leave the house. Later in the evening we all went out to eat and since it always is Indian time we did not arrive at the restaurant before 20.30. The restaurant itself was really fancy, it was called "Area 51" and placed on a rooftop. The food was great, too, it was just really spicy, but I am proud to say that I am now able to order medium spicy in a restaurant! Friday morning was kind of hard to get up for school, after getting home really late. It was also our 4th week in school and I will, as soon as I get time, write a blogpost about the confusing Indian school. The weekend was just lazy and relaxing, and on sunday we went to the cinema to watch "22 Jump street". Something great about the cinema here is the caramel popcorn and the atmosphere, people laughed, shouted and clapped. Today and yesterday were just normal school days, that means getting up early and doing lots of homework.



    Wish you a good night! 

  • 0

    Eid al-Fitr



    Eid Mubarek! On tuesday we got the unique possibility to go to a mosque and see how the festival Eid is celebrated. It is an important religious holiday celebrated by Muslims all over the world, which marks the end of Ramadan (the month you fast). Therefore this day is also called "Feast of Breaking the Fast".

    In the morning we met a man who lead us trough the small and narrow alleys filled with people and shops to the mosque. Everywhere you could see men in their best clothes wearing a cap. We girls had to follow a dress code, too. Namely to cover the head and arms. When the prayer started we had to leave the main place, since women are not allowed to pray in the same room as men. But because the place was so overcrowded we were able to see the people pray. In this moment i felt so out of place, a foreign, unbelieving girl standing there not knowing if I was allowed to even be there. Luckily the atmosphere totally changed when the prayer, which was fascinating, was over. Suddenly everybody hugged each other with a big smile on their face, music instruments were pulled out and now also the women returned. The air was filled with music and the smell of food, roses and candy. 

    I felt so lucky to be given the opportunity to be there that day and also thankful for the people who respected and allowed us to see. I, myself, love to experience new things, especially when you are able to be more than just a tourist and get to see a small part of the daily life of others. 

  • 0

    Sightseeing

    Hi, sunday evening we arrived in New Delhi, where we stayed at the Idex house. The next morning, after a good night with sleep, we were ready to explore some of the numerous attractions in Delhi.

    First up was a Sikh temple. Sikhism is a religion i didn't know that much about before, but luckily we all got an information paper with plenty of information. Here are some of the things I learned: 

    ♦ The religion was founded by Guru Nanak Dev in Punjab, a state in north India.

    ♦ It is the fifth largest religion in the world.

    ♦ It is a monotheistic religion and men and women are treated equally.

    ♦ Everybody covers their head when entering a temple as a sign of respect. In daily life men normally wear a turban and boys wear something that almost looks like a turban.

    Before we entered the temple we had to cover our heads as well and for that reason there are boxes with scarves by the entrances. Another thing that was required were both clean hands and feats, so after you washed your hands you also walked trough a pool with fresh water. Inside the temple was even more beautiful than outside. Gold decorations, colorful carpets, fresh flowers, the smell of incense and the sound of religious songs sang dominated the atmosphere. Outside was a big pool filled with holy water, where everybody went to wash their face.

    After driving trough the whole city (maybe it just felt like that) and seeing both the parliament and the president's house, we arrived at the next stop, India Gate. The monument is quite similar looking to the L'arc de triumph in Paris. It was built in 1921 in memory of all the fallen soldiers in World War I and the third Afghan war. All together there are more than 90.000 inscribed in the stones.                                                       

    Of course we had to take a group picture and as we stood there and smiled several Indian people pulled up there cameras and started taking pictures as well. This isn't the first time and it gets pretty annoying, but I try to ignore it and agree to the fact that some people have a weird affection for "white people". Sometimes I even feel bad because my skin is fair and my hair is light brown. Often you are treated differently; you are allowed to go in first, you'll never have to wait in shops, in school the teacher don't shout at you and list could just go on and on?..I am not comfortable with that, because I feel like I don't deserve a better treatment just because of the way I look. I've never experienced any kind negativity or hate, but just think how awful and though to handle it must be to be exposed for discrimination. I admire the people who manage to live with that and even are able to show and convince the humans around them how wrong and messed up this whole skin color obsession is. Never ever treat anybody differently because of the way they look. Luckily I don't feel misplaced every time I go outside. There are so many gorgeous persons around me, the girls I live with, our coordinator, so many nice classmates and most of the people I meet in the streets, and all of them give me the feeling of being welcome and home.

     

    Lastly we went to Raj Ghat, Mahatma Ghandi's grave surrounded by a beautiful, large park. For me it felt like an honor to be there and the things he achieved seemed suddenly real and near, because when I've learned about him it was always like "yes, that was loooong ago and it happened sooo far away". Afterwards we went to a traditional Indian bazaar with everything that belongs to it: a big crowd, stores with everything you could imagine and  shop owners trying to sell their stuff to you for at least thrice the original price. We actually managed to survive and did some shopping as well. :)






  • 0

    Agra Fort

    Hello, after visiting the Taj Mahal, I and a few others seized the opportunity to go to the Agra Fort. It is situated on the left side of the Yamuna river and when you look out of a window on the right side you may see the Taj Mahal on the other side. Originally it was used as a fort to defend the city, but later it also became a residence for different rulers. Again we just saw a small part of the complex, most of the fort is still used by the military.



    Later that day, after lunch, we set off to New Delhi. This time the road seemed to only consist of gaps and bumps. Most of the time you felt like sitting on a plane with strong turbulences, sometimes you even needed to hold on to something to not hit your head. And in the middle of everything, our little sunshine, Babu, was running around, seeking for attention. He has so much energy and you need to look after him all the time. But he was the only one who actually managed to fall asleep. :)




  • 0

    Taj Mahal

    Sunday morning, we got up at 5 o'clock to see one of the most famous buildings in the world, the Taj Mahal. The reason why we went there so early was the sun. In Agra it can be up to 50 °C in the summer and even though the monsoon started it is impossible to go outside during the day. And because of the rain it is incredible humid, too. In addition we wanted to see the sunrise, but since we travelled with another spanish group we never got there in time, because, if you believe it or not, Spanish time is even worse than Indian time. 

    Either way, we eventually arrived and were met by a crowd of tourists and Indian people, who tried to sell everything you could imagine to you. Luckily we had a guide who knew what to do and where to go. By the entrance are security checks and you are not allowed to bring any kind of foods or drinks, except water. Therefore you get a free water bottle when you buy your ticket.

    The Taj Mahal is placed in the middle of an enormous garden and surrounded by an entrance gate, a mosque and a guesthouse. It was built between 1632 AD - 1648 AD by Shah Jahan and is a masterpiece of Indo-Islamic architecture. 

    The entrance gate.

    The first glimpse of the magnificent building. Unfortunately we missed the sunrise and it was cloudy that day, so the light was kind of dull. It was a great experience anyway, it was just not magic. The little extra was missing, if you know what I mean.

    The story behind the building is really romantic. In 1607 the mughal emperor Shah Jahan fell in love with Mumtaz Mahal at first sight. A few years later they married and did everything together. She was smart, beautiful and loved by everybody, most of all by her husband. They lived a happy life until Mumtaz suddenly died while giving birth to her 14. child. Shah Jahan was destroyed and mourned for over a year. Then he decided to built the most beautiful grave in memory of his beloved wife. 

    The Indian people are very proud of the Taj Mahal and they told us that you can't define love, but the Taj Mahal is the definition of love. ♥

    The Yamuna river on the backside of the Taj Mahal.

    There are carvings, mosaics and calligraphies all over the building.

    The mosque at the left side of the Taj Mahal.

    My little family ♥

  • 0

    Fatehpur Sikri

    Subh Ratri! This weekend we planned a trip to Agra and Delhi. First of was  Agra, a city 240 kilometers east from Jaipur. That might sound like a short distance, but we are in India and even on a big road you will probably not drive faster than 60 km/h. So after a couple of hours, just outside Agra, we stopped at a historical place called Fatehpur Sikri. It was founded in 1569 by the Mughal emperor Akbar and served as a capital. The place we explored was just a small part of the enormous royal palace and the adjoining buildings.

    All the buildings were made of red stone and are one of the best examples of Mughal architecture. Even though Akbar designed the city with Persian principles, the influence of Indian art can be seen.





    After we arrived at the hotel, we visited some stores that offered some of Agra's specialities like marble carvings. It was impressive to see how much work, time and effort you had to invest in making something like that. 



    In the evening I and the other girls went out and ate some pizza. We had a lot of fun with good food and chatter. It was a nice way to end a quite exhausting day.

  • 1

    Vegetable Pakora

    Hello, today I  want to share a recipe with you. Here in the student house, we have a cooking class twice a month. There we learn how to make some Indian dishes and so I thought I'll show you what we did, in case you are a food lover like me (especially when it comes to Indian food) and want to try to cook some real Indian food at home. :)

    Vegetable Pakora 

    Pakora are fried, crisp snacks made with different vegetables. There are popular during monsoon time and are often enjoyed with a cup of hot chai.



    For 5 portions you need:

    ❤ 250g chick-peas flour

    ❤ 2 large potatoes, chopped into pieces

    ❤ 2 large red onions, chopped into small pieces 

    ❤ 1 pinch of backing powder

    ❤ 1 teaspoon salt

    ❤ 1/2 teaspoon of chili powder, mustard, kumin and coriander powder

    ❤ 1 pinch of asafoetida

    Mix everything together in a bowl and add some water. Then take small amount of the mixture and drop it into hot oil. When it is becoming brown take it out and enjoy!




  • 0

    Elephant riding

    Heiaa! Hope you had a great sunday! ☺Today we got the opportunity to visit an elephant village, where we could feed and ride elephants. At first I was a bit concerned if they were treated right, but after what I have seen today, they seemed to have a good life there.

    The village lay outside Jaipur and for the first time I saw nature again. Hills, green trees and fresh air.

    After almost one hour driving, we arrived in the village and could feed three of fifty elephants who live there. At fist I was a bit scared, since they are big, really big. But after a while you felt more and more comfortable. Elephants are such beautiful and clever animals. It was fascinating to see what they can to with their trunk.

    After the food session, it was time for the elephant ride. I and Emma had the honor to ride on Jaipur's most beautiful elephant lady, Tara. Before we climbed up, we had to take our shoes off, due to the fact that elephants are holy, the Indian elephant god Ganesha and that we had to climb up on the nose.  

     

    As you can see it was quite adventurous, but the elephants were so calm and steady, so you felt safe the whole time.

    My new best friend! ❤❤❤ 






  • 0

    Monsoon

    Yeey, finally the monsoon is here!! The rain was delayed this year and the people here, including us, were waiting impatiently. Everything seemed so dry and shriveled, even the people were tired of the constant heat. As the it started raining people suddenly smiled, called friends and relatives and children danced and played on the roofs. Someone told us that most of the Indian poems were about the monsoon, and now  I think I understand why. With the rain, the temperature went down, all the dust from the desert was washed away, the trees looked greener and for the first time in a long time the air felt clean and fresh. 

    As it started raining, we ran up to the roof and started dancing in the rain. During 10 seconds our clothes were soaked with water and it felt so good to feel the rain drops in your face. I think I never was so glad to see it rain (you can probably tell when you look at the pictures).

    Yesterday evening, the sky suddenly became dark and the clouds piled up. And then, right after we ate dinner, the thunderstorm started. Lightnings chased across the sky and lightened up the dark night. It was spectacular to see what the nature is capable of.



    Hope you have a wonderful evening! 

  • 0

    Host family

    Hello, long time no see, but I am back  and a lot has happened. This weekend we had for the first time the opportunity to live with an Indian family for two days. I looked really forward to this experience, so I was quite excited. At saturday, around noon, we were finally ready to leave and meet the people we were supposed to live with. Together with Marte, I was placed in a three-member family consisting of a father, a mother and a daughter a little bit younger than us. They lived in a small apartment and had their own fashion boutique downstairs. Everybody was kind and especially the mother tried to make us feel comfortable and home. In the evening we were so lucky to be invited to an 25 years marriage anniversary party. One thing about Indian parties you should know is that they are huge. You don't just invite family, but everybody you know. When we arrived there, my first thought was "wow, this looks like an royal garden party". There were lights and flowers everywhere, around 400 people were invited, a live band was responsible for the entertainment and numerous waiters and cooks made sure you ate enough from the huge buffet. All the women wore their best Sari and all together it was a colorful and sparkling rainbow. 

     



    At sunday we did not do that much and stayed indoors most of the time, because of the heat outside. Therefore I am quite an expert on Indian MTV and drama series after watching TV with my host sister. ☺

    Even though I lived in India for almost three weeks now, is the life in a real Indian family totally different and there are so many unusual habits and things you have to get used to. Here are a couple of examples:  

    ✥ The beds in India are really hard, it is more like a futon.

    ✥ Everybody eats with the right hand and knives and forks are rarely used.

    ✥ Everything is loud. The traffic, the fans, two people talking or just a show on TV.

    ✥ Indian houses are quite empty and people seem to own few personal items.

    ✥ It is normal with a cleaner, a person who brings milk, fruits or fresh flowers everyday and somebody who cooks.

    ✥ Toilet paper is not common, the same applies for toilets (the type we know and use).

    Hopefully I will feel more and more integrated after the time passes by and if the things continue the way they did the last 20 days, my year here is going to be unforgettable (it already is!!!).

     

  • 0

    Lazy weekend

    Namaste! Here in Jaipur, the weekend is almost over and tomorrow the school will start for real. It will be good to get some routines, but I wouldn't mind a longer summer holiday. But I think it will be much easier to get up in the morning since it is not cold at all and the sun is shining in our room. Actually the few hours in the morning are the best, because you still can sit outside without getting grilled by the sun. Talking about weather, it was raining for the first time! Now the Monsun isn't far away and I am really looking forward to lower temperatures. Right now it is still very hot outside and almost everything you do has to be done inside. My water bottle and the A.C are my best friends down here. Either way we had a relaxing and cozy weekend with good food as always, some movies and an adventurous trip to the post office, which I have to tell you a bit more about. Yesterday we decided to find a post office near by to send some letters home, so we went to the main road and after five minutes we drove to a place neither the driver or we knew was. After a lot of honking, dust and stopping several times to ask random people if they ever heard of the post office. But we got there safely and after a long, long time our letters were sent and the driver even waited for us. Last step of the whole trip was to cross the main road without getting killed by a truck or something. There are actually pedestrian crosswalks, but they are more like embellishment and not really useful to people who try to cross the road.

    My favorite Indian food, Palak Paneer (rice with spinach and cheese).

    Tuk-Tuk selfie :)

    Our neighbor, Rita the cow (we gave her that name)





    Hope all of you had a great weekend and I would be really happy to receive some letters from you!

    My address: Lena Kaisinger, Plot No 42, Laxmi Nagar Tonk Road, 302018 Jaipur, India

  • 0

    One week

    Hi there! Today I have been in India for one week, and it feels like a month already. So much has happened. There is so much to see, smell, hear, touch and feel. Everything is new and you try to open yourself to get most out of it. But there are too many impressions and sometimes your senses are just overwhelmed. Especially when you are just 17 and lived most of your life at the countryside. But until now it has been a really great experience, where you get a real wake up call. Suddenly you realize that there is a complete different world out there, nothing you can imagine until you have seen it yourself. Trying to fit in here is difficult and I would say impossible. I have just been here a few days, but I am sure you will never know all the rules to this confusing game called India. But that is not bad in any way. The people here are so nice and are trying to make you feel welcome. Every day we get the chance to experience a bit more. Since we arrived in Jaipur we have done quite a lot.

    ♥ we took the train from Delhi to Jaipur and experienced everything that comes with such a journey; the stress to get on and off the train in less than two minutes, watch the people who walk through the train     selling food and drinks, wait in the well known waiting rooms, watch the landscape fly past...

    ♥ we met all the kind people who work at the student house (almost all, there are coming new people everyday)

    ♥ we got our room where we will live for the rest of the year and explored also the rest of our future home; it is big and has three floors and a roof patio, the rooms are light and renovated, we have our own bathroom, the living room has a TV and good space to relax and on top of the roof we have the kitchen 

    ♥ we sat on the roof, read a book, drank tea and watched the sun go down

    ♥ we went shopping at the World Trade Park (a gigantic shopping center), Big Bazaar (a super market that has everything, except milk and bread) and another bazaar were we bought some clothes



    ♥ we drove for the first time with a tuk-tuk! A really funny and scary experience.

    ♥ we explored the neighborhood and fed some of the cows here



    ♥ we went sighseeing

    ♥ we eat really good Indian food every day (sometimes the cook just tries a bit too hard to make european food and then you end up with a strange mixture)


     

    ♥ we saw the first beggars and homeless people and did not know how to react. But one thing I can say for sure, it really hurts.

    ♥ I and the three other girls had some fun evenings with laughter, jokes, movies and games

    ♥ we experienced how it is to live without internet, water and electricity 

    ♥ we had our first Hindi lessons

    ♥ we talked to some sweet kids

    But mostly we had a good time here, relaxing and preparing for the new school year which starts at friday.

    See you soon! 

     

  • 0

    The Pink City

    Today was our second day in Jaipur, the capital of Rajasthan. It is placed in the northwest of India, in the middle of a desert. Accordingly it is very hot during the summer months (max. 48 °C)  and a bit colder during winter (max. 22°C). The city is also called The Pink City and has a long and interesting history. In addition is Jaipur known for its outstanding textiles, jewlery, blue pottery and other exotic products, which are offered in the numerous bazaars. Therefore Jaipur is one of the most visited cities in India and is part of The Golden Triangle (Delhi, Agra, Jaipur). The tourist season doesn't start before november, but we did some sighseeing eitherway, to see some of Indias greatest monuments.

    After a 40 minutes long ride through the whole city, we arrived in the old town. Here we had to drive through one of the old city gates. Inside you could see the real India, people everywhere; hanging out of cars, haggeling over a price, selling stuff, begging, talking, riding elephants, driving like crazy, starring at you or slepping in the shadow of a tree.

    Our first stop was a little bit outside the town, where you could see the rough nature. Big, sandy hills with some trees and thorn bushes dominated and on top of one of these hills there was Amber Fort. The fort was built by the king of Jaipur, where he lived and ruled over the town. Something really suprising was the fact that the several women of the king were sitting in wheelchairs, because their dresses and jewlery could weigh up to 30 kg. Therefore you could see ramps everywhere, which makes it easy for people with wheelchairs to visit.


    The wall around the fort is the third longest in the whole world.



    We saw the first monkeys here!! :)


    Tourists, hehe :)

    Afterwards we stopped by the Water Palace (Jalmahalpalace), a place for the king's mistresses. It was built in the middle of the Man Sagar lake, so no one could escape or meet another man.



    Next up was the Jantar Mantar observatory, built in the 18th century by Maharaja Sawai Jai Singh II. The several instruments were used to study the stars, their constellations and movements. It surprised me how old those instruments were and yet so modern and thought through.




    Citypalace was the next destination. It is placed in the middle of the old town and occupies one seventh of the old city area. After it was built the king moved there and left his home at Amber Fort. Today it is a museum, which is devided into different sections; clothing, old furnitures, pictures etc.



    After crossing the main road and standing in the middle of traffic, we also got some pictures of the Wind Palace (Hawa Mahal). It is Jaipur's hallmark and was built in 1799 by Maharaja Sawai Pratap Singh. Because of the red stone, Jaipur got its name The Pink City.



    Last but not least we visited Albert Hall. A building made for Prince Albert in 1876. It is one of a kind, because it was built to be an museum.



    On our way back we stopped by a bazaar, where we bought some scarfs. Here the people tried so hard to get your attention, so you almost had to fight your way through. Sweat and tired, but feeling great we returned home. Something really funny we experienced this day was that so many people asked to get a picture of us (we always said no, we are not an attraction or something, but funny to see what people think about us white people). Strange right? 

     

     

     

  • 0

    Our second day

    Hi, last night was quite short. The air-condition in our room was not working probably and was just blowing out warm wind. Drenched in sweat I fell asleep really early. The beds were comfortable and clean and had just thin sheets, which I didn't even use. Suddenly, in the middle of the night, somebody was knocking on our door. At first no one realized that and when the door opened all of us thought we overslept. But it was just another student, Marte, who arrived at 3 o'clock in the morning. In the morning we all woke up at around six and ate some breakfast. Later on we decided to go to a big mall, mainly because Julie needed some clothes. The mall wasn't far away, so we could walk there. Together with an Idex person and three german exchange students, we walked in the middle of a big road. It almost seemed like it was rarely used. On our way we saw quite many Indian people and it is noticeable that most Indians are a lot smaller and thinner than Europeans. At the mall we had to be checked by security people and in most stores employees took care of your bags. But everybody was so polite and helpful, trying to leave a good impression. Since we are white, people starred at us, which isn't rude in India, just a way to show interest (but sometimes it feels a bit uncomfortable). Another thing I noticed was how many guys were holding hands! But thats just a symbol of friendship, homosexual relationships are not accepted. The selection of stores was good and the prices were very low for us (for normal Indians it is quite expensive to shop at such places). On our way home, the sun was so strong, hot and right above our head. You felt like you would melt and the dust from the completely dry earth didn't make it any better. Therefore many people used umbrellas or scarves to protect themselves from the sun. 

     



    In front of our pink house we saw the first cow. Since they are holy, nobody hurts or chases them and you see them everywhere. 

    Later that day, we drove to the railway station to get to Jaipur by train. Just to drive again on the Indian roads was an adventure itself. Since we were way to early, we sat down in one of the many waiting rooms (1st class) which were built when India still was under Great Britain. After waiting and waiting, the train finally arrived and I was so nervous, because our guide just mentioned that we had two minutes to get on the train! My luggage was so heavy and everything was small and the heat topped just everything, but we made it and also got safely off the train again. 

  • 2

    Delhi

    Wii, finally we arrived in Delhi, the capital of India. The trip from London to Delhi was the best flight I ever had, even though it took over 8 hours. I and Julie, another exchange student from Norway arrived at Heathrow just an hour before and were send directly to check-in. Our passports and tickets had to be checked several times and before the security check, the person behind the counter looked at us, changed our seat reservations and said "Today is your lucky day!".  Not knowing what that should mean we hurried through all controls and realized we just had like 10 minutes to get to our gate by TRAIN! Completely out of breath we just got there in time and also met Emma, who is also going to stay in Jaipur. 



     The plane was huge and when we took our seats we realized that we got World Traveller Plus seats! So we had really good space, service all the time and even a own TV with movies, music and games. Most of the passengers were Indians and some of talked to us, giving us tips which places we should visit and wishing us luck. 

     

    After a long night with almost no sleep at all, we arrived at the Indira Ghandi Airport in New Delhi. Already here you could tell you were no longer in Europe. Thick carpet floor, fake plants and security people everywhere. Yet we made it through all checks and I got my visa stamped. Unfortunately Julie didn't get her luggage, but some really kind and polite people helped us immediately. After walking straight through the custom control we were met by an guy from Idex, the organization which I am traveling with in India.

     

    At first sight it wasn't looking warm outside at all, but after one minute we were all sweating like never before. In the mini bus it was luckily a bit colder and after a 40 minutes long trip we arrived at the Idex Guest House in south New Delhi. Happy to finally get some rest and not getting killed on the chaotic road, we got a room and some hot chai. Later that day we ate our first real Indian meal with the other people here and tried to stay awake until noon, to avoid a jet leg. Of course we didn't make it, the heat made you feel really tired plus we had been awake for 30 hours. Still we went to bed early, to be ready for a new day in Delhi! See you tomorrow :)

     

  • 0

    On my way

    Hi, my name is Lena and I am an 17 year old exchange student from Norway. My destiny is incredible India, an unusual choice, but an adventurous year will be guaranteed. On this blog I will share my experiences and thoughts and you are welcome to follow my journey. I will live together with students from all over the world in an international  student house in Jaipur, a city in northwest India. Everything is going to be different from home; I will live away from my family for 10 months, the indian culture will take my breathe away with its exotic differences, I will experience good and bad things I won't understand and I will meet so many new people. All this might sound scary, and of course it is a big deal, but it is totally worth it. Think about all the amazing places in the world and the difference you could make in it. I am so lucky to live in Norway where we get the chance to take part in an exchange year. I also have the best family and friends who are going to support me at all times. All together I feel ready for my adventure and cant' wait to arrive in India! But right now I have to wait a couple of hours at Oslo Airport, before I fly on to London and then to Dehli. 

    Lena

     
  • lena

    Hi, my name is Lena and I'm spending my exchange year in India. Here I will share my experiences and thoughts with you. Hope you'll enjoy!

    http://www.tickcounter.com/countup/20140624120000am/w330/Days_in_India

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