Day 9: Sightseeing in Delhi

We began our morning at Qutab Minar, a monument erected by Qutab-ud-din in 1193. The tower was mesmerising and many of us stopped to take typical tourists shots “holding” the top of the tower. Some photos were effective, others, less so.

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It was incredibly eye catching, with the combination of red sandstone, marble and sandstone not only beautiful but allowed us to distinguish the various storeys and additions to the pillar.

Here we saw many more tourists then we were used to! It was a big surprise but given the well-known monuments of Delhi, it shouldn’t have been. We sure stood out though and were asked to pose for photos with many of the Indian tourists.

From here we travelled to Gandhi Smriti where Mahatma Gandhi lived for the final 144 days of his life. Cement footsteps mark the last journey he took from his room the the lawn in which he was assassinated. We walked around this path, marvelling at the clean grounds, calming water features and beautiful painting which chronicled Gandhi’s life from a young boy to a law student in London and finally to the loin-clothed, Father if the Nation we’re so used to seeing. We also explored the Gandhi museum which featured images, facts, moving picture and many visual representations of Gandhi.

We stopped for lunch at a popular coffee shop chain and while it took a while for our meals to arrive, all our bellies were grateful for a change in cuisine.

The bus took us then to Old Delhi and after weaving through nw incredibly busy market, brought us to the steps of Jama Masjid, a very popular mosque. Its name refers to the weekly Friday noon prayers. We were definitely out of place, given female tourists must wear colourful, oversized dressing gowns. We couldn’t take a group photo without locals wanting to join in or take their own. While the mosque was incredible, and a sign of true devotion, we felt very much foreigners.

We quickly shed our gowns and made for the eight rickshaws awaiting us. In pairs, we travelled though the marketplace of Old Delhi. Given today is Sunday, this trip only took 30 minutes; on any other day it’d be a 90 minute adventure!! We enjoyed feeling the breeze on our spaces, admiring the precise driving and navigation of our cyclists and taking in the sights and smells of the market.

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The afternoon sun was shining down over the Raj Ghat when we arrived. This beautiful park is a shrine to commemorate Gandhi. The modest, flat black pillar holds his ashes and the simplicity of the site reflects the values Gandhi held most dear to him.

Tomorrow we leave for Agra at 8am in order to beat the traffic and we are looking forward to visiting Agra Fort (we caught a glimpse of the enormous Red Fort here today) and of course, seeing the Taj Mahal.

Day 8: Travelling to Chennai

WE HAVE ARRIVED IN DELHI!

While there were some initial flight delays, we arrived safely via Spice Jet. We already noticed the changes in town planning in Delhi. Driving through wealthy South Delhi, there were large houses, big gutters, cleaner streets and most motorcyclists wore helmets. These were big changes compared to Chennai.

Our hotel is quite comfortable and we will head to dinner shortly. We were sad to say goodbye to Chennai but excited to see the sights of Delhi over the next few days!

Day 7: Christmas concert at St Ursula’s

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We were guests of St Ursula’s today as they presented their end of year concert for us

6th standards presented then Story of Christmas complete with a choir of animals, hand made foil stars, a gaggle of angels and a convincing a Nano Nagle.

After the concert, Julien took us to the bazaar where the girls stocked up on henna and Scarves.

We were all very heavy hearted to say goodbye to Julien as she had made us feel very welcome during our time in Chennai.

Day 6: Nano Nagle Play School Kanagamma Chatram

Firstly, my apologies for no blog yesterday (particularly you, Mr Fitzgerald. Won’t happen again) but yesterday was a very big day- we left early in the morning and arrived home quite late as we travelled to visit the Nano Nagle Play School.

Providing education for children as young as 3, the school has built a good reputation and has grown considerably from the 8 students they had in 2011 to 98 today!

The new school building is rather impressive, with Sister Fatima telling Mrs Morrow there is the hope to expand in future and given the incredibly devoted staff we have no doubt this will occur.

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After a traditional welcome, we were treated to a very cute performance by many of the children of the Play School; some were as young as 3 years-old!
Their dances, poems and Christmas carols were recited very well and were always finished with a hearty “Thank You!”

Before lunch we visited the village church and were able to drive around in the bus. It continues to receive support from St Rita’s College.

After a very tasty lunch, that Julien helped to prepare, we were off to run activities with the little ones for a few hours. The children were very energetic, polite and fully engaged in the activities. The teachers were also happy when we left the rest of our craft supplies with them.

We were lucky to receive the Eucharist from Father James before we left. The sound of the Sisters singing in that little room is certainly a memory to treasure.

It was amazing to see the work of the sisters and to see how much change education is capable of producing. The girls left very weary but were quick to acknowledge how special the Nano Nagle Play School is.

Day 5: Church Park

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The girls had some time to rest and reflect on yesterday’s events and so they were pretty in pink polos and ready to hit the ground at Church Park. There are three education facilities at Church Park: St Ursula’s Anglo India Secondary School, Sacred Heart Matric. Hr. Sec. School and Nano Nagle Community College.

We were welcomed with enthusiasm by the 200 students awaiting us at Sacred Heart, a school for impoverished Tamil children. With only 11 SRC girls and limited supplies, it was quite impressive to witness just what was able to be accomplished. Mrs Morrow may even consider giving some girls jobs as supply teachers back at school as here they demonstrated the ability to think on their feet, the importance of resourcefulness and that everything is made easier with a big smile. Miss Lancaster’s Peacock group ran hopscotch, chalk drawing and played various bouncy ball and hand clap games. Inside Miss Favero’s Monkeys made Christmas cards while Mrs Morrow’s Tigers helped with drawings and self portraits.

After a quick cup of Coke, generously provided by the sisters, we headed upstairs to years 7-9 and continued with craft activities until the bell rang and signalled our exit. We ventured back downstairs and were welcomed with prayers, performances of songs and dances, all in carefully rehearsed English. The children were incredibly enthusiastic and given that many of them live very difficult lives (many are orphaned or very poor), they demonstrated utter joy and respect while at school .The school even provides breakfast and lunch for its students to ensure they are fed and able concentrate on their day’s work. We were glad we were able to donate some clothing and hats on behalf of St Rita’s.

Lunch for us was an indulgence in comparison. Julien took us to a nearby banquet at a local restaurant where some of the girls tried Indian sweets for the first time. And GHEE they were tasty!

We headed to the Nano Nagle Community Centre and up the flights of stairs where the women gave a warm welcome of dance. The women had practised yesterday to rehearse short introductions which explained to us their current, studies employment hopes and their families. Our girls were able to spend considerable time chatting with these women about home and they were so happy to see the photos of the girls and their families. Many of us were treated to mehndi (henna tattooing) by two of the girls who were studying their beautician course. Don’t worry parents, they’re not permanent!

On our way out, some of the older students of St Ursula’s were waiting to chat with us. Small groups of girls compared the similarities and differences between school life in India and Australia. The English spoken by the students of St Ursula’s was very good and was a true reflection of the hardworking staff at the school.

If you are interested in reading a little more about the schools, click the links below:

ST URSULA’S

SACRED HEART

Day 4: St Aloysius and a visit to a tuition program in a slum community

It has been a very big day of extreme highs for us. Our welcome to St Aloysius girls’ school was incredibly warm and it is difficult to sit here now and put it into words. A guard of honour, with girls clapping greeted us and as we rounded the corner, there were neat rows of girls sitting and waiting for their guests. We each received a rose and a beaded necklace of welcome from some of the older students. We were then seated for an incredibly energetic and well rehearsed performance of folk and traditional dances, some of which were very complex. The performers were dress in full traditional regalia, complete with makeup and jewellery. After a performance on discrimination against AIDS sufferers, we were invited to thank the school and our students spoke and sang beautifully.

We moved off into Year One classes, where with few resources compared to the number of students, the girls ran Christmas card making and drawing activities. Given there were 70 (!!!) students in these classrooms they were such quiet and proud workers who behaved so well even when the girls were busy with other groups. Due to the fun we were having in class, we caused the girls to miss their morning tea break but not one student mentioned anything. They worked so happily!

The Sisters prepared a lovely morning tea of sandwiches, banana bread and delicious potato samosas.

We headed back up to class after morning tea and some visited Year 7s while others chatted to older students. We were serenaded with Christmas Carols and were mobbed by students in the playground, all of them keen to shake our hands, wish us a Merry Christmas and find out about us. The generosity was enormous, with many children offering to share their lunches with us. It was interesting to see parents standing outside the school gates at lunch time with hot meals for their children. Typical lunchtime fare was warm water, rice dishes with meat or chicken and dates. The girls happily shared their food with one another if one was without it.

The afternoon gave the girls a chance to meet with girls their own age. For many of our girls, this was their favourite part of their day. They were able to connect and chat about their similarities and differences and play games in the yard.

We left with a local lady and her beautiful little girl to venture to a local slum. As intruders, this provided a very confronting and real glimpse of poverty. The discomfort all the girls felt was justified given the babies without nappies, tiny one bedroom places, people washing outside and animals, from goats and cows, to skinny dogs, everywhere.

The girls have definitely left a little shaken but thoroughly engaged with this life changing experience.

Messages to home:

Laura- “Mum I still don’t know what I want to do. Dad, no Indian guy has made a move. Love you.”
Sara- “Mum I’m okay. I miss you guys. Having the time of my life. Throw me a welcome home party”
Ash- “Miss you guys so much. I’ve bought really good Christmas presents so watch out. Love you.”
Adriana- “I don’t need to, my mum’s been texting me.”
Brittany- “Miss you all. Hope the beach sucks without me.”
Millie- “Happy birthday, Alex.”
Sophie- “Thanks for sending me here. Great trip. Xx. PS-top up my card.(lol)”
Jess – “Happy birthday for the fourth mum. Having an amazing experience.”
Nicola- hi everyone. If you know there’s a blog and you’re reading this. I’m having a good time. Don’t forget to pick me up.”
Katya- “Hello people, don’t go in my room. Tell Emra not to touch my shoes. Don’t be late to pick me up. Okay. Love you.”
Stephanie- “Hope you’re all well. Having a good time. Hope you’re not stressed mum.”
Mrs Morrow- “All going well.”
Miss Favero- “My mouth hurts from smiling so much.”
Miss Lancaster – “Shout out to all my new followers.” #india

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