A Travellerspoint blog

August 2010

Getting Oriented

Fulbright Orientation in Washington DC

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Day 2 of our Fulbright Orientation program has come and gone. Everyone from both the US and the participating countries arrived during the course of the day yesterday and settled in after a long day of travel for some. Sreeja and a couple of her Indian counterparts arrived late morning to the hotel and it was great to finally meet this person with whom I have been corresponding with regularly since March. Meeting her in person was more like connecting with a friend than meeting someone new for the first time. The internet has truly shrunken our world.
I took advantage of the free time yesterday be a tourist here in DC. I checked out a couple of places that aren't on the main tourist itinerary including the National Geographic Museum and the Ford Theatre where Mr. Lincoln saw his last show. I also had a chance to revisit the Natural History Museum - when I went back in May at the earlier orientation program, the place was overrun by hordes of student groups so it was much more enjoyable this time. I completed my grand walk by checking out the WWII memorial, Korean and Vietnam memorials, and Mr. Lincoln. It was a beautiful night for a walk.
Of all of the monuments in Washington that I have seen, the most powerful and moving one continues to be the Vietnam Memorial. It's power is in it's simplicity - there is no anonymity of who is being remembered here. The sheer multitude of names of the lost and the knowledge that most of them were teenagers or early 20's is emotionally powerful. The statue of the three soldiers remarkably captures the sense of futility that seemed to envelope many of the young men that found themselves in Vietnam. I've been three times now and it is just as powerful every time.

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Today's highlight's included a very informative and entertaining presentation on adapting to new cultures in the morning and a bus tour of a few of the sights in DC including the Capitol, Jefferson and Lincoln Memorials (again), and a stop at the White House. Before walking back to the hotel for the official opening dinner, one of the other teachers going to India and I enjoyed a couple of drinks on the rooftop terrace of the Washington Hotel with its fabulous view looking down on the National Mall, the White House, and other sights.

Sreeja and Steve at the Capitol

Sreeja and Steve at the Capitol

The program gets going in earnest tomorrow with a full day of sessions planned. The evening will be free so that we can go out to dinner with the other members of our country group if we want - plans are still to be made.

Posted by SteveJenn 18:02 Comments (0)

I'm not speaking for Hillary...

State Department official disclaimer

I have learned during my orientation that I am required to convey an important message regarding reading this journal, it is important to know that we are not putting words in the mouth of Hillary Clinton or anyone else at the State Department. To assure that you know this, I am required to post the following disclaimer regarding the opinions and comments presented in this blog. Get ready - here goes...

This web site is not an official US Department of State website. The views and information presented are the grantee's own and do not represent the Fulbright Program or the US Department of State

Hopefully, this clears up any confusion you might have had about this concern.

Posted by SteveJenn 12:09 Comments (0)

It's almost time to fly

After all these months of preparation, it's strange to be in the blocks waiting for the starting gun to fire. It's about time - I'm tired of all of the training. Things are calm - we are ready to go. In fact, the absence of the panicked frenzy that often accompanies our departures for trips is a bit unnerving. What are we missing? Can't think of anything at the moment.
It's been a very busy but truly enjoyable couple of weeks. My week in Washington, DC with the other Fulbright teachers not only left us with a multitude of logistical and cultural adjustment tips, but also heightened my sense of anticipation by being in the presence of so many people on the cusp of great adventures. Far and away the most enjoyable aspect of the past week and a half has been coming to know Sreeja Rajan, my exchange partner. Andover High school is in for a real treat this semester for she is clearly a dedicated and capable teacher and a completely delightful person. I am a bit envious of my colleagues who will have the chance to come to know her better and I also know that I will have some big shoes to fill when I arrive at her school. Her husband, Pradeep Kumon, arrived last evening around two o'clock after an amazing journey that involved planes, trains, multiple subways, and a taxi from Haverhill at 1:00 am. The story of his trip here was fascinating but not very surprising once I've had the chance to get to know him a little this morning. He is a jovial, adventurous type of guy who is instantly likable. I was pleased to learn that he might be here for a couple of months.
We had a little excitement this morning when Mari returned around 9:30 am from my parents after a sleep-over and showed us a cracked molar. What family trip can begin without a little ancillary excitement? Fortunately, we were able to get her into a dentist and it turned out to be a baby molar that was being pushed by the new tooth underneath. It got yanked.
Soon we will have to say goodbyes, to my parents and to Daisy, who definitely knows something is up. It's very emotional when I dwell on it, but the ability to Skype diminishes the separation. Our flight departs for Amsterdam at 7:00 pm and after a 3 hour layover, we're on to New Delhi - about 15 hours in the air altogether - we'll land at 10:50 pm on Thursday, India time. I have photos to post from the various events of the last few weeks leading up to today, but it will have to wait. Just one last bag check...I must be missing something...

Posted by SteveJenn 11:15 Comments (0)

We have arrived!

Day One in New Delhi

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It was a long haul, but we landed on time in New Delhi late Thursday night, passed through immigration without any problems, met our driver at the door, and were wisked off to our Bed and breakfast arriving around 1:00 am local time. It might have been earlier except for a lost driver who gave us a tour of some parts of the city where I don't think we would have seem otherwise.

The flights were great - the girls were amazing in their tolerance and patience despite the sleep deprivation and waiting around. We slept in a bit but awoke to have a huge breakfast prepared by our delightful hosts here at the New Delhi BnB. Ajay, the owner, and his son, Ashu, set up a car and driver for us for the day (Ru 1200 or about $27) to take us wherever we wanted. Our first stop was to visit the beautiful lotus shaped temple of the Baha'i faith, an amazing structure in it's scale and beauty.
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mosque_col..girls-3.jpg. It was a sweltering, humid day in which we quickly surrendered to the reality that we were going to be sweaty and hot all day. Our visit also gave us the opportunity to get used to attracting the attention of other tourists since we look just a little bit different - we found ourselves on the other side of the camera on more than one occasion.

After the temple visit, we visited the archaeological site at Qutb Minor where ruins of Muslim tombs, mosques, and an amazing minaret provide a great sense of the way things used to in this area a millennium ago. mosque_col..girls-5.jpgDSCN0294.jpg
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After two tourists sites, jet lag started to set in for some of us, especially Elena,
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so we decided to visit a craft market to get a feel for what was available. The Dilli Haut market is an area that allows vendors from different parts of the country to take a stall for a couple of weeks so the selection is always changing with the vendors. The girls are starting to understand the how haggling process works and I expect that they will become quite good at it quickly.
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Our last stop brought us over to the Khan market, a more contemporary shopping area where we ate dinner at little Hollywood themed restaurant and then crawled home in the Delhi rush hour traffic. It was long day given our confused internal clocks and our adjustment to being is such a different place. We retired for the evening relatively early and as expected, I was awake at around 3:30 am this morning with my brain ready to start the day. I hate jet lag! We're hiring the car again today for more sight seeing and are being careful to organize a plan to accommodate tomorrow's celebration of India's Independence Day.

Posted by SteveJenn 21:44 Archived in India Tagged tourist_sites Comments (0)

Exploring Old Delhi

A memorable foray into chaos

Nearly a week has passed since we said our good-byes and departed for India and I can say in the most positive way possible that it feels like a month. We have seen and done so much in the short time since our arrival here that it is difficult to know where to begin. The last few days have been spent at the very comfortable Park Hotel near Connaught Circle in New Delhi while I attended sessions at the US-India Educational Foundation complex as part of my orientation. In addition to the seven of us who are part of the teacher exchange, there were about 30 Fulbright Student Scholars, mostly recent college grads who are fanning out across India conducting research in a variety of subjects and topics. I was not alone among the teachers in feeling a little bit old among such a youthful bunch but none of us were ready to trade places with any of them.

Because a few days have passed since we’ve had a chance to post, I’m not quite sure where to begin. In a few hours from now, we’ll be checking out of the hotel for the start of our four day journey to Agra to see the Taj Mahal and on to Jaipur before returning to New Delhi in order to catch our flight to Trivandrum. The program orientation program wrapped up yesterday at lunch so we used the afternoon to visit Old Delhi (as opposed to New Delhi, the British built capital where we have been spending most of our time). The primary focus for the trip was a visit to a mosque and to the Red Fort, but I can’t think of a more applicable application of the saying “it’s not the destination but he journey that counts”. Kuldeep, our very cool and reliable driver, let us off outside of the Old Delhi area and hooked us up with a couple of cycle rickshaw drivers to move us around. We got a few pictures with a snake-charmer and his cobras out before boarding of bicycle chariots and entered the fray. I had read about how busy and chaotic the streets of Delhi could be but I never could have imagined the crush of humanity and its vehicles that completely filled the streets and flowed ever so slowly in what appeared at first to be a chaotic frenzy.

Our drivers were pros and dodged and weaved with the best of them. Our first stop was the Jama Masjid mosque which required a walk through a busy market in our approach to the mosque complex. I confess to having some discomfort visiting as a tourist places being actively being used by people for religious ritual but aside from the casual stares that we receive everywhere we go, no one overtly seemed to mind.
Entering the Jama Masjid mosque

Entering the Jama Masjid mosque


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The solution for the underdressed

The solution for the underdressed


Muslims in prayer

Muslims in prayer


One of our bicycle rickshaw drivers - nice guy!

One of our bicycle rickshaw drivers - nice guy!


Dosing on the cool marble

Dosing on the cool marble


Cool dudes hanging at the mosque

Cool dudes hanging at the mosque

Our next stop was the Red Fort, a huge complex with a rich history that I’m not going to get into here. Compared to other places we had see in Delhi, I found it to be a bit underwhelming – the heat, humidity and a lack of water with us didn’t enhance the experience.
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Before returning to Kuldeep’s car, we overruled the girls’ protests and forged on ahead to the spice market where we encountered traffic that defies description. While a picture is worth a thousands words, nothing beats video - ride along with us during a relatively calm stretch of the road!

Scenes from Old Delhi

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Shopping for nuts and spices

Shopping for nuts and spices


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No trucks allowed

No trucks allowed


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Having had a taste of Old Delhi, we were ready to move on to Agra.

Posted by SteveJenn 09:24 Comments (0)

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