Welcome to my global village!

Sharing with the readers my experiences through my travel, interaction with different cultures and my involvement through community work! Hope you enjoy reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it!

Sunday, May 14, 2006

Excerpts from Travel log

I will talk about some of my favourite holidays/ journeys after getting my husband and child. What is interesting about our trips is that we never took expensive holidays, we did our pre-holiday research very well such that for less money, we managed to do a lot of things. After all how much do the academics earn that we could afford expensive holiday! What we often do is that when we are due for holidays to India, instead of direct ticket we just add very little money and take ‘Round the world’ ticket. So just planning the holidays properly in terms of tickets, accommodation, tours etc., one can manage a decent holiday.

The best travel/ holiday any time would be our trips to Masaimara. One of our Mara trips involved camping and it was one of the most basic camping packages and the best trip so far! It was such a unique experience. The food was cooked in front of us on the woodfire and we could give a hand in cooking if we liked. And what was most interesting was when anyone needed to go to the loo, the ‘masais’ escorted you and they stood outside to keep a watch on animals! The best part were the game drives early in the morning and the ones at night. I still have in my mind some of the most unforgettable moments from Mara, some astounding shots that we took refresh our memories and give the urge to go back.

The city I admire the most outside India is Bath in UK. Our daughter was 10 years old and we were taking her to UK for the first time, so besides London, we all wanted to go to Bath mainly because we were keen to see Stonehenge. The bus journey from Heathrow to Bath is about one and a half hour, one of the most scenic rides. I find British country towns very interesting possibly because they bring my childhood novel-reading days to life. I used to imagine how these villages would be whenever I would read a book as a child. It was cold winter day and everything was dull and grey and yet the villages seemed beautiful. Our friend’s son, Simon’s fiancé Hanah, a tall English woman was there to pick us and took us to her house and enjoyed a typical British meal with wine. We stayed with her and Simon, they were one of the most hospitable couple I have come across. Next day, we first went round the city visiting the famous ‘baths’ and then drove to Stonehenge, again another scenic drive. We finally wrapped up the day watching a pantomime in one of the theatres there. I still wonder even years back how advance was the architecture in some parts of the world each time I visit palaces in India or England or Austria.

The next favourite in my list is Vienna. Atul was going for a conference and we decided that our daughter and I too would join him. So we set off for Vienna. Again we were traveling in winters, so it was dull and grey. The best things about Vienna are of course the palaces, the chocolates and the ‘punch’. They have this little kiosks all over that sell hot ‘punch’; both alcoholic and non-alcoholic. The common base for both is fruit juice with various herbs. The moment you drink it, it gives warmth to your chest. You can buy the punch in a mug and pay a deposit for the mug so that if you decide to not return the mug, you have already paid for its cost. I brought one as a souvenir; the photo is attached here. I met Soroptimist in Vienna too. I met this British lady who had been in Vienna for past 17 years and was pleased to chat with me since I spoke English. I guess that was one thing she missed there, being able to communicate in English. Austrians prefer to speak in their language rather a foreign language, this is just an impression I got, I may be wrong! She spent a day with us, we went to Schronbrunn palace, and it is one of the most beautiful palaces that I have come across! I was very impressed with the honesty of the people there: I make this conclusion by observing their tube system. There is no ticket check anywhere and you are just meant to perform your duty of traveling with a ticket. And I gathered that obviously commuters must be doing that otherwise the tube system would not be economically viable. I have not seen so much trust in commuters anywhere else in the world whether it is New York, London, Sydney, Mumbai anywhere! The other thing which is unique are their cafés, where you are served tea/ coffee in most gorgeous porcelain by traditionally dressed waiters/ waitresses, the whole atmosphere is just incredible. This is when you realize the diversity in cultures round the world!
To be contd…………………………

Monday, May 08, 2006

A peek into my Travel Log

Some excerpts from my travel log……………..

When I look back and reminisce on our holidays, it is very difficult to pick the best but there are quite a few that still bring back happy and emotional memories. Traveling in India is fun. The chaos, the colours, deafening bollywood music, energetic people, cows, everyone has a right to live, very democratic, technology and economic boom, slums, the extremes and you have it all. India has such a great diversity in culture as you move from north to south or east to west. Its rich and vibrant culture has so much to offer. For now lets stick to my journeys in the past.

We (ma, pa and we three sisters) used to travel a lot by road in India too. We have covered stretches of India traveling by road. Pa while driving would love to listen to his three favourite singers: We three sisters. We would stop by the roadside ‘dhabas’ (restaurants) every few hours for a drink or so. I love the food in Indian highway dhabas, you CANNOT go wrong eating food from these dhabas because the travelers consume what they cook very fast. These dhabas are in great demands and I just love them. Each time I go to India, I make sure I eat from a dhaba at least once. Dhabas generally reflect the owner’s personality. The décor, music, food can tell you a lot about the owner.

I was 15 when we were traveling in Rajasthan (West of India) from Jaipur (popularly known as ‘Pink city’) to Udaipur (city of palaces), the two most beautiful and historically famous cities in Rajasthan. We started early in the morning which is what we always did. The ‘Grand Trunk’ highway is one of the best highways in India and I am told its being turned into something even grander. So for those who are thinking of traveling to India, it would be worthwhile experiencing driving on that highway with a flavour of typical Indian traffic, you would find authentically decorated trucks (again the décor on truck reflects the drivers personality). The journey from Jaipur to Udaipur was a day’s trip with lots of stopovers at various dhabas on the way, ma and pa loved stopping for tea and we would look forward to stopping for ‘Thums Up’ (Indian equivalent of ‘Coca Cola’, those days Indian govt. would not allow any imports and so we had an Indian reply to all the popular ‘item’!)/ or samosas, Indian snacks. The drive is scenic as you cross villages on the way. Rajasthani women wear elaborate jewelry that covers the whole hand, feet, face and neck and their beautiful heavily embroidered ‘lahangas’ (long skirts) are just gorgeous, and you could see authentic attires while traveling between any two towns in this region. This was one journey, which I wished would never end. I am now planning to do one with Ankita and Atul so that we can introduce Ankita to this unique culture in India.

The other one that I remember and feel a particular sense of attachment to was journey from Kanpur (Uttar Pradesh, North India) to Nagpur (Maharashtra, South-West India). It was a long journey and we drove for nearly 2 days and stopped to spend the night in Bhopal. Bhopal is the town in Madhya Pradesh (Central India) now unfortunately famous for the MIC leak case in the Union carbide factory. It was an eerie feeling that I got as we reached Bhopal, the memories of 1985 incident came back as shown on TV. Yet, everything seemed so normal. The next day as we set to drive out, I had very strange feeling which I can still recall and feel. I was doing my master’s in organic Chemistry, so I could relate to the incident and understand it very well. I just wondered how could something like that happen! And I still wonder!

To be continued……………..

Friday, May 05, 2006

Youth Hostels and my experience

I thought I would steer my blog a bit towards my global journey, so perhaps talk about my latest experience.
I recently got introduced to the youth hostels, became a member of 'Hostelling International' last year and have made good use of my membership ever since.
Until recently, whenever we travelled, we always stayed in hotels or motels that would suit our pockets but never did we think of youth hostels!
In dec-Jan, I went to UK to suss out the job market. Atul was in PNG, Ankita celebrating end of school in Australia and I was in dark and gloomy winter of UK trying to find out what is it like living in UK. So I was basically moving around, finding out about jobs vs cost of living. So this is where I got a chance to try out the Youth Hostel experience for the first time.
I was going for an interview to Cardiff, early this year in Jan. I was being given the accomodation for one night but since I did not want to take the chances of travelling in dark from Croydon to Cardiff and back, I decided to stay at YH in Cardiff. This was my first experience in a Youth Hostel, I was a bit skeptical about the whole thing but being adventurous I decided to give it a try. So I arrive Youth Hostel by the Heath Park, one of the best, I have visited so far.
For 17 GBP you get a clean bed and continental breakfast. The other facilities like shower, kitchen, TV lounge were all so spic and span, I could not believe it. And I met two lovely young women, one from Korea and another one from Spain and we soon got into some lovely conversations and exchanged views on places worth seeing, precautions one must take while travelling alone and finally exchanged emails too.
Then was the one in Bendigo (Victoria, Australia) where I felt it was a bit noisy and also not so clean.
The one in Ballarat (Victoria, Australia) is right on Soverign Hill, the view is beautiful and these are nice little appartments where you have about 16 beds in 4 rooms with a common kitchen and lounge/ dining area. This was good and I enjoyed being there.
The two that I find very practical are Melbourne YHA Metro and Sydney YHA Central. These are huge facilities with all kinds of options available and very close to all the facilities and right in the city centre. I met a lot of women from different parts of the world, Japan, UK, Australia, US, Korea etc. For some reason, I always bumped into a lot of Koreans throughout my YH experiences and they are lovely people to talk to.
What I liked about YHs is that its like a community, people generally exchange their travelling experiences, YHs also advise you on places once could visit with a small budget and the atomosphere is generally very cordial and lively.
I travelled a lot within the past six months for various reasons and so got to experience a range of YHs. I still remember my stay in YH Cardiff, the staff is friendly (I found Welsh are generally warm and friendly people), the facilities are good, just the whole package at YH Cardiff is terrific. I would not mind going there again and this time with my family, surely if we get another opportunity!
So yes, if you have not experienced youth hostels, I would say, you must. Just do a bit of research before you go because sometimes the experiences can be deifferent!

Success at last!!!!!!!!!!!!

So the photos finally got loaded after my nth attempts.
The top photo: Cenona and Merilyn (can be seen partly) with the students posing with their winning entries.
The middle photo is group photo for the school and its staff.
The bottom one shows students performing for SI Lae.

Thursday, May 04, 2006

Environment programmes (contd.)

As a part of our awareness campaign, in my capacity as the Convener for the 'Environment' programme, I initiated and organized a poster competition in 2000 to mark the World Environment Day, 5th June. The response to the competition was very encouraging and we decided to conduct it every year. We pick a topic every year and involve as many children as we can to participate in the competition. Below is a list of topics we have chosen so far.
Year 2000 Theme for Poster Competition : Endangered Species
Year 2001 Theme for Poster Competition: Save Our Seas
Year 2002 Theme for Poster Competition: Reuse and Recycle
Year 2003 Theme for Poster Competition: Protect Our Rainforest
Year 2004 Theme for Poster Competition: Clean Air
Year 2005 Theme for Poster Competition: Clean Place: my country, my home.
We are yet to pick one for this year.
The competition targets 3 age groups; primary, secondary and tertiary students/ corresponding age groups.
I will put some photos in the next blog that were taken while presentation of prizes for last years poster competition at one of the schools '4-mile school'. I have tried putting the photos a number of times with this blog, somehow it would not connect. These are some of the problems we face here with repsect to technology. We often work under trying conditions.
So, whenever we go to any school, we also take with us books for distribution, this is a project which we do in colaboration with 'Rotary club of Huon Gulf'. These books are sent from various clubs in Australia. There are many schools which do not have enough resources and so every little contributions counts. We have a database of all the schools in the province and keep a check on the schools already covered so that we can reach out to as many. There is so much more that needs to be done though. This partiular project falls under our education programme, I will talk about some of the education projects and other projects in upcoming blogs.
In SI we work under 6 programme areas which are:
Human Rights and Status of Women
Economic and Social Development
International Goodwill and Understanding
We often do a project that covers more than one programme area. Will keep trying to upload those photos of environment poster competition: certificate and prize presentation.

Environment Programmes

Under the environment programme, SI Lae pledged to plant 50 trees last year: 2o trees to symbolize the 20 years existence of SI Lae and 30 trees to comemorate the 30 years
of independence of Papua New Guinea. The project could not take off last year due to various reasons, hence it was carried out this year. Every first saturday in the month of march, Soroptimists all over the world celebrate 'Saturday of Service (SOS) and dedicate the day in performing some community work. We chose to carry out our pending project on March 6th 2006.
The two trees that were planted are: Pometia pinata (commonly called 'glabra'; in pidgin called 'taun') and Calophyllum inophyllum (in pidgin called 'kalapulim').
In the photo on right, I am planting the tree while current President Naomi is throwing soil and Secretary Cenona standing by the side, the photograph was taken by another Soroptimist Merilyn. This photo is taken by Merilyn Paul.
In the photo on the left, Merilyn and Naomi can be seen throwing soil while I am planting the tree, Cenona and Dawn admiring the young trees.
What was good was that we all dug up the tough ground and planted the trees ourselves with very little help from two men who were around.