My time in Delhi, India was nothing short of phenomenal. I sincerely loved every minute of it and was always learning something new, whether it be about the Indian culture, Hinduism religion, native wildlife, or Hindi language. I was in Delhi, India to teach street children, but in fact those street children and the surrounding culture taught me. This ancient place, full with busy traffic and spice aromas, opened my eyes into a vastly different way of living and connecting with the world.
I taught street children: children mainly living on the street or in underdeveloped shelters with or without immediate family members, Mondays - Fridays at the nonprofit
Bal Umang Drishya Sanstha (BUDS) center in Old Delhi. BUDS envisions a society where every child is in school, free from abuse, neglect, child labour and poverty. My role in helping this vision come to fruition at BUDS was to teach the children English, Mathematics, and other healthy life habits along the way. I adored each and every child here at BUDS and put my soul into teaching them all I could each day. I remember doing a math card game with them each day in order to practice differentiating numbers from letters and writing down new vocabulary words using pictures on my phone to illustrate what they were, such as “whale.”
Our biggest accomplishments as a class at BUDS was creating an entire alphabet poster that featured every letter of the alphabet with a picture that began with that letter, such as “B” for “ball.” The students colored and painted the letters and pictures of each alphabet card that we later hung across the walls of the room for the students to always have as a reference for learning their alphabet. The students greatly enjoyed this alphabet project and were already using the poster to refer to as it was being hung up. The teachers at BUDS were fantastic and even arranged Henna for me at the center one day. Having some of the older students and teachers do Henna art on my arms and hands is one of my fondest memories in India.
One of my favorite experiences in India was doing the weekend Golden Triangle Tour where we went to some of the most famous, historical sites in Agra, Jaipur, and Delhi. In Jaipur I visited the City Palace where many festivals and royal gatherings were conducted, the Hawa Mahal (or Wind Palace), and Chokhi Dhani restaurant. In Jaipur I also walked through Amber Fort and basked in the sun at the Monkey temple. I found Amber Fort to be extremely interesting as it consisted of royal courtyards and hidden rooms that the king and queens used to occupy. I very much enjoyed learning about these historical sites while actually standing inside of them and tasting the many traditional dishes at the elaborate Chokhi Dhani restaurant.
The Agra part of this Golden Triangle tour included visiting the famous Taj Mahal, which was truly astounding! This structure was certainly one of the most beautiful historic sites I have ever had the pleasure of viewing in person. While touring Delhi with our tour guide, I visited the India Gate, Qutab Minar, Lotus Temple, and Humayun’s Tomb. I relished climbing over the halfway broken structures of Qutab Minar and gaping at the detailed design of Humayun’s Tomb. On our Delhi touring day, we ate at a traditional South Indian cuisine restaurant called Naivedyam, which was quite delicious and not as spicy as other places I had been to in Delhi.
My most exhilarating experiences in India include riding an elephant up the Amber Fort wall and feeding monkeys at the Monkey (or Sun) Temple! It was breath-taking to view such an ancient structure from atop such a tall, majestic creature while also feeling that creature’s every step beneath me. Elephants are my favorite animal and I absolutely loved riding one for part of my India experience. Feeding the monkeys was quite a humorous experience as they jumped on me at any time and were quite forward in taking more bananas from my hands. I was with an experienced wildlife handler while doing this of course, but it still felt quite uncertain at times with monkeys approaching from all corners of the temple, seemingly out of nowhere. I truly delighted in this and found these creatures to be quite adorable.
On weekdays when I was not teaching my students at BUDS, I was often visiting local temples, mosques, and popular sites with a volunteer friend of mine. Some of the places we visited that I enjoyed most include Jama Misjid Mosque, Red Fort, Akshra Dham, and Iskcon Temple. Walking into the sacred areas of mosques and temples while observing the rituals people engaged in as a part of their religion was one of the most serene moments I remember having in India. I am thankful to have been able to intimately observe these religious monuments and practices in India. I also greatly appreciated the art I saw in India at various artisan shops such as the Blue Pottery store, an authentic Marble craftsman shop, cottage emporiums at Delhi Haat, and many more. Often times I was able to not only view the finished products, but also watch the artist at work creating their masterpieces and learning exactly how they completed them. As an artist lover, I definitely purchased several unique art pieces from these shops and plan to decorate my home with them soon.
While traveling within and around Delhi, India I saw much poverty and pollution. Many times there were people, including young children, approaching me; begging me to buy whatever they might be selling or simply to give them food. Further, it was often clear that the people living on the streets or in underdeveloped shelters were malnourished and did not have the opportunities to practice healthy hygiene habits, such as bushing one’s teeth each day or even bathing. While riding inside of a rickshaw, I could often see smog covering structures only 500 meters ahead and could feel myself inhaling chemicals from the exhaust of vehicles directly in front of me. Although viewing these inequities and dire situations people lived in was quite distressing at times, I am grateful to have observed this in India. I am grateful not only because it deepened my understanding of global inequity and disproportionality of wealth in the world, but also strengthened my allegiance to social justice. I know that so much more needs to be done to find and create solutions to this global poverty and pollution. These solutions are something dedicated to being a part of.
The experiences I had here will not only serve as fond memories of the past, but will most importantly inspire me presently to continue to make positive impacts in the places that need it most. I truly understand how big this world is, how many different lives are in it, and how each of us are intimately connected as humans that must care for one another. I believe that the future of our human species is dependent upon all of us not only being aware of the unique lifestyles and struggles that others in different parts of the world endure, but also acting to improve conditions for those in need. I am forever grateful to Volunteering Solutions and all the people I met in India for allowing me to experience a different way of life and be further inspired to continue to make positive, global impacts over my lifetime.
Add more vegetables to dinner dishes