Journey to India: New Delhi

After an entire day of traveling, I landed in New Delhi, India on June 1st. My classmates and I checked into our hostel close to midnight. Although tired from the flights, I struggled to wrap my ahead around the 10.5 hour time change and, therefore, woke up multiple times throughout the night. Until now, I had not experienced a time difference longer than six hours, so it has been strange waking up in the morning before my friends back home have even gone to bed. The jet lag lasted throughout our entire stay in Delhi, causing me to wake up at the crack of dawn nearly every day. However, this was not necessarily a bad thing. Anyone who knows me knows that waking up in the morning is one of my least favorite activities. The jet lag made getting up and getting ready much less painful and as an added bonus, my roommate and I were always the first to breakfast.

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Knowing that we would be absolutely exhausted, our in-country guide, Anu, created an itinerary that included a very simple first day. She organized an orientation to India as our morning activity and then we spent the afternoon touring the National Museum. To be honest, I was too tired to fully appreciate the tour, but I had enough energy to get excited about the jewelry display! On our way back to the hostel, we stopped to see Jantar Mantar, the official home of India’s president (not to be confused with the Prime Minister).

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My second day in Delhi included the Lodhi Gardens, Gandhi Smriti, Humayun’s Tomb, and Dilli Haat. In order to travel to our first destination, we used the Delhi subway system… it is immaculate (comparable to the London tube, which I believe is the best subway system in the world). The gardens are absolutely stunning. Not only are they filled with beautiful plans and incredibly constructed ancient tombs, they are also a popular location for walking, yoga, laugh therapy (yes, this is a real thing), and family/couple photo shoots. The Gandhi Smriti is the home in which Mahatma Gandhi spent his last 144 days and also happens to be the place where he was assassinated while greeting his followers before group prayer. Hamuyun’s tomb is similar in structure to the Taj Mahal, but it is made out of sandstone, rather than marble. Finally, my classmates and I had our first Indian shopping experience (Dilli Haat). Something that I did not love about market shopping in Costa Rica was the persistent urging from sellers to buy something from their shop. Unfortunately, this occurs in India markets as well. I am someone who takes her time while shopping and tries to think through every decision in order to avoid spontaneous purchases. However, overall that was a minor challenge. India sells such beautiful handmade goods and I enjoyed walking around and admiring it all. I even bought myself a nice scarf (strange purchase in 110 degree weather, but it helps to wear it over ones head in order to block the sun).

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My third and final day in Delhi began with a visit to Jama Masjid, the oldest mosque in Delhi, followed by a tour of old Delhi which consists of narrow streets that specialize in a certain product. For instance, one street consists of shops that sell paper products and another street consists of shops that sells items commonly used for Indian weddings. It was so interesting to see monkeys climbing along these buildings. Prior to my trip to India, I thought monkeys only resided in/near jungles (this was the case in Costa Rica). I had not expected to see monkeys in the city!

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I spent the afternoon exploring the grounds of Qutb Minar, a tower built in 1193 after the defeat of Delhi’s last Hindu kingdom (relations between Hindus and Muslims in India have been complicated for centuries). During our exploration of Delhi, my friends and I found ourselves in many situations in which people wanted to take pictures with us or of us due to the fact we so clearly are not from here. I like to refer to these photos as, “hey, white people” photos. Sometimes these situations are awkward, sometimes we laugh about them, and when an adorable child asks us to take a photo with them we typically comply without hesitation. However, these encounters came in abundance once we entered Qutb Minar. There were so many people there who wanted a photo with us or of us and many of them did not even bother to ask. It is really awkward when a middle-aged woman stands directly next to you or sends her child to stand next you while you’re talking to your friends and just takes a photo as if you’re an animate object. It is uncomfortable when a middle-aged man follows the group as you tour the grounds and takes multiple photos as if you are the tourist attraction. And it is annoying that even though you tell someone you do not want to take a photo with them, they and their family continue to follow you with their phones out. My friends and I initially agreed that as long as someone asked we would agree to take a photo with them. However, the situation become quite frustrating as it took away from our own experience. We have decided that the new rule is to take photos with children, especially if they ask us themselves (they usually ask in an adorable and sincere voice). Of course there are significantly more respectful tourists than disrespectful ones, but unfortunately the experience seemed to get out of hand during this particular afternoon. Fortunately, we were still able to admire and appreciate these incredible structures!

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To conclude the day, we had dinner at what I refer to as a “classy establishment.” I can no longer remember the name of the restaurant, but it is a place that I assume wealthy British people once went to for dinner and drinks. I felt a bit underdressed, but my dinner and my cranberry mojito were both divine.

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Overall, I am enjoying my experience so far and I am incredibly grateful for this opportunity.

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Exploring Cartago

As promised, here is part two of the photos I took in Cartago. If you missed part one, click here to read about my first time seeing a volcano!

After visiting Irazú Volcano, we explored various other parts of Cartago, taking in its beautiful views and learning about its history. Here are some photos from our adventures:

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I’m the one sitting on the ground in the white shirt, fully aware this was being taken, but too lazy to turn around. 
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Got Chocolate?

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We later stopped for lunch at La Casona del Cafetal, where the food was subpar but the views were beautiful. Also, I had coffee… like without a flavor… normal, adult coffee… we will ignore the fact that I added three packets of sugar to that tiny little mug….

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And the highlight of my day? These little raggedy friends… especially the reddish-brown one 🙂

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It Was a “Lava-ly” Day

Before I begin, I need to give credit where credit is due. I did not come up with this pun myself… I owe it all to our tour guide who said this multiple times throughout the morning.

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This past Saturday I went on a grueling hike (11,000 feet up)….just kidding. This past Saturday I took a bus to the craters of Irazú Volcano in Cartago, Costa Rica. It was my first time seeing a volcano, so naturally I was overly excited. Irazú is the highest of Costa Rica’s 5 active volcanos. The volcano has three craters; the widest is from its oldest eruption and the deepest is from its most recent in 1994.

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When I first stepped off the bus, I was pleasantly surprised by the chill in the air. After experiencing so many humid days in Heredia, the cool air was quite refreshing. The view was beautiful, mountains all around and craters below… it was unlike anything I had ever seen before. Moments later, we were standing in the very crater we had looked down upon, walking on top of volcanic rock as if it were a normal, everyday experience. Like always, I’ve included some photos, but  I would highly recommend traveling here if you ever get the opportunity.

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I’ve only see so little, but I can’t get over how naturally beautiful this country is.

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There was more to this day, but I worry that people get bored when I write too much… therefore to find out what I did after visiting the volcano, stay tuned for my next post!

 

 

My First Time in the Pacific Ocean!

Before I came to Costa Rica, the furthest west I had ever been was Tennessee. Therefore, I had only ever seen the Pacific Ocean in movies, on television, and in photographs. Well, that changed last weekend. Not only did I see the Pacific Ocean in real life, but I stood in it, allowing the water to splash up around me as I took in the view. Now this may not seem like a big deal, in actuality is isn’t… but I love experiencing things for the first time. I’m only 21 years old, and I’ve experienced so little of what the world has to offer. Therefore, whenever I travel, I always excitedly acknowledge the things I’m experiencing  for the first time.

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To provide a little more background as to what I was doing on the Pacific Coast of Costa Rica… My new friends and I (8 of us from my study abroad program and 4 international students from Germany) rented an entire house through AirBnB in Esterillos Oeste. Esterillos Oeste is a very small coastal town, just south of Jacó (a popular weekend destination for young adults in Costa Rica). The house sat on top of a hill, providing an incredible view of the ocean. The hike up and down the hill each day was not fun, but it was definitely worth it.

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I had a truly relaxing weekend. We enjoyed the hammocks and the balcony that overlooked the ocean. We had two delicious dinners in precious small town restaurants (each had roofs, but were not covered by walls on all sides). We walked along the beach and went in the ocean (as a New Englander, I could not believe how warm the ocean water was). And most importantly, throughout the whole weekend, we had the sweetest little host! The caretaker of the house had a dog who accompanied my friends and I everywhere. I mean everywhere. She even sat under my seat while eating dinner at a restaurant one night. I felt so honored.

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In addition to our little doggy host, the town had so many other animals. For the first time in my life I saw a whale (off in the distance), an iguana, and parrots! Of course, I have seen these animals in captivity before, but never in their natural habitat. It was so interesting to see dogs chasing colorful parrots through the streets, rather than squirrels!

I had such a wonderful weekend in the quiet, little, coastal town. I have quickly realized that the cities do not embody the true Costa Rica. The true Costa Rica is made up of the mountains, the volcanoes, the rain forests, the coastlines, the rivers, the animals, and the people. I look forward to experiencing these places in the weeks ahead and, of course, I look forward to sharing these experiences with you.