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