Wednesday, 28 February 2007

A Little Bit of Cricket...

I have asked the team to send me thoughts from our week away. Here is one from Richard. (I have taken the liberty of adding a few snaps.)

From the moment we arrived, the beautiful children of Zakhira made us so welcome, their happy faces and excited voices being in stark contrast to the physical surroundings. With communication generally limited to non-verbal means, it soon became apparent that a number of our young male hosts were keen to teach us a thing or two about cricket. On a makeshift dirt wicket, the youngsters systematically destroyed our rather limited bowling attack with them appearing to take particular pleasure in dealing with Barry’s deliveries off his rather intimidating 40-yard run-up. Indeed, the biggest hazard they faced was avoiding losing balls down the open sewers which provided a unique boundary to the playing area. It was humbling to engage with these children, who despite their daily hardships, possessed smiles that appear to belie our logic. With more time, we may also have been able to engage some of the older men who appeared pretty disinterested at first but were beginning to show some interest towards the end of the week.

Thank God for these children and I pray that, with Asha’s assistance, they are blessed with opportunities to fulfill their future ambitions.

(Click image for larger view)

Tuesday, 27 February 2007

The Weekend Before

Perhaps it's time to start at the beginning...

We landed in Delhi at 2am and were met by our driver and another escort. Naively as men offered to help with bags, some of our group handed them over and so there was a bit of a maelstrom as we made our way to our vehicles. Our escorts trying to look after a bunch of innocents, shielding us from the wily taxi drivers hoping for fares! No harm came to us and our bags safely stored in one car, while we were bundled in to the next.

First impressions of Delhi - poor air and crazy driving - even at 3am. First stop, YWCA, Ashoka Road near Connaught Place.

After a leisurely start to the day, we set off to a local market. The girls needed Salwaar Kameezes. We needed to have these to visit the homes in the slums. Here the ladies model them. Left to right: Val, Caroline, Sue and Libby.

The shop was filled floor to ceiling and the counter was a fabric chaos when we left. (Click on images to see larger view)

It was fun finding and trying these on. Libby, having been through this before, was our guide, while the men hung around patiently. The market was not touristy, but was a good introduction to beggars and children following us around.

The food markets reminded me of South Africa, as the produce is that of a warmer climate and so were abundant with fruits and vegetables that are familiar to me. Not quite so familiar were the cooking stalls . The ground was littered with bowls made from dried leaves, which were dropped once the meal was consumed.

Tomorrow , the road to Agra.

I have started adding ad hoc photos to my photo blog here: Fun with Images

Bye for now

Monday, 26 February 2007

About a Queue: Delhi Aiport Departures

We're back safely. In the course of the next few weeks, I'll be updating this site with more news about our trip and am hoping to collect views from the rest of the team on the trip, in the hope of providing you with different perspectives of the brief and very full trip.

There are a few things to do before getting back to work - I took just short of 600 pictures which need to be whittled down to a sensible number. I'm going to aim at cutting to 200, which I think is still a fairly reasonable number and still probably too many for anyone to be interested. Fear not, I'll only put a few up here. My home is bit of a jumble; washing done and drying, shoes ready to be scrubbed and put out to dry and a pile of post to tackle. It was only a week! How did that all happen?

Delhi Airport
Now there's an experience! As I mentioned in my last entry, we had to leave for the airport at 3am, so we were up at 2am. My room mate, Sue Jackman, and I were ready quickly, so with time to spare, slept again 'til we needed to be downstairs. Then vehicles were packed and off to the airport for around 3.35am. (The reason for all this time keeping will become evident soon). Delhi airport only permits passengers in the through the doors, so we had to find our way through the crowd outside to the entrance, where we were permitted to enter once Libby had shown them our ticket. Then we joined the first queue, to get our bags scanned and labeled. From that queue we joined the next queue for checking in. This one snaked alarmingly, but we had buckets of time and so chatted as we moved. Once checked in we turned to go through security. It was now 4.35, an hour since arriving at the airport. As we were flying at 6.55am, Richard wondered (aloud) what we'd do to kill time...
We joined a few of the many queues for passport control. Half the group in one and the rest in another. Our queue did not budge. Not that the other queues were making much progress. It was no competition, but we came second, getting through that exercise in an over an hour. Time, it appeared was marching on and it was now closer to 5.45am and we still had a queue to go! The final hand baggage check which took us an hour and a half and meant that we not only missed boarding time, but the gate closing time and the scheduled take-off time. During all this, there was a shift change and so a brief period of time when no-one was being screened at all! There was very little panic though, as we were aware of the many people behind us in the queue also waiting to get onto our plane.
By the time I got to my seat it was 7.30am and apparently still between 150 and 180 people to clear the security checks! Certainly the plane was quite empty. We left at 8.30am. There was more calmness than I have known at any of the many airports I have flown from.

Tomorrow, the first of the photos...