Traveling, Trains and Togetherness

Living abroad you constantly experience new things. None more so than during the Christmas period where we celebrated and traveled round the Golden Triangle.
We know its already February, but, better late than never!

Christmas:

We kicked off the Christmas celebrations with something we thought was quite familiar to us- carol singing. Of course the Indian version was an experience we never expected or could have predicted. The 6 hour event took us round the houses of many of the church members. Each location brought more food leaving us stuffed by the end! Safe to say all the laughing, eating, singing and dancing made us rather tired by the early hours of the morning. It was such a great evening and was a blessing to share God’s love while celebrating Jesus’ birth.
Since arriving in Delhi we started preparing for our Christmas Eve function. Finally, the time came for all that dance practice and singing practice (in both English and in Hindi!) to come into use. It was a huge success as we enjoyed the dancing and singing while spreading the good news to nearly 200 people! It was such an answered prayer and was a very lovely time to share with people from Church and even some girls from school came along and performed the dance we had taught them!
Christmas day was just as special. We went to an English speaking chruch and actually understood a sermon for the first time since being here! We opened presents we had brought each other, called home and then went round to our supervisors house for an untraditional Christmas dinner of mutton korma. We played games with their daughter and all sat and watched a Christmas carol. We were once more reminded how thankful we were to our supervisors who have welcomed us into their family. It was a very lovely day!

Holiday:

 

Boxing day came and our crazy holiday began when the team from Kolkata arrived. Fitting 7 people in our 1 bed apartment was a squeeze but it was cosy, we needed all the warmth we could get as Delhi was very cold over Christmas! We enjoyed showing them around Delhi for a few days before going off to our first stop on the golden triangle, Agra.
Our first train was an early one and we had booked taxis ready to go. Unfortunately one of the taxis didn’t show and we rushed to get another lift to the station. We arrived just in time before the train had to leave and had a very enjoyable experience on our first sleeper train, eventhough it was delayed by 3 hours! We met some lovely Christians who are from India and enjoyed listening to their testimonies.
In Agra we of course went to the Taj Mahal! It was unbelievable. We all experienced real ‘pinch-me’ moments as we walked in and round one of the seven wonders of the world. Safe to say our memories of it shan’t be forgotten any time soon.
We then had another early start, this time off to Jaipur. We left our comfy beds to find the train was delayed, 3 hours later and after much confusion over what carriage we were on as the one we had booked didn’t exist, we were on our second sleeper train. We arrived in Jaipur and after hostel issues we last minute booked into a hotel for the night and booked up a hostel to stay in for the remaining 4 nights we were in Jaipur. It was such crazy experience but was a blessing in disguise as the hostel we booked was 10x better than the one previously booked and the hotel we stayed in for the night had the BEST shower, namely it was hot! We got to spend the evening on a rooftop restaurant overlooking the lit up forts and watching the fireworks.

 

The time we had in Jaipur was so much fun and we packed it full of touristy activities. We visited the local forts, temples, palaces and markets and to celebrate Miriam’s birthday we went and met some elephants at an ethical elephant sanctuary. The hostel was
so much fun and we were able to meet some great people and share to others who we were and why we were here. We even got to share the Bible and pray for some of the other guests which was such a blessing.
We then moved onto our next destination, Pushkar. A shorter and not so early train this time. Pushkar’s ‘hippy’ vibes combined with it being a site of Hindu pilgrimage made it a truly unique experience. It felt like it’s own little bubble in the foothills of the surrounding mountains- a world away from the previous urban stops. It was full of quirky markets and restaurants in winding streets surrounding a small lake. We relaxed in the sun and enjoyed the quietness. Here we did a sunrise hike up to Savitri temple which was up in the hills. It was incredible seeing the sunrise over the little town and hills in the distance. We wondered around the markets and had the yummiest muesli and then it was time for another train off to Udiapur.
Udiapur was again so different. Feeling less like India it had a more European vibe. Here we went o
n a boat trip and spent some time in a garden on the middle of the lake, exploring the palace and having amazing food. It is such a beautiful city. We even went on cable cars up the hill and saw an amazing sunset! Feeling truly blessed. We sung worship songs and brushed up on our photography skills. We finished our time in Udiapur with a lovely dinner on the lake and played games along the riverside.
Then came our day of trains. Waking up once again to catch an early train, we spent 6 hours on the first train and then we had a 2 hour wait before our next 6 hour train to Jodhpur. Luckily we all get along really well and had fun watching movies, chatting and playing games together. Getting on the second train was an adventure in itself as it was so packed that the train started to leave the platform before we were all on it leaving some with no choice but to run and jump on a moving train. We arrived at Jodhpur and got to our guest house where we sat overlooking the city playing games together.
We had one day in Jodhpur which started by zip lining in the fort which sits overlooking the city. Jodhpur is known as the blue city as in the old town all the houses are pained blue. It was so amazing to be flying across the beautiful views. We then visited a stepwell which we could walk down and watched some crazy people jump into it from quite a height! We sat in the sun enjoying lunch together before walking around the markets. From living in India for 3 months we have become pros as bargaining and enjoy haggling with the sellers. We went for again another lovely meal looking over the city and fort at night, ready for our midnight train to our final destination. Sleeping on the trains was very fun. After getting settled in the rocking of the carriage lulled you to sleep, making the journey pass significantly faster than the others!
In the early hours of the morning we reached Jaisalmer. We have left the city vibe behind to welcome the town in the desert. We had a little sleep and then explored the fort and markets. We sat by the lake and spent time talking to people we met. Here to finish our travels we did an overnight camel safari which was such an incredible experience. We set off early morning, had breakfast and then a jeep took us into the middle of the desert where we were introduced to our camels. We rode though the desert and stopped off to have lunch. We were being looked after by people that lived in the desert. We had a great time watching and helping them cook us some amazing rice and mixed veg which they did by starting a fire with from wood they found around.
We carried on riding though the desert and praying for the clouds to part so we could see the sunset and stars in the night. We arrived at the beautiful sand dunes where we were to sleep. We went for a walk and were able to see an amazing sunset. Then we sat by the fire and had another lovely meal. After a little walk in the moonlight we laid on the sand snuggled under blankets.
We woke up to the sunrise and then set off back on the camels. We then went back to our hostel and packed ready for our long journey back to Delhi.
A journey that was meant to take 16 hours turned into 20 hours but we had a great time sleeping on a sleeper train once again and being with each other as one big team. We then arrived in Delhi and relaxed together before we waved goodbye team Kolkata for 2 and a half months.
It was great to be able to spend some time exploring India, we feel so incredibly blessed for all these experiences we have had and for the amazing people we got to meet and experience it with.

Highlights:

Miriam

I was slightly nervous to spend Christmas away from home for the first time but it was an amazing experience. Getting to be creative with Naomi and Megan’s gifts was fun, although slightly stressful. Then again, the fact that present giving was one of the biggest stresses in my life felt truly wonderful and so was a gift in itself. Getting to open my stocking and watching Megan and Naomi open their’s was just the right mixture of new and old – making me feel Christmassy but in a unique and special way. The day continued like that: a fabulous mixture of traditions, like having a special Christmas dinner, and new experiences, like having a mutton korma for dinner. Overall it was an exciting and nostalgic day that I thoroughly enjoyed.

Our holiday with team Kolkata was a real treat. Every new city was different to the last and reminded me of how blessed I am. Picking a favourite moment feels much like choosing between cake and pizza, every day was different but equally wonderful. Having said that I think I quite possibly had the most magical 19th birthday ever. Getting to spend it at an Elephant sanctuary was beyond crazy. Feeding, painting, washing and walking the elephants was incredible and the hours absolutely flew by. We also had a homemade Indian meal for lunch. I’m going to miss eating roti with everything when I get home. What really made the holiday special though was all the people we met and had the privilege to talk to. That and the fact that Rajasthan was considerable hotter than Delhi!

Megan

Christmas away from home for the first time was strange, but it was a truly special day. I enjoyed spending time with the girls, celebrating together and attending an English speaking church all dressed up in our sari’s. It was so nice sharing a meal and movie with our supervisors, feeling so much love and joy, a day I will remember!

Wow. Our holiday was just incredible. Amongst the amazing monuments, sunsets, sunrises, elephants and zip-lines its so hard to pick a favourite moment. However, there are some key moments that I adore. New Years eve is one. A very joyous evening, spending time together, chatting, eating and reminiscing on the year gone and looking to the year ahead. I went into new year with a huge smile on my face! Another thing I loved about our holiday was the rooftop restaurants we went to. As we traveled around a lot it meant a lot of eating out. This was a great chance to try some delicious Indian food! We found some amazing rooftop restaurants overlooking the city lights and the spectacular forts of Rajasthan, great food and great views!

If I had to chose one location we went to which was my favourite, I would have to say Jaisalmer. I choose this because of the lovely people we met and the amazing experience of spending a night in the desert. We were took on the safari by some men who lived in the desert and they were just so fascinating to get to know!  I loved chatting to them about their culture and finding out more about them. They were the loveliest people and I was amazed to hear that they could not read or write yet were trilingual. Sleeping in the desert was also just so special, being surrounded by sand dunes, sitting by the fire looking up at the stars in the sky. The stars were just insane, I couldn’t sleep as I couldn’t keep my eyes off them.

It was such a blessing to be able to spend this holiday with such amazing people and a real blessing to be able to have these incredible experiences.

Naomi

I didn’t fully know what to expect of an Indian Christmas. Safe to say that it was unlike any other Christmas I have experienced. It was such a privilege to hear a sermon in English, give and be given presents and watch a Christmas movie. What I loved the most though was the feeling of being in a family. Although it was strange to be away from the people I have spent every Christmas with up to this point, I was so blessed to spend it with my team who I know consider my family as well as with our supervisors who continue to treat us like their adopted girls!

In case you haven’t picked up on this yet in the blog- holiday was a truly magical experience. I may or may not have done my travelling round Rajasthan with my stuff in my mum’s old backpack to officially be able to say that ‘on my gap year I backpacked round the Golden Triangle’! There was so many unforgettable moments and experiences that we had that will forevermore circle around my small-talk repertoire. Some of my favourite moments, however, came at times I wasn’t expecting to take memories away from. The trains were often the settings of many of these encounters. We had lengthy theological discussions with newly made Christian friends, a lady gestured for me to hand over my knitting and she completed a row and walked off and another lady shared her food with us!

Prayer Points:

– Thanks for the blessings God pours out to us and for our safety
– We feel at peace and continue to find joy in project work
– We can make the most of the last couple months and make lasting impacts
– Prayer into any project work we are able to be involved in, and for opportunities to share the good news and impact lives.

 

2 replies
  1. Erin S says:

    I’m glad you guys had such a nice Christmas and holiday and I hope you are enjoying getting back to work with your projects again, love and prayers

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