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Thursday January 18, 2018

Thursday January 18, 2018
Greetings from Delhi! I am writing you from our YMCA hostel in central Delhi; the toilet is making a loud humming noise, my fellow seniors are chatting about the day, and the city is still awake, even at 12:12 am. We had a very eventful day! We woke up early and visited a Sikh temple, toured the Salaam Balaak trust, visited a 16th century Mughal tomb, and had our final goodbyes with our Dragons instructors.

We gathered bright and early in the lobby of the YMCA hostel. We walked through the foggy and polluted streets of Delhi to a nearby Sikh temple. When entering the Sikh temple, we were asked to remove our shoes, wear head scarves, wash our hands, and wash our feet. Imagine being barefoot on marble temple floor while it is 45-50 degrees; I couldn’t feel my toes. We gathered on the grounds and discussed our plan for the day. Hemant and Uttara, two of our Dragons instructors, then introduced the conversation of Gurus.

Hemant described a Guru as a life teacher that practices what they preach, and Uttara asked us to think of the Gurus we have encountered on this trip. On our walk home, I found myself reflecting on the impact people or things have had on me during our experience in India. The first Guru that came to mind was Rupa, a woman who works at Sheroes Cafe (we visited while we were in Agra). Rupa, along with other survivors of acid attacks, has chosen to live her best life, despite being outcasted from society. Sita, a student at the Vatsalya school, functioned as our Bollywood dance guru. The elephants at Wildlife SOS were our gurus in a lesson on forgiveness: elephants, despite being mistreated by humans, do not hate humans. They forgive. And, of course, Rebecca, Hemant, Uttara, Dina, Buffy, and Eric have been our gurus throughout India: they have taught us to recognize the complexities of Indian culture.

When we returned to the hostel, it was breakfast time. We feasted on soup and (what I describe as) mashed potato bites. I’m not even going to pretend that I know what they were called. I had a cup of coffee for the first time in two weeks, and despite the fact that is was a very mediocre cup of coffee, it tasted oh so good.

We were shuttled off in various cars to the Salaam Balaak Trust after breakfast where we met our tour guides for the day. The Salaam Balaak Trust is an organization that works to get children off the streets. Our tour guides were all teenage former street children. On our tour, as we walked through the narrow alleys of Delhi, we stopped at a wall of photos of religious gods. “Do you know why these photos are here?” our tour guide asked, and we shook our heads. After a couple of laughs from our instructors, we learned that the pictures of religious figures are up to prevent public urination in the alleyway, which was kind of hilarious. We met a handful of children that spend their days at the Salaam Balaak Trust and challenged them to some pretty intense thumb wars. All in all, the Salaam Balaak trust is doing really great work in Delhi and has helped thousands of street children.

After we escaped the labyrinth of alleyways surrounding the trust, we drove to a vegetarian South Indian restaurant. We feasted on masala dosas and, of course, chai. Our last activity of the day was Humayun’s tomb outside of Delhi. The building is an architectural precursor to the Taj Mahal constructed in the late 15500s-early 1600s. This is one of Uttara’s favorite places, and I understand why. There was an undeniable spirit of peace and happiness throughout the grounds. We had the opportunity to explore the grounds of the tomb and wander (my personal favorite activity).

We ate dinner at Pindi (10/10 would recommend the naan) and returned to the hostel for a memorable final meeting with our Dragons instructors. Tears were shed, yet laughs were shared. This afternoon, Kathleen described this trip as life changing, and I have to agree with her. And this trip wouldn’t have happened without our Dragons instructors. Rebecca, Hemant, and Uttara have shown us not only the physical India, but they have also allowed us to understand the mind of the Indian people. I am so grateful to know them.

Thank you for reading. We all look forward to seeing you soon.
Good night and good luck,
Maggie Tattersfield, Senior