We Crashed a Wedding

I’ve been carried away with a busy summer at work, neglecting my blog. Now summer is over and we’re into pumpkin spice season it’s time to get back on the blogging train. I’m going to kick start the autumn by sharing my final story from India, only five months after I returned home, oops!

Towards the end of our time in India we spent a couple of days in Jharkhand, India’s poorest state. Many of the children living in Bethel House and Bethany Home come from Jharkhand and some of them still have family living there. After the odious bus journey to Digha a week before, we were all glad to be making the journey to Jharkhand by train. We had even been treated to an air conditioned first class carriage which, as you can imagine, was pure luxury compared to the bus.

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You Don’t Have to be the Perfect Traveller to Travel

Two weeks ago I went on a trip for work to meet some students at Cologne Airport which is only 15km, or a short train ride, from the city centre. My inbound flight arrived at around 2pm and, as I had an overnight stay, I was fully intending on taking the short trip into the city and making the most of the opportunity to explore a city I had never visited before in a country I have only ever briefly stepped into (literally).

I left London with grand plans of navigating my way into the centre of Cologne on public transport and I had a list of places in the city that I wanted to go to. However, after landing a little later than expected and waiting longer than I would have liked for the hotel shuttle, I really didn’t have the energy to explore. Before this trip I’d never really travelled alone and, although I was on the same flight as some of our students heading home, I was responsible for getting myself to Cologne, I couldn’t rely on anyone else to help and I couldn’t just be a sheep following the herd as I’m guilty of usually doing when travelling with others.

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Back in The Toon

When I graduated from Northumbria University in July 2015 and left Newcastle, I was convinced that I would be making regular trips back to my favourite city over the year to come. My friends still lived there, it was much better for shopping than Scarborough and I liked being there. I knew that I had hopes of travelling during the year ahead but I fully expected that, when I had some downtime between my trips abroad, I would return to my favourite city and not let Newcastle become the place where I used to live. In reality, I moved back home, then I moved to Finland. A few months later I came back home again, then travelled some more and I was busy. My friends were now in their final year of University, they had lectures to attend and dissertations to write. I’d met new friends while I was working abroad and, rather than returning to Newcastle, I visited my new friends because I was all too familiar with the dissertation stress that my University friends would be experiencing. I didn’t want to bother them during the crucial last few months of their degrees or take up the valuable floor space that would inevitably be covered by miscellaneous lecture notes and textbooks.

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Sardines on a Bus

It’s been a while since I wrote my last blog post about India but I still have a tatty hand-written diary full of stories to tell. Today we’re having a #tbt Digha Beach in West Bengal and the six hour overnight coach journey which would take us there. We travelled overnight as it is undoubtedly much cooler on a bus without the midday sun beating down and the roads would also be quieter. The drive from Ranaghat to Digha took six hours and it didn’t even take us across the border of West Bengal. Although not all Indian roads are suited to smooth cruising at 70mph, if you consider how far a six hour journey would get you in the UK and compare it to the distance covered on the map of India below, it really puts into perspective the size of the country. Ranaghat is the red dropped pin on the map and Digha is a centimetre or two to the south west.

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Kelly’s Scarborough Adventure

When I was living in Newcastle I was totally spoiled for choice with lovely places to go for tea, coffee or lunch with friends but now I’m back in Scarborough, where everything seems to be set up for either tourists or grannies. Scarborough has definitely been lacking in cafes and coffee houses appealing to my generation, until now. Yay Coffee is my absolute favourite new place to go for a hot drink in Scarborough. My best friend Amy introduced me to Yay Coffee in October, just before I moved to Finland, and I’ve been taking more of my friends there ever since I’ve moved back home. I love the atmosphere, the staff are so friendly and it’s just a nice environment to sit and chat over a hot drink. I find a lot of coffee shops (especially chains) lack the cosy feeling that makes you comfortable enough to sit and chill out for a while. Naturally, the first stop when Kelly came to visit for a weekend of post-dissertation sunshine was to head to Yay Coffee with Sophie and have a much needed catch up over hot chocolates. I can’t quite believe that I hadn’t seen Kelly for seven months which is an incredibly long time considering we used to live together and I’d get to see her beautiful face every day (creepily peeking around my bedroom door in the morning while I was pretending to be asleep)! The last time I saw Kelly was at a bus station in Prague in October and since then we’ve both been hopping all over the world.

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Tuktuk Travel and Indian Markets

If you read my first India blog post you might remember that I referenced Jack’s Gap’s The Rickshaw Run, a YouTube series in which Jack, Finn and friends travelled the width of the country in tuktuks. For those of you who aren’t familiar with tuktuks, they’re motorised rickshaws (they kind of look like a cross between Hagrid’s motorbike and a smart car) mainly used as taxis in Indian towns and are definitely not the mode of transport I would choose for travelling across the country, especially when a six hour bus journey doesn’t even get you across one state!

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Meeting the Children and Exploring the Village

The night we arrived at Bethel House, after our perilous jeep journey (definitely not the worst mode of transportation I experienced in India), all of the boys were waiting to greet us but we didn’t get to meet the girls from Bethany Home until the next day. The girls are currently living in a rented building in the same village as the boys, about a ten minute walk away from Bethel House. They’re all very excited to be moving into the new Bethany Home which is currently being built around the corner from Bethel House. When the new home is ready Stepping Stones will be able to take in more than twice the number of girls that they have now and both Bethel House and Bethany Home will be able to give homes to forty children each.

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An Indian Adventure

When I first watched Jack’s Gap’s The Rickshaw Run, back in 2013, I could never have imagined that just a couple of years later I too would be in India, experiencing the chaotic madness that is an Indian road. If you haven’t watched The Rickshaw Run, I’ll link the first episode at the end of this post. One of the first things I noticed while re-watching the mini-series is that Jack and Finn must have chosen to show all of the ‘good parts’ of their journey through India and they even managed to make the Indian roads look reasonably civilised. They didn’t appear to find any cows asleep in the road, the sound of horns was barely audible, they had no near misses with any trucks or the back end of a cow and there wasn’t a single dead dog in sight!

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A Night at The Opera

I can’t quite believe that it’s already been two weeks since I left the beautiful city of Vienna, where I stayed in Wombat’s Hostel with Beth, Jasmine, Millie and Roxy for an Elfie holiday. The hostel was really nice and was located on the edge of The Vienna Naschmarkt (Vienna’s best-known market) which is home to lots of cafes, restaurants, street food stalls, tea shops, clothing and jewellery stalls and so much more. We were told that if you can’t find what you’re looking for at the market you won’t find it anywhere in Vienna. Every time you walked through the market you would be given so many free samples of food like falafel, nuts, dried fruits and, my favourite, candied hibiscus flowers. You could go in there feeling hungry and leave feeling full without actually buying anything.

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