Key turned, Choke on, clutch pulled, Neutral in, then a heavy pull (a very heavy pull) on the Lever! …. and off we go: In the last ten days Sofia, Phil, Clare, Tom and myself have travelled more than 2000km – through 6 six states of India, over tiny country roads and big three lane highways – all filled with potholes of ever increasing depth. Through rain forests and arid deserts. We have driven through the largest slum of Asia and beautiful nature reserves (but did see neither elephants nor tigers – maybe our 50km/h max speed was too fast) and all along the way we have encountered terrible traffic
Our adventure through India took an ever more exciting turn after a small speed miscalculation led the rather top-heavy vehicle straight into a stone fence – this left me with some bruises and a rather deep hole in my leg. A unique opportunity to not just explore India’s education, but also its medical system….. honestly, India’s public hospitals are not the be missed – as a sight: they seem to be unchanged since the early british colonial days! Nevertheless I got welcomed with an open heart, a big smile and the kind of inquisitive, friendly curiosity that lets me visit ever new countries. During the one night i had to spend in a local hospital i received more visitors, had to explain more often where i come from and what i do, then ever before!
But all is good, and i am back in the rusty can- our rickshaw that is falling apart more and more – the wonderful decoration, put up with so much care at the start in Cochin has almost gone, exchanged with wonderful memories and experiences – a lot of things i will miss, and some i will not:
- The habit of “just 5 minutes, Sir” – which in plain english means anything from 15 minutes to 4 hours. In the meantime i can take it with a smile – the trip has been a wonderful cure to my impatience.
- The head wobble: the first time i saw it i thought that i was being made fun of – but its a truly magnificent gesture that can mean anything from, yes, no, i don’t understand to how are you?
- the amazing mechanics, that by solely listening to your vehicle for 10 seconds know exactly what small little screw is broken….and where exactly do they have all the fitting spare parts stored (new exhaust anybody?)
- the exponential trend of traffic – best observed in Mumbai – from being empty and quiet at 6.30am the traffic increases steadily to become a nightmare of honks, squeaks, noises, engines and pollution in late afternoon – almost by the minute it gets worse
- the big smiles of kids when we reach a new village, the curiosity and unbelief that our rickshaws get and at the extreme: the crowds that are drawn (and appear from seemingly nowhere) when I fly the drone.
- the amazing chinese whispers – within half an hour after handing out some Playmobil toy figures in a local school, people started to queue outside our hotel room to get some as well. News spread fast!
- i rather not gonna miss the toilets (or the absence thereof) – we observed some pretty dreadful places and although it seems that more and more public toilets are being built, they never seem to be close when you need one (Dehli belly anybody?) …. and why is there nowhere any toilet paper?
- the bureaucracy – i have never filled out so many forms! – in order to load a rickshaw on the train the relevant check in documents needed to be stapled, holed and then glued to some other documents – all after it took us almost an hour to fill in the documents.
- Insane bus drivers – I have seen quite some reckless driving over the years – but the fierceness and determination that local buses show when overtake is unmatched – especially when they are facing straight at you on your lane! Guess who blinked first!
- But most of all I we learned to appreciate the Unexpected – every plan was already history by the time it got formulated….
However, our mission is not just been to have fun – as mentioned in my last post, team Education Explorers was out to explore and get a deeper understanding the Indian education system and also promote girls education …… all this has brought us in contact with a lot of amazing people. We have visited schools all along the way – from Karnataka to Rajasthan… so far its too early to write a full conclusion (although a picture is emerging) – more in that next time… now 750km more to go – May the Rickshaw be with us!
Here some impressions from the way!
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