Our Travel Blog
We finally left Bangalore on the Saturday afternoon of April 21st.  We wish to thank everyone in Bangalore who helped us during our stay and farewell greetings to those who we did not get a chance to see prior to our leaving.  We are fortunate to have met so many wonderful people there.  
We made it to the train station in just enough time to make it comfortably onto the train without having to rush, thanks to a friend who at the last minute gave us a ride.  On the train, there was a minor misunderstanding with the assigned seating and berths (padded sleeping boards).  The same seat and berth number was given twice to different people.  After some communication an agreement was worked out with the help of the conductor.  
On this trip, after two to three words exchanged with her, Karen was asked by a young Indian male who sat next to her if she would sponsor him to go to Canada.  Obviously the answer was no, even after the topic was brought up several times by the same individual.  How could anyone consider becoming the sponsor of someone you just barely met?  The next morning while Ivan was resting on an upper side berth, Karen was on the lower side berth.  She was trying to sleep seated, when after one particular stop she was joined by 5 children and one mother who all, of course, chose to sit next to her on the same berth!  In India there seems to be a different concept of "personal space" than in North America.  Even while standing in line anywhere, one has to stand defensively, very close to each other in order to avoid people taking their places directly in front of you, out of order, as if you were invisible.  This phenomenon was also experienced by Karen very frequently while living in Germany...
We arrived in Pune on Sunday morning and found a bus to take to Panchgani by late afternoon.  Panchgani is a modern hill station located in the Western Ghats with a beautiful view of the the Krishna River.  On the way to the bus station, we passed sooo many educational institutions that it looked like the trees of a forrest!  In Panchgani we visited the following three organizations: the Bahá'í Academy which offers education in Universal Human Values to foster social progress, New Era School which offers residential high school education where pupils coming from different countries come to appreciate excellent results in an atmosphere melted with moral and spiritual values (about 10% of the pupils are from bahá'í families) and the last one, the New Era Development Institute (NEDI) whose purpose is to provide teacher training to 200 youth coming from rural areas of India with the intention to train them to open the first school of their village upon returning there for the kids of their community, so far deprived of this chance "to go to school".  Again in Panchgani, we made some wonderful friends with whom we will surely keep in touch with.
We left Panchgani early Tuesday morning by bus in order to reach the Pune railway station with enough time to spare to get our train tickets to Indore sorted out from "wait listed tickets" to "confirmed seat tickets".  After many attempts and wait we ended up with a guarantee of only one berth for the two of us on the train (the other one being only a seat number to share with someone else), we decided to refund the ticket and go by bus instead.  We left Pune at 18:29 on a "sleeper" bus for which we got a reasonable last minute deal to go to Indore.  It was the first time that either of us had taken a sleeper bus with real couches (see our pictures!) and it ended up being bumpier and far less comfortable than the 2nd class sleeper train.   We arrived, with not so much rest, in Indore late Wednesday morning.
We took a local city bus to get to the Barli Developmental Institute for Rural Women, where we met Silène, a friend of Ivan's from France, who had been volunteering there for already 3 and a half months.  We also met Rochan, another volunteer, from Spain for the first time.  At the institute, young women learn basic Hindi reading and writing skills, how to use solar cooking technology for ovens and stoves to cook meals, Batik printing of material used to make bed sheets, curtains, clothing, etc., how to make other crafts which they could later sell, crop agriculture, basic hygiene and cleanliness principles, etc.  The women then leave after 6 months to go back to their village, use and share their newly acquired skills which they learned during their training at the Barli Institute.
Early Thursday afternoon we left Indore by train to go to Delhi.  We are looking forward seeing the House of Worship again!!  Delhi was reached on Friday morning.  Our intention was to stay only one night before traveling to Chandigarh, our goals were to send some parcels of books and make it to the House of Worship one more time before leaving India.  It took us time to strategically fit all of the books which we wanted to send in a single box and then to head off to the General Post Office (GPO).  
There, we learned that in order to receive the special book rate, we had to fulfill specific requirements.  The books could only be sent in boxes no more than 5 kg each and each box had to be wrapped in a cotton material with one end open to ensure that they could see we were only sending books.  A man outside of the post office offered the service of packing and wrapping (sewing cotton material around the box) according to the correct specifications for 150 Rs per box!!!  We thought this price was outrageously high (that's actually almost the price to send the parcel itself !) and therefore went to another post office in town, by foot, carrying all of our books in the typical HEAT of India at this time of year, in hopes of finding another wrapper who would offer his services at a reasonable rate.  By the time we reached the other post office, the post office people we met inside told us it was closed.  So, we had to go back to the GPO and negotiate a less expensive price of 60 Rs per box for wrapping.  The GPO was closed by the time the 4 boxes were wrapped so we headed back to where we were staying, this time by auto rickshaw, as we would have to send them the next day.  
On Saturday morning we left early to reach the Bahá'í House of Worship (Lotus Temple) for one last visit.  By 9:00 it opened and people were already waiting to get in.  In the afternoon we sent the parcels of books successfully.   By this time we had given up our original plan of going to visit friends in Chandigarh because it was getting too late (it takes 5 hours by bus to reach Chandigarh and we were in the middle of the afternoon, far from our bags and from the bus stand).  We went to the railway station to change our ticket Chandigarh-Kolkata to Delhi-Kolkata, wanting to pay by traveller cheque (a service which they advertised) and encountered again more difficulties.  The day seemed to present every simple task with great complications.  What we could have gotten done in 2 hours in Europe, had taken us 2 days in India.  By 16h00 Sunday afternoon, we were on the train to go to Kolkata from the New Delhi Railway Station.  
That's it for the news!  Next update will be sent from Thailand!  Cheers!!
Sunday, April 29, 2007
On the Road Again

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