The days leading up to this moment have been a blur, mixed emotions of excitement, anxiousness, letting go of the standard and for once in my life, instead of waiting for the feeling of freedom to happen to me, taking action to make it happen.
Before even boarding the plane I was struck with absolute luck, I wanted to get my backpack sealed at the airport to prevent damage, theft and drug trafficking. Instead, the guy advised me to get a backpack cover because it would protect my bag better, and the guy at the counter gave me a free lock worth €20,- because we had a nice conversation, how kind is that?! The first part of my journey to India was a flight to Dubai which went incredibly well, I have never flown with Emirates before this moment but it was always something I really wanted to experience. It did not disappoint. I was so impressed not only with the great food, the staff service, and general vibe but also because I had the absolute luck of having a full row of seats for myself and nobody sitting behind me. I watched the new Baywatch film and then went to sleep for about 2 hours before getting woken up in the middle of my deep sleep period by the intercom to let all the passengers know we were soon landing at DBX. Getting a nasty awakening during my deep sleep can really set me on edge. I was an extremely confused and flustered young lady!
When flying into Dubai I was awestruck with the magnificent surroundings, the desserts and beautiful sunrise was one of the most beautiful sights I had ever seen. Once at the airport it was time for coffee, happy to see a Costa Coffee stand I headed in that direction and quickly ordered a triple espresso with hazelnut. Whilst I wait for my order I was approached by the guy behind me in the line called Josh who asked me if he could use his UK debit card in Dubai. He was really friendly and we had a little chat before I had to go to my gate, he was going backpacking through Australia. He kind of set me at ease by telling me he had gone backpacking before and telling me what he liked about it and the feeling it gave him.
After getting through immigration in India I got a pre-paid taxi to take me to the hotel; I was so tired that I started to hallucinate and nod off in the taxi. Knowing it was probably a better idea to stay awake whilst alone in a cab it cost me all of my strength to stay focused. I must say that the way that they drive in India is rather different than I am used to in The Netherlands. There are no rules, you just drive and honk! People also seem to have a fantastic life insurance as everyone walks in front of the cars here! whether to get from A to B or to sell things to drivers. I have witnessed some absolute contrasts to the west within that hour-long drive. I think that that experience alone has already changed me.
Driving through the slums reminds me so much of Alladin, it is extremely chaotic people just hustling, working hard and also sleeping in the strangest places. I am not sure how anyone can sleep with cars honking as if it makes the cars accelerate. People looking at me through the window seemed shocked to see me and would want attention or need to look twice out of shock, very amusing! I can certainly believe Mumbai is one of the dirtiest cities in the world, there is garbage everywhere and people are just carelessly littering. The funny thing is, you look past it. It is almost like it is the most normal thing in the world and the garbage just belongs. I really expected it to smell so bad in India but it isn’t bad at all. I have been to smellier cities in Europe, trust me! The pollution is really bad though, so bad that it makes my eyes and throat really sore and it even looks like I have applied fake tan haha!
After arriving at my hostel, being shown to my room and meeting my 2 roomies Anna and Dennis, the first thing I wanted to sort out was a sim card, I had been warned that it would prove difficult and it did not disappoint. The first shop I went to where I asked for unlimited data the man gave me a sim card which literally read 50MB and the sim card wouldn’t even work until 2 days later. When pointing this out the salesman acted like I was a complete idiot and said it didn’t matter what it said on the card ‘ I will make sure that for you ma’am, it will be unlimited’. This man seemed to think he was a magician. It goes without saying that I looked onwards for a more reliable shop and finally found a good place where the data started immediately so that gave me peace of mind knowing that I can contact people at home when I want to and have access to Google maps when I need it.
To be completely honest I was rather wary before I came to India, I had heard so many horror stories of men touching and groping women in the media. I always do my best to stay positive and open-minded and I am pleased to say that up until now the stories in the media have definitely not been a proper representation of what Indian men usually are. Very polite, friendly and curious. At most, they like to have a good look and take a picture together but that is purely because I look different to them. It is the children and women who can be slightly on the annoying side.Women beg and try to get you to go with them to their house to help them. At least I can tell grown women and girls to eff off after 3 polite noes. The child beggars are the worst though, they can be so incredibly rude, touch and follow you even after telling them no 12 times. But how am I supposed to get rid of children without causing disruption and getting the blame?
After a short walk and sorting out my sim card I went back to the hostel to rest a little bit and get my head around the fact that I am in fact on my own in India. I had some chocolate and a catch up on WhatsApp with everyone back home and then my roomies came back, Anna and Dennis, the ones I told you about before. They are a couple from Lancaster, Dennis is actually originally from Greece but has been living in the UK for 10 years. They are absolutely lovely and interesting people. After some chat, we decided to go out for an evening meal together at 21:00 PM. Please understand that I was all ready to go to bed and I was in my PJ’s, but hey, a new experience with new people right! The three of us walked down the street and found a nice looking Indian place that wasn’t too expensive. I had vegetable korma with garlic naan and it was utterly delicious! Honestly such good food! It was rather funny that when we were eating 5 staff members stood around us and stared at us whilst we were eating and in conversation until we were finished as if we were zoo animals.
We had a small walk after dinner just to walk off dinner before heading to bed as I was exhausted from my journey and Anna and Dennis were catching a train early in the morning.