A city of beautiful contradictions: My first trip to New Delhi

8 March 2017

by Chido Dandajena

You can read and hear many things about India, but it’s nothing close to what the travel blogs will tell you. It’s a country of fascinating juxtapositions and stark contradictions: enchanting, urban, restricted, with beautiful people in some unexpected places. It’s essence can’t be captured in text, but I can take you back to the learning experience that changed my perspective on myself, other people and how my actions affect the world I live in.

Stepping out the plane into the grand Indira Gandhi International Airport, the air humid and dense, it’s nothing like I expected. Above the terminal gates nine pristine, hand-shaped sculptures (mudras) are mounted, greeting me as I pass through the gateway to New Delhi.

Mudras_at_Indira_Gandhi_Delhi_1007

Among the busyness and rushed crowds, I spotted a friendly face holding up a placard with my name on it — relief! I’m warmly welcomed by my host who’s struggling to hide her excitement. Luggage collected, cab hailed and we’re off we’re off to my accommodation. My New Delhi journey is really beginning!

Chaat (Street food) - Chandni Chowk

There are hollers and honks from cab drivers, bumper-to-bumper traffic, and hustlers trying to make a quick buck with whatever they can sell you (doesn’t help that I stick out like a sore thumb with my tourist vibe), and the sweet and tangy scent of chaats and spices being sold at shop corners and street carts squeezed on every sidewalk. My entire opinion of New Delhi can be summed up in one phrase — diversity in unity. From the hustle and bustle of Chandni Chowk (inner streets and shopping mall) to tranquil, sunrise yoga sessions in the Lodi Gardens, this feeling is constant and intoxicating.

If you want to experience ‘dili’ not Delhi, it doesn’t get more authentic than a tuk-tuk ride through Chandni Chowk. This famous mall provides everything from books, clothes, food, souvenirs at dirt-cheap prices,surrounded by overcrowded pathways coupled with the chaos of traffic, customers and sellers intersecting and colliding. For those who persevere, the rewards are delectable and worth it. Insider tip: Gyani Ji Ki Fruit Cream standing in front of Gurudwara and Natraj Key Dahi Bhelley near Central Bank are must-eats!

Like any city, among the beauty there are also areas to be improved. Being a woman in New Delhi is not easy.Simply using public transport here will more often than not be accompanied by unwelcome winks and comments from men. Although, staying vigilant and taking the safe options my host family told me about meant I was fine.

Chandni Chowk ShoppingThis gender dichotomy in India is what motivated me to come here to learn about the fight for gender equality. India is a strongly patriarchal society where women don’t have many of the freedoms we do in the developed world. Working in the development sector in New Delhi was humbling and eye-opening to the plight of some women and the starkly different lives they lead every day.

I left the city feeling inspired and invigorated to continue working for gender justice at home too.

During the course of my learning immersion, I saw more than my eyes could contain, smelt, tasted and experienced more than I ever had. Wide-eyed, I took it all in (I wasn’t sure when I’d get this chance again). I would recommend anyone who is serious about a future career in the development sector to travel abroad and get practical experience. It will enrich you, challenge you and give you a far more enlightened perspective.  

Experience New Delhi by coming on if i could…‘s learning immersion programme this summer. Sign up here for more information.

Buddha

Why the world is traveling to New Delhi in 2017

15 February 2017

Why the world is traveling east to India this year, and why you should be too. The bustling country of India has seen a sudden, yet not-so-surprising rise in tourism in the last year. In New Delhi alone, foreign tourist arrivals notched up a 6.8% growth in January 2016 as compared to the same month in the previous year. This only makes us wonder what more is luring so many people from all across the globe to this melting pot of cultures and color? Or is the world only now realizing, what we at if i could…have always know.

If you’re not already convinced, here are a few of the many reasons why traveling to New Delhi is the coolest thing you could do in 2017!

Image source: www.ificould.co.za

Image source: www.ificould.co.za

Culture & Sightseeing
India is one of the world’s oldest and most diverse cultures. It truly counts for an experience to see how the language changes every 20 kilometers and how people from religions like Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism, Christianity, Sikhism and Islam live together in one community. The well-preserved historical monuments are like storybooks carrying great tales of the past and taking a tour around them anywhere in the city is truly mesmerizing. New Delhi is home to the famous India Gate, Qutub Minar, Hauz Khas Fort, Humayun’s Tomb, Red Fort, Jama Masjid, Safdarjung Fort and the likes. And it’s not just the history that’s worth experiencing,  yoga in the parks and gardens all around the city is also a popular activity. Yoga sessions are held during sunrise in the beautiful Lodi Gardens by various institutes.

Daytime activities and a vibey nightlife
Apart from being the capital of India, New Delhi is also the party capital. While through the day, you can be entertained by a myriad of plays, musicals, and sightseeing tours, at night you’ll find a majority of the young crowd flocking to bars and clubs to unwind. Serving a population of 20 million, Delhi boasts of having over a thousand bars and restaurants. Whether your preference is for relaxing in a quiet wine-bar, or letting your hair down and dancing the night away in a nightclub. Nightlife means fun and entertainment: dance clubs, bars, parties, festivals, shows, restaurants, live music bands and all that. Popular areas include Hauz Khas Village, Connaught Place, Khan Market, Nehru Place, Saket and Greater Kailash – N Block.

An exotic culinary adventure
If there’s one thing every single person alive needs to do, it is to visit New Delhi solely for the food! Although Indian food is heavily influenced by religious and cultural choices and traditions, the use of herbs, spices, fruits and vegetables in combination make the food an out-of-this-world culinary experience. Apart from the famous ‘curry’, what is worth trying is the street food called chaat. Indian chaats are typically savory snacks found on roadside food carts and are very tangy and spicy. Nowhere else in the world can one find so much variety in food! Some of the highly recommended food markets include Chandni Chowk, Connaught Place, Paharganj and Lajpat Nagar.

Image source: www.ificould.co.za

Image source: www.ificould.co.za

Shoppers’ Paradise
Where’s the fun in going to malls and paying at MRP (maximum retail price) to quench your shopping desires? Luckily, New Delhi is more popular for street markets and offers a range of authentic and fashionable goods at great, negotiable rates. From saree shopping in Chandni Chowk to shopping for artifacts in Connaught Place, Delhi is a paradise one can get lost in. For heavier pockets, of course there’s no dearth of upmarket malls such as DLF Emporio, Select Citywalk and others.

Transport and Infrastructure
While New Delhi’s public transport system isn’t famous for its efficiency, there is an abundance of options for getting around the city and its surrounds, depending on your destination. To make things easier there are 4 main methods of getting around using public transport – metro, bus, auto (tuk-tuk) and cabs. The New Delhi metro system is the newest form of public transportation in the city, and rapidly becoming the most popular. It has been touted as Asia’s best rapid transit system. It’s also possible to book Uber and Ola cabs with your smartphones at all times. Delhi being the capital and home to the country’s parliament and ministries, is very well-maintained. The wide roads, the fancy skyscrapers, the lush parks and the colonial architecture around the city is quite breath-taking.  

Upbeat Hostels and Backpackers
It is heartening to see that even in far off corners of the country, a new travel culture is sprouting, one that is against the tried and tested clichés. As more and more Indians travel to distant lands, they bring back novel ideas and experiences challenging the status quo. One such concept is backpacking and using hostels as the primary choice for accommodation. New Delhi being the capital of India, attracts more than 180 000 foreign tourists a year and hence the city is seeing a rising demand for quaint and quirky hostels and backpackers. Madpackers, Jugaad, Boribista, Stop, Zostel and many such others have come up in the heart of the city.

image source: www.goldentriangletourindia.net

image source: www.goldentriangletourindia.net

The Golden Triangle
India is seeing an ever-increasing number of visitors who come to experience the unique blend of headiness that the subcontinent so effortlessly brews. The route between Delhi, Agra and Jaipur has, for many years, been a veritable ‘India 101’ – an introduction to those on tighter travel schedules. Most international travelers either fly in to or out of New Delhi, hence making it a perfect, yet quick stop for DIY-ers.
With so much to offer it’s no wonder the world is traveling toNew Delhi in 2017. All in all there is one phrase that best describes India, and that is ‘unity in diversity’. When will you be making your first trip?

Follow the link for more information on if i could… internships and how to apply.

Must-attend Cape Town events that contribute to making a change

25 January 2017

There are many theories behind Cape Town’s affectionately dubbed nickname the ‘mother city’, however, we’d like to believe it’s attributed to the city’s ability to create space for new ideas and cultivate a culture of positive change. 

Not only does the ‘mother city’ play host to the most magnificent natural landscape, there is also an endless list of things to do, places to see and activities to get involved in. Because this list is so diverse, we’ve broken it down for you into a list of must-attend-at-least-once events, taking place between January and March, which also contribute to making a difference in the city.

Open Streets Cape Town

Copyright www.openstreets.org

Copyright Open Streets

Open Streets Cape Town (OSCT) is a community-led initiative inspired by the need to create shared spaces in the city and with the aim to bring people together regardless of who they are or where they come from. Since it’s genesis in 2012, OSCT has grown into an annual highlight for locals and visitors. People from all over the city come together and the street is turned into a car-free playground of creative arts, yoga and anything fun, creative and inclusive. The heart of the initiative is rooted in ‘challenging paradigms of urban mobility…and ultimately drive behavior change around the role of streets in the life of the city’. 

The concept originated in Bogotá, Colombia where it’s known as “Ciclovía” and attended by approximately two million people on a 120-kilometre stretch of car-free streets every Sunday and public holiday. It has since been adopted by 400 other cities around the world.

Check their website for the next Open Streets event taking place in Mitchell’s Plain www.openstreets.org.za

Lace up for Cancer Fun Run

Runners world dot co dot za

Copyright Runner’s World

This World Cancer Day Hospice Palliative Care Association in collaboration with the Cancer Alliance (CANSA, Choc, Love Your Nuts, People Living With Cancer and Sunflower Fund) hosts their annual, family-friendly fun run to raise funds for all living with and affected by cancer. 

If you’re not in the greatest shape, that’s okay too, show up in your craziest outfit and come and enjoy the live performances, food trucks and plenty of prize giveaways.

Lace up for Cancer Fun Run takes place on the 4th of February 2017, take a look at their site for more details www.hpca.co.za/about/lace-up

Cape Town Cycle Tour

Photo by Sam Clark /CTCTT / Gallo Images

 

The largest, timed cycling event in the world takes place annually in Cape Town. Sunday, 12 March will mark the 40th year of Cape Town Cycle Tour and will see 35 000 cyclists lining up to ride the 109km, picturesque route with one of the world’s seven natural wonders as the backdrop. Seriously,  what more inspiration do you need?

For a fee, you can sign up to ride for one or more of the charities listed on their website. The Cape Town Cycle Tour was the first cycle event to include a comprehensive Environmental Management Plan which subsequently led to the International Cycling Union requiring a similar plan for all events under its organization. This definitely an event worth supporting, and no you don’t have to be Eddy Merckxo to participate, if you can ride a bike, you’re good!

www.capetowncycletour.com

Hope@PaulCluver Summer Festival

Copyright of www.cluver.com

This community-based performance series boasts its fourth successful year of bringing communities together to share high-quality and thought-provoking, musical and theatrical performances. The Thembalitsha Foundation and Paul Cluver Wines invites you to a night of comedy and classic films under the stars at the magnificent Paul Cluver, outdoor amphitheater. Support a worthy cause while being entertained by some of Cape Town’s top talent.

The Thembalitsha Foundation works to serve those in needy communities by equipping them to be self-reliant through the provision of health care, education and training initiatives.  

This event started in November 2016 and will run through February 2017, take a look at www.cluver.com for more details. 

There you go! You have no excuse not to be a change-maker especially if you can have fun while doing it. Look out for our upcoming April- June list of must-attend-at-least-once, change-making events in Cape Town.

8 pieces of advice to ensure a memorable and incident-free trip to Cape Town in 2017

9 January 2017

With Cape Town coming to the forefront as one of the best tourist destinations in the world, I’m sure by now you’ve heard your fair share of stories about the Mother City from those people you know who have visited before. While each person’s trip here is sure to go differently, there are still a few basics that you can stick to, to ensure the smoothest and most memorable internship experience in the oldest city in South Africa. Like any other popular tourist destination in the world right now, there are times when innocent individuals fall prey to petty crime such as theft, but we assure you that if you stick to the following tips, you will be able to keep those unfortunate incidents at bay and allow you to absorb Cape Town in whichever way you choose to.

cape-town-passport

When travelling abroad, documents such as your passport need to be kept safe at all times.

  • Documents and Cash  – Always try and separate your credit cards from your cash so that if anything happens to either of them you aren’t in a tough spot. Never carry large amounts of money with you and try and find out how much money you will need for the basics when getting around the city, such as train fair and taxi fair.  Try not to carry more than what is required for any given excursion. Do not accept any help from strangers at an ATM and always report any lost or stolen documentation to the authorities immediately.
  • Insurance – It’s always a good idea to take out some sort of travel insurance. Whether it be for your property or for medical care, insurance will stand you in good stead should anything go wrong. South Africa has excellent medical care and any hospital will be able to take good care of you should you get injured while hiking or during other similar activities.
  • Know the numbers that count – A few relatively simple numbers to jot down and keep close by just in case you should fall victim to any petty crime. You can call the police from any public phone or landline using 10111 or if you are using a cellphone you can reach them on 112 (both free calls). Being voted as one of the top tourist destinations in the world, most of our reputable tour guides have excellent first aid skills, but should you find yourself needing emergency medical attention you can reach the National Ambulance Service by dialing 10177.

cape-town-emergency-numbers

It’s always a good idea to familiarise yourself with emergency numbers in the city you are visiting.

  • Staying at your accommodation  – During your flights, make sure to never leave your luggage unattended and always keep your bags within arms reach. Careless tourists make for soft targets to opportunistic thieves anywhere in the world. Avoid allowing strangers into your room and never disclose any of your passwords with people. Additionally, most places have some sort of security deposit box so that should keep important valuables safe for the duration of your stay.
  • Considering driving? – Always remember when driving in Cape Town to keep to your left! Another important thing to consider is that most cars in South Africa are of the manual or ‘stick shift’ variety and the automatic cars are usually the more expensive option when looking to hire. Cape Town drivers are generally laid back and are for the most part courteous drivers. Just remember to not panic, stick to the basics and always try and be mindful of jaywalkers as people down here have the tendency to not use pedestrian crossings.

driving-a-beetle-in-cape-town

Remember, when in Cape Town, always keep to the left!

  • For outings – Try and get your hands on a map of the city as soon as possible. The geography of the city can be confusing to many, as essentially Cape Town is a peninsula surrounded by water on three sides with a massive mountain range running through the middle. We have quite a straight forward street layout, so you should be able to get the hang of finding your way around in next to no time.
  • When swimming – With so many beautiful beaches littered all over Cape Town, you will more than likely find yourself venturing out for a swim or a tan at some point or another. When using any of the beaches, always make sure that you swim only if there is a lifeguard on duty, always try to swim in a group or with someone else and never alone. Make sure you have a good sunscreen as the African sun does pelt down some powerful rays, so protecting your skin is of utmost importance as temperatures in summer often exceed the 30 degree Celsius mark most of the time.

swimming-in-cape-town

Cape Town’s beaches are one of the city’s main attractions.

  • For hiking  – With one of the new 7 Wonders of Nature taking center stage in Cape Town, Table Mountain alone offers you a variety of different trails of varying difficulty that caters to all sorts of fitness levels. When exploring the great outdoors, always try and stay in a small group of about 4 people, keep your mobile phone fully charged and with you at all times should you get stuck or lost. The weather is known to change on the drop of a dime, so even if it appears to be hot and sunny outside always take along something warm just in case the weather decides to take a turn for the worst. Again, a map will come in handy when trying to get around here too.

hiking-in-cape-town

A group of students together on a night hike.

Simple enough to remember right? While these may sound like the downright basics of travelling to anywhere in the world, it’s usually only when these relatively simple things to keep in mind get overlooked that things go wrong, so be sure to always be aware. Otherwise make the most of your time in this wonderfully rich and diverse city and submerge yourself into our fabulous culture while you spend your time interning.

For more great reads on Cape Town and other tips and tricks for making the best out of your internship, be sure to join our Facebook page where we have regular updates on interning in Cape Town, South Africa!

(images in this post are sourced from the internet)

5 ways to change the world this holiday season

5 December 2016

The fact that it’s almost the end of 2016 seems crazy — there are still so many journeys to go on and so much good to do! So as we approach the warm and fuzziest (maybe only metaphorically if it’s winter where you are right now) time of year, we thought of a few final ways you can make a really good impact on the world and have a happy holiday at the same time:

  1. Donate your christmas: instead of getting gifts from family or friends, why don’t you pick a cause close to your heart and ask them to give gifts or donations to that charity instead. You all get the good vibes and a hard-working cause gets some extra help. Hooray!
  2. Have a community christmas: it’s not just a holiday for family, you can have friends, colleagues and anyone you know in your community who doesn’t have people to spend the day with over to your celebration to let them know they’re special.
  3. Up your ‘random acts of kindness’ quota this season: it’s as simple as that — commit to being extra nice to everyone you meet for as long as you can. One kind act for a stranger every day? Sounds amazing!
  4. Make instead of buy all your gifts: if you’re giving loved ones gifts this year, why not see if you can make them instead of buying them? The recipient will appreciate it more because you spent extra time on it.
  5. Book an internship with an NGO for 2017! (We couldn’t resist.) If you want to make long-lasting change with a cause that’s working really hard in a beautiful part of the world, there’s your answer. We’re accepting applications for 2017 now!

However you’re celebrating the end of the year, we hope you’re safe and happy, with people you care about, and are relaxing after another crazy year!

christmas

 

 

 

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