As part of my great East Indian journey where I saw my first snow-capped mountain in Darjeeling and learned more about colonial India in Kolkata two years ago while volunteering in India, I paid my VSO batchmate co-volunteer Sue a visit at her placement area in Puri, Odisha.
It didn’t matter that it took me an overnight train journey to get to this coastal town by the Bengal Bay. It also didn’t matter that I was gonna stay with them for just a night, I think not even 24 hours, and be back on my way to Mumbai from Odisha’s capital city, Bhubaneswar (that was a 36-hour journey from East to West I think). What mattered was that I was finally able to see Sue, who was such an inspiration to me, during the time we were both struggling and somehow thriving living and working as volunteers in a foreign land, with all its good and bad days!
In this FotoFolio entry (which was inspired by a talk with a colleague traveling to Bhubaneshwar soon), let me show you how we made the most of my super short stay in one of the four holy / pilgrimage cities in India. Too bad Julie (also a VSO batchmate who traveled with me to Kolkata and Darjeeling), Amanda (another batchmate) and Ayumi (my co-volunteer since training in the Philippines) who were all based in Bhubaneshwar were also traveling somewhere else! In any case, it was still a visit that was worth it! 🙂
Day 1: Arriving and Connecting
On the first day, I think I got to Sue’s place already around mid-day. I remember visiting their organization’s office (SNDAYP). I wasn’t able to visit the resource center she helped build (as in raised the funds and designed it) for children with disabilities as it was far from where we were.
Most of the photos here are the “fun and touristy” bits though. Too bad I wasn’t able to take pictures of her with the kids, one of whom I distinctly remember to not even being able to stand up before Sue worked with him but has since been able to walk. It was a proud moment, really, in Sue’s eyes as he rushes towards her and gives her a hug!
Day 2: Wandering and Departing
By this day, I’ve already been traveling straight for like 8 or 9 days I think, sleeping on overnight trains and waking up somewhere unfamiliar. Although it was the first time for me to be at Sue and Steph’s place, our VSO co-volunteer and uber co-volunteer of Sue with SNDAYP, it felt familiar that I slept so well. Haha 🙂 I think it was also great to have someone make you a home-cooked meal. 😀
After breakfast, Sue and Steph brought me to the main area, the top tourist attraction in Puri, the Shree Jagannath Temple. This temple is one of the four pilgrimage temples in India. Each year, Hindus hold the famous Rath Yatra to honor Lord Jagannath. Even though by this time I already had my India culture-shock moment at Varanasi, I was still in awe to a) the population density of locals, tourist and cows in such a small area; and b) the devotion Hindus have for their 330 million gods, goddesses and deities.
After the quick visit to Shree Jagannath Temple area, we went to Cafe Coffee Day (imagine the Starbucks version of a coffee shop in terms of number of stores, seriously). According to Sue and Steph, this is their saving grace. Their access to something, errr, non-Indian and non-spicy whenever they miss the comforts of home.
And just like that, it was time to go. 🙂 But it was fun. It was among the highlights of my so-called great East Indian journey. 🙂 In retrospect, it really was. 🙂