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Monday 19 July 2004
Working abroad: Andrew Webster
Written by Andrew Webster, AIESEC member
Andrew at the Taj Mahal
Andrew at the Taj Mahal

Andrew Webster is travelling to India this summer.

He's travelling with the AIESEC student organisation, and he'll be writing a regular diary on BBC Birmingham.

SEE ALSO

Stevie Cameron
Stevie's in The Philippines.
Introduction
Diary 1
Diary 2
CSR Conference
Diary 3
Diary 4

Andrew Webster
Andrew's in India.
Introduction
Diary 1
Diary 2
Culture Shock!
Diary 3
Diary 4
Diary 5

Jess Rudkin
Jess is working in the Czech Republic.
Diary 1
Diary 2
Diary 3
Diary 4
Diary 5

James Eder
James is sharing his marketing skills with local people in Colombia.
Introduction
Diary 1 - 2 - 3 - 4 - 5
Diary 6 - Aims
Diary 7 - 8 - 9 - 10 - 11
Diary 12 - 13 - 14 - 15
Diary 16 - 17 - 18 - 19

Working with AIESEC
Jame Eder introduces the student organisation.

AIESEC in Birmingham
Amaneeta Shokur explains more about AIESEC and how she is involved.

Scheila
Scheila came to Birmingham from Brazil on a student scheme run by AIESEC.

Students index

India
Profile of the country from BBC News.
WEB LINKS

AIESEC
Official website for the UK.

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external websites.

FACTS

INDIA FACTS

Population: 1 billion
(UN, 2003)
Capital: New Delhi
Major languages: Hindi, English and 17 other official languages
Major religions: Hinduism, Islam, Christianity, Sikhism, Buddhism, Jainism
Monetary unit: 1 Indian Rupee = 100 paise
Exports: Agricultural products, textiles, gems and jewellery, software and technology, engineering goods, chemicals, leather

AIESEC FACTS

AIESEC (pronounced "i-sek") stands for the Association for the International Exchange of Students in Economics and Commerce.

AIESEC is the world's largest international student organisation with 30,000 members in over 86 countries.

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Since I arrived back in Delhi after the conference, I have had to adjust to living in a huge city by myself, where to the majority of people, I am seen as different. This some, this means different in terms of wealth, in which case I am victim to hoards of scams and rip-offs everyday. But to many others, I'm different in terms of culture, in which case people are interested in talking to me and finding out where I am from and why I am in India.

Andrew sit with his feet up on a lawn near the Taj Mahal
Putting my feet up

The trouble has come in gauging peoples intentions. In quick judgments, I've been rude to genuinely friendly and interested people and trusted people who have then tried to fleece me for all they can.

I have had a lot of time to adjust and I've been able to do some travelling, spend time with the AIESEC members and meet more of the international trainees.

Delhi never sleeps

I felt like we had entered a war zone when we arrived at New Delhi train station. It was 6am so we expected Delhi to be sleeping. Lesson one: Delhi never sleeps.

After studying the guidebook, we were well aware of the type of scams operating here, so ignored everyone who approached us on our way to the 'Enquiry' desk. Here we were told that the train to Jaipur was not running that day, but not knowing who to trust we made our way over the masses of sleeping bodies and through the crowds of people to the tourist bureau.

The man in the uniform at the top of the stairs in front of the bureau said it was 'closed' and took us to the 'Emergency Ticket Office' also known as a travel agent. As we sat in front of the desk being told all trains to Agra and Jaipur were fully booked it became apparent that we were fresh victims of a Delhi tourist trap.

Back on the street everything seemed a little clearer, the road was crowded with people offering us private cars, hotels to stay in and cheap rides to emporiums. Feeling somewhat overwhelmed we took the first rickshaw to a more somber area of Delhi - home.

No amount of reading could of prepared me for that. It was such an intense environment, crowds of people everywhere, immense noise and pollution all around and what seemed like everyone trying to offer you something or other. You can't think or communicate and in trusting that one person, we were conned.

Although it had been a frustrating experience I was confident that I would be better prepared next time and less likely to fall.

Relaxing in Jaipur

We eventually got to Jaipur, except it was on a bus and not a train. I was traveling with Aga, a new Polish trainee who lives in the same flat with me along with Philippe from Switzerland.

Jaipur is a beautiful city, not as big as Delhi, so not quite as crowded and polluted. The main attraction is the 'Old City' also known as the 'Pink City'. It is a walled city filled with majestic pink palaces and architecture dating back to the 14th and 15th century. Within these old pink walls there is also plenty of modern day charisma with lively markets, a diverse range of animals on the streets - monkeys, elephants and camels - and the ever-present mass of auto-rickshaws dominating the roads.

In the evening, we made maximum use of the AIESEC network. I contacted some members living in Jaipur and we met with them and a new trainee from Bulgaria to have some dinner and share our stories of India.

It was a great night and a prime example of why being in a global organization like AIESEC is so amazing. I am confident that I could of organized the same sort of evening in most major cities in which AIESEC is present throughout the world.

Wonder of the world

Visiting the Taj Mahal
Visiting the Taj Mahal

We went on to visit Agra and the Taj Mahal before going back to Delhi. It is - as everyone says - 'a wonder of the world' and has such an aura about it, especially from a distance. India too obviously realizes what a treasure they have and now charge tourists 750 rupees to enter - the equivalent to traveling 221km on a rickshaw!

Chased by traders

Again, like at New Delhi train station, everywhere we went we were approached by people trying to make money out of us. When we arrived in both Agra and Jaipur, the door of the bus was surrounded by vulture-like drivers and with us being the only western-looking faces on board, we were the prime catch.

On two separate occasions, rickshaw drivers resorted to pushing each other in order to ask for our custom. Even at monuments, people aged 10 to 100 followed us up the street for as long as 10 minutes trying to sell everything you could imagine. "Postcards, LOOK SIR! POSTCARDS! 100 rupees, take them! take them! Take them!"

The experience gives you a whole range of feeling, from it being intimidating, sometimes funny and even irritating. However I am left with an overall feeling of pity, as it gives the impression of people being so desperate for money.

Sharing experiences

Andrew and housemates get a new fridge
The new fridge!

As I previously said, I now live with two trainees in Delhi, Aga from Poland and Philippe from Switzerland. It gives you so much extra support to spend your time with people facing the same challenges as you.

We have been able to laugh at the less enjoyable experiences, such as being locked out and having to sleep on the porch, and we enjoy and share the good experiences, such as meeting people and travelling (and getting a new fridge - see photo!). It is said that people pull together in adverse circumstances and that is certainly true in my experience of the trainee community in India.

I am fearful of giving India negative connotations in talking about all my experiences, when in actual fact I wouldn't describe any of my experiences as negative.

Small boy gets into Andrew touristy photo
Who's this?

I have come to accept that it is all part of living in India and it's what makes India such a unique country. It's like a world within itself. If there's one thing worth mentioning, it is that I never feel in danger. Although people approach you, it is mostly friendly regardless of your reaction to it, it's even hard not to smile back when your getting ripped off. (The cheeky local boy leapt into shot for the photo above and then demanded money!)

To me so far, India is an immense and beautiful country with people as welcoming as anywhere else in the world, and being here is giving me an amazing experience, which will stay with me forever.

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