Day one of the trip (or so we thought) commenced at around 9pm on Saturday the 14th of January. After days of packing and mentally preparing for a six week adventure in a foreign country, we all turned up to the airport to find that our flight was delayed until the next day. Although this may not seem like a big deal, it was actually quite a stressful experience because all of the emotions that we were feeling, had to be put on hold for another nine hours. After a few check-in and security hassles, we were finally on our way to Kuala Lumpur. The flight itself was 11 hours and went without a hitch. I managed to score an extra legroom seat for free which was awesome, but unfortunately one of my new friends stole the armrest for the entire flight; it’s still a touchy subject. Since the flight was delayed and we arrived in Kuala Lumpur later that day, we missed out connecting flight, so Malaysian Airlines gave us all a free stay in the Marriott hotel. This was an incredible experience: the pool and buffet were like nothing I have ever seen in a hotel. They even had ice cream for breakfast!
After a full day exploring Kuala Lumpur and visiting the Petronas Towers, the fourth largest building in the world, it was time to catch our second flight to Mumbai. This flight was also super smooth and only five hours long. We arrived at around midnight, were all exhausted, and super thankful to be able to go straight to sleep in our new home for the next 6 weeks: the YWCA international house in Colaba, south Mumbai. The first two days in Mumbai were spent with our coordinators and expert local guides, Naveen and Mala. They taught and showed us everything we would need to thrive in Mumbai. This included places to eat; how to cross the road without getting run over; and transport to use including Kaali Peeli’s, auto rickshaws and the local train network.
After our crash course in Mumbai life, it was time to start our internships. My internship is at an NPO called United Way Mumbai, who run countless projects across various sectors such as education, finance, environmental and health. It was fantastic to see how an organisation of this magnitude runs and what is even better, is that I am now a part of it too. The project that I will be working on over the coming six weeks will be to do with the measles outbreak in three of Mumbai’s biggest slums. My second day at work was a field day. I got to sit in on an extremely interesting meeting with an incredible team United Way staff and doctors, including Mangala Gomare who is the Executive Health Officer at BMC. This meeting really set the scene for me in terms of what I will be working on in the coming weeks. Despite only two days at work, I was absolutely exhausted and fell asleep as soon as I got home. Little did I know that I would definitely be needing this sleep as tomorrow morning’s 8am group activity was a cleanup on Dadar Beach. This was also amazing to be a part of and felt very rewarding. As a treat, we went out in the evening to see the sunset which was gorgeous.
On Sunday, nine of us headed to the Elephanta Caves on Elephanta Island, which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The caves were fascinating to look at and equally interesting to hear about from a local guide. I would highly recommend getting a guide. Unfortunately, this was the day that around 9 of us, including me, started to feel sick. The whole barrage of symptoms started almost immediately on Sunday afternoon and have still not let up. As a result I missed work today and quite possibly will tomorrow too which is a shame as we are not here for long and I don’t want to miss out. Despite this, I am hopeful that once our systems adjust to the different culture there will be minimal sickness and we can continue to enjoy and experience this wonderful place and all that it has to offer.