Video: Paharganj Delhi Main Bazaar – Heaven or hell?

The Main Bazaar in Paharganj is by some Delhiites considered hell due to it’s reputation for drugs and shady characters. But as my good Indian friend told me “you can find these things everywhere in Delhi – they are just more obvious in the Main Bazaar”.

However, unlike many capital cities, Delhi actually feels pretty safe to me. This might be an illusion of course, but I like Delhi a lot and I also like the Main Bazaar. I have stayed there three times now and feel both comfortable there and quite at home. It is also the cheapest place to stay in Delhi and has lots of cheap restaurants, travel agencies and shops.

This video gives you a small idea about the character of the Main Bazaar – heaven or hell? Judge for yourself.

Easyjet: an incredibly BAD airline

I don’t usually post negative reports like this on the website, but I am doing it as it is relevant to anyone planning on travelling in Europe using a ‘budget airline’ like Easyjet (aka Sleazyjet). Think again.

Having been living in Spain now for nearly 8 months, I was really looking forwards to the first visit from my sister Hannah. We’d begun planning her four days here months ago, back in late October or Early November, organising work schedules, sightseeing tours etc.

With her due to arrive at 7.45pm last Saturday 13th February, by 6pm I was in the house preparing a tasty meal for her arrival and about to leave for the airport.

That was when things took a turn for the ‘Easyjet worst’.

EasyJet cancellations - Easyjet review

I began receiving a series of text messages from my sister in Gatwick airport saying things like “I’ve been queuing 3 hours at Easyjet check-in, they say all their systems are down throughout Europe”…so I began checking the Easyjet website (nothing), and the Gatwick and Barcelona airport websites (nothing).

Cutting a long series of anxious texts short, having got them on the plane about 7 hours late, they left them on the plane for hours – no one knowing anything about what was going on, and finally turfed them off at about 10pm.

In Hannah’s own words:

“The pilot updated us first saying the bags were being put on and that he was just waiting for paperwork etc. second to tell us that some people had chosen to get off so we were having to get their bags (although we saw no one get off and no noise of baggage being removed from the hold).

Then he updated us telling us that they were in talks with head office (and via one of the air hostesses who also had no idea what was going on…we were told that she thought the captain was in talks to head office regarding negotiating a day off in lieu for the cabin staff who were now working into their day off (because of the original delay). That came from her but not sure she knew much)

He then came onto to tell us that the flight was cancelled due to some sort of very vague baggage problem…load of rubbish if you ask me. He told us to go to the ‘Menzies aviation group’ desk in the arrivals hall to rebook on another flight. Got there and there were about 300 people and absolutely no one at the desk. When someone did arrive there was basically a rugby scrum to get to them…the guy said absolutely nothing except rebook online and he handed out about 20 pieces of paper with customer rights on it….I didn’t get one!”

There was noone in the airport to help them, noone to tell them where to get their bags, how to re-book, or how to get a refund. In the end, instead of enjoying the first hours of her holiday in Barcelona, my sister was left wondering alone around Gatwick airport in tears on a Saturday night, then was forced to get the train back into London alone late at night, followed by a night bus home (as she got back too late for the tube).

Staff overtime request causes cancellation

The long and short of it is that there never was a Europe wide system failure (200+ other Easyjet flights took off fine from Gatwick that day), but what happened was almost certainly this: due to Easyjet’s sheer incompetence there was a problem with check-in. The delay meant that Easyjet (being a cheap and very crap airline) lost a few of its takeoff slots at Gatwick. This meant a few of the planes were delayed even further, by which point the Easyjet staff began complaining to their superiors about overtime pay. When their wishes were refused, they refused to fly the plane, and they and all the airport staff walked out of the airport, leaving the passengers stranded late at night.

The next day she tried to change her flight for another one, but Easyjet weren’t answering their customer services line (does this surprise you?), and the only flight available was flying to Spain on Wednesday, the day her return flight was bringing her back!

So, in future (and especially because Easyjet did it to ME too in January when I tried to get back to Spain) I will certainly pay a bit more and fly with British Airways or Iberia.

Claiming compensation

One final thing, did you know that in the EU, if an airline company like Easyjet gets you to your destination more than two hours late you are entitled to a minimum of 250 Euros compensation? Rather than try and pursue Sleazyjet through the courts, we’re going to put in a claim through this company EUclaim.

And my sister will be trying again in late April – her next available holiday. She won’t be flying Easyjet :-).

English teaching podcast on front of iTunes Spain!

This is just a quick update as we’re gearing up for the launch of our first IVOZI podcast workbook series here in Barcelona, and are working flat out. We’ve recorded & edited 9 out of 10 podcasts and will be releasing a pack of 10 accompanying workbooks in the next week or so.

We had some rather pleasant news yesterday, that iTunes in Spain are featuring our podcast on the front page of iTunes in a “New and noteworthy” category (see the little red square below). Must be the woman we put on the cover 😉

itunes podcast ingles

Aktivering: Opbevaring eller opkvalificering???

Aktivering – hvad er det egentlig?

Som arbejdslĂžs har jeg virkelig svĂŠrt ved at forstĂ„ rationalet. Hvert halve Ă„r skal jeg minimum i aktivering 1 mĂ„ned. Men som akademiker skal jeg ifĂžlge loven “varetages” af en 2. AktĂžr. En anden aktĂžr skulle efter sigende vĂŠre en konsulentvirksomhed der kan hjĂŠlpe mig med at komme i arbejde ved at sende mig pĂ„ et sĂ„kaldt “jobsĂžgningskursus”. JobsĂžgningskurset bestĂ„r at nogle korte foredrag med rĂ„d om skrivning af CV, jobansĂžgning osv.

PĂ„ mit jobsĂžgningskursus blev vi ogsĂ„ pĂ„ det stĂŠrkeste rĂ„det til at sende uopfordrede ansĂžgninger. Men da jeg bad om jeg ikke kunne fĂ„ en skabelon/eksempel pĂ„ en uopfordret ansĂžgning – ja, det havde de ikke. Hvordan skal jeg sĂ„ lĂŠre at skrive dem (hvis jeg ikke kunne det i forvejen)??

PĂ„ ovenstĂ„ende billede ses et af de lokaler vi var tvunget til at sidde i fra kl. 9-15 hver dag i op til 13 uger. NĂ„r jeg siger i op til 13 uger, sĂ„ er det helt afhĂŠngig af om det er 2. aktĂžr der sende dig pĂ„ jobkursus eller jobcenteret. Loven siger at man minimum skal aktiveres i 4 uger. Alle kandidater der skulle vĂŠre pĂ„ kurset i 4 uger var sendt der af jobcenteret, mens kandidater med lĂŠngere “dom” selvfĂžlgelig var blevet sendt der af den 2. aktĂžr der arrangerede kurset. Hvorfor? Fordi en 2. aktĂžr er en virksomhed. De fĂ„r 500 kr per dag per deltager (betalt af jobcenteret). SĂ„ selvom deres kursus turnus kun tager 3 uger – ja sĂ„ giver det god mening for dem at sende folk pĂ„ kursus i 6 uger (som de gjorde ved mig). Jeg fik intet ud af det, da jeg godt kan skrive en jobansĂžgning, men min 2. aktĂžr virksomhed fik 15.000 kr i kassen. SĂ„ simpelt er det.

Og nĂ„r du sĂ„ ser pĂ„ billedet taget fra kursus lokalerne – sĂ„ vil jeg gerne have at du lige tĂŠnker over om du ville kunne koncentrere dig i det lokale? Til orientering sad der ca. 25 mennesker i lokalet. Der var et vindue, ingen bordplads ved siden af computeren til at ligge ekstra papirer, der var en konstant gennemstrĂžm af mennesker til de bagvedliggende lokaler, en konstant snakken og en ekstrem varm og dĂ„rlig luft i rummet (ikke sĂ„ overraskende med kun et vindue). Derudover blev man skrevet ned i protokol to gange om dagen for at sikre at man var der – bĂ„de kl. ca. 9.30 og igen kl. 14.30 – hvilket jeg kun kan sige gjorde at man fĂžlte sig endnu mere ydmyget og umyndiggjort. Ville du kunne skrive jobansĂžgninger i dette klima??

Jeg har flere gange forsÞgt at fÄ bevilliget et kursus i projektstyring, som jeg ved vil kunne gavne min jobsÞgning idet det opkvalificere min uddannelse. Men selvfÞlgelig vil 2. aktÞren ikke bevillige det til mig for det vil jo koste dem penge. Jobcenteret derimod betaler 500 kr per dag uanset hvad jeg gÞr.

Jeg kan tage et kursus i “Projektledelse” pĂ„ Niels Brock. Det koster 9000 kr for 6 ugers intensivt kursus, der pĂ„ enhver mĂ„de vil forbedre mine chancer for at fĂ„ et job. Dvs det er meget billigere end endnu et “jobsĂžgningskursus”, men jeg kan ikke fĂ„ det, fordi jeg som akademiker skal “hĂ„ndteres” af en 2. aktĂžr og de skal tjene penge…ikke hjĂŠlpe mig i arbejde!

Mit forslag: 10 dages intensivt jobsÞgningskursus til alle ledige. Dette kursus pÄbegyndes senest 2 uger efter man har meldt sig ledig. Derefter bÞr man have mulighed for sparring med jobcenter eller anden aktÞr efter eget Þnske og hvert halve Är kan man (efter eget Þnske/behov) deltage i et opkvalificerende uddannelseskursus (der dog skal godkendes af jobcenteret som vÊrende af relevant kvalitet og emne). Dette vil vÊre en langt billigere og bedre lÞsning end den formÄlslÞse aktivering (jobsÞgningskurser o.l.) der finder sted i dag.

Jeg kan kun konkluderer at aktivering som akademiker (pt) intet har at gĂžre med opkvalificering, men derimod er ren opbevaring! What a waste of time and money!

It’s bloody cold in England, LOOK!

Satellite photo of Britain in the snow - Winter 2009Every time I return to England, it seems almost immediately there is a weather-related superlative issued for the month I choose to return. We all know the Brits are obsessed with weather, but in June 2007 it was the wettest/worst June since records began (hundreds of years ago), this winter, it has already been the coldest Winter for 30 or 40 years. And counting.

With temperatures as low as -22 Celsius, and a decent covering of snow: 10,000 schools are shut, the economy is losing 600 million pounds a day, old people are burning cheap second hand books to warm their houses (it’s cheaper than coal!) and the RSPB is regularly publishing warnings about imminent irrecoverable bird deaths.

So what did I do (apart from feeding the birds)? I tried to get back to Spain, on Easyjet, from Gatwick. Not a very sound plan. I ended up wasting the day in queues of people whilst waiting for the inevitable “Flight cancelled” confirmation. In the end it came, and I headed back to Oxford, only to try again another day…

You’ll perhaps be pleased to know (I was) that I made it back to Spain having rescheduled my flight for 3 days later. I got to Barcelona, wasn’t as pleasantly surprised as I’d hoped by the ‘warm climes’ here, and have promptly set about sorting out my crap Sony Vaio (sounds like it has chronic wind) so that I can get on with my IVOZI audio work soon.

On that note, I finally got my hands on the Zoom H2 Recorder and will be starting recording again in a couple of days.

I’ll leave you with a photo of my mother’s back garden in Eynsham, England where I stayed during my weather related incarceration. I tried to feed the birds, but my nuts promptly froze.

Snow in Eynsham, England - Winter 2009/2010

My 5 stay-the-same New Year resolutions

First of all – Happy New Year to everyone.

Going into a new year usually makes people think about resolutions. They often consist of things they want to change – like stopping to smoke or lose 10 kg etc. I decided that I would rather like to focus on the things I like to stay the same.

1. Staying adventurous: I spent more than half of 2009 travelling all the way down from Costa Rica to Argentina, spent time in an organic Hare Krishna village in Peru, went through the Bolivian desert on horse, jumped out with a parachute in Argentina etc. I want to continue having the courage to do and live things that may seem risky and that may not have a guaranteed reward because only that way does life stay an adventure.

2. Staying open-minded: This is something I have to work on continuously because we are often not conscious about our own prejudism. Before I met Thomas I only dated Israeli men for about 10 years and couldn’t imagine going out with other nationalities. But I am happy that I did go out with Thomas because I learned an incredible amount of things from being with someone from a different culture and with a different mental pattern than what I was comfortably used to. My stay in the Peruvian Hare Krishna village is another example. Had I known in advance that it was a Hare Krishna village I would never have joined. Why? Well actually for no reason at all. In my mind Hare Krishna had a stigma and I don’t have any reason for this. I actually ended up finding out that the religion possibly fits my belief system better than any other I have studied so far (Judaism, Buddhism, Shintoism, Christianity, Islam), but I am not a devotee. But I definitely want to continue challenging my own prejudism and try to stay open-minded.

3. Staying healthy: I have been a vegetarian for 18 years now and feel very healthy. However, in the past I have been a bit of a cheese-bread vegetarian because I hated cooking. I changed this in 2009 and after my return to Denmark I started cooking and can actually make some fairly decent dishes now. Furthermore, being adventurous and fairly open-minded brought me to the Hare Krishna village in which I learned yoga. I have studied it before in Thailand but due to lack of a spiritual dimension I lost interest in it. Vaisnava yoga included the spiritual dimension and I fell in love. This made me take a yoga teacher training course in Cuzco, Peru and since then I have done yoga almost every day. I want to continue this practise because it keeps me healthy physically and mentally.

4. Staying friendly: 2009 is probably the period in my life in which I have gotten the most new friends in all my life and I really feel like my life got enriched in ways that I can’t even begin to describe. I love the company of people and I really believe that the essence of life is the people we surround ourselves with (and animals of course). I want to continue making an effort to meet new people and to nurture the relationships I already have.

5. Staying in the now: I spent the last part of 2009 just enjoying being in the now. I didn’t make any plans and hardly ever made any appointments more than a week into the future and honestly had no aim for my life – but I felt very happy. But I do realise that if you don’t visualise events – nothing happens (law of attraction) and although you can be perfectly happy like that – I do like the magic of visualisation. But I want to try to stay as much as possible in the now and enjoy every moment no matter what I do.

So when I say happy New Year to everyone I wish to add that in my experience happiness cannot be travelled to, owned, earned, worn or consumed. Happiness is felt when you don’t want to be anywhere else than where you are, be anybody else, have anything else or be with anyone else. It is living every minute with love and gratitude. May the New Year bring happiness and love to everyone.

A White Christmas in Yorkshire, England

It’s my first Christmas back in England for 7 years and I have been lucky enough to be treated to the first White Christmas I remember. Perhaps it’s the fact that I have ventured North of the Watford Gap for nearly the first time in my life – heading up to Bedale in North Yorkshire for a family reunion.

Here’s a photo from today – Boxing Day – where we went for an afternoon walk (and sledge) in the grounds of the 12th Century Jervaulx Abbey.

Jervaulx Abbey, Yorkshire, England