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By Gernell Reed

Today was a busy day including visits to the US Embassy and a Sikh temple called Gurudwara Bangla Sahib followed by time to see what Old Delhi had to offer! Personally, I was most excited for the temple. Back in Boston we learned about the different religions that India was home to, and Sikhism was the one that stood out to me. Before it became a widespread religion in the country, the only true Sikhs were the warriors of the country. But since then, the religion has grown and become the faith of more than 19 million; 1.9% of India’s total population.Of course that’s not all I was looking forward to though; I was also pretty excited to explore Old Delhi. Since we’ve been here, we’ve only experienced the more touristy side of Delhi. You know, the monuments and temples, so I thought it’d be really cool to see what a normal life was like for someone who lives here.

After breakfast we headed to the US Embassy. There, we met an embassy worker who worked in the Public Diplomacy section. In this section, the embassy diplomats basically travel to other countries and promote the United States. For example, say the Indian government was offended by a bill the US passed, the diplomat here would then hold a meeting with the people in the government and try to justify the US’s passing of that particular law. During our visit we also learned about the different scholarships and exchange programs both high school and college students are offered. This particular subject interested me because I’ve been enjoying my stay here in here and I would like the opportunity to come back in the future, and what better way to do that than spending an entire year here at one of their colleges? Soon after this we said our goodbyes and left the Embassy grounds.

Next up was the Sikh temple. When we got there the temple was massive and beautiful with its golden dome-shaped roofs. After removing our shoes, washing our feet and putting our headscarves on -because as a religion both men and women cover their heads- we went inside to the kitchen.  In the Sikh religion they believe that salvation is not only obtained by prayer, but by volunteer work as well.  So in this particular temple, they serve 4 major meals a day to any and everyone who comes to the temple, Sikh or not. The food is prepared inside a kitchen by volunteers, which today was us. There I helped prepare the dough for Nan, a popular Indian delicacy that is served with every meal. Along with me were 3 other of my group mates and other Sikh volunteers.

At first I can admit that I was hesitant about approaching the other volunteers because I was a foreigner who’d they’d never met before, but with a little nudging from staff I found myself sitting down amongst the others. To my surprise, they immediately accepted all of us with open arms and smiles, they even demonstrated to us how to properly roll out the dough to get everything even.  The time I spent rolling out dough was very fulfilling and rewarding to me because I was doing something that I knew would directly benefit someone who needed it. After leaving the kitchen, we walked up to the main temple and watched as people gathered to pray. After observing the prayer and walking around, we headed out to lunch.

Following lunch we went off to explore Old Delhi’s markets. Our way of transportation:  rickshaws.  Riding in these proved to be every entertaining and just a little bit nerve wrecking. In the spice market, we saw some of Delhi’s culture through the spices that made up some of the most popular dishes here: Masala, Butter Chicken, Curry, etc. Being the adventurous and food loving teens that we are, we of course bought some! From there we went to another market where we could shop for clothes and other small trinkets to bring back home. It was there that I learned the art of bargaining! Because we’re tourists, shop owners try to jack up prices on goods because they think we’re willing to pay more, but not with us. We had our secret weapon, our Indian Expedition Leader Neha. She taught us how to get a good price and shop like a true Indian. This experience, bargaining, was actually kind of fun. I enjoyed meeting the owners and going back and forth, sort of like a game.

Overall, today was a great day. I volunteered, bought some stuff, and learned how to fight for a price. All in a day’s work!