Sunday, June 22, 2008

India -- here I come !

June 22, 2008- Delhi, India—7pm Delhi time
After my shower I went with the other girls in my apartment to breakfast. We had eggs and toast. The eggs were scrambled with some type of herbs in them. They tasted very good, but spicy. I have a feeling that everything is going to be spicy here. Everyone is very friendly. At breakfast we got to meet the other volunteers who arrived during the night. We are all a bit disoriented and sleep deprived, so we ate sparingly. After breakfast the Delhi organizer, Bella Singh, gave us a short lecture about some of the cultural differences between India and the U.S. First of all, Indians who live outside the city have a negative stereotype of American women being “loose”. That is one reason that we need to dress more conservatively in the villages than perhaps even the villagers themselves, we want to dispel those ideas. Another big difference is the perception of time. In India, as in Peru, no one hurries like in the U.S. People show up for appointments 15, 30, even 60 minutes late and it is considered “normal”. Expecting anything but planes and trains to be on time is “abnormal”. This is especially difficult for me who is always looking for the most “efficient” way to accomplish things. Time is VERY laid back here. As a matter of fact, this meeting started over an hour later than was originally posted ! After the meeting, we paid for our plane fare to Dharmasala and then got our things together to go shopping. I thought it was going to be very casual and laid back. I’d heard stories about how the merchants would cater to the customers. Instead, after another life threatening ride to the store, found something totally different. The store, located in the heart of the city, was small and very crowded. I was very confused about what I needed to buy and a bit disappointed that the experience was not more relaxed. Like most of my shopping trips at home, I felt frustrated because things didn’t fit the way I wanted them to. I felt that the clothing was all too large (long) for me. It was also VERY HOT and I was sweating and wondering how I am going to function in these clothes in this temperature. I finally chose something, just to have something to wear, but I wasn’t feeling good about it and determined, again, to lose 20 pounds before I left India. On the drive back to the ‘flat’ (their word for apartment), I saw the extremes of rich and poor played out before me. Zooming by – at incredible speeds—were little cars and large sedans. On the same road, a man literally carried two sofas on a three wheeled cycle! On the side of the road were shelters made of scrap wood and metal, and not far away walked a beautiful woman in elaborate dress and jewelry. Delhi is a dichotomy as was Cuzco with the extremes of rich and poor. The saga of “haves” and “have-nots” seems the same in this country as in Peru. While I am glad that I will be able to help in some small way, I so wish I could do more. After we got back from shopping, we had free time so we went back to the apartment. Some read, some talked and some, like me, took a nap. (And you all know how I love naps!) For the first time since I’d gotten here I began to feel sad and homesick. The reality that I am 8000 miles from home began to sink in as well as the fact that I am ‘stuck’ here for a month. What was I thinking? How could I have signed on for this? While I’m pretty sure that it is just hormones, I am feeling that this was a horrible mistake. I want to go home. I want to see Joel and Rachael. I keep looking around and feeling like I’m dreaming, like the whole day was surreal. I woke up from the nap feeling a bit better, but a little sad. I went over to dinner but just tasted the food. It was rice, chicken, and vegetables and was delicious but very spicy. I ate only a few bites—just to taste it. Now we are sitting at the table and some are playing a game called Mafia. I am looking on and trying to learn the game. I am hoping that after a good night’s sleep I will feel better and more sure of myself. Tomorrow morning we pack up, go to a class about the political situation and history of India, and then board the plane to Dharmasala. I am sure that after a few days I will feel better, and I’m sure that I’m not the only one feeling homesick. ---- Later, after a game of "Mafia". I have to say that I am feeling much better now that I am able to access the internet. This was my first connection with home, and I feel much better now. Hello to all of you! Shame on you Joel and Rach for not emailing your mom ! Tomorrow, once we get settled in Dharmasala I will upload some pictures and video. For now, I'm going to sign off and say I love you all and wish you were all here with me !

June 22, 2008- Delhi, India—5am Delhi time
Once we got to the airport in Delhi, we met up with the CSS staff. They were very nice and realized how tired we were. We changed money and got some water. Looking around things didn’t seem too different than an American airport under construction. The air was heavy, and I was surprised to see that it was dark even though it was 8:15 local time because it is light until around 9pm at home. I was so tired; tired of being cramped up in that plane! Once we got our luggage, we headed out of the airport and found our transportation. We would be traveling in several cars, so we couldn’t ride all together. The driver’s side is on the right like it is in Europe. Our driver was very nice but spoke very little English. Our Hindi was lacking as well. Now we were in for our first adventure—driving through the streets of Delhi! First of all, even though there are some lines on the road, no one pays attention to them! There are as many lanes of traffic as the drivers decided is needed! Cars move in and out and sometimes almost touch! Horns are honking constantly and we had to laugh at it all to keep from being in fear of crashing! I never knew a simple car ride could be so entertaining! We finally made it to our apartment in Delhi where we will be staying only 2 nights until we get our next plane to Dharmasala. The apartment complex is “gated” and in a middle class neighborhood. The buildings themselves are simple and ancient. In American standards – a dump. Everything is so cramped and close together. Inside the apartment, it is simple and comfortable, but definitely different from what we are used to. Even at 11pm, it was hot and muggy. There isn’t A/c in the whole apartment, but thankfully there is in the bedrooms. I brushed my teeth and went to sleep. I woke up around 4:45am and here I am ! I feel rested because I slept on the plane and then again here; the equivalent of sleeping for a whole day. I feel a bit disoriented due to the time change, but I’m sure that it will pass. I’m going to hop in the shower—so to speak, and get ready for my first day in India !!!!
June 21, 2008—In flight to Delhi
I slept pretty well last night considering all the excitement. The kids seem sad and not themselves. I know they are happy for me, but I know that they will miss me as well. Lying in bed this morning I realized that it would be the last night in my own bed for a long time. I took my time getting up. Once I did the hustle and bustle started immediately. Everything went smoothly. We arrived at the airport, said our goodbyes, and we were off to security. Of course I had to unpack my laptop, take off my shoes, etc, but I was excited so it didn’t bother me. We were early enough that there wasn’t a long line so that made things a little better. Once we found the gate, it wasn’t long till we were boarding. I was so happy when I saw that I had the asile seat and that Mary had the window. We thought that no one would be between us--- but we were wrong! I’d just gotten settled in the seat when a HUGE man with a pilot’s uniform asked me to get up so he could slide in. He tried to get one of us to switch with him, but we didn’t budge. Truly, the man needed 2 seats. The remainder of the flight was uneventful. We arrived in Newark about 3pm. We got some lunch, and settled in at the gate. It wasn’t long before we started seeing some other people in our group. First came Jules, then David, then Brenda, and then another blond (can’t remember her name at the moment). We all talked and got acquainted. I hadn’t realized how much time had gone by. I showed some of the videos the kids made and we laughed and talked amongst ourselves. We met a Seek by the gate who works for IBM in India. It was his first time in the US and he was now headed to Delhi. He seemed very friendly, but later he tried to become a little “too friendly” so we were glad that we weren’t sitting anywhere near him on the plane. After several of us indulged in Ben & Jerry’s for dinner, we were told that there had been a gate change. 2 from our group were still gone finding something to eat. We waited until it was time to start boarding then we took their backpacks and headed to the new gate. When we got there we made an announcement for them to meet us at the new gate #. Soon we saw Brenda and David coming down the stairs and we relaxed. I felt familiar with David right away, but I didn’t know why. Once I thought about it I saw that he looks a lot like Joel and acts like him too! Looking at David is like looking at Joel only a few years older ! (David is 19). As I anticipated from the prior emails, I’m the oldest in our group so far. Mary is 19, Allison is 20, Jules is 18, and Brenda is 20. I do wish there were a few older people in our group. Maybe more will be there in India. At present it is about 9am in Jacksonville on Saturday, June 21, 2008. For us on the plane though, we some how “loose” a day. Right now in Delhi it is 6:30pm on Saturday, June 21. When we land, in about 2 hours, it will be 8:30pm (Sat). This plane ride has been a bit uncomfortable, but not as bad as I’d thought. I slept for a long time… about 7 hours, watched a movie, ate dinner, and now I’m typing this. Mary was nauseated earlier and threw up, but she seems a little better now. I feel fine, a little stuffy nose, but pretty good. I got up and walked around a little and stretched. I am getting anxious to finally arrive now. I can’t believe that when I step off the plane I will be on the opposite side of the globe from where I started ! Well, I can smell coffee coming my way… time to pack up the laptop till the next installment!

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