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Where I went Wednesday

August 10, 2011

India

Early Monday morning we left for LAX and flew to Newark where after being delayed for 3.5 hours (while we were already on the plane) we left for Mumbai. We were near the airport in Mumbai when our pilot told us we’d have to hold in the air for an hour as there was traffic. After 23.5 hours on airplanes (plus time spent on the plane in LA but I didn’t time that part), we finally landed in hot, humid Mumbai, where we boarded a bus that took us to the terminal.

We were picked up at the airport by men from the motel and taken in 3 small rickshaw-like vehicles through dark, narrow, twisting alleys to our motel. That drive to the motel was an interesting first experience in Mumbai! Thankfully we all arrived safely. I’m sure there were more than a few of us who wondered how many accidents we’d be a part of before we made it to the motel. =)

It was about 2 AM-ish when we checked in at the motel and walked up who knows how many flights of stairs to our rooms. We passed a man just sleeping in the hallway on the floor, and the next morning saw another one sleeping draped in mosquito netting. I told the girls to be sure to lock their doors!!!

The motel room was interesting, as was the bathroom, but after traveling for so many hours, a shower – no matter how unique the experience – sounded wonderful! And with the humidity and heat, a cold shower wasn’t too bad.

We all settled into our rooms and tried to get a few hours of sleep before heading to the domestic airport to catch a flight south to Trivandrum. Unfortunately the place we were staying was right under the flight path of planes landing in Mumbai, so we heard planes all night long! A few hours later we were awakened by the Muslim call to prayer, which contrary to Barak Obama I do not think is the most beautiful sound in the world. Especially so early in the morning. And then we received a wake up call an hour earlier than necessary. I had set my alarm and didn’t even know we were getting a wake up call, but apparently we were…And apparently we were not getting breakfast like we had been told the night before – when I’d had to come down and look at a menu and order for all of us. I hadn’t even been sure we’d want to eat the food there, so I wasn’t too disappointed about that. We were all ready very early due to all of our disturbances, and due to the fact that we’d been expecting breakfast to be delivered to our rooms and so we’d wanted to be up and ready when they came. Now that wasn’t happening and we were all just sitting around waiting for our ride to the airport.

Once we got to the airport –again quite the ride getting there – we checked in and the guys proceeded to see how many chicken hot dogs they could eat at one of the food stands. I was the only one with Indian Rupees at that time so I had handed out 500 Rupee notes and 1000 Rupee notes with the promise of being paid back. =) Finally we boarded our flight to Trivandrum and were on our way! The flight attendants came through with lunch (even though it was only an hour and 50 min flight) as well as “lime water” (which we did not drink since we weren’t sure if it was bottled or not).

After we landed and found Bro Banuel, we took all the luggage out to a bus and the guys proceeded to load it all on the roof and tie it down. Partway to his house (a 2.5 hour drive) we stopped to get more rope because things were coming loose (I think). While we sat there a man came up and just stood at the window and stared at us. It was one of our first encounters with the locals and we all found it so ridiculously funny.

All along the drive to his house there were so many interesting things to see. We were all so tired, but none of us wanted to miss any details so we stayed awake and stared out the windows. Everything was so green and the houses so colorful! Along the roads you could see community water faucets where women and children would bring brightly colored plastic jugs to fill with water. Once we passed a jug that was sitting alone under a faucet that continued to run. Water was spilling out all over and no one was there. The conservationist in me wanted to stop and turn it off! Don’t they know there are starving children in Africa who need food and water? Ha.

After driving for a few hours we arrived at the guest house where we would be staying. It was so nice to “settle in” a bit and unpack a little. We figured out sleeping arrangements and then everyone hung out and took naps/showers/played games until dinner.

Dinner was chicken with curry and pieces of tapioca. That was probably my least favorite meal. The rest of the meals were decent. I could usually find something that I liked, and if not, we had all brought lots of snacks just in case. (Also, we ate most meals without silverware!)

Every evening, and sometimes during the day, the electricity would shut off and so sometimes we’d have to eat in the dark. It usually came back on fairly quickly though. The worst was at night when you were trying to sleep and it shut off, because then the fans would shut off too and it would get hot again. Thankfully it never seemed to last too long.

Thursday morning we got up and headed over to the school where we divided up into teams of two and went to teach in the classes. That was an experience I will never forget. =) The kids were such dolls though and we had a great time with them. They were so friendly and fun and they loved us and our cameras.

Friday we went back to the school again and taught 3 more classes before heading back to the house for lunch. After lunch we headed to a new building that Bro Banuel had purchased and we painted for the rest of the day. Saturday we went down to the tip of India (where the Arabian Sea, the Indian Ocean, and the Bay of Bengal meet). We did some shopping there (at open-air stands) and then had lunch at a restaurant there.

Sunday we got up early and drove 4 hours to a church that was dedicating a new church building. The drive out was long and hot, but it was nice to see some new scenery! India is so beautiful!

At the church we all sat on the platform and gave impromptu testimonies and sang several songs. Bro Banuel kept naming songs and telling us to sing them. Finally he let us sit down and Bro Mike and another man preached. After that there was a baptism outside and then a girl started pouring cups of soda and put cookies on a tray. I thought maybe we were getting ready to have some sort of unique Communion service, but it was just a snack. =)

After church, and a stop for lunch and visit with the orphans, we headed 4 hours back to the house.

Monday and Tuesday we painted again and on Wed we headed to the airport to come home. It was a bit of a whirlwind trip, because so much of the time was taken up with traveling, but we were all ready to sleep in our beds and take warm showers again!

We saw and experienced so many unique things over there and had such a great time. I’d love to go back to India again someday. It’s definitely different and there was definitely culture shock at first, but once you get used to it all it doesn’t seem as weird anymore. =)

While we were there I was struck by just how incredibly poor everyone really is. They have nothing. I expected poverty and slums in certain areas, but we saw it everywhere we went! I had read before I left that the per capita income for where we were going was something like 30,000 Rupees. (about 650 USD) It’s just incredible and made me feel so rich and so blessed. I am so thankful to be an American!

That’s just a brief snapshot of our trip. The pictures tell the story better than I could:

Pictures

Pictures pt 2

Pictures pt 3

Pictures pt 4

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