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Wednesday, May 16, 2012

One Year Later

Lunch w/Pastor Sandeep &
Margaret Kamble in Thane, India
 I can hardly believe it!  It's been one year ago this week that we went to India.  It was the day after mother's day that we began our maiden voyage, which I MUST say was the longest trip EVER! Lol!  The days leading up to it were a bit hectic, and a bit nerve wracking.  Having never been away from my kids so long, or out of the country, was a tad sad and scary.  We barely got any sleep the night before, with a thousand thoughts and feelings.  I remember how it took all day (and then some) to get from Colorado, then to New Jersey, then off to Mumbai, India.  Such anticipation.  So many unknowns.  Lots of airline movies, times of sleeping, trips to the teeny-tiny restroom...and then, the arrival!  Funny enough, everyone started clapping and "woohoo"ing when the plain finally touched-down.  As with most inbound international flights to Mumbai, it was night, so we couldn't see much.  Once we finally got out of the plain (which seemed to take forever), I remember 2 things that "hit me"...the humidity and the smell of the sea.  We just followed the group of people through to customs, which was a bit intimidating to say the least.  After no issues, we continued to follow the masses to baggage claim.  A nice girl came up and offered assistance, so we knew what to do.  I have to stop here and say that I WISHED I would've gotten her contact info.  She would've been a good source of Mumbai knowledge and such.  But alas, hindsight is 20/20.  After the baggage claim, we went through a final security check, and then headed over to the money exchange and taxi counters.  What comes next is where the real adventure began.  Or should I say "culture shock".  As soon as we stepped out of the safety of the airport, we saw a huge mass of people standing behind a gate on the left, with signs of people they were picking up or meeting.  We took an immediate right, and started walking when another nice Indian lady steered us in the correct direction of the prepaid taxis.  Suddenly 2 men walked up to us and were trying to take our bags, which we were extremely hesitant to do, but they were simply trying to help us over to the taxi.  We got in (still leary), and gave the taxiwallah our prepaid taxi ticket.  We began to drive away from airport, and then out taxi stopped at a little office (the size of a shack!).  The driver went in for a couple minutes.  As we were waiting, an intimidating beggar man was asking for money.  I tried to use a little hindi on him (nahi - no, kuchne - nothing, ruko - stop), with lots of hand gestures to go away, but he persisted.  Of course, we were in a taxi with no A/C, and so it was too hot to roll up windows.  Finally our taxiwallah reappeared and threatened the beggar away, and off we drove into the city of Mumbai.  All I really remember from that ride is that it was long, very dark most of the way, and TONS of people EVERYWHERE!  By this time it was about 1:30-2am, and yet there were throngs of people still out on the streets!  I kept looking out for street signs that gave me an indication that we were indeed heading in the right direction to our hotel.  You never know with the few horror stories of tourist kidnappings and such.  After about a 45 min. drive, we did arrive to a part of town that was very dark, but eerily, no people!  The taxiwallah confirmed that we were in Ballard Estate, but was completely clueless about our hotel location.  We saw a stranger standing in an alley, and the driver stopped to ask directions.  We were quite leery, but knew that we desperately needed help finding the hotel.  After a couple minutes, the directions came clear, and it was really only about a block or two away until we finally found it.  Relief washed over us, since we were exhausted from all of the travelling and such.  The place was not 5-star, but when have we ever stayed in one of those? Lol!  It was however clean, and so after several minutes of checking-in (old fashioned way using a ledger, not computer), we finally went to our room and just sat there dazed and tired.  We finally fell asleep.
  Now since our internal time-clocks were all haywire, we woke up quite early, probably only a couple hours later.  We decided to shower, and then venture out for food.  We found our way to Chatrapati-Shivaji Terminus (Victoria Terminus, train station).  I couldn't believe the throngs of people that were there!  As we walked inside, a HUGE rat was dead on the ground, right in front of us!  Indians would probably call it "bad karma", but after our shock, just chalked it up to "only in India."  We found a little stand that sold newspapers, chips (crisps), cookies, etc., so we opted for some little cookies, to tide us over.  We found another stand that sold maps, and purchased one, but then were being approached by beggars and people trying to give us tours (to where, who knows!).  At that point, I'd had it and needed to retreat back into the hotel.  My stomach was acting up, and I needed "the lav".  We decided to just order something from the hotel kitchen.  After that, it's all a blur, with bits and pieces of different events, incidents and memories.  Some of it's mentioned (or explained in detail) in previous posts, and some of it is just distant memories.  We had our good moments, and our not so good moments.  Unfortunately, I was sick most of the time, and experiencing "culture shock".  But, I'm a glutton for punishment, and maybe a bit idealistic.  I think we definitely both learned a lot from that first trip, and hope to go back better prepared the next time.  Know more hindi, have more contacts, stay in a better hotel and part of town, have a list of decent restaurants with different types of foods (including plain stuff for a sick tummy), take lots of probiotics and immodium, have a prepaid phonecard or special cell phone, etc.  Kind of like when you have another baby, and you feel more like a pro the second-time around.  I guess when the time comes, we'll see.  So, to India, "Phirmilenge!"  Hindi: फिर मिलेंगे, Urdu: پھر ملیں گے, English: We'll Meet Again!

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