August 20, 2014 12:50 AM (India Time)
“There’s no going back now!” I thought as the wheels of the massive 777 lifted off the ground. We were finally on our way to India; the time had come! I settled into my seat and put in some earphones-ready for the long haul.
15 hours later we stepped out of the Delhi airport into the hot, muggy, night. A familiar face with a CHAO YANG sign (all in Caps) greeted us; he was the same man who picked the team up the previous year. The man led us toward our transportation where I joined Matt and Chao in a small car.
Soon we were off- winding through the city streets toward Hotel Namaskar. Upon arrival, we found the other half of the team already there. What a surprise! The others beat us despite the fact that our car left 15 min earlier. I guess our driver was slow.
Anyway, now that everybody had arrived safe and sound, we checked into our rooms; Girls in one, boys in another. Both rooms were simply furnished with walls coated in pink paint (just a shade away from matching the Pepto Bismol I carried in my bag)- a great place to call home for a few nights. I joined the girls and together we spent the rest of the night talking about plans for tomorrow while leafing through Chao’s edition of Lonely Planet-India.
It was nice to pick Chao’s brain and ask her questions about the area. Gina and I are still adjusting to this different world. In fact, we have already made some newbie mistakes: Gina tipped her cab driver 1000 rupees (normal tip is 50 to 100). “We are his favorite customers now!” we joked. However, in all seriousness, who came blame us? Between the time zone, squat toilets, and exchange rate, we have a lot to take in. Hopefully Chao’s advice and information will help us avoid more mishaps.
Soon Gina drifted into sleep and was followed by Chao a short while later. That brings my entry to now. I am awake writing this entry while I wait for the last official member of the crew, Wendy, to arrive from the airport. A green gecko about the length of my hand has decided to join the party. He’s crawling on the wall soaking up the heat from the light bulb. Well I hear a knock on the door. Great timing! That must be Wendy!
Goodbye for now,
We land in Dehli at 8:45. Or maybe it’s New Dehli, I still haven’t gotten a straight answer. As we walked outside, I stood agape at the fact that I was actually in a different country. It’s hot and muggy outside, and the air tastes like a stale shower next to a factory. Everything smells faintly of fireworks and smoke, and I have a unique tingling sensation in my mouth and throat.
There are wild dogs everywhere – sitting down, leisurely strolling across the roads. There’s one breed I recognize – a St. Bernard lopes along in the moist heat. His owner strolls next to him.
Our driver raced us through the city streets, narrowly avoiding cars in tight squeezes. The smoke and water vapors condenses in my throat and sets up camp permanently – feeling like it’s suffocating me slowly. But everyone else who lives here isn’t asphyxiating, so I’ll probably survive too.
We pass by a housing complex on our left – 4 story buildings that are dark and concrete. The smell has changed slightly, to one of animal waste, which would normally be a welcome reprieve from the smokey scents, but it simply reinforces the feeling that i’m choking on something I can’t see.
At a stoplight an elderly woman makes eye contact and I want to look at everything but I decide to look away. A young boy comes over to my window and starts talking. He signals to his head and mouth, over and over. I don’t understand him, but he’s cute. He holds onto the door as the car moves, his tiny hands gently touch my elbow.
The driver takes off like a greyhound when the light turns, then asks me, “Is this your first time in India?”, which I’m sure was completely transparent from my dropped jaw and eyes that swept the scene wildly, taking in a world of information. I say “Yes!” anyway though.
I saw a cow grazing thoughtfully on the side of the road – entombed in anonymity, as are most cows.
I’m in the heart of millions of peoples’ homes, all living drastically different from anything I’ve ever seen. It’s a lot to take in, it’s amazing.