Finally!31 Jan 2010, by Uncategorized in
My journey started in Boston, then stoppped in New York. From JFK, we flew 14 hours to Delhi, a flight on which I got a total of 1 hour sleep. yay. At the airport in Delhi, we had about a two and a half hour wait. The lines are slow moving in any place in India, but staff and other travelers were curious and friedly. We were all so thirsty and bought hug bottles of water (we will be drinking only bottled water while we are here). I went through a Duty Free store which sells designer perfume at about a 20% discount.
There was a lounge/bar in the airport where older Indian men sat smoking, drinking, and looking greedily powerful. In the bathroom, there were cockroaches on the floor, but otherwise it was lovely. On the flight to Calcutta, there was a young mother and her 1 year old son in the row across from me. He too had been traveling for about 18 hours and the air pressure was hurting his ears. When he would cry, I would make silly faces at him and let him play with my tiny toy bunny. He was so cute and the mother looked exhausted but grateful for the distraction
We arrived in Kolkata yesterday at about 10 pm Indian time. Walking down the steps of the plane was quite a shock because of the air quality. The air is clogged with dust and pollution and because it is so warm it is hard to breathe at first. When we exited the airport to look for Paul, I was prepared for the supposed swarms of beggars. Instead, as we stood among honking cabs and people with luggage, only three people approached us. A young man with desperate eyes and sunken cheeks had a tray of coffee. He tried to persuade us to buy from him, but we followed orders and declined. It was difficult because he kept coming back and would stand very close to us, insistent and unembarassed. When the two little boys approached, that’s when I knew it would be difficult. They kept asking us for money over and over again. One of the volunteers, Eric, gave them a package of peanut butter crackers. The younger boy took it but the older boy, probably because he has to give all money back to his manager/trafficker, persisted, asking for money. "Please, mum" they kept saying. When three of us got into the jeep we had rented to bring us back to the hotel, the older boy pressed his hands against the glass, continuing to ask for money.
The drive was harrowing to say the least. Unlike in the states, the Indian drivers rarely, if ever follow "traffic regulations" althought there were flashing warning, which seemed rather sarcastic to me, which demanded just that. The drivers are constantly honking, yelling, and swerving from one side of the road to the next. This was a main road so there was a partition, and then traffic going the other way. But on some of the smaller streets, we would turn a corner and all of a sudden there would be a car heading towards us. The driver seemed unphased. We were going way to fast, without seatbelts, and several times we were this close to crashing. Along the way were hundreds of lean-to’s and shanties built out of wood and trash and dirt and rocks. Because it was so dark, it made the sight of these all the more depressing. I’ve never seen anything like it– the poverty is absolutely astonishing. In the areas where there were shops and restaurants, people dashed across the road into and among uncoming traffic.
When we arrived at the hotel, it didn’t look anything like the pictures. It is just off the main road, which made me anxious. Paul helped us check-in. While in the lobby, the power briefly went out, which apparently happens every so often. Victoria and I were taken up to our room in a rickety, shady elevator. We arrived safely. The room has two beds, a bathroom, and a closet. There were mosquitos all throughout which made us a little nervous, and the sheets were not clean. We turned on the air conditioning and noticed that the bathroom had a shower head that essentially is on the wall and leaves the rest of the bathroom unprotected. On our floor, there were men that seemed to be lurking around, but we soon learned that most of them who work there live there. After unpacking, Victoria and I locked the door and read for little while.
There really wasn’t any basis for my fear, but I felt a little hysterical for about an hour. I was hot and tired and didn’t feel particularly safe. I was suspicious of every sight, sound, and smell. Because I basically hadn’t slept in about 24 hours, I was out like a light for 12 hours. According to Victoria, I was quite the conversationalist in my sleep. I of course recall very little of that particular entertainment.
In the morning, with the sun shining, everything seemed much more comfortable and safe. We had our first meeting over lunch, which Sarah, Becky, and new member John joined in on. We went through our exciting agenda for the trip, which starts tomorrow! As I looked out the window at the hustle and bustle, I took a deep breath and realized that most of the people around us are just trying to make it from one day to the next, eating, talking, working, just living their life. Seeing Sarah made be feel much better as well. After lunch ( a little fried rice and a fanta) I took a shower in the trickle of water and laid down for a few minutes. Then, Janell, Eric, Bernadette and I set off for the internet cafe before we had to head back to the hotel to take a cab for the mall. It is a short walk. All along the way were kiosques and homes, which basically look the same. There were some men sleeping on the carts, women behind a counter of steaming food, and dogs digging through trash. The Internet cafe is in fact not a cafe. It is in a building which houses a sort of market where you can buy toys and scarves etc. The "cafe" is just two open enclaves with computers. You have to take off your shoes and sign into a book. For an hour, it costs about 15 rupees, which is about 40 cents. Now, we are off to South City mall to have dinner, pick up essentials, and get henna tattoos. I am tired but I feel calm and ready for the week! I may only be able to do a blog every 2 or 3 days, but I will do it as much as possible. I miss all of you!