I have no idea where to begin this post. Do I start by describing my observations and experiences from the somewhat harrowing 48hr trek East via Kuwait Airways, or do I jump right into somehow trying to do the same with this bizzaro, dirty and beautiful city known as Delhi, India that I have been living in for the past 48hrs?
I have a couple hours, so going to try to do a little of both, I suppose… I am going to forewarn you, I’m about to ramble.
Kuwait Airways: NYC>; London>; Kuwait City>; Delhi
Before even leaving the States, actually while waiting to board my Kuwait Airways flight from JFK to London Heathrow, I made the internal observation that what is about to be a long difficult lesson in “learning to let go” had really already begun. Not only was the initial loss of earned income, health insurance, partner, friends, family, and everything familiar but I was already having to let go of all the things I had wanted to accomplish before embarking on this journey but had failed to do. Parting gifts and messages to loved ones, grant research and applications, Hindi language lessons that I really should have done more of, endless other preparations I was telling myself that I COULD and should have done. “Doesn’t matter now,” I thought, “my time to do this has arrived”.
Observation: Kuwait Airways is a TRIP (pun intended). I took three flights with them, on two planes. The planes where Boeing 777s from the 90s, yo. Ashtrays in the armrests… Really, there was more, but that’s all I want to mention about the physicality of the planes.
Observation: Not many white people fly Kuwait Airways. Go figure. At least this was my observation when I counted a total of three other white-looking people on my three flights. Folks appeared to be mostly of Arab, Indian and (as Indian neighbor and new friend Divya pointed out) Bengali origin. Being a white chick from Maine, I must admit, I think my initial reaction to being in this new kind of minority was, “What am I doing here?” My immediate next reaction was, “No, seriously, I AM here with all these different and beautiful people, how cool is this?!”
Another observation: Arab, Indian, Bengali (and other untold number of ethnicities and nationalities I am omitting in my ignorance) people ARE SO BEAUTIFUL. I mean this in physical representation and personality. Almost every person I saw returned big, beautiful smiles. I’m sure I will go into descriptions of their physical beauty later in this blog…
Observation: Vegetarian = A LOT of cheese. This was my first in-fight meal: Vegetable Moussaka with Pomodro Sauce, Cheese & Crackers. My next 3 veggie entree meals all featured various forms of heavy cheese, yogurt and cream as well. I had anticipated this, and tried to introduce more dairy into my diet before leaving, but still ended up with indigestion while traveling the globe somewhere above 10,000 ft. Aren’t you glad you to know that?
My sweet neighbor on my first Kuwait Air flight, Divya, is from Mumbai. He is returning home to look for work in energy ( specifically natural gas and oil) engineering upon completing grad school at Penn State. We politely debated energy opportunities for a bit before deciding to move on to other topics 🙂 He is a very gentle soul. Hindi. Vegetarian (which is a practice of the Hindi religion). Divya was in shock that I had quit my job in the States to travel to volunteer on farms in India. He thinks I am very brave. He says when he starts making some money he can can start giving back to some charities. I suggested that he can always use his hands, and that no act is too small. He asked me if I have considered being a professor. I laughed, and said I had thought a little about education, through what avenue, however, I was not sure. I spoke of the places I plan to work and travel in India. Divya was excited to see his nieces and nephews, and his sister who was getting married this weekend. Divya even invited me to the wedding! But I sadly had to decline, as it was on the other side of India… He asked how often I get to see my parents. I told him I had been living with my mom before doing this trip. “Lucky”, he said. Divya showed me his hand, and asked, “Do you know this symbol?” His parents had had this tattooed on his hand when he was a child. I nodded, “Aum!” (Ohm) I showed him the necklace I was wearing, which was given to me by my dear friend Maria just a week before leaving on this journey. ‘The sound that leads to silence’, is a description of the ancient symbol I learned earlier this year at Kripalu.
I sense this to be the first of many synchronicities…
My next in-flight neighbor is Rahul, a retired MD who is originally from Varanasi (a city he describes as “the pulsating heart of India”). He now lives in Appalachia. He and his wife also fund a small hospital in Uttarakrand, the same state where Navdanaya is located, which I will be traveling to. This man is talkative and jolly; a virtual gold mine of hilarious sayings and information.
[Side Note: For his Harvard grad school thesis work, one of his son’s lived in the Himalayas near Tibet and studied the brain waves of Buddhist and Hindu monks while meditating (and found them to be very different patterns) and is now developing prototypes of devices that will be sold to universities and individuals wishing to study brainwaves in meditation. Cool. Right?]
Here my plans for meditation, prayer and yoga, Rahul promises to connect me with a prestigious ashram in Rishikesh that his family is affiliated with. I’m hoping this works out, as I would like to visit this holy city before I’m scheduled to arrive at Navdanya in December. I could go on about him as well, but my last cup of chai is wearing off, and I still haven’t gotten to India yet.
Hanging out a Kuwait City Airport for 3.5 hours. Going on about 1 hour of sleep in the prior 40 hours. Here you’re not able to see the twitch that had developed in my right eye ; )
Welcome to New Delhi!
Observation: I am surprising myself with my ability to be quite confident amongst chaos.
I waited until sunrise (6:36 am) to venture outside the airport and arrange a prepaid (or so I thought) taxi to my hostel. I used this time to repack some of my carry on items into my bigger backpack, wash my face, take vitamins, and exchange some foreign currency. I had gotten some advice to go to the Meru taxi stand (a trusted company) to arrange this. I walk up to the stand and tell the four men standing there where I want to go and they nod and try to usher me directly into a cab saying “Yes, yes, you pay the driver when you get there. No problem”. I insisted I wanted prepaid. They agree to 500 rupees. I say I will think about it, as I punch in the currency conversion app into my iphone (it’s about 9 bucks). I say, OK.
Observation #236: Indian men are surprised by young, white single women with confidence.
Observation: TRAFFIC IS INSANE IN INDIA. There are literally no rules. No one has right of way. I’ve seen bumper car drivers at Fun Town exercise more caution. Here are some moments from the first taxi ride… by the way, these videos are very tame.
I have to admit to being a little sketched out by the alleyway I must travel down to find my hostel, Namaskar Hotel. This is the view standing inside the hostel looking out, which does look slightly less scary than the view of this ally from the main street.
I am tired when I arrive. I gnaw on my fourth Clif bar of the journey and sit in the lobby and make small talk with the men at the front desk. I’m not about to go try to find breakfast on those crazy streets as the staff suggest. At 9:30, a room opens up. The room is… modest. For $11/night, though, I won’t complain.
This is the view from my hostel window. There is no screen and many times a day I have to shoo away cooing pigeons on my windowsill.
This is me excited to arrive, finally, and get some glorious sleep.
After sleeping for an entire day, only awoken up a few times by honking horns, motor cycle back-fires, dog fights and loud conversations in the alleyway, today I felt ready to venture out and about. I need a SIM card, electrical converter, and to figure out transportation options for my next move out of the city.
Again, fascinated by public transportation here…
Attention Tourists: This is the Govt APPROVED tourist office, not to be mistaken with the phony “tourist bureaus” (which are actually tourism trip sales offices). I finally arrived here after being diverted to the phony offices twice, where they tried to sell me trips to the mountains to go hiking and stay on houseboats. I met a nice man at the real tourism office named Jolly. He is from Rishikesh, where I intend to travel next, and gave me some great advice as well as his personal cell phone to call if I’m ever stuck. He told me to remind him with “Julia the volunteer”. : )
I would love to share more adventures, but this is all I can muster today. I am grateful to be here, and experience this part of our world. Tomorrow I hope to meet my Himalayan farmer friend Hari, at his daughter’s home in Haus Khas, a section of Delhi that friends Ben and Nico have told me is the Brooklyn of Delhi.