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Posts tagged ‘travel’

Oh, India

Hello India

Arrival in India hits you – hard.  Last time I was here we arrived in the middle of the night and had our senses assaulted with the sound of horns, the smell of spices and jasmine and the sight of cows and ricksaws and people- so many people….

This time is no different – except it is a dusty border and it is day time.  When you arrive by bus, you are dropped of two kilometers or so away and you hire a bike rickshaw to take you to the border.  It was a feeding frenzy when the bus arrives.  I was quoted a price but when we arrived at the border, dude told me that price was in Indian rupees.  Whatever.  And that was after he tried to get me to change my money at his buddies place (I might have been swindled on the rickshaw ride but not on the money).

taking my very expensive rickshaw ride to the border

Getting over the border was quick.  On the Nepal side I went to the office and filled out my departure paperwork and they stamped my passport.  Then I walked under a big arch along with tons of other people and trucks honking their horns and lots of dust.  Then amid street side stores and noise and chaos and people telling me to change my money, there was a table with two men reading the paper. You know, border patrol.

I had purchased my ticket from Sonauli (the border town) on to Varanasi up in Kathmandu — and was told I just needed to find the ticket agents office and they would help me out.  I eventually found it – amidst the staring and the dust and the many offers to ‘help’ me out.  Upon arrival, Mr. Bablu looked at my ticket very nonchalantly and told me to come back at 5.  I asked why and he told me the bus was at 5:30.  No, no – I am taking the bus at 6:30 tomorrow morning (decided a night time bus ride my first day in India wasn’t quite what I wanted…).  He said fine, and showed me where the ‘hotel’ was — the one place the Lonely Planet half way recommends….  to say it was a shit-hole would be kind….  There is no need to go into details on that place or the food or how depressing it was – but needless to say, I arrived back at the travel agency at 6, on the dot, as Mr. Bablu had requested the day before.

And that is when things got interesting…..

No one was there at 6.  So, I just stayed there.  A non-Indian female by herself with bags gets lots of attention – so I figured that soon enough people would find me.  Sure enough, a guy came down the stairs asking what I needed – I told him that I needed my bus pass.  He called to another man and they came downstairs to unlock the office, inside of which a 3rd man was sleeping.  None of these men were Mr. Bablu.

Upon looking at my ticket , the ‘head’ dude tells me that this bus is late this morning, but I can take the express bus for an extra cost.  What?!  So, I try and reason with him.  I tell him that there is no such thing.  I tell him I will not pay the price.  Meanwhile, time is passing — it is getting closer to 6:30.  I really want to get on that bus.  I really do not want to stay in Sonauli a second longer.  Then, another foreigner comes in with his confirmation note for the bus.  He is told the same thing.  He also tries to argue and is told that he has to pay more for the 6:30 bus.  These guys aren’t budging and they just talk in Hindi to each other, laughing.  They tell this guy that it will be 495 IRs to travel on this bus.  At that point, it is close to 6:30, so I pull out the money in my pocket – 300 IRs.  The guy takes it and asks if I have any dollars.  What?!  Oh, hell no.  So, I tell him I have no other money – and he takes me to the bus.  So, now – both myself and the other foriegner have paid extra for this bus (the guys in the office told  him that if he did not pay he could go back to Kathmandu!).  The men continued their intimidation on the bus, thankfully not with me, though.  Two other foreigners were forced to pay more – and  all three guys (they were all men, these other foreigners) were asked for more money for their bags – and one was even asked to open his bag.  They all said no – and eventually these men from the travel agency went away.  But, it was simply infuriating.  There was nothing we could do (though, in hindsight, I wish I had called the travel agency in Kathmandu).

Oh, and the express bus?  yeah — it took 13 hours.

It was suppose to take 11, but our 4-speed bus (in which I could see the road through the gear shaft) did not go all that fast.  And our driver, well, it is tough to be a driver in India.  Here is what he needs to avoid hitting:

  • Dogs
  • Kids
  • Rickshaws
  • Motos
  • Bikes
  • People walking
  • other buses
  • cars
  • horse and ox drawn carriages/wagons
  • trucks
  • donkeys
  • pigs
  • and of course, monkeys

And did I mention how comfortable the seats were?!  ha!

Anyway — 7:30 at night, I arrived.  Found a phone and called my guest house.  A guy came and picked me up and brought me back – on his scooter.  It was a crazy ride – me trying not to fall off b/c of my big pack.  And of course — lots of people staring.  The hotel is nice enough, though my room is really really cheap.  I have to figure out what costs will be in this country to see if I can upgrade….  but there is wifi!  🙂
So here I am
In India.
Amid the noise and the dust and the cows and the honking and people wanting to ‘help’ me out, here I am.  amazing how, admidst a billion people, you can be all alone.

Arrival in Doha

After finally making it to NYC yesterday and delivering my uncle’s passport, I went to Brooklyn for the afternoon to spend time with another  aunt and uncle.  We went to the brooklyn bridge park and walked along the water front with views of the Manhattan skyline and the statue of liberty in the distance.  Quite the nostalgic view for my departure from the country.

Big shout out to Ed and Hillary for feeding me and getting me to the airport – it made for a relaxing departure – seeing as my mind was far from relaxed.  to-do lists, running through what was in my pack and what was not…  my mind was full.   Then, the full gravity of what i am doing and where i am going hit me when i got in the Qatar Airways line.  I quickly could tell that i was not like the others.  I definitely was the only dirt bag in line, with my chacos and my backpack.  I recieved lots of stares from the predominantly indian and middle eastern crowd – men and women mostly dressed in salwar kameezes (is that the plural form?).

On the screen, it showed where we were in real time and how that corresponded to day/night.  I seem to have bypassed wednesday – I will depart for Kathmandu in a few hours (and by few – i really mean about 4).  The Doha airport seems to be mostly centralized around a huge duty free shopping area – it even includes a car!  All the signs are written in arabic with an english translation below.  Men are walking about in traditional arabic dress, long white flowing gowns and checkered head-dresses.  There are some women in burkhas.  I am trying not to stare, though I am intrigued.

I had dreams about school on the flight over – thinking of everyone at Ren, hoping the first day was awesome.  And hoping all the alums are starting school and doing great.  much love everyone — next time i will check in from kathmandu!

So why go?

Why leave a job I love, salary, benefits, kids and co-workers that challenge me and keep me laughing?  Why leave a community of friends and a living space that I adore?  Why leave the safety of what I know and feel comfortable with?

I have never been one to choose the easiest path.  When I was a senior in high school I moved to France to be an exchange student with only about two years of weak high school French under my belt.  Twice I have moved across country to places where I knew only one or two people.  And most recently, I moved to western Massachusetts to help open a school, not knowing anyone but the person who hired me.

But this feels different.  Friends love to make fun of me and my endless list making.  If nothing else, I am practical and pragmatic.  I love making lists.  I love planning for the future.  But now, all I know is that I will be traveling for 9 months.  I know there is no way to plan out all of the trip.  I cannot foresee every change that will come my way, every bump in the road.  Or what exciting adventures I will find out there!

This adventure is going to be a challenge.  I anticipate that I will see and learn and grow in endless, countless ways.  But really…. so why go?  Here are my reasons – both big and small.

1.  because it’s there.  Like Mallory, I want to go for the sake of going – for the adventure.  I want to see what’s out there.  I want to climb and trek and hike all over the world.

2.  I want to learn spanish.

3.  I love my job, love my work – but there is a whole big world out there – ready for me.  I don’t want to be that disgruntled teacher, going through the motions year after year.  I hope to return after this year fresh and ready to jump back into the hard work of teaching.

4.  There is so much cool stuff out there — I need to see it!  Being a biology teacher, I am continuously in awe of the world and natural wonders.  I cannot wait to see the Himalayas, the Andes, the beaches of Vietnam, Thai temples and Patagonia.