Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Cows, cows everywhere!

After 43 hours of airports, planes, shuttles, and layovers, we are finally in Kolkata! It's a miracle we got here today because of snow in Newark and rerouting our entire trip. The entire trek was a game of hurry up and wait. We either waited 8 hours in an airport for a flight or did a Home Alone style mad dash through terminals in other countries. Thankfully, we all made it, and so did our luggage. We checked into Seva Kendra, a dorm-like hotel. The rooms are simple - about half the size of my college dorm room. 

Here are a few first impressions of India:
1) The air is thick and has a smoky quality. I have been sneezing since we landed. 
2) Indians seem to find deodorant to be optional. Unfortunately, they also feel the same way about personal space. 
3) They have a slower pace of life than Americans. There are multiple people doing a job that either one American or a machine would do. At least 15 people checked my passport and boarding pass. It gives more people jobs, which is a good thing. 
4) Traffic rules are pretty loose. Two lane streets have cars driving 4 wide - it makes for some tight driving. They honk a seemingly abnormal amount to let other cars know how close they are. Pedestrians don't seem to mind cutting right in front of busses. Despite this, it seems oddly safe because everyone is very aware. One of our drivers got a speeding ticket and it was the equivalent of about $4.50. 
5) Bathrooms are much different than I'm used to. Many of them are in the floor, even in the airport. Toilet paper is a luxury that Westerners enjoy. Indians use water and their left hand. I'll let you use your imagination on that one...

During preparation we were told that at least 50% of the population is in poverty, with many more at risk for poverty. It is pretty clear when you drive through the streets and see cows and goats along the curb rummaging through piles of discarded trash. It makes me wonder what the slum will be like when we visit. I am trying to prepare myself, but I don't think there is any way to fully grasp it until we are there. 

Since we were delayed getting in, we are going to get dinner as a group, then come back and rest at the hotel until the morning. Tomorrow we'll learn about SEED, our partnership here in India, as well as visit Mother Theresa's house and the market. I'm looking forward to immersing myself into the Indian culture. 

Wifi at the hotel is spotty, at best. I'll do what I can to keep everyone updated. Thanks for the continued prayers!

1 comment:

  1. Sounds like you should be SUPER glad you have packs of tissues to keep in your purse! :-)

    Every country and culture is different, but it continues to amaze me how similar a lot of developing countries are to each other. So many of your observations are true of Cambodia, Haiti, and Belize as well (Cambodia specifically, but that makes sense because they're fairly close in the grand scheme of things).

    As you see more different things, some of which may be difficult to wrap your head around, keep you open mind and open heart. You're about to feel some big love.

    Prayers for you from home. Love you!