incredible India !
that's India's tourist slogan. I first encountered it on the last hour of the plane ride, then again throughout the airport. It's a large claim, but 12 hours into my trip I can feel there is something special about this place.
It's 4am here and I'm wide awake. Sleep has been sparse, but I do feel much more rested than yesterday. I don't think there is such a thing as a comfortable sleep here. I've tried every sleeping position I could think of- side, back, stomach- and then some. I think I'll call the one I'm in now the flamingo.
lying here, I feel an uncomfortable comfort. I'm still homesick. The weather is definitely not as I expected. it feels like a hot, humid Alabama day, except permanently. Inside feels the same as outside, the only difference being that the outside has bugs. (update: I can confirm there are bugs inside, too). The food is different from what I am used to, but delicious all the same. The streets remind me of Tijuana, Mexico, except with cows, tuk tuks, and every crazy driver on the planet. I'll have to dedicate another entire post to this later.
Despite my small physical and mental discomforts, the magic of this place and its people have brought me equal amounts of comfort.
my fist home stay for orientation week has been phenomenal. Our "mom" met us at the door with her daughter and greeted us warmly with a fresh flower necklace and red forehead paint (I've yet to learn the technical name for that...). She offered us tea, explained the orientation week in more detail, and helped us get situated in our room. Upon realizing we were thirsty, she gave her husband the car keys and we drove (literally) 7 houses down the road to the shop where we bought bottled water to keep us from having to walk in the heat outside. Talk about being pampered. This kindhearted nature seems to be true for all Indian people I have encountered so far.
Backing up to my Arrival in India-
the IVHQ coordinator met me at the airport, and he is wonderful. I somehow made it through customs and baggage claim so quickly that I beat him to getting to where he picked me up. But I quickly found him and we waited for the other 4 people on the pick up list. We talked about everything from my placement in the slums to his reason for working with IVHQ. He was an orphan, and growing up with volunteers shaped him into the person he was. He explained how he had never traveled outside of India because it was largely out of reach for everyone except the social elite. It made me realize, yet again, how grateful I am to have embarked on such a journey. From the baggage claim, he kindly insisted on carrying my suitcase ("wow, it's like you packed for months"... Ha, you don't say!) all the way to the taxi.
the taxi driver was also wonderful, though a bit quiet. I sat next to the window in the company of two other volunteers. I had gotten to know one of them in great depth at the airport, and the other on the walk to the car. By the time we got out of the city, we had all been silenced by the awe of the world surrounding us. Cows literally line the roads (or hang out in them), pigs eat from the trash on the streets, cars drive without rhyme or reason or any consideration for road rules, and towering Hindu statues unexpectedly await along the road in the most random places.
Aah.. incredible India... They weren't lying about that.
Tomorrow we start the first of our orientation week. I'm pumped, and I can't wait to get to know the other volunteers better and to see even more of India.Now to give this sleep thing another shot...