Saturday, June 11, 2011



Thursday, June 2nd

4:45 am meet time at the jeep. I got up, flicked on hot pot of water heater they had, tossed on clothes, washed my face, braided the hair. Quickly sipped the cup of tea I’d just made, and was out the door on time. (be surprised. It was a trend I maintained throughout the three days! Yes, the being- on-time trend). Carefully locked my door behind me with the old skeleton key they had given me (attached to a 3” by 2” plate of heavy metal with the room Lark 3 inscribed).

I got the backseat, and away we went, bouncing and jerking along road. We picked up our guide on the way, and then entered the park by a guarded entrance. Although monsoon season is still far away, today was the first day there was a heavy downpour during my stay in india. It rained on and off for the whole morning. Sometimes coming down in big fat drops. Sometimes in absolute buckets of water. I managed goosebumps for the first time! The cover to the jeep would come on and off as needed. (but despite damp discomfort was certainly preferred…better visibility!!)

I really liked our guide though. I could understand him really well (though, I feel part of that is due to practice from being here has helped my over all comprehension). And he seemed genuinely interested in the wildlife around us. He pointed out birds of all kinds that were sometimes visible when they paused on a tree limb. There were parakeets and their robins, kinds that I can’t remember… but all different shades, some familiar standard bird colors, some brightly marked. It was light out by 5am, so it was plenty bright to see the forest by the time we arrived there.

We drove on a somewhat maintained path. Sometimes crossing rocky river areas, where the rain had created a foot plus deep flowing current across the road. No problems! The very open sides and bouncing, swaying ride made it preferable to have a hand or two securely grasping the jeep’s frame or seat in front of you. Luke laughed at my very white fingertips.

Besides the birds, we saw many deer, of all kinds and sizes. Two primarily: the small Spotted Deer, and the very large, dark colored Samba. We did not see, only heard, the smaller Barking Deer. No trace of tigers or elephants. But a rather enjoyable morning!

Back at the resort for breakfast, then rested in the afternoon (ie: slept) it was hot as well as humid up here in the northern part of india.

Returned to the Jeep that evening. We went to a different area of the park. This time, I often stood up in the moving to look around and get a better view of the forest around us. Braced myself holding onto the bar that made up the top of the jeep as well as the back bar too. But I liked It better standing, besides the challenge of balancing was a bit fun as we bounced over holes and around bends. Still had a death grip, unlike the guide who lounged with one hand lightly resting on the bar in front of him.

This time we were (supposedly ) close to seeing a tiger. A call came from another jeep, and we went racing off to an area of grasslands. A cluster of other jeeps stood by, engines off, people attentively and quietly sitting or standing. They help each other, these guides, spreading words of sightings and giving word where a tiger may be. We returned to the spot three times during the evening drive. Once, because he heard a Samba deer give a warning call. A warning given that he said was never wrong, it meant that a tiger was definitely around.

Although we did not see the great, stealthy animal. I really enjoyed the safari. I learned some about the wild life here in India, and though I would have preferred just walking around the was some fun in the bouncing jeep.

Back at the resort for the evening. Dinner was the same dishes as lunch. And repeated endlessly. But it wasn’t bad, and I had a lot of the Nom bread, which seemed to help digestion not be so rapid. Once the sun set, it cooled off nicely. The cleaning service replaced my bar of soap, used, towels, replenished tea and sugar bags, and topped off my pitcher of drinking water. Tonight, my room had the company of a toad and a very small salamander.

Friday, June 3rd

4:30 am meet at the jeep. Did not feel that bad. Maybe because I am in India, and not dragging myself out of my warm bed to sit at the cold kitchen table and frantically finish a paper/go over study materials one more time. Perhaps it is because the sky was already lightening a little by then.

We bounced along the main road today, following it as it wound and curved up the mountains. Eventually through the trees we saw that the slopes of the tall hills had become the tall, curving Himalayan mountains. Or the foothills anyways. The sides of them were ridged and areas had been sculpted into sharp edges. We climbed through the mountains and rocks, getting out frequently and taking pictures at the scenes that flashed through the gaps in the dense trees. Some areas, the jeep passed along the edge of the drop off, where here was no guard rail at all. When we were driving around the curving road up, often bridges over the gullies had no edge at all, tightly stacked stones acted as re-enforcements beneath the paved road. When we were high up, and less trees obstructed our view, often protection on the edge were little white painted posts…barely bigger than two stacked bricks. Only in a few spots were there great big blocks of concrete spaced out to separate the road from the edge. Recall, the absence of doors on this jeep!!

I really liked the mountains though, I could have walked around for a couple of hours happily up there. Glad I wasn’t driving though, it felt like a single lane sort of a road, but every now and then we would pass a bus, or come upon two buses slowly passing one another. I may have fallen in love with the driver strictly on the psychological disorder that arises when one’s life is endangered and they feel “saved” by an individual .

Breakfast had been packed for us the hotel staff. Some flat bread, hard boiled eggs, cheese sandwiches, baked potatoes (cubes with spices) and a banana with some juice. We pulled over and enjoyed the scenery, eating food. Then, “marked my spot” over a small hill and amongst some rocks…and we were back to the road.

Passed through a couple town like settlings. Which consisted of a couple store like structures, a place where some chai tea was probably simmering in the tin pot on the single stove burner. People were sometimes walking along the side of the road to a nearby well to pump water. Or walking along, balancing a bundle on their heads.

At one pause, we looked down over the embankment to a depleted river, where an alligator was sunning himself next to the water. He looked small below, and content and happy in the sunshine. So much for any thoughts I had of swimming in those waters… no thank you.

It had been cooler up in the mountains, with a nice breeze. We returned to the hotel by the time the sun was just starting to uncomfortably make the sweat drip off my body if we paused for more than 30 seconds. Hindsight, I am rather glad we stopped so often, even if we were just taking pictures of more monkeys. You saw more when not moving. Like this one spot, where the tree tops were below us. The tree leaves reflected the light so perfectly, they shimmered silver. It was as though a fresh morning dew clung to the leaves in order to reflect the sun.

That Evening:

We opted to ride elephants to go out to the thick woods this evening for a couple hours, instead of the longer jeep ride. The driver maneuvered the very tall, very large animal over to a stand where you could easily hop into their back. The driver got on by grasping an ear in each hand, and pulling them as we walked up the trunk before settling with his feet on the elephants head, and sitting on the flat platform where we sat. Atop the elephant, A large, thick layer of mats made up the seat, with polls at all four corners, and a nifty metal bar to keep you from sliding off. But once I got the motion down, that wasn’t a problem. We sat with our backs against each other, and both feet dangling off one side. Before walking up, I paused for a moment and petted the elephants trunk, it was so tough and leathery! The tip of his trunk wandered up to my hand, probably hopeful for food. Their flat ears constantly flapped back and forth to keep off flies. And he held in his trunk a small branch in order to swat off flies, or to scratch the bites. Luke, Joel, and I sat on one, while Mr. and Mrs. Bennett sat on another elephant.

The elephant has a lurching, rolling walk. We turned from the road, down a trail where kids played while their parents worked. Their steps were slow, and careful in the rocky areas. We slowly crossed the river, and those sturdy animals never slipped, stumbled or missed a step. Just slowly and deliberately walking across the rocky bottomed river. They filled up their trunks with water, and curved the trunk under to their open mouths to squirt in the drink. On command, the one we were on would fill his trunk with water, then toss it up in the air, spraying the water out into the air in front of us.

I realized with much dismay that not only am I able to be plane, train, boat, car, metro sick…but I can also be elephant sick. Luckily, I adjusted and was not miserable, except for a few brief moments while I adapted. Who knew? I have done really well otherwise this whole trip. Even in crazy traffic with fanatical drivers of all kinds.

The elephants followed a tiny trial through all kinds of brush, trees, bushes, little streams and gullies, sandy or rocky footing. Did I mention never stumbling or tripping? I feel like this is impressive. We picture these HUGE animals as bumbling around, stomping down the underbrush, making plenty of noise as they level an area. But that is not so. I can no longer compare myself to an elephant when being particularly cumbersome in my movements.

The driver directed the elephant by tapping on his head with his foot, or with a stick and Just giving a couple little pokes on the side of the head. If an animal is being particularly disobedient they have an iron rod that is pointed at the end, so that the driver can tug an ear or give a little more demanding direction. Very little force was required to direct the elephant, they were very responsive to verbal direction too!

At the river we saw a king fisher bird hover over the water, peering down looking for fish before diving, becoming very briefly submerged, and often triumphantly returning to a nearby rock to swallow his catch. Also by the river, kids played or washed naked in the water. Mothers crouched next to the river, washing clothes in the water. A man was scrubbing out the aluminum pots and pans there as well. Some people lounged on rocks, a little bit away from the river’s edge as the day cooled with the setting sun.

We meandered through the woods, the guide kindly lifting branches that swept too low, or moving the brush that pressed against the elephants sides, where our feet dangled.

Again, no tiger. However we did see his paw prints in a sandy area beneath the elephant’s feet. They were big too, maybe just a smidge smaller than my hand with the fingers spread.

The other few elephants that were meandering through the dense area had drivers that talked to one another, alerting us to a very large python snake at the base of a tree. It was slightly hidden by the underbrush. The snake did not slither away when we came over, because it’s middle was all stretched out and bloated, due to a spotted deer it had recently devoured. The driver turned around and excited explained in broken English how that snake had swallowed the deer whole. And would take about a week to digest it. Whew! The elephants seem unconcerned by the snake, though if he had not recently eaten, I would question what the ground to air range was of the snake out of pure discomfort of venturing so close.

Also, among the underbrush a little farther along, we saw a monitor lizard, probably 5 feet nose to tail. Maybe a little more! He blended right in among the dusty brush of the forest floor.

Where we wandered, the trees were not very high in most of the areas. Mostly shrubby type bushes and short, squat trees. So we could see plenty of deer meandering through. They were less concerned about the elephants than they had been about the jeeps! Lots of spotted deer, and some of the larger samba.

Despite the complete lack of tiger seen, it was really great to meander through the woods. Especially exciting to be on top of an elephant and doing so! It is not the animal to choose for speed and movement from point A to B. but in taking a casual amble about, they are definitely a fantastic creature. (Or, you know, to haul serious amounts of heavy material to build a fortress, castle, palace and such.)

It would have been nice to go out once the sun was going down. On a big enough animal that would make the surrounding forest not scary, but I bet it would be interesting to see the forest out here at night! (yes, this is coming from the girl who does not linger in the dark coyote friendly woods around western PA… it’s the principle of the thing though! The spirit of adventure! And the security of having a trusty guide/ driver who would conveniently be knowledgeable in everything needed, who would not be chased down and shot to death with poisoned darts by the angry natives, leaving me stranded. See, I learned from Indiana Jones).

Spent the evening in my room, with the window’s glass doors opened outward, and the screen doors shut tight (well, the two that shut anyways. Didn’t open the other glass doors which closed with a large gap. Not that it would have made a difference. Nothing is tightly sealed here. The toad probably meandered in through the gap beneath my door and the floor. Windows were good for keeping out birds and rodents, but nothing small and crawly would have been inhibited. Such is india. It is true in Delhi too. ) I was kept company by a different toad/frog and an even larger salamander. When I saw him scamper up the wall, I probably shot 12 feet straight up. But he settled quietly in the top corner by the ceiling…where he remained through the morning. Slept with the crickets chirping merrily, and the cool air seeping into my room. Nice, but not enough to motivate me to actually want to return home.

Saturday, June 04

Woke up at 5am. The sun already turned the sky a light grey, and the air was cool and comfortable. I took my cup of tea out to a chair they had on the lawn at the resort. And read a book, or tried to catch up with my journal. Mostly, I just wanted to sit outside without sweating where it was peaceful. The sun brushed the far off mountains with her “fingertips of rose”. The grass was not damp or dewy at all.

The common monkeys ran along the stone wall at the edge of the small yard. Big ones, little ones, mama ones with little babies holding onto their underside. They scurried along, shimmying up and down the bamboo, and playfully chasing each other. It was a secluded, peaceful start to the day, that did not mimic the busyness that had already begun on the streets and in the town outside of the resort’s walls.

Workers were erecting a building closer to the entrance. They brought in mules or small ponies that carried bags of powder concrete mix. Holes were dug and steel (ish) rebar was spindled together. Which I suppose would at some point support an actual building. Probably wouldn’t walk into any building if I focused too much on the structural tactics.

Train ride home, plenty of stops along the way on this express train. Including some 25 minute long stops. I sure would dislike the slow train.. Arrived in Delhi with the heat and dust and crowds enveloping you like that distant relative’s hug who you don’t really like, but have to tolerate anyways.

“Home” at the Bennett’s house to frantically pack for return to home…stateside. The idea of home in Zelienople feels weird. Not bad at all, just when I picture it in my head, it has the feeling of high heeled shoe after wearing flip flops for so long. or how a heavy, fleece hoodie feels after wearing tank tops. But that means there will be campfires, and tree covered rolling hills!

Quick stop at CafĂ© Coffee Day (CCD) with two of the sisters. Between the laughing and talking…and the chocolate brownie fudge ice cream dessert…leaving did not feel as awful.

Hugs all around and then to the airport…to see if I could get a ticket.

After stressing in line, as they slowly and unhurriedly checked people in, I was assigned a seat. I do not think I have ever before been so disappointed that everything went according to plan.

Made it through immigration check and metal detector to be gestured to the most direct route through the terminal to the plane which was already boarding (yes, they had a man with a walki talki waiting for the other few people on the flight to get through the lines to give directions on how to get to the gate most efficiently). Made it, only a little out of breath, to settle into the middle seat for the 14 plus hour flight home.

Made a list with fabricated reasons why I should be excited to go home while waiting for take off. It was a list of genuine optimism mixed with sarcastic commentary.

So I slept scrunched, in all kinds of upright and tightly curled ways. Successful snoozing occurring. (it is a talent…don’t be jealous)

Wednesday, June 1st

Ruwngni’s birthday lunch before leaving for Corbett! Yes that poor dead chicken lived up to delicious hopes and dreams. He cooked a nice little lunch for a few people, and it was SO GOOD tasting. Yes, I could taste it, only a few things were seriously spiced. It was an interesting meal otherwise.

There was the pork there, but the meat cooked and served with the fat layers as well as the meat. I was told by new friend Glory that you should eat it all together, the fat and the meat. This is because separated does not taste as good as when it is together. A little too greasy tasting for me, but not too bad either!

There was also a dish of chopped up intestines and stomach. A mixture cooked in serious spices. I tried that too. The spices were nice to destroy any traces of weird flavor. The texture, however, remained the same. Like, epithelial noodles. Chewy and sometimes smooth (intestine), and other times more rigid (stomach). So very worth trying. And I didn’t cheat, chew three times and swallow the rest whole. A little piece of liver was in there as well.

He encouraged me to try these new foods. Also, because I am a guest soon to leave he gave me dibs to the choicest pieces. The bits of the bird usually bestowed upon the oldest sibling, or important family member. Well it’s a good thing he was so encouraging, and a good thing his friend, Glory (?) backed him up so I knew he wasn’t just pulling my leg for the sake of amusement. He had put these cooked (yes, it was all cooked) scraps in a separate bowl.

You know the red crown on top of the chicken’s head? It kind of looks rubbery? Yeah…I ate that, right from the dead chicken’s decapitated head. Chewy. Tastes kind of how it looks. Sorta meaty on the inside. ate all, but saved the last bite to share.

Then he disappeared into the kitchen and came out with two halves of the chickens skull. He cracked it open, right down the middle. Glory, who had photographed and cheered me on when I tackled the chicken’s red crown…showed me how to eat the brain. Together, we picked up the itty bitty pieces of (cooked) brain matter. White-ish grey-ish. Tasted soft and mooshy. She told me the softer it is the better it is. Tasted kind of funky.. but again, not bad!

She told me I handled it better than a lot of other people she knows. Some would throw up just looking at it. A lot of vegetarians will not even look. My somewhat brave, somewhat nervous, and only slightly disgusted faces (at the initial notions especially) were pretty good according to her. She said I was Fear Factor Level 5!!!! Woohoo! I’m not gong on any gross freaky tv show like that one, but I feel accomplished and barely queasy at all!

Thank goodness for the support and encouragement though, at least by those two. Everyone else had the same basic objective opinion. Not that I blame them at all… Plus, I think they found my adventurousness rather amusing.

I think we are not using our food to its fullest potential back home.


If one goes anywhere from Delhi via train, all the forewarning in the world will not be enough to prepare you for Delhi’s train station. It sits all nice looking and busy hectic on the outside, right near the Red Fort. (old fort??? There IS a difference…))

Inside is chaos. Redefined chaos. People smash in next to each other so tightly, I am thankfully in a group that has convenient Tall Joel. Tossed your stuff on the security belt, then crowd around the other side to snatch up your bag before someone else does. I am somewhat certain I was nearly pick pocketed. A little old lady “bumped” my bag, with her hand. If I didn’t have it zippered closed with the zipper under my eyeball, and the strap in my hand I would have elbowed her in the face. But I was not completely sure that I was not just assuming the worst. She vanished when I turned my head and eyeballed her though. WIN! Count the small ones.

Inside, people waiting had no benches, instead they sat, slept, ate, or played with small children on the floor. A floor you would no want to touch with big toe. When areas of people were too crowded, luggage was frequently balanced on the holder’s head…in order to better wade through the masses. Not a bad sounding plan at all, I actually considered it when I was all but lifted off my feet by bodies being pressed against me. Sweaty from 110F plus packed-crowd-body heat. My sweat? Or the people next to me?

For under $10, we got an air conditioned sleeper car for the 5ish hour long train ride. The Bennetts were fantastic enough to invite me along to join them on their safari vacation. We made friends with the lady and her son who sat across the isle from us on the train. We shared our teddy graham cookies with her young son, and she insisted we try some of the Okra lady fingers, in Pudhi (poodhi???) bread that she had. (the bread was separate from the Okra, but she wrapped it up in the flat bread and handed it across the isle so that we all got to try some. It was really good! Not too spicy, lots of flavor.

Spent the rest of the trip on the suspended top bunk sleeping. Could have done it curled up, but they distributed clean sheets and a pillow for sleeping comfort. So I scrambled up the side railings they had for stepping and zonked.

When we arrived, the train let us out on the opposite side of the tracks. No platform. You climb down the ladder type stairs they have from the doorway that was 5 plus feet from the ground. The Indian lady we met managed it in a sari! Wow! Then we hopped across the tracks with our bags and clambered up the other side onto the platform. I suppose that is standard? No one else seem befuddled by crossing a couple sets of train tracks.

Our driver picked us up in the jeep which we would belovedly bounce in for two days, and took us to the Wild Crest Resort.

The best part? While we drove in between the main town to the resort, you could look up and see so many stars. I have missed seeing the stars, Delhi’s night sky is nothing but a dark haze, lit up by the city lights that never go dark.

I had my own room! we were all in the same cluster of rooms in one building, and I was sandwiched inbetween Luke and Joel and Mr. and Mrs. Bennett’s rooms (so I could hop out a window and be at one’s door. Or open my door and bang on the other’s window.

By india’s standards, the place was top drawer!!! Wooden floors. Clean double beds. An airconditioner turned on full blast by the management who showed me the room. A television with one or two English channels too! Drapes covered the big windows to the side of the room. A garden and tree was outside the door, with a little sidewalk leading up to my door. Flowers an vines were outside my window.

Although I am sturdy, strong, independent type. I slept with a light on. The fan full blast, because the room had random bugs and mosquitoes about and I figured with the ceiling fan on, and the breeze on my skin would discourage them landing on me. It worked! after I brushed a few struggling dead insect bodies off my pillow. (thank you anti bug plug in on the wall.)

Tuesday, May 31st A Very Happy Birthday

Happy 21st Birthday

Woke up at 6:30am for a skype video chat with mom dad and Lydia. It was good that it worked out, and nice to see them all! I was even sung too J

Then, Mrs. Bennett had ordered breakfast from the embassy, with little donuts and cinnamon rolls, croissants, and croissants with chocolate inside!!!! wow! I guess she doesn’t realize that I really did mean it when I said, “oh anything is great! What does everyone else like? Pancakes sound good. Or that bread pudding… whatever is good with me. You don’t need to, cereal is fine!” serves me right for not specifying.

Our newfound friend from church, Nick, who was passing though Delhi on his way back home to the UK, joined us for the day! It was nice to have another addition!

We all sat around after breakfast, talking politics. I, somehow managed to keep my mouth shut. Although I was in agreement with the majority of what was said, my uncharacteristic silence was not from lack of opinion and insights on the statements made. That ethics class I took, really helped me be able to organize my thoughts on issues more. The best part was hearing the guy’s opinion and perspective from the U.K.

The moral of the story: The U.S. is giving too much power to the government. It’s time to step up people!

We went for a walk around Deer park. Second time there, and got to explore a little. We went to the green, algae filled lake, where there is a tomb/palace combination. I suppose people may have been meant to be kept out, but there were so many openings, the single gate to the one door did nothing. I was exceptionally appreciative to Luke, Joel, and Nick being there as we walked past random clusters of people who were lounging inside the shaded doorways. Although interesting, it was rather unsettling how random doorways led to nothing but a 20 foot drop. Stairs had no walls and were open on both sides. Open spaces had nothing to guard from the drop off. And kids were seen scampering around, playing and having fun. *minor anxiety attack*. This would not happen in the U.S. which means either A. We take our safety and our children’s safety seriously and like to best ensure that locations are not encouraging accidents or B. We take our safety to the extreme, relying on state or government regulations to determine something is safe and demanding extreme amounts of work to be done to ensure our lack of responsibility and inattentiveness is consequence free

It was so hot out, and although we were under shaded paths, my shirt was soaked. I wonder what it will be like to return home and be able to walk outside without sweating out half my water weight? Or is the humidity in PA going to make all the sweat I am accustomed to producing now stick to my hair and clothes, letting it drip down my back and face. Fantastic either way you look at it right?

We walked along the street back to the Bennetts.

A few comments on the street

1. Two lanes does not in fact mean two cars. It means 3 plus cars and a motor cycle or two.

2. Cars are not limited in the amount of people they can carry. Buckles are not a law here. So the number of rear ends in one seat fluctuates

Example: carpooling from food to church the other day… 18 people. 2 small vehicles (5 seaters). Short distance, so we were determined to all fit. So 9 people per car. One put two in the trunk. The one I was in went “double layer style” two person to a seat (stacked, so each had someone on their lap, or sitting on someone else’s lap) or, in the front, two people hip to hip in the passanger seat. The driver had his seat moved all the way forward, but was granted his own space. This is not an uncommon occurrence to observe.

3. Food is usually made on the side of the road in a large pot with a concoction stirred inside. Dished out cheaply to any walking past. No, I did not sample any of these street foods.

4. Avoid the dogs…rabid animals are NOT always foaming at the mouth

5. Ignore the beggars. This means ignore. Yes, it sucks. But they do not want food or water. They want money. Even if you gave some, You cannot save them. Accepting that does not make it any easier…

6. Be careful where you step, this includes footing but is not limited to:

i. Random people sleeping on the sidewalk

ii. Laundry, pots and pans, or utensils lying next to nearby sleeping space

iii. Small children sleeping while parents work nearby

7. Being on the sidewalk does not mean that you are safe. Keep eyes open for any moving bicycles or other moving objects

8. Walking on the street is often easier/safer/ more obstruction free than walking on the road.

9. Yes, I think I have nearly died of a heart attack. Lucky me, they use horns here to alert anyone and everyone of an approaching vehicle. However, 3 inches is PLENTY of space between vehicles, therefore, similar relation of distance applies to people.

10. Any cars parked overnight without being covered will need to be wiped down in the morning due to dust accumulation. Sitting out without cover makes windshields extremely streaky and coats the car with the light brown layer.

Went out shopping again, at another market with another name that I hadn’t been to before. It was dusty, hot and crowded…as per norm here. We were in search of a memory card for the Bennett’s camera….and spent our time ducking in and out of blissfully air conditioned stores that were on the side of the street, spaced behind or on a parallel block to the mass market that had sales items on display outside, compact into small spaces and overlapping on display.

I was led down a side alley, enclosed. It had all kinds of Indian costume jewelry. Cheap cheap cheap. I did not bother buying, it would never last. But it sure was pretty to walk down the crammed isle, peering at the sparkling and glittering colorful plastic crystals in the earrings and necklaces.

I got to try Chuski! We paused at a little stand and Ruwngni ordered for us (above), three of the red kind. The vendor guy took a block of ice out and with a flat sharp blade, shaved off the chunks needed. They were compacted into a little triangular cone on a popsicle stick, which was upside down in a little plastic cup that held the liquid ice and flavor juice. You dunked the clump of ice into the flavor red juice in the cup then sucked it off of the ice. It was absolutely perfect in the heat. As we slurped away, the red juice colored our lips, teeth, and tongues. (miraculously I managed to not get any on my shirt)

We went to INA (market) real quick. Ruwngni needed a chicken for tomorrow. I skidded along behind, trying desperately not to trip and fall, while at the same time, desperate for traction that my shoes lacked on the wet surface. Water was poured on the tiles to rinse the blood/ scraps, or (by the cages) chicken/duck poop that had accumulated into the gutter in the center. At least in the meat section, the gutter was covered by a plastic grate. Comforting?

We waited while the selected chicken was separated from the others crammed in holding space. Watched the pork guy carving off the meat needed and chopping off hooves of the pigs, where he sat cross legged on a table next to the bowl of intestines that were for sale as well.

Just a few minutes later the guy returned with the chicken, feet and head still attached. The smell did not get to me, the heat did not get to me, the sight of the destined to be delicious chicken did not bother me. (I saw the chickens killed at the farm back home when I was little) But the combination made me fuzzy feeling. Determined not to have another involuntary sit, I laughed it off, giggling at my ignorance as a sheltered American, who thinks a skinned chicken=headless and footless. The laughing worked like magic. Improved airflow in my system, oxygen intake, and though the sweat continued to roll off my skin…I felt much better despite the heat.

Bought myself two, fresh mangos :) FANTASTICO!! Why must we be void of this fruit back home? It is depressing, this reliance which we hold to mearly apples and oranges.

For dinner, Luke helped (and by that I mean texted and fielded responses) gather some of the group for a birthday dinner! Twelve people showed up! Which was impressive given short notice! I was happy, It was most of the people who I had gotten to talk to and hang out with the most at all of these events. We went to the Indian Habitat Center, where there is a nice food court. It is inside, at the end of a city garden type set up in the middle of a bunch of buildings, where all kinds of cultural things are held. Including an small art display, currently holding photographs taken from around India.

We took over a table, and I was given the summery of what was available. Wisely opted to let someone order for me, a south Indian dish. Which was good, and I ate everything, even the spicy stuff. I’m getting so good at that, which is a shame since it is the end..of this visit anyways.

Tradition in India is that the birthday person takes everyone out, and treats them! It was great, because I was trying to find a way to thank everyone for coming out, and for welcoming me in, taking me places and showing me around. It was great, I could take participate in culture here and thank everyone simultaneously. Plus, I kind of wanted to! everyone was really appreciative, thanking me for dinner…when really I’d been thanking them. **sings** circle of looooove!

Mrs. Bennett was good with the idea of everyone coming over afterwards, for Mississippi Mudpie!!! I was going to help *guilty guilty guilty* but limited kitchen space and utensils made it difficult. And the important factor that her involvement guaranteed that it would be delicious! Still, I was so very thankful she was okay with it! Woohoo!

Everyone sang happy birthday for me! I just smiled and grinned my big old happy smile that scrunches up my whole face. I thanked everyone for coming and then, like anyone who is the center of attention…I bolted for the kitchen before I could start tearing up of anything like that.

We sat around the living room for a bit, laughing and devouring the sugary goodness of Mississippi mudpie (whip cream/pudding type composite. ) I did not want to think just then that this could very well be the last time I see everybody. Well, last time for a very long time anyways.

Hugged extra tight at the end (just in case). I could never have asked for such a great birthday.

And everyone from home facebooked happy birthday wishes as well (during both times zones)!!! :D

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

May 28th and 29 -Last weekend

Last Weekend

Friday night:

Out to see Pirates of the Caribbean 4!

Security lines to check in any bags, which were not allowed in the theater.

Theaters were not spread out in a complex, nope, there were stairs involved. Serious amounts of stairs. Space efficient theaters here, with a concession area and amphitheater style seating for the movie.

Besides plot line critiquing which abounds…the BEST part of the movie…was the incorporated intermission!!!! Probably meant for snack purchasing, but complete liberty was taken for using the bathroom, and not missing any of the movie! I didn’t even have to GO and I was excited.

Mcdonalds, cheap and safe for dinner. I have eaten more fast food the past two weeks than I have in the past two years in the states.


Pancake breakfast!!! Cooked by Papioue and shamani (SP??????????) complete with fresh mango!! And coffee!! A good amount of people showed up for the “early hour” of 9:30am.. Like most things in India, we did not eat unil an hour later. By then, the coffee was ricocheting through my blood stream and I chattered away to everyone there.

I went along with a group of girls to go shopping. After much debate and consideration, a couple of us who had been considering getting an upper ear piercing decided to join forces for courage and fun and do it together J It was a birthday present from a new friend, among many, who have a special place in my heart.

She took me to a safe, clean place and we checked and confirmed with other friends where we wanted it done with a little pen.

I watched the guy who was going to do it, critiquing his cleaning and sterilizing techniques. Satisfied, except for his lack of gloves, but freshly hand sanitized hands and alcohol cleaned earring. Then he leaned forward to do it by hand…do they do that in the states? Push it through by hand? I didn’t know that and nearly panicked But I made it, without a tear or curse word. Yay brave act. Yay controlling breathing and nerves! Thanks to all those big scary tests…. Finally gaining those benefits.

We all walked around shopping, the girls here are great. They give opinions on styles and how they look. Thumbs up or thumbs down, they won’t let a friend wear something that looks bad! I made the mistake of trying on one American –ish styled shirt. It was in a nice store, so I knew it would make it through more than one wash without falling apart. Aaaand they all offered full support, claiming that I looked great in it. So, I caved. Since I rarely find anything I 1. Like 2. Fit 3. Have in my price range back home.

Had a snack of Momos ..can’t describe them. But it was street food that happened to taste great. Had one in consideration of my stomach. Also, tried Masala Coke. It had a very strong, distinct taste. With the salt not mixed in enough at the bottom. And the syrup giving a flavor to the coke. I tried it, and shared it with Joel. Several sips in I decided it wasn’t that bad, not a favorite, but more than tolerated.

Three of us continued on to market. Where everything is super cheap. It is open, not in stores, so you had to hunt for a size or style that you wanted. I was under strict instructions to not purchase anything without one of the other girls there to negotiate prices.

We entered onto the crowded road, bustling the people, sales on the sides, with clothes layered and hanging up on display..filling the entire wall space available. Ladies walked around, with necklaces or bangles draped over their arms, offering stuff for sale. Dust, and smoke lingered in the air, kicked up by everyone walking around. We were on the hunt for somewhat specific items. The hardest part, finding the sought after size (yes, even here). I made the mistake of pointing out a couple shirts I was interested in, and before I knew it, one of the girls had haggled them down to 150 rs…that’s $3. Each. W00t! even managed to find the one style shirt I was looking for! (it looks like a man’s button down dress shirt, but s more feminine by cutting in close to the waist, but being long enough to reach mid thighs). It was fun, working our way through the crowds holding up different colors, inspecting the articles for tears in the fabric. We stuck close, linking arms and holding hands while weaving through the crowds.

We were hot sticky and dusty. We went to the one girls house to freshen up. She graciously let us in, we rinsed off our feet, washed our faces. She offered us some Chai (that is just standard tea here, sometimes served with some spices and milk. ) we fluffed our hair, changed clothes, borrowed jewelry and set out for a surprise going away party for one of the leaders there.

When we left at the end of the night, I realized all the ways I have changed in just a couple weeks. Whole heartedly tried the food, not wincing nearly as much at all the spice, and I comfortably settled in among the groups of people, chatting away instead of hugging the corner and desperately trying to understand the heavy accents.

Walked to the metro station so we could find an auto rickshaw, since it is hard to find them on other roads once it gets late (after 10pm ish). Sticking in groups, and ensuring each person got safely home, or had someone to ride with. I hope I do that with my friends, I guess I is not as much of an issue, but it is still something that needs to be incorporated.


Last Sunday with SDC? (South Delhi Congregation)

Is it weird how welcome I feel? How much a part of this place I feel, although my roots are not deep?

After the service, we had a break for Chai, then went back for a prayer meeting. I was pretty nervous going into it, I don’t usually pray outloud, which is weird. Maybe it is because geneva is so full of experienced Pray-ers, who know how to articulate the issues they are worried about. Maybe I’m just letting my insecurities interfere too much.

Anyways, it started with worship, then on the screen they put up a list of issues. Then we broke into groups of four to pray over the list. The first list was global/international concerns, and the lists gradually became more local, ending on the congregation’s prayer concerns. Even though I didn’t know most of the people we were praying over, it actually was really great, just to pray together.

American embassy! The whole group! For Joel’s graduation party, as well as for Luke graduating too! (though he has been taking college level classes online).

We got in, and although the ball field and the bowling lanes were rented…I made a bee line for the swimming pool. Today was probably around 115 F…and in my opinion, the water is the only place one is supposed to be!

Even wearing a whole piece suit, and shorts, I still felt extremely self conscious. Luckily Sophia was in the pool with me the whole time! It was fun, though the group kept getting the whistle blown at us for our styles of fun. I wished I had any experience teaching swimming. It would have helped. Most people only swim once in awhile, if at all here. A lot of the girls were too nervous to get in. It was a lot of fun though! Treading water, practicing dives. For once, I could keep up with the strongest swimmers in the group (rare back home).

Quick game of football (soccer) I realized I have not played since GYM CLASS in HIGHSCHOOL. That’s just embaressing. Oh well, it was fun. And the game was too intense and short to let me interfere at all. The country’s sports are football (soccer) and cricket. In the summer, they are just put on hiatus for afternoon times.

Dinner: Italian Buffet style! When Mrs. Bennett warned the chef that she would have a large group of youth (here youth is 18-28) so he wouldn’t run out of food. He assured her “Mam, I have been cooking for Americans for 11 years…running out of food will not be a problem” hahahaha sooo true. We had a room all to ourselves and a massive table, around which we crammed 30 plus people. Have you ever sat around one large table with that many people? One would think cross ways communication would be impossible, but I assure you, it was managed rather well. In some form or another.

I apologize for all the details that could be summed up as “Anna spent time with new friends” but it has been these friends that have made the visit here so amazing. It is the conversations that took place and friendships built that made this so much more than just a short trip to India.