Wednesday, August 10, 2016

India Journey: Part 2

When I opened the shade of the planes window, which had been closed for about 8 hours, I saw desert and found myself giddy. I had never seen desert other than the sand dunes of Colorado.

It was time to buckle in for landing and my giddiness melted into anxiety. 

My legs bobbed, I picked my nails, took long steady breaths and tried to calm myself. Why are you getting anxious now? This is the exciting part!
Because what if my emails never went through and I have no ride and I'm alone and my phone doesn't work and I'm stranded in another airport in another country. What if what if what if.
I found myself holding my breath involuntarily, which happens when I'm REALLY stressed. We're almost there. Embrace the adventure.

The seat belt sign is off and I get up and grab my belongings. My hands are shaking. (CALM DOWN!!)

I make my way off the plane and decide to forego the moving walkway because I have just got to do a lot of walking. Keep moving. It's then I realize I can't feel my toes. My anxiety is officially getting unmanageable.
I make my way out of the infinitely long exit corridor and round a corner to see a sign that says "Welcome to India" in English and Sanskrit. My anxiety is stifled a bit. I'm here. I move forward and Into a lobby with giant, gorgeous golden hands along the wall above everyone's heads making gestures that I don't understand but I recognize as beautifully Indian.

Down the escalator and I stop at a intricate flower shrine/display. I can even smell it. It's lovely!

I stop to see if I can access WiFi because I hadn't been able to on the plane so I had last texted Palmer roughly 14 hours before and really wanted him to know I made it. As I was messing around with it a girl said, "Excuse me, can you connect to WiFi?"

"No, I'm trying to figure it out though."

And somehow after talking for less than a minute we realized we're both volunteering with IVHQ in the same program. HALLE-CUSSIN-LUJAH.

I am so happy I hug her, which I could tell at first was a little awkward but she was also as relieved as I was. We introduce ourselves (her name is Paola) and we move on through the airport.

Through the process of leaving we found yet another couple of girls, sisters, who were also volunteering with IVHQ. We were so happy to have found each other! And my relief was immense - I could breathe normally!

One of the sister's bags were lost so we waited to get that situated for at least a half an hour and then moved on to get our ride and get a SIM card for our phones. I was banking on having access to WiFi and not needing the SIM card but I had gone that long without a working phone and realized how much that uncertainty contributed to my anxiety.

We exit customs and they see their names on a sign a man is holding waiting for us. I don't see mine on the list so my nervousness returns. We greet him and I explain my situation, that I'm supposed to be getting picked up as well but apparently there was a mix up. He calls someone and is on the phone for a few minutes and tells me it's fine. I'm relieved but guys, if I hadn't found those girls, I would have been stranded. Just that realization sent me reeling back into my "what if" panic.

I secretly hope that I can just stay with these girls and never have to leave their side again.
We make our way outside the airport and are greeted by a stray dog who is super sweet. One of the sisters gives him a muffin which he perks up at and then snubs off, which was comical because she spent at least 2 minutes opening the package for him.

We're riding in the car to our home stay and we ask the driver questions about the city, the driving and so on. Driving there is insane. People walk, ride bicycles, motorcycles, tractors, rickshaws (also called Tuktuks), cars and trucks and follow almost no traffic laws. No one stays in a lane, they go just about as fast as they want and I feel like I witnessed a dozen near accidents. 
At one point we drive by Delhi's "Cyber City" which I only knew because there was a large, flimsy sign hanging near the highway saying so. It looked eerie at that time of night. I couldn't tell if buildings were abandoned or if they were just closed for the night - everything looked run down. 

At one point I notice a car merge from one lane to the next, to the next, to the next and I wonder why they're driving off of the road. It's then the driver tells us we're at a point in the highway where there are SIXTEEN lanes. SIXTEEN lanes going one direction. 

There are cows, dogs, pigs and donkeys on the road at any time and somehow everyone steers clear of them. I love how the people and animals coexist here. The animals go where they want and people respect them.

Right off of the highway (and other small roadways) were tiny, dilapidated shacks that would either be a shop of some sort (it seemed like every one of them sold Lays chips and soda) or was some kind of restaurant. I guess it's a restaurant because there's a table with about 5 men at each location and they seem to be eating.  Each building had dirt floors, (actually nasty muddy ones due to rain) and a single lightbulb illuminating the establishment. Some of them had an additional light bulb hanging outside. There would also be tent like shelters made of cloth and tarp that I later realized people were living in. Not a single place had a front door or and only some had 4 walls.

About halfway through the drive I also realize I had only seen two women out and easily over 100 men. I had been warned that it was not safe for women to be out at night and I kept it in mind but for the most part dismissed it. The realization that really no women were out sprung the fear up that they were right. 

I am overwhelmed with how different everything is. Even as I was taking it in I was trying to think of how I would put it into words.

On our way there the driver mentions I would be dropped off at a different home because I was only staying a week and the other girls were staying for 2 so they were partaking in orientation this week. (I had wanted to do that but it was an extra $200 and an extra week.)
I internally begin to panic. I kick myself for it because this is exactly what I went into the trip expecting, but finding myself in a small group of people with the same amount of experience and expectation was so comforting. And having that taken away just as quick was very disappointing. 

The drive from the airport to my home stay is over an hour. It's 11:20 when he pulls up to the house. Again, because of the dark of the night and the strikingly different architecture I have no idea if I'm in a good neighborhood or not. So my anxiety kicks it up another couple notches.
We're standing in the dark street and he's calling the owner of the house and I am truly starting to wonder if I was being stupid doing this whole thing. Luckily he gets through and the owner comes hustling down the stairs. I realize it's like an apartment building so he comes down the stairs, which I can see through a sheer panel, and he unlocks the big double front doors.

I begin by saying hello and then profusely apologizing for waking him up. He is very kind and directs me where to go. I'm also relieved because his English is very easy to understand.

I make my way up the stairs and take my shoes off as I see a line of everyone else's shoes at the door. He comes up and shows me where the clean water is to drink, the bedroom and washroom. I am talking and moving my bags in when I realize there are two other girls in the room staring blinded at the door. I immediately feel awful for waking them up but another sense of relief that I am not alone here.

I close the door and I'm in a humid, pitch dark room. I lay down on the bed which is terrible but MUCH better than the airplane seat and airport floor so I revel in its comfort.
It's midnight at that point and I have no light to change, brush my teeth or wash my face (and really no easy access to water to do so) so I lay down on the bed, in the clothes I've worn for 2 days now and try to sleep.

In the quiet darkness I am left with my thoughts which are not good at that time. And then I sink into grief. 

I miss my babies. I haven't talked to Palmer in so long and I miss him terribly. I think I wish I were home. And I hate myself for feeling that the night I get there. After all this, I get there and wish I were home. Maybe it was total exhaustion or fear that crept in by being introduced to new world in the bleak and dark night, I don't know.

 I close my eyes and toss and turn and toss and turn. I finally fall asleep when I wake up to one of my roommates talking in her sleep. She's speaking loud gibberish with an English accent. It's funny until I realize I had just fallen asleep! I check the time thinking at least I killed some had only been an hour. SHOOT. I think at some point I slept for a couple of hours but in the time I spent trying to sleep I found my anxiety was giving me chest pains. I can't remember the last time I had been this anxious and uneasy.

The blue pitcher had filtered water which was safe for us to drink. 

I spend the next few hours getting up to go to the bathroom, wandering around with my phone's flashlight trying to find an outlet and listening to Amy Poehler's audiobook. I laid in bed watching the grate above the window and I realize it's a little brighter. The sun is finally coming up!

It's been an hour and 19 minutes since then (when I wrote this) and I'm listening to the city wake up. First birds, then a couple dogs, a man loudly singing something in Hindi and lastly cars beginning to honk.

I find myself more at ease now that the sun is up and I know the day's uncertainties are about to be known. I hope and pray I find more (much more) peace and comfort in the journey ahead but already I know there is some amount of growth to come from this experience thus far.

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