Wednesday, August 1, 2012


Day 20 – 01Aug2012

The morning started off incredibly early.  I woke up at 2:00am to finish packing and cleaning my room at Rising Star.  The Rising Star vans then took us to the airport at 3:00am.  I think I slept about an hour before the van ride and an hour during the van ride.  When we reached the Chennai airport, we said our goodbyes to our drivers and to our session coordinators.  It was bittersweet.  I was happy to be heading off to a new adventure in Delhi, but sad to be leaving the experiences and friends I made at Rising Star.

The airport in Chennai was a bit interesting.  I sent my checked bag through a screening before I could even get my boarding pass.  The airport workers zip tied my bag shut.  After we checked in, Amy and I tried to go through airport security.  We were stopped at the beginning of the line because our carry-on luggage did not have a tag on them…a tag?  Yeah, we didn’t know either.  So we started to head back to the ticket counter, but luckily one of the other volunteers had extra tags for us.  We got in line for security and were about to get our laptops out, but all of these men kept butting us in line.  They were looking at us funny and speaking in Tamil or Hindi (not sure which).  One of them even laughed at us.  A minute or two later, a nicer man told us that there was a separate line for ladies.  Yup, didn’t know that either.  It made sense afterward when we realized everyone in our line was male.  The only reason they have a separate line for ladies is for the screening.  They use a wand and apparently that is a bit invasive in their eyes so we had a female airport security worker do it for us behind a partition.  Interesting. Once our carry-on bags were screened, they stamped the tag indicating that it was safe to fly with.

Nothing spectacular happened on our flight from Chennai to Delhi.  I slept the entire flight (which was about two and half hours).  When we arrived in Delhi it was raining.  It is monsoon season here.  Luckily it is still very warm…even with the rain.  All the volunteers’ luggage made it to Delhi!  We were all excited about that.  Benson Massey from Abish Travels greeted us.  He will be our tour guide while we are here.  We were given flower leis and loaded the bus. 

Seriously uncomfortable from over-eating..
Our first stop was a restaurant for lunch.  On our way, we passed the president’s house.  It has 340 rooms!  It was enormous!  Benson also told us that the population of Delhi is 10 million…10,000,000!!!  And you can definitely tell!  The traffic here is unreal.  The restaurant was called “Have More.”  It was DELICIOUS!  By far the best food I’ve had since I’ve been here.  We were told that north and south Indian food is different, but you don’t really know that until you experience it.  I had some type of spicy vegetable rice with butter chicken and butter naan.  I ate until I was stuffed.  I have not been that full my entire time in India, including when I ate pizza!  The street vendors attacked as soon as we left the restaurant.  This time they were selling post cards and Kama Sutra books.  There were child street performers begging for money…literal slum dog gypsies.

Our next stop was Red Fort.  Benson organized for us to have a pedal rickshaw ride through the old market of Delhi.  My pictures will not do this place justice.  Our driver was a younger man and he was quick.  At one point, I looked back to see the other volunteers and their drivers, but they were nowhere to be seen.  The old market was jam packed with people.  Amy and I could and did reach out and touch the other cars and motorcycles.  The streets were very narrow, but our driver handled the rickshaw well…even if we did hit a car a couple of times…and we almost got hit a few times too!  I was legitimately scared for my life a few times…He pointed to the a little step we were supposed to put one foot on and said that it was our seatbelt…to keep us in the rickshaw if we hit anything.  Our driver’s name was Alum.  He took us through the wedding district and we were able to see all of the beautiful saris and colorful wedding dresses.  We emerged from that street and saw the capitol building.  We stopped at a spice market.  The owner knew very good English and talked with us about the different spices.  I tried real bark cinnamon.  I didn’t buy any spices because, let’s be honest, I’m not a huge fan of Indian food. ;)  We returned to our driver and he drove us back to Red Fort to load the bus.  He was racing the other drivers.  I think all of them must have been friends because they kept calling each other funny names.  I don’t know they meant, but they were all laughing so it must have been good. 

The bus ride to Agra was about eight hours.  I didn’t realize it was going to be that long.  I think if we were able to go 65 mph the whole time, the distance would only take about two hours.  However, when you can only drive 10mph most of the way, it makes the journey a LOT longer.  We stopped a couple of times along the way for bathroom breaks.  I’m actually writing this blog in a word document while riding the bus.  I’ve slept a little, looked out the window a lot, and watched a movie and we still aren’t there.  I’ve been sitting pretty much all day long.  I’m ready for a comfortable five star hotel, a hot shower, and a comfy bed.  As always, we’ve a spectacle the entire day.  It’s not every day these people see a van with 25 American girls.  Young men wave at us and blow us kisses.  Older men make eyes at us and raise their eyebrows.  I feel famous. 

Near the end of our bus ride, we were able to stop at McDonald’s for dinner.  The Chicken Maharaja Mac was a tempting option, but I just stuck with plain chicken nuggets. ;)  I also had an Oreo McFlurry and fries!  Don’t worry; I felt sick after…but almost a good kind of sick.  We hadn’t eaten in over nine hours, so this McDonald’s was a special treat.  About a half hour later, we arrived at our hotel in Agra. 

We are staying the Wyndham Grand Hotel, a five star hotel.  We arrived just before midnight.  This hotel is amazing!  I feel like I’m staying in a palace.  I’m rooming with two other girls, Amy and Tavia.  We have a giant king size bed, but they brought in an extra mattress.  This hotel really is incredible…AND we have a real shower…and a western toilet!  We arrived so late that I wasn’t able to get a whole lot of pictures…but they are coming.

I thought I’d just get the room and crash, but there was a girl on the bus who discovered she had lice so I decided to get checked too.  Just one of those things you have to do in order to sleep well, you know?  So here I was, sitting on a grandly padded ottoman being checked for lice in a five star hotel…Berlyn was very thorough as she looked through my hair at my scalp.  She paused and I asked, very hesitantly, “Berlyn?” She said, “It’s ok, relax.”  She continued looking and to my utter dismay said, “Don’t freak out, but you have lice.”  She uttered the dreaded words!  I have lice!  I only had a minor freak out…very minor.  Luckily, I brought RID (the lice shampoo) with me.  I spent the next two hours treating my lice.  I had to wash my hair with this very strong shampoo, rinse it out and then meticulously comb through ever strand of my hair with a very fine-toothed comb.  My hair was being pulled out, but I could see the little buggers and their eggs on the comb so I kept brushing.  Luckily, they had already been murdered by the shampoo.  I have to do another treatment in a week to make sure that I kill any remaining lice that I may have missed.  Amy was with me every step of the way and kept reading me fun facts about lice as I combed through my hair.  She’s such a good friend. ;)  Amy and Tavia do not have lice.  I’m the lucky one.  As I was laying to go to bed, I kept thinking of all the things my head has touched in the last few days…the Rising Star van seats, the airplane headrest, my travel pillow, the seat on the bus, my headband…I’m sure there will be few more victims of lice because of me…

Day 20 – Complete

Firsts/Realizations…Remember:  I’ve never seen trees counted before.  In Delhi, someone has painted trees with their corresponding counted number…
Delhi is very modern compared to Chennai. 

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