I find it every difficult to accurately put into written language what I experienced between the dates of December 26th and January 7th. I have had several people ask if we had fun on our trip. Fun isn’t an appropriate. Sure, we played games with the boys and experienced fun things, but overall, the trip wasn’t fun. Eye-opening, for sure. Humbling? That’s like saying I like chocolate. Is that statement true? Absolutely! But it doesn’t fully describe why I like it, when I like to have it, which grade or which style I prefer. It couldn’t possibly communicate the satisfaction or delight I have when the first bite melts on my tongue. And we’re just talking about chocolate. The bible says in Issaiah 55:
8“My thoughts are nothing like your thoughts,” says the Lord.
“And my ways are far beyond anything you could imagine.
9For just as the heavens are higher than the earth,
so my ways are higher than your ways
and my thoughts higher than your thoughts.
I understand what happened during our stay in India in my soul far better than I can pretend to convey in words or pictures. You will have to come with me next time to fully grasp what happened.
I am going to do my best to go day by day and recap what was experienced, funny sayings, God appointments and the such but right now I am just not sure I can do it. God was definitely in the middle of all things and he is so good. He has show myself, and I feel it safe to say our whole group, that we are disgustingly privileged beyond measure as Americans. God purposed to have all 14 team members born here in the United States and not somewhere else in the world for a reason. I am just not 100% sure what that reason is yet. It is by His grace that I write to you in my warm and safe home where I am pretty sure we will eat tomorrow. It’s only by His grace.
In the next paragraphs, I will attempt to explain why I am in the state of mind that I am in…not being about to form a clearly communicated thought. Right now, at nearly 6 am on Friday the 9th, I find myself able to sit up on my own without swaying back and forth. My entire body doesn’t ache, my ears don’t feel like they rupture anymore. When swallowing, mere glass shards are felt instead of full sized razorblades. Nausea has passed. It is a good day.
Let me back up to Tuesday morning, 7:30am Jaipur time. All 14 team members are waking up, gathering their belongings and preparing to head downstairs to the restaurant for breakfast. Once all of that is done we move all said belongings to the lobby where we turn in our keys and say goodbye to any form of bed for the next two days. From there, we spent the day finishing up gift shopping, eating at India’s version of KFC and walked through the historic Jaipur district, also known as the Pink City.
When we left the hotel, we headed to our friend’s house for a cooking tutorial of how to make authentic Indian chai. Before getting on the buss to Dehli, we went to their version of Wal-Mart to pick up authentic spices to take home and recreate it! Several years ago, my sister introduced me to chai at Starbucks and I fell in love. Little did I know that years later I would find myself in a country where it is found on every street corner, available for pennies a cup, and served at least 3 times a day. Starbucks is good, but authentic chai is much better. MMmmmm…
Once we left their house, we went to downtown Jaipur and shopped at Rajasthali. It’s a four-level department store with everything from framed paintings and marble items to textiles and woodworking. Though many people bought items to take home to family and friends, we didn’t find anything we had to have. I’m sure part of that is because this is when I started to feel less than 100%. My throat started hurting and my ears began to feel like they had pressure behind them.
Seatbelt laws don’t apply in India. Nor do you have to adhere to the suggested seating numbers. At one point in the trip we had 13 people in this vehicle.
Part of our group waiting for the rest of the group to finish at Rajasthali.
After we shopped, we went to KCF, India style! Most of us got chicken tenders, fries and a drink. The chicken was great, the fries weren’t like they make them here and the drink was cold. All in all it was a great trip. It facinates me how differently other cultures translate things. I don’t mean just in language but in the way they portray things. See pictures below:
It seems most places deliver where we were. KFC does it by motorcycle.
Part of our team waiting to order. This is done on ground level and then you go upstairs for seating. I think the majority of us just got chicken tenders (which were really good), fries and a drink. They cook their fries in a different kind of oil so they were different than we expected but all in all, it was good.
Selfies…even in India!
Melissa giving Tangy Sauce (Ketchup…sort of) a try.
Once we finished eating, we had about an hour and a half before we had to load up and go back to our friend’s appartment. We had to allow enough time for a few to go to a music store to pick up drums like we used in our worship time with the nationals and for the women to run to the store to get the spices for chai. Seven of us decided to head to the Pink City to check it out. Scott, our fearless leader, had never been there before and he has been to India I don’t know how many times. It was an adventure for sure.
One of three gates to the old city. The Pink City is the original layout of the original city of Jaipur. There isn’t much of a difference between the two sides of the gate, but it was fun to say we’d been there!
Truth be told, the gates are more orange than pink. India is kind of like that. You many be told one thing, but you come to expect something completely different. In all of my research of India before we went, it was often said that India is full of contradictions. We, too found that to be true a time or two.
Pink City is full of…basically mini storages side by side by side by side with apartments above.
One of the things you can see in this picture is kites. The kites are part of the Kite Festival which will take place on the 14th. Kids and adults alike will try to fly these kites to see who can fly A. the highest and B. the longest. The first 20 feet of string closest to the kite is coated in glass. When the kite is in flight, each person tries to cut other people’s kite strings. I wish we could have seen it! The festival takes place on the 14th which will be…Tuesday or Wednesday of next week.
It had been several hours since we had taken chai, so we sought out the closest chai stand. We crossed the street and found this little, traditional stand. There we met a group of Muslims how educated us on the five-per-day call to prayer that can be heard all over the city. Very informative.
All of that conversation was going on while we waited for our cups to be poured and served. They serve it straight from the big pots right into plastic cups thinner than Solo brand cups and much much smaller, too. It is a mystery to me how this near boiling mixture doesn’t melt right through! When it is handed to you, you have to hold it by the thicker rim at the top. One, because the hot liquid isn’t there and two, because the plastic is thicker and harder there. Theoretically that means it’s safer to hold there. Unless you are me.
Have I mentioned that they serve chai VERY HOT and in thin plastic cups?
I was contributing to conversation and having a great time until…the upper lip of my cup snapped, the cup caved in causing the liquid the temperature of lava to flow down my arm. It was pure luck that my friend took this picture when she did. I am gasping for air…it burned so bad. Eventually, the chai man swapped my cup and poured it’s remaining contents into another cup.
There were cows everywhere in India. They believe that their ancestors are reincarnated into cows so they don’t kill them and certainly don’t eat them. This cow was just hanging out on the road. Just…hanging out!
One of our team members is 17 and came with her parents. At one point, we had to make our way through a herd of cows and bulls on a very narrow side street. There were cow pies EVERYWHERE and if there wasn’t one of those, then there was an actual cow/bull. Feeling overwhelmed and without thinking, she yells, “Holy COW!” We couldn’t help but crack up because, well…there, they are considered holy!
Scott ordered some hushpuppy-like things from a street vendor and he shared them with Josh and me. Whoooooooo weee! They were HOT! That was my second adventure eating food from street vendors. Later, I will share about pani puri.
We made it back to our rendezvous point (KFC) pretty much on time. We saw half of our group on the other side of the street so we each had to make our way over there to be together. Want to see how to cross the street in India?
Afterwards we went back to our friend’s apartment and Josh went to buy drums for the boys while I bought chai supplies. Our host family’s wife had a birthday that day (Jan 5th) so we sang happy birthday to her, ate cupcakes and ordered pizza to take on the road with us. Once it arrived, we loaded all belongings into the bus and made our way to Dehli via bus. This bus was supposed to be nicer than all busses we had been on but several still got sick.
Dehli greeted us at about 12:00am on the 6th. By this time, our team had been up for 17 hours. We went right away to check in, get bags checked and headed to immigration. At this point I had body aches and was sore all over. My throat was hurting pretty bag, too. Immigration could also be called the inner depths of hell, the iron grid, a long winding hallway with a thousand people pushing/cutting/yelling/cussing to get to the end to claim free money. There was one…1…one security guard. Like one guy can control that many people. I cannot describe the heat, attitude or atmosphere…the stress, anxiety and tension we went through. It was horrible. This alone will make me seriously examine things a second time when deciding to go back. The Dehli airport. Ahhh!
Because it took us so long to get through security (our flight was at 3:25, they were holding the plane for us) and immigration, we literally had to RUN to our gate, somewhat ushered by a British Airways employee. We all get checked in only to find out one of our team mates didn’t get her bag stamped when we checked in before immigration. She had to go back to a secondary check point to get her bag checked again and stamped. When she was there we learned that earlier in the day a bomb threat had been made on a flight headed to London so they just had to be sure. Great… so after all of the stress through security, running to the gate, now we have supposed bomb threats to flights going to London? Enough is enough, folks…
We get on the plane finally. I wasn’t able to sit with our team because of original seating arrangements and the fact we were the last to board the aircraft. All I wanted to do was go to sleep, get off of this plane and make it on to my next connecting flight. I don’t remember much of that flight except for the horrible food. Up to this point plane food had been awesome. Not so much this time. It was an English breakfast of sorts but it just wasn’t so yummy this time. I was just glad to hear the tires hit the pavement in London and the “fasten seatbelt sign” go off.
It was very clear to me
at this point that I was coming down with something more than just a sore throat. My head was killing me. I couldn’t stay awake, I was coughing and my entire body was wanting nothing more than to crawl in my bed and sleep. Unfortnately I had a 6 hour layover (I think) in London and another nine hour flight plus another four hour car ride until we reached home sweet home. We made our way through security again and then found our gate. A gate.
I settled into a chair in the airport and napped for about an hour, I think. Josh went on a search for a charging station so we could get some juice back into our electronics. When he got back I set out to find Starbucks. I had really wanted to find mugs from India and from London. Unfortunately I didn’t find the first but I did find the second. :) I also got a Peppermint Mocha but it wasn’t like they make it at home. I paid nearly five pounds for it so I felt like I had to finish it. Ughhh… Josh and I got some lunch once resturants started serving. I didn’t have much of an appitite but figured I could at least finish a burger. Boy was I wrong. I took a couple bites and had a few fries and that was all I could stomach. Josh ordered a “Take away bag” and we went back to our seats. It was about then that we realized that our flight was moved to gate C. That meant we had to go back down to main level and take the transit over to another terminal and take the trek back down that terminal. I was near to tears the whole time. My body just didn’t want to go anymore. All I wanted to do was sleep.
After sitting in our gate for a bit I looked at my ticket and realized that I had been upgraded from coach seating to World Traveller Plus! That meant I got a choice of nicer meals, more elbow room, bigger TV screens, better earphones, nicer pillows, more drinks and a few more snacks. I was very happy to learn this because I really really really really wanted to be able to sleep in a more comfortable place. I got to my seat and snuggled in. I got the first flight attendant I could and asked for water to take my motion sickness meds. I took those down and attempted to start a movie. “Jersey Boys.” It was a movie about the Four Seasons. Because of a broken tug, the little vehicle that pushes the plane back from the gate so it can taxi to the runway, we had to sit for nearly 40 minutes. Thankfully I had my blanket, a pillow and a good movie to pass the time. When we finally took off, snacks came around pretty quickly. I was glad to have something to drink but I had really wished I could have had something warm because I was sooooo cold, even with my sweatshirt and blanket. I am actually suprised they let me on the flight without checking me out first. Praise God they didn’t, because I probably wouldn’t have been able to board the plane. I was officially sick. Dinner came around. I ordered Filet of Beef with roasted potatoes, baby carrots, fancy bread roll, caramel dessert and some other things. REALLY NICE meal. I opened the foil and closed it again. I took the water off of the tray and passed everything else over to one of my fellow team members who also got an upgraded ticket. I went to sleep and didn’t wake up again until the captain came on to say we were scheduled to land in Atlanta in 40 minutes.
At that point they were serving breakfast so I flagged the flight attendant down and asked to be served since he had already passed my row. I ate the biscuit and jelly and attempted to eat the chicken salad sandwich. I did take the water and drank it slowly.
As soon as my feet hit US soil a small part of me rejoiced. It was an interesting feeling. I was sad to have that small chapter of my life done, rejoicing because it was one step closer to my bed and yet another part dreading the 4+ hour car ride home. We made it through all of the check points, customs, etc with no problem. We collected our bags and met our church family at the doors. It was so nice to hear English and see familiar faces. I enjoyed my time in India but there truly is no place like home.
Part of the way home, we stopped at a Wendy’s for a burger. I just couldn’t stomach the thought of eating so I just got a drink. We got back on the road and at one point had to take a detour because of road construction. Outside of that, we had an uneventful trip home. The last twenty miles were the longest. Finally we reached our home church, gathered our bags and headed home. We decided we would leave our bags in the garage and deal with them in the morning. The needed to air out anyway from being in India for two weeks. I took a nice, hot shower and then went to bed.
By this time, our team had been traveling, without a bed for 53 hours. Needless to say, that was a very long awaited moment.
I woke up the next morning at 5:30 I felt like death warmed over. I made the decision to stay up until 8 to see if I could get chiropractor appointments for both of us. Our backs and joints were hurting so badly. I wasn’t able to get in with our chiropractor so we called the local one that we used to go to before insurance changed. We made appointments for both. We made one for that day (the7th of Jan) and then another one with our chiropractor for the following weeks. I needed it so bad. I figured if I could get my neck in line, maybe all of the pressure and congestion would go away. While it did help it didn’t solve everything. I had planned to go to a walk in care clinic afterward but decided to give the adjustment and massage time to work. The therapist who worked on me for an hour said I felt as bad as some of her better MS patients. I don’t doubt it. I felt better but far from all better.
By the time I got home my mother-in-law had gotten to my house with my boys. It was so good to see them but I couldn’t fully enjoy the moment because I felt so crappy. At 2:00pm, I had to go take a nap. I slept until the next morning(8th of Jan).
I woke up and knew I had to go to the walk in clinic. I was there when the doors opened. They did a urine annalysis, took two viles of blood and gave me a bag of fluids. It took them three times to finally get into my veins. Yuck. Man did that hurt! I did feel a little bit better after the fluids but was still far from better. I was given instructions to rest as much as possible and to wait for their call the next day (9th of Jan) which would show my results from the blood tests. As of noon on the 9th I still hadn’t heard from them. I am really not concerned because after I got home from there, I took their advice and went back to bed. I didn’t wake up until 2am on the 9th. That’s a Friday. For the first time in DAYS I finally felt a little bit better. As a matter of fact I got up and made breakfast and even had two of our team memebers over to help us eat it all. I actually ate a full plate of food!
Finally I can say I am on the mend. However, as you can see I have had a really full, stressful and sick filled last few days. I am just not sure I can relay everything I’d like to about the days of our trip right now. Hopefully I will be able to work on it more and more as the days go on. Please pray for me and the rest of the team to recover 100%. We’ve been through so much in the last few days.