Adventures in India (written by Shelley)
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Monday, October 14, 2002
So far on the voyage, our trend has been that we are up very late the night before arriving to a new port, which has been very frustrating and exhausting. This port was no exception. Brian was up late the night before trying to finish documenting Vietnam, after completing the China journal. We had been having problems with the website (generally, needing more space) and so Brian had been trying to get this taken care of before we reached India. Not quite sure we got everything in order before we arrived in port though, which was unfortunate. Hopefully our family and friends will be reunited with our journey at some point here soon!
As there was not much to see arriving in Chennai (Madras), Brian and I slept in a while. Again, we were pretty exhausted from the night before (especially Brian). We did get up and get dressed at a decent time though, as I was hoping we would disembark (all based on immigration in the respective countries) by 10am or so, so I could call home. It was Dad's birthday the day before, and since we are 12 ½ hours ahead of MST, I figured I could still catch him on his birthday. Unfortunately, immigration was taking their sweet time going through our passports, so I ended up having to use an expensive cell phone that an Indian company had brought on board for our use (only $2/minute!). Due to the outrageous cost, I only talked to my parents a few minutes, but it was great to touch base with them and wish Dad a happy birthday! The next few hours we just sat around and waited for our service visit. We had cleared immigration around noon, but as it was not easy to get into town (we were about 10-15 from the main areas of town), we decided to hang around for a few hours. Our service visit was scheduled to leave around 2:30 pm.
We arrived via bus at the Missionaries of Charity orphanage (a Mother Teresa's home) around 3pm. There were around 25 of us, all students besides the trip leader and the two of us. We were first greeted by one of the Sisters. She explained to us that all of the kids were orphans. They ranged from 2 months to 15 years old and there were approximately 130 kids (however, we probably only saw 50-60 kids, so either we misunderstood the number of children at the orphanage or we only saw half of them). The orphanage was founded in 1963 and is one of Mother Teresa's homes. The Sisters do not work for pay; they are very dedicated volunteers who believe this is their mission from God. After learning about the orphanage, we were all led into a small worship room. We all sat on the floor waiting for direction. The Sister knelt in the back of the room with her hands clasped together and indicated that we should sing. We all looked at each other in desperation. No one knew what to sing, let alone lead the group. Some of the Christian students tried to remember Psalms, but were unable to think of any on the spot. We all just ended up singing a few choruses of Joy to the World. Pretty sad, but that was the best we could do in such short notice! It was quite an interesting ten minutes. After our song, the Sister led us into one of the buildings. Brian and I were in the back of the line. As we were entering the building, the Sister motioned for the back half of us to head upstairs. If we only knew what we were walking into, I know I would have chosen to start downstairs. We walked into a fairly large room with 16 or so cribs, separated into four columns. The first thing I remember seeing was a Sister changing the clothes of one of the children (probably around age 10) in one of the cribs. He was bone thin and could barely move. There was a very strong odor present in the room (entire building, really). Many of the kids were receiving powder baths. Chennai (Madras) has an extreme water shortage, thus water is seldom used. The kids, being of dark skin color, had a white, chalky substance (soap) being powdered onto them. We walked towards the back of the room and saw around six children on a long mat on the floor. They all looked so lifeless. Most of the kids upstairs had many types of severe birth defects and were extremely frail. In addition, there were a few "potties" around the room in which a Sister would pull down the pants of a kid and place him on the chair, sometimes for extended periods of time. I just cannot describe this upstairs scene. At one point in time, I bent down to rub the arm of one of the children lying on the mat. As hard as I tried to get the child to notice I was there, the child's eyes just continued to roam. I got up after a few minutes and happen to catch eyesight of the hipbone of one of the girls lying on the mat. The best way for me to describe what I saw was that her hip had decayed. I looked away quickly, walked to the corner of the room and just broke down. I tried to calm myself down before the tears came, but I was so overcome with emotion, I just couldn't stop the tears. Brian noticed and came over right away to comfort me. I know he was as overwhelmed with the situation as I was. After a few minutes, I calmed down and we tried walking around and seeing a few of the other children upstairs. The Sisters encouraged us to touch the children as the kids needed the human attention. This was hard, especially when few of them reacted to your touch.
After a while, we headed downstairs, to a much more upbeat environment. Many of the healthy orphans were playing with the students. The donation boxes we brought didn't seem to have been opened yet by the orphanage, so luckily, Brian and I had brought our private stash of gifts for the kids (which were never enough). We had some coloring books and crayons that the SAS students helped us to involve the kids with. Some of the students had brought stickers, which the kids had loved. However, the two things that the students kept asking for were pens and more stickers, neither of which we had brought. It is so hard to have the kids begging for these items when you didn't bring them! At one point in time, I realized we had also brought candy for the kids, so I had the students start helping me hand pieces of candy out. Hands were everywhere. Again, you could just see the desperation of the children around you. I had started coloring with some kids, when one of the students motioned for me to look at Brian. He had been handed a baby to comfort and soon afterwards had been given a bottle to feed the child. I looked up and just wanted to melt. There was Brian feeding this beautiful baby. It broke my heart. After a while, I approached Brian and happen to see a few other children in cribs next to him. Again, I almost wanted to cry. One of the newborns was lying on his/her back and had a growth attached to his head, practically the same size as his head. I just couldn't believe what I was seeing. Then next to this crib was a little boy with stubs for arms and an upper lip/teeth that were projected forward from the rest of his mouth. These deformities were extremely hard to stomach. Soon after this, the mood lightened again as we took the children outside to play. They had a small playground area. One of the girls had taken a liking to me and kept wanting to swing around, hand in hand, with me. We did this for quite a while. She also found it entertaining to play hide and seek from me. I chased her around for quite a while, really enjoying her laugh when I caught up to her! This little girl, including so many of the other children, still remain in my thoughts…they were so precious…so innocent. There was so much more I wished I could do for these children, and yet our time ran out and our bus left.
After returning to the ship from our service visit, Brian and I were emotionally and physically drained. We ended up playing some volleyball with some students who were back for the night. This was fun and took our mind off the exhausting day, but certainly didn't ease our pain for these children. We went to bed early, but I know I found myself having a hard time trying to get to sleep this night.
Tuesday, October 15, 2002
We were up extremely early this morning. Our group left the ship at 4:45 am and headed to the airport for our Indian Airlines flight to New Delhi. Check-in was fairly non-eventful, except for the security process. We were surprised at how many times we went through the same security drill - placing your carry-on luggage onto the scanner belt, being individually scanned and then having many of your carry-on luggage physically searched. The interesting part about this is that security separated the males from the females during individual scanning…the men were scanned by men security personnel and the females were scanned by female security personnel, however, this was typically done behind curtains for the women. It was very strange being so segregated! (However, on the way back to Madras, I was actually felt up by one of the women security personnel - so no wonder they hide us behind curtains!!!) Despite the 2-3 similar security checks we went through, we made it onto the airplane (which left around 6:40 am) and arrived safely in New Delhi. The flight was about two hours long. We were then greeted by our guide, Ramesh Amand, who led us to our tour bus. For the next hour or so, we toured around New Delhi viewing different embassies ("Embassy Row") and other government buildings. We even passed a demonstration in progress - there were hundreds upon hundreds of men in the traditional white garb (with turbans) sitting in rows lining the streets. I don't believe we ever learned any details about the demonstration, but it was really an interesting site. While driving around the city, we learned that the capital city changed from Calcutta to New Delhi in 1911. The city grew significantly in the 30's and then in 1947, independence was gained from Britain.
We had lunch at the Hotel Vikram, where they greeted us with lays made from yellow and orange carnations. Lunch was good. Some Indian cuisine, but it was definitely not as cultural as we had hoped. After leaving the hotel, we knew we had a long afternoon ahead of us. We transferred to the train station where we had a three-hour train ride to Agra, where we would visit the Taj Mahal. The train experience proved to be very enlightening. We were booked on a non-airconditioned second-class train (due to the most celebrated holiday/festival on Monday). Just the walk from the bus to the train was challenging. The presence of poverty was everywhere you looked. Dogs were walking around bone-thin, people with deformities asked for money and the horrible odor was hard to stomach. Even getting on the train, we had to step over a few homeless men that were sitting on the floor of the entrance to the train car. Our group probably had about 35 people (and no, for a nice change, we were not the group leaders on this one!), so they split us into two different train cars. There were probably seven sections or so in each train car with a main walkway through the train. Cushioned bench seats were everywhere, with additional "sleeper" benches above. The windows had no coverings on them (such as glass or plastic), yet had iron bars running across the windows approx six inches apart. We were able to get a few sections to ourselves, yet there were plenty of other Indian people throughout - some very interesting to talk to and some very sketchy. The three-hour train ride was very much an experience. Just looking out at the countryside we were passing was intriguing. It is extremely difficult to put into words the poverty that we saw all around us. The trash, the odors, the common display of public urination (and sometimes even defecation) - it impacted us all. In fact, there was a rumor flying around that the toilets on the train just opened up to the tracks below (none that we knew tested this out though). We spent much of our time on the train just people watching, in addition to playing cards and/or reading. As the train was pretty easy to get on and off, many vendors walked through the trains selling food and/or small trinkets. Some beggars and even a "drag queen" walked through. At one point in time three small kids came through…two boys approximately age 10 and 3 and a girl about age 7. The older boy played his drums while the two smaller kids entertained us with dancing and tricks. They would squeeze their small bodies through metal rings or grab each other's ankles and literally roll down the walkway of the train. They stayed and performed for quite a while. Everyone enjoyed watching them as they were so adorable, however, we all knew that they would be asking for money any minute. We were all willing to give something to the kids though…small change, candy, crayons and even an "I Love NY" t-shirt. At the next stop, we saw them get off the train and join their mother and other siblings. This was their life, which was hard to digest. Later, two other kids came through pedaling for money. No one seemed quite as interested this time around though. They were not an enthusiastic as the previous kids, but we were also tired of being asked for money at this point.
Three hours later, the train finally arrived in Agra. We proceeded through the train station to our bus. As usual, we stood out like a sore thumb! One thing I remember seeing was a man walking while holding a fairly large suitcase on his head. I didn't have time to get a picture, but I remember how funny it looked. Throughout the rest of the trip, we continued to notice the common practice of carrying items on the head rather than by the hand. We headed straight to the Taj Mahal to view the Taj at dusk. Remember the line segregation I mentioned at the airport, well we had to go through it again at the entrance to the Taj. They had the men go through one line and the women stand in another. Considering the ratio of girls to guys tends to always be 3 or 4 to 1 in our group…it took us women forever to get through. Plus all the Indian women seemed to think they could go straight to the front of the line. After a while of this, the security guard finally sent them to the end of the line (it didn't take much to notice that they were not happy about this!). Once we finally got to the front of the line, we were again scanned and sometimes patted down. For some reason, you weren't able to take extra batteries, calculators or other random things inside the grounds, which was really strange. After finally getting everyone through the entrance, we walked down a pathway to the main entrance into the grounds of the Taj. After entering through these gates, the Taj Mahal stood before us. Words cannot explain how beautiful and majestic the Taj Mahal looks. The 17th century mausoleum, made out of white marble, was built by Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan in memory of his Queen Mumtaz Mahal (his third wife, but the first and only Empress to bear his children - only 4 sons and 2 daughters of the 14 children survived). It took 20,000 workers 22 years (from 1631 to 1653) to build this 243 foot structure. The Taj is known as an architectural marvel remarkable for its perfect symmetry of design and construction. To the right and the left of the Taj Mahal were two symmetrical buildings - a "Guest House" on the right and a Mosque on the left. We stood just inside the gates for several minutes just admiring the beauty of the Taj and the surrounding landscape. We started walking towards the Taj when a man approached us and showed us an incredible spot to take a picture of the Taj while capturing its reflection in the pool. He was a really nice guy and seemed to know what he was doing, so we continued following him around while he showed us the ideal spots for photographing the Taj. We must have followed him around for nearly 45 minutes taking picture after picture. The Taj is just so breathtaking, that it is hard not to want to take every imaginable picture of it…especially at sunset! We were nearing the time we were suppose to meet the group to head to the hotel. As we knew we would be back in the morning to spend another few hours at the Taj, we decided to spend our last 20 minutes or so with our newly found friend. He was a professional photographer who had spent years photographing the Taj and showing tourists the art. Of course, we knew we would have to tip him in the end, but it was well worth it! He took us outside of the Taj gates to a little shop where workers were crafting tables and other items using marble and precious stones used to build the Taj. It was really interesting. We ran back to the entrance of the Taj just in time to catch our group leaving. It was dark now. We tried to tip our new friend, but he insisted he would find us tomorrow morning. We were wondering if we would really see him that next day, but as we were continually reminded, we were not hard to locate!
We headed to check-in to our hotel (Hotel Mansingh), which was just five minutes from the Taj. It was a beautiful hotel. All of the floors and counters were made of tile or marble. Again, our beds were single beds separated by a nightstand, but we were getting used to this. Dinner was pretty good, however, we were beginning to wonder if we would get any true Indian food. Everything seemed to be so neutral for us tourists. We had more traditional Indian food in Malaysia than we seemed to be having in India! We had enjoyed a few drinks before dinner, but by this time we were exhausted. We wrote some postcards and then headed to bed early.
Wednesday, October 16, 2002
Since we were not trip leaders and thus had no responsibility to "lead" the group in the morning, we decided to try and see the Taj at sunrise. The group was planning on getting to the Taj around 8:00 am, but we wanted to spend as much time there as possible. Brian and I actually managed to get out of bed and down to the lobby by 6:30 am. We grabbed an "electric rickshaw" that was waiting out front and told him to take us to the Taj. The hard thing about some of these countries is that you never know when and who to trust. He dropped us off a block before the Taj, telling us he couldn't take us any further. So we walked in the direction he told us to and ended up making it to the West Entrance. There was a couple things we realized we hadn't asked our tour guide about before we left that morning: the entrance fee and the entrance gate where the group would be at 8 am. Once we arrived at the Taj, we noticed the tickets were $15 a piece to get in for non-Indians. Now, I know $30 really isn't that much money, but at the same time, we were going to have tickets provided by our guide in just over an hour, so why waste the money. We were really getting frustrated. We didn't know what to do. We were considering just heading back to the hotel to rejoin the group, but then realized we hadn't written the name of the hotel down and couldn't remember how to get back there. We were really on a roll this morning! So then we decided we would just wait for the group outside the entrance. Then we started thinking we were at the wrong entrance (there were three of them), again, something we forgot to confirm with the guide. It just didn't look like the same entrance we entered through the night before. We were even more frustrated at this point! In addition to this, we had some random guy bugging us about a spot to see the sunrise (which had already begun by now) over the Taj. He was pointing towards this kind of "shady" area heading North along side the Taj's stone gates. We decided we needed to walk to the East entrance where we thought was the place we needed to be. Somewhat hesitantly, we started walking down this "shady" area, yet being very cautious about what was around us. The guy started slowly following us. We were both starting to get a little nervous by this point. We were nearing a gate that looked locked. I turned towards the man following us and told him it was locked. He showed us that it was not locked, just barely open. We were going on instinct at this point. Although we were nervous, I think we both trusted this man. We followed him through this garden area and ended up on the North outer side of the Taj grounds where a wide river flowed. Although we had missed the sunrise, the views from the river were amazing! It was kind of hazy out, but in the distance, you could also see Fort Agra, where we were planning on visiting later in the afternoon. There was a man canoeing down the river as well as a few people watching the sunrise. Brian and I got a few pictures and then asked the man how to continue to get to the East gate. He then led us down this dirt path which followed the river on the back side of the Taj. We rounded the NE outer corner of the Taj and started heading South past a village. We arrived safely at the East gate, thanked the man for his help and gave him a small amount of money (everyone always expects money). Ok, now Brian and I started feeling foolish again. This was not the same gate we were at the night before with the group. Ugh. We decided it must have been the South gate. At this point, we were on our own. We knew where the perimeters of the Taj's stone gates were, so we just followed the roads that seemed to lead us in the right direction of the South gate. As we walked down these streets, we found ourselves walking right through villages and right past local shops. Of course, lots of people were staring/watching us, but we were pretty used to this by now. This turned out to be so much fun. Around 7-7:15 am, we saw a ton of young school kids in uniform being transported to school via a rickshaw (bike with a carriage attached). Ox, cows, dogs and even pigs were all walking around the streets (which was even seen in the cities). A few motorcycles even cruised by us. We started to sense we were headed in the wrong direction and who popped out of nowhere but the photographer guide from the night before. His smile reassured us that he would lead us to where we needed to go. When we explained to him that we were trying to get to the same entrance where he first saw us the night before, he told us that we needed to be at the West gate. We just shook our heads in frustration and then just thought it was funny. We had ended up walking around the entire outer grounds of the Taj Mahal (probably a mile in total) just to end up where we had started! Once we got back to the West entrance and had seen all of the other entrances, we definitely started to recognize some of the features of the West side. Nonetheless, we thanked our friend and told him we would see him inside later. We decided to sit on a park bench outside the entrance and wait for the group. We both agreed that as much of a disappointment as we first felt at getting there so early and still not seeing the sunrise from inside the grounds, we also felt we had an incredible start to the day! As we sat on the park bench, several people came and sat next to us. We found the Indian people to be extremely friendly! Everyone seemed to really like Americans and really enjoy talking to us in English. They were very curious people. We seemed to make many friends just sitting on that park bench for about 20 minutes while waiting for our group to arrive. We even had a father come up to us with his two little girls and ask if we would be in a picture with his daughters. After this, I had someone else take a picture of the five of us. It was a lot of fun! We even got a picture of the two guys that kept us entertained on the park bench that morning.
Just around 8:00 am, the group arrived. They were intrigued by the adventures we had already experienced. Once inside the Taj grounds, we headed for the Taj Mahal palace. You were instructed to take off your shoes to go inside the palace, so we all walked around in our socks (which we found to be common in many of the places we visited). Inside the Taj was absolutely beautiful! Two marble caskets lay inside, protected by an inner gate. The walls of the Taj were so detailed, so amazing. Beautiful flowers were carved in the marble as well as various designs of precious stones. There were several "guides" walking around inside the Taj that would try and give you short personal tours and relevant information. In the States, we get used to having brochures and maps to inform us on the facts we need to know. Here, people try and earn tips by being your personal guide. You really have to watch out though. It is really easy to get roped into talking to one of these guides, so if your not willing to pay a few bucks, you really need to watch who you talk to or even make eye contact with!
After walking inside the Taj, we ventured around the Taj grounds for a while longer. Our group met around 11:00 am and then we headed to Fort Agra (built in 1565), where Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan was imprisoned by his youngest son in the early 1650's (before the Taj was completed). After our short visit to Fort Agra, we were taken to an expensive shopping area that often tends to be party of many of the trips. This store was very prepared for our stop. We all sat through a 15 minute informational talk on Indian rugs, while they walked around serving tea. They managed to get several people to buy some expensive rugs, but most of us walked away from the temptation! They were beautiful, but expensive! Next we headed back to the hotel to check-out and have lunch. Later that afternoon, we visited the deserted city of Fatehpur Sikri, which was 25 miles from Agra. The city had been built by Emperor Akbar as his capital to honor a Muslim saint who prophesied the birth of an heir. We toured the inside of the palace walls for a little over an hour, while our guide told of the city's history (then sat on the bus for an extra 45 minutes while a few "lost" students were located). Getting to and from the deserted city was quite interesting - we passed many rural areas as well as small villages. As much as we thought driving in China and Vietnam was crazy, this driving experience was definitely added to our list. On our way home, our guide was trying to beat "rush hour", so I guess instructed our driver to drive quickly. On a two-lane "highway", our hearts skipped a beat many times watching our bus pass another vehicle, motorcycle or animal in the road while just nearly missing oncoming traffic! As in many of the other countries we've visited, everything is fair game on the road - people, animals and vehicles! It can be very unnerving sometimes! Despite our "near death" experiences, we made it back to Agra safely. Plus, we saw the most amazing sunset on the way back - the sun displayed one of the brightest shades of orange I've ever seen - it was incredible!
We were all amused and to many, even delighted, that we all had personal pan pizzas from Pizza Hut for dinner! Yep…it was about the only American restaurant/fast-food chain we happen to see in India, and this one happened to be right next to our hotel (in fact, many of the students had already visited the establishment!). The pizza tasted very similar to back home, which was kind of nice. The entertainment was different though - all of the servers came out and danced to an American tune, which cracked us all up! Around 8pm, we headed back to New Delhi, this time by air-conditioned first-class rail (the Shatabdi Express). It was not nearly the experience we had the day before, yet it was nice just to sit back and relax in a reclining seat. Plus, the journey back to New Delhi was only a little over two hours rather than three. As we walked from the train terminal to our bus in New Delhi, we passed a sheltered area where there must have been 70 people sleeping…men, women and children. Most of them only had newspapers to lay beneath them on the ground. In India, more than any other country we've visited to this point, we've seen many homeless, especially at night. Even back in Chennai (Madras), we saw people all over town sleeping on streets or in parks, but almost always confined to their folded out newspaper.
Thursday, October 17, 2002
This morning was not quite as early as the previous morning, which was nice. We had breakfast around 8:30 am at Hotel Ashok where we were staying, and then headed out for our city tour around 9:15 am. The hotel had put out an arrangement made of stones that said "Welcome Semester at Sea". I guess you get special treatment when you have several hundred people staying there. Several of the students decided not to join us for this sightseeing trip and relax around the hotel (i.e. they were too hung over). We drove past all of the different Embassies (including the US Embassy), the War Memorial Arch (war against Pakistan) & India Gate, the Parliament building, the Secretariat building and the President's house. We then drove to the downtown area of New Delhi and were able to get off the bus and walk around for 30 minutes or so. As a group, we just walked down a few city blocks watching the people and traffic of a typical metropolitan city. On one of the streets, we came across an elephant and a camel that were being used to attract tourists.
Next we journeyed to the Gandhi Museum. Unfortunately, we really didn't have nearly as much time at this museum as we would have liked. We really wished we could have spent most of the morning at the museum rather than driving around town. The Gandhi Museum was the converted building where Mohandas Gandhi spent the last hours of his life, before being shot in the gardens behind the building on January 30, 1948. He was 80 years old.
We arrived back at the hotel around 12:45 pm and had a few hours to checkout, have lunch and relax before heading to the airport for our return flight to Chennai. Our two hour flight back to Chennai was uneventful, thankfully. We arrived to the ship pretty exhausted around 8 pm. As we knew we had the entire day tomorrow to spend in the city, we decided to stay on the ship for the rest of the evening.
Friday, October 18, 2002
We got a little later of a start this morning as we were still trying to re-cooperate from our long trip to the Taj Mahal. Our trek into town was quite interesting. First you have to walk past the small battalion of armed security guards protecting the gated entrance where our ship was docked. They had pretty tight security, which was nice, but also kind of eerie (in general, we noticed more armed guards in India than anywhere else). As group travel is highly encouraged in India, we found a student who we'd befriended (Natasha) to travel into town with us. Walking past the endless number of taxi drivers who wanted to take you into town was exhausting. It is hard to negotiate a "fair" price and even harder to know who to trust to get you where you want to go. We had heard many bad stories from other students who could not get their taxi drivers to take them where they wanted to go, but instead the driver would take them to another place where they were paid commissions. We finally got out of the port area and climbed into one of the many taxis that were available to us. We had instructed him to take us directly to Spencer Plaza, which was a recommended "upscale" shopping mall in town. Unfortunately, we were "on guard" for nearly the entire 15 minute drive, trying to make sure he was really taking us where we had instructed. It was quite stressful. Luckily, we made it safely to Spencer Plaza and was surprised to find a very Americanized shopping mall. We didn't complain too much though as it was nice to finally be in a place that felt fairly safe and clean. Our first agenda item was to find a phone. We had not yet had the opportunity to call Brian's parents, so we wanted to do this before it got too late back home in Denver. Unfortunately, due to the outrageous cost of the phone call ($1.50/minute), Brian wasn't able to talk long. Nonetheless, Brian was relieved to hear everyone was doing well back home. After this, we decided to try and find a traditional Indian restaurant for lunch. We'd heard several recommendations for a restaurant near Spencer Plaza, which was founded by doctors, run by volunteers and the proceeds were given to charity, so naturally we tried to find this restaurant. The day was already starting to wear on us. It was extremely hot and humid outside and the poverty and filth surrounding us was harder and harder to handle. Even when we found the restaurant, which was very clean inside, it had an odor that was hard to stomach. We ordered one of the traditional meals with several different small courses. The food was very enjoyable until I accidentally took a bite of an incredibly hot pepper, which I had thought was a green bean. Now, keep in mind, everyone knows what a wimp I am with spicy food, but I have been getting better (as Brian would admit). This time, however, I just lost it! Luckily, we were in a private corner of the restaurant and there was hardly anyone else around. I don't think Brian knew what to do. I was absolutely miserable for about 5 minutes…I couldn't drink water quick enough, I started overheating and I couldn't stop the tears that were streaming down my cheeks. I admit it - I felt like such a baby, but honestly, I think every emotion I had from the four previous days in India just came pouring out. And, I mean pouring!! Even after I gained composure, I think my day had pretty much been shot. By this point, I was so emotionally drained! I also felt bad for Brian. I think I scared the crap out of him for a few minutes…at one point he was ready to leave the restaurant. What a nightmare. Oh well, I tried. Indian food just doesn't seem to sit very well with me. (Now that it's over, we find the situation pretty comical though).
After our "interesting" lunch (putting it mildly), we headed back to Spencer Plaza to use the Internet café. We probably spent an hour there, checking all of our email and trying to send out a few as well. After the café, we wandered around the mall for a little while. We went into a card store to buy a few birthday cards for some people on the ship. They had a little convenience store in the mall as well so we picked up some munchies for the ship (Pringles, Snickers, juice, etc.). By this point, we were ready to get back to the ship. We wanted to get back in enough time to write some postcards and relax for the evening.
As soon as we exited the mall we were bombarded with taxi drivers again. We picked a random driver and started the negotiation process. We finally got him down to a fair price. However, as soon as we got into the rickshaw, another guy jumped into the front of the vehicle with the driver. This made us a bit uncomfortable as we had heard it can be dangerous when there are two "drivers". We again stayed on guard while they drove us back to the ship. We were able to recognize several areas on our way back though which helped us to feel comfortable that they were taking us to the right area. We finally got to the dock area and thought that our day was over. As soon as the rickshaw stopped and we started to get out, a crowd of about 20 kids ranging from 5-13 came running up and surrounded us as we got out of the rickshaw. We both had several bags of souvenirs and food, yet I had the camera. Brian was trying to pay the cab driver and not make his wallet seem obvious. I stepped back onto the sidewalk and tried to take a picture of the rickshaw. Brian had gone over to the other side of the vehicle to pay the driver and then was walking towards me. The kids had been reaching and grabbing at both of us and then I realized they were grabbing at the bags. I turned around to see one of our Pringles cans on the ground. The kids had slit open the bag of food and were frantically trying to get the food. I yelled for Brian and then instinctively grabbed for the stuff on the ground. The kids seemed to back off a bit. I handed Brian the camera and we both made our way quickly past the masses of kids and people and inside the "safe zone" of the port gate. We both felt so violated and stressed out at this point. I'm glad it was only some of the snack food that was stolen and nothing else that we had on us (which we made a point to keep protected under clothing or latched around us). I was torn…I wasn't mad that the kids had our food…just upset in how it happened. If the kids would have approached us gently about wanting some of the snack food, we probably would have given it to them. Oh well, live and learn. Nonetheless, we made it back "home" safely, unharmed and with all of our valuables.
During the evening, we wrote some postcards, showered, relaxed and tried to process our five days in India, which was much easier said than done!
Interesting facts/Differences about India