Wednesday, November 14, 2012

India - day 3 udaipur and day 4 jaipur, rajstan, india 2012.11.13

day 3 Udaipur and day 4 Jaipur

i took a bus last night to Jaipur which is farther north and east of Udaipur, still in the Rajasthan state.  it's way more touristy than any of the previous cities and as such, quite a bit of the town is dedicated to bazaars or open air shopping markets.  just about everything bought and sold in India is from these strip mall storefronts that hang out into the street.  it's a pretty bizarre experience…so many people, so many goods for sale…it's just in your face 24/7.  bikes, scooters, buses, cars, pedestrians, cows, elephants, camels, horses, horse drawn carts, motorcycles…anything and everything is in the street going every which way.  anything and everything is for sale,  i asked my driver in Mumbai about drugs he said yes…they are a problem…they are easy to get and everyone is doing them.  that's not awesome…and some random guy in Udaipur confirmed that by offering to sell me a joint lol.  i suppose that part is pretty much where we're at in Washington and Colorado now…that's a bit breakthrough.  i'm still in disbelief that they'll be selling mary j in liquor stores or whatever to anyone over 21. 

Festive Diwali Colors in Udaipur

so yesterday i was a huge mess. i spent the morning walking around Udaipur….checking out the awesome shops and sampling food on the way up to their famous temples and the grand palace (i'll have to look up the formal name for it later).  it was actually quite a hike through narrow alleys with motorcycles and scooters zooming by all the time.  they are known for their miniature paintings in Udaipur so i went to one of the artist schools and got the full rundown of how they make them, what goes into making each of the colors and the whole bit.  it was pretty interesting…and almost makes me wish i was more into collecting/buying/whatever art.  its just not my thing i guess…  

Delicious Fried Street Food in Udaipur

i really felt like i connected with the people of India in that town.  i can't put my finger on anything specific, but it was nice.  the palace was amazing and huge…the best part was that Udaipur has another smaller palace out in the lake that you can see from the main palace.  it felt like it was just a royal city.  i'm more into looking at the outside of the palaces and capturing the symmetry and beauty of the form so looking from the main palace out a tiny window to see another palace that looks to be floating on the lake was just awesome.  there was even a very Arabian (or at least my personal definition of Arabian) boat out in the lake that i captured.  it was fantastic. lots of great shots, good food and stuff.  the downside of Updaipur on the hill is that i was zonked out after that…around 2 or something which made for an interesting wait for my 9 pm bus to Jaipur. 

Udaipur Palace Entry...Looking Out

after the palace, i went back the to agency where i bought my bus tickets and sat on their bench for a few hours and just zoned out.  i knew i wanted to get some food before my bus and maybe take a taxi up to the palace area to see the area all lit up with the Diwali lights but wasn't sure how much energy i could muster to pull that off.  i ended up grabbing a nice meal (for something like $3), sitting more, reading a bit of my book and just feeling miserably tired.  i was like "i'm in India and all i want to do is shower and sleep but i can't do either."  i considered going to ask a hotel or hostel if i could rent a room for a few hours but figured the awkwardness of that request + the language barrier would have put me over the edge.  and i'm cheap.  

Painting on an interior wall of the Udaipur Palace

i finally boarded the bus at 9 pm and as i was getting settled, this Indian guy came up to me and started making small talk.  where are you from. america. oh, Obama. yeah, that america…and the usual…then he was like "are you Christianese?"  i laughed a bit and said yes, i'm christian.  over the next hour or two, we talked about how he was also a christian, his whole testimony, my whole testimony, how he's working with campus crusade for Christ in India….working with 6 of 30 villages they are working with…his family, my family…what i do at church how long I've been there, denominations, ministry in India (because WTF)…i can't imagine translating what we do as ministry in the us into a functioning ministry in India.  in the US, the only other religions that constitute any significant percentage of the population are different variations of Christianity - Catholicism, Mormons, church of Christ scientist…and on and on…so it's not too much of a stretch to step out and learn about them building tangent knowledge onto a core of christian understanding. 

Udaipur "Floating" Palace with awesome boats :)

in India, there are TONS of religions.  i talked to a Hindu priest today and he said he has been a priest for 20 years and he still doesn't know all the gods in the Hindu religion.  that just doesn't compute for me.  what? you don't know all the gods and you're a priest?  it's not just another religion, it's a TOTALLY different type of religion.  there's also Zoroastrianism, Parsi, Muslim, Buddhitst, Jain and i'm sure many others, on top of the ones we have here.  he said that part of the reason Christianity takes off when someone in a town is converted is that it really pulls together the community…instead of having 4 different religions that nobody in town is fully committed to, they just get on fire for god and it blows up. not sure if that's translating here as well as he shared it in his broken English…but it feels like a huge mission field out here.

Don't forget to Open Your Shoes!!

i also realized how limited i am in my current ministry abilities.  i have a decent idea as to what needs to go into a successful high school ministry but still haven't' put all of the pieces together in a full, working ministry that really does what i know it can do for our youth and leaders. I feel good that we are headed down the right track but don't have any successes under my belt to lean on.  building on that, i don't yet have any ability to translate ministry for high school age youth to an adults ministry.  i think i have enough kid-savvy to translate to children's ministry and that's always been a passion area of mine…but scaling up to adults…whoa.  maybe it's the extra pressure of preaching to peers vs teaching from my experience as an older kid….maybe it's the money bit…dunno for sure.  the bar is definitely higher. 

Stand Selling Diwali Decor

so money.  let's tangent for a bit.  we should not give out of obligation, but in response and as an act of worship.  my personal giving strategy has historically been to give a lower % directly to the church through auto-deduction…then flex the rest to adapt to needs of the moment (united way giving, high school ministry, fundraisers, missions giving, etc) I have never been one to keep tight books but every once in awhile i do go back and mentally add things up and see how i'm doing.  it's worked well for me so far and i like that it gives me the flexibility to respond to God's calling.  it allows me…forces me…to keep the door open to giving in the moment.  we need to be stable givers to our church and i highly encourage people to use the auto-bill pay or whatever function to tithe.  but on top of that…i think it's super important to give as an act of worship.  think about it…pray about it…or just leave the door open in your head to giving when you feel something tugging on your heart.  one of my core interactions with the bible and one of the more powerful is that when i feel something tugging on my heart to respond and i actually do.  as a general rule, i don't give money to panhandlers…which has been a challenge here in India with missing limbs, 6 kids hanging off their arms, medical needs and the like. panhandlers, especially when it's routine, just don't make me feel like i should give.  i don't believe them, i'm just not moved to respond to 99.9% of their "give me money" things.  but every once in a great while, i will.  when it feels right.  whatever…that's me. 

One of the Gates at the Udaipur Palace

i suppose i mention that because the guy i met said he only gets 2500 rupees per month from his mission team.  that's like $50.  he has a wife and a child and was actually going to Jaipur with 4 other guys to a ministry conference.  that tugged on my heart so i get to go look up Suresh in Udaipur with Campus Crusade when i get home.  its not going to be easy…might not even be possible but whatever.  challenge the impossible.  stick it to the man :)
Lake Out Front of the Amber Palace, Jaipur, Rajasthan, India

so yeah, another night of pseudo sleep on the bus last night. landed in Jaipur with help from my (yet again) one English speaking guy on the bus :).  they don't call out the stops in English…and i never know exactly which stop i need to get off on…so without them, i would've been hosed. anyway, so it worked out and i landed in jaipur. i just started walking, determined to find out where i was based on the map from my guidebook and i did :)  that felt great.  nothing was open at 7 or whatever am so i went and grabbed a chai and chilled around the main circle in town for a bit.  

Interior Gate of the Amber Palace

i resolved to find out how to take the city bus so asked which bus went to the "amber palace" (the big destination in Jaipur, 12 km outside of town proper). i received a positive response in some other language and hopped on.  the bus would cost 10 rupees or just less than 20 cents.  fantastic.  i rode it out, the bus packed out and the drivers (they have a main driver and another guy that recruits people to ride and collects payment) made fun of me for something that they thought was funny.  they asked for my payment and asked for 20.  i was like no, its 10.  i gave them 10 and they jokingly pressed me for more.  to respond jokingly, i gave them some of the change i was given at the Korean airport.  i was like, there, that's 100. :D  they were fascinated by the money and i showed them a few more coins.  it was fun to break down the language barrier without really verbally communicating.  i gave them 5 more rupees to make light of it and hopped off the bus.

Starting the hike up to the Amber Palace
the amber fort is huge and not what i was expecting.  it reminded me of one of those Tibetan monolithic monasteries up on the hill.  the amber palace has a lake and gardens down below and what looked like the great wall of chine (India?) running out from it in many directions.  I went and toured, and took to humming a deep bass note which resonated differently in each of the rooms…fun.  i had a great time hiking up to (and what a hike!!) and touring the grounds.  one of the big attractions there is to pay for an elephant take you to the top. i think it was only like $18 but the line was seriously a football field long with tourists.  they get bused in an out…living out their packaged experience as happy as can be. it's probably a safer way to consume India as a tourist but seems so fake looking at them in their tourist buses, eating together being ushered around….whatevs.  after running down most of the stairs from the palace, i hit the little town at the bottom, just past the palace. i was shocked that NONE of the tourists were there.  well…at least not outside of their vehicles.  i had some nice friend pea/lentil balls, a samosa and a deep fried, breaded sandwich thing.  tasty :)  while i was ordering, a beefy turbaned guy (i think he was in Indiana Jones) asked me where i was from (america. oh, Obama?) and helped me understand what i was about to eat.  it was great to be on the receiving end of some local insight :)  i sat back and snacked on it, picked up a water and waited for the local bus to come through again.  i went back into town, saw more local sights and shopped a bit. 

Looking out the back of the Amber Palace
i ended up in what turned out to be a fundraising gift shop for one of the local temples.  after viewing some silver and other wares from one of the local vendors, (and complaining all the while how tired and thirsty i was) he took me up to this shop (which was empty at the time) and said here, just relax here and drink your water.  it was fantastic and peaceful.  there were rugs, carvings, pottery, statues and the usual touristy stuff but i just loved the feel of the place.  i loved that he literally said here…make yourself at home, really.  he told the guy running the shop to leave me alone and chastised him multiple times for talking to me.  it was a nice change from the earlier part of the day filled with "hello sir, come here" "look at this" "great deal, just for you" .  i relaxed there for a bit and bought a little Ganesha statue (the Hindu elephant god) and talked with the priest a bit. 

Hallway inside the Amber Palace

i walked (way further than i expected) to the main bus station in town, bought a ticket to Delhi at 4 pm and settled in for 1.5 hrs before it left.  i had some fun discussion with a few local shop owners who, after buying a soda, invited me to sit in their seats behind the counter to enjoy it. i love that hospitality and trust.  it's like immediate friend/family status is granted.  i'm convinced it's not just the customer factor either.  it's genuine…fantastic. India.

Looking out the front of the Amber Palace

capping that off, i'm on the bus to Delhi now.  i should be there ~9 pm where i can go on the hunt for my hostel and see if they actually held my reservation.  but whatever…it's just 1 more night :)  if everything works out, i should be going on a Taj Mahal tour tomorrow from Delhi, all showered and cleaned up, ready to roll.  i even bought a shaving razor and might take a dent out of this beard tonight.  on that…a random guy called out to me today as i walked by "hey ginger beard! i had a ginger beard professor at university" I was like cool and kept walking.  i get sooooo many random hellos and even Hindi words yelled my way…i just smile, keep walking and throw a shakra (hang loose) or thumbs up or whatever.  i'm feeling good about this thing…(probably shouldn't say that…with my luck the bus will crash or hit a camel on the way to Delhi)

The Famous Pink Palace in Jaipur


Tuesday, November 13, 2012

India - Day 3, 6 AM

day 3, 6 am - north of mumbai

so the whole train thing didn't exactly work out.  i knew i was wait listed and that the train was the only major piece of my itinerary that wasn't fully baked...and it didn't work out.  I made it up to #7 on the wait list but didn't make the final cut.  the whole train was sold out on all classes.  I was immediately mobbed by a bunch of shady characters who wanted to "help" me get on the train.  at first i was stoked though wary of their eagerness to help (oh this is that friendly Indian attitude people always talk about!!)...only to very quickly realize that they were just scalping tickets.  locals pay ~$45 for the ticket i wanted.  i had put down $78 at the foreigners rate, they were asking $180.  i explored a few other options by train but finally called in a lifeline by calling the driver who had been taking me around Bombay.

as i waited for him to come pick me up, i sat out front of the bus station with the porters, hoping that the scalpers would leave me alone if i did so (they did).  the porters offered me a seat on one of their baggage carts which i gladly accepted.  i had been mulling about the train station with my pack on for the last 2 hrs and was stressed and over it.  

their offer opened the door for conversation, starting with the typical "where are you from" which always leads to a response of "oh...Obama".  it's crazy...but everyone, literally everyone i tell that i'm american responds with that.  my driver actually started quoting off facts about how minorities and women gave Obama the Indians think we're crazy that we spent 6 billion on the election (Indians are not alone in that perspective...i'm still like WTF about it...but anyways).  back to Mumbai central...the porters turned out to be Muslim which only became awkward when their second question/comment was "bin laden laden laden".  I was's crazy what kind of emotions went through my head.  i was like wow...i'm alone, surrounded by Muslims and you bring up the fact that my country took out, very publicly, one of the leaders of your religion.  that definitely created some tension and fear in me, i'm not gonna lie. they kept moving physically closer to me as the conversation progressed which might have been a cultural thing...but it also invaded my cultural thing but whatever.  one of the guys noticed my "seek justice" bracelet which, immediately following the bin laden bit just felt weird.  i was embarrassed by what we did. it's just incongruent. i mean i get it...but still, how is it ok for us to issue a hit on someone like that.  yeah yeah, sometimes you just "have to" whatever. next, he asked about my pink breast cancer awareness bracelet which at least relieved some of the religious tension...but brought on a whole different kind of awkward.  they were actually friendly and not at all aggressive...but wow. my driver showed up after a few minutes of me staring off into space trying to appear disinterested in more discussion.

I took an Eagle AC Sleeper Bus 14 hrs north to Udaipur
whats not so hot about this particular turn of events is the small fact that the bus company didn't have any buses running to the places i actually wanted to go - Jaipur and Delhi - but got me close (7-8 hr bus ride away from Jaipur)  by putting me on a bus to Udaipur (that was some fun back and forth...i was like Jaipur? he responds Udaipur.  like no, you idiot, it's a diff town LoL).  Udaipur is still a great step in the right direction...something like a 14 hr bus ride north from Bombay (Mumbai)...but i have no idea how i'll get to either Jaipur or Delhi when i get there.

Tuk Tuk from Udaipur Bus Station into Old Town
that combined with the fact that i still haven't showered since arriving in India had me in quite a state.  after boarding the bus, i immediately passed out...around 630 as my body is still adjusting to the massive time difference  we transferred buses once where i kinda freaked out and jumped up quickly from my nap to follow the one guy on the bus who spoke any English as i knew i was going on the same route as he was.  i then fell back asleep for several hours until i woke for the first potty break and let me say...if you think roadside stops in the us are bad...well....yeah, let's just say that they are several orders of magnitude "not better" here.  there are squatty potties and normal urinals but it just smells horrible.  after, i'm torn between not washing my hands (the whole don't drink the water thing) and washing them. i ended up washing them and realized that i had hand sanitizer in my bag :) i'm just glad it was dark because the potty smelled (and it wasn't a porta was a full blown bathroom) like something died in one of our porta potties minus that blue pseudo clean porta potty smell that at least attempts to cover the horrid smells.  i just tried to get in, do my business and get out without breathing too much of it in.

Old Udaipur Alley

i ran back to the bus and jumped in my bunk, not wanting to be left behind.  it's actually a fairly nice bus.  as we started moving again, i was again overwhelmed by fear and a feeling of total helplessness...that i'm off in some "Arab" country...with dirt roads, trash everywhere, a foreign language and a few Christmas lights strung up here and there to celebrate the festival of lights...and that's all probably very true...but what i realized after several hours of that is that i'm just sitting here living in fear. this is basically what i love t challenge others to do and what I've said i want to challenge in myself - fear.  not just any fear, because we should be afraid of cobras, ninjas and great whites...but unwarranted fear.  fear because we do not understand.  i should not be afraid of "Muslims" i should not be afraid of people with turbans or people who speak a different language and look at me like i'm weird. i am weird. i'm the one who speaks a different language...i'm the outcast, travelling halfway across the world to India.  so i'm challenging my fear and not based on any conscious realization or enlightenment that I've had but more so on the basis of my faith.

Walking under the Festive Udaipur Diwali decorations

one of my favorite verses is 2 Corinthians 12:9-10 "'my grace is all you need. my power works best in weakness' so now i am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me. that's why i take pleasure in my weaknesses, and in the insults, persecutions, hardships and troubles that i suffer for Christ. For when i am weak, then i am strong." this verse resonates deeply with me because it helps me to see that God never had it in his plan for me to be good at everything and very clearly tells me that its on purpose.  i look at this like 2 line graphs, overlaid (cause i'm a dork like that)...when i'm doing something i'm naturally good at...maybe computers...maybe in debate class whatever...i can do that all on my own and i can do it well.  God has given me all the tools that i need to do it well.  i don't need to lean on god in those lets say that graph is 100% me, 0% God (or maybe 95/5 ;) ).  in those moments, i can glorify god by doing my best and working as hard as i can to glorify the god that built me the way that i am.  on the other end of the graph as my strengths are at or near 0, that's where i don't have a choice but to lean on God.  those are the moments i hate because i'm awkward and to be honest, stubborn in those (these) moments. that's when i don't have a choice but to lean on God and just give it up.  "God, i don't have what it takes to glorify you in this moment, please work through me to glorify yourself through me." those are the moments when God does amazing things and we are humbled.  when we give it to him to take charge "dude, you know i'm lost here/frustrated here/pissed off here/afraid here. please help!"...he is glorified because he gets to work.  we humble ourselves, he is glorified and in return, our faith is built. win win.  anyways.  it's in taking that step and acknowledging that he is working...that we want him to work...and need him to work that we are reaching out to him and he loves that.  its like when Asher asks me to help him put his shoes on (because "dad, i can't")...i love it. it just melts my heart.

Udaipur Temple Detail

so saying that, in these moments where i'm living and acting out of fear, i'm resisting what God wants to do in me and through me in the moment.  and there have been a lot of those moments on this trip.  I feel pretty dumb that it took me this long to realize what i was doing and how i was reacting...i was out here like "I got this...this is where i show everyone how strong i am and how bold i am" nope buddy, you couldn't be more wrong. this is where i get humbled and get to give it up to god to hold me up, to work through me and to glorify himself.  plant yourself on your fat face Kyle...

Colorful Old Udaipur

 we just stopped at another roadside stop and i realized why the toilets smell so bad...they aren't actually pee into drains on the ground under the urinal...and drains to a pipe that just runs onto the ground outside...holy moly batman...not awesome. i'm just glad i haven't been eating more otherwise i would have had to go number 2 and experience a whole different level of pleasant.  this place was a dirt lot with a cement building in the back and the pottys on the side.  the back building had a kitchen where i ordered a "sala dosa" and a tea for a little less than a dollar.  the sala dosa was like a large crispy crepe served with 2 dipping sauces (well...i have no idea what they were for, i dipped :) ). one tastes like a spicy tomato soup, the other was creamy and fresh.  

Bus Station with Awesome Pottys and Food
i ate it quickly so as to not be left behind...and ended up having some time left over to sip my tea and talk with the English speaking guy.  he said we are 2 hrs out from Udaipur.  we have formally entered the state of Rajasthan (pretty sure i totally horked that spelling) and the land has shifted to something much more familiar to me.  the tropics of the south have dried up to something almost completely resembling the familiar Santa Maria landscape of dry, rolling hills with trees resembling oak and eucalyptus.  it's borderline desert with farming communities dotting the hillsides. there are a lot of cows and similar beasts roaming the hillsides as the sun comes over the horizon.

Udaipur Palace

these guys love to use their horns (the cars)'s effectively the only form of traffic control in existence and simultaneously means "hey i'm passing" "get out of the way" "i'm in front" "seriously, move" and other fun matter what time of day.  i'm excited for this leg of the journey to wrap and see where i land.  it's supposed to be cooler up here which is very interesting.  i think we are headed into some large desert that crosses from India to Pakistan which adds it's own layer of foreboding to the mix.  map it and you'll have a better idea than i as to where i am :) i have a single map with Udaipur on i roughly know where i am and where i need to get...but it feels odd.  anyways...

Sunday, November 11, 2012

India - Day 2 Part 1

day 2 part 1 - mumbai (bombay)

Its midday and I'm back at the hostel.  I have actually been here more times when i didn't have an active reservation than when I did.  I slept way too much last night...from 1 or 2 until 9 then another attempt at 1230 or so...I think i picked up a few more hours of sleep after that but spent the majority awake.  gotta love my body saying that it's 12 pm when it's actually 12 am :) 

Vegetable and Fruit Market
I had my first hostel community experience last Asian guy named kit from the U.K. and a couple from...well, they were white, not sure where they were from...but we all somehow started chatting about this that and the other...kit was out on business (in Pune, where I hope to be in a week) and took 2 extra weeks to travel around.  the couple was coming up on the close of their 5 month (!?!?!) south east Asia trip, hostelling and limping around to different countries.  it was shocking at how similar our stories were..and not at the same time.  i guess a lot more people around the world have the same type of desires to get outside their normal culture/life for a bit.  i find myself desperately clinging to those things that i'm used to...that i love to play with when i'm home.  my Macbook is now my iPhone, the last holdout of my day to day life in the us with pics of family, the all too familiar Facebook and the like. 

on the next adventure, i'm pretty sure i wont be taking as large of a backpack, nor as many things.  I picked up some detergent, soap and shampoo today which will make tomorrow that much nicer. 

One of many Mumbai Slum markets
 this morning, my driver from yesterday met me out front and we immediately hit the slums.  it was an affront to all my senses as we started out walking through the vegetable and fruit markets.  he must know me as he skipped the fish and meat markets today.  the veg/fruit markets are different as they just throw any bad stuff into the aisles...where customers, cows and the like trample them down into a not so friendly on the nose muck.  the shop owners frequently toss out the few English words they know in my direction in an attempt to sink a hook and get a response.  i awkwardly nod, say hello or wave...but still just feel like i have a glowing sign over my head saying "this guy doesn't belong here and isn't sure what he's doing"

Mumbai Holy Water

We drove around much of northern Mumbai today and I realized how glad i was that i had found this driver.  he took me to an area of holy's a big pool in the middle of some beachfront slums (yeah, i was shocked) where legend has it, one of the Hindu gods shot an arrow into the ground to create a well of water.  it hasn't been dry since...and that was over 3000 years.  it was a fantastic retreat...lots of kids, families and the like just living life.  several kids played cricket, others bathed in the holy water (with the ducks of course) while others took the seeds out of felt like a great day where people were just living.  community...vibrant life...ahhhh...

Holy Cricket Game Batman!

i have been living off of bottled water vs using my filter as it's cold when i buy it.  the heat has been off and on...but when it's on, it's oppressing like no other.  i'm a wuss...i don't like heat (and i don't think it likes me).  

i had some great daal and paneer chili for lunch (with cold coke, no ice) which was fantastic.  i'm hoping this train ride will give me a chance to clear my mind and prepare me for my 7 days in Delhi.  assuming i get a seat, i plan to read up on the city, read some of the books i brought and take in the scene.  i don't know...that sounds like i have way more of a plan than i do...i have no idea what i'm doing for 6 of the next 7 days (i reserved my trip to the Taj Mahal as you have to reserve tickets a day in advance and i didn't want to have to worry about it). i really want to find a spot where i can chill and take in the scene...maybe that starts at the definitely could have here if i were staying longer.

Mumbai is a city inside of a tropical jungle

not sure what I'm looking for here, not sure how to find it...whatever.

i suppose i'll head back down to the car and see whats up.  it's approaching the warmest part of the day here...yay :)

Saturday, November 10, 2012

India - Day 1

day 1 - mumbai (bombay)

I arrived in Bombay at 2 am and gradually eased out into the city. I really didn't have a plan for what I was going to do with my day (going along with the whole "i'll just feel it out" deal) and that hit me square in the face when a guy came up and asked me where I was going. I was like...ummm...I don't really know. I changed some money and got in line for a prepaid taxi and really wasn't certain where I was going to start my day (at 3 am) as most things would still be closed. I settled on going to my hostel even though I wasn't actually going to check in until 3 pm for the night. The ride out of the airport and through the various districts of the city shattered my preconceived view of the city and left me feeling horrible, naked...raw. Coming out of the airport, the slums were overwhelming, overflowing onto the streets, burning trash here and there with tons of stray dogs wandering around cleaning up after the day, searching for food.
Mumbai Slums
The slums are not so much an area of Mumbai, but more of the idea that where ever there is land that nobody else wants to live on for one reason or another, there will be slums. they are packed in around the airport, next to the train tracks, behind businesses...the overflow of human life, finding, creating a home where none was before. Rolling out of that, we hit the freeway and toured through the night. I felt lost in the sprawl of it all. I hadn't done my research on Mumbai and really didn't know if my driver was taking me somewhere to be beaten and mugged or to my hostel. truthfully, i wasn't sure I would know any difference between the two. We exited the freeway and pulled off into the area of the city where my hostel was. I realized that my intention to abandon as much of the western world as possible was a screaming success as I was greeted by more slums and peopled lined up sleeping on the streets. Back in Ventura, we have homeless people...quite a few in fact...sleeping on the streets but this was different. At home, we assume and are mostly correct in doing so, that most are drunks or crazy or druggies...and have come to grips with that.

Here in the "Fort" area of Mumbai, there were families lined up on the streets. there were working dads who live so far away from home, that they sleep on the streets where they will setup their vending stands in the morning, there are moms, dads and babies just crashed right there in front of me. and they have nothing. at home, homeless people have jackets and carts of, they are just curled up with a blanket and a simple bag of necessities right on the sidewalk. not tucked in a corner, but lined up as if they had rented that slab of concrete/dirt/asphalt and it was theirs.

After a bit of searching we found my hostel. the guys were asleep and the bars across the door were locked but my driver didn't even hesitate to go ring the bell and wake them. I went in and the only available sitting area in the place was where one of the staff normally slept on the hard floor and actually where I'm typing at this very moment. I felt horrible and only managed a few awkward apologies before sitting down to do who knows what.

It was 5 am and all I had was lots of jet lag, a reservation for a bed later that day and my backpack. I dug through my papers and found some notes that I had brought to hopefully put some sort of shape to my perspective of the trip. I found a map and gladly reviewed that and got my bearings...I realized where my hostel was in relation to the rest of the city and read up on some of the things to do. After applying a liberal amount of bug spray, I finally ventured out into the city and started walking. It was 7 am and nothing was open. a few people were waking up from their sidewalk beds and brushing their teeth, scratching themselves in totally appropriate areas for everyone to see and basically doing exactly what I would do on a normal Saturday my bedroom.

After walking several blocks, I managed to discern that the direction i thought was north was south and vice-versa and hastily retreated to the home beacon that was my hostel. everyone there was still sleeping so i ventured back out, intent on making a day of this. I hit a few points that reaffirmed the direction i was going was correct and started feeling better about things. I stopped and bought some bottled water, then stopped at another spot for some tea and fried bread things which I later found were filled with a delicious spicy vegetable curry mix. The sun was rising and I had warm food in ma belle...things were improving. I meandered around and found my way to the famous Taj Mahal Hotel where I encountered a gentleman who offered to give me a tour.

The Famous Victoria Terminus

Given that I was running on some hybrid of zombie airplane sleep, jet lag and Chai tea and knowing that the day was only going to continue to get warmer (it was ~70 when I arrived and expected to hit highs in the mid-90's), I gladly negotiated a deal for a 3-4 hr tour of some of the typical tourist sights in Mumbai. We went from place to place seeing some amazing sights...but I felt like I was back in tourist mode, consuming this rich culture just for a photo. I accepted that given that I really wanted to see some of the sights and didn't want to walk to all of them. After a bit of that (I'll post pics and more thoughts later), he took me to one of his favorite food joints and shared a meal for 360 rupees ($6.50) including extra naan, rice and 2 sodas (no ice).

An Elaborate Jain Temple
The Mumbai Coastline

He dropped my at my hostel where the friendly staff checked me in and I settled into my bed. The room is a bit of a prison in that they offer a minimalist bed, blanket and have bars on the very small windows. I share a room with 2 other guys and have lockers for our things. I slept for a few hrs and woke at 9 not sure what mode my body is in or what i'm supposed to do. onward and upward...another adventure is just around the corner...actually, i heard the place on the corner has reasonable rates on cold beverages. :)

Traveller's Inn Dorm