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 election...how 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 like...yeah...uh...it'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 potty...it 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 moments...so 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...win 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 yeah...in 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 toilets..you pee into them...it 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.
these guys love to use their horns (the cars)...it'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 interpretations...no 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 it...so i roughly know where i am and where i need to get...but it feels odd. anyways...