I just got back from one of the most incredible experiences!!! I SAW THE TAJ MAHAL! I don’t even know how to explain how incredible it was, but it was absolutely surreal to see one of the man-made wonders of the world. I had so many “I’m in India!” moments while I was there–I of course brought my journal (I bring my journal with me all the time now so that I can record my feelings in the moment 🙂 and I think I’ll include parts of my journal–it’ll be easier to explain 🙂
We left the ship Wednesday morning at 4 am and went to the Kochi/Cochin airport. As a fun side-note we took an old bus to the airport and we sat in the back which meant that when we hit the rough roads off of the dock, we FLEW as the bus had no shocks to speak of. So our plan to sleep on the way to the airport to catch up on our 2:40 morning? Didn’t happen, but we had fun 🙂 It was a very simple airport and we got to take little trams again to our airplane where we walked up the stairs into our plane: I’m noticing there have been no terminals or gates in every airport I’ve been to since I left the US. We were all way stoked and the flight to New Delhi was incredible. It was cool to see all of the plane’s safety videos were of women in saris as well as our stewardesses on the flight. We had little screens on the seats in front of us to show our location as we flew from South India to North, all the way against the Himalayas! I was totally having “a moment” 🙂 When we got out of the plane the difference was very evident: the weather was like South Africa (cool, not too humid), the landscape was not tropical India, but the largest difference was the city itself. New Delhi is India’s capital and so we drove past all the embassies. Depending on the home country, the buildings in general were immaculately kept and the streets large and smooth. We then left that area and went into the most crowded place I have ever been. I don’t know how to describe it to you guys simply because you have never seen anything even REMOTELY close. I was in shock as I looked up tiny streets that were literally so packed, all you saw were the tops of thousands of heads. The “streets” were single lane paths and the “buildings” on either side were ancient, dilapidated multi-story brick shacks. When the top story (or two) had collapsed there were tents set up by either the previous residents or new ones, I’m not sure. All these buildings were so incredibly old, I was trying to imagine when these were built and I really have no idea because they look ancient to my American eye. There were incredible shrines and small ancient temples everywhere between these “buildings” that, had they been in America, would have been well-cared for, but here, there are so many that ancient shrines are not a big deal and have been left to be lived-in in the last millennium or so. The buildings were black from the cooking fires and it was evident that many families resided in the same structure. Where Kochi has a population of “only” a few million, New Delhi has 16+ million and the area was incredibly over-crowded.
I think the largest difference were the people. My goodness, I don’t know how to tell you how hard it was to see what I saw. They were so so thin, especially the children and the men riding their bikes with HUGE loads or pulling carriages of people behind them. I was trying to identify why this has been harder for me than even Ghana (which made such an impact on me) and I realized several things. Both places were respective shanty-towns, however the children in Ghana, for the most part, were smiling. We didn’t have children on the streets begging, just adults trying to desperately sell their wares. Here in India, the children are everywhere, begging. Now while it’s hard to turn away those who are begging for money, it was so very very hard for my heart to see these thin, frail children with large foreheads and protruding stomachs, absolutely filthy from head to toe, asking not for money but for something to eat. Begging for basic survival. My heart almost couldn’t handle it. The guides told us not to give them food or children from everywhere would swarm us, but I can’t describe what it felt like to have to move past them. Family, this trip has put questions in my heart and soul that I have never had to ask before…but it’s good, the questions change me and I feel that as long as I have a “spirit of believing”, that change will be good; those questions will help me grow and want to help the world; the thoughts will not corrode my heart but instead inspire me to make a difference. That was something that I wrote extensively in my journal: how to have a spirit of believing (in essence: believing in what I know will be final outcome of this life and that all things will be “made right”) while seeing things that conflict with everything in my American-born heart.
I don’t want to finish on that note, but I have to go to 2 FDPs today (a trip required for class). I will do part two later tonight I think. I love you family, please know that I am really happy even with all of these thoughts. I was able to have a lot of writing time on this trip which allowed me to work through the above thoughts. I will share my little insights in the next part, ok? Just know that I am changing for the better–I will never be the same again after these experiences.
Love you guys so so much, Miss you, Me
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