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MUMBAI

 

From Delhi, I caught a flight to Mumbai and arrived at the Comfort Inn Heritage in the afternoon.  Feeling the heat again was refreshing.  My AJWS orientation started the following day.  There was a pre-orientation dinner that evening, so I spent a few hours unwinding, unpacking, and getting my bearings.  My clothes desperately needed a wash!  But, since I needed to wear my good clothes, jeans and cargo pants, I couldn’t submit them for laundry.  The jeans reeked of campfire smoke from the village, and my long-sleeved shirts were worn through from overuse in the cold.  But, it’s India, and I hoped no one would notice.

 

 

Typically I hate orientations.  They are long, boring, redundant, and irrelevant.  But the 4 day AJWS meeting was actually a pleasant surprise.  I thoroughly enjoyed meeting all the volunteers- Murray and Sylvia �" married 54 years and at the age of 78 were doing their second AJWS volunteer work, Mark and Dianne �" just married were traveling the world doing volunteer work ~ and just came from Ghana, Africa, Ron and Debra �" another couple who were sweet, intelligent and into the whole meditation thing too.  That left Debra # 2 and me.  Yes we were the only single people of the volunteers.  Debra is an amazingly charismatic woman who somehow managed to spend 13 years at one job before quitting and taking her first trip to the developing world through AJWS ~ super courageous.  Then there were the AJWS staff �" Will, Sam, Anna, and Sunita.

  They were wonderful, supportive, and really together.  I’d had several issues with AJWS prior to the orientation, mostly with non-communication and miscommunication.  I was relieved to see that they were really together!  I took a big refreshing breath. 

 

While I loved the meetings, I grew tired of the long days after day 2.  We started at 9:00 and finished around 5ish.  Usually we all had dinner together, so that did not leave much time to explore Mumbai, which I had hoped to do.  But the meetings were catered with coffee and snacks, so I was a happy camper, fighting off dozing with cookies and black sugar-filled coffee.

 

On the second to last night, Debra and I ventured out to town alone.

  We went to restaurant Indigo, reputed to be the best in Mumbai.  We thoroughly enjoyed a fantastic meal together �" it was so California �" Seafood salad, followed by a bean cake and a soy dish.  We wrapped it up with a chocolate tort and an apple crisp. SOOOO GOOOOOD!!  The next day we met our NGO counterpart.  For privacy and disclosure reasons, I am not supposed to identify my NGO’s name.  The real reason is that if I write something negative, it could get back to the NGO…so I’ll just refer to them as NGO.  This way I can maintain some honesty in the blog.

 

On Thursday, I met Cynthia, my NGO representative.  I instantly fell in love with her �" she was so warm, laughed easily, was motherly, compassionate, intelligent, and passionate.

  I knew that she would take exceptional care of me!!!!  We chatted easily during breaks, and I sat next to her during the meetings.  I put Debra in charge of insuring that I didn’t doze off during the meetings, though, she did a dismal job of hitting me when my eyes closed.  For those of you who have had class or work with me, you know what I mean. 

 

The last evening, after a dinner with all NGO representatives and staff, Mark, Diane, Debra, and I sat on the roof watching Mumbai.  Mark, Diane, Murray and Sylvia were to work in Mumbai.  Ron and Debra 1 were headed to Chennai (Tamil Nadu), Debra was going to Orrissa (the poorest state in India), and I to Tamil Nadu.  So Debra and I bid everyone goodbye, unsure if we would see them or each other again.

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