AsiaIndiaMumbai

Note to self

Mumbai Travel Blog

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At the Mumbai arts festival with Jason, Will, and Anna

I arrived in Mumbai for a five-day orientation last Saturday night.  The airport seemed not radically different from home… until I got outside.  Swarms of people behind a metal barrier.  Thankfully the AJWS arranged for a driver to pick me up (sweet!), and I spotted him holding a sign with my name on it right away.  Then I had to get my luggage cart through the crowd and shouting policemen on the sidewalk.  My first impressions of Mumbai on the drive to the hotel -- albeit through a sleep-deprived haze and what I now know to be the relative quiet of Mumbai at 1am -- was of people everywhere, ramshackle buildings, dirt.  I wondered, would the most cosmopolitan of Indian cities look shinier in the daylight?

 

Alas, it did not, at least not the parts I saw.

Wacky mosquito sculpture at the Mumbai arts festival
  Corrugated metal shacks covering every free square inch, people living in them with no running water.  Mangy dogs everywhere.  Chaotic traffic, moving by a set of rules I can’t determine.  And forget crosswalks and seatbelts. 

 

Strewn in with the chaos are some modern buildings -- shops, restaurants, movie theatres.  I went to a lovely arts festival with some of the other volunteers, which reminded me of the booths in (New York's) Union Square in December.  I had an amazing dinner, sitting in a garden outside, talking for hours, the sounds of the city seeming far away.  (Though in retrospect, I honestly didn't think about the money I spent on the meal probably being more than what many people earn in a month.)  Taking in a Bollywood movie was another highlight.

A lesson in Indian history at orientation, a la the lovely Sunita, our Indian mama
  Nearly being mowed down by a bus on the way there was not.  Note to self: Pedestrians do not have right of way in India.

 

I’ve become fast friends with the other volunteers and AJWS staff.  This was a gentle introduction to India, and I’m nervous about leaving the safety net of having companions.  I haven’t had to negotiate cab fare yet (yes, it's negotiable) or even buy my own food.  Though it’s still hard to articulate why I came to India, I can say for sure that it wasn’t to spend the whole time with other Americans and have meals in a hotel.  So it’s off to Bhubaneswar and my volunteer assignment.

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At the Mumbai arts festival with J…
At the Mumbai arts festival with …
Wacky mosquito sculpture at the Mu…
Wacky mosquito sculpture at the M…
A lesson in Indian history at orie…
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photo by: vvicy1