Chai and randomness

Dharamshala Travel Blog

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Hello everyone,

Things are going very well here at the moment.  I'm preparing to leave for Amritsar for the weekend to see the Golden Temple.  Six of us have rented a taxi to drive us the five hour distance for a little over $100.00.  I'm excited because we will also be visiting the Pakistan border to see a flag ceremony that happens every night.  I'm not crazy enough to cross the border, but I'm excited to say I've seen Pakistan.  Well...sort of.  :-)

My placement is going well.  Two of the women I'm working with, Mena and Usha, invited me to have chai at their home a few days ago.  I gratefully accepted, but was taken back at their poverty.  When we meet with these women, they come to the Cross Cultural Solutions campus for teaching and we never see what their lives are like outside of the program.  To enter their homes was a humbling experience.  Usha's home is no larger than the size of my kitchen and there is a bed in the corner that she shares with her husband and three children.  The beds here are different than those back home.  They resemble something like a Novaform mattress topper, but are firmer and don't imprint when you lie in them.  They are all the size of twin beds, and many families will buy two of them, pushing them together for their entire family to sleep on.  It somewhat resembled the bed from Willy Wonka and the Chocolote Factory where Charlie's two sets of Grandparents shared one bed in the middle of the livingroom.  The rest of Usha's flat is surrounded by large trunks which contain clothing and other personal belongings.  There is a hole in the floor on one side of the room which they use for their toilet.  Their kitchen is really nothing more than a portable coleman stove which they use to cook their meals.  Usha offered me a chair to sit on, but there was only one available.  I felt bad sitting on it, but she insisted.  The chair was wicker, and only half of the threading remained intact.  I was basically sitting on a few strings tied to some wooden legs, but it was comfortable all the same.  Seeing this level of poverty is an indescribable experience.  The fact that these women are so kind and generous, in spite of their economic circumstances amazes me.  People back home couldn't imagine living this way, but there is something humbling and genuine about the people here.  Maybe it's because a majority of them are well below the poverty level and they have learned through their struggling to truly appreciate what it means to be alive. 

Everyone in India has been incredibly open and inviting.  The people here are amazing because they want to meet you and will invite you to have chai with them because it is their culture to be giving and offer to share what little they have with others.  This experience so far has helped me to appreciate how much I have, and has helped me to realize how little of my personal possessions I actually need.  I think so many people hold onto their possessions and they end up owning you.  The people here literally have nothing, and to see them share that with you is humbling.  I honestly can't explain how this trip has impacted me personally and I still have another week left before I return home.  I know that I will return to the U.S. filled with gratitude and accomplished in achieving my goal of helping these women in what little ways I can.

In other news, I'll admit to having come in contact with Delhi Belly.  It's an indescribable feeling when you have no control over you bodily fluids and you are tempted to drop trou' in the middle of the street to relieve yourself like the locals do.  You are lucky to find a toilet like the ones back home here.  The toilets we are used to are called "western style toilets" and are usually only found in hotels or nice restaurants.  Thankfully our flats are equipped with these, but if we are out in the market for too long and need to use the restroom, I've encountered several different types of restrooms in the area.  First, there are the wide open, behind a wall type toilets.  There are no doors for privacy and you walk into a room that may or may not have a roof attached.  You find an open hole...literally, a hole...and do your business.  My first encounter with this type of restroom, I decided I didn't have to go that bad and took a taxi back home to use the toilet in my flat.  The next type of restroom I've found is slightly more private.  You go into a small room with a hole in the ground and two grips on either side of the hole.  These grips are for your feet, and you basically squat and let 'er rip.  There is no toilet paper in these, so you're left to 'shake it off' in a sense.  I've become so accustomed to these types of toilets that they don't seem to bother me anymore.  With Delhi Belly, when you have to go, you have to go.

In any event, things are going well.  I'm going to head out now to grab some lunch before leaving for Amritsar for the weekend.  I'll check in when I have access to internet again, but it's been pretty sporadic around here and I have little time to spare with all of the placement and group activities they have us doing. 

Have a great weekend!

Christine

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