Sunday, April 4, 2010

My Spectacular Trip to India Part I

Sorry this is so long in coming! I actually wrote a much longer version including the whole first portion of the trip last Wednesday and Thursday but somehow the multiple copies I made got deleted! So let me start over.

Before I get into India, I want to mention a few events leading up to it. As I`ve mentioned before, even during breaks, students often come to school anyway. Between every trimester we have a sports tournament with badminton, volleyball, basketball, dodge ball, and a few other random sports not typically part of the standard Japanese repertoire. So around Monday the 15th…I can`t remember the exact date, we had the tournament and award ceremony. Afterwards, one of the band girls performed a marimba piece she`s taking to prefectural contest, sort of like band state contest in America. She was really good, and the pianist was great too. Here`s a video:

Wednesday I taught my adult class. The lesson was over St. Patrick`s Day and asking for directions. I always try to include a section in the beginning on culture, and assign homework the previous week for the students to give 30 second-however long they want presentations. I thought they enjoyed it, but they got really mad at me for assigning religious and “obscure” topics. I always look up what I assign before I assign it to make sure there are plenty of simple-English articles about the subject on the web. For “fighting Irish,” Notre Dame`s website was the first to show up on any search engine, but that student was still really mad at me for being so vague. Another one got really mad at me for assigning her St. Patrick and demanded that I only teach language, nothing ever to do with religion or culture. Oops. I guess I just assumed people like to study the same way I do. Frankly, I find language by itself incredibly boring, but I enjoy the application. I`m studying Chinese now, which is a bear to learn with its four, some say five tones and awkward pronunciation. What makes it interesting are the little poems and cultural facts and notes in the text. I guess one of my greatest flaws is that I assume other people are like me, especially when it comes to interests and such.

Oh, by the way, the problem I was having with one of my friends that I wrote about two posts ago worked itself out, better than I could have hoped for. These things usually do. God is good!

So, on to India! 5:15am Friday March 19th Li called to wake me, but fortunately I was already up and eating breakfast. He came over quite unexpectedly about 5:30 and went over the check list with me: passport, (wouldn`t want to forget that again!) wallet, contact information, copies of passport and credit card, etc. Good thing, too, or I would have forgotten half that stuff! Sometimes I think he keeps my head from falling off my shoulders. Then he carried my suitcase to the train station and saw me off at 5:45 for my 6:09 train.

I arrived at Oehomachi station at 7:15 for the 7:25 hour-long bus ride to the airport. At 10:00am I flew Tai airways. Wow, talk about service! They`re the best airline I`ve ever flown. They`re celebrating their 50th anniversary, so I guess everything`s been revamped. Normally I hate flying but it was so comfortable. They spoke English without an accent, they fed us three really good meals, the seats leaned back pretty far, and we had our own personal screens with a selection of over 1,000 movies, songs, and games to choose from. I watched the Last Samauri and it was so good I actually cried near the end. And believe it or not, they were the cheapest airline available.

We stopped over in Manila, the capital of the Philippines, for just half an hour to refuel. I was happy they let us off the plane, though, because I got to buy some world-famous Pilipino dried mango. That stuff is so good!

Next stop was the Bangkok airport for a four hour layover. I went through the customs line to get into the country, got all the way to the end, but the staff said I didn`t have time. So I`ve never stepped onto Tai soil, but I have the stamp! And the Bangkok airport is absolutely gorgeous. Everywhere I looked lush orchid displays lined the walls and huge sculpted vases, and miniature ones I`d never seen before lay encased in crystal, awaiting purchase in the many shops. Here`s my favorite display:

And here`s a really cool statue. It depicts the creation story from Tai mythology, the gods and demons churning the sea with a huge snake, making the dry land appear on the back of a turtle. The Japanese have a similar story, and some Native Americans. I`d bet anything the story is very, very ancient, and when several Asian groups crossed over the Bering Straight during the last ice age, they took the tale with them:

So I really enjoyed walking around the airport looking at all the beautiful art (AKA the gold, jewel, local textile, and handicraft shopping on the 4th floor) and flower displays and tasting the delectable free samples of Tai chips and cookies. Not a bad way to spend three hours.

Finally, I landed in Hyderabad, India at 10:50pm. I had booked my hotel online in advance and requested a pick up, but I was a little worried no one would come, since they hadn`t confirmed the request. But I had no need to fear! As soon as I stepped out of customs, there was a young man with a sign that read, “Welcome to India, Miss Laura Popp.” He led me outside to a beautiful scene of pink flowers, palm trees, and sari-clad women. The whole trip felt like stepping through three seasons: from Japan`s winter, to Tailand airport`s spring, to India`s summer. Though, admittedly, it`s still early spring for them; I can`t imagine how bad it must be in July! The car drove me to my hotel, Parklane, and I arrived around midnight and my room was ready in another half hour. It was pretty decent. All I need is a bed, shower, and air conditioner. The latter was broken, but there was a working fan. Here`s what an Indian (nice) bathroom looks like.

In the morning I woke up around 8:00am, had a good complimentary breakfast of traditional rice paddies and vegetarian curry, then headed out at 8:45am. I was planning on just getting a taxi to take me to the zoo in the morning and Golconda Ft. in the afternoon. But as soon as I stepped out of the hotel, I heard a voice calling me,

“Excuse me, Madam?”

If ever you hear these words in India from someone you don`t know or aren`t expecting, just ignore them and keep walking. Why? You`ll find out in my next post.

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