Friday, April 19, 2013

A blog post is a really great way to inform your parents of your new life plans right?

To start things off I thought I would give you a little snippet of personal info of my travel buddies and myself. If you don't fall asleep mid-read, let me know. You might get a prize.

I should have mentioned this in my last post but I'm lazy, so I didn't. My wonderful companions were Jordan and Tina. All three of us went to Franciscan University together and coincidentally all studied the same major. (Mental Health and Human Services for those of you who need to be in the know). So, with it being a relatively small school and studying a not-that-popular--more-of-a-made-up-type-of-degree you would think we would have been the best of friends at school. Turns out, I had never even heard of Jordan before we started planning our trip and my friendship with Tina didn't truly start blossoming until we had both graduated and were living in Colorado.  But as you know traveling is the perfect scenario where you quickly become lifelong friends or instant frienemies.
*Spoiler alert* At the end of the trip it was already decided we would be traveling the world together again very soon. I'll let you use your deductive reasoning skills to figure which path we went down.

**It should also be mentioned that our one week in Delhi was a mere pit stop on Jordan's four and half month long excursion in Asia and Europe. If you want to turn the greenest shade of jealous, jump over to his blog and read about his unbelievable adventures and insights right here.

So back to the timeline. Where was I? Oh yes, just wakening from our 4 hour refreshing night's rest nap and felt kind of ready to conquer India. We arrived on Palm Sunday and decided it would be a good idea to keep up with the whole "Sunday obligation" thing us crazy Catholics are accustomed to, so I went down to the lobby to find out when and where we could attend mass.

Awkward First Day of India pose. Modeled after the well known First Day of School pose.

This is where I would say I encountered my first real cultural shock of the trip. I walked downstairs wearing a dress that went down to my ankles (home school flashbacks ensued throughout the entire trip) and a shirt that barely went below my collarbone. Despite my self-assuredness that I was dressed modestly and was "totally going to fit in" I was immediately made aware of just how many eyes were on me.

I didn't even have time to survey my surroundings and decide which of the 7 men in the lobby I should approach for help because they we all quickly by my side; ready and willing to serve. Much like Emirates Airlines, they put American service to shame. Although this felt like a different kind of service. The attention was a strange combination of, "This is a woman. Women are helpless. Therefore, let us help her" and "What the hell is a woman doing down here asking questions about hiring drivers and going out?" and "Damn look at that blonde, white woman. Let's just stare and stare and stare until she has to run away and tell Jordan he will be handling the travel accommodations downstairs from now on" kind of attention.

***Major Tangent*** Ready yourselves accordingly. I want to post about what it felt like to be woman in country that seems to have little to very little respect for women--as well as how different my experience was, in that, for some unknown reason I was born a blonde little white girl and how the yielded more attention than I will ever know what to do with. But that will be for a different post at a different time. I'm just trying to get the point across that no one, not even my roommate Hillary who previously visited India could prepare me for week of stares, gawks and attention I was about to receive. ***end tangent***

So, after finally being able to convince the men at the help desk I wanted to go to this church to pray and they made sure that I wasn't under the impression that it was a "must see" tourism sight, (because in their minds they could not fathom why I wanted to see a Catholic church over the beautiful Hindi temples) I booked a car for the morning and I went back upstairs to tell Tina and Jordan (and double check my bag for even more modest clothes I might have forgotten about).


We ended up going to Sacred Heart Cathedral and for the first time ever in the history of India, traffic wasn't that bad and we were 45 minutes early for mass. We walked around and found a priest who eagerly agreed to hear our confessions. Mass was in English! A luxury I really wasn't expecting. It was also full (another unexpected surprise, but cool nonetheless).

After Tina and I nearly passed out during the mass--since is was now approaching our 15th? hour without sustenance--we quickly decided to go some food. (I know, don't we sound like brilliant and seasoned travelers?) After taking a couple minutes to talk Jordan out of eating street food, our hotel staff recommended a 'safe' place to eat just down the block.

This might have been one of the best happenings of our trip. Immediately upon entering, we were sat at the same table with other travelers. A couple to be exact. Or were they a couple? We never really got a straight answer from them. (One of those mysterious 'this is my friend' but we've been traveling the world together for years, he's from England, I'm from Michigan situations. I'm sure you know the type) They met five years ago during their first year teaching ESL (English as a second language). Each year they accept a teaching job together. Finish out their contract and take any/all money they have saved to travel around for 6-8 weeks. Then, they both head back to their perspective homes, spend a month or so with their families and start all over again.

I'm sure my parents will be over the moon when they read this next sentence. This is my dream life. And I am actually talking to people who are doing it? What the aitch? I had so many questions for them. The biggest one being, "Can I join you? like RIGHT now? " I almost peed my skirt out of excitement (but couldn't pee because I spent 90% of the trip dehydrated out of fear of using those squatting toilets) and started jumping up and down in my seat. Luckily, just at that moment I spotted something that helped me keep my cool. What was this "something" you ask? Oh not much. Just your average restaurant cockroach crawling on the wall next to Jordan.

Yeah, take a second to read that again if you need to. A cockroach. And everybody's just sitting there chilling, like nothing is going on. Maybe they were distracted by the meal-worm looking specimen on our table. I don't know why. Please don't ask me. All I know is that none of us acknowledged their presence until looooong after we had finished the meal. After all, this was the restaurant our hotel recommended to us as "safe." Plus, like I mentioned earlier, far too many hours had already lapsed since our last time of nourishment and all three of us were showing our "hangry" symptoms. (Hangry: hungry + angry. Don't act like you've never suffered from it. Maybe during that piano concert at your church that just. won't. end. or something similar I'm sure.)

Just to confirm, yes. This restaurant really was infested with bugs (probably vermin too, but they kept those in the back out of courtesy). No, this did not stop me, or anyone else from chowing down on the bowl of rice and curried vegetables I had just ordered. In fact, we went back to the same restaurant a couple days later because we were missing some of the comforts of home and wanted "something familiar." It's okay to take a minute or two and judge us. I don't really care. I'm the not the one who has a parasite right now. (Yes, one of us did come back with a little parasite. We've named it Vikram - and you'll get the dirty deets on that later!!)

So finallllllly. After only 11 hours of actually being India we are: semi-rested, showered, fed, holy, and ready to let our inner tourist out to see some sights. We walked back to the hotel to hire a car to take us around Delhi for the rest of the day.

Okay I'm cutting myself off here. I literally cannot type another sentence. I'll loose all my 1.5 readers if I make this any longer.

On the off chance that you made it through this entire post, give yourself a standing ovation. If you're a glutton for crazy, come back again and I'll fill you on the rest of the day next time on True Life: I went to India.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Filler Post

Whenever my stellar sister even hints at the fact that I have a blog on her wildly wild successful blog I go into a slight panic that someone besides my dad is going to read a post or two. But you lovely visitors were so SO sweet. Leaving comments and giving me the Holy Grail of all compliments: that we have a similar sense of humor, I almost died of Over Affirmation. OA: a real disease that affects at least 3% of the population in the U.S. alone.*

I believe what I'm trying to say is: Thank you for your kind words and for even taking a second to read the ridiculousness that is my life.

 Anyway, believe it or not one thing my sister and I do NOT have in common is our ability to multitask, and by that I mean: she can, I cannotWhile she is busying raising children, saving the world and keeping so many people sane via her stand-up routine at the Camp, I have a hard time keeping my own basic hygiene in check and making sure I eat two vegtables a day. (That's the FDA's suggested serving right? 2 veggies, 12 carbs and 100 bite sized Reese's peanut-butter cups a day keep the doctor at bay?) That's what I thought. 

Because I am busy stuffing my face with choco-latte, and what was the phrase I embarrassingly used before? Oh yes, 'still processing it all' double gag again, sorry. I wanted to direct to another post about India by way of my dear friend Tina. This is a story I almost wish had happened to me while we over there. Just so I would have the pleasure of telling it at a bar when I find myself in one of those "I really need to get out of this conversation, what can I say to get this person to stop talking?" type situations. But lucky for you, instead I'll use it as a way of distracting you from the fact that I haven't written another post about India yet. 

So please go. Right now go! Read all about her adventure with the public toilets of India and enjoy a good laugh at our expense.

*Cited from The American Journal of BullSh*t Disorders.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

¡Incredible India!

India. Where do I even begin? I'll be honest, I've been avoiding putting fingers to keyboard on the subject because I am not delusional enough to believe I will ever be able to fully narrate my experience the way it deserves.

Let's start off with the big new shall we?

With the country. 

Did I trick you? (At you least you Mom?)

But seriously, if love is something that consumes you to the point that you're thinking about said person (or place, in my case) while your dinner is burning, or your shower suddenly becomes twice as long because you've accidentally shampooed your hair three times, or you lie awake at night contemplating selling all your earthly possessions for a chance to see "your love" again, then damn it! I'm in love.

Maybe it's just puppy love. Maybe this will pass. All I know is that this is not the first time I have traveled to a foreign place, but this is the first time I have been so far outside of ANYTHING that is even remotely familiar to my normal life--and yet--somehow I have never felt more at home. Contradiction much? That's why I'm saying.

I'm planning on writing multiple posts to cover the different aspects of my trip. Can you smell the cheddar when I say, "But, I'm still trying to process it all?" I know I made myself gag as I was writing it. I'm sorry.

I have to start some where right? So in the words of Fraulein Maria, let's start at the very beginning shall we? (You really only have to listen to the first ten seconds to get the reference, but if you don't feel the need to listen to the whole song, I'm not quite sure how much we have in common).

Alright, musical tangent over. Where was I? Ahh, yes. The beginning.

My gorgeous friend Tina was really the one who really spearheaded this whole trip. By that I mean she planned E.V.E.R.Y.T.H.I.N.G. At one point, she tried to put my in charge of figuring out which vaccines we needed and that backfired so terribly, that she took that over too. (The only other thing I was in charge of ended up being cancelled due to some possible terrorism activity. That story won't surface for at least 2 more posts so you'll have to stay tuned.)

Tina and I headed out on Friday morning to the airport and everything (besides a momentary freakout about losing my passport) went smoothly. We had a layover in Seattle where we were questioned about why weren't taking more luggage with us (as if back packing around a foreign country was completely unheard of or something). And purchased some garden burgers (because it was Friday during Lent) that tasted suspiciously like chicken, but we were too chicken ((haha get it?)) to inquire any further since we had just spent $8.00 each on the them. God spare us.

This is when shi--stuff gets real. Our next flight was a mere 13 hour flight to Dubai. DUBAI. As is the UAE United Arab Emirates. We flew with Emirates Airlines. I could dedicate an entire post to this airline. Their level of service was absolutely absurd. Did anyone catch an episode or two of the short lived Pan-am series on ABC?

If not, that's okay. It was pretty trashy. I bring it up because Emirates is the modern day Pam-am. The flight attendants (male and female, I have to stay unbiased) were supermodels. Not just supermodels, smart supermodels. They all spoke multiple languages (not an exaggeration) and had degrees in molecular biology (slight exaggeration).

Us low-lings sitting in coach were brought warm, moist towels scented with lavender, delicious meals (gluten free, vegan, halal, kosher, and vegetarian substitutes available) and any complimentary beverage (alcohol included) you could imagine. I spent a good portion of the flight sleeping, listening to classical music and NOT watching pitch perfect for the 4th time. (okay fine Pitch Perfect snuck it's way onto my screen). We thought we were living like queens. And we were, until a few hours later...

We landed in Dubai smelly, tired, and mostly just smelly. Stopped to gawk at the mutli-level waterfall in the middle of the airport (which I neglected to take a picture of because I was too delirious to even think of such things) got some food and waited for our next flight.

We chatted about our plans for India, how awesome our last flight was and what we would do if we couldn't find Jordan when we landed in Delhi. Then Tina being the smarty pants that she is, saw some people boarding the plane and suggested we go over to our gate and get in line. THIS COULD HAVE BEEN THE BEST DECISION OF OUR LIVES. When I walked up to the counter an adorable little Indian man smiled at me and gestured for Tina to come up as well. He asked if we were traveling together. When we replied, "Yes" he said he had a surprise for us and asked "Can you guess what it is?" I thought he was some hot shot that managed to snag us seats next to each other (because we were a few rows apart for this flight, but it was only 3 hours and planned on spending it sleeping so we didn't really care to change it) So, I innocently guessed, "You got us seats together?!" He smiled, showed us the tickets and said, "Even better."

Insert Ugly American here. We both just stared at the tickets, and whispered a subdued "Thank you" and walked on board. Little did we know our lives were about to change forever. WELCOME TO BUSINESS CLASS. Ever heard of it? I hadn't either. Apparently there is step between first class and coach. It's called Business Class.
You can't tell from the picture, but my legs are completely extended, and don't even come close to the seat in front of me!
The chairs were equipped to give massages. Not interested in a massage? That's cool. Just press a little button and your seat LAYS DOWN FLAT. Like a BED. Go to sleep with your plush pillow and warm fuzzy blanket. They'll wake you up when it's time for your bowl of warm nuts to be served. Or your meal with personal porcelain salt and pepper shakers. Did you fall asleep again? That's okay. When you wake up, there's a mini box of chocolates waiting for you to enjoy while you fill out that pesky customs paperwork. The flight was about 10 hours too short, but the memory remains and this princess did not enjoy going back to coach a week later.

When we finally made it to Delhi, we quickly found Jordan (PTL) waiting patiently on the other side of customs and went to go find the car we hired to take us to our hotel. We left at 10 am Friday morning, and arrived at 4 am Sunday morning. No, we were not hungry, grumpy or tired at all.

Reunited and it feels so good.

Our first group shot in the hotel before we recharged with a nap and got ready for an adventure I'll never forget.

Next time on Real Life: I went to India. Bug infested restaurants, Life endangering traffic, The Lotus Temple and more...