*PREFACE: If this takes a long time to read, Consider how long it to write.
Greetings and Salutations:
I was going to report that I made it through 6 weeks in Africa with no diarhhea, but 4 days in India more than made up for it. “WELCOME TO INDIA, YOU’VE GOT DYSENTARY”. But first let me backtrack to my last 36 hours in Africa. I believe when I last wrote I was in Stone Town (the unofficial capitol of Zanzibar) awaiting my India visa. Unfortunately the Easter holiday slowed down the process. Which is funny considering Zanzibar is Muslim and India is Hindu. Then the head of the consulate told me that I owed him $30 more for the visa and I only had 1000 shillings in my pocket (~$1), the only ATM on the island wasn’t working and I couldn’t cash Travelers cheques without my passport…which was at the embassy. So I walked several miles in the blistering heat over to the embassy and explained my predicament. His response was an invitation to dinner. Just my passport please, which did have the visa. And after I checked it carefully I decided there was no way i owed him more money and went on my way. So my flight left the next morning out of Dar es Salamm at 7:30am and in the interest of saving money I decided it made more sense to take the night boat for $15 instead of paying $40 for the day boat and having to also get a room. The night boat left at 10 and arrived at 6 am, so it seemed the perfect plan. Ah…the night boat. How to describe it. I suppose you could say it’s a step up from the cuban refugees! A 3-tiered boat with numerous benches inside with 3 times the legal capacity loaded on. People everywhere, I mean everywhere. (A far cry from the twin-engine 5 person plane that took me there). At times it felt like the boat may sink or capsize, and after looking at the size of it in the morning it could have been a real possiblity. I think I got about an hours worth of sleep, between being smooshed while at the same time protecting my bags. On a positive note I saw 6 dolphins and the most breathtaking sunrise. So after 20 min’s of struggling, the crew finally managed to dock the boat and off to the airport I went.
Flying out of Dar on Ethiopian Airlines, we stoppoed over in Addis Ababba, the capitol of Ethiopia. Now this is not a country I ever imagined visiting, but i have to give the airlines credit. I had a 12 hour layover, and instead of leaving us stranded at the airport they made arrangements to shuttle us to a downtown hotel. Which was great news because that meant I could finally shower! Being the adventurer I am I figured I might as well take the opportunity to see the town. We were strongly urged by the hotel staff not to walk outside, but lucky for me I had met a pilot from Zanz on the flight and he suggested we go together. Now in all my years of living in New York and in all my travels I honestly say I’ve never really been afraid…until now. Addis Ababba is by far the sketchiest, creepiest place I’ve ever been. I’ve never clutched onto my bag so hard. Not just beggars everywhere, but hostile beggars and people looking at you like a target (we were the only white people on the streets) and the beggars cling onto you like a christ, but in a threatening way. Also there are communist monuments everywhere. I’m not kidding, that was the worst place I’ve ever had the chance to visit, so I’m really glad I had a male escort. Finally we were taken back to the airport and said our goodbyes and at 9 pm I boarded my plane for Mumbai.
Mumbai is 5 1/2 hours + GMT, or 3 1/2 ahead of Tanzania time. so i got in sometime around 4:30 am. Why do I never get a normal arrival time??? SO the last day and a half has been a bit of a blur and now I’m in India without a guidebook, since I never planned on coming. All of these facts would help to explain why the cab driver was able to overcharge me 10 times the normal amount without me realizing until too late. Pretty nasty of him considering he was taking me to the salvation army!!! Seeing Bombay at dawn was an eye-opening experience. It’s area is ~200 sq. km. The official govt. population is 11 million, but that doesn’t include the 6 million sleeping on the streets, which is what I saw at 6 am. To top my morning off, the Salvation ARmy doesnt open for business until 8 am! Skipping forward…Bombay is an amazing city. And the british influence can be seen everywhere! It’s also INcredibly HOT!!! Later in the day I met a man on the street who offered to take me around the city. I saw the Hanging Gardens (another british throwback, and it’s not the gardens that are hanging) the Laundry Center, Gandhi’s House and the slums. As I was told, India is a country of extremes, and Bombay has it all. As it turned out I ended up staying with him and his 3 children (2 daughters 18 and 15 and a 13 yr. son) They and the community took me in and by the end of my 6 day stay we had bonded through ups and downs. Here are some interesting things I’ve learned along the way…1.) food preparation is laborious. One of my favorite memories will probably be sitting on the kitchen floor with the other India women peeling garlic and crushing coriander. They spend days preparing one thing. 2.)and the eating, people don’t eat together. The guest eats first, then the men, then the women and the children. 3.)Bombay traffic is not for the faint of heart! I’ve never seen anything like it. Tailgating is common practice, while weaving and driving at 120 km/hr. It definietly helps me understand NYC cab drivers better. They really do honk constantly here. So my stay with the family was wonderful, I got to witness a birthday party for the neighbor’s 3 yr. old son and I was adorned in saris. I was gifted jewelry and clothes and my final night there they prepared a feast which we ate on the rooftop and sent with sweets, for sweet memories of my stay. Which I know I have.
So now I am in Rajastan in Jodphur. I arrived last night after a 25 hour train ride. STay tuned for the next adventure.