The trip is finished

There is nothing like a little pampering in Frankfurt to break up a 36 hour journey home. We left the guest house around 12:30 in the afternoon…went through security check to get the vehicles into the airport…had my two Russian bayonets confiscated because their “museum pieces”. Then we parked and two guys with carts forced us to hire them to push our stuff to the terminal [side note about getting the bags to the terminal: It has just rained so the path to get to the terminal went by a pothole the size of a lake. Both our trolley men were fighting to keep the bags out of the lack of fecal mater, but both went ankle deep. Fortunately for one of them he had rubber boots.]

Then we went through a small security check where they just made sure you had a ticket. This was about 100 yards away from he terminal. Then there was a frisk to get into the terminal, $10 airport tax then x-ray the bags. The guys grabbing your bags from our trolleys really wanted a tip…so I gave one of them a paper worth 2 of their local currency (about 4 cents) but it was worthless cuz nobody takes those anymore. I knew it was worthless, but I thought it a nice gesture. They didn’t.

They didn’t look at the other knives I had in my bag, they just wanted to see my wedding invitations…did they think it was money? Then the guys unloading my bag from the x-ray machine and rapping it with a plastic thing wanted a tip. He spoke really good English and said they only get paid $30 a day (or was it month?).

Then we check our luggage with Indian Air, got hit with $142 of excess baggage we talked them down to a $100, which when paid went straight into the guys back pocket. We got in the stagnant immigration line but were pushed to the front cuz our flight left at 2 and it was like 1:30. We go through immigrations and do another frisk when they x-ray our carry on bags. It was a good thing they rushed us through immigrations because the flight was about two hours late.

Then we walk out to the bus that took us to the plane. I had never seen this before but they had all our checked bags lined up outside the plane. So we find our bags and tell the guy which are ours and then they put them on the plane. Lastly we walk up the stairs to get into the plane for one final frisk before getting on.

Then it was about 2 or 3 hours flight to India, 8 hour layover in India, 7 hour flight to Frankfurt, 5 hour layover in Frankfurt (with shower), then 8 hour flight to Washington. The most thorough frisk of the whole trip was in Frankfurt before getting in the extra secured section to fly to the States.

I don’t think I have been more happy to see anyone as when I saw Millie waiting for me once I got to Dulles. So great.

Photo by Andrew Borgquist. This concludes my trip blog.

 

 

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Me and Naim

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Millie Bus…There is also a Millie Bank here.

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What’s Millie’s car doing here??

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Jennifer at Istalif

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Istalif

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Istalif

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Me at Istalif

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Pottery shop in Istalif

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Way home from Istalif

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Way home from Istalif

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Way home from Istalif

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Way home from Istalif

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Way home from Istalif

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Way home from Istalif

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Way home from Istalif

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Way home from Istalif

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Kids on the way home from Istalif

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Way back from Istalif. Check means mine free (I think)

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Sell your guns before you enter the capital.

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Messed up building.

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Startled Girl by Michael Shipe

Here are some recent photos:

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guys up at Istalif

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Army

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Old theater

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Wreckage

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Kids at distribution

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Distribution

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Distribution

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Big circle in 2003

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Same building now

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Me in Deshti Barchi

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Army at our house

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Army

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Our team

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Distribution pose

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Me looking swank

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Food

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Me and Jennifer

Day before yesterday was women’s day, so to start we went to a school that the military had organized a distribution. They put together little bags of candy and toothbrushes and toys and notebooks and stuff. They were super organized. Like, we were 20 minutes late and missed most of it. They were in and out, which is kind of the way they have to move.

They had the kids lined up and going through the distribution line…it was like clockwork. I think they were there about 45 minutes total. We pulled up and they had there 4 SUVs parked and they had soldiers kind of watching the street, and we went in did the thing and left. Then all the soldiers came to our guesthouse with about 50 locals for women’s day.

We showed the soldiers the roof view, which we all kind of thought was dumb in retrospect cuz…they’re targets and we live here. But then there was food, and an acknowledgement of the women who worked here. Oh and when the soldiers got here, they all piled out of their SUVs and were like. “SARG, are we wearing battle rattle or not?” they all took off their body armor, but they all kept their pistols and some kept their riffles. But the party had two huge cliques, the soldiers and the locals (not surprising). I’ve really enjoyed thanking the soldiers for their service and sacrifice.

Yesterday, the ladies went to a ladies meeting and me and peter stayed here. After lunch we went to the local church service which is really very interesting. There were something like 37 languages there. German soldiers were there, there were kids running around in the grass…there was actually green, mowed grass. It was also interesting because they are security conscious. They don’t let locals come and they change the time each week.

Then we hung out at the guesthouse for a little while, had dinner, and went to the US camp for a small worship service. We were a little late and the chaplain’s bodyguard had already escorted some people in who he thought were us…so we had to stay at the checkpoint for a long time. We stayed in the cold soft rain for like 30 minutes. One soldier let Jennifer stand near the heater, but I didn’t get the same favor.

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Our first day in country, we went to the street with all the
souvenirs. Foreigners go to this street to buy their memories. We
spent about 2 hours walking along the street calling more attention to
ourselves than is healthy. I blended in pretty good except for my
Sambas
and the street kids that swarmed around us. Their deal is that they’ll
go before you everywhere showing you the shops and telling you to go
in and buy stuff. Then they’ll carry it for you. Then they’ll expect
payment.

We went up and down this street with this big mass of working street
kids, begging women and staring men. It was kind of annoying when
you’re trying not to be noticed. My “body guard” gave the biggest
puppy dog face when we were leaving and motioned o his mouth like a
beggar. It was awful. As we were trying to get out the kids surrounded
the car hanging onto the windows and the door handles. It’s a tight
street so we couldn’t out run them. They kept tapping on the
windows…it was weird. They also held onto the rear window wiper and
broke it. It was very bazaar, I didn’t expect it. Though, the last
time I was there we held a much lower profile.

The next day

Tuesday we went to two women’s self-help groups. Me and Peter were not
allowed to participate since it was all women, so we just sat in the
next room or walked around. When we went to the second self help
group, our driver got a little ambitious and got his 4×4 stuck when
the icy mud collapsed. The wheel came to a weak spot in the ice
because a family’s open sewer flowed under the ice we were driving on.
With a couple attempts to get out, he dug the wheels into the muddy
fecal matter until the frame was sitting on the icy fecal matter.
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The women went on to the self-help group and Peter and I stayed to
help our understanding of the importance of underground sewage. The
iciness of it all kept the smell down, until the spinning tires flung
a bunt poop smell into the air. Unfortunately it wasn’t only the smell
that was flung into the air. Thankfully most everyone was able to
avoid most of the flinging though several dudes got their hands
totally covered trying to position rocks and ice chunks under the
wheels. The worst for me came when I got a hold of the pick axe. Ice
goes everywhere when you pick, and frozen poop is no different. All in
all, it could have been a lot worse.

We also were able to visit a very cool carpet project. They are
employing about 80 people through carpet making. It is a really great
way to help the people. When we get back we’ll be looking at how we
can sell some of their carpets for them.

One thing that never ceases to entertain me is the English words you
find in the most bazaar places. You know, like restaurants named Fart
and phone credits called STDs. Well, yesterday we saw a 16 year old
wearing a vest innocently enough. When we saw it, were nearly died
inside. Poor guy, he probably didn’t know his vest said “Boob Hunter”.

In general the situation has vastly improved since I was here last 4
years ago. Now, only official people carry machine guns. I would say
about 80% of the bullet wholes have been painted over. Only a few
buildings look like their about to fall over. Though, the city is one
earthquake away from being thrown back 100 years.

Thus begins the next chapter…

We are sitting in the Delhi airport right now. Our flight to the capital was delayed due to weather. So far we have had a perfect travel record. We never missed a flight, had one delayed or lost any luggage. One hour delay is not too bad. Jennifer is talking to a guy in his forties wearing a plaid shirt with the kind of sideburns that point towards the corners of his mouth. He’s from the same city she went to school in. Kind of random meeting on the wait to where we’re going.

When we got our ticket, the guy at the counter gave me my Delhi to the capital ticket back and took my capital to Delhi ticket, but I didn’t realize it until we went through immigrations. So I was looking at it and saw I didn’t have the right one, thank Goodness. I was able to go back and get my return ticket. I don’t know what would have happened if I was at the airport in the capital and didn’t have the return ticket. That would have stunk. Thank Goodness I saw that.

Yesterday, we went to meet the guys in charge of Asha Handicrafts. Then we went to one of their projects in the slums. The were teaching women how to stitch and sew. I think I was telling you about this last night. Lets see, then we met back up with Debbie who was placing an order with Asha. Then Sasha took the three of us to the train station, which was intense. We went down town and ate an Indian favorite snack food. Then we walked down a road that sounded like (Lee King rd). It’s the place locals go to buy cheap cloths. They were the type of guys who would call you over and try to sell you anything for a good price. “My friend, hello! One minute…please good price…etc.”

Next day…now in country…but not quite on the internet.
The flight into the country was kind of different. It was a nice plane and even had a first class, which I wasn’t expecting. However, the people were noticeably different. It seemed like a lot of people were flying for their first time. Many people looked a little dirty. Then there were two kids behind us sitting with a 30ish man. As soon as we took off they did a little shufleroo grabbing our chairs and jumping their butts to another seat like a little circus act. It was annoying. Then Jen and I started watching The Office they did another shuffleroo grabbing and shacking our chairs and standing behind us watching it over the chairs and between the chairs. But it was The Office so probably pretty boring without the sound and if you aren’t American. But then when we were on the approach the man was sitting at the window and the two boys were basically in his lap. One of them had his hand on my seat, so I rested my head back on him and he moved it. So those boys looked out the window the whole landing. They weren’t even close to being in their seats. I was pretty surprised that two flight attendants walked right passed them without saying anything.

Our arrival was pretty impressive. First of all they had cleaned up the airport and no longer had junked airplanes lining the runway. Secondly, we got to the immigrations which was basically an unfinished cement room with construction and many lines blobbing into a few. We were near the back and hardly moving. We moved maybe ten feet in 15 minutes, and most of that was just the line compacting. But then, we see a guy walking down the line with our guesthouse name on it. So we tell him that’s where we’re going and he pulled us out of line and had us cut to the side of the immigration officer’s box. Then this porter was super assertive about helping us find our bags. You have never seen baggage collection like this. There are about 50 people crowding around a very, very small track carrying the luggage. Then you have airport officials standing along the track chucking bags off into a big pile all along the track. So, the 50 people crowded around the track are climbing over piles of bags and digging for their affects. I was digging at one pile and the guy was throwing bags that toppled over the pile onto me. It wasn’t like a dangerous situation, but it wasn’t a helpful one either.

Me and the porter were able to find our bags in piles on both sides of the track. To get to the other side of the track you had to push and shove and climb over bags and jump on the edge of the track. Then there were people trying to push trolleys stacked with 6 huge bags through a crowded place. Ok, so we got all our bags ptl and so we were just waiting on the military guy who got us out of the line. He had our passports and was getting them stamped. So, he comes out and leads us with the porter (we are now one of those guys with a trolley stacked with 6 bags) out the exit. We ask him a couple times for our passports, but he won’t give them to us (cause for concern). The airport doesn’t have like a greeting area, no one is allowed that close to the airport. So we are following the guy with our passports, military dude, and two porter dudes. They are pushing our stuff through the puddles and mud and all that and we are just following them. We exit the airport and are heading towards the parking lot. Then we go through the parking lot (which is all muddy). We pickup a couple guys who seem to know military dude. We have about 5 guys with us now and we don’t know any of them. So we go through that parking lot, to another parking lot, we wait for the car…they pull it up and load our stuff in it. Then they tell us to get in the back seat. The girls got in and I stayed out despite their persistent requests to get in. So the two new dudes are talking with military dude and the porters. I was trying to think whose side I’d be on if a fight broke out.

So we ask the military dude for our passports a couple more times and he’s saying he gave them to the two new guys. So they start having a discussion, which seems to get a little heated. They go buy something and keep talking. So their laughing and kind of pushing each other then voices get a little louder, then their smiling, then their shaking hands, then the military dude is trying to pull his hand free from the other guy’s. both of their knuckles were white. Then I see the new guy is holding our passports and the military dude is reaching for them. They look a little like kids. So, this has been going on for about 20 minutes now and finally the new guy gives our passports back to the military dude, who comes straight to me and gives me mine, then opens the truck door and gives Debbie and Jennifer theirs. Then we go happily on our way. Though we still don’t know who the guys are that are driving us away from the hotel. A quick though crosses my mind…”what if these guys are just taking us to harvest our organs?” However one of them hands Debbie his cell phone with our friend on it welcoming us there, they explains the situation and how the military dude wanted money for walking us through security. It was cool though, we were probably leaving the airport at about the time we would have reached the immigration window had we stayed in the line.

They had gotten a fresh coat of snow last night so the hills surrounding the city were very pretty. It was warm enough to turn all the snow in the city into mud, but the hills looked nice. I’m gon’na have to buy some boots and socks and a hat.

At the guest house there was a couple from Canada. The husband told me of some bands I should look up. I’m definitely going to look them up. They were New World Son and Adhrana. The other guy is a guy my age who is actually Jennifer’s friend. They hadn’t seen each other in 2 years. He moved here 7 months ago and met a chick who he’s marrying…so he’s now leaving to marry her. They emailed and worked it out to be at the guest house at the same time. I’m sharing a room with him for two nights while he’s here.

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Jennifer, Jackie (from Kenya), and me.

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The open back has got to be nice in this heat.

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Nice picture of Jen? Nope…sneaky picture of Mullet Man

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I really wanted to get an STD to bring back to Millie, but I had too much nervous energy to talk to the shop keeper. Guess you’d have to been there.

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This image is up for “Photo of the Trip”. I think Branjelina had a similar picture didn’t they?

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This was the best meal we had in India. It was mostly fish, shrimp, and fruit. Jen said her hands smelled like fish 3 times a day for 3 days after. I even tried the bone marrow…which was surprisingly good.

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This is me holding a marriage sword. Not a typical groom pose, but I’m not Indian.

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Wielding an axe keychain.

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Thumbs Up was the Indian Coke…not bad…I’d give it 1 thumbs up and 1 thumb sideways.

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I was the only one on the team to win the affects of this Indian princess. We were like BFF after a little trust building, she was applying water makeup on my face.

 

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Me: It is hard you know? To have so many of your senses bombarded with foreign…everything.

Other Me: How so?

Me: When you first get to India your mind automatically assumes dozens of cows walking across the street anywhere and anytime will never become normal to you, but it does. You assume your nose will never forget the smell of fresh air, but you learn to cope with the dust and stench of the streets. Also, when you first get to India, you would never think of adjusting to the way traffic moves here. Cars, trucks, autorickshaws, cows, and dogs all come speeding along (or in the case of cows and dogs, at their own pace) towards the same space in the road. Somehow they work it out and all get through.

Me: The food, the people, the head bobbling…my mind is frantically storing memories away to be processed later.

Other Me: Do you have any examples?

Me: Well, like this morning for instance. The security of the small airport we went through was very interactive. The guy Xraying our stuff asked what everything was and we’d tell him, and he’d be fine with it. They’d seal the main zipper of our scanned bags, but leave the rest unsealed and even asked us to put some hand luggage stuff in to the checked scanned luggage. The medal detector beeped for everyone and everyone got a hand held medal detector search. And without fail, it beeped for everyone. They didn’t seem to care. The ladies bags were searched through to the bottom of every pocket. The guys, not even looked at. And as we were walking out to the plane, the baggage handling guys were struggling with the luggage train thing pulling it by hand. They were having some difficulty going over a few dirt bumps. One was pulling with all his might (and all the traction his flip flops would give him) and three others were pushing full tilt. One other thing was the rickshaw drivers, driving with bare feet. Who would have guessed?

2ND TO LAST FULL DAY IN NORTH WEST INDIA
Today was long and tiring. We went to the headquarters of a pretty big partner of ours. They design and make all kinds of cool textiles. It’s really fascinating how each generation learns the local skill. One town will be good at pottery and the next will be good at wood work. Then you’ll have a town that specializes in weaving and the next in stone work.

The lesson for that day was that business opens the doors to people’s lives. It is not the perfect strategy, but it is a stronge impetus for change.

THE LAST DAY IN NORTH WEST INDIA
This was a somewhat relaxed day. I went with our man to a print shop and placed an order for wedding invitations. We went to the place at about 11:30 asking if they could put a simple design on an Indian wedding invitation. We worked it all out, but then found out they only had 250 of those kind. Then we found out it would be pretty expensive. So we had them design something that would fit on a smaller thing that could fold over. It usually takes a week, but they were able to push it through in 8 hours. The guys had to stay late, but thankfully they were willing. Actually the guy taking our order was in the same situation. He is getting married this August. His name was Nipal, which is dangerous to mispronounce.

We also met with a big man (local language for influential man). He was the head of a very impressive company. They had a girls school which was so nice for 500 girls and some kind of contracting company.

Our man and I picked up the invitations  around 11 at night on his motorcycle. Then the packing and accounting came. I think i was in bed around 12:30am…then we got up at 5 to leave for the airport.

More to come…& here are some pictures

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