I will be out of Wi-Fi connection for the next 5 days, after which i will catch up on my posts with new pictures.
The days have been filled eith great conversations that is giving me important perspective as i continue in rewriting and editing my book. We have talked a great deal about the importance of history and how the stories must connect to people's lives to ne meaningful. I have shared a lot of stories, and heard new stories. I will continue to send excerpts from my research to both the church paper, the Gharbandhu (the oldest neespaper in the region) and the seminary journal. It has been decided that I am returning October 2019 to celebrate 100 years of autonomy. My dad is wishing he had come along and may be pursuaded to come eith me next time.
I will be out of Wi-Fi connection for the next 5 days, after which i will catch up on my posts with new pictures.
It has been a lazy Sunday. I dont think Ive rested like this for a long time. Its been a hot and humid day with clouds forming, winds blowing now and again, but no rain. The monsoon is at a lull here too. Delhi has it particularly bad, but the rain is due to hit before I go there, which hopefilly will make it a little bareable.
Regardless, I did quite a lot. Perhaps because of the mugginess, the day just seemed to go on and on. I went to church and then decided to go to the bazaar despite a few raindrops. All the stores were still closed, and the streets clear of traffic. Well except for the buffalo.
The 24/7 ATM was open so I decided to get some cash. It worked fine, so i decided to check my other card if it worked by taking a little more cash. It froze in mid transaction! So i waited, and finally went to the security outside. The guy came in to fix it and said this happens when it rains. Really? those few drops that fell? He had to reboot the machine to cancel my order, and of course it took forever! So i took the opportunity to practice my Hindi. He told me everything that was different between Bihar, where he comes from, and Jharkhand. Finally the machine cleared and said it was out of order. No kidding.
By then the stores were starting to ooen so I went to my favorite general store and got some yoghurt and a few other things. It is just amazing how jam packed the store is with merchandise. You ask the ladies to get whatever it is you need. Which means you need to know what you have come for. No browsing. I thought they were uncharacteristically grouchy for having just opened. But it is amazing what a few words in Hindi will do to brighten a face.
The rest of the day was spent reading, writing emails and studying my Hindi. I periodically walked out in the garden to wait for the rain to come. Whenever i sat in the lobby I had some very interesting conversations about the 100 years of autonomy of the church and indigenous governance practices. I was invited to Bimal, the manager's house for tea, and got to see his upgraded house, with a higher roof and a new bathroom added on.
As i post waiting for dinner, the cook is playing hus flute, the night air is cooling. It still hasnt rained, but I have felt the Lord's showers of blessings.
I was too tired to get a sim card at the airport when I arrived and I sluffed it off while I was in Mumbai. So the only suggestion I have is get a sim card before you get to Jharkhand, if you are a tourist. The sim card will give you a phone to use here in India, plus data. Its convenient, but i can live without it. I am getting weak internet access at the guest house and have been communicating through WhatsApp.
Since I was offered a car and driver today I decided to go out a find out if i could get the sim card and the big fancy vodophone store at one of the many malls here. The lady was very keen to sell me one today, but i think she was just figuring out for the first time what was required for a foreigner. I apparently needed a photo in addition to copies of my passport and visa and address and phone of where i was staying. Ahe driver, and I walked to find the store, since he had found a rare parking spot. It ended up being an 8-10 minute walk. I am avtually pretty good and weaving through scooters bicycles cars and busses. But its not for the weak of heart. Plus it was the hottest time of the day. We got the pictures. (Asok is wearing the Bob Marley shirt). Meanwhile, I stopped at an eye glass store to fix my broken glasses. When I have more time I will stop at one closer and get some new glasses, hopefully.
Got back to the phone store all hot and sweaty and she called to get final approval only to be told that I needed an Adhaar card (national id). I have subsequently been told elsewhere else in the country thw courts have said it is illwgal to require this for purchases. I mean in the states we may be asked for ID if we purchase alcohol to verify age, or if we want to use a check. Still thwy would accept other forms of ID. In any case, if you are in Jgarkhand the phone company is still getting away with that additional hoop for people to jump through. One, at last I could not.
There is still one last hope if I return to the airport. But that is for another day. That adventure left me beat. The rest of the day was spent preparing a presentation Ive been asked to give to students at Navin Domin Seminary in Malar (near Ranchi). Maybe I will shate that in another post.
I finally got two nights of full and sound sleep and am getting back into motion. The monsoon lulled for a bit so it is hot, but i am acclimating. I went up to Lonavala with my frienf to be a little cooler. Ironically I have a cold from coolung off under fans.
We walked a lot through the bazaar yesterday to find a good place to buy a kurta (shurt). Worked up a good appatite for Gujarati tali (food served in separate disshes eayen with fingers). Then we went and picked up some boganvilla to plant in my hosts garden.
Here are some random thoughts.
The ever present Indian cow. Firsy noticed a family making a living on a busy intersection. The woman is selling some sweets to feed the cow. Passers by will stop amidst the chaos to feed the cow in hopes to find favor woth the gods. Otherwise cows wander around randomly.
This reception sign shows a little emulate that is hung at an entrance, again to appease the gods or ward off evil spirits.
Water is an important commodity. This cafe is giving water captured in the roof top tank for bottled drinking water. And we brought home our own stash of drinking water.
I will let you make what you will out of this sign on rhe left.
Waking up to the noises of the city. Lots of horns beeping and crows cawing. The rain is coming down. But I am still just waking up and need to get out to find a little breakfast. Hope to recover from the flight. It was pleasant enough but you can't really sleep well on the plane.
Joel saw me off in Chicago for a 7 pm flight and I arrived in Mumbai at midnight, after two eight-nine hour flights and a stop in Paris that was just enough time to be shuffled through a maze of cooridors to switch flights. I was going to write about tips on surviving these long flights, but I was so exhausted i fell asleep again in mid post. So future posts hopefully will be a bit more descriprive.
Mumbai airport is very nice, but you still feel like a lot of cattle being herded through. Many planes arrive at midnight from all parts of the world, much fewer foreigners at this time of the year. Still the line through customs is long, but flows efficiently. So at the airport once you go through duty free area and baggage claim and customs, which flows freely there are a couple of things to do before heading outside.
Its advisable to exchange some money there so you have Indian Rupees. I forgot, so will look for an ATM today. I was advised to make sure i go to an ATM with a guard, due to theft. This national push to get all India onto electronic banking, still requires humans after all. The US dollar was as low as 60 Rupees in March, and now it is 68. That will fluctuate. It will be interesting to learn what are seasonal fluctuations of the local economy and which are due to global politics.
You can get a sim card for your phone at the airport, but I decided to wait till I was with someone who can tell me what is more feasible. I do know that many things are more expensive for foreigners here. When I convert prices into dollars it still seems very affordable, but eventually you need to learn what local rates are. Having a phone is very helpful. Connectivity became my favorite word the last time I was here.
If noone is picking you up, get a prepaid taxi. They charged me Rupees 1500 (about $22) for A/C. I paid it but said i thought it was more like 500. I dont think i said it in Hindi. the woman behind the counter turned to the guy next to her and said something in Hindi along the lines of "this white one thinks she knows something". As they laughed I gave a typical Indian jester that means "so it is".
Then outside while i was waiting for my prepaid taxi to show up, an Indian family came and began haggling with the guy in charge. He kept saying they could go inside and prepay, but the rates were set. I was so tired and have no idea how other travelers could find the energy to be so persistent so early in the morning. But it is how things are in India.
I did something I never did before, and it pretty much drove me mad. I tried to wait till the last minute to buy my flight to India. The itinerary and reservations in India were set a while ago, but I thought I could hold out for the fares to drop. Unfortunately in June this is not a good idea. Other times of the year, the fares do drop, but it must be too many people are traveling at this time of the year, so it is not a good time to buy in those last few weeks. However, NEWS FLASH, if you are planning to go to India in three to six months from now, buy your tickets NOW. They are very cheap!
I know many people go through a travel agent to take care of arrangements, but I'm pretty much a do-it-yourself kind of person and this has been made easier by various search engines. My favorites right now are Google Flights and Justfly. For travel in India my current favorite is Cleartrip Bookings. I have noticed that search engines change, it is advisable to switch around. When a new competetor comes on the market they tend to have better deals for a season. One thing I avoided was the search engines that led you to a phone reservation system. I don't like giving info over the phone, and the ratings are pretty low. People have shown up at the airport to find out they actually don't have a ticket.
To say the least holding out to the end, which I just couldn't do, is not for the weak of heart. Yes, maybe I could have gotten a ticket for $200-$400 less, but the nail biting task of checking the rates every day was making me anxixous. By the way those pesty little logarithms lock rates in if you keep searching on the same device. It IS advisable to go to a library to mix up the devise from which you search. So in the end peace of mind was more important than a great deal and I bought the ticket. Still, if I ever on a whim decide to go to India, I am pretty sure I can do it at other times of the year, just apparently not beginning of summer.
So, you may ask, why the heck am I going at the hottest time of the year. The monsoon promises to start this week and I have very romantic memories of the monsoon. I prefer being a realist, though I am very sentimental, so a healthy dose of shattered memories may not be a bad thing. The main reason I hope to continue to travel as long as I can is to stay connected to the global world we live in. Sometimes you have to step out to see the forest from the trees. And in everything I always try to hear what God might be speaking not only in my little corner but throughout the world. The fact of the matter is that in finishing up my book I feel I need the change of venue as I work on some important details of the story. I also hope to scope out the publishing world. So the best time is now. [Plus, I think there are some big family events coming soon upon my return....stay posted].
I do hope to continue to share my journey with you. Many thanks for following and supporting me . I truly hope that the book will be finished and ready for publishing soon, but I'm finding rewriting takes a lot more care than I had anticipated. So I keep plugging along one day at a time.
These musings include the journey of my writing on the history of my great great grandparents and the travels for research to India, Germany and other places of interest.