Sunday, January 9, 2011

India beginnings

Where do I begin? Let's see, the beginning is usually the best place. It's only been two days in Kolkatta and I already feel like I've been gone for a week. But wait, that's not quite the beginning. In the beginning was a jet plane...hah. Ok seriously. We flew out of Seatac at 1:40pm January 6th. Ten long hours, minimal reading, two movies, two meals, and very little sleep later we arrived in Frankfurt, Germany around 8:50am January 7th. Another pass through security, a bit of walking around, and a short wait later and we were on our second plane headed to Kolkatta, India. By this time I've had far too much food, or so it felt like. I knew I needed to eat, but didn't think I could. I've decided that my body does not like long flights. And what airline doesn't have Ginger Ale as an option for a drink?! Apparently, Lufthansa doesn't. I had to buy some at the Frankfurt airport...$3.70! Oi. But, learning experiences, all of it. Including my lot of a middle seat on both flights...not very conducive for sleep, which doesn't help someone with a cold. Oh, my bad...I had not wanted to complain, so I am done now. Anyway, one and a half movies, at least 2 hours sleep, lunch and a snack later we arrived in Kolkata, India, about 12:50am January 8th.

We were picked up by one of the volunteer coordinators of Calcutta Mercy Ministries, and away we went.

The drive was maybe 45 minutes, and traffic was very light given the time of night. We received a mini-briefing about meal times and a few housekeeping type items. Of course, one of the first things we did was get our computers connected to the internet.

We made it to bed about 2:30am. Despite exhaustion, and Nyquil, it was somewhat of a fitful night's sleep. It always takes me time to get used to a new bed in a new place.

Of course, the barking dogs didn't help make for an easy sleep either. At about 5am came the prayer call. If you've never experienced the Islamic call to prayer, I have to tell you it's definitely an experience. It's beautiful, to be sure, but definitely loud, and it did not help me sleep.

As it begins to get light outside, the sounds of the city begin to grow. People are up, working, walking, living. It's very hard to describe the street just outside where we're staying. The way we talk about people living on the streets in the U.S. does not begin to cover how people live here. They quite literally live on the street. Shelters are built out of whatever these poorest of poor can find. It's not just a sidewalk, but it's someone's house or shop, maybe both. There is hardly any space between buildings where there isn't someone living. The poverty is beyond what we know, or could even imagine. They are not all this poor, that's to be sure, but there are more who are poor than not. In fact, at church this morning I learned that 74% of the population lives on 50 cents per day. That's not American cents, that's Rupees. Equated to the U.S. dollar, that's about 2 pennies a day!

There is much more to write about from our first day, but I think I ought to attempt my hand at some school work. More to come soon, so stay tuned!

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