Saturday, August 13, 2011

greetings from the mumbai airport

I would have waved at you while I took this picture with my webcam or tried to situate myself to avoid the glasses glare, but that might have drawn more attention than I want. I've holed up for an hour or so in a very nice coffeehouse at the Mumbai airport as I wait for my flight to London. It's been several weeks since I've written in a coffeehouse, so I instinctively jumped at the chance to do it this morning/afternoon.

I was going to work on another project while I munched on french fries (from the KFC down the hallway) and my vanilla steamer (called "hot vanilla" on the menu), but as usual in airports I've been too distracted by all the interesting things around me to do any real work. It might be said that I'm in love with airports. They're really some of the most interesting places in the world...but then I think nearly everywhere is one of the most interesting places in the world, so perhaps my superlative doesn't really say much.

By the way, you're witnessing a moment of travel budgeting success: having just enough foreign currency to cover your needs until you're on the plane, but not so much that you leave the country with $10 worth of rupees you'll never be able to use. After my fries, steamer and the bottle of water I plan to buy, I'll have just 5 rupees left, which is worth, well, hardly anything in dollars. But what a relief to find that I had just enough rupees to get the essentials before my 10 hour flight. Yay!

So, interesting, distracting thing #1: When you order here, they ask your name so they can call it out when your drink's ready. That's good. Not unusual. Except this is the international terminal with names from all over the world. And nearly every name the barista calls out in his Indian accent ends up sounding the same to me. And apparently to other people, because no one's jumping to get their drinks. Speaking of names, I've decided that no one in the world should have a name longer than three syllables. When you add a fourth syllable, the name immediately becomes too long to remember. Take note please, parents of the world. :-)

Interesting, distracting thing #2: When I entered the coffeehouse, a woman--probably in her 50s, maybe British--I'd seen in line to check in for my flight, came up to me and said something I didn't understand. Turns out I think she was asking if I was "Jude." She's was looking for another woman and had thought a coffeehouse would be a good place to meet. She sat here for a little while and then left after finishing her drink. But a bit ago I saw her walking past with another woman. Apparently, that's Jude. Glad they found each other.

Interesting thing #3: This isn't distracting because it was observed on the rather long scenic bus tour I got traveling on the airport bus from the domestic terminal to the international terminal. There's a ton of building going on at this airport right now. Big stuff is being built. Pretty interesting to see all the workers. One of the buildings had a sign saying it's a parking garage. Does anyone know what the others are? India's on the move?!

Interesting, distracting thing #4: I overheard two British guys talking here in the coffeehouse's comfy chairs (when they parted ways it sounded like they'd just happened to run into each other here), and it sounded like one of them said something like "America won't let me into their country." He looked harmless enough, so now I'm curious whether that's what he really said and if it is why we won't let him in.

I guess that's enough interesting things to make you feel like you're here with me right now. It's about time for my last bathroom break on Indian soil this go-around (not on the literal soil, of course) as I saunter toward Gate 10. Catch ya from the next continent.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

writing, writing

Additional written fruit of this visit to India can be found at InterVarsity's Emerging Scholars Blog, where I'm one of the summer's guest bloggers. Two more installments will make their way there this week and next.

July 25 installment - Heading East: Kami in India

Taking the night train from Coimbatore to Chennai with Sheela.

I told Sheela it felt like we were having a slumber party...but I had to explain what slumber parties are.

Twilight on the beach in Chennai = cool and peaceful.

John and Jenny helped Sheela show me some of the ancient temples (i.e. 1500 years old and more) in Tamil Nadu state.

Recreation of traditional village homes at a cultural center.

coimbatore, chennai and more

Adventures have abounded since last I wrote. I've ridden in more autos, seen more beautiful buildings, learned that the bright house paint I've been admiring is intended to ward off evil spirits, eaten traditional Indian meals with my hand (turns out lefties can eat right-handed when silverware is not involved), tried to learn how to keep my dupatta (scarf) on my shoulders when I bend down to unbuckle my shoes, re-sprained my ankle, and met many lovely people.

I spent last week being immersed in Indian culture while being hosted by the good, good folks at Bishop Appasamy College of Arts & Sciences in Coimbatore for half the week. Then one of the faculty members and I took an overnight train into the heart of humidity in Chennai for the rest of the week. It's all been great, and I'll have to save more reflective comments than that for another time.

Enjoying a cultural dance program at BACAS.

More tradition during lunch provided by BACAS's catering department.

Banana leaves make great plates! Lots of "gravies" to mix with the rice.

When ice isn't available, cold bags of milk and curd work really well.

Flower seller in Coimbatore.