Posted by: rotarytrek | December 30, 2009

Streets of Ahmednagar

Justin has been keeping count of my blog post (0) and Caroline (3) tells me I need to be more than just the web-guy, video-guy and photog on this trip, so this will be my first official blog entry in Ahmednagar, India (try saying that 5 times fast). Let me first thank Vestavia and Birmingham Rotary and great boss Greg Barker at APC for allowing me this great honor. 

My travels so far have been nothing short of spectacular! I lucked out and am staying with what has to be the nicest and most hospitable family in India. Mr. Daulat Shinde, wife Urmila, son Pritam and daughter Pallavi (smart as all get out) have made my three days in feel like…well…three days in India. I had no clue what to expect but have been delighted by kindness of the Shinde family. Mr. Shinde is considered an industrialist and owns a few manufacturing shops that supply the booming motorcycle and rickshaw industry (see banner above) in India. Not to mention he has an MTV Cribs styled home!

So many experiences in such few days, its like drinking from a fire hose these past three days. The full court press on all your senses is none stop. I don’t think I’ve heard so many horns and beeps in my life! Horn use is very liberally here in Ahmednagar, its encouraged (see photo bumper). The streets are filled with mostly with people, motorcycles and rickshaws darting about the few cars and trucks you see on the roads. Lets not forget the occasional cows and water buffalo that roam the streets ambivalent to the madness around. You feel every bump as you drive because their roads don’t benefit from our triple layer asphalt spread we take for granted. Transportation infrastructure is still lacking, most part of Ahmednagar is still connected by dirt roads, however the city is always on. Amongst the loud horns and beeps is a very vibrant and colorful street scene. A never ending flow of people, motorcycles and rickshaws moving about. There are busy markets, people hustling from street to street, pleasantly strong aromatic smells (if you’re lucky, cows and water buffalos have to go too) and more things my tired brain is still trying to process.

India wins the prize for the most unflinching and hardcore pedestrians to every cross a street. Today, I saw a guy look at our van going at least 25mph, completely turn his back to us and proceeds to lazily walk across the road. Our van missed him by mere inches. The only rule on these road is “Don’t get hit!” as one local told me.

I only wish these cars had seat belts and believed in Target Zero!

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Posted by: rotarytrek | December 30, 2009

Caro-lina!!

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

It is official, in my former life I must have been internationally famous or infamous… I thought that India would be the last place where I would be mistaken for someone else, yet my doppelgangers are international. Last night after our first presentation to the Ahmednagar Rotary clubs we went down to the basement for dinner (at 11:00 pm).

Caroline look alike??

I was talking to a girl in Anthony’s host family when she shyly admitted that I looked identical to one of her cousins. –the skin color was a little off she admitted but otherwise we must be sisters.  Today when we visited they brought out the family album to show me pictures of my India twin… I am not so convinced, but as with many other things I have learned to smile and nod.

Smiling has come in handy as everywhere we travel we are treated as movie stars with everyone begging to take just one or two more “snaps”. We are showered with flowers and our heads wrapped in turbans. Our van is literally stopped in the road as people try to stop us and give us chai and cookies. Thankfully the chai is served in small glasses but we are still served 4-6 cups each day. The hospitality is truly inexhaustible and as one host relayed in India they are taught “Guests should be treated as Gods.”  It is 7:30pm now and we have been going since 7:30 this morning, just today I have visited a village school, ridden in a “Bull-cart” (pulled by cows), had tea in a farmers home, visited a carnival (I was not even tempted to ride the ferris wheel), picked strawberries, crawled through a grape vineyard, watched factory workers weld, polish, and grind gears, and it is only the second day of our trip.

Posted by: rotarytrek | December 28, 2009

Hello from India

Just a quick hello as our GSE team and the local women’s Rotary Club in Ahemednagar finish up what is quickly turning into a 2 ½ hour dinner. After 30+ hours of travel I am now sitting on a rather firm six poster bed in the 200 yr old house of my host, Yasmin. She and her husband are Persian… circa 1200AD. We just finished a delightful dinner and I am quickly learning the names of the dishes – matur paneer is my favorite thus far, the creamy “veg” with what appears to be conglomeration of maraschino cherries and pineapple swimming in pureed cauliflower is a bit further down the list.

Overall the long journey from Birmingham, through Atlanta, Amsterdam, Mumbai, and Aruangabad to Ahmednagar was just long. All luggage and team members made it in one piece so I am declaring it a success. As far as first impressions, I am impressed by the cleanliness of the airports and the friendliness of our hosts. When we arrived we were greeted by 18 Rotarians, who promptly draped us each with 4-6 flower garlands (strategically hiding the tangerine juice on my day old clothing) and began rapidly snapping pictures, before loading us all in a mini bus and setting out on the road.

I was prepared for mass chaos and sensory overload, and perhaps I was too prepared, as I really wasn’t phased by the oxen-drawn cart, the tractor pulling a cart packed with people, or the water buffalo being herded down the street. I don’t think it was until I looked over and saw a young girl projectile vomiting from the car adjacent to ours, that my senses piqued. I promptly turned around and slept the rest of the car trip.
I am being called for pudding, and not one to miss dessert I had better run. More on India, the three dogs (one of which is named “tiger killer”) later.

Posted by: rotarytrek | December 23, 2009

Merry Christmas Bombay-Bound!

Twas two days before Christmas, and I am taking down my Christmas tree and packing up insect repellant, protein bars, and peanut butter.

Skipping town for 5 weeks is a big enough challenge, but throw in last-minute gift buying, Christmas travel, and a destination a couple continents away, and life gets a little hectic.

  Yet preparations have been underway for over 4 months, and with all the help and advice Anthony and I have received from our “Indian Support Team” I think we are as ready as we ever will be. Of course, one warning I often get is I should “prepare” to be completely shocked. India has a reputation for sensory overload;  noises, smells, colors, spicy food, and people, people, PEOPLE everywhere may overload our jet-lagged systems. “Preparing to be shocked” is an oxymoron if I have ever heard one, but I do find myself composing internal pep talks and my new mantra has become “always open mind”  and “live the experience.”

So that is where I am now, my suitcase may be empty but my mind and spirit are full and ready for the experience.

Off to try to get a H1N1 vaccination from the Health Clinic.

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