For someone who is not a huge fan of flying the thought of flying over an ocean and being on a plane for a total of some like 24 hours sounds like a super fun adventure right?! I figure you have to get there somehow and the only other option would take FOREVER so hey I got on the plane!
Leaving your kids for 13 days is not easy. Especially, when one of them has to be pried off of you as you get into the van. I knew they were going to have a ton of fun though so it would go by quickly. So we arrive at the airport and I am sure are a site with 5 suitcases not including carry-ons, 2 walkers and a child’s wheelchair. We were rock-stars in figuring out how to get all of this stuff from one place to the next! Now we only had to do it a few more times once we got to India haha. So, we got all checked in and ready to get on the flight.
Once you’re on the plane there is no turning back right!? So we were off. The first flight… easy.. it’s nothing to fly to Seattle. The second leg was slightly more nerve wracking for me but with the help of some free beverages and movies I made it through. When we arrive in London it is 11am and something like 4 am in the morning in Boise, so we are a bit sleepy! In addition, when we land in India it will also be 11 am so we hope to be able to sleep most of the next flight. I am not so great at sleeping on plains :/
Finally, we have arrived in India with only 1 more flight to our destination. As we walked off the plain there were birds flying around and singing, not something you would normally experience in an American airport haha! The air was really warm and humid not unlike Florida or South Carolina. There is a different smell, not bad just different kind of like a mixture of spices and dirt. Of course I notice that there are armed guards around every corner holding large guns… also something that is not common in the US. That was a little weird for me. We have to walk through security to actually get into the airport so we shuffle through a line of people and come up to a desk with about ten Indian men just hanging out and a metal detector. We are not required to anything besides scan our bag and walk through. It is so funny how nonchalant it is. We have to check into a different airline to get to Kolkata so we walk through basically the only white people in the entire airport with our giant bags and walkers. After figuring out all of our baggage and dealing with that we finally have our tickets. We have to go through security again which brings on a new experience. I am laughing now at how Americans would respond to the airports in India, where everyone is patted down. EVERYONE. Women are not allowed to be patted down by men so we have a completely separate security line. After you put your bags on the belt you head through the detector and into a small curtained box where an Indian woman pats you down and moves a wand over you. How’s that for a violation of your personal rights?! The airport is pretty small and of course has an Indian restaurant and a western clothing store. Only a few more hours on plane and we will be at our destination.
We arrive in the Kolkata airport and grab our bags, we also cover ourselves in mosquito repellant. It is estimated that 40,297 Indians die every year from malaria. We don’t want to be part of that statistic. We grab all of our luggage, pass more serious looking Indian men with guards and head outside where there are about 100 cab drivers and hired drivers waiting with signs or for anyone who might hire them to taxi them to their hotel. And lines of bright yellow taxis.
Fortunately, we have a driver coming so we sit down and wait and wait until a man walks up and says “Kristi?” Yay it is our driver, who rather than bringing a large car has brought 2 teeny tiny cars for us and our 8 pieces of luggage haha! This is apparently just how things go in India. So wanting to stay together, we put us and half our luggage in one car and the other pieces of luggage in the other car and pray that we see it again!
Driving in India is not something I can even explain to you! It is so crazy! INSANE! Somehow, there is an order to the madness and everyone gets where they are going in one piece. There are not lanes on the road, no lights, no stop signs, you basically go where there is an open spot and honk to let the person who is trying to smash into the side of you know you are there. I have never experienced anything like it. On the way to our hotel we are able to see New Kolkata, which is not really new it is just on one side of the bypass on the other is Kolkata. There is trash pretty much everywhere, streets, sidewalks, gutters yards, really everywhere. And people everywhere. Walking, riding bikes, motorcycles and not even flinching a the cars that come inches away from them. There are a variety of structures that appear to be completely destroyed. Many which have clothes hanging to dry in them. In America, these buildings would be condemned or torn down because they are dangerous but here people live in them. No wall, no roofs, just giant concrete frames. All the buildings are black and dirty. I am not sure if this is from the rain or what but they are all this way. There is also a ton of color everywhere. Orange, yellow, blue, green, red doors and buildings. It is beautiful.
We are headed to the hotel. There are people driving carts, rickshaws, bikes walking everywhere. Some are on the side of the river bathing which is not even imaginable. Trash lines the river as far as you can see, floats in it and decorates the brown muck. These people bath in and drink this. Men stand on the street side and relieve themselves which is also nothing out of the ordinary. Beneath the towering concrete are small shops and homes that line the streets for miles. Kids and adults sit on the ground cooking, working, or just relaxing. It is very foreign and it is endless. That is one thing that is not even really possible to explain. The poverty in Kolkata is devastating. It is not just a few people and it is nothing like Americans think poverty is it is unending and unfathomable. Around 68% of the country lives on less than $2 a day. Many are homeless, on the streets or in slums. It is not something you can understand until you have seen it.
We arrive at our hotel, which is gated and guarded by a few men. On entering we have to scan our bags and again be patted down behind a screen by the cutest little Indian lady. They are very big on service here so you are not allowed to carry your own bags or do anything for yourself. It is so funny. The hotel is clean and nice yet simple. I am so glad to be there. My feet have grown about twice their normal size from sitting on planes for so long. We head up to our rooms and order some food. Indian food is so good! Most everything I tried I enjoyed. After taking a break and eating some food we plan to head to New Market to shop a little bit.
It is within walking distance so we put on our game faces and head out. It is not really safe for women to be out and about in India, let alone Western women but there are three of us and it is still daytime so we are good. We turn the corner and all of a sudden there are just people everywhere and vendors on every corner. We learn that today is a holiday so most of the market is closed but there are still massive amounts of people. Like the Saturday market but probably 20 times more people oh and cars that drive down the streets. They honk and honk until people move out of the way passing withing inches of feet and legs. It is insane! Kristi is like superwoman here she puts on her game face and pushes through everyone not fazed one bit. I am a little panicked but hold it together well I think. We find a cute little Indian boy selling sunglasses and after he wipes them off has us try some on and explains to us how nice they are we buy a few pair. Mine cost 300 rupees which is about $2. Now I am off to look for some shirts that I can wear here in India. There are hundreds to choose from in hundreds of colors. There are even some with the Apple symbol on the fabric which is hilarious to us. I find some I like but the problem here is that everyone is small. So I ask if there are bigger sizes and the vendor starts yelling you need BIG size. We have BIG size BIG size over there. Thank you Indian vendor man for making sure I know that I am BIG! I buy a few and we squeeze our way back through the crowds. Unfortunately, I don’t have photos of the craziness new market is because we did not think it would be a good idea for me to add to the spectacle we already are with a giant, expensive camera.
Back at the hotel we talk about what happened and apparently I was so worried about not getting lost I did not notice everyone starting at us haha! I am sure we are quite a sight being the only white people I have seen since we have arrived. We are so tired but we need food and since we are not supposed to be out and about at night we eat at the hotel in a restaurant where we cannot read anything on the menu. We order some food and hope that we are happy with what we get. At the table they bring us a warm towel to clean our hands off as people in India eat with their hands not utensils. Of course we have to ask for forks. Our food comes and we enjoy our dinner and then head up for some rest. Tomorrow is sure to be just as exciting as today.