Yes, madame, we *can* fly to Guwahati!
The past two weeks have been super great! I am really behind on my e-mails and I haven’t gotten back to Kharang yet (and thusly don’t really have news about the orphanage), so this will be a brief post.
My friend Dan arrived in Guwahati on March 2nd, and we spent three days in Meghalaya split between Kharang and Shillong. That Thursday, we went back to Guwahati and flew to Calcutta as part of our journey to Bodhgaya (where the Buddha achieved enlightenment). We had just one afternoon and evening in Calcutta, but we made the most of it, visiting its large market and park, the Kalighat temple, and the Victoria Memorial for its spectacularly cheesy sound-and-light show. In Bodhgaya, we did what all tourists do, which is go see the bodhi tree and the 80 foot tall Buddha statue. Enlightenment points: check! We then took an early morning train to Varanasi (arguably the holiest city for Hindus), where we spent two days wandering around the ghats of Ganga-ji, visiting Sarnath (where the Buddha preached his first sermon), and avoiding small children who had started playing Holi a week early. (Holi is the color fight festival, so this means that small children were just chucking balloons full of dyed water at random passers-by. Totally not fair, when the holiday is only supposed to be one day! Thus began Dan and I wearing the same clothes for three days straight.) Then we took a night train to Agra, where we did again what all tourists do, which is see the Taj Mahal and a couple of other places. As a note, I’ve seen the Taj before, and had forgotten how totally huge and awesome it is. Everyone should go there, even if they do charge foreigners way much (Indian price: 20 Rs; foreigner price: 750 Rs). My favorite part of that day was sitting on the sandbank across the Yamuna River from the Taj and drinking bottled Pepsi with Dan and a friend we made there, Alexander from Sweden.
By the time we arrived in Delhi, we were pretty exhausted and glad to have a couple of relaxing days with my friends in Maruti Kunj in Gurgaon. The first day, we played dress-up — Dan in his Holi kurta pajama and me in one of my “Indian mother’s” saris — and visited the pre-color-fight Holi bonfire and the Alen de Lastic Children’s Village. Overall, a needed relaxing day… Especially because the 11th was Holi itself! Dan and I dressed in our white-for-Holi clothes, and we went with my friends to their ashram, where about 50 people had gathered to play Holi, dance, and worship (often at the same time). This was great fun, and we had a wonderful time. With Dan’s last two days in India, we did some sight-seeing around New Delhi and took a cooking class through our hotel. I now know the secret of how paranthas have so many folds.
Traveling back “home” to Meghalaya has been exciting as well. Because of sand storms over the northeast, all flights to Guwahati on Monday were canceled. In a stroke of logic, Kingfisher still flew our plane… to West Bengal, near Darjeeling. And then we flew back to Delhi. Sheesh. It did mean that I got to spend an evening with my friend Mannu and his family, and that I met a couple of Princeton Theological divinity graduates on my flight to Guwahati yesterday! It’s a small world.
Things are looking up for my post-India life. I bought “round the world” tickets through STA Travel, and will be traveling for five weeks between India and the States. I’ll visit Japan, Thailand, Egypt, (Jordan?), Israel, and Ghana, ending with a cruise with my family in the western Mediterranean. If you have any recommendations about things to do and see in these places, please let me know 🙂 As well, UUCF’s Partner Church Committee has agreed to sponsor me to go to General Assembly in Salt Lake!! This is really exciting, and now I’m working on an application for the GA Planning Committee to see if I can be awarded a matching scholarship and free registration. Lastly, I was admitted into two more graduate schools this weekend: Union Theological and Harvard Divinity. Exciting!! I have to make a decision within the next week, which is pretty crazy, but I’m up for it.
That was not as brief as I expected… Anyway, lastly, Dan’s uploaded all my photos up until the AMBCV inauguration onto my Flickr account. If you want to see pictures of the kids, my Flickr’s the place to look!