"Home is the place where, when you have to go there, they have to let you in."

-- Robert Frost

Thursday, October 31, 2013

india -- chennai day one

India is an absolute overwhelm of all of the senses, in every direction imaginable, all at once.

There is heavy, there is lighthearted, there is hard, there is laughter, there is bright, there is dark, there is love, there is warmth, there is sorrow, there is faith, there is chaos, there is order, there is calm, there is noise, there is quiet, there is enticing aroma, there is not so much, there is fine art, there is incompletion, there is openness, there is claustrophobia, there is color, there is splendor.

There's no camera in the world that could do justice.

We learned right out of the starting gate that we were outsiders. Extremely welcome and even shockingly fascinating because this city doesn't see many western faces ... but inexcusably oblivious to deeper customs.

Our first morning, we made a stop at a popular temple in the middle of the most bustling market place. The hub and noise was mesmerizing. I moved to go through the temple gate and heard the noise level rise alarmingly behind me then go completely silent. Turning, I found the entire ... and when I say entire, I mean ENTIRE  market of sellers, beggars, tourists, taxi drivers, buyers, and even a film crew shooting a Tamilian commercial over in a corner ... standing still, poised in silent horror.

An old man begging alms on the threshold pointed to my shoes. Some require removal. Some don't. I knew that, but to our embarrassment, blind overwhelm was no excuse.

We also learned fairly quickly that police and security everywhere, were not entirely fond of western cameras.

Nor did we know if we were in safe areas.

And whereas English is a desired language indicating education and job opportunity, those who speak it are very few and far between.

That's were Boopathy came to our rescue.

Don't let that serious expression fool you. It's cultural not to smile in photos. Boopathy .. Boopa for short ... was quick witted, kind and fascinating.

The hotel allowed us to buy out his contract for the week and he went above and beyond becoming one of our dearest friends who we will hold close forever.

He spent every waking moment teaching us about his culture, religion, people, neighborhood, country, history, family, and took us beyond touristy India into his world and life.

And we got to take him places within his own city that he'd never had the privilege of seeing.

Playing tour guide, body guard, informant and friend .. getting to know him was a true highlight.

He was also worth his weight in gold for his adept driving skills.

And just a quick word about that:

There are no rules. No side of the road. No traffic signals or signs. No pedestrian crossings.

Once a couple of summers ago, my 88 year old grandmother insisted on taking Celia and I on a shopping excursion. Tired of waiting at an extremely busy intersection, she declared, "I'm just going to go." and gunned it into oncoming traffic. I still don't know how we were untouched.

That's India.

Everyone just goes.


And there are rarely any accidents. 

Even the livestock. Which I could not get over. Most especially in the heart of the city. "Who's are they?" I asked Boopa. "Everyone's" he says and apparently, they just find a home at night.

But watch out, because they are not at all rattled by traffic, even when it flies through at top speed.

Seriously unrattled. 

I'm sorry. I just could not get over it.

They like to spend their days people watching .. and car watching.

Pedestrians aren't much different. They just go, too. You might think this fellow is herding that group along. No. He's just hoping they will slow traffic so he can jump right in.

No rhyme. No reason. Just close your eyes and let the art of driving happen around you. Everyone honks to indicate their locale. But there is no road rage and everyone is quite patient. Thank heavens for Boopa.

That's all there is to it and all for today. Welcome to Chennai.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

india, joy in the journey

This is a quick prologue into what feels like a really long time in a world away. My heart and head are way too full to make much sense yet, and there are little girl's thirsting for my attention today.

First and foremost, I left Grandma with way more instructions than she probably needed ;)

She was magnificently capable as I knew she would be!

Even when someone sensed something was wrong as we headed to the door.

I did feel bad leaving her with this, though. Arizonans just aren't equipped for such natural disasters ;)

Christian's simple to please nature, tickles me. When I asked him what he was most excited about, it was the mints on the car service ride, the airplane movies, the little trays for food ... you know, simple stuff.

He was positively brimming with excitement. Celia had homework to crank out on the plane that made her less excited.

We thought we'd best load up on airport Chinese food in the event we never got to eat again. One never knows.

Somewhere in there, Christian got his finger stuck in a chair and rather than helping him, we laughed our eyeballs out and took pictures. How do these things happen?!

The last novel I read took me the entire summer of interrupted reading.  It's been awhile so I thoroughly absorbed myself in this one.

See? Absolute thrill ride .. we're pretty simple.

Once we began crossing over foreign lands, we started feeling really small. How can one not when the realization hits that those dots down there are homes, farms, transportation of people leading lives quite different from yours on the far side of the globe?

I think this is not far from Dubai.

And once that North Star appeared over all that middle east desert, I could easily see why so many had been led by and searched for answers from the heavens. I would too.

All a little joy in the journey.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

heading in to India

In the morning, these two biggest kids of mine and I are headed here.

To meet Newel who is already there on a business trip.

It's been a grueling process. Just ask Christian who had to fill out form after form for visas, passports and vaccines in his neatest handwriting. And that kid has never had time to slow down much for handwriting.

I'm trying my hardest to remember my last oral typhoid pill tonight. My brain is a sieve of preparation.

Better than all of these, where I walked around feeling like I had a touch of malaria.

Can you tell how glad this dad was to have those visas done? He had to do them twice.

Gotta love modern technology, though. They let you take your own mug shots for visas so long as they are properly exposed and all. 

That's got to be the most stressful bit of photography I have ever taken. One mess up and the whole process starts over ... and no, the first glitch wasn't my error (see above boy straining over legible handwriting :)

I couldn't be more excited and yet, I know it will all be over too quickly. The sights to see, the culture to absorb, and a visit here.

Providing, I'm certain, a whole new perspective on that washing machine spinning to clean those clothes to throw in suitcases and the babysitter-prepped-freshly-stocked cabinets, courtesy of Costco.