No idea if that's how you spell it, but Yelamanchili is where we are off to today...
But first, three things from yesterday I forgot.
One, when we started the slum tour, Angie stepped off the sidewalk and almost stepped on a giant sewer rat. Giant. Bit since the sewers are open here - like, in the gutter - that's where the days are. Eeewww. So gross they are seriously like the size of small cats. And we saw a whole hoard of them later in the day walking back from the chor bazaar. Just disgusting!
Two, I saw another guy walking a monkey on a leash in the slum. Seriously. I want one. I also saw my first confirmed dead dog. There are strays all over here laying in the streets. I only knew this was one was because his head was submerged in a mud puddle in the pouring rain. Really made me wonder how many of the other ones weren't just having a little nap? :(
Three, there were separate parts of the residential parts in the slum. The Muslim part was not as nice as the Hindu part because Muslim women aren't allowed to work so there is only one income. Makes sense. In the Hindu part, there were tons of people making these little statues (well, some were big) of some elephant woman thing. Like a fat woman with a giant elephant nose? I hope I'm not being terribly insensitive about some ancient religious Hindu god or something... I probably am. Anyways, we found out tonight that it is the start of the Ganesha festival. They worship this thing for 10 days (I think?) and at the end there is a giant party on Chowpatty beach and they literally dump all of these elephant ladies in to the ocean by crane! How crazy is that?! I need to find out why or what the festival is for, but that's all I know for now. :)
Okay, I lied. Four things from yesterday. Most of Slumdog Millionaire was filmed in Dharavi slum, and some of the child actors we're from there!
So back to this morning...
I woke up around 4am (from the monsoon going on outside) and realized Ang wasn't in bed next to me. I sat up and she was standing up on her phone, haha. The girl is obsessed with Instagram. (You should follow her @kansasgypsy. She takes amazing pictures!) I think the tea she had before bed had cafeine in it and she just couldn't sleep at all. I don't think either of us went back to sleep after that.
Alarm went off at 6 so we could leave at 6:30. I think my hop is literally bruised from falling asleep on my side last night. This mattress is the equivalent of sleeping on a little mat on my kitchen floor. And Ive got some serious hips, people!
Oh, learned last night that we are flying out of the domestic airport. Not the international one. Makes sense. I didn't even know there were two separate ones! Good thing we talked to the guys we're staying with last night...or we would have ended up at the completely wrong airport!
So re-packing was quite the challenge this morning. There was no way we were fitting all of the stuff we bought in to our bags. I now have bags strapped to both sides of my already giant backpack. It's ridiculous and has to weigh over 50 pounds at least. We did each leave the pants we wore in Mumbai yesterday on the floor in the room. You can't even imagine how bad they smelled...
We wore matching skirts today and left our hair kind of down (for now anyways). Aren't we cute?!
Kaarin and Ali got up to walk us down stairs and say good bye. They grabbed a cab for us (non-ac of course) since we got so worked over on the price yesterday on the way to the train station. Not all the guys in India and creeps! These two were super nice and helpful. And respectful.
Our cab driver was interesting. The cab itself was a piece of crap and he didn't really speak any English. He drove us along Marine Drive where we were supposed to run. Whoops. No time to work out over here! It did look like a great spot though, and there were lots of men and even some women running along there!
We then crossed over the Sealink bridge. With the windows down for some natural AC. (It was actually cool out this morning!) Going fast plus the windows down had my hair flying around like a tornado. So I wrapped a scarf all the way around my head to control it. The windows were stuck and wouldn't roll up!
Since our driver didn't speak English and we didn't really know where we needed to go at the domestic airport, there was a lot of confusion and is driving and pointing to get us to terminal 1a - gate 2, for Jet Airways. I wasn't expecting much, but the domestic airport here is SO nice! Way nicer than the International one. Nicer than a lot of airports in the US actually. What a pleasant surprise.
We were there plenty early, so no rush or stressing at all. We had checked in yesterday on our phones, but couldn't print our boarding passes, so we went to a ticketing counter and had a lady print off a receipt for us to get us in the door. Past that gate, a guy helped us use the kiosk to print our boarding pass, and we walked through the only "ladies only" line in security. No shoes off, nothing out of the bags. Security is so much better in every other country. (And by better I mean less of a hassle. Not necessarily safer!)
Once inside the terminals, it was even nicer! Super clean and they played calm relaxing piano music. It was just great. More airports need to do that.
First stop was an ATM. I don know if I wrote about this yesterday, but after ice cream we stopped at an ATM and I tried to get cash out. Got denied twice and I know I had the money in the account. I think I was probably trying to take too much out. But since my bank charges me for each transaction I wanted to get it out all at once! Didn't happen. And I needed cash today, so we hit one up again.
Denied the first try for 10,000 rupees. (Like $155) so I tried 5,000. No luck. But 4,000 worked! That wasn't enough, so I did it again. I now have an enormous stack of 80 100 rupee bills. It's like an inch thick, for real, haha. I feel like its a ton of money, but it's really not. I was so relieved to have some cash though. I was getting worries yesterday since I only came with $200 (and still have some left after everything we did in Mumbai!)
From there, we asked a guy at an iPhone 5 advertisement where I could get a charger for my iPhone. (No one has iPhones over here, by the way. They're way too expensive.) He pointed us towards a Chroma electronics store - kind of like a radio shack. And thank goodness they had plenty of chargers. Mine decided to quit working last night, which was really not cool. No only is my phone my FaceTime and blogging tool, but most importantly, it's my CAMERA! So keeping it charged is obviously essential. Honestly though, I haven't taken that many pictures. It's hard to unzip my bag and get it out and I'm not going to leave it in my hand where someone could rip it away from me. Plus it's been raining on and off, etc. Angie was taken plenty for us. :)
Next stop after the phone charger was coffee for Ang ... and more croissants for me. Seriously, I'm carbed out, and that's all they have over here in the way of breakfast foods. I have had a cereal bar and/or granola bar of my own every morning too. But I need more! Breakfast is usually my big meal for the day!
There were birds flying around in the airport trying trying to get what food people left behind!
We still had so much time to kill after we ate. We sat around listening to classical music and chatted about all the places in the works we still have to go to. I love this girl and am so glad we're experiencing India together. :) Hopefully this is the first trip of many more crazy adventures together!
Hit the nice bathroom - western toilet with toilet paper - before heading to our gate. Oh, going to the squat toilets over here would be way easier in a skirt. You can just hike it up. But the pants you have to drop and let them get all urine soaked from the floor. Hence why we left them in a pile in the room this morning...
Walking to our gate, we realized once again that we were about the only females there and attracting lots of stares and attention. It's so weird. I mean, in the US, we have black, white, purple, yellow, Asian, Indian..you name it. But here, it's just straight male Indians. For someone who generally doesn't mind being the center of attention ;) it gets a little uncomfortable at times here, but neither of us have really felt in harms way or unsafe at all. Just awkward.
We finally boarded the plane, and I was pretty weary of if my giant bag was actually going to fit of not. And our seats weren't together. So we totally caused a scene trying to get a guy to move so we could sit together. And I almost wasn't strong enough to by my bag up over my head. But it all worked out.
We took off about 20 minutes late (giant slum just outside the fence on the runway!) and it didn't take long for Ang to look like this:
Shortly in to the flight, we were surprised when they came around with food! Angie must of thought she had been asleep for a long time - or maybe she was just delirious from no sleep - but she thought it was lunch time...and it was 9:20am.
I got the omelet and we're not sure what Angie got. Something Indian. My omelet was runny (not cooked), and it was potatoes, onions, and beans in ketchup. Seriously, I wouldn't touch that in the US, but here? Sure. I choked it all down. Praying for no sickness again. Raw eggs can't be good... And the Indian guy next to us told us not to eat the fruit because of the water! Dang it! I would do about anything for some fresh fruit...
Angie pulled out the airline magazine from the back of the chair and flipped through it. Stopped on this page:
Right in the middle of the page was a highlight of a place in KC in a magazine in Mumbai. So cool! Not only have I not been to this place, I've never even heard of it!
The rest of the two hour flight was pretty I eventful. We landed around 11am. Got off the plane and went straight for the bathroom. Western toilets but no toilet paper. There is always a little faucet, a bucket, and a pitcher. I'm pretty sure they just splash / rinse off their "stuff" every time they go to the bathroom. It's always wet all over in the stalls. I can't figure it out. Maybe I'll get the nerve to ask an Indian lady some time?
We walked outside the airport (heat wave alert!) and the small arrival area was surrounded with men holding signs. We did a quick scan and didn't see my name. Just stood there kind of confused and looking awkward. Not sure where to go. And then all of a sudden there was a man in my face (literally) with a big grin and his hand out asking if I was Terri. I must of been pretty easy for him to spot, haha. Not many white women around here - let alone two!
He walked us to a very nice air conditioned car and we took off through Visak. It was so green and tropical. Like Southern California or Mexico or something. For real. So different from Mumbai and from what we were expecting. Plus it was 8,000 degrees hotter and way more humid.
Traffic was so much smoother. Not as much of it and people at least half way followed the road rules.
Visak is known for its steel. Lots of steel mills and trucks carrying steel all over.
Stopped for water at a shack on the side of the road and continued the 40 minute drive through Yellamamchili. But not before being stopped for about 15 minutes in the middle of the road by a protest. People blocked off the entire highway with a human chain protesting the state of Andra Pradesh being split in to two separate states.
We pulled down a little dirt path for maybe half a mile, turned down a other path, and pulled up to New Life orphanage. 200 kids lined the roads clapping and cheering for us. They put flowers around our necks and shook our hands and asked us our names.I heard, "Your name?" at least 75 times in a matter of minutes. It was the sweetest thing ever. And I have about 100 of pictures of those 5 minutes alone!
Once we finally pulled ourselves away from them, Raja and his wife Neelema took us inside for lunch. We were introduced to their youngest daughter, Glitty, who is about the cutest, most animated little thing I have ever seen. I might kidnap her. She's amazing!
Lunch was prawns and chicken with vegetables and coconut rice. And it was good. I think the best food we've had in India! When they put it on our plates, we just looked at it and waited for silverware. They looked at us and asked what we were waiting for! You eat with your hands here! Well, right hand only. You don't use your left hand for anything here. That is the hand you wipe with or something? I don't know, but I thought I did an okay job of cleaning my plate!
Got a quick tour of the grounds: office, classrooms, kitchen, bathroom facilities, and dormitory. Pretty impressive, actually. Very well ran place. These kids are very happy and very well taken care of!
Two little boys carried our bags to our rooms for us. Pretty sure my bag easily weighed more than the kid carrying it, haha! Felt bad for him! He was grunting and struggling but wouldn't let me take it!
We had about 15 minutes before we set off for the village for the dedication ceremony. Glitty entertained us with a dance party and a few girls came in our room for some stickers.
We got back in the car and drove down the highway for about 10 minutes, then 20 minutes down a little windy road through the country, and then 10 more minutes down a little dirt path that a motorcycle lead is down. Raja and Neelema hadn't even been to this remote Hindu tribal village before!
We saw a group of men at the top of a hill, and as we got closer, they started beating drums and setting off fireworks as they walked and lead us down in to the village. I was completely in awe. It was so crazy and I recorded part of it. As we got closer, they had hung a giant sign over the road with our names on it!! It was just surreal. We were in the middle of nowhere India - a very remote area of green hills and coconut trees - and there were our names on a sign.
We got out of the car and were showered with flower petals and clapping. Drums still beating. I can't even describe it. Thank goodness Ang had her Go Pro camera videoing the whole thing, because it was all just so much to take in. I really can't put it all in to words just yet. (And I now have over 1,000 pictures on my phone. About 800 more than I did yesterday.)
The women had giant gold nose rings and jewelry. They came up there's petals over my head and clasped their hands in gratitude. It always surprises me how much you can convey without speaking the same language.
I was ushered over to an orange cloth covering the plaque. Pulled a string and was handed a microphone to read the plaque. "Project made possible by a Kansas girl" I read outloud. (That's what I told them to put on it, along with a bible verse at the bottom.)
Next I was told to cut the ribbon on the new well and handed little scissors. Everyone cheered when I cut it and then it was time to pump! It's harder than it looks! It took me awhile, but soon fresh clean water came pouring out. It was actually a lot more emotional than I thought it would be, haha! I almost cried I was so excited and happy for them!
There was a short ceremony under a tree where local people talked. Not sure what was said. We sat up front and I was asked to say something and just thanked them for the welcoming, and told them it was a gift from above, not from me. And that I hoped the well would bring them health and happiness and inspire them to do good to others ... or something like that.
The younger kids got up and sang a song, then the older ones did a tribal dance with the drums beating and chanting. It was all just so crazy! I swear, it looked something out of a National Geographic magazine. (I recorded part of it.)
Before we left, of course I had to give out lots more stickers and take some pictures with the kids.
We stopped outside the village to take a picture under the welcome sign, and when we turned around to look, there were already lots of people lined up to use the well. Made me so happy -- I can't even explain it. :)
As we were trying to process it all, Angie said, with wide eyes, "Terri, I've followed all your adventures from the beginning, and this is the coolest thing you've ever done." :) I think she might be right. Pretty awesome.
We had to stop on the drive home for gas. Apparently the vehicle had been on E for awhile now and weren't sure how much further we were going to make it!
We passed some sugar cane fields and lots more of those Elephant lady Hindu things. It really is such a beautiful area out here. And humid. Ooohhh so humid.
We were drained when we got back to the orphanage. Physically and mentally again. And even though all the kids really wanted to play with us, we decide to go lay down for 30 minutes. (Oh, and we learned they have wifi here!)
Well, those 30 minutes turned in to 2 hours, and we woke up to a birthday ceremony going on outside. The kids had all showered and dressed up. So sad we missed all of our time with the sweet little kiddos, but that sleep was desperately needed.
I was asked to go up front and help cut the cake. That was interesting because then they wanted to feed it to me from their hands. Yikes. I have to say, I'm pretty proud of my intestines for being so tough so far! Hope I didn't just jinx myself!
They asked me to say something to the kids and handed me a microphone. I wasn't really awake and didn't know what was going on come yet. I totally blew it and just said thanks for letting us be there and leys eat some ice cram, haha! I had Raja buy ice cream as a treat for all the kids so I passed that out and said "you're welcome" 200 times as Angie scooped up some sort of seasoned beans as a snack.
It was late. The kids pray and study a lot. And then pray some more. They didn't eat dinner until 8:30! And neither did we. More prawns and some fish with bones in it. With our hands again!
Kids studying in the dark
We hung out with the kids (mostly just a few girls) a little more and then came back to our nice air conditioned room. Exhausted. But since I sweat like a pig today (it was so bad Angie took a picture of my soaked back!) and we sprayed deet bug spray on us this evening, we really needed to shower. Problem was, we didn't have any towels. And everyone else was asleep by that point. So we stood around trying to decide what to do, and I decided to just go for it. I could just drip dry under the fans in our room. Brilliant idea, right?
Well, the water was cold. Not ice cold, but definitely not warm. (It did warm up a little more by the time Ang got in.) While I was in there hollering about the cold water, Angie was outside hollering about lizards and spiders and ants all over our room, hahaha! It was quite the spectacle I'm sure.
I got out ... And just stood there. Naked. Dripping. Not much I could do. And the windows don't really have curtains so Angie put our skirts (that we wore today) in the windows for a little more privacy.
That lasted all of 2 minutes. Let me tell you, standing naked and wet under cold ac after a cold shower is pretty brutal. I broke down and pulled a clean tank top out of my bag and used it to dry off. And so did Angie. It is now staying here in India too. I mean, I'm not going to wear something I just dried my crotch off with!
When we went to get in bed, the sheets looked pretty suspect. Maybe they were just stained? But maybe they were just dirty, too, haha. So I got out my new purple silk sleep sack (try to say that fast five times!) and crawled in. What a good last minute purchase per the recommendation of Mike, the guy I worked with to do the well. It is so comfy, perfect for hot weather, and it protects me from any potential bugs. It looked so funny when I got in that Ang had to get up and take a picture. We laughed forever over this:
Off to bed now. (Even though I'm wide awake now after the whole shower ordeal.) It's after 11pm and we have to be up at 5:30 to head back to the airport. Off to New Delhi tomorrow!
This day is going to be a hard one to top. Like, ever. :)
(If you can believe it, I actually left out a lot of details from this afternoon, but I can only type so much on my phone! I need some sleep! I might try and update this day more when I am back...)