Update from India
What's this? Wifi at a midrange Indian hotel? Wonders truly never cease. I'm in the home stretch of the trip now. The last week will be very busy, and I am taking a few days off before throwing myself back into the thick of things. My host and I are doing a quick tour of some tourist-type places before meeting the rest of the team in a few days. I'm taking photos and looking forward to my weekly sweet treat in the form of a lassi tomorrow afternoon. There's supposed to be a legendary place to get one near my hotel. Mango or banana, or both! That is the question. I suddenly have the luxury of choice after living in villages for most of the past thirty days, and I find that Barry Schwartz was on to something when he wrote that too many choices can lead to unhappiness.
Thirty days. As a concept, it sounds great. Thirty days on the road to travel and do truly meaningful work, meeting people and seeing incredibly unique things along the way. But when you are traveling without a steady companion and hindered by a language barrier at every turn, the trip feels long sometimes. This trip, as a whole, has flown by, but there have been individual days that felt like they would never end, if that makes any sense.
I'm grateful, though, that my traveling has been done with a definite purpose. Traveling for missions or humanitarian purposes is always more fulfilling than just shouldering a backpack and wandering for its own sake. I sit now in the breezeway of a hotel as clusters of free-spirited Europeans amble by with enormous backpacks and the ubiquitous male pony tail that instantly identifies a Bohemian on the road. They will go out today and visit palaces and forts, see museums and artwork, and if the boxes of empty Kingfisher beer bottles in the halls are any indication, they will return in the evening for rollicking good times of beer, spicy food and possibly some "liberating" herbs. They will get what they came for: a good time. But their purpose will not last beyond the trip.
That is what I realize now, as I reflect on the past month. 12,000 miles away from home, making a great circle through a subcontinent whose culture could not possibly be further from what I am used to, I have traveled with a purpose that will last. What I have seen here--the poverty transcended by strength of spirit, the Love that can override caste hatreds, the hospitality and care extended by so many people to the gora with the camera whose stomach can't handle their curries--it has all taught me so much. There are parts of the culture here that still drive me crazy; I still have a hard time extending human courtesy to pushy cab drivers, and the Indian use of the head-wiggle instead of plainly-spoken answers to simple questions always puts my knickers in a twist. When it comes to resources, the population has placed India at risk of collapsing under its own weight.
But the people of India, with very, very few exceptions, have beautiful souls. I am no "hero from the west" when I come here. As much as I help, I am very much a student of their humanity and character.
To close, some iPhoneage from the R&R of the past day or two. Most of the working shots are on my DSLR, and will begin to surface at the end of this month. I filled my travel journal a few days ago, and I was elated to be able to return to my favorite leather shop in The Lake City to purchase a new one, as pictured below. It's fun to be a repeat customer of an establishment so far from home. The staff was even kind enough to pretend to remember me, haha.