Sunday, November 16, 2008

Train Station in Itarsi

Wow!! So much has happened since my last post. I don't have time to write about most of it now. However, I do want to share my first visit to the train station with you.

Viv and I are in Itarsi. We came here Saturday morning with Beth, Carolyn, Dayal, and Sedhana (Archana's father and sister) on Saturday afternoon. We were here to visit with Archana's family and attend Mid India Yearly Meeting's Centennial celebration.

Earlier this evening, Viv and I put Beth and Carolyn on a train to Delhi. Carolyn is beginning her trip home while Beth will go on to Agra where she will visit the Taj Mahal. The train station was crowded. We had to walk up many stairs and back down to get to the platform. Viv, Beth and Carolyn carried their suitcases until we got to the top of the stairs where we ran into a porter who gave us directions to the correct platform and offered to carry the luggage. Beth and Carolyn decided to accept his offer knowing that they will need to tip him. He picked up Carolyn's hugh suitcase put it opn his head, grabbed Beth's in his hand and carried them down the stairs to the platform. He took us to the section where Carolyn's seat on the train would be and left us on the platform witing for the train. A train did come, but it wasn't the one we needed, it was going to Mumbia (Bombay.) We were in the area of second class section of the Mumbai train. When the train arrived people were hanging out of the car. A man jumped out of a window onto the platform when it stopped. Others piled out of the door. It was very choatic. People were everywhere. They were like sardines piling out of a can. The vendors were yelling, people were getting of the train to purchase food and beverages. It was so interesting to watch. When it was time for the train to leave people were still trying to get into the packed car when it began pulling out of the station. I watched in horror as people were walking along the platform trying to push themselves onto the train in the second class section. I was hoping that Beth would not have to be in that section.

Beth originally planned to leave from Bhopal tomorrow evening, but changed her ticket to leave with Carolyn today from Itarsi. Carolyn had a confirmed seat, but Beth did not, she was on the waiting list. We did not know where she would end up. Our plan was to put her in the section (sleeping car) with Carolyn and hope she could pay for a ticket higher than the general board one she had to stay with Carolyn. Carolyn said she was willing to share her birth.

After the Mumbai train left with everone on it, even the last few who walked then ran along the platform the clean up crew came through. I have learned here in India the first stage of the clean up crew are the dogs and cows. They eat whatever garbage gets left on the ground. It was funny seeing a cow on a train platform. While we were sitting on the platform they announced that the TT Express (Beth and Carolyn's train) was now coming into platform 3, not 1 where we currently were standing. We quickly grabbed the luggage and headed back up the platform for the stairs. We met their porter on the way. He grabbbed their luggage and encouraged us to cross the tracks with him. We continued to the stairs walking as fast as we could. Viv was still carrying one of Carolyn's suitcases. We walked up the stairs of platform one over to the area for platform 2&3 and walked down those steps. As we were walking down the platform to the section where Carolyn's seat would be the porter spotted us and began waving. We reached him a few minutes before the train stopped. He thought we were very silly for not following him across the tracks. Yes, it was a shorter walk, but the drop down and climb up to the platform was bigger than I could or would do. Also I must admit that I did see a rat walking around on the tracks earlier. So, the tracks were the last place I wanted to get stuck. The platform was 4-5 feet higher than the tracks and there were no steps!

We got both Beth and Carolyn on the train. I was glad to see that there were fewer people in the sleeper car than the second class car. Viv talked to the people around Carolyn's birth and explained Beth's situation. She made it off the train just as it began moving out of the station. People seem to easily jump on and off the train at the last moment as it rolls out of the station. We waved by to Beth and Carolyn as they sat side to side talking with the people around them.

Tomorrow afternoon Viv and I will take the train back to Bhopal. I saw Beth and Carolyn's departure as a dry run for us. I hope ours is smoother and just as entertaining. Viv and I did not stay and wait for the clean up crew. I assume they will eat the garbage that the passengers from the TT Express left on the platform. I am not sure how the cow got on the platform. I assum it walks up and down the stairs like everyone else unless it jumps 4-5 feet up onto the platform from the tracks. Oh how I would love to see and get a photograph of that happening.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Our Last Day at the Triennial

Today we leave the Pastoral Care Center. We have had a full time at the Triennial. One of the highlights of the trip so far for me was our visit with the Phanjar village in the forrest.We had a wonderful time signing and dancing with the tribe. They generously served us a snack. I had a chance to watch them make Chai (which I couldn't drink.) At the end of our visit the village walked us back to our van.
After our visit with the village we went to see some cave drawing. They were really neat.
This afternoon we are moving to a hotel in town where we will stay until Saturday morning when we take a train to Itarsi to attend Mid India Yearly Meeting.
Our time as a full delegation is coming to a close. Richard leaves us this afternoon. Tomorrow we lose Gretchen, Nancy and Phillip. Martha will leave us on Friday. Viv, Beth, Carolyn and I will travel to Itarsi together where we will reconnect with some Friends from the Triennial who will also atttend Mid India Yearly Meeting.

Sunday, November 09, 2008

The Gods are Awake!!

The Gods woke up!! Once again we have been experiencing fireworks and fire crackers today. I asked what was happening and was told that it is 11 days after Diwali, a major Hindu holiday - Festival of Lights and the Hindu Gods are awake after sleeping for 5 months. It seems like there have been celebrations almost every day since I arrived. Well at least fire crackers have been going off everyday since I arrived.

Yesterday I went with a Friend to an opthomologist who is the son of one of the Bhopal Friends helping run the conference. He was very nice and took us to his home for tea afterwards. He showed us his nice apartment and we met his mother, wife, daughter and son. We enjoyed ourselves. I have enjoyed every opportunity I have had to get outside of the conference center. It is a large compound with a hospital several schools and a community center.

I am tired and would like to write more, but can't think of what to say. I hope I will get a chance to write more later.

Friday, November 07, 2008

Noise, Noise Everywhere!!

I miss the quiet of my neighborhood. Car horns, train horns, music, fire crackers. Noise, noise everywhere!! Cows eating garbage in the street, wild dogs, motorcycles everywhere, crowded roundabout that I would never never dream about driving through.

I have met many warm Indian Friends. I am greatly enjoying spending time with Archana and meeting her father!! I tried a new fruit which tasted like a water chestnut. I am looking forward to spending more time in India with Indians outside of this conference.

Our time is scheduled from 7:00 AM to 10:00 PM. At times it is overwhelming and I just have to get away. This afternoon I walked around the courtyard in the sun. It is so nice to be in the warmth. No coats, sweaters, gloves, hats or long underwear. During the occasional times I get cold I can walk outside and stand in the sun for a few moments. Oh what heaven. I like this kind of winter!!!!!! This evening instead of playing games and singing once again I escaped to new market this time with two Indian women and two Aotearoa/New Zealanders. It was there turn to look through and try on the great variety of Shalwar Kameez suits. I picked up the two suits which I had made. After purchasing their Shalwar Kameez suits we walked around the market looking for large mugs for the Austrailan Friends who wanted tea in a proper cup. (Chai here is served in the size cups used for espresso.)

Right now I am sitting in the computer room with two other night owls, Julian Stargardt from Hong Kong and Kenya Cassanova from Cuba. Julian is keeping us entertained as he checks his email and reads about Georgia. Kenya is making a slide show about the Cuban hurricane. She showed us her house where the neighbors coconut tree fell through the roof. Julian is kicking us out so that he can lock up and open tomorrow at 7:00 AM when I will just be waking up.

Thursday, November 06, 2008


Yesterday I went to the New Market to purchase a couple Salwar Suits. The funny thing about this trip is that two Indian men took me shopping along with another Friend from Austrialia. The men were taking their assignment very seriously. However, I know it must have been a challenging one for them. I don't know many men who would know where to take a woman shopping to buy clothing. They tried one shop and it was closed. The next shop we entered only made men's clothes which was the same for the next shop. While we had been in the car I showed the men a receipt from a store where another Friend purchased a suit earlier in the week. Finally the man escorting us asked for directions to that store. We found it after a little searching. They had several beautiful outfits. I had fun trying them on. One of the outfits I really liked needed to be altered because the sleeves were too tight. They altered it while I was trying on the clothes. One of the suits they needed to sew. It will be ready tomorrow. However, I am wearing one today. I have gotten several compliments. I hopefully will be able to post a photo soon.
Got to go. I have been helping with registration today.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Arrrival in Bhopal, India

I made it safely to Bhopal, India. It was a long and tiring trip. I left Los Angeles at 11:00 PM on Saturday, November 1st, arrived in Philadelphia at 6:00 AM Sunday November 2nd. Barry picked me up at the airport and drove me home where I was able to eat, take a warm bath (which helped my knee fell better. I twisted it at Claremont meeting) wash some clothes and take some items out of my CA suitcase to put into my India suitcase.

Barry drove me back to the airport in time to catch my 4:00 PM flight to Frankfurt. I used flyer miles to upgrade my ticket to 1st Class. I was so happy I did it. My 1st class ticket allowed me to

elovate my left knee. I was also able to enter United's Red Carpet Club in Frankfurt where I could get some tea, a piece of fruit and a nice chair to sleep in for several hours. I had a six hour layover in Frankfurt. We arrived around 6:00 AM and my flight did not leave until 1:30 PM.

They have a lot of security in Frankfurt. I had to go through security two separate times to get from gate C2 to B48. The plane was full and this time I was flying coach. What a difference!! I had an isle seat. The Greek gentleman sitting next to me did not adhere to American space. I felt his breathing and the heat of his body on my left side.

Honestly it was a little too close for me, but what could I do? I was trapped in this bin metal plane filled with people. I had no place else to go, so sleep was the best way to escape. Sleep I did for most of the flight. The flight attendant woke me for dinner because I had ordered a gluten free meal. The good thing about special orders is that you get served before everyone else.

We landed in Mumbia at 1:30 AM. Immigration was fairly quick and easy, however, getting checked luggage felt like it took forever. When my bags finally came I got through customs easily. They directed me to the part of the airport I needed to go to check in for my domestic flight to Bhopal. Security scanned my checked bags only afterwhich they sealed them by sliping a plastic tie through the zipper handles and putting some tap over a portion of the zipper. I had to then take them around the corner to Jet Airways. They took my bags, assigned me a seat, gave me a boarding pass and told me to wait for the bus that would transport me to the domestic terminal.

The bus came. We showed our boarding passes and crammed onto it. Some people still had their luggage with them. They were obviously flying with a different domestic airline. After a long drive we arrived at the domestic terminal which was much nicer than the international one. Security had not opened yet, so people were sitting and sleeping where every they could on walls, chairs and suitcases. Once security opened they separated the males from the females because not only did you go through a metal detector, but you were also wanded from head to toe. If the wand went off which it did around my bra hooks the security guard would feel your body to make sure you were not concealing anything dangerous. Your carry on baggage was scanned and tagged. The tag was important because the guard would not let you on the bus that transported you to the plane without it.

The plane was nice, not too crowded. The service was excellent!! They know how to treat customers. Our flight was scheduled to leave at 5:50 AM. We left 15 minutes late because of the amount of air traffic. They served us a hot breakfast on the plane which I enjoyed. When I arrived in Bhopal a young man who worked for the airlines carried my backpack to baggage claim for me.

When I got into the terminal I saw three Indian men holding an FWCC sign. One of the three men was the clerk of Bhopal Yearly Meeting. They helped me carry and load my baggage to their car and drove me to the Pastoral Care Center. There I was greated by several Austrailan Friends who are organizing the gathering. They showed me to my room and kindly let me sleep ALL day. I was so tired that I slept from 9:00 AM until 6:55 PM when they woke me for dinner. They tried to wake me for lunch, I was just too tired to get up. They were afraid I would not be able to sleep last night. I assured them that I would have no trouble and that was correct!!