Friday, April 27, 2007

Kolkata To Darjeeling

Street Talk: Walking with my friend, Subi, we passed to Indian girls who were chatting in Bengali.

Subi: Did you see those two girls?
Buttercup: Yes.
Subi: They were saying, “Look at the crazy foreigner who’s come here in this heat. Why would anyone visit Kolkata at this time of year?”
Buttercup: Ummm…that’s interesting. Let me know if anyone else says anything.

Well ok then, apparently I'm a crazy foreigner. So be it.

A Word On Travel Annoyances: Thinking about my TT post from yesterday, I'm afraid I might have steered you all wrong with respect to Kolkata and the time I'm having here. Overall, I have really had a very positive time. My volunteer work, the young girls that I've worked with, and the people in my organization have been absolutely wonderful and I've thoroughly enjoyed my time with them. I've also been inspired to see the great work that they're doing on anti-trafficking. In terms of the city, it's a city like any other. It has it's positives and negatives, and sometimes those negatives can totally grate on one's nerves. But the annoyances that come with experiencing something new and stepping out of one's comfort zone are part of traveling, they're the lows that balance out all the incredible highs and they're part of what makes traveling so interesting and also challenging. They're also the things that will probably make me laugh and smile when thinking back on them from the comfort of my home three weeks from now. So please, when I share my annoyances, know that they are not what's defining my experience. They're just a part of the whole experience.

Happy Cabbie Incident: I was standing on the corner last night trying to hail a cab, having no luck whatsoever. It was raining, there was a lot of traffic, and I was starting to think that I would have to walk back to my hotel in the rain. Suddenly, a woman got my attention and ushered me over to a taxi, saying “Taxi, you need?” She had hailed down a taxi for me! I bent down to tell the taxi where I needed to go. He didn’t immediately understand me, and suddenly there was a shout and the taxi driver sped off. A cop who had been perched a few feet away from me had yelled at the driver for slowing down traffic and had apparently told him to drive off. Thanks Mr. Policeman.

I walked up the street, past the cop (and restrained myself from glaring at him or thinking too negative thoughts), and tried once again to flag down a cab. Finally, after a few more minutes a taxi stopped in front of me! Hallelujah! Miracles of miracles, the driver also understood on the first try exactly where I wanted to go. I hopped into the car with delight and waited for the light to change. Looking out my window, I saw the woman who had tried to help me passing by and told her again, Thank you (Shukriyah). She smiled and said, “not problem,” and then asked if I would mind giving her a lift on the way to wherever I was going. I agreed and she hopped into the front seat.

Her name is Erica and she’s been working for the last two years for a couple – an American woman and her Bengali husband – as their maid. She was so warm and good natured. We dropped her off a little ways up the street and before Erica got out she made sure that the driver knew exactly where I needed to go. How sweet is that?

Next Stop, Darjeeling: I finish up my last day of volunteer work today and then will be catching a night train to Darjeeling, a hill station up in the mountains on the border of Nepal and India, surrounded by 5 of the tallest peaks in India (and maybe the world?). I'm getting star bursts of excitement in my chest thinking about finally getting out onto the road and being free. Volunteering has been GREAT, but it will be thrilling to be 100%, absolutely free. I'm craving that right now. I'm also craving natural beauty, fresh clean air, hikes, and Buddhist temples. I think it will be awesome.

I'll be in Darjeeling for a few days and then will be heading to Delhi around the 3rd of May. The Taj Mahal is just a few days away. But first, the serene mountains, and hopefully the purchase of a hand made Tibetan rug. Wish me luck.


Anonymous said...

Good luck! Hope you take loads of pics of the Taj Mahal which is so beautiful! I'm off to Florida tomorrow so will catch up with your adventures when I get back!

Anonymous said...

I'm getting star bursts of excitement

What a great way to feel. Enjoy your freedom. And keep telling us about it. I find all that you write here fascinating.

Gypsy said...

Ah, I just love reading about your trip! :) How nice it was to meet that lovely woman.