This morning was especially early. I got a surprise upgrade on my hotel room (more on that later), so after a wonderful night of sleep, I woke up very early to go walk along the banks. As I was sitting there, a dog came up and started making noises at me. I started packing to go (maybe I was in his spot?), and he nudged my leg.
Wild dogs are kind of scary to me, since, well, you know. And these dogs are filthy. They literally sleep in trash. And this one looked like it had been in many fights, so I wondered if my hand was going to be bitten off, but I tentatively patted his head. He was blissed out with happiness. And yes, I had hand sanitizer, and washed my hands a lot, but he was a sweet dog and the kindness we showed each other was welcome.
Varanasi is NOT an accessible place. I walked along the river bank yesterday morning, and everywhere I went was hundreds of stairs. I hiked up and down the stairs just to stay on the path, and, of course, since I’m only here once (as far as I know), I didn’t want to let stairs get in the way of seeing anything, so if I wanted to get a good look at something, up I climbed.
My knees have been pretty bad in the past few years, and I was worried that I wouldn’t be able to manage all the stairs. None of the guides I read really mentioned how non-stair people would just NOT be able to experience the most beautiful part of the city.
I am so grateful to Krista, my trainer, for helping me rehab my knees and get them to the point where I can manage stairs – maybe not as easily as others, but as easily as myself.
My dad, on the other hand, had trouble with the stairs. The hotel had no elevator, and the restaurant was on the top floor. It was too much. I don’t think he had much fun in Varanasi. He committed to getting his knees replaced when he gets home, and I am hopeful we can come back again so he can enjoy the city as much as I did.
So, I succumbed to the cold that has been hot on my heels for a week. Today, I had the exciting adventure of crossing a Mumbai street TWICE(!!) to get to the pharmacy.
Me: I have a cold. Do you have pills?
Pharmacist: [turns to assistant, says something in Hindi]
Me: also, tissues?
Pharmacist: wet or dry?
Pharmacist: [more direction to assistant]
Assistant brings two tissue packs.
Pharmacist: How many more?
Me: like… 6? How many do you have?
Pharmacist assistant brings out 10 packs.
Me: All of them.
Me: [feeling lucky] Do you have lip balm?
Pharmacist presents a vast array of lip balm.
Pharmacist: 350 rupees ($5.60)
I feel like I made a major breakthrough today. I am usually too shy to do things like go to a pharmacy and ask for what I need, but today I couldn’t not do it. I feel so fortunate to have gotten a million tissues and some decongestant, and lip balm, which I’ve been missing sorely.
Somehow, 8 – 24 oz cups are an American thing. Getting what I consider to be “a cup of coffee” means 5 or so “cups of coffee” in most places. I think the generally-referred to “cup” here is a teacup (thanks to the British). To my big American self, the first few days were spent trying to break the language barrier enough to convince someone I really DID want what must seem like a bucket of coffee.
It’s these little cultural differences that fascinate me. How something as invisible as the size of a vessel is not standard around the world.
Steve took Dad and I to the local Ramada resort. Cochin is kind of the Hawaii of India, so as you can see, there’s a full and gorgeous resort here! Wow, right?
We had a meal that was more incredibly delicious food than we could eat, and Dad and Steve had fine drinks, and the bill was $56. I thought it was a misprint, since a meal like that would have easily been >$100 in the US.
We have a trip to Hawaii next month, and the cost of the flight was about the same. I wonder how the relative cost will look on the ground.
Now, I’m back in my (non-resort) room resting and trying to get my energy back. I am so glad that I made a pretty quick recovery. ☺️ Things look very different when I am not super sick.
“Free life,” said the guide yesterday.
But they are literally starving to death. I saw a dog laying with its head in the river, dead. I saw a dog with its head in the gutter, dead. I won’t post photos of them here, but I felt it was important to witness their cycle with open eyes.
I wanted to give them a home. They are so friendly and kind, wanting nothing but a scritch on the head. They are all good dogs.
There are active campaigns to reduce the dog population and monitor against rabies. So, there’s that.
I can’t believe I only took two photos of this phenomenon: Whole families on the back of a moped, usually with the woman sitting side-saddle on the back, often on the freeway or other high-speed environment. The woman on the back of the pleasure bike looks very sad, but for the most part, women were smiling and laughing. It seems like a fun family activity. I saw no accidents at all, despite the reasonably chaotic way of driving down often incredibly narrow old streets.
Transportation in India is one of the most amazing things I saw here. I am delighted and impressed.
Today, we come back to Delhi and stay near the airport to board the flight home at 3:00 am tomorrow morning. The flight home will take about 20 hours, with a 4 hour layover in Beijing.
I didn’t expect to love India as much as I did. It’s a complicated country with challenges I see them mightily struggling to resolve. Infrastructure is sorely lacking – they don’t have trash pickup where we stayed in Cochin, so people either throw trash on the ground, or burn it. There are few regulations, so many homes aren’t built to code. Few power lines seem professionally done, and many of the posts look tangled with vines that are abandoned power cords, dangling uselessly, and maybe dangerously. There are SO MANY PEOPLE everywhere. The population is about 1 billion more than the US, in a geographic area about 1/3 the size of the US, in a country facing water and other resource shortages.
It is both a very young country, since the British only withdrew about 70 years ago, and a very old country, since traditions go back thousands of years. I look forward to seeing what happens with India in my lifetime, since I know the country will accomplish great things.
I’ll compile some travel notes in a future post, in terms of how to get here and stuff like that.