I expected India to be not easy to travel in so I was pretty much prepared for inconveniences and many surprises, which I adored every bit of. One night we stayed in a hotel without hot water, and evening temperature was about eight Celsius.
Or the food at the restaurant did not come on time; and in general time was always under-estimated and flexible, hence, the schedule of the trip was all over the place. For three days in a row, for example, we had lunch at 5 pm and dinner at 8:30 pm. Nonetheless, there are so many things to love about India that made me let these inconveniences pass.
I was completely arrested by the way they elegantly fold the sari around their bodies and still function under such intricate drapery.
We also had the opportunity to experience warm Indian hospitality wherever we went. Because we were sort of an official delegation, we were greeted with dances by the indigenous communities we visited. Often there are men beating big drums and women dancing to the thumping.
School-children gave us flowers in all the schools we visited and then they'd sing us some songs or show us how they study in school using their local, ethnic languages. They are a bit coy in interacting with us, otherwise, they are very participative in class wherein they use indigenous materials in learning.
Also, we had the opportunity to meet local education authorities and district administrators, the latter were all women. It's indeed impressive to see very intelligent women occupying these positions. They were all so articulate about the issues of their districts and definitely dedicated to improving the lot of the school-children.
The commitment of the local education officials in making basic education accessible to indigenous children was very laudable. The people implementing the projects are very knowledgeable about their work, it was an honor to be in their company.
Other than work, we also had some opportunity to visit the Sun Temple in Konark, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. India, after all, is the source of most of Southeast Asia's culture, therefore, Konark in particular reminded me of the many temples I have seen across Thailand and Cambodia.
We also drove a lot around the Orissa countryside on our way to the schools. We saw newly-harvested rice fields and villages composed of mud houses. The highways of Orissa (and also the state of West Bengal) are an experience altogether.
Driving was definitely free for all, and we had to contend with humongous trucks that could not care less for us in small vehicles. The travel down those highways was such a scary affair: brazen motorcycle drivers going against the flow, horns blaring like mad all the time, trucks inches away from crashing into each other, and the occasional bull and goat making a slow highway crossing.
Our last two days in India were spent in the West Bengal capital of Kolkata. I instantly fell in love with the charm of the city, with old, crumbling buildings whose walls are covered with moss and grit, yellow cabs that must be at least fifty years old, narrow streets lined with spindly trees, and large fields in the middle of the city that are full of cricket players.
We, of course, visited the Victoria Monument, Kolkata's landmark, and then the National Museum of Kolkata, as well as a bit of shopping on our final hours in the city.
Needless to say, India was such a mesmerizing experience for me. Again, traveling in it is far from easy, but I think all our minor sacrifices in comfort were amply rewarded because we went to parts of the country that many outsiders may not have the chance to see.
Nonetheless, we only saw a tiny speck of the massive country that is India. There are more things to see, undoubtedly. The best gauge for saying that you enjoyed your trip is whether or not you want to go back to that place the moment you left it. As mentioned in the previous post, it had always been my dream to go to India, and now that I've finally made it there, I cannot wait to go back soon.