Traveling for 90 plus days has been challenging to say the least. We are living the dream, but sometimes the dream becomes a bit fuzzy and convoluted. I am still on for the ride, which is good because we don’t have a “home” to return to at the moment. This thought sits in the back of my mind for the most part, but has been known to rattle my psyche from time to time. My mantra replays daily in my heart and head, LIVE IN THE MOMENT! I am trying not to worry about finding a rental property in Laguna in high season that allows two large dogs once we return to California. I am trying not to think about the large storage unit holding all of our possessions waiting for our return. It would be great to be at a place upon our arrival in the states that we could willingly purge our worldly possessions and live with just backpacks and a bunsen burner, but whom I am kidding? We do miss our own beds, warm showers with adequate water pressure, flushable toilets, toilet paper, cold drinks with ice, reliable electricity. Just the basics, but I am learning that our “basics” are considered luxuries in most countries around the world. My gratitude deepens each day of this trip, this I know for sure.
With this being said, let me catch you all up to speed with what has occurred in the past few weeks since I last blogged. Blogging, by the way, is like publishing your private diary, but plagued with the notion that words have to be spelled correctly and sentence structure must flow for the reader. Pressure, pressure pressure! I visited a famed astrologer in Jaipur, India last week. He gently reminded me that I needed to practice self-respect and continue to increase my self-esteem. I am sure he would frown upon my trepidation of blog posting. I am a work in progress, but aren’t we all?
So, on with my blog……Four weeks ago, Morgan and I were on a scooter following riley and Ryan on a beautiful seaside road weaving in and out of the rain forest on Ko Chang Island in Thailand. I must say I was enjoying the wind in my hair, the smell of the ocean and the thrill of exploring the island with my family on motorbikes. My scooter didn’t have as much horsepower as Ryan’s and at times I needed to accelerate at full throttle just to climb the hills. Morgan and I were determined to make it up a steep hill without losing momentum. A sharp switch back turn approached quickly and a taxi truck (yes pickup trucks are used as makeshift taxis in Ko Chang) filled with tourists hanging out of the truck bed forced me to take the turn at a sharp angle. The next thing I knew, the scooter had skidded across the street, the taxi continued to drive down the hill without stopping to see if Morgan and I were injured AND there I was with my 12-year-old daughter standing upright in the middle of the street trying to understand what just happened. To say the least, it was a terrifying experience. Morgan was agile as a cat and was able to leap off the bike before the scooter slid across the asphalt towards the pickup. She suffered some road rash and was obviously scared. I, too had road rash, and my ankle was on fire, but I was in shock. The what if’s started to enter my mind. It could have been so much worse. We were extremely lucky. I felt horrible that I had put Morgan in danger. I just walked to the side of the road signaling Ryan to get the bike out of the middle of the road. Well, I probably was yelling obscenities, but I will blame it on the shock and the pain. J Once the bike and the four of us were huddled on the side of the road, I began to sob like a baby. I was scared! I was so grateful that Morgan was ok! My ankle was badly bruised and swollen but I had to put my big girls panties on and “suck it up” and get back on the scooter because we were 25 minutes away from our hotel. Needless to say, Morgan chose to ride back with Ryan (I don’t blame her) and Riley bravely straddled my scooter with a smile and whispered sweet words of encouragement as I slowly made my way back to the hotel with a bruised ego, bruised ankle and grateful heart that Morgan and I walked away or scooted away relatively unscathed. I went to the international medical clinic in Ko Chang and was received an x-ray and an exam by a doctor who looked to be 12 years old (either I am getting older or the doctors in Thailand are minors). He diagnosed me with possible torn ligaments and sent me on my way with an ankle brace and pain meds and instructions to stay off me foot. Not easy since we are on the go at mock speed to see the world….I had to come to terms with my injury and realize that my ankle was going to force me to slow down, probably a blessing in disguise
Fast forward three weeks, we arrived in Delhi, India and I was still experiencing significant pain in my ankle. Our host family recommended a physician at the local clinic in Faridabad, a town outside of Delhi where we were volunteering for the week. Faridabad is off the beaten track and is not your typical tourist destination. The clinic was a bit seedy, not so clean, and not so sterile. I was a bit uneasy waiting in the makeshift waiting area deep in the bowels of the bustling clinic. Fortunately our host family knew the head of surgery at this particular clinic and we were able to schedule an office visit at 7pm with virtually no waiting time, absolutely unheard of in the USA. I didn’t have to fill out any paperwork. They really didn’t care to know my name. The Dr. invited me into his office, took a look at my ankle and verified that it was a severe sprain with possible ligament damage. He advised me that I should continue to wear the air brace that I received in Ko Chang. He gladly wrote me 2 prescriptions for pain and an anti inflammatory without a prescription pad. He didn’t charge me for the visit and my meds were only $4. He was a nice man, quick and to the point. Quite an experience! Luckily the medication helped significantly and I was able to volunteer at several sites including a slum school, a special needs school, an all girls orphanage and a small orphanage that our host family manages.
I am still trying to process my experiences in India! Many people tried to prepare our family for India before we arrived. Yet, no words, no adjectives, no descriptions can portray an accurate account of Delhi. All of my senses were heightened during our 10-day stay in India. Every one of my five senses worked overtime to try and manage the constant stimuli attacking my personal space at mock speed. The smells of curry, body odor, urine, human waste and incense stung my nostrils. I carried VICS vapor rub in my backpack to help numb my sense of smell, a trick I learned from Trip Advisor. The sounds of Delhi consisted of horns blaring at high intervals and screeching brakes and backfires of tuck tuks and large buses as they swerved in and out of the perpetual traffic jams that perpetually exist on every street and every sidewalk. There is also a low hum of dogs barking and beggars begging and street vendors vying for your business by heckling you as you walk by just hoping that you might buy their wares for a few rupees. My experience with touch was universal. I am a touch feely person. I like to give hugs, I touch people when I talk to them. When I worked with the children, I touched their skin, brushed their beautiful thick hair and painted the girls nails. Even though most of the kids were dirty, a kind of dirty that I haven’t encountered. They had calloused feet, tangled hair, a layer of dirt ground into their skin that even a loofa wouldn’t take off, yet I still hugged them tightly, looked into their eyes with love and compassion and I hoped that my touch somehow brightened their day. We all need to be touched, even if we smell, even if we are lonely, dirty, poor, wealthy, young or old. Human touch can be very therapeutic. I was amazed at the resiliency of the children we came in contact with at the different school sites. In the midst of such despair, children yearned to learn and master their ABC’s and times tables. My taste of India consisted of curry, chapatti and chai tea. I had a hard time with some of the spices, my tummy rumbled through a few meals, but I came to LOVE chapatti and even learned how to make the dough, roll it out and cook it on an open flame. I must say our host family made incredible chapatti, rice pudding, curry potatoes and chia tea. I drank several cups of tea a day. I told Cronti, our hostess, that she could sell a cup of her chai tea in America for $5 and put Starbucks to shame. She was appalled that someone would pay that much for a cup of tea. It is ridiculous and embarrassing to admit my frivolous habit. Needless to say, I love Indian chai tea!
The amount of garbage piled, stacked, thrown and smashed into the ground, streets and sidewalks reminded me of the scene in in Star Wars where Luke and Princess Lea are stuck in the garbage compactor and they are swimming through the garbage to escape the crushing walls of the trash compactor. I never saw a garbage can, a garbage truck or any discern for littering. I thought the movie “slum dog millionaire” would have prepared me for the amount of garbage that encompasses the land, but I was still shocked. Like I said, I am still trying to process my India trip. It’s kind of a love/hate relationship. I loved the kindness of our host family, the dedication of the teachers at the slum schools and the generosity of the caretakers at the orphanage. I love the bright colors of the women’s saris and the controlled chaos of the streets. The tuk tuk rides never disappointed us…its like a cheap roller coaster ride, just keep all limbs inside and hold your breath and you somehow safely make it to your destination. The Taj Mahal was just as breathtaking as all the National Geographic photos I have seen over the years. Standing at Gandhi’s gravesite was inspirational. I struggled with the filth, the reverence for men and boys, the acres and acres of slum houses that bordered the walls and gates of the mansions, the impoverished children running barefoot through the slums. I was emotionally and physically exhausted when we were in India. I think it took me a good week to decompress and to recover from the overstimulation volunteer experiences. I am sure I will continue to try and make sense of what I saw, smelled, tasted, touched and heard in India. It’s all part of the journey!
We have since traveled to Dubai, the playground of the rich and famous of the Middle East. Quite a contradiction to Delhi and Jaipur. Then we touched down in turkey to explore the fascinating city of Istanbul. We tried to cram in as much sightseeing as possible in three days. The city is rich in history and every alley seems to lead to another beautiful mosque, museum or market. I hope to return to Istanbul one day and spend more time learning about the history of Turkey.
We are now in one of the most beautiful places in the world…..Santorini Greece. Put a fork in me and call me done. I could unload my backpack for good and call our cave dwelling "home sweet home". It is absolutely beautiful here with the cliffs speckled with white cave homes capped with blue domes and framed with blue shuttered windows. Cobbled streets lead you to steep stone stairways that snake down the cliffs to the sea. The cafes, taverns and restaurants and shops offer a breathtaking view of the deep blue ocean. We are staying in Oia, which is a village known for beautiful sunsets. It is an absolute dream to watch the sun disappear into the horizon from our patio each evening with a glass of greek wine! So, as the greeks say with exuberance, OPA!