Traveling. It is what everyone wants to do, especially because it is January and that means it is resolution season. Traveling to India this winter break has been a mixed bag for me, not gonna lie. I really enjoyed the thrill of getting out of the country, and out of my comfort zone. This post isn’t a “10 Ways to be a World Traveler” cause, well, I’m not by any means qualified enough to give advice on that. So, instead, I am just going to share some of my takeaways from spending the last two and a half weeks on the other side of the world.
Every trip has its ups and downs, the Peaks and the Valleys. For this trip, those can be the same thing. For me, that was the street food, or really just food in general. On one hand, it was really freaking good. My family introduced me to the “real” version of the imported foods we get back in Boulder. Pani Puris from a dude on the corner, these, uh, things that resembled crepes, and my personal favorite; street chai found with the frequency of Starbucks back home. Actually, more than that, they were literally everywhere. The craftsmanship of these “chaiwallahs” would rival the best baristas at your favorite artisan coffee shop. There was also a ton of really good sweet things that pretty much were all some form of milk and sugar. Even the Domino’s had something special, a “pizza burger” which was basically a regular pizza sandwiched between two garlic bread buns. Noice. So all of that sounds like high points, yeah? Well, here’s the deal. Coming from the ‘States, my stomach was definitely a little weaker and didn’t have the constitution necessary to hold its own against everything Kolkata threw at it. Couple that with a dehydration and the side effects of anti-malaria pills and you get yourself anything but a good time. So it was out with the street food and in with toast, rice, and saltines for a couple of days. Good times.
As I mentioned earlier, traffic rules are a suggestion - not the law. So that means there are three “real” lanes with about 8 lanes worth of traffic. In-between that traffic is a bicycle, a motorcycle, an “auto” (my personal favorite), a couple guys selling socks and snacks, people crossing the street between all of the vehicles, some stray dogs, an open-air market on either side, and usually some form of construction. So there’s a lot of stuff in the street. It is definitely humbling as a driver when you’re in the passenger seat saying “there’s no way we're gonna fit” or more likely; “oh shit”. The size of the vehicle didn’t really matter as an SUV was driven pretty much the same way a motorcycle was driven and merging was more of an “I’m here now”.
While we’re on the topic of transportation I gotta mention the trains. The train system in India is pretty robust, you can get anywhere via rail. Now the metro system inside of Kolkata is a beast. It is continually expanding connecting the farthest reaches of the city which means more people can get around easier, but that’s a lot of people. We went off to visit a friend of my mom’s who lived on the northern end of the city. Since we were on the southern side, that means the closer we got to the center the more packed the tiny car got and soon we were standing shoulder to shoulder, back to back, and I was very thankful that it was both the winter time and there was air conditioning or my shirt probably wouldn’t have been the same color at the end. When we got off the metro we took the “local train” the rest of the way to her house and I really liked that, super picturesque and you could feel the wind rush by. I was told I wouldn’t like it as much during rush hour…
Now heading home, I have a greater appreciation for where my heritage comes from, more so than I did the last times I have gone to the country. I also think I have a greater appreciation for the many things I take for granted living here in Colorado. Under this, you’ll find some of my favorite photos from the trip, and if you do wind up going, let me know. But for now, it’s time to get back to college and look forward to the rest of 2018.