Tuesday, 8 January 2013

Getting to CRHP

After finally all meeting up at Newark Airport Friday afternoon, we enjoyed the luxury of the reserved room in the Terminal.  We shared our excitement regarding the few weeks ahead and ate our final American meals.  We boarded the plane, leaving the familiar behind and embarking on an incredible adventure.  Most of us were able to sleep on the 14 hour flight, while others spent their time reading and watching movies.  There were two meals served on the flight, both with Indian influences and flavors.  The flight attendants were very kind to us, wishing us well on our way and providing us with water bottles and snacks for the journey ahead.

Upon arriving in Mumbai around 9:30pm local time, we made our way to Customs.  We all got through fairly quickly and some of us had our first experience with Indian toilets  while others waited in longer lines for the "western style" stalls.  Claiming our baggage went fairly smoothly, with only one lost bag, which thankfully arrived at CRHP Tuesday morning.  Luggage in hand, we entered the busy outdoors of Mumbai for the first time.  Many people stared at our group of 17 American women soaking in the sights and sounds of a buzzing  city.  We met up with a representative from CRHP and he led us to the bus lot.  We waited about 30 minutes before attempting to cram into a small bus.  We were told it would be about another 3 hours before a second vehicle would arrive to carry our luggage.  Luckily, we were on our way to Jamkhed by 12:40am.

We were all given the opportunity to become well acquainted in the tight quarters of the "sleeper bus."  We also were exposed for the first time to the craziness of Indian driving patterns.  Even though it was nearly 1:00am, the streets of Mumbai were quite busy with people and animals.  Many people were standing in groups around fires, some were cooking, and many were even sleeping in the road medians.  We all were amazed at the ability of our driver to weave in and out of other vehicles and communicate with others on the road with only his lights and occasional honking patterns.  We stopped a few times for fuel and bathroom breaks, and some of us were able to catch some sleep, but for the most part we remained mesmerized by the Indian roads.

Around 6:30am we began driving on very rural roads as the sun was rising and people were beginning their days.  Women were cooking or cleaning on their porches, and children feeding their animals.  It was very exciting to finally see people in the villages in action.  We arrived to Jamkhed around 8:00am and were greeted by Annie, a recent Elon grad who now works at CRHP as a fellow for one year.  She showed us to our rooms, there are nine of us in one room, and just upstairs there are two rooms of the remaining seven.  We went to breakfast, which was rice, toast, and hard boiled eggs.  Although we were all very tired and could barely remember what day it was, we were so happy to finally be at CRHP.  We had some free time until our orientation at 12:30pm, during which time most people napped or explored the grounds a bit.  After lunch, we were given a brief tour of the campus and met a few staff members.  We discussed some of our scheduled activities, and watched some videos about history of CRHP.

We were all fast asleep by 9:00pm, a first for many of us busy college students, and woke up the next morning feeling well rested, excited and ready to begin our first full day at CRHP.

-Kaitlyn and Katie

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