We are writing to you from the comforts of our new home with our host family. We are struggling to stay awake and get into the local time zone (which for those of you that are interested, Mumbai is ten hours and a HALF ahead of NY. the future is great! we highly recommend it!).
We arrived at 6am - but really we should start the story earlier. We left NY on Saturday, January 2 at 9:00pm on a flight that we understood went to Kuwait with a stop-over in London. But no. For one, the plane seemed like it was going to drive itself to India as opposed to fly, but then finally made it into the friendly skies. Cecilia fell asleep with no difficulty whatsoever. Vinisha was hard at work on her India China course final paper. We both enjoyed really yummy meals and then woke up in London. We had to get off the plane and apparently through security.
We had to walk around the airport only to then find ourselves in the room that we had at one point jokingly said "we'll end up here. wont that be funny?!"
There was a severe traffic jam on the way to the security check. "Should we keep going this way?" "uhm... the door's open. i'm sure they'll find us quickly if we're not supposed to." We continued.
Then on to flight number two. London to Kuwait here we come! Wait, but we're weren't going to Kuwait -- this is when Cecilia finally realized. WE HAVE ANOTHER REALLY LONG FLIGHT STILL TO GO! Giggling ensues.
Another thing learned was that if they feed you, you still have a long time on the plane. But soon after Cecilia was again asleep. Vinisha napped. Cecilia slept heroically like a champion sleep monster. And when woken up, confusion and grumpiness - but only for a few minutes and then giggles.
Does this airport look familiar to you? Yes. it looks like JFK. but we're supposed to be in Heathrow. No, Kuwait. Regardless - we have a theory. The theory goes that they were flying us in circles. Comatosing us with their delicious food to keep us from rebelling. It was a psych experiment. If they fly around long enough, the people on the ground have time to change the scenery at the airport. We know what you're up to JFK! However, then we realized that the last time we touched down, there was a really big hanger for Air India. That was a nice touch JFK. Good work, we're still on to you!
On the flight from Kuwait to Mumbai our fellow passengers caught us off guard. The plane became full of men. Men that stared. Men that stared at us. It was uncomfortable. The conversation as it happened upon Cecilia returning from the restroom to find the airplane full of men, staring:
Cecilia: uhm... that was scary. YOU SHOULD SEE THAT!
Vinisha: i dont want to.
Cecilia: no really. go see that.
So Cecilia went to sleep. Until a guy came around and offered us more food. THIS IS A BAD BAD SIGN! We had asked one flight attendant how long the flight from Kuwait to Mumbai would be. She said, "Uhm, ask someone on the plane." We asked another flight attendant and she shakily said, "Three hours? Three and half?" FIVE HOURS LATER we woke up from another massive nap and found ourselves apparently in Mumbai.
Since then everything has been perfect (the flights were great too though!). We have been learning a lot - because of course through the giggling we have been discussing the nature of day laborers, coke vs. pepsi contracts, and other global flows-like talks. We would have had a photo of a really cool advertisement from the Kuwait airport - but did you know you're allowed to take pictures on flights?! (Cecilia was yelled at -- so she went to back to sleep.) So we figured it was probably safer that we not take a photo of this ad in the airport. The image was of a woman's face cropped like she was looking through her hands (like a director does to a scene for a movie). It gave the impression that her hands created a hijab. it was cool! We don't know what they were selling, but image was striking.
We went on to immigration - a long long walk away from the airplane. We didnt want to be separated into different lines because of our different visas, so we asked the attendant working if we could go to one line together. Thinking that he would send us both to the Foreigners Line we were confused when he gave us a nod of the head to the right and click sound for effect followed by a smile - which meant go to the Oversees Indians and Women with small children's Line. We walked by a large group of men (who were of course staring) and then realized that the only place we could go was the First Class/Business Line. "Pretend like we know where we're supposed to be! DON'T MAKE EYE CONTACT!" We were very promptly stamped into India no problems no questions!
All of our bags arrived safe and sound (just like us) to Mumbai! Vinisha made a friend with a little girl who wouldnt get out of the way at the baggage claim. Cecilia giggled. Everyone is fine.
On now to customs. Ah, customs. We had nothing to declare so were just asked to fill in our customs paper stub. While trying to hand that in we saw some cash (in a very large wad) being exchanged hands from a man with a big box and the customs official. Let the record show that this occurred January 3 at 7:10PM New York Time (January 4 at 5:40AM Mumbai time). Then while we filled in our stubs, another man tried to pass and gave the customs official a 100Rupee bill. Vinisha with her skills in Hindi was able to overhear, "You can't get your stuff done with a 100Rupees bill." So then a bit more cash passed. And we were outta there! (No cash was bribed by us to the customs official. We are here 100% legally!)
We then made our way outside to find our host family who were there to pick us up!
When we arrived to their apartment we found our new infatuation with the dying elevator song! What is this?! We will soon have a video. But in the mean time: The elevator when the doors are open plays a song. But when they close, instead of the song shutting off completely, it dies slowly. Oh so slowly. And is followed by us giggling. Every time. And there are a lot of people that use that elevator!
Throughout today (because yes, today is still Monday, January 4 our first day in Mumbai) we've been extremely productive! We arrived at the house at 6:30AM. We freshened up and then hung out with the family for a bit. We talked about the differences between US and Indian school systems. Really interesting and we'll keep that conversation going. We then napped. Like champions. And are still recovering from that nap. We had lunch - which was delicious! and then made phone calls and emails to our contacts and professors.
We are now the proud owners of TWO MEETINGS and great potential for others! We have our first meeting on Wednesday, January 6 with SPARC. We'll be given a tour of Dharavi Slum by a representative of the organization. On Thursday, January 7 we will be going to PUKAR's offices where we'll talk more specifically about their work. We will also have an opportunity to join their field scholars in the coming weeks.
We've decided that we'll head to Baroda in Gujarat for the Kite festival from January 13 (evening) to January 17. It will be a good break from our intense meetings, but also a good time to take an excursion to rural India nearby and to potentially learn about the effects of the new law which guarantees everyone employment.
We're still trying to keep ourselves awake. WE'VE MADE IT PAST OUR 8:00PM BEDTIME! Dinner is soon - and sleep oh so soon after that. Decisions will soon have to be made as to whether or not to skip dinner for sleep sooner.
Tomorrow we will be at the apartment reading up on articles and the people and organizations we will be meeting with. We'll also continue to hang out with our host family and learn from them and have fun with them too!