Journals from India: Arusha to Delhi

The following are my unedited personal memoirs written during the time of my traveling from Arusha to Delhi. Though written in instances of mental and emotional strain, perhaps vulgar and short-sighted at times, I feel that they are a measurement of personal growth of which there was plenty. This is part 1 of 6.

November 12, 2015

Arusha, Tanzania

So tired of writing, but I know I need to get this down.

I think I’m the happiest I’ve ever been now. I’m just living with no anxieties, in the eye of a hurricane. Today we went to the hot springs again. Blue water, shattered sunlight falling through the leaves, and my best friends maneuvering through the streams; heaven was close.

I’ve been so busy trying to wrap everything up before I go. Proposal things, recording with the kids, goodbye’s to people I’ve shared the best part of my life with, and closure with the ones I love.

I will forever remember the rains in Africa by the night I spent on the concrete floor of the orphanage cafeteria, laying in with the kids and talking through my heart.

The kids… I said goodbye to them tonight. I played for as long as they would listen and sang every song with everything I had in me. Every one of them is like a sibling who had been there for me in the best and worst times of my life.DSCN0444

When I knew it was time to go I got up to hug them all and I really thought I was going to make it through without crying, but then I saw Alloise and Gifty. Then I wept. I wept as I embraced them. I wept as I walked across the soccer field, then I looked up at the stars, the same stars from my first night here, but so different somehow.DSCN0481

How quiet will the dining room be on tomorrow night? I’ve played every night for them for months, and all of a sudden there will be a silence. That’s a silence that haunts.

I stared at the bonfire that the other volunteers made for me for my last night, I saw within the power and importance of love. I will miss all of my friends, there’s too many to name.

I’ve given way to analyzing how I am different from the Quincy Godwin that arrived in Arusha. I found some important things here. I’m convinced that I’m the most alive any person has ever been.

Leaving shares feelings of polar opposites. The past and the future are too heavy to bear at this moment. I know these next couple of weeks will eat me alive, but I can help but smile. Tomorrow – India.

November 13, 2015

Layover in Zanzibar

Earlier today I had everything, and now I wander.

I am in Zanzibar. I made it here after all, even if I am contained to 3 square feet and a walkway inside of a metal tube.

I woke up and said goodbye to Stefan, Maddie, and the two other Swedish girls. I went to the orphanage first thing to wash dishes, but the aunties weren’t there, so I stepped over to the school and found all the students in an assembly. Then Mr. Peter insisted I give a goodbye speech to the whole student body, so I managed to bring 400 dear relationships to a close before breakfast.

I walked away feeling sort of satisfied at how well it went. I started to pack and said goodbye to Nelson and Adam before I went for my final run down the backstreets of Ngusero. Nelson is the coolest guy I’ve ever met and I’ll miss him. He knows the way to live.

When I returned from the run I found Milla on the couch looking real upset about my departure. She helped me pack and then I gave her the remainder of my shillings to buy as much fruit as she could for the kids, and I told her to sing songs with them tonight.

The ride to the airport was quiet. Iddi really took it hard. He was the driving force through most of the rough parts. I love that guy.

How will this transition affect me? It just feels numb right now.

Now I’m waiting for the long ride over the Arabian Ocean to Qatar. I think about my first thoughts of Tanzania, and I know that misconceptions of India already litter my brain.

November 14, 2015

New Delhi, India

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I haven’t been to sleep yet. I came in to Delhi early this morning and took a taxi to try to get a hostel, but he took me to one of the fake travel information centers and tried to scam me. And then another guy took me to another one and tried to scam me. Eventually I made it to a cheap motel by insisting to a rickshaw puller that I knew a cop in Delhi. I was preparing for sleep when someone knocked on my door.

Two Americans.

One from NC.

They told me they saw my Nationality in the address book downstairs and wanted to meet me. Their names were Kyle and Ben, and we talked about our itineraries for the country. They left today, but before we had lunch. They had a friend in Delhi who took us to get street food in an alleyway behind an office building. Chickpea curry with Naan. My first meal in India.

Holy shit… I’m in India. First impression? Kinda like Arusha, except not near as laid back. It’s like a weird offspring of First and Third world – like if Arusha’s lack of organization met New York or Tokyo’s bustling intensity.

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I know when I wake up tomorrow I’m going to be like, “Where the hell am I?!”

No way to prepare for that. Tomorrow I think I should plan my train itinerary.

November 15, 2015

New Delhi

I met Greg earlier today, and he gave me some insight on life in India. I had a really great day. Kyle and Ben’s friend, Dillip, took me to his home where we ate omelet sandwiches that his wife made and I got to meet his kid. I’m really glad that I got to see an actual family’s home in Delhi, which was essentially just a concrete room with a bed and a counter. It made me think a lot of Saumu.

I didn’t think I complained very much in the States, but seeing these living quarters made every ill word I’ve ever spoken about the things I have clot my throat and choke the admittance of ridiculous privilege out of me.

After breakfast he dropped me off at the Indian equivalent of the ‘National Mall’ where the political buildings and museums line the boundaries of huge strips of lawn. I explored the parliament, the president’s house, the surrounding gardens (where there are a ton of hawks just flying around for some reason), and the Indian gate.

At the gate, a guy approached me asking for a photo and at first I was like, “Yeah, of course I will take a photo for you!” but then he handed his camera to his friend and wrapped his shoulder around mine with a big smile and a thumbs up, so I did the same. This happened several times before I managed to wade through the crowd.

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Then I played cricket with some guys on the lawn beside the gate. I really sucked at bowling… balling… boolling… uh throwing the ball, but they all smiled at me and took pictures with me anyway.

I took a rickshaw to Hauz Khas village after cricket. It was so cool. It was like Franklin Street folded over on top of itself several times and was placed right next to the remains of a 16th century temple overlooking a huge pond.IMG_20151107_150810536 I walked through and started looking around the temple ruins first, which was a labyrinth of broken stone. There were young people laughing and lovers doing lover things. The falling sun came in through the archways and cut planes of light into the foggy air above the murky water, a graveyard of mossy and decaying rowboats.

I lot of people wanted photos there as well. I told a guy by the water that I was from America and I could tell that he felt like he was in the presence of a celebrity. He told me he loved Eminem and gave me his sunglasses.

I climbed back through the ruins and to the village and met Greg at a place for tea.

After our talk I ate momos at a restaurant and had a beer on a balcony bar overlooking the village entrance below. I feel an implication of loneliness in the depths of me. I miss home, and I’m not really sure what I mean by that anymore.

I came back to the hostel with an autorickshaw, and I’m pretty sure that you’re required to meet a quota of sociopathy to drive one in Delhi. Not a professional requirement, but like a moral one, because a normal person couldn’t handle the emotional strain required to commit the abominations that they do so fluently. They truly are working class heroes, though. It’s easy to become upset at their persistence, but they’re just doing what it takes to make it to the end of the day with a couple bills in their pockets.

November 17, 2015

New Delhi

With my face pressed up against the oily glass of the crowded New Delhi Metro, I looked out onto the platform – and we speed away. I watched as thousands of people blurred together into a single line, featureless upon my vision and I wondered if I preferred this to interaction, or if it was the same either way.

I explored the city all day. Saw some crazy shit, some disgusting shit, some intriguing shit, some beautiful shit, and some literal shit.

I got lost in Delhi near the Red Fort this morning so I juDSCN0517st toured it for a little while. There were families who’d traveled from other parts of India to see the fortress, and there was a film crew making a documentary I’m guessing. Everyone seemed to be enjoying the sunny day. Then I went to the Railway station and got my train tickets for my trip down the length of India. I’m kinda nervous because I’ve heard a lot of different things about the train, but psyched to do it nonetheless.

 

I met a lady from LA while waiting in line for the Lotus Temple, and I asked her all about California. People seem to be surprised to find out that I’m American and haven’t seen anything west of the Appalachian mountains. I think it’s funny that I saw more of Tanzania than I have the States. When I walked into the temple I felt an immense presence of peace, and my mind involuntarily relaxed under the high ceiling and empty air.

As much as I thought I’d be I’m not lonely, I feel like I’m just experiencing a private existence. I’m just enjoying myself for only myself. I’m also getting a better grasp on where I am intellectually. I wonder where my life will go with the capital I possess. Is it too meager to be great?

I also went to the Bazaar in Pahar Ganj,

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Ikscon Temple,DSCN0544

and a night market lit up by floodlights that went for miles today. The Ikscon Temple was so sick. They had an underground video expo that was an introduction to the religion. Honestly, it was kinda terrifying.

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November 19, 2015

New Delhi

I feel like Holden Caulfield, just walking through the city having conversations with myself, but instead of New York, New Delhi.

I went to one of the biggest Hindu temples in India today, Akshardham. I appreciated the beauty and intricacy of it all, but the carvings of the building and the silence of the shrines made my head swim, grabbing at an influenza-fueled nightmare from my childhood. I feel no fear for the unknown, however. I feel peace and joy at my potential to understand.

I tried to go to the Delhi Zoo, but I found that my Metro stop was near an International trade fair that comes to town for just a couple of days annually so I figured that I’ve been to many zoos but never an Indian trade exposition. I just spent hours roaming around this huge convention, looking at the shops and admiring entrepreneur’s stands. I was impressed by how many start-ups for sustainable development there were – the future definitely holds improvement for the environmental situation of India.

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The zoo was closed by the time I made it through, unfortunately, but the Old Fort was just across the river from it though, so I went there instead. Walking through the dark tunnels and climbing the ruins in the sunset was my favorite part of the day. Even more people wanted pictures with the white kid parkouring around the ancient ruins. I think I’m in about 30 family portraits by now.

Travelling alone is really incredible, but also very straining. I’m the happiest I’ve been since my youth, but as happy as I am and as many vivid experiences as I’m getting I know it would be far, far better if a friend was here to share it with. I’m realizing that a friend is like this journal – it provides credibility, but the benefit of a friend is that they can project their own story onto the screen of your perception. They bring something that I could never achieve alone. I think that’s the point of life – the purpose for which we were made this way; to share. There are so many things to be appreciated.

November 20, 2015

New Delhi

I think that when you live around so many people that it’s real easy to get sad because all you get is the bad part of people over and over, hundreds of times a day. You experience these humans with all their defenses up and yours up as well, completely bypassing their smiles, their humor, their tone of voice when they speak of their passion, and the warmness of their embrace. Apprehension is inevitable.

Of course it’s important to be cautious, because there are bad intentions out there, but most people just want to be made happy by someone else. They want to share. They are just you under a little different circumstances.

I’ve been getting upset by people staring at me, pointing at me, and laughing at my expense, but now I think that I shouldn’t. I’m an alien in a world of very little diversity, so being flamboyantly blond and pale and lanky is just like being a dog walking through the train station on two legs and asking for directions in English. Of course people are going to react to such a foreign object. Should I expect them to accept me? Am I even supposed to be here? America has taught me to accept diversity, to promote diversity. I see that acceptance as the only way of life, and of course I become rattled when it’s not widely observed by the society I find myself in. It’s a foundation of mine. But is it right? Am I overthinking it? I don’t know what to think about these things. The world is a portrait in grayscale.

I went to the Qutab Minar today just as the sunlight was beginning to ripen into opacity. The ancient structures were beautiful, and it was sort of jarring when an airplane flew just overhead to land in the nearby airport. I felt lost in time.

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I walked for a couple hours afterwards. New Delhi is amazing, and overwhelmingly huge. Despite all the bad that people have to say about it and although it has polluted my lungs, it has also charmed my soul. Tomorrow I will say goodbye to it. I leave for Agra at 5:30 a.m.

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