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Saturday, June 18, 2011

An Epic Journey

2 transfers. 36 hours. 1 epic journey to a far off place geographically and in every way imaginable. My first stop was in Hong Kong, and on the way there, I had a nice conversation with an older Chinese man who was sitting next to me during the 14 hour flight. I was surprised to find that he was completely fluent in English, which is due to the fact that he moved to the United States very early on once the Communist Revolution began and Mao rose to power. He was especially in danger during this time because he was an educated man who had graduated from Peking University in Beijing.

As soon as I arrived in Hong Kong, I met good fortune: I found out that I had been upgraded to business class for my flight to Chennai! Can you say suh-weeet?! I had never even known that this could be possible. I remember seeing it happen for Lisa and Bart on an episode of The Simpsons on TV but that was it! I was pretty damn excited. Being upgraded definitely made up for the fact that I had grown two huge zits on my face that were totally bugging the BEJESUS out of me. Heh.

On my flight from Hong Kong to Chennai, I was again lucky to be seated this time to a charming, friendly young man who had grown up in Chennai but now works for FedEx in Memphis. He was interested to hear about what I would be doing in Trichy, about Nest and the type of work I would be engaged in. I was more than happy to talk with him about Nest, but I also began to feel more and more apprehensive. I guess I hadn't been thinking too much about where I was going during my previous filght. I hadn't been thinking much really about the details of the new life I would be experiencing for the next two months, and how different and new it would really be.

I arrived in Chennai at 1:30 am and my next flight to Trichy was at 2:15 the next afternoon. I felt scared as I was trying to figure out what I would do until then. I was trying to see if I could just wait at the airport, but the airport security would not let me in because my flight was so much later. The combination of the time of night, being a girl, and being/looking completely foreign to this new place exacerbated my fears. I was approached by a man at the airport who asked if I wanted to be transported to a hotel for the night, but I felt uneasy and declined his offer. Then I began to think about where my fear and distrust was really coming from. What exactly is the line between not giving in to internal prejudices we might have to different people and the imperative of being careful for the purpose of safety? The next man that approached me had an airport security ID tag, so I admit I felt a little more inclined to trust him. He directed me to a shuttle to a Hotel called Mount Heera and I decided to stay the night there to wash up and rest. I am happy to say that I got transported back to the Chennai airport for my flight to Trichy safe and sound.

My flight to Trichy was only an hour away. I felt ecstatic about meeting my host family and finally reaching my destination. There is a certain uneasiness and loneliness about being a person "in transit" versus being where you are supposed to be. I couldn't have been more correct about my feelings as I got off the plane to see my host family with a sign with my name on it. I have never felt more welcomed and so excited. I had definitely seen those signs being held up at airport arrival areas before, but never for me! I had finally made it to my home for the next two months, the Narikuravar gypsy colony located on the outskirts of Trichy. 

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