...you terrify me.. and you have me so uncomfortably hooked that I actually feel comfortable. You were the last place on my bucket list because I knew I would never be native enough to survive, and still God had you be the first. Even in my obvious foreign skin I wanted to stay. I shake my fist at the jet lag and puny human mind that kept me from feeling the full emotion of meeting you in person for the first time. I kept expecting to be overwhelmed. But even after losing our luggage I knew I wouldn't feel discouraged or under water. Melt downs happen when you carry the delusion that you own some control and come to find, either in the failure of the last straw or the end of a vain pursuit, that you aren't in the pilot seat at all. Never was I under the delusion that I had influence over your inevitable. You have that kind of raw unnerving quality that my person craves but lives in fear of. And here you were. Waking at dawn under the polluted clouds that separated you from the glimpse of clear sky and me, who was breathing, thinking, and asking God if this was really it.
I was going to land in India and dear God, I hoped this would not be the only time. I was going to land in Delhi and dear God, I hoped it wouldn't beat me. There was no song that would do, save one. And to its battle cry I sat thinking... trying to react. Not for sleep deprivation, not for the grasp of the concept of this magnitude, but by the grace of God for the acute awareness of who I wasn't, who God was, and what this meant... for me, for us, for dreams... yeah... I guess I cried a little.
So Delhi, what did I think? People keep asking me if India was everything I was expecting. I expected that that day of the 26th would be just like any regular day to you. I expected an airport, customs, no smooth sailing and the formality of a culture that does not need you to like them. You were you. And I liked you for it. But still you terrified me. Your smog blanketed air, the painless ability to stare directly into the sun, your formula or lack of formula for city function and above all the absolute impossibility to make heads or tails of any of it because of my lack of experience of learning from you was above all, the most maddening of your realities. From the minute we left that airport I knew that coming for so short a time to the country as a whole was already going to feel like a big mistake.
Photo credit: Jenny B
"What? Ha! I've, I've never admitted to a mistake!..... I've made a huge mistake."
In my freshman year of high school I began to fall in love with a culture who's music, colors and history was so complex that it fascinated me to no end. I picked up Indian friends for my avid love of all the answers they could give me and all the curry that they could feed me. I collected Bollywood, soundtracks, books, cookbooks, pictures, boxes, saris, punjabi clothes, bangles, spices, and... even Hindi Rosetta Stone. Rarely was the name of the country spoken from my mouth without a husbanded forlorn sigh for the fact that I, myself, had not set foot on its soil. Too much probably for that many years. But you know how love is.
It was October the 24th, 2012 and it had come down to only a matter of hours before boarding the plane that would start me on the long journey to get my India stamp on my passport. Only a matter of hours till one of my most treasured dreams would be coming true. My suitcase was actually being packed, my clothes finally being set out for travel... and my face was literally in the toilet. All I could do was cry and puke and puke and cry. How it had come to this and how I was ever going to pull myself together long enough to make it to that plane was rapidly becoming an impossibility.
I was a mess. An anxious puking mess.
Thank God for my parents. Thank. God.
My mother gave me a medicinal concoction and I simply obeyed their instructions of either laying down, getting up or just responding. My dad packed my bag and I incoherently replied to his questions, all just 15 minutes before leaving. Fervent were their prayers and pathetic were my tears as off we drove to the airport with me still on the verge of needing that toilet. I was highly doubting I'd make it.
I hobbled through the airport as a suspicious character looking like I was carrying the ebola virus, but they let me through anyways. My travel companion looked at me with concern. "No, no Charlotte I'm fine. You just might have to make sure I get off the plane and onto the next one, that's all." Poor girl. We barely knew each other and already I was at my worst.
Well it was all a blur after security. After the medicinal concoction peaked I only remember feeling extremely relaxed and completely unconcerned if I puked on the floor or my own belongings. Didn't much matter. What matters was that I slept. Got off that plane. Onto the next one. And slept again. The entire way to Munich.
"To the end of his days Bilbo could never remember how he found himself outside, without a hat, a walking-stick or any money, or anything that he usually took when he went out; leaving his second breakfast half-finished and quite unwashed up, pushing his keys into Gandalf's hands, and running as fast as his furry feet could carry him down the lane, past the great Mill, across The Water, and then on for a mile or more.
Very puffed he was, when he got to Bywater just on the stroke of eleven, and found he had come without a pocket handkerchief!"
Like waking into a dream.
With a 12 hour layover in familiar Munich, we strolled along the streets that often haunted my nostalgic dreams of bible school in search of palaces, churches, beer houses and donner kebabs.
Each road, each church and each sound and smell began a confusion that all time travelers must feel. There, in the past, I realized that in order to travel into the future I must relish the present. Letting go of the expectation of ever grasping the reality of any place we'd be, we simply were. And we were simply being.
Traveling the road, following the map. Embracing the vagabond status.
How God can be so equally familiar in the state of feeling so anxiously sick and then so euphorically in a dream is a human paradox that it seems you can only grasp when turning off mortal logic. Unfortunately I don't know the balance and I turned off all regular thought pattern together. Letting our raft simply coast down the rapids and calm, releasing any and all control, and our adventure, friendship and the feeding of an old dream began.
"They had not been riding very long, when up came Gandalf very splendid on a white horse. He had brought a lot of pocket-handkerchiefs, and Bilbo's pipe and tobacco. So after that the party went along very merrily, and they told stories or sang songs as they rode forward all day, except of course when they stopped for meals. These didn't come quite as often as Bilbo would have liked them, but still he began to feel that adventures were not so bad after all."