Tuesday, May 09, 2006
The Homeland Revisited
It seems like forever ago when Tarak and I were attacked the tailors in Hoi Ann because the next 12 days were a whirlwind trip. So there we were in Vietnam, somewhat reflecting over our world trip and going over some of the highlights..and naturally, we started talking about India. Of course, this was instigated by an e-mail from my cousin telling us that his wedding was April 17th and they wanted to let us know and understood that it would be difficult for us to come back. So there we began, first discussing the food we missed (this was ALWAYS the first thing that came up....I mean, when you're vegetarian and in a country where dead dogs are hanging from a string ready to be purchased to be eaten....selection matters). So, we first started with the fruits...chikoo, custard apple, mango, guava, lichi..and then we went for the main curry dishes..and then by the time we had hit the street vendor Indian Chinese food...one of us had already typed in on orbitz to see what a round trip ticket from Hanoi to Mumbai would cost. Now, beyond just the food...we began thinking of our families there and how so very much this would mean to them. I think if we had to pick one thing that we took away from this trip the most, it would be the importance of the people in our lives and maintaining our relationships with them. With that being said, we started thinking about the fact that realistically, if we were back home, immersed in work..we were doubtful that this impromptu trip would ever materialize....so, armed with that..we purchased 2 tickets, completely depleted our bank account, and started making lists of every food item we needed to hit in the next 11 days.
Our flight there wasn't bad, and the awesome thing was that we kept a ton of luggage at the hotel we stayed at in Hanoi..we traveled light (1 backpack). So, we landed in Mumbai, where immediately the sights, smells and the actions that only Indians take, welcomed us wholeheartedly. Let me know explain this actions comment...so, here we are in the plane that is basically just starting to land...and I emphasize "starting to land"....literally 1 wheel is about to hit the runaway...everything is still shaking and moving..I'm still nauseous.the whole bit....ONLY in a plane full of Indians, do 80% of them just start unbuckling their belts and leaping out of their seats to the overhead bins. Mind you, everywhere else (and we can attest to this) everyone just sits frozen until the little "ting" sound of the seatbelt sign goes off. Oh no..but not with a bunch of Indians who love to "hurry, hurry" only to have to "wait, wait"...anyway, the best part of the story is that, of course, the freaked out head steward quickly comes on overhead and tells everyone sternly to sit down..but 1 dude, just didn't want to listen...so, they must have sent the junior stewardess in the aisle to come and regulate. Well, basically there was a showdown between the 2 right there in front of us..and as in any "shoving" show-down, it's a no-brainer..the Indian guy took the little steward dude DOWN and ran up to the front.
Okay..so we landed safely and we were sentimental. We met up our friends Sreedevi,Vishal and Anar in Mumbai and had an amazing dinner at a Punjabi dhaba restaurant and flew out the next morning to Ahemdabad, Gujarat. As we were experts in local transportation...we busted into a rickshaw (that we got of course by walking outside of the terminal, as any local can tell you is much cheaper) and went to the central bus station where we caught an intercity bus to Vadodara (where my aunt and everybody was). Now, our trip was a complete surprise (I'm very big on these..and Tarak let's just say tolerates them)..so, we took a rickshaw and just showed up at my aunt's (masi's) house. Now, not to sound like a cheezy mastercard commercial, but that moment when we walked in, all of the women were having their henna done, and the look on my cousins, aunt and especially my 84 year old grandmother's face was worth every penny of that ticket. The wedding festivities were a blast, and our surprise arrival apparently inspired my parents to come back from the states for the wedding. So, we had 15 people in the house, great food, lots of laughing/talking and just good quality time with family. After the mehindi, there was a garba, the ganesh puja, the wedding and finally the reception. Our 11 days flew by too quickly, but of course, long enough to get sick from eating yummy but sketchy roadside food. And we flew back to Hanoi, where we experienced a little glitch. So, initially as we had not planned for India, we had gotten a single entry visa for Vietnam. Now before leaving Hanoi, as we had left nearly 80% of our stuff outside the airport, in the city, we "thought" we had gotten some type of clearance for a 1 day pass to come back in the city. Now apparently at immigrations..they didn't know anything about any sort of pass and they just put the smack down, and announced that our butts weren't going anywhere except the transit terminal for the next 12 hours...we later found out that it was election time and lucky for us, they were "cracking down" (damn communists-j/k). So, yes a little stressful...but luckily we made a friend in immigrations, who helped us call the hotel and got them to bring all 50kg of our baggage to the airport where he went with Tarak to get and clear for us. So, yet another small adventure survived..but we were banking on that 12 hour break since our journey continued for about the next 2 days...as we then flew to Soeul..to Beijing...to San Francisco..to finally....Houston. Our trip was over...we were finally (sadly) home.