Down in Delhi – or, I Get by with a Little Help from my Friends

Yesterday was a travel day, which I have learned here in India, at least, means a tiring day. After an hour’s car ride down from Kurseong, I went through security checkpoints several times and barely managed to keep all my film from being X-rayed naked (outside its lead bag). They zapped one roll before I could stop them. We all had to wait an hour extra for our plane – it was delayed on the way to Bagdogra.

A useful formula: y = (9/5)x + 32
By the time I got to Delhi, I was beat. And it’s hot here. Arizona-hot. When we landed at 5:45 PM it was 42 degrees Centigrade. That’s about 107 Fahrenheit (see above formula). It’s a dry heat. I found my luggage (yay) and got a “pre-paid” taxi to my host’s home in the South Extension, Part II. You pay the cab company in advance so that you don’t have to haggle with the driver. These are immensely popular with the locals so there was some waiting, but all in all, it wasn’t bad. When we found the address, there was some fumbling around because I wasn’t sure which flat of the building I was supposed to go to. No one but me spoke English. I had a card with my host’s phone number on it, and after a call, the residents confirmed I was at the right house and we got my things inside. The nice house-maid Guday fixed some supper and we exchanged about two words before resorting entirely to sign language. It’s been that way ever since. I am alone in the home otherwise, and while I am most appreciative of my very generous hosts, I am lonely. The home phone is down and there is no internet as a result. I got pretty depressed because I felt totally alone. I really don’t know how anything works here, despite my time in the small hill stations of India. Delhi is a big city, very hot, crowded, and very smoggy. I notice that as this trip goes on, sometimes I get stuck in a culture-shock panic and tend to hide. This would be one of those times.

Totally bummed, I called my husband. Thanks to Tom, I am feeling okay again. He went online, looked up the number of the travel agency I had been in touch with before I left, and I used my cell phone to call them later. I hate the cost of the international phone calls from my AT&T cell here, but I still haven’t figured out an easy way to call more cheaply. I was so glad to hear a friendly voice on the other end of the phone, telling me it was going to be okay and helping me. Did I mention that Tom is getting the husband-of-the-year award? Buoyed up by the call, I phoned the travel agent’s office and arranged a trip for tomorrow by air-conditioned car out to the Taj Mahal in Agra. I know, I should probably be taking the train, but I don’t even know where the station is, and frankly, I am not sure I can muster up the courage to find out today. A car and guide for the day is not cheap, but since I am staying for free, I am going to splurge and go. At least that way, I will see it. It’d be a shame to be in India and not see the Taj Mahal, wouldn’t it? The next day, they will take me on a tour of Delhi, and then I will be off to the airport to go to Tanzania via Amsterdam (mmm, French fries and safe ice cubes at my layover in Schiphol….). I hope I can post between now and then and show you some pictures, but there may not be time.

With the rest of today, I managed to get a parcel out through the DHL office in only one hour (lightning speed, I assure you), got Guday to do my laundry (thank you to my hostess), and found an internet cafe (whoo hoo!). I’ve been walking in the heat a little today and it’s not impossible.

Why does it take an hour at DHL? Well, they inventory your entire package, call customs to see if you really can ship loose tea to the US, fill out many, many forms, photocopy your passport twice and take your picture to attach to the file. I wonder if this is our (US) idea or India’s, or both? I have shipped things from all over the world and this is the first time I have encountered this particular level of bureaucracy. Wow. But hey, the box is supposed to arrive in three days. I bet it will arrive earlier than my Indonesia box.

For the Internet, I had to sign up for a sixty day plan, but for $8 cash, I feel okay about that commitment. I haggled a taxi to get me to DHL and I did not get the best of that $4 exchange, but I have entirely stopped caring for less than $20. I think they know this. I tried to wait them out, but no dice. The auto-rickshaw guy they brought in as a possible alternative was cheaper, but he had no idea where DHL was. I took the car instead. I am lucky to have a free place to stay. I hope my hostess likes the tea I brought her when she gets home – if Guday has saved her any…

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4 Responses to Down in Delhi – or, I Get by with a Little Help from my Friends

  1. Meggi Raeder says:

    oh Jennifer, you are a brave woman!! Very inspirational how you deal with all the obstacles and still smile.
    I look forward to your next post!!
    Meggi

  2. Joe H. says:

    For the DHL issue, I’m guessing it’s because it’s an agricultural product — I’ve had cats food taken from me at customs when I was transporting my mom’s cats from Germany, because I didn’t have proof that it was purchased on a US military base. (luckily, the luggage handlers had given them some food before I had picked up the crates to pass through customs)

    As for the phone issues — if you have a GSM phone, and it supports the local frequencies (not sure on India, but in Europe it’s not the same as the US), you might be able to get a pre-paid SIM card, and just swap them out. That way, you’re paying the local rates and not international roaming rates on a US phone. I’ve heard some places in airports will rent phones, too, if you don’t have the right type. Of course, doing this means that you get a new phone number for each SIM card, so you’ll have to pass it along to your husband or whoever else might try to call you.

    • Yeah, they definitely don’t like anything agricultural. I found that out when I tried to bring home seeds from a botanical garden in Grand Cayman. But there wasn’t a cat depending on it!

      I think I will try to get a SIM card, if not in Africa, then definitely in Europe. In India, everything was so overwhelming I just couldn’t deal with it.

  3. nobuko says:

    I’m finally catchin up on your travelogue! Wow, what an adventure you’re having so far. You have so many great stories and pics already. Keep on, you fearless woman you 🙂

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