Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Safina Hotel

When I stepped foot into terminal E in Boston, I knew I was in for a treat. A multiplicity of languages being spoken, wetting the appetite for more culture de internationale. And as I swiftly passed through security, for the first time using my passport, I felt a glimmer of the feeling, which must have encompassed many of the great traveler’s of the worlds past. I boarded my plane, which was an hour delayed, and immediately was greeted: “Bonjour Monsieur”, for I was flying Air France. A
6.5-hour flight, it seemed to break all stereotypes of cross-Atlantic air trips, for it was exciting, scary, invigorating, and very, very liberating. Time was passed in part by indulging myself in the on-board movie: Mission Impossible 3, which, suffice it to say, made it obvious why it did not do so hot in the states. The delightful dualscreen handheld offered by Nintendo also served its purpose of taking time and somehow magically making it disappear.
As our airliner flew over the city of Paris, France, approaching Charles De Gaulle airport (Gaulle pronounced as Gogh, as in Vincent Van) It was cloudy, and as I was not in a window seat, did not get a proper view of the city from the air. The airport itself was an experience not to be forgotten. A lonely, deserted hollow feeling came from just looking at it. The countryside around it resembled more closely my native state of Nebraska than anything else I could compare it to. As our plane landed, and we began to exit the plane, a feeling struck me, “you are in Europe, France to be exact, and you won’t set foot on American soil again for nearly one year.” What an exciting realization, if perhaps not a bit surreal. Coming off our plane, we (the passengers) were met with a barren calm, for we were not at a terminal; in fact, a terminal was nowhere near us. There was only a bus with digital letters staring at us reading: Boston. As we loaded the bus, I could not help but overhear a few grumbling complaints.

The Bus took us to terminal 2E and from there it was relatively complex figuring out the route to terminal 2F, which is where my connecting flight to Bangalore, India would be. We took another bus all the way around the facility, which resembled a massive service station more than an airport, and wound our way to 2F. After an overly long wait due to security screening, I boarded my flight and was off, after about an hour delay. The flight to India was much more interesting, and I can attribute that fact to being in a window seat, yes a deafening position, when compared to an aisle seat, but well worth the added noise for the ability to see the terrain. We flew over Germany, the middle east north of the Mediterranean, over Iran, where the blessed footsteps of the Báb and Bahá'u'lláh walked. We flew over Tehran, and Tabriz, and, at least from the vantage point of an eagle, I was able to view the countryside that birthed the Bahá'i Faith. As I looked down on villages and cities, I wondered to myself if the Báb had ever delivered his message there, or if any early Dawn-breakers of this beloved faith had given their lives upon that spot, an ethereal moment to say the least.

As the sky grew dark, and the lights below started to pervade my pupil, it hit me like a train strikes an aluminum can, I was going to India. As I looked through the window after seeing we were nearing Bangalore, I, for the first time, saw the lights of the city, which I would call home for the next 9 months. As the plane landed, and we departed to go through customs, a profound feeling of adventure was swarming throughout my body. After a quick check of the passport, and a slip of paper detailing whether or not I had and meat or dairy products on me, I was off to get my baggage. Bangalore’s airport, until recently, did not accept international flights, however, due to the enormous growth recently experienced by this city they added longer runways, and have turned the airport into a makeshift terminal until the new airport is completed in 2008. This was evidenced by the luggage carousel, which resembled a treadmill more than a carousel, having to be closely monitored by no less than 4 employees who had to keep the bags from jamming the moving track. As I ran my luggage through one more x-ray scan, and submitted one last slip of paper to the customs check, I was free to explore my new territory, or at least look for the person who was supposed to pick me up from the airport.

I felt like a celebrity walking outside of the airport, at nearly 1:30 in the morning there were swarms of people waiting on the sides of the ramp the passengers walked down as they went outside, each with a piece of paper indicating who they had come to get. All looking at you and showing their slips of papers towards you, a feeling of extreme excitement could be felt. A quick scan revealed no one had a piece of paper with my name on it, which resorted in my transformation into “Survival Thaddeus” mode. Roughly seven different taxi drivers approached me, all competing for my business. One particularly stubborn bloke followed me around as I searched through the crowds for someone with a piece of paper with my name on it. As the crowds started to thin out, Rajik, the taxi driver, made sure to let me know many times that it was no trouble taking me to a hotel that night, and that because of India’s approaching independence it was very dangerous to be out this late, which, as he pointed out, was evidenced by the entrenched guard at the entrance to the airport wielding a machine gun on a tri-pod behind sandbags.

Well his stubbornness paid off, as after about 40 minutes of search and wait, my ride did not seem to appear, now the adventure was beginning. I said a quick prayer, put my trust in God and told Rajik that he could take me to a hotel. He introduced me to his Boss Bapu and the three of us climbed into a taxi, the smell of which reminded me of my Grandpa Herman’s pickup truck I would ride in as a small child. As I rode through the deserted streets of Bangalore at 3:00 in the morning, I couldn’t help but feel as If I was Magellan, Columbus, or Marco Polo, exploring uncharted territory. I arrived at the Safina hotel, and after haggling for a taxi price, which I’m sure is much more than locals would pay, was able to go in and get a room for the evening, room 303, which would be my first room in India that I would sleep in.I struggled with the phone to try to call home, but to no avail and was unable to win the battle. I was feeling very tired and worn out, I said the Tablet of Ahmad, donned my iPod and went to sleep. I awoke to my cell-phone alarm and was quickly paged by the front desk letting me know breakfast was ready, after a quick lesson by housekeeping on how to make a phone call, I decided I would go down and eat my first meal on this sub-continent. It was great. I was then picked up by a man from the institution I am attending and brought to my host mother's house. It is as she says "in the heart of Bangalore" and is very urban. Constant traffic noise, and Indian drivers use their horns a lot. Here are a couple photos taken from my window in my room which i'm staying.



Blogger Diane said...

We are so grateful that you got there safely :) This was a very fine entry honey.

Love, Mom

7:39 PM  
Anonymous Georgia said...

"O Lord!...Confirm, moreover, Thy loved ones, those who, leaving their homelands, their families and their children, have, for the love of Thy Beauty, traveled to foreign counties to diffuse Thy fragrances and promulgate Thy Teachigns. Be Thou their companion in their loneliness, their helper in a strange land, the remover of their sorrows, their comforter in calamity. Be Thou a refreshing draught for their thirst, a healing medicine for their ills and a balm for the burning ardor of their hearts.
Verily, Thou art the Most Generous, the Lord of grace abounding and verily, thou art the Compassionate and the Merciful.

This is what is seen in you.

8:29 PM  
Blogger Leif said...

I'm sooo excited for you! It's amazing to imagine flying over Iran and to associate it with the history of the Faith.

Georgia, you're right.

I miss you both1

8:57 PM  
Anonymous Molly said...

Great entry, dude. I had the same "survival mode" experience when I got off the plane in Chile. No one was there to meet me, either. And all the taxi drivers were hounding me. So I know how you feel, except you're in India, which is totally different. You're awesome and I'm glad you seem to have the travel bug! Let me know when you get an intestinal bug. haha. oh dear, it's not really funny, is it? Love you!

6:14 AM  
Anonymous Aunt Jenny said...


Uncle Dave and I loved reading your blog. Relieved the taxi drivers actually took you to a hotel and not a dark alley. As I read it, I remembered some of the same feelings coming over me as I took my trip to Germany in 1984. My knees actually were shaking when I got off the plane in Frankfurt, but my family was there to meet me, thank God!

I hope you are on a Malaria Rx now that doesn't cause any side effects.

Love, Aunt Jenny Uncle Dave

6:32 AM  
Anonymous caitlin said...

hey thaddeus! went to indian store today and thought of you. bought vatika hair oil, kurkure, 50/50 biscuits and bindis! woot! send me an address for you when you get the time, will ya? much love!

7:18 AM  
Anonymous Luis said...

o man, you just described the feeling perfectly. the taxi drivers, fending for yourself, being warned that it's dangerous (machine gun on a tripod, woah!) It's so special that you flew over Tehran and Tabriz ~ many blessings ~ by the way, i just checked into a hotel for the night, during a trip for work, and the desk clerk is indian ;)

8:13 AM  
Anonymous cait said...

is one of those ph numbers your mobile?

10:29 PM  
Anonymous mae said...

Awesome entry, I get excited just reading it :D

It's wonderful that you got a window seat, especially flying over Iran! I'm glad you arrived safely thanks to survival thaddeus mode.
It's a weird feeling knowing one is halfway across the world when the plane didn't seem to be going anywhere. I spent most of the flight to England watching the map indicating the plane's progress, but when i walked the streets i kept forgetting i was an ocean away from home.

THe pictures in Leif's email are so enticing, remind me of aladdin slightly. I hope you can upload more soon.

oh, how could you conclude this entry without telling us what you had for your first breakfast on this subcontinent?!

love and prayers,

10:41 AM  
Blogger King of Vegetable said...

because I don't know what i had...

but it was good

and vegetarian

10:45 PM  

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