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2008 – A Year in Review, Chapter 2: I’m Melting! I’m Melting!

2 January 2009
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Jump in the Way Back Machine with me once again, and let’s visit…

– March 2008 –

On 7 March 2008, I left home again, this time headed to India. On my way to the subcontinent, I spent four days in London with my sister-friend Esther. We visited some museums, sat in front of fires in pubs, and caught up. I found it comforting, far enough from home that my uneasiness seemed natural but not so far as to jar me even more.

I loved these knobbly trees in London so much I endured a bit too much cold to take the photos and had to immediately find a pub with a fire afterward. Sometimes you gotta do what you gotta do.

I loved these knobbly trees in London so much I endured a bit too much cold to take the photos and had to immediately find a pub with a fire afterward. Sometimes you gotta do what you gotta do.

From London, I jetted to Chennai, India and the sweltering heat. As I walked out of the airport into the blanket of warmth, I was shuttled into a cattle run, pushing my luggage cart in front of me, scanning the faces leaning over the fence for someone who seemed even remotely familiar. Having not slept on the plane due to fascinating Bollywood movies on constant rotation, I swayed uneasily and sleepily on my feet. Men wearing strange wrapped skirts shouted, “Madam! Taxi! Auto!” at me, drowning out the voices of the two small women shouting my name. It wasn’t until I had been staring at Amy’s face for a full thirty seconds that it dawned on me that I knew her, that we had met seven months before during training in D.C. But the recognition finally came, and Amy and M., Chennai office hostess and mom to the interns, directed me to the end of the cattle run, beat off the taxi and auto drivers (M. knows karate), and took me to my temporary home.

That first ride in India terrified me and made me want to jump back on the plane. Although it was two in the morning, enough traffic trolled the streets, especially lorries, to make the going a bit treacherous. Our hired driver, a small, wiry elderly man whose driving I learned to fear over many death-defying trips to the airport, continually squeezed the little white Indica between large lorries and the cement barricade dividing the road, not exactly in any sort of lane. It felt a little like that scene from Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, where the Knight Bus squeezes through the double-deckers with the passengers flattened right along with it. Except without the comforting magic. At one point, even M., with years of experience braving these roads, told him to be more careful. Though it might have been because she heard the catch in my breath and saw my face screw up into a fairly good reproduction of Munch’s The Scream.

But we made it, and these rides became just a little easier from then on. Though, until my last day in India, I always asked someone to go with me on the dead-of-night airport runs to have at least one other person who spoke English to flee with me into the dark streets of Chennai in case we met with an accident. Ana accuses me of just not wanting to die alone. Heh.

I spent the rest of March trying to get used to the heat, something I never truly succeeded in doing. Many days I found myself laid up with a heat-induced migraine, feeling a tad lonely in an empty flat since the friend who was hosting me was rather busy helping to lead an NGO.

About 20 minutes after I took this picture, I was burnt to a crisp. I mean, a whole bucketful of extra crispy.

About 20 minutes after I took this picture, I was burnt to a crisp. I mean, a whole bucketful of extra crispy.

At the end of the month, though, I finally pushed myself out of the house and joined some co-workers representing our organization at The Justice Concert, an event put on by a number of Indian and foreign NGOs to work on putting the word out about the needs of the poor in India. Some of the acts were pretty good, and by pretty good, I mean tolerable and fun to watch. And, yes, I did get videos.

VIDEO 1: In this video, the woman is singing in Tamil, which makes it interesting in and of itself. My favorite part, though, is the shot of the two guys playing the instruments and their hairstyles that could be classified as South Asian mullets and, of course, the ever-present moush. It gives the video a vaguely ’80s feel, like Dancing on the Ceiling-era Lionel Ritchie. (And if you watch the LR video, please tell me that first man we see is not actually wearing a banana clip in his mullet.)

VIDEO 2: There was this one “singer.” I don’t even know how to describe him. Instead, I’ll share the video. By the way, continuing the ’80s theme, he added the stone-washed jean jacket only for his second act. Every rocker needs a costume change.

WARNING! Please remove all animals, small children, and nosy people with exceptionally good hearing from the room before playing this video. My dog started growling and whining as soon as I turned it on.

Tomorrow: Chapter 3: 20/20 Vision

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