DELHI -- I found it odd that leading up to my trip to India, I never really felt scared or overwhelmed. I lost a little sleep a week prior to my departure, but for the most part I was remarkably calm considering the unknown circumstances. Until I sat in the Munich airport waiting for my connecting flight to Delhi. That is when the tears started to flow.
I had just spent an afternoon in a somewhat familiar place, and I was with a very familiar person. Suddenly I realized I was alone, completely out of my comfort zone and gripped with fear about a place completely unknown.
Until I got off the plane and walked out of the airport.
It was then I got slapped in the face with a breeze as cold as Lake Michigan on New Years Day. Yes, India welcomed me with open, freezing, Wisconsin arms.
OK, OK, it's not exactly single digits Fahrenheit, but 50 degrees in Delhi is similar to that temperature in Florida. It's a raw cold that seeps into your bones with a chill that doesn't leave. And our flat doesn't have heat. And the hot water for showers lasts less than five minutes. Did I also mention I thought it was going to be in the 60s and 70s and didn't pack one sweater, hat, or pair of warm socks?
Welcome to Delhi.
Honestly, I don't even feel as though I can accurately describe this city or country just yet. Even after two full days of walking through markets and visiting some of the mandatory sites, I don't have a grasp on a place that is full of contradictions.
We live in what is considered a middle to upper middle class area (Hauz Khas), yet hot water is scarce and beggars warm themselves by a fire just a few steps away. Our apartment building looks drab and worn down, even scary. Yet if you walk past the windows of the flats, you see kitchens and living rooms bursting with color. We awake to the sounds of fighting cats and dogs (literally), but also the harmonic call to prayer from the mosque that is just a few blocks away.
There are a few things about Delhi that I found out within minutes that are indisputable.
First, driving through traffic is like walking a tightrope during a tornado with the warning siren blaring the entire time. You are pretty much flirting with death from start to finish, and hoping your driver's horn blares loud enough to ensure your safety. Lanes, although marked, are ignored. At all times you are maneuvering around people, cars, trucks, scooters, bikes, and sometimes an emaciated cow.
Two, the pollution is breathtaking, and not in a good way. There is constant haze over the city that does not burn off as the day wears on.
Three, the history and architecture is like none I've ever seen and spans thousands and thousands of years. Today (Sunday) we visited the Lotus temple which was built in the early 1980s and the Humayun Tomb which dates back to the 1500s.
We also visited the presidential residence (which you are only allowed to drive by, not stop) and Lodhi Garden. The garden is New Delhi's version of Central Park, but with much more exotic birds, and temples dotting the landscape. And instead of watching co-ed softball games in the open fields, groups of men challenge each other to a game of cricket.
I am anxious for the work week to begin. For the past two days, we have been getting over jet lag and doing a lot of tourist activities.
As the days go on, we'll be able to explore the city much more, get to know the people through our volunteer placements, eat with the locals, and travel to other parts of the country. Which is why I'm hesitant to say too much or too little about India so far.
A few days is certainly not enough time to acclimate to this country or it's traditions. I feel blessed I have an extended period of time to spend here and am already wishing I could stay longer. I imagine my next update will have far more detail. (Plus, even though it's only 9 p.m. local time, I feel like I could fall asleep at the keyboard.)
I'm also hoping my next update will contain pictures. I bought this USB memory card reader compatible with any computer while still in the states, and I seem to have misplaced it. I'm going to try and pick up a new one tomorrow. Delhi honors many old traditions, but doesn't hesitate to keep with the technology times!
Trenni Kusnierek is a sports reporter and radio host who has worked for networks such as ABC, Big Ten, MLB, and NFL. She is currently on 540 ESPN in Milwaukee on both the D-List and Broad Side. Kusnierek is also freelance writing and reporting until January, when she will leave on a service trip to India.
A graduate of Marquette University, she holds a degree in Broadcast and Electronic Journalism. An avid marathon runner, Kusnierek qualified for the 2010 Boston Marathon by running a 3:37:02 at the Lakefront Marathon in Milwaukee.