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Welcome to India!

Huh, yes, I am in India. I am in Mumbai. Today was my first day out and about. Although it is actually many more days later from the day I started my journey. That departure day now seems like in far distance and in a life I lived in a different dimension on a different planet as a different person. I am writing this at 4:20 a.m. on Saturday and over in Baltimore its 5:50 p.m. Friday. That's a good explanation why the following is written like this:

The trip from there to here

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All packed up, it's Tuesday February 12th, 2008 in rainy, cold Baltimore. I am ready to GO! Paige drives me to the airport. The raindrops hit the windshield of her car and freeze to a solid layer of ice immediately. We stop and scrape, go and stop, scrape some more, and make it. While she gets in trouble with the police and the ice gets thicker and thicker everywhere, I miss the train to Newark to catch my plane to Mumbai, India. Airplanes are cancelled out of BWI today. OK, I got time, 4 months in India. No worries. I take it easy, call Ana, who sits on the train and is on her voyage to India. She'll have the first contact with India all to herself. I take the light rail back to Baltimore and fall on my butt twice walking to Alice's house. Next morning, same place, same station. This time Alice drops me off. Everything is fine, I am on it! Checked in and waiting at Newark Airport. I am looking around all these people eating very bad food in a very bad atmosphere and I start to feel like a cold French fry in a Mc Donald's bag.

Welcome to India!

Time to get out of here and over it. On to another continent with a healthy (when not contaminated) vegetarian diet. The flight is nice; I have 3 seats to myself and get to sleep. I am almost the only non-Indian on board. I wake up after many hours of sleep. It's dark again, and we are flying fast into the sunset. Below me is Afghanistan, snow covered mountains in dark blue light. Magical! Is anybody gonna shoot at us?

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Welcome to India!

And then there is darkness again until we hit the ground. I get off the plane. I am in Mumbai. I get the first giggles from the girls tending the bathroom. They like my hair. Or so they say:). I meet Vijai from Trinidad and Tobago, who could pass as an Indian, at the luggage carousel. He is going to travel from Mumbai to Shanghai and write about it. When we get out of the airport there seems to be a huge crowd of men holding up papers and banners, welcoming us! Ah, no, they are waiting for somebody else, but I feel like they are all welcoming me to India also.

Welcome to India!

Vijai and I share a taxi to the Fort area. That's where our hotels are. We try to stuff as much communication and information exchange into the 30 or so kilometers we have together as possible. The taxi ride through the mild, very stuffy and stinky Mumbai night rocks and shakes me more and more into India reality. Old feelings and memories from 16 years ago connect with the present moment. I think the only traffic rule that is followed here (most of the time), is that traffic is left sided. But that's about it. We pass other cars, motorcycles, bikes and pedestrians by honking at them. Then we cut in front of them from both sides with about 10 centimeters distance. In our little black and yellow old school taxi. Our teenage looking cab driver talks on his cell phone while putting in another tape of Indian pop-music and tells us:" One minute one Rupee." One Rupee is about 2,5 cents.

Welcome to India!

We arrive at my hotel, Hotel City Palace. I say good-bye to Vijai and wish him a great adventure. The cabdriver wants a dollar from me on top of the prepaid fare. I am not giving it to him and hope that Vijai will sort it all out with him when he gets to his hotel.

Welcome to India!

So here I am. I made it. The receptionists are very nice and write me into the big hotel book. When I call Ana in her room I know I am in the right country in the right city in the right hotel at the right time. A small porter in oversized cloths brings me up the elevator to the 6th floor, I knock on the door, Ana opens the door, we hug each other and laugh. There is a rose on my bed from her, which makes me realize that I just spent Valentine's Day high in the sky zapping through time zones! Its now February 15th, 2008. Welcome to India!

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