On my last day in Ahmedabad (Wednesday, March 31), I went with Dipika & Bharat to see their farmhouse, which has lots of fruit trees & open space. They have a lot of monkeys that come in the morning & eat the fruits & break vases and decorative pottery, and hang out in the trees, but alas, I didn’t get to see them – they were probably gone by the time we got there. I did see a few camels & a peacock that was on a neighbor’s balcony. We went to a pizza place for a lunch buffet (Indian style) which was delicious, then packed up, had some mangoes & tea, and headed to the airport for my 9 PM flight from Ahmedabad to Mumbai.
All of the flights were full, and security at all of the airports in India was very tight, especially in Mumbai. After getting my baggage (had to re-check it since I was on a different airline from Mumbai), taking a bus to the International terminal, and waiting with a huge mob of people to go through a passport check just to get into the terminal, then a few more security checks, the flight to Amsterdam was boarding. It was a 9 hour flight to Amsterdam, then an 8 hour flight to NYC. I had to get my baggage in NYC & go through Customs, then after a 3 hour layover, the last flight to Rochester. Got back home yesterday, April 1st, around 5:35 PM. It was a long, exhausting trip, but having today & the weekend will help with readjusting from the trip and jet lag. The roads are quiet here (no horns honking constantly) and empty compared to India. The 80 degree weather feels wonderful, and no more snow! Over the next few weeks, my teammate Jim & I need to finish documenting the last couple of meetings, and complete our report, which is extensive.
Several people have asked me how this trip has been life-changing for me. My time in Lucknow, and Ahmedabad, made me realize how much we take for granted. Clean water, like air, is a basic human right, and something we can’t survive without. But in so many parts of the world, you can’t just turn on your faucet (assuming you even have one) and drink the water knowing it’s clean & safe, or take a shower whenever you like. Those that are fortunate enough to have a geyser (a hot water tank) can bathe with warm water. The geyser has to be turned on about 15 minutes before bathing (see pictures below from the geyser in the Lucknow hotel room). Water availability is not 24 hours a day like it is here – even in urban areas, it is available 2 hours a day, and almost everyone has water storage tanks that are filled up and used throughout the day. Everyone that can afford one has a water purifier for the drinking water. Contaminants & water-borne diseases are a huge problem. I heard one of my cousins saying how she had stomach problems because of the water in the village where she lived, but once she moved to a more urban area, she felt better.
The WFP model is one that worked well in West Bengal, and would work well in other parts of India. Providing clean drinking water, hand washing stations, sanitation facilities, and hygiene education to school children is very effective, because they are open and receptive & don’t have set habits like older people, and they take what they’ve learned back home & tell their families & friends. While each of the Watermark teams would like to see the expansion in the state they were in, the need is there for all parts of India. The reports that we generate will help WFP determine where to start first, and we are all honored to have contributed to that decision.
It’s easy to only see the poverty, pollution, crowds of people, vehicles & animals, the noise & heat, but India is rich in so many ways. The culture, history, religions, and mythology are thousands of years old, and have produced poetry & great epics such as the Ramayana and Mahabharata. The sense of family & traditions, honor and values, grace & hospitality, is so ingrained in their lives. I saw how close my cousins are to each other (we call our cousins cousin-sisters & cousin-brothers), and how they treat other children in the family like their own, and how they all help each other. Visitors are always welcome, even when dropping in unannounced. I couldn’t help but wonder how my life would have turned out if my parents hadn’t emigrated to the U.S. Our mothers used to put my cousin Anju (see blog update from Tuesday, March 30) and I in the same cradle when we were little. Anju, Dipika, Bhavana & I are all about the same age, and would have grown up together. I was trying to pay Dipika back for some things she had paid for, and she wouldn’t take it. I told her she & Bharat had already done so much for me, and her response was that why wouldn’t she, since I am her sister.
At Dipika & Bharat's farmhouse.
Not too many camels on the road anymore. Most of the hauling of goods is done with large rickshaws or trucks now.
Peacock on a neighbor's balcony.
Instructions for geyser in Lucknow hotel.
The geyser tank, located at top of shower.