The Adventure Begins: On China Eastern Airlines from Chicago to Shanghi to Bangkok. Only $330 one way!
Just learning this new journal app so bear with me as some things aren’t in the order I wanted. Also, this starts rather abrutly since I just discovered this and am on a trial period trying to see how it works
So everybody is on board, LoMo is Lori Moore & Joy is Ramona Smith.
LoMo is an old nickname for Lori, maybe from her early Tucson days (along with her brothers RyMo & EMo — Ryan and Eric) Joy is Ramona’s nickname for 2018, picked as a quality she would like to have more of in her life, instead of negativity. Also it is a reminder of her favorite scripture, John 15:11: “I have come that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete.”
In case you don’t know, LoMo and Joy are daughter and mother traveling companions for this little excursion in southeast Asia. An adventure by itself. However, after 6 weeks together on the island of Iona, Scotland, we decided we couldn’t pass up this once in a lifetime opportunity. Our lives kind of dovetailed at the point: Lori was transitioning from living in Scotland, and Ramona, retired now for 3 years, was still in good health and able to do some travelling that she has long wanted to do. Over 40 years ago, Ramona spent 3 years living and working in Bangladesh for Mennonite Central Committee. Ever since she has wanted to return to India and Southeast Asia to do some more traveling. However, she needed a travel companion. Who better than her world traveling daughter, Lori? Besides traveling in Europe & walking the whole 600 plus miles of the Camino in Spain, three years ago Lori spent 2 months in Calcutta, and over a month in Southeast Asia. As she also was eager to return to this part of the world, she agreed to take on the daunting task of being a travel companion to a 68 year old woman, who for better or worse, happened to be her mother. And so this adventure was hatched!
As plans stand now, if we don’t drive each other crazy, we plan to be on the road for 3 - 6 months. After a week here in Bangkok, we fly to Calcutta where we will be staying in an Airbnb for a month. It may be unusal in most people’s minds, but it is an incredible city to vacation in! More on that later. Then we are not sure: maybe more of India, back to Thailand and up to Chiang Mai, and then maybe Laos, Vietnam, Cambodia, and Burma. Only time will tell.
So, that’s the background of who we are and how we got here. Now for the adventure!
Here we are in Bangkok! 0ver 20 hours in the air from Chicago on China Eastern Airlines. in addition, there was the train and subway from Ann Arbor to O’Hare. The train was more than an hour late & it was a crazy, difficult midnight transfer to the Blue Line to even get to O’Hare. That first part of the trip was an 8 hour ordeal I never want to repeat! Lesson # 1: Take a taxi. Better yet just fly to ORD from DTW. We quicky applied our learning in Bangkok and paid $8 for Uber to take us the half hour from the airport to our Airbnb on Silom Road in the heart of the city. The alternative was a train or bus ride which would have taken an hour either way, plus finding and walking to our lodging at 3:00 in the morning. Uber found the place and dropped us right at the door. The subscript of Lesson # 1: Sometimes it is worth it to spend a little more money to get a big payoff. One must be wise, however, in applying lesson #1 or one could go broke quickly. However, in this case, it was certainly worth it. The taxi in Chicago would have been close to $40, but it might have been worth it too — all in retrospect. Counting all the check-in times and times to get through cutoms and immigration, door-to-door from Ypsi to Bangkok lodging took us a grand total of over 34 hours to make the trip!!
It was 3:00 a.m. local time when we checked into our room on Wednesday. Back at home in the Eastern Time Zone it was 3:00 p.m. on Tuesday. We were both exhausted — to put it mildly! We set the alarm for 10:00 a.m., but our tired bodies didn’t wake up until 3:30 p.m.— 11 hours after hitting the sack! Discussing it we realize we are very lucky because we are not like many tourists, just on a 2 week vacation. That means we have no pressure to get up and see everything the first day, but can allow our bodies to rest up a little and slowly adjust to jet lag for the next week. It was 4:45 p.m. until we finally left our room. for our “first day” in Bangkok.
Here’s our wonderful little Airbnb in Bangkok.
Very clean and great airconditioning. Flat screen TV, refrigerator, kitchen sink and dishes, lots of closet space and dressser drawers, plus great shower and western bathroom. The bed is Asian, or at least similar to India and Banglasesh — quite hard. However we both slept great and it ended up being quite comfortable. Just like in the UK, there are no washcloths provided and the toilet has a bidet. Toilet paper is mostly used to dry off from the bidet. That TP goes in the wastebasket. Poopy TP is the only paper flushed as the sewers systems here \240are just not able to handle tons of paper. Well, enough of that, other than to say it is important information tourists need to know. All this for $30 a night!
We didn’t hit the streets to explore and get some food until 5:00 p.m., so we were in the midddle of rush hour traffic. Bangkok is a modern city of 8 million, about the size of New York City. Wiki claims there is one vehicle for every 2 people, so traffic is unbelieivable! Motorbikes are crazy1 They are called the cockroaches of Bangkok, meaning they crawl in everywhere. They zoom in and out at very fast speeds, and do not slow down for pedistrians! Plus I saw several going the wrong way on one way streets!
Being quite hungry, we grabbed an “appetizer” of a ham and cheese sandwhich at the 7-11, a couple doors down, where they grill it for you on the spot. Only a dollar for a small sandwhich, but very good. Lori and her friends discovered these typical, drunk person’s late-night snacks 3 years ago in Chiang Mai. We grabbed one last night after check-in as they are open 24 hours/day. There must be a 7-11 on every block in this city!
The booming growth of the last 25 years has brought electricity to most everyone, but here’s what the wiring looks like that keeps the city lit:
We walked around for about 4 hours, hitting up the street vendors for food, looking at all the goods on the street and wandering into a very high class fancy 4 story mall, where we used the restroom.
Here’s my first bowl of noodles and pork soup that also had little dumplings in it. Very spicy and very good! Two dollars for a bowl, which we split between the two of us.
The food stall where we got soup
Here are the thin noodles and little dumplings
A unique “dessert”: Thin pastry, scrambled egg, one sliced banana.
After frying, it is folded up, cut in pieces, and drizzed with sweetened condensed milk. Yummy in our tummies!
Day 2 Bangkok: Close to Perfect!
Day Two started with Jet Lag at its finest! LoMo slept a total of only 3 hours, and I, Joy, had only marginally more sleep with 5 hours. So by 6:15 a.m. on our second day we had hailed an Uber and our day of adventure and near perfection began. We were headed to Wat Pho, a collection of old temples and spires, and the giant and famous Reclining Buddha. .
The temple grounds didn’t open until 8, so we wandered the neighborhood near Wat Pho. Early morning is when the Buddhist monks recieve gifts of food and money in exchange for a blessing. This is high class religious begging, I suppose not much different than in the old days when pastors, priests, and doctors received part of their salaries by donated chickens and milk. We didn’t see any long line of priests like those featured in some tourist literature, but we did see many individual priests out spreading their blessings with a world that can never have too many prayers, no matter what the language or religion.
The rush of traffice and people in Bangkok at 7 in the morning was inbelievable!
Like all big cities, early morning is when all the fresh, bulk produce from the country is brought by trucks and boats to be distributed. \240Tuk-tuks (golf cart like vehichles which sound like motorbikes) and taxis with their trunks loaded full, disturibute the goods to smaller \240markets and shops and restaurants.
Then there were the flowers! \240Very important in this country where offering flowers, along with prayers, to Buddha is part of the ritual, both in private homes, huge temples, and even along the street.
Here’s a \240little statue with flowers placed in the trunk of a huge tree that protrudes into the sidewalk.
At Pho is located in the flower market district so we spent over an hour surrounded by beauty. The area went on for several blocks, including several big indoor warehouses filled with flowers.
Women were plucking tiny little buds off the stalks and filling huge bags to sell to other women who used long needles to make goregous wreaths and other arrangements.
Sacks of flower buds
Some of the little wreaths made from flower buds.
A little altar at the back of one of the warehouses.
At 8:00 a.m. we entered the grounds of Wat Pho.
We had ticket stubs number 1 & 2 and just about had the place to ourselves for the next hour.
The morning was overcast with a light breeze, and perfect for walking, even though it was 80.
I don’t know the history of these spires and temples, although I’m sure Wiki could tell you.
The decorations on the spires appear to be tile and maybe some kinds of plaster.
Whatever it is made of, it took some skilled crafts person, many hours of labor, probably at slave wages, to build these impressive monuments!
Here’s Joy actually being joyful!
Wat Pho has the largest collection of Buddhas in Thailand. Hundreds of them exactly alike.
And amazingly, there were even a few black Buddhas. (Note in this picture and the one above, how each stand that the Buddha sits on is made of intricate plaster and beadwork!)
Wat Pho hosts several large Buddhas.
Shoes off before entering the temple, and tourists must have clothing that covers elbows and knees— meaning no cut-offs and halter tops allowed.
A rare standing Buddha
The most impressive staute was the Reclining Buddha.
Impossible to capture in one photo!
Notice the decoration on the large pillars surrounding the Buddha.
Here’s a close-up of one of the pillars
Standing at the feet of God!
Murals on the walls and ceilings inside all the temples.
Well, the day was young, and we were just getting started, but I’m going to take a break in the saga for now. As I try to get back to sleep, and get my body back to a regular rhythm, you can enjoy this beautiful waterfall that was on the grounds at Wat Pho.
Massage Heaven: Aaaah!
Massage parlor or spas are everywhere — about half a dozen to a dozen a block. Prices range from $8 - $40. We found a super nice little place where we treated our jet lagged bodies and tired feet \240to an hour full body massage for 10 bucks!
After what Lori called the best massage in her life, we relaxed sipping tea provided by the spa. Joy’s (Ramona’s massusse) was named Joy! Definitely be going back there!
More from Wat Pho
Joy at Wat Pho with stone carved Chinese guard who warns off evil spirits. The stone blocks came as ballast on ships trading with China.
LoMo with the Reclining Buddha, who is 150 feet long.
Spent a lovely time in a park near our lodging enjoying the evening.
The Bangkok skyline from Lumphini Park.
Found in the market one of my favorite fruits: lychees! They only grow in a belt from India through China. I thought they did not mature until spring, but there were two vendors who were selling them in the market. Yum! You can buy them canned in Asian/Indian stores in the States, but like all canned fruit, it’s never as good as the fresh. The flesh is close to a grape, only firmer. Taste mild but sweet. Lychee juice is used in drinks, tea, and cocktails.
They look prickly but the bristles are soft.
Just use a knife to slice around the edge and the “skin” peels off easily.
Fairly large, but there is a seed in middle
At least twice as large as a grape, and firmer.
A lychee half with the seed out.
Took a little time to get away from the bustle, do a little internet business, and some journaling.
Alphabet Cafe. $5 for 2 coffees and 2 1/2 hours of internet. We basically had the place to ourselves.
One of the things we love best is just wandering the streets and markets. So that’s what we spend the days doing.
I think squid, along with prawns, and other seafood.
Making us a raw green papaya salad: shredded papaya, onions, carrots, hot chili peppers, brined crab, green beans, peanuts, tomatoes, \240fish sauce, lime, and some other goodies. Delicious!
The broom sales person. This city is exceptional clean! Streets, sidewalks, parks, outdoor markets even. Haven’t seen a cig butt anywhere!
Jackfruit—the yellow pieces stink and taste like bubblegum. First — and last — time I had it was in Indonesia 40 years ago.
Peeling the jackfruit.
The wires holding the place together!
A liittle boy with his toys and a bag of flowers.
Sweets and treets of all kinds.
This is a tiny restaurant about 2 doors down from us where we had chicken & noodle curry. Weekday lunch times there are long lines here compared to the other restaurants. Most take it to go — in little plastic bags. I don’t know how the bags don’t melt.
Shared one small bowl for a little over a dollar.
Thin little noodles.
The curry sauce. First stuff that tasted like the Thai curries at home.
This shop sells the northern style Thai curry. In Bangkok they don’t have much sauce on the rice and noodles—more like a stir fry.
Food is fab! We’re eating great & loving it!
The end of another beautiful day in Bangkok.
Sunday afternoon at Lumpini Park. Loads of people enjoying the day, including paddle boats on the lake.
Music playing with hundreds doing group exercise by dancing. Hundreds of runners too.
We found an empty bench and just sat and talked and relaxed,
6:30—Time to head out for some supper
Fried chicken: 2 drumsticks for $1.25.
Sticky Rice with Mango: Our favorite, and only, nighty dessert.
A layer of cold sticky rice, one whole mango sliced, topped with what I think is thinned sweeten condensed milk.
So yummy! The big box costs $3.25, which we share. Heaven on earth! At the Thai restaurant in Ypsilanti, I pay twice as much for about one-third the size and not near as good.
We have a 7-11 half-way down the block from our Airbnb to the main road, and we frequent it just about everyday. There are 7-11’s everywhere! I stood at one intersection and could see 4 at one time! All open 24 hours/day. Our staple for breakfast is one ham and cheese sandwich for $0.90 which they grill on an electric grill on the spot. We share it, each having half, until we can get out on the street for breakfast. We also buy extra water there (33 cents for a liter), toilet paper, shampoo, laundry soap, and some snack foods: nuts, chips, and candy bars (all small sizes). Each are around a dollar. Ice cream is $1-$3 depending on the brand, but we’d rather have mango sticky rice!
An unbelievable, and exciting coincidence: we found Geng, a coffee shop owner, whom Ryan and Lori had made acquaintance with 3 years ago. Our first day here we went to where his shop had been, but it was empty and half demolished. This morning walking around the market that is down our alley we found him! Down a side alley off the main alley! Surely the Spirit was guiding us!
We spent an hour and a half visting with him, and eating and sipping drinks.
Lori and Geng befriended each other on Facebook and email. He speaks fairly good English. Saw pictures on his phone of his mother and their home. He has long term plans to open a restaurant in his home town.
Geng made Lori a special cold coffee he had made her last time. She found out this time he put a shot of Bailey’s in it.
I had some great coffee with sugar. Really, the best coffee I’ve had here. Only $1.50.
Geng’s shop is open weekdays from 7 -2. On weekends he goes home, about 2 hours away. He says he’s really busy until 10. Then some business over the lunch hour.
We bought from a vendor these freshly fried chicken-cheese hot dog rolls for 33 cents each.
Then waited for the hot donuts to be done — only 25 cents. What a wonderful surprise it was to find him! Will go back tomorrow morning for sure! Unfortunately it will be our last day in Bangkok.
Here’s Ryan and Lori with Geng in 2015 at his old shop. Geng said the landlord kicked out all the tenants to build something new. He had been at his new shop for 2 years now.
Bangkok is a wonderful city: clean air, very clean streets, sidewalks, parks. People are polite and quiet, even in the street markets. \240Big shopping malls, plus great street markets. Feel very safe walking around.
Thailand is considered an emerging ecomony. The average income per capita is about $17,000 compared to India which is only $6,600. Only 1.25 % in Thailand live on $3/day, while 58% in India do.
This is the Sheraton hotel, I believe. We have traveled Uber a lot, plus 2 ferries, and the train. Ferries cost $1.50 compared to boat tours that start at $20. Uber usually is $2-$6.
Train station. Very good public transportation system.
The River Center shopping center from a ferry. Extremely high end shops & restaurants! Near Chinatown. All very touristy.
Traffic is horrendous! Few lighted crosswalks. No yielding to pedestrians. You just go for it!
Motor scooters very popular, but amazingly quiet. Drivers wearing yellow vests are for hire at city controlled rates. Haven’t tried yet.
A street sweeper. Notice the large bamboo dustpan over her right shoulder. Garbage trucks pick up all the street market trash during the night.
Near our Airbnb. We are in the financial district: Bangkok’s Wall Street.
Our place is down this side street. No sidewalks, just rain gutters. Watch out!
We have traveled by tuk-tuk only once. More expensive than Uber due to no set price and having to haggle.
Great fun though! They really zip along.
Twice Lori had to show the driver where to go on her iphone map. However it was in English. Taxis & Uber have phones, but not tuk-tuk drivers, or at least this one didn’t.
Our favorite spots in Bangkok are the local markets where the locals shop. Just fascinating! This alley is 4 doors down. .
Hours are 7am - 2pm. Then all the carts disappear & the permanent shops pull their doors down.
Our donut place—10 cents a hot donut! Beat’s Dom’s in Ypsi!
Cookies and a lot of other snacks, crunchy and sweet!
More flower vendors near the Hindu temple
Here’s some pictures from the Amulet Market where people buy tiny to big good luck charms or . . .
Medium Buddha statues, or . . .
Life size and bigger Buddah’s! Literally, probably over a thousand stalls selling this kind of stuff. Coins and other little things too.
Ok. Here’s all the good stuff we are eating in addition to our fried chicken and mango sticky rice.
Chicken stir fry: Excellent!
The little place where we ate — down by the river at the Amulet Market.
Next door little restaurant: Rice, with. . .
The finished product: beef, hard boiled egg & veggies on rice. Lori say, “Perfection!”
Two big pots of boiling duck, the house speciality. This little restaurant is run by the mother-in-law of a friend of Ryan and Lori. The friend runs a Thai restaurant in Seattle and he texted us the info to find this place. Luckily it was only a mile and a half away.
We had noodles and duck—one a soup and one plain.
Lori and friend of the Seattle friend.
Another banana & egg crepe vendor, preparing the skillet for the crepe.
The cooked crepe: Adding the sweetened condensed milk and the chocolate syrup.
The finished product!
More pork & noodles, plus separate broth.
Chopsticks and soups in containers with kids; chili peppers, sugar, peanuts, another chili paste, and fish sauce.
Here’s some street market shots. Bangkok is famous for its street food.
At the night market
Sausages on a stick
Fresh peeled fruits in little bags. A no go for us.
More grilled and fried meats on sticks. Very popular, but not kept hot.
Skewers of meat and dumplings
Something that is fried
I think this is a fried cake or corn fried fritter
Raw fruit vendor
We have to be careful what we eat because a lot of the food is cooked ahead of time and not kept hot.
The sidewalk tables where people eat at the night market.
More tables along the street between vendors. This is where we eat most of our meals.
Washing dishes when closing up his lunch stall.
Time to wash the pots and pans!
The lunch crowd down our alley.
They feed thousands!
Hundreds of little stalls & carts. All gone on the weekends!
Our last day in Bangkok, so here’s some miscellaneous pictures.
Coffee: Said I was giving it up, but haven’t yet. Keng’s great latte! Really the best coffee in town! Small cup for $1.50. Been to 3 other shops including Starbucks which was better than I remembered, but Keng’s was better.
Stopped in a little cafe one day, just to charge our phone — and have coffee and a brownie! As the cup says, “Happy!” Most people here drink ice coffee and iced tea. 80 degrees in the winter. 100 in the summer
Want to live permanently in Thailand?
Ready for the queen’s Tea!
A toliet paper machine at Wat Pho. The toilets were western style and immaculately clean, but you had to spend 3 cents to get the little pink box with 4 sheets of T.P.
Photos and flowers to the king everywhere. This is outside a bank. Twice have heard the national anthem played. It’s a law that everyone must stop & stand still while it is played — and everyone did!
Lottey ticket sellers everywhere. Also near temples because people think the prayers will bring them luck.
One of the very few beggars we saw.
Adapted golf cart cum water delivery man.
As we leave Bangkok for Kolkata, India. I leave you with some shots of the Hindu Temple, and 2 Buddhist temples we just happened into during our walks.
The Hindu temple. One of the few in this Buddhist country.
Praying inside. I wasn’t supposed to be taking pictures.
Floating candles around Buddah
Candles lit and prayers to the god
Workers putting the decoration on a new Bhuddha statue to look like . . .
Just like hundreds of others— all exactly alike
More and more
More prayers, incense, flowers and candles
Kolkata, we are here! And are we ever! I’m totaly overwhelmed, but also excited, about all that is going on and all there is to do in this crowded, bustling city.
(This is the view from my balcony, as are all the pictures this morning. It was dark when we arrived but I’ve been enjoying watching the street wake up.)
Looking one direction from the balcony.
And the other direction
This is the tiny balcony, with clothesline for laundry, but two towels on it for privacy. It was great this morning because nobody knew I was up there taking pictures. It won’t take long though for news to travel that 2 white women are in the neighborhood!
My first impression is that this is a LOUD city, compared to Bangkok. Crows caw incessently outside the windows (one of Lori’s most vivid memories), and horns blow incessently, too! Heard more honking in the first 5 minutes in the Uber car from the airport, than I heard in the week in Bangkok — and that is not an exaggeration! We remarked numerous times a day while in Bangkok about how quiet the city and people were. Only heard a horn once or twice the whole time. And people talk quietly. Sitting in my 4th floor apartment I can hear people yelling, people talking and singing, bells ringing (from rickshaws and bicycles), loud motorcycles, hammering, — and the crows!
The Uber half hour trip was a hoot! Talk about driving with one’s horn! And driving fast and weaving in and out, and almost hitting cars and almost being hit by a bus! I’d forgotten the insanity of driving in this part of the world!
Uber got us to our apartment with no trouble. Amazing that technology is! Also, I realized in Bangkok that with Uber one can wander as one pleases through the markets and not have to worry about getting lost. If I do get lost, I can just call an Uber car! It is SO, SO nice, and really reduces the anxiety when one can’t really read the street signs.
Oh, my very first impression of Kolkata — how could I forget? We walked into the airport terminal — very modern and clean — EXCEPT for the air. It smelled like smoke and the air looked bluish and hazy like there had been a fire— inside the terminal! Three hours later we didn’t notice the smell so bad, but I could look down the terminal to where Lori went to get coffee and cash, and it was still blueish! Welcome to Kolkata, folks! This morning, earlier, it was cloudy and I wondered if we would ever see the sun at all this month, but to my surprise, it is not even 10 yet and the sun is out.
Our Airbnb apartment is on the fourth floor and there is actually a lift (an elevator). We couldn’t get into the building until 5:00 a.m. even though they have a night watchman. Slept from 1:00 - 4:00 in an airport lounge. Ugh! Lori is exhausted and sleeping. I’m exhausted, but hyped, which is how I usually get when I first arrive some place.
Here’s a woman using a stick to move her laundry so it better dries on the clothesline that is on the front porch area.
This family is cooking their breakfast on a little stove behind the black and white railing. They are actually camped on the sidewalk.
Everybody is up and on the move! The blue-green building has lots of families living there it appears.
Don’t know what this guy is hauling on his cart.
I think this guy lives here. Earlier he was sleeping where the white table is in the middle. Then I saw him cooking over a little burner.
Here he is with his pots and cleaning up. It now looks like he may have a food shop or something. Will be fun to find out. Oh, you can see his blankets folded up, back along the wall.
Oh, and we have pigeons too! Defintiely don’t want the door from the balcony to my bedroom open, or I’ll have a bird fly in! \240Signing off for now! \240Back to people watching! \240And need to get Lori up because I’m getting really hungry. . . .
Kolkata Day Two: If I took 100 pictures and 100 videos every day for the month we are here, it would still never capture life in Kolkata. It. Has been a wonderful two days, but my senses feel like I have been here at least two weeks with all we have seen,
Went to a cafeteria for lunch and our first real Indian meal.
We have spent most of our time just walking the streets absorbing the sights, sounds, and smells of this crazy, busy city, which by one ranking is the most densely packed urban area in the world with 29,000 per square kilometer.
We are staying only about a block from the MCC (Mennonite Central Committee) Office. Carol and. Gordan Zook, the Country Directors, have invited us for dinner tomorrow.
Joy (which is a much easier name to pronouce and remember than Ramona) served 3 years in Bangladesh as a volunteer with MCC 40 years ago (1973-76) working with MCC on an agricultural and nutition project. This is when she learned to love this part of the world.
We walked today to the Mother House, where Sister Teresa lived and worked.
The Missionaries of Charity have several centers where they still serve the dying and abandoned disabled children. The Mother House is the administrative headquarters.
The main “attraction” is Mother Teresa’s crypt.
Also stopped at The Eighth Day coffee shop.
Lori helped them a little 3 years ago when they were just starting up. She was a “volunteer consultant” sharing with them her expertize as a California barista and shop manager.
They are operated by a Christian group that does good deeds that for security reasons I cannot talk about. They have been very successful and are going to be opening a second cafe in Kolkata.
Lori introduced me to some of the friends she made there and we are getting together with one of them on Sunday.
We have been enjoying different street food — if it is hot or cooked right in front of us.
This is cold puffed rice with a hot chickpea and potato spicy gravy.
It was surprisingly tasty. I didn’t think I would like the puffed rice. Most people eat with their fingers. We ate with a spoon.
We also took a chance with this hard boiled egg and potato curry which wasn’t hot.
We tried several snacks today. This guy was selling hot roasted peanuts and roasted chickpeas. We got a small batch of each to take home.
Here’s some spicy fried chickpea nuggets.
Yummy! They put them in a little bag made from recycled newspapers. Nothing goes to waste here!
For supper, Lori introduced me to what Indians simply call a “roll.” Here’s a spicy “egg roll”. It’s a fried bread (like a burrito) with a spicy scrambled egg inside. You can also have meat and veggies if you want. It was absolutely delicious! Only 50 cents!
And, of course, we’ve had lots of milk tea (dudh cha), unlike the spiced chai that is common in most of India. The dudh cha is as black as coffee before they add lots of sugar and milk. Very sweet and wonderful! Note: This is one of the very few female vendors on the street1
Most serve the cha in tiny clay cups, about 3 cents a cup. The cups are usually just thrown away and one finds broken cups all over the ground. However, one seller wanted the cups back. I’m worried now that they resuse them — but at least the tea is hot. Almost burned myself today because the cup was both hot and very full!
We’ve stopped for tea 4 times because the cups only hold (I’m guessing) about 2-3 ounces each. We usually drink 2 “cups” of tea each tea break.
I want to share part of the opening paragraph from Lonley Planet’s guidebook on India: “Kolkata (Calcutta) Why Go? India’s second biggest city is a daily festival . . . “
“of human existence , , ,”
“simultaneously noble. . . “
“ and squalid . . .”
“cultured . . .”
and desparate . . .”
“By it’s old spelling, Calcuta readily conjures images of human suffering to most Westerns — although that’s not a complete picture of this 350 year-old metropolis.
“Locally, Kolkata is regarded as India’s intellectual, artisitc and cultural capital. . . .”
“Although poverty is certainly apparent (as in this picture at the corner of our street) . . .
“The self-made middle class drives the city’s core machinery, \240. . .”
“A nascent hipster culture thrives among its millenial residents . . .”
“ . . . Friendlier than India’s other metropolises, this is a city you “feel” \240more than simply visit.”
And to end today’s sensual overload, here’s a sign that made us laugh.
A visit to Hope International:
Some of the best Indian food yet & at very good prices. Hot puris and potato curry.
Potato stuffed parothas to dip in a yogurt onion sauce
The training class for sewing
Learning to do make-up at the beautician school.
Haircut for Ramona
Trimming bangs for Lori. 160 rupees, or $2.50 total for both!
Outside the Hope Cafe and training center.
The Hope store where we bought 2 kurtis (long top) and one pair of baggy pants. About $6 each.
Our Little Airbnb Apartment: Let me say this about that: This is simple living, Indian style. Definitely not where most Westerners would stay unless you had been to India before. We booked through Airbnb for $400 for the month.
Size wise it is very adequate: 2 separate bedrooms, with a little living, and dining (L-shaped area) and then a small kitchen. The living and dining have some old, but nice, wicker furniture: settee, 2 armchairs and a coffee table, plus a flat screen TV and WiFi, which has been very dependable.
This is the dining area, which has an extra sink in it. There is some nice artwork around the house. There are overhead fans in the bedrooms, living room and dining, and a wall fan in the kitchen.
The kitchen just has a 2 burner gas hotplate and only a trickle of cold water at the sink. We would need to heat water for doing dishes if we were cooking. There are not many dishes or utensils provided, but we do have a nice frig and freezer.
We have 2 bedrooms which are on opposite sides of the apartment and give us nice privacy. The beds are typical Indian beds: meaning a wooden slab, with only a very thin mattress, so they are quite hard. However, we have slept amazing well on them have two little bedside cabinets in my room and an amoire where we can hang clothes.
Lori doesn’t have any dressers or storage in her room, other than a nice table. We were provided only one thin blanket and have been cold at night. The landlord at first replied that it would only be cold for a few more days when we asked about extra blankets. However, it seems now that he may get us some extra blankets. We’ve also had a hassel getting light bulbs replaced because “those lights are for special use only and they get hot.” The “electrician’ was to come at noon today, then 1:00 p.m., then tomorrow. Now he may come on Tuesday. But this is India. Our towels are small and thin. We have to provide our own toilet paper, shampoo and soap. Luckily, pric are relatively cheap. In the U.S. we would expect this to be provided, especially if one were staying for a month, but this is India and we don’t know what to expect.
Off one bedroom is a little balcony where we can watch the happenings on the street, 4 stories below. There is a clothesline out there too where we hang towels. We hang our other laundry inside on hangers because of the soot in the air.
Off the one bedroom is a bathroom, with a western style toilet, sink and shower. However, it is all in a 3 foot by 5 foot open space. Notice the wall mounted hot water tank at the top right of the picture. The shower is the only place we have hot water in the house. The other 3 sinks are all cold wate. We turn the heater off between showers and turn it on a little before we want to shower.
This is the shower area. Because the bathroom is so small, we have to use a squeegee on the floor after the shower or else the floor is wet when we want to use the toilet. The landloard didn’t provide this either trying to tell us Indians didn’t use a squeegee, when in fact they do. So we bought one for less than a dollar at the market 3 blocks away, where there literally were dozens of merchants selling them.
Well, that about sums up our little place, other than the broken window (top and bottom) in the kitchen which is partially patched with cardboard. Luckily this is not mosquito and bug season. We are also trying to get the landlord to fix this. We’re not holding our breath.
Overall, we are fairly satisfied and comfortable with our little Airbnb apartment, despite some of its shortcomings and the problems we’ve had with the owner/landlord. It is in a good location, although the neighborhood is lower working class, and not as nice as some other areas of the city. But we certainly have better accomodations than most people living in this city. All in all, we are quite happy with our home away from home.
Just spent a delightful Sunday evening out with a friend of Lori’s from the Eighth Day Coffee Shop, Sujita, and her frined Neha.
After Sujita got off work, we hopped our first bus and rode it to the end of the line. It was surprisinigly empty.
However, it was one of the bumpiest rides I’ve ever had and I had to hold on the whole 20-30 minutes.
Sujita took us down to a wonderful park along the Hugli river.
It was lovely and quiet, with lots of families out enjoying the balmy evening.
At several ghats (piers) there were people playing music. Below is a group of guys with guitars singing a popular rock song from an Indian movie.
We tried out two new Indian foods. The first one is called Pav Bhaji.
It’s a warm fried hamburger bun that is dipped in a spicy chickpea or lentil mixture.
The other item was a puffed rice mixture with spices.
It comes with a little wooden spoon and is served in a paper funnel made out of newspaper. Both were delicious!
The evening was quite relaxing and we had a lot of fun!
Down by the river
Little boats under the Hugli bridge.
A memorial built to honor James Prinsep, an \240an English scholar. According to Wiki, he was the founding editor of the Journal of the Asiatic Society of Bengal and is best remembered for deciphering the Kharosthi and Brahmi scripts of ancient India.
Neha, Lori, and Sujita
Joy and LoMo (AKA Ramona and Lori)
Loud music has been blasting right outside my window since noon today and I’m not sure whether it will stop before midnight. Today was Vasant Panchami festival marking the onset of spirng on the Hindu calendar. It is also the beginning of Saraswait Puju. Per folklore, Godess Saraswati — the diety of knowlege, music, arts, sciene and technology, was born on this day.
As you can see in the picture above, Sarswati, is currounded by books and a sitar (Indian musical iinstrument).
Yellow flowers adorn this large statue, that is probably 20 feet tall. \240Yellow is the color of the mustard flower and signals spring.
We enjoyed walking around our neighborhood for more than an hour seeing the festivities, decorations, and many statues of the Goddess of Wisdom..
Lots of women were out wearing their special sarees for the day’s celebration. Saw so many gorgeous ones — lots of red and gold.
Here’s Lori with a bunch of kids who were jumping around with sparklers. The boys had been in the street earlier and we had kicked the soccer ball around with them.
This is the big display that was built on the sidewalk directly below our window. Every block or so there is another display and they play the music loud enough for the whole block to hear! Luckily, it’s kind of upbeat music and we enjoy it — only it is VERY loud! \240But the Goddess of Music must have music on her birthday!
Beside the loud music, when you are on the street the smell of the burning incense is overwhelming. (notice the smoke on the left). Oh, plus firecrakcers have been going off since last night. Looks llike I won’t get to sleep very early tonight!
This littler display (about 10 feet tall) is about a half block away. They used winnowing trays for the edges, I suppose indicating prayers for a good growing season. We saw guys building it last night and then around midnight I heard this yelling in the street and went to the balcony to see what was going on. Here about a dozen guys had put the display in the back of a pickup truck and had all piled in around her and were driving through the streets yelling, I assume praises.
Most street corners had some kind of display on them. These are in little permanent boxes/shelters (see below) that have Hindu dieties in them reguarly, but they fix them up special for holy days.
This was a special display with gorgeous fresh flowers all around her.
This one had flashing lights that looked like they were moving.
And this last one had curtains in the background and on the sides, and was as big as a stage in a school auditorium.
Welcome Spring! And Praise to God (and Saraswati) for Knowledge, Music, and the Arts! It is considered good luck for children to learn to write their first words on this day, and schools often have special programs on this day celebrating learning.
Kolkata: Day Seven, 23 January 2018: Where to start? Today marks the end of our first week in Kolkota. We have had an amazing 7 days here that seems more like 7 weeks.
We have walked about 4 to 5 miles around town every day, through the local markets, down alleys where people live in tiny homes/single rooms and been to New Market, the big shopping area for tourists and the upper class.
We have ridden in rickshaws, and on the city bus, but mostly rely on Uber to maneuver us through this chaotic city.
There is so much sensory input flowing into our bodies: sights, sounds, smells, and the smog! I have taken over 500 photos, plus a few videos. Yet, nothing can capture this city! (Just like nothing can capture the grandeur of Yosmite National Park).
We are surrounded 360 degrees by Life, with a capital L. Life in all its rawness and all its beauty. Kolkata is nothing but Real Life — life as lived by millions, well, actually make that Billions!
According to Wikki, the subcontinent of India has 1.7 billion people. (Includes Nepal, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Bhutan, and the Maldives, in addition to India.) This area, also known as South Asia, has about one-fourth of the world’s population, that lives on only 3.5% of the world’s land. This means South Asia is BOTH the most populous and the most densely populated area in the world! Today, if you wanted to choose a person who would be the most typical representative of the human race, it would someone from South Asia, not a Chinese person, as it was when I was in grade school (thanks, probably to China’s one-child policy many years ago.
(Continued from previous post).South Asia is populated by a vast array of peoples. Most people in South Asia are classified as Caucasians, which is a classification based on facial features that has nothing to do with skin color. About 70% are of the Indo-Aryan ethnic groups, living primarily in northern Indian, with 25% are of the population being Dravidian, or of native origin, living in southern India. Of course there are multiple subgroups of ethnicity.
India is known as a spiritual and religious land. It has the world’s largest populations of Hindus, Jains, and Sikhs, who all trace their roots to India.
(The above is a picture of the HIndiu Temple, Kalighat. We went there yesterday but the lines were so long, and people so packed togehter, we decided not to go inside but just wandered aroud the sourvenir stalls where people buy flowers and food to give to the goddess Kali. According to Wikki, Kali is the Goodess of death and time and is often associated with sexuality and violence. However Kali is also considered a storng mother-figure and symbolic of motherly love). But back to the religions of India . . .
India also has the largest population of Muslims in the Asia-Pacific region, as well as over 35 million Christians and 25 million Buddhists. Although more Buddhists live outside of South Asia, Buddha was born in northern India and also attained his enlightenment here too. (This picture is of a wonderful man who allowed us to take his picture adn thenhe took Lori’s on his cell phone.)
This is really part 3 of the post I started two days ago and never got finished. At look at Life in Calcutta with a capital L. \240Since this is Republic Day (Indian Independence from British Rule), it is all the more appropriate just to share pictures of the the people and Life Lived Out Loud in Kolkata. The city is an amazing place! It has extreme wealth and extreme poverty, which we all know. \240But it is also a place where people are proud, hard-working, creative, ingenious, polite, (although we do get lots of curious stares), caring and filled with joy. We get lots of “hellos” and smiles as we walk around. \240And the children are so curious, playful, and responsive, and full of laughter. Hopefully, these pictures can show you just a little what life is like here.
Down at the market with our friend, Proveena.
Most of the flowers are used as a gift to the dieties at the Hindu temples and in home worhsip centers.
It’s unbelivable how many flowers there are!
Daily shopping at the market since most people don’t have refrigeration at home.
Our favorite fruit vendor at Entally Market. For $2.28, we got 3 oranges, 3 bananas, 2 pomegrantes, and 2 kiwi.
Fresh meat. You can go early to market and watch the animals get slautered. \240No thanks! Did see a street vendor from a distance kill and dress a chicken right at his little stall on the sidewalk.
The housewares sections, specifically kitchenwares.
Cookies and sweets
And of course, chili peppers!
Moving goods is an art form in itself — not to mention a lot of hard work!
A person-pulled rickshaw being used to haul goods.
Huge bundles of vegetables, fruits and flowers departing from the train station headed towards the wholesale markets, where distributors come and buy.
This guy not only has the front of his bicyle loaded down. . . .
He also has the back of the bike piled high with boxes!
There is extreme poverty here, and no matter where one is in the city, there are little homes along the sides of the streets, including places where the homes have taken over the sidewalk.
Here’s some apartment buildings.
And here are some homes near the apartments, but back the alleys.
We’ve walked into two fancy hotels downtown, just to use their bathrooms.
All the hotels have guards and doormen, etc. but they don’t question us because we are white. This is a modern lounge at the Park Hotel.
Well, I have to stop for now as we have a friend coming over for dinner— which is usually eaten at 9 or 10. Next post I’ll have some street scenes and people pictures. This is us today at the Howrah Bridge, after taking the public ferry across — 8cents a ticket! The most fun was that we walked back across the bridge!
A look at life on the streets of Kolkata
One of many sidewalk cooks serving up “street food.” I think this is fried chickpea batter.
Families at the park enjoying The Republic Day holiday.
Rinsing raw rice at a little streetside restaurant
Crossing the Howrah Bridge
Washing clothes & bathing at the public “well” in Kolkata an everflowing water spout.
A sleeping souvenir seller near a Hindu temple
A Muslim woman eating a dinner of fried noodles
Always, always traffic!
The beggars sleeping wherever they can
Dogs sleeping wherever they can — friendly and well fed by everyone it seems. I saw a man open a package of cookies and dump them on the ground for one dog.
Streets decorated for the Hindu festival
Streets still decorated from the Holidays
Kids at play
Enjoying a cup of milk-tea
A shop selling sweets, called sweetmeats.
Enjoying a snack & tea
A parade-demonstration by health care workers against denegue fever
A fruit vendor
Hand pulled rickshaw
Kids coming home from school
Cows & chickens down a side street
The public toilets near the market —quite a smell when walking by
Thousands of little snack sellers — 8 cents a tiny bag
A city that never sleeps! Big time at the market is 6-9 pm. Then home to eat supper.
Now to share some of the wonderful times we’ve been having with our Indian friends. These are people that Lori met 3 years ago when she lived here for 2 months
We have had the pleasure and honor of being in the homes of 2 Indian families.
Here we are with Elizabeth and her mother. Elizabeth works at 8th Day Coffee Shop and Cafe. Elizabeth and Ronie are Christians.
This is Ronie & Elizabeth’s daughter, Crystal Rosita, who is 5 years old, and Proveena, around 12, a cousin they are raising since her mother died 3 months ago.
We were priveldged to be invited to share a meal of chicken and vegetable curry in their home.
Here’s Elizabeth helping Crystal doing her homework.
The next evening we took an “auto” as they are called here (Tuk-tuks in thailand) and went to another home for prayer and Bible study.
This family is another Christian family, that Ronie & Elizabeth have taken under their wing to help them as a newly married couple who now have a 5 month old baby.
This is their darling baby boy.
This is Ronie’s friend who shared his “witness” of finding Jesus after 7 years of living a sinful life of smoking and drinking and doing bad things as he described it.
Ronie is a very passionate Chrisitan. He and Elizabeth both attended the same Christian high school where they met. He converted from Hinduism; she from Islam. Elizabeth was only recently baptized because at first the elders of her Muslim village would have killed her for converting. However, now her Muslim mother has reconciled with them and cares for the children and cooks for them.
This family was very gracious and served us tea and cookies and a crunchy snack after the sharing was over.
This family lives in an 8’ by 8’ space. They have electricity that supplies light and runs a clock. They have only a one burner gas burner in the corner to cook on, and all their pots and pans are on one rack on the wall.
We read scripture, heard Ronie’s and friend’s testimony, prayed and they sang a beautiful hymn in Hindi.
And everybody played with the baby
Who finally fell asleep (the black dot on the head is to protect the child and bring good health.
Lori kissing the darling “good night.”
Yesterday, Republic Day, we went with Ronie and the girls down to Millennial Park where lots of families were out for a picnic and fun.
The girls rode a hand-powered merry-go-round.
Here the girls are waving at us.
Then Ronie and I joined the girls on the Tilt-a-Whirl. OMG! I almost got whiplash! The rides each cost 20 rupees, or 33 cents per person. Plus it cost 10 rupees each for the admission fee, which is less than a dollar for the family.
The girls enjoyed the spinner, even though it was broken.
And enjoyed climbing on the jungle gym.
Here’s Ronie and Crystal.
Then we walked along the river to the ferry ghat.
For 8 cents each we caught a ride across the river.
This is the type of ferry we were on.
We landed at the foot of Howrah Bridge, that carries about 100,000 vehicles a day.
We also were at the Howrah Train Station, the biggest and busiest in India.
After weaving our way through traffic and people, we made it to the footpath across the bridge.
The bridge carries about 100,000 vehicles a day, compared to the Golden Gate which carries 110,000 a day.
I had no idea one could walk across the bridge, but by some reports about one million people a day walk across - including the 5 of us yesterday! It’s the biggest cantilever bridge in the world.
A little humor during our walk!
On the other side of the bridge was the infamous Flower Market.
Even though this wholesale market is busiest at 6:00 a.m., at 1:30 p.m. it was still packed
More varieties than I’ve ever seen!
We finally caught an Uber home after a wonderful day.
Beautiful people everywhere!
I just want to share some more shots of people and street scenes. Although I already shared one of this little boy, he’s worth another photo — besides it’s the only way to get another place marked on my map, since they only record the location of the first picture in a post.
A seller at the Flower Market
Going to the Hindu temple
Lori and a woman (Owner? Wife? Helper?) at our local fried noodle stall
Here’s Lori, over near the office of International Justice Mission where we spent an informative and inspiring morning with them, starting with devotions and then talking with the directors and staff. An excellent organization doing excellent work. Lori and Ryan both have friends that are or have worked with IJM.
The other reason I posted this picture (besides to get another pin on my map) is because this shows a great creative way to recycle old 2 liter plastic pop bottles. They are attached to each other & the wall somehow and hold both the plant and the water, thus covering up the ugly concrete side of the building.
Had a nice day at the Botanical Gardens
A gorgeous day to walk around
Quiet and peaceful, partly because there is a small admission fee.
These are just some girls who came up to us and wanted a picture with us. I guess it is status to have a photo of a foreigner. A number of people, mostly college age males ask, but we always say No. Because it was girls we said Yes.
Lots of families out
Not much in bloom this time of year, but a few flowers supplemented with pots of flowers
Picnicking and playing ball — mostly soccer
Big attraction is the Great Banyan Tree. It is over 250 years old and has the biggest spread in India, if not all of Asia
The tree covers about 4.7 acres. It is very hard to see — and to comprehend.
It has over 3772 ariel roots that reach down to the ground.
An old research building and one of the few gardens with blooming flowers
A great ride home over the Hoogley Bridge
Reminded me slightly of the Mackinaw Bridge with it’s 2 towers
The smog makes a nice sunset
High rise apartments as we exit the bridge
Crisscrossing highways near the bridge
Good night from the city that never sleeps!
Burger You! Best burger joint in Kolkata! Rivals the burgers at Bubba’s in Traverse City!
We got the Texas Burger with onion rings & cheese on the burger and a side of steak fries! Absolutely delicious! Thumbs Up is a Coca-cola product. Tastes just like Coke, but made here in India. Fed the 2 of us for under $5!
The “dining room” he is building. Will seat about 4 people each side. Up til now has been a take out place. U. S. Consulate office orders weekly. With 48 hour notice you can get a steak.
The owner & chef, Mark and his tiny kitchen. He speaks excellent English with a British accent. Raised in Christian home. Traveled in Bangladesh with Salvation Army medical team. Been to Edinburgh. Super nice guy!
Definitely will be going back!
Today we went on a walking tour of Kolkata about the British rule of India. It was excellent!
The company, Calcutta Walks is owned by Ifte, a friend of Lori’s from 3 years ago when she was here
He is mentioned in, and praised, by Lonely Planet!
Learned a lot about the 300 year rule of India by the Brits, starting with the East India Trading Company in the 1600’s. Working hand -in -hand with the British government they made millions for the government until the mid 1850’s when they were dissolved & the British government officially ruled India.
Here’s statues atop that red building showing 2 arms of Justice ( in the middle) with the British on the left and the Indians on the right.
A palace of one on the local rulers from early Kolkata days, now occupied by a figurehead governor.
It was fascinating (and disgusting at times) to learn about this era from the Indian perspective.
The original Income tax office building
Statue in the park of a maharajah who cooperated and negotiated between the British and the Indians.
The British version of the events leading up to what became known as the Black Hole of Calcutta.
Unfortunately the church. ( this is StAndrew’s) as in much of history sided with the rich & poweful.
Here is St James. Lovely grounds around it.
Stained glass inside.
A controversial painting of The Last Supper because some figures resembled local political people
I was disgusted at the dozens of commemorative plaques to fallen British military commanders who were killed over the centuries during native uprisings
Here’s a sculpture pitting natives against the British.
I did like this sculpture, though.
In the garden area of the church was this military war memorial.
This is an old building that is being restored.
Used to have beautiful tile work
This is a small lake used for recreational boating in the middle of the old government & business area. It used to be the city reservoirs—for use only for the British.
Starting in 1911-1932 the capital of India was moved from Calcutta to New Delhi for political reasons & there is still friction between the two cities
Kolkata is a City of Firsts in India and much of Asia: first piped hot water in a home (that palace), first escalator (a bank), first elevator ( a hotel) , first cut record for a gramaphone, etc. Still considered the city of art, music, dance, and culture in India.
This is Viceroy Somebody’s chair and a big black safe where gold was kept. This was a meeting room in St. John’s where church & government had joint meetings
A stop for tea and little sandwiches half way through the tour which lasted 3 hours
This is the Royal Bank of India building
A colonial era house on the church property, probably the vicar’s house at one time, or even now.
An early apartment building built by a Jewish business. Unique design because each apartment has windows to catch the breeze.
A downtown scene — in some ways quite different from the part of town we’ve been seeing. In other ways, still Kolkata.
Just a lovely tree by the reservoir.
We’ve had 3 really fun days exploring the city. Here’s Lori at a snack vendor.
We’ve taken over 400 pictures in just these 3 days!
So many wonderful people!
Here’s some men enjoying their tea by our favorite tea stall that we frequent daily, often several times.
Here’s a little sweetie who posed for us
along with her mother and baby sibling
Been in the busiest market ever today!
People and traffic on all sides, as people walk on both sides of the road since the sidewalks are too full!
When you cross the street, you just dodge \240the cars since there are almost no crossing signals.
The streets are full of everything and everybody.
People moving everything on their heads and by bicycles with carts
Here’s a hand pulled rickshaw carrying goods
And here’s another one. It’s hard work!
I’m told these guys are some of the poorest of the poor, and many are homeles. What a hard job!
It takes a lot of muscle and stamina to do this job all day long!
Here’s a picture I took soon after we came. This guy was around the corner from our house. Homeless, he just sleeps on the sidewalk under his rickshaw!
Saw goats today, right in the middle of a 4 lane street!
We’d seen goats before down side alleys, but this guy was herding them right down a main highway!
One can see just about anything in the street! Here’s what must be a wholesaler selling buns and bread.
This is a woman selling fruit, with a little tent for her baby.
And here’s a girl sleeping on a wooden platform at the back of her parents’ stall.
Old men watch,
And so do old women
People bathe on the sidewalk
usually though at the public water spigot
Here’s some men filling water bottles at the public “well.”
And then there are the beggars — although not as many as I expected, maybe because we don’t go to the touristy areas.
This poor elder doesn’t really beg, but he does hang out around the market and our tea stall. We’ve bought him tea a couple of times, as do other people. He actually speaks fairly good English and is always polite, giving us the spot on the bench. Today for the first time he was sleeping, just sitting on the bench in the middle of all the chaos. My guess is that he is homeless and usually sleeps on the street.
Many more pictures to share, but it’s past my bedtime. More to come later.
We’ve spent the last two days celebrating with Mennonite Central Committe India 75 years of work and service in India. Since the early 70’s the work has been carried out by nationals with the country directors being the only international staff
Started in 1942 with relief work for Begal famine — a human -caused famine because food was diverted to the Allied military forces.
Gathering inside St. James — maybe 300 people. Started with a big worship service.
Celebration choir. Surprised to see staff use the Worship Book hymnal from the U.S.
About 30 speakers over 2 days — past & present staff, country directors, beneficiaries sharing memories, thanking MCC, and sharing hopes for the future
Were treated to several tribal musical groups of dancers. This group (I think) was from a recipient group where MCC has an irrigation project.
This was a musical -dance drama group from a school MCC supports
Another dance- drama group.
Youth from an HIV health program for you
Below are displays and photos from MCC telling about their work in India.
Started in 1942 with relief work for Begal famine — a human -caused famine because food was diverted to the Allied military forces.
Commerative framed poster with signatures of attendees
Our signatures—right above the blue design
A wonderful celebration and a wonderful organization. They do have fantastic programs which really help many people through their relief, development and peace programs “in the name of Christ.”
Had a fabulous, inspiring day visiting a program MCC supports in northern Kolkata
MCC helps pay for the training of peace mediators or counselors who work with the police in protection of women who are abused and battered (and sometimes children) or who abuse, neglect, or abandoned elderly women.
They also have a small training program in tailoring and beauty care to provide income for women
They put together “marriage make-up kits” and use that to get their foot in the door to Muslim women. They are helping fight teen marriage and trafficking by doing “background checks” for girls who are given expensive gifts and promised marriage, but then are sold off after the marriage.
They have a small one room training building where they also have support groups and teach women about their rights. In their first year they have got 90 women with ID badges (trained in rights) and 20 women each trained in tailoring and beautician.
MCC has provided money so they have expanded their peace counselors from one police station to four. There are 5 peace counselors, each with a caseload of 5 or 6, as it often takes up to 3 months to resolve cases, plus they follow up cases for a year. They have about 20 new cases a month.
The Indian woman here is the one trained lawyer who represents the woman in court. If they have to go that far. Most of the cases are hard to prosecute so they work towards solutions with the second step being a letter from the lawyer. That usually brings the man in. The police also help round up the men because it relieves them of having to handle the abuse and abandonment cases which are time consuming and they don’t like.
This is Camille on the right who is the driving, dynamic driving force behind this and several other projects including 3 homes for abused & abandoned kids and two for seniors. She has been working in the community for 30 years. Camille is the person who got the police to buy into the program.
The women at the center treated us royaly. Here I am getting rose petals sprinkled in my hair
Plus they gave us a rose and a homemade card
Then they sang to us and gave us tea and biscuits
While Camille and the lawyer told us about the program
We also got to hear from two different victims who were seeking help. It was truly inspiring!
I’ll just leave you with some pictures of people who were hanging around the police compound wondering what all the white people were doing there!
My prayers go out tonight for the people of Kolkata, the people of India, for Mennonite Central Committee and MCC’s work around the world. I also pray for you, my friends, for me, and for the churches in the U. S. May we be ever thankful for the blessings God has showered us with, and may we find ways to share our love and these blessings with others in our world who need our caring and support.
Can’t believe it has been a week since I’ve posted. We leave Kolkata after a month here on the morning train to Puri, south of here 10 hours along the coast. We will be there 8 days before returning to the City of Joy for a few more days. Have been taking loads of pictures and doing some writing and reflecting about our time here, but mostly have just been experiencing all the sights, sounds, and smells and being in the Now. Here’s a little of what life is like in our neighborhood (mostly).
Last night at a good friend’s house.
A little Hindu shrine that backs into our tea stall.
Lori with the tea stall guys -Rocky and Vicky.
Today at Quest Mall.
Can’t believe they celebrate Valentine’s Day. Anything for a buck — or in this case a ruppee
We go to Spencer’s, a chain grocery with some clothes and housewares, but mostly food and toiletries.
The rest of the stores at the mall are too expensive—mall prices like back home. There are several big malls — we’ve only been to two. Here’s some teens hanging out taking their pictures beside the bridal sarees in the windows.
And then there are poor and homeless street people who beg. This group camps out about 2 blocks north of our tea stall. There are about 20 of them up by that corner.
This is Entally Market where we do 90% of our shopping. It’s 2 blocks from our Airbnb, and a place where only locals shop.
We were told that a number of years ago they cleaned up the market area and kicked the beggars out. It seems to have worked because we find it a nice place to shop.
A pharmacy where we got anti itch cream for our mosquito bites.
Me (Joy —AKA Ramona) having more tea!
Another frequent drinker at the tea stall.
And more men taking their afternoon break. With dinner not til 10, afternoon work & tea breaks are essential! 95% of the customers are men!
Making tea: he boils the tea, milk and sugar back on the stove. Here he is squeezing out the cloth that had the tea leaves in it.
Pouring the tea into little throw away clay cups—about 2 or 3 ounces each, so we drink 2 or 3 cups at 8 cents each
Cars being decorated for a wedding at the corner of the market. Every week there is a wedding. P.S. The flowers are fake.
A produce stand inside Entally Market
Our ATM. There is a guard at the door that lets 2 people at a time come in — one per machine. Suppose it is necessary or there would be theives and beggars everywhere. This is a block and a half away, right across from the MCC office.
More stuff for sale at Entally. This is fancy pottery.
This is the famous sweet shop where we almost daily buy our sweet yogurt and sweet meats. We found long before we found out it is one of 3 branch shops considered the best in the city.
Sweet meats are siimilar, but different, sort of a cross between fudge, soft cookies, and homemade candy. Many different kinds. Yummy! I’ve been trying a different one almost daily. Lori is not a sweet eater, but I have them for my bedtime snack. They cost 10-20 cents a piece.
We eat the sweet curds for breakfast with bran flakes and fruit. It is much thicker and sweeter than any yogurt at home. In the UK it is similar to what they call “cream” but the Indian kind is the best!
Here’s some girls and their dad having lunch after school gets out at 2:00 -2:30. This is spicy chowmein noodles at our little noodle stall right on the street outside the sweet shop.
Here’s some more kids enjoying lunch
Lori and the Noodle Lady — wife, mother, or owner?
The yummy noodles. They are very popular here & served on the street. A lot of Chinese food as the “foreign” food. This only costs 33 cents, but feeds the 2 of us! This is the half order — an overflowing salad plate full. We have it for either lunch or supper.
And here is the chef. He cooks up a bunch ahead of time, then you tell him what you want in it and he fries up your order. We always get egg, no meat..
This is our tailor shop. You can see the back of the store in this picture. It’s a busy shop.
Here are the 3 boys that do the sewing. They’ve made us 1 cotton pants and we dropped off fabric for 3 more pairs. $4.00 to sew. We supply the fabric which costs about $3.00. It’s getting too hot to wear jeans!
Our elevator: two sliding grate doors. We’re on the 4th floor.
It’s a cage big enough maybe for 4 people, but we’ve never had to share despite all the people in this building.
Can I offer anyone a bedtime cup of cha? There’s always room for cha—quite literally! It’s just a sip or two! \240Goodnight! My train is leaving way too early in the morning!
Greetings from Puri!
We somewhat surprisingly have landed in tourist paradise.
This is the place where middle and upper class Indians come to vacation.
The atmosphere is very different from Kolkata. \240And “No” we are not riding the camels — primarily because of the way they treat the camels,
This is what I want to do!
There are 3 miles of beach here on the Bay of Bengal.
According to some tourist literature Puri isn’t a good swimming beach.
But that’s not true! This picture doesn’t show it well, but there were hundreds, if not thousands of people swimming today.
The beach might not be as beautiful as in Goa or Kerala, but it is really nice sand in the water and surprisingly warm.
Women just wear their sarees right in the water.
Some wear pants and a top, but even the young ones wore a scarf around their neck— I assume to hide their breasts from showing under their wet shirt. We haven’t decided what we are going to wear, even though we brought our swimming suits.
One truly wonderful thing is the long SMOOTH sidewalk that goes along the beach. Kolkata sidewalks were so rough and hazardous and so full of people we often walked on the streets, although there we had to beware of all the traffic!
Look at this empty road! Unbelievable! There are no taxis here and few private cars. In Kolkata there are one and a half million taxis that comprise 48% of the traffic.
Here the traffic is a little bit of everything, even a camel for some.
Auto rickshaws are the main mode of transport.
We got from the train station across town in about 10 minutes.
There are lots of motorcycles.
Plus vans and some small buses.
Bicycles are used to haul everything
And of course, there are rickshaws (but note how little traffic there is!)
This is a shot of our rickshaw driver today, as we got quite hot walking to a coffee shop.
Here’s a cricket game on the beach, and today we saw a beach volleyball game.
And here’s a little girl enjoying a ride in an electric car - you buy a ticket like a bumper car ride.
It’s just nice to see another side of Indian life — families on vacation enjoying life.
What a wonderful place for people to relax and breathe in some fresh air!
Here’s to a great week ahead!
Nothing like tea on the beach!
Sunrise at Puri
And off we go . . .a
Howrah is the busiest train station in India with 450 trains per day and one million passengers.
Lots of people sleeping on the floor waiting for trains — or not.
Amazingly it was quite quiet— maybe because everybody was still half asleep.
Goods of all kinds waiting to be loaded.
Here’s a pallet of eggs.
And here comes the train,
Right on time.
We got tickets for air conditioned chair seats.
Vendors employed by the train come through all day selling stuff. Here’s my morning tea and biscuit. We could have ordered a lunch box with curry but we weren’t sure about how hot it would be, so we brought our own cheese sandwich and some snacks
There were book and newspaper vendors
Here’s the snack chip vendor. Also vendors selling fruit, yogurt, water, and pop.
Here we are, ready to go.
Leaving Kolkata we saw the worst housing we had seen the whole trip.
Despite all we’d seen before, this really got to me. I can’t imagine what it must be like to live in one of those hovels.
And like all train tracks around the world there were lots of piles of trash.
The trip gave Lori a chance to see rural India for the first time.
Heading south, we soon started seeing more palm trees — date palm and coconut palm.
Most of the fields were barren for the winter, but there were a couple fields planted to early rice.
And here are fields planted with marigolds, probably headed for the Kolkata flower market.
Waiting for the train to pass.
Love these two men talking to each other.
Here’s a little 10 year old talking to Lori. His family was spending a long weekend in Puri on vacation. He showed her a cute app on his phone where it puts sunglasses, hats and funny things on your face.
Arrival at Puri
Out to the taxi stand. Here they have a booth where the Ticketmaster determines the price and selects your auto rickshaw for you. Very nice system with no haggling.
And off we go . . .
Another Day. Another Adventure!
More images from Puri
We spent two lovely hours here enjoying the view and the day!
Wading. \240Very comfortable! Temp in mid-80’s
Started listening to James Martin’s “A Jesuit Guide to (almost) Everything” while enjoying a wonderful sea breeze.
Vendors of all kinds: Yes, that is cotton candy.
A girl selling balloons
A rice and curry seller if you want a meal
The cucumber seller. Indians love peeled cucumbers as a snack.
And best of all the tea seller!
He has clever set-up where he carries an oil burning stove and makes the tea hot right in front of you.
Here you can the burner down in the bottom.
He adds the tea leaves.
Then strains the leaves.
And then pours you your fresh cup of hot tea! Wonderful! We had seconds, of course
Here’s the rest of his little portable kitchen.
The view from the ocean with the expensive hotels along the road. Notice the dogs just lying around — all over the beach.
Indians on vacation.
A curious cute boy — not selling anything! (I didn’t take pictures of all the obnoxious sellers of shells, jewelry, and kids toys!)
On the road to the beach in an auto rickshaw.
Tourists—80% come to visit a very important Hindu temple in town, which non-Hindus are not allowed to enter
On the way to the beach
On the road
On the beach
On the sidewalk
At the dumpsters—on the block we pass going to the beach
The homeless living on the beach
Mother and daughter enjoying the beach.
A food stall washing their dishes on the sidewalk.
The street sweeper. These twig brushes and the sweepers are the backbone of keeping India clean.
Am pretty sure this sweeper is paid by the city tourist board. There were also women on the beach picking up trash.
The purse/bag seller—hundreds of little stalls selling trinkets to the tourists
The bag stall
The tourists — \240many very fancy sarees!
Another interesting man
Pony ride, anyone?
Chickpea snack with chili peppers etc. we don’t eat the raw or cold stuff.
A little food stall that had a five star rating on Google maps.
We loved it! Had a big bowl of fried noodles and this egg-vegetable sandwich. All for $2.50!
Goodnight, Puri! \240Goodnight all!
Another fabulous two days in Puri! This is really retirement! And a vacation from the crazy chaos of Kolkata!
Although there are lots of tourists here, there is still lots of beach where one can have relative peace and privacy — well, as white people we never really have real privacy.
Here’s Lori late yesterday covering up to avoid an obnoxious young man from taking a picture of her. He was the worst ever! Had to really get firm with him. Lots of young men come up and ask Lori for selfie’s with her — never me. They want young white women whose heads they can cut and paste onto naked bodies and show off on Facebook. We’ve had several Indian friends and strangers tell us this.
This is crazy Ramona in a towel — and the jerk in the background. He probably stared at us over 15 minutes, Went out to the surf and pretended to be taking a selfie towards the shore, then came closer to us (after we covered up) and finally spoke to us. We just got up and left. It was getting close to sunset anyway.
Here’s some cool sand art someone made by dripping little balls on sand into a tower.
Indians on holiday.
Enjoying the ocean
Lots of families having fun
Here’s where we usually hang out — up with the umbrella guys and near the vendors - partly because they will drive off the nuisance guys. \240Yesterday we saw them break up two fights on the beach - one between 3 drunk guys and one with a father who didn’t want to pay the umbrella guys — yet the father was fighting when they then tried to reject his measly pay!
This is one of the food sellers, serving rice and curry to the family next to us. Carries everything in 6 big pots.
Here’s 3 “pearl’ and “coral” necklace sellers. Actually the guy in the blue shirt speaks pretty good English and we talked with him 2 hours! He has made a full time living doing this for 20 years. He admitted the jewelry is “fake” but lots of Indian women buy them anyway.
This couple is buying some kind of jewelry, I think braclets.
This is the front of that little noodle shop I told you about last time, that was recommended on Google maps.
And here the chef is fixing up the food.
Some of the many beach dogs watching us have tea! They seldom bark — here or in Kolkata. \240Guess they just get used to people.
Fancy horses pulling 3 carts with cages with musicians playing in them — for a weekend wedding. \240They just parked by the road and people danced in the street and the music blared away all afternoon.
Some of the wedding decorations outside the hotel where the wedding was being hosted.
One of the many decorated big trucks, called lorries (it is a British word)
A colorful scarf covering a motorcycle.
Sweeping outside a shop before it opens in the morning.
One of many overflowing dumpsters before the trash is picked up.
Eggs on a bicycle-cart. These carts are the backbone of the distribution system in Kolkata. \240Really haven’t seen many here
Watch out for the speed bumps — and the cows!
Fishermen straightening out their nets at the end of the day. They fish at night mostly and the catch comes in about 6 or 7 a.m.
This vendor is selling dried, spicy red fish.
Our view from a rickshaw, headed down the main road that runs by the beach.
Another curry and rice vendor. This one has it all tied on this bicycle. Have seen some that even have an umbrella attached to the bike.
A vendor selling some kind of fried breads or pastries. \240Some of the many things we haven’t or can’t eat.
An older bigger man
And a mother and her sleeping baby.
What a sweetie!
Another day is ending
And here is the Sun Goddess, holding the power in her hand, — and all of you and the world in her heart! \240Love from us in Puri, to all of you, wherever in the world you are!
Here we are at the Sun Temple. We took a private car for the 40 km, one hour each way from Puri. Cost us $20 for the excursion.
The temple is supposed to be a chariot with these 12 big wheels around it
Amazing how many people were there already. However on the way home I counted over 40 big tour buses of people and about that many mini-bus that hold 12-20 people!
We refused to pay the $10 per person foreigner fee because there really isn’t that much to see. By comparison, Indians pay fifty cents (yes, .50). You can read the history here.
This is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It’s valuable as an archeological site and is not a place of worship with statues etc.
Still quite important to Hindus though
The temple is supposed to be a chariot with these 12 big wheels around it.
A lot of the temple is just old pillars
The chariot was drawn by 7 horses. I assume this is one of them.
Here I am with a happy man or a laughing god.
We spent our time people watching, which was far more interesting to us.
Some very interesting and beautiful people, including some women with shaved heads and some other religious pilgrims or monks.
And then were a few beggars.
And then there was the woman who wanted a picture with us. Usually we say No, but this time consented.
And last, but never forgotten, were the holy cows roaming around.
Before heading home we found a tea guy.
Outside of West Bengal and Bangladesh, Indians use all kinds of spices in their tea, such as ginger, cardamom, anise and other spices. We still like the plain sweet milk tea the best.
The breakfast puri maker was part of the little restaurant next door.
Breakfast is served at our hotel and we eat 2 or 3 puris every morning with curried chickpeas. \240Sometimes we get an omelet too.
The puris are deep fried, thin and kind of flaky. Time to get back to the hotel to get our free breakfast. Yum!
Now for the really neat part of the trip to Konark — the wild monkeys!
If you look at the map you can see that most of the 40 km to Konark runs through a nature preserve.
We had no idea! It was mostly forest all the way, including some type of pine tree
And then we saw monkeys!
Wild monkeys running right across the road!
It was really awesome!
The trip was worth it just for this!
The preserve is part estuary near the ocean with rivers and lakes and swampy areas.
A beautiful early start to what turned out to be a very interesting day! That story is next.
Here’s our little troop of 5 homeless girls.
Here’s a toast to a wonderful week at the beach in Puri! One last sweet cup of hot “cha” as we watch the sun set a little after 5 every day.
Love those umbrellas! Anytime after 10 until about 4 we needed them! I really burned my feet by not keeping them in the shade all the time. Riding in the rickshaw didn’t help.
Here’s Lori all wrapped up trying to keep the sun off her neck and forehead.
The water was fantastic! I could have waded all day, except for getting too much sun!
On beaches here people swim in their clothes. Nobody is laying out trying to get a tan!
Everybody trying to cool off!
These kids were loving just having the surf roll over them! Great sandy shore! No rocks and little trash.
These 5 guys were the only people the whole week we saw boggie boarding. Don’t know why this hasn’t caught on here.
Here’s a fellow who came up to show us an octopus he found.
Dead, I presume.
And here’s one of the 6 dead sea turtles we saw. \240They get caught in the fishing nets or hit by the boat motors.
Then the crows and dogs pick at them! Sickening!
This was our lifeguard, meaning they rent you the umbrellas. One chair is 33 cents an hour. He maybe guards people’s stuff but he also helped shoo away nuisance people who bothered us!
This is Sanjay, a good English speaker who befriended us. Claimed he learned English on the beach the last 20 years. Learned interesting things about Indian life and views. He really is prejudiced against Muslims who he thinks are dirty. He is one of the necklace sellers.
Everyday the lifeguards throw out a net to catch their lunch
It’s fascinating watching them pull it in. It takes a lot of work against the waves.
Quite a crowd gathers to watch.
They have to pick out the little fish — look at center left
But they catch enough that everybody gets a big handful to cook up.
This is one of the women that is hired to clean up trash from the beach.
Camel guys ply the beach trying to get riders, which they do—just not us.
The cucumber vendor. He peels and slices in long quarters and puts a spicy salt on them. Delicious and juicy!
This is our favorite sweets seller.
Plus he sells potato samosas that are warm. They are absolutely the best either of us has ever eaten! We’d eat 3-5 at a time. 10 rupees or 33 cents each.
This is one of the many beach tea stalls. They open up for sunrise & a couple hours and then again for sunset and the night market. All of them set up these chairs for sitting, but you have to buy to sit, or pay rent. We always buy, of course!
And we spend the day people watching.
Amazes me all the beautiful sarees the women wear.
Here’s a religious pilgrim dude out begging.
Here’s the fishermen carrying some big nets down the beach
Don’t really know what they were doing.
This was a girl and her parents sitting beside us drinking tea and, off course, she wanted a selfie. Her mom got in their picture. What celebrities we are!
Here we are all wrapped up — not to hide, but because when the sun goes down and it’s windy we get cold!
Hello! The kids are always so friendly. Many want to shake hands when we pass by on the street
What a beach!
What a time!
Goodbye, Puri! We love you!
Here we are, back in Kolkata for 3 days while we repack and rest up and get ready for our trip to the Taj Mahal.
This is our favorite restaurant, Nawab’s. We eat there frequently. They have the best garlic nan and dal making . It’s a brown-black lentil I never had before, thicker than regular dal. Super good!
When we got off the train decided to take the ferry across the river because the traffic was so awful and Uber was expensive.
Howrah Bridge — cut our Uber bill in half by getting out of the traffic around the train station and bridge, and crossing the river,
The ferries - 33 cents to cross.
The ferry dock
The nightmare & the worse government red tape ever — the Foreign Tourist Office of the Eastern Railway! Took us over 3 hours to buy a train ticket!
They have a primitive computer system but the worse thing is that two people just write everything down in a book for no reason. Til we get out they have our passport numbers , addresses, date of entry with copy of visas and it’s written down 3 times and our signature! Just to buy a train ticket! And the only reason for a paper log is to give somebody a job! Can’t explain it all but it is really stupid!
A steak dinner ( not listed on the menu) with mashed potatoes and peas. 4 bucks for more than I could eat. Cut up the rest and had it boxed and gave to a beggar. Leftovers are not wasted in this city!
Just got back from a lovely evening at our friend Sujita’s home.
This is her sister in orange. Sujita is in the back with her mother. Sujita is the one who is traveling to Agra with us. She speaks English, Hindi and Bengali. Her sister does too, but not as fluently.
Sujita’s dad died less than a year ago. Lori met Sujita 3 \240years ago at Eighth Day Coffee Cafe, where she works. Ryan met her too. Her sister is an accountant.
We thought we were going for a quick visit to drop off some stuff we aren’t taking on our trip. But, of course, there were snacks. Coke instead of tea, this non-sweet yellow cake that you dipped in a slightly spicy chutney, the crispy stuff, and the rosagulla.
We got to see photos of their older sister’s wedding in 2009 and hear all about arranged marriages. Love marriages are more common now but still frowned on. Another older sister had a love marriage and her father initially disowned her, but after his stroke reconciled with her. They also have one brother.
To our surprise we were then served supper. Fresh puris with . . .
The best paneer curry ever — it had some really nice spices, usually it is too bland to be good. Also had curried potatoes and rice pudding with raisins and cashews. Yummy! Lori had never had rice pudding here. Later they served some raita that was really different (not with veggies), but really excellent. Maybe made with a bean or corn or wheat stuff—Sujita said is was a yellow flower, but really don’t know what it was. Definitely some yogurt base with something a little sweet. We’ve been eating the raitia with our curries and roti, but they said Indians eat it after meals and that it is supposed to aid in digestion.