I’m currently sitting in a guesthouse in Mumbai that was offered to me by the organization I’m working for. (the post has actually been published online the next the day when I got to the office, since there is no Internet at home)
It’s hot, I’m sweaty and I’m sharing a room with 2 other guys, who happened to be interning at the same organization at this time, as well as a couple of 8-legged pets that are running all around. But, at least, I have no doubt that – “man, I am in India now!” I am glad to be here and have the opportunity to witness this place firsthand.
I’ve gone a bit off the radar for the last 2 weeks, so this is just a brief recap of what’s been happening thus far. As much as I’ve love to, I can’t post a lot of juicy stuff about Mumbai yet, as I’m still working on wrapping my own head around it. It’s unlike anything I’ve ever seen, heard or smelt before – it truly shocks all of your senses.
So, going back in time…
I’ve left Dushanbe a little less than a week ago, although it feels like it’s been a lot longer. Honestly, it was truly a sad parting, as I’ve grown to enjoy the country tremendously. I’ve met some really wonderful people who have made my stay there better than I ever could’ve imagined, so it was hard to part ways with all of that.
As I was leaving, I was stopped by the customs guy in the airport, who asked to inspect my luggage. After going through the bulk of the stuff, he picked up the two flashlights that I carried with me and began to take them apart. After confirming that they posed no threat to the security, he switched his curiosity to the ebook reader. He asked what kind of documents I carried on it and if there is anything confidential on it. After satisfying his curiosity and realizing that I was not a spy, he looked at me straight-faced and asked:
- Hmm… did you know that today is an official holiday?
- No. What is it?
- 1st of April
- Ohhh (I never realized that April Fool’s day was such a big deal)
- Do you know that it’s customary to give gifts on holidays?
- OHHHH (son of *****)
Fortunately, it ended pretty much at that. As there wasn’t much that he could do to keep me there, I quickly gathered up the belongings and went on my way.
Arriving to Istanbul the next morning was somewhat of a shock. I never realized that after spending just two months in a relatively relaxed and laidback lifestyle in Tajikistan (or maybe it just felt that way to me), being in a city with 17 million people would feel so hectic.
Plus, I’ve arrived somewhat unprepared – no guidebook and not a whole lot of research done in advance – so exploring the city was a challenge. On my first full day, I was walking around without much sense or purpose and stumbled into a mosque. As I was observing the mid-day service from the steps, I’ve noticed a couple of guys nearby who also appeared like tourists (it is very easy to tell tourists apart, as it turns out). I approached them and they turned out to be from the States, but were spending a few days in Istanbul before heading onwards to Ukraine! One of them spoke nearly fluent Russian and was about to start a 2-year Peace Corps assignment in Georgia, so we wound up having quite a bit to talk about.
As they were great company (and had an Istanbul guidebook!), I attached myself to them for a couple of days and we wound up exploring the city. That turned out to be pretty great – hey, if you’re going to be a tourist, it’s best to do it with others who are just as lost as you are!
(guys – in case you’re reading this, hope you made it to Ukraine safe and sound!)
Overall, the 5 days went as somewhat of a blur – mosques, dozens of cups of tea, baklava, more tea… Before I knew it, I was on a flight to Mumbai.
My first 24-hour impression is WOW. This place is unlike anything I’ve ever experienced.
I’ll definitely start writing more over the next few days as I settle in – so, it’s to be continued