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Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Here We Go Again

It's been fifty years since I first arrived in India, fresh from college,eager to begin a three year assignment teaching English as a foreign language at Lutheran mission schools in Guntur. Since then my husband and I have tried unsuccessfully to establish a work relationship that would allow us to live here (bureaucracy, lack of needed/promised infrastructure), gotten too entrenched in jobs (good ones) and with family (precious children, growing up as children do) to leave America, been derailed by personal medical contingencies (if you know us, you know what), watched our children launch their own families (grandchildren--yay!), and finally, after retirement, started an all-volunteer non-profit organization to accompany people in several rural Guntur District neighborhoods on their journey to community and sustainable lifestyles (widespread needs).

Fast forward:  This is at least my twentieth trip.  I was not at all looking forward to it. I need more time to rest, heal, strengthen after a particularly difficult year..But after a ten day adjustment period, I think I am getting my 'sea' legs  And, Lordwilling, 2015 WILL BE a better year.

SO, starting on December 15, we flew from Minneapolis to Mumbai via Amsterdam, with wonderful seats and service on Minneapolis based DELTA Airlines.. Long stopovers in AMS and MUM give us time to enjoy brand new international terminals, including immigration, and lunch at a transit lounge in Mumbai. A fellow passenger strikes up a conversation (a throwback to days when doing so was de rigeur on any long Indian trip, by bus, train, or plane);  it turns out that not only is he a pharmaceutical salesman like my husband was, years ago, but he also has contact information for a government approved airport renta- car-cum-driver,  which my husband promptly calls and arranges to meet us upon arrival at the Hyderabad airport. While cooling our heels in the spacious and modern Mumbai airport my husband and a familiar porter book an ongoing flight to Hyderabad on IndiGo, perhaps the youngest of India's domestic airlines. Indeed, few people in the whole busy airport appear to be older than in their thirties.  The Indigo flight crew look like children to us, and appear to be very new at the usual initial flight routine aboard their tiny and tidy white and blue planes.

Eager to be home, we've shelved our plan to stay and rest in Hyderabad for a couple days in favor of driving on through, arriving home at nightfall.  Husband and I are beyond tired, and the driver and I have never set eyes on the building before.  Not until an unfamiliar watchman's wife stares us down in consternation do we realize we have driven into the parking level of a similar building, two doors down the street. Backing out with apologies and just a wee bit of embarrassment, we finally drive in at the right gate,' laughing all the way,' where our watchman's young daughters dash to open our car doors with shouts of  'Uncle, Uncle!!' for my husband, and curious gazes for this 'new' person who is his wife.

Their mother Pushpa (same name as our ngo), who will be our household helper, helps Raghava (our local driver and husband's man-Friday for you-name-it regular and odd jobs around home and the town as well as driving) set to work downloading our baggage and sending it upstairs. Before the elevator gates clank, a voice inside repeatedly insists 'Please close the door!' before we ascend to our fourth floor quarters,where more clanks and the message are repeated again.  The elevator voice seems older and more subdued than one in a Hyderabad apartment where we dwelt briefly four or five years ago.  Our doorbell proves a different matter...a shriek, by anybody's definition.  But, never mind, finally, we are home.

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