India for the First Time

Our journey to India took us from Seattle, WA USA through Dubai, UAE with a short layover to Hyderabad, India. Once landed in Hyderabad we grabbed our bags and managed to get through customs with our Visas. In order to get us to our final destination at Biswanathpur, Odisha we still had a short 1 hour flight to Vishakapatnam (or Visag as the locals call it) followed by a 5 hour drive into Biswanathpur.

We were greeted by the Rural Life Development Society officials. Samuel brought us flowers and shook our hand, then led us to the vehicle they would be driving us to Biswanathpur in.

As we walked through the sea of men waiting to help arrivals with cabs and other forms of transportation we found ourselves approaching a small white car that could seat two. Just behind the car was an ambulance.

Yup, you read that right. We were to be transported from the airport to Biswanathpur in an old ambulance. Someone had donated an ambulance to RLDS. This was to be our transport for the long 5 hour journey to our final destination.

Our drive began with the sounds and noises of the city with added pleasure of seeing bright colors and interesting people.  Our driveralong with many others, were all honking their horns continuously and packing in along with motorcycles, buses, trucks and cars at every stop light.

As we pulled out of the city we began to see smaller shops followed by local gathering places then into vast pockets of fields and hills flowing in the distance. The bright green of the grasses and fields of rice were so intense I couldn’t resist taking photo after photo.

While my traveling companions rested I couldn’t bring myself to close my eyes for even a moment for fear of missing out on something. From train stops to small houses, women in brightly colored clothing walking with bowls on their heads and old men riding bicycles I snapped every shot I could.

We stopped in one of the towns as our driver got out to grab us some waters.  There were small children across the road eating Popsicles to stay cool in the blistering heat. One saw us sitting in the ambulance and encouraged his friends to come over and talk with us. He peeked in the window saying “Hi. How are you?” They all repeated the same phrase “Hi. How are you?” to us. Some could hold more of a conversation and asked us where we are from, why we are in India and our names. One boy came over to my side and looked in. He held up his phone and asked “Can I take a selfie?” I said “You want to take a selfie with me?” to which he replied “Yes!”. I don’t know where that selfie is headed, but it was a lot of fun taking it. The ambulance was overrun with children and young adults peeking in to talk to us when the driver arrived and pulled us away.

As the sun set the sky lit up with an orange glow I had never seen before. The sun was a perfect circle of redish orange among the misty glow popping in and out of the hills as we drove along. After the sun set we arrived to the closest town to where we would be staying. Decorated with bright lights and people everywhere as they gathered to celebrate the last day of Dussehra. I found myself dosing off while still taking pictures out of the window of the ambulance. I laid my head down and woke later to the ambulance pulling into the home that we would be staying.

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