Never say never

Never say never and only in Qatar are two phrases that I continue to utter. You would think that I would be more selective when saying “never,” but to be honest, that word has landed me some of the most amazing, humbling, and memorable memories Jared and I have made together. And it is that little word that recently took us to good ole’ India. Say what???

So the story goes like this… (side note, we just received a message from the Emir that our 5 day break would now be 8 days, {only in Qatar} and the weather channel is telling us that it feels like 117 degrees outside.)

Jared: “We can’t stay here for that many days….Where can we go?”

Me: “What’s the closest and cheapest flight?”

Jared: (Giggles) “India.”

Me: “I will never step foot in that country!” (No disrespect, but my sense of smell is about as good as my cat’s.)

Jared: (Giggle turns in to full on laughter/shock) “1 meal costs .75 to $4. $4 is a splurge! Plus, look at this picture of Goa.”

Me: “Holy moly! That’s beautiful, but sorry. We can’t eat the food there…”

Jared: “Yes you can. You just have to eat at really nice places.”

Me: (Thinking this will never happen and in my most confident voice…) “Fine, find me a 5 star hotel, and I will go!”

Needless to say, the next afternoon we were filling out paperwork for our visas to India both looking at each other with excitement, yet wondering if we are really about to do this. And we did! And it was one heck of a trip that neither of us will ever forget. I honestly can’t say that I ever need to visit again, particularly a big city such as Mumbai, but that hectic, messy, extremely noisy, slightly smelly, sensory overload of a country that is filled with as many cows wandering the streets as people has left one of the biggest marks on my heart.

I can’t really explain India to you. For example,  if I told you we were driving down the highway and we look over to see four people in a taxi, two which are holding a goat, yes a goat, in the back seat, you probably wouldn’t believe me. Or that there was a big red button labeled “S.O.S” in the back of our taxi, that 20 million people live in a city the size of Nashville, that cows roam the streets and have the right of way, that those lines you see painted on the streets called lanes have no meaning what so ever! 3 lanes = 6 cars wide, all which are intertwining and possibly driving in oncoming traffic. I can’t make these things up, and all of these realizations came to us in no joke, 20 minutes of driving to Mumbai.

First of all, you can’t imagine the amount of people that live in Mumbai. 20 million people! 20 million of the kindest people you may ever meet, seriously some of the most hospitable and humble people we have come across on our travels, but also the poorest we have ever seen as well. Blue tarps, which are made in to tents, line side walks and also act as roofs on far too many homes. The amount of slums we saw in just the few hours we were in Mumbai was enough to make my stomach churn. I thought Costa Rica and Nicaragua put life into perspective for me, but no. Not anywhere close. It made those countries look well developed.

We had about 8 hours to spend exploring Mumbai, but after the non-stop honking, which only stopped for a mere 6 seconds at one point, shouting from every market vendor trying to earn a buck, aromas coming from the food stalls, cows and goats weaving in and out of traffic, and after striving to comprehend how so many people have to live day to day, we opted to go back to the airport and rest for the remaining 4 hours before heading to the beach in Goa.

Goa. A beautiful change in pace from Mumbai. Still incredibly poor and although it is deemed a “tourist” spot, you or I would not typically think so. You must find an amazing resort, which for $80 a night, we did easily and it was honestly the best part of our trip. Us…in a resort??? NEVER! Who does that??? BORING! To be honest, we did not leave for the first day and a half. After those few hours in Mumbai and the taxi ride to our hotel where we dodged at least 15 cows on a 30 minute drive, which should have been a 48 minute drive, we deserved to relax and not be adventurous for a minute. Plus, we were in food comas. The food alone is enough to go to this place! The one reason I thought we shouldn’t go right. 🙂

After the day and a half, we did venture out to a nearby village and went to the beach. We also went to the local Friday market. The beaches are beautiful and the villages…well, they are authentic as it gets. Shacks both for living and for food line the beaches, many which are made from homemade bricks and/or blue tarps. The Friday market was an intense experience to say the least. These people are persistent and will not leave you alone until you either buy it or get in your taxi. You think the lady who was trying to sell you a blanket, which you kindly refused 100 times already has gone away, but then out of no where she pops out from behind a massive pile of green beans with 3 more blankets that are now king size and a 1/3 of the price. Very kind, but so persistent.

In thinking back, we didn’t do too many adventurous things on this trip as the views of this complex and unique country were plenty, but we realized that for this go round, we were just as happy sitting at our pool reminiscing about that goat in the back of the taxi and talking to the locals who worked there or who were there for a conference. They were so interested in us, and clearly, us in them. Our pictures are probably going to be in some Indian calendar now as so many of them just wanted to take pictures of us, especially Jared. Tall, blue eyes, handsome…I get it! 😉 Strange, yes, but for so many of them, this was their first time to ever see white people, especially Americans. While this trip was overwhelming in numerous aspects, we left feeling truly welcomed. India is as different as it gets from anything in the U.S., or even the western hemisphere. These people have every reason to hate life, yet I left wanting to be more like them. More real. More friendly. More thankful.

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