Starting off with a Bang(alore)

There’s something magical about being cooped up in an airplane for 23 hours. It gives you a certain high of impending doom: O Ye mighty jet lag deity…be ever so merciful to me.  The beauty of flying Lufthansa as opposed to *ahem* American for an international flight is the constant conveyor belt of food that they give you. The constant calories certainly pacified my anxiety about the long travel times, first from Denver to Frankfurt, and then from Frankfurt to Bangalore. Funny enough, I got an aisle seat on the right side of the last middle section row of the plane. Fine by me, I thought, nowhere else to go but up (pun intended). As I dutifully wait for the two passengers to fill the middle seats, I survey the scene, taking stock of where to place my backpack so my legs don’t go Rip Van Winkle on me. Great, I think, space right above my seat gives me the perfect chance to grab stuff out of my bag.

All is good in ideal town until the middle seat couple arrives. Perfect, I thought. A nice Indian couple. I can ask them about India and learn some stuff about where I am headed for the next five months. NO! Instead, the woman sits in my seat and looks at me with puppy dog eyes as her husband mutters incoherent words at me, gesticulating to indicate what I think means they want me to change seats with them. I, a noble and honorable millennial, at first agree to switch to a dreaded middle seat. Quickly, however, I realize the error of my ways and tell them no. Apparently, what I think doesn’t matter as they already decided for me, telling me to move. I know what you’re thinking: Bryan, you’re a pushover. Yes, yes I am. Long story short, I got stuck middle seat for 10 hours AND my ideal bag space was taken by this couple’s bags, forcing my trusty backpack 7 rows down. In my mind, I feared this experience as a portend for how my experience in India as a whole would go. Nevertheless, I sallied forth, cramped between the delightful couple on my right and a drunk Norwegian man on my left. I saw him as a Jesus figure of sorts because he continually kept asking to turn his water into wine.

After a brief stint in Frankfurt pretending to know German, I made my way onwards to Bangalore. A movie recommendation from my seatmate turned into a two and half hour, action-packed joyride of a Bollywood blockbuster. If you have the chance, I highly recommend checking out Raid, it is a very good film with some Bollywood spice (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3h4thS-Hcrk). In addition to the movie advice, this guy was super helpful in explaining the culture of the area of India to which I was heading; language, religion, etc. Saying goodbye to this man after landing in Bangalore, I had a much more optimistic view of what I would get out of the trip. As I stepped off the plane onto Indian soil, I was beaming with anticipation and excitement.

My optimism disappeared as soon as I stepped up to the airport customs desk. The agent stared at my visa for five minutes, occasionally uttering in Malayalam to his agent coworker nearby. After asking about my situation, I explained again that I was an unpaid intern working for a company in India for five months. After calling over his manager, he decided to ask me for a letter of intent from my company, Profugo, as verification for my purpose of visit. After digging through my laptop (thank God it was charged) and staring at my visa for another 4 minutes, I was finally allowed through. Making my way out of the airport, I met my contact, Gilgi, and got in a taxi for my soon to be home of Prashanthagiri, India.

WHEW!!!! Finally, Bryan!! You got to where you were going. You got to fall asleep during the short car ride and dream of chicken tikka masala. I wish, dear reader, that this were the case. However, I soon discovered that the “short” car ride was in fact 8 hours and sleep was for the weak because every time I tried to doze off, the music was cranked louder and the chatter of Gilgi and the taxi driver rose in volume. With all the difficulties of the experience, what made the whole thing bearable was looking out the window and watching our stocky Suzuki drive on the wrong side of the road, whizzing past mosques, temples, monasteries, churches, and some of the most unique architecture I have ever seen. Almost a fusion of Western design and Asian accents, each building I saw made me feel more and more that I never flew to India but rather an alien planet; the strange gibberish that my new acquaintances were speaking an alien dialect and the high-pitched wailing on the radio the mating call of the hive queen. To put it mildly, I was very much out of my element and yet, I loved the moment all the more for that very reason. For the final leg of the journey, we passed through a national park and tiger preserve. While the only tiger I saw was on the park’s entrance sign, I watched with sheer joy through my small little one-way mirror of a window at small little deer and even an elephant. Sleeping was hopeless at that point as my anticipation continued to build. I was rushed with relief when we finally pulled into the driveway of the apartment complex.

One of seven in the complex, this apartment features a living room, bedroom, kitchen, and bathroom.  The median age of my neighbors is about six. It takes 40 minutes to walk to work. The power goes out every evening for an average of two hours. Without A/C and a relative humidity of 100 percent, it takes almost an hour to fall asleep. As I write this, kids are banging on my windows and running around outside, mosquitos are flying over my head, and yet, I love it here. It is so different, so refreshing, that I am excited to see what I can learn from this way of life so different from my Western past. By working with people in the community here for the next five months, I hope to expand my worldview, challenge what I know, and gain insight into how wonderful the world truly is.

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