Here I sit in my hotel room at 3am on Wednesday morning. After a layover in London that turned out to be almost 12 hours with delays, I finally landed in Delhi. Coming down the escalator this is what I saw. So many people from different places all gathering here to go through customs. My fellow traveler and interpreter and I stood in line to have our passports stamped and entry granted. The customs agent took his time as he looked over the passport and work visa all while mumbling something under his breath. He then heavy-handedly stamped my passport and paperwork and off to baggage claim we went.
We piled our suitcases up on a cart and made our way past guards into a reception area where we were greeted by the family's personal assistant. We were presented with a dozen roses and asked to sit and enjoy a coffee for a bit. When offered coffee, I declined and said I was fine with bottled water. I got away with this but only temporarily, I was then offered coffee again and brought an espresso with whipped cream and chocolate drizzled on top. I spooned off some of the sweet cream then stirred the rest in to sweeten the coffee. I managed a few sips, it wasn't bad, but is definitely an acquired taste I have yet to develop. Not sure I will have much of a choice as it seems coffee and tea are staples here, it will be a matter of finding those I tolerate and eventually like or love.
Our group, 3 interpreters, the personal assistant, and a driver then walked to the parking structure to our car, a Toyota SUV of sorts. The driver managed to get all 6 large, heavy suitcases and several carry-on bags into the rear and the three of us interpreters piled into the back seat. As we walked out into the air, it was smokey and hazy. I could smell fire but it was a faint smell. The temperature was nice, almost chilly. I currently have a sore throat and I think it is due to the smokey air and just being tired.
Our driver is very skilled. It seems that Indian drivers adhere to the motto, "share the road" as there were cars, taxis, buses, motorcycles, and pedestrians all right next to each other sharing the same lanes. Often times a 3 lane road like the one above would easily become 5 lanes. There was a stalled car we came upon but there was no back-up no lookie-loos the traffic kept flowing right on past.
Our host then took us to a very fancy, ritzy mall called CityWalk. Our car was stopped upon entering the parking garage and guards looked under the hood and talked to both our driver and host. We then had to pass through metal detectors to enter the mall. We were told the reason for this is that many high ranking officials such as the Prime Minister come to this mall as well as rich business executives such as Bill Gates.
Our host brought us to the food court where there were all types of cuisine to be had. There were even familiar places such as Subway, Dominoes Pizza, and McDonald's. However the menus were different, for example, McDonald's offers a McVeggie sandwich and a McVeg Pizza Puff. Our host wanted us to sample several things and spoiled us by bringing a ton of food.
After falling into a sleep-deprived food coma, we headed to our hotel. Back out in traffic where it is common to see armed military and police (not sure if they are armed).
I also saw everything I expected to see such as; stray dogs, women with children begging for food at the car window, women riding side-saddle on the back of motorcycles, auto-rickshaws. The sound of horns honking is everywhere. Drivers here do not honk in anger but rather as a signaling device.
Once at our hotel we checked-in by giving them our passports and signing the registry. The family personal assistant took care of the rest. The bellhops took our luggage up a flight of stairs to the first floor which consist of a small living room area surrounded by five doors. We each got our own room with a king-sized bed that is actually two twin beds pushed together. The toilet set up is something new to me both in the hotel room, the airport and the public restroom at the mall. I am not quite sure that the hose is for, although I have my suspicions. The shower is pretty much what I would expect except for the stool, bucket and pitcher which I assume you would use while bathing and washing long hair. The hardest part about showering is not getting the water in your mouth which was tough and may also be why I have a sore throat.
After showering and settling in, I went to pull out my pillow only to find it wet along with my undies and a few other items. It seems that while my bags were in London they got rained on, a lot, and it soaked through my suitcase. Now I wish I had bought the hard case luggage instead. But, mo hotel room has a portable heater which I turned into my personal dryer and proceeded to dry my pillow and other items, it'll do :-)
I also ran into a snag when trying to charge my laptop. My charge cord would not fit into the plug adaptor I had brought. After a semi-panic, one of the other interpreters informed me I didn't need the 3rd prong, the ground which was preventing my from using the adaptor. He offered to remove it and I allowed him to. Now my laptop is fully charged and the wifi here in the hotel is pretty fast!
I'm now going to try to get a few more hours of sleep as it is now 4am. I leave you with my favorite picture so far; this woman is working next to the hotel and I watched as she carefully stacked each brick working from the center out to keep balance. When I asked to take her photo, she giggled but then obliged me.