Well, I did it. A week and a half ago, I packed a suitcase and a backpack and headed for the international terminal at San Francisco Airport. My first destination was Dubai for 18 hours, and then West Bengal, India for the next 6 days. It was a short trip, but I feel so lucky and honored to have gone on it. It was amazing to see Water For People’s programs in action, meet wonderful people, experience a whole new world, and I can’t lie – it was awesome to do it all for free. I guess that’s just one of the amazing perks of working in International Development.
I wish there was an easy way to embed my Flickr set of pictures into this page, but I can’t seem to figure out the easiest way to do that. So please click here if you’re like to see some of the 500+ pictures I took in a week.
I also wish there was an easy way for me to sum up everything I saw and experienced, but I don’t think that possible. Hopefully the pictures tell the story, but here are some things that stood out:
- Everyone shares the road. Bicyclists. Cars. Buses. Vans. Animals. Pedestrians. And I’m using the word “shares” in the loosest way possible. Everyone is forced to share the roads. Anything with a motor is given the right of way and everyone else tries not to get run over. Crossing the street in Kolkata was probably one of the most nerve-wracking things I’ve ever done in my life.
- The outstanding number of stray dogs and cats was incredibly sad to see. Not just the fact that they were stray, but the condition they were in – starving, cut up, sad. As an animal lover – this was one of the most difficult things to witness and made my stomach turn on a daily basis.
- Poverty. Extreme poverty everywhere you look.
- In the most remote villages, the furthest away from society, from electricity and so many other daily conveniences we take for granted - adults and children seem genuinely happy with their lives.
- While it may seem impossible and slightly terrifying for 1,000 to fit on a completely rusted boat and make it to an island 45 minutes away, somehow it all works out and you make it there….and back!
- Don’t let one bland meal taint you against Bengali food. The food is amazing – you just need to go to the right place to find it. And you must…must try the rasgoolas (Bengali sweets).
- Shopping is the best. You can buy almost anything for next to nothing. I bought 6 gorgeous saris – SIX – for $170. I was born to shop in India. Did I mention that I left with 2 pieces of luggage and came back with 4??
- Water For People’s India staff is amazing. The most wonderful, accommodating and amazing people I’ve ever met in my life. Their level of dedication and commitment to ending water poverty greatly surpasses that of any staff in the states, including myself. Just being honest. I feel so lucky to include them among my colleagues and friends.