I stepped into the airport and everything fell away. The deals and debates it took to get here, the strenuous deliberations with bosses and budgets, myriad stresses of my job, the bickering daughters, the leak in my bedroom ceiling, political evils, the tribulations and disappointments of everyday life, the clamor of bills to be paid. I was going to be lifted into the air, transported thousands of miles away and ten hours into the future, and on the other side- my dear and daring exclamation point of a friend MB and the exotic world of the Indian subcontinent. Chennai, in the South Indian state of Tamil Nadu, I was going to Chennai.
MB (after playing Holi, above) is a master teacher of children in the Montessori tradition. She is earning a PhD level certification over several years and the study requires her to teach aspiring Montessori instructors in a new setting. She told me a couple of years ago that she would be going to a Montessori center in either Wisconsin or in Chennai, and I made an optimistic plan to visit her.
Shrine to Ganesh, remover of obstacles, at train station
I have been avidly watching her timeline and ours as she was sent to India while we were in Europe. When I had plenty of time in the autumn due to unemployment, she welcomed me for a visit but I had no income and couldn’t justify the cost of traveling. When I started working, it was hard to request time off for such a journey. But by the grace of Ganesh and two co-workers who covered my shifts, I found a 16-day stretch of days off and things looked good. Mr. Fantastic was back on hand as the travel planner extraordinaire and we found plane tickets and went through the India e-visa process. This was much easier than getting Indian visas to enter by land as we had done last year in Yangon, Myanmar, by the way. I didn’t have much time to contemplate the trip since I was working so much, but the day drew closer.
Tuktuks in Bangalore
It being international women’s day, the European airline let women board the plane first. It was the first but by no means the last time they would earn my enthusiastic appreciation. The early boarding, plethora of movie choices, free wine with excellent meals, empty seats next to me on which I could sprawl and sleep, warm towelettes for washing, ahhh it was a dream. Of course, I am not your jaded frequent flyer. We went around the world last year with almost no flights and before that it had been years since I was airborne. Also, I was beginning a happy solo journey to experience two incredible adventures – south India and MB. Unlike the RTW trip, I did not have to be influenced by up to five other people about how to spend the day. I didn’t have to multiply admission prices or a milkshake splurge times six. I had no work burdens, no family demands, no housework. On the plane, I probably could have been crated in storage and still been blissed out.
Riding a tuktuk in Chennai
It was a long flight, though. Two flights, to be precise, each around eight hours. In Frankfurt, I was briefly inconvenienced. The German officer told me I had to drink all the water in my water bottle before passing to my connecting flight. It felt like a college drinking game. I chugged and was permitted to move on. Also, before landing in Frankfurt, we were told we had to sign our passports or they would not be considered viable documents. Kind of uptight they are, over there in Germany, where I was just passing through.
Stone carvings at Government Museum in Chennai
On arriving in Chennai, it was a little confusing with jet lag, customs, many people jostling to improve their place in line. I had to try three lines before finding the right one for e-visa holders such as myself. My passport was grudgingly stamped by a slow moving government employee and I was shown the exit into the humid night air. It was 1:30 in the morning and I had arrived in Chennai. And there was a driver with my name on a placard! The adventure began.
Thanks, Ganesh, remover of obstacles! This is a 30′ tall Ganesh at a Shiva temple near Bangalore.