Saturday, July 30, 2011

From Saris to Safaris

We left India on July 15th, headed for Nairobi, Kenya in East Africa. It wasn't to be that we would leave India without a final drama as the day before we left 3 bombs went off in a terrorist attack in Mumbai's Opera house killing 18 people. As luck would have it, Brent and I had originally planned to be leaving from Mumbai but a week prior changed our flight to leave from Delhi. Despite the tragedy not affecting us directly, it sent fear and anger soaring through the Nation which will no doubt bring about turmoil and instability, something I do not wish to be apart of.

As we touch down in Nairobi, I finally allow myself to feel the excitement of visiting Africa for the first time. Admittedly, I am weary about the Kenya's capital which has earned itself the nickname 'Nairobbery' but as we pull out of the airport safe in our taxi, I feel a weight lift off my shoulders I didn't know I was carrying. The only way I can describe it is as a kind of reverse culture shock or an undoing of culture shock that had become so embedded into my daily life I wasn't eve aware it was still there. When you first arrive in India, the culture shock and sensory overload is so sudden that it's hard to pinpoint exactly what it is that makes the country so overwhelming. By the time 6 months have flown by, one is immune to all the idiosyncrasies, annoyances and complexities that makes India, India, that its not clear that you have been in shock the whole time until you have left. (In retrospect, despite all the differences, Sri Lanka and Nepal are quite similar to India which could explain why this reverse culture shock has only occurred now)

The first noticeable differences are apparent as soon as we sit in the taxi. Our driver speaks fluent English and we are able to hold a conversation for the entire trip which goes beyond the typical Indian " What your country?" and "You like my India?" American R and B replaces the high trill of Punjabi music and the backseats have seat belts which we are required to wear. We drive in lanes, indicate t turn and only use the horn if necessary.When we arrive at our budget accommodation I am shocked at how lovely it is. The walls in reception are clean and freshly painted, the bathrooms have toilet paper and lack the obligatory diarrhea-stained toilet bowls. The sheets and pillows in our permanently pitched tent are clean and stain free. When we order our food it comes out as expected, without the usual 'curried twist that Indians so generously apply to everything even fruit salad!

I realise perhaps truly for the first time just how challenging our travels in India have been. I am not being naive and realise that Africa will pose some of its own challenges but for now we relax at our campsite in Nairobi before embarking on our 24 day Game Drive and Gorilla Tracking.   

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