India

Conquering anxiety with spouts of laughter

Over the years it has become alarming the increase in my anxiety, especially when traveling by car. A month before our trip to India, I went to a few hypnotherapist sessions in hopes of decreasing the amount of my daily anxiety. To my amazement, the sessions helped with more than just the car stress. After five sessions, I was able to recognize the onset of the anxiety before it became so overwhelming that I shut down. What saved me was learning a form of controlled breathing, inhale for a count of 4 and exhale for a count of 8.

Once we arrived in India I was surprised I reacted to the road chaos with spouts of laughter. It was the most unexpected reaction I could have imagined, but I rolled with it. As our good friend Anand drove the 10 hour journey from Hyderabad to the Visakhapatnam I couldn’t stop my random giggles. I kept thinking this was an Indian version of an old Nintendo favorite, Spy Hunter.

India_Roads

I recall seeing a tiny truck bed filled high with hundreds of crated eggs pass on the road and moments later Anand slammed on his breaks. My first thought was awesome he’s helping for me to get great capture. Little did I know, the actual reason for the abrupt stop was to avoid a collision with a 50lb sand bag laying in the middle of the road.2_Egg_Delivery_Truck

The streets were filled with all types of horns sounds that ranged in tone and pitch. It became a familiar sight seeing a Mercedes driving next to a cart pulled by two buffalos. The trucks were beautifully decorated with bright paintings and tassels hanging from the mirrors. Some vehicles also had the monkey god, Hanuman, painted or a figure affixed to the vehicle.

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When we return to India I’ll take it to the next level and actually drive. What better way to conquer those fears.

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Christmas in India

Our first Christmas celebration away from family was quite memorable having temperatures in the 90s and being in a foreign land that is primarily Hindu. We found the further south in India the more common Christianity. In Hyderabad, where we spent Christmas, is mostly Hindu and Muslim. We were surprised to find street vendors selling white rubber Santa Claus masks with a full on white beard. We still regret not buying one.

We started our Christmas Eve exploring the Qutb Shahi Tombs. These tombs were erected in memory of the kings of Golconda. There are more than 20 tombs on these grounds dating back to 1518 – 1687 A.D. After a long day in the sun, we grabbed lunch at Paradise, where I had the most amazing biryani I have ever had in my life! I became addicted to the fresh lime soda, which can be ordered sweet, salty or salty and sweet. My favorite was the salty sweet combo.

Qutb Shahi Tombs

Qutb Shahi Tombs

Qutb Shahi Tombs entry

Qutb Shahi Tombs entry

Later Christmas day Anand’s friend invited us to attend the Christmas celebration he was hosting for the children at a local orphanage. Mike was asked to dress and play the part of Santa Claus. Of course he said yes following in his father’s footsteps who was Santa Claus at the Chandler Mall in Arizona for 3 years. The celebration started with the children decorating a tree with lights and ornaments.

Next we sang the classic Christmas carols like Jingle Bells and Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer. I surprised myself with the amount of words I remembered especially when 50 some kids are staring at you singing. There was also this little boy who sang the group his Christmas song which melted my heart. Mike helped hand out the gifts Anand’s friends had wrapped while I passed out candy we brought from the US. It was amazing to be apart of their Christmas experience.

Santa with the children

Santa Claus Michael handing out gifts

 

India from an Idea to Reality

If we could survive India together, we knew we could handle traveling the world. The idea was planted when our dear friend, Anand, broke the news he was leaving the US and moving back to India for his family. Anand offered an invitation and in true Woods fashion we took advantage of the opportunity booking flights a few months later. We wanted to experience life in India and planned for a solid month visit leaving December 20, 2013 and returning January 20, 2014. We had so many amazing experiences that the best place to start would be with the journey across the pond.

The flight from Chicago to Delhi, 1 plane for 18 hours, by far the longest in air and driest flights we have ever experienced. We were offered one alcoholic beverage of wine or beer the whole 18 hour trip. On the plus side, the bathrooms were the cleanest I have ever witnessed on a flight. Our journey took us from Minneapolis> Chicago> Delhi and finally to our end destination, Hyderabad.

India

Dehli Airport

I always heard money can buy you anything in India and our first experience of this was was when Anand picked us up from the airport in Hyderabad. Anand thought this would be a quick pickup so he parked outside the main doors. Our luggage was the last to arrive in baggage claim. As we pushed the cart out the door we found his car had the boot. We were told to find this guy who would bring us to another guy who probably could get it off in 1 or 2 hours. Anand instead offered the curb side helper 100 rupees to remove the boot and it was off in minutes.

When arriving at Anand’s apartment the building keeper and his wife were waiting for our arrival to perform a ceremony called Aarti, a welcoming of new guests. There are small lamps filled with oil placed on a metal tray. Each lamp has a wick that is light along with incense. The tray was rotated in a circular motion in front of us as a welcoming. The purpose of this is to ward off evil effect and harmful influences of the evil eye. We stood at the door entry and received prayers for our long journey. Upon entering the door, right foot first, I had my feet rubbed with turmeric paste by Pochamma, the building keepers wife. Turmeric is a great antiseptic and a natural antibiotic which helped my swollen ankles wonderfully. Traditionally, in India, women perform the household duties involving a large use of water for cleaning the house, washing clothes and cooking meals. In order to prevent bacterial and fungus infections turmeric paste is widely used on the feet and legs. It took about a week for the yellow coloring to fade on my glowing white feet.

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Turmeric Feet

The next day our jet-lag was intense. I could barely keep my eyes open while bouncing off the walls with excitement to see our surroundings and taste authentic Indian food.

Dosa

Now that’s a dosa!

India has distinct sounds that I will never forget. It’s loud with morning prayer, car horns, car backup alarms, roosters, rickshaws, bustling streets and people everywhere.