Where’s that pause button…

Life – it’s so fast! We always seem to be chasing something. Wishing days away, not enjoying each moment. Forgetting awesome experiences in our past, as there’s so much automatic focus on things gone bad in the past. I must remind myself to pause, slow down and remember.

Today, I am remembering a time when I was fortunate enough to visit India. Yes, really! INDIA! This may not be on many people’s bucket lists and had I not needed to travel there for work purposes, I don’t think I would have thought of it as a travel destination.

I travelled to India in 2011. That’s 7 years ago & I still dream about my time there. I visited Pune, Agra, Aurangabad, Delhi & passed through Mumbai very briefly. What do I remember most?

The people! Warm, welcoming and so very humble. I’ve made lifelong friends there & had the pleasure of hosting one of them in my hometown – Cape Town. Even while visiting me, they wanted to do everything for me! It’s hard to spoil Indians 😊 There are so many people in India, streets are busy, everywhere you go is always busy. And, yes… TRAFFIC is absolutely crazy, yet it works! I was a passenger on a motorbike & scooter (those folks have street skill on another level!) and I jumped in a few rickshaws.

The food! WOW! Think you’ve eaten the best Indian food from your favourite spot around the corner? Think again! But, I did cheat & have Chinese food & McDonalds while there – ha-ha! Although, they don’t serve beef (as the cow is a sacred animal in the Indian culture) so it was a McChicken something. I ordered a mutton dish and was warned – this is actually goat. I was a bit of a chicken … and chose chicken instead! As I walked the streets, accompanied by someone who is now a lifelong friend (and calls me her South African sister), I saw vendors selling sugar cane from contraptions I’ve never seen before. I drank ginger tea from another vendor, who served it in a plastic bag! It was definitely a learning experience, drinking tea from a bag. Here’s a pic of my first breakfast in India.

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The sights! The very first morning after arriving, having travelled for about 12 hours, I was brave enough to join a group of locals for a river rafting trip. They fetched me at 5am… I almost changed my mind – so glad I did not! It was a bus trip through a very rural landscape, with one of the most beautiful sunrises of my life. We stopped somewhere along the way for breakfast. This was my first culture shock! No coffee? Only tea. Fresh fruit, cereal or fry up breakfast – nope! Curried something. Which, of course I tried & loved! (above breakfast pic)

Once we arrived at the river, the riverbed was dry! There was some miscommunication, as we waited hours for the flood gates to be opened for the water to run through. I was so hot & thirsty, I went into a rural village, desperate for a drink of water. I was given water from a bucket, I gulped it down before hearing one of my hosts caution me to only sip! It was river water, not the freshest or safest. It must have been given to me with a good heart, I survived to tell the tale 😊 Eventually, we could experience the river rafting & after all the rapids, we arrived to a calm location, close to where a dinner was planned for the group. Everyone started jumping out of their rafts & I was so nervous – I cannot swim LOL I remember so clearly, thinking: “when will you ever get another chance to do this” and I jumped! With a life jacket, but I jumped! & floated along with everyone, who by then had nicknamed me “Cape Town” 😀 I should remember this experience more often. I jumped! And I survived & actually loved it. Hmmm, a life lesson perhaps?

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Of course, you cannot visit India without going to the Taj Mahal. What an amazing experience. What an amazing history! I even loved wearing the mandatory shoe covers. I visited many temples & forts, a beautiful garden called Koregaon Park, in Pune. At the theme park, Chokhi Dhani, I watched traditional Indian dancers & rope walkers, sat with a potter as he taught me to make my own clay pot, but the one thing I will never forget, is riding the “Ferris wheel” Once we got on, three boys started jumping in sequence to move the wheel! I thought certainly this was a joke, but it was not! It was a human powered Ferris wheel. Definitely a first for me & I actually felt guilty having fun on it, but they laughed along as they went about their synchronized business.

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Plenty of first time experiences & loads of memories that still make me smile.

Thank you for joining me on this trip down memory lane. A lovely feeling taking time to pause & remember happiness.

I’d love to hear from you, if you’ve travelled to India, what your experiences have been – or perhaps it is on your bucket list.

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Friendship – Beyond Borders

I’ve been quiet over the past couple weeks, but with good reason. I had a friend visiting from India for 3 weeks. This is a woman I met when I traveled to India in 2011 (I promise to share more about that another time 🙂 ) Since then, we have stayed in touch and this has been her 2nd trip to Cape Town. We are now officially, unofficially, whatever… sisters for life!

I took her shopping, took her to some places that showed off the gorgeous views of Cape Town and she cooked for my BF & I. Boy… can she cook! Without effort, willing every time she saw us! I had to beg to take her out, haha! Authentic Indian food, with spices she brought with her (and loads for me to keep!) When I was in India, she took me to a little street stall that sold Ginger Tea. I fell in love with it and she remembered, so she brought genuine Assam tea leaves from her home town to make for us every day 🙂 I say genuine, because the “Assam tea” I found locally was nothing in comparison. The size, texture & smell was completely different.

However, on this trip, the timing of her visit was so very unfortunate & sad. She had lost her father & wasn’t able to attend his funeral, in another town in India. On her second night here, she called me & simply said “I need you” I didn’t hesitate for a second & was with her as soon as I could get there! She just simply needed to be sad with someone she felt close to. What an emotional time. One which I completely identify with, having lost my father in 2013. It’s not easy. For her to feel comfortable & trust me enough to share her heartache, really means a lot to me. It felt good to be that person for her. To know, my presence meant she didn’t feel alone. So when we had to say our farewell last week, there were no dry eyes. When she departed, she was going directly to her mother in their home town, Digboi. I know she is with them now & can mourn together with her family, this somehow brings me comfort.

This friendship runs deep & is one I will always cherish. We don’t know when we’ll see each other again. We text & call & mail each other & I can’t believe that this seems to be enough for us. It’s just indescribable. I suppose we make very few special connections in life, like this one, but when the connection is made – you just know! Time zones, language barriers & distance just don’t matter.