Mountains. Brown, giant mountains. A town in the middle of a huge circle of mountains. That’s where we landed. Honestly, there are mountains on all sides. There was turbulence in landing, and I know it’s because of the mountains. It was similar to landing in Jackson Hole, WY – The mountains completely surround the town. Part of me thinks there is no way to get out of this town besides flying! From the plane, I knew that this was going to be a place like no other.
The first Dry Land person I met was a man in line for the Immigration counter in India. He turned around and said something to me in his language. I said, “what?” He then asked (in English) if I was going to Dry Land, and if it was my first time. I was skeptical at first, because I’m used to Indians being nosy for no reason, and with everything going on with increased security there right now, I thought in my head, “he’s probably a terrorist already trying to get information from me to kidnap me later!” He turned around and we went through immigration. I then starting thinking how wrong it was for me to a) treat him almost as I would treat and strange Indian man- almost rudely, and b) to assume he was a a terrorist. Can you imagine how hard that is for him and probably every other person from Dry Land and other places like it? Most, probably 90% of them are good, decent people. They aren’t terrorists – in face, they themselves are afraid of terrorists.
Anyway, later, when we got on the shuttle bus to go to the plane, he was on the same one and was sitting down. I got on and was standing. He offered his seat to me, and also to another lady. Wow. No Indian has EVER done that for me.
When we got off the plane, he said, “Welcome to Dry Land!”
Later after I had gone out of the airport and through three gates, I still couldn’t find Beth - the one who was picking me up. I wasn’t sure if I should keep walking or not. I just walked to the side, put my stuff down and waited for about 5 minutes. The same man was standing with his friend and I could tell he wanted to come over and ask if I was okay, but wasn’t sure how appropriate it would be, etc. Honestly, I could read his mind.
Eventually he did come over. He said if he needed them to take me somewhere, he could help me. And you know what – although I wouldn’t have gone with him in a million years, I am 100% sure it would have been completely safe. He was just a really nice man and wanted to help – there was no way possible he would try and do anything. There have been times with Indians I’ve wondered about their motives, but not with this guy. He was too cautious before approaching me.
Anyway, I was really impressed with his kindness and thankful that I had that for a first interaction with an Dry Lander! After reading the news and even watching a ‘hostage survival’ cd that was given to me, I wasn’t expecting to have any pleasant exchanges with these people. Turns out I need to remember that these are just people – most are living in fear themselves.
The plane to Dry Land was half- empty. I had three seats to myself. It was nice, but makes you wonder.
I felt very safe, but felt like God was reassuring me with Dry Land people. And so far, no bombs have gone off and I’m still safe! :)
Beth met me with a driver. He took my bag and we went to the van. Then we ventured onto the streets of the capitol city. I had noticed the dust on the runway as the plane was landing. I noticed it even more as we drove along. The road was paved for the most part. The town felt very open – I think because there were no buildings taller than 2 stories. All of the homes are brown and have walls around them. It’s almost like a cantonment or something. We came to Beth’s part of town – those roads are not paved- they are rocky, dusty. It looks like pictures you’ve seen in the news, it looks like the pictures painted in the books I’ve read, it looks like some movies that I’ve seen. And what that looks like, I’m not sure I can describe it. Girls and women with head coverings, in full coverings, and everything around them, completely brown. There is less traffic here than anywhere else I’ve been- even Kahan. Besides the mountains around the town, everything is flat.
We got to Beth’s home – she lives on the first floor (i..e the ground floor) of a home – the landlord and their 5(?) kids live on top. We talked for a while. Turns out there are no ATM’s here. I asked how they get money, and she said, ‘we bring it in, and we can exchange it here – and actually, a lot of things you can pay for in US dollars.’ I have about $60 USD with me, and about 2000 rupees. I told her I had emailed another Worker about that just yesterday, but hadn’t heard back – it was an assumption that I made that shouldn’t have made. She apologized and said that someone should have told me. She said the easiest thing would probably be for her to just lend me all the money I would need for my trip and then I can write her a check and send it to her bank, or her mom, in America. It’s so nice of her. She said, ‘there are ATM’s, but I’ve never seen one open or working.’ Interesting.
We talked about schedule and trying to meet up with folks, and such. We talked about getting a SIM card for me phone. Beth said she is fasting this month (only having juices…), so I was welcome to whatever food was in the house and we could go shopping for food- but she wouldn’t be eating with me. I had also thought about fasting during Ramazan, but had decided not to, mainly because I would be traveling so much, and because I didn’t feel spiritually ready – not that I felt I had to be ready, but just because I wanted to do it more at a time when I could do it right. That’s probably the enemy just discouraging me. I will do it another time – even after I go home, I’ll fast for periods of time. But not this month.
Then we went to their ‘bazar’ and to find a SIM card. There were some bigger buildings – but still I felt like the town is so open and spacious. It’s less noisy than other cities – I think people honked their horns, but it wasn’t overwhelming like in Delhi. I asked about taking a picture – and Beth said, “you can, but that would draw attention to yourself as a foreign woman…” I finished her sentence, “and I probably don’t want to do that." She said, “no.” She said if you have a camera on your phone and make it look like you’re getting ready to call someone and kind-of discretely take a picture, that’s okay. But unfortunately, I don’t have a camera on my phone. So, I’m not sure how many pictures I’ll be able to get. That’s kind-of sad.
We walked from her home around the corner – again on dusty rocky streets. There were maybe 10 older Dry Land men on the corner all in turbans – would have been an awesome picture…I’m not sure what they were doing – I didn’t look at them for more than a second. Oh, it’s kite flying season here – so we saw a lot of kites flying too. But these are kites made from two sticks and a plastic bag, or something like that. And I’m not sure that there is a constant enough wind to really fly them – but somehow, the kids (especially boys) tug and pull them to keep them in the air. We went to get a SIM card – the storekeeper knew some English. He was impressed with Beth’s language. I have been impressed with it too- she’s learned a lot in a year and a half. I told her it sounded good – from what I could tell!!
There are concrete ditches about 2 feet deep on the sides of the main road – with dirty water in them – I guess it’s similar to the roadside in India (it’s like the community trash can), but at least here it’s in a gully kind of thing. Beth said it’s called, a “jewey.” I said, “leaving off the ‘j’ and just calling it ‘ewey’ would fit better.” :)
We saw HUGE watermelons. I’ve never seen watermelons so big in my whole life.
We walked through the ‘used clothing’ market. At first, it seemed silly, but Beth said most of her clothes are used. I may go back and get a suit there tomorrow if I can find one that is more natural/plain colors. Mine are okay, but a little bright for here. We’ll see.
We went into a shop to get some cheese, crackers- and COOKIES! Like a donut shop in the states, there were rows and shelves of homemade cookies. I was skeptical about the taste, but they looked good, so I told Beth I wanted to get some. She said that would be a new experience for her since she hadn’t gotten any ever before. We asked the man and he got a fairly big box out and asked which ones we wanted. It was just like ordering donuts! There were even some with icing on them – but only dribbled on them – not all over. But there were no sprinkles… :) I got a bunch of different kinds. It turned out to be a kilo of cookies – about 2 pounds. And it was less than $1.25 for all of them.
We walked back down the dusty, rocky street. We got bread (For 10cents) from the local bread-maker. It’s about 2 feet long, 1 inch thick, and maybe 6-7 inches wide, puffy naan type bread. You kind-of pull it to break it, it’s kind-of like pizza crust – a little crispy on the outside, but nice and soft and almost chewy on the inside.
I then called Mommy. Unfortunately, I think it costs a lot to call because I had 300 units of Dry Land money in my phone and we talked for 4 minutes and then it was finished. Hmm. Beth said a 500 card usually gets her about 10 minutes. 500 is $10.00 – so that’s about $1.00/minute. Not cheap. It was frustrating to get cut off and not be able to call back- but it was good to touch base, and give Mommy my number. I’m not sure how easy it will be for her to call- but at least they have a way to connect.
Then Beth and I hung out with the two youngest daughters of the family upstairs. Their names are Parween (maybe 11 years old?) and Nishgan (maybe 7). That was fun. Nishgan was shy at first, but warmed up some. I had my first language lesson with them!! And found out that Parween knows some Hindi from watching Hindi bollywood movies. So, we communicated in Hindi – I used Hindi to learn some of her language! It was crazy. When Beth talked with them I couldn’t understand anything as they were speaking in Dry Land language. When I talked with them, Beth couldn’t understand anything because we were speaking in Hindi. And the two languages are very different. There are a few words that overlap between Hindi and Dry Land language, but not enough to be able to understand one of the languages if you are fluent in the other. Their older sister (18 years old) and she actually does translation from Dry Land langauge to Hindi, so we could communicate too! It was great!
The girls made all kinds of positive comments about how pretty I was, how I looked like an Dry Land girl, etc, etc. In this way, they are similar to the Indian culture. I thought about how I had misjudged that first Dry Land man I met, thinking he was a terrorist. I thought about these girls. They are Dry Land girls – they will always be Dry Land girls. They will also be misjudged if they venture outside of this place. But then I guess the chances of that happening are pretty slim. It was good to hang out with them and remember that just like Americans, just like Indians, just like Riverland people- they are people too!! I’m glad I’m cautious, but realizing I have to be careful not to place that wrong assumption on every Dry Land person I met. Even walking down the street, it took me a while before I relaxed a little. I felt like at any minute someone might come and kidnap me! I wasn’t afraid, or fearful, but just felt like that might happen. But after a while, I was like, ‘why do I feel like that – do these people look like monsters?’ No, they don’t. They are in the same market as you, they are selling goods, they are walking on the same street, they are people just like you – what are you afraid of?
I started to relax and realized that the ideas I had in my mind were from what I’ve heard and read – not from personal experience. I remembered something from the hostage survival video I watched before getting on the plane. The speaker said, “The chance of getting kidnapped is VERY slim, the chance of getting killed or even hurt is even less…but it is real and that’s why we are doing this…but you need to remember that even though it’s real, and does happen- the chances and percentages are very low and it’s very unlikely…” – of course then he went on to talk about hostage situations and other things that could make you really scared.
I don’t feel like I’m in danger. Even Beth said she feels safer here than she ever did in her previous country in Africa. There are no bars on the windows here. We had bars on our windows in India. I don’t think that was for fashion! :)
Anyway, most of the time we were walking around I kept thinking to myself, “this place is different from anywhere else I’ve ever been.” And I haven’t been to that many places, but somehow I feel like this is very different. Is that a good thing, a bad thing? Neither. It’s just an observation that this is very different. I’m not entirely sure what that means yet.