I just got back from Mumbai (I know, a ridiculous amount of travelling for one person ‘working for free’).
It is an incredible city. You can feel the energy. I admit. I didn’t really know what that meant. People would say, “You can feel the energy there.” And I just thought, “That’s nice.” But it really is a different place altogether. Very Indian, yet tons of development with one of the largest slums in Asia. It’s an intense combination, and I loved it.
I really hoped to come back with some epic stories, if only for my friend Jenny who is visiting, but life doesn’t always work out that way. Maybe I am just one of those people with only ridiculous little stories from my day to share. (confession: I write these blogs in my head almost constantly)
So, we arrived Saturday morning at about 10 after reaching the airport sometime around 5 am. (can any day be good after that?) We made our way all the way south to Karabala (look at a map of Mumbai, it is an oddly shaped city, and we were staying at the very southern point of a peninsula) and suddenly there was this very distinct odor. Fish. We were definitely near the ocean. We dropped off our bags at the monastery (yes, you read that right) and headed out for the nearest beach. We followed signs for ‘Oceanview’ but that ended up being an apartment complex. Eventually, we heard waves and headed in that direction.
The hint of fish on the air suddenly became an overwhelmingly pungent…smell. Smell doesn’t even describe it. I felt like I had stuck my head in a bowl of bouillabaisse. I could taste the fish on my lips. It was seriously thick.
It turns out we walked into the fishing yard processing plant. Not exactly beachfront property. For some reason that I still don’t know, we persevered, but were thankfully rewarded by one of the most beautiful ship yards I have ever seen. Not beautiful like millionaire yachts, but beautifully colorful Indian fishing boats with bright fishnets and lounging fishermen. I didn’t know we couldn’t take pictures and was able to get one contraband photo before being reprimanded. (hopefully, I’ll post it soon) For some reason the fishermen could ‘snap our pictures’ all they wanted but not vice versa.
As you might expect, you can only look at fishing boats for so long. We decided to head for breakfast at the nearest Café Coffee Day. The rest of the day was spent with our angel Ashley, finding actual beaches and seeing the city, although a small portion of it since we had a 10:00 curfew at the monastery.
I’ve heard glorious stories about kolfi. It’s Indian ice cream and everyone talks about how amazing it is. Since it originated in Mumbai, I really wanted to try it there. Ashley took us to a great place near the beach and we stood in the street listening to the waves, eating the kolfi. Beautiful. But, to be completely honest, kolfi is kind of like quiche. You feel cool eating it, but nobody really wants to. You don’t wake up in the morning and think, “If I could eat anything today, it’d be a nice slice of quiche.” You don’t complain while you eat it because it’s cool food, but…it’s not mint chocolate chip ice cream, we’ll just say that.
Hummus, now that’s food. I don’t know how to start this segment of the story (can we even call it that?) because it is just too exciting. I ate hummus for the first time in 9 months. The restaurant was called Falafel. I was ecstatic, and am shaking a little just writing this. I ate a shameful amount of pita and hummus, truly shameful, which was actually just an appetizer before our pizza dinner.
Anyway, I don’t know if it was the copious amount of hummus, the table water, or the kolfi, but something tried to kill me. I woke up Sunday morning feeling totally normal, but in the taxi on the way to church, everything changed. I tried to hold out until we reached the breakfast place, but, as you would obviously expect, there wasn’t a public restroom in a 5 km radius. I sat for awhile feeling sicker and sicker until I finally ran to the taxi and told him to take me home. My poor driver, I think he thought I was dying. He kept saying, “You need doctor?” It was only by the grace of God that I did not leave that poor man with a taste of death in his back seat. I barely had the door to my room unlocked when it just started coming. We recently had a very interesting debate about whether it is possible to vomit and have diarrhea simultaneously. I argued, from previous experience, that it is definitely possible, but people were skeptical. Let me just say again, it is possible.
I spent the whole of Sunday wallowing in the fetal position in my bed. I got dressed 3 times, determined to go out and join everybody, but each time my body sent me back to bed. I slept 18 out of 23 hours.
Monday was meant to be Elephanta Island day, but since I was still recovering, we ended up going out for breakfast and relaxing. I ordered the simplest food on the menu. An egg white omelet. Have you ever had one? I don’t even know why people would choose to eat that. It was the shape, texture, and probably taste of a sea cucumber. It jiggled. I stuck with the toast. Because the heat was pretty bad, and everyone was concerned I might die if overexerted, we went for a break at the local mall, then lunch at Hard Rock Cafe. I don’t think we could have done more American activities if we’d planned it, but it just sometimes happens here.
So that, my friends, was my epic adventure in Mumbai…
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