Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Trip to Rajasthan - The Return


While waiting for the ground breaking ceremony to begin, my cell phone rang. I answered and heard, "Appy bir day to you, appy bir day to you ..." It was Robin from our branch serenading me with a Happy Birthday greeting. I just had to laugh and love him for the effort.

The dam ground breaking wasn’t an LDSC party so we just hung around in the background until we were summoned to the group when the actual first spade was turned. After that ceremony was over, we went to the village guest house for lunch before the trip back. I learned on my last trip to be a little picky on what I ate in these village settings as the only gastrointestinal experience of the mission so far hit me after I got back from the last dam trip. Fortunately, it was only a 24 hour thing, but not at all pleasant. After lunch, we parted ways and headed back on our own. A stop in Gurgaon, Haryana, had been planned. Gurgaon is a booming residential and business center just over the border from Delhi. We drove through part of it on the way down as our driver took a back road route. The development going on is crazy, no other way to describe it. We must have seen thousands of condos in high rise buildings under construction, some as high as 26 stories. I asked a Rotarian who was in the truck with me in the reserve, and a developer, if there was still a market for the building in Gurgaon and he said yes. We had seen office buildings from the highway, but getting back into the city itself provided a whole new perspective.

Rajish stopped as requested for photo ops as we took our time coming back. I asked him where the hotel was that we were going to stay at, his boss was supposed to have arranged it at my request, and when he answered, I knew we had a problem. We had a meeting the next day in Gurgaon with ADRA, one of our NGO partners, and I thought staying over in Gurgaon would be a great time out. Apparently my request to stay in Gurgaon proper had not been understood and we were booked in a Delhi hotel, albeit not too far away, but it would mean backtracking and that means time. We had pulled over on the expressway to talk and I could see the Crowne Plaza on the other side of the road. Long story short, we got our reservation changed to the Crowne Plaza. Rajish got to go home to his family and would come back and get us in the morning.


Cindy and I thought we may be close to heaven when we went inside the Crowne Plaza and then we knew it when we walked into our room. WOW!! After the rock bed the night before, this one had at least an 8 inch mattress. We both had the best night’s sleep since we left for the MTC. But the winner was, we could drink the water right from the tap. The hotel had its own water purification system.

We went to dinner in a Brazilian style restaurant where they bring the meat to the table on skewers and slice it off for you. We had some of the best tenderloin ever, but maybe that is several month’s of good beef deprivation speaking. The salad bar was like an appetizer table of cold foods. Everything we ate was excellent. The ambiance and the excellent food made for an absolutely wonderful birthday dinner. With a gorgeous companion on my arm, I was in heaven, as we strolled through the interior courtyard that had some very fancy water and light features and a table and chair area in the middle. We even browsed the gift shop and Cindy scored a Halloween goody for her collection, a small egg shaped object painted like a witch’s face with a stand to put it in. Go figure the odds on that one outside the USA.

Sweet suite!

You could sit in the tub and watch the TV. There were controls to open, close, or raise the mini blinds on the glass wall beside the tub.

The next morning, we used the remote control to open our power curtains to a beautiful day and after a shower that was outstanding – at least a foot diameter, flat circle shower head that let the water fall straight down on you and water came out of all of the holes. If you haven’t been around hard water or water systems with sediment, you may not appreciate the holes comment. I wanted to stand there for an hour, but I knew there was another restaurant down there to sample for breakfast. We went down for breakfast and again, we were overwhelmed by how good it was. Cindy fell in love with the apple juice. It was as fresh as it gets as they had a whole section with fruits and a guy that would juice any combination you wanted. I’ve got to stop, that is a very pleasant memory, but it is not reality right now.


Our meeting with ADRA, the Seventh Day Adventist equivalent of LDSC, was to receive a final report on an emergency relief project we partnered on. The first project we initiated after we got going here. The appointment was in the afternoon and Rajish was right on time, so we headed for a mall, what else would you expect? He took us to a good one close by and we spent the next couple of hours inside. After a first floor pass and some purchases in a card shop, I was ready to call it good, but Cindy had 4 more floors to explore, so I sat down in a lounge area to wait with a book I purchased in an adjacent book store.

ADRA’s office was located in a home in a residential area which was really nice. We met with Paulo Lopes and Nittin Kenny and reviewed the project reports. We also learned a lot about the Sri Lankan refugee situation in southern India, but this is already book length so I’ll pass on writing on that. After the meeting, we drove to the mission office, picked up our mail, then made an uneventful trip home to Noida. Whirlwind 2.5 days, but very productive and eventful.

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