“Your life is yours alone. Rise up and live it”
Basically, I could have done nothing special for my birthday and it still would have been amazing because not many people can say they spent their 21st birthday in India (apart from the 1.2 billion Indians).
However, a group of us went on a trip to Pondicherry, a Union Territory. Pondicherry was a French territory and still has a significant amount of French influence. INSERT MAP. What an adventure! We hired a 12-seater bus so that we would have transportation while in Pondicherry. On Friday night, we went over to Jensen’s apartment (a guy from Seattle living here for a year that we randomly met) and watched Bollywood’s version of The Hangover, called Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara. It is quite a bit less crazy than Hollywood’s but one of the main guys did look like Bradley Cooper. Anyways, because Bollywood films are crazy long, we didn’t get back to our flat until after midnight and left on the bus at 3:00am. Thank goodness for semi being able to sleep on a bus. We were lucky enough to have a TV and did player so we watched a few movies. I mostly just saw parts as I was in and out of sleep.
The road to Pondicherry is one of the worse paved roads I’ve ever been on. It doesn’t help that our bus driver drove fast in between the potholes, but that’s just typical Indian driving. Regardless, I didn’t ever feel unsafe, but it did make it a tad more difficult to stay asleep for extended periods of times.
Even with our two Indian friends, there was a bit of miscommunication with the
driver and we did not stop at two places on the way, including some cave temples. Disappointing but out of our control once we realized we were in Pondicherry and hadn’t stopped. One of the first places we went was a Hindu temple with an elephant in front! The elephant, Lakshmi, had painted designs and blessed people by touching their heads with his trunk. I took a picture with my WSU flag and it turns out there were four people from Washington State (in addition to Marielle, Amanda, and I) at the temple also. They came up and talked to us after seeing my flag. One man was originally from Spokane and was just basically traveling the world. The other three were a family and the daughter’s cousin goes to WSU and is an RA whom Amanda knows. So at one moment, seven people from Washington were standing in Pondicherry, India together. Makes me wonder about coincidences.
Next item on the agenda was to find a place to stay that was cheap but clean. We looked at some cool tree house style huts but decided against them due to the abundance of mosquitoes that would be able to get in. In the end, we settled on a hotel that was Rs. 1300 for a double room but we cut the cost by fitting three and four people per room, paying about Rs. 400 each, which is approx. eight dollars. Not a bad price.
Since we were all pretty, we split up and some people slept, while a few of us went in search of a paper making factory. We didn’t end up finding it, so instead we wandered around souvenir shopping.
For my (1st) birthday dinner, we went to a French restaurant called “Rendezvous.” Although French, the menu didn’t actually have much French food. I ordered a steak and pasta. Two of my favorite foods I don’t get to eat too often here (or in the case of the steak, at all). It was a fantastic night spent in good company and delicious food =)
Because we wanted to watch the sunrise over the Bay of Bengal in the morning, most of us just headed back to the hotel and went to sleep.
Bright and early the next morning we were up and ready to head to the beach. I guess “bright” isn’t really the right term considering it was still completely dark outside. The beach was only about a 15-20 minute walk away so we arrived with plenty of time before the sun rose. Something about sitting on rocks, watching the sun and listening to the waves crashing on the rocks is unbeatable.
After the sun was up, we attempted to get breakfast at a place called Le Café that had been recommended to us by our friend Keerthi. Although open 24/7, we weren’t really able to order anything we wanted because they were cleaning. There was also some miscommunication with the servers telling us whether something was available or not, which resulted in us waiting a long time for things we didn’t get. But oh well. We weren’t in any hurry. Our only agenda for the day was the beach.
One of the Indian guys, Naveed, knew someone in Pondicherry who took us to a place with boats out to an island with a sandy beach. Because he had connections, we didn’t even have to pay for the ride =) It’s all about who you know. Basically, the beach was amazing! Sandy, warm, beautiful.
At one point, we noticed there was a darker “cloud” in the water a little way out that stretched the whole length of the beach. Jack and I decided to check it out. Turns out it was a huge school of fish!!! They were small but it was still pretty cool to swim with them as the waves crashed =)
We did have one not-so-pleasant incident on the beach in the afternoon, however. When we were getting food, a few guys were trying to pose for pictures with some of the girls in their bathing suits in the background. When the girls asked them to stop and moved away, they just followed. Later, when
we went back in the water, a group of guys kept getting closer to where we were so we moved further down, but they followed us, even when we told them not too. A group of guys from the other side started moving towards us as well. Finally, when it got to the point of 25 guys literally surrounding us, we decided it was time to get out of the water and leave. So the afternoon in the water definitely wasn’t the best, but at least nothing bad happened. Our Indian friends that were sitting back in the hut we ate in offered to go talk to the guys, but everyone was just ready to leave.
After getting back to the bus, we headed to dinner at a place called the Seagull, by the recommendation of Shiva, Naveed’s friend from Pondi. It was a good recommendation. Delicious Indian food, overlooking the beach and the sunset through the palm trees. We stopped for ice cream on our way out of town and ended up meeting a guy from L.A. who was in India for an internship. A couple of us were just chilling eating our ice cream when he came over and said “I have to ask, why are you guys in India.” Since it’s not as big of a tourist destination as Europe, I am also always curious why other Westerners are in India.
The rest of the trip was uneventful. We rode home and watched movies, but once again I was unable to stay awake. I tried really hard for Lagaan. Turns out the actor I have really enjoyed watching since coming here, Aamir Khan, is the lead actor in that movie. I can tell why my sister loves that movie now even without having watched it =)