Nepali High to Delhi’s Chai

Traveling is mind blowing. It’s awe-inspiring, it’s breathtaking and surprising. It’s often stunning. It is so many good things I cannot even count but sometimes it really stinks. My example was when I came from Nepal to India. India can truly be a thorn in one’s side.  It took me 5 tries and over 8 hours just to fill in the “easy” E-visa online. That meant that I would not be able to make the land crossing as intended.  I’d have to fly in because only a certain airports would accept a walk in visa.

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The day before I was to fly a friend asked me to send a post card from Kathmandu. I got back from that errand with the intention to look up my housing address and how to get there and be on my way. I threw some lunch together only to hear that my taxi had come early. I hadn’t looked up the info and the internet was down. “There’s Wi-Fi at the Kathmandu airport, right?”  “Yeah, but I only hope for the planes to take off at the right time there. Everything else is extra.” I packed up and went. He was right.  I sat calmly next to strangers reading my book on my phone.  Surely the Wi-Fi at the much bigger Delhi airport would suffice.

I tore through my book, landed and collected myself, my bags, and some money from the ATM and headed toward the exit. I asked a few people where to find Wi-Fi.  They said there was none. I walked over to a desk where they were selling phone cards and struck up a conversation with a very interesting looking woman.  You could tell she belonged here. She was collecting a pension so she was free as a bird and she offered to help look up my address after hearing my troubles.

The only thing I knew about this place was it was a Tibetan settlement and that a friend had stayed there not long ago. I gave the name and she popped it up on her phone.  I took a pic of the name and address and finished my conversation with this woman who I secretly wished to offer to hang with her. But soon we were both on our way. I found the secure taxi station just outside the doors and made my reservation. Within 3 minutes I was in a taxi with a much cheaper fare than expected.  Things were starting to turn around now.

When taxi driver pulled over I saw no hotel in sight. Immediately I was suspicious. He pointed around the corner but I was thinking, “Noooooo way mister!”  To my surprise a man with a red vest sporting “The Golden Dragon” came out. I grabbed my bags, hopped out and followed the man. We went around the corner and up a ramp. This is when I knew there was trouble.  The Golden Dragon was a restaurant. I looked at the picture I saved of the place my friend had sent me. “Dragon House Hostel”. This man thought I needed food, not housing. I so cursed a little bit, apologized and asked if they had Wi-Fi before I sat down to enjoy my dinner.  The food was amazing.  The Wi-Fi was fast. The service was excellent. Everything happens for a reason, right?

I looked up a place to stay that said it was 1km away and booked and saw my phone would die soon. This place was so close I could walk there before my phone died.  Easy enough and the reviews were great too. Things were looking up. I polished off my drink and pulled up Google maps. Apparently it was 5km away instead and it was getting dark. I checked Google maps again and had an idea.

When I walked outside I did what I call, “Looking for someone who looks like they won’t kill me.”  Essentially, you’re looking for someone who won’t kill you.  Oh, and someone who might give you directions to where you’re looking to go without trying to trick you or ask for money or send you to their friend’s store or a friend who would steal you. I one and he gave me perfect directions.  I was just two stops away for 10 rupee. I was hesitant to think things were looking up just yet.

I hopped on the metro. I came in, bought my token for the said 10 rupee and went my two stops. I came out to a hustle and bustle that was only a bit more than what I’d experienced in New York. My heart smiled while I concentrated on looking like I knew where I was going and this wasn’t my first time.  I walked a little bit and then found another guy who wouldn’t kill me. This man gave simple directions and I was on my way. My philosophy on asking directions when walking is ask a person, then ask a second person to be sure. If that person gives you directions you have to find a third person to figure out which one was right. I found a second person.

I looked up and the guy I asked the first time was coming after me. But I didn’t see anything but kindness in his eyes. “You missed the turn.” He walked me back and showed me the sign I missed. I went down a dark alley. After about 5 more minutes I found where I belonged. I signed in and went upstairs to an empty desk. There was no one there. I wondered why and why it was so dark. Two people came in and we hit it off immediately.

They told me that things were a little crazy right now.  There was a big storm that had knocked the power out. No wonder it was so dark down that alley and into the building!!  Finally, a really kind and funny character came in. His name was Ayush and he worked at the front desk.  He had been upstairs making sure everyone was safe.  He was superb in his public service and excellent at making me feel at home.  He had me laughing within minutes. I was overjoyed to have found a place as welcoming as this. I was shown to my room, in this hilarious darkness, and was informed that it was game night. WHAT?!?!??!  I love games! I went upstairs to join the crowd of about a dozen people where the most comic bout of Pictionary by flashlight happened. It was truly riotous. And before long we welcomed the lights turning back on with boisterous applause. That’s when we switched to charades.

That night I stayed up until 1:30 am playing charades and laughing until my sides hurt with 12 (and up to 16) of my new friends. We talked about our lives, where we were from and what it was like to live there. We shared food and beer and hugs.  We laughed until our energy ran out.  At 1:40 I climbed into bed utterly exhausted and happy to my core. It’s not always you find places filled with people like this. I considered this a stroke of luck that I would collect on for my entire stay in Delhi.  And it just goes to show you, everything happens for a reason.  Even a girl running around in the dark can find a great home.

– Kelley Roark

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