This morning I woke up in Kolkata, India for the first time and today I’ll get a chance to finally confront the actual city versus the movie and book images I have had floating in my head since childhood, back when it was still called Calcutta. This is my first time in the city but my second time in India. My last visit was way back in 2000 as a Cross Cultural Solutions volunteer, teaching art and mural painting for a month in the village schools of Meyog Village and Rajgarh at the foot of the Himalayas. Hey look! I still have photos.

Me dancing at one of the schools back in 2000

Me dancing at one of the schools back in 2000


Anyway, I thought I’d make a mini travel log while I am here all of three days, mainly for my own amusement but also for anyone else who’d like to follow along.  I am here meeting my American friend Laura who lives in Rome running a tour company. She originally had planned to visit me in Yangon, but when that proved too complicated, I decided to make the hour and a half flight to come visit her a few days during the Kolkata leg of her longer Indian trip.

I’m glad even just to be here. Back in Myanmar when I tried to check-in with Myanmar Airways, the two women behind the counter became increasingly agitated over my Indian “E-Tourist Visa.” They apparently had never seen one before and began going through all my documents, taking photos of the piece of paper I’d printed from the India Visa website granting me permission to visit, and having long, anxious discussions on the phone with their supervisor. Thankfully, their faces finally softened and before I knew it we were on to more mundane matters such as making sure they remembered to give me a vegetarian meal and a window seat if they were available.



View from my balcony from the door that won’t open


Flying from Yangon and west to India I noticed that the clouds and “fog” below became thicker and thicker. Later on the ground, I could actually see the thick air for myself as it began to also sting my eyes. The air in Kolkata is not unlike the thick smog I experienced in December that would roll over from mainland China into Hong Kong depending on which way the wind was blowing.

I finally finished a book I’d started several days ago, A Long Way Home, now renamed Lion after the Oscar-nominated movie that recently came out. It’s the true story of a five year-old boy from rural India who gets lost on a train and ends up across the country in Calcutta. He survives on the streets for weeks before finally being taken in by an orphanage. He does not know his last name nor the name of his village and all attempts to find his home fail. Eventually he is adopted by a couple in Australia where he grows up always thinking about his mother and siblings he’d left behind. In his late twenties he eventually is able to use Google Earth and Facebook to match satellite photos to his own childhood memories of his village which he finally identifies and revisits, making contact with his long lost family.

In any case, this book is the most recent addition to my growing understanding of Kolkata along with the classic film, City of Joy and account of Mother Theresa’s work with the poorest of the poor here. Today it’s my hope to visit her house and burial site along of course, with some of the most famous landmarks and temples in the city.

So far my only experience of Kolkate was the ride in the airport car to the hotel, already after sunset. It was Republic Day yesterday and people were out and about celebrating, eating all kinds of food outdoors, playing music, and partaking in street-side carnivals.

Unfortunately I don’t have many photos yet as I’ve just been in my hotel just since last night and the door to the little balcony in my room doesn’t appear to want to open. So I will leave with this great quote I read in The Times of India last night.


Pure wisdom

Pure wisdom


That’s all for now. Thanks for reading! Let’s see what today holds…