India Music Video

I had the privilege to speak to over 400 high school and college boys and give them some new thoughts on choosing a career. One of the opening acts was an interpretive dance of an English/Hindi song called “Pray for India”.

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The song is catchy, and a little repetitive but we heard it several other times and quickly became a group favorite. There is even a slightly cheesy music video:

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kWIGbSddn2M[/youtube]

Just Getting There

We’ve been slow about posting stories from out trip to India. It is kind of a “where to start?” problem. We certainly have plenty of stories to tell. So where am I going to start? From the start, just getting to India.

We were just about to leave for the airport, an hour and a half drive, when our trip leader called. “Newark has a lot of bad weather today. Check if your flight is delayed.” We go to Continental Airline’s website and see that in fact our flight flying from Cincinnati to Newark was delayed. It is delayed so much that it would be doubtful if we could make our connecting flight to Delhi, India. And there is always the possibility that the flight would be delayed even more. We quickly call our travel agent and she starts looking for other options. She’s going to have to call us back, we take the opportunity to run some last minute errands. She makes some calls and Continental is willing to transfer us on a Delta flight going to Newark that isn’t delayed. Interesting, you would think weather would delay everyone, not just Continental. There is one problem though, the flight leaves in about two hours. And we’re about 80 miles away from the airport. So time to get in the car and go. Go pretty much as fast as we can, through construction zones and keeping our eyes peeled for cops.

We make it to the airport in good time, we park in the remote lot. Luckily the shuttle is right there to take us to the terminal. We get inside and rush to the Delta check-in. Luckily, there is no line. The flight is still on time, just about 30 minutes from now. She tells us we have to get a special transfer card from Continental. Arg, but we try to keep smiles on our faces. We rush over Continental’s desk, no line either – good. The very helpful desk worker gets us the necessarily paperwork and we rush back to Delta. As minutes tick by we are back at Delta checking-in and the lady behind the desk tells us the flight is delayed, but just a little bit. We continue with our Delta plan, at least we don’t have to rush any more. We’re just about to get to security and I see one of those monitors that shows flight status. “Delayed”, but even more than the lady at the desk said it was. We have a few more minutes, and we’re going to need it. At security we are informed that our boarding passes say we get to go through extra screening. Evidently, changing flights at the last minute will do that to ya. They made us go through this explosives sniffing machine that shoots all these little air puffs at you, it was awesome.

Anyway, back to the story. Jen and I are both in pretty good moods as they open up our luggage and hand-inspect it. Luckily, we were delayed so much that the 10 or 15 minutes that security took, didn’t get us too up tight. We gather all of our things, and walk past another flight status monitor. Delayed some more. Oh well, still not so delayed we would miss our connection. We make our way up to the gate. We find a place to eat, but right before we sit down, I think to check the status again. Delayed more, now we’ll probably miss the connecting flight in Newark. Turns out switching to Delta didn’t help anything at all.

It was looking like we weren’t going to India tonight. But there was one big problem with that. Our group was going to be in Delhi for less than 24 hours. If we missed our flight to Delhi, we would also miss our flight to Lucknow scheduled for the next day. And we didn’t even book that flight, the group leader did. It would have been two lost Americans trying to make it to another city and another flight on an airline we didn’t even know the name too. Things were going to be so much easier if we could just get to Delhi when we had originally planned.

Somehow we maintain good spirits. Time to call the travel agent and see what our options are. I’m placing my order at the restaurant while I’m on the phone. As I’m talking to her we realize, Newark is where all the trouble is. We were going to meet the rest of our group in Newark, but we don’t really have to go there. We just need to get to Delhi. How can we make that happen? She finds a flight from Chicago to Delhi, on yet another airline, American. But how to we get to Chicago? Turns out there is one flight on Delta, but it is going to leave in about an hour. She can’t make the change over the phone, we’re going to have to convince an employee at the airport that Continental should put us on a flight with Delta to Chicago, and with American to India.

I find the nearest Continental desk, in fact the only desk with someone working at it. But alas, he’s got a reflective vest on. His job is not customer relations, but he is helping someone, so I fall inline. After the 15 or so minutes it takes for her problem to be solved, he helps me with a smile on his face. I tell him where I want to go, and he’s daunted a little but since I already had the flight numbers for the alternative flights, he didn’t feel too overwhelmed. He does have to call the supervisor to make this kind of change. So he calls and explains the situation, but we have to wait until she calls back to know if she was able to make it happen. I finish my food, and continue to wait. He helps other customers. I look at my watch, it is getting closer and closer to when the Chicago flight leaves. About 20 minutes before we need to be on that plane, the supervisor finally calls back! Phil, the guy who’s been helping us, says, “okay your good to go on that flight, but you have to hurry, it’s in terminal C”.

Something you have to realize about terminal C. It is where all the smaller, short distance jets fly out of. And you have to take a shuttle bus to get there. We rush over to where the shuttle bus will pick us up. Luckily, there was a bus there ready to go. We get on this thing that feels like it is going 5 miles an hour until the doors finally open at terminal C. I sprint off the shuttle, now less than 5 minutes before our flight should leave. I get to that gate. And say “I think I’m on this flight”. They answer “Are you the Cook’s?” They were expecting us, someone had called to tell them we were coming. As they are worried about making the plane late, they quicly print our boarding passes. We might make it after all! As we’re walking to the plane I’m calling the travel agent. I get her voicemail. “We’re on the flight to Chicago, can you make sure we’re on the American Airlines flight to Delhi?”. We step on the plane, everyone is staring at us. They would have left 5 minutes ago if it wasn’t for us.

After a smooth flight we get to Chicago, have plenty of time to relax and eat. There was a voicemail waiting for me. Our travel agent, she says yes we’re on the flight from Chicago to Delhi. We are briefly scared when we are checking to get our boarding passes and he doesn’t see us on the computer. He digs around, and says he’ll call us when he gets everything straightened out. About 15 minutes later, he calls our names over the loud speaker. We pick up our boarding passes and are pleasantly surprised that on a full plane we have seats next to each other for the next 15 hours! We find our seats, and we are the bulkhead. Sweet, extra leg room! We’re sitting next to a family with a small baby, and the baby hardly makes a peep for the next 15 hours! To top it all off, we get to India, within 15 minutes of the rest of our group! We meet them in baggage claim in Delhi!

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A little exciting, but when it all came down to it, we were off to a good start!

A few big thanks are due. Everyone at Contentinal, from Phil to whoever the supervisor was on the phone. They put us on other airlines to make sure we could make it to Delhi the same day the rest of our team did. Also, the gate agent in Chicago for American Airlines, getting us seats together was very much appreciated!

A few of my favorite things…from India

Here are a few of my favorite things from our trip to India in no particular order:

Monkeys so close you could touch them.  We saw tons of monkeys in Agra at a fort.

We were also fortunate enough to ride a camel drawn wagon down the street to the Taj Mahal!

And yes, there are cows in the streets of India.  They help themselves to whatever they want, including tasty finds from the dumpsters.

There are street dogs everywhere in the city.

The colors of the women’s clothing is so uplifting.  What wonderful colors!

Helping make chipati in an Indian home.

Sipping coconut milk from the coconut!