Wednesday, June 26, 2019

Chicago to Mumbai

On Sunday, June 23, 2019 in the afternoon, the group collected at HI-Chicago to start our journey together. Girls came from Illinois, Wisconsin, California, New York, Florida, the Carolinas. One of the chaperones has come from Puerto Rico. Despite a few flight delays, everyone arrived safely. The girls dove right into getting to know each other, and laughter and chatter reached us chaperones, making us smile. 

Our Trip Shirts!
Our group started with a presentation from a local Girl Scout completing her Gold Award. She put together 150 menstruation packs to bring to girls in India, which would allow them to still attend school while on their periods. These reusable cloth pads were hand stitched by volunteers and many items were donated. Our 12 girls stuffed those packs into every nook in their suitcases, and we used an empty duffel bag to pack the rest. Everyone cautiously weighed their bags to make sure they were still under the 50 lb allowance.  

We held our first group meeting, reminding everyone about safety, what to pack in what bag (lithium batteries!), jet lag, and looking out for each other. Girls had excellent and practical questions, which we could mostly answer. 

Our local Chicago area girls planned for a deep dish pizza dinner, so we walked just after the rainstorm to Pizano’s for Chicago style pizza. Then, a walk through Millenium Park to see the Bean and the face fountains. Back at the hostel, girls continued to repack, since we had to check out right away Monday morning. 

After a not very restful sleep, it was breakfast. I love being at the hostel and seeing all the individuals, families, and groups traveling. It’s a wonderful mixture of people and ages. We stowed our luggage and went out into the city. 

Local girls led the way to the first stop: Stan’s and Do-Rite Donuts. I enjoyed two delicious vegan donuts from Do-Rite. After donuts, we went to Navy Pier for a few hours. We did the Ferris Wheel while the weather held out, and just as we exited, the rain came down. It passed quickly enough, so girls were able to go in and out of the pier. 

We then hopped a bus to the Hancock for 360 Chicago and the Tilt experience. I wasn’t keen on the tilt, so I watched as they all got tilted to view the ground below. I haven’t been to the glass floor at the Sears Tower either. I did the CNA Tower in Toronto, and my knees definitely knocked! 

We then boarded a bus back to the hostel, where we all prepped our bags for carryon and checking. Even as an experienced traveler, I can forget things; these girls have various amounts of experience, so lots of reminders were given, some heeded. All of us are on malaria pills and taking them at various stages of the trip, so those needed to be accessible. We had a few minor worries at check-in because girls had brought more than one carryon that they needed to check. One girl forgot to pack her large quantities of sunscreen and bug spray in her packed luggage and lost them in security. 

We flew on Emirates, which is a new airline for me. We all boarded and started choosing our tv/movie playlists from their extensive offerings. While the flight was long (13 hours ish), I managed to sleep decently on and off. I watched three movies I never got to see in the theater, and the vegan meals were great. I’ve always been a lover of airline food. 

While sitting in O’Hare, One girl said,  “I’m kind of excited about jet lag.” When we landed in Dubai, the girls were all in decent stages of awake and not suffering too much jet lag yet. We all wandered around the shopping area of Dubai airport before boarding our short 3 hr flight to Mumbai. 

We land in Mumbai at 2:30am, which is followed by a 4-5 hour bus journey. By the time we get to Sangam in Pune, we will have been traveling for almost 30 hours from hostel door to Sangam. 

One of the girls told me about a speaker she heard once. The woman psychologist had called traveling and doing challenging things outside your comfort zone as good for your brain, terming it “Stretch your rubber bands.” I think this is a great way to look at travel, especially to places like India that will be far different from the US. Despite my travel experience, I know my rubber bands will be stretched!

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