Dennis writes:

Hello World!

Our trip to India went as planned. It was a long travel of over 31 hours with only about 6 hours of sleep, so when we arrived in Visakhapatnam, we were very tired but were energized quickly when we saw Corey and Gina. Shortly we were off to find something to eat before enduring the 6 hour car ride to Koraput. This is where my first memory of India was formed. Lindy, our daughter blogged earlier, about the dragon flies as her first memory of India. Unlike her, my first memory is that of the horns of every vehicle possible on the ride to the hotel (India dialect for restaurant). It was a busy time of day with many vehicles out on the road. From what I can tell there has to be a sub-economy in India for the repair, replacement, enhancement, enlargement or anything to do with the horn of a vehicle. Not only were there cars and trucks on the road, but there were also pedestrians, bicycles, motorbikes, rickshaws, buses, semi's, chickens, goats, dogs, cattle and water buffalo (you think I am being funny, but really there were water buffalo), and all were competing for the same space on the paved (imagined pavement in spots) road. Due to this there is a complex hierarchy of privileges and rules, too vast to ever comprehend without an extensive training period. Drivers education classes have to be full all the time, and there must be a degree somewhere. India driving would be a good place to validate the Chaos Theory. It was amazing to hear the range of noises horns can make, from large semi's having petite girly sounding horns, to horns that play musical tunes, to the horns that were about to die and made faint electrical clicking noises (obviously from over use). Another aspect is that the horn noises came from every direction, especially since it was very clear that there are no specific lanes that a vehicle needs to be in. The only base rule is that India drives on the left, and any number of vehicles, pedestrians and animals can start from the left side and span across the road. Many times there were 2 motorbikes and a car sharing the same "lane" of the road. Another basic rule is that size matters. Semi's typically get the most respect, but are not at the top of the hierarchy. From what I can tell the hierarchy is something like cows, water buffalo, goats and chickens are pretty much at the top since drivers will stop for them, then semi's, buses, cars, rickshaws, motorbikes, bicycles and pedestrians in order from high to low. Dogs are at the bottom and have to fend for themselves. Notice that pedestrians are only slightly higher on the list than dogs! Due to this, horns actually do play an important role in preventing accidents and injury. The drivers use the horns to communicate warnings and intentions. As drivers start to pass, they make a quick beep to warn the driver, pedestrian or animal they are overtaking, when passing on corners they sound the horn continuously to warn on-coming vehicles, on narrow single-lane roads they beep when going over a blind hill or when approaching a switch-back on steep slopes. So the horn is an important driving tool as a communication media between the driver and other drivers, pedestrians and animals that share the road.

Construction and infrastructure in India is very interesting. We were able to observe the construction of some buildings and road repairs. Construction of buildings is pretty much all concrete with wood doors and window shutters. Sculpted metal bars are fitted and concrete poured around for the window opening. The concrete is mixed onsite in small batches, dumped on the ground and women scoop the concrete into saucer type bowls to carry to human chains that pass the bowls to where it finally needs dumped. Since manual labor is prevalent and cheap, it is an efficient and effective way to move the concrete, basically forming a human conveyor belt. Road construction is also an interesting, and very manual process. Ditches along the road are dug by hand, stone and sand are leveled by hand, and asphalt is mixed onsite by melting old tires then mixing with gravel. The road conditions vary with many potholes that vehicles have to dodge to avoid damage, since some look like they could swallow a vehicle. Constant and consistent electricity is a luxury. Random electricity outages are an everyday occurrence. The only question is for how long. Due to this vendors in the market have portable generators that they use to maintain business. The electric outages are not a surprise after seeing the electric infrastructure. Neighborhood sub-stations are rickety and big transformers are only 10 to 15 feet off the ground, with no fencing or obstacles to keep people or animals away. Electric poles had wires strewn everywhere to distribute electricity to buildings and shops.

Aside from all of that, our visit to India has been full of new adventures, new experiences, surprises and enlightenment. We flew into Mumbai and were given a small taste of a large city. There were slums with shanties just outside of the airport fences that we could observe from the shuttle between the International Terminal and the Domestic Terminal, as well as from the plane, but yet the terminals themselves were very modern. The Domestic Terminal gate area was very nice, very clean, aesthetic and most accommodating. Traveling the National highway from Visakhapatnam to Koraput took us along the coast of the Bay of Bengal. There were very beautiful beaches and gorgeous views of the bay. Given the tropical temperament, it is amazing that is has not been commercialized with resorts. Koraput is in the mountains of rural India. Being in the rural area has afforded us many opportunities to see the landscape of India that few travelers get to see. The tropical climate supports the typical array of plants (palm and banana trees, etc.) that one would expect, but traveling into the mountainous topography changes the foliage and provides some very breathtaking views. Koraput is a small city of approximately 40,000 people. It's streets are narrow and lined with shops and vendors selling various crafts and goods. There is a rich "Farmers Market" where individuals bring their fruits and vegetables to Koraput and sell along the street. Some vendors walk the streets calling out their goods in attempts to sell from door to door. It is amazing to see the number of vendors and the richness of the fruits and vegetables.

During our stay the weather has been beautiful. Bright sunny skies with temperatures ranging from the 60's F at night to 80's F during the day. Our biggest concern has been insuring that we had sun screen to prevent sun burn since we are not used to the intense sunshine. It is hard to imagine Koraput during the rainy season.

We are very appreciative of the chance to visit with Corey and Gina. The time we have had together with them means very much to us and will have to last until they return in November. The next Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays will be much more complete with them around.