Back to reality.
After six glorious weeks in the United States, I am back in all the chaos that is India.
I spent most of my time home with my family just doing the things that make me happiest...cooking and baking, shopping, celebrating my sister's 21st birthday, and all things Christmas.
Christmas was wonderful, as usual. We had our 2nd Gingerbread House Contest, and I have to say I was not impressed with the judging! Annie, Mark and I worked really hard on ours, but I apparently had points deducted for having a similar roof as last year, resulting in third place. (Thanks to Mark for giving us tools not outlined in the gingerbread contest rules - an exacto knife for cutting trees out of fondant, and a credit card to smooth the frosting.)
After my time in Chicago with my family, I met Matt in Minneapolis for a few days with our friends. After forty-something days apart from each other, it was so good to have time together in a familiar city. We were able to see many of our friends for a night out on the town, and New Years Eve.
On January 2nd we left Minneapolis for India. It was hard for me to leave our family and friends, but I am grateful for all the time I had home.
As I was sulking in line, waiting to have our tickets scanned to get on the plane, something miraculous happened! A woman scanned our tickets, then printed off two new ones and whispered "These are better seats." When I realized the seats were now row 6 it was a feeling of pure bliss! We were upgraded for free to business class (or first? I don't even think there's a difference). It was amazing!
Awesome Things about First Class: (in no particular order)
1. You can't even touch the seat in front of you, they're so far apart!
2. You get a plush down comforter
3. The seat fully reclines like a lazy boy
5. Ice Cream Sundaes
6. No bathroom line
7. Four course meal
Unfortunately, this flight only got us to Paris. When I had to fly coach the second flight, you can bet I was pretty miserable and crabby. It really is like the Seinfeld episode...I can't go back!
Now onto what I really wanted to talk about...
India stinks! I mean it.
The pollution here has really taken a toll for the worst! From what I can gather, this problem is a combination of three things:
1. It is very chilly here now....into the 40s and 50s at night. Apparently the cold air causes shifts in the air layers, pushing the smoggy air lower.
2. FIRES! Heat here is non-existant, so just imagine millions of people making fires every single night to keep warm. I'll leave it up to your imagination to guess what they burn.
3. The everyday emissions generated by unregulated factories and extremely dense traffic.
I am in Delhi right now, and this is the view from our hotel room----->
Beautiful, right? The smells outside just smell like burning cow dung/garbage/mystery materials. Really makes me crave some fresh, Minnesota air!
To put this whole thing in perpective, here's some numbers I found.
In New Delhi it is...drumroll please...422!!!! That is some seriously hazardous breathing air.
I am going to find Matt and I some masks to start wearing. If you think I am overreacting, check out this article:
I'm sorry I have to end this on such a sad note.
Everything has quickly gone back to our routine. Matt has hit the ground running at work. I went into school to see the kids, but they are on winter break for a week. Next week I will be back to teaching.
Matt and I will hopefully be seeing the Taj Mahal on Sunday, so I should have more plesant things to share soon!
I'm also going to take a minute to put in a plug for the Anachal Project:
This project helps "commercial sex workers....gain social and financial empowerment."
They have two shops here in Jaipur, and even have a new contract with Urban Outfitters! Their blog is very inspiring...I encourage you to check it out.