It pays to have low expectations. From the time I entered Nepal 2 months ago I have heard nothing but horror stories about Delhi. I pictured it as a slight upgrade from hell but with chai, head bobbles and cows. I was pleasantly surprised. I had made a reservation on hostelworld for the cheapest accommodation I could find (Delhi is very expensive compared to the rest of India), a 10 bed dorm for 225 rupees/$4 (very basic single rooms usually started at 500 rupees/$9), but when I arrived at 7 in the morning the owner escorted me to a private room, a spotless room with hot water (one of the better rooms I've had in India). He gave me a speech in a hypnotizing voice about how he could sense pureness in my energy while he made excruciatingly long eye contact and then told me that he wanted to give me the private room for 2 nights for the dorm room price....I couldn't argue with that.
My only goal in Delhi was to go shopping, and that I did. I shopped 'till I dropped and then some. Indians are my absolute favorite to bargain with. The predictable responses of "sure, why not?, " "mam, not possible," and "no problem" coupled with the head bobble and humor never fails to put a smile on my face. Even walking down the street and listening to their efforts to get my attention is nothing short of hilarious (when I'm in the right mood, that is). Even though I had my guard up so I wouldn't get scammed, I met dozens of genuinely good hearted people. I am going to miss moments where someone comes up to me when I look like a wet dog and calls my freshly wahed hair fly (haven't heard a good 90's slang word in a while) just to be nice. I just love India.
I have been starting a pay it forward campaign in India. Honest rickshaw drivers (and boatmen) are a dieing breed (nearly extinct in Delhi) so I thought I'd do my part to promote telling the truth. This is how it works:
1) I am able to bargain down the price to a fair rate.
2) They bring me directly to my desired destination (without stopping at shops where they get commission).
3) They don't tell me not to go to my desired destination for any reason (it's closed today when I know it's not, it's too expensive, etc.).
4) They stay true to the agreed upon price and don't try to get more for any reason (I had to go a longer way because roads are closed, I don't have change, blatant lies about the rate, etc.).
If all of the aforementioned qualifications are met, I give them at least 5 times the agreed upon rate, thank them for being honest, shake their hand while telling them "God bless you" and go on my way. There are few things that make me happier than seeing their shocked smile as they shake my hand. I don't know if it will make a difference, but maybe, just maybe, they will pass on the spirit if honesty and giving.
My last night in India was not how I would have predicted it to be. I ate dinner with the most romantic guy in the history of the world (sorry Romeo). His eyes sparkled as his talked about the adventures of love and pain and the art of literature. The dude lost his train of thought when the moon caught his eye then recited one of his own poems (passionately, I might add). Most of the evening was spent defining love, discussing the fruits of faith and convincing him that we weren't on a date. He said everything that the movies tell us that girls want to hear. I then realized that I don't want to be in the movies. Maybe I have walls that I need to let down but I don't believe in love at first sight, nor do I desire the sweep me off my feet and run away together type of romance. Love is more than that, more than raw emotions. I envied his passion to experience the full spectrum of every emotion and to indulge in all of life's pleasures but at the same time I realized how full I am. The only affirmation I seek is from God and I know He will continue to satisfy me beyond the world's temporary pleasures. I'm glad I was challenged on my views by the German doe-eyed Romeo over my last curry (for a while).
I'm one of those people in airports that makes me certain that I'll never work at one; airport Danika is the absolute worst. Sure, it wasn't the best idea to get henna done the morning of my flight causing me to run extremely late but everything is possible in India, right? I literally sprinted to my gate weaving through the obstacles that some refer to as people and made it to the finish line in the knick of time. I think I subconsciously made it so all I was thinking about that last day was making it on time so that leaving Asia (especially Nepal and India) didn't sink in. Asia has been my home for the last 20 months and it is surreal to leave the place that continues to fascinate and challenge me. I have no doubt that I will be back (with more time) soon but it's time to see what the Americas have to offer.
Next stop, Mexico! I can hardly wait to be reunited with my dad to see why cave exploring has been lighting up his eyes all these years. Meet, Danika, cave photographer and the newest member of the Veracruz spelunking team.