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Observations on Two Months of Travel

Tomorrow we leave Mongolia. That leaves less a month and four more countries before we finally head back to the States. It’s been a long road home and has made me all the more ready to get there. But I have learned a lot along the way.

Observations from the last two months:

  1. Travel more slowly
    We decided to do a whirlwind tour of eleven countries in 14 weeks, knowing full well that it’s likely the only time this will happen. Now, eleven weeks in I can say it is too fast for us.
  2. Good planning can prevent a lot of heartache
    I’m a planner. I can’t just “wing it,” hopping around the world and hoping things work out. But I did a lot of research before we left and it has helped prevent a lot of heartache. When we couldn’t get on the train from Agra, we took a bus instead. I know how much a cab fare to the airport costs, so when a taxi driver takes us on a joy ride, I can call him out on it.
  3. Humans really are amazing
    We have met some incredible people over the course of this trip. People who have welcomed us into our homes or made sure we were taken care of. We’ve also seen incredible and terrible things of which humans are capable, but also the resiliency that people have. We are pretty incredible.
  4. The world has changed
    A lot has changed since I went to Ethiopia thirty months ago. I’m constantly surprised by cell phones mostly, but also the internet. I’m not entirely sure if it’s just that the world has changed, or if it’s that I’m finally noticing things I hadn’t before.
  5. The value of money
    When you live on a very limited budget for 27 months, it can be hard to spend money again. This trip has been in good in that it’s slowly eased me into the idea that everything costs money. Potatoes are never going to cost 25 cents a kilo (2.2 lbs) again, hotels will never be $10 for a private room with hot shower and free wifi and don’t get me started on clothes. That everything seems expensive now just something I have to accept. It’s definitely a process throughout this trip (“That’s $15!! For one entree!”) and I am sure it will continue to be a process over the coming months.
  6. Travel is good for relationships
    Ryan and I have learned so much more about each other after two months on the road than we might have at home. Full-time travel is different from both our life in Ethiopia and will be different from our life in the States. It’s made me more excited than ever to share my life with him!

Lord Shiva Temple on Elephanta Island

Lord Shiva Temple Elephanta Island Lora Kathleen

Reflections on India

India has been full of surprises. I didn’t really know what to expect, but if I had expectations, India has exceeded them and then some.

At times it seems like pure chaos. I watched men launching themselves onto (and off of) a moving train, tuk tuks squeezing into impossibly tight spaces on the road, and sacred cows and monkey running amok. Motorized vehicles would rather get into an accident than accidentally hit a cow.

Other times, it’s incredibly peaceful. We walked along the ghats of Varanasi in the rain, stopping to quietly contemplate the cremations happening along the bank of the Ganges, listened to Sufis since Qawwali at a dargah, seeing a Muslim and a Sikh laugh toghether, walking along Chowpatty Beach at sunset, and the tranquility of the Taj Mahal lost in the mist.

I’ve been disappointed. By touts and scammers who tell us our train tickets aren’t valid or that we have to go to a “tourist office” to fix it and by knock-off restaurants that mimic a charitable organization.

But I’ve also been pleasantly surprised. Mostly by the kindness of strangers. I can in blinders up and ready to play hardball but, most of the time, it’s been unnecessary. The kindness shown here to two fareng who don’t speak any Hindi has helped humble me and restore my faith in humanity a little.

And so far, I have loved it. It’s been trying at times and desperately in need of some quite time, but it’s been incredible.

Happy New Year!

 

Wishing everyone a very happy New Year!!

India-3827 Lora Kathleen Taj Mahal

Ethiopia, by the Numbers

Ethiopia by the numbers
Here is a summary of my service, by the numbers:

  • 27 months of service
  • 7 pairs of shoes destroyed by harsh conditions
  • 2 summer camps directed
  • 5 rocks thrown at me (and hit me)
  • 1 broken toe
  • 0 confirmed cases of giardia, parasite, etc
  • 6 other names I went by: Loiya, Flora, Liya (Leah), Lori, Abeba (flower in Amharic), Loraye (my Lora in Amharic)
  • 3 holiday seasons away from home
  • 72 phone and Skype calls with my parents
  • 35 days spent outside of Ethiopia
  • 1 project still in effect
  • 26 visits to Addis Ababa
  • 2 animals killed by a vehicle I was riding in
  • 4 times moved houses
  • 190 hours on Ethiopian public transport
  • 120 books read
  • 23 people stuffed into a 12 person van
  • 4 American visitors
  • 2 broken down buses
  • 1 cow in my house
  • 138,275 total birr I lived on for 2 years ($6,914 USD)
  • 2 compound kittens I loved
  • 41 days of in-service trainings
  • 3 times I saw “Lucy”
  • 2 cameras stolen
  • 980 cups of coffee consumed
  • 0 gorshas received
  • 47 complete television series watched off my hard drive
  • 23 nights I was awake late enough to hear the church service start at 3:30am
  • 1 love of my life
  • 814 days of Ethiopia.