Levels 2-3: Newark to Delhi

Wow…

…what a trip so far. Now that I’m in India, safely in my hotel room, let me try to take you back to catch you up on the journey thus far.

Once I reached the Newark Int’l Airport, I stood in line to check in my luggage. Waiting in the international line was an experience itself. The people in front of me were French, or at least they spoke it, and the only word I recognized was “merde” …odd 🙂 . However, the guy behind me was Brett Favre until I turned around. His southern drawl spoke of the business deals he was trying to work though in Korea. It was funny to hear a southern man try to say korean words, and then break out the oh so American term, “britches” when referring to a very explicit place he would like to put his competitor.   Once checked in, I went to stuff my face with as much beef as possible at Gallaghers Steakhouse. Knowing that I was going to the country where cows are sacred, I didn’t want to leave America without some of it’s most prized food source in my belly. I felt like Fat Bastard in Austin Powers. “Get in my bellaaaey!!” Once Liza arrived at the airport we grabbed a quick beverage and then hopped on the plane. Just as we were getting comfortable with the amenities waiting for us at our first class seats, the stewardess told us we needed to de-board the plane because there was an electrical problem.  So they shuffled us down to the Presidents Club where we relaxed in soft leather chairs and partook in some delicious beverages…compliments of Continental Airlines…however, it was our journey to the Prez Club that molded the first great moment of our trip.

As we were walking to the club, an Indian gentleman approached us to talk about the plane, of which he was also a passenger. We quickly moved to each of our reasons for venturing to India. Surprisingly and ironically, he turned out to be a pediatric gastroenterologist and he was building a children’s hospital in Chandigarh, India. He was very familiar with the vaccine we were working with and since his hospital is close to our work, he invited us to tour his new facility. He showed us pictures of the facility and explained its benefit to the children of the region. As he went on, I couldn’t help but feel that this was one of those moments we had been waiting for. He suggested that our company work with his hospital to forge clinical trials and potentially some private funding. Considering our interests were the same, both Liza and I are excited to take this news back to our site and discuss with our emerging markets officials. We plan on touring the hospital one Saturday during our stay in Kasauli.

Once back on the plane, we quickly taxied out and took off. The plane pilots were quick to come out of their cabin and socialize with some of the first class patrons, as well as a few flirtatious glances at the flight attendants. Dirty old men lol. We each had our own personal flat screen tv that elevated from the side of our seats, of which reclined into beds. Before I could get comfortable I was being offered hot towels, wine, a fancy menu, and many other amenities. Needless to say…I will never fly coach again. Ever…:) After stuffing my face with food, I quickly got “the itis” and reclined my seat down, took a benadryl, and fell asleep. I gauge my falling asleep somewhere over the Labrador Sea between Newfoundland and Greenland…and I woke up somewhere over Russia. How did I know this? Right in front of our first row seats there was an LCD screen with the planes satellite tracking. I was not impressed with Russia and fell right back asleep. I woke up about two hours before we were scheduled to land. The LCD showed that we had just crossed over Afghanistan and Pakistan and were well into Northern India. And just when my stomach growled, the procession of food from the flight attendants began again. So as I stuffed my face and prepared for landing, I had the sudden realization that I wasn’t in America. The map on the wall, and the comfort on the plane had totally stifled my anxiety over leaving the USA. Needless to say I became very nervous and continued to pound one cup of coffee after the other. Then…the next great moment.

As we were descending, we could see the landscape below us flashing in the night sky. What looked like camera flashes from 20K feet were actually fireworks. As far as we could see there was flash after flash as if we were flying into a dark football stadium full of photographers. As we descended the flashes then became a myriad of colors. Mostly green, red, and yellow. The festival of lights, Diwali, the Indian version of Christmas, was well underway. The celebration was beautiful. It was at that moment that my anxiety turned into pure excitement. I was about to see how others celebrate life, family, their country, and their heritage. This to me was an experience that I will always have a snap shot of in my head. As we exited the plane we were shuffled to baggage claim where we got our bags quickly, we were not checked at customs, and we then reluctantly walked by the duty free shop on our way to the foreign exchange. We set up a pre-paid taxi and were on our way.

As we were getting into our taxi, the guy behind the counter ran out to see if we minded him riding in our taxi, so the driver could drop him at home. Both Liza and I were very much ok with this as he spoke good English and made us feel more comfortable with a driver that definitely did not. He explained that he was trying to get off work early for the holiday and go home to see his sister who was all alone. This touched my heart as I then thought of my family, and how much I would not want them to be by themselves on such a joyous holiday. He seemed so thankful for us allowing him to ride, and take us a bit out of our way. He gave me his phone number and a pen and said we could call him if we needed anything. He quickly grabbed the gift he had brought home for his sister and hustled out of the car. As we drove off there was a small herd of cows wallowing in the mud on the roadside…and then I realized…I’m in freaking India 🙂

Liza and I are now safe in the Hyatt Regency, stuffed from our visit to the cafe downstairs. It is 2:11 am here and I’m going to hop in this king size bed and rest up for what is assured to be a life changing experience.  The entire country is buzzing with Diwali and the fact that the leader of the free world, Barack Obama is here to visit to share in their celebration. I for one am honored to be associated with such respect for a leader. If only the Republicans in our country really knew what this man means to the world. I expected American resentment, but at least so far, I’ve gotten nothing but respect and curiosity. Stay tuned folks. I love you all!! I’ll soon try to put some pictures on Facebook.

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