Saturday, July 10, 2010

India/Bangladesh Pilgrimage #2

My hotel in Mumbai had a beautiful restaurant on the 18th floor. The restaurant faced southwest and you could just see the harbor in the distance. It's monsoon season and from sundown to sunrise the rain lashed at the glass at a ferocious rate. The food was at least as good as the view; they had buffets at both breakfast and dinner with a variety of Asian and Western foods.

The second day I was in Mumbai I walked across the street to a mall where there was a large food court that included a McDonald's. Someone told me that in India the McDonaldses offered a good vegetarian burger (in a country where the cow is sacred, you can't have a regular hamburger), so I had to try it. They were right. By the way, the McDonalds was located between Subway and KFC. Do you think we can teach our minimum wage employees to speak Hindi as well as those in India speak English?

Across from the food court was a a bookstore. It had several shelves of fiction and a small history section but the largest section appeared to be business and management. India's economic future seems promising.

The India rupee is worth only a little more than the Italian lira, so you end up with a pile of change. The exhange rate is about 45Rs per dollar. I'm carrying my wallet and passport around with me in a "fanny pack." All things considered, this seems to be a good idea but it also feels as though there's a flashing neon sign over my fanny pack, saying "Look! Here's Barry's money and passport!"

Security is amazingly tight at the airport and hotel. Both have barricades in front of them to prevent attacks involving vehicles. To entern the hotel one has to pass through a metal detector and send one's belongings through an x-ray machine.

I am now in Dhaka, having flown here at 8 am this morning. I left the hotel at 6.15 am and rode thru relatively empty streets to the airport. However, I got a better sense of the poverty and overcrowding than on my way in. From the hotel to the airport the streets are lined with the most primitive dwellings. Frankly, such poverty is terrifying to me.

At the airport I met up with 3 more members of my group who flew in from the US last night: Ed Hurley, pastor of South Highlands Presbyterian, Ray Dunmyer, pastor of St. Thomas' Catholic Church in Montevallo, and Bob Hurst, pastor of United Church in Huntsville. Archbishop Joseph Marino, a Birmingham native who is papal nuncio in Dhaka, met us at the airport, facilitated our passage thru customs, and had his driver take us to our hotel. We will see the rest of our party tonight at dinner at the archbishop's residence.