Flight LAX to Amsterdam was uneventful. While waiting to board I chatted with a young man in the Peace Corps working at a health clinic in Botswana (a country I had visited just a year ago.) He had worked in Arizona in an AIDS Clinic and said he was fortunate to have gotten his first choice of where to go He wanted to work with people affected by AIDS and stated that the infected rate in Botswana was 1:4. He had a loooong trip, having come from Hawaii, flying to Amsterdam, then to Johannesburg, and then many hours in a bus to the Okavango delta area in NW Botswana. On the plane I sat next to an older couple from Bangalore whose daughter is a doctor in the Sacramento are and whose son is an engineer in Chennai. They have a US green card, spend Jan- May in India and other months in Davis. Changing planes in Amsterdam was ok. My first headset did not work and my reading light did not work. Of all the movies available there was only one I wanted to watch, Dunkirk. My seat neighbor shared her light with me while I read, but sleeping was a priority and I was able to sleep on the plane.
The arrival wing was fortunately next to the departure wing so not too far to walk, unlike the time Jeanne and I flew back from France and had less than an hour to “run” from one end of Schipol Airport to the other. I had to ask to not close the plane door so she could finish in the restroom. I sat next a woman and her daughter in the sixth grade. They had moved from India to Toronto 4 years ago and were returning to India because the 57 year old mother/grandmother had just died. We talked about the difficulties and grief associated with making the trip. They received special food on the plane. I learned they are Jaun which I knew nothing about. This is an ancient Indian religion and she told me they belueve in one god. The Jains are vegetarians but do not eat any food that grows in the ground - root vegetables, garlic, etc because removing it from the ground might kill insects and worms and they do not want to contribute to killing any animals. Fortunatelym I was able to get a few hours of sleep on ths 7 ½ hour flight.
Next stop was Mumbai. I am reading a book by Salman Rushdie, a renowned Induan author, Midnight's Children, and learned the name Bombay came from the Portuguese Bom Bahia, good bay. Portugese rule was 1534- 1641. Under subsequent British rule the name was Anglicized to Bombay. India has changed the name to Mumbai, goddess Mumbadevi and ai means mother.
So I had to clear immigration with my passport and e- visa. There was a sign with an arrow “ e-visa” and then many lines with signs stating economy class. After sttanding in line 45 minutes I was told the e- visa line was at the other end of this huge immigration room and I needed to go to a different window. I walked past many closed windows and saw a huge line of people waiting at “ e-visa” I took a chance and walked to the next open window abgering people in the front of the line and the agent. I knew if I waited in again I would miss my next flight and I stated the other agent told me to go directly to the window (which is honestly what I thought he said.) At e-visa one must get photographed and use this electronic fingerprint scanner, first for 4 fingers and then the thumbs. It was not working correctly and I had to repeat the process probably a dozen times. The agent was already irritated with me and the machine malfunction added to his consternation. Finally I was cleared and he made some comment that I should be glad he let me in.
When I checked in at LAX I was told my bag was checked to my final destination and I did not have to pick it up in Mumbai - so not true. So off to baggage claim, got the bag and with no illicit contraband to declare walked through customs and took it to the next stop to drop it off. Then on to find the gate for my domestic flight to Chennai. Fortunately I did not have to leave and go to the domestic terminal as I was on the same airline. Military personnel were checking to let people into this part of the airport. No orderly queues, just a horde of people many with luggage carts and some in wheelchairs pusing or being pushed through. After clearing that I went to security. Men and women have separate screening. Women are taken into a curtained space and screened privately with a hand wand. Once cleared, I found the gate and a charging station and had some time to read and charge my phone. An announcement of a gate change prompted me to move, but none of the phone chargers worked so I returned to my original spot. I chatted briefly with a young woman from the Ukraine who had been shopping at Victoria’ s Secret in the airport and worked as an independent food and beverage consultant.
The plane arrived early in Chennai, 4:30 AM local time. I attempted to get some ruppes at the one ATM in the airport which did not work for me. I had planned to take a prepaid taxi but had no local money. I found the place in the airport and he told me he would take dollars. I think I was overcharged but I had no other options and did get to the hotel. I had previously contacted the hotel about a possible early check- in, when I arrived I was told no rooms. I changed my clothes and freshened up in the restroom, came it and, in those 15 minutes a room had become available. That was really great. While I was checking in an Indian woman in her 40s,Pinky, was standing nearby. We started talking and I learned about her 13 year old daughter diagnosed 5 years earlier with a benign brain tumor. We walked down the street to the nearest ATM which worked and got some coffee from some local shops, i heard ger perspective on health care in India especially sine her daughter was misdiagnosed,+but she was now going to the top government hospial in Kerala specializing in neurological care. She felt in the private sector doctors are mitivated by financial gain more than providiing quality care. She stated the government provides no assistance with health care, but then told me care provided at government hospitals is free. We parted ways as she went to wake up her husband and I took my luggage up to my room.