Friday, May 18, 2007

Arrived

The best laid plans... this year we decided to try a new route to Nepal, going via Continental from Newark to New Delhi, stay overnight and then on to KTM. The main flight overseas would be 4.5 hours shorter and the connection to KTM would only be 1.5 hours, so how could we lose, right?

We made reservations at a hotel near the Delhi airport. Upon arriving we were excited to get there for actual sleep. On the flight, we had three seats to the two of us and alternated slumping over in the free spot, still it's not quite the real thing.

Before leaving Newark, the Continental folks had asked to see our passports and inquired why we didn't have visas for India. We explained that we weren't traveling there, just staying overnight. They didn't seem alarmed by this, so we didn't either.

In Nepal and Thailand, you can buy tourist visas at the airport. India, however, requires that you obtain one through their embassy prior to leaving. We didn't know this. So when we met our immigration official at the Delhi airport he asked to see our visas. We gave him the same answer we had in Newark. Bummer for us.

Even though we didn't intend to travel, we still needed a visa just for the overnight stay. We were escorted to the "transit area" in the main lobby of the airport where an official explained we were not permitted to leave until our flight the next day--16 hours from now. In our state, that was disheartening news.

We plunked down in the velour-covered chairs. Airport Purgatory. The place looked like a refugee camp with tourists spread all over the place, sleeping on bags, on the floor (!), and on top of each other. The lobby had air conditioning but the temps in Delhi that day had been over 110 degrees so Mother Nature was winning the battle inside too.

We explored the lobby and found a lounge that serviced a group of airlines of which Continental was not a member. However, a kindly server came outside and told me that for a "fee" we could stay there until 7am with free drinks and free food. The $30 fee went in his pocket and we were ushered inside. The free drinks were great; the free food was not--just cheese puff pastries and "fruit bread." Nonetheless, I ate heartily while Jen stayed with gum. After 3am, most of the lounge had emptied and we found a couple couches to lay down. There we slept fitfully until 7 and went back to the transit area until our flight at 11:30a.

We were upset about wasting the hotel but moreso about the visa mistake. Live and learn.

So we're now arrived in KTM. Got a good night's sleep yesterday and should be over the jet lag.

Jen is interviewing research assistants today for her project which will start a week from now. At that point I'll go to Pokhara to hang with Dinesh and the gang. When we called Dinesh this morning, he was out with some trustees looking at possible land sites. One of our goals for this trip is to figure out how much we'll need to raise to buy suitable land.

Yesterday we ran into Janardin Subedi at the Hotel Tibet--he is a sociology professor from Nepal who teaches at Miami and who took Jen (and Brad and Katie Hyde) to Nepal for the first time in 1992. He is traveling with Mark Tausig, a professor from the University of Akron who had been Janardan's dissertation advisor many years ago. So, academically-speaking, there were three generations of "Doctors" meeting yesterday: Mark, Janardan and Jen. Kind of a neat moment.

That's all for now. Thanks for your e-mail.

(Before international travel of any kind, research your visa requirements. Thank you.)