Have you heard of the Indian cash crisis? I had read a little blurb last week on The Skimm, my daily sassy news blurb, but didn’t think a whole lot about about it.
“At the root of this chaos is the fact that India is an overwhelmingly paper currency country: some 90% of the transactions are done with cash….The two scrapped denominations – 500 and 1,000 rupees – account for more than 85% of the value of cash in circulation.” *
Basically much of India’s economy runs on cash and many people who operate in cash never pay taxes. In an effort to force the issue, make more people pay taxes, and register the money they currently have, the government declared the two biggest bills, 500 and 1000 rupees, worth just over $7 and $14 respectively, to no longer be legal tender. They gave 4 hours notice for this.
Can you imagine? Suddenly most of your money, say all your $20s, is completely worthless and ATMs only give out $1s.
There will be new bills coming at the end of December, but until then, the 100 rupee note, worth not quite $1.50, will have to be exchanged for at banks with ID and only those notes are available at ATMs.
I hope I didn’t lose you yet!
Blah, blah, blah…right? But this is significantly affecting our stay in India! Anywhere we can pay in card is fine…but those places are very few and tend to be the relatively expensive restaurants and shops. Most places operate in cash only. The cash that Paul had obtained from an ATM before this announcement is dwindling and it has proven very difficult to exchange the last big bill he has. The banks have gigantic lines spilling onto the streets long before they open every day.
Why don’t we just get more at another ATM? They are all out of cash. All of them! There are long lines or crowds around all of the ATMs and banks in the area until that machine is empty, then the crowd rushes to the next one only to have the same experience repeated. Not to mention, there is a really low weekly amount that can be withdrawn anyway. We have visited multiple ATMs multiple times a day since arriving with no luck yet!
We have been in countries with interesting government and bank situations happening before, but it has never affected us quite this directly. When we visited Athens, Greece last year we knew well ahead of our arrival of the bank crisis and were able to stockpile Euros in preparation. Unfortunately, the demonetization in India occurred while Paul was already here, and since there are no new bills yet, I couldn’t even order money ahead at home.
Yesterday and today, as the kids and I went in search of a place for lunch that would accept credit cards, we were told no at several establishments. As we walked around, we passed about 4 banks/ATMs with lines/crowds around them. All of us felt the frustration of the men there. That isn’t to say that I feel unsafe…I just don’t want to hang around any longer than absolutely necessary.
In a classic example of Indian culture and not telling someone “no,” the manager of our apartment has told us every day that he will exchange our big, now worthless bill at a given time or part of the day and then never shows. We will see! Today he says he will be here “post lunch” for the exchange…I’m not holding my breath!
In the meantime, one of Paul’s co-workers has kindly spotted us some cash and another is working with a reputable agency to help us exchange at a reasonable rate some American cash we brought.
Until we get more cash, we will continue visiting a little “provisions” store that sells some western grocery items and accepts credit cards. Lunch yesterday ended up being an Indian version of Top Ramen with some eggs and Coke. It works for now. Just don’t tell my mom that I didn’t have any vegetables with that meal! 😊
Thankfully, this story is not going to end on a sad note.
Late in the afternoon, the apartment manager came to the door and exchanged the 1000 bill for us. Yay!
The Thomas Cook agency that exists only to exchange money is all tapped out. So, they won’t be of help to us yet.
But late at night, Paul went to three ATMs. He was the 26th person in line at 11:30 at night. 30 minutes later the machine still had money and we are thrilled to have some cash in hand!
Today, this is what victory looks like: brand new bills in serial number order.
Getting here from Seattle took almost exactly 24 hours: arriving at the airport 3 hours before the flight, one 14 1/2 hour flight to Dubai, a couple hours in that airport, and a 4 hour flight to Delhi. Arriving in New Delhi you could see from the air the dichotomy of big nice buildings next to shanties as well as the pollution which lay like a big blanket of thick fog over the city.
Leaving the airport took about an hour: winding our way to immigration, finally finding and filling out the official arrival forms which were in short supply, standing in line and passing through immigration, walking straight through customs, locating our bags on the luggage carousel, and making our way through bunches of people to meet up with our fearless leader and our ride. The forms were the weird thing for me. Why were the forms in short supply? This seems so silly as there are large planes arriving often. An old man made the rounds, carefully placing on the tables a few forms at a time from his ample supply. It struck me as funny that these would be so carefully rationed. Then the sour faced immigration officer barely said a word other than, “go”. He was the same with my daughter who almost always gets a kind or curious smile at these official desks. The baggage area was clear and efficient, but we had to make our way through an entire plane load of returning Indian army men …a touch intimidating! Then through the maze of exits, through the third crowd of people holding signs to meet incoming foreigners, just a moment, and then seeing Paul. We made it! Three weeks was a LONG time apart. Hugs all around. 🙂 https://www.instagram.com/p/BM0jXFdFNcw/
From the baggage claim area to the parking garage, the air seemed to get thicker and stinkier with each step. By the time we were all the way out, our eyes stung a bit and we talked about making ourselves breathe through our noses. “Should we get our masks out?” asked my very sensitive-to-change T. Not yet, let’s let our bodies make some of the adjustments. The cigarette smoke and car exhaust was amplified in the covered airport pickup area. You could see the haze in the air, even just looking from one door to another. (For an insightful article on the pollution of New Delhi, read http://news.nationalgeographic.com/2016/04/160425-new-delhi-most-polluted-city-matthieu-paley/)
We were met by a car with a driver and guide. This feels so luxurious! We make our way to the car which is a Toyota Innova; not available in the US, but almost just like the Kijang we rode in Indonesia and a seating arrangement like a slightly miniaturized minivan. Seat belts in the front and middle seats, upper belt but no connection/bite to be found for the back ones. If this ends up being the same car we ride all over in a couple weeks, I will have to dig around and find them, I am sure they are there somewhere! I don’t want to go for long drives without that safety feature.
The roads themselves are pretty bad. Huge potholes and (completely unnecessary) speed bumps abound. As we get on to the main road it gets a little better.
“Don’t even worry about them driving in the lanes,” Paul comments as I am looking ahead. I think he misread me. I’m not worried even a bit. At home I would be concerned about driving anywhere like we are (I really like knowing and following the rules), but somehow I am comfortable with the fact that lane use is not a thing here. Drivers move fluidly all over the road to avoid ruts, potholes, or each other, usually on the left side of the road, but not always. Sometimes, a couple times every minute, a high beam flash or a horn communicates that someone wants someone else to move. It is just the language of the drivers.
There isn’t a ton to see as it is totally dark and in the middle of the night. We can see that things are just different…cars are parked an odd spaces on the edges of the road, empty shelters which I guess might be a restaurant during the day, a couple abandoned street food stands, and several wild dogs just standing in the road.
The kids and I are taking it all in and Paul announced that we are just about here. We turn off the main road (about the size of a four lane highway) and onto a side road. This road is about as wide as a nice residential street, but both sides have cars parked, squeezing the driving space, but the road is deserted now at 4:15 am.
We climb the stairs to our apartment. Paul did a great job scouting out the place. We think the manager may have read the blog and offered him an upgrade to a bigger place. We are in a huge, newly renovated, 3 bedroom apartment! We enter at the foyer and remove our shoes. The clean marble floors are nice and cool. Off to the left are a kitchen, living room/dining room, bedroom with attached bathroom, and a powder room. To the right are two more bedrooms each with attached bath. (There is actually a 4th bedroom there too, but it is shut off and under construction.) The main hallway is about 6 feet wide and extends from K’s bedroom door, along the length of T’s room, through the foyer and door, past the powder room and my bedroom on one side and the kitchen on the other through to the living room. The living room has three comfortable couches. Wow, this place is great!
Apparently they don’t install plumbing with p-traps here. As a result, the sewer smell comes up through the drains. To combat the smell, 2 marble-sized urinal cakes sit on every sink and shower drain. The resulting strong camphor smell permeates the place. When you close the bathroom doors for a while, then you can instead smell the smoky garbage/sewer from outside. Potayto-potahto.
We picked our rooms and set our bags down. I do some unpacking. We brought beef jerky and protein bars for snacks. Paul picked up some tea, coffee, cookies, and bread at the market before we arrived. The management has stocked the fridge with several liters of bottled water and a liter of milk. We munch on some beef jerky and drink some water. Flying that long definitely dehydrates you and when you only have short naps on the plane for that long, you body clock is all messed up. We are excited to be here, but exhausted, hungry and can’t stand the thought of food!
Then we decide it is time to sleep. We all slept from about 5:00 to about 9:00 I thought. Later K told me she got up at 7:00, talked to us, and then took a shower. Hm, I totally missed that, apparently I was tired! After three weeks without Paul and then traveling, I was ready to be “off-duty” for a few hours!
The Seahawks game started at 7:00 am our time. We missed most of it, but awoke in time to see most of the fourth quarter. What an ending! Go Hawks!!
After a semi lazy morning of sleeping in, showers, and some work/school work it was time to get out, walk around the neighborhood, and find some lunch. The kids and I are pretty dazed, but Paul guides us along as we see things for the first time. This is so much like Indonesia! The roads with cars, scooters, auto rickshaws, and bikes all weaving in and out of each other. Sidewalks that are molded cement pieces placed on top of deep storm drains that are mostly in place between uneven driveways and trees.
We made our way to the Green Park Market, a strip mall of sorts about a 5 minute walk away. We walked up and down the two blocks checking everything out. There are store fronts with lots of little shops selling everything from underwear to groceries, hair salons, and cafes. There is a broad sidewalk in from that leaves lots of space for vendors to set up shop selling food, flowers, vegetables, scarves, or henna. We found a shop where we could buy some peanut butter and Nutella to go on our bread and a few other supplies. Then we got momos from one of the three stands selling them outside. These delicious dumplings are stuffed with chicken, paneer (a kind of tofu consistency cheese), or vegetables. I imagine we will be buying these often.
Back to the apartment. It wasn’t a hugely long outing, but we want to break the kids in gently.
I notice that there are many men about, but very few women and no children. Men are wearing long, dark pants and any variety of shirt you can imagine, most long sleeved. Women are dressed in everything from full saris, to colorful jilbab/hijab, to slacks and button-down dress shirt, to jeans and a T-shirt (though this last is much less common).
It did not seem that anyone noticed us at all! I know that even though we tried to wear clothing that would somewhat blend in, we stick out like a sore thumb. While traveling in other areas of Asia, we were stared and pointed at on a regular basis, but here we received only fleeting glances. If we made eye contact with someone, we may receive a half-hearted smile in return for ours. Interesting.
We are in a good neighborhood in the “nice” part of town, but most people we know would still be shocked at what is here on our block. Next to our nice apartment building is an old, broken-down brick building in which several people live. Across the street is a park in which people bathe out in the open, their clothing hanging on the fence while not needed. There is trash all over the place. Men lay in carts on the side of the road most of the day. (Still trying to figure this one out. Maybe they work transporting things in the morning and evening and just wait the main part of the day?) Stray dogs wander or lay where they like until some car honks at them to get out of the way. Cars honk constantly, I mean constantly! Sometimes I get the giggles hearing how incessant they can be during the day, though, thankfully, they quiet down at night because the road is theoretically closed from midnight to 6:00 to through traffic.
In the afternoon, the kids did some homework and then we all crashed asleep. “Just 20 minutes” easily turned into several hours. Oops!
We woke, watched some tv and munched on beef jerky and dried mango. We intended to go out again for dinner, but we started watching a movie and then had a nice long video chat with Michaela, our dear friend, in Germany. Mid-way through the call the kids said goodnight. My eyelids were getting very heavy, so we said goodbye to Michaela and fell into bed before 10:00.
I slept hard until about 3:45. The first horns started honking outside just before 5:00 and the neighborhood pack of dogs had some sort of barking challenge going on shortly after that. Instead of laying frustrated, I decided to write about these first 24 hours. I can’t believe how much and how little we did and it seemed like the longest 24 hours ever!!
I will leave you with this clip of the street outside our door.
Guess what!?😆 We have been living here in the Youth With a Mission (YWAM) base in Bad Blankenburg, Germany for almost a week now.📍🌍 In this blog, I am going to tell you 6 things about living in close quarters (3 good and 3 not so good). While this is a big building, there are 70 of us living here right now, so it’s pretty busy!
👍 Let’s start with the good news: 👍
Always having friends. You don’t have to go far to find some good people. 👯
Getting to know people really well cause they’re here all the time. 🕰👭
There are people from 26 countries here. It’s a great way to learn about different customs and cultures. 🌍
👎 Now, here are some not so awesome things about living in close quarters: 👎
You can’t ever get a break from people.👨👩👧👦 Your room! Family is there.👫 The shower! It’s a shared bathroom.🚿🚽
The wifi is shared with 70 other people, so its REALLY slow. 📶🌀
If people are having a conversation, even if there are only 2 people, you can hear it. It’s never quiet!! 💬
Of course, this is my perspective of how it is after being here for only a week,📆 so I will probably make an updated version of this in a couple weeks, and then at the end of our stay here.📑
Today, the clothing donations that so many of you provided have reached their final (or almost final) destination, the refugee homes 5,105 miles away in Bad Blankenburg, Germany! K and I spent some of our day in what is called “The Boutique,” helping sort the THREE huge, 20 kilo (40 pound) duffel bags full of clothes that we brought from Seattle.
Today was also the day of the week that the refugees are welcome to “shop” in the boutique. In the first hour, there were five different families that came by. Only one family can shop at a time since the room is small, but there is a larger waiting room outside where there are refreshments like tea, coffee, and biscuits. Mom and Dad tried to talk to some of the visitors, but it was kind of difficult when the only common language was highly-limited German. Thankfully, we’re working hard on our German and getting better every day.
We would like to thank everybody for the donations that helped us fill the bags, as well as say thanks to Grandma Patty for helping us pack them!
If you are friend and/or have been following this blog for a bit, you know by now that we #SeattleBundas are off on yet another adventure. This one in particular has been a long time coming, so please allow me to get you up to speed.
U.S. Re-Entry: Last October, we returned to Seattle with the intention of being home through the Spring. We wanted to be home through the holidays, as well as be around a couple newborns in the family–including our nephew, Anders, and our hanai niece, Katy Rae. Therefore, we agreed not to make any new plans until then.
It’s No Fun Being an (Illegal) Alien – Being back home was bittersweet for me. Despite the many comforts of home (fast/consistent internet access, any kind of food available to me at a moment’s notice, a HUGE and comfortable house by much of the world’s standards) and the company of our dear friends and family (weekly Seahawks/GoT/whatever parties, lunch/coffee appointments, our church), I still felt like an alien that was trying unsuccessfully to “wear” the life that I’d previously lived less than a year earlier. The thought of returning to work in Corporate America and filling up the rest of our lives with the busy-ness that plagues so many made me physically ill at times. Nonetheless, since we knew that we were staying put for at least 6 months, it made sense to suck it up and try to get my head back in the game.
Living an “Uncommon” Life – The experiences we had during our family sabbatical were so rich, so transformational, that they forced us to rethink how we might be called to live our lives moving forward. Could the SAFE framework that we used for the sabbatical (read more here) actually become our new normal, as opposed to something that applied only for a specific season in our life? Could we keep traveling and immersing ourselves in cross-cultural experiences? Could we keep finding opportunities to serve others both locally and abroad? Could we satisfy our thirst for adventure and fun? Could we keep learning? Could we figure out a way for me to work 9 months of the year so that we could devote the other 3 months to SAFE experiences abroad? While I’m still not 100% certain how well or how long this will work, we’ve already taken a number of steps to try and make this concept, this dream, a reality. So far, so thankful.
So here we are now: 10 months after our last BIG adventure, doing our part to help serve one small pocket of the 65.3 million people around the world whom are considered refugees. These people have been forced to flee home countries like Eritrea, Syria, and Afghanistan due to persecution related to race, religion, nationality, political opinion, or membership of a particular social group. They have landed in a small German town called Bad Blankenburg–following dreams of a better life, but facing the reality of language barriers, limited job prospects, and cultural persecution from locals who fear those who are so “different.”
“S” is for Service – We’re working with an International non-profit called, Youth With a Mission (YWAM). This is the same group with which Laura and I worked when we first met over 20 years ago. We’ve only been here a few days, but we’re working quickly to figure how to best use our skills and experience to make an impact. Laura has already stepped up to teach English 3x/week. Meanwhile, I am working on documenting the various programs happening here with the aim of helping the teams to streamline, prioritize their efforts, load-balance, then mobilize their limited people and financial resources. Finally, Trey and Kamaile are helping with a local second-hand clothes boutique, as well as children’s outreach programs.
I have feeling we’re just scratching the surface of the “what” and the “why” for our family in this latest adventure. We’ll do our best to keep you all posted. In the meantime, thanks for your prayers and, if nothing else, for supporting us in this ongoing journey.
Starting off 2016 by giving a shout out to the friends (old and new) whom we met abroad in 2015. You shared meals; you shared your homes; and, some of you allowed us to become a significant part of your lives for a season. ALL of you gave selflessly to help enrich our #SeattleBundas Family Sabbatical.
We have visited so many places and the part of travel that is the most interesting and soul satisfying is connecting with people. This is one of those times when I feel like writing about our experience can only give a dull and flat reflection of something beautiful and rich. I wish that I was a real writer and could better portray these feelings! Sure, Disneyland Paris is amazing and we had a fabulous time time there. Seeing the wonders of Rome was awesome in every sense of the word. But spending time with new and old friends has made this time incredible. I could go on and on for ages about all of the friends we met and saw, but I will keep it to just the four families we stayed with.
We like staying with people for many reasons. We feel like we get a more realistic view of what it is like to live in a given place. What kinds of food are in the cupboards and what condiments are on the table? These things are different everywhere you go. Connecting with people is so much easier in a comfortable setting like a home. We had the opportunity to spend precious time with some old friends as well as stay with family of friends. Really, how cool is that: inviting strangers to stay with you based only on the fact that they know your sister? A couple of the friends we visited have children and seeing our children become friends is one of the most beautiful experiences!
In Paris we were privileged to be able to stay at the home of our old neighbor’s sister. I could not believe how welcoming they were! We were pulled in and treated as if we were part of the family even though we had never met and it was a little difficult to communicate due to the language difference. From the moment we walked on the door and were greeted with champagne and snacks while every evening we were absolutely spoiled with gourmet dinners as we began to develop a friendship. Their son, Antoine, was also home and added many memorable moments to our conversations and dropped us off at the train station in the mornings. Marie-Ludovich and Emmanuel hope to one day soon come visit some of the U.S. National Parks and I sincerely hope we are able to connect and spend time together again.
Once upon a time I had a very cool youth choir director that became a good family friend. He married a very sweet gal from church and they are now serving with their three kids as missionaries in Brussels. Well, when you are spending almost two weeks only a couple hours train ride away from an old friend, of course we would pop over for a visit! This was the first time on this trip for our kids to have time with other kids. It was so much fun to see the kids playing together until late at night while we got to spend time chatting as adults. Glen played the role of fabulous tour guide, they treated us to spectacular dinners, and all of the kids were glad to play together. Visiting Glen, Dana, and the kids was a special time for us.
In southwest England we had the blessing of staying with the Ackrill family. Clare had been on the same DTS school as Paul 21 years ago and I had the opportunity to meet this sweetie the following year. She and Dave jumped to volunteer to have us at their home. We spent time exploring the Somerset area (Did you know that Cheddar is a place? Like where the cheese comes from?) and generally getting along amazingly well. Their girls and Kamaile now regularly text and are Instagram pals.
So, what is it about the combination of spending time with people we haven’t seen for ages with seeing our children get along? There is something special there that is really difficult for me to articulate!
On the last couple days of our adventure we were able to stay with the Dahers in Switzerland. They treated us like family, welcoming us to their home and table and showing us some fabulous sight of the area. They introduced us to my new favorite food: reclette. If you need to know more about this heavenly dish, you can read this.
We are forever grateful to each of these families who provided us with a comfortable place to stay, introduced us to delicious local food, and welcomed us in their homes as family. We feel blessed for our time together and have come away with a richer experience than we even hoped for!
Holmsted Manor is a place south of London that is run by Youth With A Mission (YWAM), a non-profit service organization that teaches young adults about Jesus and how to love and serve people the way Jesus did. My mom and dad met there 20 years ago, even though my dad is from Hawaii and my mom is from the Seattle area. Holmsted Manor recently celebrated its 40th anniversary as a YWAM base and we were there to experience it.
We were at Holmsted with the staff, this year’s Discipleship Training School (DTS), and some other families who had traveled there for the 40th anniversary. The staff also used the celebration as fundraising for general repairs of the Manor. These repairs included remodeling a bathroom, fixing special rooms, and removing the ivy that’s invading the house.
In preperation for the event, everybody pitched in to help clean up the place. My family helped clean up the dining room by clearing and wiping down the tables and sweeping the floor. Other teams mopped, did dishes, or vacuumed. Designated guides practiced their lines for the tours which were being conducted for guests.
Once people started arriving, we decided to roam the grounds and admire the scenery. Sadly, the cool stream that used to flow around the Manor needs to be fixed and dredged, but they don’t have the funds to do so. There were also really cool trees in the garden. One was even shaped like a chair!
Once we had gone all the way around the gardens, my family and I went to take a house tour around the Manor. As we walked around, my father and mother told my sister and I just as much about the place that the guide did. The funniest part of the tour was seeing how small the boys’ prayer room is. It might have a total of 8 square feet of floor space. We also saw where Mom and Dad’s dormitories were!
At the end of the tour, our guide showed us that we were actually able to buy a tree out of the 40 different trees that were going to be planted around the grounds to celebrate the 40th anniversary. Our family decided to buy tree number 17, which is near a swing set that my parents used to hang out near, and the tree number is also part of the date of their anniversary, August 17.
Once we finished the tour, my parents saw some old friends and started chatting with them. Us kids just stood there for 10-20 minutes, we started playing tag! After a while, it was time for the gathering to start. I must admit that I paid little attention to the actual talk, but did participate in the worship and prayer.
Then our families walked around the gardens together. Once we had finished circling the grounds, they had to leave, so we said goodbye, but we just couldn’t quite say goodbye yet, so we all went to a restaurant for dinner together.
This is an important day for my entire family. For my parents, it meant seeing the place where they met, and seeing old friends. For us kids, it meant seeing a place that is important to our parents, and meeting new people. Overall, we all enjoyed the experience that helped us understand the world a bit more.
We have been going hard for weeks now. We have all been thoroughly enjoying our travels but have gotten pretty exhausted by the pace we have been keeping. We have all begun to have shorter tempers and frustration levels.
Paul and I had initially talked about planning some rest days in our calendar, but somehow when you only have 2-3 days in any given place it is hard to make yourself stop. There is never enough time to see and do everything!
Last night we were out until 1:00 am with the kids. The Milan Expo 2015 was fun and worth our time there, but we are wiped out now! You should have seen us dragging ourselves home.
So, we slept in until after 10:00. Then we got up, hung laundry out to dry, I cooked some food (Risotto was a hit!), and we proceeded to stay in our pajamas…for hours. I admit, it is nice! We parents took care of some travel details. The kids worked on blogs, caught up on social media, and read. But that is all.
I’m sorry, Milan, that we have missed almost a whole day of time with you, but I am not sorry for the day we are enjoying! I promise we will hang out tonight.
All in all, it has been a good day. A necessary day. Congratulations, Kamaile: it is 4:00pm and you are the only one dressed.