The 2012 Advance Trip - Chapter One

Some people think that making a difference is a simple task full of glory.  Let  me tell you from personal experience it is none of that.  It starts with a burning desire to make some ones life better to the extent that you are willing to make huge sacrifices.  The journey is full of disappointment, personal hardship, long nights with no sleep, unfamiliar food, never really knowing the intentions of those you might meet, financial challenges and a whole host of other things that just make it plain hard.  So why take it on?  In my case it is the discoveries you make on the journey, that deep love comes from those you serve, that there is good in all people, that there is beauty in all places,  that  the bond of true friendship is powerful, that outcomes can far exceed expectation, that   personal incites and discoveries are available at every turn bringing joy and meaning to  life. Over the next few weeks I hope to chronicle some of the events and places that make up and advance trip. Perhaps the images will add to the story in ways which I am not capable to write.

This journey starts with my son Luke who has been on his own personal journey for the past several years. I am excited to travel with him to share some of the places and people that have become special to the rest of our family. I am also excited to learn more about his personal journey and some of the discoveries he has made. In some ways I feel guilty because he has no idea of how physically difficult this trip will be.  My only hope  is that the people and the places of India will touch his life like it has the rest of the family and give us some common ground for the future.

We left Salt Lake on the 29th of April with flights to Atlanta, Paris and then Delhi.  Twenty four hours after our departure we arrived.  We spent the night in a transit hotel at the Delhi airport that was vary convenient for a 6:05 am domestic flight to Kullu/Manali.  The rest was good and the shower was better!  The 4:00 am wake up call was not so good. India is full of surprises. You never really know what is around the corner or going to happen next.  I have learned that expectation brings disappointment and frustration, so in India, we leave that in the US. It was a good thing because the flight was delayed for two and half hours. That time would have been nice in the sleep column.

The Delhi airport had been remodeled and is quite nice. The domestic and International terminals are now connected. A few years ago a bus was required to transfer to the domestic terminal on the other side of the airport that made tight connections difficult.

The flight to Kullu/ Manali is about and hour and ten minutes in a turbo prop plane.  Its is schedule is totally dependent on good weather and a financially viable airline. Delhi is in a rather arid climate like Phoenix and Kullu/Manali is in the Himalayan Mountain range.  The airport is nestled along the Beas river in a narrow valley with 10,000 foot peaks flanking either side.  As you look north when landing you can see the big guys to the north and east.  It is hard to comprehend the the size of the Himalayan range until you see it for your self.  It covers not only parts of northern India but also, Nepal, Tibet, China, Pakistan and Iran and some other countries I am sure I have failed to mention. Rapid changes in the weather can result in strong winds blowing through the narrow valley making landing tenuous, to say the least.  This landing was one of those  once again reaffirming the comfort of stable ground.

We were met at the airport by Raj Thakur, the third member of the advance team and a key YMAD player in India,.  He has become like a son over the past few years. We first met on a project that my son James started in Kullu/Manali a few years ago that abruptly ended in disaster. The silver lining to the tragedy was this amazing young man. His loyalty and friendship have made it possible for us to continue our work in Himachal Pradesh. With out him our work here in this part of India would be more difficult. Raj is also a great friend to all of the YMAD youth we have brought to Northern India as well.  Their love for him is easily evidenced in the thousands of images and facebook posts that are such an integral part of their lives. I guess it is his easy personality, integrity and his love for our program that has been such a blessing.