We arrived at the airport in Delhi, utterly exhausted, around 8:30 PM. The supposedly two hour drive from Agra to Delhi, wound up taking over five long, brutal hours. I wasn’t surprised. Nothing surprised me anymore about India.
We paid our driver, and then entered the fortress-like Delhi airport, guarded at all entrances by machine-gun clod soldiers. Security was extremely tight in India; like nothing I’d ever seen or experienced before. You aren’t even allowed to enter through the airport doors without a valid airplane ticket, boarding pass and passport. A printed out receipt from American Airlines didn’t cut it. So we had to go to another window and get the right documents to be let inside.
We waited in the long line to check in, went through security which involved full-body pat downs and careful inspection of our hand bags. Then we sighed in relief. Finally we were here, safe and sound, and ravishingly hungry after that scrawny, malnourished chicken curry and questionable chicken sandwich. I found the first recognizable and somewhat trustworthy fast food chain I could: Dominos Pizza. It’s pretty hard to mess that up, right? It’s just pizza. My dad opted to eat at the American Airlines sponsored lounge and despite my protests, ordered a green salad. I told him over and over again that it was a mistake. We made it 17 days without eating a salad or any kind of uncooked vegetable, so why was he taking the chance now? I don’t know if it was exhaustion, hunger, lack of vitamins or just not using his head but all my warnings landed on deaf ears. He didn’t listen and greedily consumed not one but two fresh, green salads with relish and delight. It was eleven pm and we still had two more hours until our flight left. So next we moved on to our long awaited glass of red wine.
We grumpily boarded the plane a little after midnight, feeling filthy and beyond tired. As soon as the plane took off, I was out cold and so was my dad. Fifteen hours later, the plane began the descent into overcast skies at Chicago O’Hare International Airport. Home, almost, at last! I was overjoyed!
We gathered our stuff and headed to the business lounge, one of my dad’s perks with being a frequent flier, and we were delighted to find out that they had freshly remodeled showers! Wow….talk about heaven! The showers were the nicest, cleanest example of plumbing I’d seen in weeks and I took my time indulging.
Not long after the shower, however, it hit me. The infamous, terrifyingly, much-dreaded Delhi Belly! I was practically on the floor, hunched over and in tears, in the wonderfully clean, modern American bathroom. And all I could do was thank god it didn’t happen in Delhi! With no remotely clean or public bathrooms available, it would have been beyond my worst nightmare and humiliation possible. Unfortunately getting stomach ailments is all too common in India and Nepal. The food is not prepared to the same levels of standards and hygiene as found in the States. There were many unfortunate souls on the Annapurna Trek who succumbed to a miserably bad case of the runs. I can’t even imagine how terrible that would have been! You definitely lose all your modesty that is for sure.
Fortunately, I was prepared. I had a stash of antibiotics in my bag which I took immediately and was cured within 24 hours. My father, however, wasn’t so lucky. He did not go to the Travel Clinic before our departure and relied mostly on me for advice. He has traveled the world, way more than me, and has never been sick. This time he was not so lucky. After arriving home in Arizona, he awoke to find himself sopping wet and delirious with fever. My Mom frantically grabbed the one thermometer in the house and took his temperature. It was 104.5 degrees Fahrenheit, an incredibly dangerously high fever. She grabbed her purse, pulled him out of bed and rushed him to the local emergency room. Then his Delhi belly began and lasted for four long, miserable weeks. The fever ebbed and flowed, his stomach killed, and he lost a lot of weight (which he didn’t need to lose!). Test after test was run to no avail. Finally after a month of the runs, it magically stopped. The next day he received a call from the doctor. One of many tests came back yet this one was positive. Apparently he had some sort of nasty parasite living inside his intestines but luckily it must have passed. His lesson was learned the hard way: No more green salads in third-world countries!