Yesterday, Nandu and I left Kalimpong extra early to pick up the team from Scarlet City Church -- just in case. Over the last week or so, there have been numerous landslides and boulder bounces along the road to Siliguri, and we knew there was a chance we'd be delayed.
Not far outside of town, Nandu noticed that there was no traffic coming from the other direction and correctly concluded that the road must be closed somewhere down the line. He made a phone call to confirm, and we pulled off to take the "scenic" route. The route was indeed picturesque -- soaring mountains and plunging valleys, pine forests draped in prayer flags and hillside tea plantations shrouded in fog. It was also twice as far. Instead of going directly to Siliguri, we went first to Darjeeling and then cut over, adding at least two hours to the journey.
Not far from Darjeeling we stopped at a little town and ordered momos -- the local version of pork dumplings -- and tea. Once again, our breakfast proved that the very best meals can be found in the simplest establishments. No New York chef could have improved on any facet of the meal, and we ate our fill for only a couple of dollars.
We arrived at the airport just in time. The team's plane arrived on time, and they stumbled out onto the tarmac and into the tiny Bagdogra airport. Relieved but slightly rumpled from more than 30 hours of travel, all five of them -- plus my good friend and board member Adam Heath -- gathered their bags and exchanged tired greetings with Nandu and me before grabbing a bite to eat with us and heading on up the mountain towards Kalimpong. We encountered heavy traffic and some sketchy pavement conditions on the way up, but were able to take the main road which had been cleared from the earlier landslides.
Four hours later, we arrived in Kalimpong, ate dinner at the hotel and headed to bed. Overnight my oldest son, Chien, developed some stomach trouble, and spent most of the hours between 10pm and 3am vomiting. He stayed at the hotel all day, while the rest of my family and the team joined the kids and staff for a 3 hour dance and music recital, an hour or so of games and freestyle disco madness. We then enjoyed a wonderful lunch made by our staff and members of Nandu's church.
The kids were awesome. They've been working for months on their songs and routines, and they were just radiant. All of us were moved by their performances and felt the love of God just wash over all in attendance.
Tomorrow we will spend the day playing with the kids, most of whom have finished school for the term. Saturday, we're doing more activities and having a baptism service. Sunday, church. Monday, we'll be taking about 50 of the kids up to Darjeeling with us to see the zoo, have a picnic and play games. And so on. And before we know it, the trip will be finished. The Scarlet City team will return to Columbus, and my family will head to Cambodia.
I hope you enjoy the pictures. They can't begin to convey the beauty and the joy we're experiencing here. But at least you'll have a little taste.