India pt. 4: Andaman Islands, a Bit of Paradise, and the End of an Era

Hello Fellow Fish,

Andaman Islands and the End of an Era

We left Mumbai after saying our final goodbyes to Vahishta and got a cab to the airport. Turns out we went to the domestic airport (because we were taking a domestic flight) but we needed to go to the international airport for some reason. Our cab had left by the time we figured that out so we walked down the road and found a rickshaw to take us to the appropriate airport. The driver turned out to be a crook and tried to get more out of us. So when we got to the airport, we paid him what we said we would and walked away. He said he was going to “report” us to the authorities, but he never came back after he drove away. We had a 5- hour layover in Chennai where we ended up being on the set of a Bollywood movie. We purposefully walked in the background of the shot to try and be in the movie.

We arrived in Port Blair the following morning and promptly made our way to the port, where we would catch our ferry to Havelock Island. It was a great change in scenery going from crowded city to sunny island life. On Havelock, after finding a 5x8 bamboo bungalow, with one mattress, a ceiling fan, and a mosquito net, we met back up with our Foster brethren. The two and a half weeks that followed were the most relaxed peaceful of my young life. It was an interesting feeling because Havelock is such a small remote island, where the power went out on the entire island a couple times a day, so the things to do are very limited. Coupled with the fact that we had just spent the last 8 months consistently on the go. It sometimes felt like we were wasting our time by doing nothing but sitting around on the beach all day. Sometimes, it can be hard to let oneself unwind and just accept the fact that nothing outwardly productive is going to be accomplished.
On the ferry

My routine on Havelock Island was as follows: wake up with the sun in the bamboo bungalow Ariel and I shared. Go for a morning run for about 1-1.5 hours, and was constantly reminded of Hawaii with the tropic smells, sights and sounds. Return to the bungalow area and have a short work out on the deserted white sand beach, looking out at the seemingly artificially turquoise colored water just as the sun was getting hot. “Try” to cool off in the water (I use “” because the water felt like a bath tub, and it didn’t really cool me off at all). But I sat in the shallows and would just reflect on my life. Looking at my surroundings, I would sit and marvel at where I was and make intentional memories of everything I was hearing, smelling, seeing, and feeling. It was all I could do not to drown myself in the still, low tide bathwater because I didn’t want any other moments. None would be so sweet or so satisfying as it was right then and there. Once the others were up, we would walk into the town area and get some food (usually a Thali, ponipurri, or a roll of some sort). Then I’d go back to our area and sit in the hammock and read. All. Day. Long. I’d read. Fall asleep, wake up, read until I fell asleep again. Then wake up and keep reading until the mosquitos came out and the sun started setting, then we would go into town and get dinner. Usually fresh fish caught that day cooked over an open fire with a specialty Havelock seasoning. We would walk back in the complete darkness, if we were feeling up to it, have a beer on the beach and reminisce about the last 2 years we had spent together. Then go to bed. Rinse. Repeat.
Standard bungalow

Just an average day

Quality time

While we were on Havelock, we took jumped at the opportunity to advance our SCUBA experience. We enrolled and took a class on NITROX (no practical test or anything, just theory, because their NITROX machine was broken), as well as Rescue Diving. So if anyone ever finds themselves in a water related emergency, just give any one of us a call. Our fun dives were just that. The sites way off shore, marked only by a piece of Styrofoam attached to a cinderblock, and involved full lunches on completely deserted islands.

Our view everyday
Our beach

Our last days with each other were, admittedly, a bit uncomfortable. We didn’t really address the fact that we would be parting ways for good. As the time approached, we did the math for how long we had been together and came up with about 21 months together total. What’s more, Jeff and I (since we lived together our Sr. year of college) calculated 36 months total time. The most time spent apart being maybe a week or two total. On the morning of our good bye, we were having breakfast, and everyone was putting off actually saying it. Ariel and I had to catch the ferry back to Port Blair to catch our flight back to Delhi. Jeff and Justin were staying an extra day and going on to Turkey. It helped that we had to catch a ferry, otherwise we would have just sat there all day. But once we were in the rickshaw to the port, that was it.

Ariel and I checked into the first place we came across in Port Blair, too drained (emotionally?) to bother looking at others. We hung out in an AFC (Andaman Fried Chicken, a complete rip-off of KFC.) and ended up watching a NatGeo program that was on the TV that covered “Scams Across the World.” The feature? Prague. “Greeeeeeeeeaaaaaattttt,” I thought.

Back to Delhi

We crashed with Ariel’s friend for our last days in Delhi. Being back in the city was the first time I had connected to the outside world (via internet) in about 3 weeks. When it rains it pours. Tons of emails for logistics from the team when I arrive in Prague, the schedule and playbook for the team, people from home and elsewhere reaching out, and the usual current event up keep (ie: the first Super Bowl I ever missed, since I started watching). Our last days together were spent walking around New Delhi, indulging in the finer things like gelato, American movies, and our favorite Chai/Paneer place. We both knew that it would be a long time before we are back so we tried to savor it as best we could.

On Ariel’s last day, he was up at the crack of dawn to catch a flight. I got up to say good bye, but since I was half asleep the fact that I was alone in the apartment and the world didn’t sink in until later in the day. I was left with nothing but my inner musings.  My flight wasn’t until the following morning, so I was going to hang out in the apartment and leave then, but I didn’t know the guy very well and he wasn’t even there, so I shave off my mustache, wash my hair with shampoo, and put on something other than a tank top, and head out. I stop in Paharganj to eat Paneer and Rotis while drinking Chai one last time. Then navigated the train system to the airport with all my worldly possessions on my back.  I had about 8 hours until my flight, but happened to find a waiting area where I slept on the floor.

Before and afters:

It had been an internalized emotional couple of weeks. From the impending split, to the actual split, to the post split of the gang, I was feeling understandably sad. What was more, was hearing the other guys talk about going back home, seeing their families, and having a ROUTINE(!).  I was overwhelmingly jealous. I knew that had I gone home, I would have been happy with it, but I was also proud of myself, knowing I had committed to at least getting to Europe, from the very beginning.

Being alone, waiting for my flight, here is an excerpt from my journal about my thoughts at the time:

Now that I’m in the moment and everything is happening, I find I’m not as distraught as I was over the last few weeks. A strange calm, satisfaction, and a bit of pride has covered me. I’m excited about this next chapter I’m about to go at alone. I’d probably laugh more and be more ridiculous with the others, but this challenge will be a good thing. Ariel in Israel, Jeff and Justin en route to Turkey, Mitchell getting ready to go to NZ, everyone doing their thing and it makes me unspeakably proud and overwhelmingly happy to be able to say I shared this trip in a big way with all of them. As the new chapter opens, I keep thinking of all the people who we met along the way who made it that much more memorable. Each place I immediately associate with the people we met there. It’s so hard to believe that in 7 hours, I’m closing this chapter and moving on to the next one. This day always seemed so far away, just “some day” in the future. But it’s now.

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Until Next Time,

The Tunas

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