July 23rd and 24th marked our first days of tour. We started out by meeting at the SLC airport to split up the 65 bags among the 30 people. This may seem like a lot, but when you consider that we are hauling bags for each person, plus costumes, props, lights, and other equipment, it makes sense. You will probably notice quite a few odd shaped, large bags. Those contained a trampoline, mattresses, or folding chairs that we used for props. Poor Kyle had to be in charge of one those.
Once that was done we hauled everything in to be checked on the plane. While waiting in line, an unexpected visitor arrived, Elder Anderson and his wife. They were on their way to DC and just happened to see us. They came over and shook our hands and asked us questions as to where we were headed. Later, in the security line we also stood right behind them and had a good conversation about how we are helping the church through our tour. Talk about setting off on the right foot.
The first flight to JFK in New York City was uneventful. When we got off, however, we discovered that our connecting flight to Paris was cancelled. The flight we were bumped to go on would get us into Paris a bit too late to catch our next flight to Mumbai, so Jonathon, our tour leader went to work. After much debate with the airlines people, he got us a different flight with Emirates Airlines to Dubai. From there we would catch another flight to Mumbai.
Although it was quite the hassle to get our luggage moved over to a new plane and we had a long wait, it proved worth it. The new plane had two levels that could seat 800+ people. It also had cozy seats with plenty of leg room, personal TV’s, and a flight package for each person (Inside it had an eye mask, toothbrush and toothpaste, socks, a blanket, pillow, and earphones). How nice! It also had the fanciest and best tasting airline food I’ve ever had. We felt like we were actually in first class.
The flight time didn’t seem that long because of all the comforts we had. The plane was so large that not even turbulence wasn’t that bad. The only downside was not being able to walk around. This resulted in my feet and ankles swelling up and feeling quite odd.
When we arrived in Dubai, we had to go through security once again but were greeted by shops filled with gold and silver treasures on the other side. We found ourselves a lamp, the likes of which you would see in the cave of wonders. I am hoping it will someday house a genie.
Our last plane departed at 10:30pm and arrived in Mumbai, India at 3:30am. We waited the next two hours to get through customs and then collect our bags. Amazingly, all of them made it! However, when were trying to get through another customs check, our large, unusual, and plentiful bags caused quite the stir. The customs officers pulled us aside and kept asking for our papers and what we were bringing in. When we told then that some pieces were parts of a full sized trampoline, a look of incredulity was on their faces. After a while one of our most experienced tour leaders was able to sweet talk the officer out of charging us or sending our stuff home. Thank goodness.
At long last we made our way through the haze of tiredness to our hotel, the Ibis Hotel Mumbai Airport. By that time, it was 6:15am on July 25th, two days after we had departed from Salt Lake City. Our hotel was serving the breakfast so it seemed pointless to go to sleep.
Kyle and I showered off the airplane germs and then went back downstairs to breakfast. The hotel has a great restaurant called Spice It that has a buffet full of delicious eatables. We had the next couple of hours to recuperate before heading again. Against our best efforts to not sleep, we did almost as soon as we got back to our hotel room. Of course this made it difficult to adjust to India time but we desperately needed it as we didn’t sleep much the nights before.
We woke up with a start when we realized we needed to be up and ready to go in a couple minutes. We hurried downstairs to the lobby, skipping our lunch and jumped on the bus waiting for us. We drove through town taking in the sights of Mumbai. There were buildings with stunning architecture and the exact opposite, the slums. The streets are full of discarded trash and stray animals. The women are dressed in beautiful sarees and salwar kameez, the men in button down shirts and slacks. Despite their living conditions, everyone looks well groomed.
Our driver pulled into an alley and told us that our destination was down in a glass building. We ended up walking around for 10 to 15 minutes before someone found us and told us we were in the wrong place. We were then led to the Terrence Lewis Academy and into a cool dance studio with students waiting for us.
We proceeded to give them a dance class, Pat instructed while Amber, Tyler, Ally, Kennedy, Sara, Kathy, and I assisted. Kyle, along with Marin, Aaron and both Allison’s observed the class. The students were incredible! They were so great to teach, hard working, and smiled the whole time.
Afterwards we talked with them and tried to get to know them. We found out that most of them were students at a university who were also taking dance classes there because they love it. I loved hearing about their dedication. What they were doing is not easy.
We took many pictures, wrote down names and email addresses, and exchanged gifts. We gave our BYU pins to them and they gave us a shirts with the name if their school. I had the chance to give my bracelet away, too. (Before we left Utah, Pat gave each of us a bracelet with CTR on it.) One of the dancers noticed it and asked why we all had one. I explained that they were to give away a gift and then handed it to her. I explained that CTR stands for Choose The Right, a saying that we believe in. It reminds us to do our best, make good choices and be a good person. She seemed to appreciate the message.
Dinner was given to us in boxes by the hotel. They supplied pasta, juice, and chocolate cake. It was delicious! Especially because we were so hungry from dancing and traveling. But our break only lasted 20 minutes and soon we were back in the studio. This time, we were the ones being taught. We learned a fun Bollywood piece to use as a finale for our show the next day. We were all so tired that concentrating for that long was difficult. We all had glazed over looks in our eyes by the end of class. Lucky for Kyle, he was just sitting off to the side observing, so he caught some zzz’s.
Soon enough we were on our bus headed back to the hotel and settling down for the night. It is a good thing too, because I don’t know how much longer we could have lasted. And oh, how that rest was needed. We were tired! And so began our adventures.
*Thanks to our tour photographer, Mark Philbrick for some of the photos used in this post.