It is a good thing that we had a day of rest because the next day we were up at 3:30am. Yuck. That did not aid the number of us who were sick, which grew each day. At least the excitement of flying to a new city kept us going. During the hustle and bustle of moving all our luggage to the bus and trailer, I received a call from my family via Skype. How odd it was talking to them in the wee hours of the morning while they were just sitting down for dinner. Not to mention how jealous I was of their food. Even so, it was wonderful to see their smiling faces and talk to them for a few minutes.
Soon enough we had to take off to drive to airport. Everything was going as usual until we noticed one member of our group on his hands and knees. A spell of sickness had just hit him and left him too weak or dizzy to stand. After emptying his stomach he felt a little better but then other things started going wrong. Our plane had been changed to a small propeller plane that wouldn’t have room for our our large props and luggage so some of it had to be taken elsewhere. (Keep in mind we were hauling a full tramp, lights, costumes, other props, etc.) Also, they decided to charge us outrageous prices for the rest of our luggage.
Despite that, we thought that the plane ride would be an uneventful one. How wrong we were. Before we had even taken off, the same person who had been feeling quite ill earlier, said that he was starting to feel the need to throw up coming on again. The person beside him began looking through the seat back to find the air sickness bag but once she looked back he was leaning forward on the seat in front of him.
All of a sudden he leaned back in his seat, completely unconscious. His face was pale and his mouth ajar, but he wasn’t breathing. A sudden rush of adrenaline ran through most of the members of the company. The two people sitting around our unconscious member began to pound on his chest, yelling his name and telling him to breathe. The tour trainer pushed and climbed her way through the seats to him and began helping as well. After what seemed like hours, he coughed and his eyes opened. Meanwhile, the plane was picking up speed to take off and it probably would have if a flight attendant didn’t run up to the front of the plane to alert the captain. Thankfully, by then the flight attendant had grabbed some oxygen.
After taxiing back to the terminal, a doctor came and assessed his condition, as we waited for the next half of an hour for him to recover a bit. In the end, despite his pleadings to stay with the group, he and another member of the group were transferred to another flight, later in the day. Still recovering from the shock of the events, at last we were off, and holding tight to our seats during the bumpy airplane ride.
Finally, sick, exhausted, and emotionally shaken, we made it to Chennai. Of the cities we had visited thus far, Chennai was the busiest. The traffic was ridiculous, but there were plenty of nice people to enjoy. When we made it to the hotel, we were happy to see a beautiful, clean and comfortable place to stay.
We were supposed to go to Rising Star, a school for children that have parents who are lepers. But because of the mornings events, and our missing members, we postponed for later that week. Instead, we switched plans around to go shopping in a nearby market while we waited for the two straggler travelers. Kyle opted to stay at the hotel and sleep instead of shopping, but I still had some things to find while there.
On the way there we stopped at KFC and got dinner (I don’t like KFC in the States and I really didn’t like it in India). However, the market redeemed my feelings for the city by producing a beautiful and relatively calm place to shop. Though I didn’t buy much, I enjoyed smelling jasmine from the copious amounts of flower booths and wandering around with Amber and Evan.
Looking back now, I should have stayed with Kyle and gotten some sleep. Going to the market was enjoyable but exhausting. Little did I know how tired and worn out my body was getting from all of our adventures. It was only a matter of time before I started having symptoms and experiences like our tour member.
*Photos from Mark Philbrick