There And Back Again

This post is going to a bit different than my usual theological comments.  I wanted to share with you a bit about my two recent trips out of the United States.  I was able to travel to Bangalore, India in September 2011 for two weeks and then my wife and I traveled to Sydney, Australia for 10 days in May of 2012.  Both trips were huge gifts from the Lord.  I love to travel and so to me, this was God showing me how much He loves me by allowing me to travel to both of these beautiful places.  He loves all of us the same of course.  His love is amazing.  I’ve titled this post “There and Back Again”, and yes I realize this is overt plagiarism from J.R. Tolkein, so just call me Bilbo.  :-)

Bangalore, India

I’ve wanted to travel to India for many years now.  One of my best friends is a fellow from Hyderabad named John Golconda.  John was my mentor when I first started in the software industry back in 1997 and he really encouraged me and taught me that technical stuff wasn’t as hard as I thought it was.  He showed me that I was capable of a great deal more than I thought I was.  Thanks John!  One thing I quickly learned about people from India through my friendship with John is their tremendous hospitality.  John and his lovely wife Jessie invited me over to their home many times and treated me like a member of the family.  Whenever I was at his house they offered me food and would not take no for an answer!  I felt very welcomed in their lives.  I also learned how friendship and extended family is something highly valued within Indian culture.  The Golcondas belong to the Telagu Society here in the Dallas area, and I was invited to some of their celebrations and it was great to see the love and camaraderie shared among many families who really cared about one another and took an interest in each other.   I learned from the Goldcondas that family relationships and friendships are the most valuable thing in life.

Another thing I learned to love about Indian culture through my friends John and Jessie Goldconda is the food.  I love spicy food!  One of the first times that John and Jessie had my wife and I and our three children over for dinner, they treated us to Tandoori Chicken.  My son Daniel calls it “red chicken.”  Tandoori chicken is delicious!  I love the Naan bread too and the Gulabjamon for desert.  (I know I am probably butchering the spelling here on these foods.)

When I was in Bangalore, India in September 2011 I again saw the close-knit extended families and it made an impact on me.  One young single man of about 25 who had recently gotten a high paying job with a technology company told me that he would soon change his work shift time so he could spend more time talking with his parents (he lived with his parents).  That was quite a difference from our American culture where young men seemingly can’t wait to get out on their own and may find hanging out with their parents to be boring and irrelevant.  I was really impressed with this young man from India and how much he loved and valued his parents.  This is a cultural attribute that we in the United States can certainly learn from.  In fact it is one of the values of Jesus.  In the gospels he criticized the religious leaders in Israel for encouraging young people not to honor their parents.  (Matthew 15:3-9).  Ok, I couldn’t resist putting one Bible verse in this post.  :-)

In Bangalore I observed that young men would walk down the street arm in arm, not because they were homosexual, but because they were great friends and saw nothing wrong with expressing some physical affection for each other.  That was really cool.  Our society here in the United States is so homophobic that we would have a hard time doing that.  That is sad.

The art and building architecture as well as the landscapes were beautiful in India.  The ornamental carvings on the buildings have such attention to detail.  The craftsmanship was incredible. The downside in Bangalore was too much traffic.  The roads are too small to handle all the people wanting to use them.

The people I interacted with in India were very kind and they were very joyful.  They are just really fun and joyful people to be around.  It was so much fun to work with people like this every day.  It's not that all Americans are dull and boring, but the joy quotient was definitely higher there in Bangalore than in Dallas.  I wonder why that is...

Sydney, Australia

Moving on to our trip to Sydney now, this city is such a beautiful place.  The geography is just amazing.  Sydney is a harbor city on the southeast coast of Australia.  The ocean around the city is simply gorgeous. We visited in early May, which is the Autumn season in the southern hemisphere.  The weather was gorgeous – 65 to 70 degrees Fahrenheit and sunny just about every day we were there. Again – a gift from our Father in heaven.   The beaches and little cities around the harbor are so picturesque and interesting.  Ten days was not nearly enough time to explore all the places and to try enough of the restaurants that had delicious (but expensive) food.
We were surprised at the cost of living in Sydney.  It is about double what we pay here in the United States for food and clothing.  I don’t know how the people can afford it, but I think in general the wages there are higher than in the United States.

The transportation system in Sydney was excellent.  We got seven day passes so we could ride unlimited times on the trains, buses and ferries for only $60 per person.  That was a steal.  One can get anywhere in Sydney using a combination of trains, buses and/or ferries.  I loved riding the trains.  It reminded me of growing up in Long Island, New York where my high school friends and I would often ride the train into New York City to see rock concerts.  Riding the train to work each day in Sydney was so much more relaxing than fighting the traffic on the highways here in Dallas.  

People in Sydney seemed to walk a lot too.  They ride the train and then walk from the train station to their job.  We did not see many overweight people in Sydney.  All that walking does a body good.  Molly and I loved the pubs and the shops and the outdoor cafes.  It reminded Molly and I of our time in Europe a few years ago.  I got to drink some Guinness Stout on tap which is my favorite drink in the whole wide world.  (I would love to visit Ireland someday!) The people were really friendly in Sydney too.   

The thing that stood out to me about Australian culture is that these people really love having fun.  Here in the USA there is such an emphasis on work.  We work too much.  We are always chasing the Almighty dollar.  In Australia people were not so intent on work – they were more interested in relaxing and enjoying life.  I really like that value.  One fellow told me that most jobs in Australia require you to take at least four weeks of vacation per year.  Many people there take 4 weeks of vacation in a row.  Wouldn’t that be amazing my American friends?   I could really see myself living in Australia some day….

These trips were great and I think I came back a better man than when I left.  I want to be someone who values my extended family and who puts more emphasis on fun and relaxation than on work.  Thanks to India and Australia for teaching me!

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