A Quick Tuk Tuk Ride – Chennai, India

There are a couple of places in this world that are known for their tuk tuks, and India is one of them. Basically a tuk tuk is a motorcycle that has a backseat attached to it, so some driver can speed tourists around a busy city. They are called tuk tuks because of the noise they make as they putter around. They are fun to take, but depending on where you are, you need to make a deal with the driver before you leave about how much you are going to pay, and where they will be taking you. There are many scams surrounding these vehicles, but if you stick to your guns, you can get a reasonable price, and have a driver waiting around for you as you go from place to place. The trips are usually short, but the feeling of being rushed around in an open air vehicle is one that is too much fun to pass over if you find yourself in one of the countries that relies on these as a form of transportation.

I recently took a trip to Chennai which, in retrospect, was a lot like a tuk tuk ride. I guess you could call the trip a business trip. I was taking a group of kids from my school to a track meet at a school in this city. For those of you who have been on a business trip before, you know that they rarely give you the opportunity to do anything more than the business that you were sent out there to do. You could find yourself in one of the most amazing tourist destinations in the world, but all you could see of that place is the inside of a board room. At least, I got to experience the beautiful campus of the school that I went to, and a track meet is always going to be a lot more fun than sitting in meeting after meeting. But I was still busy, and like take a quick ride on a tuk tuk, it was nothing more than a whirlwind that I am still trying to wrap my head around.

During the short moments that I was able to get and explore the city, they were never to go some place that would have enriched me culturally. My first responsibility was to make sure that the students I had with me enjoyed their experience first. This meant that I went to a beach where they were able to spend some time figuring out how to boogie board, and dig around in the sand. We also went to a mall to waste a little time before we headed to the airport to fly home. The mall was a little too western for my tastes and was like any other mall that I have been to in the world, but my students enjoyed it. All of this did was give me a little bit of a teaser that made me want to eventually return to India so I could explore it more on my terms rather than the short spurts of energy that was required of me by coming out here on this school trip.

Still I was able to sneak in a tuk tuk ride on my tuk tuk ride of Chennai. It was probably the most cultural significant thing that I was able to do. It was a quick run to a store so I could find a gift to bring back to my wife, and we had to pay the tuk tuk driver a little extra money to have him stick around for us. Still, it was nice to get away for a thirty minutes and have this small moment in this new country for me. I enjoyed the tuk tuk ride, but I am looking forward to something a little slower next time. This way I will be able to experience the moments a little better than being whisked away through the landscape. But it still better to have a tuk tuk ride rather than no ride at all.

Here is to all of those tuk tuk rides out there, and I hope that the next one that you find yourself on, though it may be quick, will still be memorable.

Grit – SIASA Track and Field Meet – Chennai, India

India has always been on my list as one of the countries I have wanted to visit, so when I was told that our big meet of the year for the high school track team that I coach would be in Chennai, I got really excited. I knew that it would be a busy trip where I wouldn’t have much time to explore, but what I didn’t know was that it would be a grueling slog that I would have to push my way through.

The meet took place at the American International School of Chennai, an all day travel day from the place I live and work in Jordan. It is never easy to guide twenty students, a majority of whom were middle schoolers, through the process of getting on planes and working their way through customs, so they could compete in this event. The meet itself was a three day affair where events were taking place early in the morning, and went until late in the evening where we were whisked back to our hotel. It allowed enough time to decompress for a bit before having to crawl into bed so we could do it all over again the next day. I have been on trips like this before, and this was just another example of how a busy five-day schedule could wear somebody out.

Despite the grueling schedule, the trip was totally worth it. We had spent a couple of months getting our athletes ready for this event. At times, they wondered why we were working them so hard, but when they got out there, they were able to see how fast they could run, how high they could jump, and how far they could throw puts, and discuses.

Track has always been one of my favorite sports. I enjoy watching the events, and it is even more fun when I am able to be out on the track, coaching my athletes through their long distance races. It is fun to watch the grit that these kids have finally pay off. training takes a long time to get ready for one of these events, and it is hard to come after a hard day at school to push one’s self to lift weights and run laps when you don’t see any payoff during that whole time. Finally, they got to show off what they could do.

But it was not just the medals that the kids won that made this trip so great. We weren’t able to do the cultural thing which I love to experience so much while going on a trip like this, but we were able to connect with other students from other countries, and get to know each other better. There is a bonding experience that only happens at a track meet. It is not just with the members of your own team, but also with the members of the other teams as well. You might go out and run a race against another individual, and you might win or lose, but in the end, you are both congratulating each other for the battle that had just ensued. Even on occasion, you will even pick each other up from the track, or give advice about how to do an event better. You push each other to do better while collaborating to be better yourself. I do not think that there is another sport out there that allows for this kind of dynamic, and I love it.

So, the trip on a whole wore me out, and it might take me longer to recover from it than how long I was out there experiencing the whole event. It required me to show a little grit myself, but it was still worth every moment. I am glad, just like my students, that I saw that grit through.

Waking Up in India

It is always fun taking a flight that lands you in the middle of the night. You are whisked away from the airport in some random transit towards your hotel. Your brain is a little foggy with the pressurized atmosphere of the plane, the change of time zones, and the long day of travel. All you want to do is lie down on a bed and get some sleep, but still you are excited about the new environment you find yourself in. You try as hard as you might to look beyond the street lights and closed shop to get some idea about the lay of the land, but you can’t find any insight about it. You only get glimpses and hints of what your trip will be about, and entices you enough to keep your eyes open though you can feel the weight of your lids press down. Even the abandoned hotel lobby won’t give you any information about where you have landed. It looks the same as any other place that you might have encountered on the many different voyages you have taken in your lifetime. You just have to stumble off to your room, and try to make sense of the time you have left in the evening, and as you drift off to sleep, you wonder what this new adventure will bring.

This is what I experienced last night as I landed in Chennai for a track and field meet that I am taking my students to. When the alarm woke me up this morning, I opened up the blinds to my room to find a city outside that was familiar in some aspects. The tuk tuks, reminiscent of Bangkok crowded the bust streets, a heavy humidity hung over the air, and the haze of a busy Asian city loomed in the air just beyond the horizon. Yet, I could feel that things were going to be just a little different. The morning news talked about the most recent Cricket match, the statues around the city were of various Hindu gods, and I have not seen Buddha anywhere, and the air carried the aroma of Indian spices. It was different enough to excite me about this next adventure though it will be spent mainly at a high school track. It is still fun to wake up in a different country with new experiences and the possibility to be exposed to a new culture.

I can’t wait to see what I will find.