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LIFE AS A MIDDLE MANN

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The Never-Ending Adventures of Bird Mann pt 1

I asked, and was granted, permission to post the emails my family gets from my older brother as he goes gallivanting around the world in search of...birds. Jason (29) is on the left, Jeremy (22) on the right
Yup, in fact, the Fresno Bee, way back in the day did a cover article in the LIFE section on my older bro, entitled, Bird Mann. He was like a 7th grader at the time...welp, after an undergrad at Harvard and a MD/PhD this dude is what I'd like to call, grown up! Am I bragging, you ask? Of course, what else are brothers supposed to do? Anyways, if I get around to it I'll post updates from his recent trips to Oceania and South America. These adventures are hilarious and freaky all at the same time. After awhile we just hope he comes back alive. Where's he headed to this time? India and Africa. He'll be doing rotation (his last one, he graduates in May) at a Rwandan Mission Hospital but he'll look for South Asian and African birds for a little more than a month before that. In fact, he has the unofficial world record for being the person to see the most species of birds in 30 days. That number you wonder? 872. That's 28 more than the Dutch team in 1992, emphasis on team. Woo hoo! Here's episode one: So the flight was on-time, yippee (though i had a seat in front of a, well, energetic two year old who thought it was great fun to pound the back of my seat and pull my hair - fortunatley it was only a fifteen hour flight, right! ha), and i was reminded that i was back in Asia when everyone jumped up and got their bag the second we hit the ground - seriousyl, people were trying to run up the aisles while we were still headed to the terminal (i couldn't figure otu how to spell taxi - ing) - there were elbows and you just had this feeilng "we're not in kansas anymore". The smells were different, lots of Sikh turbans and beautiful saris - this whole sensory overload was just beginning though. PTL I found my bag and made it through customs easily. Then the fun part though - there were MASSES of people outside and everythign was kind of dusty and dingy. I found an ATM and found my car rental reservation sheet. It occured to me that there was no car rental areas at the airport - different - and i should have known it would be an adventure when i showed both the head taxi guy and the head security guy and they had no idea where the road was with the dollar rent-a-car office. hmm . . . any bright ideas? So i scoured the sheet and found a delhi phone number (thank you orbitz) and then found a phone and a guy helped me dial the 11-digit number - the person who answered gave me another phone number, which worked as well. They could not find my reservation, when I realized I had accidentally booked it for the next day . . . hmm . . . great, but at least they'll have extra cars (hopefully!) so the guy asked me to call back in 15 minutes while he tried to find a car. I squatted on the dirty curb until the phone guy told me to move along . . . called back and no one answered on the first five times. Then we couldn't hear - eventually, the phone guy gave the car rental guy his cell phone number, called back, and then explained where we were. Indira Gandhi International Airport - a huge mess and I was not sure the guy could find me, even if they did have a car. After a half hour I found a car drivign by with the company logo and jumped in - it was the guy! He was really nice and spoke some English (by the way, this is my first expedition to a country where I don't know the language - you should check out Hindi script sometime - it's amazing beautiful and I can't even sound out any words). So we drove out in the country, off on a dirt road, into a little office that's a kind of mobile taxi station (complete with dispatcher). I'm pretty sure I won't ever find it again, which will make returning the car tough . . . but I met some great guys who also spoke some English. Unfortunately they did not have a card swiper, so they wanted me to pay $435 in cash (rupees) hmm . . . my insurance is on my card, so they called a friend and we drove back into a downtown hotel (half hour) that had a credit swipey thing. The guy kindly helped me find the right road to Agra (very few road signs, and even the few are usually written in Hindi - hmm), so about 11:30 (three hours after landing) I was off! I drove on the left side and after asking lots of directions found the small road to the small town with an awesome nature preserve for this morning. I slept from 4:30-6. Big fog this morning and I was not prepared for what I found. I drove into the town, which was potholed and filled with pink and green and blue saris, lots of camels pulling carts, chickens and holy cows, tons of people, no signs, tons of dust and garbage everywhere . . . asked directions several times and by God's grace finally found the national park. I was pretty worn out from not knowing where I was or what was happening, and (a first for me) I accepted the offer of a nice 30-year old "naturalist" to be my guide around the park. What a great blessing - he spoke English well and we ended up finding over 100 kinds of bird just today! So exciting - my first south Asian birds. It was also fascinating to talk about his family, growing up there, attitudes toward the environment, changes in Indian society he has seen, etc. He's a Hindi guy so I'm praying for the Lord to speak in his heart. We had such a great time that we're going to spend time together tomorrow as well - at $1.50/hour it's hard to beat! Now I know why IBM outsources to India =) We walked probably 15 miles in the heat but saw lots of big antelope, deer, storks, hornbills, monkeys, etc. So I'm pretty worn out but I'm going to get my first curry - yippee!! I know Kitty's wishing she could have in on that ;) Just wanted to send my love and thank you for your prayers. A recurring thought as I have walked about and seen the people is that God loves each person here - it's really mind-boggling and mysteriously transforms it from an overwhelming, huge crowd of nameless faces to precious creatures loved by our King. I get choked up with it actually and pray that God would teach me all that He wants to while I'm in the land of 1billion Indians! Bless you today! Jase

WEIGH IN