(This is the fifth of a continuing series of posts by Southwest Airlines Customer Francisco Delgado, who is serving on the USS Nimitz. For the previous posts see Chapter One, Chapter Two, Chapter Three, and Chapter Four.)Chennai, India
You never know how much you take for granted until you travel to another country. Our ship made Naval history when we pulled into Chennai, India. We were the first aircraft carrier to pull into the country, and our mission was to improve relations with India.
I will never forget looking out the bus window and seeing so many people living in poverty. We saw kids walking around with no shoes and hardly any clothes. We saw people taking baths in the local river. The river itself was filled with trash, and the tap water was undrinkable. We saw people dying on the streets from the heat and the lack of food.
At the same time we saw so many people walking around living their daily lives with smiles on their faces. As we got off our bus, there was a group of locals and photographers who wanted a glimpse of us. They treated us like royalty, and they wanted to take pictures of us; they wanted to shake our hands. As we got into our cab (which was pretty much a go-cart) we were once again bombarded by the locals, but they were very welcoming.
Our hotel was immaculate. We walked in, and all the employees in the hotel were waiting to help us. Many of them told us how much they loved Americans. All of this was overwhelming. I was asking myself, "how much do I take for granted back in my own Country"? I think of the smallest things that we complain about: our food being too cold when we get it; our coffee not being made the way we like it; our flight arriving five minutes late; rush hour traffic; having to wait more than five minutes in line at a bank, or waiting in line for hours to purchase the new iPhone. These people were happy to get just one meal a day; those who do have money were forced to wait hours in line just to get money out of the bank; their traffic is nonstop; and many of their buses and cabs do not have air conditioning.
I pulled out my digital camera, and I showed it to some of the locals. They were confused because many have never heard or seen a digital camera. Here we had people, who were dirt poor, yet they walked around with smiles on their faces. Many of our sailors took time to go out into the city and clean up trash, paint schools, assist with Tsunami relief or simply play with the children.
I am forever changed by our stop in India, and I am certain that we left a lasting mark with the locals. I know that they saw a glimpse of the real America... A country filled with generous and compassionate people. I hope all those who read this will take the time to think about those who are less fortunate and how fortunate we are to be living in America.