Thanks to the Indian demonetization, rupees would be difficult to obtain while in India at the beginning of December. My travel abroad always includes some level of local economy stimulation and I must have cold, hard cash in my hands to successfully execute that mission. This girl must bargain and shop for unusual treasures.
Prior to heading off to Delhi, Tour Director and I traded emails about the best way to accomplish acquiring rupees. Tour Director told me to exchange money at the Delhi airport. Easy enough. Since I was sitting at the bulk head in the beginning of the Boeing 777's economy plus section, I was off the plane and through customs in a jiffy. Rather than wait for luggage, I hit up the Thomas Cook money exchange. After waiting in line, I could only exchange $40 USD. I was aghast in horror. So I retrieved my luggage and stood in line at the Punjabi National Bank. Again the line was long and slow but I successfully acquired $80 USD worth of rupees.
Off to exit the airport to meet the company representative to get my well-traveled bum to the hotel. A young Indian kid in his early twenties, yells "Ms. Stone" with the telltale yellow sign beckoning me. We exited and were waiting for a taxi. The air was warm at 11 PM but the distinct and ever present smell of burning was not present in the air as it had been fifteen years ago when I last found myself in Delhi.
The drive to the hotel was lackluster. None of the wild driving as folks stood in their respective driving lanes on the highway. The excessive use of car horns and flashing brights that marked my memories were gone along with the roadside cows and old cars. Everything was new, flashy and orderly.
Arriving at the hotel, I was checked in and ushered to my room. I could see the Cotton Tops from my flight and who would serve as my travel companions sitting in another section of the lobby chatting away.
We were to meet at a hotel conference room at 10 AM the next morning. I had assumed I would sleep well as I had very little restful sleep on the airplane, but my body had other plans and I was wide awake at 5 AM just like any other day when I head into the office.
I headed down to the restaurant for breakfast as I was in dire need of coffee. Restaurant staff is always a little odd about seating the solo woman traveler but I found myself a nice little table for two situated at the back center of the restaurant with an amazing view of everything and everyone. The staff was wonderfully attentive and my coffee cup was always full. Indeed, I was a happy girl.
I truly enjoyed my leisurely breakfast and it was certainly leisurely because I had basically an entire morning to myself - just me and the coffee. At the appointed hour, I headed up to the conference room and saw the group of Cotton Tops congregating. Each chair had an envelope with a name on it. Of course mine was front and center - first row, first chair on the left. The tour director's back was to us as he fiddled with his visual board but he was a tall, fit man. All the Cotton Tops were staring at me and it was very unnerving. Then the tour director turned around and I was surprised by how good looking he was. His smile was simply amazing. Then he spoke and I swear the words danced out of his mouth to my ears. I was not prepared for the Tour Director.
I tell you this short story of our first encounter because it was the first time I laid eyes on the Tour Director; however, he had seen me earlier at breakfast.
While we were in Jaipur on our super secret extended trip, Tour Director shared with me the first time he saw me. It was that same morning but at the restaurant. He said he walked into the restaurant and I was the very first thing he saw and he thought I was so very beautiful. He was trying to find me because I was the only person the trip he hadn't met yet. He wandered around the restaurant looking for a 42 year old American woman. He asked a few women whom he thought fit the profile if their name was Patsy Stone. None were. All the while I was there and he never guessed it was me. He told me I was not at all what he thought because I look much younger than my actual age. He was delighted when he first saw me upstairs at the get-acquainted/introduction lecture.
Why did I tell you all of that? Because Tour Director has started a new tour and we had our little waltz down memory lane while he was on the bus Delhi bound. He asked what my thoughts were when we first met. I shared I was surprised he was my age as I thought he'd be older. that he was very handsome, and all business; I'd never guessed that we'd click so amazingly. In my honest vulnerability that only he elicits, I went on to tell Tour Director that I can't wait to see his fabulous smile again. See him looking into my blue eyes. Falling asleep in his arms. To which he replied, "We gotta figure out something".
My heart danced with joy. I couldn't fall asleep because happy excitement shot adrenaline through my entire body. And we are that much closer to starting our life together.