Cows, camels, cars, rickshaws

Published 1:48 pm Friday, July 18, 2008

Cassie Jo Camp of Landrum and Krystal Wise of Maiden, N.C., were on their way to India on a school mission trip. Wise&squo;s brother told Debbie Camp that he&squo;d heard there was a bombing in India, but he said he didn&squo;t think it was in the area where the two college seniors were going.

The comment didn&squo;t really register with the mother that day, but the next day she felt a little concerned and used the Internet to find out some more information.

She found out through many BBC reports that the bombing took place in Jaipur, India, also known as the Pink City, the city where Camp and Wise were going to spend their second and third weeks. It was a terrorist attack on June 13, with bombs attached to bicycles that killed 63 people. Camp&squo;s daughter and friend were arriving in India on June 15, but they were going to arrive in New Delhi.

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It was a head first trip into a new culture, Cassie Jo Camp said.

Camp, 20, got to go on the trip because she&squo;s a Bonner&squo;s Scholar. It&squo;s a volunteer-based scholarship. The scholarship allowed for an allotment of travel money. It paid for some of the trip and Camp paid the rest.

At first the pair wasn&squo;t sure where they wanted to go. They could&squo;ve gone anywhere. All they knew was that they wanted to work with an orphanage.

After a scan of the Internet, they found the orphanage they wanted to work with. The contacted the orphanage through Volunteer Solutions and the trip was on.

The first week was sort of a language and culture week, Camp said. Staying with a host family, the pair ate tradition meals, visited different historical places and took in New Delhi as a whole.

They learned some of the language in preparation for their trip to the orphanage.

Camp said a huge difference between India and the United States were the roads. In the U.S., the roads are filled mostly with cars, although there are occasional motorcycles, horses and bicycles.

But in India the streets were filled with a wide variety of things. There were cars that drove unbelievably fast, she said, but there were also rickshaws, camels and even elephants. And that&squo;s not to mention all the sacred cows that roam the streets freely.

It wasn&squo;t until they were roaming the crowded streets in India that they found out about the bombings in Jaipur. A phone call to home led to the realization.

Then there was the arrival in Jaipur after a five-hour trip. The pair stayed in a well-protected hostel.

&dquo;There were still guards walking the streets with guns,&dquo; she said.

But none of that distracted Camp and Wise from the real reason they were there, she said. For the pair, it was about the 49 children at the government-run orphanage. The kids were mainly two to six years old.

&dquo;The main reason we were there was to give them love and affection,&dquo; Camp said.

They played with the children and fed them. None of the children could speak English, Camp said. Some of the teachers could speak a little English, but the language barrier was definitely greater in the orphanage, she said.

Aside from the various means of transportation, the extreme temperatures of more than 100 degrees and some remnants of the caste system, Camp enjoyed her trip, she said.

She loved working with the children in the orphanage, she said, and was attached to them by the trip&squo;s end.

&dquo;By the time we left, it was really hard to leave,&dquo; she said.

Despite the bombings in Jaipur, the Camps weren&squo;t as nervous as one might expect over their daughter being in Jaipur.

&dquo;After I prayed about it,&dquo; Debbie Camp said, &dquo;I knew she&squo;d be taken care of.&dquo;

However, she said she was still extremely happy to see Cassie emerging into the airport after her trip.

&dquo;Now that was a good thing,&dquo; she said.