You can now see all my posts to date about India by clicking the ‘India’ category in the right sidebar on the homepage of my blog. And with that, I’ll probably be back to blogging about Mexico for a while…
I intended to get a post up shortly after the India trip to try and summarize our findings and what we’re currently thinking about the prospect of beginning work there. I don’t suppose this still counts as shortly after…
As Rob Thiessen said after the trip, we met with 19 different church planters, including several Indian nationals as well as foreigners from 5 other countries. They represented 9 different ministries and organizations. Each one had a unique perspective, and we returned with a far greater understanding of factors involved in making disciples in India and with new insights to help us in our work in other parts of the world as well.
The short answer is yes, we are feeling like GFM is supposed to begin a long-term work in India. The ultimate reason is the overwhelming spiritual and physical need there. It is true that much good gospel work is being done in India, but the job of making disciples of all nations (ethnic groups) in India is far, far from done. Statistically, I think it has to be considered the most unreached country on earth. One Indian national church planter told us that, despite the headway being made in certain parts of India, population growth is outpacing the growth of new believers. In other words, in strictly numeric terms, the Church is losing ground in India. Many of the church planters we met with are very skeptical of the accuracy of large numbers being published of how many new churches are being planted in India. By this we were saddened. At the same time, though, we were greatly encouraged by some of the excellent disciple-making work we saw being done. This gave us an exciting vision of the possibility of helping people in India respond to God in a way fitting to their culture.
Where we would work is a very complicated question, and one that could probably not be answered until someone were to spend an extended period of time exploring different places. The thing that makes India very complicated is that its people groups are all mixed together, at least in the big cities. In Mexico, the ethnic groups are much more distinctly separated geographically. Besides that, India’s thousands of language groups are further broken down by castes, some of which refuse to interact with each other. Part way into the trip we started feeling like we might need to forget about focusing on specific groups at all and instead just settle down in a city and start making reproducing disciples. By the end of the trip, I think we were somewhere in the middle. We should probably find a city or town where not too much work is being done, then seek out a specific needy group in that place on which to focus.
What would be the church planting team’s platform, or occupation, is an even more complicated question. Here are a few intriguing possibilities for a team of Westerners:
- Start a travel agency that shows tourist groups around, then make disciples of the Indians with whom you share your life.
- Teach North American English to some of the many Indians going to the United States or Canada to work.
- Teach Spanish. India is developing good trade relations with Mexico, and many Indians also go to Spain to work.
- Start a consulting business to help Westerners coming to India learn language and acculturate.
- Be a full-time student in a university.
- Be a businessperson and reach out to upper class and upper caste Indians – an extremely unreached segment of the society.
Who will be on a GFM team moving to India has yet to be determined. When they will go is also a question mark and depends on a number of things, such as how soon we get a team into Thailand, how soon we have a trained team willing to go to India, and whether we have a sufficient labor force to continue the work in Mexico.
The trip was sobering. We have been hearing reports of huge church planting movements taking place in India with thousands of churches being planted and tens of thousands of people coming to the Lord. This may be true, but we saw more than enough to convince us that we can’t waltz in there expecting things to be exploding in a few years. The stories we heard sounded much more like what I’m used to hearing from the Muslim world. Church planters work for 10 or 15 years in order to raise up just a few disciples and maybe a small fellowship or two. Work in India is not for those wanting cheap, quick rewards.
But we feel that God wants us to send a team to begin working there. We have been captured by the Revelation 7:9,10 vision of seeing all nations worship the Lamb, and we cannot overlook millions in India entering eternity without ever having heard the name of Jesus.
This story to be continued…
So obviously, I haven’t posted much lately. One day maybe I’ll be a professional blogger who posts every day, but it doesn’t look like that day will be getting here any time this summer. Between traveling back to the U.S. from India, spending two more weeks visiting in Colorado and Texas, driving a few thousand more miles, and then hitting the ground running here in Mexico in preparation for the arrival of summer interns, blogging time has been scarce! I do want to continue blogging as much as possible, in order to help people plug in better with what is going on with Global Frontier Missions, as well as to allow us all (me the post author and you the comment authors) to share with one another what God is teaching us.
I had a couple more posts I had wanted to get up about the India trip, so let me do that. Waiting so long to finish talking about the trip may not meet blogging best practices, but hey, who ever said I’d meet all of those, right?
I mentioned in an early post during the India trip that I was surprised at how similar India and Mexico are. I want to share a bit about the similarities I saw, as well as some differences. Here goes:
Ways India and Mexico are similar
- Religiously, I found the dominant beliefs of Hinduism to be very similar to the dominant beliefs of southern Mexico, believe it or not. The belief system of the majority of Hindus has an animistic flavor to it. People honor (though they don’t necessarily obey) all sorts of different gods in order to invoke the gods’ favor and avoid their wrath. Southern Mexico is very similar in the way that people depend on the Catholic saints and virgins, while not necessarily sensing a strong need to obey God. As we walked into shops and rode in taxis in India and saw all the altars to the gods and images of them hung everywhere, it was uncanny how similar it was to Mexico, where people have altars to and images of the saints. The Hindu temples with their various idols felt, in many respects, similar to the Catholic cathedrals of southern Mexico.
- India and Mexico are both what we call hot climate cultures. People in hot climate cultures value relationships over tasks and often do not stick to a rigid schedule. Other similarities between the two cultures (in contrast to North America) are the greater respect given to elders and those in positions of leadership, the greater sense of community and lesser individualism, and the indirect and non-confrontational manner of communication.
- Both Mexicans and Indians are very hospitable. When staying in the home of an Indian family, we cheerfully pleased our hosts by digging into the continued servings of food offered at each meal.
- In India, as in Mexico, I was often stopped on the streets by friendly strangers who speak some English and wanted to know about me and talk about the United States.
- Many Indians migrate to North America to find work, as do many Mexicans. It was quite common to talk to people in India who had family members who were living or had lived in the U.S. or Canada.
- A staple food in India is chapati, which is a round flatbread usually made of wheat. That, combined with frequent servings of rice and beans felt a lot like reaching for a tortilla and digging into a meal in Mexico.
Indians look like Mexicans! We saw a number of people in India who could have been right off the streets of our Mexican town or who even had a striking resemblance to particular friends of ours in Mexico.
Ways India and Mexico are different
- Despite the presence of hundreds of distinct ethnic groups in Mexico, Mexico’s culture is still much more homogenous than India’s. India is extremely fragmented with thousands of languages, numerous castes, several major cultures/religious systems (Hinduism, Islam, Sikhism, Jainism, Buddhism, Christianity), etc. All these mean that India is divided into literally thousands of different groups of people who are willing to have only limited interaction with one another.
- Some of the outward cultural norms of India were quite different. For example, in Mexico we greet everyone, usually with a handshake. In India, strangers don’t greet one another, and even men and women who know each other will rarely shake hands.
- The strong sense of honor and shame in India, and what it means to preserve an individual’s/family’s/village’s honor is something I have not really seen in Mexico or elsewhere in North America. I might have shared this already, I can’t remember, but I read a story in the newspaper in India where a young woman who was raped begged the court to make the man who violated her marry her, in order to restore her honor.
- Though I would say that Mexicans have greater respect for family than, say, North Americans, I felt like Indians honor and care for family members and family structures far more than the people of Mexico do.
I’ll keep this pretty basic, but since India has some fairly distinctive clothing styles, I wanted to share a bit about them.
The majority of the men we saw wore Western-style slacks and button-up shirts. A decent number, though, wear a more distinctively Indian outfit called a kurta pajama. The kurta pajama consists of a long top that reaches to about the knees and is often embroidered around the neck. The top is collarless. The bottom is a pair of baggy knit pants, often made of cotton. Sikh men wear a distinctive turban that is often black, but can be a number of different colors.
A few younger women in bigger cities are wearing more Western clothes, such as jeans, but the majority of women wear one or the other of two Indian outfits:
The sari is a long, fancy piece of cloth, wrapped around the legs like a skirt and then wrapped over one shoulder. The women have some kind of small top they wear underneath the sari, but I don’t know what it’s called. I understand that saris are especially common in southern India.
The most common outfit we saw women wearing in northern India was the salwar kameez. A salwar kameez, much like the kurta pajama the men wear, consists of (often) baggy, drawstring pants and a long top. The women’s tops are also collarless, and fancier ones are often embroidered. A scarf called a dupata completes the outfit. Women’s suits (as they call them) come in a vast array of vibrant colors and patterns. If variety is any indication, I would say that Indian women find a lot of pleasure in combining pieces of outfits to create looks they like. Hmm, I think the Western women I know could get into this…Indian women are also quite into adornment. Earrings, finger rings, toe rings, nose rings, bracelets, and nail polish are in abundant supply.
Well, I’m home from India now. I’m trying to write a few posts to wrap up the India trip. Time and internet connections have still been hard to come by, which is the reason for the delay in reporting on the final part of the trip.
We spend the last two days of the trip, April 29 and 30, in Delhi. We got in three final meetings and did a little bit of shopping. Erin and the girls like colorful and sparkly things, which India is full of, so they really liked the clothes I brought them.
During the last two days, we got to visit one slum and sit in on a training meeting attended by about 10 pastors. They are learning simple Bible stories, such as the Prodigal Son, to share with others. It was neat hearing testimonies from them of ways God is using them to share the Word with others, people who are being miraculously healed, and people who are coming to Christ. Praise God!
The trip home was pretty uneventful. We left Delhi Wednesday night, April 30, and by Thursday afternoon I was back in Idaho with my family.
I’ll try to write a couple of final posts including some of the dress in India and a few parting thoughts on the trip.
I had wanted to do a post on food, but I just didn’t make that one happen. In the absence of an entire post with photos, here are a few comments:
- The food was really good. Most of the northern Indian food we ate was reasonably spicy and had a curry flavor to it. There were all kinds of vegetable dishes and sauces.
- Indians don’t eat much meat. As far as I can tell, you can’t find a bite of beef anywhere (owed to the fact that cows are sacred). Chicken, fish, and mutton are somewhat common, but plenty of Indians are vegetarians.
- Given our Mexican roots, we were intrigued to find that a staple food is the chipati (sp?), which is a round, tortilla-like bready thing made from wheat. Indians eat them in much the same way that Mexicans eat tortillas.
- Because I’m not as vegetarian as many Indians, some of my favorite foods we had were meat dishes. Tandoori chicken, which is skewered and then roasted in this pit-like oven thing (I don’t really know how to describe it), was excellent. A couple of Muslim dishes were also great: Kabobs in Lucknow (which is apparently well known for its kabobs) and shwarma in Delhi. I won’t try and describe them here, but if you’re interested, you can Google them.
I’ll wrap this up with a few more photos from India, in no particular order:
Having a broken car horn would be as serious a problem as having no brakes. Indians use their horns constantly! One of our travel books was giving advice for if you rent a car, and it said something to the effect of, “Use your horn when passing someone, when someone is passing you, when thinking about passing, or about the general concept of passing.” Boy, was that the truth! It was sort of humorous to us seeing many trucks that had painted instructions on the backs of them encouraging the use of horns:
The train station in Lucknow
A market area in Lucknow
Monkeys scavenging on the tracks at the train station in Lucknow
Roadside coconut stand in a village
The building of a traditional Christian church in the state of Uttar Pradesh. India has quite a few churches that have been around for decades or even centuries. Unfortunately, many of these are quite nominal.
What to do in a fancy restroom that has no toilet paper
We talked to an Indian businessman on a train who complained that Westerners have a really negative view of India because we only take photos of the worst and poorest and dirtiest things we see here and then show them to everyone at home. I would have to somewhat agree with him, because, while India certainly has a lot of poverty and problems, I’ve been surprised on this trip to see how nice many parts of it are and how good the middle class standard of living is. So I decided to post some of the nicer and wealthier things we have seen here.
India has a lot of nice cars:
India has plenty of Western flavor to it. You won’t find any beef at McDonald’s, though–only chicken, fish, and veggie burgers.
This is a fancy shopping mall in Lucknow:
High-rise apartment building:
Lots of Indians live in really nice houses. One area of south Delhi has mansion after mansion (a lot bigger than the house pictured here):
Many Indians have cell phones. They’re everywhere (well, at least in the bigger cities–I can’t speak for the villages).
So I guess the moral of this story is that we need to have a balanced view of India and be careful to avoid stereotypes. (For those of us living in the U.S., we don’t/wouldn’t like many, if not most, of the stereotypes that people in other countries have about ours.) This trip has been an eye-opening experience for me in that regard.
We have continued to be busy traveling and meeting with a lot of kingdom workers. We wrapped up our three days in the Hindu holy city of Varanasi on Friday, then spent Saturday in Lucknow, the state capital of Uttar Pradesh. Lucknow was a nice history with a lot of history, monuments, and impressive architecture, but we didn’t really get to check any of it out because our one day there was filled with meetings.
Here are Grant and I on a cycle rickshaw in Lucknow:
Saturday night began a bit of a travel adventure. We had tickets for a 12:30am late night train out of Lucknow to head up into the foothills of the Himalayas. Our host-to-be in the mountains, when he heard what train we were on, mentioned that that one is notoriously late. We arrived at the train station at about 11:45pm and had one guy tell us the train was running late and would arrive at 1:30am, and another guy said it would be there at 6am. It would have been great if either of them were right. We spent an uncomfortable night (with many other people) trying to catch some sleep out on the train platform while we waited. This was difficult, because it was hot and the mosquitos were ruthless. So a lot of the night we just sat around with a glazed look on our eyes. I stepped outside about 3:30am and was surprised that a good number of clothes shops out on the street were open.
I dozed off for a few minutes around 5:30am.
Our train finally pulled in about 6am, and we boarded and quickly got settled in to sleep. I was on one end of our car, and Grant and Rob were at the other end. Shortly before the train left, the guy next to me happened to ask me where we were going. I told him, he asked me to repeat it, seemed confused, and then had me tell a nearby woman who spoke more English. When they heard my answer, they told me the train was just coming from there, not going there. Not knowing how soon the train was pulling out, I grabbed my bags and dashed off to tell Grant and Rob.
Back into the terminal to talk to the train station officials, who still had no idea when our train would come. One person said it would be about 7:30am or maybe 10am, and another lady at one point said it was late because there had been an accident. Bottom line, no one had any idea if/when the train was to arrive.
We cancelled our tickets, got a refund, and then found a taxi driver at about 8:30 in the morning who was willing to drive us the first 250km towards our destination. He couldn’t take us all the way, because laws prohibit taxi drivers leaving a certain region. We hopped into the old British-style taxi below, rolled down the windows, and alternately slept and enjoyed the rural scenery with a very hot wind in our faces.
The rural parts of northern India are covered by hundreds and hundreds of miles of wheat fields, occasionally interrupted by a small village.
Upon our 2pm arrival to a large city that was the end of the line for our taxi driver, we found that no more taxis (out of 76 that one company had) were available. Turns out that because of the dates and perhaps something astrological, this past weekend was a huge weekend for Hindus getting married. So all the taxis were booked. Who knew.
The travel agent mentioned that a bus heading the right direction was about to leave in a few minutes. We figured that was an Indian ‘few minutes’ (meaning ‘no rush’), but as we got to the bus station our bus was pulling out. We hopped onto the bus below and bounced along for the next 3 hours. The driver hit speed bumps really hard. I bruised my eye because I was sleeping on my hand and punched myself when he nailed a bump.
When we got to the end of the line for the bus, we fortunately very easily found a taxi that could take us the final 2.5 hours up into the mountains to our destination. We arrived about 9pm, 9 hours later than we should have if we had taken the train.
We were up in the Himalayas for less than a day, but it was great. The temperature was much more comfortable than the blazing hot plains (it was even a little chilly at night), and the scenery was beautiful.
A large wedding was going on in our mountain town. We were surprised on this trip to learn that Hindu weddings commonly have over 1,000 guests. Here’s part of the wedding party:
And the bride and groom’s car:
Here we are at a scenic overlook:
What the overlook would look like at a time of year when things aren’t hazy, as they are now:
Lots of the Himalayan hills are stepped for farming:
Monday night we caught a train back to Delhi, where we intend to spend Tuesday and Wednesday before Grant and I catch our flight back to the U.S. on Wednesday night. Our host had booked us a first class sleeper train for that trip, and it was great! (Especially after our recent experience spending a night on the train platform.) The first class sleepers have individual cabins with two or four beds, air conditioning, and sliding doors that lock, so you don’t have to worry about your things getting stolen. And for bathrooms, you get your choice between a squatty potty or a conventional toilet, and one of them has a shower. It’s like a hotel on wheels, and I think the tickets were about US$20/person for an 8-hour ride. Not bad at all! Here are Grant and Rob in our cabin:
So we’re back in Delhi now, doing a bit of shopping and getting in a final few meetings. It’s been a busy and fairly tiring trip, but it has been really good. Over the next few days I’ll work to get some wrap-up posts up.
Until next time…
[Note: Hinduism is very complex, and I am a beginning student of it, not an expert. I will do my best to explain what I am learning as well as I understand it. In doing so, though, I may inadvertantly present something inaccurately or incompletely if I have misunderstood it or not entirely learned it. The reader should understand that, if this happens, it is because of my lack of learning, not any desire or attempt to misrepresent Hinduism.]
We took two boat rides on the Ganges River here in Varanasi, one in the evening, and one starting at 5:30am. The Ganges is the most holy river for Hindus–they believe it to be a goddess. Hindus believe that if a person dies in Varanasi they are freed from the endless cycle of death and reincarnation and achieve paradise. There are two sites along the river where, day after day, the bodies of the dead are burned and their ashes thrown into the river. Last night, 13 bodies were burning at one of these sites when we passed by. Locals tell us that burning a person and throwing them into the holy river purifies and beautifies them. Paradise touches the river, so a person who has been cremated and thrown into the river enters paradise.
The owner of our guest house explained there are a few kinds of people whose families tie their bodies to a rock and throw them into the river whole upon death, rather than cremating them first. Some of these are:
- Sadus, or holy men.
- Children under five years of age.
- People who died of a disease such as smallpox or leprosy.
- People who died of a snakebite.
Hindus believe that holy men and young children are without sin, and therefore are not in need of the purification provided by burning their bodies. In fact, holy men wear orange robes that represent the cleansing fire they have passed through to become holy men.
Hindus believe the second two types of people have been cursed by the gods and have bad karma, so it is worthless to try and purify their bodies by burning.
Here are a few photos from our boat rides:
Thursday morning’s sunrise over the Ganges River
Fishermen working on the bank of the river
Morning yoga session (all the guys dressed in white) along the bank of the river
Many foreign tourists and spiritual seekers come to Varanasi
Grant and Rob
Varanasi has been leveled several times by invaders, most recently around 1750. It has many historic and impressive-looking buildings its citizens constructed shortly after the last destruction.
A Hindu temple along the river that is sinking
Hindus believe that bathing in the holy river cleanses a person of sin, so every morning, you can see thousands of people washing themselves in the Ganges.
Every night, devotees have a time of worship of the river with music, fire, prayers, and other rituals
Men washing clothes in the river by soaking them and then slapping them on the rocks. We saw a few women washing clothes, too, but mostly men. I believe the colorful cloths laid out on the stone steps are silk, though I’m not sure. Varanasi is famous for its silk factories, which are primarily owned by Muslims. The owner of our guest house owns a silk factory, as well. Today he allowed us to go see some of his men hand-weaving the silk on a large loom, and then he took us to his store to display the finished products for us. Varanasi silk is multi-colored and very beautiful, and some of it has incredibly intricate designs. To make an ornate piece of silk the size of, say, a tablecloth, takes one man about two weeks of work.
Other photos from the river:
We have now been in the town of Varanasi, in the state of Uttar Pradesh. Varanasi is a holy city for Hindus, situated on the banks of the Ganges River, which is the most holy river for Hindus. I will share more about the Ganges and a couple of boat trips we took on it in a separate post. We are staying in a guest house just a couple of blocks from the river.
It has been really hot here. The past couple of days the high temperature has been about 109 degrees farenheit. By 1pm today I had already put down about 2.5 liters of fluids and still wasn’t feeling that terribly hydrated. It’s a really dry heat, though, so it actually doesn’t feel that bad.
The kids in our neighborhood are really friendly. This might be because they have learned they can get money from foreigners. When we are walking down the streets, it is common to be greeted with a cheery, “Hallo!” We turn and see a bright pair of eyes and a small, smiling face.
Previously, my only experience on this side of the world was in Nepal, mostly Kathmandu. I indicated in a previous post that things here had not been quite as much like Kathmandu as I had expected. Vanarasi reminds me a lot of Nepal, though. The narrow, crowded streets, the Hindu shrines and temples, and the smells all take me back to that trip ten years ago. I liked Nepal a lot and have always hoped to be able to visit again, so this trip has been neat for me. On the subject of Nepal, maybe you saw in the news that in the past couple of weeks that had elections that got rid of the world’s last/only Hindu monarch, replacing it with a duly elected Communist government. It will be interesting to see what happens there. I see this is now creating a real dilemma for the United States, who has the Maoists on its official list of terrorists. Oops, than can make the foreign relations a little tough.
In addition to continuing to meet with ministry leaders, today we visited three different Hindu temples. People come to them and pay homage to a number of Hindu gods and goddesses by bowing down, saying prayers, ringing bells, singing, and offering flowers and incense. In visiting them, I am struck with how similar the Hindu worship of many deities and the images representing them is to what we see in southern Mexico. In southern Mexico, people depend on Catholic saints and virgins in much the same way Hindus look to their gods for blessing and provision.
The numbers on Uttar Pradesh are pretty mind-boggling. The ones we have are actually for the states of Uttar Pradesh and Uttaranchal combined, because they used to be one state. Here’s why the state of Uttar Pradesh is an important place for kingdom work:
- Uttar Pradesh and Uttaranchal have a combined land area about 3/4 the size of the state of Colorado. In that space, more than 167 million people were living in 2001. That, I believe, is more than half the population of the entire United States.
- Figures from a few years ago say there may have been less than 35,000 committed believers in the entire state, or around 1 out of every 4,750 people. As of 1995, there were less than 500 workers committed to reaching the unreached of Uttar Pradesh, or around 1 worker for every 335,000 people.
- One researcher told us Uttar Pradesh has 40 unengaged unreached people groups of over 100,000 people. These are distinct ethnic groups, each with its own language and customs, that have no concentrated gospel work going on among them.
The good news is that the number of believers here is increasing, and the real total is most likely higher than official figures. The number of workers here is also significantly increasing. Much remains to be done, though, because the people of northern India cannot believe in the One they have never heard of.
Tomorrow (Friday), we plan to head on to Lucknow, which is the capital of Uttar Pradesh.
Here are a few photos:
View of Varanasi from a rooftop.
An auto rickshaw ride
Groups of monkeys run around Varanasi, getting into all kinds of mischief
Time and internet connections have been difficult to come by the last few days, which has made it harder to keep my blog updated on our trip.
Monday was our last day in Chandigarh, and then Tuesday morning we caught a train back to Delhi, had a 3-hour layover, and then took an overnight train to Varanasi, in the state of Uttar Pradesh.
We enjoyed many good talks about theology and cross-cultural ministry with our Indian host during our three days in Chandigarh. He’s a big cricket fan, so we watched a couple of cricket games on TV while we were there. Cricket seems to be the most popular sport in India. They have a professional league, big stadiums, TV contracts, and players who get paid millions of dollars. Cricket is kind of tricky to figure out, but after watching a couple of games I was sort of getting a grasp of it. One type of cricket has matches that can last several days, but the professional league in India plays a different type of match that lasts 2-3 hours.
As I write this post, we are sitting in our guest house watching the news. A controversy is developing in the cricket league over the presence of cheerleaders at the games. Cricket teams are cheered on by scantily-clad, fair-skinned females that I think someone said are brought in from elsewhere, maybe the U.S. If that’s the case, I would think someone has to cue them whenever it’s time to cheer, because I can’t imagine American cheerleaders have the slightest clue about cricket. Anyway, it’s a good example of the dilemma non-Western cultures face. They have a much stronger sense of decency and modesty than Western cultures have, which causes them to resist our culture on one hand, while being allured by it on the other. The indecency being imported from the West is causing many non-Westerners to have a deep resentment towards us. This can help us understand their resistance to Christ, because they associate the United States with Christianity just the same way we associate India with Hinduism and Saudi Arabia with Islam. Would you want to become a Christian if you thought Christians were immoral heathens responsible for exporting their sin to your country?
Sunday afternoon, Grant, Rob, and I hopped on a man-powered rickshaw for a short ride. Turns out that kind of rickshaw isn’t really designed for three full-sized men. About five tall, young Sikh guys in turbans were walking in front of us when we all squeezed onto the rickshaw. Grant and I had Rob’s legs hanging on us, and the poor rickshaw guy had to give everything he had to made the pedals turn. When the Sikh guys turned around and saw us, they busted up laughing and whipped out about four camera phones to take pictures of this strange spectacle. We were a little worried the rickshaw was going to fall apart, but it held up, the driver survived, and we gave him a little extra for his efforts.
I had never ridden on a sleeper train before, but it was really comfortable, and I slept great. Thieves are apparently a big problem on those trains. A couple of our guidebooks mentioned chaining up your personal belongings on the train. We wondered if that was overkill, until we saw guys selling chains and padlocks on the platform before the train left. We bought a couple, locked everything up, and didn’t have any problems. Here are a few train pictures:
The train platform
A chair car
Our sleeper car. It had little groupings of four beds (two bunks), each with its own curtain to close it off from the aisle.
Trains at the station: