On Call musical group tours India

This article submitted by Linda Stelling on 8/6/96.

It was a trip of a lifetime for Steve Koehn, Kim Colbert and Ryan Louis, Paynesville. The three Paynesville youth were among 22 teens traveling to India with the Youth for Christ tour presenting 54 concerts in six cities.

The group left June 13 and returned home July 24 none the worse for wear, but saddened to be leaving their new family. "After traveling six weeks together you become a pretty close knit group. We experienced so much together. It was hard parting when we got home," the three said. The teens performed concerts at schools in Bangalore, Mysore, Srode, Salem, Hyderabad and Madras.

All three of the teens agreed the airports were really bad. "We went from Singapore where they had everything at their airport to India, a 180 degree turn around. There were bug zappers, no carpet, crowded with people at 3 a.m. It was gross and dirty," they said. India is an 11 and a half-hour time change from Paynesville and the teens experienced jet lag the first week. "It was really hard to perform morning concerts," they said. They often had back-to-back concerts with time out to eat at noon.

One Indian businessman liked their concerts so much he donated several acres of land to the Youth for Christ program. "Nobody owns land over there, it is too expensive. It costs about $70,000 per acre and the average person only earns between $50 to $70 a month," the teens said

Another noticeable difference between countries is the lack of grass. "Grass is not common there. The city and cement are endless. You can drive two and a half hours and still be in the city," Steve said. "Everything is pavement and trash."

The kids found out they were better off walking around in small groups rather than a large group. "Everywhere we went, the people of India stared at us. We weren't as noticeable in smaller groups," they added. At one concert, the teens were mobbed by the people because they had never seen blonde people before and wanted to touch them and to get their autographs.

"We very seldom saw any white people. By the end of the trip, we were ready to come home, many of us were getting a little loose in our manners," Kim said. "We were getting pretty tired of being stared at and started staring back at the people."

The teens had a translator traveling with them in case they needed one. They said about 90 percent of the school children spoke English well enough to understand them. The people of India spoke three different languages, Hindi, Tamil and Kanada.

"Everything was so dirty is was hard to stay clean," Ryan said. Some of the kids learned to wash their clothes in India. Many of the boys paid for laundry service. "It only cost 61 rupees ($2) to have all our laundry done. I tried doing my own but it still smelled and didn't come clean," Ryan added. "I was really happy to get home where I could throw my dirty clothes into a washer." The teens said the water in India was terribly dirty. People washed their clothes in it, drank it, bathed in it and urinated in it.

Kim said she didn't care for the food in India. She lived on bread and jam most of the time. They ate Chinese food a lot: rice, chicken, fish and mutton. Steve tried some of the Indian dishes, they were a lot spicer than what the kids were used to eating. Kim added they were fed ice cream every day. "It tasted a lot different than what we were used to eating," they all agreed. One member of the group lost 23 pounds while in India because he didn't like the food.

When asked what was the most memorable thing about their trip, Ryan said India as a whole. "If I had the money I would go back. I loved what we were doing. The attitude of the people was so different. The stress of American life really hit upon returning home. There are so many different responsibilities. Steve said being with everyone for six weeks was his most memorable experience. "I had never been with a group that size before. Staying with people for six weeks made it all the easier to go and do different things," he added. Kim said the people were the most memorable. "I wanted to bring the kids home with me. They were all so cute.

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