Farewell Blog

August 25, 2009

It is late on the 25th here in India.  Tomorrow a cab is picking us up at 7:30 a.m. to drive us to the local airport.  We’ll fly to Mumbai, which is where we will be flying out of India at.  Our plane will arrive in Mumbai at around 11:30 a.m. on the 26th, and the flight out of India doesn’t leave Mumbai until around 1:00 a.m. on the 27th.  We will spend that half day layover exploring Mumbai (Bombay).  Then we have a 7 or 8 hour flight to Amsterdam.  We will arrive in Amsterdam in the morning on the 27th.  We have an 8 hour layover in Amsterdam, so we will exit the airport and tour around Amsterdam for about 5 hours.  Trust us when we say we will not be experimenting with any of the legal drugs that Amsterdam is famous for!!!    After leaving Amsterdam we will arrive in Detroit in the afternoon of the 27th, and then finally we will arrive at XNA sometime during the evening of the 27th.

I may blog about Mumbai and Amsterdam after I get home, but for now the blogging is over:(  I want to thank everyone that took the time out of their days to read about our adventures in India.  Having you all read the stories, look at the pictures, and travel along with us made us feel more at home.  It was a great feeling!  I do apologize that the blog got a little boring towards the end, but I think our traveling bug sort of fizzled out.  We have had an amazing experience that has taught us a lot… not only about the geography, history, and culture of India, but about ourselves and our own blessings, which may be the single greatest thing we got out of this trip!

We hope to arrive safely in the good ol’  USofA soon!  See you then:)  Lots of love!!!! 

P.S. Please pray for us to make it through the plane travels without crashing or losing our mental sanity:)

August 23rd

August 25, 2009

On the 23rd we traveled to Vadodara, which is situated on the banks of the vishwamitri River. It is also in the state of Gujarate. We had a new driver, and he was a real lazy turky! It was like pulling teeth to get him to try to find anything. I had a list written out of places I wanted to see, but we only got to see a few of them.

First we went to the Maharaja Palace. I regret saying I don’t know anything about it after visiting it. It was big and beautiful, and clearly was a palace at one time, but that’s all I know. I didn’t learn anything, and I can’t even google anything about it. There was a guide at the palace, and even though he was speaking English (sort of) I didn’t process much of what he was saying.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We were not allowed to take pictures on the inside of the palace. There were lots of grand rooms, old weapons, portraits of kings, etc.

Next we went to Sayaji Bagh, which is a huge park in the middle of the city. There is a free zoo inside the park. We only went here in hopes of finding a cobra for Daniel to look at. The zoo wasn’t good at all, and the cages were so caged that you could barely see in…if that makes any sense. I didn’t like the fact that monkeys were in solitary cages, which is completely cruel! Monkeys are very social and should not be isolated all day.

Pink Storks!  I had never seen a stork before this.  I’m assuming they had some blue storks somewhere else in the zoo:)

You may not be able to tell it from the pictures since we are alive in them, but it was 1002 degrees, and the pavement and my jeans were doing me in! We didn’t stay long before leaving. And no that wasn’t a typo, because it really was 1002 degrees:) LOL

As we were leaving a couple of young Indian men asked us if they could have pictures with us. That’s always fun and flattering!

The driver stopped to let us take in a view of the river, although I am not sure it was actually the river. 

Anyway, it was interesting to see several people doing their bathing and laundry on the steps that went down into the water. Again, I was feeling very blessed to have been born in America!

The last stop was at the Mandvi Gate. Here is a copy and pasted description: Mandvi Gate is one of the main landmarks of Vadodara, in Gujarat. This imposing structure was built during the Mughal period. It was restored in by the Governor, Malharoa Maloji 1736 AD under the orders of Damaji Roa II. This impressive square pavilion has three bold arched openings on each of its four sides. Earlier this pavilion might have been a market place intermingled by two large streets separating into four part meeting in the center. Mandvi Gate is illuminated on special occasions.

After we left the gate the driver managed to speak some English and said “back to hotel?” Wow, I thought. He has our list, we were promised all day, paid for all day, had only been in Vadodara for about 3 hours, and he wants to take us back to the hotel. Since it was clear he wasn’t going to cooperate Daniel and I just said sure, whatever. We figured that since we paid for a full day and got only a few hours that we would at least have him take us by the grocery store that’s near our hotel to save us the tuktuk ride. He pretended to not understand, so I had him take us to the hotel. I went in to have the hotel clerk translate, only to find out that the driver understood perfectly, but thought we were taking advantage of him. According to him, Vadodara was the only city in the deal, and he should not have to drive us 3 minutes down the road to the grocery store. It was just unreal. I’m writing about the experience, but we were not angry…just surprised! Besides, he’s the one with Kharma in his religion, not us:) haha We spent the rest of the day eating and watching movies in the hotel room.

August 21st – Day Trip to Ahmedabad

August 23, 2009

Today we were finally feeling well and hired a driver to take us to Ahmedabad, which is the capital city of the state of Gujarat.  Gujarat is a dry state by the way, and if you are caught drunk in the street you can get two months in jail.  Since we are not drinking in India, it’s not really a concern of ours, but just an interesting fact. 

Our guidebook didn’t have a lot of suggestions for Ahmedabad, but there were a couple of things that I really wanted to do.  I wanted to see Ghandhi’s home, and I wanted to see a Jane Temple.  Actually, Daniel has really wanted to see a cobra, and has not been able to find a place to see one yet!  He’s really sad, and I don’t know if I’m going to be able to deal with him much longer if we don’t find a cobra.  The driver said there was a cobra at the zoo in Ahmedabad, so we said take us there.  We arrived at the zoo and he said it was closed for 15 days.

The next stop was Lal Darvaja.  It really is just another big arch in the street to us, but he said it was famous, so we took some pictures. 

I noticed a little elderly woman selling tobacco packs on the side of the road, so instead of getting in the car I walked over to her.  The driver was very surprised and amused that I would want tobacco.  I told him it was for my father and he said ohhhh, okay:)  These tobacco packs are sold on every street corner of India. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The packs are in long tear off strips, and you tear off the amount of packs you want.  We were so curious about what they were for the first week, and finally we found out that they were tobacco packs.  They sell tobacco and non tobacco.  I still don’t know what the non tobacco consists of.  As I was picking out my tobacco a crowd sort of grew.  Apparently a western girl buying tobacco on the street is quite amusing to the locals.  They were grinning and pointing and watched the whole event.  It was so funny!

 

The next stop was Sabarmati Ashram.  Here is the guidebook description:

A spartan colony of tiled houses, the Sabarmati Ashram was a second home to Mahatma Ghandhi.  It was from here that he orchestrated the final struggle for India’s freedom.  His cottage, Hriday Kunj, has been maintained much as he left it, and contains some personal items such as his round eyeglasses, wooden slippers, spinning wheel, books, and letters.

 

 

The center house was Ghandhi’s house.  He and his wife, Kasturba Gandhi dwelled here.  At some point he pledged celibacy, so he and his wife had seperate rooms that were side by side.  There is also a kitchen, guestroom, and garden in the Ghandhi house.

There was also a memorial building dedicated to showcasing Ghandhi’s life and accomplishments, and also hardships.  We read a lot of very interesting information.  I knew almost nothing about Ghandhi before, but now I have a much better understanding of his importance in India and around the world.  We really enjoyed our time at Sabarmati Ashram.

 

Ghandhi Blinked:)

Afterwards our driver stopped at a Jain Temple.  I have been fascinated with the Jainism religion since I first heard about it in college.  Jainists do not believe in violence toward any living creature.  They do not believe in killing anything, not even spiders or parasites.  They go to great lengths to make sure they do not accidently kill anything.  The serious Janists wear masks to ensure that they do not breathe in and therefore kill micro organisms.  They also sweep the ground in front of them as they walk to prevent stepping on an innocent bug.  Jainism barely exists outside of India.  http://www.jainnet.com/intro.html   I have also been told that they only eat fruits and vegetables that are grown above the ground.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We were not allowed to enter the temple, but we did get to stand outside on the steps and take some pictures.  The girls out front asked us to take a picture of them.  Since they didn’t speak English it took me a few minutes to figure out what they wanted.  I thought they were telling me to put my camera up.   They were pleased to see their picture in the lcd screen and then walked away.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

While driving through Ahmedabad, we stopped at a red light once and a little girl and boy came up to the window begging.  There was no one else around, so I thought it would be safe to hand a bag of chips out the window.  The little boy snatched them up and skipped off while turning around bragging to his sister I assume.  She just grinned and followed him. 

This is the little girl just before she saw the American’s pull up to the stop light:)

And at another stop a pack of girls came up and started knocking on the window.  I wasn’t in the mood to deal with it, so I decided to take their picture instead.  Suddenly they turned into little performers and no longer cared about begging and just wanted to ham it up for the camera.  I don’t even think they were hungry.  They looked just fine.

 

 

 

 

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 I think the people with money probably have nicely decorated apartments or condos, because I really haven’t seen any areas that have nice houses like what we see in America.  The so called nice houses in most of the places we have been are just 4 concrete walls with a roof, door, window, gas, and water lines.  The majority of the homes are more like tents, or wooden shacks with a curtain for a door.   I think that there is a middle class in India.  I had read that there really wasn’t one, but I see people walking around everywhere that look like they are in a lot better shape than the homeless, but they certainly don’t look rich. 

 

 

 

You can find nice shops for western clothing in almost any city, but we are not interested in that of course.  You can find nice stores for jewelry, electronics, and about anything else.  The stores just don’t look like anything special on the outside, and they are right in the middle of all of the poor images.  So basically nothing looks fancy or nice when driving down the street.  But you can find nice places to shop for about anything.  The people here can buy most of the modern conveniences we have at home.  It’s just that they live side by side with thousands and thousands of people that can barely afford to eat and live on the streets.

We stopped to take in a view of the Sabarmati River in Ahmedabad.  It was so dirty!  I took a picture of where trash is being directly dumped into the river.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

While driving through town we took a lot of pictures of the people.  One thing that we have noticed through all of India is how men interact with one another and how women interact with one another.  From boys to men, they all are very touchy feely with one another.  Men will walk down the street with their arms around one another all of the time, and we’ve seen them hold hands quite a few times as well.  I believe these sightings have been of father and son.  I read in a culture book that men will hold hands to bond.  There is no sexual meaning to it whatsoever!  Women also hold hands, even more so than the men.  Unlike in America, you just don’t see men and women showing affection towards one another in public.  The women always look very happy, but with each other.  I think back to my days in elementary when I held hands with my best friends.  Only here, they interact the same way as adults! 

Daniel and I held hands once while walking down the street and I noticed everyone’s eyes slowly make their way to our hands.  People really noticed this!  Also, once at a mall we were waiting outside for our driver.  I was so sick this day, so I laid my head on his lap while we were sitting.  People, even young people, would stare and look at us like we were doing something very “wrong.”  A few girls giggled.  We felt odd, so I quit laying my head on him.  We would not dare sneak a peck kiss in public or walk with our hands around each other’s waste!  I remember when in Tuscany how I thought everyone there was so showy with their public displays of affection.  People make out on the streets in Italy in a way that would make an American blush.  It’s just interesting how the rules change from continent to continent.

Below are more random pictures taken of Ahmedabad.  We drove down a street that was set up like a farmer’s market, so there are several pictures of men and women with their daily produce on display to buy.

The picture below is one of my favorites, because we saw right into one of the houses.  A family in their living room in the moment…

The picture below is of an “on the street barber.”  We see these in every city, everywhere. 

And here are just a few more random Ahmedabad pictures:

 

August 19th and 20th

August 22, 2009

After arriving at the new hotel, we were not feeling so well, so for the next couple of days we did nothing but rest and recover.  There is not much to blog about for August 19th and 20th and no pictures to share.  We really weren’t as ill by this point, but we were tired, and really needed a couple of days to just sleep, eat, drink, and rest. 

Fortunately I had packed an entire suitcase of canned soups and foods, ramen noodles, macaroni, pinto beans, cheez-its, almonds, etc., along with packets of mix to put in bottled water to make gatorate, fruit punch, and other drinks.  Some good ol’ American food really hit the spot and helped us to get better much faster! 

We can buy aquafina bottled water here, so we used that for cooking our foods along with drinking and brushing teeth.  We have to pay attention to the bottles, because we have been told by an American Indian couple that lots of places refill the bottles with tap water and resell them.  We saw this represented in the movie Slumdog Millionaire.  The little kids used super glue to make the bottle caps feel new.  The Indian couple, Sumita and Chandran told us that they have more advanced ways of resealing the bottles now that can’t be detected.  Also, the bottled water labels say to crush the bottles when through to prevent the bottles from being refilled.  So, we can’t be sure, but the water we’ve been getting tastes really good, and we haven’t gotten sick again.

 We packed a portable stove stop for the trip, which has proved to be very necessary!  It’s not that we can’t find food, we are just tired of Indian food and are really enjoying our own supplies.  There is a Dominos Pizza and Subway in town.  But since eating fresh produce isn’t advisable, we aren’t eating at the subway.  The Dominos is really good though.

There is a vegetarian restaurant at our hotel, but because of the strange Indian spices, I really don’t like the food.  It’s a shame that I am in a country that is mostly vegetarian, but I still can’t eat the food because I just don’t like it:(  Daniel also doesn’t like the food here.  The spices are just really weird to our tongues.  Even a bag of tomato flavored potato chips tasted really weird to me.

I want to talk about Chandran and Sumita.  They are the Indian couple we met here.  They have a 10 year old daughter with them, and her name is Kamita.  Kamita was born in American and has no Indian accent whatsoever.  Chandran and Sumita are American citizens but both were born and raised here in India.  They speak great English, since they have lived there for over ten years.  They were married by arrangement.

We had dinner one evening with them and when I found out their marriage was arranged I asked a lot of questions.  They were shy about it at first, but then they opened up and told us everything.  It was very, very interesting.  If you are interested, you can read about it.

In their culture they put great emphasis on the horoscope.  When a man is ready to be married his parents immediately have his horoscope read and it is a very in depth reading covering all aspects of life.  The signs, the days, and all sorts of things play in to who he would be a good match for and who he wouldn’t.  Once they have the reading, the parents and family pass his information out to the people they know around town and in other Indian towns.  The same thing is going on with the women by their parents.  Slowly, prospects begin to come back for both women and men.  The intended bride or groom can look over all of the pre approved matches and decide who they would and would not like to meet.  Let me go back… Beyond horoscope, once a match is found the parents get a very in depth background check to make sure that the social status, upbringing, religion, etc. are all appropriate. 

Chandran had been living in the United States since 2001.  In 2007 he made a trip back to India to allow his family to find him a bride.  He had a list of preferences for his parents to consider.  These preferences can include looks, jobs, and pretty much anything.  Chandran did not want a physician as a wife and that was one of his preferences.

At the same time Sumita’s family was trying to get her a husband.  She was only 20 and was upset about it.  She was working on her medical degree in India and did not want to be married.

Chandran’s father found Sumita in the search and told him that this would be the girl for him to marry.  The horoscope and matching was absolutely perfect!  Chandran was not happy because she was going to be a physician. 

A meeting was arranged.  On the day of the meeting Sumita decided she would escape the cafe and avoid the meeting.  On her way out Chandran and his father came up the steps and saw her.  She was so angry that they arrived an hour early!  To hear them tell the story is very funny.  When Chandran saw her his opinion on the matter changed a little.  She is a very pretty woman afterall!

She didn’t have an answer for what made her change her mind and accept the marriage, but I don’t know that she had a lot of choice in the matter.  There was a lot of pressure, and she probably liked Chandran.  He was also a very successful business man with citizenship in America.  Some of her close family already lived in America, so the move did not upset her.  She did get her medical degree and is a specializing physician living in Florida with Chandran and their daughter Kamita.  They are a really nice family.  They are completely Americanized and feel the same way about the dirt and trash in India as we do.  They really don’t like it here at all now!  They just wanted to show their daughter India, and of  course they come back to visit their families.

They seem to be very happily married.  There was a lot of other tiny interesting things mentioned that I can’t remember.  To hear them tell the story is much more interesting than me typing it.

August 18th

August 21, 2009

On the 18th we checked out of our hotel in Delhi.  At this point I was still feeling really bad, but Daniel was okay.  We left our hotel at 5:00 a.m. and went to the Delhi airport to fly to a different region of India.  We flew to Ahemdabad, which was about a two hour flight.  Once we arrived in Ahemdabad we hired a cab to get us to the small village town that we would be using as a home base for the next week.  From here we will take small day trips to small towns and villages.

 Notice the little boy taking his bath in the middle of  town.

Unfortunately, on the hour and a half drive from the airport, Daniel came down with the same sickness I had had for the past 24 hours.  I believe that since he wasn’t far behind me, we must have gotten it from the Lodi hotel in Delhi.  We’ll never know fur sure, but our symptons were almost the exact same.  When we checked into our hotel I was not thrilled, but for this town there really isn’t anything nicer.  It’s a big enough room with good air conditioning, it’s just that their idea of clean is a lot different than the American idea of clean.  I was feeling better than Daniel at this point since I was past the first 24 hours of the sickness.  I knew that if I were to stay here for the next week that I’d need to sanitize a few things.

Daniel was feeling so ill, so I told him I was going to the market by myself to get some cleaning supplies.  I went to the front desk and requested a tuktuk.  These are little yellow and green buggie cabs that are open air.  They cost about 20 to 30 rupees to get from the hotel to anywhere in town.  I got in the tuktuk all by myself and we were off to the store.  I felt so big and brave, because in this town there are no tourists!  I was an odd ball for sure, and everyone stared, but I didn’t really care.  I got out of the tuktuk to go into the grocery store, and yes it was a real store with walls, roofs, and doors.  They wouldn’t let me take my purse in.  No one can take their purse in, so you have to give them your purse to put in a shelf outside, and they give you a ticket in place.  Yikes!  So I got my billfold out and put my passports and money in it.  Then the lady started pointing at my billfold and going on about something, and then the security guard came up and did the same.  I think they didn’t want me to take it in either, but how was I to pay???  So I just walked around them and went in and they left me alone.

Once in the store, it was much like a store at home.  The only difference is that when I am at home every single person in the store doesn’t stop what they’re doing to watch me.  It was awkward and hillarious at the same time.  I was thinking after a minute or two of this that this must be what it feels like for famous people back home.  I was just trying to pick out some lysol and everyone seemed to think that was an interesting thing.  People would turn around, stop, point, talk to each other and point, grin, and even giggle.  Yes I wasn’t dressed like them, but surely they know about westerners right? 

I paid, got my purse, and hopped back in the tuktuk with my lysol bleach, scrubby brush, and laundry detergent in hand.  It was about a 5 minute ride back to the hotel and on the way another tuktuk full of younger men noticed me in the back of mine.  They slowed down to get beside us and were all talking and looking.  Then my driver said something and laughed and pointed back at me. I think that because I am in such a small town that they don’t see too many if any white people.  Speaking of skin color, I was just talking to Daniel about how we have not seen one single black person since we arrived in India.  We’ve been all over and not seen one!!!!!  I understand that the locals are all pretty much Indian here unlike the mix of people in America.  I am surprised that I wouldn’t have seen at least one black tourist at the taj mahal or lotus temple though.  Anyway, it’s not important…just an observation.

I safely arrived back at the hotel and felt really liberated for my big adventure out by myself:)  It was time to clean!  I had a burst of energy after being sick, so I cleaned and scrubbed the room down for about two hours before I crashed.  By crash I mean lost all of my energy and returned to the same state of sickness as before I went to the store.

Since this was a traveling day, and we were sick the only pictures I have from this day were taken of the scenery we saw while driving.

 The place with the blue paint is someone’s house most likely.

Community living.  A village within a town.

I wonder what she was thinking?

Tending to the herd?

He and I had something in common.  We were both trying to figure one another out:)

 It’s a colorful home.

It doesn’t look that fun really:(

August 17th – Day 2 in Delhi

August 20, 2009

We woke up for day two in Delhi and hired the same driver as the day before.  He picked us up in the same nice suv, and we headed to the Lotus Temple, a.k.a. Bahai House of Worship.  It was beautiful of course.  When we arrived we saw that everyone was taking their shoes off before climbing the steps to the temple.  We regretted not having socks, but took our shoes off and walked barefoot with the masses.  Most people there were Indians.  We saw a few western people, but most people were either locals or Indian tourists.  If you think about how dirty Delhi is, it is just a gross thought to walk barefoot where everyone else is walking barefoot.  But it was a clean place, so we survived:) 

Once we got into the temple we had a seat to take in the atmosphere.  We were told not to talk and not to use our camera.  We sat there for a few minutes and were satisfied with our experience and got up to walk out.  They have services every 3 hours, and just as we were trying to walk out the noon service had started.  The guard made us sit right back down, so we were trapped!  We listened to a pleasingly short Baha’i service and then were allowed to exit.

When we got to the bottom of the steps and were putting our shoes back on, Daniel was convinced that Alan Thicke just walked by.  I saw the guy he was talking about from the side, and it really looked like him!  So, we sat on the bench and waited until he exited the temple.  I was going to take a snapshot hoping not to be noticed.  Daniel is a dork and the guy was totally not Alan Thicke!!!!  Okay, I guess that makes us both dorks:)  LOL

While we were sitting on the bench waiting a group of indians probably in their twenties or thirties were staring at us with smiles.  They pointed and one guy got out his camera.  When he noticed me looking at them he asked if he could take our picture.  He didn’t ask in English, but he pointed to his camera and said “please.”  Daniel and I smiled and said cheese.  It is so neat to have complete strangers ask to take your picture.  I’m still not sure why they wanted it.  Maybe it was the way we were dressed, maybe just because we were white, maybe we had toilet paper hanging from our pants??? 

Here is some copy and pasted information about the Lotus Temple:
Located in south Delhi, it is lotus shaped and has rightly been given the name. It is made of marble, cement, dolomite and sand. It is open to all faiths and is an ideal place for meditation and obtaining peace and tranquility. It is a very recent architectural marvel of the Bahai faith. The Bahá’í Faith is the youngest of the world’s independent religions. Its founder, Bahá’u’lláh (1817-1892), is regarded by Bahá’ís as the most recent in the line of Messengers of God that stretches back beyond recorded time and that includes Abraham, Moses, Buddha, Zoroaster, Christ and Muhammad. The central theme of Bahá’u’lláh’s message is that humanity is one single race and that the day has come for its unification in one global society. God, Bahá’u’lláh said, has set in motion historical forces that are breaking down traditional barriers of race, class, creed, and nation and that will, in time, give birth to a universal civilization. The principal challenge facing the peoples of the earth is to accept the fact of their oneness and to assist the processes of unification.  http://www.bahaindia.org/temple/bahapur.html

We were done at the lotus temple and done stalking Alan Thicke, so it was time to go to the next site.  At the driver’s suggestion we went to the Qutub Complex.  The center attraction is the Qutub Minar, which is a really tall stone tower in the center of the complex.  If you are interested, here is a copy and pasted description of the tower:

Qutub-ud-din Aibak laid the foundation for Qutub Minar in 1199 AD and his successor and son-in-law Shamsu’d-Din- Iitutmish completed the structure by adding three more stories. Standing at 72.5 meters, it is the highest stone tower in India. Its base diameter is 14.3 meters and its top diameter is 2.7 meters. It has 379 steps leading to its top story. The lower three stories are made using red sand stone and the top two with marble and sand stone. There are various stories being told about the reason the Qutub minar was built. Some say that it was constructed as tower of victory to declare the might of Islam. Some others have the view that it might have been used as a tower for defense. There are numerous Arabic inscriptions on the tower telling the history of Qutub.


Other structures in the Qutub complex include:

Tomb of Iitutmish, which was constructed in 1235 AD. The tomb is made up of red sandstone and it describes the Arabic architectural patterns.

Alai Minar, which stands north to Qutub Minar was constructed by Alaud-Din-Khalji with an intention to make it twice the size of Qutub. But he could complete only one storey and the work was abandoned after his death. Alai Minar is 25meters in height.

Quwwat-ul-Islam, a mosque constructed by Qutub-ud-din in 1198 also stands in the Qutub complex.

A famous Iron Pillar, which was erected in the 4th Century AD, is located in the courtyard of Quwwat-ul-Islam. It raises to a height of 7 meters and weighs more than 6 tons. The Sanskrit inscriptions on the pillar tells that it is erected as a flagstaff in honour of hindu god Vishnu and the memory of Chandra Gupta. It is made up of 98% wrought iron and it stood the test of time of more than 1600 years with our rust or decomposition. This proclaims the metallurgical excellence of ancient India.

There are many other installations like madrassas, graves, tombs, mosques in the vicinity of Qutub Minar. Interestingly Qutub Minar is the most visited tourist spot in Delhi.

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Okay now back to our experience!  While we were walking around and taking pictures an Indian family passed us.  They stopped and started digging for their camera and said something that got our attention.  They pointed to their little girl and then to me and then to their camera.  The wanted to take a picture of me with their little girl!  How flattering:)  I still don’t know why exactly, but I was happy to take the picture.  If you want to see it, it will be the only picture on this post of me with a little Indian girl.

After we were done at the complex we walked back to the car and asked the driver to take us the the citiwalk mall.  I was starting to feel very weak and dizzy at times.  The citiwalk mall is huge and indoors, so I thought the air conditioning would help.  I couldn’t get through the pizza I ordered before knowing I just had to go back to the hotel.  We called it an early day and returned to the hotel at around 4:00 p.m. 

It wasn’t more than a few hours later that the monster attacked in full force!!!  Daniel was perfectly fine at this point.  I just felt like nothing was right with me and sort of zombied out for the rest of the night…when I wasn’t awakened by the angry Indian germ monster that is! I had pains in my stomach that I’ve never felt before!

Here is a random picture taken while driving in Delhi on the 17th…

Here are pictures of my two Indian outfits…

August 16th – Day One in Delhi

August 19, 2009

We woke up early in the morning to check out of the crummy hotel. We moved to a beautiful 5 star hotel called hotel lalit. 

We called the concierge to hire a driver for the day and they quoted us a really high price.  I found an 8 hour driver in the yellow pages for only $20 US.  I requested a clean car, and he arrived in a spotless SUV!  We were going to cruise Delhi in style:)

First our driver stopped at the India Gate.  The India Gate is an important monument of the city.  It is a memorial built in commemoration of more than 80,000 Indian soldiers who were killed during World War I.  The monument is 42 meters high and was designed by the famous architect Edwin Lutyens.

DSC01334 - Copy copy

Next we headed to the Lotus Temple, a.k.a. Bahai House of Worship. Our guidebook said it was closed on Mondays only, and the 16th was a Sunday.  I wasn’t really surprised when we arrived and they told us that they changed the closed days to Sundays only.  Oh well, we’d just see it the next day.

At this point I wasn’t sure where to tell the driver to go.  Our internet was down that morning, so I didn’t get to search for a good itinerary.  We looked in our guidebook and found a good outdoor market to visit.  It is called the INA market. 

The Indian National Army Market is Situated in the South Delhi area.  This lively bazaar has all of the findings of a traditional market but also sells imported foods such as cheese, pasta, and exotic varieties of seafood.  The stalls are crammed together under a ramshackle roof.  You can find readymade garments, jewelry, handbags, souvenirs, and even live chickens.  The INA Market is a unique experience, since it is a one-of-its-kind store in Delhi. The great thing is that you have to pay 20 rupees to get in, which keeps the peddlers and beggars that are just outside the gates from coming in.

The shop keepers are pushy kind of like when shopping in Mexico.  They are trying hard to make a sale, but they don’t chase you out of their tent!  I knew from reading that they start out with a price around 4 times higher than what they will take.  Daniel loves to negotiate, and I have always hated it.  However, we switched roles on this day.  I was the one wanting to shop, and I knew if I was to afford to do it I would have to take on the “When in Rome” attitude.  Daniel was so proud of me!  He could not believe how good I was doing, and he said I was a tiger:)  I really was on a roll.  They played hard ball with me because I was an American.  I was always polite, but stern.  I walked away from a few stores only to be called back in later with the right price.  It was fun.  I bought things to accessorize my Indian clothing, including shoes, bangles, purse, and a few other pieces of cheap jewelry.  I also got a couple of gifts.

Again it is monsoon in India now, so it rained a lot while we were at the market, but usually in 15 minute increments.  Everyone would rush to stand under a tent to wait the rain out.  The tents would suddenly drop buckets of water when it got to heavy, and I was only 2 feet away from being drenched while walking once.  It was so close that people laughed.  I just love being laughed at while in India.  It happens a lot!

When we were exiting the market to get into our cab a dirty little boy pointed at Daniel’s 20 ounce Coke bottle that was half empty and hot.  We were done with it so Daniel handed it to the little boy and he gulped the whole thing down in a few seconds.  I don’t know if it was because he was that thirsty or because he knew he had limited time before others saw and stole it from him.

We were finished with the market, and I decided I needed a second Indian outfit.  The first one I bought was more simple, and after seeing the salwar kameez at the Indian wedding I wanted a prettier one!  That is what most women where in India.  A Salwar Kameez is a 3 piece outfit that includes pants, tunic, and scarf.  You do see a lot of women in sarees too.  The funny thing about salwar kammes pants and the men’s pants too is that they are gigantic in the waste.  Even though they fit the suits to you, they leave the waste xxxxxlarge and you are just suppose to use the drawstring to make them fit you. We thought the first ones were made wrong, but later it was confirmed that they are suppose to be that way. 

So we had the driver take us to another fabric shop, and I picked out a beautiful fabric to make a dressier salwar kameez.  They delivered it to my room the next afternoon.  While at this shop Daniel bought a fancy turban to top off his Indian outfit.  It looks a bit rich to actually wear around in India.  His clothing is too royal to get away with on the streets, but it will make a grand Halloween costume!!!

While driving around in Delhi we observed the city from the car.  I don’t know if it’s any worse than the rest of India, but I felt that it was.  It definately seemed to stink worse.  Just like everywhere else, the streets were lined with homeless people.  And I think that since Delhi is a big city and it is harder to find a thicket or grassy area to sneak off and pee or poop in that the streets are more filled with human waste.  I swear I was walking in sewer.  Of course I was careful to keep clean, but we don’t walk around in our hotel rooms with our shoes on!  Delhi is also suppose to be a more dangerous for women to be alone. I never felt in danger while there, but I was always with Daniel and the driver. 

 

After shopping it was time for dinner.  It would be our very first dinner out since leaving America. Up to this point we ate hotel room service to save time, and squeezed in a couple of McDonalds stops.  Our driver took us to a really exotic and pretty restaurant called Lodi.  You can see in the pictures that it was raining, which made it perfect since the pathway and grounds were all made to be like the rainforest.  We sat outside in a screened in patio surrounded by rainforest type plants with the sound of rain.  It was really great!  The food was absolutely perfect.  Daniel had a steak.  Yes, he finally found a place that served cow.  Oh wait, you people like to call it beef right?  LOL.  I had pesto and chilled tomato soup with red bell peppers.  It was so good!  I asked for some ice for my coke.  I thought surely at a nice restaurant like this they would have filtered water.  I don’t know if it was the ice or something in the food, or just something else that I got into earlier in the day, but the next day I came down with the worst condition.  I will wait until the next blog to get into that!

I couldn’t eat even half of my meal because my stomach has gotten used to being empty, but I did get full.  We had the driver take us back to our hotel, and we crashed.

One of the pictures above is a blurry and not of good quality, but there is a lot going on.  It is a picture of the typical under the bridge or street scene in Delhi.  Notice the clothes hanging to dry, the men sleeping, the tent, etc.

August 11th and 12th – First two days in India

August 19, 2009
We got off to a rocky start. It all started with an unexpected thunderstorm at xna that made the power at the airport go off and on. Our plane was delayed, but because of the layover in Atlanta we should have made our connecting flight to Mumbai. But…for whatever reason once we landed in Atlanta we sat on the plane while we watched the clock tick away and our plane fly away:(

 On the Plane

We were now in Atlanta with no way across the ocean. The worst part was knowing that the domestic Indian flights were also going to be leaving without us, our hotel that we paid for would be useless, etc. etc. One mishap in a well planned trip can throw everything off. So, it was time to get tough with Delta. They tried to tell me to stay the night in Atlanta, but I prevailed and was off to Dubai and then to Mumbai only arriving three hours later than orignally scheduled. This allowed us to catch our first domestic flight in Mumbai.

 

Now let’s talk about a 15 hour flight. Never Again! Ouch, my back and shoulders still hurt. No leg room for 8 hours is uncomfortable but 15 hours was torture. I ended up crawling in the floor, and yes this was a first. I was just skinny enough to wedge myself under the seats and hide. The man who shared our section of three seating isle was more than obliged to not step on me when he was awake. However, the dude behind me kept putting his feet on me. I didn’t get this desperate until about 10 hours into the flight. Daniel was dying so me getting in the floor gave him two seats to use. At the end of the flight I was spotted by a flight attendant. She didn’t really seem to care but did feel obligated to tell me I was not supposed to sleep in the floor…so I got up:)

 

The layover in Mumbai was after 13 hours of flying. We were only there for a couple of hours, but I could tell I was somewhere far away. The airport was nice, but eerie with the mosque sounds and music filling the air. Also, we immediately noticed that lots and lots of people were wearing masks for swine flu.
They are just saying no to swine flu!

They are just saying no to swine flu!

After another 2 or 3 hours we landed in Mumbai, India. But not before the flight attendants abruptly made an announcement that we only half heard, something about if you think the fumes will hurt you cover your mouth. Then the aircraft was filled with a misty fog of something. I think they sprayed us with pesticide, but whatever it was it was for swine flu they said. At this point we are really starting to think. But then the real kicker was when we got off the plane in Vadodara. It seemed that everyone but us had their mask:( I wanted mine, but couldn’t seem to find a vendor. I’m still looking! Anyway, the mystery was solved when we got our hands on the local newspaper. Apprently Mumbai and Vadodara (the first two stops of our day) were having big swine flu problems.
Very quickly let me go back to our arrival to India… We made it but our luggage did not. We were not alone. Two Indian families who missed the same connection and were re routed to Dubai as we were also didn’t get their luggage. The one Indian customer got into a big arguement with the Indian worker at mishandled baggage, and it was very dramatic. I was trying not to cry because I was mourning the loss of my well planned and packed and prepared luggage, and I was sleepy, and these men were getting really intense. We still don’t have our luggage but are keeping the airlines informed of our travel itinerary and are in hopes that it will arrive. Tomorrow we are going to have to buy some Indian clothes. We bought toothpast and other toiletries to get us through. They gave us a whopping $90 to help us out.

 

We hired a driver today and we were really just in complete culture shock. Just sitting in the car and observing was so much fun, and sad at times, but definately eye opening. Hindus consider cows sacred so nobody hurts them. They are on every street and parking lot and roam around freely as they please. One really interesting thing is that you will be driving down the road and pass a bus, and then pass a camel. You’ll see decent sized houses side by side the tent shacks. Both worlds of India seem to exist side by side. You can’t see the prosperous parts without going through the poor.

Daniel fell into the first child sympathy trap today. I could go into more detail about this, but for so many reasons handing children money in town is a very bad idea.

 

I was a very bad girl at the airport in Mumbai. I actually had the nerve to follow my husband into the security line. I was very quickly scolded and told to leave the men’s line. OOPS, I didn’t know there were two!!! I had to go with the ladies and meet up with Daniel on the other side. And then later on Daniel did the same thing on accident and was quickly ran off. LOL

 

While I like the people so far, they are also very pushy! Nobody takes time to let anyone else get up out of their seats on the planes, they beep their horns every second on the road. That’s all you hear! And honestly, I thought we were going to be in a few wrecks. They know what they are doing though, and we didn’t see any accidents. An American driving themselves in that would be a gonner fast!

 

Now we are in Jaipur and will be for a few days or so. Our hotel room is so nice and really hit the spot after nearly 48 hours with no bed or shower! We are staying at the Golden Tulip. I do believe I will be getting a massage tomorrow before heading out tour.

 

I’m off to bed. Daniel passed out an hour ago.

Hello world!

August 19, 2009

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