Tuesday, September 30, 2008

India: Final Installment

Thursday (09-11-08)

I woke up with a bad sore throat/cold and ready to go home. I changed my ticket, but the only day they had was tonight. AC was mad and so I ended up getting another ticket to leave on Sunday night. I will spare you the rest of the details. We stayed in at Praneet & Himani’s all day. AC called the driver to pick him up for golf at 5:30 am, but he said that was too early so they settled on 6 am.

Friday (09-12-08)

The driver showed up at 7:30 and made AC late for golf with his uncle. I wrote out my postcards and when AC got home we went shopping. We went to Select City Walk. This was a nice mall and just like the malls here except it was larger. After shopping we went to Noida where AC’s Uncle and family live. We all had dinner and hung out talking (everyone spoke English). We didn’t get home until 12:30 am.

Saturday (09-13-08)

We got up and packed our stuff because it make more sense to stay the night at Cha-Cha’s. AC’s cousin met us at Praneet’s house and we went to a mall in Noida. Lots of little kids wanting money outside the mall. I bought a couple pair of jeans and pants. We were done shopping and picked up our stuff at Praneet’s, said goodbye to Himani and Anoushka. It was so nice to see them and spend time with them. We got to Cha-Cha’s house around 6 and slowly people started showing up to see us. Since it was my last night, they made dinner and asked a bunch of relatives to stop by. Again, it was hard with the language barrier, but it was my last night.

A scary situation took place on Saturday evening, luckily we learned about it on the news. At 6:07 pm a bomb went off in the Karol Bagh market that we had visited. At 6:34 another bomb went off somewhere else, again at 6:35, at 6:37 & 6:38 bombs went off in the GK shopping area that we went to. There were bombs at India Gate (we were there), a movie theatre, and in central park, thankfully these 3 were defused and did not cause any harm. All of these locations are in the capital of India, New Delhi. This was the 4th terrorist attack in 6 months. I had never heard of any attacks there until this one. 23 people lost their lives and 110 more were injured. It is scary to think that we were in so many of those locations.
Sunday (09-14-08)

I got up at noon and mom insisted that I get a massage. The massage was quite different than in the US. Anytime I have had one here, the woman makes sure you are covered up at all times and wants you to feel comfortable and not hanging out there. This was different. I laid on my stomach in only my underwear and no sheet, I also had to lay on my back with the same situation. It was just different. After the massage I went to get money to give her a tip, but mom stopped me and wanted to know how much I was giving. I had 150 rupees, which is only $3.49 USD and she said I could only give 100 rupees. If I had been thinking I would have taken the money in with me and given it in private, whatever as long as I could give something. After a shower we went to the sweet shop to get some stuff to bring back. I wanted to take some sweets to work. After we got back from the store mom helped me pack my suitcases. We had to get everything in them and not over weight. Bitu drove me to the airport and Dad & AC came also. I checked my bags and then went back to wave by.

My flight was on Continental Airlines from Delhi to Newark New Jersey 14 hours and then onto Detroit for 2 more hours. The flights were not bad at all. Of course I could have been strapped to a donkey and that wouldn't have been bad either since I was going home. I got home at 10 am and my cats were happy to see me. They really didn’t leave me all day, just followed me around. There is no place like home.

I forgot to mention in these posts that often I would see a woman dressed in a beautiful sari and riding side saddle on the back of a motorcycle. I also would see a Dad with 3 little children on a motorcycle, the littlest in front.
When AC got back I was quick to look at his photos and it looks like he visited the most beautiful place after I had gone home. These are some of his photos:

He also got some great monkey shots:

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Happy Birthday!

Today is AC's 34th Birthday! We are going to the Michigan football game today. AC's parents along with his 2 brothers will all be there. GO BLUE!!

More India stuff coming later. I am glad that I kept a journal while I was there. I mostly want to get my memories typed out so that I have them forever. Glad to hear that you are enjoying my trip:)

Friday, September 26, 2008

Taj Mahal

Tuesday (09-09-08)

I woke up feeling awful with heartburn and stomach issues. I stayed in bed until 1 pm. It seems like every other day there is something wrong. I have been having blurry vision and can’t read mail on my BlackBerry. Do I need glasses? WTH is going on?

We decide that we are going to go to a mall for something to do. AC’s cousin is going to drive us. Then everyone is speaking in Hindi and I am asking what they are saying. AC says they are talking about whether I want to eat at the mall or not and which place is better. 10 people having a conversation about my plans and nobody asks me if I want to eat there. I just got up and went back to the neighbors. I am getting sick of the language barrier and all of the family being involved in my decision making. We only wanted to go to the mall for something to do. We made it to the mall and just walked around for a while, didn’t buy anything.

Wednesday (09-10-08)

We woke up early (5:45 am) today to head to Agra to see the Taj Mahal. We stopped along the way so that the driver (Bitu) could get tea. AC told me to look outside my window and there way a man with 2 pet monkeys on leashes. I rolled my window down to take some pictures. The guy would tell the monkey in English to sleep and the monkey would lay down. He would shake a drum and tell the other monkey to jump. I reached my hand out to give the guy money, which is what he wants for showing the monkeys off, and the monkey came and took it from my hand. It was cool since I have never seen pet monkeys.

Then the next thing I know we are off the main road and Bitu is taking us to a temple he went to as a child. Yes it was something to see, but we are supposed to get to the Taj Mahal before it gets hot! The temple was a Hari Krishna temple and there were all different people there, even white people. I was not allowed to take my camera or cell phone into the temple, so no photos from inside. The area outside the temple was a little rough, really old people begging us for money.
Sights along the way... Finally 1 hour + we are back on the main road to the Taj. We get to Agra and Bitu wants to eat, so he takes us to an obvious touristy restaurant. I say touristy because I was not the only white person in the place. There were 4 tourists from the UK there and another one came in later. It’s the small stuff. All of the places we go to with Bitu, he goes into a separate room or downstairs and eats with the other drivers for less money. Even hotels have accommodations especially for drivers. I took Dramamine, the motion sickness medicine and am doing ok in the car. I am wondering if that is giving me the blurry vision.

After lunch we begin our walk to the Taj Mahal. We walk to a park entrance and there are all kinds of people selling small replicas of the Taj, key chains, and rides to the entrance. The people were talking to us and I just said no and did not look at them. I have noticed that if I look at the people it is very hard to not sympathize with them. The government in India says not to give people on the streets money because it perpetuates the situation. Children are choosing to beg on the streets and turn to drugs rather than going to school. I did not give money to anyone on the streets. I was also afraid that if I did there would be 100 people swarming me for money. It is hard not to give the children money. The people would also hound Bitu, thinking he could tell us where to spend our money. Below are two guys bugging Bitu...
We did pay for a horse & rickshaw to take us to the entrance. The price for Indian residence is around $1 and the price for tourists is $20. AC couldn’t get in for the resident price either. There is security and you must pass through in order to enter. The ladies line was short and fast, then men’s line was long and slow. This building is to the left of the Taj.

A bit closer:

Now we are able to see the Taj, but have to walk to be able to tour it. We had to take our shoes off and pay for someone to watch them or put covers on our shoes. We did the covers. At this point it was very hot and I was getting overheated. The Taj Mahal is huge and beautiful.

Unfortunately is was too hot to hang out there for a while. There were photographers everywhere wanting to take your picture and sell you the photos. We had these taken:

We left Agra and were going to Masi's neighbors to pick up our suitcases and then going onto Praneet's house. Himani had plans, since we told her we wouldn't be back until the weekend. So, we had to get to her house before she left in order to get in.

We finally get to Masi's neighbors house and she has went for a walk and locked the doors. We walked to Masi's house and called her. She was just around the corner so we ran down there and threw our bags into the car. AC's cousin was "helping" and instead of unlocking the car with the key, like the driver told him to do, he used the key fab. The key fab does not work properly, so the car alarm was going off and the car would not start for 10 minutes. I thought I was going to lose my mind. We finally get onto the road and decide that we are not going to make it to Himani in time, so she drops the key off with her mother-in-law. Of course we have difficultly finding the house and end up getting to their house at 9 pm. Now we have to hurry and get ready for Sonum (AC's cousin) other reception that the groom's parents were having. It was 45 minutes away.

The reception was outside and huge. This was the fruit bar:

Bride & Groom

Mom, Me, Masi

Now it is getting late and I have a sore throat, maybe from being in the car all day? As I am walking to the car I see this: An itty bitty mouse drinking out of a container of water. Instead of giving everyone plastic bottles of water they hand out water in these containers, a little bigger than an applesauce.

We get to Praneet and Himani's house and discover that she has accidentally put the chain lock on. Oops, now we have to call her to let us in. This was a long day.