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.
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:
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.