We are having so much fun gallivanting around India!
Backtrack: my cousin Andy, the dermatologist from New Mexico, has flown out to Hyderabad to hang out with me and learn about leprosy from the experts. In the US leprosy is super rare (obviously) and is generally only contracted by people who spend alot of time working with Armadillos. Who knew?
Anyways, Andy spent the first week with me at SRH. And let the record show that he slept in Guest House 1 in the 107 degree heat, on a coconut mat, like a CHAMP.
Now in his second week in India, we are having a great adventure traveling around North India in what they call the “Tourist Triangle.” At Jann and Darryl’s recommendation, we are working with a travel agency who has sent up a series of excellent adventures for us. So far we’ve been to Delhi where we stayed in a fabulous hotel (I slept in a BED and took a SHOWER and it was AMAZING!) and toured around the capital.
While we were out driving in Delhi there was an elephant in the road, walking right along next to us. The elephant’s owners decorate their trunks with chalk mandalas. I was so excited. I wish my morning commute was on the back of an elephant.
We saw the second largest Islamic mosque (second to Hagia Sofia) with the relics of the prophet Mohammed in it, which was cool. And we visited a big tower that was constructed by some king in 1191 to show how awesome he was (yeah like THATS never been done before.) We also visited a Sihk temple, where I made some flat bread with a sihk woman and talked learned about “ritualistic cleansing.” Consquently, I washed my feet at both the sihk temple and the mosque, so they even though they are dusty and gross I’m ritually clean?
Next we drove several hours to Agra to see the Taj Mahal. Turns out, I’m not much of a fan of Agra. Our tour guide was telling us that over a century ago some law was passed? (decreed?) that the area is not allowed to industrialize because the air pollution would tarnish the white marble of the Taj Mahal. So.. imagine pre-indutrial revolution India, but in 2009. That’s Agra. There are beggars and slums down around Hyderabad, but this is a whole next level up. The tour guide was also telling us that because this is an international tourist destination there is alot more “pimping” of beggar children with very clear “territories.” It all makes me very sad. The Taj Mahal is absolutely worth the hype, it is truly magnificent. But after we saw it, I was ready to get right out of Agra.
In other news, I “charmed” a cobra today with an old guy on the side of the road (from a reasonable distance–who knows if these snakes are de-venomed?) and saw a whole ton of monkeys running around. The babies were hanging on the mothers and they were running around all over this temple we went to go see. Apparently the monkeys are a huge problem for people because using their opposable thumbs those little sneaks can open doors, refrigerators, cabinets and steal food (and make a huge mess).
We went to Amber palace here in Rajastan, and it has been my favorite of the palaces. The palace is next to a fort on the side of a small mountain. The entrance is up a long sloped walkway, and I rode a small elephant to the top. It was great fun!
Jaipur is just gorgeous, certainly my favorite of the places we’ve visited. After Amber palace we went to a museum and saw alot of weapons and different forms of carpet weaving and textile making, then we saw a palace in the middle of a lake, had lunch, then we went to this giant observatory. The king who founded Jaipur was a big time astrologer and made all these huge instruments out of marble and sandstone in the middle of a garden in order to map out the sky. Among these instruments are the world’s largest sundial which is accurate to two seconds, huge structures that measure all the zodiac constellations and these huge iron plates with tiny holes in the middle that are used to align stars. The people in Jaipur are crazy about the whole zodiac sence. One’s horoscope is usually the deciding factor in arranging a marriage. Apparently if two people really seem to like one another and the families agree to the marriage, but the zodiacs dont match, its a no-go. Saisree has been trying to defend the whole concept of arranged marriage to me, but it just doesn’t work with my western sensibilities. I’m sure Scott will be relieved.
We also rode some camels this afternoon. It was fun, but I guess I never considered mounting and dismounting a camel. When I climbed on, the camel was kneeling. But in order to stand up, it does so one enormous leg at a time. So the saddle tips waay back, and then swings waaay the other way, and then kind of levels out. I almost fell off.
We are having such a wonderful time, but it feels strange. I miss the children back “home” in Hyderabad. Its been so wonderful to introduce Andy to everyone at SRH and have this great adventure with him, but it is making me homesick for the rest of my family. I wish they were all here too. I can’t believe its been 5 months, but I also can’t believe its only been 5 months.