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Category: trips (Page 2 of 8)

End of the chapter

Our last full day in India we spent seeing some of the incredible sites around Hyderabad. As a wrap up to my posts about the trip I wanted to share some of my favorite pictures from that day.

Charminar:

It’s kind of Hyderabad’s Taj Mahal. Really beautiful. Our host told us it was built to commemorate some king’s wife. However, Google tells me it was built in thanks to Allah for a plague ending… So maybe they’re both right?

Golkanda Fort

Really fascinating. This fort had so much history. It was also rather sad because there was graffiti all over the place. There was obviously very little respect for preserving the history that was there. It was still so interesting to walk around in though. It was huge!

Our whole group.

Silly fun.

It was also incredibly hot and there were like 10,000 stairs. I only exaggerate slightly. Coke never tasted so good.

Getting to the top was worth the hot climb though. The view was beautiful.

The whole trip was absolutely a dream come true. It was everything I wanted it to be and more. Very rarely does a trip live up to your expectations, especially when those expectations have been building for 12 years. This trip was exactly what I wanted and what I didn’t know I needed. I became a stronger, braver person. I learned so much about myself and my eyes were opened to a whole new aspect of my world. I will never view things the same way.

I will never forget the sites, smells, tastes and noise of India. More than that though I will never forget the way it made me feel. India has a very special place in my heart. I can’t wait to go back someday.

Crawling creatures

We were really lucky as far as creepy crawlers were concerned. I don’t remember seeing a spider or snake the entire time I was there. Our time certainly wasn’t without some critters though.

The absolute worst were the mosquitoes. Oh my freaking god the mosquitoes. They were awful. What was worse was our contact didn’t quite understand our need for mosquito nets. We had deet but that only lasts so long. Or Indian mosquitoes are immune to deet. Or a combination of both. Anyway, they made me occasionally lose my mind just a little.

What? It kept the bugs away from my face instead of me constantly swatting them away like an insane person.

One thing that became my best friend while I was there was their bug zapper.

I enjoy killing mosquitoes way too much for a normal/sane person.

Mosquitoes weren’t the only visitors in our house though. One day I was sitting on the floor eating dinner when a mouse scampered across the floor. Now, I’m not terrified of mice or anything but it was under the fridge and right next to the kitchen so I figured they’d want to do something about it. I mentioned it to them and their response was:

Them- “Was it a big one?”

Me -“Well, no.”

Them- “Oh ok, that’s fine then”

Me- (thinking) okaaaay….

So yeah, mouse in the house? Totally normal. Apparently. As long as it wasn’t big, no problem. Awesome.

And lastly, this picture I took specifically for my twitter bff Mandy. Mandy, I couldn’t see one of these little buddies and not think of you. This guy was just above my bed. You’re welcome. Love, Me.

Indian VIPs Part 2

One of the strangest things about being in India was a sort of instant celebrity status. I’m not sure if it was having such light skin in a place where almost no westerners travel. We spent very little time in touristy areas. That combined with India’s obsession with light skin (It’s actually kind of sad. So many girls asked how they could get skin that looked like mine. They have such smooth, tan, beautiful skin that most Americans lie in tanning beds for ages trying to get. Why can’t we be happy with what we have? That’s a whole different post though.) we were quite the oddity.

This led to much waving and staring. We would sit on the balcony and talk while children across the street would watch us and wave. When we’d wave back they’d giggle and get so excited. I kind of felt like a monkey in a zoo. The entire time we were there they never got tired of waving at us.

Later we got a note from this girl saying how much she’d like to meet us and asking us to fill out a question book with our autographs.

We later went over to the note writer’s house for tea.

They were so happy to meet us. The way the little girl acted when she met me was kind of how I acted when I met Robin Williams. It was so strange to make someone that happy just by meeting them.

Another time a whole group of kids came to ask for our autographs and for us to answer questions like our favorite colors, food, musicians etc.

When we went to speak to a group of youth they all wanted our autographs as well. Here’s a video of me signing their hands with my name.

It was neat that one of the kids grabbed the camera from me so we got this clip of both of us with the youth.

When we were out seeing the sights in and around Hyderabad we had more of a celebrity type of experience. We were constantly being stopped and asked to have our pictures taken with different people.

Even the police wanted pictures with us. Not that we would have felt comfortable saying no.

I mean, look at those guns.

It was actually hard to see things because every few seconds someone would stop us for a picture. I can understand now how celebrities get body guards and deny taking photos with people. It’s kind of exhausting.

But I’m not going to lie, all that attention? I kind of loved it.

Indian VIPs part 1

Besides fulfilling my lifelong dream of traveling there, the main reason we went to India was to meet our contact. We got along very well because he’s a big dreamer as well as us, perhaps even more if that’s possible. The sheer amount that needs to be done can be completely overwhelming. There’s just so much need. He has a lot of big ideas and I think with lots of help from both the connections he has in India and the states we can actually start to make a difference.

One major thing that will help is his cousin. You know, the one we stayed with. While we were there they had a big political meeting. After much yelling and shouting and clapping we were invited upstairs and were surprised to be invited to sit down with the leaders.

Then we watched as our host was appointed as (from what I understood) a sort of state representative.

Then we were even included in part of the ceremony.

Receiving a dot and being fed a sweet was part of the ceremony. Very fascinating to be able to be a part of.

We then had pictures taken with the whole big group.

This picture ended up in the paper in a report about the election. Or rather in 7 or 8 papers. Then the next day several papers called and interviewed M about why we were there and ran a story just about us in just as many papers.

As a result the chief of police wanted to have a meeting with us.

We also got a tour of the station. During the tour one of the officers made sure to emphasize that they no longer beat or torment their prisoners. Um, that’s good to know. Very modern of them.

I’m not sure whether it was because of the article in the paper or just because of our light skin but we became very popular later in the trip. Like, celebrity popular. But those stories can wait until my next post. *smile*

Our Indian family

From my experience, Indians are some of the most welcoming people I have ever met. Our host family immediately embraced us and by the end I felt like I had become an extended relative. They were wonderful.

Joel and I with our contact, A and his cousin M. M is a politician but I’ll write more on that later.

The house we stayed in was M’s with his wife, mother and three kids.

The kids adored us despite what it may seem like by the look on the littlest one’s face in this picture.

One other semi- member of the family?

Aws! Ok, so it was a stray that had decided to make their front yard it’s home. Joel about killed me for picking it up but it was so freaking adorable! As far as I can tell I did not catch rabies, fleas or lice from it so yay.

The kids, Joel and I had a ton of silly fun.

My phone was fascinating to them. I guess that’s pretty much a universal thing.

One of their favorite things was playing hand clap games. They taught me a couple in their language. Don’t ask me to repeat them back now, I don’t remember. They were fun though.

Their mom braiding their very long beautiful hair for school.

I loved being their “Auntie” and treasure all the happy moments I got to share with them. Our flight out was early in the morning so I figured I had to say my goodbyes the night before. We were scheduled to leave the house at 5am and I was surprised that everyone was waking up while we were. But every one of them got up, showered, got dressed and piled into a tiny five-seater car. For the record it was Joel, Me and the wife with a child each on our lap. Then M, A and one of the pastors we met with in the front. In case you weren’t counting that’s NINE people in a car the size of a Geo Metro. I was afraid that little car wasn’t going to make it. It definitely bottomed out more than once. We did though and they parked and went as far into the airport with us as they could.

We were very lucky to have met them. I’m so glad that I now have an Indian family waiting for me whenever we get to go back. I hope it’s soon.

Games and songs

If you missed yesterday’s post you should definitely check it out for more pictures and stories about the village we visited. Today Joel finally put together a short video of the actual activities I did with the kids. Like I said, I didn’t really have a plan when we got there because I wasn’t aware we were going to be in charge of doing an actual program. I knew we were going to spend some time with them but no one informed us of exactly how until we were in front of them. Then it was basically:

A – “Hey, I’m going to leave now. You’re in charge

Us – “Uuuuummm….

I ended up just picking random songs and games to teach them. Next time I’ll definitely have several activities planned out for them to do instead of just winging it, if for no other reason than the stress of feeling put on the spot was less than fun.

However, once I got in a groove I had all kinds of fun…

I think the kids did too.

Playing chicken and a camel

I mentioned in my post about what I learned in India that driving around is like one massive game of chicken. It’s really, really crazy. It’s like nothing I’ve ever seen before. Technically there are rules, but I think they’re more generally understood than hard and fast rules like we have in the US. For example, honking your horn means “I’m trying to pass you, get out of the way” and flashing your lights mean “We’re coming straight at each other and I am not going to be the one to get out of the way.”

Even traffic lights can have several different meanings. And if there’s not someone there to catch you? Red lights are basically optional.

I was ever amazed at all the skill the drivers had zipping in and out of traffic and squeezing an impossible amount of cars into the tiniest of spaces. Things didn’t always go so well though.

Ho.ly. crap.

India has over 1 billion people. It’s well on it’s way to surpassing China in population. However, the land mass of India compared to China is far smaller. That means there are people jam packed everywhere. Nothing makes this more evident than transportation.

This gives you an idea, although this was one of the more open streets I saw.

As you can imagine it made for some interesting rides, especially since they don’t believe in seat belts. Ever.

Notice the tense energy behind our smiles. And the fact we were holding on for dear life.

My favorite way to get around was by rickshaw. Or Auto.

It had the best natural “air conditioning” and I felt more a part of the city when I was in them.

I loved watching everything zoom past.

It was also fun because no two looked exactly alike. Every driver put their own personality into the artwork on the back.

The very best part of them though? Seeing how many people they could squeeze inside.

They’re built for four. HA!

I’m fairly sure there’s always room for just one more.

This philosophy applies to the buses too. Notice the people riding on top? That’s because the inside was full. Obviously being full is not a reason not to ride.

One way many get around that I didn’t get to experience was by motorcycle. In India, riding on a motorcycle is a family affair.

The tiniest kids got to “drive” the motorcycles. I saw babies that I’m sure weren’t old enough to walk driving them. Crazy scary. For me to observe anyway. It was normal to them.

Oh, and no traffic post would be complete without a picture of my favorite vehicle I saw while I was there.

Camels are the new Lexus.

A tale of three beds

There is so, so much to post about my trip to India that I feel overwhelmed. I have over 3,200 pictures. I’m not really sure where to start so I figured I’d start with the basics and go from there.

One thing about this trip was it was it was very authentic. We lived with and exactly like an Indian family. We ate the food (more on that later), drank the water, wore the clothes and slept on the beds floor just like they did.

The family we stayed with was amazing. They were some of the nicest friendliest people I’ve ever met. They welcomed us with open arms and by the time we left I felt like part of the family. The kids even called me Auntie which never failed to make me smile. One thing that was fairly tough for me though was the sleeping arrangements. See, they were in the process of moving into a brand new home and hadn’t gotten all any furniture yet. We sat on either lawn chairs or the floor and the first day we were there we slept like this:

Yup, that is a marble floor. Yes, those blankets are very, very thin. Thankfully we brought those little blow up neck pillows. That and our jackets made for decent pillows.

The next day our bed was upgraded.

Pillows! Woot!

But still the marble. Now, the whole family, kids, parents and grandma all slept like this. I honestly don’t know how they did night after night because it hurt. Moving hurt, lying still hurt. Just ouch. But we dealt with it, it’s not like we wanted them to think we thought we were better than them somehow because we couldn’t sleep like they did. But did I mention that it hurt? After awhile I found the cushiest parts of my body and figured out how to position them under me so it was more tolerable. Or there were times I’d curl myself onto the pillow and try to make that work out. Rolling off of it hurt more than just lying still though so it wasn’t really a permanent solution.

So this was our sleeping arrangement for three nights. Then, wonder of wonders we got a bed.

Or should I say a bed frame. It was glorious. I never realized how much more comfortable wood was than marble. Trust me, after three nights on marble, wood felt like a cloud.

We thought that was the end of it. It was definitely bearable and the bruises that had formed along our sides started to fade. Then, after two days on the frame they brought in an honest to goodness mattress.

You can see from the ridiculous look on my face how insanely happy I was to lie on it. I think my exact words were “Aaaaaaaaahhhhhhhhh

more pictures and stories to come…

There is a reason they call it a world wonder

When I found out that we were for sure going to India and that we were going to arrive four days before the “team”* I knew we had to make a visit to the Taj Mahal happen. I have a thing for world wonders. They just recently officially named the new 7 world wonders. The Taj Mahal of course being one of them. For the record, I have now seen 3 out of 7. Not too shabby, huh?

Anyway, where the mission part of our trip was in relation to the Taj Mahal is the equivalent of a foreigner planning a trip to Florida but making sure they take a trip up to see the Statue of Liberty before they leave. Not exactly close, or easy to get to. We arrived in Mumbai (Bombay) and took a plane up to Delhi. For some reason the entire trip over I slept like someone had spiked my ginger ale with roofies. It was actually kind of bizarre. Once we got to the hotel at 11am we decided to take a nap and ended up waking up the next morning. I’m not even kidding. Thankfully we’d already arranged a car to take us the 4-5 hours from Delhi to Agra.

Yes, you read that right. It was a 4 hour taxi ride. One way. In crazy India traffic with their bumpy roads. Thankfully the cab had air conditioning because it was quite warm.

We knew we were getting close because we kept seeing signs for it. And then I gasped. There she was…

Our first glance. Surreal.

It was every bit as spectacular as I’d imagined it would be.

Oh hello gorgeous.

We took about 500 pictures. I won’t bore you with all of them. Needless to say, I was blown away.

We hired Raj as our tour guide. He peppered us with all kinds of fun facts, some of which may have been true and others I know were just made up. He made them sound good anyway. I’m so glad we hired him though because he was able to take a bunch of picture of both Joel and I together.

He said a million times, the Taj is the symbol of love. Aws.

Waving to Raj.

Actually touching the Taj Mahal. A big dream come true and a moment I will never, ever forget.

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*the “team” being one other person (the founder of the non-profit group we went with) who ended up not getting his visa in time and not coming at all leaving Joel and I basically on our own. In India. Yeah. More on that later.

Things I learned in India

My trip to India was amazing. Some parts were fantastic. Some parts were really, really hard. We both had at least one melt down. India and it’s culture is so vastly different from any culture I’ve ever been in. In some ways that was incredible and exciting and fun. In other ways it was just confusing and frustrating.

The best part was how much it caused me to grow. I learned so much about myself, Joel, God and others. I realized how strong I really am. Obviously there’s no way to sum up my trip up in one post. I don’t think I thoroughly could in 15 posts. I’ll do my best to keep it to as few as possible.

For today, I’ll share with you a list of a few things I learned while I was in India:

1. I really can do or eat anything. No really. Anything.

2. Wood is actually comfortable to sleep on after sleeping on marble for 3 days.

3. When you can smell yourself, you know it’s really bad.

4. Taken enough days in a row Pepto Bismol turns your tongue the most disgusting blackish brown color. But it prevents other, um, problems so it’s worth dealing with. But seriously, ew.

5. Indian clothes are the most comfortable things ever. I’m going to do my best to bring them into style here. You can thank me later.

6. A little blow up neck pillow is a lifesaver.

7. There are different levels of dirty clothes. What seemed too dirty a couple days into the trip seemed acceptable by the end.

8. There are different levels of “civilized”.

9. Being happy and content really is a choice. I can choose to have a good time and enjoy the moment even when things are really hard.

10. The national bird of India is a peacock. When you see a city street with all the women dressed in saris you understand why. Gorgeous.

11. Eating in the dirtiest places is scary but God really does protect me and neither Joel nor I got sick from the food. Trust me, we really should have.

12. Driving in India is like a massive game of chicken. Lanes mean next to nothing, three cars can fit where you’d think only one could, and the biggest car almost always wins.

13. When an Indian tells you “it’s not spicy” it will probably still make your nose run and your eyes water.

14. When an Indian says a time that can mean an hour before, two hours after or anywhere in between.

15. I get unreasonably happy every time I kill a mosquito.

16. How to eat, drink, dress and use a squatty potty like an Indian. Yes, they eat (with their hand) and drink differently (their lips never touch the cup and they swallow with their mouth open). Basically everything is different.

17. An ice cold shower feels wonderful when it’s hot and nothing feels as good as being clean.

Stay tuned for pictures tomorrow. I will sort and start posting them if it kills me.

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