Friday, February 29, 2008

Emily's Visit Continued

We arrived in Jaipur on the 20 February by bus, and after dropping our stuff at Arya Niwas we went to the Anokhi showroom which has a really yummy cafe. You can actually get salad there which is not super scary. The next day we went to City Palace, Hawa Mahal (the Palace of Winds), and the Jantar Mantar (a astronomical observatory built in the 18th century). Unfortunately, everything in Jaipur seems to be under renovation which was a bit disappointing for Em. For that reason we also decided not to go up to the two forts north of Jaipur because they were also under renovation.

The next day we caught a train to Sawai Madhopur, which is about two hours southeast of Jaipur to go the Ranthambore Tiger sanctuary/national park. It was a really nice chair car that was only half full...only a few Indians and a handful of foreign tourists. We arrived around 3 pm and the manager of the hotel asked if we wanted to go into the park and see the fort and the temple that is located there. Though we were planning on going on safari the next day, we decided that seeing the fort and temple might be nice too. We had a great driver/guide that took us around and on our way back we got word that there had been a tiger sighting. The driver said "I go you mind if I go fast to see the tiger." We said that we didn't mind and we went flying down the mountain in an open air jeep. I am glad that he did go fast because we were able to see a real honest to God TIGER...a pretty good size male... right on the border of the park. The safari the next day was a little disappointing after the wonderful afternoon we spent at the fort and we didn't end up seeing much and our guide was less than helpful.

Leaving Ranthambore turned out to be a little bit more of an adventure, including a swindling porter who demanded Rs. 500 for WHEELING our luggage to the train car. We had bought two berths in a three tier sleeper, but when we boarded the train we found out that our berths were inaccessible because people were still sleeping. To be able to sit comfortably the upper berths are folded up to create essentially benches on which three people can sit. Though a sketchy Israeli man offered Emily and I a seat with him, we decided it was best to forgo the offer. So Emily and I climbed up to one of the upper berths and slouched there uncomfortably for about three hours until we reached Bharatpur. It was harder on Em since she is taller than me but even so I hate getting up and down from upper berths.

Unfortunately, Emily got a stomach bug in Bharatpur. Her stomach had been feeling "funny" but she really felt like crap once we had arrived. We are still unsure of what it was but it was something gradual...she didn't have the severe/sudden symptoms of food poisoning or E. coli, etc. Perhaps she had eaten something a little off but my hunch is that her body was just adjusting to India. Ian and I have definitely been there. So we laid low for a couple of days after going to the doctor for an Indian antibiotic cocktail. Em saw a little bit of the bird sanctuary and made one quick trip into the city to do some shopping. Luckily, she felt better for the trip to the Deeg Water Palace and Mathura and had made almost a full recovery for the trip to Agra.

The first day in Agra we went to see Itmad-Ud-Daulah's Tomb, which is sometimes called the "Baby Taj" It has beautiful inlay work and a really pretty garden. The next day we went to see the real Taj at sunrise. I didn't really make the rounds of the Taj because I was freezing, so I found a patch of sunlight to bask in while Emily and Ian went into the monument proper. After that we went to the Agra Fort, which is one of Ian and my favorite Mughal forts. Then we took in some shopping, went to McDonald's, and went to a new Bollywood movie about the Mughal emperor Akbar. It was neat to see the way they depicted the Agra fort after just having been there. The cinematography was also beautiful, though the really Persianate language was a bit difficult for even Ian to understand.

Yesterday we returned to Delhi, had a nice dinner, and saw Emily off to the airport. I can't believe how quickly these last thirteen days went. It was great to have Emily here and to show her around. India is a hard place to really wrap your head around until you've been here, and even then it sometimes is too weird and surreal for someone who has spent some time here to understand, so it is nice that Emily can relate a little bit to what we do. I thought that it might make me more homesick but it actually helped to relieve some of it. Now Ian and I have to get back to work...we will be heading back to Bharatpur today and next week I have to meet with the director of the park to get permission to continue my work in the park. Though I don't think he will refuse to give me permission it still makes me a little nervous.

On a good note, it is getting warmer and I have been able to retire my long underwear though at night I still wear my flannel PJ's. In a couple weeks it should be hot, which I am very much looking forward to. :)

Monday, February 18, 2008

Emily Comes to Visit

My friend Emily Cloyd has arrived from DC to spend two weeks with Ian and I in India. Of course I was unlucky enough to get sick right before she arrived and wasn't able to pick her up from the airport. Fortunately, Ian was able to go and use his tall blondness to get her attention. I am feeling a little bit fever anymore, just a very snotty, stuffy nose. We have been very busy since Emily got here..the first day we took her to Lodi Gardens and did some shopping at Kahn Market, which is a nice market in south Delhi. Selfishly, we took her to an Italian restaurant that we love since we have been Indian food-ed out. Yesterday, we did a quick trip to old Delhi and visited the Jama Masjid (a mosque that was built in the 16th or 17th century). We then took her to a Jain temple and a Sikh temple (gurudwara) before lunch at a famous kabab restaurant called Karim. Needless to say, Emily was completely overwhelmed by the crowded streets and crazy traffic so we opted for a more relaxing afteroon at Humayun's tomb. Emily enjoyed the gardens though we could have done without the screaming school boys..."HELLO!! HELLO!!! HELLO!!!!!!" We finished the day at our friend Nidhi's parents' house. Nidhi is in the same department as Emily at ESF and she lived next door to Ian and I when we stayed at the Plaza. Her parents were very welcoming, making our favorite Indian dishes. Today, we are off to the old fort and some handicraft places. Tomorrow, we head to Jaipur for a VERY quick tour of the Pink City.

Thursday, February 7, 2008

In Bharatpur, drinking lots of chai

The last couple of weeks here in Bharatpur have been simulatenously busy and uneventful. Our apartment is slowly getting settled. Last week we experienced some unfortunate plumbing problems...We were woken up twice last week at four o'clock in the morning to the sights sounds and sights of water rushing down our bathroom wall. Fortunately, in India, houses are made out of concrete and stone so the water damage was kept to a minimum but it still made a mess. The first time it was because the carpenter sunk a nail into the water pipe and the second time the upstair tank where the water is stored overflowed. But now, all is well. Our water is working without a hitch. Now we are just waiting for our gas connection in the kitchen so we can get that up and running, so we can make ourselves breakfast and lunch.

During the day, Ian and I "do our research" which sounds much more complicated than it really is. He goes to a library that is located in the old part of the city and speaks to people there about history and folklore. I walk to Keoladeo National Park and try to speak with people about tourism. So far, I have hit it off with some rickshaw pullers (a rickshaw is a three wheeled mode of transportation which a man rides like a bicycle while you sit on the seat in back). Both of us, in our attempts to be friendly, get served lots of chai, Indian style tea that has ginger, milk and A LOT of sugar. One cup is good, two cups is okay, but these days we are averaging 8 to 10 cups a day (albeit the cups are small by American standards). So far, I have not been able to find a way to effectively say no.

Some days feel productive but there are other days that feel like nothing has gotten done. I have also reached the limits of my Hindi, and though everyone has been nice about it, I get very frustrated. People say that in language learning you often hit plateaus where you don't learn anything new or have a great deal of trouble followed by a "breakthrough" during which you pick up new things and reach new levels of competence. I am waiting for my breakthrough. :)

At night, Ian and I play cards, read, or work on other projects (like my quilt top) when we aren't invited over to people's houses. We have found that many people want us to visit, so much so that we have to be careful not to overschedule ourselves. I guess that is one down side of two people doing their work at once.

The weather here is slowly changing. Last week it was really cold, but this week the afternoons have been boarding on warm thought the mornings are still a bit nippy. People are telling us that by the end of February, the weather will be warm. I can't wait...I am sick of the cold. As many of you know, I can't stand being cold and in the US I often turn the heat up to 73 and curl up under a blanet to get warm. However, in our concrete and marble home there is no indoor heating so it is always cold, so I never feel like a ever get truly warm. I hope the weather in the States is also warming up and that there aren't too many late winter storms.

I'll write again after Emily's visit to let everyone know of our adventures with her...