Study Abroad in
According to its website, the University of Hyderabad has over 5,000 students and 400 faculty on its 2,300-acre campus. Another common name for UoH is Hyderabad Central University, or HCU (‘Central’ means [federal, as opposed to state] government initiated and funded). The University grants Masters and Doctorate degrees. Students here have already attained the equivalent of a Bachelors degree at a college (three years) and are completing their fourth and fifth years. This degree plan is why courses here are comparable with our courses back home.
Unlike many places in Hyderabad, the campus is situated in natural area—dense forest containing massive rock formations, two lakes, walking paths, peacocks, cows, dogs, birds, fuzzy caterpillars, monkeys, and wild mushrooms. It’s a sharp contrast from the streets just outside the gates, which are noisy, crowded, and polluted with automobile exhaust (though much more vibrant and exhilarating).
The buildings on campus are sparse, and it takes a while to get from one end to the other. There also isn’t a central location on campus (imagine the brochure cover of any college in the US), which is something I had been searching for before coming here. This is also why a Google search returns so few images of the University of Hyderabad campus. Instead, the campus has many popular spots—the student canteen, the shopping complex, the library courtyard—where students spend time between classes.
I’m studying here through a program called Council on International Educational Exchange (CIEE) and its office is located in the Study in India Program (SIP) building. This building, like many others on campus, has an open courtyard with plants right in the middle—which means it also has no roof. The weather is so nice here that doors and windows are always open, even when it rains. The CIEE staff are a great resource and we have a great group of thirteen studying through the program this semester.
- An except from F13 student Jennie's blog at http://hellotherehyderabad.tumblr.com/
One of the most exciting parts of studying abroad is discovering the elasticity of identity. In an exercise designed to play with that concept, we found that our group is a whole lot more than a list of schools and majors. I present the fall 2013 batch in all of their brilliant and quirky glory:
Jennie, textile weaver; Rhia, a capella singer; Romi, ultimate frisbee player; Michael, woodworker; Selena, ukulele player; Kate, writer and listener; Lizzie, silver jewelry maker; Shannon, mallet percussionist; Marielle, musician and country mouse; Leah, actress; Shweta, dancer; Ellen, humanitarian scientist and future Radiolab contributor; Max, cyclist and bike mechanic
At CIEE Hyderabad we spend a lot of time educating our predominantly female group about how to stay safe as a woman in India. For us that means cultivating feelings of strength, not fear, and what better way to do that than to spend a day in the presence of Shakti (the divine force of feminine strength in Hinduism). To start the day, we woke early on a Sunday morning and piled into a bus to Sri Peddama Temple to witness Bonalu, a folk festival celebrated in Telangana where devotees bring decorated pots of rice and animals (primarily goats and chickens) to sacrifice for Maha Kali, Goddess of Power.
After the temple visit we came back to campus for a Q&A about all the sights and sounds they had experienced that day, followed by a roundtable discussion with local feminist activists about how to be a strong woman in the Indian context. After this meeting five students decided to volunteer for a new local NGO, Sankalp for Women, who helps provide safe pathways for victims of sexual violence to report theirs crimes and receive justice.
“I am here for one of the most exciting moments in its history! The day after the announcement, campus was full of celebrations and large groups of students went from building to building cheering, banging drums, and throwing hot pink powder, the color of the Telangana movement. Without taking sides on an issue that I know far too little about, I am interested to watch the makings of a new state."
-An excerpt from current student Rhiannon Bell's blog at: http://urtravelogues.wordpress.com/author/rhiannoninindia/)
Many of our students come to India because of their fascination with development, and how the world’s largest democracy manages to maintain peace in the face of so much diversity and transition. Since CIEE Hyderabad’s inception in 2001, our students have had the privilege of watching the Indian democratic process in motion in the form of the Telangana movement. A little background: The state of Andhra Pradesh was established in 1956, and encompassed three regions: Telangana (where Hyderabad is situated), Rayala Seema, and Andhra. For the 56 years that followed, a largely nonviolent grass roots movement of Telangana natives organized strikes, protests, political parties, and even self-sacrifice to convince the central government to separate Telangana from the rest of AP. On July 30th their dream was realized when Congress voted to make Telangana India’s 29th state, and by being in Hyderabad at this time our students get to be part of forming the collective memory of this historic event.
Note: As a final goodbye present to me from India, I spent the last three hours writing this blog post, only to have it all deleted when I went to publish it when the internet went out. Seriously?
I just saw the sunset over my last full day in India. The sky was starting to turn dark blue, but just above the horizon, there was an orange, purple, and pink layer. The sunset looks like that in Colorado over the mountains, but in Illinois? Not so much. I've never seen sunsets like the ones in India before.
My flight leaves Hyderabad in 24 hours and 15 minutes, and I'm hitching a ride to the airport with Jess, Emma, and Elizabeth because they are leaving for Delhi, or maybe Kerala, tomorrow around the same time. I'm really glad I will have other people with me. I've always liked being around other people, and I'm especially glad Jess will be there. We can eat my last meal in India together. Today, we went to the Ista Hotel to get massages, and they were amazing. That was an amazing way to end my 5 months here. After the massage, we went to Prasads to see the new Hindi movie Rockstar, but it was sold out by the time we went there. We ate our traditional McDonald's movie lunch anyway, and then came back, tried to go to the Safrani School (the weavers) but they were closed. So I came to Tagore, and was exhausted. I took a nap for an hour, and now it's almost dinner time.
At least, on our failed afternoon excursions, I got to see many of the places I'd spent my time in Hyderabad from the open sides of the rickshaw, or through the window of the shared autos we took. I looked out at the Muslim women covered in black from head to toe, the men with the little caps (what are those called?) and white kurtas. The Hindu (or at least not traditional Muslim) women in saris. The women in nicer saris were getting out of cabs, or their personal cars. The women in cotton, functional saris were sitting on my lap in the shared auto. The families on the motorcycles, babies sleeping on their moms, even as they dangle precariously close to the pavement. I saw the dirt along the sides of the road, the trash burning, the goats, cows, and stray dogs. The men pulled over, peeing on the wall around someone's property, probably right below the painted notice not to urinate there. I saw the brightly painted, ornately carved temples scattered randomly through the city, as though everything else had been built around them. I saw the fruit vendors with flies buzzing around, the (probably) lower-caste women sweeping the streets (there was a study a while ago that found that even though Untouchability has been abolished, in many areas in India, street sweeping crews are made up entirely of the members of castes who were former Untouchables). I saw the fancy car dealers and international department stores with the huge nets over the windows to keep protesters with rocks away.
What happened to my days here? What have I done in India? I'm mostly confused that it's ending. I've been leading an entirely different life here. I don't have the extracurriculars, the meetings, the amount of reading for class, the sports (except cricket) or my friends from home. In being here, I learned a lot about India, myself, and the people around me. So I think the easiest way to order my thoughts is to make a list of the things I’ve learned, and some things I’ve done in India.
1. I learned yoga. This has helped to give me some flexibility (finally), and also to calm me down. I know this is something I will keep with me for the rest of my life, and I am so happy to have learned the basics in India, the home of it. Anyone who has learned yoga in the US thinks of yoga as increasing flexibility, maybe finding a calm center. But in learning it here, I got to learn some of the theory. The idea that the asanas are simply preparation for the pranayama (breathing/meditation) is something I will definitely keep with me. Additionally, learning about the founders of yoga and its many forms has been a really interesting addition to the actual practice of it.
2. I learned patience and flexibility not of the physical variety. India is so full of small challenges. Everything from not being able to speak to the people around you, to being pushed around in line at the ATM, to 100 Air India pilots going on sick leave without prior notice the week before I left India on an Air India flight, to spending hours at the FRRO to obtain a tiny stamp on the back of a piece of paper that will allow me to leave the country, to going to the tailor and discovering that your clothes which have been there for 17 days have not been touched. Being able to understand when people are late, classes are canceled with no prior notice, exams and class rescheduled for the weekends we had planned travel – all of these things are frustrating, but once I figured out that none of them are the end of the world, my life got a lot better in India. It helps that I have few obligations outside of class – if someone was late, it’s not like that made me late for the six things I had later that day. But still, I am proud of myself, and all of us, for adjusting to the much more laid back, much less timely lifestyle that people generally lead in India.
3. I learned about the kindness of strangers. The man who explained to Jess and I how to take the MMTS commuter train to Necklace Road from Lingampally, the woman who walked my parents across the street in Medhipatnam and helped us negotiate a rickshaw, all because she saw me turn down a picture, and was proud of me. The man with his daughter in a tie-dye shirt who gave me his business card at Domino’s in case I needed any help with anything in Hyderabad. The Australian man who paid for part of Jess and my Subway purchase at the airport in Gujarat that doesn’t have an ATM and doesn’t take credit cards. All of these people, and many more, have been integral parts of the Indian experience. Often, they appear out of nowhere in moments of great need, and then seem to disappear just as quickly. I hope they know how much I appreciate their help. These are the people I will remember when I look back and think of how there are so many good people still in the world. And though we might not even be able to speak to each other, they were willing to drop everything to help.
4. Getting mail is the best thing ever. This has always been the case (I LOVE MAIL), so thank you so much to Mom, Kristen, Morgan, Perin, and the SESP Student Affairs Office for sending me packages and letters in India.
5. I went parasailing in Goa.
6. I learned how important food is. This has a couple of different angles. The first is that roughly 50% of Indians live at or below the poverty line. The one established many, many years ago (I think it was the 60s or 70s) had the line at 50 paise per day in rural areas, and 75 in urban areas. One paise is 1/100 of a Rupee. It takes 53 Rupees to make a dollar. The line hasn’t moved much, to my knowledge. This means that people are living off pennies a day. And India is the most populous country in the world. That makes a lot of people. It’s interesting, though, how invisible poverty can be, even when it’s right in front of our faces. It becomes a part of the fabric of life here, and it’s unheard of to go somewhere without encountering several people asking for money. So what do you do? Do you give the person a couple Rupees? Then when 14 people see you do that, do you give each of them a couple? Where does it end? It’s difficult to make a good decision here, because a couple Rupees to someone living with none is a good thing, but giving one person some money also doesn’t solve the problem. Tell that to someone grabbing your elbow, your bag, or whatever else they can reach, looking at you with sad eyes. The other side of the food thing is what my friend Ronil would call “first world problems.” Namely, I don’t particularly like Indian food. This isn’t in all-inclusive statement. But for the most part, eating in India is not an enjoyable activity for me. It is the act of putting nutrients (just enough to function) into my body. I cannot express how excited I am for a very long list of American foods, including, but certainly not limited to Kraft macaroni and cheese, anything my mother or grandmother cooks/bakes, steak, and salad. I haven’t eaten a salad, I don’t think, in 5 months. And I miss it so much. Perin has been sending me recipes of things we could make when I visit, and even the ones that have sweet potatoes (yuck) in them are starting to look really good.
7. Speaking of Perin… I could not have asked for a better boyfriend. He stayed up late when I was homesick, didn’t eat my favorite foods in front of me on Skype, paid attention to me even when he had his first set of med school exams and I was sick, and most of all, he stuck with me even though I spent almost 5 of the 6 months of our relationship in India, ten and a half hours ahead. Also, he may or may not have sent me flowers to welcome me home (although I can’t confirm that until I arrive in Evanston).
8. I have stayed in the nicest hotel I have probably ever been in (Delhi and Hyderabad with Mom and Dad) and also the grossest hotel I have ever been in (Gujarat with Jess). I think it’s safe to say that the college student travel budget does not equal the working adult travel budget in India.
9. Geckos and jumping spiders love to live in shower stalls.
10. Roommates are really important to, well, a happy life. This is something I definitely took for granted freshman and sophomore year, and not getting along with a roommate was new to me, and it was really hard at first. I'm glad we managed to work everything out by the end.
11. I have seen the Taj Mahal at sunrise.
12. I have learned to appreciate the fun little surprises that sometimes happen. Alikiah brought me balloons at my goodbye dinner. I got my exit permit without having to promise my firstborn child to the Indian government. I was better prepared for my final exam in Dalit Politics than I thought. Mom brought me a whole bag of peanut butter chocolate chip cookies. All of these little things add up, and make every single day special, contrary to what the narrator says in the beginning of 500 Days of Summer.
13. I have learned how to be alone. And how to be lonely. See the roommate entry for the reasoning behind this feeling of loneliness, but I missed my friends, family, and Perin too. For the first time, I didn’t fit in right away, and it was very hard for me to find a group who liked me after a month of social isolation when I first got to India. Val, Karen, and especially Jess are some of the best friends I have anywhere in the world now, and I am so happy to have found them. My life took a much more positive turn when I started spending time with people who wanted me around.
14. I have learned that getting into cars with almost complete strangers is sometimes a really good idea. Ishan, Kishan, and Raj in Gujarat were far and away the coolest strangers we met in India. They took us all around Ahmedabad, and we rode our first and only roller coaster in India with them. They also took us to the airport, which was so nice because it was really out of their way. And they looked at us like people, like friends. Not like foreigners.
15. I have had candid conversations with Indian women my age who are in the process of being set up into an arranged marriage. Some of them are happy, some don’t mind, but some (like my peer tutor) are heartbreakingly resistant to the idea. Some people have certainly had love marriages that I’ve talked to, but many, many of them are still arranged. And sometimes I wonder if that is doing more harm than good, especially to the people who don’t want that, or for the people (mostly women) who have to give up their dreams, careers, and education when they marry.
16. I have jumped on and off of both a moving bus and a moving train. This is a lot less exciting and a lot more scary than it sounds, and I definitely wouldn’t recommend doing it.
17. I have yelled at Indian men for taking my picture without permission, and I have said no to those at least polite enough to ask. It’s a small thing, but this made me angrier than anything else. It’s a constant reminder that you don’t belong, it’s intrusive, and it’s especially inappropriate in Indian culture. Men taking pictures of women they don’t know is rude and I hate it. Especially in an around Hyderabad. It made it very difficult to feel at home, even when I was comfortable getting around and doing everything myself in Hyderabad, someone taking my picture was a subtle message that I would never fit in.
18. I have ridden on the back of my Arabic speaking Libyan friend’s motorcycle.
19. I have eaten more Domino’s Pizza in 5 months than most people eat in their whole lives.
20. I have learned to communicate with people when no one speaks the same language. There are 30 languages in India spoken by more than 1 million people each. Gestures, and “Hinglish” go a really long way here, and I have probably had whole conversations with autorickshaw drivers using only the movement of my head, and hand gestures. I’ve learned pretty much no Telugu (I can say “thank you”), but I’ve been able to pick up a LOT of Hindi in my time here. I can understand a lot, and put together relatively acceptable sentences in a conversation, and the Bollywood movies have helped a lot.
21. Speaking of Bollywood movies, I have purchased upwards of 30 in India. It’s going to be really fun to explain that to Customs in the US in a few hours.
22. I have learned a ton about Indian politics and government. The classes I’ve taken, one in particular, has been amazing. My professor was very much about class discussion and debates, and the conversations we had about some of the most controversial issues in India have been an invaluable part of my experience here. Reservations, sex-selection (many more female fetuses are aborted here, and it’s now illegal for doctors to reveal the sex of the baby to the parents before it’s born), language, and Center-State relations, in addition to a great deal of background history has all been a part of my experience here. I feel well-informed, and I am so happy that I was able to learn as much as I did in the classroom here about India. Thank you to Professor Devare for being absolutely incredible.
23. I have learned that the Indian police are the scariest police force on the planet. They carry the largest guns I hope I ever have to see in person. And they leer at you out of the windows of their big, unmarked vehicles. When I needed the phone number for the Gujarat police department for my travel form, Bapuji misunderstood and became really agitated when he thought I was in Indian police custody.
24. I have listened to Northwestern beat Nebraska in football on the radio. In fact, I listened to all the games on the radio whenever I wasn’t traveling. I actually really liked listening – kudos to the WGN guys. They are really entertaining.
25. I have learned that inefficiency and fragmentation short of total self-destruction are pretty much hallmarks of any sort of organization in India.
26. The Norwegian girls in Tagore are the most beautiful people I have ever met, and are also the friendliest. I will miss Harriet, Anne Marte, Marlene, Marielle, Lena, and Miriam so much. Harriet and Anne Marte both cried today when I left for the airport, and they were some of the last to see me off. They’ve all assured me that I have a standing invitation to come visit them in Norway.
27. I hate the Delhi airport. They confiscated my cute little Swiss army knife that I had forgotten to put in my checked bags, but they let me through with not one, not two, not three, but FOUR bottles of various liquids, all over the “ounce limit.” All the signs that say this is the “Number One Airport in the World” are false. And the more I have to stare at them, the angrier I get.
28. I just met two really nice people on my flight from Hyderabad. We chatted the whole two hour flight.
29. I have learned that banging drums loudly in academic building are a really effective way to halt classes. Jai Telangana.
30. Now that I look back on it, pretty much most of the questionable decisions I made were with Jess. Go figure.
31. I saw India play England in Cricket. (Also, what the heck is Kabaddi? And why are all the players on Team India Sikh and Punjabi?)
32. I have learned that power and internet are not necessary for happiness, contrary to popular belief. Although they do make some things a heck of a lot easier.
33. I have been in several Indian states, and seen some of the greatest monuments in India. Goa, Karnataka, Agra, Delhi, Mumbai, Pune, Mahableshwar, Gujarat… I want to come back for Kerala and Amritsar and Kashmir.
I am about to get on the flight from Delhi to Chicago in 2 hours, and I am so excited. I’m sure this list isn’t exhaustive, but for now, I am sleepy, and I am hungry. So I’m going to get some food, and then watch The West Wing.
For what is probably the last time when I am in India, I went to Charminar yesterday with my three favorite people.Karen, Val, Jess, and I took a variety of modes of transportation - buses, shared autos, and private rickshaws, it took about an hour to get there, but we did it pretty inexpensively.
Charminar is one of the monuments protected by the Indian Archeological Survey, and so we had to pay to get in, but we showed our HCU Student IDs and they let us in for the Indian price of 5 Rs. The guy checking tickets didn't believe us when we showed him the tickets, so we all had to get our IDs out again. We went up to the top, and the stairs were strangely reminiscent of the Duomo in Italy. Winding, narrow, and steep, I was really happy to get to the open air at the top.
We took some pictures at the top of Old City below, and also each other :)
I also just noticed we match each other. Good work, team.
There is a cool building on the left that I always confuse with Chowmahalla Palace, and on the right is the second largest Masjid in India. We saw the outside of the biggest one in Delhi when we were there.
Jess and Zoe at the top!
When we got down again, we bought a ton of bangles, some henna, and a henna design book. It was a good adventure. I am really comfortable bargaining at Charminar, especially for bangles, and I feel good about all the ones I bought. I helped Karen out when she tried to buy bangles for a bajillion Rupees. Jess, when she shops, makes friends with everyone she meets, so it takes a long time, but we always have a really good time. Karen wanted a sari, so near the end of our several-hour, exhausting bargaining excursion, she and Val went to a store where we finally found some that she liked. Zoe was getting hungry at this point, and not the good kind of hunger. So Jess and I went to the Cafe Coffee Day and I bought a choco-doughnut. They handed it to me with a fork and knife, which was good, because after a day of shopping, my hands were probably swimming in gross.
The way back was insane. We hopped in a rickshaw to Medhipatnam, and from there, waited for the 216 at the bus stop. Buses here don't really stop, though, they roll slowly through the station, so getting on is every man for himself. We pushed through the crowd of people, and tried to avoid the people jumping off as we leaped on. The bus ride was SO long. There was a ton of traffic, and we were all pretty tired from our afternoon of shopping. It was 9 Rs. back to Triple IT where there was a restaurant called Chappatos (Indian Chipotle) that everyone else wanted, and a Dominoes, which I had been craving. Jess asked me to get her some breadsticks, so I went to Dominoes and ordered my pizza to go. It took a while, about 20 minutes, and they asked me to sit and wait, so I sat at the only sort of open table, which was already occupied by a man and his young daughter, wearing a tie-dye shirt. He apparently moves between Hyderabad and Oregon, because his wife works for Nike, and they are planning to move out there permanently in the next few months when he starts grad school. We chatted for a while, and when his pizzas were ready, he handed me his business card and told me to call if I ever needed anything.
I left when my pizza was ready and took it next door to where we all ate together. Gwen came to join us, which was nice, because I rarely see her. We had a really, really good day, and I'm going to miss this a lot, I think. I'm definitely going to miss Jess, Val, and Karen. They're good people, and I will definitely stay in touch with them when I get back.
I am also going to miss a lot of things about India. I will miss the cheap public transportation. I will miss walking down a crowded street, hearing women covered in all black from head to toe, yelling "Are you crazy?" in Hindi at bangles vendors. I will miss the smog and the traffic. And I will miss people handing me, a stranger, and a foreigner, their business cards because they are genuinely friendly people. America is a land of foreigners. Everyone's ancestors came from somewhere else (except the Native Americans, obviously), and we could learn a thing or two about welcoming people into our country from places like India. Everyone from the man at the cricket match who yelled at the security guards to let us in, to the woman who halted traffic in Medhipatnam to help us find a rickshaw, to the people who come to ask if you need help when we look lost. All these people have made India the positive and growing place that it is today. I know I'll be back to India, probably in the next few years, and I will definitely have to come to Hyderabad every time I'm back. I'll miss this city.
Sorry I haven't been up in a while! I have been running around India like crazy, and now I am back in Hyderabad for 19 more days before I head home to the US. Sounds crazy, and it's starting to get really, well, real, that this is ending. I'm going to write this post about my trip to Agra and Delhi with my parents. They came to visit, and we had so much fun. Here goes...
I met my parents in Delhi late Thursday night after a full day of class. I got some McDonald’s, called a cab, and got to the airport a full three hours early (oooops). So I ate my spicy chicken sandwich really slowly to compensate. And then watched cricket. After a while, it started to fill up, and this man sat down next to me. After probably 20 minutes of watching cricket silently together, he leaned his torso away from me. And farted. Really loud. Right onto me. Bahahaha. I sort of just pretended it didn’t happen. I figured that was the best approach.
Anyway, Mom and Dad were arriving in Delhi an hour before me (their plane was delayed, but still earlier), and I was anxiously waiting to get on the plane. Our boarding time came and went, and then our departure time. We boarded about 45 minutes after we were scheduled for take-off. As per usual in India, no explanation was offered, and Mom and Dad didn’t have phones, so I just hoped they heard on the other end the plane would be late. They didn’t, but I did manage to find Mom right away after collecting my bag, so that was good. Dad had sent some people in after me, and I didn’t see them, but supposedly, I was being paged over the PA system in the airport. I’ve sort of always wanted that to happen, so that was neat. Even though I didn’t hear it.
We went to the pre-paid taxi stand (an invention that Mom and Dad introduced me to – AWESOME) and got a taxi to the hotel we were staying at right near Connaught Place in New Delhi called Le Meridien. It was AWESOME. This is a picture I took from our floor (the 15th) down to the interior lobby.
The hotel, as you can see, was quite striking, and the bed was so comfy! The first morning we were there, it was super hazy outside, (lots of pollution in Delhi) but we headed out on the metro (Delhi has a great subway system!). We bought our tokens and then had a little trouble getting through the gate, and had to ask for directions a few times, but everyone was really friendly. We ended up at the Lotus Temple, which is the Bahai’i temple in Asia. Sad that I went inside this one before I went inside the one in Evanston. All of the petals of the lotus are supposed to represent something, but I can’t remember what. It was gorgeous, though, and very peaceful inside. Sort of like being in a hollowed-out, high ceilinged object. That was a terrible description, but you get what I mean. There were a couple school groups there, and we had to take off our shoes to go in. When we got inside, we sat in the pew for a few minutes, and then left. This is what the temple looked like from the outside (up close and from far away).
On our way to the Temple, we caught a rickshaw for a few Rupees for the last kilometer, and that was the first time I’d encountered an auto driver who wanted to essentially rent himself out to us for the day. However, he also mandated that we see his store. We objected and exited the rickshaw, unaware that this is apparently the custom in Delhi.
We took the next rickshaw we saw to the Raj Ghat, or the place where Gandhiji was assassinated. We checked our shoes in so they wouldn’t get stolen while we walked around. The monument reminded me a lot of the FDR memorial in DC. There was a small sort of shrine to Gandhi in the middle, and the walls around were inscribed with Gandhi quotes in different languages, most of them Indian, and even one in Spanish, but strangely none in English. The language on the right in the one below is Hindi, one of the major languages of India. Gandhi has done some things I don’t know that I necessarily agree with, but the man definitely had a way with words. All of the quotes I could understand were really beautiful.
Into another rickshaw, we headed to the India Gate, a symbol of national unity, and a war memorial built before India was even independent from the British, which didn’t happen until 1947. There wasn’t a lot to see there apart from the Gate itself, unless you count the cute, tiny little school kids with their huge backpacks obviously on a field trip, or the vultures in the tree to the right of the Gate, which was a little creepy.
I was really happy to see Mom and Dad, and I think they were happy to see me too. Dad’s happiness manifested in being in 98% of the pictures of me that I have from this weekend, so you will notice a recurring theme
After the India Gate, we toured Embassy Row, which was super anticlimactic. It was just a wide road with all the Embassies on it, which was cool, but they are all hidden behind big walls, obviously, so we mostly looked at the signs. We saw Russia, Poland, Norway, Japan, the US, and strangely, Sudan. What?!? Is there a large Sudanese population in India that I don’t know about? I did snag a picture of me in front of the gate in front of the Prime Minister’s house. AWESOME.
Also, a lot of the cars in Delhi, including the taxis, were really old fashioned. This is one of the cooler ones I saw, but the cabs were all green and black and yellow, and the same make.
Lunch was at this really, really, really nice place in Lodi Park. It was outside, and I had the best salmon I have had in a long time. Also, I discovered that if goat cheese, radish, lettuce, and dressing are all in the same bite, it tastes good. This is the restaurant we ate at (Lodi Park Restaurant).
After lunch, we went to the Supreme Court building because I wanted to see the Museum there. This turned out to be a futile exercise, but it was REALLY cool to see the Supreme Court of India! There was a bomb ordeal there a couple weeks ago, and I sort of wanted to see what all the fuss was about, but everything looked all normal again. We also tried visiting the Indira Gandhi museum for Zoe, but the line was obscenely long. So we gave up on that. But I took a picture in front anyway to prove I was there. Note the staring child
The next day, we got up nice and early to hit the Red Fort and the Chandi Chowk market before hopping on the train to Agra. The Fort was HUGE (the outer walls looked really imposing) and it housed troops until not too long ago when it was turned over to the IAS for opening up to the public. In a proud moment, I got the Indian citizen ticket because I am a student at HCU. That was really cool. Sometimes, it’s the little things that make me feel like not such an outsider everywhere I go here.
We went to the market afterward. It was huge, and the paths were really narrow and I am really glad Mom and Dad got to experience the full Indian market experience while they were here. I got a couple suits for when I celebrate Diwali with Anshu’s family (I leave for Mumbai tomorrow night). They are gorgeous, and I am really excited to wear them! Mom has pictures, but I don’t have them yet. We also met a man with one leg who was really helpful at first, but then he kept following us around, and I didn’t really like that. These are pictures of two of the first streets we saw in the market.
I stopped being able to take pictures – the streets got too narrow, and the vendors progressively more aggressive. The men we bought my suits from were funny, and I think Mom and Dad really liked being able to sit down in a shop and see some of the clothes, and the process we go through to buy things here. I admit, I do sort of miss having fixed prices. I know I overpay for almost everything, but I never know by how much.
We didn’t go to the Masjid, the largest in India, because we went to the one in Hyderabad, and we hadn’t heard super positive things from the people I talked to about their experiences visiting.
We got on the train to Agra that night after dinner at the hotel (when I asked for the best way to get to the train station, the man at the front desk said “Find a rickshaw and get in it.” Duh. Thank you Mr. Front Desk).
I really dislike train stations in India, especially when I am the most knowledgeable person in the group. People harass you constantly for buying things, or porters, or just because they want to know where you are going, and there isn’t a way to escape them. I really don’t like that and I sort of lost my temper after having to stand in a tight line at the ticket counter with a bunch of pushing and staring Indian men (sorry, Dad. I sort of took it out on him before I regained my cool). The 1AC train car wasn’t as nice as we were hoping, and the ride was about three hours long. There was a guy about my age in our compartment, but when the officer came to check tickets, he kicked him out in a whirlwind of Hindi. I took Dramamine before the train, so I slept pretty much the whole way there.
Another pre-paid taxi when we got there, and we got to our hotel, supposedly 800 meters from the Taj Mahal. This was a slight exaggeration as we discovered later, but the walk was nice. Even though we got in very late, we woke up at 5:30am to get to the Taj for sunrise. It was hazy, so not as beautiful as it would have been on a clear day, but it wasn’t too hot, and not very crowded. We waited in line outside for a little while, and to our surprise, the women’s line moved faster than the men’s and we got in before Dad. We were standing behind some nice Spanish ladies, and we exchanged a few words when a monkey appeared on the roof above us in the security line. I think pictures will do a better job than words, so maybe just take a look at those The last thing I will say is that in true Adam form, we checked out audio guides, so that’s what the headphones are in some pictures.
We were going to go see the Agra Fort, but decided instead to read by the pool. So that was a good decision. We made it back to the hotel before breakfast ended, ate, and then relaxed the rest of the afternoon. In hindsight, this was a great plan, because if we’d walked around anymore, the events of that evening might have been much worse.
Basically, long story short, we hop on a train back to Delhi, and the majority of the staff/police officers working at the Indira Gandhi International Airport (voted the 4th best in the world – by who, I wonder) are totally unhelpful, and served to make it nearly impossible to check into the airport hotel Dad had booked for us. 90 minutes later, Mom was switching her things from one bag to another in the middle of the terminal because we were told we had to check in to get to the hotel, even though our flights were not until the next morning. There was a line of French soldiers coming home from somewhere next to us, and when the men from the hotel finally came down to inform us that contrary to their previous written statement, they could not take me to the hotel because I was a domestic and not an international flight, Dad lost it. There were some angry words spoken, the conclusion of which was the men assuring we would get a refund, and telling us that there wasn’t really anything else they could do for us. This left us to sleep on the benches in the airport, because Mom and Dad didn’t want to leave me by myself to go to the room on their last night with me.
In ironic protest, I took a picture of myself and Dad next to this false sign in the airport.
In three weeks, I will be back at the Delhi airport, waiting for a flight back home to Chicago. Feels pretty surreal!