Monday, November 28, 2011

India: And We're Off!

Jama Masjid
After all the planning (mostly by Jason) and preparations, we are finally here! The airport was less daunting than we thought it would be, and actually, we think that the touts in Costa Rica were more obnoxious. Perhaps that is not the case; it is very possible that we are just more seasoned travelers than even just a year ago.

As cliche as it may sound, the first thing that hits you upon exiting the airport is the smell. Unlike what we anticipated, it is neither the smell of excrement nor body odor; it is the smell of smoke. Its tough to determine the source of the smoke, but it is similar to the smell of a wood fire or someone burning a pile of their autumn leaves.

Our first breakfast at the hotel was delicious. There were some sliced deli meats on a plate covered with plastic wrap that we both decided to skip, but the curry and potatoes certainly hit the spot. I also got to drink some of the best chai tea I've ever had. I think the highlight of breakfast, though, was as we were finishing up, a rat scampered across the counter where all the food was sitting. When I informed the man working that a rat was currently hiding under the fridge, he calmly inquired as to the size of the rodent, using mostly hand gestures to gauge the magnitude of the problem. He jiggled the refrigerator around to coax the little guy out, but his efforts were not successful. After some consideration, I think I am glad it did not work - I prefer to live in ignorant bliss not knowing whether the rat met his demise or will enjoy another breakfast with us tomorrow.

Following our breakfast, we enjoyed a leisurely stroll. It is hard to fathom the amount of garbage strewn about the ground. It is as if the roads are the trashcans and the poor with their brooms are the trash collectors. The piles they collect are then put into bags or placed on carts, but I do not know where they are taken. Perhaps the smokey haze is the trash being burned.

After our walk, our guide arrived to show us around Delhi. Probably our favorite part if the day was the morning rickshaw ride through Old Delhi. For about $2.00, a small but strong Indian man showed us the highlights of this old city, pointing to to sites with one word explanations. "Temple." "Haircut." "Mosque." "Hospital." "Fruit." "Dentist." I am sure you could have seen my little brain processing what I was seeing with what I thought he was saying. Sure enough, the man calmly laying on his back with his mouth open was having his tooth pulled out with small pliers.

Starting the tour, being ever careful of the buses, children, and dogs.
Busy side street just within the boundaries of Old Delhi.
Bringing the lemons into Old Delhi's market

The number of people navigating these tiny, narrow streets was impressive. There were people on foot, on mopeds, on rickshaws, in small cars, and on bicycles. While it is easy to assume that there are no rules because there are no lanes, that would be a mistake. There is clearly a rhythm to the horns and the yells and the swerves that develops into a traffic system that works. That being said, you could not pay me to drive here, as the stress would do me in. I am not sure why, but sitting as a passenger is perfectly stress-less; maybe all that yoga is paying off!

At one point while we were sitting in the car we heard a loud thump on my window. Being the easily startled type I jumped and turned to identify the noise. It was a boy about ten years old wearing an old yellow shirt and black shorts, holding up his right leg, only where his calf should have been was a stump. He pointed to his stump and then held out his hand, yelling something in what I presume was Hindi. Later that day we had a similar experience with an old woman at the market who just stood at our car window, alternating forceful and gentle taps. It is interesting and maybe depressing how easily my emotions can shift. At first you feel terrible because there is clearly someone in need whom you are forced to ignore, lest you want to be bombarded by others in their situation. However, after one or two minutes of the persistent knocking, pointing, or yelling, you find yourself becoming frustrated, wishing the car would continue quickly on its way. You must remind yourself that this person's actions are not about putting you out but about putting food in their mouth. Tomorrow, we leave Delhi for Jaipur. If I can manage not to get car sick, I will write more then.

Jason standing in Jama Masjid, the largest Islamic mosque in India.
Preparing for worship

Worshipers often come bus from far away villages and stay until sunset.

Humayun's Tomb
Here, like many of the historic sites, large school groups were present. Most of the kids were in uniform so that it would be harder to distinguish socioeconomic status (aka - castes). It was very common to hear a kid pass by and say "one photo miss?" Our guide told us to ignore them, but they were so sweet that we just couldn't maintain our stony faces. This boy called out to me, so I obliged.

Kelley in front of Qutub Minar, built in the 12th Century.

Shopping for spices at the market. We found several masalas as well as black cardamon.

Us outside the Parliament House

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