Published: March 12th 2011March 10th 2011
So wake-up call was 4:15 am….ugh! We all went to catch the train from New Delhi to Agra (Shatabdi Express). It is about an hour and half ride. We were lucky and got to sit in first class. Which wasn’t the most luxurious seating, but compared to third class, we were treated like kings and queens. After seeing people load onto the sleeper train, I was so glad I decided not to do that. OMG! Seriously though, imagine the dirtiest, smelliest compartment on a train that is supposed to fit only 4 people, but has about 10 shoved in there. Everyone smells like pee and is coughing like they have a disease or are dying. They have bunk beds and you all sleep on top of each other. It was gross. I also noticed that there are absolutely no trash cans in India anywhere. Everyone on the train just threw their garbage on the tracks or side of the street. The gross part was that after the trains left the station, homeless people all ran into the tracks to collect the trash. Thank god, no one got hit by the incoming train, but it was a close call. Of course, there
were beggars everywhere. We had had boxed lunches we didn’t eat, so it was nice to give some of the homeless people our food. They were so thankful!
Once we were in Agra, we headed out to see the Taj Mahal. That is where the beggars were the absolute worse in India! And the rickshaws were nuts too. They had camels attached to them and monkey just roamed around the streets and would either mind their own business or try to steal your stuff. I can luckily report that I had nothing stolen my entire time in India…yay!
The Taj Mahal was amazing! So incredible and beautiful! I took lots of pictures and stayed there for about 2 hours just wandering around the outside and walking through the inside to see the tomb and chambers. I also loved the fact that everyone was dressed up in our Indian gear this day. We got some really cool pictures. I didn’t buy tunics and scarves until later in the trip, but some people in my group wore Indian clothing every day of the trip.
I’ve noticed that all the Indian people loved being in pictures with us. You would
think they thought we were celebrities the way they treat us. My favorite one was when a mom grabbed me to be in a photo with her family. I thought that she just wanted one family portrait, but she wanted a whole photo shoot. She then had to individually put each child in the middle of me and my friends. Then she grabbed my arms and swung it over her son’s shoulders and angled me sideways. Sooo weird! I mean they were really nice and I’m pretty sure we equally wanted pictures of each other; it was just bizarre how she went about it and how long the process was. Everyone is so fancy too (no matter where you go), so anyone is amazing to take pictures with. Every sari is colorful and unique, so you can’t help but stare at all of them and want to take pictures. I also love that they video tape and take photos of us while we are walking down the street or shopping at the vendors. It’s funny to be the minority and the one who people take pictures of for once. Some people, who I talked to here, only know things about
Americans from TV shows and movies, so it was weird for them to meet us. The only American TV shows I noticed they had in every hotel I stayed at was HBO, TLC, Discovery, Nat Geo, and a weird show that plays American TV shows (mostly older ones). They had on Friends and a very old episode of Jay Leno when I flipped through the channels. Of course most of those channels had terrible quality and were black and white. They have so much Bollywood stuff here too. Almost all their political heads are movie stars. If you were in a movie, you are worshiped here. That is also the biggest form of evening entertainment. They show a movie around 4 times during the day and you go with your entire family. They are also really long (about 3-4 hours) and almost all have singing and dancing numbers in them. They have soooo many TV shows with Indian soap operas too. They are really funny to watch!
After the Taj, we saw the Agra Fort and then had lunch at the Mansingh Palace Hotel. It is too much to get into detail but if you are interested, you can
look up pictures and information about these places or just wait until I post pictures in April on Facebook.
Then we saw the deserted city of Fatehpur Sikri. This place was really cool and I loved walking around there. I actually got to sit and meditate there. I saw some other people doing it near a garden, so I just joined them. It was really relaxing! The bad part was the warning we got before we were allowed to wander on our own. Our tour guide told us that women are targets here and that there will be 15-20 men who will pose as tour guides but really want to scam you into something. They will also tell you that your group has changed meeting places or stuff like that really when they haven’t, so that you will get separated from the group. It is scary. When you hear stuff like that, you realize that nowhere you go in India is really safe. You always have to watch your back and your friend’s backs. You really can’t trust ANYONE in some of these countries. It’s really annoying too when you are a girl. I mean most of the guys
have it pretty easy throughout the trip (they can walk around independently and no one ever tries to rape or kidnap them). Girls on the other hand, always have to be in groups with lots of other girls, a boy, or with a guide. And were always the ones harassed or ripped off when we buy things.
Of course, within the first 10 seconds of leaving the group, Charli and I were harassed by this one particular guy. His sad excuse was that he was trying to learn English and wanted to show us around and tell us about the history of the palace. We said no thank you and walked away. Then he started following us, interrupting our pictures and just kept talking to us, even when we ignored him. Finally after about 20 minutes we got way too frustrated and screamed at him to leave us alone. He kept insisting so we got up in his face and yelled at him some more. Finally he got the message and ran over to some other girls in our group. But he was just one of many that followed us throughout the day. It is absolutely ridiculous. I was
just annoyed, because I was trying to read the signs take pictures or meditate and these assholes kept tapping on me, talking to me or standing in my pictures. Ugh! Literally the minute any of us stopped walking throughout all these temples, gardens and palaces, about 10 men would just walk up to us. We were so annoyed! While writing this, I’m noticing how bitter I still am about it. Mostly because I could never enjoy myself, I always had to be followed by someone.
Anyway everyone was safe, just annoyed! We all headed back to the hotel and had dinner. The weirdest part of the hotel was how we were treated because we are white Americans. Charli and I decided to get a cup of coffee at one of the places in the hotel after dinner. I told Charli I was going to go to the bathroom and when I went to the front of the restaurant to ask where the restrooms were, about 10 men stood up and bowed at me. They said, “Mam, I will assist you” they led me to the bathroom, waited there and then escorted me back. After the whole day at the
temple being harassed and annoyed with beggars at the Taj, I felt really, really, really suffocated. I was like I can do this on my own! It’s soooo annoying. You never realize how much American’s like their personal space. I wished I was in a bubble at that point or that I could teleport somewhere and just be by myself for at least 5 seconds.
When I walked down the hallways. Some of the people cleaning the rooms said hi to an Indian couple and they just ignored the help. When they said hi to me, I said, “hi how are you” They looked at me in disbelief. So weird! I know that India had a long history of the caste system, but you never realize how prevalent it is, until you witness it. I was treated like royalty throughout my entire stay there. I went to take an elevator too, and they jumped in and said they wanted to press the buttons for me. At one point, I had to just walk away and be by myself, because I missed my personal space and independence. Once you get to your room and just lay in your bed, you
feel so relaxed. You can finally just breathe!
The next morning we woke up at 6:45 am to catch a flight back to Chennai. The flight was around 3 hours and pretty much all of us just slept the entire time. Once back in Chennai, I had to go through departure immigration and security, which took forever. Now I’m back on the ship, showered, and feeling good! My clothes I packed for my trip on the other hand are in their own bag labeled “toxic”. I can’t wait till Laundry day! We are back at sea and now heading towards Singapore. We will be there in 4 days but only be there for a day. Oh well, hopefully I’ll be able to find some cool stuff to do with my limited time after my field trip finishes. Tomorrow is Neptune day, which I know nothing about. I heard they are waking us all up super early though and I’m really bummed. All I know is that I need to catch up on much needed sleep and homework.
Overall, India was amazing. I think everyone should go at some point in their lives and experience it. It was so
unreal. You really are in another world. The country’s culture is so unique, but also really bizarre. I witnessed some pretty crazy stuff while I was there. I could go on and on, but I don’t want to bore people. I just realized that this whole blog as a whole is really long. I’m sure once I put up pictures and talk to people in person this summer, I’ll really be able to explain India better. It was hands down the craziest culture I have ever seen. There were many times that I felt the need to pinch myself, because I couldn’t believe that all this stuff was happening. It didn’t seem real. I would love to go back some day. I want to see Mumbai. I think seeing India really had an impact on me. It made me appreciate my life in so many ways and want to help people. I can’t believe some people live like that. The slums and streets were just disgusting and everyone is poor and sick. It is really sad. I think going there definitely made me a more confident person. I feel aware of my surroundings and feel that I have a better
control on handling scary situations. One thing that I think we’re all better at is bargaining. I can’t wait to use my new aquired skills! I will miss India and don’t know if I will ever go back. I’m sitting here thinking about all the ways to describe India to people to tell them about my pictures or videos, but I feel like none of that does India any justice….you really just need to see it and explore for a few days to really understand what it is like. I guess I’ll just end by saying it was amazing….because it really was!
Also, everyone is talking about the tsunami in Japan and Hawaii. We will be in Japan in 20 days, so everyone is really worried. They are keeping us posted. I will be pissed if something big is canceled on the trip. They keep trying to give us updates. They even have a station on the TV in our rooms that is broadcasting live newscasts about it. It is really unfortunate for people on the trip who live or have family in those places. As of right now, they made an announcement that Singapore and Vietnam ports will be completely fine. But the rest is unknown. At this point in the trip, if I can’t go to Japan I will be soooo angry. I have a lot of stuff planned there and that is the one I’m looking most forward to after India.