Sunday, May 29, 2011

Friday, May 27th Lotus Temple

view from above!
Inside, looking up at the ceiling.

It is a beautiful piece of architecture. Dominating a portion of the “sky line”. Although it is not very tall…any large, structured piece of planned building seems somewhat rare to be seen in most of Delhi.

It is a Bahá'í House of Worship. There is a lot to say about that religion/approach to religion. I don’t know enough to say much. but It sounds pretty on paper.

Very all accepting, many roads to one destination. All are right according to their own heart. That sort of touchy feely, politically correct fluff. it prefers pleasantries to honesty. It prefers to be inoffensive than offer truth.

Maybe I’m looking at it wrong. Maybe it’s the new age hippie!

It was worth seeing though!

We checked in our shoes, followed the mesh carpet strips they had laid on the ground for everyones barefeet. Two levels, the one on top is the basic entry. The inside is massively domed. Simply encasing the large space below it. The inside was mostly empty, except for the pews and basic alter decorated with flowers. People were quiet, and the sounds bounced around or were lost in the overhead space.

We had lots to talk about though, (Luke Jonathan and I) and were scolded for our conversational whispering. :x oops! Didn’t mean to be disrespectful.

No sermons or anything are given inside the temple, only readings from holy scriptures, music or chanting and nothing with instruments.

I suppose I would have found it nice for prayer if it wasn’t for the crowds. Although quiet, the presence of so many people does not facilitate peace, but that’s just me.

but I don 't know if it would feel encouraging for prayer and peace, even without people, just due to its nature as a pagan temple. It feels odd. Not bad vibes, just unsettling ones.

It was lovely to see. From a birds view, the pools around it are designed to add to its appearance as a lotus flower.

Thursday, May 26th

Thursday, May 26th

Went to the Delhi zoo!! This may sounds strangely mundane, I mean a captured tiger is a captured tiger if it is here or there right?

But I can’t remember the last time I was in a zoo and all the really cool animals that I was looking forward to seeing were actually out.

That and it seemed that a lot of the animals are naturally found in India.

So as we walked around, hot and sweaty in the sun…they were chilling in the shade starring back at us going “heh, they know nothing. This is a hot average mediocre day for us!”

Arrogant, haughty fur-balls.

Giddy, excited me! Slurping on mango juice and clicking away pictures, pacing the parameters of the fences to get a better look at some of the animals.

Ruwngni and Jonathan joined Luke and I again, which of course, made it even more fun.

Plus, they would point out better vantage point in order to see the animal more clearly.

Highlights: the tigers! They were so close, if it was in the wild…I would be slightly less excited and a great deal more concerned about my status as a snack.

Low points; the elephant sized headache I got afterwards. Whew! I guess all the enthusiasm stuck, but all the energy left faster than I thought once we finished. It was frustrating. But probably a necessary sign from my physical self that I needed to chill out a little bit. *rolls eyes*

Before returning home though, I got to try this light lunch. It is a rice based folded thing. Light, thin and crunchy with some potato mixture filling. And chutney to dip it in! I handled the “slight spice” rather well I thought. Don’t be fooled by the size…it’s mostly air.

Served hot from the…”grill” I suppose. Place your order than watch the chef spread the rice ish batter while you stand nearby. But not too close…. It’s crazy hot AND he has a fire lit up under the flat cooking it’s hot radiating into more hot on your hot skin before you eat the hot food. Theme feeling: hot visual: big animals, but wonderful to see!

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Wednesday, may 25

Luke and I were joined by Jonathan and led by Ruwngni on what was destined to be a lunch adventure. He is notorious for such things, actually.

We went to the Tibetian Refugee Section…towards northern Delhi. We were dropped off by a bridge, I made like a shadow at high noon…becoming even closer to everyone in the group. Yes. To cross the street. At least I look the right way most of the time now.

We headed down a side street, which wound and twisted its way through the buildings. I don’t know how he knew where he was, or where he found this place. Because we stepped across draining puddles, around crumbling door steps. Squished into a doorway to allow a tibetian/Buddhist? Monk pass us in a tight part of the street. Also nearly lost my balance several times but proud to say, I never faceplanted. Which was exceptional considering the amount of head swiveling I was doing.

Dinner was behind another lobby inside a respectable looking building. Where did that come from?? We were seated in a small room, and I allowed Ruwngni to order for me, even welcoming something that could be vaguely disgusting, but un-orderable in the states.

Started with lime-soda-sweet! Very tasty and hydrating. Commonly found here, even on carts on the sidewalks. Then had Than Thuk! Which was a soup that could suffice as a meal. Lots of noodles and slices of random vegetables in a deliciouso broth! Managed to tackle eating it with chop sticks!

Next dish was beef with Tinsmo bread. The bread was not the usual flat, but puffy and large. Tear off a chunk of the bread and tuck the beef into the bread then pop into your mouth …yes it is super good!

Next..the mystery dish. I requested ignorance until post tasting. Upon delivery of the plates, I cursed knowledge. Thanks to anatomy and those obnoxious histology slides…I figured I was eating animals intestines, or stomach.

It was stomach, Lowa.Kinda chewy and a teensy funky flavor of unknown animal… but that could have been the way it was cooked.Had a cup of tea and some mouth freshener of sugar crystals and that herb that tastes like licorice.

Then came another surprising part. On the way over we saw all kinds of jewelry stands, and I of course wanted to check them out! Hold your breath here: the guys actually patiently waited! I felt really bad, but I was struggling because I did not want to just spend money. But at decision making, I clearly fail. Epically fail! But those guys were great! Thank goodness J

Jonathan bought and shared with each of us a piece of…well..not sure what it is…dehydrated cheese? Yak milk bones? It’s a hard little piece that You suck on it in your mouth until it dissolves. You can try to chew it…but breaking a tooth is not out of the question

I think it took me close to four hours to finish.

Accomplished. I feel.

Cross talk this evening:

The whole group circled around, listening to the lecture given by one of the leaders who is leaving to go to seminary in southern india.It was a fantastic message. About change actually. So it was really good! Especially for me who likes change as long as it’s temporary and things can go back to “normal” how I like them…good and comfortable.

Otherwise, change freaks me out.

But it’s funny how God has me in the middle of this new, very different city. And I have been certainly angsting in all kinds of ways about all the change that is going on. People graduating. My life. (not to sound selfish here..but it’s scary when it happens!)…and I unexpectedly got to hear this message targeted right towards that!

You cannot argue that it is anything but awesome. (although, slightly mind scrambling as a result).

Friday, May 27, 2011

Tues, May 24th-Taj Mahal in AGRA India

Have you ever imagined what it was like for those adventurers/entreupeneurs who crossed the desert? What about the great caravans, carrying princesses on elephants in a shaded carriage?It sounds almost grand, right? Well, really imagine it… Because after being in the back of the van for 4 plus hours each way, with no air conditioner and the fan barely whispering out some air….I have a whole new appreciation. Those people were absolutely crazy.

Luckily, most of the traveling was in the early morning or in the there was only a few hours during each part of the drive that I was good and sticky gross with sweat.

Luke, Joel and I signed up for a tour group. Met at the Hyatt hotel, Jumped into the large van they had waiting, with four other people inside. an older French couple was there, and they were really nice, walking some with us then conversing in rapid French to one another. A girl from Chicago, who was visiting friends she had made while studying abroad here. She was pretty cool. Friendly and smart… a rare combination. And a man from Isreal, who did not speak a lot of English, but was very pleasant as well, and would occasionally join the French couple in their quick French dialect. It was a good tour group J

Along the way, we saw all kinds of things from the window. Mostly fields or crowds. But a lot of cows roaming around (they are rather sacred to the Hindus here).

Little Pepsi oasis planted every 500 yards for part of the road….giving shade and hydration.

Most clusters of buildings were either right next to the main road, or along a dirt road that branched from the main one. Or out of sight on the horizon.

A few people would be crouched down, or bent over, working in the fields. Goats tied up and clustered by houses, or being shepherded across a field.

Houses were constructed by anything from a wall and a half of something solid and the rest with tarps. Bricks stacked up to make walls. Or all grass huts it seemed, not sure if they were for living in.

In the city, cow patties lined the divider; drying out in the sun, with hand prints still there where they had been flattened after the manure and dirt were mixed.

The river that runs right next to the taj, but continues for awhile next to Agra is low this time of year. It’s extended, muddy banks are cluttered with all kinds of junk and we watched both people and animals picking their way through to get to the water. At least that water is moving and not stagnant…

I napped when I could, to escape the bumpy, jerky ride. Due to traffic or bad roads, it wasn’t fast, just constant jostling.

We met with our tour guide, and we bought the tickets and piled onto an elongated gulf cart to drive us the rest of the way to the Taj Mahal. In he few yards from the cart to the security for entry….we were surrounded and harassed by vendors. Good thing for the tour guide, because if every time we made that crossing from “out of bounds” to transportation…if the cart or van wasn’t waiting I probably would have decked one of those pushy sellers. When ignored, they just shout and repeat more and continue shove their wares in front of you. *grumble mutter growl snarl*

Through security and metal detectors, detached me from my granola bar… and we gathered under the shade of a tree. The guide explained the history of the Taj…built by the Mughal emperor Shah jahan as a mausoleum for his wife, who he was head over heels for. They were married at like 19 and 23. She died at 38 (ish) (disclaimer: all years are estimates here. I didn’t remember. The important parts: she died young. He loved her.)

(this pic is of the gate that you go through post entrance security and before you can see the taj)

It took something like 15ish years to build, and he died upon it’s completion. Then his body was put at rest next to hers inside the tomb.

The Taj Mahal is considered a building that stands for eternal love. The guide then explained that if you come to the taj single, you will one day be married. Fantastic news, really. That is such a relief to have predicted by this age old tradition. PFt.

Cool parts:

To the one side there is a Mosque. The other side has another building with similar structure, but it is just a decorative guest house put there for symmetry.

>something like 100 elephants brought the marble there.

The architect was Turkish

The Taj is an Islamic structured building

The Script (carved in and inlayed in black stone, not paint) that decorates every archway and doorway, is Arabic from the Qur’an.

The inside is decorated with semi-precious stones into the walls (the jewels and gold was taken by plunderers…dirty scoundrals!) the tombs containing the real bodies are out of sight beneath the area where we walked, with two replicas in their place.

We walked through the first, brick archway. Aaand wvhom! There was the Taj! The fountains were spouting water ( now by power instead of with gravity and pressure.)I took all the cheesy awesome pictures in front of it. (I mean really, why not?!)I also had a cluster of kids randomly sidle in with me, and it took Joel pointing out that they wanted to get a picture with me to figure out what was going on. This only happened a few times…but I suppose the sun may have washed me out even more so than usual to highlight white me.

We took a side path that was partially shaded, thank goodness! It was hot hot there. The sun heating up the air surrounding you and the ground at your toes, your skin, your hair, and anything you came in contact with.

Once at the base of the Taj, we put our shoe covers on. (yay scrub up!) The other option is to go barefoot…and with the heat toasting the marble constantly; going barefoot would not be alright in any way except at a high stepping sprint.

Walked into a surprisingly small, extremely quiet interior. The tombs were fenced off in the center, and we moved in a circle around them, admiring the decorated walls.

Few more notes:

The reason it was so small inside and not the way it appears is because there are two domes. The outer larger and the inside smaller to support the weight of the dome.

The marble had the designs carved out, and the semi-precious stones from various countries were cut out in the desired shape and then placed into the marble. The Lotus flowers had 68 pieces to it!

The guide took a small bright pen light and ran it over the stone: showing that the marble and the orange stone illuminated under the light. While the other stones were opaque to the light and let none through. It was extremely awesome to see.

Oh, and it was built on wood. So if there is an earthquake…it would be okay.

The four pillars around it? Very slightly tilted outward. (so, in case of earthquake…they would topple away and not damage the tomb!)

it was incredible to see! and somewhat impossible to describe. not really sure how it made it on some of the lists as one of the 7wonders of the ancient world. but it really is like a piece of art in real life form.


Not changing religions in this picture. we stopped at a place where they decorate marble with the stones similar to the way the Taj is. We watched the 5 assembly line men work with the stones, and one of them gestured to me and placed the small, dark blue, tear drop shaped stone between my eyebrows. it was pretty :)

Lunch at an (AIR CONDITIONED) 5 star (safe) hotel. The food was hardly spicy…probably catered to touristy taste. (anyone care enough to argue this? It was great to try Indian food and still be able to taste afterwards).

Last stop, Agra Red Fort!!! It was certainly more interesting than the one here. Though it was cool recognizing previously seen structures, and identifying the bath house by visual resemblance!.

Also seen in the fort…

>where the emperor help public assembly daily to address his people. (with separate screened off area for the women of the quart

>Servants quarters.

>The grassy middle that used to the pool of water for the king guy to fish in….and was later turned into tennis quarts for the british occupying it!

>the area where the market was brought in for the royal ladies to shop

>royal living spaces, bed chambers etc. including the place where the king had a mirror placed, so even though he had an eye infection, he could see the reflection of the Taj Mahal.

> a shaft that led to the secret tunnel that could be followed all the way to the taj (although caved in)

> the way the building structure changed, because the emperor had Muslim and Hindu wives. So the architecture changed a little in style to have other influence as well. (besides the obvious décor differences, Hinduism has images of living animals..something not found in anything Muslim). in the pic below: Hindu type building, but Islamic in the domes, see?

Okay, sorry for the short blurb or boring history. I figured I’d put it in there though. After all, I knew nothing waltzing into the day, so I figured I would jot a few lines here. The Tour guide was a good choice. Though, every now and then he would ramble off a paragraph that I would completely not be able to translate…and Luke or Joel would graciously fill me in.

The fort was very interesting, because it was actually built to be a defensive place, and was also where the emperor actually lived!

We left, piled comfortably into the still hot van and drove back to Delhi. Should have slept more. Towns blended into the horizon with the dusk, unless a few lights were set up to distinguish the buildings. Anywhere where there was a light, people lounged around.

When we got to the city, besides the movement of people, all that changed was the rhythm of the van from bouncing to stop and go. (There is no escape) Luckily the last couple hours of the trip were not miserably hot since the sun finally slipped behind the horizon.

Dinner, some moving, cool, air and lack of movement was fantastic when we finally got home!

Monday, May 23, 2011

Monday, May 23


waited until it "got cooler" by 4ish though today was rather nice outside! only reached 102 and not nearly as hazy as usual!

most of the dirt paths were in the shade of all kinds of different trees. gnarly ones, tall palm trees...names I couldn't pronounce even with the labels posted.
There was a pond, in a vivid green shade. and different kinds of birds chirping both from around the water and in the trees.
it was a lovely walk! nice and slow, with random ruins throughout the park. Including a few tombs, that were in the center. we meandered slowly and i was "giddy on green". The tombs were pretty interesting. Domed shaped buildings, some pillars around, decoration in the stone.
the best part was probably when we followed some little kids up a teeny stairway that came up on the roof of one of the sides that branched from the center dome. There was a light breeze up there, and the sunshine felt soft and warm. Plus, there was actual, real, blue sky! a rare sighting, since it is usually hazy and the blue is obscured by the dust that seems to be a permanent part of the atmosphere.
A very nice excursion accompanied by both Luke and Joel!

Sunday, May 22

Awesome day!
After church we were all invited to a going away party for one of the guys at the church who is headed to college in the U.S. to become a pastor. :)
it was a relief that I are finally recognizing people that I have been so busy meeting! They put blankets on the floor, so everyone could sit comfortably not on the hard floor.

I attempted lunch, and it was very good! His mom had prepared the food, and also baked a chocolate cake for which she is notoriously known...and ohmygawsh it was AMAZING!

the best part of the afternoon was everyone just relaxing and talking. I also got yanked into several group photos, with the girls posing and passing around cameras!
The people here are really amazing, extremely accepting and open to random people floating! I'm so blessed to get to spend time with this group of people!

We went to a baptism for three new people, though 4 of us arrived late because of a walk, then a metro ride, and an auto taking up more time. got the important part though!

The diminished group went to the India Gate to play football (*soccer*) because it was so cool out today!!! for once, i was not the one who was freezing!
it was so crowded there! tons of people were around, i thought at first, that it was a celebration of some type. but i was told it was due to it being a sunday, parents having off work to take their kids out, and the weather being so nice! ((note comparison of just me alone at the india gate and the one with me, some friends...and the crowds of people also there!)

they bought some inflated balls (that were being sold on the side of the walkway) for us to play with. very weird to kick around because they were so light. but i joined for a game..managing NOT to completely destroy my team mates with my lack of hand-eye-coordination. only played for a bit. Also a brief game of volleyball..with amusing techniques employed.
basically, an extremely chill, relaxing day. with encouragement to try ice cream and plenty of laughter.

Friday 19th and Saturday 20th

No plans = i plauge Mr. and Mrs. Bennett on whatever they intend on doing.
luckily, shopping is something i a skilled at, and Ms Dawn was only too happy to show me the good stores. Only bought one dress/long shirt. took a lot of willpower.

They took me to a restaurant with south indan food at the mall (so it's safe!) very tasty. very spicy! got a mango drink...psych! it was green mango..possibly blended with spices of it's own. wasnt bad, just very sour and very unique. like a spin off of a margarita, only without the alcohol.

the waiters were very kind, holding in the long bench seat that skidded across the slippery floor for me. and explaining things on the menu, and what the food was that we were eating.
I was too full to finish! which was a disappointment because the least spicy stuff I got to last in the meal. That, or i'd lost all taste due to spice...
starting at the top, with the appetizer and working your way around, mixing the sauces and such with the rice in the center!

grocery shopping after, which was interesting as well. At the one place you "check in" any empty bags you bring, and get a little square that you hand in after getting your groceries to redeem them for bags, so you don't have to pay.
Lots and lots of works scattered every other isle in order to assist and help with anything and everything. One would think it is annoying...but if you are like me, and can take five minutes to spot desired item on crowded shelf... then it is rather nice and handy.

in the center of the store was a rice and grain station. with huge bins of all different kinds of rice/grains. big seeds, little ones, black ones, brown ones, white ones. whew!!

Home for a relaxing evening and extended nap. Ms Dawn takes her time while shopping (but i entertained myself well)

.... then spent the rest of the night hustling to and from the bathroom as everything i'd eaten in the week?!?! quickly and speedily left my system

adventuring cancelled due to sudden reliance on a toilet. Accompanied Mr. and Mrs. Bennett to the embassy in the afternoon just to go somewhere (that fulfilled the requirement of an actual toilet available...difficult to go anywhere with that support to stipulation involved).
Quick stop to a tea shop someone had heard about where i picked up just a couple of the teas i had tried at the High Tea at the Imperial Hotel...ones that are a big deal here :) The owner of the shop was very interesting, and explained the different teas (green/black) how to brew them (the lighter the tea the less hot the water) and if the tea is usually taken with milk and sugar (like the black teas) or just honey and/or saffron (like the green teas).

home just in time. My intestines might have left this here body. (not to be gross...its just biology folks, :P ) there are repercussions of entering new places, even while being cautious. I brush my teeth with bottled water, and eat tentatively. but the moral is: there is only so much you can do. so, drink more (safe) water to rehydrate when rapidly and frequently losing EVERYTHING INTERNAL!!!!! hehe

Thursday, May 19th

Last day of VBS, which is real shame since we finally had an effective system down. A team of three to handle a group of an average of 10 little kids. (two team sets).In this way, VBS was educational, somewhat constructed, and safe for all involved. Relatively speaking.All joking aside, it really was a great group of very cute kids. Also, very bright! able to explain things to me, in perfect English, games or activities, or recite bible versus that we had memorized as a group.

At the end, each age group put together a presentation. And our little munchkins did sooo well!!!! But then again, each and every group did a great job. The older groups were creative too, and performed well. Despite the power outage that afternoon (not something out of the norm)

It really was kinda sad. Saying goodbye, not only to the kids (even if I spent most of my time chasing them as they tried to leave) but the other leaders, teachers, and volunteers too. We had a lot of fun together, as we scrambled around frantically trying to maintain order.Oh, and the songs they loved? Still getting stuck in my head! Luckily, they aren’t super annoying, just a repetitive child soundtrack in my brain. (there is NOT an off button).

This evening, Joel and I went to the Red Fort (also a big deal. On the list of Things To See While in Delhi…probably on google)

Our driver dropped us off and after two seconds of feeling like I’d been shoved into an oven (pre-heated)…I adapted rather nicely and resumed drinking enough water for a camel about to cross a desert.

We walked in, following the outer wall. Bought tickets ( 250 rs for foreigners as opposed to 20 rs for Indians…what is this nonsense!!!)Went through the standard metal detector and body searcher. Have I described these yet? They are at the entrance of anything public. Metro station. Mall. Tourist spot. Some temples and mosques too. Ladies and Gentlemen have separate lines for a metal detector then same gender body check. And girls step behind a little three sided booth to be patted down by the security lady. Just for privacy, not because the search is any more in depth or anything like that.Though, some places have involved an EXTREMELY THROROUGH body check. But, location in the world has made me appreciate that more. And I’m not un-nerved or bothered by it. People in America would not tolerate it though, which is rather stupid. It’s there for safety precautions only, not like you are being singled out and sexually humiliated. Anyways, once through there we walked through the hectic bazaar, where I found a bag/purse with an elephant on it that I liked! Should have haggled down, but I was hot, it was crowded..and did not seem worth it for the dollar or two I could have saved. I can just hope he will spend it on his kids and not pot.

Once through there, we walked through a little building where there were pictures of many different historically and religiously important throughout India. There were even little descriptions in enlgish and hindi next to them read a few, they followed this structure: Xxxx building was construct by so and so for this and this era made of that material. Then a nifty paragraph that was actually interesting on it’s purpose or function as a building. Then a bunch of years that started blending together, usually involving someone conquering a group of people.

It was pretty interesting, but did nothing besides bolster the realization that I know nothing historically about India! (I mean, in Rome and Europe it was the feelings that I must have learned this at one time or another but dag nabit I could hardly remember any specific or chronological order to it all history) here, it is straight up obviousness and ignorance on my part. *guilt guilt guilt* and to think I would dare take pride in having successfully made it out of my country more than once… when I am useless in knowledge of these cultures and their country. What a fail there.Really enjoyed walking around the inside. we passed through another tall, arched structure ish. With all kinds of pretty flower and vines engraved. That was a theme here. We passed through a temple looking building that had a few notable features. 1. Many columns 2. The flower and vine theme 3. elevated building, steps leading up to the place of interest.The first one had an important looking alter… of which I found extremely lovely, but zero personal religious application.

The next couple buildings were old stone bath house type set ups. Displaying the three common features, but also with water grooves to fill and empty the different pools with hot or cold water. I would not mind taking a bath in a many pillared, decorated stone set up. That sounds good to me. We walked along these stone paths, next to the water system a couple feet below where we walked. Possibly all leading to the pool, meant to be filled by this decorative irrigation type system during monsoon season. I think the main thing I liked about the Red Fort was that, although there were people, they were scattered about. It was a mini break from the city/crowds. Still dusty and hot, but some grass had been coaxed to grow. There was a little bit of space, and a little bit of smudgy smog sky above us. It felt like a break anyways.

The rest of the evening was spent to polar opposite. With crowds and traffic so dense it makes south delhi (where the bennetts live) look like the outskirts in comparison. The first road we turned down was, clearly, a big deal. I succeeded in crossing the street... while somewhat glued next to joel. For some reason my brain works this way: the closer you are to the body next to you, the safer you are. Is there some truth to that?…well…I’m sure in some small amount there may be, but I think it is mostly psychological. Because I have watched Indians stride into the middle of traffic with four sets of cars moving and, flying solo, made it to the other side with hardly a pause.

We first passed Chandni Chowk (try saying it is rather fun) which was…some buildings? Of importance?? Okay…they looked cool and not the standard rectangle. Next we walked passed the mosque (pic below). I wanted to go inside, and was covered enough to do so. But Joel was not (shorts!) and so I figured I would come back to check it out sometime when I didn’t have to be by myself, or make someone wait. I could have, I did not feel threatened or anything…should I have?

Walked down a side street. A side street that had as many people as a main street, with less space. (and the main street was hard enough to walk down dodging vehicles, packed sidewalks, vendors and more people).

It was a whole new level of hazy smoggy. But no fear, once immersed, one hardly noticed the difference in the air. The wires crossed in tangles above the people, but below the buildings. And the many smells of people, food, animals, and fires blended together.

At first I was getting hungry, and the food cooking along the sides was deceptively good smelling. But in no sense of the term edible to yours truly. And if knowledge was not enough to convince me of this, observation certainly was. Initially it was the strong presence of flies. Then it was seeing the food, usually in stalls next door to one another, before it was cooked! Ie: raw meat, vegetable stands and such. (ps: they may use massive amounts of pesticides here, but they also use fertilizer of all kinds). By the time we were done walking through, my stomach had gone full circle. From hungry and interested, to very opposed to anything entering my system.

It was kind of a sensory overload. ( and I don’t mean that in the same way when I talk about how media targets people and children)

The smells, the sounds…all the languages and shouting blurred together. Cars or motorcycles sometimes, but mostly carts with people pulling or pushing an empty or loaded cart down the road. Or a bicycle balancing high any kind of cargo behind it, or on it.

Joel had to make me wiggle through a small space between two that had come to a stop in the crowds. No use in waiting around here with this traffic, you push through where you can. They were very nice through, tilting the bike’s handlebars away so I wouldn’t get caught as I squeezed my thighs through.

We were a little uncertain of our location, and joel did not seem to be in any rush, so we turned down a side street, where abruptly the distances between buildings became more narrow. The more we walked, the more the space was reduced. Shops were both on street level, as well as below, with an opening or window at the street level where a person could bend down and request/order what they needed from the person standing with their face at the level of the road. The space was small, and the heat concentrated…how were they okay smooshed in there?!

Goats were tied and laying down in doorways. Footing was questionable, for an even surface or surface type. People continued in both directions past us, though in much less amounts. A couple kids came up to Joel or I, just to say “hi” (probably the extent of the English they know) than ran away giggling. He of course, was not phased by any of this. The first time a girl came up to me though I just responded politely and clearly (wondering if someone was about to try and snatch my bag…with my main concern over the water in it). She stared straight ahead, trying to seem casual, but after I answered, bounced away.

Oh, it’s because I’m white!!! That’s right…

Cultural difference: everyone wants to be white or lighter here. There are skin lighteners in lotion and creams here. The opposite of our skin toners and tanners here. To be white is a status here. And in the U.S. people make appointments to toast themselves. To be tan back home is to be pretty, fit and good looking! Although I appreciate my end-of-summer tan, I shall certainly get a good chuckle once I return at anyone who says “you are just so, sooo pale!” and it will be a personal compliment J So take that!

We returned to the massively crowded “side street” where the shops were “bigger” and the food, clothes options aplenty. We heard the call to prayer at the mosque over loud speakers. I actually saw a few Muslim women in their burkas, I wonder what they thought of seeing a me? Probably nothing out of the ordinary, I’m the one from next-to-middle-of-nowhere country western PA after all. There are all kinds of questions and conversations that I wished I could have though.

I probably would have felt extremely tense and confused if I had been by myself. But thanks to trusty Joel, I skipped all that and got to be straight up curious. I couldn’t look enough, at the people passing me on the street, or the shops stacked next to one another, the blend of buildings and shades of grey. I wanted to take it all in and remember how it felt, smelled, looked and sounded, but I feel like the word that sums it up is: crowded.

Not very profound. And extremely unique as it is.

Walked back to the metro station (40 ish min). The street side seemed less crowded, but still involved a great deal of maneuvering. I did not master busy street crossing in traffic. So me being alive today is a tribute to Joel’s skill, not mine.

I ended up going to McDonalds. Before you judge, realize that 1. Joel made the executive decision I should 2. Hindsight, he was probably right. Heat zaps the energy from you. Aaaand nothing else was safe 3. It was a very different experience than in the U.S.

Walking in was entering a totally different planet. Still crowded but not smoggy, heat saturated crowds. Door was opened by an Indian guy standing there (as is in most places) Joel ordered for me, from the non veggie menu (there is a separate menu for vegetarians, with all utensils not mixing with those that prepare the meat).

A worker standing near-by asked if we were looking for a table, and booted out the employees who were finishing up at a nearby table. Once I was finished with my too big chicken burger and large fries plus warm coke (all for $2!!!!!), an employee standing attentively nearby removed my empty bag and threw it away for me. Walked out a door that was held open for me.

How’s that for five star?

And the fries were hot and salty!!

The Metro.

After going through the necessary security checks. (including a nice security lady …. She said hello with a great big smile, which was nice and rare for these checks. Oh wait *facepalm* it’s the white skin thing again)

Went to get on the metro…. Note: there are the cars in the front that are for women only Whoever can get on the other cars, but those labeled cars are for only women. I figured it was a culture thing, and opted to stick with Joel (not only am I clueless on which stop to get off of, but also not about to get separated from the one thing I recognize...getting back would be entertaining, but not preferred at night).

That means I got on the non-only-women one. That means it was mostly men. I do not mean majority, I mean almost all. And it was PACKED. Like, squished in sardine, if there isn’t enough room, push hard enough to compact those bodies together! Of men. Luckily, I am womanly enough that people did not really touch me much at all. Plus, Joel was great about letting me get good and smashed against him, not some other random stranger, until a seat was evacuated and offered to me. Although I am short and was tucked away in a corner seat, I still felt like I had a huge arrow lit up over my head screaming “LOOK LOOK!” Not in a “check this hottie out” sort of a way (*phewf*) but in an.. ”all eyes HERE” way. I quietly conducted am in-depth shoe study .

Once off the metro we walked back to the house, the evening cool, and streets feeling spacious after previous roads. Safdarjung is considered the nice part of Delhi…and I guess now I at least see where that statement is sort of coming from.

It was a great evening! Even the parts that should have been nerve wracking. Good company, and an adventure for sure. I don’t think I will fully realize everything I saw until I get back… there was just so much. Cannot wait to get out again! I miss so much when in the auto rickshaw compared to walking.

Friday, May 20, 2011

tues, May 17th

Tuesday, May 17th

VBS again….jumbo sugar sticks had to have been mixed into those kids morning cereal. They almost all spoke English though..which was good, though unhelpful when chasing down the one trouble maker in the class. We made it through on an expression based system. But it was hard to instruct him on anything…it was all by pointing, scowling, or smiling. Sophia (not pronounced the way we do…and probably spelled differently too) was the instructer, so while she taught the lesson, I corralled and managed straying kids. Jocelyn (another volunteer) and the teacher she worked with had their hands full.

Although tired in almost every way (except heat! Due to working with the cute ankle biters.. we got the air conditioned basement. Which means I hadn’t lost all my body heat) I jumped at the chance to walk around with Gladwin (an intern/pastor to be? I think. Who is from delhi) who offered, or was coaxed by luke, to show us around for the afternoon. ((WHY THE AFTERNOON!?) still, It’s not like I’d say no just because of a little bit of heat.

Lunch at was at a place called SAGAR. Just down the street from the Delhi Bible Fellowship church (where we have VBS). The church was a narrow building squished in between the others on the block with an airy arch and stone covered courtyard/lobby/ entrance. Once inside it was all stairs…. With rooms on either side. But mostly the stairs.

Anyways..sagar was not a bad place at all.. with some fans spinning merrily, and all the food behind the cooking area where I could not see it (this is good. Remember? To not know is sometimes preferable) It was rather good though! He got us non-spicy chicken. (confirming that it does in fact exist here…it would not be impossible to think that they breed all their chickens to be spicy …straight from the egg)

We were served “barb-be-que” chicken, with naam, piping hot (not spicy..just temperature). Naam is a flat, pancake looking bread they wrap, dip, serve nearly everything on here. And yes, it is rather good too! So you’d tear off a piece of the bread, wrap the chicken in and take a bite like that. Option also to dip it in the green sauce in a dish placed in the center of the table. (a hint of mint in it. Rather good! Though I was cautioned not to touch the onions that came with it) really good meal!

Did not know what I was subjecting myself to. The next day when one of the other people working at the church heard where we ate he stopped, snapped his head back towards me and asked with concern in his voice.. “oh no, are you alright?!” not very comforting. Not very reassuring. He mostly meant due to the spicy tendencies of the place…mostly. Still, very good food. Eaten by hand. (a sink nearby to wash off with before or after).

Next we walked (my choice…I have been in an auto rickshaw almost everywhere) towards India gate.

This is a typical side street we walked past or down. Pretty empty too...only crazy people walk around in the afternoon eat. Notice how the stores are all scrunched together? you can buy "fresh food" at a place like this...or get auto parts, tires replaced. All kinds of things, available, (tax free) right on the street.

Along the way we stopped at Sacred Heart Cathedral. Red and White…cool and open and airy on the inside. Small space, but tall ceilings…even with a dome. Under going painting, but it was nice and peaceful to walk around. (especially compared to the streets).

Continued walking, stepping around people clustered on the sidewalks, sitting down, or sleeping in the shade.

While walking we passed a Sikh Temple. Which, I know nothing about. But Gladwin led us in. Along the white outer wall, with some pillars supporting the walkway (where a few people were sleeping). He explained that people who follow the religion would grow their hair and beard long. Wear the little turban. Have a silver bracelet on. And, in traditional attire, carry a short sword. It was hard to hear him explaining things, but what I gathered was that it is a very peaceful religion, a sort of meld between Hinduism and Islam? They focus on the teachings of Gurus..who write books for people to understand and follow. I think. (I’m not trying to explain the religion here…just what little I understood walking in).

First we checked in our shoes, walking in a line and handing them down to a man who handed back a little metal tag so we could get them back. Then we walked across alittle ditch/puddle of water (to rinse our feet). Up the marble steps to the enterance (covered tunnel leading to the door) first donned a scarf over each of our heads (which they had available.) I said a prayer against lice and tied it on. It’s not like I was going to say no and miss the opportunity to go inside.

Inside, there was no seats, or chairs or pews or anything. Just carpet, places where people sat randomly or against the wall, facing towards the center. In the middle, there was an alter sort of appearing thing. Around which a few people of importance were lined up. They sang in those tones that one would imagine hearing (not like a mosque…) I cant describe it. But it didn’t sound disruptive or disturbing to me, didn’t make the hair on my arm stand up. Didn’t make me uncomfortable. In fact, I sort of wanted to sit and listen. .. not to accompany, just to observe really. It’s something I’ve never seen before, or heard. Even if I don’t understand it, I can still admire and appreciate. I wonder what their view of Christianity is? I wonder how most Christians are supposed to view them?

We walked through rapidly. Apparently that was them worshiping the book. (they don’t worship what I understand anyways). And suddenly, we were outside! Crossed the marble plaza beneath the golden domed temple, the marble was hot from the sun. There were strips of material put down to follow so that people could walk on that instead of hurting their feet on the hot stone. We paused by the large, square pool that as there for cleansing purposes. Today, was rather green. And on the outside edge small fishes were plentiful (including a couple gold fish). With or without fish, you couldn’t convince me to hop into that warm water (conditions which a bacteria would love to proliferate in. or a fungus). All kinds of purifying prayers would certainly be needed.

After we left, we walked along…stopping at one of the ice cream carts that are along the road. Pistachio J but the pistachio is not at like gelato pistachio…there is more in it. more flavors and spices even in ice cream?!?!? Luckiy, no hot spices. I would not have been surprised if there was.

Walked past the business district. (I think that’s how he described it) lots of little shops tucked into a big building. All along the edge with open windows and doors which you could walk past under the shaded walkway. On every corner, post, column, sidebaoard…whatever, were red stains from people spitting the version of tobacco they chew here. Also, one had to carefully avoid eye contact with vendors, and side step sleeping dogs.

We also stopped for a milkshake. I was warned, it is the opposite of what you get in the U.S. (so of course, I assumed…oh..instead of cold..they give it to you hot!!) not really. It is literally, shaken flavored milk. (I tried some of Luke’s strawberry…rather full for my own… shocking right? Must be the heat). And it was refreshing! Served cool (so cold ish) in a glass bottle with a straw. Hope the milk was pasteurized, and hope it was clean… though doubtful looking at the large, aluminum (?) containers sitting on the sidewalk where the milk probably come from. Once done, you put the glass bottle back in with others in a large crate. (and tell me, how do those get cleaned?)

While sitting (having a contest of who would get up first because the stone was so hot… like the opposite of rome, where touching the cold marble or concrete would suck all the warmth out of you touch it and you start sweating all over the place even more!) an older beggar woman approached us. She was really sweet and cute, but I did not give her anything. It does no good to do so. No matter what country. Gladwin bought her some water though, then watched as she tried to give it back to the vendor for money. So he walked over and kindly opened the cap for her! Haha a good way to give water and make certain it is not refunded.

We walked through the Pallika Bazaar. It is underground, and a total maze. Shops squished in next to one another, with their wares packed into the tiny space behind them and displayed along the walkway. And in that walkspace, tons of people herded together, moving in a steady, packed, flow amidst the shops. Before entering he asked if I had a cell phone, I said no. he said if I get lost it must be destiny then. Fantastic. Little does he know my maneuvering techniques! They were fully employed down there too. The ceilings felt low, it was dark, and they randomly used black lights. if there wasn’t so many people, I would have been a little creeped out.

Vendors were shouting after us…persistant, and eager to sell their wares. Bargaining is hands down the way to be in these places. But arguing gets annoying. And I saw nothing worth fighting through a pack of people then bartering for (though would have been good to do with an Indian on my team!)

Technique employed: ignore them. I do not speak English…sorry.. “hello” rings no cultural bells as a greeting. I actually used some sign language when I was asked a question by luke in front of store owner..playing deaf.

Once we emerged, I realized that though crowded, it was cool. We caught an auto rickshaw the rest of the way to the India gate. Luke and I hung back so Gladwin could get a good deal on driving there. White-raised prices. Even he said it bothers him how the people treat foreigners. (in business anyways). Once there, with more green surrounding it than I had seen in all of delhi… it was very interesting. The india gate was never a gate or entry point like the carved archway we saw in rome. It was built as a monument to the soldiers lost in previous wars. Built out of redish stone and into it is inscribed with the names of those Indian soldiers killed. An eternally lit flame is guarded beneath it.

It was very nice to actually see, and is a big deal here (when I ask what I should see, that is always mentioned).

After that, I was pretty tired, but proud of myself for having made it walking around in the heat of the day.

We drove back to the church to cool off. Workers there were gathered in the same room, fans flying and AC lightly on. We were offered coffee by one of the guys who work there…and it was FANTASTIC coffee. Sweet and strong. (like me! Haha joking).

Finally home, after stopping at INA to pick up the shirt I had tailored. It is CUTE!

3+ liters of water…and no pee stops. 111 degrees F …and 10% humidity.

That evening we went to one of the malls here in Delhi and met up with two of The Andrews Sisters (there’s three of them and they are a lot of fun to be around! ) The mall is like a whole other world. People hardly dress the way they do everywhere else. It is brightly lit, and clean clean clean. No dust! Full of people on a weekday evening. It has to be crazy on the weekends. When in stores, people who work there hover near you. Not to shoo you out, or check for suspect activity.. like one would think when hovered over in the U.S. They are there to help, assist, point the right direction, find the right size or color. Not pushy like in markets, just, poised to assist. We shopped a couple places. I found earrings for like $2 or $3… cheap quality. But pretty for what they are! Also a few bangles… tried on some Indian clothes. Tried on some American clothes. Bought no clothes (be impressed). Things are very expensive at the mall…especially for Indians. But only a little more pricey than what you would find at a mall in the US.

For dinner, went across the road, through security again…like you have to do upon every entry. It’s like a collection of fast food places…Indian style. Mostly food, and some drink places as well. Clean and good to eat! I boldly tried something new and good sounding. And two bites in went slurping down my lassi. Lassi is a big deal here, it’s like, liquid yogurt…nice and sweet and soothing. Used along with the spicy food. I would have proably died without it. People said I was turning pink because of the spice. I dunked the food in the curd/mik that is supposed to “take the edge off” or something. i managed to have over half of the very full plate though. I felt bad for leaving so much behind but…felt accomplished for getting down so much. Afterwards, despite the lassi, my existence was still spiced hot. So I went in search of some mango juice. All it took was one slurp to convince me that I may have died from the spice, because mango juice is akin to heaven. Cold. Fruity. Not spicy. Sweet. Sunny. Heaven!

We drove home in the auto rickshaw…the driver racing and weaving in an out of traffic, from one side of the road to the other, squeezing in between vehicles and zooming around slower ones. And, although slightly concerned, I was happily squished in between luke and joel. Sweaty and dirty from the dust blowing around, but happy as can be with my mango juice! Made all the spice and heat totally worth it. Glad for the adventuring! Despite my dashing to the toilet that later that night; it only took a few quick sits.

these are signs of all the options of places to eat. Mango juice being slurped on, and the liter of water (empty) tucked under my arm. the ways to success!