heaven on earth…

I arrive (late – it seems no flights leave on time here) and a driver is waiting for me. As it turns out, a driver and an assistant. The driver drives and the assistant talks and talks and talks, the entire drive to the guesthouse – which was about an hour’s drive… Now lots of what he was talking about I found extremely interesting, but he just kept going and going and going. I had spent the day flying and waiting and waiting and flying – all I wanted to do was to have a shower and go to bed!

We get to Old Town in Varanasi – you can’t drive through the streets there (galis – they call the undrivable streets), so out we get to walk to the guesthouse. It’s SO dark in the streets and for whatever the reason – the assistant has taken my carry-on suitcase and I have my big tank…..

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It’s about a fifteen minute walk, that felt like it was never going to end, pulling my 50 pound bag over the cobblestone streets with a sweaty hand struggling to keep hold. I’m getting honked at loads, as I’m taking up too much space with my suitcase! There are bikes, motorcycles, bike rickshaws, cows and pedestrians everywhere. It felt like I was walking the wrong way through the crowds leaving the fireworks in downtown Vancouver – with virtually no light.

We turn off the main (a thin road that cars can’t go on) into a skinny alley of darkness. At this point I’m wondering where the hell Lonely Planet has directed me…. but the assistant pulls out his cellphone to light the way and leads me through – making sure to point out the cow shit so I don’t step or roll through it!

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We FINALLY reach the guesthouse – where another person takes both my suitcases and carries them down the stairs for me – thank you god! The assistant wants my number so we can get together the next day… I give it to him – fully planning to not answer my phone.

I check-in, and am shown to my room. I have to go pee suuuuper bad. I drop my stuff and try to open the doors on one side of my room… won’t open – I run to the other ones – nope. What the heck?! How can I not figure a way into my bathroom. I struggle pulling at both sets of doors again… nothing. Really Katie? You managed to book yourself a room with no private bathroom – fail at life.

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I lock my room and run to the front desk to ask where the washroom is – though I’m still questioning myself as you’d think if I didn’t have a bathroom that the person who showed me to my room would also show me where the bathrooms are? Anyways, much to my relief I didn’t look stupid as I was directed to them quickly and managed to not pee my pants.

I skip the shower I had planned on, as I’m exhausted and can’t be bothered sorting myself out to go all the way to the communal washroom for a shower now. I change out of my sweat drenched clothes and lay down thinking I’ll put a dent in my book and hopefully cool off a bit under the fan. Five minutes in – power out. Fail. Sweatfest allllll night.

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Sidenote: Reason it was so dark in the streets – oh half of India had no power and my guesthouse’s generator cut out which is why I was in the dark. I didn’t find this out until a day later when I was talking to home and they asked about power outages and then I was talking to the manager of the guesthouse and he mentioned it. Yes, I looked like an idiot when I went ‘Oooooh, that’s why it was so dark walking here!’ He looked at me as though I was from another planet.

I’m up early, shower, go for breaky at the rooftop restaurant and watch all the excitement on the River Ganges! Ganpati Guesthouse is right on the river, so while enjoying breakfast I was watching people do their laundry in the river, bathe in the river, pray at the river, the gurus teaching, people walking, people socializing and those trying to get tourists in their boats for a ride.

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Varanasi is one of the seven the holiest cities for people of the Hindu faith. They believe Varanasi is heaven on earth. It is one of the world’s oldest continually inhabited cities. There are ghats all along the river for Hindus to come and wash away all their sins and cremate their loved ones. It’s quite a sight to see. It is by far the busiest place I’ve been in India.

I finish admiring the spiritual atmosphere I’m in the middle of and decide to ask about a city tour I saw advertised in my room and if someone can fix my computer…. fingers and toes crossed! The manager – who looks nothing like a manager is his loose jeans, bare feet and shoulder length hair – tells me he’ll call their computer guy and see if he can come look at it – and yes!

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The computer guy won’t get to the guesthouse for a few hours – so out I go to walk along the river! Shocking: a young Indian man walks up to me and wants to practice his English! Haven’t heard that before… Raj walks with me – tells me all about the ghats we pass as I wipe the sweat that is pouring off my face into a scarf. He fills me in on all the customs and rituals that take place and overall wasn’t too annoying to have around.

Then I tell him I’m going to turn back, as I have a computer guy I need to meet. He asks what time I’m meeting him – I mistakenly tell him…. ‘Oh great! You have enough time to come to my shop first!’ Fail Katie – fail!

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At his shop are pictures of him, his father and Goldie Hawn! Apparently she’s been to Varanasi seven times – the first time she was there, she met with a guru who predicted things about her life and he was right about them all – so she’s kept coming back! Long story short – I got sucked into buying some silk scarves and I’m pretty sure I was completely ripped off, but oh well!

I head back to my guesthouse and the computer miracle worker comes shortly thereafter. My processor is shot – he can’t fix it because there’s the Brother and Sister Festival the next day….. Wahhhhhhh. But he can take my hard drive out and put everything onto flash drives for me…. Yahoooooo! I didn’t lose all the emails I had written or my itunes.

Heavenly day I’d say.

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Indian Post

On my second day in Jaipur I arranged for my autorickshaw driver from the day before, Nandoo, to take me around to a few tourist spots and to the post office to mail so of my excessive shopping that has been dragging me down….! We agreed on 500 INR – which is about $10 for 6 hours of taking me around…. Life is pricey over here.

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Our first stop was the India Post. I had two big bags of stuff – some shopping I had done and some stuff that I brought but hadn’t really used so I wanted to just sent it home instead of haul it around more. I had been told by my hotel and Lonely Planet that if I took my stuff to the post office in Jaipur that there would be a packaging guru who would take care of it for me, for a nominal fee.

Now, after working for Shoppers – where we have Canada Post – I know that most post offices do not give the kind of service that this office did to me! I recall tape being asked for at Shoppers and the customer being told the aisle they could buy it in….

I put my two bags on this guru’s desk and he’s on it! The bags are emptied, everything is looked at and checked out.. nosy parkers! A plan is coming together in his mind….. Somehow, my two BIG bags of stuff end up rolled into a medium sized package with the quilts I bought holding it together. It’s then tied together in multiple directions with string.

Next comes the layer of plastic wrap that the whole this is encased in, followed by the fabric bag that is stitched – by the guru, in front of me in about two seconds it seemed to me with my jaw nearly on the ground. As somehow this bag he’s stitched, fits over my package perfectly… Shock and awe are on the Canadian girl’s face here.

He then stitches the bag closed around the package and hands it to me to address. I think I’m ready to go and mail it at this point… Oh no says the guru – he has to seal it still! Huh? Is on my face.

Out comes matches and a can of which he lights, and then he’s got a stick of wax. Off he goes melting the wax and dabbing it onto the stitches all around the package.

Now he’s done – about an hour later, as he had some other customers that he had to help as my packagathon was happening – and the nominal fee for this hour of amazingness – 180 INR – not even $4….
How much do you need miss? A thousand rupees. Out of his wallet it comes. My precious driver just lends me the money, not a second thought about it. I run inside to pay and off I go for an amazing day of being a tourist in Jaipur with my absolute gem of a driver.Off I go to mail the package – right to the front of the line I go as a lady (And there is a looooong line of men waiting) I don’t have enough rupees on me, I though I would be able to pay with my card. Fail. Outside I go to get Nandoo to take me to an atm.

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indian beauty

indian beauty

While being a tourist in Delhi we met a group from rural India; they were ecstatic about our cameras and loved us taking their photos and their chance to review them!

the day i fell back in love…

So after a reasonable nap after my disaster of a day and early flight I got up, had some lunch and looked around my hotel a bit.

What did I wander upon? Oh a little travel agency, where the lovely man looked at all the different options for me to get to Varanasi, figured the best one and delivered the tickets to my room for me. Winning 1.

I then figured I would go for a wander through the city, check out all the different bazaars – retail therapy and see the City Palace. I start to venture in that direction with my trusty map and Lonely Planet, but get stopped by multiple rickshaw drivers, all wanting to take me. I decline and decline and decline.

One driver is very persistent, he keeps following me along and I finally give in. He says ‘You pay me whatever you want, not up to me.’ I get in and tell him where I want to go. He then goes on to tell me that the bazaars and City Palace are closed because it’s Sunday. Fail 1.

He says he can take me to Amber Road to the shopping there – it’s open today and I will love it…. I don’t have anything else to do with myself so I let him drag me off to the emporiums I know are coming…

We drive for about 20 minutes before we pull around the corner to a textile factory. We walk in and one man, with great enthusiasm, launches into a grand explanation about fabric printing and how it’s done. He has stamps and natural ink and it’s all happening around me – he’s describing it all as well, but he has a strong accent, so I’m smiling and nodding at what I assume are the correct times.

I then get lead upstairs to the showroom. They have quilts – of all types, fabrics gallore – you can have anything you dream of made for you, scarves, wall hangings and paintings take up the rest of the space. I’m sat down, am served a diet coke and things start flying off the shelves for me to see! I leave with two quilts and two scarves – slightly poorer, but retail therapy is slowly pushing yesterday’s nightmare out of my mind…

We leave, I’m quite satisfied with my purchases, and don’t really feel the need to shop much more, but my driver asks if I want to head to a jewelry shop. I say I’m okay, just back to my hotel please – but he gives me this look of disdain and I cannot say no again – so off I go to look!

We whiz around the streets again, passing cows and camels in the streets, before pulling up to a little shop where I’m greeted with ‘Namaste’ outside. I’m lead inside, told to sit and asked what I like.

Between being shown the jewelry – I get talked to by a healer. He’s one of the salesmen. He was born in Victoria, BC and lived there until he was 13; in turn has a Canadian accent. Anyways, he totally freaked me out, as this is what he told me about myself (sidenote – all he knew about me was that I was Canadian.)

I worry too much – there’s a deep weight on my shoulders – I need to start meditating to relieve all the pressure I put on myself.

I need to think about myself more – I concern myself with taking care of everyone around me too much.

I need to let things out – I need to be mad – I need to tell people when they’re bothering me.

If I start to meditate it will relieve pressure in my lower back and one knee.

I should forgive my mother.

I wasn’t planning to stay in Canada and shouldn’t – just because there was great dishonesty in the relationship which caused me to not move doesn’t mean it wasn’t going to be the right thing for me. That heartbreak shouldn’t dictate what I do or don’t do. I should have learned to say ‘no’ and ‘fuck off’ much sooner.

I need to learn to sleep. I’m too tired too often.

I need to smile more. I’m gorgeous, but don’t believe it.

I should stop eating wheat and dairy; it’s causing problems with my thyroid.

I should be worried about Alzheimer’s.

I bought turquoise earrings, a turquoise ring and a turquoise necklace from him and left, completely mystified.

One of the weirdest, most intriguing and thought provoking days I’ve had….

My “I HATE INDIA” Day

I wake up, check my phone – I have a text message (insert smile on my face – thinking it’s from someone back home). Insert very annoyed face directly after. It’s an message from Jetkonnect, of which I have a flight to Delhi from Jaipur booked with for July 31st. It’s cancelled so they’ve put me on another two flights – Jaipur to Mumbai and then Mumbai to Delhi. That’s fine except I’ll be 4 hours late for my connecting flight with Air India….

I had got up at eight to be able to finish packing, since I was off to the airport on this day to head to Jaipur from Dharmsala. I was finished my first bout of volunteering and looking forward to moving on and enjoying some ‘me’ time, away from some people…. Instead I get to call airlines to try to sort life out.

I have decided I hate Jetkonnect. Everyone who works for them is an idiot. First off they barely speak English which when you choose ‘English’ as an option – you should get someone who speaks English!!!! Secondly I had two different individuals tell me that I could book a connecting flight with them to Varanasi – I would have 30 minutes between and would have to pick up my luggage and re-check-in. Sounds pretty reasonable eh? Blooooody hell!!!

Then it took a ridiculous amount of time for them to comprehend that I just wanted my money back. That’s all. I wanted to cancel the flight because they screwed up. Finally it happened. After that I had to call Air India to cancel my connecting flight. They were mildly more intelligent and it was sussed fairly easily.

By now it’s quarter to ten and I have a taxi picking me up to take me to Dharmsala at ten. It’s a one and a half hour to two hour drive there and my flight’s at one o’clock. I run downstairs, quickly throw everything that’s left into my bag, while trying to eat my breakfast that the cook had left for me and be quiet, as one of my roommates was still sleeping. Insert annoyed face – looking at her asleep while I’m running around like a chicken with her head chopped off.

I haul my bags downstairs, out the front of the house and sit, thinking the cab will show up any minute…

10.15 – I call Amit – he says he’ll call the cab and call me back.

10.25 – Amit calls back – taxi will be there in 5 or 10 minutes.

10.45 – Amit calls – I tell him the taxi still hasn’t arrived.

10.50 – Taxi races around the corner.

The entire taxi ride I’m stressing about everything. The fact that I might be late for this flight has me going and the fact that I don’t have any flights to Varanasi now. Finger nails that are long and nicely painted start to be gnawed away.

This taxi driver drives like a complete maniac – which is what you need when you’re in a hurry and in India. We somehow arrive at the airport at twelve. I have no idea how he got me there that fast – but I wasn’t asking questions, I was grabbing my stuff and heading into the airport!

I get in, there’s no check-in happening, there’s no nothing happening really, just a few people sitting and waiting… About fifteen minutes later a couple Kingfisher workers turn up. They have come to tell us the flight at one is cancelled, but we’re rescheduled on the four-forty-five flight. Fine. I ask if I’ll get moved onto the later connecting flight to Jaipur that I know exists and she says yes sure, no problem. No problem…. I call the hotel that’s supposed to be picking me up to change the pickup time. They are lovely. No problem… but she comes back a half hour later to tell me that the later connecting flight to Jaipur has been cancelled. So no connection.

At this point I start to stress. I try calling cleartrip.com since the wireless at the airport will not work so I can’t go online. (Sidenote: Kingfisher doesn’t give a shit about trying to help anyone sort anything.) I get them on the phone, he finds me a flight leaving the next morning with Spicejet – I say I’ll take it, figuring I’ll stay at a hotel near the airport for the night – then he can’t sell it to me because he can only use Indian credit cards over the phone…. fail.

I’m starting to feel really defeated. I then figure I can call Spicejet directly and maybe they can sell it to me! So I call, they put the whole thing through – bonus it’s cheaper directly through them – and I go to pay. My visa declines – twice and I lose the whole thing…. Now is when I start crying. I’m stuck at an airport in India with no way to get online, no way to book my next flight and hotels and things waiting for me.

I call Visa – in tears. I explain to the guy what is happening. He says the transactions haven’t even hit my card. There’s plenty of credit available. He doesn’t know what the problem is. He tells me to ask them to do it manually next time – I say I already asked them to and they said they’re not allowed. He snorts and goes ‘Reaaallly?!’ Yes I reply crying harder with snot and mascara now running down my face. He tries to reassure me that my card is fine and that everything will work out. He says to get the airline to call him back to have a three way call and he can give them an authorization number. I say okay and hang up…

I feebly call Spicejet back, I go through all my information again – K for kilo, A for apple, T for tiger, I for India, E for elephant. The transaction goes through! I don’t know why or how, but relief floods my body. One crisis solved.

At this point it’s like three or so, I walk up to the Kingfisher counter to get my refund for the connecting flight I’m going to miss. I overhear one of the workers talking to another customer about how the four-forty-five flight will probably be cancelled because of the terrible weather. I swirl my head around to look outside. It’s sunny and there’s a light haze. I walk over to the conversation and blurt ‘You’ve got to be kidding me!’ He continues to go on about the weather and I tell him that if this weather stopped planes, never would a flight ever take off from Vancouver! A few other people start to crowd around. I’m SUPER annoyed by now. They try to reassure everyone that they’ll put us onto the next day’s flights.

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The way I’m feeling by this point in my day…

Righto. There are loads of people missing all sorts of international connections because of this. I pipe up that they’ll just do the same thing again tomorrow and that this is crap and I want all my money back and for them to call a cab to take me to Delhi. Nearly everyone jumps on board. Everyone is demanding refunds and wants cabs. I get a few glares from Kingfisher staff – of which I return with an even more evil glare. What a horrifyingly awful company!

So somehow I manage to talk to this lovely Indian man who wants to get a cab aswell. He knows a local driver and gets on calling him. Meanwhile a confused Korean man – who has obviously seen my display of rudeness comes over for clarification of what’s going on since his English isn’t very good. I fill him in and he jumps in on our cab too.

Twelve hours later – four am – I arrive at the domestic terminal in Delhi. My flight is at seven-fifteen. I get a Costas latte and croissant and relax – I made it through the day of hell.

waves.

Everyday I walk to and from my placement about a half hour from where I’m living. I live in the village of Slow, which is about a twenty minute walk from the main road in Arla, which is about a twenty minute bus ride from Palampur, in Himachal Pradesh.

           

My walk to school is all uphill. It’s like a hike everyday to work, and I often have a backpack full of supplies and a bottle of water and snacks (for me and the kids) and whatever else I might need before I make the journey back to where I’m living. Though the first few days I wanted to die on the walk, I’ve not gotten used to it and really quite enjoy it.

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Everyday I may encounter cows wandering and mooooing – something I don’t think I’ve ever actually heard before, like I knew cows mooed, but I don’t think I had ever actually heard it. There will definitely be cars honking as they approach me – warning me to get off the road.

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Often I walk by young boys showering in their underwear at the taps on the street, not ashamed or embarrassed as you’d assume, but excited to see me with huge smiles.

 

There will be monkeys staring me down as I pass by them, the babies grabbing onto their mom’s in case they need to run away from me. I may get splashed by a huge puddle or step in poo – that could have come from: a cow, a donkey, a monkey, a horse, a goat, a dog and there’s a slim chance it may be human…

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I will nearly get killed by the bus that passes me every morning. The driver races along as though he’s driving his bus at Indy – with passengers on the roof racks since there’s not enough room for all the passengers inside…

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Sometimes I get offered a ride – which I always refuse. Usually I have at least a few young men yell ‘Heelllloooooooo’ as they race by on their motorcycles with smirks on their faces in excitement, having talked to a white woman!

 

There are always women and young girls collecting water from the taps along the street – most houses don’t have running water in them. They have a scarf wound into a circle, sitting on their head and then they load the pitcher of water on top. One hand holds it in place and the other carries another bottle of two.

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But the thing that always makes me smile are the children I see. Once I’m in view to them there’s yelling to call whoever else out and I have packs of little children waving at me. ‘Helloo! Hi! Helloooo!!! Hiiiiiii! What’s your name? Where you come?’ When I wave back and reply with ‘I’m Katie’, I’m responded to with a fit of giggles and ‘Katie!’ Sometimes they come out to shake my hand as well or wave from their rooftops. All with the biggest smiles and arms stretched as big as they can waving and waving, until I’m out of view…

 

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black magic

We finish dinner and want to go check out the nightlife and have another Kingfisher somewhere. We have heard Black Magic is pretty  entertaining, so we decide to go check it out….

We round the corner and walk down the long hallway that leads us to where the bouncers stand. There are chairs across the entrance, so we stand awkwardly for a minute wondering if the place is full or something, but no sooner can we think to ask someone, do we get waved in.

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A bouncer escorts us upstairs. Right at the top of the stairs a man grabs my hands and tries to start dancing with me – the bouncer shoves him away from me in a hurry. He leads us to a table – kicks all the men that are sitting at it away and has us sit down. He takes our drink order and has someone go to get them and then stands there guarding us.

Heidi, Evy, Kathleen and I look around in shock and awe and burst into a fit of laughter. We cannot wipe the stupid grins off our faces. The is the most insane thing we’ve ever seen. We are the only women in the entire place. It is stock full of super drunk Indian men and they’re dancing like they’re having the best night of their life! They are out on the dance floor showing off their best moves and in between they try to get close to us – but our bouncer doesn’t let that happen.

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There’s a mix of Hindi and western music. When a song came on that we knew, all the men’s eyes would really be on us as we sang and kind of danced in our seats. We were offered shots, had requests for photos and others who just stood photographing us all night. At one point ‘Desi Boys’ came on and I nearly peed my pants! My grade sixes and sevens at Ellendale danced to this song this year when they learned Bollywood dancing and all of us teachers that were working on it said we’d be quite happy to never hear it again… I did sing along a bit which really impressed the men!

We then had a fairly funny conversation about what all these people are doing with all the ‘white girl’ photos. Do they have some sort of shrine in one of the room’s of their house? A wall in their entryway perhaps? It seems strange to think how many Indian facebook accounts must have pictures of me…

The ultimate best moment of the night though was when some Hindi song came on and I suddenly have the sea of Indian men singing this song to me. It’s obviously some sort of love song. There’s pointing at me and hand gestures to show a heart beating and there’s my face – beat red. So hilarious!

A little black magic took our night from casual to another world….

McLeodganj

I just went to McLeodganj for the weekend. I skipped the trekking trip I was supposed to be going on for the weekend because frankly, I didn’t have any desire to be wet and cold all weekend. It has been insane with the monsoon rains and dealing with that while hiking and going to spend the night in a cabin with no electricity, toilets or running water after the hike and possibility of being soaked – well not really on my to do list at the moment.

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So I skipped it and went for a night to the home of the Dalai Lama. What’s that you say? You didn’t know the Dalai Lama lived in India? Well breaking news from Katie’s Travels – He does! He lives in McLeodganj, which is also known as Upper Dharmsala. These towns and the one I’m volunteering in, are in the Indian state of Himachal Pradesh which is in Northern Indian and borders Tibet. He fled Tibet and made the journey through the Himalayan Mountains to McLeodganj.

 

There are monks in deep red robes wandering everywhere you look in this town, they have all fled Tibet. There are Tibetans everywhere you look here too. They all made the extremely life-threatening journey through the mountains to Indian to escape the Chinese rule. Now I for one really didn’t have a clue what happened between China and Tibet, I really didn’t know a thing about Tibet at all. But after going to the Tibet Museum – a must if you happen to be in McLeodganj – I’ve learned and decided a few things.

 

  • I don’t really like the Chinese government – at all.
  • Tibet is nearly as big as India.
  • Nearly all of Tibet’s temples and places of religious history and sacrifice have been grounded by the Chinese.
  • Tibetans who are still in Tibet – which is being ruled by China – are being treated like slaves and are not allowed follow any of their beliefs.
  • How is it that the rest of the world is sitting around letting China do this? We have armies going off to countries who don’t want to share oil – but when one country has just taken another country over, killed it’s people, put it’s people in jail and made it’s people slaves, while destroying everything precious about that country we sit back and do nothing. Where are our government’s heads? Or right – up their asses because god forbid we harm our trade with China.

 

Okay, bitching is done.

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I went with Heidi, Evy and Kathleen, we shopped lots, ate everything and anything but Indian food and watching monks debating at their temple after walking the kora to show respect to the monks and their work. There were more backpackers in McLeodganj than I’ve seen the whole time I’ve been in India combined – it was crazy! A refreshingly easy going weekend – just what I needed – along with a little Black Magic….

 

FREE TIBET!

 

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Debating monks at the Dalai Lama’s temple in McLeodganj.

 

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One of the many Tibetan ladies I shopped from and I. We had such amazing weather!

Unlucky Me.

I was so excited for Saturday to come. I was not so excited for the 4.15am departure. I was thrilled to be seeing another of the World’s Wonders. I was not thrilled it was pouring – torrential downpour would be more accurate – for our journey there, which meant flooded roads and extra insane driving.

Though we had a four hour drive to Agra, the home of the Taj Mahal, I was never bored. There was a vast new landscape to take in, people and animals everywhere and the weather – oh the weather!

There were people out everywhere. I was overcome by determination of the people riding their bikes through the flood, plastic bags on their heads to protect them – yet whenever a vehicle passed they got drenched. I cringed each time it was us soaking them. A man holding an umbrella over him and the driver of the motorcycle they were on. A man holding an umbrella over himself as he squatted beside the railroad tracks for his morning ‘dump’. Women were getting soaked crossing streets through knee high water. There were cows wandering about and dogs searching for food. When we’d stop there would be kids with monkey’s trying to get money by having their monkey’s do tricks and the really with lucky kids were selling the umbrellas – on that day!

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We arrive and all the different people working there see ‘WHITE PEOPLE’!! We are swarmed at our cars by drenched Indians. Umbrellas, camel rides, Taj snow globes, elephant figurines, golf cart rides and snacks – it was a sea in front of our car. We needed all of it according to them! Our friends back home and ohhh the kids in our life would loooove a little snow globe! Such good salespeople the kids are – so smart with their remarks, smiles and huge brown eyes looking up and you pleading.

We finally get into the Taj Mahal and it is breathtaking. It took twenty-two years to be built. A Muslim king in the sixteen hundreds built it to fulfill his dying wife’s wishes. She died from having fourteen children in eighteen years – her wishes were: for him to take care of her babies, for him to never marry again because she could not share him and for him to build a heaven on earth for her. Boy, is it a heaven – all handcrafted, nothing is painted on – it’s all cut out of different colours of stone and then the white marble is carved out to fit the piece…. The descendants of those men, who built the Taj, still live on the property and do the maintenance. The craft is still passed down from grandfather to son to grandson.

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It’s all quite overwhelming, and then my camera crashes to the ground…. smash. Not operable anymore (side note: thank you annoying salesman at Best Buy who blabbed and blabbed so I finally bought the extended warranty), but life goes on. You would think I’d be freaking at this point. I was handing my camera to our tour guide to take a picture of me holding the top of the Taj and poof – he dropped it. I picked it up, everyone around gasping in horror and holding their camera’s a little tighter, and pushed the zoom back in, saw if it would turn on – nope – so put it away and went up to have my picture taken by someone else’s camera! What am I going to do start crying?

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That night I went and bought the same camera at a shop here – it’s gold though, perhaps I’ll have better luck with it?! Yes I didn’t feel like spending the extra money, but who really gives a beeeep.

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Then the next morning I wake up to a phone call from one of our coordinators telling us our flight was cancelled, we tried to get on the other flight – no luck. So just had a twelve hour drive up to Palampur, not super comfy or enjoyable, but life goes on.

Twenty hours of driving and a smashed camera in the past two days, but I smiled and laughed my way through it and figure unlucky me will probably be leaving soon…. Calm, cool and collected Unlucky Me.