Monday, July 20, 2015

IBI Update: Chennai, Agra, & Delhi, India

Movies like The Grand Marigold Hotel and Million Dollar Arm give a romantic sense of India. And it has its charm, to be sure. But it is also a vast, hot, diverse, poverty-stricken, thriving country that is just so foreign from my western thinking brain that it can't be summed up in (or experinced) in any sort of "snapshot." So I wanted to say that. I'll also mention a few stray observations and then give a short recount of what we did while in India for roughly two weeks. 

Stray observations:
We were staying in very nice hotels and the service was thus extraordinary. But India is also a service and hospitality oriented culture and that could be sensed in every restaurant, church, store, etc. We spent most of our time at a resort and someone would stop by our room a few times every day to make sure we had everything we needed. Our bags were always taken to our room by hotel staff (no matter if it was a slower process). It was disarming and felt weird but very appreciated.
India is hotttt. They've had heat waves recently that have killed hundreds. By the time we arrived, it was somewhat cooler. Meaning we had highs in the low 100s with some crazy humidity.
India provided some of the nicest hotels and a compassion sand we also witnessed the highest level of poverty. It's disarming when you witness people sleeping on the streets a few yards away from a five-star hotel. 
There was security at every mall, hotel, airport (just to get in), and subway. The alarm would always go off and nothing would happen. I didn't get it.
Chennai, India
The students took a one week intensive at a beach resort in Chennai which left Jorjette and I with a week to sit by the pool and relax. This was very welcome after a busy end to our time in Europe. The change in cuisine, jetlag, and busy schedule also wiped out a bunch of students with a few sick every day and one with some issues bad enough to fly home. But mostly, Jorjette got tan, I used spf 50, and we both got massages at the end of the week. 

We were about an hour outside of Chennai so we were only in the city a few times. We went shopping, we visited the tomb of St. Thomas, we explored some ancient temples, and we had a dance party/karaoke on the final night. 
Agra & Delhi, India
A couple hour flight north brought us to Delhi where we promptly took a four hour bus ride to Agra, home of the Taj Mahal. We visited in the morning, posed in a bunch of Indian people's pictures (a common occurrence), then visited a marble shop similar to how the Taj was created. For those wondering, the Taj is absolutely majestic and amazing. Once you see it, I'm not sure there's anything else to do in Agra, but wow, it's beautiful.

Delhi provided some time to go on a bicycle rickshaw ride, visit the largest mosque in India, and visit a Ghandi museum. We also met a snake charmer. 

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