Thursday, December 17, 2009
What a place to re-enter the Western world after being in Asia for a year and a half. After more than 24 hrs of being in Transit, we finally landed in madrid at around midnight and were greeted by the shining face of Cristina. I must admit that at this point Madrid seemed so clean and quiet compared to what i had been living, though the apartments are equally as tiny and the people equally as well dressed as in Korea.
At first I must admit Madrid was like Candy to me, clothing stores that carried my size and would actually let me try things on (though they were way too expensive), people dressed in all black with banger hair and steel toed boots, really amazing coffee (although not enough cafes, Madrid is no Paris), street performers of all sorts and beautiful old architecture. Oh the pleasures the Western world provides.
We spent most of our time sleeping, cooking and eating amazing food and walking around admiring the scenery. Fortunately Madrid is not too cold in December though after over six months of hot weather even +10 seems cold. One of the most shocking things i think i noticed was the fact that there were actually more people on the pacted downtown streets then i had experienced in Korea or India. I supposed it was almost christmas but it was absolutely crazy making. I did notice however that people were much colder in Madrid than i had experienced since Korea. One of the things i loved so much about India and most of the developing world is just how friendly and talkative people are. I wonder where we lost this ability to be friendly and care for our neighbours.
All in all Madrid was lovely. a perfect place to stop before going back to Canada, slowly adjusting to the temperature and the Western world. I am so thankful to Cristina and Igor for putting us up.
Monday, December 14, 2009
Our exit from India was a blessing and a sadness. After our very difficult last week in Setrawa, we packed up last minute and headed out. On arrival to Jodhpur we booked ourselves into the Maharaja room in our guesthouse and spent three days in our own space; shopping, eating and saying goodbye. I can not say it was all peaches and cream. I went through an intense series of emotions and needed some serious time by myself. But after those three days a great amt of healing had occured and we were ready to take off again.
And so we hopped onto another train and headed to Agra, the home of the Taj Mahal. For being the city that contains thgis monument to Love, it is a bit of a dive to say the least. And the hotel we stayed in, though cheap, was equally so. But what the city lacked was made up for by the Taj. Originally we had considered not going to see it, but as our plans shaped and we had a few spare days before flying off it seemed the thing to do. It was obviously meant to turn out this way as when we pulled up in the wee hours of the morning on our rickety little rickshaw and entered the grounds after waiting in line, we were awe-struck. We had chosen just the time to come. On that early cold morning in december, the fog rolled off the river as thick as pea soup and slowly engulfed the surrounding lands and then the Taj. What a mystical and magical moment. I don't think my pictures or words could ever do it credit.
The Taj was built by the Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan for his second wife, Mumtaz Mahal, who died after the birth of their 14th child. This is a truly amazing memorial to give to someone, esp a woman who no doubt lived a hard life and gave birth to 14 children. Though it is said that she requested him to do it before she had died. It took 22 years to build and at the end of it all the once prosperous kingdom was broke. At the suggestion of making another black mirror image taj on the other bank of the river, Shah Jahan's son locked him up in the Agra fort where he overlooked the Taj until he died.
Our visit to Agra was not just all about the Taj. It also consisted of meeting up with our old teaching mate Graeme who had travelled across japan, china, tibet and nepal to join us. As always Graeme sparked the adventurous spirit in me and the evening after we visited the Taj we decided to wonder out into the dark streets and find a beedi vendor. This eventually lead us to the Paan vendor where we tried both the good and not so good, but highly simuating varieties, at the absolute delight of the men in the neighbourhood. Not only were there whities out and about, chewing paan and smoking, but one of them was a woman. Eventually we were told to leave by an elderly sikh man who said it was dangerous to be out. On our return home we met up with our dear friend Rajat from CS who brought us the most amazing liqour straight from the army canteen. It is no wonder people join the army if they are served the best liquor in the country. Finally after a short sleep we hopped on the 6am express to Delhi.
Returning to Delhi was definitely not as much of a shocker as it was when we first had arrived. We were used to the mess and the touts and knew how to bargain and had to laugh at the taxi drivers trying to charge us an arm and a leg. This time we stayed in the infamous Paharganj area, but after some wangling we found ourselves a good deal. We said goodbye to Graeme and spent the day saying goodbye to delhi and india with two more lovely CSers. We visited Ghandi's memorial and experienced one last group of Indians taking pictures with us, we drank chai and sat on the grass talking. When it finally came time we returned to our hotel and packed up our stuff, went and ate one last thali and took a taxi to the airport.
But what we can not sit inside the terminal to wait for our flight!!!!! We must go to the little waiting room beside the cafes and sit there for 8 hrs, yeah. And so we did we sat, tried to sleep, read, walked about and waited until were admitted into the terminal and waited some more and then caught our plane. Goodbye India i will miss you!!!