Tag

TWU

Travel

Taj Mahal and Agra Fort

Agra 2 (1)

Agra 3 (1)

FullSizeRender (1)

 

Our whirlwind weekend to Delhi ended over a week ago and it already feels like a lifetime ago. We are so busy all the time and pushed to mental and physical capacity that even in the ten minutes I’ve had free, I just can’t seem to make myself do anything requiring brain power. I feel like I’m getting stupider and stupider here and the delirious giggles are off the charts, but maybe, just maybe, I’ll sleep for 48 hours when I’m back in the states and I’ll wake up smart! Maybe…

But back to Delhi. We get one free weekend while we’re on assignment over here and ten of us decided it was our chance to see the Taj Mahal. We rushed home after work on Friday and crammed into rickshaws, making it to the airport just in time for our flight to be delayed and for us to wait for a couple hours. And I had the pleasure of using a hole in the ground toilet and getting acquainted with an ice cold bidet. (Dammit Alina, stop forgetting to carry around toilet paper!) A few hours later and we landed in Delhi and took the most hilarious rickshaw through torrential rain and flooded streets, getting soaked, getting ripped off and getting dropped off at the wrong hotel. So back on the road across town to our actual hotel and we finally got checked in around 2am. Enough time to shower and meet our tour guide in the lobby at 2:45am. We spent the next three hours en route to Agra and trying to sleep in the oddest positions. Side note: I’ve learned I sleep quite well sitting in a chair and draping my torso over my legs and letting my arms and head hang down.

We arrived to the Taj Mahal around 6am to meet our tour guide and spent the better part of four hours exploring the buildings and grounds. I don’t know what I expected going into this Trip, but nothing prepares you to see the Taj Mahal. It’s breathtaking! The structure was commissioned in 1632 by the emperor, Shah Jahan, as a final resting place and testament of his love for his wife, Mumtaz Mahal. No detail was spared and the amount of optical illusions the mausoleum plays on you is impressive. My favorite part was the intricate carvings and the inlayed patterns of gemstones. When you shine a light on them, they illuminate in the most brilliant colors and you feel like you’re on the inside of a kaleidoscope.

 

Agra 6 (1)

FullSizeRender (2)

Agra 9 (1)

Agra 7 (1)

FullSizeRender (3)

 

 

The second half of our day (well morning) was spent at the Agra Fort, which was just as impressive as the Taj Mahal in my opinion. I loved getting lost in the maze of rooms and willing the walls to tell their secrets. The emperor was imprisoned here by his son where he lived out his final days, looking out at the Taj Mahal and his love down the river.

 

Fort 1 (1)

Fort 2 (1)

Fort 7 (1)

Fort 8 (1)

Fort 10 (1)

FullSizeRender (7)

Fort 3 (1)

Fort 6 (1)

 

Between the two tours we stopped for lunch where I had the pleasure of another squatty potty and averting my eyes from the poor man who had to clean it. Sorry! We also stopped at a factory collective of stoneworkers that use the same techniques used to make the gemstone inlays at the Taj Mahal. Totally a money trap, but I walked away with a beautiful elephant I plan on using as a bookend. Oh and monkeys!!! Monkeys were everywhere! We saw two elephants from the car too, but that doesn’t really count I guess.

 

Agra 10 (1)

Agra 11 (1)

Agra 1 (1)

IMG_1431 (1)

 

Back in the van for more delirious giggles and weird napping positions and car games. I cannot tell you how heavenly it was to return home to our hotel room. Air conditioning and warm showers and giant plush beds and wifi! Six of us snuggled into the beds and ordered room service and lots of drinks and watched cheesy 80s style Bollywood movies. Nine pm, down to three of us and we headed out to explore the Delhi nightlife. We ended up at Lord of the Drink and laugh all you want but it was so fun! The inside looks like this sleek cigar lounge/speakeasy with a DJ and dancing and the rooftop was breezy and mellow with a band playing what seemed like Spanish guitar but in Hindi. We chilled with lots of sangria, gin and tonics and shisa – watermelon and mint to be exact and it was the best hookah I’ve ever tried – before stumbling home for some much much much needed sleep.

 

Agra 12 (1)

IMG_1631 (1)

 

xo

Alina

Related posts
Travel

A Beautiful Tragedy

The poverty and lack of infrastructure in India is impossible to ignore. You are reminded of it with every little child tugging on your arm for money, the endless stretches of shantytowns, the dilapidated buildings, the empty atms, and the sheer dirtiness and lawlessness of the streets. India has 33% of the worlds poorest and no government aid for them.

It feels bizarre to come into so much poverty and stand on the other side of it as a carefree consumer. I’m here for six weeks and oh look how cheap the clothing is. I’ll buy it! And look how quaint the rickshaws are. I’ll ride them! Yes to this and yes to that and more more more before returning to my plush job and my plush life. I feel guilty how lucky I am. I deserve much of what I have because I’m a hard worker and ambitious and compassionate but I also owe a lot of my life to luck. How lucky that I was born a white female to a middle class family in the United States in the current century. How lucky that I was able to go to any university that I pleased and that my dream school accepted me. How lucky am I that despite my health problems, I have access to the top doctors and have a supporting and loving family. How lucky that I have always been taught that I can do and be anything I can imagine. It’s all happenstance that I am standing here so privileged and disconnected from the struggles of these people.

And yet with all my privilege, I feel helpless to provide for these people and ease their struggle. Poverty surrounds you and it takes everything you’ve got to not pet the street dogs who may or may not have rabies and to not help the four year old beggar who’s “pimp” watches nearby. It’s a reality that makes the beauty of India tragic and it’s something I’ve yet to reconcile with myself. With every new adventure and happy moment, I also feel sad and hopeless. People were not kidding when they said India would be an emotional journey.

Xo Alina

Related posts
Taj Mahal and Agra Fort
July 13, 2016
First Observations About India
June 30, 2016
Laxmi Road
June 27, 2016
Travel

First Observations About India

thumb_FullSizeRender (7)_1024

IMG_1381

 

  • There are no addresses. Everything is landmarked based. If you want to get to the Shisa Cafe, you say Westin, Koreagon Park. If I want to get to work, I say behind IBM.
  • The rule to driving here is that there are no rules. Or lanes or traffic lights for that matter.
  • On that note, pedestrians are not respected. In New York, I always bank on the fact that I think the drivers don’t want to hit me and go to jail, more than they want to get somewhere fast. I have a sneaking suspicion, that’s not the case here. Even when I’m on the sidewalk, a motorbike will hop up onto the path to get around traffic and come barreling at me. It’s a game of chicken and I lose every time.
  • There are a lot of international stores and risque clothing like bra tops and miniskirts and short shorts, but I’ve yet to see indian women wearing them. Is there some sort of secret risque clothing gatherings club that I’m not aware of?
  • The little girls here wear the most beautiful princess-looking dresses on a daily basis. I was forced to wear real clothes when I was younger and I might be bitter about it. Give me my tiara dammit. (jk I was a feisty little tot that dressed myself and drove my mom nuts because I never matched and mixed seasons).
  • The food ranges from spicy to spicier to spiciest and I’m not mad at it. My stomach might beg to differ.
  • Toilet paper is not a given here. Pack your own or embrace the bidets. The choice is yours.
  • And if you do find and use toilet paper, you’re not supposed to flush it.
  • The head wobble. An ever constant source of confusion and giggles.
  • I’m not sure waiting in lines is a thing here. Every time I’m cueing, someone cuts in front of me with no shame. I haven’t figured out if it’s a respect your elders thing yet or what but they seem surprised if I say “excuse me, I was waiting in line.” Tbd.
  • There are metal detectors and security everywhere. To get into malls and clubs and hotels and stores. You also have to check all shopping bags at the front of the store and they zip tie your purse or backpack shut.
  • I love the mosque’s call to prayer on Sunday nights. We can hear it from our rooftop.
  • Every shop has roughly 5 attendees to every 1 shopper.
  • So far I have seen hundreds of street dogs and only 3 pet dogs.
  • Coffee is not a thing here. I’m not crying, that’s just sweat coming from my eyes.
  • And I like the chai!! I have tried and hated chai many times in the states, but it was nothing like the chai here.
  • There’s a lot of half constructed buildings. They’re beautiful and haunting, but a sad reminder of unstable markets and corruption.
  • Roti and Medu and Paratha and Samosas and Dosas and Kulcha and Biryani. I’ll have to do a separate post on the food. Or many!

xo Alina

Related posts
Taj Mahal and Agra Fort
July 13, 2016
A Beautiful Tragedy
July 5, 2016
Laxmi Road
June 27, 2016
Travel

Laxmi Road

thumb_FullSizeRender (21)_1024

thumb_FullSizeRender (11)_1024

 

On our first full day in Pune, we started off heading to Phoenix Mall to grab water bottles and provisions but the mall doesn’t open until 11am. So we walked down the road to the next mall, which was also closed. But the movie theater was open and we opted to kill time watching Finding Dory in the air conditioning. Kind of an odd introduction to Pune, but AC people!

After the movie, we ventured downtown to Laxmi Road for some lunch and shopping. All in all the day was shocking and exhilarating and humbling. There are people everywhere, dogs everywhere, cars everywhere…everything everywhere. I can’t wait to come back and explore the maze.

xo Alina

 

thumb_FullSizeRender (14)_1024

thumb_FullSizeRender (15)_1024

thumb_FullSizeRender (16)_1024

thumb_FullSizeRender (24)_1024

thumb_FullSizeRender (19)_1024

thumb_FullSizeRender (22)_1024

thumb_FullSizeRender (20)_1024

Related posts
Taj Mahal and Agra Fort
July 13, 2016
A Beautiful Tragedy
July 5, 2016
First Observations About India
June 30, 2016
Travel

A Comedy of Errors

thumb_FullSizeRender (10)_1024

thumb_FullSizeRender (23)_1024

India is a complicated love affair. It is a place where my privileged North American and hurried urbanite background come to a grinding halt. No, we will not fix your refrigerator. No, you may not order that. No, you cannot wear that. No, the electricity is off for now. No, the wifi does not work. No, we will not give you the keys to your room’s closet even though we have told you someone will bring them upstairs three days in a row now. No! Because because.

It is crowded and so humid everything you do feels like a hot yoga class. The car exhaust and dirt chokes you and horns beep so much it has become white noise. The men stare you down and blow kisses and beggars pull at your clothes and block your path. There is shit everywhere and some rancid and indistinguishable smells. To put it simply – it is sensory overload.

Yet despite all that, this country is enchanting! The rickshaw drivers chat you up and love to hear you squeal as they zip in and out of traffic. The flowers and trees are saturated in tropical hues and bursting from every sidewalk and plaza. You happen upon the most ornate and stunning temples in the most unassuming of places. The people are so smily and community oriented. The mangoes are so fragrant they seem fake. The bejeweled saris and vibrant prints are swoon worthy. The music pulls you up off your chair. And the food!

There is this lighthearted roll with the punches attitude that permeates daily life. Maybe it’s their natural disposition, maybe it’s a survival technique, but it’s so charming. And I mean really, you have to laugh it off. Life here is a comedy of errors.

We moved in to our longterm hotel apartments on Wednesday night and nothing is as it said it would be. The room is not fully sealed and mosquitos lurk in the corners waiting for you to come home. My refrigerator doesn’t work. My dresser locks but somehow you can still open it. The drawers that warn you to lock up all valuables or else don’t have keys and no, you may not have them. The bathroom door and shower curtain are covered in mold. The living room and kitchen are outdoors and the only wifi spots, but you will be eaten alive. And none of this will be changing any time soon or ever. Preparation and shoulds be damned. This country doesn’t care – here, take this small violin and move on.

I used my shower for the first time Thursday morning. I had set up all my toiletries on the vanity and remembered to turn on the water heater fifteen minutes before my shower. When, I turned on the shower, water sprayed absolutely everywhere! It gushed every which direction soaking my toiletries and trash can and mirror and toilet paper and towel. I threw open the door and started chucking stuff into my bedroom as fast as I could all the while water was now spraying into my room. I finally slammed the door shut so I could take advantage of the remaining hot water and actually, you know…shower, when I caught my disheveled reflection in the mirror and burst into fits of laughter. What else could you do?! And what a perfect introduction to life in India because there’s been a lot of ridiculous hurdles and even more delirious giggles.

Xo

Alina

thumb_FullSizeRender (9)_1024

thumb_FullSizeRender (10)_1024

thumb_FullSizeRender (12)_1024

thumb_IMG_1315_1024

thumb_IMG_1332_1024

thumb_FullSizeRender (25)_1024

 

Related posts
Taj Mahal and Agra Fort
July 13, 2016
A Beautiful Tragedy
July 5, 2016
First Observations About India
June 30, 2016