We arrived back in the US yesterday from Delhi after 19 hours of flying.
Literally halfway around the world. There was a collective sigh from all 4 Herrs as we touched down in LA, moderated only by the 1 1/2 hours it took to clear customs and immigration. This was, by far, the longest time spent in any of the 11 countries we visited but it may mean that everyone wants to come here!
We will take today to get things in order for the girls to go back to school but it may take some time to realize that our adventure, one that we spent 6 months planning, is over. Memories will last forever but we also realize that this trip is just one small part of life. The everyday activities of work, school, family and friends are also things to be cherished. We will now move on from one international adventure to many more domestic ones here at home.
Glad to be home.
Click, click, click. There’s no place like home.
This is the holiest city in the Hindu religion and the place where Buddah first preached. Followers of Hinduism believe that if you come here to be cremated, Lord Shiva takes you directly to heaven, thereby stopping the reincarnation process.
We took a rickshaw to the Ganges River to see the “aarti” ceremony where they worship the Mother Ganges. Hindu’s worship nature and the Ganges is the holiest river in India. It was interesting, but foreign, and was more meaningful as an artistic or folk show than religious. It will take much more time to relate to the 3 million (yes, 3,000,000) gods and godesses.
On our way back to the hotel our guide pointed out 2 bodies on their way to be cremated. They are on the roofs of Jeeps with special shrouds. Tomorrow we will be leaving at 5:30 am to see the local traditions on the Ganges. Wish us luck.
India is a country of 1.2 billion people. You find many interesting ways that Indians earn a living. For instance, you will find barbers on the side of busy roads cutting hair and doing a shave for about 30 rupees ($ .60). But, in what I think is an extraordinary value, they will also shave a man’s underarm hair at no extra charge!! I just love a bargain, especially when it involves good grooming, too.
Yesterday we drove 4 hours from Jaipur to reach Agra. The only purpose of coming to Agra was to see the Taj Mahal. When we got here and checked into our hotel I was wondering if it was really worth the effort to drive here just to see a tomb.
Today answered that question. We arose at 5:30 to meet our guide at 6:00 am. We wanted to see the Taj at sunrise to avoid both the heat and the crowds. It was stunning!
Like the Eiffel Tower in Paris, you can see pictures but it takes your breathe away when you are actually there. Even with hundreds of tourists just like us, all jockeying for picture positions, the majesty of the Taj calms everybody down and you realize you are in a special presence. It almost seems alive. If a building can be beautiful, it was beautiful.
It seems to me (now) that 4 hours in the car for a lifetime memory is a real bargin. Glad we came.
PS- We also planned the Taj to be the last O-H-I-O for the trip. Saving the best for last?
Yesterday we were in Jaipur and went to something called the Jantar Mantar (click on the link for a BBC story on it), which is an observatory built by Maharaja Jai Singh II around 1730. It ends up that this place has the largest sundial in the world at 27 meters tall and can tell the local time within 2 seconds. I love this kind of thing!
The reason this is important is because of the Hindu belief in Astrology. Many things (such as buying a car, a marriage) are dependent on getting a favorable astrological reading and you need to know your birth date to the second.
The cool thing is the kinds of things you stumble across when you travel. I remember the Circleville Pumpkin Festival growing up as a kid. You went there and got to eat everything pumpkin including pie from a 400 lb. pie, ice cream, doughnuts and pumpkin burgers. Awesome!! Personally, the Hatch, NM Chili Festival and the Islay Malt and Music Festival (Scotland) are high on my wish list.
Right now we are in Agra to see the Taj. There is a Hindu festival going on for the next 9 days called Navratri. People are out there singing and burning something to worship Goddess Durga. It should be an experience. Travel affords you an opportunity to experience things, but only if you go out and do it!!
Today at the Fatehpur Sikri a couple of people were staring at us. What really creeped me out was for the fact that they left, we came in, and all of them came right back and stared. I told Madeleine to go into evasive ninja action. A more proper way would be to
A. Stare at them until they go away
B. Run over there and give them a wet Willie
C. Move out of the way and hide behind the biggest thing you can find, in my case that would be my dad.
Now for most of my guy friends reading this, it sounds dreadful! However, this was unlike any experience we have ever had.
How many times are you going to shop for precious stones in a 80 sq/ft shop, where you pass three cows in the courtyard, sit on a mattress drinking tea while you are browsing, get help from an Australian doctor who also happens to be a jewelry designer buying for her shop and have your pieces delivered to the hotel in the evening.
It gets better. This shop is owned by Daya Sharma. He is from a small village near Jaipur. He was from the Brahman class, however, he was still very poor. He left home at 14 to go to Jaipur to earn a living. He became a Hindu priest but started a jewelry business with a 6,000 rupee loan. The equivalent of about $100. This was a loan from an Australian who visited him to take tea in his temple. She talked this 14-year old into starting a business and helped him understand good business practices and taught him English at night. He calls her his “angel” as he lost touch with her several years ago and hasn’t been able to track her.
He has now been in the jewelry business for 25 years and goes to sell in Australia every other month. He is a wealthy man but you would never know this by the look of his shop ($20/month for rent!). He will be opening up a United States presence in May when he travels to Las Vegas for a show. Daya knows more about business than any Harvard Business School graduate.
This is why I love to travel. We have met so many interesting and amazing people. Thank you, Daya for sharing your great story.
Jackie and I were waiting for these to come in from Chyulu and Andrew. Hope you L-I-K-E them!
I take full responsibility for Ohio State’s
awful terrible disgusting disappointing performance at Miami last week. I neglected to publish some O-H-I-O pictures which ensured bad karma for the Buckeyes. So, to help them on to victory over Colorado today, here are a few shots from Ethiopia and Kenya.