Saturday, March 15, 2014

Namaste & Welcome to India

I finally have time and energy to get some words down about this glorious trip. 

Our first few days here have been packed to the brim with activity and each evening we find ourselves exhausted and ready for bed before 9pm it seems. But one of my favorite things about having a blog is being able to look back and see what happened day to day on past trips and relive that if I want to. So it is important to me to write things down. If you're reading this too, thank you! : )

Before I start I have to be honest. I was scared to come to India. Similar to when we traveled to South America, I felt a little panicked when thinking about leaving my comfort zone. Even though I genuinely had a desire to travel to these places...the unknown, the poverty, the lack of control, safety issues...all kind of freaked me out. There were a few times we weren't sure if we would be able to come due to Jason's work schedule and during those times I secretly felt a little relieved. I was afraid and was looking for an easy way out. Even up to the point of landing in the Delhi airport I was nervous. But I decided I needed to face my fears, get out of my comfort zone, and be open to what I could learn about this vastly different culture and also be open to what I could learn myself in the process. I took a deep breath and decided to embrace the discomfort.


When we started out on our first day in Delhi our tour guide Praveen started off by explaining the meaning of Namaste. Each hand when brought together has as meaning. One is for your heart, one is for your soul and as you bow and say Namaste you are bowing to the god within that person. So in essence it is saying, my heart and soul bow and honor the god that is within you. How beautiful is that? I am not much of a yogi anymore (though it is in my near future plans to get back into it), so the meaning of namaste may be obvious to others but I wasn't aware of it's deeper meaning til that day. When Praveen said that, I teared up a little and knew for certain that this would be a trip we would never forget. I was open and ready to accept all that India had to offer.

But let's start from the beginning. I will include lots of photos because that's of course a very important part for me. A lot of the photos are taken with my DSLR but Jason also is taking photos with an awesome Nikon 1 that my friend Katie Tackes borrowed to us (thank you again's awesome!). I am just going to cover our time in Delhi and once I have sorted through the Jaipur pictures I will post about that wonderful city.

We started off in Chicago. We were flying direct from Chicago to Delhi, a 14 hour flight. I was super anxious about being in the air that long. We had decided to come to Chicago the night before the flight left so we could relax and get as much sleep as possible. We arrived Sunday evening and did just that...ate, relaxed, and slept.

We went to bed and were awoken by an alert on Jason's phone early the next morning saying that our flight was delayed for at least 8 hours. We were able to keep our hotel room and wait for our plane which ultimately ended up being 12 hours late and leaving around 2am on Tuesday morning. We found out later that our plane left Delhi and had to turn around and return to Delhi after 3 hours due to the transponder failing. Yikes.

enjoying some Caribou at MSP

chillin' in the hotel in Chicago

Jason likes to take pics of me when I look my best
We did a lot of waiting and snoozing 
Jason waiting for the plane to arrive...
Prepping myself for the long ass flight
looking hot and ready to fly
Jason being a creeper as usual

Soooo...I feel like kind of an asshole now because I was beyond anxious about being on a plane for 14 hours. I was worried I would feel clostrophobic, etc. I can't sleep on planes so I had a bad feeling...though I tried thinking positive and affirmative thoughts. Welp, I ended up sleeping pretty much the entire time. Ha! I turned on an inflight movie, Casablanca...and I couldn't even stay awake for the whole 104 minutes. Jason was very jealous. Muahaha. I did wake up periodically but I was probably only awake for a few hours total. It was lovely. I owe a lot of it to the awesome eye covers Jason found online and the noise cancelling headphones we splurged on just before our trip. I turned out some white noise on my sound machine app and I was zonked.

We arrived in Delhi at 1:30am and by the time we got to our hotel and to bed it was about 4:30am. We didn't care. We made it and we took that 2 hours of sleep for all it was worth. Here are a few photos from our arrival. We got beautiful flower leis. Also...our room was comfy as hell (notice picture #2 of our husband is a freak show)

The next morning we woke up bright and early to devour whatever we could from the breakfast buffet before heading out on our tour. It was so damn tasty.

Now on to the cool stuff. As I already told you, Praveen our tour guide made me almost cry right off the bat with his Namaste speech. That really set the tone for the day. Though the poverty, the chaos and the constant honking of horns is/was omni present...I was able to take it for what it was and just be in the moment. Yes, it was sad that people are so poor, but honestly everyone seems pretty damn happy. This was an interesting and powerful realization for me. 

We first went to a Muslim Mosque in Delhi which was stunning. We took off our shoes and the ladies had to wear big (and ugly) moo moos out of respect.

This guy wanted to be in the picture with Jason...haha  

After this we went had a pretty unforgettable experience on a rickshaw. Our driver took us into narrow alley ways and around busy streets. It was exhilarating. Jason thought it was kind of nerve wracking while I naively enjoyed every second not worrying about someone coming to run us over. As you'll see  in the pictures...the infrastructure is completely non existent and there are power lines everywhere...strung up wherever they can find space. A very eye opening experience! 

After this we visited the cremation site of Ghandi which is known as the Raj Ghat. It has an eternal flame burning in his honor. It was beautiful!

After this, we went to a shop run by the people of Cashmere where they showed us how they weave their famous Indian rugs. It was very interesting! It's a painstaking process and it takes years to finish one rug. They offered their beautiful work up for sale but Jason and I weren't quite ready to drop 25k on a rug for our living room....maybe someday ; )

We finished the day at the Qutub Minar which is a huge tower made from sandstone. It is the tallest tower in India and is surrounded by some awesome Hindu ruins. The detail in these ruins are incredible as you will see in the pictures. The time it took do these carvings is crazy.

After that, we headed back to the hotel to explore a bit before heading to dinner. 

After this we headed out to our welcome dinner. Jason and I are new to eating Indian food so we were a bit nervous about what we were going to eat. But the dinner was delicious and it ensured us we would eat well throughout the trip!
 The only remaining slum in Delhi. Sad to see and very eye opening: 
 Always busy on the roads
OH!! And I cannot forget to share...(I don't care if this is TMI) I know everyone is dying to know how gross the toilets are here...and yes, squatting and peeing into a hole in the earth in public is how they that cherry has been popped. Our hotels have lovely bathrooms but when we are out during the day...this is the fun we have in store for us: 

It's safe to say we were exhausted that evening. We went to bed very early.
The next morning we packed our things and enjoyed another delicious breakfast and some coffee outside.

We then headed to the Birla Temple before leaving Delhi. This is a Hindu temple that enshrines Lord Vishnu. I was reminded there how similar Buddhism and Hinduism really are...and learned some of the key points of the Hindu faith. I found it very interesting and moving. The temple was gorgeous inside and out but unfortunately no cameras were allowed inside.

The temple was the perfect way to end our stay in Delhi. I got my first ceremonial dot or bindi on my forehead which represents the third eye and being open to energy and strength (among many other meanings). It was so awesome!

After finishing up at the temple we hopped on the bus and headed for Jaipur which we loved so much. But I will save that for my next post : ) 

On the road to Jaipur:

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