Why Write?

Originally, I created this blog to document my trip to India. Upon my return, I realized that I couldn't shake the writing bug.
So, feel free to read about my adventures in India and stay tuned for my traveling updates!

Friday, August 31, 2012

The Little Salesman

Today I went to Agra which is 3 hours from Delhi. The tour guide revealed that there are no public schools there. Most of the children don't attend school but rather they sell souvenirs to the tourists to supplement the family income.

I bought this snow globe key chain from a very patient little boy. He tried to sell it to me before I went into the Taj Mahal but I refused because I was so excited to get into the monument. "Maybe later?" he said in perfectly good English. I told myself that if he was still there when I returned, I would definitely buy it from him. Sure enough, 2 hours later, there he was waiting on the side of the street for me. He ran up to me and exclaimed, "Do you remember me?" Oh course I did. We bargained for a price and settled on 20 Indian rupees, which is equivalent to $0.50 in US dollars. The tour guide laughed as he told me that he would have sold it to a local for 5 rupees. I don't think I got ripped off though because I know I helped his family out.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

My Little Heart Flutters

Tonight I am sitting up on the balcony, swatting away the bugs, drinking coffee and thinking about life.  Yes, life and how much I have to be thankful for. I have seen poverty but never to the extreme that I have witnessed here in India. I went on my first missions trip to Belize when I was 13 and experienced what life was like for the orphans living in an orphanage. In high school, I went on two trips to rural Mexico where I assisted the missionaries with vacation Bible school and helped build a house. I even lived in Haiti for a semester during college where I worked at a rural school. But somehow, India is different. 

Why? Maybe it's because this is a city environment and it seems more extreme? At least in Haiti there were natural resources for the locals to eat like fish from the ocean or mangos from the trees. Don't get me wrong, there were/are starving people in Haiti but here it's more "slum-like." Hey, I know that's not a word but I'm throwing away proper English here BECAUSE I CAN. :) 

Today I witnessed the most heart-wrenching thing. Visualize this: I was riding down the street in a tuk-tuk and it was pouring rain. A man, who had no use of his legs, was crawling through the streets begging for money. I thought my heart was going to break and I felt so guilty for ever complaining about my life or the things that are "lacking." I gave him money but I thought to myself, I wish I could give you so much more. 

I seem to be an easy target for the beggar children. I don't blame them...white American female walking by herself. Yesterday an adorable boy came up to my tuk-tuk with a mud stained face and bare feet. He couldn't speak English but he rubbed his belly and pretended to eat imaginary food. Of course, I gave him money...

Now I understand why Mother Teresa had her work cut out for her in India!

Oh the Splendor...

Today was one of the most memorable days of my life! Why? I basked in the presence of the majestic Taj Mahal! As a little girl, I used to dream of one day visiting this sacred place.  I remember secretly stealing my brother’s Lego magazines just to flip through the pages. The set that always stood out to me was the Taj Mahal ensemble. Even as a little girl, I knew that we were destined to meet. Of this I am sure.

To be honest, I was a little worried that I would be disappointed. After reading so much about the Taj Mahal, gazing at pictures, and dreaming of visiting one day, I was worried that I would be let down. Little did I know that the Taj Mahal would live up to her reputation. Getting the first glimpse of the Taj Mahal brought tears of joy to my eyes. I was shocked at my reaction. How could an ancient tomb provoke such emotions? Maybe it was the fact that a long time ago, a little girl had a dream, and today that dream took flight. 

Every teacher has a favorite subject to teach. For me, my first love is history. Very view things excite me more than studying the past. Anything ancient, with a story behind it, and I’m in my element. Before the eyes of my students,  I love making the past come to life. As far as I am concerned, each trip I take and each memory I make while traveling, somehow molds me into a better teacher. Now when the history book calls for a lesson on the Taj Mahal, I will have a real life experience to pass on to my students!

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Pigs Make Happy

Apparently it's mating season for the pigs in India. Yep, you heard me! Today I witnessed the most traumatizing event, two pigs "getting their groove on." I was in a taxi on the way to view a Hindi temple. I happened to glance out my window at the wooded area across from the temple. "PIGS" I squealed as I spotted a group of wild pigs. Upon closer examination, I realized that two of them were mating.  Yep, out in broad daylight with absolutely no shame! I started to scream as I pointed the pigs out to the driver. I covered my face with my hands and giggled, "They are mating!"          

His reply was priceless as he chuckled, "Pigs make very very happy." At that point, I burst out laughing and the driver joined me. I think we were both laughing at each other's reactions. Even though there was a language barrier, we still managed to share one of those "moments" where it feels so great to be human. As my laughter died down, I thought to myself, "When was the last time I laughed this hard?" Oh India and your many wonders! 

Rocky Rickshaw

Girl + Camera + Tripod = PHOTO SHOOT

One of the challenges of traveling alone is what I call the "camera dilemma." 

I have come to rely on two methods:
1. Taking pictures with the aid of my trusty tripod or
2. Enlisting the help of another tourist

There are pros and cons of each method. Using the tripod can be difficult when you can't find a stable location. This often leads to placing the tripod in unique locations such as on a bench, in a tree, on a grave, or on the ground. This dilemma often reminds me the Dr. Suess book titled, "Green Eggs and Ham." This line comes to mind each time I am searching for a location to place my tripod, "Do you like green eggs and ham? Do you like them in a boat? Do you like them on a moat?"

Challenges of picking another tourist as your photographer:

(Weird angle)
(legs chopped off)

A.  You must pick someone trustworthy so they don't run off with your camera
B.  Not everyone knows how to properly take a photo.

Here are some photos that I took of myself

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Downpour in Delhi=Free Shower

Today I got caught in a Delhi Down Pour. Luckily I was in the safety of an auto rickshaw, which is an open aired mini taxi. The rain whipped, whooshed, and wandered into our vehicle creating a puddle of muddy water at my feet. I didn't mind though because I haven't seen rain in nine months. I have always loved the rain as it reminds me of rebirth. In someways that's what this trip is to me, a chance for new life. 

As I continued to contemplate life's deep meaning, I witnessed a most hilarious scene. As I peered out into the pouring rain, breathing in my surroundings, I was shocked to see two boys running around in the rain, NAKED. Shampoo suds oozed from their heads as they laughed and frolicked in circles, tromping though the rain. I gasped, shielded my eyes, and chuckled. Apparently Delhi downpour equals shower time? 

Monday, August 27, 2012

Only on Air Arabia

Cultural experience to the max! I nestled myself into my seat, blew up my inflatable pillow, and felt the comfortable sound of the plane wheels churning beneath my feet. To this day the experience of taking off down the runway always makes me excited because it means I am going somewhere. It brings back memories of traveling with my Dad and hearing him make the announcements on the intercom. This sound is so comforting that I can easily fall asleep in my seat if the previous night failed to bring much rest.  I guess being able to sleep on an air-plane comes with the territory of being the daughter of a pilot. Many people complain about staying up on those all night flights, nope not me! It rocks me to sleep like a baby.

After the announcements, as I was drifting off into dreamland, we stalled and halted on the runway. "Oh no," I thought to myself as I anticipated a delay of some sort. "Ladies and gentleman, please pause for a moment of silence as we conduct a prayer for safety." My ears perked up and my eyes widened as I heard the familiar Arabic dialect projected in an ominous tone on the loudspeakers. I glanced around to see if anyone was as shocked as I was to hear a prayer...ON AN AIR-PLANE! I seemed to be the only one fazed by this experience and I thought to myself, "Only on Air Arabia!" 

This would never happen in the states. I was able to grab my camera to record the second half of the prayer.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

24 Hours and Counting

Today is the last full day that I have before my trip! I have to work, return a car battery, go to a doctor’s appointment, get my money exchanged, write a paper for school, pack, paint my nails, wax my legs (hey, I can’t go to India with hairy legs), and bake a cake for my husband because it will be his birthday while I am away. I also have a date to smoke sheesha with my girls tonight. For my friends in the US, smoking sheesha is the cultural thing to do here the Middle East. So little time, so much to do. Definitely stressing, it’s what I do best

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Who Knew?

I didn’t know my Indian Adventure would start in Bahrain. Last night, I ventured out into the “Indian section” of Bahrain. As a woman on a mission,  I went in search of a salwar kameez set (the local dress that many Indian women wear, especially during the summer months). In some ways, Bahrain reminds me of how New York City must have been during the early 1900’s when the emigrants lived in designated areas. 

After my “Indian visa ordeal,” aka driving around for an hour looking for the Indian passport agency, I became quite the expert on the “Indian part” of Bahrain. I located a store that had Indian style clothing hanging in the shop windows. Parking is always an issue in Bahrain and I was fortunate to find a spot a few blocks from the shop. Before I got out of my car, I surveyed my surroundings…local Arab and Indian men were congregating outside on the sidewalk. I got a few looks and I felt as if I could almost read their minds. Maybe they were thinking, “What is an unescorted woman who can drive and parallel park doing here?” So, I put on my game face, which equated to me saying in my head, “I will poke your eyes out with my car keys if you bother me (hey, my dad taught me that trick).” I clutched my purse and made a beeline for the shop. 

When I entered the shop, a friendly bell chimed to welcome me. The store, which was packed with people, was oddly arranged. I found my way to the women’s section, which was located up a set of creaky stairs.  Reaching the top of the stairs revealed shelves upon shelves of clothing...everything from formal attire to home outfits. Jackpot! There were about four other women up there, most of them with their husbands. 

The attendant helped me pick out a turquoise suit. When I looked at the tag, I noticed it was an extra large, “This will be too big for me,” I exclaimed. “No problem Ma'am, we fix for you, no charge” he said with the little shake of his head. If you have never met an Indian man before, imagine those bobble head figures that some people put in their cars. They shake their heads back and forth when they talk. It's quite endearing

Before I knew it, I was whisked off to the tailor (down the stairs and up another one). The tailor measured me and gave me a perfectly fitted salwar kameez in ten minutes flat! So there you have it, my first Indian Adventure! I navigated my way through the litter stained streets, back to my car. Yes, I was clutching my purse and my keys were positioned for poking but I had a smile on my face.  I was a happy woman! 

Thursday, August 23, 2012

My Travels: The Beginning

For Miss Amy, traveling has always been her first love. It ebbs and flows through her veins, fabricating every inch of her being. 

(Miss Amy and her  Dad on a trip to Boston)
As the daughter of an airline pilot, traveling was simply a way of life for Miss Amy and her bustling family.  When she was nine, her radical parents made the decision to homeschool their growing quiver of children to maximize their traveling opportunities. If Miss Amy’s father was going on an exciting trip, the family would obediently pack their bags, lock up their Pennsylvania home, and travel with him. 

As the oldest of seven children, Miss Amy and her family went on many adventures. I’m sure you can imagine the friendly chaos that accompanied her large family when all crammed into one hotel room. Multiply this by the fact that they always flew “standby” and you have a recipe for disaster. Somewhere along the way they were given the nickname, “The Volcanoes,” for their vibrant presence. 

Now at family gatherings, questions such as, “How many trips have we been on?” or “Which Christmas were we stranded at the Belgian airport?” often lead to a an argument or two. They laugh because no one can quite remember! Regardless of these disagreements, each child in the family has their own treasure chest of memories. Inside, held for safe keeping are things like, which country they lost their first tooth in, which country made their favorite toy, or where they had their first international kiss. 

In regards to Miss Amy’s first kiss, which took place at the age of nine onboard a 777, in route to Germany, she can still recall the details. Somewhere across the Atlantic Ocean, she had befriended the German boy three rows behind her. They convinced their younger brothers to switch seats so they could sit together. They played with legos, swapped coloring books,  and laughed at each other as they fastened the plastic pilot wings to their shirts. After the plane landed in Germany, Miss Amy shimmied up from her seat and entered the aisle to locate the rest of her family. Little Marcus followed too. She turned around to say goodbye and he plopped a big FAT one on her lips in front of all the other passengers. Shocked, furious, and mortified, she ran from the plane! I guess it's true, you never really do forget your first kiss!!!
( Mrs. Noor Hasinali-1st Lady of Trinidad )

For Miss Amy, there are several trips that have carved their memories in the corner of her mind. Highlights of her childhood days gone by, include: interviewing the president's wife of Trinidad and Tobago, visiting Ann Franks house in Holland, and exploring the famous Aztec ruins in Mexico. 

The thing that amazes Miss Amy the most about her parents is they did all of this on a shoe-string budget. Her Dad didn’t make a lot of money during his early years as a pilot.  Yes, her wardrobe came from House of Bargains and she never did get that shinny new bike that she always wanted. However, what her parents gave her was priceless, a ticket to see the world!

Countries Conquered: Australia, Bahrain, Belgium, Belize, Canada (x2), China (x2), England, Guatemala, Germany (x3), Haiti, France, Mexico (x5), Morocco, the Netherlands (x2), Trinidad and Tobago (x6), Turkey (x2), Qatar, and the UAE. 

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Solo Trip to India? Why Not?

For various reasons, I am going through a particularly difficult time in my life. What better way to connect with myself and gain clarity than to go on an adventure! I'm not talking about an overnight stay in a hotel folks. My philosophy is get big or go home. I have decided to vacation in India. Yes...gulp...I'm going to India!  I can't believe I just said that! The airline tickets are purchased, the hotel is reserved, and the dreams are coming to life. There is no turning back.

This trip to India will be monumental because I am doing this 100% SOLO! This will be the first trip where I won't have a familiar face to greet me at the other end of my journey. This blog will be a documentation of my trip. Catch me if you can!