It is my pleasure to announce that we have (fairly) constant access to the internet for the remainder of our trip! I’m sure everyone is happy about that. Since it has been several days since our last update, I will attempt to let everyone know what we have been up to and some of our plans for the rest of our time here.
In the few days after our last post, our group has been touring up a frenzy! Sunday after our post all of us went to a street market for supper. Teresa bought her first sari, and most of the others got great deals on clothing or little trinkets. Afterward we attended a sound and light show at the Red Fort in Delhi. It was a very dynamic and informative drama about the reign of the Mughals in India up to the time of the British.
Our bus on Monday left around 5 AM to start the long 5 hour drive to Agra, the town housing the Taj Mahal. Our first stop in Agra was to Sikandra, the burial place of the great Akbar who was a Mughal emperor known for uniting India and establishing a tolerance of all religions. After exploring the tomb, we headed for the Agra fort. This fort was every little boys’ dream of what a Middle Age castle should look. The architect structured it to be an ingenious defense against attacks on the glorious palace inside. The Mughal emperors were fond of blending Hindu, Persian and other styles into their architecture; our last stop was the magnificent Taj Mahal. No words can really describe how we all felt after seeing the Taj; Dr. Norris even said pictures do no justice to it. There is an ethereal affect the entire layout of the area has on the spectator. However, something we all discussed later is the amount of effort put into this one tomb. It seems that kind of splendid talent should be used for more than death. I guess when death is the end of the story for most people, they want to go out with a bang.
Tuesday: After just a few hours of sleep, we had another early start as we headed for the state of Rajasthan’s city Jaipur. The sites here were fabulous as well. Everyone got to ride an elephant up the winding stone roads of the Amber Fort. Our tour guide gave us an intimate show of the halls and courtyards still remaining in this palace of Maharajas. After walking back down the hill, our bus took us to our lunch in the Palace Hotel of Jaipur! We had a lovely meal in the five star restaurant located just beside the courtyard of the Palace. I think Rebecca and Ryan discovered a giant set of chess pieces on the marble tile checkered to look like a chessboard. Our final stop in Jaipur was the City Palace. The king still lives in one part with his family, but the rest was open to visitors as a kind of museum. The guys were disappointed to not get to see any royalty while we were there, but we did see plenty of soldiers!
Wednesday was our check-out day at the ISI place that we stayed. We packed up for our train ride, then got to see a few more stops before leaving Delhi. Our sights that day centered around different religions of India. We stopped first at the Sacred Heart Cathedral, which was eerily quiet but very pretty. Our second trip was down the road to a Sikh temple (called a gurudwara) where we all had to take our shoes off and walk around the block. The Sikhs were also preparing food for the community. (It smelled so good since we were all hungry!) We waited to eat until after we saw a (very empty) Hindu temple. Everyone was gawking at all the gods images on the walls. No one was there because it was lunch time (about 1:30 pm here in India.) Our next stop was to the Delhi Haat, a kind of craft-workers’ market. Most of us ate Momos from a vendor when we arrived, but some were experimental enough to try something not similar to dumplings from the States. I personally almost burned my mouth off and tried to cool down with some ice cream (Yay ice cream!!).
After our busy day, we rushed to the train station. Our train ride just ended a few hours ago, and we are sooo happy to be on solid ground. At first the dirty compartments were shocking to us, but we got used to it. Sleeping passed the time pretty quickly. Ryan and a few of those in my compartment got a chance to talk to a guy from the Indian army about the Bible and Christ. He is decidedly Hindu, but since he gifted us a book he was reading, we felt it necessary to give him a Book also.
So now that we are settled here at DJ’s parents’ home, you should be hearing more from me as well as the other kids! Hopefully we get a few courageous writers on our blog before too long.