Wednesday, July 19, 2006

India Update

An email from Brad (7-14):
Hello all, we are uncharacteristically short on time this week, so my epic tome / weekly update will have to wait until Sunday afternoon but I thought I would write and just let everyone know that we are all safe in India. As you may or may not be aware there was some train bombings in Mumbai, India this past week. Location wise Mumbai is a little over 600 miles from Bangalore and as far as our week goes we are out at the school, which is outside the city, and don't use any form of public transportation. Next week we did have plans of traveling to Mumbai by train but obviously those have been changed and we will be staying in a town called Pune instead. I have full confidence that our host-dad/personal-travel-agent Prem is aware of the situation and dangers involved and would not send us anywhere that could be unsafe. Thanks to everyone who has concerns about our safety and well being, but let me assure you - We are in great hands. I will write again on Sunday with a more substantial update, so have a good couple of days until then!

An email from Brad (7-15):
Hello all! I know I sent an email yesterday but thought I would send some real news and stories aside from "we are safe." This week we had our trip to Mysore, which started very early last Saturday when we woke up at 5:15am to catch our bus to Mysore. Surprisingly enough at 8:15 we were still in Bangalore, only having been picked up from our stop and dropped off at the tour office where we waited for the real bus. Soon enough the "White Palace" arrived and we boarded and were on move. The bus ride was a pretty good, it gave a great chance to see some of the more rural and developing parts of India. We drove for a little over an hour and stopped for breakfast/tea which we didn't feel like so we just stretched our legs and watched with fascination a set of wild monkeys hanging out by the restaurant. From there we drove a little while longer and soon stopped at a shop where they sold everything touristy under the sun, and to top it all off we got a 10% discount! Unfortunately they are so eager to sell the minute you look at an item someone has placed it in your hands, told you the price, how fine a quality it is, and shown you other shapes and sizes in case you don't like the one you have; definitely high-pressure sales.
From there we finally made it to the first sight-seeing stop which was a large temple. The second we stepped off the bus and everyone selling things on the street realized that we weren't wearing long sleeve shirts and talcum powder on our faces, and we were in fact white we were surrounded by a hoard of people selling jewelry, sandalwood anything, incense, pictures and pony rides (seriously). It was very overwhelming but we marched towards the temple and made it there with relative ease considering. At the temple we took off our shoes and left them with the "shoe-watcher" who placed our shoes on the step above everyone else's, which I thought was kind of weird but wasn't going to complain as long as my sandals were waiting for me when I got back (more on that in a second). We walked through the temple which was a cool experience, it is definitely a beautiful piece of architecture, it was slightly weird that we were mixed in as tourists while other people were in the midst of devout religious ceremonies, but it was still cool. When we got out we were again met by hoards of people attempting to sell us all the things our lives were incomplete without but my first mission was to get my sandals. There were there when I returned and for the small fee of 10 Rupees I could get them back (10 rupees is about a quarter). Later I found out the true fee was only 2 rupees but since we were white, western and rich and had received the special treatment of having our sandals on another level the 8 rupee increase was kindly added. Upon finding this out I was a little upset but I figure each of our ~16 cent donations will help the economy.
From the temple we went and saw the Mysore Palace which was beautiful ( After the palace we visited another temple on a mountain. I skipped the temple as I was more concerned with the view of the city from the mountain, which was quite breathtaking. After the temple we were dropped off and corralled through another shop and then taken to an old church and then we made our way to the famous garden. Lunch was in there somewhere but everything has blurred together in my mind and the sequence of events isn't as clear as it could be. But I digress, the trip to the gardens took a good while and we were excited as when we told anyone that we were going to Mysore the first question was always about the gardens. We finally arrived and saw that there was going to be a "light illumination" at 7:00. We had about 15 minutes to kill before 7 so we walked around a little bit admiring the garden-ness of the gardens when in our hearts we really wanted to see the fireworks, laser show, elaborate light displays and dancing fairies the light illumination surely entailed. At 7:00 sharp a bell rang and suddenly all the lights in the park turned on, making the plain, boring water fountain we saw moments ago now an exciting water fountain as the red light underneath it was on - we were convinced this was the precursor to the garden light show of the century. A little past 7:30, having waited and walked through a majority of the park we realized that the "light illumination" was merely that - they had turned on the lights and nothing more. Apparently the fact that there was lights and that they stayed on for an extended period of time was a marketable feat in India. Slightly dejected and a little disappointed we headed back to the bus.
The rest of the trip for me is just a series of still images of me waking up at various points on the trip home. Sometime around 9:30 we stopped for dinner which I wasn't really interested in. By 1:00am we were safely back in our Indian abode and quickly went to bed thereafter as our Mysore adventure had worn us out. All in all it was a great trip, some very interesting sights and sounds and a number of great adventures we won't soon forget.
Other than the Mysore trip we spent the week at the school doing our usual regime of teaching, playing, eating and sleeping (not necessarily in that order). In a grand foreign exchange of information we are slowly learning the rules and joys of cricket while we share with the boys and Nick the true greatness of baseball, it has been a good experience so far.
Next week we are at the school for Monday and then Tuesday afternoon we board a train for a 5 day trip in which a majority of the time we will spend at the Mukti Mission. The train ride is a mere 18 hours with the stop we need lasting a good 3 minutes at best. It will certainly test our traveling ability but I am hopeful that we will either make it there safely or have to be emergency airlifted out of the country, either way it will make for a good email next Sunday.
Aside from that we would just ask for prayer for the country of India and the people and families affected by the train bombings earlier this week and that in our own travels we would make it to our destinations safely. Thank you all and God bless!
Brad / Team India

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