Taj Mahal adventures

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“Everything will work out” –Amanda and I’s Indian motto

When Amanda and I first went to the travel agent to find a cheap hotel, he also told us about tours to Agra.  We hadn’t really thought much about getting a tour but it was only about $12 and would get us there and back while showing us a few things along the way.  So we decided to sign up and our second day in Delhi, that is what we did.  The travel agent told us we would have a full two hours at the Taj Mahal and be back to Delhi by 10:30.  Our flight to Rome was at 5:10am the next morning so we thought we would have plenty of time.  I guess that’s what we get for forgetting about Indian time before we were out of India.  The morning started out with a rickshaw driver or friend of a rickshaw driver coming onto the bus and singling the two of us out of the crowd and trying to get us to go with him, telling us we would be dropped back off at the bus before it left.  We told him no because we wanted the tour we paid for, and didn’t want to have to pay someone else in addition.

In the Agra fort

Our first stop was the Agra fort.  Pretty cool but also very similar to the Red Fort in Old Delhi.  Amanda and I knew we could probably get the Indian price (Rs 10 instead of Rs 300) with our Christ student IDs like we had in Delhi but the bus guide was not very helpful and we ended paying the full price.  Then our guide for the fort also singled Amanda and I out and treated us like little kids because he wouldn’t let us wander any distance away to take pictures.  The problems with blonde hair.

We spent too much time at the fort and then too much time at a souvenir shop, stopped for lunch and when we finally went to the Taj Mahal we had only one hour to be there.  Amanda and I’s plan of action was to go in,

No words to describe the beauty

take pictures, touch it, and maybe walk quickly through.  Well, turns out you can’t take laptops in with you and both of us had ours in our purses.  We hadn’t wanted to leave them in the hotel room, on the bus, or in the security lockers because they said not to leave valuables.  So we had to go to the South Gate (we were at the East Gate) where they had more lockers.  It was about 10 minutes’ walk.  We finally got in and of course it was worth all the hassle because the Taj Mahal was absolutely breathtaking.  I could have probably just sat and looked at it for hours.  But we didn’t have hours.  So we took pictures and went up to touch it.  We didn’t have time to go inside but I guess that just leaves something to do next time, right?

Last day in India

After the Taj, Amanda and I just wanted to get back to pack and relax before leaving for our flight.  Well, that didn’t happen.  We still had two stops, Lord Krishna’s birthplace and his house, which would have been much more enjoyable if we weren’t stressed about getting back to the hotel on time.

When we stopped for dinner at 10:30pm and the bus driver told us we still had 2.5 hours until we returned to Delhi, the two of us were really getting worried since we had to catch a taxi at 2am in order to get to the airport on time.

A guy at the restaurant heard us asking if there were any taxis we could call to take us back sooner (there weren’t) and came over to talk to us.  He said he was a driver and could talk to his customers to see if they wouldn’t mind having us ride with them.  He did and the three guys were very understanding and said we could leave right away.  It was actually an enjoyable ride back.  The three of them had all studied in Ukraine for 6 years and we all had lots to talk about.  They even got the driver to give us a good deal on waiting for us to pack and take us to the airport after dropping of the guys at their hotel.  We got back to our hotel at 1pm, packed in an hour and headed to the airport.  We would have missed our flight if it wasn’t for those three guys and the driver.

And it was lucky we got to the airport early because Turkish Airlines requested Amanda to show the credit card she made the purchase with to confirm the card number but that card had been hacked in Sri Lanka so she had a new card.  They had to call Headquarters but in the end Amanda remembered she had a photocopy of the old card and they accepted that.  It felt good to finally relax and sleep on the plane.  For the extent of our stay in India, Amanda and I’s motto has been “Everything will work out” and it always has, even the times when we really think there’s no hope.

After we boarded, we were delayed for an hour due to fog but then lifted off and headed to Istanbul, Turkey.

Indian Travels

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“Travel is more than the seeing of sights; it is a change that goes on, deep and permanent, in the ideas of living.” – Miriam Beard

So I have pretty much failed at posting blogs since October, but since I’m now on the move quite a bit I decided it would probably be a good idea to update at least a little bit

Tea!

School ended on Dec. 9 and we left for Kerala that evening with 8 others, two of whom were Brian, our professor and Jacob our program director.  I am going to super summarize that week by saying that it was a much needed relaxing vacation after the semester.  We had all paid for the trip back in February so Jacob bought all of our food and we already had the hotels.  We didn’t have to think at all and all we had to do was enjoy ourselves.  Which wasn’t hard at all.

My favorite part of Kerala was definite absolutely gorgeous and I think I took 300+ pictures that day.  All of it was fantastic but one of the best parts was when 5 or 6 of us did the Cotton Eyed Joe line dance to a Bollywood song from Bodyguard.  Pretty awesome =)

Complimentary coconuts

Houseboat traffic jam!

After Kerala, Amanda and I had a quick morning/early afternoon in Bangalore to finish packing which we did barely.  We took a 23 hour train up to Mumbai.  The majority of our coach belonged to a wedding party.  Definitely the way to

Laundry business

travel on a train.  They were super nice to us and gave us snacks and played music and dance.  Mumbai was really fun.  Definitely different from Bangalore, but still cool.  We saw a couple of film shootings, actually went to the cinema to watch a movie, wandered around, took a private tour for $20, spent a morning reading on the beach and overall had a good time.

From Mumbai, we traveled up to New Delhi.  Our train was supposed to be 16 hours but arrived in Delhi 6 hours late due to very heavy fog.  So on that day, I

In front of the Red Fort

guess it would have been 20 Dec. (I’ve kind of lost track of days at this point), we basically just found a hotel for $20 a night by walking into a tourist office.  Our first full day in Delhi we spent seeing the Parliament, President’s House, and the Government offices in the morning and then Old Delhi in the evening.  We actually finally found a rickshaw driver that knew where the Iron Pillar was.  The Iron Pillar is a very old pillar that doesn’t rust and has baffled scientists for years.  The same rickshaw driver offered  to drive us to Old Delhi as well so we agreed and I finally got my picture of a rickshaw driver holding my WSU flag =)

I think the Taj Mahal and the adventures we had afterwards deserve their own blog so I’ll end this one here.

Birthday Weekend

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“Your life is yours alone. Rise up and live it”

Basically, I could have done nothing special for my birthday and it still would have been amazing because not many people can say they spent their 21st birthday in India (apart from the 1.2 billion Indians).

Photo courtesy of mapsofindia.com

However, a group of us went on a trip to Pondicherry, a Union Territory.  Pondicherry was a French territory and still has a significant amount of French influence. INSERT MAP.  What an adventure! We hired a 12-seater bus so that we would have transportation while in Pondicherry.  On Friday night, we went over to Jensen’s apartment (a guy from Seattle living here for a year that we randomly met) and watched Bollywood’s version of The Hangover, called Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara. It is quite a bit less crazy than Hollywood’s but one of the main guys did look like Bradley Cooper.  Anyways, because Bollywood films are crazy long, we didn’t get back to our flat until after midnight and left on the bus at 3:00am.  Thank goodness for semi being able to sleep on a bus.  We were lucky enough to have a TV and did player so we watched a few movies.  I mostly just saw parts as I was in and out of sleep.

The road to Pondicherry is one of the worse paved roads I’ve ever been on.  It doesn’t help that our bus driver drove fast in between the potholes, but that’s just typical Indian driving.  Regardless, I didn’t ever feel unsafe, but it did make it a tad more difficult to stay asleep for extended periods of times.

Even with our two Indian friends, there was a bit of miscommunication with the

Roadside Poori Sagu for breakfast

driver and we did not stop at two places on the way, including some cave temples.  Disappointing but out of our control once we realized we were in Pondicherry and hadn’t stopped.  One of the first places we went was a Hindu temple with an elephant in front!  The elephant, Lakshmi, had painted designs and blessed people by touching their heads with his trunk.  I took a picture with my WSU flag and it turns out there were four people from Washington State (in addition to Marielle, Amanda, and I) at the temple also.  They came up and talked to us after seeing my flag.  One man was originally from Spokane and was just basically traveling the world.  The other three were a family and the daughter’s cousin goes to WSU and is an RA whom Amanda knows.  So at one moment, seven people from Washington were standing in Pondicherry, India together.  Makes me wonder about coincidences.

Rosaries

Lakshmi =)

Go Cougs!

Next item on the agenda was to find a place to stay that was cheap but clean.  We looked at some cool tree house style huts but decided against them due to the abundance of mosquitoes that would be able to get in.  In the end, we settled on a hotel that was Rs. 1300 for a double room but we cut the cost by fitting three and four people per room, paying about Rs. 400 each, which is approx. eight dollars.  Not a bad price.

Since we were all pretty, we split up and some people slept, while a few of us went in search of a paper making factory.  We didn’t end up finding it, so instead we wandered around souvenir shopping.

Steak!

For my (1st) birthday dinner, we went to a French restaurant called “Rendezvous.”  Although French, the menu didn’t actually have much French food.  I ordered a steak and pasta.  Two of my favorite foods I don’t get to eat too often here (or in the case of the steak, at all). It was a fantastic night spent in good company and delicious food =)

Because we wanted to watch the sunrise over the Bay of Bengal in the morning, most of us just headed back to the hotel and went to sleep.

Bright and early the next morning we were up and ready to head to the beach.  I guess “bright” isn’t really the right term considering it was still completely dark outside.  The beach was only about a 15-20 minute walk away so we arrived with plenty of time before the sun rose.  Something about sitting on rocks, watching the sun and listening to the waves crashing on the rocks is unbeatable.

Sunrise

I love my camera

Fishermen

After the sun was up, we attempted to get breakfast at a place called Le Café that had been recommended to us by our friend Keerthi.  Although open 24/7, we weren’t really able to order anything we wanted because they were cleaning.  There was also some miscommunication with the servers telling us whether something was available or not, which resulted in us waiting a long time for things we didn’t get.  But oh well.  We weren’t in any hurry.  Our only agenda for the day was the beach.

One of the Indian guys, Naveed, knew someone in Pondicherry who took us to a place with boats out to an island with a sandy beach.  Because he had connections, we didn’t even have to pay for the ride =) It’s all about who you know.  Basically, the beach was amazing! Sandy, warm, beautiful.

At one point, we noticed there was a darker “cloud” in the water a little way out that stretched the whole length of the beach.  Jack and I decided to check it out.  Turns out it was a huge school of fish!!! They were small but it was still pretty cool to swim with them as the waves crashed =)

We did have one not-so-pleasant incident on the beach in the afternoon, however.  When we were getting food, a few guys were trying to pose for pictures with some of the girls in their bathing suits in the background.  When the girls asked them to stop and moved away, they just followed.  Later, when

Bay of Bengal

we went back in the water, a group of guys kept getting closer to where we were so we moved further down, but they followed us, even when we told them not too.  A group of guys from the other side started moving towards us as well.  Finally, when it got to the point of 25 guys literally surrounding us, we decided it was time to get out of the water and leave.  So the afternoon in the water definitely wasn’t the best, but at least nothing bad happened.  Our Indian friends that were sitting back in the hut we ate in offered to go talk to the guys, but everyone was just ready to leave.

View from dinner

After getting back to the bus, we headed to dinner at a place called the Seagull, by the recommendation of Shiva, Naveed’s friend from Pondi.  It was a good recommendation.  Delicious Indian food, overlooking the beach and the sunset through the palm trees.  We stopped for ice cream on our way out of town and ended up meeting a guy from L.A. who was in India for an internship.  A couple of us were just chilling eating our ice cream when he came over and said “I have to ask, why are you guys in India.”  Since it’s not as big of a tourist destination as Europe, I am also always curious why other Westerners are in India.

The rest of the trip was uneventful.  We rode home and watched movies, but once again I was unable to stay awake.  I tried really hard for Lagaan.  Turns out the actor I have really enjoyed watching since coming here, Aamir Khan, is the lead actor in that movie.  I can tell why my sister loves that movie now even without having watched it =)

Sri Lanka day 2

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“The most fruitful and natural exercise for our minds is, in my opinion, conversation.”

― Michel de Montaigne, Montaigne: Essays: A Selection

Today, we had the whole day in Kandy with only three things on our agenda.  First, we went on another walk along the streets, this one a bit longer, but we

Colorful Tuk Tuks!

then opted for a bus back towards the heart of Kandy.  I’ll be posting a Sri Lankan Observations blog about some of the differences between India and Sri Lanka that I noticed.  We went to the market where I swear they literally sell everything.  We intended to buy a pineapple for later, but sadly forgot.  I did buy some souvenirs and gifts though.  Not quite sure how I’m going to fit everything in my bag back to India, but somehow it will work.

There was one part of the market that was on the roof and was a bunch of western clothing vendors.  They had Hollister and Aeropostle shirts for very cheap.  Makes me wonder how the vendors got the products in the first place…

=)

Lizard and a turtle

Picture perfect day

We had sent a text to Aashish, saying we were planning on going to the Temple of the Tooth around 3 so we had some time to kill.  We decided to go on a walk around the lake.  It was absolutely gorgeous!!!  We saw monkeys and Shan bought us a fresh mango from a street vendor.  So delicious! I am really sad we missed mango season in India but excited I could experience it in Sri Lanka.  Just enough further south, I guess.  We also saw lots of monkeys, monitor lizards, turtles, and birds on our walk.  About halfway around the lake, Shan asked us if we wanted to go see a cemetery.  I personally love cemeteries, which I know may be a bit weird, but there are just so many stories in one place!

The cemetery we went to was from when the British ruled Sri Lanka, so all the graves were very old.  We also only saw one or two gravestones for people over the age of thirty.  Many were for infants or people in their twenties.  One man was killed by a herd of wild elephants.  The wife of the caretaker showed us some articles about the restoration of the cemetery, including a letter from Prince Charles (at least I think it was Charles not William) expressing his apologies for not being able to make the reopening due to a bombing.  We didn’t find out until later that the bombing was at the Temple of the Tooth.

For lunch we decided to keep it simple and just had samosas and ice cream from a bakery.  Shan took us to another gem place.  He said this place was more expensive but we could go look at where they were cutting and polishing the stones.  It turned out to be a very successful stop because we also got to watch a documentary on mining in Sri Lanka.  So interesting! Very few machines used at all.  Mostly just hand tools and manual labor.

Temple of the Tooth

We killed a bit more time and then went to the Temple of the Tooth.  Absolutely amazing.  Buddhist temples truly are extremely peaceful places.  We walked around for about two hours.  We sat and listened to some chanting, went to the museum and just wandered around the grounds.  When we were in the museum, one of the guys who worked there took us through a door that led to a tiny little balcony.  It was the highest part of the temple

The balcony =)

you could go outside at.  From there, we had a great view and he explained what a lot of the buildings in the surrounding area used to be and if we peered around the corner of the building we could see the golden roof.  It was so cool!  He offered to take our picture and we hesitated at first because often when that happens the person wants money, but he saw our hesitation and assured us it would be for free.  Sometimes people are just being nice and it’s good to be reminded of that every once in a while.

And our day wasn’t over yet.  Shan had told us about a cultural dance performance at the Kandy Culture Center that started at 5:30.  We also knew Aashish and Samee were going to be there so when we arrived we found them and all sat together.  It was really cool to see all the colorful and elaborate costumes.  At the end, they also had people walking on coals and rubbing fire on their bodies.  Pretty sweet to watch.  Afterwards, we made plans to meet at the guesthouse where the two of them were staying after we had checked into ours.

Finding our guesthouse was a bit of an adventure but so worth it.  We had to call twice to get directions and drove up a narrow, windy road to get there but the hospitality of the couple that owned the place was fantastic.  And there was a

Our room

phenomenal lightning storm with one flash about every five seconds.  The guesthouse was run by a British man and his Sri Lankan wife.  Both were so nice! We told them of our plans to meet up with our friends and they called a tuk tuk for us since Shan had left to go stay somewhere else.  They arranged to have the tuk tuk wait for us so we had a way to get home as well.  While they were calling, Amanda and I were unsure if it was going to be worth all the trouble.  We knew talking with Aashish and Samee would be great, but it was just proving more complicated than we had anticipated.

In the end, I’m glad we went through the hassle.  We sat and talked with the two of them for two hours and only left because that’s what time we told the tuk tuk driver.  Nothing beats good conversation.

Aashish, Amanda, me, and Samee

One of the best things I’ve learned since coming to India is there are some incredible people in the world.  I know that’s not something specific to India and it’s not that I didn’t think there were before coming here, but everyone I’ve met here knows so much about the world and has such fascinating views.  Americans are rather narrow-minded (myself included) because we have everything we need in our own country, including diverse culture.  I am glad I have the opportunity and will to travel.

Sri Lanka Day 1

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“A king who always cares for the elephants like his own sons is always victorious & will enjoy the friendship of the celestial world after death.” –Kautiliya, scholar of Buddhism in India

My favorite animal =)

The beginning of this post slightly overlaps with yesterdays because it was 2:00am and I hadn’t slept…

Apparently there is no official exchange market between Sri Lanka and India.  This means that it is not possible to exchange Indian rupees to Sri Lankan rupees at the airport and we had to use a sketchy looking ATM instead.  While we were at the ATM, two security guards came up to us and asked us if we needed help.  We asked if there was anywhere in the airport to exchange Indian rupees.  He said no but offered us 1200 Sri Lankan rupees for 1000 Indian rupees.  Good thing we had looked up the exchange rate, because he was trying to scam us big time! 1000 Indian rupees should have been at least 2000 Sri Lankan rupees.

At 5:00, we found Amanda’s name among the many being held up by drivers and met the head of SL Driver Tours.  He went with us to the car and introduced us to our driver, Shan.  As much as I wanted to watch out the window, I was asleep within five minutes of sitting down in the car.  Our first stop was Pinnawela Elephant Orphanage.  I woke up periodically during the drive (about 1.5 hours) and remember thinking about how green everything was!!!

When we arrived at Pinnawela, it was only 7:30 so Shan showed us a hotel where we could get breakfast overlooking the river.  He said the orphanage cost about 2000 SLR ($20) each or could wait until 10:00am and watch the elephants bathe at the river.  Amanda and I just wanted to see the elephants so we opted to wait the couple hours.  We had the first of many very American (or British) breakfasts of eggs, toast, and tea.  We then walked around the area looking at all the touristy stores.  So different from Bangalore, where it is much harder to find souvenirs and gifts.  The down side to Sri Lanka being very touristy is the prices are much higher.  I bought a couple things for myself and a few gifts as well.  In the end, we didn’t have to wait until 10:00 because at 9:00 a smallish group of elephants walked by.  So Amanda and I headed back to the river and took lots of pictures!  I still think elephants pose for the pictures.  I could have taken pictures for hours.

Tea!

After the elephants, Shan took us to tea plantation where a man showed us all the different machines used in the process of drying and sorting the tea leaves and how the different sizes and parts of the plants end up as multiple varieties of tea.  Of course, after we saw all of that we had to go taste and buy some.  I loved it! And yes, I bought some.  Tea is just not something I can resist.

After tea, we headed onwards to Kandy in Hill Country.  Sri Lanka is known for its gems, particularly sapphires, and one of the first places we went was a gem factory (not sure if that is the correct terminology).   We got to see where they cut and polish the gems and make the settings for the jewelry.  I’m a sucker for tourist traps I guess because when we headed across the street to see some of the finished products, I already knew I really wanted to buy something small with amethyst.

Long story short, I ended up falling in love with an amethyst and white sapphire

Our purchases

ring and amethyst earrings.  The man helping us originally said the ring was $330, but ended up reducing it to $100.  The earrings I bought for $70.  I am probably going to have them priced at a store in the US just to see if I got a good deal, but even if I didn’t, I’m still happy with my purchase since the gems are all from Sri Lanka.

From spending money, we went to lunch at a buffet style restaurant.  I had rice and curry along with a couple items I’m not sure what they were other than delicious.  The view from the balcony we were sitting on was amazing!

Shan also ate at the restaurant but sat inside by himself.  Amanda and I are really not used to being high class enough to have a driver because if we had known that’s what he was going to do, we definitely would have invited him to eat with us!  Something to remember for next time…

Since we are spending all of tomorrow in Kandy as well, we decided to just walk around downtown.  Shan took us to a jewelry store that had a currency exchange in the back.  I know that sounds a little sketch, but we received the right rate for Indian rupees.  After walking around for a while, we headed to our hostel, Nature Walk.  Although Amanda and I feel like pros when it comes to booking hostels since we did so for Europe already, neither of us had actually stayed in one.  We are having a good first experience.  The room and bathroom are clean with towels and linens all for $15 a night.  And the place is gorgeous!

The two of us were pretty tired and intended on taking a short nap which turned into a four hour nap.  We woke up about 10pm, ate a mango, blogged and are heading back to bed shortly.  I guess that’s what we get for staying up all night on the flights!

The outside of our hostel

Airport Adventures!

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“Don’t let school get in the way of your education.” –Jessica’s grandpa and Mark Twain

As per normal, I procrastinated packing until the morning of.  My excuse is I couldn’t pack last night because I had to wash my clothes, but if I had done laundry on Sunday night I wouldn’t of had that excuse.  Oh well, we ended up with some extra time after packing so we Skyped Kathrine and Martha in Pullman.  Great to talk to them! =)

We still had left over cake from Amanda’s birthday, so we decided to take it to school to give to the other students.  Well, we hadn’t even made it out of the NGV gate when four little boys asked if they could have some.  The smiles on their faces were priceless when we said yes.  At one of the bus stops on the way to University, there is a man who lives there so we stopped and gave him a piece also.  A little bit further on we saw a mother with a child asking for food so we gave her a piece as well.  Not the healthiest food, but at least it was something.  By that time, we only had one piece left which Amanda and I ended up splitting because we didn’t see anyone else asking for food on our walk.  I’m glad we were able to help the people we did, even if just for a couple hours.

Quite a few students left before classes were done for the day (groups going to Sri Lanka and New Delhi over the break), so we didn’t end up doing much in any of my classes.  In my last class, Women’s Issues, we didn’t do any official work but did have a fantastic conversation about various aspects of Indian culture with our professor.  I feel like those types of conversations I learn the most from.

At 4:00, Amanda and I caught our cab in front of Christ.  The ride to the airport

Ready to travel!

took about an hour (which we expected and planned for) and we saw parts of the city we have been meaning to visit.  Our cab driver was fantastic because anytime he heard Amanda and I questioning what something was, he would tell us.  The ride only cost Rs. 640, about $14.  I don’t think I will ever get used to things being so cheap here.  I’m used to having rupees now, but whenever I convert rupees to dollars I am still astonished at how cheap things are.

Security to get into the airport

We arrived at the airport with plenty of time, went to check in, and……..found out our second connecting flight was cancelled.  So we spent the next hour waiting while they found us another flight that arrived in Colombo three hours earlier, booked it and printed tickets.  A bit of a hassle but mostly just sitting around and waiting.  As we discovered later, being on the flight we were turned out to be way more fun.

We made it through security with no issues (the frisk everyone and have separate lines for women and men) and ended up eating dinner with Brian, the visiting professor from University of Idaho who teaches Social Stratification.  Turns out we were switched on to his flight (he was also going to Sri Lanka) so we had someone else to talk with until the flight left.

First flight to a town in the far south of India went smooth and I attempted to sleep, which didn’t work too well but luckily it was a short flight.  When we

Kingfisher taxi

landed, the flight attendants told anyone who was traveling on to Colombo to talk to the ground staff after exiting.  Considering one of our flights had already been canceled, we were a bit worried.  In addition to Brian, Amanda, and I there was one Indian guy (mid-twenties), Aashish, continuing on.  Turns out, the International Terminal was completely separate from the rest of the airport and the airline staff arranged a taxi to take us there.  On the way we passed by the coast and saw the Indian Ocean!

Talking with Aashish, we found out he lives in the same part of Bangalore as us!  He was headed to Sri Lanka to meet a friend of his from Pakistan who he met at

Empty flight!

school in London.  We had a great time talking and our conversation continued through the next flight as well.  There were only nine people on the plane! A bit like a private jet, just not as comfortable =)  We made plans to meet up with Aashish and his friend in Sri Lanka because our itineraries overlapped a couple of times.  I am really looking forward to it!  Definitely think we made a new friend.

We arrived in Colombo around 2:00am and all parted ways.  I will probably regret not sleeping on the flight only because our driver isn’t coming until 5:00 and its never easy (or smart?) to sleep in an airport.  Oh well! At least I have my computer.

Sri Lanka!

Amanda and Gandhi’s birthdays

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“I intend to live forever – so far, so good!” – Stephen Wright

Amanda turned 21 today!!! Ironically, it is a dry day in India because Oct. 2 is also Mahatma Gandhi’s birthday.  We were awake at 12:00am so I had the privilege of being the first to wish her happy birthday =)

At the track

About a month ago, one of the first times we both hung out with Sandy, he told us about go-karting in Bangalore so we decided to go for Amanda’s birthday.  We arranged to have a 12-seater bus take us since it was a bit away from town.  It ended up working out perfectly because exactly 12 people wanted to go.  I had never been go-karting so I didn’t really know what to expect, but whatever my expectations were, they were met

Ready to go!

because it was a blast.  They had three different horsepower carts and most of us started with the middle, which was 10 hp.  Extremely fun and I went twice, but I had no idea what I was missing.  After hearing a couple of the guys talk about the 12 hp carts, Marielle and I decided to try them.  What a difference 2 hp makes!  The great thing about go-karts is they sit so low to the ground that you don’t have to worry about tipping over while going around the corners.  The trick is to still not go to fast or else you’ll slide and the people behind will have a chance to pass you.  Total adrenaline rush.  I loved it.

Whohoo!!

We had the bus drop us off at Forum Mall to get a snack since we got back around 3:00pm.  After a quick fruit shake, Amanda and I headed back to NGV

Monsoon rains

but stopped outside Forum to get birthday henna!  The thing about henna is it needs to dry after its applied.  Normally, that’s not a problem except when a monsoon comes while walking home!  We were drenched within 30 seconds and I swear 4 inches of water appeared out of nowhere.  Surprisingly, the henna didn’t turn out too badly, just a couple of smears.

Amanda and I walked back to the flat from there and relaxed a bit until 6:00 when we headed out for dinner.  Amanda knew we were going to dinner but she had no

Got cake?

idea where.  A group of us walked from NGV and before turning the corner to see the restaurant, we made her close her eyes.  A little bit childish, but still fun =)  Dinner was fantastic, as the food and restaurant are amazing (as explained in the post from 9-17), but the two best parts were when Amanda first saw her cake(three layers) and when Sandy smeared cake on her face, as per Indian tradition.  Overall, it was a great night.  After dinner, Sandy, Marielle, Sandy’s

The dinner group

sister Supritha, and a few others came over to our flat to just chill and Supritha taught me how to actually measure to make chai tea since the way Jacob taught us was to just throw in ingredients.  It was fabulous.  We had a great time just talking and hanging out and sort of working on a group project on domestic violence for Women’s Issues.