February 11, 2008
Daniel and I had a busy and fun week. Early last week we finished recovering from our illnesses and started to get back into our routines. And in true Indian form, I’ll thank Ganesh, one of the Hindu deities, or Lord of Beginnings and Remover of Obstacles. During the weekdays Daniel went back to work and I read a book, did some shopping, etc.
Work is going well for Daniel, but the video card in his laptop broke so he had to call Dell’s customer service in India to have it repaired. Luckily, he could use my laptop and he had his boss Vikas to point him in the right direction. As with anything in India, it took him a while to contact the correct services. There were a few days of frustration for him during that process. He needed the mysterious “Form 18,” but no one would describe it or tell him where to find it. Then one day a video card appeared, but without anyone to install it. Fortunately his computer was fixed by Friday despite the confusion. In the end we never found out what Form 18 was or if it ever existed, now it’s just a joke at the home-stay.
Last week I read a good book my aunt gave me called Foreign Babes in Beijing.
The memoir is a well-written and hilarious account of a young woman’s experiences in Beijing after graduating from college. The writer, DeWoskin, travels to Beijing and works for an American advertising firm. She is also offered a role on a Chinese soap opera. To her embarrassment and curiosity, the show hires her and it becomes fodder for her book about crossing cultures and finding herself. I really enjoyed reading it because I could sympathize with the challenges she faced as an American woman in a foreign setting. From feeling uncomfortable and awkward, to just downright misunderstood and lost, DeWoskin’s book kept me laughing about it all. (Thanks for a great book Janet!)
On Wednesday one of the home-stay guests, Candace (a new friend), took me shopping. Candace and Randy, a couple from Florida, arrived in Jaipur the weekend of the wedding. Candace is a jewelry designer having items made in Jaipur. One day after she finished work, Candace and I went to a few shops with her driver. It was nice to explore the city and buy some Indian clothes. I bought a few tops, a kurta and some kurtis. Kurtas and kurtis are more casual outfits you wear with jeans or funny pants called churidar. We also went to some jewelry stores where I watched how she haggled with jewelers and examined the quality of pieces. I thanked Candace multiple times for being so generous with her time and driver.
Shopping with Candace inspired me to explore the city more by myself. On Thursday as they were packing to leave (I couldn’t stay and watch another friend go), I walked to a bookstore near a mall I had visited with Giri a couple miles away. By the end of the day, I had learned that I cannot go out on my own. Unfortunately, I now have a radius of how far I can walk by myself from the home-stay. I’ll write more about that in another post.
On Saturday, Daniel and I ventured into the Pink City (also called the Walled City) for my 24th birthday. The Pink City, for which Jaipur is famous, is the historic part of the city planned and laid out in six quarters by Maharaja Sawai Jai Singh II. The walls and buildings within the area are actually pink. We took an auto rickshaw from the home-stay and zipped around outdoor markets, shops and many different forms of traffic. On our way to a jewelry store recommended by one of the Singh’s favorite auto rickshaw drivers, we saw camels, elephants and horses pulling carts along the streets among bikes, rickshaws, cars, trucks and buses. To top it all off, amidst all of this craziness — cows had more free reign than a person crossing the street.
When we finally arrived at our destination, after passing by the City Palace, Hawa Mahal (or the palace of winds), Jantar Mantar (an observatory), and going off the main thoroughfare — we didn’t know what to expect. Yet, hidden down a dusty alley where kids were playing, we discovered jewelry heaven. At the shop they showed us how jewelry is made. They had hundreds of pieces of jewelry that ranged from silver bangles to a $15,000 blue topaz and diamond encrusted set. We stayed for a few hours examining (and trying on) everything. We had a great time!
I didn’t realize how inexpensive everything was because it all looked so lavish. Daniel kept saying, “This is all you want?” after I had picked out a beautiful amethyst ring for only $25. I know you ladies must be disappointed, but I was overwhelmed and had miscalculated from rupees to dollars! Don’t worry, by the time we left, he had picked out a loose gemstone and designed a necklace for me. I had also picked out some gems and designed a necklace to be made too. We are both looking forward to returning to our special jewelry place and having more custom jewelry made. I have a few designs in my head already…
Saturday evening Daniel and I went to an Italian dinner at a restaurant called Little Italy. Afterwards we had chocolate cake at the home-stay with the Singhs, other guests, Vikas and his wife Deepika. Dinner and my birthday cake were fantastic.
On Sunday we ventured to the Maharaja’s forts, Amer and Jaigarh. We drove outside of the Pink City and past the lake palace into the hills. Amer Fort, the winter palace, was full of tourists, but worth the hour long wait to ride an elephant to the fort. About twenty elephants take tourists up the hill to the palace ignoring their windbreakers, cameras and overpriced souvenirs, and treating them as royalty. Some even bought silly turbans in an attemp
t to look the part. During our elephant ride, Daniel and I shared some giggles in between me clenching the seat and whispering, “Are you sure we aren’t going to fall off?”
The forts were exciting to explore together. I will let the pictures I’ve loaded onto Webshots explain the experience for me. We both liked Amer because of the elephant ride and luxurious elements, but we agreed that we would prefer to live in Jaigarh, the summer palace.
Jaigarh Fort is not as fancy, but it has spectacular views, gardens, and quiet, making it a true palace. There are no yelling peddlers, horns honking, or rickshaws ringing. Jaipur is so loud that when you go to Jaigarh, the silence makes your ears feel hollow and your mind relaxed.
To sum it up, we had a perfect day. It was cool in the morning and warm in the afternoon with a gentle breeze that made the air crisp and fresh. We ended our sightseeing with a great view of Jaipur down the road from Jaigarh. The view was amazing and the sound of the city rumbled below, welcoming us back from a day of adventure.