Today was a full day of travel, henna tattoos, dancing, music, and sweets.
This morning we awoke at 5am to catch a plane to Mumbai in order to transfer to Jaipur. Although we had to wake fairly early, the hotel did us an extra favor and set out the full breakfast spread at 5am. It was great to have a full meal before we left for our busy day, and we very much appreciated the hotel’s efforts.
Once we entered the airport, we quickly realized the different rules of flying within India, claiming we were only allowed to carry-on one bag. Completely accustomed to America’s flying rules, all of us had packed two carry on bags. As a result, we all had to frantically repack all of our luggage! I think I ended up stuffing some of my items into three different people’s bags! We all had a difficult time reducing our bags, however after some effort and reorganizing, we successfully slimmed down to one bag each! We then boarded our plane for what seemed like the shortest flight in history! The flight was a total of 40 minutes. As soon as the plane was steadied after take off, we started our landing departure! However, the short flight, combined with the great breakfast was a great way to start the morning.
We then had a bit of a layover in Mumbai, where we noticed various cultural differences. For one, the women and men are required to go through different security lines. Additionally, the men had three security line options, while the women only have one line. Within the security lines, we noticed that the women (not men) had a separate booth, where they could be searched. We hypothesized that this was established to help keep the woman’s privacy (away from the eyes of men). Secondly, we recognized that for most of our group, the security guards did not even check out passports or boarding passes, they would just wave us on. We found this very interesting, however we appreciated the easy flow. Our following flight ran smoothly and we landed in Jaipur right on time.
Once we landed in Jaipur, we were greeted by our tour guides who welcomed us with handmade flower necklaces! The flowers were bright yellow and smelled delicious. Receiving these necklaces helped increase our excitement about starting our new adventures in Jaipur.
We then hopped onto our tour bus, which delivered us to our lunch destination. During lunch, we were serenaded by a man and his sitar. He had a tremendous voice, and even a dance to match his song. The music was a great match for our lunch, and helped keep our energy level high.
After lunch, we retreated back to our hotel for a short break. During the break, many people enjoyed the roof top pool, while others became pros at washing their laundry in the tub. No need for washing machines when a tub is available!
After the break, we gathered to travel to Choki Dani, a small but lively village (a cultural Disneyland). Now, Choki Dani is not your normal village, as people do not live here. It is an entertainment village filled with dancers, singers, markets, story-tellers, camel and elephant rides, and even henna tattoo stations. These tattoos are given to the entire bridal family before a wedding.
Once we arrived to Choki Dani, we were greeted by two women dressed in very elaborate saris who painted bindis on our foreheads. This gesture has often happened with us, and seems to be a very common form of welcoming foreigners and guests.
Once inside the village, we were able to explore the multiple attractions. I first witnessed women dancers who were dressed in bright fun colors. They attempted to dance in circles while balancing multiple items on their head. I have to say, they were very successful. I then received a henna tattoo along with many other classmates. Henna is a very common tradition in India, and involves painting a body part (usually the hand) with a specific paint, so that the dye temporarily soaks into the skin. Hennas usually last from one to two weeks. After the tattoos, we continued to walk around the village where we witnessed Dr. Springer and Dr. Bischoff riding an elephant! After some more shopping at the various market locations, we all decided camel rides were necessary, and thus gathered near the camels. The scariest part about riding a camel occurs when the camel stands up or sits down. In order to stand, the camel first raises its back legs, followed by its front legs. As a result, whoever is currently on the camel feels that they are going immediately fall off. The camel’s body essentially becomes a diagonal, facing downward. Additionally, there is not much to hold onto when on top of the camel, and so it is quite difficult to remain calm. The same experience occurs when the camel sits back down. The camels all take some time to fully stand up or sit down, and so sometimes, individuals are stuck in this awkward, scary position for some time. However, once the camel is up and moving, any fear is completely destroyed! Camels are extremely large creatures, and it can become very easy to find comfort between the camel’s humps!
After camel rides, we were starving and ready for dinner. Dinner was a new and fun experience tonight. We all sat on the ground at long tables and ate on plates made of leaves. The food we ate was completely different than anything we have had in the past. We were served a variety of courses, which included different breads, curry sauces, meats and vegetables. The flavors ranged from sour, to sweet, to spicy. However, everything we tried was new and interesting!
After dinner we had our first experience with Indian dessert! We were first served something that looked like rice pudding and was paired with butter and sugar. Flavors were not similar to rice pudding, however very sweet. Lastly, we were served something that appeared similar to funnel cake. However, it was much smaller (it fit into the palm of your hand), and was coated in caramel flavoring. Those treats were extremely delicious. We all hand more than one!
Dinner then concluded our night, and we wer e all exhausted. However, because of all the things we had done (camel, elephant rides, henna tattoos) we were all in great spirits. As a result, on our bus ride back to the hotel, we all engaged in a group sing along! Anh was generous enough to lend her phone to guide the group’s song choice. Voices varied in ability, but we all had a blast singing along and having an American cultural experience in India. As a result, the night ended happily with much laughter and many smiles.
Fun fact of the day: Currently, six pairs of cotton pants, which were bought on the streets on Mumbai have ripped. Who would have thought Indian pants would rip so easily!!??
Be prepaid: Tomorrow we are going to help Dr. Bischoff and Dr. Dalla locate some Bengal Tigers!