Wednesday, October 30, 2013

August is (was) for Visitors

**I started writing this in August after a delightful visit from some Peace Corps Bolivia buddies (B-39 represent!).  Then I started having laptop troubles that sidelined my writing until now. So now it seems pretty outdated, but I will soldier on.**

We're halfway through our second August in India.  It's hot and humid and muggy and sticky; it is monsoon season after all.  But despite the weather, which, quite frankly I prefer to the oppressive dry heat of May and June, both Augusts we have had friends brave that horribly long flight and the mugginess to come to India and visit the TK family. (Well, mainly they've just come to see me.  But they don't mind Mr. ATK. In fact, some were meeting him for the first time.)

Last year, on August 15 (Indian Independence Day) our very first visitors came to India.  I shall affectionately refer to them as "The Sarahs" because they are both named Sarah. Mr. ATK was doing temporary duty in Mumbai so I was all alone (with the exception of our crazy dog).

It seems so long ago now, but it was a pretty fun learning experience. Since we hadn't been in country that long (about four months), I wasn't really familiar with the tourist scene.  My first trips to the Taj Mahal and the Red Fort in Delhi were with The Sarahs, as was my first bicycle rickshaw tour of Old Delhi.  It was the first time I really noticed the staring.  Fun story: While the Sarahs and I were at the Red Fort, I was reading the Lonely Planet trying to figure out what everything was (we didn't pay for the audio tour and the buildings aren't well marked) when we noticed this group of Indian dudes taking pictures of us. I think there were like five of them.  They were maybe 30 feet away and would do that thing where it looked like they were taking pictures of each other, but they were clearly setting the shot so we were in the background.  The Sarahs noticed these guys, but I was too wrapped up in the guide book ("I think that's the wait, I think it's the throne room. That over there must be the mosque.")

Well, the guys got more and more brazen as we sat down on a bench ignoring them.  They came closer and started posing next to us--not asking permission or anything.  This is super common in India actually, but at the time, it was new to me.  The complete ballsy-ness of these guys was just so unbelievable that we were laughing about it. This probably encouraged them.  One of them sat down on the bench next to us.  I kept reading the book.  Finally, one dude came over and made the universal "scoot over" motion so he could sit in the middle of us.  That was the final straw. I was like, "Nope. We're done here." And we got up and walked away.

Anyways, it was great learning about and exploring India with The Sarahs. I do feel a bit bad, though, because as our first guests we were sort of flying blind. There are lots of cool things they could have seen but didn't because I didn't know about them.  They wanted to see monkeys and elephants and I think they are our only guests who saw neither. Even the guy who stopped by from Nepal for a day saw monkeys! We've since perfected the house guest routine.  It's a fine tuned machine.

Now for some pictures (circa 2012)!

Charlie's Angel-ing it up at the Taj Mahal. We learned after taking this that you aren't actually allowed to pose like this in front of the Taj.

Here we are at the Gateway to India in Mumbai. It was rainy. I was unimpressed with Mumbai.

First time coming upon the flower sellers in Old Delhi.

Flash forward one year: It's August 2013. Two great Peace Corps friends, I shall call them Mateo and Kathy Snant, made the long journey to India to visit (Mateo even came from Bolivia via Brazil and South Africa! He wins the "Longest Flight" award). They came for three weeks and stayed at ChezTK for a week. During this time they went site seeing by day and hung out at home with us boring people in the evening. Mr. ATK got the privilege of listening to reminisce about the days of yore (2005-08) living in the Bolivian campo eating potatoes.

Of course, Mateo and Kathy Snant are seasoned and wily travelers so that whole routine that I have for guests was not needed. Still, I think they enjoyed their time here--even if it was godawfully hot. While they normally do the thrifty backpacker style of travel, they did start springing for air conditioning.

The ATK-Snant-Mateo travel itinerary included hanging out at ChezTK (where they were terrorized by Aloo) and traveling to Amritsar over Eid. Mr. ATK and I had been to Amritsar already (if you've forgotten, you can read about it here.)  Well, Amritsar was still hot and humid and crowded, but it really is a must see for anyone traveling to India.  It was nice to vindicated when Kathy Snant agreed that walking on the street barefoot is pretty gross. And this time we waited in line to enter the actual Golden part of the Golden Temple.

The Golden Temple part of the Golden Temple. Notice the line to get in. Inside is where they keep the Guru Granth Sahib- the holy book of Sikhism.

And here we are in the line to get into the temple.

There I am with a random stranger who asked to have her picture taken with me.

That said, I have no intention of ever going back to Amritsar. Waiting in that massive crowd at the Wagah Border is not something I need to live through a third time. But you definitely should see it at least once, if you haven't already. I'll be happy to give you directions and send you on your way.