Thursday, September 29, 2011


So here is a little update on how the actual logistics of the trip went:

Getting to the airport was uneventful. We got there on time and there were no delayed flights coming or going.

We checked no luggage (we will talk more about that later).

The inbound flight (to India) which was noted as being 14 hrs and 15min actually ended up being 12.5 hrs (a small blessing).

The big surprise…the flight was one of the best we had ever taken. Hubby and I sometimes opt to upgrade to first class with his frequent flyer miles, but decided against it based on the advice of an email buddy who assured us that the flight, even in coach, would be quite comfortable. AND indeed it was. International jets seem to have a little more leg room. They are not usually full to capacity and they have several clean bathrooms.

My husband had the aisle, I had the center and no one had the window. Sweet deal! Therefore I basically had a sofa to stretch out on to chill, snooze or watch tv/movies in the headrest monitors. None of that having to strain your neck to see the attendant demonstrate proper airplane safetly. It was played right there on the tv screen (didn’t utilize the screens to often though, as I had downloaded 6 movies to my iphone).

We slept about 7 of the 12 hours and we watched movies, read and talked the rest of the time. The time flew by (really, no lie, I was surprised myself).
Did I mention the awesome food? We were fed the best Indian food we had ever tasted. It was fresh and hot. They fed us 4 times. Each portion was plentiful. We were again pleasantly surprised.

So we landed. Customs was hilarious. The customs officer was so nice. When my husband signed the customs form he said, “Obama!” We said, “huh?” In his broken English he explained that he admired President Obama. He said that he had met two great presidents, Clinton and Obama. Then he looked at me and said, “Michelle!” I smiled and simply said, “thank you”.

Our tour guide had a little trouble getting to us in the mini flood, but he was only 45 minutes late. While we waited we explored the awesome airport.

Our tour guide was super fluent in English (he actual spoke 6 other languages too). He was very informative and immensely patient with our “foreign” ways.

I will talk more about the actual tours themselves at another time, but I must say we were astonished at how smoothly everything went from start to finish. There were no glitches and no hic ups. We were actually amazed.


One of the things that made the trip easier was the fact that we did not check any bags. Therefore we did not have to worry about lost luggage and baggage fees. We ran into a couple of people who had lost luggage, some who didn’t have it retrieved until midway the trip. So what we did is what we do on every international flight.  We packed light (in the words of the great Erykah Badu). We each carried fairly big “personal” bags that technically don’t count and we carry a moderate sized “carry on”. Between the two bags, we had everything covered, including space enough for souvenirs. This little tib bit saved us from a big headache!

Back to the story:

The journey back home was thankfully just as uneventful. Our tour guide got us to the airport in plenty of time (his timing was always impeccable, we were astonished). We checked in. We waited to board in comfy yellow chairs. We boarded and poof, just like that, we were on our way back home.

The outbound flight was the 14 hours that was stated in the itinerary, but it was no problem. My husband slept at least 9-10 hours (no really). I slept a good 7 and I absorbed the other hours studying for CE credits, watching movies and thinking happy thoughts. Again the time flew by.

Do I have anything bad to say about our India trip? JET LAG! I have always avoided it in previous long flights (up to 11 hours) but I guess the 14 hours took me over the top. It lasted for about 4 days. But it was a minor nuisance well worth enduring for the trip of a life time!

Sunday, September 25, 2011

INDIA: The beautiful contradiction

My mind is so full of the sights and tastes and smells and textures and sounds of INDIA! It is the most beautiful contradiction I’ve ever experienced. On the one hand, India is a lush and lavish land filled with natural resources, live stock, agriculture and technology. On the other hand, India is filled with poverty, misfortune, disaster and calamity. During the short time we were there, there was a bombing on a hospital and a 6 point plus earthquake that rocked the northern region of Sikkim; the worst ever since the 30’s. Sadly, the earthquake left over 80 people dead.

India is the largest democracy in the world with a race of people exceeded in population only by the Chinese. Our guide told us 1 in every 3 persons is Chinese and 1 in every 6 persons is Indian. Wow! With all those people the contradictions continue. India is bursting with art and culture. Many families preserve a craft and pass it down from generation to generation. For example, ancestors of the artisans that built the Taj Mahal out of world famous Agra marble still produce high quality (not to mention high priced) marble crafts even today. The secret of each detail is encapsulated in the minds of the decedents, never written only orated from father to son. One such secret is that of the “glue” that holds the semi-precious gemstones in the marble. This adhesive is heated only once and used to affix the stones in the painstakingly carved out designs. Once heated, it can never be re-heated and it never loosens or fails. It stays “forever”.  This is the same process that was used on the Taj Mahal.
Agra Marble

However, just next door to the marvelous marble store there is trash piled as high as you can see. A skeleton thin market owner, making below pennies as a wage, sweeps dust back and forth with his make shift broom. If you look again you realize a naked child with a distended belly clinging to his mother’s hip as she reaches out a dirty palm for a hand out. Oh, the contradictions!  
Beautiful Indian Children (posing for money)

There is an obsolete caste system that is still in place, but has more recently been “modified” with somewhat of an “affirmative action” type regulation that sluggishly works toward bridging the great divide between the rich and sorrowfully poor. There are very little “middle class” to speak of, just “the have and the have nots”.

Then there are five star hotels and magnificent malls and elegant restaurants and sumptuous fabrics. Each face you get the pleasure of looking into is a beautiful work of art. Among all the palaces and mosques with their architectural magnificence one site was quite funny in its multitude of contradictions. On one city block, in Agra, Delhi or Jaipur, one could witness a camel pulling a cart, a cow basking in the warm sunlight, a water buffalo walking from his water hole, a rickshaw (bicycle taxi) pulling a young couple, a mom and baby on the back of a motor cycle (without helmets), a snake charmer, a bazaar and a Mercedes-Benz. Wow…again!
Local Camel

The Metropolitan Hotel, Delhi, India (our hotel)

Contemporary life struggles to emerge from the ancient culture.  The country is, after all, quite a young nation, with just 63 short years passed since attaining its independence from the British. We were, however, very delighted to experience all of India’s aspects. It made us grateful for America. It also made us pray that the ideals, values and opportunity this great country has to offer will always be available to its citizens.  God bless India and God bless America!

There is more to come…stay tuned!

Monday, September 12, 2011

3, 2, 1...

The big day is quickly approaching and we have checked our list and checked it twice. In just two short days we are about to embark on a journey to INDIA! Throughout the course of this blog we have only scratched the surface of all the wonderful things there are to know about India. Hopefully, when we return we will be able to relay first hand all the thrilling things we’ve learned.

I started this blog by stating that no trip is perfect and this journey could run smoothly (or not) but either way this excursion will be the adventure of a life time. Certainly, we will have tales to tell, as well as awesome advice to share. And the blog won’t end there.

I plan to learn how to “tie” a sari, cook even tastier Indian dishes and fall in love all over again (with my hubby that is). With any luck I will accomplish all three and then some. I will share it all right here in Count Down.

Better still, the biggest take away from all of this are the blessings that God has given us. He has given us a thirst and a drive to want to explore and learn and grow. And by his grace we are instilling that in another generation of travelers.

Count Down to India will pick up again when we get back. Can’t wait to share all the interesting things we’ve learned. Remember, travel smart and travel safely!

Sunday, September 4, 2011

End Corruption Now!

Wow! I just discovered that there is a growing anti-corruption movement going on in India! My mind is blown!  I am aware that our system here in America is not quite the same, but I am truly impressed with Indian government for trying to improve. But speaking of America, do you think that maybe we could get an  an anti-greed decree here in America? Better yet, can we get an anti-Party dispute decree here in America? Or how about a “Don’t stand in the way of everything good President Obama tries to accomplish” movement. Seems like Washington has become like Judas who sold Jesus for 30 pieces of silver. On the other hand, you have INDIA, who has decided that corruption in government is not only wrong, but some are no longer willing to sit by and tolerate it any longer. You go India!

(CNN) -- India's anti-corruption movement may be basking in the warm afterglow of success after getting the undivided attention of the country -- and its parliamentarians -- on the question of an independent watchdog body to deal with dishonest politicians and government employees.
But many observers are saying it is just one victory, albeit a significant one, in the battle against pervasive corruption in India. The war, they point out, is still a long way from being won.

The Indian Parliament passed a resolution last week supporting many of the protestors' demands. In turn, Anna Hazare, the 74-year-old leader of the movement, called off his 13-day hunger strike after the resolution acknowledged his central demands, including the creation of the post of the ombudsman known as the Jan Lokpal.

The Jan Lokpal bill is not a done deal, but there's no going back on the idea, said Coomi Kapoor, a contributing editor with the national Indian Express newspaper and longtime political observer in New Delhi.

A so-called standing committee of parliamentarians will now weigh the proposals to bring the judiciary as well as high-ranking officials, including the prime minister, under the ambit of anti-corruption laws.
Kapoor said some of the proposals could yet be watered down, especially one that would create a large and unwieldy bureaucracy to enforce the proposed act. But she added that the anti-corruption movement had been a "game changer in Indian politics."

"It showed people's strength," Kapoor said, "and it also succeeded in painting politicians as a symptom of the problem.

This is a great start! I commend the Indian activists and I wish them luck!

To read the article in its entirety click here

By the way, I try not to interject too much political opinion. I leave the conjecture and debating to those who are much better at it than I am, but even a child can see that where there is corruption, no one wins…in the end. Peacefulness, fairness, pure intentions, service and looking after the interests of the most needy is what this country “says” it’s based on, but somehow, some way America has lost that objective. The “greatest country” in the world needs a reality…