i sat next to a sikh man (judging by his dress) on the second leg of my trip. he runs a liquor store in LA and was trekking home for a ten-day visit with his elderly parents. he told me that he came to the u.s. five years ago because his children really begged him to come. he owned a manufacturing business in india and reluctantly sold it to bring his 3 teenage children to study in america; (his brother in america had filled out the immigration papers 10 years previous, but he never really thought he would be approved.) i guess the liquor business is really hard. he said he spends much of his day chasing alcoholics out of his store (or the juveniles without i.d.) and that they often become hostile. he said to me, "i didn't come to america for me, but for my children. i had everything in india, why should i want to come to america?"
but i think we became friends; he gave me advice for my trip and my life: "only eat fruits and vegetables. everything else either has too much spice or too much oils - to make it taste good, but it's not good for the body." also, "take a tour bus to agra. why would you want to take a train? this is your vacation, and so you should take a tour bus with the other tourists and save the headache!" and finally, "you are not married? i am very upset now. you should put an advertisement in the newspaper. then meet her and decide if she can be your permanent companion." (this plan is already in the works for his oldest son, age 25.) in the end, he read sikh holy texts to me, and i was glad for the company.
my arrival in delhi was a bit more chaotic. i hate having to run through the gauntlet of touts at the airport. without a guide book or a native, i knew i would be cheated - so i didn't try to avoid getting cheated, i just didn't want to get cheated too much. and i did get cheated, but within limits. (i mean i paid way too much for that ugly hotel i stayed in, with no window and dirty sheets. and i paid way too much for the taxi to get there. i couldn't find the prepaid stand! i looked everywhere.) but it takes a bit of mindfulness to ride in the back of a tuk tuk through traffic with all the near misses - an experience like none other. i guess i just tried to believe that some reason and logic exists behind all the cars-weaving-in-and-out-of-each-other madness. but i did almost jump up out the tuk tuk at one point: we'd turned down this quiet street, and i was feeling that the worst was behind me - when this rabid-looking dog jumped up at me from the street. it was just like one of those horror movies when the monster jumps from behind the closed door. i think i yelped. and it doesn't help that the travel nurse told me to avoid dogs - which are everywhere. india needs to take a hint from vietnam.
i made it to agra. but not by train; by bus. and that is always fun. but i found an india guide book along the way. a used 2007 lonely planet.
so i am here, even though its been an adjustment with the weather and the lack of preparation. but here are the top 5 reasons i know i am not in america anymore:
1. i paid only 25 cents for my "fast food" lunch (some meat pies that are to be dipped in curry; they were so good - and reminded me of why i came to india.)
2. when i walked out of my hotel this morning, the first thing i saw was a cow.
3. i don't see kids matching their nikes with their shirts and hats, but i have seen women matching their saris to the little dot on their foreheads.
4. my bus got stopped today by a herd of camels.
5. i went for 6 hours straight without seeing any white people - (until i got into this internet cafe.)