Kate Flora: When I was a child, my mother, in an effort to show us that there was a world beyond our Maine farm and and a small town, got us involved in a program called the International Farm Youth Exchange. As part of the IFYE program, young adults from other countries would come and stay with us and learn about farming in Maine. Back then, I didn’t realize that for someone to have the connections and wherewithal (and language skills) to come to America, they would be pretty sophisticated people. All I knew was these visitors from Iran, Pakistan, and India, were fascinating, and that other families in town, except for those farm families participating in the program, weren’t exposed to the cultural exchanges that we were.
Back then, wide-eyed me learned to tie a sari, tried on an intricate carved ivory bracelet, sniffed a scented sandalwood box, watched our guest dress elegantly in his turban, and formed a desire to visit India. That desire was fulfilled over the past two weeks. Our journey started in Mumbai, where we toured the spice market, the thieves market, and other markets, took a Bollywood dance lesson, and toured the city and a house turned museum where Ghandi stayed. We took a boat ride to Elephanta Island to explore an ancient temple carved into rock, toured the Dhobi Ghat, an open-air laundry, and then flew to Udaipur.
There we stayed at The Lake Palace Hotel–one of the most romantic hotels in the world.
I will spare you a day by day recap of the trip. Suffice it to say, it was an adventure, involving a lot of bus rides, plane rides, a train ride, and a half day spent in a jeep searching for an elusive tiger. Our guide was a fount of information about history, politics, social strata and customs. India is a visual feast. The architecture is stunning. The women in their saris are colorful as tropical birds, camels and ox carts share highways with the traffic, and the sacred cows wander at will, and lie down in the middle of the road if they want.
Here are some pictures from the journey:
How to tie a turban
Tourists arriving by elephant at the Amber Fort
Crazy traffic and a frightening maze of electrical wires in Old Delhi, which we toured in a bicycle rickshaw
Mughal empire architecture with doorway symmetry
Colorful ladies and the woman in white
And of course, a sign (I hope you can read it) that is the epitome of irony in the midst of the human and traffic jams we experienced. I wasn’t quick enough to get a photo of the sign just before this one, which declared that trespassers would be shot.