First Impressions: by Catherine
It is hard to believe that this is only our fourth full day in India. We have packed so much in that it feels like we've been here two weeks. Back in the US, when our group came up with our full value contract, one of the things we wrote, courtesy of Josephine, was "squeeze all juice all the time." What we meant by that was that we wanted to squeeze as much juice out of every experience as possible. I definitely think we've done that so far.
As for my first impressions of India, I should start with landing in the Delhi airport. The international terminal where we landed was super clean and western, WAY different from when I landed in the Accra airport in Ghana this fall. Apart from the Hindi script on the signs and the large amount of Indian people, it looked just like any airport in the US. But when we stepped outside, I could tell that we weren't in Kansas anymore, so to speak. The first thing I noticed was the smell. The air smelled like a mix of perfume and curry and petroleum. For the first five minutes I found myself taking really deep breaths through my nose just trying to familiarize myself with the different smells. Also, the traffic was crazy and cars were honking left and right. So far, in the places we've been, I've been struck by how loud it is. Between cars honking, music playing, people shouting, and dogs barking, it's hard to get a quiet moment. For that reason, I'm looking forward to Dharamsala and Ladakh because they are much more rural. For example, right now, as I'm writing this, there is music blaring from a Sikh temple across the street.
Just to run through what we've done so far, on Monday we did a little scavenger hunt, shopped for Indian clothes, and went to a music/dance performance. Tuesday we visited the largest mosque in India and the Red Fort (in the rain). Yesterday, we left Delhi early in the morning and took a train to Agra, where we saw the Taj Mahal and the Agra Fort. Then, we drove to Bharatpur, where we spent the night. This morning we went to a national park where we saw lots of birds and some monkeys and jackals. We are going to see another fort this afternoon. Tomorrow we head to Jaipur for our first homestay. I would say the highlight so far has been the Taj Mahal. It is so breathtakingly beautiful that it's almost unreal. I felt like I was looking at a photograph or a backdrop.
There is so much that I could talk about: riding in rickshaws, eating with my hands, taking bucket showers, riding in the "women only" section on the metro. But that would take hours so for now I'll just finish by saying that I came to India because I thought it would be an incredibly stimulating experience. And it is.