Monday, August 31, 2009

Review of travels

Okay, so I was clearly quite terrible at updating my blog as I was traveling, but here are some bullets on the rest of the places I visited:
  • India (Pics: went to Ahmedabad for my friend Pranav's wedding (one of my former Atlanta co-workers). The wedding was AMAZING. Pranav had taken care of all of our arrangements, so our cars hotels and food were organized all weekend. And food and venues were absolutely incredible. Pranav's bride, Smita had an amazing home, which played host to the events two nights before the wedding and the night of the wedding. Two nights before, there was an awesome Indian pop group performance. It was a professional set and the group played some great music. There were 15 food stations (all Jain vegetarian food). The night before the wedding we had a sangeet on Pranav's farm, complete with magicians, traditional dancers, puppet shows, animals, and family dance performances. That was my birthday night, and it was a super fun night cuz there was a DJ and all of the young people danced the night away. PK had some great friends show up for the wedding and we all hung out and had a fabulous weekend together!
  • In the beg of March, I went to Yemen with Sabeen and Ali. We were visiting our friend Asif there and one of Sabeen's college friends who worked for the State Dept. Yemen was a city I would never go to unless I had someone to visit and I was going with people who knew Arabic. No one speaks English. And there aren't a lot of tourists or sights that you must see. It's a neat place to walk around in, VERY old and undeveloped, unlike any city you will probably ever see. There was a brand new mosque that was beautiful and apparently cost $60M to build, which is pretty crazy given the per capita income of Yemen. The city is wonderfully cheap. And I thought Yemen's food was some of the best in the Middle East. It had great spice and flavor and some uniqueness. I loved the kababs, fresh salsa, fresh pita bread, tea, and a stew. Bottom line on Yemen is that it's cool to visit if you want to be a bit adventurous and get off the beaten path, but I think there are a lot more "must-see" places in the Middle East... Pics here:
  • At the end of March, I went to Vienna to see my sister, who was studying abroad there. I had not been to Vienna, so it was a nice trip. We went to Prague for a night-- another city I'd heard a lot about but never been to. Europe really is a beautiful place and these cities were no exception. Gorgeous buildings and lots of fun walking around, sitting in cafes, and checking out the history. I really liked the Rathaus building and my tour of the Parliament in Vienna. The castle in Prague was also beautiful. I found out I got into Wharton on this trip, so that was some nice news. I also got to see Benedikt, as he'd come in from Munich to hang out for the weekend, so we also had fun together. And of course, it was wonderful seeing the sister. Pics here:
  • In mid-April, I went to the U.S. to check out Wharton. This was my only trip to the U.S. while I was abroad in Dubai. Philly was great. Won't spend much time on that...
  • At the end of May, I went to Beirut with Min and Nathan. Beirut is known as the party city of the Middle East, but I thought it was a lot cooler than that. It had tons of history from the Greek and Roman times that we visited in Baalbec and Byblos. Baalbec is the current center for Hamas, so that was cool to see too. And I thought the most beautiful sight was the Gaeta caves, which are trying to be one of the wonders of the world. The caves were spectacular. And you could walk up really close to all of the neat formations. In the U.S., a place like that would have been glassed up. The bar and party scene was also fun, so our Beirut trip was a huge success! Oh, and the shish tawook was delicious, too! Pics here:
  • My final trip was Istanbul in July with Sabeen. I think this was actually my favorite city of the ones I went to because I love cities that are set in water, and Istanbul is so well integrated with the Bosphorus River. You can take ferries everywhere. And the city is so lively! I had no idea, but there are 70M in Turkey and 13M in Istanbul! There was an area called Taksim that seemed to have about 1,500 shops, restaurants, and bars, and there were people walking around everywhere! I loved it! People were all eating and drinking outside, which was such a welcome relief from the summer weather in Dubai. The Blue Mosque and Hagi Sophia and Topkapi Palace were gorgeous, as expected. We also took a day trip to the Princes Islands and rented bikes, which was super beautiful and fun. And I went to a Turkish bath (hamam) for the very first time, which was quite the experience. Overall, this was a great final Middle East adventure. Pics here:
Anyway, I'm guessing no one actually follows this blog anymore, so I'm updating more for my own memory. If there is anyone still out there, enjoy :)

Sunday, March 01, 2009

Muscat trip

A group of my coworkers and I went to Muscat for two days and had a great time!

Pics here:
  • Muscat was awesome! Very pristine city with beautiful landscaping and flowers (you don't see many of those in Dubai) and very peaceful
  • As you will see, the Grand Mosque is GORGEOUS! I thought it was super cool that the mosque was actually completed in 2001, so it's a fairly new building, but still has such grandeur
  • We decided it would be cool to go boating, so we had taxis take us to an area with boats. A random man in a boat approached us (see pics) and offered to take all 7 of us around for only 5 omani riyals (like $12). The boat ride was amazing-- definitely a highlight of the trip.
  • We were walking around the city and saw a little amusement park and decided to go bumper car-ing. Turned out these were some super-powered Omani bumper cars-- way higher impact than the ones in the States and no seat belts. Was a random but very fun experience
  • Going out in Muscat was almost impossible. We tried to go to the only club in the city, but it was totally empty. Then ended up in a hotel bar that closed at midnight. Finally went to a bar at our own hotel that had a rather amusing girl band performing... twas cute
  • The Chedi hotel is gorgeous
  • Taxis in the city are super annoying. They don't have meters so they can charge whatever they want. They also seem to all know each other so they hold a unified front when you try to bargain with them
Anyway, Muscat was the kind of city I would totally like to live in some day-- very peaceful and beautiful...

Tuesday, February 17, 2009


So I know it has been AGES since I've posted on the blog, but I'm back! I think the issue is that Dubai has actually started to feel more like home and less like an exotic getaway spot that I have lots to write about. But I've actually been doing more traveling in the region, so I can write about that! First post: Egypt


Over winter break, my family came to visit me in Dubai and we took a family trip to Egypt (Cairo and Luxor) for 5 days. It was incredible! I really enjoyed the country. My only complaint was that I didn't go to Egypt after 6th grade history, when my knowledge of ancient Egypt was so much more fresh (my goal now is to take my kids there after they study Egypt). There is so much history!!! I remember studying about the high regard Egyptians place on the afterlife, but seeing it in person made it all the more amazing (and slightly excessive, to be honest). I am pasting our private caravan tour itinerary below, so that I can remember all the cool places we went:

Day 01 – Cairo
Arrival in Cairo international airport, Meet & Assist at the airport and after going through Immigration, Baggage Claim and Customs.
H/D guided visit to one of the Seven Wonders of the World the Pyramids of Giza and the Great Sphinx that large statue which is one of the most famous monuments in the whole world.
Transfer to the Grand Pyramids hotel.
Check in & time for refreshment.
Dinner on board of " Nile Memphis " Nile cruise. Sailing in the Nile for 02hrs.including open buffet dinner, belly dance & folkloric show. - Starts at 1930hrs -
Overnight at the selected hotel in Cairo.

Day 02: Cairo/ Aexandria / Cairo
Breakfast at hotel
Drive to Alexandria through the desert road ( Duration of 03hrs. )
Arrive Alexandria.
Visit the Cata Comb.
Visit the Pompey's Pillar.
Photo-Stop by Qaitbay Fort.
Lunch at " Athenios " sea food restaurant overlooking the sea.
Visit Alexandria library.
Drive back to Cairo.
Overnight at hotel in Cairo.

Day 03: Cairo / Luxor
Breakfast at hotel & check out
Half day guided visit to the Egyptian Museum.
Collection of Tut Ankha Amoun at the Egyptian museum
Guided visit to the Citadel of Salah El Din, Mohamed Ali mosque inside.
Transfer to Cairo airport for departure to Luxor at 1700hrs. ( Duration of 01hr. )
Arrive Luxor, meet, assist & transfer to Ibrotel Luxor hotel.
Dinner in a local restaurant in Luxor.
Overnight at Ibrotel hotel in Luxor.

Day 04: Luxor
Breakfast at hotel
Cross the Nile to the west bank.
Visit The West Bank. the Valley of the Queens, the Temple of Queen Hatshepsut at El Deir El Bahari and the Clossi of Memnon facing the Nile.
Clossi of Memnon
Drive back to the Eastern bank in Luxor.
Lunch in a local restaurant in Luxor.
Time free at leisure for going around in the tourist bazaar

Carriage ride to Sound and Light show at Karnak temple
Overnight at Ibrotel hotel in Luxor

Day 05: Luxor / Cairo
Breakfast at hotel & check out
Visit Luxor & Karnak temples.
Karnak Temple
Time free at leisure.
Transfer to Luxor airport for departure at 1700hrs back to Cairo.
Arrive Cairo, meet, assist & transfer to Khan El Khalili bazaar – Hagglers Paradise
Visit the Imam Hussain tomb and mosque
See the Al Azhar Mosque from outside
Self guided visit to Al Azhar Park
Dinner in a local restaurant
Transfer to Grand Pyramids hotel for overnight.

Day 06: Cairo / Home
Early breakfast at hotel & check out.
Transfer to Cairo international airport for the final departure

As you can see, we had a VERY full schedule. We were pretty tired, but still felt like we got to see the highlights of Egypt. And we had an amazing tour guide in Cairo who did an excellent job explaining all the history to us. Seeing the pyramids and all that the Ancient Egyptians left behind literally thousands of years ago really puts life in perspective for you. And it's so awesome that they were able to leave so much behind for us to see. It made me ask what our generation will leave behind in a few thousand years... skyscrapers? global warming? anything?!

Cairo traffic was unbelievable. I thought India was bad, but Cairo might have been worse. You really can't move during rush hour and driving itself is pretty crazy. The city is incredibly dense-- 20 million out Egypt's population of 80 million live in Cairo. I was fascinated by the styles of women in Egypt. Most young adults were wearing western clothes with a headscarf, which seemed more progressive than the full abayas you see in the UAE and other parts of the Middle East. I actually think I appreciated Egypt more having been in Dubai because it really feels like the Middle East! People actually speak in Arabic. And Egypt has real culture and SO much history-- the very opposite of Dubai and the UAE...

Anyway, bottom line is that I really loved Egypt. Pics are here: Enjoy!

Saturday, November 08, 2008

Election, Transportation, Gender balance

A president I support... At last! So happy about the election results. I woke up at 5:30 am local time to track the results, see the winner announcement, and hear the concession and victory speeches. Twas awesome! I totally missed being part of the celebrations in the States, but people here were happy too. They respect the U.S. a lot more (most Europeans I talk to were incredulous that someone like Palin could even get on our ballot).

I think my posts to date have been very positive about Dubai, so it's time I share my biggest complaint about the city: transportation!!! Getting a cab can be a huge nightmare, especially in the evenings, when everyone is leaving work. And traffic is horrible, which exacerbates the cab shortage. My office is in the Burjuman area of Dubai, which is probably the worst place to try to get a cab. I have experiment with private car drivers, but they are often booked up, unreliable, and/or unwilling to drive short distances. My worst experience was probably last week, when it took me 2 hours to get home on Thursday (start of the weekend here). My private car driver did not show up because he was stuck in traffic, but I managed to find a cab. The cab then got into a car accident! Just a minor fender bender, but the other guy wanted to call the police, which would take 2 hours, so I was forced to get out of the taxi and find a new one, now further away from where I started. By the time I found another taxi and got home, it was 9 pm!!! Not fun... I was complaining to the taxi driver and his theory was that there are enough cabs, but they are all just stuck in traffic, because there are too many cars on the road. It's pretty easy/ cheap to get a car in Dubai, which clogs the streets, which are poorly designed to begin with. Anyway, this is definitely my biggest issue with Dubai so far...

I wanted to make a quick comment on the gender [im]balance in Dubai. There are WAY more guys than girls in the city. The workers are all male, but even if you discount them, professional are skewed male, too. The BCG Dubai office only has 3 permanent females among the consulting stuff of over 40, and they are all at junior levels. The temporary transfers, including myself, are a little more female-skewing, but there is still a shortage of women. I miss having more girl friends. My roommates have been great, but I do wish there were more women at work and other places...

That's it for now... Until next time, Ciao!

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

3.5 weeks in Dubai and loving it so far!!!

I've been in Dubai for less than a month and I really do love it so far. This may have something to do with the fact that I am still not staffed and thus have absolutely no work to do :), but I think a larger part of it is just the people. I like everyone I have met so far. A very large percentage of the population here is young professionals-- they're all between the ages of 22-30 and all seem to be well educated with cool jobs. And it seems that the type of people that end up moving here and just above average in terms of coolness ;-). In any case, I feel like it's super easy to meet people here, as no one really has established lives here, and the people I do meet are generally quite cool. My only fear is that I won't feel this way in 5 months...

More observations on life in Dubai:
  • I am spending more time with Europeans than I ever have before. There are surprisingly few Americans around. Europe pretty much dominates the Expat market. Germans and Brits are the most populous in my network at the moment, but I have also met Italians, Swedes, Austalians, etc. It's been fun seeing how the cultures are different. Notable differences between Europeans and Americans thus far: Halloween in Europe implies scary costumes, whereas we Americans go for any type of costume. Also Europeans call costume parties "fancy dress" parties :). Also, the concept of dating seems to be different among some Europeans. Some guys I have talked to say it's totally okay to go on dates with other girls even if you are committed to a girlfriend. It's not cheating unless it's physical-- that's a different mentality than the one I/most Americans? have...
  • I also spend more time in hotels than I ever have before. The Dubai social scene takes place almost exclusively in hotels because hotels are the only places that alcohol can be served legally. This means that clubs and bars are all connected to/ inside hotels... the Dubai parallels to Vegas are becoming more clear.
  • Some other interesting laws: No public displays of affection or cohabitation between girls and guys who aren't married
  • I am not a fan of greeting people in the European way, which is a kiss on each cheek. My [American] default is hugging (which, for the record, I was never a huge fan of to begin with), but all the Europeans do the kissing thing here. I lean in for the hug and then they kiss me on the cheek and I get confused and then I don't turn my head fast enough for the kiss on the other cheek. It's very awkward and embarrassing. Basically, I think I am probably Dubai's worst greeter. I am also just not a huge fan of random people kissing me on the cheek ;-)
  • Local anything-- there isn't any of it. Other than local hotel brands, I have yet to see Emirati brands or types of food, clothing, etc. Pretty much everything is imported...
Another update: I am moving next week into my home for the next 8 months! It's going to be a villa in the Jumeirah area of Dubai-- very close to the beach! I am sharing the villa with two other girls, which should be fun. And get this-- there is a live-in maid!!! She will be able to do my laundry, clean, help cook, etc-- it's amazing! I do feel a little guilty about this, but I figure, when else in my life will I get to have a maid? So I'm going with the flow and living it up for the next 8 months-- more reason for you all to come visit me! I'll post pics of the villa as soon as I move next Tuesday. I am having a going away party for my sweet hotel room this Thursday, which I am very excited about. I'll get to see if I actually have some friends in this city ;-)

That's all for now... Miss you all!

Sunday, October 05, 2008

Thoughts on Dubai

I realized I spent my last post talking about what I've done here so far, but not really what I think of the place. So here are my initial thoughts:
  • So much diversity! I am stunned by how many different types of people are walking around together: outwardly, you have people in burkas, Indian clothes, Pakistani hats, and then you have Western clothes on the South Asian workers, Europeans, Australians, Americans, etc. We call the US diverse, but everyone looks pretty similar in the U.S. in terms of clothing. Here people really do look different and they seem quite tolerant of one another
  • The diversity is in name only. I rarely see Arabs interacting with non-Arabs. No one really talks to the workers and Westerners generally keep to themselves. I am surprised by the number of Westerners/ expats. I'm sorta afraid I'm only going to hang out with them my entire time here.
  • My slight identity crisis... Most Muslims here dress in the Arab garb. Most Indians here are lower class workers. Most Americans are white. As you may guess, I don't fit into any of these categories so I'm very interested to know how people perceive me when they see me...
  • Everyone is very friendly and helpful. People are genuinely nice. Makes the transition a lot easier!
  • People have a lot of money to spend, especially the expats. Restaurants here are a lot more expensive than I would have guessed, or at least the ones that I/expats eat in. Lunch in a sandwich type place can easily run you $10-$20. Shopping is way more expensive than it is in the U.S.. And there are no sales to be seen. There is even a more expat-friendly grocery store, which charges more for groceries than the U.S. does too!
Those are my quick thoughts... I'll add more later!

Thursday, October 02, 2008

Arrival in Dubai!

I finally arrived in Dubai on Sunday night and I'm now getting around to writing about it!

"So far, so good" is the short version. People are asking if it's what I expected and I honestly do know what my expectations were, but I like what I've seen/ done so far. My hotel room is awesome-- has a living room and mini kitchen and a very nice balcony. This will be my home for a month while I find a place to live.

I went into the office on Monday morning and that was good. People seem very nice and friendly and eager to meet people. And it's always nice to be in the office with no work to do :). I'm hoping to spend a couple weeks "on the beach" without work.

I also went to religious services on Monday night and the Ismaili Centre in Dubai is AMAZING-- the nicest one I've ever seen. I didn't really meet people, but it was cool just to see the beautiful place.

Also, on Monday night the UAE government declared Eid (end of Ramadan) to be on Tuesday, one day earlier than expected, so the rest of the week was holiday. No work Tues-Thurs! Pretty cool for me, but slightly weird that the whole city can shut down based on a 8:30 pm decision by the government the night before.

Tuesday I hung out with some British lawyers courtesy my American coworker. There's apparently a group of like 80 British lawyers who are all working in Dubai for 6 mos. They were very cool and it was nice to get plugged into an expat network.

Wednesday I checked out the Mall of the Emirates, which is the big mall in Dubai with the indoor ski slopes. The malls here are really just bigger versions of U.S. malls with more stores. This mall has a huge Walmart-type grocery store, plus the ski slope of course, which looks awesome. Pretty much all the stores and restaurants are imports of US and European stores. I really wonder if the UAE has any brands of its own. This mall food court had: KFC, Papa Johns, Hardees, Chilis, McDonalds, Starbucks, Dunkin Donuts, Seattle's Best Coffee, Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf, etc-- more All-American brands than you'd find in any American mall! We also went to DragonMart on Wed, which is an enormous Chinese swapmeet. It was crazy! You could buy clothes, electronics (fake iPhones, etc), furniture, electrics, etc. Quite the scene.

Anyway, as you can see, I have managed to keep busy and I'm having fun meeting a lot of friends of friends that you all have put me in touch with, so please keep the contacts coming! I have been bad about taking pics so far, but I'll try to change that and post em soon! Miss you all!!!

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

India Itinerary

Dec. 19- Arrive in Bombay
Dec. 20- Fly to Nagpur
Dec. 22-29 - Tour of Agra and Rajasthan
Jan. 3- Fly to Bombay
Jan. 7- Depart for the U.S.

Monday, January 09, 2006

Sunday, January 08, 2006

Final Post

So I just got back to LA after three days in Bombay and nearly three weeks total in India for the first time in 16 years. I had such an AMAZING time. I loved the food, the culture, the people, the history, the place-- all of it.

Bombay was a good time. We were really just there to shop, and Bombay is definitely the best place for that. And thanks to the rich family, we had our own personal driver for the whole time. But the city is SO crowded. There are people everywhere. And in such a small area. They haven't mastered the use of taller buildings or underground parking. I don't think I could live there, mainly because of all of the congestion. There's definitely an effort to improve roads and infrastructure, but a lot of roads just don't seem like they can get any wider. And the number of people with cars keeps going up...

Something that I thought about a bit during my trip was my identity as an Indian American. My younger cousins kept telling me not to even try talking in Hindi because I just sounded funny. And when I called myself an "Indian girl" to the German, my older cousin said that I wasn't Indian, I was American! But in America, I don't really feel like an American-- people always ask me "what" I am and I always check off "Indian" or "Asian" on forms. My cousin told me that I was "ABCD"-- an "American-Born Confused Desi." (Desi is another word for an Indian.) I'd never really thought about this before, but now that I have, I am definitely confused...

That's it for me... Thanks for reading!

Sunday, January 01, 2006

New Year's Eve!

My cousin took my sister, the German, and me to a "CP Club" party. The CP Club is a really exclusive club in Nagpur that you need a membership for and this was supposed to be the best party in Nagpur. It turned out to be a rather fun night, especially because my cousin had given me such low expectations. There were definitely some families there, which is a new thing. And the whole thing was outdoors, which was pretty nice. It was a much more wholesome party than the ones we're used to. Girls were much more covered and dancing was way more tame. And families actually danced together. There was a severe shortage of girls, which my cousin attributed to the fact that girls aren't usually allowed to go out at night. I asked him where guys and girls meet up, and apparently, there are afternoon parties in India that the girls come to. They close the curtains so it seems dark and dance away... interesting phenomenon...
In any case, HAPPY NEW YEAR!

Friday, December 30, 2005

Thoughts on India in General

  • Roads and Traffic- absolutely insane! This is something they never show in Indian movies. There are no lanes or traffic lights that are taken seriously. Cars just go anywhere and everywhere! With traffic or against it—no difference. Speed limits are non-existent. And you have bikes, rickshaws, cars and everything in between all on the road at once. They honk so incessantly and unnecessarily and there is a sort of rudeness in the honking, too. I’ve never seen anything like this. And I fear for my life every time I’m in a car… And apparently, there isn’t any penalty for getting in accidents or even killing someone on the road! They just pay people off and move on. Surprisingly, I haven’t seen any accidents yet, so maybe this system works…
  • So much inequality! Distinctions between people are so prominent here! Just in terms of weight, it’s clear that the poorest people are skin and bones, while wealthier people are much more meaty.
    On the road, you notice it even more. You have bikes, scooters, motorbikes, rickshaws (really cheap versions of taxis), and cars all on the road together. The cars seem to dominate the road. Everyone has to move out of their way. The bikes get pushed to the edges of the road—it’s really a sight to be seen. I haven’t noticed any sort of public transportation, at least in Nagpur. In the U.S., we have different classes of cars, but I feel like they all are equal on the road. This is definitely not the case in India.
  • Smell- there are definitely some distinct (unattractive) smells that pervade the region. You acclimate to them in minutes, but that almost scares me. I have a fear that the smell will never go away.
  • Electricity and plumbing- definitely problems with both, especially electricity. The power goes out city-wide for three hours a day, which can be a huge drag. And the absence of toilet paper is a little disturbing.
  • Poverty- so much of it. people line the streets begging for money or asking you to buy dumb stuff. People showcase their deformities to earn money- you see tons of twisted limbs, burnt arms, and weirdly shaped people. My uncle says that some of them do these things to themselves to earn some cash. I really wish the Indian government would just employ all of these people to fix up the country! There is so much that needs to be done: roads fixed and expanded, fences fixed, cleaning, etc.
    But there also seems to be a sense that people have given up on the poor. My sister was giving my uncle a hard time about the really young servants that are employed in the house, and he was saying that there aren’t any other options for these sorts of people. They don’t care about education or improving themselves. I have no idea how true that is. But the number of kids employed and on the streets instead of in school is definitely sad. And people really don’t seem to care that much. I was giving my cousin a hard time about the trash he was throwing on the floor and he said that everyone did it and that it didn’t matter- him picking up after himself wouldn’t make a difference. And he defended himself by saying that he didn’t litter when he went to Japan…
  • Animals- so many random animals all over the place! There are stray cows and dogs and goats! I have no idea why they are there, but they are literally everywhere and they just eat trash and each other (when they die are are lying on the streets).
  • Servants- Everyone has them! And they’re so young! And they’re treated with such little respect. These people hire cooks and then criticize the food they prepare so openly…I feel so guilty and bad, but I guess this is just the culture…
  • Language- I feel like a total poser speaking in Hindi. I can understand most of what's being said and I can get by pretty well in speaking, I think, but it just doesn't sound natural. And my family teases me about how I sound, so it's a no-win situation. But I really wish I could speak the language with more ease and comfort...
  • Family- lots of emphasis on it. Joint families are pretty common, with multiple siblings and their families all living together. I really liked seeing all the family togetherness and warmth. I also felt like kids are being brought up really well-- they listen to their parents and seem to be focused on the right things.
  • Food and shopping- I actually haven’t gotten a chance to do much shopping, but I am hoping that our time in Bombay at the end of the trip will make up for that. And things are actually more expensive than I imagined them to be. I thought I’d be paying like $.50 or a $1 for everything, which is unfortunately not the case. Although I may just be getting really ripped off. People talk to me in English before I even open my mouth. They can tell I'm American from the way I dress and carry myself, apparently. Food, on the other hand, is amazing and ridiculously cheap. I really have yet to try bad food. And I haven’t gotten sick from anything, which is awesome!
  • General Hospitality- People are A LOT nicer and friendlier here. There is a certain sense of community that I don't think can be replicated in the U.S.

Trip to Agra and Rajasthan

So we took a very cool, one-week, private tour of Northern India, which included Agra, Jaipur, Bikaner, Jaiselmer, and Jodhpur. We started off in a 15-hour train from Nagpur to Agra. Indian trains are a lot less nice and a lot slower than European ones, but I guess you get what you pay for. We had a private van for the duration of our tour, which took us to the different sights in each city and between cities. There were eight of us total: me, my mom and sister, aunt and uncle, another aunt, a 22-year-old cousin, and a 17-year-old German exchange student (the white guy you’ll see in pictures).
Agra was probably my favorite city of the tour, mainly because of the Taj Mahal, which really is something spectacular. It was really foggy in the morning when we went, so it probably wasn’t the best, but I was still very impressed. The rest of the tour was very historical, with visits to a bunch of Indian forts and palaces. They were really pretty and interesting, but they definitely blurred together by the end of the trip. Another highlight of the trip was Jaiselmer, where we got to go on camel rides through the desert up to a valley area and watch the sunset. It was very cool and really beautiful and relaxing.
The trip ended with a 27-hour train ride back to Nagpur, which was less than stellar, to say the least...


It certainly pays to have wealthy relatives. I get to stay in mansions in both Nagpur and Bombay. Nagpur is the city my mom grew up in, located in the Maharastra region of India (sort of in the middle, on the Western part). Nagpur's population is three million, but it's a sleepy sort of town with not much going on. The “Rana House” (Rana is my mom's maiden name) has three floors and there is basically a separate house on each floor. Lots of servants. And full air conditioning. And nice cars. And pretty balconies and swings. So I’m definitely going to be a getting a privileged view of India. In Bombay, we’re staying at my dad’s uncle’s house, which has seven stories, 25 servants, an elevator, and a personal driver… the guy is in the oil business. No complaints.

Monday, June 20, 2005

The Final Post

Sorry it's been SO long since I've posted, but it has been a crazy last couple of weeks! Now I'm back in the U.S. and at my first day on the job, i.e. downtime...
A postscript on Paris: People are actually not that rude at all. They were totally cool about speaking in English and I thought they were friendlier than the Italians!
Vancouver was awesome-- really nice to see my family and religious leader.
I came back on Monday night and had to write one last paper. I have found that writing papers actually got way harder as the quarter progressed because I was just so sick of it! I had slowly lost all motivation.
But I finished that on Thursday and did one last night of Oxford clubbing on Thursday night, which was quite fun.
Friday and Saturday were, I think, my two favorite days in U.K., probably because classes were done, it was sad to be going back, and the weather was FINALLY good! On Friday I spent the whole day in London, doing all the touristy stuff that I hadn't done yet. I went to Hyde Park (I think Central Park is way better), saw the changing of the guard at Buckingham Palace, went on the London Eye, saw Westminster Abbey, took a tour of the Parliament (coolest place ever and I think it was my favorite place in London), and went to Harrod's and Trafalgar Square. Awesome awesome day! I came home at night to our big year-end house party. People from Oxford actually showed up, which kinda surprised me, although I think 95 percent of the Oxford guests were male. Hmmmm...
On Saturday, I went punting for the first time. I really wish I'd tried it sooner because it was SO fun!!! Punting is a big thing at Oxford and Cambridge and it's like rowing, but without the paddles. There is one person at the back who is steering and moving the boat with a long pole. Everyone takes turns with the pole, which isn't as hard as I thought it was. And when you're not steering, you just get to sit on the boat and relax. It was sooo fun! I'll have pictures up soon.
On Saturday night, we went had a group dinner at a very yummy Indian restaurant and then we went to a boat party thrown by one of the colleges. The party was cute and pretty fun, and it was a nice, chill way to spend the last night.
I spent all of Saturday night packing until my flight on Sunday morning. I thought I could sleep as soon as I got on the plane. Unfortunately, my flight was delayed like two hours without airconditioning, so I was pretty miserable. And right now, my luggage is lost somewhere and the United service is awful, so I'm wearing borrowed clothes on first day of work. The only nice thing about yesterday was Whitney picking me up from the airport and having an excellent dinner with her family. And the shoes she gave me for work are also awesome (Thanks Whitney!).
The office seems really neat-- everyone is nice and friendly and young and there is tons of free food and drinks. Yummy. I don't really have any work yet, but I'm assuming (hoping?) that changes.
Thanks for reading this blog the last couple of months. I cannot wait to finally catch up with you guys and hear your voices. We should be talking soon...!!!