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Sunday, November 13, 2016

Jaipur to Agra

After leaving the hotel in Jaipur this morning, we made a quick stop by the Sulman orphanage. The woman who started it 17 years ago was a fashion designer in Delhi who came home and saw a nearly naked child digging in the garbage for food. "For whom am I going to design fashion when people don't have clothes? I will design lives," she told us. So she started selling paintings to raise money to feed and house children, and it has grown to a program where her family including her 3 biological children live in the orphanage of 105 boys and girls.  "I am the happiest mama in the world with all my children."  They were some cute kiddos.








Interestingly there is not a culture of foreign adoption here, so these children will stay until they are adults. It was especially touching to see them in a safe place when you could see children in the slum across the road who weren't so lucky.




We spent most of the day in the bus riding to Jaipur. Another random fact I need to figure out is why the sun does not move across the horizon here. I sat on the eastern side of the bus, and we were in the sun all day long.  I swear it never moved up in the sky!

In every town we passed through, we saw lines of people, sometimes hundreds of them, at banks (which were open even though it is Sunday). The currency issues in India are getting worse. Indians are spending 5-7 hours in line at banks every day to get money exchanged.  ATMs get refilled and are out of money in an hour, particularly since they aren't set up to hold lots of singles which is all that the central bank is distributing right now.  We heard stories of children who died when the doctor in one case and ambulance driver in the other refused to accept the old currency for treatment (the doctor was subsequently beaten by a mob).  This is a cash-based economy (almost 85% of transactions done that way), so most of the lower class folks don't have credit cards to use. Thankfully our cards work and some of us brought cash. I will say that while conventional travel wisdom has become "don't bring cash or travelers checks, just use the ATMs", I'll never go abroad without a couple hundred dollars of Uncle Sam's cash again.  Travelers checks would be worthless here since you can't even get into a bank to cash them.

The woman at the orphanage said the positive of the financial situation is eliminating the black market will help curtail child trafficking.

We stopped along the way to Agra at a roadside cafe for lunch, and I had a grilled cheese sandwich. I also love how Lay's offers up locally flavored chips!




On the way into Agra, we stopped at a city and palace one of the Mughal emperors (grandfather of the guy who built the Taj Mahal) built over 10 years, lived in for 10 years and subsequently abandoned. The interesting thing about this guy is he had 3 wives - one Hindu, one Muslim, and one Christian, and he didn't try to convert them to Islam. Rather he took the best of all 3 traditions and tried to apply them to life in his kingdom. Pretty forward thinking stuff.  These palaces are all starting to look alike, but some of the hand carved sandstone in this one was pretty cool.





Bhivou chose today to wear local dress. Check out the toes on the shoes.



We were supposed to go to the Red Fort at Agra but ran out of time. Instead we can back to the hotel and got ready for a nice dinner at a restaurant in town. It was nice to not eat the hotel buffet, and the food was the best we've had this trip. Plus they brought someone in for henna tattoos! The pic below is with the ink still drying on. It will flake off and leave a light brown pattern on the hand for 1-3 weeks.



Tomorrow we'll go to the Taj Mahal and then make our way back to Delhi for dinner and evening flights. Mine isn't until 3am which will be painful. The Agra area air is smoky from the fires plaguing Delhi. Hopefully it doesn't ruin the Taj Mahal Christmas card photo opp!

LA

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