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Always Something to Do by Jasmin Valladares

August 30, 2015

Before we went on our trip, Samina, our amazing professor gave us a crash course on the history and what to expect in India.  She also stated that those two weeks were going to fly by quick!  I was feeling excited and nervous about the trip because this was my first overseas trip.  Plus I have always traveled with family.  I had accepted Samina’s challenge.  I have been away from home for a week and suffered from homesickness and the trips seemed to drag.  Now before my two weeks in India, I and my travel buddy decided to do a week in Dubai.  I must say that Dubai was a city of luxury and wealth.  When we traveled to India, I could begin to tell the difference.  On a connecting charter bus in Mumbai to get to Hyderabad, we were taken into the city streets were I got my first view of India. I could see “slums” on top of “slums.”  I immediately then recalled what one passport agent asked me when he was stamping my passport and asked my destination.  He had asked me “Are you mentally ready for it?”  I had nodded my head yes and replied with “I think so.”   When we got to our hotel in Hyderabad I realized this was not like the prior two hotels I had been in the prior nights.  However, I reminded myself that this was an experience I definitely wanted and I would make the best of it.

I can tell you that I agree with the comedian Gabriel Iglesias when he said you will see some depressing things, but you will also see some beautiful things.  I saw the glimpse of Mumbai and the poverty.  But when I got to Hyderabad, I saw spots of wealth and poverty mixed.  A perfect example was the luxurious house in the middle of other mid class homes, and yet you see some “squatters” a few blocks down.  But one thing that was true was that India has many beautiful wonders.  One thing was that every day we had something to do.  India has amazing food and different restaurants to try at decent prices.  It has many historical sites to go visit and learn some history about the country!  Now I must say that I am not much of a shopper, but India did make me want to shop.

Deciding where to go shop was an issue.  There are many places to go shop!  The Charminar was a very busy place with lots of shops to peruse and fulfill the shopper in you.  It also gives insight to the different foods available.  Another place we visited was a Night Bazaar; it was near Cyberbod that was a bit chiller than the Charminar.  Some places allow you to haggle with them on prices, but other places are strict about the fixed cost.  It was at this place we met a shop keeper that informed us on the process of Cashmere scarves, how you can distinguish a real cashmere from one that is not, described the different types of scarves, and even how to wear the scarves.    You will find friendly shop keepers who will be willing to inform you on history or simply chat up a conversation.

As a tourist be prepared to have prices inflated because after all it is a business and the shop keepers are out to make money.  I know that at times I had to remind myself 100 rupees does not equivalent to $100 U.S dollars.  I had to remind myself to get away from the US way of thinking when I hear a price to remember it was in rupees and not dollars.  You will find that a majority of the time the prices in India would be less than what you paid in the US.  The inflation of prices is something that I expected, but the one thing I found difficult was to ignore the beggars.  Our professor had warned not to give the beggars until the final day because it could cause a commotion or mob scene.  I saw a glimpse of what she meant when I saw a person on a motorcycle give a beggar some rupees and how immediately beggars that I had not noticed appeared by his motorcycle.

On a weekend we traveled from Hyderabad to New Delhi to Agra to see the amazingly beautiful Taj Mahal then traveled to Jaipur to see Amber Fort and experience the elephants!  Granted the elephant ride I took was amazing.  I loved that I was so close to an elephant, I was torn about the elephant ride for ethical reasons.  Not to mention I did feel a bit weird parading a local neighborhood on an elephant.  Can’t help but think that the ride could have been portrayed as a silly tourist activity.  The excitement for my ride ended when the man directing the elephant stated in a stern voice that we must tip him and make sure we tip him.  Not to mention a little boy who threw a rock at my elephant.  But as I always try to see the positive, I thought “When will I ever get a chance to say I rode an elephant?”  Also despite the little boy who threw a rock at us, there were a handful of other children who waived at us and giggled when we waive back!    I cannot forget to talk about our trip to Amber Fort.  This was an amazing fort that allowed us lots of walking and incite to a time that once was.  Might I add it was very tempting to want and play a game of hide and seek.  I almost was able to get in for a local price, but I had to be honest.  The attendant was not sure if I was a local or not and had to ask me if I was a local.  I couldn’t lie and paid the extra 100 rupees.   Over the entire trip was exhausting, but very worth it.  I got to see the scenery and a glimpse of different parts of India.

The food options in India seem endless.  There are many restaurants to go eat at.  Not to mention the various invitations to try home cook meals from the teachers we assisted.   Samina had stated we would lose weight, but I must say I don’t think I did eating all the scrumptious, spicy food.  Did I mention how we tended to order in groups and order four different platters that allowed us to try different types of food?  The best experience was at Barbeque Nation.  The service was friendly and attentive.  We got there during their start of the second shift and to our surprise received an early bird discount.  We were so impressed with the food and our waiter that we wanted to tip generously.  The waiter however directed us to his pin and stated that he does not accept tips.  As long as we were happy with the service, he was happy.  His manager immediately came over to explain that they do not accept tips, because they receive tips in the service fee.  I felt horrible because the waiter truly deserved a tip, but he refused to accept the money.  The food was amazing and much cheaper than we would pay in the US.  By no means do I also want to down play the other places we ate.  There were a few restaurants with friendly staff and delicious food, as well as some with excellent entertainment.

Samina was right; the two weeks flew by and still feel like there were parts of India that I could have explored more.  There was something to do every night that gave you some insight to life in India.  The two words of advice I would give is to accept the Vatican Tax to be inconsistent.  It was difficult to find a set Vatican tax and it differed from restaurant to restaurant.  Once you accept that there is no set value, you will be more at peace.  Also, remember that as a tourist prices may be higher, but overall the prices are still considerably less than in the U.S. and remember that 500 rupees is not the same as 500 dollars. Lastly be willing to be friendly. The openness to communicate can surprise you with new knowledge.  Many shop keepers and locals are willing to share their story and history if you are willing to listen!

Jasmin 3

One of the beautiful elephants in Jaipur.

Jasmin 4

On top of Golconda Fort. Hyderabad in the background. You can see the many things to see in Hyderabad.

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