A Travellerspoint blog

Final Thoughts

A year and a half and 14 countries later...

So I'm back in the United States having been away for about a year and a half. I must say it feels weird to be back. Having buffalo wings, good ribs, and Chick-fil-A though, isn't half bad :) and seeing my family again has been great. I must say, though, there are things that I miss about life abroad, and there are some readjustments which have jarred me a bit.

The thing I miss the most, surprisingly, is the foreign sense of humor, particularly of Australians and Brits. In the United States, things are taken a lot more seriously, where people take offense to statements instead of just throwing a sarcastic statement right back to you (as a Brit or an Aussie would). I feel like my sarcasm sometimes goes over people's heads these days. Every now and again, you just gotta take the piss out of your mates. At the very least, it makes for very fun banter (and less dramatic conversation).

The other thing that is a real adjustment to get used to is the staunch supporters of gun rights in the United States. I've gotten numb to all of the shootings in this country these days. There's just too many of them. Other countries like some of the ones I traveled to don't have these issues because they have stricter gun laws and better mental health policies. It's so frustrating to see my country, the "leader of the free world," mind you, struggle with these challenges while others sail through with better policies. This whole gun control debate is a discussion for a different time but having just been abroad and seeing how the rest of the world is looking at us is really kind of pathetic. They're impression is "What is wrong with your country? Get your shit together and stop killing each other with those automatic weapons." It's pretty embarrassing as an American, because in my opinion there is no excuse. Call me crazy, but I do not believe the Founding Fathers created the Second Amendment right to bear arms to this degree where it endangers the life of a child going to school. While we're on the subject, I'll tell you one other thing that surprised me when I came back. I was in the New York City subway and I noticed something was different from the subways I had just been on in other countries. I had just been on the London Underground the week before and I couldn't put my finger on it until a few minutes passed. Then it came to me: there were crazy people on the NYC subway. No. Seriously, that was the difference. Other countries such as England, have such better mental health care that there aren't people with extreme mental health problems left to the street or subway to fend for themselves, many of whom become homeless because of their illness. People with extreme cases of mental health illness are simply not in those public areas.

There have been adjustments to coming home, especially coming back to Virginia, but there have also been great stories to share. People always ask me about the things that I enjoyed most about my travels. Obviously getting to see new places, try new foods, make new friends--the cliche things that traveling is all about. Of all the countries I traveled to, I would absolutely say that New Zealand, India, Myanmar, Vietnam, and living in Sydney were extraordinary highlights from my trip. All of the places I visited were fantastic in their own way, but those were such unique experiences that will always jut out in my mind. I could not have started off the journey with a better experience than New Zealand and with the Kiwi Experience. I made some incredible friends initially there on the Kiwi Experience that affected my journey along with way, as I lived and hung out with many of them in Sydney and remain close with them today.

To me, India is such a country of contrasts. From the bright colors to the stark contrasts between poverty and luxury to the differences between each state culturally, linguistically, food-wise, etc, everything is a contrast. In a matter of 10 minutes, I went from passing a cow eating trash on the street to dining in one of the most luxurious palaces in the world. Rajasthan is an absolute highlight--that trip with Jardin was extraordinary. Rajasthan is such an easier transition to India as well, because the affordable luxury caters to a Western clientele, and the 5-star resorts are everywhere.

In Thailand, I got to experience a few things that were absolutely wicked. First, the food. Thai food is one of my favorites to begin with, so eating delicious pad thai or chicken with cashew nuts for literally US$1 per meal was no challenge. How many people can say they've cuddled with tigers as well? That was so unreal. And let's face it: the Full Moon Party is just something I will never be able to forget.

Vietnam took me by surprise with how much I liked it there. Granted I did have a great group of girls to see the country with, but reliving a "Kiwi"-like experience with the Halong Bay tour was awesome, even if I did slam my back into a rock wall midway through. The hill towns of North Vietnam will always be a highlight for me with how unique a world that was, from the rice paddies carved into the mountains to the pigs and water buffalo on sale at the market.

And Myanmar....Myanmar was every bit worth going to for Bagan, the "Angkor Wat" of Myanmar. Boy, did the fairytale-land of temples blow Angkor Wat out of the water! It was absolutely extraordinary to spend multiple days biking around those temples and watching the sun rise and set from atop a temple. Plus, I had great times with monks. It was really fun chatting with the monk who walked me to the top of Mandalay Hill and taking pictures with my baby monks at the temples.

I have to say, each place presents me with a different set of memories that I treasure. I loved living in Sydney and having a life with friends there for 7 months, from the wine-tasting to the nights out in King's Cross and at Darling Harbour to Taco Night with my housemates to eating Vegemite every morning for breakfast at work. I loved sharing my Americanness with my colleagues by cooking them Virginia barbecue or making them a flag cake for the Fourth of July or teaching them to use the expression, "Y'all." In turn, I loved the "How ya going, mate?"s and the challenge of using the terms "arvo," "brekky" and "going out for a paddle" in an everyday sentence. I loved being able to run to Tamarama and Bondi beaches and have everything be opposite like a Beach BBQ for New Year's or a Christmas dinner in July. It was an extraordinary time in my life for which I will always be grateful.

The place I didn't get to that I had originally intended to go to was Everest Base Camp in Nepal as well as parts of East Africa and South Africa. Those will be my next trips at some point. One thing I learned about myself this past year living in Sydney is that I need a big city. I thrive in big cities. Virginia no more! There's just not as much going on as in a large metropolitan area. Sydney was a great place to live (I think it's better to live in than visit by the way in case you were wondering). The only problem with it is that it's so far removed from the rest of the world, making Skype dates a real feat. I like Sydney a lot, but I just want to stay friends. On the other hand, I love New York, London and Paris, and would live in any of those 3 cities at the drop of a hat. Speaking of which, I need to get to applying for jobs, so that I can live in one of those cities and start the next adventure of my life. So this is me signing off. Thanks for tuning in! Until next time...

Posted by kendallwallace 31.01.2013 23:10 Archived in USA Comments (0)

NYC for NYE

Reunited with Friends and Family in the "City That Never Sleeps"

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I left an awesome reunion with family in Memphis for Christmas to have a different reunion in New York for New Year's. NYC, baby! One of the last weekends before I left on my adventure, Jardin, Atish, Astrid, and I had a reunion in NYC for the U.S. Open. A year and a half later, we had a reunion for New Year's (I like to think in part to welcome me back :)...this time with our new addition, Gerry. Our first night, we all flew in late and went to an old speakeasy called The Back Room where we drank drinks out of teapots like they did in during the Prohibition. The next day, we did touristy stuff like going to Times Square and Rockefeller Center.
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When we were at Rockefeller Center, I wanted a picture, so I asked a guy if he could take one. He said, "In a minute." Not more than 10 seconds later, he was down on his knees proposing to his girlfriend. Talk about putting your foot in your mouth! Woopsie!
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Later on, we met up with another classmate from Darden, Amrish, in an English pub.
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As we were walking back to the subway stop, we passed by Macy's on 34th street. I loved seeing the windows at Macy's. They embody the Christmas spirit with their gorgeous decorations!! When I was little, my family and I used to come up to NYC around Christmas time, and we always went to the windows at Macy's and Lord & Taylor, so seeing those windows reminded me of that time and made me feel like a kid again :)
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I love all the little NYC subtleties in these windows
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The old wooden stairs at Macy's!
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Subway time :)
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After an amazing brunch at Stanton Social, my favorite NYC brunch spot, we continued to hang out in fun Manhattan spots. In fact, we went to Bryant Park and Jardin and I went ice-skating. It was the first time the Indian man had ever been ice-skating :) He was so adorable out on the ice as I taught him to skate. I guess they don't have too many ice-skating rinks in Mumbai, eh Jardin? :)
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Beautiful Bryant Park
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For New Year's Eve, my cousin Emilie had a party at her apartment. It was SO fantastic to see her again!
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Emilie is getting married this summer and I got to meet some of those involved in the wedding! Bachelorette Party here we come!
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Happy New Year! Kazoo time :)
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We all had a blast at the party!
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The following days, I got to hang out with Emilie and her fiancé, Blake, which was great. In addition, I got to reunite with Elaine, a friend of mine who I studied abroad with in France who I hadn't seen in 5 years, because first she was abroad, and then I was abroad. It was so great to catch up with her and hear about her time in France.

My time in NYC was fantastic and just got me even more amped up to move there soon! Just as soon as I'm done with this blog, it's job-application time :)
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Posted by kendallwallace 31.01.2013 18:43 Archived in USA Tagged nyc Comments (0)

Back in the Good Ole U.S. of A.

Memphis for Christmas

I'm not going to lie. Waiting in line at Customs in the United States was a very welcome experience. You should have seen the look on the customs officer's face when I told him how many countries I had been to since the last time I entered the country. I landed in Chicago and was pleasantly greeted with this sight. Remember this from Home Alone 2? I had a 4 hour layover, so I indulged in a Blue Moon in the airport. It had just been too long since I had had that orange slice!
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When I finally landed in Memphis, I was greeted with this sight by my family:
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My family is such a mess :) That evening, we went to the most delicious BBQ place Memphis has to offer: Central BBQ. It was amazing. Odd fact: it was also located directly behind the hotel that Martin Luther King, Jr. was shot.
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We had a white Christmas :) It was the first time I had seen snow in a year and a half, since I was trekking in New Zealand. (P.S. Funny story: Justin Timberlake actually lives at the end of the street from where my brother lives.)
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One day, we checked out the Memphis Grizzlies' practice. I got to meet Zach Randolph and some of the other players as well as the coach. They were all really nice and lovely guys. Then we checked out the locker room:
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A few days later, we went to the FedEx Forum to go to the Grizzlies' game.
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Go Grizzlies! Unfortunately, they lost, but it was great to see them play and see my bro on the court doing his thang.
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Since this was my first trip to Memphis, we wanted to go to the classic tourist destination in Memphis: Graceland!
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This was the living room at Graceland, left exactly the way Elvis decorated it at Christmas time.
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The main house
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Elvis' cars were awesome
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Because Jason and Katie are pregnant, we went shopping for baby stuff with them. I think this stroller may be too small.
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Just me and my parents. :) Comfy crib by the way..
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Posted by kendallwallace 31.01.2013 14:33 Archived in USA Tagged memphis Comments (0)

Londontown!!

Back to the Western World, Baby!

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So I left India behind and headed to Londontown!! My first night in London, I met up with a mate of mine, Andrew, whom I had met in Australia. We walked from Charing Cross to Trafalgar Square and down Oxford Street. The decorations around London at Christmas time are tremendous! I thought that NYC was good but London was amazing!
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The streets were so "Old London." I loved it!
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Andrew and me having a pint
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We walked to Hyde Park, as I was to meet up with my mate, Megan, from the Kiwi Experience in New Zealand. We went to Winter Wonderland in Hyde Park, which was insane! It was like a giant amusement park on Christmas steroids. There were rides, ice-skating, a circus, etc. We Americans are known for our commercialism, especially around Christmas, but these Brits were giving us a run for our money!
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Andrew, Megs, her friends and I did do the ferris wheel....not quite as big as the London Eye, but it did give us great views over the city!
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The next day, I met up with my friend, Victoria, who I had traveled around Vietnam with. She was such a sweetheart and drove down 3 hours from where she lives to come visit me. We had a touristy day in London, shopping around Covent Garden and then going for fish and chips at a pub for lunch.
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We took the tube and then walked along the Thames to get to Westminster Abbey. After all, I hadn't been to London since the Royal Wedding, so I had to see where William and Kate did their nuptials. :) Then, we walked to this famous photo spot with a telephone booth and Big Ben in the background. Unfortunately, all of the homeless leave a treat in each of the photo booths these days :p But the spot was lovely!
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Then Tor thought it would be funny if I got a picture with a bobby, which I did.
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We walked across the bridge and got some roasted peanuts. That's the London Eye in the background.
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Then we hopped into a pub for a pint. I love the old English wood! :)
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After that, we headed to the market on Southbank, right by the London Eye. There were stalls set up with mulled wine and all sorts of food and things to eat. They also had amazing hats, which Tor and I loved.
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Later, Tor and I parted ways at Waterloo, and I met up with my friend, Martin, who I know from the Kiwi Experience and who was one of my close friends from Sydney, when we lived there at the same time. We met up and took a pic right in front of the London Eye.
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Then RIshi came to meet up with Martin and me. We had a drink and had a great time catching up.
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That evening, I went over to Megs' in Wimbledon so that we could have "girl time" to catch up. Here she is as she heads out to work for the morning.
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As I walked back to the train station, I passed this shop that I got a kick out of.
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Then I headed 3 hours out of London to have an overnight in Chester. I visited my mate Anna Feeney, who I worked with at Macquarie in Sydney. She had moved back to be with her man, Ric. She met me at the train station and we headed out for lunch at a local pub. The English have this tradition of opening Christmas crackers with hats in them and wearing the hats during Christmas lunch. This concept was totally new to me, and I loved it!
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The town of Chester was so quaint. I loved it! It reminded me of the Tudor style of architecture from Normandy.
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Then we went for a pint at Anna's local.
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We took this pic, as one of our old colleagues was called, Daniel Rohan. This is for you, Rohan!
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Anna and Ric
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Anna was so sweet to throw a dinner party for me, inviting all of her friends over to meet her crazy American friend.
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They were such lovely girls!
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We even jammed out to Spice Girls! "Stop Right Now....Thank You Very Much..." TOO FUN!
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The next day, Feeney and I went to a really great restaurant in the country. It was so cute looking!
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Then I took the train back to London, and Rishi and I went out with his mates. We went to a great bar singalong. It really reminded me of a great college bar in the U.S.
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The whole group had such a blast hanging out and singing along!
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The next day, I met up with Collette, a mate of mine from Sydney. We went to the Borough Market, which is SO amazing! There are stalls of tasty food everywhere, both to eat there as well as to take home. I absolutely recommend it! We had delicious stall food and walked around all of the artisans, tasting cheese, wine, saucisson, etc. We had a blast! And look at how big that brussels sprout stalk is! I never knew brussels sprouts grew on stalks like this....lol
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The cheese-tasting was amazing!
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That's one big cheese wheel!
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Later on that day, I met up with Mansha, my old roommate from UVA. We went Christmas shopping on Oxford Street....and a bit of indulgent shopping at Zara :)
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Then we went out with her roommate Shazia, her friend Chris, and some of her other mates to a bar.
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Here's the group:
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My last day, Chris and I went to Notting Hill to go shopping at the Portobello Market. Later on that night, I met up with Megan at a club for one last night out before I had to catch my flight in the morning.
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Then, Alex Perchard, one of my closest friends from Macquarie in Sydney, came into town directly from Heathrow (he had just flown in from Sydney) and met me at the club so that we could have a catch-up session before I had to go home for Christmas.
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It was so great to see such a close friend of mine before I left. Alex had been hanging out with Nikki, our mutual friend from work, Blair, one of my friends from Sydney, and Abyan, one of my best friends from UVA, frequently since my departure from Sydney. It was so good to hear what's been going on and get all of the gossip :)
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What a whirlwind London was! But at the same time, it was a great way to transition back to the United States, because I was able to visit a lot of my good mates from my travels and reminisce over the past year and a half's experiences. Retelling the stories dating back to the beginning in New Zealand and the Kiwi Experience to fun times at work in Sydney to adventures in Vietnam and everything in between was a great way to reflect and gear up for reuniting with my motherland :)

Posted by kendallwallace 31.01.2013 12:35 Archived in United Kingdom Tagged london Comments (0)

Astrid's Wedding

A Friend from Darden Gets Married in Bangalore :)

Once my project had wrapped up, I stayed in town for the weekend, as one of my closest friends from Darden, Astrid d'Souza, was getting married. She had asked me to be a bridesmaid, so I had a part to play, which made the weekend even more fun :)

After Exploramungala, Astrid, Gerry (her fiance), and I went out to brunch. It was so good to see her since it had been about a year and a half since I had seen her last. Gotta love Bangalore's Sunday Brunch culture. We stayed there for about 7 hours just catching up.
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Later on in the week, Astrid and I got manicures and pedicures for the big event!
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Then Friday night, the night of the rehearsal dinner came. It was funny because I was the only non-Indian there but I was also the only one dressed in Indian clothing. :) I had bought a kurta for the big event. I met all of Astrid's cousins and family, which were so much fun. They had flown in from Dubai, Australia, as well as Mumbai.
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I found this sight pretty hilarious right outside the restaurant. It's as if these guys knew how photogenic they were!
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Astrid and Gerry the night before their wedding
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The Wedding Day! Her color scheme was royal blue and clementine.
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The Wedding Party
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Congratulations Astrid and Gerry!
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Astrid and Gerry did something really cool the day after they got married. They got back into their tuxedo and wedding dress respectively, and had a photo shoot. One of the most unique photos was when they hopped in a pool for some underwater shots. Gorgeous.
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After the wedding and the lovely reception, we had the after party in my hotel room. A friend of mine from North Carolina, Emily, was my plus one. Here we are dancing it out with some Indian Bollywood music going on in the background.
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I invited over some friends who did not attend the wedding who were out on the town as well as some of Astrid's younger cousins to the after party. The entire evening was such a great last hoorah in India.....way to go out with a bang!
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Posted by kendallwallace 31.01.2013 11:49 Archived in India Tagged bangalore Comments (0)

Explore-a-mungala

Christmas Bar Crawl with New Friends

In Bangalore, there is a part of town called Koramungala. One of my new friends, Kevin, came up with the idea of having a pub crawl of that area, which he titled, "Exploramungala!" We even made shirts, which was awesome! It ended up that about 30 of us (expats from all over the world: Australia, the U.S., England, Ireland, as well as other parts of India) did the trek one evening to about 4 bars.

At the second stop, we all crowded into a tiny sitting area :)
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In between the second stop and the third stop, we found christmas decorations and bought them to wear for the rest of the night!
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We had intended to go to more places, but this place played some amazing 90s dance videos that we just had to stay for. So we shifted to the dance floor.
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Dancing fun
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Then we had 2 after parties. The bars in Bangalore shut at 11pm, so we had to get started early. At the first after party, there was a drum set.
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And dancing...
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But after the night, I was exhausted and passed out. Luckily, I was able to rally for the second after-party at our apartment. We lived in one of the most luxurious penthouse apartments in Bangalore, so we had a jam session out on the balcony until the wee hours of the morning. Good times.
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Posted by kendallwallace 31.01.2013 08:38 Archived in India Tagged bangalore Comments (0)

Fun in Bangalore

3 Weeks in Bangalore...

Bangalore is known for its pub culture and great restaurants, and I took advantage of every opportunity to exploit them both during those 3 weeks.

When Jardin was in town, we headed to none other than the....Taj Hotel! We went to the ice bar there, which was half inside (dance party), half outside (pool party). It was great fun. I would very much recommend it!
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Bangalore is also a HUGE Sunday Brunch town. It was fantastic to go to a Japanese place for brunch my first Sunday. It's times when you walk into the bathroom of the restaurant during brunch and see Indian girls holding the hair back of their friend that you realize how truly interconnected we all are :)
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On evenings out, a lot of the girls bring scarves to cover their hair and face so that the combination of the wind and the pollution don't mess it up. One of my friends gave me hers to borrow. I look like one of those extremely covered Muslim women, or a letterbox!
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Rickshaw time with Suri and Ratul, two Americans living in Bangalore. We went to a Christmas party that evening at an awesome Mexican restaurant!
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One of the last nights out with Anita and Emily and their men :)
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Posted by kendallwallace 31.01.2013 08:33 Archived in India Tagged bangalore Comments (0)

Thanksgiving in Bangalore

My First Celebration in Bangalore...

My first week in Bangalore, our loft planned to have a Thanksgiving dinner in order to celebrate the American holiday that had just taken place. So one week after the actual Turkey Day, we had Thanksgiving in Bangalore!

So I took half the day off to slave away in the kitchen and prepare the turkey, sweet potato casserole, and green bean casserole for dinner that evening. Brad did most of the prep work. Nice job, Brad!
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Finally, the turkey was done, so we went back to the apartment. (We had to use the CEO's apartment to cook the turkey, because she was the only one with an oven....most Indian apartments don't come with an oven--just a stove.)
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So we walked the 5 blocks back to our apartment (with turkey in hand). We must have looked quite strange walking down the traffic-heavy street while carrying a giant bird! When we arrived at the apartment, guess who was there!?!? Jardin came! He came to Bangalore in part to see his family since he was still in the country waiting for his visa to be changed so he could move back to the U.S. and start his new job.
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Pompa's roomate, Arjun, my roommate Ratul, and Jardin pose for the camera (along with Siri in the background)
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Everyone slaved away in the kitchen to prepare the salads and mashed potatoes, etc.
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Our Expat family introduced the Indians and other foreigners to our American tradition: Thanksgiving. In true fashion, we all went around the table and said what we were thankful for. It was really sweet to see all of the foreigners begin to understand this tradition, and it was so great for me, cause it definitely took me back to being at home. The poignant moment of the evening came when Kevin said, "You know expats are like family. You can't choose them, but you have to love them anyways." So true :)
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Posted by kendallwallace 31.01.2013 08:24 Archived in India Tagged bangalore Comments (0)

Working at Embrace Innovations

A Social Enterprise Work Experience in Bangalore, India

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The Embrace Innovations Team in Bangalore

From Jaipur, I flew to Bangalore for a three-week work experience there with a social enterprise called Embrace Innovations. Embrace Innovations is a start-up health-care company that produces innovative technologies for emerging markets. The first two products that they launched were infant warmers. In India, about 40% of the babies born are low birth-weight infants, which means that they don't have enough fat on their bones to keep warm. Therefore, a lot of them suffer from hypothermia. Incubators in hospitals are very expensive for the families. In addition, another alternative called kangaroo mother care, which is skin-to-skin contact between mother and infant, can be difficult to practice in a practical sense. Indian cultural barriers would prevent a woman from exposing herself in front of men, even within the home, not to mention that there are times when women cannot practice skin-to-skin contact when they have to shower, go to the bathroom, sleep (for fear of smothering the baby), work, etc. So the two Embrace products fill the void for the hospital as well as at home, where the incubator technology is too expensive for those who need it and the baby needs to remain warm but no one is available to deliver skin-to-skin contact to the infant.

Within Embrace, I worked on a project building an internal communication model for the company. Through various methods (posters, emails, presentations, videos, etc.), I educated each of the staff about kangaroo mother care so that everyone in the company would be on the same page when it came to positioning our new product. I really wanted to gain some operational experience with a social enterprise in India, and working on this project for 3 weeks was a great way to do that in a short amount of time.

I lived in a loft with a few of my work mates (all expats as well), and was able to participate in some pretty cool company activities, like a brainstorming meeting every Friday afternoon called Metisto and the annual company retreat.

Here is Jane Chen, one of the founders of Embrace (who attended Stanford Business School; she and the other partners actually created the idea of Embrace during a class at Stanford) speaking at the company retreat.
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My colleagues. The company was 80 people. About 5 of us were expats. The rest were local hires, which was pretty cool, as I got to build relationships with native Bangalorians.
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Becca, Saranya, Me, Honey, and Pompa at the retreat
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Becca, Saranya, Brad, Me, Shristi, Honey, and Madhu at the retreat
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Overall, my time at Embrace was a fantastic experience. I learned a ton about how businesses operate, particularly as a start-up, as a health-care company, and in a place where the target customers live in rural environments. Those circumstances presented a lot of unique challenges to the company that was both educational to observe and at the same time rewarding in that I was able to partake in its achievements.

Posted by kendallwallace 30.01.2013 18:52 Archived in India Tagged bangalore Comments (0)

Methods of Transport in India

Indian Railway Travel, Auto-rickshaws, Camels, etc.

I must say, one of the coolest things about India is all of the methods of transport. The first thing we'll look at is the railways system. By the way, the Indian Railway system is the largest employer in India, with over 1.4 million employees.
Here are some men running across the tracks to catch the train before it leaves:
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It is not uncommon to see people crossing the tracks. In fact, what is surprising is the amount of people who do it with oncoming trains approaching. Hoards of people cross the tracks at the station. On top of that, a lot of people use the railway tracks to navigate as they walk from city to city if they can't afford public transport, so you can see people on their journey as you look out the window of the train.
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While the trains have sleeper cars, sometimes you can't get those seats because the Indian Railway System is always booked. The picture below is what it looks like inside the unreserved "cattle car," as I did on my journey from Dehli to Agra. Everyone is standing and holding their possessions or sitting on the floor since the actual seats are reserved. Those train cars add a new definition to the expression, "wall-to-wall people." The only benefit for travel as a foreigner is that the trains do have extra tickets for foreigners in the reserved cars, but to get those, you do have to go to the train station. I'm not going to lie...waiting in line at Indian train stations is the worst. I once waited for an hour and a half and then they closed the window 3 people in front of me. The customer service could be a little better at the train station....just saying. Since we are on the subject, the website could use a little work as well. I won't go into the details, but I once spent 2 hours on that website just trying to check availability. Needless to say, it was a bit frustrating. Instead, it's better to pay a premium and go to a travel agency to book rail tickets.
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I love the misspelling of the word, "platform." It cracks me up!
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While on the platform, I saw a man with a spear. At the time, I happened to be on the phone with my mom, and I remember we were talking about family stuff, and then all of a sudden I was like, "Hang on, Mom. You're not going to believe what I'm looking at! I'm looking at a man dressed up like Jasmine's father (from Aladdin) in UVA colors. And he's holding a spear.." It was hilarious! The man is not dressed up for Halloween as you might expect. Because of his religion, he's allowed to carry a weapon to defend himself with him at all times (Although good luck getting that through security at the airport!)
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While on the same phone call, all of a sudden I was like, "Mom, hang on a second. There is a monkey climbing on a high wire moving across the railway tracks." No joke. I swear, hanging out at Indian Railway stations will give you the greatest stories. There were monkeys just hanging out on the tracks. Well, at least the rats had company :) I have never seen so many rats in my life until I looked at the tracks. You couldn't stare at the tracks for more than 3 seconds without seeing a rat!
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Mumbai time on the train. I loved having the doors open so you could get access to the fresh air on the crowded trains. It was the only reprieve from the sweltering heat!
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The next method of transport in India we'll look at is the bus. Buses, although cheaper than trains, were very crowded and also more dangerous. Once all of the seats are taken, everyone stands so that they can crowd more bodies on the bus. The front of the bus is reserved for women, while the back of the bus is for men. As you can tell, it was pretty crowded. However, a four-hour bus journey cost less than US$2.
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Another method of transport is an auto-rickshaw (auto for short), or a three-wheeler. They always hang out in packs and there can be quite a bit of collusion, which means that it's better to avoid stations like these and instead hail one from the road.
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Here is an auto-rickshaw full of children on their way home from school
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This is what it looks like from the backseat. It is much better to get one with a meter, like this auto, than to negotiate a rate beforehand, although sometimes like at night, it's unavoidable.
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Even the trucks are decorated Indian-style
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You can also go by elephant in India :)
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Or camel
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Either I'm a giant or that ambulance is tiny!
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I love the motorbikes in this country. Seeing families on the back of these things (although unsafe), always brings a smile to my face. I just love how there's no real worry for the kids cause the dad has so much confidence that he won't wreck..
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Posted by kendallwallace 30.01.2013 13:47 Archived in India Comments (0)

Jaipur

Town of Jewels

After Pushkar, I headed to Jaipur, the capital of Rajasthan. Jaipur is known as the Pink City. (Remember: I went to the White City (Udaipur) and the Blue City (Jodhpur)? Well, this is the third: the Pink City). Jaipur is a walled city with pink buildings. I didn't care for Jaipur nearly as much as the other destinations of Rajasthan. Udaipur, Jodhpur, and Jaisalmer along with Pushkar all blew Jaipur out of the water. The thing that did redeem Jaipur was its shopping for jewelry. I bought an emerald there, which was my big splurge. Jaipur is also fantastic for scarves. However, for everything else, Jaipur was just obnoxious. On the streets, I was approached a lot more than I had been in other parts of India. In Jaipur, they are so used to seeing tourists that they just hound you. Ugh, its so off-putting!

It was cool to see how they make textiles though. They use these stamps to create an elephant pattern for the textiles.
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Posted by kendallwallace 30.01.2013 13:00 Archived in India Tagged jaipur Comments (0)

Pushkar Camel Fair

Camels, Camels, Everywhere!!

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The hottest thing going on in India at the end of November was the Pushkar Camel Fair, and I happened to be just a 4 hour train-ride away, so I took the train to Ajmer, and rode in a taxi 15 minutes over a mountain to the town of Pushkar. When I met two girls in Kerala during my first days in India, they told me about Jaisalmer and Pushkar being the 2 highlights of their experience in India. Since their advice on Jaisalmer did not disappoint, I decided Pushkar was my next stop. I arrived just in time for the beginning of the Pushkar Camel Fair, a yearly event for one week where camel traders bring camels from all around to buy and sell them. It's the largest concentration of camels in the world, I believe. Over the years, they've seen how tourists flock to these sorts of events, so they've developed some attractions just for the foreigners.

The week kicked off with a friendly football game between locals and the foreigners (mostly Brits of course). It came down to penalty kicks, but the foreigners pulled it out!
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Then I walked around behind the stadium and decided to go exploring the vast area just beyond the city's reach where they kept the camels. Families were all around tending to their own caravan of camels.
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I love the bright colors, turbans, and mustaches. All 3=Classic Rajasthan
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I thought the fair should have been called the Pushkar Horse Fair, because I saw so many more horses than camels!
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Lungyis and Turbans
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They really had made it into somewhat of a carnival, with ferris wheels galore. Keep in mind that all of this is taking place in the desert heat.
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Taking a Little Rest
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Women and children walked around everywhere with large bowls, collecting the feces of the camels. I suspect they were collecting it to make something (fertilizer I presume) and then resell it.
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Here is where they collected all of the camel pellets
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Pellets, Camels, and Turbans....Capturing it all...
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Nice Turban. What are you smoking, sir?
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Camels as far as the eye could see
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One of the men tending to his camels
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After exploring the area where they kept the animals, I decided to explore the town of Pushkar. I must warn you: Pushkar is an excellent place for shopping. Some of the girls I was traveling with got some AMAZING bags from Pakistan that looked straight out of Anthropologie. And I did some serious damage on the purse and scarf front. Pushkar, at least at the time of the Camel Fair, is also an excellent place for people-watching. These ladies' saris are amazing!
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And of course, the cows were eating trash of the streets. I really wasn't kidding about that. It's pretty sad.
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Beautiful Architecture
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Pushkar also houses a lake. In fact, that's what made it famous, as people will bathe in the lake to cleanse themselves of their sins. It's a holy town, because of the holy lake (which also means it's a dry town. It's very rare (and more of a mission) to find a beer in this town). Every day, people will go from the temple to the lake to complete their offering. It's very much a pilgrimage site that people come to from other parts of India.
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One of the days, they had a camel decoration competition. The camels were dec'd out!!
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The winner
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The men took such pride in their appearance and in the appearance of their camels
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My favorite
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For the first time in my life, I saw snake charmers!!
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Sure, let's just flick the cobra so it stands up.....great idea...
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What a cultural experience! My life is complete :)
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A young child dresses up as the Hindu god, Shiva, with a trident in his hand. It kind of reminded me of that scene from Slumdog Millionaire, when a kid dresses up as the god, Krishna.
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They even set up a circus for all of the influx of tourists to the area for the Camel Fair
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Monkeys just hanging out on the wall over a street...typical scene of Pushkar
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Pushkar was a lovely experience and the Camel Fair was truly a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that I would recommend to someone traveling to India at the end of November. After I saw one last competition of camel dancing (yes, apparently camels can dance), I headed to Jaipur, the capital of Rajasthan.

Posted by kendallwallace 30.01.2013 11:20 Archived in India Tagged fair camel pushkar Comments (0)

Fatehpur Sikri

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After we saw the Taj Mahal in the morning, we headed out about an hour away to another beautiful wonder in the area: Fatehpur Sikri. Before Shah Jahan built the Taj Mahal, his grandfather, Akbar the Great, shifted the capital from Agra to the foothills of Sikri. There, he planned a walled city, which today is what we know as Fatehpur Sikri. According to many historians, it is the best preserved example of Moghul architecture.

Seeing Fatehpur Sikri was on my list, as so many people had mentioned how wonderful it is, including many of my Indian friends from Darden. It certainly was a gorgeous complex. One word of advice: if you go to Fatehpur Sikri, do not let yourself be hustled by the many guys who greet you at your car to take you on a tour. Our driver gave us no indication that this wasn't the way to go, so we went with one guy and were rushed the entire time. He wasn't an official guide, so he couldn't even take us in the complex. He could only show us the exteriors until I was like, "Take us to the main part!" and then he took us but couldn't go inside. In any case, we eventually did get to see the beautiful architecture, but not without frustration from the local guy just trying to make a buck.

Akbar the Great had 3 wives: one Christian, one Muslim, and one Hindu. So he built a church, mosque, and Hindu temple for each of them to pray in. I did think that was pretty cool seeing those 3 structures together in the same complex. It's not every day a man falls in love with women from so many different religions! Not to mention the large complex with pathways over water (pictured above) was absolutely gorgeous!

Here are some of the other things we saw:

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The main square with a very famous mosque where the imam blessed Akbar and only after he was blessed was he able to father a child
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Inside the mosque
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Some of the exteriors of the compound
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Posted by kendallwallace 30.01.2013 10:29 Archived in India Tagged fatehpur sikri Comments (0)

Taj Mahal

I hope my future husband makes a building like that for me...too much to ask? :)

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I left Delhi behind and took the train to Agra to see the world's most beautiful building. After all, I couldn't leave India without seeing the Taj! I took the first train in the morning, got into the town of Agra and went for lunch at a rooftop restaurant with this view:
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Of course I had my favorite: garlic naan :)
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I soon learned that that particular day, the entrance to the Taj was free because it was a holiday. Although I was already planning on going the next morning in order to see the sun rise over the Taj, I decided to go today as well. Why not? And the first view of the Taj was breathtaking!
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Because the entrance was free that day, the lines were extremely long. All of the security, however, told us to go to the foreigner line which was the biggest VIP jump ever. Sometimes, it pays to be Western!
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The walls had semi-precious stones in their design
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I met another traveler from the UK who was traveling by himself as well. We teamed up and went for dinner that evening, having a drink at none other than the local Taj Hotel that evening. I love that hotel group!
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Gorgeous fountains in the hotel
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The next morning, I woke up early to see the sun rise at the Taj Mahal. A colleague in Sydney told me that I had to go for sunrise. When he went to the Taj, he was one of the first people in line and ran ahead as soon as the doors opened so that he could get a picture just the Taj and him and no one else. Unfotunately, the ladies line took forever because they seclude women in a different area for a pat-down, so that dream of getting a picture of me and the Taj and nobody else was quickly shattered because I'm a lady, but I think the pic that I was able to get turned out alright.
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Touching the top of the Taj
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Jumping pic
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That's one nice palace
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Two boys holding hands inside the palace (Indian men hold hands--it's a cultural thing)
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Side View
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The mosque at the Taj
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View from the veranda
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Some locals sitting on the Taj
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One last look at the Taj
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Posted by kendallwallace 29.01.2013 17:44 Archived in India Tagged mahal taj Comments (1)

Dehli

Fun with Old Friends...

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When Jardin and I parted ways at the Jodhpur airport, I headed to Dehli to go visit some friends from Sydney. My good friends Simar and Tarun, who I was introduced to by Jeff, my old roommate in Sydney, had moved back from Sydney to Dehli. Tarun's project had ended, and so he was transferred back. Simar, Tarun, Jeff, and the rest of the Sydney pack and I shared SO many memories together, from house parties to Tarun's birthday to outings to the Hard Rock, etc. We had had a blast in Sydney together, so it was so exciting to see them again. Simar and Tarun picked me up from where I stayed, and we headed out for a night on the town.
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Dehli offerred a pretty lively nightlfe, but everything closed rather early, so we had to head to the Taj Hotel, which was the only place still open and also where everyone goes to carry on after all of the nightclubs close at 11pm.
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Here we are posing in the entrance way to the amazing Taj Hotel
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The next day, I met up with Akshay, a friend of mine from Darden, for lunch. It was fantastic to see Akshay since it had been about a year and a half since I had seen him. He started a new restaurant chain in India: the Indian version of Chipotle, called Picante. Things seem to be going well for him, which was great to hear.
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Later on that day, I took the metro, which is really advanced by the way, to downtown Dehli to visit the Red Fort. I walked down the street and noticed something that had really impressed me in Mumbai: the mere concentration of people. It was unreal to walk down the street and avoid getting run over by a rickshaw, a bicycle, car, person, or cow...
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Because there had been a lot of break-ins, the Dehli police put up barriers in the roads, thinking that if cars had to slow down enough to move around the barrier, they would be unlikely to rob a house on that particular street. That logic didn't really pan out too well though, to my knowledge.
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Here is the Red Fort, which was built by Shah Jahan and served as the residence of Mughal Emperors.
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The Entrance Gate
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As I walked around the grounds, I was approached multiple times as I was at the Gateway to India by Indians from rural areas who wanted to take a picture with me. I got in the habit of saying, "Just one" so that I'd take a photo but then be able to move on. This gentleman with a whole family behind him came up to me and asked for a photo. I suppose since I was traveling alone, I was more approachable. I told him that I'd be willing to take one. Before I knew what was happening, the man thrust his baby into my arms. I awkwardly posed, but then all of a sudden a thought came into my head and I decided to chat with the infant and make it giggle for the photo. As cheeky as it may sound, I thought, "What would Princess Diana do?" Of course she would be the one playing with the child, etc. so that's exactly what I did!
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Beautiful Arches
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Didn't your mother ever tell you it's not polite to stare? :)
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Old Indian Woman on a Cell Phone
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As I left the Red Fort, I headed back to the metro. Before I got to Dehli, a lot of South Indians had warned me about the dangers of North India. They explained that I needed to cover my shoulders pretty much all the time, and that I needed to downplay my sex appeal as much as possible, because, as they put it, "North Indians are different." Some said that men in Dehli are sexually repressed; after all, there are higher incedences of rape in Dehli than in other parts of the country. Regardless of their opinions, the fact of the matter is that I did need to be more covered and mind my ps and qs around men, especially as a single female traveling alone. Especially being white, too, I was already attracting a lot of stares, and in this part of the country, it was better to be more cautious.

In any case, as I was walking to the train station, I felt someone squeeze my butt. I played it off as if I didn't notice, giving whoever it was the benefit of the doubt that maybe it was an accidental butt-squeeze (if that exists), but then I noticed the guy following me. When I got in line to buy my ticket at the metro, he got in line right behind me. I saw a family of a mother, father, and 2 grown daughters in the other line, so I decided to switch lines and start a conversation with them. Not only was it cool to chat with the family (the eldest daughter I I spoke french since she was learning french at university), but it also provided me with a security net to get away from that guy. To the metro's credit, they do have women only cars, which is far less crowded and a sure better way to travel where I am not stared at the entire time. It also would have been an alternative to getting away from that guy. I mean, I love a man ogling over me as much as the next woman, but not in a creepy, predatory way. Thanks, but no thanks, crazy!

Later on that night, Simar and Tarun took me to meet one of their friends and we went to the mall in Dehli. The mall surprised me how nice it was! It really reminded me of Tyson's Corner, with multiple levels of great stores.
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We had the most delicious dinner. Since I had been forbidden from eating the street food (unless I wanted to get sick), we had street food at the mall made with purified water, and it was amazing!! The kebabs were fantastic as well!
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Posted by kendallwallace 29.01.2013 17:20 Archived in India Tagged dehli Comments (0)

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