...writing to you today from Bangalore, India!
I left Paris last week and hopped on a plane for 8 hours to come to India to see my friend, Christina. It's amazing here and unlike any other trip I've taken. Paris is overtly beautiful with all of its intricate architecture, pristine public gardens, famous monuments and charming boulevards. I've been in India now for almost a week and I'm finding that India is just as beautiful but in very different ways, it's less superficial. It's beneath the surface living in the people, the culture, the traditions and history.
My home base is at my friend Christina's place in Bangalore. She's here working for five months so I couldn't pass up an opportunity to come visit her and see what she's been up to in India. I'm very thankful to have her around warning me about things I might not be expecting...which is most things. The drive alone from the airport to her hotel/apartment was surprising enough...they have dotted white lines on the road implying that there are lanes but really you just drive wherever you want, dodging cars, stray dogs and cows on the street. When we arrived at her complex, the car came to a stop and men swarmed the car checking the trunk, underneath the hood of the car as well as underneath the car for bombs. We drove 10 feet and got out at the entrance where my bags were taken from me and whisked away through a security check while I was routed through a metal detector. At first I was shocked and a little concerned as to what was going on and then Christina told me "don't worry, this is normal!" I'm finding that this is, in fact, standard operating procedure - not only at hotels but also monuments, shopping malls and most public places. I turned to Christina when we were waiting for our bags to go through security at the hotel and asked "So you have to do this every day when you leave and come back?!" She laughed and said "every day...every. day." Other interesting things I've come across here: Bangalore has the highest population of stray dogs in the world, dancing is illegal, cows and pigs roam the street and eat the poorly disposed of garbage, electricity comes and goes as it pleases and pubs close at 11:30pm. We're not in Kansas anymore...
It's been an interesting time in Bangalore so far. Since my friend is here for work, she's living a pretty sweet life in a resort style, apartment-sized hotel room. They treat us like royalty here which has been weird to get used to. In Paris nobody knows I exist - the general population ignores me and I ignore them back and that's what I'm used to. Here, it's like you can't do anything without someone watching your every move, making sure you have everything you need, opening every door, stopping whatever task they are in the middle of to say hello and ask how you are when you walk by them, etc. It's like night and day from Paris - I told Christina I think I prefer to be ignored! It's strange to be in such an elegant hotel and simultaneously see poverty on the streets from the balcony. I've gotten a taste of both worlds, though. My first night here we were invited to go to a fashion show to kick off Bangalore fashion week followed by a rooftop party by a pool that strictly ended at 11:30pm.
In the days following the fashion show, I've been able to walk around Bangalore and see the other side of the coin, so to speak. I roam the uneven sidewalks alongside of the cows, dogs and pigs and soak in the local culture, which is much richer than all of the luxurious things I have at my disposal here at the hotel.
Over the weekend we took a trip to Delhi and Agra to see the Taj Mahal...but that adventure will have to wait for another post!