Saturday, August 28, 2010

as you were ultimately relentless in your demand for india pictures, i nabbed a few shots from john's canon this week. there are millions more awaiting editing, but here's what we have for now: (above) note how excited we are to begin our trip to india! NOT. 5am was not good to us. between lack of sleep & severe uncertainty about health issues, we were not exactly a barrel of laughs in the beginning. hahahaha. this picture cracks me up because it is a perfect portrayal of how we were feeling at this point. (above) a typical sight in india. oh don't mind the random wildlife roaming the streets aimlessly. they're mostly harmless. (above) agra fort. an amazing example of indian architecture. seriously beautiful. we spent hours here.(above & below) agra fort. (above) agra fort. beautiful center of worship for the indian people. this guy had just finished his midday prayers and decided to take a rest in the 3 million degree weather.(above) qutub minar. awesome.(above) the motherload. breathtaking. the taj boggled our minds. this picture was taken specifically with our parents in mind. i think the exact quote was "our moms will murder us if we don't get a shot here."(above) then these guys showed up and wanted to have their picture taken with me. but that's another story for another time...(above) my tribute to mother korea. (above) my dear friends who helped us out so much. sweet, sweet people. i am blessed to have crossed paths with them. be continued...

Friday, August 20, 2010

alright. i'm going to attempt to give you a small look into my 10-day journey to india. know that this will by no means do the experience justice. india is one of those places you have to experience to understand. i apologize for the lack of pictures besides the few google images - they will come once john gets everything uploaded and edited.

we arrived in bangalore, india around midnight local time (3:30am to our bodies on korean time) after 22 hours of travel, including a long layover in kuala lumpur, malaysia. we were both dead tired and john had contracted some flu-like symptoms somewhere along the way - never a good way to start out! my dear friends picked us up at the airport and took us to their home to rest. you might remember them from earlier blogs. they are korean missionaries to india who i met earlier in the year when they spoke at my church during a month-long visit home in korea. her english is amazing and they are the sweetest, most helpful couple. we clicked right away and have kept in touch ever since, even when they moved back to india. they extended an invitation to me for a visit, and that's how this whole thing started.

(monday) after some much-needed rest, my friends took us out to an authentic indian lunch, similar but not exactly like this google image: of course, i could only eat bread and rice due to my crazy stomach condition, then in its 4th week. what a crying shame to be in india, unable to enjoy indian cuisine! anyways, i got to watch everyone else enjoy the experience. they started out with giant leaves - your plate. hahaha. you take water and rinse it off and you're ready to roll. then the server brought out rice for everyone along with some tandoori chicken and delicious looking curry. john claims it was the most delicious thing ever. i trust that word. i should note here that the traditional indian way is to eat with your hands. rice and curry and curd with plenty of exotic spices - with your hands. i must admit, it kind of grosses me out. but that's the way it's done. afterwards, we rented a car to drive us to the local botanical gardens - seriously beautiful. called the "garden city" for a reason, bangalore was as green of a place as i've ever seen. it was SO pretty. again, pictures to come. monday also saw my first ever motor rickshaw experience. hahahaha. crazy! india has no road rules. in fact, very few traffic lights. it's sort of every man for himself. i'm talking - major intersections with crossroads of 4 lanes each way. you sort of just close your eyes, lay on your horn, and pray that you make it across. here is a link to a youtube video i found. the traffic is quite light compared to what i experienced, but you can get an idea of the "no rules" philosophy. it's absolutely terrifying. i should also note that while a road may be technically 4 lanes, that means nothing. it was not uncommon for us to be sitting 11 cars/rickshaws wide on a 4 lane road. NOT american! some roads are paved, some are not. and there are danged cows EVERYWHERE. literally. you cannot turn around without having some cow or pig all up in your space. they're napping in the middle of the road, stopping traffic and doing their business wherever they feel like. i felt like i was an alien in another world.

we woke up early on tuesday to catch a flight up north to new delhi.india is a ginormous country, so flights are the way to go when you're in a time crunch. i should note, too, that bangalore is very south - where the weather was absolutely beautiful and sometimes even required a jacket in the evenings. such a nice break from this blazing summer we have seen in korea. unfortunately, delhi is way north and i started sweating my butt off as soon as we got off the plane. i literally thought the skin was going to melt off of my bones. i spent more money on bottled water than anything else. fortunately, they also have mosquitoes that are out for the kill. haha. i was getting attacked left and right. anyways, back to tuesday. we had to hire a rickshaw to take us to our hostel. that was an experience and a half. delhi is a tourist trap if i've ever seen one and they are out to gouge you for everything you're worth...which can be really confusing for a tourist who isn't used to dealing in rupees. fortunately i'd studied up a little on exchange rates between korean won, indian rupees, and us dollars (a lot to keep track of!) and could mostly tell a ridiculous price from a reasonable one. our hostel ended up being straight out of a scene from slumdog millionaire. definitely not a place you wanted to walk around at nighttime. shady and dirty as it was, the workers (who spoke no english) were nice enough and helped us out a lot. we visited some national monuments like qutub minar and took lots of pictures this day. indian architecture is so different from anything i've seen before - really beautiful!

on wednesday we got up crazy early (noticing a trend yet?) to catch a train to agra where the taj mahal is located. WOW. the train ride was an experience, but i would recommend it to a traveler wanting to see true indian culture. it's also a great way to see the landscape.there are about a million different cars you can ride in - sleepers, a/c, etc. financially minded, we chose the non-a/c seated car. HA! we were crammed into this tiny space with 3 on a bench, facing each other awkwardly. i should mention that we had people staring at us the entire trip. a korean and a white, white boy make quite the couple in a place like india and we stuck out like a sore thumb. i constantly had people staring at me and unabashedly pointing and laughing and taking pictures of me on their cell phones. i think it was partially because i was a female, partially because i'm asian (as i've been told - very chinese-looking) and india sees few asian tourists. at first, it was a little amusing. but over time i started to realize that many of the men were more than curious and they became pretty forward in their advances. it's one thing to read about the treatment of women as objects in other cultures. it's another thing to experience that treatment first-hand. i learned quickly to keep my guard up constantly and john was like an overprotective dad, sometimes having to get right up an indian man's face and telling him to put his camera away, stop staring, and keep moving. i must admit - more than once, i pretended not to understand english so i wouldn't have to respond to the mostly awkward, sometimes crude, statements. on the train, we met an american girl about our age who was traveling india alone. this is NOT something i would recommend to anyone. i saw enough hassle WITH a male presence next to me...i can't imagine what it would have been like if i were alone. i don't know what that girl's parents were thinking letting her do india on her own, but she is a straight-up survivor in my book. while that entire part of the experience was less than enjoyable, i firmly believe that you can take something away from every situation. so while i wasn't necessarily prepared for that aspect of the trip, it was definitely a learning experience.

(wed cont.) back to the train. sorry for the digressions. i have so much to say & my thoughts are everywhere - organization is almost impossible. the train cars were cramped, slightly smelly, but moderately clean to the naked eye. men and children were constantly trying to sell you chai tea (an indian favorite!) or water or soft drinks or fried, delicious-smelling foods. at every stop, they were even at your windows trying to shove stuff in your face. american sporting event vendors have NOTHING on the indians. after we finally arrived in agra, we had to hire another rickshaw (always an experience) and make it to our hostel. this one was really nice and on the same street as the taj mahal. in fact, it had a rooftop restaurant with a perfect view of the taj. one of my favorite moments of the trip was having a relaxing dinner on the roof with the taj mahal in the background after a grueling, blazing hot day. after check-in, we braved the monsoons and headed out to some other really beautiful national monuments, like the agra fort. (in india, monsoon season mainly involves a heavy afternoon downpour that lasts for only about 30 minutes.) we ended the afternoon with the taj mahal - my favorite part of the trip. none of the pictures that you've seen in national geographic touch it. you've got to get there and see it for yourself. it was absolutely stunning. i don't really know what else to say about it except it's called one of the world's wonders for a reason. be continued...

Thursday, August 19, 2010

10 days of india in 30 seconds...

just kidding.

a quick note to let you know that we made it back to korea safe and sound after a LOOOONG stretch of travel time. we left india at 6am wednesday and arrived in seoul around 6am thursday. over the course of the trip we spent time in kuala lumpur, malaysia/new delhi, india/mumbai, india/bangkok, thailand/seoul, SK and everywhere in between. needless to say, we're exhausted.

no time now to recap all 10 days, but wanted to leave you with a few shots. actually, the only shots i took on the trip. :/ i told you i'm terrible with the camera! geesh. john took about 3 million pictures, though, so don't worry. we've got you covered. the highlight of the trip for me, as cliche as possible, was undoubtedly the taj of the world's wonders for a reason, folks. pictures don't do it justice. seriously breathtaking. get there and see it for yourself!oh don't mind me. i'm just sweating my butt off on the steps of the taj in delhi, which i swear must be the hottest place on earth. thought i was gonna melt.

one of the most baffling things about india for me was walking down the front steps of a thing of beauty like the taj and straight into a scene from slumdog millionaire. utter poverty & completely unsanitary conditions. none of the places we stayed were safe to traverse after sunset. here's a shot that, again, will not do the real thing justice:monsoon season. bleck.that's it for now. lots more to come. everyone be well.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

11am saturday here in south korea. which means john & i will begin our journey to india in 19 short hours. we shared breakfast this morning and noted that neither of us have fully comprehended this yet. we've yet to start packing. i've yet to actually get my backpack out to even put clothes in. procrastination is one of my worst traits.

regarding my health, i'm still sick 15 days into this thing. i thought i was improving, then got miserably sick at work yesterday and thought i might die before i made it back to my apt. so i've gone back to the bread/rice/cracker only diet in hopes of being able to survive india. it's a crying shame since indian food is so delicious, but i think i'd rather make it back alive than enjoy a plate of curry and nan. and that's saying something - if you've only met me once, you know how much i fully appreciate food of any sort.

please keep us in your prayers these next 10 days. we'll be traveling countless hours via bus, train, plane, and taxi. india will be about 3,000 degrees everyday. our stomachs are weak. our computers are staying in korea, so there will be no updates directly from india. hopefully we will return with awesome stories about new delhi & the taj mahal & how our stomachs were miraculously healed on the flight over! :)

Monday, August 2, 2010

breaking away from the depressing tone which has become the norm for this blog, i bring good news.
you are not alone.

tonight i was digging through some archived podcasts and found a sermon from rob bell @ mars hill bible church in michigan. it was originally delivered almost 8 months ago, but i hadn't found the time to give it a listen yet. i am so glad i took the time tonight. the title was "blessed are the persecuted" and the base text came from the beatitudes found in the gospel of matthew. the message was simple, really, but as always, rob found a great way to bring it to my level and break it down in a way i could understand. i won't preach the sermon to you, but the long and short is this:

crappy times come. it's a part of life. people will lie about you. people will say terrible things to you and about you. people will turn others against you. but in that time, when you think you can't go on, God gives a promise to meet us there. exactly when you feel like you are all alone in the world, you're not. God comes and gives grace and mercy, which in return, we give to others.

in the good times, you're not alone. in the bad times, you're not alone. when life brings frustration and chaos, rejoice and be glad! as rob says, "leap much!" the savior promises companionship and blessing. take heart. rejoice.

live thankfully.