day 3 Udaipur and day 4 Jaipur
i took a bus last night to Jaipur which is farther north and east of Udaipur, still in the Rajasthan state. it's way more touristy than any of the previous cities and as such, quite a bit of the town is dedicated to bazaars or open air shopping markets. just about everything bought and sold in India is from these strip mall storefronts that hang out into the street. it's a pretty bizarre experience…so many people, so many goods for sale…it's just in your face 24/7. bikes, scooters, buses, cars, pedestrians, cows, elephants, camels, horses, horse drawn carts, motorcycles…anything and everything is in the street going every which way. anything and everything is for sale, i asked my driver in Mumbai about drugs he said yes…they are a problem…they are easy to get and everyone is doing them. that's not awesome…and some random guy in Udaipur confirmed that by offering to sell me a joint lol. i suppose that part is pretty much where we're at in Washington and Colorado now…that's a bit breakthrough. i'm still in disbelief that they'll be selling mary j in liquor stores or whatever to anyone over 21.
|Festive Diwali Colors in Udaipur|
so yesterday i was a huge mess. i spent the morning walking around Udaipur….checking out the awesome shops and sampling food on the way up to their famous temples and the grand palace (i'll have to look up the formal name for it later). it was actually quite a hike through narrow alleys with motorcycles and scooters zooming by all the time. they are known for their miniature paintings in Udaipur so i went to one of the artist schools and got the full rundown of how they make them, what goes into making each of the colors and the whole bit. it was pretty interesting…and almost makes me wish i was more into collecting/buying/whatever art. its just not my thing i guess…
|Delicious Fried Street Food in Udaipur|
i really felt like i connected with the people of India in that town. i can't put my finger on anything specific, but it was nice. the palace was amazing and huge…the best part was that Udaipur has another smaller palace out in the lake that you can see from the main palace. it felt like it was just a royal city. i'm more into looking at the outside of the palaces and capturing the symmetry and beauty of the form so looking from the main palace out a tiny window to see another palace that looks to be floating on the lake was just awesome. there was even a very Arabian (or at least my personal definition of Arabian) boat out in the lake that i captured. it was fantastic. lots of great shots, good food and stuff. the downside of Updaipur on the hill is that i was zonked out after that…around 2 or something which made for an interesting wait for my 9 pm bus to Jaipur.
|Udaipur Palace Entry...Looking Out|
after the palace, i went back the to agency where i bought my bus tickets and sat on their bench for a few hours and just zoned out. i knew i wanted to get some food before my bus and maybe take a taxi up to the palace area to see the area all lit up with the Diwali lights but wasn't sure how much energy i could muster to pull that off. i ended up grabbing a nice meal (for something like $3), sitting more, reading a bit of my book and just feeling miserably tired. i was like "i'm in India and all i want to do is shower and sleep but i can't do either." i considered going to ask a hotel or hostel if i could rent a room for a few hours but figured the awkwardness of that request + the language barrier would have put me over the edge. and i'm cheap.
|Painting on an interior wall of the Udaipur Palace|
i finally boarded the bus at 9 pm and as i was getting settled, this Indian guy came up to me and started making small talk. where are you from. america. oh, Obama. yeah, that america…and the usual…then he was like "are you Christianese?" i laughed a bit and said yes, i'm christian. over the next hour or two, we talked about how he was also a christian, his whole testimony, my whole testimony, how he's working with campus crusade for Christ in India….working with 6 of 30 villages they are working with…his family, my family…what i do at church how long I've been there, denominations, ministry in India (because WTF)…i can't imagine translating what we do as ministry in the us into a functioning ministry in India. in the US, the only other religions that constitute any significant percentage of the population are different variations of Christianity - Catholicism, Mormons, church of Christ scientist…and on and on…so it's not too much of a stretch to step out and learn about them building tangent knowledge onto a core of christian understanding.
|Udaipur "Floating" Palace with awesome boats :)|
in India, there are TONS of religions. i talked to a Hindu priest today and he said he has been a priest for 20 years and he still doesn't know all the gods in the Hindu religion. that just doesn't compute for me. what? you don't know all the gods and you're a priest? it's not just another religion, it's a TOTALLY different type of religion. there's also Zoroastrianism, Parsi, Muslim, Buddhitst, Jain and i'm sure many others, on top of the ones we have here. he said that part of the reason Christianity takes off when someone in a town is converted is that it really pulls together the community…instead of having 4 different religions that nobody in town is fully committed to, they just get on fire for god and it blows up. not sure if that's translating here as well as he shared it in his broken English…but it feels like a huge mission field out here.
|Don't forget to Open Your Shoes!!|
i also realized how limited i am in my current ministry abilities. i have a decent idea as to what needs to go into a successful high school ministry but still haven't' put all of the pieces together in a full, working ministry that really does what i know it can do for our youth and leaders. I feel good that we are headed down the right track but don't have any successes under my belt to lean on. building on that, i don't yet have any ability to translate ministry for high school age youth to an adults ministry. i think i have enough kid-savvy to translate to children's ministry and that's always been a passion area of mine…but scaling up to adults…whoa. maybe it's the extra pressure of preaching to peers vs teaching from my experience as an older kid….maybe it's the money bit…dunno for sure. the bar is definitely higher.
|Stand Selling Diwali Decor|
so money. let's tangent for a bit. we should not give out of obligation, but in response and as an act of worship. my personal giving strategy has historically been to give a lower % directly to the church through auto-deduction…then flex the rest to adapt to needs of the moment (united way giving, high school ministry, fundraisers, missions giving, etc) I have never been one to keep tight books but every once in awhile i do go back and mentally add things up and see how i'm doing. it's worked well for me so far and i like that it gives me the flexibility to respond to God's calling. it allows me…forces me…to keep the door open to giving in the moment. we need to be stable givers to our church and i highly encourage people to use the auto-bill pay or whatever function to tithe. but on top of that…i think it's super important to give as an act of worship. think about it…pray about it…or just leave the door open in your head to giving when you feel something tugging on your heart. one of my core interactions with the bible and one of the more powerful is that when i feel something tugging on my heart to respond and i actually do. as a general rule, i don't give money to panhandlers…which has been a challenge here in India with missing limbs, 6 kids hanging off their arms, medical needs and the like. panhandlers, especially when it's routine, just don't make me feel like i should give. i don't believe them, i'm just not moved to respond to 99.9% of their "give me money" things. but every once in a great while, i will. when it feels right. whatever…that's me.
|One of the Gates at the Udaipur Palace|
i suppose i mention that because the guy i met said he only gets 2500 rupees per month from his mission team. that's like $50. he has a wife and a child and was actually going to Jaipur with 4 other guys to a ministry conference. that tugged on my heart so i get to go look up Suresh in Udaipur with Campus Crusade when i get home. its not going to be easy…might not even be possible but whatever. challenge the impossible. stick it to the man :)
|Lake Out Front of the Amber Palace, Jaipur, Rajasthan, India|
so yeah, another night of pseudo sleep on the bus last night. landed in Jaipur with help from my (yet again) one English speaking guy on the bus :). they don't call out the stops in English…and i never know exactly which stop i need to get off on…so without them, i would've been hosed. anyway, so it worked out and i landed in jaipur. i just started walking, determined to find out where i was based on the map from my guidebook and i did :) that felt great. nothing was open at 7 or whatever am so i went and grabbed a chai and chilled around the main circle in town for a bit.
|Interior Gate of the Amber Palace|
i resolved to find out how to take the city bus so asked which bus went to the "amber palace" (the big destination in Jaipur, 12 km outside of town proper). i received a positive response in some other language and hopped on. the bus would cost 10 rupees or just less than 20 cents. fantastic. i rode it out, the bus packed out and the drivers (they have a main driver and another guy that recruits people to ride and collects payment) made fun of me for something that they thought was funny. they asked for my payment and asked for 20. i was like no, its 10. i gave them 10 and they jokingly pressed me for more. to respond jokingly, i gave them some of the change i was given at the Korean airport. i was like, there, that's 100. :D they were fascinated by the money and i showed them a few more coins. it was fun to break down the language barrier without really verbally communicating. i gave them 5 more rupees to make light of it and hopped off the bus.
|Starting the hike up to the Amber Palace|
the amber fort is huge and not what i was expecting. it reminded me of one of those Tibetan monolithic monasteries up on the hill. the amber palace has a lake and gardens down below and what looked like the great wall of chine (India?) running out from it in many directions. I went and toured, and took to humming a deep bass note which resonated differently in each of the rooms…fun. i had a great time hiking up to (and what a hike!!) and touring the grounds. one of the big attractions there is to pay for an elephant take you to the top. i think it was only like $18 but the line was seriously a football field long with tourists. they get bused in an out…living out their packaged experience as happy as can be. it's probably a safer way to consume India as a tourist but seems so fake looking at them in their tourist buses, eating together being ushered around….whatevs. after running down most of the stairs from the palace, i hit the little town at the bottom, just past the palace. i was shocked that NONE of the tourists were there. well…at least not outside of their vehicles. i had some nice friend pea/lentil balls, a samosa and a deep fried, breaded sandwich thing. tasty :) while i was ordering, a beefy turbaned guy (i think he was in Indiana Jones) asked me where i was from (america. oh, Obama?) and helped me understand what i was about to eat. it was great to be on the receiving end of some local insight :) i sat back and snacked on it, picked up a water and waited for the local bus to come through again. i went back into town, saw more local sights and shopped a bit.
|Looking out the back of the Amber Palace|
i ended up in what turned out to be a fundraising gift shop for one of the local temples. after viewing some silver and other wares from one of the local vendors, (and complaining all the while how tired and thirsty i was) he took me up to this shop (which was empty at the time) and said here, just relax here and drink your water. it was fantastic and peaceful. there were rugs, carvings, pottery, statues and the usual touristy stuff but i just loved the feel of the place. i loved that he literally said here…make yourself at home, really. he told the guy running the shop to leave me alone and chastised him multiple times for talking to me. it was a nice change from the earlier part of the day filled with "hello sir, come here" "look at this" "great deal, just for you" . i relaxed there for a bit and bought a little Ganesha statue (the Hindu elephant god) and talked with the priest a bit.
|Hallway inside the Amber Palace|
i walked (way further than i expected) to the main bus station in town, bought a ticket to Delhi at 4 pm and settled in for 1.5 hrs before it left. i had some fun discussion with a few local shop owners who, after buying a soda, invited me to sit in their seats behind the counter to enjoy it. i love that hospitality and trust. it's like immediate friend/family status is granted. i'm convinced it's not just the customer factor either. it's genuine…fantastic. India.
|Looking out the front of the Amber Palace|
capping that off, i'm on the bus to Delhi now. i should be there ~9 pm where i can go on the hunt for my hostel and see if they actually held my reservation. but whatever…it's just 1 more night :) if everything works out, i should be going on a Taj Mahal tour tomorrow from Delhi, all showered and cleaned up, ready to roll. i even bought a shaving razor and might take a dent out of this beard tonight. on that…a random guy called out to me today as i walked by "hey ginger beard! i had a ginger beard professor at university" I was like cool and kept walking. i get sooooo many random hellos and even Hindi words yelled my way…i just smile, keep walking and throw a shakra (hang loose) or thumbs up or whatever. i'm feeling good about this thing…(probably shouldn't say that…with my luck the bus will crash or hit a camel on the way to Delhi)
|The Famous Pink Palace in Jaipur|