Day 12 for me started off really nicely because I woke up and took a shower- not a bucket bath- and had actual hot water for the first time since arriving in India. This shower, even though it seems insignificant, really made me appreciate so many things in my life that I normally take for granted. After my perspective giving shower, the group met downstairs for breakfast before our departure to Agra. Some were awake, and others were not. We are nearing the end of our trip and sleep is becoming more and more desired. However, breakfast seemed to revitalize everyone because the food was so delicious. We had been on such a routine for the last few days, that having something a little different was exciting. I never knew how much the food would vary from region to region until I actually experienced it.
After breakfast, we checked out of our rooms, loaded up the bus, and were on our way to Agra! It was about a 5 hour drive in total so many people slept or listening to music along the way. We made a pit stop about halfway through to use the bathroom and I had a scoop of probably the best mango ice cream I’ve ever had! So for me, it was a successful car ride. As we got closer to the city of Agra, I began to notice a change. It was much more touristy than any of the previous places we had been, and it felt weird to be in a place like this. I saw multiple groups of Americans and Europeans. We didn’t seem to get stared at as much probably because it was a more typical for tourists to be seen in Agra. All in all, it was just a bit of an adjustment coming to a new area. Agra is a beautiful city and our hotel is gorgeous. We stopped by the hotel to drop off our bags before going to lunch. To give you a picture of how nice the hotel is- there is a doorman, telephones in the bathroom, and I hear you can see the Taj Mahal from the rooftop!
For lunch we went to Pizza Hut, but this is Indian Pizza Hut so it is a little different. It is basically the same, just with some modifications. The pizza I got had panner on it, which are cheese cubes essentially, and some type of pepper. It also had some red pepper flakes, so the pizza was a little spicy. Not really like any pizza I have had in the U.S. However, I really enjoyed it! I also really enjoyed the surprise entertainment we had before our meal. The Pizza Hut employees all gathered together and danced, which is something that they do randomly for the enjoyment of their guests. They were all amazingly talented and I think we should have more entertainment restaurants in America!
After our meal, we went to observe how some local carpets are made. It was a really intense process because they are handwoven and take months to complete. They were all very intricate and I could definitely see why people come from all over the world to come buy carpets from here. One of the carpets we watched being made was a team effort. It took two men to work on and they had to be working in sync or else the pattern would be messed up. It amazed me how their timing was the same and how they could do something like this for hours. They must have incredible focus, and really strong hands. All I could think about was if back problems or arthritis was common among these workers. If I learned anything from this trip, it was how to be a better advocate.
After the carpet store, we stopped in a souvenir store to shop and get henna. Most of the girls got henna done and I think I can say that we all ended up really enjoying it. Some of the henna turned out better than others, but the experience in and of itself was really amazing. All of the henna was beautiful and it was interesting to see what people requested. Some requested elephants, lotus flowers, and some people even asked for the henna to be done on their faces! I’ve had henna done before, but to be able to say that I had received henna in India is something that I will probably never be able to say again and that is really cool.
After everyone’s henna was finished, we went back to the hotel. We had some down time before dinner, so my roommate and I went to the rooftop to explore. It was so beautiful to see the city from so high up, and it was true that you can see the Taj Mahal from the roof. It was really relaxing to be able to sit and enjoy the view as the sun went down and listen to the city noise. It was insanely hot because there was a heat wave, so even though the sun was setting it was 115 degrees. But even the heat was somehow still nice. Mary and I spent about an hour on the roof before going down to dinner and meeting the rest of the group.
After dinner, the group gathered together once more for circle time. The professors shared “appreciations” and the students shared “paper plate awards.” The appreciations were Dr. Joshi and Dr. Carrion’s way of telling us what they had come to appreciate about us throughout the trip, and the paper plate awards were basically superlatives for everyone based on things that had occurred on the trip. It was a really nice bonding time for the group to be able to share all of that, but it was also becoming increasingly more real just how soon we were to be leaving and going home. It was bittersweet, at least for me, because I am glad to be going home but I have really gotten close with everyone here. I have learned so much from this trip and from the people who have taken the time to talk to us, but I have also learned a lot from my peers. 2 weeks is not a very long time, but a lot has happened in these two weeks and I am grateful for every moment of it.