Shopping, sightseeing and random monkeys
02.13.2010 - 02.13.2010 80 °F
Well, I finished my first work week yesterday feeling very fulfilled. I've learned a lot this week - which has been very exciting! The workforce population here is fascinating... and wealth is still a "new" thing, which explains some of the challenges companies have here with retention, compensation strategies, etc. But, rather than make this about work, I'll tell you about my first day off since I arrived.
(please refer to my photos for a collection of pictures from the day)
So, I began my day at the Lotus Temple - which is the Baha'i House of Worship here in Delhi. As you can see from the pictures, it is quite beautiful. (For those of you in the Chicago area this far outshines the Baha'i temple in Evanston... which is also a beautiful building!) A service was going on when we got there and while I didn't fully understand the singing they did recite The Lord's Prayer, which I thought was odd. That said, I don't know ANYTHING about this religion going in so to hear such a familiar prayer seemed out of place. I referred to the brochure that they gave me to gain an understanding of the faith and for those of you interested in learning, here are their fundamental principles:
a. The Oneness of Mankind
b. Independent investigation of Truth
c. The common foundation of all regions (This must be where the Lord's Prayer comes in)
d. The essential harmony of Science and Religion
e. Equality of Men and Women
f. Elimination of Prejudice of all kinds
g. Universal Compulsory Education
h. Universal Peace
It was quite a peaceful experience... except for the millions of children that were there on school holiday. Millions.
From there I revisited my past relationship with India with a trip to a place called "Delhi Haat." Shopping got me into some trouble last time I was here but I did end up with some beautiful jewelry... and pashminas... and jewelry... Anyway, Delhi Haat is a state-run Handicraft store presenting the best of India and in what I can only describe as the luckiest day ever, everything that I found was "Very Special for Me." Now, those of you who have traveled in India are likely chuckling at this point... for those of you who haven't let me fill you in. This is the phrase they use to encourage you to buy. How could you pass up the pashmina when it is very special for you? Made just for you. Miss - VERY. SPECIAL. FOR. YOU. The high pressure sales in Indian Handicraft stores can be described as uncomfortable by some and quite enjoyable by others. I am somewhere in the middle...admittedly in my 2007 trip I was uncomfortable, so at least this shows a progression. I'm not sure I'll ever fully enjoy this experience - they take you to a special room and proceed to unwrap just about everything in the store so that you can see - this first part was textiles, so pashminas (of varying quality), bed coverings, table runners, etc. Imagine a small room with walls filled with packaged fabrics and them pulling them at rapid speed to display for you. It's difficult because only about 25% of them catch your eye and you don't want to be mean... but today I fully embraced "Nahi" - which means no. (The art comes with saying it in a disgusted way.) The other problem, though, is that at least every other one is 'very special for you.' And how can a girl say no? Well, fortunately I did... not to nearly enough, but I am proud that I talked them down by 6000 rupees on one pashmina (that's about $129! only ended up paying approx $30 for it!!) and down by 4,000 rupees on a bracelet ($90-ish off... I will not disclose the actual buying price on this one though...). All in all, I was exhausted by the end, basically tired of arguing and haggling ("I don't care how much it costs I really just don't like it" - wish I knew how to say this in Hindi).
Since I had seen a lot of the major sights of Delhi in 2007 I went from shopping to another touristy destination that I hadn't been to before: Humayun's Tomb. This tomb was actually the inspiration for the Taj Mahal and you will notice in my pictures quite a few similarities. While it doesn't compare to the Taj (nothing really can) it was actually really cool. Humayun was the second Mughal emperor and the tomb was built in 1565. Buried with him at the tomb are his wives, part of his court and also his favorite barber!
After this my driver took me past India Gate (built to commemorate Indian and British soldiers that dies in WWI, as well as those who died in battle in the North-West Frontier Province AND the Third Afghan War.) This is located very near the Indian Parliament House and Presidential Palace, and we drove down the Avenue of Embassies (my term) on our way back to the hotel. This area had a surprising amount of monkeys. (Not much to say after a statement like that - see my pictures for proof.)
After a nice and refreshing shower in the Kohler waterfall (note: product placement) I've spent the evening talking to family and friends on Skype, watching American Idol and the last season of Lost on TV, and writing my blog.
Tomorrow is Valentine's Day which is a surprisingly popular holiday here in India. Between the commercials on TV, decorations in the office and "Valentine's Day Specials" at the hotel I feel like I'm in some extreme version of the US. It's a new holiday so they're still very excited about it... except for those who think it's too Western and protest it. So, in addition to the bracelet I mentioned above that I bought for myself today I'm going to take myself to the spa tomorrow to celebrate the Love. I'll be accepting gifts and phone calls as well if anyone would like to take me up on that.
After an exhausting day and what is sure to be a relaxing day tomorrow, I'm looking forward to another great week here in India! Mid-week I'll be in Pune (right outside of Mumbai - our Design Center is there) and in Bangalore. Back to Delhi on Friday before flying out 4:30am on Saturday to China. More to come!!