Blogger’s note: This is the first of three entries about my recent travels during a Palmer Clinic Abroad trip to India. It is an abridged version from my journal. I hope you enjoy it!
After an entire trimester of preparing, we finally left on June 16 for a 12-day trip to India. A total of 30 students from the Davenport, Florida, and West campuses are on the trip, with 4 faculty doctors, one of whom is my husband! (Lucky me!)
We took a bus to the Chicago O’Hare airport, then flew to Delhi with a 2-hour stop in Frankfurt, Germany. It was supposed to be a nonstop flight, but Air India is having a strike right now and their employees won’t do trips over a certain length. So we did a re-staffing, re-stocking, and cleaning stop.
The only unfortunate thing was that we were not allowed off the plane, and it added several more hours of travel time. Our total time on the plane was somewhere between 17-18 hours. Thankfully, the plane had plenty of leg room, personal TVs at each seat with lots of movies to watch, and excellent food. We were served a dinner, breakfast, lunch, and then another dinner on the flight, and it consisted mostly of Indian food. It was nice to sleep and watch movies and eat, and the time went pretty quickly.
We arrived in New Delhi about 7 a.m. their time, which is 10-1/2 hours past Central Time. Needless to say, it was a relief to get off the plane, gather our things, and take our first step onto Indian soil: hot Indian soil! That day it had reached around 110 degrees, and the ground was still radiating heat, even though it was getting dark out.
It seemed to take almost an hour to get to the hotel because traffic was so crazy! People drive on the left-hand side of the road here, like in England, but it is seriously a free-for-all. Lanes are just a suggestion. Cars, rickshaws, bikes, motorcycles, people, dogs, all on the road and honking and going every which-way! We saw one motorcycle with a family of five or six on it—none with helmets, of course—and the youngest being no older than 2. There were lots of people walking around everywhere, and people sleeping everywhere.
Upon arrival to our hotel, we were greeted with fresh fruit juice and another dinner. We definitely were well-fed! Our hotel is really nice—a 5-star, European-style, very modern and hip-looking place. The food is fabulous, and the dessert bar is like a dream come true. My plate usually consists of about half food and half desserts, and then I eat several pieces of naan. Yum!
Our first day in India, we did some guided sightseeing and a city tour of Delhi. There were lots of old historical buildings, some medieval-period ruins, and mosques. We got to walk around in one large mosque, which is a place of prayer for Muslims, and we had to wear booties on our feet and wear long-sleeved, floor-length dresses to cover our skin. The men wrapped a type of sheet around their legs.
There were many homeless people just sitting around and sleeping inside the mosque, and we saw many beggars. Then we saw the memorial where Mahatma Ghandi is interred. It was part of a big, beautiful park with lots of greenery—a nice respite from the busy city. We also drove by “Old Delhi”, which is the older district of Delhi. It looked like an extremely run-down and over-crowded version of the New Orleans French Quarter.
Our second day in India, we took a 2-hour train ride to Agra, a city that is southeast of Delhi. Our destination in Agra was the Taj Mahal, probably the most well-known landmark in India. The Taj Mahal was built by a previous ruler of India as a mausoleum for his beloved wife, who died giving birth to their 14th child. It is even more magnificent and beautiful in person than in any photograph. There are no visible buildings, wires, or other indications of modern development surrounding the Taj Mahal, so you feel as though you have gone to another world. We spent several hours walking around the grounds and inside the Taj Mahal. There were many Indians here who asked for us to take pictures with them. It is a big honor for Indians to be in photographs with Americans. They believe it will bring them good luck, so we found ourselves posing with many of them. It made me feel like a celebrity!
After the Taj Mahal, we visited a marble craft shop where they make beautiful hand-crafted table-tops, chess sets, vases, wall hangings, and many other things by inlaying precious stones into marble. We got to watch them work and also had the opportunity to buy pieces. They were very expensive, but a few members of our group bought small tables, and my husband and I bought a small piece of marble with an image of the Taj Mahal inlayed with mother of pearl. Next we went to a carpet-making shop for the same opportunity. Our day ended with a dinner and magic show at an Indian restaurant, and then we made the 2-hour trip back to Delhi.
The day after our trip to the Taj Mahal, we flew to Hyderabad, a city in the central part of India. That’s where we spent the rest of our trip and had our clinic.
Please stay tuned for my next blog for the continuation of my tale.
9th trimester student, Davenport Campus