No more than five minutes after I pressed 'publish post' last Saturday, (at almost 10 pm), I received an e-mail from my girlfriend in Turkmenistan saying that she wasn't sure if she was going to be able to fly out... as her flight originated from London, and the volcanic ash had closed down the airports. Her expediter told her that she wouldn't know until she got to the airport, and if she couldn't fly that day, chances were the trip was going to be canceled. She said she'd e-mail me as soon as she knew, and we'd just go from there.
I called Matt and cried. I sent an e-mail to the folks in Delhi letting them know that there was a chance I may have to cancel everything. I didn't sleep more than a few winks that night. I was supposed to leave for the airport in just six hours, yet I didn't want to fly up to Delhi for the week by myself if they weren't going to make it. I was seeing stars as I had just made all the arrangements to pre-pay the hotel room for the week, I had the car reserved, and I had the train tickets to Agra.
I checked my iPhone all night, waiting for an e-mail letting me know either way.... which I got at 3:25 am, saying the flight was on and they were leaving. Woo hoo! So we rushed... we got ourselves dressed and ready and we were in the car by 4:15 am. The girls were beyond excited... and overtired... which led to Sheridan needing to use one of our handy dandy vomit bags mere minutes before we got to the airport. Ah... the sweet sounds of a Perlman family vacation!
We met up with our friends at the airport in Delhi and after a few phone calls and wandering the baggage claim area, we finally found our driver. He took us to our dumpy little hotel, where lo and behold, they had no record of our reservation (so much for all my worrying!) After an hour of waiting, heated discussions, and phone calls between the Embassy's travel department, we finally got our rooms. They were absolutely nothing to write home about... small, smelly, and old. And cheap by Delhi standards... though we got what we paid for.
The trip to Delhi was a much anticipated escape for both of our families. We all longed for the familiarity of friends, good American fare, a chance to shop, relative conveniences, and a week of relaxation. I'd say we got that and more. Every day we went to a different market, different mall, different area of town. We bargained at the outdoor markets on everything from jewelry and shoes, to skirts, dresses, ottoman covers, and spices. We saw the movie, 'How to Tame Your Dragon', we got Mehindi, we celebrated my friend's twin daughters' 7th birthday, we had dinner with another set of friends from Israel, we went to the Embassy swimming pool several times, ate lunch at the outdoor cafe and shopped in the Commissary (which is like shopping in a small Safeway and made me sad that we don't have that type of food available to us ... though that's an entirely different post for another time).
We had our fair share of frustrations as well, and my friend got a great opportunity to see what life is like in India. The weather was pretty darn hot, with temperatures averaging 107 degrees. We sweated through absolutely everything we wore, every...single...day. We went on a few wild goose chases due to our driver's limited English, one of which had us driving around for almost two hours in search of a grocery store, which we never did find. The head bob with no definitive answers, the hawkers, the begging, the photographs, and the constant touching of the kids also got to us, and my friend got to see what two years of this has done to me ... nicknaming my alter ego as "angry Jill". The name was apropos.
But the highlight of the trip for me was the journey to Agra and the Taj Mahal. As you all remember, I didn't get to see much of it last time as I spent the majority of the time reliving the previous day's dinner. We took a 6:15 am express train, and managed to make it to Agra in less than two hours. We hired a car for the day (non air conditioned I must add) and with the temperatures already starting to rise, we went straight to the Taj Mahal. We spent about two hours walking around, taking pictures, dodging the people and their grabby hands. After going into the white domed marble mausoleum (which I did NOT get to do the last time I was there), we snapped a few more photos, and were on our way. By 11:30 am the temperatures were nearing 114, and we needed to get inside. As our return train was not until 7 pm, we now had about seven hours to kill. So we went to the Oberoi Amarvillas and had a totally overpriced lunch. Our driver then took us to a few shops ... where we looked at carpets, textiles, and jewelry. We then made our way to the Agra Fort, where we were again accosted by the tourists, and listened to the girls whine and moan about the heat for another thirty minutes. Oh. the. joys. Just before heading back to the train station, we stopped for a quick ice cream and air conditioning break. The train ride back was somewhat uneventful... though it WAS an hour late, it was hotter than heck outside, and the kids all fell asleep on the train, which made it difficult to get everyone off when we finally did make it back to Delhi.
Despite the little bickering that went on with the kids, the never ending smell and sweat, the horrible driver, the dirty hotel, the ridiculous internet service, and the travel warnings, we were so glad that it all worked out. What a great way to end our travels in India... it was a lot of fun and a trip I hope the girls always remember...