The alarm clocks went off at 5, signaling for us to get ready. The talking to the wee hours of the morning had been so fun the night before. Now it was hanging over our heads like a weight. We said our goodbyes to our wonderful host family, and their driver took us to meet up with the rest of the tour group. We loaded our baggage, jumped on the bus, and away we went.
We weren’t off to just any destination, we were headed to a wonder of the world. The grand, the beautiful, Taj Mahal. Our excitement was high, but we had hours a head of us before we would arrive. As we drove through the city, sleep soon over came most of the bus as we drove through rain and mist. When I woke up, we were passing corn and rice fields dotted with grass huts, workers, shrines. What a beautiful countryside!
Five hours later we arrived near the gates of the Taj Mahal. Because of air pollution, any automobile is not allowed to drive within a certain area of the monument. Instead, you have to get off and ride a shuttle to the gates, or walk. We opted to walk as we need to stretch our legs. At this point we started to realize how crowded this experience was going to be. There were so many people headed the same ways as us.
We first had to go through a security gate where we were patted down and our bags checked. We were also given a pair of plastic shoe covers to wear when we went into the Taj Mahal. From there, we were allowed to proceed to the gate surrounding of the Taj Mahal. My first thought was, “monkeys”, because all around us there were monkeys climbing on the walls, sitting in windows, and following people for food.
My next thought was, “pretty architecture”. The Great Gate and wall surrounding the Taj Mahal was made of a red stone that was full of carved embellishments. It also had pieces of white marble and semi-precious stones inlaid into it. Around the main entrance, there was also calligraphy of passages from the Qur’an. It seemed to be painted on, but on closer inspection, each symbol and figure was hand carved and perfectly fitted into the white marble.
Even just the gate was impressive. And then we proceeded to walk through the Great Gate to the building that has earned the title wonder of the world. The Taj Mahal was awe inspiring! A beautiful collection of marble created into a mausoleum of proportion and symmetry. The construction began in 1632 under the hand of Mughal emperor Shah Jahan. He built it in memory of his third wife, Mumtaz Mahal at her request to show his love for her. It took around 21 years to complete by the hands of hundreds of workers and architects.
The entire grounds of the Taj Mahal are laid out with symmetry as the main motif. The grounds are filled with water channels, flower beds, and grassy meadows. To the left of the mausoleum, there is a mosque. To the right there is a building that looks like the exact mirror of the mosque. However, because it doesn’t face Mecca, it serves as a meeting house. Another interesting factoids, the minarets were built leaning slightly out so by chance they fell, they wouldn’t fall into the main building. I still am impressed by the magnitude and beauty of this place.
Far too soon, we were heading back to the bus and causing a stir with shop keepers at the entrance, all wanting to sell us their wares. We quickly boarded carts to haul us back to the bus,while being chased by those hoping to make a sale. We had enjoyed our time there, and left having sweat through our clothes from the intense humidity and heat. The air conditioned bus was a welcome change.
With a quick lunch stop at McDonald’s and some last minute shopping at the connected shopping center, we were off. The next 7 hours we were stuck on the bus in horrible traffic, suddenly stopping and lurching forward most of the time. I was so motion sick by the time we got to the airport. And so begins one of my most embarrassing moments. I only share it because I am still laughing that it actually happened.
I have mentioned over and over again that I was really sick at the end of the trip. I was taking antibiotics to help with that. I also had a lack of appetite, was overly tired, dehydrated, weak, and also taking malaria medicine (with side effects of dizziness, nausea, headache). All those things together added up to the perfect storm. As we were standing in line to check in our bags for our flight, I started to feel light headed. I told Kyle and then thought, I should drink some water because I am probably just dehydrated. Then I thought, I am probably also needing some food because I have eaten so little today. I pulled out a granola bar and my water bottle and munched until a wave of nausea and dizziness suddenly came on. I didn’t know what to do, so I sat on the ground.
Thankfully, three other members of company noticed me down on the ground fanning myself and realized that something was wrong. They asked if I needed a bag and when I said yes they went searching. As soon as they found one I lost everything in my stomach. It was so glamorous. The funny part about it, is Kyle had no idea what was going on since he was helping with a crisis with our over sized luggage, which is a whole story unto itself. He felt so bad when he found out what happened.
We must have looked like a good target for money making when we walked in, because each of our bags was deemed overweight and over sized. This meant that the cost of getting everything back was going to be ridiculously high. After trying to negotiate, our tour director finally said that we were going to leave things behind because it was going to be less expensive to build, make, or buy some things again, than it would be to fly them home. So we left the tramp, chairs, and some other props in the airport. I hope they found a good home and didn’t end up in the trash.
After that fiasco was dealt with, Kyle and I made our way to our terminal. We had a couple hours to kill so we both cleaned up for the night and then took a nap in the reclining chairs that were so conveniently put out. The next 24 hours were a blur of torture dealing with annoying passengers, sickness, and exhaustion. We flew from Delhi to Amsterdam where we had a layover allowing us to get a little souvenir and stropewaffles. From there we flew to Dallas, Texas and went through customs. Then from Dallas, we flew to Salt Lake City.
I have never been so happy to see my home state, than I was that day. I also started to tear up when I saw my parents who where there to pick us up. I am not saying that I hated the tour, but with the experiences of the past 36 hours, I was ready to be home, sweet home. I was even more happy to see this sign my siblings made for us:
The end of this tour did not just signify the end of my performing on Contemporary Dance Theater, it was the end of my college career at Brigham Young University, too. Coming home completed my last credit needed to graduate. What a way to end! Traveling to the other side of the world, meeting so many amazing people, and having an experience that will change my life forever. It may have been an interesting end to my schooling, but I wouldn’t have it any other way or shared it with any other group of people. Until we dance again… CDT, I promise to stand by you forever! Ya ya ya ya ya ya ya! Whoo!
*Photos by Mark Philbrick, and myself.