Wednesday, August 6, 2008

One night in Agra (Sung to the tune of “One Night in Bangkok)…

PS- I know the pictures look like I am photoshopped them, but I assure you, I am not!

Well, I saw it. It’s worth the hype. It was amazing. What, you ask? The TAJ MAHAL, of course!!! Or, the Taj Ma-HOLLA as I like to say! We arrived in Agra last night after a very long, very traffic-ridden, very bumpy and death-defying bus ride. This morning we left for the Taj Mahal at 6:00 am to beat the crowds and beat the heat. Plus, seeing the sunrise there is pretty spectacular. Even though I was standing there looking at it and saying to myself (aloud, so people probably thought I was an idiot!) “I am looking at the Taj Mahal,” it still didn’t seem real.

We had to wear foot covers like in surgery to walk close to it and the crowds weren’t too bad but it was very hot there, even that early in the morning. We were all sweating disgustingly and then trying to blot a lot for our pictures. Our guide was very interested in telling us every minute detail of the construction, history, etc. and we were all like kids waiting to open Christmas presents while we were chomping at the bit to be turned loose!

As you will see, I got plenty of pictures from a variety of angles but the really cool thing about the Taj Mahal is that it is constructed to look the same from every side. The detailed marble inlay work done with semi-precious stones is incredible and after our Taj Mahal visit we went to a marble workshop to see how it was done. Some of the same families who worked on the Taj Mahal are still in the business of marble inlay and interestingly, they do not train their girl children because they know they will get married and live with another family. That way, they won’t be able to spread the secrets and the family business is safe.

To purchase the marble work that these people had done, one must have a lot of money. I mean, a lot of money. There were coasters in the $300 range because the detail work is so intricate. I think they were pretty disappointed with us because nobody really showed any interest in buying anything until they took us into a room that wasn’t full of giant marble inlay tabletops but was full of tiny boxes and inexpensive coasters. Obviously their target audience was not a group of teachers who got a free trip to India because if someone could independently afford the trip we just took then I think they wouldn’t even flinch at spending $4000 on a marble end table!

We also visited the Agra Fort which is where the man Shah Jahan, who constructed the Taj Mahal for his dead wife (who by the way bore him 14 children and died during childbirth with the 15th so don’t you think she deserved something like the Taj Mahal after all that) was imprisoned after he was overthrown by his own son. It was also very beautiful and intricately decorated (I would say his imprisonment was more like a house arrest) but not as well preserved as the Taj Mahal.  

So now I am back in Delhi after another crazy bus ride and we have only two nights and two days here before I come home. It has gone so fast and has been such an absolutely amazing trip that I am sad to leave but excited to come home. I spent several hours on the bus chatting with another participant who is a science curriculum specialist from Seattle and we discussed all of the things I love about being a science teacher (inquiry, constructivism, Understanding By Design, literacy, etc.) and it got me really excited to get back to school and get working again. Remind me of that please when I am complaining about not having much free time when I get back from India. 

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