Things to see on your way from Agra to Jaipur:
* Fields and fields of beautiful yellow flowers. I thought they looked familiar, and as I've discovered during my time here, India has incredibly similar vegetation as southern California. Turns out they were mustard plants, which we used to tear apart and eat as kids romping around the park.
* Eagles. We started passing a bunch of hotels named things like "Birder's Place" and "The Nest," and it turns out we were driving past a sanctuary for freaking eagles
(not bald eagles). There they were, just sitting near the road, eyeing their surroundings boldly, as they do. I saw one flying outside my window, about 100 feet away, no doubt looking for prey or possibly an al Qaeda member.
* Kites. So many they blot out the sun. Which reminds me: Happy Republic Day! It's actually not until the 26th, but that doesn't mean the kids won't celebrate as much as they can. They spend the entire month flying kites out in the streets, from every rooftop, everywhere. It's really quite a sight. Of course as soon as I hit town I go out with my camera, determined to capture this, and a father teaching his young son how to fly a bright yellow kite catches me taking his photo. He says, "Come here!" And he shows me how to fly the kite! These aren't our high technology, aerodynamic USA (made in Taiwan) kites you pick up at the Bay, they're essentially a piece of paper taped to a couple of sticks, and it requires some careful prodding to get that thing up in the sky. Nevertheless, we managed to get it flying, and you know what...that was totally one of the best moments I've had here.
* Americans! I went to this place for dinner last night, which in my itinerary is called "a real village where you'll sit on the floor and enjoy traditional dance and performances." What they meant was a Disneyland-esque World of the Indian Village type compound with rickety ferris wheels and dancers who begged for money after every performance. Which is not to say it wasn't kind of fun. I managed to converge simultaneously with two Americans traveling alone, as we tried to buy tickets for the camel ride. I have only met two other people from the motherland on this trip, which has surprised me a great deal. And to meet two of them, both traveling alone? Crazy. So Sue the banker living in Calcutta to oversee the outsourcing office went on her own camel, while I got behind Eric the PhD candidate in computer science here for a conference, and probably left marks on his sides where I pinched him when the camel lurched up from its sitting position. Hoo-boy. Riding horses kind of freaks me out, so imagine me on a huge-ass camel. And for 5 rupees! (About a dime.) Another adventure, check. Oh, and ironically enough, the one meal I've had that was specifically designed for tourists is the only one in thirty days (90 meals!) that's made me sick. Ugh.
* Bollywood! Yay! I just got back from the theater. I didn't end up seeing Dhoom-2 the other day because I was warned theaters can get kinda rowdy, and it's best not to go alone, but the theater here in Jaipur is actually in my guidebook, known as a beautiful building and is more, I guess, adult (not xxx, you dirty minds). Much like the Uptown, they have one theater and show the same movie for months on end, so I saw Viveh. So good! While we were waiting to get into the theater, a girl about 13 came up to me:
"You understand Hindi?"
"Then how will you understand the movie?"
"It's a love story isn't it? I think I'll figure it out."
"Ah yeah, you'll get it."
Heh. And I did, though I certainly missed a few jokes, apparently the little kid was a barrel of laughs. You know what I didn't miss? The insanely hot male lead. He was like a sexier and slightly tanner Tom Welling - and the scene just after I thought that had him in a Superman t-shirt, so it wasn't just me. And who cares about whatever was coming out of his mouth, I just stared at those intensely kissable lips. Not that there was any kissing in this chaste movie (it's actually called Viveh: A Journey from Engagement to Marriage). The best we get is the back of his (adorable) head as the screen fades to black and the entire audience loudly sighs, "Awwwww!" as the lights go on. It was really entertaining, though not as sing-and-dancy as I'd hoped. My favorite part had to be during this super romantic scene, where although they've just met earlier that day for their arranged marriage, they've fallen in love at first sight (naturally) and it's the first moment they're alone together. They're both adorably shy but the music crescendos and the camera revolves around them and just when you think they're going to kiss...he pulls out his Nokia cell phone, snaps a picture of her, and runs out of the room. The rest of the audience didn't seem to find this as hysterical as I did.
P.S. The postcards are all gone, thanks for sending me your addresses!