Sunday, November 30, 2008

Palitana

The city of Palitana is a sacred pilgimage location for followers of the Jain religion. For others, it's an incredible place a half-day's drive away from Ahmedabad with some amazing scenery, topography, and architecture, if you're up for the climb up Satrunjaya Mountain.

Randy, Kirstie, and I left Saturday afternoon for this remote city in southern Gujarat. As we neared our destination, our driver Gamer navigated his way through bumpy and damaged roads scattered with mutts and ferrell hogs, asking several strangers for directions before we found our hotel located a couple miles outside the city. Most of the lodging in Palitana is dorm-style accomodations available only to Jains. We had three hotel options, and though I was interested in checking out the $3 options that the travel agent advised against, I may have deterred Kirstie and Randy with stories of sweaty sheets and brown water at other such economically-priced hotels I visited during my first trip to India. So we stayed at the Vijay Vilas Palace. It was a rustic, quiet, century-old house with six rooms for guests. We were the only ones there, and had a relaxing evening with a delicious home-cooked meal and good conversation, then hit the sack early to prepare for our morning trek.

The Vijay Vilas Palace

About an hour after sunrise, we started our 2000-ft, 3500-step climb up Satrunjaya Mountain. It was an unusually overcast and foggy morning; the air and temperature were as nice as we've had in our four months here. I absolutely love mountains, probably since I rarely get to experience them as a midwesterner. Of all God's creation, the scenery from a high range captivates me the most.

The climb turned out to be pretty manageable, with steps the entire way, and plenty of switchbacks to provide a steady slope.

Nonetheless, some folks elected to make their way up the mountain with a little assistance.

We also saw several cows and donkeys on the way up. I don't know if they were Jain cows making a pilgimage or just tourists like us.

Watch your step! The steps were filled with droppings. I don't know if most of it was holy crap or just the regular kind.

Step #3000!

It's even better in person.

At the top of the mountain, there are somewhere between 850 and 1200 temples, depending on whom you ask. They are all built almost entirely out of marble, and construction took nine generations to complete, starting in the 11th century.



Here we are as high as we could go. A security guard showed us a ladder behind a temple where could climb up on the roof. This is probably one of my favorite "couple-pose" photos of us ever, and it also features my incredibly economical $0.50 haircut.

The combination of natural beauty, impressive architecture built nearly a millenium ago, and the challenge of the climb made for one of my favorite experiences during our time here.

We have only one week left on our international stint, and I really appreciate the symmetrical way this trip bookended our journey along with the Acropolis. As we reached the summit and peered down slightly below us, we could see hundreds of temples packed together, worshippers scattered among them, young and old, rich and poor. And we heard distant chants from those at the main temple, having completed their pilgimage. Though no tablet like the one on Mars Hill was nearby, we were again reminded of Paul's words from Acts 17, and they seemed even more relevant.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

a glimpse

I thought I'd show you some of the sites I see through out my days here. In an upcoming post, Alex will share some pictures from the office.

a great place in our courtyard to read. do try to follow the posted sign and make sure not to spit! haha!




our friendly security guards. they wanted to look professional for the picture.

where we get our exercise on

another great place to read, especially to beat the heat and sip on a delicious Tropical Iceberg

Upper Crust...great bread and cookies!


a few blocks down is Reliance Fresh...a small grocery store

across the street from Reliance is a nice little park. the sign continues to crack me up... "maintained by mother dairy"

my favorite little store Anokhi


the "landmark" near our apartment complex. our sociey's address is "behind Indian Petrol Pump".



Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Creatures

From street dogs to elaborately dressed elephants, Ahmedabad is full of many kinds of creatures. Some have been unwelcomed visitors in our flat, while others just hang out on the streets. Luckily some are living at a local zoo we visited.



this fellow greeted me as I walked into the kitchen





unfortunately his tail never made it out of the kitchen. we tried catching him with a bowl, but the rest of him escaped!




a beauty was spotted wandering around in our courtyard





this gang was a little camera shy and ran off as I took their picture





cute kid at the zoo




video

translation: snakes bite!




turtles at the zoo




video

Pences and pigeons don't mix well