On Tuesday, July 8 our group participated in a food processing seminar held at the University. Duane Myers spoke about his experience regarding food safety with his work at Kroger and Dr. Robert Beckstead discussed further food processing. India has more than 30% food spoilage and waste. After hearing the other speakers, I think a network of extension specialists teaching people across India how to do home preservation and canning would help them reduce that amount tremendously. Rather than freezing, canning and drying allows food to be stored without the need for constant electricity.
After our morning session, we packed our bags for our train ride to Agra. It was interesting to see the train station full of people and then see a cow and her calf walk on through.
Dinner on the train was pretty good. We got to try some really neat stuff. The noodles in the top right corner remind me of the crispy strips we add to salads.
We settled into our hotel for the night and rested up. The next morning, Wednesday, July 9, we got up at the crack of dawn and headed out to visit the Taj Mahal. It was even better in person than any pictures I have ever seen. Since we got there at 6 a.m., we were able to see the colors change slightly as the sun made its way up into the sky. To know that this was built by a man as a final resting place for his deceased wife and that it took thousands of craftsmen 20+ years to build is just a complete testament of affection and love.
One of the neatest things we learned is that there are wells below the Taj Mahal with teak wood disks that keep it from sinking into the ground. Also, the four minarets that surround the main building are built slightly out so in case they fall, they shouldn’t damage the main structure.
The entire surface is made of white marble and is inlaid with precious and semi-precious stones. Did you know chevron patters came from Turkey and were even popular nearly 400 years ago? Everything old is new again!
There was a professional photographer that snapped individual pictures (yes, even the cheesy holding it up by the dome one) and I’m really glad we got such an awesome group shot.
On the way back to our hotel, we saw a camel pulling a cart, appropriately, on hump day!
Later that afternoon we toured the Agra Fort, where Shah Jajan lived as a prisoner on house arrest after his son determined he was spending too much money on the Taj Mahal. It had a beautiful view of the Taj Mahal from his quarters.
After the visit to the fort, we visited a craftsman center where we were able to observe craftsmen performing marble inlay with semi-precious stones the same way the Taj Mahal was done. These craftsmen claim to be descendants of the artisans that built the memorial.
These works of art were gorgeous but due to the time it takes to create, were definitely out of my price range. I picked up an ornate platter about half the size of a piece of paper and discovered that it was $4,000! I gently put it down and prayed I wouldn’t drop it. Larger pieces like these vases, tables, and this elephant were tens of thousands of dollars.
Later that night we kicked off our shoes and bowled in the hotel’s two-lane bowling alley (literally! shoeless bowling). We had a blast and kicked back and even played some air hockey too.
(I stole that second one from Tate—she had perfect timing!)