November 3 - Rajasthan
Our jet landed in the Indian desert province of Rajasthan on November 2. At once we were whisked away by small bus 80 miles north into a remote section of desert where we were to spend the night in a luxurious tented camp. Enclosed is a picture of the tent encampment, which has 30 tents in all (each complete with its own private bath and king size bed), a huge dining tent, and a caravan of 50 riding camels and their drivers. We took a short ride on camels to the top of a sand dune and enjoyed a cocktail while the sun set over the Rajasthani Desert! Afterwards a dinner with Indian folk music and dance was followed by a fantastic fireworks show over the star studded night sky. This is my 13th jet trip and I am still continually surprised and impressed with the attention to detail we get on these trips!
After a night in the desert, we awoke to melodic flute music that came from a camel-pulled cart, that also delivered hot tea to us in bed. I watched the sunrise from the lounge chair in front of my tent. After breakfast we were in jeeps heading out into the landscape to meet some local people. This girl greeted us at a private home. I think you can sense the genuine nature of these people from the photo, poor by our standards for sure, but poor only with respect to the amount of things they own. Everyone here is quick to smile and they wave at us with true enthusiasm. It is shocking really to see such pure, simple joy in people’s hearts! There may be some truth that the more one has, the more they worry about losing it?
I have waxed on and on about the comforts of this trip but just three weeks ago I was with Helen camping on a trek in the backcountry of Nepal. I didn’t shower for 12 days and that was great too. Besides the luxuries of this trip, there are occasions to interact with some of the 74 people who paid $55,000 to come on the trip. Tonight I met a man who claimed to be the 2nd-ever shareholder in Starbucks. Another man raises exotic animals on his Texas ranch. Someone else once owned the Kansas City Southern Railroad. These are certainly the “Titans of Business” but that doesn’t necessarily preclude some pretty visceral conversations about everything from economics, to the state of the U.S. today, to the rare talks about red sandstone (of which there is lots here in Rajasthan). Those are great moments when there are “real” conversations and I seek them out whenever I can.
I’ve been surprised to learn just how many folks on this trip are genuinely concerned about this war in Iraq. You wouldn’t think that anyone in this economic class would feel that way, but I’m finding that many of them do. It is heartening (to me) to learn that not everyone in our country automatically buys into the message that is given to us by our so-called “leaders” and media. A surprising number of folks on this trip are making their own determinations about the direction our country is taking. It’s time for every American, no matter what your political leanings or affiliation, to start asking some hard and unpleasant questions about our standing in the world, how our actions are perceived by other people and other nations, and what the true costs of this war really are. (Here's a clipping from the English "Japan Times" that we read in Kyoto).
Anyone who just blindly accepts the notion that our president could never lead us on the wrong path needs to start questioning that. History shows us that once governments perceive the need to “protect their interests”, they behave irrationally to acheive that end. Having said all of this, here is a direct quote from one of our passengers at the last cocktail party in Viet Nam - “I’m a Republican, I don’t have to think”. Comments certainly welcome.
After the tented camp evening, we came to the blue town of Jodhpur and were treated to a stay at one of the most magnificent hotels I have ever been at - the Umaid Bhawan Palace. It is a true mahjaraja’s palace -
he lives in the south wing (right side of photo) and the other 314 guest rooms are opposite to this (left). It is true palace! In Jodhpur is also a “fort” constructed in 1459 and we toured this magnificent structure which sits atop a 500 foot hill overlooking the city. I am almost at a loss of words for this stop.
Next stop is Iran (ee-RAHN). Stay tuned!