>Saturday, March 31

All morning, I was on the verge of tears. I can’t believe that this trip that I had been anticipating for months was already over. It was hard for me to think about not seeing some of the fabulous people I met on the trip for a long time. Almost everyone on the trip lives in Chicago. Plus, although I really don’t know Malikit (Bus Driver's Helper) and Mohinish (Bus Driver) from beans, it upsets me that I will never see either of them again. I don't know what is wrong with me.

We left Jaipur around 9 am for a six hour bus ride back to Delhi. Everyone except for me is leaving Delhi tonight. I have an overnight stay in New Delhi and time to shop for a day before I go back tomorrow night.

Of course, what day would be complete without a stop for shopping at one of Fearless Leader's favorite kick-back shops? We were supposed to stay for 30 minutes, and yet an hour later, we were still there. I hung out with Malikit for a few minutes. I showed him a picture of Husband and of Tycho the Giant Rabbit. He showed me a picture of his wife. Sundar! (That means beautiful.) Mostly, I was relieved that they seemed to live in a very comfortable and decent looking house. I also posed for some pictures with two women and the bus, and now I am super mad at myself for not asking them to take a picture of me with Malikit and Mohindish. I didn't know if it would make them feel uncomfortable, though. Fearless Leader shocked me by buying little gifts – painted pictures of elephants – for all of us.

More driving ensued. We finally stopped for food around 3:15. I am sure that Fearless Leader wanted to go to a place that would give him a commission, but one of the trip organizers insisted that we try this wacky fast food vegetarian Indian place. I am glad that we went, but once again Fearless Leader gave us no instructions, so when we got inside, we were utterly overwhelmed by the masses of people and various food counters. Eventually, we figured out that you order and pay at a central register, they gave you tickets, then you exchange the ticket for food at the proper counter.

I was getting nervous as hell because they day had gone by so fast and I had yet to find an opportunity to slip Malikit and Mohindish extra tip money. We were told that the tour guide had to make at least double what the bus driver made, who in turn had to make double what the helper made. You know how I felt about that. So in addition to my official tip, I had conspired with Ray and Brian to secretly give the guys more money. I am not good at doing anything in an inconspicuous manner. Plus, I didn't know how the guys would react.

Anyway, after shoveling down my food, Brian and I slipped out of the restaurant tot the bus. We sat down and asked Malikit if we could buy some water from him. (That's one of his jobs.) When he brought the bottles back to us, we gave him lots of money.

"Shadi ka enam," ("A wedding present") I said. I didn't think he would refuse it if I said it was a gift. He thanked us. When we saw that they were glad to have secret tips and not fearful of losing their jobs over it, we gave Mohindish money without any elaborate ruses. Then over the next few hours, Ray spread the word, and suddenly, a lot of people were ordering water. I was really pleased.

As we approached Delhi, we made a completely and utterly random stop without any warning at a modern shopping mall. Brian, Ray, John and I wandered around and made fun of things. It was so westernized that it had a plus size store in it. The power went out twice, the second time while we were waiting for the elevator. Suddenly, Brian did not object to using the escalator, even though it was laid out to ensure that you passed more stores on the way down. Ironically, a security guard refused to let us use it until the power went on again.

Eventually, we wound up at a fancy hotel near the airport where we hung out at the bar until it was time for everyone to go to the airport. As they unpacked my suitcase, Malikit and Mohindish said good-bye and shook my hand. Mohinidish said he would see me next time I am in India. As usual, they had to wait outside while we went in and sat down. When it was time, I called for a cab back to the center of Delhi and said my good-byes. Malikit came by and said good-bye again.

Since I can't really leave my fancy hotel for logistical reasons tonight, I had dinner in an Indian restaurant in the hotel alone. Although it was probably the best meal out of many excellent meals that I ate this week, I miss the scintillating dinner conversation with Ray, John, Brian, Liz, and Margie that I have feasted upon all week. Their flight is due to take off in 15 minutes. I wish them a safe flight, and I hope to see everyone soon.

Probably this will be my last post until I get to my parents' house on Monday. Have a great weekend!