One of the things I love most about traveling is getting to see and spend time with animals not typically found in the wildlife back home. For India that meant monkeys. I basically freaked out the first time we sat on the bus and saw monkeys swinging from tree to tree. I know I have seen them at the zoo, but I still couldn’t help but love getting to see them in their natural habitat, doing their monkey thing. I could not believe how close you could get to them, they are very use to people in park areas at this point. For that last picture, we were walking through a park to view a waterfall and there he was just chilling with his monkey friends. Right after this picture he looked right at me and I seriously thought he was going to jump on me. I had seen ‘Outbreak’, I knew when to back away. I later learned this fear was not unfounded as a friend on the trip was chased around the park by a monkey for her delicious mango juice. And I’m not talking oh he kind of looked like he wanted your juice, I mean he actually chased her as she ran. Basically monkeys are the equivalent to seeing squirrels in Oregon, only a little more willing to go after the food they want, even if it is in your hands.
My other big animal interaction was with elephants. I helped washed an elephant in the river. It was amazing. But also gross. I thought elephant skin would be smooth, but it has this course hair that intermittently pokes out. We then took a ride on the elephant in groups of four around. It was cool, but it was also strange. I don’t know how I ultimately feel about the elephants as pets for tourist like me to come and ride. I haven’t done any research so I am not ready to draw any conclusions. I did stand there and wonder about the industry as whole and its implications on elephants on India. Do you ever those experiences when you travel? Enjoy what you are doing, but wonder about the larger culture context as the traveler and your impact?
Did you notice the picture of the two men holding hands? I had heard that most men in India were very affectionate with each other in public. But to see it is another thing. In fact it might just be the most adorable thing. In America, we are slowly (too slowly for my liking) fighting and winning (as last November showed) to end some of the homophobic laws in this country. However there is still this idea often in pop culture that two straight men should not be affectionate to each other. So, to see men so openly and loving touch each other was fascinating. In India there are even less legal rights for gays. It’s not one of those, oh them over there they have it figured out or we know what’s best here. It’s interesting comparing what are acceptable cultural norms and how it influences policy and vice versus.