Happy Thanksgiving. A day I am truly thankful to celebrate. I am so thankful for my family and me friends, for my new family at Ulta, my ability to buy a new home, and for all the trials and tribulations that life has given me which has made me stronger. Surprise. Early am rise again. We are going off to Agra via car to see the Taj mahal. Our driver, prepaid in the US, my brothers boss's dad's friend picks us up at the hotel and off we go. Delhi during the day is worse than night. Dirtier than I vile have ever imagined. I saw tons of garbage on the streets in Kathmandu but at times it was waist deep in Delhi. There are 18 million people people living in Delhi. People everywhere. Overcrowded and some are starving. It's almost a hopeless mess. The smell of a latrine everywhere. You want to help. You want to change it. But you can't. Only the people can. Even the government gave up. Cows, never eaten in India , roam the streets freely.Some starving. Some fat and happy. I saw a sign that said animal both control center. In every country i visit, i take pictures of people sweeping. People sweep All over this world. Even the dirty streets of Delhi. Don't know why. Passed a Rolls Royce dealer. So interesting as there are such poor people living in tents right on the sides of the road, but there is a rich underlying undertone that cannot be seem easily. The smells were awful. So awful my eyes teared and I was in the car. at one point I spores a guy getting a shave on a street under a tree. At another point I saw another guy laying naked on the side of a highway sleeping. Delhi is rich with sites and smells but not the good kind. Our driver wad Hoshiar. Our 5 hour journey would take us on one road to Agra through the countryside and small road side villages. The things I saw cannot be described easily by words but will be etched in my mind forever. What I can say is that I've never had so many people stare at me more than I did in Delhi. I was foreign to them. And stood out. It was uncomfortable at many times. There are main 3 religions in India - Hindu, Muslim, Sic (sp?). Our driver shared that but not much else as he didn't know much english but when we asked questions he'd respond with a "yes". Even if it was not a yes question. We stopped roadside at a restaurant gift shop for a bathroom break. We purchased vegetable crackers for the car ride- made in india. Later to find out my cracker had a hard piece of plastic interlaced. There was a monkey on a leash with a dress and makeup on on the side of the road. More about that later. In and out of roadside villages. Some a little more bustling than others. None of which had electricity. Once close we could see the taj's white outline in the hazy sunny sky. We go directly to our hotel, Hotel Oberoi a five star hotel. We pull up and hotel guard checks under the car, in the trunk, and interview our driver to let is in. Once in, there were water at least 100 fountains dotting the entrance. I felt like I was back in Dubai or Morocco. It was beautiful. We walk inside and there is a huge crystal chandelier in the foyer with a rounded cathedral ceiling. The orange silk pillows were arranged against the grey couches. It was over the top detailed with beauty. We get escorted to a view of the taj with a complimentary drink. We then get escorted to our room so we could look like women again before our taj exploration. Out jumps a cockroach from a bathroom drawer. We move to a nicer room on the highest floor - this one has a balcony. Ironically julie and I were jumping at the shanti house but here because it was a five star hotel we had biggest expectations. Although the staff was friendly the hotel was just ok. We head out with put driver to the taj and pick up an English guide his name is Rinku (i remembered because it sounded like Ringo star) We get out of the car and have to walk 50 meters to buy a ticket. We pay 750 rupees. About $15. This is very important as there are about 1000 Indian visitors in line and because our ticket was more expensive we passed the queue and went to the front. The lines were separated between male and female. We go inside and meet another gentleman who we can hire for professional picture. We hire him for 1000 rupees. $20- 10 pictures. Inside the taj is magnificent. It is absolutely breath taking. It took 20,000 men and 22 years to build over 400 years ago. We bounced from area to area to get our pictures taken. The famed bench on as well as the pinch the top one. After pivoted we head to the queue so we can go inside. Inside it is a mosuliem of taj mum and the king. People go there to pray over them. We are told no cameras inside. We are also told no shoes. Yikes. Stop there. I have no socks. Our guide whips out shoe covers. I more will forever call him ringo star! Once in queue us and the other 12,000 barefoot Indians were walking slowly. Can you say staff infection city?there was not a lot of politeness around. People were attempting to cut etc. We had to keep our space. Once inside our guide reminds us to keep our belongings closed and in front. A lot of pick pocketers. Nice, in a holy place. I see many people are snapping photos. I remove my camera and begin taking picture of the ornately inlayed gemstones in the walls. It is incredible. The amount of detail. We see mum and the kings tombs. I take a picture of those as well. It is super dark. We are shuffled through the experience in less than 7 minutes. Crowd control pushes you through. Crazy. Wish people had more respect. We meet up with out picture guy outside. Yes he now has 26 pictures each. 2500 rupees. Um no. We tell him 1000 we dont care that he took more pictures. We settle at 1500 rupees. Good deal! We walk down the almost dark walkway we arrived in and little likes are trying to sell us snowglobes. We keep saying no. There is a casket of a man being walked down the alley way as well. I stop and snap a picture. Another life was lost. Thankful againfor being alive. Our driver takes us to a shop where we get an education on how the taj was built with the inlayed stones. From that shop we get brought into the selling shop we like the items but the guy kept changing the prices. We then was to leave and the guy says oh no, not the front, you go the back way. Um Melissa doesnt go out any back door. We are then brought into another part of the store where the smaller trinkets are being sold. I'm out. Where's my driver? This guy is is shyster and is probably selling kids on the black market. We finally arrive back at the hotel(give our English guide less of a tip because of the shopping shenanigans) we have an amazing glass of wine, out on our balcony as a live indian dance show is going on. We get ready and do some shopping in the hotel stores which were a great deal. I picked up a beautiful tray of inlayed stones. Better price. No shyster. Our thanksgiving dinner was a late seating at 9. We shared a fish with coconut and a chicken curry with numerous sides. We drift off to sleep watching my favorite BBC show.