“Would You Get This For Me,” part II

As I told you in last week’s posting, some of the most authentic experiences we have had while traveling have come from when friends have asked us to get something specific for them.   Our search for the saffron-colored bowtie in Jodhpur, India took us on a memorable day-long adventure.  We visited Sambhali, a charitable organization where we met interesting women whose lives had been elevated from desperate poverty to success, prosperity and pride of ownership. 

Our second adventure in Jodhpur originated from a comment made by a friend back home who has psoriasis.  Her dermatologist had prescribed one of the new “biologics” which unfortunately was not covered by her insurance plan.  She had used up her samples which she had received in a free offer and the medication was working extremely well.  The cash price for this item was over $700 per month. 

By chance, a few days before we traveled independently to Jodhpur, we were spending the day with an Indian friend’s cousin who happened to be a doctor.  We were discussing with him the high price of certain medications in the US. 

Dr. Bakin Nayak, the cousin of our friend Raj in the US

“Let me check how much it costs in India,” he told us as he typed in the name of the medication on an app in his cellphone.

“You’re going to be happy about this,” he continued as he converted the amount into American currency.

“About $27!” 

While we were in Jodhpur, we asked the front-desk person in the hotel where we would be able to find a reliable pharmacy.  It turned out to be within a 10-minute walk through some of the most interesting city scenes we had seen during our trip.  

Jodhpur is known as “the Blue City” since many of its buildings are blue

Jodhpur is a large city in the northwestern state of Rajasthan.  It is known as “The Blue City” because many of the homes painted in a shade of blue.  From the higher elevations of the city, such as from the famous Mehrangarh Fort, the city appears blue.  

Most of Jodhpur’s main streets are unpaved.  Cows roam freely among the cars, bikes, motorcycles and hordes of pedestrians.  Vendors line both sides of the streets selling absolutely everything.  It is noisy, colorful and overwhelmingly chaotic, but that is what makes India so fascinating to visit. 

On the way to the pharmacy, we stopped every few feet to take pictures of the women in their colorful saris,

Friendly people in the street

the pious Sadhus begging for a few coins,

and the ubiquitous slowly-moving sacred cows blocking traffic. 

Adults and children were generally friendly and many were interested in speaking with us since this is not the usual place to find American tourists.

Friendly Jodhpur teens

 One group of bejeweled Hindu women in their brightly-colored wedding outfits struck up a conversation with my wife, Meryl, and within a few minutes we were invited to her wedding, unfortunately taking place on the weekend after we were leaving.  That would have been an amazing experience!

Sister of the bride-to-be

When we arrived at the pharmacy, I was told that they would be able to get the item from the warehouse within an hour.  No prescription or medical documentation was required.  

Our friendly pharmacist in Jodhpur

While we waited, we continued to observe the constant flow of people and animals on the street.    At no time during these walks did we ever feel any sense of trepidation.  The people observed us with as much interest as we watched them.  

We ordered a three-month supply of the medication and asked if we could obtain more if needed.   Our friend back home was certainly happy with the price and our assurance that we had received from our doctor-friend that the quality of the particular pharmaceutical company. 

Later that evening, we researched on the internet about any problems we might encounter bringing this medication through American customs.  Unfortunately, it warned us that without a prescription, the medication in a large quantity could be confiscated, so we elected to stick with the small supply that we had initially bought. 

As it turned out, when we returned to the US, we were surprised that no one checked our luggage and the customs officials did not ask us anything about what we were bringing home.  The entire customs operation seemed to be a random effort of illegal drug interdiction done by drug-sniffing dogs.

We returned several times to that same chaotic location during our four-day stay in Jodhpur because it was one continuous photographic opportunity.  Since we were at the end of a month tour of India, we were already saturated with visits to forts, shrines and other notable tourist sites.

Just being able to walk through the streets of Jodhpur was an amazing experience.  When they call it “Incredible India,” they weren’t kidding!  To be able to visit this country is such an unbelievable treat, and sometimes an assault, to all your senses.  We feel very grateful that we were able to complete this trip only a month before the country was closed to tourism due to the Pandemic. 

Yes, India is Incredible!

In Part III, I will tell you the story of the adventure we had in Spain a few years ago when a Spanish friend back home found out that we were passing through the area where she had come from.   It was another example of the “authentic field trips” that we have enjoyed while traveling.      

“Would You Get This For Me?” (Part I)

Have you ever been on a trip and someone asked you to get them something specific from the place where you were traveling?

On our trip to India last year, we had a few interesting experiences as a result of special requests from friends back at home. 

The first was from a friend who asked me if I would pick him up a specially-colored bowtie.  He wanted a “saffron-colored bowtie” which would go well with an outfit his wife was wearing to a holiday party. 

We took his request seriously, so anytime we were in a clothing store during our tour around the country, we looked for this special item. After checking in many locations, we determined that this was not something that was going to be easy to find.  We decided to wait until the end of our trip when we were going to be traveling on our own to the city of Jodhpur. 

Jodhpur is in the northwestern part of India in the state of Rajasthan.

As an aside, we often like to end our trips with a separate independent excursion.   After we have been traveling with a group where all the details are being taken care of by a tour leader, it is fun to see how we can function on our own within the country. 

We have done this almost every time we have traveled, both after cruises and group land trips.  Rather than rushing back to the airport to head home, we have found that this additional three or four-day excursion is a memorable way to end our time abroad.  We call it our “cool-down period” and it literally gives us the opportunity to slowly and deliberately enjoy a slower pace than what we had become accustomed to while we were with a large group rushing around with a tour guide.

After our tour in India ended, we had stayed an additional three days in Mumbai so that we could we met up with cousins of Indian friends from back home.  Then we flew from Mumbai to Jodhpur which in itself was an interesting experience because we didn’t have the services of a tour guide.. When we arrived in Jodhpur, we were met by a driver who took us to RAAS, a luxury hotel which was within a walled compound directly in the city.  We felt very comfortable venturing out into the city but it was a pleasure to come back to the quieter, protected confines of this hotel.

We began our search in earnest for the bowtie in many of the shops near the hotel.   By chance, one shop owner recommended another store down the street which was the outlet for a European NGO (non-governmental organization).   The owner showed us his inventory of ties and shirts but suggested that if we wanted to have something custom-made in a special color, we should visit the home base of the NGO and they would be able to make it while we waited. 

Sambhali: Self-esteem, Unity and Independence

The NGO turned out to be a group home in a large, converted mansion located about a half-hour outside the city. 

This converted mansion, known in India as a “bungalow”, is the home of Sambhali.

We arranged for private transportation (a motorized rickshaw) and spent the morning learning about how over the years, hundreds of women have been rescued from poverty through the generosity of European donors.  Mothers and their children who would have otherwise been homeless were given the opportunity to learn a skill (in this case sewing) and were subsequently set up in business for themselves after they had completed the training course. 

The women and their children seated on the floor where they were sewing customized yoga mats.

While we were at the home to about 12 women, we were shown their workplace where we selected the material in the specific saffron color. 

Cutting our chosen fabric to make the bowtie
Applying decorative henna to the arm of her colleague who was getting married that weekend.

While we waited for our item to be completed, we talked to the women who were busy sewing yoga mats for a Swedish donor who had traveled to India to see the working conditions of the women who were creating her product.  We also watched as one of the older women applied the decorative henna to the arm of her co-worker who was getting married that weekend. 

After returning to the area near our hotel, we visited one of the successful “graduates” of the program who had her own shop selling many of the sewn items. 

Sanju’s boutique

It was wonderful to hear Sanju’s story and to share her pride in having risen from poverty to a middle-class shop owner.   


We love these “authentic experiences” while we were traveling especially when they are spontaneous and unplanned in advance. This was a welcome break from the tourist sites that we had been visiting for the past three weeks.   These “field trips” provide us with a much more realistic view of the foreign country.   

In next week’s installment, I will tell you about the next request we were able to fulfill while visiting the same city of Jodhpur. 

“¿Podrías conseguirme esto?,” parte 1

¿Alguna vez ha estado de viaje y alguien le pidió que le consiguiera algo específico del lugar al que viajaba?

En nuestro viaje a la India el año pasado, tuvimos algunas experiencias interesantes como resultado de solicitudes especiales de amigos en casa.

La primera fue de un amigo que me preguntó si le compraría una pajarita de un color especial. Quería una “pajarita color azafrán” que iría bien con un atuendo que su esposa usaba para una fiesta navideña.

Tomamos en serio su solicitud, así que cada vez que estábamos en una tienda de ropa durante nuestro recorrido por el país, buscábamos este artículo especial, pero después de registrarnos en muchos lugares, determinamos que esto no era algo que iba a ser fácil de encontrar. Decidimos esperar hasta el final de nuestro viaje cuando íbamos a viajar solos a la ciudad de Jodhpur.

Además, a menudo nos gusta terminar nuestros viajes con una excursión independiente separada. Después de haber viajado con un grupo donde todos los detalles están siendo atendidos por un guía turístico, es divertido ver cómo podemos funcionar por nuestra cuenta dentro del país.

Lo hemos hecho casi todas las veces que hemos viajado, tanto después de los cruceros como de los viajes terrestres en grupo. En lugar de regresar corriendo al aeropuerto para regresar a casa, hemos descubierto que esta excursión adicional de tres o cuatro días es una forma memorable de terminar nuestro tiempo en el extranjero. Lo llamamos nuestro “período de enfriamiento” (our “cooldown period”) y literalmente nos da la oportunidad de disfrutar deliberadamente a un ritmo más lento de lo que nos habíamos acostumbrado mientras estábamos con un grupo grande corriendo con un guía turístico.

Jodhpur, una ciudad en el estado de Rajasthan

Después de que terminó nuestra gira por la India, nos quedamos tres días más en Mumbai para poder reunirnos con primos de amigos indios de nuestro país. Luego volamos de Mumbai a Jodhpur, lo que en sí mismo fue una experiencia interesante porque no teníamos los servicios de un guía turístico. Cuando llegamos a Jodhpur, nos recibió un conductor que nos llevó a RAAS, un hotel de lujo que estaba dentro un recinto amurallado directamente en la ciudad. Nos sentimos muy cómodos al aventurarnos en la ciudad, pero fue un placer volver a los confines más tranquilos y protegidos de este hotel.

Comenzamos nuestra búsqueda en serio de la pajarita en muchas de las tiendas cercanas al hotel. Por casualidad, el propietario de una tienda recomendó otra tienda que era la salida de una ONG europea (organización no gubernamental). El propietario nos mostró su inventario de corbatas y camisas, pero sugirió que si queríamos tener algo hecho a medida en un color especial, deberíamos visitar la base de operaciones de la ONG y podrían hacerlo mientras esperábamos.

La ONG Sambhali: autoestima, unidad e independencia

La ONG resultó ser una casa de grupo en una gran mansión reconvertida ubicada aproximadamente a media hora fuera de la ciudad.

Esta mansion convertida, conocida en India como “bungalow”, es le hogar de Sambhali.

Organizamos transporte privado (un rickshaw motorizado) y pasamos la mañana aprendiendo cómo a lo largo de los años, cientos de mujeres han sido rescatadas de la pobreza gracias a la generosidad de donantes europeos. Las madres y sus hijos, que de otro modo habrían quedado sin hogar, tuvieron la oportunidad de aprender una habilidad (en este caso, coser) y posteriormente se establecieron en el negocio por sí mismos después de haber completado el curso de capacitación.

Las mujeres y sus hijos sentados en el suelo donde cosían esterillas de yoga personalizadas

Mientras estábamos en la casa de unas 12 mujeres, nos mostraron su lugar de trabajo donde seleccionamos el material en el color azafrán específico.

Cortar nuestra tela elegida para hacer la pajarita
Aplicando henna decorativa en el brazo de su colega que se iba a casar ese fin de semana.

Mientras esperábamos que nuestro artículo estuviera terminado, hablamos con las mujeres que estaban ocupadas cosiendo tapetes de yoga para un donante sueco que había viajado a la India para ver las condiciones laborales de las mujeres que estaban creando su producto. También vimos como una de las mujeres mayores aplicaba la henna decorativa en el brazo de su compañera de trabajo que se iba a casar ese fin de semana.

Después de regresar al área cercana a nuestro hotel, visitamos a una de las “graduadas” exitosas del programa que tenía su propia tienda vendiendo muchos de los artículos cosidos.

La boutique de Sanju

Fue maravilloso escuchar su historia y compartir su orgullo de haber pasado de la pobreza a ser dueña de una tienda de clase media.


Nos encantan estas “experiencias auténticas” mientras viajamos, especialmente cuando son espontáneas y no planificadas de antemano. Fue un descanso bienvenido de los sitios turísticos que habíamos estado visitando durante las últimas tres semanas. Estos “viajes de campo” nos brindan una visión mucho más realista del país extranjero.

En la entrega de la próxima semana, les contaré sobre la próxima solicitud que pudimos cumplir mientras visitábamos la misma ciudad de Jodhpur.