August 27th, 2017 by jenniferolmstead
I got up early, 3:30 am, to leave this morning. I said all my goodbyes last night. I did have to wake maam to lock the door behind me. I felt bad but I had to follow my orders. I walked down to the road and waited about 2-3 minutes and my ride arrived, on time even which was nice as I was a little nervous about the critters that are out at night. Would be really bad to get bit by something as I was leaving. We picked up my travel companion, the IT guy from the hospital. He had to go to the outpost hospital to get some work done today and would join me on the train. I must say I will not miss the roads for a while, they are so rough it is hard to call them a road. The train was interesting, having never been on one. I was glad to have someone to help me get to the right place. He gave me to seat by the window, which is also the lower berth if I chose to sleep. The train was not full, which was nice as well. He explained that though many parts of India have very full trains, that in this area most people prefer to travel by road and thus trains are not often used. That is surprising considering the road conditions. I’m also thinking that the train is less expensive than a taxi or motor rickshaw would be for a long distance. Something to think about for later.
I got to Agartala and was met and driven to the hotel, which is really nice. I had to wait about an hour to register so I went and had lunch, considering I did not get breakfast I was very hungry. The people are so friendly and actually want to be helpful. After lunch, I checked in and then came to my room. I thought about a nap but decided to inquire about some site seeing. I was told I needed to see the palace. While I was asking at the desk a man walked up, I thought he was the manager, and offered to have the hotel driver take me around to the local sites in town. I agreed thinking that would be much easier and safer than me trying to get taxi’s. I later learned that the guy has a small tour business in the hotel run by his sister.
The first stop was the heritage gardens, absolutely beautiful. It would be a great place to get away from the city noise and just relax. They have several small replica type buildings throughout the park. Then we went to the palace which is now a museum. It was so pretty. The thing I liked most was that the pictures all had a description of how what you saw was related to the culture of that specific tribe or locality. From there I was taken to the state museum. I think I would have better understood the patients if I had stopped there before going to Makunda. It really gave me a better understanding of who they are and what they believe and why. The last stop was at a museum that was closed so we came back to the hotel. The ATM was being serviced so I was unable to pay at that time. I decided to come up to my room to regroup and rest a bit. When I went back down to check the ATM I was asked by the tour guy if I wanted to go see the flag ceremony since one of the museum was closed. I agreed and that was the best part of the whole tour.
I’ll try to describe the ceremony, I did take a lot of photos and few short videos. It takes place at the border between India and Bangladesh. There is a history of hostility between these two nations. The ceremony was something special. Military men, border control, from both countries dress up in their dress uniforms. The people that come are invited to come into the neutral space between the borders, this means I got to enter the border gate, I was like ten feet from Bangladesh. The military from each country line up in a similar pattern in their country. Then commands are given and one man moves simultaneously from each country into position. At specific times, the group moves. The flags are lowered simultaneously as each country has a bugler play their country song for the flag lowering. A man and his wife came that have a position of honor, I know this as when they arrived everyone came to attention or saluted, even many of the people who came to watch. When the event started they were seated in the front row by themselves. As it was starting and I was trying to see over others and get photos a guard came and asked me what country I was from. I told him I was from America and he asked me to come with him. I must admit I was a little nervous and did not have my passport with me. I was escorted up to the front and seated next to the couple of importance. It made me think about when Jesus says to seat at the least important place and your host will invite you to the seat of honor. It was pretty cool. I was not sure what to do when it ended and I kinda wanted to say hello to the guys wife, but that turned out to not be a good idea. I was asked by the guards if I was alone. When I said yes, they all started talking and motioning to another guard. I then told them I had a driver waiting. I was asked twice if I was sure and reassured them I did. I believe they were going to give me a ride back to my hotel. I military escort in India. It would have been exciting but maybe a bit more than others would understand.