Monday, October 03, 2011



Last week I went to India to speak at what I thought was the Enhancing Capacity for Low Emissions Development workshop, but after a long series of meetings and discussions at the U.S. Embassy and the Indian Planning Commission (about which I've probably already said too much) turned out to be the Joint Indo-US Workshop on Economy-Wide Analysis for Low Carbon Strategies.

I left DC on Friday afternoon, flew to Chicago, and then took a 15 hour flight over the North Pole to India.  The flight went smoothly, I managed to get some sleep and even got to see the scenic views over the desolate mountains of Afghanistan before landing in New Delhi on Saturday night.  The jet lag was a bit tough, I kept waking up in the middle of the night with my body convinced it was the middle of the afternoon.  The upside of this was that with three 24/7 cricket channels available, I learned a fair amount about limited overs, leg by wicket, silly mid on, and the third man.

I had the day free on Sunday, except for a prep meeting in the evening, so I hired a car and driver to take me to Agra for the day to see the Taj Mahal.  It was a long four hour drive to Agra, but it was certainly worth it.  The Taj was even more impressive in person than it appears in pictures, the white Indian marble gleams in the sunlight, and the beauty of the fine detailed relief carvings and endless designs of inlaid semi-precious stones show why it took 20,000 workers, 1,000 elephants and 20 years to complete.  In the words of the Emperor Shah Jahan himself:
The sight of this mansion creates sorrowing sighs;
And the sun and the moon shed tears from their eyes.
After seeing the Taj Mahal, I explored Agra for a while and saw some of the beautiful carvings and inlaid marble work that is still done by the descendants of the artists who worked on the Taj itself.  The trip back to New Delhi took a couple extra hours due to an accident, and I learned that I never want to attempt driving myself in India.  The upside of this was that I missed our seemingly unnecessary Sunday night prep meeting.

The rest of the trip was all work, a read-in meeting at the U.S. Embassy with USAID, a meeting with the Indian Planning Commission (which judging from the reaction of the locals, was a bigger deal than I realized), two days of the actual workshop, and a day of follow-up meetings with the Indian modelers.  The most interesting part was the local transportation in Delhi, we rode around in tuk-tuks, little motorized rickshaws, that were terrifying to ride in (they seemingly obeyed no traffic law), but interestingly enough had all been retrofitted to run on compressed natural gas to improve the air quality in Delhi.

I'm glad I was able to add India to my list of world travels, but it was tough being away from the family all week.  Thankfully, technology has progressed since my last trip abroad, and I was able to use Facetime to see the kids and Elaine each day.  They'd call right before bedtime in DC, which was 6 am in India, and we'd end and start our respective days with smiles from halfway around the world.

The trip home was even longer than the trip there.  I left Delhi just after midnight on a 15.5 hour flight to Chicago (over the North Pole again) landing at 5 am, followed by a four hour layover, before finally getting back to DC around noon.  But the hugs and smiles from Owen, Nora and Elaine when I got home made all the weariness of the road melt away.

(click here for all the pictures)

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