It had started off as a really. . .
fun day - bubbling hot boiling chai in glasses on the street (no place to wash them, so they just re-use them after each customer) -
We had been buying water from a guy named Jalal. We said "We'll meet you at 2:00 for a tour of the temple." He spoke english well and knew a lot about the area, history and architecture. We figured he would give us a fair price.
mistake #1: set the price first
Jalal said 2 1/2 hours and a personal guided tour of the area temples for 500 rupees. It was steep but we agreed. When we showed up, a different man named Doud was driving.
mistake #2: stick with the original plan for the original price - a change in men means a change in price
Doud drove us to the temple - literally three minutes away. We had to pay another 250 each for tickets to the temple. Immediately, Doud introduces us to Ali - very nicely dressed, spoke english very well, explained information really well. He told us many great stories, explaining myth and history in a way we could grasp. We were really happy with him. It started to get weird as we walked around the temple grounds though. He got angry at Allegra and Birch: "Sit down!" - very controlling.
I thought his services were included with the ticket price; John thought his services were included with Doud, because Doud is not guiding us at all.
Meanwhile, we are being swarmed by touts who are selling marble carvings. One man in particular is hounding me, really persistently to make a sale. He starts at 800 rupees, then 400, then 200. I didn't bring my wallet on purpose. The quality of his work is not very good - I actually wanted to buy a carving that I saw closer to where we live - but I look in his eyes and I see desperation - he says he has a wife and children and he hasn't made a sale all day. So I agree and Doud gives him 150 for an elephant. I have my head in my hands - I don't even want the stupid elephant.
Then Doud and Ali talk and he accompanies us to the next temple. To make room for Ali, Birch and Ali go in a different Tuk-Tuk .
mistake #3: never separate a child from both parents
Nothing bad happened, but Birch was scared and it was just stupid on our part.
Later, we figured out and confirmed that Ali meanwhile is smoking pot and drinking in between temples. So do we get the Bad Parenting Award for that one?
We drive away to the next temple. Twenty minutes later, another tout offers me a better elephant for 20 rupees. Ali wants to make a "quick stop" at his son's store - we don't buy anything and now Ali is getting angry. He's drunk and nasty. It's getting late, the temples will close soon and it gets dark very early. Ali gets John separated from me, sitting down, and John is swarmed by men leaning into him, until John agrees to buy a carved ball for 1000 rupees. Doud drops me and the kids at Ali's house, and we move through the dark into a room that has one exit, where Ali performs sleight-of-hand tricks with extraordinary skill. John has been taken in the car to an ATM machine to get a wad of cash. Now there is a power outage, these snakes are between us and the door, we have to pay and there is no way out. I am trying really hard not to let the kids know how scared I am inside. At the first opportunity, I lead the kids out the door and John stays behind to pay.
We have an interesting discussion with the kids about finances and money, making money, economics and people's desperation, "have" and "have-not" countries, values of the integrity of honesty versus the integrity of providing for a family. We go to dinner and order a fish that costs 250 on the menu. The bill comes, the menus are gone, and we have been charged 950. John decides to keep and carry his carved ball as a reminder not to be forced to buy anything for emotional reasons, whether fear or pity.
We are grateful to Teacher Ali for a lesson learned over rupees and not dollars. I leave my elephant on the table in the hotel.