Saturday, July 19, 2008

crystal cat towers

I just ate an entire jar of Leh apricot preserves on a baguette for dinner.  And it was fucking awesome.  I wish I had a case of that stuff.  I'm writing this for all of you still in India who have access to sweet apricot nectar.  You should buy lots of it because you might want to eat a whole jar on a baguette for dinner when you get home.  Or you might want to barter with it.  I don't know.  It has special powers.
I wanted to post a final blog on my departure, but in true Sarah fashion, lost the one I had typed up.  I'm still gonna put something down because I really have a terrible memory.  Carrie and Alex, (probably the only 2 still reading this anyway) I went back and read some of your entries and was amazed at all the details I've already forgotten.

Let me sum up the easy way.  My last 2 days consisted of:
*An early, early flight from Leh to Delhi for Carrie and I.
*A guy wrapping himself in leather straps and boxes next to us in the airport.
*asshole delhi ricksha drivers
*cafe coffee day for as long as possible in the A.C with all of our bags
*waiting for a call from Jenny
*waiting in the park and exhausting every game we knew (secret telling, 20 questions. I guess we don't know that many games).
*me getting all bummed about leaving and other various things.  Minor break down avoided by awesomeness of Carrie, Jenny, ben and jerry's, and sex and the city.  I might have minorly broke down anyway. sorry guys.
*Super cheap pedicures and waxing as a reward to ourselves ($3.75 TOTAL!)
*admiring our pretty pretty princess feet and realizing it had not been a tan, but a semi- permanent layer of dirt.
*Super sad goodbyes
My cab driver did not stand me up or overcharge me.  (i think I paid 180 rupees from Jenny's-someone asked me in an email, I think)  I almost died on the way to the airport.  A bus tried to ram us twice.  I told the driver we should make faces at the bus.  He didn't understand what I meant until I started making faces at the bus.  He just yelled a lot but thought the face making was funny.

I blew a kiss to all of the cows eating trash on the side and in the middle of the road.  I blew a kiss to the crazy ricksha driving like a lunatic up the wrong side.  I blew a kiss to the power being out and seeing candles in the windows of all the businesses.  I blew a mental kiss to my driver honking wildly at an inanimate object in the road.  And I blew a kiss to the last of the chai stands- which I almost asked to stop for.

I was exhausted and prepared for battle when I arrived at the Delhi airport.   I had spent a lot of time intending for a pleasant departure, but I knew my chances were slim.  Even with my "luckiness."  I got into the longest line I could find (because, as carrie said, this would be the one I needed to be in) and prepared for an incredibly long wait.  The line wrapped around several kiosks where I'm sure people were being pointed in the wrong directions and being handed the wrong forms- if any at all.  It was looking bleak.  Then, suddenly, two guys appeared out of nowhere asking if I was traveling alone.  There was no way I was about to tell these assholes I was alone until I realized it would mean preferential treatment.  They escorted me and one other lone female traveler (carrying our bags) past everyone to the very front of the line.  "Why?" I asked.  I never got an answer.  The guy just smiled and in broken english said 
 "this make you happy? this good?" Um, fuck yeah?  This awesome.
I was given the right form the very first time without even asking, and then waved through  customs without incident.  The guy even SMILED at me and didn't even glance at my passport.  It could not have been an easier exit.  Goodbye India. Come visit me soon.

I love you guys and miss you lots.  I hope your having fun in your final weeks. We will tear shit up when you get back.  I can't hardly wait for the badass girls club. 
Make sure you look for the magical guys asking if you're traveling alone in the airport.  I think they might be Indian airport fairies.  You have to believe.  

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Compiled quotes from carrie's blog

Thse are in no particular order. If we could plan it better, we would have ordered it by things that you might funny vs. things we will always find hilarious and no one else will get. But we didn't think that far ahead while we were thinking of them. Put these on your own blogs, Sarah and Alex.

“There goes the King! That guy owes me money!” Otsal, guest house owner.We were having dinner outside with Otsal. For like two hours. He was very jovial, but was verbose. He mentioned he went to school with the queen of Ladakh. Later, a Bolero (SUV) drove by the restaurant, and the guy said the quote, offering to call the king back for us.

“Brad and Angelina came to this shop, and I didn’t know them. I just thought, yah! They take quite good care of their bodies.” Praveen, internet shop owner in Varanasi.We couldn’t quote to do Praveen justice, but we wanted at least one quote from him. His trademark was to open his eyes wide and say “Yah!” He had lots of stories about his various customers throughout the years.

“I think some people think we Brahmins have an attitude.” Praveen. Who totally had an attitude.

“I wouldn’t be too proud of the United States.” Guen (goon?), the Belgian boy whom we grudgingly had allowed to sleep on the roof with us.Funnier was when Sarah whispered to me under the blanket “That was rude!” We couldn’t stop giggling after that because he kept saying rude things until we made a point of going to sleep.

“Score one for America” Sarah.Related to the above; we were on the roof, and it was raining. So Sarah and I both thought really hard to ourselves “Stop rain stop rain stop rain stop rain” and then it let up and stopped. We felt superior to our rude Belgian roofmate.

“Storm is a selfish bitch. That’s probably why they got Halle Berry to play her.” Sarah.We realized that Storm, the X-Man, would do better to stop drought and famine with her powers, and leave the fighting to people with less transferable powers.

“That’s incorrect.” Carrie.When a armrest of the seat in front of us fell backwards into our seat, Carrie stared for a moments, and then said this the first time. She continued to say it, for instance if a straw was faulty, or if anything ever went wrong or unexpectedly (which it did).

“I’m sorry. Would you like to punch me in the stomach?” Carrie.Carrie had talked about how she likes to get her dad and brother to punch her in the stomach to build up muscle like Muhammed Ali did. But they never liked to do it, so she tried to trick them into it. In Varanasi, Alex was stressed out about a near-miss incident with two shifty looking guys who clearly were up to no good. Alex felt like he needed to be our protector, but he’d felt helpless and weird about it, so he was frustrated and pent up. Carrie made this offer, but Alex laughed and said “No, I’m trying to protect y’all, not punch you in the stomach.”

“Cover stealer!” Sarah.Sarah whispered this very quietly into Alex’s ear in the middle of the night, waking him up, and making them both crack up hysterically in the middle of a sleepy night.

“That’s precious!” Sarah.Quoted on Carrie’s blog.

“I did a photo session with the guy from the guest house kitchen. He wanted…he wanted them with his mobile phone in one hand, and waving with the other.” Sumit, semi-professional photographer.Our friend who took fantastic pictures. Here is the actual picture, which we were excited to finally see. Sorry I can't figure out a way to put it in the post itself--something keeps backfiring.

“I think you just want to sit next to him, and it’s really starting to piss me off.” Alex.Sarah doesn’t like when guys have a barbed wire tattoo around their arm. She and Alex were on the plane to Leh, and Alex was in the middle, with Sarah in the aisle, and a barbed-wire tattoo guy at the window. She kept offering Alex the aisle seat for his long legs, and he finally got irritated and said this quote deadpan to her, which made her laugh hysterically. Poor guy with the barbed-wire tattoo.

“Yes” The universal answer to any question you ask in India.Is this made of solid gold? Does this cab go to Texas? All of these questions will conveniently be answered “yes!”

“Our people are the filthiest on earth!” Guy from a shop in Jodhpur.Apparently, an OK way to start a conversation is to yell this to tourists across the road.

“What’s the point?” Travel agent.In response to our talking about getting altitude sickness in Leh.

“Jesus is lord, Jesus is lord.” British tourist.After visiting monasteries in Leh, she said she counteracted “all that” by repeating this phrase to herself.

“Great job” Sarah. About everything, usually sarcastically. As in, Tim and Eric Awesome Show Great Job.

“You can’t build up a tolerance to amoebas, dude!” Alex.One of our classmates bragged he’d been building up a tolerance to the tap water—brushing his teeth with it, drinking a little teaspoon here and there.

“Those monkeys totally could have had their way with us.” Alex.Quoted in Sarah’s blog.

“This is so awesome. India is so fucked up.” AlexQuoted in Sarah’s blog.

“So elegant. So, so elegant!” our professor, snapping picture after picture with his disposable camera of everyone in their Indian suits.

“Deer garden? Like where they grow deer?” Carrie.

“Shit show.” Jenny.

“What the hell does that even mean?” Alex, about the above quote.

“Love thy neighbor, but not while driving.”

“Be gentle on my curves.” Road signs in Leh.

“Full Full Full Masala” Battery ad in Varanasi.

“Exhibition cum Sale” Sign in Mussoorie, and a few other places. Gross!

“Do you think it’s like a fountain show?” Carrie, about above, at 6am.

“Educate yourself!” Forestry expert, asking if Carrie knew the origin of the word Hindu and Indus River.

“Your thank-yous are too heavy for us.” Sunny, our guilt-ridden scam artist.

“[I’m sorry I tried to scam you out of thousands, but] you didn’t even tell me happy birthday!” Sunny, contrite but confused about the concept.

“Did you have the sexes?” Some of our scam artists, and their odd turns-of-phrase.

“Whatcha doing?” A wide-eyed Sarah and Carrie, asking Shlomi, our Israeli seatmate at the airport, about what turned out to be a prayer cycle of some kind. It involved wrapping his arms with leather attached to boxes, and tying one on his forehead. Neither of us had ever, ever seen this.

“We can get by without toothpaste, right?” Sarah and Carrie, realizing neither of them had toothpaste or deodorant for 4 days.

“[Dani, a blonde girl] looks like an old man with her hair. And Sarah should wear more sunscreen so she won’t get more freckles. I like my skin color.” R, young and rude.

“It’s like everything I put in my mouth is the best thing I’ve ever tasted!” Carrie.
At the five star hotel dinner in Mussoorie.

“She’s clumsy.” Jenny.Explaining why Sarah fell, in the manner of explaining that someone is mentally retarded.

“Do your have spare breakfast?” Security agent at the airport in Leh.Turned out she was asking if we had spare batteries, which we couldn’t take on the plane. But breakfast made just as much sense to us at 5am.

“I didn’t know I could do that!” Alex.After doing some amazing sand dune aerial roundoff. Pretty much sums up Alex.

“That’s some real man-on-man love there.” Sarah.The men here don’t seem to have the homophobia we have in the states, maybe from not believing homosexuals exist. But they are very comfortable holding hands and riding four to a motorcycle and things. Sarah said this about a man sitting on another man’s lap.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Indian tranquilizers

There are a few things I've failed to mention about Leh.
* people carrying prayer beads and praying as they walk through the day.
*the delicious rice cardamom pudding that I will dream of when I leave.
* Lines to the ATM like waitin' for da club
*toilets of death. These can be found throughout India, but I've just thought about mentioning it. They are a weird hybrid of a western and turkish toilet. It's the size of a regular western, but with the turkish foot holds on top. So you have to climb up to squat. the entire bathroom is the shower so everything is always wet. This means that you are climbing up on to a slippery porcelain death trap. And I'm still not quite sure which direction I'm supposed to be facing, but I've found one that works for me.
*the hot fresh nan in the morning
*Yak cheese sandwhiches (surprizingly good and cheap)
*Butter tea (I finally got to try it! Believe it or not it tastes much like a cup of melted butter and salt)

Sumit, Carrie and I had a slumber party on the roof the night before he left. I liked her description of him. Something like an elf in one of her stories. When they vanish into the ether you feel a slight sadness. I thought that was sweet, but Carrie is always saying neat, sweet things. I agree. I feel like we bonded during his 3 hour therapy session over chai.

I spent yesterday running into everyone I've met. It's been so nice to wake up, go out for some hot nan with fresh apricot jam, and meet up with someone random for coffee. I've grown really fond of the crazy german. She got a little forclemped last night when we said our goodbyes. We agreed it was a shame that we met up so late in the game. She has 11 more months of a solo world tour.

The people here are so awesome. I sat with an old muslim man in a shop yesterday for over an hour negotiating a price for a stone. He kept saying "This stone very old! Very old!"- as in antique. That was his main bargaining chip. Then he would show me ones that were "cheaper" and "not so old." I found this very amusing and it still makes me smile. It's a rock. Of course it's old. These things don't form over night. I kind of mentioned that, but he didn't understand anyway, and he was too cute to argue with. I wanted to suggest maybe throwing out that the rocks were filled with gold. This would make a little more sense. I ended up getting the price I wanted and a really cute picture of the two of us. He was the most precious.

I really love meeting the women traveling here. They are all inspiring in some way.
I had coffee this morning with a woman that had jumped out of a jeep on the way to a treck during a break up, and took a bus back. Now she's staying out her trip and kickin it solo. I feel like I've facilitated at least 3 therapy sessions with strangers in the past 3 days. I guess this is appropriate because I've had several of my own while I've been here.

This week has been so great. The whole trip has been so great. I've been getting really sentimental about everything and and all of my experiences here. The other night at dinner (at our usual Tibetan cafe) I couldn't help but think about how cool chance meetings are. It's awesome to meet people and make a connection in such a short period of time. I feel like I really know some of these people. I might not be able to remember their name, but I feel like I know them. I'll never see most of them again. And that's ok. Summit, the Austrian Sprite, crazy german girl. I wonder what their lives will be like when we scatter. I'm going home with a money belt full of email addresses.

I should also mention that I took some Indian tranquilizers last night. This is probably the culprit behind my blissed out sentiment. I got them in Rajasatan to help me sleep. Actaully, Va Jay Jay got them for me so they are probably rufies. Whatever. They work nice and I got 5 for 10 rupees. I only took a third of one because they are unmarked and come with no directions. Plus, I wanted to stay awake for Watcher in the Woods with Carrie on the roof (that movie scared the shit out of me as a kid!). It's rained on us the past two nights. I woke up once last night and thought, "oh, it's raining... maybe we should move. eh, it'll stop eventually." That's how well I've finally been sleeping.

So for whatever reason, today has been lovely and relaxed and everyone seems so beautiful. Even the western hippies with their "I'm in India and going to play the part" outfits. Rest assured I will not be returning home in saggy baggy hippy pants, bangels dreds etc. I will be returning in my one pair of nasty jeans, my broken belt that I had to poke another hole in, and my sad scraggly scarf.

I miss you guys and can't wait to see everyone, but I'm really sad to leave. I'm trying to make lists of all the awesome things waiting for me when I get back. Like you.
It's my last night in Leh. I'm gonna eat chocolate balls and drink chai masala like they're going out of style.

Monday, July 7, 2008

Condensed Kashmir Soup

You know how everyone says that Kashmir is the most beautiful place in the world, heaven on earth, bla bla bla, etc? Well, they weren't even lying a little bit.

I jumped off the plane, declared it's beauty, and ran straight for the toilet to kick start my day long vomit marathon. Altitude sickness. I spent my first several hours sleeping and throwing up in trashcans.

Sleeping on the roof top at our guest house here has been the best one yet. We are surrounded by mountains, the stars and the milky way are AMAZING, and we are awoken every morning to the OM meditation song that is broadcast across the entire city. This starts about 5:30-6:00 AM and continues for about 30 minutes on weekdays, and up to an hour on sundays. Don't quote me on this because I'm totally making it up, but I'd say about 90% of the population in Leh are Tibetan. It's such a change from the lower parts of India. It's the cleanest and friendliest yet. There are countless stupas, gumpas, and monistaries to visit.

Our first day functional was spent on a motorcycle (I'm begining to see an addiction developing. I really think it's the best way to travel). Alex and I drove (actually Alex drove, I rode) all around the outside of Leh. I can't even begin to describe how awesome it was. There aren't any street signs in all of India so it's easy to get lost even with a map. ( I have to mention here that while there are no actual street signs, there are plenty of awesome suggestive signs. For example, "Be gentle on my curve," "I am curvacious. Be slow," and "Love thy neighbor, but not on the road.") I can't think of a more beautiful place to be lost. I kept thinking. "Wow. I'm riding through the Himalayas on a motorcycle. WOW! I'm in Kashmir in the Himalayas!" So getting lost wasn't a concern. It was actually pretty cool because we ran into great people and photo ops. And everything ended up looping together anyway. We visited at least 4 or 5 villages. For more accurate details please refer to Alex's blog-if he ever gets to it. I'm glad we've been so busy having fun, but I wish I'd had time to jot down some details. My brain can't hold them all.

We found an amazing tiny cafe run by an older couple that has some of the best food I've ever eaten. Our salad prayers have been answered with a vengance. It's heaven. Actually, we're headed there right after this so I can't get it off my brain. I might have to break this up into sections because, as I said, I'm starving, and the internet in this town in crazy expensive. 100 rupees an hour. Everything is a little more expensive here. We've gotten used to road side and local food (our last meal in Delhi was 40 rupees for 2 people). One thing I miss about the grittier parts of India are the food stands and chai shacks. I'm really gonna miss the chai masala. I'm already missing India so much. I don't know what I'll so without the constant craziness.

Back to Leh:

Day 3 was spent white water rafting on the zanskar river. sweetness. I don't know where the rest of our time went that day but we met an Indian doctor/photographer from Australia and booked a trip with him to the nubra valley about 4 hours north of leh. I went up the highest drivable road in the world in jeans, a tee shirt, sandals and a sheet. Because I'm brilliant. The day up I spent trying to sleep to avoid sickness on fast curvy mountain roads, but the ride was totally worth the result. This valley is the absolute most beautiful place I have ever been in my entire life. I think my heaven would seriously look a lot like this. Or just be this. You'll just have to see pictures. But even that won't represent a fraction of the awesomness. Photos can't capture the smell of herbs and mint, or the sounds of all of the running streams, and the ab fab temp. the people all smile wave, and yell "julley!" There are mountains and sand dunes and two humped camels all rolled into one (evidently there are only 2 places in the world with 2 humped camels and Russia is the other. Just a little FYI. Everyone seemed quick to sell this point).
We spent the night and had a spontanious photo shoot in the sand dunes the next day with our photographer friend. By the time we got back to Leh, a wonderful surprise had arrived on our doorstep- carrie! Now I've swapped out one awesome travel buddy for another. Unfortunatley, the one who left took the tooth paste and deoderant that I've been borrowing. Hmmm... it might be a stinky last few days.
I slept late this morning for the first time in weeks- 8:30. I felt like I had slept the whole day away. We've been getting up first at 3:00 AM on the roof to the horrible, off tune call to prayer from the masque next door (I'm convinced that they are waiting patiently for him to retire and fill his spot with some one who can carry a muslim tune) , and then at 5:30 AM to the meditation song. I spent the day with our new photographer friend, Summit. It's been nice to just stroll around and sit for hours with tea. It's funny how you can have heart to hearts with complete strangers. It's part of the fun of travel and meeting people. We're meeting up tonight with a group of german girls we met at our guest house a few days ago. Oh crap, i think I'm out of money. I'll have to update more later.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Motorcycles and home cooking

We said goodbye to Jenny in Jodhpur to catch her train back to Delhi, and continued on with our crazy ass driver, Va Jay Jay, to Pushkar.

Just a side note- because my brain isn't thinking in any chronological order right now :

I think Alex and I have finally hammered out a solid system for communicating about the smells in India. It's all smells. The whole country is a bubbling smell pot of different variations. There's a point system up to 9, but I am only going to reveal 1- 5, as these are most important and frequently used.

Masala #1 - kind of obvious, it's the pee. The piercing urine smell that only street side urinals can provide.

Masala #2 - obvious as well, it's the poo. But there are all different kinds of poo, so I think it is important to differentiate. Masala #2.5 is cow. Masala #2.8 is human. Human gets higher on the list because it smells worse and it's just way more gross to see in the street.

Masala #3 is vomit. We don't really have to use this one too much, but when you do-you really do.

We'll skip #4

Masala #5- is a very important B.O. The cologne of India.

This is just a little answer key to help you along as you read our blogs. I believe there might be a color system in the works as well. I'll get back to you on that one.

Anyway, back to Pushkar, it's a beautiful little town surrounded by mountains and hosting a small population of stoned priests and locals. "Special Lassi" is on most cafe menus and only costs about 30 rupees. That's less than a dollar.

Alex had the brilliant idea of renting a motorcylce and driving around outside of town. Why Not? (another Va jay jay-ism. "Ya, why not?") It was only 150 rupees for 24 hours. I have to give mad props to the boy. Not only had he never driven a motorcycle, but he was driving it on the opposite side, in Indian traffic, and on Indian roads. Great Job! We didn't wipe out once, and it was so much fun. The first time we took it out it started to rain. Just as he pulled it up under an awning it came a torrential downpour. We were really lucky to have a chai stand across the street. Everything seemed to work out perfetly. We ran through the river in the road and had tea with all the men in their turbans. They were very amused by our cameras.
By the time we were done with our tea it had stopped raining. Driving on the country roads was the coolest thing we've done so far. We got drenched by a bus blasting music, carrying at least 15 people on it's roof. At one point we ended up going up a mountain. Again, great job on the driving. people are crazy on those mountain roads. We ran into the british guy from jodhpur with all the funny enthusiastic stories. He's not enjoying India. But i'm enjoying his stories.
We had dinner with a woman from Turky and sat out on the lake for the evening ceremonies. I really enjoyed Pushkar. People actually come to talk to you for conversation rather than money. The "priests" want money, but whatever. (religion is SO for sale here) It's so much better than everywhere else.
We woke up way too early the next morning to hike up to one of the temples on the mountain for sunrise. Sunrise didn't quite work out, but we made it up eventually, and then decided to screw our driver and keep going on the motorcycle. One of the highlights of the trip was stopping on the side of the road to take pictures of the beautiful woman in their saris digging ditches (woman do all the work in this country. You'll find men lying on cots outside, drinking chai or peeing on the side of the road). Before I knew it I had a hoe in my hand and was being shown by 5 or 6 chattering women how to dig a ditch. None of them spoke english, but they were all eager to communicate with us. All at once. I was wearing my bangles wrong, and my scarf should have been on my head. I'm pretty sure that's what was being said. They seemed very pleased when I adjusted both. One of them stuck her finger in my ear. i don't know what that was about.
Va jay jay was totally pissed when we got in 45 minutes late and drove like a crazy person (even crazier than usual) all the way to delhi. Horn every 4 to 5 seconds. Seriously. I had to tell him to chill with the horn.
So once again, I'm back in delhi at casa de jenny (thanks jenny!). we bought yogart and bananas for dinner last night, mango and oatmeal for breakfast, and now alex is making us all killer omlettes with lots of veggies. All of these things are going into his letter of recommendation that carie, jenny and I are writing. Plus the clothes washing and loaning me money which is making my next trip possible. I'm so excited.
we bought our tickets to kashmir tonight and leave early, early tomorrow morning. EEEEEE! This will be the last leg of my trip. : (
I'll be there until the 11th, fly back to delhi, and then fly out the next day for etas unis. Evidently we bought tickets on a really risky airline, so we are staying positive and hoping to make it to Leh. Challo!

Sunday, June 29, 2008

"That monkey could have totally had his way with us."

-Another quote compliments of the Domingo.
We have taken to sleeping on roof tops of the hotel. It's so much nicer than the room, and you might even catch an actual breeze. There's really no escaping the masala. It's just something you have to deal with. I think every inch of this country has been peed on.
We spent the last day in Jalsimar doing absolutely nothing. And it was nice. It's so hot here that it's almost pointless to go out mid day. We did take a wrong turn walking back to hotel (which was really ridiculous because we were within a block from it the whole time) and got to see a bit of the sights. Jalsimar is unique in that it not only sports the usual cows in the road, but cats, dogs, and boars as well. Boars. Roaming the streets, having sex in people's back yards. I went and sat outside after dark and witnessed all 4 rummaging and fighting in trash heaps.
The people are so nice. They are beautiful. The men with their upturned mustaches and turbans and the women with all the jewelry and especially colorful saris. I really love Rajasthan. I agree with Laura- it is a magical place. Hot, but magical.
We got to Jodhpur yesterday and rallied with all of the other foriegners who are being driven around by our crazy delhi drivers. Everyone has a story. One couple is pretty sure their driver stole their lonely planet so that they could not search out their own hotels and restaurants. This means he is making much cash off of them in commission. Jenny let them borrow one of our lonely planets because he won't take them somewhere to buy one. India is such a weird place to do business. Our driver knows every shop we've been to and exactly who and how much we've spent in each one. Everyone on the street knows what hotel we are staying in. They all know each other. The shop keepers call our driver and give him commision off of our purchases which means we are unable to bargain a lower price. He claims that he is turning down the commission but the guy is way sketch. They are all way sketch, but at least ours is kind of fun. I don't hate the guy at all. I do get a little frusterated, but it's just how things work around here.
Oh, but the quote:
We spent the night on the roof again last night. It was so beautiful. All of the roof tops seem to be connected and we had a great view of the fort. This morning we had just woken up when a huge raven like bird flew squaking right over us. Then Boom! A HUGE "Kali face" monkey came flying right over us and hit the tin roof next to our pallet. Such a weird thing to be greeted by. Several more followed and we wern't sure what to do. I didn't want to move because I was afraid I'd meet one mid air. I thought I had a huge girly screaming moment, but alex says he doesn't rememeber me screaming. I guess it was in my benadryl dizzy head. These things are the scarriest looking mofos ever. With sharp pointy teeth. Sharp pointy teeth that they flashed us in kind of a hiss as they passed. I guess it was kind of fun. Exciting at least. We don't get mammoth hissing monkeys jumping over us on roof tops at home.

Friday, June 27, 2008

"This is so awesome! India is so fucked up!"

-My favorite Alex quote of the trip. It's briliant because it really captures the entire experience.
We hired a driver in Delhi to take us around Rajasthan for 8 or 9 days. He met us outside, looked me up and down and said, "you are looking about 28." Ok, he saw my passport.
"No! (his "no" borrows an extra 3 syllables. It's like Nauooo!) I know everything about you. I read your palm. You were born in march." Ok weirdo, i still think he spotted my passport. He then inspected and sniffed my palm and told me about my parents and past relationships. And he was right.
Our car is awesome. Alex had to move a hooka out of his seat to get in. "Do you smoke hash in this?" -"Nauooo!... Not now. I buy some on the way. There is vodka in the backseat and beer in the trunk." Ok, 9 days with this one. We knew it would be an interesting trip. He's spent every free moment trying to get into jenny and my pants. If Alex turns for a second, "Paleese Sarah. 20 minutes. it's just fun time. I know, I know, you have a boyfriend. Ok, ok, 10 minutes. No? Ok, you help me with your friend Jenny. Paleese???" I like how he negotiates the time like it's a market bargain. -10 minute sexy time my final offer. He's just a dirty old man. I don't feel any real danger from him. Regardless, the 3 of us stick together like glue and, as carie said, "sleep like kittens" in one room. No sexy time for you, perv.
We started our trip in Bikaner where the best quote was delivered in a rat temple outside of town. Yes, a rat temple. Indiana jones style. You take off your shoes, hold up your pants and try not to step on one. It's considered good luck to have them run across your feet. I have lots of pictures but my computer is in Delhi. Don't worry my friends, you'll see some rats.
We actually had some fun with our driver, Jay, in the Jaslimar desert dunes. We took a camel ride and slept out under the stars. It was amazing. The milky way was so bright, and I saw 7 shooting stars. I'm loosing to a 12 count, but I'm pretty sure he cheats.
I know I'm leaving out so much, but my brain is fried from the heat. Our driver ditched us for the day because we wouldn't let him make commission off of us on our hotel tonight.
This is so awesome! India is so fucked up!
AAAAAAA! Fuck it. I just spent over an hour on this thing and the computer erased it. Please just refer to ALex's blog. I think he's pretty thorough.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008


Overnight train from Varanasi consisted of:
*no AC
*People already in our bunks.
*Not enough bunks to go around.
*having no idea what was going on for quite a while until we found the nice guy who spoke english. Although he didn't really know what was going on either. But he did give us some of his food.
*Hysterical laughter at my Hindi phrase book. I learned how to translate," I want to bag a jungle cock." I guess this is a phrase used by the british while traveling in India.
*Two of us to a tiny bunk hardly big enough for one person.
*the most aweful poo poo pee pee stinky masala manageri of smells.
*bugs in our faces and possibly in Alex's mouth.
*smelling worse than I think I have ever smelled in my whole life.
We got into delhi exhausted and only able to think about a shower. Unfortunately our hotel ($3 a person) had no power. It must have been 110 degrees. Nothing mattered exept a shower. No water. "10 more minutes." Which meant another hour. We got buckets of water from the roof and splashed the dirt off into puddles of mud on the bathroom floor.
We are leaving tonight for Rajasthan, and kind of decided on a whim to go to Kashmire. I'm so excited! At first I wasn't sure how to fill all of the time I have. Now I'm worried that I won't have enough. July 13th is coming up fast. I'm gonna ride some camels and sleep in the desert!

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Full Full Full Masala!

I got my fortune read in Varanasi!
Yesterday was kind of a grumpy, bummer day for all of us. The beggars turned into zombies in Saranath, following us around, hands out, in monotone zombie voices "allo...allo madam. allo. allo madam..." Guys gawked and touts were relentless. We got stuck in some aweful traffic and payed too much for a taxi. Nothing too out of the ordinary, but for some reason all of it was especially annoying to all three of us. At least we're all on the same page. I think it's more efficient that way. Save our good moods for the same time to make one super good mood.
I kind of mentioned the skech guys from the other night briefly, but after we talked about it, pepper spray started sounding like a good idea. Trying to explain pepper spray to Indians is an extremly amusing process for both parties involved. Lots of sign language to no avail. We'll have to come up with something else.
But back to the fortune today. I've been wanting to get my palm read in India after reading Holy Cow, but haven't really had the opportunity. I casually mentioned it to the guesthouse owner and he set all of it up in just a few minutes. Even a free ride on the motorbike of our internet shop guy. The astrologer is a high cast brahmin and a professor. He read my chart and my palm. Evidently I will be "blessed in daughters," and if I keep trying I might be lucky enough to get a son. I also "need to enjoy my own mango instead of comparing it to other mangos." I liked that one. Alex video taped it which I am very grateful for because I've already forgotten most of it. He said that my career would be successful around writing and travel. I've secretly always wanted to be a travel writer. But doesn't everyone?
On the way back to the guest house with Previne, Alex and I crammed on his motorbike, we passed a cow being led by a Sadu. The cow had layers of beautiful flowers around it's neck and an extra leg hanging off of it's back. Previne said it was a fortune teller cow. The Sadu is a kind of cow whisperer. He whispers questions to the cow and according to Previne his answers are right 100% of the time. That is my absolute favorite today. I wish we had time to get a picture. It seemed like something that should be in a Wes Anderson movie.
We got up at 5:00 am to take a row boat out on the Ganga for morning baths and cerimonies. I need more interesting descriptive words because cool and beautiful just aren't cutting it anymore. But it was most definitely both of those.
Varanasi is an interesting place. It's disgustingly dirty and polluted. Hasseling by sales people is relentless as soon as you step out of your guesthouse. It's dangerous to be out after dark, and sports some super shady characters. But then you go out to the cremation houses and the Ganga cerimonies with so much tradition and faith, and it kind of out shines everything else. We've also met our most helpful new friend, Previne the internet shop owner. Not only did he set up a cheap astrology session and take me personally with no commision for him, he also searched out Alex's camera lense in the mud and took him back out on his motor bike to buy us a knife and flashlight for the train tonight. He also lent us 120 rupees the other day on faith. There are some genuinly kind people here. They might be hard to find, but they're here.
I've also realized that while we work so hard at not getting ripped off, we might not see that the person trying to work his way into our wallet is also very likely being ripped off. We watched as our boat rower had his payment for our 3 hour ride taken by his very undesirable looking boss right in front of us. Poor little guy. We felt bad for not giving him the extra 100 on the side. I'm not sure if he'll see any of it.

Friday, June 20, 2008

I've officially seen a dead body in the Ganges. We were just talking today about hearing such things and them not being true. But there it was as we were walking along the bank, right at the edge. People were swimming and fishing all along the area. It was nothing unusual.

We walked down to the main cremation ghat and were ushered in by a "guy who volunteers there." We decided that a little information was worth whatever he might be taking us for. I'm not here for a religious experience and I've had nothing near it, but this was pretty cool to witness. There are about 350 cremations burning outdoors at that one ghat- day and night. My eyes burned from the smoke and incense, but I sure was able to see the head burning a few feet from us. Wow. That's a burning head.

Bodies were being carried past as he weaved us through the fires and explained the ritual. We got to go into a death house and watch the cremations from above. The oldest son has his head shaved for the cerimony and lights the fire after circling the body 5 times (for the 5 elements). It was really interesting to watch the whole process. we passed men having their heads shaved in preperation. Then we were hit up for money to help families buy the expensive wood that it takes for the open air cremation. We were assured fabulous karma for giving money at such a holy place. whatever. It was worth it, and donating a little money for wood feels a lot more worthwhile than everything else we are hit up for constantly.

We watched a little bit of a dramatic cerimony with drums and conches, and then decided it was much past our after dark saftey curfew. There were some extremley sketch guys eyeing us and it was raining so we walked out to a rickshaw back. We piled up on laps on a tiny bike rickshaw. These guys work so hard. We agreed on 30 rupees, but after seeing him struggle through the rain, potholes, and detours- hauling 3 people- we decided to bend on our frugalness and give a bit more. He seemed very greatful, which ended the night on a really positive note. I'm really glad we came.

India power. no sleep no shower.

I'm allergic to burning bodies. We left nepal with sad faces yesterday and are now in Varanasi. It's really hard to sum up several days in one blog. We went trecking (hardcore hiking?) outside of Kathmandu and I got a wicked sunburn-which is shockingly turning into a tan. weird. it's that himalayan sun. Of course it was totally beautiful etc. , and we were totally wiped out by the end. The next day was a whirlwind tour of Kathandu. The first stupa we visited was pretty amazing. We got lost in a Hindu cremation site full of scary monkeys with the crazy eye. Then we had dinner outside of the biggest stupa in the world with a guy from washington state. One of our friends met him in delhi. He's going to school in nepal, and gave us the tour of the campus/monastary. I'm seriously thinking about sumer school there next year. It's really cheap.

It started to pour (early monsoon) and of course there was no power. I think they do organized power outages every day. We ran and splashed through giant puddles of nastiness in the dark to a hole in the wall for some chang. chang is a milky white alchohalic substance that is fermented in a rag and then squeezed out into questionable looking buckets stored on the floor. We sat at our table with one single candle for light while our server juggled his crying baby and our cups of chang. It was actually not that bad. If you didn't think about the rag it came out of. I offered to hold his very unhappy little girl while he made some kind of concoction on the stove. She was the cutest thing ever.

We flew back into India and were greeted by a general masalaness. It was funny coming back in. The airport was full of men standing around in uniforms trying to look important, checking and rechecking stamps and passports, demanding documentation ect. They just seem silly now. Our cab driver held his cell phone in one hand and his tobacco in the other while Alex switched gears from the other seat. People on the cell phone always take priority over anyone in person. It doesn't matter who you are. Even if they direly need your business. You will wait until they finish yelling into their phone. It all seems almost normal now. He informed us afterward that his friend was calling and had just found a cobra in his house. He needed a cobra catcher.

A few of our friends are traveling a couple of days ahead of us and emailed saying not to waste our time in varanasi. but it's actually pretty cool. we took a boat out to the the cermimonies at the ghats last night. It was absolutely beautiful and stuff. In an effort to show us how hard his job was, our boat rower offered to let us try. I couldn't even get one stroke going against the current and wind. He made a whole $7 off of us in an hour and a half. Those little guys are pretty strong.

As Carie said, "We've really adjusted to out monopoly money." We've started to freak out over a $5 meal and a $13 hotel room for 3 people. And this is a really really nice meal and pretty decent hotel room. what am I going to do when I get back? One thing is for sure, we have been eating really well. I haven't even been sick since we left the program. This might be because Alex gives us antibiotics after every questionable meal.

I love mango lassi.

Monday, June 16, 2008

International Gem Heist

We took a bus to Jaipur a couple of days ago from Delhi and ended up in the middle of a gem heist. Ok, so it was more of a scam, but we agreed that "heist" is a lot more interesting. And we weren't really in the middle of it because we're not stupid. We did, however, end up scamming our scammers when all was said an done. and it was awesome. Hotel room, food, drinks, transportation, and a genuinly good time. i actually really liked them. And I'm pretty sure they really enjoyed us as well. It's like a game. We bounced on a 7:00 am bus back to delhi early the next morning. When he realized we were gone he texted an apology and that he knew why we had left, but he was hurt that we didn't say good bye. It's like, "ok, you got me, but you didn't even wish me a happy birthday." He actually said the birthday part. Like it was all normal, and worth a try. We just might make a career of searching out scam artists for entire days worth of free everything. Amber is beautiful and we had a great time.
That is a quick and uneventful summary of what really took place, but I've had about 3 hours of sleep in 2 days and a million things have happened since. I just don't have it in me.
But guess what? I'm sitting right now at a computer in Nepal. Nepal! I love it love it love it.
I'm enjoying India, but it has really started to wear on me- being alert all of the time. This is such a nice break. Our room is awesome with a balcony and a view of kathmandu and the mountains. We aurgued with our taxi driver about showing us the place because everyone gets commision on everything. We were so exhausted that we just gave in and agreed to look at it so that he could get his commision and then take us directly to our hostel. It turned out that the guy was honest and we got a much better deal than the place we originally wanted. That doesn't happen in India. Everything is so much more peaceful and I feel like we can let our gaurd down just a little bit. I have the two most awesome travel buddies in the entire world. It's the perfect combo of personality and genders for maximum back watching and good times. I'm so glad I didn't do this alone. It would definitly be more stress than fun. And I don't think I could have pulled off our jaipur mission without them. We totally kick ass.
Three more days in Nepal and then it's back to Delhi. I am super sick of Delhi so we're getting out as soon as we switch our back packs. Plans of going south have changed and now we're thinking about bussing the rest of Rajasthan. There might be some camel rides in there somewhere. I need to find a hat. 4 more weeks...

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Bus Lag

Ok, I'm back in Delhi for a couple of days and able to take advantage of a little world wide web. I've been on a bus for way too long and for too many days. In this time:

*I took a jeep safari in corbett and saw wild elephant herds. It was awesome. We saw other stuff too, but I only cared about elephants and tigers. No tiger sightings, unfortunately, but one of our jeeps was charged by elephants. that was exciting.

*On our 14 hour bus ride from corbett to agra, our bus was stopped and blackmailed 3 times. I don't know if blackmailed is the right word. It's not. Basically people would jump in front of the bus and demand a certain amount of money or threaten to do bad things like- knock out our windshield etc. I tried to sleep for most of it, but i think one of them broke off our windshield wipers and it was raining something crazy. Monsoon has come early this year and taken everyone by surprise. All the locals I've talked to have said they've never seen it come this early. I can't believe our bus made it through some of the flooded towns. I have pictures of kids wading though the water to get to us for cookies and bananas out the window. There isn't a sewage system, just open ditches on the side of the road (delhi is a little better). So when it rains and floods, so does the sewage. And that's what you're walking through. Kind of makes me wish I'd gotten a few more vaccines.

*Did the touristy Taj Majal- which was nice but not really a highlight in my eyes. It was pretty. It was also extremely hot. The best thing was really the pushy kids following you around trying to sell stuff.
- "Allo, allo please mam. I am not cheating you, I promise this. 3 for 50. ok,ok, 4 for 50. ok, ok, mam, 5 for 50..."

-"no habla ingles."

So the kid starts speaking spanish.

-"parlez vous francaise?"

And the kid starts speaking french!
Funny french.

_"ooh la la madam..."

We found out that he spoke enough english, spanish, french, japanese, chinese, and german to carry on a conversation with global potential key chain buyers. An 8 year old kid! I guess you're pretty bright when your survival depends on it. For this, Ryan gave him money. he didn't really want the keychains, but the kid forced them into his hand.

*Got stranded on the side of the highway in Delhi. It was actually pretty easy to hail a cab-in the middle of a crazy highway. it's good and not so good to know they'll stop.

*I am very excited to leave for jaipur in 2 days. we finally booked our jaipur/varanasi/nepal trip. Still working on Goa and Mumbai. I'm spending the first 2 weeks with 2 other people and then taking a 3rd class sleeper back to delhi. this will be interesting. A bit of advice, if you're coming to India in the summer, book your train tickets in advance. There is just about nothing available several weeks ahead of time. this is why I will be taking a 13 hour train with no a.c. solo, sleeper class. I was lucky to get that. kate is leaving me her chain and lock for the train rides. I'm wondering if I'll be able to travel much once the monsoon is in full swing. That was some crazy flood water.

*You guys should rent "Dhoomed 2." It's really good. I think you can skip the first one. the hero of the film has 2 thumbs on one hand. Trying to spot them is a good game to play while you watch, so I won't tell you which hand.

Friday, June 6, 2008

Good Bye Madhuban and business

   Most of my American comrades will leave me in 4 short days.   The group went to dinner and back to the disco for our last night in Derha Dun.  dance party at the dinner table. I had thai food and it was amazing.  Not that eating anything in this country does me any good anyway.  But I might as well enjoy the last nice full meal that I'll get for a month.  We met 3 American girls at the restaurant and bar.  They told me that the bartender said they would have to pay a lot for alcohol.  This country is so weird.  They wouldn't give them a menu with drink prices.  We were sitting 3 tables away and they were serving us plenty at the price listed on the menus.  It's like they just decide if they like you or not.  I guess we got lucky. 
   On the walk home we were accosted by the balloon children.  A little boy grabbed my hand and my shawl with hands full of what I can only figure was vomit.  It was a long walk home.
   I'm not sure what my internet access will be like once we leave this hotel so I will list tentative plans so far.
  *possibly Jaipur if we can get in 
  *Back to delhi
  *Mumbai (Bollywood here I come!)
I'm leaving most of my stuff and computer in Delhi with a friend, so I'll probably be able to email when I'm there. I have a cell phone now that even works sometimes.  I don't have international minutes loaded yet because to do that I will have to have international minutes to call my bank.  I think I can receive calls.  here's my digits if you want to holla at me:
I have text messaging on here too.  when it works.  But no voice mail.
Love you guys lots!  I'll be in touch soon.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Scooby Doo Mystery ghost cat

So, Jenny and I are pretty convinced our wing of the hotel is haunted.  She's in the room right next to me, and we seem to be the only ones who ever hear anything. 
  A few nights ago I woke up to the most hideous cat-ish/child crying noises down the hall.  It was really eerie.  the halls echo.  It sounded like it came down the hall, and then was in my room.  I just kind of acknowledged it and went back to sleep.  I forgot to ask anyone else about it the next day, but evidently Jenny had heard it too and was asking around.  She had the same experience of it sounding like it was in her room.  Last night I was up late and about 12:30 a.m, heard it coming down the hall again.  I peaked out of my door but didn't see anything.  Jenny knocked on my wall and messaged me, "What the hell is that?!  It's totally creeping me out!"  I had the same experience as the night before of it sounding like it was in my room then out in the hall.  She said she heard scratching.   I wanted to put my detective hat on, but we just sat out talking in the hall instead.  And so naturally I slept through class.  Again. 
   I asked a guy at the hotel about a cat.  He looked at me like I was crazy.  People don't really have pet cats here.  Especially businesses and hotels.  There's starving, stray dogs everywhere, but I've seen one cat in 3 weeks.  
  Also, a week ago, I woke up to a little kid singing and people clapping down the hall about 2:00 in the morning.  It was really pretty so I threw on some clothes to go listen, but there was no one out there.  Super spooky.  Actually, it's very likely there would be a kid up that late. I just don't know where they all ran off to so fast.  No one else heard that one.  
I hope that I come out one night to see a green glowing ghost cat.  When I take off it's mask it will be Vejay, our incompetent tour guide.  "You pesky Americans are jacking up all of our rikshaw prices."
  Ok, just a few more random observations:

*Bollywood in the theater is the radest thing ever.  the theater itself is a relic.  It was super fancy about 40 or 50 years ago. A balcony and chandaliers and everything- all falling apart.  And mosquitos and huge rat size cockroaches.  probably huge rats too, but we didn't see those.  People yell and sing and  whistle with the movie.  It's very exciting.  We saw "Jannat."  Lots of white girls in bikinis and on stripper poles in the background. I'm getting kind of tired of that. No wonder guys here think we're easy.  Bollywood is not so innocent.  It's weird to see in such a conservative society.  people had their whole families there. 

*there's not really much of a "line" concept here.  People just crowd around and cut in front and throw their money out in front of you.  This is even at places like the grocery store and McDonalds.  So when I get home I'm afraid I'll either blatantly cut in front of people or stand right on their heels.  If you press right up against the person in front of you, no one can cut. Otherwise you'll be there forever.

* I just don't think American's heads were made to bobble the way an Indian can.  I've been practicing.  It's just not natural.  I'm totally jealous because one of the guys from UT is Indian, but hasn't been here before and is already head bobbling like a pro. it's not fair.  More practice in the mirror I guess.  When I get it down you won't be able to tell whether I'm saying yes or no.

*There's no Hindi hip hop.  : (    people just keep trying to sell me hip hop from the U.K.  If anyone has ever heard of any, please let me know.  there might be some in different Indian languages.  There's a lot.  Maybe my calling is to learn hindi and come back to spread the love.  I hear Mumbai is where they film most of Bollywood, and they're always looking for western extras.  Jenny and I are determined to get into a movie.  But I'm not putting on a bikini or getting on a stripper pole. 

*I'm totally breaking up with Cafe Coffee Day.  Make me sick once, shame on you.  Make me sick twice, shame on me.  It's gotta be the unpasturized water buffalo milk.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

It's Obama! Atcha!

It's been really interesting watching the democratic race on hindi television and hearing another country's take on our country's politics.  Yesterday on the news they had a huge banner "Hillary Wins!"  They failed to mention the "Puerto Rico" part in English.   So I was a little confused. I knew that couldn't be right.  But today I found an English morning show and got the low down.  Bahut atcha!   
What an exciting morning  I skipped half of my class to watch.  
I'm feeling much better by the way.  But I am joining the rest of the group and sticking to peelable fruit and rice.  That last blog posted to the future- because I guess I'm magic? I actually wrote it 2 days ago.  Let's pick up the pace, Unicorn blog.

India Giveth and India taketh away

I've got a killer weight loss plan.  All you need is a ticket to India.  I've left my room 2 times in the past 2 days.  Luckily my peeps are awesome and have been checking in on me every couple of hours or so.  It's a shift we've been alternating since everyone has been in this condition at least once.  My prof has pressured me into seeing a doctor.  They will come to your hotel for about $10 and prescriptions are filled at road side "chemists" for about $5 (that's all of them together).  It might be good to have some anti-biotics for later too.  Just FYI, if you're coming to India, you'll probably need more than you think.  I wish I was a little more prepared.  Make sure to bring some sprite.  I ordered a Limeca from room service because it's all they had, but it's not sprite at all.  It's more like Crystal Light with bubbles.  There's no AC ( you might want to bring that too).   I do have a fan but the electricity goes out a lot.  This is normally fine, but it sucks to be sick and hot.  BUT, I found an English HBO station!  I'm watching Harry Potter right this minute and enjoying every bit of it.  I also charged my ipod which has helped a little with my home sickness.
   I'm totally enthralled and fascinated by the skin lightening phenomenon and have been researching it on the internet all day.  I'll have to post some links for you to the "fair and lovely" and "fair and handsome" commercials.  In the articles I read it said that they had been pulled form the airwaves, but obviously they haven't because I've been watching them on t.v everyday.  Maybe the worst ones.
can't wait for tofu spring rolls and salad. 

Saturday, May 31, 2008

It's kind of weird to be dropped off in a place that looks totally unfamiliar but totally familiar. Especially so early in the morning. Roadside stands, cars, rikshaws, cows and people people people. Rishikesh is easy though. You just have to find the river.
I had the luxury of reading at breakfast. It's the first time this entire trip that I've had time to pick up a book. One of my clients recommend "Holy Cow," and promised me that I would totally appreciate it after a week or two here. I did. I laughed so hard. I can pretty much stop this blog and refer everyone to the book. Everything I've tried to describe, she's done, but better. Much more entertaining.
My aimless wandering was constantly interrupted by people wanting my picture. Yesterday was my busiest photo op day. I had people hanging out of cars to take my picture. One guy kept showing up everywhere I went with a camera, but would pretend to be capturing the scenery. I do that too, I just don't follow one person doing it. I'm the weirdest thing these people have ever seenCarie had been in the next town over doing an interview for her research project, so we met up around 4:00pm. She got a massage and I frantically bought mounds of stuff for people back home. I set yesterday as my last day to buy stuff. I'm so glad I don't have to do anymore shopping.
We almost died several times on the way home. Our driver was especially aggressive. When we got back it started pouring. I was covered in sweat and dirt, but we jumped right back into a rikshaw for a nice dinner which Dr. Zon paid for. (score!) I felt like such a vagrant in there. I was starving and filthy and it was such nice place.
I slept late this morning and am still in bed at noon! It's awesome. I think I'm gonna get dressed and read at cafe coffee day. I'm going to an orphanage later with one of the girls. Tomorrow it's back to the coal mines with school.

Friday, May 30, 2008

Indian Disco

Did that seriously just post half of a title?  This blog page is silly.  We went out to an Indian Disco tonight. With a sikh d.j.  I didn't know such places existed.  It was pretty good.  But if you're gonna walk home from a disco at night, watch out for the open sewers.   I didn't fall in.
We had an Indian professor from UT meet up with us today and she was late because her train from Delhi was held up by Gujjars!  I thought it was exciting.  But I'm obsessed and rooting for them.  I'm so impressed with the cohesion and level of team work among such a large group of people with no cell phones or modern communication.  There was a picture in the paper this morning of a group of women in their colorful saris blocking train tracks in large masses.  It was awesome.  The government is trying to cut off their food supplies but tractors keep coming in and people from other villages are contributing.  Are you guys getting news about it back home?  I didn't figure you would be.
  My professor keeps trying to talk me into staying on and do an individual research project the second month.  That would be a kick ass research project.  Don't worry mom.  I'm not going to.  But I might come back next summer to work with a different group of nomad gujjars  in rajaji national park.  I'd need to learn some Hindi.   
I'm waiting for all that stuff to die down around delhi to make sure I can get to the airport, and then I will be buying some tickets to Nepal.  Yeah-ya!
I have to actually get some sleep tonight. I have a 6:30 am cab back to rishikesh tomorrow.  All those other fools who we left drinking at the disco are leaving at 6:00 am for the Himalayas.  I am going to pass on that 9 hour nightmare of a bus ride for a relaxing weekend.  I haven't had one day off since I've gotten here.  They are going to be so hung over.
I'm pretty sure I'm watching an American Idol style lip synching competition in hindi.  It never gets old.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Gujjars mean some business

They've managed to block all of the roads in and out of Delhi.  hmmm. That's where the airport is.  Most people's tickets home are next week.  I'm glad mine are further out.  It looks like the roads to Agra are blocked as well.  I'm headed that way next weekend.  They're calling it "riots" in the news, but I'm not sure about that. I think it might just be more protests where the Gujjars are being killed.   Either way, I hope it clears up before I get there.  

I'm watching the Jetsons in Hindi right now. FYI

It's crazy how fast things change around here.  I was supposed to leave for Punjab tomorrow with 2 other people, but it looks like the government is talking about temporarily shutting down religious sites because of riots, or violence, or both, or something.  So I guess we won't be going.   We were planning on buying our tickets to Nepal today.  But it looks like they are pushing to dissolve the monarchy by the end of the week.  And the monarchy is not wanting to be dissolved. It could end peacefully, but it could get scary.  It would be bad if the airport shut down.  
2 of the girls invited me to go to Rajisthan with them.  But it looks like the Gujjars are fucking shit up.  Everything is really up in the air right now.   Jenny and I were going to try for Bhutan if Nepal didn't work out, but evidently it takes months of paper work etc. because the government only approves a certain number of outsiders a year.  I might end up having to take some malaria pills after all and head south.  It's about to get pretty wet.  I'm glad I packed my rain jacket.  I've got a week and a half to figure something out.
I really can't even remember what I did today.  The evenings have been really nice.  Last night a few of us took our "Royal Challenges" up to the roof and listened to Clay play his harmonium.  the monkey size fruit bats I told you about were flying over us.  It was pretty surreal.  
 I am happy to report that I tried the Indian Pizza Hut tonight.  It was actually better than our pizza huts.  And they give you ketchup and horseradish mustard as condiments.  Im always up for weird condiments. It was actually pretty good.  Afterward we walked down to a street vendor in search of a sprite for our sick friend, and ran into some of our group.  We ended up with a round of chai and fresh, hot nan.  It was so good and fun to watch them make it.  But we are wondering 2 things:
1.  Where are the kids getting all the same heart balloons to sell?  Are they being pimped out and expected to bring back a certain amount?
2. Why would a person who looks like they are starving leave a bag of food on the side of the road?
Ritika, our new friend here in Derha Dun asked me some questions yesterday that I thought were interesting.  (I ask her questions constantly.  I will ask her the 2 up there tomorrow) She wanted to know how many kinds of bread we have in the U.S.  I wasn't sure how to answer.  I said a lot.  But she thought that meant, like, 5 or 10.  I tried to explain Whole Foods to her.  She's never been out of North India.  She also asked me if it were true that we throw our money on the ground.  I wasn't sure what she meant at first.  One of her cousins came to the U.S and told her that he picked up $10 in change while he was there.  "We would never do this here, throw our money on the ground." hmmm.  we don't so much throw it down, but I guess sometimes we don't bother to pick up a few pennies or nickels when they fall.  She always kind of looks at me funny when I try and answer.  It does seem wasteful.  She also thinks it's incredibly funny that sometimes I put rice in my broth, or broth on my rice.
ok, i can't keep my eyes open.  I know I had more to say...

Monday, May 26, 2008

ode to pepto bysmol

So much excitement in such short periods of time make it almost impossible to keep anything documented.    We went to Rishikesh yesterday.  As soon as we got off the bus it started to pour.  I mean really, really pour.  This time of year is really busy with the pilgrimage scene so the whole town was packed, but almost entirely with Indians from other states.  Any time we go to a touristy area where people have cameras it's a non stop photo op.  I'm gonna come home and be like, "why don't you bitches want my picture?"  I'm getting used to it but every time you look up someone is snapping your picture.  If I can catch it I try and make funny faces or wave.  sometimes they think it's funny and take more, but sometimes they get embarrassed.   
Anyway, Rishikesh.  We bought plastic tarps and trudged through the narrow street ways- which seemed to be all stairs.  We were so packed in and moving so slow.  At one point Jenny(my T.A who happens to be my age or slightly younger) fell into a huge puddle which lead to much laughter and an invitation for us to a family's home.  We didn't have much time so we had to decline, but it was neat the whole light hearted spirit of the place and the people.  Everyone was all smiles for us.  Even in the pouring rain.  It was really refreshing after a week in Derha Dun.  
We got to the Ganges but it was raining so hard that we huddled with the rest of the hundreds of people under small tarps and overhangs.  It was such an amazing sight.  We were standing looking out over the Ganges at a mountain side and a huge temple.  The rain was sweeping through the mountains in sheets.  It was beautiful.  When the rain slowed we started across the bridge.  I don't know if you'd call it a sway bridge, but that's what it did.  the wind was blowing extremely hard. I later found out that people have gone over the sides from wind.  Or that's what my Indian friend told me anyway.  The bridge was just as packed as everywhere else so it went slowly.  It was really dramatic and cool with the rain and wind and the Ganges swirling below us.  It moves really fast.  I saw a total of 8 other westerners in town which is the most I've seen anywhere on this whole trip.  We went into an upstairs cafe called The little Buddha, which I'm sure was built especially to cater to hippy backpackers, but I loved it.  And I had the most appreciated coke from a glass bottle.  I haven't been eating much other than plain rice and nan so it tasted especially delicious.  i haven't talked to one person that isn't having issues.  We're all poppin' pepto tablets like we won a championship game.  I had a few bites of pasta there too and felt like a new woman.  I plan on going back after the program is over.  At least for a little while.  I've already found one willing travel partner for that trip.
We made it to Haridwar in time for the evening Ganga ceremony.  I know I've used the word "intense"several times, but this was the intense-est.  There were just so many people.  And everyone came at you from all sides to get money.  So you had to have at least 5 streams of focus at once.  I wasn't going to buy a flower basket for the prayer but I was given one.  That was one place I didn't care to be singled out as a money target, and I didn't plan on spending anything at all.  Don't let anyone touch you or bless you because they will expect money.  I did give a little girl 1 ruppee because she got the bindi thing on my forehead before I could shoo her away, and I had to give her credit for that.  That negative stuff said, it was really amazing and visually spectacular.  I put my feet in.  But ended up covered in it by the end of the night anyway.   I got in late and braved a cold shower to scrub myself head to toe several times.  My pants were soaked so I just threw them in the tub, filled it with soap and left them overnight.   I'm not even going to tell you about the squat toilet experience. I will just tell you that I will never ever complain about any public restroom in the U.S ever again.  It was the only public restroom for all of those people.  Imagine the smell. And the piss and shit you had to wade through. Ok, I guess I'll tell you a little about it.  I'm the only one in our group that went through with it.  I came out feeling like I survived a bloody battle.  I think I might just throw those shoes away.  
I spent today in Musoori.  it was a terrifying 2 hour bus ride up the side of a mountain.  but it was totally worth it.  It's the most beautiful place I've been so far.  It was so clean and everywhere you looked was a beautiful view surrounded by mountains.  we had dinner at a 5 star restaurant.  I have never been anywhere so fancy in any country.  Our table was set outside on the mountain in a courtyard.  It was amazing.  It was just totally beautiful and amazing.  I can't believe I'm having this experience.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

my new morning ritual

My favorite thing to do is get my toast and chai (no milk), go back to my room and read the matrimony section of the paper.  "Matrimony" in place of our "singles"section.  For example:

"High profile educated Jat Family with sound financial status seeks alliance for professional fair slim daughter.  Boy should be an engineer/high profile status business man 25+."
Being fair seems to be extremely important.  there are so many skin bleaching commercials.  My favorite one is a girl trying to hook up with a guy and he's like, "nu huh." and runs to a light skin girl with a rose.  I talked to a woman here about how weird it is that we spend so much time trying to tan and get dark.  Another thing I've noticed is that almost all the back ground boodie dancers in videos are white.  
But being fair isn't always good I guess.  i got "harassed" in the market yesterday, but nothing that actually bothered me.  Just interesting.  I think I've said before how tiny most guys are here, so I have total confidence that I could take them if need be.  I honestly expected more harassment than what I've gotten.  Some other girls have had bad experiences, but most of them have been at night.  That's kind of a given.
there's always going to be a bad one in the bunch.  Last night at dinner we talked about all of the good experiences and interactions we've had and they far outweighed the negative ones.  
I need a hair cut.

bahut acha!

You guys, I don't smell very good. Everything is so dirty- the air the streets. I feel like I need a good full body sterilizing every 30 minutes. When I blow my nose it's black. I feel like a grubby kid. Most people around me don't smell very good either, so I guess I'm in good company.
Today was amazing. I spent the morning in Haridwar. I stood on a bridge over the Ganges looking directly at the Himalayas. It sucks that I didn't have a camera. But guess what?! I do now. Dr. Zon is the shit. He gave me money to buy one "for the geography department" to borrow for the rest of the trip. I'm going back to haridwar tomorrow for the evening ceremony. I'm super stoked. I had some really good chinese food, but am a bit concerned about the risk I took. My stomach is a tiny bit uneasy. I will be skipping dinner tonight. Let's keep our fingers crossed.
I also spent 3 hours in a bumpy jeep going up a mountain on the tiniest, muddy path and a cliff on the other side. We were tail spinning for a bit and the jeep had no power steering. it was a little scary. but kind of fun too. It made me pretty sick though.
One thing I can't get used to are the kids and older women begging on the street. I feel awful to walk past. I know the crying is a "scam", but they obviously are not living in luxury

Friday, May 23, 2008

technology is a pain in my ass

I might have to stick to simple lists for a while.  The internet is pretty unpredictable and I lost my last two blogs before I was able to post them.  In the past few days I have:

*mastered the turkish/squat toilet, and learned why you never come in contact with anyone's left hand.  I have to admit that I till kick it USA style and carry napkins in my pocket at all time for such a purpose.  I'm not going down like that.

*Taken many bucket baths.  Hotels like to tell you they have hot water.  eh.  not so much.  It is a lot less painful to pour small amounts of freezing water on you little bits at a time.  I've had one actual shower since I've been in India.

*Spent an entire day trying to obtain a cell phone.  It's kind of an involved process to get a cell phone in India.  Several government forms, passport size photos ( you would not believe how hard that was to track down and then their power went out etc.) and a passport.  The thing doesn't even work.  I'll have to figure that out.

*broke my camera.  that's right folks.  that's it for the photos.  I dropped it in the first week.  c'est la vie.

but that all sounds like negative stuff.  It's been a lot of good too.  I walked through the most beautiful bamboo garden today at the Forest research institute.  Huge bamboo with cobras.  I didn't see any unfortunately.  But I did see the largest fruit bats in the world.  I looked up and said, "oh, there's some monkeys up above us."  The guy laughed and said, "oh no, those are bats."  I'm not easily blown away.  I was totally blown away.  They were monkey size!  Bats!  And then they started flying around and they looked like teridaktals.  we were all freaking out.  It was the coolest thing.   I'm not going to bother looking up how to spell teridaktals.  Oh, and the forest smelled like eucalyptus.  too bad I won't have any pics for you.  

Last night we had a fancy dinner for all the officials involved in the program and institutes.  My professor bought ridiculous amounts of alcohol and told us that he expected us to wasted.  I resigned myself to one drink, but they put about three and a half shots of vodka in the one.  It tasted like pure rubbing alcohol.  People got wicked silly.  One of the girls in our group knows traditional and bollywood dance and had her music with her, so she taught us some moves.  then it just turned into dance party.  I missed my 7:30 a.m hindi class, but so did most everyone else.
 I feel completely safe here.  I go out by myself a lot and have had no problems.  I'm wondering what all the fuss is about.  Everyone is extremely friendly and helpful.  I haven't even had any one try and rip me off too much.  Even in Delhi.  Except for a rich shaw driver or two, but not by too much.  I still plan on finding a travel buddy afterwards because it is still pretty intense and I still don't speak Hindi.  I'm not sure of my plans yet but I have several free weeks.  

Oh my God!  I can't believe I forgot to tell you this!  I found a coffee shop.  "Cafe Caffeine Day."
41 rupees for a latte.  that's about $1 USD.  For real.  And it's good.  But I've about had it with the milk here.  We've all decided it's not cows milk, and not sure what animal it comes from.  I don't think this is gonna post.  I better cut it off here 

Tuesday, May 20, 2008


I can't go back and edit these things evidently.  I promise to start spell checking before I post.  maybe.  That's a tentative promise.  bare with me here.  I'm sleep deprived.  And lazy.

sleepy head

I don't know why this blog is spacing itself so weird.
I'm too tired to think today so...
just some things I've noticed so far:

1.  the side to side head nod thing.

2.  It is socially acceptable for boys to be very affectionate with each other in a platonic way          (holding hands etc.).

3.  ordering a bloody mary, even when it is on the menu, will send your waiter and bartenders   into a frenzy and result in the weirdest lime tomato spicy concoction you've ever tasted.

4.  People want to serve you meat because you are american.

5.  People might tell you that your food is vegetarian and argue with you when you pull the         chicken out and show them.   They might even have the nerve to tell you it is mushroom.

6.  Trusting that a drink was made with "mineral water" is not wise.  I'm pretty sure I drank       sewage and lime today.                                                                                                                           

7.  Indian television in general is far more enjoyable than American t.v.  I could watch just           the comercials for hours.  Right this minute I'm watching a soap opera that seems to be               focused around Kali and awesomeness.  These people have totally mastered the "freaked             out" expression. over and over -zoom in -zoom out.

8. Everyone is super friendly, especially when they want to sell you something. And most             people want to sell you something.  But people are genuinely friendly and interested a lot           of the time too.       

9.  Indian food is awesome.

10. You are way cooler here than you are in the U.S.  People will constantly stop you to get a       picture. 

11. There is absolutely nowhere for women to pee in this country, but there are urinals in the     street.  (in delhi at least)

12. Trying to find a discrete place to pee off the side of the road is next to impossible.                   

13. Monkeys can make you very uncomfortable when you are trying to discretely pee off the       side of the road.

14. horns are actually used as turn signals.  Because even a one lane road can be turned into 6     lanes of traffic going both ways, honking is used to say, "hey, I'm back here coming up on             you.  so don't move for a sec."  Or, "I'm not stopping in this potential head on collision,                 so you might want to."  On the back of trucks it will say, "Use Horn."

15.  Indian food is super awesome.
   I'm having a magical, intense time.  I just got into Dehradun.   I feel like I've been here weeks already, but thinking about having to leave is already making me sad.  I'm so excited to get some sleep tonight on my rock hard matress.

Monday, May 19, 2008

i heart dehli!

so i already told you about my grand entrance to Delhi.  Only one other person has shown up so far.  where are these mofos?  I couldn't sit still and rest when I got here so i called Dr. Zon and we hit the streets. 
   I absolutely LOVE Delhi.  It is the most intense, dirty, loud, hot, mish mash of spiciness that I've ever experienced.  the bottoms of my pants are covered in poo and dirt.  i should wash them.  Dr. zon is the coolest guy ever and he just happens to be the head of the geography department.  He's like a little kid on an adventure which is just my style.  I'm not even sure where we ended up.  We took the metro, which was really nice to these back street bazar places.  it was like a progressive tour of the classes.  i bought some spices as promised for stephanie and drew a crowd.   kids followed us around saying "what country?"  over and over.  there were two little boys that were super precious and thought it was extremely funny when I said United states.  they kept saying "united states" and laughing.  i got blessed at a Durga shrine.   Super sign for me.  Durga is my jam and she was the first thing I came across.  i can't count the times that I was almost run over on the little side streets.  the traffic is crazy.  
    People stared but when I smiled everyone was very nice.  A smile can really get you a long way.  i took a picture of a cow on the street and it started following me.  This got a laugh because i'm not really sure what to do with a cow.  i
  then we took a Tuk tuk (sp?)  to a more middle class area.  The tuk tuk was so much fun.  I get a thrill out of rickety dangerous transportation.  that was my favorite part of mexico too.  I kept thinking about laura and jake seeing one explode. merging in traffic in one of those things is pretty great.  After we were done with that scene.  Dr. Zon had the great idea of finding a really fancy hotel and getting a martini.  it's one of his traditions in travel. it was awesome. i think I'm gonna adopt it. I got a "pink."   I have to mention that he's not creepy at all taking a student out.  he talks about his wife non stop and it's the cutest thing.  On the way home in the tuk tuk he just started making things up telling the driver.  "No, my daughter and I don't like to shop.  We're professors.  We're not into that." Random lies to strangers?  I'm dropping what I have next semester and taking his class.   i guess i'm gonna chill for a bit watch indian shop network, wash the cow and goat poop off my pants and go out later.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Airports are fun!

Jokes.  What an absolute nightmare.  My first flight was canceled 10 minutes before boarding.  Better than crashing on a broken plane i guess.  The entire flight needed to be rebooked in an hour.  i was shifted back and forth between gates, given the wrong tickets, and finally got booked on a flight to chicago. Of course i missed my connection.  I got re-routed to London and bumped a day back.  i met a lot of cool disgruntled people though.  One of whom let me borrow his lap top to contact my professor.  
  So on the plane to chicago we had some crazy weather turbulance.  the dropping kind that I am not so fond of.  But I was so spent on frustration and hunger that I didn't really care.  - Until there was an explosive noise and flash of light on the wing.  We all kind of looked at eachother, but the plane seemed ok.  The stewardess called in some kind of code and then turned to us and said that everything was fine, thunder hit the engine and caused a spark.  thunder?  How does thunder hit the engine?  that shit was lightening.  the british boy next to me, all calm in his british accent, "did you see that there?  It was just off the wing."  I can't put the accent in the blog but it made things a little lighter. 
    we discovered we were on the same next flight to London which was due for take off 10 minutes after we would land.  I called the stewardess-flight attendant- and asked if she could rush us off the plane first. She was like, "girl there is no way you are making that."  Bullshit!  i was not about to miss another flight.  we made a pact to  to haul ass.  knock people out of the way haul ass.  Which we did, stopping briefly to see that our gate was 3 terminals away.  I couldn't make this shit up.  It turns out that there were about 6 of us crazy people flailing around trying to make that flight.  I don't know, I've been told I run like a retard.  you know who you are.   I couldn't stop laughing at how silly we looked and how ridiculous the whole situation was, which slowed me down a bit.  excuses.  I think I need to start running for cardio.  No more of this pansy cross trainer.  I thought I was gonna die.  I was the very last one in as they were closing the gate. But I made it!
  I spent a day and way too much money in London on 3 hours of sleep, no food and the last of the xanax.   Heathrow airport is the most ridiculous thing I've ever experienced. 
  My "breakfast" was pretty funny  I shared a table with a guy form scotland who found my involentary reaction to the food and lack of beer very amusing.  I should have taken a picture.  I just told her i wanted breakfast with no meat because i couldn't find a menu and hadn't eaten in almost 24 hours. - There's some sort of animal dying or something in my room as i type this. it's freaking me out. - any way it was those sugary beans that they make frank-n-beans with, some canned mushrooms on top (no seasoning), a slice of cooked tomato,  a runny egg and a lump of bacon.  and i mean a Lump.  i guess bacon isn't meat.  He said it was british bacon. i ate everything but the lump of non meat pig.    i tried fish and chips later in the day, which came with peas.  weird.
  I'm fascinated by food.  Speaking of!  I am the new spokes person for British Airways.  I will never take another airline if at all possible.  coming from the nightmare of american airlines, it was the most beautiful experience.  It's like the difference between walmart and ...some really fancy place.  i don't know.  But they give free alcohol.  as much as you want.  i took some bottles of wine for later.  they'll make you mixed drinks as well.  And the meal!  i was freaking out.  Not only was it Indian, but it was all vegetarian.  And delicious.  And everything said organic on it.  and was served out of dishes- with a little tea cup for some earl grey.  I was tickled pink by the tea cup.  i felt like a little kid flying on an airplane for the first time.  I made  a friend on the plane who was very helpful with advice and gave me his email and # in delhi in case anything happened.  And i almost had to use it.
  I made it to Delhi but had still not hooked up with anyone from our group.  there didn't seem to be anyone waiting outside so i went to find a cab.  Intense.  guys swarming me and yelling at eachother. "Where do you go?  i will take you.  i will take you.  no that hotel is no good."  i got a prepaid, but it still seemed pretty sketchy.  the guy obviously had no idea where the hotel was and the car was not marked with the numbers that it was supposed to be.  no one pays any attention at all to any traffic anything.  It's amazing, you know it's going to be intense, but then you get here, and it's really intense.  right away. it's like, wow, yup, this is poverty.  and i'm sitting in this cab with a lap top, ipod and camera.  the cab driver didn't speak english.  or pretended to not speak english.  he pulled over and said "5 minutes."   In the middle of nowher and just left.   I was trying to figure out how i would get out if need be and which direction i should attempt.   There's hardly any women on the street.  Swarms of men.  weird gender space.  guys peeing on the side of the road.  He did come back.  i don't know what he was doing, but i didn't get stranded.  we drove around for a while though-  because he didn't know where he was going.  he stopped at least 3 times for directions.  i have never been so relieved when we pulled up to the hotel.  i had a good feeling about him, but it all seemed shady.  i know you're not supposed to tip, but I did because i was so happy.  and he didn't try and rip me off which was much appreciated.
the hotel is ridiculously nice.  Especially after what all we drove through.  we have hot water and A.C.  It's nicer than my apartment.  I'm only the second person to make it to Delhi which is a little concerning because I was so late.  there were supposedly two other girls on my flight.  I hope they found their way out alright because I've been here a good 2 hours.  i'm gonna go wash my face and head back out.