Saturday, July 19, 2008
Thursday, July 17, 2008
“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
* 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
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
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
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
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!
Tuesday, June 24, 2008
*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
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.
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
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...