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.