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...