<$BlogRSDUrl$>

Saturday, December 13, 2003

Sat. 12/13/03
Sitting on the edge of a sand dune, I’m less than 50 miles from the end of India, and getting closer every second to my end of India. It’s kind of like the beach here, only there’s no water and a lot more sand. My solitude is broken by sounds of various herded animals somewhere not too far, and by this fly who seems to find me more interesting than the sand. The heat of the day is getting breezed away as the sun settles into horizontal dust. I’ll go back to the little village of Khuni, dine, and grab my sleeping bag and lots of blankets. I’m getting a mattress too, and a guide to take me somewhere good. There I will dream away all that’s left of tonight’s dark half-turn.

Sun. 12/14/03
A starry sky, a waning moon, and methloquin dreams later, the Earth has half turned its way halfway to night again. I set out today with 6 half-turns, or so, of time and 1 half-turn, or so, of travel ahead of me. Westward may march the progress, but eastward march I. East east east, and some north too. First back to Jaisalmer, the picturesque walled city in an old silk-route fort, magic with desert sun and history despite extreme tourist infection. Next 20+ hours by train to Delhi. One night and maybe a tour-bus or two later, it’s to the planestation, and away. Bangkok, then Tokyo, SFO and a BART train.

Friday, December 12, 2003

Just got out of 2 hours 45 minutes (minus 5 minutes of intermission) of big screen bollywood. The picture had to keep refocusing, and the speakers were not ready to make that much loud and it showed. Still, it was damned good.
I couldn't understand more than 3 or 4 Hindi scentences of all the movie, but the plot was pleasantly followable. Essentially, the movie was your basic Romeo and Juliet plot, but set in disputed Kashmir and with religious themes on top and lots of dancing and signing. Boy is secret Indian agent, infiltrating Pakistan to find some militant Jihadeen. On his way he rescues Girl from a fire. He falls in love with her despite (...or because of...?) her being unconcious. Later it is revealed that she is the daughter of a Pakistani general - convinient for general building up of conflict in plot because Boy is the son of an Indian general. People sing and dance, fight, die, get kidnapped back and forth over the line of control, and then sing and dance some more. Boy and Girl fall all kids of in love. We find out that she is secretly Hindu, while he really is Muslim, not just pretending to be. Their love surpasses all that though. We got to see some very patriotic scenes with very emotional songs in which I was able to identify about every fourth or fifth word as "Hindustan(i)." There was some wistling and cheering when valiant muscular Indians killed slimy scary Pakistani Jihadeen screaming "ALLAHU AKBAR." I have to wonder how the many muslims in the audience felt about it all. Maybe some day I'll learn some Hindi/Urdu and ask. Anyway, in the end, Boy and Girl are stuck on the Pakistani side, he is revealed as a spy, and she as a Hindu. They are scentenced to death by an old dude with a beard and a funny hat. They die holding hands, and manage to get lots of signing and dancing in the afterlife. The end.

As far as my take on "ALLAHU AKBAR," I think the call to prayer is kind of neat when it comes bellowing out in the afternoon. But my room must have been right next to a minaret and the decibels at 5:30 this morning were enough to make any infidel with his head inside a ringing churchbell question his faith. God may be great, but do you have to invite me to pray to him so painfully?!? AND SO ALLAHDAMNED EARLY?

Got another night train, out to the Great Thar desert, one half of which is in India, the other half in Pakistan. The question of the exact size of each half makes some people very nervous. Maybe there will be some Pakistani infiltrators for me to fall in love with.

Thursday, December 11, 2003

Wed. 12/10/03
Everybody told me to have very low expectations of the Taj Mahal. After hearing this over and over, I took the advice to heart so that once I did go there, I actually quite liked it and was not disappointed at all. When asking advice for where to go in Rajasthan with limited time, everyone spoke very high praises of Udaipur. After hearing this over and over, I took the advice to heart so that I actually have come there. Honestly, I'm a bit unimpressed. I did find a very nice guest house on the lake, it has a terrace with a wonderful view and dorm beds for barely more than US$1. The lake is very scenic, with the lake palace in the middle. This palace gives the illusion of floating in the lake from completely covering the island on which it was built. It has been converted to what is described as one of the fanciest hotels in the world. The only way allowed on the island is to stay there for extremely large sums of money, or to eat there for surprisingly not too large sums of money (about US$30.00 I hear, reservations well in advance). The rest of the city, so far as I have explored, would be very romantic little steep alleys winding around the hills, overlooked by various mountains with their obligatory forts and palaces. Unfortunately, all these alleys have been plagued with chronic lack of imagination in catering to tourists - well, trying to cater to tourists. A common ailment in touristy parts. Let's see: there's the cotton/hemp clothing shop, there's the jewelry shop, there's the assorted little hand crafts shop, there's the internet/email room with a few computers, the travel agent, the snack shop, and the guest house with attached roof-top restaurant with always same menu. So, about 7 or 8 establishments, over and over and over and ov-you get the idea. It kind of ruins the atmosphere. Especially when none of the shops ever have enough business (I don't wonder why) and the store owners sit in the doorway and hassle any tourist what walks by. "You come look my shop? Cheap and best! Looking is free!" I know it's free, thanks bro. That's not the worst though. What's really bad - not just for tourists but also for all the nice and interesting Indians out there - is these damned guys who approach you with always the same damned questions under the pretense of wanting to practice their English and meet a foreigner. After the same stupid annoying conversation every time, 19 times out of 20 comes the popper. It's either something like, "oh, I am student as well. I study art. My school is very near here. Maybe you would like to come and I show you the special local art. We're having big student exposition." Or the, "oh, I like to talk very much! You like chai? Maybe you come to my home* (*which also happens to be a jewelry shop) and we drink together some chai?" This is really bad because the very small and unfortunate minority of people who actually do want to practice their English and meet you usually start with the same questions too. I've just gotten to a point where if someone asks me "which country you belong?" I'll just ignore them. Which is sad but I just don't have the patience for all these guys who obviously only care what my nationality is to get an idea of how much they should inflate their prices on crap I don't want anyway. I miss south India, at least they don't pretend to care about more than just your money most places there.
Despite my new mistrust of any Indian man who wants to talk to me, I was good and duped in Agra. Still, in the end it turned out to be a profitable experience for me. I had gone in the morning to a travel agent to book a bus ticket to Jaipur, so I had to come back later to pick it up. I came at about seven in the evening for my ticket. The guy asked me what I planned to do until 12:00 when my bus left, I told him my honest plan, which was to go the bus station and read my book. He says "oh, the bus station is cold, there is nothing there. If you like, you can pass the time here and read on the couch and relax." This sounded like a very reasonable suggestion. I should have been smart enough to know that he had his motives, but I guess I just wadn't quick enough. After a bit he comes back, offers me some rum (which started my suspicions). We talk for a bit about this and that, and he very skillfully brings the conversation to the topic of the jewelry exporting business. Really, he had to be skilled if he could say they word jewelry without me thinking that he wanted to sell me any. In certain sense, amazingly, he actually didn't. (Or didn't he...?)
"Yes, actually, this is not my travel agent. I am just taking care of the business for a friend. He's gone visit family for the day. My work is in the export business. My family, we export precious stones. You know about precious stones? Yes, yes, you know India has many many gems, and very very cheap too. But it's very hard, you know, to do business in India. You know about export quotas? Yes, very difficult. If we export over $40,000 on anything after that we have to pay 250% tariff. They don't like the market to be flooded with too much Indian goods. India very very cheap, you know. Yes, yes. Very hard to do business. You know, we can do 40,000 in 3 months."
Pause. [Editor's Note: please do remember to read all quotes of Indians with your best stereotypical Indian accent.]
He takes a sip of his rum and soda. "You sure you don't want some rum? Please, you are my guest!" The suspense was building. Whatever he was after was soon to be slyly revealed. "No rum?"
Pause.
"Actually, there is one way that we can work around these export quotas. A loop hole, you know. We work with many people from Europe and America, many people. Did you know that a tourist can bring up to $4,000 worth of goods home? And, you know, how much do you usually bring back, maybe a few hundred, yes? Well, what we do is have some people send the gems under their name, and then pass them on to our agents. Usually we give them 50% of the value of the gems, so, with $4,000 of gems, $2,000 dollars profit for you is there."
Very clever, taking it out of the abstract "some people" and into "you"-land once there's the $2,000 suggested.
"This is only like a 50% tax, and so we still make money, unlike 250%, you know. So, you make money, we make money."
Naturally I knew that this was all illegal, a plot to steal my money, or both. But, since I had at that point some 5 hours to kill, I decided I would pretend to be interested and let them do their whole game on me.
"Let me take you to my office, I'll show you some paper work, some of the gems, and we'll talk about it."
He showed me lots of pretty translucent things of various colors and shapes, which for all I knew could have been worth the thousands he claimed, just colored glass, or anywhere in between. Next came the "paperwork," the first part of which was the same numbers I'd heard before but written out very big on a piece of lined paper. Then they showed me the paper I was to sign then mail to the credit card company. This stipulated that while I will be charging $4,000 to my credit card, they shall not transfer that sum until further authorization. This authorization I am to give upon completion of the deal back in America. The deal being that I myself go with them to ship the package to myself. Once I get the package, I meet their "man" (he should not have used that term, I mean really guy you were doing SO WELL!), who gives me $6,000. "Man" and I go and authorize the credit card company to transfer the $4,000. Done and done, I'm $2,000 dollars richer.
So let's say it's legit, just for fun. I do it, it works, I get $2,000 dollars. Wait. Things just don't work that way, one does not just get $2,000 dollars, or at least not without breaking the law. And, what they essentially proposed to me, though cleverly worded not to sound like it, is that they will sell me $4,000 worth of gems, and I can resell it in the U.S. for $6,000. That makes me a gem importer, something the I.R.S. would not mind being told about. So, either I tell them and get taxed what could easily approach $2,000 I'm sure, or I don't tell them and become, in the eyes of the law, a gem smuggler.
And then there's the matter, if indeed they are real gems, of all the child-slaves forced into digging these rocks out of a mountain side somewhere deep in the Indian hinterlands, with nothing but bruised bare hands to do it, and the incentive of narrowly avoiding being beaten and left to starve. Obviously my moral qualms with it were minor in comparison to the problem of the fact that I was obviously going to get ripped off.
And here's how I think the ripping off would usually go down:
1. They swipe the card for $4,000 dollars.
2. We go to ship the package and mail the letter to the card company.
3. Card company transfers the money.
4. I go home.
5. Package arrives. Letter arrives at the credit card company.
6. I get a phone call telling me that it's too late, they've sent the money, surely I read the customer contract and understand that they do not really like letters, and that they regret to inform me that I will be hopelessly in debt to them the rest of my life.
7. "Man" does not exist, and I'm left with a package of pretty pieces of glass.
Though not $2,000 dollars, I did get profit from this experience. In the process of them trying to sell me on it all, I got hours of entertainment, free chai, and a free chicken dinner. Not bad. Also eating dinner was a German stoner who had signed the deal away already. I considered telling him my take on it all - in German for the others present not to hear. But, maybe I'm just really cynical and the only thing wrong with it in the end is the illegality, so why rain on mein freund's parade?

Thu. 12/11/03
Another night on a bus. I had the foresight to ask for a berth as far front as possible, and was thus able to sleep a bit. The bus naturally arrived at 5:30 am, perfectly inconvenient. Still, at that hour, as any hour, the arrival of a long distance bus is greeted by plenty of friendly folk offering me a place to stay and a rickshaw in which to get there. Usually I ignore them, find the quietest rickshawman, and go for something from the guide book. That’s what I did today. But I was intercepted after the rickshaw had started moving, with promises of a room and hot shower for this morning and only be charged for tomorrow night. Sounded alright, and he was talking about a place that was recommended in the guide book, so I figured I’d go for it. I was reminded of why I should never listen to people who hang around long-distance bus arrivals. The shower was catastrophic and my room pretty lame. I was so pissed that I was about to just up and leave, but I figured I really needed some good sleep. It’s amazing how much a few hours in a sleeping bag on a mattress can cheer me up. Breakfast sucked and costed too much, and I didn’t even really mind. Anyvays, the fort overlooking Jodhpur is simply magnificent and wonderfully overwhelming. And Jodhpur’s title of ‘the Blue City’ is not ill-deserved at all (while Jaipur’s ‘Pink City’ claim really was). The alleys and bazaars here are refreshingly free of people wanting to talk to me too. One thing with the fort is that it has fallen prey to the idea of overcharging foreigners. This must be a fairly recent tacting on the part of monuments because the guidebook usually doesn't list the high foreign price, and it's something that hasn't really caught on in the south. At least with the fort here in Jodhpur I got student discount (first place I've been to with discounts for foreign students), and they did at least make it approach being worth the price by including the audio-tour with it. We got little mp3 players with number pads. They set the language for you, and then as you walk you punch in the numbers that you see and listen. Also really neat about it was some of the spiels told you other numbers you could punch in to learn about things in more detail should you wish to do so. Pretty hitek. Still, the high foreigner fee is a bit rediculous sometimes. I mean, yes, most tourists can afford to pay more, and the historical sights need all the money for preservation, but still, paying 33 times more than Indian citizens (at the Taj) is bit much, since it's really amounting to a tax on being foreign...
I’ve developed a severe ice cream habit lately. I haven’t had my fix yet. Can’t stop thinking about it, oh sweet chocolaty sugary coldness. Must find you…

Monday, December 08, 2003

Sun. 11/7/03
The Taj Mahal is neat.

Mon. 11/8/03
Jaipur is another crowded, polluted, but not entirely too bad Indian town. Capital of Rajasthan, the desert state bordering Pakistan, it has a few nice things too see, and alot more people trying to make money off of you seeing them than there is remotely any demand for. Throughout most of my travels, everyone spoke of Jaipur as notoriously being the absolute worst place in all of India in terms of rickshawmen and jewel dealers, tour guides and hotel pushers, etc. I found that they were so bad, in fact, that they got to me before I even left Agra. There was a hotel pusher at the bus stand where I was going to catch the overnight bus, who told me and this Japanese girl about his guest house with rooms for 60 rupees, which is a great deal. Well, when we got to Jaipur, the rickshaw man told us that the rooms there were actually 250 a night. Being a rickshawman, we of course did not believe him because he obviously wanted comission by bringing us to another hotel. Well, the only person awake at 5:30 am at this guesthouse either spoke NO English, or sleepily pretended not to. We asked him repeatedly if the rooms were for 60, and he just gave us the famous non-committal Indian hod wobble. Looking back, it is my theory that the whole thing is orchestrated to get you in there and unknowingly sign-in for a more expensive room than you think. We however refused to sign the guest book until there was someone who spoke English. But, after a few hours sleep and a shower (that certainly was not the hot one I was promised by Mr. Gotomy60rp.guesthouse), Japanese girl came by my room and reported she found another guest who said the rooms were 150. With this as justification, we both agreed that it would be perfectly reasonable to slip out quietly and be done with the whole deal. So, I got a free room and free mediocre shower in the end. And the rickshawmen ARE that bad. Most places, if you say no five or six times they give up. Here they often follow you down the street until you look them straight in the eye and tell them in varying degrees of politeness to bugger off. One cyclerickshawman who had been waving and calling for several minutes followed for several more minutes. When he finally understood that I WANTED TO WALK, he said, yes yes, walking okay! and continued to follow. Soon I asked what the hell he was doing. He said, you wanted to walk while I cycle and be your guide. Only ten rupees an hour. Out of some compassion it must be noted that cyclerickshawmen are as a rule extremely poor and are basically beggers with a tricycle and one can be certain that they do indeed need the money to eat. If only they weren't so damned annoying, like the one guy whom we agreed to pay 15 rupees (already way to much) and then at the destination made a HUGE scene and refused the 15 claiming we had agreed to pay him 50! Some passersby took up the case and said something I hope was sufficiently scathing to him in Hindi. AND THEN after we were done there (Japanese girl was going to the ATM) he was waiting around and trying to get us to hire him to go somewhere else! Ugh.

Tue. 11/9/03
The train ride from Jaipur to Udaipur was great. They have meter-guage lines out here, so the train was a bit smaller and more cramped, but it was wonderfully empty and I slept like a baby.
So far India has been a great place to travel alone because one need be only a little bit out-going and one can make friends and travel companions really easily. In Varanasi I had loads of fun with these crazy Slovenian girls (1,2) whom I met on the over-crowded metal death cage which passed as a bus from Khajuraho to Mahoba. Yesterday after the hotel incident Japanese girl and I went and sight saw, and it's really funny cuz you meet lots of other people who are walking around together like great pals but only just met that morning. There's something about the mentallity of being a gringo in India and sharing the same sorts of experiences that makes it really easy and fun to make friends with random other travelers, even just for a day. When one travels with old friends, it's too easy just to hang out only with your friends. While there's nothing at all wrong with that, I'm really enjoying being able to meet all these new people.
In case anyone is wanting to see pictures, just give up hope. It's too slow and I'm too lazy to load them until I get home. I will get home frighteningly soon. I cannot deny that I'm looking forward to it.

Saturday, December 06, 2003

Sat. 11/6/03

9:13 a.m.
The Ganges River. Ganga. A living god to whom all Hindus should one day come.
On any day at any time, the scene is the same: The wood is weighed and paid for, half is laid out. The procession carrying the body arrives, some chanting or singing, some silent. The body, wrapped in fine cloths and covered with beads and flowers, is placed on the woodpile. Family members sprinkle sandalwood dust and water from the river over it. The second half of the wood covers the body, hiding it. The holy man brings fire, and once the family buys the fire, the pile is lit. It will burn for up to five hours. At first it will burn bright with tall flames. Later, as the fire dies down some, and the top wood falls away, parts of the body can be seen. Some seem still human, some not quite; the skin is reduced to charred black strips, contrasting with the white of exposed bone. Eventually, it all becomes ashes and dust, to be spread into the river.
I saw a sign painted on a wall facing the river reading, "Ganga is the life-line of Indian culture." I think this river does say a lot about Indian culture, though whomever the sign is quoting might not have meant it in the way that occurs to me. India is very much extremes, just like the river. It is beautiful beyond compare, and vile beyond belief. It is life and death. It is the water which nurtures all this life that pollutes and strangles it. They bathe in it for blessing and absolution of sin, and then climb the steps of the ghat, the stone bathing platform, and squat down at the top to urinate on the wall of a building. Waste from the crowed streets of the city slimes slowly down stone steps and into the river, while children step over it carrying candles and garlands of flowers which they will sell to the pilgrims on their way down stone steps and into the river. The old women doing laundry here everyday don't mind the dead cows and the odd dead baby floating by - or maybe they don't notice. Or maybe they just have nowhere else to do it.
Welcome to Varanasi, the city of Shiva, the god of death and destruction. Shiva's not a bad guy, and death and destruction aren't so bad either. Strangely, the city of Shiva reeks of life and construction. Most of the streets are at most a meter wide, and on them crowds fight to go up and down. Shopkeepers tout their wares along the bottom of narrow alleys between level upon level of buildings literally piled on top of one another. Multi-colored kites fly in a hazy blue sky over brightly colored buildings, with brightly colored people coming in and out. All the colors give up and mix into an increasingly uniform brown layer on the ground. The ubiquitous honking of every vehicle on every road, the cries of children, the street vendors trying to be heard, the chirping of birds barking of dogs bellowing of cows and screaming of verminous monkeys, and the chanting singing drums and bells of religion all echo between the brick and concrete confusion of city. Just as the sounds are trapped down, so is the air, and the smells of all Indian cities are concentrated to just about nose level. The smells aren't always bad, but they are always strong. The bad ones you just have to get used to - of course some are too bad for that. The sandalwood dust is to make the smoke smell better, but there's still a smell that a deep down and ancient olfactory synapse can't help but identify as death. Varanasi is all the elements pushed hard and piled up against the Ganges River. It's not strange at all then that the city of Shiva reeks as it does; it is sparked with life and death, construction and destruction. It's in the earth, the air, the fire and the water.
There is at least some respite from the chaos; this is one of those cities where everyone goes up to get out, up on the roofs. On the roofs laundry dries, children play, kites fly, gardens grow, and white American tourists with shaved heads and a palm pilot and keyboard sit and finish writing.

1:38 p.m.
At one point in my wanderings and lost-gettings yesterday I saw some monkeys. I can't see monkeys without getting excited, and if I get excited that means the camera is coming out. It turned out to be a rather large troupe of very active monkeys, so I got busy snapping away. It is my suspicion that monkeys find the narrow alleys of Varanasi with all the clothes lines and telephone wires and porches, etc., to be an excellent environment. They have adapted their speed and climbing skills to stalking around and stealing food out of homes - I'm guessing. Well, this pack was busy jumping back and forth between two tall buildings and seemed to me like the were pretty excited about something. To try and get a better shot at the action, I continued into the alleyway. Once I was about halfway down the alley, down drop three large monkeys, one of which is really big - the alpha male, I presume. Needless to say, he was hissing at my general direction and had very large teeth. I'm a lot bigger than a monkey, and if I had to I think I could'a took 'im. But since I'm an animal lover and a pacifist, I figured me best option was to back away slowly. Looking behind me I saw that at the other end of the alleyway was another very large monkey with just as large teeth, as well looking unhappy about something. At least they were hissing at each other and not at me. I think. Imagine the scene. Tall white dude holding a camera, looking very confused, caught between rival gangs in a dangerous turf war. If you were a local you would come to my rescue, right? In fact, if you were the local that rescued me, then you are three girls, aged about 3, 4, and 5, and you fight monkeys with high-tech projectile rocks. My knights in shining armour! In return for their noble deed they asked that I but take some pictures of them. Jeez, that's really asking a lot, but I guess I do owe you one.
It's one scary world out there, I tells ya.

Tuesday, December 02, 2003

Sun. 11/30/03
4:30pm
Feeling very knackered and zoned out... can hardly write. Not that I haven't gotten enough sleep. I figure 'bout 4 on the train and 2:30 at the hotel after that. Should be enough to not feel as out of it as I do. Then again, not enough sleep before that, plus the sensory over-load of Old Goa, Mumbai, and now the Ellora caves and I might as well pat myself on the back that I'm as energetic as I am.
11:30pm
It's like when you've been on a boat, and it still kind of feels like you're rocking a bit with the waves. Except that in this case I don't feel like I'm rocking a bit with the waves, I feel like I'm still being tossed around in a clattering shaking big steel box smashing down nebulously laned roads from nowhere to nowhere.
I figured out on my way to the Ellora caves that the Ajanta caves are closed on mondays. I had planned to see Ellora today and Ajanta tomorrow, but, seeing as how tomorrow is Monday, I'm not sticking around. As soon as I got back from Ellora I checked-out of the Hotel (they didn't even try to charge me for tonight - truly amazing), went to the train station for the first train out of Aurangabad. Once there I was forced to realize (with some hellp) that pretty much the only practical way to leave tonight and end up in anything like the right direction for Khajuraho was to take a bus to Julgao, a junction on the proper line. Julgao is four hours away from Aurangabad by bus, by state bus anyway. Which was my only option other than hiring a jeep or a taxi. So, state bus isn't really that bad, it can get prety exciting too, and it's dirt cheap.
12:30am
The journey got off on the right foot, when I was given a chance to feel very pretty at the bus stand. I noticed a crowd of people acting kind of funny. The first tip off was the girls; they were giggling in that trying not to be obviously giggling way. Then I noticed that they all had pads of paper out, and were intently scratching away at at them. Then I noticed tha they all periodically were looking up at me. They soon noticed that I had noticed, and the girls' giggling turned into pretty obviously giggling gligling. So, I gets up and looks at their notepads. My inkling that they were art students chilling at the bus stand waiting for a bus was shown to be a very good guess indeed. As soon as I had gotten up, they started motioning for me to get back down and resume my previous posture! Let's just say, I felt a little objectified. I figured that if they were going to get pictures of me, I would get a picture of them, and whipped out with the digicam on the sly, and flashed 'em, which was satisfying. Of course, the most common thing to happen when taking the digicam out in public is that a psoon everyone in sigh is really excited to see the little digital image glowing miniaturly. I think that it's good that they usually start grabbing at the camera and jumping around because they are curious at the technology, not because they want to steal it. Still, it makes me a good bit uncomfartable when too mauch attention is attracted to it. Besides it can really be a kind of a nuissance. Today at the caves, it really started being apparent that any group of young males walking by me while I was trying to take a picture of some really awesome carved somethingorother, they would be incomparibly more interested in my camera than any of the carvedsomethingorothers made them. It's nice, but photography is nicer without an audience. I do understand that they have the carvings at home, and not these cameras, and for me it's th otherwayround. Hence the differnce in interest.
To accompony me on my busride was a member of the digital camera grabbing crowd. This guy follows me on the bus, nearly empty at this point. I squeeze into a seat with my big bag, and lo he comes and squeezes in with me. First off, there's hardly enough room for both me and my bag, so when the rest of the bus is almost empty, I could appreciate it if he weren't to do that. Next he proceeds to ask me the same so terribly boring questions as they all do. (Nationallity, name, age, profession, marital status, do I like India. Always in that order.) Already this made my impression not so good. Next he takes out some chewing tobacco. Starts to chew it, and thus needs to spit. I saw no thinking twice before he spat all over the back of the seat in front of us. Next he turns 90 degrees, puts his legs on the seat across the ailse, stretches out, and puts his head on my leg, ready for a good night's sleep. I put up with all the amazingly disgusting things that Indian men do on trains and busses (you'd be amazed), but, this was just WAY TOO FAR. Thankfully the other passangers around us felt the same as I did, and explained to him in Marathi that he could lie down elsewhere. They might have also said that he's a fucking jackass and should crawl in a hole and die.. well, if they could read my mind and translate they would have.
In light of this curious technological crowd attraction phenomenon as I mentioned, I am currently typing this twith no light, Maybe. I've got the keyboad plugged into the palmpilot, but have the backlight turned off. It really seems to be working to keep people from noticing and watching over my shoulder at the marvel of technology hile I scribble away my thoughts sitting here on platform number three at 1:03 am in Jalaom. It's pretty damned busy here for 1:03 on a quiet sunday night. Then again when you put your town in the middle of nowhere onin a country with slow trains, you get lots of trains stopping here at some weird hours. Really VERY almost INCREDIBLY convinient for me, though, vonsiderting I got here on a nigthe bus at about 10:30 wihtout any good idea if there would be a train to Jhansi at all any time good for me, It's also a 12 hour train ride, from my best reckoning. So, hopefully I can catch up on my sleep. ANOTHER CONVIENCE OF THIS TRAIN'S TIMING, AND THERE DO SEEM TO BE MANY, IS i WAS ABLE TO FIND A VERY NICE (oops, I guess the caps went on, so much for the no light thing, that and the kid who walked up and demanded if I could turn the light on... I guess they're cleverer than first suspected), anyway, I wanted very much to have some chequality chicken tikka all day, but had no good chance. In a what I thought to be vain search for a cup of coffee, I stumbled upon a really pretty chic restaurant, which was also the only thing still open at 11:30pm. This place not only had a cup of coffee for me, but they made me some damned good chicken tikka and some naan to go with it. I was quite pleased to find it and have a place to while away some time.

Mon. 12/1/03
It was brutally understood to me that this train was timed conviniently not only for me. As far as catching up on my sleep, not only were most of beds ocupied by at least one body, but nearly every flat space avaible as well. After quite a bit of hunting I found an icky, grimy spot where I was exactly in the way for everyone from that half of the carraige to step over me on the way to/from the bathrrom. My ass fell asleep on the hard groud pretty quickly, but amazingly so did I. Kudos to being exhausted. Really truly disgusting, but amazingly not that bad all things considerred. I got on the train, and got some sleep. The coffee and chai men of course got to work as early as possible, and made it very difficult to remain where I was, so I got up for greener pastures. Once the sun came up, people started getting off the train or at least sitting instead of lying, which freed up alot more room. By probably 6:30 or so I was able to find a free upper bunk where I could curl up quite nicely and pass out. I sit now in this nice upper bunk, my happy little cubbyhole for for the past 5:30 and next 2 hours or so. I loccked my bag with a cable bikelock and hung out the door a bit. Scenery here in Mattya Pradresh, in the middle of nowhere basically, is not all too amazing. Flat semi-scrubbly farmland. I did get to see a pig hungrily desecrating a cow corpse. That was pretty cool. Once I can think of a decent metaphorical meaning for it, I'll let you know.
It seems the further north I go, the worse and worse the coffee gets, I'm starting to wonder if I can really legitmize calling it coffee anymore, at this rate.
People speaking Hindi up here. I like Hindi, it's a good one, I think I'll learn it someday.
I hope it's worthwhile, going to Khajuraho; I've still got what I'm told is a bus ride from hell ahead of me. I don't have a choice though, I saw one day in a documentary a bit about a porn temple somehwere in India. I decided that I would someday go there. When I came to India, and chanced to find out that Khajuraho happened to be it, and that it's sort-of on my way, I couldn't properly excuse not going. If I put something on my to-do list, no matter how long ago I put it there, and then get a chance to do it, i gotta do it. Besides, I'm told there's quite a bit more there than a porn temple.
I must admit it hasn't even been a week since I last parted with me companions, and I'm already at times feeling pangs of lonliness. I am enjoying traveling alone so far, and I've met lots of people along the way, but, I think it gets me when I'm doing something, such as riding this train, which brings back memories of doing similar with friends... and then I start missing people and getting sad. But, the fun, excitement, and just general everytingness of seeing the world far outweighs any of the negative bits of traveling alone. Oh, and obviously, I've got y'all, my loyal breaders (get it? huh? huh?)... ah, what do you do with a funky gaoler earl-ie in the morning.....[Editor's Note: I choose not to edit my sleep deprived stupidity.]

Tue. 12/2/03
So far I had been making pretty good connections everywhere, so I know that it was about time for a snag. This was that the train got in to Jhansi pretty much on time, at about 2:40pm, but that did me no good since the last bus out of Jhansi Khajuraho was at 1:15. I wanted to see about a train to Mahoba, which is only 2 hours by bus to Khajuraho, but the next train to Mahoba was at 4, getting me there at 8 or 9, which would be too late for the last bus from there. So, checked into a hotel, had a little walk around. It was somewhat interesting to see a little nowhere town just going about non-touristy life. I found out that all the little internet cafes there use te same server, and that server happened to be down. That meant I couldn't do that, so, I just got some food and was lazy. Had several hot showers. I had hot showers in Bangalore, so it's not like it's been that long having cold ones. I guess I'm just a wimp, but after even a week of cold showers, I really apreciated that hot water. Also, my muscles and joints needed the loosening, not to mention the fact that after sleeping on the floor of that train, I felt just about the dirtiest I have ever.
I got to sleep early and slept like a baby. Very glad to have brought a sleeping bag. That thing is sooo comfy, I swear so far it always is just the right amount of insulating. I love hi-tech things and stuff. Got up at 4:53 (set the alarm for 4:50, and it had been beeping for 3 minutes by the time that I woke up. Packed up, and headed off on foot (no empty rickshaws in sight) to get the 5:30 "deluxe" bus to Khajuraho. The bust ride wasn't all too bad compared to most. Went by pretty fast - I may have slept a bit, I'm not really sure. One thing though, is it was fucking freezing! I had my fleece on, so I was alright waist up, but I had thin pants on (the only pair remotely clean enough to wear) and flip-flops. I couldn't feel my toes for hours. And my shoes and socks were packed away in my bag, which was stowed in the bowels of the bus (getting very very dirty I was soon to see). I tried my best to insulate my toes by putting my little daypack over them, but it was so/so, especially with the fact that many of the windows of the bus were at most only half there, it was just damned cold. I have learned my lesson, I think. Get out of south India habits before I get hypothermia. It is December after all.
Stone masonry must have been a lucrative business in India in the olden days. They really kept busy. I was amazed at the sheer magnitude of Ellora, and I am amazed at the magnitude here, but what is really amazing is the detail. Most every surface of every temple is carved to such a level of intricacy. After more than a millenium some of the sculptures adorning the temples look like they could have been carved yesterday - by someone with good eyes and a very small chisel.
Considerring that the motif is supposed to be representation of everyday life, life back then had to have been alot of fun. Among other things, they seemed to take part in their fair share of: wild hunts on war elephants, fighting tigers and winning, having lots of arms and/or an animal head, and lots and lots (and lots) of very impressive sex. The artists must have either been to some really wild parties or they had one helluvan imagination. I will leave most of it up to your imagination (the pictures might help), except to say that they do some things I have neither the strength, limberness, resources, nor the stomach to do.
All in all, while the eroticism is very interesting (and just pretty way cool), it's not the by any means the best part. My lasting impression of Khajuraho is more of the beauty of the thousands upon thousands of sculptures, the majesty of the architecture, and the wonderful setting. The main temple complex is in a fenced-off park, and, while the entrance fee for froeigners is alot at US$5, the park is really nice. There's lots of green grass, and flowers and birds chirping and fresh air, and it wasn't crowded at all. Und, last but not least, no one was trying to sell me anything!
I finally found somewhere with a CD-burner. Now I can unload all the videos I have sitting around on my memory card. I promise they're not really interesting at all, I just couldn't bare to deleat them.
I like Khajuraho, it's a bit like Hampi in being a small quiet peaceful town with really neat relics of being an empire's capital. It also has lots of things catering to tourists. Too many things catering to tourists, really. Maybe this is just low season, but it seems that too many people want a piece of the pie and are trying very hard to get it, all in the same few ways too. The upshot of this is that there's lots of things to cater to me. Take, for example, the availability of my dinner. They just knew that the Japanese tourist in me was going to want some omeraisu.
I have found out that the bus/train schedule I wished for is actually miraculously possible. I can catch a bus for Mahoba at 4:00pm tomorrow, and from there leaves a train to Varanasi at 10:00pm, which should get me there by morning.

Saturday, November 29, 2003

Bombay is dirty, loud, gross, and I'm loving it. I think 4 hours is the perfect amount of time to spend here. Flying is so much faster than trains, oh my dear lord. You can't smell the shit from 30,000" either. Just one astounding way to travel! To be honest, the suburban railway that I took from the airport to ex-Victoria Terminal (now some long name in Marathi) in ex-Bombay (now Mumbai) was alot more excitement, and for only 8 rupees too!
Having a wander in Old Goa earlier today, I finally figured out what the trick was that converted so many Goans to Catholics. No, it wasn't murder and terror on the part of the Portuguese, of course not. What it is I can assure is that it is so damned cool in all them old cathedrals. These guys had some tricks at architecture, because not only are the interiors of these things very impressive visually, the age-old natural A/C could attract anyone to Jesus. I'm sure converted. Well, I was for a bit, anyway... then off to the airport. This internet cafe is at least as A.C.ed as the churches, and it has a portal to cyberlife, which I think might be better than afterlife. It's certainly at least as shiny.
I will try and dream nice things about all you friends in all your places while I "speed" down the tracks on the "express" train to Aurangabad, in time to arrive at 4:40 am. Off to see some caves. Special Buddhist caves carved into the rock back in the 60's, I think. Damned hippies.

Friday, November 28, 2003

11-23-03
There is now a sticker on my ratty-tattered orange notebook. It says Hindustan on it. I took it off a toilet.
Done with Bangalore. Strange to think of how used to it all I got. It's really something else, the difference between how one experiences a foreign country when one is always traveling and moving around, and when one stays in the same place for a while. 8 weeks isn't long enough to call some place 'home,' but it's enough definitely to develop a routine. It's really that routine that makes the difference. When one can walk a certain route and do certain things and not have them feel foreign at all makes for a really different way to experience somewhere. It's so easy to forget Bangalore and get right into traveling mode. But, when I stop and think back to the very beginning, back to my first day when we went out to 100ft. Restaurant and on the way it started pouring like no one's business, and one of the autorickshaw's broke down on flooded Thispassandra. And going to the YMCA shelter, and the first day of the deaf school, and the bicycle catastrophe, and just all the wacky moments with the other wolunteers, and going running in the smog, and playing football with the local hooligans... Well, I think maybe, just maybe, Bangalore got to 'home' status. But, I'm ready to move on a get moving. And while so many memories have I left in B'lore, so far I haven't forgotten anything there. Unlike in Ooty, where I left my camera battery recharger. I'll just look at it positively as another stop towards becoming a monk: shedding my worldly possessions. At least while in Hampi I've become a vegetarian. It has been recommended to me to do so due to spotty electrical coverage leading to extended periods of unrefrigeration of the meat.
This Hampi place is unlike anything easily imagined. The once capital of an ancient empire, this whole area while having primarily reverted to farming over the centuries is littered with ruins and temples and crumbling palaces. And the landscape is really something you'll have to see to believe. Everywhere you look there are massive granite outcroppings the size of hills. Big red dry hills of cubic granite boulders, very reminiscent of a desert. But the plane between these boulder hills rivers and bright green rice patties and banana groves. It almost just doesn't make sense. My geology teacher would be so proud of how excited it makes me to see this.

11-24-03
Hampi muesli, while a far cry from the real thing, is so damned good to wake up to. Particularly with sliced banana and cold milk. The have this incomprehensible obsession with hot milk in this country, and when it's always fully whole milk and kinda to very gross anyway, getting a bowl of corn flakes with hot milk is just not pleasant. I have yet to tire of Indian food, and, as with other places I've traveled, I enjoy trying all the new and different cuisine. But I must admit that his doesn't really apply to breakfast. I really get to miss my obscenely large mug of filter-coffee and my bowl of cereal. So when I order a bowl of corn flakes after weeks of morning jonsing for cereal, I really start to look forward to it, making it really that much more painful to find it arrive with the flakes rapidly besogging from steeping in foully hot milk. That's the best part of Hampi muesli; when you ask for cold milk that’s exactly what you get. Bone-chillingly cold milk. Don't take it for granted, y'all, don't.
Hidden up in the cragglies about a 15-minute rented-bike ride away is a damned in reservoir. At one's own risk one can leap off the boulders into one of the most ideally decorated and ideally tempuratured bodies of water I have yet to come across. Once in the water, if one looks carefully, one can find cracks between the boulders. One can then follow them to little flooded caves - mostly dark, but for some nice skylights here and there. Reports of poisonous snakes, along with the 6" long 1" around millipede husk I saw made these caves excellently scary and exciting. Obviously I chickened out pretty quick. I mean, there is a painted sign claiming unconvincingly
"SWIMING PROHIBITED
-------- ARE EXISTIING"
Whatever "--------" are or were, they've been painted over in blue.
Hampi is surreal. It's just so different how there are all these 500-600+ year old ruins and one can just clamber all over them, and how they're surrounded by the rice patties and banana plantations, with all the peasants going about their business (much of which if not farming is hanging around trying to sell me mineral water). Nothing like in Europe with all the fences and railing and admission prices and security guards and systems. Here you don't get the feeling that someone found something old and built a museum around it. The ruins are still alive. It's such a fortune to be able to go somewhere like this. But, most likely there are two eventualities: either it all gets enshrined, roped off, and sterilized, or it all gets destroyed. Luckily, at least for the meantime, the remoteness of location and lack of infrastructure limits the touristing population almost entirely to backpacking types (at least half of which are stoned Israelis). This type of crowd keeps anyone from bothering to build any big hotels, not to mention pave all the but the main street. Or keep the power on. It's off right now, and I must say, really wonderful that way. All the little shops and restaurants are candle and lantern-lit and it's really quiet and calm. It would almost be better if there was never power here at all. Almost. At least I can have the comfort of thinking that if I hadn't shed my camera battery recharger I still wouldn't be able to recharge the battery. This is one tortuous place for limiting myself from taking too many pictures. I've just gotten way too used to feeling free to snap off thousands of pictures of anything I want. I really need to fashion some sort of external battery pack or makeshift recharger. Will try my bestest upon returning to parts more civilised.

11-25-03
My little cubby on the second tier on a "luxury sleeper bus" from Hospet (near Hampi) to Palolem (in Goa) is, being at the very back, roughly 6' behind the back wheels. The axle between the back wheels of this "luxury sleeper bus" is roughly 2 feet off the ground. The suspension must be at least two feet high as well. According to my calculations - and I promise I've checked them up and down and am not writing any 6s upside down or any 2s backwards - the trigonometric amplification of every bump in the road is just over seven times.
(62+(2+2)2)(1/2).
So 3" of roadkilled dog becomes almost 2' of mankilling me-tossing. As you might imagine, it is rather hard to write. I will now cease to do so.

11-28-03
Happy birthday me, and happy Thanksgiving y'all. I've already gotten two excellent birthday presents. The first one was waking up and not feeling like I did yesterday. While all of you were getting ready to gorge yourself on turkey I was busy vomiting all day. I t really is a credit to Palolem Beach that I can spend a day practically unable to stand up from stomach trouble, and still not mind too much. Luckily the Cozy Nook - which had been recommended to me by some 20 people - has some very nice hammocks under palm trees by the water. Sleeping all day is much more justifiable when it's in a hammock. Feeling better in the evening, I thought some soup might do me good. I got the "special chicken soup," and it really was good. But, I think I would not have made good publicity for Fernandez Bar and Restaurant should anyone have watched me make it about 20 yards down the beach and uncontrollably retch it all up. I kicked sand over it. Counts as cleaning it up I swear. As I said, I feel better today, my breakfast is still right where it should be and shows no sign of going the wrong direction.
My second birthday present was most excellent. I was given by a sock way deep in my clothes bag a new camera battery recharger. OK, well, it's not exactly new, but whatever. Thinking all this time that I had lost it sure is pretty stupid, but not as stupid as actually losing it. It's funny, but I swear I checked that bag at least 3 times... and it's funny how I came up with this whole scenario as to how I could have left it in Ooty. I remembered putting the charger on the bedside table. Then we room-serviced some chai, the tray for which was put on the bedside table. Voila, it was shoved behind the tea pitcher, and that's how I missed it when packing. I thought about editing my previous entries and taking out all mention of my charger issues, but that would hardly be honest, now would it?
Palolem is such a beautiful and idealic beach; I'm outa here. Want to see Old Goa. Besides, I'm flying to Mumbai tomorrow at 4:20pm, and it'd be much nicer to be a few hours closer to the planestation.

Friday, November 21, 2003

So many new and wonderful sensations! The idea to do it first popped on and into my head, I think, whilst on a train in Kerala. The instant I thought of it there was no doubt that I had to do it. I just knew that it was gonna be really nice. So, I decided that I would wait till I'm done with teaching, then I could mark my grand exit from B'lore and start of my mystical magical travels with such a momentous and wacky action. So, sure it looks a bit (maybe more then a bit) funny... but I regret nothing!
Well, I'm done with teaching, 'case you didn't figger that out. Left for Ooty with Shalini on an impulse, with 10 minutes planning and packing. Ooty is friggin' marvelous. It's simply deliciously cold up here at 7,350 feet about MSL. The train ride up into the mountains was more than enough alone to make the whole journey worthwhile.

[Editor's Note/Warning: The following information might be a bit too much for everyone except my dad.]
"Asia's steepest and longest metre gauge Mountain Railway is the Nilgiri Mountain Railway (NMR) situated in the Nilgiri range of mountains. This mountain railway covers a distance of 45.88 Km from Mettupalayam to Ooty with the help of a unique rack and pinion system built specially to negotiate the steep gradient of 1 in 12.28 (i.e. the train climbs up 1 foot for every 12.28 feet of forward motion).
"The route of this mountain railway starts from the plains at Mettupalayam and negotiates the steep gradient, passing through 16 tunnels many of which are unlined, 250 bridges and 216 curves to arrive at Udagamandalam (Ooty) situated at an altitude of 7350 feet (2205 meters) above mean sea level.
"In the year 1885 the Nilgiri Railway Company was formed with a capital of Rs.250,000 and in August 1891 the construction of the hill railway commenced. This metre gauge hill railway line from Mettupalayam in the foothills of the Nilgiri range to Coonoor situated at a height of 6000 feet (1800 metres) above mean sea level was completed and opened for public traffic on 15th June 1899. The line was later extended to Ooty from Coonoor in the year 1908 at the cost of Rs.244,000.
"The unique rack and pinion section (right) of this railway line extends from Kallar and ends just a little distance before the Coonoor railway level crossing. The average gradient on the rack and pinion section is 1 in 15. The rack rails consist of two toothed steel bars laid in a double row 44mm apart and 64mm above the running rails so that the tooth of one is directly opposite to the gap of the other to ensure that the engine pinions do not work off the rack while negotiating the curves. The entry to the rack is effected by a specially designed entry tongue laid in special channel sleepers fitted with bow springs and connecting links which is finally connected to the rigid bars.
"The engines are always attached in such a way that they push the coaches while going up and pull the coaches while coming down. Each coach is provided with a brakeman who independently operates the hand brakes and the rack brakes on whistle codes obtained from the engine driver.
"The 'X' class locomotive used on this railway line are tank engines of '0-8-2' type with 4 cylinders of compound type. The high-pressure cylinders work on the adhesion wheels while the low-pressure cylinders working on the exhaust steam of the first two cylinders work the rack system."

Much of the motivation for going to Ooty was in search of paragliding. We found the paragliding place, and the guy who ran the company seemed really really cool and it all seemed great, and much cheaper than anywhere else in the world they do it. But, they no longer are allowed to fly anymore. The local government has decided that it is too dangerous and would be too much of an international problem should some tourists land in the forest and The Bandit kidnap them. Yes, this is the same Bandit as mentioned before when I was at the way other end of the forests. This Bandit character sure gets around. The paragliding guy said that it's estimated that he's killed more than 100 people, and hundreds of elephents, and has been on the loose for 12 years. It's suspected that there might be someone in some high place protecting him, maybe for poaching money or something equally corrupt.
The bus ride back to Bangalore went well, and was an hour and half faster than it was supposed to be. Truly one hell of a miracle for an Indian bus. And, on top of that, I slept for most of 6 of the 7 hours. I hope that I'm getting back into the hang of sleepig on busses; I used to be able to do it really well by the time I left Brazil. Maybe I just slept so well because of the mad bike ride I went on. Climbed many hills and flew down many valleys and saw some really far-out scenery. Terreced farms, colorful little villages populated with colorful and very excitable villagers. I think they don't often see someone stupid enough to brave the unpaved and steep roads in such thin air on a bicycle. I saw a mountain I really though might have a great view from the top. On my way up I found some really crazy trails for mountain biking. It's a good thing the bike I rented wasn't so much built for that kind of torment; much more fun that way. I sort of lost the trail near the top. Leaned the bike against a tree and dived into the bushes. Something about the foliage up there, but every single plant dead or alive has thorns. As I've said before, it's not an adventure if someone isn't bleeding by the end of it. Almost to the top I was reminded of a conversation from the night before which I had been blocking from my mind the whole time. I had met a guy who told me he was a forest officer, so I asked him where one might find good trails for mountain biking. "No, no. We don't allow two-wheelers or bicycles in the forests. Only specially licsensed jeeps. Very very dangerous. Elephants and tigers are there." As much as I want to see a tiger, my discorvery of the skeleton of I'm guessing a deer who had met a sad end gave me some very vivid mental images of packs of tigers hiding in the bushes about to pounce. Then I thought of The Bandit. And I looked around and realized I really was kind of far out in the forest. Time to turn back. Obviously I kept the skull. Can't quite figure out what to do with it yet...

Thursday, November 20, 2003

Tue. 11/18/03
I wish air travel was as easy as busses and trains, and one could just hop on and off and change plans around at a whim. I wanted to try and stay an extra week, as that would make a world of difference in being able to see all the places in North India I want to see. As far as contacting United Airlines to see about changing my connection from Bangkok to SFO the internet failed my miserably. Oh internet! I had some much faith in thee. All I could find online was an office in Delhi, with no phone number listed. After some more searching I found a number. This turned out to be, of course, the phone number for Scandinavian Airlines. So useless. Amazingly, the Bangalore yellow pages listed a U.A. office in B'lore, and one of the three numbers actually worked! (on the second try) and gave me the oppurtunity to find out that it'll cost US$100 to change the date. Which is alot better than it could be. Often one can't change anything at all except for buying a new ticket. Still, I don't think it really worth it just for one extra week. Besides, there are things I've gotta get done and gotta go home to do them. It does look like I'll be able to change my flight on Air India leaving from Bombay to Bangkok into leaving from Delhi. Considerring that my flight from BKK to Bombay stopped in Delhi then took off again, and that this flight is likely to do the same, I thought it should be pretty straight forward, and even profitable, for them to change it. True to the style of the land it can't possibly be simple enought to just to go to the Air India office and get a new ticket. They have to leave a message with a different office and then I call a number in a few days, tell someone at the other end a magic number that was given to me, and they will tell me if I've been granted permission for the change. Only then can I go all the way back to the first Air India office and finally get it done. Could be worse, many of the other volunteers here end up trying to change their flights in some way or another, and lots of those end up getting put on endless waiting lists or completely unable to except for as much money as a new ticket would cost, etc.

Monday, November 17, 2003

Fri. 11/14/03
"Mmm... I simply must have the recipe!", if only I could actually say that at so many of these restaurants I could compile one helluva cookbook.
Now, for the sake of proper appreciation on your part of this blog entry, imagine that I am writing this in unitelligably catastrophic handwriting in a ratty-tattered orange notebook. Which, mind you, is precisely what I'm doing. You are reading it thanks to the kind efforts of my future-self (and editor) whom I have asked very kindly to type it all up next chance he gets. [Editor's note: Hi.]
There's a cat by my table meowing piteously, expecting, I presume, some of my food. Ha! Yeah right. I done ate it all already anyway. And it was really damned good. I've already forgotten the name of the dish; I used the point at random in menu method. Some people gamble in casinos, I gamble in restaurants. It turned out to be / was chicken in in gooey green sauce with whole cashews in it. Gooey green sauces are always good, that's, like, one of the Four Noble Truths er something.
(1. Life is suffering.
2. The root of all suffering is desire.
3. Gooey green sauces are always good.
4. Oh well, what ever, nevermind.)
I happen now to be in Mysore, the former residence of the former Maharaja of the former state of Mysore (with a serious palace to prove it), and 3 hours by slow scary bumpy dirty bus. Got here in the afternoon. Skipped the palace and went for a run. I read in the Lonely Planet about a temple at the top of a big hill overlooking the town. Apparently the pilgrims are supposed to climb the 1,000 steps to it (the L.P. suggests taking a bus). I figured I'd impress the gods and run up it. There happens to be something on the order of 3.6x108 gods in these parts, at least one of them will notice, don't you think? I struck off in the direction of the big prominent hill with the temple on the top, assuming that's the one. Certainly no direct way from my shit-hotel to the bottom of the steps. Let's just say that I took a very scenic route which left my with the priveledge of tresspassing, hopping various fences, and bleeding a bit from my arm and leg. Deffintely without doubt the best run I've had in India yet. I made it to and up the steps (there really mighta been more that 1,000) in time to watch another impressive sunset. Sweaty, stinky, and generally gross, I fit right in on the public bus back into town. The driver, it might be noted, drove the steep, windy road WAY faster than even I would have in a little light car. And this was in a huge, old, and very shaky bus full of people. Luckily I had a suitable oh-shit-handle to grab onto for dear life. Tomorrow in the early morn' I, along with 12 other wolunteers like me, am on my way to spend a day & night at some ginormous wildlife preserve. Should be awesome. Several sources have told me that there's a serial killer supposed to be hiding somewhere out in the national park in which this wildlife preserve is located. I love how everything in this c'razy subcontinent has to have some terrible and ominous danger lurking behind it.

Sat. 11/15/03
Sat right at the windscreen on the bus ride from Mysore to the wildlife park, which afforded me an excellent view of all the dogs, sheep, cows, goats, bicycles, and small children the bus came inches from crushing. Totally gorgeous up here in these hills. I can see why the British colonialists always loved to retreat into the hills when in India. The brochure claims where at 7,000 ft., (they still measure hieghts in feet here). I don't quite believe that, but we deffintely are pretty high up. Went on some adventurising; I found a baby turtle in a puddle, saw some monkeys, a deer, a bunch of frogs, an enormous spider whose web I just barely noticed in time to not walk through, and, the highlight for sure, a dung beetle. And all this before lunch! Later we split up, with some of us going on an elephant ride, and some of us going on "safari." I opted for "safari," which was fun. It involved careening around on dodgy roads in the back of a jeep. Saw bison, "jungle fowl," deer, sambar deer which are as big as horses, a wild boar, an eagle hawk, an owl, BUT no tigers. There are tigers and panthers here, so maybe tomorrow, maybe. We're scheduled to watch a "wildlife film" now, before dinner. I don't know how likely that is though. There's a big group of rowdy Indian men watching very avidly the New Zealand vs. India cricket match on the only TV. Don't know how they'd recieve the idea of being revoked of the TV. I really don't understand how anyone can get so worked up over such and incredibly boring game. I mean, c'mon, it's worse than baseball for god's sake!

Sun. 11/16/03
Back in Mysore, on my way back to Bangalore. Stopped over with Ian to see that Maharaja's palace close-up. They really know how to make shnazzy yet gaudy and weird palaces. It was built in the beginning of the 20th Century, and is the most impressive mix of colonial-English, over-the-top "traditional" Indian, and turn of the century modernism. The walls of my favorite room had heads of boars, leopards, bison, etc. (some of which had plaques claiming they were shot in the hills I just visited); interspersed with daguerreotypy pictures of the Maharaja, some with him dressed in hunting gear, some in tweeds, some in robe and big funny hat; interspersed with antique mandalas and paintings of the Hindu pantheon. All this with vintage ceiling fans overhead with cast-iron G.E. logos. You can say what you want about the Raj and all the horrible things attributable thereto, but they sure had style. We should trade. California can get a Maharaja on a war elephant, and India can get Arnie in his hummer. They have some 10's of 1,000's of lightbulbs installed on the exterior of the palace, and they turn 'em all on on Sundays from 7:00-8:00. That was well worth sticking around for.

[Editor's note: I learned my lesson after Kerala that I can't be arsed to write about trips after getting back from them. Hoping to keep working with this method of scribbling while it's happening, and then typing it up afterwards.]

Wednesday, November 12, 2003

Here I sit with too much to tell, so will mostly not try to tell it. They really need some new shitty synthesized muzak in this internet cafe this one tape is really getting old. Sometimes they play such awesome rockin' stuff... but at least once or twice a night some one puts the damn-ed tape on. I theorize that one of the employees made it and gets a sick thrill out of having a captive audience. Yes, it really is that bad.
Got in today at 5:00 am after 23 hours on the train. Were it on the Shinkansen or the TGV the trip might 've taken 3, maybe 4 hours, but you couldn't pay me to have not taken this train ride. The scenery is indescribably wonderful (I have confidence any description I attempt cannot do the job). Kerala, I have decided, tops the list for beautiful tropical places I have so far visited in my short life. We met a man on the train yesterday whose son, incedentally, is applying as a transfer student to UC Berkeley after two years at City College of SF; proving Walt and his boat ride right one more time. Well, this guy asked each of us to say one sentence describing our experience in Kerala. While I don't remember exactly the words I used in reply, essentially I told him that I could encapsulate it best in the sunset that I watched while hanging out of the door of the carraige in the wind. Sunsets, apart from the simple majesty of their colors and size, are so wonderful in that no instant of the display is the same. With this sunset, not only was the sky morphing its light and dark and clouds and reds and yellows and light blues and whites, but the backdrop was constantly changing with it; I saw the sun set behind a mountain just to come out on the other side, and the water passing me in the lakes and the rivers and the rice patties reflected and broke up the colors of the sky with its own surrounding colors: red clay earth, white and tan sand bars, and brightest green of blades of rice soaking in neat rows, and just when I though the oranges had finnished their slow fade to blues and purples, out pops Venus, shining solar bright for no reason, I'm sure, but to suprise a smile onto my face.

Tuesday, November 04, 2003

GUEST ENTRY by Shalini Vimal:

He [David] later took me out to the most incredible chocolate cake because he knew about my intense craving for real chocolate and lack of its presence in my bloodstream therefore only exacerbating my homesickness. The cake was called “chocolate excess”, what an oxymoron, yet nonetheless exactly what I needed—a rich moist cake with chocolate mousse and fudge strategically interspersed between the spongy layers creating the most decadent slice of heaven that was then melted enough so that the chocolate was oozing off exploding and encapsuling my tastebuds in the most satisfying way. As the perfect contrast lay two scoops of cold creamy vanilla ice cream on either end that intensified both the richness of chocolate and and the creamyness of the vanilla—back to my theory about extreme juxtapositions of objects resulting in intensification of both extremes….

Monday, November 03, 2003

Reading through the guide book and hearing stories of Goan adventures inspired the idea in my mind that renting a motorbike would be an incredibly dangerous idea, which of course means, sign me up right now. In pursuit of this I've been asking all over town in countless bike shops about renting motorbikes. After giving me blank stares, usually I had to ask for "hiring" bikes, with my r's rolled. That way they could understand me enough to say no, and that they didn't have any idea where I could either. Finally I found somewhere that said the expected no, but they did know somewhere that I could. "Unicorn motors," they told me, "on Airport Road. Somewhere." Seeing as how my school is half a block off of Airport Road, this sounded fantastic. I set off for school with intentions of giving a hunt down for this place afterschool. Lo! and behold, on my way to school in the morning, I notice a scooter zooming past, and on the sparetire-cover is an add for Unicorn Motors. There were what looked like two phone numbers, one of which I missed, and the other being 3333333, I actually caught it in the passing of the scooter. So, this number in my brain, after school I head straight to the STD/ISD - or, to ye unintiated, the payphone. (Buffalo thompson, anyone?) I dial up the phone number, ask if it's Unicorn Motors. This being India, of course it wasn't. But she could tell me the number if I wanted. Yes, I wanted. Called the number. Learned first in English, then in Kannada that the number had been changed. Called that number. "Is this Unicorn Motors?" Nope. Wrong number. Dissilusioned, I set off for a phonebook. Amazingly, found one. Looked up the number. Amazingly, found it. Called the number. "Yes, this is Unicorn Motors," I barely heard over the traffic noise. "Do you hire motorbikes?" "Sorry?" "Mo-to-r Bi-kes??" "Yes yes! Motorbikes!" I got an adress in somewhere I had never heard of (Aganynagar er something), told it was across from Reliance Mobile, on the main street. Hopped in an autorickshaw, rattled off all I knew, and off I went. Soon I was basically leaving Bangalore and way out in some feilds on some highway worrying with the thought that this driver might pull a Rio de Janeiro and working on memorizing his liscense number. Well, got to some almost entirely dirt-paved 'burb/village. Saw Reliance Mobile, looked across the street, and there it was. Got out, walked in. "So, you rent motorbikes?" "You want a motorbike?" "Yes, for rent." "Sorry, rent?" "Hire. For hire." "Oh, for hire. Sorry, we don't hire motorbikes." "Oh." "But, we are a branch office. Here is the phone number of the main office, they hire scooters." Finally, this number really worked. I got the low down and the adress. Not on Airport Road, but also not out in the middle of some village. 100 rupees($1.25)/24hrs for a Honda Kinetic, which seems a pretty nice kind of scooter. I love the way to find things here. Back home I just stumble to the old glowing button machine and type something into the information super highway. Now one of these weekends (my number of weekends here is dwindling at an alarming rate) I and some adventurous others can go ride off somewhere fun.
Oh, and mom. Don't read any of that part because renting a scooter is a horrible idea that I would never consider. Though if someone forced me to at gun point consider it, I yes will wear a helmet.
I'm taking a train to Kerala! I'm sooo excited to ride the train. There was a big derailment a week ago, lots dead. That makes it SO much more exciting! Besides, trains really are just pretty damned cool.
Here's some info on Kerala, for which I will be leaving Wednesday night, and from which I will be returning the following Wednesday mornin':
"Kerala lies in the southern part of India. In the east is the state of Tamil Nadu and some parts of the northeast is bordered by the state of Karnataka. The state is divided in to three geographical units; (a) highlands, (b) midlands and (c) lowlands. The slope down from the Western Ghats is the highlands and is at an average elevation of 900 meters and having some peaks of 800 meters in height. The midlands are between the mountains and the low land. This is an area of thick cultivation. The low lands are the low-lying areas in the costal region, river deltas and the backwaters.
"There is an interesting legend about the genesis of Kerala, which is held true by theists. Parasuram, an incarnation of Lord Vishnu slaughtered about twenty-one generations of Kshatriyas (the warrior caste) in a fit of anger. But soon after the monstrous act, overcome by a deep sense of regret he retired to the Western Ghats and went into penance. The gods were moved by this and offered him a stretch of land that his axe could cover. The Western Ghats was then running along the coast of the Arabian sea. Parasurama flung his axe across the sea and it is believed the land that emerged from the depths along the trajectory came to be known as Kerala.
"Kerala has a warm tropical climate the most pleasant with no extremes of hot or cold. Throughout the year the mercury varies between 32º Celsius and 22º Celsius. Summer is from March to May while December, January and February are the months of pleasant winter. Kerala gets her annual rainfall from June to August followed by a week northeast monsoon. The southwest monsoon strikes Kerala first before advancing northwards to the rest of the country. The monsoon is in the Aushadi Masam (June & July), the month for rest and recuperation."

Saturday, November 01, 2003

Sleeping in is good no matter what country one's in.
I had been meaning to get up a blog entry for a few days now, but I've been pretty lazy. I was going to on Wednesday, while I loaded up pictures, but they moved the computers around in this place and so I ended up installing the software for the camera again on a different computer. But Windows sucks and it took way to long, and, well, you get the idea.
Wanted to write about a dream I had (on monday night, I think). Was in some city, not sure which, don't think it mattered. I had with me a briefcase/bag type thing, in it was a smallish atomic bomb. The people who had sent me there with it expected me to detonate it, and I knew that for some reason it had to, like, the whole world would die if I didn't do it or something. Before setting off the bomb though, I had just enough time to round up all the friends and family I had in this town and try and convince them that they had to get away. Some I told why, and some I couldn't. Portentious dream it may be, so watch out for guys with briefcase/bag things telling you to get outa town. Then again, Peter ate blue ramen and lived to tell the tale, so maybe my soothsaying can be safely disregarded.
I think my sickness is getting better. Nonetheless, one of these days I will heed Dr. Mom's advice and get tested for malaria. Just in case, y'know. Oh, and the deafness in the right ear is no longer as bad, and has been replaced with a ringing which is getting louder. A good sign, right?
I hear rumors of a sushi restaurant somewhere in Bangalore. Of course, I dunno about raw fish in the middle of inland south India. Maybe they have tandoori sushi or something weird and culturally-miscegenated. I wonder what this place would be like if the Japanese had won back in dem Zweiter Weltkrieg and added this to their empire.
Ok ok ok. Too much musing not enough telling anything worth reading.
Tschuss, mes amies.

Tuesday, October 28, 2003

I wonder if I had grown up somewhere more tropical if I would even notice the bugs. Goddam they're everywhere. Ugh! I bought ant poison today, and as a response, the ant gods decided to have dozens of freaky littled winged dying ants falling onto the dinner table and onto my and everyone else present's food. Seems one just can't win.
My dehydration (see end previous entry) I think very much weakened my immune system. That - hand in hand with the dodgy place I ate lunch, all the dodgy things I must have inhaled, and all the dodgy insects that surely bit me - sent me for yet another day of this trip in bed with a fever. There's something psychologically troubling about reading Crime and Punishment while couped in a little room and delirious with fever. Did have an almost too vivid dream about being in the front yard with Willie and Henrietta and Faun and Sam and Stephen and Talitha and Rose. That's all, no plot, just sitting out the under the Cherry tree. I managed to leave the room at about 2:30 to procure cereal. God I wish they would have just left me alone! My "good name" is bugger off and just let me buy some cereal and some milk-in-a-bag without 5X as many store clerks as there are mes cornering me in the aisle and asking what I want and getting it for me and "which country" and... I had a fever, alright? Sometimes I can't handle this whole hands-on approach to store clerking, especially when I'm worried about the bags of spices and boxes of biscuits baring their teeth at me. (That's a sign of agression.)
Felt better on monday, still a bit delirious, but had to get up and out and went to school. Tried to get to sleep early and of course ended up with complete insomnia. Finished Crime and Punishment, now no more reading about fevers and no more having fevers.
The streetcows here do not sleep standing up! Are Indian cows just lazy, or is the whole premise behind cow tipping just a big lie? Not that I would want to harm one of the very carnacious godly incarnations. I just need to know if I've been lied to all my life.
And, you, remember, if I wrote about interesting things, that would be an entirely different and not-boring blog, now wouldn't it? (You know what I'm talking about if you're the one I'm adressing and you're readin' this.) Besides, don't I want to keep a little bit of mystery for my readers back home? Keep 'em coming back, y'see.
Booked tickets for a little journey to a little land named Kerala. More on that in a while, crocodile.

Saturday, October 25, 2003

Well, I officially like Diwali. Asked at a shop if they had any fire-crackers, and before I could do anything about it a guy hops on a bike and rides off. Other guy tells me he's off to get me a box. Well, I certainly did not imagine that the box would be so big! Sooo many things that go boom of every kind imaginable. Needless to say, I'm now somewhat deaf in my right ear and have no hair on my right hand. May Allah will it only temporarily I hope.
Had dinner at a restaurant on the top of a 13 storey building. Excellent view. The whole town is just a big fireworks show. 4th of July not even close. They sure know how to make big booms here. People keep setting off many-foot-long strings of crackers in the street. If you just close your eyes you'd think The Revolution finally came. Well, comrades, one day it will, one day it will.
Today went out to part of town called the City Market. Abusolutely incredible. Makes the part of town I'm in seem positively asleep. It's just many many blocks of tiny little muddy streets jampacked with people and animals and trucks and mopeds and god knows what else. And it's all for sale of course. It seemed almost like some medieval town with all the alleys and the smells and animals. Excellent place to get lost, which I sure did. I bought a bicycle. Actually, this is the second bicycle I've bought. The frst buying was the most catastrophic waste of time of my life. I had to wait forever while they fixed it up, just to find out that though it had gears, it had no shifter and just had a chain fixed in one spot. Seeing as how I bought it having been told it had gears, I came back very unhappy. They said, "of course you can't shift gears, you need another part. Give us more money, and we'll put it on for you by tomorrow." This did not go over well with me. Try someday getting you money back off an Indian bike dealer, no easy task, but I managed. I didn't even have to threaten to call the police. Well, this bike I bought today has no gears, but was priced accordingly.
The bike ride home was fun. My 'hood and City Market are on opposite sides of town, and the streets here are not too friendly. I didn't drink enough water, though, and then going running afterwards I ended up getting really dehydrated. Not fun.

Friday, October 24, 2003

It's Diwali. Big Hindu festival. "Diwali, the popular festival of Indians, celebrates the return of Lord Rama and Sita from exile. It also celebrates the day Mother Goddess destroyed a demon called 'Mahisha' & Victory of Good over evil.The day is celebrated by lighting lamps, diyas, visiting relatives, feasting, and displaying fireworks." They seem to REALLY do the fireworks here. Mind you, I am usually the last person to object to explosives... but when I want to sleep at 6:00 in the morning... I honestly couldn't care about Lord Rama's return. Am being rushed outa internet cafe. More later. Maybe.

Tuesday, October 21, 2003

I actually successfully subdued a room of children and gave them an assignment and made them do it and maybe even learn something and it was actually pretty cool. I tell ya tho', I don't know if I'd make too good of a real teacher; I definitely can't help having favorites. I really like the smart kids and some of the dumb ones I find myself having a hard time putting up with. Yes, that does make me kind of a real bastard, but hey, that's just how it's been. If I ever would be a real teacher, it would have to be at higher levels and it would have to be an elective course, so that the students would be smart and interested. Of course, I'm one to talk considering my long history of slackerdom - but then again, I never didn't get something the teacher tried to explain, I just might not have cared. Some of these kids I was teaching, they seem to care, but don't really get it. Maybe I just really suck at explaining things. In fact, I'm sure I do.
I wanted to nap after school, but ran instead. Of course, right about exactly halfway through my run it starts absolutely pouring. Running barefoot in the rain in Pondicherry is one thing, but on the muddy, congested, infested streets of Bangalore with shoes that water-loggedly make squish each step... well, it was still kind of fun. But it was yucky. I hope my shoes dry out. I've got the fan sideways on the ground pointed right at them. Should help.
One nice thing about a country like this is that I was able to research my bedbug bites and look up a treatment (all online, of course), and then walk up to a pharmacy without even notion of a prescription and buy prescription drugs. And the best part is the dude packaged the pills in a recycled magazine page (their actually working is pretty good too).
Missing you all ..er.. most of y'all anyway. Hasta luego ... same bat-time, same bat-channel.

Monday, October 20, 2003

Back from Pondicherry. Cut school today as a result of being super "knackered" (a.k.a. tired) and not wanting to deal with the kids' pleasant reactions to the state of my skin. I have, despite years of earnest warnings, let the bedbugs bite. Luckily the bites are only localized to one arm, one shoulder and the back of my hands. Oh, and the best part is that they are horribly contagious, all you would have to do is look at me and "boom" you've got leprosy. Well, maybe not that contagious, or even at all. And they don't itch... but it's still really yucky to imagine little vampire insects coming out the the cracks in the wall and swarming me in my sleep. I hope to god my malaria medicine does more than make me see funny colors that aren't there and actually keeps anything the bedbugs might have donated to my bloodstream from infecting me. Oh, and I have learned the valuable lesson that I might pay for a $2.50 room in ways more than just money. And to bring my mosquito net and my sheet sleeping bag with me everywhere I go.
Aside from that unpleasantness, I had oodles of fun in Pondicherry. I found it to be a nice little quite seaside town with lots of little quaint colonial french architecture. The quiet part was quite impressive, as I hadn't yet imagined that possible in this country. The bus ride there was absolutely rediculous, the driver seemed to think that it would be fun to take the most nonsensical potholed (if paved at all) side roads through all these little villages. And, it wouldn't be so bad if that was the only way there, but the way back seemed to be all on highway and ended up taking hours shorter. We rented bikes and rode around and that was friggin' awesome. I love the fact that the bike rental place didn't ask for a deposit or anything and probably we could have paid after, so that there would be no reason (aside from silly ethical ones) to return the bikes. On sunday, meant to bike to a specific beach (Aurobeach) but Shalini and I biked ahead of the others then missed the beach by about 10k too far. I had the time of my life, though. Made friends at one deserted beach in the form of some guy who walked by, squatted in the bushes, got up (with his pants still down) walked down into the water, and washed off his bum. He then sat right down next to me and talked to me about being a mechanical engineering student. Another friend of his then came up and talked about biochemistry and how he wanted to marry Shalini. But he also said he wanted only to marry a white American girl... so who can trust him and his mixed messages. Oh, and running/biking in the mad pouring rain on saturday was good too.

Friday, October 17, 2003

The classes on my schedule for this afternoon - I have already had the privilege of finding out - are classes in which I am completely useless. That being the case, and today being a friday, I took the only acceptable course of action: I left early.
I'm leaving tonight at 9:00 on a night bus for Pondicherry. ("Situated on the Coromandel coast, about 160 kms south of Chennai, lies the Union Territory of Pondicherry. The French ruled this territory for 300 years, and today it stands as a living monument of the French culture in India. It is bound on the east by the Bay of Bengal and on the other three sides by the South Arcot district of Tamil Nadu .") I am very excited to get out of Bangalore and see a bit more of India. Won't be too much to see for most of the bus ride, but I think I will be arriving after sun-up, so I hope I'll have some interesting stuff to watch roll by tomorrow morning from the bus window.
Y'all best like the pictures, cuz it's taking forever to load them and I could be off playing football right now.
The class that I spend most of the time with (VII Standard B - or grade 7B) is really frustrating at times. They have to take the same state-mandated standardized test as everyone their age, which is bad news because many of them really aren't that advanced. So, it ends up being stuffing things into their mind which they really don't understand. They were doing simple algebra, but some of them really can't even do basic arithmetic. To be honest, some of them are not just deaf but definitely have something important missing in the mental machinery. You can imagine that it's super-tough to try and explain something to a retarded kid, but then when he's deaf and has forgotten his hearing aid and his spectacles... whew.
The chalk dust is killing me! I've never been allergic to it before, but I've never before been around such awful clouds of it. Perhaps the Indian chalk industry is full of Shiva worshippers.

Tuesday, October 14, 2003

Second day at SKIDS. Went quite nicely. Learned some more signs. It's been determined that I will most likely work with the junior-high level kids, though exactly what I'll do I s'pose is to be determined. I think most likely I will work on language developement with a few kids individually. I think that would be best, so then I could get to know them and get used to communication with them, which is quite hard at times. We played cricket again today. One kid was talking to me by writing in the dirt with the cricket bat. She was really good at writing in the dirt, I was quite amazed.
I bought a soccerball the otherday, with the intention of playing. Yesterday and today I went to go play with the locals. I was sitting there with the ball, and this guy comes up asking me if I wanted to play (in better English than I have). Turns out to be from Fiji. Anyway, had an awesome match yesterday, and a good one today too. We had some young'ns playing today. Some of them are so good! Reminds me of Brazil. There's really something to be said for getting straight schooled by a ten-year-old with a ball. My ball, actually. Y'know, it's such a shame that people don't use all our public feilds for sports enough. Here, the playground is absolutely packed (...although 99% by males...) and it's just so cool to see people playing sports with their neighbors and being active. We Americans could learn a thing or two. Anyway, it seems I found the place for making friends with the locals, which is very good - I shouldn't wish to spend all my time just with the other anglo volunteers.
So... I wonder if anybody is actually reading this thing, and then I realize that the fact that some one, somewhere, might actually be is enough to motivate me. I've never been motivate to keep a journal before.
Andy, you're a genius. Keep up the good work by giving everyone good ideas like this one. Ronald Reagan would be proud of you if his brain hadn't, well, y'know.

Monday, October 13, 2003

Went to the Sheila Kothavala Institute for Deaf Studies, which I will now and 4ever call SKIDS. Good impressions. Some of the kids there seem to really benefit from the special attention and are probably more advanced students than their unimpared peers in normal schools. Language of instruction is English from the very beginning, but I guess they must formally teach the wee tots to sign, since most of their parents appearantly don't know how. Signing seems like it might not be to hard to learn a little basic bit of. Already got the alphabet down in the course of today (well, most of it anyway), of course, there are only 26 letters. Their sign for an Indian girl is pointing at the forhead where a bindi might be found. We (we being me, an brit named Michael, and a Bostonian named Shalini) observed classes today, and will do more of that tomorrow. After that, we must decide where and how we want to help. Played a bit of cricket with the eight-graders. I did alright, actually, so it was kind of fun.
Cricket is WAY big here, in case y'all weren't aware, it's for sure the most popular sport. There's supposed to be a big match in Bangalore next month. India vs. Australia. I might look into obtaining some tickets.

Sunday, October 12, 2003

Today was ok. Woken up really early by what sounded like Ganesh after too much beer pissing on the roof. The rain here is insane. Lucky me, I was all cozy in bed and able to fall back asleep without even getting (unnecessarily) wet.
Out of a spirit of friendship I helped make a little birthday-page for these British girls to send to their friend, and am hosting it. She'll never know if y'all look at it, so don't worry about ruining the birthday suprise.
Starting work tomorrow! Yay yay yay. Very excited. Every one says that all the volunteers who have worked at this school (for those who don't know, it's a school for the deaf and hearing impaired) have had a great time of it. Found out that they use sign language based primarily on American Sign Language, but with some local oddities. Hopefully I will pick some up fast.
I am also looking to pick up the local lingo. I got two little books, one on Kannada (local lingo) and one on Hindi (national lingo). Looked at the Kannada book a bit, can almost read it, but have no idea how to pronounce it, etc. So, I'm looking for lessons. Of course, it's not there aren't loads of people here that don't speak a lick of Kannada and live here just fine with English or even just Hindi. Lots of people also speak Tamil and Urdu... oh well, the signs are all in Kannada or English, so I'll concentrate on learning one of those and teaching the other.
Looking into making travel plans for a coming holiday, I'll have a 4-day weekend. Might go to the beach. Not Goa, somewhere deserted maybe. You have to book well in advance, especially in the holiday season, due to limited spots and a delapidated infrastructure... I'm not one for planning well in advance... I guess I'm just gonna have to learn!
Things get quiter here on Sunday. (Though that's not saying much.)
Saw hoards of people lined up in front of a nondescript church, with a big banner on the front reading "SET ME ON FIRE, GOD!" I say, whoa y'all, be careful what you wish for.

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?