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.

Friday, October 10, 2003

My first pangs of missing home: wanting to sleep in on a lazy Saturday, but being unable to for all the dogs and the vegetable and newpaper vendors and the construction workmen banging away. And no big bowl of cereal as consolation for waking up so early! Of course, it was only like 9:00... God. My life is hard.
I have blessed y'all with pictures.
Saw some of the local nightlife. They seem to be very fond of Metallica here. Who can blame them?!
Hey, wanna know anything or anything I should add to this blog? Well, drop me a line.
I really like working at the YMCA shelter. It's really crazy there. Some of these kids, you have to just wonder what life has been like for them, what with all their obvious physical and emotional scars. Some of them have got some serious physical scars. It's amzaing how they still seem able to enjoy life and be loving and learn, etc etc. Really makes you stop and consider for a second. The cutest thing in the whole whole world is when the pray before lunch...... I don't really know how to describe except that it is amazingly cute. I figured out with the best and most solid of mathematical empiricism that these kids have the energy equal to their wheight in plutonium. Just the resiliency of these kids, it's just crazy to watch them playing duck duck goose, and to think that this is instead of (forced) begging, glue sniffing, and (forced) prostitution.
It's pretty interesting seeing how the different parts of town are different. The part of town I'm staying seems pretty well off (though still dingy and full of beggars, trash, and malfragrances). The part of town that the YMCA shelter is in is alot poorer, and then getting to it means going through the muslim part of town. I didn't really think about it, but I guess it does make sense that they stick together in their own district. Of course, it does seem to be one of the poorest districts. I don't get any sense that there is much animosity between the Hindus, Christians, and Muslims here, or maybe it's just under the surface. And my god, the muslim women must get so hot in their black dress and shawls! Man, I know that I should be accepting of other people's faiths... but that's gotta suck!
The juice here is SO SO SO good! But... I've been told not to drink it, for getting sick, and such. Hm.. I did get sick the day after drinking some... maybe I shouldn't have just drank what I did now! Naw, it's worth it... so yummy!
The number of internet cafes here is rediculous, and they're all always full! Cheap enough, though. ~$0.40/hour And it's broadband, though not really all that terribly fast, it's fast enough.
My guest house has hot water, which rocks my socks. It's friday, and I'm going out on the town. Should be interesting.

Thursday, October 09, 2003

So, like, and stuff...
It was suggested to me that I start a blog. Normally I scoff at such ideas. Imagine, me keeping a blog! Well, under my current circumstances, I figured that it might not really be that bad an idea. So here I go.
I serpose I will go back to the beginning of my trip, and try to make it up to now:
My flight from SFO to Narita was uneventful. Narita was exactly the same as it was a month before that. My flight from Narita to Bangkok was, however, not uneventful. Soon after take off, I struck up conversation with the girl sitting next to me and the guy sitting next to her. Guy was from Austin, TX, and was off to go backpacking in Thailand. Girl was from Tokyo, Japan, and was off to go tour hospitals in Thailand as part of her training as a dentist. So, Guy and I initially find it rather amusing the amount of little bottles of wine Girl was drinking. Upon questioning, it turns out she is deathly afraid of flying and was drinking her worries away. (On a side note, she also said that she was deathly afraid of sky-diving... I can't imagine some one afraid of flying to have gone skydiving, but hey, Japs are wierd.) Well, it got to the point were it was no longer amusing how much she was drinking, as she was getting way way too drunk, and acting way too friendly with Guy and me. It came to a point, in fact, where she bit both of us, quite hard - though I'm sure she meant it in the most playful of spirit. I still have a bruise! Did I mention that she was training to be a dentist? Well, she sure had some teeth on her! Guy and I had to help her off the plane, but once we got to passport control, our help for her was at an end - she had lost her passport, her English only good enough at the point to say "passupoto... foget... Narita..."
So, next day spent wandering in Bangkok. I wanted to walk around, but found it impossible, the "tuk-tuk" (little three-wheel taxi) drivers simply would not let me, I HAD to go on their little tour... I got talked into it eventually, cuz I was tired of the harassment. So, the guy who ended up driving me around was actually pretty nice, which was lucky. But, of course, maybe that's because instead of him ripping me off, he teamed up with me to rip others off; there was that week a promotion at some stores by which the tuk-tuk driver to bring a customer to the store got free gasoline on the condition that the customer spent more than 10 minutes in the store. (I like run-on sentences and I don't care if you suffer on account of them.) So, with his free gasoline, my driver decided that I could ride for free all day, which worked for me. Amazingly, he really didn't demand any money at the end of the tour. That night in Bangkok was terribly depressing, just to see all the drunk westerners with their poor Thai whores climbing all over them. And then the hundred or so pimps that approached me as I walked around, showing me brochures full of pictures of naked women and telling me I could have any of them. What kind of a fucked up world is this, where simply on account of my economic level over them, I actually could "have any of them"? Well, you can see why I was depressed by it all. Perhaps I should have just gotten drunk outa my gourd like all the other Americans there.
Next half-day in Bangkok was alot better. I discovered that I was able to walk unmolested in the neighborhood of my hotel, which was nice. Also found some very grubbin' food. Got to the airport, got on flight. Air India has better airplane food then you might expect, and it has AWESOME music on the inflight radio thingee. Couldn't see the movie from my seat though, which made me sad. Got to Mumbai. Prepaid a taxi to my hotel while still in the airport (I thought to myself "prepaid taxi, what a wonderful idea!"). But, despite the extreme proximity to the airport of the hotel, the driver proceeded to demand 100 rupees extra "too far, too far." I am finding out that the taxi drivers in this country tend not to be too dissimilar from this guy. Here in Bangalore, they are all on meters, so the asshole ones just drive the longest way possible in order to rip you off.
Anyway, flight from Mumbai to Bangalore went fine, had a window seat, got to see some crazy landscape b'neath me.
Met lots of other volunteers here, almost all of which are British. I was expecting the average age to be a little older than me, but it seems that the average is just about my age, which is kind of cool. My guest house is nicer than expected. Sharing a room with British kid named Alex, who is doing some sort of theatre internship here (that's the best he can describe his work). Our guest house is the house of John and Shirley - very Indian names indeed. Shirley has hella Jesus plastered all up on the walls. Okay with me though, her cooking is super-grubbin', and she's really nice.
My school is on break this week, so I have not yet started work. Went in the mean time to work at a YMCA shelter for street kids, which was really an amazing experience. It's hard to imagine what some of those kids went through, but many of them now seem to be really healthy and intelligent little brats. They were all over the place! Indian kids call all westerners Auntie/Uncle, and oh my god, the insanity! I made the mistake of playing the little pick you up and spin you game with one of the kids, and five seconds later I had 10 little Indian rugrats (sidewalkrats?) literally climbing up me screeming "uncle, uncle, uncle, uncle, uncle, uncle, uncle! Me too uncle, uncle!"
Haven't gone back there, though, as I got a nasty fever yesterday and was in bed all day. Feeling alot better today, but decided it would be best to rest and take it easy, hence all my internet-based things I'm doing (loading pics and making this blog).

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