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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.

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