Friday, October 30, 2009

"'ello! 'ello! 'ello! 'ello! 'ello!"

Setting: Narrow back streets of Jodhpur. It's morning. A couple of foreigners are aimlessly wandering and admittedly somewhat lost. The locals are spotting the streets, awaking from a night of Diwali celebrations.
Little boy approches each foreigner.
Little boy: 'ello. Happy Diwali!
Shakes hand.
Foreigner Boy: Hello
Foreigner Girl 1: Hello. Happy Diwali
Foreigner Girl 2: Hello.
Another child enter the scene greeting the foreigners with a cheerful hello.
A few more children enter greeting the foreigners with an in unison hello.
Foreginer girl 2 quickly turns around. Some has plucked a hair from her head. She sees a mass of at least a dozen children following them. The sound is nearly deafening as the streets are filled with all the children chanting " 'ello" in unison as they walk down the street.

I wanted to get video but was afraid. Very afraid.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

"You Like India?"

We interrupt the Golden Triangle adventures for a short commercial break.
Tonight, I am watching "Outsourced" a movie about a call center manager that gets sent to India to train the call center. I watched the movie shortly before I left for India and now, seeing it just about 3 months into my time here I can fully appreciate and relate to his experiences. The excesses cows, exposed wiring, harassing children, the beefless McDonald's... I've also found some problems in the movie such as Mumbai airport exit really wasn't the Mumbai airport and he entered a rickshaw from a side which is not possible (because of the festival). Before I laughed because it was ridiculous. Now I laugh because it's true.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

That is one large... Dog?

So sanitation doesn't seem to make the top ten list of things either. While at dinner, at a local hotel rooftop restaurant, out of the corner of my eye I see what I think is a very large dog run through the dining hall following quickly by a little boy chasing after his pet. Upon fully turning to see what all the raucous was about I discovered it was not a dog but a goat.
Bonus Story: So our tour guide has a very weird sense of humor. Most of his jokes I did not get. Like the one when he was showing us artifacts from the past such as dresses, rugs, silverware. He points to the displays and says "this was the washing machine". Personally, I thought it looked like an old time record player but he's the tour guide. Shortly after a kid pops through, excitedly asking "really?!" and pressing his face to the glass. Moments later our tour guide says "no, it's a record player." Ha. Ha. Good one tour guide. But not really.

Dance Dance Revolution: Diwali Style

It's Diwali. The festival of lights. A time for fireworks from dawn til the wee hours of the morning & dancing. Did I mention fireworks? Kids everywhere were setting them off in the street as passerbyers and motorcyclist dodged and swerved to avoid being hit. Safety does not come first here. I'm not even sure if it makes the top ten list.... Anyways, our guide told us multiple times throughout the day "do not go out tonight". Well we did. We walked around the streets dodging fireworks, wishing locals "Happy Diwali" and meeting large mascots. Dinner at Indique provide a 360 degree rooftop view of the city and the fireworks. After dinner, we went back to the hotel to rest for a bit. A short while later, we found the gates had been shut. Luckily, there was a party in the streets right in front of the hotel gates. Interestingly enough, no women were partaking in the festivities. It was an all male cast of "So you think you can dance". Eventually, Annie and I worked our way out and tried some Indian dance moves. And busted a move we did.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

An Overnight Train and the birth of LASR

To start off our trip, we took an overnight train from Mumbai to Jodhpur. One small hiccup though. Only 3 of our 4 tickets were confirmed as we found out when we got to the cabin and some guy claimed one of the beds was his (damn you connexions travel agent!) We don't remember his name so we call him Armando. Armando was one of the best parts of the trip. He would tell us he was going to visit his friend's in the other car every time and that he would be back like we were concerned parents.

Sometime during the day, team LASR (laser) was born as Shawn randomly shared his discovery that is you take the first letter of our first names it makes LASR. Laura, Annie, Shawn, Robert.

Once evening started to wind down, we made some discrete road sodas as Armando explained earlier we were traveling through a dry state, closed the curtain, turned off the lights except for a single reading light and turned on the music. We had successfully turned the cabin from sleeper train to private night club lounge.

Eventually Armando returned and upon opening the curtains had a priceless look of confusion on his face. Clearly the last thing he was expecting was a lounge setting. We all encouraged him to join our party and immediately included him in our game of "Would you rather?" We were up to "would you rather lose an arm or a leg?" and it was Armando's turn. Upon being asked the question he frozen in his seat horrified and seemingly sizing up his options for escape. He just replied "that is a very scary question. i wouldn't want to lose either". We tried to explain the concept but it just didn't go over. We had officially freaked out our cabin mate. I'm sure he was happy to make it through the night.

Quick story: Before heading to the train station, we all met at Welingkar. While waiting for the last of our group to arrive, some kids harrassed us for money as usual. Us white people are becons. The kids hung around for a long time trying to get money out of us. Then stood there and then one kid proceeded to make fun of my eyebrows. So I made fun of his and his face.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Bend It Like Beckham

Before I get into my week long recaps of the Golden Triangle vacation which was absolutely amazing and you should dying of anticipation to hear my stories and see my pics. Anyways, Bend It Like Beckham is one of my favorite pick me up, feel good movies. There is a scene where the mom and daugther are in the kitchen and the mom starts freaking out cause her daugther is playing around with the soccer ball and not learning how to cook indian dishes, one of them being aloo gobi. Since arriving in India, it has been a necessity for me to consume aloo gobi just because it was mentioned in the movie. Tonight I did at the restaurant down the street and it was amazing. The end.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Bets, Birthday Surprises & Attempted Train Rides

Short story 1: People like to bet on me. Last week, a couple of germans bet how much my height would translate to meters. The answer is 1.63. They thought I was under 5 foot. Just more proof I don't look my height. Today, I was chased down by a fellow Welingkar student so that he could have a two minute conversation with me. Apparently his friends didn't think he had the balls to go up to the white girl and hold a convo. Hope he got something decent out of it.
Short story 2: Welingkar surprised me with a birthday cake. That Gouri....She's too on top of everything. Above is Smeeta, our professor, feeding me the cake. I always thought the first person to feed me cake would be my husband on my wedding day. But I guess I'll settle for my finance teacher. Beat that.
Short story 3: Another day, and as always another adventure. After visting BSE, we stopped for dinner and were then enticed by the colorful outdoor markets in Dardar to do some shopping. Diwali is coming up and laterns and all sorts of colorful decorations are out. At the end, we tried to take a cab, then decided the train would be easiest even if it were for one stop. After asking the ticket holder what platform, we find no platform exisits. Upon asking others, no one is willing to tell you what platform, even though I know they know it. We ended up giving our tickets to some girls who urged us to take a cab and were escorted out of the station and given directions by a traffic cop. We know he was a traffic cop cause he showed us his ID. A 5 minute taxi cab ride later, we were home. This was after a good 30-45 min of other activities trying to get home. Just as a note, there was no way they were gonna let us take the train. We were cabbing it.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Classy Dinners & Crashing Parties

Monday: Group dinner at the Taj Hotel with Zelon. Food was amazing and free. So were the drinks. This poor grad student was very happy and very full. Upon leaving the hotel, we spotted Nivea gift bags and suddenly it was MBA students turned Hardy Boys and the case of the unknown source of more free stuff. Our detective instincts led us to the first floor where we found a table loaded with gift bags. It was the 19th Annual German Unity Event. Of course we got ourselves in and were greet by a free open bar, free dinner buffet and free dessert buffet. Was this heaven? Shy we were not and our mingling and partying til near closing paid off as we were rewarded with two gift bags. But not to worry as I am apparently one of the event sponsors. Who knew. It's ashame my German roommate wasn't there. For being in India, I am getting a whole lot of German.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Taxi? No, I think you better hail a boat.

While being prepped for our trip over here, we heard stories about monsoon season. We were told torrential rains, flooding, don't wear nice things. Well the season came and went and while it rained, it was hardly what we expected. Overall, it was a very dry season and we felt lucky to have had escaped the daily floods and constant wet clothing. For the past 3 days now it has been raining with today being the ultimate down pour. Walking home after class, I scolded myself for ever doubting my 25$ investment in rain boots which up until today I thought had been a waste of money. There is no doubt that today in the two and a half, small block walk home they paid for themselves. The streets and sidewalks were flooded. Water levels in certain areas were nearing the top of my rain boots which hit the bottom of my knees. I wish I could stay in the rest of the night and watch some good tv, but sadly, the tv was blown out by the thunderstorm last night.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Sunsets & Sunrises at Nagarkot

Please Send New Legs

Day 2 of trekking: Today was going to be a long day. My legs still hurt from the day befores hike although I was surprisingly able to move my legs which I hadn't really been able to do the night before. The hike started out easy enough compared to yesterdays never ending stairs. We had already climbed most of the hill and were now making our way along it at a level point. It was only a 3 hours walk til lunch which we figured was really 4 and then another 5-6 after that.

Just before arriving for lunch, we had our first mishap of the day. One of the boys got ill. Unfortunately, he was not able to enjoy the fresh, homemade lunch made for us. Everything was made and grown right there at the house. Our porter, guide and Preshal all helped make the food. It was so delicious. One of my favorite pictures is from this stop. We had some local boys come and play around the house. I got one skipping back home down the pathway. Before we left, we got one last story of the place involving our guy puking off the stair landing, scaring a chicken at the bottom and having the chicken almost attack him. Sure beats my story of puking off a moving train. We later named the chicken Shanker, but that is another story. After trekking a bit more, we came upon a small town, here we tried to get a ride for our ailing guy and once again it started to rain. At least this time we could get some plastic to cover us. By the time we headed off to continue our trek, we were down two. The only two remaining were the girls.

The rain wasn't so bad, but my legs were not liking the length of the hike. The last few hours were some of the most painful of my life as our level hike suddenly turned to climbing again. Our hotel for the night was at the very top of the highest hill of course. Our guide then took us on shortcuts which were nothing short of mountain climbing. At the bottom of each, I had to give my mind and legs a pep talk to make it up. My legs were dying fast and the hill was not getting any less steep. Even after the short cuts were over the walk was a steep incline that only seemed to get steeper and with each step my legs seemed to turn a bit more to concrete. Of course the final 100 or so meters to the hotel was the steepest incline which I barely had the energy to do. My triumpant picture was not nearly as enthusiastic as the day before. Tomorrow was gonna be interesting unless I got some new legs to use to walk.

30 More Minutes

First day of trekking was the day of the never ending stairs. After about 20 minutes of climbing high, uneven, never ending steps in the heat, I learned I was not even close to being in shape for the trek. The stairs just seemed to reach into the sky and when a plateau was in sight, it was a short lived relief. The locals put us, well mainly me & my fat, skinny ass, to shame. They effortlessly climbed them and I swear they were secretly laughing at us. If I wasn't wheezing so bad I probably could have heard a chuckle under their breath. The day started out hot and sunny. Not being a person for rain, I was so hot and sweaty I didn't care. Rain would have been a welcome relief. Often, we would ask our guide for how long til the next resting place and he would answer 30 minutes. After a couple hours of it always being 30 minutes away and not a single stop, we started to get wise. After a bit more than the half way point, my wish came true. Only I should have been a bit more specific. It poured and poured and hailed and poured. Everytime I thought I couldn't possibly get any wetter, I did. I think my insides were more dry than my outsides and I now was cold as anything. As we continued on, wet, cold and aching, our destination was always just 30 minutes out of reach.

Arriving at the teahouse was an accomplishment but short lived as we discovered our bags were not at all waterproof and everything we had was wet. The teahouse had no electricity, what was barely warm water and a small fire trash fueled fire in a nearby stable for goats. We were back in the early 1900s with no dry clothes and this was only the first day of the trek.

Additional notes: We found tons of MJ growing everywhere. You could smell it along the trails. There were leeches along the trail. I was lucky enough to be spared. Others unwillingly fed the local wildlife. This was turning out to be quite the adventure indeed.

Because of the Festival

Upon arriving in Nepal, we quickly had our first adventure and unknowingly discovered what would become a theme of the trip. Getting our visas turned out to be more of a process than anticipated and more of a process than it needed. Since only one of us had the cash to pay for our visas, we needed to tap Mac which required handing our passports over to security to go downstairs only to find a broken Mac machine. Being the resourceful travelers that we are, we discovered another machine just outside of the airport. But that turned out to be broken as well. It was now down to figuring out how much money we had to free some of us who could then go get cash and save the rest of us. Until it was discovered we actually had just enough cash to free all of us. Score. We were free & prayed that there would be a working machine on the outside.

Getting to our hotel, we were greeted with Nepali tea and snacks and were sat down to plan our stay. We worked in a 3 day trek with sight seeing around Kathmandu. Our planner told us that our free day might have to be switched with our day of sightseeing scheduled for the next day since there was a chance of not being able to get a driver and a guide because of the festival. The festival, which involves the olders giving the youngers tikkas for good health, started the first official day of our vacation and lasts for 5 days. Because of the festival, we would soon find no other excuse was needed for why things didn't work (ATMs were a nightmare), why things were closed or why help was sparse. If we wanted to, we could have turned it into a drinking game we heard it so often. The next few blogs might be a bit slow in getting published...because of the festival.