I am finally beginning to feel at ease in India. I like it here. We found a good cheap restaurant right by our ashram, there's yoga, food shops for peanut butter breakfast sandwiches, and fixed price clothing stores, plus an amazing lack of hassling rickshaw drivers. Did I mention I am reading "Tuesdays with Morrie" by Mitch Albom? Well, I finished reading it now. It's a great read, particularly because it is set in Newton. In reading the book I wonder if I will be able to do it - lead a good simple life - or will I get caught in the traps. I've read so much about going slow, focusing on emotions, relationships, and forgetting the material things. But everyone who is to be writing about this stuff seems to have already sought their fortune, realized the error of there ways, and are now financially secure enough to live a simple life. But what's a fresh start like me to do? Maybe positive doesn't have to mean poor, and I'm sure it is hard to be positive when your flat broke anyway. I don't think getting a shit job to support myself while spending my free time on good works is the right answer either, that goes against the whole idea, that's what society wants me to do so it can lock me in. Something to think about.
I remember a party I went to last summer when I was in San Francisco. I didn't know anyone and was sitting on the couch with a few other people watching a movie. Then this guy arrived, big guy, looked around the room, saw me, came right over extended his hand and said, "Hi, I'm David." It was one of the nicest things someone had ever done for me, and so simple. I wish I could be like that, so open, so unconcerned with rejection. I want to be a good listener, collector of voices, and story teller, too. A good person. I can try.
I told Alison that she's turning into a real hippy since she decided not to shower anymore on the logic that India is dirty and no matter how often she bathes she will only immediately get dirty again, especially when doing two classes of yoga a day (we hurt all over). But then she pointed out that in fact neither of us have shaved in weeks, I was the one wearing natural fiber clothes and had my hair up in an awful shaggy pig tail. We're having a great time, and after all the yoga, we are showering for sure.
Thursday, March 29, 2007
Monday, March 26, 2007
I have this urge to clean. I want to clean the gutters. the streets. I want to clean the cloths of the people and the children of the streets. I want to tell the builders to use more mortar when building so that the brick buildings don't look like they are falling down right after they are put up. I want to pick up all the plastic and put then is grabage cans that I will have to place EVERWHERE!!! I want to wash all the walls and and paint everything.
I say this not just because it will make me feel better, but I think it will also raise the spirits of the Indian People. It is so cluttered that I don't think it is possible to think clearly.
A funny thing happened the otherday in Udaiper. A merchant Alison and I bought some clothes from tried to get me to trade hime my watch for a pair of pants under the guise that it was an Indian tradition to exchange items from your native lands. I said no and refrained from telling him it was a swiss watch worth much more than the pants, I think he knew... The thing is I really like the watch, and think of my dad whenever I check the time, which makes it special. After six months of being away it's nice to have things that remind you of home and the people who love you.
We made it safely to Rishikesh, where we are now studying yoga, via Agra and two overnight busses. It was quite a ride. The Taj was great, and it was hard to pee on the busses.
Thursday, March 22, 2007
We went to the Shilpgram Craft Village yesterday. It was a little similar to the place we went to in Jaipur, but we were practically the only ones there. We were hoping to learn more about Indian art, but were greeted only by people selling the same stuff they try to sell tourists in the cities. It made us kind of sad, like there was no way for us to break into Indian culture, to be anything more than tourists, walking money bags. I was hoping that it would be something like an Indian Hida No Sato, and when I saw that it was I realized that I really wanted it to be a Hida No Sato in India, a place away from the hagglers but close to the crafts. It was far enough out of the city that the air smelt fresh and the streets weren't filthy. There were great views of the hilly scrub desert, too. It was hot, but it was a good kind of heat. Dry. It reminded me of Arizona and I suddenly wanted to go back to Arcosanti, but the feeling only lasted a minute.
I just finished "The Kite Runner" by Khaled Hosseini. It was alright, but nothing special, filled with cliches, uninspired prose, and staged foreshadowing. Perhaps my problem is the struggle in the book, while great, seems small compared to the struggle in "Water Touching Stone". While set in Afghanistan, being in India helped me visualize the scenery better than I would have otherwise.
I should note that the edition I read, the Bloomsbury 21 version, had a huge misprint replacing pages 82-137 with a repeat of the first four chapters of the book.
Overall I am not sure having an international cellphone is worth it. It is very expensive, and can create more headaches than it fixes, but that could be related to the places I've traveled to. The big up front cost is the unlocked quadband GSM phone, and no matter how tricked out it is, it still won't work in Japan. Then to use the phone you need a sim card. I got a mix of international and local sim cards. The first two I got were Mobal International and Australia Telecom Revolution Prepaid, and later purchased an Indian Airtel Prepaid one in coutry as they are not sold overseas due to the lengthily forms involved.
The Mobal card, which is based in Britain, worked fine in New Zealand, but is very expensive, usually $4/min for international calls and $2/min for local calls. It's redeeming quality is that it works in over 140 countries, so this was my emergency back up card. Unfortunately my service cut out somewhere between Australia and Japan, so when I got to India and tried to call home to say I arrived safely I got no dice. So much for emergencies - I do not recommend Mobal in anyway.
Our Ausi card worked great in the cities but was also expensive. Though not nearly as much as Mobal, we still managed to blow over $100 on minutes. The biggest problem was that we were only in cities for two weeks of the three months we spent in Australia, place a day here and there between wwoof hosts. Most of the time we were so far out in the bush you needed some other kind of non-gsm phone to get reception - to bad for us. So I'd only recommend this if you were planning on staying in town.
The Airtel card is very complicated, but the rates are ok and receiving international calls is free. You need copies of your passport, visa, proof of address, local address, and passport photo just to buy the thing. Then you have to pray the person you bought the sim card from gets all the papers to Airtel's HQ. I'm afraid I wasn't praying enough and after a week of use my service cut out and I got a sms saying I needed to send in my visa form. I couldn't even use the phone to call customer support, and when I called from a payphone they didn't speak English. I went to an Airtel office and they gave me all the forms to fill out again, which I did, only I didn't have another passport photo. I tried to explain that I already filled out the forms in Jaipur but again a lack of English interfered. I couldn't even get them to tell me where I could get a passport photo taken, so I left. If you need an Indian Sim card try Reliance or Hutch, but god help you if you try Airtel.
I remind the traveler now that payphones still exist for local calls everywhere, and it is much less expensive to email home and friends than call. If you getting the phone just for emergencies don't be surprised if when the emergency comes your phone doesn't work. The best options maybe to ask you current cellphone provider if they have international options so you don't need to get a new phone and sim card, or go for a satellite phone.
We arrived in Udaipur late on the 17th. The bus took two hours longer than expected, but we got some great views of the desert. One guy on the bus tried to convince us to stay at his hotel - very irritating, the Minerwa, I believe. He even tried to get the two of us and an Israeli we met plus our bags into a rickshaw with him and his wife. We took a pass, but did share a ride with the Israeli to our hotel. It does help to say you have a reservation, but man that was a crazy hectic night. It was after ten by the time we got settled.
The following day I got sick. Real sick. Vomiting. Seven times till my whole body shook, snot and tears mixing with puke on my face and the floor. Alison called the doctor, but by the time he got here the worst was over. He was very nice, checked my pulse and blood pressure and prescribed a slew of medicines for fever, acid-reflex, diarrhoea, nausea, and stomach pain. The nausea one works great and I haven't up-chucked since. He also told us how to mix our own electrolyte drink: 2t sugar, a pinch of salt, and the juice of a quarter lemon per liter of water. Goodstuff. I felt much better the next day,but still only around 70%. The beds here are so hard I didn't sleep much. We wandered around town that afternoon, even made it to the city palace, but only toured the outside. All I could eat was rice and toast, which was hard because out hotel serves up such lovelies as pizza, mac + cheese, pancakes, and peanut butter. I am a little worried about getting enough protein. After dinner we watched Octopussy, a James Bond flick played every night in just about every restaurant in Udaipur because it was filmed here. It was alright. Only a few more weeks till we're back in the States. I can't wait, Johnny's, Giovanni's, and Jamjuli here I come!
Sunday, March 18, 2007
We have spent 2 weeks in India already. I am getting used to the change. Satying at the Durag Niwas Guest house was a good expereince. We were able to relax a bit. I thought I could avoid the travelers sickness, but I was wrong. I didn't understand how bad it could be. But let me tell you - it is bad. I am taking my anibiotics now, but I am not sure how long i should take them. I feel a lot better, but still feel sumbling in my tummy! If anyone has any advice, let me know.
The days that I spent volunteering were really nice. I felt like I was getting to know the girls/women that I worked with even thought we didn't speak the same language. I am not sure if I will be able to visit them again, so I was a little sad when i left. I don't think they really understod that I was not coming back the next day. They would really like to gert sponors to put the girls in School, especially the younger ones. There is one girl that is so dilligant and smart. She is very young. I want to send her to school. I cost $200 a year for 5 years. SO that is $1000. IF anyone would like to donate money to this cause, please let me know. Email me and I will collect money and send it to them for her schooling. At first I questions whether the money would go toward their school. But after spending more time there and asking lots of questions, I think it is deffinatley a good organization that is really trying to help the girls. So is you want to help out- even if it $50 or $100. Just email me and We will work something out. If not, I will just work extra hard when i get back and save up the money. but wither way, that girl is going to school!
ok, enough of that
We are in Udiapur. we arrived late last night and after husseling the rickshaw drivers we are settled into our hotel.
The streets are like mazes. WE will try to take a cooking class and a painting class while we are here. Then we are off to Agra in about 4 days. Agra will be crazy, so we will live it up here- in the relative peace of the city.
Tuesday, March 13, 2007
So India... Wow, Intense. I still can't believe we're here and it's been nearly two weeks. I watched "Babel" On the flight over. Bad idea. Don't watch "Babel" on the way to a developing country. Good movie though. I've improved significantly since being bed ridden for two days and today we ventured out into the city. It's much calmer than Jaipur, but still hectic. Indian life is so chaotic it seems like they use symmetry in architecture and patterns to bring some order to their lives, whereas in Japan life is very structured already so they prefer asymmetrical designs. Despite having just arrived I am already very excited about returning to the States. There's just so much to do! I came on this trip hoping to clarify my purpose in life somewhat, but I have only found more interests and directions. Something may be emerging from the mists, though, I have discovered much about myself.
While I was sick I read "The Motorcycle Diaries" by Ernesto Guevara. It was great to read about Che's adventure that very much resembles ours, at least in terms of age and duration. The book is very different from the movie, too, shorter I think, but more comes out about Che in the writing. I recommend it whether or not you've seen the film.
It will be amazing to hear a majority of English after four months of babel.
Sunday, March 11, 2007
We are here in Jodhpur. I am having difficulties getting pictures on the blog. so you will have to bear with us. we will put some up as soon as we can.
WE are staying at the Durag Guest House. Here is the website of their non profit: http://sambhali-trust.org/ This place is very nice. They have Indian women that work doing handicrafts in exchange for pay, health education and sometimes even sponsorship for school. I Started helping them out with their bead work yesterday and today. Unfortunately Matthew has been very sick for the past two days so we haven't been able to explore the city. The city is small so we will get to it eventually. While i have been staying indoors I have been able to help the girls with their bead work. It is a very interesting experience since only one girl really speaks enough English to communicate. But it works out. I'm kinda glad that they don't speak that much English, because, although most of them are a lot younger than I am, I am quiet shy around them. They hum, sing and make lots of jokes while work. I am able to learn a lot by just watching.
It turns out that Govind, the owner of the guest house, Took over when he was only 15. His father passed away and he took charge. He has succeeded in making it a lovely guest house and starting this non profit. He encourages people to visit, volunteer or sponsor. I am not sure how I feel about it over all, but I do know that I like working in the environment with all the women. It is very positive and there are many good intentions.
so for now this is all. I hope everyone is doing well. We feel very disconnected from everyone, but at times maybe that is best. Matthew is feeling a lot better this afternoon and I am making sure that he stays hydrated. We miss everyone very much. Even through Matthew's nausea, He reminded me that we must end the trip how we started- At Johnny Rockets in Providence eating greasy burgers with lots of bacon, sharing fries and drinking milk shakes. That is such a happy thought.
I'm sure you can understand. We are enjoying our experience, but we are looking forward to being back.
Friday, March 09, 2007
Hello everyone. We are not only in India, but we have spent 5 days in Jaipur and are now in Jodhpur. When ever i have mentioned to people that I am traveling to India, they always warn me about the cultural difference. However, no matter what people say, you are not prepared for the change. The first city we went to was Jaipur. It is very crowded, dirty, smelly and poor. This was our first impressions. I think is was a difficult place to spend our first days. It seems like a very touristy place and therefore we felt very targeted when walking on the streets. People seemed very aggressive. I don't think that is how everyone is, it was just a dramatic change from the peaceful streets of Kyoto.
Now we are in Jodhpur. We arrived last night. Our Guest house seems more lively. There are women walking around in beautiful saris and a little girl and her pet dog. The rooms aren't as nice, but there are painted bright colors and there are beautiful curtains everywhere. So far the people seem friendly. We will venture out today to get a feel for the city.
All in all, I think we are getting adjusted to India. We are planning our trip using the lonely planet book and by taking advice from tourist and locals.
Hopefully we will check by soon!