Mary Jane grows everywhere in Nepal. Here are pictures of me and Patsy holding this most precious of flora. And a Nepalese sadu (religious man) and granny getting it done. The Sadus pretty much live off of this and donations from tourists and locals.


Zanzibar sunsets

pictures with the fun owner of Cholo's, Gadaffi

Zanzibar pics

Everyone is impressed with the length of Molly's tongue.

This is my hotel taxi and driver broken down on the side of the road in Mumbai, July 8. I got to use a random Hindi word in context. It was impressive.

"Stepnee" is the way you pronounce the Hindi word for spare tire. I know this because I had a fellow intern named Stephanie...and all of our coworkers really got a kick out of her name, which, to the Indian ear, sounds like "spare tire."

"sure as Kilimanjaro rises like Olympus above the Serengeti bum bum बम bum bum bum baahhh"

Some of the best lyrics ever. I remember being at the Booth a couple years ago and Allie leans over her scotch and water to whisper in my ear, "Did you know this song is about slavery? Listen closely."

Anyway, I've had a request to compare and contrast Africa and India. A hard task for someone who has spent about 6 days in 1 of the 53 countries in Africa, but here goes:

1. People walk much slower in Africa.

2. I saw lots more foreigners in Africa (mostly in the airport and on Zanzibar) than I see in India.

3. Africa doesn't cater to the budget traveler like India does. Prices in restaurants, hotels, and for transportation are almost on par with US prices...while in India you can live on a couple USD a day, easily.

4. I didn't see ONE person using the street or any public place as a toilet in Africa. This probably contributes to the fact that Africa doesn't attack your sense of smell like India does.

5. Lots more chickens and cats in Africa...and a major lack of cows, camels, and/or any other animal on the roads. Cars rule the roads...and there seems to be much less public transportation (and very few rickshaws.) Dala-dalas (the public buses and vans) suck...but other than that, getting around Dar Es Salaam and Zanzibar was pleasant and not filled with near-death experiences. The buses are much less reliable or timely than they are in India. A similarity is that in both countries, men hang out of the bus door and yell at people to get on the bus. It's like they're working on commission, which I think is really funny. And the cars are bigger in Africa.

6. Haggling is not a way of life. In India if someone quotes a price, I usually half it and go from there. If you attempt this in Africa, shopkeepers and drivers will just look at you like you're mad. It seems that in Africa, people would rather not sell anything than make a deal. In India, I'm pretty sure, people are so willing to make a deal that they are probably working at a loss half the time.

7. People in Tanzania are obsessed with the following words:
Mambo (how are you)
Jambo (how are you)
Poa (cool)
Karibu (welcome)
Sante (thanks)
Mzungu (white person)
and I'm pretty sure that some locals I met ONLY know these words. And people say "you're welcome" before you say "thank you" almost all the time.

8. African men don't seem NEARLY as sex-starved as Indian men. They don't stare at you for minutes on end while they attempt to drive a motorcycle in traffic. They don't follow you. This is probably because the women in Africa wear more body-conscious clothes, have bubble butts, and don't attempt to wear tummy-bearing saris while weighing 220 pounds. The men in Africa don't wear skin-tight pants like they do in India, either. A welcome change if you ask me.

9. The bananas are better in Africa. The mangoes are better in India.

10. People use shower curtains in Africa.

11. Africa is less colorful than India.

12. Buildings are bigger in Africa and there is a greater sense of personal space. Stores aren't claustrophobic (note the picture of 2 men hanging out of a hole in the ceiling of a shoe store in Jaipur. When you need another size they throw it down from the crawling-room-only storage upstairs.)

13. Restaurants seem to be much more westernized everywhere we went in Africa. The culture doesn't seem to be as homogeneous (looks wise and dress wise and religion wise) in Africa. Overall, I like Indian food better. But it was AMAZING to have a Spanish omelet for breakfast every single morning I was in Africa.

14. Everywhere we went in Africa was 300% cleaner than anywhere I've ever been in India. And quieter. And more peaceful.

15. People beg you to buy their goods in Africa...I felt like I got hassled to spend money a lot more than I usually do in India.

16. I didn't see anyone sleeping on the streets in Africa.

17. Everywhere we went in Africa had AC. And bedsheets. Amazing.

18. It's winter in Africa and it's summer in India. This is the biggest difference.

A Tale of Two Douchebags and their Douchebaggery.

Today at 3:30 am I arrived back in Jodhpur from my Jaipur-Mumbai-Nairobi-Dar Es Salaam-Zanzibar-and back- globe-trotting journey. Besides getting to spend some QT with Lil Mo, seeing the most amazing beaches and sunsets ever (seriously, Zanzibar beats the Caribbean 100% in the pretty water category) and escaping the heat and ridiculousness of Jodhpur, I also had the privilege of meeting two of the biggest douchebags EVER.

Pictured above is douchebag #1, Brian, from Alaska. Brian was on the last leg of a 3month overland trip from Cape Town to Mt. Kili when we met him on the beach outside Cholo's bar. He seemed like a pretty nice, down-to-earth dude...and while his shark-tooth necklace hints at his yankee douchebagness, he possessed some good qualities like-
the ability to throw a football really far,
a good height of about 6'6,
and being an almost-pro baseball player.

Well, the northern tip of Zanzibar (Nungwi) isn't too big, and Brian discovered our whereabouts every day and proceeded to engage us in semi-awkward conversations. Despite the fact that his travel group consisted of around 30 people, he was always alone (this should have been red light #1.)

It wasn't 100% apparent until our last night on the island that Brian was a bonafide douche. First of all, we were on the beach at a fun little ramshackle bar. Not a club. Ole Brian thinks this is the time and the place for skank dancing (btw there is never a time or place for skank dancing)...and proceeds to try out his moves on Molly and I. I'm sorry but 1) huge guys do not get tipsy off of a couple (weak) beers...so there is no excuse, and 2) what is it about baseball players and the attitude that they can get away with whatever they want?? He reminded me of why I quit Diamond Dolls back in high school (besides the fact that it's retarded). Because baseball players are obnoxious and why should I buy candy for them and decorate their houses for no reason? Plus, having "Diamond Dolls" on your resume only looks good to third-tier sororities and the ladies who interview for Vestavia Belles. Pretty much, it's worthless.

One thing that Brian said that night really stands out. "I will definitely marry a southern belle." Right, when you lose the shark-tooth, stop shaving your chest, and get some Rogaine for that baseball-hat-balding-area.

OK, on to douchebag numero deux. We'll call him "Mumbai Man," because he's from Mumbai and he's about 48 years old. He was one of my two seatmates on my flight from Nairobi to Mumbai (my other seatmate was a Sikh who chanted quietly for the duration of the flight, but never said a word to me.)

So, Mumbai man (MM) didn't speak to me for about the first 30 minutes of the flight, which was pretty awesome because I'm desperately trying to finish a book and I've learned that conversations with Indians on planes can last- painfully- for hours. Well, all it took was MM sneezing and me saying "Bless you" to open the door for conversation, dammit. I learn that MM is in the handicrafts business (exporting stuff from India) after owning casinos in Africa for the past decade. He lived in Nairobi for the past 9 years and now has moved back to Mumbai. He was raised in Calcutta and hates India. He asked me about NGOs, etc. And then he asked how I was getting from Mumbai back to Jodhpur. (A question I myself had not figured out yet...I'm into winging-it lately...which is probably stupid considering that our flight arrived at 3am in Mumbai.)

Well, MM was really worried about me being alone in Mumbai. So he orders two vodka shooters and says "Before I start drinking I just want to tell you that I live alone, 6 km from the airport, and you are welcome to stay at my house and make your train reservation from there. I didn't clean the place because I was in a hurry when I left, but it's nice, etc. etc." He went on to say that if I didn't want to do that he would help me find a hotel..."it's just not safe leaving the airport in the middle of the night..." I'm laughing during this whole exchange. I mean seriously- how many girls has this dude propositioned on an airplane??? He gives me his number in case I need anything while I'm in Mumbai. Needless to say, I did not go anywhere with MM, although he did follow me around the airport as I searched for flights from Mumbai to Jaipur. When I had to settle for a 6:35 pm flight I think he got excited because SURELY I wouldn't stay in the airport for 15 hours...SURELY I would want to "freshen up" at his house. When I bought the ticket from the Jet Airways counter the representative said "is that man with you?" "Hell no, he is just following me around" I said. "Do not entertain such people," she advised me. I DON'T WANT TO...BUT WHAT IS IT WITH INDIAN MEN THAT EVEN IF YOU SAY HELLO ON A FREAKING AIRPLANE THEY THINK YOU ARE SOME SORT OF BRITNEY SPEARS-RUSSIAN-PROSTITUTE?????!!!!!!

Finally I had to yell at MM "I'm not going anywhere with you!!" Miraculously, after this moment MM was not worried about my safety at all. I never heard from him. As soon as I escaped him, I got out my trusty, aptly-named sketchbook and began writing down MM quotes. For being such a creep, he was pretty hilarious. Enjoy.

MM: "Why do you want to be in India?"
Me: "I just think the culture is fascinating...etc"
MM: "If you want to learn about Indian culture, buy a book about it and read it. India has nothing to offer."

MM: "You would love Nairobi. I lived there for 9 years. I have a house with 3 bedrooms and maids and cooks."
Me: "Isn't it really unsafe?"
MM: "No. That's just what you hear on the news. In my 9 years I only got carjacked twice and had 1 car stolen. See that's the thing about African men- they love their cars more than their women. If I had my girl with me I would fight for her, but I'm not going to fight for my car. So I never got hurt."

MM: "So is America about to have its first black president?"
Me: "I sure as hell hope not." I go on to talk about how I disagree with Barack on pretty much everything,etc.
MM: "People like you should run America!" Yes, he actually said this. It was the best thing he said.

At this point in the conversation we're watching a Bollywood movie...
MM: "Why don't you become an actress?"
Me: "I hate acting. I think it's hard enough to be myself, much less try to be someone else."
MM: "Or you could be a high-paid model."
Me: Laughing, laughing. "Yes, when I lose 30 pounds."
MM: "See, it doesn't really matter what you want to do. You have to use the talents you have. Anyone can work at an NGO in India. Anyone can sit behind a desk. People that are good looking need to be in the spotlight, whether they want to or not. Leave the rest to the ugly people."
Me: At this point I don't have words...

MM: "What do your parents think about you running around the globe?"
Me: "They think it's a good thing, they are supportive."
MM: "So your dad is paying for you to live in India?"
Me: "Pretty much."
MM: "What does your mom think?"
Me: "Well I think she worries alot and always wants to know what I'm doing...and sometimes I don't think she sleeps...but my dad is really laid back" etc.
MM: "You shouldn't travel if it worries your parents. It's just plain wrong. You should turn around and go home right now- it's not right. I could never live with my daughter running around the world alone. It's just not safe. India isn't safe...I hate India."****

****This is after he tells me that he split with his wife when his daughter was 1 and doesn't speak to them at all. "They do their thing, I do my thing...I was just there to father a child." I love it how it is always parents like this who give parenting advise.

So anyway, what I am trying to say is that I miss southern boys who don't wear shark-teeth or puka-shells.


Yesterday's Strike

2 have died so far.

In other news...I'm going to Jaipur tonight (I think) where I'll be until Tuesday, when I'll fly to Mumbai and then Africa. Should be interesting...


Taking Retarded to a Whole New Level, Part 2 (part 1 was the sunburn)

This is the scooty belonging to my coworkers, Indrani and Anurag. Last week Jasdeep asked for their keys so he could test out the scooty in the neighborhood. He just went to the sweet shop and back, no problems. They weren't even hesitant to give him the keys, which I thought was pretty brave considering he hasn't ever driven a motorcycle.

So, a few days ago we thought it would be a good idea to take the scooty to get lunch, which would require us to leave Milk Man Colony. Once again, Jasdeep and I got the keys, no questions asked. Indrani only asked that we "bring it back in one piece." Before tackling Pal Road, which is a pretty chaotic highway, we decided to take some test runs down the street.

Jasdeep drove first. It's pretty scary to go slow on a scooty because they really aren't balanced at all. Jasdeep was slowly puttering down the lane and putting his legs down ever so often when it felt like we would tump over. I wasn't too impressed with his driving skills.

Then it was my turn. I knew this would be easy for 4 reasons:

1. I have a helmet.
2. I have motorcycle accident insurance.
3. I'm coordinated and have good balance and eye-hand coordination.
4. I can drive a jetski...a scooty is just like that but without the water. (Yes, this was an actual thought of mine.)

So I get on and Jasdeep, the recent scooty pro, tells me how to make it go and how to make it stop. The go is the right handle bar and the stop is on the left. Pretty much, it's easier than riding a bicycle. So I'm set.

I take off pretty fast through Lane 3 of Milk Men Colony, cow dung spewing in my wake.

"I'm damn good at this," I say to myself. And at this point I know I will purchase a motorcycle when I get back to Bama.

After two blocks I'm feeling that the straight lane is getting a little boring, so I decide to take a sharp turn. Only problem is that I got a little too excited and forgot how to brake.

Seeing that I would inevitably crash into a gate, I accelerated. It was like being in a dream and not being able to scream. Next thing I know I'm laid out under the scooty and the neighbors come out to see what happened.

"What happened," an old, round man asks.

"Oh, I was just driving this scooty...I've never driven one before and I don't have a license," I said.

I walked Mr. Scooty back to the office and decided that I'd take a rickshaw to lunch.

Gate to a house in Milk Men Colony

The good thing about this gate is that it was shut, but not locked. So it was really a blessing in disguise because as I smashed into it, it broke my fall. (The other thing that broke my fall was my right hand...my wrist still kinda throbs...)

Thankfully, that pile of cow mess wasn't there because that's exactly where my legs landed.

The aftermath...not too bad!

For having 2 legs stuck under a scooty, I think I got off pretty easy.

This is the cow building directly across from the Gravis library's window. These men spent lots of time building walls out of cow patties. I have no idea why they wanted to block their window and door with cow poop...but regardless, it provided me with entertainment. This one fella was loving the limelight and jumped in most of my 27 pictures.


The original crew.

Lillian's B'day

Old city at dusk

Old city at dusk

Yesterday was Lillian's 25th birthday, so we planned a little shindig at our old haunt, the Haveli Guest House. Cassie and Olivia (a chef and winemaker from South Africa who is staying at our friend Govand's guest house) made lots of yummy food, which we began setting up on the terrace. Within minutes we had attracted some hungry monkeys, one of which was particularly aggressive. He jumped on our table while we were sitting there and just started casually eating our masala mixed nuts. When we tried to kindly shoo him away, he showed his fangs and hissed, which was pretty scary. Then he started digging through my purse...luckily he only stole an empty plastic bag. Sarah, one of the new interns, thought that speaking French to the monkey would make him go away. I'm not really sure why...but here's a picture of Sarah speaking French to the monkey. I think he almost killed her. The other picture is of me trying to look calm but actually being pretty nervous that my monkey friend is about to pounce on me (it's happened before...only this monkey has open wounds, sharper teeth, and an erection.)

Last week we had Uncle's sister-in-law, her son and his wife over for a night of dinner and karoake. Siddarth, my youger host brother, is the one in the red shirt. He was in town for about 10 days visiting from Bangalore..he returned last night.

All Work, No Play

Jasdeep, my fellow American Gravis intern, has been begging me for an introduction on my popular blog. So, here is Jasdeep giving Rajendraji bunny ears. Jasdeep is an avid Barack Hussein Obama fan and an upcoming Junior at Duke University (majoring in engineering.) He enjoys playing soccer, taking pictures of rickshaw drivers, philosophizing, chugging mazaa, and criticizing me. Jasdeep's family is from Punjab, but he was born and raised in the great southern state of North Carolina (where he ate lots of BoJangle's.) Speaking of food, Jasman also loves Indian milk cake sweets and chai, MANGOES, and monkeys. Jasdeep has his own blog, which is considerably more "deep" and "meaningful" than mine...but is updated about 1/20th as often. The title of this post links to his blog. Another interesting fact about Jasdeep is that he has the tiniest computer I've ever seen.

Just today Jasdeep had a real in-depth insight into my life. "Kali, you would be a good housewife. I think you'd like it. You are good at gossiping and finding ways to make yourself busy. You are good at wasting time, too."

As you can imagine, this comment made me feel super special. He said he didn't mean it, but that he "feels more comfortable making fun of people than being nice." Or something like that. I have to give Jasdeep a little credit though...he listens to me babble ad nauseum about the drama and ridiculousness that is my life in Jodhpur.

Speaking of interns, we have a new one today. Mya, from Heidelberg. She did some research in Jodhpur last summer and now she's back for 2 months. She's a geography and english major and is probably going back to get her PhD next year.

The other two pictures were taken 2 days ago. The entire office, except me and Jasdeep, had an all-day meeting in the basement. When they emerged for lunch this is what we saw: Indrani's sketch of Roshanji at the meeting, and a fired up Rahul and Shailendra.