28.8.08

I guess I got off easy.

Over four months in India, and besides the daily annoyances like getting ripped off, yelled at, stepping in human excrement, being inconvienced by lack of tp, baby wipes, faulty internet and phone, and vast cultural misunderstandings (etc etc) I have largely escaped most of the things that travelers are likely to fall prey to.

No malaria, despite only taking medicine every once in a while. No loose stools that lasted for more than a day, despite being quite adventurous with food and drinking some unclean Rajasthani water. I've only been groped by a couple males (nothing that some rock throwing, water bottle boinking upside the head, and yelling couldn't take care off...). And nothing lost or stolen, despite entrusting total strangers to watch my bags when I go to the bathroom in a train and trusting bottom of the barrel hotels to keep my luggage and passport safe when I go out of town. Oh, and I generally trust autowallahs and taxi drivers to take me where they say they are taking me- like yesterday, the taxi ride from Darjeeling to NJP (the train station) is about 3.5 hours long. I took a share jeep on the way up to Darjeeling, which was pretty intense because 2 of the 15 people in the 7 person jeep were puking the entire way...so I payed for a personal taxi to take me down the mountain. Anyway, I got to the train as it was taking off, and other than having to sprint through like 16 boxcars, everything went smoothly.

Upon arriving back in Calcutta around 6am this morning, my first real Indian accident happened. So I'm walking around outside the station with an Israeli girl and man from the Czech Republic- we've decided to share a taxi as we are going in the same direction. It's pretty chaotic, as always, with cycle rickshaws, walking rickshaws, autorickshaws, taxis, motorcycles, and people all going in all diections. My two compadres decide to stand and watch the luggage while I dodge traffic trying to find a taxi for the "right price," which is 40 rupees, but each driver is asking for 150ish.

I find a taxi and wave for the other two to come over. They don't see me, so I start walking their way. Suddenly I'm caught in a big cluster(****) of people and cars. And as I try to break free, it feels as if I'm caught on something. Turns out I was caught on a damn beggar's stealing hand. Pushing everyone away, I looked down at my purse and realized the outer zipper section was open. Of course I have so much junk in there, I had no way of knowing if anything was actually taken. The important stuff (passport, camera, ipod) are in the main compartment, and were all still there. I figured the punk just got some lipstick or hand sanitizer (if he had only asked I would have bought him some value-size Purell so he could share with his whole damn clan of friends who wipe with their hands...)

Anyway, this other man who is evidently mute, starts going nuts and pointing over to the field where all the beggars live. He's really frantic and I'm like "did they actually steal something?!" I really didn't care because I have a cold and didn't sleep on the train. Anyway, so then the good ole corrupt po-pos get involved. They seize this teenage beggar boy with brown teeth, and he's yelling and showing that his pockets are empty. Meanwhile, the policemen are raising their batons and appear ready to go to town on this boy. And, as far as I know, nothing was stolen, so I'm telling the police "it's TK, TK" and to let him go because nothing was stolen. But they are not having it- I think they just wanted to get their first beat-down of the day on. And then I'm like, why is this mute guy so concerned about getting some justice for this theif? So I tell the police, "maybe he's the one who stole..." Anyway, they don't understand English, and evidently don't need evidence to beat the hell out of someone, so my talking was futile.

Well, about an hour ago I'm digging through my purse trying to find my phone so I can figure out what time it is. AND, that's what was stolen. I hope that ass enjoys it since the Sim card has decided to not work in Calcutta and there is no money left on it. Also, I'm about to go cancel the phone. Some people should just stick to begging.

27.8.08




Cleaning the sheep's wool at the Tibetan Refugee Self-Help Center, Darjeeling.


So I go to the Hotel Bellevue in Darjeeling. "I need a clean, single room for a night or twoish," says I.

"OK, we'll show you one upstairs," says awesome Nepali receptionist man.

Room is thi kai (OK in Hindi). "I'll take it," says me.

So they bring up clean sheets and stuff...and this is what a double bed looks like when it's reserved for a single person!!! Is it funny to anyone else that they put a single size mattress pad and sheets on a queen size bed??



If we judge by bruises, Rustom (my trusty steed) was more dangerous than the Scooty. This was the day of. As of today, my legs are one purple, unshaven mess.

24.8.08

video


This lady carried my bag all the way from the jeep stand at the bottom of Darjeeling, to my hotel, which is at the highest point. It was a TREK!! I was totally winded 5 minutes into it (the altitude, duh) and she's just moving along. I know it's her job (and I haven't seen anyone carry their own bags here...) but I paid her triple and had her join me for tea at the hotel. Awesome lady! We're going to meet for momos before I leave.


After my intense galloping in Mirik, with one of the horsey-men. I'm holding my whip (a switch torn from a bush) in my right hand. Kicking, prodding and slapping just didn't make this boy go. But when he sees the switch raise, he takes off!

This horse should be riding me.




I've actually lost weight in India, but you sure as hell can't tell when I'm riding a pony-horse with stirrups that don't adjust. I look like an overweight jockey.


Cute little monk doing his homework. Mirik.


Before galloping up to a Tibetan monastery in Mirik. I didn't realize until seeing these pictures that I'm about as big as this horse. Poor thing.

Because I know you were wondering exactly what train bathrooms look like.



This is aboard the Darjeeling-not-express-at-all. It took like 5 hours longer than it was supposed to. On a side note, this was before I went to the potty...

My walking autowallah!

I've been riding horses all day in Mirik...pics of me and my trusty steed coming soon!!

22.8.08

All in a day

I rode a walking rickshaw. I said I'd never pay someone to walk for me(it is a rickshaw without the bike...just a skinny, barefoot man running with my little chariot.) So, I'm officially a hypocrite. When in Rome.

I saw another naked Indian man walking down the street today. Actually, he had a dirty black loincloth on, but his peter was still showing.

I ate Chinese food at a nice restaurant called Bar-B-Q. Almost puked it up when I saw naked Indian man.

I had my hair trimmed about 2 inches. Taking multivitamins and losing the blow dryer has it looking healthier than ever.

I'm leaving to go to Darjeeling in about an hour. From there I'll explore Sikkim, Bhutan and some other hill stations in NW Bengal.

Am I the first person to think that a Port-o-potty company would do really well in India?

20.8.08

hiiiiiiiii kely...........
how r u.........
plz reply me ............
only on one time tel me how r u nd hows yor ilfe going on...........
realy im truth boy, nd i like u............
plz reply me............
im waiting yor answer................
yors----
vikram dutt................
09414475210

My latest email from an Indian "journalist." The moral of this story is don't give your email to journalists in India...even if they are legit journalists who want to do "further interviews."

16.8.08

More of the Kumortulis.








Kumortuli neighborhood.

Kumortuli section of Kolkata.





God's Country represented in Dalhousie Square, Kolkata.




Theresa's Tomb



Meat in the Muslim area between Sudder St. and Mother Theresa's.




The Last of Nepal

15.8.08



Muslim silk section of Varanasi. Isaw beautiful, beautiful saris being made.  



More fashion statements found on the way to Varanasi and on the Ganges.



More Nepal




Did I mention that I stayed in a brothel/ pay-by-the-hour institution in Nepal? Well, I did. On accident. Patricia and Iwent hiking around Kathmandu and were loving the serenity up in the mountains.  We met a nice lady who owned a guest house near the beginning of the trail.  We said ”what the heck, it’s cheap and the location is perfect.  Nevermind that it’s really run down and there is mildew on the walls.”

So, the next day we returned to spend out last 3 Nepalese nights on the mountain.

The next day Patsy is outside reading most of the day.  Around lunchtime we see a nice looking local couple come in.  Didn't think anything of it. Well, I retire to the room after lunch and Patsy continues reading outside. The couple checks out approximately 2 hours after they came. The man asked Patsy where she's from and who she's there with, etc. She says "my friend is asleep upstairs." Evidently she used a feminine pronoun, which left this guy looking a little perplexed. He decided to explain to her that this "Hill Resort"is THE place in Kathmandu to take your honey for a romantic rendezvous.  

This was confirmed throughout the next few days and nights.  Multiple times.

The last night at the guest house we had a shindig with the owners and their family.  And our taxi driver, Raju, who drove up from Kathmandu to spend the night b/c my bus left at 7am and he didn’t want to make me late.  

Raju is the one pouring the beer.  The little girl is the niece of the owners...she is proudly displaying one of many dance moves Itaught her. And the other is our "room," if you hadn't already guessed.


you can take the girl out of gallette’s but you can’t take the gallette’s out of the girl.  or something.  this is me attempting to dance at some bar in kathmandu.




Ibought this for little Kate, thinking it could be a mobil (isn’t that the name for the things hung over cribs?)  They say that bright colors contribute to a child’s creativity and smarts...this one might just contribute to night terrors.


the feet are placed in the ganges to rid them of sin before they are put on the pyre.

a father's last moments with his child before it is placed on the funeral pyre. heartwrenching.



quite possibly the most intense scene i've ever witnessed.

burning ghats at pashupatinath, nepal

12.8.08

Hello friends and family!

Just a quick update to say that I arrived safely in Calcutta this morning.

My overnight train ride from Varanasi was uneventful. There are usually 4 different passenger sections in Indian trains. 1AC, 2AC, 3AC, 2ndSL, and SL. 1AC is the equivalent of 1st class, the AC standing for the fact that it has AC. The lowest tier class is SL or sleeper. (This may be obvious to those of you who ride lots of trains but my experience outside India has been mostly limited to the Crescent City Amtrak line from Tuscaloosa.) I've taken 3AC once with a lady from work, but other than that I rough it and go with sleeper class. I met some American boys in Varanasi who were planning to go to Calcutta at the same time as me. So, naturally, we booked our tickets together. I convinced them that SL is fine- it's clean, you can open the windows for a breeze, and while some people say it's unsafe, I've never had anything stolen. And the toilets are disgusting no matter what class you're in.

Another fun India fact: the human excrement from trains goes directly onto the tracks which gives Indian train stations their distinctive smell.

So, we got our tickets in sleeper class. I've never considered myself extremely low-maintenance (although I haven't fixed my hair once in the past almost 4 months!! and I stayed in a run-down brothel in Nepal) and I think sleeper class is fine. Well, the boys heard some stories about families of roaches or something like that, and upgraded their tickets. But I stuck with my original cheapskate decision. 300 Rs ($9) for a 12 hour ride is pretty unbeatable. And now I'm staying in a guest house that rivals the Nepalese brothel in terms of cleanliness and water leakage. Except the brothel had a bathroom sink and this guest house doesn't. Nor had the bathroom been cleaned and the toilet flushed upon my arrival. Oh, India.

My plans for the rest of the day are to visit 2 Bengali art museums and then go to the Kali Temple (Kalighat). After that I'm going to wander around the Kalighat Rd. area to see the local sculptors (Kumortuli) who make huge clay sculptures for the Durga Puja and Kali Puja festivals.

Haven't decided what I think about Calcutta yet. I do like that 1/2 the things in this city have my first name as their root word. But it is possibly more congested and polluted than Mumbai. I also plan to check out Mother Theresa's Motherhouse either today or tomorrow and see if they need any help for the next week or so.

Pictures to come.

11.8.08

Varanasi






Pictures from Patan, outside Kathmandu. The little boy has been selected to be a monk and has to live at this temple for a month and not speak to anyone.