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.

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