Tuesday, December 23, 2008
Monday, December 22, 2008
Trying to be inspired by Katia's ability to work on a paper while granddad-sitting. Especially when much smaller thing seem to defeat me--e.g. the existence of brownies in the house, the playing of pedal steel guitar downstairs, the fact that I don't want to write the paper.
The couch was very uncomfortable, and now I have a stiff neck. I can't possibly write a paper with a stiff neck. But I have a conference call in 2 hours.
Saturday, December 20, 2008
Thursday, December 18, 2008
Wednesday, December 17, 2008
I got another TA appointment, for the next level of quantitative analysis! Working for someone who may be the future mayor of Austin! Woah! Lucky me, except I'm a little freaked that I don't know anything about this class. It would be easier to TA for undergrads. But this appointment will certainly be simpler than my previous appointment.
Home is still lovely. Drank a bitter margarita as my brother and I shopped on Magazine. Failed utterly at Jeopardy. Made my whole family listen to my radio show. Lunched with my mom and her friend. Will go to work with my mom tomorrow (teaching at a school) and will hang out with K tomorrow night probably. But at some point, I need to write up a 20 page report during all this. Oops. Should have planned better. I guess I could be doing that right now, but I'd rather read Dead Until Dark.
This blog is a liability. No one should be able to find out how irresponsible I am.
Got home, crashed by 10, and, typically, woke up at 3. Terrible nightmare. But interesting. Can't decide if I should try to go back to sleep (after 2 truffles and an apple and a few TV shows) or just stay up till yoga in 6 hours.
There's this bizarre whirring noise in the neighborhood. I can't figure it out. Not that I'm going to go out and check.
Special thanks to Andy, Nora, my family, my insurance company and Katy for talking me through the sleepiest parts of the drive. And of course to Mika's music. God that album is just fantastic!
Xander is so thrilled to see me it brings tears to my eyes. I should never have left him.
Saturday, December 13, 2008
not only have I not finished my project, I have avoided it with dull diversions, such as True Blood and internets. ('internets' is so passe, but remains funny to me; no one understands the joke of the article-less "internet" when I say it). I sometimes would stare up at my bookshelf, with a dull thought in my head, like "what are those for? better keep surfing the internet. i'm sure there's something important on there NOW." i did reserve a bunch of books at the library to take home with me (and potentially leave in New Orleans for massive fines one day), mostly about road trips, but one about cars.
talked to both j and l on the phone, friends I hear from too rarely. Put together a cat tower with A. had 1 coffee and 3 donuts. and 1 apple. made a list of the people i will see in new orleans; found that their initials can spell "cracklin'" kind of.
one of my all time favorite pieces of music. can't stop listening to chopin today. also, can't stop pronouncing it "choppin'" in my head.still have not completed accursed proposal. i propose that i fail the class. is it worth $1500 to me to not finish this project? no... maybe.
Problems I have with the show True Blood: Anna Paquin's Louisiana accent. That their fangs are too close to the front--they look like bunnies. Some of the acting. The fact that Sam is so clearly hotter than Bill-the-bunny. But I am enjoying the books.
Music: Enjoying Shearwater more and more. Also finally got the M.I.A. album, and The Agnostic Mountain Gospel Choir, which I haven't listened to all the way, but which is fantastic at first blush anyway.
Friday, December 12, 2008
Now I just have to get my funding proposal for India together. But I have no desire to go back. No desire whatsoever! I just want to take a road trip and get some money by working, not by writing this crappy proposal and then blowing it all on 16 hour plane rides. Ugh.
Talking with my brother's former GF now. About surfing movies.
Thursday, December 11, 2008
Wednesday, December 10, 2008
My internet is patchy at best. Even the stolen wireless is crap. I can't tell if it's the service or my computer. I will blame TimeWarner for the time, and let that be my excuse for late payment.
I finally got back online, after rabidly trying to for about an hour. After I got on, I immediately began aimlessly surfing the internet, bored already, wondering why I'd wanted so badly to get online in the first place. I can check my email from my phone. And I can waste time by reading the Southern Vampire series. Yes, vampires and more vampires for me. Sexxy. I'm also making a mix for tomorrow's show that is of songs about snow. I'm missing all my different genres, though. I need five. I have one and a half. I'm not worried about the new music, or the Texas artists music. But the genre count is always my weak point.
It remains cold today. I finished an exam today. I went to a chiropractor and a therapist today. I printed out a map of the United States today highlighting places I would like to visit. The square states. The M-states (specifically, Montana and Minnesota). Hot springs in every state. That big red lump in the middle. What is there? What does "badlands" mean? What do people do for fun there? How many people can I fit in my car?
Me: I like asparagus!
Dad: I liked asparagus, too, when I was a little girl.
Dad: Yep, I ate asparagus all the time, and it turned me into a little boy.
Me: [eyeing asparagus warily] Really?
Dad: [mouth full of asparagus] Uh-huh!
Age 6/7 (Christmas morning)
Me: I made coffee for y'all last night! I made it extra strong like you like.
Mom: How did you make it strong?
Me: I put it through the filter twice.
Dad: How do you know that made it stronger?
Dad: How do you know that didn't filter some of the coffee-ness out of the coffee?
Me: [feelings of failure]
Me: Move out of the way. I'm going to throw up. I'm really nauseous.
Dad: No. You're nauseated. Nauseous is something that causes nausea.
Me: I'm so nauseous, please move out of the way!
Dad: You're nauseated. You've been known to be nauseous sometimes.
Me: [glare of death] I'm nauseated, and if you don't move I'm going to throw up on you.
Dad: There. Was that so hard?
Tuesday, December 09, 2008
now...omg omg omg omg! it's snowing!
Monday, December 08, 2008
I think I'm closing up shop here soon. No one updates their blogs, and no one but a handful of people read mine, so I'm not sure what the point of having a public blog is. I've started writing most stuff to myself, and (as you may have noticed) putting the internet detritis up here.
Tomorrow night is happy hour with the class I TA'd. I set up a SurveyMonkey survey to determined "Where will drinking happen?" In the emails back and forth, there were some running gags about a) one student being a stripper b) me being an alcoholic (because I said "You guys better come to happy hour becuase if I end up at C&A drinking alone....it'll be just like every other Tuesday, I guess."). I think the latter joke is most hilarious since I won't drink. Tonight I need to finish a lot of things, which I've been needing to finish for a while (I'm just going to keep blaming the Twilight books for all my problems as long as I deem necessary).
Meeting someone at the grocery store name "Caddy" made me hate Austin for some reason. But it may have been influenced by the fact that I could smell the oak in the air today, and it was a beautiful day, and I wanted to curl up in a ball on the stone bench outside because I missed New Orleans so much.
Sunday, December 07, 2008
- the soul of my brother is pure though he doesn't think so
for some reason, it's all my head will sing me at night, and i can barely get the sound out when i try to hum along. it's the saddest little song.
Friday, December 05, 2008
- Did you love this world? And did this world not love you?
It's that time of semester and year, when the ache of being so close to done distracts me from the fact that it's not actually done yet. there is so much that i could say, but i'm afraid of saying it like the twilight books, so i better not say anything at all.
i will just once again call attention to the squallor of my life: 5 coffee cups and a salad bowl on my nightstand.
- he's simple, he's dumb, he's the pilot; grandaddy
Thursday, December 04, 2008
Monday, December 01, 2008
i could make this again another new yorker style abstract of my week. but again, all i can think of is "nothing." probably this class i'm in is not helping.
the needle in my neck thing went ok. it did hurt, and it was hard to talk with a numb neck. the lump is still there though, which is disappointing.
i waaaaant to sleeeeeeeep. i can't.
i might start eating fish again, to be more healthy. i didn't realize how reliant i'd become on it for protein, and there's only so much tofu i can take. it will make me stronger. it'll be better than cookie dough, at least, the main staple of my diet the last few months. but cookie dough's brand of guilt is a different kind of guilt than hook-in-mouth-of-suffocated-creature guilt.
well, i guess i'll get back to examining the guy in front of me's computer, where he is planning his next world of warcraft character. sad!
Saturday, November 22, 2008
I have a really nice boyfriend, even though he stood me up at the concert I had to go review last night. I burned the inside of my mouth on a burrito. I fell asleep in the bathtub. I have a golf-ball sized growth on my thyroid and need to get a biopsy WITH A NEEDLE IN MY NECK on Monday (I KNOW!). I play and enjoy D&D a great deal and will miss it in the coming holiday season. But I am looking forward to being home this Christmas for almost a month, even though I will miss aformentioned boyfriend. I will probably go to Russia over spring break (ahh, balmy Russia in March), and am looking for funding to get me back to India over the summer. Right now, I'm in the middle of administerting oral exams (8 hours a day, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday), which leaves me no time for my actual work, especially considering I'm going to the symphony tonight. I'm looking forward to being out of school and getting a real job. I am skipping my upcoming high school reunion. All my my friends are breaking up with their long-term bfs. My radio show is going pretty well, and I record it as often as I can with the hopes of setting up my own website with like a podcast, as illegal as that is. I am playing Word Challenge less, which is a relief on my time demands (this was a word game on Facebook that I literally was addicted to; it didn't even bring me pleasure to do anymore because I had no more goals to achieve). My cats are still the light of my life, and there was a funny incident involving a squirrel, but if you're not a cat person, you wouldn't understand. They sleep under the covers with me more and more because my heater isn't set up properly (I have to take the thermostat apart and switch some wires around; pretty awesome of me, right?). I bake cookies pretty often. I've eaten so much sugar in the last few weeks that my face has broken out despite being on hormones. When my boyfriend was out of town, I removed 6 months' worth of recycling from his home and washed 6 loads of his laundry. I discovered the reason most of his clothes are on the floor is that there is no room in his closet or two dressers for all of them.
But now my next (and last for the day) student is coming in, so I have to pay attention to hypothesis tests and p-values and things.
Monday, November 17, 2008
(sadly not actully a video:)
Also not the video, for some reason:
The sole result for "weasel rationing"
Tuesday, November 11, 2008
Sunday, November 09, 2008
This is like a month old, but this is verrry cute. I thought of it last night because Haley Joel Osmont is so cute as Forrest Jr:
Thursday, November 06, 2008
Wednesday, November 05, 2008
How I feel. An empire-wide party with at least 52% of the population.
Tuesday, November 04, 2008
- All the hopes that you've been holding on to for so long
Ohh, sometimes it takes a night to fall
So, tonight was the best night ever. Obama...well, no words can describe the feeling.
But just as CNN called the election, Andy and I beat my high score on Word Challenge (Facebook game). And Katia's unbeatable score.
Now what remains is to beat this night, and even this day (14 hours of sleep and doing jack all day).
What if Bush was elected to create such animosity towards the republican party so that Obama could win so soundly? I think in terms of fate a lot. What if Obama is going to be so good that the last 8 years fade to nothing? I've never had this much hope after an election.
- Basia Bulat, In the Night
Wednesday, October 29, 2008
Tuesday, October 28, 2008
things i do that i love:
- have a boyfriend (well, have MY boyfriend)
- have two cats (MY two cats)
- play games
- make cookies
- not drink alcohol (feels great!)
- box (even if I've missed about 4 classes in a row; i like to hit)
- have my own place
- wash my hair infrequently
- have plants that are still alive
- drink perrier and ginger beer when feeling extravagant
things that i do that i do not love
- be in school
- take lots of math classes with bad teachers
- have enemies
- have my own place which often has no hot water
- sing and play the guitar
- not have a dryer that works
- take home exams
- group projects
- teach (sometimes)
Sunday, October 26, 2008
right now, i also am hating school, but not for the same reason. people at LBJ are great. the work is not so great. i'm ready for an awesome job and awesome pay, but i figure i should finish up here first.
Friday, October 24, 2008
Then came. And sat. In the loudest airport in the world. For four hours. There is a baby screaming like I have never, ever heard a baby scream. My eardrums are bleeding. And just when I think an announcement cycle is done (please attend to your bags, please note this gate change, please bring your own headphones), some alarm or another goes off, the place suddenly because a disco of red strobe lights, the guy on the phone next to me starts arguing that the capital gains tax is too high. Things that make me want to cry and/or hit someone.
Wednesday, October 15, 2008
Tuesday, October 14, 2008
Monday, October 13, 2008
Professor [to student]: Ah, yes, we can take a break, that's OK. We can let Carrie enjoy her...drink...her...what is that??
Me: Beer! What?
A jolly laugh was had by all, especially when I revealed it was ginger beer, my latest, high-priced bad habit.
Friday, October 10, 2008
Thursday, October 09, 2008
Wednesday, October 08, 2008
Let me just name the things on my mind, in advance of therapy. Or in lieu. This is a lot cheaper anyway.
i might have hit some kind of animal on the drive home last night. I really have no way to know this, I just know I lost control of the car for a split second, and now my brain is in overdrive, wondering if the car felt like something squishy was under the wheels.
i may have just gotten my first genuine D on a test, from a professor that i want to have respect for me, since she'll be judging my paper that's due friday.
i have a 15 page paper due friday! it's coming along very slowly, and i don't think it contains any of the necessary information that it should. it's about india, and my work there this summer. oh god
on the radio last night, during the giveaway, i didn't know the number and the other DJ had to quickly come to the mic to say it. i felt like a fool! not to mention i have a friend-crush on this DJ, and now all hope is lost!
i am nervous about going back on the radio tonight. so nervous. because what if i don't know the number again? or what if i don't know something else important? like how to turn the microphone off in the studio while i'm playing a song?
what if someone calls just to talk like they did last night, and we don't have time to talk to them? do i just hang up on them?
what if during boxing tomorrow i just pass straight out because it's been so long since i exercized? this is a very, vvery real possibilty, and it is verrry not Badass, which is the point of going boxing.
god, i feel so sick that i didn't enjoy my chocolate cake at all. on and off for the past week, i've had no appetite. i know i'm hungry, but i don't enjoy eating, not even things like chocolate cake! i think it has something to do with my heart. like what i said earlier about the pericardium being just a sac of acid at this point. i think there's something to that.
[primal scream, silent, out into the coffeeshop; gets one more latte]
Saturday, October 04, 2008
Friday, October 03, 2008
Thursday, October 02, 2008
I don't have any money!. Tissue can get expensive. But then again, so can tear duct plugs. I am poor now.
Wednesday, October 01, 2008
I'm excited that I'll be starting my internship at the radio station soon. That means I'll be getting my show soon. Hopefully it won't play out like my dream, in which I spilled apple juice on the control board and then insulted another DJ by calling him the "old guy" when he was standing right behind me.
I might take a 1 hour nap, speaking of dreams. I've been having a lot of them lately, and I keep forgetting to update my dream journal. It's weird to re-read that journal because I often have no memory of the dreams, even after I've written them down. I had an interesting nightmare a few nights ago.
I got a fan for my birthday. Like an old-fashioned oscillating fan, from my mom. it's been the best thing ever. I haven't use the AC for weeks now, and this means I can leave the doors open, which means the cats get some balcony time. They still haven't mastered the cat door, so I'm getting lots of bugs, but that's OK.
I have the sea ponies song stuck in my head.
Tuesday, September 30, 2008
Monday, September 22, 2008
Saturday, September 20, 2008
Tuesday, September 16, 2008
Everyone who wrote, I really appreciate it. It really made it one of the best birthdays in years, to hear from so many people. I love emails and comments and Facebook and text messages!
There was a cold snap the day of my birthday, which was great. So here's the quote of the day:
Mom: Yep, this is the perfect weather for you: gloomy and cool.
Monday, September 15, 2008
After playing Scrabble with my mom, aunt and boyfriend (Andy went out on the first round, with LEANING), I spent the evening performing surgery on my Roomba. It felt weird and wrong, like performing surgery on my own pet. With a screwdriver. But it seems to be feeling better now.
I had a perfectly lovely weekend, finally hosting my chai party. Dear people came, and praised me and my samosas. Some even brought gifts (today is my birthay, technically). Some brought notes so nice I thought I'd well up then and there (luckily, I have diagnosed dry-eye syndrome, which prevents sappiness). But it wasn't even a birthday party! I just have really sweet friends.
And a whole lot of chai and chocolate cakes* leftover.
Which. Is. Awesome.
*Cakes plural! And two of them are homemade!!
But now I have a lot of homework to do. I mean a lot.
Thursday, September 11, 2008
Wednesday, September 10, 2008
Tuesday, September 09, 2008
Tuesday, September 02, 2008
[politics] they said palin's background was thoroughly checked, and that gave me a clue as to why she was selected--of all the republican candidates whose backgrounds were thoroughly checked, was she the best option? wow. it really makes a lot of sense, but is a bit scary.[/politics]
in other news, i'm back in school. my statistics class has completely thrown me for a loop. being a TA has gone OK so far (one face-to-face, and a few emails). other classes are so so. i'll survive, and i'll reallllly try not to make myself crazy. there's too much cool stuff that i'll be doing this semester to be freaked out all the time. still. wish i had not had so much coffee this morning.
spent the weekend in the hill country (o' texas). that was delightful. went tubing, got a tan (for real!). andy read paradise lost, and i worked on problem sets when we weren't tubing or petting debbie and phil's animals (2 dogs, 3 cats).
spent about 5 hours straight working in the library today, and that felt good, but i did all the mindless tedious stuff, not the stuff that actually needs to get done. so i should maybe work on that now.
Thursday, August 14, 2008
But here's what happened at the airport: as I was boarding the plane, I was informed that I'd been upgraded to business class for the 14 hour flight. It was a miracle. This post has not much information or entertainment value, but I had to share this important milestone in my life.
Wednesday, August 06, 2008
I'm trying to find a non-dodgy theater (bike shop people said the one right next to me is bad news for Western ladies) so I can catch up on US movies. I have a lot to see this summer. Dark Knight, of course, being first on my list. Actually, that's all I can think of right now, but really there are lots of movies to see, aren't there? I missed the end of Indiana Jones when (don't read!) the crystal aliens completed their intelligence module and launched into space. Unless Alex was messing with us. This is probably as accurate a movie about alien culture as Temple of Doom was about India. I haven't had any chilled monkey brains here yet, but maybe it's because I keep saying "veg" and not "non-veg."
Tuesday, August 05, 2008
But my last travel day! Thank god! I tried to search myself for a sense of regret, but there wasn't much. There was a little, to think I will no longer be "traveling India" anymore, but rather just biding my time in Delhi till I go home.
I actually have plenty to do in Dlehi, and plenty of it is part of the project, but all the same, it's the end. I'll be looking for closure as I go through all the activities I have. Meeting the Loyola group, going to Bullet Wallas. The Loyola group is a group that will work with Tibetan refugees (I think), and BulletWallas is the motorcycle shop Eric told me about that I've been trying to get to ever since I landed 3 months ago.
Saturday, August 02, 2008
Another thing to take into account about this guest house is its incredible noise level. I have to wear my earplug-headphones (thanks Dad), just to read!
Everything’s got me on edge. Not in a pathologically anxious way, just in a genuine, reasonable way. I’m sure the constant noise is contributing to this feeling.
I feel like I’ve written so little in this notebook, but maybe it’s more I have small handwriting, and the pages are thin. It’s quite a nice notebook. If I combined all the journaling I’ve done, that is, almost everything that’s up between the two blogs, I’ve been pretty good about keeping a journal this trip. Not every-day-good, but pretty good.
Now I’m sitting, waiting for Madhu and Rakesh’s ride. M and I spent the morning together, speaking broken English, but managing to at lest communicate our mutual good will. She seems kind and patient. She was going to take me to the temple across the street, where her husband was, ut at the last minute asked if I’d had eggs for breakfast. I had, so I couldn’t go in, but I’d rather not go in than offend anyone’s gods. It doesn’t quite seem fair that I’m so close to pure veg and can’t at least poke my head in. It looks quite small and unimpressive, though, so I’ll pretend I’m not missing much.
Friday, August 01, 2008
I’m writing a lot. I think I should go to bed for a bit. With the taste of raw onion still in my mouth.
Speaking of which, I’m going on my third straight week with no AC, maybe longer. It doesn’t really matter much here in Shimla, nor did it in Mussorie, but I’m proud of my accomplishment just the same. Summer in India, to quote my doctor (incidentally of grad of Panjab University) is freaking hot. But the hill stations are downright chilly. Good thing for my awesome reversible Harry Potter cloak I got in Mussorie!
Tonight at dinner, I met a nice couple. The wife (Madhu) doesn’t speak English, but through her husband (Rakesh) she asked me if I’d like to go into Shimla with them tomorrow. I should explain that I’m actually outside of Shimla in a forest rest house. There is a small town here, though, so it’s not as remote as it might sound. Khalini Forest, if anyone cares. There is a temple across the road, so there is all this joyful singing and drumming reminding me pleasurably that heck yeah, I’m in India. Heck yeah I got a sweet place to stay and a free ride into town tomorrow. Hells yes, to quote Tabby about whom I will always think when I hear that phrase.
I got copies of a lot of really helpful reports while in Chandigarh, and while they sorted out my room this evening, I looked through some of the data, just to get an idea of some of the stuff I’ll have to work with. They apologized repeatedly for disturbing me, and I felt for once like an important researcher. I don’t even know how many of those charts and tables stuck in my head, but maybe it will ring a bell later when someone asks how much rainfall is absorbed by surface water as opposed to groundwater.
I desperately need to do laundry, but probably won’t. Travel days just wear me out, even when they go as smoothly as today’s did (thanks for Daizy and Harminder and others in the lab). I just feel so uprooted, I need to re-orient in whatever new place I am. I’m glad to have the weekend to start out, even though I don’t have either of my interviews confirmed for Monday. Although this is par for the course here, I’m still a bit nervous that my trip up here may have no official purpose.
Still, at lets it will increase my street cred on the “traveled through India” front. Let me take stock: I’ve been in Delhi, Dehradun, (Kathmandu), Jaipur, Varanasi, Rishikesh, Haridwar, Rajaji and Corbett parks, Leh, Mussorie, Chandigarh, and Shimla. Some of these places multiple times. No wonder I’m always so tired!
I feel if I were better at interpreting and controlling my dreams, I could be a writer. But I have no faith in my lucid reams—they always become so much less vivid than whatever my subconscious comes up with. I need to better harness my inner self. Then wild and fanciful stories will just flow from me.
Right now I’m in Shimla and because of my computer being dead, I’m having to go back to doing this journal thing manually. I’m also having to close my rest house door with more effort than I’d like. There’s no door knob on the inside, so if I close it normally, I lock myself in. But with MacGyver-grade placement of paper wads, I can close and even lock the door, though I still have the chair in front of it for good measure.
My last few days in Chandigarh were out of a dream. Well, that is to say, I only had two fantasy dreams of being home in my four days there. I interviewed three people, though the batteries died during this morning’s third. Everyone was unbelievably helpful, and the Botany Department for whatever reason really took me under its wing. I will be forever indebted to them for recharging my spirits (and my computer), even as the government official I was working with dropped heavy hints that we should have an affair. To repeat my earlier sentiments on that matter, eeyuck.
I got to ride several times on the back of a scooter, which was pretty exciting. Today I rode with a girl to the Rock Garden (look it up). I made a whirlwind tour of it. (Professor) Harminder of the Botany Dept was surprised when I got back so early, and I told him I thought I got lost. He said there was only one path. I said that didn’t mean I couldn’t get lost (which is true). In fact, the whole place reminded me of a map on Myst (video game). I kept expecting significant music to play every time I saw a weird little figurine made of trash. Harminder’s every-smiling eyes seemed especially amused that I could get lost in the Rock Garden, but what can I say. It is my talent.
Thursday, July 31, 2008
I think I got majorly hit on today. It probably could go into My Studies blog, actually, as it is more related to that, but eeyuck, I’m too skeeved out to give a detailed account. I’m not sure how I could dress more conservatively, short of a burqa, but something about me screams ho in Hindi. I doubt they even have a word for that. They probably just say “American.” I repeat: eeyuck.
And lastly, I will try to fill in the blanks for some of our quotes. Here’s one from Ladakh. It more of a dialogue:
Me: My friends…are they here?
Guest House Owner: Hmmm…Americans?
Me: Yes! A girl and a boy…the girl has long, curly red hair!
GHO: Ah, ah, yes, they are here. [directs me to a room with two Japanese-American girls. I apologize to them]
Me: [thinks long time] Ummm…red hair? Like this [indicates curly] and like this [indicates a red flower, which turns out later to be a plastic bloom pasted to a real plant]
GHO: Oh, oh! A lady and a gent! Gent is Indian?
Me: [decides the language barrier doesn’t facilitate me explaining that Alex is Filipino-American.] Yes, that’s right!
GHO: No, no one here like that.
Tuesday, July 29, 2008
S informs me that I probably have some horrible dermal parasite which hasn't manifested yet. Yes, I used her initial because of confidentiality purposes. like you can't figure it out if you cared.
I can't believe it's almost 7, and I've been at the computer for hours. It turns out the computer lab is a sociable place, though, and I've met several people. One girl is going to take me out and show me the campus tonight, since I keep getting lost. Everyone here is the Nicest Person I've Ever Met, making Punjab my favorite state. Or at least Chandigarh my favorite city. In the world. Maybe that's going a bit far, but I feel wonderful about it right now. Except about the S key on this keyboard.
Wednesday, July 23, 2008
I haven't posted or written in my Studies blog because my computer has up and died. Which is lame of it, and I tried to explain to it that none of the other computers wants to play with a dead lappy, but it remains dead. I'm sort of in mourning, though there's still hope that if I get a new charger, it will work again. For now, it's just a fragile hunk of junk that I'm forced to carry around with me everywhere. Dumb computer!
It's my third full day at LBS in Mussoorie. India is growing on me more every day, and I'm afraid after all my homesickness and misery, I'll be equally unhappy to return home. No, that's not true, because I can't wait to see my family and my cats and my friends (including Andy, yay!). There are things I won't miss about India, that's true enough. But I have a feeling that I will look back quite fondly on most of this experience for the rest of my life.
Next week, I have the chance to visit an ashram. Which kind of is amazing when I think about it. They're just going to let me stop by and check it out. I'm really looking forward to that, so I hope my bad travel luck doesn't strike on that particular day.
I keep dreaming of Ladakh, and flying! It's the awesomest dream ever!
This update is equally disjointed, but I have no excuse of exhaustion. I guess my excuse is hunger because I'm about to go to dinner right now.
Tuesday, July 22, 2008
I'm about to go to lunch. I'm not even hungry, but that's how much I love lunch!
When I come to update here, I feel like I've already said everything in the Studies blog. Maybe I need to better differentiate the blogs. It's nicer to have the whole experience in one place, and since the Studies blog is the most verbose, it pulls in all the other details as well. I come here and find myself with nothing left to talk about besides "What in the world is my hair doing lately?" or "OMG, y'all, I got a totally cute reversible wrap yesterday!"
Last night in bed, I watched Bollywood for an hour. But the thing is, the sound on my TV doesn't work. So I watched Bollywood with the sound off. It's OK because I already knew most of the songs for the videos, and I could just listen in my head. I noticed a lot more details about the choreography, too. This is probably what my friend Jay does when he'd bedridden from back surgeries. Except I had no excuse but laziness.
Sunday, July 20, 2008
holy! sufjan stevens is totally adorable! did everyone know this already? i imagined him with sickly washed out skin and horrendous ape-like orange eyebrows. and thick like an oak tree, which is all fine, but not what i would call adorable.
but i was wrong about him being christian, according to wikipedia--he's just very spirtual. it's just danielson that's christian.
But just to let you know, I'm at the next destination. I didn't update my Studies blog yesterday today, so I need to work on that. But the rooms here are swank, the food it good, the people are helpful. All good news. I hope I get a lot of work done here.
Saturday, July 19, 2008
Friday, July 18, 2008
- You will become a hypocrite, you will become a liar, and you'll try to paper up your own cracks, and everybody does it, and that's what becoming an adult is. And then you have babies, and that's it.
(Thom Yorke)I've quoted this before, but every once in a while, I decide to get morose about growing up, growing old, not growing anymore. Although, about that last one, thank god...I feel utterly gargantuan in India! Just think if humans had a third growth spurt! I'd crack through the sky, not just the ceilings here. And why have I never noticed that my hands and feet are like gorilla hands and feet?
I finally had a nightmare that I was glad to wake up from. Good thing, as I was starting to get really, really homesick. I couldn't take one more dream about my cats.
Had an exhausting day of being what Jenny calls the White Girl Freak Show. We got stuck on a neutral ground one night trying to hail a rickshaw, and she said something like "Tonight, on a very special edition of the White Girl Freak Show," since cars were slowing down to get a closer look, passenger sticking their heads out and waving. Anyway, that should go the quotes, too.
Thursday, July 17, 2008
“There goes the King! That guy owes me money!” Otsal, guest house owner.
We were having dinner outside with Otsal. For like two hours. He was very jovial, but was verbose. He mentioned he went to school with the queen of Ladakh. Later, a Bolero (SUV) drove by the restaurant, and the guy said the quote, offering to call the king back for us.
“Brad and Angelina came to this shop, and I didn’t know them. I just thought, yah! They take quite good care of their bodies.” Praveen, internet shop owner in Varanasi.
We couldn’t quote to do Praveen justice, but we wanted at least one quote from him. His trademark was to open his eyes wide and say “Yah!” He had lots of stories about his various customers throughout the years.
“I think some people think we Brahmins have an attitude.” Praveen. Who totally had an attitude.
“I wouldn’t be too proud of the United States.” Guen (goon?), the Belgian boy whom we grudgingly had allowed to sleep on the roof with us.
Funnier was when Sarah whispered to me under the blanket “That was rude!” We couldn’t stop giggling after that because he kept saying rude things until we made a point of going to sleep.
“Score one for America” Sarah.
Related to the above; we were on the roof, and it was raining. So Sarah and I both thought really hard to ourselves “Stop rain stop rain stop rain stop rain” and then it let up and stopped. We felt superior to our rude Belgian roofmate.
“Storm is a selfish bitch. That’s probably why they got Halle Berry to play her.” Sarah.
We realized that Storm, the X-Man, would do better to stop drought and famine with her powers, and leave the fighting to people with less transferable powers.
“That’s incorrect.” Carrie.
When a armrest of the seat in front of us fell backwards into our seat, Carrie stared for a moments, and then said this the first time. She continued to say it, for instance if a straw was faulty, or if anything ever went wrong or unexpectedly (which it did).
“I’m sorry. Would you like to punch me in the stomach?” Carrie.
Carrie had talked about how she likes to get her dad and brother to punch her in the stomach to build up muscle like Muhammed Ali did. But they never liked to do it, so she tried to trick them into it. In Varanasi, Alex was stressed out about a near-miss incident with two shifty looking guys who clearly were up to no good. Alex felt like he needed to be our protector, but he’d felt helpless and weird about it, so he was frustrated and pent up. Carrie made this offer, but Alex laughed and said “No, I’m trying to protect y’all, not punch you in the stomach.”
“Cover stealer!” Sarah.
Sarah whispered this very quietly into Alex’s ear in the middle of the night, waking him up, and making them both crack up hysterically in the middle of a sleepy night.
“That’s precious!” Sarah.
Quoted on Carrie’s blog.
“I did a photo session with the guy from the guest house kitchen. He wanted…he wanted them with his mobile phone in one hand, and waving with the other.” Sumit, semi-professional photographer.
Our friend who took fantastic pictures. Here is the actual picture, which we were excited to finally see. Sorry I can't figure out a way to put it in the post itself--something keeps backfiring.
“I think you just want to sit next to him, and it’s really starting to piss me off.” Alex.
Sarah doesn’t like when guys have a barbed wire tattoo around their arm. She and Alex were on the plane to Leh, and Alex was in the middle, with Sarah in the aisle, and a barbed-wire tattoo guy at the window. She kept offering Alex the aisle seat for his long legs, and he finally got irritated and said this quote deadpan to her, which made her laugh hysterically. Poor guy with the barbed-wire tattoo.
“Yes” The universal answer to any question you ask in India.
Is this made of solid gold? Does this cab go to Texas? All of these questions will conveniently be answered “yes!”
“Our people are the filthiest on earth!” Guy from a shop in Jodhpur.
Apparently, an OK way to start a conversation is to yell this to tourists across the road.
“What’s the point?” Travel agent.
In response to our talking about getting altitude sickness in Leh.
“Jesus is lord, Jesus is lord.” British tourist.
After visiting monasteries in Leh, she said she counteracted “all that” by repeating this phrase to herself.
“Great job” Sarah. About everything, usually sarcastically. As in, Tim and Eric Awesome Show Great Job.
“You can’t build up a tolerance to amoebas, dude!” Alex.
One of our classmates bragged he’d been building up a tolerance to the tap water—brushing his teeth with it, drinking a little teaspoon here and there.
“Those monkeys totally could have had their way with us.” Alex.
Quoted in Sarah’s blog.
“This is so awesome. India is so fucked up.” Alex
Quoted in Sarah’s blog.
“So elegant. So, so elegant!” our professor, snapping picture after picture with his disposable camera of everyone in their Indian suits.
“Deer garden? Like where they grow deer?” Carrie.
“Shit show.” Jenny.
“What the hell does that even mean?” Alex, about the above quote.
“Love thy neighbor, but not while driving.” “Be gentle on my curves.” Road signs in Leh.
“Full Full Full Masala” Battery ad in Varanasi.
“Exhibition cum Sale” Sign in Mussoorie, and a few other places. Gross!
“Do you think it’s like a fountain show?” Carrie, about above, at 6am.
“Educate yourself!” Forestry expert, asking if Carrie knew the origin of the word Hindu and Indus River.
“Your thank-yous are too heavy for us.” Sunny, our guilt-ridden scam artist.
“[I’m sorry I tried to scam you out of thousands, but] you didn’t even tell me happy birthday!” Sunny, contrite but confused about the concept.
“Did you have the sexes?” Some of our scam artists, and their odd turns-of-phrase.
“Whatcha doing?” A wide-eyed Sarah and Carrie, asking Shlomi, our Israeli seatmate at the airport, about what turned out to be a prayer cycle of some kind. It involved wrapping his arms with leather attached to boxes, and tying one on his forehead. Neither of us had ever, ever seen this.
“We can get by without toothpaste, right?” Sarah and Carrie, realizing neither of them had toothpaste or deodorant for 4 days.
“[Dani, a blonde girl] looks like an old man with her hair. And Sarah should wear more sunscreen so she won’t get more freckles. I like my skin color.” R, young and rude.
“She’s clumsy.” Jenny.
Explaining why Sarah fell, in the manner of explaining that someone is mentally retarded.
“Do your have spare breakfast?” Security agent at the airport in Leh.
Turned out she was asking if we had spare batteries, which we couldn’t take on the plane. But breakfast made just as much sense to us at 5am.
“I didn’t know I could do that!” Alex.
After doing some amazing sand dune aerial roundoff. Pretty much sums up Alex.
“That’s some real man-on-man love there.” Sarah.
The men here don’t seem to have the homophobia we have in the states, maybe from not believing homosexuals exist. But they are very comfortable holding hands and riding four to a motorcycle and things. Sarah said this about a man sitting on another man’s lap.
Tuesday, July 15, 2008
Another thing about the phone here is no one says goodbye. I keep saying "Bye!" and feeling like a total tool! And yet one more thing about phones is it's OK pretty much at any time to answer them. You can be in a meeting with the president, and if your phone rings, she will understand that you have to answer it right then and there. Maybe this is because voicemail is a commodity here? I don't know. But these things that would be rude elsewhere are not here.
That little update about phone etiquette in India should be a clue that I've been on the phone most of today. I have, and finally, in the last hour, I accomplished a few things. So I'm going to get back to it to hopefully accomplish a few more things.
Sunday, July 13, 2008
Saturday, July 12, 2008
Wednesday, July 09, 2008
So, anyway, I just wanted to let everyone know, if you can get to Leh in your lifetime, try to.
Sunday, July 06, 2008
speaking of which, no i'm not going to the reunion. i have nothing against high school, and in fact some of my very good friends are going (i had some very good friends in high school), but i have no desire whatsoever to go.
the phrase "very good friends" makes me think of my phrase o'the year. "we are all essentially alone." compliments of my psychology professor. thanks for the upper, professor! now i can't stop finding examples of this everywhere. i'm trying to share all these important personal details with my boyfriend, but i'll never be able to share all of them, nor would that really accomplish anything. besides, i'm copping out and telling him important details about driving my parents car through the backyard fence. but what else is there? what is a person made of? is a person made of the time her dad hung her a swing on the front porch? or built a jungle gym in the backyard? or the first time she copied a work of art with a charcoal pencil? is a person made of knowing how to add oil to a car? is a person made of her favorite word, or her favorite animal, or favorite song? or the number of cells in her body? it's none of these, right? not even if i asked and answered a million million of these questions? there would not only be one more question of the type you asked, there would be a whole dimension of questions you didn't think to ask.
uh so right...back to work. that's all i do. i will work every weekend till i get back. i can't tell if this will make the time shorter or longer.
Saturday, July 05, 2008
Thursday, July 03, 2008
Wednesday, July 02, 2008
In Nepal, when Sarah was having her chronic insomnia, we all took naps while she had to just sit there and watch. But she was in a really good mood anyway. Right after, when we were walking around the neighborhood, she said serenely “Everything just seems to precious to me. Those kids at the school next door, you two sleeping, you were just lying there, so precious!” But just then she got cut off by tripping over a rat, and she hopped around a bit to miss stepping on it, interrupting herself “Oh oh my god, is that a dead rat?” But she recovered quickly to say fondly “That’s precious!”
Yes, it’s one of those hard to capture funny-things, but it will make ME laugh to read later, and that’s what’s important here.
Saturday, June 28, 2008
Me: email to Andy (boy)
We have the crappiest hotel room, but it only costs 9 dollars, so I guess we were asking for it. We could barely move all day. We took an overnight train, which was pretty unpleasant and fleabitten, and so we didn't sleep too much, and so when we got to the hotel, all we wanted was to shower and sleep with some AC--we were drenched in sweat. But wouldn't you know it, the power and water were off, for what turned out to be hours. Frack! So, like estivating creatures, we lay on the bed barely conscious, but not asleep because it was too hot, just waiting. We didn't eat anything all day but a few mangos.
We got into delhi exhausted and only able to think about a shower. Unfortunately our hotel ($3 a person) had no power. It must have been 110 degrees. Nothing mattered exept a shower. No water. "10 more minutes." Which meant another hour. We got buckets of water from the roof and splashed the dirt off into puddles of mud on the bathroom floor.
Alex: Sleeper Train
We were lucky enough to have a local take us to New Delhi on the Metro, and we found a cheap hotel, "Hotel Shiva Delux", supposedly with A/C for 350rs. It was too good to be true, and the A/C turned out the least of our concern. There was no water or electricity for the first few hours, so we waited impatiently and still stinky from the train ride. Quick highlights on the Delux stay: a man came in and stacked two rickety stools on the bed to stand on and speed up the fan and fell, almost on top of Carrie; we nearly got bitten by crazy rabies-infected dogs in the alley in the middle of the night; the electricity went out and Carrie and Sarah thought they were going to die from the heat at about 3AM; some random hotel boy came into our room in the morning when we were in bed and pretended to check the cabinet for something; the doorknob broke and we got locked in, forcing me to break it
Overnight train from Varanasi consisted of:
*People already in our bunks.
*Not enough bunks to go around.
*having no idea what was going on for quite a while until we found the nice guy who spoke english. Although he didn't really know what was going on either. But he did give us some of his food.
*Hysterical laughter at my Hindi phrase book. I learned how to translate," I want to bag a jungle cock." I guess this is a phrase used by the british while traveling in India.
*Two of us to a tiny bunk hardly big enough for one person.
*the most aweful poo poo pee pee stinky masala manageri of smells.
*bugs in our faces and possibly in Alex's mouth.
*smelling worse than I think I have ever smelled in my whole life.We got into delhi exhausted and only able to think about a shower.
Alex: Sleeper Train
A few nights ago, we took an overnight train from Varanasi to Delhi in 3rd class sleeper with no AC. We were prepared for the worst, but found the car to be a little bit cleaner and cooler than we imagined.. until the car became fully loaded, and we didn't want to kick a family out of one of our seats. Sarah and I ended up sharing a bunk in the back of the car by the bathroom while Carrie layed across our bags towards the middle of the car to protect them.
The bunks are barely big enough for one person (about 5'9 long which gave me about an inch of head clearance, and 2.5' wide and tall). The middle bunk also does not have a window like the lower bunk or a fan like the upper, so it got pretty hot. Worse than the heat was the masala #1 and 2 smells coming from the hole-in-the-floor bathroom. Then we had fleas, moths, grasshoppers, and crickets to share the bunk with as they came in with people and flew in through the windows. After a short nap, I woke up with something slightly crunchy in my mouth (probably from the snack I shared with a local earlier on the train), but I joked (I think) that a bug made it into my mouth. The trip was 13 hours, but it went by suprisingly fast. We were stinkin' and stinkin' tired when we got off the train. The good news: we arrived uninjured, nothing stolen, and for only a few dollars.
Sarah: I've officially seen a dead body in the Ganges....
I've officially seen a dead body in the Ganges. We were just talking today about hearing such things and them not being true. But there it was as we were walking along the bank, right at the edge. People were swimming and fishing all along the area. It was nothing unusual.
We walked down to the main cremation ghat and were ushered in by a "guy who volunteers there." We decided that a little information was worth whatever he might be taking us for. I'm not here for a religious experience and I've had nothing near it, but this was pretty cool to witness. There are about 350 cremations burning outdoors at that one ghat- day and night. My eyes burned from the smoke and incense, but I sure was able to see the head burning a few feet from us. Wow. That's a burning head.
Bodies were being carried past as he weaved us through the fires and explained the ritual. We got to go into a death house and watch the cremations from above. The oldest son has his head shaved for the cerimony and lights the fire after circling the body 5 times (for the 5 elements). It was really interesting to watch the whole process. we passed men having their heads shaved in preperation. Then we were hit up for money to help families buy the expensive wood that it takes for the open air cremation. We were assured fabulous karma for giving money at such a holy place. whatever. It was worth it, and donating a little money for wood feels a lot more worthwhile than everything else we are hit up for constantly.
We watched a little bit of a dramatic cerimony with drums and conches, and then decided it was much past our after dark saftey curfew. There were some extremley sketch guys eyeing us and it was raining so we walked out to a rickshaw back. We piled up on laps on a tiny bike rickshaw. These guys work so hard. We agreed on 30 rupees, but after seeing him struggle through the rain, potholes, and detours- hauling 3 people- we decided to bend on our frugalness and give a bit more. He seemed very greatful, which ended the night on a really positive note. I'm really glad we came.
Full Full Full Masala
I got my fortune read in Varanasi! Yesterday was kind of a grumpy, bummer day for all of us. The beggars turned into zombies in Saranath, following us around, hands out, in monotone zombie voices "allo...allo madam. allo. allo madam..." Guys gawked and touts were relentless. We got stuck in some aweful traffic and payed too much for a taxi. Nothing too out of the ordinary, but for some reason all of it was especially annoying to all three of us. At least we're all on the same page. I think it's more efficient that way. Save our good moods for the same time to make one super good mood.
I kind of mentioned the skech guys from the other night briefly, but after we talked about it, pepper spray started sounding like a good idea. Trying to explain pepper spray to Indians is an extremly amusing process for both parties involved. Lots of sign language to no avail. We'll have to come up with something else. But back to the fortune today. I've been wanting to get my palm read in India after reading Holy Cow, but haven't really had the opportunity. I casually mentioned it to the guesthouse owner and he set all of it up in just a few minutes. Even a free ride on the motorbike of our internet shop guy. The astrologer is a high cast brahmin and a professor. He read my chart and my palm. Evidently I will be "blessed in daughters," and if I keep trying I might be lucky enough to get a son. I also "need to enjoy my own mango instead of comparing it to other mangos." I liked that one. Alex video taped it which I am very grateful for because I've already forgotten most of it. He said that my career would be successful around writing and travel. I've secretly always wanted to be a travel writer. But doesn't everyone?
On the way back to the guest house with Previne, Alex and I crammed on his motorbike, we passed a cow being led by a Sadu. The cow had layers of beautiful flowers around it's neck and an extra leg hanging off of it's back. Previne said it was a fortune teller cow. The Sadu is a kind of cow whisperer. He whispers questions to the cow and according to Previne his answers are right 100% of the time. That is my absolute favorite today. I wish we had time to get a picture. It seemed like something that should be in a Wes Anderson movie.
We got up at 5:00 am to take a row boat out on the Ganga for morning baths and cerimonies. I need more interesting descriptive words because cool and beautiful just aren't cutting it anymore. But it was most definitely both of those.
Varanasi is an interesting place. It's disgustingly dirty and polluted. Hasseling by sales people is relentless as soon as you step out of your guesthouse. It's dangerous to be out after dark, and sports some super shady characters. But then you go out to the cremation houses and the Ganga cerimonies with so much tradition and faith, and it kind of out shines everything else. We've also met our most helpful new friend, Previne the internet shop owner. Not only did he set up a cheap astrology session and take me personally with no commision for him, he also searched out Alex's camera lense in the mud and took him back out on his motor bike to buy us a knife and flashlight for the train tonight. He also lent us 120 rupees the other day on faith. There are some genuinly kind people here. They might be hard to find, but they're here.
I've also realized that while we work so hard at not getting ripped off, we might not see that the person trying to work his way into our wallet is also very likely being ripped off. We watched as our boat rower had his payment for our 3 hour ride taken by his very undesirable looking boss right in front of us. Poor little guy. We felt bad for not giving him the extra 100 on the side. I'm not sure if he'll see any of it.
Alex: A Boat Ride in Varanasi
The Varansi airport is really small and reminded me of the one on The Darjeeling Limited. It's also quite a ways outside of the city, so the taxi to our hotel was not cheap (500 rs/ about $12.50). The cab drivers weren't as competitive with eachother as we had seen everywhere else, so we got an impression that this was a more peaceful city than other Indian cities we've been to.
The cab driver started off by welcoming us to the city as ancient as the soul, and telling us that it's a peaceful religous capital for Hindus. When we got in the car, I joked with him that I would drive, and he said no problem. Neither I nor the girls really wanted me to drive, but I was suprised by the driver's reaction. About halfway to the city, he stopped to get some "pan," which is a blend of chewing tobacco and spices. He offered to get me some as well, but I had already experienced the burn of Indian chewing tobacco in Jaipur and didn't feel the need to try it again. He answered a phone call talking funnily with a mouthful of tobacco, and told us that a friend had spotted a cobra and wanted him to contact a cobra-catcher for him. Apparently, cobra-catcher is a common profession, and they pay people about 500 rs to call them when they see one. During his phone calls, he couldn't shift his car. Being in the front left seat with the stick to my right, I naturally offered to shift, and weakly satisfied my adrenaline rush to drive the crazy streets of India. It really wouldn't have been too bad to drive in the rural area between the airport and city. I would just have to remember to use the horn every time we pass people or see anyone on the road.
Our hotel, Sahi River View Guesthouse, is accessible only by small cow-poop-filled alleys, but it's a nice and affordable place. We opted for the non-AC double room for 550 rs (about $13), and shared the bed between the 3 of us. Right outside our door is a nice lounge area with a great view of the Ganges. It feels a bit like a beach with the humid climate and wide river. After settling in, we went down to the river and hired a boat to take us to the main ghat for the nightly ceremony (100-150rs each way).
With the soft sunset light comming through the clouds and ancient-looking buildings lining the shore, the trip down the river seemed a little dreamlike, and was exactly how I had seen it in pictures. The place has the same majestic and surreal feeling that the Taj Mahal has. Even though I'd seen hundreds of pictures of both places, they didn't seem like they were really on the same planet as what I've experienced. The ceremony was worth the trip, but a little bit commercialized (probably because it's the same one they show every night).
The way back upstream took longer (about an hour), and we felt kind of sorry for the boatman who rowed us home. It really was a tough job (I tried to do it for a couple minutes), and he got paid only a cut (after the boat owner gets his) out of the relatively small amount that we paid. At the hotel, we ordered some biriyani (rice w/ veggies), chapati (tortilla-like flatbread), some fried potatoes, and noodles. After washing a 3" parasite-looking worm from the bathroom floor to the drain, I had a nice shower and hit the hay hard.
Today we got to sleep in for once (7:30 for me and about 10 for the girls). We laid around for a few hours after a delicious breakfast of banana pancakes, lassi, and fresh fruit. We spent a couple more hours at an internet cafe just outside of our hotel before walking down to the main ghat. The walk took about 20 minutes.
On the way, we passed through a small cremation ghat and saw the dead body of a middle-aged man floating on the riverbank. He was floating face-down. At first, I thought he was just holding his breath and bathing, but his head was moving very loosely with the waves and after about a minute, we realized the truth. Nobody seemed to care, but we were intrigued as to who the man was, and why he wasn't burned. We did not understand the process at this point, but later we found a possible explanation.
Next, we walked through the Varanasi bazaar. The first thing we saw was a snake charmer sitting by the road playing a flute thing to a cobra in a basket. We had briefly seen this before in Delhi, but it was still exciting. It was a really dirty market with a muddy dirt road. There was an overwhelming amount of fabric and shoe shops, and not much in the way of souvenirs. We weren't looking to buy anything anyways (except maybe a replacement pocketknife).
I was hoping to get more of a spiritual experience out of my trip to India and Nepal, and walking through markets was such a draining experience, that I was starting to get semi-dissapointed. So far, we had spent most of our free time walking around dizzying markets and in two of the holiest cities of India, Haridwar and Varanasi, we had only experienced pretty commercialized ceremonies with large audiences (and priests that try to get as much money from you as they can in Haridwar and even at Yamunotri Shrine).
After walking for awhile, we went back to the river and found a rooftop cafe to have dinner. On the bright side, after more than a month here, we have still not eaten a bad meal, and this restaurant was no exception.
After dinner, we went to the main cremation ghat and a man who said he worked there took us on a small tour and explained the cremation process. There were 6 or 7 fires burning in the darkening evening and each had the remains of a body in the middle. In one fire, a burning skull seared itself into my memory. Many older people come to this ghat and stay in the death houses, waiting for death and their chance to be washed and cremated on the banks of the river at Varanasi. When they die, the eldest son will get his head and face shaved, get a death certificate from the government, and present the certificate at the ghat. At this point, the family will pay for enough wood to burn the body (min 200 kilos, max 300). The wood and incense used prevents the terrible smell of burning flesh and hair, but costs a lot (somewhere around 180 Rs or $4+/ kilo according to the guide). Sandalwood is better than the wood they were using, but only the richest can afford it. Because it is considered good karma to help buy wood for others' cremations, some of the money is raised from friends of the family, etc.
Our guide wanted us to contribute money for wood, and said that we could write our names on a piece of paper and the old people waiting to die would pray for us in the morning so we would have long and happy lives. This may or may not have been true, but we decided to make a small contribution if just for the information the guide gave us.
This morning we forced ourselves out of bed to catch a sunrise boatride on the Ganges. We found our boat friend and set out on the river at 5:20AM. It was pretty light out already, and many people were already out and about. On the shore of Assi Ghat where we are staying, there was a morning fire ceremony happening and some people bathing and praying. The shore was lined with people bathing, praying, brushing teeth, washing clothes, singing, swimming, drinking Ganga jal, and fishing. A few other boats of tourists were out as well.
The sky was overcast, so there was not a good sunrise, but the point was to catch all the life on the water at dawn. There were a few ceremonies with music and prayer that we caught on our way downstream. We floated past the cremation ghat, where fires were blazing as vigorously as they had two nights ago. There are 350-400 bodies burned daily at this ghat, so there are non-stop cremations taking place. The thick black smoke of a fresh fire sort of upsets your stomach when you think about what you are breathing, but it also gives the place its spiritual and ancient feel.
At home, we are faced with human death maybe a few times in our lives, but here, the eternally-burning fires serve as a constant reminder of the temporality of life. Maybe that's why the place seems so ancient.
After breakfast and a nap at the hotel, I went with Sarah to an astrologer Mr. Sahi, the hotel owner, hooked us up with. I didn't intend to get my palm read or astrology done, but after recording Sarah's for her, I decided it was worth the 12 dollars (discounted price from $100-200 for foreigners). The world famous astrologer teaches at Benares Hindu University, the biggest university in Asia (according to our guide yesterday). After pulling up my chart, he started out by talking about my older brother and comparing us, before I had spoken a word to him about myself or family. What he said was true and something that I have thought about in the past as something that has had a big effect on my life. He told me what my biggest problem is, which was really not so bad (focusing too much on what I've lost when I make a choice), what a succesful relationship would be for me according to my personality, some career suggestions, etc. Really, everything he said was pretty accurate and more specific than I expected. He explained that he reads the chart to get an idea of personality, then is guided by God as to what advice he gives.
On the way back to the hotel [on the back of Praveen's scooter (the awesome guy who runs the internet cafe next door)], we saw a cow with an extra leg growing out of his back. He was being led by a sadu down the road and had lays on his neck. Praveen told us that the cow had special powers. If someone were to ask the cow a question such as "who took my money?", the sadu would whisper it into the cow's ear and the cow would walk right to the guy that took it. Praveen said that the cow was "right 100% of the time!"
Praveen was very helpful. He told us about the future of India's economy one night while we were using his computers (which are the fastest in town), took us on his scooter to see the astrologist and found my lense cap after I dropped it on the way, put good indian music on for us while we blogged, and sent his driver to take me to the market for a pocket knife and a flashlight. He tries hard to keep the kind of hospitality that Indians "should" give to their guests amidst the westernization and fast-paced life that is affecting the culture. The hotel owner, Mr. Sahi, also tries to make his guests feel like family. I am greatful to have a break from all the hustlers, beggers, and scam artists that we interact with here most of the time, just trying to get our money.