Thursday, August 14, 2008

something amazing happened

I'm home, first of all. I made it, and my cats are happy to see me, and my family are happy to see me. And all that. And tomorrow I'm going to see multiple doctors, but not the one that can deal with this horrendous cold I've come down with.

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 got a hotel in Paharganj, and I actually like the area after all (it is the area where last time, when we stayed here after Varanasi, there was no electricity and no water, when all we wanted was a shower and AC; this time I have a slightly nicer hotel). But weirdly, after I'd been trying idly to find this bike shop since, as I said, three months ago when I came, it's right next door to the hotel I happened to get. Awesome!

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

Train Station (in chandigarh)

My second experience with the tranis here, but my first in top class, and my first alone. And, I just realized, my last travel day before the big one home. I happened to call the airline to discover my flight had been moved up by 45 minutes and that I should get to the airport 3 1/2 hours early. Good thing I called! I might have missed my flight!

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


Going into town with them was weird. We took her brother-cousin’s car, and he was also eager to help me with my research. Maybe I’m too on-edge about everything lately, but I just don’t trust him. I called Mom and Dad to leave all his info that he’d given me in case I went missing. I had suspicions of all of them all day. Hopefully, and likely, all is what it seems (not the part that seems suspicious, I mean). But I’m getting fed up with being a woman, at least for this project. Especially after the weirdness with the guy at the BBMB. I’m not at all comfortable setting boundaries in a foreign culture now.

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.

my room in khalini

Let me take stock of my room. The toilet won’t flush, the sink doesn’t work, the hot water heater drips constantly, the door locks me in if I’m not careful, the curtains provide no privacy from a somewhat busy thoroughfare, and the temple across the street means people are ringing bells from about 5am, at odd, unpredictable intervals. It’s still one of my favorite places I’ve stayed, probably because the bed is pretty comfortable, with its two thick non-woolen covers. There are also no pillowcases on the two dingiest looking pillows I’ve ever seen, but I’ve covered them up with the covers, so it’s OK.

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


At the ashram, Swati told me that eating raw onion helps you with the hot weather. Which seems like a reasonable thing that could be true. But she also said that carrying a raw onion around in your pocket also helps you stay cool. Which does not seem like a reasonable thing that could be true. I know that ashrams are all about believing in unreasonable things that may not be true, but I don’t think onion lore is included in these Things.

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.

i am traveling in india (did you know?)

While at the Panjab Univeristy Guest House, I managed to forget four days in a row to ask for sheets and pillows. So I slept without either, though I made do with a scarf and my travel towel. It can actually get pretty cold with that fan running while you sleep.

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!

Dream about a monkey

Last night I dreamed that a monkey bit me and refused to apologize. We were on a cruise ship so we both without option had to see the same therapist regarding the incident. The monkey was contrite, but too proud to admit he’d been in the wrong. What in the world does this mean? I genuinely seek input, otherwise I’d put it in my forgotten Dream Journal.

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.

Chandigarh: from Shimla

Incidentally, I ran into the woman who clapped her hands and demanded money, a few weeks later at the same intersection. She hit me on the head and said “I bless you. Give me money!” and I said without hitting her on the head “I bless you right back. I ain’t got no damn money.” Because I still found her hilarious.

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.