Monday, July 26, 2010

So, Rishikesh...from outside the desk

The Beatles came to Rishikesh perhaps to transcendentalize, perhaps to drop more acid than allowable and actually see Lord Vishnu appear under a mango tree, to write the White album, or just to hang with the Maharishi. In any event, they chose a town at the headwaters of the Ganges (the A is pronounced like you say caterpillar, or like my friend Angie) Headwaters mean that the water has just rolled down the Himalayas and is begining to take its course to the rest of the Indian waterways. It also means the water is COLD, fresh, and crisp. You hear tales of the disgusting disease ridden waters of the Ganges, but if you get 'em where they begin, the water is beautiful and you can safely take a dip. Stay near the edges, though, especially after rain, the current is strong and will take you to parts unkown (to me, anyway) Remember too, that especially when you're hot and sweaty, getting your feet wet changes your life. No kidding. and there's something especially cool about being where the Beatles were. For me, anyway. I walked the streets where George, John, Paul and Ringo hung out. And the holy waters of the Ganges, give holy a whole new meaning. There are ashrams, mangos and cows galore...I wonder why they never wrote about that stuff-
Now a word for the traveller: should you decide to go to Rishikesh, arrive by 7pm. If you do not, your transport will take you to some big parking garage looking thing, and point you in 'that direction"...Your hotel is probably about a mile and a half away, across a two lane footbridge, spanning the shores of the Holy Ganges. There is a bright spotlight to guide you across, and that's it. The signs on the roads aren't a huge helper, and the people walking the streets are friendlier than you, traveling alone, you may not think this to be any event. I thought getting the luggage of 25 tired sweaty vagabonds to the hotel in this manner would be a grand event at the very least...turns out I was the only one scared crossing the bridge, and we paid 900 rupees(about 20 bucks US) to three guys to haul ALL of our stuff the mile and a half to the doors of the Green Hotel. Three to a bed and Italian food. No kidding. The Green Hotel boast being the first ever to bring Italian food to that's something they'd been waiting all these centuries for.
Anyway, I will leave you with a little known fact...Chandon, the hotel manager, clued me in and I have already put it to good use. "One hundred percent, madam, if I speak to you from behind the desk, it is lie. Coming out to do business, is the truth."
Which translates to, they can say whatever they want behind the desk, and it's meaning is left to interpretation, once they come out from behind the lying barricade, the real business begins...just ask Ahmed from Hotel Victoria Dx
(let me remind you, if they have to put Deluxe in the title on the outside of the hotel, ummmm..probably it may not be deluxe on the inside)

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

time time time, look what's become of me

Well, I'd like to make this funny. Entertaining, and spellbinding.
and I'm about to go buy more plane tickets, so I don't know how much
time I'll have for all of that.
Auroville was good. The largest sustainable community in the world.
It stinks that we only had time to stay a few days. with the fares the way they
were, we had to cut a couple days off each city. Never fear, however.
We were able to take the 28 hour train from Chennai to Calcutta. 4 people
barfed, one on another passenger, one 17 year old boy accosted by the
prostitute/beggar, and I only peed once (thank you vishnu)
NOw we are in the City of the hotel Paragon...not exactly
5 star. I wish I had more time, but I'll have to make some later.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Kashmir Schmazmere

KaI was thinking that this would only be about a few sentences still may be.mmmmaybe not
Tiru was amazing...of course. Well, until the 'event' at the Kashmiri shop. the Kashmiris are businessmen, and their shops have good stuff. my favorite Kashmiri shop closed, so I opted for the other one. If you act like you know what you're doing, they don't fuck with you. If you are a a 20 something, petite, little hippie girl, who must speak and interact with absolutely everyone, you've got your work cut out for you. The guy was inappropriate. The 20 something indigo girl is fine. Shaken up, but fine. I'll tell you this much though, if he isn't already unemployed, he will be. It's great that we met and stayed in contact with some local of whom is quite influential in the community. They treated us like guests in their homes, and supported us in facing the guy...BUT the Indians in this particular community think ALL Kashmiris are up to no good. And yet, they give them permits to have stores and shops there.
It was interesting to watch stereotyping and racism right in front of my face.
Then a huge rain came, and washed all that weird juju off...we got on 2 bus van thingys the next morning, and travelled here, to Auroville, where we'll sty until Monday.
It hasn't rained since that night, and I'm glad. I know the rain will come again...perhaps even with us under the drops. it's easier to pack these kids up when they're dry, though...

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

6:05 AM July 1, 2010

We got to the airport about 2 hours before our flight on Thursday...unfortunately for us, so did
about 300 other people. Amazing. I have never seen that many people at DFW airport. The line for security was backed up all the way to baggage claim. In spite of all that, I had faith we'd make it. We had to. We're SGLA. We paid $14,326 for our plane tickets. We're meeting New Mexico in Atlanta. We did not get on the plane. The Delta agents were grumpy and rude. People were pissed off, and everyone got handed a little card with some 1-800 customer service number, and told that they weren't getting out on Delta in the next 2 days.
I thought about calling our travel agent, but she was in New Mexico, and they are an hour behind, so she wouldn't be at the office anyway. I thought about calling my mom (because what else do you do when you need help??) I was playing out cab rides to Love Field, or Houston George Bush. The kids were just going to go to the counter and demand to get on the plane that was already leaving the gate. They were panicked. Even though we were inside, in the air-conditioned building, safe, loaded with power bars, and full tubes of toothpaste...this was a real freak out for some of them.
If all else fails, follow directions.
I called the 1-800 number on the card. Thank you, every spirit, angel, Krishna incarnation, deity, and universal power; Edith from someplace on the east coast, was my operator standing by. Edith is everything you dream a customer service representative to be. Firstly, she was a human being on the other side of the phone, polite, kind, gentle, someone who acts in your best interest, and lastly, a kick ass bitch who made mountains move for 8 clean, wanting to be smiley, willing travelers.
Please name your next child Edith. (or Devie--which would be such an honor for me)
If you're betting on a horse--let it all ride on Edith Bunker.
You may even consider changing your password to Edith.
Edith got us 8 passages on an American Airlines flight, leaving in a little less than an hour.
I did the rest. No tram. takes too long. must be at the counter, with bags checked, no less than 45 minutes before take off. TAXI!!!!! Yes I know there is a free tram. we have 8, how much? $14!? each car? Just to the next terminal? You got it Aman...get your taxidriver friend over there to take the other 4 people, and step on it! Terminal C...NOW!
Premiere Passengers? You bet your sweet bippie we are! Ahhhh..Walter the ticket agent. Must have been Edith's father. Boarding passes, and since we're premiere passengers, no waiting to get through security...front of the line please...(there was a little excitement getting Nena through security with her crutches (which we are donating today) and that boot thingy (which has TWICE climbed the mountain called Arunachala)) right to the gate--now boarding --beginning with the premiere passengers!
Atlanta proved a nice rest...of course, somehow my purple bag got left at a gate, and Daniel O.J. Simpsoned it back to retrieve it from the police...We ate 11 dollar sandwiches, drank coffee and sodas, and then 24 of us boarded this OLD Air France plane, for Paris.
Do not get the idea that just because it's French, it's fancy.
It ain't.
Couple hours layover in Paris proved totally uneventful..UNTIL Peyton, Aaliyah, Gabe, and Aren didn't make it back from the food court. Madame...I will have to close the gate in 5 minutes.
Well, hell.
At the zero hour, there they come, plodding along like we're there for 6 more hours.
Yelling. Now I'm yelling.
"I mean it! Run! "They are closing the gates, NOW!"
So they board the plane with a blue domino branded pizza box, and open backpacks, and we made it yet again.
Did you know that many of those Mumbai bound passengers had never even considered bringing a fresh hot pizza on board an airplane? Let alone passing the box around so that multiple people could snack from it...You mark my week those flight attendants will be picking up paneer masala pizza boxes, and wondering why they hadn't thought of it sooner!

Some of us haven't showered in days...not because we can't. we just don't. I am one of them.
And, now, I am ready for a nice cool bucket bath.

I'm in you be in touch~
Love you!

Well, poop...yes, you heard me. Poop

Some of you know me well, and others not so much...for those not so muchers, be prepared:
I am about to talk about POOP!
Is it news worthy that I just pooped at one of those squatty places? maybe not for you, but for
this western toilet loving traveler, it most certainly is. The squatty hole in the ground receptors
look a bit like a bedpan with moon boot prints on either side...all level with the ground. This feat
is monumental for me, as I managed last year, to only use the one on the train...and it makes me
chuckle just thinking about it. You gotta take one leg of your pants off, and swish them around to the other side, hold them on one hand, squat full on, balance, aim, and then release whatever inhibitions you may have about squat pooping, do your business, keep balanced, and not focus too much on the train tracks, which you can see through the hole into which you are depositing, figure out whether or not you're done when you think you are, and then balance, still holding your pant leg, reach for your bag, and pray to Vishnu you remembered something soft to wipe with.
In the event you did not bring something soft, or you left your bag at your place on the train, far outside the clumsily latched door, there is a cuppy thing, about the size of the melted measuring cup I got from my grandmother's cooking stuff, (maybe 3 cups or so) that you fill with extremely non-potable water, and trickle down your backside, as sort of a hand held bidet. (then you get to hang out there longer (literally) and air dry) depending on your constitution, your thighs burn and you almost never come out of it wishing you had one of these at home...
With all that said, poop talk is very common in SGLA India. The bacteria here, the participants' stomachs, and an average of 5 chais a day, are all factors in the output. Are they pooping? what's the consitancy? is an infection forming? how long since their last poop? 3-4 packs of Emergen-C, every 3 hours until something happens. Sometimes after an event or lack there of, their electrolytes are so jacked up that they cannot drink enough water to hydrate their cells...there's stuff for that, too.
I would be willing to bet that none of you thought the first blog entry from the trip would be about poop...HAHA!