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Saturday, August 19, 2006

this photo uploading process takes forever

So. Here is my photo album. [For whatever reason, these appear in reverse chronological order in each album (or in the slideshow or film loop thingy) - so if you want to see things as I took them, start on the last page of each album and go forward. No idea.] There's a sub-album for each city/area we went to. (Bollywood people, I'm making a separate one for film-related photos because there are so many. That will come later.) At some point I will go back and make posts here, city by city, narrating a few select photos from each place. A few, I promise. My dad sat through all of my photos last weekend and it took four hours. I'm not even sure I like my stories that much.

Monday, August 14, 2006

happy Indian Independence Day yo!

(Detail of a truck somewhere in West Bengal.)

It sure is great! And yes, this is a smidge early by my clock, but it's Indian Independence Day somewhere in the world - like, in India!

The trucks were beautiful, and after a few hours of seeing countless painted trucks and buses out the window, all of a sudden painting trucks with flowers and cows and little scenic views of lakes seemed a perfectly everyday - in fact, noble - thing to do. Why don't we all do that? (Because then West Bengal wouldn't be quite as special, that's why.)

This is one of the ways in which I don't quite feel fully readjusted yet - a little part of me keeps expecting to see a peacock or a painted truck, or hear those multi-tone traffic horns or Rajan's mobile phone ring - but I'm wondering if maybe that little part of me doesn't want to be fully readjusted and she's just holding out.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

so much of the lonely only

You know what I miss? I miss the way people talk. I miss Indian English(es). I miss "only." I miss "so much of [adjective]." I miss "Is everyone having their luggages?" There is a particular voice that I hear in my head many times a day, and at random points I'll run across a phrase or word that I long to hear that voice say, because I cannot do any of these accents justice, even in my imagination.

Saturday, August 05, 2006

flower garlands in a market in Bangalore

This picture loading process is going to take a lot longer than I thought. Here's a favorite. I like it because it reminds me of so much of what I saw - colorful, full of people and activity, and unexpected yet familiar too.

wish I'd thought of that

Thanks to Kamla for this funny blow-by-blow of the O'Hare-Delhi flight. If I had done it, though, I'd have to post a picture of Robert sleeping with his mouth open, and I don't know how many people want to see that.

On topic, sorta, my flight to Delhi was great and passed by in a snap. The flight home was heinous, so bad that I was annoyed with myself for being as annoyed as I was. And that way madness lies, for sure, with hours and hours of shifting around in my seat, too hot, too cold, too horizontal, too vertical, where's my pillow, why does the person in the next row have the shade open when we're over the land of the midnight sun, why does the tv monitor say Shaadi Se Pehle and 36 China Town are playing when really the movies showing are Shikhar and Fight Club (I know! totally inauspicious!), why does my tummy seem to respond poorly to this bag of potato chips when it is clearly not possible that Saif would advertise something bad for me, how are there possibly still 7 hours to go. I had a bad attitude and I apologize to the whole plane for putting that out in the universe.

Now that I've had 12 hours of sleep in my own bed, I feel pretty good. Could really use a shower, even though my towels are not nearly as big and soft as the ones I left in the Taj in Delhi - JC Penney's fluffiest are still so v not Taj. The group members who took the bus to the airport Thursday night have decided to use "Taj" as a verb and adjective - "Did you see that buffet? Totally Taj!" or "Yeah, I traded in my miles to upgrade to business class - why not Taj it?" Actually it wasn't decided if we should capitalize "Taj" but for now let's do, since it adds to the air of swank.

Friday, August 04, 2006


Am in clean pajamas in my study with much-missed Mrs. Peel. Am so tired can hardly think straight. Must share how weird US streets and towns seem - so open and vacant and quiet. Things that used to be normal now seem decidedly not. Which is good, becuase it means I really was somewhere else.

Already miss the group, even though have been lucky enough to see three of my favorite people today, including saintly Dana, who got up very early and came and picked me up at O'Hare at 7 a.m. and took me out for breakfast. Friends rock.

Sleep. Will post pictures soon.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

we're on our way home

In about 9 hours I'll be on the plane, waiting to take off to come home. It's time, but only because I'm just exhausted from these fantastic adventures. And to be honest, I'm also really sick of the clothes in my suitcase, and I could definitely use an iced coffee (or ten).

I hope within a week or so to have my pictures online, and I'll post them all here, city by city - with captions of course.

My thoughts are so scattered and I really ought to be packing, but in the meantime, thank you India (ha ha ha, you'll all have that song stuck in your head now!) for once-in-a-lifetime experiences. I know I'll be back here (although probably not at the Taj Hotel in Delhi, much to the dismay of Adnan, my very best business center staff friend), but for now, leaving is so sad. I hope there's a funny movie on the plane - Munnabhai, perhaps?

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Varanasi: generally not what is meant by "hands-on learning in the museum"

Back in Delhi after two days in Varanasi/Benares/Kashi. I have so much to say and so little brain power to do it with. In 48 hours I will be heading to the airport to go home, and believe me those hours are packed. Tomorrow we go to Agra, and my stoppy-looky soul is thrilled.

Varanasi was amazing. For someone who is not religious, being surrounded by so much faith is...something, I don't know what. Fascinating. Last night we sat quietly bobbing in a boat on the Ganges watching aarti on the banks, and it was truly beautiful even though I understood almost nothing of it, which I guess speaks to the universality of certain human emotions and endeavors. This trip has been amazing for that, for realizing how much any two people have in common and can share.

Okay, now for an explanation of this post's title. Yesterday we went to the archaeological museum at Sarnath (the site of the Buddha's first sermon). Again, an amazing collection, including the column capital from which some of India's official symbols come, and poor labeling; this museum does win top prize for physical environment for the artifacts, as it was somewhat air conditioned and everything seemed clean-ish. By the time we got to this museum, I had begun to lose my patience with listening to our tour guide (not Rajan, who now referes to himself as our "tour manager" or "tour escort," which we have explained to him has a different connotation in American English) because somehow I just didn't think he knew what he was talking about (for example, he said Benares Hindu University, with 22,000 students, is the third biggest university in the world, which is plainly not true). We had been up since 4:15 a.m., having gone to watch sunrise prayers on the Ganges, and it was really hot out, all of us sweating buckets. It's towards the end of the trip, the group dynamics are not so dynamic becuase everyone's tired, and my emotions were running very high and scattered yesterday, and everything just hit the fan in the musuem. Strike one was the guide touching the artifacts. Strike two was one of the USEFI staff touching the artifacts, at which point I threw my hands in the air and left the room - it hurts me when people do that, I know you may not believe that, but it really does (but Kim, I know you understand!). Strike three? Being groped by high school boys. I know Americans, probably especially midwesterners, have very large personal space bubbles. I know that that is a culturally relative concept, and prior to yesterday I have had very little discomfort with crowds or even people just standing closer to me than I imagine they need to. But being followed for half an hour by a handful of silent, staring, skulking boys was weird, and having them try to accidentally brush up against me was even weirder, and realizing where some of their hands were was the limit. I am not the kind of woman that men make any effort to be near, so I have no previous experience to help me handle this. I wish I had had my wits about me and smacked one of them, I wish I had thought to scream in their faces or something, I wish I had done something to let them know that is seriously not cool - but in truth I would have been yelling not only at them but at all the grown men who try to sell me useless plastic crap, who follow me down the street, who grab my arm as I walk by, becuase they are old enough to know better.

I know, I know. Ugly American all over the place here. But that was the end of my rope for that kind of thing. There are culturally relative norms and needs, and then there are things that are icky, and for me yesterday was just icky. And in a museum, of all places. For me, that made it even worse.

Fortunately, I had splashed a bit in the Gagnes that morning, and if I understand my informant correctly, the sins of this lifetime have been washed away, so all the anger I had for those boys is, I hope, forgiven.

I have now lost track of where this post was going. Sorry. I'm really tired and in serious need of a shower. Clean clothes would be great but I don't have any of those. I do, however, have a hotel room that smells like jasmine. It's good to be me.