Friday, September 21, 2012

Now I'm in Goa!

Let me list all the awesome for you...

1) Nicest hotel yet, a three minute or less walk to the beach, for only 300 rupees. $5.50, about.

2) Gorgeous beach! In a cove. With warm water begging to be played in.

3) Lots and lots of other travelers without being crowded. It's still the off season.

4) OMG the eye candy!!!

5) Beachside bar has free wifi! First time I've had access since Amritsar.

My plan was to be here for a week. That may be extended. I can already feel myself relaxing.

Oh yeah, as I'm typing this I'm drinking a sea breeze, I'm wearing a white bikini top with a sarong, and I'm listening to the sounds of surf.

Yeah, this is what I needed.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

From Mumbai to Goa

I loved Mumbai.  And am so happy I have decided to come back after my month in Goa.  A group of nine of us took the ferry and went to the Elephanta Caves, and I experienced my first case of bribing the officials to get me through without paying the horrific "foreigner" prices.  10 rupees for Indians, 250 for foreigners.  So the guys gave the guard 100 and they let me through.

After the island we had time before my train, so ended up at a restaurant called Bhagdadi, and WOW yummy!  Then poked around inside the Taj Hotel (I have decided that I WILL stay there someday) and walking around before finding a place for a cold treat.

Another pain in transit happened when my train ticket got canceled.  But a woman I had met that day named Maria saved me that time by hosting me in her hotel room for the night.  I got to the train station the next day and spent all day on the train down to Goa.  Because I was arriving so late, another friend of a new friend came and picked me up from the train station and put me up in her family's home.

It's a huge mess, though, due to her mom being sick and the servants pretty much saying fuck it and not doing anything anymore.  So I don't think I'd be altogether comfortable being there for more than a day or two.  So today I came in to Margao and got a hotel room here for a couple of days.  Bargained the price down some, too.  I will look up some more friends of friends to stay with for a few days before I go north to Arambol.  That's where I think I want to be for several weeks.

But I do like Margao.  It's like big city India without the hassles of big city India.  You can find just about anything here.  It's colorful and smells of spices.  People friendly.  I sent my big items of clothes out to be washed and washed all the small stuff in the bucket and strung up a line to dry them.  Then I just grabbed my bag but no camera and went for a walk through the market.  Found a delicious dessert cookie thing called ??Dosh??  It's like a coconut shortbread thing and is just yummy yummy yummy.  Tried buying a pair of flip flops but they kept trying to charge me too much.  I'll go back another day when I am more in the mood to bargain hard.

Anyway, I'm still here and doing well.  Won't be popping online quite so often.  Lots more to say but no time right now to write.  Want to get back to my hotel room before it starts to rain.  I want to be sure I am there to pull in all my drying clothes.  Also need to just get some rest.

Be well, everyone!

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Ways of saving money

I had not realized I had been robbed when I made all of my bookings last night.  I'd put my money in so many different places I just figured I hadn't found it yet when I was paying the guy.  I am not going to let myself get angry at myself for not being more careful because I was being careful.  I just know now to be even MORE CAREFUL in the future.  Shit happens. And that's why I am writing this blog.  Learning how to accept these things and move on and figure things out.

Help from afar is one thing, but not something I can or would expect to happen (just amazingly helpful if it happens).  So something my best friend suggested is to see if I can cancel and get a refund on part of what I have booked and spend that time someplace staying still again.  So I am canceling Varanasi and the Kama Sutra place.  I'll be getting a 50% refund, but any is better than none.  Yes, I'm missing very awesome pieces of India, but I'm less here to see ALL THE THINGS than here to have great experiences and meet people and have a good time.  So I'm not brokenhearted.  And I have now figured out a way to spend that excess time, so it all works out in a way it wouldn't have yesterday.

Another thing she suggested is to see if I can find a place to volunteer at for a while.  I'll be in Goa for a month.  I will look into volunteer opportunities down there that offer room and board for exchange for work.

I've been in Mumbai 4 hours and I'm already meeting people through Couchsurfing.org.  When I realized that my sister's in-laws would not be able to host me I jumped onto that website and sent out a plea for help for a place to stay tonight.  By the time I arrived in Mumbai I had five responses.  Including the first woman I pinged.  Her name is Divya Jay.  She is a market research writer, just moved here from Chennai and lives alone.  She is already amazingly kind and wonderful.  Tonight she had planned a couch surfing get together, so we'll be going to that.  Then a party here at her house.  So I will get to meet a bunch of people.  Both locals and whoever is couch surfing here in Mumbai right now who shows up to the event!

When I come back to Mumbai after my month in Goa I'll be couch surfing again and will have people to do things with here.  So I have decided to extend the stay in Mumbai rather than going to Varanasi.  Rajasthan will be staying the same. Though... and I am really annoyed by this.  The hostel I had booked for the camel fair canceled my reservation without notifying me!  So now I'm trying to find somewhere else.  Argh!

Anyway.  I am currently curled up comfortably in Divya's place while she is back at work for the rest of the afternoon.  We had met at her office and then she brought me back to the apartment and she made sure I was settled in and fed before heading back out.  I'm going to take a nap.  Naps are good things!  

Friday, September 14, 2012

And with good comes bad - a plea for help

Somewhere I have managed to lose 20,000 rupees. I was shuffling money around so much between yesterday paying the guy at the hotel in Amritsar and today trying to come up with the amount needed to book everything that the stash I had stashed away has gone missing. It is nowhere to be found. All I have left is 2000 rupees. That's $36.

FUCK.

So, I am asking for help. If anybody can spare anything to help me finish this trip I'd be hugely grateful. My parents helped me get to this point. I am asking my friends for help now.

I don't have a PayPal button, but my PayPal is under my email. theloriest@gmail.com

Whatever amounts will help. It takes 3-4 days for PayPal to transfer money, so if you can do a direct transfer to an ING online bank account that is even better.

Thank you thank you thank you.

I hate asking for help. But I'd rather ask than fall apart right when things were finally looking up again.

Getting shit done! An actual official plan in place.

Today, after taking the train back to Delhi (speaking of which, I am totally in love with the trains in India!) I stopped in at the Indian Information and Reservation Center right after getting off the metro because I was already lost trying to find a place to stay for the night (I'd apparently come out the back entrance to the metro station and it turned me around) and because I figured this is the place I can discuss plans and figure out what the hell do to next.

Boy was I right! The guys here helped me in so many ways. First off they had me just sit down and rest for a moment. Two American girls were there and god it was nice hearing English spoken in a way I fully understood! One saw how frustrated I was and offered me a hug and chocolate.

Then Micky (who works there) sat down with me at the desk and we began with what had gone wrong for me so far, what I have hopes of doing next, what plans I already have in place, and what I need help with.

An hour later we've figured out a great itinerary for me for the entire rest of my trip. I'm seeing a lot, not going to feel rushed, have tickets for everything booked, and have hotels booked and a couple of tours/activities booked as well. This ate up nearly everything I have. I have enough left for a month in Goa, and for staying in Udaipur for Diwali and the Pushkar Camel Fair. But nothing left over for extras (so if you want me to try buying a camel - or any other lovely things - I am accepting donations to my cause! I am not too proud to accept help.) But seriously, I can live without buying pretty things. It's just do fucking nice to not WORRY all the time about how I'm going to make all this happen.

Turns out that foreigners cannot, in fact, book train tickets over the Internet. They used to but it's been changed. So no wonder I was having so many difficulties! And I can attest to this right now, doing things last minute here is near impossible. There are over a billion people in this country. And mass amounts of tourists. Trains, busses, hotels... They fill up weeks if not months in advance. I should have started booking trains back in July or August, around when I booked the hostel I'll be staying in during the camel fair.

So here is the official final itinerary. Things (trains, hotels, and tours) are booked. Most everything is paid for.

Tonight - hotel in Delhi
Tomorrow - fly to Mumbai

I just found out that my poor brother-in-law's family is dealing with a health crisis right now so I'm not going to go impose on them and possibly make things worse. So I've got a couple of pings out for more couch surfing options there. If not I'll bite the bullet and check into as cheap a hotel there I can find because I'm not heading out to Goa until Sunday.

Sunday - Train to Goa

September 16 - October 11 - GOA

I'm going to just kick back down there for a month! I am seriously looking forward to this. I know I'll be visiting Arambol in the north, then Panjim further down, and Palolem at the very south. All will have different feels to them, all will be wicked inexpensive, and I'll really find my zen again.

Before I had heard of how sick Nilesh's family was I booked travel up to Mumbai in mid-October for a few days. If I do end up couch surfing there tomorrow night and it turns out well I'll talk to them about me coming back up. Otherwise I'll skip Mumbai and change my ticket from Goa and stay those extra few days.

Goa is part of what is not paid for. I don't have a lot of money left, so I deliberately arranged to spend the bulk of this time in a place where I won't be spending a lot of money.

October 18 - overnight train to Varanasi

October 19-23 VARANASI

This is including a boat ride on the Ganges.

October 23 KHAJARAHO

Dude, this is where the Kama Sutra came from! But aside from that, I expect there to be a lot of really awesome things to see here.

October 23-26 JAIPUR

Much traveling in store for me.

Going from Khajaraho to Jaipur by way of Agra. Since I'm actually saving Agra for the end of my trip this is just a very quick stop to change trains.

Jaipur is mostly just a hey what's here so sort of stop. I do really want to see some of the sights, though. But won't be going in. It's the architecture and the markets to experience I'm looking forward to here.

October 29-November 3 JAISALMER

The first day involves the quick train from Jaipur. And then I'm booked on an overnight camel safari on November 1. Heeee! :)

November 3-6 JODHPUR

They have a zip line set up over the city! It lets you zoom over and see four of the forts. Since I'm not broken this time around and will be taking pains to keep me that way I am super excited about this.

November 6-18 UDAIPUR

I wanted another place to zen out after all that traveling and moving from place to place. Udaipur is supposed to be beautiful and relaxing. Also figured it's as good a place as any to spend Diwali. Hotel here booked, but not paid for.

November 19-28 PUSHKAR CAMEL FAIR

Wheeeeee! This is the thing I'm most excited about. I have absolutely no idea what to expect, but I'm stoked about it anyway! Camel races! Camel decorating contests! Ferris wheels! Music and dancing and a whole lot of people having a great time.

November 28-December 3 DELHI

Back to Delhi. Finish sight seeing here. Take a day and visit Agra and the Taj Mahal. My friend Leon will be making it to India at the end here. If our trips overlap by enough days I wonder if he'd want to go to the Taj with me. I would love to go with a friend.

If I get enough donations I really seriously hope to afford a sari made to commemorate my trip. A nice one. I'm not asking anyone to help me out with the rest of my trip because I really can do it with what money I have left. But help would still be very much appreciated. Then the sari would just be icing on the cake.

PayPal is our friend! :) theloriest@gmail.com

Anyway. I'm in a hotel for the night. I have a driver picking me up in the morning to go to the airport, free of charge. So tonight I'm going to kick back and lay in my comfortable bed and get a good night's sleep!

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Real homesickness

I haven't gone out and done anything much today because I got nailed with a huge case of loneliness and homesickness. Sent my laundry out to be washed, and walked to the place my hotel recommended to put more minutes on my cell phone and that was all I could really handle today.

Because both kurtas were in the laundry I am wearing my sleeveless pink top. And oh god it was so nice and light and comfortable in this heat! But it also shows off all my tattoos and the attention was pretty overwhelming.

I made sure to put on sunblock today, even though I was only going two blocks and back. And drank a full bottle of water in just that short time. Everywhere around me were drivers wanting to take me places. I would shake my head and indicate I was walking. Two steps later another would be asking again. When drivers weren't vying for my attention beggars were. I just shake my head and walk a little faster. The little kids are the worst, though. It eats me up inside. They know that though, which is why foreigners are such perfect targets. I just have to keep saying no. It's all I can do.

I got back to my hotel and have been holed up in my room for the afternoon trying to come up with a plan. (Also, I have finally succumbed to not feeling well so I'm hoping a day of rest will help me feel better.). The more reading I do the more it sounds like nowhere I go right now is going to be what I am hoping for. Goa is still at the tail end of the monsoon season. So while it would be quieter there, I may not get the relaxing "lay on a beach and do nothing" experience I had hoped for. But travel is what you make of it. And rain I'm prepared for.

All in all, while I know I'll be fine, right now I just want to curl up and cry. I will let myself, too, once I have figured out my plans. Because sometimes a good cry is important. I'm just so damn lonely here! India is a very difficult place to meet people. I feel somewhat shell shocked, so my natural way of talking to other travelers gives way to a wide eyed stare of envy when I see people in any size group. They have someone to talk to. I've always loved traveling solo in the past. Here I wish to god I had someone to keep me company.

Just watch, though. In another couple of days I'll be happy and having fun again. :)

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Sightseeing in Amritsar

I love India! I hate India! I love India! This country is completely insane. I did so much preparation and planning. I did so much advance reading. None of it truly prepared me for things here. I'm not saying that is all bad!! Because it's not. I'm learning do much. In one week I've experienced things most people only dream of, and have seen places even fewer people have actually seen. That's why my parents stepped in to help me out so I wouldn't cut my trip short. So I'm going to stick it out the full three months after all.

And damn it's nice to be back on the somewhat beaten track. *Laughs* It's nice having others around who understand me when I tell them how unnerving the attention can be at first and how amusing it is when people want their picture with you (happens all the time!).

I slept hard last night, didn't wake up until almost noon. So I got up straight away and went to the Golden Temple. Bargained with the cycle rickshaw driver (I know I got a damn good price, too, so I'm all kinds of proud of myself) and off we went! Cycle rickshaw vs autorickshaw is a hugely different game! I was white knuckling it the whole trip. And on big hills we had to get off and walk.

But after navigating the chaotic streets of Amritsar I got to where I was going. Found my way to where you deposit your shoes, and followed the throngs of people to the temple, making sure to pull my pink dupatta up over my head as I went.

Waded respectfully through the trough of water set before all entrances to wash my feet, and then there I was. It is spectacular beyond reason. The clear sky made the reflections in the pool even that much more serene. And the singing permeating throughout just made me want to sit and meditate.

It was also colorful!  The women in their saris, the children, the flowers.  It was everything India is in my imagination.  The people were also very funny.  So many people want their picture taken with you!  Kids, women, old couples.  You're just a total novelty to them.  I remember when I was staying with Gauri and Rohit, Gauri said that when I came out the first day wearing the pink salwaar kameez, it was the first time the boy who lives with them (god I can't remember how to spell his name!) had ever seen a foreigner in Indian clothes.  It's not something I would have ever thought of before I came here.

It was a very hot day, though, so I figure I'll come back tomorrow with my sketchbook and find a place in the shade. Partake in the free meals that are offered to all. And perhaps give in to that desire to meditate.

Got back to the hotel and was GOING to take a nap. But I remembered the guide book saying this hotel did a very good tour of this one Hindu temple, the India/Pakistan border closing ceremony, and the Golden Temple at night. There was one spot left for today and it was leaving in 15 minutes, do I said sure!

Our first stop was Mata Temple. Oh my god, I would never have visited otherwise and I also glad I did! It was like a fun house inside. Mirrors and fun and interesting things to see and tunnels to crawl through and a long tunnel of water to wade through and laugher and singing and everyone having a good time and wanting to make sure we did too! Tons of people asking to have their pictures taken with us. It was just awesome.
The next stop was the Indo-Pakistan border. Every day just before sunset the guards put on a big show to thousands of visitors. 20,000? As foreigners we got to sit in the VIP section and got damn good views of the whole thing.

Prior to the actual ceremony were activities to get the crowd up and excited. Races. Dancing. Music. When Jai Ho came on I was very excited because even though I have no idea what I'm saying I do in
fact know all the lyrics to that song and so I danced in my spot and sang along. Oh man that got attention! I swear, every person in the Indian section next to me saw me and turned to stare. Many were taking photos and a few had their video camera on me! I just smiled and kept singing. They smiled in return and sang with me. Huge applause for me afterward. The people sitting round me were all "how do you know that song" and I was like SLUMDOG MILLIONAIRE!! It's the Oscar winning song that closes out the film. Love that song.

Then came the ceremony. Oh man it was fun. Total rooster strutting and high kicking at each other at the gate! It was well choreographed, and from my vantage point I got a lot of great photos and videos. But for the most part I just ignored my camera and enjoyed the experience.

One thing I hadn't noticed til the end was on the Pakistan side of the gate. The men and women were separated. It's another of those things you know in theory happens, but to see it in person is another matter. Totally weird for me.

I had a lot of fun at the event, though. It was on the list of things I had hoped to see in India, and so I'm totally thrilled to have gotten to go.

Our final stop was the Golden Temple. And holy just... wow. I'll just share a photo so you can see what I mean.  So dazzling at night.


* * *
I'm staying in Amritsar for one more night, then I think I will be heading south. It's just so wickedly hot here that I want to go lay on a beach and relax for a while. So the manager here at the hotel is going to help me figure out how to get from here all the way to Goa. From Goa I'll make my way back North and explore Rajasthan on my way to the Camel Fair.

16 hours of travel

Getting out of Srinagar and making my way to Amritsar was a relatively simple journey. Toot toot (autorickshaw) from the house boat. Grabbed a sporting a shared jeep to Jammu. Bus depot and a ticket to Amritsar. Bus to Amritsar. Cycle rickshaw to the first hotel in my guide book and a solid night's sleep.

What wasn't simple was how long the trip took me, nor how harrowing the Srinagar to Jammu portion of the trip would be, winding and twisting along narrow Himalayan roads with crazy drivers every moment along the way.

It was a beautiful day, though! So at least the roads were safely dry for once! I don't think we would have made it otherwise.

The bus to Amritsar was wicked cheap. 135 rupees for a six hour trip. That's not even $3. That's barely $2. And it was easy. I threw on my iPod and listened to show tunes the whole way. I was in desperate need of something familiar, and show tunes were what did it for me.

Because it was late when I arrived (11pm!) I just picked the first place recommended by my guide book. Thanks to the generosity of a friend I can go ahead and splurge for a few days and stay somewhere nice where I can relax and figure out where to go from here.

My parents have also stepped in in a huge way to help me out. They don't want me cutting my trip short. With all the work I put into this. All the sacrifices I've made. All the planning and excitement. So I am going to take tomorrow off from sight seeing (today was go go go!) and figure out what my next steps will be.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Kashmir pros and cons

* The driver who picked me up in Delhi to take me to the airport at one point stopped the car and tried to kiss me and feel me up. I hit him and said no! I have no idea why he thought that was okay. But it got the entire trip off to a bad start.

* My flight was delayed about 3 hours. And I couldn't access Internet at the airport.

* On the one hour flight I sat next to a delightful little girl and her father and he and I talked the whole way. He and his wife are both from Kashmir and now they're doctors in the USA. He really was a very nice person and I am glad of it.

* No problems in Srinagar getting my bag, going through the foreigner registration, and finding my driver to the house boat. I reported the Delhi driver to the tour person who met me and he was also appalled. I don't know if anything will happen, but at least the ass has been reported.

* The houseboat is truly deluxe! I was afraid I'd be getting some dinky little thing hardly staying afloat, but it is really kind of cheerily awesome. I have a room and bathroom to myself. There is a dining room, sitting room, and a balcony over the lake. It's extraordinarily peaceful.

* What is not peaceful are the men who work there. Always pestering me. Do I want this? Do I want that? Would I like to buy some XY or Z? No, I just want to be left alone.

* The manager is who led me to having the panic attack last night.

* But what I do love about it is that I am in one of the prettiest places I've ever seen. Despite the rain, despite the mud, despite the chaos... Kashmir is truly beautiful. Yes, I wish I'd had better weather, but you can't let a little bad weather ruin a perfectly good time!

* Took a three hour boat ride yesterday. So relaxing I almost fell asleep a few times!

* Today I went to Gulmarg and went on the highest tram in the world. Again with the pouring rain! So I didn't see a damn thing. But riding up and down the tram I felt like I was floating up to the heavens. It was beautiful.

* Have taken tons and tons of photos! I'll try to post a few here. When I can't keep trying to post to FB and Flickr. It have had very little luck. So just keep your eyes peeled. At some point there will be more pictures!

* Have purchased two Kashmiri shawls. If you know me and my obsession with shawls are you at all surprised? The first one he offered 1400 rupees, I countered with 800 and we settled with 900. (~ $16). The second was quoted 1500, countered 1000, he responded 1200, I stuck to 1100 and refused to budge til he accepted it. That's about $20. Hand embroidered, and just amazing.

* * *

Tomorrow I have a jeep taking me to Jammu. Then I'll catch a bus to Amritsar.
McDonalds in India has some new items on the menu!
Bedroom on the House Boat on Dal Lake.
Sunset from my bedroom window.
People use the lake to get around.
Kashmiri tea is my new favorite thing.
Everything on the lake is used somehow.
Lotus blossoms everywhere this time of year!
Birds, too.
Yes, Kashmir is a very militaristic state.  It's creepy.
Traffic is no joke here.
Army caravan caused a traffic jam.
Little Girl coming out of her home.
Lucky I could see the trees.
We are insanely high up.
Road up to the Gondola.
Me at the top of the Gondola.
I couldn't resist all that yellow!

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Not going to feel like a failure

So, a big way I handle traveling with my bipolar is by doing a ton of research in advance, figuring out multiple plans so that if one changes I have backup plans, and by having a safety net of people back home I can call when I just desperately need a person who can help calm me when I reach the point where I'm falling down.

Kashmir was a mistake.  In every way.  I hadn't done research before coming here because I wasn't planning to come here!  It has blown my budget out of the water.  I'm so far out of my comfort zone I am freaking out.  And now if I try to stick to my plan everything is just going to be go to shit.  Oh yeah, and my pre-paid phone doesn't work up here (security reasons) so I really feel completely isolated and alone.

So after taking two Ativan last night to calm me down (yes, I needed two, one wouldn't have cut through the panic I was trying to deal with), I made a couple of decisions.

1) I am coming home early.  I'll look into changing my current ticket.  Or I'll bite the bullet and just buy a one way ticket from Delhi to Boston.  Looking at mid-October for this.

2) Not going to make it to the meditation retreat in Dharmasala, nor the Camel Fair in Pushkar.  Instead I'm heading to Jammu tomorrow, then from there I'll take a bus to Amritsar and then do a circle of Rasjasthan and make my way then back to Delhi backwards from Jaipur and Agra.

This still gives me an incredible trip to India.  I'll still see a lot, experience a lot, and do a lot.  So I won't feel like a total failure.  I've still done something most people wouldn't dream of doing.  And next time I come to India (and the rest of my current trip!) I'll have a much better grasp of how things are done here, what to really expect, and I'll be more prepared.

Friday, September 7, 2012

What a day! Exploring Delhi... And upheaval in my plans.

So I got dressed up in one of my new salwaar kameez sets this morning. Everybody smiled at me when I walked out of my bedroom, and I really felt and looked wonderful.

The plan for the day was to take the metro to Connaught Place, wander around and maybe hit a market and check out a few sights and then head over to Akshardham Temple and explore that for a while.

Plans change!

Ok, first off? I love Delhi. Like Paris, despite being told over and over that people are rude and pushy, I had wonderful experiences all day long! Friendly smiles, help crossing the streets (and yes, this was QUITE necessary... Being a pedestrian in Delhi really is the most chaotic thing I've ever experienced in my life), and meeting interesting people.

One of those interesting people was a young man named Naaz. He and I ended up spending most of the day together. I had an awesome time hanging out with him. I met him in Central Park and we got to talking. When I told him of my plans to go up to Amritsar next and THEN head up to the mountains, he managed to change my mind on where to go. So while wandered around the Connaught Place circle we stopped in at the Indian Tourism Bureau and I spoke to an agent there about the cost of this new idea. It's more than I have budgeted, but with a few more changes to my ultimate itinerary I can cut things in other places and still stay within my means.

But what eventually has happened is that I canceled the bus I had JUST BOOKED THIS MORNING to Amritsar, and booked a flight up to Srinagar in Kashmir along with a three day stay on a house boat on Dal Lake instead. From there I'll travel on to Leh and visit other small places, then down to my meditation retreat in Dharamsala. Stay there for a week or so and then on to Amritsar. Back in Delhi around October 10 ( because that's roughly when Gauri and Rohit will be able to host me again and I am so looking forward to staying with them again and telling them all about my northern adventures.)

Now here comes more changes. I'm canceling the trip east. No Kolkata. No Darjeeling. Instead I'm going to do the Rajasthan circle and then head south to Bombay and Goa. *Laughs* This is when you know I'm a traveler and not a tourist. Plans are flexible and can change like this on a moment's notice. I'm still going to the Camel Fair though. Since I have to come back north towards late November anyway due to flying home from Delhi in early December it still works out.

Ok... Back to Delhi.

Naaz ended up taking me to the Lodi Garden as a (sort of) surprise. I very much dislike surprises when I am not in a place I'm comfortable in or familiar with so I made him tell me at least the kind of place we were going. Then when we caught the autorickshaw I got the exact destination.

I loved riding in the autorickshaw. It definitely fed my love of adrenaline! And I kept turning this way and that way. I just want to see everything!

Lodi Garden was amazing. The tombs and other crumbling ruins were gorgeous and I can't wait to do more detailed sketches based on sow of my photographs. I did one quick ten-minute sketch at one point when Naaz ran to buy some water, but I really want to nail more details later.

Because my flight is tomorrow morning, I had to cut my day short so I could get home and do laundry, get more transportation booked, deal with photos and other online stuff, and have a final night with my hosts.

I have no idea what the situation will be like on the house boat, so I don't know how much I'll be online. But I do expect a lot of time relaxing and seeing some spectacular scenery!

* * *

A few things that interested me enough to put down here:

1) I'm not sure if it's all the extra pollution in the air here masking things or if Indian cigarettes are just not as disgustingly toxic, but I have not been bothered in the slightest by cigarette smoke here. It's actually kind of refreshing to be in a hugely populated place and be able to *laughs again* breathe!

2) My parents had asked me when I spoke to them last night if I'd seen the examples of extreme poverty here yet. Last night I hadn't. Today I have. I know that my reaction to it is how every native Indian reacts to it (they don't even register the beggars... when one comes up to you your eyes just sort of glaze over and they simply disappear from sight) and I am bothered by this more than I know how to put in words. But I cannot do anything. I cannot help. You have to be able to ignore them, or you wouldn't survive here. I guess I am a survivor. But fuck... deep down it leaves me feeling like a rotten human being. :(





Thursday, September 6, 2012

Relaxing and shopping - Day 2 in Delhi

The freedom to not feel rushed is the greatest decision I made when planning this trip. Yesterday, once I got to Delhi and got settled in, I stayed in. I napped. Talked to my hosts. Ate yummy home cooked meals (surprising Gauri with how well I handle spicy foods! I love spicy. I just don't like burning.) And made great lengths in adjusting to the jet lag.

Day 2 would have had a bit more to what I ended up doing, but another nap (and more yummy food that keeps getting placed in front of me!) ate up a good portion of my day! *Laughs* So Gauri and Rohit and I didn't end up heading over to the mall until closer to 5pm.

I was hoping to find simple salwaar kameez sets, which should have run around 1000 rupees each ($17). However, because I can't help having nice taste I just had to fall in love with slightly more expensive pieces. So I got two sets that mix and match and ended up spending a bit over 3000 rupees ($57, roughly). They also mix and match with the pants and single top I brought with me. And they not only serve as clothes for my trip but as lovely souvenirs! So I call it a win.

The mall was a very different experience from any other mall I have been to.  Most malls tend to be very shiny and eager to draw people in.  This one was definitely an older variety that was rather dim and quite a bit run down.  I was told that there is a newer mall across the street.  I almost wish we'd had an excuse to visit that one so I could compare the two.  I did notice that I was the only white person in sight.  And wow the eyes that followed my every move would have been extremely uncomfortable if I hadn't known to expect it (a) and (b) I wasn't alone.  I had Gauri and Rohit to help any translation issues and to sort of buffer me from the attentions around me.  I'll feel more comfortable going out next time dressed in proper Indian clothes, even if younger women tend towards jeans and western styles.

I also picked up a very basic cell phone to use here, and Rohit got me a SIM card set up with a pre-pay plan. I couldn't do it myself. Since the recent terrorist activity picked up here it's very hard to pick up a sim card. You need to provide a passport photo and proof of residence. I am yet again grateful and happy with my decision to couch surf in Delhi!

I had hoped to see something this evening but decided I'd fit it in on a later visit back to Delhi later on in my trip. Instead eating (some more) and fighting with the Internet to book my transportation to my next destination.

My plans have changed a bit. I'll do Agra a bit later, and am planning to head up to Amritsar late on Saturday. I'll spend 3-5 days there, then head to Ladakh for a few days before coming down to Dharamsala to spend a few days before my meditation retreat.

I had a bit of a panic trying to build when I found myself needing to juggle plans like this. But all the planning I've done and the amount of research I've done has helped me make the adjustments and not flail around blindly.

Go me!

Note - Indian rupees are generally 50 rupees to the US Dollar.

This black kurti was originally 1500 rupees but was on sale, so I got it for 950.  Got black leggings that were 800 rupees.  The chiffon dupatta was 300.

Pink kurti was not on sale.  So I paid the full price of 1500 rupees for it.  Purple leggings are a slightly different style (straight legs rather than tapered).  Chiffon dupatta just so pretty I had to get two!

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

First night anxiety

Laying in bed getting ready for bed. My first night in India. The beginning of three months alone proves too much to deal with as the realization of just what I've gotten myself into reaches my brain and the fear and anxiety comes crashing in around me.

I feel tears just on the verge of falling. I blink fast, staving them off. Focus. One thing at a time. Sleep. Rest. Get clothes tomorrow. And a cell phone. Get transportation booked for the next month. I have help with all three of these things. I am not alone.

I am courageous. I can do this. One night at a time.

Stories of transit

I am so very happy that my boyfriend was able to accompany me from Boston to New York and see me off at the airport. He kept me from several panic attacks and kept me smiling and moving forward. First it was, "it's just a cab ride! You've been in a cab before, nothing to worry about." Then, "it's just a bus. One step at a time." He really understands how my anxiety works and how to keep me calm. Just one of many things I adore about him. :)

We didn't have a lot of time in NYC because I wanted to make sure I got to the airport with plenty of time. So lunch at the Tick Tok diner, then a walk to Bryant Park for people watching. We caught the E train to JFK. Then the tram to the airport. Took over an hour, but better to have given myself too much time than too little! I was annoyed that there weren't really anywhere for us to sit comfortably and be together til I had to go through security. But we found a quiet corner nonetheless and cuddled and talked til it was time.

I'm going to miss him tremendously. But with so much going on I'm sure he's right and we'll be together again before I know it. Time does move weirdly when you think about it.

Anyway... flights were great! I managed to get space next to me both times, and managed to sleep relatively well. Met and talked to a lot of random people at the airport in Helsinki after I came back from exploring the city for a bit. An American woman named Allison - hello if you read this! A German businessman bought me a beer. Chatted with a lovely Finnish woman who was to be on my flight to Delhi.

It's now almost 8pm here in Delhi. I'm still feeling slightly bushed, but am grateful to have been able to do not a thing today and just rest and relax. Tomorrow will be here soon and with it a bit of sightseeing!

Me with my packs - right before checking in at JFK.

Me with Curt on the Bolt Bus on our way to New York. Too early for either of us to be very awake yet.

Made it to Delhi

I am happily set up in Rohit and Gauri's (Gauri rhymes with Lori) apartment. I have my own bedroom with an attached bathroom. Has AC, too! They are the most marvelous couple. Around my age. Rohit works in insurance to pay the bills, but his passion is flying. So he is also a pilot. Their little baby girl (six months old) is just so beautiful. Rohit picked me up from the airport and gave me running commentary on the things we passed as we drove home. I even saw cows in the road! I can't wait to get out and see some of these things up close and personal, but today I'm just taking it easy. Got a big hug from Gauri when we got home and we finally met. She is extraordinary. I am so thrilled I decided to give this couch surfing thing a try.

Rohit and Gauri have a boy who lives in the apartment with them who runs errands, does chores, and helps out. And a cook who comes once a day and a maid who comes once a week. They are not rich. This is just how things are in India. The population is so huge that house help is super super affordable. The apartment isn't big, but it feels very spacious. They have told me that I can feel free to leave my main pack here when I take off to visit Agra, and as long as Rohit's mom hasn't dropped in to visit I can stay with them again whenever I come through Delhi. No matter if I am staying overnight again here or not, I have already made friends in this delightful couple. I really do have a great ability to meet wonderful people. *Smiles*

I'm curled up in bed right now. I'm updating the blog, saying hi to a few friends who are online late at night, and will soon turn over and take a nap. Jet lag is catching up to me. I am glad for the night flights and my long layover in Helsinki. But I really need a nap!

I'll wake up for lunch. And then later, when Rohit gets home from work, Gauri will take me out and we'll do some clothes shopping. Sight seeing will commence tomorrow once I am all rested and ready to go!

Love,
~ Lori

Monday, September 3, 2012

On my way

I'm on the Bolt Bus from BOS to NYC. Expect to arrive around 11:30 or Noon. My flight out of JFK is at quarter to six, so we'll aim to get there at 3.

Yes, I've had multiple panic attacks. Must remember that breathing is good! Wish I'd had time for coffee this morning. Oh well. Bad for me anyway the day of a long flight.

Gauri and Rohit, the couple I'll be staying with in Delhi, have offered to pick me up from the airport. So kind! I'm glad I'm bringing them a nice bottle of pure maple syrup. They also get a copy of my ebook book collection.

Curt is asleep in the seat beside me. The poor darling is never up as early as we had to get up this morning. I'm so insanely happy he's coming to see me off. I don't feel nearly as alone. It's helping a lot.