Monday, February 28, 2005


2 things in this post.
#1 - we are BACK, unpacking and readjusting in SF.... but we will be posting some more pics and stories so don't give up now if you're still interested. the last few weeks were so busy and all of our pics are temporarily stuck on andy's ipod, but there's plenty of travel stuff and, of course, the opening party for the tastingroom to share.
#2 - i wanted to explain why i posted that last post even though it disturbed some people. india is very very different from the united states in so many ways i couldn't even have foreseen and won't claim to entirely comprehend. i know that everyone's experience there as a traveler is different depending on their own backgrounds, where they travel and who they meet, etc... it's huge and made up of a fascinatingly cohesive patchwork of different religions, geography, tribes, languages... (i would never recommend mumbai to my mom, for instance, but know that she'd enjoy the wildlife parks and temples in rajasthan). we had a great time and learned and saw so much but it wasn't always easy or nice and i felt like it was important in sharing our experience on this blog to not just talk about the beautiful colors and gentle people. this trip was a huge impact on my life for which i'm very grateful and hope i came out a slightly more conscious world citizen at the end. the colors ARE beautiful - men and women love to wear hot pink and bright orange or peacock blue, whole cities are painted pink or blue, hibiscus grow as big as plates, green parrots flit everywhere...and poverty that seems shocking at first reveals a strength of dignity and enjoyment of life and family thats really very inspirational and comforting and gives me, personally, more hope for humanity. part of our experience there, though, involved learning how we reacted to so many new things we hadn't seen before (especially me) whether it's villages of kids who all want to play with you or seeing elephants and camels on the streets or lepers begging or small children sleeping on the floor of the train station in a pile of stray dogs or accidents and deaths and the very un-western reactions others have to them. it's quite a strange, deep adjustment having come from a culture that is based on the importance of the individual as opposed to the larger community. so... that's why i posted something unpleasant like that, if that makes any sense.

Wednesday, February 16, 2005

this one is upsetting. don't read it if you're easily upset

life is cheap and we are sad soft westerners
i know that people will ask how our trip was and what we thought of india when we get home and i just don't know what i'll say.... it's such a huge experience on so many levels that it may not be possible to convey hardly a fraction of what it's been. we had a big shock of the reality of the everyday dangers and cheapness of life here this week and i'm sharing it here as a part of our overall experience with india but it's not a nice one.
we had just gotten off a train in bharatpur and were standing on the platform with our bags, fending off a few hopeful porters and sorting out how to get to our hotel. the train started up again and began moving along slowly. when the 3rd class compartments rolled by i commented to maurice, a friend who arrived in india 2 weeks ago and is traveling with us, to look and see how packed they are - so full that people hang out the windows and doors and luggage is held over heads. one car went by with about 6 guys holding onto each other on the doorway, none with more than a toe and hand hold on the car, and just as i said that alot of people die that way (or so we've read but never seen til now),the one on the outside (maybe 20 years old) fell maybe 30 feet from us and there was a terrible series of events where he hit the ground and his legs got caught between the train and the platform but pulled loose and he turned to face us and maybe get up on his hands but then got caught between 2 cars and crushed in the middle and then snapped down between the car and the wall and dragged off a hundred feet or so where the train finally stopped just long enough to free his body and then kept going. the whole time we watched but were helpless to do anything and it was terrible to see his face that second before he got pulled in for good and just became a lifeless body. there was a moment i thought that we could help with first aid but it was just too fast and horrible and then over. this is a common occurance here - few other people reacted much, we walked off shaking and pale, almost sick, while most everyone else continued chatting and smiling, a few looking over the edge at his remains, officials making their way over but not running. as soon as we passed his body a beggar woman holding a grubby naked baby sent her older child crawling up to us on one leg and one knee length stump to hang on to my sleeve and grin and beg as we stumbled past. another beggar woman squatted gazing down at what was left of the boy who'd fallen and i felt a touch of anger cut through the shock and horror that this mom didnt get her child a cane or at least a stick so that he or she (i couldn't tell) could walk upright instead of scraping their stump along in a perpetual groveling half squat, that there seemed to be no dignity allowed in life or death and this boy wouldn't even make the local paper because, as our hotel owner told us later, even in a fairly small town such as this these things happen every day.
i don't really know what else to say about this.

Monday, February 14, 2005

the work of goblins rather than of men

" ... from whichever side you approach it Boondi Palace is perhaps the most striking in India . . . . even in broad daylight, is such a Palace as men build for themselves in uneasy dreams - the work of Goblins rather than of men" --- rudyard kipling.
that's what sparked us to go to bundi, which is not a big tourist destination at this point. rajasthan seems much friendlier than mumbai altogether, but bundi had the most people saying hi and chatting with us without trying to sell us anything of any place so far. and it's beautiful. it's in a valley with stone walls and lookout towers built on the surrounding hills, the bottomland has a lake, hundreds of brahmin-blue houses ans havelis, winding streets filled with cows and dogs and pigs and overall quite friendly people and bicycles and marching bands (always marching bands, everywhere we go, it's wedding season)..... there's a huge fort and palace built and added onto by successive maharajas until it became an mc escher dream of winding stairways and hallways leading to places you don't expect and other spots you can see from lookouts and rooftops but can never seem to get to. it's been mostly abandoned to bats and monkeys and a just a few tourists a day - the only staff that seems to manage it is a cured leper with no fingers who takes your ticket and a few men with sticks who chase the mokeys out of the parts that are maintained (a garden courtyard and 2 rooms that retain the original wall paintings in pretty good condition).... so you can wander in it for hours and see no one but the monkeys, jumping over holes through a few floors, wading through several feet of reeking bat and monkey poo, peeking through falling down doors to see if that stairway goes anywhere or that if that room has another entrance that leads to the next adventure... the black faced lengur monkeys sit and watched us, holding their toes, but the red faced (and red bootied) rhesus macaques are pretty mean and we ended up carrying sticks some of the way to make them let us pass. very indiana jones, very cool, very recommended.
and! our friend maurice from chicago joined us here to share and add extra spark to some adventures

Saturday, February 05, 2005

oh yeah

we don't have our computers along so all the cool pics of rajasthan will have to follow in 2 weeks.

on camels and wind.....

camels fart. alot. quite stinky, really. sometimes their tails stand out straight behind them and kind of flap in the wind when they fart. they walk single file so the person behind them is not spared the full effect of this. they also make deep loud strange chewbacca noises and blow raspberries and spit up white and green froth, especially when they're flirting. nonetheless i like them. so do lots of birds that like to climb on them and eat their bugs, dung beetles that come out at night and roll away their poops, and more little birds and chipmunks that scurry out of sparse desert chapparal to steal more poops and run back into the bushes with it. in the morning, on a desert safari, as a man in a turban and handsome white mustache makes some tea to share with you, you can admire all the tracks in the sand of the various creatures that visited you and your camels overnight. there are also tracks and bird poo all over your camel. then, after some eggs or porridge and reloading of blankets, camel food, saddles, etc., you climb back on (ignoring the bruised spots from the day before), the camel stands up (and up and up, they're really big), and you ride off across the desert in a motion not unlike a slow motion mechanical bull. you sit and rock and drink water and pull your scarf across your face to block the sun and watch birds and goats and other camels sometimes, or rocks and sand and scrub other times, or silently in your head prove and disprove the existence of god and souls other times, question your culture and your response to other cultures and then decide that you're thinking too much, wonder about the shapes and colors of the rocks beneath the camels big strangely spongy paddle feet..... i'm pretty sure we went through a broken coral garden with fossilized shellfish at one point...... sometimes you go through a village and play with the kids and admire the puppies and baby goats they show you.... sometimes you stop and sit and chat or be silent with the camel driver......
all in all it's pretty cool. then you come back to the smallish town you left from 4 days earlier and it seems loud and busy even though you've been living in one of the most crowded and noisy cities in the world up 'til last week, and you realize how your pace has slowed with the slow camels and quiet, smiling driver (you don't usually think much about the existence of souls, for instance) and you feel grateful and happy that you went on your desert safari and cleansed a bit of your inner space of mumbai madness but your butt hurts and you smell worse than the camels and you go to a hotel for a shower and move on to the next adventure.