16 December 2006

enforcement of broken values

one thing which has become apparent because of the large gaps of time between when i am in denver is the increased police presence; in the collective two weeks i've been here i've been pulled over twice.
my impression of them is entirely one of Predators.
i remember driving home one warm summer night (that car begged for trouble with its busted speedometer) and seeing the emblematic silver and blue reflectors glint in the dark as my lights swept over a seemingly unremarkable bush on the corner of an abandoned intersection.

headlights suddenly appear in the rearview as he pulls out behind you. The white lights become nearly blinding as he pulls up real-close-like to check your tags. the violation begins; adrenaline rushes through your veins like street drugs only dream they could.

He turns on his flashing lights and power; he runs his finger over the gun's safety. He opens the police car door slow and saunters up to the Suspect's Vehicle, thighs forward to ensure maximum virility assertion. He shines his thick flashlight in the Suspect's face, illuminating and assessing any racially suspicious or erotic facial features the Suspect may possess. He shines it around the interior of the Suspect's vehicle, oogling its contents to the fullest extent of the Law, Ma'am.

he attempts to trap you by asking you if you are aware of why you were pulled over. he uses a slightly condescending voice laced with his knowledge that he is correct and waiting for an explanation of why you would foolishly DARE to disobey him. he is aching to tighten the handcuffs around your slender wrists.

His questions the Suspect to establish a crime; his finger unconsciously caresses the Baton. It feels smooth and reassuringly heavy. He was already ugly but when he leers at his prey it's much worse; the layers of fat around his beady eyes wrinkle as he surveys the Suspect's exposed Collarbone. Though his large frame is tending towards corpulent these days, he still holds himself Upright and Powerful with the full righteousness of Democracy and Freedom. His testosterone clouds the air.
you stare back and refuse to drop your eyes; you dare him.
---well, girl, since you're not too drunk and don't look like an illegal alien... I'll let you go this once but (he bares his teeth like a hungry ape) you better watch your... ass.

12 December 2006

drive till the gas run out

all i know is, unlike the puritans, i will die with a huge fucking grin on my face
on the day my brilliant luck finally runs out; remembering all that mischief and mayhem,the glorious vistas from untold miles on the road, the midnight-to-dawn discussions with my brethren when we thought we had the weight of the world on our shoulders, the torrid love affairs, the nights we got so drunk the earth pulled us back into her arms and we couldnt see nothin but the cold steady stars overhead.

27 August 2006


american accents. i heard one or two over the course of the summer but nothing to prepare me for the nasal, bullhorn-esque quality of the way
my countrymen project their vowels.
then i was astounded to find myself shocked at the bare flesh women of all ages rep; it had been a while since id seen babyboomer tits and flabby legs squeezed into last summer's JC PENNY short & tanktop combo.
And god, the frosted blonde cropped coifs framing such painted faces. perhaps the women of india have a better idea by leaving it up to the imagination.
was i staring with shock at a woman in a tube top?
fuck their tracksuits are so tight, the patterns are all wrong and we move so blockily.

but yes here the waves have crashed and the beach is now empty. these days of adventure, intrigue, and romance are over and im wrapped in a white blanket against the colorado chill, jetlagged and waking up with a start from bittersweet dreams of far of places & faces.
im typing this but my eye keeps strayng to my parents new &ridiculously fast post-children vehicle.
its almost dawn, the roads are empty and i cant resist, so now ill go;
standing still is killing me. ive made a pact with the devil-- i may travel to the end of the earth nearly effortlessly but i must always do it alone. i may only love my fellow passengers till the ship lands and then im off with one hand on my chest and the other clutching a ticket.

cowardly, maybe. but the hope is that if i fly fast enough ill finally defeat gravity and break away completely

24 August 2006

the comedy & the tragedy

I am fairly convinced that what makes this country so vivid is the way that heaven and hell meet so exquisitely on earth.
Correspondingly, I have had moments of the highest moral clarity and moments of absolute depravity.
I'm rolling with shock at the cross-continental itinerary looming ahead of me, at the fact that this is over--no more talking with the doctors, living alone with the insects, tearing through the abandoned late night streets on a motorcycle with the shanties and palaces glinting in the moonlight,
so now I cant do nothin but watch the last day go up in flames above the smog and incense, knowing that

the edge of the cliff

there is a sign on the door that says boldly TRAINING ROOM.
inside we are talking about revolution; they have been telling me that NGOs are slaves to the agenda. the chalkboard is always covered in furious scribbles; the last few days, the conversation has been as agitated as i feel--i commence the great journey west at one am.
but right now im sweating and i can smell the sewer and the flowers and the humid air through the open door.  
Outside there is a surprising mix of palm trees and buildings that were never completed with skeletal steel sticking out at strange angles. there are laborers draped over cinderblocks in the lazy afternoon heat, playing '92 era nintendo on bricklike gameboys.

22 August 2006

ride the white horse

title comes from this song that is ubiquitous in the bars at this time and has hence become a bit of the soundtrack to these fleeting weeks.
its been a while since the internet has been available; life has been busy.
last week my enthusiastic freshly minted doctor friend took me to the OT in the hospital one night, told a lie or two to the front desk, disguised me with scrubs and a mask, and stood next to me as they opened up this poor fucker's foot that had been crushed by a truck.
i should have known what i was getting myself into when they prepped him, and put a bucket under his foot to catch the blood. this was the first time id seen bones and flesh existing quite separately from eachother--small chunks of mangled toe being cut away and bright red living flesh and i finally broke out in vicious sweat and weak racing pulse (shock) and politely excused myself. 
then we departed for a few days via jeep to visit rural health projects way the fuck out in the boonies; it was my first time in such a place in india. we were with all of these children in a remedial school for bonded laborers and they took us for a walk and there were these old men crouched over piles of freshly caught fish. we were standing by them looking at the 'lake' (ie mudhole) and a conversation started. it came out that i was american and one of them looked up from his work and said he'd never seen a foreigner before. he appraised me for a moment quite calmly and went back to scaling his fish.
the children were absolutely delighted with my camera.
they were so excited to have visitors that they put on a talent show for us, out in the dusty yard in front of the school. there were children dressed as bushes (with living foliage), politicians, ninjas? etc and it was quite brilliant. there were choreographed dances. there was a moment where the girls were dancing to this song called 'I love my india' and i was sitting there watching them move beautifully together the dusk and the rain started falling on the parched earth 
and it was so real.  
we palavered with wizened midwives who have seen more than 3 of my lives combined. women here age so fast; the exhaustion in their walk and skin and bones is nearly palpable. i ate fruits which i have no name for or ability to describe. sunday night we stayed in an abandoned dispensary under an asbestos roof with no openable windows and boiled alive. i kicked off the soaking sheets and kept imagining things crawling all over me in my half sleep; but finally the sensation became strong enough to make me swat at my arm and a huge cockroach went flying.
they were all up in the bed, under the sheets and the blankets.
but that aside,
  we are finally witnessing the union of theoretical administration and action in the field and its awe-inducing. the complexity, the disparity, jesus i have enough to think about for an entire lifetime. 
mad world.

15 August 2006

que rica

'atlas shrugged' has been making me think a lot about the concept of 'humanitarianism' in the contrived manner it is usually delivered in. the hand out, the 'donation' the 'charity' wrapped in cultural genocide and all of that crap. 
but nonetheless my purpose has never seemed so clear as this moment when one of our teachers, a doctor, was finishing an afternoon session on village work.
he was carrying his many kilos with weightless grace as he paced and paced in the humble 'training room' in front of us.
'so why do you want to do this, hm? really. im curious. your choice is ridiculous and difficult. give me an answer.'
silence, followed by a few of us young pups offering things along the lines of..well uh id like to help people? its interesting?  
he pushed us harder. but our 'reasons' looked so hollow written on the chalkboard; not reasons but mere 'motivations'. he shook his head.
'well. if you find the reason, please inform me. I don't have the answer either; perhaps I never will.' he paused and leaned his hands on the table and looked at us. 'I think perhaps there is no reason. but I know this--I have merely felt it. I have FELT it in them and that is my sole reason.'

12 August 2006

after a satisfying afternoon nap safe from the monsoon.

im staying in a place whose squalor is reminiscent of gorakpur, only im so FREE to do as i please so its great. plus the cucarachas are a mere thumbnail size, instead of the Deluxe model ive previously had to share quarters with. 
my new cheeky classmate rohini--shes fantastic-- took me out again last night to a club where we were to meet her friends. when we arrived at the door, we were informed by large men with shaved heads (yes, some things ARE universal) that we had been booked into the VIP. we proceeded without paying cover. the place was mostly empty but we were introduced to this guy in an impeccable black shirt with a black tie (name? N something?) and we sat and cautiously ordered drinks, them being 300 rupees each.    
soon we were happily sipping rum and i was once again apologizing to my rapt companions for the acts of my country, while simultaneously damaging their cultured ears with my abrasive american accent. america!! fuck yeah! the place filled up with beautiful, lettuce-fed people and i tried not to think of the bill we were incurring. after an appropriate amount of time, lil john flooded the speakers and everyone started shakin it. our impeccable friend N tried to dance with me but oh honey, money cant buy slick hips. then the dreaded trance came on and i ran back to the vip den and he ordered us more drinks. coronas, and other things from mexico that i thought id never see again (at least for this summer). then, delectable king prawns and gourmet kebabs.    
eventually rohini and i were preparing to exit, possibly by running, when the equally well-dressed but still ugly owner came over, (N's cousin apparently) and with a preening nod dismissed the heart-attack-rendering bill. we and the whole crew walked out gleefully with him to a waiting black car, where we piled in and went to an astonishingly opulent new hotel. we were served pizza made with real cheese. holy shit..!pizza! something i also had thought i would part with for the summer. Once again, the bill should have been in the thousands but N just smiled and looked at the supervisor.
'Yeah, I own this place, plus the one across the street; the doctor thing is more of a side hobby'. but his willingness to share with us was striking. Jesus.
and all morning id been watching ragpickers joking with one another in the gutter. my brain cannot reconcile these facts and so i won't.
    only a few precious hours later and it was one of those moaning headache mornings and i was trying to will myself out of bed to get to class on time. i was laying there, peering thru the grime on the walls when i spotted a scooby do sticker, worn with age. i looked above the bed and there was daphanie, winking. i looked closer all over the room and theres at least half a dozen. i must admit this fact has filled me with an irrational delight.

08 August 2006

darkness and light

im in a dark internet cafe where someone has just started blasting Ace-of-Base and suddenly I'm back in 1994 or so. oh shit it switched back to hindi, nevermind.
ive started the health fellowship with the community health cell in bangalore (which, ironically, you have to cross a gaping river of sewage to get to);
besides the fantastic workshops and teaching sessions we have every day, i also am escaping the convent and the rumbling, hour-long-sweaty-hanging-frantically-out-the-door-with-a-dirty-man's-hand-on-my-butt bus commute that residing in such a far out local entails.
you heard it right, im moving to a hostel near the medical school campus.
i am surrounded by battle weathered doctors and activists eager to pass on their knowledge and what humble help it might offer in these fading days. 
I said bye to the patients last night, I said id never ever forget this (I fucking won't) and I cried when they touched me and whispered 'god bless you' and looked me deep in the eye for a moment before shuffling off down the silent corridors to their beds.    

06 August 2006


im losing touch with my born nationality:
1. my perspiration now smells like garlic and indian spices
2. im beginning to speak with a strange indian accent; at first it was to be understood and last night when i was talking with a fluent english speaker i realized that my intonation is getting more unpredictable every day and furthermore my grammar has fallen to shambles.
3. i drink the water from the cup in restaurants and dont get sick. so far. im sure in 3 months when im swollen with tapeworms ill rue the day i decided it would be an effective cost-cutting measure. but pshhhh that's then; this is now.
4. ive begun to find scrubbing my clothing on the stone satisfying, and now i know why they dont trust washing machines.

last night was an adventure that began with the mounting a of roaring and chrome plated motorcycle to only the Hippest of clubs containing nouveau riche in halter tops dancing jerkily while drinking only the most expensive of vodkas, and ended with my hair's strength being severely tested.
yes, indeed, im pleased to report that i am alive and well. 

03 August 2006


so this week i have been doing 'exposure training'; and though this is generally less obscene than it sounds, it involves going with community health and social workers into the 'field' ie, the slums to visit high-risk groups.
Hijras, for those unaware, are sort of the Third Gender of indian society; they are a group that consists of those born as hermaphrodites, those who were castrated, some who are female identifying men, and some who are simply homosexual. since of course none of these people fit into india's stringent gender and social categories, they live together on the fringes of society, begging on the trains, 'entertaining' at weddings and births, and doing sex work.
due to the nature of their work, they have a staggeringly high rate of HIV infection, and concurrently high rates of other STIs; with little to no access to treatment.   
After telling me about this, one of the gay peer workers I met at the organization led me across the train tracks and into a slum, where we entered a squalid apartment building. I was immediately greeted flamboyantly by many large people in saris; some looked like women, some were men with makeup on, and the whole spectrum in between. One giggled and took me diminutively by the hand, only to burst open a door and lead me into a room where one of them was, er, with a client. shocked, i burst out in laughter, and she joined in, as if it were all a big joke. i apologized, backed out and closed the door. then i was led upstairs where a group of them were gathered around a blanket on the floor of a tiny bedroom, chewing paan and playing cards.    
i was invited to join them, and graciously served warm pepsi in a beer mug and a mint lifesaver.
i sat with them a while and they told me of their troubles and daily lives through an interpreter. one keep erupting into fits of frustrated rage as she described the way the neighbors and the clients treated them- she said, 'at first they only thought we were regular women prostitutes, but then they found out we are eunuchs, and now they want to force us out! this is the fucking story that i have lived with for the last 40 years! and this one! you see her? (pointing to a young ..woman.. with faint stubble and fake breasts, who was staring catatonically at the floor and drooling slightly thru open mouth and rotting teeth) her kidneys have failed! doctor will not treat her, she gave 3 lakhs of rupees and they would only refer her away, she doesnt have the money for dialysis! what are we supposed to do?' she scratched herself and sipped her pepsi. 'and me, i have the sugar habit! SUGAR HABIT (pretending to jab a syringe into her forearm, tone of voice getting louder and louder)! we are hopeless, what is this life!'   
some of the others nodded commiseratively or smiled weakly at me. when our conversation finished, i stood up to leave and they surrounded me and proffered dainty handshakes followed by VERY personal hugs, then dry humping, and much laughter, and wished me a good afternoon. 
holy shit.
then the last few days, i have been going with female peer workers into the homes and meeting places of local sex workers, where i have been allowed to interview them about how the program administered by the NGO is going, and what their lives and stories are like (again, with the help of an interpreter). we visited a slum that sprung on the peripheries of a stinking plastic factory; while winding through the muddy footpaths and peering into shacks, i think i saw the highest per capita number of drop-dead gorgeous people ive ever seen, anywhere. 
i sat in houses the width of twin beds and had endless cups of chai with all sorts of people.
the organization is starting these fascinating grass-roots based self-help collectives for the sex workers, and it is amazing to see the whole process in action. this concept also can apply to health and hiv work, and the concept of reaching those who are unreachable by appealing to their peers is brilliant and it is working amazingly. i spoke to so many people who are so much more empowered, with the dignity granted to them along with the title of 'peer educator', and they are doing amazing things.  
then i have to commute back to snehadaan on 3 busses during rush hour, which i imagine puts even LA to shame; the last bus was so packed that i literally had room for only one foot on the floor and so i was groovin flamingo-style on the unpaved road when i felt something suspiciously firm touching my ass, and then a hand on my thigh. the cheeky fellow was getting bolder; i tried shoving but there was no place to shove him to, my elbows were entrapped uselessly in the tangle of limbs, so i finally hit him in the face and he desisted. i smiled at him and hopped off.  
this week ive seen so much.every day in the dusty dusk light i walk home from the bus stop blissfully lost in the possibilities.  

if it dont bend it breaks

this note shouldve appeared last week.

---------- Forwarded message ----------
From: <deleted@gmail.com >
Date: Jul 27, 2006 5:17 PM

so the proverbial mental  house, i think, has been torn down; that strangled cry last week was the sound of the roof finally falling through the foundation. now i have freedom.. the rebuilding has begun & the new version already features many more windows and a larger library.
i read the newspaper every day. From such a distance (but with palpable horror) i am watching my country move its puppet strings, which are of course becoming increasingly soaked in blood; furthermore, these small strings are starting to shake all the rocks on the hill and sometimes i fear that this time the avalanche will finally come to bury all of us. muslims, christians, and jews alike.  
i often apologise to anyone within earshot for the things those shockingly soulless, lying bastards are doing in the name of my country. furthermore, invoking the name of 'free democracy' (which we do not nor ever have actually practiced) is spitting an oath on people who are already on their knees with our hands around their necks.  
seeing and reading about the state of healthcare here, and furthermore WHY it is this way, comes back to the neoliberal policies of the west. you already know, im sure, that their greed is literally killing people.. i wont delve now into the details. but anyway at this point sometimes i feel like i can do nothing but throw my hands up in the air (i know others feel the same way); but then again, yesterday sunil took me to a community health action centre/thinktank and i listened to them discussing their upcoming plans to send a group of doctors and medical staff to Lebanon to be in solidarity with the civilians, and i remembered that there is nothing more we can hope to do but stand up and fight until the very last breath. they handed me pamphlets discussing the wto & the medicine patent wars going on here, with pictures of massive demonstrations and i was heartened because at least the people are not going quietly. 
democracy/government here is something raging and astounding; its almost impossible for me to piece together what is happening politically because its like a soap opera with hundreds of characters whose backgrounds i know nothing about. but political coverage is much more extensive and the people clearly havent been properly and completely subdued into nonparticipation, as they have in my country.. india reminds me of a giant ship speeding through the ocean-- chaotic with too many people on board, not enough rations to go around & the conductors appear to be mostly inept, etc
but somehow it keeps going forward and not sinking, and furthermore the passengers are singing and dancing.      

01 August 2006

bring the motherfuckin ruckus

saturday night was not all it had cracked up to be, so i was forced to bust out the monster under the bed; i downed approx 400ml of it and made my to the roof to chainsmoke shitty indian cigarettes under the moon.
soon after i was seated, a mosquito alighted on my arm. i shouted: your insatiable bloodlust, sir, will be your undoing! 
..and i killed it. a curious washerwoman, upon hearing the commotion, came over to investigate and found a young woman in a salwar SMOKING, which is basically the same as if i was naked and dancing, burning the bible, etc. she conveyed this to me in handspeak and i shrugged and tried to tell her 'different strokes for different folks', but it turns out this particular saying doesnt translate so well into sign language and i think she left even more offended and i was unable to supress my laughter any longer.
then, today it is my great joy to announce that the Penguin has been replaced, happily, with a young italian woman who will be in india for 3 months. she is great and refreshingly unweathered by tribulations. her suitcase contained, perplexedly, approximately five towels, a disney english workbook, and a litre of disinfectant. almost nothing else.   
i also find myself the instigator of small rebellions. during dinner every night, we serve the patients according to the direction of the Boss, a priest in training with whom i often have what you could call 'polite disagreements', ie, i observed one day that women should have equal rights, and he called me a feminist with a curl of his lip.
anyway, he recently decreed that Pickel (a spicy condiment of green mango, chili sauce, and oil) was not to be served with dinner any longer, as it could interfere with digestion. i told him that they eat spicy food all day, and half a teaspoon of pickel wouldnt kill anyone. but he persisted. now, everyone loves pickel; it is the small variety in the otherwise very similar meals they are served every day.
so two of the female patients and i hatched a plan (i should add, using only sign language). they summoned him and ordered 2 Ragi porridges (something they are given when they are too nauseous to eat regular dinner) to be brought from the kitchen. we knew he would be occupied for several minutes with the order, so i appointed a lookout and dashed about with the jar, serving pickel to everyone who wanted it. my moves were Secret Agent in nature (hugging the wall, leaping from behind furniture); my impetuousness was infectious. and they were all laughing and laughing. when the big Boss returned, he asked what all of the commotion was about but i smiled sweetly and said they were merely basking in the glorious opportunity of being alive. his grasp of english being tenuous, he didn't get the joke and while he was busy restoring order in the dining hall, i winked conspiratorially to the patients and departed into the night

24 July 2006

oh yah, and

after the second censure from one of the priests, and nearly causing a motorcycle accident out on the road in the same day, i decided that maybe my clothes really ARE too tight for these rural folk.
so i buckled and purchased 3 sets of the salwar kameez; a modest tunic and leggings combination which is also worn with a breast covering scarf... now i look the fucking part.  

to bow and to bend we will not be ashamed

i called up some backpacker who'd left me a message on bootsnall (travel network), met for an excellent few beers during which he helpfully listened to the storms come pouring out of my head (thanks) in the swarming and yupped out centre of the metropolis and then i had a bitch of a time trying to navigate the 20 kms home with a radiotaxi driver and no common tongue. i was an hour late and the night crew were livid.   
i felt like a teenager again as the adults scolded me and had to suppress laughter (fortunately the dam held); my rebellious temperament is flaring up like my skin in this weather, so maybe i really AM 13 again--all the signs are there. in which case, god help us all.    
but anyway yesterday
the women came at me and stuck a bindi between my eyebrows and pronounced it beautiful; so last night i sang all of them, acapella, a hymn the 15-20 of us used to sing before dinner when i was a child, and was mildly surprised that it didnt come out half bad with only my voice carrying it.   
the twins have been swarming over me all day with maniacal giggles and i can lift one tiny body with each arm and stomp through the corridors of the wards, counting to 20 with a robot voice and matching walk which they find endlessly entertaining. then they presented me a pink Barbie pen that i used to draw them cartoons. theyve learned my name and holla my way, with the accent on the middle--naTALie! naTALie! every time i walk past their window or door. we play various versions of vollyball, and i was trying to teach them 4square but sign language alone was unfortunately insufficient and i know not a lick of tamil, so instead we broke it down and busted moves till it was time to go in for dinner.

20 July 2006


the indian government has blocked blogspot.com in some kind of political aftermath of the terror attacks on the 11th, so consequently i have no idea if these are getting through. if not, its a moot point then,isn't it?

it's a deadmans party

this morning
i had seated myself at the humble table, at the equally humble hour of 7:20 am, and regarded my bowl of potato?/onionish curry, unable to take the next step of lifting it to my lips. so i sat unmoving in silence. the others were happily babbling away in kanadaa, glancing at me and giggling. glancing then pointing. their goddamn language. i took a breath and squeezed my eyes closed, but it was too late. i slammed my black tea down on the table, opened my eyes to them and a week of pent up hostility came flowing out from between my clenched teeth, punctuated here and there with a snarled spanish curseword.
I ascertained their astonished faces and smiled slightly: ok, I don't know how much of that you understood, but I think my basic point is clear. Got it? Thanks!  
[my tshirts are too tight for these people
i cant jibe with their constant superior moral self glorification and prostration before the plastic saints;
essentially one could say im perceived like my Shockingly Garish undergarments hangin on the line next to the saris and habits.] 
i poured the curry out and departed to serve the patients without another word.
we are carrying dishes and again, like every day, with the gerund they are indicating the state of my hair and wardrobe thismorning: you are looking very nice today, you are combing your hair differently?
this constant use of the verb lends the surreal feeling that everything is in a constant and uninterrupted state of occurrence; nothing ever finishes or ends or can be stated in a truncated manner. after saying OUR FATHER WHO ART IN HEAVEN and all that,  
i see that the tall, wide shouldered man (a desiccated echo of what he used to be) with striking features has a dark look in his eyes today. As he gets up he stumbles and finally moves forward with difficulty; the virus in his blood has finally kissed his brain and his limbs are beginning to phase in and out of existence.   
anyone who has known me for any period of time can attest that my heart burns, beats, bleeds at a rate i often feel is unsustainable. therefore when the work is done at last i must climb aboard the mango trees and drift on the branches in and out of the world here for a while, having tiny epiphanies that stem from the insects crawling all over me... like the way ants die: they are hurrying along on their pointless path and they suddenly just stop in their tracks.  
the people here are an exception to this generally universal experience. here its more protracted; they cant hurry no more down the path but must instead watch and do nothin as their bodies dissolve underneath them, knowing that they are going to trip and fall.
this four year old girl with legs like mothbitten matchsticks and bloated in all the wrong places walks down towards me like an old woman, patient and holding her hips painfully, eerily silent and slow moving. her mother pays her little attention and so she sits quietly dying in the road rubbing dust over her arms.     
i move towards the next group. in the middle of them this man is joking with me in a wheelchair he has only one usable eye. what is coming out of his catheter bag is beet red.
FUCK i close my eyes and  there are intravenous lines dangling in the wind like cheap jewelry,  legbones wrapped in nothing but veins, shoulderblades that come to a razor point.  
i go to the room after food and retreat frighteningly deeper and deeper into my own consciousness indeed the proximity between my waking and dreaming self is beginning to get too close for comfort. distraction is impossible: the town is dry for miles, and though the other night i attempted to quiet the situation with a few sleeping pills before dinner (hoping that starting on an empty stomach would work more effectively), it ended badly because they kicked in sooner than anticipated and i was not able to escape the refectory before i lost motor coordination and pirate stumbled back to my room, much to the confusion of the desk attendant.  
and even then, i was unable to sleep, i just laid there hazily till midnight; the stupor didnt wear off for hours and hours.
even though i know better, i blame the insomnia on thoughts that are screaming to be heard and swarming exponentially with each time i have to repress them but i cant articulate shit to these old women and pious men, and so they echo louder and louder throughout the course of the day and peace becomes completely out of the question by the time its time to lay down.

17 July 2006

the goddess of plenty

today is attempt number two to discern the crowded mystery of the local bus system. the buses are pitiless and move with high velocity violence and the eternal sound of metal dents being made and remade; the timings and stops are known only to great scholars who spend years contemplating the (government-issued) texts. 
traffic was, as usual, in a horrific snarl and the dust and pollution burned my eyes. hence, i was beginning to get bored when, to my delight, a matron burst up the creaking steps propelled by the sweaty exertion of her children and grandchildren. She stood in the aisle for a second with her tree trunk limbs tapering to delicate hands holding provisions wrapped with care in plastic bags, surveying us lesser beings, smiling at a joke we missed, with her heaving breasts and stomach and buttocks cascading out of the pitifully inadequate bondage of the sari's thin material; she was carved like the fucking Buddha and as she took the empty seat to the left of me i imagined being crushed beneath one of those billowing cheeks while she laughed uproariously.  

14 July 2006

love in a time of

CHOLERA. which is what a man died of on sunday while the nurses were in church.
then another went in the night. what is strange is that people here seldom die alone, always in twos or threes on the same day..im convinced its because the hand of death is heavy. and after wandering the abandoned corridors at night, i can also attest that this place is swarming with ghosts. i also sense them in 
the place i go for escape from the penguin. the roof. where i can look at the moon and the toxic afterburn of the city on the horizon. its not even the normal skyglow associated with cities i know--there are often elements of green and yellow and sometimes even blue that make me vaguely sick. these of course are the sorts of skies that match the rivers that run grey with shit and runoff. as they do here.
lots of dreams now about dark beaches and being swallowed in black churning water. sleep, needless to say, has not been forthcoming. but i do fund solace from my dark thoughts in the mango trees, which i have taken to climbing with the helpful accompaniment of young John, the nine yr old son of a widow who works here. he has these huge melancholy eyes and his english is great. we collect huge bags of looted fruit and refuse to share with anyone. 
they deploy cruel attack hounds at night to roam the expansive grounds...but im convinced its more to prevent us from fraternizing with..well.. the fraters across the way.  
we get locked in at the gate, again at the door to the womens quarters, and then she locks our room from the inside and comes at me with bottles of hair oil and reproaches about my lifestyle. i sigh quietly to myself and turn to the wall with all of the books i have. im learning so much its staggering, really. by the end of the summer ill have lost my social skills but ill be a fucking encyclopedia on this disease and this population.
lots of bloody things happening in the news. this country is so impossible in so many ways. ill elaborate further sometime when the letters arent blurring in front of me with fatigue.
the patients have taken it upon themselves to teach me cricket, which i have certainly eliminated from future career options. i must confess that i was nearly outbatted by a child a third of my age, much to the amusement of the locals. among the participants was a a whole family of new admissions, including a set of 5 year old twins with 30 year old eyes in 3 year old bodies. one is significantly sicker than the other. they are both ashen and delicate, but occasionally they commit acts of chaos and shout and scream and i find it most refreshing.
one patient ive been caring for (breakfast thru the nosetube every day) is in the very final stage of HIV infection, its attacked her brain, resulting in paralysis of half her body, among other unpleasant symptoms. not SO long ago, when she was young and vulnerable she was plied into the sex trade. she collected a number of tattoos (strange hindu symbols all over her body, a faded green dot between her eyebrows), and finally HIV. she succumbed rather quickly, so ive been told, and was barely functioning, homeless and being raped all the time before someone dragged her here. she had a beautiful face once and still has the longest eyelashes ive ever seen. her hair comes out when you touch it, she gasps and gurgles painfully for breath, and there are infected bedsores all over her. extensive thrush of the mouth and throat. she cannot swallow or speak but sometimes regards me deeply. she cant see my face through the surgical mask i must wear (to protect her from my germs). i will feel a small sense of relief when death comes to her. it probably wont be so much longer.    

08 July 2006

shiva luna

settling into a sort of routine here.. visited the umbrella community health/clinic in bangalore that initially referred me to the centre & checked out many more books to compliment what i am seeing with my eyes.
large burn on leg from careless dismount of boss's motorcycle.
the Penguin (thanks Jake, Elwood) accidentally opened the bathroom door while i was immersed in a bloody and epic pre-bucket bath battle with a small legion of cockroaches (i think?) i discovered crawling out of the drain. i was wearing only what god gave me, plus..well.needless to say, the Penguin looked quite faint.
fortunately i did not burst out laughing, but put on a most Serious face instead....
i think i have now seen everything possible that can be derived from rice and eaten. not brewed, though. perhaps i should start a petition; eating is often characterized by me staring at the table, or pretending to concentrate more than is necessary on the formation of balls of rice and curry with the 3 fingers and delivery to the mouth, while everyone around me continues to speak a variety of dialects, often gesturing in my direction. Dear sirs: i feel that rice brew would legitimately facilitate a greater level of crosscultural interaction. 
the urge to climb to the roof, strip naked, and scream every forbidden word in the english language at the top of my lungs seems to be
rising at a worrying rate.
disregarding the constant warnings i recieve about cobras, ive been going on exploratory missions to the edges of the compound.
this place has gardens and gardens full of mango trees and many other things, but mangos are difficult to obtain at the proper time; they rot and get infested with maggots very easily. nonetheless, the patients insist on this small show of Independence by pulling them down still green and bitter and eating  them crouched in the field. however, the key is to pick them and wait.  
sometimes the nurses grab me and whisper conspiratorially: you want a mango?
they grin broadly and take me to a room where many mangos have been left to ripen in old medical equipment boxes, rummage through the layers of Times India and pull out mangoes of every shape and size, often dripping and slightly overripe, yielding like butter to my swiss army knife. the juice runs down my chin and leaves telltale stains on my clothes.  

05 July 2006

garlic & saffron

The medical staff uses a curious mix of antiretroviral drugs and home remedies, which I am also learning about.
Garlic and saffron for infections of every type, especially of the gastrointestinal tract; lemon to dissolve fungus on the tongue (an opportunistic infection in later stage HIV); massage as an expectorant.
interestingly, the sensory deprivation this place affords me has resulted in the most fantastic dreams of my life, even better than the fever dreams, and consequently, while the days are this intense, the nights are amazing. i have glorious adventures and beautiful views, and i visit all of the friends who i miss here. last night I woke up laughing about something that I cannot remember now.
letters, physically are probably not possible; they might not arrive for months. i meant more like emails.  
The days: i tread on eggshells and blood, i have learned to feed through throat tubes and swiftly dodge body fluids being ejected (that could actually kill me.? crazy).
1. 40 yr old. I was there for her bath, and i lifted her into the bed (not more that 50 or 60 pounds), but her pulse was becoming unstable and the nurses came in. She was breathing like horses on the racetrack and the whites of her eyes gazed heavenward, aware of precisely what was going on but powerless, while the rest of her body destroyed itself  
she died an hour later.
2. I was playing vollyball with human/skeletons, while those too weak sat around and watched. the wind picked up and the women started to head inside, clutching their sweaters around their heads. All afternoon they were teaching me words of their language, which is EXCEEDINGLY difficult, worse than hindi, and I had just learned the words for thunder and lighting. I walked them in & came back to look for stragglers. There were two wizened men, age unidentifiable, and they were sitting close together in the middle of the bare field. They waved dismissively in my direction,
but i came up to them anyway and indicated the approaching thunder. GARUNGADUM, i said, and gestured at the sky. Go inside?  
Both looked at me, and the one with eyes so sunken into his head you cant see them from the side regarded me. those big eyes narrowed and then i saw all of the contempt possible that one at the rapidly approaching and very visible end of life can have for the healthy young maiden. CHALO (go), he said softly. He turned to his friend and nodded; they said nothing more.
(oh, shit) I backed up and left them sitting in the dust as the storm blew up around us

01 July 2006

'in the event of blood spilling on yourself, do not panic'

well i am at the center and it is much larger and more complicated than i had imagined.
i thought it was going to be mostly outreach and education stuff, and while there is a fledgling department devoted to that, the main aspect of the facility is essentially a hospital, with about 45 patients right now and perhaps 2 dozen staff. Most of those who stay here are in the terminal stages of AIDS and there is a certain quiet that is reminiscent of a hospice.
the campus, as it is called, is actually about 12 km down a rutted road from bangalore proper, which (fortunately or unfortunately depending on one's perspective) means no sneaking off to nightclubs or anything of the sort.
living conditions are disciplined and barrack like; rise at 0630, breakfast by 0730, sexes strictly partitioned. many of the nurses are nuns. food is thin curries over rice. thin curries over rice. and then, just when i was losing hope, additional thin curries over dosas.  
i scrub my clothes on a rough washing rock, something i admit ive never done before.. i achieve varied results but i imagine ill be ace at it by the end. i get lost a lot, as the whole thing feels a bit like a maze. my cot has mosquito netting and my roommate is an old nun.the place is quite beautiful and serene, except for the bloodstains and evidence of medical struggle when you look closely.
i am the only white person for miles and i feel very, very foreign. but since everyone lives in very close quarters i don't think the language barrier will keep me isolated for too long. at least i hope. im nervous about being an offensive westerner, but hey, i guess i can't help who i am. anyway.. the patients are always excited for new faces though i havent spent much time with them yet. today an old man in a wheel chair with a ragged sweater that made me want to cry for some reason wheezed out the whole story of how he met and married his wife in some long gone era. 
but as for the patients, there is always lot of work to do and i am spending the first few weeks working with them, and then after that helping the community education center work on prevention and education programs, visiting other NGOs in the area, writing critiques and doing research.  
all of this, coupled with the fact that all of their computers were destroyed in a power surge a month ago and hence internet is difficult to access, means, i think, that i am going to be spending a LOT of time in my own company. letters are encouraged, please. 
and then alone time always makes me think about everyone who isnt here with me or who im out of contact with. ive realized the majority of my hampshire friends either were in new orleans, are there now, or will be soon, so say hi to the city for me. ill git back down someday...
but right now. here i am literally on the other side of the world, and as for the snehadaan center, there's not much to conclude yet, so ill leave you with that. 

29 June 2006


so the more im finding out about this city the more agreeable it is becoming,but that might just be from my western eyes. i was tempted there for a moment to call it a civilized city, but then i remember that
quote civilization end quote
is a subjective thing inof itself; and who am i to extol leafy streets,
speed limits, and so many dapper young professionals as an evolutionary step
forward? quincy are you listening.
im often reminded of this nagging underlying question of why i chose this
undertaking in the first place, and what significance it will play in
formulating the future. but, of course, the answer lies completely wrapped in
the chaos of the road and therefore cannot be extracted without losing its
truth. yes, when i in my foolish youth demand right! or wrong! india merely washes me with watery ambiguity that refuses to answer one way or the other.
one thing is, however, completely certain as far as im concerned:
traveling the world and ruining my finances
(and possibly mental stability..and at such a tender age!) in the meantime just to SEE it is

soon youll be there ..soon

meeting my boss at the NGO tomorrow. nervous.
bangalore is nice but my soul is bedraggled from all the transiency
its so surreal to see the dawn rising up over the leafy highway after a hard restless night on the road; the day always seems louder when it comes unbidden and unproceeded by sleep.
so im bleary eyed and my pack is getting lighter. the most recent possession to divest itself was my photo cord. which is too bad because we went to this elephant reserve and some astounding things were captured........
but, like layers of an onion, things just keep peeling away from me. at this rate i will return to the united states possessing only sandals & bandannas.
&aside from the fact that one bandanna has reached near biohazard status,
 it could be worse

25 June 2006

trouble on the trax

hours after that last composition, we were sitting in a rooftop restaurant and things began to slide downhill.
(I HAVE NEVER EVER BEEN AS SICK IN MY LIFE AS I WAS IN VARANASI--i heard MORE THAN ONE traveller say this, including a weathered australian man who looked as if he could write off typhoid as a mild upset. if youre going there, take warning.)
i realized that what i was saying was not making much sense but rachel listened politely anyway, then half carried me down the four flights of stairs to the ground floor before we had to set off in search of a rickshaw. i was stumbling, it was sundown and the lights and crowd around us were so loud and she had to hold me into the rickshaw..then i don't remember for a while. then laying on a blanket right underneath the loudspeaker on the station platform. rachel got to talking with the large family sitting to our right and explained that i was not feeling well. concerned, they proffered tablets and best wishes.
our nearest companions on the train were a group of older women--spunky, loud, evidently hilarious--who were returning home after a pilgrimage. my favorite, one in a vivid sari with a shaved head and a certain rough voice and directness of speech, reminded me so much of xander's mom. they looked to have seen everything. they also expressed concern over my condition and gave rachel advice.
day two on the train and despite having layed immobile, i was no better because instead of sleeping i merely lapsed into these deliriums that were sometimes fantastical and sometimes nightmarish. the berth was crowded and hot but the scenery was yet again amazing.
on the next night my fever jumped higher and we were low on ibuprofen and so id only taken a half dose and i thrashed about on the bunk muttering and shivering.. but then i opened one eye and a young man was sitting on the edge of the bunk opposite mine, staring at me intently. though sick, my survival instincts were still present and i said as loudly as i could (which wasnt much) is there a problem, sir?
he whispered ..can I help?
i said nay let me sleep and turned against the wall.
but later i started getting scared that my fever was too high and it would cause deeper hurt. i turned over and he hadnt moved.
please get this bandanna wet.
he felt my forehead and neck under the pretense of taking my temperature. not sure if motivations were pure or not; but he obliged with the bandanna and left me alone.
then later some asshole jabbed me and ran away laughing. as i was feeling nauseous and unable to sleep anyway, i made my way to the toilet and knelt outside of it in complete agony, waiting.
a group of curious small children climbed out of their bunk and stood at the doorway. the same creep who jabbed me was standing by the open door of the train (right by the toilet) and perhaps thought id come over out of admiration for him, though i was bent double with my face in my hands.
excuse me madam, which country??
i looked up at him. uhhh.. i... (the moment of truth began to rise menacingly in my throat). i retched.
vomiting in the train is even more surreal , fever aside, because you can see the tracks going by beneath the hole.
despite my state, there were adventures. we decided to stay on our train instead of switching to a different one, because they both went to the same place and this way would be faster and i wouldnt have to move. and we were caught without a ticket.
we would have been thrown off but rachel acted the part of the dumb white girl, i said nothing (not hard) and we had to listen to this crazy inspector lecture us between strange marx brothers and george bush impressions.
one more night on the train, by now i hadn't had a good night of sleep in a week;id also developed a violent cough and sneeze and so on. basically i was the most miserable i think ive ever been. but on the upside, rachel helped me as best she could in spite all my disgusting bodily functions that were occurring at once and my incoherent screaming. thanks bro.
also i had the most fantastic dreams of my life.  
we got off the train in kerela, which is my favorite place i think ive been in india so far (its so beautiful), btw, we had a few hours to kill. we experimented with giving me tylenol cold (the only thing we had left), but i threw it up. off the edge of the train platform, i may add. in front of my biggest audience yet--perhaps 100 indians. if id had the energy for humor, i would have taken a bow because they were staring so much.
we got to rachel's friend's house and her parents were so nice. they quickly figured out how sick i was and expressed concern. later that night, when i was delirious again and couldnt keep anything down, their concern turned to alarm and they wanted to take me to the doctor right then. i told them to let me sleep for a day and if thing werent better we would go then. 
fortunately they had nice potent indian medicine (cough syrup like a dream! nameless & powerful white tablets!) and her dad went and got me rehydration salts in the middle of the night. what a nice man.  
i slept and have made a decent recovery, although i seem to have lost weight--my underwear fell off when i put them on after the shower. which rachel found hilarious.  
sorry this entry sucks so bad but it was kind of a sucky period and im still too drained to really inject any color into things.

20 June 2006

float my bones in the water from the river

so after i wrote that huge thing about not making generalizations and trying to be accepting..
we got to the train station and spread our blanket upon the pavement to wait and read trashy magazines. this piqued the interest of 4 young men who came over and stood around us in a semicircle; others saw that there were men standing in a semicircle and therefore something Interesting must be going on, and soon there were about 20 men standing in two rows around us.
Payel, payel, this is not a zoo! this is weird!
 we kept shouting at them.
finally just as we began to get concerned that the situation was getting out of hand, the train came. five hours later we stumbled off in varanasi just before dawn and arrived at a hotel next to the ganges right as the sun was coming up over it 
the streets were empty except for people and animals sleeping and
a body wrapped in yellow being carted down the street towards the river
then sleep and a pilgrimage to six temples, then i felt a fever rising and retired early but no dice..it was 97.2 degrees in the room and i thought my bodywas burning alive. i came to in the middle of the night delirious with nightmares so bad rachel claims i was crying out for hours in my sleep.  
this city is one of the oldest continuously lived-in places in this part of the years--something like 18,000 years. the river is awe inspiring and unspeakably filthy (1.5 million fecal coliform per drop).
today i woke up and we checked out of our room but i was feeling incredibly sick so we went to a nearly abandoned hotel (it is the offseason) and at first my head was on the table, then i was laying across two chairs, then finally i sank to the stone floor, much to the concern of the manager, who offered rachel a sheet and pillow for me. i would have laughed if id had the energy.
after id rested a while we went down to the river and looked out across the floodplains...nakid little boys, holy men, teenagers chillin and women doing the wash. a man offered his boat for an hour.
a partially decayed child's scull floated on the bank by our feet.
then we were rowed upstream for an hour past the ghats where they prey. 
 people being cremated with all the wood weighed out in huge scales.
so now im in a basement off the main road, eyes burning with dust and starting to feel feverish again. fortunately tonight we gon hop another train, but this one for maybe 40 hours. yes, yes--train wheels have the most distinctive rhythm of any mode of transportation ive yet experienced 

18 June 2006

oh, i think you'd like your life when you came down

of course one of the great merits of traveling is the fact that all travelers are removed from their native element and are therefore on a more unequal footing which makes social interactions interesting and easily started. the other night, we came home from watching the world cup game at a ridiculous bar called 'once upon a time', and decided to go up to the roof because i am in love with stars and made this quite clear to my companions.
but anyway there was a baker's dozen of young japanese men strumming and smoking. we had literally 2 words of common knowledge between our languages, but there was a guitar and apparently EVERYONE knows american pop music, so we sat and listened and participated when possible. it's funny how close they sang the lyrics despite having little to no understanding of what they meant...music (insert cliche about it being the great uniting force)..which reminds me that the great tragedy of oh six has also just occured. my headphones have retired from this life, those wimp ass bitches. so now im forced to just sing music outloud to myself while riding in rickshaws. which at the very least keeps everyone entertained.    
Also. never before, in my memory at least, has my jaw actually dropped at scenery-- until this morning when we rose at the hour of dawn in order to commence the great southward pilgrimage. i went up to the roof one last time while rach was saying goodbye to her boys, and there was a whole range of snowy mountains that id never seen before (due to the afternoon clouds). god it moved me; i must have mountains again in my future residence. fuck MASS
the day started with the bleary goodbyes. then a trixie ride to the bus station, an 8 hour bus ride that dropped us 3km short of the border (of course), walk in the blinding afternoon heat back to india, then once we cleared customs we hopped in a jeep that contained, i suspect, an entire extended family going back 3 or 4 generations. Five men in the front seat--driver sitting on lap of friend--four in the back seat, and countless women and children stuffed in the trunk, plus hangers on the back and human roof luggage. it was great fun.
Three hours later and here we are again in the much loathed 'city' of gorakpur.
For one thing, the whole train station smells like someone vomited prolific amounts of cheese/curry in every possible crevice and corner and left it to bake in the june sun-- which is, i must concede, possible. but nonetheless unpleasant.
annnd im tired of listening to 15yr olds who are a head shorter than me try to spit game. i wish there was some interaction that was possible that doesnt entail money or 'ooh delicious foreign woman' as the initiating element, but all we can do is hope for the best i guess; there are always suprises and unknowns...and im trying to shy away from making generalizations here. 
but anyway now we waitin for some kind of train to varanasi (which i am excited about), after which point we still have no plan for how to transverse the rest of the subcontinent.
which means it is going to be an epic week.   
 the train is calling.

17 June 2006


it's quite hot in the vallies between the himalayas and our area is
characterized by epic trees and dramatic descents into the glacial water.
these mountains have a certain violence to them. in front, the green foot hills
covered in jungle look peaceful enough. but a long glance through the humidity
haze just right reveals these stony, staggeringly tall jagged peaks raking
through the clouds.

we rented a humble rowboat for the river that feeds into a huge lake near where
we are staying. the river moves slow and is the temperature of bathwater at the
surface. leeches aside, quite pleasant.
so we set out further towards the lake and entered a period of silent
timelessness, staring at the ridges of the mountains and the clouds and birds.
then of course the boys got hungry so we landed our craft at the foot of a long
set of stone steps delved out of the mountainside (the mountains literally fall
into the water--this lake is still so new that there is no shore). climbed to
the top where there was a single table with an old drunk man.
we sat on the stone verandah and consumed chai and fresh fish till we were
satiated. a tarantula captured and killed a beetle.
then the monsoon poured over the bowl of the mountains and rushed towards us
with surpising furiosity. within minues the rain was raging and treebranches
were being ripped apart in the wind. we moved inside and rested in a rainy day
half daze till the calm came back. then back to the lake for hours
more..swimming in the middle, exploration of a swamp, etc.
finally after one of the most dramatic sunsets ive ever seen, we figured it was
time to return the boat. it being a complex post dusk navigational feat to find
the tiny cove of our origin, i am surprised we made it on the first try.
we disembarked and made our way up the stairs to the owner's shack.
there was a small group of very excited looking men standing at the top of the
stairs. the owner came up to us, obviously distressed, and they all started
talking at once in their broken english about the storm and how dangerous the
lake is:
'that water 180 feet deep in middle! no tourist know!'
'every year they die, in the monsoonsummer 25 europeans die!'
we, being previously unaware of both of these facts, were slightly taken aback.
they said theyd sent out search parties & asked everyone if theyd seen us; since
we were gone for some 7 hours, they concluded that we had drowned

12 June 2006

here we go

current music:silversun pickups

11 June 2006

images to break up the copious word spill

well i was tryin to post em but the net lines here apparently cannot handle such bandwidth.
i will try later; we are departing kathmandu soon and moving up into the mountains for a few days before returning to india and making our way south on the 17th.
we still can't get train tickets.. we may have to hitchhike or ride busses (UGHHHH)
(but don't worry, I'll just shave my head and carry a large knife in my teeth to ward off danger).

10 June 2006

momo: n. a mind numbingly delicious nepali dumpling SUPRISE!

andrew (in english)-17 yr old hungarian from rachel's school.
will-18 yrold new mexican
adam- 18 yr old brit
rachel- my lovely lovely old friend

the first night we'd checked into our hotel, by 5pm andrew was bored of our
enthusiastic sampling of nepali tobacco additives, went to the corner store,
bought a 750ml bottle of cheap rum and a litre of coke, and drank ALL of it. by
530pm, when we took it upon ourselves to go in quest of MOMOS, he was visibly
intoxicated. things maintained a semblance of order at the restaurant until our
chai came, which he knocked over and attempted to slurp off the table. then it
was bathroom time and he stumbled into the direction of it (out of view of us)
down a hall, followed by a muffled crash and the waiter running shouting NO NO
NO after him. he was soon too drunk to remain in the restaurant at all, as he
was spitting small particles of partly chewed Mo meat all over the table. The
other patrons, who were very polite and quiet, seemed nonetheless not
entertained. especially considering it was a week night, and not even dinner
time. adam tried to get him home while rach and i stayed for a cup of chai. we
paid a little extra to compensate for the food in various states of digestion
that was spackled all over the seating area.
we got back to the hotel and adam said, in all seriousness, guys, ive lost
what the fuck do you mean you lost him?
well he pulled a trick on me; waited till i was unlocking the door and ran off
giggling. i think i heard him fall down the stairs.
at this point we divided into search parties; the streets are crowded and
labyrinthine. rach and i hired a cycle rickshaw to circle the neighborhoods,
though considering all the back allies and hidden squares, it was an exercise
in futility from the start. the man was ancient and dusty and it was painful to
watch his ribs sick out and the thin sinew of his legs strain against our
western weight.
an hour went by. we talked to the nice young hotel manager about calling the
police but he warned us against it--anyway, he said, it doesn't get dangerous
till at least a few hours after sundown. (even if youre a thin blond
so we could do nothing but wait.
an hour later and i hear him screaming down in the courtyard. adam and rachel
were trying to get him upstairs but his gangly frame hid a surprising amount of
strength and he was utterly determined to resist us. the three of us jumped on
him, held him down and tried to get his hands behind his back but he fought
fiercely. he broke free and made a run for it and this time we had to tackle
him. due to our screaming and the sounds of our violent scuffling, a crowd of
locals began to gather.
additionally, the proprietor was looking a little put off, especially after
andrew said those things to him. i began to worry.
we held him down and splashed him with water again and again, we tried to make
him eat crackers or at least water but he simply became more belligerent.
finally the proprietor threatened to call the cops; we were clearly not able to
control our companion.
but i hadnt heard such nice things about nepali police.
finally these huge fat mongolian looking dudes with shaved heads appeared. we
made sure that andrew looked them full in the face before giving him the chance
to come upstairs on his own accord. wisely, he relented.
upstairs we finally got him in the room and locked the door, at which point he
stripped naked and chased us screaming some of the most ridiculous things i
have ever heard before eventually collapsing into a heap on one of the tiny,
lumpy beds.

sometimes i wonder about our bouts of youthful recklessness and whether or not
we are tempting fate or disaster. but really, there is only so much i can do..
cause..fuck. we are ARE young and stupid.
...and really, lessons learned the hard way tend to teach us multitudes.

08 June 2006

bombay to kathmanduuuuu

mixed luck in the cards these days:
the night before we left, the monsoon broke in full and we were frolicking in the rain on a shady waterfront and my friends lost two wallets and $200 (of course)-- i knew that nice icecream man had evil eyes.
then we got to the train station and found out there were only two seats on the train for the six of us. we boarded anyway much to the dismay of the elderly man with a waxed handlebar mustache who was presiding over our section. 3rd class is not a class of space or comfort; when boarding i had an unprecedented moment of horrifying claustrophobia/fear that i would be trampled.it's something like a mosh pit, only with a time limit because the train doesnt stay at the station long and everyone knows this.
the first night i shared one berth with a (fortunately) dainty belgian lass of sixteen, but 24 inches between two people isn't really conducive to comfort, especially because the spoon would have been awkward. second night i shared with will, but he is violent and obnoxious and much larger..i had bruises and cramps in the morning. the others slept on the filthy floor but looked blissful in comparison. 
we traveled all the way to gorapor (ill amend the spelling later) some fifty hours on the train altogether--and most of it was through vast stretches of farms and ancient towns that remind me of all the small towns i have seen all over the world. i would sit in the open door of the car with my feet hanging out and see the kids playing ball in the dirt, women gossiping over laundry, old people sittin in the doorways dishing out wisdom. people in nearly every stage of life (though no births were witnessed)..i saw an ornate coffin being lowered into mud on the side of a vast dry river. plains, desert, jungle, sky, rain. we sampled fruits of every possible color throughout. the train. it moves slow enough to see everything, it rocks like a woman's hips on the tracks and lulls one into a calm state that would not otherwise be possible (considering the crowded noisy filth of all of the humans crammed in). trains are the superior way to ride.        
once we were sufficiently dazed by day two on the train, handlebar mustache relaxed and we may have even seen a smile, though it remains to be known. also with us was a young woman, her old husband and their two toddlers, boy and girl. the youngest, the unfortunate girl, never looked too happy unless she was defecating in the aisle-- at which point her face lit with glee.
we got off finally late at night in that terrible shithole gorapor; checked into a shady hotel and then proceeded to the most terrible meal in recent memory.
Gorapor, for having one main street, is impressively filthy. the 'restaurant's' proprietors were obviously trying to maintain this tradition to the fullest extent possible. but, it being one am, and us being exhausted, we nonetheless relented. the waiter was so drunk that communication or ordering of any kind became impossible and we were forced to go straight to the cook; fortunately he was standing a mere meter away over a large collection of black pots caked with decades of animal greases. when they brought out the naan, a cockroach (to their credit, it was only the size of a quarter) scurried from under it and to the safety of the underside of the table. since I only saw it out of my peripheral vision i pretended it was my imagination. rachel's nauseated face said otherwise. we then force swallowed the skankiest (to use a term of the brit traveling with us) beer that has ever passed my lips in an effort to kill the probable millions of ecoli/giardia/etc we had just ingested. 
we woke up four hours later still alive YES! and took the worst visa pictures i have ever seen and then found a sweaty bus to the border. at which point the young Belgian discovered her passport was no longer with us. will went with her back to gorapor and eventually delhi.
but the rest of us strolled across to nepal, with the beasts and the buses and bicycles. the nepli immigration officers were delighted with how awful my picture was and demanded one as a souvenir. 
next we flagged down every passing vehicle, asking a ride to kathmandu. i told rachel to show some leg but she refused and so we were forced to buy bus tickets from these very nice young men. Don't worry, it only 9 hour ride! once we were on the bus and it got crowded and other nice young men began pointing at our seats, their tickets, and screaming at us, we surmised that the nice young men at the border had fucked the nice young men with the tickets out of their seats. 
we stopped an hour later and the not so nice anymore men who were forced to sit on the floor placated themselves with copious amounts of nepali wine. the busride then became increasingly rowdy. we made new friends with the men in front of us; one of them asked if the ipodwas a mobile? we said no, music! and they demanded a listen. soon we were charging through the night on the windy roads with billy idol at full volume and their vocal appreciation of our fine american pop was ever-impressive. then the most epic and beautiful lightning storm ive ever seen--silhouettes of the trees on the mountain tops were  illuminated every 15 seconds or so, and also the frightening drop just outside the window. 
12 hours later, we arrived in the glorious, GLORIOUS city of kathmandu, had some tea, and began our preparations to storm the hills.        

02 June 2006


the security guard searching our bags at the rizy mall (which we were entering in the eternal quest for a quality bathroom) said: these bags! (gingerly prods thru greyish wadded up clothes) You carry all the time?
I said yeah, it's kinda like we're homeless!
Security guard: Homeless? (confused because we're white)
Yeah, we are traveling just with these daypacks.
Security guard (observing our state of dress): and you do this on purpose?
Mostly. It's refreshing freedom.
Securituy guard: oh-kay. bye have nice day.

An hour later, as the monsoon was pouring down in rivers from the sky, no taxis would stop, and we didnt have anywhere to go anyway except a vague notion of across town to Rachel's ex-boyfriend's house (=AKWARD), I kept thinking..this is refreshing freedom! yes..refreshing! ..then an hour walk through shit color ankle deep water which soaked everything in our unprepared bags (ruining all books and scarring my passport for life though somehow my camera appears to have survived), my clothes rendered horrifyingly translucent by the torrent with every man i walked by reminding me of this fact.... my earlier words became a bad comedy.  

but im feeling better today, now that we are fully outfitted with drycleaners bags and colorful umbrellas. im at the train station facing 30 hours in a box till the border of nepal. fortunately there is enough good people watching to keep me entertained forevah-evah. see you there...    
ps sorry im at the worlds shittiest computer and cant spell check

30 May 2006

horn please ok!

ok so i turned down the chance to be an extra in a bollywood movie yesterday. we
did go to a movie, though, to get out of the heat for a while. <i>x-men 3</i>
was surreal--not just because it was hugh jackman growling in front of
elaborate explosions, but because the movies here are a whole event, with the
national anthem beforehand, an intermission and everyone dressed like they goin
to a fancy dinner. We with our filthy packs and unkempt hair most certainly
ruined the ambiance. sorry dudes.im also learning important hindi phrases such
as 'turn left', 'how much', 'you sisterfucker', and 'i'll break your face'.
i swear this will get interesting once we hit the road, though laying prostrate
in the disabling heat drinking kingfishers all afternoon has its own merits

27 May 2006

arrived safely

the heat has hit like a ton of bricks. i'm alive and full of glorious food and chai.
 ill be in mumbai till friday, then we hoppin the train to nepal..............

24 May 2006

shes rising in me

quicksilver girl
quicksilver girl
quicksilver girl ... and she's free

(well, free in 48 hours anyway..then mumbai will be under my feet.)

current mood: frantic, frantic, ohh fuck here we go

27 April 2006

the "plan" begins to form

thanks to the $$grant that I have just won, I will indeed be spending the summer in a delirious state of transiency:

7 may- depart amherst and arrive in Denver (airplane)
13 may-depart Denver, arrive Charlottesville (airplane)
[15 may-possibly depart Charlottesville for new Orleans (bus/hitchhike?)]

25,26, or 27 may, depart united states, possibly from Atlanta GA (?)
26, 27, or 28 may- arrive in Bombay, INDIA, find rachel & co
commence travel (rickshaw, hitchhike, bus, train, boat?, walking)
central india-goa-tamilnadu-sri lanka?-chennai-?-back north-nepal(!??)
first week of july-bid companions farewell, get to Bangalore, commence medical internship
1 september- depart India

get to denver somehow
4 september-fly to Amherst

GOD I CAINT WAIT TO BUST OUT OF THIS WHITEBREAD TOWN FOR A TIME; the Man’s breathing down my back. fight the power.
(return to academicscramble)

12 April 2006

dentro de un mes

the little federal express package was in my mailbox this morning:

the new passport. thoughtfully folded into it was the dog-eared former with holes punched in the cover. Waiting is agony but
a month remains and there is so much to do before then.

02 February 2006

Pinche gringo

thanks to a friend whose travel writings have recently inspired me to put into words some of my own irresponsible adventures...

     We were sitting in the kitchen which was mostly devoid of food or decoration due to misguided monetary priorities. My dinner of dry toast and the remnants of a tub of yogurt had been unsatisfactory. Craving distraction, I eyed the walmart bag where a weed plant, harvested two weeks ago from the roof, was wrapped and waiting; I fetched it and started rolling joints. I lit the first and took a respectable drag.
     then I started bitching about that week's cold weather and how sick I was of the apartment.
My roommate informed me he was getting tired of hearing it, but I smiled at him through the haze, passed it on the lefthand side, and soon he was sympathetic. Magically, after the second joint was burnt to a roach, a plan formed.)
     Let's go south.

Ibrahim Ferrer was playing at his full tragic volume, booming through the narrow apartment, and we rushed around, gathering supplies. Ten minutes later I was packed (forgetting my camera and swimsuit) and sitting on the stoop, stoned, staring out at the street scene, smelling the empanadas and watching the humans pass by. Ibrahim's voice swelled and spilled out the door.
     Colin, it's going to be dark soon. He was frantically re-ordering the contents of the truck in such a way as to accommodate us and two of his friends.
     Don't worry Natalie, they live five minutes away, I know exactly how to get there. His eyes were completely bloodshot.
After an hour of orbiting the same labyrinthine streets of our neighborhood again and again, we managed to find them, and after two more hours of battling snarled traffic on Insurgentes, we broke free and started to fly. We wove recklessly past all manner of vehicles and soon the lights of the city stretched and spread as far as I could see behind us as we rose up the mountain pass. The music was blisteringly loud
A Dios le pido...
A Dios le pido...
A Dios le pido...
Un segundo más de vida yoooooooooooooooooo a Dios le pido
and when I started getting restless, crammed in the jumpseat behind the bench, Brooke handed back beers. Four later and I was calm again. We stopped, we started, we smoked reds and I rebuffed the friendly overtures of a blurry succession of gas station men. Hours later, in the middle of the night, someone nudged me awake and I saw the lights of Acapulco sloping down to the sea. We drove past it.
     Colin swung a left. Ok guys, I know it's around here somewhere. We were suddenly on a dirt road and the smell of trees and flowers filled the car. We sped around for a while and then abruptly came upon a truck full of military police. They stopped us. More came out of the darkness.
     -Where are you going at this hour? How many in the car?
     We were just—
     -GET OUT.
Beer cans rolled under my feet. We reluctantly disembarked and watched them throw open the back of the truck and begin a pillage of our belongings. Colin talked a mile a minute, trying to establish a repertoire, but they weren't feeling charitable. Their machine guns glinted in the moonlight.
     Colin whispered to me in English: aren't you glad I convinced you not to bring the weed?
Once they'd gone through everything satisfactorily, we were allowed to continue. I watched them fade in the rearview mirror to tiny cartoons in green helmets, and then I passed out again. (later we found out that there had been a turf war that night very near us; drug lords killing each other for the valuable access to Acopulco's rich tourists.)

The next day, Scott snapped the perps standing in front of the truck, looking typical:

     That night, after two rounds of long neck coronas on the beach watching the sun set, we decided to go out-- which consisted of dusting the sand off our butts, putting on shoes and speeding thru the countryside to an actual hotel a few miles up while blasting obscene mexican rap music.
     The place was beautiful, with a large circular pool and tables set around it and down on the beach. There were white canvas canopies and lit candles and well-dressed older couples talking quietly. Despite our own motley attire, we were seated. We immediately ordered them to bring us an outlandishly large fish, whole and blackened. And cocktails. At this point Colin noted the pool's swim up bar, which was not presently in use.
     We have to do it. You don't get a swim up bar every day.
     Colin everyone else is wearing dinner jackets.
     Who fucking cares?
With that brilliant argument, I was convinced. Having no swimsuit on under my clothes, like the others did, I stripped to my underwear and climbed the deck. we jumped in and evenly coated each and every proximal dinner jacket with tiny droplets of poolwater; disapproving murmmurs became audible.
     We then proceeded to have a few swim-up drinks each. My racy garments, now wet, were verging on scandalous, and furthermore, our volume was increasing by the minute. Eyes turned towards us more and more frequently. The gracious waiters finally coaxed us out of the water with promises that our fish was almost done.
     I attempted to dry off with the leg of my jeans but the gin and tonics had complicated matters; this is when the indelicacies began in earnest. Scotty observed and said loudly:
     Hey Natalie! Nice crack!
Mouths fell agape.
     I responded with the(at the time) clever: ... chinga chinga CHINGA tu PUTA MADRE! The waiter overheard and gasped. A hush fell. Grandmothers blushed.

Fortunately, at this moment, the glorious meal arrived and was laid out before us: the fish was so very fresh, nearly as large as a skateboard deck, and delectable to the last morsel. Some untold time later, we received a check for 1100 pesos, thanks mostly to the cocktails. Scott, upon seeing this tab, found it prudent to shout, though I was 2 feet away from him, something along the lines of: HEY YOUNG BUCK, you got this, right, OR SHOULD WE (volume increases further) TRADE YOU TO THE WAITERS FOR THE NIGHT? OH WAIT THATD ONLY PAY FOR LIKE HALF! he laughed raucously at this phenomenal joke.
     I topped my previous retort with the even wittier and considerably louder CALLATE,YOU MOTHERFUCKER. The waiter evidently understood English too because he looked flabbergasted. Attempting to smooth things over, I grinned at him, but in retrospect this could have sent the wrong message, judging by his reaction.
     Meanwhile, we emptied our pockets and left what we could, but it was nonetheless necessary to make a timely exit. We stumbled out in quick succession, turned that ass-shaking rap del DF up even louder, and swerved back to home base, where we undertook the formidable task of consuming all remaining alcoholic provisions obtained from town earlier that day.
     More beers and a bottle of rum later, the time of liberation was upon us. I emancipated myself from my clothes, climbed some kind of chain link fence, and was soon sprinting down the abandoned beach under a huge moon. The rest of them had no hope keeping up with me! ....unfortunately, I was quickly carried away by my own momentum, stopped paying attention, and soon found myself nearing the edge of a crowded wedding party. Wearing tan lines.
     Oh. uhexcuseme.
I bowed and backed up. The sound of my companions laughing uproariously behind me reverberated across the sand.