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