Wednesday, April 29, 2009

<3 India.

I'm having a Love India day today. After a great, fast-forwarded few days in Mumbai, I'm happy to be in lower-key Jodhpur. We're still constantly hassled by...well, everyone (in good ways, like shaking hands 10786 times with Teh Randomz, and bad ways, like being followed by bulls (almost gored today! scary!) and street children and street people and people selling everything (mostly weed, which, um, no thank you (though a bhang lassi is high on my short list of Illicit Things to Do Before Sunday))), but the city itself is beautiful, as is our guest house. We visited the magnificent sandstone fort today, from which one can see a delightful landscape of blue buildings. Our gust house is beyond charming and comfy and cheap and only a little bit teeming with termites.

On Mumbai: I imagine (and this only exists in my imagination, I know) that Mumbai today is Manhattan in the pre-Giuliani, grubby days of yore. People sleeping on the streets, in the parks, behind dumpsters (the magnificently mysterious and not-as-horrible-as-you-might-think-but-still-uncomfortable slums don't fit into this trope, but are obviously worth mentioning); middle-class kids playing cricket on lazy Sunday evening streets; a delightful mix of countries, people, socioeconomic brackets, histories, and architectural styles. Like Kerala, I wish I had more time to spend there, to unpack all the hidden suitcases of lives and legends (the luggage in Varanasi and Agra and Delhi, however, can remain tightly sealed, please).

Tomorrow we leave for a trip into the desert, via camel and Jeep. We're staying in a house there and will be cooked for; we'll sleep on the rooftop under a "canopy of stars." The next day we're spending some time at an NGO aimed at "empowering Untouchable women and girls." After that, a 1st class train will whisk us away to Delhi, from where we will depart for the US early Sunday morn.

I will be in my parents' house, in the beautiful guest bed (the softness of which I have dreamed on many nights), in less than one week. Somehow, that is both more amazing than the Taj, and more terrifying than being followed to my guest house by a bellowing pack of street dogs.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Body issues.

1. I enjoy beaches, like most people, but the ensuing sunburn is not generally pleasant. Theo's especially red, as a delightful combination of topical skin medications and oral antibiotics weakens his tolerance of sun exposure.

2. I've sort of been ill this entire time (and what is "ill" anyways? I've been practically "ill" for the last year of my life), but it really knocked me out yesterday. After a wooden boat trip along Kochi's heralded backwaters, I returned home and crawled into a ball, only unfurling myself to take occasional toilet breaks. I'm on some antibiotics now, which seem to have greatly improved my state.

3. I was playing around in the water (which contained a shark today? and also odd gold filaments of some toxic nature no doubt?) this morning and scraped my nose on the ocean floor. In addition to being strawberry-sunburned, it's now oozing anger-pus.

We're sadly leaving this un-India-like state for Mumbai in a few hours. My stomach is churning with anxiety already.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009


Theo, having spent less time in...well, we'll call it "Asian situations," though several other euphemisms could be employed, has decided that life in India is "brutal." I tend to agree with him. It's been rough on both of us, but not nearly as rough as it has been on the 1.2 billion people who live here. Sure, Shah Rukh Khan is doing alright, but holy Shiva this place is rough.

Varanasi was tough. From start to finish. I was able to get Ganges-fied, though.

WE're in Kochi right now, on Cherai beach. It's lovely and full of animals and waves and green and sunburns.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Only day three?

The ridiculous heat and sun and sweat and everything make me feel (and look) like I've been here for years.

I visited the Jama Masjid and REd Fort in Delhi yesterday, and then randomly ("randomly") met a tour guide who, for four hours, basically unpacked Old Delhi for me. Sugar tasting, spice markets, a madrasa, gold casting, bracelet making, sari embroidery, 1000 equally fascinating Hindu and Muslin havelis, and a pleasant cup of chai tea ensued.

5 hours after Theo arrived late last night, we took an early (and misleadingly luxurious) train from Delhi to Agra. The Taj Mahal is nearly as beautiful as I'd dreamed, and since it's World Heritage Day today, we were able to see its magnificence without the pain of a $15 fee. After having beers, meals, Internet times, and conversations borne from exhaustion (the most unusual sort) we're heading to Varanasi on a sleeper train tonight.

I should have Ganges Water (and the accompanying pollutants, decaying human remains, and other such poisons) on my legs in 18 hours.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Initial Observations.

1. India is every bit as wonderful as I'd imagined. I've waited for this moment since reading Interpreter of Maladies while sitting on a train traveling through Switzerland in 2002.
2. It is really hot here.
3. I have almost been killed at least 7 times--by rickshaws, cars, people, tripping over things, and the like.
4. I think I saw a dead woman on the sidewalk? That was unsettling. Poverty isn't abgle to be shrouded behind a red curtain like it is in China (not is the blow able to be softened for Teh Poorz like in Mommy-State China). It's here.
5. FOOD. I didn't eat at all today because I was a bit scared of getting ill so early in the trip, but I just had the most amazing dinner ever with 5 vegetable gooey delights and naan and a sweet sweet ball of sweetness for dessert. And I used my right hand, which was a bit difficult, since I'm a lefty and tearing bread with one hand of either persuasion is difficult.
6. I am so happy to see animals here. Birds, chipmunks, cows, dogs, cats. China has practically no "wild" animals. I watched a beautiful green bird circle a temple this afternoon.
7. I do not feel like that much of a foreigner here. Life seems so frenetic as it is that no one has time to notice that I am not Indian. It's been nice.
8. I'm looking forward to having a partner in crime when Theo arrives tomorrow. I forgot how difficult traveling alone can be. Not even for the practical reasons; it's just nice to do scary things with someone else.
9. Yes.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009


The last seven days are a testament to a life--a brief life, but a life nevertheless. I've had such a lovely series of goodbyes and well wishes. I will never forget Them, or This.

I started packing this morning, after tossing and turning for a few hours. I have a lot. of. stuff. I have a feeling there will be a hefty penalty levied for carrying the detritus that makes up Me across the world. It's fine, though.

(A brief note for those logicians who are wondering how I'll lug 80kg around India: I'm planning to leave most of my belongings at my hotel in New Delhi, since I'm flying in and out of that city.)

And of course, the worrying about that Old Life has begun. How do I restart something that was flailing as it was? Will the few friends I had welcome me back to my old spot on their queue, or will I be bumped to the end of the line and have to work my way up again? I've been buttressed here by so many of my old friends--E-mails, phone calls, letters, curious, unexplainable mailed things (including a Manga subtitled with Missy Elliot's "Pass The Dutch"). I hope these things are a testament to the solidity of said friendships. But, one must naturally worry.



Wednesday, April 8, 2009

On the other hand...

...I would like the choice to get my coat re-lined (the acetate looks artfully shredded, but that's not really the look I'm going for). And, since the fabric market I am familiar with has apparently closed, it looks like that isn't an option.

I think I really just like being part of a group. Sure, most animal societies are group-oriented, but I think the ritualized shunning I was/am subjected to as a queermo makes me even more eager to be a part of a "family," of sorts. And what is an ex-pat community but a group formed by communal Otherness? I really like that; there are so many social avenues open to an ex-pat that would be closed in one's home country. Where else would I be able to meet (and befriend) such a wide variety of people--people of various histories, interests, philosophies, ages, and socio-economic backgrounds?

I will miss walking into Element Fresh on a Sunday morning and feeling like I belong.

(Also, their brunch is out-of-this-world.)

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

And another thing:

Who says that choice is so hot anyway? I mean, aside from reproductive rights, equal marriage rights, and these other esoteric, academic "freedoms" we "hold dear," do we really need the choice between two-week contact lenses and one-month contact lenses? I think not. So, instead of becoming flustered at Contact Lens Store #1, which ordered the wrong side lenses in the hopes that I wouldn't notice (announcing later that they actually just don't make them in my size), I loafed to Contact Lens Store #2, where they didn't even stock 2-week disposable lenses, but they did have my side and prescription in stock in the one-month variety.

I probably would have overlooked the fact that IT DOESN'T BLOODY MATTER had I dealt with this in the US. Here, conversely, given the lack of availability of choice (due either to a language barrier or the general system of things), I feel less bothered with the inconsequential mosquito-details I would have fretted about in the US.

Please, please, please don't make me leave this wonderful, terrible place. I'm serious.

Monday, April 6, 2009

What am I doing?

Why am I leaving this place? I have never enjoyed my life more than I have these past 12 months, these past 12 days, these past 12 hours. Why would I want to return to Reality?

If given the choice between living a pampered life, working a pleasant, easy job, having a diverse group of amazing friends, and being otherwise admired by the entire population of a country...

...and living in one's hometown, with no job, few friends, and little opportunities for having exploration and newness...

...why would I be making this choice for the latter?

Yuki, I guess.