Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Was he real?

I wanted to go to this bird sanctuary that was completely off the beaten path. I had to change buses in a town called Chegalput to get there. When I arrived in Chegalput I knew was the only white person who had been there in awhile. Kids ducked behind their mothers and cried, people stared at me, and a few, obviously alerted, came out of their shop to have a look. A young woman who could speak some English came up to me and asked all the normal questions: " Where are you from? How old are you? What is your name? What is your job?" Then she laughed and said that I was a source of entertainment for her and her friends because they did not get to see white people in town. As we talked, I noticed a young boy about ten years old standing behind her, listening and staring. I smiled at him, he looked away. The woman asked where I was going and told me that her bus was coming after mine and that she would be sure to get me on the right bus. Her friends gathered around during the wait, we shared snacks and a few laughs. (I told her that her friend looked like my sister and they all assumed I had a black sister and thought that was very funny.) As it would happen her bus came before mine and she handed me off to one of her friends. I moved over to where her friend's shoe stand was and as I stood there waiting I noticed the boy had followed me. I smiled, he looked away. When my bus rattled into the station (and I mean rattled) the appointed woman directed me excitedly and waved goodbye. I got on the bus. So did the boy. He sat directly behind me. I smiled, he looked away. I offered him biscuits, he declined. I turned around and minded my own business. As I sat there waiting for the bus to fill, the fifteen people on the bus got into an argument, got up, and filed off. I sat there. The boy got up and said to me " not bus". So I got off. I headed to the ticket office. I had to pee and I needed to find out where the toilet was. As I was trying to ask the ticket guy about the toilet I felt a tap on my shoulder. When I looked around the boy was pointing. So I followed his direction and sure enough there was the toilet, or what you might call a toilet. When I came out the boy was there. I smiled. He stared. I trotted around to the back of the terminal trying to make sure I did not miss which ever bus was now my bus. I looked around nervously. I walked from bus to bus. As I walked the boy came up to me, pointed and said "bus". I smiled a big smile and thanked him. He stared; no response. I got on the bus and sat behind a woman who had a baby around 18 months old hanging over her shoulder. I settled in, looked around, and OUTSIDE the bus; was the boy. I wondered why he was on the last bus and off this one. I worried if maybe it was a trick, a school boy prank to put me on the wrong bus. The baby in front of me suddenly became very agitated and in an effort to save myself I grabbed a piece of paper, made a paper airplane, and flew it out the window. I thought the baby would watch the plane fly, but he didn't. The boy did. The entire distance the plane flew and as it landed. My attention was drawn to the baby again as it cried, so I looked for another piece of paper, this one I crumpled up and handed to him. He seemed interested enough. He grabbed it and pushed it back to me. I pushed it back to him. He pushed it back to me. He was happy. His mother was happy. I was esstatic. I glanced outside the bus; the boy was still there. Soon enough the paper ball fell to the floor and I was down among the legs and packages trying to retrieve my life saver. The bus started; people were hurriedly crowding on and I was getting smashed. I reached and stretched and finally got the paper; I had to. When I sat up, I handed the paper ball to the baby. As the bus began to pull out I looked out the window for the boy. The boy was gone. And so was the paper airplane.

Saturday, January 26, 2008


There is a distinct absence of India posts. I can't explain it either. I guess I am still trying to get my head wrapped around India. It is something so far out of my realm it is hard to reconcile in my western mind. It is something I rejected and accepted all at the same time. Was grossed out by and fascinated with. Drawn to and repelled by. Kind of like a train wreck. I'll get to it though. Soon. Right now I am in S. Africa. Wow is this place beautiful; and ugly with turmoil. I am staying at a hostel that is part of an organic farm. There are horses here as well. I am able to work three days in the garden in exchange for seven days of free accomodation. Went to the grocery today and bought food. My total expense for 8 days 7 nights will be 36$. My kind of place. Kruger here I come! Remember the film "Born Free"? The day I saw that film I wanted to be here and see lions. Sometimes it chokes me up to think it just might happen. Miss you all!

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

I'm getting there......

Sorry about the delay on India. I've got some stories for you soon. Working on them now. Dancing gay men, hair cuts, dressing packages and more. Don't go away.

Friday, January 18, 2008

India oh India

It is a nose pickin', honker spitting ,flip flopp'in,human poop'n,dirty,filthy,stinking country. And it is fascinating. It's kind of like road kill, or a train wreck. But friendly. Somewhat like the cat lady's house but big, very big. It is busier than the cat lady's house, less bloody than a train wreck, about as stinky as road kill, but more interesting. It is... hard to describe. The first city Sherry and I made it to was Madari. As Sherry said it was a village that woke up one morning to find it was a bustling city but had no infrastructure. It was crazy there. Crazy. Cows were milked on the streets, tailors squatted on sidewalks working hand powered machines, chickens nested in corners and trash piled up everywhere. It was so noisy you could not hold a conversation while walking. The smell was offensive, the food was fantastic and the pollution stuck to your teeth. There were beggars and temples and beggars in temples. There were dogs running amuck and people so thick you couldn't see the shops. The shops were spilling out onto the streets and the streets were spilling into the shops. There were no sidewalks. Buses only "stopped" to pick up older passengers. The young had to do the hobo grab to get on or run to ease the jolt as they jumped off. Chaos was the rule rather than the exception. Muslum prayers woke you at five and the clock tower chimed rhymes all night long. Bad versions of nursurey rhymes. Horns honked, people in your hotel halls talked, roosters crowed, dogs barked, doors slammed and tuk tuk's roared; day and night. Cows walked down the middle of the street with cars passing them on both sides. Cows "went to market" pushing people out of their way as they moved down the aisle ways. It truly appeared that they were shopping. There were dumpster diving cows and trash pile cows. There were cows that would follow you into shops, and cows that would lie on the sidewalk and chew their cud. Who knew whose cows these were. How they got water or something other than trash to eat. They were, however, part of the population and society for that matter. And of course with cows come cow patties. Just another addition. Welcome to India.

Monday, January 7, 2008

Tidbits: Did I just wet my pants?

I took a rock climbing class in Krabi. Krabi is supposedly in the top ten most beautiful climbing sites in the world. I was very excited to have one on one instruction. On the first day I climbed ten routes, most of them rated more difficult than I had ever done before. I was stoked. The climbing was great, I had done well, and my instructor was impressed. The second day I was supposed to learn to lead climb. ( Leading is when you take the rope up with you as you climb. As a result if you fall there is no rope above you to catch you. You have to fall down to where you last clipped into a bolt and THEN fall the length of rope you had out above that bolt.) Because I had done so well on the rocks the first day I went to class a little over confident. I was smiling, had my chest out, and I was ready to take on any wall. I learned some basic lead techniques and was ready to go. My guide sent me up a route I had climbed the day before and that was relatively easy. There is something wholly different about being above your point of protection. Suddenly simple moves became death defying, I was scared out of my wits. I tried to settle myself down a couple of times. "It's alright if you fall, the rope will stop you in 20 or 30 feet." Or, "You won't slam into the rocks too hard." Self soothing was not working so eventually it came down to pride. I was NOT going to have some twenty something little Thai guy bring my ass down off the rocks. It was either go up or get rescued. I went up. Eventually I was able convince myself that leading did not necessarily equal death and was able to lead several more climbs, but none of them comfortably. I went home that night with my tail appropriately tucked between my legs. I wasn't all that, and I had no chips. The third day of class I showed up but my confidence did not. I spent the morning learning how to set up a multi-pitch climb; where I go up the wall first, rig a safe belay system then belay my partner from above while he climbs. ( Now not only did I have my own life in my hands I had someone else's as well. ) While I was learning,I was busy worrying. I worried about leading. I worried about rigging the belay and I worried about dropping my instructor. I worried about dropping myself. By the time I was to lead and rig the belay I had myself worked into a frenzy. I wanted my mommy. I knew I was going to die. My hands were shaking, my mind was racing and so was my heart. I was 60 feet up already and had to lead to 80. I had my chest against the wall, my feet on a three inch ledge, my neck craned back looking at what I thought was an impossible featureless climb, and a 20 something Thai guy waiting, and watching. I had to put on my big girl panties. I have to admit though it was only pride that pried me off the ledge. I started to climb. I wanted to cry. I got to the first hold and I wanted to stay. I got to the first bolt where I had to let go with one hand to clip in and I was in a tremendous hurry to get it done,but I could not get the beaner clipped to the bolt. I was losing my grip. I thought I was going to fall. I had to get a hold of myself. I finally got the thing clipped. When I got to the anchor at 80 feet I set my rigging and belayed my instructor as he came up to me. He lead the last 15 feet. When I completed the last pitch I clipped in with my safety sling and leaned back to look around. Damn it was beautiful.

Tidbits: Heaven and Hell

I rented a bike in Phang Nga, Thailand and set off to see a National Park and the Heaven and Hell Temple. The National Park was beautiful, full of waterfalls, caves, cliffs and other limestone formations. I went swimming with a bunch of Thai school girls who had coaxed me into the water. They like most Thai's went swimming fully clothed. It was a good start to the day. When I finished seeing the park and had a spicy ass lunch I headed over to the Heaven and Hell Temple. It was hard to find but when I did it started out as a pretty cool thing. A huge dragon was the entry point (in the pictures) and you had to walk through it's mouth and belly to get to the temple. Coming out of the dragon I was assaulted. The temple weirded me out. (The pictures are on the blog now.) In an area of about one acre there were fifty or so statues of people killing other people in every horrible way imaginable. People being smashed between huge rollers and coming out crinkled and bloody. Large screws being turned into people's bellies, spears into various orifices, and people being eaten by dogs, wolves and other predators. All the people being killed had horrified looks on their faces, blood painted in the appropriate places, and occasionally entrails hanging out of their bodies. It was creepy to say the least. I left as quickly as I could. They asked for a donation. I refused.

Saturday, January 5, 2008

Tidbits of S.E. Asia: Tsunami

I went diving outside of Khoa Loc, Thailand, the town that received the brunt of the tsunami Dec. 26th , 2004. The beach front is still scarred and naked. It is eerie to be in a place where over 200,000 people died. I asked on the dive boat if they had any idea what had gone on the day the tsunami hit. They "explained" that they didn't know as they were out to sea but they had noticed, depending on the depth of the water they were in, a 20-60 foot rise and immediate fall in water level. Only when they returned to shore from their overnight trip did they see, and know the devastation on shore. The reef 40 miles off shore also suffered from the tsunami, but from it's undertow. Over 40% of the reef was devastated. Hard coral grows at a rate of one inch per year. The reef looks as if a mower went through at about an 8 inch height. This of course has effected marine life as they have not had shelter and they have begun to die off. Then of course add global warming, pollution and collection of marine species for home aquariums to the mix and you have a sad situation. Not the wonderland I thought it would be, but real life none the less.

Tidbits: An old woman's best friend.

I bought a knife from a little Chinese woman in Krabi Thailand. ( My 15 year old Swiss army knife had been taken by the Cambodian airport officials while they left six, eight inch, sharp tent stakes in my pack.) When I entered her shop to look around her midsized dog came at me growling and snarling; I froze. It jumped on me and I raised my hands and yelped. She laughed and said "Sabadeka! Sabadeka!".(Hello, Hello). She pushed him toward me again and smiled a big toothless smile. She loved her dog. She kept pushing him toward me, smiling, motioning me to pet him some more. I made over the dog even though it stank and it continued to growl.She was filthy and dishevled. She was destitute. Her stock was old and so was she. I stayed awhile and bought a few other items and made over her dog some more. We never talked, we couldn't, yet in that exchange she and I became "friends". Everytime I walked by we would trade warm Sabadeka's and big waves. One night when I went by I saw her dog lying on a piece of cardboard with a blanket carefully wrapped around him, but I couldn't find her. I wondered where she was. I looked around until my eyes focused on a pile of boxes, newspapers, rags and a dirty pillow. She was tucked away in that mess; sleeping right beside her dog.

Friday, January 4, 2008

Tid Bits of S.E. Asia

These are just little tid bits that made me laugh or I thought were interesting but didn't really make a whole story. These thoughts finish up Asia and I will start on India as I am there now. India is wild and exotic. That will come soon.

While in Cambodia a tuk tuk driver named Maow fell in love with Susan. He waited every day, every hour outside our hotel ready to take Susan ( and Cindy and I) anywhere. We hired him faithfully,(Susan rode free I am sure of it) and actually grew a bit fond of him. One morning we hired him to take us for a forty minute tuk tuk ride from Siem Reap to a bird sanctuary where we would spend the day. We agreed on a price out there and off we went. The bird sanctuary was great; a very beautiful and interesting wetlands. When we got off the boat in the sanctuary and looked for a ride back to Siem Reap there was Maow waiting for us (Susan). We hired him back but did not negotiate a price. Upon our arrival in Siem Reap Maow asked for way more than it had cost to take us out there. "What?" we asked. "I wait for you all day" he claimed. "We didn't ask you to." we said. " But I wait all day,special for you." ( I am sure he meant Susan) A domestic quarrel ensued. Voices were raised, we were yelling at Maow and he at us. He went into theatrics about how much he was hurt and how he waited for us (Susan). All three of us were yelling different things at the same time in answer to his theatrics. Five or so other taxi drivers came over to support Maow. Soon he was yelling at them and they were yelling at us. We finally walked away having paid Moaw what we thought was fair. He was not happy about the amount and yelled after us "I not be your tuk tuk driver no more". We yelled back "fine". He yelled back "FINE!". We yelled back "FINE,FINE!". It was over. We had lost our tuk tuk driver. Susan had lost her boyfriend. That is until he showed up the next morning.

While in Siem Reap Susan, Cindy and I decided to splurge and go for a $6 one hour "powder" massage. The treatment started with a foot bath and then we were escorted into the a room where there were three beds on the floor. Three young women came in, got out the powder and instructed us to strip down to our underclothes and lie down. We did and they began our massages. Cindy's masseus began to sing; she had a wonderful voice. She stopped after just a little bit; blushing. Cindy encouraged her to sing again and after a bit she did. The other girls joined in from time to time but mostly she sang by herself. As the hour past the girl got more comfortable and eventually was singing non stop. It was magical.

In Thailand Richard, Tasha (the Alaskan couple I almost couldn't join that one fateful morning) and I rented motorbikes. We rode about one hour out of town and stopped at a catfish farm. The farm had lakes that were full of hungry catfish. Very hungry catfish. So hungry that when we sprinkled food on the top of the water the water became a writhing mass of catfish. You could hear their mouths opening and closing, they would swim out of the water and on top of each other, they were so thick you could have walked on them. It was surreal, monster movie-ish. Sort of gross. After we left there we headed to a beach another hour out and while we were there it began to rain. Absolutely pour. None of us had rain gear. We waited it out for awhile in a restaraunt but it was getting late so we started back between downpours. During one of the dashes it got really bad, to the point we could not see to ride. We stopped on the side of the road and were sitting there getting drenched when we heard a family yell to us and motion for us to come down to their "house", get out of the rain and join them for lunch. We jumped at the opportunity. We took the bikes down a muddy path and over to their "house". It was a 20 by 20 foot square three feet above the ground with a slotted floor and corragated metal for siding and roof. No furniture, no electricity, no rugs, no hot water, no stove, no cabinets. After a lunch of plain rice they brought out a very strange looking nut, some leaves and a red paste. They cut the nut into pieces and handed it to us. I took a piece and put it in my mouth and instantly my mouth was dry, void of any moisture what so ever. I puckered,they laughed and then handed me a leaf with the red paste on top. I put the leaf in my mouth and my mouth returned to near normal and a taste of licorice appeared. It was terrible. They offered it again and again until I "politely" refused by getting caught spitting it out. Chit.

More later. Then India.

Thursday, January 3, 2008

Indian internet... or lack of

Hi all, Cindy here again. Tracy wanted me to give you the message that Internet in India is hard to come by and when you do it is A DOG. At least where she is. It makes me wonder where all of those computer support people are.

Anyway, Tracy and Sherry were in Bangalore for just a little bit then went to Madras I think, then off to Maduri, Kodaikanal and then to Kochin which is sometimes spelled Cochin. She wanted me to tell you that she will post soon. In a few days hopefully.

So. Stay tuned. There are more stories coming.