Sunday, February 24, 2008

I think it's time for Africa.

I will be out of internet service for ten days. I will be in the Kruger park looking for catties. Big ones.

A tidbit of bobbling, thrashing and heaving.

You know the bobble head dolls. I will never look at another and not think of India. Strange I know but you would too. The Indians while they talk, answer, or while they listen, bobble their heads as if they were in the back window of some car.*************** Almost everything is done by hand in rural India and they have come up with some ingenious ways of getting things done. They seperate grain from the stalk by spreading the whole plant out in the road and waiting for traffic to thrash the grain.***************** Sometimes travel in India is worse than the "Vortex" at an amusement park. On many bus rides over mountain passes Sherry and I would hold onto the seat in front of us and look wide eyed at each other. The overloaded buses would heave heavily out and around the hairpin turns, all the while the driver was busy passing another car or bus and beeping loudly; in case another vehicle came aroud the curve.

A Tidbit of Racism

I wanted to go to a bird sanctuary that was off the beaten track. Sherry had suggested it but we had run out of time to do it together. I decided to go even though accommodation there was a bit scarce. It was a long bus ride, and when I did arrive it was nearly dark. The place that promised accommodation did not have any accommodation. There was no other option. None. No accommodation. So I went back to the village outside the sanctuary and took my only other option. I knocked on doors. I pantomimed sleeping and smiled a big smile and let the worry that was rising in my self, show in my face. A family (one in the ten that was in the village) agreed to let me stay the night. They took a few things out of their bedroom and then showed me in with a smile. In the corner was their bed; a piece of plywood on four posts, worn and frayed in the middle. No sheets, no cushion, no pillow. The only other thing in the room was one small cupboard for their belongings. Well there were a few other things in the room; the frog on the bed, the mosquitoes, the gigantic crickets, the jumping spiders, and mold. Lots of mold. Oh and heat. Thick heat. Close heat. Heat you cannot escape heat. Humid heat. Heat. Did I say steamy? I put my stuff in the room and thanked them many times. They invited me to dinner and indicated we would eat when their children got home from school. It was 5:30 at night. Around 6:00 pm three girls jumped off the bus and came running. They stopped short at the sight of a white woman in their house. It took a little while, the camera and petting their baby goats to befriend them. Soon, I was sitting doing their homework and they were off spending the battery in my camera. ( Yes I did their homework. ) They would return often to see how the homework was coming along and show me their pictures. At one point we were all sitting close, leaning over and working on the homework when they began to stroke my hair and touch my skin. They were fascinated but prejudiced. Those beautiful Indian girls, with deep, dark,innocent eyes, creamy coffee colored skin and hair down their back; combed and cat black looked at me and said: " I wish I was white like you."






Friday, February 22, 2008

Tidbits of India

It was my last day in India. I was ready to leave. I wanted out of the trash, the stink and the human poop. (Now looking back it was not that bad.) I was standing at a very crowded bus stop. The smell of urine was in the air, trash was everywhere, the station and the buses were crowded, it was hot, and I was D.U.N. with India. Some middle aged Indian guy came over to me and started talking. He was one of those guys that solves everyone's problems even if you don't want him to; he began solving mine even though I did not have one. He asked me where I was going and I told him Chennai airport. He asked me what bus I was taking and I told him. He replied that the bus I was to take bus was dirty ( which bus wasn't?) and crowded (there were buses in India that weren't?) and that if I got on his bus it would be faster and cleaner. He guaranteed me that his bus, (with only one bus change) would drop me off at the airport door just like my other bus was supposed to. I declined. He pushed the idea. I declined. He pushed. I inquired. His bus came first; I got on. The ride was long and the roads were busy and rough. The bus went through construction zones, eventually got stuck in traffic, and stuck in mayhem. It got dark and late, and when we got to the bus station for the change I was doubtful this transfer was really going to happen. We got off our bus and he looked around at the thirty or so buses in the area. He took me from bus to bus. He would ask the driver something, they would shake their heads, and he would move on to another bus. It was clear to me. I was in a city I didn't want to be in, I didn't know where it was on the map, it was dark, busy, and there were no buses going to the airport. CHIT! I was holding my anger in but I wanted to strangle the little fucker. I told myself not to be mad at him as it was me who made the decision to get on the bus; but I still wanted to strangle the little fucker. I was stressed, angry and stood a chance of missing my plane. He looked at me with resignation and apology. I told him thank you, I would find my way to the airport. He said " No, I will get you to the airport". I shook my head and said " thank you " again. He insisted that he take me. I looked around; at the hoards of people, the darkness, the language barrier, and the crowded, absolutely jam packed buses. I smelled the piss in the streets, I looked at the trash, the goats, and the thirty or so buses parked this way and that, moving in and going out; and I felt my stress. I said "okay", and we began our journey. Two hours and six buses later we arrived at the airport door. I got my plane. And a perspective on Indian culture.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Africa

A few tid bits of India left , then Africa.

Hair cuts, dancers and dressing packages.

One of the first things Sherry did when she got to India was pull a few of my whiskers. What are friends for? I guess I had been a bit remiss. My hair was a bit wild and untamed as well. I had cut it myself a couple of times ( with my folding traveling scissors) but that was beginning to show. Not to many beauty shops along the way. In a small "hill station" in India I did spy a barber shop that was churning out short cuts like an assembly line spits out parts. I peeked in, and before I knew it I was in a chair trying to explain the cut I wanted. I have always spoken a different language than my hair dresser but this was something else. The shop had about four chairs, all occupied, me in one of them, a bench packed full of waiting boys and men, and a small crowd hanging around. I of course, was a spectacle. A woman with short brown hair, blue eyes and white skin. The barbers who were not cutting my hair stopped to chide the guy who was going to. In the mirror in front of me I could see guys behind me leaning on each other left and right so that they could see. Some bench sitters were laughing, all were staring and I was a nervous nellie. The barber started in and I indicated " no more than this please" and crossed my fingers. He worked and worked, the more he worked the more I got nervous. He returned to the back of my head several times, I guess I had butchered it thouroghly. Eventually he handed me a mirror and along with about 25 men in the shop, I took a look. It wasn't bad! One of the bench guys claimed that my chair would be the "girl's chair" from now on. Many other comments were flying around but i had no idea what they were saying. I paid the equivalent of one dollar, posed for pictures, waved many goodbye's. Just a few minutes down the road while Sherry and I were looking for internet, I stuck my head into what I thought was an internet "cafe". Out from behind a wall came this flaming Indian gay guy. He explained that he was a I tech teacher, the computers were school computers and we could not use them. He then proceeded with the ususal line of questions. Where are you from? What's your name? What do you do for work? When I said I was a teacher he threw himself into my arms , hugged me and said in a high, excited lilting voice " We are both teachers!" " I am so happy". And he WAS happy, very happy; and I was SO captive. " Please sit dwon, tell me more, let me show you, meet my students...". I called out for Sherry who was by now wondering where the hell I was. When she came in he repeated the whole process. Hugging, questions, excitement, and "please sit down". As he told us about his life and teaching he mentioned that was also teaching dance. We didn't have to ask, he offered. He jumped from his chair, excused his students, pushed back the furniture and began the recital. ( View the movies Cindy posted) He did several traditional Indian dances complete with singing. It was fantastic. There we were in India, watching a gay man dance and sing, and we were the only audience. When Sherry and I tried to make our exit he sighed and complained, and kept talking. We finally convinced him that we had to go but he insisted on pictures. We took pictures with him; his cheek pressed against ours, then he called his students in and we took more pictures. Upon leaving I asked him for his address and he gave me his land address. ...he didn't have email. The next errand we had to do was to send some stuff home to the U.S. Easy enough; find a box, package the box, address the box, and mail the box. Not in India. You have to "dress" the box as well. Which means taking the box to a tailor to have them make a linen "dress" for the box. Yes linen, complete with wax over the seams. (See photos) We didn't have to look long for a tailor, as we walked down the street a man asked; " Do you need your package dressed?" Must have been the bewildered look on our faces.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Friday, February 8, 2008

Generosity

Well, I am completely out of shape. You would think I would have time to get in shape, but I don't. Cindy is training for a half marathon. She's been telling me about how good she feels and how much energy she has and so I was motivated. I went for a run. Well, a shuffle. I was in Mamallapuram in a small fishing village when this motivation hit; so I headed to the beach. I wasn't on the beach long until I saw a line of men; all pulling on one rope that lead out into the ocean. They were each temporarily tied to the rope and leaning hard against the pull. There were about 25 of them and each walked backwards until they reached a guy on the end who was coiling the rope. There, the men would untie themselves and move to the head of the line and begin pulling again. I wondered what was on the end of the rope. But I kept on with my shuffle. About a quarter mile or more down the beach I saw another line of men doing the same thing. I stopped to watch and catch my breath. One guy caught my eye so I walked over and began asking him questions. He explained that the other line of men and his line were working together. On the end of the ropes was a huge net. As each line pulled backwards they also moved toward each other, eventually pulling the net closed as it came to shore. They had been at this for an hour so far and had another hour or so to go until the net was on shore. I helped for a bit. It was hard work. I didn't feel like I was helping much; I had no way to tie myself onto the rope and as I said, I am out of shape. I eventually gave up and went on with my run. When I came back the net was near shore so I stopped to watch them bring in the catch. I expected big fish in the net, fish of all kinds. Sharks, squid, grouper, jelly fish, barracuda, and maybe something strange and wild. As the fishermen pulled the net in close you could feel anticipation in the air increase. The pulling sped up, the effort increased, instructions were being yelled and some men began doing other jobs. Two men came off the rope and jumped in the water, each doing something with one line, diving, surfacing and diving again. Soon more men, ten or so jumped in the water and began splashing and yelling. They were "herding" the fish back into the net; preventing them from swimming out and around the open end. More yelling, more men in the water and eventually...the net came into view. It was alive and moving but I couldn't see inside, the mesh was tight and the fishermen were crowded in close. People from the village had begun to arrive and were gathering in close as well. Everyone was saying something, yelling something, moving around to get a better look, gathering their buckets and bowls or working with the net. When the net was drained of water and the catch revealed I was stunned. The only fish in the net were... sardines. Sardines and a few fish the size of your hands. Forty four men, forty four families; and that was their catch. The fish were sorted and the pan fish were sent to market to be sold for cash. A few widows and beggars were given a handful of fish from the catch, and then, forty eight piles of sardines were laid out in the sand. The boat man got three shares, one for the motor, one for the boat and one for himself. The net owner got two. The other forty two men each took home a pile of sardines that would fill a large bowl. Four hours work. About a gallon of fish. And yet, my fisherman friend invited me to lunch. I accepted.

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

movies

Tracy's comments during this movie of a baby elephant had me laughing out loud (lol).

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Urgent

Well it is not urgent but I needed to get your attention. Kathleen Imherr, Tracy Graves, Deb Baker and all those who have commented and have not gotten a personal response please send me your email. I cannot email you from your comment and would love to. Thanks for all your interest and comments it is so fun for me to hear from all of you. Thanks!

Monday, February 4, 2008

India oh India

It is a nose pick'in, 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,and 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.

Sunday, February 3, 2008

more pictures comming soon

Hey all, Cindy here, I just got another influx of pictures that I will post very soon. One batch from Thailand (including some heart pumping climbing pictures) and a batch from India. Tracy has an artistic eye for photography indeed. So stay tuned.