Friday, February 25, 2011

The Sickness

I'm catapulting down the highway right now at what must be a million miles an hour, weaving aggressively in and out of traffic. Well ok, not right now, but I was when I wrote the original journal entry. I've encountered more than a few crazy third world drivers, but this guys is a specific breed of maniac. We are passing everything in sight, stopping for nothing, he rides his horn and brake all while talking on his cell phone and spitting brown wads of what I assume to be tobacco or betel out the window. I'm on my way to Jodhpur, I started the journey from Udaipur with white knuckles, praying for my life - Did I mention this car has no seat belts? But after a few hours of this madness, my life is in tact, and I've started to like this driver. He just cut a 8 hour journey into 6. We ain't stopping for no one bitches!!

The last few days have been a mix of ups and downs. India likes to initiate most of her new arrivals with some form of sickness, and apparently I am no exception. I woke up on my last day in Jaipur feeling like I was hit by a bus. My entire body ached, I was feverish, my stomach was tied in a crampy, bloated knot...and I had to catch a bus in less than four hours. This is not the first time this has happened. When I was in the Philippines I was hit by food poisoning while on an overnight bus. The experience ranks up there with the worst in my life, as I had to desperately beg the driver to pull over so I could vomit on the side of the road or huddle face first over a putrid Philippino truckers toilet...and this happened again, and again, and again, until half the bus was wanting him to drive off and leave me, I'm sure. So as you can probably imagine, I was not looking for a repeat of this. Unfortunately, the tickets to Pushcar were purchased, everyone I was with was leaving, I didn't want to be left behind. So I dragged my feverish ass into a tuk-tuk and off to the train station. After a long wait and some confusion as to whether the bus we were looking for actually existed, we were on our way. I think this bus may have been built before the dawn of time - but luckily, it wasn't too full. I spread out, mashing my head into prehistoric seat debris, but I didn't care, my fever was raging. I felt like death but in all honesty, it could have been worse. My stomach stayed in place and I had room to spread out and hate my life in private. Made it to Pushcar feeling like ass but with no life altering traumatic experiences.

Ahhh, Pushcar. The first Indian locale I would actually recommend. If you want to smoke hash with Hindu priests or buy dirt cheap hippie attire this is the place to be! Such a chilled out, relaxed town with so many things to do...Most of which I didn't have time for because I was cooped up in bed. But if there is one thing to make a girl feel better, it's a little retail therapy! Pushcar's main strip puts Thailand's Khoa San Road to shame! Endless, endless stores with beautiful items so cheap they are practically free. So I shopped 'til I dropped and bought two silk scarves, a pair of pants, a shirt, and three stone and (apparently real) silver pendants with rope for a grand total of $25.

So I am doing ok. I am travelling with people right now, and at first I was just ecstatic to not be alone, but now I am finding that I don't really connect to any of them in any real way. We've basically been brought together by our mutual desire to not be alone, and continue to cling to each other for that very reason, and my commonalities with them end there. So at the end of the day, I still feel alone, but at least with a cushion now. Tomorrow I am off Jaisalmer which is famous for its desert landscape and camel treks. Not going to lie, I'm excited to ride a camel!

Sunday, February 20, 2011

The Pink City

Me and India are beginning to come to terms with each other. It has been a hard road to this this agreement, with many battles along the way, but the beginnings of a friendship are underway. I still harbour a hint of a distaste in my mouth from Delhi, but Jaipur has been much more enjoyable. But let me start from the beginning...

I thought I would have travel companions to Jaipur, but I ended up having to do the journey completely alone. When I learned that I would be leaving at 3:30am, my level of enthusiasm for India reached an all-time low. I reluctantly left the safety of my hotel when my taxi pulled up, putting my faith in the unknown Indian driver. The car meandered through the nearly deserted streets, inhabited only by stray dogs, random herds of cattle, and thin, veiled street people that glided like black ghosts through the darkness. When we arrived at the train station I grit my teeth, thinking the driver was going to dump me at the gates to fend for myself - but instead he parked, dutifully grabbed my pack, and lead me through the jumble of trains, people, luggage, livestock and feces, until we found my seat. Thank you Unknown Indian Man, you just saved my life. 

I wedged myself and my baggage into my coffin-like bunk and then something strange happened...For the first time on Indian soil I felt myself relax. Hell, I even dozed off! This phenomenon is hard to explain. Let me tell you it was definitely NOT due to the luxury or comfort of the train. Indian trains in no way resemble Canadian trains. First of all, people and luggage are shoved into every available orifice, and then some. It is by no ones standards, clean, quiet, appropriate temperature, or comfortably lit. In fact the florescent light above me flickered with every rock of the train (every few seconds), I was blasted by icy cold air from the open door next to my bunk, and every so often a shit smell so overpowering would arrive, and I would have to hold my breath to keep my stomach contents in place. I was the only fair skinned individual in sight, so my presence warranted more than a few double takes.

But...A young family was in the bunk across from mine. The tiny boy started at me dumbfounded with wide, muddy brown eyes and I couldn't help but smile. His uncle spoke some English and chatted me up, bought me a chai tea, and the family shared some bread with me. The uncle even escorted me off the train at my stop after he had learned I had no idea where Jaipur was or when to get off. And so, I arrived safe and my faith in the Indian population rejuvenated...Finally someone without an ulterior motive.  

And Jaipur has been far more enjoyable. Still absolute insanity, with more people crammed per square kilometer than should be legal. It's known as the "pink city" but really should be the "city with every method of transportation under the sun". And this is no exaggeration. Besides your obvious array of motorized vehicles, tuk-tuks, and bicycle rickshaws up the ying-yang, there are horse drawn carriages, camel drawn carriages, people riding donkeys, scooters, cows, pedal bikes, and elephants. Yes elephants. It is not uncommon to see a fully grown elephant come waltzing down your average congested inner city roadway. The whole city's traffic swirls in the most incredible, disheveled system of haphazard organization that somehow works. The pink city part is just the background to this scene, with rows of shabby pink, decaying buildings that line the inner city streets. I would love to be taking pictures of all this, but I feel like every time I pull out my camera I'm pretty much pasting a large sign to my forehead that reads "stupid rich white girl...Please rob me now"

I won't bore you too much with the sites I've seen as I mostly wandered around by myself. History puts me to sleep so I've pretty much learned nothing about them other than they were really old and super fun to take lots of pictures of because cameras are more socially acceptable at these locales. I know, I know, I'm supposed to be an intelligent human being...but I just don't care who built the damn thing or why! The highlight was by far the monkey temple, which is an ancient temple built directly into a rock face, that is now home to hundreds of the cutest little monkeys! 

Well I could ramble on but it's getting late here. To conclude, my emotional stability has improved considerably and thanks to all those who cared. It's still a tiring place to be, I'm harassed constantly by beggars, store owners, children, tuk-tuk drivers, and men whenever I'm on the street and they all want SOMETHING from me. But what I've come to realize, no one really means any harm. Indians are just very outgoing and open, and I'm shy and brought up in a comparably reserved and private society. Yes we are reserved compared to Indians! We hide everything neatly behind closed doors and regard strangers as either indifferently or suspiciously. Not so the case here! Also, I've always been taught to be polite to everyone. Here, you can't be too polite to anyone! That's code for "this person is an idiot, take advantage of them". Indians are not even polite to each other so really there's no point in trying. Respect yes, but no polite gestures needed. So for me, it's been quite an adjustment! Well...That's it for now, 'til next time.            

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Journey to Delhi

Well I am in Delhi feeling...humbled. It has been a tough 48 hours. I thought I'd be showering India with uncontainable excitement and glee by now, but instead I am intimidated. I was sitting in the Beijing airport waiting for my connecting flight and a wave of disorientation overtook me that I haven't been able to shake. Where the hell am I? What am I doing here? It's easy to sit in front of a computer screen and plan an around the world adventure, it's another thing entirely to follow through. Who was I to think I was so bold and brave and independent. I'm feeling more like a big wuss, I hate being alone right now, and I want to turn around and head home. No one was waiting for me in India...There are a bazillion people here but not a single soul gives a shit about me.

If this post in annoyingly negative I apologize, but I'm not going to sugar coat it. This blog is supposed to be about my travel experience and so far this is it, 48 hours in. Why I'm not literally getting on that plane home is I'm assuming it will get better. I've traveled before and the disorientation fades, you adjust, the experiences you are having start to outweigh your longing for the familiar. I'm not there yet and I think more than just myself have felt this way while traveling. No one wants to admit they are struggling. That perhaps the giant leap out of ones comfort zone (that seemed like such a good idea at the time) should have included a few baby steps.

View from the plane over Alaska
India is hectic and mind boggling and I've barely ventured beyond the walls of my hostel. They served me unidentified sea creature in a bed of brown, gelatinous ooze on the airplane that began my road to despair. My best guess was that it was sea cucumber but I really have no idea, something with a lot of tentacles but not at all resembling octopus or squid, not that I would have enjoyed that anyway, but at lease I could identify them! From there, after 12 hours on a plane, I was groped by a Chinese security guard, doing her job I'm sure, but literally her hands were up my inner thighs to the money bits on both the front and back, she dove below the waist band of my pants, and she rubbed my chest more than once. If she was a guy I would have had to punch her! To finish the 28 hour journey, my cab driver dropped me at the wrong hotel. After he sped off, I stumbled in from the ridiculously late depths of the Indian night, exhausted and jet lagged, and realized: this isn't the place I wanted to go! But, at this point I'm starting to see the humour in these things. Nothing has gone horribly wrong, I'm alive at least. I'm going to effing conquer this world, even if I have to drag myself, kicking and screaming (and to be honest, weeping). Tomorrow, Jaipur on an overnight train, and hopefully I'll meet some nice travel companions. I don't think it will be hard to out do Delhi!

Sunday, February 6, 2011

The Build Up

Goodbye Whistler

        There is now just over 1 week before I leave. I am cautiously excited. Maybe most people would be jumping for joy at the prospect of an around the world adventure only days from reality, but my excitement remains somewhat reserved. There are goodbyes that I still need to get through, I’m leaving behind important people that will be extremely hard to be away from. The reality that I’m going to be gone for nearly 6 months is hitting home, and this is getting more difficult for me. Also, this is my first totally solo international voyage and India as a first stop is somewhat intimidating. What if something bad happens to me? I’m not afraid to admit that I’m a little scared. Plus, as a girl who loves to travel, I sure HATE flying. I find it terrifying and unnatural. The 23 hour journey from Vancouver to Delhi is going to suck in a big way, it’s hard to look forward to over 19 hours on a plane (plus a 4 hour layover in Beijing, but at least then I’m on solid ground!). I think it’s about time someone hurried up and invented a teleporter!

          But that’s the negative’s easy to wallow in that. I’m reminding myself of the adventure that’s just around the corner, the experiences I’ll have, the people I’ll meet, the places I’ll get to go. It’s always hard to be away from the ones you love, but those who count will still be here for me when I return. Of course I’m scared to be alone, scared that something will go wrong, but that’s a possibility at any point in life, I could stay in Canada and get hit by a bus and die tomorrow. I’m smart and have good instincts and it’s that I’m going to have to trust, along with my belief that most people in the world are good. I can’t hide away from my fears, no one ever accomplished anything by doing that. So I will say my goodbyes, even though I’ll probably cry. I will get on that plane, even though I’ll probably be nervous and hate every second of it. I’m ready to face my fears and I’m excited to overcome them. Goodbye Whistler, my next post will be from somewhere in India.Wish me luck!