Monday, January 31, 2005

Palolem - life's a beach

Getting from Anjuna to Palolem took me about 3 hrs on Friday morning. I had to take 4 buses and 1 taxi to get here, but I never had to wait more than 60 secs for a bus - in fact one bus I had to run after and some guys helped pull me aboard! The whole thing cost less than 100 Rs which goes to show how afford able travel is in India.

Palolem is beautiful - probably the nicest beach I have ever been to. I have seen nicer ones (South Pacific & Caribbean) in magazines, but never seen one better in person. It consists of a wide sandy beach about 1.5kms long in a long crescent shape with palm trees all along the back.

I am staying in a small hut on stilts about 50m from the beach - I get to go to sleep hearing the surf. There is a small restaurant/bar attached to the huts I am in. They play psy and also chill music like morcheeba. I spend my day hanging out on the beach - reading (I am averaging a book a day so far!) walking, beach combing. We have a beach volleyball court right in front of us and there is a sunset game each day from 4-7pm. Frisbee is super popular as well.

Unlike Anjuna this place is packed and has not seemed to be affected by the Tsunami scare. Also interestingly there is not much topless bathing going on here - in Anjuna it was the norm - here it is the exception. The men here are also not sporting the tiny jewel sack bathing suits that were common in Anjuna.

I have great news - I went for a 9km bare for run on the beach Saturday AM and I had no IT band pain or irritation. This has been plaguing me all of the late summer and fall 2004. It is so nice to be able to run and not feel any pain.

It is very hot here each day - getting to 30+ deg C every day. It was raining and cool this morning for the first time, but by 1pm it was 30 deg C and sunny.

I am pretty much living out of my surf shorts and a sarong. There is not much use for any other clothes. In fact I had my first shower since I got here Sunday - only because I figured I should have one. Being in and out of the ocean all the time you don't get very dirty or stinky and since you'll be back in again right away there doesn't seem to be much point in getting squeaky clean. One bummer common to all beach life is that I have sand every where! You just cannot get rid of it. I guess it is a reasonable trade off for all the awesome beach fun I am having.

The sunsets here are fantastic! I have taken way too many sunset pics because they are different virtually each day.

I will probably leave on Friday and head to Hampi, but I could easily spend a month here without thinking about it.

Oh ya I bought some Indian toilet paper and to be honest it isn't that bad at all. People have been tell me some tall tales about how bad it guess next time I don't need to bring 32 rolls with me!

Wednesday, January 26, 2005

32 Rolls of Pillowy Softness

I brougth 32 rolls of toilet paper with me to Indian. Partially because everyone warmed me the paper here sucks and it is not alaways easy to find and partially beacuse I had a huge duffle bag that was mostly empty and it was good padding. I didn't hardly use any in Kolkata because I was unable to go #2 almost the whole time I was there.

I could only take 5 rolls with me as I am carrying a small back pack and after less than two weeks on the road I have already used 3 up! I am going to have to stock up on the Indian stuff and just make the best of it. I have considered doing the Indian thing and using my hands, but I am not ready for that quite yet!

I guess I will have to go crazy on it when I get back to Kolkata...=-)~

Another sunset

I just watched another beautiful sunset in Anjuna!

Today is an Indian national holiday so many things are closed. I went to the flea market and had a look around I wanted 2 things, but one was ridiculously over priced and the other I couldn't find. I did end up buying some devil sticks for $8USD. I will leave my hula hoop here with someone. It was fun to have, but even a travel hoop is kind of big to lug around. The devil sticks are much more portable.

One funny thing I have noticed at the flea market is that the vendors didn't hassle me even 30% as much as the white tourists. I am quite brown now and my clothes are a little grubby as I don't have many and I wash them my self in the room sink. I have also the mastered the slow head shake that says..."...don't even bother..." It is quite effective!

There was another daytime hilltop party so I went and danced for 6 hrs. It wasn't nearly as good as the Sunday party, but still alot of fun and I got see a bunch of familiar faces.

Now I am going to get my stuff together and then go to bed early.

Tomorrow I have to hit the post office and mail back all the stuff I bought here.

Monday, January 24, 2005

The end is in sight

Only three more days left in Anjuna. I definitely had fun here, but I am ready to move on. I met a Dutch guy who had just been to Palolem and he said it was more laid back and cheaper than Anjuna. He stayed in a hut right on the beach - which is what I will try and get for accommodations as well.

They had a full moon party last night, but there was no way I could muster the energy to get out of bed at 3am when it started. After sleeping a lot yesterday afternoon and all last night I feel great.

I have a few things to finish off in town. I want to check out the Wednesday market again and mail off a few things I bought to my Dad in Kolkata.

My roommate, Mike, was supposed to leave for Palolem yesterday, but instead he ended up staying another day. Anjuna seems to be hard to leave for some people - others can't wait to get out.

Sunday, January 23, 2005

Dazed and Confused

OMG...I was just at the most outrageous party(ies) I have ever seen in my life. It started at midnight on Saturday at a place called temple. It is a wide open sandy area near the beach with a (guess what?) an old run down temple behind it. As usual it was full on psy mayhem on the dance floor all night with about 800 people in attendance. It was a good party, but not super unusual.

However, what happen next blew my mind. The party moved to a place called hilltop at 8am. I went home had a shower and changed clothes before heading to hilltop. At hilltop is this massive compound with a huge sound system. They started again with hard fast full on psy - which I am starting to actually really get into. There were about 100 people max there when I arrived around 8:30am and it was the usual sketchy Sunday day after party scene like at Shambhala where people are tired and just shuffling around the dance floor. But as the day progressed the party grew and grew to about 1000 people and they went off like maniacs. I mean I have never seen people dance for so hard and for so long after being up and dancing hard the previous night. I was dancing harder than I have ever danced before and it was weird with so many people going crazy everyone was feeding of each other's energy and things kept spiraling out of control. The party went till 10pm and by the end people were dancing harder and faster than they had been that first night. It was just unbelievable. I had sooooo much fun.

I had a about 8hrs sleep last night, but I think I need to go have a nap!

Saturday, January 22, 2005

In the groove

Wednesday night I headed to Nine Bar with Mike, three UK'ers (Chris, Rachel & Charlotte) and one French/Spanish guy named Dadu. The bar was insane they play full on psy really fast over a huge system for 3hrs to a crowd of about 500. At 10pm sharp the music stops (local by-law). So I danced like crazy until they shut things down.

Then we went to another bar to play pool until the party started at midnight. There were rumours the party may or may not happen so we went over to the Bamboo Forest (the location is exactly like it sounds) and the party had just started. The others are not huge psy fans so they decided to go somewhere else and drink till more people showed up. I have pretty much given up beer as not agreeing with me at the moment so I decided to stay with 50 or so people already at the party. The music was more full on psy - mixed reasonably well. I danced my butt off till 5am when I had to sit down and rest. It became apparent to me I was not getting my wind back so I just grabbed a cab home and went to sleep. The others had returned at 4am and stayed till well into the afternoon. I would like to tell you more about the location, but it was pitch dark and I left before sunrise so I didn't see much except for a few trees and the speakers!

Overall the party was a lot of fun and it was good to dance. My back had been sore from my stomach woes and it was finally feeling better Thursday. I got to use my hula hoop and flags at the party - which was cool. On the downside people were not very friendly and the music was quite repetitious throughout the night. I kept thinking "....hey you already played that track..." Young men and boys came around the dance floor all night trying to sell water and snacks, which was convenient when you wanted something and a drag when you didn't.

I have to say that the more I see of parties outside of Calgary the more impressed I am with the Calgary scene (particularly the psy parties). I will likely hit up a party on the full moon. Other than that I am taking things quite slow and getting to bed early every night.

I am really enjoying the beach while listening to music from the beach shacks. My favourite time is from 3 to 6pm because the sun isn't so deadly and I can watch the sunset before walking back to town.

My stomach is doing well, but I still have not got my appetite back fully.

Melanie asked about the place I am staying. It is called the Anjuna Beach Resort. However, it isn't really near the beach and it isn't really a resort. It is a small complex of three buildings with about 20 rooms. It is clean and bright. The only downside is the bathrooms are cool and dark so the mosquitoes congregate there waiting for us. They have a small restaurant and they will do your laundry if you like. I am paying 350Rs a night and sharing it with Mike. We could get cheaper rooms in town, but not nearly as nice. Since my share is 175Rs ($3.50USD) I am cool with it. I is also a nice 30mins walk to the far end of the beach, which is perfect for me to get some exercise. My room not only comes with a bed, but it features complimentary frogs (who live in the bathroom walls and come out at night), lizards, ants and of course mosquitoes - it is a complete eco-system in there.

I have decided to stay here till next Friday and then I will head to Palolem (southern Goa) for a week. After that Hampi for a week, Mysore for a week, Varnassi for a week and then back to Kolkata for 1 March. I will see what my Dad is up to and want to head to Darjeeling for a week and maybe Puri for a week. By then it will be just about time t o fly home.

Well I am off to book some train tickets and hit the beach for sunset.

Thursday, January 20, 2005

Sketchy Thursday

I made it to my first party last night. I will tell all tomorrow as I have spent several hours on the net doing work already today and I need a nap now.

Yes even in paradise you have to work. With laptops and broadband connections working in Goa or working in the next office building in Calgary is pretty much the same thing. Kinda cool - kinda scary.

Wednesday, January 19, 2005

On the rebound

Whew! My stomach is getting better. That was 24hrs of amazing badness, but I am 1000 times better today - which means I only have another 100 times better and I will be normal...=-)~ The sunset last night was beautiful - it definitely made me feel better and I had a decent night's sleep.

I actually managed solid food this afternoon - some pineapple pancakes on the beach. I tried to have some toast and scrambled eggs this AM, but in my hyper alert state I noticed some mould on the bread and that was that for breakfast. I think that might be the place that made me sick - so we are definitely steering clear of it from now on.

Tonight we are going to an organic place called "Bean me up"...I am going to have some rice and lentils. Hopefully all will go well. The sad part about this whole episode is that I won't be digging into my plates of curry with the same gusto for quite a while.

Mike and I are going to head to a party on the beach tonight and dance a bit. This morning I didn't hold out much hope that I would be up for it, but I spent a lot of time walking on the beach today which definitely helped.

I went to the famous Anjuna flea market in the morning. It was a lot of fun checking out the various stalls. I think I saw them all, but the market was so big I kept getting lost. I ran into Mike at the flea market and he had rented a scooter so we took a trip into Vagator and spent the day at the beach. Vagator beach is even more relaxing and empty than Anjuna beach - I didn't think that was possible! I am either sticking around here for another week or heading down to Palolem on Sunday - haven't decided yet. If I do stay I will likely move to Vagator.

I hope all is well in Canada - I noticed it was above freezing in Calgary!

Tuesday, January 18, 2005

Not so hot mail...=-(

Hotmail is seriously messed up at the moment so if you want to email me can you send copies to both my hotmail account (for archiving) and to my gmail account (threeohm at gmail dot com)


The darkside of my stomach!

Wow - I don't know what it was, but something went seriously wrong with my tummy last night. Mike and I were thinking of going to a bar and seeing about a party, but around 9pm we both started feeling strange and within 2hrs we were really sick. Mike seemed to have the worst of it last night, but I am still not feeling great 20hrs later. We didn't eat the same things so we are having trouble figuring out what set us off. I didn't vomit or have diarrhea, but it felt like my stomach and intestines were in a greco-roman wrestling match all night. I am sore all over and still a bit queasy - all I managed to eat today was some water and an orange juice. The worst part is that I had been following all the standard techniques for staying healthy - I guess this is just part of traveling in India.

I won't bore you with any further details. I am at an internet cafe down by the beach so if I can keep myself together I will wait here for the sun set. Hopefully I can sleep tonight.

Sunday, January 16, 2005

Sleepy in Anjuna

I spent yesterday checking out town and the beach. It seems like a nice place with tons of eating and drinking options. I asked a shop keeper if the numbers of tourists was low compared to usual levels. She said it was less than 50% of a normal year. The tsunami is one reason, but numbers were low even prior to that. Regardless I am happy with the situation as there are many places to stay and prices are cheap. Also it has made this place very relaxing - which is not exactly what I was expecting. I had planned to head down to Palolem for some chill beach time, but I think it actually may be busier than Anjuna. I am hoping the Aussie girls I met on the train email me from Palolem so I get the 411 on how it is at the moment.

We had another delicious dinner and went to the Shore Bar last night for a beer and to see what was up party-wise. There were two psy parties last night in Vagator (3km away), but I was kind of tired so we ended going to bed at know you are getting old when you choose sleep over going to a party.

There is going to be a party down on the beach on Wed from 10pm till sunrise - so I think we will check it out as the location is beautiful.

I had my first "western" food so far in India this AM - scrambled eggs and toast. Apparently you can't get chicken curry and naan at 10AM!

Well I am off to hang out on the beach, do some yoga and listen to some psy - I know it is a hard life, but someone has to do it!


Well I finally made it to Goa and so far things have gone well. The train was pretty slick and much nicer than the one from Kolkata. The AC was on all night which I didn't love, but they provided blankets so I was not cold. I met a couple Aussie girls on the train who were fun to chat with - it has been a while since I had a long conversation in English! I also met a Canadian - Mike from TO. He got off the train with me and we grabbed a taxi to Anjuna. The hotel I booked from Mumbai turned out to be very nice and since we are sharing it my cost is only $175 Rs/night. Anjuna has been a blast so far - pretty girls, sun, surf and yummy food - not to mention it is at least 30 degs here.

We took a long walk down the beach and I bought some fisherman's pants & a cotton sheet to lay on the beach as well as for yoga. Tonight we are going to hit a night club and check out some psy action. Just about every place we have been has been playing psy. The funny thing is there does not seem to be that many people here at the moment - not sure if it is the Tsunami or some other reason. The place is way less crazy than I had imagined.

Tomorrow I have a rough day of lying on the beach planned as well as eating some more curry and having a fresh squeezed juice or two. I also want to see if I can track down some info on any parties happening while I am here.

Saturday, January 15, 2005

Night Train to Mubai

The big day finally arrived for me to take the train to Mumbai. The train left the Howrah Station at 19:30hrs. So I did some laundry at Sundar's place and hung it up to dry in my room with the fan going like mad. My father assured me it would not dry in time, but little does he know about the wonders of synthetic clothing! Everything did dry by 4pm and we took a bicycle rickshaw to the station - I thought it was funny how this was not possible on Monday when I wanted to book a ticket!

The station was bustling and we killed a few hours sitting watching the crowds do their thing. We had a delicious meal at the station restaurant - chicken biriyani and then I had another chicken curry and rice since it was a 34hr train ride. Sundar showed up 1 hr before my train left to give me some biscuits and grapes for the train.

The train ride itself was uneventful. I had the top bunk which stays deployed all the time so I could leave my stuff there and go have a nap whenever I wanted. I slept for at least 20hrs as my bunk was more comfortable than my seat. The car was comfortable all day and most of the evening, but between 2am and 6am it was cold enough I was having trouble sleeping. I only have a small airline blanket with me - so I put on some running tights and a jacket as well. The rest of my travels will be in southern India so I am hoping I won't have any further cold nights.

All day long vendors and people begging for alms came up and down the aisles. I had change and was able to give money to people finally! One very funny thing is on three occasions transvestites got on the train and asked for money. If I understand things correctly they basically shame men into giving them money by hanging around them and clapping their hands and singing. The men get embarrassed and give them money to go away. The first one worked me hard, but there was no way I was giving money to someone just for wearing a sari. I think after a while he/she got the message and moved on. The other two didn't even bother me. One young man came down the aisle with only small stumps for arms and twisted legs - so he could only shuffle. I went to give him money and realized he had no way to accept it so I put it in his pocket - very sad..=-(

The train got to Mumbai a couple hours late and my carriage completely left the train. Only after the train pulled away did I realize I was not at the central station, but at a small outlying one called Dardar. It turned out to be no big deal as I took a 5Rs local train the rest of the way. It ran with the doors open so I got a good view and it wasn't as crowded as I had heard these trains can be.

At the Mumbai central station I took a day room, which I share with two, other people for 336Rs and had a shower. They had full running water, but I have been so conditioned to conserve water that I just got wet then turned off the water while I soaped up and turned it back on to rinse.

I called ahead to Anjuna to get a room for my first two days in Goa and hit up an internet cafe to put this post up and check my e-mail.

Next I need to get some food as I only ate biscuits and grapes on the train. I have been told not to eat train food, but it is awfully tempting and I might give it a try the next long ride have to take.

Then I will wander around as I have a lot of time to kill till my 11pm train to Goa.

Of note is the fact I only saw 4-6 tourists in Kolkata and maybe another 4-5 here is Mumbai. I am assuming that will change when I hit Goa - although some people have said the Tsunami may keep some travelers away.

Travelling by myself has been a lot of fun so far. Without having a local guide who speak the language things take longer and there are misunderstandings, but I am learing tons of new things each day.

Friday, January 14, 2005

The God Father of Kolkata

I went over to the central reservations office in Kolkata to buy my train tickets and when I arrived I was greeted with about 60 Indians jockeying for 3 tellers with no discernable line-ups being formed. It looked crazy, but I figured I have to learn to do stuff the Indian way and get used to it. Just as I was about to enter the fray Hindol grabs my arm and takes me one room over where there are 3 tellers serving 3 foreign tourists. As a result it only took 5 mins to get my tickets, but I had to pay in foreign currency and show my CDN passport. Strange system - if you tried to implement that in Canada the locals would freak out.

My ticket from Kolkata to Mumbai (about 2000kms) cost $12USD 2nd class no AC. Since they were fully booked in that class from Mumbai to Goa (900kms) I took 2nd class with AC and the fare jumped to $30USD. To put the awesome value of the Kolkata - Mumbai ticket in perspective a day bed (shared room with 2 other people) in the Mumbai CST station costs $7USD.

After getting the ticket Hindol and I ran around town doing errands for his work for a couple hours. Once we were done we grabbed some lunch - delicious chicken curry w/ nann and some chicken kebabs. Lunch was a whopping $1.50USD each.

We has some time to kill before we had to be back at the office so I asked if we could go and have a beer - thinking it would be a nice way to spend an hour. Little did I know I was setting in motion a complex series of events! Hindol said okay, but I could tell something was amiss - he called Sundar on his cell and afterwards tells me Sundar will pick up some beer tonight and I will be able to drink it at his apt. I am not sure why the big deal, but I said okay and I tried to convey that I didn't really need a beer, but I don't think he got my message. When we get back to the office there is some major discussion about the beer and I again try and let them know I don't really need one and I would prefer to forget about it - no dice. Suddenly Sundar's boss Mr. Basu tells me he will take me to his gentleman's club for a beer. My protests are dismissed and we head over to the club. The club building is about a 5min walk and 10min bus ride away. It is 110 years old and looks to have been quite impressive in its day. It could probably hold 600-800 people for a dance or 500 for dinner. In the middle of the massive room is one table and four chairs with one overhead light on. The room and furniture are clean, but in a dingy way that can only be appreciated in person. The club is called the Rangers Club and is for male member only - except for special events when wives are allowed. Mr. Basu orders me a Kingfisher and has a whiskey and water. The beer is good and no one talks for the first 20 mins.

Mr. Basu then starts talking to me about Canada and my life. One of his business partners joins us and Mr. Basu translates everything I say into Bengali for him. They get excited when I them I am not married and I confirm I am not promised to any girl in Canada (they check this last point three times to be sure). He asks me if I would marry am Indian girl - what a loaded question. I say yes IF it was someone I was in love with and was interested in the same kind of lifestyle I was. I am pretty sure all he heard was yes as he had a very animated conversation with his business partner outlining my financial situation and who they could set me up with. Thankfully they dropped the subject for the moment.

He than asked me about where I would travel in India and gave me many tips and cautions. I pointed out that I have traveled a lot without incident and that I was an army officer so I would be fine. Mr. Basu looks at me very seriously and says "...your father is known to me and so I have a moral duty to him to look after you...what you do elsewhere is not my concern, but when you are in India I have you on my conscience..." He went on to say that I should call him at home if I have any troubles at all and no matter where I was in India he would..."...send a man..." to correct the situation and bring me back to Kolkata if necessary. With the dark room, single light, smoky air and 5 staff waiting on his every wish - the whole moment seemed like the Indian version of the God Father.

I have to say that although I have found the over protectiveness of everyone here stifling at times, I cannot fault their kindness. In fact I don't think I have ever been looked after so well any where.

Sundar showed up an hour later and we went home on the scooter - after a couple beers the ride was super fun.

Tuesday, January 11, 2005

Mo' Kolkata

It is funny how quickly you get used to things. The scooter ride into Kolkata this morning seemed much less dramatic than yesterday - even though traffic was worse. I am going to get my train ticket today and check out a Hindi film. If all goes well I should be on a train to Mumbai by 7:30PM tomorrow.

Some Kolkata moments:

- water in the apt does not run continuously. It seems to be on during the morning, but not in the afternoon. It is on about 50% of the time in late evening. So Sundar's family collects water when it is on in plastic buckets for cooking and washing. We generally take a "bucket shower" around 8-9am. I started using a whole bucket (25L), but now I am down to half a bucket as my technique improves. Although it is not as refreshing as a hot shower back home - you feel clean and satisfied afterwards.

Kolkata Redux

Wow - I just had the best afternoon going all over town with Hindol a co-worker of Sundar's. He was released from work as my tour guide and he took me out for lunch and some wandering around the city. When I get back from travelling he is going to take me out for some more Indian food and we will be hitting up a hindi film and nightclub - I can't wait.

Lunch was a yummy chicken biryani that cost a whopping 45RS or $0.90USD. I have been breaking all the hygiene rules on this trip so far (drinking tap water, brushing my teeth with it, eating unpeeled fruits from street vendors) and I added a couple new ones to my list by drinking fruit juice from a street vendor and drinking untreated water at a restaurant. Will they be any tummy troubles - stay tuned and find out...=-)~

I visited New Market and checked out all the shopping possibilities - besides some textiles I don't think I will be buying a lot of stuff here.

BTW - checked the weather report in today's newspaper and it said no rain for yesterday even though it poured all is good to know weathermen get it wrong even when they are reporting the previous day's weather.

I have been taking my anti-malarial meds and had upset stomaches the first two days. Yesterday I was fine so I am hoping that my system is learning to deal with it. Having a queasy stomach for two hours everyday would not be fun.

Sundar's boss just let me know that it was quite impossible for me to train around India on the train by myself. I would have to deal with cabs and get hotels on my own - far too much for me to cope with. He insisted that I sign on with an organized tour that would take me around the country. I had to press the fact that I would be just fine and I wanted to set my own schedule. Not to mention I really wasn't going to 75% of the tourist hot spots in India (a la Taj Mahal, Delhi, etc...) He finally gave in with a sigh that said "'ll be sorry...." People are being super nice to me, but it is almost to the point of ridiculous.

Oh well I better jam - I have a deadly scooter ride back to Howrah in the dark to enjoy.

Monday, January 10, 2005

Fortress Kolkata

Well I finally made it to Kolkata. Jet lag hasn't been much of a problem since I think I just ended up losing a day as I traveled. I am staying with my father for the moment in a small apartment he shares with a family of three. The apartment is only about 500 sq Ft and with two servants and a couple of guests it gets pretty crowded during the day. I have to say so far the lack of space and privacy have been the most difficult things to deal with on the trip and I am looking forward to traveling on my own.

I haven't seen very much of the city yet as everyone is being hyper protective of me. I am suffering from a big case of the " can't do that..." or " can't get there from here..." syndrome. Apparently India is way too dirty and dangerous for me!

I am actually staying in Howrah which is across the Hoogley river from Kolkata. I need to get to the Howrah Station to book my ticket on to Goa and take the train. So far all my attempts to get there have failed - apparently you can't take a rickshaw, taxi or bus there. You can take a local train, but no one will clue me in on how to get there since it is far too dangerous for me to use. I was thinking it is kind of like being in jail when I realized it was a jail! I wanted to go for a walk this morning while everyone was asleep and found out the doorway had a set of bars that was locked with a huge pad lock - too funny!

Anyway I solved the whole problem by letting my Dad know that I was packing a backpack and leaving on my own the next day one way or the other. So he agreed to take me to the station to get a ticket on Wed and I will leave on Thurs. Not exactly super speedy service, but apparently that's the way it goes in India and I am trying to compromise a bit. I can't wait to hit the beach and get some sun! I brought my travel hula hoop and I will take it to Goa. From watching the girls at moontribe and NYE - I have a lot to learn.

I am writing this from my Dad's friend's office. His name is Sundar Gopal Roy and he took me on a scooter ride across town to get here. I think it was the most dangerous thing I have done ever! I got some video of the ride which I hope conveys the total madness of Kolkata traffic.

The one good thing about house arrest is that I am getting time each day to do yoga. I have learnt to do it while a 3yr old kid is screaming in my ear and while a servant is mopping the floor around me. I was going to wait till I had some private time and open space, but then I realized that was never going to happen! I am reading BKS Iyengar's Light on the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali. It is a great book, but I feel a bit insufficient to the task. I will have to do yoga for a few life times to get anywhere. One good thing that has come from reading the book is that I have made the commitment to do some yoga everyday - come hell or high water. Even if it is only one posture or some breathing exercises.

I was asked what I wanted to eat the first day I was here and of course said chicken curry and aloo gobi. I was taken to the market that is literally next to the building I am staying and was allowed to pick out my chicken - which was killed and skinned in front of me. I thought it would be pretty gross, but they managed to make the whole thing fairly clean and elegant - well as elegant as snapping the neck of a chicken can be! Talk about fresh food.

I did have one bad experience so far. I was wandering around the market and two small girls came up to me begging for something - I assume money - I couldn't understand them. I had just been to the ATM and had a pocket full of $500RS notes - worth about $10US each. I kind of freaked out they looked pretty rough and I wanted to give them some money, but I didn't want to pull out a wad of $500RS' and I didn't have anything else on me. They kept saying the same thing over and over - which I didn't understand. I tried telling them in English I didn't have anything for them, but they just kept begging. It was heart breaking and I did the only thing I could think of - starting walking fast away from them. They tailed me for a block and then gave up. I feel like an asshole. What is $10USD to me really? On the other hand if I hand out $10USD to everyone who asks I will blow my budget in the first week. There is a quote I like that goes..." are, what you do, when it counts..." I am not sure what this incident says about me, but I don't think it is good. I am going to try and make sure I have some small bills and coins on me in the future.

On the way to Howrah from the airport I saw many people sleeping on the side of the road - some under a thin blanket and some with no coverings at all. It was about 12 deg C my first night here and I was cold as I only had a sheet and a super thin blanket. I was getting pretty cranky until I remembered the people sleeping on the road and I stopped my whining! Last night we had torrential rains for hours and hours. I couldn't help thinking of those people.

Trying to understand all this is very difficult. I have decided that accepting one's karma is much easier than understanding it. I am going to accept my life as best I can and not try to figure out India in one go.

One funny thing I noticed is that the local paper does not have a weather forecast for that day or the next day. Instead they tell you what the weather was the day bet they are correct 100% of the time.

Another funny thing is I was given a tour of my Dad's printing company by one of the few English speaking employees. He asked me at one point if I liked Canada - I said yes. He said he heard it was nice there, but that life was way too fast for him. This is super funny because although you can't get anything done in India quickly - life is crazy fast like a video game on speed - well at least when you leave your house.

I have had some peaceful Zen moments here though. While at the printing company I was in an office with my dad and his brother Sukumar. Nobody was talking or moving for like 30mins - we were all just spaced out. I was starting to suspect they had fallen asleep or this was some kind of CIA mind game. Finally I asked if we were going to be leaving soon and my father seemed surprised I was in such a rush.

Speaking of spaced out I have seen lot's of people taking naps at work. This one guy would put his head down on the desk and pass out every time no one spoke to him for 5mins. Apparently I am not the only one who needs a nap at work...=-)

Well I better jet as I am tying up the only computer in this small office. I am off to New Market to look around and do a bit of shopping. I am pretty stoked for my scooter ride back to the apartment tonight - I bet it will be more ridiculous than any acid trip.

Friday, January 07, 2005

Singapore Sling

I am still in the Singapore Int'l airport - did I mention how great this place is? Free high speed internet, free lan games (Halo2 etc...), clean, modern waiting areas with super comfy seats....LAX could learn a thing or two from these guys.

The exchange rate is pretty good at 1.6 SD to the USD. Lot's of shopping, but nothing of interest to me - having a small backpack is a great way to save $$$ - there is no point buying something you have to carry around with you the whole time.

Ther best part though is that I have already had two separate meals! I had a BBQ noodle bowl at one place - yummy! And then went directly to another restaurant and had - papadams, veg biriyani, aloo gobi, two kinds of dahl (sp?). All of which was $7US w/ a drink. I tried to score some naan, but they didn't want to sell it a la carte - only with certain dinners???

One odd thing so far is that all the advertising aimed at women has used white western models even though the majority of the women around me are Indian or Asian - seems strange to me. Also all the signs are in the local language and English - most people at the airport speak English - making it quite painless to travel.

Well I have 4.5hrs till my flight - I think I will settle in for some Halo2.

So I ran into Tom - my flightmate yogi and he let me have shower in his airport hotel room. That was super nice since it cost him extra to add me to the room. I feel like million bucks and am super glad I packed some extra clothes in my carry on luggage. Well I can't complain about how this holiday is starting. Meeting a cool person off the bat sure put me in a great mood. I will definitley have to repay his kindness when I visit him in Mysore. It is great how yoga not only is good for your mind & body, but it connects you to wicked people all over the world.

Okay well I found out that the airport spa gives free 10mins massages to anyone with a boarding pass and they also have a wicked koi pond in the airport. So much to do!

Another round or exploration has uncovered a free movie theatre, an outdoor roof top garden, free wireless broadband access and Bombay Saphire is offering free martini tastings. If you ever have to have a long layover this is the airport to do it in. I think I may plan a two day layover on the way back so I have enough time to take in everything!

Time Travel

Well by my watch it is 21:30hrs 7 Jan Calgary time, but I think the local time here in Singapore is 12:30hrs 8 Jan. I have no idea - how long I have been flying, but it feels like forever. On the brightside Singapore Airlines - rocks! Big seats, wide isles, great entertainment, good food and fantastic service. I have zero complaints about the flights so far. I need to kill 6hrs here and then about 4hrs in the air and I will be in Kolkata.

I am stoked to be on the move, but I would kill for a shower and 5hrs horizontal!

Well I am off to find some noodles - I have a craving to satisfy!

Oh ya - I met a cool guy next to me on the plane over. Tom is a registered nurse from CO USA heading to Mysore for 3 months with Patabis Jois (sp?) doing ashtanga. I think I will pass through Mysore in Feb to see how he is doing and check out the yoga school.



Wednesday, January 05, 2005

Moontribe & NYE

Three Amigos! Posted by Hello

Wow - that holiday went fast. Joshua Tree was beautiful and kooky in a Dr. Seuss sort of way. Moontribe was a blast - wonderful location and great music to dance the night & day away. We also made a cool new friend in the desert - hola Sonja!

We spent NYE in a forest near LA dancing to some crazy psy trance - Treavor was fantastic as usual.

The drive home to Calgary sucked as we had a bit of a storm to deal with, but it was nice to be back home for a couple days. Thanks to Dwayne & Anna for doing all the driving!

I only had enough time to do laundry and tie up some loose ends before I leave for India tomorrow. I can't believe I am finally leaving after all the time spent thinking about this trip. The -23 deg C weather has certainly not made me wish I was staying in Calgary.

Have a great winter - my next post will be from the other side of the world.