Wednesday, January 04, 2006

A week in

It's been a while, eh? I've overcome the jet lag, thankfully. It was not fun at all. I had my New Years Party! Let me tell ya, my New Years Party was the hottest thing in Holland, Michigan and the surrounding areas. I had so many people show up, there was so much food, people were playing games, smoking the huka, talking, listening to music, and having fun! The rule was "No drunkenness, puking or breaking things." And everyone respected that, and we had drinks, but no one was drunk. It was perfect. We went down to the beach after midnight and I was running around, blowing the horn and saying, "It's 2006 and I'm in AMERICA!!!" and hugging my friends and I had a cigarette and wow...it was just so much fun. Too much fun.

But...on the flip side. We woke up, cleaned up and moved out of the cottage, went to IHOP, and I discovered that my life is empty and has no purpose. I was just sitting there, trying to think of what is next for me...ya know, what is my next activity, what do I need to prepare for, where do I need to go, who do I need to see and so on and so forth. And I realized....nothing....I have no activities, I have nothing to be prepared for, I have nowhere I need to go, I have no one I need to see. It's over. My exciting, welcome home week in the States is done and I have nothing. It's a very depressing thought. I put my head on Moosh's shoulder and said, "I think I'm experiencing a bit of re-entry shock right now," and she stroked my head and was a good friend. I have good friends. I had so much fun at IHOP. Dave and I labeled ourselves Egg Buddies because our moms were roommates in college, so we were together as eggs long ago. And the road salt camo...oh my gosh...Dave is so funny and Leah is so sweet and Kari is so clever and Moosh is so genuine and Dan is so gentle and Slosh is so thoughtful and oh...I love my friends. My parents, no love there, though...my dad laughed, said it was interesting to hear me talking like that, and then my mom told me she was jealous of me and that I should think of it as a blank slate and I should be hopeful. Aaaiiiiiissh...just let me be.

I've slowly been going to all the places and seeing all the people I've wanted to see. Yesterday I went to a mall. That was interesting, considering the kind of shopping I've been doing in India, and how shopping is in Korea. And there are so many white people. And there are a lot of strange dressing folk. I think I've lost part of my ability to see a person's clothes and within the culture, understand the statement they're trying to make. I mean, who can miss the goths and preps and punks, but the inbetween folk, I'm a little lost. Oh well, that's probably for the best, right? And my stomach is taking time to adjust. I'm eating less, and I'm eating more slowly. Let me tell you, I miss Toreore chicken. I could really go for some of that.

And the accent. People talk strange here. They talk through their noses. I remember meeting people from the south in the USA, and they don't have accents because they've tried to get rid of their accent. I think I'm going to try to do the same. The Midwestern accent is kinda cute and quaint sometimes, but generally not the way I'd like to sound all the time. So I'm working on abolishing some of the really nasally sounds from my accent. It's a very strange experience for me to actually be hearing all the sounds and for me to think they sound strange, and maybe it's partly coming from 3 weeks with Aussies, but I'd like to soften my speech a bit.

So I'm just trying to find a job. I'm getting good ideas from people about ideas of where I could possibly get work that might be good for me. Because other than the news stations, I don't really know where to apply. If you have any ideas, let me know! My friend Katie just got married a few days ago, and she has this place in GR with her husband, and the bottom floor of the house is empty, so I'm really really hoping I will be able to move in there. They also go to the church I'd like to begin attending. And Zach might be coming with me to Sigur Ros in February! So that's what I'm hoping for shelter.

So there's my update on life in these United States.

Monday, December 26, 2005

NO MORE COUNTING


or at least until life gets a bit boring and I have to find something new to count down to....

So I made it home, after 31 hours of traveling, and 34 1/2 hours of Christmas. Right now I'm pretty wired...thank you jet lag. I think I'm going to raid the kitchen, start some laundry and begin the awesome job of unpacking.

Thursday, December 22, 2005

Day 19: Varanasi

Namaste from Varanasi. It's a very interesting city. It's on the banks of the Ganges river (aka Ganga), and they believe that Shiva never leaves this part of the river...or something like that, so it's very holy and they bathe in it every day. The bathing places are called ghats. And they have burning ghats, too, where they creamate bodies. We saw them bring down dead bodies on these wood stretcher things. They put them in an organized pile of wood, then light it on fire. Then there are guys who poke at the body until it's all burned up. It's pretty eerie. I saw a charred torso and skull yesterday. Very eerie. This morning we took a boat ride on the Ganges for the sunrise and the whole coast line is so facinating. People bathing, washing clothes, worshipping, etc.

I have no idea what today holds, but hopefully at some point a nap and a crossword puzzle on the roof over a banana lassi.

Home in THREE DAYS!

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Day 18: Varanasi

Hello from Varanasi. We just arrived at 7 this morning by overnight train. Raj expected us to arrive around noon, so it was a shock when we all had to wake up at 6:30am and pack up and get off the train. Now we're just killing time until our rooms open up around midday.

So since I last posted, I've seen the Taj Mahal! We spent one day in Agra, just to see the Taj. I didn't really know what the hype was about...and I guess a lot of people on our tour had no idea what it was. One girl thought you could stay in it, that it had restaurants and stuff...but it's just a tomb, in case you didn't know, that this Shah built for his favorite wife. But I saw what all the fuss is about. It's just a gorgeous building. We were awestruck. It's white marble and it has red, green, yellow and black marble inlaid in these intricate floral patterns. It's perfectly symmetrical. It is just like nothing I have ever seen. It's like this huge, gorgeous, white, flawless, artistic, pure, floating, unreal building in the middle of India. Amazing. Stunning.

So we spent about 2 hours there yesterday morning, then I went to the Agra Fort in the afternoon with Carrie and Melanie, which was very cool. Then Melanie and I went to the Baby Taj Mahal, which was quite stunning in itself, just a lot smaller. We had to take a cycle rickshaw...or at least, that's what Raj arranged for us, and the guy would not leave us until we were back at the hotel. It was a very long, bumpy, and stressful journey, and we just wanted an auto rickshaw, but he just would not let us go. So we had to hang on for dear life and be navigated through the hectic streets by bicycle rickshaw...oh, it was an adventure. Then at night, we went to this park place behind the Taj, along the Yamuna river (the second holiest river after the Ganges). We even got a boat ride across to the other side. It was very cool. But the dust and fog and pollution and stuff made the sunset pretty unclear. Nevertheless, it was a good time. At one point, even magical, when the boat guy was singing a song and we were all silent and watching the Taj in the fading sunlight. Magical.

So I'm trying to seize the day and take advantage of my last few days in India, because it really is like nothing I've ever experienced. This trip has just been...so...so....good...for lack of a better word. This country is just....wow...and everything is just so....interesting. There's always something...like last night, we had to wait 2 hours for the train, and the platform across from us had about 100,000 birds just chilling on some wires and everytime a cart would go by or something, they would all start chirping and it would be almost deafening. Strange things like that...random, random things. Like the guy in the street in Udaipur. He had about 3 blocks of wood and as we walked by, he shouted, "Hey, campfire! Everyone's invited!" Or in Jaisalmer, "My keyboard is waiting for your lovely fingers!" or when I stepped off the bus in Pushkar and into a nice little pile of dried cow dung. Or the stray dog that just laid down at my feet around the fire in Pushkar. It has just been 3 weeks of constant assault on my senses. Beauty and filth. Wealth and poverty. Humans and animals. And on and on...

...but I can't wait to go home...

Sunday, December 18, 2005

Day 15: Jaipur

Hello all. Our guesthouse has an easily accessible and reasonable fast internet connection, so here I am again, though with not too much to update. Raj is off in Delhi taking some tour guide test and we have Sumeel as a replacement. Poor guy has 10 girls criticizing his every move. Well, maybe nine because I feel bad that everyone is bashing him just because we have the best tour guide in the whole world. Who can live up to that? Today we went to Amber Fort and bought tickets for Neal & Nikky which should be interesting. I think I'm reaching my quota of forts. It's like the temples in Korea. You see one, you've seen them all. But the forts here are so beautiful. What I found interesting today was the 30 minute local bus we took there. That was a riot. One guy drove and the other guy leaned out the window and yelled "Amberamberamberamberamber poona" or whatever fort is in Hindi. And whenever someone wanted to get on, the bus driver kinda pulled over and people hopped on, and the yelling guy would collect a few rupees from him. That bus we took was like a big shag wagon or something, with benches all around the inside. It was interesting, that's for sure.

Oh yeah, and I lost my journal. There are only so many places a notebook can hide in my luggage and I'm pretty sure it's not there. When Raj gets here, I'm going to see if he'll call the Purple Garden and see if they found it, and maybe I can have them pay to send it to me, because I will be very sad if it's lost forever. I had two weeks worth of journal in there, including the start of an Aussie-American dictionary, and hand drawn maps of America and parts of Canada, and my name in Hindi, and the Hindi alphabet, and....awww....I just can't lose that!! I think I'll go tear apart my luggage now. See ya'll soon!

Saturday, December 17, 2005

Day 14: Jaipur

What is this? Anonymously pick on Renae's spelling blog? I usually re-read my entries multiple times to check for grammar and spelling errors, but I've got better things to do with my time these days. So there...bugger off.

Last night was a riot. We hung out around the Sun-Set Cafe, which is always a riot...seeing all the hippie tourists. Apparently, Pushkar attracts all the hippies in the world and they all shop for clothes there. So, this one hippie from Switzerland rolls in with a guitar on his back, and he played 12 string guitar for us while we sat around the fire. Need I say, it was one of those magical, international moments. So many different people, so many different countries and cultures, coming together to enjoy a fire and some really good live music. Campfires are magical to me anyways, but this one was extra special. And it was a real campfire, in a little metal thing in the middle of the street on the banks of the holy lake...which apparently is filled with huge eels and turtles. And we talked music, and I bought a bunch of amazing Indian music CDs and got a few copied. I have some great stuff, guys...some really great stuff. You'll all hear it, I'm sure, if you're in the vicinity of me within the next month or so.

It's almost one week till I go home. Yeah. One week, folks. I'm about flipping out. I don't know that I actually believe it. I was thinking again today on the bus, like usual, about it....and I'm so nervous. I don't know what to expect, I don't know what everyone else will expect of me, I don't know what I'm going to do, who I will spend time with. I just don't know what will happen. I'm sure I will soon see how much I've changed in the presence of the people who have known me so well for so long. I'm just very...nervous...nervous...nervous. I'm going to be a mess...

Day 13: Pushkar

Hey all. I'm in Pushkar in the back of our favorite restaurant, Sun-Set Cafe. You can sit on the porch and watch the sun set against the holy lake and the temple on the hill. So we've done that two nights in a row now. I really, REALLY like Pushkar. It's a hindu holy town, and many hindus come here for pilgrimages. But, also, many very hippie like tourists hang out here. Tonight I've met a very interesting crowd, including another Swiss guy with dreads. He played the guitar around the campfire that the restaurant provides every night. This place is hilarious. Apparently there's this stray dog that they have kind of adopted...well, since it was a puppy. And it gets its own chair around the fire every night. Seeing all the strays around here, then seeing the one dog treated like royalty is really funny.

This morning we hiked up to the temple on the hill. It's a temple for one of Brahma's wives, but I didn't go in. We just hiked up there for the sunrise, which was spectacular. Then, we hung out and drank chai and watched the monkies. We saw a bunch of monkies on the way to Jojawar, and they are so much fun to watch! One of them knocked over the penguin shaped garbage can. It was hilarious. I have some video of it. Also, in Jojawar, Melissa fell off a horse, and we walked through the town and collected about 50 Indian kids like the Pied Piper. But Pushkar has really been a good place. It has done a lot of damage to my wallet, too. I spent about 2000R today, which is only about 40 bucks, but I've bought a whole lotta stuff...awesome shirts, CDs, necklaces, etc. etc. I have so much cool stuff...you'll see it all pretty soon, cuz I'm a-coming home!!

Anyways, time is short. Tomorrow I need to get up early and we're off to Jaipur. Raj's hometown, unfortunatly, he has to make a run to Delhi for a tour guide test, so he won't be there. We've grown quite attached to our Indian guide. He's like a brother/dad, depending on how responsible we are. To me, he's like a brother, because I don't forget things and I can take care of myself. To Rachel and Emma, the 18 year olds, he is their dad, always asking if they left their key and packed their stuff properly. Although, I reckon to Carrie, he's like a son, since she's the oldest on the tour. Anyways, Raj is the bomb and we love him. So email me anytime.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Day 10: Udaipur

Yes, mother, henna is safe. I've had henna in the US before. It's from a plant and it just dies your skin and goes away after a few weeks or so. You can get henna everywhere, they use it a lot during weddings here. I don't know for sure that that comment came from my mom, but I'm pretty sure that's something she'd ask. :0)

So I've had my courses in Indian stuff. As Carrie said, "They'll make Indian housewives of us yet!" We learned how to cook lots of good food, so hopefully when I get home, I can find the proper spices and make some good food for ya'll. I know I can whip up a cup of real chai, Indian style, because I bought some. I don't like tea or coffee, but I like Indian chai. And when I get home, prepared for the henna monster. I am SO eager to become a henna enthusiast. I plan to make a huge book of designs and stuff and paint myself up all the time. So far, I have a henna necklace, a foot design, a design on the palm of my left hand, and a design on the back of my right hand. I did the one on my palm. Everyone says I'm a natural, but we'll see about that. They concocted my whole future for me today at lunch...open an Indian shop, do henna and cook Indian food, but I'd have to buy lots more baggy clothes. Then I can bring Indian children over and have them help in my shop and sell Indian stuff and then every year I can write off my trip to India on my taxes as business. So that's the plan they made for me.

Today we're just chilling in the afternoon (hopefully I can do the crossword and su-doku puzzle), then watching Octopussy at a restaurant at 7pm. I have never heard of this movie before, but it was filmed here in Udaipur, and everyone is quite proud of it, so almost all the restaurants show it...like, on a daily basis. And oh yeah...apparently Bill Gates was in India for a few days (there was a big article in the newspaper about how he's bringing more jobs to India in the next few years) and he stopped by in Udaipur! That's what the cooking guy said last night.

Anyways...off to draw some designs for future henna exploits.