Monday, August 2, 2010

Surviving India on granola bars and fried rice

Hey All!

I know Caroline and I have been a little crazy posting everyday. But we are kind of using our blogs as our travel journal for now. On our trip we have asked our friends to be guest bloggers. First up is Tom! I know it's long, but if you choose to read anything read this! I almost peed my pants laughing at his funny trip notes. Please read, please enjoy, and please don't judge me and Liney!


- An important pre-cursor to keep in mind is that the only "research" I did prior to this trip was watch Slumdog Millionaire. No books, internet, or anything else. This makes me probably the least qualified person to jot down random thoughts about India.
- With the vast number of cows roaming the streets of India, I can't help but wonder whether cow tipping really works, or if it's an urban legend. Really tempting to try to find out, but probably not a good idea.
- Also not a good idea? Trying to eat concealed beef jerky on a plane bound for Delhi. They can smell it. This would have been the biggest scandal to hit India all week, had it not been for Caroline's "rinsing" incident. She is now the Heidi Montag of India.
- Manhattan cab drivers have got nothing on Indian drivers. There is a blatant disregard for traffic laws, lanes, and general human safety on the roads over here. No "oh crap" handles to help you out either.
- Based on a scan of the Matrimonials section of the newspaper, and discussions with our tour guide, turns out the key to landing a hot wife in India is to be a movie star, athelete, or doctor. Just like America.
- Personal observations reveal that in India, if you're a blonde gal with big... err... brains, you can also get whatever you want. Also just like America.
- Indians love curry. Not a surprise. What's truly impressive is their creative use of curry, which can be found in everything. Including veggie burgers.
- Caroline is reportedly a cover stealer. Make sure you use the "tuck-under" technique, or you will be left out in the cold.
- Leslie is also a cover stealer. Which creates an interesting dilemma. Should a guy, a) snuggle in close to get under the covers as to not disturb her sleep, but risk a potentially awkward moment when she wakes up? Or b) try to steal back the covers so that you're not left out in the cold, but risk waking her up and earning the wrath of a tired woman the whole next day?
- I recommend c) snuggle in closer, and then in the morning, completely overplay how cold it was when she stole the covers so that she feels guilty, thereby earning you sympathy credits, which you can maybe parlay into a massage at a future time.
- Note to Leslie's mom, who reads this blog. I was just kidding. Your sweet, innocent daughter slept in an all-girls wing by herself every night, and she loves you dearly. But she did claim to "do every guy in the ward".
- Note to Leslie's dad. I am not in her ward. And she was referring to hair.
- The Hindu religion believes in three main gods: a Giver (creator), an Operator, and a Destroyer of the world. Clever acronym. I can understand the first two, but why would you worship a destroyer? I like it when someone creates (bakes) a cheesecake for me. I like it when someone operates (serves) that cheesecake for me, preferably with fresh strawberries on top. But I'd be peeved if a third person came along and smashed their fist into my cheescake and destroyed it.
- Also interesting to note the three main Hindu gods have wives, or goddesses. They represent power, wealth, and intelligence. We now know who wears the pants in those families.
- What walks around on four legs but has no ears? Mike Tyson's dog. Found in the gossip section of an Indian newspaper.
- I would have imagined the combination of curry, humidity, aversion to deoderants, and generally dodgy living conditions would not be conducive to hooking up. The population density here seems to indicate otherwise.
- The Maharaja is the original player. He had twelve wives, each in a different apartment within his palace, and he built secret passages that allowed him to go from one place to the next without being seen. The kicker? The wives were forbidden from talking to each other.
- Elephant droppings are huge. But don't smell near as bad as human feces on the streets.
- Two men holding hands is perfectly acceptable, and very common, in Indian culture. However, a man and a woman showing affection in public is frowned upon. Not quite sure what to make of this.
- Three men riding on one motorcycle is a sight that will also make you do a double-take.
- Indian men love to take photos of white American girls. Some try to do it without them noticing. Others are far more blatant, and will follow the girls around snapping photos, papparazzi style. It's all fun and games, until you a take photo of them taking photos of the girls. Then they get all confused and upset.
- Leslie has no heart. And Caroline is the little devil that sits on her shoulder, whispering into her ear. Together, they're one bangle-tastic pair.
- Not a revelation, more a re-affirmation. People aren't always completely rational when something is on sale. Logistically, it's pretty hard to use three quilts when you only have one bed.
- It's interesting how we'll spend 30 minutes haggling down the price of a souvenir by $3.50 when we're overseas. This works out to be roughly the equivalent of minimum wage. Yet, there is such satisfaction to be derived from this perceived success. I like to think of it as time well wasted.
- Everybody loves K-Ci and JoJo.
- Due to the cast (or class) system in Indian culture, people of lower casts such as our bus driver are not allowed to enter the hotels or restaurants we go to. This makes me feel really bad. The interesting thing is, I had a chance to have an hour long conversation with him while the others were shopping. Turns out he is a very happy and content man, and loves his job of driving tourists around, then going home to his wife and 7 year old twins in Punjab. Further proof that happiness is really not about having what you want, but rather wanting what you have.
- Traditional Indian garb for women is very colorful and looks really comfortable. It was also unexpectedly attractive, in an odd way. The girls on the trip rocked their outfits. Traditional Indian garb for men, on the other hand, was very rigid, hot, and uncomfortable.
- I have seen an inordinate number of Indian men peeing on the sides of the streets all over India. Yet, I have not seen a single woman needing to relieve herself. Until Caroline.
- Our bus got a flat tire in the middle of a rural town. Luckily, we were right near a tire store. I was impressed by how willing to help out the locals were. Not so impressive? About five different workers each took turns looking at the tire before transferring it to the next guy, thereby taking an hour to resolve a routine issue. Note that many call centers are also located in India.
- We did not see a single tiger on our safari ride through the tiger preserve. However, off-roading through the jungles of India is a spectacular experience that should not be missed.
- The number of Indians that can fit onto one bus is truly impressive. Yes, I meant "onto", not "into", because they literally put people on top of the bus once the interior is jam packed.
- For cheap amusement, wait until Leslie falls asleep. Then quietly sneak into the room with a small twig, and imitate a bug crawling from her neck up to her face. She's a screamer.
- Customer service at its finest out in rural India. In the morning, a dude knocked on our door. "Good morning! This is your wake up call! Weather is beautiful! It's raining outside!". Except we never ordered a wake up call.
- Kudos to Caroline for being so willing to embrace local customs. She has eschewed cutlery and now eats rice and curry using just her right hand. I just hope she hasn't taken on all local customs, which would explain why she couldn't use her left hand.
- As an act of diplomacy, I recommend the US donate and plant one billion venus fly-traps in India. It would improve US foreign relations, while saving tourists from feeling like a giant piece of poo. Not to mention, those plants would feel like a fat kid in a candy store out here. Win-win all around.
- They're not messing around with their garlic naan out here. Ask Leslie. She may have a hard time finding a roommate tonight.
- Best meal of the week? Pizza Hut.
- It costs 20 rupees for a local to visit the Taj Mahal. Foreigners? 750 rupees.
- The Mogul King, Shah Jahan, built the Taj Mahal in loving memory of his third wife, Mumtaz Mahal, who died giving birth to their fourteenth child. The palace took 22 years to build and is one of the most breathtaking sights I have ever seen anywhere in the world. This ultimate monument to love is the pride and joy of the entire nation, and rightfully so.
- I especially love the fact that, as far as I know, the Taj Mahal is the only world monument built to celebrate someone other than the builder or ruler of the land. The selflessness really hit home for me upon entering the main tomb, where Mumtaz's marble coffin sits in the absolute center. Shah Jahan had his own coffin placed next to her's upon his passing, so that they could be together forever, in paradise, which is what the Taj Mahal was built to represent.
- Nice work, Shah Jahan. Way to make all other men feel like schmucks. As if we didn't feel enough pressure already.
- Little Indian boys can be surprisingly confident and charming. Pretty good negotiators too. That's why they are given the job of trying to sell stuff to tourists. A couple of particularly persistent young boys did a number on "Kelara" and "Lassie", and almost got themselves American girlfriends.
- This week has been a life changing experience that is truly beyond words. Among all the vibrant colors of the handicrafts, to the awe inspiring architecture of the majestic temples, the one memory of India that I will never forget is the spirit of the people. India may be an impoverished nation, but its people are rich on pride and tradition. Living in the humblest of conditions with seemingly little hope for a better tommorow, the people remain upbeat and congenial, even to outsiders. They exhibit such strength and perseverance in their everyday lives, while remaining true to their culture, beliefs, and family. Here's to hoping some of that rubs off on me.

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