Mornings In India How to Survive Without Coffee

02 Aug 2009 ::

I love coffee, especially in the morning: dark, rich, robust, strong and hot. Rumour has it that good coffee is hard to find in India. Tea is the drink of choice. Lots and lots of tea, but no coffee. Chai, chai everywhere but not a drop of coffee. Chai with sugar. Chai with milk. But forget the java. I guess a girl will have to accept the inevitable, and drink tea. This tea won’t be the insipid drink found on supermarket shelves in North America with ridiculous names and no flavour. No, this tea will be brewed in vats, and liberally laced with sugar. I think I will learn to like it, but not love it.

Anticipation The Opposite of Cipation

02 Aug 2009 ::

What ever could be wrong with where we are right now? Well, for one thing, it is cold and damp. For another, it is damp and cold. There are mounds of white, fat water and ice, not even nice but sullen and dirty, with toxic smears of traffic. Uuug. We are determined not to be here this winter.

Follow the yellow brick road to warmer climes, and sweat, and dung, and throngs, and colour, a panic of colours. Richard has been to India many times. I lose count. But I have never been. It is a photographer’s paradise. I have seen so many photos of India from many different people and many different cameras that I am almost convinced it is difficult to take bad photos in India. Almost.

My favourite documentary is “The Story of India”. The images are stunning. The narrator is clearly in love with the country, it’s history, it’s people. Vicariously, I too love India. It’s time to get the real experience.

Plan? What Plan? When the going hasn't even begun.

02 Sep 2009 ::

Yes. It is finally true. We are going to India! Our tickets confirm that we leave January 12th 2010 for two glorious months in the sun.

So, the plan was to leave in December 2008. Then it moved to January 2009. But it turned out for the best, because there’s a very big festival on the Ganges in 2010: millions bathe in its waters to wash away Karma. And we’ll avoid the ridiculous winter Olympic hype here. That’s the plan anyhow. The rest – vaccines, paperwork, reservations – demands our attention.

The festival is Kumbha Mela, and in 2010 it is held at Haridwar (north of Delhi) in the foothills of the Himalayas. The next time this festival occurs in Haridwar is 2021. I’m just exhausted thinking about this festival. Why? Read on.

Kumbha Mela occurs four times every twelve years, rotating between four cities: Allahabad at the confluence of the Ganges, Yamuna and the mythical Saraswati Rivers; Nasik on the Godavari River, Ujjain on the Sipra River, and Hardwar on the Ganges.

Bathing in these rivers during the Kumbha Mela cleanses both body and spirit. Attendance has been anywhere from 5 to 18 million, making the Kumbha Mela the largest religious gathering in the world.  The festival is traditionally known as the “mela of the ascetics and sadhus” because thousands of naked holy men from various sects immerse themselves in the river at the start of the ceremony. This is where we plan to be. Yep. Certified crazy we are.

Ouch! On Sore Arms & Other Impositions

12 Dec 2009 ::

Centuries ago, the brave few travelled afar without the benefit of inoculations. If they returned, they probably picked up immunity along the way. Travel back then was a much slower affair. Today, however, it is faster than a speeding bullet, and the ramifications are different. Our bodies have not evolved to adjust to the speedier modes of transportation.

Consider all the possible contagions, bacteria and bugs that live in remote countries that our bodies have not met. Exposure to these foreigners cause any number of discomforts: diarrhea, nausea, pain, rash, etc. Some can lead to death: encephalitis, malaria, cholera, typhoid, dengue, etc. Modern medicine can inoculate travellers to most of these disease-baring critters, but there are a plethora of precautions the modern-day traveller must also take: insect repellents, sunblock, mosquito nets…

My mind boggles. I go for “simple” vaccinations and sit through an hour-long presentation of diseases, their causes, and what precautions I must take to protect myself from infection. Then I get the vaccinations, but not the seasonal or H1N1 flu shots. That I have to get elsewhere. These shots are not free. The vaccine for encephalitis is about $300. Fortunately, I didn’t need that one. The ouch factor is directly proportional to the cost factor.

Just in case you think that’s all there is to it, think again. Apparently, motor vehicle accidents are the leading cause of injury for travellers in India. One web site recommended the following:

  1. avoid drinking and driving;
  2. wear your safety belt;
  3. follow the local customs and laws regarding pedestrian safety and vehicle speed;
  4. obey the rules of the road;
  5. avoid boarding an overloaded bus or mini-bus;
  6. where possible, hire a local driver.

These recommendations assume that there are safety belts in all Indian vehicles, that there are laws or rules of the road, that the locals obey those laws or rules, that there is such a thing as an uncrowded bus, and that the driver you hire adheres to the first recommendation. HA!

For the most current health information for India visit the CDC web site.

Unnatural Flight Speeding Across the Skies

18 Dec 2009 ::

I don’t have a fear of flying. At least, not in my dreams, because when I fly in my dreams, I’m never in an airplane. Never. I make like a bird, flap my arms and I fly. I’ve even been in hot-air balloons in my dreams. And that is a mind expanding experience.

What I do have is a fear of flying in a cramped, steel behemoth with hundreds of other passengers. It’s unnatural. There’s something ultimately disquieting about those massive airplanes. They perpetuate societal class structures. They are never comfortable on long journeys. Everybody’s germs circulate in the pressurized cabin. The pillows are tiny and flat. The seats are made for anorexic dwarfs. There’s no play area for the children to work off their energy rather than screaming in frustration at having to sit still. These are common complaints.

I am more distressed by the disconnect of flying. In my dreams, I can enjoy the landscape from above, but I can set down any time I like to explore, talk to locals, or rest in the shade. Not so in a real airplane. Well, yes, one does land from time to time, but airports are consumer havens, hardly a traveller’s delight.

Before jets, there was no jet lag. We had time to enjoy the journey, and even have some adventures. I do not look forward to the 13-hour trip to Hong Kong, the 4-hour wait, and the 7-hour trip to Chennai. At least on the trip home, we stop in Bangkok for three days. In any case, I plan to knock myself out with sleeping pills. The rest? I’ll have to distract myself by reading, crocheting or watching a movie. Next time, I’m taking a ship.