Asia 2009 − 2010

Miscellaneous 2008 − 2009

Bolivia, August 2008

India, Oct 2007 − Mar 2008

Vietnam, Apr 2007 − Sept 2007

Thailand, Oct 2006 − Mar 2007

Miscellaneous 2007

India, Oct 2007 − Mar 2008

Monday, October 22, 2007 − Mad TV Skit

Sometimes life is so bizarre that you wonder have to look around and wonder if you have fallen into a Television series. Let me relate real situations here in India.

First scenario: I was delighted to find ice cream shops here in Fort Cochin. I walk in and ask what flavors they have since there is no glass case for pointing nor list displayed. The clerk who is probably the owner asks what flavor I want so I tell him mint chocolate chip suspecting that I myself am on crack for even uttering this exotic flavor in this exotic land. He says they don't have it and tells me the flavors. I try something with cashews in it. A few days later I walk into the same shop with the same man and I ask what flavors he has. Again he asks what I want and again I ask for mint. This time however without hesitation he launches into the list and I pick a strange but fruity sounding ice cream that tastes a bit like black cherry.

Second scenario: I go into a restaurant which I was in the day before. Ask to see the menu. I ask if they have everything and he tells me to ask him and he will tell me if it is available. So I ask for peas marsala which I think I see someone eating. The guy says peas marsala or vegetable korma. I say whatever since I think this is his way of saying no peas marsala. Then I think I am suppose to order some type of naan like thing to go with it, so I ask which they have and again he says ask me and I will tell you if it is available. So I point at one on the menu. I am told they don't have it. So I ask what I should get to go with it. And he says ask and he will tell me if they have it. By this point I am about to choke the fat whisky smelling flirting old guy. "Well, what should I get," I snarl. And he spews this list of which I only recognize two items one of which is exactly like flour tortillas so I get the other one. He is really interested in my order and wants to rehash the whole thing but I shooed him away with that's fine just bring me anything.

I thought the first one was some strange anomaly with the ice cream shop but I have come to believe it is some weird India thing because I have had other similar experiences. I am sure for the locals they know exactly what they will be serving at what time of the day but for me it is all a mystery, one which will remain so.

Off topic but a funny little moment… the fat stinky old waiter is telling me my bill is 38rupees (about $1) while moving his eyes and eyebrows in this presumably sexy manner. I look him dead in the eye unsmiling. We are the same height. I hand him the money looking away. He gets flustered and isn't sure if he should hand me the change which he wants to do so he can possibly touch me or if he should put it in the ticket tray. He opts for the ticket tray. A wise choice since I was going to make him put on the counter so I could pick it up.

Monday, November 5, 2007 − No McGever, a humbling experience

One evening, as usual, I was out at the retreat on the island. Kashi has 2 locations: one in town and one on an island in the backwaters. The rum-swilling guys I thought would be back later, probably around 9pm but given the communication situation here i.e. people barely speak English I couldn't be certain. The naughty boys from next door had stolen my clay which I had been soaking for days to get the right consistency for a project. I was pissed and slammed my room door. A bit later I tried to go in but the door wouldn't budge. Oh, shit. I was locked out and what if the boys didn't come back at all or worse, what if I had to tell them I was locked out and they would have to "save" me or they didn't return and I would have to call the less than nurturing Dorrie and Anupe at 10pm for help. Eek. It had two "locks": a sliding piece of wood and a piece of wood that flipped over into catches. I could tell by pushing on it that it was the latch on top but I couldn't remember which type of latch it was. I thought it was the one that flipped over. I knew what I needed was a metal spatula type thing that my momma had when I was growing up. I could slip in between the two halves of the door and just run it up and the latch would be knocked open but of course this was India where the morning milk was delivered in a rum bottle. So, I thought "hey I can do this. I am smart. I am creative" but really it was the terror of telling these guys what had happened that motivated me to ingenuity. First I got a knife but realized that the two halves of the door didn't connect in a straight line but more like an S joint. So, I cut up a plastic water bottle and ran it up the crack. It wasn't moving and it slipped between the door and latch. That wasn't going to work. Onto plan B. I went around to the back window, with my keychain flashlight which I just happened to have on me. I couldn't really see that much but I thought I could get a long pole and nudge it up using a bit of leverage from the sill. I found a long piece of wood. After trying to maneuver it beyond the mosquito net, I realized it was too short. So I went in search of another. I found one but this one crack off. I got still one more, this really wasn't the US the land of plenty but not plenty of 10ft poles. I tried and tried to move the latch up. Eventually I decided that the latch was really the sliding type. So I figured I would just have to whack the one end a good one and it would free itself. So I'd hit it and then go around and check the door. Nothing. Over and over I tried. I had thought I was so clever with my mini flashlight and long rod. I was going to beat this damn lock situation, or be humiliated yet again for being some dumb girl. I got a chair for a better angle. I got a candle so I could see better. Still nothing. Then one of the guys showed up. Thankfully he was one of the ones who speaks essentially no English so he couldn't ask questions but he was one of the too friendly guys, if you know what I mean. I showed him the door and he jiggled it roughly and wala, it opened. Ugh, that is all it took was a bit of "man handling" which added insult to injury. I felt truly humbled, and humiliated. It certainly could've been worse. He could've read my mind and known that I was freaking out, or been able to say to me in words and not just in eye rolls and smirks "you poor helpless foreign woman."

Wednesday, November 14, 2007 − Island Wedding


One night the guys and I went over to dinner for a wedding that was to happen the next day. Sound like fun. When we arrived, all the men were staring from their corner, as I had expected but then all the women and children crowded around me. And stared. They don't speak English except the kids say hello and asked me my name a million times. At one point I had them chanting my name "Ka-Thy Ka-Thy Ka-Thy". That was fun but talk about intimidating. I didn't know what I was supposed to do. I couldn't speak to them. They just stood around me staring. So, I just smiled. And said how beautiful the bride was. She is the young women in the foreground.

Sunday, November 18, 2007 − Bengalore

A couple of days in Bengalore: first a mini tech conference and then some sightseeing. The tech conference was interesting. Not the tech but the people. It was refreshing to see a different class of Indian. These were neat, clean, well dressed and well mannered, and fluent English speakers and let me add that these geeks were not nearly at the level of geekiness that one would encounter in the States. I am not even sure they Indian since they didn't stare endlessly.

Sightseeing took place on a Sunday so the public buildings were closed but they were still interesting and we also went and saw a palace which I think was suppose to be a replica of Windsor Castle. It was cool but desperately in need of some TLC. I realize that this picture is a bit strange but they were emphatic that we not take pictures so we had to sort of snap and run.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007 − Auroville − Commune


Auroville, a hippie village. I believe it started in the 60s as a commune but now it is an intentional community with some big ball meditation center at its center which still isn't complete. The hall is to have a giant crystal ball for people to mediate on. It made me sneer with cynicism and then giggle at my own cynicism. They have an interesting history in that they took a large plot of land that had been stripped of all vegetation and lay waste and transformed it back into a plush jungle and farming area. Really amazing. It was started by some French woman called "Mother" who was somehow affiliated with a guru in Pondicherry. They are both dead now. Now the deal is that people are buying houses and either working with the village or having outside incomes from which they make supporting donations. They had created dams for irrigation, organic farms and cottage industries. They use some solar power and have harnessed biogas. It's interesting but let me be really clear. It rained the whole time I was in Auroville so I didn't really get to see much.

Friday, November 23, 2007 − Mamallapuram AKA Mahabalipuram − Armpit

What an armpit. Mamallapuram is known for it's stone carving both at the consumer level and historically. There are a number of sights made of stone carvings including temples carved out of hillsides. I saw all those things, and visited a few stone carvers but for me the lasting impression is the poverty there, and the grudge factor. The village is teaming with overpriced tourist hotels. $25 for a dump. I ended up at a hotel for $10 a night which later I realized if I wanted ventilation at night I would have to leave the terrace door open. They were plenty willing to let me switch rooms if I wanted to pay $25 per night. Finally I ended up in a room that instead of overlooking the courtyard, overlooked the street and this is where I saw the underbelly more clearly. It was the India that feedthestarvingchristianchildreninindia had planted in my American brain. There was group of young men, women and children living on the street, selling bead necklaces. They were filthy and the children were all but naked. Now, there was a whole ocean a block away so there was no reason for filthy. As I was leaving, I inquired about these people and was told they were gypsies and that the man was always drunk. I have no idea what gypsy means in India. Homeless? I had a suspicion that there was more than mere poverty going on with these people. I am coming to the realization that poverty everywhere, the 3rd world and the 1st world, is not a simple as having no job or money. It is a complex problem of addictions, lack of opportunity, hopelessness, and values that don't support mainstream jobs. There is no simple solutions, anywhere. I have been in India for about a month and half, living with artists in Kerala but Mamallapuram was culture shock for me. I had been living a gentle friendly existence and now was confronted by the relentless pursuit of poverty. Thankfully, I had been traveling with Rakesh, a friend from grad school, who taught me about upscale travel which I fully embraced although it may mean I go home early.

Saturday, November 24, 2007 − Mamallapuram − Stone Carvings

Although I didn't care for the town itself, the carvings of Mamallapuram were outstanding. There has been and still exists a long tradition of stone carving. The streets are lined with stone carving shops. Some of the work is being done by power tools but the majority of it seems to be done by hand tools. In a distant past, they actually carved temples from solid stone hills and outcroppings. Very impressive.

Sunday, November 25, 2007 − Dakshinachitra

In the name of upscale travel, I hired a car and driver to take me from Mamallapuram to Tiger Cave, Dakshiachtra, Cholamandai Artist Village, and finally to the airport in Chennai. I paid $25 which was probably $5 too high. I liked my driver so much I even tipped him a couple of bucks even though the trip had taken a lot less time than anticipated. The reason I like him so much was because he didn't hassle me i.e. he didn't ogle me. He didn't even speak to me. It was refreshing.

Tiger Cave was another temple carved out of rock. It was nice but certainly not worth a special trip.

Cholamandia Artist Village is supposed to be an intentional artist community. I saw no evidence of community, or really of any artists at all. They had one tiny dark, sad gallery with mediocre art in it but they were building a huge multistory arts complex that was due to be finished in January or February. I can not recommend a visit.

Dashinachitra was outstanding. It seemed a tad bit mismanaged but by and large it was interesting. I went on a Friday and it was not crowded at all but also there were very few demos happening. They have examples of southern architecture. All of them seemed to me to be upscale except one little hut pushed off to one side with a local women who were yelling at people, I think to come in but in an angry tone probably because no one was interested in the hut. No on but me.

Monday, November 26, 2007 − Mehndi

I like to pretend I am not a tourist so I have been to know to scoff at westerns with mehndi. At the above mentioned tourist site, Dashinachitra, they were doing mehndi for a little bit of nothing which of course I snubbed my nose at but then I remembered I was an artist and that this might be an interesting addition to my repertoire. I had it done purely for research purposes of course. The deal is that they put this stuff on using something that looks a bit like a tube of cake frosting. You let it dry then wash it off. It leaves a pleasing reddish brown color. I bought a couple of tubes at the grocery store and me and the young female artists at Kashi put it on me in non traditional places: arms and legs. It was fun but the stuff on my thighs took forever to wear off and I still have some on my toe nails.

Friday, January 4, 2008 − Sivananda

Over the holidays of Christmas and New Years, I went to Sivananda Yoga retreat. It was great. It's near Trivandrum at the far south end of India. At first I felt it was a bit too religious and in the end I felt it wasn't enough. Most of the people there were westerners, by and large Germans. The few Americans weren't a great pick thus I avoided them. We were up at something like 5 am doing meditation and chanting. I never thought I would enjoy chanting. I generally think it is stupid, particularly when one is chanting in ancient language. I have always felt this way until in my meditation group in New York City, we chanted in English and it was the most horrible thing I had ever heard. So, then I was at least not apposed to chanting in an ancient language but still I did not like to do it. I am not a singer. But at Sivananda I got to know the "tunes" and became quite fond of some them. Don't tell anyone but I had been known to pick up a tambourine and jingle along. Fun until they bust out the harmonium which will drag any chant to a dirge. Not fun. We did yoga twice a day. Good vegetarian food. It was great. I ended up with a cadre of women to hang out with. Men, if you are looking to meet some good looking 40 year old women, Sivananda is the place. The women are awesome and the men are few and far between i.e. no competition. The holidays are a fun time to be there since many are using it as a vacation getaway. This has a drawback which is that it has yoga as exercise feel. During this time of the year they have performers and lecturers come in as well as a couple of day trips which adds to the festive feel.

Here is the link to the website but the real place looks nothing like the picture. They are no longer right on the water but across the road. http://www.sivananda.org/neyyardam/

Sunday, January 6, 2008 − Flirtatious Indian Men

I am actually being kind by calling them flirtatious. Really I would say slutty. They are constantly "on the make" as my dear old mamma would say. It's a bit freaky. Everyone of them over 26 is married with children, and they don't care if you know it. It disgusts me and they do that really aggressive staring thing. Since most of them can't speak English, it does me no good to say anything. One night when I was staying with the rum drinking artists on the island, one of them was sitting outside my door speaking really loudly on his cellphone. I tried to tell him nicely that I was trying to sleep. He doesn't understand English so I then tried to mime it which led to big smiles on his part as if I was inviting him to sleep with me. I ended up shooing him away like a cat. I have however finally been able to discern 4 groups of men. The first are genuinely nice guys, not flirty. The second group of guys are shop keepers and such that flirt but very innocuously, like an American might do. Smile, talk, tease. They want nothing beyond that. The second group are men who are sincere. They are not just out for sex but really want some sort of relationship. This group is quite small, maybe one or 2. Does that still count as a group? The last group is this super aggressive stupid men who will stare and stare and pursue as if one day you will wake up and realize that you have nothing better to do than to have sex with this married man with children who is a husband of your friend, or a neighbor.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008 − Tomato Soup India Style

Headed to Bombay from Pune today. On the train I had the tomato soup which in my delusional head I expected to be canned soup like Campbells. I dont like canned soup all that much but the vendor finally said something I understood. It turned out to be a little spicy soup with a lot of beet juice in it, I think. It even had croutans. It was suprisingly delicious. I highly recommend it.

Thursday, January 17, 2008 − Pollution

I know you look at this picture and think its of open water but you are wrong. What the camera didnt pick up is the hi-rises in the distance which are hidden behind a haze of pollution.

Thursday, January 17, 2008 − Uttappum

Uttappum. Dinner du jour. It was like a savory pancake with cheese, butter, tomato and onion. Not bad.

Friday, January 18, 2008 − Vibrators in Bombay

As I may have mentioned before, India is a bit conservative. So you can imagine my suprise to find vibrators sold on the sidewalk in Mumbai along with other electronic devices.

Saturday, January 19, 2008 − Bombay Art Opening

While I was in Cochin, I met Rajan. He is a good artist and terrific person plus he spoke good english. For a few days, I helped him make primitive clay objects for this show. The opening was January 19 at Bodhi Gallery in Bombay. It was a nice event. The gallery was located in an industrial area which was a little frightening but cool.

Sunday, January 20, 2008 − India Travel

Let's face it I am far too neurotic to travel around India. So I bought a private bus ticket at Magnum travel agency to Aurangabad where the Elora and Ajanta caves are located. The bus was to pick up at some random corner in Colaba at 8pm. At 8pm, nothing. So I call but of course it takes me 15 tries to figure out how to do that. Finally I get someone who tells me its late. It will be there at 830. Oh, and earlier a worker at the corner store aka bus stop asks me if he can help me. I ask about bus and he had no knowledge of a bus. This didn't at all bolster my confidence. So 830 comes and goes and so I call again. Thank God for my cellphone and a dispatcher who is fluent. He tells me 5 more minutes. Suprisingly in a few minutes although I doubt 10, a bus arrives. I get on but so far I seem to be the only passenger on this 16 hour bus trip. Creepy. So if I dont post tomorrow, send out the cavelry. Bus company is Royal Cars 2283 2928.

Monday, January 21, 2008 − Safe and Sound in Aurangabad

As it turns out, an hour or so later, the entire bus was filled. Welcome to India. So I was awaken on the bus to the demand by the bus conductor to get off. It was my stop. So completely disoriented I shoved my stuff in my bag and stumbled off. It was before 7AM. I thought I was to arrive at noon. So then of course I was hounded by taxis whom I promptly yelled at told them to leave me alone. I did agree to let one drive me. You know the racket. Your hotel is full, let me take you to another. I agreed. I was to stay at the youth hostel which looked a little frightening. So he took me to a few others. I ended up with one for R250, about $6.50. I immediately went to sleep when I awoke I realized under the bed cover there was no sheets and the sink and toilet were filthy. I will get them to rectify this. I could go for a better hotel but it would cost me $20 and the only difference is that it would be cleaner.

Aurangabad is a hell hole. I wonder if this is typical India. To me the whole place smells like a bathroom that has never been cleaned. Are there any towns here with charm?

Wednesday, January 23, 2008 − Daulatabad Fort

Daulatabad Fort also near Aurangabad was extremely interesting. It has multiple layers of protection and entrance into the actual fort area is wide enough for two people only. it's hard to discribe in words. I guess I will just have to post a few pictures which do not do it justice.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008 − Ellora Caves

Similar to the Ajanta Caves, the 34 Ellora Caves are not just Buddhist but Jain and Hindu also. They were built between the 5th and 10th centuries. The guide told us that along the cliffs in that area there were many of these cave temples, not just these famous ones. Hard to imagine. Sounds like a great place to spend sometime hiking around.

Thursday, January 24, 2008 − Bus to Lonar

Having a few days to kill before going to Igatpuri, I decided to go to Lonar Crater. This was a very intersting ride. Me and a hundred Indians on a rickety bus along a bumpy dusty road. It was very crowded (note reference to 100 other people). Half way there I learned my seat partner spoke English. Thankfully because as it turned out, I was NOT on the direct bus to Lonar. So I had to change i some one oxen cart town, where of course only a bit of English was spoken, mostly by naughty teenage boys. One of whom told me to take a bus in the wrong direction which he informed me only came every two hours. Thankfully he was wrong and experience told me to get a second opinion. The Indians are helpful and easily understand my single badly pronounced words accompanied with pointing.

Friday, January 25, 2008 − Lonar Crater

Lonar Crater is a crater made from a meteor hitting the earth a long time ago. Maharashtra is in the dry season so it looks like the southwest in the US. Dry dusty and brown with only scrub vegetation. The crater was sorrounded by lush green. I was told it wasn't touristy by my bus seat partner and he wasn't wrong. it's teh off seaon so I was possibly the oly resident at teh state run hotel and certainly the only non-Indian for many miles. A little frightened but probabl the best indian experience ever. I would walk around and all the children would stop to "talk". "What's your name?" "How are you?" "Where are you from?"

At dusk the whole town seemed to move past my hotel: cow herders, goat herders, women, children, bikes, oxen carts, tractors, even monkeys. Well, they weren't moving down the road, just basking in the evening sun and watching the traffic go by. Totally excellent. I tried to be as entertaining for them as they were for me.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008 − Nasik

I had a few days to kill before heading off to a 10 day meditation retreat. At this time of year, this part of India is chilly and there is no heat. Oh, and they also have some very nice venting to let the heat escape. So, let's just say it was frigid. Nasik has this really great old part of town filled with twisty streets with crazy shaped buildings. I think the only time I was really a bit scared was here in Nasik while being mobbed by a rowdy group of school kids. They were just naughty children. They were grabbing at me and pushing each other. It was getting pretty crazy so I walked away. I met a group of young men who often behave as the school kids but this time they were great. They wanted me to take their picture. So I told them I would but they had to keep the rowdies away. They did by yelling and shoving them. Not in a crazy hostile way but in a rough familial way. As an American, I am more than a bit hesitant to rough up someone else's kid. But this is Asia; the rules are not the same. And even after a good shove followed by falling, these kids would get up and just do it all again. No anger, no indignation, no crying, nothing. After this mini photo shoot, the young men advised me to not continue on that road, since the neighborhood got bad. I can't even imagine what that would've been like. If these kids behaved this way, what did the kids in the "bad neighborhood" behave like?

Nasik was cool because I didn't feel like I was in a tourist town. I felt like I was in an ordinary city, albeit Indian with a few million people. That's thing about India. Either a place is a small town or it is a city with millions. But the cities with millions do not feel all that big.

Saturday, March 1, 2008 − Off to Kathmandu Nepal

I think there were places to meditate in Bodhgeya there but after a day or two, I still hadn't hooked into it. A met a couple of young-ish American women who invited me to Nepal. I thought sure why not. I wasn't loving Bodgeya. Was this fate knocking at my door? It took us days to travel to Kathmandu. Not an easy trip. We took many trains, buses, and taxis. But once there I really enjoyed it. At first it was blissful. I ate western foods. Had a cheap hotel. Mighty nice but then for some reason the hawkers came out and they were tough. It was there that I was introduced to glue sniffing street kids. They are frightening crazy animal like bunch. One night I was walking down the street in a funk, eating a bit of bakery and a street boy lunged at it. I pushed him. I pushed him. I was mortified at my own behavior. What was I turning into? But then a couple of blocks later I realized that shove did not even faze that kid and I did no harm. Just for the record, he didn't fall.

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