11 Things I’m Looking Forward to When I Get Home
1 When we go home I want a dog
2 Mom says if I take 3 months of drum lessons she will get me a drum set
3 A new TV because of the HD thing
4 An easier life
5 Sports: baseball, soccer, etc.
6 Better food
7 Apple juice
8 A game station (?)
10 I will get my first job; $50 a month
11 Also just getting away from India sounds good
We find ourselves deep in India. Rajasthan has an 'Eastern Washington' feel: dry and not very populated. Here there are incredibly colorful India women, dirty looking India men, a bunch of really cool 800ish year old forts, and some beautifully decorated big houses called "havelis".
Gone is the happy demeanor and twinkle in John’s eyes. He’s turned into a dark, quiet, unhappy, mean boy. He doesn’t like to be touched by strangers. He doesn’t like to look at them. He’s not interested in seeing any sites or learning about the places we visit. He is often depressed when we’re in restaurants and complains about the food. It’s always too spicy. Everything.
Sharon still can’t get enough of our travels. She is gung-ho for everything. She loves trying the tandori chicken. She’s honed in on dishes all along our trip, starting with kofta. Now she’s found India cauliflower and peas one of her favorites. She eats like I do here in India; with the roti bread. She doesn’t’ like spicy food still, but we never get served spicy food anyway.
Kathy learned yesterday that her mom continues to get worse and there may be less than six months left of her life. Maybe much less. She’s again thinking of the possibility of going home. As early as two weeks from now when our tour is over. Perhaps when we’re done with India at the end of April.
This morning we visited the remote fort here in Kumbalgarh. I’d prefer to walk the two klicks to the fort entrance but took our car there. There was ample walking inside.
The fort here is so impressive. The wall is something like 36km in long. In all places I saw it is wide enough for eight horses to ride side-by-side. I hear this is the longest wall in the world outside of China’s great wall.
I like our new driver. He seems young, smart, and ready to please. He dropped us off at the entrance and the nice Indian ticket man, and they’re all nice, charged us for two, the kids were free. At 100 rupees this was significant and typical in India. By the way, the Indian price is 5 rupees. We enjoyed a couple hours walking through the old and decrepit palace and grounds and then the kids were ready to leave. I wanted more of the fort so I left at 16:15 to walk back and along the fort wall alone. I met K at the viewpoint and we watched the sunset and the light come on to the fort. Impressive.
This whole place is impressive and strange. The hotel is the best we’ve been in, perhaps on the entire trip! Why? Pool, fine buffet breakfast, great staff, big, clean, well-let room and bathroom, TV, sort of wi-fi (at least they try), the restaurant menu is obscenely expensive. 125 rupees for water that is worth 15 MAX. I just spent a couple mid-day hours yesterday, when the family was too hot to leave the room, walking around the ‘neighborhood’ to scope it out. I found three restaurants and a bunch of places to buy water for 15 rupees. Oh, and this place has a nice, big fridge.
The walk to the fort is divine. Two kilometers along a quiet, one-lane road. Sometimes I pass workers building a wall parallel to the road. What is the purpose of this? There are maybe 20 men and women working on this wall. I wonder who is paying for the wall. I wonder how much money the workers receive. Questions I don’t feel comfortable asking plus I seriously doubt if I could communicate the question well enough and understand an answer. Why do I want to know? I want to understand India.
So these guys and gals are building this wall and I walk past with my army-type pants that I’ve worn each and every day of this seven month trip plus a Nordstrom white button long-sleeve shirt that Kathy bought me a few towns ago for 100 rupees, plus my REI rain hat which I wish was white or light instead of black and gray, and my sunglasses on and my red backpack on. And no two more different world could ever meet. Some of them had bowls of wet cement balanced on their heads. Some held trowels. There was a camel standing around, perhaps to move the rocks? The women’s dress, as always was spellbinding. And their jewelry amazing. The women were old. Why? Who are they?
What is India? This is the question I ask myself most often these days. I remain completely confused about everything around me. This place makes no sense to me at all. The reason isn't because we're in the "East" - that would be too simple. The people are nothing like anywhere else I've been. My best current guess as to why they seems so very alien to me is three-fold. First, most Indians have had no education countless generations. Second, the quality of their food is low. Third, their environment is wildly hot with little available water. There's a term I'm hearing around here to describe Indians: Half Baked. This refers to the India mind. Imagine the better part of a billion people almost all of whom have half a brain. The strangest things result.
The women are absolutely beautifully dressed and adorned. I have never seen anything like it. They're out in the hot sun working in the fields dressed way better than any US girl at a prom. And their jewelry just doesn't stop. Most of the older women are fat.
The guys, meanwhile are dressed in rags. This shows their skinny and boney legs. Their faces are sunken, their teeth are a disaster. Women and men are never together - might be a religious thing.
The food is so weird. Nothing like my Indian restaurant experience at home. Like in Thailand, I can not get a normally spiced India dish. We always eat in 'tourist' places. This is because a) I'm terrified of getting sick; and 2) this is what's around us when we stop at the (wonderful) hotels/resort that are provided on our tour. I look into (real) Indian restaurants sometimes as we walk along the street and they are eating stuff completely different from our menu choices at our restaurants. I have no idea what they're eating and can't well describe it, but it confuses me. And yes, a part of me pangs when I just walk by these restaurants with my family and we don't go in to check it out.....
So part of my confusion is that I'm removed from the real Indian India experience in terms of culture and living. In exchange I get the reward of seeing a lot of India and it's fantastic sights. But being removed makes trying to figure out the Indians all that much more difficult.
Indians, in general, earn about $2 a day. There's no way we could eat a meal for $2 each in any place we've eaten. Kathy wants to give our driver a tip that amounts to like 4 times his daily wage. I consider that excessive. She tells me that there's no way anyone could live on $2 a day here. I try to explain that a billion of Indians do somehow and we just can see into it all.
The animal situation here is bizarre. For fun I took notes on what caused our driver to leave the road or stop during a 30-minute stretch of driving one morning. My list included: donkeys, cows, goats, Indians, peacocks, dogs, ditches running through the road, camels, even trucks driving in the wrong direction on the road! In the fast lane even.
Why I am so completely confused is when I look into the faces of the Indians. Take the drivers of those trucks for example. They have this very calm look on their faces like their driving head on into us is somehow normal. I glare at them looking or some kind of apology or embarrassment from them but nothing at all. I ask our driver what he think about that. He's also calm. He suggests the driver probably wants to turn off the road somewhere down the way and needs to be driving at us because on his side of the road there's a concrete barrier that doesn't allow him to cross over. When I suggest the barrier might be there for a reason, my driver tells me he doubts there's a reason for the barrier. I just don't get it at all.
Then there's the baksheesh stuff. This I truly don't get. To get into a fort I must pay, say 100-times the entrance fee of an India (the price difference being proudly displayed at the ticket office). So then after I buy my ticket I need to pass a place where I take off my shoes. There's an India there who takes my sandals and puts them neatly next to one another after I kick them off (like all the Indians do). That man holds out his hand like I should reward him. Then, there's a guy to rip the ticket I just bought. So HE wants baksheesh for that! I just stare at him and say, "What? You guys rip me off to get into this fort by making my pay 100-times the real price and now you want me to pay you more?? The baksheesh thing never stops. Every place we go, everything we do, Indians look at me like I own them. It's very uncomfortable for me.
That being said, the Indians are all nice - every one. They generally smile and look me in the eye. That, by the way, often seems to be enough to get baksheesh. I don't know, maybe all can be explained by the 'half-baked' hypotheses.