Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Travel Prep

Behold the rejected travel journals:I went to Borders the other day to try to find a travel journal. But they were all wrong. The covers were pretty, but too flimsy and bendable. They'd never survive in my bag. Others were too small, some were too big. None were just right. So all I got from Borders was an inflatable travel pillow (which is terrible - hard to blow-up, uncomfortable when blown) and a pack of empty travel sized liquid bottles that are impossible to fill with liquid. Seriously, they each have a tiny pin-prick of a hole and nothing to unscrew to pour liquid in. I chucked those, but kept the cute plastic travel bag and used the empty bottles from last year's trip to England. Borders is totally on my Sh*tList.
Behold my month's worth of clothes. 10 pairs of underwear, 3 sweaters, five light shirts, 1 pair of long underwear, 2 pairs of capri pants, 1 pair of wool pants, 1 scarf, 1 bra, 1 pair of walking sandals, a lot of socks, and 1 pair of tights. Then there are bags of deet wipes, wet wipes, toilet wipes, toilet paper (travel size!), iodine tablets, medications of various kinds, my hairbrush and my passport. That's not including what I'll be wearing on the plane: 1 big blue coat, 1 scarf, 1 tank top, 1 sweater, 1 pair of blue jeans, 1 pair of socks and my Naot walking shoes (amazing, google them, they are so cool). See, Oxford's wettest month is October. It's around 50-60 degrees and raining all day. India is 80-90 degrees and sunny. Tokyo is 50-60 degrees.
And yes, it all fits. And YES, I will be washing these things during my trip. I'm not that gross!

My plane takes off at 4:30pm today, and I have to get ready to go. Next post will be from Oxford. First thing on my list is to get a pair of Wellies and a proper travel journal.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Instant Messages from the East: Advice for traveling Goris

You know what girls do when they get together – they talk about boys and clothes. Instant Message conversations with my Indian friend are no different… well, maybe a little different. She has been giving me a lot of good advice for my trip to India, that is now only a week away. And here is her advice on Men:

Never go out alone with any male person.
I was telling my friend you were visiting, asking her if we knew ANYONE in Delhi, and we don’t. She was like “is she white?”, and I said Yep. She says “She should watch out. Men think white women are game for anything.”

My friend says, I’m glad you’ll have a brigade of women with you.

I’m glad too, and they’re mostly 50 and 60 year old women, so I should be well guarded. Even so, a 5’9” blonde is going to get attention. To this, my friend replies:

Well, it won’t be too bad because plenty of you [white chicks] have been there before....AND
Julia Roberts is filming Eat, Pray, Love there now in Delhi, I think.

I’ll spare you the amount of IM laughing I typed at this, since I am reading Eat,Pray,Love right now and have not been un-critical of it.

My friend continues: and to get back. Indian men are...different.
Some are very very well, respectful and nice. Overall they all are very shy and wont do anything.
But somehow they
lose control when they see white people.
me: srsly?
My friend: It’s because of what I call the Baywatch syndrome. That show reached every village.
My cousins can’t talk English...but they all gathered around the tv to watch Baywatch.
My bro and I were young and got a kick out of that fact.

Things have changed now with the younger generation because a lot come to the U.S. to study and stuff.
And Delhi is a metro city so you have nothing to worry about. BUT you have a spectrum of people so, it’s always good to be alert and careful.

In talking about clothes, I learned a few good words to know:
LOTS of goris wear Indian clothes in India.. they have tailors too..who can stitch in hours.. but you can def purchase readymade.
GORIS = white women
GORAS= white men
PHIRANGI = foreigners

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Prelude to India

Why would anyone want to go to India?

This is the question people ask me, in various forms, when I tell them about all the preparations I have had to make to go to India—including bracing myself for inevitable stomach upsets. I been vaccinated for Hepatitis A, Tetanus and Diptheria. I have bottles of Cipro and Metronidazole for bacterial infections and the giardia parasite respectively. I have Deet to ward of mosquitos carrying malaria or the West Nile virus, and iodine tablets to purify the water – partially. Iodine doesn’t catch everything. So why, my friends ask, am I going to a place where I can’t brush my teeth with the tap water? Where beggar women with shriveled babies and empty milk bottles will tug at my clothes on the street? Why would anyone want to go to India?

I honestly can’t explain all my reasons, and I certainly can’t claim they make sense or are based on logic. I’m not going to India with any other purpose than just being there and seeing it for myself. I’m not going seeking enlightenment, or charitable works, or shopping, or even food (and food is my primary motivation for everything).

I think that maybe the appeal is in my blood, ingrained in my mostly British genetics. The British have always loved India, so much that they wanted it and took it for themselves. I can’t help but think of this act of imperialism as a dysfunctional love story. The allure of the orient was irresistible to the stodgy and overdressed Brits. Was it the tea that drew the English to the perilous shores of India? Was it the spicy food that made them brave dysentery and the hostile populous? What made them stay so long in a country where the mindset, culture, and hygiene of the natives were so different and contrary to their own? As in any relationship, the Brits wanted to change what they saw as the bad habits of their beloved, and as in any relationship, that backfired. But they still stayed and tried to make it work long after they knew it was over. Even though the breakup between the two nations was ugly and fraught with bad feelings, I think that infatuation is still there for the English. I know it is there for me.

But why?

When I think of India, never having been there, I see colors. Saffron, the burnt orange soil, lime green jungle growth, women in saris dyed like sherbet ice cream. I smell dust, nag champa incense, patchouli and body odor – hey, if the mind can have an eye, it can have a nose also. I hear the pitches of the women’s voices trickle up and down the vocal scale sounding so beautiful and appealing – I heard some Indian women on my old commuter train and they spoke like this; their speech was music and men were captivated. In India, there are monkeys, cows and elephants, even camels. Isn’t that amazing? Isn’t that exciting?

Really, if you think of India in those terms, who wouldn’t want to go?