Thursday, October 30, 2003

This past week has been nothing short of spectacular. With the help of some Ayurvedic herbs, Ashwagandha and a formulation called Immunity, I have apparently come back to full health. Sinus infections are not particularly exciting in any way. New York is quite the haven for us southern sufferers in this regard. Season tend to help these matters or perhaps it’s the lack of humidity. I’m not really sure, but I will settle for the annual cold over the recurring sinus infection. In New Orleans, it was just a matter of time for me as I recall. My parents may tell the story better than I. They have a better memory for that sort of thing.

Lucknow finds me healthy and happy. Since Monday I have been practicing Yoga. After one session, I told the teacher, Bhavani, that it something I threatened to begin for some time now. She replied to the effect that I had already started. Simple as that, in this time and this space I’ve found something I really like. I also really like riding a bicycle. Unfortunate for her, Bhavani developed a bit of a stomach bug yesterday after Yoga, and she took day off and plans to rest tomorrow as well. This brings me to the bicycle as they have a workout room here at the farm. Convenient is the sitting bicycle with the adjusting seat. This came at far greater ease than attempting to travel with cycle; although, the roads here would not be conducive to road cycling in the slightest. One road of interest cuts through a wooded area thereby bypassing a substantial amount of road, I assume. This road has some Lucknow history it was built by a governmental official or perhaps public service person I do not recall precisely. The first time I saw this road was at night en route to the farm. However, it stuck with me because of its twists, turns, and greenery. Perhaps I’ll snap some photos for my soon to arrive enhanced website.

When I return from Dehli next week, I hope to raise my presence on the internet. It’s a project in the works, and I desire something appealing. With any luck, technician will meet creative and broaden my presentation. After all there is 78” to represent, or even more if you count more than a body. Lately, I have thought about the Mind, Body, Ego, Self assembly. Ford would be proud to see the old factory line applied to damn near anything. So, it’s been a really good question. Not that there’s just one.

I would like to share a koan that I’ve been asked to contemplate. Now, I am entering a space where the subject is more familiar (sorry, I don't have the version quote in Mark Epstein's 'Thoughts Without a Thinker'):

Bodhi originally has not tree
The mirror also has not stand
Buddha nature is always clear and pure
Where is there room for dust

Thank you Josh for your patience with my endless questions.
The road has no beginning, there is no end; even, there is no road.
The road is as the path, a non-changing form.

Friday, October 24, 2003

Each meal has proven to be great in its own right so far; although, I'm fairly sure not all of it has agreed with me. How's that for a one-sided affair? Well, I knew my stomach would be leading much of the adventure. True to form. I've been enjoying omelettes the past two mornings, and the fresh shaven carrots and sliced tomatoes are orginating from the organic farm I'm staying on. I'm currently visiting my relative Bhavani in Lucknow, India. We're having a delightful time getting acquainted with one another. We've only met once before to memory. I am trying to slow my way and see what's around me. I don't like my head to spin all of the time. Perhaps I'm seeing more of the picture. And I'm not exactly sure how to the define the picture.

Wednesday, October 22, 2003

Taking the morning off from the adventures of the streets. Agra is tourist craziness. From marble shops to the stories of restraunts intentionally posioning people, I've heard, seen, discussed, and lived parts of all of it. Lonely Planet published a bit in their India how restraunts were involved in a racket whereby people would be posioned and then sent to "clinics". Thankfully, nobody was killed by this tourist trick of the most noble variety; however, several doctors and restraunts were put out of business. People talk about it, and one rickshaw driver even tried to steer us away from our chosen restraunt. We told him we were fairly confident in our choice. Advice has the weight of a grain of salt around these parts. Except in certain places. The guesthouse I've stayed in the past two evenings has been incredible. Unlike most other places this hotel refuses to dole commisions to the rickshaw drivers. So, naturally the drivers will attempt to dissuade you from visiting the establishment. It's trully unfortunate that the transportation folk are so far down on the scale because you never really have the opportunity to engage in a sincere interaction. Everything boils down to the almighty, dollars.

People will pretend for an entire to be your friend and speak for their own honesty, repeatedly. When you simply want to go home, they keep pushing for the stores, the keep pushing for arrangements for the following day. It's all very off putting. Although in a more exciting turn of events last night, my new found travelling friend for the day, Michael and I went out for dinner. When we returned home the rickshaw driver concerned us because he was so small trying to push us rather stocky tourists. He couldn't have weighed more than 50 Kilos, and the two of us probably rang in at 200+ Kilos with the weight of the bike included. So Michael and I got to take turns driving the rickshaw with our driver in back. He was slightly taken aback at our offer; however, he easily conceded to letting us do this. With hand motions for directions we made our way back to the hotel.

Yesterday was one of those really great non-stop days. I woke at 7:30 to be ready for the bus to a nearby town, Fatepurh Sikri. I had a great breakfast, and then the hotel told me they would not be running their bus to the town becuase not enough people had signed up for that day. Fine, no problem, re-group, finish reading the newspaper, and I thought to clear up my confusion about my train ticket. Well, turns out that the ticket I bought was not valid for today, rather it was good for the day I purchased it, Monday. Well, things were starting to look down a bit, then a guy at the counter was asking for the bus to Fatepurh Sikri. Since I hadn't really spoken to anybody on Monday except my rickshaw driver, and I've already espoused my opinion on them, it was pleasant to make the company of a fellow traveller. Michael is on holiday travelling from Sydney. It was funny to learn the most common question he receives is whether or not he likes cricket. Yea, really big over here, and Australia currently has one of the strongest teams in the world. So we joked about it because he really hates the sport.

From the reception area at the hotel we made our way to the bus station, by foot. This was amazing because tourists walking get about as much attention as a topless woman would in the streets of New York. People are always trying to topple you. "Very Cheap." "No, you can't, it's too far." What do you mean I can't get out of my way. Many times I've entertained strolling roadside conversations. I suppose the effect is lost that they are barking up the wrong tree. Anway, back to positive travelling.

We made our way to the bus; we made the one hour journey then we were on to this beautiful town. It was built about 40km away from Agra and rumored to have been abandoned for a lack of water. It was phenomenol. There was a beautiful mosque with some of the most intricate marble screen work I've every seen. Some of the panels took four years to be carved by one individual. A very interesting site was to see the very small tombs next the larger one of the town's holy family. These were for the carrier pigeons. Once we were outside, sure enough there were some hundreds of little arch shaped alcoves for the birds to perch in. The victory gate entrance to the mosque was 54m tall and quite impressive. The red sandstone out front was so hot one couldn't standstill on it. The guide also told us the white people didn't come there in the summer time because the sun overwhelmed them. I could see that happening.

Then we took the tour of the abandoned city, had a great walk through the small local market; we picked up some fruits to snack on and waited for the bus back. We returned to Agra around 16:00 I went for the train station took care of my arrangements there. And, when I returned to the hotel they told me Michael had left two minutes prior. We spoke about meeting up to go out for dinner. The hotel has a lovely courtyard and all, but I wanted a change of scenery; something I was more willing to do with company. So, I start running down the street, no Michael. Resigned to having missed him I start ambling back to the hotel, and sure enough he goes slowly moving along past me on a rickshaw. I callout and he has the bike pulled over. And, in one of the most free feeling moments yet in my travel I asked if I could join him, and we went off on our way to the restraunt. There are so many factors going into daily decisions, and it was nice to know that I wanted to go a certain direction. The only source I needed to consulte was myself. This moment in my travels really resonated well with me.

We went for a place with a rooftop view of the Taj. It wasn't possible to see too much, only a shilouette, but it was nice to have that change of scenery. We met a lovely girl travelling from Israel. She had wanted to come to India for reasons she couldn't explain. She had been in Nepal with her husband and he had no interest in India, so she did this leg alone. The three of us had plesant conversation over dinner then went for a beer and called it a night. Oh, yea, and the restraunt owner also fed me an entire line of shit about being able to charge what he wanted for beers. At least, that's what a government sponsored advert in the paper this morning told me. There is a law here governed by the department of measurements whereby a Maximum Retail Price is printed on nearly everything. Only, at this restraunt last night the MRP had been scratched off the bottles leading to my enquiry.

It's been a good time in Agra. I made my way to some of the major sites, I've seen some commercial marble, got food and rest. Soon, I'll make my way for rickshaw-bus-rickshaw-train-car-rest. Another great 12 hour travel day. But, then, I'll be with Holly and I hear the food in Lucknow is exceptional, yea!

Monday, October 20, 2003

So, as if any true ADVENTURE could be without Drama, this morning was not exception. I got up at 4:30am no problem. I was out the door for a bit past 5. I made it to the train station with about 30 minutes to spare. Great, I'm thinking. Anshul told me to show up a bit further in advance to purchase my tickets. But, I figure, time is not really an issue. I'll just find the ticket window and resolve that, only then to merrily make my way to the train.

Um, well, there was no window to purchase tickets other than the "Second Class" ticket windows, so I didn't think I would be able to purchase the ticket I wanted to get, an A/C chair... Well, guys start flocking to me, come this way, come that. 15 minutes pass, and I'm beginning to get a bit desperate, so I head for the office across the street. I'm passed off into a shoehorn stairway where a guy in a non-descript office offers me train tickets. He pulls out the India Railways book, he shows me my train and seat prices. Then he tries to make a call. Speakerphone for me to hear "India Railways, information..." Then he begins to have a brief conversation only to tell me the ticket and the alternative I chose were not available. He then tries to sell me an Indrail 60 pass, my mistake for thinking it was 800 Ruppees, it was clearly printed in USD. Anyway, I said to try for a seat on the later train, the Taj Express, and low and behold that was sold out too. He proposes that I take a luxury bus, and I immediately grab my bag at this suggestion. I'm back off to the train station for one last hope at finding a ticket.

I see two other gringos getting the royal treatment, and they were trying to figure out which track for Hardiwar, and they were not able to help me so I kept moving. No hope for finding a ticket, so I head for the train. The M-F-ing train is empty. There's about 10-15% of the seats taken. So, I try to get some info out of some guys, they were little help with minimal English. So, I walk into a car where I meet a great guy, have I mentioned to anybody reading this that I'm bad with names? I've forgoten his name, but he was a wonderful guy that was in India for some family weddings, and he's lived in Seattle the last 20 years. His fluent Hindi helped me address the "Ticket Taker" (that's what his badge said). The ticket taker returns with the exhorbitant suggestion of 1500-1600 Ruppees for taxing me, and my new friend says that it is more the 500% of the ticket price pointing out that it was unacceptable. Low and behold the ticket taker said he would consult with his superiors, and despite the fact that he sat next to me for some portion of the trip he never raised the issue again.

I'm here. Here is in Agra for a couple nights, then I'll be on my way to visit family in Lucknow. I'm very excited about validating the rumors I've heard regarding the regions' cuisine. More to come buckaroos.

Sunday, October 19, 2003

The hosts that I am staying with grew up in Srinigar. Although, they have repeatedly dissuaded me from visiting there because of the war torn aspect. And, sadly, I couldn't quite get everything together quick enough to visit Leh. I fear a combination of it being unsuitably cold and also expensive for one to travel alone through the Ladakh area I am going to settle for travelling through the southern part of the Himalayas and perhaps trek to where the four sacred hindu rivers originate after Diwali.

Tomorrow, I am going to wake and head for Agra. I'm going to see the Taj and a couple palaces. Then I'll head to Jaipur for a couple days and return to Dehli for Diwali, the Hindu New Year (Sat. Oct 25th). Some friends have invited me over a nice dinner and we can all witness the city be encompassed in smoke from all the fire crackers. I've heard quite the many wonders about it.

Tuesday, October 14, 2003

I'm having such an amazing time, and currently, I am trying to arrange to go to Leh, in the Himalayas. It will be getting very cold there soon; however, I could take the rest from sweating my F-ing balls off each day, every day.

I would be traveling with this guy Case, he's Dutch, and good friends with Prashast. He lives in Paris now working for Le Monde as an entertainment photographer. So, he and his hasselblad are going to head to Leh with me probably taking an active interest in the methodology. He teaches color processing at Parsons if it is testament to his work... Very interesting guy.

Sarah, dad's friend from New York, owns a spinning club here in Dehli. So, I'm going to try and run myself out of breath tonight... I've never done spinning before. It ought to be a good exercise. Also tonight, our buddy Kilian is leaving town. He has been here traveling for four months. He'll head back to Paris to settle some affairs, one week; then he'll head back to Brazil for one year of sabbatical. Artists, right? Always searching for inspiration, the flavor. It's been really nice getting to know a bit about him in the 10+ days I've been here.

Prashast is also a really cool cat. He's doing his artist thing. In full motion, thou he is, he's not sure for which direction. Although, his legs keep moving, and there's always ground beneath his feet.

Case's other friend Keith is in town for the International Indian Film Festival. He was co-director of cinematography for a film called 'Beyond the Soul'. It's an interesting film shot on location in India and the US. We saw the screening yesterday and were impressed. Also at the festival is a Lars Van Trier retrospective. Last night everyone went to see Dancer in the Dark. I was not present as I had had quite my fill of spinning wheels for the day. The other day, however, I watched DogVille with Nicole Kidman. It was an interesting film if not tedious at points.

Speaking of last night, I had left the house to wait outside for a friend to pick me up, and I received another lesson in IST (not Indian Standard Time, so much as Indian Stretching Time). The only way to return to the house and make a call would be to ring the bell and wake someone to let me in. This is the way I have been returning in the evenings; admittedly, I feel for disrupting anybody's rest to let me in. Alas, there was no spare key to be found. Thus, I found myself walking in the Golf Links Colony, all neighborhoods here are described as colonies, and often times there will be a gate that one must pass to enter; typical subdivision behavior. During my stroll I passed a home with a gentleman smoking on his porch. I approached his guard at the gate. Nearly everyone in these subdivision has several people to overlook the house from the inside and out, constantly. We had a difficult time understanding each other, and eventually he agreed to let me ask the gentleman my question, "May I make a simple phone call." He was quite happy to oblige; when my friend was not available more than an hour after he said he would be ready I was invited to take a seat and have a Pepsi, tea, etc.. We talked a bit, he offered me his cell phone such that we could continue to discuss outside with needing to head in, and we exchanged a bit about who we were. An American Jew and a Pakistani Muslim, it was beautiful, free flowing exchange of ideas and opinions.

Turns out the Aslam is a recent PHD graduate in Developmental Irrigation studies. Needless to say I began gnashing a bit on his ear. It's so wonderful to have someone with such specific interests to role on and on with my questions. He was pleasantly involved in the conversation as the night wore on. Eventually, my friend showed up at the gate because I learned how to SMS message on this gentleman's phone. And, off we went.

Last night's fortuitous meeting was yet another shinning example of the dynamic people, but I would also emphasis the hospitality. Everyone is warm and will offer themselves to assisting you. From directions to travel suggestions to food.

Life in this moment, is treating me exceedingly well, and I'm grateful.

Tuesday, October 07, 2003

Sadly, I lost a substantial entry I intended to post here on Friday, c'est la vie.

Time is moving along, and so am I. My time in Dehli has been spent acclimating and sweating. So much for the cool of Ukraine, hello summer, again. This is going to be the continuing tale of my travels as I follow summer around the globe. It will be sweaty in Thailand and again in Australia even during their ‘winter’.

I don’t want to hold the people up at this office any longer. So I will continue again tomorrow. Typing messages and trying to blog simultaneously results in short entries.

Wednesday, October 01, 2003

Tonight I'm in Frankfurt. Yep, first night of Oktoberfest here, but I won't be drinking too much as I'm recovering from a case of dysentery I picked up while travelling in Crimea... Ain't that some shit? On day three of a five day antiobiotic, and I ought to be golden by this weekend to live up the Indian food. Glad to say that everything is under control. Easy flight from Kiev to Frankfurt; that would be with the exception of some spectacular driving on behalf of our friend Vitalic. He may have made the tour d' Kiev in record time to ensure ample time at the airport. It was easy going through customs. "How much money do you have left of what you declared? Do you have any antiques?" Then ruin more film with robotron x-ray 10 million. I mean seriously, the friggin' guy operating the machine was glowing. Those machines reek havic on my desire to produce half decent pictures. Oh well, the blurred effect will be artistry ala 21st century security. Oh, how post modern...

Anyhow, my film will be tainted further tomorrow as I'm heading for India, and then begin the process of reacclimating my poor stomach. Time differences, the sleep, no problem. Nowadays I'm carrying my tummy in both hands to ensure everything goes well. No really, I'm loving every minute of it. If it was the $1/KG fresh black figs that gave me dysentery, it was worth it. I must have worked about 2 or 3 kilos before departing. I even experimented with infusing Vodka with them. That worked out so-so. Sorry Martin, I tried, but I think the black pepper is an easier infusion.

Well, I'm going to hit this city up, try to learn something about music and a pint. Hopefully, there's stew to be had. That's really a favorite German pasttime for me.