"So What Do You Do All Day?"
Trip Start Jun 14, 2010
148Trip End Ongoing
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Where I stayed
Well, once we have arrived in a new city, each stay averaging about four days, we usually set out for a breakfast spot where we can indulge in our habitual breakfast fare since Dharamsala of curd, fruit and muesli. Next we orient ourselves with the local streets, shops, alleyways, ATM, post office, restaurant choices for dinner--anything that we think we may need over the visit. This is the level of investigation from a casual and practical view point.
On a relationship and personal level, we usually start to chat to other foreigners about where they have been, where they are heading off to next, where they are from, etc. We have been much enriched with these conversations and it is also a great delight when we bump into some of these fellow travellers by chance some time later in some other city
The other personal involvement we create for ourselves is sitting down inside some of the shops and hearing personal stories from the shopkeepers--whether they are from Kashmir telling us of the historic conflicts and current political problems, or locally born and raised, we develop some level of a relationship. Consequently, each time we walk past their shop in the days to come we have a buddy to say hi to, to wave to, to drop in and chat to. This makes the stay in these often chaotic and busy cities more personal and creates a bit of a sense of belonging for us as aliens.
Then of course we have the suggestions from the Lonely Planet about what to see and where to eat, which we have found extremely helpful. We usually try to strike a balance between the busy market streets and finding a sense of peace and tranquillity in nature on the city edges or in houses of worship.
We also often spend time reading, playing cards, drinking tea, playing cards, and of course shopping! Even though we are on a budget we are constantly tempted with the cheap goods here which are exactly the style and outlandish colours that both Terence and I are attracted to
The other activity that takes up some time every few weeks is lining up at the post office to buy stamps or mail off yet another parcel to Canada. The India post system has been efficient so far in getting goods to their destinations, but the system is top heavy with lots of staff sitting behind desks with great ledgers, but usually only one counter open with a long line-up before it. On several occasions local people have pushed us to the front of the line explaining that we as foreigners need to be given the privilege of priority which we gratefully accept; but in those typical contradictions which are India, at other times locals will try and push ahead and this is where Terence is more assertive in reminding them where the back of the line is.
Because we are travelling with limited wardrobes to fit into our backpacks, this means lots of laundry every few days. Fortunately this is one of Terence's favourite past-times (perhaps because he is missing cooking opportunities); and then we have to improvise in ways to hang things to dry. We’re lucky if we can find a line out in the sunshine. Nancy often does some mending and repairs to try and make things last as long as possible, but after five months of travelling and living in the same clothes day after day, we’ve accepted the fact that some become impossibly threadbare and must end up in the garbage
Another time consuming activity is keeping the blog up to date. This is a joint project, often with Terence doing the dictating and I doing the typing, but I hand over to Terence for the majority of inspirational work. To enrich our blog we are constantly researching and discussing things which we have experienced together. We also receive and respond to emails almost everyday; sometimes we have to use internet cafes, which offer a broad range of facility qualities, and sometimes Terence is able to get the broadband dongle to work in the laptop—a much more convenient way to access internet and take our time with blogging or Skype contact with friends and family.
We have also discovered what a huge country India truly is and the time consumed in travelling around. The train system is very efficient so we take long train rides rather than using buses; unfortunately, riding the trains usually involves the getting from and to the stations by auto-rickshaws, sucking in the fumes of polluting traffic from street level and consuming more time. The overnight trains are uncomfortable—sometimes hot, sometimes cold, and noisy--so we never get much sleep; and then there are those occasions when we arrive in the wee hours of the morning, needing most of the day to catch up on lost sleep. We try to avoid buses as they are even less comfortable, but some of the smaller places only have bus access.
We are also great observers and India has lots to watch: the colourfully turbaned men; the beautifully draped and elegant women; the huge-horned cows wandering along the streets and eating yet another plastic bag or tin-foil plate; the young boy crawling out of a tiny street front door, dragging out his goods to sell; the next herd of white folk being shepherded from a tourist bus with their floral shirts and huge cameras resting on their bellies; the impoverished, barefooted children darting from one foreigner to another in hope of receiving a few rupees; or pigs gobbling up a pile of roadside garbage