Monday, December 10, 2007

More Pics- Miscellaneous India

Pondering in Hampi

Aby- Him and I have become very close. I often hear him calling "Shelley" when I walk down the street.

In Hampi

Beautiful Bindhi colours

Proof of speedos in Goa. I saw way more than I would have liked!

Before a storm in Goa

Sunset in Palolem

The Estonian "Rock star" and her husband (he usually wore a leopard speedo but decided to cover up when I took this picture) she wore this pink sarong and bikini every day and ever night. I kid you not.

Playing in the water in Palolem

More Pictures- Miscellaneous India

I found computer with super fast connection and photoshop so I can decrease my picture size and upload them faster. Plus I have 6 more hours to kill before my bus leaves to Bangalore, and check-out was at noon!!!

Ramu and kavita's home in Hampi

Backwaters in Kerela (Fort Cochi)

Not too impressed kid at the sugar cane house in Hampi

Kavita showing me how to wrap a Saree using her husband Ramu as the mannequin

Indian women carrying water in Hampi

Kiran starting to climb a rock

Joseph, in the rickshaw right before we parted ways in Fort Cochi, he was going to the bus station to head to Munnar.

Pictures: Pondicherry

The Bay of Bengal- Pondicherry

A pink scooter - so my style

The Bay of Bengal sea

French colonial building

Corinna and Kerstin (friends I met from Austria and spent 2 days with)

Quiet Pondicherry streets

Christmas tree!!! The first I have seen in India (Pondicherry is primarily a Christian city)

Sunday, December 9, 2007

French on the streets

Hearing Indian men ask me "Comment ca va madame" is really bizarre and super cool all at once. I feel like I am in some weird other universe.

India is so diverse and so cultural that I am surprised by the amount I learn and take in every day. There is something new to learn and see all the time. My mind is swimming with all the views, the languages, the scents (good and bad), and the different languages.

India is an amazing place to experience. I love it here more and more everyday!

Maintenant, j'aimerais manger to pain au chocolat et boire du jus ananas.

A bientot.

Saturday, December 8, 2007

Revised- Map of India

Mumbai is where I landed and where I fly out from. Then we went to South Goa. The black squiggly dot in the middle of Panaji and Chennai is Hampi. We then went to bangalore then to Kochi, where Jospeh and I separated. Now I am in Pondicherry which isn't on the map but is the square between Chennai and Vijayawada, on the Bay of Bengal. I am happy with what I've seen so far and can't wait to explore the north another time. I'll need a few months for that as well.

Driving on the wrong side of the road, enjoying Bollywood movies and then a long journey to Pondicherry!

It's been a few days since I've updated and I intended to, before I left Hampi, but it was just my luck that the Internet was down all over the town that day. I've been on the road the last few days going to Bangalore and then catching a bus to Pondicherry, which was 18 hours total travel time!!

But first some updates of my last few days in Hampi before leaving to Pondicherry. I had a busy few days in Hampi and met some of Kiran's good friends. His friend Ramu just married a month ago so Ramu invited Kiran and I to his home (which he shares with his brother and a guy from Holland named William) Ramu met William a few years back and William has been instrumental in helping Ramu build his home and start his graphic designing business. William is single with no family in Holland and will retire soon and has become like family to Ramu and his family.

Kiran and I took a rickshaw out to Ramu and his wife, Kavita's home. Kavita is 18 years old and sized me up and didn't say much to me for about an hour. She kept telling her husband, how beautiful I was and how much she loved my hair in her own language of Telegu. Ramu would translate and I would become increasingly uncomfortable at the attention of this young girl. She was so curious about everything I did, how I drank the coconut water they plucked from the tree in their yard, how I interacted with Kiran, how I sat, how I ate. It was so bizarre. But after she got to know me and became more comfortable with me, she relaxed a little and eased up on the incessant starring. And then I became her new best friend. She taught me how to tie a Saree (and I have pictures of this and me wearing the Saree) and she gave me her mother's Saree, which was a very kind gesture.

Kiran is worried about me making friends and having people to talk to, and he said that I could come out to Kavita's and Ramu's home whenever I wanted, and that Kavita could be someone I could talk to. I understand Kiran's wanting me to have girls to talk to, as it can be a challenge as Indian women are difficult to make connections with, but I told him, that it would be difficult for me to be friends with her, and what would I speak to her about? Our lives are totally different and the experiences I have had would probably make her head spin. Sure, she is someone I could learn from (how to cook, Indian traditions etc ) and I welcome this opportunity. But as a girl I can have legitimate girl talk with, I don't think so. Her English isn't advanced enough to have more than small conversations with anyway. But I am sure I can teach her with that a little bit.

Later in the day, Kiran wanted to take me for a ride in Ramu's beaten up jeep. It is a 4 gear manual jeep and has 2 seats and a back area where people can sit (like a truck). Kiran drove for a while and my curiosity and sense of adventure kicked in and I asked him if I could drive. I am not sure what reaction I expected, but he said sure and stopped the truck so I could get in. Now Indians drive on the wrong side of the road (ok, ok, the left side of the road). So I got in and started driving Indian style, in the middle of the road changing gears and dodging sheep, cows and people. I think I impressed Kiran and Ramu with my driving skills, although they did look a little white when I came to a stop. I told them that was Canadian style driving!!!

Kiran and I then took Kavita and Ramu out for dinner to celebrate their recent wedding and the restaurant we chose was a nice riverfront view restaurant. We ate lots of vegetable and cashew nut curry and garlic naan and finished our meals off with sweet lassies.
it was a really nice day, and I glad to meet Kiran's friends, who now consider me their "sister."

The following night we finally made it out for a movie in Hospet. I really wanted to see the Bollywood movie Om Shanti Om, and so Kiran and I went with Ramu and Kavita and Ramesh, and Ramu's younger brother Akil. The movie was quite cheap and cost about $1.75, and the seats were very comfortable. There were about 150 men in the theater and about 5 women. The movie was terrific and was completely in Hindi. But it wasn't difficult to understand what was going on. Kiran explained a few parts that were more difficult to understand. There was lots of dancing and singing and I just loved the colours and the music. When good love scenes (mind you love scenes with no kissing but just cuddling) or dance scenes came on, people in the audience cheered and whistled. It was quite an enjoyable experience actually, and so different. Also half way through the movie, there was an intermission to go to the toilet, buy Indian snacks and stretch (the movie was over 2 hours). I enjoyed the movie so much I bought the soundtrack.

It was good few days in Hampi but I needed to leave for a few days to see a few other things in India and run some errands in Bangalore. Some things are more difficult to find in Hampi, and I needed some English books, and a few other odds and ends.
As I mentioned in my previous post, I would be accompanying Kirans' cousin (who is very close to him they call each other sister and brother) to her aunt's place who just had a baby in Bangalore. Her parents were very worried for her to travel on her own, she was also a little nervous.
After the 10 hour overnight journey to Bangalore I took her by rickshaw to her aunt's place (kiran's mother's youngest sister). There I was greeted by very kind and welcoming people. I was given a south Indian breakfast, and they let me use their bathroom to shower and clean up. I played with their daughter who is 3 and half (super cute, and I will get a pic on my return journey) and I also played with the one month old new daughter named Megena. After finishing my errands I was told to come back for a lunch of Dal fry (lentil curry) which Kiran's aunt made for me herself as she was told it was my favourite. Kiran's aunt is 28 years old and had been married since 2001. Here being a non-married women is very strange to Indian people, although in bigger cities it is more acceptable. But I was welcomed and made to feel very comfortable. I had to rush though, as I had to catch the bus at 2pm for Pondicherry and had to look forward to another 8 hours on the road.

Luckily I met 2 Austrian girls on the bus and we all suffered through the bumpy ride together while listening to our Ipods. We decided to share a room together as it would be cheaper and it was well after 10pm when we arrived. The room was certainly not the best room I had seen, but we were exhausted and it would have to do for one night.

This morning we've been out exploring the town. We had breakfast at a French bakery, and dined on chocolate croissants, and cafe au lait. We've been wondering the city a little bit and it way more hot here than in Hampi and Bangalore (which was rainy and cool). Cool for me right now means anything under 25 degrees I think.
Pondicherry is on the sea, and the bay of Bengal so it definitely is hotter. I will attach a new map to let you all see where i have been and where I am.
I am in Pondicherry for a few days and leave Monday night on the night bus (God help me) back to Bangalore, where I will spend the day with Shruthi (Kiran's cousin) and her aunt, and do more errands and spend time with the baby, before heading back with Shruthi to Hampi.

There seems to be quite a few things to do here, so I am sure I will be busy for the next few days exploring, speaking French, downloading more pictures, and hanging out at the beach front eating French cuisine.

I am sure everyone is covered with snow in Ontario and getting into the Christmas spirit. To be honest, I doesn't feel like Christmas, there are no signs of it here and it's too hot to think about it. I guess that just makes being away from home for Christmas that much easier. Plus being here, in India, traveling, and spending time in Hampi and with Kiran is the biggest and best Christmas gift I could ask for.
I feel very lucky.

Monday, December 3, 2007

Going to do some exploring on the East coast

After being back in Hampi for about 10 days now I decided I should do some more sight seeing. Since I am not coming back until the end of December now, I have 4 more weeks to explore India. On Thursday I leave for Bangalore and will be heading to another state called Tamil Nadu, the town I will visit is called Pondicherry.

Pondicherry used to be colonized by the French and is supposed to be a small, quaint town with French bakeries, French expats mixed with Indian charm and culture.

Kiran's cousin, Shrutti, who is 20 years old wants to visit her aunt in Bangalore who just had a baby. The women in India rarely travel alone! They are usually accompanied by a man or with their family. It's not like this all the time or for all the women, as I have seen some Indian women by themselves (although very infrequently). Shrutti is nervous to go to Bangalore by herself which is a big city and a lot more hectic than Hampi is that's for sure. I told Shrutti, she could come with me, and I will take her by rickshaw to her aunts place and then when I come back from Pondicherry I will pick her up and take her back to Hampi with me.
She asked Kiran what he thought, or basically asked him for permission. It's just funny, because Kiran is so westernized that he laughed when she asked him. He said, "This isn't even Shelley's country and she is going to travel by herself, and you Shrutti are afraid to travel in your own country." He said you don't need my permission, but I trust Shelley and if you want to go with her, that might be better for you if you are nervous.

I just sat there with an amused look on my face. I am learning so much while I am here about Indian culture, and sometimes it frustrates me to no end, and other times I embrace it and the way they take care of each other in their families!

So Shrutti and I leave Thursday evening on the sleeper train to Bangalore. I have to admit, although I am fine going by myself, as I am quite used to the million of peering dark eyes curiously focused on me, it will be nice to have company. I will bring Shrutti to her aunt's place (like I even know where to go- I've been to Bangalore once). And I will have breakfast with Shrutti's aunt (Kiran's mother's sister), Kiran's mom is one of 6 daughters in her family. And take a shower, and leave my bag there. I plan to do some shopping in Bangalore, as I need some more books to read. Then I will take a night bus to Pondicherry and spend 3 or 4 days there, then head back to Bangalore to meet Shrutti and come back to Hampi with her. Kiran might come and meet us as he has some errands to run in Bangalore. It's much easier for me to travel with Indians as the prices are cheaper. There is usually a foreign price and an Indian price.

As for me, things are great and shanti shanti (relaxed). I rode a scooter by myself for the first time a few days ago, as I escorted a French couple to see Kiran's plantation, as they were interested in seeing the beautiful land. It was a rush to drive down the dirt roads on the scooter, and so much fun!!
Today I got an Ayruvedic facial, neck massage, head massage and threading of my eyebrows (a hair removal procedure) that cost me all of $10 and lasted over an hour. It was amazing and my head is still tingling from the mint gel she rubbed into my scalp.
Tonight, Kiran and I are going to a movie in the next town called Om Shanti Om, which the very famous movie playing all over India right now. It should be interesting being in a theater where most of the people will be men!! There should be English subtitles because the movie is in Hindi, and people speak Kannada here. But I love the Hindi music, and there should be lots in this movie!

Life is good and relaxed and I am learning a lot about myself and India. Kiran's cousin is teaching me the Kannada language (which is the language of this state). I'd prefer to learn Hindi, but if I ever want to really communicate with Kiran's mother and family I should learn some basics. It's a tough language and I know I'll probably only learn to speak it, not read and write it, as it just looks absolutely daunting to write or read Kannada. It seriously looks like scribble to me - a concoction of circles and squiggle lines. This is what it looks like this
ಕನಾ೯ಟಕ and this: