Sunday, August 24, 2008

The Spanish tourists

My plane was pretty empty today, so I noticed the only tourists to arrive on the flight. Before leaving the airport with the taxi driver, I looked back at them surrounded by men trying to convince them to come to their houseboat, visit their carpet shop, stay in their hotel, come in their taxi--all the tourist-starved businesses--and I felt concerned for them. Somehow they'd missed reading a newspaper and had no idea what they were walking into.

It was more than the usual scenario of tourists fending off unwanted hawkers; they had no idea the city was under curfew. So I went back and told them what I knew. They were from Spain and wanted to know where they should stay, or if they should believe any of the men standing around them. So I gave them some information for where they could stay, and how they should get through the city to the lake area. I was walking away when I went back again and gave them my phone number--they seemed in way over their heads.

At 9:13pm, they called me. They wanted to leave. But they didn't know how they could get a taxi back to the airport and no one at their hotel seemed able to find one either. The hotel they were staying at, I realized, was very near to some of the afternoon commotion; they'd probably heard shooting and tear gas shells being let off. Not to mention all the check posts they'd have gone through to get to the hotel. They were scared.

They didn't want to listen to the advice to wait until Tuesday before trying to leave, so a friend of mine helped arrange a taxi for 6am. Early enough to beat the protesters to the streets.

Hoping they make it back out safely. Hoping they're not too terrified to come back someday and see the beauty they missed out on getting to see this time around. Hoping that beauty is allowed to be enjoyed once again someday soon.

Getting home

After all my traveling, I am back now. My trip from the airport to the house was eventful.
I was assured by the airport authorities and the taxi driver that my airplane boarding pass would serve as "curfew pass" to get through the strict city-wide curfew that was being enforced by police and military. We were stopped around eight times before the driver refused to take me any further. He was too agitated.
At most of the checkpoints, he would very respectfully greet the military officer, they would look at my boarding pass and his taxi papers, and then wave us on. At one stop, they wanted to try out their English and ask me how long I've lived here. But what rattled the driver was the last check point we passed and the young officer who seemed to be on a power trip. "You know it's a curfew today," he said, "Are you a curfew breaker? Do you want to get beat?"
It was only just after we'd driven out of sight of those men that the driver decided that was far enough and he stopped the car. Nearby there was a path to my house, actually. Rather God-ordained. I'd never been down that path, but I could see through the trees that it would end up right near the neighbor's house. There were some women standing nearby saying they'd find somebody to take me through to the other side. So the driver took my boarding pass to help him on his way home, and I took my suitcase over the rough, chicken-and-goat path (they'd left behind their markings).
The path came out just at the end of my lane, and my tour guide wheeled my suitcase the rest of the way to my door.
Arrived at last.

On the streets

Here's what you might see on the streets of India.
Lots of people.

Wires all crazy mixed up.

Parked cars.

Fruit sellers.
Men sitting in the middle of the road.
For no apparent reason.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

The International Toilet Museum--for real

Today I found myself looking at toilets, yes. A museum full.

There were toilets in many shapes and sizes.

King Louis XIV's toilet, even.
Though we should all be smiling, they took their job of educating about sanitation very seriously. Commendable because, yes...
The side of the road is not the place to go.

They had a real toilet to use, too. Very thorough.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

An ambulance ride

I got to ride in an ambulance today. I was sitting by the chemist counter, waiting for them to finally open at 11am. But the guy behind the counter really didn't want to put his "open for business" sign on the counter. Why? Because he knew he didn't have what I wanted. The day before when he didn't have the eye drops I needed, he'd assured me he would by this morning when I came back. He looked busy elsewhere as long as he could, but finally he put the sign out and I approached the counter.
Very sheepishly he told me they still didn't have new stock, but it would arrive in an hour. An hour? I'd already been sitting there thirty minutes. He told me I could go to the chemist counter at the hospital down the street and get what I needed.
I looked out the window and sighed. It was raining, and I'd have to walk.
"You have a vehicle, ma'am?"
"You will get there how?"
"Walking." It was at that moment he realized that, though he couldn't keep his word and provide the eye drops I needed, he could do something. He ordered the ambulance from the hospital to come and pick me up.
The ambulance came, and I rode the short distance to the hospital (we didn't use the sirens) to get some eye drops.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Nanis are protesting

A nani (nah-nee) is a grandma. This one seems very excited about something. I don't actually know what she's saying, though. It could be that she's telling everyone to go home and stop protesting. That would be nice--I hope they would listen to her. But probably not.
Today they are taking a break from the strikes. People are permitted to go out, shop, just get out of the house for a while. I wonder if this taste of "normalcy" is enough to quell the desire to renew protesting Friday.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Monkeys on the balcony

This afternoon I was startled when I saw a shadow on the curtain and a large shape moved into view.
It was a monkey. A big monkey, as big as a medium-sized dog.
Later his family showed up. Hanging in the tree. Walking on the rail. Sitting on the air-conditioning unit. There was even a little baby.
The neighbors didn't like them. They were throwing sticks and yelling at them. It probably didn't help his case when one monkey ran up a tree with a bag of trash which he then emptied out.
After the rain stopped and they'd eaten up all the fruit in the trash, they moved on.

Here's some brief monkey footage.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Unrest continues

I can't get back to my house. After my trip to Thailand, I'm stuck in the capital city until things become more calm.
The city is under a 24 hour curfew. If I were to arrive at the airport, I'd be stuck there for who-knows-how-long. If I were to get to my house, there'd be no way to go out and get food or other supplies. Or to go out to teach, though it's near by.
I'm better off where I am for now, though I'm kind of done with living out of a suitcase.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

More protesting

The protesting that ended last month has started up again; this time more intensely. The issues are causing divisions along Hindu and Muslim lines. A very volatile situation.
In many cases, the police are unable to quell the escalating demonstrations, and sometimes they are even throwing rocks back at the protesters.

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Back to the night bazaar

A short trip back to Thailand and I was back in the night bazaar taking pictures. I love the colors and lighst of the market stalls.