A Travellerspoint blog

AN INDIAN ROAD TRIP

Touch and go but we made it!

sunny 71 °F

"'I THINK I GOT THE BLACK LUNG POP!!' Balvant has his window down trying to suffocate me in the backseat with dirt and dust. No wonder Indians look 10 years older than they actually are! Riding bikes and open taxis with no glasses, bandannas, not to mention a helmet! I guess brown skin takes it better than fair skin. Can't imagine a Sweed surviving this for very long."

NO FEAR

NO FEAR

That was part of an entry from my journal during the car ride from Delhi to Rishikesh. Rishikesh is about 240 km/150 mi North and should be about a 5 1/2 hour drive. [Note the subtle foreshadowing] No exaggeration, we stopped about 15 times to ask for directions or confirmation that we were on the right track. I didn't want to stress them by asking "ARE WE LOST?" (it would have been a rhetorical question anyway) so I just sat in the back seat CHILLIN'. Not stressed even a little. Just taking it all in and trying to get some good pics of the madness.

Balvant my Focused Driver!

Balvant my Focused Driver!

Around hour 7 of our 5 1/2 hour trip, just as the sun was beginning to set and I was starting to worry at the fact we were still pulling over for directions, we ran dead into the craziest traffic jam. Cause of said traffic jam: A PARADE! I know you're thinking, 'but how are you driving through a parade?' Because in India there is no such thing as obtaining a street permit for a parade. In a street as big as the street you live on -NOT including the sidewalks- there was a legit Bud Billiken status parade with cars, like ours, that had nothing to do with the parade going in either direction and, locals crossing the street and going about their business as usual. It went on for about 3 km and there I was again GAGGED in the backseat looking out he window in awe. Now I understand the Indian tourism catchphrase INCREDIBLE INDIA!

PARADE

PARADE

PARADE

PARADE

Fast forward about 16 hours and I am sitting in the sun at Parmarth Niketan Ashram http://www.parmarth.com enjoying the warmth of the rays and doing so happily because my room was freezing last night! I was wondering why they gave me so many blankets! There were 4 in total, 2 thin, 1 medium and 1 heavy, wool piece of goodness. When I laid down with the drafty windows at the head of my bed, it was clear that I would be using ALL the blankets.

As I sunbathed on the benches lining the sort of outdoor foyer of the Parmarth, a sweet, older, British couple (of Indian descent) stopped to ask me about the Ashram. The Ashram is located along the Ganges River and there are no doors so anyone passing bye is encouraged to come in. From our conversation, I found it interesting that Indians not raised here have the same opinions about India as Westerners. They too were disconcerted with the trash, noise, air pollution, random animals and their feces, contaminated water, etc. The husband was actually just getting over 4 days of travel sickness himself.

I am literally "in the lap of the Himalayas" as they say. Himalayas pronounced Him-aaall-e-yas. I look up from where I am sitting and it is all green mountains against white fluffy clouds. The air is crisp, and a million times cleaner than Delhi. The Mother Ganges flows just before the gates of the Ashram and she is lovingly known as Maha (Mother) Ganga to all who live here.

It is the day before the start of the Yoga Festival and the Ashram is quickly filling with Yogis. Truth be told I am so happy to see.....White people! It's been a lot of brown the last 4 days. Also nice to hear English - American English! Especially after 7 hours in the backseat with an Indian whose favorite and almost only English word was "NO!" He got so much joy saying it to me.

"VImal you want to listen to some of my music?" "NO!"
"Vimal are you hungry?" "NO!"
"Vimal, Namaste." "Namaste? NO!"

I REALLY GET ON HIS NERVES

I REALLY GET ON HIS NERVES

HE SECRETLY LOVES IT THOUGH!

HE SECRETLY LOVES IT THOUGH!

I think he secretly had a crush on me. I gave him my watch as a gift for the past 2 days after he walked me across the Ganges bridge to the Ashram (thanks Louie! It was the perfect gift!) . Although he didn't really walk me. He more or less just walked as fast as he could in front of me like he was trying to lose me as I dodged motorbikes, cattle and people with a huge backpack on my shoulders struggling to keep up. At one point, my frustration level high, I yelled at him "VIMAL! Wait!' His response: "NO!...Walk fast." I knew his English was better than he was pretending.

Back to the watch - I noticed him eyeing it since we met so it was only mildly surprising to see a smile come across his face as I fastened it to his wrist. But then the words "thank you" fell from his lips. Shocking! Then he abruptly said bye, turned and left. Only to comeback a minute later holding what would have been worth a bag of gold to me in that moment - my cell phone!

He liked to take pictures with it while we were sightseeing. I should have taught him how to use the zoom button and maybe I would have gotten some better pictures out of that deal. When we went to cross the Ganges bridge- we had to cross by foot because cars are not allowed over after sunset- I carried my backpack and purse and he offered to carry of course....my phone. Ladies & Gents, I don't know if chivalry ever made it to India.

Anyway, I was sooooooo happy he remembered because at this point in my day I was beyond flustered: still thinking of the cow I almost ran into while trying to make it alive across the bridge and now I was trying to get my shit together for the Yoga Registration desk +rain just started to pour+ tired+ hungry = a lost cell phone. I instinctively gave him a huge hug and he instinctively squirmed like a little boy trying to avoid his Mom's kisses when she drops him off at school. This made me hug him even harder which made him turn and leave even more abruptly than the first time!

Guess I can't win em all ;-)

FYI: My cell phone/camera is out of commission right now. The screen completely shattered after dropping it on the beautiful stone walkways of the Ashram! Woe is me ;-( Therefore all the pics I wanted to upload of the Ashram with this entry will come at a later date.

Posted by Ivoriejenkins 03:37 Archived in India Comments (5)

CASHING A TRAVELLERS CHECK IN INDIA

The Day I Thought I Was a Secret Agent

sunny 73 °F

So I have arrived in Delhi and it is everything any blog, guidebook, website, native or past visitor has told me to the power of whatever exponent is equivalent to experiencing something with your very own eyes for the very first time. I am exhilarated, inspired, shocked, overjoyed...basically I am SHAM WOWED! Mouth on the ground. GAGGED!...but it's reeeal dirty so I picked my mouth off the ground reeeal quick!

INCREDIBLE INDIA

INCREDIBLE INDIA

My HOTEL is Bloomrooms near the Delhi Railway Station. Not the Ritz but clean, airy, and the showerhead Ima need at home in LA! Yellow accents everywhere. If there was a soundtrack to this hotel it would be Pharrell's "Happy!"

HOTEL PATIO

HOTEL PATIO

Yellow=HAPPY

Yellow=HAPPY

I should also mention that I have 2 Indian natives, Balvant and Vimal, who are family friends of my Aunt's significant other, also an Indian native. Balvant and Vimal kindly agreed to meet me at my hotel and make sure I am able to safely explore my first 2 days in Delhi. They also are driving me to Rishikesh on Day 3 but I'll save that story for my next entry.

MIS AMIGOS

MIS AMIGOS

The only problem: they don't speak English! I was already aware of this and did not think it would be a big deal until I kept hearing "Taj Mahal" "Taj Mahal" and found out they were trying to take me Agra to see the Taj Mahal on that day! This is a 3 hour car ride and a whole day excursion that I was not prepared for and was planning to see later on my journey. It was clear an interpretor was a necessity. The hotel manager arranged an English speaking guide to come with us as we explored the touristy Delhi sights. Gotta say that his English wasn't much better but we made do. I just made use of my interpretive dance skills and it was all gravy!

But i digress. Back to the day I thought I was a secret agent.

So it is my second day in Delhi and I am trying to explain to Balvant and Vimal that I need to find a place to exchange my travellers checks. There is some argument in Hindi about where exactly we should go but I have a trusty map of all the Thomas Crowns and American Expresses in the area (I prepped extremely well for this trip). They seemed surprised that I knew more than they. Which is when I began to understand that they are not from Delhi but that they came some distance as a courtesy to their Uncle and my Aunt in the States. So really, we are all exploring Delhi together!

Digressed again...Anyway, they hired a taxi driver who spoke English to take us around for the day beginning with Thomas Crown which, if you are unfamiliar, is basically a global money exchange storefront. I attempted to introduce myself to the driver with my friendliest American "hello!" but he turned his eyes away quickly and mumbled something possibly close to hello. It's only been 2 days, yet I have noticed men here do not always make eye contact with women nor do they always care what you have to say; which is why it is ironic is that all 3 of these men have adjusted their lives in some way to accommodate me, a woman. So in some ways, perhaps they are annoyed with even having to do this deed but "a dollar make you holler" right?

So I walk into Thomas Crown...me and my 3 new "friends" Balvant, Vimal and the taxi driver who didn't introduce himself. I walk up to the counter and my 3 friends walk up with me. I take out $200 in American Express travellers checks and my 3 friends watch like I'm a You Tube clip . I give a gesturing look for a little privacy and they backed up but not too much... still close enough for me to feel breath on my neck.

Then the man exchanging my $$$ starts acting like a jerk. He's telling me how I should take my Rupees. I am getting Rs 11,400 and he wants to give me 20 Rs500 bills! I don't want large wads of cash so I ask for Rs1000 bills and he says, "Miss you don't need that many." At this point, with the Three Amigos hoovering over my back and this dude trying to tell me what I NEED, I almost read them all a page from the BITCH PLEASE, I'M FROM CHICAGO Chronicles! But I kept it cool and kept it moving. Kept it moving right to the bathroom.

Why the bathroom you ask?

Because I don't trust any of these Brown People! And I've watched way too many Liam Neeson movies so all I am picturing is the SET UP...or the OVERLAY for the UNDERPLAY as my brother Grip would say. They all know how much cash I am carrying right? In my movie, they are phoning the 4th man right now to come "rob" us as we walk back to the car. The 4th man gets me for all I got and the Three Amigos buy me a consolatory Chai and act like it's just another day on the tough streets of Delhi. I'm out $200 and the next scene is the UNDERPLAY: 4 guys laughing all the way to the State Bank of India.

So what did I do in the bathroom? Diversified my money of course! Some in my bra, some deep in the passport holder, some in a pill box, a little in my shoe and small bills in the obvious wallet. Not getting me with the BANNA IN THE TAILPIPE! (remember that scene from Eddie Murphy's Beverly Hills Cop?!)

I guess I wasn't that much of a secret agent but I sure felt like one when I slipped into the bathroom pretending I was Angelina Jolie!

No harm was done; no robbery; made it home with all my money; and had a great day sightseeing. Can't be too careful though, right? ;-)

Posted by Ivoriejenkins 05:44 Archived in India Tagged thomas_crown travellers_checks overlay underplay Comments (4)

Air Emirates Is MAAAJOR!

best longest flight ever!

That airplane ride was beyond! Like Bed...Bath...and BEYOND!! Woodgrain everywhere even the toilet seats! Two levels. When I boarded the plane there was a stairway to heaven - uh I mean to First Class with two angels- uh I mean flight attendants standing on either side of the stairway. It was too cinematic to leave undocumented so I snapped a pic. One flight attendant slipped away and the other smiled and posed with her full face of makeup and perfectly slicked back bun covered with a white veil under a bright red pillbox hat. They looked more like glamourous hostesses than anyone who woud get you safely through a water landing but, as a dancer I always appreciate a 'beat' face and a costume! And after hour 9 in flight....YEP! they were still flawless singing in unison "we woke up like this! we woke up like this!"

002

002

stairway to heaven

stairway to heaven

Tried to make friends with one of them to get a look upstairs but that was a no go. Not to worry though because I had a whole row to myself. Who needs First Class when you have a whole row of Economy to yourself? Okay. Don't answer that.

A row to myself!

A row to myself!

Biggest complaint: there is NO reason that at the end of a 16 hour flight you should be wishing it was NOT over! But that is exactly how I felt when the Captain came over the PA system announcing our descent into Dubai. I was no where near finishing all my movies and I had barely touched WNYC's Freakonomics Podcast! With over 300 movies from all around the world, TV shows galore, Music Videos, Podcasts, Satellite Radio and even a gaming console (unfortunately no Netflix but that just sounds greedy) and only 10 hours and 48 minutes left on the flight tracker, I was beginning to feel overwhelmed that I would not would be able to journal, eat dinner, sleep and get all my entertainment in! I fought sleep as long as I could!

What I Watched:

ENOUGH SAID
(James Gandolfini & Julia Louis Dreyfus) - Loved It! Light, funny, true life and sweet to see Gandolfini on the screen knowing it will be the last.

Emeli Sande: Live @ Albert Hall
Had never heard of her. Sound similar to Leona Lewis with edge or maybe the edge was just her haircut?

Citizen Kahn
Slapstick sitcom about a British Muslim family. Was attempting something new. Made it through only half an episode.

ABCD Bollywood Dance Crew Film
Similar to a US dance crew movie. Featuring Lauren Gottleib - SYTYCD contestant and one of the rehearsal assistants for my show in Vegas Viva Elvis! What are the odds out of 30 Bollywood films I pick that one?! Get it girl!

Baggage Claim
(Paula Patton) - Don't judge!

Freakonomics Podcast (NPR's WNYC) http://freakonomics.com/radio/
Super interesting topics explained through the eyes of UofChicago economist Steven Levitt and author Stephen Dubner

Landed safely, got my Saudi Arabia passport stamp and left the airport to meet Adrienne - my dear friend, Northwestern college roommate and Sorority sister who has been living with her husband (also my college friend) in Dubai for the last 3 years. Since my nerves were high thinking about landing in India with no familiar face in sight for 3 months, this was a lovely stopover that sort of paused the ever-ticking countdown to India!
Reunited!

Reunited!

Posted by Ivoriejenkins 01:26 Archived in Saudi Arabia Tagged flight dubai movies flight_attendants air_emirates Comments (3)

WHY THE HELL IS SHE GOING TO INDIA???

Cause I know you're wondering!

semi-overcast 72 °F

If you have not already heard I am going to India! I departed from LAX on Sunday February 23rd (with a backpack and a dream! Ha! couldn't help that one) on the biggest plane I have ever flown or seen in my life - the AIRBUS 380 courtesy of Air Emirates.

My travels begin in Delhi then scatter throughout the subcontinent. I will 'get my Yoga on' at an International Yoga Festival in Rishikesh; live 2 weeks of austerity at an Ashram along the Ganges; train and bus it throughout select cities of Rajasthan; teach dance and English to children at a school in Darjeeling; and God willing reminisce upon it all on a beach -or better yet- an island off the coast of India. Anyone free mid May is welcome to join me!!!

This blog will serve as a place where friends and family can make sense of my decision to travel so far away ALONE....as I was not very open or forthcoming about my plans up until now. Part of the reason I withheld my plans was so I did not have to EXPLAIN or make my travel MAKE SENSE to anyone except myself. I could already hear the responses. Although, at this point of the journey, I can tell you the ACTUAL responses! They went a lil something like this:

"INDIA?!?!? WTF?!"
"It's really dirty there. Are you sure?"
"3 months!?!"
"You're going alone? Are you crazy!? You know women get raped there."

My personal favorite was from my beloved MOTHER:

"Sooo....Honey...are thinking of becoming a HINDU or a BUDDHIST or something?"

And then there was the ever popular:

"Ohhhh, you're going through like, a Julia Roberts, EAT PRAY LOVE moment. Totally get it!"

Well, unlike Julia Roberts' character, I am not going through a divorce or any other assumed mid-life crisis (I am also not mid-life yet!) but, I did resonate with Elizabeth Gilberts' memoir and if referencing EAT PRAY LOVE transforms stares of bewilderment to a mild, general understanding then thank God for that damn movie!

I am choosing to call this space In Search for the POLKA DOTTED UNICORN - although I should be clear that I am not searching for any thing, feeling or person nor do I feel lost. The POLKA DOTTED UNICORN was a name given to me by a dear friend as we discussed the differences in our natures. My friends' pragmatic and grounded nature found something admirable about my nature which he said was something like......he paused searching for the right description.... a POLKA DOTTED UNICORN! The PDU is a free spirit that frolicks the forest with an innocence that keeps it protected from fear and a freedom of expression unusual among regular, non-polka dotted unicorns. For some reason I was endeared by this description. I knew the innocence, joy, abandon and freedom of spirit of the PDU were all qualities I wanted to continue nurturing within myself.

This journey to India is an attempt at exactly that. It is a SOUL TRIP. A trip created, produced, funded and performed by me although inspired by many. Two inspirations in particular are my dear friends Austin Travis and Willis Johnston whose dedication to travel and adventure have motivated me when doubt screamed louder than trust. This trip is a means of checking in and seeing who I have become since the first time I ventured out and studied abroad in college. It is a means of keeping a sense of abandon about my life enough to know that I can give up the luxuries and privileges of my life in L.A. in exchange for new experiences and perspectives. Of course, I know that only a privileged life can take off 3 months to "find herself" and I have grappled with this fact. I do not however, take this privilege lightly and I express gratitude for it daily. I also do not write any of this as a prescription or a sermon for another. This is only what I have found to bring peace to me and I want to share my findings.

Lastly, I am aware that this whole search for the UNICORN thing could blow up in my face and have me running back home to my caul-de-saced LA neighborhood upon week 3! If it happens, I promise their will be an entry.

I will update as often as internet connection allows. I apologize in advance for grammar and spelling mistakes as I will be posting straight from my phone. Please comment as often as you like and call me out on anything...just like I like my friends to do!

Saw this as I was waiting for my flight to Delhi from Dubai. Felt like they were advertising right to me!
Dubai Airport

Dubai Airport

Posted by Ivoriejenkins 11:25 Archived in India Tagged unicorns inspiration soultrip Comments (10)

(Entries 19 - 22 of 22) « Page 1 2 3 [4]