Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Melting in Rajesthan (Carolann's Story)

(Carolann's thoughts about travel in Rajesthan, India)

I'm getting tired.

Dan and I have a time-worn understanding that we should only travel for three months at a stretch. Yet we've not been able to do it. Since our excursions are tied to my leave of absences, and these are similarly tied to a rental agreement with tenants, inevitably we stretch out our time abroad. Our first extended travel was for ten months, the second time six months. Now the plan is for seven months.

Still, the rule of three months is tied to my nervous system. Travelling in developing/undeveloped countries takes a lot out of me and, even if we salt our travels with a bit of luxury, it's still hard to blast your way out onto the streets every day when you leave the sanity of the guesthouse.

In this e-mail I'm going to whine. While Dan says just "suck it up", I say "Tag, you're it!" By telling all of you about how I feel at this point, this is a kind of therapy for me. The monkey on my back is now yours.

It's approaching two months and I'm getting tired and cranky. Even the generous hospitality of our hosts in Delhi cannot break my mood for long. I'm good for a day or so, and then everything is a chore. I'm tired of flies up my nose, tired of the incurable congestion. I've overloaded my senses with sights, smells, sounds, tastes and there's no time to assimilate these things, make sense of them. I turn my head from the beggar children tapping at the car window. Once, when I looked, I saw a seven-year old girl who returned my stare. A pretty girl, not at all spoiled or broken, just flat out poor. I overload too in self-loathing.

We pick our way along the streets of Udaipur dodging motorcycles and auto-rickshaws attacking from two directions on our way to check out restaurants - something we do regularly for Trip Advisor and Lonely Planet. TheSavage Cafe is a dump! At the recommended Namaste Cafe, our waiter emerges from the toilet and wipes his hands on the chequered tablecloth opposite our own.

At lunch I look out from our rooftop cafe over the houses and to the lake. I see a woman peeling an orange for her son on a nearby roof terrace. With each handful of peelings, she lobs them over the railing onto the street, or onto a car or pedestrian. I can't make out whose day was just made.

On the street after lunch, the vendors attack.

"This is fine product."

"Madam, where you from?"

I give good price"

"Oh. Shut up!!!!"

I'm tired.

My favourite pen has just run dry.

We return to our room at a truly wonderful guesthouse. It's basic, but the owner, a British Expat gives me the western element I sorely need. They serve French press coffee. Outside of high-end properties in India, one gets Nescafe in the morning. Enough said.

"I've trained my staff on how to make good coffee," says Carol the owner of the Hibiscus Guesthouse.

I'm chatting with Carol one morning and one of her staff enters with Oscar on a leash. Oscar is a Great Dane, a gentle, golden, elephant-like animal. When he stretches out for a nap, he takes the entire length of a day bed.

"Take Oscar upstairs to the roof now and don't feed him until he's up there." directs Carol. She turns to me: "If they feed him downstairs, they will never get him out of the reception area."

The attendant shuffles by and nods.

Oscar is next seen on the welcome couch for new guests, licking his chops.

Carol sighs. "It's really hard to make staff listen to instructions. It's a challenge."

At this point, it's hard to tell Carol that while our room has been cleaned for the day and the bed made, the staff did not replace the empty toilet paper, nor exchange the sodden towel on the floor (rather, they hung it up). The soap has also disappeared.

I'm tired.

Today's newspaper headline is all about 400 flamingos fried by electrical wires strung across their breeding grounds. These birds migrate annually over the Himalayas to settle on marshland in India to breed. There's a new hydro installation through this sensitive area. Some claimed that a car horn might have startled the birds and they took off en masse. Others say that predator birds have learned to create chaos in the flock and the flamingos then throw themselves up into the high voltage wires. Ornithologists are demanding that the government coat the exposed wires or bury them.

I sympathize with these flamingos, zapped and charred. Too much, too fast.

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