Sunday, September 24, 2006

Ladies and Gentlemen, We Have Landed.

Namaste from India! I'm here in my room after 20 hours in an airplane, five hours in a bus, and two days orienting myself in a city unlike any I've ever encountered.

The plane ride was longer than any I want to take ever again. I flew from Seattle to Chicago, Chicago to Frankfurt, and Frankfurt to Mumbai. The lamb curry, basmati rice and coconut pudding Air India serves is the best I've ever eaten while 30,000 ft above sea level. The headphones I got for the ride didn't work however, so I ended up watching a good number of Indian music videos with no sound. That was strange. Luckily I managed to get a little sleep on the way. A little.

We landed in Mumbai airport (much of which is made out of pure marble), crashed at a hotel that night, then set off for Pune by bus the next day. On our way here we drove over the Ghat mountain range. Explosion. Of. Green. It's beautiful out here. Waterfalls seem to be everywhere. Shrines dot the landscape along with half-finished apartment buildings, houses, hotels, shacks and huts. Watch episode two and you'll see it all.

Anyway we got to Pune and have had the weekend to explore. It took me more than two hours and six different banks to find a place where I could change dollars into rupees on a Saturday. Some of them pointed me to other banks, some of them pointed me to hotels. One told me to leave, sent someone to fetch me off the street, then told me to leave again. It wasn't until I got to the tiny travel agency where I had to first remove my shoes before entering that I had any luck. (Good rate too, even gave me a little extra when I came back again).

I've been to tarp-covered, animal-crowded, bustling Juna Bazar which has everything from shirts to knives to busted sega genesis controllers for sale. I've seen street magicians handle snakes, turn leaves into 100 rupee notes, and light bits of fruit on fire at a distance of two yards. I've seen goats, chickens, rabbits, dogs, cats, and what looked like but couldn't have been a chipmunk running around the streets. And Cows. When I say Cows, I mean Cows. The capital C is not a typo. The horns on these Cows could skewer a small pickup truck.

There simply are too many sights, sounds, smells to describe here (especially smells).

Classes start tomorrow. I've just finished the first reading assignment, and now I'm going to head down to dinner. I'll load some photos from the drive over for you later on tonight.

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