Thursday, December 21, 2006

The Final Word

I wrote a long entry thanking anyone and everyone I could think of that was involved in my trip or this show. It was long, it was eloquent and it was a final entry to make me feel proud.

Then my computer crashed.

So I'll make the thank-yous brief. They all fit into four groups: The Indians I met who were guides, hosts and friends to me; the University of Chicago Staff and Students I was with and who got me here; the people behind the scenes at NBC who first got me on this thing and then worked incredibly hard to make it great; and finally my fellow cast members for showing us their fantastic experiences all around the world.

Thank you.

As for me, well, my next step is on the way. I go back to Chicago and use what I learned. After that, I will travel around the world. Like I said, I've been saving up since I was a little kid. India was only the beginning for me.

I'm going to lay an open invitation for anyone who wants to join me to do so. I will be leaving after I graduate in the summer of 2008. I don't know where or when. I don't expect anyone to come with me all the way (and in fact I intend to do some of it solo) but if you're reading this from France and want to see Germany, or you're in South Africa and want to try to get to Madagascar, or maybe you're near the Tierra del Fuego and want to catch a glimpse of Antarctica, come with me when I'm near you and see them.

All I know is that I will be seeing every continent on this planet in the space of a year. Anyone who can help me or who thinks I can help them should get in touch with me through this site or email me directly at This goes out especially to my fellow cast members of JYA 2006, Lauren, Jason, Erica, Matthias, Christopher, Natalie, Lisa, Stacey, Roger, I want to see some of what you guys did up close. Drop me a line.

The world is too big for you not to see it. If you still have to chance to study abroad, take it. If you do not, find out the best way for you to leave your home and return. Find somewhere you'd never thought you'd see in your whole life, and go see it. Money will not be an issue if you do your homework on the subject. Time and opportunity will.

I don't feel like I'm a good enough writer to end this properly with my own words, so I will leave with a quote from one who I feel can:

"Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn't do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines, sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover." -Mark Twain

I thank you all, and wish you all good-bye, good luck, and real adventures.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Notes and Corrections

Allright, here are some things I wanted on the record about my individual episodes:

Ep 2: "The Privacy of the Passengers": The "shrine" shown as I'm talking about shrines... isn't a shrine. It's a statue of Shivaji, the local war hero. You can find his likeness all over Maharashtra.

Ep 4: "They Paint the Streets":
-The food I was talking about is specifically the food we got at the hotel; People who come to India are a pretty self-selecting group. If they don't like Indian food in general, they don't come.

-As a rule, I asked for permission before turning the camera on people. Often people would ask me to film them and their friends and family when they saw I had a camera. That's where the footage of people staring at me comes form.

-See the shirt I'm wearing during the camel ride? Okay, now watch "The Varkari Guru" again. Look familiar? That's because these happened on the same night. The camel ride in this episode happened when I briefly stepped out of the drumming ceremony in the last episode to see what the parade noise outside was all about.

Ep 5: "Treehouse": Notice something funny about the edges of the shots in the forest of Periyar Wildlife Sanctuary? It's a plastic bag. It was raining for the first hour or so of our hike, so that was how I kept the camera safe and dry.

Ep 6: "What to Eat with Your Hands":
-First of all, yes I am eating my gulab jamun with a spoon after saying they eat with their hands here. Not everything is eaten by hand, and often people will use utensils to be polite. Us westerners often did it just because eating rice and liquids and tearing bread with one hand is harder than it looks...

-Second, people asked how people ate liquids with their hands. Generally what they would do would be to take some sort of roti (bread) and use it to get the solid pieces out (meat, veggies, paneer, etc.) and then soak up what's left with rice. Usually in a thali restaurant they will serve you roti first, then wait until you're done with that to give you the rice for that reason.

Ep 7: "Big Cat":

-Okay, I got up at 6 am to record this. I thought I could find privacy and quiet that way. You can see how well that worked out. Listen carefully, you can hear those car horns during the main body of the episode as well as the outtake bit, (thankfully the music covers them up some).

-It's worth saying that graffiti of sacred images is not generally a big concern among Indians, but I did spot a lot of graffiti in roman script in other parts of the temple, probably from foreign tourists That's why I was talking about putting the main images behind bars.

-Why did I go to the zoo? Well, I actually worked in the Woodland Park Zoo in Seattle over the summer; I kinda wanted to compare notes. Interesting experience overall. The "Please Don't Cross the Barricade, Survivors will be Prosecuted" sign is now my desktop photo on this computer.

Ep 8: "Namaste" (no accent on the e necessary, but it's passable as it's from a language that uses a different script).
-The temples date back to the 7th century CE, not BCE. That may be a one-letter difference, but it changes the date by about 1400 years. My mistake.

-The "Monkey Menace" sign was no joke; one of my friends got robbed by a monkey in Vijayanagara. Those guys will try to mug in packs given the chance. Do not show them food or anything flashy, they will try to take it.

-The Golgumbaz in Bijapur is not bigger than the Taj in Agra, it just has a bigger dome than the Taj does.

-Joel Shack was a shack that sold seafood and cocktails in Goa. I visited it and sought out the owner. Hilarity ensued.

That's about all! Any questions, comments or further corrections should be emailed to me at

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

New Guy, Old Home

Well, I’m back. I’m home. I’m sitting in my room writing on the same laptop on the same desk that published the very first entry of this blog, (with the same cat in my lap, for that matter).

It’s taken me a good three or four days to recover from the jet lag of jumping 13 ½ hours backwards. London cushioned me from the culture shock, though I’m still not quite ready to drive somewhere where the cars are on the right side of the road.

I’ve changed. That much is clear. I’m not entirely sure just how much I’ve changed, but living, studying, and traveling on the other side of the planet for a quarter did something to me.

Part of it is a little abstract. We’re used to defining a big part of who we are by our environment and how we interact with it. What our opinions are, what food we eat, where we go in our spare time, stuff like that. So if you’re suddenly plunked down in a completely different environment, where those opinions aren’t relevant, that food doesn’t exist, and those places aren’t accessible, who are you?

When I was a kid, I used to think the idea of people “finding out who they were” was laughable. You are you. You know who you are better than anyone possibly could. If you try to “find yourself”, all you’ll end up doing is chasing your own tail, right?

But when you take whoever you thought you were and put that person somewhere you’d never expect them to be, you’re in for a surprise. It’s half adventure-seeking, half science experiment. What would happen if, like me, you found yourself in a rural Indian hospital compound around 10pm, looking for a friend’s pregnant cousin so you could deliver a get well message, and the power suddenly dies? I know what I did, I learned more about me. What would you do?

Beyond that, once you’re back home in your old comfort zone, once the experience is a memory, a story you can tell at parties, post in a blog, or keep secret, do you look at yourself the same way as you used to? What if you had a couple hundred experiences like that? After you’ve passed a crowd of hungry Indian children who get into a fistfight over the sandwich and apple you’ve given them from your lunch, do you look at your leftovers the same way when you’re back home? Or are you now someone new?

The clichés are true. When you study abroad, you do get a broader perspective, your life does change. You won’t look at your home the same way again when you return to it. You will gain memories you will never forget. And when someone on the street asks you “how was it?”, you’ll never be able to give them an answer that captures the whole thing no matter how hard you try.

If that gets your attention, study abroad.

Friday, December 8, 2006

In Heathrow

I'm standing at an internet kiosk in the biggest shopping mall I've ever seen: Heathrow International Airport, London, UK.

London has been something the like of which I've only seen in movies and advertisements for the last three months. Everything is clean, everything is orderly, everything works. When I got to the home of my hosts, the place dazed me. The last time I had visited a friend's house was in Pune; they had insisted I sit in the only chair (a rickety lawn chair) while they sat on the bare floor as we watched a movie on a computer monitor. Here I was seated in a skylit room on a black leather couch being fed several types of real cheese, biscuits nuts, fruit and more. When they showed me the bedroom they were obviously concerned that it was too warm or cold. All I could think about was the fact that it was the first soft bed I'd felt in ages. As soon as I lay down in it I slept for more than 15 hours straight.

The next day, I hopped a double-decker bus to the West End. From then, I was taking in as much as I could get my hands on. The place is a completely different world from where I've been. I can drink water right out of the tap without getting sick. I can hand people things with my left hand without offending them. I don't have to take my shoes off anywhere. And that's not even touching on the physical differences, how everything looks, sounds, smells; the weather, the streets, buildings, monuments, cars, stores, sidewalks, everything!

I want to thank my hosts, Mike and Clare for being so welcoming, helpful, and generous in so many ways, doing everything from showing me the tricks of London transport to taking me out to some of the nicest meals I've had in weeks to providing me with anything and everything a visitor could want and more. It was a pleasure, please come to the U.S. so the favor can be properly repaid!

But now I have to go. My flight boards in half an hour.

...I'm coming home.

Saturday, December 2, 2006

He left in the night...

The time is currently 5:00am. I'm in Bombay international airport with my luggage. My flight out isn't until 9:10, so I can't check my bags for another hour, security will probably be another hour after that.

I got some sleep on the way here; a bus picked me up from Pune a little before midnight, when and where I said goodbye to the friends who were still hanging around the hotel.

People keep asking me how I feel about this. Leaving. The truth is, right now, I don't. I don't have time. I need to finish this, that, and the other thing before I can really start analyzing myself. Once I get on the plane and it lifts off, maybe things will be different.

I tried five different times to update this blog with something like fifteen different things with no luck thanks to the internet connection available. First it was a piece about poverty, then about the riots that happened in a nearby suburb, then the strike that followed, then other things that have happened since. I have two albums of pics left from my archeology course to upload, plus a few I snapped a few hours ago to record my last night in Pune.

I'm going to spend a few days in London with friends of the family before I head home. I'm looking forward to that of course. I think if I concentrate on that, I can deal with how I feel about leaving India later.

Until then...

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Back in Town

I'm back! I've come a long way to get here and a ton has happened. I got as much of it as I could on tape, but of course all I can show that way is the small slice I can point a camera at. There's plenty that I couldn't record that deserves to be shared.

Example: Have you ever been blessed by an elephant? I have.

I was walking barefoot through the entrance to the Virupaksha temple in the ruined capital city of what used to be the Vijayanagara empire when I spotted something big and gray immediately to my right. It was a ceremonial elephant, paint on its head and garlands at its feet. Our professor told us that if we gave it money, it would bless us.

So I stepped up and the big guy stuck the end of a trunk my way. I dropped a five rupee coin in a nostril. The elephant caught it and whipped the trunk back to give the donation to the handler. It then lifted its trunk up and gently laid it on top of my head for a couple seconds before gently lifting it up again to receive the next offering.

I'd just been blessed by a giant pachyderm. Wow.

That's a drop in the bucket. I've climbed hundreds of steps to see temples commemorating everything from two-foot cylindrical shivalingas to hundred-plus feet statues of the relatives of Jain saints. I've explored the tombs of Muslim sultans, scrambled across steep rocks to find artifacts from the stone age, swam in the Indian ocean, sung karaoke for the first time in my life in a Goan resort at the request of a group of Russian tourists, helped throw a birthday party in the windowless back room of a hotel bar with highly irregular electricity, only two working lights and at least one cockroach as long as my middle finger, chased mice around a train car, and a lot more besides.

I have lots of stories, lots of footage, and lots of pictures. I'll be uploading as much as possible over the next few days but it's gonna be tricky; the Internet connection where we're staying is down so I've had to be... creative in my methods of posting. Don't worry, if everything goes to plan I'll have a new photo album up each day for the next few days.

More pressing though is that my time is almost up. As I'm writing this Wednesday is drawing to a close. I have Thursday, Friday, and Saturday left here in Pune. Midnight Saturday night/ Sunday morning I catch a shuttle to Mumbai and the International Airport where I'll be flying home by way of a stop in London for a few days.

Three days remain.

I'm not going to kid myself into thinking you will be checking multiple times a day to read the hundreds of stories I could post to this thing over those three days, (many of which I already have written out). Besides, I've got a lot more I want to do with my last few moments in India than sit in front of my computer all day, (I'll be doing plenty of that already as I have one last 10-20 page final paper due Saturday).

Expect more photos for sure. If I have time, I'll toss in a blog post or two too. I'll definitely have at least one more before I leave the country. Until then...

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Indian Sanitation.

If you are eating right now, do yourself a favor and finish before reading any further. This is not going to be pretty.

We get the newspaper (Indian Express or the Times of India) delivered to our room every morning at our hotel. Yesterday, a random quote on the second page made me do a quick double-take:

“'Earlier, we were prone to infection. My husband and son had frequent stomach complaints. After the awareness camps by people who helped us install these toilets, we realized it was all because we were defecating in the open. But all that's over now.', says -----.”

I searched for and found the beginning of the article. It was above the fold on the front page. Here's the opening paragraph: “In Kakhorda at Tamluk in East Midnapore, life has changed for ----- ------. Her six-year-old son has not had cholera even once in the last three years. Her husband too has kept in good health. No longer does she go to the woods every morning. The concrete toilet, the new addition to their thatched hut, has seen a blessing.” Later: “Gone are the days of open air defecation, embarrassing situations. West Bengal is one state where rural sanitation has taken tremendous strides.”

What struck me the most about this was that these people were not horror-story subjects, they were presented as ordinary, middle-class, suburban Indian citizens. It was no more remarkable than a middle-aged man in northern Illinois describing how he used to have a hard time getting out of the driveway in the winter before the county put more money into clearing snow from the roads.

I guess this shouldn't be too surprising to me. Indian culture used to (and in some places still does) consider cow dung to be a purifying agent; comparatively speaking, it wasn't all that long ago that it was used to clean people's houses here. In many questions issues about sanitation seem simply to be a question of basic education. Not only that, but in the scheme of Indian sanitation issues, the availability and use of toilets is a drop in the bucket compared to say, the combination of the Mumbai open sewer system with the monsoon season. For the sake of readers such as yourself, I will refrain from going into any further detail.

In a country that seems to be concentrating on proliferating broadband Internet, fast cars, mobile phones, and advanced cardiac surgery, it's strange to find such basic needs silently going unmet. You can't have Internet without steady electricity. You can't use fast cars before you make good roads to drive them on. You can't spread mobile phones without a well-developed land-line phone system. And it seems a little strange to be concerned about advanced medicine without taking care of the most basic health needs first.

The good news behind this of course goes right back where I started: the newspaper article I found. It covers the achievements of sanitation efforts in West Bengal. The country is noticing. It knows there is a problem and it is working to solve it. According to UNICEF, the West Bengal state sanitation coverage has risen to 65%, (which may not sound great, but is a great deal higher than the nationwide average of 32%). Thanks to independent NGOs and charities, we can expect things to continue to change for the better.

...reading that quote while eating my breakfast still made for a strange way to start my morning though.

Thursday, November 9, 2006

"Just two things of which to beware: don't drink the water and don't beathe the air."

There is a near-universal complaint among non-Indians who have been to India: they always get sick. No matter who they are, how long they're there, or what precautions they take, they always come down with something in the end. Even the ones who don't admit to it at first. I asked one the trip leaders if she'd ever gotten sick here. Her answer was something like this:

"What? No, I've never gotten sick here. I hear people complain about it all the time but I'd never really had any problems myself... well except for some minor digestive problems... well, okay, there was the time I got dengue fever..." etc.

Still I was pretty proud of myself for going nearly seven weeks in India completely healthy.

Not everybody on the program has been as lucky as I have; there seem to be at least two people in our group that are sick at any given time. One of the last bus rides we took, I had to collect plastic bags for my friend sitting next to me, who had to stop the bus at least three times to vomit. Another one of my friends was told by a doctor several weeks ago that she would need to get her tonsils removed when she returned home. Every outing we go on as a group seems to leave at least one person behind, sick. Sometimes it's from drinking the local water, sometimes its from food. Most of the time though, we have no idea what caused it.

So when I woke up with a sore throat Monday morning, I wasn't a happy camper. That first day I figured I might be getting a cold. By Tuesday I was sure of it.

When yesterday rolled around with no other symptoms except a worsened sore throat, I started to wonder. Then this morning came. I woke up practically gargling phlegm and with a voice about an octave deeper than it had been eight hours previously, but no runny nose, no sneezing, and no nasal congestion.

So I when I came down to breakfast and found Mark and Jaime (the program's director and assistant, respectively) and asked them between coughs what the deal was, they told me:

Air pollution.

While I do consider myself an environmentalist, I always thought the image of people having to go outside with gas masks to be a scare tactic. The idea of it actually happening was laughable. But lately I've been seeing more and more people wearing veils and scarves over their nose and mouth, and I'm starting to find out why.

I had only noticed for the first time a few days ago the signs around the city with numbers representing the recent recorded level of air pollutants next to the standard "permissible levels". I'd known about the fact that the auto-rickshaws that practically run the streets around here ran on diesel fuel, and having ridden around in them a lot it had occurred to me that I was often stopping at intersections in a wide open-air vehicle surrounded by other motor-vehicles whose exhaust were pumping out fumes at about my eye level.

It wasn't until this week that it finally came to a head.

So while I guess I'm technically not "sick", I'm not in great shape. We're running low on water right now (we get shipments of bottled water from a neighborhood grocery store, but the most recent one was first delayed almost a week and then sent back when one of our teachers saw the shipment and decided he didn't like the brand) but I've been trying to drink as much as possible while leaving enough for my roommate and whichever other five people happen to actually be sick. I'd like to think it helps. In the meantime, I'm just hoping for rain, and will be trying hard to stay out of the auto-rickshaws for a while.

Tuesday, November 7, 2006

Too fast?

I move fast. I like moving fast. I can and will cram as much experience into 24 hours as I can; I like the fact that within the last few days I have seen centuries-old cave temples on the other side of the state, watched movies at the National Film Archive of India, cruised the biggest bazaar in Pune, taken cooking classes with a local yoga teacher, visited an ashram on the northern end of town, and half a dozen other things that I've gotten a chance to try on the spur of the moment.

I do all this and still end up thinking I need to get out more.

Already I have only one week left in town, and even though I knew that's what the schedule was going to be it still feels like a surprise. It seems like I only just got back here a couple weeks ago, (...then again, I suppose that's because I did only just get back here a couple weeks ago... hmm.... right). We've got lots more to do and lots more to see and we aren't stopping any time soon.

This comes at a cost. I'm already going to be pretty busy with trips and program outings, not to mention tests, papers, and homework.

The thing is, I've met all these people along the way. But because of the break-neck pace we've been moving at, I've only been able to do that: meet them. We exchange names, email addresses, smiles and waves, then I never see them again because I've run off with the program to trek through ancient ruins or something. Yes, I love the ruins, but I wish I could stick around and actually spend some time with the friends I just might make here. So far, all I've got is a list of contact information for people who I want to see and don't have time for.

Like I said, I don't like missing opportunities.

I have absolutely no regrets about going on a quarter-long program. It fits perfectly into my life; while I'm having a great time here, I'm looking forward to going home in December. But I'm starting to realize that while moving fast fits me and lets gives me an incredible range of experiences, it does mean I'll miss a thing or two along the way.

It feels very strange to relegate real people to the status of “things I missed along the way”.

Monday, October 30, 2006


This is a special message for all those eligible to vote in the US. I just got back from the post office where I sent in my absentee ballot. If you've read either this or this, you might realize that here, this is no simple task. If I can navigate the bureaucracy of India to vote in this election, you have no excuse not to.

The day is November 7th. If you have not registered to vote, do so now. If you have registered, make sure you know exactly where your polling place is, and/or make sure that you receive (and send) an absentee ballot. It's not just a choice, it's your civic duty.


Friday, October 27, 2006


For whatever reason I've never liked the idea of being a tourist. But on Sunday when I was checking out my new room at a seaside hotel with fresh sheets and towels, a nice bathroom, and even a comfortable front porch, I had to admit that I was right smack in the middle of a tourist zone, had just arrived a month before high tourist season, and was more or less a tourist here myself, complete with overloaded suitcase and camcorder.

But, I felt good. Happy. Relaxed. The place was nice and I was looking forward to a good time here. I found myself thinking maybe I'd given this tourism thing a bad rap. I was comfortable in what I'd been told would be a gorgeous area of a foreign country. Really, what was so wrong about tourism anyway?

I answered that particular question about five minutes later when I walked to the cliffs overlooking the Arabian Sea. The view of the horizon broken only by the waves and a few scattered clouds was stunning. The view of the gift shops, cheesy restaurants, and resort hotels broken only by the people hawking souvenirs and the paths to more of the same was not. I walked north along the cliff's edge, trying to escape, but thee cliffs ended before the cheap internet and plastic Ganesh statuettes did.

Still, there was a nice stretch of beach and what appeared to be a small fishing settlement up ahead with a thatch house and several large wooden boats. As I walked up, an old man greeted me with the usual “hello!” reserved for obvious foreigners. I said “hi” and waved back.

“Want some gank?” he asked.

“Do I want... what?”

“...ganke!” He tried again, re-pronouncing the word, “Gang! Gange! Ganja!”

The old man was trying to offer me marijuana.

There I was, trying to enjoy a relaxing walk by the beach away from the (other) tourists and this guy thinks the only reason I'm here is to buy drugs. Fantastic.

When the second guy I met offered me weed, I started getting irritated. So when the third, even older man who was missing a few teeth said “hello,” I ignored him completely. Then he said two words which took me completely by surprise.

“Help me?”

That stopped me. He pointed at some logs, then one of the big boats on the shore covered with thatch. This was unlike anything I'd ever encountered in India. I'd been asked for money before, I'd had people try to scam me with fake offers to be in bollywood films, I'd had people forcibly try to “assist” me in some manner and then demand money, but I'd never met anybody who genuinely wanted a hand.

I helped him carry the logs over and position them so that they propped the boat up. He didn't speak much English beyond “yes and “no” and I didn't even yet know the name of the language he spoke so most of our communication involved pointing and grunting, but we got the job done. After we finished, he invited me to sit next to him on a log.

We just sat there, looking at the horizon. I pointed to some other tourists playing in the water, asked “they help?”, the pointed to the boats. The man shook his head emphatically.

He then signaled to a friend, said something to him and motioned me to follow him. I looked at him questioningly.

“Coconut.” He said.

Two minutes later, the second man had shimmied up a coconut tree, tossed down several human-head-sized green pods, cracked two open on a rock, ripped white fiber away with his teeth, cracked them open again and handed one to me, filled to the brim with coconut milk.

“Fresh coconut!” He declared triumphantly.

I took a sip from my first fresh coconut and grinned. You really can do better than just being a tourist.

Thursday, October 26, 2006


I'm white. Very white. So much so that a former girlfriend used to call me, among other things “Whitey McWhiteWhite”, “Translucent” and “Glow-in-the-dark.” (for my reaction, note my emphasis on the word 'former'). Even after a month in India has given me a faint tan tinge on my forearms and face, I'm still pretty darn white.

My usual strategy for safe and smart travel is to blend in with the locals. Frankly put, here, this is absolutely impossible. There may be all types and colors of Americans in the US, but there are almost no white Indians in India. By virtue of skin tone alone, I am about as inconspicuous here as a circus clown in a monastery.

As such, I tend to attract a certain amount of attention everywhere I go, especially when I'm carrying my camcorder. Open-mouthed stares have become the norm as have the questions “What is your good name?”, “Which is your country?” and “How do you find India?”

Mostly though I just get one word yelled at me, especially from kids: “HELLO!” No matter where I am or what I'm doing, people will yell it from the streets, doorways, scaffolding, moving vehicles, or anywhere you can find people. Multiple times every day I've had to stop in my tracks to play the Where's-Waldo-like game of 'who just greeted me' and found two giggling kids sticking their head out of a doorway across the field waving at me from behind two goats.

I don't know if it's the novelty of interacting with a native English speaker, a general friendliness shared by the whole country or just the curiosity about what happens when you poke a white boy. Whatever it is, it follows me wherever I go. It leads to crowds of schoolboys on bikes coming to talk to me whenever I stop on a corner and more friendly greetings from strangers than I can count.

So much for blending in with the locals.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Indian Environmentalism

I was standing in the open doorway of a moving train. I was going to be on the thing for about 40 hours so I figured the more chances to stretch my legs the better. Besides, the doorway offered a much better view than the heavily tinted and scratched window of the four-bunk compartment I was in.

I was sharing the compartment with part of a family of four, the father and son having the bunks opposite mine and the mother and daughter having a pair one car down. The son was a telemarketer about my age who was employed by Dell as part of their outsourcing program. He usually worked in the middle of the night, when the US is awake. He was a fun guy to talk to and a helpful and informative companion.

In the afternoon, while chatting we we were standing next to the wide open door of the train, enjoying the view while he smoked a cigarette (which wasn't permitted in the car itself).

Out of curiosity I asked him something I had been wondering about for a while: whether India had any sort of recycling program.

“Of course!” he replied. “We recycle the poly bags [plastic grocery bags]. There is groups that come to your home and collect your bags so that they will not be a danger to animals in the wild.”

He speech was uncharacteristically dry, almost scripted. He continued, “We know this is very important, it is important to preserve and protect our environment because India is famous for it's beautiful forests and it is very important that we protect them. It is for that that we are having these groups.”

“So are these private organizations or government groups?” I asked.

“They are with the government.” He replied.

At that moment, his mother, who had been busy trying to stuff me full of free food for most of the ride, stepped out of the car next to us. She walked behind her son, tossed a plastic bag full of garbage out the open doorway, and went back into the car without a word.

“But,” her son continued, smiling, “I do not trust the Indian government.”

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

National Capital: New Dehli; National Language: Hindi, English; National Sport: Bureaucracy.

I was hoping to show this particular episode rather than tell it. It actually occurred about three weeks ago, at the very beginning of October. However two of the critical locations to the story do not permit video recording because of national security concerns. I think even photography might get me in trouble. So I'll have to rely on text for this.

Here's what happened:

Thanks to friends' advice, my research, and viewer input (thanks again, it was a great help), I had decided that I wanted to go to Kerala for a week. I'd also decided that since India has the biggest rail system in the world, I should experience it first hand.

So, October 3rd, I walked down to a nearby travel agency and asked to buy a train ticket to Trivandrum, the capital city of Kerala. I was told they were sold out all the way through the end of the month, and that if I wanted I could put myself on the waiting list (I'd have been 22nd in line). I went back to my hotel and asked for advice from our program assistant. She looked up train tickets for the dates I wanted and found that while the main quota was full, there were two openings in a special reserve quota the government keeps open for foreign tourists. So I went back to the travel agent and informed them. They confirmed this, called the station, chatted for a bit, then told me I had to go to the station itself to buy the tickets.

I was warned that buying tickets at the train station would be a long, laborious and frustrating process, but I figured I was a pretty patient guy and really after the phone episode, it couldn't be that bad...

...could it?

I hailed an autorickshaw to take me to the train station after class the next day. As he pulled up to the parking lot, it started to drizzle. Having no rain gear, I hurried into one of the worn brick buildings dodging stray dogs and touts.

One thing I should explain before I go further is that after this point I “go to” several windows. This is not as simple a process as it might sound. In India, the idea of waiting in line is relatively new and hasn't yet caught on with the mainstream population. So to “go to" a window you have to shove, prod, tackle, and elbow your way to the front of a small mob and get the employee's attention. Also this means that if the person behind the window doesn't understand you, they will ignore you and move onto someone else they understand who has knocked you over and taken your place. After doing this a few times you start to realize why professional wrestling is so popular here.

Anyway, I “went to” my first window and after some effort was told to “go to” a forms window and pick up a foreign tourist quota application. The forms window had no such form. So I “went to” an enquiries window who told me that I had to go to the “DCM Office”. I asked where the office was, they said in another building and pointed in a vague direction. I tried to get more specific directions and was ignored and shoved out of the way.

I walked back into what had gone from a drizzle into a post-monsoon downpour and after a search for an entrance that was chained shut, entered the next closest building in the station. I asked security guards inside for the DCM office and was pointed to, in order, a latrine, a computerized train information window, an on-site barbershop, and finally another ticket office altogether who told me I had to go back to the first building I'd been in.

I jogged back through the rain to the inquiries window who this time told me to fill out a normal “reservation form” from the forms window. I went to that window, argued with someone to refill empty the box with forms, grabbed one, filled it out, and took it to the very first window where I was told that the train I had requested was booked through the end of the month and that if I wanted I could put myself on the waiting list.

I was tired, wet and pissed off. Usually when somebody goes through the ordeal and comes to the point when they say they were tired, wet, and pissed off it means that they are about to have the final blowing up and screaming or breaking down and crying or going nuts and hitting someone event that would finally get results and end the story.

Sorry folks, there's a lot more to go.

I argued for about ten minutes with two different government officials who spoke varying degrees of English who finally convinced me that the way to get a ticket on the foreign tourist quota was to buy a ticket on the waiting list and take it to the “DCM Office”. I filled out more of another form, bought the wait list ticket, and asked once again for directions to the mythical office. They pointed in the same direction and the inquiries window man had, and this time told me the key fact that it was past the train platform.

After another ten-minute search, I found my way onto the platform and walked to the end, passed the cargo area with people loading crates onto carts, and found myself back out into the pouring rain. I picked my way around the rapidly rising lakes in the roadway, walked into a nearby government building and asked for the DCM office. They pointed further down the street. I walked further and walked into the next office, asked again and was told the same thing. I did this four more times before being told that it was not only down the road ten minutes walk but on the other side of the train tracks. I was told to go to the other side of the third platform.

I don't know how I didn't manage to get lost at this point. Maybe I just got lucky, but after making my way through the downpour and flooded streets across the tracks, I just kept walking. After 15 minutes, I got to what looked like an abandoned warehouse. I peeked on the other side and found doorways with signs over them. I stepped into one, asked for directions one last time, and was pointed to the second office from the far end with “CM Off” written on it. The rest had been worn off.

I entered and was pointed to an empty desk. I plopped myself down in front of it and briefly considered taking my shirt off and wringing the water out in spite of cultural taboos, but dismissed the idea. I'd come this far, I wasn't going to get turned back for public indecency.

After five minutes, a beefy, mustached man came down and asked what I wanted. I showed him my (wet) wait list ticket and explained that I wanted a foreign tourist quota spot on the train. He chatted briefly with somebody else in Marathi, reached down and handed me a small form that said “Emergency Quota Application Form.” I said that I had asked for foreign tourist quota, not emergency quota, and he replied that he understood, but that I should use this form and put my passport number in the “emergency reason” field. I filled it out and handed it to him.

He took it, wrote something on it, then told me that if I came back to his office and talked to him after 1:00pm the day of departure, I would have a 99% chance of getting on the train.

I blinked once or twice then asked, “Is there anything I can do to make that 100%?”

He looked at me over his glasses. “Pray to God.”

I left a couple minutes later feeling somewhat less than 99% at ease. I walked back out as the rain slowed to a trickle, and hailed a rickshaw to my hotel.

But, amazingly it worked. 7:45 pm the day of departure, I got on my train. It did involve returning to the DCM office right after class, waiting half an hour, filling out another form, waiting another half an hour, briefly being told by the guy while he was on his cell that I was going to get on the train, waiting a little longer and finally being asked why I was still there, me asking for my ticket, and being told I would get it at the main ticketing window when I boarded the train. But it all worked out in the end.

That's how it all ended and how it all began.

Monday, October 23, 2006

Mission Accomplished.

I set out on this trip to pop the U(c) bubble. When I found myself four days ago around midnight in an abandoned coir factory in the village of Alleppy singing with the locals by candlelight and arguing over the advantages and disadvantages of communism with the increasingly drunk friend of a man who was letting me in a tree house for about two bucks a night, I decided I’d pulled it off.

Right now though, I’m taking it easy in Kochi. The sun is setting and I’m sitting outside a restaurant on the seashore washing down a plate of aloo gobi and rice with a sweet lassi. Sitar and drums of a traditional kathakali performance swim across from a small thatch-walled theater next door.

When I transfer this from my notebook to a web browser, I will be in an internet café and my time will be limited. On Sunday, when I get back to Pune and my laptop with wireless internet, I will have a good few stories to tell from this week and a gazillion pictures to go with them. I won’t write up everything—Episode 5 will be all about my week in Kerala. But I’ll be sure to post a few things you won’t find on the video.

Stay tuned.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Busting the Bubble

I have few complaints about being here in India on the University of Chicago Pune Civ-Abroad program. Here's one of them:

My day consists of waking up in my hotel, eating breakfast with my American classmates, going to class with my American classmates, having a free afternoon, then eating dinner with my American classmates, and going to sleep in my hotel. Usually on the weekends and sometimes during the week I will go out on trips organized by the program... with my American classmates.

Don't get me wrong. I like my American classmates. They're a really fun and interesting group. We've got all types in and they've all been interesting and fun to talk to and hang out with so far. Not only that, but some of the organized activities we've done have been nothing short of incredible.

...but it's still me in a little University of Chicago bubble with my American classmates.

I've been working a busting the bubble as much as possible; getting out when I can and meeting other people. I got to meet some of the students at Ferguson College and hang out with them some, (mostly watching hindi movies and playing video games). I've struck out and gotten a few extra opportunities to explore things like the “theives' bazaar” and even got a peek at a bhakti drumming ceremony with the local grandmaster pakawaj drummer (You'll see it in Episode 3 coming on Oct. 17).

But I still feel like I'm in the bubble.

Until tomorrow.

Remember the break I told you about with the “Special Request” entry a few weeks back? It starts tomorrow. The votes are in, and I am headed to Kerala. I hope. After a three-hour bureaucratic marathon in the pouring rain at the Pune train station, (I'll try to give a recap in episode 5, which will be all about this trip) I have the the stationmaster's promise of 99% chance of me getting on the train if I present myself to him again around 1:00 pm tomorrow. After that...

Well, I won't spoil the surprise of everything I have in store for this trip but if it all turns out as planned, you can kiss the bubble goodbye.

Wish me luck,


Monday, October 9, 2006

An Excerpt from my Saturday Night in Mumbai.

Under normal circumstances, there is no way in heck I could be coerced into riding a 20-ft ferris wheel powered by teenage boys climbing the up sides and swinging themselves out into thin air pulling the wheel down with them. Especially when it's clocking in with a rotation or two per second. Especially when the safety devices holding the riders in place amount to a metal strip a foot in front of their chests with a width of two inches and the thickness and strength of a kleenex. At least not while sober. In fact, probably not while drunk, brainwashed, and/or under hypnosis either.

But while enjoying a moonlit beach with my friends on the last night of our class's weekend trip to Bombay? Hey, why not?

Alive, uninjured, and having a blast--


Tuesday, October 3, 2006

Special delivery from a stupid person. Me.

In order for JYA to make video episodes; I have to send video from India to New York. NBC pays to do that via FedEx and DHL. After a three-day fiasco with the FedEx office in Pune when I tried to mail in episode two, I decided to go with DHL. It worked out fine, they even came directly to the hotel to pick it up, despite the fact that NBC had given me the number for an office in Mumbai rather than Pune.

By today, I have episode 3 wrapped up and ready to roll. And this time; I figured I'd save some time a trouble by calling the Pune office directly instead.

Silly me.

Here's what happened:

I look up the Pune DHL office on their website and get not one, but two phone numbers. I go to the hotel front desk and ask if they will call DHL for me. The front desk tells me to go call from my room. Our program administrators have given us some very basic instructions regarding smart conduct here. One of them is do not call out from your hotel room. The hotel apparently charges exorbitant fees for outgoing phone calls, including toll-free numbers.

So I grab my stuff and head out to an STD booth instead--

--quick clarification: STD stands for Subscriber Trunk Dialing. It's a telephone service. It has absolutely nothing to do with venereal diseases; I am not trying to contact DHL by contracting herpes, I'm trying to make a phone call. STD/ISD/PCO booths are usually quick, cheap and easy ways to make calls.


--anyway, I go to the booth and ask to make a local phone call. The guy behind the counter checks my one rupee coin and passes over the phone. I dial the first number.

There was a beep. A pause. Another beep.

“Hello! Please check the number you have dialed!”

I try again. And again. I try the second number. Same result. I hand the phone to the guy behind the counter (henceforth to be known as Phone-man). He tries both numbers. No luck. He pulls out a second phone. Still no luck.

I spot two phone books on the counter and flip through them looking for DHL. The first one didn't have anything under 'package', 'mail', 'delivery', or 'courier', but the second one had a toll-free number in the first section I tried. I pointed it out, Phone-man dialed, and handed me the receiver.

The person on the other side couldn't quite understand my American accent. I was halfway through explaining to him that my name was Joel and the company's name was NBC and not the other way around when I heard five beeps. Then nothing.

I told Phone-man what happened, and he dialed again. This time I got a woman who understood my accent perfectly. It wasn't until I was spelling out the street address that I heard the five beeps. I looked up.

“Why does it keep cutting me off?”
“Toll free number sir” Phone-man replied, as if that explained everything.
“What? Does STD not work with toll-free numbers?”

He didn't answer or even seem to understand that I had just asked him a question. He dialed the number a third time and handed me the receiver once more.

This time, instead of trying to arrange a pickup from my hotel, I asked for the number of the Pune DHL office. They asked why I wanted it. I told them I had a package to be delivered. They asked what it was and where it was going. I said I just wanted the number for the Pune office so I could tell them that information. They asked for my account number. I repeated that I wanted the Pune phone number first. They said they couldn't do that. I asked why not.

Five beeps.

Since I did not own the phone myself I did not violently slam it down on the cradle. Instead I gently put it down and looked up at Phone-man. I asked him again why the toll-free number kept getting cut off. He said they are cutting it off from their end. “They is paying for it, sir. It is not cheap. The time is limited.” Then he reached for the phone directory again.

After about five minutes of more searching, he called what must have been an information line and asked, in Marathi, for the number of DHL. There was a long pause. He said “hello”. Another long pause. He tried again, “hello?” After the third time, he hung up and dialed information again. This time he grabbed an envelope and a pen and wrote down a number. He hung up and dialed it. Then he hung up again.

“Out of service.”

He called information again, and got a completely different number. He tried that. It was disconnected. He called information, started writing down the first number, then said in Marathi that he'd already gotten that number and it didn't work. A pause. He writes down a third, brand-new number and tries it. He hangs up, and says it doesn't work either. He calls information again. He gets yet another new phone number and tries it. He waits, hangs up, and hits the redial button. Then he does it again. And again. He does this three more times before finally hanging up, turning the envelope 90 degrees and rewriting every faulty phone number he has gotten so far in a list. He dials information yet again. He then rejects two numbers, and writes down a brand new number. He hangs up and dials it.

When he said hello and handed me the receiver, you could've knocked me over with a feather.

“Hello?”I asked.
“Yes this is DHL please? How can I help you please?”
A big grin spread across my face. Finally!
“I'd like to arrange a pickup for a package to the US.”
“Ah for that you will please call our toll-free number; we do not arrange pickups at this office.”
That wiped the grin off my face in short order.
“...excuse me?”
“You will be please calling our toll free number.”
“I can't do that, it keeps cutting me off.”
“Where are you calling from please?”
“I'm at an STD booth.”
“Ah then you will be please calling this toll-free number,” He gave me a completely different number, said 'please' about five more times in as many seconds and then 'thank you', 'goodbye' and hung up.

I handed the number to Phone-man. He looked at it. “This is not toll free number. This is in Mumbai.”

I stared at him blankly. “You would like to call?” he asked.

I paused, shook my head, got out the very first number in Mumbai that I had gotten from NBC, and dialed that instead.

The pickup was arranged within minutes. I thanked Phone-man profusely, paid for the call, and went back to my hotel. DHL was there in half an hour, and took the package without a hitch.

So the moral of the story is: the next time you are in a web-based reality TV show with a major broadcasting network, and the show involves travel, and you are getting the raw footage yourself, and you have to send in tapes from India to New York, and the broadcasting company gives you a number for a courier service they can pay for, and it happens to be an office located in another city... yourself a favor and just call the number anyway.

Saturday, September 30, 2006

SPECIAL REQUEST: Where should I go?

I need your help.

Here's the deal: The U(c) Pune Civ program is scheduled to run on the block schedule. That means I take three of my classes sequentially rather than simultaneously. Each class lasts three weeks.

Between the first two classes, we have a week long break. We are strongly encouraged to take advantage of the fact. if I needed any encouragement.

Anyway, I have narrowed down the possiblities to two areas of India to explore: Rajasthan and Kerala.

My major requirements are that I want to take a train trip and I want to see a tiger. Both fit the requirements while still managing to be about as a different as you can get.

I'm open to suggestions, but only through THIS WEEKEND. I need to make reservations by this coming Monday if I want train tickets.

So, public, what do you think?


Friday, September 29, 2006

You call this normal?

I just rode a camel.

I was in the Maratha caste neighborhood filming episodes three and four simultaneously in the middle of the festival of nine nights, and a group of kids ran up to me and asked if I wanted to see a camel. I'd never seen a camel up close before.

So they led me behind the float of Shiva, back through some alleyways between market stalls selling fruit and yards of cloth, right by some parked auto rickshaws, and straight to a two-humped painted beast chewing calmly on some grass.

Next thing I know; I'm on its back, and catcalls are flying in all directions, and I'm hanging onto the saddle for dear life.

...and this is now my idea of a normal day.

Riding camels.


Speaking of a normal day, my day-to-day schedule here in Pune now looks something like this:

-Wake up, shower, get dressed
-Eat breakfast at hotel restaurant with the rest of the group from Chicago. Breakfast usually entails idli, coconut chutney, sambar, veggie parkors, parotha, fresh pineapple and papaya, and a rotation of other dishes (the hotel is strictly vegetarian, which is pretty common in India). There's also cereal. If you choose to only eat cereal here, you have my sympathy.
-Walk over to class up Ferguson College Road.
-10:00- Beginning Hindi class.
-11:00- Chai (tea) break. I'm not kidding. We have tea time. Saucers and biscuits included.
-11:15- South Asian Civ class. Usually lasts two hours. Right now we're working our way through (relatively) recent Indian history through the Mughal Empire and British East India Company Raj.
-1:15 Classes over, we're set loose. Dinner is at 7:30 at the hotel and if we're not going to be there we're supposed to let the program know in advance.

So in the free time, I've been exploring. Thus the dancing in street parades, shopping in old town bazaars, seeing elephants in the streets, nearly getting myself killed by buses while riding an auto rickshaw, filming bhakti drummers, visiting 8th century cave temples, and of course, riding a friggen camel.

Granted, I'm also working; I have homework. I had a presentation on the caste system Wednesday, a response paper due Thursday, and two quizzes today. Monday I have a proposal for a seven-plus page final research paper due, the paper itself being due the week after that. Also every day we're assigned a good chunk of reading for civ and an hour of practice with Devanagari (Hindi) script. Luckily I spent enough time at my job at the zoo this summer sitting behind a cash register flipping through Devanagari flash cards that the “hour” boils down to about twenty-five minutes or less.

Any U(c) student will tell you this is nothing compared to a normal workload in Chicago. If there's one thing we can do well, it's complain about how much work we have. We practice that skill every day, every chance we get. We're proud of it too. That and telling anybody who will listen that this winter isn't nearly as cold as the winter was our freshman year, regardless of when said freshman year occurred.

I digress.

India is fantastic, and I've been here barely more than a week. Tomorrow I go hiking in the morning, then more of the festival at night. More pics to come. I believe my first episode from India has arrived in the NBC offices by now so with any luck you will be able to see a bit for yourself soon!


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.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

24 hours left in this hemisphere.

It's weird. I've spent half my summer getting ready for this trip. More than that, actually. And yet I still can't picture it. It's like I've been staring at this big blank space in my calendar that is now about to rush up and smack me across the face when I leave for the airport tomorrow morning at 6:00 am.

The hardest part of leaving is who I'm leaving behind. My suitcases aren't big enough to bring everyone I won't be seeing for the next quarter. (Except maybe my cats, but I'm not sure they'd appreciate spending that much time in the hull of a 747).

The fact remains that I will be leaving Seattle-Tacoma International Airport early tomorrow morning for Mumbai. There will be two stops on the way; total flying time will be about 21 hours. Once I arrive, I’ll touch base with the rest of my group from Chicago, and then we’ll head down to Pune. I’ll have the camera rolling all the way for you.

Next time I write, I will be sitting on the opposite side of the planet.

Until then,


PS. Here’s a description of the program we’re on if you’re interested:

Monday, August 28, 2006

All Good Stories Start in the Middle

In my opinion, all good stories start in the middle. Sure the classics begin at the beginning, but it’s so much more interesting when you’re dropped into the street with two quarters, some hard rain, five burnt-out streetlamps, and a hero who doesn’t know what he’s looking for yet.
The problem with starting in the middle is choosing which middle to start with. Take my story. I could start with me writing an article for a humor magazine, surrounded by stray childhood toys, tons of books, a fortune from a fortune cookie tacked into a bulletin board that claims I’m the ‘chosen one’, and everything else in my room reading over my shoulder. Or maybe I could start when I’m onstage with some of my best friends in a play, with me pretending to be drunk for the audience and spouting a monologue in Russian. Or I could make it really interesting and start when I was soaring a couple hundred feet off the ground on a zipline in the Costa Rican rainforest, outpacing a parrot flying by.
I won’t. It’s flashy, but it’s careless. It’s not what you’re here for.
This tenth of the show is about me in India. I’m not leaving for India until September 20th. Today, the day I’m writing this, is August 29th. So if I try to tell you much about India, I’ll make whatever I say here sound silly now with what I say later, (which will be much more informed and interesting).
So, in terms of things to write about now, that leaves: me.
The basics: I’m Joel. I’m from Seattle, WA. I go to school at the University of Chicago, in Chicago, IL. I'm six feet tall and weigh about 160 pounds and can scarf about that much ice cream in one sitting, (more if it’s chocolate chip cookie dough). I act, write, snap photos, and do a couple dozen other things I’m not very good at but have a blast doing anyway. I was a benchwarmer on my high school basketball team and spent a lot of time helping some of my teammates and our friends with their homework. I could read before I turned three, though my dad claims I couldn’t talk until I was about eight. I don’t smoke and never will. I love kids, animals, and the outdoors, and spend as much time with all three as I can. I’m the biggest sucker for the word ‘adventure’ you’ve ever met. I’ve been to at least seven different countries on three continents.
I’m about to add India to the list. You’re coming with me.
I’ve never been to India or anywhere near it geographically or culturally. I’ve been reading things like the Ramayana, Samskara and stories by Rohinton Mistry, Mark Tully, and James Cameron. Yet the more I read and research where I’m going, the less I feel like I know. People who have been all over the world have told me India gave them the biggest culture shock of their lives, bar none. I’ve been told that the scenery is breathtaking, the poverty is everywhere, and the mosquitoes carry malaria, dengue fever and other fun-filled goodies (which, luckily you folks won’t have to worry about. Unluckily, I will).
I will be in Pune, Maharashtra, a city of over 2 million people located 110 miles SE of Mumbai (aka Bombay). I’ll spend time on the road as well so you won’t see just the one city. I’ll be there until early December. I’ll be taking classes on Indian religion, politics, history, and culture, as well as a basic Hindi language course. All of these will be through The University of Chicago and the American Institute of Indian Studies (AIIS).
I think that’s enough. If you have ideas, questions, comments, insults, whatever, comment here on the site. I’ll be busy working at my job in the Woodland Park Zoo, studying Devanagari script, and of course, packing, but I’ll respond the best that I can.
PS. One last thing: yes it is true I will be capturing some of my trip on camera for the show. However there are a lot of things you can’t see or do when you’re holding a camcorder. I intend to try a few of them. The way you get to hear about those things is by reading this blog. So if you only watch the video episodes, you are going to miss out. A lot of the coolest stuff will be right here. I’m willing to bet that that will apply to all ten of us out there, so keep that in mind.