Thursday, February 01, 2007

India Travels #7: Pushkar, India: Life Lessons from India

February 1st, 2007
Pushkar, India

So, my very last email. Some bits of wisdom which Mama Chihuahua and I have learned from this indelible trip to India:

1. Don't hug gypsy women (in case you have an inkling to do so). They have "friends," otherwise known as "lice."

2. One can never have too much of these three things: toilet paper, bottled water, and chocolate.

3. Never underestimate the value of a good night's sleep, a shower, and a healthy intestinal tract.

4. Most people in the world are honest, kind, and helpful. The rest are Israelis. Just kidding.

If you treat people with respect, they usually do the same. What has amazed me is the kindness and cheer of Indians in general. If you took a country this size and packed it with over 1 billion(!) Americans, Germans, or French, people would pretty much act like assholes. That's the miracle of India. That you've got such a densely populated country that's largely poor and illiterate and yet, the people always have a "Namaste," a smile, and something kind to say.

In truth, we've really met few assholes here. The ones I can think of off hand, were foreigners. And I won't say what nationality but it starts with an "I."

5. Never stand downwind of a pissing camel. Enough said.

6. Always follow your instincts, even if they go in complete opposition to every grain of wisdom you have. I can't count the number of times we chose to trust someone against all odds and they affirmed our faith in them. Equally, follow your instincts if you have warning bells about someone. Instinct is our only true inner compass.

7. Let go of expections. Destinations in guidebooks rarely meet your expectations. "A golden, ancient fortress enchanting at sunset" may well turn our to be a grimy, littered building (urine spilling down its fortress walls) that only seems beautiful in dim light.

Equally, be open to places off the beaten track. You may find yourself resonating with a place you've never read about.

8. Don't let the fear of getting sick get in the way of experiencing a country. Yes, I got sick. But getting food poisoning is par for the course and it's only the SECOND time in seven years of traveling to Asia that I have gotten sick. To this day, I swear that both times were actually from tourist restaurants (one at a buffet and another at our hotel). Some of my best experiences from traveling have been at roadside eateries (roasted cockroaches) and streetside cafes (falafel, spicy pakora, pistachio milk sweets). I wouldn't trade these experiences for the world. Sampling another culture's cuisine is one of the best ways to learn about its cultural and historical influences and its whole world view.

So Bon Apetit!

9. Buy! Buy! Buy! Buy lots and lots of stuff. I've never regretted any of the countless scarves, silk purses, skirts, jewelry, or wall hangings I've bought over the years. It's a piece of that trip that you bring back with you and, most importantly, it's good for the local economy.

Learn to be a savvy haggler. More on this later....

10. Don't make yourself suffer unnecessarily. You're on vacation after all! While Mom and I have often stayed in $5/night nasty little dungeons just to save money and tough it out, we've learned that spending a few extra bucks to stay in a higher end budget room with a hot shower and lice-free sheets makes us happier travelers in the end.

A good night's sleep and peace of mind go a long way in keeping morale up when you're in a developing country that's constantly bombarding your senses...

11. Don't take things personally. Gypsy woman spit on your feet? Sacred cow backed up into you?
It's all a part of your day in India. Learn to laugh and see it all as a part of your travel experience. You get to visit here. Everyone else has to stay.

Lastly, I'd like to give a shout out to my Mamacita. After seven years of these travels together, I have grown to love and respect her even more. I couldn't ask for a more compassionate, patient (mostly), and loving travel partner.

And damn it, if she can't hold her own with ornery teenage boys, fiesty monkeys, mischievous cows, and overly aggressive gypsies.

Here's to making all of your travel dreams happen and making sure you have a few extra rolls of toilet paper with you,

all my love,
Rachel and her Beloved Mama Chihuahua, Karen

India Travels #6: Pushkar, India: Counted and Countless Moments in India

Pushkar, Rajasthan, India
Febrary 1st, 2007

Wrapping up one of our last days in Pushkar and, alas, in India. I'm typing in an internet "cafe" asking a nasty Israeli to stop smoking. The constant honking of motorcycles out on the street, the dim laughter of vendors talking with Europeans (hardly any Americans!), and the occasional smell of fresh falafel being fried across the street at my favorite street cafe (only $1 for a giant plate of pita, hummous, falafel, french fries, and fresh salad).

I've discovered a few ways of summarizing our trip:

Chapatis eaten: 105
Rolls of toilet paper used: 36
Times we've been asked :"Were you come from, Madam?": 20/day
Times we've been told "We give you verry best quality": countless
Monkeys which have completely freaked Mom out in restaurants, hotels, roads, and temples: 33
Scarves bought: 22
Hairy rickshaw rides: 14
Kilometers walked: 102
Cows which have head butted us: 4
Times we've said we're not buying anything else: countless
Banana Lassies mom has ingested: 2-3/day
Camel farts we've been subjected to on safari: 5/hour
Namaste greetings exchanged: countless
Snotty nosed children asking for rupees, chocolate, or pens: 6-7/day
Rouds of antibiotics taken: 2
Cows nearly hi by our rickshaw, taxi, or chosen mode of transportt: 2
Policemen nearly hit: 1
Dogs nearly hit: countless
Handiwipes used: 154

Namaste (#2206),
Rachel and Karen