Root: Adventure in Bangladesh
Thursday, January 26, 2006
Here in lies the final entry for this Blog. After a long 30 months, my travels and experience as a Peace Corps Volunteer are over. I write to you know from the home of my in-laws in San Diego. Now, what have you missed sincE Thanksgiving?
After Bikaner, we traveled by the cold midnight train to Jaipur, the silver/jewlery capital of India. It was our intention to find our wedding rings, but the city had other ideas for us. If you want to by mass amounts of jewlery for export, then this is your place, but to custom make only two rings, forget about it. The city was pleasant enought, but too many foreigners looking to spend good money on gems and precious metals caused average costs to rise about a tolerable level to travelers on our budget. But if you are ever in the area, we highly recommend the Pearl Palace!! A beautiful hotel where the owner is a metal sculptor and amature painter. Othere than this, not many high lights and Shannon and I vacated the city a few days after arrival and made our way to Delhi.
Two days in delhi to recupe from the desert and prepare for the blistering cold of the upper himalays made us ready to travel on to Shimla.
I visited Shimla the year before, but the temperature in December was much colder than in September. Shannon quite literally froze, and even I had to watch out for the frostbite as we slept in our lofty nonheated room. It was still beautiful, but the monkeys kept up their duoosto nature and were out stealing icecream cones from little kids. It is quite a sight to see these monkeys eating icecream, but even more of one to watchall the indians eating it too, it WAS Damn Cold!!
From Shimla, we took a 12 hour bus ride thorugh the twisting and steep mountain passes to Dharmasala. Here, we went up the mountain a bit more to McLeod Ganj, and the home of the TiBETIAN people in exile. This place was amazing! We intended to only stay for about five days, but managed to stay for two weeks. This tiny mountain town was simply amazing! Definitely the most peaceful place that Shannon or I have ever been to. We were no longer in INida, but had found the true Tibet. The Tibetan people are beautiful, in all ways. The sense of peace, calm, friendliness was felt everyday anywhere we went. Our first day there, we learned that His Holiness the Dahli Lama would be conducting a class that was open for the public, we obviously signed up and ended up staying longer than intended. During our time there, we took a three day cooking class specializing in Tibetian food. We made momos, soups, and breads. We had a great cheif that taught in his one room apartment, and shared his experience as a child refugee from Tibet and his flight out of China. During these many relaxed days, we walked around the quaint village, hiked the mountain, and found so many small interesting things that we were never bored. There was also a HImalayian cultural arts festival while we were there, which showcased the traditional performing art forms of not only the Tibetians, but also fo the mountain Indians there too. When the classes for the Dahli Lama finally came around, we found ourselves on the floor of the main temple complex listening to the DL and his translators. He has such a good sense of Humor and is very genuinely a nice guy> We figured he needed to be if he wants to keep the title of "mpst enlitened Person". His laugh is so warm and encompassing. But, we realized that the lecture was not meant for those not well schooled in Budhism. AAfter the first day, we decided not to attend but to enjoy the town a bit more, plus by this time the cold was getting to us and we were not feeling up to sitting on the cold concrete floors exposed to the elements anymore. Before departing, Shannon and I decided that this is a place that we will return to and hopefully live for a while. There is so much to do, so mucgh help that is needed, and a great place to raise kids. The tiny round tibetian children were unbelievably cute!!!!
From there to Delhi for a few more days, and then To Bangkok Thailand for our 1st anniversary. If ever in Bangkok, you must do the lunch buffet at Lord Jim's in the Orential Hotel. Unbelievable. We then, went up to Chiang Dao, where we got married, and spent a wonderful few days up there for the Christmas holiday. Shannon's parents and some family friends joined us for a night too. Back to bangkok for the New Year, and then Shannon and I went down south, north of Puhket on the Andaman coast at this beautifl lonely, boulder strewn beach. Magical. We then took a three day snorkeling trip to the Similian Islands. NOw this trip was freaking amazing. some of the best snorkeling I have ever done. These islands are protecte, with no permanent establishments present. Pristine water and white coral beaches. Have to see it to believe it. After this trip, we returned to Bangkok for a week and then flew home to San Diego on January 17th, 2006.
And that is all. i'm done...at least with this portion of my travels., I still need to make it home to my parents, but after that it is all about finding a job before going to grad school in Vermont. Thank you to all those that have been reading this narration of my travels over the past couple of years. Remember, if you have any thoughts, comments, or questions, contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Cheers!!!
Friday, November 25, 2005
Its the day after Thanksgiving and while you all may be out shopping, I sit in an internet cafe waiting for the night train to carry me away to Jaipur. Last week Shannon and I spent a surreal few days in the fort of Jaislamer, and I do mean fort! What an experience, here is this little sandstone town in the middle of nowhere desert and they have this old fort built around 1161C.E. sitting on a hill looking out over the great empty expanse. But, unlike most forts and palaces on India(and the world), this fort was alive. The fort has remained open continually since is inception!!! About 300 famiies live within its warren and mazed cobblestoned alleyways, all making a living, raising cows and kids. Its a small fort, so living inside is very quaint. We got a rest house along the western wall looking out towards Pakistan and the open desert. Along the streets artisians, musicians, and food vendors all ply their trade as their ancestors did for a thousand years. Everyday, to get into our hotel in the fort we had to weave our way up a series of ramparts and through various gigantic gates, as well as dodge the huge cows and impressive old goats with long twisted horns. After two days in the fort, Shannon and I headed out into the open desert astride our own camels, Raju and Papu. It was only us and our young Hindi singing guide. (The idea of peaceful and serene journey in the desert doesn' quite work here.) The first day, during our midday nap from the heat, Shannon woke to find a snake curled up on her arm, and on the final morning we woke and found a scorpion had brrowed under our blankets and slept on my bag. Oh the joys of camping out on the open sand. But the nights were beautiful, stars to fill the sky and blood red harvest moon emerging from the eastern sand.
Following our stay in Jaislmer, we mde our way the 8hrs to Bikaner so that we could behold the fmous Hindu temple devouted to the worship of rats. Thanksgiving morning, with the rising of the sun, we made our way into the temple and saw hordes of rats feeding and scampering across the cool marble floor. We were worried that we'd be squimish with all those rats, but being in that temple settled us and we could feel the spiritual nature of the place. I was lucky and blessed enough to have one rat climb up my leg!! For the rest of that day we boycotted Indian food as much as we could and had a makeshift Thanksgiving (Indian style) in our room. Tandoori chicken for turkey, vegetable birayni for stuffing, Tandori Roti and Naan for rolls, and tomato salad. Though we craved pumpkin and apple pie, we made do with little chocolate eclairs for desert.
Soon we move on to our next destination where we hope to find our wedding rings, but we are already very much looking forward to our return to the states. Two more months and then we will be able to have our comfort food, spend time with family, and continue our search for jobs. (If anyone has any leads, we would love to hear them!!) Hope you all enjoy the holidays!!
Wednesday, November 16, 2005
Today finds Shannon and I in Udaipur for the last full day and night. We have been residing at a phenomenal hotel, which is an old converted Haveli (essentially an old mini castle). I'm sad to report that Udaipur on its own has recieved mixed reviews from us and is sort of a let down. Compared to the chilled climate and easy pace of life in Goa, Udaipur is just a bit too hustle bustle, touristy, tout ridden, sky high priced, crazy place. There is still a lot of charm and we've had some good moments. And all the moments in our room have been divine!!!! Our hotel is located adjacent to the magnificient City Palace and we over look the Lake palace. In fact, we have a really nice bay lounge/window over the lake itself. Every morning, below our window the local women come to bath and wash clothing. At first the nudity struck us as very odd and we were worried that we were prying, but over the days we've noticed that they have a much more liberal view of nudity and bathing than Bangladesh. We visited a nearby ghat where women were bathing, men were bathing, cloths being beaten by big wooden paddles, and scores of tourists were taking it all in with cameras flashing. The food has been a bit of a let down, I think that we are looking for some non-Indian fare, but that is very limited here. We did manage to find a very quaint hole in the wall place that is run by the sweetest family. THey even attempted to put mexican food on the menue, but unfortunately it failed. They have a dish called a Rajastani Pizza, fried chapati stuffed with vegetables and cheese...now just add ketchup to the top and you have a vegetable enchilada!! At least they tried. Shannon and I have become big fans of Indian Thalis. These most closely resemble a complete meal you will recieve in a typical home. It comes with an assortment of curries and dahl with rice and chapati. quite good and reasonably priced. It is funny though, after Bangladesh, I am now realizing that I have become a rice snob. I can tell the difference between about 7 different varieties of rice, and can tell how much they paid for it. I think that if we had come here straight from the USA and not after two years of Bangladesh, we would have enjoyed this town more. I am just very easily annoyed with touts and the like and just want some peace and quiet. Oh Goa... The temples and palaces in Udaipur have been very impressive and we even have done some of the touristy stuff. A good visit, but looking forward to moving on. Though I do believe that Jaislamer will be even worst for tourist and touts than Udaipur.
Tomorrow we are taking a trip to Ranakpur, the largest and oldest Jain temples in existence. They look to be mind blowing and we are really looking forward to getting lost within the hundreds of chambers that are spewn through with pillars, no two alike. After that a night bus to Jaislamer. We hope to take a camal safari there, really the only reason to go. This town is the last substantial town in India on the way to Pakistan. It is also located in the middle of the Great Thar Desert. It is dubbed the Golden City and is made out of sandstone and surrounded by Sand dunes and open desert. We are actually looking if we could go by camal to the town of Bikanar, the place with the temples devouted to the worshipping of rats!!! Well, that's the story thus far. I hope all is well with you. Cheers!
Monday, November 07, 2005
I realize that this blog has been designed to document the time I spent in Bangladesh as a Peace Corps Volunteer; but due to my laziness, I will continue to write about my post PC travels until I reach home. Enjoy...
So, this vacation/trip has been quite a trip thus far. Here is a quick update of the last 12 days or so.
Oct. 26, Flight delayed causing us to miss connection flight so we work our arses off to get a refund on that flight. Biman Airlines are not very nice.
Oct. 27, Shave off the beard (first time in 8years) and catch flight to Mumbai. (1:45pm) Arrive at 4:40pm, try to get a train to Goa, no go so we take a two hour cab ride through Mumbai attempting to catch a night bus. With 10minutes to spare we catch a bus to Goa at 8:00pm. All night bus is going okay, we got a bit scammed on prices but we were in a rush. Mumbai looks like an awesome town, really want to spend some time there some day.
Oct. 28, still on bus and finally sleeping nicely at 5am, 5:25am driver falls asleep as we are descending a Mountain/hill, we collide head on into the cement wall holding the rocks up from falling on the road. Shannon and I are okay, but complete front of bus crushed, its dark, drizzle and mist in the air, we all climb out of bus and wait in the dark to get picked up by another bus.
6:30am get picked up and make our way to Margoa and arrive at about 10am. Local bus to Palolem Beach in Southern Goa and crash at the Kozy Nook.
Oct. 29-Nov. 06, Palolem is AWESOME, Best Beach I've been to. Beautiful and chill. We've changed hotels a few times and end up with the perfect room with a balcony overlooking the beach in a secluded area at the Bridge and Tunnel. Shannon and I have both had stomach adjustments going on respectively, but over all enjoying everything. Great Beach, Good swiming, Perfect sun, Tasty food, and Phenomenal company.
Nov. 06, Started as a good chill day, last full day on the beach. at 2:30pm crowd forms on the rocks in front of our place, we are heading to the main beach and decide to check it out. Lots of people on rocks, all watching one body float face down in the ocean. Noone going in so I do. Attempted to rescue a drowned teenager, but only ended up in a washing machine full of rocks. Tide coming in and very strong, got banged up a bit and cut in many places with a scattering of bruises. Never managed to reach the boy. Finally a fishing boat came and got the kid and dragged the corpse to shore behind it. I almost got stranded on rocks, but managed the brutal swim back in. Very sad. I might not have been as shook up if I had simply remained a spectator, but I couldn't do that. Nobody was doing anything for him, so I had to go in. I would have gotten to him in a few more minutes, but by that time it was too late.
Nov. 07, Bussed up to Panjii in Goa. We've got way too much shit. Seems like a really cool old colonial town. Few days here then we move further north. So far we are really enjoying India. The motto of Incredible India holds true.
Monday, October 24, 2005
"This is the end, my one and only friend The End."
27 months have past and now it is my turn to move on and beyond Bangladesh. But before I go, it would only be approriate to take a quick look back. What are the highlights, the things I have learned, the things I have seen?
On arrival, the view from the plane as we were coming in was of a country that appeared to be completely underwater, with only a few patches of green land. (This view has often remainded the same.)
Noise, stench, chaos, beggars, mass deformities, MS carried to its fullest extent, trash, shit, dung, horns, bells, hawkers, vendors, merchants, touts, cons, elderly, young, babies, kalidascope of swirling and twirling colors, inscense, Hindus, Muslims, Buddists, mosques, temples, shrines, monuments, bricks, giant kilns, boats, bicycles, rickshaws, buses, rice, rice, rice, cows, water buffaloes, dogs, cats, chickens, ducks, kingfishers, bats, palm trees, coconuts, dates, palms, alms, violence, death, birth, life, bazaars, fish, fish, fish, chickens, mosquito racquetts, bars on every window, protests, anger, anguish, despair, mange, excitement, happiness, joy, but no love...
I have learned to always laugh.
I have learned not to give and not to care.
I have learned how to survive.
I have learned how to love.
I have learned how to be a better man.
I have learned to be tactful (somewhat).
I have learned what expectations can do.
I have learned to foster hope.
I have learned the power of the imagination.
I have learned more about my own culture than I ever expected.
I have learned true joy.
I have learned to be patient (and I thought I was patient before).
I have learned the frutility of anger.
I have learned the beauty of distance.
I have learned disappointment.
I have learned how to ignore a human being completely.
I have learned that I am not the always a kind man.
I have learned what I like and don't like.
I have learned the truth about development.
I have learned that money will not fix a problem.
I have learned that money goes a long way to help out.
I have learned about corruption.
I have learned about poverty.
I have learned about perspective.
I have learned that I am in love and always will be.
I have learned the anguish of fighting the crowd.
I have learned that I will continue to fight.
I have learned that humans are often not nice.
I have learned that there are always saints.
I have learned to be stronger than how I feel.
I have learned how to love completely and unconditionally.
I have learned that pirates still exist.
I have learned the dangers of RAB and crossfire.
I have learned the dangers of dancing at a concert.
I have learned that a smile will go a long way.
I have learned how to eat with my right and shit with the left.
I have learned to take the bad with the good.
I have learned.
Monday, September 26, 2005
Invited Shuvo, a Bangladeshi friend of ours, over for pizza night the other day. He has been pestering Shannon and I for nearly a year now that he wants to make pizza. Well, it so happens that recently Shannon and I have been indeed learning to make completely homemade pizza. So, we invite him over and the three of us work in our kitchen, making mozzarella cheese (completely from scratch! A new trick we've developed here), making our own rising dough, sauce, etc. This whole time, he proves to get in the way a bit as he hungerly eyes our whisky. We offer to mix a drink, he takes it straight. We cook and have a pretty good time of things. Finally all of our own individual pizzas are done, we can only make one personal pizza at a time due to the size of our tiny electric oven we bought, which is still better than the makeshift oven we used to use on the stove in a big pot. So, we have our pizzas, and they turned out rather nicely, realling enjoying them all, laughing, joking, taking pictures and listening to bad loud Bangla rock. Shuvo is just about done with his pizza and says, "Wow this is good; but, my mom just made a beef curry that would be great on it." (!!???!!??!!)
Sunday, September 04, 2005
ITS SIMPLY RIDICULOUS!!!
So, I’m at a football game (soccer) that one of my student’s was in. Its in a inter District tournament, nothing big, just two local soccer teams playing each other. Well, this was a quarter-final game that we were at and the opposing team, which is being sponsored by the Chairman of the Portasavar (basically he owns Waterworks and Electric Company for the town in Monopoly terms). So this politician is sooooooo caught up in his teams chances of winning that he hires two Nigerian Professional Footballers to come and play on his team for this one game, plus a goalie from the Bangladesh National League!!! WTF!!! He spent 20,000tk ($325 which is a hell of a lot of money) for each player. THIS IS RIDICULOUS!!!!! Needless to say, they went on to win 6-1.
This is a little old, but so bizarre it could only happen in Bangladesh. In the early 1990s a man by the name Erishad, who had a wife named Bedeshia, launched a coup and ruled Bangladesh for a bit of time before stepping down. Both husband and wife are still very active politically and essentially run one of the many fringe parties. So, a few months ago, with next years election looming, the two many parties, the AL and BNP, have been putting pressure on these fringe groups to declare allegiance. As Bedeshia was leaning to support the Opposition AL, Erishad had a meeting with the leadership of the BNP. The next day Bedeshia declared support for AL and that same day Erishad reported to the police that his wife was embezzeling funds from the government. She was arrested, thrown into jail and he took their 7yrs old son to Saudia Arabia the very next day, leaving her in jail. So, she is in jail, pleading for justice and her innocence. Two weeks later, they finally agree to give her bail, but upon releasing her, new charges on something else weird that I am not clear on were levied against her and she was rearrested. During the second week in this jail term, Erishad files for and actually is granted a divorce from her. This poor woman has now spent one month in jail, has been divorced, and her son has been kidnapped to Saudi Arabia. She was released and then rearrested a third time, but due to a medical condition, she is now under lockdown at a hospital. WTF? THIS IS RIDICULOUS!!!!!
On the 17th of August, over 300 bombs were detonated simultaneously around Bangladesh, three of which were less than a mile from my apartment. Now, you would think that swift justice would be dealt out to those responsible. I mean, those that did it, another fringe political party IMB that wants to instate a strict fundamentalist government, put thousands and thousands of leaflets with the bombs explaining why they did it and what they want, and publicly took credit for it; YET, both many political parties blamed each other for a full week!!! No one went after the perps until a week later when the government finally admitted that it might not have been the AL that set the bombs. WTF???? The next part is kinda funny, its good, but also shows their incompetence. Only one man was killed the day of the bombing and only one since due to injuries. THREE HUNDRED BOMBS, all in crowded and political areas, but no one was hurt. Thank goodness, but come on….THIS IS RIDICULOUS!!!
Last week, Pirates (and no I am not making this up) Pirates on the Bay of Bengal raided a dock near Chittigong and kidnapped 26 men by shooting at them with blanks. Blanks! They jumped off their boat shot blanks into the air, and herded the 26 labours onto the boat and sailed away into the sunset. They are now holding them for ransom, but there were poor labourers in the first place! Pirates with blanks? WTF? THIS IS RIDICULOUS!!!
In the past five months, two children at government run schools have been beaten to death by teachers. One was wearing sandals instead of uniform black sneakers, and the other did not answer a question correctly. Both students were between 8-12yrs. This is ridiculous.
My students think that Bangladesh gets VERY COLD in the winter and if the people of Bangladesh were in any place colder, they all would die. THIS IS RIDICULOUS!
Shannon and I are very nearly done with our service, only a month and 20 odd days left. This is ridiculous, but what really is, is that we almost chose to stay on for nearly another year. Now THAT WAS RIDICULOUS!!!