Saturday, April 22, 2006


Yes, I am still alive...

Ok, so I was supposed to be in Nepal right now (one month in Nepal and two weeks in Tibet), but for those of you who watch the news, I'm sure that you understand that a holiday in Kathmandu is not exactly a good idea right now. I have been watching news coverage of the protests in Nepal and it looks frightening. I am disappointed but know that I made the right decision - no one wants to be tear gassed while on vacation.

So, faced with the prospect of another two months in sweltering India (when I left it was 38 degrees and only getting hotter in Delhi), fending off aggresive autorickshaw drivers and dirty street kids, all the while hoping not to get another dose of the dreaded "Delhi Belly" sickness, I opted to move up my ticket back into Japan. The two bombs that went off only one street over from where I was - on my last night in Delhi - only further reinforced the fact that I had made the right decision. So here I am in Tokyo for a short break before I venture back out traveling.

The trip out of India was taxing. I had a flight out of Delhi at 8:30 am and had to be at the airport for 5:30 (thankfully I took this seriously because it took me three hours to check in and clear security - like the rest of India, the airport was chaos). Landing in Bangkok at 4:00 pm with a flight out to Tokyo at 6:50 am, I decided to stay the night in the airport. So I spent the evening like a homeless woman curled up on a bench, trying (fairly unsuccessfully) to sleep on my bag. The bench proved to be too uncomfortable so I eventually opted for the floor. Waking up at 4:00 am, I checked in for my flight to Tokyo and slept the entire trip (except for a brief conversation with my 75-year-old dirty American sex tourist seatmate).

I am currently researching China and Tibet while I relax at my aunt and uncle's. "Relaxing" pretty much amounts to me taking long hot baths, sleeping in until 2 in the afternoon, catching up on my movie watching and gorging myself on peanut butter, pastries, candy, cheese, meat of any kind and all sorts of other foods that were unavailable to me in India. Sandra and Jay have been nice enough to indulge my cravings for meat (I was veggie for the month in India) and have taken me for a burger, a beautiful medium-rare steak and Japanese curry. Having discovered that I lost about 7 pounds in India, I think that I am slowly gaining it all back.

After living out of a suitcase for so long it's nice to have a home, even if it's temporary. I get my Chinese visa on the 25th so I'm in Japan until at least then.

Anyone wanna join me in China? Tibet?

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Bollywood Star

Ok, so maybe I am not a full-fledged star...yet, but I am due to make at least a brief appearance in the background of a Bollywood film.

So there I am in Jaislamer standing at the edge of a crowd of jostling Indian men. I want to see what they are looking at so I push through the crowd for a good view. That's when I see the film set - large white sreens, cameras on cranes, dancing women wearing colourful saris and heavy makeup and a director who is screaming at the top of his lungs.

After watching the spectacle of filming for a while, I feel someone tap me on the shoulder. It is a stout man with a round stomach that looks like someone has shoved a beachball under his shirt. He is wearing a white linen shirt, a red bandana tied around his neck, large stylish sunglasses, a black Indiana Jones-style hat, and he is carrying a walkie-talkie. He tells me that they need Westerners as extras and asks if I want to be in the movie. Of course I say yes!

Pulling me out of the crowd, he takes me up to a restaurant overlooking where the filming is taking place and introduces me to the director's wife and to the mother of the little boy staring in the movie. Eventually actors file in and they tell me that the film is called Nanhe Jaisalmer (translation: Little Jaisalmer). It is a story about a young camel boy who does not know how to read or write. With his sister's help the boy writes to Bobby Deol, a Bollywood actor (a famous actor here in India), who forms a relationship with the boy. They couldn't give away more of the story than that, but talking to everyone I learned that the director's (Samir Karnik) last movie starred Aishwarya Rai and Viveik Oberoi, two well-known Bollywood actors. So I hope that my film debut is at least a decent movie.

The filming involved me standing in the background talking to a group of Indian men while women and the young boy danced in the foreground. So obviously I play myself which, I am sure if you could hear me would involve me asking the Indian men where I can buy toilet paper and inquiring why toilet paper in this country only has 20 sheets, thereby forcing me to buy a new roll each day or resorting to bulk purchases. I am told that it is the key dance and song sequence of the movie. After 3 hours of filming in the oppressive desert heat, they hoped to have 1 minute of the main song's sequence for the movie. I'd like to say that it was interesting and glamourous, but really it was just hot and a little repetitive, especially the music, which played the same segment over and over again. I went to sleep singing that damn song.

I am told that the movie debuts in India in August of this year. So I will see you all on the red carpet.

Filmmakers looking to sign me to future projects should contact my agent directly.

Monday, April 10, 2006

Minor Camel Injury in Jaisalmer

In Jaisalmer I signed up for a two day overnight camel safari into the desert. It was amazing, but like all things in India, it was also a little crazy and chaotic.

Everyone else's camel had cool Indian names like Hanuman or Maherena. My camel's name was Michael. What kind of camel name is Michael anyway? Apart from his name, I immediately sensed that Michael was different than the other camels. Physically, he appeared to be slightly smaller and didn't seem to socialize much with the others. In fact, it felt almost as though the other camels didn't really like Michael. He was the outcast of the camel community.

The first time I mounted Michael he immediately sprung to his feet and began to trot off. I was excited because I thought that this meant that Michael was an intelligent leader-type of camel. I chalked up the other camel's dislike of Michael as some sort of jealousy. I couldn't be further from the truth.

I soon learned that Michael was the only camel that did not know where he was going. All of the others had a built in sense of direction that would efficently and effortlessly lead them to each destination on the trek. Lacking this sense of direction, Michael would run off ahead of the group as quickly as possible before eventually stopping to stare blankly at the horizon, his head turning in every direction, trying to figure out where to go next. During this time the other camels would overtake him and he would try to speed up to keep up (breaking into a trot, which really hurts your ass). Each time he would eventually be relegated to the back of the pack where I was left to deal with the collective smell of all the camels' farts. And let me tell you, these animals fart a lot. It's disgusting.

Not only did Michael lack a sense of direction, but he also had a nasty habit of smelling other male camels' asses during the ride. Getting this close to the other camels' asses simply subjected me to their strong smell as well. Strangely he had no interest in female camels, just the male ones. Soon the group of travelers I was with began to refer to him as "Brokeback Camel" and there were jokes of "forbidden camel love". Even our camel drivers thought that this was hilarious - "Michael love to smell other camel ass. That is Michael's style."

During the day we visited remote desert villages filled with cute children and stopped for lunch uner the shade of trees. It was hot - upwards of 45 degrees in the middle of the day - but the desert was stunning to see. At night, we slept on the sand dunes in the open- no tents or anything - under beautiful stars. It was amazing. What was not amazing, however, were the dung beatles that were literally everywhere on the dunes. So sleeping in the open meant that I shared my bed with hundreds of these nasty insects. I guess that it was a small price to pay for such an incredible experience.

The next morning, we watched the sunrise over the dunes and set out on our camels. As expected, Michael was the first one to start out and was soon running down the dunes in the wrong direction, causing Raju the camel driver to scream furiously while running him down to stop him. About 10 minutes later, once again in the lead, Michael went the wrong direction. Realizing he was going the wrong way, the group and the camel drivers began to call for him. This obviously confused Michael (who seemed easily confused). Panicked, he suddenly bolted, full speed, towards a tall bramble tree full of thorny branches.

I had only a few seconds to cover my face as Michael pressed through the bush. The thorns ripped my pants and cut up my leg and arm. I was lucky to be able to hold on to the saddle. Emerging from the bush, I had thorns stuck in my hand, foot, leg and thigh, and was bleeding everywhere. Stupid camel.

Besides the minor camel injury I sustained and the strange dung beatle bedfellows, the trek was one of the best things about this trip. Next time I want a cooler camel and less dung beatles.

What Can I Say About Jodhpur?

Big cool fort.

It's the "blue city" where (obviously) all the old buildings are blue.

Uhhhh....yeah, that's about it. Sorry. That's all I got.

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Bizarre Udaipur Love Triangle

I don't know what to write about Udaipur. Like so many places that I visit there are so many strange things that happened that I can't possibly include them all in my blog. Let's just say that Udaipur had a lot of fun and weirdness going on.

In Udaipur...

There was the nicest hotel I have stayed in on this entire trip - Haveli Jaiwana - with clean, cheap rooms, nice staff and a rooftop restaurant overlooking the lake and the lake palace. There was a four day festival with fireworks over the lake every night. There was a cooking class where I learned to cook my favourite Indian foods. There was a strange, overly intimate massage that involved a woman rubbing my ass, armpit and boob (yes, boob). There was a palm reading that predicted that I will live a long healthy life, will always have lots of money, will start my own business at age 37, will meet my husband (a Canadian Taurus or Sagittarius - so specific) "sometime around September when I think you finish your trip" and that I will have three children, my first at age 33.

And there was an insane wedding proposal...actually several proposals...from the same guy.

Monty. Poor Monty. Monty should never have asked me to go for a drive around the lake. I would never have accepted if I knew what was in store. I fear that I made Monty's life miserable.

Monty was a nice 25-year-old from Udaipur who worked at the front desk of the hotel. I agreed to go for a motorcycle drive with Monty on my second day. This was probably a mistake. After about 15 minutes of driving along the gorgeous lake, Monty wanted to know if I thought that anyone at the hotel was "special". I said no. He quizzed me on my views of marrying foreign men. I told him that I don't plan on dating or marrying anyone from India. He asked if I was a "nice girl", which I told him I was (whatever that means). He finally told me that he had decided that he liked me a lot and that he wanted to marry me. Apparently 15 minutes with one person is long enough for an Indian to decide that he wants to marry her. I, of course, said no.

Monty didn't seem phased by my initial rejection. It seemed to only spur him on to pull out all the stops. He took me on a romantic drive around the lake. He took me for sugar cane juice at his favourite shop. He took me for lunch at his friend's garden restaurant. Every two seconds he told me he liked me and asked why I didn't like him back. I tried to change the subejct but he was damn persistent. After being rejected over and over and over again, Monty was on the verge of tears by the end of the afternoon.

Dejected, Monty lamented to his friend at the restaurant that I didn't want to marry him. There were many dramatic sighs, hand gestures and tossing of his head onto the table. His friend too was depressed because he was getting married to a woman he had only met for two minutes (an arranged marriage) and could not marry his true love, his secret girlfriend from another caste. All over India I meet men who are destined to break it off with their "true love" marry someone they have met for about 5 minutes. So I guess that spending an afternoon with a relative stranger is more than enough time for an Indian man to decide he wants to spend his life with her.

Dropping me off at the hotel, Monty made a last plea for my hand in marriage. Rebuffed, he tried his last ditch effort of, "Ok fine. No marriage. Just kiss. One kiss." After a solid "no" in response to Monty's request for a kiss, he literally looked like he was going to burst into tears. For the next three days he moped around the hotel and refused to talk to me. The staff tormented him further by persistently teasing him, and asking me "What did you do to poor Monty?", which didn't help. Every time I entered the room he would turn away from me and stalk out of the room in the most dramatic fashion.

My last day he insisted on taking me out for dinner to make it up to me with promises of no more talk of weddings. Once we were out it was obvious that he was trying a new tactic, which involved trying to get me drunk (like I haven't learned that one yet!). In the end, he only succeeded in getting himself drunk, which, in turn, lead to further torment, drama and sloppy wedding proposals.

So to all my single female friends - of which there are only a handful that now remain - I have a nice Indian boy that I would like to set you up with. His name is Monty and I think that you two would be perfect for each other. Any takers?