Sunday December 20th, 2009

The video above is of my level one class. Each class was required to do a Christmas video this year for the holidays. I am in the video but tried to hide in the background! I prefer being behind the camera rather than in front!

I found myself at Red Robin last night with my family. They offer a free hamburger on your birthday. The menu claimed that the bacon cheeseburger was the best in the world. I have to say, it was one of the yummiest burgers I've had to date. After came a sundae along with their staff singing us a quick birthday tune! It was great fun! Thanks to Spring for the idea!

It's dropped down to 7°C today and it's chilly, even in the house! I am considering going out for a jog but curling up under the covers with my book sounds much more enjoyable. Brrrr!

Friday December 18th, 2009

The shock of cold Canada seems to be wearing off. It's been about 10°C the past few days which isn't terrible. It's so nice to finally catch up with family and friends after all these years.

Vancouver has made many changes with the upcoming 2010 Olympics. Upon my arrival, I was able to take the Canada Line from the airport into the downtown core. Very convenient!

It snowed my second night in town which was cool to see. I'm sure it's been seven years or so since I've seen snow. It was quite exciting.

Time is cruising past ... surprise, surprise! I now find myself in Victoria. This week will be full of activities starting with my bro's birthday, followed by mine and then Christmas.

I did spend some time wrapping gifts tonight with my mom which has really put me in the Christmas spirit!

I'm not sure it's going to be a white Christmas but it's certainly going to be special!

Friday December 4th, 2009 ...

Last night dropped down to 14℃. The chilly ride home left me thinking about how I am going to deal with the temperatures I am about to face. Buying warmer clothes has been on my list of things to do for some time now. As shopping is one of my least favorite things to do, it still remains there.

Time has been speeding by and it seems I hardly have any for myself these days. I did make it to the salon this morning and am now a redhead. It's a nice change but I do have to admit, I miss the shaved head. I'm still not used to seeing myself with this much hair.

I am so looking forward to having three weeks off. I've been at it pretty hard since India which is coming on a year ago. It's hard to believe. I suppose I've not done too badly in the sense of holidays over the past year. Eight months on, four months off.

With brother J getting married next year in Las Vegas, not sure how that trend will work for 2010. That just means I'll have to aim higher for 2011. Seven months on, five months off. I like the sounds of that already ...

Thanksgiving Feast ...

And what a feast it was. This shows about half of what was there. Gobble, gobble ...

20 more sleeps ...

I left my chair for two minutes ... are you kidding me?

Cats never cease to amaze me. In such a short time span, one is under the pillow while the other sits on top. Two minutes ago, they were nowhere to be seen.

Perhaps it's a bit too early to be counting down. I am, for the first time in awhile, feeling the distance from my homeland. Three and a half years has flown by but I know the time passed will be apparent upon my arrival.

The Vancouver 2010 Olympics are just around the corner and a few friends have assured me that I won't recognize a lot of my old stomping ground. It's going to be interesting to rediscover a place I grew so fond of.

We will be celebrating Thanksgiving this week at school. Everyone is required to contribute a dish. Last year consisted of a cold turkey with horrible paste-like stuffing and no gravy. The plus side was the fantastic sushi and deliciously breaded crab.

My expectations aren't set high in the sense of tradition. I do know that a pumpkin pie from Costco has been ordered. I'm half tempted to disappear into a corner of one of the small classrooms with fork and pie in hand.

33 more sleeps until a proper holiday meal ... or would that be 34?! Either way ... I'm stoked!

Friday November 13th, 2009

About this time next month, I'll be making my way to the airport, bound for Canada. As the weeks pass, I find myself purchasing warmer clothes. Jeans here, Gore-tex there. Shoes that aren't sandals are next on my list. And perhaps a down jacket after that. Christmas comes but once every fours years or so ...

Next week will be my last at 師大. I've decided not to return for the moment. I will be required to pay the full tuition regardless of my three week holiday. I'm sure I'll also be expected to self study the material that will be taught in my absence. I'd like to think I'll be studying while in Canada, but I don't imagine I'll get much done. The plan is to enjoy friends and family each and every moment I have.

I will be joining my classmate in a private two on one. I don't feel that my speaking has improved much during the past three months. I can certainly read and write a lot more but speaking is what I went there to improve on. My new class will be three mornings a week which allows me two days back for exercise. Pretty stoked!

I will consider going back to 師大 for the following term, early 2010. In the meantime, I will try this new class and see what it has to offer.

Looks like a wet weekend awaits. TGIF ...

Wednesday November 4th, 2009

This is on the 7th floor of 師大. I'm unsure of whether it's supposed to encourage or discourage people from smoking. I think it could go either way depending on what you're into!

Saturday October 31st, 2009

Wow. November. I find myself unwell and without a voice. Unsure of what to do today, I turn around to see this. Not a great capture, but it gave me something to write about.

I'm glad they like each other. I didn't really give them much of a choice. I had Datsun for one month before I brought Levi in. I remember her first day here well. I was unsure of how to properly introduce them to each other so I let them figure it out for themselves. I, literally, dropped her off and ran out the door as I had a class to teach.

I remember coming home from work and Levi was nowhere to be found. And I mean, nowhere. I was baffled.

As I stood in the kitchen, scratching my head, I decided to look under the fridge as it was the only place I hadn't looked. Sure enough, there she was. I immediately became nervous as I thought she might char herself to death. How horrible would I have felt?

Pretty horrible.

I didn't want to move the fridge so I let her be. It took her two days to come out. It's funny. I sometimes find myself wishing she would go in hiding for two days. Especially when it comes time to writing my homework. She constantly walks off with my white eraser. Try finding it on white tiled floors.

Her nickname Muffin has turned into 麻煩 ... it almost sounds the same and is more appropriate, really ...

A post, at last ...

This post has been days and days in the making. After all that time, I'm sorry to say it still doesn't amount to much. Between Chinese classes, writing homework, memorizing characters, work and the bit of exercise I fit in, blogging has been taking falls on the list of things to be done.

My camera has been on the table, collecting dust. Actually, that's not true. I have been taking it out but it returns home, unused.

I've declared my own personal typhoon morning. It seems late in the year to have one lingering around. There is a good chance it's going to ruin my plans of heading to the coast this weekend.

I did make it out to 龍洞 last weekend. I cruised out Sunday morning, making it there in about 40 minutes. There wasn't much traffic which left the roads free to me! The ride home was a different story. The coastal highway is two lanes and heading in the direction of 台北 always means bumper to bumper traffic. Thank goodness for the thick wide shoulder.

I found myself racing home, aiming to make it in under an hour. Halfway home, a scooter was down on the road. Ambulance. Cops. I slowed it down a notch. Ten minutes later, another scooter. A huge pool of blood was under the pieces that were scattered about. I was reminded of how vulnerable one is on a scooter. I didn't beat my previous time.

It's Friday. It's absolutely pouring outside. I spent the majority of yesterday being wet. My Chinese class starts in fifteen minutes. I can picture myself sitting there with damp clothes. At this exact moment, I am very thankful for this time. Sometimes you have to take a time out.

It's almost 8am. It's strange. My initial thought is what I wouldn't give to be sleeping right now. But thoughts of treating myself to a coffee, cleaning my apartment, going to the pool for a workout and hitting Costco seem to be overriding it. Damn it ...

Monday October 12, 2009

My dreams have turned into stroke order and radicals. Chinese writing is consuming my time and invading my rest. I'm not sure how to make it stop.

Some days I feel as though I'm in over my head while on others it seems like this is the push I need. University in Chinese has been exhausting.

And speaking of exhaustion ... 6am comes awfully early.

Rest ... a.k.a. the drawing board.

Saturday October 10th, 2009

I was having a browse through the newspaper while waiting for the oil to be changed on my bike. This caught my eye. I love the way the knife is protruding from her shoulder in the bottom pic. Awesome!

Monday October 5th, 2009

At some point throughout the night, Datsun was curled up on the corner of my bed. Unaware of him, I stretched out my legs which led to me booting him off the bed.

I wonder what it would be like to be in a deep sleep and then the next thing you know you're mid air on your way to the floor without any warning.

I mean, that just doesn't happen to us.

Poor little guy.

Study Time ...

This is what I have to put up with. She does look rather content ...

Sunday October 4th, 2009

There were a series of earthquakes, eleven to be exact, from midnight until 6am. The biggest was around 1:30. Magnitude, 6.3. From the looks of the weather, the first typhoon has arrived. As per the satellite, it doesn't seem to be big. I was hoping it would allow for a day off tomorrow as I still have much Chinese homework to do.

The second typhoon shows that it will change direction in the next day or so and head up past Japan. I love the way you can clearly see the eye of the storm.

I'd like to get out for some exercise and find myself bothered by the fact that the gym where I live is closed. It certainly takes away some of the appeal when the 'club med' doors are closed. There has been no sign of reopening, only talk as to how expensive it is to run the facility.

I may try and get a membership at the University so that I can work out after my Chinese class. If I do that, however, I am unsure about where my homework will fit in.

Time. These days, there is never enough. I suppose that's what makes it precious.

Wednesday, September 30th, 2009

Uh-oh. Not only one, but two ... heading directly towards us! I'm not sure the southern part of Taiwan has fully recovered from the last one. Yikes.


du4 - to shut out; to stop
shu2 - good; pure, virtuous, beautiful, charming, clear
ling2 - tinklings of jade, exquisite, clever and nimble


Tuesday September 22nd, 2009

Test number four happens tomorrow. Am I prepared? Not really. I'm working on writing the characters over and over again at the moment. Sort of.

One could stand to have a bit more time in the day! I went from a busy August to a busy September and it seems that a busy October awaits.

Outside of school and work, I've been climbing walls. A new album is on the right.

Click it.

Friday September 11th, 2009

What a week. I'm absolutely exhausted but it was awesome!

My first test was on Tuesday although I wasn't aware of it upon my arrival that morning. I either wasn't fully listening after class on Monday or I misunderstood. My score, 88%.

If I've not mentioned before, 90% is considered a pass at the school I teach at. Over the past four years, I've been known to be on my students' cases for scoring 88%. Not good enough was my immediate reaction. Learning in an environment which isn't your first language makes it difficult. My teacher speaks quite fast and uses vocabulary I've not learned as of yet. After Tuesday, I've become better at asking for clarification when I've not fully understood her meaning.

Second test was on Friday. I was aware of this one and had time to prepare. My score, 98%! That's more like it.

I decided to kick back and watch a movie tonight in hopes of relaxing. The other day, my friend Lesley wondered when people would start making shorter movies for this generation's decreasing attention span. She makes a great point. I was able to sit through an hour before feeling the need to do something else. That something else led me to writing this post.

I think I am done with this as well. And now, on to something else ....

Sunday September 6th, 2009

The ninth month of the year ... 2010 is coming up quick. It's been over three years since I've made an appearance in Canada. I've been looking at tickets online. Despite the cold, I am aiming towards the west coast for the holiday season. Christmas will be a work day here in Taiwan and I refuse to jab cold turkey (no gravy) onto the end of a chopstick like last year. It's going to be a quick trip back and, unfortunately, there are no plans of hitting the east coast.

I've completed my first two days of classes at 師大. I have been placed in a reading/writing class. There are eight other students in the class. We all have the ability to communicate but it seems that most of the class can't read or write. The teacher has been focused on writing which has made it easy for me so far. The challenge is trying to fully understand what the teacher is saying. She speaks at a regular speed and is using vocabulary I've not learned as of yet. Word for word, I would say I understand about 75%. It's been quite different to be the one learning rather than teaching. It's going to make for a real nice change at this point in my life.

The weather has been absolutely fantastic in Taiwan. Clear blue skies and weeks of 33°. H1N1 has been a bit of a scare here as of late. All of my students are required to wear masks while in class. It makes it hard to teach a language class when mouths and noses are fully covered.

My goal for the remainder of the day is to be still and watch not only one but two movies. Although the day starts early tomorrow, I'm really looking forward to it!

Tuesday August 25th, 2009

Today was an odd day. I've been bouncing back and forth between buying a new camera or buying or a new computer. I still haven't come to any decisions. I am leaning towards an iMac as it's a lot more computer for my buck.

There is a Mac dealer here in Taipei that I went to as the battery for my PowerBook died. The lady runs the business out of her home. She owns eight cats. I wasn't in her place for more than a few minutes before I had one in my lap. Shortly after, another. It was kind of like being at home on a cold winter day. She apologized but I told her I didn't much mind. They must have had me pegged as a cat lover the moment I entered.

From there, I proceeded on to Shida University to register for classes. After two hours of waiting, my number was finally called for an oral test. It was fully conducted in Chinese and I was able to keep up. The lady complimented me which felt awesome. I was asked to read a few paragraphs and then to write some characters. I told her I haven't really taken the time to practice writing and it was at this point that she called me special. I, of course, agreed with her!

She had me take the written test anyway. The characters required to write the test were ones I am able to write for the most part. My hope is that they aren't going to place me in a lower level class only because my writing isn't up to speed. I have orientation next week and am waiting with anticipation.

For a girl who is supposed to be partly on holidays ... I haven't stopped. The list of things to do remains long. My eyes are wanting to close and I'm about to give in ...

Thursday August 20th, 2009

One more day of this crazy work schedule. It seems like it started forever ago. I have to be honest and say that I am very thankful it's almost over.

My schedule is going to change to a very different kind of busy in two weeks time. I have been accepted at 師大 University to study Mandarin. I'm really looking forward to a new challenge. I just hope it doesn't kick my you know what!

It feels as though my posts have been real sporadic as of late. I took on more than I should have this summer, that I know. I suppose it's just what happens at times.

My bed is calling. I am faced with one more very long hectic day ... the last for some time! We are presenting the parents with a 2-hour farewell show tomorrow evening.

Farewell and good riddance!

Safe and Sound ...

Sometimes the power of mother nature blows my mind. Each day presents existence along with small displays of how easily it can be taken.

It reminds one to live in the now. To enjoy what is in plain view. To appreciate things exactly for what they are at that given time.

Typhoon Morakot did bring a two day holiday. Calling it a holiday hardly seems appropriate as it wasn't for many in southern Taiwan. I am saddened by the destruction it has caused.

It continues on in China which is why I have time to post this blog. My two students are there now and are unable to get a flight back.

All I can do is be thankful for the night. It's been a crazy busy summer and I find it hard to believe that August is coming on the halfway point.

September will bring change. The rest of 2009 will present an interesting time. Keep your eyes posted for more details as they unfold ...

Typhoon 莫拉克 ...

Here it comes ... first of the season ... fingers are crossed it brings a day off with!

Wednesday July 22, 2009

My attempt at a photo of today's solar eclipse ... a pretty cool thing to see although this pic doesn't do it any justice.

It's hard to believe my last post was on the 10th ... it seems as though there's been distraction in my life.

Amid the distraction, I have been able to find much time to 享受一下 ...

享受 is certainly the only way to go ...

Friday July 10th, 2009

Photo by: Peter Hunt ∼ Hibiscus flower photographed at night in the rain forest near Madikeri, Karnataka, India.

Week one of this crazy summer schedule is down with seven more to go. How does that math work out, you ask? Two days ago, I learned that the program is eight weeks not seven. So ... while my co-workers are vacationing, I'll be up earlier than I'd like to be for another week of work.

Work hard, play hard. I am much better suited by the latter.

Wednesday July 8th, 2009

I've not had much time to think about leaving a post these days. I have been getting home just before ten only to find that I can hardly keep my eyes open. I give in to sleep as 7am comes early. After an eight to nine hour rest, one shouldn't wake feeling absolutely wiped out ... it's not right.

I'm half tempted to cancel my Chinese class tonight but I am only studying 1.5 hours a week which means progress is slow. I've not had much time to prep for my class and I feel a bit bad for that. My teacher is aware of my busy schedule, so hopefully he'll put up with me during the summer!

Martin Streek, a long time DJ from CFNY took his own life this week. It takes me back to the days of Fever and Kingdom. I spent a lot of time between those two places in my youth. He was certainly someone I looked up to way back then and I am saddened by his death. RIP.

"You have a choice ... live or die. Every breath is a choice. Every minute is a choice. To be or not to be." ∼ Chuck Palahniuk

Tuesday June 30th, 2009

There was a scheduled air raid drill today in Taiwan. I was hiking when the first alarm went off. As I came out of the mountains, the streets were silent. It was kind of eerie. I've heard the drills before but have always found myself to be indoors or perhaps not in the city.

During these drills, cars and people are to remain stationed until a second alarm sounds. The drill runs for a half hour period in the early afternoon. The police officer wouldn't even let us walk two shops over to the 7-11. Serious stuff!

Friday June 26th, 2009

My blog is lacking. Life seems a bit yawnish after the excitement of India. Don't get me wrong. I love life in Taiwan but it's back to routine. Exercise, work, study ... deciding on the next goal.

July 1st brings me to summer camp which means a 34 hour work week .... yikes! That's about 12 more hours than I'd like. It's been a few years since I've put in some real time.

Summer camp is a seven and a half week program. After, I'll be granted one week of holidays. I'm half tempted to jump to the mainland to check things out. I am overly due for a new computer though. I may have to settle for a week at the Lotus Hill pool ... a.k.a. Club Med.

I am aiming for a trip back to Canada in February 2010. My cousin is getting married so it seems like a good time to go. I've not met some of my cousins kids as of yet and apparently they are taking toys to show and tell?!

Times passes a little too quickly. At times I feel as though I'm getting old but then at others, I feel as though it's just the beginning.

Funny how that works ...

Home Alone ...

My roommate is in the process of moving out. He's at his new place but his things are still here. I don't know how much he'll get to this weekend with the weather. It's calling for rain, rain and then more rain.

I am taking some time to do absolutely nothing. My goal this weekend is to watch movies. I can count the number of movies I've seen in 2009 on one hand.

I don't mind rainy weekends so much.

Saturday June 6th, 2009

It's hard to believe it's already June. Today is a regular working day to make up for the four day weekend we were granted last week due to Dragon Boat Festival.

I've had many questions going through my head in the short time I've been back. Stay in Taiwan or make a move? Continue studying Chinese or let it go? Make a new travel plan or make a new travel plan? Definitely a new travel plan!

Work is not so easy to find these days, but I guess that's going on everywhere in the world. I've been told my hours will be cut at the start of the new semester. The positive to that is I will be on a four day work week which is appealing. Fingers are crossed for making up the loss of cash through other means.

Looking at my blog, it's flooded with India. The desire to go back remains strong. I don't have much of a desire to go into work today but it's more money towards starting something new. The big question is what?

Footprints - Sri Lanka ...

This video was taken in Agra, India ... not in Sri Lanka. I was holding my camera outside a taxi window. Not a great video, but it gives one an idea of all the different types of vehicles that are on the roads of India.

Footprints - Sri Lanka. Click the link to see maps, photos and some comments!

Footprints - South India ...

I took the above video from my hotel room balcony at the southern tip of India. It was about 6am. The sunrise isn't that exciting but listening to the morning prayer is. I was often awake in the wee hours of the morning due to prayers. I have to say, it's not a terrible way to start the day.

As promised ... Footprints - South India ... Photos of me, the people I met, maps and comments. Enjoy!

Love Letters ...

My short time in Goa was spent mostly on a beach called Colva. While wandering one morning, a guy came down from his restaurant to sell me on the place. You could use their beach chairs for the day as long as you ordered a drink or some food.

Day One:
I left there with a smile on my face and decided to go back the following day. Day two, the other guy that works in the place came down with another note plus a pen and a pad of paper.

I'd be surprised if Ganesh was a day over eighteen. Hours went by ... I swam, I ate, I read. As I was about to leave, Ganesh came running over to ask me why I didn't write back. I had to laugh. I told him it was because I wasn't in grade school and then proceeded to tell him that I am probably much older than he thinks. He didn't know exactly how to respond. I kindly thanked him and left, again, with a smile.

Footprints - North India ...

My mom has been quite upset that none of the photos have my face in them. It's hard to be in front of the camera when you're always behind it. And, I already know what my face looks like. Mom ... I hope you like it!

I've created an album below with some photos of myself and with some faces I met along the way. I've added some maps to show the route I took. I also wrote comments for each photo.

Click the link ... Footprints - North India

Soon to follow ... Footprints - South India and Footprints - Sri Lanka.

Mamallapuram ...

Every time I look at this photo, I can't help but smile. It was taken in Mamallapuram, which is known for its rock carvings. Please note the (once brown) dog on the right. Talk about noisy and dusty yet he doesn't seem to have a care in the world. I guess it's all in what we get used to.

Rameshwaram, Tamil Nadu ...

Rameshwaram is a sacred island known as one of the holiest places in India. I decided to take a day trip from Madurai. It meant not having to pack up my stuff or worry about new accommodation.

The temples in both places were being repainted and renovated which was disappointing. The famous temple in Rameshwaram is Ramanathaswamy Temple. The corridors, as pictured here, are 205m in length with 1212 pillars on the north and south sides.

Outside the main gate, there is a narrow strip of beach where pilgrims bathe as the water is believed to be holy. Fully clothed, people run in and soak themselves. I neglected to go in because I didn't want to stay wet for the remainder of the day ... this becomes comical a bit later.

I started to make my way to the temple when a guy whisked me away along with five others from my bus. I had my camera with me expecting to wander and have a look around. I came out with very few photos and I am about to explain why.

Before entering the inner temple, one is expected to, apparently, race around the outer temple's 22 tirthas. Each tank offers special benefits such as wisdom, long life, love and so on.

At tank number one, a man fills a bucket full of water and dumps it over my head. Now, we aren't talking about a little cup here ... we are talking a good sized bucket. By tank number seven, I was soaked from head to toe. By number fifteen, I'd just about had enough. The man was yelling two words at me, 'hello' and 'come', repeatedly. I was very looking forward to number twenty two.

Pilgrims were running through, slipping and falling on the wet temple floors and laughing with delight. I'm not sure I really got it. Standing there dripping wet, another man comes and takes me to a different part of the temple.

The inner temple didn't allow me much time either. I was rushed through all the while my forehead was being painted with white stripes and orange and red dots. And then, like that, it was over ... this guy was requesting money as he took me out of the main entrance.

Outside, the family of five looked radiant, glowing with happiness. They asked me how I felt and the only thing I could think to say was wet. It was an odd experience. Looking back now, it brings a smile to my face.

I miss the life of a traveler already ... never sure what you'll be faced with from one day to the next. As I look out my window, I remember I am in Taiwan and this is close to living a life on the road. I've been here since 2003. Settled has long set in. Perhaps, just perhaps, it's coming on that time to shake things up a little.

Photos from Hampi, My Sore and Somnathpur ...

Arriving home and starting back to work was by choice. It certainly feels nice to be bringing in money rather than spending it. India turned out to be much cheaper than I had planned for. What makes it even more amazing is that I could have done it for much, much less.

Being back in Taiwan makes life seem expensive. I can't imagine the transition of going back to a place like Canada ... yikes! A big part of me would love to make a move to India as there was so much I didn't get to experience. It's a choice to look into over the next little while. I am about half way through my photos with many more to go. Thanks to everyone who has taken the time to have a look through and drop me a line. Much appreciated!

Delhi and Agra Photos ...

Click the link. Once in the album, look in the right corner for the slideshow button ... a new feature. And, as always, enjoy!

Follow the leader ...

I am in Kolkata, 41°. The hike from the airport was an interesting one. The airports, train and bus stations all have prepaid taxi counters. It's a service run by the government in order to allow fair rates rather than having to haggle with the drivers.

I went to the prepaid booth at the airport to book a taxi to Sudder Street. This street is famous for having cheap hotels. The trip cost 230Rs. As it was rush hour, it took about one hour to get near the area. I was amazed at the pollution especially having just come down from beautiful Darjeeling.

At some point, I began to realize that the driver wasn't sure exactly where he was going. I guess I should also add that he didn't speak a word of English. He pulled over to ask for directions and it was me that did most of the asking.

We must have stopped ten times. It seemed that people didn't know the street or they couldn't be bothered to help. The few that offered directions didn't seem to help the driver out any as it wasn't very long before he stopped again.

I finally got out my guide book map to lead him to the street. He seemed hesitant to follow my hands but I'm sure he could see that I wasn't overly happy. I had been in his taxi for two hours.

I was able to get him on the right track but due to it being rush hour some of the streets had changed to one way to allow for the traffic. That means I had to take him on a detour. He had no idea what I was saying but I saw where we were on the map and was trying to make him understand that. I was very anxious to get out of his car and I'm sure he was ready to be rid of me, too.

Two and a half hours later, I was hot and tired but where I wanted to be. I got out of the car, collected my things when the driver says 'two hundred' in English. I shrugged my shoulders. I know he spent a lot of extra time driving around but isn't it his job to know the city?!

It's hot, noisy and polluted here. I am trying to force myself out of this chilled room to head to the market. I'm not sure it's going to happen. I am very looking forward to getting home knowing that's my only option for the moment.

Not long now!

Sunday April 12th, 2009

I now find myself at a tiny beach resort in the south of Sri Lanka called Unawatuna. The guest house offers free internet which is a good excuse to write another post. It seems I don't have much to write about.

The food has gotten much better now that I am on the coast. Fish is widely available and it's ever so tasty. I spent the first two months of my trip being a vegetarian as meat isn't available so much in India ... especially in the north. It's been hard to keep the trend going here.

Cheap beer is widely available and it's nice to be able to drink it in the open. Most places didn't serve it in India and the ones that did, served it hidden in teapots or covered glasses. One of things I look forward to the most is a nice bottle of red wine. The first sip will be ever so sweet.

I leave Sri Lanka in about one week. I will, no doubt, stop at the duty free on my way back into India. I plan to head up to Darjeeling which will probably be somewhat of a cold mountain town. Some red wine running through my body will be a nice way to keep warm!

My tummy is starting to rumble at the thought of tonight's dinner. With that thought, I am off.

Tuesday April 7th, 2009

I am terribly behind in travel posts. It's hard to believe that in three weeks I'll be back at home. I suppose I'll be left with ample time to catch up on stories. And I'll finally be able to upload my photos! It will be nice to relive the trip through different eyes. So much has happened since I first touched down in Delhi.

Sri Lanka is a stunning place. I've been smack in the middle doing lots of hiking through mountains and tea plantations. I had no idea what a treat I was in for!

First stop, Kandy, a great town set in the mountains around a big lake.

After Kandy, it was an early trek starting at 2am up to the top of Adam's Peak. It was an amazing sunrise! It best have been after 5200 steep steps to the top.

It was then off to Nuwara Eliya for a day of rest. The tiny town sits 1200m about sea level and was a bit chilly for my liking!

After some rest and rain, a group of us awoke at 4am for another early start to
Horton Plains National Park. Another stunning place.

I now find myself in a place called Ella. Another very tiny mountain town where there isn't much to do. I am leaving on a bus tomorrow and heading out of these wonderful mountains, making my way to the coast.

More will follow at a later date!

Sri Lanka ...

Three more sleeps! I wonder how similar it will be to India, if at all.

Can't wait!

Making Prints ...

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Sunday March 22nd, 2009

Things of note:

It's been quite sometime since I've posted a blog. The guest houses/hotels in the north always had email in the lobby. This isn't the case in the south. Out of sight, out of mind!

Power cuts seem frequent here in the south. I was reading in the paper that one of the cities, I can't remember which, had to decide between a six hour power cut each day or a two day power cut holiday every week. I would hardly call two days without power a holiday. The city opted to be without power each day. The power is often out in the middle of the afternoon. The western world would hardly survive if the case were the same.

Armed guards are still stationed everywhere throughout the streets of India. By armed, I mean they wear brown uniforms and have big, long guns. I don't know much about guns but I do know that if you were to put the butt of the gun on the ground, it would stand as tall as my waist, at least.

I took a public bus making my way to Varkala which is about a four or five hour journey. Half way through the trip two armed guards got on the bus. One sat in the seat across from me and put his gun across his lap so the end of the barrel was aiming towards my leg. Second time I've had a gun pointed at me here in India. I can't say as though I feel comfortable around them. Even if they are in the hands of a possibly trained person.

Why wouldn't armed officers have a more specialized way of traveling? Who's to say some crazy on the bus isn't going to try and take the gun? Weird.

As per an earlier blog, men like to pee wherever and whenever. You can be walking behind a guy and all of a sudden he stops and turns and whips it out. It's crazy. I would hate to admit that I'm used to it by now.

Seven weeks in and I've managed to avoid seeing someone, um, taking a dump ... until two days ago. Passing a small pond close to one of the main roads and all I see is an ass high in the air. He is standing ankle deep in water and plop it goes. Yikes! What kills me is that not even twenty meters away there are five ladies also ankle deep in the pond doing their laundry. Are they oblivious as to what is happening beside them? Or do they not care?

This country amazes me. It really does. I am currently in Madurai which is in Tamil Nadu. I will be bouncing around for the next two weeks before flying to Sri Lanka. I thought it best to leave some words as it may be awhile before I find myself in front of a computer again.

I tried posting a google map showing my whereabouts over the last while but it's a no go. The connection is a bit too slow. More stories will follow along with my photos when I get home.

With that, I'm off. Power is going to be cut in about ten minutes time so I've just been told.

Wednesday March 11th, 2009

It's hard to believe it was only a few short weeks ago that I was blogging about leaving this place. North and South are like night and day. It's a whole other world down here and it's one that I'm enjoying very much!

Since my last blog, I've been in Kerala. My first night was spent in Fort Kochi. It's a quiet area with not much to do. I only planned to stay the night as I was meeting a friend and we had planned to head down to Alleppey the following morning.

It was quite easy to get a public bus for the two hour journey. Upon arrival we tried booking a houseboat but realized it wasn't going to be as easy as we thought. We went to find a room for the night instead.

It took us a few hours in the afternoon but we were able to find a nice houseboat to take us out in the backwaters for two nights. It was awesome! There were three guys on our boat with us. One to do the driving, one to do the cooking and the other was our waiter. Talk about relaxing!

We got back from our tour early morning and decided to spend one more afternoon on a punting boat. It was a nice way to get a closer look at the backwaters. What a treat!

I now find myself back in Kochi, Ernakulam to be exact. I am scheduled to leave on a ferry first thing in the morning. My destination, Lakshadweep. I plan to do some diving and snorkeling along with some r & r.

I am currently reading Life of Pi by Yann Martel.

I have about six weeks left on my trip and they are going to go by quick. I find myself wishing I had more time. I guess that's always the way ...

Mysore, India ...

Mysore turned out to be a great little city! The first day I spent orientating myself. The following morning I met an Australian girl named Vanessa. After our delicious and cheap malasa dosas, we headed out for a bit of an adventure.

I had planned on hopping two city buses about an hour and a half out of town to see a temple. She was keen to go with. The bus trip was quite easy and it seemed that most people were happy to help in showing the way.

The temple was small but so detailed. I am glad to have made the trip and was also glad for the company!

The following morning we were up and out at 7am to get an early start before the heat of the day. We caught another local bus up a hill which has a few temples. Our original plan had been to walk up the steps, but the bus didn't seem to stop there. We were driven to the top.

We did walk down and it was beautiful. Afterwards, we hopped in a rickshaw to the palace. I wasn't going to go inside as cameras weren't allowed and I've now seen so many that I thought it to be unnecessary.

I changed my mind and I was glad I did. It was the most beautiful palace I've seen in India so far ... stunning!

After the temple, it was off to the market. I got some great shots (I think) and I can't wait to see them on my computer.

After a long and busy day, I made my way to the bus station. I was on a bus scheduled to leave at 9:30pm heading to Kerala.

The bus ride was a bit insane. I'm very thankful to have made it in one piece. Had it been daylight I'm sure it would have been a beautiful drive. We zig-zagged up mountains and then back down and then back up again. I didn't get much sleep as the bus was often quite tilted ... to the left and then to the right.

Kerala is hot. It's almost 8pm and I'm covered in a thin layer of sweat. My skin is a nice chocolate brown though! I am about ready for cold shower number three.

I've met up with a friend and we will be leaving in the am to make our way to Alleppey. It is from there that we will rent a boat and spend a few nights in the backwaters. Should be relaxing!

I then need to return to Cochin as I've booked a tour over to the islands of Lakshadweep. That means it will be a week or so before I'm back online, I'd say.

Not many stories to tell. The south is so much different than the north. The food is spicier, yeah! The women actually work here and they talk to me, yeah! And the men don't constantly have their hands on their penis', yeah!

I've made plans for the remainder of my trip. It's going to go by quick and I feel as though three months isn't enough. I have so much more I'd like to see which means I may be destined to bring myself back to this crazy place!

Go figure!

Case of the missing shoes ...

Right in front of the main bazaar in Hampi stands a big temple. As a bunch of us had rented bicycles the day prior, I was a bit templed out. Going into the main courtyard was free, beyond that one has to pay 2Rs, 50Rs with a camera.

The main entrance had twenty or thirty pairs of shoes in front as you aren't allowed to wear shoes inside. I was quite good about leaving my shoes with someone to watch over them or putting them in my bag in the north. Hampi isn't a big place so I just kicked my shoes off and in I went. Two minutes later, out I come and my shoes are gone.

I felt sick. I suppose one shouldn't be so attached to a pair of shoes, but they weren't cheap and they are very practical for hiking as well as the beach. As Ash and I looked around, some kids came up to us asking what the problem was. I told them someone had taken my shoes. I wanted to cry.

Upon arrival in Hampi, each person is to check in at the small police station at the end of the bazaar. They require you to write down your passport number, where you are coming from, where you are going, dates and the name of your hotel as well as the brand of your camera. I thought this to be rather interesting.

I marched down the hot pavement in my bare feet trying to remain calm. I was very thankful to have Ash with me as I may have lost it otherwise.

Once inside the most basic police station I've ever seen, I was asked to explain my situation to a man sitting at the only desk. His first question inquired into the cost. I told him they were about $80US. Three officers were having a real laugh over this. They repeated eighty American in English three times purely for my benefit. I'm not sure if they were laughing at the fact that I'd actually spent $80US on a pair of shoes or if it was that I brought those shoes to India. Either way, I wasn't seeing the humor so much.

Their solution was that I should have left my shoes inside the main entrance where there is someone to watch over the shoes. He said they'd look for them and tried sending me on my way. I wasn't going anywhere.

I told them that you aren't supposed to wear shoes in temples and there were tons of shoes where I'd left mine. If the "tourists" aren't supposed to leave shoes at that point, then a sign should be posted to let us know. I told him this isn't good for tourism and that Hampi is a small place. I also told him that I'm sure the same kids and ladies hang around that entrance way day in and day out and I find it hard to believe someone didn't see something. At this point they (finally) asked me the brand name of shoes and to describe them. The important man with the hat behind the only desk gets up and leaves.

Another man in a hat takes his place and asks me what happened. I repeated my story and I'm sure at this point they could see I wasn't going to let this go easily. A moment later, four or five cops walk in with a little boy. My shoes are on his feet. I felt so relieved ... over shoes ... yikes!

Things got quite confusing after this. I had asked if the little boy was the one that took my shoes and the one officer said yes. The other officers then asked me to give the little boy money for returning my shoes. I was confused as to why I would pay him money for being a thief. Sure enough, I start shaking a finger at him telling him he shouldn't steal people's things. The officers then tell me that I am mistaken. A lady took my shoes and he took them from her and brought them here.

It certainly doesn't explain why they were on his feet. The officers kept saying that he was a good boy, a good boy. I was just so happy to have my shoes back that I gave the kid 100Rs and thanked him for bringing them back.

Leaving the small place, I was pretty sure it was the kid who took them and wondered if this is perhaps a common scam they have going on in Hampi. I would be surprised if the kid saw any of that 100Rs. He did run up to me halfway down the bazaar and kept saying 'no cheat, no cheat'. I tried asking him what happened but he also stated 'no English'.

It was nice to see that a system is in place and that if you are persistent enough, it works. I have decided that it might be best to buy a cheap pair of flip flops and save the Keens for hiking.

Problem solved. I'm in Mysore now and it's not a bad little place. I'll be on another (and should be my last) overnight bus tomorrow. I will find myself in Kerala first thing Friday morning.

Time for an afternoon siesta ... it's hotter than hot!

Moving forward ...

I hadn't planned on going to Hampi but I'm so glad I did! What an awesome place! It was hard to drag myself away from it in the end. I find myself in Mysore now after a sixteen hour overnight trek. I'm a bit tired today!

The train ride from Goa to Hampi was beautiful and the train was packed with other travelers which was a nice change. I met two guys, Tom and Ash, from England and we ended up rooming together for 100Rs each.

The landscape in Hampi is fascinating. I'm not even sure I can properly begin to describe it. It's loaded with old temples, ruins and big boulders which oddly balance on smaller ones. It's almost desert like, yet beyond the piles of boulders are greener than green fields containing palms, banana trees and rice fields. Truly a sight to see!

I ran into two of the girls I had met on the camel safari in Jaisalmer and ended up spending some time with them after my new English friends left back to Goa. There was so much to do in Hampi that we rented push bikes one day and scooters on another.

I am back in the city now and I'm hearing honking galore from the street below. My time is almost up. I have a great story about stolen shoes which I hope to get in type tomorrow.

I've decided it's best to stop trying to understand the ways of India and to just take them in as best I can ... with a smile!

To quit or to continue on ...

I don't consider myself much of a quitter. I'd like to think that I'm more of a go-getter. I usually don't let much stand in my way of obtaining desires.

India has been a dream of mine since the age of twenty or so. It's been my main goal for the past year. I worked hard to get where I am today and to much disappointment, I'm about ready to throw in the towel.

Last night, just after 10pm, I was in bed with the lights out and the TV on. I heard a funny noise outside the balcony of my window and it was moments later that the window opened and in came a pair of hands moving the curtain out of the way. I hopped out of bed and loudly said excuse me. The hands disappeared and I heard a loud thud as someone jumped over the balcony and ran down the hallway. I was going to open the door and peer out to see who it was but I decided not to play the hero.

I packed all of my valuables in my bag and marched down to the reception. I told the guy at the desk what had happened and he didn't seem surprised nor was he apologetic. I told him that they better find me a new room immediately or give me my money back and make arrangements to situate me at a new hotel.

He gave me a real nice room for the same price so I suppose a bit of good has come from the bad. I had trouble sleeping last night despite the bars on the windows. It gave me a number of hours to ponder my trip here in India.

I arrived exactly four weeks ago today and I've given India a very fair chance. I see that I have had to change the person I am. I walk with my head down, sunglasses on at all times. I avoid eye contact and shaking hands. I trust no one and don't speak to anyone unless I'm doing business with them. It's draining and I am starting to feel like a bit of a bitch.

I'm not sure if I really want to spend anymore of my hard earned money in this shit hole of a country. My return ticket to Thailand is becoming more and more tempting with each passing day. I've not traveled through the northern part of Thailand as of yet and I'd easily be able to cross over into Laos. If time permits, I wouldn't be opposed to going back into Cambodia to spend a few more days at the temples.

I've booked an early morning train on Thurday to Hampi as I hear it's worth checking out. It's a seven hour journey and it may just be my deciding factor.

One day at a time is all I can do for now. I feel much more relaxed than I was this morning but perhaps now is not my time for India. I look around me and see all these other travelers that have been here for months and seem to be having the time of their life. I wonder why it is that I am not ...

Long Journeys ...

It was sad to leave Jaisalmer behind and perhaps I should have stayed another few days. It's an easy place to navigate as it isn't huge. One thing I liked most was that the street animals didn't seem to be starving. Each family is required to make at least two Chapatis for the cows and the dogs. I'm not sure how they monitor that each animal gets its fair share. Either way, it's nice to see this being done! The animals in the other cities were quite shocking for me.

My overnight bus was scheduled to leave the bus station at 5:15pm. It didn't arrive until after 6pm. The bus was overcrowded, as usual, but the working men on the bus gave me the sleeper I had paid for without any unpleasantness in return!

I was able to fade in and out of sleep for most of the ten hour trip. I arrived in Ahmedabad at 4am. As one could imagine, there wasn't much open so I hired a rickshaw to take me to the airport.

Funny story. The driver didn't want to agree on a price before I got in which seems to be the standard. He was quite adamant about using the meter (as far as I know they don't have meters) and then having me pay 1.5 for the rate as it was early am. I agreed and was curious as to what he'd come up with. He told me the airport was 22kms and I made a note to somewhat keep track.

He asked me if I liked India and I said it was OK. He asked, only OK? I responded with a yes, it's only OK. I was tired. About 10kms later we arrived at the domestic terminal. He quickly looks at the "meter" and says 460Rs. I didn't know what else to do but laugh.

I then asked him if he thought I was stupid. He told me that it was the nightly rate. I told him I'd give him the benefit of the doubt and say that it was about 15kms. I held out a paper and my pen and said for him to show me the math. If he could work 15kms out times his nightly rate and come up with 460 I'd have no problem whatsoever paying that fare.

He didn't dare take the pen or the paper. I've become aware that most people here don't seem to have basic mathematics skills. When ordering in restaurants if you point to something on the menu and ask what is this, they will ask you to read it as they don't have the ability to read or write either.

One time, I ordered a coffee at 20Rs and an omelet at 30Rs. The guy, who seemed to be about 20 years old, got out a calculator to do the math. I then handed him a 100Rs note and he again pulled out the calculator to figure out the change. It seems that most of the time I was there, if he wasn't serving he was staring into space. I wonder why a guy his age wouldn't take the time to teach himself basic math skills knowing he needs to use it every day. Weird.

Anyway, back to the rickshaw driver. After I insisted on him showing the math, he started pleading with me and I couldn't help but feel a little sorry for him. I told him that I had been in India long enough to know that I can rent a rickshaw for the whole day (8 hours) for 500Rs. He continued to plead. I gave him 100Rs as I thought the ride was worth that. I then told him that this is the reason that India is only OK ... because of people like him who always try to scam people like me. I handed him another 100Rs and told him that it was for his nightly rate and his tip for being an ass, then walked away.

I had about seven hours to kill at the airport at which time I buried my head into the book Slumdog Millionaire. Great book so far, I'm almost finished! I am quite interested to see the movie.

I had a quick hour and a half flight to Goa and I now find myself on a beach called Colva. It's not too bad. I'll hang my hat here for another few days before I head off.

Jaisalmer, India ...

A fascinating place, indeed! Being approximately 100km away from the Pakistan border has been interesting. Jet planes cruise overhead every couple of hours. There is a huge fort here that sits high on a hill. Lots of people reside in this fort. It's my last night here and I find myself in one of the guest houses within the sandstone walls.

I just returned from a camel safari and it was excellent! I finally feel as though I'm in holiday mode. Camels are such interesting creatures ... very prehistoric. Sleeping under the abundance of stars was amazing. Although I wasn't able to get much sleep, staring at the sky to burn the hours away didn't hurt my feelings any!

I am scheduled to leave on another overnight bus tomorrow ... oh no! This one leaves at 5pm rather than 1am, so my fingers are crossed for a better journey. I get to the other end at 4:30am which isn't going to be too fun. I am heading to the airport in Gujarat. It will be there that I'll catch a direct flight down to Goa. Finally, the ocean!

It's hard to believe I've been here almost four weeks. I've been real up and down as to whether or not I like India, but the last few days in the desert has really changed my mind. I got to spend some time talking with the camel guys and their stories are great. It's an amazing life they lead and by no means an easy one.

We were able to visit some desert villages along with some empty villages. When questioned as to why they were empty, the response was that the villages were bombed by Pakistan. The people died or fled. It really put things into perspective.

One thing I will say about India is that it continues to fascinate me. Sometimes positive, sometimes negative. Either way, it opens my mind to different ways of thought.

I am exhausted. Food first and then rest to follow. I have a long travel weekend ahead of me.

Sunday February 15th, 2009

I now find myself at a guest house in Jodhpur with plans of leaving tomorrow. Jodhpur is a fair sized city and has an impressive fort called the Mehrangarh Fort.

The bus ride from Udaipur to Jodhpur was crazy. I had my own seat, number one, but it seemed to be shared for most of the seven hour journey. We stopped in many small villages along the way to pick people up and drop people off. The arm of my chair and the small space at my feet was occupied for the whole trip. I'm sure three hundred people were on and off that bus.

The bus left early and I bought a small bag of plain almonds for 100Rs before leaving Udaipur. I had trouble opening the bag and when it finally ripped open, about 1/4 of the almonds dropped to the floor. The bus was quite old and very dirty so I wasn't about to pick them up.

Five hours in, a group of young girls got on with a few tots. They sat on the floor of the bus and started picking up the almonds to eat ... even the pieces that had been trampled over by hundreds of dirty shoes.

This places amazes me. I'm not sure I like it here so much. Some of the sights are spectacular but the streets are shocking. The sounds are fantastic ... prayer calls four to five times a day, the constant hum of traffic and horns and birds ... so many of them! The aromas from the food stalls on the streets make my mouth water only to then turn a corner and be smacked in the face with the smell of urine.

I met a couple from Montreal in Udaipur and they came to meet up with me here in Jodhpur. The three of us will hop a morning bus to Jaisalmer and spend a few days there. After that, I plan to head to down south. This time next week, if all works out, I'll be laying on a beach with my thoughts.

I have many things to consider these days. I am currently reading The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini. I'm going to spend the afternoon on the balcony of the guest house which is situated just below the fort.

Almost three weeks into my trip with many more to go. I miss the warmth and love from my cats, especially come the nights. I miss hot showers and clean fluffy towels. I also miss raw vegetables and being able to brush my teeth with running tap water. Simple things which are so easily taken for granted.

Udaipur, India ...

Udaipur is a cool city with lots of character. I am staying in a hotel called Udai Niwas. The room is great and it has a TV which has been a nice treat. The rooftop offers some beautiful views of the city and the surrounding mountains and lakes. I've been here four nights and will finally be leaving in the morning. It's been quite relaxing.

Last night I went for the best dinner I've had in India so far. I will go back to the restaurant this afternoon as the chef will give me some cooking lessons ... for free. I, of course, will give him a donation for his time and his obvious talent! Very looking forward to lunch!

I am on an early bus to Jodhpur tomorrow, no more night buses for the moment. It's only a six hour journey. Jodhpur is, apparently, a large city and I imagine I'll only stay for the weekend.

So, with that, I'm off to the roof of my hotel to enjoy the heat of the sun and the rest of my book!

Pushkar, India ...

Pushkar was very different from the rest of the places I've seen so far ... very chill. I spent the last two days hanging around the rooftop patio of my hotel, Hotel Everest, on a hammock. I'm currently reading The White Tiger by Aravind Adiga. It was nice to be out of the chaos that surrounds one as soon as you decide to step outside the door of a hotel.

My room in Pushkar was only 250Rs a night. It made for cheap living over the past few days. I now find myself, after a horrible overnight bus journey, in Udaipur. The bus left Pushkar at 1:00am and arrived in Udaipur at 8:00am. The roads were so bumpy that it was impossible to get any sleep. I'm feeling very disoriented at the moment.

The guy working on the bus this morning tried to grope me ... I mean, how professional is that? Unbelievable. Instead of a handful, he got a foot to the chest. I was going to log an official complaint at the bus station in Udaipur, but there isn't a station here. Only a small stand on the street full of rickshaw drivers and none of them are going to care. They'd probably find it humorous.

I've been reading the newspaper in the mornings and I find most of it incomprehensible. Police officers beating young kids for stealing 10Rs. Someone leaving their three year old kid in the streets of Delhi for the police to find. The child isn't sure where she came from and they are supposing the parents don't want to care for her anymore. This is only two of many others.

Coming in on the bus at 6am was an eye opener. The bus was blasting loud music and with all the bumping there wasn't much else to do but stare out the window. There are so many numbers of people and families living on the streets. Yesterday, I saw a little boy that couldn't have been more than two. He was playing in a pile of garbage on the side of the road wearing only a shirt, no pants. He was covered in flies and looked as though he hasn't been given a bath since the day he was born.

I found myself wondering on this bus trek if I'm going to be strong enough to make it through the next two and a half months. It seems that my planned trip to the Maldives won't work out after all. I contacted the people that I made the reservations with and they are no longer operating which means, no reservation. I thought it was a bit fishy since they didn't ask me for any form of a payment or a deposit. I will look to see if there are any last minute package deals when I get down South.

In reading the papers, it seems that Sri Lanka may be out as well. Lots of fighting and deaths going on in the main city of Colombo. I guess that means I can visit the islands to the East and to the West of India.

Ah, India. What a crazy place. I feel as though you constantly need to be on guard. Every person who approaches you has some form of ulterior motive ... mostly to do with them getting your money. It seems very few can be trusted. And I'm not even going to get into what I think of the men. I have a few choice words which aren't appropriate language for this here blog of mine!

All that being said, Udaipur looks like a great city. I am in a fantastic hotel with a great room. I've not ventured outside yet today and I'm not sure I will. Maybe another day of rest before I face the reality this place offers.

Jaipur, India ...

The bus ride to Jaipur was quick ... perhaps a bit too quick. The bus drove in the oncoming traffic lane for most of the drive. My stomach was in knots by the time we reached the bus station. I was very thankful to get off the bus ... in one piece!

I stayed at a hotel called Sunder Palace. It was the best room I've stayed in so far at 500Rs per night. My hotel was about 2kms away from the Pink City and I spent my first day wandering the streets for hours. I'm sure I walked over 10kms that day.

Late afternoon, I made my way over to Tiger Fort and decided to walk up the hill. From far away it didn't look like much of a trek. About ten minutes up, I realized it was going to take a lot longer than I'd thought. I was low on water and in the heat of the day.

Thankfully two boys on a motorbike stopped and pointed to the small space behind them. I wasn't sure how the three of us would fair out on this small bike up the steep winding rocky roads. We did make it though and they let me out at the top. It seemed to me that I was then in the middle of nowhere.

I started my way up a road where I saw a tourist taxi pulled off to the side with two foreigners and a driver standing nearby. I'm sure they wondered where it was that I was coming from on foot.

Ends up that they were both from British Columbia. I told them how I got up to the fort and that I wasn't sure about how to get down. They kindly offered me a ride down. The three of us spent some time wandering the fort together and I ended up spending the rest of the afternoon and early evening with them. It was great!

The following day, I rented a rickshaw with a driver for the day. He took me to a place called Amber and it was fabulous. There was a palace and another huge fort. I spent a few hours wandering around the grounds in amazement.

I got a bit of harassment from some men in Jaipur. It wasn't overly pleasant, but nothing that I couldn't handle.

The people at my hotel were very nice. There was a beautiful rooftop garden restaurant and a veranda. I spent one day taking in the sun and the silence. I would be on a bus to Pushkar the following afternoon. Another quick jaunt of 3 hours. Hopefully it wouldn't be 3 hours facing oncoming traffic.

Fingers are crossed for a safe journey ...

Agra, India ...

Agra was quite a step up from Delhi. I stayed at a place called The Tourist Rest House. The room was in good condition and it had a garden restaurant. I wasn't in town more than an hour before I ran into Ian, a well-traveled guy from Oxford. His room was across the way from mine, so we spent two days touring around together. He gave me lots of great advice as it's his fifth trip to India.

I rented a car for the day with a driver for 500Rs. He picked Ian and I up at 6:45am ... first stop, Taj Mahal. I'm not sure I can pick one word to describe it. It took my breath away. It was massive in size and so powerful. Truly a sight to see! I've been trying to upload some photos but it's terribly slow!

After the Taj, I went to see Agra Fort which was another favorite. The driver took us to a few more places and we ended up across the river to watch the sun go down with a view of the Taj.

Day two, Ian and I hopped on a public bus for the hour journey to Fatehpur Sikri for 22Rs. I thought it was going to be a small place with some ruins and not a lot of people. It was quite the opposite. There was a fair sized bazaar and the number of flies may have equaled the number of people. The fort and the temple were massive structures.

We spent the afternoon wandering around and caught a 5:00 bus back to Agra. I was scheduled to leave on an early morning bus heading to Jaipur which is where I am now. I'm actually leaving in a few hours, heading for Pushkar.

It's been hard to keep up on my blog here. I've not been spending too much time in front of a computer. I'm about a week and a half in and it's been a great experience so far. Some days I come home feeling amazed by the day's offerings and on others I feel drained of all my energy.

India has been an eye opener and I'm sure there's much more to come ...

Delhi, India ...

It's hard to know where to start on this one. Delhi was an interesting place. I'm not sure I got any great photos as it was hard to capture the actual happenings. I was trying to comprehend it myself never mind through the eye of a camera. Considering my hotel room was a bit of a dump, I slept great the first night. In the morning, I was a bit overwhelmed at the thought of what was waiting outside the doors of the hotel.

The lobby had a tourist office, so I went there first to inquire about a city tour. He told me that a bus would leave in twenty minutes. I thought this would be a good way to meet some others, so I decided to join. It was only 200Rs.

I had to wait for about an hour in which time I picked up the Indian News. One thing of interest was the section that contained faces of badly injured or deceased people. It stated where the accidents had occurred and estimates of ages. They had no idea who these people were and wanted someone to identify them. Wow. Empty eyes staring at you is hardly a way to start the day.

A guy on a motorbike picked me up to take me to the first destination. I had a half hour to look around and was then asked to return to the bus. The bus was about thirty years old and it seated eighteen. Seventeen of those seats were occupied by men ... all from different parts of India.

The tour was pretty cool. It took me to places I would've have gone had I been on my own. The following day, I went back to two of the places I wanted to spend more time at. I also did a bit of shopping. The hassling became pretty tiresome.

The city streets were dirty with huge piles of garbage everywhere. I did venture out a few times on the public metro system. It was cheap and a great way to see different parts of the city. One thing I did notice about Delhi was the security. For each person that got on the Metro, they were frisked and all bags were checked.

Armed guards were everywhere. The streets were cleared on two separate occasions due to the president coming and going. His car was accompanied by seventeen others. One minute was loud honking and the hum of traffic followed by whistles and sirens and men with big guns yelling. When the locals started running, I followed as I had no idea what was happening. All traffic was stopped and all the people in the streets were put on the side streets behind armed barricades. Besides the distant sirens and whistles came the sounds of the birds. We were waiting over a half hour each time.

I spent three days in Delhi which was more than enough for me. The food was probably the best part! Next stop ... Agra. I booked a morning train which was to take three hours. It took six. I am beginning to learn that waiting is key here in India.

Other things of note ... the streets of Delhi seem to be dominated by men. It certainly strikes me as a man's world. During the bus tour I saw a big billboard. One third was a big picture of some guy, his name was under the photo. It looked as though he was running for mayor. The other two thirds of the sign, in big bold red letters read, 'I hate working women'. That about says it all.