Where are we now?

View Where are we now? in a larger map Jo, Annie, Miles and I are living in Northport, Alabama and working at the University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa. We've been glad to be in one place for a bit after what appeared to be semi-permanently traveling (in actuality for a period of 2.5 years).We started this blog to catalogue some of the adventures when Jo and I were sequentially conducting our dissertation research in India and Brazil. While we've fallen off the blogging bandwagon somewhat during recent trips to Brazil, we're trying to pick it up again now that we're back in India!

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Call it traveller's haze

Well, no matter how well things seem planned (especially in india) there almost always seem to be surprises (or growth opportunities). After my 10 hours of waiting for the train in Jodhpur (see preceding entries), I was more than ready to settle into my AC sleeper coach. Following the protocol I had previously developed to negotiate India's enigmatic rail system, I triangulated the 'correct' trains position by asking the station master and two other passengers which train it was that I needed to board. As they all indicated the same train I decided to board it. I was quite surprised to find my berth occupied, but considering it was nearly midnight, and it was such a nice berth, I figured someone had snagged it and so I chose a different one, and promptly fell asleep.

I awoke the next morning around 5 am just as the training was pulling into "the" station. Perfect, I thought, I slept the whole way, and now I'm in Jaisalmer. I asked the attendant who was walking by to make sure this was the station and not the one before it. Extremely befuddled he said that 'no, this is not jaisalmer, but Jaipur'! (I had left Jaipur two days ago and was supposed to be arriving in Jaisalmer). I'm not sure if one can imagine my confusion, after two nights of sleeping in buses and trains, awaking where I started was quite an unsettling shock! The picture above I think captures my foggy state. Quite perturbed I returned to the apartment, and after some coaxing from Jo, decided to buy another bus ticket---to "return" to Jaisalmer that night!

Monday, June 25, 2007

Jodphur-The Blue City

Well, I guess this entry will equal finally caught up. I am still in Jodhpur an still experiementing with different ways of spelling the cities name. Jodphur is known as the 'blue city', although its name apparently means 'land of death'. I like the euphemism they chose to 'repaint' the city. Anyway, the reason Jodphur is known as the blue city is that many of its buildings (especially in the old section of the city) Once again, I have pasted in the link to these photos.

The reason they painted/paint the houses blue began from a caste perspective. The Brahmins (the highest caste) were the only ones allowed to paint their houses blue and did it because-----something with the material used to color the paint was holy (ok, i got lost somewhere in the audio tour). Nowadays, anyone can paint their houses blue (assuming they can find the paint). The other reason for painting the houses blue, which is more interesting, to me, is that people think the color blue is a deterrent to insects, and so they are using it for that purpose.

So, to back up, I took an overnight bus last night....and so am incredibly tired, especially as I wait for my 11:30 pm overnight train departure. I arrived in Jodphur at around six this morning. I had read that a trip to the blue city would not be complete without a 'village safari'. Probl

ematic, I know, but as a pseudo-scholar of community-based tourism, i thought i'd go for it. On the four hour tour (sorry, i just can't tell a lie, it wasn't three and gilligan wasn't there), we visited six villages, most of which were just one house in the middle of a scrub desert. The different houses were quite interesting, and I included several photos from them. The people lived under very "simple" conditions, in mud houses, where they were busy grinding millet (see photo). unfortunately, i didn't get too much more info as my guides english skills left something to be desired. All of the houses were part of the Bornoi sub-caste. This group is particularly interesting, because they believe that nature (trees and animals) are so sacred that they are worth dying for. We went to the site where two hundred years ago the maharaja had tried to chop down some trees. Local women protested, tying themselves to the trees (the origination of the chipko movement!). Unfortunatley, the raj's soldiers cut these women's heads off. As the story goes (I am slightly skeptical), people kept coming, until 363 local villagers had been killed while trying to protect the forest. Now the area is a little park, complete with Peacocks (see photo!).

Two of the other houses we visited were owned by weavers, who showed me their very interesting looms (and unabashedly continually tried to sell me rugs, luckily for me i learned my lesson last year!) (see photos). The last house we visited was owned by a potter. Here in rajasthan, pottery is used quite commonly for drinking vessels as it remains cool. In fact, the roadside lassi (yoghurt smoothie) stands use disposable terra cotta containers for their drinks, which i guess are then simply recycled into clay. This bloke was making these containers, an interesting process i got to watch.

Upon returning to Jodphur, I went up to Meharagangh (sp?) fort. An incredible feat of engineering, it is perched ontop of this rocky outcropping that rises above the old city. It too falls into the impressive ornate fort category, sorry i can't give too much more of an accurate description than that! It is an incredible fort, and was accompanied by an equally incredible walking audio tour of 'international standards' (something Indians are big on proclaiming, often falsely). For me the neatest part of the fort experience was seeing the outer walls and how it had a curvy entrance way (to prevent elephants from gathering full steam when they charged the gates).

After wandering around the fort I weaved my way through the incredibly narrow streets of the old city, at its bluest. It was really pretty, but most so from above where you get a birds eye view of how all the blue coalesces. The rest of the afternoon i have spent sleeping on a park bench, and on the internet, two quite different modalities of being, much in keeping with India. ON to jaisalmer!

City Palace

Still in Jodphur and still playing ketchup (oh what i wouldn't give for some realy heinz and not maggie 'sauce'). In an effort to keep remotely busy I have been taking a few day trips out of the apartments into the wilds of Jaipur. On Saturday I went to visit the City Palace, which is where the current Maharaja of Jaipur is living now (the maharajas were divested of most of their authority when the Indian constitution was created, they are still left with quite sizable holdings though). I have attached the link where you should be able to see the photos. If anyone has problems linking to them please let me know (also you can leave comments to the blog posts if you care to).

The city palace fit into that category of another incredibly ornate structure. I am always absolutely astonished with the quality of the stone carving that Indians have been doing for millenia. The lattice work is so intricate. I found the two neatest elements of the city palace the armory and the gates. Unfortunately, the Maharaja/Indian govt. are very paranoid about letting pictures of century-old armory getting out on the web, so they prohibited photography. Thank goodness, as once of those elephant headresses might have inspired the 'others'. The armory collection was out of control though. The soldiers of Rajasthan are known (throughout India at least) as having been some of the bravest fighters (and best polo players). Part of the reason is probably because of their seriously threatening weaponry. Daggers are a big part of the soldiers outfit, stuck into their cumberbunds. The daggers were incredible, double/triple blades out of damascus steel (like my ring but different). The handles made out of ivory and jade and inlaid with rubies and other gems. Besides the armory, i found the various gates to the palace truly amazing. The outer sides were fairly dull, meant to withstand attack, but the inner side was so artfully decorated it was amazing. My favorite was the peacock door, painted with a peacock feather pattern, and completed by clay peacocks jutting out of the wall. Above the part of the city palace that we were allowed to enter was where the Maharaja of Jaipur is currently living. Pretty posh for someone dethroned (the maharaja of Jodhpur lives in a building that looks like a 3/4 size Taj Mahal!).

Friday, June 22, 2007

Amer Fort

Finally! I broke free of the hold the apartment's air-conditioning has had over me, and escaped to do Amer (Amber) fort, 11 km outside of Jaipur. As I indicated before I have pasted in the link to the photos from my little jaunt. Here it is (I think!) http://www2.snapfish.com/share/p=588221182574842968/l=276784297/g=86844910/otsc=SYE/otsi=SALB

Amber is an amazing site; as you come around the hill your mouth just drops. These forts are a prominent feature of the landscape in Rajasthan. It seems as if all of the hills that flank the city are topped by such architectural monstrosities. They are not monstrosities though, but merely gargantuan, as is the quantity of labor that was/is needed to build/repair them. Some of the photos in the snapfish album show walls that snake out along the hills. These actually completely encircled the valley as far as I could see, creating a Great Wall of China effect. The fort was really impressive. Some would be interested by the amazing paintings that were found under layers of paint and are now being restored. Others would be amazed by the ceiling which were covered in intricate mirrors. I was pretty astounded by their air conditioning system, there was a water source that was scented, and than ran through the fort where it dripped down the walls and evaporated. Pretty impressive! Like all of the forts I have been to, Amber (Amer) was once the home of the Maharaja (a pretty big deal), as such it was extremely ornate.
After exploring Amer I walked a 1 km uphill to see the older fort of Jaigargh (sp?), which was in a slightly more decrepit state. The walk up to Jaigargh was strangely taxing. Although Jaipur is not at anywhere near a significant elevation, i was so out of breath by the time i reached the fort that i almost fell over. Probably the heat. Unfortunately, my current (and following) entries will be lacking, as I should have typed them out when i first got back, and also, the ol' once you've seen one gigantic fort on top of a hill you've seen them all feeling is taking over. Well, I'll leave it to that for now. I'm currently in the city of Jodhpur, twiddling my thumbs as I wait for the train to take me to Jaisalmer. Look out for these entries in the near future!

Wednesday, June 20, 2007


Well people might or might not find this exciting, but we certainly did last night. To begin with, we haven't really given too much space to explaining our housing situation, but let's leave it to my assertion that our host mother is 'special' (I had to go back and delete the primary adjectives). A recent example:

Context: We have a small balcony upon which there was/is an unbelievable bee hive of the sort I have never seen before. It is constantly covered with bees who are doing what they do- that is, whatever it is that bees do. So, these bees weren't really a nuiscance, as they were so buys preoccupied with being bees that they never bothered us when we went outside.

Setting: Jo and I and Sara (our housemate) our quietly doing work in our air conditioned room, the lady of the house walks into the room (without knocking) accompanied by the doorman who is carrying a smoldering container of cow shit. Of course, one's first reaction: great, the room was really missing something before, i couldn't figure out what it was, oh right! the smell of burning cow dung!

The Trials and Tribulations of the Doorman: So the matriarch orders the unfortunate doorman outside where she instructs him to hold the smoldering pot under the bees. Of course, the lad gets stung (to which she feigns complete and utter surprise). Then, despite the copious volumes of acrid smoke emanating from the holy dung the bees decide not to leave. So, our protagonist is undeterred, and sends out the doorman once more to the smoldering inferno (this time with a straw broom) instructing him now to alternatively blow on the smoke (with his head next to the hive) and poke at it, he only suceeds in irritating the bees further. At her wits end, the lady of the house provides him with a trowel to knock the bee hive off once and for all. He does this (getting stung some more) and then comes in side.

The Aftermath: For all their altruistic efforts, we were left with a burning pile of cow shit on our balcony, not to mention a swarm of angry bees outside our door. Thankfully our host mother was looking out for our well being. She was so surprised though when the room filled with smoke. How could these indian windows, which are so airtight, let any of the cow shit-smoke in? Impossible! So with a smoky room we were forced to turn of the ac and evacuate. After an hour or so the scene was essentially the same. Jo then took a bucket of water and poured it on the cow dung, effectively closing the saga- or so we thought.
The Aftermath X 2: We awoke to a scene of utter carnage
Bees lay dead in the drain
Sad honey comb abandoned on the ground
and the kicker!
The Bees have already made rapid progress in building another hive.
Good thing they left the cow dung there!

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Happy Father's Day!

Hello there all, get off the computer and go wish your father a happy father's day- or alternatifively, if you're like me you can IM him and do so in real time....from India. So today's entry is dedicated to my dad, the ever-inquisitive one. I have been holed up in our Jaipur apartment for the last few days, working away on several projects. My dad indicated that I hsould leave the comfy air-conditioned confines of our desert apartment and head out to explore the city, and so that is what i did. Braving the 110 degree heat I went and explored the old section of Jaipur, known as the pink city for its walls, which are painted that color and glow in the sunset. There are so many interesting sites in Jaipur, the capital of the desert state of Rajasthan.
Like all of India, it is super saturated with history, and that shows itself in everything from archaic forts to incredible ornate temples. On this day I chose to explore Jantar Mantar ( an appropriate choice for Father's Day, especially knowing mine who would have so many questions to ask we would have all dropped from heat stroke). Experimenting with cross-pollinating media sources, you can check out this link which has the pictures from my explorations. To see the pictures try copying and pasting it into your browser: http://www2.snapfish.com/share/p=55161182004133616/l=254584071/g=86844910/otsc=SYE/otsi=SALB Jantar
Anyway, Jantar Mantar is an astronomical/astrological observatory begun by Jai Singh in 1728. At first glance it looks like a collection of mammoth, bizarre sculptures. Each of the numerous instruments provided a specialized function, allowing JaiSing to measure time using the sun (it contains the world's largest sundial, accurate to two seconds!). There were about thirty or so gigantically bizarre instruments/sculptures, each with a specific function, such as measuring the altitude of the sun or the astrological position of such and such. The incredible instruments (in combination with the extreme heat) left me in quite a surreal state-perfect to return to the bustling streets of jaipur.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Himalayan Honeymoon x 2

Well, the himalayan portion of our honeymoon is over, and now we're onto the rest of our lives (sap sap sap). Currently, we are in the simmering 115 degree heat of Jaipur, capital of the desert state of Rajastan. To get away from that heat for a second, i'll tell y'all (practicing my southern drawl) about the last few days of the honeymoon. After our brief stopover in Manali (see last post), we went on a two-day trek up to an 11,000 foot pass (whose name escapes me due to the heat-induced delirium). It was quite an experience. We opted for the non-conventional (depending on one's perspective), and hired a local person to 'act' as a guide. Luckily, Jo was able to speak hindi with him, for he didn't speak any english. the trip up to the pass was pretty difficult to say the least. we ascended about 4,000 vertical feet in probably 4 miles. The 'campsite' was quite interesting as you will see from the snapfish pictures. essentially a few logs with some tarps thrown over them, it provided simple, yet sufficient, accomodations. luckily, they provided plently of blankets, as we had no sleeping bags, and it was not quite so warm as jaipur to say the least. the next morning we hiked up to the pass, and were greeted by outstanding views (see photos). A beautiful penultimate end to our honeymoon. THe actual end was slightly less nice, some mountain tummy troubles and a bumpy sixteen-hour bus ride did little to leave a happy smile on my face-until i reached the hotel. As i mentioned at hte beginning of htis email, we are now in jaipur, jo is settling into her program, and i am finally )err) getting back to my various academic projects. I will try to update the blo g in the next few days, so look out for report backs on the camels and candy-floss colored turbans-
take care-
David and Joesphine

Tuesday, June 5, 2007

Himalayan Honeymoon

Greetings from the town of Manali, situated in the Himalayan state of Himachal Pradesh. We are taking a break to rest our tired bones and catch up on some email.

We arrived in Delhi a week ago, yet have been travelling or on-the-go almost continuously (big surprise). After meeting at the Delhi airport (we took seperate flights, i had spent the night in heathrow while jo took a direct flight) we took a "rest" day, and then an interminable 13 hour taxi ride to the quiet Himalayan town of Naggar, situated on a hill in the Kullu valley, where we have been staying for the last few days.

We have spent our days hiking in the beautiful old-growth deodar forested hills and passing through beautiful villages. The weather is much cooler than the blistering heat of the lowlands, and every day there is a deluge here around three o'clock (luckily we have missed it every day). The nights are cool, and we have been enjoying delicious indian dishes from the roof top restuarant of our hotel. The surrounding villages are very beautiful, and the houses are built from incredibly intricate woodwork (reminiscent of my travels last year).

We will spend another few days in the area, and then head back towards Delhi and then onto Jaipur. Hope everyone is doing well.

Take care,
Jo and Dave