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!

Friday, April 15, 2011


Those who have been following the blog for the last 4 years (!!!), who have a very good memory, or are avid James Bond fans, might remember our previous discussion of Udaipur. For those who don't, Udaipur is a lovely "little" town (by Indian standards) on Lake Pichola in Rajasthan. It's famed Lake Palace, built in the center of the lake, served as the set for the James Bond film "Octopussy".

The Lake Palace in the afternoon light

The city is a great getaway for a variety of reasons: it's beautiful, there are phenomenal views from each hotel, there are oodles of historic "havelis" (old mansions that are now boutique hotels)

These havelis are pretty amazing in my opinion: they interior design is supposedly true to the original structure. Both of the below photos are actually from our hotel in Jaipur, but it's pretty much the same scene in Udaipur.

Interior decorations (1)

Interior decorations (2)

These havellis have wonderful rooftops, providing even more wonderful views, and numerous places for just hanging out, enjoying some nescafe, or playing banjo.

Good ole fashion hanging out

One thing that's fun if you're ever in Udaipur is checking out the traditional dance showcase. You'll see all sorts of quirky dances, including this one with a woman dancing with 10 pots on her head!

Can you dance with 10 pots on your head?

Sunset over the mountains

After the sunsets, it's time to go an enjoy a lovely dinner while looking out over the Lake Palace.

Lake Palace by night

One of the best dinners ever!

Blissful food coma

And that, in a nutshell, is what a relaxing trip to Udaipur entails: hanging out, enjoying the view, eating, and maybe a touch of swimming....oh, and of course, playing the banjo!

Friday, April 8, 2011

Holy Holi

For those who don't know, Holi is a spring religious festival celebrated mostly by Hindus. What Holi is known for is its insanity. People throw colored powder (above) and colored water at each other. Jo describes it as "Indian Mardi Gras; social roles are turned on their heads; younger people can playfully disrespect older people etc."

We celebrated (vicariously) holi this year from our safe vantage point on the hotel's roof in Jaipur. Why did we hide away from the festivities? Because, people occasionally mix the powders with toxic chemicals and heavy metals, neither of which seemed like a good idea to inhale. Additionally, the stuff can be a true pain to get out of one's clothes...so we wimped out...for the most part...

Dave and Gail braved the outdoors and got a token coloring

From some obliging local folks

Our hotel manager seemed to be having QUITE a good time

Monday, April 4, 2011

Exciting news!

Last night I received a phone call while half asleep. I stumbled around the room, silenced the phone and tried to go back to sleep. The rest of the night I tossed and turned...dreaming that I alternatively had gotten, and then hadn't gotten the Fulbright dissertation grant.

This morning, I woke to the following in my email:

"On behalf of the J. William Fulbright Foreign Scholarship Board (FSB), I am pleased to congratulate you on your selection for a Fulbright Award to Brazil. The FSB is the Presidentially approved 12-member Board responsible for establishing worldwide policies for the Fulbright Program ....

Your selection for a Fulbright award is, in itself, an achievement for which you can be justly proud. However, please bear in mind that there are several more steps to be accomplished before you become a Fulbright granttee These include ...obtaining research clearance... medical clearance,,, required visas.

As a grantee you will join the ranks of distinguished .... heads of state, judges, ambassadors, cabinet ministers, CEOs, university presidents, journalist, artists, professors, teachers...

At which point I did the following dance:

of course, no one can match Hammer, but that's why he's a somewhat washed up 90's rapper, and I have the choice of being a Fulbright scholar....

Wait...the choice? "You might not accept it"....Yup, it's true...as you may know, I also received an NSF (which supports equipment, of which my research requires). In addition, I have also applied for a total of 4 more major grants that I am awaiting notification (because you never know what will work out)-((Fulbright Hays, Wenner Gren, EPA Star, SSRC).I should probably hear from those by late April, early May at the very latest.

So, why might I not formally accept the Fulbright? Well, I'd love to, but I'd ideally like to wait until the end of the month as there's a somewhat larger picture here-FB-Hays has spousal and dependent support (and as you might know, Jo is pregnant with our first child, both of whom will come to Brazil-and so the extra money would be very helpful) and EPA Star is for 3 years of funding, but doesn't allow one to hold other grants concurrently....oh , to be in the position to have to say "no".

At which point I return to the Hammer dance (but thankfully won't subject you to its gyrations).


What visit to India is complete without a trip to the quintessential sweet shop? No visit in my opinion, and no visit with me as tour guide!

Enter: Lakshmi Mishtan Bunder (or LMB) perhaps Jaipur's most famous sweet shop and restaurant.

For those who haven't been, the door to a sweet shop will quite likely be opened by this fella

(No that's not me, yet...just give my moustache a few months; and yes, his moustache went that far out when he pulled it)

At which point you'll be confronted with a bevy of unidentifiable sweets treats, such as this:

Some sort of paneer (cottage cheese) sweet crepe sorta thing..

Or maybe one of the innumerable edible foil-covered (ostensibly-the edible part; it is covered in foil) silvery doo-dads.

Whatever you choose, you should pony up to one of the "standing" tables, and enjoy your unrecognizable sweet meat....

We sure did...our choice: Kulfi (Saffron/pistachio flavored Indian icecream)

Friday, April 1, 2011

Our first guest blog post: Sara H's take on Train Travel

Dave's introduction:

This February we had were graced with a wonderful misfortune: the misfortune, our dear dear friend Sara H. found out she needed to have her gallbladder taken out; the wonderful part, she is living in Mysore (southern India) and was going to come to Delhi for the surgery and convalescence. Following Sara's successful surgery and convalescence (aided by copious shopping) we embarked on a little trip together. Sara was kind enough to let me reproduce this post from her blog (linked here)

I have a lot of material to cover from the last couple months, which
in all likelihood will not ever see the light of day, but my quick
trip with D to Ajanta, Ellora, and Daulatabad definitely deserves to
be shared. Traveling in India can, frankly, be a bitch, but this trip
at the end of February was miraculously smooth thanks to D's great
planning. Before I get into the details of where we went and what we
saw I am going to devote at least one post to India's train culture —
yes, that belovedly inept system started by the British in the mid
1850s that remains the dominant mode of long distance transportation
within India.

To start at the beginning, foreign credit/debit cards are no longer
accepted on India Rail's website so if you don't have an Indian card,
which are extremely difficult to get, you are forced to go to the
train station directly or a booking branch. Since the Indian Rail
system is in such high demand and functions at near capacity the vast
majority of the time getting a ticket on short notice can be tricky
business. D and I got up early to go to New Delhi Railway station at
some ungodly hour to purchase tickets under the foreigner quota only
to be told that because I carry a student visa I am ineligible and
would have to try for a "tatkal" ticket.

Tatkal tickets are a group of higher priced tickets reserved for last
minute booking early in the morning two days before the departure
date. The demand for train tickets is extremely high and people take
this all very seriously — not seriously in the waiting in line
patiently kind of way, but rather pushing, shoving, fighting, and
sneaking to the front of the line. Hey, with 1 billion plus people in
this country you do what works to get shit done. D and I observed some
fights break out and I almost got into a physical altercation in the
ladies line. Yup. In desperation to hold my place in line while under
threat from line jumpers I put my body on the line for a train ticket.
Luckily I didn't get hurt, but I also didn't hold my place
successfully in line. Boo!

Here I am unrelentingly harassing the man in front of me who was
standing in the ladies/foreigner/senior reservation line. He got so
fed up with me he gave me the hand. The audacity, really, considering
that he claimed that there are no such reservation lines for tatkal
tickets. If anyone gives you that bullshit excuse do not buy it.
There are always ladies lines.

During the trip we had some time to kill so D decided to cancel so
unneeded train tickets. Even though this wasn't a tatkal line it was
still pretty intense.

D boxing out the competition. He definitely has height to his
advantage compared to the other Indian men.

A close up of D demonstrating excellent arm positioning to block people from cutting in line.

Plus he gives a killer stink eye that says "do not mess with me and my place in line".

Waiting in lines is fun? Not really, but he's a good natured guy.

The act of getting a ticket, locating the platform and the correct train, and then the inevitable wait for the train to arrive are all messy business, but for me hands down the hardest part of traveling is the food. I bring my own snacks, but even still on long journeys I am forced to buy at least one train meal.

This looks innocent enough, right? WRONG. Train food always does crazy things to my stomach, which sucks under normal conditions and is particularly intense when one only has recourse to an Indian train bathroom. Without going into the details too much, imagine squatting on a moving train with only water and no toilet paper. Um, yeah.

However, on our trip D ate the food, but then he'll eat anything.

Suspiciously I had a few bites. The flavour reminded me of something that I couldn't quite put my finger on. Was it a spice? Er, no. Then I realized that it actually tasted like dirt. Seriously, dirt.

I'm going to generalize here and say that any trip is better via train and, thus, unsurprisingly train travel has occupied the minds of many a great authors with the most obvious, at least to me, being Dostoevsky (at least something from that brief period of majoring in Russian literature stuck). A trip that could take a mere hour or two via plane becomes infinitely more complex and interesting on a train. All that said, my days of train travel within India are coming to a close as the price of air travel comes down, my salary goes up, and my body can no longer tolerate being on a train for twenty plus hours.