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Monday, September 28, 2009

There's another post below this one, and it's better, so don't miss it!

I spent yesterday taking a hop-on hop-off bus tour from Chennai to Mamallapuram (it took me 2 days to be able to consistently say that word), and have spent most of today, so far, on a bus from Chennai to Pondicherry. It's hot outside and I'm stuffed from a giant $2.20 plate of cauliflower masala that I just had for a late lunch, so I'm going to go ahead and start typing up another post. Actually, the one I just put up was from a whole 2 days ago, so it's about time for an update anyway.

So, here are some things recently added to the list of Things I Have Seen:

- A huge bus running over a mid-sized watermelon, causing it to blow up awesomely.
- A guy trying to contain a mass of chickens between his legs while driving on a scooter. Of course, a few fall out, land between his wheels, and he runs them over, then picks them back up and puts them back where they were.
- A healthy-if-old looking guy who takes a spit. It comes out a dirty orange. He was not carrying any sort of fruit or drink, and I don't think he came out of a restaurant.
- A pretty old man blows a snotrocket. It's deep red/brown and cakier than the mud it lands in.
- A little kid (2 years oldish) on his father's lap combing his father's hair and moustache.
- A completely unnecessary police officer acting as the middleman at a toll booth. He stands in between the driver and the toll booth operator, tells the driver the total, takes the money, turns around, gives it to the operator, waits for change, turns around, and gives it back. WHY, MAN? Actually there is probably a very good reason. I hope so, anyway.
- A Nissan SUV cruises by blasting some impressively loud Hindi (or other language, I have no way of discerning them at this point) hip-hop. They park (at the crocodile farm). 3 guys get out of the front, 3 out of the middle, and 4 out of the trunk.
- A guy with a sweet arm-pedal bike. You can put flowers or fruits or whatever on the platform in back.
- People having picnics in awesome forests under awesome trees between the East Coast Road and the Bay of Bengal. The trees are seriously perfectly shaped for picnics, with big thick leaves that extend 10 or 15 feet out but don't droop down too low.
- Also, trash (bags, bottles, wrappers, etc) spread out pretty evenly, covering about 25% of the ground of the forest.
- The front gate to a government-run "School of Management." Moss and such had grown all over the sign, the paint was peeling, and the gate was rusty and locked shut.
- Watermelons for sale at roadside stands with cute little vampirey-faces painted onto them.
- Cows crossing the alley. Cows crossing the highway. Buses stopping for cows. Cows pulling hay on carts. Why don't they just turn around and eat it?. Cows eating trash. A dead cow on the side of the road.
- A lady seated on the concrete island that formed the barrier for a triangle-rotary intersection. Kept on grabbing her head, twisting it, slapping the ground, rocking back and forth, splaying her arms out, stretching and trying to scratch her back, then pausing and staring blankly in one direction or another.

Sorry to end on that note. There's one more thing on my list (there are all things I jotted down while on the bus or at bus stops or just meandering), but I can't read it. Looks like "Bob's picnic."

News-wise, I left the crushing poverty of Chennai (families, including children, sleeping on flooded streets with trash floating around) and am making my way towards the farm. I'm in Pondicherry now, which used to be a French colony, but haven't gone snooping around yet. It's way calmer, cleaner, and less intimidating. Unforunately, it's hotter. Will report back.

The Morning After (my arrival)

Wake up. My big(ger) backpack and small(er) backpack are on the (single) bed with me, just as I left them. Good. My adventure bag/man purse is under my head, being used as a pillow. I am probably squishing the last Ferrero Rocher chocolate from the plane last night. Double good. My feet are also on a pillow. I must not have noticed it when I was ushered into the room at who-knows-when. There were no lights and I couldn't even tell how many people or beds were in the room. Now I know that there were 3 and 7, respectively. I have been sleeping in the same jeans, shirt, and socks that I was wearing on the plane. Also like on the plane, I've got my sweater/jacket on backwards, arms through the wrong sleeves, the hood over my face, though this time I'm not trying to block out the light and jets of cold air. Rather, I'm trying to muffle the sound of the dark lump next to me scratching himself. It's worse than and totally out of proportion with the buzzing and biting of the mosquitoes. I can only think of long, thick, leper fingernails picking on crumbling scaly flesh. Somehow I fall asleep anyway.

Check my mp3 player clock. It's 9:15. Checkout time was 9. Crud. Quick shower (cool), check out, decide to walk, cave and take an "auto rickshaw", which looks like a bike with some sort of yellow shell around it so 2 people can ride behind the driver), realize I was going in the wrong direction, and use Chris's guideboook to explain that I want to switch to another guesthouse closer to the center of town. The sun is up, the heat is still bearable, and there are people everywhere. Women are walking with their daughters in nice silky-looking attire, and some men are wearing long, thin skirts that look like sarongs. Most dudes, though, are wearing jeans or khakis and collared or button-down shirts. Some people are busy carrying things, serving food, or chopping coconuts, but most seem to be just loitering, milling, and chatting, uninterested in the buses and taxis and bikes that are zipping around. I wonder how many will spend the whole day like that. The driver is friendly and tells me to call him again if I want a tour. He apologizes for speaking bad English but explains that he is "uneducated" and so he can't really read or write. I give him credit for being a decent driver, though, since he managed to avoid the cow sauntering around the middle of the road and got me to my new hotel pretty quickly.

I check into the hotel. "Paradise Hotel." 7 bucks isn't bad, though the book said 4. I assumed Paradise to have toilent paper, but no such luck. Maybe those who make it to paradise are liberated from the shackles of defecation? After some Aquinas-style reflection I decide that defecation can actually be a pleasant experience and that I'd still like to be able to do it in heaven. That decided, there was still no toilet paper. Like my previous hostel (run by the Salvation Army) there are no other foreigners here. I'm confused. The guidebook says these are popular spots. Ah well. The man at the front desk writes my arrival time down in the ledger - 7:45 AM. Huh? I wonder why he would fudge the arrival time. Is he going to charge me for an extra day? So far I've managed 2 taxi rides and one hotel check-in and check-out without extortions. I point it out and ask why he wrote the time wrong. He says it's the time. I look at the digital clock behind him. It says 7:42. What? I think back to the clock on the wall of the salvation army, which said something like 7:10 when I checked out, and which of course must have been off, because who do I trust, my portable media player or India?. Is it possible that I am wrong? Come to think of it, yeah. It was 9:15 in Kuala Lumpur. Duh. Someone forgot to change the time on my gizmo. I am awake way too early after a few days of sleeping too little, and fitfully at that. I am also slightly terrified of going back outside, what with the heat and the unmarked roads and the food of ill-repute and that feeling of "hrm, welcome to the next five months." The best course of action is clearly to sleep and lounge until I'm so stir-crazy that I have no choice but to force myself out. After all, I have time. It's still 20 minutes before I woke up.