Sunday, April 27, 2008

Why so quiet?

Those questions weren't rhetorical!

We're in Hyderabad at the moment, killing time on the intraweb until we catch our plane to Calcutta. I'm appalled that we're flying; add this to the number of trains and buses we've taken over the last three months - nevermind the flight to Delhi in the first place - and we've racked up so many enviro bad-karma points that we'll never recover. There's nothing like knowing that you've caused irreparable damage to the place you came to see and appreciate to make you feel like... well, like a spoiled jerk.

And I forgot to remark on Earth Day, which was April 22. We were trekking through the Western Ghats in Karnataka. Thinking back, we got lucky and managed to go the whole day using barely any electricity (no more than two hours of a single light bulb, in the homestay we stayed at that night), if you cheat and don't count the energy that went into making our food. Or the 6 plastic bottles we only reused twice each before throwing them away. Like I said, we'll never be able to atone for the damage done in this trip.

And yet, it's still probably less than the damage we would have done in Canada. Of course that's not what I meant to Earth-Day-post about.

Some handy enviro links:

- your personal carbon footprint here, in relation to global averages and to the world's total resources. how many earths would we need if everyone lived like you do?
- everyday activist, one of the most useful sites on teh web; suggestions for small changes that everyone can make, more or less effortlessly, to improve the way they live. devoted especially to the generations who think they're too old to change now.
- philobiblion, for green politics (plus books and feminism. word.)
- some helpful information about the ideas behind fair trade, its effects on communities and the environment, and fair trade product certification

Alright, enough. I'm just going to feel guilty, and that's that.

Hyderabad is interesting. It's quickly surpassing Bangalore as the IT-tech and financial hub of India, which means a sort of westernization that, as it tends to do in this country, only makes the whole thing seem more fundamentally Indian than it otherwise would. Those unique types of Indian wealth and poverty, of modernization and tradition. This is a very, very interesting time to be in the East.

That said, I think we're all starting to think about home a little more than we have been. Between today and tomorrow, we're saying goodbye to the plains; the rest of our trip will be in the Himalayas, which is a little surreal. We've been on these plains for two months, which I guess isn't all that much time in absolute terms, but has been long enough that it started to feel like it wouldn't end, like this is just how our life is now: moving from place to place every few days, finding a new hotel and new places to eat, things to see. Occasionally joining another pair or group of travelers for a day here and there. But, it's not.

Next stop: Calcutta. We barely have 24 hours there before we get on a (painfully long) train to New Jalpaiguri, where we'll wait out the night and then take another, 6-hour train (of the old-fashioned steam variety this time) to Darjeeling proper. We've given ourselves one day there to put together our 5-day trek, and then we're off along Singalila Ridge. We have a total of about 8 days in Darjeeling, to give us some time to let our sore legs recover and to see the town a bit. After that, S. will be off into Nepal; E. and I are hanging back, E. because she's running out of time, and me because I have no visa to re-enter with. So together we'll be going by bus under the Nepalese border, across to pick up the mountains as they re-emerge on the other side of Nepal, back in Uttaranchal, above Delhi in the West. From there (well, from an 12-hour bus ride from there) we'll be doing a 3-day trek together to the source of the Ganges. This trek features glaciers, which is in and of itself exciting.

All of this may or may not be followed by a trip to Lahaul and Spiti valley, which is a poor substitute for where I'd really like to go: Leh, in the Ladakh region, which is still snowed in an inaccessible except by flight from Chandigarh. And I'm done with flying for this trip. Still, Lahal shares the high-altitude desert, the snow-capped vistas, the strange and barren moonscape. And I suppose that's the point.

Either way, it ends in McLeod Ganj.

I would expect that I'll have time to post from Darjeeling, but I'm not sure whether it will be before or after our trek, making it somewhere between a few days and a week and a half from now. So, be good. My dad tells me you have a (ha!) heatwave coming, up to 22C. I laugh with contempt at your 22C. Ha ha ha, that's my laughter. At you.

It's 41C here. That's without factoring in humidity. The breeze is like having a hair dryer blown in your face. Like outdoor shopping in an oven. Seriously, there is nothing in the Canadian vocabulary that can accurately capture exactly how hot it is here. Don't even get me started on the Madikeri trek. Gorgeous, yeah, but now my sweat valves only have two settings: resting, and pouring like a stuck faucet. Have you ever gone from bone-dry to dripping sweat in under 5 minutes? Because we have.

And yeah, one of these days I'll get a good post in that has some, you know, actual thought content in it, rather than just exposition. But, friends, that day is not today.

Behave yourselves. Everyday Activist can help you do that.

(Addendum: We Move to Canada has a post up about recent good stuff Canada has been doing on the green front.)

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Oh yeah...

Wait listed to both McGill and York. Will get a final answer from York some time in May, from McGill God Knows When. (My friend who went through this process last year didn't hear back from McGill until the third week of August, which is... well, you know how I feel about McGill.)

Who wants to help me find a good job in Toronto?

Karnataka and all the rest

Where was I?

Oh yeah, I gave you a cheap, point-form update on what we've been up to. Well here's another:

- moved states; we're in Karnataka now (if you've looked at a map of India and noted that our travel route makes no sense and never has, you're right)
- Mysore! A palace! Sandalwood and crappy internet! A random guy who groped us! E.'s catlike reflexes in throwing a half-full water bottle at him and asking very loudly what is wrong with him!
- seriously though, Mysore was nice
- the Coorg region, coffee and cardamom plantations, and a two-day starter trek
- kinda nervous about the Himalayas; I'm coffee-shop-in-Montreal shaped, not necessarily 5-days-of-intense-mountain-climbing shaped
- keeping tabs on the Tibet situation, dying to get to McLeod Ganj already
- en route to Hampi, a huge ruined city

Yeah, there's really not much. Let's talk about what's going on on your end.

We Move to Canada is telling me some scary stuff today, among which is the fact that suicide rate in the Canadian military doubled between 2006 and 2007. What's going on out there, Canada? What are all these bills? And what the crap is this SPP?

Information, please! Especially about the SPP.

Seriously, I leave you guys alone for three simple months....

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Blah blah

Am fine, talk later.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Some Things That Happened Since We Last Talked

- dolphin-watching on a formerly Portuguese beach in Goa
- sunrise at the southermost tip of India, which was about the time we began dripping sweat
- rode one of these through here
- tata makes tea! who knew? and they couldn't have chosen a nicer place to do it
- finally got the rats (and, we think, bats) out of our abyss-black treehouse in the central Indian jungle at about 5.00am... and then played cards on our mattress on the floor (by flashlight)
- swore never to sleep in a treehouse again
- struggled to find a language to describe just how hot it is on the plains
- nearly stampeded by a herd of spotted deer
- our hiking guide: "be careful, the elephants sometimes run through here"
- ran after our guide who bolted when the elephants we were watching (distance approx. 40 feet) did, in fact, make like they were about to run
- a little bit in love with Kerala
- seriously, it is so hot
- concretized pretty much all of our plans for the rest of the trip.

Here's what that looks like (wikipedia reading a google-image-searching provided by you):

After Cochi, where we are now, we're headed to the Wayannad Wildlife Sanctuary (which I'm praying is at least a few thousand metres above sea level) for a few days. From there, we're going to Mysore, then Madikeri in Coorg (coffee and cardamom plantations in bloom at the moment), then hopefully Hampi (though the heat is making that seem less and less attractive), then cutting across the continent to the Bay of Bengal coast for Konarak, and then a two day (minimum) journey up to the blissful 19C air of Darjeeling. We'll be there for about a week, including a 5-day trek. After that, we're cutting back West towards Uttaranchal to do the three day trek to the source of the Ganges (which also features some West Himalayan glaciers).

That will be about the end of E.'s trip, since her plane is leaving the third week of May. S. and I are still working out the details for the last leg, but I'm pretty sure I know how it ends.

Unfortunately I have to be back in Delhi by the 4th of June even though my plane doesn't leave until the 9th so that I can get my exit visa cleared up. Delhi, by the way, will be 43C at that time before adjusting for humidity. So for the week or so before that, we should be hiding out in McLeod Ganj, the home of the Dalai Lama and the center of Tibet-in-exile. It's also an extremely safe and popular backpacker's haven. To seal the deal, I found a highly recommended three-day cooking course there for Rs600 (about $16) - that's three days for North Indian food, and then you can attend random afternoon/evening courses for South India, Tibetan, and even Nepalese. And it's high altitude, so the temperature will be reasonable. I pretty much can't wait.

Have any of my postcards arrived yet? My faith in the Indian postal service is growing shaky...

Saturday, April 12, 2008

One more time

Fine, more later, getting another bus.

Be good.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

And again

We're fine, too much to say at the moment in my meager internet time. In Munnar, in the drop-dead gorgeous state of Kerala (non-exaggerating tagline: "God's Own Country"). We're headed to the Chinnar wildlife reserve upstate in an hour or so, where we'll be for a few days, then in Cochi. Hopefully I'll get some time for a decent post from Cochi. Just, again, letting you all know that everything's cool.

And, no word from schools yet. Why oh why must I wait to know what I'm doing in September?

Thursday, April 3, 2008


We're alive, we're in Goa, everything's fine. I've been trying to get to the net for days now but internet cafes are few and far between here, and all the ones we had found (until now) had been closed for reasons that are mysterious and unknowable.

There's too much to really update on at the moment, so I won't. We're getting a train tonight to Varkala, Kerala, from which we'll be headed Kaniyakumari, the southernmost tip of India. After that we're working our way up through Kerala, cruising the backwaters, and then (after maybe 8-10 days) until Karnataka. For the next little while we're going to be super short on internet time, so this is a heads up to all family members that we'll email you as soon as we can, but that's not going to be very soon. S.'s cousin and his friend are with us as well, and having actual Indian people to help out with stuff is... helpful. It might easily be more than a week before we post/email again. That goes for E. and I both.

So, have a great week or two. Wish me a Happy Finding Out About Law Schools Month, it's April.

Be good.