Wednesday, December 29, 2010

No Trance Dance

As fireworks shoot up over the ocean for the finale, I thought to myself - I can't believe that I'm in Goa when one of the biggest 3 day Trance Dance Fests are going down just a short stroll down the beach and I didn't go.

This place is world famous for these and neither of us were moved attend. I go to them in the states sometimes at greater cost and effort. That's not why I came out here, but I usually end up doing things because I can and for three days I assumed that at one point I would give in to that urge.

We did spend an hour at one of the hundreds of shacks that thread the line between the beach and town watching the lights and listening to both stages. I cannot say I was impressed with what I heard, but you can't judge a whole festival by just a couple set with some cheesey tracks.

After a few beers at the bar next to it we walked up to a sand dune that overlooked the show perfectly. The show was full, the music was loud, and the crowd was thumping. It looked like fun and I thought - maybe we should go tomorrow. Being that there was only a half hour before it ended we walked past it and made our way to a second story roof top patio so we could witness the amped up crowd all file through the one small road onto the main road.

Our timing was perfect and we got front row seat to watch the chaos right at the bottleneck. I find India to be chaotic in general so I was not going to miss a couple thousand raver's make their exit largely in foot, scooters, and motorcycles with just enough car to block everything up like bricks packed with mortar.

We basically got the whole show minus actually being there. Yet, being there is really what counts when you are in the middle of a high energy crowd dancing, sweating, and celebrating with everyone. As much as we enjoy that energy, we will be taking a bus out of here with joining and celebrating new years in a distant quiet town of ruins with a population of only one thousand.

I see that I was able to do what I felt like doing and not what I thought I should do just because it's there. I will probably still tend to say "yes" to most things, but things I want to do... and now my mom will think I'm finally out of that crazy "stage" I started when I was sixteen.

Location:Goa India

King of Haggling

Contrary to the title I am not the king of haggling. In fact, if there were such a thing then I would be a serf. I have never been good at it and i don't seem to be getting any better. Asiana, on the other hand, may be the queen of bargaining. I appreciate the way she works it and drop prices down by at least a third.

I don't really know why I am so uncomfortable with it. I am even less interested if we are talking pennies. I'd rather pay the extra quarter on top of the $4 cab ride than than work cabbies for the best deal. It may work while I'm traveling for three months, but getting nickeled and dimed to death would take it's toll if I was on a tighter budget, living abroad, or traveling longer. If there is something we want I need to sent in Asiana to do the heavy haggling.

Last Day in Goa

We spent our last day here like the others. We made travel and hotel arrangements for our next leg of the trip. I got a foot message on the beach. We saw a cluster of dolphins playing a hundred meters off shore.

There was a lot of reading and sunning time interrupted by the occasional ladies selling the same sarongs, jewelry, and shirts, children selling fruit, men selling cd's and books, and a few disfigured beggars and poor mothers with infants looking for handouts. When moving through the cities you can walk by and keep moving, but not on the beach. I found that the vest you can do is completely ignore them or at most glance up and shake your head no. Opening your mouth saying 'no thanks' is enough for them to think they have a nibble. It almost guarantees they will stand there and ask for a few more minutes.

I understand the way these economies work. There is no social security or government subsidies to help the poor. The rich do give donations to the unfortunate individual. It is their social system and is necessary. I would guess that without sharing the wealth int his way there would be more crime.

I have given a few bits to some of the children on the street, but giving anything here on the beach is asking to be swarmed the whole time. If I didn't ignore them my relaxation wouldn't be relaxing at all.

There is a huge cargo ship that has been beached here for years giving what otherwise would be a normal beach scene in intestine surreal look. The porange (pink-orange) sun setting each night never reaches the top of the water due to the thick distant mist over the Arabian sea.

I figured that our travels would leave us places longer than we planned. Our aggressive 'trytinary' would probably not work perfectly according to any plans and I knew that at the beginning. We would have not really stayed here as long, but due to tricky train and bus schedules we had the opportunity to get some extra beach time. If you have to be stranded in India, the Goan beach is not a bad place to get your wheels stuck.

Location:Goa India

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Still Chillin' in Goa

Today looked similar to yesterday except is was hotter and rather than sitting are the table of the Pete's Shack we layer on the beach chairs in front of it.

I found a beat up shredded copy of Shantarm. It's so badly warn one really couldn't read it due to the lack of the first and last couple hundred missing pages. I happen to be near page 400 in a 900 page book so it suited me well not to have to read from my iPad on the beach.

The three day Sunburn festival is happening just down the beach, but unlike the gatherings we go to in the States where the music goes on night and day, they are only allowed to start at noon and quit by ten. They only allow 2000 people at a time in the dance area and there are twenty police stationed there. This show is tight security making sure it does not disrupt or cause chaos for all the northern European retired folks that stay here all winter. It's ironic that I appreciate not having to to be annoyed by it. We would probably go in one night to check it out (I guess all the Bollywood stars are there) except the price is the cost of our departure.

We arranged a bus to Hampi where we will be spending three days including new years. From there we have arranged a train to Banglore where we'll jump a quick flight to Kochi to spend our last dsys in India floating the backwaters. We have another day on the beach tomorrow getting our strength up, or just being lazy, before the next big travel push.

Location:Goa India

chill in' in Goa

Woke up and had coffee and tea on our veranda watching the crows and dragon flies celebrate the morning over the ocean. Our room was only available for one night and we could not afford it for a second anyway. Prices quadruple the week between Xmas and new years and the Sunburn festival fills this town up. We took a modest room just 50 meters away and proceeded to the beach.

We spent nearly half the day lounging at Pete's beach shack sipping drinks and ordering dishes hourly. The hazy day kept it from getting too hot and it was a wonderful way to do nothing after so much movement through India.

We did some walking up and down the beach as well as a few laps up and down the main street. This place reminds me of what Playa del Carmen was probably like 15 years ago, a simple one street town with small shops, restaurants, and bars. The Portugese influence also gives the area a type of Latin feel.

We joined a very nice and well traveled older British couple for after dinner drinks on the beach where we got a good download about their thoughts and loves of India. It seems like the more you frequent India, the more it grows on you.

Location:Cantolim Goa India

Monday, December 27, 2010

Drug Hair

From Kathmandu to Mumbai I have not walked down the streets without getting a barrage of drug offers. The hushed words hash, and marijuana are directed at me where ever I go. Sometimes a simple shake of my head will let them know I am not interested. Sometimes they are more persistent walking along with us for a half a block until I tell them that I don't do that stuff and I don't want any. At one point in Varanasi a young man said, "You have drug hair you must smoke drugs". I responded by saying I knew my hair was crazy and that I get drug offers all the time. His response was, "then you shave head from drug hair and no asked all time".

Got to Goa

It's hard to believe that just two months ago we were landing on the beaches of Turks and Caicos and now we are on the beach in Goa. Our colonial Portugese style veranda looks out over some short palm flooded by the the beach reaching out to the Arabian sea. Another completely different place in India with casual vibe again reminds me of how fortunate we are. "Jayahoch" - "I win!" - "Gratitude"

It's like we are taking a vacation from our vacation. We might have to kick it here for a bit.

Location:Candolim Goa India

Mumbai Day 2

Arose late after chatting all night on Ishwars terrace. We ended up walking through Mumbai for over 7 hours. It was Christmas day and Saturday and you could feel the city was enjoying their leisure time with family and friends.

The parks were filled with games of Cricket and the weather obliged being comfortably hot. (It's hot and muggy here, but as nice really ever gets). We found our way to the large curved bay known as "the Queens Necklace" and walked the entire promenade until reaching Chowpatty beach. From there we hike upward toward some greenery we spotted and made our way to the top of Malabar Hill. The top of the hill overlooked Mumbai and was home to Pherozshah Mehta Gardens (Hanging Gardens) and Kamala Nehru Park.

By the time we hiked down the other side, the sun was starting to set. We went to another park at the edge of the ocean and watched the sun go down over the Arabian Sea bringing a beautiful close to our Christmas day in Bombay.

We got a surprise visit from Santa while enjoying dinner at a small restaurant near our hotel. He was giving out candy which we then gave to the children of the nearby slums while walking home. There were was a family with two kids where we ate and the kids spent a lot of time practicing their english with us and showing us their Xmas gifts. Made me a bit homesick missing my family on Christmas.

Location:Mumbai India

Mumbai Day .5

I know I said I would refer to this place as Bombay. I still think it has a more exotic ring to it and now that we have roamed the place extensively I find it amazingly exotic as I had imagined it to be, yet I realize that Mumbai is the progressive push behind India, a country that is striving to catch up with the rest of much of the world and I would be doing it a disservice using the labels of the past. This occurred to me while Asiana and I spent the evening chatting with some young locals from the city on a terrace rooftop building where a friend ours had a crew over.

Ishwar is an old friend of ours. We spent most of our time together at parties where he used to DJ. We have not seen him for seven years, but knew that if we decided to venture to his town it would be great to hang out with him.

On Xmas eve afternoon shortly after we found our target place of slumber, Hotel Outram in the Colaba district of Mumbai, we partook in the game of wander-about. As usual, our instincts took us all the places any tour would have dragged us to in short afternoon. We gazed at the main Victorian sites found in the area and strolled throughout the gardens and plazas that one should try and see. Then we showed up on the shore where the "Gateway of India" stood. It's more or less a monument dedicated to British rule over the area. I found it kind of odd that the square was loaded with Indian tourists interested in visiting a place that symbolized their colonization from which it struggled to become independent from. I Guess I cannot assume that everyone here views western influence as a bad thing and sees the positive impact it may have had.

We called Ishwar to try and make plans with him next day if he was available. He virtually insisted we come over that night. We gave into the pressure and headed over at nearly 11pm even though we were beat after such little sleep on the Varanasi-Mumbai express.

He was already having a gathering on the rooftop of the building where he lived and it was a great opportunity to spend some time socializing. We have had some chats on trains and street corners, but have not had any major talking action outside of each other during the trip so far.

There was a couple from Houston visiting his father and there was a gal from England. The rest were Mumbai locals interested in talking about our journey and explaining the subtleties of their country. It was a refreshing evening with great company and we found ourselves staying there 'till nearly 2am.

I cannot say how nice it was to have engaging conversations helping me get a broader perspective on the diversity of the people of India. Many of these people are heading down to Goa and we'll more than likely spend some time with them there.

Location:Mumbai India

Mumbai - Melting pot of Asia

Thus far I found Mumbai the city of my choosing if I were to stay in India. There are probably many reasons why I feel comfortable in this place. Firstly, I am getting used to India. Secondly, it is probably more western than any place I have visited and therefore more in my comfort zone.

I do not get completely stared at by every single person here. I understand that in the States I may look alternative at moments and get a curious look here and there, but in Nepal and everywhere else in India they gawk in amazement, take pictures of me, snicker, point and chatter about how strange I look. Sometime they laugh outrageously and quite often they want their pictures taken with me. I know I bring this on and I don't take it personally. Yet, in Mumbai this has been decreased ten fold and I feel relieved of the weird pressure that I realize that comes with it.

There are sidewalks here and traffic is, in a very relative sense, less chaotic. I would still never try to drive here, but there is much less congestion and a rule or two seem to be followed. The stress factor of walking around the city is so much lower, the honking less frequent, and I don't feel like I am continuously vehicle dodging. The lack of animals all over the place also means I don't have to play tricky games of hopscotch around shit everywhere.

This place is a mixture of everything. There are fancy skyscrapers, intricate old European Victorian buildings, scattered temples, and slums packed in between. Litter is abundant, but nothing like it has been elsewhere in India.

Hindu is the primary religion here and Islam comes in second. If you wanted to get a taste of Christmas in India then Mumbai is the place to be. There are X-mas signs and decorations in many storefront windows and inside the restaurants. We passed a Methadist church singing out "Silent Night", with some rocking drums I might add.

Mumbai is the first place I've had conversations with locals that would be more like the banter I would have with my friends at home. The international feel of Mumbai's people resonates with me. Most importantly, this city has showed me that India is different everywhere. It took a place that I understood better to show me that. Every place I've stopped has had major differences, yet it is hard to recognize sometimes when it all feels so foreign. I see that there is no way to compare the places I've been. They all have amazing things to offer and just because I'm not used to it does not make one place better than the other. I just think Bombay is pretty cool... that's all.

Location:Mumbai India

A Heavy Hour in Varanasi

While wandering the thin ally's in Old Varanasi we were pushed aside by crowds of people carrying shrouded bodies of the dead on stretchers made of bamboo toward the river. We turned down a different path, but eventually noticed piles of wood packed along the edges and smoke filling the streets telling us we were coming upon the cremation ghat. It was as if we had no choice but to visit again.

The quiet spot we had seen in the early morning was now bustling with a dozen bodies on fire and others lined up while more were being carried in. Asiana was initially reluctant to visit this place again, but once we looked upon it we were mesmerized by the action, energy, and non-chalant chaos taking place. We perched ourselves in a small overlook and quietly witnessed. The energy was as thick and heavy as the smoke that filled the air. It was harsh and extreme. We watched the well decorated bodies have their flowers and gold shrouds ripped off and tossed into the bottom of the large bundles of wood, these to be burned with the bodies. Every moment made us dizzy with the pure stickiness of the place.

Cows were tied up next to us to provide manure for the fires. A freshly born calf of one was gushing diarrhea and a scruffy crippled dog was licking it up as if it had not eaten in weeks. A bird shit on me just as I was becoming overwhelmed at the rawness of it all. A man started giving the low down that I had received earlier that morning by a worker and before I knew it I was being dragged up some steps and standing a meter away from a burning body giving off heat that was searing. I was on the upper deck reserved for the Brahmans and I had to dance around bodies to get away from the heat. My completely freaky "tour guide" reached into the ashes of a freshly burned body and marked my forehead with the remains of the upper class for good luck. I could energetically feel Asiana worrying about me and ran out of the area back to where she was. The man ran after me. Others told Asiana not to give that guy any money and when looking at him we could tell he was a druggie desperate for some cash. I was shaking from the intensity of it all, and ref us to give him any Baksheesh (tip). He was aggressive and persistent telling me it would be bad karma for me not to give him anything. I had a moment where I felt like I was going to turn on him, raise my arm, and start yelling either out of anger or at least to show him how scary I could get, but I have not really witnessed true anger in this country. There are arguments all the time, but there is really never anger behind it. I could not take this personally. It was not about me. I did not want to be that way. I let him know calmly that his poor behavior was forcing me to leave and it was his karma at stake. At this, Asiana and I walked off, he ran by trying to get in front of us and slipped on some shit and fell down the stairway leading to the fires. I winced, but didn't look back. Sometimes karma acts fast. I never saw him again.

Walking away down the cool shaded alleys I felt completely calm. It was a powerful moment I not only witnessed, but felt a part of. It was a moment I had to have. This dark moment helped me in my lightness.

Location:Varanasi India

Friday, December 24, 2010

Long Train to Bombay

We jumped a 26 hour train to Bombay. The city has been renamed to Mumbai, but since the locals still call it Bombay so will I. I think it has a more exotic ring to it anyway.

We got the best sleeper class this line has to offer which is to say it has air condition. After the last freezing trip was not sure that is what we needed, but this class supplied sheets, blankets, and pillows. The a/c was on and it was nice because the car was fairly stuffy.

No matter how comfortable the class is there is nothing to be done about the noise the Indian families generate. Westerners would consider their behavior completely inconsiderate if not downright obnoxious. Phones ring ever couple minutes and the following conversations toke place in the same high volumed barking we would save for heated arguments. The lights would get turned on and off all throughout the night and the kids were allowed to scream and shout at their mothers ordering them at their whims.

It's pointless to get mad and a waste of energy to think it could be anything different. This is the way they are. They accept it about each other and I have to accept it about them. These thing are easier to say now that the sun is up, we are not trying to sleep, and we are a couple hours from our destination. I think I might even be getting use to it. I did sleep and in my dream I was witnessing a noisy argument in Mexico I guess my brain in dream state turned Hindi into Spanish.


Full Day in Varanasi

Nothing like a speedy freezing moto-rickshaws ride to wake you up in the morning. We forced ourselves to get up at 5:45am so we could watch the morning action at the ghats along the Ganges. Really wanted to get some more sleep in, but knew this was our only full day in the holiest city in India so our will won out over our exhaustion.

There are over 80 ghats here and it's hard to tell where one ends and the next one begins. The morning was misty and breathtaking. We sat on the steps drinking chai and taking it all in. Birds were swarming in excitement while the city was already off to business of bathing and washing their clothes in the river. The sun broke through the low mist in the horizon and reflected across the broad stretch of the Ganga.

Once we had warmed up we walked through the "main" ghat where we had witnessed the puja the night before from a boat. We opted to watch from a boat the evening before to play it safe. There was a bombing there a little over two weeks ago killing 20 people. A handful were tourists, although tourists were not specifically the target. One the other side we climbed up to a rooftop restaurant and had breakfast. (rooftop cafes and restaurants are virtually necessary to get away from the attention given to us by everyone seeking money for something.)

We headed north along the river until we came upon the largest and most important ghat in all of India, the Manikarnika ghat. This is the main body burning ghat where not only the people of Varanasi bring their family to get cremated, but bodies from all over India are sent to be set a flame. An average of two hundred body's are cremated here every day.

We got there still very early in the morning durning their lest busy hours (only one customer) and a young man, one of the untouchables who worked there gave us a very interesting tour. The tour ended at the hospice overlooking the ghat the which was for the homeless/familyless. To this point we had been good about not giving any money donations or handouts to anyone, but we donated a few dollars in rupees to the lady running the hospice to supply wood. Families pay for the wood to cremate their loved ones. There are large scales use to weigh out wood for the burning. different wood has different prices, sandalwood being the most expensive. Bodies are given 3 hours to burn after which they are tossed into the river whether fully cooked or not. The more and better quality wood, the better the chances the job gets done. If your family is poor (or if they just don't like you and don't want to pay much), the greater your chances your half charred carcass get tossed into the river.

I learned a great deal of things that I don't have the time to type out, but some of the more interesting info was about who they would not cremate. They would not cremate children under 10 with the belief their body and energy was still a young flower that need to be absorbed back into the earth. This is also the same reason they will not cremate pregnant women. They will not cremate holy men (babas and sadhus) because they have spent their life purifying themselves are unattached to anything and not of the earth. They will not cremate lepers. In all of these cases the bodies are weighted and sunk to the bottom of the river without being burned. Anyone bitten by a white cobra is sent adrift down the Ganges after 3 days from the bite. Also, only people who have died from natural causes including sickness and starvation are burned at the ghat. Anyone killed in something like a car accident needed to be cremated in a separate indoor incinerator since they do not want to mix that type of karma with the energy of natural death.

I was happy to get such a good scoop on the whole burning body thing because a later visit rocked me to the core and I may have not been able to digest the situation as well without such background. I will dedicate a separate journal entry to this intense time.

The river and the ghats are not they only attraction to Varanasi. There are many temples and structure scatter around town. Some which we saw and some missed. We could not handle the idea of getting driven around in the crazy streets and decided to stay on foot.

It is easy to spend a whole day walking through the streets of the old town Varanasi. There are only thin ally's with no room for cars and rickshaws where you only have to paste yourself against walls to let the occasional motorcycles by. Moreover, this means we were free from constant honking that exists everyplace else. It was fun to get lost in theses street because you cannot get truly lost. Eventually you either end up on the river by the ghats or back in the newer part of town with all the traffic.

Every once in a while we would escape to the roof tops for another tea and snack. At one such roof top we watched dusk approach while the air was filled with hundreds upon hundreds of kites playing in the sky. After the sun was down we climbed to the highest, poshest restaurant over the river where we splurged for our fanciest meal of the trip while watching yet another plump moon light the magical city.

Location:Varanasi India

Haridwar to Varanasi

Haridwar is one of the five most sacred cities in India where they hold the Kumba Malya every 12 years along the Ganga. Our bus fro m Rishikesh got us there at 4pm - eight hours before we the train to Varanasi departed.

We did not feel like going far from the train station with our pack strapped to our back and we did not have to. Walking throughout the bizarre lead us to the Ganga just at sunset in time to see people floating candle offerings into the river while music if praises to God rang in the air. As the sun set the nearly full moon rose.

We found a small restaurant that we had all to ourselves where we spent more than three hours snacking, drinking tea, and reading. It was a nice sanctuary and preferable to hanging out at the train station or walking the streets in the dark.

I considered buying a thick blanket after the freezing ride we had on the bus, but I decided that the sleeper train could not possibly be as cold as that bus. I was wrong. It was much colder. Asiana and I truly froze our ass off. We have another long train ride in a few day. Something must be done about the temperature discomfort while using public transportation.

Again, the morning brings smiles and conversation on the train. We are traveling through the farm region of India and I enjoy staring out at the small villages made of mud and grass flow by my window. Each stop bring on vendors selling food and drink of all types.

Location:Haridwar India


I started reading Shantaram the night before flying out of Nepal. There could not be a better book to take on just before arriving in India. Not only does every paragraph seem like a poem, but what a wonderful way to get an understanding of the Indian people, how they think, why they do what they do, and to learn some of the subtle and not so subtle nuances.

Every chapter makes me think. Every chapter tells me something I may have never understood just from witnessing. I think this books is going to my journey through India more profound... maybe not easier, but easier to accept.

Two firsts and a third

While in Rishikesh I attended a couple yoga classes and a meditation. I won both of the yoga classes, but lost the meditation of which there were only three of us.

Location:Rishikesh India

Rishikesh Day 4

Got up and had tea under the usual tree made by the usual old man. "Early Chai vendor gets the Rupees"! Asian took here last yoga class while I walk a half an hour down the street for my Sitar class.

I found immediately the most important key to playing the thing has nothing to do with what frets to push, how to bend the strings, and what the scales are. Sitar is all about the strumming. A special wire wraps around the index finger. You have sit in an awkward cross legged fashion with bare feet so the body of the instrument is cradled in the arch of your foot and will not slip away. This in itself was pretty challenging for me. I guess I have even more reason to do yoga.

I practiced different styles of strumming. The upward strum hits the melody strings while downward motion hits the drone strings. The was the basic up down, the up down up up, the up down down down...

I figured the melody scale out pretty quickly and probably started annoying my teacher by thinking I was rocking out like Ravi Shankar a little too early. My instructor was also a Sitar maker and my impulsive nature had to be harnessed. There were moments I imagined myself wondering around Asia with my pack on my back a Sitar slung over my shoulder - whipping it out at the corner cafe or waiting at train stations. "I could never get a Sitar this cheap anywhere else!". Alas, I wised up, walked out, jumped in the freezing Ganga, and hopped on the bus to Haridwar.

Location:Rishikesh India

Rishikesh Day 3

Got up at 5:40 am on accident because my clock was wrong. The intent was to be up for the 7am meditation. After laying around we got up again, but the mediation was not happening. Oh well.

I went to the 8am beginners Yoga class then walked around town he having chai and taking with the other foreigners i met while Asiana took the harder 9:30 yoga class.

We took the long jaunt to the south end of town and spent a good part of the day wondering around the ruins of the old Maharishi Ashram where the Beatles had spent some time.

The ashram has been abandoned for quite a while and the jungle has over taken it. It was fun to imagine what it w like in the day. The compound must have been magical. Knowing the Beatles came up with many of their songs for the White Album if was impossible not to hum their tunes while walking through.

I feel like I've gone through this area so much in the pat few days and I feel very at home. I recognize the babas and the chai salesmen and have gotten use to visiting them and joining them for a chat when strolling by. I think this place has gotten use to me too... at least the locals, the Indian tourists still think I'm a site and we get asked to get our picture taken with them.

We are leaving tomorrow and although a bit said to leave this haven of peace I think I'll be ready to roll. I plan on joining the Kirtan
singing this evening that I have heard each evening across the river and tomorrow morning I am scheduled to have an hour Sitar lesson.

Location:Rishikesh India

Rishikesh Day 2

Woke up late and missed the morning yoga classes, but thankful to have caught up on some sleep. After breakfast we decided to take a trek to some waterfalls we had read about not far out of town.

We walked down a trafficless dirt road winding north along the Ganga. There was a different breed of monkey that seemed to prefer to stay outside of the town. They were all white with black faces and white large. While the smaller pink faced monkeys in the village seemed to argue among themselves and generally appeared as if up to no good, the forest monkeys were grooming each other in the tree while the younger ones jumped around, flipping and playing.

We took a path off the road that went steeply up the hill. We were the only ones on it. I was completely lush and serene. I was nice to be completely away from the noise and most importantly the dust that seems to exist everywhere there is a road nearby.

The falls were pretty small, but we loved being there non the less. We swam in the pools and relaxed on the rock while soaking up the tranquility.

Upon our return many hours later we ate (there's lots of places to eat and lots of eating to do here) and then we went to a meditation at our ashram. While it was a beautiful meditation and his words were relaxing, I just could not get into it. I did not feel very present and my mind was far from quiet.

We went our afterwards and had one last evening Ginger lemon honey tea before retiring.

Location:Rishikesh India

Rishikesh Day 1

Arrived cold, tired, and hungry. The perfect trifecta to generate grumpiness. The town was completely empty. Every shop had their metal shutters locked and all the carts were empty. The area may have been scenic, but all I could think was, "why am I here in this cold small place with nothing to do except for yoga - and for four days".

We banged on the door of our target hotel, the Sant Sri Sewa Ashram. There was someone up, but they had to wake up the kid sleeping in the "lobby" to show us the room. The room was as simple as it gets and on a cold morning the concrete box seemed extra cold and uncomfortable. It came with 4 wool blankets and a couple scary looking pillows (happy I brought a silk sleep sac with a built in pillow cover). It also had an attached bathroom. Asiana wants to do this trip cheap, but has not budged when it comes to sharing a bathroom yet. I get my over priced beers and she gets to pee comfortably.

If anyone is up early in Rishikesh they are doing yoga somewhere. They are definitely not getting me breakfast ready, that's for sure. The first place we found open was a little old man making chai and vegetable pakorma (deep fried cauliflower). I had 3 orders of each.

A full belly and the day getting warmer got me all cheered up. We walked up and down the streets and I was able to receive the beauty of the place. What one was at first completely empty town turned into a lively one.

We spent most of the day wandering around, drinking tea, and eating. We did our laundry in a large bucket on our porch that looked out over the slow moving Ganga. We took the beginners yoga class offered in our ashram to stretch out our soar bodies after the cruel bus ride. It was my kind of yoga made up of joint rotations and calisthenics and less of the hold-this-pose-forever yoga.

Laying in bed I realized it may be the quietest place thus far. Rishikesh is very peaceful.

Location:Rishikesh India


Rishikesh, the yoga capital of the world. thought I'd wait until I've spent a few days here before summing up my impressions.

The town lines the edges of the Ganga (Ganges river) bending in a S curve through a valley shrouded by mountains of lush jungle. Outside of the usual street dogs and sacred cows there are monkeys everywhere.

Babas, Seeks, and Swamis with beads and dreadlocks roam the area in their flowing orange or white robes. Except for the occasional monkey squabbles this place is beautifully peaceful. Everyone acknowledges you walking by with a Namaste and a soft gaze of the eye. Even the beggars only ask once and let you past un-hassled.

The music everywhere is extraordinary. Chanting, drums, bells, and horns ring out filling the valley with audio colors. Every shop and eatery has wonderful music softly playing. I wish that I could get every song onto my IPod.

This is a town of meditation, introspection, and healthy living. It's a vegetarians paradise since no meat is server anywhere. The tranquility is backed up by the fact that there is also no alcohol available as well. Although there have been moments when a frosty brew would have hit the spot, I appreciate the lack of drunks getting up in my face.

The Ganga is probably as low as it gets right now and it flows slow, reflecting a light green color. You can see clear to the bottom, which I understand is rare. It is also low tourist season and the small streets are easy to navigate.

It has been a great place for us to sink into India with ease and grace. Much gratitude to have four days hear.

Location:Rishikesh India


Just a note the eats. I have loved ever every meal I've had since leaving home excluding desperate moments in the airports. Meals are costing an average of $2. That combined with the yumminess of it all is going to make me a fat boy.

Overnight Bus Ride

Our bus did have reclining seats as promised and the first hour displayed signs of allowing for some sleep on the ride. I thought the bumpy roads and jerky driving would lull me to sleep easily. The bus was only half full and as I was considering moving to the back (the lady reclined in front of me left barely and breathing room) the bus stopped and took on a large and painfully loud family. The peace was completely shattered as they got on. Chaos, kids, and everyone was yelling. They jammed 3 people in every 2 seat space. It was another hour on the road before I stopped getting elbowed in the head, leaned on, and my hair pulled. The men got tired of sitting on everyones armrest and finally laid newspaper in the isle to sleep on.

It seemed like every time everyone started chilling out and ready to doze off the bus would stop for a bathroom break and the whole crew had to get up, get off, and freak out again.

As far as I can tell people on India, or at least people from Delhi, don't talk to each other - they yell. Maybe they are use to competing with the car horns. When they speak to us, they speak in quiet, soft tones, then turn to each other and get back to shouting.

Many of the windows on the bus were broken. They were broken so that you could not shut them. It was midnight and we were heading north into the Indian Himilayan foothills. It was friction' cold!

I could go into detail about all the discomforts on that bus, but I might as well leave it at, "it sucked!". And we had six more hours of it.

It was s great practice for me to be present with that ride. Outside of the physical challenges, I found myself practicing compassion. I was so annoyed at that family and especially the noisy father, yet I realized it was not anything personal and he was doing the best he knew how to take care of his family and get them across country. I was silently sending them love and also hoping they would get off on the next stop.

We pulled in to Rishikesh right at six am, maybe an hour before sunrise. My ass was numb, my knees were bruised, and everyone was totally freezing. We all climbed out of the bus to find a roadside shop with hot tea and coffee waiting for us as next to a roaring fire barrel.

Even thought we could not communicate we connected in the joy of being off the bus and at our destination. We looked into each others eyes and smiled. We laughed at each other through shivering teeth making fun of how silly we all looked wrapped up in every bit of clothing we could find.

I'm glad I kept perspective on that ride. Had I let frustration and hate get the best of me I would have ended up feeling guilty and shamed for reacting to something relatively trivial. I like to think I learned a good lesson and that being said, I ask the universe to avoid giving it to me again... at least in that form. I'm sure we'll have more bus rides to come on this journey. I will seriously weight out the costs of other alternatives after that one though.

Location:Rishikesh India

Catching the Bus to Rishikesh

We were told we would have a comfortable ride on a first class coach bus overnight to Rishikesh. We were to meet at 8pm at the travel agent office where they were going to take us and put us on the bus. Fears arose early when we showed up to find our shuttle driver was quite drunk. He kept saying, " we wait 20 minutes - bus not yet". Just before nine, when our bus was supposed to depart from somewhere we found him in a heated argument with another group of guys. Not only had we prepaid for the bus and had no ticket, but we had also arranged train tickets to Varanasi and Mumbai. We hoped it was legitimate and had our fate int the hands of India.

He was not about to leave his argument and he explained to the twelve year old boy who was sweeping the office floor where to lead us to catch our bus. If this didn't make me start sweating the confused look on the kids face did. We followed the boy through the bizarre to a corner that looked nothing like where a bus could fit. We watched helplessly while he talked to some men in Hindi while they were shaking their heads. The kid made a gesture for us to stay while he ran back for clarification. This does not look good.

After a minute of waiting thinking, "we'll never see him again", we started heading back to the tourist office. I was pretty sure I could find it. On the way back we found the boy with the drunk guy coming to get us. This was a bit of a relief. A few more blocks and we were at the intended spot, but it was not a bus depot. It was a money change station that also booked transportation. We were left there. Seems like our bus should have left by now.

The old man in the "other" office hardly acknowledged we were there. He was working with a young boy from Spain who was counting every last Rupee he had to get a flight home. He had been trying to get this ticket for five days now. You could just tell he was very done with Delhi.

I finally interrupted asking if this was where we were supposed to catchup our bus knowing perfectly well it was not possible. Not on that street. Without hardly looking us old man said, "yes - boy coming to take you". Yeah - another confused kid.

This time a teenager showed up on his motorcycle and motioned he would take us each individually on the back to the bus. "Sure, take my girlfriend away on the back of a motorcycle through the streets of Delhi in the dark. I'll just wait here. That seems comfortable". After letting him know that was out of the question he hailed a rickshaws driven by the scrawniest man in all of India. Luckily it was only a few blocks away because it was torture witnessing him struggle to make that thing move with both of us and our heavy packs. "Shit - we could have walked here an hour ago!". Except here was just some unmarked street corner with a couple of very boozed up older men wanting to share their tray of vodka and mud with them. At least it looked like a place whee a bus could actually fit.

We waited on the corner for 20 minutes while the teenager just sat on his motorcycle. He knew no English and didn't see the need to help defend us from the drunks. As, we prayed for a bus to turn the corner and save us from what look to be a very ugly night, the power in the area went out killing all the street lights and leaving us in the dark. That's where you just start laughing. "Well, at least we have our health... for now."

Then a miracle happened. A bus turned the corner heading our way. I cannot believe this is really going to happen - we're saved. And the bus drove on by and out of sight.

The teen got on his phone speaking excitedly in Hindi (Hindi always seems to sound executed) and then told us to run with him across the busy street. It's like playing fast paced Frogger with heavy backpacks on - a scary video game indeed.

While still catching our breath form playing the ultimate game of chicken our bus pulled up. It hardly stopped moving. Just enough to allow a crowd off and let us in. We asked, "Rishikesh?". "Ya ya Rishikesh ya ya!". Good enough for us - Rishikesh or not - let's get out of here.

Location:Rishikesh India

Delhi Helhi

Okay, Delhi is not hell, but it is Delhi and were were hoping not to have to spend the night there.

Let's take a step back. We arose early to catch our flight out of Kathmandu. We literally had to go through five searches in the airport. One to get in. One after we picked up our tickets (just to get into another room). One to get onto the concourse. Then one to enter our gate. These were full body pat downs and take-everything-out-of-all-your-bags searches. You'd think they were done, but after waiting for the two hour delay and just before climbing up the steps just outside of the plane there was one last one. I know India feels pretty threatened by it's neighbors trying to get through in any way, plus I read they had busted a lot of westerners (mostly Ukrainians) trying to bring large amounts of has out of Nepal. All I was smuggling was dirty clothes.

The flight back to Delhi was even more spectacular than the one in. We flew over the tops of the Himilayas directly west before turning straight south for our descent. It's like we were skipping from peak to peak. Pictures out of an airplane window will never do the scene justice.

We knew that getting train tickets anywhere would be rough in India in the peak travel season and I tried pre-booking tickets online, but had credit/debit card issue I guess. Now in Delhi and wishing to get out we found we could not get a train anywhere for a couple days. Kind of desperate, we ended up working with a local tourist travel agent. We opted to take a "berry nice coach bus, sir" that left at night and would drop us off in Rishikesh at 6am. We thought anything would be better than staying in Delhi. We were wrong... or at least I would guess 50/50.

The travel agents big joke was:
Q: Do you know what INDIA stands for?
A: I'll Never Do It Again!

Ahh, the bus ride - see next blog...

Location:Delhi - Rishikesh

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Beer in Nepal

Lonely Planet was not joking when it said everything is cheap except beer. A couple beers doubles the cost of your room bill. I feel funny haggling for the price of a room telling them I only wanted to spend $10-$15 a night then cranking it up with a beer. At least they come in big 650 milliliter bottles and the Everest Premium Lager, Nimu Gombu Sherpa limited edition, hits the spot.

Last Day in Nepal

So, there are a couple temples in this country.

We jumped a bus to Patan this morning to finish our last stop on the Durbar circuit. I guess every major town in Nepal has a Durbar square and we have taken a hotel room right by it in e last two cities. It's a good move if you hope to wake up at 5am by the devotees ringing the large bells and chanting (yelling) their praises to the gods. I have no doubt they were heard.

Again, the number of temples in Patan are uncountable. The detail in the masonry is only outdone by the intricate woodwork lacing the structures. I go a bit numb as Asiana reads the stories and names of the deities from the pamphlets. I can't remember the names or retain their tales. I just get that they represent the many aspects that live within all of us.

It is amazing how we can wander the back street aimlessly and come across the sites suggested by lonely planet. It's like we are magnets (or maybe the site is a magnet) drawn in to see nearly everything the area has to offer. Had we used a map with specific written instructions to find the "Abode of Ten Thousand Buddhas" we would have never been able to locate it, yet meandering down an empty unmarked street it made itself be known.

Tomorrow will be a long day of travel if all goes according to plan. We catch our flight out of Kathmandu to Delhi, try to find our way across the city to the New Delhi train station and get ticket for the night train to Haridwar which is supposed to leave after 9pm and get us there before six the next morning. This plan has us hanging in Delhi with our packs on our back for at least 8 hours.

Thanks Nepal, for such a beautiful and easy journey. The sites were magnificent, the people smiling and friendly, and the food was out of this world... well, it's in this world, but on this side of it.

Location:Patan Nepal

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Bhaktapur - The City of Devotees

To count the temples would be like counting stars. Outside of of the big squares with the ornate structures, there are shrines on every corner. Every stone has a deity carved into it. Every door front has an offering. Every person has the red mark on their forehead - a painted bindi - showing their single point of awareness. Everything here is sacred, except maybe the dogs.

We had a full day of wandering the maze of narrow streets. At times we thought we may just be on an obscure, no name ally, only to find we were standing in front of a famous wooden window with a carved peacock that would be on postcards and walking tour maps. It really kills me that I cannot get pictures off my camera. The thousand words they would describe might save me from trying here.

At he top of the tallest temple in all of Nepal, Nyatapola, Asiana spotted an owl perched in a window across the ally standing it's ground among the crows and pigeons. I could feel the wisdom seeping into me. Okay, never mind it's Asiana's owl. She is the wise one now. You think she would share. She did suggest my totem was closer to the mangiest, bloody, flee infested, swollen, smelly dog I have ever seen waiting to die at the top of the temple. He must have had some really bad bark-all-night karma. Other dogs take note!

Location:Bhaktapur Nepal

Monday, December 13, 2010

Thank You in Nepalese

To say thank you in Nepal you say, "Danyabot". (not sure of the spelling)

If you really want to express your gratitude here you say, "Jayahoch", which translates into, "I win!"

I find this exciting because in the last few years my friends use that phrase. We recognize how fortunate we are and if life were a game we are all winning.

Sun Rising on Everest

A soft tap on our door meant we had 15 minutes to get up and watch the sun rise. A short walk up the hill behind our hotel to a stupa was all we had to do to see yet another moving sight. One by one, the peaks of the Himilayas started to glow until the orange sun spilled over the mountains.

I have been traveling for a week now and have only missed one sunrise. There is no reason to miss a moment of light.

Note on Everest: I don't mean to be deceiving. It is not like Everest is towering over us. Many of the peaks are, but from where we are Everest is a tiny nub off in the distance dominated by closer mountains... but we see it. So there!

From 2011-01-11 xillas

Location:Nargarkot Nepal

Dinner with the Nuns

Evening turned into a social event with the rest of the guests at our hotel, Eco-Home. There was a center fire built where everyone gathered before eating. There was another group of guests joining Asiana and I. There were four ladies from Malaysia and two American from Reno, all whom worked in the medical profession in some capacity. They were joined by three Buddhist nuns originally from Tibet now living in Nepal. They were just finishing two week visit with the nuns teaching them various health practices and medicine.

Our tim around the fire was filled with singing and games. We played musical chairs and the person left without a seat had to sing, dance, or tell a joke. Upon coming op chair less I serenaded the group with Elvis's "Can't help falling on love..." They did their best to keep me singing into the evening.

Every day the food gets better and better. I cannot imagine what it would take to top this meal.


Making Fun of Asiana

Note of repeated humor... Asian a continues to respond in Spanish to every foreign language. It's even more ironic since her Spanish sucks. I have also caught her repeatedly haggling in the wrong currency - more specifically Thai baht which was two countries ago.

I can make fun of her because, well... I have a blog and she doesn't. If she had one she could make fun of me.

Sun Setting On Mt. Everest

For ten minutes Mt. Everest was pink as the sun set reflected the days last light on the Himilayas. Again, tears came to my eyes.

From 2011-01-11 xillas

Location:Nagarkot Nepal

Nagarkot with a View

We took a taxi out of Kathmandu with the intention to stay in a small rural village called Sankhu to take a breather from the city. Sankhu has only one small cottage to stay at and upon arrival we found that it was completely booked for a local wedding reception. Our change of plans took us to at the hilltop village of Nagarkot famous for it's sunrise and sunset views of the Himilayas. The three hours journey was a wonderful tour of the greater valley where all the farming takes place. It was a big climb up, even for a car. The is nothing here except the view and that is all we wanted. We had a beer and a small lunch at "The End of the Universe" while gazing at indescribable peaks and then took a long walk. Very peaceful here. Heading out to watch the sun bath the Himilayas while it sets.

From 2011-01-11 xillas

Location:Nagarkot Nepal

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Saturday Night in 'Mandu

The street outside out hotel has little shops and people sitting along the sidewalk selling everything from blankets, to nuts. You could even order pieces of chicken cooked right there with w blow torch (not today - thank you). But Saturday night it turned into a thumping club. Ah, the familiar sounds of boom boom boom ringing through the air. Rave parties have reached every corner of the earth.

Location:Chetrapati Rd,Kathmandu,Nepal

Day Two In 'Mandu

Watched the sunrise from our balcony and listened to the city slowly get louder as it woke up while drinking coffee. W headed out early to Durbar square and meandered through the temples.

The polarity was crazy. It's like everything was sacred and nothing was sacred. Everyone was praying at the alters, making offerings to their gods and also dumping their trash, spitting, and riding motorcycles at high speeds, and parking their cars nearly on top of the temples.

We had breakfast on top of a five story building overlooking the city with a magnificent view then walked back to our hotel to reboot.

We spent the afternoon buying all the clothes we ever wanted - I hope. We will be mailing some of it back along with some clothes we realize we don't want to carry any longer.


First Night in Nepal

Roamed around Thamel (suburb of Kathmandu) just trying to acclimate to the area. Small streets with pedestrians, bikes, motorcycles, and cars pushing and honking to push through the small areas. Overwhelming - yes! Exciting - yes!

We are staying at Kathmandu Prince Hotel in Chhetrapati on the fringe of Thamel. We paid the extra for a room with a balcony making it an expensive $22 an night. The staff is super friendly.

When out and had dinner at a rooftop restaurant, Festival Restaurant, overlooking the chaos. We ordered a couple of dishes based on the price and we were shocked at how much food shows for for a $3 meal. It was absolutely delicious.

Managed to get lost wandering the streets back to the hotel. Didn't have a map but it wouldn't matter since there are no street signs. It was not stressful as I love getting lost in new places. Found our way home eventually.


Can't post Pics

I'm having technology issues getting pictures off the camera onto the iPad thus online. Hope to get this fixed on this trip cuz I'm getting good shot I'd love to share.

Kathmandu the Import Store Megamart

What more can I say outside of the title. Everything I ever wanted is here. Shopping spree is inevitable.

Location:Kathmandu Nepal

Friday, December 10, 2010

Four Countries in Four Days

China, Thailand, India, and Nepal. Ready to stay put for a bit... or rather start walking.

Driving in Delhi

It would be nothing new to write about the insanity that exists on the streets in the places we are going. I've witnessed it before (and even dared driving myself) in places like Egypt, Turkey, and Morocco yet so far Delhi takes the cake.

Yes, the most important navigational tool it the horn. Yes, they squeeze the vehicle in the tightest spots. Yes the speeds are inappropriate. Yes, my palms were sweaty and I was laughing (partially nervous partially fun excitement) like I do when I'm on a roller coaster.

I noticed that most cars did not have side mirrors and the ones that did were pulled in to allow for six more inches of "squeeze by" room. This makes every spot on the road a blind spot. No need to use turn signals if you don't care if anyone is next to or behind you.

Taxis are more expensive than the 3 wheel motor rickshaws, but I guess I need to get use to it before I have the courage to take one.

Location:Delhi India

Flying Over the Himalayas

Getting an amazing view of the Himalayas on our flight into Nepal. Such a stunning sight. Thinking of my dad who would love to see this.

Chaos in Delhi

We managed to do what we were warned not to and showed up in Delhi without a plan. Part of the reason was that we thought we have a day to figure it out, but we didn't. (see earlier log)

We thought we would either catch the afternoon flight to Nepal or jump a train to Rishikesh without spending time in Delhi. Missed the flight to Nepal due to circling 20 minutes before landing and another 20 minutes in some sort of Tarmac traffic jam taxing to the gate. "we're in India now.". And the thought of sitting on a long ride was unbearable. So, we wandered yet another airport trying to figure out where to stay for a night.

We were warned not to go anywhere without a distinct destination. In the end we grabbed a taxi to take us to a general part of town near the airport that had a high density of hotels. I don't know what the other parts of Delhi are like but the part of town where we are staying it straight up frickin' nuts.

We wanted extreme - we got extreme!

Location:Delhi India

Thumbs Up to Air India

After 20 cramped hours of flying, mostly on Air China, it has been luxurious to stretch out on the flight to Delhi on Air India. The lady at the check in said, "you big I give you exit seat"yumm - yippie!

Also, a big thumbs up on the (I never thought I'd say this) airplane food. Loved the yummy veggie Indian chow.

Location:Over Bay of Bengal

First Impressions of Thailand

Even though I have only gotten to spend less that 12 hours in Thailand my first impressions are already built. I love the sticky feeling stepping off the plane. Warm, muggy, thick air. The smell immediately bring back great
great cellular memories - it's most likely the tropical slash and burn scent I knew in Brazil, but the association still brings a smile to my face. Looking forward to our return in a month or so.


Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Schalfen-Fliegen on Air China

Ambien - the only way to travel... at least when you a working with a 13 hour flight. It knocked us out for at least half the flight.

It's the super red eye. Leaving LA after midnight and running away from the sun keeps us in the dark the whole time with one exception, row 52. While the entire plane enjoyed lights off most of the trip, our rows spotlights were permanently shining on us and unfixable. Our section was also loaded with 2 year olds. Naturally, with the lighting, this made our row a kind of Chinese kinder care. Again, I appreciate the Ambien.

Side note: it has been forever since I've had airplane food. No new technological advances have improved this service. Both the 2am (LA time) dinner and the 4am (Bejing time) dinner suffered from no taste and where visually quite scary.

Location:Over the pacific

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Indigo's 11th Birthday

Early last summer we took Indigo to Strawberry Park Hotspring outside of Steamboat. At the time she decided she wanted to spend her birthday at in the beautiful hot pools in the mountains of northern Colorado with one of her friends. Wow - what a lucky dad!

We spent Saturday laying in the springs while light snowflakes glittered onto our bodies. The pools were cozy and we all jumped into the cold river every 10 minutes. I had never seen a moose in Colorado. There rummaging through the deep powder along the banks of the springs was a year old moose. She showed up intermiterently throughout the day. What an amazing way to spend my last time with my daughter before leaving her so long.

I dropped her off tonight at here moms. I don't know if I have even done anything harder in my live than say goodbye to my youngest daughter. M miss her terribly. I know she wil be with me every step I take. My tears have slowed down, but that knot in my throat is keeping me choked up. Happy Birthday baby - I love you!

Monday, November 29, 2010

Big Props to ViaWest

I just wrote an email to many friends that I work with at ViaWest letting them know how grateful I am that the company is allowing me to take 3 months off and maybe even more important, they want me to come back.   In an economy where people are begging for jobs,  I don't run into many people who work in the corporate world that can just step away completely for a full quarter.

I am fortunate that ViaWest is giving me this opportunity.   Thank you!

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Love You Moon

My dear friend, Moon, passed on late last night. She was  fighting for her life for a few days following a car accident that severely injured her husband and killed their unborn child.

When I heard about their child, I spent some time in the garden planting bulbs.  I felt like I was replanting the seed, the energy of life lost back into the universe so something new and beautiful can grow.

Today is a warm, sunny day.  I walked down to the river and enjoyed the radiating beauty of the afternoon.  I am so grateful that I was able to share life with you,  Moon.  Thank you for being...

Monday, November 22, 2010

Not My First Rodeo

In preparing for new trips one cannot help but take a peek back at the journeys of yore.  I have been blessed with some amazing opportunities to live and visit are the world.  My folks are the instigators, dare I use the word enablers, of much of my travels.

I grew up in Evergreen Colorado which is a beautiful forested mountain town in the foothills which was like living in a vacation as it was.  I spent the summer until I was 12 in norther Montana, primarily near Glacier Park or Flathead Lake.  Much of that time was spend camping and hiking.  There could be no greater childhood.

When I was 13 my parents took me on the "family vacation" through Europe.  In order to keep the words short in this post I will just say;  It was absolutely a super experience planting the seed of travel intrigue.  We hit most of Europe just short of Scandinavia and Greece.  (looking forward to getting there).  Counting the micro city state that are considered countries, which I proudly did, I think we hit 25 countries.  My memory may be exaggerating. 

I was sent to live on live for the summer on a small island just outside of Cannes, France.  That didn't suck.  The island had a mid-evil walled castle, once containing the man in the iron mask back in them historical days, that was now converted into a Euro-teen summer camp for French, German, Italian, and Dutch kids ages 15-18.  They were all sent to learn one of the following,  Sailing, Scuba diving, windsurfing, and of all things, modern dance which enlisted most of the exotic young girls that dominated the island.    Oh, the other class the camp taught was French.  That is what my parents signed me up for.  There were other things I learned that they did not sign up for.  Like a kid finds a candy store...

I kind of gambled at the prodding of my parents to see if I had the "je ne sais quoi" it takes to be a high school exchange student.  It's takes some combination of GPA, extra curricular endeavors (the positive kind),  writing a good "why I'd be a good exchange student" paper, personal charm and whatnot to be sent abroad and sponsored.  After 3 rounds of interviews without being dismissed (kind of like some reality competition) I was shocked to be selected to spend my senior year in Brazil.  They must put more weight on the charm part because I was not what you call a stellar student.  Again, I'll save space on this post by saying I could not be more grateful for my experience in Brazil.  Another experience that I have no doubt helped form me into who I am today.

After slipping through high school I planned went to visit my parents who now lived in Ankara, Turkey.  My plan was to stay a month and check out Turkey.  While there I was flipping through the Stars and Stripes newspaper (a paper for put out for the US military living abroad) when I came across and advertisement for the University of Maryland Munich Branch in southern Germany.  Rather than just visiting Turkey for a bit I ended up staying in Europe for 2 years, much to the chagrin of my girlfriend I left in Colorado.  Outside of the amazing experiences and meeting some of the greatest friend going to that school I also was able to hop about more of Europe including the freshly open eastern block.  1989-1991 was a crazy time to visit Berlin, Prague (still then Czechoslovakia), and Budapest.  We ran down to the Italian Riviera, Switzerland, and frequented Amsterdam on long weekends.  I even got 2 credits for going down to Egypt for 2 weeks of touring their epic history.  My collage years in Germany were the kind you get to look back on and just say, "what a lucky frinkin' guy I am!"

My collage graduation gift from my parents, which was eventually  from CU in 1994,  was a 5 week backpacking trip with my father through Costa Rica.  I love that country.  Still think I'd like to live there.  Oddly enough I went back with Asiana in 2008 to show the place off and were quickly relieved of our cash, passports, credit cards, bank cards, camera , travel books,  ipod...all the things you'd like to have with you for a comfortable vacation.  Lesson learned - always be careful of your shit it can be stolen behind a mask of complete kindness not just in the bad part of town.

And for over the past decade I've run down to Mexico, ahh Mexico, to Scuba and marinate in the sun at least once a year, sometime more often.   I use to own a little piece of Caribbean looks-like-a -corona-commercial beach... alas nothing lasts forever.

Of all the traveling I've done I feel like this one to Asia may involve the most movement and the most challenging communication.  Most other places I've been I could get the gist and at least fumble my way in communication.  I cannot even pronounce many of our destination spots much less have any clue about anything concerning general vocabulary and much much less about how to form a sentence.

I have been reluctant to leave many moment before take off from the comforts of Colorado.  I have never regretted any journeys.  Each has liberated some part of me.  What will this one bring?

Friday, November 19, 2010

Chokin' Up a Bit

As I am getting closer to take off time, I find the frequency of chokin' up and getting teary eyed is rising dramatically.

I often run off for a week or two many times during the year, but never have I been away from my daughter, Indigo,  for 3 months - a quarter of the year.  Of all the challenges I may face, missing my little sweetheart may nearly killing me.  Indigo will be turning 11 years old just days after I leave.   We will be spending the previous weekend at a condo in Steamboat enjoying Strawberry Park Hot Springs with her friend for an early birthday celebration and it will be the last time I will see her until spring.  (excuse me while I dry my eyes again)

I am so grateful that I have such an amazing little girl, mature beyond her years, that understands that daddy is called to live a life of adventure and excitement.   Even with her wholehearted blessings, I am going to miss her more that I've missed anybody in my life.  I love you Indigo!

This journey would never happen without the support of Indigo's mother, Tree, whom I dearly love and will miss as well.  As one of my closest friends and a great parental  co-conspirator, Tree is gracious enough to take on the role of a single parent for 3 months.  I cannot thank you enough.  (especially if you take care of our cat and plants too)

Although I will not miss working, I find there is a bond created with the people you work closely with.  Hell, we sometimes spend more of our waking life with them then anyone else.  I've been friends with my boss from even before I got him a job at Viawest 11 years ago.  I totally dig my team and will probably go through some weird withdrawal.  (hope I don't freak out and call into a video conference just to hear their voices.  Anyway, I'll be missing my peeps at Viawest.

My elder daughter, Blythe, lives outside LA working on getting here career started now that she's finished school at Boston U.  We already have a nutty communication schedule or should I say a lack of one.  We love each other and have a healthy friendship, but don't need to prop it up with much communication.  We can easily go 3 months without saying a word to each other as it is and we are totally comfortable with it.  Hell, if I didn't tell her about this trip, she would probably not notice I was checked out.  Even though we don't directly interact in each others lives there is something about being on the complete other side of the earth with a vast ocean separating us that seems like I will energetically miss Blythe.  (she will probably be the only person  reading this blog - ironically giving us the opportunity to be more in touch than normal)

My parents are very concerned for my well being on this trip and that is putting very lightly.  I receive articles nearly every other day outlining the dangers that await us at many of our destinations - even the ones you'd think they know I would never be involved in.  I'm not sure why I'm getting warned about growing problems with child prostitution in Cambodia.  I can't imagine they think that when I'm searching for a hooker in the back ally of some 3rd would country that I need to be conscious of checking the drivers license for their age.  I guess my point about my parent is... I will miss them very much as well  and at the same time I will be in constant communication with them via email to ease their worried minds.  Anytime I have some sort of interweb connectivity I will be updating then on my health and whereabouts.   Maybe I'll take pictures of the older prostitutes to cheer up my 82 year old father.

Finally, I am amazingly fortunate to be surrounded by and engaged in the lives of so many wonderful friends.  There are people in our community that I see weekly while other less often and I'm sure I will be holding them all in my heart as I trek around the other side of the earth.  Ever since I was a child I found my friendships to be my lifeblood. You are the reflection that allows me to understand myself and the greatest vehicle for growth... and just about the funnest frickin' crew of people in the world.  I know we will all be celebrating life together no matter where we are.  And with that I say - "so long suckers!"

Monday, November 15, 2010

What to Pack

Got to go lighter than ever. I always overpack. Most of those are for trips under two weeks and to places where I didn't need to tote if about. 3 months of living out of a bag. I have to remember that I can buy most anything I need.

I normally wear cotton loose things that all come from where Im heading. I could fly out in my under ware and buy everything in Bangkok including the Thai wrap pants which is what I'd bring if they it weren't shredded.

The only clothing I specifically bought for the trip is a pair of Keens for my feet. They don't really look as cool as I like, but comfort and versatility win. Thinking about throwing in my flipflops as well. I'll start with one pari of pants,Pacha Play Pants, that you can roll up to make shorts. My speedo trunks. A wrap/scarf. Avatar jacket. Couple shirts, probably from India originally. Three pair of socks and a ton of under ware.

Got a basic first aid kit, earplugs, headlamp, travel towel and sleep liner (to keep the bed bugs away), universal sink stopper, and drying cord. That whole bit is small and light. If this is all I bring then I will be traveling light.

I thought i might try and rough it as far as technology goes. My first purchase we a kindle digital book reader. I figured it would be better than lugging around five lonely planets and a bunch of other reading. Next I bought a new camera, Canon G10. My crappy point and click camera is getting repaired for the third time and I have no confidence it will not crap out on this trip. After, looking up flights, train schedules, hotel sites, and just good old basic information on the interweb, I realized I might save the that crazy time resource by purchasing an iPad. Along with my phone which I hope to not use except as my alarm clock I will be carrying a bunch of electric cables and chargers and shit.

I think getting the iPad is the reason I'll even be blogging.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010


Upon our meeting, Asiana and I always talked about our dreams of checking out parts of the world we have not seen.  I have been drawn to visit Southeast Asia, more specifically Cambodia for more than a decade.  Asiana, being a Yoga facilitator, body worker, and into Ayurveda, has held experiencing India close to her heart for a long time. 

A year ago we started taking action to make this journey manifest.  On December 6 2010 we are flying out of Colorado to travel for 3 months to India, Thailand, Cambodia, Laos, and Vietnam.  If we have the resources we will be attempting to sneak into Nepal and maybe kick it in Bali before heading home.

I'm starting this blog (my first blog ever) more as a journal of this journey rather than a broadcast for everyone.  (look what I can do!)  I'd like to track where I've been and what I did and since I cannot count on my memory to retain much these days it looks like blogging is the answer. 

Once again I seem short of understanding my intentions of this trip.  Just to "check shit out" seems pretty weak.  Yet, expecting some monumental transformation in my entire spiritual being is a bit assuming.  At this point my intentions are directed on how I hope to work with the entire movement.  I hope to be adventurous.  I hope to be accepting.  I hope to see the beauty in the small and mundane. I hope to be patient (not just act patient but feel patient).  I hope to be understanding, open minded, and graceful collaborating with my beloved travel partner, Asiana.  I hope I can remember to be grateful for the opportunity, grateful for the experience, and grateful for existence at every step of the journey.  In the end, I hope to win!