Dec 28, 2010

plan, plan. then plan more.

Posted by Mary |

We're broken down in Agra with the Ranthambhore blues.

And by that, I mean that a strike has closed all the borders into Rajasthan. Our train out to Sawai Madhopur tonight was cancelled. We have no idea when the borders will open again.

Since Plan A went to shit, we've enacted Plan B, which is an overpriced tatkal ticket from Agra straight to Udaipur tomorrow night. If that train is cancelled, we will consider Plan C. Go buy an actual India book and just start taking whatever trains are still open.

Dec 27, 2010

picture time

Posted by Mary |

We've got a little Internet time left in Agra, so here you go, Mom.

MNB (who will now officially called Beau, as My Old Beau is a weird acronym) and I enjoying both the Taj Mahal and the timer function on my camera.

agra and onward

Posted by Mary |

After the calm of Rishikesh, anything would seem hectic. But Agra was probably a pretty bad choice. This place is like tout central. Our train was about 4 hours late into the station, so our hotel pickup wasn't there.

MNB and I ended up hiring an autorickshaw driver for the day and visited the Taj Mahal, Agra Fort, etc. Things were going OK and we were even going to give him a nice tip, and then the stops at stores began. I offered him money to take us back to the hotel, which cut down on our number of stores but did not eliminate them entirely. This also cut down his tip. He should have done the "commission vs. big fat American tip" math. However, I am very good at listening to a sales pitch and then leaving, so we will not be bringing home any carved marble coasters or handwoven rugs.

I've heard rumors that milkmen are on strike and this is shutting down railways in Rajasthan. A few friends are apparently stuck in Bundi. We are hoping that our train to Sawai Madhopur leaves tomorrow night.

Dec 24, 2010

om away from home

Posted by Mary |

Delhi is in our rearview mirror. I'm not saying it was a bad city - there were definite highlights. But staying in Paharganj meant touts, lots of touts. They're like mosquitoes on the tundra. You are OK as long as you keep moving fast, but the moment you slow down they are all over you. I like to think that I taught MNB the fine art of ignoring people and shutting off sales pitches quickly.

Our exodus from the city did not go smoothly. Despite having train tickets that said New Delhi, our train was actually leaving from the Old Delhi station. One harrowing autorickshaw ride later, we made it to the right station. I'm not sure which my physical therapist would disapprove of more - my wearing a 30-ish pound pack all day after we checked out of our hotel, or my running for the train with said pack on. MNB and I had a less-than-stellar moment during all that, yelling at each other as we tried to find the right train. Then we yelled more as we tried to find the right car.

One top-of-the-line 1AC overnight train ride later, and we are spending Christmas Eve in Rishikesh. We splashed out and are paying Rs1650 for a room with a balcony overlooking the Lakshman Jhula suspension bridge and the Ganges. Through the open door, we can hear the sounds of the bazaar below. Monkeys cavort on the roofs. And MNB made the mistake of telling me that he kind of likes the sound of the Indian music pumping in the streets below.

After we checked in, I dragged MNB down the road until we found a massage place. Since there were both male and female massage therapists, we shared a room. Rs450 each got us more than an hour of abusive massage. I have never been so relaxed, nor has my hair ever been so greasy. I hit it twice with shampoo and am debating attacking it with Dr. Bronner's tomorrow.

We only have one more day of bliss here in the foothills of the Himalayas, and then we're off to Agra.

Dec 20, 2010

checking in: Delhi

Posted by Mary |

We arrived safely. Our taxi driver spent almost an hour trying to convince us our hotel is full. We finally made it there (on foot) to find that - surprise, surprise - it was not all full and they had our room.

It's very smoky and busy here. We've found breakfast and an internet cafe. Next up: getting a SIM card for our "new" phone (thanks, Tom!) and trying to grab some cheap salwar kameez for me. Wardrobe supply is running low.

Dec 18, 2010

...and we're off!

Posted by Mary |

All boxes on the "to-do" list have been checked. Paperwork is organized. In just 36 short hours, we'll be in Delhi.

Dec 17, 2010

justice ... with a side of karma

Posted by Mary |

The dirty rat bastard from two years ago struck again! We had our holiday party and gift exchange at work today.

And while I got some beer early on, Jim just couldn't resist his urge to steal it from me. Jerk. To my utter delight, it was stolen from him. And what did he end up with in the end?

A framed picture of our director. Justice!

Ironically, I was sitting next to him in the staff meeting when I observed that whoever got the portrait this year would likely have to bring it to their next job. Our department will regroup as a much smaller unit, but most of us will not be around after the contract is done.

Dec 16, 2010


Posted by Mary |

Dammit! Cuba isn't working.
This is not me waffling, BTW. This is the basic facts of the situation foiling me at every turn.
Just so you know.
Look, he's had a rough time of it since Jerry Maguire,
but he'll get parts again. The man won an Oscar!
You suck.
Nah, actually I'm pretty awesome. And you know it. :D

Yeah, so maybe my friend's plan to vacation in Cuba is falling apart, but all systems are go for my trip. On Saturday night, MNB and I are headed to the airport for the long journey to India. We'll be there for a month, hopefully avoiding most of the cold winter weather in Fairbanks.

Of course the trip is well timed. On Tuesday, my entire department got laid off. Good times, right? It wasn't unexpected - most of our funding (like 95%) came from a contract that expires May 31. And it doesn't look like the contract will be renewed. So we pretty much all have jobs until May 31, they just gave us 6 months notice.

We first heard about this possibility back in July. And since I'm a planner, I went into overdrive. All additional principal payments on my mortgage and all investing came to a halt as I began moving all extra money to my emergency fund. And I'm confident I'll be able to find another job in my field. So I've stopped tossing around insane ideas like renting out my house for two years and joining the Peace Corps.

The trip to India will be a welcome respite from the office. People are somewhat chipper now, but I can see the mood growing bleak. And we'll be covering quite a bit of ground as we travel mostly in Rajasthan. For perspective, it's like starting in Chicago, then going to Grand Rapids, down to Indianapolis, out to Kansas City, onward to Omaha and then back to Chicago. Or for more visual people, it's like we're traveling around Colorado, New Mexico, Arizona and Utah. It's not necessarily a huge area, but you must factor in bad roads and lots of train rides.

We'll try to check our e-mail occasionally and will update the blog as time and Internet access permit. But you can pretty much imagine that most of the trip will be like this:

Poor MNB still doesn't believe me when I tell him I *will* sing this every time we get on a train.