Nov 29, 2011

om (and all that other stuff)

Posted by Mary |

One of these days, I will finish posting all the tales from India. Since it’s been almost a year, those stories are long overdue. Instead of glorious stories of vomit both real and fake, I’m checking in with an update.

Beau and I decided to spend Thanksgiving with family. The nearest family we could find was 10 hours away, but that didn’t deter us. We took a quick overnight rest break in Anchorage, and arrived in Homer around 1 p.m. on Thanksgiving Day. His father and stepmother built a house there and finally moved into it in the fall. One of his sisters was there with her family when we arrived, and we had the traditional holiday meal.

On a side note: I’m not sure if I just try too hard to be an iconoclast, but the trappings and finery of holiday traditions bore me. Given the chance, I try to ignore them. I tried to avoid Christmas by going to New Zealand one year, though we ended up at a strange hostel party regardless. That same year, I also hosted Bollywood Thanksgiving, as a way to honor the other Indians. We made a Ganesh in our Lite Brite coffeetable. And last year, India proved an excellent way to dodge Christmas, as no one even blinked an eye on December 25.

While in Homer, I did my best to support the local economy by visiting a winery, brewery and meadery. It was a trifecta of alcoholism. Beau and I also met up with an old friend from Fairbanks for a drink, and watched far too much television. There’s a reason why I don’t want cable. On the drive back to Anchorage, I picked out the spot for our dream retirement house and we discussed architectural features and long-range timelines for making retirement happen.

On Sunday, I had a hot, sweaty date with a yoga studio. I spent 90 minutes in a dimly lit room, contorting my body and sweating more that I thought possible. There’s a reason why that studio has showers for its students. The class was the culmination of a personal 30-day yoga challenge I had set for myself. For a solid month, I did some form of yoga every day. I had my regular hot yoga class through UAF. I attended the Saturday community yoga group. I dropped in on yogalates, Kundalini and restorative classes at a local studio. I practiced at home. I stayed consistent.

One doesn’t just enter into 30 days of yoga lightly, and I had a goal in mind. I was testing out the waters, and I decided to take the plunge. This spring, I will be getting my yoga teacher certification. It’s not going to be easy: The nearest training is in Anchorage, so I will be driving down there for 9 weekends spread out over 4 months. So on top of the cost of certification, there will be gas and hotel expenses. Still, I’m confident this is a good move for me.

Nov 9, 2011

weekends and winnings

Posted by Mary |

I got an extra hour over the weekend. It's not that I'm a time-traveler or that the universe likes me best. Everyone who observes daylight savings also got an extra hour, but I'm pretty sure most people I know used it to sleep. Or play Minecraft. Not naming any names. (Beau)

After popping out of bed all bright and chipper at 8 a.m. (technically, 7 a.m.) on Sunday, I had to figure out what to do with myself. When you're a morning person living with a night person, you spend a lot of time figuring out what to do with yourself. I'm certain that our relationship will improve once we buy a bigger house so that I can move around in it without making too much noise in the mornings. But on Sunday morning, I decided to mosey down to the fabric store and buy myself some supplies. Once I was suitably equipped, I returned home and set myself to learning to knit.

I sew. There's no secret there. I made my own wedding dress (technically, I made two of them). I sew my own clothes frequently. But knitting is not a skill I ever acquired as a youngster. And while it's true that we'll be able to steal lots of sweaters after the apocalypse, eventually the never-ending supply of haute couture will, in fact, end. And then what will we wear? So I was going to learn how to knit.

It couldn't be too hard. I mean, I had bought a book. And yarn. And needles. Easy-peasy. Sort of. But line drawings in books don't accurately convey the complexities of the knit or the purl stitches, so I turned to the Internet. A few YouTube videos, and I was good to go. I seemed to have picked up some pretty advanced techniques, because after just a few rows, my 20 stitches had become 23. I'm now working on what is sure to be the world's ugliest scarf. Every time I decide to try a new pattern, I just hop right in. It's like I have yarn-induced ADD. On the bright side, my husband is contractually obliged to wear anything I make him.

The "winning" in the title has nothing to do with knitting, however. Yesterday I got a suspicious e-mail telling me I was a winner. Instead of being from a Nigerian widow, it was actually from the writer of a finance blog I read. A few weeks ago, the blog hosted a contest, and I idly posted a comment to enter. Ka-ching. $50 Amazon gift card. They already sent me the code, so now I'm carefully assessing my multiple wishlists, trying to figure out how to best spend this windfall. (Where was this two weeks ago when I ordered a bunch of books?)

I'm pretty sure one of the things I order will be this book. I've been half-heartedly meaning to give canning a try, and surely buying a book will propel me into action. (See above, re: knitting) Plus, canning is just another way to build that post-apocalyptic survival skill set. As I told a friend,

"Lavender plum compote" will be worth a lot of bullets
when the only food we have left is pilot bread.

Oct 4, 2011

picture this

Posted by Mary |

I've never been one for pictures, probably because I've never really liked what I see in them. You can call it typical female angst if you'd like. After all, isn't the yo-yo dieter a female stereotype? Are women forever doomed to be Cathy, eating chocolate ice cream and yelling "Ack!" at the scale? Regardless of how active I've been in my life, I've still never been entirely pleased with the way I look. In high school I endured a traditional upper-middle class eating disorder and still felt I was fat. In college, my activity level dropped off dramatically and I took a shine to carbs, thus altering my physique. Even getting an intestinal parasite in Central America in my early 20s didn't do the trick. Oh, sure, I dropped to around 110 pounds and you could see my ribs along the line of my sternum, but still I felt fat.

Partly, I blame my father. It's not that he ever told me I was fat or made me feel bad about myself. To the contrary, he's always been very accepting of me. However, he did give me half of my genetics. And in the gene pool lottery, I somehow missed out on my mother's skinny legs and instead inherited the functional Haley thighs. Yes, I also lucked out and got a small waist, and I've certainly read the research telling me that pear-shaped women are statistically much healthier than apple-shaped women. But still, when I look at pictures, I zero in on the lower half of my body and sigh.

As you may know, my lower half caused me even more consternation last year when I tore my ACL. I went from being a very active dancer and hitting the gym about four times a week to laying in bed and watching four season of Star Trek: Enterprise. I drowned my sorrows in cookies and went into the hospital for two procedures to try to get my knee functional again. I endured more than a year of physical therapy (which my insurance is still refusing to pay for, but that's another story). I was getting stronger, but then I got laid off, went to India and ate my weight in paneer curries for a month. Needless to say, after months of inactivity, I don't really like to look at pictures from India. My goal for the trip was to get Delhi belly and get skinny. I was only 50% successful.

So, without much fanfare, I decided it was time to Do Something About It. It's worth noting that many times in the past I decided to do something about it. But this was different. This time I decided to really Do Something About It. And I did. And I have been Doing Something About It for months. This week marked a milestone. A milestone best represented with a graph.

The graph you see represents my real weight vs. the weight listed on my driver's license. You can clearly see the slow and steady upward creep of my weight since I arrived in Alaska. You can see the point in 2008 when I had to renew my license and decided to be a little less dishonest about my weight. And you can also see how the two numbers never matched up. But you can also see that this week, for the first time in almost a decade, I weigh LESS than my driver's license. Less than the number I made up a few years ago to soothe my vanity.

This is cause for celebration, right? Like with a piece of rich gooey cake! Just kidding - I ordered new shoes instead. And I finally feel ready to tackle my stash of fabric and vintage patterns that I've been hesitant to sew for more than a year now.

And the kicker to all this is that even as my weight has been dropping, my activity level has stayed low. I think the last time I actually exercised was July 29. I've been pretty busy with dance, but I don't really think that counts as exercise. My theory is that all the stress of renovating our house and trying to plan a wedding reception was helping with the weight loss. Yay, stress!

So maybe I don't like looking at the pictures from India. (And maybe I'm trying to only put up good ones of me here.) But I do like pictures like this.

I had to blur the backgrounds to hide the shameful fact
that our house is STILL not finished. How many calories
can I burn mudding and taping the walls?

And Beau and I have our tickets to Hawaii for this winter. We'll be island-hopping for three weeks. I'm sure to like some of the pictures from that trip.

Aug 26, 2011

stressed? me?

Posted by Mary |

Our wedding reception is in 8 days. The wedding reception that we will be holding in our backyard. The backyard of the house that was supposed to have two simple renovation projects this summer. The house that currently has only half of the walls up in the living room, and a bathroom that has a bathtub in it (but not hooked up) and nothing else.

My husband is 350 miles away. Still.
Thanks to a sharp utility knife on Monday, I have one functional hand and 5 stitches in my left hand.
And somehow I have to finish a LOT of the house projects on my own. Because Beau (bless his pea-picking heart) has lofty beliefs that he will arrive Monday night and the house will be completely ready by Friday.

Oh, and I should probably find time to make all the desserts for the reception. And there's that 3-hour workshop and performance this weekend. But I'm not stressed at all.

Aug 15, 2011

checking in

Posted by Mary |

Google does not make it easy to change your name. This is the problem with picking a username like jane.doe instead of something like teddy_bear1234. Since my name is in my username, when I changed my last name, I had to set up entirely new accounts. I'm going to have to start sharing access to this blog with myself so I can get in here easily to post.

I'm tired. Home renovations have worn me down. Beau is coming into town this weekend, and we are going to spend 4 solid days working on the house. Our wedding reception is being held here at the beginning of September. It's time to get some stuff done. Right now there is nothing in the bathroom but walls and a floor. The living room needs drywall everywhere.

I'm taking a rare night off from work on the house. I investigated the linen cabinet a bit, but it looks like I'm going to have to remove it entirely. I don't feel like starting that project. It's 8:30 pm, and the skies are a clear blue with lots of sun. I want to get on my bike and go for a ride, but I'm too tired. I haven't ridden in weeks, and I've been slacking on running the stairs for a few weeks, too. I need to get back in the game.

Jul 24, 2011

heard on the bike trail

Posted by Mary |

I'm not sure which was worse today:
Deciding to eat a prune instead of a cookie
or saying that I can't buy more shoes
because I just got a new lawn mower.
--Me. Getting
old sucks.

I know it's shocking that I posted more the blog whilst abroad than I have since my return. If I could get pictures off my camera (note to self: buy card reader), I could show you a progress report of the summer. Of bike miles ridden and things torn out of my walls. Of things put back in my walls, and other things torn out of other walls. There's an empty spot in my bathroom where a tub used to be. It now rests against the fence outside, and I'm trying to figure out how best to put in a new crossbeam for bathroom floor support so that the rest of the bathroom work can progress. I've left the toilet hooked up in a doorless room stripped to the studs. It's still slightly better than an outhouse, so we've got that advantage over many Fairbanksans.

Partly my work has been stymied by the lack of a truck. We hired someone to install the windows, and he was kind enough to dispose of the bathroom walls, which had ended up on my back porch. But getting stuff to my house hasn't gone as well. Tomorrow I plan to rent a U-Haul truck and go grab the rest of what I need. I may not be able to start until I get that crossbeam in place, but at least I'll have everything here.

I've started a massive purge of my closet. I've got 27 dresses and 19 shoes ready to go away. I'm debating using them to barter help with construction. I figure they're used, but the value is actually higher because they're curated from my personal collection. It feels liberating to be getting rid of some of my stuff, shedding some of my baggage. My life isn't getting too minimalist, though as 28 pairs of shoes remain.

I don't know if it's the getting old bit or the (sadly sub-par) Indian food that Nancy, the twins and I biked out to tonight, but I feel the itchy feet again. I've got the urge to travel, to see a new place. We still need to book tickets for our honeymoon, and maybe that will help me. Or maybe not. Maybe I need to crash a wedding in El Salvador this winter or show up on my friend's new doorstep in Jakarta suddenly. I just feel the urge to be in a crowded marketplace that jars all my senses.

Or maybe I should just rebuild my shower.

Jun 30, 2011

Agra, or Arrrgh-gra

Posted by Mary |

Agra is a great and noble city. It is home to the Taj Mahal, one of the most famous monuments in the world. Nearly everybody who goes to India will visit Agra. And I am here to tell you the truth: Agra kind of sucked a lot.

It's not really Agra's fault. It can't help being the biggest tourist trap in the country. And we only planned to spend two days there. But as John Lennon once said, "Life is what happens when you're busy making other plans." And so it was that when we got to Agra, we found out that the Gujjars had gone on strike and closed down all transport into and around Rajasthan. They were literally sitting on the roads and the train tracks. Our plans to go to Ranthambhore? Train was canceled. Our hastily concocted backup plans to leave the day after we were supposed to leave? Train was canceled. Our harrowing escape came at great personal, karmic expense. More on that later.

We arrived in the evening and made our way to the hotel. Tourists Rest House. Good place. I highly recommend it. The next day, we met our rickshaw driver from the previous evening. We had agreed on a set price to hire him for the day to take us to various places in Agra. And thus I present the Agra picture porn:

The Taj Mahal. Rs750 each to get in. Overpriced.
Our hotel was less than that. Go EARLY to avoid the massive crowds.

Pretty Taj bits.

Agra Fort self portrait.

Cool carved screens.

This is what you call "finding the light."

Faded beauty (the building, not me).

This was an off-the-beaten-track place Manish brought us.

Overall, I was pleased with hiring him for the day. Until the end of the day, when we suddenly found ourselves being brought to shops. Beau quickly learned to follow my lead when I started begging poor and heading for the door. Manish earned his commissions, but lost any tip that we may have been inclined to give.

The next day, we checked out of the hotel and went to the Taj Nature Walk for the afternoon. Naturally we saw Manish as we passed the Taj entrance.

For Rs100 each, the Taj Nature Walk was a good way to pass the time. Sure, you only saw the Taj in the distance, but there were no crowds of people. The few kids that bothered us there quickly figured out that I really wasn't going to give them chocolate or money, and they left us alone. We spent a few hours wandering the paths and startling large, hooved animals.

Then we went back to the hotel, grabbed our bags and went to the train station for our journey to Ranthambhore and tigers! Except remember that little Gujjar strike? No trains were running. Back to the hotel, check into another room, find some tatkal tickets for the next day, with a new plan to skip Ranthambhore and head straight to Udaipur.

The next day we woke up, checked out of the hotel and decided to kill some time by taking a cycle rickshaw around the city. Pedal power is not only cheaper, but slower. We stopped at a travel agent to inquire about bus tickets to Udaipur. These were normally around Rs300. They quoted us Rs600 for a seat and Rs800 for a sleeper. Since we had the tatkal tickets, we went back to the hotel, grabbed our bags, and went to the train station. No trains were running. We hopped a rickshaw back to the travel agent, but they told us the bus was full. Back to the hotel, check into another room, have a small fit.

The next morning, Beau went back to the travel agent, who quoted him Rs1000 for a seat. He got it down to Rs900, then bought two tickets. We had time to kill, so we went to Pizza Hut for lunch. We also documented some hideous wiring.

Overhead wires. I kind of expected them to look this way.

The open box of shitty connections did not look very safe.

On the way out, we ran into Manish again. Small town. And then we got into the rickshaw of destiny.

Up next: The Great Escape, Or How We Got To Udaipur

Jun 13, 2011

an update

Posted by Mary |

Things have been busy since the wedding! Beau and I had less than two weeks together before we headed down to Anchorage. His best friend was getting married at the end of May, so I took an extra-long weekend from work and we drove down. At the end of the weekend, I flew back to Fairbanks, leaving Beau to work down there all summer.

And me? I plan on keeping busy at home and traveling. I already have two trips to Anchorage scheduled for the summer, and Beau came up for a visit last weekend too. I am trying to schedule a time for someone to come out and install the rest of my windows. Once that is done, I need to have him resolve the bathroom window situation, then the bathroom remodeling odyssey will begin. I'm tearing the room down to the studs and starting over again. Also on the plate for this summer: a simple wall project. I just need to tear down the interior walls, rewire, reinsulate and hang new walls. Easy, right?

One good thing about all these plans is that it supports my love of buying power tools. My parents got me a drywall screwgun for my birthday, and I picked up a double bevel miter saw (with laser marker) last week. I've had my eye on another set of tools as well. I keep hoping it will go on sale for Father's Day. Home Depot must hate dads, though, because it's still full price.

To add to the summer of madness, I will be busy with monthly dance workshops, up to 5 hourlong dance classes each week, plus regular rehearsals and performances. I've been asked to take part in another burlesque show this summer, but I honestly don't see how I'm supposed to fit it all in.

Oh yeah, I also need to plan our wedding reception and honeymoon. The reception is in September, and the honeymoon will be in December.

May 16, 2011


Posted by Mary |

Beau and I went and got ourselves wedding-ed. And then we had some fun with the photographs.

More pictures to come, when our super-awesome photographer gets us the rest of them!

Apr 18, 2011

India: Relaxing in Rishikesh

Posted by Mary |

Our journey out of Delhi and on to Rishikesh did not exactly get off to an auspicious start. Despite having tickets that said New Delhi Station, we soon found out we were actually departing from Old Delhi Station. We went running for a rickshaw, and then stopped to bargain the price down. Our driver flew across Delhi, depositing us at the correct station. Of course, getting to the station is only half the battle. We had to get through security and find our train on the sign, then run to the platform. But no train was there. So Beau ran back, then we ran together out one exit and through a different security checkpoint to a different track. This was the right track, and the train was there, but now we needed to figure out where our berth was. Since we still foolishly operated under the assumption that trains ran on time, we were certain departure was imminent. So we ran down to one end of the train, then turned around and ran back down to the other end. Being calm, rational adults, we yelled at each other the entire time. Finally we found the 1A cars and a conductor gave us our berth number. We settled into our first train trip. We had opted for the highest class, which netted us a room with two beds and a door that closed and locked. Fancy-schmancy.

When we got to Haridwar in the wee hours of the morning., the station did not have any retiring rooms available, so we sat in the first-class lounge to relax for a bit. A few hours later, we set out to wander the streets, with a goal of finding food and the bus station. Food was easy to find. The bus station was easy to find. The right bus was not so easy to find. Rather than having a ticket window, you pay on the bus. I was trying to read the bus signs to find one that said Rishikesh. In retrospect, we should have just waited. Basically, as a bus pulls out of the station, someone stands in the door and yells "RishikeshRishikeshRishikeshRishikesh." People run and jump on the moving bus. And at some point, someone comes around and takes your money. Hindsight is 20/20.

We didn't have a game plan when we got to Rishikesh, other than stay on the far side of the river. When we got there, Beau picked out the Jaipur Hotel. The room was a bit pricey, but the view couldn't be better!

At the end of the suspension bridge was a little plaza where touts pounced on you, trying to henna your hands, sell you cheap bindis and trinkets. There were also several shops selling music, and during the day, they blasted that music at top volume. With our balcony door open, the sound of the market below and the music drifted into our room.

I had a plan. And that plan involved massage. We wandered through the market until I found a place where we could get 90-minute massages for Rs450. Beau and I went into a room divided by a thin curtain. Massages in India are a bit more hands-on than in America. Let's just say my pectorals were soothed. At the end of the massage, she filled her hands up with oil and went to town on my scalp. I was a hot, greasy mess when we left. I lathered up twice with shampoo, and was considering attacking my head with Dr. Bronner's.

The next day was Christmas. Beau woke me up with a gift. He had snuck out while I was showering to buy me a bronze Ganesh for my collection. I had given him his gift (zombie shooting targets) before we left America. We went for a long walk down the road toward some of the ashrams. Rishikesh is noted as a yoga center. This is where the Beatles came to study. We didn't have much time here, because we had to head back to Haridwar for the night. We had an early morning train to Agra!

The hotel in Haridwar was easily the worst place we stayed the entire trip. And not the cheapest, either. But it was close to the train station, and we were leaving at 6 a.m. Next up: Agra, Agra, and more Agra.

Assorted pictures from this leg of the trip:

Rickshaws are fun and deadly. Also, a great way to hone
your bargaining skills. Nahin. Tiis rupees!

Beau greatly dislikes this picture. Thus, I greatly like it.

Turnabout is fair play.

Apr 4, 2011

India: Delhi Days

Posted by Mary |

Yes, this is an India post. Yes, we got back from India more than two months ago. No more needs to be said on this matter.

We packed for the trip Mary-style. I stuffed Beau's pack inside of my pack. And then I stuffed everything we were bringing for the month into this Matryoshka-pack. When all was said and done, it weighed 34 pounds. On a related note, we did not pay for any luggage on any of our flights.

By the time we got to Delhi, we were pretty tired. But one does not simply fly to Delhi and catch a cab to their hotel. No, no! First, you find a prepaid cabbie who says he knows where your hotel is. Then, once you have paid at the booth and left the airport, he says he does not know this location and must call for directions. Then he hands you the cell phone and someone on the other end tells you the hotel is all full. Big snow in Europe. No planes go out, so people not leave. No room in hotel. My Hindi is limited, but I heard him call us crazy as I sat in the back seat of the taxi and kept repeating, "No, we're going to our hotel. No, take us to our hotel." Instead, they took us to a rather specious looking establishment where a "travel agent" was quick to claim that he did not know of our hotel. When I kindly pointed out his computer and told him to look it up, he managed to connect me on the phone to someone who said the hotel was full. I badgered another address out of this person, then returned to the cab. I sat down in the back, crossed my arms and just kept repeating, "B Block. B Block." Our cab driver got mad and decided to drop us off in the middle of Pharganj to teach us a lesson. Too bad we could see our hotel's neon sign from the street corner he dumped us on.

Needless to say, the hotel was not full. The room was questionable but cheap. We later drew a line along the border of the watermark on the wall to watch its progress. The television didn't work, the showerhead fell off, the computers in the Internet cafe were reportedly all broken, and the restaurant was closed. But it was cheap!

You know what does make me happy? Indian set breakfast. Stuffed paratha, dahi and achar. (That's bread, yogurt curd and pickled vegetables.) The hotel next door to us had a nice restaurant we visited most days for breakfast.

Sunny breakfast on the rooftop. It's the little things that make Alaskans so happy in the wintertime.

We spent some of our time wandering the streets of Pharganj, looking for Indian clothing. These turned out to be some of the best clothing bargains we found on the trip. Despite the questionable quality of Hotel Saina, I thought that Pharganj was a good base for exploring Delhi. We could reach the metro by walking 5 minutes in one direction, and the New Delhi train station was 10 minutes in the other.

We braved the metro several times. It must be said that the Indian metro is insane. I'm no slouch when it comes to public transport. But this was utter chaos. People were pushing to get out of the cars while the waiting crowds were pushing to get in. At the other end of the metro, we found our first McDonald's. Behold the infamous (and tasty) Chicken Maharajah Mac.

On our final day in Delhi, we loaded up our packs and checked out of the hotel for a day of sightseeing before an evening train.

First stop: the Red Fort.

Inside one of the museums, we found this picture of the Komagata Maru. Not the Kobayashi Maru. Yes, even in India, I find ways to make Star Trek jokes. You're welcome.

After the fort - lunch! I have a fondness for American fast food chains in foreign countries, so when we saw a Subway, it was a no-brainer.

Actually, there could have been brains involved. Just no beef or pork. This is why I play vegetarian in most foreign countries.

We visited the Jantar Mantar. This great architectural and astronomical monument was also home to an incident involving ripped pants, which necessitated a change in a public bathroom. It was fouler that you can possibly imagine.

Beau snapped this photo when I emerged from the bathroom. I then told him we would never speak of this incident again.

Being a nerd, Beau enjoyed the geeky side of the Jantar Mantar.

No, I'm not trying to climb up the sundial. Certainly not while wearing a knee brace, and definitely not with a heavy pack on!

We had been curious about some of the items for sale in shops. For instance, to my American eyes, this guy appeared to be selling condoms. Since India is not the cleanest of countries and people just tend to drop their trash wherever they are standing, we solved this mystery when I picked up an empty packet one day. Verdict: individual pouches of chewing tobacco.

And that was it for Delhi. Next up: A few wrong turns on the way to Rishikesh.

Mar 22, 2011

birthday boy

Posted by Mary |

Everyone should date a nerd. Because there is nothing more fun than buying a nerd a tech-y toy and watching him try to decide between returning it to upgrade or getting to play with it NOW.

I knew Beau wanted a Kindle. He'd been talking about one since India. His desire started really ramping up a few weeks before his birthday, and I had to talk him down off the ledge. See, he wanted the Kindle DX because the screen is bigger. And because it costs twice as much. I kept pointing out that Amazon wasn't putting out software updates for the DX anymore. And then I bought him the regular Kindle.

It only took him a few minutes to decide that he had to open the Kindle NOW.

I also got him grapefruit spoons and am taking him out for sushi, but that's not nearly as fun a story. It doesn't involve technology angst.

Feb 13, 2011

a new record

Posted by Mary |

Long time, no blog. And big updates, too!

As you can tell, we survived India and returned to Alaska. The first weekend back proved especially exciting. After not getting more than 15 hours of sleep in total since Monday, I finally went to sleep on Saturday. And there I remained, dead to the world, until Monday night, when I roused myself enough to request medical assistance. One quick ambulance ride to the hospital later, and I found myself hooked to an IV. Diagnosis: Acute dehydration. The result of not eating or drinking for about 60-ish hours. On the bright side, I weighed myself when I got home, and I had lost around 8 pounds in the process! Not the best way to achieve sustainable weight loss, though.

The next two weeks were a whirlwind at work, which concluded with a "Good Luck, Mary!" cake. Yes, I was offered the position I interviewed for from our hotel room in Mount Abu. Obviously I accepted. It was bittersweet to leave ARSC, because I truly didn't want to leave. It was one of the best jobs I'd ever had, with some of the greatest co-workers. However, the DoD contract was gone, and I knew I had to protect myself financially.

Last week, I began my new job as UAF's Intellectual Property and Commercialization Coordinator. So far, the job has consisted of trying to get the office set up. No one has been officially working in the office for some time since it was shifted from one part of UAF to another, so I am the first official employee and am working with the people who had been trying to take care of the IP issues in addition to their regular jobs. To add to the problem, we have set up the office in an off-campus building, in a space not previously used by UAF. This means no phones, no wired network connections. It took me three tries to get a key that actually works in the front door. We're still trying to figure out how much more furniture we need for the office.

Part of the work in setting up the office is moving all the old files from the previous space into the new one. On Tuesday, I got some help and we loaded up 8 boxes of stuff and moved them. After emptying all the boxes, I put them back in my car on Wednesday for Round 2. When I arrived at the building and tried to grab the boxes from the backseat of my car I did something to my thumb. Please don't ask what. I'm not even sure and it's all a blur. All I know is that I quickly found myself staring at my left thumb, which now had half of the nail mostly ripped off. In shock, I got in my car and started driving home to care for it. Just before my road, the shock wore off and the pain kicked in, and I turned around and drove myself to the emergency walk-in clinic. After more than 6 years working at UAF, it took me only 2.5 days in my new job to file a worker's comp claim. Lovely. Fingernail stuff kind of freaks me out, so I'll just say that I will be wearing a splint on my thumb to protect it until the injured area grows out.

Beau and I headed down to Anchorage after work on Friday. 5:30 departure + 6-hour drive = very tired when we got here. He's been busy moving stuff from Kulis to the new base, while I have engaged in some retail therapy. When he's done today, he has to fix a server that blew up, and then we'll be on the road again. Unlike our December trip, we did not encounter any raging blizzards on the drive down. Plus, this time we have random Rajasthani music cds to keep us entertained.

Jan 20, 2011

home at last

Posted by Mary |

I'd forgotten how comfortable a real mattress can be. The cat is not snubbing me for abandoning her ... yet. She may change her mind in the days to come.

Now it is time for sleep.

Jan 19, 2011

math hurts

Posted by Mary |

Rough calculations have shown that, relatively speaking, we began the trip home around 7 p.m. on Monday. That puts us currently around the 48 hour mark for travel time. We're still in Seattle, trying to get on a plane to Fairbanks.

heard on a train

Posted by Mary |

Did you just get all Indian?
It took a while to come around.
-Beau, who had just dropped
litter on the train car floor
Baby! Don't get like this right
before you come back to my house!

You'd think that once we actually got out of India, our travel woes would lessen. But you'd be wrong.

We made it through a 7-hour train ride, a flight that involved going through exactly 5 security checks (sadly, I'm not joking), and even made it through customs. We managed to do this entire trip without paying for a single checked bag. All was going well.

I am sitting in a bar at Sea-Tac, nursing a dirty martini and shooting dirty looks at what was supposed to be our gate. Our flight to Anchorage has been delayed by many hours due to a broken plane. This will cause us to miss our connecting flight to Fairbanks. I'm uncertain as to when Beau, his new sitar and I will be able to arrive at home.

At least there's free WiFi.

Jan 16, 2011

jai ho! um, i mean jaipur!

Posted by Mary |

Debating fabrics. They were pretty, but not Rs 60 per meter pretty.

Is any journey possible in India without complications? We left Pushkar on Friday morning. By the time we found a bus to Ajmer, it was standing-room-only. Add a dose of some road construction, and the 20-minute journey took closer to an hour. In Ajmer, we hopped on our train to Jaipur. Since it was a 2-hour daytime trip, we were in sleeper class in a side berth. We used the upper berth for stuff storage and the lower berth for sitting.

Upon arrival, I attempted to fend off rickshaw-wallahs and call the hotel for free pickup, but their driver was not around. So we took a pre-paid and got to the hotel, only to find out that the previous guests had decided to extend their stay. The owner had already booked us into a deluxe room across the street, which he paid for. We did manage to get settled into our hotel on Saturday morning, then headed off to the bazaars.

Jaipur is known as a city for shopping, and it's certainly true that there's lots of goods to be bought. But the goods I want are apparently a bit more elusive. Forget all these crisp, clean stores with their shiny new earring in clean sterling silver settings. I want grimy old jewelry made of questionable metal content. Forget the "Indian costume" stores with their sequins instead of embroidered mirrors and their stiff saris. I want a soft, silky sari with a beautifully decorated pallu.

We went along Bapu and Johari Bazaars, then dove into the tangle of back alleyways, collecting business cards and making notes as we went. I found one ring that haunts me, but I do not recall which shop. If I find it again, it will be a sign from Ganesha to buy it, no matter the price.

Tomorrow is our last full day here. I need to go find the Sikh fabric wholesaler I have negotiated prices with and pick up material for dance costumes. He only sells in 20-meter lengths. We need to see one last palace. Eat one last Indian dinner.

Jan 12, 2011

pushkar nights

Posted by Mary |

I am falling into the rhythms of Pushkar. We eat late, sleep late, wake up in time for class. Beau goes to study sitar while I meet up with Raki at Colleena's dance school. The Shakti School of Dance is located in the Old Rangi temple. Up on the second floor, I study Khalbelia gypsy dance every afternoon.

In a strange twist, three of my dance friends from Alaska are also here in Pushkar. They are doing intensive Odissi, which my knee would not tolerate. But they join me in gypsy dance class, and afterward we wander the alleys in search of a quiet spot for chai and lassi.

Beau has rented a moped while we are here. It is pink, much to his chagrin. I sing "Barbie Girl" in his ear as we scoot down the road as fast as it will allow. We are leaving soon for Jaipur. I have one more dance class, one more day to wander the markets in this holy town before returning to the chaos that is a large Indian city.

I've tried to put off most of my shopping, but am still toting around a cotton bandhani sari, a set of full gypsy bangles for both arms, various items and gifts for the troupe, and an ancient display costume I talked out of a shopkeeper for Rs300. It will need a bit of work to be wearable. I still need to find a tailor in Jaipur to get a Rajasthani outfit made.

Jan 9, 2011

checking in: pushkar

Posted by Mary |

Beau and I have developed a real knack for picking buses that dump us on the side of the road, many kilometers from where we need to be. We ended up in Ajmer, 10 km from the bus stand where we needed to be. One Rs 9 bus ticket each, and we were in Pushkar. We arrived a day early, so our room wasn't ready yet and we had to stay in a nicer one. It was easily the best shower of the trip so far: great water pressure and plenty of hot water.

Naturally my stomach is starting to feel a bit disturbed again, but I hope it will go away quickly this time. Beau has gone to look for a motorcycle or moped to hire, and I am getting ready to head to Shakti School of Dance for my first Khalbelia class. There are also daily Odissi stepping classes, but I don't know if my knees could take the rigor of that.

Jan 8, 2011

on the road (again)

Posted by Mary |

Beau and I are enjoying a rooftop breakfast of toast with jam and chai. We've checked out of our room in Jodhpur and will be heading for the bus soon, on our way to Pushkar via Ajmer.

We wandered the bazaar last night in search of a bit of shopping. Although the silk bandhani saris were gorgeous, I held myself back and just got a cotton one. How many saris does a white girl living in Alaska need? (At least four, but that's not the point.)

I also found a nice fixed price jewelry store. It was good to just shop without having to haggle. Since the shopkeepers didn't see dollar signs due to the fixed price scheme, I could browse in peace.

Beau just referred to some of the India street cats as looking like Snake Plissken. This is why I love him.

filler post

Posted by Mary |

As Beau just linked to my blog from his Facebook page, I thought I'd better write a quick post. This way his friends and family won't start off by reading about diarrhea and vomit.

We spent today touring the Mehangarh, and then spent a few hours flying over the fort on ziplines. A little overpriced, perhaps, but totally worth it. We are not enthralled with this city, especially after a rickshaw driver wanted an outrageous Rs 130 to take us back to our hotel from the fort. We have booked bus tickets for tomorrow to Ajmer, which is the town next to Pushkar. We plan to spend 5 days there studying dance (me), playing sitar (Beau) and trying to rent a motorcycle (both of us).

And now that a happy picture and post is done, feel free to read all about my digestive system.

Jan 7, 2011

rhymes with smelly

Posted by Mary |

Ah, Udaipur. How I miss you, with your pretty
rooftop restaurant and Thumbs Up and quiet streets.


Ah Delhi belly. We did not make it out of Mount Abu as planned, but spent another night there instead. It wasn't Beau this time - it was me. I started feeling unwell after a mildly strenuous sunset hike on Thursday. It went downhill rapidly.

Any doubts I might have had about marrying Beau vanished overnight. Specifically, around the time we realized that I was very sick and there was no electricity in our room. Beau was using the iPod and cellphone to try to illuminate the room and figure out what the problem was with the switches. As I recall, around this time I came crawling out of the bathroom, went through his legs and headed on my hands and knees for the trashcan under the sink.

For the record, I have not thrown up since moving to Alaska at the beginning of 2003. I have had food poisoning in that time. I do not throw up. Usually. Beau found me a bucket and used the cellphone light to check the level as my illness progressed. With all food throughly vacated from my digestive tract, I spent the next 18 hours in bed. Not necessarily sleeping. Beau went to the store for fresh lemon juice, salted biscuits and paracetamol, and also rearranged our bus tickets and extended our hotel stay.

To add to the fun, I capped off 24 hours of no sleep and sickness with an 11:30 p.m. cellphone job interview. I can only hope I managed to come off somewhat coherent and professional.

We made our bus on Friday and reached Jodhpur. I'm already less than enthralled with this very noisy and polluted city. On the bright side, we waked through the main bazaar to get to dinner yesterday, and I kept saying, "Ooh! Pretty! Pretty!" I must resist the urge to buy lots of shiny things here. (Unlike Beau, who bought an electric sitar on New Year's Day.)

Today we are going to the Mehrangarh Fort for some exploring, then are going to do a 2-hour zipline tour from the top of the fort all the way back into town. I suspect it will be less terror-inducing than the bungee jumping in New Zealand was

Jan 5, 2011

what goes up...

Posted by Mary |

We caught a bus to Mount Abu. Beau apparently also caught some illness, as he was quite under the weather when we arrived. He didn't eat for about 24 hours and mostly slept and sweated. I kept giving him Alka-Seltzer and making him drink water. We suspect it was a bit of dengue fever.

He awoke feeling much better today, so we will continue on with our plans. We visited the Dilwara temples today and went on a sunset hike. It was a steep 30-minute scramble up the rocks. That only hurt my knee a little, but then we had to come back down. I'm still on the hunt for ice for my poor knee.

Tomorrow we catch a morning bus to Jodhpur.

Jan 1, 2011

travel travails and triumphs

Posted by Mary |

We finally got out of Agra. It took 4 days, some fake vomit and a 21-hour bus ride, but we did it. We got through the Gujjar blockade and rolled into Udaipur at around 5:30 last night. Arriving on New Year's Eve was interesting. We just wanted to sleep, but all the hotels on the lake were having parties and blasting music. Exhaustion helps greatly, though.

We settled into our room, I asked Beau to marry me, we ate dinner and went to sleep.

Today we went shopping and Beau destroyed all sense of frugality by buying a sitar. I bargained Rs 6000 off the price by telling the shopkeeper that we were his first customers of the year. "First customers, first sale! Very good karma all year long!" It's got a plug for an amp, so I persist in calling it an electric sitar. We also got a fiberglass case and a bunch of accessories thrown in. Beau goes back tomorrow for an hour-long lesson in tuning, maintenance and the basics of playing.

I can't figure out why India is destroying my pants. I have three pairs in various states of disrepair. I can't blame the laundry-wallahs, because they've only washed one of the pairs. Tomorrow's mission is to find a pair of Indian pants that will fit over my brace.