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Saturday, March 10, 2012

LEARN ENGLISH WITH LOGAN

NARRATIVE

Well, tomorrow is going to kind of suck. [In retrospect, there was no 'kind of'.] I need to check out of my room by 10 PM and wait twelve hours for my train outta here. It turns out that I'd paid 550 RS for a 330 RS train ticket. Suck. And, I made the mistake of again letting someone else book my ticket. Double suck. Upper berth! Again! Triple suck.

During my twelve hours of enforced downtime, my plan was to read my hated Lonely Planet India guide to see if I could get ideas for the future. After reading it for many, many hours I'm currently torn between making my own 'best parts' guide and just chucking it. Until then, I am stuck lugging the heavy brick around.

I decided I had too much money and so went to pick up a blanket with one of the staff of the guest house. See 'Traveler's Tips' below. It may be useful having another blanket while I go up to Nepal. Part of my 'cold weather gear up'.

After I dropped my new blanket off in the gear storage room, I went out and got a cup of tea from a street vendor (5 RS). While I was there, the folks started with the usual barrage of questions. I didn't feel extremely comfortable for some reason so I pretended to be German. That stops a lot of conversations because it is easy for me to feign bad English. They asked for my name and I blanked. Told them the first thing that came to my mind - my friend's kids name: Kurgan. Fortunately, it sounds German!

Eventually, I got tired of waiting and decided to go to the train station early to wait there. After some heavy haggling, I managed to get a tuk tuk there for 60 RS instead of the usual 80 RS. Considering that locals might pay 10 RS, I am happy to haggle them down.

There are two train stations in Agra. Agra Fort and Agra Cantt. With two T's. Don't be an Agra Cantt! Be an Agra Can! Hell, I'd change the name just for the marketing. Cantt was further away and naturally that is the one I needed.

Train stations are pretty much shit holes stocked with tons of bored and irritated travelers, beggars, the clinically insane and freaks like me. Agra Cantt is no exception. I was wandering around looking for a seat and found a room labeled 'tourist waiting room'. I figured 'Hey - I'm a tourist!' and checked it out. There were six nice couches and many comfortable chairs. It was quiet. An Indian guy poked his head in, saw the color of my skin and giant backpack and left satisfied. I was thinking "This is the way to wait!"

Naturally, it closed after only a half hour of my being there.

To me, this makes no sense at all. The 11:30 PM train to Varanasi I'm informed is stocked with tourists. But they kicked me out and sent me to the normal waiting area that matched the rest of the train station. Shit-hole.

I got warnings from at least three different groups of locals about this train. Keep an eye on your bags. Don't accept any drinks from strangers because they may be drugged. One of the sources was the loudspeaker at the train station. Scary stuff.

What I got was not what I expected.

The train was so full of people that it was difficult to open the exterior door. That many people. I had an assigned seat! Lots didn't. They stood or sat where ever they could find room. I couldn't help but notice that nobody wanted the upper berth I had booked.

After walking over and sometimes on people with the heavy backpack on, I eventually got to my seat. I used the pac safe to secure it to the ring they have under the bottom seats for that purpose. I then crawled my ass up painfully to the top bunk. It was literally a teeter totter. "Something is wrong with your seat!" one Indian guy said. Well, no kidding. That would be the country wide lack of maintenance. But I managed to not kill myself or fellow passengers.

When I was trying to get to sleep, I had to (for the first time in India) ask the people in the below bunks to please keep down the noise. They were talking to each other as though they were stone deaf despite nearly sitting on each other's laps.

And yes, as per normal I did have to get up to go to the bathroom in the middle of the night. People were loving that.

Next time, first class is looking much better. Much better.

I got wildly different arrival times from the different passengers for Varanasi. Eventually, I was lucky enough to be sitting across from someone who was actually going there. Also, it was announced by passengers on the train when we got there - probably for the benefit of the tourists.

There was a good plan in place upon arrival here. The bus station is close to the train station. I was going to walk over there and find out if it is possible to get to Nepal from here. Sadly, I was so out of it by the time I got off the train, I ended up just catching a tuk tuk to the ghat (holy bathing place) I wanted to stay near. I heard it was quiet. It is but the place I'm staying isn't.

In my usual mode of land then go looking for a new place, I have found one. Probably head over there tomorrow. Their laundry prices aren't on crack like the place I'm staying as well and almost everything is dirty.



PRELIMINARY GUESTHOUSE REVIEWS

I've seen only Om Guest House and Kedar Paying Guest House. Both have wifi and hot water, but Kedar looks better for three reasons:

1. Owner seems cooler. Laid back and helpful - just what you need.
2. Laundry price 10 RS big, 5 RS small. Fine, though I wish they'd just go to kilos like the rest of the world.
3. Rooms seem more 'airy' and come with mosquito netting.

Hopefully, Kedar will be more quiet. I'm stuck staying next to the owners here and making plans to escape as early as I can. Also, my room is dirty and all of the water leaks from the standard sub-standard plumbing.



LOOKING BACK ON AGRA

Unless you have a real hard-on to see the Taj Mahal, I don't recommend it. If you are one of the people that says "How can you go to India and NOT see the Taj?" Yeah. That counts.



MATT MATT MATT...MATAMAT!

Well, I've heard from my buddy Matt. He has his plane ticket and May 1st, we will be bothering the Nepalese. If I can hold out in Varanasi for two weeks or so, I should be in Nepal by April 1st. Yes, that will mark the official one year anniversary of Logan's voyage. That will also make the amount of time I have been traveling longer than some marriages last in America. Since Matt has just shy of two weeks of vacation, I want to try to spend some time scouting around to see what is good and what is 'the suck' so we can get him to more good than suck. Unless Matt has radically changed since I saw him last, he isn't in what anyone would call 'peak physical shape'. This is good because it means that I don't have to worry about any kind of Mt. Everest insanity other than snapping pics from a distance.



INDIA FOR WOMEN

Two German sisters I spoke with reported a lot of 'uncomfortable' stuff going on. Being stared at, followed, casual gropings, etc. During Holi when a lot of people got drunk/stoned/wild, this intensified. Even the police said things like "Hey, baby!" Other men just laughed or ignored it. A different German girl reported absolutely no difficulties. Hence, where you are, your actions, luck, attitude and how you are dressed make a huge difference. Marcus also pointed out it made a difference whether you were in a 'tourist area' or not as well. I'm not certain but the harassment may be worse in the tourist area.

Me? I get stared at all the time. I don't get stared hard at by people mentally trying to UNdress me. They may be trying to add more layers... But I do have a bit of an idea what some women go through.

Indians haven't really experienced much other than 'standard tourist' and 'hippy'. I wonder what they would do with a group of tourists in full Klingon regalia? Probably more staring...



FASCINATING THE LOCALS

I've got two items that seem to fascinate the locals whenever I pull them out. One is my cheap cigarette case. Apparently, the ones here are all plastic and the metal fascinates them. The other is my ancient MP3 player. I'm not sure why this is special - phones can do that and a lot more. These things are an ongoing mystery to me.



FACEBOOK IDEA

I've thought of a new app. It's not in good taste but those who have known me for awhile... Anyway, they may already have it. It's the "I'm dead" app. If you don't log on for (specify period of time) it automatically changes the profile picture to one you pre-selected. Perhaps with X's over the eyes. That would be one of my choices unless I could get someone to photograph me in a coffin with coins on my eyes. The suit would be the tricky part. Any private messages come back with a message you personalized "I'm sorry but I'm too dead to answer right now..." And I think it should rename you something like "Dead Logan Horsford". Then, your still alive friends would have their friends ask "Is it creepy to have a dead guy in your friends list?" And when you eventually get old you will find the creepy dead guys in your friends list outnumber the still alive (and perhaps equally creepy) ones. If I had any skill with computers (and something that had more power than a wind up airplane) I'd totally come up with that app if they haven't already.



ENGLISH FOR FOREIGNERS

Today, we will look at a fairly common slang phrase:

"Don't buy the cow if you get the milk for free." The alternative phrase is "Why buy the cow if you get the milk for free?"

Both phrases are identical in their meaning.

Although it could relate to an actual cow it would be suspiciously unusual. This phrase is normally said by a man to a friend of his who is planning on asking a girl to marry him. The actual meaning is "Why get married when you are getting sex for less hassle than marriage is presumed to entail?"

This question is usually perceived as 'insensitive' by all parties.

The question is not seen as rude enough to merit any sort of hostile recourse. The person (almost always male) who is pondering marriage has only two real answers to this question. The first is along the lines of 'shut up'. The second is to mutter while looking at your feet something about love and flowers. You should not appear to ponder it at all, even if you do so in private for fear that your would be spouse is lurking nearby or that her spy network will bring her new of this.

If this question is asked by a man to his potential wife or wife, it is usually responded to by a hearty face slap and the withholding of sexual favors until such time as the man's groveling merits the return to 'good graces'.

Note, I have personally never heard anyone above the age of thirty or gay ask this question but I'm sure someone somewhere has.

This question is thought to have originated in the part of America erroneously known as 'the south'. In actuality, it is the south-eastern portion of the country. Presumably, because livestock are much more common.

The obscene variant of this question is "Why buy the cow when you get to fuck it for free?" Insulting to your cow shaped significant other along with the implication that the speaker as well as the person being asked both condone and practice bestiality.

The proper response to this variant is to look at the questioner and slowly shake your head. If you wish to say something along the lines of "You sick, twisted bastard.", this is also acceptable.

Learning English in this way is much more interesting than a standard school. If you'd like to see Logan's "Advanced English Course For Foreigners" taught in your school, please send a SASE c/o this station.



CHILD LABOR

Being against child labor is fine - in theory. In practice, it might mean 'they don't eat'. A lot of the kids I've talked to work right along side of their parents at the family business. Some even get to go to school. When they are home, they work or play. For a lot of kids it's work if you want to eat. I mentioned this to one lady and she said 'well, if they're not exploited'. Too many qualifiers. Maybe they are, maybe they aren't. I know when I worked as an adult, I felt very exploited. Daily. And often, ass invaded. But in a lot of parts of the world, child labor is not something I think we should just condemn out of hand without going into a lot more detail. In BASEketball, I now feel bad that all of those kids got laid off. Compared to what I've seen people working at in India, any kid would think that was a dream job in a freakishly clean work environment.



INDIAN WEDDING CUSTOM

They have a car sized pushcart with four speakers on it and a generator within. This is used to make noise. Indians love noise. They also hook lights into the generator. The lights are used to illuminate the wedding party. As such, the cords are often many meters long - and often patched with bare and shoddy wiring. The lights are held by adults and children at the edges of the wedding party as it moves through the crowded, chaos filled streets. People are constantly stepping over, getting choked by and tripping over these wires. In the midst of this, the groom rides on a horse with a 'raja' style umbrella held over him - even at night. Because music playing over the loudspeakers and a guy in rapid Hindi announcing the wedding was not enough they also had a marching band in there. If it had been daylight, I'd have gotten some video - but my current camera doesn't work worth a crap at night. Now, push that monstrosity and parade down a lane and a half road congested with tuk tuks, pedestrians, hand carts and such and you've got the general idea.



WHERE AM I?

It turns out I've actually been in three different states. I'm not sure if Delhi counts but I'm not counting it since I got out of there so quick. So, I've been in Uttarakhand (Rishikesh), Uttar Pradesh (Agra and Varanasi) and all over Rajasthan. Depending on who I talk to, there seem to be a variable number of different Indian states. The consensus is 'shy of thirty'. So, I've only seen a small portion of the country. Every state is very different.



TRAVELER'S TIPS

If you go with a native to a merchant, you are going to pay a premium in India. Unless that person is a close, personal friend you met outside India in person - you will pay a premium. Because you think you are friends and all with the workers at the guest house doesn't make it so. Business is business. You have a lot more flexibility in haggling down the price if you are by yourself.


Remain 'on guard' even within the guest houses. Some of the younger restaurant workers have fairly elaborate stories which are basically a veiled attempt at getting money. Things like "I am putting myself and younger brother through school but have no money." It was a bit longer than that and I heard the same guy telling the same story to other tourists. He also tried the 'invite me to his home' bit where I could perhaps contribute or feel awkward. I turned him down and said I needed to read my book. Everyone has their own way of dealing with these things. For me, I carefully cultivate an attitude of not giving a shit. It's a big help.


Try not to travel a week before or a week after any festivals or holidays as trains and buses will be packed with people.



TRAVELER'S LORE

A French couple I was chatting to gave me an interesting tidbit of information. According to them, tour groups are easier for couples that have children. Note that they did seem to think just making your own way was much more satisfying, however.


According to a nice Indian man I met, I may need to go to Nepal from Gorakhpur - 230 KM away from here in a 'nothing to see here' town. Another overnight train to get there early. Ug.



VIDEOS

Julie's Class
New UN
Treat Restaurant Rooftop
Treat Restaurant Waiter



PRICES

Warm, very basic blanket, 400 RS (Note, I think you can get it for 300 RS or less with more bargaining).

Private school, per kid, per month: 2000 RS.

Tuk tuk to Assi Ghat from train station, 70 RS. He wanted a tip but I wasn't in the mood. Had he just driven me to where I wanted to go instead of trying to convince me to go elsewhere, he might have gotten one.

Train food, 40 RS - not horrible.

2 comments:

  1. I would need some diplomatic immunity to travel to india... or some deep pockets and a film crew... name of my show: What native does Chris fuck up next... My teeth were on edge the entire time you were in the alley... Funny thing is, is that lil camera gets you "into" places and usually a better attitude with many people. Thinking they assume it'll end up on TV in America or in a book... However, there we saw the downside with the kids... I'd say the good has out weighed the bad though.

    ReplyDelete
  2. I usually try to keep the look of 'good natured dufus' on my face rather than letting it revert to it's normal 'slightly pissed off' expression' I have when my face is 'neutral' expression. I want the natives not to see me as any kind of threat/inconvenience etc. Usually they don't. In India your day can have mercurial changes. It's a very strange country.

    ReplyDelete

PICTURES

{{2011}} London, GB | Rail N Sail | Amsterdam, Netherlands | Prague, Czech Republic | Budapest, Hungary | Sarajevo, Bosnia | Romania | Chisinau, Moldova | Ukraine: Odessa - Sevastopol | Crossed Black Sea by ship | Georgia: Batumi - Tbilisi - Telavi - Sighnaghi - Chabukiani | Turkey: Kars - Lost City of Ani - Goreme - Istanbul | Jordan: Amman - Wadi Rum | Israel | Egypt: Neweiba - Luxor - Karnak - Cairo | Thailand: Bangkok - Pattaya - Chaing Mai - Chaing Rei | Laos: Luang Prabang - Pakse | Cambodia: Phnom Penh | Vietnam: Vung Tau - Saigon aka Ho Chi Minh City

{{2012}} Cambodia: Kampot - Sihanoukville - Siem Reap - Angkor Wat | Thailand: Bangkok | India: Rishikesh - Ajmer - Pushkar - Bundi - Udaipur - Jodhpur - Jasalmer - Bikaner - Jaipur - Agra - Varanasi | Nepal: Kathmandu - Chitwan - Pokhara - Bhaktapur - (Rafting) - Dharan | India: Darjeeling - Calcutta Panaji | Thailand: Bangkok - again - Krabi Town | Malaysia, Malaka | Indonesia: Dumas - Bukittinggi - Kuta - Ubud - 'Full Throttle' - Gili Islands - Senggigi | Cambodia: Siem Reap | Thailand: Trat | Turkey: Istanbul | Georgia: Tbilisi

{{2013}} Latvia: Riga | Germany: Berlin | Spain: Malaga - Grenada | Morocco: Marrakech - Essauira - Casablanca - Chefchawen - Fes | Germany: Frankfurt | Logan's Home Invasion USA: Virginia - Michigan - Indiana - Illinois - Illinois - Colorado | Guatemala: Antigua - San Pedro | Honduras: Copan Ruinas - Utila | Nicaragua: Granada | Colombia: Cartagena | Ecuador: Otavalo - Quito - Banos - Samari (a spa outside of Banos) - Puyo - Mera

{{2014}} Peru: Lima - Nasca - Cusco | Dominican Republic | Ukraine: Odessa | Bulgaria: Varna - Plovdiv | Macedonia: Skopje - Bitola - Ohrid - Struga | Albania: Berat - Sarande | Greece: Athens | Italy: Naples - Pompeii - Salerno | Tunisia: Hammamet 1

{{2015}} Hammamet 2 | South Africa: Johnnesburg | Thailand: Hua Hin - Hat Yai | Malaysia: Georgetown | Thailand: Krabi Town | Indonesia:
Sabang Island | Bulgaria: Plovdiv | Romania: Ploiesti - Targu Mures | Poland: Warsaw | Czech Republic: Prague | Germany: Munich | Netherlands: Groningen | England: Slough | Thailand: Ayutthaya - Khon Kaen - Vang Vieng | Cambodia: Siem Reap

{{2016}} Thailand: Kanchanaburi - Chumphon | Malaysia: Ipoh - Kuala Lumpur - Kuching - Miri | Ukraine: Kiev | Romania: Targu Mures - Barsov | Morocco: Tetouan

{{2017}} Portugal: Faro | USA: Virginia | Michigan | Illinois | Colorado |

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