Tuesday, November 22, 2016

touristing

Ahoy,

We spent our first day in Delhi visiting Old Delhi. Navigating the train was comfortable and somewhat familiar. With the chaos and noise of Delhi that seemed so foreign and different, the language of public transit is almost universal and relieving. It provided a sense of control and consistency that other modes of transportation had not given us. We wandered around thinking we'd run into the spice market, but found the Red Fort and a mosque. We finally gave in and got a bicycle rickshaw to take us to the spice market. He took us back to where we had been to a small little spice shop that was not what we were looking for. We got on another rickshaw and he took us to the same place, this time I protested and he took us to the actual spice market. It was much simpler than we thought. We had turned and weaved through Old Delhi when we really should have just kept walking straight. Immediately we started sneezing, and everyone else around us was sneezing too. This was definitely the right place. With only a brief time up and down the stalls, we made our way back to the train with a delicious samosa stop. That night we had a dinner/housewarming/unpacking with the newlyweds, a last party before their other friends leave.

That night was the big announcement regarding 500 and 1000 INR notes, rendering our 500s useless. The banks and atms were also closed, so we had no way of getting change or more money. It was a stroke of luck that the things we had planned to do were free. The metro is incredibly inexpensive, you can get most anywhere for about 15 cents or less. Our first stop was the Lotus Temple, a gorgeous place of worship that looks just like a lotus from the outside and beautifully clean and quiet inside, a nice respite from the dirge of what was outside. We stopped at McDonald's again for lunch because they take card, and tried another veggie burger and veg mcpuff. India McDonald's has been the most different from any other international locations we've visited. Our next stop was Lodhi Gardens, which had the oldest-looking/least restored buildings we had seen thus far. It was a really big garden with a lot of different parts that it seemed locals were just hanging out in also. Our final stop of the day was Khan market where there seemed to be some higher end shops in addition to bigger international/American chains.

We went back to our hotel to collect our bags and sulk in the aftermath of election results. A, I's new husband, was nice enough to come pick us up from our hotel, because he works in the neighborhood. We went back home with him to spend our remaining days in Delhi. A lot had happened in the world that day and it was nice to be with friends. We ventured to another mall that evening for I to buy new, shiny clothes - as it is tradition for the newlywed to wear. That was a fun and exhausting experience - similar to the American experience, but just a little different. A's mom had prepared food for us to have for dinner that night. It was delicious and so nice to be able to have a night in during our trip.

tragically abroad,
jt

Thursday, November 17, 2016

amusement

Ahoy,

With limited funds the next day, we went to Akshardam, which is kind of like an amusement park of a place to worship. It is a large property with gardens, temples, moats, etc. There are also shows and a boat ride that is a lot like the It's a Small World ride at Disney. We made the mistake of eating at the first food stall right outside the shows, only later coming across a giant food court on our way out that made us regret our decision earlier. Our final stop was Connaught Place, an area of concentric circles of arcades for shopping. We got another set of samosas and a lassi before going back "home" for a last meal before our flight. It would be of instant noodles/Indian ramen, the bestseller of India. We went to a small shop/stall/stand near I's house to pick up dinner provisions. Shops in India are really small, you mostly have to go with a list and the owner gathers the goods for you. There are no aisles to browse. I was more than happy to be having something simple for dinner and another night in before our next 24 hours of travel. Also, Indian ramen is delicious. I think I will look for it in the States.

We left for the airport around 10pm Thursday night in Delhi. We went via uber. Uber is great in India because we were able to watch the driver go to our destination and is at a fixed cost. It was a relief to not have to argue and be wary of where the driver is going. Our first flight was at 3:30am and we were so sleepy. The layover was in Shanghai and we had less than 2 hours to make it. I was anxious because on our way to Delhi, it took about an hour to get through all the lines for the transfer. And now our flight landed about half an hour late also. Fortunately, the lines we had encountered on the way there were not present this time around. We flew through everything and made it with time to spare for our transfer. Our final flight was about 11 hours to land at LAX at 9am Friday morning. We watched a lot of movies. Our flights were so cheap, that we were expecting very little, but it turned out to have all the same comforts of any other international flights - movies, blankets, pillows, meals, adjacent seats, ample leg-room, etc. Our experience on China Eastern was awesome and incredibly inexpensive.

The last time we came back from Asia, we arrived in the morning also, and then slept all day. So this time we endeavored to stay up all day. I was so sleepy.

devastatingly off kilter,
jt
















Tuesday, November 15, 2016

day trip

Ahoy,

The next morning was check-out. We checked out early to leave for the Taj Mahal. We got to know some of the bride's friends and joined them for their trip. It was super nice for them to be able to accommodate us. We piled into the van for a 3.5 hour trip to Agra. We picked up a tour guide in Agra that went with us to the Taj and told us stories and history. It was like a class field trip. The Taj looks smaller in person, but the details are truly remarkable. The laden gems and carved marble are truly a feat to craft. They took us to a marble school/shop and showed us how something like the Taj Mahal was made. The town is mostly craftsmen, without a lot of opportunities for growth in other fields, so there are quite a few that migrate out for other industries. We moved onto lunch at a tourist restaurant where we made the mistake of ordering mild, which was bland. With a last drive-by of the Red Fort, we made our way back to Delhi. Little would I know the adventure had just begun.

We all got dropped off at our friends' hotel, and we used uber to get to our own hostel. When we arrived, I was frustrated, surprised and disappointed to find a construction zone. There were only construction workers there and I didn't see a reception. I didn't want to stop anywhere in the building because it was impossible to breathe with all the fumes in the air. We got to the roof and regrouped. The construction workers came up and showed us a shared dorm room (we had reserved a private room). We eventually decided to go back out to find our way back to our friends' hotel. I spotted a kid on his phone walking by and he was so helpful, he spoke perfect English and was really kind and did not try to scam us, which I guess is a testament to the school system and media. We looked up the address of our friends' hotel on his phone and he gave us instructions for how to best get there. I had developed this defensive feeling of being on the lookout for scams that seemed pervasive in the culture of tourism here, but this kid was just so genuinely helpful. I remain extremely grateful for this kid's assistance. And it was really fortunate that we knew about this other hotel from having been dropped off there earlier. I don't know what we would have done if these sequence of events did not line up like they did.

The hotel had 2 nights available for us, which was 1 night shy of what we needed, but it turned out well, because the newlyweds were able to accommodate us for the rest of our stay. And that was probably the highlight. She was my friend from high school and we had not seen each other much since then, so I was really glad to be able to spend the time and get to know her husband better also.

momentarily adrift,
jt

semi-traditional Indian wedding

Ahoy,

The next day, for the wedding, we moved rooms to another section of the resort that had converted old train cars into hotel rooms. This room was awesome! All of the wedding guests were lined up in the trains that had working bathrooms, tv and everything! Everything you would need in a hotel room. Such fun!

We spent Saturday before the wedding going to various malls looking for an outfit for A. We rode on the auto-rickshaws/tuk tuks, which are a lot of fun and inexpensive. We came across a big shop that had everything from clothing to housewares and groceries - kind of like costco, but much smaller. Everyone was out shopping for provisions on Saturday. There was another giant fancy mall that had all the stores an American mall would have. We tried McDonald's here- a veggie burger and spicy paneer wrap. Our last stop was an open air market, Sarojini Nagar, that seemed to have a lot of locals doing their daily shopping. We got A an outfit that looked like pajamas for the big Indian wedding the next day. There weren't that many shops for traditional menswear, but a lot for women.

Back at the hotel, we had some time to watch the national geographic channels. I love watching tv at hotels because we don't have a tv and we never have cable channels.

The first wedding event was a sangeet. It was a lot like a cocktail hour, but then there was a gift exchange, make-up thing, photo session, which I"m told is traditionally 5-6 hours long, but fortunately was much shorter. And the finale is a showcase of dances put on for the bride and groom by various combinations of family members. It was a lot of fun and entertaining. There were also men walking around with appetizers during the whole thing. Quite the contrast to Chinese banquet style dinners, where the food doesn't come out for 2+ hours after the guests arrive. As the evening went on, I thought maybe it would be just appetizers for dinner, but then after all the activities, there was actual dinner! It was a lot of food to eat. And all of it so delicious and meat-free! There were so many varieties of curries I had never heard of in the States. Copious amounts of food would prove to be the theme for the whole wedding.

The following morning, we had breakfast at the hotel and ventured out unsuccessfully to find a temple we had ridden past. India is the least walk-friendly place we've been. There are mostly no sidewalks and no pedestrian paths. Roads aren't paved, and really dusty and uneven or poo laden. Where there is pavement, it is mostly used as urinals. Street carts abut right into the road where you would have to dodge motorcyclists, bicyclists and other street carts. I've never encountered something like this to this degree. We missed a turn that involved crossing a big intersection with no lights and found ourselves walking a lot farther than we thought our destination was. Crossing the street is a whole 'nother ball game. Traffic doesn't stop, you just have to step out and trust that everyone else will dodge you.

The lunch event would be a more traditional Western style wedding. My friend walked down the aisle flanked by both parents in her grandmother's wedding dress. The appetizer servors had to be ushered out of the aisle as the procession was happening. Their duties would not be shirked for the march if they could claim ignorance. The ceremony was quick and personalized, like most Western weddings nowadays, with written vows and a friend as the officiant. We moved onto a big lunch to accompany the speeches and dances. Everyone dispersed in a timely manner because the wedding party had to prepare for the traditional Indian wedding that evening.

The Western guests were always the first to arrive, and the Indian guests would trickle in later. They knew something we didn't know, and also had probably seen it all before. The RRS changed multiple times before finally changing into his entire Indian outfit after seeing everyone else at the event. I think his life would be so much easier if he would just listen to me all the time. There were multiple food stations in addition to the floating appetizers that would come to us. There was a whole row of all the street foods that we were warned to be cautious of when we encountered them "in the wild," but was safe to eat at the wedding. There was a whole 'nother corner of food I never made it to. And inside was a whole array of buffet style Indian dinner.

The ceremony felt like hours long with a big fanfare for first the groom entering with an army of drummers and then the bride with her party. They sat at a table where they gave offerings in front of a flame that they later had to walk 7 times around. There was someone chanting in sanskrit that, I heard later, my friend tried to modify to make more feminist. There was another photo session that is traditionally 5-6 hours long that was much shorter. Later after the wedding, the new husband said a lot of the elements missing from a full Indian wedding were at his request. It's difficult to imagine what it'd be like to sit through a full length event. I don't think anybody really watched attentively the whole ceremonies. People would mingle and watch for a few moments and then wander off again for food or conversation. Background noise grew as the ceremonies wore on. It must be quite the task for the bride and groom to sit through all of the fanfare. We had copious amounts of Indian food, seemingly the theme for the weekend. I was never hungry when it was time to eat because we had been eating the whole time. I guess it was always time to eat. But it was always so delicious.

delectably adjoined,
jt

unsavory arrival

Ahoy,

We made it to India. We left Thursday, November 3 at 12:30PM. It was a 12 and half hour flight to shanghai. With a 3 hour layover before a 6  and half hour flight to Delhi. We arrived at 2am November 5, Saturday morning. The day before leaving I had seen news articles about Delhi surpassing Beijing for worst pollution on record. Due to Diwali and garbage burning, among other reasons, it was even smoggy inside the airport. We arrived amongst a large crowd. I guess the middle of the night is a popular time. We got through security and customs without any trouble. We went for the prepaid taxi to get to our hotel. After getting shuffled around a couple taxi drivers, we got 1 willing driver.

He started the drive taking us through a bunch of military complexes. It did not look touristic at all. He stopped in the middle of the road to gesture to us he did not know the way and asked us to call the hotel. Of course, we don't have working phones. He called and got no answer, which I think he must have dialed the wrong number because there were staff waiting for us. He could only say "no English" and ask for more money, speaking to us in Hindi. After we yelled at him gesturing him to drive to our destination as per the prepaid destination, he drove us straight back the way we came, past the airport and directly to our destination. I guess he did know where to go. If you find your taxi driver taking you somewhere suspicious, stick to your guns until he gets you there and don't give him more money. He could have made the same amount of money if he had just taken us to our hotel and gone back for another ride, instead of taking that detour.

It was probably 4:30am when we got to the hotel. The lobby was also smoggy. We slept in a giant hotel room that did not have hot water, which the RRS absolutely loved. We awoke to a smoggy day. "It can't be morning yet, it is still so dark outside..." Running theme.

cautiously agog,
jt


Thursday, October 20, 2016

fall weather possibly

Ahoy,

I went to Chicago again at the end of September because the flights were really cheap and my Boston family was visiting too. I hadn't seen them in a while, so I was looking forward to it. The weather was still pretty hot and summery when I first got there, but by the time I had left it had shifted to cooler days. And it was so, so perfect in the 60s and still sunny. And it was crisp and brisk and I came back to 90 degree weather in LA. And that sucked.

My cousins were still playing pokemon, so we were able to catch things at the Garfield Park Conservatory and Lincoln Park Zoo. They took my grandma everywhere - to the museum, conservatory, zoo, brunch, etc. She was thoroughly pooped by the end of every day, but I think also happy to be going along. I think she really does like the Boston family the most, her eldest daughter, my aunt is there. But it's also awesome how big an effort they make to take her to do all the cool stuff. I think I should do that more often.

My dad is really good at being retired. My mom is not even retired, and I think she is doing a terrible job at having only one job. She laments of her boredom and lack of activity, and then seeks other weekend jobs. My dad is really happy with his garden and sewing room and old Chinese war movies and naps. And he maintains an exercise regimen of jogging around the neighborhood in the mornings and walks at night. My mom will often use the too late/dark excuse to abstain, though I really think it would be good for her to go with him, especially since she then complains of boredom. My dad came to me so pleased with himself for finding this big jug in the alley that he was planning to convert for rainwater collection for his plants. He's super crafty, which I'm sure is something I got from him, because my mom would be happier to throw money at the problem. It is so interesting the things I notice about my folks now. Also, no one has graffitied our garage since we put Batman on there. I think it really adds character to the neighborhood.

Gotham is watching,
jt

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

the capitol!

Ahoy,

We had booked a trip to DC months and months ago to visit one of A's best friends. He had the unfortunate circumstance of getting stationed in Paris, France for work after we had already planned the trip, which was not awesome. But he so graciously still let us stay at his place, which was awesome! It was mid-September so I was hopeful to be in some semi-fall weather. Disappointingly, the weather was probably deep summer - 90s and humid. I was so, so displeased, in addition, I had a cold. The one time every 3 years I get sick - and it had to be in 90 degree weather. But I brought my insulated water bottle, and the RRS thought it was a silly purchase until we had ice cold water in the middle of a hot, hot day.

We played so much pokemon! We went in the American History Museum, Natural History Museum, Air and Space Museum, Botanic Garden, White House Museum, probably some more. One of the days, we got a bikeshare day pass and rode bikes all around to the monuments and other neighborhoods. It was so fun and convenient! We got these amazing lobster and crab rolls in Georgetown. And pizza near the Capitol. And a milkshake and drinks on 14th St. It was a really great trip. Hopefully next time we go, his friend will also be at home and it won't be summer.

hackingly fried,
jt

Thursday, October 13, 2016

more happenings

Ahoy,

There was another weekend we spent in the bay in August to visit his family. We spend a lot of time eating and sitting around the eating places. This time we were also able to see his good friend from when they were kids, and we bugged him a lot probably. But we didn't make it to Berkeley Bowl, which is always disappointing for me.

Straight into September, O & H from Seattle came to visit. I think they may be our favorite guests. The first evening was spent at happy hour. Seattle had apparently just started to get rainy, so they were so happy to be outside in the sun. I'm glad the weather can contribute to a good vacation for them. The following day we went on a train adventure to Santa Monica, and I probably spent too long playing pokemon. We capped off the evening with dipping ramen and ice cream which always is so filling I can't ever finish my bowl.

For their last full day, we started at this awesome brunch place that is not all hype. And then we probably went back home to get groceries to barbecue later. A quick climbing session before getting the grill going with a beautiful evening on the patio. The weather was so perfect. Despite the weather being perfect all the time in LA, I'm really glad it was that way for O & H to enjoy before returning to a less desirable situation. But nonetheless, I would be so happy if it were rainy here for months.

frantically askew,
jt

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

another wedding

Ahoy,

In August, we spent another weekend in Chicago for a wedding in the suburbs of one of my best childhood friends. It was a beautifully done and simple wedding in a far away place. Growing up in the city, I have gotten terribly accustomed to places being close and the suburbs being far. A revelation that the RRS has to contend with every time we drive anywhere. Good luck, mister. It didn't rain, and the weather was really quite perfect once the sun went down a little. It was apparently pouring in Chicago. And they had catered from this bbq place, so no complaints from my escort. Although he remembers it being a lot hotter than I did, but for someone that brought a full suit - I think he can take the blame on this one. If there is something he will stubbornly stand for - he will never sacrifice style for weather - a lesson he is slowly succumbing to as Chicago winters grip his psyche. Californians can't possibly understand seasons; they must think it is fictional concept.

We spent a day playing pokemon go despite the rain. We went out with umbrellas and continued into the evening along the lakefront and Navy Pier. It was quite the expedition.

deliberately soaked,
jt

Thursday, October 6, 2016

let's recap

Ahoy,

The end of summer was a whirlwind of activities that very much had me feeling like we had overbooked.

We finally made use of our San Diego Zoo membership and visited our friends there. We spent the day catching pokemon and observing real animals. It was a lot of fun and we saw a lot of activity once the day cooled down. We saw pandas out and about, and bears play-fighting, koalas snoozing, elephants, tigers, etc. It was a good zoo day.

I participated in a bachelorette party that was probably the most girls I had ever been with for the longest amount of time ever. It was probably the coolest bachelorette party I'll ever get invited to. We went to Wii Spa, which I think I still am suffering from PTSD over. One of the rooms looks like an actual pizza oven. Much to the RRS's chagrin, I told him I would not be volunteering myself to go with him ever. We ate a lot of food, and went climbing - no surpise. The final surprise was an evening at Magic Castle, which I nearly spoiled. The bride to be had a great time and I was really happy we were able to cater a weekend filled with so much joy and happiness for her. We were all probably relieved to have foregone the male strippers.

We also went down to La Jolla for the actual wedding, which was at this venue that was uber appropriate for the couple. I like to think I gambled and won on our accommodations for the weekend on hotwire. For those of you that don't know how it works, you select a neighborhood and price, but you don't know what the hotel is until after you purchase. I got exactly the hotel we wanted because it is a stone's throw from the wedding venue, fully precipitating the benefits of an open bar.

We left the following morning under an overcast sky, which I was more than happy for. We made it back in time to watch the climbing competition and cheer on our friends.

blisteringly grappled,
jt