|THATS A PICTURE OF WES ANDERSON AND THE CAST FROM THE MOVIE|
Monday, April 25, 2016
Went to the Desert to Cool Off
Never. Leaving. I feel I was just writing about homesickness and being halfway through my time in India. The homesickeness has been completely replaced by an overwhelming desire to never leave. If it was starting to feel like home halfway through, I am even closer to my family now. It frustrates me to leave the people and places I have grown so close to, but I am excited to come home with beautiful, crazy, hilarious stories to tell. The fact that it is unbearably hot here also makes leaving sound okay.
Speaking of heat, a few weeks ago I decided I should go to Rajasthan (a state in North India bordering Pakistan boasting wonders such as “the Pink City” “the Blue City”, camels, ruined palaces with ancient military forts) before their summer starts. Emotionally preparing myself for the blazing hot desert sun beating down on the sand, I headed to Jaipur. A group of three decided to arrive there on Holi, because we heard they party hard for Holi. Our flight arrived at 5:30am, and I wonder what the hostel owner thought when we rolled up. Actually he reprimanded us in a disappointed tone when he realized our total lack of plan. I explained that we were only there for the day, and were headed to another town that night. He stared at us, three white girls with backpacks and absolutely no plan, holding back his laughter and a desire to yell in our faces. He looked at us in our clueless state, laughed; then said “lock your bags in this room, don’t go out on the streets alone, and don’t ask for a towel. Come watch the sunrise. Don’t pay for the night” That is how we met Lokendra. Within ten minutes we were watching the sunrise from his rooftop and chatting about whether Twilight was really filmed in Washington.
After the rest of the overcrowded hostel woke up, we played Holi on the rooftop. It seemed like a cheesy idea to celebrate an Indian holiday in a hostel with a bunch of fellow tourists wearing harem pants and shirts covered in Om symbols or Buddha faces. However, it’s impossible not to enjoy yourself when you’re smearing colors in strangers’ faces and you’re a little bit drunk at 9:30am. Since Holi is celebrated in the morning and everything in the city is shut down for the holiday, we actually had the rest of the day to relax. I always enjoy meeting other travelers and hearing their stories. There’s a certain “type” of person that travels India- skinny European or South American with at least one dreadlock, carrying everything in a well worn backpack and sporting baggy pants covered in elephants, lacking a bra, traipsing around with no job to return to, and of course a fan of yoga and Buddhist philosophy. It’s annoying to meet so many people on their dirtbag eatpraylove journey, but every time I actually listen to someone’s story I’m inspired by their passion and unique experiences. Meeting people backpacking southeast Asia for two years with no plans of leaving (or any plans at all really) makes me think I could do it as well (plus yoga and flowy pants are kinda fun). There are sustainable ways to travel, and there’s something about American culture that tells us it’s not sustainable or acceptable at all. We have to go to university, get a job, get married, have 2.5 kids and a medium sized dog and die in an affordable retirement home. You’ve heard this twenty-something rant before but its time for me to have it. I’ll read this in twenty years to have a laugh when I’m sick of buying juice boxes instead of wine coolers and my minivan breaks down.
The others left, and we simply never went to the airport and told Loki we’d clean the bathroom if we could stay. A wise Hyderabadi man suggested I travel to Bundi, a small town in Rajahstan relatively untouched by the harem pants crowd. The next morning (after cleaning the bathrooms of course) we headed to the government bus station and found a bus traveling to Bundi. Government bus stations are my new favorite thing, next to the Indian Railway. Instead of expensive tourist AC buses (which are still nice of course) you show up day of, get a dirt cheap seat (or no seat, but if you have money you can get on), and a chance to meet locals. We never know where we are on trains and buses, so we are constantly asking and amazed at how people know exactly how many more stops we have and how they will wake us up at zero dark thirty so we don’t miss our stop. Answers are simple as well. Our bus stopped and we asked, “Where are we? Is this Kota?” “Lunch.” Was our specific location. When asking for directions on the street, it’s a two to thirteen step process, because all you get is a “ahaah, that way” and a wide hand gesture in any direction. So I walk until I think it should be near, then ask again, pointed along vaguely. Why waste the effort to be specific in a place built for detours, beautiful confusion, and enjoying your time?
After reaching Bundi, the friendliness and beauty of the town was shocking. At first we ignored people’s “where are you from??”’s. I’ve learned to ignore “HELLO MADAM WHERE ARE YOU FROM COME LOOK IN MY SHOP” “Auto?! AUTO?” “Looking is free!” “Special price for you only” cries from the side of the road. It’s aggravating being a walking wallet but I know people make a living off of it and my love for colorful pants only continues the cycle. After a few minutes in Bundi, we realized there were no tourist shops, no “café’s” selling “pizza burgers”, and people genuinely wanted to know who we were, what our story was. We drank mango juice and learned about someone’s family, bought a scarf and a brass pot with absolutely no pressure and insanely fair prices, and found a lovely home to stay in. The guesthouse was a traditional Rajahstani haveli, which means cement or mudbrick insulated cubes jumbled on top of each other, connected by staircases with not one step the same size, leading to a shady center courtyard. The womblike rooms are insulated and dark and you’d never know the sun was cooking the earth, coming out to the flat rooftops to enjoy watching it set.