Saturday, December 23, 2006

No Sleep Til Bangalore

4 hours at Dulles
6.5 to Heathrow
7 hour layover with whatever the British excuse for "coffee"
3 hours on the tarmac staring at the fog
9 hours to Bangalore
4 airplane meals, which got better the further I got from England and the closer to India (less creamed beef rice everything, more fried samosas please) and some Trader Joe's nut mix
1 full novel, front to back
1 Discover magazine (top 100 scientific discoveries of 2006!)
3 movies
2 naps of 15-20 minutes. Total.

And: Hello India!

The trip wasn't actually all that bad, but no, I didn't sleep at all. It's hard to complain because Chai's family all flew across the Pacific, which in my mind sounded about right, we're both going to the other side of the world...but it's actually horrific. 16 hours to Taipei, 10 to Kuala Lampur, 8 to India. Yikes. Anyway, I slept all day yesterday due to the 48 hours of insomnia. Chai woke me up at 7pm, and just as I climbed out of bed the power in the house went off, so Mom, thanks for making me bring the flashlight. I got dressed and played cards with Chai and her brothers for about an hour, til the power came back on.

The food so far as been everything I hoped it would be. Since there are so many of us staying in the house and it's a special occasion, they've been getting the meals catered. Chai and her cousin explained some of the dishes to me, but it wasn't anything I hadn't really seen before, except for this grey-ish stew looking thing that's made from jackfruit and non-sweet coconut sauce, and is totally delicious! I don't know what jackfruit is, but I mean to find out. So we all sat down on random chairs, and I start tearing my bread (more like injera than naan) and eat with my hands, like everyone else. After a few minutes Chai's grandmother said something to her (they're Konkoni, but I'm not sure what the language is called) and Chai kind of laughed and said to me, "She remarked how you're eating with your hands." Woo. Cultural victory #1! It was only interesting after I ran out of bread and had to learn to eat wet rice with my fingers, but I got it all down.

Afterwards Chai and her mom brought out all the saris they've purchased, both to give away and the ones they have to wear or receive as formal gifts during the ceremonies. They were all so gorgeous. I saw Chai's red wedding sari, embroidered with gold. And they set out about 5-6 saris they'd planned to give away and I pointed to one and said, "This is such a great color," and her mom picked it up and put it in my lap, saying, "take it, it's yours." Ha. I guess they were going to give me one anyway, so now I have this awesome fuchsia sari to wear on the 27th. Well, maybe. I have to get a blouse fitted to wear underneath it, and if I cant' get one in time I'll have to wear this other outfit she has for me, which is also pretty, but you know, I want to wear the sari! She has a few other outfits for me to borrow for the other ceremonies, one of which I can't wait to put on. I forgot the name, but it's a long skirt and a middrift top, both heavily beaded in a deep red wine color (it's not for the wedding itself, so the red is okay, plus it's more like maroon).

So I got up at 5am this morning (oh jet lag) and learned how to take a shower. Now she's at the salon getting one of about 1000 treatments done, and I'm at the internet cafe in my bare feet with her brothers for an hour, before we head off shopping. I need jewelry for my outfits and probably a pair of shoes, a cell phone at the insistence of her parents, and maybe some laundry detergent since eating with your hands is all well and good until you spill greasy potatoes on the only pair of pants you brought. Oh man, speaking of which, we had the best breakfast this morning, with crepes, "Indian" mashed potatoes (what her dad called them) and some coconut and garlic chutney (I could eat that every day for the rest of my life). Then her parents taught me how to eat these native fruits. I can't remember what they're called, but I took a picture, naturally.

Long update, but who knows how often I'll get to internet. Oooh, when Chai picks us up in an hour: Lunchtime!

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Ha...NOW I remember Heathrow

Last time I was here was a few years ago as my mom and I literally ran for miles and miles in the 15 min we had to make our connection. I guess it doesn't matter this time because apparently I have SEVEN hours until my flight. I guess I never actually looked at that part
of my itinerary. So, I've got some time to kill. Btw, I just got 10 dollars worth of pounds, which comes out to just over THREE. Jesus. I knew the exchange rate was bad, but I didn't realize it was THAT bad. I tried to get Rupees, but they're telling me it's actually "restricted currencies" and you're not supposed to take them in or out of the country. Who knew? I mean, I've got some in my bag here.

I watched Something's Gotta Give on the flight over, which I knew would be lame as hell, but holy crap, if that wasn't one steaming pile of anti-feminist bullshit, I'm not sure what is. Well played, Ms. Keaton, well played. I pulled out my headphones and just watched Keanu for awhile.

I'm almost all the way through this book called Namesake, which I'd amazon link for you, but I'm emailing this in and you know how that html goes. What an apropriate book for this trip. It's about a couple who marries and moves to the US, and about how they and their children struggle with becoming Americanized. There are some great quotes which I'd copy but that seems not very pound-efficient at the moment. There's all these scenes I'm literally about to embark on...like seeing the Taj Mahal for the first time, or just trying to "understand" India as a non-Indian born person. I'm tired and forgetting them all now. I would highly recommend it for American born Indians, I think they'd probably identify more than I, but it's good nonetheless.

So while waiting for my flight out of DC, I realized the one thing I forgot. I didn't bring anything for Chai's grandparents. These folks are putting me up in a house for a week and I brought NOTHING. Talk about the height of impoliteness. Now I'm not sure what to do. I can't very well come half way across the world and buy them something in India. It'd be like your friend visiting from Calcutta and buying you a tin of cookies at the local CVS. Get something at Heathrow?
"Chai's Grandmother, thank you so much for letting me stay at this house for a week. Here's a bottle of Jim Beam, duty free!" Sigh.

I guess I'll just go buy myself a 7 dollar latte or something. 16 hours til India!

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Off we go.

Woo! Super shuttle picks me up in an hour and a half, and I'm, well, ready to hit the road. My backpack is packed, I've got all my identifying information, a couple books for the plane, my camera and...hey, what else do I really need, right?

I took this somewhat hilarious photo of me trying this baby on for the first time. It's like...twice my size. But I'm pretty pared down I think. As for clothes, I really only have pj's, some tank tops to wear under my salwar kameez, a pair of capris, and the clothes on my back. Everything else is stuff that I'll dispose of throughout the trip - to-go toilet paper, hand wipes, shampoo, etc.

My backpack is a genius of engineering by the way. Instead of a detachable fanny pack like most have, it's got a piggyback backpack that zips off, which I'll be carrying on board. There is a panel that folds up under the bottom, that zips all the way over the shoulder straps, so that I can check it easily without things getting caught everywhere. It goes on and on...it's much bigger than what I'd planned to buy, but it's worth it for the features I think.

I've got about an hour to kill, so I think I'll hit up that meme.

1. Apropos: I used to be terrified of flying. I rarely flew as a youngster, but when I did it included a) a take-off during a ridiculous mountain lightening storm in Colorado Springs. If you've ever flown from or through the Rockies during one of these, you know what I'm talking about. I was about 11 and was alone with my younger sister flying back from a basketball camp at the Air Force Academy. While we were on the take-off strip, lightning struck next to the plane and we immediately smelled smoke...and then half the plane (kids from the camp) started crying, including my sister. We waited for the storm to pass, except it passed in front of us, so then we flew through it. Or b) a short flight from Santa Fe to LAX, where my ears didn't pop for 72 hours. Listen. That shit is painful, and it's a Catch 22. If you can relax, they'll pop, but it's so painful you can't relax. So anyway, I ended up going out of state for college and spent the next two years training myself to turn every single emotion off. I supposed you'd call it meditation, but that sounds so spiritual. I just taught myself to completely shut down nervous energy, and eventually, it worked. (Here I come British Airways!)

2. I went through a weird piercing phase in college. Rebellion or boredom, I suppose, but I had quite a few at one point, including a tongue piercing. This was a common story: I was in Ohio during Easter weekend one year, cause it's too short to travel home, but my roommates had driven to their local residences. I was bored, sitting outside drinking a beer and thought, why not? So I drove downtown and got another piercing. I've ditched most of them over the years, and the few I have left are only because I can't actually unscrew the bars, ha. Eventually I'll have to go to a piercing guy and have him take it out and cross my fingers he doesn't take my flesh with it.

3. Most of you know (if you've read the title of this blog) that I'm a big astronomy buff, and that I minored in Physics and Astronomy in college (I started out majoring til I realized there was no future in it). So, for three years I actually ran the Student Observatory on campus. I was the only one who had a set of keys, and taught the weekly astronomy lab there. The 9.5" refractor was all mine for awhile, including the spare room downstairs which I started using as my personal storage facility. I also cleaned out the disgusting basement, turned it into a darkroom and taught classes. We planned to get a camera attachment for the telescope, but we never got around to it before I left. I miss that place.

4. So, I kind of joke about having OCD, but I was quite the little Monk back in the day. I never really counted things, but I'd watch where I stepped and if I stepped on a crack I'd have to step on another one. Everything had to be even, you see. I've mostly grown out of it because it's pretty, no, TOTALLY ridiculous. However, the only place where I can't give it up is - yup - on airplanes. I think it's part of my personal calming routine. It's only important when I'm boarding, see, I won't ever, EVER step on the edges between the terminal and the plane itself. I will wait for the person in front of me to be completely inside the plane, so I don't accidentally take my large step forward and then be stuck there if he stops. I know, I'm a huge freak.

5. I won a cross country race once. It's tougher than it sounds - it's not a six-person track race, these are usually 80-300 person races, and I was in one of the fastest regions in the country (a girl from our county won Nationals every year I was in high school). When I started CC in high school, boy, did I suck. I placed #104 in my first race at a whopping 28 minutes (for 3 miles). But as they say, I could only go up from there, and so I soon found myself finishing with a personal record in every following race. Just 10 seconds here, 30 seconds there. Pretty soon I realized that I fucking love running. It makes you feel like you can conquer the world. Eventually I got pretty good and was running in the top five (out of the 60 girls on our team) for our JV League Championships race. So the starter pistol goes off and I take it easy, I don't sprint out ahead of the pack cause that's a great way to burn out early. Slowly, over the first mile I was overtaking girls one by one, including my teammates who said, "Go Heather" under their breath (you always cheer your teammates on...btw, CC is a team scoring sport, in case you didn't know that). By Mile 1 it was me and a girl from Dos Pueblos in front. Fucking Dos Pueblos. About two miles in I started to pull ahead. Our coach was a wonderful maniac and he was running to every leg of the race yelling and screaming at me, in a good way. So I'm definitely leading the race, but I can FEEL this girl behind me and I'm completely stressed and feeling the rush of leading and fearing I'll lost it, and all my teammates are cheering everytime the course wraps back through base, and I get to the last 500 yards. Coach yells, "Sprint ahead!! Sprint ahead!!" So I do what we call a strider, basically doing a sprint that I can recover from, for about 300 yards and totally pull away from this girl. As I approached the finish line I was running faster than I'd ever run before, my heart was pounding, and I feel this...thing. But my adrenaline was pumping too hard to figure out what. I cross the finish line a good 45 seconds before little miss Dos Pueblos, get a personal record of over a minute, and realize about an hour later that I tore a muscle in my back doing it. Heh. Oops. I got better and started running Varsity (and my personal best is two minutes faster than the time in that race), but still, this is like my one big high school victory story.

Okay! Guess I should go scan the house for forgotten things. I should find an internet cafe pretty easily in Bangalore, but you won't hear from me until at least Friday, since that's how long it'll take me to get there. I talked to Chai earlier, who says she bought me a sari already! I can't wait to see it, and go get fitted for my other outfits before the wedding.

Take care everyone!

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

No turning back now!

I'm all checked in for my flight. Got my aisle seats, with no one behind me to kick my seat (my personal flying pet peeve). I went over to the office today to make copies of my important information, memorized my passport number (breathe easy, Hemal!), headed up to Tenleytown to pick up some equipment after a fiasco this morning with my suddenly discovered camera/iPod incompatibility, which I really should have figured out sooner, but didn't. My tech gurus Scott and Tom came back with some helpful info, but unfortunately I seem to have bought the only digital camera on the face of the planet that's not compatible with, like, anything. Luckily they were having a sale on SD cards at Best Buy, so I got a 2 gig card (that gives me 4 gigs total), and also this inexpensive gadget that is supposed to upload images from your card directly to a computer. I'm hoping to do this at an internet cafe, depending on whether I can get access to upload to a public terminal, but it was so cheap I had to give it a try.

Then I made my way over to Paul's and Arish's at my old stomping grounds in CP (literally, Arish lives in my old building; Paul lives across the street), and got a sleeping liner, extra plug adapters, locks, and a couple bucks worth of Rupees ("in case you have to bribe the customs officer"). I calmed my nerves a bit with a beer and some words of wisdom at Paul's, then headed home and made myself a garbage salad with all the perishables in my fridge. Yum.

Spencer seems to have given me a bon voyage gift by tagging me with a meme twelve hours before my flight, but in the thirty seconds I've had to think about it, I found it was actually hard to list something people don't know about me, considering that I write what's more or less turned into a tell-all blog. I'm going to give it some consideration on the airplane and get back to you, Spence.

By the way: Victory! After two different men coming to our house today, the DSL is up and running (I'm not sitting in the window sill!). Except, only on my computer and not my roommate's. Heh. Sorry girl! Have fun with that.

On Pills

I realized halfway through doing this that maybe taking all my over-the-counter pills out of the packaging and putting them into space-saving ziploc baggies may not be the wisest idea. Does anyone know how TSA slash customs reacts to non-labeled pills? All my prescriptions are in their bottles, so I'm good there, it's the Immodium and sleeping pills I'm worried about here.

Also, can I get a vote on taking an oxycodone on the plane? I've got a prescription from a few years ago and took one for a legitimate medicinal purpose and it so totally knocked me out that I never went near them again. Granted, they expired three months ago, but I'm sure they're still good. See, I can't sleep on planes whatsoever, so I'm sort of worried that I'm going to go through 36 hours of total conscious hell (they played "Click" on Chai's flight...which may be reason enough). If I took one of these babies, the plane could literally fall out of the sky and I'd sleep all the way down. My only worry is that I won't be lucid enough to properly make my plane change in Heathrow after 8 hours.

Thoughts?

Holy mother of incompetency

It looks like I got quoted in the Express again yesterday for another rant. My quotes always seem to include a lot of f*cking astericks. This time it was amusing because I found out when someone left a comment on the post (dude, I totally sympathize) which arrived in my email just as I was standing here screaming bloody murder at them again. The Verizon guy finally told me they would send someone out, at no charge to us, but that it couldn't happen until Wednesday. I asked if there was any way he could do it Tuesday, because I'll be out of town and I'm not asking my roommate to take a day off of work for this bs. He said no, he couldn't even get into the Tuesday schedule on the system, and that - oh yes - I should have called in the morning. I should have called in the morning? IN THE MORNING?? I CALLED YOU THREE WEEKS AGO YOU MOTHER FUCKERS! AHHHHHSCREAMINGVIOLENCEOFRAGE!

Anyway, many hours later and with a tag team of me and my roommate, we managed to get someone to "open" the system and get us a man to come Tuesday (this afternoon), which is great cause I'm here anyway. Cross your fingers. CROSS YOUR BLOODY FINGERS. Also - if it does work, we're totally getting our DSL turned on 12 hours before I leave the country. Naturally.

I actually had a severely bad day when it comes to customer service. I forgot to take off that sign I was wearing that said "Please fuck with me, I've got the time." You name it: Rite Aid, Hudson's Trail, my bank, my credit card - all of them, giant assholes of misery. Or at least, no one there is trained to do their jobs properly. I was getting some traveler's checks at my bank, and the first guy passed me off to someone because he'd never done them before, which is fine. Now, I've never gotten these before, so I couldn't quite remember, you know, what the point is. I asked her, "Now, there's some kind of guarantee on these right?" "Ummm, no, er, I think...they're just practical." "Well, yeah, but why are they practical? I mean, it's better than cash if I lose them right?" "Yeah, they're much more practical." "YES, but WHY ARE THEY PRACTICAL??" Jesus effing christ. Finally we got it worked out, mostly because I eventually remembered taking them when I waited tables, and because her supervisor came over.

I won't go into the rest of it, or surely my blood will boil over with rage again. If I wasn't leaving so soon it wouldn't have been such a big deal, but I did get even more nervous in Hudson's trying to figure out what I hadn't thought of to bring with me, thinking "last chance, last chance." I did, however, take a moment to appreciate the irony of me going to India and having a month-long exercise of "doing without," which requires me to buy everything on the face of the planet before I go.

I'm going to finally do a packing dry-run today to make sure everything fits. It's weird, I have all these medications for ailments I've never even had, because people guarantee me I'll need them and/or my doctor insists I take precautions against my vaccination side-effects, particularly of my malaria pills (which I start taking tomorrow). Oh, turns out my health insurance covers those and the Cipro I got, which is so, so totally awesome, cause that was gonna cost me a small fortune. Maybe next time I can splurge for the super expensive, no side effect malaria pills.

Anywho. After trying a few new things, I managed to get my photos to upload from my new camera, so you can see a few here from the party (though, we didn't start taking photos until about 3:30am or so) and from my Nov trip to Cali, including a little food po/rn for David. Mmmm....South American cuisine... And I think someone's linked to my Wii photo, because it's got a ton of views. Anyone?

I'm off to wrap up my life.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Are we really going to go through this again?

Remember when I moved into my last place and spent a few weeks battling the Verizon robots to get my DSL working? Well it's like effing deja vu over here. Three weeks now and those fuckers can't figure out how to flip a switch. After being on hold for over an hour each time I call, I spend another half an hour explaining my situation again because they can't seem to write any of this shit down. And I've reconfirmed that swearing at the machines gets you to a representative much faster.

The story being: I was told my phone line went on on Nov 22. The DSL was supposed to start 7 days later. During that time I was supposed to get "complimentary dial-up," except I was given absolutely no information about how to use this (and frankly, didn't want to go through the trouble for just a week when we could steal wifi out the window). A few days after the phone line was turned on, I got an email saying there would be a delay and the DSL wouldn't be turned on for two weeks, instead of one. Jesus. Then a few days later I get another email saying it's actually ready. Woo! Except, no, they were pulling a fast one on me. When I called they were like, "um, no, it says you're still pending." Well, alright. FINE.

The date finally passes when it's supposed to be on, but it's still not working. After many phone calls and swearing at robots, the nice man in Bangalore told me that it was something on their end, and they'd put a technician on it, who would call me back in 24 hours. Riiiiight. Four days later when no one called back, I call back and, the new nice man in Banglore, after he fights with me about how long ago I called (you're a day ahead buddy!) goes through with me AGAIN if I tried another jack, etc, whatever, and finally after being on hold for two days he says he's putting a technician on it, and if he doesn't call me in the next 72 hours, I should call again. You know what Verizon? I'M A BUSY PERSON. Or at least, these things I have like "work" and "drinking beer" are much more important than being on the phone with YOU. I don't have time to be calling your total waste of a tech support department every other fucking day.

Please PLEASE someone recommend a DSL company that I can use in DC. I looked at Comcast cable, but it's $20 more a month (we're hooked into a satellite tv contract), so I'd like to avoid that. I don't use the line for a telephone, so I don't care about those rates. I know there's more than Verizon in DC, but all these names mean nothing to me if their service totally blows.

Help! Don't make me fight the robots again.

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