I have been home since Christmas day. Now, ten days later, almost everyone except me went to work or school yesterday. I have actually only left the house once since I got back. Twice actually. The first was to visit the real version of Maitland. There were only 7 of us there because most had not yet returned from the subcontinent. We almost all even had real beds. The second was to shovel the driveway because Alan went to Toronto to visit his sister and the snowplow had installed a huge 2 foot pile of icy snow at the end of our driveway. Wait, did I mention the snow/freezing rain storm?…well we had one. Quel mistake! I managed to twist my back and now I have sciatica, but don’t worry, it’s only a flesh wound.
I have been playing the part of a hermit since we got home for a couple of reasons, not the least of which is that my intestines only decided to leave India two days ago–could be worse, it has taken up to a month on previous visits. The second is that I have just not readjusted my internal clock. As a matter of fact, I am not sure I even have one anymore. ANYWAY, it is 2 in the morning and I am up and sitting in the dark. I snapped a view from my chair of the ice on the branches of our maple tree (Canadian, eh?) lit by the streetlamp across the street.
Home again, home again, lickety split.
For anyone who knows me, you know that my husband Alan is a rampant cyclist. He even got me to do a bike trip in India a long time ago now. Watching the Indian roads now, it is a wonder we survived with our North American traffic viewpoints. I spent three days on car trips this week and watching the organic way that traffic moves is endlessly fascinating. Pat was constantly filming videos out the front window and I did several myself. What I find is you can film for a long boring time, but the second you turn the video off, something head shaking happens. It is almost impossible to get a true sense in a short video clip.
Like at home, there are often lanes painted on the road. Unlike home, these lanes are merely guidelines. Two lanes become three or more as traffic flows. It is totally not uncommon to see a new lane spring up coming in the opposite direction on a one way street..how else would you get back? Go around? Are you kidding me?
If a driver needs to cross four lanes of traffic, he (because they are mostly he’s) just does it. Often a slow process as the traffic flows around. Uturn? Go for it. Others will avoid you if they can. Three point uturn? No problem. Just ignore all those angry horns. And speaking of horns..use it constantly. Every time you are passing someone, you toot your horn to let them know. If they don’t move over, hit it harder. If traffic is stopped ahead of you, lean on the horn as you approach the jam, they should magically part for you, right?
I tried to get a sense of the way bicycles and hand carts are used in India. The short answer is that they are used to haul everything and anything over the short haul.
As my niece laura said, you can’t take pictures to show anyone what it is like here because every second you think, “what the heck?” I love early mornings when I travel. I always try to catch at least one sunrise on any trip. This morning I get up early and headed to the Newmarket area. It is an old building from 1874 that you can’t get far enough back from to fit in one frame.
I was on a corner just down the road when I heard birds cheeping beside me. I looked down and saw a bicycle with at least 50 chickens strung up in four bundles by their feet. Then I noticed a bunch of enclosures the size of kiddie pools full of chickens. They have to be transported live or they would go bad before they could be used. I watched the guy wrangling chickens for a while until his partner noticed me and gave me the hairy eyeball.
Once I met up with the family we went to the Victoria Memorial. It is a beautiful marble building built just after the turn of the 20th century. We toured the building during daylight, then had a bite to eat and returned for a much vaunted sound and light show. All I have to say is you can’t always believe the hype…
At the hotel counter I saw some Germans desperately asking for small bills. Rookie mistake. You have to figure out how to build a stock of small bills and coins yourself in any third world country. Unlike life in general, one has to hang on to the small stuff when it comes to money. It is a game…bottle of water 20 rupees..give a one hundred, this will net you at least 3 tens and the vendor will rarely blink an eye. Never pay for anything that costs more than one hundred with a bill that is less than a five hundred. This means hotel and restaurant bills. And when the bank machine asks you about denominations…pick the smallest possible to keep your options open. Within a day I was up to 12 tens and counting. You can always gets rid of them on the last day.
Yesterday, I did a bit of tourist stuff. I went to the Indian museum which was great in an old world way. Beautiful building and displays like the ROM used to have before the renovations.
I then took a taxi to the Kalighat temple which cost me a whole dollar. It was very busy because apparently it was a Kali holiday. I seem to be able to hit the busy days for these things, on our trip with the kids we hit the Taj Mahal on the busiest day of the year. They were sacrificing goats at the temple, which they apparently do daily. They also sacrifice a buffalo once a year. The return taxi cost $1.50 because he went a different way…break the bank.
i am now at the guest house awaiting the arrival of my family members. This place costs three times what the place I stayed in the last two nights did (it was $14 per night). This place has a couch in the lobby and strong wifi. The other place had a wooden box.