Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Neighborhood Engrish

I've heard some complaints recently that I don't blog enough about everyday things here in Japan. So I have some ideas, and have been snapping pictures around town. I think I have a good enough collection to officially present you with (drum roll, please) Neighborhood Engrish!

Shannen forgot to spellcheck again, you snidely remark. But alas, hopefully it wont be true! (I can't guarantee anything as I haven't done it yet...) "Engrish" is the fun nickname for Japanese English blunders on signs and products. The Japanese especially have difficulty distinguishing the l from the r, and can properly pronounce neither. Singers will innocently croon "I rub you" in their love ballads (struggling with the v sound, too). And although you may be sick of hearing about elections at home, teachers can't get enough on the topic of presidential erections in their English classes.

If anyone is not familiar with the site engrish.com you have to check it out. And make sure you do it when no one else is around so people do not feel the need to call the local asylum for pickup. I have been debating whether to submit my pics to the site, but will first put them up on my own. Here goes:

Do what with butter? And who is Naoko?!

From an Indian restaurant menu (yes, in Japan!) For those of you who use translation programs, THIS is what your results usually end up like!

I'll take some Dread for $315.
And what is that smell coming from the employees' room?
From a hair salon price board

Are you wearing yours?

From a billboard for a demolitiion/clearing company

Here a heart, there a heart, everywhere a...

From a jewelry store in Ota. My engagement ring is from this company, but unfortunately not from the Hearty Heart branch.

Zombie heaven!
Apartment complex billboard

Featuring small-sized suits for big people
Suit store

Too much information...and what's this about a sheep?!
From a lunch box I picked up at the 100 yen store.

Engrish is fun when you actually notice it. When you live overseas and see it everyday you start to get numb, and may actually find yourself telling people you are heading over to Belc to pick up some nail remover before your drinking party tonight.

While we are talking about cultural misunderstandings, I have a story for you. This last weekend Ravioli and I went to "K's" electronic store in Ashikaga to pick up some AA batteries. I was looking around and Ravioli went to pay. He came back pretty ruffled, shocked that they wanted to see his passport just to buy some lousy batteries!! He was still grumbling about Japanese-this and foreigners-in-Japan-that when I noticed some flags in Japanese promoting their new point system, the K's Passport!

I hope you enjoyed. Next I will brog about my experience these rast two months in Japanese erementary schools. Please stay tuned!

Monday, June 09, 2008

Japanese Host Club and Brazilian Line Dancing

Ok, so here's the scoop: Ravioli and I are getting married. When I told my friends here in Japan after all the screaming they decided they must hold a bachelorette party for me. Stag parties (or "hen's night" as they are called in Commonwealth countries) are not a tradition in Japan, but we did one for my friend Nao-chan a few years back and she wanted to organize something "nice" for me, too. Thanks, Nao-chan!

I apologize to all the women out there who might accuse me of breaching hen-party code by revealing all, but being Japan, I don't think this particular night was normal. So to all you men out there, just so you know, your wife probably did NOT do this on her big night. She probably did something even more lucrative and scandalous. (wink!)

I was handed the crown of honor (the same one Nao-chan used on her big night) and was escorted to the first event of the evening, a Japanese "Host Club".

HostESS clubs are infamous in Japan, where men pay big money to sit at a table with beautiful women who light their cigarettes and entertain them in conversation, nothing raunchy involved. Yes, my feelings exactly: some Japanese men are so shy that they actually pay women to talk to them.

My friends found a Host Club where "cool" men in shiny suits and glittery chains with comic-book-hero hair-dos sit at your table and entertain women. Our hosts were nothing special, some were funny, some obnoxious, some with bad teeth or far-out hair, and one older guy had the perfect 1980's Jap-mullet. The conversation was nothing worth paying for (Where are you from? How do you and your friends know each other?---boring) but they posed for pictures, cheered for us when we sang karaoke, kept the all-you-can-drink drinks rolling, and we had a great time.

We had decided the next event would be somewhere danceable, and Nao-chan took us to her favorite Brazilian club. They were holding a special event with a live band, and all the Brazilians were dressed to the tee---in their cowboy hats and western boots and checkered dresses! The band was a Brazilian forro (folk kind of music) and country-western band! I remember this kind of music from my days in southern Brazil, that they loved their country music, but being in Japan it was just too weird. At first reluctantly, I learned to dance to Forro (it's actually pretty easy!) and then believe it or not joined in on some line dancing. If you ever catch me doing this again please club me with something. Or at least don't take any pictures...

Don't ever show anyone this picture, please...

Thanks to all who organized and joined me on my big hen night! I will never forget! I wonder who will be next to wear the crown of honor?

Saturday, May 24, 2008

A Historical Sumo Weekend

Bulgarian wrestler Kotooshu (L) and opponent on May 18th

Today was a historical day for the Europeans and they probably don’t even realize it. Sumo has been dominated by Mongolian Asashoryu for years; you could say he is like Tiger Woods is to golf. But due to recent injuries and bad press for being caught playing soccer in his native Mongolia (totally against sumo rules, apparently), he hasn’t been up to par. This May tournament’s star has been Bulgarian Kotooshu.

Sumo legend Asashoryu performing ceremonial entrance
Kotooshu, whose real name is Kaloyan Mahlyanov, is like Beckham was to soccer. Girls swoon over this guy. He was doing so poorly the last tournaments that he was almost demoted in rank, but has since rebounded and won almost every bout this May (each sumo tournament lasts 3 weeks with each player doing one bout per day). Even though he is not Yokozuna, the highest ranked Makuuchi wrestler, he has done so well this year that he only needed to win either today or tomorrow’s match to win the whole tournament. That would make him the first European ever to win grand prize in a sumo tournament. And he did it just 15 minutes ago! Watch your TVs tomorrow for the ceremonies after the final bouts, should be interesting! He'll be given trophies and cash and a year's supply of meat or pickled plums or whatever the grand sponsors are awarding this time.

Sumo advertising and---oops, Kotooshu's white behind
I decided to surprise Ravioli and take him to sumo last Sunday. Tickets are freakin’ hard to get on Sundays and our seats were way back in never-never land, but we had a good time.
We had sumo lunches, each dedicated to a different champion wrestler. And of course we partook in plenty of beer and chu-hais (rice-alcohol cocktails) and plum wine in a can.

The most impressive thing about this tournament for me was found in the bathroom. The sumo toilets have the most technological control panels I have ever seen, look at this thing! If you didn’t read Japanese how would you flush!? I just had to take a picture.

The buttons read (from left to right) Stop, Butt powerful/Butt mild, Bidet, Fan (high, medium and low), Water Pressure Control. Then at the top you have buttons for positioning the water spray, a screen with water temperature and current settings, Massage on/off, and Turbo Stink Eradicator. Out of curiosity I tried the Turbo Stink Eradicator and air started blowing from inside the toilet bowl---EW!

Thursday, May 08, 2008

Back to Japan, Golden Week Adventures

Back home(?) in Japan! Recently recovered from my Indian stomach dilemma and absolutely ravenous, I cannot tell you how long I’d been looking forward to real Japanese food. I spent at least 5 hours of my 10 hour flight droolfully planning what I would be eating as soon as I arrived. I met my buddy Chieko in the airport and we headed straight to the nearest restaurant. I ordered tenzaru soba, cold soba noodles with a plate of veggie tempura at the side, oh yeess, yuuum yum yum---but wait---there was a slight problem, what was this? It was TASTELESS! My pallet had been burnt out from two months of spice laden Indian food! Luckily my subtler taste buds have since recovered and I can thoroughly enjoy my food.

I arrived to Japan on the first day of Ravioli’s week long holiday, and he was ready to get on the road. As soon as I got over my jet-lag we gathered up the tent and some road snacks, hopped in his little Jeep-like Pajero Mini and ventured south.

First stop: somewhere in the middle of Japan, somewhere
It was 3 am and neither of us could drive any longer. Sure, our island of Honshu is the mere size of California, but California is big! Exhausted, we parked in front of a convenience store at a rest stop that had high-tech heated toilet seats---tempting being warmer than the inside of the car---but no, that’s wrong, you can’t do that; we pulled the blankets from the back seat and slept in the car. zzzzzzz.

Second stop, and first real stop: Hiroshima
Arriving at dusk, we were just in time to wander about the Peace Memorial Park and eat some of Hiroshima’s famous okonomiyaki. If any of you have tried okonomiyaki (and I know many of you have since I have personally taken you all to okonomiyaki restaurants on visits) you might remember the Japanese pancakes made of flour and cabbage and fried there at your own table, correct? Well Hiroshima’s version is even better, with a slate of fried noodles underneath and they cook it for you! These things are so big, after one you will swear off food for the next week. Unless you are Ravioli, in which case you will also happily devour my leftovers.

Hiroshima okonomiyaki
We decided to stay in Hiroshima for the night and proceeded door to door in search of an available and cheap room. Believe me, it’s not easy finding a decently priced hotel room during Japanese “Golden Week” when everyone and their pet stag beetle is on holiday. The cheapest option in town was a “Love Hotel” near the park. Japanese love hotels are infamously glitzy, with a panel of pictures of the rooms at the entrance from which to select your nightly escapade. Love hotels are apparently a necessity in this country where everyone lives with their parents. And with karaoke machines in each room, mini vending machines full of interesting merchandise and huge fancy bathtubs, they are much more fun than ordinary hotels.

I wanted Ravioli to see the Peace Memorial Museum. It’s not a fun thing to do as the museum can be a little graphic, but it makes you think about things. On Aug. 6, 1945 the first atomic bomb was dropped just meters from what is now designated as the Peace Park (and from our Love Hotel), destroying everything and everyone for a radius of 2km. The museum is really good; it doesn’t accuse or make excuses, but shows the history, reasons for and effects of the bomb and the stories of its survivors, and makes a strong plea for world peace. On the park grounds is the Flame of Peace that Hiroshima vows to keep alit until all nuclear weapons are obliterated, and the A-Bomb Dome, a spooky skeleton of a concrete building that actually survived the bombing. We sniffled our way back into the car out of the city to our next destination.

The red ball shows where the bomb detonated, with the city in destruction below Hiroshima at night, the A-Bomb Dome is at the left

Next stop: Miyajima Island In its glory day the whole island of Miyajima was worshipped as a god by the Shintoists, and neither women nor common people were allowed to step afoot here. It’s torii, or red shrine gate, is one of Japan’s “Best Three Views” that everyone Japanese should supposedly see in their lifetime. I had only known Miyajima as the island Chieko and I tried to visit on New Year’s Day years ago and got stuck in impossible bumper-to-bumper temple traffic for hours until we gave up and turned around. This time there was no traffic, and Ravi and I were sailing on the ferry to the island in no time. The tide was low, so our lovely view of the shrine gate was in the mud, but I enjoyed having seen my second of Japan’s Best Three. (My first was in the north in Sendai of a rocky bay swarming with tourist boats and fishing nets, a place that Dad remembers only for what he calls the best pizza of his lifetime. I personally think Japan needs to reorganize its top three lists.)

Next stop: Aso volcano and Beppu Hot Springs resort area, Kyushu
Kyushu is the southernmost of Japan’s big four islands, and Ravioli was determined to make it here no matter how much highway tolls cost no matter what the price of gas was soaring at and no matter how many hours of “California” we had to sit through. With one of Japan’s most famous hot springs resort areas and biggest active volcanoes, I was not one to complain. The weather is warmer in the south and we discovered the joys of cheap accommodation in the campgrounds. I pampered myself in mud baths and took Ravioli to hell, Beppu’s hell, that is, a neighborhood of volcanic steam vents and belching mud that the Japanese call Jigokudani, or Hell Valley.

Shannen in hell Later we ventured to a really cool and well-hidden hot springs town called Kurokawa where you can bathe in natural caves.

Cave bath Do you remember when you were a kid having those nights before something so exciting you just couldn’t sleep from anticipation? That was Aso volcano for us. We woke at 6:30am, packed up the tent and started our ascent. Aso is pretty active now, but about 100,000 years ago it produced an eruption strong enough to create a caldera with a circumference of 128km (about 80 miles). Literature calls it the biggest caldera in the world (isn't Yellowstone supposed to be the biggest caldera in the world??), and there are farms, cities, and even JR train lines inside the caldera. We drove up to the currently active peak, Nakadake, only to find out----OH NOOOO!!!!!

Untouchable Aso-san volcano---toxic fumes, no entrance. Darn those toxic fumes.

This wall mural was our consolation.

***Side note: You are probably getting a little tired reading this big trip spiel, so to keep you from dropping out just yet I would like to hint that there are pornographic pictures coming up.

Next stop: Tawaragawa Onsen
I was flipping through my Lonely Planet to Japan (a few years old, but Japan’s tourist attractions don’t really change) and noticed a fertility temple in western Honshu with a festival where they parade giant stone phalluses through town---the next day!! We rushed out of Kyushu back into Honshu (aka California, if you like) and arrived to the temple at noon, just in time to see people packing chairs and stands into trucks and driving off. We missed it! As consolation an elderly woman gave us 20 pieces of mochi (rice cake) and a couple butter cookies shaped like male privates. We took a few pics of the temple and went on our way.

Pornographic statues at Mara Kannon temple Consolation cookies

Next stop: Hagi
After the fertility temple we hit the Japan Sea coast and planned to cruise slowly back until Kyoto. At the beginning of the coast we ran into Hagi, an old castle town with the samurai and other 400 year-old quarters preserved enough to feel like you were walking around the movie set for Shogun.

Samurai house kitchen Samurai toilet (with signs pleading with people not to utilize it)

Next stop: Matsue
I had been to Matsue briefly during Golden Week about 10 years ago on the way to Oki Island to visit a friend, and had always wanted to return to better check it out. We were delighted to find an original 400-year-old spooky black-colored castle, the homes of more samurai and of Lafcadio Hearn, a famous gaijin (foreign) writer who lived in Japan in the 1890’s. Hearn was born in Greece but was educated in France and the UK and wrote many novels in English, such as In Ghostly Japan and Kwaidan: Stories and Studies of Strange Things. Being a fan of Japanese obake, or ghosts, I have read many of his books. It was fun reading and imagining what a foreigner would feel in those times and imagining my own flip-flops and umbrella and what-have-you on display for Japanese tourists in, say, the 23rd century. Some Matsue residents believe Hearn inadvertently saved the city from any bombing during WWII because Americans had read his books describing the city and its fascinating culture. The first picture in this blog entry is of the castle at Matsue.

We spent too much time in Matsue and had to book it back to Ashikaga (the city where Ravioli lives) to arrive before the horrific Japanese “U-turn” rush (worst traffic jams you will ever see in your life). One drove while the other slept, passing town after town---we even passed through the town of Obama!---taking turns until, EEK, 10 in the morning. We crashed.

It was a wonderful trip and I have been so happy to be back in Japan. It makes me wonder, why did I ever leave? Why did I leave three times?!? Maybe I could stay again. It’s safe here, people are so nice, it’s clean, the food is wonderful…

Japan decided to remind me why last night.
At 1:30 am the ground shook. I flew out of bed in terror and stood there panicking until it stopped (what else can you do?). A stronger tremor hit a half hour later, and a few more throughout the night shaking the bed, rattling the neighborhood and leaving little peace for sleep between adrenaline rushes. The earthquakes were big but the epicenter was about 30 miles into the ocean so no one was really hurt. But now I remember why I cannot stay. No matter how safe it is, clean, etc., I just cannot live knowing such calamity could happen at any time. Maybe I could move to Hokkaido or somewhere with fewer quakes??

NEW! Picture links are back on the right. Check them out! (If you've seen them already on Facebook they're the same pics)

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

India in overdrive

Aaaaaah, the sweet, sweet comfort of home, of washing machines, hot showers, of abundant toilet paper---especially of abundant toilet paper. I arrived back to the US of A yesterday and have never been happier to return. After six healthy weeks in India I entered the US half zombified after catching some kind of bug from the airline breakfast. As if 18 hours of flights were not arduous enough.

But let's get back to the fun stuff.

In the southernmost and communist state of Kerala in India, in a blissfully quiet fort town of Kochi (a.k.a. Cochin) I had decided to get a traditional Indian outfit, called a salwar kameez. A sari is the most traditional attire in India but being little more than a 5 1/2 meter long piece of cloth wrapped around your body, if you don't wear it correctly you could lose your outfit with one misplaced footstep. The salwar setup is easy and practical, and once I had the cloth picked out it was tailored to my measurements in a mere two hours for about $20.

I started observing reactions from people. Would people stare less if I wore my Indian garb? Would I be treated with increased respect with the salwar kameez? The reactions did not seem to differ. Kids would equally flash big white-toothed smiles and say, "Hello, what is your good name?" (They still learn ancient British English expressions in schools). Women would smile or try not to sit next to me on buses, and men would stare or ask the usual, "Where from?" before trying their sales/beg pitch. Groups of men would gape and laugh while some men just gawked. I did discover that people reacted very differently whether I was alone or with a "travel husband". I spent the majority of my time traveling with other backpackers met on the road, many male, and was having a great time being left alone.

Until Hyderabad. Here I was left too alone, by nice people, anyway. Sure the beggars and the rickshaw drivers thought I was Mrs. Bill Gates coming to save their day, and they flocked. There were no other backpackers so I was on my own to fend them off for four days in one of the two hottest months of the year. I carried a rain umbrella to shield myself from the sun and to jab rickshaw drivers out of my path. It was so hot I couldn't move, it was between 100 and 107 degrees Fahrenheit (over 40C) everyday, but I had to cover up as much as possible. Half the population of Hyderabad is Muslim, so women actually walk around in burkas (the black capes that cover a woman from head to toe, everything except the eyes) in this heat. I have learned that many Muslims think western women have no morals showing their skin and prancing around talking to random men, and I wondered if people thought of me the same. At times groups of people would point and laugh at me sometimes in a leering kind of way. It was a terrible place to be as a solo female traveler and I have never been happier than the evening I got on the train to my next destination. Maybe I would have liked it if I had been with someone else to help me laugh off the uncomfortable edge; definately if the temperature were 20 degrees cooler. Who knows who knows.

Hard to understand Hyderabad

One day I decided to take a tour to Hyderabad's movie Mecca, Ramoji Film City. The tour cost $10 and I expected a swing around the movie grounds, but lo-and-behold the place is a Universal Studios-like theme park! I watched how movies are made and sat on rides, I secretly snickered with joy when our seats shook to the vibrations of Hyderabad being destroyed by bombs and fire on screen, and guffawed at the fake boulders and broken glass in the “streets” that didn't look too much unlike the streets of real life. I was the only non-Indian in the complex and I kept my musing under tight control. Imagine standing out like a lone zebra in a herd of horses, or the interest a cat attracts wandering around the dog park, that was me inside Ramoji Film City. Thankfully one family adopted me and I had some positive company for a few hours.

Next stop: Aurangabad. Does it sound like a place that would have orangutans or is that just my wacky imagination? There were some monkeys (no orangutans), but the main attractions are two nearby sites of massive and ancient cave temples carved out rock by hand, both World Heritage sites. There were tourists here, what a relief!!! And the temples at Ellora showed a history of tolerance that many are incapable of today, with temples from three different religions (Hindu, Buddhist and Jain) standing side by side that were used for hundreds of years without strife.

Peaceful Jain cave temple

Arriving back to Mumbai the day of my flight home, it was as if I was arriving to an entirely new city. Last month Mumbai seemed a chaotic third-world city; after seeing more of India I now found Mumbai to be the modern metropolis touted in the guidebooks. I ran into a traveler I had met in Aurangabad on the street, and then we soon ran into another we both knew. What are the odds with a population of 16.4 million...!

Scoping out western girls in swimsuits...?!

I could go on forever about India. The country is as deliciously overbearing as its food and my stomach as well as my brain and all my poor overburdened senses really need to stop and take a rest.

Tomorrow I'm off to Japan for the summer!

Friday, March 28, 2008

Gastronomical experimentation in Southern India

Hello all! I sniffed my t-shirt the other day to see if it needed washing yet and alas, it smelled like curry. So here it is, my excuse for smelling funny when I get home, my long awaited (I hope) entry on Indian food! Some is great, some strange, and most my meals have been under $2.

March 16
Veggie Biryani $1I was on my first train in India and still pretty freaked out about all the strangeness of everything, so I had decided to take the nicest class of train, an air-conditioned sleeper. The cabin attendant (there was an actual attendant!) came into my hideaway asking if I would like to order lunch. He had a list of three vegetarian options and two "non-veg" ones. I pointed randomly at one of the veggie choices and at noon he promptly appeared with my meal.
Biryani is a rice dish so packed with herbs and spices I swear on the Kamasutra that my brain was tingling afterwards. The white sauce at the side is yogurt (called "curd" here) and onions. Not bad for a buck.

March 18
Paneer Tikka Masala (maybe) $1.50
Nan $.50Now I'm not actually sure if this is an actual typical dish or a misunderstanding. I went to the restaurant hoping for that sweet tomato-ey sauce that I remembered from Indian restaurants at home. I suspect the waiter had no idea what I was talking about but wanted to please, thus all the tomatoes. I think the sauce was even laden with ketchup. I have since found out that I wanted "masala" sauce and that masala sauce does not have any tomatoes in it anyway. The nan (bread more typical from Northern India) was good.

March 19
Aloo Mattar $1.50
Rice $.50
This was the first plate of food in India that I really really liked---YUM! Aloo are potatoes and mattar are green peas. Sweet and not too spicy, wonderful!

March 20
Kashmir dam Aloo $1.00
Chapati $.50
Do you remember what Aloo is? Potatoes! (ok, I don't expect you to learn Hindi for my benefit) This plate had the same delicious sweet masala sauce and the potato was stuffed with cheese. Yum yum yum yum. Chapati is just like nan bread but round. There must be some difference but it looks and tastes the same to me.

March 22
Tibetan Momo $.75
This is not Indian food but I just had to try. There are tons and tons of Tibetan refugees in these parts, and their food can often be found on menus. Momo are steamed dumplings stuffed with veggies served with a tangy sauce, delicious.

Same day
Navaratna Kurma $1.10
Chapati $.50
Navaratna are cashews and kurma is a spiced-up sauce. This particular dish had not only cashew nuts but also potatoes, pineapple and bananas in a hot curry full of spices, truly strange.

March 23
Veg. Dosa $1I have found heaven in India! Dosas are a crepe-like pancake filled with whatever you want (usually masala curried potatoes). Mine was with masala flavored veggies (like the inside of a good samosa) with a yogurt sauce to boot. I have since eaten dosas everyday whenever I find them. Cheap good eatin'.

March 24
Thali $1.50Thalis are all-you-can-eat plates of whatever they give you served on top a banana leaf. They usually come with chapati (nan-like bread), a papadum (delicious giant potato-chip), rice, and little metal bowls full of strange and interesting curries and soupy spicy things. Once I was really hungry and decided to splurge and pay 20 cents more for the "Deluxe Thali"---and had 10 little bowls on my plate! You are supposed to eat thalis with your fingers, right handed. (pic: I can do it now!)

April 2
Keralan ThaliI'm in the state of Kerala now, one of the southernmost areas in India, right on the tip there on the map. Kerala is famous for its delicious food and I could not agree more. Today I am taking a private cooking class from a woman in her kitchen, hopefully I will be able to reproduce this wonderful food at home!

Saturday, March 22, 2008

From Goa to Hampi, India: Still laughing

Indian man enjoying the beaches of Goa

They say the only way to enjoy India is too expect nothing and just go with the flow. If you don’t keep your humor you will go crazy in this country.

After five days on the beaches in Goa I was ready to head inland for some Hindi temple ruins in the town of Hampi. I bought the best bus ticket I could find, an "air-conditioned sleeper" in a bus. The picture showed smiling tourists leisurely reclining in plush reclining seats with a level of blissfully sleeping travelers above in beds. I was to be one of those blissfully sleeping travelers---though I really couldn't imagine how a bus could have beds in it. The travel agent reassured me, "Very nice, very nice."

I had met a Brazilian backpacker in Goa and we decided to go together. This was very fortunate because he ended up saving me from two potentially horrible experiences. And I saved him from one horrendous one. Read on.

We had to wait an hour for the bus to arrive. I had noticed a vendor of Indian sweets and decided to get a box to try. I asked my friend if he’d like to halve the first sweet and he was keen. I broke the first sweet in half (middle left one in picture) and there it was, the perkiest piece of black pubic hair standing straight up from the middle of the sweet almost like it was saluting me. I showed the vendor and he gave me a different one, but had my friend not agreed to share it with me I'd have probably been pulling pubes out of my mouth. Sorry, I know it's disgusting and I hope your computer's anti-virus and parental controls accepted this blog entry. Now I learned especially in Bolivia to pull the accidental hair out of my food and still enjoy it, but not this time. I couldn’t touch the things.

Sweet, anyone?

Now the bus appeared, and drove right off without stopping. Was this our bus? Upon enquiry at the office they sent us running 200ft away to where it was parked, shouting, "Hampi wait! wait! Go quick quick. Bus go go.”

Take the oldest Greyhound you can imagine, make sure it hasn't been cleaned in at least 10 years, add a row of crusty horizontal seating, then put the bus driver on drugs and set him off onto a two lane pot-marked road. This was my bus. The "bed" seating was so narrow that my companion and I were stuck together---imagine if it were a stranger!!! This is where he twice saved me by just coming along! The a/c didn't work and the door was left gaping open and India dangerously whipping by. After three hours I really had to pee and there was no toilet onboard (this was probably a good thing judging by the cleanliness of the bus). I convinced the bus-driver-on-speed to stop and everyone had five minutes to utilize the, er, dark parking lot. Once the driver shouted, "Go! go!" the bus was off, but my travel companion was nowhere to be seen. This is when I saved him from being stranded in the middle of nowhere with not even his wallet or passport at hand. He caught up running, thoroughly angry and very freaked out.

Arriving in Hampi at 7am groggy after the bumpy ride, we were mobbed by rickshaw drivers and hotel touts. “Rickshaw, madam, rickshaw?” The drivers swore that if we didn’t take their rickshaws to their specific hotels, “the people of the town will throw eggs.”


Unfazed, we decided to walk, pondering over what kind of people would throw eggs at tourists for no reason. What a story.

But alas, there were broken eggs in the street. Then a mob of wet screaming kids and men covered in colored powder came dancing and shouting, bottles of color in the air. I was soon to find out that today is the Hindi Holi festival, a celebration of the first day of spring where people douse each other and everything in colors and water. And eggs. And I was not left to merely observe.

You never know what to expect in India. I have never seen or experienced anything like it and can only laugh when things go wayward. When I stop laughing I will know to take the first ticket home.

Colored powder vendor This kid actually checked me into my hotelDancing in the street, wee this is fun!
Noone and nothing is exempt from Holi madness
Still laughing