February 20, 2009

Monkey Problem!

Yesterday, I woke up to a goat braying...(baaing?...) outside our hotel window. Today, I saw a cow almost get run over by an incoming train, then walked up the stairs to my room, only to find a monkey at the top of the stairs, staring at me. As we were walking into a temple today, all the locals started pointing at our sunglasses and yelling, MONKEY PROBLEM!! MONKEY
PROBLEM!! apparently, the monkeys would have stolen them off our heads, because there were tons of monkeys hanging out at that temple. Last night, we stayed at a very budget hotel, and spent a good 30 minutes trying to figure out if that white movement we saw in the corner when we first turned on the light was a mouse or a lizard. I never thought I would say the
words, "oh, thank goodness, it's just a giant lizard that is here to eat all the bugs". I feel closer to nature than ever, although we've been in the city the entire time we have been here. Just another contradiction to add to the list that India presents.
Every time I solidify a feeling, thought, or observation something happens to completely turn it around.
So, we spent two days in Delhi, walking around, bargaining, and seeing the sights. I can't say I loved the city, but it does have some beautiful places. We visited breathtakingly peaceful parks, tombs, and temples that seem to be haven of calm in the otherwise completely chaotic rhythm of the city. Being a foreigner, and sticking out like crazy, seemed to plant a huge, "come rip us off" sticker on our foreheads, but inside these parks and monuments, I really got the feeling of why so many people consider India to be such a sacred, spiritual place. Among other things we went to see the Ghandi memorial, a beautiful park with lots of green trees, with Ghandi's remains in the middle, the Red Fort, the Jama Masjid, and a couple of street bazaars that almost literally made my head spin with all the people, sights, colors, smells, and sounds. And the experience of those markets was intensified one hundred fold by almost every pair of eyes following us, every step of the way that we are in the line of vision. We're slowly buying Indian clothes and waiting for our tans to kick in, which will hopefully give us a rest from the scrutiny that follows us everywhere, but generally our backpacks give us away immediately. I know it's all curiousity and without bad intent, but it can also be intense! Delhi was also filled with people trying to
get us to pay more money for something, buy something, or trick us into spending more money or buying something. It was exhausting after awhile, always trying to keep your guard up for who is sincere and who is just trying to make a few extra rupees.
We then had our first experience on an Indian train, which can only be described as-and I know that I have been using this word often, but-CHAOS. Thousands of people, no conductors around to help, people outside the train station running scams, overbooked trains, late trains. We've ridden two trains so far, and for each one, we just hopped on a car, and sat wherever
we could find a place...with some nice help from people along the way.
So, I've been oscillating between thoughts since the first day, It's like, just when I get disgusted by something so much that I want to just go home, something amazing, wonderful and unique happens, and the other way around. I'm pushed quickly from one extreme to another. It's in getting annoyed and a bit angry with aggressive people at the entrance to the Jama Masjid, a Muslim mosque, for making me put on a floor length smock before entering (what?? you're making me cover up from head to toe?? I'm no bleeding heart feminist, but still) and getting annoyed with the entire completely man-centered Indian society, then a group of really sweet kids comes up and asked to take a picture with me...just because I am a pretty girl in their eyes, effectively restoring my faith in the innocence of children and settling the rabid feminist in me. It's in walking on the traffic filled streets with honks, stares, and so much pollution that I begin to feel I can't quite get a clean breath, and then entering into Ghandi's memorial and instantly feeling peace. It's in sitting in a cafe, drinking a chai, and thinking all is good, but then walking out into the street and getting conned by a guy who said he can make change for a 100 rupee bill, but then gave us only 90 useful rupees (we got the other 10 back eventually) and above all, it's in feeling the poverty intensely and wanting to help everyone, but then bargaining for 20 rupees less on the rickshaw ride because you're tired of paying 5 times more for everything just because you're obviously foreign and tired of the seemingly endless scams, and overly aggressive beggars. The beggars themselves are a contradiction: You can't fault them for being
petulant, sneaky, overly persistent, aggressive, and rude because life turned them into that, having to beg for your next meal outside a restaurant where people are throwing food away does that to a person, but then you also don't want to give in to everyone, to feel the heavy weight of helping them all.
Today, we are in Agra, a beautiful city, which has restored my faith in India, and things are good. We just returned from seeing the sun setting from the banks of the river across from the Taj Mahal....so beautiful.
So, we've been sightseeing, trying to see everything worth seeing, but of course, it's impossible to see it all, and I already feel like we're running out of time, and India shoves everything, every feeling at us at once, so for now, my motto is, one day at a time:)
More soon!! With love....
Pictures later....

3 comments:

  1. Crystal! Sorry but I need to speak in Portuguese, its useless to go tryin with English 'cuz I cant remember and I'am very, very tired. Today (say it to Sergio! =P) I played like a version of Lucho/Aimar in the Rodovia Complex. So, it's better to go on with the Portuguese =PP. Sorry =(.
    Essa versão da Índia obscura, faminta e pobre não cria grande impacto no leitor. Isto tudo porque já se deduz que a desorganização da sua sociedade tem-se vindo a arrastar ao longo dos anos com o enriquecimento de uns e o empobrecimento de outros. Tenho pena que a "caoticidade" continue, mas que podem vocês fazer?... E eu queixo-me com a Avenida de Braga, com demasiados carros e poucas árvores! Ainda no Bom Jesus tiraram uma área vistosa (pelo menos para quem vê da minha casa) de mato que percorre todo o Santuário e eu fiquei fulo a semana toda...estou com medo dessa Índia! =XX

    Espero que a vossa jornada seja repleta de sensações novas e sentimentos únicos. Aproveitem essa lua de mel bastante...acarilada xPPP!

    Um grande abraço do vosso primo que vos estima!
    Zézito

    P.s.: Leiam quando tiverem oportunidade este grande poema de um dos vultos da Língua Portuguesa. Fala precisamente da maçada de viver, que, à letra, me transmitiu os mesmos sentimentos que a maçada da Crystal ao ver toda aquela sociedade à procura de uma sobrevivência morta (http://poemariopessoa.blogs.sapo.pt/8007.html).

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  2. Pai Toni (em contraponto à Mãe Mané)February 20, 2009 at 6:55 PM

    É um Mundo novo que estais a descobrir! E isso deve ser muito enriquecedor para o vosso Futuro!

    Cá ficamos à espera da reportagem fotográfica! Até lá vou praticando o inglês .....

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  3. Hello folks!!

    Just want u to keep the fantastic descriptive work...I feel that I won't be needing to visit India anymore!:)

    Enjoy your wonderful trip...

    Big hug and kiss!

    Tiago Braga

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