Delhi ho!

Last travel post from India! We spent our last few days in this strange and wondrous land in Delhi. Before lurching into India’s capital city, we spent 6 hours on a train from Jaipur. Train trips always make me feel melancholy – more than any other mode of transportation, they epitomize “journey” to me, and I inevitably find myself in a contemplative space.

The Indian train, in all her glory.

However, Indian trains are also far too a) bustling, and b) revolting to allow for unbroken contemplation. Todd and I sat in one of the cheapest classes on all of our trips, and there was rarely a dull moment. Apparently, paying for a berth doesn’t mean that it’s really yours – we had endless numbers of villagers “sharing” our seats, and cramming themselves into any unoccupied space. We also watched a dizzying array of activities taking place, including a business meeting between 5 men that lasted for six hours (with breaks for sharing village gossip).

Todd was totally appalled at the idea of chatting for 6 straight hours.

And whenever I felt too melancholy, I just took a trip to the toilet, where I was abruptly jerked back to reality.

And this was one of the cleaner options…

Things didn’t get any more normal once we arrived in Delhi. I booked a place that was highly recommended on Trip Advisors, and we found ourselves in one of the most delightfully bizarre hotels that I have ever encountered. The Hotel Kabli is a converted mansion in a random residential area that appeared to be at the edge of the universe when we arrived in the cold night fog. We were warmly welcomed by the Sikh proprietors, and were soon huddling in our room under every blanket we could find – it was Delhi’s coldest day in 66 years. The next morning, we awoke to find ourselves in the middle of Kabul. There were Afghans everywhere – men chatting in large huddles, and veiled women sitting in a segregated area. We were the only Westerners in the joint. Apparently, the hotel is a favourite stopover for Afghans doing business in Delhi. The men wanted to talk to Todd, but when I joined them, it felt awkward – they weren’t rude, but I felt like I was committing a cultural faux pas.

We spent the rest of the day walking around the Jawaharlal Nehru University campus. Before we decided to move to Thailand, I was considering applying for a PhD at the JNU school of international studies. Needless to say, things didn’t work out that way, but it was neat to see the campus. It was an interesting mixture of a stereotypical university environment (political posters everywhere), and unique Indian charm (a walkway covered by a cement roof that would occasionally crumble and drop chunks on students’ heads).

Doing my best to look like a university student.

We also spent time fighting for survival on the metro. I have never seen people push and shove quite like this – I finally understand how people get crushed to death in crowds. And I’ve never seen grown men dive for seats on the metro like I have in Delhi. It is a blood sport.

We arrived home in the wee hours this morning. After a short stretch of glorious sleep, we were woken by insanely bad karaoke music blasting from a celebration across the canal from our building. Nice to know that even though we’ve left India, there’s still plenty of weird to go around.

Squatty Toilets – a link to a great blog

Don’t worry my little friends. I haven’t suddenly decided to start inflicting verbiage on you on a daily basis – that would interfere with my coffee drinking schedule. However, I recently read a great post by a dee-lite-full fellow Bangkokian blogger, and I wanted to share it with you. In order to fully understand the farang experience, it is important to explore a topic that is near to the farang heart and close to the farang bowels – the squatty toilet. It is not, however a topic that I plan on covering, for the following reasons:

1) Squatty toilets warm the cockles of my Indian heart, and;

2) Squatting is my main talent in life. It’s often been said in my home town “Ruth may not be the sharpest tool in the shed, but MAN can she pop a squat.”

So I’m leaving it to someone who knows and feels farang pain. Do check it out. I hope you enjoy it.

A diamond in the rough…

Our apartment is a gem. And by “gem,” I mean a diamond in the coal stage. T’s school decided to construct a block of apartments to house both new teachers and a few older students. In theory, this is a good plan. It’s located a block from the school, and the administration can control costs to some extent. In practice, however, it has been slightly less brilliant.

We had hoped to come to Bangkok a few days early, to have a chance to settle in before orientation activities officially began. When we were told that our apartment wouldn’t be ready until the very day of our arrival, we became suspicious about the degree of the apartment’s “finished-ness.” Sure enough, when we arrived in Bangkok at 2am last Friday morning, we were taken to a hotel. The apartments were “almost ready.” Shocker. After three nights in a hotel, we were finally taken to our new building. At first glance, all the teachers were excited by our new home. The apartments look good – Ikea meets sleek’n’modern meets fake wood. “New design trend!” proclaimed the building manager.

Todd doing his favourite activity – flossing – on our New Design Trend couch.

Upon closer inspection, however, all has not been so rosy. In their rush to complete the apartments, the workers missed a few key details. Some were relatively minor, though disheartening, like the thick layer of construction dust coating all surfaces, and the splotches of paint and glue on the new tile floor. After having a minor, jet-lag induced meltdown, I sucked it up and cleaned it up. This was semi-pointless, as construction is still raging around us: filth wafts in every time we open the door. The workers are hurrying to finish the remaining units before the students move in.

Scraping paint off the floor with a kitchen knife.

Other problems haven’t been so easy to “suck” up. Here I am referring to the toilet in our master bathroom. It “sucked” for the first few days, but now it seems to be more interested in “heaving” and “belching.” I’m not totally sure what is wrong with it, but it appears that all the raw sewage in the building has found its way into our master bathroom’s toilet bowl. First, it simply refused to drain. As we were drifting off to sleep one night, however, it began to belch up new surprises: “get the bathmats off the floor!” I yelled to Todd. It threatened to overflow, but soon settled. It seems, however, that every time we start to relax, we hear a familiar belch. Fortunately, we have a second bathroom, although who knows how long it will be before that toilet joins the revolt(ing).

Where hope goes to die. I would have included a more graphic shot, but I want to keep this blog PG.

We went to the manager’s office today, and spoke to one of her minions. We explained through a translator that our toilet was malfunctioning, in addition to the lights in both bathrooms. He was very kind, and quickly sent workers to repair the problem. They brought in ladders and equipment, and shut themselves in the two bathrooms. After 10 minutes, they left. Our lights have been fixed, our white bathmat is perma-stained from the filth they tracked in (yes mom, I know that buying white anything is a boneheaded thing to do), and our toilet is still brimming with society’s detritus.

Our brand-new bathmat after Electrician Dude finished with it. Continue reading