Rain

The first rain in 72 days came here, in McLeod Ganj. It arrived with the wind, the cool wind and the motivation to pull up my hood and slowly walk the streets up and down in the drizzle.

I seek cover from the rain. Sits down on the steps under a roof and wait. A few metres infront of me, the forest clad valley begin it’s crawl a thousand metres down.
I listen to José Gonzales and smile at the lines he sings.

We remain. As everything else has been washed away.

That which remain beyond everything we live for, that which we think we need to survive. That which remain after the rain washes away our history and makes our future unknown.

One can only be a globetrotter if you walk already trodden paths. The one who stands still while the rain fall and patiently wait can never be a globetrotter. The one who has no memories walk new roads every day.

Then, only we remain.

Trekking the Himalayas

I am now, and have been for a few days, in McLeod Ganj. It is the northern part of the city of Dharamshala in the state of Himachal Pradesh. McLeod Ganj is the part where both the Dalai Lama and the Tibetan government in exile calls its home. From here it has stubbornly worked for 51 years for a free Tibet.

On the altitude of 2000 metres it is also a popular place for everyone that has the time and money to get away from the summer heat in the rest of India. It feels more like a Swedish summer up here with both rain and cold days and some days that are very hot, although not even close to the 40+ degrees you can get further south.
It seems like everyone eventually gets here. I have seen a lot of people that I have met earlier in all places I have visited during this trip.

In a short while I will get picked up by a car to go to the start place for a four day trek up the Himalayas. It’s going to be tough, but at the same time nice to get a way from civilization for a while and wander around in the amazing nature up here.
So, I’m not going to be around for a few days…

Life is Art

The music of Sophie Zelmani is like made for silent evenings in the Swedish summer night with a big glas of red wine. To sit on the balcony, slowly letting the wine fill your mouth and then let it trinkle down your throat.

It is like she has spent her entire music career repeating this same feeling over and over again. Song after song, album after album.
It never gets monotoneous, because it is one of the best feelings there is. The feeling where life becomes art, every breath gets a new meaning and the warmth of the night is colder than your hearts.

I have no idea what her lyrics are about, I have never really listened to them. Her music express enough without listening to the words, that feeling do not have to take the long way around to your heart by going through your mind.

I don’t have a Swedish summer night tonight, no red wine either, but I do have Zelmani, a bottle of water and a bed in a sleeper compartment in a long Indian train.

Life is art, wherever you are.

The heart of Pushkar

Along market street in Pushkar there is a small place where you can sit and have a chai. If you sit on those small chairs next to the street and stay there long enough, eventually every person in all of Pushkar will have walked by, along with cows, dogs, an occassional car and loads of motorbikes.

After having found this place I could sit there for hours just watching life go by. Sooner or later someone you had met earlier came by or you got to know someone new. There was no concept of later here, only now.
The heart of Pushkar. And because of the lack of bars, the hip place to be for all backpackers.

When we eventually moved on we ended up in a nearby restaurant.
Nio people. Nio nationalities. Nio people who had never met before, whose only common denominator was that we all travel alone through India.

Australia, Israel, Slovenia, Italy, Spain, Switzerland, Germany, Sweden, England.

People I might never meet again. People I don’t know anything about, sometimes not even their names. But that doesn’t matter. Sometimes it’s just so nice not to talk about what you used to be at home.
To talk about things when no one individual is important, where only the talking itself has a life.

Finding rest

It has taken it’s time, but now I am starting to feel what I really want from this trip, what I like to do and in what pace I feel comfortable to move in. I guess you have to try to find out before you know.

Everytime I come to a new place I have been surprised by how relaxed I have been on the way there, but for at least the first 24 hours in the new place, sometimes longer has been quite uncomfortable. I have wondered why I went to this place, felt out of balance in a way that might be called a minor depression.
At the same time, now I know that this will show up, so I don’t really pay too much attention to it. I allow my brain to have a bad day and in the meantime I go about enjoying life in general. The question is, how depressed can you say you are if you don’t bother about it? How bad can it be?

But that this will show up, and that it will take a few days to settle down in a new environment also mean that it’s of no use trying to move about too often. I have found some kind of ideal with at least one week, preferably ten days before moving on.
It takes time for the mind to let go of it’s resistance to the new and only then you can actually experience the true atmosphere of the place. If you move on before this happens you really never settle down properly.
It is, of course, individual how much time you need and every place is different. In Goa a week seemed quite ok wheras in Pushkar, one week was way to short. I would have needed at least another week. Only the last two days I started to enjoy the place, and now I’m already in Delhi waiting for my train to Amritsar in the north.
One of the reasons for this was of course my trips to the hospital, but I think I would still have wanted to stay for a while longer if it hadn’t been for the call I feel from the cool spring of the Himalayas. I only have eighteen days left, and I want to have time to really stay up there for some time.

Another month in this huge country would have been needed to get the full flavour.

To Pushkar

That Rajastan is one of the poorest states of India is something I already knew before coming here, but still it was made obvious the moment I stepped off the train.
The eastern part of Rajastan consists of gigantic plains with hills raising towards the sky from the middle of nowhere. It is a dry and arid land that further off to the west turns into a desert landscape that continues well into Pakistan.

I am often surprised in what conditions humans kan live and still survive. All from the dry landscapes of California or Australia to the winter lands of Canada and Greenland. Sweden feels like an oasis compared to these areas.
Despite this, there are more than 60 million people living in Rajastan, compared to the meager 9 million that live in the areawise larger Sweden.

That is hard to grasp.

Maybe it is not so strange that these state is so poor when the drought makes it harder and harder to live here.
When I get off the train to take a rickshaw to the bus station I get to see the saddest fleet of Autorickshaws I have ever seen. The parking lot looks like a dump. At the bus station I see the same thing. The bus that takes me to Pushkar on the other side of one of the hills looks like something that was left to die but had to be reinstated because of the lack of other vehicles.
Packed with people it tries to climb the hill road upwards and over the hill. It is so slow that we get overtaken by a tractor.

I start wondering if we will actually make it and becomes a bit afraid when I hear the driver turn off the engine when we are up on the top and starts to quietly roll down the other side. How well will the brakes work on a vehicle like this in 40 degrees celcius?

We do survive however and reaches Pushkar after eleven kilometers and about half an hour (it takes about 15 minutes with a car that has an engine). I find somewhere to sleep and takes a much awaited shower. After that I go for a walk to find the market street close to the Pushkar lake, which this year is not a lake, but rather a hole in the ground with a few splashes of water in small parts of it.
Unfortunately, they have started using another bus stations than they used to since making the map, so I had to walk around quite a bit asking my way to the market before finding it. On the way there a few dogs starts to bark at me.
It happens every now and then that dogs bark at you and then runs off, so they surprised me when suddenly two dogs started running after me and trying to bite my leg. One of the dogs only touched my trousers, but the other dog actually bit me in the leg before an Indian guy standing a few metres away could run them off.

It hurt a bit but my trousers was ok and it didn’t feel like it was something serious so I kept walking. When I reached the market I met a Serbian couple that I spent a few hours with eating dinner and talking to. So only when I got home and took of my trousers I started to think about the bite again. It had already become blue from the bite and there was a small open wound with a bit of blood so it didn’t look too good. I realized quickly what this meant so I gave my saviour a call, my private doctor Uma. She recommended me to go straight to a hospital and helped me by talking in Hindi to one of the guys working in the guest house to convince him to take me to a hospital instead of waiting to the morning. The guy, named Kuku, can’t find a taxi for me, everyone is asleep, so a bit after midnight, he drives me himself to a private emergancy hospital in Ajmer.

If you get infected by Rabies, you have about 24 hours to get an injection, otherwise there is a risk that you die. Every year about 30.000 Indians die in similar conditions because of lack of treatment, usually from a bit from a dog or a monkey. I get a bit scared when I read in the Lonely Planet guide book that it’s next to impossible to find treatment in India for Rabies, but Uma calms me down by telling me this is not true, every hospital has this kind of stuff.

If Rajastan is poor, you could not see that on the hospital. The emergancy room was clinically clean in a new modern building that made Swedish hospitals seem a bit worn out. I have to wait maybe one minute before I get to explain what has happened and within fifteen minutes they have given me two shots, a blood sample and put me on dextrose. My driver goes off to pay for the visit.
When everything is done, they show me to a room where I get to spend the night under observation. The room turns out to be more of a hotel room. I have my own toilet and shower, a few couches, an extra bed for visitors, a/c and TV. The only thing I miss is toilet paper and a few wall paintings for decoration. Had there been a wi-fi connection I would have given the place five stars. As usual in hotels, I took the soap from the shower with me home.

For this deluxe package incl. Brunch, tea with cookies and a constant stream of maybe ten people checking on me, four injections, five different pills in different colours and form and the pleasure to see a bollywood version of something that looked like Ivanhoe, you have to pay about 11.000 rupees. Or €190.
Hadn’t it been for the risk of dying of rabies and the horrible about seeing Indian actors running around in Robin Hood-like clothes I would have stayed.
At four in the afternoon the day after I get discharged and I got back to Pushkar and my room.

On the hospital receipt it says “deluxe room 308” and when I left I got a nicely put together folder about the hospital and with my journal telling me what they had done and instructions about further treatment. After this I realize that the word service is not applicable to Swedish hospitals.
My problem now is that I have to find a copy of the movie to send to the insurance company to prove to them that I actually didn’t stay there voluntarily but was actually there against my will for treatment.

We’ll see if they believe me.

Anjuna beach, Goa

 

View from my balcony

Arambol Cliffs, from balcony

Anjuna used to be, about ten years ago The place to be if you wanted to party for real. The area was filled with bars, restaurants and big outdoor clubs where all the rave parties that made Goa famous, went on all night.

After years of too much partying and the problems with drugs and violence that came with it the local politicians got fed up with it and banned music after 10pm. After that, the partying has become less and a lot of it has moved on to other places. During high season, there is of course still a lot of parties, most often because someone paid off the cops to stay away and sometimes the parties are only announced through word of mouth and then you have to go around looking for them on your own.
I had counted that it would be quite empty and calm since a lot of people has left and many stores and restaurants are closing down in april.

This saturday I went to Anjuna to meet some couchsurfers. Sunnie from Florida and three Indians from Mumbai, one girl and two guys made us five total. We met at Curlies in south Anjuna, a beach shack where I thought we would eat a bit and have a few beers.
There wasn’t really that many people there, but after two hours we where all in the middle of a raveparty, with a DJ that playes good music för Trance.
A bif before eleven we moved on to Ingo’s night bazaar, the most well-organized I have seen so far in this country. Everyone was surprised that Ingo’s german organisationskills actually worked even in a country such as India. It also turned out not to be only a market, but a place with several bars with a lot of people dancing and partying, so we kept on going too.

Today I’m a bit hungover and tomorrow, monday I will get on a train for 35 hours to take me to Ajmer in Rajastan in North India. It is a trip of about 2000km so I wonder if I will feel as happy by travelling by train after that trip…

My neighbour

I have never felt scared or insecure in India.

Of course I know that there are crimes and also violence, but I have never felt threatened. I have felt that in San Francisco though in the evening. I was looking over my shoulder all the time there. I understand why most people with money live in the suburbs and drive a car. It’s the safest and easiest way.
Indians can get a bit too much, especially for western women, but I have never experienced them as threatening. Sure, there is no need to be stupid and walk everywhere in the middle of the night, but even in enormous cities such as Mumbai there is never a feeling that you are in danger.

I have a Russian painter as a neighbour here in Arambol. He’s got a nice candlelight holder on the balcony that I was meaning to ask him where he got.

Today he was sitting on the balcony, but suddenly he started singing some kind of death metal songs and throwing empty liqour bottles on the cliffs below.

I realized very suddenly that I really don’t need any candelight holders, so I went inside and locked the door instead.

Later in the evening, he took the balcony handle and threw down on to the cliffs. On the way down he hit the electricity cables which set of some lightning flashes in the air.

Russians are apparently not very popular here in Goa. Not even if they are painters. Why I haven’t really found out yet (I hope not all of them are like my neighbour). The only thing I know is that they seldom haggle which brings up the prices for the rest of us. But I don’t think that is the reasons why Indians don’t find them pleasant.

It is very popular for Russians to go to India. It is easy to get a visa for them because of old socialistic ties between the countries, so the richer they get, the more they travel, often to India. Broadly speaking, I would say that half of the people I see here are Russians.

When I was thinking about the guy next door, I started thinking about my neighbours at home. I got very surprised and a bit shocked when I couldn’t remember my neighbours and also had to put some effort into it to remember where my apartment was and what it looked like.

After a while, a familiar face showed up. It was Bengt, with the dog. But I soon realied that he used to be the president of the board of the block I was living in before, in Västerås. Not in Stockholm. After a while I started remembering what the place looked like.

It was a weird feeling.

My crazy russian neighbour has a crazy neighbour too. A guy who thinks he is Swedish, but doesn’t really know where he lives.

Hampi Childrens Trust

The Hampi Children’s Trust that I volunteered at has today 30 kids in the age of 4-16 that come there six days a week. They get three meals a day, material and costs for school payed and also get help with homework from the teacher who work there. The cost per child and year is about rs.10.000 or €160. That is not a lot of money for a full year.

Most of the kids live in what is called the Hampi Bazaar. It is a series of old ruins that has evolved into houses or shelters for the poor. The plan though is to expand and build similar centres in the surrounding villages.

I re-made one of the information leaflets that they can use, so if you want to know more click on the link above.