Lucia has something to say

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Share Your Dreams

I've been realizing. When I'm traveling. That I may no longer have dreams.

Her dream is to have solar electricity for her house in Mali.
His dream is to go to Europe to get his PhD in business so he stays ahead of his students at the university in Nepal.
He lives in Bali, and his dream is to see snow.

Me? I'm not sure if I've got dreams. Maybe I'm already living them. But it seems that there should be something out there. Just out of reach. Bright and shiny.

I need some inspiration. Share your dreams with me. And let them inspire.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Nepal: Airport Adventures

Two long lines of passengers snake into the Kathmandu terminal. Eleven flights leave this small airport within hours of one another. Creating chaos.

I am squeezed amid a group of trekkers with enormous packs. My bag passes the first security screening and is strapped with a yellow band - Security checked - Tribhuvan International Airport - Kathmandu, Nepal.

I go to the ticket counter. They send me to pay the airport exit tax first. Another line of bedlam. The man in back of me presses into me. I think it's an accident. It happens again. I'm thinking what the... The third time, I turn around. It's crowded, but not that crowded. "Give me space!" I say, while my luggage cart nips the heels of the guy in front of me. The guy behind says lamely that people behind him were pushing. There's an Australian woman behind him. I don't think so...

Back to the ticket counter. I have a boarding pass. My bag is checked in. I foolishly believe the rest will be a piece of cake. Next step - immigration.

I've got my paperwork and get into one of half a dozen lines. There's hardly room to queue, as the lines already go the length of the room. Mine. Is not moving. A shy Nepali woman ahead of me says she's headed to Boston on her first trip to the U.S. A Brit behind me eats a sandwich with the filling plop plopping on the floor. He sings pop tunes. We wait. We take baby steps toward the counter. In a little an over an hour, just as I'm ready to go seriously nuts, I get through immigration.

Then to carry-on security. My bag is open and they dig through it. Go through the metal detector marked "Ladies."

On to the gate. All the flights leave from two gates. The plastic chairs are filled. All of them. I lean against a wall and read. I'm near the men's room and whenever someone walks through the open doorway, a bad smell wafts through the room. A man and his wife leave and offer me a chair. The flights are announced only with a little shout.

My Indian Air flight to Calcutta is about an hour late. We get on a bus to go to the flight. We're kept on the bus, because they aren't really ready for us to board the plane. We burst from the doors to some contraptions set up at the base of the stairs to the plane. Another security check. I'm brusquely told to go to Ladies. Ladies what? I have no idea. A woman nearly empties my backpack onto a table and waves me on. She's irritated. I'm not moving fast enough. People are trying to push past to board. I'm trying to cram my things back into my pack.

Things will be easier when I arrive in Calcutta. Immigration is faster. I know the driver who has picked me up frequently. He'll be waiting with a smile and a 4x4. He looks like an younger Indian version of the actor Matt Dillon. We exchange the half dozen words we have in common, and I let my mind drift on the ride through nighttime Calcutta.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

India: Darjeeling

The winding cracked and hilly roads of Darjeeling delight me. Mandarin trees and tea gardens where women pluck tea leaves and toss them into baskets strapped to their heads. Tibetan prayer flags. Low hanging clouds near the border of Nepal. Teak forests with leaves as big as serving plates. Monkeys. Men and women repairing the road by hand. The women use a hammer to break rocks into gravel. And snow capped peaks, including the world’s third highest.

I know in these moments how to drink with my eyes. I drink until I am sated, and go to sleep in a tea bungalow with a snapping, crackling fire in my room.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

India: The Driver

Shortly after climbing into the Amassador Classic--a ubiquitous car in Calcutta, a curvy diesel number that looks like it survived the 1950s, with big, round headlights--it became clear that our driver didn't have much experience. Driving.

Scraping panel to panel with a jeep in a roundabout, angry drivers shout at each other. He crosses five lanes of oncoming traffic only to tap a bike, leaving the front tire bent. Even though there is no space to move, he blows the horn. Constantly. He turns off the car when traffic stops. And turns it on only to creep six inches, and then turns it off again.

Night brought cyclone rains. Visibility falls. Trees bend in the wind. The lone wiper in front of the driver flapped. He switched on his dashboard Ganesh. Remover of obstacles. It flashed green. Red. Green. Red.

We turn into a market under a highway. It does not seem like a road meant for cars. We firmly lodge on something across the road. By the time I get out of the car, there's a strong smell of burning mixed with the stench of the open sewer.

On our way again, he shouts that he knows the roads. He knows what he's doing. But they're just words.

Monday, November 12, 2007

India: Essence

Most travelers recognize. That travel strips away one's personal trappings. The web of friends, support, familiarity of place. Are gone. And I am left with only myself. My thoughts. And a bag of my belongings. Clothes that when I return I will scarcely be able to look at. A few new scarves bought in the market. Some books. There's little escape. From seeing your own weaknesses. And strengths. Your own essence.

During an open window ride back into Calcutta, smog gathers in my lungs. I admire the swirling color of saris. Babies' eyes ringed with kohl. Incense burning at the goddess Kali's blue feet.

Auto-rickshaws, rickshaws pulled by old men, and cars. Countless near misses. Vehicles passing by inches. And the noise. The noise of traffic is monumental. The rickhaw drivers tap a small bell as a warning. The auto-rickshaws have horns they squeeze which squeak like a thousand dog toys. The car horns blare. The truck horns bellow. A cacaphony of sound. And color.

I return to my hotel, my eyes and ears exhausted.

Today there is no traffic. There is a general strike, called by a political party. No horns. Nowhere to go. Not much to do. The city has come to a standstill.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

India: Happy Diwali

Being out all day. For days. Has made internet access difficult. If it were not, I would have 4 or 5 posts to offer. But my offering from this internet cafe in Calcutta, is only this one.

Diwali is a big holiday. A festival of lights. We spent the day with a family. It was much like Christmas or New Year's Day. The family took photos. We ate with our fingers off large banana leaves. And settled in to watch a game of cricket on TV.

There are a hundred stories I could tell. About rickshaw drivers. And thin men walking along the road. About professional women who spend 2 hours going to work every day. And another 2 hours coming home. While their mothers ask why they don't cook. I could write about the food. Or about the call centers, where when it is 3 pm there, someone is answering your customer service call at 3 am here. About stunning women's saris. And shopping at Fab India. So much has happened. I scarcely know where to start.

So I sit. In the internet cafe. With an oscillating fan blowing through my hair. I'll walk back to my hotel. With vigilance. So I'm not run over by a bicycle or a rickshaw or a taxi. And I will dream up blog posts which I may. Never write.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

India: Portrait of a Woman

Chennai, India: He tells of a woman. An 85-year-old block printer. In my imagination. She is small. Determined. Stamping the designs onto cotton. She lives alone. She wants to be self reliant. Her work sustains her.

Friday, November 02, 2007

Off and Flying

Chicago - London. London - Chennai. I'm optimistic about internet access. My boss just arrived in Mozambique. No air conditioning, but wireless. Perhaps that has fed into my optimism.