Karma Sutra Pictures

June 15, 2018

Well, this morning at breakfast I met up with three members of the GEEO group. One of the women had been in the Morocco group last year. The other woman is from Kentucky, and is traveling with her 20-something son who works in DC for a non-profit education organization.

We all decided to go out and see the town, even though there is a Delhi severe pollution air quality alert urging everyone to stay inside. (I am sitting here picking out toxic black boogers…not lying either…google it)

So we went shopping in the market area. It costs us 100 INR ( $1.50) to get us each a tuk-tuk there. I had my own tuk-tuk, while the others shared.

Anyway we walked all over the indoor swap meet type of market located under ground… like in an under ground bunker area. I was not allowed to take pictures there. Go figure. But I forgot and took one with my phone.

But it was out of the sun, incense filled the air to mask the smell of other things.

We came across one shop, and I knew that the two women were looking for higher quality scarves so I guided them in. Wow! What a great place to shop at. Money was spent. We were all happy with our purchases.

Then we were guided to another place to shop at Delhi Haat Cottage Emporium which is a 4 floor building chucked full of handmade items.

Guru, the guy sitting on the floor, demonstrated to us how the carpets were made and proceeded to roll out these beautiful creations out of silk and yak wool. Gorgeous. He really did a great job presenting the information. I feel bad for not getting a 3 x 5 carpet for $250… might even get it lower.

But upstairs was a different matter. Beautifully painted art on old pieces of government paper. Very interesting listening to the guy selling them. He is an artist and his whole family for generations are artists. He showed me a large 3 x 3 carving done out of camel bone with a painting in the middle. His grandfather had done this. Anyway, one of the women bought several paintings. The paint is made out of ground up minerals. Gorgeous. As he was focused on selling the paintings, I discovered the one I wanted. OF COURSE it is expensive! I have a good eye. Anyway, I talk with the guy and tell him that I, too am an artist. He nods his head, but I proceed to pull out my art supplies and show him my book of paintings- no where even close to the detailed paintings he does, but hey, I am legit.

So… he and I knock some money off the painting I want… you have got to bargain! And I am the owner of a picture of women bathing.

Which leads him into bringing out Karma Sutra paintings! Oh geesh… I flash back to China and the pirated porno DVDs that the owner thought my friend might be interested in due to her being an exotic foreigner- she was from Mexico.

My face blushes. I squirm at the erotic pictures and tell him that this isn’t the same type of art that the women bathing attracted me to. Thankfully the erotic pictures were slid back into the brown paper bag.

It is time for food. We take a tuk-tuk to McDonald’s for 10 INR (.15) which I negotiated.

McDonald’s is wonderful! I explain to the group that it is safe to eat the food and drink the sodas with ice as the quality has to be on par with US corporate standards and that if they ever got lost they could always go to a US business, like McDonald’s, as they have to have a manager on the premises at all times who speaks English. They were unaware of this.

McDonald’s in India doesn’t offer beef burgers due to religious reasons. You can have chicken or vegie burgers. I went with the Mcveggie which tasted great! Chickpeas and carrots…yum! And of course I had to try out the Popcorn chocolate McFlurry. Mmm.

Now it is time to get a tuk-tuk to go back to the hotel. We hail the tuk-tuk, negotiate the 100 INR (1.50) price and get in. The guy turns around as we start off and smiles, “200!” He yells at me. No! 100 I yell back. He shakes his head and tries the scam I have read about, saying something about the broken meter. I firmly say 100, as I look him directly in the eye. And then tell the woman with me to get out. She does. He panics. He yells”ok! Ok!” And her son says from the other tuk tuk-tuk for mom to get back in as they are leaving and the traffic is honking. So we get back in. And the guy renegades on the deal.

(Take out the negative word that I called the smug guy in my mind)

I chew him out up one end and down the other as he is proceeding to drive even worse than usual. Going out of his way to swerve off the road, get up close to cars just about to hit them. I told him that he was a bad man who betrayed his honor.

He and I went back and forth the entire way much to his and the other driver’s amusement. He even flirted with me. “You are Pakastani… you are hard” he says. No…just a tough, sassy California woman I told him.

The woman from Kentucky, I hope I didn’t scare her with my boldness and mouthy attitude. I know… I know…we are arguing over 1.50…but it was the principal of the matter. And the guy was a very whacky driver. I told him that if he was getting 200, he better make this ride interesting.

He did. The woman with me paid him 200 for the entertainment she told him. He laughed and I looked at him and told him to have a good day. I thought he was going to hug and kiss me!

Karma…it will come back on him.

Washer Woman

June 14, 2018

I am getting pretty good with washing clothes in a sink, at a camp site, in a car… I have my one process that works well for me.

A chunk of soap inside a sandwich bag. A gallon size freezer Ziploc bag- use this size, and kind because the bag is thick and holds up to many washes, a travel towel- it absorbs more water than a regular towel, and travel hangers.

I prop the bag up, put in water, imerse the one item- only was one item in bag at a time- pull out item, apply some bar soap, and scrubba-rubba away inside the bag. Drain, rinse, wring dry, roll in towel, hang to dry.

I love the travel hangers. Thick foldable hangers that have grips to keep things from slipping off. Also, each side of the hanger arm can be extended in order to hold a full size towel.

I also pack a cord that I can stretch out to hang clothes on in case there isn’t something available to hang clothes on in the room.

Washing your clothes and getting them to dry is easier if you buy clothes made out of materials that dry quickly.

This is how to pack light too. Hand wash your clothes instead of packing mass amounts of items to wear, saving them up for the hotel laundry service to do. Less expensive too!

Cash Talks

June 14, 2018

At 1 am, after I have checked into the hotel, I am trying to pay my bill using my Chase Sapphire Reserve Visa. The card is ran. “transaction error” comes out on the printed slip. Not once, not twice…4 TIMES!

I call the international collect phone number on back of my Chase card. I explain what is going on. I am told that there isn’t anything showing up on their end with regards to any transactions being initiated. The problem is on the machine side.

I try my Charles Schwab Visa card. “Transaction error”

No. Way. This is NOT happening. Being stranded in China for two months unable to withdraw money from any bank using my debit card flashes before my eyes. NOOOOooo!

“Don’t worry. It will all work out in the morning (I bite back the remark, “It is already morning.”). We take care of it. You are tired” says the night desk manager. The same guy who tells me that there is no G Adventure/GEEO group staying at the hotel on June 15. “Are you with the Canadian photography group?” he asks. It turns out THEY had stayed here on Monday.

Anyway… I go to bed.

The main manager helps me in the morning. I give him my Visa. We get a “transaction error” slip in return. I am going to cry. Out of frustration. We try again, and IT GOES THROUGH!

I am excited. The manager is excited. I am given a glass of water to celebrate.

I walk to HSBC Bank next door to exchange the large banknotes that I had bought through AAA.

The bank people are so helpful, nice, informative. They open up the ATM machine to break the large notes into smaller brand-new denominations.

Getting a stack with a band wrap around the notes stating, $10,000 is exciting. “This sounds so much more than what it really is,” I say. We all laugh. But still, a bundle of crisp brand-new 100 INRS and 1,000, 10 INRS notes looks impressive.

In reality, a 10 INR note equals .15 US cents. 100 INR note equals $1.50. 500 INR equals $7.50

What does this get me?

A tuk-tuk ride was 100 INR.

A hired driver for airport pickup, and going 24km is 850 INR.

Tipping the bellboy, 20 INR

Large bottle of cold water, 1 L and a can of Coke is 55 INR or about .75.

So as you can see, $350 US dollars can go pretty far in India. And you have to negotiate… but that’s a whole other topic.

“Feed Me”

June 14, 2018

After waking up from some much needed uninterrupted sleep, my tummy was rumbling.

My package deal from Hotel Justa includes breakfast until 10 am. It is 9:27, I better get going!

First off, I was expecting an egg- maybe, and fruit and some kind of oatmeal.

I was rewarded with a feast! Oh my goodness food that I don’t recognize, except for the toast and the omelette being made. Ok…that’s normal home food. I am traveling. I don’t do normal, I eat what locals eat.

Pardon me for not knowing the names of the food, but I do know the ingredients. I also took pictures with the name tags identifying the items.

The manager of the hotel introduces himself to me this way: he hold up his cell phone with my text to him about me arriving late ( yes…I paid for the day/night I wasn’t there) and reads directly from it. He laughs and smiles and proceeds to feed me. Seriously, he does. I am game for trying everything that is set out.

Am I going to get sick? Am I about to sabotage my luck avoiding spending time on the throne? I toss caution to the wind and let him take the culinary wheel. I am emulating Anthony Bourdain ( without the shots of liquor that kills the bad bacteria one injects through the consumption of food).

Off we go. He points out steamed rice paddies that you eat with coconut curry and spicy red curry. Oh and these thick pancakes that are really cauliflower, dunk it into lentil soup, and a curry potato soup. A fluffy fried bread that you dunk in the curry spicy potato soup. Cut up fruit, water, watermelon juice ( travel book advices NOT to drink fresh squeezed juices due to not knowing how the fruit was cleaned prior to pressing and maybe mixed with water that isn’t bottled- I am thinking this applies to street vendors) I chug away.

I chug away and eat. The manager then has the cook make me “something special. You will like it.”

It looks like a crepe, it is made with egg, green onions, potatoes. You sop up the spicy lentil soup and the spicy red curry sauce.

I dip. I slurp. I keep reminding myself not to eat with my left hand… which is difficult for me to do.

The manager grins. The cook nods and smiles. The teenage kid at the other table is watching me consume the food like he was watching a lion eating a gazelle on TV. I am THAT interesting. No doubt I am mixing things that shouldn’t be mixed.

I don’t care. I am feasting at 9:45 am.

The cook and the manager both take delight that I am enjoying their food.

Anthony Bourdain would be proud of me for the gusto I am showing.

We connected with food. My morning has been blessed with this interaction.

FYI, it is 10:34 pm. No upset tummy. No interaction with the throne. Looking forward to breakfast in the morning.

Plan A, B, C…

June 14, 2018

You can plan, but you have to be ready to adapt those plans and have the attitude of just rolling with it.

It all started with my carry-on. I travel with one carry-on due to not wanting to have a checked bag lost. I have a 45L Eagle Creek bag that converts into a backpack. I can pack everything I need for weeks at a time in the bag.

But not on this trip. According to the baggage site that was posted on the website, carry-on bags could only weigh 11lbs and were confined to a certain size.

It stated that it was strictly enforced.

I changed plans. I bought a 90L Patagonia Black Hole duffle as my main checked on bag. I bought a 30L Pacsafe backpack to use as a carry-on that houses my camera equipment, and an 18L Flowfold tote to use for easy access to stuff needed while on the plane.

I get to the airport. Go through the check in process. Hang out in the lounge, as I have a Priority Pass. And everything is rolling smoothly along.

I board the plane and notice that most people have HUGE carry-ons! No way do they confirm at all to the size and weight that is posted on the website. Neither was the policy enforced of having bags that exceed the size and weight, will be checked.

Oh. Well.

The flight leaves from LAX at 11:50 pm on June 11 and is expected to arrive in Guangzhou, China at around 5:30 am on June 13. With a connecting flight to Delhi leaving at 7:30 am.

We are almost to the airport when we experience a whole lot of shaking. The plane is rocking and rolling. The captain announces due to severe weather, planes are being turned away from Guangzhou airport to Bejing.

We, along with several other planes end up at Bejing sitting on the tarmac for 4 hours. Babies crying, impatient children, frustrated adults…we all had a bonding experience as we feasted on leftovers and drank up the reserve.

I made sure to use the restroom before they ran out of TP. Hey, I have heard those horror stories of being stranded on a tarmac with no resources and the toilets locked down.

I was not going to be THAT person in THAT position.

This is one reason why I came prepared with snacks.

We receive clearance. We give a cheer and head to Guangzhou, 4 hours away. And yes, of course the connecting flight is gone. And I have had my son cancel my pick up driver.

Anyway, in Guangzhou the airline has prepared in advance connection tickets. I am on the last flight out to Delhi leaving at 7 pm. I now have 6 hours to amuse myself.

Priority Pass-premium lounge here I come!

But no…it is explained to me at the counter that this is a brand-new terminal and even though it states on the Priority Pass app that this lounge is available…it isn’t…”so sorry for the inconvenience” says the guy behind the counter.

I amuse myself for the next 6 hours with the common folk.

The 4 hour flight to Delhi was interesting. It was full of men! I asked the guy I was sitting next to ( we became “buddies” as I gave him my full dinner at his insistence- I already had been fed earlier) why there were so many guys on this flight. “We are coming home from a lighting convention,” he said. And then went into great detail about the electrical lighting infrastructure. He would explain with animated glee to his other companions our conversation throughout the flight.

He and his friends were excited and loud and happy due to their mass consumption of beer and with the prospect of leaving China to go home after having been away for two weeks.

Upon arrival to Delhi, I have to say that the whole process was way nicer, faster and easier than going through LAX. Did I mention how clean the airport was? That the workers were happy and had smiles on their faces. That everyone I encountered were nice, helpful, joyful. The customs guys were extremely helpful and nice and concerned about my well being.

Not at all like LAX or JFK.

Cabs for women by women, is the organization that picked me up. Great company that teaches women how to be drivers. Mostly men drive cabs and there have been incidents of rape, enough so that women do not feel safe riding by themselves.

Best experience with a car for hire ever. The driver was wonderful and proceeded to honk her horn just like everyone else as she dodged between the various transportation vehicles and pedestrians on a hot (100 F) and humid night.

All this for $14.50.

I arrived at my hotel at 12 am. A day later than planned… but I made it.

India-Bring Your Snacks

June 9, 2018

I am prepping for another travel adventure. This year, I am heading off to India and Nepal. Unlike previous adventures, I am on my own this time. My traveling partner, my daughter, Abby, is unable to come along. She is completing a two year apprenticeship as an embalmer, and she just started school in the Mortuary Science program to complete a Bachelor of Science degree.

I will once again travel with an educator group through GEEO. G Adventures offers educators the opportunity to travel to a great many places during Winter, Spring, and Summer break. The tours are less expensive, geared towards educators ( meeting at school sites, viewing education programs, supporting local training programs that benefit women and children, interacting with locals…) and is much more open ended than a tourist group. The size of participants are kept low, between 10-14.

I like the fact that arrangements are made for internal travel, tickets provided for sought after places, a local guide supports us along the way, but is not like the typical tour guide who blah, blah, blahs and insists that the group remain together. We are expected to go off and explore by ourselves or with others during the large amount of time we have on our own.

I like to travel by myself, do Couchsurfing, hitchhiking, staying in hostels, meander around towns with no particular agenda. I like freedom. But with that being said, I have found that sometimes I like the convenience of having someone else in charge of the travel infrastructure in some counties that are difficult to navigate. India, being one of them.

If you want the security and the freedom of independence and are interested in exploring many places in a period of 15-20 days, GEEO might be of interest to you. Visit GEEO.org and see what they have to offer. And if you decide to book, could you please use my name, Shawna Adam? I receive a discount towards my next adventure.

Anyway, I am bringing along plenty of snacks for my trip. I am a little bit leery about the food in India- hygiene- and even though I have eaten street food all across China, Spain (I did end up with food poisoning when I ate pulpo/octopus) and in Morocco, I don’t know if I will do the same in India.

I am coming prepared. I also will go to the big box market there too and buy snacks.

Water… I will only drink sealed bottle water. Also, I will brush my teeth and wash my face with it too. And I am bringing plenty of handwipes, and butt wipes. Using the cup of water with your left hand method to clean yourself with over the squat hole is the norm.

But not my norm.

I have yet to get my left hand and cup of water coordinated. Let’s just say, wearing wet clothes and shoes and socks is not fun!

I have not been able to use one of these pee devices. There are a few different types of pee devices marketed for women to have a fake penis so that peeing standing up is easy and sanitary. I am not coordinated enough to hold the device, balance myself on a slippery floor, hold my skirt up with one hand, device in the other, backpack on, and aim.

And this is why I am bringing snacks. I know where the left hand has been, what it does, and then prepping food… well…mmm… street food just might not be on the agenda this time.

Lessons Learned

7-30-2017

Just because the books say it, doesn’t make it so. 

Time to wax philosophical.In school, I have learned lots of regurgitated information from the teachers that I have had. I have read many a research journal, have read all types of information on a wide variety of subjects. But until you put those written theories into practice, apply the knowledge, obtain the results for yourself, you are nothing more than a walking information stuffed talking head.

For example, every travel book I read, every informed person I have talked to, the facts were bluntly stated, YOU Don’t want to stay in Casablanca. It’s too: dirty, congested, not safe, nothing to see, nothing to do, dull, leave after seeing the largest Mosque…

True, it is congested. It is busy. And if you are on a trip to visit only tourist stuff, you might not want to stay for a lengthy time.

On the other hand, it is a fascinating place. Probably due to having stayed with a family with extended family members who shared conversations with us. This experience has shown me a different perspective from the ones read about.

While traveling, I met a doctor who has just accepted a position in Texas. He and his wife have been traveling to a variety of places over an almost 3 month trip taking full advantage of having completed his medical studies.

He is a Pakastani Muslim, who was born and raised in a small town in upper New York state. For his whole life, he has been in the minority…the odd one… the different one… and now, the highly suspicious one. Based solely on his appearance and religion. He said that he doesn’t want his future children to go through what he himself had gone through due to living in small towns and small mindsets. He accepted a job in Dallas, because there is a larger infrastructure, support system for Muslims. He will be with others who not only share his religious beliefs, but also practice them.

During our conversation, he revealed that he and his wife had lived in an apartment complex during his medical studies that consisted mostly of Mormons. They were welcomed and embraced by this community, and he didn’t feel like he was different, nor did his wife feel stigmitized for wearing her hijab. They were respected for their religious beliefs. “Our religions have many things in common,” he said.

Isn’t it fascinating that in the U.S. where we have the freedom to practice our religion, it is yet a place where we are suspicious of others whose religion differs from one’s own? 

In our tour group, a woman expressed pride in her community for having driven Mormons out of her state ( she is not the best informed about the population of LDS in her state) due to their religious beliefs. The Governor of Missouri issued an extermination order against 15,000 Mormons in 1838. How’s that for a governor. And yet this woman, who is a teacher, believes that this was a good thing. Go figure.

Same woman kept pushing tour guides into answering questions about Muslims and Isis. You can’t be both as the one contradicts the other. Muslim religion doesn’t support the actions of Isis. It is like being a polygimist and LDS. You can’t be both. 

So I have had the lessons of bigotry, racism, sexism, intolerance of others taught to me again and again on this trip to Morocco. But I also have sat with a great many Muslim women and men, in which we conversed on a variety of subjects. We discovered that we share a lot in common. It always came back to the belief of treating one another respectfully due to that we are all one in the eyes of  God. Instead of lumping people together, take the time to communicate on an individual level in order to find the common threads.

Just because it is written, doesn’t mean the generalizations are true in practice