Tuesday, March 18, 2008

India

The first few days in India were great! My dad had a business trip conveniently timed to our time in India, so we spent a week with him, which was wonderful. He brought back a good dose of reality and recharged us for the rest of the trip with the royal treatment in 5 star hotels. However, when we said goodbye I got really home sick. I haven’t really had that hard of a time being away, but seeing my dad made the distance set in. After he left and we were back to our $10/day budget standard of living, which meant local transportation and $3 rooms, rather than private cars and $400 rooms. Quite the change to say the least! haha
I think we had became so accustomed to our $3 rooms that I really didn’t realize how “ghetto” we were until we spent time away from it all with my Dad.

The real India… holy cows and holy (other stuff)!! Traveling here is 100 times harder than in every other place we have been, even more so than China, where next to no one speaks English. The 5 star hotel dropped us off at the local train station and reality hit like a freight train. We were alone. After a half hour, we found the correct line to wait in to try and buy our tickets. Indians do not know what the word line means. We were trampled, pushed out of the way, stared at, lied to (by touts trying to sell us their “special tourist tickets”), and so on. It took us 2 hours of standing in the sun and pushing our way to the front to buy our tickets. Then when trying to get to our train everyone told us something different, even told us that the tickets we bought were for the standing class only and that we would be hanging off the side of the train for hours. Finally, a really nice Indian man who spoke perfect English took pity on us and was soo helpful. It was a great contrast to the majority who just stared at us nonstop and said nothing, and of course those also who were eager to put their hands in our pockets and sell us whatever they happened to be offering.
Our tickets were for the third class hard bench seating (lowest class next to the luggage car :) Luckily, we were there early, otherwise there wouldn’t have been a seat and we would have stood for the 4-hour journey.

The next day we visited the Taj Mahal at sunrise which was really nice, like a breath of fresh air. However, the second half of that day was miserable, trying to plan the itinerary for our time in India. The only feasible way of planning travel in India is finding a decent travel agency with staff that speaks English. Otherwise you will spend an hour in a line at the train station to ask a question, they won’t understand what your trying to ask, and then just throw you out of the line. But even still, at the travel agency they will tell you the way they know how to get here and there, so in their minds no other options exist, no matter how many ways you try to slice it. It’s basically a huge complicated mess and you never really know what the heck your buying!

We asked for the 1st class train for a 24 hour journey from the East of India to the West. They said it was the “tourist train” but in India, that basically just means your not in the luggage compartment. Sometimes we have air conditioning, and other times it’s a free-for-all with about 300 people for every seat. (not really, but the picture you have in your mind of people everywhere, on the floor and out the window is correct)
So a few thoughts on India? After 5 days of nothing but frustration, and being overwhelmed to the point of tears, I was ready to just quit and fly home. That’s how fed up I was, I didn’t even want to continue traveling. Luckily it didn’t get to Blaine as much as I, so he kept things positive and was able to laugh, and continue with things.

In an effort to get out of the huge hectic Indian cities, we took a sleeper train out to the desert town of Jaisalmer and were welcomed with warm smiles, hot chai tea, and even hot water showers. :) Our percentage of horrible experiences to nice ones went up from only 2% good to 80% good.

India is a land of extremes and contrast, when things are good, it’s like blow your mind incredible, but when things are bad, you basically want to shoot yourself. I absolutely love India, but at the same time, I hate it with everything in me! It’s weird like that.

The poverty here is indescribable. It so much worse than all the countries we’ve visited so far. Imagine the worst picture of poverty you can think up, and it still won’t even touch what you will see and feel when it becomes real. Because of the masses of people in India, the poverty is inescapable and in your face 24/7. A simple stroll down an alleyway will yield sights of trash, dirt, cows, cow waste, human waste, sick people, crippled people, begging people, dogs, pigs, flies, bikes, goats, cars, rickshaws… and that is just the beginning, really!

There are so many things that don’t make any sense. The eco circle is bizarre though it does seem to work in its own strange fashion. The people throw everything away in the street- trash, waste, water, and then the ultra poor sift through the trash and eat and/or sell what they find. The dogs eat the trash that is covered in poop and you have dead dogs, cows etc. being eaten by birds and other dogs, the cows eat the trash, poop in the street and the pigs eat the cow poop. And all the while every animal drinks the sewage water running though the streets and into the river, where people bathe!
Everyone pees where they wish, whether there is a wall to shield them from the other 1.2 billion people walking around or they are facing directly into the passing traffic. We saw a child (in a very busy walking intersection with people everywhere) who was actually squatting down pooping and begging at the same time. I couldn’t help but laugh at his endeavor, surprised we actually took notice of him, he returned a smile pulled up his paints and chased our rickshaw with his hand out.
It’s quite crazy, but, it actually seems to work… only in India!

Otherwise… the colors are amazing, the people are beautiful, and overall India is a very inspiring place in so many ways, especially for photography! India is like its own planet and it’s nothing like the rest of Asia. I will stop rambling now because it’s a place you really have to experience for yourself!

Now for lots of photos! :)
















5 comments:

Lorenzo Menendez said...

wow!!! what else can be said? let me pick up my jaw from the floor and make an attempt. ok so i have been following the blog since its humble beginnings and yes i know that i have not left a single comment until now. Know that it is not for a lack of interest though far from it. i look at all your adventures in awe and with a hint of jealousy. all of your photos so far have been absolutely incredible and it has been hard to choose which ones to leave comments on. i know that i could leave comments on all of them but i cant leave novels on them all and then its just reduced to "you guys rock!!". I dont know why but this post to me resonates with me the most. These photos coupled with your words made them all the more real to me. I can sense your frustration and at the same time your genuine love for such a place and its people. Its a strange feeling to be heartbroken for seeing such poverty and misery and be simultaneously inspired and blown away by how people can live in such conditions and keep a smile on their faces. or to see the incredible contrast that you were describing where in one place alone there can be such ugliness and at the same time incredible beauty......all i can say is thank you for sharing with us all you are an inspiration. safe travels and come home soon......we miss you.

Todash McGillicutty said...

Dude you are an AWESOME photographer. Found you off your hubby's blog due to an 'everest' google alert. But damn, these pix rock!

amancay said...

obviously incredible shots.. and a wonderful write up, bethany, you are greatly talented on all accounts!

what an adventure, I shall continue to live vicariously through y'all!

Colleen said...

hey guys...
these are amazing!

it is such a blessing to just be able to LOOK at these shots, to experience just a taste of life in these other countries.

Ya'll have such a gift of capturing things, and I'm blessed to view the pictures.

:)
-colleen

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