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31 October 2005

calling to me from the confines

i really needed to take care of my travel arrangements for the upcoming months. this long term travel has been a bit of a balancing act. i want to allow myself enough flexibility to change plans if i really enjoy a particular spot and want to spend extra time there. on the other hand, the cheapest fares are usually secured only by booking at least a month in advance. given the timing, i still think the decision to cut out china is a good one... it allows me to concentrate more on the southeast asian countries. i know i'll be back in asia at some point in my life.

i'd already been to air india and they would not issue me a delhi -> bangkok ticket until i could prove that i'd be leaving thailand by showing an onward travel ticket. i'd planned to travel from thailand overland through malaysia and into singapore where i would catch a flight to indonesia. a flight from singapore to jakarta, indonesia, would prove onward travel. fortunately, singapore airlines offers e-ticketing, so i booked my flight, printed out my confirmation information, and walked back to the air india office.

ticket from mumbai -> goa: secured. back to the more important ticket: delhi -> bangkok. the man looked at my confirmation printout intently and seemed skeptical... asking how i intended to get from bangkok to singapore. 'i'll be taking a train or bus.' he looked at me strangely and consulted with a nearby woman in hindi. she typed a bit into her computer and asked me the same question the man had just asked a moment earlier... 'how are you getting to singapore from bangkok? you need to show how you're going to get to singapore.' [sigh] a repeat of my last visit.

me: 'i'll be traveling overland by train or bus.'

woman: 'but you can't get to singapore overland.'

shit. had a made a geography mistake? no, i was certain that thailand borders malaysia and that there is a connection to singapore from malaysia. i wished i'd brought my se asia guidebook as proof.

me: 'i'm sure i can. those countries are connected.'

the woman consulted with yet another woman in hindi.

second woman: 'you can get from malaysia to singapore, but not thailand to malaysia.'

me: 'no, i'm sure i can. thailand shares a border with malaysia.' i hoped that there was in fact a border crossing station along that border... this was the one thing that i wasn't certain of. damn, should've brought the book.

the second woman broke out a world atlas and began flipping through the pages. i would be vindicated. sure enough... thailand shares a border with malaysia.

second woman: 'but you won't be able to travel down there. no one does it. you'd have to take a motorcycle... maybe there would be a bus. no one would do that though.'

me: 'but i'm a backpacker. that's what i do. that's _all_ i do.' [i absolutely _will not stop_ until i've crossed that border!]

i really wished i'd brought my guidebook to consult the overland routes from thailand to malaysia. as i continued to argue my point with the second woman, the first woman typed madly into her computer and looked up. 'you can buy a return ticket to india for only rs2500 more.' quick calculation... about $55 us. [sigh]. i sensed it was the only way they were going to sell me the ticket. they'd worn me down and had won the battle. i could have left and returned with my guidebook, but i didn't think that would get me anywhere and it would have just overloaded my day with admin. i left the office with three tickets: mumbai -> goa, delhi -> bangkok, bangkok -> delhi.

done. flights secured. what a great feeling. i decided to spend the remainder of the afternoon in mumbai's fort area.

i needed to learn more about cricket. i recently saw an interview with an indian who said that he thought the two most cohesive forces in indian society were cricket and bollywood. lee and simon were cricket fanatics and had explained the rules to me. while walking near the bombay university, i saw several games in progress... some with players that appeared to be from an organized club... others just pick-up games. while i was watching, several children came up to me and started chatting. i sensed straightaway that this was a genuine conversation... one of the first i've had here... that wouldn't eventually be steered towards money. i told the children that i wanted to learn more about cricket and that was really all i needed to say. all were incredibly excited. 'photo! photo!' i took several photos of the cricket superstars in various poses and then handed over my camera so that they could get a few shots of me. great kids. i finally left with a big smile on my face.

i wandered the fort area in a similar fashion as i'd wandered in the north side of the city. within ten minutes, i had officially lost track of where i was on the map. more streets... more markets... i eventually made my way back to colaba.

yet another nap... then out for food where i ran into lee and simon on their way back to the terrace restaurant we'd visited the day before. some delicious chicken tikka laziz... then back to the gokul bar... an internet cafe visit... and finally back to the hotel.

despite the slight complications in the air india office, i had a great day. i feel like i'm finally adjusting to the pace of the city... learning how to deal with people better... in general just relaxing more. the sights of the city are becoming less foreign... i know what to expect when i walk out the door of my hotel each morning. i did miss halloween a bit... it's without a doubt my favorite holiday and my grip reaper costume was sitting idle and calling to me from the confines of the storage space in boston. but this year i'd be celebrating an entirely different holiday on the other side of the planet... one of the biggest in india... diwali! a festival of lights. the fireworks had already begun.

posted by paul at Mon 31 Oct 2005 at 00:00:00 EST (-05:00) | comments (0)

30 October 2005

the ability to tear away

lee and i were down in leopold a little before 0800 to meet the bollywood recruiters and grab some breakfast. i expected to see a large group of travellers... the guy who had spoken to me yesterday said he was planning to recruit 20 people. leopold was virtually deserted and i immediately got a bad feeling about the situation. i pretty much made my mind up right then that i wouldn't be attending the shoot.

at around 0815 one of the guys i'd met the day before showed up and was standing outside the restaurant. lee and i weren't sure if he'd recognized us or if he was just waiting for others to show. we continued with our breakfast and at 0830 an english guy came in and apologized for the interruption, introduced himself as simon, and asked us if we were planning to attend the shoot. four foreigners had shown up... simon, two swedish girls, and one latvian girl. lee eventually decided to join them; i told them i'd pass. off they went in the taxi.

i hadn't been feeling very well this morning. not sure if it was a food reaction or the late last night was getting to me. the heavy heat here also has the ability to tear away at energy reserves. i returned to my hotel room, lied down in my bed, and slept for a full eight hours, shocking awake at about 1700. i couldn't believe that i'd slept that long, but apparently my body needed the rest.

i jumped in the shower and went to grab some food. the restaurant was packed, but after a brief wait, i sat down at a two person table and ordered my food. i was about halfway through my meal when the restaurant manager asked if i minded if he sat someone else at my table. the pre-trip me would have preferred to eat alone... sharing tables with strangers really isn't something that occurs in the states. the current me however was delighted to have some company. an indian man, ravinder pal, sat down and we began talking about his job and my travels. he was a construction manager from delhi, down in mumbai to supervise a project. he'd only stopped in to have a beer and departed soon after, but not before giving me his phone number and email address, telling me to contact him if i needed anything when i was in delhi. very nice guy.

about two minutes after pal had left... tap on the shoulder... lee was back from the shoot. apparently he'd had a lot of fun. particularly interesting to him was the troop of russian dancers who had performed at the shoot. ha. sounded like i'd missed out. still, i'd felt so drained in the morning that a long day of standing around would have been difficult.

we met up with the other recruits and kiran, a different casting recruiter, and headed over to a very nice rooftop bar overlooking the water. had a great night hanging with the bollywood stars.

posted by paul at Sun 30 Oct 2005 at 00:00:00 EST (-05:00) | comments (0)

29 October 2005

to make sure it wasn't dead

i'm still in the process of adjusting my standard operating procedure here in india. i think i'm generally a friendly person and so it's very difficult to completely ignore a smiling stranger saying 'hello' on the street. unfortunately, that's what must be done. 99% of those who are saying 'hello' inevitably steer the conversation into a business transaction. i'm considering making up some small cards with the following message:

'i mean no disrespect, but i'm not interested in visiting any stores, taking any tours, or giving donations. if you've said hello for any other reason or you were genuinely interested in becoming a friend, then please accept my apologies for ignoring you. best wishes.'

of course i could always take a less diplomatic approach:

'hello, friend... friend... hello, friend...'

'if you were my friend you would know my name... now fuck off.'

as i was walking to a restaurant for breakfast, a man quickly shouted out 'hello, i'm from bollywood.' i ignored him and ducked into the safe haven of the restaurant. when i emerged an hour later, he was still there... again 'hello, i'm from bollywood and we're casting extras.' i stopped and asked him for identification and he produced a flimsy business card which provided four phone numbers and the name of his casting company. i told him i'd be interested but that i was concerned about the validity of his offer. we talked for a few minutes and while he sounded genuine, i was still skeptical. i gave him my name and he told me to meet at a restaurant at 0800 tomorrow. i planned to do some research before the meeting.

back at the hotel one of the staff told me i'd received a call from dhl and that there was a problem with my shipment. blick. i gave them a call and a woman told me that the value i'd given for the package was too high [?], that dhl would only ship packages valued at a maximum of rs20,000. she asked me to return to the office to change the value of the package... [sigh]... i agreed.

i'd made the call from the hotel lobby and there i met australian lee. i mentioned that i'd just been recruited for a bollywood film and he said he'd been as well. he said he'd shown the business card to the hotel staff and that they'd said they'd seen it before. i felt better about the offer; at least i'd know one of the other recruits. we made plans to go out for a drink later in the evening and then i was off to dhl.

arrival; change the value; done. i hadn't planned to walk back into that area of town again but decided to continue on in the same direction in order to see mani bhavan, a house in which ghandi had lived and worked, now housing a museum.

i stopped to watch some boys play cricket in a park. cricket is gigantic here. onward, i saw an interesting sign and stopped to take a picture... something to the effect of 'if you park in front of this street we will deflate your tires.' ha. some men saw me taking a picture of the sign and obviously thought i'd mistaken the house for mani bhavan... i walked over and asked them to point me in the right direction and they obliged, laughing.

i really enjoyed the exhibits in the small museum and definitely learned a lot about ghandi's life. such a gentle and peaceful man. many pictures and copies of letters that he'd written, one to hitler in 1939 imploring him to stop the progression to war.

i left mani bhavan and decided to take a different way home. the guidebook map i've been using is not very detailed and most of the streets are not named. i decided on a general walking plan, codename: walk south, and started off. within ten minutes i'd already lost track of where i was on the map but felt i was still headed in the right direction... south.

i found my way to a giant outdoor market... food, clothing, jewelry... completely packed with people. scooters and motorcycles everywhere. dogs sleeping on the sidewalk. i even passed a sleeping cat on the sidewalk and took a pic... amidst all of the horns and foot traffic... sleeping... i couldn't believe it and took a closer look to make sure it wasn't dead. ha. shops appear to be highly specialized... one selling just long metal rods... one selling just electric motors. the best word to describe this city continues to be 'intense'. there is just so much energy... so many people... so much traffic... so many foreign sights. as i walked on the sheer amount of incoming energy was overwhelming and i almost gave up my walk to hail a taxi. i decided to walk on for another half hour to see if i could locate one of the main streets and figure out where i was. eventually i came upon the charni road train station and remembered that it was on my map. on the map the train station was very near the water... i got my bearings and discovered that i was in fact walking due north, not south. somewhere in the marketplace i'd gotten mixed up and had lost my sense of direction.

i walked back along the water and caught a lovely pic of the sunset. finally i made it back to colaba, but not before seeing some interesting flying creatures. are you familiar with the scene in indiana jones and the temple of doom where dr. jones says 'those aren't birds, sweetheart. those are giant vampire bats.' yep... that size. no kidding, these bats were huge.

lee had left a note on my hotel door... he was taking a nap and wanted to meet up later. i left a note on his door letting him know i was going to grab some food and that if he woke up he could meet me down in the restaurant. leopold was packed and i ended up sharing a four person table with an indian named ranajoy. as we were talking about my travels, a man at a nearby table, tom from england, overheard us talking about vietnam and leaned over to offer his thoughts... he'd traveled there and had had an amazing time. i asked him to join us... lee eventually showed up... and the four of us had dinner together.

after dinner, lee, tom, and i decided to head to a local bar called 'gokul' where i drank much more thank i'd intended. fortunately, the hotel was just around the corner.

yet another day of intensity in mumbai. i really hope i'm doing an adequate job of conveying how frenetic this city is. i'm slowly adjusting to the frantic pace and i think it will take some more time before everything seems less foreign. i wonder if other indian cities will be so overwhelming.

posted by paul at Sat 29 Oct 2005 at 00:00:00 EST (-05:00) | comments (0)

28 October 2005

a wall to the face

yesterday evening as i was eating my chicken curry rice and sipping my freshly squeezed delicious orange juice, an internal shock hit me like a wall to the face when i remembered...

[!CRACK!] the third twinrix vaccination for hepatitis a and b.

three shots are required: the first at time zero, the second at time zero plus one month, and the third at time zero plus six months. i received the first vaccination in february and the second in march. the nurse at the travel clinic in boston had recommended getting the third in june when i returned to the states for the wedding even though only four and a half months would have elapsed since the first shot. in june i visited a clinic in north carolina but the nurse refused to give me the shot because the full six months hadn't elapsed. grr. fine. i'd planned to get the shot somewhere in europe. and somehow this very important thing had completely slipped my mind... until last night while i was eating in india. [!CRACK!]

i went to sleep last night planning my missions for today, disappointed that much of the day would be consumed with admin duties.

01. locate an appropriate medical facility and get the third twinrix shot.

02. go to air india and book my flight from delhi to bangkok.

03. search for a replacement memory module for my computer; if one could not be located, ship the computer to the states via dhl.

04. call sujata's parents.

my hotel room is directly next to the reception area and so the phone and doorbell are regular sleep killers. i woke up at 0500... not sure if an outside noise had shocked me awake or whether my body was still operating in the old time zone. i think it was the latter. i couldn't get back to sleep and decided to do some mission research in my india guidebook. perfect. two medical facilities were mentioned... bombay hospital and breach candy hospital. breach candy: 'best in mumbai, if not india'. ding ding. the guidebook also specified the location of the dhl shipping office, so if i wasn't able to locate a memory module, i'd be heading there. unfortunately, no computer stores were specified.

i laid in bed until 0800 and then called breach candy hospital using my treo [digression: i bought an orange brand sim card from a store very close to my hotel. rs300 (about 7 usd) with rs330 of credit. i didn't notice it at the time but i'm almost positive the sim card kit had already been opened. the man was very slick to conceal the traces while 'opening' the package in front of me. the card works and has the promised rs330 of credit, but the credit expires in only four days. not a problem... i figured i'd be using up the credit by then regardless. still... i'll be more careful next time. end digression.]. i was transferred to the opd department of the hospital and made an appointment to see dr. rohit barman at 1500. perfect. that gave me some time to take care of the other missions.

i got dressed and was out before 0900, grabbed some breakfast at leopold, and was on my way to the air india office. i had spoken with two people who told me the names and locations of a few computer stores... i'd be passing them along the way. unfortunately, upon arrival i discovered that they didn't have what i needed, so onward to air india.

i located the office after a few wrong turns. the flight that i'd been trying to book online was strangely not available from the ticketing agent's terminal. i'd need to take a flight that left at 0555... a little earlier than i'd have liked, but i didn't have an alternative. fine. the agent began entering my passport details into the computer... more typing... more typing... [what the hell is going on?]...

'when are you coming back to india?'

'i'm planning to take overland transportation into laos and vietnam.'

'with an american passport, you need to have proof of onward journey before i can issue this ticket.'

damn. mission: failed. i didn't think i'd be able to get a thai train ticket as proof i'd be leaving the country. i'd need to book my singapore -> australia ticket and hope that that proved that i had no intentions of becoming a foreign leech in thailand. the agent gave me a reference number to hold the fare.

on to dhl. i hoped that they'd have packing materials there. i find the shipping process very burdensome... locating and purchasing packing materials is never as easy as it seems... packing up the item... blah. not fun. fortunately, the woman told me that they would pack the item for me as i watched. okay. 'i'm sending a laptop computer. it has to be packed extremely well.' i micromanaged every aspect of the process... making sure the computer was double boxed and adequately padded to my satisfaction. done. six thousand. two hundred. fifty-nine rupees. [wow]. mission accomplished.

by the time i'd finished with dhl it was after 1300... i had a few hours to locate the hospital. planned to walk it. down along the water... lots of walking.... 1400... i was on track... 1430... almost there... 1445... shit, i'm not going to get there in time. i spent rs40 on a taxi to take me the last few minutes. the waiting room was completely packed... i was very glad that i'd made an appointment. i checked in and two minutes later was back in the doctor's office. dr. barman told me that the hospital didn't normally stock the twinrix vaccine but that he'd ordered it especially for me. i knew this was a reputable hospital but was still planning to ask him to show me the sterile packaged syringe. before i could say anything, he held up the packaged twinrix kit and showed me that the kit came with its own syringe. a quick sting and rs1600 later, i was on my way. mission accomplished.

mumbai is filled with black and yellow taxis. a few look like they've been well taken care of and some are even decked out with neon lights and decals. most of the taxis however are falling apart... literally. as i walked out of the hospital, i saw a long strip of metal fall off the door of a taxi as it sped away. i broke out my camera to take a picture of the metal lying on the street (with intentions of illustrating the above point here in the blog) and just as i was about to snap the picture, a boy rode up on a bike, saw the piece of metal, stopped, and picked it up. he gave it a once over and then folded it up several times and put it in the basket on the back of his bike and rode away. wow. talk about efficient recycling.

taxi back to the hotel, gave sujata's parents a call, and made plans to meet her father at a mall by their apartment. another taxi... one hour of intense mumbai traffic... arrival. her parents and aunt were _so_ incredibly nice. not only did they take me out to dinner but they gave me gifts. her dad took me out for an autorickshaw tour of the area and later bought me some indian candy from a nearby shop. great experience. [thank you so much!]

it was dark by the time i got into the return taxi. the traffic was still heavy but not nearly as bad as during ride out... 45 minutes later i was back at the hotel. what a long intense day. i think every day in mumbai will be intense.

posted by paul at Fri 28 Oct 2005 at 00:00:00 EST (-05:00) | comments (0)

27 October 2005

my blurring of days

this begins my transition to transcribing from a paper journal. it seems my computer is unoperational for the time being and despite my best attempts i've been unable to diagnose the problem. the system is still under warranty but my current location and lack of a permanent address complicates the shipping process. i must accept the possibility that i'll be without a computer for the remainder of the journey. i'm not so much concerned about the blog entries as i am about the photos. the process of burning cd's every time my compact flash card fills up will be an onerous annoyance. of course, if the problem with the laptop turns out to be a failed hard drive, i'll have wished i'd be burning cd's all along. it's been a little over a month since my last backup. so... enough about the faulty machine and back to the mission at hand: global reconnaissance.

yesterday [26 oct 2005] and today [27 oct 2005] were not in fact two separate days but a long string of a blurring hours fused into one. a giant glob of transportation and sleep. a departure from europe and an arrival in asia. i took an early morning train to heathrow, just a little later than i would have preferred with an overall feeling of anxiety very similar to the feeling i had back in april as the plane rolled down the runway in boston. an excited anxiety, not overly heavy. i've learned there's no use worrying about objects already in motion... although i couldn't shake the thoughts of the onward ticket. i'd planned to have a plane ticket for the delhi -> bangkok leg of the journey to show proof that i'd be leaving the country, but the lack of e-ticketing meant that a printed ticket would need to be generated and delivered to me. somewhere. i decided to purchase the ticket at a travel agent in india.

check-in went fairly smoothly. i'd been carrying my plane ticket in my money belt for the past month and it was just a bit bent and torn... enough however to cause a jam in the self check-in machine at the airport. malfunction. only after several kicks and curses did the machine relinquish the ticket i'd fed it a few moments earlier. all of the window seats were taken but i was lucky enough to snag the one remaining aisle seat for the eight hour journey. one of the ticketing agents asked for my return ticket but didn't press the issue when i told her i'd be travelling to thailand after india.

security was tight. two separate x-ray and metal detection screenings and multiple passport checks. onboard the plane. the departure was delayed for almost an hour, but miraculously we arrived in mumbai only 15 minutes behind schedule. local time 2345.

through border patrol; passport and visa check but again, no questions. through a pretty much non-existent customs station. waiting area. i had no desire to deal with transport and hotels on a new continent in a new country in a new city in the dark after midnight. i'd already planned to wait in the airport until daybreak. the time went quickly... read a bit and listened to some music. this trip has taught me patience. i finally left the waiting area at 0600. i'm not sure if it was the cold weather in amsterdam and london, but i was completely unprepared for the oppressive heat which blanketed me upon stepping out of the airport. internally i scolded myself for being surprised with the heat. i was in india.

the first atm didn't like my card and i felt a passing twinge of new city no money panic. the second atm gave me three thousand indian rupees. went to the prepaid taxi stand and paid rs370 for a taxi to colaba, found my taxi, and was off.

the 45 minute ride from the airport to my hotel in colaba was surreal. i felt like i was on an amusement park ride, blinded by the intensity that was the raging traffic and all of the powerful and unexpected images on the other side of the imaginary plane separating me from the outside world. at 0700, the streets of mumbai were bursting with life. people were _everywhere_. walking through traffic with complete disregard... walking randomly in the traffic lanes of the road. still sleeping anywhere and everywhere out in the open. in the process of opening rickety shops on the side of the road. bathing and brushing their teeth on the sidewalks of dirt. naked children picking through piles of garbage. sharply dressed business men and women carrying briefcases. _everywhere_. the air felt heavy in my head. a thickness that i'd never felt before. so much so that i felt like i couldn't take in a full breath... couldn't, or didn't want to try. all of the cabs were painted identically; black with yellow tops... and the drivers drove with a wreckless abandon which smothered everything i'd seen in naples, italy. we passed buildings which looked like they were on the verge of collapse... even a mcdonald's didn't look very stable or clean. shanties which appeared would crumble with a strong burst of wind. i was in an _entirely_ different world.

and all the while the blanket of heat pressed down at such an early hour through a veil of haze. and with my absolute assurance that the following statement is not an exaggeration, we passed within a few centimeters of people, cars, autorickshaws, and bicycles at speeds of approximately 50 km/hr. each time this happened, my eyes opened wide and i screamed 'holy SHIT' in my head... i'd look at the driver and his expression would not have changed... i'd turn around to look at the expression of the person to whom we'd almost inflicted a hideous disfiguration and it would be one of complete disinterest. the steering wheel in the taxi appeared to have about 45 degrees of play in it... meaning a turn of the wheel didn't register until the driver cranked it hard... driving straight actually required a steady left/right motion.

the haze and dustiness seemed to coat everything and as the ride came to an end i felt a headache creeping upon me. but above all i felt so lucky and fortunate for so many things.

i found my hotel with the assistance of two gentlemen who quickly accosted me when the taxi pulled to a stop. i told them the name of my hotel and before i could say another word they were pulling me along to the hotel which was only a few steps away. inside, the hotel staff had no record of my call on saturday.

'do you still have a room?'

hotel guy walks over to a nearby door and knocks... some rustling inside... a man who had obviously just been woken up walks out... hotel guy says 'you can have this room.'

'how much?'


'to share?'

'no, just you.'

fine. 600 rupees is equivalent to about 13 usd. the room was somewhat sketchy... no sheets... not particularly clean... but i didn't care. i hadn't slept in a long while and i was crashing hard. i unpacked my sleeping bag and was asleep within 10 minutes despite the bright light pouring through the window. i woke up eight hours later at 1600.

after waking, i decided to take a new city walk. again, i hadn't prepared myself for what greeted me on the street. i wasn't able to walk more than five meters without someone approaching me asking for money or asking me to come into their store. i wasn't quite fully awake and was completely not ready to deal with all of the incoming stimuli. i quickly found a restaurant and sat down. chicken curry rice... and then a quick retreat through the darkness back to my room where i discovered that my computer was broken.

so... that was my blurring of days. i feel so fortunate to be able to experience this city and i can already feel a completely different sort of energy pulling me in. a city of complete contrasts that is just seething with intensity. truly i've begun the next phase of my adventure.

posted by paul at Thu 27 Oct 2005 at 23:59:59 EST (-05:00) | comments (0)

equipment malfunction

damn. my laptop will no longer properly boot and i suspect a hardware issue. the hard drive and fan power on but the screen remains blank without so much as a flicker. unfortunately, the lack of a laptop will significantly restrict my ability to post pictures and in depth blog entries here at globalrecon.org. [sigh]. the computer is still under warranty, so i'm going to contact the vendor and will plan to ship it back to them if i'm unable to fix the problem. blick.

posted by paul at Thu 27 Oct 2005 at 11:31:34 EST (-05:00) | comments (2)

25 October 2005

at the mercy of others


what is most disturbing about this image?

01. i no longer have a stylish goatee because an english barber decided to get all fancy on it.

02. i have a new stylish buzz cut.

03. my forearms are bigger than my biceps.

i took my first malarone (anti-malaria) pill today. hope there are no side effects. india tomorrow.

posted by paul at Tue 25 Oct 2005 at 15:21:27 EST (-05:00) | comments (4)

23 October 2005

03 - 23 october summary

monday 3 october
naples, italy -> florence, italy: train delayed. marko and the luna rossa.

tuesday 4 october
florence, italy: got up early to make reservations at the uffize and accademia; marko took over the call and accomplished the mission. new city walk. the city is in fact american. restaurant: hassan!

wednesday 5 october.
florence, italy: uffizi. accademia, michelangelo's david. giant.

thursday 6 october
florence, italy -> pisa, italy -> milan, italy: get in late. sketchy hotel monopole at 50 euro a night. dinner with marta. light rain.

friday 7 october
milan, italy: hang with marta. castle. rainy day. food. bar.

saturday 8 october
milan, italy -> zurich, switzerland: meet indian australian sharif. go out for a new city walk in the dark, one of the first.

sunday 9 october
zurich, switzerland: walk. chill by the park. write at night.

monday 10 october
zurich, switzerland -> lucerne, switzerland: with sharif. cruise around with sharif. much climbing in the city ramparts.

tuesday 11 october
lucerne, switzerland: hike half of mount pilatus by myself. meet george and then andrew and ken in the evening.

wednesday 12 october
lucerne, switerland: hike mount pilatus with george. gigantic day.

thursday 13 october
lucerne, switzerland -> interlaken, switzerland: with george. nothing day. chill and eat.

friday 14 october
interlaken, switzerland: hike lauterbrunnen -> wengen -> mannlichen with george.

saturday 15 october
interlaken, switzerland: trummelbach falls with george.

sunday 16 october
interlaken, switzerland: nothing day. george left for venice, italy.

monday 17 october
interlaken, switzerland -> geneva, switzerland: meet marlon and james (aus).

tuesday 18 october
geneva, switzerland: tour the city with james. flight geneva, switzerland -> amsterdam, the netherlands. meet up with matt.

wednesday 19 october
amsterdam, the netherlands: late morning. downtown.

thursday 20 october
amsterdam, the netherlands: another late morning. downtown. casino mission.

friday 21 october
amsterdam, the netherlands: yet another late morning. downtown. begin india planning.

saturday 22 october
amsterdam, the netherlands: four hours of trip planning on the internet. rain. anne frank house: original diary: wow. marks showing height on the walls. check train times. phone calls.

sunday 23 october
amsterdam, the netherlands: more internet planning. more rain. van gogh museum.

posted by paul at Sun 23 Oct 2005 at 00:00:00 EST (-05:00) | comments (0)

02 October 2005

a central clarity

anna was a big gigi fan. dennis, not so much, but he was her friend and told her he'd come down with her. today the two air force italians were leaving. it was a pleasure meeting them. both kicked and dennis' use of the word 'beautiful' kicked it the hardest.

having been to pompeii the day before, i was excited to visit the archaeological museum in naples where many of the authentic artifacts found during the excavation, including statues, mosaics, and household items had been moved. overall i wasn't incredibly impressed with the museum. like in rome i was seeking a central clarity which was not to be found.

posted by paul at Sun 02 Oct 2005 at 00:00:00 EST (-05:00) | comments (0)

01 October 2005

finally [] for myself


today i'd be traveling to pompeii, the ancient roman city buried by ash when vesuvius erupted in 79 ad, about half an hour away from naples. the hostel brochure recommended taking the sita company bus to pompeii. after a few wrong turns, i made it to the bus station around 1035 and bought a ticket for the 1100 bus (confirmed with the ticketing agent). 1100 comes... three buses are waiting to depart... none are going to pompeii. an australian family was waiting with me... the man approaches one of the bus drivers... 'no buses to pompeii. train.' hmm... that information seemed to conflict with the large bus schedules hung inside the station as well as the tickets that each of us held. finally we get an answer from another driver: '1130'. wait for half hour... 1130... again, no buses are going to pompeii. i let the australian deal with the drivers at 1100... my turn. i got on one of the buses sitting in the parking lot and started questioning the driver... when the language barried proved to be a problem, a sympathtic passenger who was listening to the (mostly one-sided) conversation approached the driver. the driver got out and consulted two other drivers... much discussion... finally the passenger tells me that the bus to pompeii leaves at 1200. i thanked him generously for his assistance. 1200... _finally_ the bus to pompeii.

pompeii is _much_ larger than i expected. truly city size. much of the city has yet to be excavated... this surprised me as well. still, so much work. rocks raised to provide crosswalks when the streets flooded as planned. public baths. two theatres. temples. an amphitheater. graffiti... the oldest yet. private gardens. frescos. mosaics. a bakery. presumbably wild dogs wandered the grounds aimlessly. plaster casts of bodies that had been buried by ash and then decayed, leaving hollow cavities.

i explored the city for five full hours, every minute captivating. all the while vesuvius loomed nearby. such an archaeological marvel. i first learned about pompeii when i was 11, sixth grade latin class. finally i'd seen it for myself.

posted by paul at Sat 01 Oct 2005 at 00:00:00 EST (-05:00) | comments (2)