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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?'

'600.'

'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 on Thu 27 Oct 2005 at 23:59:59 est (-05:00)

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