Wednesday, December 3, 2008

home safe and sound.

with a slight cold and loose motions - but who can ask for anything more?

And thus ends the India blog.

Well, there might be one more conclusive one in me tomorrow, but I'm not making any promises. So in case this is the last blog, thanks for reading and the comments and all the support. I have so many amazing people in my life and I love you all and I can't wait to trap each of you in a corner and talk your ears off.

weird to be home. but a good weird.

I have a lot to go think about....

Monday, December 1, 2008

homeward bound

It was really hard to say goodbye to the women at Kalighat.
Radha was crying yesterday and I asked a girl who speaks Hindi what she was saying and she translated it, "I'm all alone in the world. I have no one."

It broke my heart. But the girl told me later that the other women were comforting her and saying, "we're all alone in the world too. But we're in here together."

So we painted nails, and massaged arms, and put coconut oil in hair. And Racha sang a song for all of us, and Sanita held my hand and told me to come back to Kalighat. I really love these women. I wish you all knew how amazing they are. Truly. Truly. Amazing women.

I hate saying goodbye.

Last day in Calcutta. Goodbye party tonight. With more goodbyes. and then a 9:30 flight tomorrow morning to Mumbai. A 12 hour layover. a 16 hour flight. a four hour layover. another flight. and then home. which all adds up to 41 hours and 22 minutes of travel time.

I'm going to be INSANE when I get home.

but I'll be home. and that'll be nice. even if crazy. see you all soon.

(I should be landing at 1:20 pm on Wednesday in pdx)

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Last night I went to Maddy, Denise and Verity's for their rooftop Thanksgiving dinner. SueLynn; the cranberry sauce and stuffing were a HUGE hit. Denise specifically told me to tell you so. And she's not American, so that seems like an even bigger compliment because she wasn't expecting it. So thank you! I can't believe you sent a can of cranberry sauce!

Went to a football (soccer, for those of us who speak proper) match today. Wonderful. My team (in one day I've managed to acquire a team) won. So fun! I love a good game. And a stadium half full of crazy enthusiastic fans. We shook our fists (and when really mad, our sandals) and the refs needed armed police with crowd control shields on guard in case the angry fans decided to chuck water bottles at them like they apparently did last week.

HOWEVER. Me and a girl I was with were the ONLY females in the entire stadium. I'm not joking. The only women. I have to admit that a spare thought in the corner of my neurotic brain feared some sort of catastrophe or natural disaster that would leave us stuck in the stadium - as the only females.

Luckily I take kung fu.

And luckily it means that there's no line at the women's bathroom!

It was a really fun game. And I think I had at least twenty people take my picture. They probably thought I was Kate Winslet and not Kate Nordbye. An easy mistake.

This post is crap. I can't think straight enough to write. Mostly because I, once again, joy of joy Calcutta, have only moments left until I'll need to rush home to the bathroom.

two days left. Then bombay. then new jersey. then home. (with hopefully a plenitude of toilets between here and there)

Friday, November 28, 2008


The man that sells newspapers on Sudder street is one of my favorites. We have a fight most mornings; I try to read my book, and he tries to take it from me so I'll be forced to read his newspaper.

It was the same yesterday. I was at the cafe, reading about the underworld of Bombay (which, eerily, was predicting an attack would happen soon) when he came in and snatched my book, "nooo, I moaned," as I was just at a good part about all the police corruption, but this time instead of grinning, he slammed a paper in front of my face and pointed at the headline: Mumbai Under Attack. (Today's headline just said, in huge letters, "FEAR")

It was strange, and scary, and as I started reading the death toll I started to cry, and then I couldn't read any more and had to turn the paper over and say, "Liz, tell me something happy about your childhood."

"Well," she said, hesitating, "My dad use to take us camping in the Lake District and it was really wonderful."

Mr. Darcy is from the Lake District, I thought to myself, which helped for a second.

But still I'm scared. And everyone is watching. I paid my bill and walked to work and started painting a horse green and a bear purple. But after a few hours my stomach was hurting so bad, so I walked home and vomited five times.

It was probably food poisoning again, but still....sometimes I think my mind and my body feed off each other.

So another night sick in Calcutta. Reading bad news. Hearing bad news. Carmel came up and lay on my bed. Katerina brought me anti-nausea medicine and toast. Esther lay in bed and listened to my ipod with me (and even let me sing "tiny dancer" really loud which always makes me feel better), and then Carmel came up to read me a book in her wonderful Irish accent.

It's good to be sick in Calcutta with so many people around to take care of you. Still. I want to be home.

And not in Bombay. Mumbai. Which is where I will be in four days. My flight from Calcutta stops in Bombay for a 12 hour layover on Tuesday before my flight home. And I'm scared to go. But glad my flight is for four days from now, and not yesterday. Which. Eerily again. Was one of the dates I had considered. So that I would have come home on Thanksgiving.

But it was nice to go to Kalighat today. The women seemed happy to see me and asked me where I had gone, and when I said, "Darjeeling," they all smiled and pointed to the sky. I think to mountains.

Three more days left in Calcutta. I just want to be home safe.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

I'm going to miss my spice seller, Pappu.

Whenever I need spices I walk to new market and sit in his shop while he orders me tea and potatoes (he discovered I like potatoes) and chat while I sip on tea and pick out what spices I want (cumin, tumeric, all ground by hand, and masalas - oh I love the masalas). then he puts them in plastic bags and seals them with a candle. He let me try today, and I was really, really, really bad (there goes my career in spice selling - and american drug dealing).

He left me today with presents (something small, sarah) for my sister (he wants my sister to come to India next time with me) and instructions that when I return to Calcutta next time, I'm not allowed to stay in a guest house, but I'm to stay with his family. He also invited me to dinner with his family on Sunday, but I can't make it, which is sad, because I imagine a spice seller is a really good cook.

Felicity and Marite both leave tomorrow. Carmel said today that the hardest thing about Calcutta is all the goodbyes you have to say. I immediately thought, "no, the hardest thing is all the death." but, in thinking, I guess goodbyes and death are pretty similar.

Sigh. The days are going fast.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

I painted for over eight hours today. Very irritated painting, by the way, because most of the people have quit over drama (boys and nun fights - same old same old) and new people have come. And new people don't paint inside the lines. Which is very irritating, as I am quite attached to one particular whale.

So there was my vent. And all the thought and space I'm going to give to it. Instead:

I was looking through my camera today. I have only one week left, and I've realized that I've hardly taken any pictures of daily life in Calcutta, which is what I wish I could share the most. The problem is, I can't really take those pictures because every time I want to, I never do; I get too embarassed; it feels too obnoxiously touristy; too intrusive into daily life. So, you'll have to do without, I'm thinking. And instead make do with the mental notes I took on my walk home today.

walking through the Muslim section: most of the women are wearing sari's but a few of them are in burkas and all I can see are their eyes. And they avoid my eyes. I wonder about them. I wonder if they like it. If they choose it. Or if they are forced. I would like to talk to them, perhaps more than anyone else in India. But I can't. They seem off limits.

Most of the men are in white undershirts and lungis (cloth worn around the waist). Shopkeepers, butchers. Huge slabs of meat; mostly beef. Large chunks of wood and giant butcher knives, swinging and cutting them, raw and bloody, then hung up by rope.

Boys hold hands. You almost never, never, see a male and female touching (unless you're in the richer, more westernized neighborhoods. Or at certain parks - where they kiss behind umbrellas). But the boys hold hands. All the time. To my eyes it looks like boyfriends, but in India it is officially against the law (as in, you can be put in prison) to be gay. So the handholds are just friends friends. Maybe...

People everywhere. always cars, rickshaws, people, bikes, motorbikes buzzing around you. It's hard to remember what an empty street back home looks like. I'm used to the crowds now and I wonder if the space when I return home will be unsettling. But here, hundreds, thousands of people pushing past you around you everyday. All day. And night. Because 15 million people have to go somewhere. So they are here. Everywhere.

And lines. Everyone waits. In lines, in their shops, on the streets with their hands extended out to you, "yes sister, money, sister," waiting for customers, chai, to sell fruit or newspaper, hundreds of people for hundreds of hours, if not pushing past you, are waiting.

Forty chicken tied upside down to a bicycle, being taken to market. Or piled upon each other in a small wicker cage.

Dogs, dogs everywhere. Mangy and with fleas. Half their fur bitten off in fights. But happy - walking like they own the streets

Cows tied to poles.

Goats. A hurd of goats walking down the street with men in lungi's with bamboo sticks to keep them in line.

Men bathing. All the time; gathered in groups around the water pumps with soap and pails poured over their heads.

The traffic. It'll kill you. Really. Either through emissions (slowly, daily, every breath in-an-out. I've been back one day and the inside of my nose is black again already) or quickly. In that it will hit you. I haven't been hit. Katerina has been hit (but not too hard) five times now. Because pedestrian's don't have the right of way. It's everyone for themselves and every space is fair game. Only usually the biggest things win.

Fruit for sale. Men swatting the flies off with fabric. Beautiful fruit; bananas, apples, pomelo's, sweet limes, oranges, pomegranates, pineapples, asian pears, and the sweets; sweet shops, with sugar and spice. And bread. Men frying roti and potato paneer; vegetable paneer. Chai shops everywhere served in tiny clay cups that are smashed on the grown when the tea is gone. So good the chai. Really really good.

Anything you want here on the street; shopping bags and magazines selling sexy bollywood stars (who bare everything on covers but still can't kiss on screen - too taboo. the kiss.) shoe shines, wallets, fabrics, bracelets, cold water, warm water, yogurt and curd, milk trucks.

Small boys chase small boys. Men laughing and snap each other with fabric. People sleeping on the streets, always someone, curled up on a small piece of blanket with the extra cloth pulled over their face. Or not. Face exposed to the sun and everyone steps around. Small children in school uniforms pulled by a rickshaw driver or walking hand-in-hand.

Taxi drivers lined up by the water pump to throw buckets of water on their bright yellow cars.

Men waiting outside the mosque dressed all in white.

Hindu women with bright red bindi dots on their foreheads and more red at the hair part to show they are married. Nuns and priests; catholic, jain, hindu, muslim.

People with limps. Old women and men being walked by their adult children. Bent backs and crooked hands. Beautiful sari's, deep bright colors. Every color.

Restaurants, hotels, round the corner and I'm home.

And Katerina says, take a picture of the cat for felicity's going away party tomorrow! And I shower and then take a picture of the cat. Write emails and Carmel is home and it is so good to see you, and let's meet for dinner (and I can't believe I told the soccer players from Nigeria that I think I'm faster than them, and now all of a sudden I have a race on Thursday. the same day that my knees and ankles will probably start to hurt so I won't be able to race :) and a game on Saturday - only this time I watch, and one week left. One week left.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Oh, home to Calcutta; where they'll steal the shirt off your back and then sell it you for 100 rupees. And then hit you with their car so they can take your shirt again.

It was kind of endearing the hoard of taxi drivers waiting outside the train station trying to rip us off: Ohhh, we're home. And I love it.

Goodbye Darjeeling.

Esther and I stood on a hillside road our last night and watched (I'm not good at estimation, but I'm very good at exaggeration) I'm guessing close to two-thousand people march in line; silent, and holding candles. A night vigil. Perhaps for peace, perhaps for the boy who died, perhaps for their dear Gorkhaland.

Then we caught a jeep, packed full, including a very drunk man who for thirty minutes enthusiastically (and unrelentlessly) tried to convince me to marry his son, "I have decided that I would very much like you to be my daughter-in-law." When he tumbled out of the jeep, the rest of the people groaned and apologized for him. No problem, I smiled (though it was a slight problem, because to listen to him I had to turn my head to the side, which always, always, makes me car sick if done for an extended - say, thirty minutes- amount of time).

The train ride was wonderful. I fell asleep almost the moment I sat down, and when I awoke, it was Calcutta.

And the weather is wonderful. Warm, but not too hot. And it's nice to be back. I'm sharing a room with Esther for the last week, and I was unpacking and I heard Katerina and Felicity call out, "Come down Kate, we want to see your face."

It's nice to be back.