Sunday, July 26, 2015

It's not you, it's me. ( Or why I didn't attend your event. )

I really wanted to attend your house warming.

I really wanted to go out dancing with you on Friday night.

I really wanted to meet you for dinner.

I really wanted to spend the day with you while you helped me organize my apartment.

I really wanted to hang out at Taste of Edmonton with you.

I really wanted to get together with you for that beer.

I really wanted to meet you at that bar and hear some great live tunes.

I really wanted to attend your wedding.

I really wanted to see you because you are important to me.

It's not you, it's me.

I know it's a cliche line used as a cop out to not actually tell a person you don't want to be around them. But, there are times where this line is absolutely the truth.

Since April I have been dealing with unwanted, and yet persistent, visitors. They're names are Depression and Migraine.

 Whether Migraine or Depression showed up first, I can't say. What I can say is that both Depression and Migraine tend to visit together, and they feed off each other. And they feed off my emotioals and physical energy. There have been times when I thought they had left, but it turns out they had simply retreated to the closet for a short time only to come sneaking out when I was least expecting them. I really do despise those two. They are sneaky and rude and just plain horrible to deal with, but they are in my life.

. I love people.

 I love talking,

 I love debating, 

I love learning about new people and new things.

I love dancing.

I love getting a bit tipsy.

I love chatting over a few beers.

I love seeing your new house.

I love BBQs.

I LOVE all these social things. They are a part of what drives me, what gets me up every morning and what I think about before I sleep.

The thing is, Depression drains my emotional energy to do these things. Migraine drains my physical energy to do these things. Together, they drain me of any kind of energy to do these wonderful, social, and fun things that I love with people I truly enjoy.

My career as a hairdresser requires a lot of energy and mostly the emotional kind. I am not complaining. I truly enjoy what I do and where I am at with it. I couldn't be happier! But it can be draining. I build relationships with each and every client who sits in my chair.  

When they are happy, I am happy. 

And when they are sad, I am sad. 

And everything in between.

My emotional out put on any given work day is usually quite high which leaves only a little bit of energy left for all those fun things I love to do.

That is the energy that I use for that house warming party, that dinner, that club night.

It's the same energy I use for organizing my apartment, seeing you get married, and having that beer.

Depression selfishly takes that energy from me until I have nothing left. I can find enough to do my job, most days, but finding that extra energy is proving to be difficult lately. Finding the energy to do more then sit in my apartment with my dog has been very hard lately.

 Depression is a complete asshole. 

I try to hold on to that energy and keep it from Depression, but I'm pretty sure Depression hits the gym every day and is therefore stronger then I am. ( For now. Depression doesn't know it, but I'm going to kick its ass very soon. For I too have been hitting the gym. )

This is why I did not attend your event that I really wanted to, and this is why I very seldom give a firm " Yes " when asked if I am attending something. I don't know how much of an ass Depression will be that day, so I go a day at a time.

The good news is that each time these two monsters visit, I learn how to kick them out sooner ( or at least put them in the dark corner of the closet with the spiders ). I learn how to keep more of my energy.

And I love you. 

You are very important to me.

And I know it may feel like I don't want to be around you. I am sorry for that, I truly am because that is not how I feel.

You are awesome!

And on those days when Depression and Migraine have retreated to the closet or left for a long, long vacation ( or forever ), I will dance my ass off with you.

I will drink all the beer with you.

I will warm your house like you wouldn't believe.

I will attend all the festivals and events with you.
I will eat more dinner then I can handle with you.

And I will spend my energy on you!

Sunday, March 15, 2015

The " Older Women "

Trying to score a date with the older women: ( through a dating site. )


- Don't start the conversation with a comment about her weight. Even if its meant as a compliment, as in " Losing weight?"  and then proceed to tell her you think she's pretty.

- When she asks about whether or not she was pretty before losing weight, do not answer with " Is this a touchy subject? "

- If you have multiple questions, try to keep them all in one message. Sending a new message for each question is annoying.

- Don't play the " I'm probably too young for you, " card. Trying to garner sympathy will not get you what you want. You'll only be perceived as a child.

- Do not ask " Do you think we could go on a date sometime? " Just ask if they'd like to go on a date. Don't play in hypotheticals. Also, don't add the word " please, " at the end of that question. No begging.

- If she doesn't reply to your messages right away, especially after she has mentioned that she is BUSY right now, do not send 12 more messages asking " Where'd you go? " or some version of that.


- Read her profile.

- Do have something written in your profile.

- Using the word 'gal' in reference to her is a good idea. ( At least for this gal it is. )

- Do ask about the things she likes. Such as baking or roller derby.

- Do have some good photos of you that don't involve a beer in your hand or another person.

- Be confident and don't mention the age difference unless she does.

- Do have a job.

This is the short list. The long list is long.

I have been inundated by messages from guys who are quite a bit younger then me in the last few months. We're talking 8 - 11 years younger. ( I'm only 32! ). Apparently, I am at the age where I am considered an " older women " for that age category ( 21 - 25 ).

I'm not completely sure how I feel about that.

Part of me is intrigued by the idea but the other part of me is quite sure that I would have nothing in common with any of them. I mean, they don't remember watching the Transformers on television or dancing to the Smashing Pumpkins at a high school dance. What could we possibly even talk about?

I guess we could just not talk.... * wink wink *

Saturday, February 14, 2015


I'm on beach.

Well, maybe not at this moment, but I could go to a beach right now if I wanted. Actually, I should.

That concludes this blog post. See ya!

Me and the brother thing. There's a beach in the back ground.

Just kidding. It's late and I'm a bit tired and you deserve some explanation here. I know you've been checking this blog every day for an update. 

You haven't? Oh...well, ok then.

We hiked ( climbed ) up this...
To get to this. Brahma Temple

Last time, I had just arrived in the wonderful town of Pushkar and I was in love. ( Still am ) I also reconnected with my little bro. After two weeks of him skiing in Gulmarg and that same time frame of me hopping around Rajasthan and hanging out with elephants, we bumped into each other in Pushkar. ( I saw bumped into each other like it was an accident. It wasn't an accident. ) We spent a few days hiking up enormous hills ( I call them mountains ) and riding through the desert, enjoying the sand dunes, and driving through Ajmer, a town of 425,000. Yes, I did say driving. If there was a time where a GoPro camera was needed, this was the time.
Dunes of Sand - that's what the sign said

The traffic here is like nothing else I could have even imagined. The rules are... well, drive on the left ( mostly ) and honk your horn a lot. That's about all I can make out. But I survived!

I've never ridden a scooter before, or a bike really, as I'm a bit afraid of it, but couldn't let that hold me back. I told the guy renting them that I knew exactly what I was doing. ( I'm not sure if he believed me, but he took my money anyway. )

Pushkar is a great little town, definitely one of the highlights of my trip.
See? I made it. That's Pushkar in the background.

From Pushkar, we made the long trek to the city formally known as Bombay. Now called Mumbai. Not sure if it went through a phase of calling itself by a symbol or not. ( Do you get the joke? I think it's hilariously witty of me to have come up with that. )

The trek to Mumbai included a 15 hour train journey and a 5 hour bus trip. That's not so bad. We are told we disembark in Udaipur and then catch the bus.

Sounds good to me. We purchase the tickets.

Wait a minute, that doesn't make sense. Udaipur isn't that far from Pushkar.... .... ....

OH WAIT! We got it wrong. It' a 5 hour train ride to Udiapur then a 15 hour bus ride to Mumbai.


For any who know me well, me and things like bus rides do not do well together. I get severe motion sickness and the driving in India involves no anticipation. There's a whole bunch of speed up and quickly slow down. Speed up, quickly slow down, speed up.... It's making me queasy just thinking about it.

Udaipur, however, is a nice city with a few large lakes. We had time to do one site seeing visit and saw City Palace. I will say that it was a beautiful place, but I think that's sounding redundant in a country of beautiful places. It's a museum now but was once the home of the Marahajas in Udaipur.

Ceiling carving and painting, on the roof! 

I spent the next 15 hours sick, trying to sleep and in tears. The bus did not have a bathroom and the one stop I was able to get out at ( too sick to even move ) they had only squat toilets, no power in the bathrooms and they were filthy beyond anything I have ever seen. That was the last time I was willing to use those road side toilets.

Oh! And I had to puke out the window four times on this trip. FOUR!!!! Couldn't even keep water down. It was the absolute worst travel decision I have ever made in my life. And probably one of the worst nights of my life.

I'd like to tell you a bit about Mumbai....

But I can't....

Because I was sick for the whole 24 hour we were there. Curled into a ball, can't keep water down, running a fever sick. Worst day ever!!!!

But now!! I'm on a beach. I will tell you all about the beach and all the wonderful things here, in Anjuna, Goa, and how I got here, in my next post, entitled:


Stay tuned. Same bat time. Same bat channel.

Sunday, February 1, 2015

Well, that was unexpected.....

I just got high with an old Croation, his daughter, and two Indian guys, in India, on a roof top patio.

With this view of Pushkar.
Pushkar at sunset. 

More about that later.

I've been a bit amiss with this blog for two reasons:

1. Crappy, inconsistent internet at the guesthouse I was staying at in Jaipur. Although it was a very nice place and the family that ran the house were wonderful, the internet was just not cutting it. I would write a blog, get it all ready and try to publish it just to have the connection  cut out or for the signal to be too weak. I was able to do it from my phone but....and maybe I'm a little old school just doesn't feel that same as typing on a keyboard. ( and 15 years ago, the same would have been said about typing on a keyboard compared to writing on paper. )

2. I was TIRED! As mentioned, the place I stayed at was lovely but there were a few things, things that are somewhat common to India, that made sleeping a challenge.

  • The mattress was almost as hard as the wooden frame it rested on, and I am not exaggerating much.  
  • The house was cold. If you want to build a house that stays cold during the summer, build it with a lot of marble and lots of openness. The entrance to the house itself was more of a gate then a door. There was no seal. Windows that didn't close. So, if it was cool outside, say 13 degrees, it was at least 13 degrees inside. Even during the day when the temperature was around 22 degrees, it was still about 13 degrees in the house. Made for a coupe very cold nights.
  • Noisey. So, so noisey. Whether it was the family who stayed up late ( went to bend around 11 or 12 at earliest ), or just general noise from the outside ( you know, dogs barking, cars honking, monkeys screeching....the usual stuff. ), the openness of the house made it quite difficult to sleep.

Between those two things and the 430 am wake up. ( Didn't I mention that? Ooops ) it made for a very tired Victoria. I would usually come home from my time with the elephants ( which were so wonderful, by the way! ) and nap for half the day. Then get up and take a bit of a walk. I was also sick for a day or two in there. Tummy sick. Lots of time in the bathroom sick. You get the picture.

However, elephants!!! I met six elephants in total.

Gulab ( I was calling her Glad because I heard wrong. ), Chan Chal, Rupa, Rani, Sawtri, and Champa. Gulab lived out at the Elephant Village and was the first elephant I met. She was also the smallest. She's a 37 year old, 1800 kg beauty. : )

Gulab posing for me.
Rupa's hungry. Rupa's always hungry.
I then met the big girls, Rupa being the biggest and Champa being the oldes. ( 41 years old. She gets to retire in 7 years. Lucky girl. ) By far the friendliest and most entertaining was Rupa. She was the trunk in your face, trying to drink your tea and constantly opening her mouth for you to put more food into.

She also snorted the chapati flour off the ground. I think she's got a problem.

These girls were at least 2300 kg and stood much taller then Gulab. They were all sweet, wonderful beings. Completely different personalities. Chan Chal actually kept hiding behind a post every time I tried to take a photo of her.

She may have also just been itchy, but I choose to believe she was just being shy.
Sawtri is sleeping, still.

And Sawtri was a asleep almost everyday when I came in. The quiet mixed with the soft breathing of the elephants and punctuated by the occasional snore ( yes, elephants snore. ), combined with the 530 in the morning situation, made me just want to curl up, wrap a trunk around me and go to sleep.
Rupa and I!

Napping, being sick and elephants took up most of my time in Jaipur, but I did manage a bit of sight seeing, namely Amer Fort. And if you see one thing in Jaipur, make it Amer Fort. In my mind it rivals The Taj itself.

* GASP * I know!!!!!!!

How could something rival one of the seven wonders of the world? That can't be!

Oh, my friend, yes It can be.

Photos, as usual, cannot do justice to truly remarkable things. Well, some photos and some photographers can do justice, but not me with my Samsung Galaxy S4 for a phone. But, I'll post a few shots anyway, so you can get the idea.
Amer Fort/Palace from the road

Plaster work on the walls.

" Mirror Palace"

I could post a ton of pictures, but I won't.

Then, I left my elephants and Jaipur for the wonder that is Pushkar.

I took the public transit. It was dirty, long and hot.

It was also crowded an the whole time I was thinking " This better be worth it, "

And it is! It so much is!

Pushkar is nestled in the mountains of Rajasthan. And it's the Indian version of Nelson, B,C. If Nelson also had a lot of churches. It is the holy place and I believe that is why this place makes me feel instantly relaxed.

I'm an atheist, plain and simple, but I have always found religious structures ( even churches ) to provide a sense of peace within me and I marvel at the work that goes into creating these structures and monuments. Religions are fascinating.

I strolled the market, bought some pants, met a sweet old lady who loved my tattoos and visited the Brahma temple. Photos are not allowed, but I can tell you, it was beautiful.

All the colours, sights and sounds of a market.

Above mentioned sweet old lady.
And yet again, for the fourth time on this trip, I was swarmed!!!! First, by a group of about 20 teenage girls, all wanting pictures with me ( and so did their chaperones ). If I ever want to feel like a celebrity, I will just come back to India.

At least I think this must be what being a celebrity feels like, except with a lot more money and a private chef. My face actually began to get sore from smiling, that's how many photos these girls wanted to take.

I made my way back to the hotel and that is where the first sentence in this post comes in to play,

The people here are very relaxed, the energy is laid back and I think I will spend a few extra days here beyond the three I had initially planned. It's a wonderful break from the crowds and noise from the much larger cities.

Pineapple juice and a roof top patio!

Monday, January 26, 2015

A red head, a blonde, and brunette go for a walk in Delhi......

Their names are Holly ( England ), Lucille ( France ), and Victoria ( Canada )....
There's no punchline.  That's just what happened. 

I spent my last day in Delhi exploring some old ruins of a settlement and the Qutub Minar site. Besides the Qutub Minar ( tallest brick minaret in India ), the site includes numerous ancient mosques, tombs and a 1600 year old iron pillar that hasn't rusted.

I had planned to have more time to explore this area but we were side tracked by other ruins that were less crowded and  accessible along our walk.  I strolled through the ruins of an old settlement across from the Kamila-Jamila mosque. I saw an ancient swimming pool from the Lodhi Empire. All these things were just on our way,  in a park,  where families go to have a picnic and play cricket.

And that brings me to the people.  

The park was full with families and friend eating food and playing games,  mostly cricket.  Holly have us a basic rundown of hope cricket is played while we watched a match. I think I kind of understand it now.
Kind of.

A little bit.


And we met some people. 

A group of young girls came up to us. The one girl started asking us questions in English.  You could tell she was very excited to be able to speak English to us and her English was quite good,  considering.  I got the feeling that she would change the world someday,  or at least her country.

Of course,  photos were taken. Photos are always taken. 

Speaking of photos,  I got mobbed a couple times by groups of people,  mostly women and girls,  wanting photos of me and of me with them.  I got asked for my autograph once,  but declined because  I'M NOT FAMOUS! This must be what a celebrity feels like everywhere they go.  I happily obliged and made a point of smiling when I caught random people trying to sneak photos of me.

This isn't the first time similar has happened.  The first time was in Pahalgam after riding a pony to the to of the mountain.  A couple young men chatted with me and then asked for photos.

The second time was when Holly and I visited Jantar Mantar. We were surrounded by a group of young people who took every combination of photos with us they could find. 

And it happened three times yesterday in Delhi at the Archeological sights.

And it's not just one photo they want.  They take every conceivable version of the photo they can.  Switching members of their group in and out.

It's a bewildering experience. 

I met a 37 year old, 1800 kg lady this morning,  but I'll talk about her tomorrow.

Saturday, January 24, 2015

The people!!!!

The people!



They're everywhere! It never stops!

Welcome to New Delhi. Truly a city that never sleeps. And I mean never! Vegas has got nothing on this place.

My hostel sits on a service road beside a fairly busy main road. The honking never stops.
My hotel address. Makes perfect sense.

Ever. Never stops.

You get used to it after a bit but it also makes me miss my boring, fairly quiet street in Edmonton. And I live downtown Edmonton, in the ghetto, where there's a fight outside on a weekly basis and the police re no strangers. That should tell you something.

I also miss my dog.

Moving on!!

New Delhi is an interesting experience and vastly different then Kashmir and even Agra. That's where The Taj Mahal is located, remember? That's ok, I barely remember it as well.

Went for a walk along Chandni Chowk, yesterdaym a very old and famous market here. And there were people! Everywhere! Crushing you!
Chandni Chowk during a quiet moment.....

This guy, he's spicey.
I visited the oldest spice market in Chandni Chowk. It was established in 1917, nearly 100 years old and it's quite famous. Bought some spices, as that's what one does at a spice market. Mmmm, spices. The man helping me showed me some photos of famous people who had gone there, including Dan Brown. ( The novelist....DaVinci Code.... ). I grabbed some delicious street food and decided I needed to get out of there. There was a small window of time that I could handle the crush of people until I needed to go, NOW!

Then, I took the metro. Even more of a crush of people. It never ends!!!!

Today I made a new friend, Holly from England. Holly and I went on adventures together, including buying saris and spending more money then we should. We saw a few monuments and spent a bit of time in the Sikh temple, Bangla Sahib. I have a facination with religions and religious rituals. I sat through a Sikh prayer, along with chanting and drums

The chanting and the carpeted floors always seem to bring an instant calm to me, something I needed after a few busy, people filled days. I sat and I closed my eyes and allowed the chanting and the noise to quiet my mind.

Then there were drums!!! Loud, booming drums which punctuated parts of what the Guru was chanting and saying. It loved every moment of it and would have stayed for hours had I not been with others. The prayers last all day, beginning at 4 am and going until 11 pm. Each Guru takes a 2 hour 'shift' of praying and chanting. The gathered members chant along. I wish I could have known what was being said. I have decided to do some research on Sikhism.

Oh, and Sikh men are really quite attractive and bearded, always bearded. See a trend here????

Note to self: Being an atheist does not mean you can't enjoy religious rituals such as chanting.

Gooooold. Inside Bagla Sahib Temple.
This temple serves three meals a day to whomever would like or need it and there appear to be many in the area that need that.

We also met a random man in the metro who became a seudo guide for us during the day. I was waiting for the hammer to fall, for him to ask us to buy something. But he didn't. It was a wonderful day filled with wonderful people.

And a lot of walking.

And I'm tired.


Thursday, January 22, 2015

Quirky Kashmir ( or The Silliness of Srinagar )

Or whatever else you choose to call this. I'll probably come up with something really awesome in about 6 hours.

I just wanted to point out a few interesting, quirky or odd things that I noticed during my time in Kashmir. Do with them what you will. ( Which will probably be nothing. )

There's no perforation on the toilette paper ( if there is any TP at all. Good thing I brought some with me. Thanks for the tip, Ragnar. ) If there is no toilette paper, you use a spray nozel, like the one you might find on your sink to help you rinse off dishes. The water is always just above freezing. Just imagine that on your, well, you know what.

If you're an autobody technician or a welder you are called a Body Builder. ( No joke. )

There is a town just outside of Srinagar whose whole industry it seems is to make and sell cricket bats. Just cricket bats. For all of India.

Apparently the stuff in this truck really won't burn.
This shit is never going to go up in flames.

The prevalence of English signs and advertisements. They're every where and more common then the local language. ( This is a general India thing, not specific to Kashmir. )

It seems that everyone works at a convenience store that sells the same thing as the one next to it. But each store give you " GREAT DEALS!"

There are sidewalks. No one walks on them. Walking on the road is the preference.

Goats hang out on the roof. No one cares.

The Devil's spawn indeed.

The region is called Jammu and Kashmir. Everything is labeled J&K or JK. I can't stop thinking that it stand for just Kidding.

Kashmir is highly militarized. There are soldiers everywhere and security check points where they will actually check you vehicle. It's a very serious business, except for this one soldier who smiled at me multiple time while checking the vehicle I was in. He was super cute too!

Speaking of super cute, a good portion of the men in Kashmir and quite attractive and wonderfully bearded. Something about their jaw lines, nose and skin tone is really sexy.

I went through 7 ( no exaggeration ) security check points to get on my flight to fly out, the first being before even entering the airport. Each one involves either a electronic screen of your baggage or a manual check by a very serious soldier. One almost didn't let me take my combination lock with me. ITS A DAMNED LOCK! Funny enough, they only looked at my passport twice. They don't care who I am as long as I'm not bringing dangerous stuff with me.

There are lots of birds. Birds everywhere. Even in the airport.


Wednesday, January 21, 2015

I'm laying in bed ( on the same wonderfully old house boat I mentioned yesterday) and have just finished listening to the Imam chant the evening prayer.

Yes. Laying in my bed listening to the evening prayer.

No, the house boat in not floating in a mosque.

The thing I particularly love about Muslim countries and locales ( I say that like I visit them all the time ) is the prayers. The mosques, using speakers, broadcast the prayers for everyone to hear. It was one of the first things I remember about Istanbul and when I left, I missed it. I had forgotten about it until I arrived here. I have no idea what is being chanted and I am the complete opposite of a Muslim ( and of a Christian, and of a Jew, and of most religions you can think of ) but I just love these prayers and the fact they they are projected for all to hear. Every time I hear them I smile, and I will miss them again.

I saw a very interesting side of Kashmir today, the rural areas. And when I say rural, I mean people carrying bags of rice on the heads and sheep being tended by shepherds. I saw a couple guys plucking dead chickens on the side of the road.

This view. Those tiny houses is where I started.
No, I did not die although there were times I wondered if I was being taken out to the woods to be given as a wife to some stranger. Things just kept getting more and more rural but, funny enough, every one had a cell phone. Go figure. It really struck me at how rural these places were and how almost exactly the same each little village was. When the news shows pictures of villages is war town countries, that is exactly what these looked like. Come to think of it, Kashmir has a had a long history of wars. Click the link to read about it's facinating history.

I took a day trip out to Pahalgam, a small but popular tourist destination way up in the mountains and away from most civilization as I know it ( except for the cell phones ). I went specifically to ride a shaggy pony up the side of a mountain to see this beautiful clearing at the top and a stunning view of the Lidder Valley
Damn I make this pony and pahrin look good.

I'm not going to go into detail too much about this area because Wikipedia does is so much better, so here's the link if you're interested.

This is Geetin, ( I think that;s right ). He accidentally took a selfie.

I also had a guide on my trip up the mountain. That's how I got this wonderful picture of myself and the shaggy pony.

On the way up to Pahalgam, we stopped at the ancient Hindu Avantisvami Temple.It was built by King Avantivarman of Utpala between the years 853 and 883 A.D. This particular temple was dediated to the Hindu God Lord Vishnu. There another, nearly identical temple near by, built during the same time, dedicated to Lord Shiva. It is composed of one main alter, dedicated to Lord Vishnu and four smaller alters dedicated to other, lesser gods.
Oh yeah! Old Stuff!

We all know how much I love ancient history!! ( Or maybe you don't know that. BUT IT DO! ) So, this was definitely a high light of the day.

Relief carving of Lord Vishnu himself.
Carvings of the nine planets. ( or so I'm told )

What I found really interesting was seeing the technology they were using at the time to build these structures. In this picture over here.
( Yes, right there, to the right! ) shows the groove and peg technology of the time. Truly a marvel when you think of what they were working with.

AAANNNDDD! I lost the inernet last night and that is why this is being posted in the morning.

I wanted to post more but I've got to get going. I have a few silly little things to tell you about.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Another day?

The last few days have been....Well.... less then ideal. After visiting Agra, where I was slapped in the face with a huge culture shock,  we arrived in Srinagar, Kashmir in northern India. 

I was slapped even harder. 

I thought I was being stared at in Agra, but here,  I initially felt like a freak show.

Kashmir is a predominantly Muslim state.  About 90% of the people here are devoutly Muslim,  the other 10% Hindu. This means women cover their heads.  As a non-muslim I arrived without my head covered. I was acutely aware of being the only Caucasian women on the flight into Srinagar, the Kashmiri capital, and I believe I am the only white women within an hour flight of here. 

I now know what it's like to be a visible minority and to be stared at because of that. It a feeling of both amusement and annoyance.

The staring I can deal with, it was the ignoring that I couldn't. 

Wait, did I just say I was being ignored as well as being stared at?  How is that possible?  Let me explain. 

I am traveling with my brother.  The people we have been interacting with have addressed questions and comments to only my brother. This includes the taxi driver,  hotel workers in Gulmarg ( small little town ) and the waiter who served my brother food first,  nearly taking the spoon out of my hand as I reached to serve myself. They've introduced themselves to only my brother as I stand there.

In Agra, this happened but on a less obvious scale.  Here in Kashmir, it's more pronounced. And it's a bit upsetting.

We traveled to a small skiing town called Gulmarg. I am almost certain I am the only white women many of the people here have ever seen. The hotel was very rustic.  Think log cabin with wood heat level of rustic with a bed that felt like a plank of wood ( which I had to share with my brother. Ewwww! )

I hated it and I couldn't get warm. very cold.

So, I decided to leave and head to New Delhi. My brother wants to ski so he's staying in Gulmarg. But that meant I had to spend a day in Srinagar, by myself,  before my flight left. That should be interesting.

And interesting it is.

Was the taxi guy and his friend flirting with me? ( The driver even sang one of his favourite songs ) Did the guys at the hotel ask to add me on Facebook?  ( Yes they did. ) Did that man at the check point say hello to me?  ( He sure did.  ) So what gives here?

I have a theory involving two parts:

First,  my brother is not around.

Second,  I covered my head.

It's like magic.  All I had to do was ditch my brother and cover my head. It was that easy.

I'm currently lying on a bed on a house boat located on Dal Lake in Srinagar. It's a hostel I booked for the night.  When I arrived,  I felt like I was being welcomed into a home. The manager and his father warmly greeted me,  serving me tea and cookies. Sitting on the floor,  we talked for a bit and they showed me to my room.  It's old but completely welcoming.

It has a wood burning stove for heat and this adorable little vanity and mirrors.

The manager not only arranged but accompanied me on a sight seeing tour. I spent too much money on a hand made Kashmir wool carpet and hand embroidered pashmina, but I consider it worth it. I learned how the carpets were made. The size I bought takes over a year to make with the larger ones taking up to 4 years.  Just for one carpet! I'll go into more detail on this later.

And guess what I decided to do? 

Stay another day!

I know,  crazy white girl in a Muslim state,  but Srinagar has kind of grown on me and I'd like to see a little bit more. 

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Hijacked Edition: I'm in INDIA!

Camel butt including camel diaper.
I'm in India! And I'm hijacking this this blog because I'm too lazy to start a new one for this trip and, well, you all already know it's here. Besides, India is much more exciting then my dating life right now.

We're not in Alberta anymore, R'lyeh. ( Wizard of Oz reference. No, my dog is not with me.)

Things I have learned in the past 24 hours in India:

1. I look like a Bollywood actress, apparently.

 I've heard exactly that twice in the last 24 hours. First from a guy who was 'helping' us out the night we arrived. (More on why there are quotations later.) And once from a tuk tuk* driver earlier this evening.

Maybe that's why people keep staring at me.

Women stare at me. Men stare at me. Children stare at me. No one is shy about it. They stare to the point that their heads turn nearly all the way around as they walk past. I was told this would happen. I thought I was prepared for it. I was not. I try to ignore it.

2. My body functions fairly well when running on no sleep for 31 hours. 


 My brain, unfortunately, does not.  People will  and do take advantage of that.

The aforementioned helper (refer to lesson # 1 ) was one of those people. To make a long story short, neither mine nor my brother's brain was working when a cab driver told us we could not get to our hotel because the road was closed.

Why was it closed?

Because Barack Obama is coming to visit (true) and there have been threats to his security ( could be true. Hard to verify but not unbelievable. ) so the police have closed some streets completely to everyone and one of those streets is where my pre-booked hotel is located ( I guess that's believable. The hotel is in a popular area of Delhi ). And all the hotels in Delhi are completely booked up unless I want to spend the equivalent of 500$ a night ( wait a second, that's a little fishy sounding, but ok ).

So, the cab driver took us to a " tourist information center " open at 1 am. ( Really?! Brain? Does that makes any sense? )

Long story short, the guy there got us a hotel room in Agra and arranged a driver to take us there, drive us around and get us back to Delhi for our flight to Kashmir for a great low price! (Now that I think of it, my brain must have completely switched off by this point. The price isn't bad, if I was in Canada!)

The kicker? Obama isn't going to be in Delhi until January 27!

Thanks Obama and thanks brain.

3. The Taj Mahal is an elaborate set of four tombs.

I'm completely serious. Shah Jahan built what is commonly refered to as the Taj Mahal ( the white dome building ) to honour his third (or second, depending on who you talk to) wife, Mamtaz Mahal, but there are three other tombs in the complex. One for each of his other three wives. And all four tombs is what is actually the Taj Mahal. The more you know!

Why did one wife get an elaborate, white marble tomb with precious stone inlay and white and black diamonds ( which the British stole when they arrived. What jerks! ) ensconced in the ceiling?

Because he loved her the most.

Why did he love her the most?

Because she gave birth to 14 children!!! The last of which killed her and only 6 survived beyond infancy.

To recap. To get a man to really really love you, have lots of babies, make sure most of them die and then make sure the final one kills you.

Cynicism about true love and having babies to please a man aside, the Taj Mahal is truly a beautiful place to visit. Pictures do not and could never do it any true justice. The architectural design of it is a wonder. The domes rely purely on weight and angles to stay up as here are no pillars or beams holding them. It's main building is pure white marble that came from a quarry 450 km (please don't quote me on that exact number) from Agra and was brought by elephants and camels (careful, they spit!). There are carvings and precious stone inlays that were all done by hand. It took 22 years to complete and I would imagine most of that time was spent inlaying the precious stones are carving the ornate decorations on the walls.

This! This is what I'm talking about.
OH! and the architect that designed the buildings had his thumb and forefingers on each hand removed after completion so he could never make anything more beautiful.** I was assured that he was paid very well, well enough that six generations of his descendants lived quite well off the money. Those descendants still work with marble and precious stones and we were able to visit their shop and see how it was done. It's a very simple process but very precise.

I couldn't do it. Imagine spending hours upon hours (we're talking days here!) getting a precious stone ground down to the perfect size and shape you want just to have it break at the last moment. I'd Hulk smash every thing at that point.

I also bought some work from this shop. ( A set of six marble coasters ) My brother thinks I got ripped off. I think the price I paid for them was fair ( under 60$ CDN ) I think we have differing ideas of what ripped off means.

4. The drivers here drive like I drive in GTA:5. 

No joke. The only difference is that they are better at avoiding accidents and pedestrians then I am, and they drive on the opposite side of the road.

They also don't shoot random bystanders for fun.

From what I can tell, the only rule is to honk your horn often so everyone else knows you're there.

What an amazing place!!! Even if you include the getting a bit ripped off ( Yes, I know you warned me and yes, I've learned my lesson. )

* tuk tuk = auto rickshaw. If you don't know what a rickshaw is, google it. In fact, you can even google tuk tuk. So the asterisk is really not needed, but I'll leave it anyway.

** note to self and anyone else who wants to take note: Never do something so well for someone ( especially someone who can have your fingers chopped off ) that people don't want you to do better. Always stay slightly below that level of awesome. )