Some highlights of my trip out to Rajasthan beyond Jaipur…
The Amber Palace & Fort (Outside of Jaipur)
One of my favorite places that I’ve been to so far outside of the Taj Mahal. The palace is beautifully intricate and maze like – we detrached ourselves from the usual tourist route and wandered through empty room after empty room, the light coming in through the lattice work and the sound of the snake charmers in the distance.
The fort has some beautiful views of the town below, but was otherwise not quite as interesting as exploring the palace was.
We took the local bus there and back – a process that involves asking bus after bus where they are going and getting on and off the bus while it is still moving. We saved a lot of money going that way though, and that’s the quirky sort of thing that makes me feel somehow more accomplished than all those other tourists. We find what ways we can to feel superior in life.
The reason why I went to Jodhpur. It’s very beautiful, with a good museum and an excellent audio guide. It’s also, truly, the only reason to come to Jodhpur, despite what the guidebook might say about the city being worth a longer stay (I am getting increasingly skeptical of Rough Guides as a result, it has failed at being useful for Rajasthan).
An excursion outside of the city, ostensibly to see different villages and the traditional Rajasthani culture. Really, it’s paying someone for the pleasure of driving you 25+ km out of the city for visits to stores where they talk for less than five minutes about the craft before they try to sell you stuff. However, it was nice to get out of the city for the day, see something different, and the local food was pretty tasty (chapatis cooked over a wood stove taste totally different.)
We also saw a traditional opium ceremony, which is technically illegal in India, but the culturally a big part of rural Rajasthan – every major life event involves opium (weddings, births, etc). It was pretty obvious to us that this guy did the ceremony several times a day for tourists.
Increased Level of Crankiness
Due in large part to our guest house manager being generally rude and dicking us around. And not just him, everyone. Constantly, dicking us around. I really wish that we had left the first night and gone to a less popular guesthouse down the road, which wasn’t in our guidebook. We had dinner there twice and it was absolutely amazing – and the owners are so incredibly friendly.
Nathalie has been a lot more… calm? about all the dicking around that we’ve put up with. I’m quite impressed with her ability to remain so. I understand very well that here you have to laugh and roll with things, but sometimes it just gets too much. My personality keeps on pulling back and forth between the cool-even-tempered [doormat] I’ve turned myself into these past few years and being more assertive. I feel very much that if I’m not assertive here I get walked on all the time and I’m really bloody sick of it. But I am also used to not arguing because I usually figure it’s not worth it. What I am saying is that the transition into Assertive Amy, who went into hiding years ago in fear of being a bitch, is having a hard time resurfacing without periods of bitchiness. It’ll even out, eventually. I hope, anyway. Becoming more assertive is a good thing. I want it to happen. I’m noticing more and more in life that it’s the people who a.) know what they want b.) work toward it / are willing to fight for it c.) don’t take shit from people in their way that actually get what they want in life. I’ve finally kind of figured out A and am currently working on both B & C out here on the other end of the world. On a micro level. Starting with haggling and not letting the entire population of India (including the damn cows) walk all over me.
Valiantly Arguing in the Name of American Capitalism, Culture, Politics, and All that Entails
I do not know what it is about so many Europeans that I’ve met and American politics. They seem to think that they can apply European culture, history, and world view to American politics and tell me how my country should be run. Sometimes it is a friendly debate that I enjoy and it forces me to be up on the current politics so I can debate properly. But I’m often facing an intellectual communist who is telling me that democracy doesn’t work because people are stupid and we should have intellectuals running things for the purpose of moral guidance. Which, as you can imagine, I had a lot to say about. However, sometimes these same communists have a sexy, Heath Ledger look-a-like1 friend so I put up with their drivel in order to flirt.
Mutual flirting is so good for one’s self esteem.
All My Relationships Are Complicated. Including My Relationship With This Country.
I think I have a schizophrenic relationship with India. I don’t actually think that it is possible to have a relationship with this country that is anything but schizophrenic.
A friend made a comment recently about how stressful it all seemed for me (based largely on my blog), and my gut reaction was: stressful? I’m loving it here? Where’s the stress?
I suppose that it is stressful. It’s stressful in the way that doing something you love is stressful when too much of it is happening at once. It’s stressful in that it is pretty constant – rarely do I get a break from the negotiation and the haggling and the navigating language barriers and the constant scams.
So I love India. And I hate India. Often simultaneously or within moments of each other. I can be flying high on the accomplishment of navigating public b uses, of the experience of squishing into the back making small talk with an Engineering student in Hindi/English. Only to be brought back down by the bus driver charging us twice what our fare should have been.
I was sitting on the roof of the restaurant where we had lunch today (all of the restaurants are on roofs here, so you see the fort a lot) and thinking back on how damn frustrating this trip has been, but how I also enjoyed it. Even on the level of just the past week, I have loved it and hated it simultaneously at just about every moment.
The point being: At the end of the day, regardless of what happened or who ripped me off, I am glad that I am here, and I remain convinced that I am exactly where I need to be.
1 Only scruffier. Apparently I like my men scruffy with a large side of nerd, small side of outdoors/travel and a dash of European. The next six months should be… interesting?