Thursday, September 29, 2011

Playa in the Himalaya's : Day One!

So as you all know I went on a mini-vacation to the Himalaya’s! More specifically, I went to Dharamsala, a city in the state of Himachal Pradesh which is comprised of many cities that lay in the foothills of the Himalayan Mountains. Dharamsala is the city which is famously known as the home of the Dalai Lama so I felt that if there was no other city I visited it had to be this one. My journey started with a short flight to Delhi, a 12 hour night bus to Amritsar to visit the Golden Temple, and another 10 hour bus ride to Dharamsala. What I thought would be an intense spiritual or adventure vacation turned out to be a relaxing vacation of reflection, although day one of this journey had me thinking it would be my last days.

Day One:

So even before leaving Hyderabad I got into an argument with two auto drivers. One because he told me he would take me to the airport and then midway wanted to change the price so I got out, and the second because he took me to the airport using a meter but then wanted to charge me a price different than the meter once we arrived. Both of these experiences left me thinking that I made the right decision to get out of Hyderabad, even if I was going alone. I will be honest and say that I had mixed feelings about traveling alone. At first I was so down for it, and then after entertaining the idea of going with someone I felt a small comfort so then when the plan went back to me going solo I was somewhat nervous about traveling so far without a friend or a weapon! My flight went smoothly, finding the train station went smoothly, so I knew it was too good to be true.

Upon arriving to New Delhi railway all of a sudden there were throngs of people. All running! I didn’t get it because everyone was running to nothing. I made my way through the crowd and was told that my train to Amritsar would be leaving from platform one, I go to platform one after walking 8 minutes to find out the train to Amritsar is leaving from platform two. I go to platform two and learn that there is no train going to Amritsar. At this point I’m confused….so is there no train from this platform or from this station? The attendant assures me that there is no train from this station. Somewhat blown, but still optimistic I go back to the tourist information office to make sure I’m receiving the correct information, especially since this was the office that directed me to platform one. I sit there for twenty minutes waiting for someone to help me even though no one is doing anything only for them to confirm that there are no trains to Amritsar leaving until morning. The first thing I think of is that maybe I’m supposed to miss Amritsar and go straight to Dharamsala, so I ask about a train there but got the same result. There was no way I was staying in Delhi for the night! The city made me feel too uncomfortable and on guard. I’m informed that I can take a bus and still stay on my schedule to arrive to Amritsar in the morning. This seemed to be the way to go, so I brave up and walk towards the metro. At this point it’s about 7 or 8 at night and here I am not only the only foreigner in this metro station but literally the only woman within sight. I push it out but only grow more uneasy once I get off and realize I don’t know where to go. I ask a police officer for help and he starts to lead me towards a dark alley. I feel bad to admit but even though he was a police officer I still felt like he could be tricking me, this was Delhi, and everyone I’ve ever asked about the city told me that everyone there is out to get you. He leaves me at the end of the alley where there is light and tells me that it’s ok for me to go down some steps.

This is when I’m so mad at myself for trying to be brave and do this alone. I did not want to go down those steps. I couldn’t see that there was anything down the stairs but I said a quick prayer and went for it…what else could I do. So after going down the stairs that felt never ending I had to squeeze through a passage which opened up to a small parking lot with buses. I was grateful to see the buses but nervous about what I saw. Again, nothing but men and buses that looked like they should have been out of service. I try to explain to a man where I’m going and ask for his help about which bus to get on. We go back and forth about a bus leaving at that time for Jaldahar which is close to Amritsar and waiting another hour for a bus that may go straight to Amritsar. I felt like I had no choice but to get on this bus to Jaldahar but I will admit that I was so damn scared. I felt like I was straying from the plan and that I was helpless because I didn’t know where I was or how to get where I was going.

All of a sudden a man speaking English comes up to me and explains that getting on the bus to Jaldahar was the best for me to do. He ensures me that he’s going to Amritsar as well and will show me. So I listen to him and as the bus is pulling off I run to jump on. I sit in the middle of the bus and the English speaking man sits next to me. Again, I’m scared as shit because he has a bandanna on his face and I just don’t know what to think because again I’m the only foreigner and woman on the bus. He sits next to me (only making me more uncomfortable) and starts asking me questions and talking to me. I answer all his questions with short made up answers, and then I realize that he’s asking me to come to his house. “What?” I ask because I’m confused. “Yes, you can come to my home and meet my family, my wife and kids, daughters” he says. “No thank you” I say in the nicest tone possible. “Why not? You don’t ‘want to meet my family, it is my wife and daughters”. So I ask him “You have daughters, what are their names?” He pauses and starts to stumble…SUS! “ Deb…” and I can’t remember what he said his other daughter’s name was, I think I forgot because that’s when I realized I was sitting next to a man that was trying to get me off the bus with him and do God knows what. I also realized that I definitely couldn’t fall asleep because who knows what could happen as soon as I closed my eyes. So there I am at 9:00pm on a bus filled with men, with the English speaking man next to me still talking to me about how it’s ok and I should come with him, everyone else on the bus staring at me, no weapon, and feeling like anything could happen to me. All I could do was think to myself “Martice, WTF are you going to do?!!!”

Monday, September 12, 2011


Everyone is wildin out! For my readers that may not understand my lingo, “Wildin out” means having a moment where you are crazy, crunk, or simply outside of your normal character. And when I say everyone I mean everyone! From roommates to rickshaw drivers.

I was talking to one of my roommates after one of her “wildin out” moments and we both agreed that here in India everything is accelerated and because of this everything about you including and most importantly your emotions are heightened. It is for this reason that if one of my roommates has a fit about the dishes or who drank their milk I don’t get crunk, because I realize how even the smallest things here can bring out the worst in you. Now for the worst in me…lately I’ve found myself more aggressive than usual. Some of you may find that hard to believe but for all those that truly know me I really am a sweet, loving, person. So let me share my “wildin out” moment.

It all started with a simple bus ride to the mall. I was excited because I was treating myself to KFC which had me in such a good mood. All I could think about was the crunchy goodness that I was about to indulge in. As I'm having my crunchy good chicken thoughts in my head the bus comes to a stop and I’m about to get off. At the very same moment almost 5 Indian women literally jumped on me trying to get on the bus. WHAT THE HELL?! Immediately all crunchy good chicken thoughts left my mind and I immediately kicked into my West Philly mode and pushed them off of me saying” WHAT THE HELL! WAIT FOR THE BUS TO STOP! (Now I understand that here in Hyderabad the bus doesn’t always come to a stop and sometimes you have to hop on to catch the bus but still this was overboard) They look at me and laugh…probably thinking in their heads the African (yes because black Americans do not exist) has gone mad. So of course I’m not done because I’m still not off the bus and once I get off I see that my roommate is still caught in between the madness! This is when I say “do you think it’s funny, get the hell off of her”. I wanted to add “when I slap you it won’t be funny” but I thought that was taking it too far, even throughout all this I didn’t want to be the angry black woman. Lol. So we walk away and have our crunchy goodness.

Now my next story is when I really started “wildin out”. So my friend Malika and I go to the mall (yes to have more KFC) and were enjoying our night until it begins to rain and we have to get home. It’s already known that autos outside the mall will always overcharge but considering the rain we’re thinking we may give in. So we go for it and run into the rain to flag down an auto, and when one stops we begin bargaining until a traffic police officer and an Indian couple come over and attempt to get inside the auto. Immediately this is what runs through both me and Malika’s mind….WHAT THE HELL! I was too livid and confused to speak so Malika says to the officer “are you giving away our auto?!” he looks at us says something in Hindi/ Telegu and gives us a smirk…at this point we told the couple to get out. I guess for repayment the officer makes the auto move on and not service us. So now were in the rain…just standing in the rain. I had it. “What the hell is wrong with you, do you think you can’t just treat people like that you asshole!” It came out of nowhere, I found myself cursing him out with my own language of Hindi and English. I just started making up words!

We walk to the bus stop because we refuse to give in at this point and we kindly get on a nice metro bus. Now the metro bus is more expensive than my normal bus so I was prepared to pay a little extra. Of course it couldn’t be a smooth bus ride. We sit down and everyone stares at us (were used to it now). The collector comes by us and sees two other darker skinned men and tells them to pay for 4 (assuming that since we’re all dark, we must be together right?)

We tell him that’s not the case and he tells us 12 rupees each (shout out in a shady way). Now, we know it shouldn’t be 4 rupees, but 12 for the next stop? Nope…sus! We explain to him that we're getting off at the next stop and it shouldn’t be 12 rupees, he looks at us and just responds by saying “12 rupees”. So we tell him we’ll get off because after all we’d been through we refused to be cheated! As were getting off the driver asks “Madame what is wrong?” I tell him that we were getting off at the next stop and it’s not 12 rupees. He responds by saying “yes Madame its 7 rupees”. This seems to make sense so I step back up towards a seat and tell the collector what the driver has said. (At this point, Malika is over it and not moving). This is when it gets tricky. The collector says no and yells to the driver. Next thing I know the driver says “8rupees Madame”. WHAT! DID YOU JUST TRY TO PLAY US?!

All I could think was that they needed to get on one accord. At least if you’re going to cheat me let the driver know and agree on the tourist rate. TRASH! Of course we stopped the bus and got off. Everyone is looking at us like were crazy and talking to one another about us, and the collector is saying we don’t know what we’re talking about. Ooop….Sir. We both tore into him. “We know what we’re talking about, you tried to cheat us and we caught you” yells Malika. “You think we never take the bus because were Americans, and don’t know the rates? “. I became heated and irritated that we were the crazy ones after they tried to take advantage of us. Next thing you know both Malika and I are following the bus yelling “F**K You!” with our middle fingers waving in the air because we knew they would understand that. This is when I really “wild out” and picked up a sandal on the ground and threw it at the bus.

For some reason at the same time Malika and I burst out laughing. It was such a classic “frustrated with Hyderabad” moment. We laughed and walked the whole way home in the rain, cussing out anyone who looked at us twice.

Just another day in my hood. Lol.