Tuesday, January 26, 2010

3 idiots

Disclaimer: I don’t actually consider myself an idiot it just happens to be the name of a very popular Bollywood film in theaters now which I saw while I was in India a week ago while I was on vacation with two other guys.

Two weeks ago I set off on a vacation for the first time in eight months. I made the same comment to my sister and she said “I haven’t had a vacation since June”. I said, “you get to live in America and that’s a vacation”. Plus didn’t you go to Africa? Anyways, so me and my buddy Danny set off early Friday morning two weeks ago for the airport where we hopped on a three hour flight to Dubai. We got to fly over Iran, which from the air is really beautiful. I’ll probably never forget our descent into the Dubai airport. Looking out the window I was what looked like any American city except a lot newer. There were western style cars, tall buildings, and a complex highway system, which you might think is an eyesore, but I think is an exotic concrete jungle. So, ten hours, one whopper, one Starbucks coffee, and a helping of McDonalds fries later we loaded our Emirates flight bound for Dubai. Now I was a skeptic about flying on Emirates after all its just another airplane, but Danny was supper excited and assured me it would be the best flight ever, and well I definitely agree that that is a nice airline! And we saw the new Airbus 380 out the window. So off we went bound for Delhi on a three-hour flight. The airport was completely fogged in, I mean really foggy, you couldn’t see the end of the airplane wings, but we landed fine got our bags and then stood outside for about an hour and a half in the cold waiting for Danny’s high school buddy to meet us. Finally, we got into a rickshaw and headed to our hotel. Our hotel was supper ghetto, enough so that I used my sweater as a pillow case and only got under the blankets when it proved to cold not to. But we did eat at one of Time Magazines top five restaurants in Asia and as a group spent well under ten dollars. The next morning we headed to the train station to get to Agra where the Taj Mahal is, but three minutes before our train was to arrive we learned that it had been canceled, so we took a bus instead. By the way an average of 18 million people ride the trains throughout India everyday, so that’s not a lot of legroom which we would experience later. Anyways, we took the six hour bus to the Taj Mahal, and what a site it was! A big beautiful white marble building that from far away looks flawless and up close is still flawless, with inlayed rubies and emeralds it’s a pretty spectacular building. So after looking at that for a while we headed to the train station via a horse drawn buggy (a cart balanced on two wheels that was kinda scary to ride in on a busy road). We boarded a six hour train ride to Jaipur and met a nice Austrian couple on the way, but let me tell you that train was packed. We sat on a bench with three guys facing three others so legroom wasn’t a lot. Finally we got to Jaipur where we spent four nights at Kamrens families house which was great and Jaipur was a really neat city. We saw forts and monkeys and even an elephant. After Jaipur we flew down to Mumbai where the weather was completely different, more of a tropical feel. Mumbai is where we saw the movie 3 idiots. A few days later we flew down to Goa which really was tropical. By this time Kamren had left so it was just Danny and I. We both decided we wanted to go to the beach so we asked the concierge the best way to get there. He sold us bus tickets which we thought would take us straight there, but actually we were taking an eight destination tour of Goa with a bus full of Indian people who looked at the two white guys some what apprehensively. We also ate at the same restaurant two nights in a row where we had the same waiter. We ordered crab one night but they didn’t bring anything to break the shell and then when they did the thing broke, but our waiter was nice enough to get the meat out for us which I’m sure made us look real cool. Then the next night we took what we thought would be a boat trip up the coast but was actually a party boat with really loud music and people dancing. Not what we signed up for, but funny to see. The next day we flew back to Goa, where we had a lousy airport experience which you can ask my dad for details. Next we were back to Dubai for a couple of days. Dubai was awesome I think because it was so what we were used to in the States but hadn’t had in so long. We had Pizza Hut two nights in a row, saw a movie (George Clooney no longer makes good movies) and saw the desert from the tallest building in the world. All of it was great, but now it’s back to reality…sort of. Today we got a few inches of snow and it is really cold!

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Shnorhavor Nor Tarie (Happy New Year)

Happy New Year everybody. As I’ve said a few times before, I think, New Years is a big deal here in Armenia. They don’t celebrate Christmas like we do in America they save it all for the big ball drop. The night of the 31st is spent with close family. I spent it in with some Peace Corps folk and after mid night me and my friend Beth went on the hunt for dolma (I’ll explain what that is later). So after standing on the street corner for a about an hour we finally got an invite from some young guys which seemed legit for about a minute. We followed them down the block where they were burning tires in front of the of the Armenian Republican party. I don’t think they were making a political statement but it seemed a little anarchist none the less. After warming up in the ash filled black soot that is burning tires we followed these teenagers to their house. We expected a family with dolma and other typical new years foods but they didn’t live with their families, which is highly unusual in Armenia. I think the best way to describe these guys is to say they were like the Newsies caps and all living in some run down shed with only cookies to eat. Anyways then we went to where the big Christmas tree was where we were treated like celebrities even being asked to be in pictures with perfect strangers. The next day I made the rounds to different peoples houses, which is how the Armenians celebrate. Everybody goes around to their friends houses and eats dolma, meat rapped in cabbage, meat wrapped in pancakes, vodka, cognac, chocolates, dried fruits, nuts, tropical fruits, gelitized pigs feet, chicken salad, and other stuff. The celebration is so big that people spend as much as a month’s salary on preparations. If you’re a grandparent or older then people come to your house and as you get younger the more you have to visit as opposed to people coming to your house. So above I’ve included a collection of pictures from the different houses I’ve been to this New Years.