Thursday, December 29, 2005

Eating in India

Another thing that is strange and kind of gross about India is the fact that they eat with their hands! When you go to a restaurant people are dressed in suits and beautiful sarees or bare feet and men in wraps(towel/skirt). It's not that they don't have any utensils they just prefer to eat with their hands. It's nice though because when we go in to eat they always offer utensils. It's especially gross because it's not a sandwich or pizza but mooshy sloppy rice mix. Trust us, it gets messy! I couldn't even imagine going on a romantic dinner date and just digging! They do have washing sinks everywhere so they're not dirty.
Yesterday we went to Fort Cochin and ate lots of freshly caught tiger prawns on the water front. Yummy! We walked around for a few hours and watched the sunset behind the rows of Chinese fishing nets. We got to watch them lower and rise the nets since they only do this after sunset. It's a pretty handy contraption. There were many tourists there. One thing that is annoying is when locals and foreigners underestimate you. Everyone thinks we're on a short family Christmas vacation to India and when we tell the touts (local salesmen) what we're really doing they think we're crazy and walk off. Hahah, but it's a pretty clever way to get rid of them!
We're anxiously waiting for Sandra to get here tomorrow morning! She's bringing candy and grandma's cookies etc.!!!!! So exciting!
Savannah and mom

Friday, December 23, 2005

The head wobble

Well guys, there something I have to try to explain to you. The Indian head wobble. It makes no sense at all (making it, therefore, very Indian). As far as we can figure out it is the answer to everything. It is a simple side-to-side shaking of the head, like tilting it but not. Either way, we are still trying to figure out how to do it smoothly but are failing miserably.
By answer to everything I mean that if you ask a question (Do you have ____?) they will answer with a head wobble. But it could mean: yes, no, I don't know, maybe, you're welcome, sometimes, no problem, sure, it doesn't matter, or any number of other things. They also do it with as much enthusiasm as we would use to shrug our shoulders at home. It's crazy because you get an answer to your question but you don't know what it means and then have to clarify.
Here's an example of an everyday conversation we have all the time:
"Do you have postcards?" - Head wobble
"So you do?" - Head wobble
"Yes?" - Head wobble
"No?" - Head wobble
"Okay, can we look?" - Head wobble
"Ah, there they are, how much are they?" - 5 Rupees
"Each?" - Head wobble
"Do you sell stamps?" - Head wobble
"No? I have to go to the post office?" - Head wobble
"Which way is it?" - They point in a vague manner toward a general direction
"Okay, thanks" - Head wobble
If there is any difference between a yes and no wobble we are still trying to figure it out. It's just part of the fun though......

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Well, we're still in India and will be for a while! Yesterday we went cruisin' down the back waters of India. To kill time we took the boat for 8 hours rather than the bus for 2 hours to Alleppey, where we are now. It was great. Palm trees, hot sun, cool breeze, water, fishermen..... not like Christmas at home. It was beautiful, peaceful and relaxing! It's still beyond me why any one would stay at home and go to school....when you could be out HERE enjoying life the real way!
The driving in this country is absolutely insane. We're going to have to take a video of it!!! Mom's question of the week is "What is the most useless job in India?"
Anyways, we're just going to waste time until the 31st when Sandra is supposed to arrive. Should be fun!!
Until next time,
P.s. the answer is " drawing lines on the road because no one pays attention to them"

Saturday, December 17, 2005

Back into India

I'm just going to do a quick review for you guys......
Let's start off by saying that Sri Lanka was wonderful. Going to the Maldives and Sri Lanka was like a very layed back vacation from travelling. We only visited a couple temples in the past month which was definately a break. Temples and monasteries are nice and all but too many is just too many!! Very quiet, clean, green and tropical!
We saw the one and only stuffed elephant in the world as well as live ones. Saw some more baby and full grown elephants at the orphanage which was fun but nothing compared to Chitwan! Had a private tour of a tea plantation and factory. Sri Lanka aka Ceylon is big on its tea. Very intertesting believe it or not. It was like being a special guest on "How it Was Made"! One of the fun high lights was when we had to sneak around the ruins. We found ourselves a cheaper route through the ancient ruins of Polonnaruwa. When the guards asked us for our tickets, which we didn't have, we just pointed a different direction and said that our "guide" had them. The perfect time for escape!!! Teehee! Attended another cultural dance performance which was fun. For the finale they had two men walk on burning, hot coals!!! Ouch. We could feel the heat from our front row seats!! Train, bus, airplane, tuk-tuk rides, card playing, tea and views in abundance! We had a good time on the beach a few days before having to leave Sri Lanka for good.
Flying into India, you really get the idea of how thick the forest of palm trees are!
Yesterday we made a day trip down to the very southern tip of India! We had a good time sight seeing and taking pictures of the veiws while other domestic tourists had a blast taking pictures of us. It's really hard to get any thing done when you're stuck in a crowd of people! It's all in good fun though! Watched the sunset and had a CHEAP dinner with our new Australian friend. Only 80Rs. ( $2.00) in total for five people to eat and be stuffed!!! Great to be back!!!


I'm so sad right now. The worst part about moving around a lot is when we have to leave a place that you get really attached to. I loved Sri Lanka and was very sad to say goodbye. If I had to pick my favourite spot it would be Tangalle! I loved playing everyday in the waves for hours! I know Savannah won't admit it but the waves kicked her arse. ahahah. She lost that battle. I really liked helping the fishermen pull in their nets. Not the easiest thing to do by the way. I actually think I shocked them when I insisted upon helping gut the fish. Good and dirty. They were all very friendly. We were even invited to eat the fish at one of the fisherman's house. The fish and calamari was delicious. Even though these people were hit by the tsunami and now have next to nothing, they still have smiles on their faces and are very welcoming. We made lots of friends. I was helping out a lot with cleaning up stuff, even did some painting. I love painting. It felt really good to give a helping hand. I feel so sorry for them because the government and rich people took most of the money that the world was sending to help. Nothing ever gets to the little people. It's so sad.
Have I ever mentioned that I love all the pineapple and coconut we keep getting!! Yummy. You want to know what the strangest thing is? How it always rains when we leave an area. I was also sad when we were on the plane to India because that would be the last plane we take for a very long time. I love planes!! The best feeling in an airport is when you don't beep after going through the metal detectors.
I can't believe Sandra will be with us soon (14 days)!!! Yay.
So why don't the rest of you come out here?

Wednesday, December 14, 2005


I always rather thought I was a bit of a nomad. With all the moving I did in the past 26 years I never really minded the change. Well now that I don't have a home (but I have a family, and that's all that really matters) and move about constantly I really am a nomad and love it. I've come to the conclusion that I am also fickle. I never used to be but now I am. This is because every country that I go to and see, I seem to like the best. I have developed an affinity for them all at the same time. You guys at home are now saying "this girl has gone crazy, we'd better get her back before she goes completely mad". Right now Sri Lanka is my favorite. It's a gorgeous thick, lush, green jungle with palm trees as prolific as Vancouvers evergreens. Being a small island it has beautiful beaches with WARM water to swim in all day long, small mountains up to 8000 ft., manicured tea plantations and amazingly friendly people. The beds are soft although too short for Ammon, decent food, hot weather what more could you ask for. You don't even need hot water for showering cold is what you want. Sri Lanka would be a great place to open up a guest house or foster home. I think that I may join the Peace Corp or the equivalent when I finish raising the girls. Most definitely I will dedicate the rest of my life to charity work at home or abroad. There is so much good in the world and so many wonderful people out here, in need. No I haven't turned into a "granola bar" it's just that my spoiled western eyes have been opened. Life is exciting when you don't know what you're doing or where you're going!! Somehow though, it always seems to work out amazingly well.
Lots of love

Sri Lanka

So much to say. Sri Lanka is a great country. Perfect as a short holliday destination. It has so much to offer. Beaches, ancient ruins, hill towns with great views and tea plantations, very friendly people, it's relatively clean and quiet, and it's easy to see all this in a short time with very little moving around involved. Unfortunately for us, this country markets itself to short-term tourists which means that it's something of a cross between India and Thailand but at 3X the price so those on a round the world trip could skip it and not miss anything. The people here just can't seem to comprehend the concept of long-term budget travel as the country doesn't see many of us. They can call things the biggest, oldest, most beautiful, most important, etc. thing in their country and charge way too high an admission price than is justified. As a little country its "best" just isn't up to much actually, certainly much worse than what you could find elsewhere for even cheaper. For example, their ancient ruined cities in the north have Angkor Wat prices for not much to see really when Cambodia is otherwise of a similar price for everything else.
The majority of people visiting Sri Lanka hire a car and driver to take them around the country as it is not a bad deal if you are on a short vacation. It is quite expensive in reality though, especially when their local transport is maybe the cheapest I've ever seen over short distances at about $1 for 3-4 hrs on the bus or train (which is easily enough time to get between all the major cities). We took the local transport everywhere we went. The guest houses tend to bill themselves as "resorts", have their own restaurants, try to rent out their own cars and put a 10% service charge on everything. We spent about $10/night for the 4 of us in a big room which isn't bad but food has jumped up to $2-3 dollars for the simple meals that normally cost 50 cents in India. I've actually been living on 25 cent street food snacks, pineapple and coconut for most of the trip as there seems to be a lack of local restaurants as well. Internet has also been the most expensive of the trip so far as well, which explains the long wait for our latest update (we've just arrived in India today).
Anyway, now that I've set a somewhat negative mood, I'll do an about face and start over. Once we realized that this country was not worth seeing for it's attractions and adjusted our plan a little we began to totally enjoy it. We mostly focused then on relaxing, enjoying the views and talking to the locals. We'd spend mornings sleeping in, have a leisurely breakfast of toast and tea, then wander down to the bus station for a 3-4 hr ride to the next town and finish the day playing cards in our new abode. The truth is we are getting lazy but we're calling it "saving our strength" for the next section of India. The most enjoyable things I did in Sri Lanka were looking out the window (or hanging out the door) and enjoying the view from the train as it slowly wound its way around the hills and tea plantations in the center of the country, and helping pull in the fish nets with the local fishermen down on the coast.
Of our 3 weeks in the country we spent about 1 week in Kandy and the northern ancient cities area (Polonnaruwa, Dimbulagala and Dambulla), 1 week in the hill country with the tea plantations (Haputale, Ella) and 1 week down on the south coast for the beach (Tengalle, Galle). My overall impression is that this country is small. The beds are, surprisingly for the 1st time, consistently too short and uncomfortable for me, the trains are short, slow moving things, the people are small (very noticeable when I'm standing in the bus and everyone comes up to my shoulders), distances are short, cities are small (somehow Sri Lanka has one of the highest population densities in Asia with 21 million people but it doesn't seem like it at all as everyone is so spread out). Everything is just, well, small, making it kind of cute, if a counrty can be cute in that sense.
For the first time on this trip rain and mosquitoes have been an issue as we had more days with rain than without and we've been eaten alive by mosquitoes (and mostly sandflies as well). There are still problems with the tamil tigers in the North and parts of the east but it was a non-issue for us, except for the fact that the local papers here have been saying that there are lots of Tamils in Canada doing a lot of successful fundraising thereby putting us in an weird position in some conversations. This only came to light because of the election being called at home.
As to the tsunami, well, yeah, when you get down to the coast you can definately tell. Everyone has some story to tell, there is still lots of rubble and damaged buildings everywhere and people are still very actively rebuilding. The hotel we were at right on the Tangalle beach had only been open for a month and only had the upper rooms facing the water open. All the rest are still gutted and awaiting repairs (Bre even did a little bit of painting for them). But it seems that the people have accepted it and moved on as well as they could as the attitudes of the people were still quite positive despite all their losses and the work still left to be done. It is however, very obvious that the aid money is not getting down to the "little people" as they have received no help at all and many have stories of scamming NGOs that suddenly appeared and disappeared shortly after the tsunami.
I will relate one more thing which I found very amusing. Throughout the country there are tons of rather large bats. In many towns it's possible to see fried or shredded bats hanging from the powerlines. The wires are not insulated and they obviously keep landing and electrocuting themselves to death and then get stuck clinging to the wires and then slowly disintigrate over time. I wonder if these guys are related to all the flickering lights in the evenings in these towns......