World tour commenced in India...

Trip Start Oct 26, 2007
Trip End Oct 26, 2009

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Monday, November 26, 2007

Hello everyone
One week and one day into the journey!  I have been in India (hot hot hot).. and am now in Kathmandu, about to set out on a two week trek tomorrow morning early.  It's been amazing, but I'm sorry I don't have the time to provide a detailed overview.  I thought I'd at least say HI and let you know I've arrived safe and sound, and have had a wonderful week.   I promise I'll provide a more detailed overview when I'm back from the Himalayas, and some photos!   Love, Marie

I did not have access or time to relate my experiences in India, before my tremendous two week trek in Nepal, so am post-dating this update!  I've uploaded more photos from Udaipur and Mt Abu, my first stops in India, also.   Firstly, I almost did not make it out of the UK to India.  My procrastinating tendencies prevailed, and I found myself standing in line at the Indian Embassy in London at 5:30am on the morning of my intended departure!  Thankfully my flight was not until 5pm, and doubly thankfully, all went well and when the Embassy opened at 8:30am, I was the 23rd person in a line of approximately 950 people!  This early bird caught the worm, but it would have been much smoother had I stood in line a few weeks earlier.  As it was, the late change in plans meant I had a day less to tie up affairs and loose ends.  Considering I was leaving the country for two years, there were quite a few ends to tie up!  Many thanks to my friend Anna for helping me exit the Manor flat, and even more for helping me cram two years worth of living material into one big back-pack!  I marvel at my friends who can pack.. Anna, Claudia.. my mother is a good packer too, come to think of it.  
Waiting at Heathrow Airport was a bit exciting, it must be said!  I wrote an awful lot of letters, and sent a bunch of packages on that last day.  I left some post with my aforementioned friend Anna, who forgot they were resting in the boot of her frequently breaking-down automobile!  The car went in to be repaired, and the mail languished for a while!  Not to worry, my theory is it's always good to receive personal mail, no matter how dated.  And given the distance between me and you all, my correspondence from now on will probably be a little dated.  Although, email's a marvelous tool - when you can find a computer! (marvelous when it's personal mail, and not one of the seven thousand emails you get on a daily basis at work..) As you can tell, I'm still not missing "work."  
When I arrived in Delhi, I then had to wait seven hours for my connecting flight to Udaipur.  The heat was unbearable!  I was outside the airport in the fresh, albeit hot, air.. resting my eyes when a little girl approached me.. and my eyes flew open.. I laughed and said "Don't worry, I'm not dead!"  I was a bit of a sight.. I've noticed over the weeks that non-Indians really do stand out.. as there doesn't seem to be many of us at any given time!  And Indians are frankly curious... those first seven hours waiting between planes were a good introduction to Indian life.  I've been waiting for planes and connections ever since!  My friend Camilla suggested waiting in line at the Indian Embassy was good practice for being in India... she was not wrong!   
So, on to Udaipur.. I finally got there, and was greeted at the airport by a driver from the first B&B I stayed at.  Kate and Camilla had stayed at this lovely B&B a year before.  It was a grand residence in the hills outside of Udaipur, and a perfect first landing after a long, long journey to India.  I was treated like a queen, and thoroughly enjoyed my brief stint in Udaipur.  The Royal Palace was a sight to behold.. I enlisted the services of a local guide to take me around the Palace, rather than use the English-language earphones.  Cost the same, and the personal introduction was very good. 
I was struggling a bit in the heat, and wondered if I'd ever come to grips with the temperature.  In hindsight I can see you need to give yourself time to acclimate.  After two days in Udaipur, I had a car take me 5hrs to Mt Abu, site of the global headquarters for the Brahma Kumaris. I took a meditation course through this world spiritual university in July, and thought starting my world travels in India would be a good start to my spiritual as well as general journey.  Of course the road to spiritual enlightenment is not without its DRAMA, and my trip to Mt Abu had plenty of that, with a puncture at about hour 3 and a steep ascent up a mountain containing more hairpin turns than a snakes'n'ladders game!  Anyhow, it was well worth the drama, as I spent almost five days in an amazing setting.  I met many people from around the world who follow the teachings of the BK's, and am looking forward to looking up some of them when I am in their part of the world.  Isabelle, the woman who taught me the foundation course in meditation in Oxford, arrived at Mt Abu on my 3rd day there.  On the evening of that day, we, along with 20,000 others! attended a special event that was the most peaceful, soulful setting I have ever found myself (and calm, orderly, considering the thousands of attendees)!  I was invited to extend my stay at Mt Abu, but given the Nepal trek would have been sacrificed, I was not willing to do that.  It was tempting, given the fabulous setting, and the genuinely gracious and gentle people that made me so welcome, but my world tour beckoned.  For those interested in finding out more about the Brahma Kumaris (BK's) see their website: 
Ok, so from Mt Abu I made my way back down the mountain, passing hundreds of langur monkeys along the way.  I caught a plane from Ahmedabad to Delhi, where I had a brief overnight stay, then flew the following morning to Kolkata and from the former Calcutta then on to Kathmandu, Nepal.  So, the brief stay in Delhi was long enough for me to be creeped out sufficiently to bolt from a cash machine before my card was given back to me.. completely my own fault.. but the dark alley, and seedy setting of the ATM was a little too much for me, and I foolishly hightailed it before my card was returned.  Fortunately I have other cards to fall back on, but this card was my "travel-card" and is the account that my trip is budgeted from... so one week in, and more drama!  But interestingly, although it was a bit of a bummer, it didn't phase me at all! The aftereffects of my stay at Mt Abu perhaps!  It's been a hassle getting the replacement card, but I'm confident I'll receive it before I leave India!  (Dec 15, by the way...)
So, my little drama in Delhi succeeded in making me irrationally dislike the place!  My following day's flights to Calcutta then Kathmandu went okay.. I've not had one single flight in India that has left on time!  Worst delay was 5 hours, others have been from 1/2hr up to 5!  But that's India, and I was prepared after my 3hr pre-dawn session outside the Indian Embassy in London!  Good practice.
I meant to provide an overview of INDIA.. for all of my different countries I'm going to try to strike a balance between informative/educational, and personal.  The BBC websites are very good, so check out some facts and figures for INDA.  It's a massive country, so dusty and dry! I thoroughly understand why Indians rejoice when the monsoons come.  The people are truly blessed by the good-looking-gods, dark hair, skin, eyes.. and deep-down natural beauty.  Limber and impossibly thin, I feel like a pasty-blobby-giantess next to them! But the nice thing is that there are so few non-Indians in every part of India I've been to so far, foreigners stand out in a weird but wonderful way.  The locals are curious and welcoming (for the most part, notable exception has been Delhi!)

India currently has its first female president, Pratibha Patil became president in July 2007, after being voted into office by members of state assemblies and the national parliament.  India is a bit like Ireland in that the president has few actual powers, but they "can decide which party or individual should form the central government after general elections."
And another thing reminiscent of Ireland!  The FLAG of India is the exact same colours.. green/white/orange.. but India's colours are reversed, so orange/white with an emblem, then green. 
Flag of IndiaTimeline: India
A chronology of key events

Full name:
Republic of India
Population: 1.1 billion (UN, 2005)
Capital: New Delhi
Most-populated city: Mumbai (Bombay)
Area: 3.1 million sq km (1.2 million sq miles), excluding Indian-administered Kashmir (100,569 sq km/38,830 sq miles)
Major languages: Hindi, English and at least 16 other official languages
Major religions: Hinduism, Islam, Christianity, Sikhism, Buddhism, Jainism
Life expectancy: 62 years (men), 65 years (women) (UN)
Monetary unit: 1 Indian Rupee = 100 paise
Main exports: Agricultural products, textile goods, gems and jewellery, software services and technology, engineering goods, chemicals, leather products
GNI per capita: US $720 (World Bank, 2006)
Internet domain: .in
International dialing code: +91
For more extensive facts and figures, check out the BBC's INDIA site: /1154019.stm

I'll log off here for now.  I'm sorry it's taken so long to provide an update.  I think I have the technology to make do wherever I land. Patience and willingness to work in the darkest and dirtiest cafes on the planet are key! 
Here's a quote for the day, from a new friend Muna:
 "American people speak from the nose.  Indian people speak from the heart."  (After a few encounters with dodgy dealers, I could think of other places some people speak from...)  Until next time!!!
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