Tuesday, April 29, 2008


I am truly blessed with an indestructible sleep cycle. I felt asleep on the 14 hour bus ride from Dehra Dun to Dharamsala. Indian buses are infamous for being nosy, bumpy and animated. Long distance travelers sit while short distance travelers stand -- or sit on the sitters' leg. But despite the chaos, the babies never cry. It is an amazing display of the Indian character.

You will never believe me, but I had a good time on the bus. I kept conversation about Indian politics with a lawyer from Dehra Dun who was on his way to a court case in Dharamsala. I listened to lot of new music -- thanks Chris! -- through my invincible earplug earphones. It also helps that the bus makes regular stop in rural Indian villages. They provided many good leg stretches, good roadside Indian snacks (20% beans, 80% herbs and spices), and an astounding star gazing opportunity.

Small talk with the India is a bit different. It goes: what's your name, where are you from? Are you married, why not? (Because every one of my five girlfriend left me and I'm not bitter. Please give me an Indian arranged marriage now). Then they ask, how long in India, where, how much are you making? That one is a surprise too.

Dharamala might be a dream city. For one, it has no cars, or very few. I often dreamed that Montreal had resisted the appeal of cars during the 20th century. Dharamsala seems to have have traded the Indian's busy-bee activity for the Tibetan calm, and its rhythm fit me. It is a city-style village. It has only 20'000 people, but it is dense like a town.

I have attended a candle vigil for the Tibetans left behind. I have also started to volunteer for the education center. I am calling upon my little experience as an English teacher for the sake of the Tibetans here. One of my student trekked 25 days to flee Tibet and come here. His family is still there.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Assorted thoughts in Mussoorie

Everybody gets sick in Rishikesh. On my way to Mussoorie, I met three groups of western travellers, all leaving Rishkish, all nursing their sore tummies. I got sick too, from the family diner prepared for me with pride, by Monika, the daughter of the previous story. Bless her hearth, I couldn't tell her why I wasn't staying for tea.

A rickshaw is a bicycle-sized tricycle with a basket installed above the back wheels which seats two comfortably. They are taxis, essentially, but more fun. Earlier today, I paid 50 cents to ride to Mussoorie's Rope Way, 2 km away, up a slant. Rickshaws are blend of feeling for me. It is too cheap, I must be exploiting the merry old man. It is too expensive by local standards, I should be bargaining more. And riding the tricycle looks so much fun, I would rather be pedaling!

India doesn't believe in trash cans and it is messing with my Canadian sense of garbage ownership. When an Indian drops trash while in conversation with me, I wait until he is not looking and pick it up. I keep it until the next trash can, which is often the one in my hotel bathroom.

I am not nearly as daring as I think I am. Melanie pointed this out to me. At the 100-kinds-of-beers store, she proceeded along the entire rotation while I sheepishly stuck to my ten favorites. Here, I enter the restaurant determined to choose something at random, then select Mix Vegs. It is a meal not as boring as its name. In India, it might as well means mix vegetable with the house's own 50 special spices. It's never twice the same.

I dream to see Martin play a game on this basketball court in the hills.

The Ferris Wheel is amazing, the current picture doesn't show how. As discovered the next night, it has no engine. The two operators spin it by climbing on the structure and letting their weight pull it down. Once it is cruising, to keep it going they stand near the axis and walk on the traversal bars, chatting with each other, rolling cigarettes. I will post a picture of their acrobatics shortly.

I can get a Mont-Blanc here, who would have expected it? It is called a Slush with Softy. My five years of trying to instruct New England's creameries about this delicious combo failed like a New York poutine. Mussoorie must have heard of my arrival and practiced. It's delicious, and made out of filtered water.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Diner invitation

Does anybody knows what is an appropriate gift to bring when invited for diner in an Indian familly?

The integral collection of 50 pictures of the game are too big to upload without straining the Internet connections here. Here is one of the best:

Monday, April 21, 2008

Under- vs overground

The Delhi metro is a contrast with the life outside.

Inside, you have one of the best designed rails I had the pleasure to visit. Clean and wide wagons, with accordion connections between the sections. It rides quickly and in silence, in a tunnel of clean and conditioned air. No expense was spared, apparently. You enter by touching a RFID token to the gate's color screen.

Outside, it's grimy, noisy, and approximate. Entire building are put together hasardly, out of found material, and didn't see any maintenance for decades. The tailors work his sewing machine on the street floor, down in the third-word crouch. It reeks of poverty and hardship. Outside, I can't stop walking and rest. If I try, the tuktuk driver, shop keepers and beggars latch onto me and I have to resume walking to loose them. I usually retreat to the metro.

At the train station, a gentlemen ask to see my train ticket. He wears a name tag suitable for a Walmart employee and clothes taken from the same rack as the rest of the men of the city, except that they match, so it is a uniform. As he inspect my ticket, I analyze his behavior, checking for hints that he his a conman. The institution struggles to look official, but they cannot afford it. They can't even construct themselves a booth.

I saw two grown men holding each other's hand as they tentatively embarked on the first escalator ride of their life. I wish for the Delhi people that one day they will afford a city as nice as their metro.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Con artists

It is easy to tell con artists here in Delhi. When they introduce themselve to you, they always say "Nice beard sir. I'm sure it's hot with the ladies". They are so cute and harmless. Irresistible.

First batch of pictures on flickr.

Friday, April 18, 2008


Seat 30A is definitively the best seat in a 747. It's the first seat in the plane after the first class, so no one lowers their seat onto you. When you are done sleeping by leaning on the window, watching the pretty clouds, there is enough floor space to leave without disturbing your neighbor. And it is as far from the engine as can be, so it's a tad less noisy.

But that last bit didn't matter. I had my Shure ear-plug style earphone with me. The cute Chinese attendants were pantomiming to me the whole way, and I couldn't hear the baby crying in the next row. So, yes, I had a good 23 hours of combined flying (14 + 3 layover + 6), thank you.

On the ride between the Delhi airport and the hotel I saw: bikes caring more cargo that small trucks, two cows entertaining a conversation across the fence of the boulevard's median, a woman salving bricks from a construction site by balancing them on her head. I also paid too much for the ride (2$ instead of 0.50$) and was too easily convinced into the most expensive room of the hotel. It's all good; the first layer of the India experience comes easily.

The gender inequality here is large... the woman have all the grace. But for a few college students, they all wear colorful flowing traditional dresses. They are beautiful. The men on the other hand, have zero sense of fashion. They wear the equivalent of the first shirt off the rack at Salvation Army, paired the first pants, with no regards to whether they are faded or to whether they match. Could this be what life would look like if advertisement had no hold on us westerners?

Traffic here follows the laws of fluid dynamics, and little else. If there is an open space, your taxi will flows into it. It will also honk during the transition if there is less than 1 inch clearance, which is most of the time. The painted white line dividers act as a tribute to the colonial power that inspired the India to build roads, and serve little other purpose. Just as other fluid motions phenomenon, it is beautiful to those not terrified by it.

I would love to go blading on these road, just to see how traffic would react. Contrary to the expectation, the conditions do admits blading. But I forgot my blades, on a bus, in SF, while floating in toughs on how I hadn't missed any connection, lost my way, or lost anything so far. Damn. It is finally time to upgrade my wheels, after 10 years of loyal service of my Bauers 7-wheeled skates.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Providence & SF

It does not take much to make a home. Start with a good breakfast place (Bagel Ole), good pastries (Cheese cake factory et al.), good music (AS220). Then all you need is a few good friend amongst whom fun and focus flow naturally. Chris, David, Tori, Sam, Danny, it was a great time in Providence. It's homely.

We might get a fresh wave of DivaScheme downloads. I had the chance to do the wrist talk on stage at LUGRadio. I was happy to find my own stage self back after the bliztweekend presentation. There we managed a 3rd place on the popular vote, despite me falling on my face during the presentation. At LUGRadio, the audience was laughing on queue, which is always a good sign, and a good dozen people were asking me about DivaScheme after the talk. It not every one gets to do a speech sharing the stage with a naked guy. Good times.

I have two days left in SF to explore the city. To those skeptic of the rollerblades in my India-bound luggages, they will prove useful here. I resolve to blade down SF's crookedest street before I leave. Wish that my ankle, which still hurts after being strained under mysterious condition, will accommodate me.