Thursday, November 25, 2004

Back home again..... 

Well Bangladesh home at least, reminds me of how many places I've called home for the last 6 or 7 years...

Well back to work is never that much fun and some gastro problem i seem to have picked up in India hasn't been helping a smooth transition. Well that and the fact that I have a semesters worth of marking to do in the next couple of weeks. My own fault so not much point complaining.

It's nice to be back though and catch up with what everyone did over Eid. Most people were away for about the same amount of time as I was and so I dodn't miss much work wise. Always a good time to plan a trip!

It's thirsty Thursday tonight so am off to Dhaka to catch up with the rest of the Aussies and have a couple of beers. Be interesting to see what's happened over the last few weeks. I'm a bit out of the Dhaka loop which won't be improved much by going home for Christmas, not that I'm complaining!

Anyway back tot he fun for me.
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Wednesday, November 17, 2004

It's a boy!! 

Well Frieda finally had the baby, by all accounts a fit and healthy young lad named Alexander James. For more specific details check the comment by Mum on the rpevious post. So now we can all relax hey!

My main problem now is how to spend the afternoon. I did the shopping I had planned on taking most of the day in about half an hour and now am at a bit of a loose end. Might just go for a wander down to the ocean and listen to the waves roll in for a few hours as it wil be at least three weeks before I get to hear that again!
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Tuesday, November 16, 2004

When the music's over..... 

....turn out the lights. Well that's what the doors had to say.

I only realised after walking into about three different places which had the date displayed and not really believing any of them individually that I am on the train back to chennai tomorrow evening. It's gone pretty quickly and when it comes down to it although this hasn't been the easiest holiday I've ever had in my life I feel like there's some closure for the following reasons.

1. It looks like Frieda is finally going to have the baby.

this has been an interesting thing to be thinking about. Often when I'm overseas I don't think about home too much. It's not that I forget it's just that to think about those things all the time makes it a lot harder to be away and often can make you lose sight of why you are. However, this is not your average every day sort of thing and thus has played heavily on my mind.

2. It has actually been quite nice not talking to anyone, well typing doesn't really count as conversation does it?
I spend most of my life, when I'm awaqke talking about something and in Australia there are ways that you can get away from that, like going bush walking with someone who doesn't mind just sitting back and staring at the stars for a couple of hours or so every night and just soaking it up. In Bangladesh solitude is a little hard to come by and sometimes you need a bit of space, not just geographically but mentally to process events and put them inperspective. It's good to have an opportunity to do this while I'm still in bangers so I can go back with a new perspective.

3. It's been cloudy every morning and evening since the sunset that I sat on the rock. Don't get me wrong there have still been some amazing sunsets, and quite possibly sunrises too but I wouldn't know so much about that, but watching the sun drop into the ocean is something special for me and I'm glad that clear day didn;t come when I was crook.

4. Being sick wasn't that bad an experience. At the end of the day it made me realise how alone and vulverable I really am sometimes and I don't get to feel that very often. There aren't too many times when I haven't had some good mates near by who are more than happy to look after me in any given situation. The other good thing was that instead of trying to travel hard and see more places I spent more time just chilling out and thinking about things and reading which is a very good thing to do on a holiday wherever you are in the world.

5. There are many nice places in the world and not too many where three seas meet, but in my experience there are very few that are as beauthiful as good old bawley point and won't it be great to be back there, even if only for a week, over christmas. It's not too infested by tourists, well compared to here and is still pristine.
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Sunday, November 14, 2004


Well I finally feel like I'm really travelling. I think one of the reasons I was a bit down on Pondicherry was not that it's a bad place but just that I had been mollycoddled until I got there. I even got dropped off there by a vehicle from the resort we were staying at. How soft is that? So definitely one to go back to when I'm more in the mood.

This place I'm at now is just a little bit different. The southern most point of India and as I discovered yesterday absolutely beautiful when you get out of the main tourist section. But back to the beginning.

The trip from pondicherry to the train station (1 1/2 hours) was interesting to say the least. The bus was completely packed to the rafters and for me it was standing room only the whole way. Not only was the bus packed but at least to sets of individuals got really cranky at each other and there was lots of fingerpointing, shouting and even a little bit of spitting to keep me entertained. In both cases there was basically an aggressor and an innocent bystander. I don't like bullies but refrained from involving myself in the interests of being outnumbered about 273-1.

Eventually made it to the train station and found the right platform with plenty of time to spare. I love the train rides here and despite the fact the only ticket I could was for a/c sleeper it was pretty good fun. I thought I would freeze at first until a guy came around with sheets, blanket and pillow. Everyone I could see was wrapped up really tight in their blankets and I have a theory that most of these tickets go to people who need to travel urgently and can afford to rather than people who would choose that class if there was another sleeper free.

So arrived early in the morning, after much searching found a decent hotel which was clean, not too expensive, asian toilet and great views, all for 200 rupees a night (less than 10 aussie).

There's a lot of monuments and temples and stuff around here for lots of different famous relegious people including Gandhi, paravakaram et al. I decided to go for a walk to have a look around. Found this really interesting pictorial exhibition about paravakaram who was this guy who went to this big world council on relegions in the late 1800's and really impressed everyone. He was one of these many paths to the one god, kind of guys however this is being overly simplistic but it would take me too long to go into it, I might a seperate post on relegion.

In the afternoon I went for a walk to try and find a good place to watch the sunset. Found this headland which was looking up the west coast of india, a couple of fishing villages in view up the coast, views south to some of the monuments at the cape and inland these huge jagged mountains that tower over the plains. Incredibly beautiful. There were these big boulders there and I decide that I wanted to sit on top of one to watch the sunset. Managed to find a way up a pretty large one, much to the interest of many indian tourists him "do you do rock climbing" me "yes" him "we were very amused as to how you got up there" hmmmm maybe that would explain why you got your wife and daughters to stand at the bottom of the rock while you took photo's hey? But all said and done the highlight of my trip so far, I love watching the sun set into the ocean and yesterday the clouds were great and you really did feel like you were in god's own country.

Anyway to top the day off got food poisoning from the prawn curry I had for dinner and spent half the night feeling very ill. At one stage I was scared that I had appendicitis and would have to be operated on in a crappy hospital but I feel much better today and proably just need to keep my fluids up and take it easy today and I'll be fine.

But why is that I eat in dodgy restaurants all the time and never get sick but go to a nice restaurant and get sick as???

Go figure
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Friday, November 12, 2004

On the road again 

Well after a not so bad day yesterday wandering around pondicherry, eating pizza and watching people set off all manner of fireworks that have been illegal in Australia for years this evening I am back on the road. Well not really the road, actually the train. I've decided to head as far south as I can and go and watch the sun rise and set out of and into the ocean. Sounds nice. Let's hope I can find some decent accomodation. I'm sure it won't be a problem. You can always use touts to get you to the right area and then ditch them. It's all part of the fun.

The only disappointing thing is that I have been forced to travel first class. This will definitely be nice and comfortable but I have heard that it doesn't quite have the same atmosphere, or access to people walking up and down the aisles selling all sorts of food and drink. However, this is the price that must be paid for buying a ticket on a train that leaves that same day. Trains book up pretty quick here and I think I'm lucky to be on one at all.

So that leaves this afternoon for book shopping (have decided that paying close to Aussie prices for a book is a lesser evil than not having one) and working out how to make the hour long journey to the train station in time to catch my train. Might also go back to this quaint little Italian restaurant where I had a wood fire pizza last night which was pretty damn tasty.

Have also booked my train to Chennai and will have one night there before heading back to Bangladesh. I wish I was here for a whole lot more time as there are many things I would like to do and see down here. I guess I'll just have to come back!

Oh and Frieda, would you hurry up and have the baby already, we are all well sick of waiting and I'm sure you are too!

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Thursday, November 11, 2004

Back to the real world... sort of 

Well the honeymoon is over. The culture shock in going from a 5 star luxury resort where there are heaps of people bending over backwards to make sure everything is perfect, to a 150 rupees a night, tiny room, squat toilet, general travellers accomodation has been a shock to the system. Not that I'm complaining. 3 nights of luxury is better than none. Might have to organise things so next time I travel I do the luxury bit at the end so I earn it and enjoy it more.

So the In Country Meeting went well. It was a good sized group, I think 11 all up including 2 AVI staff. The other volunteers were from Sri Lanka (the biggest group), 2 from India and me. Despite the fact that we were dominated by SL's there were no problems at all. Everyone got on really well and told some funny stories and some great ones about the experiences they were having I guess it's not that surprising but in very different placements it seemed like all of us were having similar problems and struggles. It was a pretty short program but we got enough time to sit around shooting the breze over a couple of cold beers which is where the most interesting discussions always take place. Still not sure where I stand on the efficacy of volunteering. I think it is good at changing individuals on both sides but maybe is ineffective in bringing about institutional change or even capacity building within an organisation. Anyway that's another discussion for another time.

So leaving was pretty sad. It's hard to go from hanging with a great bunch of people who all think similar thoughts about global issues and are very interesting to talk to, to being on your own. I decided not to go back to Chennai with the others but to continue south to Pondicherry of 'Life of Pi' fame. As it turns out it's not that bad but I haven't been amazed. It has a lot of french influence which effects the architecture and that kind of thing and ther are heaps of ornate churches and the like but it doesn't take me long to get over that. Have decided to try to book a train to the southern tip of India and to go and watch the sun rise and set into the ocean and generally just veg out for a few days. There is lots down here I would like to see but it's not possible to do much in a week so bludging seems like the best option. Might even splurge a bit on accomodation and see if I can't find somewhere a bit classier than the hovel I am staying in here. There is also a festival here today to mark the end of the monsoon, people started letting off fireworks at what must have been about 5am this morning (travelling without a watch can be problematic at times) not impressed. These are not even cool rockets and stuff that are colourful, pretty and oooh aaaah worthy, they're just bloody loud. Wish it was possible to bring some home though, could make a fortune on the black market!

Anyway have spent too long today staring at a computer screen in an exotic location so am going to do something, maybe spend a bit of time trying to sort out my plans and then check out the botanical gardens this afternoon... we'll see how it goes.

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Sunday, November 07, 2004

Get it India 

Well I'm sure that everyone will be terribly surprised to hear that despite my total lack of organisation I someone how pulled it off and made it down here. It was quite an eventful trip. It started at CRP on Saturday. I'd already sorted out the visa and so all I needed to do was to pick up the ticket and get to the airport on time. Usually a simple thing to do but not if there is a transport strike in Dhaka which is being heavily inforced. No worries, just jump in the CRP ambulance and you're all sorted. Unless that is it goes off on another trip and doesn't return in any hurry at all and then fifteen people want to be dropped of the in different places and one particularly impressive trip out of the way to pick up a bag that looked like it should have been thrown out a few years ago. So I was meant to pick up my ticket at three and be at the airport by four to check in for my flight which fortunately had been delayed by 2 hours and was leaving at 6. Made it to the airport just after 5 after the driver decided that me catching my plane was important enough to warrant the use of the flashing lights and siren, plus driving like a maniac. It's good when you have good support staff.

As it turns out the rush was unjustified. The plane left at least half an hour after six making the indian girl sitting next to me irate as she was going to miss her flight to delhi. As it turned out the delays worked well for me as it meant that I walked straight across to the domestic terminal in Kolkota through check in and onto the plane, no waiting at all.

Got met at the airport by a driver and all was going well until in the rain and dark we stopped suddenly and the car behind us rear ended us. It wasn't a serious accident, despit the lack of seatbelts but warranted sitting around for at least an hour waiting for a suitable resolution to be reached.

So today has been a lot better. We arrived at 'ideal resort' about an hour south of chennai and this place is amazing. Hammocks on the beach. Swimming pool. Everyhting a boy could want and more. All you have to do is pick up the phone and they'll bring beer right to your room. I think I'm in heaven and am not sure yet how I will bring myself to leave in 2 days time. However, I suspect that this will just be the beginning of the fun. I have about 10 days to explore the south of India and no guidebook. I'm going to play it by ear, ask around, use touts to find hotels and generally just roll along and hopefully make it back to Chennai on the 19th. But while I'm here I have really good access to phone and email. SO my one request is Frieda, please have the baby in the next 2 days. For everyone's sake.

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Tuesday, November 02, 2004

All catching up... 

Well it seems like this week my fancy free attitude has fianlly landed me in a spot of bother. I am meant to be leaving for India on Saturday and currently don't have a visa or a ticket. Now it may not be as bad as it sounds. I have actually booked a ticket but Zia, the main man at the travel agent predicted my visa difficulties and recommended that I don't pay for the ticket until I have a visa. I went to the visa office this morning and the guy at the counter said there was a 50/50 chance of me getting the visa on Thursday. Apparently they have to refer it to the embassy in Australia and that can take up to 72 hours. As the embassy here is closed on Friday and Saturday this would mean I may not have a visa until Sunday which would throw a decent sized spanner in my travel plans. Even best case scenario is messy as I will have to go to the embassy to find out whether or not my visa has been approved and if it has I will need to leave my passport there, go to pick up my ticket on the other side of Dhaka and then head back to pick up my passport before the embassy closes. If it's not ready then I need to work out what flights I can get on Sunday and how this will place me for catching up with the meeting a day late and try to contact the people organising this to let them know. All very complicated and confusing.

So assuming I leave on Saturday I only have about 80 assignments/exams that I would like to have marked before then which is looking more and more unlikely by the second, especially every second I spend writing this.

Despite all of this I have an underlying calm that says that everything will sort itself out for the best and so here's hoping it does.

And for anyone who hasn't checked the comments from the last post there's some cracking blonde jokes from Grandpa. Cheers mate.
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