Saturday, February 27, 2010

23,875

Feb 25, 2010
Arusha, Tanzania
Clear, cool

For the last three days, we’ve been on safari. Our jeeps alternatively felt like spaceships flying over a newfound planet, or shoeboxes that trapped river blindness-carrying tsetse flies and our angst. There was a moment where I stuck my head out the top and thought that I must be the luckiest person on earth. There was also a moment where I was swarmed by flies and wanted nothing more than to take my chances with the lions outside the safety of the car. However, there is no denying that we saw a lot of cool animals.
My first animal pictures from the park are heavily zoomed pictured of a lone elephant’s rump hiding in the bushes. I was so thrilled to see an elephant, even from that distance. Not a quarter mile down the road, there were two gigantic bull elephants about ten feet off the road. Then there were herds of elephants, and zebras, gazelles, antelopes, and gaggles of giraffes, and thousands of flamingoes that made the water on the horizon look pink. We stopped at a pond that was absolutely overrun with hippos and storks. And at the end of the first day, we found a lion lounging on a tree about twenty feet from our jeep. Another joined, and we snapped pictures of the lions’ silhouette against the setting sun.
The next day, we woke up early and drove about an hour to the Ngoro Ngoro crater. This is a nine-mile wide gaping hole in the ground, which contains a huge lake in the center. Standing at the edge of the crater is an absolutely unreal experience; I got the feeling that nothing similar exists in the world. As you descend the crater wall it becomes significantly hotter and drier, then you approach a transition zone where the elephants have knocked over all the trees and the landscape becomes grassland.
One of the very first things we saw was a pride of lions lying in the grass. Just like what happened with the elephant the day before, we first squinted to see one lion way off in the distance, and suddenly we realized we were surrounded by perhaps twenty lions. Two lionesses were no more than five feet off the road. This was an auspicious beginning to the most diverse and abundant animal-watching I’ve ever experienced. There was never a moment where there weren’t hundreds of animals in sight: wildebeest, several types of ungulates, huge flocks of ostriches, zebras that walked right up to us, a handful of rhinos in the distance, herds of elephants, dingoes, hyenas, and of course the countless flamingoes hanging out in the lake. Everything was roaming the savannah, like a huge open zoo.
When we moved to the southeast side of the crater, there was a transition from grasslands to forest and we began to ascend the crater wall into the first tropical wet forest of the whole trip. So many times we’ve been promised tropical wet forests only to feel tricked. We have been told that this year has been unusually dry and so the forests have either become tropical dry forests, or desert wasteland (in the case of Haleakala). Our guide told us that this year had been unusually wet, so the foliage was quite unseasonably lush. Baboons played on the side of the road and we drove back to our campsite before the final day of safari.
I couldn’t have been more excited the morning of the third trip into the field. The previous two trips were beyond amazing, and we were going to one of the most pristine areas in Eastern Africa. About halfway into the bumpy ride, our guide told us to wear lots of repellant and long pants and shirts, because this area was a favorite of the tsetse flies. We covered up and sprayed DEET everywhere. This was about the time where I began to feel smothered in the small jeep with seven other people. I reassured myself that once the top of the car was up and there were lots of animals to see it would be like the previous two days.
I started to worry when we had only seen a handful of birds and a few giraffes about forty-five minutes into the drive. The landscape was beautiful – lots of hills with flat-topped acacia trees and a river. But the flies were quite vicious and didn’t care about the carcinogenic chemicals we had slathered on. It was hot and way too sunny and the roads were terrible. At one point, our jeep was horizontal and we all thought that we were going to certainly roll. Yesterday was one of those days where I needed to shake myself out of a bad mood and appreciate what was going on around me instead of being grumpy. I wish there was an easy way to accomplish that.
We drove back to Arusha, to our hotel, and ate dinner at the same place with the same strange dancers in animal print. They came out around the same time that we began to eat, and we were ravenous and found the performance a little tasteless, so we focused on our food and they left. We went to bed, and this morning had class early to leave the afternoon free to wander around town. Our hotel is on a quiet side-street and I was totally shocked when there turned out to be a very… vibrant… town right around the corner.
In India, people have a very different way of hassling: will would shove at you whatever they wanted to sell and shake it or poke you with it until you walk far enough away or say something very harsh. Here, people come up to you and begin a conversation: “Hello, how are you doing?” “What’s your name?” “Where are you from?” “That’s my favorite state! Do you like it here?” Often they will offer directions to a market or ATM. Then they will disappear, or call to a friend, and a collection of wares will appear. “This is the very best price. Do you want it?”
No. I don’t want it. I’ve never wanted it. I thought that I would want to pick up little souvenirs along the way to either give as gifts or keep as reminders of the places we’ve been. But the process of shopping for anything is so terrible that I haven’t bought much at all. I feel like my writing is what will be the significant souvenir from this trip, and any knick-knacks that I pick up along the way will be thrown out in five years when the house is thoroughly cleaned.
The other difference between here and India is the begging system. Africa on whole is far poorer than India, but I’m not sure how to gauge the relative socio-economic status of this particular city against all of Africa. It seems to attract heavy tourism due to its proximity to Kilimanjaro and Ngoro-Ngoro. Despite this, I feel like it will be a fair comparison because in India, no matter how wealthy the area, the begging was all the same. Hoards of children, or women with babies, or disfigured people would hold out their hands and whisper “Ma’am... Hello… please…” Begging was everywhere. Here, I saw six beggars in my three hours walking in town. Each was sitting down on the sidewalk, and none said anything to me.
The first man I saw had bandaged feet with no toes, and sat underneath an umbrella. There was a man walked on one foot and one hand with a flip-flop. His other hand was held out for money, and his other foot would drag along the ground. I saw several people with this same condition in India as well. There was a man with no eyes and sores all over his body. There were two women with babies. One of these women was missing a leg. There was a man with no legs and rubber disks attached to where his knees would be. And each of these people seemed unable to get off the ground so they just sat there and stared up at us. It was awful. The organized begging of India was gone and all that was left was the people who couldn’t do anything but hold out their hand.
India was just as tragic at times, especially when it was the children without arms that came up to you and brushed up against you with their severed limbs get your attention. But much more of it was just ubiquitously annoying and blatantly systematic: in different cities, the children wore the same outfits and had the same lines and the same little cups for money. I wish I never had to see any of it. Denny, Michelle and I picked up some postcards and walked back to our hotel. It’s a lot of work to walk around the city.

23,875 Miles Traveled

Feb 23, 2010
Arusha, Tanzania
Overcast, cool. Rain yesterday.

Today we leave for safari, and everything I’m taking with me is packed into a backpack. Unfortunately, my netbook was not among those things deemed necessary. So, for the next three days, no journal entries. Not that I’ve been doing a great job at keeping up recently.
I keep having these horrible nightmares. I don’t know if they are linked to taking malarone, but they definitely got worse when I started taking it again. I’m trying to get good sleep, but it’s difficult when I keep waking up thinking that the world is definitely not okay. Right now, I have no internet, no cell phone reception, and I keep thinking about my family. I wish I could talk to my parents and tell them I’m doing alright and see how they are. I know that Denny intends us to be completely isolated from the world and focus on ourselves and our own growth. I guess this is what he wanted all along.
Last night at dinner, four men dressed in leopard and zebra print costumes came out and did acrobatic tricks for us. Their audience was almost entirely white Europeans, with one table of Africans. While they were very talented and did many cool tricks, something about it seemed very wrong. I looked around and everyone sort of looked a little taken aback. I think that it seemed like too much of a parody of real African culture to be enjoyable.
Africa seems to be one of the most interesting places we have been. Before I even got off the plane, I looked down at the savannahs and jungles and immediately began to fall in love.

About 22,000 Miles Traveled

Feb 22, 2010
Ethiopian Airport in Addis Ababa
Cool, Clear
20,995 + Distance from Mumbai to Ethiopia

These last two days have blended together, I didn’t know when Sunday ended and Monday started. Something about never going to sleep really messes up my concept of time. So I’m in Africa now. We left Dariya Mahal at two in the morning, spent another heinous few hours going through security and customs with some heinous officials taking power trips. I saw one security guard playing with his metal detecting wand and his other “wand” to pass the time while a huge line formed.
Last night, Max and Harish prepared a later dinner for us and we sat around talking. Harish spoke of his mother, who died about a year ago. He gave each of the women on the trip a necklace his mother had picked out before she died – mine is a rope of green stones. Hearing him talk about his family and his parents made me really homesick. These have been the most difficult days of the trip for me, between my dog dying and struggling with housing for next year and being sick. The Chinais were really lovely to us, but I’m glad to be leaving India. It was a herculean challenge just to keep cool most of the time.
As we walked through the Mumbai airport to our gate, there was a row of American food: The Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf, KFC, Pizza Hut. I had nine hundred rupees that I couldn’t exchange for Tanzanian money, so I ended up buying some fried chicken and pizza and a huge chocolate bar. I don’t think I’m ready for the trip to be over yet, but I miss the logic and familiarity of the United States.

Mombasa, Kenya
I started to write a journal entry here, but the stewardess told me I had to put my laptop away. We stopped in Kenya to refuel.

20,995 Miles Traveled

Feb 19 and 20, 2010
Mumbai, India
Smoggy, hot, humid
Yesterday was a huge all-day tour of Mumbai – we started at the laundry center, where hundreds of people were scrubbing the clothes of the city, then went to Mumbai University, the famous train station, then to the India Gate, learned the meaning of POSH, strolled through the Taj Mahal Hotel, ate at Leopold Café, did a little shopping, saw the hanging Gardens where the Zoroastrians leave their dead to be picked clean by the birds, and drove past the Marina. One of my favorite parts was at the hanging gardens, where some orange flowers attracted uncountable numbers of blue, green, red, orange, white, and purple butterflies. The rest of the highlights can be found in pretty much any Mumbai guide book.
That night, Dariya Mahal hosted a gigantic Muslim Indian wedding reception. We had sent our laundry away and it hadn’t yet returned, so in our slightly questionable, mismatched outfits we sat on the balcony and watched the guests arrive in their most sparkling clothes. Eventually, Harish walked down and introduced us to the bride and groom, who gracefully received us. We watched everyone walking around and mingling, and ate some of the delicious food. My favorite part? Unlimited gulab jamun, the best Indian dish in the entire world. Imagine balls of pancakes soaked in cardamom-flavored sugar syrup.
The party lasted until two in the morning, and I could still hear people talking and laughing long after I went to bed. This morning, we woke up at nine for tea, and spent the morning working on our blogs. In the afternoon, Max Chinai had arranged for a Swami to speak with us about the human interaction with the environment. He told us that it is traditional for Indians to have their bodies burned when they died. Subsequently, Indians are supposed to plant three trees in their life: one on their first day of school, one when they are married, and one when they have their first child. At least one should survive, and in this way they have a net-zero impact on the earth. The tree that is used to burn their body is replaced by the ones they planted during their lives. The Swami told us to produce more than we consume, to give more than we take.
After the lecture, we sat in the garden sipping chai and watching the sun set. This peaceful moment was interrupted by the Fed Ex guy. Becky had left me with her package and I thought I could make an easy drop-off. Instead, I had to fill out four different forms, including a personal receipt copy, a company receipt copy, a normal Fed Ex form, and a textile export form. The package weighed five kg, but the Fed Ex guy eyeballed it at eight and a half kg. A fight between Harish and the Fed Ex guy ensued, and ended with the intervention of a customer service agent on the phone. By the end of the event, I was nearly in tears. I was frustrated, I was sick of bureaucracy, and there is never a moment of quiet in this country. Today had been a particularly rough day for a few reasons, but I’ve felt like I was barely holding it together.
Denny and I had a good conversation about herculean tasks. When you’re put in such an unfamiliar and uncomfortable situation, simple things like sleeping or sending a package or just functioning normally become these herculean tasks. Sometimes, I want to go home. But most of the time, I know that I need to be here in order to overcome those challenges and emerge a less anxious and more adaptable person.

20,995 Miles Traveled

Feb 18, 2010
Mumbai, India
Smoggy, hot, humid

We arrived at Max Chinai’s Darya Mahal early in the morning, around three. After being shown to the guesthouse, Hareesh Chinai told us that his dad had been waiting up for us, and led us into a living room in the huge yellow mansion. Max and Hareesh both attended Hiram college, and they talked with us about what Hiram was like when they went to school, and what it is like now. At four-thirty, someone finally realized that we were barely awake, and we were sent to bed. Right before we were about to escape to bed, Hareesh mentioned, “Tea tomorrow at eight?”
David gasped. “Eight?! We couldn’t possibly.” Hareesh volunteered, nine, and David agreed. We all groaned internally. Four and a half hours later, we were back in the same living room, sipping cups of chai and eating biscuits, talking more about Hiram. Everything passed in a complete blur – it seemed like all of my waking hours were cloudy. We ate breakfast, then we went back to bed for several hours.
When we woke up, we ate an early dinner, and began celebrating “Spring Break 2010.” There is a hookah bar across the street, and we lounged for a few hours, then I came back to the guesthouse to lay around for a bit. At some point, John left and came back saying that a rabid dog had bitten him. Swaffie, who had been there for the event, assured everyone it was more of a warning gnaw and no skin had been broken. Then I went to bed again. I had horrible nightmares about rats crawling all over me, and I woke up trying to push them off. Even awake, as I lay in bed, I thought that I had pushed all of the rats onto the floor and tucked my knees up to avoid them. I tried to forget the hundreds of rodents that I believed were crawling around beneath me, but when I turned over I knocked the pillow off my bed. Gingerly, I reached down to grab my pillow, and as I drifted off to sleep again I knew for certain I would wake up infected with the hantavirus.

Note: I'm posting this in Tanzania where the internet is very slow, way too slow for pictures. Pictures may or may not come later.

Friday, February 19, 2010

About 20,595 Miles Traveled

Feb 15 and 16, 2010
Colombo, Sri Lanka
Thunderstorms in Male, hot and humid in Colombo

I watched a small girl writhe in her chair while waiting for our plane from Colombo to Mumbai, clearly cranky from lack of sleep or lack of food. I knew the exact feeling of being so uncomfortable that I cannot even sit still. So I smiled at her. She stopped wriggling for a moment and smiled back.
Leaving the Maldives was much sadder than I thought it was going to be. I knew we were headed for India when men started to leer as soon as we got into the gate area. Just now, on the plane, I had a particular persistent staring fellow. I not only gave him the coldest glare I could muster, but when he didn’t look away I also made an angry face at him. Probably terrified, he finally looked away. The Maldives were paradise, and I keep wondering when I will get to scuba dive again.
Even though we all generally loved the Maldives, we had a very interesting experience when we visited the island’s school on the last day on the more secluded atoll. First we met with the kids in a large group, then broke out into smaller groups for biomes discussions. Initially, they were very shy. We spent about half an hour trying to wheedle questions or comments from them. Denny had arranged for a “field trip,” and as soon as we got out of the classroom and started walking down the street, the kids totally opened up to us.

Becky and I were with a group of six fifteen year old girls. They linked arms with us and started giggling about the guys in our group. They told us about living on the atoll, and what their school was like, and their Muslim traditions. We were walking along, chatting absent mindedly when Denny announced that we had arrived at our destination, and I looked up and was completely stunned.
In front of us was a gigantic garbage heap piled onto a beach. The most idyllic tropical island was visible in the distance past the stacks of plastic water bottles, wrappers, a few flip flops, and other assorted refuse. I didn’t know what to say or do for several minutes and just stared at the mess. The kids seemed disappointed that our field trip was to the garbage dump, and wrinkled their nose in disgust as we stood on the smelly pile. One girl told me that just after the Tsunami, everyone was very conscientious about separating out the plastics, but now everyone just threw everything into one heap.

A few more minutes passed, and it became closer to prayer time so the kids had to go back home. We walked through the streets arm in arm once more, and when we parted they asked for our email addresses and promised to friend us on facebook. “You won’t forget us, right?” We assured them we wouldn’t, and took pictures together. The teachers and Denny tried to make us part, but we kept dragging goodbyes on longer and longer.
Eventually, it got dark and we went back into the school to drink young coconut milk and watch the gigantic fruit bats swoop on the horizon. Safaa, our Maldivian host, told us these bats were endangered because people once perceived them as pests and the military was sent with shotguns to exterminate them. After the coconuts, we were promised a surprise and led on another walk: I was once again stunned. Safaa led us to a gigantic wooden garage with a huge, hundred-foot handmade boat inside. The builder stood quietly off to the side as we were told that this was being built as a traditional Maldivian vessel, without blueprints. We climbed up a ladder and walked around on the stupendous boat.

We could have spent much more time gaping in wonder, but we had to get back to our own boat. That night, I switched with Kanako, so I slept on the boat. It was way too hot in the cabin, so I slept on top of my sleeping bag under the stars. It was still warm, but there was a wonderful sea breeze. I curled up and slept soundly, and woke up to the most brilliant sunrise I’ve ever seen. Over the line of palm-tree dotted islands, the clouds were colored purple, orange, red, and yellow. I basked in the early morning sun. When the equatorial light got too intense, I gathered up my sleeping back and fell back asleep in a cabin.
We arrived in Male’ around noon, and the afternoon was a blur to me. I was still quite tired from our dives and all the activity, as well as disoriented from the bumpy boat ride. I napped until class, and then Denny took us to a buffet. I ate a huge plate full of fresh prawns, cuttlefish, red snapper, and crab. It was some of the most delicious seafood I’ve ever eaten – the Maldives are known for fishing. I also had a huge plate of papaya and some Maldivian desserts.

The next morning we ate breakfast, packed up, and had class. We talked about the cultural differences between us and the Muslim Maldivians, how we hadn’t dressed appropriately and were too loud. Somehow, we got onto the topic of oppression, and somebody mentioned the concept of misandry, claiming that men in the United States were highly oppressed. This person’s argument was that men had a strict gender role to which they had to conform, that men had to work hard to support the immense consumption which has become the American standard, and that they can’t stay home to be a soccer dad and enjoy their family.
In high school, this comment would have probably sent me into uncontrollable rage. But I took a deep breath and tried to ignore the tunnel vision that was clouding my common sense and sight. Of course, nobody was allowed to say anything contrary, and we moved on in our discussion. But this comment has bothered me all day; systems that contain an oppressed group necessarily contain an oppressing group. In a culture where women receive three-fourths the salary men in the same profession receive, where access to reproductive care is limited, where our bodies are treated as public commodities, where an entire population gets off on our degradation and humiliation, where we are raped and assaulted at an astonishing rate, and where we are judged constantly against an unrealistic feminine standard, there is a clear distinction between the oppressor and the oppressed.
I understand that everyone doesn’t get what they want: men are discriminated against in custody issues, feel slighted when they don’t have a choice in the outcome of an unplanned pregnancy, or feel like they are compared to an unreal masculinity standard. But these problems are minor in comparison to the sexism women face every single day. I hate that people in this group are allowed to spew such incendiary close-minded bullshit. This was not an academic discussion that enhanced our intellectual development; it was a moment where bigotry was allowed to masquerade as fact. Denny wisely chose to move on from this point and return to the main topic of the lecture.
I think this is partially why I am so wary about returning to India. One of the reasons why it was so difficult the first time around is that women are second class citizens in this country. Even in extremely conservative clothing, we are stared at like meat slabs at a butcher’s counter. More than once I’ve been grabbed or fondled while walking through a crowded street. In stores and restaurants, male employees will ignore me and talk to only the men. Women are rarely in public, either by themselves or in groups. And people assume, as in the case of the Wind Palace, that being trapped in a gilded cage is a desirable life.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

18,995 Miles Traveled

Feb 14, 2010
The Maldives
Clear, Hot, humid

Thoreau is quoted by Andrea Barrett in Voyage of the Narwhal: “It is not easy to write in a journal what interests us at any time, because to write it is not what interests us.” Normally, I would never begin anything with a famous quotation, but because we are reading Narwhal for this class, the statement seemed appropriate. Nonetheless, I must disagree with it. As I lay out under the stars tonight and our dive masters played Maldivian music on a guitar and mini bongo, all I wanted to do was write a poem to completely convey the moment to all of you readers. But again, I must disagree. This would be a terrible idea because none of you would want to read anything I wrote ever again. These last two days have been especially difficult journaling days because the experiences I’ve had are so precious and amazing that I work very hard to accurately depict them in writing. Sloppiness would be a travesty.
Today, we did another two dives. The first one was even more wonderful than yesterday’s dives, and I felt very much at ease (which was reflected in my air consumption). We swam around a coral pinnacle, and the moment I descended I was surrounded by thousands of fish on every side. Then I looked down and saw a nurse shark, then a white-tip reef shark, then turtles, and I was in a complete fantasy land. We drifted along with the current, and again, I felt like a poem was in order. Everything I could say about diving has already been said, because I feel like the wonder accompanies the ability to inhabit a new part of the earth uniformly overcomes every oxygen-breathing being that has the opportunity to exist for a short period of time underwater.
What I can say is that our second dive really challenged me and was a useful exercise in keeping calm. Going down, I immediately knew that the visibility and current were not ideal. Up till this dive, there was excellent visibility and the current always worked in our favor. I struggled to keep up with the dive master and breathe deeply as we swam against the ocean. I felt myself becoming increasingly anxious, and my plastic mouthpiece was tearing off. I fought to keep my regulator in my mouth when the current was pulling it away. Finally, I put a finger on the coral and switched to my secondary regulator, which worked fine. I couldn’t focus on the fish, I only focused on breathing and staying composed.
After half an hour, the dive master signaled for us to go up, and without me seeing, Tim signaled that he was out of air. The dive master pulled my secondary regulator out of my mouth, despite my serious apprehension. I stuck my damaged primary into my mouth and held it in, while Tim pulled me up like a buoy, destroying our 5 meter safety stop. He floated as far above me as possible while I kicked as hard as possible to stay down. Finally, we surfaced. I napped the rest of the afternoon, had dinner, and am now back on the island.
Another dive tomorrow!

18,995 Miles Traveled

Feb 13, 2010
The Maldives
Overcast, rain and lightening in the night. Warm.

Late last night I lay in bed knowing that I had to wake up in just a few hours, but I had the irrepressible buzz that is necessarily coupled with having one of the best days of my life. Yesterday morning started pretty early too. After class, we were taken out to a dive site around eleven. I gasped like a newborn when I jumped into the water and felt complete ecstasy as I descended past a cliff of coral. This was the most amazing underwater ecosystem I’ve ever seen – It put Thailand, Catalina Island, Monterey Bay, Australia, New Zealand, and Hawaii to shame. The diversity was unbelievable; everywhere I looked there was a new type of fish. As we all gaped at a huge moray eel, a sea turtle brushed past, and a two foot long giant purple clam silently gaped back at us. And despite the awesome sea life, I have to admit my favorite part was free-floating as the strong current allowed me to soar past the underwater mountains. This was just the test dive.
After far too short a time, we had to go back to the boat. It left me wishing that I could have three or four tanks. We ate lunch, which was delicious as usual. Our cook is a Sri Lankan chef who is apparently specializes in pastries (though it is impossible to whip those up in a tiny boat galley). I was just laying on the lower deck afterwards, and Matt came down from the upper deck and grabbed me. “You have to come up!” I climbed up the ladder to see Nate, John, Allen, Jake, and Tim standing on the ledge, looking thirty feet down into water. I saw a school of blue and yellow fish swimming beneath them, and they counted to three and launched themselves off the side.
I immediately put my bathing suit back on, and climbed up the ladder, ready to jump, looked over the edge… and thought I was going to throw up all of that delicious food. I grabbed onto the boat, and when the next group counted to three I thought I was about to go, but at the last moment my feet just wouldn’t leave the ground. I felt increasingly terrified, and clung tighter to the boat. People cheered me on, “When are you going to be in the Maldives again?!” “Come on in! It’s amazing!” “You can do it!”
I backed up and decided I just wouldn’t jump. It wasn’t necessary, my life could be complete nevertheless. Then Allen looked at me, and said, “You can’t do it, can you?” At that moment, something overcame me and I turned around and leaped off the deck, screaming as I experienced the freeing feeling of free fall for milliseconds before slapping every surface of my body onto the hard water. My mouth was open; I think that even my tongue got slapped.
I surfaced immediately, and floated in the water as another handful of people joined me from the upper deck. So many times on this trip, like when I let go of twenty pounds of baggage, or climbed Haleakala, or jumped off the waterfall in Thailand, I’ve felt liberated. I think it’s a combination of feeling self-efficacy, or independence, or an ability to overcome fear. Let my bruised thigh, arm, and neck from my rough hug with the water be testament to my willingness to change myself and relinquish anxiety.
We all leapt into the water, including Denny, and posed for a group picture. Then it was time to go for the next dive. Again, I did my newborn gasp and descended past the underwater peaks. This time, there were even more fish and I floated through a school, feeling perhaps this is what it was like to be a creature of the sea. My dive master put his hands on his head and made the sign for shark. I turned around, and saw a handful of white and black tipped reef sharks milling around. A few weeks ago, this would have terrified me, but I felt only fascination. And luck – sharks are just cool.
The rest of our dive continued to be amazing. I went down and flipped over to float on my back and look at the people swimming above me, and my bubbles, and the sheer face of the coral. The current was even stronger, and our dive master held out his arms like wings and we flew along. On one side, there was the teeming coral, on the other side empty blueness, except for the sharks swimming in and out of sight. We went up slowly, with the slope of the coral, and hovered around a meter to look at the shallow coral, then popped up and returned to the boat all too soon.
We realized then the black clouds were headed right for us. The air became cooler and even more humid, and the storm began with a slight mist, then a few raindrops, then suddenly the sky dumped down on us and we ran to put all our stuff under deck. We huddled in the cabins until dinner, which included the best papaya I’ve ever had the pleasure of eating. It was soft but firm, and melted my mouth. When the storm cleared a bit, we went back to the island, and our dive masters walked us back to our room. Becky and I were standing in the doorway, when they came back and asked if we’d like to go out with them.
We immediately decided that it would be an excellent idea, and they came back for us about half an hour later. Together, we walked to a coffee shop on the beach, where the waves crashed against the shore and the palm trees clacked in the wind. They brought us some Maldivian snacks – a butter and chocolate cake, coconut biscuits filled with spicy fish, and a small samosa like snack with a creamy sweet bean paste inside. This last one shared its name with women’s underwear, named for the shape.
Despite the slight language barrier, we had a great time talking and watching the Maldivian sports awards. They talked a little about the politics, specifically the pre-2008 dictator. They also told us about participating in the larger simultaneous dive in the world, and helping out with the underwater cabinet meeting held a few months ago. Towards the end of the evening, a plate with cloves, a few cut up nuts, and a leaf was put on the table. “Here, try one.” One of our dive masters rolled up a nut into a leaf, sprinkled in with some red powder, and handed the small package to me. I put in it my mouth and it took all of my willpower not to spit it out, it was bitter and made my mouth numb. My body instinctively knew not to swallow. “Beetlenut,” he said, “You like it?”
In India, I had seen everyone from small children to elderly grandparents chewing this disgusting stuff, and I discreetly spit it out in my napkin. Everyone laughed, and told me it was an acquired taste. Maybe it was that I was still rocking from a day on the boat, but thankfully I felt none of the intended effects. We finished our tea and coffee, and they walked us back to our room. Becky happened to mention that she loved mangoes more than any fruit in the world, and the guys pointed to the tree right outside our room: “Mango tree,” they said, while pretending to shake her down some fruit. They did hand us the fruit that was growing, unfortunately, they were inch-long green baby mangoes.
We thanked them, and stumbled tiredly into our room. We didn’t bother to shower, just collapsed into bed and tried unsuccessfully to calm the buzz. I’m sure I fell asleep smiling. And then this morning, I jumped out of bed still smiling. We’re on our way to the next dive site, and I’m sitting on the lower deck writing this as I look out over the ocean. I could spend the rest of my life like this.

18,965 Miles Traveled

Feb 12, 2010
Clear, warm, humid
Male, and an Atoll, in the Maldives

As we descended this morning over the Maldives, passengers unbuckled their seatbelts and ran to the other side of the plane to see the turquoise water. It’s absolutely mesmerizing. The water was “gin-clear” as we took a taxi boat to Male and watched the schools of fish swimming beneath us. We then got on a boat for three and half hours to one of the more secluded atolls. It was one of the most rocky and turbulent boat rides I’ve ever taken; at one point my feet slipped out from under me and I went down hard. More than a few of our group got seasick. A tasty but inappropriate snack of fish with spicy tomato mayonnaise was served on buns, with watermelon and bananas picked off a huge bunch hanging on the end of the boat. After two days without a real meal, it was absolutely delicious. At the end of this ride, we were greeted by smiling hosts who led us to a shady circle of chairs on the beach and handed us each a fresh coconut. I knew then that I loved the Maldives.
We got our rooms (some of us are staying on the atoll, some are staying on a boat anchored offshore), and took a dive boat to the home base boat to go snorkeling. By this time, it was getting a late, and we were in the water as the sun set. I was a bit afraid of being eaten by one of the many Maldivian sharks, but it was cool to watch the transition from the blue and yellow fish, to a quiet time during dusk, then the red fish with huge eyes. We got back on the boat, and had the most amazing dinner – fresh red snapper, chicken, pasta with a marinara fish sauce, boat-made cole slaw, pineapple, and more of those bananas.
Now we’re back on the island, about to go to sleep. I’m really exhausted after spending the night in the Sri Lanka airport, waking up at two the morning before, and over twenty-four hours of travel. I didn’t eat until the spicy fish rolls came out around two, and I was very hungry and very thirsty. Something that has changed about me on this trip is definitely my attitude towards discomfort – I keep telling myself that I will be tired, I will be hungry, or thirsty, or sick. I will take many more cold showers, and I will throw up. And I accept that I will have those experiences. And by accepting that those things will happen, by accepting that worse and better will come, it bothers me less and less.

14,934 Miles Traveled

Feb 11, 2010
Delhi, India
Clear, cool

“What did you think?” the customs official asked me, hovering the stamp over my passport. “Of India? I loved it!” I lied.
India has been so insane. It has tested my patience, my ability to control my temper, and my compassion. And in the last week and a half, all of those things have failed at least once. I don’t know what to say about the country other than what I have already written. Checking in and going through security in the airport today was horrible. We arrived well ahead of schedule, and had to wait for the check in desk to open. The employees sat there and stared at us, and the clock. At exactly 4:10, we were allowed to check in.
Becky and I are on a different flight from Colombo to Male, and I tried to ask if we could get on the earlier flight with the rest of our group. True to his culture, the man completed all of the required tasks and ignored me until he had finished and was about to put tags and our bags and send them off. As an afterthought, he asked, “And what did you want?” We tried to explain again, and he said, “No, no, no. You must go to the help desk, where they will help you in ten minutes.”
We walked the five feet to the help desk, where a “helpful” official was lolling about. He refused to make eye contact for several minutes, until I got his attention. I explained the issue, and he said, “No, we cannot do that here. You must do that in Colombo.” I asked if he could just check on the computer to see if there were seats available on the flight, and again he refused. Another man at the other check-in desk said something in Hindi to him, and then the helpful man replied, “It is oversold.”
They could have told us that fifteen minutes prior, but are either too lazy or too bureaucratic to simply check the computer and tell us the answer to begin with. Then we went through security. There are lettered security points, and each flight has to go through a particular checkpoint. Even though there were ten other open security points, we had to go through the particular one for Sri Lanka. Then I had to go through the particular screening point for women, and then I went to collect my bags.
The security guard would not release my bag. I asked if he had to search it, and he shook his head. I tried to pick it up again, but he grabbed it from me, turned it over, and shook it a few times like my dog would shake a stuffed animal. “What? What is wrong?” He just shook it again, and finally Becky said, “I think you need a tag…”
Apparently, there are tags at the check in desk that you need to attach to your carry-on luggage. Those tags need to be stamped at security. The security guard sighs, and says in perfect English “Fine, I’ll give you this one,” and hands me the appropriate tag.

Part of the reason why India is so challenging is because it is an example of what I fear will happen to the United States if we do not change the way we live. I worry that our infrastructure will fail and nobody will care. We went to the Indira Ghandi memorial right before we left Delhi, and even though she was a great leader and completely gave herself to India, she could not do enough to fix the hopeless poverty. And now, as India is part of the rapidly developing “BRIC” block, there are still gigantic problems to fix. I don’t write this to place America on a pedestal; this is not a manifesto of western superiority. Rather, I feel like there is a hair-thin line between us. We have a façade of functionality, but for how long?

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

A few random pictures

Snorkeling in Maui, HI. Photo by Becky Walter.

Bharatphur, India. Bird Sanctuary, near the wetlands.

Bharatphur, India. Sexy Matt on a bike, sunset in the background.

Bharatphur, India. Group bikes through the bird sanctuary.

Sariska, India. Women walk through the tiger preserve to collect grass to feed cattle. I jumped out of the jeep to take a picture, while the guide yelled at me to get back in the car.

14,534 Miles Traveled + distance from Alwar to Mussorie

Feb 9, 2010
Mussorie, India (The Woodstock School)
Rainy, freezing, overcast. Hail in the afternoon, thunderstorms at night.
I’m writing this from the top bunk of a dormitory at The Woodstock School as thunder is shaking my windows and lightening cracks over the mountains for as far as I can see. Like all days, this one began early when I woke up on the train with sudden and intense nausea. All of the western-style bathrooms were taken, so I crouched over hole in the floor and threw up the remnants of a spicy curry and spicy stomach acid, which (a little fun fact) burns coming up too. I wiped my burning nose on some slightly damp toilet paper and stumbled out of the bathroom to grab my baggage and get off the train. I was expecting to fling open the door and take a huge breath of fresh air, but instead nothing but diesel exhaust greeted me.
I hauled my bag up a flight of stairs, down a flight of stairs, and stood barely conscious waiting for a taxi. I think I snarled at several people trying to hassle me. Finally, we were pointed to a car and I got in the front seat, rolled the window down and hung my head out, trying to suck in a few molecules of oxygen that were untainted by the ubiquitous pollution. I was hoping for a short car ride, but when we had been going for thirty minutes and passed a sign that said “4,000 feet,” and I knew we were headed up to 8,000, I all but lost hope.

The driver spoke almost no English and ignored the signs that said, “Speed thrills but kills” as he sped up the sharp turns on the mountain. I’ve been on far less thrilling rollercoasters. Around 6,000 feet, the fog was so thick that we could see only a few feet in front of the car, and I gagged out the window several times after getting facefulls of exhaust from the unseen vehicles. It began to rain, then hail. This was not normal hail. It gigantic, pea to marble sized balls of death ice. When finally we reached the top and I basically fell out of the taxi, a huge hill covered ankle-deep hail awaited us. I dragged my bag up icy hill, tripping and sliding, but then I was rewarded by collapsing into a bed and sleeping for most of the day.

I feel better now. The power is flickering on and off. Most people are preparing for the fifth-grade class our group will teach tomorrow, and I’m catching up on some work. The Woodstock School is absolutely beautiful, with brand-new buildings and gorgeous architecture. In two days, we leave for the Maldives, which will be a welcome change from the insanity of India.
Update: 2/10/10
Today, I was feeling a little worse today so I spent a good portion of the morning in bed. By lunch time, I got dressed and went to go find the rest of the group, who were all on a different part of the campus. The woman at the front desk gave me sketchy instructions of how to find the dining room, and I walked up a gigantic hill, after not eating for two days, at 8,000 feet, only to realize that I was in the completely wrong place. I sat down, dizzy and out of breath, when a man who worked at the school found me and took me back to the dorms. I was given more directions and tried again -- I walked down the road for about ten minutes before a dog started following me and random woman found me and assumed I was lost. Thankfully, she knew the way and led me to the right place, where I encounted Sigrid. We sat down for lunch and were shortly joined by the rest of the group.
In the afternoon, we met with a group of seniors in an AP biology class in order to discuss global warming and biomes. It was very interesting to talk to these kids about their lives as well, and how it was at the Woodstock School. Honestly, it seems like a great place where the teachers are very concerned about the education of their students. Of course, the gorgeous view doesn't hurt either.

Before tea, we went to a PE class. During lunch, I spoke with the PE teacher -- he had been on the Christmas Day flight to Detriot and was sitting just a few rows behind the man who tried to blow himself up. He led the class in a series of jump rope drills, and even got some of us involved. Against my better judgment, I ended up joining in for a few hops over the rope.
Then we went back to the dorms, worked on the internet for a bit, had dinner, and tomorrow we leave at three in the morning for Delhi, then to the Maldives.

14,534 Miles Traveled

February 8, 2010
Sariska and Alwar, India
Overcast, with thunder storms in the evening

Our morning began before sunrise, and we were sleepily sipping tea and coffee before our scheduled safari when we heard a familiar voice entering the dining room. “Hello! Hello! Are you ready to leave?” I turned in horror and faced the same guide. When we walked outside to wait for the safari jeeps, I made sure to move as far away from the guide as possible. Undaunted, he followed me quite far from the group and the other guides, and looked at me with a huge grin. “Good morning!” I replied with the same. “You ready?” Yes, I said I was. “You cold?” No, I’m fine. He seemed to run out of things to say, so the guide just stared at me and continued to grin.

When the jeeps arrived, I waited until the last possible second to choose a car, hoping to not be with the guide. Just when I thought I was safe, the guide hops up on my jeep saying, “I will go with you!” At this point there was nothing I could do, so we drove off along the bumpy road as he continued to spew the same banal facts as the day before: “The males have horns and the females do not!” I tried to ignore our guide, and turned to talk to Denny about the animals along the road.

“Excuse me! Excuse me! Why are you talking? Why are you not listening to me?” The guide tapped me on the knee. Denny explained that he had a Ph.D. and knew quite a bit about wildlife and ecosystems, and that as a teacher he needed to communicate important information with his students. “You are getting your Ph.D. about animals? I know a lot about the animals! There, Indian Robin!” Our guide pointed to a bird in a bush, and Denny mumbled a few select words under his breath.

Our jeep safari overall, was actually quite exciting. Many animals came very close to us, including summer deer, antelope, spotted deer, wild boar, languors, an owl, tons of pea fowl, two jungle cats, and many different kinds of bird. Our safari ended, we ate lunch, had class, and then piled into a bus to go to the train station.
Denny told us that he had ordered a bus for twenty-two people. The bus arrived, and it was indeed, for twenty-two people. But only twenty-two people without luggage and without legs. We crammed our bags into every space possible: in the front of the bus the bags touched the ceiling, and the aisles were full of backpacks, and everyone held at least one item in their laps. Our knees bumped against the metal bars on the seat in front of us, our thighs were smashed against those of our seatmate, and we were trapped inside the seats by the bags on every side of us. Once we were packed in like clowns in a clown car, we took off for our hour-long road on slightly paved roads.
Despite the cozy arrangements, the view was amazing: small villages selectively developed in the shadows of rocky cliffs. You could see where the rain ran down the slopes and into the valleys, allowing for agriculture and some rare green plants. As we came closer to Alwar, there were these shops with marble carvers. Each shop was surrounded by huge piles of white dust and Volkswagen sized marble chunks, waiting to be chipped into real forms.
At the train station, we caused another gigantic scene when Allen decided to play with a stray dog. People gathered, and there was one particularly persistent beggar girl who tugged at our sleeves. This time, it was less of a conversational encounter, and more of an audience just staring. Eventually, the station manager came by and broke up the crowd, waving the onlookers away and stationing three officials around our group. Even those three officials could not keep people from surrounding us, so we were ushered into the VIP room. It was around this time that there was a huge flash of lightening accompanied by thunder, and we all settled into the couch for the wait. Our train was thirty minutes late, and we’re currently traveling from Alwar to Delhi, where we will hopefully catch a sleeper train and make our way to Missoula, to the Woodstock school. We were told this afternoon that our group will be teaching a fifth-grade class on Biomes, so Liz, Clay, Matt and I have crafted a Biomes game.
Here’s hoping that we’ll get on our train, but if we don’t another adventure awaits us.

14,534 Miles Traveled

Feb 7, 2010
Sariska, India
Very hot, clear.
Today was supposed to be mostly free so we could recover from the last few days of intense traveling and nonstop action, but as usual the free day was mostly dedicated to non-free activities. Plus, even when we have free time there is so much classwork to catch up on it is hardly free. In any case, I used the time to sleep.
Then at three in the afternoon, we had arranged for a guide to take us around the national park on a little ramble. Our guide arrived at 2:15, and greeted us all. “Hello, hello, I am your guide, what is your name?” we introduced ourselves, and tried to make him understand that the walk wasn’t until three. We all vacated the common areas to escape harassment from our clearly overenthusiastic guide, and Nikki, Clay, Kanako, and I all lounged in peace for a few moments.
Without warning, our door flung open and there was our guide. “Hello, hello. When will you be ready?” It was a quarter to three, and so we told him to wait fifteen minutes. “Fifty minutes?” No, fifteen. “We are becoming late!” Finally, we all gathered on the lawn outside and our guide impatiently stamped his feet. “Is everyone here?” we were missing a handful of people. A few more joined us, “Now is everyone here?” We had to put our keys away. “Okay, now we leave. You must stay together as a group, and be aware for the big cats!”
Like I wrote previously, there are only three tigers in the entirety of the park. They are rarely seen. But we stayed together. “Discipline, Discipline!” our guide cried as he led us along the road. Trucks, motorcycles, and cars zoomed past us, detracting from the natural experience we all craved. Off in the distance, there was a peacock. “The national bird of India,” our guide told us, pointing at the shadowy silhouette that was running quickly in the other direction. In case we didn’t hear, he told us again, “Hello! Hello! It’s the national bird of India! It’s the national bird of India!”
We kept walking down the nature trail/busy highway with our fearless guide leading the way. Up in the distance, there were a few macaques and languors alongside the road. “MONKEYS!” he screamed, effectively scaring away any wildlife within a square kilometer. We got closer, and the tame monkeys of course barely moved. “Look at these long-tailed monkeys!” Our guide pointed to the languors. “Scientific names: red faced and black face monkeys.” By this point, there was no doubt: our guide knew absolutely nothing.

He pointed to some of the trash alongside the road. “This is very bad for the wildlife. They eat it, cannot digest, then die.” Nate, who was closest to the offending plastic reached to pick it up. The guide all but smacked the garbage out of Nate’s hand. “No! You do not touch!” the guide screamed.

Our walk continued, and we finally left the highway for a small trail. There was a bridge that crossed a small creek, and our guide screamed at us, “Discipline, discipline! You line up for picture now!” Confused, we sat down and posed for the picture. “Wait! Give me a hat! This is the picture for my mother!” He basically pulled down his pants and tucked his shirt in. David volunteered his hat, warning our guide that it was sweaty and gross. Allen took the picture. Our guide assured the ladies of the trip that he was single and looking for a nice girl.

Finally, Denny got fed up and told him that he only had five more minutes. We walked past a Monkey temple, and the guide wanted to press on, but thankfully we started to walk back. By the end, we all wanted to strangle our loud and unhelpful guide. There has been no point in the trip where cultural differences were more obvious.

Afterwards, we had class and went to the small bar alongside the hotel. I got a picture of the bartenders, and they were very pleased and asked me to send them a copy. Then we had dinner, and now there is apparently a bonfire outside that I probably will attend.

14,534 Miles Traveled

Feb 6, 2010
Jaipur and Sariska, India
Very hot, clear.
We woke up this morning and were in a set of tuk-tuks around 10am. Matt, Brenna and I chose the vehicle with “naughty boy” written on the back, and a gregarious driver, and our army of tuk-tuks took off down the streets of Jaipur. We got to talking with our driver, who liked to make cheesy jokes and was very chatty. Never wanting to miss an opportunity for a “capital E” Encounter, I started to ask him about the strike of the tuk-tuk drivers that had been going on the last few days. Our driver told me about their union, and about how the government supports them, but how they are only allowed to be paid by the meter instead of negotiating a price upfront. This is supposed to cut down on scamming tourists who are not accustomed to bargaining, but our driver tactlessly said that tourists should pay more because they have more, and a difference of a hundred rupees (about two dollars) won’t make much of a difference to them.
At this point, our driver got tired of talking about politics (I asked him if the Indians liked Americans and Obama, he said yes to liking Americans, but did not know who Obama is), and began to ask questions about us. “What do you eat?” he asked. “Your skin is so clear!” I have a huge bug bite on my upper cheek, and so I was not taken by this flattery. “You’re from America? Are you a movie star?” No, I’m not. “You should try Bollywood! You would be such a great movie star!”
The driver was friendly enough, so I tried to steer him back towards useful conversation. I asked if Jaipur was a clean city, and he said yes, for the most part. But in the poor areas, the government doesn’t care about the uneducated people because the caste system still has quite a bit of influence. “Have you seen the palaces yet? Of course they don’t care about the poor people.” I asked where the garbage goes when you throw it away, and our driver said most people just throw it on the streets, and it was a bad habit of Indians. However, if the trash does make it into a can, and the can is collected, the driver said the trash was dumped into the jungle.
By this point, we had distracted our driver sufficiently and he was lost. He stopped to ask for directions, and found his way back to where our group was meeting, at the wind palace. Right before we got there, he asked, “Have you had hot rum?” I said yes, I had. He then asked to take me out for a glass of hot rum (which was a little odd because he is a Muslim). I declined politely, and we arrived at the Wind Palace where our group was waiting. They were very relieved to see us. Apparently they had been waiting twenty minutes and Denny had run to get a sim card for his phone so he could make a call about us being lost. After the party bus incident the night before, everyone was a little on edge.
While we waited for Denny to return, Brenna and I went to take a picture with our driver and “naughty boy.” He actually hugged Brenna, but then turned to me. “I would like to give you my contact information, you can call me later.” Again, I declined and said that we were leaving Jaipur that afternoon so there would be no time. A few guides whisked us away to the wind palace, and we climbed up a few sets of stairs and then we were in a huge palace, right on the street. There are so many old, beautiful buildings in India that are repurposed into shops fronts and housing, and this one is no different. However, the interior had been preserved and refinished.
I’ve noticed that at historical sites in India, they do their best to keep the buildings looking like new and are less interested in authenticity. There is always somebody painting, or applying new tiles, or just doing general construction. It’s like the philosophy riddle about the boat: if somebody replaces every single piece of wood on a boat little by little, and at a certain point none of the original wood remains, is it still the same boat? So, are these renovated palaces still the same palaces?
In either case, the wind palace was a vacation home for the Maharaja's wives and concubines. The guide explained that before this palace was built, there was only one time the women could leave the city palace, and that was during the once a year hunting and camping trip taken by the royal family. Taking pity on his wives, the Maharaja built this lovely palace/cage, where they could go to watch the city. There were special underground tunnels so they could travel from the city palace to the wind palace without being seen. The stonework is such that there are slits in the walls where you can look out, but nobody can see in. There was frosted glass on the windows so the women could watch outside but still be shielded. The Maharaja did not allow any men into the complex, and had a room appointed especially for the “enjoyment” of his women. “What lucky women to live in such luxury!” said our guide.

Denny and I agreed: this did not sound like the kind of life we wanted to lead. Walking through the tunnels and the ramps – the dresses were so heavy the women were confined the wheelchairs, or they had to be accompanied by many servants to carry their dresses – it seemed like such a confining and stifling place. Our guide blabbered on about how wonderful the Maharaja was, how educated and how charming he was, and how wonderful this palace was, and how lucky the women were. I’ve noticed there are few women walking the streets of Jaipur, and I asked our guide why that was.
“The women? They are always out on the streets, it’s fine for them.” I pressed the issue, and said that I had noticed very few women out. “It’s wedding season. They are all at home making preparations, or they are currently at a wedding (which last for seven days), enjoying being at home. Also, it’s Saturday, and the women like to stay home and enjoy being with their families.” That little conversation explained so much about Indian culture.
After, we walked over to the city palace, which was the Maharaja’s main palace. This was less interesting, but had a really cool weapons room filled with guns, knives, swords, and armor. When you walked into the room, mounted knives spelled out the word “welcome,” and when you left, mounted guns spelled out the word “goodbye.”
By this time, we were all feeling a little droopy, so Denny bought us all ice cream from a street vendor. One by one, twenty-two of us picked out the ice cream we wanted, and all the while, a little girl was begging from us. It’s so hard to not give them anything, and you feel like a huge jerk for not acknowledging them, but I have to keep telling myself that responding to their begging will not do any good. The next stop was the observatory, with the world’s largest sun dial. This was another one of those places where everything looked like it had been built just a few years prior. There were eighteen instruments in total, all to measure the movement of the sun and the stars to determine the exact date of the religious festivals. These were not small telescope like instruments, but rather gigantic stop structures that have calendars that are read by shadows.
Some of went back to the hotel, and others walked through the bazaar. I was one of the ones who went home, and I napped on the couch in the common room until five, when we left for the train. Again, the train station was hectic, and crowded. At the last moment, our train changed platforms so we dashed with our luggage up, across, and down to the platform 2. We had a two hours train ride, and got off in Alwar.
Denny had assumed that there would be the opportunity to arrange for a ride to our hotel, and he and Mike left to go find a bus or some cars. Nate, always gregarious, was approached by some people and began talking. Soon, more people joined the conversation… and then more… and suddenly we were surrounded by more than fifty random passersby who all were intensely curious about the group of Americans which had suddenly showed up at their train station.
I was so amused by the whole situation. Nate had the primary conversation, with most of the people circled three or four deep around him. Tim and John had secondary conversations with a handful of people. We all got out our cameras and started taking pictures of the whole situations, then everyone posed around Nate for a big group picture. This went on for about an hour, and the longer it went on, the less amused I was. Our scene had attracted a few unsavory characters; one young guy in particular stood behind Brenna, Liz, and I and literally mouth-breathed down our necks, staring. While the conversationalists were interested in Nate and his stories, they also took the opportunity to stare at all the girls on the trip. As much as I would want to join in and talk with the “locals,” the group was noticeably absent of women, and like always in India, I felt very vulnerable as a white woman.

Finally, David began to get very uncomfortable with the situations. “Guys! Guys! They’re closing in on Nate! This is not as innocent as it looks!” Nate looked completely comfortable, but people were beginning to circle around him. Matt moved in behind Nate, sort of as a back-up, and the conversation continued. Finally, Denny and Mike returned with one fairly large van, and told us that a second one was coming, and that we needed to fit fifteen people in the first one. We piled our luggage on top, then squeezed twelve into the circular bench in the back. Then, like so many times on this trip, we waited. And waited. And waited. And the second van never came. Clay called a man that had been offering to drive us to our hotel, and asked for cars from him. Apparently, it was a huge wedding weekend and many of the taxis were taken already. Finally, and I’m not sure how, two more cars arrived, the rest of our group got in, and we took off.
The bumps in the road lulled me to sleep, and as I put my head down on my backpack, almost ready to pass out for what was going to be a long car ride, the driver turned on extremely loud and upbeat Indian pop. We all were jolted awake, and kind of accepted the situation. Liz, Matt, and I began to dance a little. There were two Indian men in the front, and the one not driving took the opportunity to leer at Liz and I. After being treated like an animal in a zoo for so long, I gave him the coldest stare right back, and he looked away immediately.
The music continued to blare, and up ahead we saw lights. We got closer, and it was a groom, in full wedding apparel, riding a white horse, flanked on either side by hundreds of men carrying huge chandeliers that were several feet tall. We threw open the windows, and they called out to us. “COME TO THE WEDDING!” We all cheered, and clapped, and Becky whipped out her camera and began to take pictures. The processional lead right up to the wedding venue, which looked like a gigantic fair grounds with tons of decorated daises, colorful lights and huge curtains, with people dressed in all different colors everywhere. There were fireworks, and we passed just as the groom’s processional was entering the wedding. It was completely amazing – like a fairy tale.
We passed the wedding, and the music continued to play very loudly. Finally, someone had enough and snapped at the driver to turn it down please because we were all trying to sleep. The ride became a little too bumpy for comfortable sleep as we began to go over unpaved road, which turned into no road at all. Finally, we arrived at our hotel, took down our luggage, and went inside to check in. Dinner was waiting, and we got to our rooms, and I noticed that even thirty minutes after Denny had paid and we had left the cars, the drivers were still harassing us for more money. The drivers went so far as to go into David and Sigrid’s room, which was not well received. The manager of the hotel was appalled at the transportation issues we had had, and shooed the parasitic drivers out of his hotel.
It turns out that this is a government-run hotel, and the man who runs it is actually the manager of the tourist office of the region, and after seeing all the problems we’ve had in the last two days, offered to arrange everything for us: our bus ride back to the train station, a bus to transfer us from train stations in Delhi, and a safari for tomorrow morning in jeeps. In 2008, they relocated three tigers to the Sariska preserve, so there is a change we will see a tiger tomorrow!

14,534 Miles Traveled

Feb 5, 2010
Jaipur, India
Clear, cool in the morning and evening, hot during the day. A lot of smog.
Denny warned us that India was going to be hectic, but nothing on this trip was as crazy as today. Each day is a superlative; I experience things that are either completely new or to a completely different degree. When we got off the train to Jaipur, I literally grabbed my bag and jumped about three feet to the ground. A man beside me stared in amazement. Denny was busy negotiating with a man dressed neatly in a bright green shirt. Without warning, the green-shirted man motioned for us all to leave, and we took off up the stairs over the platform, then down the stairs. Porters in red turbans grabbed at my bag, asking, “Madam, you need help? You need help?”
I have been shaking my head every time somebody tries to hassle me. I mumble no, no, no, or just ignore them without eye contact long enough for them to get the picture. The twenty-two of us caused quite a sensation leaving the train station, and we had numerous clingy strangers try to lead our group in different directions. Tons of people crowded our group, pushing, shoving, and screaming at us. Our taxis were in sight when a man grabbed me by the sleeve. “Madam, where are you going? Do you need a taxi?” No, no, no. No eye contact. Shake my head. He follows me across the street. “Hello, hello! Taxi! Taxi!” After countless children have tugged on my sleeves, starving babies have been shoved in my face, people have tried to lead me off into a corner, after being followed, being grabbed at, and being harassed by what seems like every Indian in this country, I stopped, looked the driver in the eye, and said a little too firmly, “NO!”
Kanako actually flinched a little bit beside me at my harshness. I had enough of people bothering me. I got into the taxi, and was sitting there when I heard the window slide open, and a little hand poked me in the side. “Mama, mama… money?” A creepy girl was asking for money. I shut the window and latched it closed. As much as I feel horrible about homelessness and poverty, I am not going to try and fix it by giving out money to beggars who will probably never benefit from anything I put in their hands.
We drove away, and I relaxed a little bit. Our hotel is very lovely, and we were led upstairs to the rooftop restaurant where we ordered some delicious food (I had a chicken katti kabob – a sort of burrito wrapped in fried bread). Denny told us that we would be going to a Bollywood movie at a large cinema just down the street directly after lunch. David said jovially, “just two rights and two lefts and you’re there!”

Our group set off down the streets, and two rights and two lefts later, we saw no cinema. We began asking random passersby, and about an hour later, arrived at a cinema three or four kilometers from our hotel. Somehow, we knew this wasn’t the right one, so we walked another half an hour to a different cinema with the 3:00 showing of “Three Idiots.” At the movies, there are two separate lines, for ladies and for gents. I got in the ladies line, and handed the cashier my eighty rupees. He refused one of my bills because it was too crinkly. “It is too folded!” he said, and pushed it back at me. I pushed it back at him, and he pushed it back at me. I pushed it back, saying “This is fifty rupees. You will take it.” He handed me my ticket.
We walked into the theater at 3:30 timidly, thinking we were horribly late. The building was very pretty on the inside, with a sort of 1950s vintage theme. An usher showed us to our assigned seats, and the signs on the doors indicated that at one time women and men were seated separately. As soon as we were seated, we realized we were far from the last ones in the theater. Up until 4:00, people were still arriving nonchalantly and sauntering to their seats. Codes of conduct in this theater were clearly very different from American norms. Every joke received hearty laughs, claps and whistles. When music played, many people sang along passionately. Phones rang frequently, and rather than silencing the phones with embarrassment, people would answer the calls and have long, loud conversations. The seats were rather close together, and could slide back to recline. At some points in the movie, the woman seated behind me would decide that she either wanted my chair upright or reclined, and would use her knees to push me forwards or backwards. About two and a half hours into the movie (it was three hours long) I had enough, and rather forcefully pushed my chair upright after she had moved it. She pushed back, and we actually had a little fight (no eye contact or words were exchanged) with my chair. Eventually, I won and kept my chair in the most upright position.
The novelty wore off about two hours in, but I wasn’t about to leave and wander around Jaipur by myself. The movie was completely undubbed, but curiously there were a few English sentences. The plot was easy to understand at first – it first involved four college kids, but then one committed suicide, ending a cheerful dance number, then the other three go through some crazy antics, tease their moody professor, then the leader of the group falls in love with the professor’s daughter, who he convinces to abandon her fiancée, and throughout the first half there were frequent 1950s flashbacks. The intermission came two hours in and then it got strange and confusing. It began with a weird future scene where the leader of the group has changed identities, then back to present day, then one of the friends gets in a horrible accident and is in a coma, then he comes out of a coma and is assigned a job by the college, then there was some more plot action in the future, where the woman who the leader of the group almost remarries the awful original fiancée, then back to present day when the leader of the friend group delivers his girlfriend’s sister’s baby in a garage without electricity using a vacuum to suction the stubborn baby out of the sister’s womb, then there is more future scenes and we find out he is the principal of a primary school in a rural area and then there is a final song.
We left the theater extremely confused, but still amused. We began to walk back, and realized that we had taken the very long, scenic route and it was actually pretty much a straight shot from our hotel. Later, this became a theme for our entire trip. When we got back to hotel, Denny wanted to leave for dinner, which was to be a glorious buffet at an old Maharaja’s palace that we could walk to. We set off walking, and got seriously lost. It began to get dark, and we encountered a very helpful man who took Denny aside, then the two wandered off without warning. After about twenty minutes of waiting for Denny to come back, we began to get very nervous. Finally, his bald head gleamed in the street lights, and we were cheerfully led to a gigantic, double-decker, pink party bus.

I sat up top, and the ride was fun at first, but when we reached the half-hour mark, we were all a little peeved that Denny wanted us to walk to the restaurant. Then the driver got out and asked a few people for directions. Alright, we thought, maybe just needs specifics. We got going again, then stop about half a mile up the road to ask for directions again. We got going once more, and went into a park of town where the power lines were a bit lower and the top of the bus began to scrape the wires. It was only when the locals started screaming at the driver to stop, that he would knock over the power lines, that he pulled over and got out once more. Sigrid came up to the top of the bus and told us all to get on the lower level. “I don’t know what’s going on,” she said, “Denny thinks that we are in great danger, and we don’t know what will happen. Please, the boys up front.” The driver comes back and says, “Okay, everyone out now! We walk from here.”
Sigrid cautioned us that this was a very dangerous neighborhood, and it did look legitimately quite scary. We timidly followed our driver down the dark streets, not really knowing where we were going. Liz grabbed my arm. David pulled Denny aside and urged him to stop following the criminal driver. Just as I thought it might be worth it to change plans and go a different direction, we arrived at a very lovely palace. “This is your hotel.” The driver said.
Tim started to say, “Wait, this isn’t where we’re staying!” Denny told him that this indeed was our destination. “No,” Tim said louder, “THIS ISN’T OUR HOTEL!” I think somebody was about to choke him, but Allen said very strained, “We know…” then quieter, “we just need to get away from the driver guy.”
It turns out that this was actually was the Maharaja’s palace, and they had prepared a lovely dinner for us with much-needed beer, chai tea, crispy flatbread with peppers and tomatoes, four different meat dishes, soup, several vegetable dishes, chapatti bread, and a delicious pudding with cake for dessert. There were really amazing weapons and jewelry on display, and despite the hellish trip to get there, it was one of the best dinners of the trip. Afterwards, the hotel called up the tuk-tuks, and we took a five-minute ride back to our hotel. All the time that we had spent lost in Jaipur and on the outskirts of the city was a complete waste; dinner had been in easy walking distance and we did not need the gigantic, double-decker pink party bus driven by legitimate criminals.
That being said, I imagine that we’ve seen more of Jaipur than some Jaipurians have.

14,534 Miles Traveled

Feb 4, 2010
Clear, sunny, about 70 degrees
Bharatphur, India

This morning we woke up around 6 in order to see the sun rise over the Taj Mahal. David urged us to hurry because this was not something we would want to miss. Our hotel is about one hundred yards away from the monument, so at 6:30 we walked over to buy our tickets. Men and women were separated into different lines because of the intense search process. Women were shielded from creepy male eyes by a blue partition. The woman in front of me had a pipe and a gigantic bag of weed, both of which were not allowed into the Taj Mahal.

Once we got past security, it was immediately obvious that David was right to rush us; the rising sun cast a pink glow over the tomb, and there were relatively few people wandering the grounds. The Taj Mahal is completely indescribable. It is of course, very large. But when you get close up, you realize that what makes it so mesmerizing is not the size, but the intricate and careful detail of the stone work. We took off our shoes to go inside, where pictures were not allowed. Beforehand, a guide had told us that the only thing that disrupts the symmetry of the compound is the location of the tombs. And it seemed like such a shame that the builder’s body was haphazardly thrown in without any care.

After returning to our hotel, we packed up and checked out, and called four taxis. The drive from Agra to Bharatphur was about an hour, and most of that was through densely packed urban streets where horns don’t stop blaring for even one moment. After a few nights in India, it has become obvious that there is only a brief lull in the noise from about 4 to 5 in the morning. Those are precious moments of silence.
In Bharatphur, we went to the Falcon Guest House, which is a lovely hotel with lots of small rooms. The owner had prepared us a very delicious lunch, and right afterwards we walked down the street to the bird sanctuary. Originally, the sanctuary was an area sectioned off for the king’s duck hunting, but now it is a national park. We rented very very rickety bikes and hired a guide, and went off along the bumpy path, stopping every hundred yards to check out birds or animals. The guide had an unbelievable ability to spot small animals even while biking over extremely rough terrain.
We got back to the guest house around 6, ate dinner, and immediately went to bed. This morning, we had yet another early morning, and got on the train to Jaipur, which is supposed to be a really nice place. We had quite a bit of confusion when we were trying to find our car, and we ended up just barely pulling ourselves and our luggage into train as it began to move away.

14,534 Miles Traveled

Feb 3, 2010
Agra, India
Clear, about 70°F with fog in the morning
This was one of those long, long days where I couldn’t possibly give an accurate description in a journal entry. We woke up at four in the morning to get dressed and get on the train from Delhi to Agra. The walk was about ten minutes, and of course it was absolutely harrowing, even at 4:45am. We waited for about an hour on the train platform, and then boarded uneventfully. We had morning tea and breakfast on the train, looked out at some scenery that David said was just like Northern Germany, and then arrived in Agra around nine.
This is when the day really began. A man was holding a sign that said “Hiram College Group,” and we were led off to six tuk-tuks. I didn’t know what the problem was, but Brenna, Matt, and I ended up sitting in our tuk-tuk, just waiting for everything to get settled. As soon as we were holding still, hoards of children came up to us with upturned hands asking for money. Two women holding newborns approached us and quite nearly shoved the babies in our faces. “Money, money, for the baby.”
Matt was in the front seat, and Brenna and I were sitting in the back. They must have seen the sucker looks in our faces, because people exclusively begged from us. It was so hard to look at them and not give them anything, but it would result in being swarmed by countless other people and I doubt any of the money would go to feed, clothe, and educate the women and children who did the begging. Brenna and I looked at our hands and mumbled no, no, go away. I wanted to look around but on every direction there were children waiting to catch your eye and approach you, so I mostly sat with my head down.
One of the people wandering around the train station was a teenage boy with elephantitis of the feet. Both of his feet were blown up to unbelievable proportions, and were topped with gigantic toes. Brenna and I were horrified, but Matt said, “I just want to think those are fake. They must be fake. Just like big slippers.” I’m so glad he didn’t come up to me and ask for money, because I don’t know what I would have done.
The drive through Agra made Delhi look luxurious. It seems so strange that the city of the Taj Mahal and the Red Fort is now a city of slums and waste. I looked out the window and didn’t know what to do or think. We got to our hotel, which as usual, is not in a very nice part of the city. Our tuk-tuk drivers let us out, and at noon we had lunch. After lunch, David organized a tour of the city, so we got back into the tuk-tuks and drove off to the Red Fort.
The fort is a gigantic complex made of red stone, designed by a Turkish architect hundreds of years ago (I’m not sure the exact date, we didn’t hire one of the tour guides). Apparently, it was impenetrable in the middle ages, and there were gigantic palaces with courtyards, and a gorgeous view of the Taj Mahal and the river. One of the most interesting parts were the monkeys that were absolutely everywhere. Not a week ago, we were all vying for a close-up of a dusky languor, but today the monkeys came right up to us. They hung out on the lawn, on the buildings, they sat next to us, and there were even babies. About three-fourths of my pictures are just cool monkey shots.
Afterwards, we went to a shop with fabrics, scarves, and clothes. We spent some time there, and I picked out a pretty blue scarf. Next, we went to the “Baby Taj” – I’m not exactly sure what it is, we didn’t go in, we just dithered a little bit. Finally, we were driven into a more rural area and taken to a look-out point near some barbed wire and watched the sunset over the Taj Mahal.
Sorry this entry seemed lackluster, but I left out many of the details that seem almost insensitive or callous to include. I don’t know how to work out my feelings about the poverty, or the desperation, or the role of children in the whole mess. I don’t know how to write about the hopelessness I feel when I see starvation. I don’t know how to tell you what it’s like because I don’t know what it’s like. Most of what I see is nothing more than a shallow diorama of reality.

14,534 Miles Traveled.

Feb 2, 2010
Delhi, India
Overcast and smoggy, about 70°F with a cool breeze

This city overwhelms me. Last night, we drove in gigantic vans from the airport to our hotel. There were no lanes; vehicles went whichever way they wanted, ignoring minor accidents and the importance of sane and safe driving. It felt like Mario Kart, except with millions of people and cars and no chances to come back after dying. That drive is Delhi. This was another early morning with a 6am prayer bell that blared for half an hour. I tried to go back to sleep, but the sound of a man vomiting, children screaming, dogs barking, and the omnipresent pigeons kept me up. At nine, Swaffie came into my room and told me that he had tried to wander this morning, got about five minutes into his walk, and realized that being alone was not safe. At ten, we met as a group and decided what to do: David recommended seeing the city center, Connaught Place, which he described as a Boston Commons-style hub with shopping and a lovely park. Someone said something about it being the Champs-Elysees of India.
Clay, Brenna, Matt, Liz, Zypy, Swaffie and I set out to find some lunch and see the city. Not ten feet from our hotel was a gigantic water buffalo. We walked past a building and it contained the chaos of hundreds of people packed into an altogether too small space. They were clapping and screaming, but it didn’t sound angry. People were sleeping on the sidewalks and alleyways near our hotel, which are all being chopped up for some unknown purpose. I mistakenly chose to wear flip flops and spent all day dodging the broken concrete, piles of human shit, and broken glass. The second anyone saw us, they would begin to talk to us. One child followed us for several blocks asking “Money? Money?” We were given instructions by the owner of the hotel to Connaught Place, and told be very careful when interacting with Delhi natives.
Walking there was a completely indescribable experience. Culture shock does not even touch the way I felt when I walked past a man peeing in an area near the bus stop designated as an “open air” public restroom. There is no way to safely cross a street. The cars, tuk-tuks, rickshaws, buses, and bikes never stop for pedestrians and will come within inches of you. The sidewalks were completely covered with people sleeping or selling things, or just standing, and there were areas on either side of the street for walking or for bicycle-powered rickshaws. The river of raw sewage in Koh Tao looked civilized in comparison to the ubiquitous puddles, streams, and piles of raw sewage here. We got to the outer circle of the city center, and stopped at a vegetarian restaurant. The food was quite delicious, and the owners seemed delighted to have seven Americans paying seven American-sized bills. I’ve been warned that restaurants often take old water bottles and refill them with when tap water in order to save money and charge people more, so I did a little experiment. Our water bottles had been sealed. When we finished the first one, it was whisked away in seconds, and passed back to the kitchen. The second water bottle I made sure to finish, then I crushed it a bit and ripped the seal off (the labels actually had instructions to crush the bottles once finished). Nobody touched it until the end of the meal.
After lunch, we walked into the inner circle of Connaught Place. While I wasn’t shocked, the description given by David was completely wrong. It was a gigantic circle of pseudo-western shopping and a huge but barren park in the middle. We began to walk around but soon realized that seven people were way too many to navigate smoothly. We split into groups, and Matt and I walked off. There was no a single item in any of the stores I could imagine myself buying and hauling all the way around the world for the next two and a half months. I really wanted a silk scarf to wear as a skirt or a bathing suit cover-up, and I walked into one store. The scarves were pretty, but not of quality silk, and the owner followed me around the whole time. He began to pull them out of packages. “Pretty, right? 750 rupee.” I had already made my decision not to buy them, and thanked him and tried to walk out of the store. Matt was getting antsy and I wasn’t that into the scarves. “Okay, okay!” he said. “200 rupee!” He pulled out five more. I extracted myself from the situation and walked outside.
The original group of seven had made plans to meet after an hour in the park, and probably thirty minutes had passed, so I asked Matt if maybe he wanted to just go sit in the park and wait. He proposed that we go a little further. On one of the side streets, there was a huge crowd of hundreds of people gathered for some unknown reason. We were curious, but decided it was better not to be the only white people in a large and anxious group of Indians. After passing the street, we didn’t see any more signs of this strange gathering. I wanted so badly to leave the crowded streets and go sit under a tree, but we had to push on because there was only one very inconvenient entrance to the park on the very other side of the inner circle. As we neared the entrance, a man began following Matt and I very closely. We walked a bit faster in order to escape him, and ended up directly in front of a shoe shiner. “Shoe shine?” He asked. Matt stopped walking (first mistake), and turned to refuse the offer (second mistake). I was still looking at the man who had been following us. We were about to walk away when out of the corner of my eye I saw something plop by Matt’s feet. The man who was following us had intentionally thrown human feces onto Matt’s shoe!
Matt hadn’t seen this, and shoe shiner immediately tapped him on the shoulder. “Very smelly. What did you step in?” he said, pointing to the gigantic pile of crap on the top of his sneaker. Matt looked down, completely stunned. The shiner grabbed Matt’s foot and began cleaning it. Even hopping on one foot, Matt tried desperately to tug away. Eventually, he gave in and was led over to the shoe shining station. I should have been more helpful and sympathetic, but I couldn’t stop laughing long enough to do anything useful. The shoe was cleaned, and the amiable shoe shiner offer Matt a great deal: “750 Rupee!” (seems to be the go-to price)Claiming he didn’t have this much cash on him, Matt pushed 50 Rupees (about a dollar) and a handful of Thai coins at the man, and together we hurried away from the huge audience that had been sharing my mirth.
Despite the humor, I was feeling very uncomfortable because we were attracting a lot of attention. I had taken care to be very low key. I was wearing long, loose pants and a long sleeved, high necked shirt. I noticed that there are very few women out, and if they are out, they are almost always with a significant other or a group of men. Wherever I went, everyone looked at me. The men would leer, and often follow me very closely, or try to talk to me. At one point, four men were following through the streets. I stopped to let them pass, and they stopped and sort of boxed Matt and me in. We slipped out, and tried unsuccessfully to walk away. We walked into the park, and they walked into the park. They followed us along the path, getting increasingly close. Eventually Matt made a very clever move: he stopped as if to make a turn, they preemptively turned to follow us, and we walked off in the other direction.
The park was filled with cuddling couples and hoards of single creeping men. Entrance was tightly monitored with a security guard and a metal detector. Matt and I would sit down, but there would always be a few guys who would come and sit near us, and occasionally bother us. At one point, an emissary from a large group of men came and sat down right next to me, while laughing uncontrollably with his friends. Finally, it was the meeting time but we couldn’t find any of the others. We found out later that they weren’t allowed inside the parks because they had cameras. As we waited, we noticed the absolutely coolest thing about the park: the gigantic pigeon-vultures (I don’t know what they’re called), with three or four foot wingspans. They would swoop and pick up gigantic sticks to build their gigantic nests in the hidden corners of Delhi. There were also tons and tons of normal pigeons, which were fed corn out of huge dishes just outside of the park. After about half an hour of waiting, we again began to attract too much attention just standing around. We walked back through the shitty streets and the beggars and the vendors and returned to our hotel to our deliciously protected bubble.

Later, around 8:30 pm
I once had a nightmare in which the sewage infrastructure in the United States broke down, and people began using the bathroom indiscriminately and everywhere. Sick and dying bodies were laying everywhere from all the illness that had spread because we had contaminated our water. For some reason, the inappropriate disposal of human waste just haunts me. When you walk outside of the hotel in Delhi, the smell of smoke from burning garbage and feces hits you immediately and I can’t believe there isn’t a better way.
All over the city, there are public service signs. “Make Delhi a Younger City! Exercise Daily!” “Keep Delhi Green and Clean!” The trash cans say “Use Me!” The bus stops say “Women are equal!” And a huge sign of a child scooping up poop and putting in the trash can. Maybe it is just the part of town we’re in, but I can’t help thinking that this problem is too big for helpful cartoons. These signs are useless without some sort of systemic change.
What scares me the most is that people can get used to this. India’s poverty rate is just over a quarter of the population. It’s not the world’s most impoverished nation by any measure. And though I now live in a place with clean water and excellent sanitation, the United States is not immune to disaster. Impoverished Indians and privileged Americans are identical save for the circumstances of birth. Recent events have indicated that we live on a precipice of privilege; one catastrophe and everything we hold up as examples of our superiority will be gone.
We are fragile.

Cities cannot be the answer. Crowding as many people as possible into as small a space as possible is not how we should live. Living gently does not mean living in high density so we can let the rest of the earth become overgrown and claim that is pristine. Dreams of high rise buildings and shiny public transportation as the future are fine so long as we can guarantee everyone an apartment with a view. But we can’t. When large numbers of people are concentrated in one place, the resources not readily available in that location must be shipped in, ensuring that there will always be large deficits of something. The necessity of buying the products in high demand but low supply will always ensure a rigid hierarchy in a highly populated area. Instead, there should be distributive living where small groups inhabit a space and use the resources of that particular area. This diversification of habitation will ensure there the types of unavailable resources throughout the world will be varied, and there won’t be one certain type of resource that needs to be shipped in large quantities.