Wednesday, February 10, 2010

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.

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