Wednesday, February 10, 2010

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.

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