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Posts Tagged ‘oops’

The Pushkar Camel Fair

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Overlooking Pushkar and its lake from the rooftop café where we had breakfast

We hadn’t planned on visiting Pushkar, but when Scott’s Indian cousin Ketki recommended that we see its annual camel and livestock fair, we had to go check it out.  We decided to do it as a day trip on our way from Jaipur to Udaipur so we wouldn’t have to worry about finding accommodation in a tiny desert town overwhelmed with tens of thousands of visitors (and thousands of camels and other livestock, for that matter).  This is a 9-day affair, and while the first part of the festival focuses on buying and selling livestock, there’s so much more: exhibitions, camel racing, camel dancing, wacky contests, carnival rides, music, dance, etc.  We were extremely disappointed to find out that we would miss the turban tying contest and mustache contest (which we expected to rival the mullet competition at the Iowa State Fair) by one day.  Next time we will research such important things in advance.  We still had fun though, in a kind of bemused wow-there-are-a-lot-of-people-here sort of way.  The video below shows a couple people (and they weren’t the only ones) who decided the best way to navigate through the crowds was on motorbike.  Really??

 

IMG_6757In any case, after an extremely early-morning train ride and bumpy bus ride to Pushkar, the first order of business was breakfast.  As we enjoyed the view and finished eating fruit and yogurt and porridge on our rooftop café, we heard some music from the streets below.  We then saw that a couple of workers had a pile of flowers next to the railing.  We looked down onto the street below and saw a procession of people heading slowly toward us with garlands of flowers around their necks.  Obviously we had no clue what was going on (perhaps something with religious significance?) but as the people passed under us, the workers started tossing fragrant marigolds on top of them, and the next thing I know, they were encouraging us to do it as well.

   

Afterwards, we walked behind the procession towards the fair grounds and were rewarded with the beauty and smell of thousands of flowers that carpeted the streets.

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When we got to the main fair grounds, there were some small musical and acrobatic performances and beautifully decorated camels, but not much else going on this early in the day. IMG_6795 I sat in the stands while Scott went to get some chai.  He was quickly accosted by two young ladies who flirted with him and then grabbed his hand. IMG_6799

Now, Scott claims that the lady on the left held tight to his hand and she refused to let go no matter how hard he tried to pull away, quickly managing to scribble a design in henna (a reddish-brown dye that can stain the skin for up to several weeks) onto his hand. 

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Then she demanded that he pay her 750 rupees, about 15 dollars, or the average weekly wage in India.  Fortunately, after his Ph.D. in psychology (or I guess plain old common sense), he simply refused to pay her any money for inflicting this embarrassing design onto his hand (which fortunately faded after a week of vigorous scrubbing) and walked away as she got angry.  The sad thing is that most people in India are welcoming and friendly and will often come up to us just to have a conversation without any ulterior motive, but incidents like these make us weary of being scammed by the few people trying to manipulate tourists (mostly just in touristy areas).  Later in the day a woman came up to me and said “Hello!” with a big smile and outstretched hand, and I basically ignored her when I saw her other hand turned away with a henna pen.  But I also ended up ignoring the child who handed Scott a flower with a big smile who asked nothing in return.

 

We walked around the fair grounds, looking at the vast number of camels (and ignoring offers for camel rides since we would be going to Jaisalmer).  We saw some events like the one below where white tourists were pitted against (and of course lost to) Indian locals in some sort of cross-the-line-on-the-opposite-side-and-then-run-back-over-to-your-side-without-getting-tackled-to-the-ground sport.

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But a lot of the cooler events were happening at night or on other days, and after a leisurely lunch to escape from the crowds and some wandering around, we headed back to the train station to catch the afternoon train to Udaipur.  We weren’t able to stay for the mustache contest the next day, but I couldn’t resist a YouTube link from someone else anyway:

Too bad we missed this!

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A Cookie Monster in the Blue City

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view of Jodhpur from Mehrangarh Fort

Bear with me as I skip around a bit.  Let’s leave Paris and return to the first time we were in India.  I’ve now talked about the Pink City and the Golden City, so it only seems natural to talk about our time in Jodhpur, the Blue City (in the picture above, you can see many of the buildings in the old town painted brightly blue).  A lot of people love visiting this city, but I have to admit we didn’t have the best time there.  It didn’t help that by the time we reached Jodhpur we were both recovering from travel-related gastrointestinal issues and exhausted from traveling to different cities at a breakneck pace.  The hostel we booked for the first night was cramped and noisy, despite being highly rated on several hotel review sites.  However, things seemed to improve when we moved to a new, cleaner guesthouse in the more modern part of town.

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The owner’s two dogs, the perky black dachshund named Chili and the elderly (14 or 15 years, I think?) blind and deaf Whiskey, welcomed us in.  Ok fine, Whiskey mostly hobbled around ignoring us and looking for a comfortable spot to lie down.  Our room was well-decorated and even large enough that there was a separate seating area.  There were also some nice common areas that were perfect for relaxing and reading in, and the hostel was in a quiet location with little traffic.  We didn’t do much sightseeing other than wandering around the narrow streets of the old town and checking out Mehrangarh Fort (definitely worth seeing, by the way).

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Then one night, I woke up to an odd rustling sound coming from the other side of the room.  Scott was asleep and I couldn’t really see how he would be making the noise, but I decided not to worry about it and fell back asleep.

Of course the next morning we discovered what had been making the noise.  Scott had put a brand new, unopened package of coconut biscuits in the mesh side pocket of his backpack.

Unfortunately, the mesh side pocket had been chewed through…

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and the plastic wrapper of the biscuits had been chewed through…

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with delicate, rounded bites taken out of the edges of several biscuits. 

We looked around and saw a small hole in the wall near where the backpack had been – the home of the creature who had done this?  We guessed that a small mouse wouldn’t have been able to chew through mesh and plastic like that, so maybe a rat?  Do rats like coconut?  Maybe not since he didn’t eat much of the biscuits.

I suppose a normal reaction would have been to move rooms or hostels, but we had had a really hard time finding a hostel that we liked in Jodhpur, so we felt like this was the best we could do.  Besides, after all the rats we’d seen in train stations and mice in the upper-class sections of trains, we figured they were all over the place anyway.  We stayed another night in the same room, but this time, we stuffed some pamphlets in the hole in the wall and hung our snacks off the ground.  When we woke up the next morning, the food was untouched, but the pamphlets had been scattered all over the ground.

We were relieved to be heading to a different city, Jaisalmer, but a few days later we still returned to the same guesthouse (different room at least) for a couple of nights since it broke up the journey between Jaisalmer and Ahmedabad.

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Unhappy feet

First, a little background. One of the reasons I didn’t go into internal medicine was that old people’s feet gross me out. I didn’t want to deal with the yellow toenails and musty smell of ordinary old-people feet, let alone the deep ulcers that diabetics can get. Yes, babies poop and vomit, but babies also have a fresh baby smell, and their hands and feet are really cute.

I’ve also been lucky enough to be generally pretty healthy and have never needed to go to the ED, never sprained let alone broke anything. But lately my feet have been acting up. It all started in November 2009 when I got my right foot trapped between two rocks while trying to cross a beach with giant waves in Hawaii (also the same day I got engaged and Scott ended up with a huge scar on his arm from trying to help me, but I digress). It got scraped up, and despite my best efforts at keeping it clean while camping, it got infected. Cellulitis, to use the medical term, that required a week and a half of antibiotics. Ok, fine, I now have a faint scar on the top of my foot, no biggie. Except a year later, while in Peru, I got some bug bites on my right ankle and leg that developed into giant blisters that wept yellow fluid and my right foot got really swollen, presumably from the fluid that hadn’t been able to drain out of the blisters. I think my feet don’t really like tropical environments.

Cut to Tanzania, when after the quick descent from the top of Mt. Kilimanjaro, I end up with a few “black toes,” which is apparently pretty common after hiking Mt. Kilimanjaro. Subungual hematomas, to be more precise, essentially a bruise where the blood collects underneath the nail. Normally not a big deal, but if it does get big enough, it can cause some pressure to build up underneath the nail and can get rather painful. To relieve the pressure and pain, you can poke a hole in the nail to let the blood drain out. The subungual hematoma underneath my right big toe wasn’t that big, but after a couple days, started to become really swollen and painful. Finally, Anna persuaded me that she should trephinate (poke a hole) in it while we were hanging out at the open-air bar in Hotel Tilapia, a beautiful upscale hotel in Mwanza. We went to her room and she grabbed a lighter and paper clip. She heated up one end of the paper clip with the lighter and then placed it on the center of my toenail, but even after about 20 attempts and a visible depression in the nail, she still hadn’t made it all the way through the nail. We then discovered that it’s better to heat the paper clip by holding it near the top of the flame instead of the bottom, and after a couple attempts with this technique, she was through! It didn’t hurt, but when I felt the paper clip go through, I instinctively yelped and jerked my foot up, then sheepishly told the startled Anna that I was fine, just surprised. What was also surprising is that most of the fluid that came out (about a tablespoon’s worth, which doesn’t sound like a lot, except imagine it building up underneath one toenail) was not really as bloody as I had expected it to be, but more yellow or serosanguinous. It also drained quite a bit of fluid in the next few days as I walked around the hospital in Mwanza in flip-flops and a Snoopy bandage covering the gauze dressing. I’ve decided that after my right foot cellulitis, the lymphatic drainage in my foot is all messed up so that every time I get any sort of injury to that foot, I build up a bunch of lymph fluid that can’t drain properly except through blisters and holes in my nails. I’m only in my 20s, too, so imagine the foot problems I’ll have 40 years from now. That’s what I get for being so anti-feet.

Apparently my toenails also grow really slowly. I expected a couple of them to fall off by now (they’re dead once a subungual hematoma is big enough, and new toenails should grow in their place), but they’re still hanging out on my toes despite the sides being detached. So I’ll probably be missing some toenails during my wedding this summer. I don’t know if that’s going to stop me from wearing flip-flops underneath my wedding dress, though.

Look, you can see the hole in my big right toe!

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Karl, Anna, and I went on safari to the Serengeti and Ngorongoro crater for 3 days and 2 nights, and it was awesome, just packed with cool animals, some of whom we got to see right next to the car or crossing the road in front of us. One of the best things about it was that there were tons of baby animals, and somehow the baby version of ugly animals just became even more adorable (ahem, baby warthog).

Baboons with baby
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Giraffes
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Leopard with her cub
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Birds grazing on hippo grazing
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Zebras with babies
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Anna and Karl with mongooses in the road
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Pregnant hyena with wildebeest in the background
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A lot of wildebeest
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Cheetah having a drink by the side of the road
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Water buffalo looking grumpy
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Zebras cuddling
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Rhino
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Warthogs with baby
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Elephants with babies
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Movie of lions eating a zebra



Our guide was kind of clueless but funny. Every time we’d see an animal for the first time, he’d stop and recite stiffly, “Lion. Lifespan: 15 years. Weight, male: 200 kg. Weight, female: 150 kg. Gestation: 4 months,” as if he’d memorized a chart with that information and couldn’t possibly add any verbs or turn it into a discussion or tell us anything other than lifespan, weight, and gestation. He managed driving the uneven roads and talking into one or more of the 3(!) cell phones he carried or the radio that the drivers in the park used to communicate with each other at the same time with aplomb, but as soon as we tried to ask him a question, he got flustered and would have to stop the car, have us repeat it a few times, and then usually give us a good answer in pretty good English once he understood what we were asking.

Being in the Serengeti and Ngorongoro crater was amazing, but I would not recommend the safari company that we used. It was managed by a foreign businessman who provided the worst customer service. He neglected to tell us that lunch on the first day was not included and so we’d have to pack our own, despite us starting at 9 a.m. Even though he had told us the previous day that “all meals were included,” he absolutely refused to budge on providing it for us, despite it being a couple bucks and us already having forked over way too many hundreds of dollars per person. We camped both nights, and they provided sleeping materials that smelled like cat urine. Seriously gross. When we called him about it, his only response was that the sleeping bags were washed after every trip. Thanks, but either clearly not true, or some creature decided to urinate on the bags after you washed them or on the sleeping pads that were never washed. We talked about moving to a nice lodge for the second night, but he wanted $270 extra for the privilege, and we could not stomach the thought of giving this guy any more money. So the second night we used the same camping stuff, except our flustered guide found a half-full small container of strawberry spray in the Jeep that looked like it’d been sitting there for 2 years, sprayed it on the sleeping bags, and it actually helped a decent amount. Now it smelled like the cat who had peed on our stuff had drunk very sweet strawberry juice beforehand? And besides, the campsite the second night was absolutely gorgeous overlooking the Ngorongoro Crater.

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So there were some bumps in the road (causing two flat tires, too, but fortunately we had two spares on the back of the Jeep) and going on safari is really expensive ($200 per person for park fees alone), but man, seeing those animals up close like that was unbelievable.

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