Archive for March, 2006

Afternoon in Chandipur

Tuesday, March 21st, 2006

One of India’s most famous beaches is located just 15 kilometers from Balasore: Chandipur-on-Sea.  The amazing thing about the beach at Chandipur is that it is probably the widest beach in the world, which also has a lot to do with the fact that it is so flat.  In fact, it is so flat that when the tide is out, the crashing waves can be a few kilometers away!  You can walk forever in wet sand or in water deep enough to just cover your feet and never actually get to the water.  In other words, it’s a very safe beach 🙂  No currents will take us away here!  (But no place is safe… It just happens that a few kilometers south of here is India’s largest military missle testing range!)

Here is a picture of the three of us following the peaceful waves, but of course never getting there…

Chandipur-on-sea three

Veien til Kasafal – Feltområdet som ikke kunne nåes (til Marte)

Tuesday, March 21st, 2006

Kasafal oh Kasafal! Hvor mange ganger har vi spurt etter deg
Vi har vært på vei, og brukt mange steg,
Vi ser deg, men kan ikke komme frem
Kasafal oh Kasafal! Vis deg mindre ekstrem

Hva skjedde da Norad og India bygde vei?
Glemte de sitt løfte om å glemme deg ei?
Panchpara elven lager avtand mellom oss.
Men vi skal komme frem, om vi så må slåss

Marte lengter, og sier: ”Kasafal jeg vil til deg!”
Solen steiker, og Sprite kjøler oss ned
Jeg svelger brusen , og sier: ”frykt ikke min kjære venn,
på mandag har vi tolk, de vil hjelpe oss å finne frem”


                                                            – Romy

killing our thirst after looking for Kasafal

Morgan the Glassdiva

Friday, March 17th, 2006

Morgan the Glassdiva

After waiting for the train to Varanasi for two hours, we were exhausted. There were people everywhere, children, men and women, sitting, standing or laying. The train station was packed with people, and not just people, but people with all their stuff. Stuff like boxes, suitcases, belongings and merchandise. I was watching a little boy who was being passed around between his mother, brother, sister, father and what seemed to be his uncle, when all he really wanted to do was to suck on his mothers breast. He sounded like my friends little boy when he goes after Hannas boob; a little bit mentally challenged and terribly aggressive in he way he cries for breast milk.

Anyway, when the train finally arrived and we found our cart, it was a nightmare to get on it. No queuing, only pushing, yelling and strange hand gesturing, which I had no idea the meaning of. Romy, Armando and I fought our way through all the people and got to our seats. It made me concerned right away to think that this was where we would spend the next sixteen hours. In the state of apathy we sat down and just watched the rest of the people struggling to get to their seats. I remember looking over at Romy, who seemed like she was filled with the same astonishment as I was. We were all dumbfounded and in a bit of a state, and it was probably really obvious because one of the other passengers kept looking at us, smiling and saying; “This is our India”. And that is when Morgan came.

It was like I was in a movie: Into our cart comes this woman. She is dressed in black, with a veil around her head, but you see her curly red hair going a bit crazy underneath. She leaned against my seat, put her leopard-skinned suitcase up on my armrest, looked at us over her big dark sunglasses and said; “ Isn’t this delightful”, in what I thought was a British accent. It was like going back to the fifties when the British were moving out of India in the post-colonial times. I felt like a traveller not really knowing what I had gotten myself into, young and naïve, and a little bit scared from it all. I asked her politely if she knew what her seat number was. She said she had no idea, and looked casually down at her ticket. It turned out that she was seated next to me, and as she realised this she looked over her glasses again, straight at me and said; “well, this is my lucky day”.

Morgan is a sixty-one year old clothing designer, not from Britain but from Australia, and one of the most delightful persons I have ever met. She has been going to India three or four times a year for the last fifteen years. She gets inspiration from India, and makes lovely garments out of Indian fabric. She takes from India, but she also gives to India. Every time she comes here, she brings a suitcase full of her friends’ old clothes, and takes it to the slum areas around Delhi. She also brought an Indian boy back to Australia with her, and made him a part of her clothing design business. Her designs are called Glassdiva. While I am always afraid of offending someone with my lack of knowledge or understanding of their culture, Morgan speaks to Indian people as she would to anyone of her own kind. She flirts and makes jokes at them, and I was especially amazed by this, and by how the Indian people loved talking to her.

Morgan has a fantastic laugh, like a young girl of fourteen. We spent the night on the train laughing at all the guys who were snoring, and it was great. Meeting Morgan on the train to Varanasi, in India, with people around us singing love songs in hindi, and sharing their homemade food with us, was a once in a life time experience for me. Thinking about it now, it makes me really happy!

The Glass Diva

India Beer-tasting: Keeping Our Side of the Deal

Thursday, March 16th, 2006

Before our dear friend and blog administrator, Bjorge, graciously allowed us some space to have a travel blog linked to his website, beerfoot.org, we came up with the proposition that in exchange for some webspace, we would post some personal reviews of Indian beers during our travels through the subcontinent.

You see, part of the founding principle of Bjorge’s website ‘beerfoot.org’ was that during his travels through South America in 2003, he, while travelling BAREfoot through the continent, would post reviews of the various BEERs he encountered on his way. Are you seeing a connection now? Does ‘beerfoot’ make a lot more sense now? Good.

Well, despite Romy, Marte and my own ‘covered foot’ condition, we will still keep the tradition alive by tasting beers on our tavels.

So far, India has not proved to be either a beer-diverse nor a beer-plentiful society, despite the country’s mammoth size. However, despite this, we have been able to sniff out a few brews, and you can find their reviews right here:

Beer #1: Kingfisher

Kingfisher beer

This is the first beer that we tried while at the Embassy restaurant in the smack-dab front-and-center of Delhi: Cannaught Place. On the outside, the tall 1 liter bottle (the standard beer size of India) is graced with a picture of a colorful, graceful Indian kingfisher (a type of bird) in midflight. We all thought this was rather handsome. The beer claims to be “The King of Good Times”, and apparantly is “For sale only in Delhi”, which we found to be a right out lie later on when we found the beer in Varanasi.

Mando Kingfisher  Armando taking the first sip…
This “Premium Lager Beer” accoording to our own impressions is light, only slightly bitter, smooth, and mild.  It is “awarded internationally for its widely-acclaimed taste and quality”.  Well, I guess it also gets our award of approval too.  As “India’s Best-selling Lager”, Kingfiher was a refreshing start to our India beer endeavors.

Orissa: “The Soul of India”

Wednesday, March 15th, 2006

Hello all! After such a long hiatus, I break the silence. Just as a notice to calm your frayed nerves we were NOT, I repeat, we were NOT in Varanasi during the Sankat Mochan Hindu temple and railway station bombings (for information on this, please see the BBC report at http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/south_asia/4784554.stm). Over the past week, Romy, Marte and myself have been in Balasore, Orissa (about 150 miles south of Calcutta on the Bay of Bengal), our (or at least Romy and Marte’s) home for the next month or two.

We arrived in Balasore after a long sinuous journey from Delhi, which took us through Jaipur, Agra, then all the way east and south across the subcontinent (30+ hours by train) to Bhubaneswar, the capital of Orissa. From Bhubaneswar, we took the train north 4 hours to Balasore, a city- maybe more appropriately a town, on an Indian scale- of a modest 100,000+ people on the tranquil, emerald-green Orissan coastal plain.

Our experience in Balasore thus far has been impressionable. At the moment, Orissa is the hottest place in India, Bhubaneswar swinging between 35 and 40 degrees Celsius, while Delhi is still experiencing the comfortable 20’s and occasionally the cool teens. Balasore also is hot, but if you keep moving, and keep the fans on, its manageable.

We have found a place to call home, the state-of-Orissa-Tourist-Corporation-owned “Panthanivas” hotel. It has a friendly staff, all with different roles, entitled for example, “roomboy”, “sweepboy”, “hotel manager”, and simply “receptionist”. An apt division of labor, as might be expected from a government-owned hotel.

On a few occasions we have ventured outside the town into the rural areas to find Romy and Marte’s field site, and also to find an easier way to get there rather than taking the 1.5-2 hour bumby taxi ride each day. We have gone mainly to small, but busy fishing villages. One of the most interesting things about these villages are the dozens of boats that are landed ashore like colorful beached whales. These are some ‘boatscapes’ from the villages of Bahalbapur and Chandipur:

Bahalbapur landed boat 2

“Boat Landed at Bahalbapur”

boatscape - chandipur 2

“Chandipur boatscape”

Introduction: Delhi to Agra

Monday, March 6th, 2006

Hello. Hei. Hola. This is a blog by Romy, Armando and Marte about our trip to India. We are here primarily because Romy and Marte will be doing some field studies in a fishing community outside Balasore, Orissa (on the east coast of India, south of Calcutta by a few hours’ train ride). Armando is here just travelling after finishing his bachelor’s studies in New Mexico. His secondary purpose on this trip will basically be to be a personal assistant to both Romy and Marte, a logistics engineer, and an alpha male to fend off over zealous Indian men who decide that Marte is the woman of their dreams.

We have now been here for almost two weeks, and even though this is a pretty short time, we have already seen a lot. We have done some practical things like contacting the ‘Nordic Center in New Delhi’ (who helped orient us better in the city), visiting the ‘Norad’ (Norwegian development corporation) official at the Norwegian embassy, and getting business cards custom made by an Indian card designer for Marte and Romy. Besides this we have had some nice extra time to travel around while waiting for the business cards to be printed. We went to the ‘City of Shiva’ on the Ganges (or ‘Ganga’ as they call it here), Varanasi, on a 16 hour train ride where we met Morgan, a wonderful, crazy, frizzy red haired Australian clothing designing woman, and Abhisheks, a turquoise-shirted, Bollywood song singing young Indian who fell wildly in love with Marte (which was the reason for the song singing!). Varanasi was a wild place filled with intense movement and profound spirituality, which effectively shattered our culture shocks.

After this, we returned to Delhi (again 16 hours away), retrieved the beautiful business cards, and then left for Jaipur in the desert state of Rajastan. After a day of being ushered around the city by a maniacal, wiry tour guide who showed us some really beautiful sites in the city (stone palaces and forts mostly), we then took the bus to Agra, the city of the Taj Mahal, where we are now. The great marble mausoleum, of course, was as striking and as beautiful as it is always portrayed. Now, we will take a train to Bhurbaneswar, the capital or Orissa. This train trip will last roughly 30 hours, so afterwards we’ll surely have new stories and experiences to tell about! So until then, see you later alligator!!

Taj Mahal reflection