qatarperegrine: (travel)
Expats frequently complain about driving in Doha, but ever since we visited India I've struggled to articulate how very much worse the Qatari roads could be. It's hard to explain how much being in traffic in Delhi or Varanasi was like one long near-death experience. It's really quite breathtaking, actually: traffic flows remarkably smoothly (and distressingly quickly), given that there are almost no traffic lights, vehicles do not always obey the drive-on-the-left rule, and the roads are being shared by vastly different forms of transportation (trucks, cars, rickshaws, bicycles, pedestrians, many many many feral animals).

But thanks to Boingboing, I now have this visual demonstration to help explain it to people.

I don't know where this video was taken, but compared to where we traveled I think this road is actually less chaotic than average, and remarkably free of wandering water buffalo.
qatarperegrine: (shiva)
It occurred to me I should index all the stuff we've posted in India, since it's rather scattered.

Day 1: Delhi (arrival)
Day 2: Khajuraho (Western temple group)
(post from Khajuraho)
Day 3: Khajuraho (Eastern & Southern temple group)
Day 4: Varanasi (Ganges and ghats)
Day 5: Bodh Gaya (Buddhist temples, Bodhi tree)
Day 6: Bodh Gaya (Dalai Lama, miscellaneous)
Day 7: Sarnath (Buddhist temples and artifacts)
Day 8: Varanasi (circuit of Hindu temples with Ranaji)
Day 9-10: Delhi (Muslim/Mughal sites, museum)
(post upon returning home)

The Four Sights (reflections on India and undeserved suffering)
qatarperegrine: (shiva)
This is it, folks! Our last full day in India was spent exploring Delhi. After visiting some of the holiest sites of Buddhism (Bodh Gaya and Sarnath) and Hinduism (Varnasi), we decided to concentrate on Delhi's Muslim heritage. As on day 8, Justin didn't write a journal entry, so this is reconstructed from my notes and city guide. Also as on day 8, we didn't take our camera with us, so most of the photos below are stolen. Click them to find their original homes.

January 27-28 )
The End!

[Back to Day 8: Varanasi]
[To India trip index]
qatarperegrine: (shiva)
Justin suggested I write about Day 8 of our India trip, since it was our big learn-about-Hinduism day and he thinks I got more out of it than he did. Of course, I never got around to it until just now, although I did take notes on the places we visited. As a result, the tone of this journal entry will be different from the previous ones. (I'm afraid it's also going to be obscenely long, as we learned a lot and I don't want to forget it all!) Also, we didn't take a camera with us on this day as we were spending the day more as pilgrims than tourists. I've linked to other people's pictures below; as always, click the picture to find out where it's from.

January 26 )

[On to Days 9 & 10: Delhi]
[Back to Day 7: Sarnath]
qatarperegrine: (shiva)
Day 7 of our India trip: day trip to Sarnath, evening in Varanasi

January 25 )

[On to Day 8: Varanasi]
[Back to Day 6: Bodh Gaya]
qatarperegrine: (shiva)
I'm trying to post another day of our India trip every day, so I'm still exactly four months behind. Here's a transcription of Justin's journal, with my notes at the bottom.

Day 6, January 24 )

[On to Day 7: Sarnath]
[Back to Day 5: Bodh Gaya]
qatarperegrine: (shiva)
Here's the next entry from Justin's journal in India, supplemented by pictures. As always, my comments and additions are in square brackets, and pictures I stole from other people's websites are themselves links to the websites I stole them from. Take that, MLA.

A little background on day 5: we decided to go through with the Gaya/Bodh Gaya leg of our trip, despite the fact that there had been some violence lately and CMU's security advisor advised us not to go. Gaya and Bodh Gaya are in Bihar, one of the poorest states of India, which has recently had some violence from Naxilite (Maoist) rebels. There has also been some question of banditry on the road between the two towns. I think our nervousness about the situation made us much more edgy there than elsewhere, but we knew we didn't want to visit India and leave out Bodh Gaya, where the Buddha attained enlightenment.

Day 5 in India (January 23) )

[On to Day 6: Bodh Gaya]
[Back to Day 4: Varanasi]
qatarperegrine: (shiva)
Justin gave me permission to continue posting his journal from our India trip.

If you recall, we last left our heroes in Varanasi, the sacred city of Shiva, where they were preparing to wake up early in the morning for a dawn boat ride on the Ganges before catching their train to Gaya, another sacred city of Hinduism, outside of which the Buddha achieved enlightenment.

Day 4 in India (three months ago today) )

[On to Day 5: Bodh Gaya]

[back to Day 1 | Day 2 | Day 3]
qatarperegrine: (shiva)
Shortly after I returned from India, I started writing a reflection on our trip there and the thoughts it brought up for me about suffering and theodicy. I've worked on it off & on since then, and I've never quite been happy with it. I'm still not, but I think it's time to let go of my inner perfectionist.

As always: I am no expert in the religions I discuss below and welcome critiques.

The Four Sights & The Problem of Pain )
qatarperegrine: (shiva)
Justin has been posting his journals from our India trip on his LiveJournal. Unfortunately, due to some weird bugginess about backdating posts, some of our family/friends may not have noticed they were posted. So here is his journal from our first day in India; here is his journal from our second day; and be sure to keep an eye on his journal for future updates!
qatarperegrine: (shiva)
The India webpage project is officially taking longer than expected... sorry folks, but my thumbs are acting up, and I've been busy with other projects.

But since I realized while talking to my parents that we hadn't already mentioned this fact here, WE SAW THE DALAI LAMA! WOOT!

There.

While you're waiting for me to get my act together, why don't you try this puzzle? Justin, my boss and I are all stuck at level 5. (Warning: So far I've run across one level that I don't imagine can be completed without image manipulation. You can always download the GIMP if you don't have PhotoShop.)
qatarperegrine: (shiva)
Since I haven't posted anything interesting while I'm working on the India pictures, here are some pix to keep my devoted fans happy. )
qatarperegrine: (qatar)
I just took my first thoroughly hot shower in a week and a half, and BOY did it feel good!

We're uploading our pictures now and hope to put together some sort of travelogue webpage in the not-too-distant-future, but it will take us a while. For now, suffice it to say that I'm glad we went, and I'm also glad to be home. It was a good experience and we saw some amazing things, but it was also a difficult journey and one we're still struggling to process. The poverty, squalor and pollution were beyond my wildest imaginings of what human life could endure -- but the cultural richness and sheer beauty were also beyond my wildest dreams. That the two coexist in one country is a lot to wrap one's mind around.

It does feel good to be back in our own home. If I learned nothing else on this trip, I learned that in my most culture-shocked, homesick moments, this -- Doha -- was where I longed to be. As we begin a new year here in Qatar, that is a good thing to discover.
qatarperegrine: (shiva)
We're in Khajuraho! It is amazing. We just had the best dinner in a treehouse overlooking the temples. Wow. At the end a light and sound show started and we could make out some ofthe story they were telling about the temples, so we made up our own story to fill in the gaps. I bet ours was a lot funnier. :-)

I knew there would be cows running loose, but we have also seen boars, monkeys, goats, and feral dogs wandering the streets everywhere. It's complete chaos. This morning on the way to the airport we passed a man riding an elephant.

I have now officially experienced culture shock. I cannot believe the scams and con artists. But it is beautiful here nonetheless.

I have not had a net connection this slow in over a decade, so I'll sign off now. Hope you are all well!
qatarperegrine: (eid)
First thing in the morning, anyway.

So adieu for two weeks! If I get any internet access in India I'll post here rather than e-mailing folks, for maximum efficiency. :-) But realistically, don't expect to hear anything.

People on my friends list, don't forget that you can find my itinerary here in case of emergency. (Actually, my itinerary is there even when there isn't an emergency, but you know what I mean.) We'll also have our cell phones with us, and I hear they will probably work there. I don't know anything about cell phone ranges and such.
qatarperegrine: (coffee)
I forgot to mention the nice thing about my hospital visit yesterday. When I walked in, the receptionist grinned at me and said, "Hi, [insert my name here]! Where's your friend!" It was the same receptionist who last week realized the other patient and I had the same first name, and she remembered me. :-)

On another cheery note, I called Emirates Airlines to get vegetarian food on our flights. When I first checked their website I started stressing, because I didn't see "vegetarian" as an option under dietary restrictions. Well, that's because it was under religious restrictions. In fact, there are four vegetarian options: lacto-ovo, vegan, Hindu and Jain. I love living in this part of the world.

I particularly enjoy that ALL their meals -- including the Hindu and Jain ones -- are halal. God forbid a Hindu be served non-halal lamb!

And on our flights on an Indian airline within India, vegetarian meals are the default. For once it's the non-vegetarians who have to call the airline to request their preferred diet -- and on some short flights, non-veg food isn't even an option. Hah! Take that, omnivores! ;-)
qatarperegrine: (Default)
I just had a less satisfactory experience with the American Hospital.

Moved behind a cut because, in retrospect, it just isn't that interesting )

Update: If anyone cares, I did badger another doctor into prescribing doxycycline, although she also told me it's not as good as mefloquine. Oh well. I feel pretty confident going with CDC recommendations.

Tidbits

Jan. 11th, 2005 10:16 pm
qatarperegrine: (coffee)
Things that made me smile today:
  • Getting our India visas. Yay! The man at the embassy saw I was travelling to Varanasi and asked if I was going for religious reasons, so I answered that I was interested in religion. "Which religion?" he asked. "All of them!" I answered. "You can't be interested in ALL religions! Just one religion!" he replied. So I told him that I was going to Varanasi because I'm interested in Hinduism, and didn't tell him that I'm going to Bodh Gaya because I'm interested in Buddhism and Delhi because I'm interested in Islam, not to mention that I am myself a Christian. But I wish I'd asked him which religion it is that I'm supposed to be interested in!

  • I had to get a prescription refilled and I accidentally arrived at the hospital just before it opened, but they let me in anyway. There was only one other patient there -- and she had the same first name as me! When a nurse came to the otherwise-empty waiting room and called our name, we laughed and said, "Which one?" That happens to some people all the time, but it had never happened to me before. It had never happened to the Dutch version of me, either.

  • In the brief, entertainment-oriented news byte between pop songs on an Arabic language radio station, I heard a news story which I have since reconstructed to be the sale of TV rights to Amber Frey's tell-all book about Scott Peterson. But the only phrase they said in English was what stuck out: Witness for the Persecution. Oops.

  • We just got back from a concert given by five semifinalists of the BBC Young Musician of the Year competition. Holy cow were they good! All between the ages of 16 and 19, and such a talented bunch. Hearing Vivaldi on the marimba made me smile. But the funniest moment was when the trumpet finished his second solo and, moved by its beauty, I thought, "Wow, I never liked Gershwin before I heard this guy play it!" The solo was, of course, followed by an announcement that the program had been changed and the previous piece had been the Rachmaninov and not the Gershwin. That's more like it!
qatarperegrine: (shiva)
I think I'm already in culture shock, and we won't get to India for a week. We went to the embassy this morning to apply for our visas, and I was seriously panicking. It reminded me of what our business professor said about high-context and low-context cultures: in the U.S. (a low-context culture) we try to design systems so that they can be figured out by newcomers with little context, e.g. by having signs pointing you to the desk where you get tourist visa forms, whereas in India (a high-context culture) information is communicated more subtly. Which is to say, everyone but us seemed to know exactly where they should be, and I was completely panicking about doing things wrong.

It doesn't help that I slept really badly last night. It was my first NyQuil-less night in a week, so getting to sleep was hard. Then there were strange noises outside our apartment all night (I later learned it was the wind knocking the construction across the street) and I kept panicking that terrorists would break into our apartment and I would forget that I'd taken the emergency flashlight out of the emergency bag in our closet. I'm honestly not sure if I was awake or asleep at that point. When I finally got to sleep, I kept having these dreams about being trapped in a frat house and trying to tunnel my way out. What's the heck is that about?

The embassy trip turned out fine -- everyone was very helpful and we should have our visas by this afternoon -- but I'm still feeling very anxious. I think the anxiety goes right back to what I was talking about in my last post: the desire to maintain the illusion of control in our lives. In my life. I fundamentally don't trust that things will turn out alright unless I worry about them. I don't trust the world to be a reasonably ordered place, and I don't trust myself to navigate it competently. (Boy, if my clinical supervisor from last year is reading this, this ought to sound familiar!) The illusion I try to maintain is that if I plan for every possible exigency, if I rehearse every possible conversation before it happens, if I prepare a response for everything that might happen to me, then it's just possible I might be OK.

And if I'm not in total control, then what? I've led a reasonably orderly and happy life; it's not like I have lots of experience with the world falling apart because I didn't plan everything correctly. In fact, looking back on previous experiences with international travel, it's been the unplanned moments that have been the most enjoyable: exploring Warsaw with my friends because the tour guide didn't show up, going to a random political protest in Sofia, too many serendipitous moments to recall or tell them all. How did I come up with this idea that the world is going to end if I don't have a plan?

I remind myself of my little rescue dog, who at the first sound of thunder has a panic attack and hides under the bed, rigid and wide-eyed with fear, for hours. For the first year after I found him, I thought that eventually he would figure out that, in fact, nothing bad ever happens to him when it thunders, and that this would alleviate the panic. Eventually it hit me that, in fact, something bad DOES happen to him every time it thunders, namely, a panic attack.

As I was walking the last block to work this morning it struck me how infrequently I (like Merlin) stop to notice that nothing bad is happening to me. I get so wrapped up in my worries about the future, I forget to notice that, in fact, it is a beautiful breezy day; birds are chirping; I have a husband I love and who loves me; I'm living in an exciting place and get to travel to other exciting places when I choose; despite the sniffles my body is healthy and happy; I'm going to eat three meals today... Instead I worry about things that probably won't happen next week. "Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof" -- but when today isn't evil at all, I guess I feel I need to start working on tomorrow's evils instead.

[livejournal.com profile] foobart says it's a good thing I love travel enough that I do it even when I'm scared, and I think he's right. I have a lot of fears in my life, and I don't want my life to be limited by them. I'm getting better at trying out new things even when I'm scared (like roller coasters last summer), but there's nothing like international travel to propel me into situations that scare me silly. Thank God I love travelling enough to allow myself, for once, to be so propelled.
qatarperegrine: (shiva)
We have reservations on all the applicable trains in India. (I've updated my online itinerary with one small change.) We have reservations at a guesthouse for our first night, and I'm still debating whether I want to make reservations in the other cities or just wing it.

I wish I didn't procrastinate so much on these things. We ended up getting two of the last three seats available on one train, and two of the last four available on another. (And that was not even on our first choice train.) It's just that the Indian train system is so confusing: the official website tells you how much tickets cost and whether they're available, but doesn't actually sell them to you. There's a secondary, seedy-looking website that actually sells you the tickets, but they then courier the tickets to you at your address in India. Well, obviously I don't have an address in India! There are two ways around this for international tourists: (a) get an Indrail pass, which allows you to reserve tickets through your travel agent in your home country, or (b) make a reservation at a hotel that will sign for your tickets, and then send them the ticket info and a letter saying they can sign on your behalf. I went back and forth for weeks about which option is better. Option (a) is more straightforward; option (b) is much cheaper. We ended up doing option (b), which is why we have a room reserved in New Delhi already.

And I've already gotten the following e-mail from the proprietor of the guesthouse:
"OUR AIRPORT PICKUP CHARGES IN OUR GUEST HOUSE CAR ARE Rs.480/- .MY MAN WILL BE THERE AT THE AIRPORT TO RECIEVE YOU. HE WILL SHOW YOU YOUR NAME WRITTEN ON A PLACARD. SO AFTER SEEING YOUR NAME YOU JUST FOLLOW HIM. KINDLY SEND US YOUR FULL FLLIGHT DETAILS ASAP."
We're not even there yet, and the touting has already begun!

In related news, Maoist insurrectionists have been assassinating people in one of the states we're visiting. Fortunately, one of the many services CMU-Q offers its employees is a security specialist who will vet our vacation plans for us, so in a few days I should have word about whether it's OK for us to visit Bihar or not. I'll be very disappointed if we have to miss Bodh Gaya, but it's the part of our schedule with the most flexibility, so it wouldn't be the end of the world. Better safe than sorry, I suppose.

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qatarperegrine: (Default)
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August 2011

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