Monday, March 29, 2010

Leaving Hampi and Holi behind, Heading to Bangalore!

As Kate explained Holi was a pretty incredible experience! We fully tired ourselves out, and unfortunately I woke up Tuesday morning feeling really ill. I had made it two whole weeks with no stomach problems or sickness at all, but it finally hit me. Just my luck, it happened to be on the day we had booked our travels to Bangalore. Luckily we didn't have to leave Hampi till about three, so we just laid around all day trying not to do too much. My sickness was weird because it wasn't just a stomach bug, but rather my whole body just felt so weak and restless. All I wanted to do was lay around our guesthouse and sleep all day. (I'm pretty sure that this came on as a combination of a dodgy veg curry lunch we had the day before, and getting lots of water and dye in my mouth during Holi). Anyhoo, we had a relaxing morning, but eventually we had to mission away from our peaceful abode!

I felt so ill I had to walk super slowly in the heat for awhile to get to the boat dock to bring us to the other side. Once across we got a rickshaw to take us to the bus stand to head to Hospet (the town where the train was). On the way we had to stop and get our final seating assignments from the travel agent, and of course he was out to lunch at 4pm, and didn't come back for a half an hour, but eventually we made it to the bus stand, and even got a seat.

Somehow this happened to be one of the worst bus rides we had taken so far. I was feeling so ill and tired that I was just resting my head on the seat in front of me while the driver laid on his horn for practically the entire 45 minute ride. It was so unbearable, but I had no other choice, so I had to deal. Upon arriving in Hospet we wanted to find a place to post up near the train station, so we went to talk to the bus driver to find out how far the station was. We were standing next to a ditch with the most foul smell ever coming out of it. It was a mix of urine and god knows what else, but I was pretty sure I was going to either pass out or throw up, so I walked to find refuge in some shade while Kate sorted things out. On the walk to the shady spot, I looked towards the end of the ditch and realized that there were four open air stalls where guys were just pissing into the ditch! It was so nasty! I have never seen a country where men pee so openly; everywhere you look there is a guy whipping it out and just having a wee on the side of the road, it's really gross.

Anyhoo, we managed to eventually find refuge in an AC restaurant with bench seating, and I was able to just lay down and sleep for a couple of hours while we killed time before the train ride. Somehow I woke up feeling much better, and finally felt like I was strong enough to handle our first train ride, which was lucky because it was quite a mission.

We arrived at the train station about an hour early and headed in through the main station doors. There was a room about 50'x70', and there were people scattered around sleeping. In the middle of the floor there was a man passed out with urine stains on his pants and throw up covering his face and the surrounding floor. I have no idea how long he had been there for, but it was quite disturbing that there was no one there to help him, or move him. The stench coming from him was enough to make a grown man curl over!

We found a couple other foreigners waiting on the platforms and struck up a conversation as we waited for our train. Within minutes we had a crowd of about 20 people (mostly women and children, but some men too) gathered around us staring! Some asked some questions, but most just stared. It's really quite akward being stared at. I thought that my dreads attracted a lot of attention, but it doesn't even compare to being a foreigner in India! After most of them dispersed, the beggars began. A guy with two nubbins for arms and a nubbin leg tried begging, as well as a deformed man that had to crawl on the ground to get around, it was really quite sad!

We got on our train after waiting for about three hours, and we were excited to finally just chill out and lay down. I was feeling pretty good, but I was definitely ready to take a load off. Right as we pulled out of the station, Kate and I opened up some crackers and were having a little snack when the guy with nubbins for arms and legs approached us begging again. We tried to ignore him, but the second Kate put the cracker in her mouth he lashed out and punched Kate with his nubbin!

I yelled out to hopefully make a scene as Kate and I grabbed our bags to protect us. Luckily he had only punched Kate in the arm, but it was still super scary. There had also been one of the train employees sitting near us and he looked up as it happened, so he jumped up and started yelling at the guy. But, instead of just kicking him off he started to yell and beat the guy right in front of us. The compartments are super small, and we were afraid that the nubbin guy was going to lash back out at us, so we were still protecting ourselves as our blood rushed through our veins. There was a lot of yelling, and punching, and eventually the nubbin guy took off, but then there was a huge crowd of people looking at us as the train guy explained what happened to us with vivid hand motions and loud Kannada (the language in the state of Karnataka). The whole thing was super freaky, and way more than we were expecting!

Just as we started to relax this kid came out from pretty much right under Kate's legs and was sliding on the ground; since we were so on edge I said watch out, and we both jumped a little at the startle. The kid was apparently just sliding on the ground cleaning the floor and begging, and we were so over having people in our space that we gave him some food or money so he would just leave us alone. After that, we just wanted to get away from everything, but we were supposed to be sleeping in a middle and lower berth which are very open and people are constantly walking past you, and guys stare etc... We pleaded with the train employee and, after everything he saw happen to us, he let us take the two upper berths, so we were out of the way of weirdos.

So, our first train journey was a little crazy, but we managed to arrive in Bangalore in one piece which was awesome! Once in Bangalore, we figured out where we were staying and caught a bus to Kate's old boss's apartment. I was still struggling a bit, so we just relaxed, and I ended up sleeping all day! I tried to go out to lunch, but I felt so weak that I just went back and crashed for 8 hours or so! Kate is going to write a little bit about her experience with volunteering in Bangalore, and let you know about some of the programs she helped to set up. We were very fortunate to stay with amazing families in Bangalore, and take buses all over the city checking out Kate's old job sites. I'll write again soon with some pics and info about the two Indian weddings we attended!

Until next time!


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