Sunday, December 16, 2007

I suppose I could take advantage of the blizzard blowing outside my back door to catch up on a semester's worth of news...but apparently I'd rather lie on the couch and read a novel. Anyway, I think it's going to take a few more days before I stop feeling....feeling what? Can you feel anxious and numb at the same time? I've been living five minutes at a time for so many weeks, now that I am healthy enough to look *at least* ten minutes into the future, it would appear that I've forgotten how. Hopefully, a few more days of couch time will sort that all out. Not kidding, I just realized I was sitting here in my chair, rocking back and forth like the autistic child from the ABC After School Special. Truly whack, I am.

Signs that I've been seriously out of touch this semester: I had a paper due yesterday at 2:00. 48-hours before that, two of my e-mail accounts starting sending me automatic reminders: "Travel Paper Due, 2:00, 12/14/07." Yesterday morning at 8:30, I heard strange music coming from the office. I came upstairs to find my cellphone playing a tone I'd never heard before, and flashing an announcement at me: "Travel Paper Due 2:00! Travel Paper Due 2:00!"

The thing is, I didn't even know my phone could do that. I mean, I know I can set a basic alarm, but I can make it remind me of due dates, too? I had no idea. Even worse, I have absolutely no recollection of setting up those auto-reminders in not one, but two, e-mail accounts. Obviously, at some point earlier in the semester, I was seriously worried that I was going to fuck something up before all this was over, and I went to a bit of trouble to try and keep that from happening (Note to self: next time, remind yourself about writing a 20 page paper more than two days before the due date--when were you planning to do the research for that paper? The night before it was due?). And yet, I remember none of it. It's hard to believe I thought I was going to forget an entire research paper, especially since I only had one class this semester.

I think I'll go back to rocking now.

Saturday, December 08, 2007

Ha. The original start to this post:

"I know, I know. We go through this every year. Every year, Susan processes 35 (36, 37, 38, 39, 40!) years of Christmas, and every year, we have to endure reading about her sad, sad December darkness and how oppressive it is, and how every year she has to work through it and come around to the point where she doesn't hate Christmas and how it's easier now than it was 20 years ago, but still, we have to do re-arrive at that point of acceptance and peace every year, don't we?"

Then I checked this blog and realized I'd either erased all those entries or never wrote them down for public consumption at all, so that first paragraph was pretty superfluous.

Anyway, what I wanted to post was a link to this:

because it forms the basis of one of my happiest Christmas memories, and I like to watch it.

Friday, November 30, 2007

I forgot to mention that I saw the picketers when we drove by CBS studios on our way to lunch at the Fairfax farmers market yesterday. No surprise to anyone, I'm sure, but I think Carson Daly is a loser, crossing picket lines to work on his show.

I've lost track how many times I've said "Susan? This is Susan," in the past few days. In planning a lunch date and a dinner, I exchanged many phone calls and left many messages, most of which said, "Susan, this is Susan. Call me."

So, coming back to L.A. after fifteen years has been mostly a good experience. My lunch with Susan yesterday was really nice, and really put some of my anxieties about my former life here in perspective. The fact that Susan was willing to have lunch with me even though I must have been the biggest freak show she'd ever encountered when we first met fifteen years ago was reassuring because, really, I was completely and absolutely screwed up back then. The fact that she didn't end up wanting to throw me off a bridge is really quite comforting. Anyway, we had a nice lunch, and she made me laugh, just like old times.

Today, I went to the Page Museum and La Brea Tar Pits. Okay, here is one reason I was miserable when I lived in L.A. I was seriously, seriously poor--my T.A. stipend didn't even cover the rent for university housing. It made it very difficult to socialize with the other graduate students, because we'd go out for their version of a cheap dinner, and it would require me to spend three weeks worth of grocery money (not that there were any grocery stores in South Central L.A., but that's another post). Anyway, I used to ride my bike west on Wilshire from downtown to LACMA on Thursday (?) evenings, because the museum was free for the last few hours of the day. And when I'd get there, I'd always spend some time hanging on the fence in front of the Page Museum ( just next door to LACMA), looking at the bubbling, oily water, wishing I could go to the Page Museum instead of the art museum, but never feeling like I could spend the money. I couldn't justify the four buck expenditure when I could go to the Natural History museum at USC for free, or LACMA for free; four bucks--that's a chicken sandwich, after all.

So, yeah, a lot of hours spent hanging on the fence, wishing I could go inside the museum. So, today, I finally got to cough up my four dollars, and go inside. I spent two and a half hours there (small museum), in the museum, and at the pits outside. I guess most people wouldn't think it was ALL THAT, but to me, it was something I've been wanting to do for fifteen years. It's hard to explain to people why I get so angry at the class privilege I run into so often in academia. I'm not sure the average academic would understand how much it hurts to have to stay outside. Just typing this up makes me struggle not to cry--wanting something you know you'll never get, something most people take for granted, that will eat you alive if you let it.

The Page Museum is deliciously 1970s, exactly my favorite kind of building:

Even the birds like the mammoths:

Museum atrium with flowers and animals:

That small spot of bubbling asphalt in the parking lot fifteen years ago? It's grown:

I had dinner tonight with Susan (ha--fooled you, different Susan!) at the Newsroom Cafe. They don't seem to have a website, maybe it's already so famous it doesn't need one. Google describes it as trendy, a place to see and be seen, so maybe I shouldn't have worn a cardigan sweater to dinner? Never going to make a reputation in a cardigan. Just in case someone hits this page doing a search on "Newsroom Cafe Parking": instead of wandering the crowded streets looking for a parking space, go south on Robertson, turn left/east on Alden Drive (toward Cedars-Sinai), and then turn left into the subterranean parking garage. Expensive, but quick.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

So, someone once gave me some advice about my acknowledgment page of my future dissertation: start writing it the first year of grad school, otherwise you'll forget to thank someone important during the crunch time after the (successful) defense and before turning the revised thesis into the grad office. This seemed like super bad advice to me; writing acknowledgments for a project that I only have a 50-50 chance of finishing really seems like tempting fate. I did, however, start keeping a list of names of thankable professors, librarians, archivists, colleagues, etc. The list keeps growing, bit by bit--so far, no one I've added has made me angry enough to get themselves deleted from it.

Okay, all of this is just to say that I added one name pretty early on, with a phrase reminding me why I'm grateful to this person. Since that time, I've jotted down another reason, and another, and then another. And this week, I added another reason to the list trailing Beth's name. She totally bailed me a few days ago. It's a long story that can be summed up with the phrase "Susan failed to plan ahead," but the real point is this: I had only one day--Monday--to take photos for a paper I'm reading at a conference this weekend, and no camera. I was in a complete state of panic Sunday night when I realized I didn't have the equipment I needed in Illinois. Moreover, I was really resistant to Catherine's suggestion that I call around and try to borrow it from someone.

I finally caved, called Beth much too late for good manners on a Sunday night, and asked if she could lend me a camera. She instantly said, "Sure! No problem!" And not only did she lend me the camera for my work on Monday, she graciously offered to let me keep it so I could use it while I was in Los Angeles this week. Between my work in the archives, and my trip to the Getty Center this afternoon, I've accumulated more than 300 digital photos, all thanks to Beth. My talk for this weekend would have been impossible to deliver without those images from the rare book room. Less important, I suppose, are the photos I took today, but I'm still happy to have them. So, thank you, Beth, once more. Remember, you're supposed to be thinking about where I'm taking you out to dinner when I get back to Champaign.

Stupid Blogger. Now I remember why I don't post images here anymore.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

I feel compelled to point out two things:

1) The AC is on in our Hindi classroom. It's 39 degrees outside.

2) Many fine people have helped me out during the past few months, both in Indiana and Illinois. Without them, my list of poor moments would have been much, much longer.
What to write, what to write.

Now that I'm off the five billion (okay, five) medications I was on, I've (re)discovered that words strung together in a somewhat straight line actually mean something. Who knew? Well, apparently I did, before I came down with the whoop. Here are some moments from the past few months of my life.

Moment 1.

Me: *cough* [reach for handkerchief] *cough*
Faculty Member B: Are you sick?
Me: *cough* [check handkerchief, think, "Christ, don't spray blood all over her office"] Yeah, pretty sick, actually.
FMB: With what?
Me: *cough* [check handkerchief, think, "Who the hell am I talking to, anyway? What was her name?"] Whooping cough.
FMB: Nice.
Me: Not very.

Moment 2.

Early morning. Sitting on the couch, eating my crunchy granola Cheerios. Swallow a satisfying bite.

Moment 3.

Me: Hi, Aunt Rosie. Thanks for picking up my medication for me.
AR: No problem.
Me: I don't feel very good [sway].
AR: Do you want to sit down?
Me: [Sitting on step ladder in the kitchen] Actually, I think I'm going to be sick [sweating].

Moment 4.

Me: It really seemed like something was happening to my heart, maybe not a heart attack, but something seriously wrong with my heart.
Doctor: It was probably just gas.
Me: You know, I don't think so. It's true that I spent the weekend throwing up, but it felt like more than gas.
Doctor: Well, we can do a test, but I don't see the point.
Me: Whatever [Dumbass].

Moment 5.

Sitting on bathroom floor, trying to catch my breath. Realize I've so fucked up my life, I can't even find a ride to the emergency room in my home town.
[Spit out mouthful of blood]

Moment 6.

Sleeping in the car. What's that noise? *(#$*(!
[Wake up as car crosses the rumble strips. Slam on brakes. Look at the field full of dead corn stalks standing straight ahead. Wonder how long I've been asleep behind the wheel.]

Moment 7.

Faculty Member A: Your dissertation should be the most important thing in your life.
Me: You don't really believe that do you? [Think about corn fields]
FMA: If you want to finish the program, yes, your dissertation needs to be the most important thing in your life.
Me: Whatever [don't cry don't cry].

Moment 8.

Me: Well, I'm still vomiting a lot.
Doctor: I think it's just an allergy.
Me: That doesn't make any sense.
Doctor: A lot of people have a cough from allergies right now.
Me: But I got sick in India. If it was allergies, why would they still be active? Different country, different food, different clothes... And if I was allergic to something in Illinois, wouldn't I get better when I go to Indiana? Different state, different food, different clothes... And if I was allergic to something in Indiana, wouldn't I get better when I come back to Illionis?
Doctor: Maybe it's just acid reflux.
Me: Whatever [Dumbass].

Moment 9.

Scene: Conference Hotel, Madison, Wisconsin.
Action: Taking a shower.
Plan: Get dressed, find the appropriate room, read my conference paper before an audience of my peers.

Moment 10.

Scene: Conference Hotel, Arlington, Virginia.
Action: Getting dressed.
Plan: Get dressed, find the appropriate room, read my conference paper before an audience of my peers.

To be continued.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

This past weekend, Catherine apparently told someone that I live in Illinois, and that she only sees me a few days of month. True enough, but god, how depressing to hear your marriage described in these terms. Don't I live in Bloomington anymore? I don't really live here, so if I don't live there, either... As of today, we have only had 3 days together in October. We've arranged for us to be in the same town Saturday through Wednesday of next week, though, so that will give us an amazing 8 whole days together this month (one of which is our 15th anniversary). Then I'm off to Washington, D.C. for a conference, and then I have a different conference paper due, so I'll probably need to stay in Illinois and work....

Anyway, I type this because this is what distance can do to you. Catherine has told me a MILLION times that she was going to be out of town today. We'd even discussed the transportation possibilities. She needed to go Indy, and I obviously can't drive her because I'm in Illinois, so she'd arranged to take the shuttle up to the airport. From there, someone would pick her up.

I KNOW THIS. Still, I must have called her office ten times today, trying to get in touch with her. Unusual that she was away from her desk all afternoon, but it's been a little unusual all the way around at her office, so I guess that's okay. Still, she wasn't home by 9:00 her time, and she wasn't at her office. And she didn't answer her cell phone. I don't know how many times I called home, her office, her cell.... I'm embarrassed to admit it, but I even brought up the webpage for the local newspaper in case to make sure there was nothing going on in town. And then I looked at the campus newspaper...could she be at some Dalai Lama event??? *I even looked at the page for the local hospital, wondering, should I call?*

And this is when I realized there was a huge problem with the way we've been communicating. What if something was wrong? I don't have our neighbors' phone numbers. I don't have the phone number for her assistant curator--only his long expired cell phone number. Who can I call, after hours, to see if she was at work? I have one phone number for some friends, and I didn't think calling them and saying, "Hey, would you drive by my house and check in on my wife for me?" seemed very rational, so I didn't call them.

In the end, I checked Catherine's e-mail. That is so incredibly unethical, isn't it? But I opened it up, and discovered she hadn't read any of today's e-mails, and then that really set me in a panic. Where IS SHE???? But then I went to the second page, and saw the subject headings for two messages marked read from yesterday, from the airport shuttle company. Mystery solved, suddenly I remembered, oh....yeah....we talked about that. Multiple times. Yeah.

And then when Catherine finally called me (she'd forgotten her cell phone at home, and couldn't call me during the day), I burst into tears.

It sucks to be me.

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Well, I wish my cell phone had a camera, because I'd like to remember what the counter top around my laptop looks like after completing a sixth draft (Stardate 61223.3) of a fellowship proposal.

To my right is my wallet (open so everyone here can see my debit card and a completely pointless card for a download of some song Starbucks thinks I need from iTunes) (I feel like I should follow that up by pointing out that I'm NOT at Starbucks, but at a local coffee shop), a spent straw wrapper, and an empty glass that once held a sugar-free raspberry Italian soda. It's weeping condensation onto the countertop.

In front of me is, of course, the laptop, and the wireless network card sticking out from the side of it. I'm facing the window.

To my left are 9 out of 10 pages of an earlier draft of my fellowship proposal. I lost the first page on the way to the coffee shop, and I just now realized that I sent Beth a copy to read without having made corrections on page one because I couldn't find it two hours ago (sorry, Beth). On top of these pages are my cell phone (used to make an appt. with the infectious disease specialist about fifteen minutes ago), a blue pen, a wrinkled napkin (into which I keep coughing so I can't use it to wipe of the perspiration from the glass on my right), a little over a dollar in loose change, my keys, a flash drive with a bright orange University of Illinois lanyard attached, a case for my earphones, a black MP3 player full of Hindi music and dead batteries, a silver and turquoise MP3 player full of English, Russian and Korean music with partially charged batteries, and a credit card with which I'm purchasing Wil's newest book. I'm occupying a lot of territory here at the coffee shop, both physically and spiritually, I think.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Sorry to leave everyone hanging there, me in a bad mood, threatening to leave everything behind without so much as a backwards glance. It's unfortunately true that I have been really sick, and I will be counted as one of the approximately 1,500 cases of whooping cough in my state this year. The infectious disease specialist was friendly and thorough, but he took entirely too much pleasure in telling me that in China, they call this "the cough of 100 days." It sounds so benign, doesn't it? Cough for awhile, get over it. But I've pulled several muscles in my chest and back, and I'm pretty sure I've separated a rib from whatever it was supposed to be attached to (better than cracking it, I guess, which seems to be a common side effect). One other lovely symptom of the disease is the vomiting--I've lost a few meals this way, and I'm thinking of going on an all-liquid diet until I get over that part. Last night, not only did I vomit, I got to enjoy spitting up blood. I'm pretty sure something is torn inside my throat, I can feel it inside, and also when I touch my neck. Another reason an all-liquid diet sounds good.

Okay, I realize that is way too much information, and I'm not really asking for pity from anyone. I am asking for patience, though. It's going to be awhile before I feel better, and when I'm sick, the more challenging aspects of my personality are definitely amplified. My goal is not to do any irreversible damage to my interpersonal relationships with illness-inspired temper over the next three months. Wish me luck.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Okay, sorry. Yes, I made it back to the U.S. last Saturday, and I apologize for not letting people know. In my defense, I've been pretty sick. Why didn't I go to the doctor that last week when Neelamji asked, "Susan, do you need to see a doctor?" That would have been the smart thing to do. Instead, I ended up bringing a respiratory infection back with me, and it's making me and everyone around me miserable. At the risk of sounding like a baby, stupid, whiner, I would like to point out that it almost impossible to recover from jet lag when you are up all night (alas, not an exaggeration) coughing up a lung. Well, I'm three days into my antibiotics, and I feel better, but I think I've made a lot of social and professional mistakes over the past week that I might not have made, had I been feeling better.

Anyway, school is back in session, I've attended my first Advanced Hindi class, and I'm happy to report that I'm not the weakest student in the class, although there's still time for me to devolve. I'm feeling a lot less positive about my program than I was three or four months ago, and I'm starting to wonder in a more serious way if I will even make it to ABD. Hopefully, this is just the bacterial infection closing down my creative thinking channels. I seem to be unable to figure out how to get from point A to point B in my career right now. Actually, while typing this, it became clear to me exactly how deeply sad and depressed I am at the moment. Again, hopefully it's just the time change and being sick, because, damn...I don't have time for more therapy right now. Must.move.forward.Must.make.progress. I'll let you know how it goes.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Well, in about eight hours, I will be starting the 24-1/2 hour trip home to Indiana. I've been sick all week, so it's pretty much just been a painfully long slog through desert heat, monsoon rains, and final exams, and that's not much fun to write about.

I managed to stay upright long enough to go see Chakde India last night. I think I should have enjoyed it more than I did--it's possible I'm just too sick to enjoy a sports movie right now. I liked the scene right before the intermission the best. I'll see it again sometime when I'm feeling better, it will probably please me more. Actually, seeing a movie that's not in Hindi (and Panjabi, and Marathi, and Telegu, and Tamil, etc.) would probably please me more.

I have some small bit of shopping to do today, and then I am just going to lay in my bed and read Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. I've read 240 pages so far, and that's a lot of Hindi words, but I'm never going to finish it before I go to see the new movie with Catherine this next week.

Sorry, I'm too tired to write anything more. Maybe one day next week when I'm up at 3 a.m. from jet lag I can fill in some of the gaps. See you all on the other side of the Atlantic Ocean (or Pacific Ocean, depending on which direction you like to circumnavigate the globe).

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

To, yes, I am done with my final presentation. I don't think it went very well because afterward, everyone said, "You had really good photos!" not "You have really good Hindi!" All I have left to do is the highly Sanskritized standardized Hindi exam. Ordinarily, I would not worry about this, because if you don't want to know your score, they don't tell you, so I can continue on in life pretending it never happened. However, because I'm on a FLAS this year, I have to report the test scores from the beginning of the summer as well as from the end of summer.

I'm fighting a head cold and feeling sorry for myself. The trip back from Varanasi pretty much killed me. It all went smoothly, but I woke up at the Midway on the Delhi-Jaipur road with a sore throat and a cough. It's just gotten worse the past two days. Not the best way to spend the last few days in India, but as long as it's over with before I have to fly again, I'll be happy.

Well, I had more to type about paying off a policewallah in Varanasi, and about the group of boys who followed me around Sarnath trying to convince me to buy something (Beth, the story ends this way: you now own a terracotta Buddha statue, artificially aged with green paint), and about how horrible it is to hear Spanish/French/Italian tourists whining to/chastising hotel staff in English. That story ends with me being glad that I was the only American in the hotel--those other people But, really, I'm too tired and headachy to type much more. Tomorrow is Independence Day, so everything will be closed. Thursday is my final exam, then we're going to a movie. And then Friday I have to do a small bit of shopping here in Rajapark, then fly to Delhi Friday evening. A week from tomorrow, I will be sitting in the basement of FLB, pretending to be happy to be in Advanced Hindi class.

Oh. When I came home from class today, I discovered that the hotel boys had taped up Indian flags on my door only in celebration of Independence. Those boys, they make me laugh. The best line of the summer has been "Koi bat nahin, esa mera duty hai" when I made one of them get up at 2:00 let me in the front door of the hotel. They are funny.

Saturday, August 11, 2007


That sounds like "toe," not "too," and means "So," at the beginning of the sentence. For some inexplicable reason, I now start every sentence with that word, even though no native speaker around me does. I usually get my bad speech habits through imitation, but this one seems to be all my own. I have also, thanks to either J. K. Rowling's inept writing, or some other person's inept translation of Harry Potter from English to Hindi, began starting every other written sentence with the "baharhaal," the Hindi equivalent of "At any rate..." Stupid language.

To, yes, I'm in Varanasi with a pretty decent internet connection for the first time in 9 weeks. Okay, I had no sooner finished that last sentence when the power cut out. Luckily, Blogger automatically backs me up these days.

I spent some time at the observatory today. I had it all to myself, I was the only person who visited those poor A.S.I. workers who have to sit there all day and wait for some tourist to discover their site. That's going to be a long, lonely wait. I went twice, once in the morning, and once in the afternoon, because I've noticed that if you leave, and then come back, they think you're really interested and will be more willing to talk to you.

You have to go the observatory (and all the bathing ghats) on foot, bicycle or motorcycle, so I left my rickshaw wallah sleeping outside the Mazda picture house and walked to Man Mandir ghat. I did this twice, which wasn't really all that great of an experience because Saavan ka mela (the monsoon month(s) festival, roughly translated) is going on and there are pilgrims everywhere, people trying to sell me things, etc. The second time through, on my way out, one man did the "Helllloooo Madam!" thing to me, no idea what he was selling. But then another guy said right away, in English, "No, not her, she's Indian, she lives in Jaipur, she has Hindi." I looked back over my shoulder, and the guy was leaning out of the store, giving me the thumbs up sign. How did he know?

I may go to Sarnath on my way to the airport tomorrow, I haven't decided. I'm really tired, and I did go to Sanchi already, and how many stupas does one need to see in a summer? But, I'll probably go, even though I need the sleep.

At this time in a week, I will be hopefully sitting at O'Hare. I had a long post planned about multiple levels of homesickness, but that will have to wait for later.

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Well, and I'm just generally in a bad mood. It's hot in here, I have a headache, and I'm tired of writing in Hindi. Plus, I got into two arguments at the Institute today. And, I have to say, I feel like I was in the right both times, but wouldn't you think that in 40 years I'd learn how to walk away from a losing battle? If someone says to me, "It's possible that women are discriminated against in academia, but don't you think it's more likely they're just not as capable or competitive?" you know I should just cut that conversation short, because there's no winning with that one. Likewise, if someone says "I didn't like this film, it was full of stereotypes and big budget scenery, and it was too serious," and I know that the person speaking was doing homework during the first half of the film, never once looking up from his paper, and then wasn't even in the room for the second half, is it even worth responding? No, it's not, and I know that, but still, I engage, then get pissed off when the other party continues to say stupid, completely uninformed things.

I seriously need a vacation, a week or two when I have permission (self-granted?) not to think about work, exams, Hindi, or anything else. Just me sleeping on the couch, reading books with which I'd be ashamed to be seen in public, watching Perry Mason re-runs, and talking to the cats. And maybe drinking Diet Coke, but I think I'm going to try and give that up since I've gone without cold drinks all summer.
Okay, here are the temps for my time in India, from June 8 through today, August 8.




So, you might understand why I am having no weather sympathy for anyone at this point. I feel like I've done my time in the heat. It's definitely cooled off with monsoon, but we're supposed to climb back up for the next week and a half to 104-105.

Monday, August 06, 2007

I suppose traveling is always like this: you know you're going to be in country for 12 more days only, so you run around and do everything you can think to do, just in case you never come back. But no matter how busy you are, you're really just enduring those last 12 days until you can go home. Nothing is really interesting during the last 12 days of a ten-week stay.

I survived the trip to Delhi, more or less sacrificing research to friendship (not sure if that was a particularly good idea, the repercussions will probably only be made obvious over the long term). Spent many hours today working on my final project, including a visit to the Jaipur jantar mantar, where I met--finally--with someone who actually, formally, permanently works there. It's not exactly a free pass into the archives, but it's a start, and that's more or less all I needed to make this summer (I hope). This means I have a contact in Ujjain and Jaipur both. I'm not so concerned about the Delhi site, since it's run by the A.S.I., and I can drum up contacts a plenty after I get home. Partly looking forward to seeing the Varanasi site, partly wishing I didn't have to travel to the other side of U.P. for one-day visit to what possibly might be the most exhausting city in India. At any rate, I get to postpone my exam on causative verbs until next week because of my upcoming Friday absence, so I guess that's okay.

I'm feeling a little cranky because I have a headache. I hit my head (again) on Saturday on a bar in a cycle rickshaw, exactly in the same place I whacked it last time. It was a much less drastic blow, but still, two days later, my head still hurts.

I've got a lot planned for the last twelve days, actually. Obviously, Fri-Sun will be spent going to Varanasi. But we've also got to fit in a viewing of Chakde India. My final project is due Friday, but I'm only going to turn in 3/4 of it, with the last 1/4 due when I get back from Varanasi. We have one final exam (the highly sanskritized one you've all heard me complain about), and we have final presentations (mine is on Tuesday unless I think of some clever way to get out of it). I suppose I should do some more shopping. I've done a lot better this year than I did last, but that's not saying much, since I brought nothing much home last time. Pack, socialize, run back to the jantar mantar two or three times, that should keep me out of trouble.

Wish the summer would end.

Monday, July 30, 2007

Well, why do you suppose I'm so tired? There seems to be no explanation, maybe I am just missing some essential vitamin that I usually get in the States but isn't in my food here. Combine some sort of general physical malaise with a brain full of only half-formed Hindi words and phrases, and you have a recipe for academic disaster. I did fine on my last exam, but I have a feeling the scoring erred on the side of generosity.

I am working on my final paper now, so that is where most of my writing energy is going. In order to get permission to miss class, I had to agree that my trip to Varanasi was part of my final project, so now my paper will have four full parts, one for each jantar mantar. My Hindi isn't this good. Seriously. Plus I need to make up my 200 word vocabularly list for my profession--I really need a Hindi architecture dictionary, most of the words I need are not in the regular dictionary, and my teachers are not architects, so they don't know many of the words I need. Anyway, the silence here is due to the fact that I'm working, and counting the days until I get to sleep in a bed with springs.

Everyone will be glad to know that they planed the door to my room this afternoon, so I no longer have to slam my body against it to open it. My neighbors will be happiest about this, I think.

Saturday, July 28, 2007

I think I should be wearing a trilingual sign (Hindi, English, Marwari) that says, "EIGHT WEEKS. DON'T FUCK WITH ME." It's dangerous right now to annoy me, that's all I can say. Hopefully, now that I only have three weeks left, I'll chill out a little bit. If not, you might want to be careful about what you say to me. I only have so much patience left right now, and you can't be sure that I didn't just waste it all on the last guy that got on my nerves.

Monday, July 23, 2007

I have to say, the roads in Madhya Pradesh are pretty damn bad. One hour driving outside of Ujjain demonstrated how sleek and solid the Jaipur infrastructure is--five hours driving outside of Ujjain (one way!) is enough to make you convert to some nearby religion and start chanting. At least I wasn't driving. I feel like we underpaid our driver--the truth is, we were too tired by the end of the day to figure out what a proper tip would look like, so we just gave him what was in our hands (not enough). The night trip back was especially frightening, and we got to see some pretty horrific roadkill (should I describe it? Probably not, let's just leave it general and say it involved dogs and water buffalo).

Okay, so that was the bad part of the day, but it seems like even with the carnage, the trip to Sanchi was worth the trouble. One, just south of Sanchi runs the Tropic of Cancer, so I had the lovely experience of leaving the tropics for an afternoon. At least, that amuses me. Two, we had a solid afternoon in Sanchi hanging out with the Buddhist topes on top of a hill above the village. "The Great Stupa at Sanchi" has always been an icon of sorts for students of South Asian art and architecture, and I think my companions were interested in the Buddhist history of the site. I, on the other hand, am intensely interested in the colonial use of Sanchi, and how ASI policy developed from early colonial interactions with Buddhist sites.

Aside from the intellectual/cultural part of the trip, the heritage park is just in a lovely spot. The sun was shining, but there were nice clouds in the sky, and the wind was blowing through the trees the entire day. I spent some time just sitting in the shade near Stupa 2, enjoying being outside with no one bothering me, no one staring at me. There were only about 30 people at the park all day; say, 12 foreigners at any given time, and 15-20 Indians. I think the guards were bored.

I'm not sure our driver thought the visit was worth ten hours of driving across the worst roads in India (indeed, in the paper the next morning, there were articles about the state gov't promising to fix the roads, and about student protests over the road conditions [the students dressed up like frogs]), but I did. Sanchi wasn't on my original itinerary, but I figure, hey, you never know. I may drop out of school, change my research focus, fall seriously ill, whatever, and never come back to India. Better see things when I can.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

I meant to be out of this place by now, but it's pouring down rain and I have no umbrella, not that an umbrella really helps much when monsoon is happening. The rains have been lovely (Madhya Pradesh was so beautifully green), but I need to get some money added to my cellphone, so I want to be on the way to the Reliance store right now.

Just to interrupt this post for a moment: this week I discovered that Julia and Crystal also sleep with their cellphones here in India. None of us know why.

We got back to Jaipur around 7:00 this morning--took a 3tier AC car from Ujjain. I had a pretty nice nap on the way here, but I guess my companions did not. At any rate, I think we're all a bit tired from our week away. 3 days in Pushkar and Ajmer for Hindi camp, followed up by 4 days in Ujjain for vacation and research. Crystal started out the week sick, seemed to rally for awhile, then succumbed again. I've been fighting a cold, but feel a lot better these past two days.

Anyway...Pushkar was Pushkar, Ajmer was Ajmer. A reprise of last year, only better. I enjoyed Hindi camp a lot more, partly because it was better organized, partly because my Hindi is better. Still, I think I'm over Pushkar at this point. It can be a really peaceful and beautiful town away from the main drag, but even in the off-season, it's a bit over-run by backpackers getting stoned. Also, every year we go, all the students get sick. It's a dirty town, quite frankly, much dirtier than Jaipur, and impossible to stay away from contamination, I think. It's worth one trip to see the ghats, but probably not worth two.

Ajmer was a mixed bag. It may have been even more crowded this year than last since we went a week before Urs festival (last year, we went the day after Urs ended), so some people enjoyed the durga much less. Some people really got a charge out of the intensity of the crowds, but some had experiences similar to mine last year--in a tight room choked with people, mens' hands (and other parts, apparently) wander.

Anyway, this all seems like a very long time ago. We've since traveled to Ujjain, which has kind of pushed Hindi camp out of my mind. Ujjain, like Pushkar, is a Hindu holy city. It's also a Hindu political city, in that it seems to be a Shiv Sena town. At least, Shiv Sena rents the billboard right outside the railway station. We spent a bit of time looking at Hindu temples here and there, and also went up north of town and went into some ancient Buddhist caves. Crystal did better at this than Julia or I. I tried to force myself to go all the way into the deepest room of the first cave, but started to feel like the world was squashing me. I had just started to say to Julia, "I don't think I can go any further," when she said "I have to get out of here!" and raced for the exit. So, claustrophobia issues.

We saw some other Hindu temples, but my primary objective was to see the jantar mantar there. I haven't processed everything through yet, but I'm going to try and start writing my paper this week and just see what happens. I only have one more observatory to visit (in Varanasi), then I will have seen them all at least once. Hoping to go to Delhi to see Claire in two weekends, so I'll take another look at the Delhi site then. Claire was in Jaipur today for one hour only, so I got in a nice but much too quick chat before putting her on the bus to Delhi. ("Claire, I feel like I'm putting my daughter on the bus to college!" "I know!")

Well, the Ujjain observatory is so different from Jaipur, which is so different from Delhi--this is not the impression you get from colonial documents, so that's kind of interesting. Also, I made friends with the technical staff, one of them even turned out to be a civil engineer who had also written a book on vaastu, so that was the world's happiest coincidence. I have a copy of his book now, and his contact information. A contact in Ujjain--that puts me ahead of where I stand in Jaipur (although I think I might be making progress in that area, too).

I haven't gotten to the most exciting part of my vacation yet, but I don't want to type it here until I talk to Catherine, I want to tell her about it first. So, tomorrow or the next day, I'll talk about my Friday in detail, unless I get bogged down working on my final project. If that, you'll have to wait until the weekend.

Friday, July 13, 2007

Yesterday, our community visitor at the Institute was a snake charmer. Scared the hell out of me. I don't care if the cobra doesn't have any venom. It's still a snake capable of biting. It kept trying to bite the guy, so I think I'm not all that crazy for not wanting to get close it.

Swamiji's father is ill, so my personal tutorial for this week was postponed (twice). I finally ended up with Vidhuji this afternoon, going over relative-corelative clauses. He said he was impressed that I seem to understand them, it usually takes students much longer to catch on, but I pointed out that Russian is pretty much one big subclause, so I've had a lot of practice. He also said something else really nice to me about my Hindi. He sat down and asked me if I was going to do the year-long program. I said, no, I'm supposed to be writing my dissertation, and he said that's really too bad, because if I spent an academic year in Jaipur, my Hindi would be indistinguishable from a native speaker's. He said I'm a very methodical learner, and it's serving me well. So, go me, I guess. That's two compliments on my Hindi in two days.

We're off to Pushkar for Hindi camp until Monday, then I'm off to Ujjain until next Sunady. It's possible I'll find some internet access between now and then, but not likely. Still, that's not an excuse to stop sending me e-mail. It's true that I'm not keeping up with anyone's blogs, and also true that I have a hard time finding more than ten minutes of time to type as fast as I can at this during the day, but e-mail is still nice (I'm just saying.). Wish me luck at Hindi camp. There is already a lot of tension in our small group, who knows what mandatory socializing will do for us.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

I'm sure you're all waiting to hear about my visit with Bhabhiji. Yes, I finally gathered up my courage, bought some milk sweets at Gopi, and got myself up to Jawahar Nagar 4 Bh 5 to visit her. It went pretty well, I thought. At least, she seemed happy to see me, and didn't scold me for living elsewhere. And, she made me watermelon juice, so it seems like she's not so put out with me anymore. The progress I've made in Hindi was really evident during our conversation, and she, too, noticed it. I had to ask her to repeat a couple of things, but generally, it was pretty seamless chatting--a huge advance over last year, when I sat at the dinner table and willed Andyji and Andrewji to shut up so I could go to my room where no one was speaking Hindi.

Also, she gave me a ride home (or, rather, her driver did). I'd forgotten how lovely it was to have a car. So easy! I discovered today that you should never lie to rickshaw wallahs. One rickshaw wallah gave me a ride to MI Road today, and when he asked if he should wait, I said no, I'd be a few hours. And he said, Oh, you're going to see Jhoom Barabar Jhoom, and it just seemed easier to say yes rather than explain that I was going to buy something to read, get a cup of coffee, get some lunch, do some homework. On my way to this cyberspot, I ran into the same driver, and he was all "Aren't you supposed to be at the movies?" I had to quick come up with another lie (I couldn't meet with a ticket), and the rickshaw wallahs all started giving me advice, most of which was "you have to get there an hour ahead of time." The rickshaw wallahs in Rajapark all know our habits, and its very difficult to make them go somewhere new. No! Don't turn there, I want to go to Goving Marg! Govind Marg! and then they take you to your house, anyway.
Yesterday, Arvind asked me a really surprising but rewarding question. I was quizzing him (or interrogating him, depending on your point of view) about the Outward Bound trip he once took in the Pacific Northwest, trying to figure out exactly where he'd gone kayaking and backpacking. After a few minutes, he asked "Do you have a spatial memory?" I had no idea what he meant--a spaital memory as opposed to what? I thought he was making a joke about his attempt to memorize words through "emotional memory" rather than verbal memory--a couple of weeks ago he drew a stick horse on one of his vocab flash cards, thinking he'd remember "parampara" better as the sound of a pony rather than as the Hindi word for "tradition." But that wasn't what he meant by his question. He said, "I've noticed you seem to organize information very spatially, do you think you do?" Interesting question, I thought. I definitely think my work is more spatial than visual, and that puts me in a certain camp of architectural historians (as Svetlana Alpers knows all too well). But I hadn't thought too deeply about whether I mentally organize information in a spatial or relational manner. Everyone in the room seemed to think Arvind was right, so I guess they can hear something that I can't when I speak.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Well, that worked for a little while at least.

We were feeling a bit low yesterday, so Julia, Crystal and I went to the Raj Mandir to see Jhoom Barabar Jhoom again. Julia didn't like the movie the first time around, but this time she was more relaxed (her assessment), and so enjoyed it more. I am amazed at how much more of the dialogue I understood, and even when I couldn't get the entire sentence, I was picking up on grammar structure. There are some really nice relative-corelative phrases in that movie. My favorite came from Alvida, when she's trying to tell off Laila: "Itna lipstick that you wear, jitna cheap your joke." Only the "lipstick" and the "cheap" were in English, the rest in Hindi, and altogether, it made a brilliant itna-jitna sentence. In general, I laughed a lot more this time. I'm still not a big Abishek fan, but I'm trying to just live with that.

Anyway, we were in pretty good spirits afterward, and we went back to my hotel and blasted through the sound track trying to recreate Mr. Bachchan's (limited) dance moves. We also listened to the new version of Mehbooba from Aap Kaa Surroor, which I refuse to see because of the horrible spelling in the subtitle (The Moviee - The Real Luv Story), astrology be damned. The new version isn't as good as the original Sholay version, and it isn't as good as the Kronos Quartet instrumental, which is sweet!, but it's not bad. When the heck is the new Sholay going to be released?

Today, a classmate annoyed me, a rickshaw wallah annoyed me, and my research is going poorly, so my good mood is once again disappeared. Wow. That sentence made sense in Hindi, but it sure doesn't work in English.

Sunday, July 08, 2007

This seems to be my week for getting beat up. Yesterday, I suffered my first real, physical "eve-teasing" (what an incredibly stupid phrase). Before yesterday, I've had the odd guy hiss or whistle or yell at me, or even make truly inappropriate motions toward me. This happened a lot a lot last year, in fact. However, this is the first time a man has actually touched me. When we were walking in the neighborhood of the Tal Katora yesterday afternoon, two boys grabbed me as they were passing by me in a car, by the wrist and the hip. The guy who had my wrist didn't let go until the forward motion of the car made him let go. Yesterday, I was pissed off at them for violating my personal space, and for touching my body without permission. Today, I'm pissed off because they actually hurt me. What a dangerous thing, grabbing someone through the window of a moving vehicle. I wrenched my back and my wrist--or, I should say, they wrenched my back and wrist. It's not serious, but it's enough to constantly remind me that I'm angry at them. It ruined my good mood yesterday, and I scowled at or scolded every boy who came near me the rest of the day. I'm over that today, but there's still some residual anger lingering somewhere in the vicinity of my lower back.

Saturday, July 07, 2007

First, I just want to say that the letter "t" does not work on this keyboard. I have to paste it in whenever I want to use it (which seems to be frequently), so if a word is missing a letter...add a "t".

I woke up with a rather piercing headache this morning. Or, not a headache exactly, but a sharp pain on the right side of the head, behind the eye, stinging down to my molars. Last night we (Julia, Crystal, Silas, Arvind, me) went out to dinner to celebrate the end of week 4. On the way, one of my favorite rickshaw wallahs (he has some side business going on, but I can't figure out just what), hit a pothole. My head hit the metal bar on the side of the rickshaw. It probably would've have been merely a bump, but there was a screw sticking out. Luckily, it was a flat tap, not a sharp, self-tapping screw, otherwise it would have left a good puncture. As it was, it took a bit of time to recover (and, no, I didn't cry, even though I wanted to). I thought my teeth had been knocked out, and the vision in my right eye was a bit off all night, and still a little off this a.m. It was a little better during the day today, but in the evening, we drove down a road full of potholes, and every bump reminded my head that it hurt. Anyway, tomorrow I will avoid all potholes.

Today we went to Am(b)er as a class, also visiting Jaigarh and Nahagarh forts. I've been all three places, but still had fun. Well, the guide at Amer was a bit odd, and he kept asking my why I wasn't listening (which I was, but I was also taking photographs). When we were at Nahagarh, a fort from which you can see the entire city of Jaipur, a storm arrived. That was a lot of fun because not only did we get wet, the teachers stood under the eaves and played Antakshari, male teachers against female. In general, I think the teachers really enjoy the field trips, so even if it was tiring (a ten-hour day!), I'm glad we did it.

Notables: we watched a family of monkeys eat bananas at the petrol station. Ashlee cut open her foot on a stack of rebar. Arvind cannot pronounce Rotem's name properly in Hebrew. Sayedji only likes to hold babies when they are not crying. The storm approaching while we were at Jaigarh was pretty nice. I saw the jantar mantar jaisa watchtower on the road to Jaigarh. One by one, our Reliance Classic cellphones ran out of batteries, which means there was a never-ending chorus of the Reliance shut off music, also known as the theme to Harry Potter. A ton of elephants on the road.

So, as a large group field trip, it was pretty fun. But we also had fun earlier this week when we went on a small group field trip (five people). We were assigned destinations to visit, and we hit two of the three possibilities. First, we went into the old city to Sahitygar, a Hindi bookstore on Dhamani Road off Chaura Rasta. Took us forever to find it. I remember it from last year, but had no real idea where it was in the city. Then we went to the Govind Devji Temple, but it was closed, so we wandered in Jai Niwas gardens. We went out a gate I've never used before, and suddenly we were in the barnyard of India. It's too bad Arvind wasn't with us, because he's been sad that there aren't as many animals around these days in Jaipur--he remembers a lot from his childhood. We wandered through a lot of animal pens, cows, goats, chickens, dogs. We ended up on "Vegetable Street" (Subzi Marg). I can't remember the name of the neighborhood, but it was the Panjabi word for vegetable. A new part of town for me.

Today is an ausipicious day for weddings, so I think a lot of the elephants we saw on the Amer road were coming to Jaipur to carry grooms to the wedding. For the past two days (really, the past two weeks), we've been hearing non-stop wedding marching bands, seeing the light towers paraded down the street, seeing a lot of white horses all dressed up to carry grooms. At the religious center between my house and the Institute, workers have for three days been building a wedding reception structure. Tonight is the night, so it is all dressed up in lights and flowers. I imagine I'll see or hear the marching band go by soon.

Tomorrow my plan is to go to the jantar mantar and talk to some of the workers for my final project. However, if it's raining, I think I'll just go to Cafe Coffee Day and do homework. One more week until Hindi Camp in Pushkar, then we're off to Ujjain.

Thursday, July 05, 2007

I consider myself fairly averse to risk-taking. If the category had existed in my senior high school yearbook, I'm pretty sure I would have been voted "Most Likely to Err on the Side of Caution." Every once in awhile, though, I tend to do something stupid and ill-advised. After I think, "Hmm....not a good idea," I sometimes follow up the thought with, "but I think I'll do it anyway." Where does this tendency come from? I don't know, but it seems to make its appearance in India more often than in the States. Example: what was I thinking last summer when I rode from Nehru Bazaar in the old city to Jawahar Nagar side-saddle on the back of a strange man's motorcycle with no helmet? Couldn't tell you, other than "Not a good idea, but I think I'll do it anyway."

Last night, when Elliott called me to say that a bunch of students were setting off fireworks on the roof of the Institute at 8:30 in celebration of U.S. Independence Day, the first thing out of my mouth was, "Wow, that sounds dangerous." The second thing out of my mouth was, "Okay, I'll see you there." Let me just say: there's a reason that fireworks factories in India burn down a lot more frequently than they do in the U.S.: they're incredibly fucking dangerous. So, going to the roof a building while a bunch of undergraduates were playing with matches and unregulated fireworks was just a stupid idea all the way around. Somehow Julia and I thought, "Well, maybe it will be okay," so we went.

I really can't type out all the profanity I used last night, but lets say it was repeated loudly multiple times. There is no way any civilian should ever be playing around with that level of explosive, particularly young people who have no sense of danger. The first one that went off probably could have been heard up at Nagarh Fort, it was so loud, and if we'd been in the States, someone would have called the police. The second was slightly smaller, but the third one, which shot balls of green fire into the air, and then subdivided into more green balls of fire, was lit without warning the people standing around. No one got hurt, but I could see disaster coming when people started scrambling away from the firework. The fourth one exploded after it was done shooting sparks, sending flaming pieces in all directions.

Julia and I decided it would be a good time to leave.

I haven't heard of anyone getting hurt, and I'm really surprised. I know I'm old and cranky, but it really is stupid to allow college kids to play with such dangerous toys, particularly when it's no secret that the fireworks industry here is far from regulated. So, hopefully that's my stupid decision for the summer, and I won't have to flag down strangers to ask for rides to remote locations, or go mountain climbing in inclement to get my adrenalin fix.

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

It occurs to me that my language learning goal should be something along the lines of learning the word "insomnia" in as many languages as possible.

Monday, July 02, 2007

I'm not feeling all that great today. In fact, I didn't even go into the Institute. I figure...I'm an adult, I can make my own decisions about what's best for me right now, and squeezing into a hot room with sweaty students to discuss joint families just isn't it. If I could have gone in just for grammar and film prep class, I would've have gone, but two hours of small group (4 people) discussion just wasn't going to happen. I'll go back tomorrow, and then I'll regret staying home today, because I'll have to answer the question, "Were you sick? Were you sick? Were you sick? Were you sick? Were you sick? Were you sick? Were you sick? Were you sick? Were you sick? Were you sick? Were you sick? Were you sick? Were you sick? Were you sick? Were you sick? Were you sick? Were you sick? Were you sick? Were you sick? Were you sick?" twenty five times before tea break.

So, perhaps you are all thinking that I spend most of my time riding around the city in rickshaws, looking for Hindi bolnewalle people to talk to. However, with the exception of today, I spend most of my time at the Institute, or in my room doing homework or my own work. I don't do any homework on Fridays, but on every other day, I do between 2-4 hours of Hindi, then try to get in an hour or so of my own stuff.

My schedule this week (as it was supposed to happen):

9-10:00 Magazine article discussion "joint families"
10-11:00 Grammar (-wala constructions, use of milna, conditional and contrary-to-fact constructions)
11-11:15 tea
11:15-12:00 Journal discussion
12-1:00 Film preparation
1:00-2:00 Lunch

9-10:00 Vocabulary development
10-11:00 Listening comprehension
11-11:15 tea
11:15-1:00 Film "Bombay"
1-2:00 Lunch
2-4:00 Film "Bombay"

9-10:00 Film Review
10-11:00 Conversation "At the Doctor"
11-11:15 tea
11:15-12:00 open
12-1:00 open
1:00-2:00 Lunch
2-3:00 Personal Tutorial

9-10:00 open
10-11:00 Literature story "Namaste"
11-11:15 tea
11:15-12:00 Discussion with community member "Housewife"
12-1:00 Oral presentation "My Dreams"
11-11:15 tea

9-10:00 Personal Tutorial
10-11:00 Weekly Exam
11-11:15 tea
11:15-12:00 Dictation
12-1:00 Listening Comprehension Doordarshan
1-2:00 Lunch
2-3:00 Group Discussion

Plus on Saturdays, we usually have a field trip (I think this Saturday we go to Sanganer), and this week after class some time, we have to go in a small group to Hawa Mahal, a Hindi bookshop, and Govind Devji Temple. We have a major writing project due at the end of the semester, I think I wrote about that before, though.

So, that's my week. As you can see, I spend comparatively little time in a rickshaw, but I guess since that can be the most frustrating part of the day, it gets a lot of play time in my journal.

Saturday, June 30, 2007

So, that was a pretty fucking awesome Hindi day.

I had a hard time getting out of the room today because suddenly they were all about making sure my bathroom was clean, my floor was clean, my bedsheet was clean... So, the sun was high in the sky before I made it out into the wide world of Jaipur this a.m.

I spent a lot of money (INR 180) to get into the City Palace w/ my camera. I suppose I didn't really need to go there, but I wanted to wander around for awhile and take pictures. Not sure what I'll use them for, but now I have them. Then I spent a long, long time in the Museum craft hall. This is where Maharaja-approved artists sell their workshop produced art. I sat and talked a long time to one artist named Harish. I paid a little too much money for the painting I bought, but I took up a lot of his time, and he was really patient with my Hindi. I think we both had fun.

When I went out, the same rickshaw wallah that had driven me from outside the wall of the old city to the palace was still outside. We had a funny conversation about how I wasn't to let any other rickshaw wallah drive me home. It's the slow season, and it pays for taxi and rickshaw wallahs to waste their time waiting around for a sure fare, because otherwise they might not get one all day. Anyway, he made me laugh, and I told him I'd look for him, but it would be a long time because I was going to the jantar mantar, and that might take me hours.

This was my first trip to the Jaipur jantar mantar this year, and jesusfuckingchrist. It was totally awesome--the entire complex is under renovation. They've pulled up the grass, they've surrounded everything with scaffolding, and they've torn the plaster off some of the masonry instruments. There was a group of men plastering the instrument just inside the gates, and they managed to explain the resurfacing process to me (basically a mixture of lime and marble dust, "for sparkle"). I really and truly didn't understand most of what they said, but they were all very excited to talk about their work. Then I wandered over to watch them work on the Samrat Yantra--you've got to see it to believe it, no fucking way I'd go up on that scaffolding--and had a conversation with two of the boys working toward the bottom. One of them almost clobbered himself with a chunk of plaster he'd just pried off, and I said "Careful!" in Hindi automatically. They thought that was completely funny.

Anyway, it was all very awesome. All of the workers seemed really knowledgeable about plastering, etc., but none of them really seemed to have much of an idea of what they were really working on. This might be my final project subject for class this summer.

And, yes, my rickshaw wallah was waiting for me when I left the jantar mantar. I stopped to buy a useless Hindi guidebook to the site outside the gate (useful for the correct spellings of the instruments' names only), and then let the guy take me back to Rajapark. Again, we had a very funny conversation about how I should really let him take me to the best markets, but he didn't really try very hard to convince me.

It's amazing how far such very, very bad Hindi takes you. I think no fewer than five people complimented me on my Hindi today. It's sad in a way, because it means very few visitors actually make the effort to speak the local language. On the other hand, it makes even my 5th grade vocabulary seem quite impressive, so I guess I should be grateful that most tourists don't try very hard.
I forgot to type the most important thing: monsoon arrived the same day Andyji arrived. One good rainstorm on that day. It hasn't rained again, but it's consistently cloudy and humid out, a nice change from the typical desert scorch.
It was nice having Andy back for a couple of days. He's coming back for the memorial lecture for Bhabhiji's husband on June 25th, and I'm already planning to skip class that day so we can hike out to Gaitor and some temple he wants to visit. I suppose it's just as well he's not here all the time, we'd probably get in a lot of trouble. We had a good, long, hard laugh over the time he almost died last summer. Looking back at last year's blog entries, I can see that I avoided discussing the entire series of unfortunate events in public (although I've since told the story several times). He says it wasn't my fault, but you know...I'm still pretty sure that it was.

Anyway, it was good hanging out with someone who already knew me. I'm so tired of repeating my backstory. On the other hand, I'm not sure it's a good idea to be kicking it with someone who's been spending all of his time in a village overwhelmed with TB. Although...I have to admit, I was kind of hoping he'd cough all over the obnoxious group of kids who joined us while we were trying to enjoy our coffee yesterday.

I've managed to make hotel reservations for Ujjain (I did try to use the phone, but they never picked up, so I ended up using the web, in English.), so I guess we're on for the big trip. I still haven't figured out what I'm going to do about Varanasi.

Today I'm off to the City Palace to take some photographs, and I'll probably spend some time at the jantar mantar as well.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

This morning I woke up to find my alarm clock in bed with me. I'm not sure what it was doing there (especially as it doesn't light up); perhaps my cell phone was being ganged up on and needed an ally in the fight against the flashlight and MP3 player.

It has been a *$&(! long week. Really. A $(*#(! long week.

Last night, we were all out late at a wedding. Anitaji, one of our teachers, has an older sister, and she invited us to her wedding. 1000 guests! It was a really nice show, but must have cost a fortune. The bride's sari was beautiful, and so covered with gold it was barely red at all. Most importantly, there was a lot of food at the wedding, and most importantly out of that, they had jalebi. Arvind says he overdosed on jalebi as a kid, but I don't really think that's possible. At least, I haven't managed to do it yet.

Andyji is back in town for two days only, so we are hanging out this afternoon. I skipped out on lunch at the Institute, and went out for chowmein with him at this rather sketchy looking dhaba. He says he's eaten there before, so I trusted his judgement. Now we're hanging out together checking our e-mail, which sounds like a weird thing to do, but there you go, we've always been an odd couple. Today, I got more hassle on the street than I have had to date this summer, and I'm absolutely sure it's because Andyji was with me. We look very funny, he 6'-7" and rail thin, and me 5'-2" and round enough to roll down the street with just a small push forward.

Today, I did a stupid thing and walked off and left my wallet at the shop next to my hotel. Luckily, the boy who works there saw it and tucked it under the counter. I'd just been to the bank, so I would have lost 2100 rupees or so, plus my bank card. Not an insurmountable lost, but definitely enough to panic me momentarily. I have to think of something nice to do for the kid, other than start considering him my son.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

In the three weeks I've been in India, I've developed one really odd habit: sleeping with objects in my bed. I'm not talking about the extra pillow I use to prop up my shoulder, or the blanket I use to cover my eyes, or even the pile of clean (or dirty) clothes at the foot of the bed. I'm talking about plastic and metal inanimate objects that I would never keep in the bed at home. Every night before I turn out the light, I take my flashlight and MP3 player out of the nightstand drawer, track down my cell phone, and arrange them on the empty side of the bed well within reach. I only realized last night that I had been doing this every night. Why? Why can't the flashlight and MP3 player sit ON the nightstand? Why do I need my cellphone? I don't call anybody at 3 a.m. I was thinking about this after I was in bed, and while I was flipping through all the Johnny Cash songs to get to the death metal section of my MP3s (in case you're wondering, death metal isn't a great substitute for a lullaby), it suddenly occurred to me that all the spare items in my bed light up. My phone, my MP3 player, my flashlight, they all make my room as bright as day when they come on during the night. Who knew I was so afraid of the dark that I needed not one, but THREE, lights next to my pillow? India's a great place to get to know oneself.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

One last post about my cell phone, and then I promise to shut up about it already. Much as many of you may have suspected, I just needed to throw more money at the problem. If I had walked in on the second day and offered to empty my wallet, I'd probably have wasted a lot less time. Anyway, it turns out what I needed this entire time was a top-up voucher. I have at least five balances on my phone: a global (ISD) balance, a local balance, an All India balance, a Rajasthan SMS balance, and a main balance. This main balance? God knows what it is. I can't figure out how to check it, and before two days ago, I never even knew it existed. So, the solution to my inability to SMS is to buy top-up vouchers to add to the main balance. I have no idea what the main balance is paying for, or how quickly it disappears, but at least now I know that I need it.

Monday, June 25, 2007

Well, hopefully Crystal and Julia will not tire of my company over the next few weeks, because I just signed them up for five days in Ujjain with me. If they are sick of me before we even leave, it's going to be a long, long trip. It's a ten-hour train ride from Jaipur to Ujjain on the "express" train, but it's all during the day, so we're just riding in the chair car instead of getting sleepers. Since I was already planning on going, I offered to pick up the hotel tab. That, in fact, is my task for Wednesday afternoon, trying to reserve a room over the phone in Hindi. I want to stay some place nice (not Taj group nice, but still), so it's only fair that I pay the tariff. Anyway, I'm looking forward to seeing the observatory--I'd like to have at least a strong outline written for my Madison paper by the time I leave here.

The formal tasks that I've set for myself:

Roughest draft of my dissertation proposal (still possible)
Make at least one contact within the City Palace archives (still trying)
Preliminary bibliography for major field exams (seeming impossible right now)
Some sort of draft of paper on Ujjain observatories for Madison (still possible)
Varanasi photographs (still possible, but dubious--how much is airfare? ask Kumarji)
Return to Delhi for more photographs for HSS conference (still possible)

Informal tasks I've set for myself:

Gather as much ASI literature as possible for minor field exams (in progress)
Gather as much info about INTACH as possible for minor field exams (still possible)
See as much architecture as possible, for both exams (in progress)
Gather as much printed info/photographs on architecture for syllabus project (in progress)

I have been working some in the evenings, but find myself easily distracted by everything going on around me. And this week, I really need to work more on my Hindi. I feel like everyone else is progressing more quickly than I am. I should be able to keep up, since I have more free time than anyone else, but it doesn't seem to be happening.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Well, a lot of time spent at both the Hindiwali Reliance store as well as the Angreziwali Reliance store, and I'm not sure I'm any closer to fixing my SMS problem. I'm also not sure why it seems so urgent: before ten days ago, I'd never sent a text message. Suddenly, if I can't text message, my world will end. Well, it's nice be able to communicate without having to actually *talk* to people, so maybe that's the attraction.

This morning, I dragged a classmate to Jai Niwas gardens so I could take photographs--I'm working on the second draft of an article (well, we can hope it turns into an article) about the Jaipur city plan, and I need my own photos. I'm really pretty excited about it, especially now that I've revisited the gardens and re-experienced the space for myself. I even managed to get a photo of the facade of the Chandra Mahal that faces the Govind Devji temple. I looked and looked for one this spring, but except for a 19th b/w print in the British Library collection, I wasn't able to find one. So, that alone made the rickshaw ride through the bazaar this a.m. worth it. The ride was so hair-raising that I handed the rickshawallah 2x the agreed upon price when I got out of his rig. I mean, really, it was pretty intense for a few minutes there.

Also in Jai Niwas gardens is a Hanuman temple, and outside is a monkey corral full of happy monkeys eating temple offerings. Baby monkeys with wrinkly baby monkey faces = SO CUTE.

We walked around Jai Niwas, and then around the bone-dry Tal Katora. Hard to believe the site used to be marshy and wet during the 18th c. Today, it was full of boys playing cricket. We saw this unfortunate 8-year-old albino boy--my eyes hurt from the sun here ALL THE TIME, even with sunglasses. Imagine his pain.

I think perhaps Julia and Crystal are getting tired of my impromptu architecture lectures. "Look at the Shahjahani baluster columns!" "Oh my god, look at the faux chini khana!" Crystal had to sit through an endless session of me with Ebba Koch's Mughal Architecture (OUP) book while we were drinking watermelon sparkles in Barista: "Look at the perfect hesht behesht!" "Look, aren't those fantastic squinches?"

Today, a 26-year-old informed me that 40 = over the hill. She apologized, but said that's what she thinks. Over the hill, and I haven't even finished my Ph.D. yet.

In other news, I still can't speak Hindi. I also seem to be suddenly struggling with English, however, so maybe that's a step in the right direction.

Friday, June 22, 2007

A few random points:

  • I feel compelled to go back and correct the misimpression I gave about the quality of Jhoom Barabar Jhoom as a movie. Mr. Bachchan's role as a sutradar (sutradhar? where is my dictionary?) was quite awesome, and the music is snappy. Otherwise, I have to say the movie was really just a timepass. Don't get me wrong--I'd pay INR90 to sit in an A/C cinema hall and watch Preity Zinta do just about anything, but that doesn't mean it was a good movie. As far a PZ goes, I'd say that she really needs to find better roles. It couldn't have been in the least bit challenging for her. Well, physically, I suspect it was grueling, those are some high intensity picturizations. But as far as substance? Not worth her time.
  • There is a "closed for renovations" sign on Big Shopper. I suspect the sign should really read "Closed because Reliance Market down the street put us out of business," but maybe I'm wrong. I'm not sure I get this whole Reliance Market thing. Can you imagine shopping at Cingular Market or the New AT&T Market? Rajapark and the surrounding neighborhoods are definitely high-end (one of the host fathers described the houses here as "bilkul palatial"), and Reliance Market shows it. Its major selling point seems to be its produce section--even I have purchased apples there, each with their own little "Washington State Apple" sticker (because I am doing my part to help my family's local economy, even if I'm doing from without in a global economy, right?). Anyway, mostly it seems to be a place for rich locals to shop without having to haggle over prices. Also, it seems to be a place to buy microwave popcorn, but I don't know anyone here with a microwave, so I'm not sure what good that does anyone.
  • Survived the first full week of classes, took my first exam. It's hard to get too worked up when you're not actually being given a grade. Anyway, we just got next week's schedule, and the homework seems to have doubled. Plus there is the major project to think about. I should be able to do something about the jantar mantar. The project is really a way to force us to go out to talk to people. We need to write up a questionnaire, go ask random strangers all the questions, then write a paper about it. Some crazy student once wrote a 45-page paper for their final. I think if I can manage 10, that will be good. Anyway, I think I'm going to hang out at the various jantar mantars and just ask people why they came and what they think about them. It's nothing I can really use officially in my research, but you never know, I might hear something really useful.
  • Speaking of the jm, apparently they had a gathering at the Delhi jm to watch the occultation of Venus by the moon. The same may have happened here in Jaipur, but I was sick and thinking seriously about dying that night, so I missed the entire thing.
  • Back to the topic of Reliance: So, I paid almost $40 to get a Reliance cell phone. That price included the phone, the activation fee, 220 local minutes, plus INR575 worth of international minutes (about 110 minutes). For some reason I was given a Delhi phone number, but everything seemed fine. A couple of days ago, my SMS function suddenly stopped working, and I kept getting a message saying the SMS mobile function hasn't been activated on the network. Back to Reliance, where I paid INR35 for 1000 local SMS messages. I was assured that as long as I had minutes on my 575 card, I could SMS to the States, too. Today, I am still receiving this message about not being activated in the network. So, here's the question. Do I go back to the same store, where everything has to happen in Hindi and there's no paper work to back up these transactions, and no one really explains what the problem is, they just say it's fixed, or do I do the colonial thing and pay INR50 for a rickshaw to Gaurav Towers where there is a very posh Reliance store with English-speaking employees and many forms and explanations for every transaction? I think I'll try the Hindi-wala people one more time, but if it doesn't work, I'm off to GT. And maybe I'll eat at Pizza Hut while I'm down there.
  • Dude. The rickshawwallah I had on the day I got sick was TOTALLY singing Ye Dosti from Sholay. I mean...seriously. I leaned forward and asked him (in Hindi), "Hey, dude, are you singing Ye Dosti from Sholay?" And he said, yes, and wasn't that a great movie? So we talked about what a great movie that was, and then he told me that in June he was going to Washington with a friend, and was it nice there? And then he stopped at the petrol station for a drink of water. And then he took me to Rajapark.
  • Sunday night, a young father was out with his little boy, teaching him how to ride a bike in front of my hotel. Well, that's okay, because there's not much traffic there. The kid fell off a couple of times while I was watching. Fifteen minutes later, I saw the kid out in major traffic on Big Shopper Road, father trotting happily behind. I hope the kid made it home alive.
One thing about being in India: everyone suddenly drops their inhibitions about discussing their lateness infirmity and illness. Let me just say that I know way too much about my colleagues' intestines. But I understand why people talk about it all way too much. As Andrew pointed out last summer, you might often wake up with indigestion at home, but you can say to yourself, "Well, I shouldn't have had that last piece of pizza." Here, it's anyone's guess as to why you're sick. Is it indigestion, or are you about to develop something truly horrible? It could go either way, really.

Anyway, all of this is just to say that I've survived my first bout of sickness this year (god, only two weeks in!), and everything seems to be fine at the moment. I'm really glad that I'm living on my own, otherwise I'd have to share every single detail with the host family. On the other hand, on Wednesday evening, when I was wondering if I maybe I was going to end up in the hospital, it occurred to me that no one would even miss me if I died of whatever it was I had, at least not until late in the next school day. Those are the moments in which you wonder why you didn't do research in...oh, I don't know....Canada.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Then again, it's not a good idea to carry yourself with too much confidence. My Hindi is good enough for waitstaff, but not good enough for dukandars (there's your vocab word, Beth). While I can talk someone down from 2750 rupees to 2000, I can't talk them down to the 750 it should be. It's frustrating in the moment, but once I do the conversion to US dollars, it's difficult to get too upset about being more or less robbed. Gotta let it go.

Advanced Hindi follows the same type of daily program that Intermediate follows, so I feel a bit as if I've been here forever. Today, we had our first listening comprehension class. That was the worst class last year, but I seem to have lost my stress over it this year, possibly because I've heard the passages before, possibly because I just really don't care so much about my progress this year. I'm either going to learn Hindi or I'm not, and I can't lose a lot of sleep over trying to keep up (or keep ahead) of the other students. This is the attitude I should have had last year, instead of feeling inadequate all summer.'s only day three of class (not quite two weeks in India), so I reserve the right to change my mind about the entire thing.

I'm overhearing many conversations that remind me of why I am living in the hotel. Even people who really want to live with a family can get stressed out by the all Hindi environment, by the family's expectations, obligations, etc. I definitely made the right choice.

Stage Three: Hoarding Knowledge. Now that you have your social group established, and you feel comfortable traveling around the neighborhood together, you are finding out interesting things. You know where to buy a cell phone, you know where the post office is. You've found a good book store, or a good rickshaw driver. This is the kind of information you're willing to share, but only within your social set. You have a lot of hush-hush conversations that end with "but don't tell anyone, I don't want the entire group to show up there." Everyone is sworn to secrecy about every aspect of Jaipur. What are the repercussions of revealing this information to the larger group?

I'll let you know.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Yes, I must speak on this subject again: it's nice knowing what's up. It's not nice being completely clueless.

Today, I took my two (TWO!) new friends into the old city. This was kind of cool for me, because I knew just how to get there from the Raj Mandir, and knew which direction was Bapu Bazaar, which direction was Nehru bazaar, etc. Even nicer was the fact that I was able to take them the marble carving section of the old city. A lot of places were closed up because it was Sunday, but they now know where it is, and no one from the group does (hoarding local information, that might actually qualify as Stage Three--I'll think about it). Anyway, I just had fun showing them cool stuff in a hopefully not too pretentious way.

Also, I impressed Julia's out of town friend with the fact that I once had dinner with Maxim Shostakovich. Just saying.

I think the point here is: I'm impressing myself, if not my friends. I'm getting so much more accomplished than I did last year because I know exactly what I want to do, and more importantly, can communicate that desire in Hindi. Last night, the man at the stationery store was really pleased I bought my notebooks from him in Hindi, and today, the waiter complimented me on my Hindi. When he asked if we needed our bills separated, and we said no, he said he thought not, but the tourists tend to want separate checks. It was as if we'd passed some sort of cultural entrance exam.

Anyway, I'll stop bragging on myself, but I've just been noticing how much more relaxed I am this summer. A lot of that has to do with staying in the hotel (best decision EVER), but some of it has to do with having the ability to take care of myself without a lot of problems.

Today's high temp was only 95 again, and it sort of sprinkled for awhile. It's just so lovely being able to walk around in such cool air. Well, okay, I guess I'm dripping with sweat, but it's nothing like it was that first weekend in Delhi. Thank god.

Oh, today was the first monkey sighting--three in Bapu Bazaar. @#$*(! monkeys!

Saturday, June 16, 2007

On the other hand--there's a lot to be said for being the local expert. I'm finding it immensely rewarding, anyway. I'm trying not to be obnoxious about it all (there's plenty of pretentious posturing going on here as it is), but I do kind of enjoy being consulted about Jaipur. I can give directions to the bank, the supermarket, two different hookah bars (don't ask me why, I don't smoke the sheesha), two different coffee shops, fabric stores, book stores, and all kinds of other things like parks and post offices and pathways. I am trying not to offer advice unless asked, but once asked, I have to say...I'm batting a thousand (two posts, two baseball metaphors) at getting people where they want to go.

So, this is a big difference between last summer and this summer--my confidence level speaking Hindi. I'm the one doing all the talking: directing the rickshawallah, bargaining, asking directions, etc. I'm still falling back on English a lot, but seem to have lost that fear of speaking that followed me all summer last year. It's kind of relief to be the one with all the answers for a change.

Mostly hanging out with one or two people (we've formed our own clique, membership requires that you be shut out of the rest of the cliques that formed the first week of classes). Started classes officially yesterday, started studying this a.m. We had a brief pre-monsoon downpour today, which was fantastic. The high today was only 95, dropping below 100 makes such a difference. The temperature is supposed to climb again by midweek, so I'm enjoying the cool while I can.

Okay, this is my mailing address for everyone who wants to find me:

[My Name]
c/o Hotel City Home
463, Gali No. 4
Across from Bank of Baroda
Raja Park, Jaipur 302 004

I'm being taken of really by the hotel staff, they put me in the safest room, I think, and one of the AIIS program leaders is in the same place, so I always have someone available if I need it. More importantly, I have a TV, so I can watch the IIFA awards tomorrow. Rocking.
That was fucking awesome. Seriously. That whole cancelled-flight-to-Chicago-rent-a-car-race-to-O'Hare-during-rush-hour-barely-make-the-flight-followed-by-13-hours-of-interrupted-sleep trip to India was totally worth it for just the first 45 seconds of Jhoom Barabar Jhoom. When Amitabh Bachchan came on the screen in that *completely* bizarre but rocking outfit, the crowd went wild. It was like witnessing a grand slam in the bottom of the ninth inning in a tied seventh game of the World Series. Seriously. Totally fucking awesome.

(I'm not allowed to swear in India, so I have to do it online.)

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

In the Foreign Languages Building at UIUC, there is a display about travel abroad, outlining all the stages a person goes through before adapting to life in a foreign country. You'd think I'd know all the stages because I've read that display a minimum of 100 times, but no, I can't remember. Anyway, it is directed toward individual adaptation, not group behavior. I'm thinking of outlining my own stages of adaptation for group study programs, particularly for groups in India. So far, I've seen the group go through two distinct,but overlapping,stages. I'm trying to predict stage three, but having no luck.

Stage One: Culture of Knowledge Possession.
This stage starts for all American travelers the moment they leave U.S. soil, often as early as the plane trip to India, or in the customs line in the port of arrival. This stage involves an elaborate display on one's personal and deep knowledge of all things South Asian: food, people, religion, history. In a group, this behavior quickly develops into a type of Indian-one-upmanship, with everyone aggressively performing their "Indian Expert" identity. Anyone who makes a statement about India is immediately contradicted. This could be a large statement (for instance, a proclamation about Islam in India), which will spark a fiercely competitive debate on the issue, with everyone involved invoking previous in-country life experience as evidence. Similarly, this could be a small statement (for instance, a claim that there is a mall near the hotel), which will also become a much-debated matter. Who has more local knowledge? This period of individual identity formation within the group is at its most intense in the first week of in-country time, but will continue to ebb and flow throughout the duration of the program.

Stage Two: Evidence of Economic Competitiveness.
This stage grows out of, but does not completely supercede, Stage One. In this stage, each member of the group continues to position themselves as a container of authoritative knowledge by behaving in a certain manner with money. Americans seem particularly prone to this stage. In this stage, shopping and acquisitive behavior alone is not enough to solidify one's position in the group of knowers--we also have to demonstrate the we arrived at the moment of purchase only after a particularly challenging bout of bargaining with shop owners. Few of the compliments made about clothes are sincere--rather, they are an excuse to open the discussion to matters of bargaining. Who spent the least amount of money on the most amount of cloth? This behavior might be considered a subset of the Culture of Knowledge Behavior, but it requires active participation in the local economy to provide an opportunity to display one's position of greater knowledge. This participation must be followed up by a discussion, otherwise the purchase is socially invalid.

Stage Three: I'll let you know.