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.

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