Posts Tagged ‘travel’


Posted on May 12, 2018 - by

Magnificent, Mind-boggling India

LUCY BURDETTE: If you say you’re going to Paris on vacation, people don’t ask why. Paris speaks for itself. But India? When I mentioned our upcoming vacation to friends and relatives, I most frequently got one of two reactions. 1. Oh that’s on my bucket list and I’d love to see it. Or 2., and much more commonly, why on earth would you travel to India?

I’ve been fascinated with novels about India for a while  I have loved short stories and novels by Jhumpa Lahiri and Sujata Massey, novels and memoirs from Thrity Umrigar, especially The Story Hour and First Darling of the Morning, No One Can Pronounce My Name by Rakesh Satyal, The Golden Son by Shilpi Somaya Gowda, The Orphan Keeper by Camron Wright, and one of my favorites, Mira Jacob’s The Sleepwalker’s Guild to Dancing. Many of these books are set in the United States, or a combination of the US and India, but with Indian characters torn desperately between their old life and a new life in America.
And now perhaps I have the smallest sense of how hard it would be to leave India, contrasted with the powerful pull of the United States. I think that was the call of India to me – the absolute foreignness of the country – the other. Not wishing to be the annoying relation who insists on running her slideshow and home movies ad nauseum, I’ll give you a few snapshots of the fascinating things we saw. (Of course we saw many beautiful temples and historic sites, but I’ll concentrate on the people.)
As you saw in an earlier blog, first we took a harrowing rickshaw ride through Old Delhi. We were overwhelmed by the noise, the colors, the fierce jockeying for position on an incredibly narrow road, which set the standard for travel. Whether on bike, foot, motorbike, car, bus, or some kind of animal, you mustn’t hesitate. The road belongs to the fearless and to the loudest horn.
Out in the country, we tended to see people living as people have probably lived for years – washing their clothing and their bodies in lakes and rivers, women in beautiful saris working in the fields, men in more western clothing.

photo by John Brady


We saw people living under tarps, sitting around open fires; cement block homes with clay tile roofs, their insides open to passersby. Everywhere along the highways and the smaller roads were people scratching out a living with tiny stores and even smaller kitchens. We often saw groups of men standing around chatting and sharing cups of chai. Where are the women we would wonder? (Probably working.) We saw scooters carrying entire families, five was probably the maximum. Or sometimes women riding sidesaddle on the back of the scooter in their beautifully colored saris.

After the busyness of the city, we enjoyed celebrating the Holi Festival of colors in the small town of Narlai…children of all ages love throwing colors on visitors…
Even the animals are decorated for the holiday…
Later that afternoon, we visited Kahrda or Desuri, depending who you ask, a small village not that familiar with tourists. Some of the villagers followed us around their town…
Others were busy with their own affairs.
These men in turbans are the heads of villages all talking about the problems of their towns…notice that their white outfits have been painted too.
Our guide explained that the women wearing veils over their faces are daughters in law. Best not to show their faces when mother-in-law says something…
At the end of the afternoon, the women and children sang us a welcome song…
We wanted to sing them something in return but what? Frere Jacques? Why would Americans sing in French?? For He’s a Jolly Good Fellow? Maybe too British and therefore unwelcome. We droned through Yankee Doodle Dandy…
Then on to the bustling streets of the pink city, Jaipur, where we saw vendors selling bolts of bright colored cloth for saris. Below is a wedding party deciding on the wedding sari. It is said that all the women must agree on the final choice.

Sewing a sari right out on the sidewalk

Next we enjoyed visiting Kanota Castle where The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel was filmed, though we’re not ready to retire there…

One of the reasons we chose this itinerary was to have an opportunity to see a Royal Bengal tiger in Rathambore National Park. And honestly, some of our friends familiar with the park were quite discouraging about our chances.

After the worst bumpy dirty jeep ride for three hours the first afternoon, where we saw no sign of a tiger other than some old poop, we got discouraged too. We decided to give it one more try on the early morning ride. Our guide explained that deer and monkeys work together to spot the tigers and warn the other animals in the forest that they are approaching. So listening for calls of distress from the monkeys is how the guides decide where to drive and wait. So glad we went as we saw this lady tiger and her sister not ten yards from the jeep. They are truly stunning animals.

Of course at our next stop, the Taj Mahal was beautiful, both evening and morning.

Finally, we drove back to Delhi and then flew to our last stop, Varanasi. The drive from the airport was difficult, as poverty was on full display.

Early the next morning, we walked with the pilgrims through the narrow streets of the town to the river. Many Hindu Indians long to end their days getting cremated at the Ganges River and having their ashes deposited there. But people also bathe in the river and do their laundry.

One of the most remarkable sights we saw was that of ten cremation fires burning on the banks of the river. The bodies, wrapped in bright colored cloths, were carried down the steps on stretchers, dipped into the river by their relatives, then left to dry, and finally placed on the fire with family in attendance. Out on the river, a fleet of primitive boats jammed with tourists watched the process. We were grateful that our guide was sensitive to the feelings of the mourners, and encouraged us not to photograph the process.

Every night, there is a big celebration where the people put the Ganges River to bed.
photo by John

It’s kind of like the Sunset celebration in Key West, only the river is the living being, rather than the sun.

On the way to our long flight home, these two ladies wanted to take my picture, so John was able to get all three of us.

This trip touched me in ways I never could have imagined, leaving me awed and horrified and grateful and exhilarated and exhausted and humbled all at once.

Where have you been, or where might you like to go, for the trip of a lifetime?

 


Posted on February 10, 2015 - by

Road Signs

LUCY BURDETTE: I can’t resist one last travel blog–I swear I won’t become one of those boorish relations who shows interminable slides! But the road signs in Australia are so interesting–and graphic…

Drive on left in Australia.

never too old to try it! Even with hubby giving helpful tips

Kangaroo crossing.

We might have seen an endangered bandicoot, but he was too fast to capture on film.

We did however see an endangered tiger quoll

and then drank his beer to support his future

Wood hens on road. Mutton birds on road.

Endangered woodhen

We did see them both  but the mutton birds fly in at night to land on the beach and find their nests. We watched in awe!

They really mean it this time: Unstable cliffs you may fall and die

twelve apostles, great ocean road

Dangers everywhere.

Sometimes it’s better just to focus on the cute animals…

Nothing is quite ever what it seems–this one I just liked–true for life in general…


And here’s an article on the pros and cons of visiting Australia and New Zealand, with tips!


Posted on December 17, 2014 - by

Cuba: Taking Things for Granted @LucyBurdette

Photo by Raymond L. Blazevic

LUCY BURDETTE: In a year of unusual experiences, we had one more last month, the opportunity to take a trip to Cuba.

In Key West, only ninety miles from Havana, Cuba, we hear a lot about the island. In fact, frequently we read news stories about Cubans who’ve attempted to reach the US in a variety of homemade, unseaworthy vessels— even windsurfers. “Cubans who do not reach the shore (dry land), are returned to Cuba unless they cite fears of persecution. Those Cubans who successfully reach the shore are inspected by Department of Homeland Security and generally permitted to stay in the United States.” (Wikipedia)

Whether it’s fair or not, it saddens me when they take such a risk to attempt to make a new life, get so close, but get sent back to whatever they were running from. Or worse yet, die of exposure or rough seas. At any rate, that line of news has led us to an intense curiosity about Cuba and what life could be like for its inhabitants.

As you may know, Americans are not allowed to visit that nation on our own. However regulations have recently loosened up to allow American tourists to visit as part of an educational group. So when the chance came to travel over with the Florida Keys Tree Institute, we grabbed it.

I thought I’d share just a few things that after this trip, we realize we take for granted in our country:

We can leave the country any time we have the money and a passport.

We can start our own businesses. As Cuba is not a democracy, entrepreneurship is not officially condoned. However, the regulations about running a private business are also loosening, of course with the understanding that the government taxes them heavily. Raoul Castro apparently cares much less about the specifics of what people do than that they pay their taxes. He was aware that things had to change for the island to thrive. But the government still owns many hotels, restaurants, and museums.

We expect good food and good service in a restaurant. We ate several unimpressive meals at a government buffet or restaurant. But when we visited private restaurants, called paladars, the food was immensely superior to the government buffet.

We expect email, and wifi and iPhone service. More about that tomorrow, but though the Cuban folks who could afford it were answering phones and checking email, we had none. Nada, nothing.

We expect roads that can be traveled and trains that run and horses on farms. In Cuba, every kind of transportation shares the road.

Mid-fifties Chrysler

In Havana all the old cars are a big draw, many of them serving as taxis or else as stages for tourist photos –for the right price of course.

We expect doctors to make a lot more money than waiters. In Cuba, everyone is paid the same salary regardless of their job—an amount that is roughly twenty-five dollars per month. Of course, underneath the surface is a thriving black market and system of barter. The folks who work in the tourist industry and have access to tips do much better. (And by way, we expect the same money to be used for everyone–not so in Cuba, where tourists must use a special money called “Cucs”.)

We expect Hemingway’s home to be in Key West! But one of my highlights was visiting Finca Vigia,

photo from Wikipedia

his Cuban oasis outside the city of Havana, where he lived for  twenty years with his fourth wife, Mary. The house is now a museum. The weather was rainy so they were not willing to open the doors and windows to risk damage to the history they are working hard to preserve. We were able to peer into the window and see the typewriter on which he wrote For Whom the Bell Tolls. Also his private bathroom where he weighed himself daily and recorded the results on the wall… His fishing boat, the Pilar, was there, too.

Photo by John Brady

Hmmm, do we expect our capital city to be in good order? The city of Havana is a complicated place, gorgeous facades still stand but many are crumbling into ruins. Many also are being restored.


We expect art to be on walls in museums. One of our last stops brought us to the neighborhood of Jose Fuster, whose ceramic work pays homage to Barcelona architect Antonio Gaudi. He has gradually replaced the facades of the homes in the area with the most fantastical ceramic murals. We were enchanted!

Batista’s Gold Phone

I won’t try to summarize the politics and history of this island–I’m sure I could not do justice to the complications of the Spanish American war (which name our guide noted should have included Cuba, as it was fought there,) Batista’s reign of terror, the Revolution, the US embargo, the emergence of the Soviet Union, the effects of the collapse of the socialist countries, the entrance of Venezuela into the picture. There is a lot of chatter about when or if the embargo will be lifted, and how a country which is way behind in terms of infrastructure and technology could handle the influx of tourists.


I can say that my impression of Cuba as a land where people are suffering and waiting their chance to escape a communist dictator has many more shades of gray than expected. But I   can also say that the people were thrilled to hear Obama’s speech on immigration while we were visiting, especially this line: “We were all immigrants once.”

And I’ll end with our fabulous guide Renier’s steady refrain over the week: “In Cuba, everything is possible, but nothing is guaranteed.” (Kind of like life, right?)

 



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