Monday, October 18, 2010

India and Amsterdam....together at last


Once again, work has sent me to my most favorite place on earth. A place where the curry flows like ketchup and the tap water will give you diarrhea for weeks. No not Gary Indiana (hey yo), but India. I know that is a little vague cause India is rather large....so I went to Pune.....again. Never heard of it? It's only the 6th largest city in India with a population of 3.5 million. That's it! That's all I have to say about Pune. All I did is work. I was there for 21 days, and I worked 21 days. That's why I'm paid the big bucks.

The most exciting part of my whole trip was the day the supreme court came down with a ruling on who owns some religious piece of land. This had been an 18 year court case in the making (started by some rioting and deaths) over a piece of land both the muslims and hindus claimed to be theirs. One side wanted to build a temple there, the other wanted to build.....a temple there. Personally, I thought they should have built a strip club, so no one was happy....well none of the religious peoples. Anyway, this was such a big deal that they were predicting riots throughout the country, banned mass text messages, and my company told me I should go home early. But did I? No! I risked life and limb for the job. I deserve a raise.

This is really the only picture I took while I was in India....



That's right, its a picture of a trash dump. Please don't take this the wrong way, but I really think this sums up a lot of what my experience in India is like. There is a very distinct smell to India that I recognized as soon as I got off the plane. It's a mix of trash, mildew, fear and a hint of nutmeg. Then, India is dirty. It's more like its just unorganized. Things are half built and not cleaned up. And there are stray dogs everywhere. And there are poor people everywhere. And that's why I took that picture. Like I said don't take it the wrong way....this is a lot of what I think of when I think of India (sorry Indians reading this).

If I was going back to India for three weeks, I had to stop somewhere fun on the way back. And what better place to have fun then the land of sex, drugs, and canals....Amsterdam. Since I was travelling by myself, I decided to stay at a hostel to meet more people....good decision. It was sooo much fun and I met so many awesome people. They had a bar in the hostel and a smoking room (ya know, cigarette smoking). Every night I would party at the hostel and meet a group of people, go out to bars, coffee shops (ya know, for coffee) and the red light district (ya know, for red lights), then go back and party more at the hostel, and go out with a different group of people. The downside was everyday people left and I lost all my friends (tear).




So, while I was there, I found out that the Netherlands elected some super right wing government and is closing the red light district and working on closing all the coffee shops. Basically they are trying to lose all their tourists. God I hate conservative religious nuts. However, the city is pretty cool outside all the partying. The city is completely made up of different alleys and canals.



There is unlimited amounts of restaurants and bars. And they sell fries on their own.


Hmmm...nevermind these are all just made for partying. I think this was the intention when they founded this city....to get high, get food and get laid. I for one say 'No thank you' to this. I came for the windmills and clogs.



Oh yeah....and they have delicious baked goods (ya know, with weed in them)



Sunday, September 19, 2010

Burning Man



I was trying to think of a way that I could explain burning man to those non freak crazy druggy hippies out there (you know who you are), who haven't been yet.....but I don't know that it's possible. The first moment I set foot out there, I had a feeling I have never experienced before...it was just complete sensory overload (and barely any drugs were involved). It was a world where pretty much every single thing had never even been a consideration in my mind. The mere fact that people ride their bikes through the desert because the area is so big (circle 1.5 miles in diameter), is crazy and would cause complete brain malfunction in normal people.



Since my first experience at burning man, my view of it has changed significantly. My first impression of it was totally Party! Party! Drugs! Sex! Party!




Not to be lame or cliche, but it seems much more significant than that now. It is a culture that is utterly community focused. In case you didn't know, nothing is for sale at burning man. No food! No water! Nothing (except ice). This means you have to bring in (and out) everything you need to survive for a week. However, you could easily manage as well by bringing absolutely nothing. You could sky dive in (as many people do) and get along quite well by the charity of others. Everyone is looking to give to the others and the community. Everywhere you go there are bars setup where the drinks are free...all you need to do is bring around your cup and they will fill you up.



















At meal times, everywhere you go, people are grilling up hundreds of grilled cheeses, quesadillas, crepes, breakfast burritos, etc. Everywhere you go, there are huge tents setup that hold from 20 to 100s of people with full on couches, lounge chairs, etc. and every tent is open to everyone. Any time of day or night you can go right into one of these tents and lie down on a couch and sleep.

In addition to just giving out things for free (and free is the wrong word...its really benefiting the giver as much as the receiver), people spend a significant part of their year creating items for the event. The coolest part of the entire experience IMHO is the art cars. People break down cars to their base and then build them back up into crazy looking vehicles like dragons or birthday cakes or pirate ships. These can be based on buses and hold 50+ people.



All the larger art cars have DJs spinning on them and like everything else at burning man, all are welcome. Anyone can jump on and off these vehicles at any time and at night they simply roll around in the center with no destination in mind.....rolling parties.....so sick!












Often times the art cars will stop for a while somewhere and be pumping their music which causes a crowd of passerby's to check it out and from an impromptu party. Basically everywhere you go there is a party. The ship below took 3 wide load trucks to bring up.



People also spend their time outside of burning man building huge trippy art installations for the event. These are some of the coolest things you will ever see.....and are perfect for staring at if you happen to be on some mind expanding substances (not that I ever would be).

There are just some amazingly creative people who make stuff for this simply because they love to.




















For some reason, the percentage of attractive people at burning man is ridiculously high. I swear to god theres like a 10 to 1 ratio of models to ugly chicks (I'm sure the guys aren't bad either....I mean I'm there....nice!). Plus these girls are dressed in the most ridiculous outfits, or simply no outfits at all. There is a fair amount of naked people at any time of day or night (ask me for pics), some bad, but mostly good 8-) People walk around like this not to be sexual (usually) but just to be liberated. Nudity is so prevalent and people take it so lightly that it takes the sexuality out of it (well not entirely (wink)).

Oh man, and the music is unreal. I'd say at least 75% of the music spun there is Dubstep. I always was a huge fan of electronic music, but Dubstep is just a whole other level. It has such hard beats and I am totally obsessed with it now. There aren't really live bands at burning man, but more DJs EVERYWHERE. If its ok with you let me explain a little bit of the layout....


The area is a 3/4 of a circle 1.5 miles in diameter. In the middle is the man and for .25 miles in every direction is wide open desert with an occasional random trippy art installation. Outside of that is the inner ring known as the esplanade. This consists of all the major "clubs" and tents. There are numerous tents and domes holding hundreds+ people, playing music all day and night. Some ridiculously amazing (biggest in the world) DJs spin at the bigger stages. Outside of the esplanade for 1 mile is all the tents, RVs, etc. where everyone lives. Placed among peoples "homes" are bars, massage tents, misting tents, trampolines, swings, games, and chaos. Everything is brought in by attendees for the benefit of everyone.

Even the weather in crazy out there (duh, it's a desert). It's hot during the day (upper 90s) and cold at night (50s). Sudden dust storms kick up at any and all times. These can lead to white out conditions where you can't even see ten feet in front of you.


Last year I happen to be wandering through the open center area during one of these white outs with no shirt.....looking for answers to life's questions. All of sudden, out of the dust, comes a booth with a stool on each side and sign that says advice. Some dude is sitting on one side and has been clearly waiting for me. So I sit down and this guy completely covered in dirt with sand whipping across his face sits there and talks to me in complete seriousness about my life. This description really didn't do it justice, but it was hysterical.

When the weather clears up you can see so much stuff. The last night I was there became a perfectly clear night and looking out from the middle, all you could see was shit loads of lights for miles in every direction. Not city lights, but party lights (yeah....party lights). Everything and everyone is decked out in crazy colored lights. It the most ridiculous sight which gives the most ridiculous feeling. Sometimes I wish I could take this feeling, this experience, and roll it all up into a pill...check. I would go to burning man and take that pill....check.

















Is this picture on the right not the perfect fucking picture. I mean look at her leg for god sakes.

There is tons more I could say about this and probably some better stories. But there is still no possible way you would understand. I suggest you get naked, grab a boombox, and bike down the street with glow sticks....then you'll get it.




Sunday, April 25, 2010

The T-T-T-T-Taj Mahal

For the past four centuries, Indian tourism has had a shadow cast over it by one building and four syllables;

The





























Ma-





























First thing to say, it was 112 degrees. Yes, one hundred and fuckin twelve degrees...And that was in Celsius.

To tell you the truth, I felt like overall it looked more impressive from a distance than up close.


It looked much, much smaller when I got up close (Anybody? Thats what she said). It was however, all white marble (Indian white marble, which the tour guide couldn't stop saying is the best kind of marble. Even better than Italian marble apparently. Can you believe it? Better than Italian marble. Even the Italians admit it when they see it). There was clearly at least a couple days worth of work put into the up close designs which include all kinds of rare stones actually set into the marble....oooooohhhh.



Interesting story to go along with it. The emperor, we'll call him "emperor back in the day", loved his wife a lot, but upon bearing their fourteenth child she died. Her dying wish was for him to build a memorial of her that was sooo grand, the whole world would know it. Emperor back in the day loved his wife so much that...yada yada yada.....Taj Mahal. However, the emperor was going crazy by that point (it took like 25 years to build the thing), and he was like "hey, this thing is pretty sweet. I should build one for myself. Except mine will be sweeter cause it will be black." (That was an Actual quotation). So he starting building another one, but then his son realized he was crazy and spending ass tons of money on tombs while people starved and so had his father arrested. His son was nice enough to imprison his father in this fort nearby where he could have a perfect view of the Taj. Awwwwwww.

So, yeah, this thing is just a giant tombstone. Apparently, the four towers at the corners of the Taj have a two percent gradient pointing away from the main structure. This was done so that if they ever fell, they would not crush the Queen inside the main building (I don't think she would notice). After emperor back in the day died, they ended up burying him in the Taj as well. So at least the space was used a little more efficiently.

And thats all I have to say about that.....

I'm leaving tonight. My plane take off Tuesday morning at 12:30 AM, and I arrive in Chicago at 5 AM after a 16 hour direct flight. [Insert obligatory ash cloud joke here] I am so ready to go back. I hate to say it, but everyone constantly trying to get money from me, and rip me off any way possible, and taking pictures of me cause I'm white, and pointing and laughing at me cause I'm white, has finally started getting to me. Leave me alone! I mean I see white people all the time. Not that interesting. It's not like I'm albino....although I'm close.

Here are some other pictures of Delhi....






And finally I got a shot of four people on a moped.



Hope you enjoyed India and look forward to the next random place I visit,

Matt


And there goes the cows.....

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

A visit to an Indian carnival....kind of

I had the privelege? of visiting what one might call a carnival.....an Indian carnival. They had all the usual carnival activities that you would expect, a ferris wheel, a merry-go-round, etc. except they were all miniature sized and were hand operated. A man stood there and pushed the "ferris wheel" around. Wow, what a thrill.

Then of course, we had the woman dancing with giant pots on her head


and the obligatory dance with the random Indian dude.


Thankfully, then things started getting normal. A man in a horse suit showed up, with a drummer sidekick and did a little jig


Etc, etc, etc.





The day was wrapped up with the traditional meal of cheeseburgers

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Jiho

Well, I am having so much fun here in India, that I have decided to stay an extra week. Sorry to those waiting anxiously to see me. I will tell you, its not cause of the office food...



I don't have a lot of new interesting pictures because I have been working 14 hours a day, which is why I'm paid the big bucks. I will, as always, though, give you some of my extremely interesting observations and opinions about what I have seen....

First, there is some weird obsession with multi headed creatures here. I guess its a religious thing, so I probably shouldn't be calling it weird?





I went to the movies the other day, checked out Clash of the Indian Titans (don't see it). There's some differences between movie theaters here and in the US. First, the ones here are full of Indians. In addition, they won't let you into the theater until one minute before the show starts and everyone scrambles to find their assigned seats before the lights turn off. Yes, I said assigned seats. That means that people who come in late all need to turn their phone on to see what seats are what. Of course there are plenty of people who are just talking on the phone throughout the entire movie.....kinda rude people. Finally, they play the national anthem at the beginning of the movie and everyone stands at attention. Oh, and there is an intermission (repeat process with finding seats).

In general people seem a little less interested in other's well being here (see talking on phones during movies). This is especially true when waiting in queues and driving. I know I talked about driving before, but I thought of a good way to describe it. You know how we practice "defensive driving" in the US, well they practice "offensive driving" here (hey yo!). Its really like everyone assumes that people will be moving out of their way by the time they drive into their lane/side of street/sidewalk/anywhere. Its CHAOS. Oh, and rickshaw drivers don't like to be touched.



And here come the cows....



And people haven't even heard of the Super bowl!

You also have to watch out for the kids here. They are vicious (the homeless ones anyways). They will hunt down the white people and follow them (as in me) around for as long as it takes to get a rupee (2 cents). Your car stops at a light with kids around; they will be climbing all over your vehicle, grabbing you through the window, etc. Last time I was in India, I even almost got beat up by a bunch of 8 year olds. Ahhh kids, so precious.