Saturday, November 7, 2009


You've stumbled upon the blog of my 4-month journey in Nepal and India from October 2008 to February 2009. It might make more sense if you start from first post in October and read in chronological order. Happy reading!

Monday, March 2, 2009

Potty blog

So many times, I had photos to go with my blogs but I didn't have the time or patience to post them in an internet cafe. Therefore, I've decided to continue the blog of my travels, even though I'm home. Let's start with bathrooms...the same way I started a few months ago : )

You remember this oldie but a goodie. You can't tell, but this is built on the side of a hill. If a board breaks (my worst nightmare), you not only fall several feet into a pile of poop, but you then slip and slide down the side of a steep hill. Yes, these are the kinds of things you think about when perched precariously over poop.

See the skinny red tent? That's our toilet tent. For most of the trip, this is where we...went. One porter was in charge of digging the hole and setting up the tent. And in the morning, the same lucky guy was in charge of topping off the hole with dirt or rocks and taking down the tent.
What's that? Oh thaaat...that's a yak. I'm not sure if you can tell from this photo but he's ENORMOUS. It is a bit disconcerting to hear the clank, clank of a yak bell approaching the toilet tent while you're inside.

Brian's gonna kill me but this photo is too funny. The yaks didn't make Brian nervous at all. I, on the other hand, had already imagined the scenario of being trampled by yaks while in a toilet tent. My earlier run-in with a particularly grumpy yak made me skittish. More on this later.

This was one of the nicer "squatty potties". No, you don't sit on it (though I heard of one traveler that spent months trying to sit until someone told her she was supposed to squat. Seriously!?!). You put your feet on the little ridges. Yes, it's tricky. The ridges a usually wet, which makes them slippery. And of course, I had thoughts of slipping and how bad that would be. The faucet, bucket, and bucket scoop are for "cleaning" and flushing. I never could break my toilet paper habit and headed to the toilet with toilet roll and a plastic bag in hand.

This is one of the showers at Shivananda ashram, the more western of the two ashrams. Notice the proximity of the shower head to the toilet? This explains why we were always sitting on cold, wet toilets.

Without the shower head, this would be an example of a typical non-western shower (aka, the bucket bath). Jubilee was the name of my dorm, which had two floors. The upstairs bucket scoop was mis-paired with the downstairs bucket (obviously, someone was slacking a little on their karma yoga).

That's all for today. Check back again in a week or so. I'll tell the story of me and the grumpy yak.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Back in Chicago

After one taxi ride, three flights, and two long layovers, I made it to Chicago at about 5:30 Wednesday night. It's good to be back. Here's how I spent my last two weeks in India : )

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Blogging from the Delhi airport...for free!

So far, the first leg of my 50-hour journey has gone well. I left Quiet today at noon, took a taxi to Chennai airport, and then flew from Chennai to Delhi. I:m now checked into my Delhi-Seoul flight and am taking advantage of the free internet. How cool is that!?!?

Gotta go. 29 hours left of traveling. Phew. Gonna be tired when I get to Chicago.

Friday, February 6, 2009

Tick tock. 4 days, 15 hours

I think this might be my last blog from abroad, though I do plan to keep blogging when I get home. First, I'll catch up with some travel photos, which I'll send from the comfort of my living room using a broad-band network and a virus-free computer with a working DVD drive. Then, who knows what. Maybe I'll keep it as a photo blog.

The last 14 days of my travels are being spent at Quiet Healing Center in Auroville, India. Auroville is on the east coast of India and the guest house overlooks the Bay of Bengal, which offers a beautiful view of the sunrise. Check out the link to the web site from a few posts ago. I was looking forward to lazy afternoons on the beach but, unfortunately, this is not the kind of beach that you'd like to stroll along. You see, the local fisherman use it as their toilet. Yep. Yuk. It's really not a big deal though. There is small, brick, bougainvillea-covered wall that forms an effective barrier between the grounds of the resort and the poopy sand. From a hammock between two palms, you can make out the ocean view but you can't see the locals doing their daily business : ) Yay!

The food here, again, is fantastic. The residents of Auroville are mainly western and the food is prepared by western standards. That means that, hallelujah, I can actually eat the salads! So I've been eating lots of salads. Good stuff.

My days are ridiculously simple here. Reading, yoga, meditation, eating, and sleeping. Hence, that lack of posts over the last week or so. To keep busy, I took a 1-day workshop called Pills to Peas. I was expecting a workshop on the curative ability of different types of foods. Instead, I learned a lot of what I already knew, that diseases can be both caused and cured by diet. According to the China Study (arguably, the most research-based book on the subject), many health problems are directly related to consumption of animal products. The workshop was presented by an Indian woman, a physician and homeopathic doctor, who has been a vegan for many years. While I may not become vegan (even though the research is very convincing), I did have two excellent vegan meals which were tasty and satisfying. For me, the myth of the starving (and taste-starved) vegan has been dispelled.

Tick tock. 4 days, 15 hours until I fly out of Delhi. These last few days have gone a little slowly . It will be good when I have things to do again, like make my way by bus to Chennai, catch my flight to Delhi (on the 10th), and then catch my flight home (2AM on the 11th). My itinerary is: Delhi to Seoul and then Seoul to Chicago on the 11th. Stay in Chicago for a few days. Chicago to Columbus on the night of the 16th.

Thanks to everyone who offered me a place to crash when I return, though it looks like my apartment will be free. Yay : ) It will be nice to be home. See you soon!


Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Shameless plug for Icebreaker undies

Dad, you can skip this blog if you want : )
So a few months ago, I was in a car with some friends driving from a river takeout back to the put-in to pick up a car. I was thinking how happy I was to be wearing my merino wool thermals. It was a cool day and the water (the Nanty) was freezing, as usual. Even though I was soaking wet, my base layers kept me warm from shoulders to ankles. They're soft, they dry fairly quickly, and they can sit wet in a bag for a day or two without getting stinky (you all know how sensitive my nose is to stinky things). My wool thermals are among my favorite items of clothing.

So there I was, sitting in my wet wool on the way back to the put-in when I thought, somebody should make merino wool underwear (and by underwear, I mean panties)? What's the point of a wool base layer if the base base layer was cotton or nylon? I must have been mulling out loud because my friend Eve said, "Icebreaker makes wool underwear!" So two weeks before my trip, I ordered 5 pairs of Icebreaker wool underwear over the Internet. These are the only pairs I brought on my trip and have worn them every day. I have to say, I will never wear anything else. After 21 days trekking (17 without a shower), a few months of bucket laundry and air drying, and about a month of Keralan jungle heat, they are still as good as new. They didn't shrink or stretch, they are not scratchy, they kept me cool in the heat and warm in the cold, they washed easily, and they dried in about 2 hours. Aaaand best of all, they all still pass the non-stinky test : ) Check them out here:

I ordered them from an online outdoor retailer but I can't remember which one. So there you have it. Icebreaker undies are the best undies ever : ) Now don't get me started on my Icebreaker sweater, which I've also worn nearly every day and still looks like new.

Thanks Eve and thanks Icebreaker!

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

The Audacity of Hope

I'm spending tonight in Bangalore with a friend I met at the ashram and then tomorrow, I'll be heading back to the ashram. Why did I make this one-day trip? There are no TVs at the ashram and tonight (10PM or so India time, 11:30AM your time), my friend (from DC) and I will be glued to the TV to watch the inauguration. Yay, yay, yay!! Today is Bush's last day in office. I'm so excited I can hardly contain myself.