Monday, April 28, 2003

There was more!!!

As if enough hadn't happened already, last night I had two more surprises....
First of all, Yaell suddenly showed up out of the blue and started knitting shoes on my porch. (Yaell is the Israeli girl i was with in Delhi). Then, just an hour after I had e-mailed him saying where I was, Danel arrived!!! For those who've been here a while, you will know that danel is the Israeli guy I travelled around Goa for a month with. But was it really danel?? He looked like a half dead version of the guy I knew. His eyes had black bags that would put the most dedicated junkie to shame. His cheeks were sunken and his beard was growing wild. He was soaked thru to the skin. Wearing just a thin sweatshirt and a pair of jeans he had ridden his Honda Hero from Rishakesh to Dharamasala in the rain, having been ill and unable to eat for a week, and sleeping in roadside dabas on the floor. He was cold thru to the bones and shivering. After sitting him down and covering him in blankets, he started to get a bit of energy back, and looked slightly better, although still more like a corpse than a living human being. The, just as i thought he was going to be ok, his eyes rolled back, his head lolled to the side, and his mouth began gnashing! I didn't know what to do, so i ran and got Sunil to ask him where I could find a doctor. After a few minutes danel came to, but was feeling very bad, so we got him to bed and gave him some glucose drink. After a while he managed to eat some pizza, and today, thanks to the pills Paul's mum gave me in Pune, he is back in the land of the living once more!

So now I'm trying to arrange my train tickets to get to katmandu. What a nightmare. I thought maybe the internet would help me... Ha! Go and look at the Indian Railaways site... ....What a joke!! I spent 20 mins just trying to find the right page, and even then u have to know the codes of every train and station to use the bloody form! anyway, hopefully Summer knows a guy who can book for me. It;s gonna be quite a jouney.... overnight bus to Delhi, then overnight train to Gorakpur, then bus to Sunauli, then overnight bus to Katmandu!!! 3 nights of sleeping on public transport!! lama cacher!! (dont know how to spell).

ok, gotta go and have a shave now... 10 rupees for a good shave...baragin! :)

Sunday, April 27, 2003

Wow, what a weekend...

Yesterday morning we got up early and set off on a 3 day trek to a cave above the snowline. My travelling companions were Shivach, an Israeli guy who has the room next to me, and Sunil, the local guy who runs my guesthouse. The plan was to head to Triund, at the top of the first pass, then camp the night in a cave there, then head to the snowline and the main cave the following day, before returning on the third day. We set off early and after about 4 hours had reached Triund. The view is incredible. Behind you is the valley stretching down towards Dharamkot, McLeod Ganj, and Dharamasala, and in front of you tower the Himalayas, snow capped peaks reaching up into the clouds.

The sun was shining, which was nice, as the walk up had been a bit cloudy. We lay in the sun and ate noodles and marvelled at the panorama before us. Then, in the space of about 5 mins, the sky turned black and the first drops of rain began to fall. Me and Shivach forced our strained legs to propel us full speed up a very steep and rocky slope to the cave in which we were to spend the night. By the time we got up there the rain was coming in strong and we just got our bags into the shelter of the cave in time. I say "cave", but really it was just a rocky overhang, and some shepards had built some simple dry stone walls at the sides to keep some of the wind out. It was starting to get really quite cold and I was very glad to have my thermal long johns with me! The storm continued to get worse and the wind was becoming gale force. The view from the cave was incredible. You could see the mountains behind, the valley in front, and directly below us was a small group of ancient looking trees, their branches festooned with buddhist prayer flags. The prayer flags are all different colours and have prayers or mantras written on them. The buddhists believe that when the wind blows, it carries the positive prayers with it. As I watched from my cave, the flags looked as if they were going to tear free as they fought with the wind to cling to their string, and I thought to myself that there must be a sizable ocean of good vibes streaming off of those flags at that moment... :) As we sat in the relative shelter of our cave, I thanked the many gods for making the wind blow across our cave rather than into it... I'm not sure I could have dealt with a full in the face assault. The rain turned to hail. The sky was so dark by now that we had to use a torch to see enough to light a fire. It was getting bloody freezing! We really were incredibly exposed there, but thankfully the wind kept it's course, and the 45 degree rain continued to hurl itself past our cave rather than into it. At one point the storm eased up slightly and we were able to venture out of the cave long enough to find some food and admire the amazing sky and mountains...

I slept fairly well despite the intense cold, but was awoken just before dawn by Shivach snoring. After failing to stop him with the use of violence, I decided to get up. Sunil had been telling us the day before that it definitely wouldn't rain, then that it would stop after 20 mins, then that it would stop after a few hours, then that it would be clear tomorrow..... Well, it was tomorrow now, and although the rain had stopped, the sky was still looking ominous. We lit the fire and thawed ourselves for a while before heading down to the small chai shop further down the mountain. The wind was still very strong, and it was very cold. We looked over towards the snow covered mountains that were supposed to be our destination. Sunil assured us that it was no probnlem and that we could continue to the snowline, and that the rain would not return. I was starting to doubt Sunils ability to accurately predict the weather, and after about 15 mins of trekking thru the gales and biting cold, Shivach was the first to stop and say he was going back. Sunil asked me if I wanted to continue. I looked up at the snow covered peak and saw the thick white clouds of snow and hail moving purposefully across it.... "Not into that!" I said, and we decided to head back before the worst weather returned.

After a nice walk/run down the mountain, during which the sun came out and warmed our frozen bones, we arrived home just as the main part of the storm returned to finish the job! We were so happy that we had decided to turn back, as the rain began to lash down in torrents, and we watched it from the dryness of our front porch. :)

But now it's still raining!! Not good! But at least I'm here in this dry Internet cafe rather than shivering in some cave half way up the Himalayas.... :)

Friday, April 25, 2003

I went for a swim in the waterfall the other day. I was expecting it be cold. I wasn't, however, expecting to feel like someone had hit me in the stomach with a baseball bat. But then I suppose it's only just melted.... It was good anyway! When you get out you don't feel cold because your skin is SOOO cold that the air feels warm... :)

I'm still planning on going on a trek "tomorrow" (such a flexible word "tomorrow") and this time I have a guide (the owner of my guesthouse) so maybe I actually will go....

I went to a wedding the other day. Very cool. All the guys were drunk and dancing like nutters (of course I had to join in to be polite... ) and all the women were sober and dancing like nutters..... Except the bride who was shut away in a room at the back with her face covered in a shawl and her head in the lap of a bridesmaid.... There were a few small fights as the drunken men got a bit too rowdy, and my host informed me that later on there would no doubt be a lot more....

There was another trance party here last night, but once again I didn't go.... I think I must be gettin old..... Or maybe it's just because trance is shit..... either way, I haven't been full power lately. "Full power" is one of those expressions that everyone uses here but no one knows whether it's Indian, english, israeli, or a combination of the 3.... But it's a great expression! Full Power!

I found a good cafe to hang out in now, with a bunch of english and israelis, and a gay ozzy guy who works there.... I was there the other night, and the Ozzy guy, "Summer", was getting a bit worried as he had given the new hired help 2 large whiskeys and a lump of charas. Now this new guy had come from a village somewhere and was not really used to these crazy westerners and their excessive ways...and this guy had downed 2 large whiskeys and then smoked the whole lump of charas to himself, and was in the middle of doing a major whitey... he thought his stomach was hurting...he'd been poisoned etc etc.... so Summer was worried and feeling guilty..

Summer said he was worried that maybe this new guy would leave in the morning and go back to his village and then they'd have to find someone new... I said that maybe that wasn't very likely, and Summer explained: "you don't understand, this is the 3rd time this has happened!!"... So it turns out that so far Summer has already scared off 2 village boys by getting them too fucked! They just pack up and leave the next day!! LOL!

anyway, life is good. It's very wierd to spend time with English ppl again. God we're funny! :) hehe. I've aslo met some very embarressing english ppl. It's very awkward when your sat with them and they're being hopelessly pathetic and you feel like you have to explain to ppl that you aren't associated with them.... pommy bastards.

Tuesday, April 22, 2003

Ok, now I'm happy. :) I've decided to stay here and I'm glad I made this decision. I've moved away from the "town" to the little village of Dharamkot. It's so peaceful here it's amazing. It's beautiful sunshine all day, and in the sun it's very hot, but if you move into the shade it's really cold! At night it's freezing! Gonna go climb a mountain tomorrow... I know I keep saying that, but really, I am! My gf has booked her flight to Nepal, so should be seeing her in about 2 weeks!! :) Not sure if nepal is the best place to go now tho, as the weather isn't gf actually told me this but I didn't believe her.... doh. Anyway, I'm too lazt to write anything today, so I'll seeya later....

Saturday, April 19, 2003

I was woken up this morning by the rather unfamiliar sound of thunder and heavy rain....
I looked out the window and was shocked to find that I had somehow been teleported through space back to England!!! The grey sky, cold wind, constant rain, and general shittiness of the weather was straight from northern europe! This is not right! This is not ok!! I'm not prepared to stand for this! I'm going to go and see the Dali lama first thing tomorrow morning and ask him what the hell he's playing at!! Rain! Tsk, what will they think opf next!

So anyway, 1 day is enough, and i'm gonna pack up and leave this cold harsh land tomorrow and head south alittle bit. I figure if its too hot in delhi, but too cold here, there must be somewhere right bang smack in the middle that is just perfect!!!! Maybe it's just a shitty little village, but that's ok, weather is an englishman's number one priority doncha know....

I have also managed to pick up a new cold, which is nice....

ok, I'm gonna go and hide under my tibetan shawl before my fingers freeze..... :)

Friday, April 18, 2003

Hello from McLeod Ganj!

I'm in the mountains now, finally getting the chance to wear my nice warm fleece that i have been cursing for the last few months as it lay unused in my backpack. Even my walking boots have seen the light of day! :) It's pretty chilled here, altho on the day we arrived, apparantly there was big rave just down the road, but we didn't know so went to bed after watching half a movie!!! (It was a verrry long movie... Ghandi... about 4 hours plus!). Planning on doing a small day trek tomorrow or the next day. My walking boots are finally becoming useful! The weather here is lovely. Like an english spring, but warmer at midday. Gonna go swimming in the icy river tomorrow, just like preston on wye in spring!! (but with the himalayas just behind...).

This place is where the exiled tibetan government is based and the Dali Lama has his crib. I missed the chance to see him give a public audience on the day I arrived, but apparantly if you apply in writing and give a good reason, you can be granted a private audience to go see him. So now I just need a good reason.... Dear Dali Lama, I really need to see you. I am thinking of buying a house and need advice on getting the right mortgage.... mmm, maybe not. Dear Dali Lama, I need to see you as I have disovered the meaning of life, and i want to check if it's the same as yours before I try to aquire a patent......

Anyway, as you may have noticed i have been avoiding the internet lately. Quite frankly, I have better things to do. :) But don't worry, I haven't abandoned you all completely. I'll still pop in to let you know the latest happenings in my spawny life... :)

U can see the snow capped himalayas from here. Makes me badly want to go snowboarding! Gonna find out how much it'll cost.... :)

Ok, thats all for now!

enjoy the spring!

Monday, April 14, 2003

I'm sharing a room at the moment with an Israeli Girl called Yaell (said ya-ell) (spellt fuck knows how) (spellt?? Is that how you spell spellt? Or should it be spelled? No, that doesn't look right either...maybe spelt? mmmm....) Anyway, when we arrived in delhi, we took it in turns looking at rooms while the other watched the bags, and eventually decided on a room that Yaell had selected. While we were getting our stuff, Yaell said "Oh by the way, your my husband and I'm pregnant". "huh?" I said, a little confused. "yeah, I told them your my husband and that I'm pregnant to try and get a room on the first floor, but as it turns out the best room is on the third floor, so i told them i'd manage...". So anyway, I thought nothing of it, until the hotel staff started giving me looks of congratulation and smiling at me to show their approval! When the guy came to bring our bags he said "you husband and wife?". "yeah" we both said. Too late to back out now. "Ahhh, that's very nice" he said, and smiled at me knowingly.... I should probably add at this point that Yaell is rather big boned, and I am, well, just bones really, so i guess the idea of her bones and my bones boning must have been rather amusing for them..... ;) Anyway, the story is still holding up, and I think it's gonna get us moved to a different room today as ours is too hot. Not good for the baby.....

I ventured out today. At least i tried. It took me about 6 attempts to get going. First I forgot my hat. Remember we stay on the 3rd floor, and there's no lift. So then I forgot my sunglasses. Then i went all the way to the train station to reserve my ticket north, but after joing the que, I realised I'd forgotten my Passport! So I went all the way home, got my passport, and forgot my hat again. Then i forgot to take enough money. By the time i actually got my train ticket i was completely knackered, but I still decided to go and explore Old Delhi. So, I walked about a kilometre along a busy road before realising I was going in the wrong direction. By this time i thought "fuck it", and changed my plan to accomodate the new direction. So, following the roadsigns, I started heading for "Connaught Place". After about another km, I'm still on the main road, and no more signs. So, I stop and ask a young looking guy for directions. He doesn't really know, but we start chatting anyway and he tells me he's a doctor (well, medical student actually, but they always say doctor don't they) and him and his 3 colleages are conducting some survey of dispensarys in Delhi. I meet his friends, and they insist I join them for a cold drink. By this time I'm almost dying of thirst and my bottle of water has almost reached boiling point, so i agree enthusiastically. About a 30 minute bus ride later we eventually arrive at the tomb of some King/Emperor/important bloke with nice gardens. But not a cold drink in sight! The drinks shop is "closed for repairs". Oh well. After failing miserably to convince the man at the gate that i am indian and should only pay the 5 rupees local price, i am forced to pay an extortionate 100 rupees. Now, the lads (they're all about 22 years old) have told me that they're all single, and that this park is particularly good for cruising chicks. At least thats what i thought they said. It turns out that what they actually meant is that this park is particualrly good for ogling other peoples chicks. Throughout the park couples jostle for smooching space under trees and behind pillars. It's quite bizzare, as there seems to be some kind of standard procedure at work here... each couple is sitting in almost exactly the same pose: guy sitting with back against tree while girl lies in his lap and looks up lovingly into his eyes.... It's almost as if they're all competeing to see who can look the most loving couple! Anyway, 3 of the lads set off to stare at other peoples girlfriends, while I stay behind with the fourth and chat. He tells me that he doesn't go in for "this kind of thing", gesturing towards the fawning couples. "Why not?" I ask. He proceeds to explain to me how the sole purpose of this life is to "sit in ones soul" and find god, and that any other activity is basically a distraction from this purpose. This doesn't just mean smooching. This means any form of social interaction is a distraction from the individual search for enlightenment. He aslo explains to me how a particular Yogi whos name I forget (apparantly he's very famous) attended a seminar in The States a while back, and "proved" that The Hindu Religion is "superior" to all other religions. I tried to point out to him that the whole concept of "proving" the validity of a religious concept is ridiculous as it is impossible to produce facts about feelings and internal experiences, but he kept insisting that it had been proved! Eventually i figured out that he actually meant that he had proved that Hinuism was older than all the other religions, and that they had all in some way descended from it. I tried to point out to him that this didn't necessarily make it "superior", as many times something new derived from something old is considered a newer, "superior" version of the old, but he still insisted that there was conclusive eveidence to prove that hiduism and the concept of dharma was "better" than all the other religions.....

It really is quite fascinating. Indians consider thier land as the place where people spend their final lives before they finally become part of "god" again, or however you want to put it, and that india is spiritually far superior to every other country, and is the teacher of the world in spiritual matters. But all this importance rests on the acceptance of Dharma, which all the other religions, apparantly decended from india, have (as far as I can tell) discarded. (I think Buddism still has a similar concept). If you don't believe in Dharma and Karma, then the Indians stance seems far from enlightened. From a christian perspective their stance is cold and heartless. Helping others to help one's self was hardly Christ's message... or was it? Actually, come to think of it, it probably was. Help the meek and go to heaven. Oh well, here's a new idea. help the meek because you can! Become a Billyist! LOL! Sorry, Billyism is a one man religion, so keep your hands off!

Ok, enough seemingly deep yet pathetically flawed nonsense from me for one day..... see you all in the mountains! :D

Sunday, April 13, 2003

Well well well,

My last days in Pushkar were great but very sad. Saying goodbye was hard, but it's also good to be back on the road again. So anyway, I had a stomach upset right? Well, I took some anti-biotics and that psyllum stuff, and on Saturday I felt right as rain. At 7pm I went to get on the bus, which took me to Ajmer where I had to change to the sleeper coach. Whilst waiting for the bus I met a guy who was looking really bad, sat with his head between his hands. He told me he had got a really bad stomach upset, vomiting, dioreah, the whole works. Poor bastard! This is just at the start of a 9 hour bus ride! So on the bus i offered him some of my Psyllum husk, which incidentally I had stopped taking, and he eventually agreed. So I started to go to sleep as the bus bounced and crashed it's way along the potholed indian roads. About an hour later, the curse of the Undercover Hippy, thought by me to have been narrowly avoided, reared it's ugly head once more. I woke from my dreams with a severe pain in my gut. But after squeezing out a very cautious fart, all seemed to be well. Then, 5 mins later, the same thing happened, and then 5 mins later again...untill finally there were no more farts left and it was crisis time.... I tried laying still and holding my butt-cheeks tight together, but the constant bouncing of the bus made it impossible. Finally I could take it no more. I got out of my bed and went to the front of the bus, where I woke up one of the drivers...

"I need to go to the toilet" I said,
"you wait" he replied.
"No, I cant wait, it's an emergency" I said.
"U wait 10 minutes" he said.
"ok, I'll try" i said, heading back to my bed clutching my butt cheeks. As I reached my bed the bus hit a particularly vicious pot-hole and my damn almost burst. I ran back to the front of the bus....

"I have to go now..."
"10 mins u wait..."
"Look, unless u want a very messy accident right here in front of you, I suggest u stop the bus RIGHT NOW!" I said, illustrating my point with a rather nice impression of a dioreah noise. Finally he agreed and stopped the bus at the side of the highway. I jumped off and walked about 10 feet from the bus before squatting in the darkness. No sooner had I sqatted when by bum exploded, and no sooner had my bum exploded than a whole convoy of trucks came past with their high beams on, illuminating my display of toilet tragedy for the world to see. I noticed that the drivers were stood in the doorway watching me, but to be honest i was to relieved to give a shit...... except the one I just gave of course.

Back on the bus I chatted with the guy from before who was ill, who turned out to be called Marshall. Marshall told me another story about our last toilet stop. He'd got off the bus, feeling very sick and disorientated, and asked the bus driver to wait while he went to the toilet. "No problem" said the driver. Then as he was coming back from the toilet, he saw to his horror that the bus was pulling away, with all his stuff on board, including ALL his money!!! he ran after the bus shouting, but it was no use..

As he watched the tail-lights dissapear, along with his lifes possesions, he suddenlt felt even more sick, but conjuring up his last reserve of strenght, he somehow convinced the tea-shop owner to chase the bus in his jeep, which is not easy as these bus driver drive like madmen. Anyway, somehow they manged to stop the bus and he got back on, but fuck, what a nightmare!!

So anyway, I'm in Delhi now. I went to see the Taj Mahal this morning. It was awesome, but it was far too hot, so I spent most of the time sprawled out in the shade of various trees and buildings.....

Delhi is smelly. That's about all I've managed to ascertain as yet. I met a group of indians on the train who decided that being british i was an official representative of Tony Blair, even going so far as to call me Tony Blair whilst airing their grievances! But it was all in good humour and we had lot of fun. :)

ok, enough already..... bye!

Saturday, April 12, 2003

I've just uploaded some new photos for your viewing pleasure

look in the India 2003 album, towards the end........ njoy!
I am sitting in the morning
at the net caf on the corner
and I'm waiting for the buttmunch
to get off the damn computer
cos i need the cd writer
and it's taking him forever
just to check his bloody e-mail what a total pile of poo.

Grrr. Technology has been ganging up on me lately. Last night my MD player broke, so now I can't record anything, and it erased my Nora Jones MD, which was one of my favourites! Then also my CD's a bought to copy photo's off my digital cam refused to work in my friends laptop, so I've had to come back to the shop where I bought them and have an argument with the owner about the quality of his CD's... So he's offered to copy them here to demonstrate that they work, but I've been waiting nearly an hour for the machine with the CD writer to be free........ :(

It's free now and he's started... fingers crossed.......

ok, anyway. I'm leaving Pushkar this evening on the 7pm bus and heading to Agra with 2 girls, one Israeli and one French. Just gonna run in, take a photo of the Taj mahal, then run out again! I'm really looking forward to reaching the mountains..... mountains rule! Finding it very hard to say goodbye to the kids...... I keep seeing them in the market but it's not the same as at school.... :(

Right, I cant really think of much to say today. I've been ill the last couple of days with a stomach upset, but I've been eating this wierd Psillium husk stuff, which yo squish into a ball and swallow. It's grim, but it works..... :)

Man, I'm boring myself! ok, bye...

Friday, April 11, 2003

Man it's hot!

I mean REALLY hot. But I'm leaving soon for cooler climes so all is well. Last night was supposed to be a farewell party for all of us leaving, bt it didn't really go according to plan....

I met Dieter and cristoph in the chai shop in the market, and they were drinking Bhang Lassi. Now I'm still not 100% sure what is in this bhang lassi; one guy told me it was the leaves of the cannabis plant that aren't used in the making of charras, but another told me that it's a different, but similar, plant. Either way, this concoction they were drinking was like thick green paste and tasted very bitter. In other words it looked lethal.

After a chai, went to Sunset cafe for dinner. During dinner, Christoph started to look a little stone, and then a lot stoned. He started moving in slow motion and lost the ability to speak, preffering just to sit and smile as he looked at us all through slitted eyes. Then he threw up....... and I think, based on the belgian being spoken, he soiled himself at the same time..... something like "kak hir koffel" or something..... oh dear..... Then he went green and had to be taken home where he continued to pull a major whitey for the rest of the night.... poor boy. :)

So, we were in the paper again! A photo and article about our procession. I wasn't in it though, so it was somewhat lacking..... ;)

Have i mentioned the cows yet? As you may already know, cows are holy in india. This becomes apparant as soon as you arrive, as cows are everywhere in the cities and towns, blocking the roads and generally just ignoring everyone completely. And they're BIG! And not just cows, about 50% are bulls..... and they all have big horns......
Anyway, the point I was going to make isn't about how they look, it's about how they are treated. Because they are considered so Holy, Devout hindus see it as part of their commitment to their faith to make a show of revering and showing their care and concern for the cows. In temples you will see donation boxes for the "Cow Fund - striving to give food and shelter to cows nationwide", and on windows you see stickers proclaiming "Save the Cow!". Now this is very well, and in england we are equally guilty of being obsessed with the welfare of animals, but what strike me here is the complete lack of any equivalent kind of concern for the many 1000's of human beings without food or shelter. Basically the cow's life is considered infinitely more important than that of the lower caste humans. So anyway, I just thought I'd share that with you.

The other day I was sat having a drink with an indian guy from next door called "Mulchan". Mulchan is a real character. He's had Polio, and his legs are useless, so he zooms about the place on his hands with his legs crossed in front of him. He always wants to chat, but very rarely have I had a conversation with him when one sentence is related to the last. They usually go something like:

"Hey, how are you?",
"This mango tree",
"is it?",
"yes, good idea",
"what is?",

or something similar. Anyway, this day I had a conversation that I actually udnerstood, and it went like this: I was saying that I'd been to Bombay, and he commented that it's a very beautiful city. I said yeah, the city centre is beautiful, but the miles of slums that most of the population live in are pretty grim. Yes, he agreed, they are very bad. They leave plastic and rubbish everywhere, and then they eat the plastic and get sick and sometimes die. Images of starving children reduced to eating plastic filled my mind and I lamented with him "Oh, that's terrible! Why do they eat the plastic?".. "Because people leave it everywhere" he said. I started to sense i was missing something here.... "people eat the plastic becasue it's lying around?" I ask. "No not people, cows!" he exclaimed. How stupid of me, to think that his concern might be for people! Doh! :o

Just read in the paper today that the Singaporen deputy Prime minister is telling Singaporeans that SARS may be around forever! Well there's optimism for you! Typical of the singaporean government to be too honest for fear of making promises it cant keep. Always predict the worst appears to be their motto.... Oh well, I hope they're wrong.

BTW, if you want to hear about the situation in bagdad from a slightly different angle, read this:

news story

ok, thats about enogh for today. enjoy. :)

Wednesday, April 09, 2003

As the tanks roll into bagdad and the Iraqis celebrate on television, in Media offices around the world a huge collective U-turn is underway. Yesterday I read the "Independent" online, and it was spouting anti-US rhetoric. Today i go online and it's using the very terminology that yesterday is was condemning! Bagdad has been "Liberated" it tells us... here's a taster:

US marines liberate Baghdad as Saddam's regime crumbles
PA News reporters
09 April 2003

Jubilant Iraqis celebrated liberation today as triumphant US tanks and soldiers poured into the heart of Baghdad.

Civilians and Allied soldiers mingled freely after Saddam Hussein's regime melted away overnight.

US tanks rolled up to the Palestine Hotel, in front of the world's media, snuffing out the last pockets of resistance in the city's centre.

People put a noose around the head of the iconic statue of Saddam in the city's main square and, using a sledgehammer, tried to bring it down. Using the ultimate Arab insult, they threw shoes at the statue.

David Chater told Sky News: "The pincers have closed on the heart of Baghdad. It is an extraordinary sight and a very welcome one".


This is all well and good, and I'm really pleased that the Americans have been recieved well in Bagdad. But lets face it, if you weren't happy about them being there, you wouldn't be out in the street shouting about it would you? But I thought the paper could have had a bit more conviction in it's stance than to change it's tune literally overnight! Maybe today they could have said "US Marines Liberate Bagdad, but Bush is still thick as shit", and then tomorrow: "Iraqis still celebrating, Bush says something not entirely stupid".....followed up the next day with "Hooray for Bush, we always loved you really". At least try to pull some wool over our already bloodshot eyes! Oh well, at least Robert Fisk is still writing his daily updates on what bodies look like after they've been blown up.

It also struck me that I too would be celebrating if I had been holed up in my house for the last 2 weeks waiting to be blown up and finally this ordeal came to an end. I'd run straight outside, do a little dance, throw some flour at a couple of marines (no, not a spelling mistake) and then go and loot myself a 21 inch flatscreen tv to watch the rest of the war live on CNN.

Anyway, enough of this war. Just make sure I get a piece when you're dividing up the treasure....

We did our big procession through the marketplace with the kids today. It was great fun. I spend most of the time trying to prevent kids from throwing themselves under passing vehicles, but managed to look up ofeten enough to see the looks on the faces of the people we passed. It was really great to see all the shopkeepers come out of their shops to watch us and all of them gave us a signal to show that they were impressed and approved of what we were doing. I think that's one of the most important things. To change the local perception of these kids, who are normally just seen as a problem. Hopefully now they'll see that these kids are just kids, and maybe they'll have a chance to prove themselves one day. I feel so proud.... :''''-)

After the procession we took them to an "all you can eat" buffet dinner. I don't think they quite understood the "all you can eat" part, and lots of pushing and over piling of plates was the order of the day... :)

Tomorrow is the last day of school. We're just gonna eat food and play football! :) Tomorrow morning I'm finally gonna climb the mountain with the temple on top. Gonna get up at 5:30am to do it! wish me luck.....

ok, good luck to all Iraqis with my, sorry I mean your new country. :)


Tuesday, April 08, 2003

Man I'm tired.

Today was rather tiring. We did a big rehearsal for the play the kids are doing tommorow in the procession. Man, these kids have so much energy, even in the midday sun when I feel like I'm melting!

I went to have dinner at the guesthouse next door yesterday. They have a small garden at the front enclosed by a few big trees, with a table and chairs set out in the middle. As I was sitting there sipping an illegally smuggled beer, i suddenly noticed it was starting to rain! I was amazed, as rain is not exactly common in this part of the desert. As the rain pattered down through the leaves and landed on my bare arms, I started to get a funny feeling that there was slightly more to this than was first apparant. Suddenly Montu, one of the sons who owns the guesthouse, jumped up and started yelling at me to move and gesturing frantically with his arm as the tree! "peesin! peesin!" he shouted, and when I turned back to look, having fled my chair, I realised what he was talking about. Up in the tree was a band of about 7 monkeys, taking it in turns to try and piss on my head from about 20 feet up in the branches! After wiping myself down, we tried throwing stones at them, but this just pissed them off and made them more determined to piss on us. Cheeky monkeys!

I've decided to hang out in East Asia for an extra month so i can see nepal, and also avoid south east asia for a while longer until this SARS thing is under control. Although apparantly and American woman has been hospitalised in Bombay with suspected SARS, so perhaps even here is not safe anymore....

This war is an abomination. I dread reading the news now. I can't believe we can get away with this kind of hypocrisy! Why don't they just be honest and call it an invasion! All this rubbish about "securing" cities and "liberating" bagdad! And the rhetoric from the US generals is becoming just unbearable! Stuff like "The dagger of truth is pointed directly at the dark heart of bagdad! We will prevail!".. I mean from the Iraqis i expect this kind of bullshit, but from the "allies"! Hah! That's another good one, the "allies"!! Or the "Coalition"! What fucking coalition?! You didn't manage to get one, remember?! And the "allies"! This isn't WW2, Saddam isn't Hitler, and he hasn't invaded anywhere! (recently). At least there's still some media providing a small amount of subjective journalism, but I think about 90% of it now is just bullshit propaganda. "Military Experts", thats another good one! here's a miltary expert to explain why no one was likely to have been killed by that daisy cutter as it pounded into the street..... ok, rant over.... :)

right, enough is enough. I've been online for 1.5 hours!


Monday, April 07, 2003

I'm famous!!!

I was in the local paper! A photograph of me and Christoh playing football with the kids at school appeared in the local hindi paper with an article about the school! Unfortunately i look like a stick man... i must have been taken from an odd angle.... :) In fact both me and christoph look more badly in need of free food than the kids....

Well, I went to the wedding celebration last night. In fact it was day 6 of 7 days of celebrations! The older boys tried to convince me that I had to also come today for the grand finale, but I manged to make about 200 excuses why i couldn't be there...
Most of the kids from school were there, as they are all related in one way or another. They were so excited to see us there and I was soon buried under a pile of children trying to hit me/hug me/harrass me. The young men were equally exhuberant in their efforts to entertain me/be entertained by me. They kep insisting i sit by them while they enquired about the price of my camera/watch/sandals etc. I have now learnt that to avoid embarressment it's best to say everything was a gift, however on this occasion I decided to just say what i though was a small amount compared to the real price. I said my camera cost $100 (it cost $1000), but once we had converted it into rupees they still all stared in disbelief that one item could cost so much..... Next time i'll say it was a gift i think....

Of course we were made to dance to the sound of strange western pop music blaring out of one blown speaker. I've been practising my indian dance moves which always go down a treat with the indians! :)

The place where they lived was hard to make out as it was dark. I know that i cycled over at least 100m of trash just before we arrived, and the main party was being held on the dusty sand near to a tent. Crazy place to live, but they all seemed very happy, which is more than can be said for a lot of ppl i meet in England.

I'm starting to get a bit worried about travelling to SE Asia. Apparantly 98% of flights to Bangkok have been cancelled because of this SARS virus, and also after the anti-war demonstrations in Indonesia i dont know whether being an englishman there is such a good idea..... I'm considering staying in India an extra month, but that means delaying seeing my girlfriend.... :( Also, I really want to see nepal....

I hope everyone is well wherever you are. Hope no one in sinagpore has this SARS thing! Dont leave home without your surgical mask!

ok, I'm gonna go and read the news.... seeya!


Sunday, April 06, 2003

Today we went for a bike ride to a temple of steps and threw tennis ball around the place. Then we jumped off some sand dunes. Then we came back and went for a swim in the holy lake.... Now, the holy lake is wholly grim. It's green for a start, and visibility is about 6 inches. On top of this, it is brimming full of pre-historic fishy eel type creatures which range from about 1 to 3 feet long, and they aren't afraid of humans. Quite the opposite. When they see you at the waters edge they come over in their hundreds, meaning you have to jump into a writhing mass of slimy fish. Stripped down to our boxers, Dieter, Christoph and I stood at the edge of the pool staring at the gaping mouths of these slimy monsters as they mouthed silently "we want your flesh".......
A local stall-owner came over to offer his advice..... "they don't bite do they?" we asked. "Yeeees!" He said, and proceeded to try and show us the many scars on his hands. He then got a stick and demonstrated how the fish would bite it when it was put in the water. "But they don't have teeth do they?" we tried. "Yes! Have teeth!" he insisted. Eventually we decided it was worth the risk and tried to jump out over the fish to the less infested waters. As soon as I hit the water I started hitting fish with my arm and legs as i tried to swim. Their skin was slimy and cold to the touch. At first i felt extremely squeemish, but after a few moments, when I realised they weren't picking my bones clean in a mass feeding frenzy, I decided it was bearable and had a swim around, brushing them aside as I went.

The kids from school also came down to the ghats (steps leading down to the ater for bathing in holy water) and some of them had a swim with us. But soon they were asked to leave as they are lower-caste and their presence pollutes the holiness of the place. Stupic fucking caste system! Anyway, it was good day.

I just past 2 cows with a 5th leg growing from their backs. They were being paraded around by their owners who are trying to get money for ppl taking photos. I had a close look to see if they were just sown on or something but they seem to be real. Cool. :)

My throat is still not well. It feels like I have a cut at the back of my throat on one side. Any doctors out there? any advice?

I'm thinking of doing some snowboarding when I head up north after Pushkar. Apparantly it's only 100 rupees a day! that's about One pound 30! Obviously have to hire equipment and stuff too, but sounds possible.... :)

I'm going to a wedding tonight which should be a pretty fun experience. I've heard some mad stories about indian weddings.... I'll let you know how it goes......

It's wierd seeing the kids working in the market. At school I just think of them as kids, and then when i come down to the market (the main tourist strip) I see them all begging. It's kinda wierd. But's it's ok, cos they all come over to say hi (as long as they're not in the middle of bothering someone) and their "hungry, sad, destitute" look is instantly replaced by their usual "happy" look.... :)

ok, run out of things to say. And so have you judging by the amoun of comment my blog recieves! ;)


Saturday, April 05, 2003

Man, this is the slowest internet connection ever....

Well, I'm almost recovered from my cold, and the last couple of days have been awesome. Yesterday we too the kids for a swim in the new pool that has just been built by the hotel next door. I think it was the first and probably the last time they'll be in a swimming pool.... It was madness as I'm sure you can imagine! Today we made belgian chips for them. I'm sure my english friends out there are shouting "What's so special about belgian chips! English chips are the best in the world!", but you'd be wrong I'm afraid guys. belgians fry their chips twice! And I have to say they're the best chips I've had in years... :) Anyway, it's hard to find things to say as all my stories are about individual kids with personalities that I can't really do justice to in a few lines.... What i will say is that it's an amazing experience working here. The kids are so full of happiness despite their situations, and they're so quick to show you affection... You can see some photos and read about the project at their web-site

I'm supposed to be going on a bike ride at 8am tommorow, but I'm sooo tired. I was up till 2am last night drinking beer (yes beeer! we cycled about 6 miles to get it....) and smoking and playing songs on the guitar. Happy days. But I was woken up this morning to start washing potatoes.... we used 14 kg of potatoes to make enough chips!! Tonight is another festival in Pushkar, but to be honest, almost every night is a festival here. It's really quite insane. They wheel out these gods from the temples and parade them in the streets, surrounded by enough ligh buls to light a football match! They were also doing firebreathing the other day and using it a form of crowd control! When the crowds pressed in too tightly, they knelt and blew a huge cloud of flame at them to make them move back! It was effective for a few seconds before the crowd began to push forward again.... :)

Right, this keyboard is too shit, I can't be bothered anymore! hope your all well and summer is finally arriving in the UK!


Thursday, April 03, 2003

Sorry, been ill for the last week with flu.... don't worry, not that SARS thingy...I hope...
No time to write anything really as I've just replied about 30 mails, but just letting you know I'm still alive to keep you listening! :) Working with the kids on this project is great fun, although I've missed a lot of days being sick. Anyway, nothing much has happened to me cos I've been shut away in my room. The next update will be much more action packed, I promise. In fact, I think I'll go and do something now to ensure it's success.... maybe start a fight or jump in front of a motorbike...... ;)