Wednesday, March 14, 2007

india on the brain.

greetings from hawaii, where I've been spending quality time with the fam-damily (as my friend marnie calls them) and preparing for my around-the-world travels.

just prior to arriving here, I spent some too-short time with friends belinda and doug in sydney. belinda and I worked at the same philanthropic organization in seattle, before I left to answer the call of the antarctic and she and her husband moved back to her native australia. belinda is one of those effortlessly warm, funny, gregarious and welcoming people who also manages to look entirely too cute and shine-free every single time you see her. she and her husband own two large and goofy dogs, monty and sashi, and live in a gorgeous house that seriously resembles a modern-art museum which also just happens to have dog beds in it. here we are outside the bondi icebergs swimming club at world-famous bondi beach.

I arrived two days earlier than I told my family I would, which resulted in lots of shrieking when I walked through the door. as my parents are both in their mid-sixties, I'll need to use that particular method of homecoming judiciously from now on. wouldn't want to cause an untimely episode of apoplexy or something.

a couple of antarctic friends passed through hawaii during my time here -- evan and barry.

here are evan and me at a BBQ at my uncle's farm.

and here's me and barry at sunset beach on the north shore.

the week after my arrival was suffused with details of being a bridesmaid in a friend's wedding. vicky and I went to high school together in honolulu. we weren't close then, but I always admired her sense of style -- which in the late 1980s meant not falling prey to such ill-advised fashion choices as acid-washed denim shorts, anything by the label Ocean Pacific, and things of that nature. vicky, unlike most of us, dressed as if she had just stepped off a plane from some far-off, much more sophisticated locale, like london or san francisco.

anyway, after high school we all went our separate ways, and it wasn't until 2005 that I picked up a copy of our high school quarterly bulletin and read that vicky had been living and working in seattle for the past twelve years. she and her boyfriend (now husband), matt, were president and CEO of their own very successful design firm -- right down the street from where I was working. I e-mailed her, we got together for lunch, and over the last two years we've become great friends, shopping partners, wing-men for each other's parties, and bubble-tea enthusiasts. it was great fun to be in her wedding party. L - R: our classmate jason's wife maile, jason, matt, vicky and me.

most of my spare time in hawaii has been spent preparing for my eight-month, around-the-world trip, which is proving to be something of a challenge. thoughts of visas, inoculations, train passes, travel insurance, medication, and not least of all, packing fill my every waking hour. I have seriously been having packing DREAMS lately.

for example, one of the first stops on the itinerary is india, where the temperatures will be well into the 100s. think light-colored, loose cotton pants and tops, useful not only for keeping the sun off, but for repelling mosquitoes and being culturally appropriate. following that, a jaunt to 17,000 feet in nepal, which is bound to be substantially chillier. that calls for long underwear, neck gaiters, wool socks and a down jacket. not to mention altitude-sickness medication. then a 500-mile hike across northern spain, a damp couple of months bicycling in the british isles, and backpacking in arizona. how do you pack for all of that?

trekking poses its own issues -- what kind of sleeping bag can be used in all those situations? is a pashmina shawl an unnecessary luxury, or can it double as a sleeping sheet, bedbug barrier, pillow, room divider, impromptu skirt in nepali villages where women shouldn't wear trousers? how many pairs of shoes should I take? are a pair of Chacos, rubbah slippahs, and some hiking boots enough to get me from the trail to the pub to a walking tour of town to the grotty showers in the hostel? and more importantly, how will I go for eight months without wedge-heel sandals?

the country that I've been thinking about most is india. I've always been fascinated by this teeming, chaotic, somehow strangely british-inflected country...its brilliant colors, its squalor alongside its tranquility, and its increasingly prominent role in the world village. what can you say about a country of a billion people that have lived under a constitutional democracy for the past fifty years, grow the world's best tea, sell the world's most beautiful textiles, and brush their teeth in the world's dirtiest, holiest river?

my friend marilyn has a book containing photographs of the world's funniest signs. as I flipped through it while visiting her, I couldn't help but make note of a few from india, like these two elephant-themed ones:

NOTICE. This bridge is rated for a maximum of eleven tons.

Elephants are therefore requested to cross two at a time only.


Complaints about elephants are to be made here.

and this one, advertising five specialties at a Jaipur restaurant:






can't wait to get to india and try the local beast!
more to come soon.