Saturday, August 25, 2007

All is going fine, finished our cooking classes, so no we can make some wicked Tibetan breads and momos, in addition to our recently acquired soup expertise... our instructor, Lhamo, is definitely a great teacher, as well as an experienced cook, so we learned a lot and enjoyed ourselves for our 6 hours under his wing. Be in Dharamsala another day or two, before fleeing to Nepal.
We are currently undergoing a massive multi-part decision, so any assistance you can offer would be greatly appreciated:
We're debating on whether to return to the States, probably for only a few weeks/months, as a respite before going to S. Korea for a year of ESL teaching. We obviously love, and are enjoying travel, but we definitely miss our friends and families very much, and in one way it seems rather difficult to just roll through another year without seeing all ya'll's smiling happy faces. We are currently applying for S. Korean jobs, so we must be deciding our fate quite shortly... but the options are to fly home to the US for a bit from India (we'd be "home" for 2 months maximum, being bums in CO, IA & WI - with family time being a clear emphasis), or just to fly direct to Korea to start teaching (and therefore finish a month or so earlier), or most crazily - if we can get overland reimbursement from our Korean employer, is to travel through Tibet with our friends Iain & Claire, going through China by train to reach Korea. All 3 are legitimate, and wonderful options, we just have to decide. Sucks to be us, right?
We definitely will be teaching in Korea, in one way we are too broke not to, but also we want to experience foreign culture for longer, but "merely" traveling is wearisome, and we definitely crave a house, routine, and some semblance of Western culture, something India clearly lacks... Going back to the States would literally wipe us out of money, but worse things have happened, and our current cash flow is pretty minimal anyway, since we have been stretching things out in the subcontinent for a bit now anyways...
So any suggestions, comments on here or via email, would be greatly appreciated - after all it's you all we'd be seeing...
Thanks so much
Peace & Love
Anderson (& Liz)

Friday, August 24, 2007

We know, we know, two posts in two days, what's going on?
Just means we are in the land of cheap, reliable internet again... Anderson couldn't be happier!
Took our first of three Tibetan cooking classes this morning, learned how to make 2 types of Tibetan noodle soup. Educational eating is pretty sweet. Tonight we'll be learning how to make all types of momos, and then tomorrow morning its Tibetan breads. Breads should be particularly nice, we really love this steamed bread called "tingmo," be great to know how to make our own. Raining a lot here, right now, but at least its not ultra-dry, nor ridiculously hot. But really Indian weather is pretty bad all over during the dreaded monsoon. Not that we'll be fully escaping it in Nepal (which we'll be in after this weekend), but it should be a bit better.
We're starting to get a slew of job offers for South Korea, which we now have to wade through and separate the worthless (most) from the worthwhile (few and far between). Too many chain schools, with shady reputations and over-zealous recruiters. But that perfect school must be out there somewhere, we've just got to track it down, and then negotiate a beneficial contract. This travel lifestyle truly is never a vacation!
Still uploading photos - slowly, slowly currently - but at least some of the Leh/Mars photos are up.
So enjoy those, we'll enjoy the momos, and if you're out west right now, we are jealous of you (yes, we mean all ya'll peeps who keep fleeing IA, short or long term)!


Thursday, August 23, 2007

Well, after 30 hours of travel, we made it to Dharamsala from Leh. 13 hours on a jeep to Srinigar, then a 12 hour bus ride to Jammu, before a 2nd jeep ride to Dharamsala which took around 5 hours. Good times, but at least we made it, albeit exhausted and in a bit of pain!
Our time in Leh was wonderful, though Reannon was struck by a bit of altitude sickness. The 2 rupee doctor's visit proved very helpful, she got some effective medicine for around $2, and laid low until our departure. We also got to see our collegiate friends Will & Jeanne, which was crazy, and very fun, though the two meals together was definitely not enough time! They are currently out in the mountains traveling with some nomads, shooting footage for a multimedia documentary - definitely some cool stuff!
We are working on getting all the photos we have taken uploaded, currently only on Shimla, but hopefully the photo site will be fully updated by tomorrow. We are going to start some Tibetan cooking classes tomorrow, a total of three: breads, soups, & momos, which will be fun, but other that that relaxing is our main priority!
Yep, yep, yep....
Oh, Srinigar, in Kashmir, was an interesting experience, we only went through in transit, but Dal Lake and the houseboat scene looked very nice - if you can overlook the immense military presence. Throughout the entire city there was a machine-gun armed guard posted every 10 meters or so, with plenty of additional fortifications, like gun-posts, as well as armed vehicles with machine-guns posted on top. It looks like, and essentially is, an occupied city. It felt like it would be hard, not to mention painfully ironic, to truly relax in such a place. Even if we weren't on our tight time schedule we probably would not have stayed, though it was definitely a beautiful location, too bad India and Pakistan both are willing to fight for it. We think Kashmir should be independent, and Ladakh separately as well, which seems the only reasonable and fair conclusion. Hopefully important global readers will read our blog, and contact us, so we can broker these peace deals, ideally in the same weekend when we iron out the China/Tibet deal! Haha... funny but oh so sad.
Dharamsala is even more rainy than when we were here last time, but compared to the dryness of Leh it is a welcome change. Good thing we can "take it easy" in any weather. We are also focusing on our Korean job search, since we seriously need a job, so we are emailing recruiters, friends in Korea, etc. So if you have a hot job tip for Pusan, please send it to us!
Peace and much love,
Anderson & Liz

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Sorry about the lack of posts - internet in Leh is unreliable and overpriced (90 Rs/hour - twice the usual price), and we've been rather busy these past couple days. We'll be in Leh for another two days, then back down to Manali, and then onto Dharamsala. Yesterday we went rafting on the Zanskar River, some Class 3 rapids but nothing too difficult, mostly amazing scenery straight from the planet Mars. We managed to see His Holiness the Dalai Lama a third time, in a mass gathering outside Leh in a small village. As foreigners we had front row seats, and got plenty of photos and videos of HHDL, although the English translation was once again quite lacking. We also did a one-day monastery tour, with the definite highlight being the village of Alchi, where four small chapels were covered with amazing 11th century Buddhist wall-paintings, plus enormous two-story clay Buddha statues. Pretty impressive, amongst the best art we've seen throughout India. We've met a lot of Americans, a couple from California, and a few single male travelers from New York, but we're more excited about our friends from college, Will & Jeanne, who are flying into Leh from Delhi tomorrow morning. Hopefully we'll get to see them, its been a few years, Leh seems a great place to meet up!
Overall the climate is rather dry, the altitude is taxing, and the scenery is spectacular. We are all breathing heavy, and drinking as much water as we can - how fun. The food is good here, though the nightlife is a bit lacking. We did go see a rather strange Hindi film, a psychological thriller full of murder and violence - rather different from the Bollywood action flicks we are accustomed to.
So that's about that, details and photos will surface once we've escaped the altitude and are back in Dharamsala (at a low elevation of 2000 meters). Hope all is well -


Sunday, August 12, 2007

You'll have to wait for the long version, but we are currently in Manali, arriving via Mandi (daytrip to Rewalsar Lake), after leaving Shimla. Shimla's highlight was probably the Hanuman Temple, either that or the dance-party which we attended, representing 4 of the 10 people in attendance. We have been traveling with a Brazilian, Flavio, in addition to Reannon, of course, whom we met on the miniature train (100 tunnels in as many km) up to Shimla. We've been learning all sorts of interesting things about Brazil! The train actually broke down on the way up the mountain, resulting in a few hours spent roasting in the hills outside Kalka. In both Shimla and Manali we have stayed in extremely large, and nice, hotel rooms, due to it currently being the off season. So we've gotten mid-level hotels (usually 800-1400 Rs/room) for 150-200 Rs/room. Nice to have some deluxe amenities for low budget pricing. Manali is beautifully set up in the mountains, Anderson took a small day trek up to a pair of temples in the hills today, one made entirely of wood, the other itself a tree...
We have decided to go to Leh, in Ladakh, despite the fact we'll be on a tight time schedule by doing so, but Manali is rather rainy and all the outdoor activities we'd like to try aren't available: rafting, horse-back riding, etc. So we leave tonight, at 2 am, and will spend 18 hours aboard a taxi, up to a few 5000 meter passes, before arriving in Leh around 8 pm tomorrow night. The views should be amazing, though the ride a bit long. We are having lots of fun with Reannon, and all three of us are excited to get so far up in the mountains. It will be a whirlwind tour, but a high elevation and high excitement one, too. We plan on exiting via Kashmir, a day or two in Srinagar aboard a house boat, before finally swinging down to Dharamsala to pick up our luggage, some of which now we really wish we'd brought with us!
Internet access is slow and overpriced so far north, so we may be out of contact for a few days, but so long as we can avoid altitude sickness, all will be wonderful.
Apples are in season here, so they are sold everywhere, and hang on all the trees, plus there are fresh apple pastries, juices, and jam - all delicious. Back in Delhi we had an American evening, eating at McDonald's and going to a movie premiere. Food and service at the Golden Arches were much better than in the States - the worker's were actually cheerful, and then the movie, Cash, was a big, confusing, dumb action movie, but rather enjoyable nonetheless, with a highly hummable theme song: "Cash to the front of me, cash to the back of me, cash to the left of me, cash to the right of me..." Eaten some Western pizzas in the last few days, as well, Pizza Hut and Domino's - sounds like our stomachs are a bit homesick, must have been the Cool Ranch Doritos Reannon brought! The Domino's actually came back up on the twisting bus ride from Shimla to Mandi, a stomach-settling shame, really. More food news: had some great fresh lake trout the past two meals, first cooked in a tandoori, and then made into a spicy curry. Head, tail, and skin all included, not to mention the ocean of bones swirling around in the midst of the succulent meat.
Sorry about the random rambling, not too much time to type, but we'll try and post from Leh if possible, otherwise it may be a week or longer until we even check our email - we shall see.
Hope all is well,
(Robert - we're jealous of your houseboat!)
Peace & Love
Anderson & Liz

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Currently we are in Shimla, having successfully escaped the heat and humidity of Delhi. Don't have time to write a full update, but here's what we did for our first few days in the capitol of India:
We left Dharamsala after an early dinner, with a significantly lightened load, leaving much of our luggage iwth Iain & Claire (thank you!). We took an overnight deluxe bus along curvy roads down out the hills, full of bump and fast driving. Hours of nausea ensued, which Liz at least was able to escape after politely asking her downwind neighbor to close his window! We were befriended by a kindly fellow traveler, named Aroop, who works in Delhi for the Prime Minister, with whom we shared a rickshaw when we arrived, at dawn, at the tailen of 12 hours of pounding monsoon rains. Streets were flooded with several inches of rushing water, of the sewer and feces variety. We'd received a recomendation for a hotel, on Arukash Road, just north of Paharganj, which is the main traveler's hangout. The hotel was uncooperative on price, we'd been told 250 Rs, but they wanted 700 and wouldn't budge, so we began a wet slog through the slowly lightening streets. We found a few acceptable options, ignoring the rancid stench of urine in the bathrooms, but on our 5th place or so, Hotel Neelam Palace, which while definitely optimistically named, was able to compromise on a 400 Rs/night triple room. No windows, a small bathroom, and a slight paint smell due to construction were a few of its features...
We also set up a genuinely cheap roundtrip taxi for that night, in order to pick up Reannon from the airport, at 450 Rs a great deal considering Aroop has estimated 600 for the ride. After sleeping off the bus ride, as best as possible, we grabbed a much needed thali, before doing some minor shopping and meandering. Soon enough it was evening, and time to go to the airport, but of course the 1st driver refused, claiming he did not have the proper tags to be seen by police at the aiport. An hour later, then, we were rolling around Delhi in a taxi-van, thankful our hotel managed to work things out on our behalf. Then came the anxious gate-side wait, for over an hour, since international flights, particularly in India, take a bit of time to deplane fully. We observed numerous happy reunions, a few disgruntled Europeans who were looking for their ride for over an hour, and more than a few Westerners with apprehensive faces upon their arrival in India. But no Reannon...
After checking an alternate exit since we were at the main gate, Anderson decided to buck up the 60 Rs to enter the actual airport, and 30 seconds later there was a Muth cousins reunion! The journey home was uneventful, just lots of chatting if you can believe that, and soon enough Reannon was settled in her 1st (amazing) Indian hotel. Being a late night, we slept in a bit on Friday, and after another thali we headed off for some sightseeing...

More to come soon, this internet connection is super slow, but we are leaving Shimla tomorrow, for nearby Mandi probably, although that is still up for some debate!

More to come soon,