No we haven't died, we've just been either traveling or without internet access for the past two weeks or so. Here's Part One of what's happened thus far:
On Aug. 27, our 4th day in Dharamsala, we went to the FRRO, the visa
extension office, and talked/pleaded ourselves a 3-day visa extension
in order to get to Nepal, given that our visa expired that night!
Initially we were going to just overstay, thinking we had to go to an
office in Delhi, but Dharamsala, due to all the Tibetans, has its own
office, which had no line (Delhi's went out the door) and not too much
hassle (only had to ask for it 10x or so). We just filled out letters
explaining our self-induced plight, an application, and gave passport
photos and visa copies, and after a few hours of idling, were allowed
to escape after 15 seconds of face time with the Superintendent of
Police (same building, he has dual authority evidently). He just
asked what our jobs were - how random?
Uncle Chipps (by Lays/Pepsico) are definitely
the best snack around, and the resulting plastic waste well
appreciated by your average hungry cow -- so, so gross what cows will
The Delhi train arrived, a bit late, and we found seats
easily enough, in a relatively empty compartment. It filled up
eventually, half-way through our books, but the hours continued to fly
by. After too much waiting at a few stops outside the city, one in
particular in Haryana state was packed with entertainment-deprived
young men, we got to the new Delhi station, where a series of
attempted scams began:
First a tout dragged us across the street to a tourist office, which
was none-too-fast in trying to get tickets - we left. Then the
authorized train ticket seller pulled a double-scam: first that no
sleeper was available so we'd have to take first class (which we
"fell" for, we had to hurry, insisted on sleeper repeatedly, and
really had no choice), and ...
(this is now being continued a day later :-) ...
then that two of the 500 Rs notes we gave him were accidentally 50 Rs.
notes (some fast slight of hand would've netted him an additional 900
Rs., thankfully we had just been to an ATM and had no 50s). Yelling
at him vented some frustration, but obviously changed nothing, but at
least we didn't get totally ripped off. Our sleeper train ride that
night was relatively uneventful, after wandering through almost every
sleeper car we finally found some bunks at the end of the train. The
next morning, however, we awoke to some commotion, a a sharp-eyed
kindly neighbor had caught a thief in the process of stealing
Reannon's handbag! Ironically it contained solely personal effects
and books, but despite our protests a swift public beating ensued just
outside the train car: the unlucky (?) thief was punched and kicked,
and hit repeatedly with two pieces of wood - one small, one a stick of
bamboo - before finally being dragged off presumably to the police,
although we'll never know. Definitely intense mob justice, that is
culturally ingrained apparently, that we were powerless to stop.
That occurred at the last main stop before our destination, Lucknow,
our most favorite Indian city ever. Our wait in Lucknow was a hot 3
hours or so, as the train was rather late, and thankfully Anderson's
lice scare was merely nasty travel head - yum. Bad food preceded a
long slow train ride through rural Uttar Pradesh, rainy and humid too
much of the way. We reached Gonda, around 3 pm, needing to arrive at
the Nepal border before 9 pm, ideally. No trains were going to
Nepalganj for several hours, so we bucked up for a taxi ride the rest
of the way, which ended up getting us there just in time, as both
offices ended up being semi-closed but with all necessary employees
still around. Leaving India involved only a bit of hassle over our
decision to ride trains across India rather than the buses indicated
on our 3-day visa extension form, but soon enough we were stamped out,
and into the no-mans-land between the two countries. The Nepal
immigration office also went smoothly, though we ended up spending the
night in an office there due to the rain! The Nepali officials were
most kindly, we got a great dinner featuring some amazing chicken -
and dal bhaat of course - and slept on the floor in order to escape
the torrential downpour.
More to come on our time here in Nepal soon, got to get back to work
on that tricky employment issue!
We are currently in Kathmandu, having just spent a week at Bardia National Park, and will
be here for at least a week or so longer. Looking for a pair of jobs is our priority for the next few days, thankfully the internet is cheap and abundant in Kathmandu, unlike everywhere else in Nepal.
Thanks for everyone's input on whether to visit the States or not - our finances have definitely decided for us that although we suffer from homesickness at times, we can't just succumb to our every travel fantasy! We miss you all, and our homeland very much, but "slowly, slowly," is unfortunately all too true in this case.
Peace and much love
Anderson & Liz