Bleary eyed and hungry I write this somewhere over the old Evil Empire. I had thought my mind better capable of dealing with the stresses of multi-day travel, and pictured in my head hours of reading and writing. I have spent much of this second leg fast asleep, roused only twice so far by the "bursar" (as they’re evidently called on Dutch flights), to be given a headset which I will not use, and to pick at a small meal.
Amsterdam was a blur. I was reminded of the change in pace I should expect to see when coming to any non-American country, as it took me nearly 30 minutes to order an omelet. Watching the chef cook one at a time when she had grill space to cook as many as four was infuriating, but I relaxed. I had a few hours to kill. After this surprisingly long breakfast we roamed around the duty free shops hawking everything from porn frozen herring. One can truly experience it all in Amsterdam. I will have more to say of the place on the return visit, when Cary and I will have time to exit the airport and roam around the city.
What’s it gonna be traveling DVD buyer? Two copies of Black Snake Moan, or Adult DVD?
I’ll struggle to stay awake as long as possible in order to crash once I reach Delhi, and hopefully wake in the morning (their morning) fresh as a daisy as though I’ve been there for weeks.
11:00 PM? – Aloft over the Atlantic, I’m en route to Delhi via Amsterdam. A 20 hour flight doesn’t make a good story, so I’ll spare you the details. There are crying babies. There is fitful and infrequent sleep. There is excessively dry air. It is exactly what a 20 hour flight should be. I occupy myself with books, games, and the aforementioned fitful and infrequent sleep. I hope that a long bout of drowsiness will set in and I will catch some shuteye before landing in Amsterdam.
Tall tales of India are not in short supply. Herodotus tells a unrolls a fantastic yarn about ants bigger than foxes who dig up gold as a by product of their burrowing. Skilled camel riders, calculating the appropriate time to do so, storm into the desert when the heat is the highest and the ants are in their burrows to snatch this gold up. They must time this precisely, or the ants, who in addition to their absurd size can run faster than a camel, will give chase.
In a tall tale from the even further east, Journey to the West was a 16th century travel adventure in which a monk is sent Westward from his home in China to the far off and exotic land of India to retrieve the sutras. Under the protection of several monsters (the most notable of which is a Monkey named “Aware of Vacuity”), The monk encounters a series of strange impediments, including avery angry personification of a river, but reaches his destination of Vulture Peak, and brings back the sutras to his homeland.
Even modern folks have tall tales to tell. The Indian culture center is one of the oldest in the world, and there are some (who many call crazy) that think that India may have already experienced a modern age, complete with manned flight, journeys into space, and submarines. The proof they say, is in India’s own Ancient literature, the Vimanas, and that the knowledge of these things was lost to men for tens of thousands of years. There is an old crack that everything ultimately comes from either Greece or China, but this claim certainly has them beat.
In my own journey to the Indian Subcontinent (why do they call it that anyway), I find myself at once prepared for the peculiarities of the place and apprehensive; will the reality, along with the influence of the West in the last few centuries diminish the other-worldly-ness of the experience? We’ll see, but I’m still going to keep my head on a swivel for giant ants, raging rivers, and ancient rocket ships, just in case.
This is the beginning of a travelogue of India. Posts tagged with JTTE (Short for Journey to the East), are entries in this log. Feel free to follow along.