Friday, June 22, 2007

In sickness and in health... UPDATE: Pictures Added

So, Sarah is sick again.

Since my initial battle with a stomach bug in Cusco, Sarah and I have both been getting sick about once a month from one thing or another. At this point, we've both gotten sick between three or four times a piece. We're never quite sure what it is that gets us... some undercooked veggies, a slight sip of contaminated water, an evil spell case by some witch doctor... But the reality is, as Americans, we live in a super sterile environment and pretty much the entire outside world will make us sick if given the chance. It's just a fact of life when you are on the road.

It's one thing that, when we get back to the States, I definitely won't miss.

Luckily, with the help of antibiotics, some mild food and plenty of water, we're generally up and moving in a day or so. So, while she naps the afternoon away in our room. I figured I'd slip down to the internet cafe and squeeze in another blog entry.

When we first checked into our guesthouse, a guy from Quebec and another guy from Belgium told us that it was worth making the walk down to the Ghats at dusk. So, last night we figured we'd check it out. As we walked out the door, Sarah asked: "Should we bring the camera? There might be some good photos with the setting sun."

"Sure," I replied, slinging it over my shoulder. And, together we walked down to the ghats and took a seat on the steps.

At first it was business as usual at the ghats. In the distance, at another ghat, peope froliced in the water. And, not far from tus, a beared old man slowly sat in the deep green water, occasionally throwing stuff over his shoulder for good luck.

Above us, huge flocks of small birds circled, trying to catch their last mosquito or gnat of the night.

Occasionally, from various places around the lake, you'd hear the beating of a drum start. It would echo across the water for a while, then fade out. Near us, a middle age man in a button up shirt and slacks walked up to the waters edge. He suddenly knelt, pressing his forehead hard against the ground. After remaining in that position for a while, he raised up again, casually lit some incense with a lighter, and strolled off.

Sarah and I commented to each other how someone would have to have a high level of devotion to do that sort of public display so casually. And how most people in the States would probably be a little too self-conscious to do so. And, it was a pleasant change from usaully just seeing people try to take our money.

As if on cue though, a young boy approached us, introduced himself, and then asked if we had any money, pens or anything to give him. After we said no, he politely shook our hand and wandered off. "Good night!"

Then, around the lake, we saw groups forming at various locations. And, small ceremonial fires starting. As if on cue, the remaining sunlight seemed to suddenly begin draining from the sky. Soon, the air filled with the sounds of scattered songs and chanting. Then the sounds of small bells and more drums.

We were so distracted and mesmerized by the display around us, that we didn't even notice that the birds had all disappeared. But, suddenly, as the singing and music faded, we saw a sight that we'd be told about, but which still made our eyes grow wide: Thousands of bats filled the sky. Streaming from one corner of the lake, countless bats poured forth at once... a veritable river of them taking flight and building into a swirling cloud high above the lake. Their faint creaking cry distinctly different from those of the birds which had filled the air only minutes before.

Then, as the bats slowly spread out over the city in search of food, we made our way back to the guesthouse to eat dinner ourselves.

We didn't take one picture the whole time.

Today though, like every day we've been in town, the air is filled with the strange gothic mariachi music of bands performing for peoples weddings. Apparently, this month is a good month to get married, so every night there is another ceremony: A surreal event involving grooms on horseback, the previously mentioned bands, and lines of children carrying generator-powered chandeliers.

Earlier today, I climbed in the roof of the guesthouse with my camera (like some covert photojournalist), to take pictures of the women in their brightly colored dresses and the bands in their matching grey and black suits. And, tonight, if Sarah is feeling better, we plan to hit the streets and get some more photos of the ceremonies.

With any luck, we'll have some posted online for you all soon.

But, enough rambling, its time for me to go check on Sarah. Like every other day in this town, its hot, and she could probably use some new cold water.

UPDATE: So, as you now know, Sarah got better as the day went on, so we actually ended up being able to take the camera out to photograph wedding stuff that evening... or at least that was the plan, if there actually had been stuff going on. It turned out to be dead that night, so we weren't able to take any night time wedding photos. What follws though, are the few pictures I took from the rooftop earlier that afternoon.

The street below our guesthouse. This sets the stage for the action. You can see some people filing into the neighboring house, and some other women in bright saris, as well as two bands. The closer band is wearing grey outfits, while the farther off one is in black.

A close up of some of the women. The colors and patterns are so fantastic that I can almost hear my mom saying "I can make a quilt of that" from India.

Indian weddings are a complete enigma to me, so I'm not sure why these women are carrying bowls on their head. The whole thing way amazing to watch though.

And, one more picture for good measure. This one, you can see the women lined up on one side of the street, and some of the band in the foreground. I really wish I'd been able to get a good close up of the band in action.


Silke y Ricardo said...

Hi Tyler and Sarah,
this is Silke and Ricardo writing. What a great blog you have!
Also from our side, it was great to meet you in Leh. Answer comes a bit late, but as you can see from our blog we are still blogwise in Leh, trying to update with all the pictures, being already all in the South of India, in Mamallapuram in the state of Tamil Nadu. It's also great here, already cool because of the monsoon, a very relaxed place, a nice guest-house, off/season, started a Ayurvedic massage course... so all fine.
Now we updated on your travels by reading through the entire blog since Leh. How hilarious the description of the trip to Pushkar! Lucky you stopped with the travel agent! And the course of Tibetan food sounded great! Did you also learn about Thukpas? I discovered this sort of Tibetan soup in Leh and repeated there and here in Mamallapuram again, delicious!
Could you pass us the name of the guest-house in Pushkar? It sounds like a place to recommend, no?
After flying to Delhi from Leh we changed again our plans, as for North Indian holidays we couldn't get any train tickets to Varanasi, and the travel agent told us that in the south it will be more relaxed now, already cooler, and so we left the next day from Delhi flying to Chennai and drove on the next day to Mamallapuram. We really didn't like too much the big Indian cities and are happy to be now in this small village. So now we will stay at least 2 weeks in the South, so unfortunately will not meet again anywhere in India.
Take care and enjoy the last days in India, and all the rest of the trip, we'll follow online and see you in Seattle!
Best, Silke and Ricardo

Betsy Wasser said...

A sky full of bats would freak me out completely. I'd pretty much have run screaming back to the hotel.

Sarah said...

Betsy--you learn to love bats when you fear malarial mosquitos!

Silke and Ricardo (and any other possible Pushkar visitors)--we stayed at Diamond Guest House (in LP). We liked it...eccentric European owner, colorful, pretty cheap, good location. And they have lots of pets: a tortoise, angora rabbits, a lovebird, and a dog.

littlemonstercallum said...

I love this entry, your description of the evening made me feel like I was there myself, no photos needed really with your description. And what a wonderful plethora (is that the right word to use I wonder) of colour in the Indian women's clothes.