Monday, April 30, 2007

PSVuuuh Oleeh Oleeh!

So the people from above the rivers must feel pretty much f*cked now. Good!
After the winterstop PSV started to stumble a bit, and started to loose its 13 point lead it had before the winter-stop. I was checking the nos soccerpaper online and last week saw that suddenly they were in third place. People were writing them off. I still believed in it. AZ are to arrogant to win a championship (I`m pointing at you van Gaal), and Ajax, Ajax always comes a few centimeters short from getting a victory in the last few years.

So everybody will say it is undeserved: They did not play the best few, they did not score the most goals, their style was not an attacking one..blahblahblah. The superior quality of the defensive line, the calculated passing from the midfield and the killer instinct up front make PSV a lot better than all the other teams in the Dutch division. AZ does not know what defending is while Ajax always tries to do it a little bit too fancy.

So I am in a great mood, and going to have a great time tonight!

Friday, April 27, 2007

Lessons learned in India

Your stay in India can be so much more pleasant if you take a more relaxed stance towards things. Basically, by obtaining the relaxed mindset of an average Indian person you walk through daily life without the constant irritations. Just walk on. Don`t be too relaxed however, but also don`t be too harsh. Keep your guard up, but don`t let it be too strong. Negotiate friendly with a smile and most of the time you will get something very close to what you want. I noticed that saying the prices in Hindi always cracks their little nationalistic hearts…so sweet..hehehe. Oww..and always maintain your composure. It impresses them more when you stay calm under all circumstances, it earns you respect. Anger is a sign of weakness.

One flew from the...

Let me tell you a story about a man. That man went to Bharatpur, a small city about 200 kilometers from Jaipur. There he went, all excited, to visit Keoladeo Birth Sanctuary. Before he went there he read all kinds of bad press that the place was dry, just a shadow of its former glory, and that it was not worth visiting anymore. All that was just a bunch of crap!

This place was magnificent, for several reasons. First of all there was nobody there, finally I was at a place that is supposed to be peaceful, and actually was peacefull to. I probably was one of the 4 or 5 foreigners visiting that place, and I really enjoyed it. Finally some rest in a weekend-trip, an escape from the busy city life that covers so many of the other tourist destinations. The second point that made this park great was the lack of motorised vehicles. God bless the authorities to keep these tin cans of noise and pollution out of a beautiful park. The last thing were I want to be when watching wildlife, is in a noisy and uncomfortable jeep packed with a pack of other tourists. This time I just rented a big. And no, there was no rickshaw-wallah driving it for me, I was using my own legs! Most of the Indians were probably pretty amazed to see a western tourist drive a bicycle with 43 degrees in the afternoon, but hey, maybe I`m not like that lazy bunch of “developed” people. Besides that, I like a bit of exercise, and the occasional “looking up of your physical borders”. And so I did. I saw wildlife, in silence, very close. I`ve seen jackals crossing the path, I`ve seen at least 4 different species of deer (all pretty impressive), I`ve seen ducks, peacocks, and a freight of small and big birds. And all from a close distance, and in peace. Although the park itself might be at a critical point in its time (the water level is kept at a acceptable level by using pumps), it was still a unique experience and one I won`t forget soon. This was day 1 of my stay. I stayed at a hotel called the Jungle Lodge. It was a nice place with an even nicer garden and hosts.

The next day I went back to mass-tourism in India: I went to Fatehpur Sikri. I took the bus, since I hate trains in India (too many people crammed in the sleeper department, no nice views, a lack of escape routes). Although the bus might be a bit less saver, and maybe a bit more uncomfortable thanks to the heat, I like it. I sitting with the Indian lower-middle class next to me, and just travelling through the country like they are doing. Fatehpur Sikri is a place were about 500 years ago, an eccentric Indian Sultan called Akbar, tried to set up his new capital. He did so succesfully, only to notice after a few years that the place was so dry that it could not sustain itself. It was thus abandoned. Like all thinks in India it must have layed in ruins for some time, untill a team of English archeolegists decided to restore it. And a nice job they did. The palace itself is a bit alienating if you have seen other structures in India. Hinduist architecture is mixed with European, Muslim and Budist styles, to create a whole new style for itself. It was a nice place to visit, although the tourist guides (touts) were quite annoying. “No sir, this building is very big and you will not see everything when you go alone. You will not know the story behind the building. And no sir, your book has a description maybe but it is not precise.” I just said that there is no story behind the building (got the arrogant laughing reaction; so predictable) and that I want to guide myself through it. Guides just rush through the whole structure, and I don`t like following them, I like to determine my own route and pace.

There was also a large Mosque-Palace complex, where I again felt very guilthy. A boy working for the place wanted to guide be through the complex, saying he was doing it for free, and I did not believe him. Eventually I let him guide me through the complex, with constantly the idea in the back of my mind that he would ask for rupees. I was a bit harsh on him all the time, just listening to him and not asking too many questions or showing too much interest. The place was beautiful and interesting though. At the end, he said:”Well sir, this is the end of the tour, thank you for visiting and have a good time”. No question about money, maybe he did expect it, but he did not push it. He was thus a true gentleman. Damn. My distrust against people surrounding tourist monuments made me so cold that I did not threat this boy (who was only practicing his English) nicely.

Friday, April 20, 2007

While my guitar gently weeps...

...since she misses me so much, and I miss her even more. ;)
What I want to do with my guitar, where I want to be this summer, and what I want to see:

(Controllable noise at its best..I love this band)

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Almost weekend..

Tomorrow night I will go to a goodbye party (with lots of booze and Americans). Saturday morning I want to wake up at 5:00 am. Does it seem logical? Does it fit?
We`ll see. I know that I want to be on the bus to Bharatpur at 6:00am, to be arriving there at 10:30am. I`ll find my hotel around 11:30am. And go to the bird sanctuary around 1:00pm. I`ll probably be going alone by the way. The other guys in my house have to work on saturday, and most of the girls in the house just had a busy weekend and are looking for a rest. Not that I really mind though. I just want to escape from Jaipur for two days, and see how I will survive in the Indian wilderness on my own. You see..I`m probably going to travel three weeks by myself, so this is a good rehearsal. Including other people in my trip would also sabotage my style of travelling: No planning, no schedule, no reservations. I just want to go there and improvise, make it up along the way. If I feel like doing this, I want to do this, if I however feel like doing that, I will do that.

Today I also checked my bank-balance. It is doing ok. Still have to buy a big number of souvenirs though. Already made a list of things I could give to certain people, and also know where I will probably find the souvenirs. Instead of buying the cheap-touristic junk in the Pink-City, I`m going to aim for souvenirs with a bit more quality. These are of course a little bit more expensive, but still cheap as hell. Of course, I could buy the very cheap stuff, but it literally falls apart while you wear it. How often I have seen the ladies of the house with broken camel-leather slippers, and how often I have seen the tread and needle to fix clothes gone bad.

Monday, April 16, 2007

There is a man...

There is a man in one of the streets close to our home. He owns a little shop. It is an electronics shop. He repairs all kinds of electronic equipment like radio's. He is a man of advanced age. He's got a bald head, about 55 years old. Is face is like that of that famous Italian soccer-referee, Collina. Every time I pass the shop he is sitting in front of his counter, looking at the people passing by. In front of him is a little self-made contraption. It has two lightbulbs in it. One is just a normal light-bulb, but the other is very deep red. The red lightbulb almost has the same shape as his head. It seems to be his billboard: "Come here if you have any issue regarding electronical stuff". And everyday I pass his shop, and everyday he is there. For how long has he been sitting there? I don`t know, one thing I do know is that I want to make a picture of him and his bulb.

Bye toilet, hello world!

After spending more time on the toilet than ever before, I`m finally cured from my "buikgriep"..or Gastroenteritis in English.

Monday it started with a throat-ache and a heavy head. That night I had a dinner with two colleges, so I decided just to go. After the dinner, which felt very bad in my stomach, I collapsed mentally. My head was on fire, my stomach felt noxious, and I felt like I really needed some sleep. So I lay myself in bed 1,5 hours later. I`m sure that my head never felt so hot as it did then. It was glowing. The next morning I still had the fever, and a stomach going mad. Seems something had to leave my body. In the Netherlands everything would just go out in one go, but in India, in India, things take time, including the disposing food out of your body. Massive amounts of air, combined with little waste, were produced by my the following days. Really..the sounds that I sometimes made..unbelievable.
From friday on the fever was gone, my stomach however needed another 3 days to get back to its normal self. Even now I occasionaly have small pains..but not so serious that I have to run to the toilet to decrease the (air) pressure.

All in all..I`m happy that my body made itself healthy again.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

To be a tourist, or not to be a tourist?

I`m facing an ethical dilemma..for the last two weekends.
Of course, I want to see sights in India..but do I want to go to the all too obvious major tourist sights..and cramp this sightseeing in a mere weekend?

The answer is a

I would love to go to Udiapur this weekend, but the train-trip takes 12 hours, this would mean that I have to leave at Friday night, would arrive at Saturday morning, would spend one night there, and would have to go back on Sunday-afternoon to be back in time to go to work on monday. Of course, I could skip work, but that would cut in my 3 free days a month supply. Maybe I should not care for my NGO or work so much, but damnit..I do. I care for my work, want to make it as good as possible, and want to follow the rules of the game that are stipulated out for me. And even if I stayed until monday afternoon..would it honour the place? I don`t want to run through the sights; running from monument to monument, and always having to check the time when the last train leaves. Besides that..on monday or tuesday I would be completely exhausted..and since my current state (fever, sore throat, headache) isn`t that good, it might not be the best thing to do.

And then again, what are sights? Another temple? Another palace? Another lake? Up till now, the things I have seen are nice..but do they make India? I think that life itself, and the people involved in it, in Jaipur and Shahabad, is what makes my stay in India special. Life in India is eating chapattis, playing real-life Frogger when crossing roads (I`m already at level 56 and still not game over!). It is negotiating with rickshaw-drivers over a mere 10 rupees. It is experiencing 25 degrees Celsius at an early morning in April. It is cricket everywhere..even in the streets of the Pink City Jaipur. It is seeing birds of prey flying right over your head while they are hunting for small birds or rats. It is enjoying a late night beer on the roof-terrace. It is seeing a 10-man marching band being cramped into a little rickshaw. It is experiencing the dozens of near crash situations while riding the state buses. It is seeing the house-servants being completely obsessed by strange India soap-operas. It is having a shower (or bath) with just a large bucket of water and a small bucket to poor it over you. It is having to flush your toilet manually. It is walking on the straight railway and seeing the light of the train in the distance. It is passing by enormous bulls when you walk along the street in your neighbourhood. It is hearing a spoiled cow moaning because she wants her food now, while she is crashing in into the gate of the house where she is normally fed. It is seeing a small squirrel challenging a much larger bird over its territory. It is getting some coconut peaces from some children and having a small cow sneakishly eat it from your left hand.

People sometimes tend to forget that normal life itself here is already very special by is the people you meet everyday that create the atmosphere and the character of a country named India. You don`t have to travel hundreds of kilometers to see it, you just have to step out of your door.

Of course..I would love to see some sights..but in general I am trying to avoid the bigger touristy places..because a moment of rest while on the streets is almost impossible there. And rest is what I need. I`m also actually planning to go to Udaipur in my three week maybe it is better for me to stay in Jaipur...or do something else.

So this weekend I might be going to Bharatpur (it all depends on how I feel) is a small city, about 4,5 hours by bus from Jaipur (much better than 10-12 hours!). It should have a nice fort..and a bird-sanctuary. The bird-sanctuary however suffered enormously thanks to horrible government policy (and bureaucratics) and is only a shadow of what it used to be. It`ll still be nice to see some other wildlife there..and I can actually drive around on a bike in the park. The place will at least not be that crowded..and hopefully peaceful. And it will again be a great lesson in how India's government is destroying the last few natural beauties that are left.

I also want to go to Bundi. Bundi is a town, about 5 hours from Jaipur by bus. According to my guide-book it is a beautiful and again peaceful place to visit..with a mountain castle and a very historic city centre. Maybe that is also one of the reasons why I am always in doubt about going to far away and bigger destinations; I am looking for rest and clean air..while bigger places often lack these two things.

Shahabad report

At Shahabad I wrote some nice stories in the dark evenings and early mornings, here is a nice overview of them!

Day 1: Arrived with Martine at Shahabad for my three week stay. I’m hoping that I will get some work done in these three weeks, and I believe that the initial signs are good. The questions I have are good, ordered and rated. Since a lot of them are closed it will be no problem in my opinion to have a decently successful interview. Translation however will remain a major issue, and I’ll have to see if somebody can arrange it today.

Day 2: Here I am, 2 p.m.. waiting for the two people who can help me on my assignment. Don’t know where they are or what they are doing, so I am bored. In my opinion I finished all what I can do now, so there is nothing left. There is no computer free (and also no Acrobat Reader) which means that working on my introduction is also impossible.

Day 4: …And still no significant business done. Seem mr Tiwari was right; It is going to be difficult. Maybe I should see this as an ultimate test of “things take time in India”. I would love to start screaming and pounding on doors and walls to speed things up. But deep inside I know it would not make any difference and would only agitate the poor Indians who do not know any better. It is a clash of cultures…but still…
I would at least like to do something. Today we went to the FD office only to encounter a closed door: Nobody was home. Well…at least I had a relaxing ride on the back of a motorcycle. And so now it is 5 p.m. and the place is deserted. I kind of miss the people in Jaipur, but not yet seriously. I’ll now for sure that I’ll be hugging them a lot when I go back on the 10th of April (and that date IS fixed).
One thing that irritates me is the lack of English here. I thought that because it was an English colony, most educated Indians would speak a decent word of English. I was wrong. I have no idea why, but only 1 or 2 people here know a decent word of English. And so I constantly get it thrown at my feet that I do not know Hindi. Well…YOU DO NOT KNOW ENGLISH!. English is not my native language but still I managed to master it. Maybe it was just a wave of Indian Nationalism that destroyed English education…or maybe they are just too ***damn lazy. And yes..I know that Florine (a former trainee) knew Hindi, but I wonder how and when she learned the language. I am not Florine, I am Paul. somebody who knows that learning a language for 5 months is a pure waste of time (although temporarily rewarding), since 95% leaves your brain after two months back in your home country. If only this world would learn English…

Day 7:

The wind is blowing
The night is growing
The sun is falling
And the moon is calling
Waking up nights’ creatures
Who, with barely visible features
Are crawling towards you
And hide themselves in your shoe
So that, when you wake up in the morning
Your feet will soon be soaring
But don’t worry, the pain will go
Until the next morning or so…

Day 10:

I’m in the field, waiting for the forest department officers and some members of the Shahpuri FPC. Seems they went together to the field. And it seems that we are again left waiting. As usual.

Day 11:

Yesterday was the day I had my first interview with a member of a FPC, or any other forest related person. It was located at a forest rangers office near the village of Shahpur. We had to wait a long time, but finally the officials showed up and they brought in the locals, the people of the village of Shahpur, the Sahariya. So here I was sitting, the sun going down, against about 10 tribal people, together with my interpreter mr. Choudhary. It was getting darker and there was almost no light, but the interview was going good. We were sitting at the table, and it all went black. The answers and the atmosphere were good. I felt a bit lost as a foreigner, but again this was a very special experience…perhaps one in a life time. Beautiful and perfect that I’m in India…the 1.5 weeks of waiting are over..HOORAY!

The day of April the fifth

From Monday onwards it has been very busy. Village visits, 8 of them, in a relatively short time. I’ve been to small and large villages, nearby and distant, secluded and easy accessible. I’ve met people from the Sahariya and Bhill tribes, have been in their houses, and interviewed them. The people here are very friendly to foreigners. Although they probably don’t have enough money for anything, there has been no begging. The people are proud, strong and pure (What you see is what you get). Yesterday I was in some Sankalp villages where I interviewed women FPC members for the first time. One interview was even with a whole group of women. Without a loud man in sight they can be quite rowdy, despite their timid outward look. They have opinions about things and express them freely. I was also in a village of the Sahariya tribe and interviewed a man called Ramchid, very nice, but during the interview he looked messy and unorganised. When I asked him after the interview for a photograph, he asked my with a smile if his wife could be included in the picture, and he went back “to prepare” himself. Ten minutes later his hair was combed, he was wearing his best shirt, and he had his powerful looking wife beside him. A beautiful picture was the result. I also had a dinner with the local forest department Marshall. With him I discussed issues like the forests in the Netherlands, the landscape, and a bit about terrorism. He said that western people have a different vision, because they have not yet been close to it. A valid point. I am close to Afghanistan and Pakistan..very close. We drank some hard liquor and we had a very good non-veg dinner. A very good time indeed. Although it will of course not influence my reporting later…hehehe…



April the 9th. My stay up till now.

What can I say? 2 months passed pretty quickly, although it feels like I have been here for ages. India is a country that makes you very, very tired. At the moment of typing this message I am sitting at my work with a splendid headache and a sore throat. No idea what I have got, but it could be a pay-back of my body to me, after yesterdays intensive hike to the monkey temple. Since I don`t like the rickshaws here, I decided to walk from Ajmeri gate, all the way to Galtha, a 2 hour walk. Along the way however I got stopped by no less than 3 indians who wanted to talk to me. One was an art student, one owned a medical shop and one worked at a jewelry manufacturer. Since I am pretty polite, I just went through the complete conversation and did not walk away halfway, or cut them off very suddenly. A 2 hours walk to the temple thus became a lot longer. At the temple I saw humans splashing in water, and monkeys doing exactly the same. Quite an amusing sight, and again you notice that monkeys and humans are alike. After enjoying the piece and quiet of the temple, and enjoying the view of monkeys swimming, I went back to the Pink City. Once there, I again was stopped twice by a person I met earlier that day, and some kind of guy that wanted to let me write a letter in dutch to a loved one in the Netherlands. And so I did write the dutch letter to him, and he wanted to do something in return: He brought me to “a very cheap” jewelry shop or manufacturer. In retrospect they were not that cheap, and even with my own untrained jewelry eyes I could still see that some were damaged and not worth a rupee. So I said politely that I was very tired (which I was) and that I was in no mood to buy anything today..I just wanted to go home. So they let me go, and I said goodbye to the man for whom I wrote the letter.