Coming and Going

10:52 AM Thursday, November 4, 1999

So I thought I'd relate a little of what's happening to me. Or, what I'm doing whichever you prefer.

I woke up this morning with a nasty sore neck from playing Half-Life all night last night. That's a damn good 'puter game ya'know. After I wiped the pigeon shit off the bathroom sink and brushed my teeth, I spent some time trying to get the hot water to work. My incredibly sore neck was barely enough motivation to figure out the plumbing magic necessary. There's a water heater that you turn on to heat up the water before your shower but somebody mounted it below the height of the showerhead so you have to do this knob-twiddling between the hot and cold and the main tap to get a siphon working in the pipes. It sputters like an old Disney jalopy then it works great. That's the first time in 30 showers that I've felt like having hot water.

Life here is a glorious mixture of the base and the luxurious. After the shower, I doused myself in basil and red sandalwood ayurvedic body talc and stretch my toes over the clean cold stone floor tiles. The cook has just left some Gujrati goodness in the fridge. Purple and green iridescent saris covering the windows are buffeted on the wind. The wind also brings sounds of car horns and crows.

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The phone has been out all week. Getting it fixed is the number one priority in my life but there's not much I can do about it. Aside from the "no internet access" thing, not having a phone wouldn't be so bad if I wasn't in the middle of getting a job, finding an apartment, signing up for an ISP, setting up a photo business and planning a trip to Pushkar. I walk down to the corner and use the payphone. I'm in the dark about whether the workmen are going to try and show up today to put the blinds up on the terrace. Fuck 'em. They never show up when they're supposed to. One of my main jobs since getting here has been to sit and wait for workmen to come and do stuff. Of the 5 or 6 different guys, I'd say they have an average attendance rate of about 15%. No call of course. I just sit here and wait.

Each day averages 2 bus rides, 3 taxis, 1 argument about taxi fare, about 15 blocks of walking, 20 attempts to get directions from strangers (see previous emails about the futility of this particular task), 12 transitions from subzero AC to 95 degree heat, 3 blocks of getting followed by a four-year-old with no pants on begging for rupees, 2 bottles of water, 3 Cokes, the equivalent of 2 packs of cigarettes in pollution, 5 near misses from passing cars (to qualify for near you must be within 2 inches), getting called "boss" 60 times, and just about all the beauty I can handle.

Here's more info on the things I mentioned in the last paragraph affected by telecommunications:

The internet: I'm trying, but sending email is tough. I'm having information withdrawal. However, I refuse to read a paper.

The job: Ami hooked me up with a couple of her friends that have web development businesses and I'm supposed to call a guy named Gaurav today and tell him how much I expect to be paid to do some e-commerce and random consulting for him. It should be interesting trying to figure out how to do merchant services over here where there is no automated credit card system. We met on Monday and talked and since then I've been thinking about how much to charge. It's not been easy figuring out the Indian wage standard for someone with my skills. With the rate I'm going to ask for I should be able to work 2 or 3 days a week and make enough to pay for an apartment and all my expenses. I want to do this so I have some involvement in everyday life like everyone else.

The apartment: I'm also supposed to go with an agent today that may have a place for me that doesn't require a $50,000 deposit. We'll see.

The ISP: My god. What a pain in the ass. Could you imagine where the internet would be if you had to go through what I did to get an account? Hell-lo? Metal detectors? You don't take cash? I couldn't figure out any way but applying in person and even that took me 3 days.

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The photo biz: I've found a good pro lab that does developing and contacts for about Rs.150 and doesn't scratch my negs. I've found a place with refrigerated professional slide film. I've found two places that do negative drum scanning but they're way out in the suburbs. I have a photo shoot this Saturday for Elle. I'm shooting "the life of a model" backstage at a big fashion show / party for Smirnoff. It should be lots of fun. I'm using a Nikon Coolpix 950 digital.

Trip to Pushkar: I'm taking the train. Yeah. 18 hours. Then I'm staying with a few thousand other people in the dormitory style tents for 4 days in Pushkar. I'm hoping to get some amazing stories and pictures from the camel fair and religious festival. A desert town of 10,000 turns into a tent city of 200,000 for the week of the full moon in November.

Oh yeah, the fireworks of Diwali, "the festival of lights" are insane here. Huge blasts go off right next door and with all the windows open you naturally duck for fear of shrapnel. I'd guess they're bigger than M80's. Let me tell you, it really is scary, and I've been in some nasty 4th of July conflagrations. The firecrackers have been crackling for a week straight already and it's just getting started.

Ok, that's it. Take care y'all.