So I guess anyone taking the time to read this blog would think that I was being negative on my time in India, and for the most part I kind of agree. You see, I spent my time not being a tourist, but trying to fit into the population, and just like trying to write about your life in whatever town you live it, it is somewhat difficult to always be bright and cheery. I don’t think that came out quite right. Much of my time while I lived in Goa was doing everyday things, like grocery shopping and walking around, that really wasn’t interesting enough to write about. I did though take a few photos while I was out and about.

DSC02061

DSC02055

 

This is kind of confused entry, but bear with me because there is somewhat of a point. So I rented a place in Goa India for three months, got my visa and everything was going great. About a month before I had to leave I booked a bungalow in Thailand and noticed that I had to be out of India earlier than I planned because three months is not the same as ninety days. July 6 to October 6 is something like 94 days, so thankful that I caught my mistake went about booking the new place and flights from October third to November third.

On October 3 as I was doing my final preparations for leaving I decided to look through my passport…I still don’t know why I did it, but I looked at the visa and noticed that it expired three months from the time that I initially got it, which was July 24. Oh Crap! The remainder of the day I went over in my mind all the possible outcomes from overstaying my visa. Would it be minor and would they let me leave anyway? Would I get in trouble and be blacklisted from ever returning to India? I didn’t have a clue of the possible ramifications that I would have to deal with and according to the internet, I should expect to be treated like a criminal and be prepared for the worst possible outcome.

Knowing that there would be problems I went to the airport anyway and try my luck. Now if you know me you know that I’m kind of adverse to confrontation and this made it difficult to come to grips with what I had to do. When I arrived at the airport I immediately went to passport control to talk to someone about my expired visa. I was the only one there and in a matter of a minute (maybe two) I had about 6 passport officials surrounding me telling me what I did was wrong. One official told me that if I had tried to go through he would have thrown me in jail; pointing to some where in the distance, another told me that it would be easy to fix. Funnier than anything else, most of the officials were questioning how I had made it to passport control at all. (They seemed somewhat satisfied when I told them that I just followed the signs and nobody stopped me.) During one of my conversations with a passport official they told me to go to Panjim to get an extension to my visa and I’d be able to leave tomorrow. No big deal, only a hiccup. So I grabbed a taxi to Panjim at about 9pm with the naïve belief that everything would be okay. All I needed to do was rent a room, go to the police station in the morning and I could put this whole mess behind me. The taxi driver promised that he could find a hotel for me…”No problem.”

So we take off for Panjim, India and just by coincidence there is a national holiday going on and we couldn’t find any hotels that had a room. We drove around for about thirty minutes and finally I decided to call the landlord of the place I was staying at in Colva Beach to ask if I could come back and finish my time there. They agreed and the taxi driver and myself headed back to my apartment in Colva Beach.

The next day I headed to Panjim to fix my visa. Turns out that the office was closed but there was some people working so I got a chance to talk to the head of the office there. I explained my situation and she was very kind and told me what the procedure was. She also explained that since it was a holiday the office wouldn’t be open until Tuesday, about four days away. So much for a quick fix.

My landlord in Colva Beach let me stay the extra time that it would take, but she openly spoke of the problem that I put her in. She said that the police would question her and according to her, make her life miserable. I felt so guilty that not only did I screw things up for me, but now she would suffer from my mistake.

The next few days I kind of hid in the apartment. I’m not really sure why, but I didn’t go anywhere or do anything… almost like I didn’t belong and everyone knew.

Tuesday comes and I head out to Panjim with all the paperwork that I was told to bring. At this point I should mention that each trip to Panjim cost a lot, about $20 and I had to make about four or five trips. I get to the office and wait to be seen, finally after about an hour I get to talk to someone. From that point on things seemed to go pretty smoothly. All the paperwork was done and except for a report from the police station in Colva Beach everything was taken care of. Because the police report was needed I had to return five days later to get my extension.

Five days later I show up and in about 30 minutes I was good to go.

At the Airport:

So on the 15th I head to the airport to finally get out of India. I show up at the airport and first have to wait for about an hour before checking in. I finally go to check in and they tell me that I have a 20 kilo limit for baggage. What? I had a 32 kilo limit coming to Goa. My baggage weight was 33, so the fee was $195. I was pissed but they wouldn’t budge. I couldn’t see any solution except to lighten my load. I found a garbage can and started throwing things away. I tossed everything that I thought I could do without. The whole time I was tossing things in the garbage I felt like I had been played, 32 coming and 20 going… I threw away shoes, shorts, a kettle, jeans, shirts, and lots of other things. When I went back I was still 5K over but paid the fee then.

This was my last experience in India… not quite accurate but it gives me the opportunity to mention my feelings about Indian culture in a micro view. It’s all about control and being in control. If something is a rule, it is followed and no questions are asked. If you are told to stand there and wait, you better stand there and wait. If you question a rule you are at best ignored, but at times may be told politely, to shut up.

When I started this blog about eight years ago I told myself that it was going to be more of a journal, in fact that’s what I called it then. It’s kind of funny that when I first moved to Dubai a friend told me that ‘journal’ sounded feminine so I changed it to ‘blog.’ The reason I bring this up is because my idea when creating the blog was to write about my experiences, not for other people, but for myself and more importantly, for posterity. I knew then, and still believe now that I have been very lucky to be traveling the world and am not so naïve to believe that I’ll be doing this the rest of my life. Some day I want to sit back and read what I’ve done and more importantly be reminded of the emotions and the connections that I’ve had over the course of my travels.

Since I left Dubai in July I have kind of refrained from adding entries to the blog simply because nothing really special happened to me. This is/was a mistake because the basic act of living in India was memorable even if nothing ‘special’ happened. I really didn’t take any photos while I was there and I regret that I have nothing to help me remember my life for the past three months.

Sat 04/01/14 01:10

The next morning was another boat cruise down the river but this time at sunrise. It was cold but very cool to see and I think I got some good photographs as the sun came up. There were a huge amount of boats filled with sightseers already on the water which made it even more interesting.

Varanasi, India Kenneth Curtis trip to India winter 2013   Varanasi, India Kenneth Curtis trip to India winter 2013

Varanasi, India Kenneth Curtis trip to India winter 2013   Varanasi, India Kenneth Curtis trip to India winter 2013

Varanasi, India Kenneth Curtis trip to India winter 2013   Varanasi, India Kenneth Curtis trip to India winter 2013

Varanasi, India Kenneth Curtis trip to India winter 2013   Varanasi, India Kenneth Curtis trip to India winter 2013

Varanasi, India Kenneth Curtis trip to India winter 2013   Varanasi, India Kenneth Curtis trip to India winter 2013

Varanasi, India Kenneth Curtis trip to India winter 2013   Varanasi, India Kenneth Curtis trip to India winter 2013

Varanasi, India Kenneth Curtis trip to India winter 2013   Varanasi, India Kenneth Curtis trip to India winter 2013

Varanasi, India Kenneth Curtis trip to India winter 2013   Varanasi, India Kenneth Curtis trip to India winter 2013

Later we had a free day to explore on our own. It was kind of funny, and a moment that I got teased for most of the trip. The story starts when everyone decided to go get a lassie (sp), I think it’s something like a yogurt milkshake and to me looks really slimy and gross, but I guess it’s the thing if you’re in Varanasi and have a chance to go the shop that sells the best lassie in the world… yeah, right. After taking about 15 minutes to find the place, everyone dove in and ordered, that is except for me. I mean I was there to see the river and all the things that I’ve heard about, but decided I’d rather go with the group so I hung out at the lassie shop. Thirty minutes turned into forty-five, and forty-five turned into about an hour. I was so bored and couldn’t understand why the group was so interested with the slime drink. Little by little I started to get irritated so after about 20 minutes I went to stand outside with the hopes that everyone would get the idea that it was time to go, but no luck they just kept sipping away at the best lassie in the world. I mean who names a yogurt milkshake after a tv dog? As I was standing outside waiting about every 5 minutes a dead body would be carried through the alley towards the river, in a weird kind of way it is cool to see 4 or 6 people carrying a stretcher with a wrapped body. So anyway, the group gets done with the best lassie in the world, and then has to fulfill a promise to the person who guided us to the shop nearly an hour prior. At this point I was, and I’m sorry to admit it, angry. Eventually we made it to the river and I decided that I would split up from the group and explore at my own speed. Being in a group is 90 percent great most of the time, but that 10 percent when the group seems to hold me back can suck.  So I spent the next 6 hours or so just walking along and taking photos.

Varanasi, India Kenneth Curtis trip to India winter 2013   Varanasi, India Kenneth Curtis trip to India winter 2013

Varanasi, India Kenneth Curtis trip to India winter 2013   Varanasi, India Kenneth Curtis trip to India winter 2013

Thu 02/01/14 20:42

The last few entries, or maybe I should say the last few chances I’ve had to write about my vacation have been hurried at best. It seems the only real time that I’ve had to write is when we’re actually moving from one stop to another. Unfortunately though in most situations it can be difficult to write on a plane, bus, or train, which is where I am now. I am in a sleeper car going from Agra to Varanasi. It so difficult to try to concentrate while people are milling around and as the train is slowly chugging along.

Train ride to Varanasi, India: Kenneth Curtis blog   Train ride to Varanasi, India: Kenneth Curtis blog

So the night on the train was pretty good, and I use those words loosely.  When you haven’t showered, you have no space to be alone, and everyone around you is in the same boat, it can’t really be “pretty good.”

Train ride to Varanasi, India: Kenneth Curtis blog   Train ride to Varanasi, India: Kenneth Curtis blog

We arrived in Varanasi relatively late, I think it was about 2pm when we were supposed to be there by 12. I don’t know if anyone knows about Varanasi, but it is the city in India that is on the Ganges River, and may be best known for the dead bodies being floated down the river, or being cremated. Or at least that was about all I knew about it. I had seen many photos that showed the building with the stairs leading down to the water. So of the photo were so impressive that I was pretty excited to be seeing it for myself. Unfortunately I was a slightly let down. First there are cremations along the river, but they don’t float any bodies down the river anymore. Then I couldn’t seem to recreate the some of the photos that I’d seen that got me so excited in the first place. I’m not exactly sure why, I walked the whole riverbank and took a ton of photos, but for some reason couldn’t get “the” photo.

 Varanasi, India: Kenneth Curtis blog    Varanasi, India: Kenneth Curtis blog

 Varanasi, India: Kenneth Curtis blog    Varanasi, India: Kenneth Curtis blog

 Varanasi, India: Kenneth Curtis blog    Varanasi, India: Kenneth Curtis blog

 Varanasi, India: Kenneth Curtis blog    Varanasi, India: Kenneth Curtis blog

The first day (after the train ride) we went for a sunset cruise on the river to see some of the lights and a festival that was going on near the cremations. I really shouldn’t call it a festival; I guess it is more of a prayer, but the chanting, the people watching, and just the spectacle of it all sure made it seem festive.

Thu 02/01/14 20:39

The last night at Agra we celebrated by first going to see a Bollywood movie. It was the first time that I’d seen one so I appreciated the experience more than the movie itself. We saw the movie Dhoom3.You know, the movie really wasn’t that bad, just kind of corny. There wasn’t any plot development and it had gaping holes in the storyline, good fun though. Plus the staring woman was really pretty and that will always make a movie better for me.

bollywood movie poster Dhoom3

After that I decided to have a pizza from Pizza Hut. I know, so American but I don’t have pizza very often and some of the people were going so I indulged. I have to admit it was probably the best pizza that I have had in some time. We ate dinner outside in a garden and later one of the guys from the tour lit fireworks to celebrate New Years Eve.