Guess I Haven’t Lived

Just as advertised, India is incredible. The poverty is extreme, hawkers will test you patience, and the health of your stomach is always on your mind. In a country this geographically and culturally huge, as Shibu told me “you can’t see India in ten days.” But in ten days you can see a lot. In that time we toured an ancient Jain temple in a hidden Old Delhi alley, looked out on beautiful sprawling Moghul mosques and architecture, visited the Sikh’s sublime Golden Temple, ascended the Buddhist ghompa at the residence of Dalai Lama, and hiked up to Hindu temples perched on ridges overlooking rivers, rolling green hills, some of the highest peaks on earth. One day we were strolling through the chaotic markets of Old Dehli looking down on busy wallahs of all sorts. A couple of trains later we were rolling through fertile farmland and soon we were basking on the beaches of the banks of the Ghanges in Rishikesh watching beautiful Hindu arti ceremonies and hiking through terraced wheat fields and swimming beneath waterfalls.It’s not the easiest place to travel and we met a few young travelers that were overwhelmed and a few old ones that were totally bitter- I heard one lady fully outfitted in high performance gear on the train to Agra say with a London accent “this is fucking awful,” in complete disgust. She was minutes away from visiting one of the Seven Wonders of the World. So if you plan to go look into what you’re getting into. That being said planning doesn’t always work out. We actually completely changed our itinerary the day after we arrived in Delhi. We were looking to travel east through Bihar, Varanasi, the hill stations of Darjeeling, and ending up Sikkim which is that little nub in Northeast India above Bangladesh and sandwiched between Nepal, Tibet, and Bhutan. We called about getting a permit to go Sikkim and were informed that violent strikes had been going on for about a week and that it would be next to impossible to get transport in and around Darjeeling. So we opted to do go North looping up through the states of Haryana, Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Himachal Pradesh,  and down through Punjab along the border with Pakistan. It turned out to a be a great route.

Old Dehli

Petra Reunion

A little while back, I made my first trip to Jordan’s most famous site. In December I received my Ikama (Residency permit), in the form of a grey plastic card with flowery prints, Arabic writing, and a hologram. With this card I now pay what Jordanians pay for admission prices. You may remember Petra as the place Indiana Jones, Sean Connery, and that fat guy ride up to in their search for the holy grail. Later you get to hear that old knight say “He chose poorly,” after the Nazi rapidly ages into a pile of bones and then Harrison Ford says “this looks like the cup of a carpenter.” If Gonch makes it out here we’ll go to Petra and I am confident a large portion of our  day will be spent uttering those phrases. Looking forward to it. Another good part of Gonch coming to Petra is that he’ll be a tourist and have to pay the entrance fee of 50 Jordanian Dinars (around $70), but when I flash my grey hologram I have to pay just 1 Dinar.

I’m on a Boat… plus waterfalls & wadis

The past two weekends we’ve done a few excursions which I’ll present mostly in the form of pictures. Two weeks back we did Wadi Kerak and this past weekend I and a couple friends drove down to Aqaba for a boat trip on the Red Sea, and a bit of hiking in Wadi Rum.

Wadi Kerak would be our the most involved trip yet: A 10km hike with five abseils, including a 35 meter waterfall. As we made our way down the into the deep canyon one of our guides, Hussein, skipped and ran down the shale as the rest of us tip toed down into the wadi, within five minutes someone nicknamed him the Goat.

Victoria making her way down
Hussein with some other local wildlife

Another Day, Another Dinar

Greetings from the capital of the Hashemite Kingdom. It’s been a good fortnight over here and I’ll share a bit.

I’ve been working quite a bit lately, which I like. With little experience with green building, the various regional and international standards, and technical & political aspects of this process I’m learning a great deal. I’m in the midst of bringing together the component parts of a document which will, inshala, be the first draft of a comprehensive Jordanian regional standard for green building. Water and Energy are the two most important aspects as Jordan is one of the poorest water states in the world and they import over 95% of their energy. By the way ‘inshala’ translates more or less to ‘god willing.’ People say it all the time and a lot of times it just means it’s not going to happen- kind of like when you were a kid and you would ask your mom if you could get ice cream after going to the grocery store and she’d say “we’ll see.”
A few weeks back I drove up Pella to hike up through some ancient ruins. At the foot of a group of columns I met a shepherd, who kept telling me he was a shepherd, with a handkerchief full of Greek, Roman, and Byzanntine coins that he wanted to sell me.
The hike was hot and dry with steady elevation climb. The view to the west overlooking the ruins, Jordan River Valley farmland, and across that all important imaginary line was spectacular.
I included this picture with me in it because a) I like it and b) I know it will make Gonch roll his eyes which Malcolm Gladwell tells us is the tell tale sign that a marriage won’t work.
So the food is good here–> my chickpea consumption is through the roof and there’s no end in sight. I also regularly visit the sharwarma (arab burrito) stand.
Paco and I saw them bringing a fresh, plastic wrapped, meat punching bag to the back burner rotisserie a couple of weeks back. It took four guys to carry and you should have seen the way that thing parted the crowd waiting out front. I tried to take of picture of the meat Moses but it didn’t turn out.