Thursday, February 26, 2009

Poem on the occasion of the death of my father

A Parting Guest

What delightful hosts are they—
Life and Love!
Lingeringly I turn away,
This late hour, yet glad enough
They have not withheld from me
Their high hospitality.
So, with face lit with delight
And all gratitude, I stay
Yet to press their hands and say,
“Thanks.—So fine a time! Good night.”

James Whitcomb Riley

Monday, February 23, 2009

My father

At about 9pm, February 21, 2009 my father, Donald Julius Martin, died. My sister, Alyson, was with him and she said he died very peacefully. I am, of course, grief stricken as I loved my father very much. But he hated not being able to do what he wanted exactly when he wanted and how he wanted and he missed my mother very much. He was extremely independent and active up until last March when he fell and broke his arm which led to him moving in with my sister in Columbia and leaving his beloved house in Sumter. Here's one of the last photos I took of him this Christmas when we cooked his famous spaghetti sauce together in the house in Columbia.

He will be very much missed.

SlumDog Millionaire

I wish this had happened to me when I was in India

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Pink City Days in Rajasthan

I’m in Jaipur, the Pink City of Rajasthan India.

After a riotous few days in Mumbai, racing around the city in auto rickshaws and catching up with old friends at a conference on Sexual and Reproductive Health and being hassled by immature coworkers, I am finally on vacation in India. It’s long been my dream to come to India and I’m just disappointed that I can’t spend more time here. Traveling for work is completely different to coming someplace to travel. I squeezed in a few hours each night to see a couple of things in Delhi and Mumbai but I wish I had the time to see all the different provinces of India better.

First impressions of Jaipur:
·I arrived at eight am on a small commuter flight. The streets were wide and lined with trees from the airport. That combined with the men’s traditional dress and the 1940s styling of the taxi made me feel as if I were stepping back in time.
·My room at the lovely Madhuban guesthouse wasn’t ready but I sat in the gracious restaurant by the pool in a window seat and drank tea for an hour or so and then slept in the canopy bed for a few hours.
·After a drive to the “New Gate” of the old city, I walked through the streets and saw an elephant carrying a bride, three or four camels carrying carts, numerous cows, brightly dressed women in saris, and too many young men trying to sell me gems, rickshaw rides, textiles, and the like.
· As the sun lowered in the sky, I watched the famous pink city glow in the fading sun and saw a movie being shot at the City Palace. No Shah Rukh Khan, sadly. He's my current Bollywood crush.
· At twilight, I watched a bunch of local young men play cricket in a lot until my presence became a distraction and I had to jump in a rickshaw.
· I went to a Hindu temple and watched everyone pray and sing while draped in garlands of marigolds.
· I ate Masala peanuts - roasted peanuts mixed with chopped onion, cilantro, tomato, lime juice, chili, and spices with a Carlsburg beer and some garlic naan for dinner.
· I rode a bicycle rickshaw “Indian Helicopter” back to the hotel, seriously underestimating how far away it was and got stuck in a traffic jam with my pashmina wrapped around my face and watched three Rajasthani brass bands compete to see who could play the loudest over three different weddings right next to each other. Another elephant went by and several silver decorated horsedrawn carriages. Wedding mania!
· I ordered my favorite sweet lime soda and turned on my iPod to sit on the balcony of my guesthouse and relax before bed.

Saturday, February 07, 2009

First impressions of New Delhi, India

Beep Beep! Hooooooooooooonnnnkkkk! Beep Beep!

That's my first impression of New Delhi and one that hesn't changed much in the past 2 1/2 days. I arrived about midnight on Wednesday and the MSF driver took me to my hotel. We dodged traffic (a free flowing carefree thing where you signal moves with your horn and ignore red lights, pedestrians, lane dividers, and giant trucks). Over giant overpasses and through enormous roundabouts we went. Amsterdam and Washington DC are rural villages compared to this place. After coming through a million diversions due to ongoing construction of the new metro line we went until we finally arrived at my hotel, the hotel Vikram, an unassuming little place with a lovely view of the Metro construction and highway.

I then checked into my hotel room. It was pretty quiet... until I went into the bathroom. It's not unlike showering on a major highway. But I'm a heavy sleeper and in the bedroom with the overhead fan on for white noise and the curtains shut, you don't really hear the horns in the background.

After two days in the office getting ready for the workshop, I finally stopped working long enough on Saturday to try to see some of the town. The first thing I did was go to buy some yarn for an exercise for our training. The doorman sent me down to Central Market in a rickshaw (basically bicycle attached to seat for two on the back). I assumed since it was a bicycle, it wasnt'far away and we would be going down residential streets - Nope! Off we went in the little rickshaw onto the major highway that runs in front of my hotel. I often think that the only way I survive on these trips of mine is a very underdeveloped sense of danger. I just held my skirt down around my knees and tried to look unconcerned.

After running aroudn the market and getting some rope (since yarn appears to be a foreign concept), I got back into a rickshaw to go to the hotel. This time, the rickshaw driver found an even more congested route back to the hotel. At one point, trucks, and buses were overpassing us and honking. He pulled into the "left turn lane" near the hotel and we sat in the middle of the largest roundabout you've ever seen in your life as cars, motorcycles, tuk-tuks, and trucks roared around us. Then he made a break for it.

I decided to upgrade for the second portion of my trip and get a tuk-tuk (three wheeler scooter) for my excursion out shopping. Again - back onto the highway and ripping through traffic honking away. All the rickshaw drivers can do is ring their bells to join the din but the three-wheelers have a proper horn. At every intersection, we stop and every inch of space is filled with motorbike drivers with women perched on the back, men on bikes with giant loads of wood, people on foot, policeman on motorbikes with their supervisors behind them, and more three-wheelers. I was so relieved to finally get to the destination.

It was called Hauz Khaz, an urban village that promised to have art galleries, antique shops, and other goodies to explore. After looking in the gorgeous antique shops and realizing that I could afford things I just had no idea how I would get them home. The "urban village" is on the grounds of a beautiful park containing the ruins of the tomb of Firoz Shah which means the "Royal Tank" - which is a reservoir and overlooks a lovely green mandmade lake where people loll about in the grass and chat with each other and young lovers hold hands and gaze at each other soulfully. A bunch of men were playing cricket with some young boys. I sat in the park for a while where I made the acquaintance of every teenage boy in town, I think.

Anyway, it was lovely and warm and breezy and the teenage boys were polite and curious. I didn't feel threatened by them and I heard them discussing the mystery of how I can be American but live in Amsterdam amongst themselves later. After another nervewracking ride back in the three-wheeler, I returned to the hotel.

The meeting participants are arriving tonight and I'm having dinner with one of the facilitators who is Indian and has promised to navigate the restaurant choice for me. Tomorrow, the Taj Mahal!!!