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I haven't been taking photos of India which is a shame, I know. I've always been uncomfortable taking photos of street life in poorer areas. Valentina says it's called "the gaze"... those pictures of kids smiling while living in poverty. I'll try to snap something 'real' while I'm here but for now, let me try to paint the picture in words. (Half of you just stopped reading and scrolled to the YouTube videos ha!)

To catch a 6am train to Agra the other day, I decided to book myself into the Smyle Inn across from New Delhi Railway Station. The hostel's actually located in an alley off of the Market Bazaar. Now, imagine chaos. Double that. You get the area around NDRS. Across the street is this market where you're subjected to all sorts of unpleasant smells and constantly have to watch your step as there's animal droppings, food debris, or people spit everywhere. You'll also have to dodge cows, motorcycles, autorickshaws, and people pushing carts or carrying goods.

When I finally found the Smyle Inn, I thought, "hmm, it smells like a toilet" (that's not exactly what I said to myself but I have to clean up my language- mom's readin' this). I couldn't figure out where it was coming from until later when I realized, there was actually two open squat toilets right at the entrance of the alley. Only once did I see someone use it and thank goodness he was only urinating.

Bathing has been a chore in India. Most of my bathrooms have a shower with low pressure, no hot water, and no toilet paper. What they do have are buckets. 'Bucket showers' are a new fact of life. You fill up a bucket, try to soap up, and use a smaller bucket to poor the water over you. This makes 'a quick shower' not so quick. Meanwhile, you end up with the entire floor completely wet. All of this was part of the adventure at Caroline's because I knew that she was the only one using the place (plus she's got a great squeegee to clean up the water). But there's a whole lot of shuttering going on when I start thinking about how people use the other tiny bucket for the toilet next to the shower. My poor feet. Oh, and in Agra, I was showering and looked up to see dozens of tiny insects hanging out in the corner above my head.

Last night I came back from my day roaming the Agra Fort and other sights and saw something run across my wall. I was spooked. The four different types of insects I spotted didn't bother me so much as long as they stayed out of my hair and shoes but this thing was big. I pulled the bed out and found a lizard. ::sigh of relief:: I thought, at least he's helping to eat the bugs.

On the streets of Agra, I've been spotting a variety of wild life. Again, I wasn't able to whip out the camera in time. There are elephants, camels, buffalo, goats, burrows, dogs, (a rat just ran out the door of this internet cafe) and my favorite- families of monkeys. It's a zoo out here!

Lying in bed last night, I started to get a little impatient. I was constantly shifting my body around to get out of my own sweat spot. I'm laying there under a fan, swatting away flies, and I'm thinking, this is only the beginning. Thailand, China, Vietnam... there are some funky places ahead. What have I gotten myself into. But this morning, I met an Englishman who's on his last stop before returning to the UK from a 10 month trip (shortened from 12). I can do this. I stink right now and there's something crawling on me but man, what an adventure.

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3 Responses to “Cleanliness”

  1. # Blogger Valentina C

    Let me clarify "the gaze"... it's not about taking pictures of poor people, it's about taking pictures of a culture that "exoticizes" it. Like in Africa, one'll take pictures of Africans doing funny dances for tourists and claim THIS is Africa rather than take a picture of an African eating a burger at a fast food.. which is just as much "Africa". It's the way we (romantically often) fantasize of "the other".  

  2. # Anonymous Anonymous

    So Tony,

    Where did you celebrate Indian Independence Day? Was it fun?


  3. # Blogger Tony

    Thanks for clarifying Val. I haven't been taking photos of kids posing nor people eating hamburgers... do they do that in Delhi?

    Fais, I spent Independence Day in Agra. Missed most of the action because I was either sleeping or traveling during celebrations. They did pin a ribbon on me at one of the sights.  

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Location: United States A 29 yr old filmmaker from California traveled through Europe, Africa, Asia, and Australia/NZ over ten months from April 2007 to March 2008.

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