Monthly Archives: May 2005

Swades

We’re over Georgia now, the former Soviet Republic and site of tension between the US and Russia. U2′s Bono is singing “Love and Peace or Else” in my ear which strikes me as rather ironic.

A little later on this trip we will be over Iran, Afghanistan, and, I think, Kazakhstan (Lisa’s note — we flew well north of all of these places so don’t worry parents). My geography is pretty good but my mental map of this region is a lot like my early maps of New England before we moved there. The chances of us moving to Central Asia are remote.

Not much to report yet. Europe was a little disappointing, but only because we were corralled into a secure “lounge” for travelers in transit.

Saw my first honest to goodness Bollywood films today. One, Swades, was pretty good but not what I was told to expect. The other one though, had all of the crazy singing, dancing, and thin plot lines I was hoping for. Two star-crossed lovers from rival families attend University: revenge, hijinks, and dancing in the Alps follow.

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Do you know the way to JFK

We’re on the Limoliner bus to New York as I write this dispatch [now posted from Shimla]. Our adventure is about to begin, and I must admit that I am quite excited . . . to the point of nervousness.

We’ve been planning this trip for more than four months, and now that it’s finally about to start, the monumentality of the adventure is starting to sink in. This is my first trip out of the continent, my first trip to a developing country, and my first trip to a so-called “non-Western” nation. (Some of my co-workers say that it’s my first trip abroad but that’s not very fair to Canada and the Bahamas).

Perhaps people are merely wanting us to have a safe and enjoyable trip, but everyone keeps focusing on all of the things that could go wrong: sickness, terrorism, kidnappings, medical emergencies, sickness, theft, cinema bombings, and more sickness. As for myselgf, I was so focused on practical matters — making an itinerary, booking hotels, buying plane tickets, and shopping for international travel — that what we actually see and do is going to be something of a surprise.

But now we’re less than a day’s plane ride away from becoming true international travelers and I am determined to have a fantastic journey around India with Lisa in the weeks before Nirmala’s wedding.

On a more personal note, this trip is another part of the multicultural journey that I started at Grinnell. About ten years ago someone there called me a cultural imperialist — in a way that let me know it was a bad thing — which started me down the road of thinking about cultural differences and whether people in developing countries are really as content in their situations as the anti-colonialists maintain. Even now, when most people call me a liberal, I am still frequently on the wrong side of the globalization debate. To me, expanding markets and liberalizing economies and government institutions seems like a basic matter of fairness.

So I am very much looking forward to this trip in so many ways: the wedding of a dear friend, a chance to see a beautiful country rich in culture and history, and the opportunity to see how the driving force of the 21st Century, globalization, is affecting all of us.

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Lariam Ipsum Dolor?

Yesterday Lisa and I took our first of eight weekly doses of Lariam (mefloquine hydrochloride), the antimalarial drug our tropical medicine doctor recommended. Actually we had a choice between Mefloquine and Doxycycline, which we would have had to take each day while in India. We don’t usually forget to take medication, but a weekly pill sounded easier.

“Of course there is a risk of side effects with mefloquine. 1 in 1,000 experience vivid dreams, agitation, or depression. 1 in 10,000 suffer from hallucinations, extreme depression, and other neurological side effects. But if that happens, just switch to Doxycycline in India. It will probably cost less there anyway.”

The warning label from the CVS pharmacy distilled all of these risks down to “May cause dizziness. Take with food.”

So far neither Lisa or I have unexpectedly vivid dreams, though last night I think I might have been battling terrorists with Jack Bauer after watching the finale of “24″ before bed.

According to intrepid world and web traveler Tish Sheridan perhaps I should be a little nervous about that dream. “Don’t strangle anyone,” was her advice. Apparently American and Canadian troops in malaria country have had interesting reactions.

Incidence of malaria CDC TravelWise: Pages 1 and 2.


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India and the Web

Two things:

(1) Earlier today I booked domestic airfare for our trip to India.

(2) 2005 marks the 10th year that I’ve used the web for commerce.

It’s amazing how much a traveler can do half a world away in the comfort of one’s home. I conducted transactions in multiple currencies; bought hotel rooms at reduced fares; and supplemented information from my Indian friends and coworkers on everything from the different classes of Indian railcars to tropical medicine to plumbing.

Ten years ago planning a trip like this would have required a travel agent, a package tour, or a whole lot of adventurous living by the seat of the pants. Today it’s still an adventure, but one that I could plan (at least a little bit) in advance.

The websites in India are a lot like the sites here. I guess it’s more accurate to say, the web in India looks like it did for America’s big online players about five years ago and like it does for today’s “Mom and Pop” shops.

The Indian web sites I used included some of the most modern and impressive information and e-commerce storefronts around . . . .
Continue reading

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Namaste

Well, setting up the weblog wasn’t too painful…

Welcome to the dispatches section of my website. Here I will post dispatches from our travels, interesting items related to photography, and whatever else needs sharing with the world.

The ‘blog itself doesn’t actually look like much yet, but I hope to make this Movable Type-generated site look nice before we leave for India next Monday.

Okay, I guess it doesn’t look so bad. But it’s not “branded” to look like the rest of the site. In the web’s cut-throat world, that’s a major faux pas.

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