Mostly Vondelpark

Well my activities yesterday pretty much consisted of getting lunch (I was smart enough to do that first), visiting a coffeeshop, walking around Vondelpark, and coming back to the hostel and being completely useless for the entire evening. I don’t think I’ll repeat that again. Uses up too much time. But Vondelpark was wonderful. And my back was pain free for a few hours, which was quite nice.

Mostly Vondelpark

Grabbed lunch, then visited a coffeeshop where the couple of lovely young women working there were very kind to a clueless old lady. After recovering somewhat, I moved on to walk around the awesome Vondelpark. Then I was pretty much useless for the rest of the day. But my back felt good.

This is not the post you’re looking for

For anyone who has been expecting to see news of my grand adventure, I apologize. I have done some writing and uploaded some pictures that I haven’t posted publicly yet. And, I’m sorry, you might have gotten excited to see that I’m finally posting something, but don’t be. If you are looking for a fun travelogue – this is NOT the post you are looking for and you should do us both a big favor and stop reading now.

Okay. So now I’m probably writing this to just myself, but that’s probably best anyway. It will be a nice documentation of just how lame and ridiculous I truly am and, well, we all need that, right? Especially when one has self-esteem issues and depression issues, amiright? 😉

Anyway. I’m giving up. This trip was not a good idea, and I suppose if I had any brains worth speaking of, I would have figured that out during the “planning stages,” before wasting a bunch of money and getting myself (and some of you) all excited, just for it to end in crashing disappointment. But, hey. That’s life, right?

I have no idea why I thought I would enjoy this. I hate it. There are a number of reasons.

I suppose we should start with getting the following reason out there first: I’m a horrible, privileged middle class American who is shallow and can’t appreciate anything beyond her ken. That’s what I’ve been howling at myself for the past few days, in spite of Pete doing his best to convince me that it is NOT the case. There’s probably a little truth to both sides. I’m probably not as horrible as I think, but maybe worse than he thinks.

So, the possibly more rational and less self-loathing reasons I’ve come up with are as follows:

(1)

A person should not attempt to battle depression by taking a trip to a country teeming in abject poverty.

Just.

Don’t.

It does NOT make you suddenly see that your life is so wonderful by comparison. It does NOT suddenly imbue life with a sense of purpose and meaning. What it does is makes you say to yourself, “WTF? All these people are living like this, like THIS! And they manage to not slit their wrists as soon as they are old enough to recognize a razor blade and pick it up. And yet you can’t manage to get through a single day without thinking ‘why even bother continuing’?” What I see here doesn’t make me more inspired to enjoy the privileged life I have. It just makes me want to retch.

And hide in my hotel room.

In a fetal position.

(2)

Uh, note to self:

Cities in India?

Maybe not the best idea for a person who doesn’t even like to go to Lollapolooza, even though they might actually enjoy the music, because it it is too crowded.

I just cannot describe the crowds, traffic, and noise to someone who has not been here. It is… Nope, I cannot. I was not prepared for it. I guess my brain just wasn’t imaginative enough to envision this level of population density. And Kathmandu, Bangkok, and Ho Chi Minh, will only be slightly better.

What one must remember when looking at population density data is the presence or absence of mid- and high- rise buildings. I’m not saying there aren’t any, but I really didn’t see any in Delhi or here in Jaipur. All that extra population is not expanding upwards, it is just being squeezed tighter and tighter. Tokyo has a high population density, but it also has lots of very tall buildings. I’m guessing I would probably still find the crowds of Tokyo pretty daunting, too.

(3)

Yeah, traveling alone sucks a little, although I think parts of it can be a somewhat liberating.

However…

Traveling alone when you do not speak the language of anyone around you REALLY, REALLY sucks.

When I went to Costa Rica, I mostly was around people who spoke English natively, or who were somewhat bilingual. And, hell, I can speak and understand Spanish myself as long as the other person is patient and speaks slowly (which they were kind enough to do.)

When I went to Europe, everyone could speak English almost as well as I do. But I still was able to manage some conversations in French, Dutch, a tiny bit of Icelandic, and surprisingly Spanish (Although we didn’t go to Spain, I actually spoke extensively with two Spanish speaking tourists who were happy to let me stumble through it.)

I tried, a little late in the game, to learn some Hindi, but it was very different from any language I’ve learned before and it came very, very slowly. Somewhere I had gotten the impression that most Hindustanis who dealt with tourists in India knew English. That is not even remotely the case. And I even had major communication breakdowns with the guy who set up my tours, and he spoke English very well – certainly better than any other Hindustani that I came across.

I’m sometimes a quiet person. I often need my alone time, this is true. But I have to be able to communicate. I guess this was something I learned through this Big Mistake Trip.™ That idea I was tossing around my head about possibly training to be an ESL teacher? Uh, I may want to rethink that one. Could I really cope with the frustration of starting at a point of almost no communication? Even if it does move one toward the noble goal of eventual increased communication?

I hate not being able to communicate with others. And I am really learning absolutely nothing about life and culture here, because I can’t actually speak to the people who live here. It’s a lose-lose situation.

And it’s lonely when you can’t talk with or understand anyone around you. It’s very different when you choose to be antisocial for a while. But to have it forced upon you by necessity, day after day, is maddening.

So, that is why, even though I don’t think some of the other Asian countries I was planning to go to are as extremely poverty ridden as India, I still don’t think I would enjoy moving on to Nepal and Southeast Asia. If there is even the possibility that I won’t be able to communicate effectively with 95% of the people I come in contact with, I don’t think I will learn anything real about the culture and will just be continuously frustrated and depressed. Hell, I can get the latter back home and not go through the trouble.

So what now?

I realized there were two things that I have enjoyed on this trip. The first was the food. Of course, Indian food. Absolutely my favorite in the world, that I’ve had thus far. But now that I don’t have the English speaking tour guy helping me out, I can’t even figure out how to find a good restaurant. The hotel I’m staying in here in Jaipur has a restaurant. Of course they aren’t going to give me advice on going somewhere else.

The other thing was, I REALLY enjoyed the two occasions during which I hung out with the couple of Hindustani who spoke English and a whole bunch of other travelers – mostly European. I had a great time. We all spoke English, but I also spoke French to the French couple and a bit of Dutch with a few German guys who also knew a bit of Dutch. I enjoyed that much more than walking around in really hot, humid weather, taking photos of monuments built by really poor people to honor really rich dudes To be fair, I found that difficult when I was in Europe, too. Beauty is tainted when you look too closely at how it was created, and at what cost, but I won’t veer onto that tangent right now.

I’m sorry, south and southeast Asia – I don’t think it is the right time for us. I don’t know if it ever will be. Maybe with an expensive structured tour that I choose not to throw money at right now.

So, I feel I have two choices.

One – Go home.

Two – Go to a part of the world where I might actually enjoy myself.

After spending the last day and a half trying to work through this, I THINK I’ve decided to not end my journey just yet, but rather take a western bound detour back to Europe again. I will sleep on it again tonight, and maybe I’ll change my mind. But if not, I’ll probably book a flight to Amsterdam for Sept 17.

Yes that’s right, this will not happen immediately – I can’t afford to get airline tickets without some advance purchase, and I already paid out a lot of money (more than I had planned to spend) for the India part of the journey.

So there you have it. Maybe at some point I’ll try to post some of the stuff I started to write. And more pictures. We’ll see. Right now, I’m tired of blogging.

If you feel I’m being an idiot, please feel free to NOT share that with me quite yet. I’m having a hard enough time dealing with my own self criticism. Do lay it on later when I seem better able to handle it, though.

Cheers.

Qatar Day 2 – August 25

This will be the first of a number of “catch up” posts.

The Internet lies. It lied to me about the hours that Souq Waqif is open. It was probably right about most days, but the web sites I read didn’t mention that Fridays are of importance to Muslim people and therefore hours change on Fridays.

So I headed out to arrive at Souq Waqif around 9 am, because the restaurants were allegedly open then, with the shops opening at 10. I did find an open restaurant, thank goodness. I ate something recommended by the waiter, and ordered way too much food. I thought it cost less than it did because I misread the menu. Ah well, it was still okay. The food itself was quite tasty. Basically combinations of bread, cheese and herbs.

So afterward I wandered around a virtually deserted Souq with the occasional man looking at me as though I had sprouted horns. Kinda like, what on earth are you doing here right now. 10:30 – none of the stores were opened. 11 – still closed. 11:30 – I’m dying of heat stroke (with humidity factor it was probably around 123 at the time) and tried walking the mile back to the hotel, but google maps didn’t realize a road was closed for construction so I was rerouted way out of my way by helpful construction dudes.

Interlude: Guess what you don’t really see on the streets or in the buses of Doha? Women. It is very eerie. I did see women (mostly foreign) when I revisited the Souq at night. But I’d say the male to female ratio was 10 to 1 at the best of times. As a person presenting as a woman, it felt more than a little weird.

Back to the story. I did finally arrive at my hotel and I really did not want to leave again. So I completely gave up my idea of visiting Katara Village (which would require a cab ride) and just rested and rehydrated for most of the afternoon. I checked out and they stowed my luggage downstairs. Then I went out (took a cab this time) and experienced the best part of my brief trip to Doha – the Museum of Islamic Art. It was a beautiful museum with lovely  and interesting art that I hadn’t really seen before, it was air-conditioned, and it was free. Couldn’t have much more going for it than that.

Anyway, I wandered the Souq a bit after the Museum. I failed miserably at my attempt to buy something. He gave a price that I thought was really too high and I was too freaked out to try to do what I was supposed to do and offer a lower price. So I just said no thank you and left. I suck at being a world traveler. I did walk home from the Souq the second time because this time I knew the right route. And the sun had gone down so it was only 95° F or so.

I went ahead and ate again at the hotel restaurant – just some hummus – not too imaginative but it was the cheapest (hotel restaurant prices, don’t you know). Then I had a cab take me to the airport. Except for the first long bumpy ride from the airport, I never used the transit card I bought. I really didn’t learn my lesson when I got to New Delhi, but you’ll read about that in a future post.

Doha, Qatar - Day 2

Souq Waqif, a bit of the Corniche, and the Museum of Islamic Art

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