After surviving India and spending a few weeks in the relatively cool northern region of Thailand, I was ready to indulge myself with Thailand’s most attractive draw: it’s picturesque southern beaches. The day I arrived by night bus in the town of Krabi was sunny and clear. My hotel was from from any sort of beach, but I made it to the waterfront to take my first dip into the Indian Ocean.
I debated with myself over whether I should plunge into the arid lands of Rajasthan and see the proverbial Indian highlights, or go to some cooler nepal-bordering province in the north where I could possibly do some trekking and perhaps escape the chaos of big cities. In the end I figured that Rajasthan would give me more of an “all-Indian” experience; I’ll save himalayan trekking for another trip. The first leg of my journey in Rajasthan was on a night train that took me to the “blue city” of Jodhpur.
The city lays in the shadow of what’s said to be one of the preeminent forts of India. I took a ride on the zip-lines that run over a small lake behind the fort.
I never tired of this view over the city. The Brahmin, the highest caste of the Indian social structure, living in the city have been painting their houses blue for centuries. Apparently today all castes are allowed to join in.
Next, I was off to Pushkar, home to an annual camel festival in November that has made the town a sort of haven for hippie travelers who come to see the show. I was probably fortunate to have arrived a few weeks earlier, avoiding booked-out-accomodation and prices that are said to be up to five times the normal rate. The lake, which acts as the focal point in this small town, is a holy place for the Hindu, who are supposed to bathe in its waters at least once in their lifetime.
With so many camels converging in the city in preparation for the upcoming festival, it was a golden opportunity to join in on a camel safari. While a bit painful on the inner thighs, riding out into the arid countryside on a seven-foot-all camel was an unforgettable experience. Accommodation for the night was a bit rustic (we were given our camel’s saddle to use as a blanket), but the chance to sleep under the stars in a lonely desert landscape was a welcome respite from the traffic and car horns that fill most of my evenings here in India.
While I’ve heard how hundreds of millions in India live on less than a dollar a day, I’d never had much of a meaningful conversation with this class before the trip. Our camel driver told us he was making $25 dollars a month, most of which he sent home to his family living in a different area of the state. Two travelers and two guides shared a night in the wilderness, but there was little else in their lives that they would ever have in common.
And the last destination in India: Jaipur.
The biggest sun dial in the world. Accurate to two seconds.
One last Indian fort….
On the 1st of November I’ll be heading to Bangkok. My current plan is to do Chiang Mai in the north, perhaps with some trekking around Pai, and then to find some beaches in the south for snorkeling, swimming, and hanging out before returning home.
Out of the safety and care of good people we could trust and into the heart of Delhi. Nothing could have prepared us for the abrupt change. Of course we had faced some of the same overcrowding and chaotic traffic in our travels up until then, but it had been nothing like Delhi. We stayed there for almost a week, with one day-trip to Agra to see the Taj Mahal, before Sayaka had to go back to Japan and I moved on to Rajasthan. In that week we saw a different side to India then we had at the peaceful grounds of New Hope. And to be honest the worst of it – the poverty, traffic congestion, pollution, and living conditions – were much worse than I had expected. I had been exposed to all of this to some extent in Mexico, China, and the Phillipines, but Delhi seems to have it all at a whole different level.
Ten days at an orphanage in rural Kothavalasa, India. One protestor uprising over the Andhra Pradesh state splitting into two and one cyclone that tore through the Vishakhapatnam costal region. Thankfully our rural location a good distance from the coast kept us out of harms way through both incidents. Little was felt in the New Hope India orphanage but an overnight power outage caused by protesting power plants workers; but random power outages are an almost daily occurence here, so everything was running normally – at a slow pace that took some adjusting to.
When you find the cheapest flight possible for a journey abroad, you have to expect that your flight is going to be anything but convenient. I was prepared for a few layovers and little leg room. But I didn’t realize how toiling four flights in a span of about sixteen hours would be. We spent the day airport hopping across China with the country’s infamous budget airline, China Eastern Air: Tokyo to Shanghai, Shanghai to Beijing, Beijing to Kunming, Kunming to Kulkata. Even though it was all within the same airline company, it was apparently such a complicated arrangement that the airline agent couldn’t book it when I called them, and we were forced to go with Cheapoair.
Since mid-July I have been doing a number of odd jobs here in Tokyo. I interpreted for the Tokyo International Fashion Fair for a few days in July, and in August spent a few weeks helping my client resolve some inheritance issues with their Japanese family. Throughout this time I have continued to work for Mais, writing and translating articles for company blogs and the like. I got a job at the end of August translating articles for an automobile news website; I am only able to do one a day at the moment, but it’s good experience and fun to see my speed increase just slightly each day.
The Sumidagawa Firework Festival has its origins in the 17th century; it is an enourmous firework competition that has been held annually near the Asakusa bridge since that time. Over 15,000 fireworks are set off within an hour and a half span, and over one million people crowd the streets, parks, and bridges in the surrounding area. The forecast called for rain, but that didn’t stop the crowds.
We didn’t know exactly where to go to watch the show; any park in the area would be undoubtedly jam packed with people already, many of who had probably been claiming their spots since the afternoon. So we followed the crowds toward the main bridge, hoping we could at least see the fireworks standing somewhere in the street. We ended up in a huge crowd on the west side of the bridge, not quite sure exactly what we were waiting for, or if we would even be able to see anything from that vantage point. But there were thousands of people around us, and they had to know what they were doing, right?
Dark clouds gathered in the west as the show began. And then they started letting us over the bridge in groups, and we finally figured out what were waiting for–as you walk across the brigde, you get a 10 minute unobstructed view of the fireworks shot off on either side of you. And then when you are across it, apparently your viewing time is over.
We really had impeccable timing when you think about it. We were on the bridge and got about a five minute view of probably the most amazing fireworks show I have ever seen. But then the show took a sudden break, and the echos of the firework explosions were replaced by that of thunder.
What was at first a sprinkle quickly turned into a downpour. And we were still on the bridge, with no way of escaping it; we waited and trudged on slowly, trapped in by the crowds on either side of us. After finally getting across the bridge, we still had to battle our way to find cover–thousands of people took refuge in convenient stores, under the eaves of buildings, wherever there was any cover to be found.
We decided to make a break for the station, which still took about 5 minutes of running around in the pouring down rain. We finally made it to the subway, which was jammed packed with similarly sopping wet and disappointed firework viewers. But in the end we just had to laugh it off, and head over to Shibuya to get some dinner.
Last month I heard from a friend that her translation agency was desperate to find some amateur interpreters for a fashion fair held in mid-July. Seeing as the most interpreting I have done was for the ICU church service, I was eager to sign-up. After going into the company headquarters to meet the director and formally registering, I was initially signed up for only one day, but was later offered the opportunity to work all three. A bit nervous for my first real paid translation job, I studied the list of business terms likely to be used during negotiations, dusted off my suit, and went to bed early on Tuesday night—the 9am meeting time at the conference hall would mean a 6am wake up the next morning.
While most of the other student interpreters were assigned to patrols of around ten dealers, my client needed a personal translator to help him with his sales and business dealings. I think I was envied a bit by the others for getting to sit most of the day while they made their rounds from booth to booth. My shop was in a small corner of a less frequented walkway, which meant that while the fair itself was less crowded than we translators were all expecting, it was even slower for me. But I did have the opportunity to experience some real-time translations of some business negotiations.
I have heard it said that an interpreter must wear a different pair of shoes for each job he takes on. Most of the time I felt more like a sales person than an interpreter. My client expected me to ask visitors if they had any questions, and to give them the breakdown on prices and quantity limits—all without him actually repeating it in English for me every time.
At the end of three long days I had had more than enough of my share of curry (Indian cuisine catering everyday), and another great translating experience that gave me a glimpse of a world which most of us are oblivious to.