Pondy Bazaar

The street grew more narrow as the surrounding traffic swallowed the rickshaw and us. The first shop to attract me was stacked full of bangles, earrings, necklaces, and some common nick-knacks, like bandannas. The columns of bangles engulfed the tiny shop- they were stacked to the ceiling like jars of candy, enticing and dazzling.
The first impulse I had was to just stand and stare- absorb every colour and texture. But this is India, and quick reflexes are key.
Overcoming the overwhelming urge to gawk like a tourist, I dove in. The shop was about the size of my bedroom, and the width of one person. Thank God I haven't been eating and could squeeze past the already packed shop.
Make them work for you- that's what I learned from observing. But never, ever look as interested and amazed as you are. I found many things I would love to adorn myself with, starting from the head to the ankles, and many places in between. Settling for a few bracelets and earrings, I was off. The negotiations went well. My price went down half of what I was to be charged. Is it the fact that three of the bracelets broke before I even left the store and I clearly showed my displeasure? Or maybe it was my blasse and impassive face, bearing no sign of what I was feeling inside.
I left after a quick photo-op (I am a tourist, after all) and entered the ever-chaotic streets of Chennai again.
The first shop I passed offered me the exact earrings I had just bought for half the price. Damn. Maybe I'm not as good as I thought. I opted for eye kohl and henna paste; let's see if I can still draw on bodies like nobody's business.
Next was a juice bar, where the Brits and I sat for a bit. Did you know that the bars here can put nuts in your shake? Protein city. Note to self- never order papaya smoothie. One of the girls received a warm concoction that ended up making her sick, giving me a sharp reminder to be safe about the food here. Not sick yet. One week down. Good so far.
Our wandering led us through a flower street. The make-shift thatch overhang let some of the lamp-light flood onto the wondrous scene below. If you close you eyes, and imagine an entire block of a city covered in flowers of all colours, entwined withe the green of stalks, stems, and leaves, snaking their way around wooden stalls, through hair, and around peoples' necks- that's exactly what the scene was like.
Finally, we stumbled into a fruit and vegetable alleyway. Piles and rows of every fruit and vegetable imagineable greeted our eyes. The smells wafted up as we continued through. Someone even bought a Samosa: "I want whatever that smell is!"
Night fell and it was time to go. With sandy feet and glazed eyes, I clambered into a rickshaw and we were off.


Never-ending Jet-lag

I glanced at the clock on my i-pod: in Chennai, I would be up and about- the busiest time of the day. In Toronto I would be sleeping like a baby by now. Two pulls.
It goes beyond jet lag. Will my body and mind continue ticking on Toronto's clock because it's safe and comfortable or will it thrive in the unknown and greet the change openly? Only time will tell.
Upon landing, my body was telling me to hit the sack, but my mind was reeling with the simple fact that I was in India. That night I had my first nightmare in 3 months. I awoke alone in the dark and thought to myself "it figures that I would have a nightmare on my first night..."
More sleepless nights and restless days followed- like walking through a dream but knowing that it should feel real. I was in a cloud.
Do jet-lag pills really work- because I have a nagging suspicion that they are mere placebos. It might have even worked if I took some sleeping pills with me to calm my inner workings down. It's great that I realize this after I'm actually in the foreign country.
My technique is to just drink plenty of water and begin to unwind once the sun starts it's decent. Getting up in the morning is more like crawling out of Hades. The bed is hard and the wood warped, the air is damp and thick- like a mid-way point in between comfortable and un-bearable.
Exercise is another big one. I haven't been getting any. It balances out because I've been eating minimally, if at all. When I do, massive heartburn and stomach-churning commences.
I have a sneaking suspicion it's the bumpy rickshaw rides which leave me craving the touch of land below my feet. And keeping more than a .05 cm distance between myself and other vehicles at all times.
Slow recovery from jet-lag is the way to go. Another recommendation? Take plenty of cold showers, whether out of choice or not.


India in 3 days. Seriously.

It's all in the title, folks. I'm departing from this country to another one half the world away. That's pretty far. Besides being excited to explore a foreign country on my own for the first time in my life, and realizing that my prospects for riding a camel through the desert are looking good, I'm going to be interning at the India Times.
This is big news for me. It means a foot in the door in my desired field; the fact that said door is in an ever-growing country where English writers are now increasingly in demand is an added bonus. The latest e-mail from the correspondent at my program ended with: "I hope you're excited!" Well, I'm not excited- I'm friggin' ecstatic!
The plan seems good on paper: flight to Chennai, with a stop-off in Frankfurt, Germany. I'll be picked up at the airport by a guy holding a sign with my name on it (just like in the movies) and then taken to the YMCA guest house for two days to recover from jet-lag, let my body and mind block out a horrific plane ride, and explore my new 'hood. Oh, and shopping is definitely on the list.
The latest isn't so I can buy various trinkets to hastily send back to awaiting family members and friends. Truthfully, I'm only packing two changes of clothes and enough underwear for two weeks. A back-pack that allows for 30 pounds max doesn't leave much room for clothing, if you take all of its other contents into consideration.
Above all, I am trying not to have any expectations. I don't want to imagine pristine conditions, because that simply isn't realistic. I also don't want to envision the worst-case-scenario, although I am prepared for it. I'm coming into India open-minded, and I hope to leave in the same way.