Driving in India is One Big Game of Chicken.

So… I was hanging out in Aurangabad for a number of days. It's a slightly larger city, less than a million people. You have to book trains quite far in advance, and I was a bit sick to take a bus, so I booked a ride in a car a day and a half from Aurangabad to Hampi, stopping at a mosque called Golgumbaz and a bunch of temples in between. Golgumbaz has the second largest dome in the world after St. Petersburg. I met a couple there who were married four days back, and they invited me to their wedding reception (my second so far)! But I was on my way to Hampi with Nandu and Shotrugun, two driver's of Ashok's, the rickshaw guy listed in the Loneley Planet for Aurangabad. It was in fact a terrifying day and a half of driving with two very pleasant men. Driving in India is one big game of chicken. It's mostly one lane each way, and the road is shared with cows, goats, chickens, kids, rickshaws, busses, and giant trucks that says "goods carrier" on the front and "please horn ok please" painted in English (and Hindi?) on the back. Technically, one drives on the left side in India, but you wouldn't always know it from where you are in the road. Honking horns while passing is polite, and pretty much everyone passes everyone all the time, regardless of how much space is between vehicles. And then a motorcycle passes in between whoever is passing who. There's nothing like the rush of your tenth near-miss, passing a bus at full speed, while also watching a bus pass a line of trucks in "your" lane, and not seeing one driver break a sweat or slow down. They make James Dean look like Howard Dean.
In the past three days, I've seen my first monkeys, camels, and elephant in the temples. You can't swing a set of prayer beads without hitting an ancient temple here. There's one in my backyard. I passed through Bijaur, Badami, and Pattadakal, all with incredible carved caves, temples, pools. One of my favorite things is that there are constantly groups of school children visiting the monuments, and they all want to say hello and take pictures. They're totally friendly and full of life and playful. They're like sqirrels in Yosemite, who haven't had the fear of humans instilled in them. I got to hold a baby for a photo when a family introduced themselves to me at Golgombaz.
I booked a train ticket out of Hampi right when I arrived, in order to avoid riding the overnight bus. Met a guy named Mitch from Italy slash Germany, and we've been touring the temples and restaurants together.
Sai Baba was supposed to be in Hospet, so we caught a half hour bus across the river, and walked for a number of kilometers to try to see him, but didn't find him. We had an incredible street dish called Gobi Manchurian (chinese fusion dish with deep fried cauliflower and red spices). There is a constant stream of male attention here. As I'm typing, the guy who runs the cafe has just asked where I'm from, what is my name, and if he can take a picture of me. It's flattering, annoying, and overwhelming. It's said that Mother India is a very male country, and I've discovered that female infantacide is somewhat common, which one reason there's so much dude vibe here. Did I mention this before?
Last night, the women at my guest house helped me put on my new silk sari (which is incredibly difficult and I don't remember how) put flowers in my hair, put a necklace on me, and we walked out to this restaurant called The Mango Tree, which overlooks a river and the cottages across the river. All of the shopkeepers shouted out, "Indian girl!" and "Nice sari!" This place is a wonderful tourist trap, but also a very sweet little community of people (about 2,000) who all know each other, and the kids run around all day on their own it seems (with no diapers! but I've seen much more cow poop than baby poop). We walked around and looked at drums in the bazarre (I'm going to try learning to play one today) and I got my hands and arms painted with henna last night while having lemon chai fed to me and chatting with the mendhi people who were from Delhi. Incredible mendhi work. (Still haven't uploaded my photos, but I'll send a flickr link to my album as soon as I do.) The mendhi woman was three years older than me and had an 18 year old son.
The computer I'm typing on is missing the enter key. It's very funny.
I just bought a book by Ravi Shankar called "God Loves Fun." Ravi says "Stop thinking. Thinking is the source of all your worries. If you didn't use words, you won't have any words to worry with." I have very few worries today.
My speech has morphed into the kind of English one speaks with babies. "You want eat?" "I from USA." "What you name?" It's like one big Robert Hawkins joke. "No step here!" "You five dollah!"
I made the right choice to take that off-the-beaten-path route down here. I'm off to Bangalore, Pondicherry, and maybe Auroville (or an ashram) in a couple of days. Looking forward to Ayruvedic massages, chanting, and meeting more new and interesting people every day. What a great perk of traveling!
Be happy!
Alicia