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August 26, 2005


Today is Friday, I will be leaving Varanasi on Sunday. I'll be spending a week in Rishikesh before returning to the UK. I have heard that life is more mellow in Rishikesh and the Ganges is clean enough bathe in.

I have developed so much during my time in Varanasi. I feel like an old hand; I even threw some trash down on the road and spat in the gutter once. If I ever brought my family here, we would stay in a five star hotel and travel by taxi.

When I first arrived in India, I was quite scared and intimidated. I now feel that I can navigate my way around and get to where I need to go. You have to learn to take no sh*t.

I've developed a number of non-trivial skills: Buying fruit in the market, getting a cellphone sim card, making international calls (and figuring out the cost/quality tradeoff between traditional and satellite/VOIP calls).

It all sounds very mundane but I think that it's been really good for me. Being on my own with not much to do means I spend time feeling lonely, sad, frustrated, peaceful, happy, angry and confused. It's very hard, but it's very good.

One of the major things I've been learning about here is patience. You sit down at a table at a restaurant and wait for half an hour before the waiter takes your order. Then it takes half an hour for the food to come. Then you can sit there indefinitely waiting for an offer of desert or coffee. Finally, there is a half hour wait for the bill. I've spent 4 to 5 hours having lunch.

Also, things keep going wrong. For example, I arranged to call someone at a certain time only to find thirty minutes beforehand that once again, the hotel phone was not working. So then I had to travel around the city looking for a phone in a quiet and cool place.

So everything takes a lot of time and it's very hard to plan anything. I would have expected that this would irritate me more than it has. I've learned to accept these things and work with them.

I imagine that when I get back to the UK, it will seem like some kind of futuristic paradise where everything works seamlessly, which of course it is.


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