164_6445-4.JPGWe’ve been in Varkala for nearly 10 days now and haven’t written anything. So let me update you on all the big things that have transpired in the meanwhile. We’ve spent the majority of our time hanging out on our balcony overlooking the ocean, at one of two beaches, or at a variety of restaurants (also overlooking the ocean). Glad I got all that out of the way. Now that you’re up-to-date on past week and a half, here’s a few of my random thoughts from our time here:

My Favorite Things About Varkala: My very favorite thing about Varkala is all the fresh seafood. Most of our evenings consist of walking along the cliff, browsing each restaurants’ selection of seafood. Every restaurant has a table out front displaying fresh fish, fresh crabs, sometimes live lobster (sometimes cooked already- eccckk), calamari, and fresh prawns of all sizes. Joylani doesn’t like smelling or seeing the fish, nor does she like the sales process and haggling. But I love it and have eaten fish all but one night here :)


Luckily, we both like fresh young coconut. There’s a guy at one of the beaches that sells coconuts for .25 USD. We sometimes buy one, which he chops open and sticks a straw in for us. When we’re finished with the juice, we just take it back to him he’ll cut it into thirds and chop a sliver off the outside to use as a spoon. I stress that it’s a young coconut, because the juice is the sweetest and the meat the softest (Joylani says its like jelly) I’ve ever had- its even better than the Thai/Vietnamese young coconut beverages you can buy in the US. Of course, we both like the ocean too. We’re the products of California. The beaches are small, but the water is warm and clear. We also have nice views of the ocean from our balcony and all the restaurants we eat at. I’ve never really seen big waves from above before, but today I noticed how cool they look as they curl forward; a smooth-surfaced cylinder of clear green-tinted water rotating around a bunch of foam and bubbles. The last thing I like is the inability to distinguish the horizon in the mornings and evenings. In the mornings, the foggy coastal haze and the low angle of the sun turns both the sky and consequently the water the same grey color. The color, combined with the aforementioned haze in the distance, makes the horizon and disctiction between sea and sky disappear. At night, the sky and water are completely dark (our stay coincided with a new moon), obliterating any indications of a horizon, except one. Every night, we can see a straight line of dots across the darkness; small fishing boats demarcating the straight horizon.


Morning View


Night View

Worst Parts About Coastal India: We spent eight nights in Goa and will spend a total of two and a half weeks in Kerala, but there are a few annoying things. One is that, like most nice beach areas around the world, its really touristy. Luckily we’re catching both Goa and Kerala just before the tourist season, but its still geared towards tourists. Like I mentioned Joylani dreads looking for dinner because of all the chatty restaurateurs. But I don’t like shopkeepers trying to get my attention and sell me their junk every second either. I’ve heard enough “please, looking” and “yes, sir” and “just take a look” to last me a lifetime. Annoyance number two is that it’s HOT. Goa and here have both been in the hundreds daily, with nights usually in the mid-eighties. Goa was way more humid, so the heat was more difficult to escape. Even the rain there only cooled things down temporarily- it could be a hundred degrees again 10 minutes after the rain stopped. The humidity also caused us other problems, like our clothes not drying and mold beginning to grow on the outside of my backpack. Keralan heat seems to be mostly just from the sun. Luckily, our balcony and most of the places we eat have a roof. The others and the beach have umbrellas, so the heat hasn’t been too bad.


My Pre-disposition to Laziness: Okay so I began this post by saying that we’ve been here for a week and pretty much haven’t done anything. On one hand, I want to be productive; I’d like to catch up on emails to friends/family, find a place to volunteer, work on my writing/photography. But hanging out on the beach eating my coconut or lounging in a sand-floored restaurant reading a book for an entire afternoon is so much more enticing. After a week and a half of doing nothing, you’d think we’d get bored, but we haven’t. We’re actually content. Joylani said it feels like vacation, although I don’t know from what. At home, I’m usually pretty focused and if I have a goal, I’ll work hard to achieve it. Some even accuse me of workaholism. But being here has shown me the opposite side of my personality.


Our Goals for this Trip: I guess its appropriate to follow up “My Predisposition to Laziness” with “Our Goals for this Trip.” We haven’t really explicitly talked about this, but it seems like in order to feel like we didn’t “waste” our time abroad, we each have things we’d like to do. For Joylani, it’s volunteering. I don’t think it matters too much what we do exactly, as long as we volunteer somewhere and help out. My main goal on this trip is to see and ultimately learn more about the world, which isn’t the most quantifiable goal. But I’d feel somewhat wasteful if I didn’t at least finish up the two writing projects I’m working on, as well as come up with some creative ways to display/disseminate my photography (as my photography improves, of course). Whether we accomplish these things or not probably won’t make a big difference when we look back on our trip in the coming years, but it’d be nice to at least have done some things besides just travel and sightsee our way around the globe.

Staying Thankful/Appreciative: Sitting on BART on my way to work, I used to sometimes daydream of this trip, the places we’d go, the things we’d see, what we’d do, and who we’d meet. The workday or workweek stretching in front of me would give my daydreams value, in a sense. At the beginning of this trip, it was easy to contrast the fun we were having with the worst workdays I could remember. I’d think, “Wow, a month ago I was miserable sitting in a cubicle eight hours a day and today I spent eight hours enjoying the best of Paris with my wife.” On a philosophical note, this implies of course, that part of my appreciation is the knowledge of and comparison to worse circumstances. We’re still seeing and doing amazing things and still enjoying the trip, but I doubt I have the same appreciation for it as I did months ago. I also doubt that I’m appreciating it as much now as I will in the years to come. When you’re doing exactly what you want and the memories/thoughts of less desirable circumstances have faded, how do you maintain that level of thankfulness? Is it out of reach, only to be realized over time? I don’t have an answer. Its not that I’m not appreciative and thankful, it’s just that I don’t feel it’s nearly as intense as it was or will be. I think it’s sometimes just hard to appreciate good times when you’re living them, which goes along with the saying, “You don’t know what you have until you lose it.” Anyhow, I’m trying to stay as appreciative and thankful as I can.


By the way, Varkala is great!

Clean Room with a View


joylani 130pxDo you ever pray or hope for something even though you know the likelihood of it happening is slim or that it’s just a trivial request—something that would be nice but it’s ok if it doesn’t happen? Matt and I arrived at Varkala Beach after a longer than expected 3-bus journey. We ordered a meal at the first restaurant we came to and discussed finding a room. “All I want is a place that is clean, no mold, no bugs, hot water, fresh white sheets, a balcony and a good view.” I said, prepping Matt for the upcoming room search. “We can get a room like that. It just costs money.” he responded. More than our budget allowed, I knew, not to mention the fact that finding a room with all those features could be tough. We laughed and finished up our meal. Little did we know what was in store for us. Balcony. Ocean view. Clean; no mold. No bugs. Hot water (we don’t even have to turn it on). And, not just clean sheets, but clean, white sheets. Yet all for only 200 rupees, or $5 a night. Awesome! Thanks God!

Morning Observations

joylani 130pxThe fishermen came twice. The first time there were two of them, each holding one end of a cloth wrapped around a bundle of fish and crabs.  They laid it out on the ground for the housewife to inspect.  Ten minutes later another one came.  He balanced a large metal pot on his head.  Smiling, he waited for the housewife to come out of her house.  He took the pot down to show her the day’s catch.  They exchanged greetings and she picked a few fish for dinner.  The pot was lifted back on his head and he happily walked off to his next stop.  A short while later a man rode up on a bicycle.  A large milk container was strapped to the rack in the back.  He too waited for the housewife to come out.  Then he filled a jug with some fresh milk which she then transferred to her own container.  Leg up and over the bike, and he rode down the driveway to follow the fishermen to his next stop.


Three Month Review

Three Months and Counting…

joylani 130pxWe’ve been on the road for just over three months now. That’s 13 countries, 32 different beds, 9 nights on the road, and close to 300 meals eaten from someone else’s kitchen. There are still at least 9 months to go, 10+ countries, 1,200 more meals, and I hate to think about how many more times I’ll have to pack my backpack as we move to yet another hotel. The destinations aren’t so bad though. We’ve seen the Eiffel Tower, the Hermitage, Alps, the Acropolis, the Aya Sofia, Himalayas…snow, desert, jungle, ocean, mountains…without a doubt it has been a good trip so far, but it has not been without some tough moments. About a month and a half in, I realized that long-term travel isn’t what I prefer. Traveling for three or four weeks at a time is my preference. Unfortunately, by the time I realized this, Matt and I had already quit our jobs, terminated the lease on our apartment, doled out furniture to friends and family, and packed the rest of our belongings into our parent’s garages.

It is not that I wish I hadn’t agreed to this trip. And I knew before hand I would miss home, family and friends, routine. That was predictable, but I also knew I had no way of knowing how experiencing those feelings in the context of continually being on the road would actually be. So how does it feel? It feels conflicting. At the same time that I would rather be home eating food from Trader Joe’s as I wait for my laundry to come out of the dryer than face the planned duration of our trip, I quickly dismiss the thought of skipping out on the countries Matt and I have dreamed of visiting. I love traveling and am enjoying the places we go. We have been blessed with an amazing opportunity and the time and youthfulness to take advantage of it.

On India
Two of our months on the road have been in India. I can’t say that India is my favorite country I’ve been to, but it definitely has been interesting. As we go from state to state, each place we visit has its own distinct flavor, almost as if we’ve gone to another country rather than just another part of India. The cities, towns, and villages we have been are so different from the others, and not just in landscape and geographic location. Hopefully you’ve been able to pick-up from our posts that each stop on our itinerary has had a distinctive combination of ethnicity, religion, language, architecture, attire, industry, cuisine, weather, the craziness (or as some fellow travelers put it, the “bizzaro world” factor). As my father-in-law says of red wine, “You just haven’t tried one you like yet.” If you find India completely disagreeable, it’s not that you don’t like India; you just haven’t been to a part you like yet. And that’s why, despite the troubles we’ve encountered in health, transportation, lodging, etc. and despite the deeply entrenched social problems—sanitation, litter, poverty—I can say we’ve had a good time in India.

India is mind boggling on so many levels, and I am truly glad to have had the opportunity to see what I have. There is simply no comparison to reading about India or just seeing pictures. Some things can be captured in a photo: a child’s sweet face, the beauty of a mountain, a piece of an ancient temple. But even a professional photographer’s work can’t truly convey a toddler’s ramblings, the grandness of being swallowed in the Himalayas, or the warm breeze blowing through temple columns as it did 500 years before.  India may have a pomegranate’s pulp of problems, but it is filled with sweet jewels in every nook and cranny.

Insightful moms
Adjustments are a necessity when traveling. These are manifested in various ways from changing one’s behavior (wearing culturally appropriate attire); picking up new habits (brushing teeth with bottled water); and shifting perspectives (what is noisy?). Habits and behavioral changes are easiest to pick out. It could be as simple as putting on sunscreen everyday before going out because you are so close to the equator and the sun is freaking HOT. But some adjustments (such as a change in perspective) can sneak up on you, and it’s not until someone else points it out that you realize how you’ve adapted. Moms are great for this purpose. After going on a bit of a phone hiatus in Leh, once we got back to Delhi, Matt and I were able to talk with each of our moms. I like moms because they know the right questions to ask, they fill you in on what’s going on at home, and they’re always a little concerned about something. It always feels nice to know that someone is concerned for your well being, doesn’t it? On top of all that, moms are insightful. At least ours are. J

Matt’s mom called us on our cell while we were walking on a side street from the internet café back to our hotel. It was relatively quiet compared to earlier in the day, but there was still a little background noise.

Matt’s mom: “Where ARE you? Is that someone honking?”

Matt: “Uh, just walking to the hotel, I think someone honked down the street.”

Matt’s mom: “That is the most background noise I’ve ever heard!”

Matt: “Uh…”

Matt’s mom: “You are in a crazy place and don’t even know it anymore!”

Always insightful, she definitely had a point. Our perception on things has definitely changed. Noise. Privacy. Hotel and facility standards. Wardrobe. Wore the shirt yesterday? Does it smell? Just a little? It’s ok to wear it again because you’re just going to sweat anyway.

Talking with my mom brought up the same insight. After catching up on the usual stuff with my mom, she marveled at how I had been able to survive thus far with the bug and toilet conditions over the past month in the mountains. I agreed that it was amazing to me too, but pointed out that I had help from my “Potty Guard,” aka Matt, who stood as the lookout during bathroom breaks on our bus and jeep rides through the mountains. She laughed and responded, “I guess you just develop a different sense of privacy.” That’s for sure. In the states I would never even think about going outside of a gas station, especially with people nearby. In the mountains in India, well, that’s another matter. As for the bugs, I do what I can to avoid them, but there’s only so much I can do, and I simply have had to accept it. It is much easier to laugh in hindsight than to be regularly overcome by my phobias. Don’t get me wrong, I still hate bugs, but I’ve had to toughen up on how I deal with them and adapt my responses to the reality at hand.

A shift in perspectives is necessary to survive in a different place. A change in perspective is often followed by a change in expectations. For example, if I had the same point of view as I do at home on cleanliness I would hardly ever eat out on the road, and most likely would obsessively limit myself to eating packaged crackers and bananas. Similarly, my expectations for hotel lodging have changed too. Small cockroaches don’t mean you have to switch rooms. All the hotels on the street probably have them anyways. Getting “used to” a place or lifestyle is in many ways a result of this change in perspectives and expectations. Adapting to a new environment doesn’t just happen when you go to a new country. It happens at home all the time on a micro-level as one adjusts to different contexts. For example, office norms (suits, low voices, communication highly valued) are a world away from the norms in the bleachers at a Giants game (ball caps, spitting, shouting, “Off the phone!”—communication with outsiders looked down upon). Or consider someone in a bathing suit. This attire is acceptable for the beach, but a little trashy for the classroom. These small contextual adjustments we make can be easily identified, yet we don’t really think about them too much as they are happening. This is because we’re used to them. Likewise, Matt and I have become used to the way things happen on the road. The weather, culture, a civilization’s habits aren’t going to change so much as the way you see them changes. Not that I am the master of this, and my periodic tire of travel is in part due to the places where I am unable to sufficiently shift my perspective to the place I am in.

Sometimes I wonder what we’ll be like when I get home. Will I have an urge to hang a clothesline indoors and wash cloths in the sink? Will I eat with my hands before going for a fork? Will I jaywalk on busy streets, making my way through oncoming traffic like Frogger? Probably not. I’m sure I’ll revert back. But I am glad to have people like moms to help notice changes along the way so that I can appreciate the cultural differences and norms that have developed in different places, and even in myself, out of the basic need to simply survive.

Looking Ahead
Over the next three months we plan to continue our journey in three countries with vastly different cuisine, culture, and terrain. Stay turned for the continuing adventures of the HomelessHapas in the Maldives, Nepal, and Thailand!

South Asian Woes

164_6445-4.JPGSouth Asia refers to the eight current countries that once fell within the vicinity of the British Raj: Pakistan, India, Maldives, Sri Lanka, Bhutan, Nepal, Bangladesh, and Myanmar. Today, nearly all are embroiled in turmoil of some sort. Having lived in and visited three south Asian countries before, I was looking forward to further exploring the region on this trip. Unfortunately, for our plans and the residents of many of these countries, political instability across south Asia has increased dramatically since we began our trip in early July. Although Joylani was hesitant about visiting many of these countries before our trip began, the wave of turmoil and violence currently sweeping across south Asia is disappointing for me as we’re continually crossing countries off our itinerary. Below is a breakdown of all eight south Asian countries, the current events going on, and why we are/aren’t heading there. My motivation for this post is two-fold. One, to update our families on where we’re headed (we get a lot of emails from family saying to beware of this or that region). And two, to practice my writing by summarizing and disseminating news from a region in turmoil (which doesn’t get much US news coverage because south Asia is neither western nor has oil). Here we go (from West to East):

Pakistan: The two main problems in Pakistan right now are Islamic extremism and political turmoil. Long a haven to Islamic militants, al-Qaeda and the Taliban operate freely in Pakistan’s western and northern frontiers. Traditionally, there’s been an implicit agreement between these groups and the government to leave each other alone. Within the past year or two though the two sides have begun fighting; the Islamic militants attacking and capturing/kidnapping Pakistani military personnel and carrying out bombings/kidnappings in major cities, while the military government has begun cracking down on urban members of the religious Right and bombing mountainous al-Qaeda/Taliban hideouts. The result is that the danger once confined to the frontier border regions is expanding into Pakistani cities. The other problem Pakistan faces is that of its military dictator, Musharraf. Since his coup in 1999, he’s enjoyed lukewarm support domestically and American political and financial (estimated at nearly $40b) in exchange for “supporting” the war on terror (although any evidence of this support is weak). Recently though, he’s come under immense pressure from the Supreme Court, the educated Left and the religious Right. This week, he just won another term as president, although his rivals Bhutto and Sharif are in exile, there was a massive boycott of the elections, and the constitutionality of running for a third-term and being simultaneously head of state and head of the military is being debated by the SC. Thus riots, rallies, and the resulting crackdowns are happening every week now. Despite being listed as a terrorist-haven in the 9/11 report, I had entertained thoughts of visiting Pakistan, especially when I found out my buddy Hasan would likely be visiting this winter. However, with the recent political/civil unrest, daily news of riots, and the new fear that Mush will impose martial law to quell it all, Joylani and I have decided we’ll have to see Karachi, Lahore, and Islamabad some other time. 

India: The two main security threats to India are border problems and terrorism. A simple summarization of these issues is sufficient to understand that it faces enormous challenges. Most of India’s borders are unrecognized. Since Independence, it’s fought three wars with Pakistan and one with China, all over territory. Pakistan still claims the state of Kashmir. China still claims large swaths of Northeastern and even Northern India. The terror threat in India includes everything from al-Qaeda/al-Qaeda-inspired groups to Pakistani/Bangladeshi intelligence units to Naxalite/Maoist instigators. Islamic extremists (both ideological and the aforementioned state-sponsored) have carried out several high-profile urban bombings, oftentimes instigating radical Hindu attacks against the Muslim community. The Maoists are active in stirring up mob/class violence in rural India, just as they’ve successfully done to gain power in Nepal. Additionally, India is the only functioning democracy in South Asia and borders every other SA nation, which means its surrounded by civil wars and dictatorships.

Maldives: Like Pakistan, the current dictator took power in a coup and has enjoyed lukewarm support ever since. He hasn’t alienated the 100% Muslim population and has carefully and successfully coordinated the financial success of the Maldivian tourism industry. The main danger (besides falling coconuts (which supposed kill a dozen people a year) and tsunamis) in the Maldives, like most countries in the region, is Islamic extremism. The 9/11 Report listed the Maldives as a recruiting and meeting ground for al-Qaeda operatives. Although not usually in the news, a bomb exploded in one Male’s parks last week, apparently aimed at and injuring 10 foreign tourists. Joylani and I are still planning to visit the Maldives, as that’s the first terror incident I’ve ever heard of in the Maldives. Additionally, we’ll be on a resort atoll for our entire stay.

Sri Lanka: I must issue a disclaimer here that I know the least about Sri Lanka out of all the countries listed here. However, I do know that a civil war has been fought between the ethnically-Tamil Hindus and the native Sri Lankan Buddhists for the past 20 years. Although the capital and south are relatively safe, the north is engulfed in a guerilla war. The Tamil Tigers (as they’re known) feel that Tamils are discriminated against by the majority and are demanding recognition, rights, and some even want a separate Tamil state. Several Sri Lankan presidential administrations have unsuccessfully tried to broker ceasefires. The 2004 tsunami brought a temporary ceasefire, but fighting has since flared up again. The Tamils have vowed not to target civilians/cities, while the government has been accused of horrific air-raids on civilians and villages in the north. Like I said, the Tamil’s are not operating in the south and have said they won’t target civilians, but Joylani said, “We’re not going to Sri Lanka.” So we’re not going.

Bhutan: A mysterious little country that’s probably even less known than the Maldives. Its mysteriousness is a product of its xenophobic monarchal government. Learning from the events of Sikkim (another Buddhist kingdom that in its waning days agreed to be annexed by India in the 1970s, rather than face a probable invasion by China) and problems of Nepal, it has vowed to remain isolated. Although I’ve heard the monarchy is quite strict, there doesn’t seem to be any political or civil unrest. Joylani and I aren’t going there, not because it dangerous, but because part of the government’s method of retaining total control/keeping foreigners out/preserving their culture is to impose a $200 per day “tax” on all visitors. 

Nepal: Traditionally a monarchy, Nepal is now embroiled in a political battle between the king and Maoists. For years, the Maoists operated mainly in the countryside, extorting money and occasionally attacking people. In the past couple of years, they’ve backed away from their violent origins and have become more mainstream, even winning elected offices. Consequently, the king has been forced to cede many of the powers he once enjoyed. Earlier this year, a ceasefire was signed and the Maoists have disarmed. Recently, the some Maoist representatives have walked out of the government and the elections have been continually postponed because the king has not yet declared Nepal a republic. The main problem now is continual compulsory strikes which shut down the entire country for days at a time. There’s also sporadic bombings in Katmandu. Joylani and I are still deciding to visit Nepal. The Maoists have disarmed and violence is pretty sporadic, like India.

Bangladesh: The Bangladeshi government has fallen apart several times in several years now and corruption charges are rampant. The political and economic problems of the country have spawned civil unrest, which has resulted in continual protests and rallies. I have not included too many details because the whole political system is a mess. No progress is being made and the country is mired in hopelessness. The potential danger to travelers is getting caught in some sort of mob violence, which is pretty prevalent in South Asia. The military staging a coup to end this thoughtlessness is also a threat. Although Joylani had no desire to visit Bangladesh, I thought it would be an interesting and logical stop on our way to Myanmar. But now, with Burma crossed off the list, we’ll be skipping Bangladesh as well.

Myanmar: Burma was a for-sure stop on our itinerary. Sure it was a dictatorship ruled by a military junta, but the strongest dictatorships have been safest. It was said that Iraq was one of the safest countries to visit before Saddam was toppled. Same with Qaddafi’s Libya or Kim Jong Il’s North Korea. Dictatorships don’t have any crime or civil unrest. But when they do, it can get messy. Such is the case with Myanmar. Largely free from massive public dissent since 1988, Buddhist monks inspired the masses to take to the streets of Yangon in September. With the government consequently shooting civilians, monks, peaceful protesters, foreigners, etc., it was an easy decision to call off Myanmar. In the spirit of Orwell (who spent years in Burma), I would feel safe visiting Myanmar with Big Brother around, but I’ll stay away when “he’s” mad.

Barefoot in Bangalore

barefoot brothers

joylani 130pxBangalore was an interesting place. The weather was unexpectedly cool. Some people were even wearing sweaters—yeh, like the kind you get for Christmas. Rickshaws had meters…that worked. And drivers used them. Matt and I arrived early, so we had lots of time to explore on our first day. We went to 2 museums, an art gallery, and an aquarium. This took maybe an hour. The aquarium consisted mostly of the same fish my brother had in his tank when we were little, and Matt and I both agreed the seafood section at Ranch 99 is more exciting. At one museum I learned how a sewing machine works…sort of, and in the other was able to see some miniature paintings of various styles. Unfortunately the descriptions stopped there and I still have no idea what story the painting was depicting. After our educational museum hour, we walked on in search of Tipu Sultan’s Palace, supposedly one of the sites to see while in Bangalore. After asking about a dozen people where it was, we finally arrived. After paying the much higher foreigner’s entry fee, we realized why not everyone we asked knew what it was. The entrance looks cool, see:


But that is pretty much it. Look back as far as you can in the picture above. That is about half of the palace. At that point the building is just a mirror image of its front side. Not much of the large palace we were expecting, and it goes without saying that after all our walking and anticipation, we were more than a little disappointed. Anyways, unless you’re already in the area and are an Indian citizen and only have to pay 5 or 10 rupees to get in I wouldn’t recommend visiting. It was about as good as the aquarium.

In the first two restaurants we ate at on our first day, most of the waiters were barefoot. So were the school kids above. Not that there’s a problem with being barefoot, if you can stand hot pavement and such. But this was Bangalore—one of India’s big cities, not small little Hampi where the villagers live in old ruins. It just reminded me that I am not in Kansas—I mean California anymore. I have worked in a few restaurants and later at a culinary school. As a server I had to wear closed-toe shoes, no open back. At the school, the dress code called for steel-toed and grease resistant soles (luckily as admin staff I did not have to adhere to that rule). In Bangalore? Footwear optional. Of course not all the places we ate were that laidback, which brings me to the other reason why Bangalore was an interesting place to visit. Aside from Matt and my first day of somewhat aimless wandering, we had the privilege of meeting up with a friend from UCSB who had returned to India and moved to Bangalore for work. He was a great host and planned a few things for us to do, including taking us to see the GE campus where he works. It was incredible and huge, and even had a pool-sized zen garden. I couldn’t find a rake though…. It was nice to do things that we wouldn’t have known about on our own, but it was also a nice change of pace to talk with someone who wasn’t a tourist or in the tourism industry among other things, about India.