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Wednesday 20 December, 1989, 8:00am
Hotel: Allahabad Tourist Bungalow
We didn't get in until 10:30, had the usual fight at the train station with rickshaw drivers and eventually got one to take us here. At 7:00 a knock came on the door with tea. T opened the curtains. We have nice screened windows and a boy came by selling newspapers by pressing the paper against the screen for us to see the headlines. This is a much smaller centre than any we've been to so far and everything was closed when we arrived last night so no dinner.
1:20 pm We have moved to a much better room in the tourist bungalow (much more expensive as well at R300) It looks onto a building site but everything is done by hand here so we hear only the sound of hammering of nails or metal. It's rather soothing.
4:00pm very homsick today. can't pin down what I want but when T spoke of his 7th day adventist friends from India days gone by and their diet of macaroni & chhese, I longed for some.
We went to the English graveyard here. It is a lonely and desolate place no longer kept up, with cows and pigs wandering through the dry sharp grass, the bushes growing haphazardly, and skeletons of dogs here and there. So many of the graves were those of people who died of cholera. Poor misguided people, hopes dashed, dying of some awful disease in a strange land.
lunch at clock tower chowk
also called Johnsongunge Menu items:
8:30pm dinner at El Chico
There were Christmas ornaments everywhere and bad Spanish music playing, but the food was excellent. There was nothing Spanish or Mexican on the menu (although fried chicken, Southern style was offered on the continental menu. The description for it: a favourite of America, your choice of piece dipped in butter and deep fried. Served with an Egg, sunny side up
We went into the confectionery shop attached to see what was offered. There were Christmas cakes and normal western style cakes decorated with little paper Christmas Trees. The best thing though was cake iced to look like corn on the cob - decorated incongruously at one end with a little Christmas tree. We asked what was inside the corn on the cob cake and learned that it is rich plum cake.
Outside, T had some Coolfy(sp?) a boiled milk ice with cardamon and pistachio. We sat on a bench on the street. Then everything closed. The stores were all shut by 9:00.
Thursday, 21 December 1989
This morning we rented bikes. The crowd that gathered was hilarious. Little children edged in front of me (I was close to one of the bikes) to see what was going on - such excitement over nothing. We tried to rent old bikes but they insisnted on giving us new. (R40 rent for 2 days) On the way back we saw two cyclists carrying a long ladder lengthwise between them. One end of the ladder was lashed to the back of one fellow's bike; the other end was lashed to the handlebars of the other's bike.
Riding was wonderful. Lots of people stared at us as we rode by, especially at me. We rode our bikes to the junction of the Ganges and Jamuna rivers. After a lot of argument over price (which we lost) we hired a boat to go out on the water. Where the rivers join is a marked line of white then blue. (like the Frazer/Thompson join in BC) After, as we were riding away on our bikes, an old man drove up with his horse and cart and asked us if we wanted a ride. We said we had the bicycles and he said the bikes would fit in the cart as well!
We went to a temple underneath the Sangam fort. It was filled with statues of gods - tons of them, sculpted in about the first century. Our guide marched us briskly around, naming each one. It drives me nuts; you can't stay and look at them really. Everywhere they were asking for donations as well. T was very taken with the beauty of the girl keeping the shoes.
We just put our bikes away and found that we were followed by a crowd of hotel employees. We seem really to be attracting attention with our bicycles in Allahabad!
10:00 pm It's raining!
Friday 22 December 1989
T says that last night as he watched the rain there was suddenly a blue light that lit the whole sky for about 10 munutes then power out. The power was out for about half an hour but this in not uncommon. We have noticed power outs every day since being in India.
This place has no post cards. The only ones I could find were ancient faded ones of Bombay, Agra and Calcutta.
Last night: mosquito city. Even with the net, I got 3 or 4 bits. T asked someone this morning if they sleep under nets here (No) and when he asked if they were bothered, the fellow said only before sleep, then in sleep they had no feelings.
Exhausted but fulfilled. We just rode into the country. Peace at last. The road had only a few trucks and buses and a few bicycles and camels. We stopped for tea at a little place. The tea was so creamy. a man who is a road builder for the government was there as well. He and T talked. His teeth were spectacularly stained with betal. He gave us flattened rice; it was delicious and plain. We stopped and looked at the most beautiful bird with blue and pruple wings and rusty golden back. When it flew, the wings were striped in blue and purple and magenta. We, of course, drew a crowd by standing looking at the bird. Everywhere we go on our bikes, we seem to create a sensation. We also saw a kingfisher. Its marking are black and white quite unlike American kingfisher. It was very hard to turn back and come into the city again. Too bad we have to return the bicyles
6:00 pm It's raining again - along with thunder and lightning.
7:00 pm I saw my first geccho (sp?) What a cute looking lizard but very shy wo we didn't see him for very long!
Saturday 23 December 1989 8:00am
Such happenings in the news! Brandenburg gate openings, Noriega overthrown, and Rumanian revolution! Here, it is still raining! T says he remembers this happening but usually in Jnauary. I think it's great as it will clean the dust of all those poor trees chocked with the stuff have to work overtime to clean the air.
3:30 pm We are spending a wonderfully lazy day today. It has been raining off and on all the time. We had "Chinese" food for lunch at El Chico. The music was Randy Travis. It was not anything like any Chinese food I've ever had. We had spring rolls that were like crepes (soft) but quite tasty; and ginger chicken that had been breaded! We also had choolate eclairs. The cream had been flavoured with pineapple(?!) and the chocolate was like caramel with very little chocolate. I think we'll just stick to Indian food which has been pretty consistantly good.
Sunday, 24 December, 1989
Our rickshaw driver this morning recognized T from Varanasi! He used to live there when T was there 5 years ago. Pretty amazing. Lots of things are shut today and it is very quiet. We passed a herd of goats that were stripping posters off of walls and eating them. The first poster eaten was a campaign poster. Too bad we didn't have the camera then.
Monday, Christmas Day 1989
We just got back from going to church. A most bizarre service. The church is very echoey and accent is difficult. People were arriving for the service up until 80 minutes after the starting time! When people were invited to come forward for communion, I was amazed as everyone stood up on mass and moved into the aisle. I half expected it to turn into a nightmare like the train with everyone pushing and shoving but everyone stood sedately in line. The sermon was incomprehensible and the minister's joke fell completely flat as a bicycle bell outside covered the punch line. The pianist was quite good but occasionally would charge ahead leaving the congregation far behind. It was most amusing. There were lots of people in the church by the end of the service and we had a couple of invitations to tea that we tried to graciously decline. It was difficult but we felt too awkward to take them up.
We had tea beforehand at a tea stall. The tea was excellent and the tea seller was very nice. I slipped in the mud when we left and he came rushing over with a jug of water for me to wash my hands.
We went to the Botanical Gardens here in Allahabad today. Pretty disappointing as it isn't tended very well. But it was interesting anyway. By the roadside, we saw a man selling Ahmrud (guava) with pink flesh instead of white. He had both white and pink. We asked if he could tell by looking if they were pink and he said yes, of course. We asked for 4 with pink flesh. Before we knew what was happening, he pulled out a huge knife and hacked one of the fruits in half. It was white so he put it down. He picked up another fruit but we stopped him from cutting any more to go to waste. We took our chances and ended up with 4 white guavas -still delicious. At dusk, we went to Chowk to take pictures of the open air market. We heard lots of cries of "One more... Over here... Hello!" I'm sure some of them were romancing that T was some jounalist from America and that they would be immortalized in a famous magazine or book.
Today seems to be a regular working day. The banks and post office are closed but everything else is business as usual. But Santa Claus came last night leaving a chocolate bar (Cadbury's fruit & nut) hidden in our clean clothes. Otherwise there would be virtually no idea that it is Christmas.
Rats! We missed the queen's message again!! Every Christams it happens. There was a very long power failure this morning lasting at least 3 hours.
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