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Backpackers and Israelis
Are all I have seen in Udaipur and Pushkar. Udaipur is both wonderful and horrid. The city is gorgeous and European-feeling but the beautiful part (the old city) is filled with tourist-priced shops in narrow alleyways populated by dogs, cows, backpackers, Israelis and aggressive touts. I had my first espresso in days and got heart palpitations. I thought I wsa having an anxiety attack. That, combined with getting lost for a bit, avoiding the piles of steaming cowshit, the hassling shopkeepers: "yes ma'am. Please, ma'am. Kashmiri scarves special price. over here!!" --I was overstimulated. The saving graces were the Ayurvedic full-body massage with eucalyptus oil at the Shiv Niwas (a palace perched atop a hill. Maharajah-style riches and lush decor. A pool and a fountain and green gardens. In a state wracked by drought where all the lakes have dried or are drying up, it was unnerving decadence and excess).

I finally got a chance to meet Manu and Helena and Bablu, friends of lisa. They were lovely. Bablu took me to the cultural fair on his motorcycle where there was live Rajasthani dance, singers, and tons of haggling women in Saris driving down the prices to well below tourist prices 'just for you'.

After, we rode up the mountain to see tiger lake and an old Krisha temple built into the side of the mountain (this is serious Krishna territory) and a seriously poor village (the other side of the mountain had rich horse farms and estates). The sun was setting and it was gorgeous.

Bablu is getting married in 2 months and seems a bit freaked out. Rajputs(his caste), apparently, do not meet the bride beforehand.

As Bablu took me on the motorcycle, I was not sure if I was supposed to hang onto him or the bike itself. At one point I put my hands on his waist to steady myself and he said: "What your boyfriend do?"
Hands on the bike, I guess.

Last night Helena, Chad, Sasha and I ate at Nataraj, where, as lisa described: "There is a fantastic thali restaurant in the new city, called Natraj (just tell the driver "Natraj Restaurant" - he'll know where to go - or ask Manu to instruct the driver for you). It's a very good dinner option, patronized almost exclusively by locals. For Rs. 25 you get a huge thali plus chappatti. Barefoot waiters wander around with piles of hot chappatti and buckets of food; as soon as you eat one chappatti they put two more on your plate, and as soon as you eat two bites of food they ladle more onto your plate - until you smile and say, firmly, "baas!" You pay at the counter as you leave. It's not a fancy place *at all* (think On On Garden in Vancouver's Chinatown...) but it's very good, very cheap and also strictly veg. " It was rs35 (one Canadian dollar), but otherwise it was just as she described.

We joined Manu back at the Lotus and drank rum and chatted. We met some Israelis (22 is so young!) and it felt good to speak Hebrew again.

Today Pushkar is another pushy tourist city filled with backpackers and aggresive shopkeeper. Lots of monkeys! As the sun was setting, we headed towards the lake. The whole atmosphere changed. pilgrims (who believe this city was created by gods and the lake by brahman, I think) headed down to the water with garlands of flowers, incense, and bells. They prayed so beautifully. Kids were flying kites that would land in the water, creating ripples. Mountains surround the lake. Everything was golden. It made the trip to Pushkar worth it.

I do like meeting travellers, mind you. I love the cameraderie and the shared stories. I just hate the aggressive people who are drawn to the
tourist centres. Although I was thrilled to find peanut butter and fresh bread.

hey, I saw a pregnant sow squealing outside the Habad (jewish orthodox faith-encouragers) house on shabbat. What do you think that means?

So far, I have not tried a bang lassi, not gotten sick, not started real work, and not stayed still. Lots to experience.

Happy birthday, Josh and Jonah!

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