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Tag Archives | tourist

Everyone Goes to Vesuvius

Did you know that Vesuvius is still considered an active volcano, and a dangerous one? It could blow at any moment, theoretically.

That thought gave Caleb the added impetus he needed for the hike to the top of the caldera, a task that sounds more impressive than it was: you drive (or are driven)  to the base of the trail and then walk the 800 or so meters to the top.  Caleb expected to look inside the volcano and see molten lava, maybe a few boiling gas bubbles, but alas, no. Inside the bowl of the mountain were just innocuous trees and bushes–the only hint that we were seeing something other than a standard mountain were the wisps of steam wafting up through a crack in the rocks.

A few intrepid souls biked up the twisty mountain road to the base of the trail, but most of the rest of us tourists took small mini-vans or big huge motor coaches. Let me tell you, you haven’t lived until you’ve seen a ginormous bus coming down a tiny switchback road, bicycles weaving alongside, and your little minivan chugging up the switchback in the opposite direction–and all the drivers in question are Italian. TONS of fun, many Italian words that were probably not suitable for children, plus traffic jams.  Here’s hoping all the seismic monitors along the edge of the mountain work in tip-top condition, or one day…kaboom…and all the motor coaches will be suddenly airborne. Or carbonized.

Anyway. The whole world, it seems, comes to Vesuvius, including monks from other countries, like this fellow, snapping a picture of another religion’s shrine.

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It’s November 1 today and you know what that means: NaBloPoMo! That translates to: National Blog Posting Month, in which those of  crazy enough with nothing better to do serious about writing write a post a day for November.  I’m taking the NaBlo challenge along with all the other writers at yeahwrite, and at Blogher, too.  If you’re a writer, join in –and if you’re not a writer, then do us all a favor and read these posts so that we know someone besides our mothers is paying attention.

 

Continue Reading · on November 1, 2013 in NaBloPoMo, religion, Travel

walking in Jaipur

It seemed like a good idea at the time.  We’d just zipped through the City Palace in Jaipur–carvings, screens, gorgeous mosaics—and the Jantar Observatory was closed, so we thought: let’s just walk through the Johari Bazaar and then meet the taxi driver back at the City Palace parking lot (read: dusty square ringed with small food stands, flower stalls, dogs, cows, beggars).

The taxi driver (who spoke almost no English) said “sure? walking? sure? sure?” (Translation: “are you tourists out of your freaking gourds? walking through Johari Bazaar at rush hour? There are cows in the gutter smarter than you are!”) My Hindi is, um, nonexistent, so I nodded and smiled and nodded, “yes, yes, walking,” the driver and Husband exchanged cell phone numbers, and off we went, on foot, into the scrum.

Caleb’s seven-year-old eyes saw some of the poverty and dirt but mostly he saw only the adventure: look a goat! look a cow! look an elephant right there in the road!

The previous day, we’d been in Ranthambore, the tiny village outside the tiger preserve, where the poverty we’d seen had been, you know, picturesque: we’d been bumping along in an open jeep past roosters walking down dirt roads, pigs ambling along the sidewalks, half-dressed children tossing around a ball, small stone houses with tin roofs covered with ivy and bougainvillea.  Poverty…but pretty. The way tourists like their poverty.

But now we were in a city and the poverty was no longer just local color.  We used to live in New York, so homeless people on the subway or sleeping on park benches are, sadly, pretty typical sights.  My kids are aware (sort of) that not everyone has what they have.  What struck Liam was the sheer scale of what he was seeing: scores of kids begging, babies playing in the dirt, cows munching on garbage, flies everywhere. His grip on my hand got tighter and tighter—he couldn’t see the affluent residents of Jaipur whipping by on their motorbikes or in their tinted-window cars; he didn’t want to see the moon rising over the pink buildings:

he wasn’t amused by the decorations on the elephant wandering by:

or the statute of Ganesha tucked high above an arched passageway:

To get to the actual street of the bazaar you have to cross the traffic circle of death.  You think, oh, it’s just a street, I know how to cross a street. Except…there are no traffic lights, no crosswalks, and no traffic cops. There are, however, tour buses coming this way and tuk-tuks coming that way and motorbikes coming every which way and whoops there’s a taxi and shit there’s a rickshaw and whoa that’s a commuter bus and JUMP! the last two feet to the island in the middle of the circle in order to avoid a car swooping around the curve.

Caleb was scared but excited. He thought it was like a human video game.  Liam burst into tears. I THOUGHT WE WERE GOING TO DIE. Continue Reading →

Continue Reading · on November 23, 2011 in Abu Dhabi, Children, expat, shopping, Travel

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