Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Epilogue: Signs and Wonders

As most of you know by now, I've been back since April 4th. I spent a few weeks acclimatizing at my mother’s middle-class home on Virginia’s Atlantic coast, which seemed fit for a maharaja with its clean walls, hot water, mange-free dogs, soft, broad beds, and steady, ample servings of familiar food. After nearly 2 years continuously away from a neighborhood that I never called home in the first place, those evenly spaced houses, well maintained roads and wide-isled shops were as hard to believe as the rickety chaos I had just left behind.

My jet-lag was pretty bad. I couldn't stop talking long enough to sleep for the first two days, and then I couldn't move for the second two. Also, it snowed on the day of my arrival, and I was constantly shivering for a week.

But I finally adjusted to the time and temperature.

During the 7 weeks since my return, I have often been asked how it feels to be back, and the thing that I try to express is something I’ve found delightful and unexpected: even though I'm back in my country of origin, I still have the momentum of travel. The adventure continues, and this just happens to be a different episode. Since my 2 weeks in suburbia, I’ve been to Charlottesville, Staunton, and Blacksburg, Virgina, as well as DeKalb, Illinois and Port Washington, Wisconsin, and I've finally landed in Brooklyn, dog in tow. I spent 2 weeks camping on a friend’s floor before Talia and I found an apartment, and I’m still pretty much sans furniture.

Anyhow, to wrap up this blog (this really is the LAST post EVER), I wanted to publish a file of photos that I kept along the way of things I found arrestingly funny, bizarre, or informative. There are quite a lot of odd things in NYC, too; but the ones below happen to be from south Asia.

Throughout southern India fiberglass monkeys, rabbits, and penguins patiently await (in the most irregular spots) deposits from the public.

This one disturbs me,
as does this one.

South Asia is rich in unemployed hands, so most advertisements and instructional signs are hand-painted. On top of that, people have the time to paint all over the place, with greater or lesser degrees of skill, which makes for a colorful country.


Each day as I walked by, I marveled at the man sitting patiently on a bench in front of this ad, feathering in details and gluing on actual pebbles. The following two pictures bring the writings of Ayn Rand to mind.

I don't know what this is about, which may be the reason I find it interesting.

I just like this one.

Does the mayor of London know he has a coffee shop in Kerala?

Puppy 2000 soda?


Even classier!

I'm going to let most of these speak for themselves, as they did to me.

This sign should be posted on every corner.

In India, they cover all the bases. God knows, gods must be preventing collisions constantly.

Of course, gods prefer the well-mannered.

Weird angels.

Don't ask me...

It always interests me to see how the practicalities of life are accomplished.

According to this classified ad, a teacher can expect to be paid a little over a dollar an hour.

And in India, it's not immigrants who threaten to take all those highly desirable manual labor jobs, it's animals.

This is cooking fuel, dung flattened into patties and dried in the sun.

This is how temples get painted,

and fortunes are told,

and clothing is pressed.

Who would have thought that teddy bears would make such great cricket bases.

I was flossing my teeth one night in Sri Lanka, and out popped a filling, so I found a dentist the next day.

It was a little frightening, the cluttered, improvised character of the place,

but the filling was only 5$, and it's still holding!

Sending a package from India is a long process. First you have to box your stuff, then find someone with a sewing machine.

He cuts a coarse, off-white fabric to fit your box and sews a covering, then he stitches it closed by hand,

and seals the package with wax. Finally, you can write the address and stand in line for a long time at the post office.

Coke is served in re-used, sterilized (I hope) bottles.

I'll leave you with this, a grouping that I'll never understand or forget.