Thursday, January 20, 2005

Goat Stampede

A few days ago I left Thailand, unrested, and starving. Tried to see as many films during the Bangkok International Film Festival as possible. The Motorcycle Diaries was the best one I saw. Made me wish I was in South America with Chris. Well, I was wishing that anyway.

I'm typing under a little bit of duress. My nemesis will pass through here again in less than ten minutes and I want to avoid her if at all possible. How is it that some people are so great that within a couple of introductory sentences you know you can spend a whole day together? And then there are people like Senora Ruida who drive people like me to search out escape routes.

Tonight I hid in the bathroom next to the hotel restaurant for ten minutes while my nemesis stood haranguing the clerk at the front desk. The entire staff of the hotel rolls their eyes when they see her coming. Afraid that she might still be at the front desk, I had the good fortune to find a back staircase near the bathroom. Whoohoo! I ran up the stairs. Three flights up I decided to switch to the elevator. The doors of the elevator opened and there she was. "Ay, Jeni!! Where have you been all day?" Didn't tell her that a possible answer to that question was, "Hiding from you."

No time to explain now why I am running away. Could be because she asked me to take some pictures of her the first day I was in Delhi. Sounded like a simple request, happy to do it... She presented the photo taking as going out to take pictures of some women down the street. Truth was she wanted me to take pictures of her with women, any women, who looked poverty stricken. She had a hard time finding anyone that she thought looked sufficiently poor.

Then we had to go looking for a little girl she knew, and the offices of Qantas airlines, and a million other things. Along the way she yelled at people, demanded they translate English to Hindi and back again, and tried to palm off her garbage on men just walking down the street. For my first day in Delhi, Delhi itself was not stressful, but a little Mexican woman with dyed orange hair just about put me over the edge.

After my nemesis decided I was next in-line to be her personal assistant (the last person to have that position escaped by checking out), she started calling my hotel room every hour or so. If I'm spotted crossing the lobby, she screams "JENI! JENI! JENI! JENI!" till I either find a place to hide or go see what she wants. Somehow I've taken photos of her, made her a new Yahoo!, downloaded photos into it, searched for round-the-world airfares on the web, put her in contact with SERVAS... and that's after saying NO to 70% of her requests. My "no's" are always followed by masterful guilt-trips and reassurances that my help will only take five minutes... Grrr. I am a sucker.

Aside from her, Delhi is great. This morning I finally decided to go out of the hotel's neighborhood and took an auto-rickshaw over to the Red Fort. The driver left me off in the middle of a busy intersection, far from the fort's entrance. Wandering around the perimeter of the gate, the goats and their laughing masters ran past. I knew to watch out for crazy bus and rickshaw drivers but hadn't expected a riot of goats. A Western woman approached from the opposite direction and I asked her if she knew where the entrance was. Turns out she was looking for it too. I spent the rest of the day with Martina from Switzerland. She was great company and we'll go out together tomorrow as well.

After the fort, Martina led us back homeward from the fort by plunging right into the middle of Chandni Chowk, a busy market street. Don't know how long it took us to walk home again, past the wooden carts, roaming cattle, and stalls that sell all kinds of things you don't think about people needing. Broken cigarette lighters? Over there. Are you missing a suitcase handle? That guy has replacements. Does your zipper need fixing? Give him your pants and it will be repaired in a Delhi minute.

It was great to be sucked up into the city.

Hijole! She'll be here any minute. Run away!


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