a gathering place for the words, images and momentos of the world of adventures i've adventured, the stories i've wandered through. curriculum bella vita...a resume, of sorts, of the good life.

Friday, September 30, 2011


For months, i had no opinion on Telangana. Sure i scoffed at random acts of violence on innocent statutes, but as long as the separatist strike didn't affect me, i didn't have much of an opinion.

But then came this weekend. Oktoberbest. The very best of the beer-based culture that I miss. Two days of Kingfisher-fueled revelry, even if that leaves a little to be desired. But then Telangana cancelled Oktoberfest. That's when i developed an opinion...

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Carnival, Hyderabad Style

They needed kids to have fun, so they put me in charge. You can take the boy out of the summer camp, but you can't take the summer camp out of the boy.

Borrowing from successes in CO, NC and WASH, i concocted a carnival for little American citizens, while their parents were enjoying the more business-time half of the American Citizen Services townhall.

Five of my new best friends, the group of 35 recent grads in town for 9 months as educational consultants attached to local affordable public schools, volunteered to help the consulate staff: And one of the local clerk's daughters painted up a darn good wet sponge toss board.

The plan flawlessly executed: two hours of fun with kids. And no deaths. Although the kis did steal an awful lot of my money from the blackjack table...

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Likeable Laura

Returned from Delhi to a great surprise...Laura sleeping on the couch!

Bright and early Saturday, we set out for Bhongir Fort, my second day-trip to the monolith and fort an hour east of HYD. It was great to hike, walking doesn’t happen much here and I miss it. The ladies loved the drive, the history and the views!

Some local boys at the top recommended a Narasimha temple a few miles east of the fort. Raghu agreed it was worth the drive. Temples and pilgrimages are the biggest form of local tourism in India, but the Wisconsin Dells-like tourist trap of Hindu gods and goddesses was a bit surprising. Inside the temple, though, we were given the VIP treatment...they don’t see many firengis that far out. Laura tried to take the darshan with her left hand. The highlight for Ann, though, was certainly the troop of roadside monkeys.

Sunday I helped the ladies plan the next legs of their trip: HYD to Kerala. Then to Delhi and the Golden Triangle (Delhi/Agra/Jaipur) before setting off for Kathmandu the last day of September. Ann and Laura will hike – likely a circumnavigation of the Annapurna Circuit. As laura leaves, I’ll head to Kathandu to join Annie for ten days of trekking at the end of October. Hurrah!

And afterwards, a trip to Lumbini Park. A quick summer monsoon always drown our plans to get to the Buddha, but we made it at dusk. And then a first: the laser show!! I spent the first 15 minutes quite skeptical...THEN THEY TURNED ON THE LASERS!! It was so good!! I was amazed!! This has become a must-do on my visitor to-do list!! It’s so surprisingly good for one dollar!!

Friday, September 16, 2011

Entry Level

A fun two days in Delhi, meeting entry level folks from around South and Central Asia. a lot of "war stories," or at least people trying to claim their city is the hardest of them all. our argument was NOT helped when people learned that we have a Hard Rock Cafe in town. the real award, though, goes to our colleagues who made it in from Kabul, less than three days after they had been attacked at the embassy. their presentation really hit home. fun to talk to both A-100 classmates and wisconsin colleagues, and great to see that whole other side of diplomacy we don't see in HYD: parties with elephants, befriending int'l diplomats at sufi-sung receptions, listening to successful SCA specialists.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Every Apartment is better with A.C.

A day late, but with smiles galore, Annie made it safe and sound to Hyderabad. My friends continue to impress -- i've had as many visitors so far as the rest of the consulate combined, i feel like. She's here for two months of wandering, once Laura gets here, from south all the way north to Nepal. The plan is to join her for a week of trekking come the end of October.

This trip marks the 6th continent Ann's been to, so she hardly needed any advice on India. Still, i think the roads, especially, caught her off-guard at first. Luckily we've packed her first weekend full of fun:

Watching the NFL Season Opener, a day later, courtesy of Elvin's Slingbox set-up. Sure, we missed the decisive final five minutes of the game, but we had already assumed a packer victory, so no harm!

An evening a Liquids. Which is always "special." Too many people, too many of them men, and too terrible of music.

Environmental Rally at new friend Jess's school in Secunderabad. The cutest little parade ever, complete with signs and chants in English, Hindi and Telugu.

Ganesha street dancing in Aditya's neighborhood. Four endless hours of constant drumming, monosexual dancing, and the slowest elephant progression ever.

Enjoying a little bit of Bollywood, Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara.

It's great to have her here. In short, she's me except in girl form. Everything I've done, she's done. Coopers. NABS. Madison. ALPs. Apostle Islands. Fort Collins. Now India!! (Only Rachel has more friends in common on Facebook, which is fitting as she's the gal that taught it to me.) Between the two of them, i told them a fall or two ago, they know me better than anyone else on this planet. it's gonna be great to share India with her for two weeks, then Nepal, too.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

The Math

Doing the math, as prep work for Annie's visit.

1. Rachel. 162.
2. Ann. 148.
3. Chuck. 135.
4. Andrew. 130.
5. Molly. 121.
6. Gloria. 118.
7. Greg. 108.

PS. Not bowling.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Rethinking China

Hong Kong to Guangzhou is a comfortable 2-hour train ride. But it’s not a normal train ride. It’s a bit like a train ride I took six years ago to Ukraine:

1. The heave-ho tension of feeling under-prepared to enter a foreign country. Stepping out of your comfort zone.

2. The flash of excitement – like crossing over into the former Soviet Union – of being some place where you’ve never thought you’d be...and for a long time felt like you couldn’t be and shouldn’t be.

But with a clickity-clack no different than all the other clickity-clacks on the two hour ride, we crossed over from the special autonomous zone of Hong Kong into communist China, whatever that tired label actually means these days. I’m a bit outdated on the political science behind Chinese communism, and I’m not quite sure what it will become or how it will affect the United States, but only two things really stood out during three days in China:

In China, Communism means a planned economy. It’s clear – I’d argue joyously – that there’s a little bit more thought going into China’s rapid modernization than India’s. The roads are wide and clear. Traffic is crowded but reasonable. The public transportation is well-linked. Right-angles exist. Parks, too. China is clearly a generation ahead of India in terms of infrastructure. (Even as India is an equal generation ahead of China in globalism and English language. I’d completely taken for granted that 75% of Indian visa applications apply in English while 95% of Guangzhou’s pool, it is said, apply in Chinese.) The economy is visibly booming. Young people in clubs radiate cash and excitement both. I walked away with a distinct feeling that it’s an exciting time to be Chinese.

And in China, Communism means control of information. Observation’s common, among Americans and locals alike. I didn’t notice anything abnormal during my visit, but that doesn’t mean there wasn’t an eye. The more everyday implication, though, is an absurd control of the internet. I tried to log onto Facebook? Nope. Blogspot? Nada. Twitter? No, thanks. Yahoo? No dice. Youtube? Wampwampwamp.

In short, I enjoyed China, the culture and the food far more than I ever imagined I would. For a dozen years, I’d held an unchallenged and fairly simpleton belief that I like India and don’t like China. Perhaps I was too moralistic in appreciating certain values over others. I might have been convinced during a second late-night snack, welcomed to sit at a table of ten young Chinese and share some sort of gobbley-gook local porridge, that China too is a land I could enjoy. Well, either that, or I was smitten by the sight of tank tops and skirts for the first time in nine months...

Friday, September 2, 2011

Hong Kong: Yes Please.

Hong Kong! Hong Kong! Hong Kong!

What a glorious, world-class city!! I’d never given it any thought before, but the city is spectacular!! The sea and the mountains side-by-side, one of my favorites. A glitzy but cultured downtown tucked right up against impressive peaks and lush jungle. A densely packed populance, but 70% of the small territory is wild and rugged. You can even backpack and camp in Hong Kong proper!!

Great to wander and chat with Barrett for a few days, and fantastic to stay with Stephanie, a world-class hostess. So fun to see the adventures and lives of A-100 classmates around the world in a 100 different jobs and places.

Culinary highlights: build-your-own-burger and Blue Smoke barbeque.

Nightlife highlights: requesting Rasputin at Big Al’s (and getting it!) and a coverband on Lan Kwai Fong Street.

Adventure highlight: hiking from Central to the Peak, a two-hour summit. It’s a thousand-foot elevation gain on beautiful, mostly-deserted trails.

Sporting highlight: enjoying Stephanie’s Armed Forces Network cable access to watch the Badgers pound UNLV in the season opener! Looks like Bucky and Big Red newcomer Russell Wilson are in for a great season!

Cultural Analysis highlight: tallying the amount of men, both local and foreign, walking along the Avenue of the Stars boardwalk with and without satchels. The final tally after a sample size of eighty? Fifty with, only thirty without.

Socio-Economic Analysis highlight: probing friendly Filipinas – with questions, mind you – and missing the train to China due to an early-morning breakfast and subsequent monsoon. Oops...