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.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

debrief by collage

how to understand two of the most amazing years of your life? the ups and downs of the extremes of india? only the best way i know: collage. A Scotched and Taped Evening.

until i find a scanner:

Saturday, December 8, 2012

one last goa-round

one last trip to goa, my only three-peat destination in India. overnight bus from HYD-Panjim was do-able. unfortunately we had seats rather than a sleeper berth, but it didn't become uncomfortable until MULTIPLE folks started to vomit as we enjoyed the sunrise while snaking down the Western Ghats just a dash after dawn. the reason for the trip? David Guetta on the beach. nicely played, india, even if the disasterous entrance line and bar set-up were enough to be my final-straw of sorts here in india. it's simply time i go home now, i think.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

a semi-charmed kind of life

Wait. THE third eye blind? Yes, THE third eye blind, in Hyderabad, on a four-stop swing through the Hard Rock Cafes of the world's largest democracy.

Hyderabad turned 1998, give or take a few years, for a brief evening. the lead singer man might have said it best..."Wow, this feels like a basement party from years ago." truly a semi-charmed kinda life.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

the rotary dial

and when friends-of-friends pass through Hyderabad on the Rotary circuit? well, that calls for jump shots at Golkona Fort, no? Luckily, michelle was more than game. :-)

Thursday, November 22, 2012

thankful redux

a grand hurrah, of sorts, welcoming back IDEX fellows and friends (and including visiting friends, of course!) for a thanksgiving abroad. so nice to be amongst familiar faces and tasty dishes, even far from home. the turkey on the wall may be the same as last year, but i now know how to tie a bow tie...

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

berta and brian bonanza!

so nice to welcome berta and boyfriend brian to Hyderabad for a short stint of the two-week expedition around a nice little swing of india. friends #20 and #21 over the course of these two years, wow. sehr impressiv, my friends, sehr impressiv!

Berta and Brian do the world's largest wardrobe in the Purani Haveli

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Thai thai thai!

I'm a little embarrassed it took me 22 months to get to Thailand. It's just a cheap, direct flight from here...but literally a world away. Happiness and hedonism and healthiness...not words you'd usually use with Hyderabad. Makes for a great destination, you'll definitely want to spend more than a week there.

I wasn't overly impressed with Bangkok, compared to the other cities i've been to of late. The metro is nice and the malls are fun, but the river cruises and monuments are only alright. The city itself didn't seem to have a distinct, unique culture to it. The new night market Asiatique was actually cooler than the ladyboy burlesque show. Highlights were a great (strangely enough, diwali) rooftop part and a great tour guide-ess helped us explore the city and find some good Thai food.

But the beaches, oh those beaches! This is the reason to go to Thailand. The most amazing coastal geography on this planet, lined with perfect beaches. We flew to Phuket Island, picking Kammala Beach as our destination of choice. A good combination of pretty and peaceful, but close to the chaos and color of Patong and the more happening hubs of southern Phuket. Best side trip? Ko Phi Phi. Incredible little island and great little town, definitely would recommend spending a few days there, rather than just taking the tour boat over for an afternoon.

The strangest thing, though? As beautiful as Thailand was -- and it's stunning -- i was rarely tempted to pull out my camera. Beautiful, just not as photogenic as my home for the past two years. so it goes.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Big Brother

My new favorite picture from two years in India:

Friday, November 9, 2012

Number Three

Happenin’ Hyderabad!! Lonely Planet just named Hyderabad the NUMBER THREE city in the world to visit in 2013!! Congrats to Vanessa, Nick, Janani, Jen, Ann, Laura, Bekes, Rachel, Sara, Barrett, Jess, Earl, Carl, Kristine, RJ, Gaby, Kate, Sha, Berta and Brian for beating the rush!

#1 San Francisco
#2 Amsterdam
#3 Hyderabad

No freaking lie. http://www.lonelyplanet.com/themes/best-in-travel-2013/top-10-cities

This is particularly funny because Lonely Planet wrote a whole book last year on the 25 best places to go in India..and Hyderabad didn’t even make the table of contents. See also: http://shop.lonelyplanet.com/asia/discover-india-travel-guide-1/?lpaffil=lpdest-shoppod

Friday, November 2, 2012

up in knots

what's harder...learning to tie a lungi or a bow tie?
first lungi? check.
first bow tie in life? check.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Sunday, October 28, 2012

sha's days

So great to have Sha in town, returning my March visit with one of her own. She and Kate graduated a year or two apart, from rival schools, and were my two favorite Fondy Relays friends...but had never met each other. Enjoyed new views at the fort, cleaned up in preparation of the Biodiversity Summit, and night shopping at Shilparamam, another new feature! Oh...and go see ARGO!

Children, children...look! Pasty people!

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Kolkata Kate and the Drive to Darjeeling

Every camp counselor has favorite campers. One of mine is Kate. Since she was in 9th grade, I knew she’d grow up to be a pretty rad lady and she hasn’t disappointed. After graduating from UW-La Crosse, she served in the Peace Corps for two years in Micronesia before leading Outward Bound programs in Florida and adjudicated youth programs in Northern Wisconsin. And after a few years of tireless work, she decided to treat herself with...a trip to India!

After a stop in Taiwan, she arrived in Hyderabad and took to liking the city and its craziness. While I worked, she made her first solo trip to Hampi, a great destination for that kinda adventure. After she got back, we finalized trip plans together.  While our original dream of a canoe (ish) trip down the Godavari River from Bhadrachalam to Rajamundry was scuttled, we had many good backup options and settled on Kolkata and Darjeeling.

After a two-day battled, we got foreigner tickets the day before departure. The night train from Hyderabad to Kolkata is almost 30 hours. It's a loooong haul across A.P. and Orissa, but the scenery's good and we met some interesting people on the train. (The real downside? Children. Non-quiet children. Children aren't counted in the seating assignments, so every train is packed full with as many children as people can find and/or produce.)

Kolkata's a great city to visit for a day and a night. The city's core is surprisingly small for a metropolis of so many people and so much ill-repute. The Floatel, right on the River Hoogley, made a great base camp for exploring the area at a decent price. We enjoyed walking through the flower market, the old bazaar streets and the government quarter. The city's dilapidation is photogenic and easy to enjoy, as were the Victoria Memorial, the planetarium, and Fire and Ice. The biggest spectacle, though, was the annual Durgapooja around Kalighat. We joined a million (?) revelers for a late night walk through a beautiful lit neighborhood.

The night bus to Siliguri was a less memorable 14 hours. At $16 a person, I'd even go so far as to recommend that each person buy two tickets, ensuring a whole sleeper compartment to themselves, rather than sharing. Especially if you're a solo traveller.

The Darjeeling Himalayan Railways toy train no longer connects to the plains, thanks to a landslide a few years ago, so the only option from Siliguri up to Darjeeling is shared jeep, a three hour ride for 150 rupees. The tea plantations and sharp slopes make for a beautiful drive, almost as nice as Darjeeling itself. The crest of the city is a nice promenade with nice shops, cafes and guesthouses. The temperature felt great, even if it felt like we were joined by a large percentage of India's population during the holiday weekend. Compared to the other hill stations i've been to, Darjeeling is much, much nicer than Kodaikanal and more scenic than Munnar. But i wouldn't trade ten visits to any of them for one trip to Leh. After an early morning sunrise and Kanchenjunga alpenglow, I didn't feel like there was too much i was missing out on in Darjeeling itself, aside from the missed opportunity to do some hiking in relatively uncharted Sikkim before having to rush back Wednesday, while Kate lingered a few days more. 

Saturday, October 6, 2012

The Second Time's a Charm

One year later, finally, Oktoberfest in Hyderabad. And while Kingfisher may not be quiiiiiiiiiite up to the standards of some of its German peers, it made a great excuse for a celebration. So nice to be in a place and time and moment where people and groups and stories intermingled. I haven't had many evenings in all of two years like this one, i miss fun muchly.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Adventures in Sri Lanka

I was expecting, somehow, Sri Lanka to be a bit more "different" from India. It's more green, of course, and more peaceful...but really it feels pretty darn similar to Goa or Kerala in island form. First time I've ever seen Buddhism in tropical incarnation, but on the whole, it doesn't feel as culturally distinct as Nepal...or even Leh.

No direct flights from Hyderabad, have to connect in Chennai (or Madurai, from what i hear). The Colombo airport is old school, no way near as modern as most of the nice, new Indian metro airports. Same with roads, bus stations, train stations and the overall infrastructure. Taking the local bus was dirt cheap, but relatively more difficult to understand than in India. Bus station wasn't well labelled, nor was the staff able to help much, but i always managed to hop out at the right spot.

I had a hard time choosing between surf school and adventure camp for my short vacation, but i finally settled on three nights at Borderlands, a great little camp tucked in the foothills three hours east of Colombo. Great spot to raft, kayak, canyoneer, hike, read and relax, etc. Great food, too. I had hoped to meet some new friends there, but as it turned out, i had the place to myself. i did enjoy the company of the French guide and the local staff, though.

Back in Columbo for a night, the local train was a quick, easy and fun travel option. Mount Lavinia's the southern-most suburb of Colombo, a beachside neighborhood complete with little resorts and beach-side restaurants. Makes a great place to spend a day if you aren't able to get to the nice beaches further south. From the main/central/Fort train station, just take the southern line to Mount Lavinia until you find a passable place to spend the night or eat a meal.

Monday, September 10, 2012


Thought of the day: I'm too finely tined at yes-or-no decision-making...maybe i need to re-learn how to make the more qualitative, the "which is the best of many answers or possibilities" type of questions and decision making.

Monday, September 3, 2012


Great weekend CLO trip with ten folks to Aurangabad, just a short flight half the way to Mumbai. The city is a great jumping-off point for a great collection of sights in central Maharashtra. Nice new airport, convenient YellowTree with a pretty nice swimming pool...and believe-it-or-not India's largest mall!

Ajanta Caves

Daulatabad Fort

Bibi Ka Maqbara

Elora Caves

Friday, August 24, 2012

I'm having a hard time picking a quote of the week...

"You have missed the whole of the world if you have not kayaked."


"You're a little more wifehunt than I think you think you are."


"I've been reading Fifty Shades of Grey and a few things about him remind me of you."


Wednesday, August 15, 2012

My Favorite Leh

Twenty months in, I have a new favorite spot in all of India...Leh!

Ladakh is a pretty special corner of India, the far extreme North, the mountainously beautiful and surprisingly peaceful part of Jammu and Kashmir. It's largely Buddhist, most closely related in culture, peoples, religion and architecture to Western Tibet.

Leh is the capital town of the region, a small burg of just 10,000 year round inhabitants, swelled with tourists four months out of the year (July-October) and blessed with the infrastructure (and airport) of a significant military base. Just ten years ago, India and Pakistan were fighting over the Kargil Glacier, hardly 100 miles to the west.

You can fly or bus into Leh. Flights from Delhi are convenient, if pricey, and they come with the added cost of immediate acclimation at 11,500 feet. I'd never done anything like that before, and it was more painful than I expected. The first night, especially, was miserable. Headache, loss of appetite, disorientation and insomnia. Almost bad enough to force me to get some non-prescription medication, but it passed before the end of the second day. The two day bus ride up from Manali or Srinigar help significantly with acclimation, but come at the price of a bone-jostling journey.

A 200 rupee taxi takes you to the city center, a wide-laned bazaar with great shops and restaurants. Every other storefront is a map store, outfitters or travel agency catering to visitors. From the small downtown, to the north, a 16th century Buddhist palace sits perched on a cliff. And to the west, a green valley pasture, criss-crossed with cobblestone walking paths and glacier-melt creeks, is speckled with more than a hundred different guesthouses, hotels and family stays. Glacier View Guest House gets a thumbs up, but you can't go wrong just walking the paths, finding one you like and inquiring about availability on the spot.

Leh offers many good day-hike options without even leaving the city: Shanti stupa, the palace, the donkey sanctuary. (The first two are better than the third.) The palace, in particular, is great. You can climb over, under and around the 9-story inward-leaning castle, modeled after more famous counterparts in Lhasa. It's easy to hire a car, too, for a full-day of monastary sightseeing along the Indus River.

Instead of sightseeing, though, I went rafting on my day outside of Leh. 1300 rupees will get you a three-hour raft down an amazing section of the Zanskar River, 45 minute drive from town, as it flows through beautiful canyon walls before dumping into the Indus River. It's pretty good whitewater and a great way to meet fellow travelers. Afterwards, you get a tasty lunch in the raft guides base camp.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

The Fever

Hurray for the Olympics!
Hurray for the Home Team!

i bought a satellite for these two weeks. and these two weeks only.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Once Upon a Clock

Sometimes I gripe, but it must be said that Hyderabad is a fascinating time and place to pass through. A tangle of times, a parade of places. A litany of lives just going about living as you flash by, as the hands of the clock of time spin slowly and steadily on.

One of those ever-moving yet somehow never-changing neighborhoods and moments in time is simply “the Old City,” the proud heart of a long-gone empire that carries on day-after-day even as it crumbles brick-by-brick. It’s a love/hate kind of place, with the kind of human intensity that exists only rarely outside of this subcontinent. In just a few square kilometers, the most extreme of juxtapositions, the wealthiest of kingdoms alongside the most disheartening of poverties. In the space between, it's just you and a million of your closest friends, trying to make a bit of sense out of our time in this world. Almost a year ago, I fell in love in the Old City.

It was just a casual stroll down a dirt-packed side street tucked between the Charminar and the Salar Jung museum. There’s no name to call it by, it’s simply “the street with the wedding card shops.” I passed a storefront, just one of many. I looked up, mostly by chance. As soon as I saw it, I stopped dead in my tracks and stood in awe, just looking. On the far wall of the shop, high above an assortment of other clocks, was the most magnificent of clock I had ever seen. Stunningly large and perfectly antique, it was mesmerizing. I could only see the top half, which added to the mystery, like only a burka can do. Even more enticing than the beauty of the clock was the mystery. Instead of numbers, a seemingly random set of English-language letters manned the twelve positions around the clock. What did the letters stand for, I wondered, in the fascination that comes with something foreign. But then I kept on walking, as I so often do.

Over the days and weeks that followed, I found myself wracking my brain, trying to crack the code of letters of the top half of that clock, hoping to uncover the timeless secrets she held. Numbers in a Nizami language? Months of an ancient calendar? Stars of a powerful zodiac? For many months, I told everyone I met about the clock in the Old City. I realized was in love, I wanted it bad.

Today, the most recent in a long string of annual mid-summer birthdays, I just happened to find myself with 30 extra minutes in the Old City. Four other officers and I were early for the morning’s bidri workshop tour, one of the timeless crafts turned cottage industries that links medieval and modern India to the point of blurriness. Why don’t we try to find, I proposed, that clock I’ve been talking about. They readily agreed – it was my birthday after all – so we set out to find a once-upon-a-time clock on the far wall of a needle-in-a-haystack shop down a nameless street.

No less than four U-turns, three alleyways, two bridges and a fender-bender later, we rolled slowly down the street with the wedding card shops searching for a clock shop. Any clock shop. The closest we could find was a watch shop, but the doors were shut, typical before eleven on a Saturday morning. The others were a bit skeptical, but I promised them the clock was worth the search. A few blocks later, still nothing. We turned around in defeat. Lori offered some comforting works, but it wasn’t meant to be.

On the sad retreat, suddenly a miracle. One of the two big green wooden doors of Mahmood Watch Co.’s shop was now open. Through the window, half the store looked vaguely familiar. A slender man was slowly unhinging and opening the second door. We parked, watching the curtain lift on the drama, hoping. Sure enough, as the second door swung open, there she was, on the far wall of the just-opened shop, my clock. Princy gasped as she saw it. Elvin smiled. That is indeed a sweet clock, he said. We hopped out of the car, jumping puddles and dodging motorcycles on our way to the clock. I wondered if the five thousand rupees in my wallet would be enough.

I was still counting rupees in my head when I heard the first laughter. It might have been Elizabeth. I creened my neck around a grandfather clock to get a better look. In a single glance, I solved a long treasured mystery, collapsed into the sad feeling that can come only with the debunking of a hoax. The bottom half of the clock made it perfectly clear that the clock held no secrets. It was an advertisement. The twelve letters of m-a-h-m-o-o-d-w-a-t-c-h marching a well-spaced circle around two hands.

But the second realization was even more deflating. The clock would never grace the wall of my living room. Not even for a million rupees. The clock was, in fact, no clock at all. It was painted directly onto the concrete wall. The hands had never once moved. The shop full of clocks only mocked me. The shop didn’t intend to sell a single one, the entire odd collection just added to the mood of the watch sales and repair business.

I stumbled out of the store, laughing, shaking my head as I so often do in India. Every story may have its own place and time in Hyderabad, sadly the same can’t be said for my clock.

Elvin, Elizabeth, Princy and Lori join me on a birthday scavenger hunt, in pursuit of a long-lost timekeeping treasure in a hidden corner of the Old City.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012


What better way to spend the Fourth of July at the waterpark?!

Andrew and I, surprisingly enough, are still alive after braving Hyderabad's (second) finest waterpark. Apparently there's a bigger one on the outskirts of the city, but I'd driven past Jalavihar on Necklace Road many times and (almost) always been tempted to check it out.

While the right-sized waterpark is unappetizingly close to Hussain Sagar, they promise the water treatment is first-class. (Here's hoping.) On a random day during the workweek, when we have off but most Indian do not, the crowds were on the better side of manageable, a pleasant surprise. (I would never, ever, EVER go on a weekend day in the middle of summer. EVER.) The price is right ($3) for all the rides you can ride, even if few of them are fun enough in their own right to ride more than once.

And as for a socio-cultural exhibition? Fascinating! 90% men of course. Ladies wear "costumes," not swim suits. Even the majority of gentlemen wear shirts or tanktops above shorts or even nylon pants. Swimmability is generally low, highlights in the wave pool include splashing and standing in circles. But the hourly Rain Dance? Thank goodness for the rope physically separating the men from the women! (Just ask Andrew.)

Overall review? Pleasant.

Saturday, June 30, 2012

Palatial Mysore

Once-mighty Mysore is a great weekend destination. The stately city of one million is just the right size; the relatively broad, relatively leafy streets don’t feel too crowded. The city is the capital of the State of Karnataka in designation only, it’s downright sleepy compared to bustling Bangalore two hours away.

The city is best known the impressive 19th-century palace that forms the heart of the city. No visit’s complete without gawking at the the grand foyer and the durbar halls. The smaller Jaganmohan Palace is a nice museum, too. The city’s little outdoor market is a fun and wildly photogenic diversion. And the city offers a great hill for climbing and a zoo for strolling.

The city boasts quite a few nice mid-range hotels. For less than $100, it’s hard to beat the Windflower Resort, tucked behind the racecourse, a 10-minute, 50-rupee autorickshaw ride from the city center. Great cabana restaurant, nice pool and peaceful ambiance.

 From Hyderabad, overnight buses are the most convenient option. Expect a 12-hour journey, either on a private line or on a state-run coach. Semi-sleepers are about $20 and not uncomfortable. Full Sleepers are about $25 and a pretty darn easy way to travel. 

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Time in the Tamil N

Madurai - A classic temple town, with three huge pyramids of stacked statutes, stretched high into the Southern sky. Sundays aren't very crowded, meaning you can explore the temple square and the neighborhood in relative peace...you'll be pleasantly surprised to see the basics of urban planning! the airport is nice and new, or else the temple is an easy 15 minute walk from the train station (featuring only one turn).  a really, really fantastic resort option in a calm corner of the city? Heritage Madurai. Rooms are luxurious, and not a bad price at all.

Kodaikanal - I've been to some incredibly scenic places in my day, but stepping out into the hill station of Kodai makes you want to get right back into the car...the scenic drive up to the town is far better than the destination. In short, it's dirty, crowded and not so peaceful. Sure the temperature's nice, but the lake's been trashed, it just  makes you a bit wistful. Obnoxious cars ruin what might otherwise be a pleasant walk around the lake. Bryant Park trends toward pretty. But there aren't restaurants or shops or cultural events of note. Middling hotels. Ugh. If push comes to shove and you HAVE to go, stay somewhere as far from the town itself as possible.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Not as good as London...

Back from London, I sadly had to turn off my friend-making dating profile. But before i did, i switched it from London to Hyderabad...just to see what would happen.

Ahh, match-making. Too restrictive indeed.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Law Enforcement

A week long interviewing course at the National Police Academy, a great break from the usual grind and a cool chance to sit alongside some very experienced Indian Police Service officers at their home training facility. I was way better with a Glock than expected and the 50-meter pool felt great. I am sad to report, though, that India's next generation of police officials are being trained incorrectly in archery...

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Beautiful Bidar

the summer sun didn't stop my two closest non-consulate friends and i from hitting up nearby Bidar for a roadtrip reunion, even if our fourth member's pigging out on barbeque in kansas city every day for the past month. it's an easy 2.5 hours drive west of Hyderabad, hopping just across the AP/Karnataka border.

Bidar, like Golconda, is an old capital city. The Bahamani Sultans reigned from the city's epic fort from 1427 until overrun by the Mughals in 1686. Many of the ruins are better preserved than Golconda, including the triple-moat defense carved out of bedrock and a cannon bigger than all the cannons i've ever seen put together. A madrassa and clocktower give some character to the town's walled old city area, while the peaceful tomb complex makes the trips worthwhile. a great day trip from HYD.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Delightful Dubai

Please welcome a bit of Dubai guest blogging courtesy of my hostess with the mostest, sha.

Monday, March 5, 2012

one through ten

brussels pd
ankara pd
athens pd
budapest con
helsinki con
london con
ottawa con
nicosia pd/pol-econ
calgary con
abu dhabi pd

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Hyderabad Zoo

well, it's not san diego, but hyderabad's got a zoo! it's a bit crowded, as could be expected, but the zoo's one of the better places in the city to take a stroll. some pretty decent animal attractions, including a white tiger. reasonable 50NR admission and a few places to buy snacks/food inside. you probably, though, won't find yourself writing home about it...unless you're just looking to fill a blog post.