Monday, March 25, 2013

"Are you diplomats?"

March 23, 2013

Today was the longest consecutive travel day I've ever experienced. If you consider only the local time at our final destination, we got up at 1am on March 23 and traveled until 12:30 am on March 24. Thanks to our amazing producer, the bed was ridiculously comfortable and exactly what we needed to collapse into after today.

We woke up with Mouhsine at 5:00am and laid there in bed while he packed feverishly getting ready for his long travel day to South Africa. He got the short end of the travel stick because his travel was covered by the conference. He just told them his final destination for the return trip, and they booked him the worst (and probably cheapest) route to get there. He had to catch a flight from Phnom Penh to Shanghai at 6am to wait at the airport for 7 hours before flying down to Capetown via a few connections. We were going to leave after him and arrive before him. Ouch.

He left around 6am, so Matt and I cat-napped until 7am when we had to get up, get ready and pack up to catch our first of three flights to Johannesburg, South Africa. We found a few items that Mouhsine had forgotten, and bagged them up, too since we would see him in Capetown. We got our executive taxi that we had scheduled to get to the airport because we were afraid the tuk-tuks would be too slow. My travel philosophy is more in the realm of leave early and chill if needed because I'd rather have extra time to write my blog than be sweating in a traffic jam watching our flight leave without us. It was a whopping four dollars more for the closed vehicle. I love Cambodia.

That said, we got to the airport a little too early. They don't take their international flights as seriously as we do in the States, so they open up the ticket counters an hour before boarding. We had 45 minutes to kill, so we found a bench and a nice Canadian scuba diver to chat with. He told us his stories of training other divers and opening up a new world for them and also giving an octopus a head massage.

We got our tickets and made it through the we-don't-care-what's-in-your-bag security people and found the Taste of Asia Cafe to have a late breakfast. Matt said goodbye to spring rolls and I bid adieu to curry and rice. Matt tried an avocado milkshake which was delicious, and I had my final Vietnamese coffee for the trip. Both drinks that we'll attempt to replicate when we get back to Colorado.

Our first flight to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia was delayed by a half hour, which turned into 45 minutes. We had two hours to make our connection on the other side, so we weren't too worried as we boarded the late plane. It was a 2.5-hour flight, and they had movies, so we were happy campers.

We landed in Kuala Lumpur where it was over 100-degrees, but raining. It was humid and stifling. The airport was the coolest airport I had ever been in. It was modern and made of mostly metal and glass and had long glass corridors and a jungle boardwalk complete with birds in the middle of the round airport. We headed all the way to our gate in a hurry, then realized we had to get our boarding passes at the transfer station we had passed. We jogged back to the station and waited our turn and got our bags transferred and our new boarding passes. We made it back to the gate just as they were opening security. No problem!

We were the first to board because we were in the last seats on the plane. Well, the first to board after business class and people with kids and disabilities. It only makes sense to load the plane from the rear forward. Malaysia: you make sense.

As the plane loaded, Matt and I picked out the films we were going to watch with our 7-hour time slot and decided to divide and conquer and let each other know if they were with watching. I liked Robot and Frank, but I wouldn't necessarily recommend it. It was just okay and I feel like the first 3/4 were given away in the trailer. Matt enjoyed The Campaign and watched The Bourne Legacy which we both rated as the fourth best Bourne movie. I started then lost interest in a couple others and decided to try and sleep. Impossible. They design economy class so that you are not physically able to get comfortable. I'm impressed by the ingenuity. Very impressed.

This flight was on time, but we only had an hour to get to our next connection. This was where the trip got exciting. Mind you, we were the last of the last on the plane, and we had to make it through immigration, get our new boarding pass then get to and board our next flight that took off 50 minutes after this plane's wheels touched the ground in Port Louis, Mauritius.

We got off the plane and were in the very back of a long transfer line. I pulled out our flight confirmation hoping I had read it wrong, but just as I pulled it out, we heard a man yelling, "Shoots! Shoots!" over the crowd. We were sure he meant us, so we butted our way through the line up to him, and he grabbed us and put us in the front at the counter. "Gooo!" he yelled.

We handed our passports to the lady at the counter who stopped helping the small, disgusted family giving us mean looks, and quickly got us through the process. She gave us our new boarding passes and pointed us to the door on our right where security was. We quickly got through security, and they didn't even double-check us because of the camera. We walked out another door to a packed terminal only to realize that our gate was literally on the other side of the wall. We had joked about the plane next to us being our flight, but it was true.

The flight took off in 35 minutes, but no one was lined up at the gate or boarding. We thought maybe it had gotten delayed or something, but then saw a man go up and give his boarding pass, and they had him stay where he was. Maybe it was just business class? We started toward the gate then heard our names being called over the big speakers. "Passengers Mr. and Mrs. Schultz please board immediately." Matt and I turned to each other in horror. We were late! We hurried over and the woman took our boarding passes, and said that they were waiting on one last passenger and then the four of us would be escorted to the plane.

We were comforted by the fact that we weren't the last ones holding up the plane. The final passenger, an Indian man, made it. The British man that had gotten there before us joked that we must be the only ones on board. The woman turned to him and said, "no sir. Actually, we are quite full." There will be no joking about our tardiness.

The woman led the four of us through a back door past the line that we had just been standing in and past our old gate, down some stairs to an empty bus. It had three people in uniforms and it took off as soon as we got on. We drove down the tarmac to a waiting Air Mauritius Airbus A319. The giant plane was surrounded by people in vests. The woman escorted us to the stairway, and the four of us made our way up to the plane.

Except for four flight attendants, the plane was completely empty. I laughed aloud and turned to our British joker who had predicted this. The crew led us to our assigned seats, and the British man was unable to convince them that they should let us sit in business class. Matt and I took bets on whether or not they'd still close the curtains between economy and business. They still did. They allowed us to spread rows so that we each had our own row and said we could lay down across the seats. We were so thankful for the opportunity. It was now two in the morning in Phnom Penh, and we needed to get some shut-eye.

They went through the safety video, and the young, male flight attendant laughed along with our jokes. Matt and I considered doing a time-lapse where we would set up the camera in the front of the plane, then sit in every seat and have a silly animation. We decided not to inquire.

We were offered beverages. They didn't have ginger ale, but they did have complimentary "wine, beer, rum, gin, vodka, beer?" offered the flight attendant. Well, a whiskey and coke it is. It'll put me right out. We enjoyed our beverages and pretzels, then were immediately served dinner of chicken, penne pasta, bean salad and pineapple upside down cake. We were offered another drink with dinner, and I opted for some tea. He said it was okay if I had two if I wanted. What is this wonderful place?! Matt and I made the most of the situation. You can't turn down a flight attendant feeling this generous.

After dinner, they turned the lights low and the four of us took our three pillows and blankets each and made ourselves comfortable across our rows. I slept like a rock. The next thing I knew, I was being tapped and handed a hot towel. I bid our friendly flight attendant a good morning and he laughed aloud and offered me some juice. Um, yes, I would like some juice.

The plane landed and Matt and I decided it would be funny if we hurriedly collected our things and stood in the aisle impatiently. It lost some of its humor when our British friend did just that and stood at the front of the plane past business class to wait. He was serious.

We were so tired and now groggy from our nap. All we wanted to do was collapse. We still had to make it to our hotel. It was 11:30pm now, and the airport was completed deserted. We walked down long hallways and through the empty terminal without meeting a single person. We finally got to immigration where we found a group of six workers talking and laughing. When they spotted us they all stopped in their tracks.

We were confronted by a big, African man who demanded to know our flight number. We gave it to him, and he said he was only asking because the flight wasn't on his list. "Was it private?" he asked referring to our plane. "No. Well, kind of." I replied confusing him further. "Are you diplomats?" "Negative," I said.

He shrugged, eyeing us, then pointed us through the South African passport line. "No one else is here. You can just head through." We easily got through immigration after they found the stamp they needed and went to find our single bag going around the carousel. We were the laughing stock of the entire Johannesburg airport. No one could figure out how we got our private jet here. Our two comrades were long gone.

We found a helper to lead us around the empty airport to get rands and a taxi to our hotel. The taxi ride was pretty quick, and we were at our hotel in no time. They had a sign out front that read, "we're famous for our apples." Seemed like a good place for us. They had apples at the front desk, but we had no interest in food, only sleep.

We crashed out in the comfiest, fluffiest bed we had ever been in, and didn't wake up until...well, 3am. Thank you, jet lag.

The Cambodian Night Market

March 22, 2013

Today was the last day of the conference and our last day in Cambodia, so we needed to catch any other filming and finish the episode.  The morning was uneventful for both Matt and I and for Prakti.  They had some final meetings with people they needed to catch up with and we had an episode to finish.

We decided to grab a quick lunch over at the restaurant where we had done our laundry the day before.  We had some delicious tea, pineapple fried rice and beefsteak with steamed rice.  It ran us whopping $3.38 bill.  Big spenders.

We finished up the edit in the afternoon and showed Minh and Mouhsine who enjoyed it.  They headed off to find some cheap massages and meet some stove people for dinner, so we decided to have another attempt at the night market.  I had researched it more and found that it only ran on Friday and Saturday nights.

We left the hotel around 8pm very hungry.  It’s not a terrible walk from our hotel, so since we were low on cash and didn’t want to pull more out, we opted out of the tuk-tuk for the exercise and to save the $8 roundtrip.  We came upon the busy night market on the food end which was fortuitous given how ravenous we were.  (Fortuitous for the cooks…)

There were carts lined up in a giant square with grass mats laid out in the middle where people were sitting on the ground eating their dinners.  The outside of the giant square was littered with shoes that people had removed to enter the dining area.  Matt and I made one round through all of the carts to check out our options.  There were kabobs of mystery meat shaped and colored like angry birds, there were full-body cooked pigeons, noodles, rice, fish and squid.  We decided on a vendor and they gave us a basket to load up.  We chose a pigeon, some wantons, and a deep fried drumstick with pork fried noodles.  They dump the contents of our basket on a BBQ and reheated the contents.  Remembering we had a flight the next morning, we reconsidered for a moment, then decided to go for it.  We got two cokes and opted for a cup instead of a bag, threw off our shoes and dug in to our loot on one of the mats.

Had this been the first place we had been on this trip, I think I would have taken photos and been bright-eyed and excited and weirded out by eating on the ground and by the pigeon’s scrawny little head watching me chomp down on its body, but after a couple months of so many experiences, it’s going to take a lot more than that to phase me.

It was a happy atmosphere with many families and young people, and after dinner we decided to check out what they had for sale in the other side of the market.  There was live music going on down the street, and rows and rows of clothes, purses and scarves.  These were not handicrafts, like I had expected them to be, but they were beautiful and cheap, so Matt and I got a couple t-shirts and some scarves as souvenirs.

We were thirsty by the end of our shopping and wanted to get rid of our couple dollars worth of riels, so we found a street vendor outside the shopping area to buy some sour sop juice and a beer.  The little eight year old running the stand gave us a great deal and it cost us the equivalent of 75-cents for the two beverages.  The man sleeping in the chair next to the place must have been in charge, but we figured it would be better not to bother him and just finish our transaction with the child.  We gave him our funds and walked away wondering if he even worked for the guy.  If you haven’t tried sour sop, I’d highly recommend it.  Pretty tasty.

We walked back to the hotel knowing that we needed to get up early to pack and prepare for our long, long, long travel day to get to South Africa.

Editing Day with a Pizza Ending

March 21, 2013

Breakfast consisted of our new usual: a Poptart and malria meds.  We missed the bakery in Auroville, but not the beds and showers.  I launched right into editing, and Mouhsine and Minh had a lot of work to do, so the four of us chilled in the room swapping internet time as each of us needed it.

We had a noontime stove demonstration to film with Mouhsine, so Matt and I headed for an early lunch at the restaurant that we had our St. Patrick’s Day celebration in on the first night.  I had some noodles and veggies, and Matt decided to try out a Cambodian pancake.  Imagine a giant, very thin omelet stuff with chopped ramen noodles, ground beef and onions with a sweet spring roll-type sauce.  It was actually pretty amazing, but didn’t fill the syrupy-American-pancake-sized hole in Matt’s stomach.

Matt dropped me off at the hotel to edit and met Mouhsine down in the lobby to head for a local restaurant where the stove conference had set up a competition between the companies that were attending.  It was set up so that they would all bring their stoves, and the cooks at the restaurant would see them all in action and fill out surveys on them and write down how much they would pay for each of them.  It sounded like the perfect thing to fill out our story for the clean cooking stove forum in Phnom Penh.  Not much had really happened yet, so some friendly competition seemed like a good thing.

Next thing I knew, Matt and Mouhsine were walking back into the hotel room.  It hadn’t been twenty minutes.  I told them that I thought that was a pretty quick stove demonstration and was told that it wasn’t something Prakti was interested in participating in.  It would be one thing if it were just the local people judging the Prakti stove, but Mouhsine felt like he would be handing over two years worth of research and development to competing stove companies, and felt like that wasn’t worth the information they would gather from the locals. Apparently, there was quite the confrontation in a tuk-tuk which ended civilly, but with Mouhsine and Matt on the return journey back to the hotel.

It raised questions for Matt and I about the idea of social business.  Social business is a relatively new term that describes a company that is set-up as for profit, but provides a product or service to tackled a social issue.  The values of the company are set in such a way that it makes decisions based off of both profit and the social impact – sometimes decisions that are in direct conflict with one another.  Also, as a for-profit business, there are other companies that are working toward solving the same social issue, but depending on how and where those companies are operating, you wouldn’t want to help them out with any developments you’ve made that could hurt your own profits.

So, with the clean cooking stove forum, they’ve brought together all these for-profit companies to work toward better solutions, then run into conflicts between them because companies are recruiting passionate workers from other companies and also wanting to hide their trade secrets, but collect more information that others have figured out with distribution and things of the like.  It seems like a nice idea to hold a forum like this, but from my point of view (which holds little weight as an out-of-industry observer) this might not be the best possible way to do it.  Or maybe the for-profit side is what would need to change.

Unreasonable holds the belief that only for-profit business is the solution to the world’s problems.  If people don’t make changing the world their day job, it’ll always be second priority.  Hanging out with Unreasonable for so long and getting so deep into their program, I can’t help but agree, but after seeing the stove forum conflicts, I’m thinking it can’t be as hunky dorey as its made out to be.  It’s great to work together until you start giving away profits.  The business world is a complicatedly simple place.

Minh, Mouhsine, Matt and I continued our work day in the hotel until the conference-wide stove demos happened at 4pm.  This was set up so that people could show off their technologies to one another at the conference.  No locals were involved.  Prakti decided to participate, but not light up their stoves.

Matt headed out to film and found all kinds of characters: characters in the variety of stove technologies, but also the people who created them.  Lots of geeking out which made for cute video.  A couple stoves were malfunctioning, so we got some hilarious smoke shots, and one stove, which used the heat energy to light an LED bulb, was destroyed on camera by the demonstrator.  “Aw jeeze,” the demonstrator said quietly, “I’ve destroyed it.  Yep, it’s destroyed.”  He held it out on camera and it was a little melted.  Oh, stoves.

Matt and I had found ourselves affected by the street food we’d been enjoying, so we decided to play it safe for dinner and walk down to the pizza place near where we found out tool kit a few days earlier.  It was a welcome walk after a long day of sitting and editing for me.

We ordered up the super bacon delight pizza, the seafood cocktail pizza and some onion rings for a healthy change.  Our entertainment while we ate was watching the locals at the salad bar.  There were little soup bowls provided at a salad buffet, and the locals would stand up iceberg lettuce around the edges, then begin loading the middle with veggies and noodles, then stick long carrots on the outside to support the lettuce.  They would build up the salad until it was three times taller than the bowl that it was in, then carefully walk to their tables where they would serve a five-persona family with the salad.  We thought maybe you pay $4.50 and only get one run through the salad bar, and that’s why they had to make such epic salads.  Or, there’s some local competition and it’s all about showing off.  Either way, it’s impressive.

With very full, greasy tummies we walked back to the hotel to keep on editing.  Matt and Mouhsine stayed up until about 2am working away, and I faded out to wake up early and finish the edit in the morning.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Stove Forum Filming and a Movie Night

March 20, 2013

This morning we slammed our Poptarts and malaria medicine and headed over early to collect our laundry from the restaurant across the street from the hotel. We walked into a relatively empty restaurant with a man standing watching TV and a woman breast feeding in the corner. Yet again, we felt like we were interrupting. The two greeted us kindly, and pointed to their mouths. We shook our head and pulled on our shirts and said the word, "laundry" hoping they knew what we were talking about and didn't get scammed yesterday. There could be a huge black market for stinky backpacker t-shirts.

The woman with the baby pointed to the fish take in the back of the room, so we walked over and found our clothes perfectly folded and wrapped in plastic. There was a piece of paper inside with 29,000 written on it. They tried to give us three bags, but we saw that we didn't own the third bag of clothes and gave it back to them. We paid the equivalent of $7.40 using dollars and riels, and took off with our sweet-smelling bag of clean clothes. Matt said he had never felt happier holding a bag of his own underwear. We haven't smelled good in a while...

We gathered up our gear and headed down to the main ballroom to film the panel that Mouhsine was speaking on about innovation and distribution of charcoal stoves around the world. We hadn't been to the ballroom before, so we got a little turned around. We wanted to arrive early to meet with the film crew that was in charge of the media for the conference and make sure we weren't stepping on their toes. We walked into an unmarked door that a man had pointed us to saying it was the ballroom and we walked into the very front of the 300-person room where a panel was still going.

The trick with situations like this is to pull out your most intimidating piece of film gear, act uninterested and walk confidently to a corner without making eye contact with the room. We did just that and seemed to get away with our entrance. The panel ended up running long, so we waited and waited, watching a cameraman who we thought was our contact. We waved at him, and he looked confused. It turned out he was from the UN, so he didn't care who we were or that we were filming. We never did find our contacts, so we just set up where we wanted in the front of the room and put a mic on one of the sound system speakers to the side of the stage since we didn't know how to get a feed from the soundboard.

Mouhsine was a part of a panel with three other companies and a moderator. I might be a little biased, but the first three presentations were painful to sit through, and then Mouhsine blew them out of the water by telling stories and showing video of a stove assembly time-lapse.

The panel got a little spicy when we realized that there is some healthy competition between the stove companies that were on the panel. It makes for an interesting get-together when you have social businesses meet who are targeting the same markets. The social side means well and has the same motive to help people who need it, and to do that, one should reach out and team up with other experts. However the business side means there is intellectual property and trade secrets and profit to be had, and sharing ideas and distribution and partners with other companies means giving some of that away. It has been an interesting dynamic here.

Matt and I had to get cranking on our edit, so we went back to the room and ate our cup of noodles that we had gotten our first day at the grocery store. It made for a far more efficient lunch for getting editing done. I continued to edit while Matt set out to film other pieces if the conference.

After many hours, we decided that we needed to take a break, and what better break from making a movie than to go and see one. I was craving popcorn, too, so a theater was in order. We researched a little bit about the Phnom Penh movie theater scene and found an independent theater called "The Flicks" which advertised cushions and air conditioning.

All the movies are free. You just have to pay a $3.50 cover fee for the day to pay for the air conditioning, and you can hang out in the theater for all movies being played that day. They are all volunteer run, and they sell popcorn, beer and full dinners that they order up from local restaurants and deliver to you hot during the movie. It's pretty much the best thing ever.

We decided to go with the double feature and see the mockumentary called, Ghosts with Shit Jobs and Quentin Tarantino's Django Unchained. We caught a tuk-tuk over to the theater and arrived just in time to be the first and only ones there. We walked into the wood floored place with starry eyes. You take off your shoes and enter into a very fun bar area with photos of silly Asian mis-translations on public signs.

We were greeted by an Scottish man who runs the place. We paid our cover fee, got ourselves a beer and some salty popcorn. The man immediately knew we were American, so he knew we didn't need the sweet popcorn. We found ourselves a spot on one of the padded benches and settled in for our double feature. The room was small, with home-built steps that had floor pads on the first two tiers and padded benches on the next two. The projector was high on the ceiling behind us and projected onto the large blank wall I the front of the room. Pretty clever.

We were joined by some young people and an older woman who was obviously a regular there, and we settled in wi our popcorn and watched the first film. It was an independent flick with a funny concept. It didn't need to be a feature film, but I appreciate the efforts of the director. At the break between films, Matt and I headed out to order up our dinner. We got a patty melt and a hamburger from Nom Mama's Deli. It came with French fries, and it was the taste of America that we needed.

We decided to test it the floor mats for Django, and found a spot in the front middle. Django was fantastic, and if you're a Tarantino fan, I'd highly recommend it. There's the usual gratuitous violence, but there are some scenes in there that are done so well, I was rolling on my floor mat laughing out loud. About thirty minutes in, we were delivered out piping hot burgers and fries, and it was so amazing, we were aghast that we don't have these types of cinemas in America. Our juicy burgers and hot fries with real ketchup (not Asian, sweet catsup) made the night.

After the movie was done, we found ourselves a tuk-tuk and rode back to the hotel. This particular tuk-tuk was fit for a princess. It had little flowing pink curtains that trailed behind. I couldn't stop giggling through the entire ride. We needed to share the moment with our friend, so we had the driver record a quick happy birthday greeting, then drive off dramatically, pink curtains in tow.

It was a late night, but so worth it.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

The Real Work Begins

March 19, 2013

We woke up early this morning to get our laundry over to the nearest restaurant with a "laundry" sign out front.  We had read online that you can bring your laundry to any place with a sign and they would clean it, fold it and return it to you the next day.  We read online that it was really important to get a receipt for your clothes and also count them and recheck them when you receive them back.

We found the closest place that looked the most legit, and barged in on some locals having breakfast.  We smiled at them and then asked the young woman who looked like she worked there if we could drop off our laundry.  She explained the pricing and then took our bag and told us to come back the next morning.  She went to the back of the cafe and through a door and disappeared with our clothes.  She seemed nice enough, so we left with plans to come back the next morning.  Worst case, we do our last two sets of clothes in the sink each night.  We're sick of our clothes now anyway after so many re-wears.

We walked out and saw a picture of a piping hot cup of coffee and were drawn to an outdoor cafe slash convenient store.  The man told us to sit, and we ordered up two cups of coffee without cream, and waited out on a couch.  The tuk tuk drivers heckled us a little bit, but we nicely turned them down, so they sat down for some coffee, too.

Out came two iced, black coffees, which we cringed at because of the ice.  The man stood watching us, so we decided we would just drink them quickly.  They were sweet and concentrated, and we realized that they're probably designed to be watered down by the ice.  We were finally recovering from our bout with Indian food, and decided to still chug them down.

We went back in to the hotel for a quick Skype with Matt's parents.  It's been fun to have a chance to Skype with our friends and family again.  It's been far too long!  We miss you all!!

After Skyping, we headed off to replace Matt's screwdrivers and plier kit that was confiscated back in Cochin's airport.  Our gear needed a little bit of tweaking, so we decided replacing it would be the best bet.  We looked online to find a hardware store and found a place with tools that was about a 15-minute walk from the hotel.  We took off for the store and found it full of power tools.  We walked around a bit and found a smaller tool booth with a young woman running the store.  We found some second-hand tools and cracked boxes of tiny screwdrivers, but it was exactly what we were looking for.

We chose some needle-nose pliers, some short pliers with wire cutters, a set of tiny screwdrivers with a tweezer and a reversible American flag-handled screwdriver.  The woman added it all up and the grand total came to $7.50.  You can pay in American dollars here, but they don't have any coins for change.  They just use their money for change on the dollar at 4,000 riels per dollar.  It's customary to pay with dollars and riels and also receive change that way.  We happily took our tools and felt like we stole them for how cheap they were, and realized we would have this patriotic screwdriver forever and always be able to tell this story.  So good.

On our way back we found a bakery with a delicious display out front.  We were drawn inside and found a white, stamped pastry-looking thing that had red ink on it that said Bayon Bakery.  We weren't sure what was tucked inside the pastry disc, but it felt dense, so we decided to test it out and call it our lunch.  We purchased the mystery item there and then got some juice on the way back to our hotel from a street vendor.  We decided to eat our lunch in the comfort of the air conditioning since it was soooo darn hot outside.

The pastry was soft and flaky on the outside and thick and gooey and a yellow on the inside.  It was a familiar taste from the pastries that we had tasted when we were in Japan.  The inside was sweetened sweet potatoes made into a thick jelly goo.  It was very sweet and dense, and splitting it fixed our sweet tooth for the day.  Not the most nutritious lunch, but very filling.

I started on the edit for the India episode that we're going to cut using what we shot while we were in Auroville with Mouhsine and the Prakti team.  Matt went around the conference picking up our establishing shots and some video of the Prakti booth.  After that, it was time to head back out into the heat and get our b-roll of Phnom Penh.  We planned to go out later in the day because of the heat, and 4:00pm was still a little hot, but gave us a couple hours of sunlight.

Our goal was to get enough footage to get a feel for Phnom Penh, so we decided to head over to the night market which led us to Wot Phnom, or the hill temple. We made it a couple blocks and found a festive fruit stand. We asked if we could take some photos, and the woman said it would be okay, so Matt shot some video of her and her piles of fruit. With our DSLR, it's usually easier to ask for photos and not explain the fact that we're shooting video.

Down the street were four little kids playing soccer on the corner. Three boys with no shoes and one little girl in nothing but a pair of white, plastic underpants. We said hello to them and walked through their makeshift field, and one of the boys hit another boy with the ball. I reacted, which got a rise out of them, so the boy threw the ball at me. I stopped it with my feet and kicked it back to them. We all started to play soccer together, and Matt started filming. They were so cute and so sweet.

The little girl noticed Matt and went to check out the camera. When she saw the boys on the screen, she squeezed with delight. We called them all over to watch themselves on the "TV" (a word they understood), and they laughed and laughed. They headed out to perform some more, then came back to watch again. We were the best thing to happen to their soccer game.

Matt and I moved on and found the temple. It was a neat place, but we found the little kids who were feeding the cages birds to be more fascinating. There were so many little kids exploring the world. It didn't seem like there were any parents around, but all the adults seemed to be watching out for them.

We went to the front of the temple and I bought some postcards from a man with one leg. He was very kind, and not pushy. I appreciated that, and I did want some postcards. He then pointed out a tree across the street. He asked if I saw the black fruit. There were huge black pods hanging down from the branches really high up in the tree. He said they were black fruit bats, and laughed at his joke. Just then, one of them spread their wings and took off. They were massive! I then noticed that the tree was full of hundreds of them. Matt turned his long lens on the tree, and as we stared, a young woman, about my age joined us.

"What's so interesting about that tree?" She said in a German accent. I pointed out the bats, and she was impressed. She introduced herself as Inga, and said that she was traveling through Asia for her three week university break. I was impressed that she was traveling alone. She said she had only been scared once in Thailand when she was robbed by a man with a knife. "He only got $30, but I was pretty shaken after that." She said flippantly. I told her we were going to the night market, and she asked if she could join in. We saw nothing wrong with that, so our duo became a temporary trio.

We made our way to the night market and found a giant concrete block with abandoned tents and a few pieces of trash. There was a big sign that said Phnom Penh night market. It was only 6pm, so we thought it was a little early for the night market to be over. It was a tad confusing, but we decided to look it up later. We figured it only ran on weekends.

Inga saw some beverage vendors and went to a cart to buy a coke. They had glass bottles, so she pointed out the one she wanted and the man pulled out a plastic bag, popped the top,of the bottle and poured the Coke into the bag. He tied it o and stuck a straw into it, then handed it to Inga. We all had a pretty good laugh at the sight of her bagged Coke. We figured that maybe they get money for recycling the bottles, and it behooves them to keep them and it's cheaper to buy bags than cups. There's a lot of figuring to be done with Inga.

She wandered off and Matt and I got distracted by some men playing a game. They had a small springed object like a badminton birdie, and they would kick it to one another by allowing it to fall behind their backs, then kicking it back over their heads with the bottom of their foot. It was very impressive. A dad and his son came over and gestured to us to come play. I knew I'd hurt myself, so we declined, and his little son was interested in the camera, so we showed him. He went out to do a little zombie performance, egged on by his dad, then came back to watch it. Highly enjoyable. All the people were so pleasant and so nice. It's a very soft culture here. Smiling and politeness without submission. Just my style.

Matt and I said goodbye to Inga, and she headed off to find the palace. We went over to the Tonle Sap river to get some shots of the action by the water. We found some giant concrete steps that led down to tall, green grass. The steps were scattered with people exercising, talking and relaxing. Two young boys came over for a visit, and hung out for a bit, then headed on their way.

We spotted an older man going down to the river with a stick over his shoulders that had two dangling watering cans to his sides. He was collecting river water and then taking it back up the hill to his garden. It was the perfect thing to shoot. Matt jogged over to him, and I helped him down the concrete wall to the very neglected portion of steps that the farmer had his garden under.

I waited up top while Matt shot to his heart's content. A thin, Indian-looking man sat down next to me. He was small and gentle, and he smiled as he sat. I smiled back and we started a light conversation about what we were both doing in Cambodia. He had an import/export business based out of Nepal, so he was here on business seeing if Cambodia would be a goof partner. He'll be here for five weeks. I told him about our trip, and he liked the idea of it.

Matt came and joined us, looking a little protective at first, but the man reached out his hand and helped Matt up the wall. Matt sat between us, and we continued our conversation. I had said how busy both of our lives are with all the travel, and he shared his philosophy on life. He said that there were only three days in life: yesterday, today and tomorrow. Yesterday is gone, and tomorrow will be what it will be, you can't control either, so you need to just live in the 24 hours that is today. Matt and I liked his way of saying, "live in the moment."

He got quiet and looked off into the sunset and over the river. His smile faded, and he started on a new topic. "Sometimes I can't believe in God," he said out of nowhere. "I mean I do believe in God. I do," he said a little defensively, and went on to say that when he looks at the world he sees the rich, then he sees the poor who don't even have a meal for the day. "How can there be both?" he asked the sunset. We both sat for a moment thinking about his comment when a small lizard dropped onto my lap. I ruined our contemplative moment with a scream, and almost fell off the wall. Both Matt and the man caught me, and we all had a pretty good laugh at the situation.

He checked his watch, and realized he needed to meet a friend, so he shook both of our hands firmly and said he was glad to meet us, the walked off down the street into the dark city. Matt and I decided it was time for us to get dinner, too, so we headed down a street to see what was around. We found a lit up street that was buzzing with action and came upon the local street market where women and men had veggies and meats that they were selling to locals. There were also places to buy plastic home accoutrements and street vendors barbecuing ducks and fish. We hung out for a while gathering some great footage, then went off to find some dinner.

We found the best restaurant we could find. Dinner came with a free massage! We went in and had fish and chips, then went back out front to cash in our free massage. We took off our shoes, sat down next to the tank and stuck our feet in for the fish to nibble away at. We were sharing the tank with a couple of Aussies that had been in for a while. The feeling of the fish nibbles created two Schultzy giggle boxes. Neither Matt nor I could stop giggling at the feeling. It was quite the experience.

I got out the camera and shot some tights of the fishing eating Matt's feet, and I can't wait to get the footage where people can see it. It's crazy!

We dried off our feet, caught our breath, then caught a tuk-tuk back to our hotel. It was a late night, but a fun night and we gave our feet a good, soapy wash and went to bed.

Waking up in Phnom Penh

March 18, 2013

Our comfy beds were far too difficult to get out of, and our alarms went off far too early.  I got myself up and connected with the Clean Stoves Forum crew in order to get permission to film.  They approved our request, so we'll be able to film on Wednesday and Thursday.

Matt and I lounged through the morning, then headed out to find a grocery store to load up on drinking water and some breakfast items and snacks for the week.  The hotel is really expensive, so we wanted to have our own stash of goodies when we're editing video for hours in the room.

We walked out the front of the hotel and were bombarded with tuk tuk drivers asking if we wanted a ride.  A tuk tuk is basically a motorcycle carriage that will take you across the city for $2-3 per ride.  We wanted to walk to get our bearings on the city, so we nicely turned them all down.  Compared to India, Cambodian people are so pleasant.  One guy who was trying to get us on a tour, assertively approached us with a poster.  We said we didn't want to go to the tour but were looking for a market.  The man stopped in his tracks then gave us directions to the market and wished us a happy day.  I highly appreciate the Cambodian people after our experience in India.

We found the market and got some dried fruit, nuts and Pop-tarts for a little taste of home.  We headed off with our snacks to find some lunch and came upon a local place with plastic chairs and umbrellas on long tables.  No one spoke English there, either, so Matt took the initiative and led the young waiter around to other patrons and pointed at what they had and ordered up two.  The people at the tables found us amusing and helped us order in Khmer, their language.

Matt helped himself to the fridge where we got a couple Coke's, and they served us up a bowl of soup, a dried fish and a plate of hot, white rice.  The soup had big red strings in it, and when I pulled on one, there was a bright pink prawn on the other end.  They leave the heads on the shrimp here.  His little black beady eyes made me realize why we chop them off in America.  It's a little freaky to see his cute little face before consuming him.  The soup was really delicious.  It had boiled vegetables in it with the prawns and some beef and some weird, white bubbly things that I avoided.  The broth was spicy and gingery and very good.  The fish was pretty dry, but salty and good, and the rice was the perfect match to fill us up.  We talked amongst our selves and smiled at the locals who didn't seem to mind us there.

We paid a whopping $3.50 for the meal and made our way back to the hotel.  It was ridiculously hot outside, so we were looking forward to the air conditioning.  It's important here to cover the knees and the shoulders for women, so I was wearing my jeans.  Far too hot.  I'm going for the skirt tomorrow.

We made it back to the hotel in time to set up for our interview with Mouhsine.  We wanted to get his explanation of our India adventures before he started in on the Cambodian business and got busy with the forum.  We used the window and the bounce board for light since we didn't bring any lights, and popped up one of his stoves on the luggage we had brought.  It wasn't a bad interview set-up.

After the interview, Mouhsine took a 20-minute power nap and headed to another meeting.  Matt and I captured and logged the footage and then headed off to find some dinner.  We walked the other way this evening to explore to the North of the hotel.  We found a place across the 8-lane street, and used our Vietnam traffic skills to cross.  Basically, you just start across the eight lanes of traffic and avoid the larger vehicles.  The motorcycles will go around you if you make eye contact with them.  It was dark, so we had to be very careful, but we made it.

We must have looked extra hungry because we had made it near the restaurant we were aiming for, but a man in a uniform and a whistle in his mouth pointed to us and waved us over.  He guided us into a lighted stairway that went up to a second floor, open-air restaurant.  We figured we were up for whatever, so we went with it.  We found ourselves on a balcony in the BBQ Party Buffet Restaurant.  The waiters guided us via pointing over to the raw meat that was laying out on the buffet.  You load up your plates with the raw stuff, then head back to your table where they've placed a round, metal barbecue run by charcoals.  The charcoals heat a dome with holes in it, and they place a piece of fat on the top to run down and grease the sides.  Down in the well of the dome is boiling water where you cook your vegetables.  We learned this slowly, slowly with much help and guidance from our waiters.

We find ourselves amusing the Cambodian people more than anything.  At this point, we had gathered up some scallops, but didn't know how to eat them.  Our waiter couldn't understand what we were talking about, so another waiter who spoke a little bit of english came over and realized what we were trying to get help with.  He brought over a full plate of scallops and showed us how to open them with our fingernails and slurp them from their shells.  They were buttery and delicious.

We had more than our share of meat and vegetables, and felt full and happy with our meal.  We wanted a photo with our helpful waiters, and they embarrassingly posed for a photo with Matt in front of the BBQ Party Buffet sign in the inside part of the restaurant.  Matt and I headed back across the 8-lane road and back to our hotel.  We found Mouhsine inside working away, and called it a day.

Oh, it was nice to be in a real bed with a real pillow and a blanket.  Have I said I could get used to this?

Coming to Cambodia

March 17, 2013

Matt and I woke up after two hours of sleep to the Thai Airways "we're landing" theme song.  The lights came on and the windows opened up and we saw Bangkok, Thailand below us.  Matt wasn't feeling tip-top while we were at the Chennai airport, and when I woke up, I realized that it must have been something we both had eaten.  Now was not the time for such things, but there was no stopping it.

Because of our delay, the plane was touching down with 15 minutes to our next plane's boarding time.  We crossed our fingers hoping we could make our connection over to Phnom Penh, and didn't need the additional delay of not feeling well.

After landing, we ran through the airport and finally got to our terminal on the other side of the Bangkok airport.  We had to go through security again to get up to the gates, so we rushed a little which got Matt caught with the camera.  Highly suspicious materials surround that camera, and it took extra inspection time.  He was finally freed, so we ran to make it to our gate.

The people had already boarded, and we had 20 minutes until the flight took off, so we knew we had 10 minutes until the gate closed.  It was emergency, though.  There needed to be a bathroom stop.  We sent Mouhsine ahead thinking that worst case scenario, he could collect the stoves and our luggage on the other side.  We ran to through the gate and onto the bus just in time for the doors to close and take us to the plane.  We were the last of ten people to get on the flight, and once we sat down we watched them load our bags on the plane.  We were so thankful to see those bags through the window.

We crashed out on the flight and napped after having our egg and mayo sandwiches.  Mouhsine came over to check on us, and said that he must have also eaten what we ate.  Bad news bears for our crew.  We ended up sitting next to a man he knew that was also headed to the conference.  We had a nice short chat during egg sandwich time.

We woke up again in Phnom Penh, and the three of us made our way to the restrooms in the visa area and hung out for a bit.  Oh belly, belly, belly.  Bad news bears.  Mega-town.

We gained back some of our strength and didn't have a line to get our Cambodian visas, so that was nice.  We found our stoves and camera gear going around and around on the luggage carousel, and went outside to find a SIM card for our little cell phone.  $5 for two hours worth of calling to the US and free calls to other cell phones on the Smart Mobile network.  Not too shabby.

We found a taxi that took us to the Phnom Penh hotel, and realized that we weren't in India anymore.  Our accommodations were a million times better than Youth Camp.  Phnom Penh hotel is one of the fanciest hotels in the Phnom Penh area.  We got in on Mouhsine's reservation. He's being treated by the conference since he's one of the panelists, so the three of us are sharing a room in this fancy place.  He said he didn't mind, and we certainly don't mind, so we decided that we were all family now.  That's now how he introduces us to his other stove friends and colleagues.

The three of us decided to go and find some lunch after settling in.  We walked around the side of the hotel down a side street and found a little outdoor restaurant in the Muslim part of town.  The women all had their heads covered, but their outdoor pots and grills had some tasty smelling food.  No one there spoke english, so we did the point method to choose out our food items.  I got some noodle stir fry with rice.  Matt got an egg dish and Mouhsine some dried fish with his rice.  They braved the iced tea on the table, and I went with the water bottle in my backpack.  After our stint this morning, I was going to be extra careful on my digestive system.

We finished up lunch and headed back to our hotel room for a nap.  It felt amazing!  We also opted for a dip in the pool and a shower.  This is the life, for sure.  We got to check our e-mails and play on the internet, and then headed for dinner.  Our day was full of sleeping and eating, and it was wonderful.  We had a little bit of jet lag, so we needed it.

Dinner was at the Paris Pho Restaurant where they had massive binders with all pictures for the menu.  We flipped through the pages and got some Pho and spring rolls.  It was St. Patty's day, so we sprung for some Tiger beers.  The cold beer tasted good on the hot, humid night.  Everything was delicious, and we all went to bed in our real beds on our real pillows in the air conditioned room with a smile on our faces.  What a day.  I could get used to this place.

Monday, March 18, 2013

So Long and Thanks for all the Chai

March 16, 2013

We said good-bye to India today.  We're currently sitting in the Chennai airport waiting for our 1:30am flight.  I have a feeling that tonight and tomorrow morning will feel like one long extension of today.  Or maybe yesterday.  Okay, I don't know who I am's 2 in the morning.

This morning we got up early and packed up our room at Youth Camp to be ready for departure at the drop of a hat, or technically at the call on our India phone from Mouhsine.  We took down our clothesline in the room and packed up the clothes that stank too badly into plastic bags in hopes that they wouldn't contaminate the semi-clean ones.

We took off on our moped to try and gather some morning town b-roll and found an amusing turkey that wouldn't cooperate with us.  He was out for courting and not interested in being filmed.  Some ladies on bikes and men-folk out brushing their teeth made up for the troublesome turkey.

We decided to go out of our norm and get breakfast and Aurolec this morning, but learned that they opened at 8:30am, so we were too early.  We killed some time and came back to find that today they weren't opening until 9am.  We were hungry and wanted to move on with our day, so we headed for the bakery.  We were short on petrol and still needed enough to get to the office and then back to the spot where we were to return it.  The bakery is tasty and cheap, so neither of us put up much of a fight to the decision.

I went for the chocolate croissant that Matt gets everyday and realized that I've been missing out the whole time we've been here.  We got four cups of tea because we were enjoying our last moments with the Tea Spot pups and hung around for longer than usual.  Patterson Grace was extra affectionate, Jackson had a muzzle full of white powder which we assumed came from him feasting on something from the bakery, so he had no interest in us.  Jumpy was laying off int he distance and we feared the worst had happened in the night.  He never did move for the duration of our breakfast.  Poor fella.

Our next step was the Prakti office to get our final wifi fix and say goodbye to the team.  Only Xavier was there, so we hung out with him and checked email and played a little on Facebook.  We finally got ahold of Mouhsine and he said that he and Verdous, the taxi driver that serves Prakti, would be at Youth Camp by 12:45 to pick us up.  This gave us two hours to get the bike returned and grab some lunch.

We drove over to New Creation where we owed the bike and found a short line.  The return process was highly complicated.  We handed the lady the keys and she said, "Thank you. Goodbye, then."  We walked off feeling content, but also very slow.  We missed our wheels already.

The closest lunch spot was Farm Fresh, so we decided to get our final dosa and lassi.  I had a mint dosa, and Matt the cheese veggie, then we both finished them off with banana-vanilla lassis.  A lassi is like drinkable yogurt.  Like a milkshake, but with thin yogurt.  Very delicious and surprisingly light.

We walked back to Youth Camp and brought our stuff down from our second floor room.  We've coined a new term: "The Bay Castle Effect."  When we first moved into Hotel Bay Castle, we stuck our noses up at the accommodations.  We were grossed out by the sheets and the bathroom and the cockroaches, and were afraid of the bed and opening the windows.  With the first power outage our faith was lost in the place.  By the third night, though, Bay Castle was home.  It was quaint and homey.

When we moved to Youth Camp, our noses went straight into the air.  A community squat toilet? And cold showers from a pipe from the wall?!  What was this place?!?!  Then, two nights later, we had done our laundry in the buckets we found in the showers and hung them outside and around our room.  We'd rearranged the beds and the desk to make an edit spae and the power outages were predictable enough to work around.  We had made it home and no longer saw it for what it was, but rather what we had made it.  Our little home away from ship.  The Bay Castle Effect had worked again.

We sadly said goodbye to our little abode, padlocked up the door (that's how you lock and unlock it) and went for checkout.  There were people waiting for the room, and they were asking questions about it.  They were freaked out by the community bathroom idea.  "We have to share the bathroom?  How big is it? Do you have real beds?"  Matt and I chuckled to ourselves an wanted to defend the place, but we kept quiet.

I went to pay and the nice fellow who had been dealing with the uptight travelers convinced me that we had stayed four nights and not five.  I tried to explain that we had definitely stayed five nights, but he wouldn't hear it.  "No problem.  Four nights."  So, I paid the 2,000 rupees it took for two people to stay four nights at Youth Camp.  You know, $10 a night for the two of us.  Not too shabby.

Verdous and Mouhsine were waiting for us, so we loaded up the Toyota jeep and picked up (a different) Xavier and his girflriend who were both coming with us to Cambodia for the stove forum.  Xavier was from Spain and had come to research Prakti before the conference to see whether or not they'd like to partner with them.  They had lunch at Aurolec and then we zoomed off with Verdous at the wheel for a three-hour trek to Chennai where the stove factory was.  Xavier wanted a tour, and Matt and I wanted some footage.

Indian driving outside of Auroville is quite terrifying.  There are two lanes, but people drive in the middle to provide themselves with the quickest passing abilities.  The problem is that people going both directions have this idea, so there's a lot of last minute chicken games happening.  I didn't release my abs until we got to Prakti labs.  Verdous didn't seem concerned.  Matt thinks he has high blood pressure.  I think he enjoys it.

We arrived just before 4pm which is when the daily, rolling power outage occurs in the area for tow hours, so we got two minutes of production before the place's power was cut and the workers headed for tea.  We shot some static stoves and machinery around the office and got fun explanations of how the stoves were made.  Matt especially enjoyed the lathes and presses.  We got some tea from a traveling tea saleswoman who makes her round during the outages.  Smart lady.

Mouhsine needed to take some stoves to Cambodia, so our next order of business was trying to figure out how to get eight stoves in our checked luggage between the five of us.  We got creative and decided to see what would happen when we arrived at the airport.

Verdous took us to a restaurant that he highly recommended which was clost to the airport.  We had some delicious masala dosa and Pepsi.  They had Auroville ice crea, so we had to partake.  The mosquitos came out in force, so we called dinner done and got back in with Verdous to go straight to the airport.  It was only 7pm and our flight was at 1:30am, so we couldn't get into the airport yet.  We had to find a place to kill three hours.

Xavier required a place with beer, which is hard to come by in India.  We asked around and were led to a second-floor restaurant called, The Golden Chariot.  It was tucked away on the domestic side of the airport away from the food court.  We had a load of baggage because of the stoves, so to get there we had to go up the elevator.  The elevator attendant would only let us go in one at a time with our bags, so we slowly, slowly made our way up to the Golden Chariot.  It took a good ten minutes to get us all up to the glass encased bar.  I would compare it to a rundown Widow McCoy's.

We ordered up two large beers for everyone to split and they gave us a plate of chickpea squiggles for munching.  We talked about what our homes were like and what the quirks were in each country and Xavier told us about the human towers that they make in Spain.  We were all pretty tired, so our punchy conversation got a little funny.

At 10pm, we said goodbye to the Golden Chariot and all of the strange characters that it had attracted, including the man with the beer belly which forced the front of his pants down and around and the lowest button on his shirt to dangle by a single thread.  Matt and I were eyeing him each time he walked by expecting it to pop.  No such luck.  Three hours of anticipation was entertaining, though.

We made our way down the elevator, one at a time, then into the main doors for the international terminal.  Mouhsine, Matt and I were on the same plane, and Thai Airways wasn't open yet, so we helped Xavier and his girlfriend get their stoves checked.  We shuffled laundry and stoves and hairdryers and bags until we got three stoves in their checked possession. and sent them off to catch their midnight flight.

Once our time came around to check in, we did more magic with our checked luggage and got everything through.  We made it through security to our gate only to find that our flight had been delayed until 2:30am.  With our tight connection in Bangkok, we were slightly worried, but couldn't do anything about it now, so we sat down and waited some more.

We finally got on our flight.  Thai Airways has a magical set-up with fancy colored chairs and flight attendants that bow and bring you headphones and pillows and play relaxing music during take off and landing.  It's kind of like having a soundtrack to the flight experience.  I dig it.

We were served a hot meal of rice and chicken curry that came with a salad, a roll with butter and a little coconut-apple cake and coffee.  They treat you right on Thai Airways.  They were playing the film Hitchcock which both Matt and I wanted to watch, but since it was 3am, we both awkwardly fell asleep on the plane.  Matt's seat wouldn't stay in the upright position which made take-off hard, but the rest of the flight good for sleep-mode.

Friday, March 15, 2013

Smoke Signals

March 15, 2013

So, we woke up to pouring rain around 4am, and Matt jumped up and ran outside to get our laundry that used to be drying, and was now moistening, on the clothesline outside. He also moved our moped to a drier location. He came back in and it was pretty much too late for the clothes and the motorcycle. Makes for an exciting wake-up call, though. We fell back to sleep.

So, we woke up to the sound of gunfire. Around 6:30am it started up. Not quite sure what was being shot, but I doubt it exists after how many rounds it went through. Matt and I laid awake listening to them getting closer wondering if they were heading for Youth Camp.

Around 7, I decided to just get up. It was our last full day in Auroville, so we might as well get started early grabbing all of the shots we want before we go. This hippy commune lifestyle has grown on me a little and I'm not sure if I'll wear shoes again. Matt and I were wondering what we're going to drive like after being in Vietnam and now India. People just go and the flow goes, too.

We gathered our gear and headed off to, you guessed it, the bakery! Today was slim pickins, so Matt had his usual chocolate, but I had to settle for raisin. And by settle, I mean thoroughly enjoy. It made for a great pairing with milk tea and puppy dogs. We took some photos of our furry friends, but did so from afar because the French family next to us was feeding them, so they completely ignored us.

We made our way over to the lab to meet Mouhsine and gather some pick-up shots of him in his lab, at the office and also some sound bites. He's a great sport about doing things over and over for the camera. We appreciate his patience with us crazy video kids.

At 10am we went with Nithya and Katherine to our last home visit together. We brought a single burner stove and asked the woman to cook using the new stove this time. She set up Prakti's stove next to her clay stove and we watched her cook and asked her thoughts on it compared to her other one. She noticed there was less smoke, it didn't give off as much heat and it cooked her food faster.

She whipped us up some Nepali snacks as a treat. Fresh cucumber, radish and cilantro salad from her garden with lime juice on top and sautéed greens with onions, garlic, ginger and some awesome mystery spices that got us all licking our chops.

While she cooked, we played with her two and a half year old son who was the cutest thing in the world. He was very curious but also very gentle. We showed him our camera and the sound recorder and his favorite was singing into the microphone. His grandpa was there and he took him off to the side to play with him for a while. It was charming to see them together.

We made up games playing with the unripe guavas and then chasing around the dog and the chickens with a tricycle. The neighbors came over and said that they each wanted one of those stoves, so there's hope that they might sell a couple in the area.

Before we left, the woman went and got us a bag full of ripe guavas for us to eat. They were mega delicious. I had no idea what guavas looked like on the outside or how to eat them. An enlightening and delicious learning experience.

It was time to go get some lunch, so Matt and I headed for our waterhole out at the Visitors Centre and decided to eat there at the Right Path Cafe. I had an amazing paneer that I can't remember the name of and Matt had the roasted chicken with crazy-good spices rubbed in. We enjoyed our lunch with a usual stray dog watching from just under the table. Matt decided not to name this one.

It was 100-degrees today and wicked humid because of the rain last night, so Matt and I were tuckered out. We collapsed for a little while back at Youth Camp and found the cold showers to be most inviting. We waited for Mouhsine to finish up a meeting so that we could get our final epic shot that we needed in Prakti-land.

We got the call that he was back at the office, so Matt loaded up me and the camera, and we zoomed over to the office.

Matt's idea was to get a slow motion shot of Mouhsine walking down the path to Prakti lab through some smoke. We piled up some dead brush, got it lit up, then smoldered it a little to gather up smoke near the camera lens. Then, we pointed Mouhsine off to the end of the property where he rounded a corner for us five times. At the end of each walk, he kindly blew on our small brush fire to get better smoke going for the camera. He's such a good sport. We got the shot. Watch for it in the Prakti vignette coming soon...

For dinner we decided to get nostalgic and get a burger and fries from Farm Fresh as our last meal in Auroville. It's India, so they loaded the meat with spices and put cucumber and mayo on the burger. So good. So, so good. This evening's meal came with a tiny black cat who begged at our table. The dog was busy barking at a cow outside the fence. The cow was busy bonking a trash can with it's head. We were too busy munching a cow to pay attention to the cat. This is not the real India. This is Auroville.

We bought a couple chocolate tarts to go and went back to Youth Camp hoping the power was on so we could edit. It came on eventually. Good night, Auroville! Tomorrow we head to the factory for a tour, then to Phnom Penh for the last leg of our trip away from the ship.

The Highs and Lows

March 14, 2013

The Auroville Bakery and Tea Stop got our patronage once again. You just can't beat a $2 breakfast that fills up two people. Matt and I have made some furry friends at the Tea Stop that visit us in hopes that we'll drop some goodies for them. Matt has named the tan one with the collar, Jackson, and the black one that places it's head sweetly in Matt's lap and watches him chew, Patterson Grace. There's a new one with a lame leg that we affectionately call Jumpy because of his crazy walk.

The crows also hang around hoping to get in on the treats, but they're less bold than the dogs. One young newbie had gotten her chocolate croissant and left it alone while she got her tea, and a crow took off with the whole thing. Matt witnessed it, and I turned just in time to see the girl realize her breakfast was gone and then see the crow drop it on the ground. Patterson Grace trotted over and helped herself.

Since we had gotten up early to run our errands, we happened upon the morning begging crowd. We're now preparing to head for Cambodia and wanted to tie up all our loose ends including getting visa photos printed.

On our way out of the bakery area, we were accosted by a young woman and her sickly, tiny baby. The girl looked to be maybe 15. She put her hand to her mouth, then to the baby, then out to us to fill with money for them to eat. We were on our moped already, so we shook our heads and drove off, almost hitting the other woman with a baby who was waiting outside of the gate.

We drove to visit the ATM and to get another liter of petrol and were found by two little boys. One had a drum and he marched right up to us as we paid for the gas and played a few beats, then held out his hand. I shook my head, but his brother wasn't far behind. His brother had one good eye and a bowl of rice on his head. He pointed to the banana on the stand and then to his mouth. The drummer boy, mad that we weren't paying attention to him, pulled my arm and started saying all the fruits that he wanted. I said no very sternly and turned away from him. The woman that was selling us the petrol yelled at them, but it didn't phase them.

Matt and I got in the bike where the boy was now leaning and walked it ahead to get him off. He was yelling by this point, so Matt gunned it and we drove off to find some postage. I felt upset by the experience, and I couldn't quite shake it.

We got lost looking for the post office, so we decided to give up on that endeavor for now and go get our water for the day. We ran back to Youth Camp to get our empty bottles, and I was still in quite the mood from our begging experiences.

The thing that I have the most trouble with is deciding how it should be handled. I feel strongly that giving money or food isn't the right answer. I think teaching them that when they heckle white people, they get what they want will just promote more and more people to do it. The scams will get worse, the children's injuries will get more grotesque, and families and adults looking for an easy business will depend on the handouts more and more.

But, when I'm looking into the eyes of a child and maybe denying him the only meal he'll get today, I feel like I should be more compassionate. Matt and I just had tea and pastries for $2. I could pay $5 and buy him rice and bread and bananas and feed his family for the day. This is something Matt and I could more than afford with our American-sized wallets and disposable income. So, why should I have the gall to deny him this?

I can't figure out what the real issue is for me. I'm sad because I wish these kids were in school, and I wish the parents could be working in a fun job they enjoy. I wish there were opportunities for the women. I wish that the economy in the places we've visited wasn't based on tourism, but that's the reality.

I'd really love to hear other people's thoughts on the issue because I don't think I'm a seasoned enough traveller or knowledgable enough in the cultures and societies we've visited to really make a sound argument. It definitely put me in a funk for the morning, so Matt and I took some time at Youth Camp to have a reset.

We decided to go and get our water, send our mail, print our visa photos and then get Matt a haircut. This set of errands would be a perfect distraction to my woes. We made it out to a different post office near where we fill up our bottles with dynamized water. We discovered a neat amphitheater and walked around the premises for a bit. Then, we grabbed water and started off for Town Hall where we heard we could print photos.

After a little bit of lost driving, we walked up to Town Hall where there was some sort of funeral happening, slipped into the back door and found the xerox services. The printing was quick and painless, and we got what we needed to get into Cambodia. (We hope!)

Matt had seen a barber shop over by our old hotel, and he had his heart set on going there for his hair cut. We parked on the side of the road and walked up to the man cutting hair in a bright pink building. We asked how much a haircut was and found out it was a whopping 50 rupees. So, less than a dollar. We sprung for it, but the man in the chair had to finish first, so I walked to the handicraft shop next door to see what they were selling.

I was greeted by a very boisterous momma-type character who was very much from the Middle East and not India. She old me to come in, come in! "Browsing is free, so you had better get in for a look." I obliged and she opened the door and led me into her one-roomed handicraft haven. There were all kinds of neat crafts made out of marble and wood and beads and fabric. Things were very nice looking, and the prices seemed to match me perceived quality. We were running low on fun-money, though, so I had to go check with Matt and see how much I could spend on fun trinkets like ankle bracelets and elephants.

I thanked her and said I'd come back (because I really did want one of those anklets), and she grabbed my chin, wiggled my face and said that she would give me a discount because I was now her daughter. Excellent. I shall cash that in...once I go make sure Matt hasn't been smuggled away.

I found the pink building with no Matt in sight and with a sheet over the door. His haircut seemed a little too private. I barged in, and found Matt in the chair, sprayed down and getting the chop from a nice little man named something like Ver-Dow-Son. He was quick with the sheers and did a great job on Matt's hair. At the end of the cut, Verdowson pulled out what looked like a well used dust pan broom and proceeded to whack Matt all over with the bristles. It was so rough, I found myself laughing aloud at the situation. Matt was not hiding his discomfort at the flogging, and the man wasn't noticing a bit. It was hilarious.

Verdowson finally felt satisfied with the amount of clippings he had removed from Matt's face and neck, and put down the brush. Matt approved the new do, and tipped 10 rupees. We gathered our belongings and sauntered back to momma-handicraft. She was delighted to see me, and even more delighted that I wasn't lying about a husband and a haircut to get away from her. She approved of Matt's hair and then told him that I was her daughter and I was getting a very good price. She said my big smile meant an extra discount.

I don't think she had had a sale in a while and I don't think we we're getting any discounts, but we went in with a budget and found what we liked and left with a couple marble elephants and an Indian anklet for me. With all the women decorating me at their homes, they got me in the mood to have their ankle jewelry, too. So cute!

With all of our errands done for the day, and Mouhsine busy all day tying up loose ends to leave for Cambodia with us, we went to lunch at Aurolec, an Indian buffet that runs in a cafeteria in an office park type place. Mouhsine had taken us there the first day, and we were so afraid to eat anything or drink the juice that we mostly ate white rice. Today, our confidence was boosted (having not gotten sick once - knock on wood) and we loaded our metal pans and tried a little of everything. They had fresh watermelon juice today with a little bit of cinnamon in it. It was delightful! We ate out on the back patio and watched some really neat birds hunt in the gardens and then some dogs fight over food scraps.

Happily full, we went to Youth Camp for our daily cold showers. Then, over to Prakti labs to check in on the team who were busily meeting. Sabagya is leaving tomorrow morning and Mouhsine was meeting with a visitor who had come to check out the lab, so everyone was trying to get everything done before the team splits up again. We head out on Saturday morning to film Mouhsine's factory and then go to the airport to catch our 1am flight to Phnom Penh.

We decided to test out Roma's one last time, and we were not disappointed. They took great care of us and we tried some new Indian dishes with our butter, garlic nan. Matt tried the mutter paneer masala, which is a tomato-cream based curry with tofu and peas in it, and I had the ginger anu gobi which were sautéed vegetables with fresh ginger grated into them. Makes for good sleeping with a tummy this happy.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Home Visits and Tangos

March 13, 2013

Well, the day started like any old day in Auroville, except we went for the onion tart instead of chocolates and banana pastries at the bakery. The two cups of chai are standard. There's no messing with that. Our plan was to film another home visit today where Nithya and Katherine were going to take us to another home to deliver a Prakti stove for testing.

Matt and I arrived at the Prakti office to find Katherine sitting outside working on her computer. We were locked out. Apparently 9am was too early for the team. The power was on, so we did have Internet access. This made it all better. We Facebooked and waited.

The rest of the team arrived and we headed in and sat through their quick morning meeting. Then, Katherine, Nithya, Matt and I headed off to a village close by. We drove up to the cement house and were greeted by two women. One was the gardener that we had seen near the Prakti office and the other was her very weathered mother-in-law who lived with them. She had three sons, but we only met the youngest one. He was about 7.

They brought us in and got right to work stoking up their cement-molded stove to prepare us all lunch. These women are such hard workers and chop and peel and boil all the ingredients so quickly. They went to a nearby tree that they refer to as the life tree and gathered a few branches off of it. This is the same tree that grows the "drumsticks" that we ate at lunch the day before. The drumsticks look like okra on the outside, but when boiled you can squish it into three sections lengthwise and then you eat out the middle much like you eat off the meat on an artichoke leaf.

The women set to work talking about stoves and stripping the leaves off the branches and gathering them to be put into the boiling vegetables. Meanwhile, one woman had gone and gathered flowers to put in our hair and found little tear-shaped, stick on pieces of fabric with tiny gold beads that they put between our eyebrows. They fought a little about whether or not mine was put on correctly, or maybe that I had no eyebrows, I'm not sure, they were speaking Tamil.

Matt had shot enough of the cooking by this point, so he headed out into the street to gather b-roll of the children who were playing. The children were very intrigued by Matt and they ran over to see what he was doing. He showed them playback on the camera and photos of them and they went nuts. They loved seeing themselves and they loved the camera. At one point Matt had a boy and a girl between him and the camera on his lap and one boy dangling over his shoulder all watching intently what was being captured. I really wish I had gotten a photo. It was way too cute for just a description.

A grown man approached us and decided that he wanted his photo taken. He had two drumstick plants and he sat down on the women's porch-slash-kitchen and posed with them out of his head like antennas. The women were very obviously annoyed with him, and Nithya leaned over and said that he "has the drink." Matt and I translated that as the town drunk. It's a dry city, so I'm not sure where he gets it. Probably the same place as we got our work-right-now-no-paperwork-no-passport SIM card.

We met the husband who had come home for lunch, and he was very sad. His brother was in the hospital after getting heart surgery and they now have to pay 150,000 rupees to get him out. He and his mother were very worried. It was hard to see and also difficult because we were there to sell them a stove.

Lunch was ready, so they laid out three banana leaves. One for me, one for Matt and one for Katherine. Nithya knew them, so she wasn't a guest. They say that guests are gods in India, and the custom is to treat them as such. They served us hot milk tea made with fresh milk from their cow with our lunch. They also brought out some pickled peppers and pickled mango for us to try. It was really, really spicy, but very flavorful.

I tried to finish my plate, since it's very rude not to, and when I looked away I got another pile of rice and curry. I did my duty and finished it off. It does help that the food is so delicious.

We said good-bye to our hosts and also the cute little kids outside and packed up the camera and took off. Matt and I headed back to the office to drop off the camera and then freshen up back at Youth Camp. It was too hot standing in the sun while we filmed the ladies in the shade, and Matt and I were drenched with sweat.

After a cold shower (there's no shot water at youth camp), we headed down to the visitors center to pick up water, then back to the Prakti office to use their Internet and dump and sort through all of our footage in a place that had power.

After finishing our post-production duties, Mouhsine invited us all over to his friend's house where he's staying for authentic Morroccan soup. The key ingredient, he said, was having a Morrocan cook it. Katherine met us at 6:30pm to take us over to the house. With three of us following at night with the lights and the dust, we got lost three times. At one point Matt and I followed another bike off the road to a sketchy place and quickly spun around to search for the rest of the team in our caravan.

We finally made it to the cement home in a nice part of Auroville to find a room full of people and a nose-full of delicious spices. Mouhsine was in full soup production, and they had made salad and cut melons and also bought samosas, a pastry-like pyramid stiffed with curry potatoes and vegetables. Everything tasted amazing and we met people from England, Peru, Columbia, and somewhere in South America that I can't remember.

After we ate, we headed over to the visitors center where there was a free tango show. Matt and I stayed for the first half, then, thinking it was over headed out. Apparently, there was a student dance portion and then open tango for the crowd to enjoy. I think Matt knew about this, but was afraid I'd make him dance. His favorite part of the whole thing was when the two stray dogs came in and walked through the crowd. One woman was very upset and made some weird sounds to shoo them away, but actually called them all to her. They surrounded her thinking she had food, and her flailing display was now more distracting from the performance than the sniffing dogs.

We made it back to Youth Camp in the dark, and called it a night.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Some Home Cookin' for the Team

March 12, 2013

Falling asleep was difficult last night.  The room that we’re in has three windows with just screens and curtains and then four screened holes near the ceiling on one side for ventilation.  There is no sound buffer to the outside world, and we realized that India comes alive at night.

About a half hour went by before the power went out and the fan stopped, so it was just us and the world.  I know I fell asleep because I remember my dreams, but I felt like I was awake for most of the night.  I’m sure tonight will be better as I get used to our new surroundings.

Last night I had attempted to brush my teeth in the community bathrooms and found that the spiders come out in the night.  It was fine when the single light bulb was on in there, but as soon as we had a blackout, I was out of that place.  All I had was the light of our new Nokia cell phone, so I decided a toothpaste rinse was close enough.  Don’t tell my dentist.  I woke up this morning realizing that my toothpaste extravaganza got a little out of control and there were dried white spots all down the front of my shirt and even on my shoulder.  I might have been a little more scared than I let on.

I woke to the sound of our fan coming back on around 6am, and then lay awake watching it and contemplating the world.  The morning is full of a whole new set of noises.  There are the cute little birds that sing nice songs.  There are the roosters that crow before the sun comes up and don’t stop crowing even though it’s been up for an hour.  There are what I call the “key change” birds.  They do a three note song that goes up in key every time it sings (think Celine Dion or Bon Jovi – “we’re halfwaaay there!”), then when it gets too high, the bird starts back down low again.  Then, there are the crows.  They make regular crow caws, but every once in a while they do this terrible, long scream, like a young boy who got punched in the gut.  The melodies are nice until those stupid crows chime in.

As I lay there, missing my developed world and my comforter and air conditioner and cat and American food and coffee and Western sit-style toilet that I don’t have to share with 30 other people, I started to laugh at my situation.

People live here.  They deal with it, they thrive in it, and I’m whining to myself about how I miss all the luxuries that I can certainly live without.  Our American lifestyles make survival so darn easy.  We don’t have to worry about whether or not the water that’s available at anytime and in every place we go is going to make us sick.  We don’t have to worry about whether or not we’ll be able to have a single meal today – some people go to bed hungry, but the amount of Americans dying of starvation are pretty hard to come by.

What we do have to worry about are things that we’ve put in place to complicate our lives.  It’s like we got bored with the whole survival thing because we figured it out, so we added more complications to keep us busy.  I don’t have a great commentary here, I just wanted to make myself feel better in our really-not-that-bad-at-all living conditions.

Matt finally woke up, so we had our bananas that we bought yesterday from our Petrol lady and took our malaria medicine, itched our mosquito bites from the night and wondered if we had Dengue fever to look forward to, then headed off to the bakery to find breakfast.  We did our usual routine of buying two flaky pastries, one chocolate and one banana, for a whopping $1.13, then headed to the Tea Stop behind the bakery to have our breakfast with chai, for a whopping $.55.

We were supposed to meet at the Prakti lab at 10am to go into the village and visit a home that cooks with a traditional, outdoor, concrete stove.  Mouhsine’s plan was to have Nithya, the office manager for Prakti in India, give a stove to this family and have them test it out for a week at which point they could decide to buy it.  Matt and I had our cameras ready.

We met at the office to find the team working away.  They finally had power back!  Everyone was jumping for joy!  Yea power!  Yea internet!  Too bad we’re headed into the field today…

Matt shooting as they prepare lunch.
Mouhsine, Nithya, Sabagya, Katherine, Matt and I motored over to the other side of town to a family’s home.  Mouhsine described them as the top of the base of the income pyramid.  They welcomed us in and gave us some sweetened cucumber juice that tasted just like melon.  (Matt and I made a mental note to pop some Pepto Bismal later).  They were happy to cook lunch for all of us and demonstrate how they use their traditional stove.

Theirs was made out of poured concrete and formed the equivalent of a two-burner stove.  They loaded it with wood, lit it up and began boiling up potatoes and vegetables and pouring in the spices.  It smelled wonderful!  The coolest part was watching them cut up the vegetables using a piece of metal that stood upright on a stand and they pressed the vegetables up against it to cut them – rather than laying the vegetables down and pressing a knife onto them like we would.  The fact that they were doing this all outside in the dirt made me realize why they used this method.

This is our host's stove area.
We filmed for about an hour and interviewed them about how they liked their stove.  Mouhsine brought them a double-burner Prakti stove that he wanted them to try out and Nithya translated and explained to them what the deal was.  They said that they would be happy to test it out and said that we could come back and film in two days to show them cooking on the Prakti stove.

The brought us upstairs in their home and laid out straw mats on the floor for us to sit on, then laid out large pieces of banana leaves on the floor in front of us.  They dumped a pile of rice on each leaf then poured the piping hot curry on top of that. Then, they put a small pile of spiced potatoes next to our big pile of curry rice.  Potatoes are a delicacy since they are so hard to grow here in this region, so they gave them to us since we were their guests.

Our banana leaf meal.
Matt and I got a lesson on how to eat with our hands, Indian-style.  You use your four fingers as a spoon and load up rice and curry onto the tips, then you use your thumb to push the food up into your mouth, avoiding contact with your mouth and your hand. Make sure to only use your right hand, though. Then, you shake off the excess bits of food back onto your banana leaf, and go in for more.  (Matt and I made a mental note to pop a couple more Pepto Bismals later hoping to avoid putting our left hand to work…if you know what I mean.)

When you finish, you fold the banana leaf in half, but you have to make sure that you fold it the correct direction, otherwise, you’ve offended your hosts.  It was really nice to have Nithya there to guide us since we had a culture and language barrier working against us.

I'm basically a local.
For dessert, they handed us metal cups full of a hot, white gel with what looked like tapioca and spaghetti suspended in it.  It tasted a little bit like tapioca pudding.  It was sweet and milky, but also potentially dangerous.  It’s very offensive not to finish your plate here, so when your host gives you something, you have to work on it at least a little.  Matt and I were faced with the challenge of walking the line between cultural sensitivity and gastrointestinal tolerance.  Knowing that we no longer have our own private bathroom, we’d prefer to stay on the safe side, but knowing that we’re getting sick video means we might just have to risk it.

After we finished lunch, we thanked our hosts, then visited their sister’s house just next door.  Her home is a single room, clay hut with a thatch roof.  They make their money off of milk and eggs and they gave us a tour of their dirt yard where they keep the cows, goats and chickens.  They had little week-old goats that enjoyed sucking on anything we put on the ground.  The tripod, backpack, toes, you name it, they nibbled it.  They were so darn cute!

Our hosts picked limes from their tree and made us some fresh lime juice which Matt and I finally had to turn down.  Our stomachs definitely can’t handle their water, so I offended them by saying no, and Matt took his and later “accidently” spilled it behind a barrel.  Whoops.

We headed back to Youth Camp, hot and very sweaty.  We had the afternoon off, so we decided to take our showers and do our laundry in the buckets that they have in the showers.  We’ve been doing some pretty serious re-wearing of our clothes, so our plastic dirty clothes bag got to the point of no return.  Attempting to fly to Cambodia with this stench might constitute getting a hazardous materials permit. We HAD to do something about it.  We utilized the clothesline that hangs behind our building and dangled our shirts and pants outside and then decorated our room with socks and undies using Matt’s parachute cord as a makeshift clothesline.

Feeling refreshed, we headed back out on the town to collect some b-roll of Auroville.  We had to get the Matrimandir, some street traffic and townscapes.  We began with the Matrimandir.  It’s a giant globe in the center of town with a white padded room inside for meditation.  Some people might say it’s a little bit cultish, but here in Auroville, they say it’s a legacy of enlightenment meant for all humanity.  Well, the slice of humanity who are dedicated enough to get a guest pass, tour the gardens, wait two days, watch the orientation video, prove that you’re spiritually open and seeking enlightenment, then get another pass that gets you past the gates into the inner globe, up the spiral staircase, then up the winding ramps where you can meditate in a white padded room with a golden crystal in the middle.  We’ve still got four more days here, and we’re extremely curious.  We’ll see what happens.

Matrimandir is impressively large and surrounded by walkways and gardens that spiral away from it.  It’s definitely worth looking up Auroville on Google Maps and seeing it from the air.

While we were suspiciously hanging out at the locked gate with our tripod and camera precariously teetering over the fence to get a good shot, a motored rickshaw pulled up and out came an old Indian woman.  We heard the driver say something to her in Tamil, the language they speak here, which was littered with the English word, “camera.”  She tottered out of the rickshaw toward us, pulling up her sari and walked straight up to Matt who was ignoring her hoping she would go away.  I smiled and waved politely, and she smiled back.

She walked up to Matt and bumped him out of the way so that she could assess the image we were capturing.  She looked at the screen, then looked at Matt and gave him an approving thumbs up.  She said something that we didn’t understand, but it ended in “super,” so we felt that she was pleased.  She abruptly turned around back to the rickshaw, got in and pointed forward for her driver to head out.  A small cloud of dust, and she was gone leaving us wondering who she worked for.  We theorized that maybe Mark and Larissa had called for a creative director on the ground to check in on us.  Seems legit.

We hopped back on our moped and took of for the visitor’s centre.  We had our hearts set on peanuts and espresso, but when we arrived, we realized that this little coffee shop had “iceberg coffee.”  What?!  Ice cream floating in coffee drizzled with chocolate?!  On this hot and humid day, we have nothing to say, but, “two please.”

We filled up our water bottles with the dynamized drinking water and sipped our glacier coffees and ate our peanuts happily in the dwindling heat.  We wanted to make it back to the middle of town before the sun set to get some town footage, so we toodled on our merry way.

After our town shots, we headed back to Youth Camp to drop off our gear and charge our batteries, but the power was out, as usual.  We decided it would be best to just move on for some dinner and hope that the power was back on when we got home in the dark.  We had our heart set on Roma’s again, but they were having some sort of group party that foreigners weren’t welcome at, so we headed for Farm Fresh.  We decided to spring for their burgers, but after an hour’s wait, realized they forgot about us.  We ordered dosa, which is apparently the only thing on their late night menu, and we finished that and went for bed.  A quick dinner turned into a three-hour waiting period, but we’re on India time now.  No complaints.

When we got back to our camp, we had power.  Woo hoo!  We brushed our teeth in the light, then decided to read a little bit before bed.  At 10pm, the power shut off, so we laid in the dark talking.  A man next door to us in his screened room decided to make a phone call in the dark.  He was definitely Indian, but we couldn’t tell if he was laughing or crying.  Either way, he was doing it loudly, and for a very long time.  We started to make scenarios of who he was talking to and what they were talking about, and they got to be so funny, I think the man heard us laughing and shut up.  Sleep came easily after that.