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 anymore...it'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.