Monday, March 05, 2007

Photo, um, Monday

Trust me when I tell you that hitting the delete key was the most merciful thing I could have done to today's post.  The lack of sleep and multiple time zones have given me a serious case of the dumb... so instead of a post I'll give you some pictures to pass the time:

First up are a couple of pics from Purim (OK, a couple of days before purim, but who's counting?).  This is Ariella in her very modest Batgrrrrrl costume:

And Gilad, being the wise a$$ that he is, decided to dress up as 'a good question'... as in; whenever someone would ask him what he was dressed as, he'd answer; 'good question'.  That he didn't get beat up this year is proof of G-d's mercy! 

You can't really make it out in the picture, but he has a big question mark on his face and the words 'good question' written in Hebrew and English all over his shirt:

The view from my hotel room today is sorta neat... if you're into big golden idols, that is.  My room looks down into the courtyard of a Buddhist Temple of some sort, and I've been watching a small army of monks in orange robes come and go.

By way of introduction to this last picture, I should probably apologize in advance to my Buddhist readers for the proximity of some potty humor so close on the heels of the previous picture.  Sorry... There's really no good way to segue into this.

I spotted this poster in a mens room this afternoon.  Luckily I was alone in there when I saw it because it gave me a really bad case of the giggles... and as everyone knows there is no talking, laughing or giggling in the men's room. 

The bad part is that just as I was snapping the picture I heard the door to the bathroom open, and a second later a very grim looking Asian businessman came walking around the corner of the partition. 

The look on his face said 'please take your European perversions back to wherever you came from', as clearly as if he had said the words out loud.  There simply is no plausible way to explain away flash photography in the men's room.

It's worth noting that both of the people in the poster - the one breaking the 'no talking' rule, as well as the one who has just peed himself - have Caucasian coloring/features.   For context, imagine this sort of poster in a public restroom in say, Chicago... and both characters have Asian features.  'Nuff said.

I have to go pack my bag for the last leg of my trip.  Seeya.

Posted by David Bogner on March 5, 2007 | Permalink | Comments (11) | TrackBack

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

In which Zahava never lets David go anywhere alone, ever again.

Anyone who has ever traveled abroad for work... especially to developing countries... can attest to the fact that there is little glamour and even less time for playing tourist (much less relaxation).  14 hour work days are the norm and no matter how carefully you arrange your schedule something will happen nearly every day requiring that you reshuffle your plans.

However, despite the fact that I miss my wife and family more than words can describe and I never sleep well when away from them... there is something to be said for the hotels where they put us up.  Obviously security is a primary concern, but with added security comes a certain level of, um, luxury, that doesn't take much getting used to.

For instance, the hotel where I am staying here in Goa is actually a large compound that was litereally carved from the jungle along a huge stretch of beach.  Rather than being one large building, the resort is made up of dozens of smaller buildings that are connected by bridges and raised paths through the jungle.  Fresh water pools, waterfalls and scenery out of "The Jungle Book' is all one sees in every direction.

The rooms are set apart from one another and each is a self-contained building surrounded on three sides by water.

Here is the main room:

Off to one side is the essential work area. 

On the other side of the room is the entrance to the bath 'suite' (no joke)!

Yes, that pit you see in the background is actually the bathtub.  You walk down three steps to get into it, and the number of people it can accommodate would probably be illegal to attempt in most places.  Set into the ceiling is one of those giant shower heads that makes it feel like you are in a huge rainstorm... and next to the tub is a big dish of fragrant flower petals.

On the other side of the room is a set of glass doors that lead out onto a big covered balcony overlooking the pools and the jungle.  When I opened the drapes to take this picture several monkeys scurried off into the night.

Don't worry honey... I'll try to take you with me on my next trip.  :-)

Posted by David Bogner on January 24, 2007 | Permalink | Comments (14) | TrackBack

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Tradition and Women

I find it interesting that in many corners of the planet it is the women who, by choice or convention, tend to dress in traditional garb while the men... don't.

India is no exception to this trend.  While many men dress in traditional garb for ceremonial and festive occasions such as weddings holiday celebrations, for the most part they dress in western-style attire for both business and casual circumstances.

Indian women, on the other hand, are much more likely to wear traditional garb in their day-to-day lives.  Of course many women opt for western-style clothing here, but the percentage that opt for Sarees and Salwan & Kurtas (the long pajama-like tunic and pants often called a panjabi suit) is very high.

Here is a typical scene:

Here is another glimpse at some women in traditional attire (note the southern India tradition of putting fragrant flowers in the back of their hair):
See you in Goa later today.

Posted by David Bogner on January 23, 2007 | Permalink | Comments (14) | TrackBack

Monday, January 22, 2007

Haves... and have nots

One of the many things that has contributed to my sense of 'otherness' and cultural disconnect here is seeing the enormous gulf that exists between the wealthy (or at least upper middle class) and the poor.   Walking down the street you see young and old begging.  All of them are unspeakably dirty and many either have some sort of incredible deformity or are carrying filthy infants around to garner sympathy from passing tourists.

For their part, the locals seem to take no notice whatsoever of these street people and step around and even over them the way you or I might avoid dog droppings on the sidewalk.  I was briefed before my trip to NEVER give any of the beggars money because I would be instantly swamped by hundreds of them demanding handouts. 

Here are two pictures I snapped within moments of one another that I think aptly describe this vast gap  in the social  strata.

This is a beautiful hotel called the Taj in Mumbai.  It is an old Colonial-era building on the seashore that is in the center of a large area where tourists and locals stroll.

As I pulled up in a cab near the Taj a filthy street urchin stuck his head into the window and began demanding a handout. 

India seems to be all about contrasts.

Posted by David Bogner on January 22, 2007 | Permalink | Comments (11) | TrackBack

Saturday, January 20, 2007

Postcards from the edge

OK, I guess I owe you some kind of explanation so here goes:

1.  I can't see my site.  Yes, that's correct... the part of India where I am (Mumbai) has my site blocked for some reason.  Therefore I had no idea that I had double posted my previous entry until a few kind souls clued me in. 

2.  I can read your wonderful comments thanks to the email notification, but I can't respond.  You see, responding to your comments would require me to be able to leave a comment of my own... which would require being able to actually see my site.  See item # 1.

3.  I have been working 16 hour days here and have had almost no time for personal stuff.  Touring has been slim to none... and even my family have had only the occasional phone call.  So if you're feeling neglected, get in line behind Zahava and the kids.

I have no idea if Delhi and Goa will be any better in terms of site access, but in case this situation continues for the duration of my trip I will simply post a couple of pictures every day or so... sort of 'postcards from the edge'.  Feel free to comment.  As I said, I can read your comments via the email notification... I just can't respond on-line.  If you say something truly inspired I'll probably send you a direct email response.

So here we go...

First up is a picture I took from the back window of my taxi of a family outing, India style.  Note that not only is the mother sitting side saddle (with a newborn on her lap out of sight), but there are a total of 5 people on this motorcycle! 

Next is flower stand where the flowers and customers seemed to be in competition for brightest colors:

Here is another pic of the side-saddle posture that I find so fascinating.  I understand why they are sitting this way (because of the saree), but how is it that they seem to have absolutely no fear of falling off?!


Last up for today is my nightstand in the hotel where I'm staying.  I'm used to finding the Gideon's Bible in the nightstand when I travel.  I usually just check i into the close so i can use the drawer for my tallit and tefillin.  But this time when I opened the drawer I noticed that the Gideon folks have some competition.  Along with the ubiquitous bible is a copy of Bhagavad-Gita.  Nice to see that they have all the bases covered.  :-)


I'll try to put up another postcard from the edge tomorrow night.

Posted by David Bogner on January 20, 2007 | Permalink | Comments (13) | TrackBack

Friday, January 12, 2007

Photo Friday (vol. LXXXVI) [Snowstorm edition]

I feel guilty that I haven't been able to pull together a Photo Friday in several weeks.  It's not that I haven't had pictures... it's just that I haven't had time to post them.

A couple of weeks ago we had a nice snowstorm here and I have been sitting on the pictures ever since.  So without further ado:

Here is a shot of the valley behind our house and a neighboring community community here in Gush Etzion (Neve Daniel):

Here is another view of the gush in the snow:

Our poor Lemon tree was buried... but seems to have survived the storm:

Of course, as soon as the snow began to fall heavily the roads were blocked with Israeli drivers who had no idea what to make of the white slippery stuff.  But that didn't stop some of us from putting on the X-Country skis and enjoying the lack of traffic!

Shabbat Shalom!

Posted by David Bogner on January 12, 2007 | Permalink | Comments (27) | TrackBack

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

'The Darkest Night'

If you haven't done something special yet for Hanukkah, tonight is the night.  Invite friends over... make a party... do something special with the kids.  If you have an old copy of the Birnbaum siddur (prayerbook) around the house you can even curl up in a comfortable chair and read through a seldom-remembered 'megilah' called 'The Scroll of the Hasmoneans' (Here is a translation thanks to long-time treppenwitz reader 'Customer Servant'... and a good, in-depth explanation of its history can be found here).

So, why is this night different from all oth.... um, sorry... wrong holiday.

But seriously, tonight is different.

The fifth night of Hanukkah is called 'the darkest night', not because it falls on one of the last days of the Hebrew month of Kislev (meaning there is no moon), but because it is the only night of Hanukkah that can NEVER fall on Shabbat.

That's right, you heard me right... the way the Jewish calendar is set up, any night of Hanukkah can fall out on a Friday night except the fifth candle.   

On all other nights we eat both bread and matzo... er, sorry, did it again.  What I meant to say was that on all other nights the light of the Hanukkah candles is enhanced by the light - and kedushah (holiness) - of the Shabbat candles.  But on the fifth night the light from the Hanukiah (menorah) has to fight the darkness by itself.

That's where we come in.  A nice tradition has arisen of bringing extra light... extra celebration... extra kedushah to this night by doing something special with family and friends.

I was so moved by this tradition when I first heard about it that I decided to create a tangible reminder that I could carry around with me throughout the year.  Since I was a teenager I had wanted a signet ring but didn't like the ones with initials (and I didn't have a family crest).  So Zahava created a simple design that would always remind me that at times in my life when I am not surrounded by light and holiness... I have to provide a little of my own to help chase away the darkness.


May your fifth night be bright (here's a picture of the big kids lighting the fifth candle from a couple of years ago).



Posted by David Bogner on December 19, 2006 | Permalink | Comments (26) | TrackBack