March 6-7. What is all this?

We hang out with Malte and the other couchsurfers, but they have other plans, so we part. We then work in Café Royal where Mr. Clinton once came (they still brag about it) to enjoy a decent cup of coffee and a wireless thread to our world.

In the afternoon we bargain a taxidriver down to a few hundred rupees to bring us to some obscure station in the outskirts of Mumbai, where we fend off the mosquitos for an hour before boarding our train to Bangalore that will take 24 hours. A twenty-four hour trainride can be hell, or a very relaxing experience. In order to make it the latter, do the following:
– have enough healthy snacks to constitute a substantial dinner. Buy them beforehand;
– after your meal you take a rest. Make yourself comfortable in your blanket (only provided in A/C class so bring your own if you take the normal sleeper class.
– in the morning read a good book or listen to an audiobook on your mp3-player. Then try to have a conversation with the other travelers.
– do some stretching to prevent annoying backpain in your place of destination.

What is all this? You tell me.

Like I told you, twenty-four hours. So this day is a sacrifice on the alter of Mileage.

In the evening we arrive in Bangalore, we find a hotel that is very comfortable and not too cheap; then we take a series of hot showers and fall asleep in front of the television set that is playing U2 videoclips.

March 6-7. What is all this?

We hang out with Malte and the other couchsurfers, but they have other plans, so we part. We then work in Café Royal where Mr. Clinton once came (they still brag about it) to enjoy a decent cup of coffee and a wireless thread to our world.

In the afternoon we bargain a taxidriver down to a few hundred rupees to bring us to some obscure station in the outskirts of Mumbai, where we fend off the mosquitos for an hour before boarding our train to Bangalore that will take 24 hours. A twenty-four hour trainride can be hell, or a very relaxing experience. In order to make it the latter, do the following:
– have enough healthy snacks to constitute a substantial dinner. Buy them beforehand;
– after your meal you take a rest. Make yourself comfortable in your blanket (only provided in A/C class so bring your own if you take the normal sleeper class.
– in the morning read a good book or listen to an audiobook on your mp3-player. Then try to have a conversation with the other travelers.
– do some stretching to prevent annoying backpain in your place of destination.

What is all this? You tell me.

Like I told you, twenty-four hours. So this day is a sacrifice on the alter of Mileage.

In the evening we arrive in Bangalore, we find a hotel that is very comfortable and not too cheap; then we take a series of hot showers and fall asleep in front of the television set that is playing U2 videoclips.

March 5. Slumdog CORP.

The Dharavi slum is allegedly the largest in Asia. Ten million people live here. It is the slum of the ‘slumdog millionaire’ movie. But this slum seems totally peaceful to me. Interactions, however chaotic at first sight, go smoothly, people are smiling. It might be just the surface, of course. We walk around through the narrow alleys that remind me of the refugee camp in Beirut. We see people’s tiny dwellings, toilet bedroom and kitchen integrated in the same 4 square meter concrete box. There is a public borehole toilet – 1 rupee entry – and people do hold it in order to save that rupee.

CORP is doing a very good job and we are glad we come to support them here. We visit some educational programs, and attend a rehearsal of a play for women’s day. I hope to get the script of that play so that it could be adopted by our friends in Africa. Yeon has her hands painted with Mehendi, that is one of the skills they are teaching here. After a couple of months course the girls can go out and offer ther Mehendi skills to earn some money. We also visit a tailoring workshop that is in need of more sewing machines – we decide to donate one.

We have invited the other couchsurfers to come too, but I guess the concept of Charity Travel is too strange for them. Please comment this post by answering this question: is it such a far off concept?

March 5. Slumdog CORP.

The Dharavi slum is allegedly the largest in Asia. Ten million people live here. It is the slum of the ‘slumdog millionaire’ movie. But this slum seems totally peaceful to me. Interactions, however chaotic at first sight, go smoothly, people are smiling. It might be just the surface, of course. We walk around through the narrow alleys that remind me of the refugee camp in Beirut. We see people’s tiny dwellings, toilet bedroom and kitchen integrated in the same 4 square meter concrete box. There is a public borehole toilet – 1 rupee entry – and people do hold it in order to save that rupee.

CORP is doing a very good job and we are glad we come to support them here. We visit some educational programs, and attend a rehearsal of a play for women’s day. I hope to get the script of that play so that it could be adopted by our friends in Africa. Yeon has her hands painted with Mehendi, that is one of the skills they are teaching here. After a couple of months course the girls can go out and offer ther Mehendi skills to earn some money. We also visit a tailoring workshop that is in need of more sewing machines – we decide to donate one.

We have invited the other couchsurfers to come too, but I guess the concept of Charity Travel is too strange for them. Please comment this post by answering this question: is it such a far off concept?

March 4. Bump!

Malte, a Berliner man on a mission, arrives. His venture is making a photographic documentary about couchsurfing. He is meeting two girls he is going to follow on their way down to Goa via Pune and other smaller towns. His camera is very professional. In the afternoon Suyeung, a 24-year old Korean traveler and one of Malte’s falcons, arrives at Captain’s place and we have some conversations together, and I see how Yeon is happy speaking Korean again.

We go out for a long walk through downtown Mumbai and I carry out a long cherished plan of mine: I play a bump. I want to be someone whom the beggars wouldn’t approach. So I find some old rags, a pants and a shirt and something for on the head to cover my too well-kempt hair, I take off my shoes, attach some dirty plastic to my glasses, and rub dirt on my arms, legs, and face. What would be the result? Would I be ignored? Or would beggars look through my camouflage and still see the wealth in my dirty white skin?
I walk for half an hour, with Malte taking some photographs (I reckon I am an excentric couchsurfer) and I am plainly ignored. I see some richer people frowning and wondering as they pass the place where I lay down, I see a kid that is approaching Yeon and the others but does not hold up its hand to me. Police officers don’t see me, nobody sees me. I am living, for a very short while, the life of a nameless street bump. The loneliness must be unbearable for them. How does their spirit survive?
I finish the experiment and change my clothes in a parking lot, observed by a guard that can’t believe his eyes. Then we have lunch in a nice traditional place, and that is about it for this day.

March 4. Bump!

Malte, a Berliner man on a mission, arrives. His venture is making a photographic documentary about couchsurfing. He is meeting two girls he is going to follow on their way down to Goa via Pune and other smaller towns. His camera is very professional. In the afternoon Suyeung, a 24-year old Korean traveler and one of Malte’s falcons, arrives at Captain’s place and we have some conversations together, and I see how Yeon is happy speaking Korean again.

We go out for a long walk through downtown Mumbai and I carry out a long cherished plan of mine: I play a bump. I want to be someone whom the beggars wouldn’t approach. So I find some old rags, a pants and a shirt and something for on the head to cover my too well-kempt hair, I take off my shoes, attach some dirty plastic to my glasses, and rub dirt on my arms, legs, and face. What would be the result? Would I be ignored? Or would beggars look through my camouflage and still see the wealth in my dirty white skin?
I walk for half an hour, with Malte taking some photographs (I reckon I am an excentric couchsurfer) and I am plainly ignored. I see some richer people frowning and wondering as they pass the place where I lay down, I see a kid that is approaching Yeon and the others but does not hold up its hand to me. Police officers don’t see me, nobody sees me. I am living, for a very short while, the life of a nameless street bump. The loneliness must be unbearable for them. How does their spirit survive?
I finish the experiment and change my clothes in a parking lot, observed by a guard that can’t believe his eyes. Then we have lunch in a nice traditional place, and that is about it for this day.

march 3. Yes captain, no captain.

We fly to Mumbai and arrive there in the morning. The airport looks nice and transportation to downtown, down the peninsula, is easy to get: we take an autorikshaw and a slow commuter train to the place where our couchsurfing host lives. The man is a captain and the place where he lives is an enclosed community for port personnel. We make it to his door and he lets us into his large apartment. We are offered dinner and shown our own room, with comfortable mattresses on the ground. There is a number of servants assisting us on a wink.

Now Captain Arvind is not a character of a Bollywood movie. He doesn’t talk too much, and we can’t imagine him dancing. Actually, he does not really interact with us and shows no interest in our project. The atmosphere is quite weird and we start wondering why this man signed up for couchsurfing in the first place? Meeting Western people to underline his status, because his career couldn’t really provide that?

Anyway, we have a good night’s sleep and a warm shower. We will be able to stay another night at the Captain’s place, before he throws us out…