Waiting and waiting and waiting

Siliguri Travel Blog

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The train

After using the internet for hours last night, I went back to my favorite little pizza place this time for garlic chicken and mushroom pizza.  I was kept entertained by two young kids who played with me with their balloons.  One of their caretakers asked me if I was a spinster!  (She just met unmarried, but still it made me feel old or something).  I don't know if I've mentioned yet that everyone is always calling Madame which is somewhat curious, but most people talk very polite English. 

This morning I again enjoyed my complimentary breakfast (but this time I asked for cold milk and only two slices of toast- I'm learning!).  I then took a cab down to the share jeep station.  I was very grateful to have a sane driver this time who actually let people pass him on occasion and paid attention to the road.  It drizzled during the drive (first sign of any rain during the entire trip) which was nice because it cooled it down.  But it caused a landslide at one point so we sat for nearly an hour as police directed traffic.  It's quite amazing how they do road work on these narrow roads.  There is really only one main road that is extremely narrow and winding that goes to these cities far up in the hills.  So they essentially pave one side at a time using mostly physical labor and the one vehicle that pounds the pavement down.  (Sorry don't remember the name).  Then these old women walk along with their handmade brooms and sweep away any excess.  It all seems extremely dangerous and they were all covered in tar and oil.

Arriving in my least favorite town of Siliguri I quickly ran to a restaurant to hide from the constant noise and people begging for money.  I generally understand when the obviously poor people beg for money, even though I never give because I've been told repeatedly not to.  Apparently many beggars make so much money begging they lose motivation to get an education or try to obtain a job, similar to drug dealers in the US.  Someone also told me that some beggars will cut off limbs in order to make more money begging, though I hope this isn't really true.  But as a "Westerner" I seem to also attract a different breed of beggars, those wearing nice suits who probably have more money than I do.  I have had some men who demand money because I'm an American and call me names when I refuse, it really makes you want to avoid people after awhile.  I've found good methods to dismiss people quickly, but it still annoys me when people are clearly just greedy.  It is very hard to say no to some of the children, but just due to sheer volume you realize it's impossible to give money to them all anyway.  I tried giving a few rupees to some kids once and they right away demanded more while my taxi driver yelled at me, so I'm learning slowly but it's still very sad.

I've noticed throughout my trip that fellow Westerners always seem to come up to me and join me for small parts of my journey.  Maybe it's just relief at seeing someone else who understands English, but it's amazing to me how they seem to come out of nowhere at times and always befriend me.  The first exception to that happened today.  When I went to a restaurant in Siliguri, there was a group of about 10 people who's accents were definitely American.  I smiled at them and said hello when they'd pass by, but none of them would say more than hello back.  Overhearing their conversation I heard they were Christian missionaries, but they have been the unfriendliest Westerners I've met thus far!

The restaurant for some reason didn't have any lights on inside so it was very difficult to read the menu, but soothing at the same time.  I had some great Tandoori chicken and made a huge mess but I didn't really care.  Now I've just been waiting at an internet cafe, hiding from the chaos outside until its time to head to the train station.  I'm very ready to get out of this dirty smelly city.

I just saw a picture of a bull running down 494.  Minnesota is starting to look an awful lot like India!  :)

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The train
The train
Siliguri
photo by: cmgervais