India is proving to be hard. I’m basically in a third world travel crash course, even after all my travel experience. For instance, I went to mail a package. Hardly even a package. Just two DVDs of photos. But instead of going to the main post office, which I was discouraged to do because it was far, I went to a closer branch that dealt with packages.
It’s the first post office that I’ve ever seen that didn’t have a business attached to it to help with packaging. So I was sent to a store to find card board. Then I was sent to another store to buy a whole roll of tape. Then a friendly local started helping me out. Locals make India. Everything would be infinitely more challenging if there weren’t over a billion people, many of them happy to help. So with help, I then walked for fifteen minutes to buy a special fabric that I had to cover the box with. It’s at that point that I gave up. Because after the fabric, I had to walk to another shop to buy thread and a needle. Then sew it. Then on to another shop to buy wax and a candle to seal the stitches with. From the first time I asked someone where the post office was, I spent 1.5 hours on the task. And I only got about half way. India is hard. I’m just going to wait for a smaller town to mail the package from.
Buying train tickets has been exponentially harder. I won’t go through the whole saga, nor will I explain what I’ve learned about how the process works. But I did spend at least 6 hours, waiting in lines, talking to heads of the station, researching online, trying to buy online, changing my itinerary,… SO many trains are full. And that’s totally normal. I can ride “jumping class”, aka the cattle car, which I did the first time and is best avoided. I’ve been supremely flexible with where I want to go, when I want to travel, etc, etc And yet, I’ve still delayed my departure by two whole days just for a four hour train ride. Oh how I miss having buses that you can just jump on. Finally I moved on to the next stage of my railway education and went to a travel agent. And booked my tickets!
Varanasi is a good place to linger in. It seems like there are many other travelers that are spending much longer here than me. I think that’s a difference with India. Travelers slow down and get stuck in places a lot. Also, being the low season there is a different crowd around. Like the french heroine addict that I’ve met passed out twice. Once in a store with the store owner telling him to go back to his hotel to sleep. Once on the stairs by the river, just waking up with the help of a crowd of locals and another traveler. He had lost his hotel the night before and ended up all scraped and bleeding and totally out of it. Bad times.