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Travelogue 1: Mussoorie and Flag Mountain February 3rd - 21st

Hello Everyone,
This is my first attempt at a travelogue group email. Although many of you were concerned, I am happy to report that India has treated me and my gastrointestinal system quite well. Although I have had a few excessive brushes with the porcelain goddess, I have had far more brushes with indigenous Devis (goddesses)of the Himalayan foothills.

I have spent the past 3 weeks (!!) in Delhi and Mussoorie, with a one day sidetrip (last Thursday) in Dehra Dun. While there I celebrated Shrti Sai Baba's Birthday at one of his temples, and saw Buddhist community celebrating Losar (Buddhist New Year's) on the same day as Valentine's day and Uttar Pradesh State Elections!!! Woah it was quite an eventful day in India!!

The reason I have come to this part of India for such a length of time is to study and learn Hindi. Since reaching Mussoorie two weeks and two days ago I have learned an impressive amount of basic Hindi vocabulary and grammar. I cannot speak or listen well, but can read and write like a 2nd grader!

As I have weekends free, this Friday I have purchased train tickets to Amritsar on the overnight Amritsar express. I have a 2nd class A/C reserved bunk sleeper and later I will tell you of further experiences traveling in India.

Thus far the most exciting was a 1.5 hour bus ride on a harrowing switchback mountain road while people stepped over me to sit on bags of flour behind me and I crammed my knees into the seat in front of me, 2 inches too close. The 36-seater (and this is pushing it for comfort) was stacked full of 50, 4 on laps of flour sacks and 10 standing check to jowl hanging on for dear life.

This, however, is nothing compared to the jeep I saw two days ago when hiking along the local Tehri Rd. There were 25 people in it, 5-6 on roof, 4 hanging out back like monkeys and 15 somehow packed like sardines inside, I wish I had a snapshot camera, as time did not permit me to take out and focus with my manual OM-2. When I return I will share some grand photos of Langur Monkeys and other such wild inhabitants of India like myself and friends and mountaintop vistas. Last week we Hiked to the top of Flag Mountain, upon the summit of which were 150-odd Buddhist prayer flags. Atop the ridge was a 360-degree vista from 8,000 feet, a panorama of the lower Himalayas and Greater Himalayan ranges as well as Valleys, like Dehra Dun.

Okay, I don't want to bore you or state too much, suffice to say I am in heaven here, I have not a complaint, even regarding lack of heat during 35 degree nights, or lost electricity for 8-10 hours, lightning striking my neighbor, the TV tower on mountaintop beside me, breaking a friend's window with shock. This is all part and parcel of experience and life, I enjoy India, even the 'Indian Attitude' - - that time is relative, if not today, maybe tomorrow. (this includes water which can run out, take a bath tomorrow.)

Unfortunately my robust system has handled this all with grace and I have not shaken a single American pound off my frame, I hope my activity and diet shape my body as much as it has begun to shape my mind (I feel better, healthier, happier and more ready to face anything anytime and have positive attitude always.)

This concludes my first verbal snapshot, I will hesitate a week or more before you hear from me next.