Tuesday, March 22, 2005

20. March Showers

Fig. 20-1: Storm Front

Old Cities are usually called Old Cities because they've been around a while, and most of the time, they're quite cramped because they were built before a time when cars needed pass down their narrow streets. Varanasai's Old City is no exception to this model, and while it makes for very atmospheric and charming (if not claustrophobic) surroundings, it also means that there aren't many places to go when you need to jump out of the way of the people, bicycles, motorcycles, carts, cows and dogs that people the neighborhood's five-foot-wide streets.

The walking here is precarious, when trying to dodge stubborn cows, pedestrians, motorcycles, and mopeds while at the same time trying not to fall into either a tourist-trap silk shop or (much worse) one of the many piles left in the middle of the road by any given cow that happens to be wandering around. After spending a couple of good long days navigating this maze of crowded and cow-pie covered streets, an out-of-season rain storm chased us indoors and onto the rooftop restaurant of our guesthouse to watch as the storm front rolled in (see Figs. 20-1, 2).

The level of delight that registered with most of the tourists that had gathered to watch the storm's arrival was probably two-fold, as the appearance of the storm was sudden and stunning, while at the same time it seemed to promise to bathe the streets of the filth that we all spending so much energy trying not to accidentally step in. However, when I emerged from our guesthouse the next morning, I learned that things don't always work here as they work in clichés that involve rain washing all the scum off the streets, and the downpour had not cleaned the streets at all. On the contrary, it simply dispersed what had previously lay in inert clumps, and made for a thin layer filth that there was no way of avoiding by way of careful stepping.

Gross? Absolutely—though add this into the equation: all that any of us have for footwear these days is sandals. Ick. Let's just say that we're not afraid of shit, although I can tell you that there was much foot washing when we got back from a long day of walking around.

Fig. 20-2: March Showers Bring April Flowers?




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