Our First Trip To Europe & The Middle East - 1975

Discussion in 'Postcards from Planet Earth' started by Shale, Jun 24, 2015.

  1. Shale

    Shale ~

    Our First Trip to Europe & The Middle East

    Note: I am writing this belated journal in April 2015 while on a 10-day cruise to Barcelona Spain. I really should have written it years ago, as I now realize there are gaps in my memory of 40 years past. I did make a list of places and dates taken from a previous passport and from those skeletal remains I will try to flesh out my travels with Jim Hewitt, my love and my partner from 1973 to 1978.


    In 1973, New Orleans was a mystical place and I was into the "New Age" stuff that was more ancient than the mainstream Christian culture from which I came. Astrology, was taken seriously in this Scorpio city to which I felt such an affinity. I had recently read the 4 Gospels of Jesus while living in the woods and saw similarity to Buddhism (theory that Jesus fell in with some Eastern Mystics in those lost years between 12 & 30).

    This was where I was at when I met Jim who was into Eastern filosofy and had a Spiritual Master, Meher Baba. We visited the Meher Spiritual Center in Myrtle Beach South Carolina and even talked of someday visiting Baba's Samadhi (tomb) in Ahmednagar, India.


    A little background of the time. This was the '70s when young ppl with long hair and beards (Hippies) hitch-hiked all over the U.S. and even backpacked thru Europe. We talked with someone who'd done it and were convinced that we could do it. So, having passports and vaccination records from our trip to Centro America, we got tickets for a flight to Luxembourg.

    We quit our jobs at Montanari Clinical School in Hialeah, Florida and got one of those cheap air fares to Europe.

    The plan was to get to Europe then take trains, ferries and buses thru the Middle East to India. On the way we were to go to Assisi, Italy - a pilgrimage to St. Francis.

    We left Hialeah on the Feast of St. Francis, October 4, 1975 (This was not planned, just synchronicity I suppose) and within a day were landing at Luxembourg. We took a shuttle into the city and got a room for one nite at a cheap bed & breakfast. The bed was ancient and the mattress lumpy. The rate of exchange was not so great in North Europe and we only got some snacks before getting a train to Italy.

    Just a note about youthful, counter-culture travel in the '70s. We did no research except looking at a map of the countries we would be going thru. We may have gotten visas for some in the Middle East ahead of time but I can't remember. I don't recall needing any in Europe, just showed our passports when needed and getting it stamped.

    At Milano we thot we'd stay the nite but stepping out of the train station discovered it was a huge metropolis so back into the station, had an antipasto meal and within a couple of hours were on another train south. The same thing happened in Fiorenzo., (We thot of these cities in the Renaissance times and never considered 500 years of growth) In Italy we got by with Jim's limited Spanish he learned from Puerto Ricans in NYC. I was also learning a little from our trips thru Centro America in 1974 & 75.

    Finally, we arrived at Assisi, which was still quaint, in a rural setting of olive groves and not too developed. We saw Ancient Roman building doorways next to Medieval era buildings. We got a room there for a nite and explored the town and Basilica of St. Francis. There were still a lot of Franciscan Monks in brown robes in town from the feast. We missed seeing the body of St. Francis but did see St. Clare (still attractive after 700 years). This is where we had our first real meal, salad and spaghetti with marinara sauce at our hotel and some pizza while walking about.


    From Assisi we took a train to Brindisi, the port city where we caught a ferry to Greece on October 10. My memories of the short time we spent in Brindisi were the bold gay men who kept hissing at us on the sidewalks. I'm surprised I didn't get my ass pinched. Jim and I accompanied each other going to the restroom. The ferry ride was mostly overnight and we tried sleeping on a deck but it was quite cool.
    The next day we landed at Patras, a small Greek seaside town on a peninsula outside of Athens and got a room to enjoy the Mediterranean for a while. We ate mostly in our room, bread, wine, cheese and canned stuffed grape leaves.

    Then, we took a bus to Athens, where we got another hotel room and enjoyed wandering the city. While in Athens, Jim convinced me to go to the Acropolis. I was reluctant to do typical tourist stuff and paying the $1 admission but we went and looked at this marvel of ancient Greek architecture, mostly in ruin. It is amazing to see such stonework, knowing the limited tools at the time. How did they do it?


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  2. Shale

    Shale ~

    From Athens we got another ferry to Kios, a Greek Island off the coast of Turkey. I think we stayed a night there and then took a small, rolling, bouncing motorboat ride to Izmir, Turkey on October 18. When tying up at Izmir it was early evening and we heard the muezzin calling the faithful to prayer. We were in Asia. This was my second time in Turkey, being stationed here for a year and a half a decade earlier. I still knew a few words in Turkish so that and English got us thru. We spent a night in Izmir then off by bus to Ankara. In Ankara, we met a college student whom my gregarious partner struck up a conversation and he put us up for the night. I sensed that the colleges were tenuously a place for liberal ideas that could be quashed in an instant by the military if it challenged the status quo.

    We took a bus to Erzurum the last big town in Eastern Turkey where we discovered we did not have the required Typhoid vaccinations to go thru Iran or Afghanistan. That wasn't on our original list of shots, so we sought out a public health clinic, which was in a basement of the official building in Erzurum. There were some language problems, but when we presented our yellow international card, the doctors seemed to know what we needed, and proceeded to draw up a 2 cc syringe full of milky white fluid.


    The page where they gave me the injection in Turkey.
    Still don't know if it was Typhoid or Typhus

    They wiped down Jim's arm and gave him the intramuscular injection, but only half the syringe. Before I knew it, they had wiped down my arm and stuck me with the other 1 cc of the fluid, using the same spike as they had in Jim. Well, Jim and I had already shared bodily fluids, but never the same needle. Jim had a history of heroin use and I was a little concerned about serum hepatitis (Hep B and C), which was known to be common amongst IV dopers. Oh well, too late now. However, I couldn't help wondering how many Turks had shared that needle before Jim and I cleaned it off. Welcome to Third World Medicine.

    After leaving Erzurum, our last bus stop in Turkey was a little village called Dogubayazit. On the way someone pointed out Mount Ararat in the distance. This was where we were required to spend the night in our hotel because there was a census taking place and tourists had to be counted where they were - I think. The whole place looked shady to me and they wanted to hold our passports but Jim sort of intimidated them to let us keep them on our person. Anyhow, the next day, Oct 28, 1975 we crossed the border into Tabriz, Iran where we got a cheap room for the night before heading out to Tehran the next day.

    Jim and I always felt a tension in this heavy Muslim culture. Tho the Shah was an official ally of the U.S. (and there were F4 fighter jets on the tarmac of the airport in Tehran) the Western traveler felt unwelcome or barely tolerated. Was it a coincidence that we were put in the uncomfortable temporary seats over the rear exit door on two different buses on our long trek thru Iran, or was it the seat reserved for infidels?

    For some reason, Tehran was packed. We could not find a cheap hotel nor any buses going to Mashad, our final city in Iran. So, we ended up sleeping on a park bench for the night. The next day an elderly man who spoke some English and understood our problem, took us to an obscure bus company that did not cater to foreigners. All the signs and postings were in Arabic without any European language translations. He negotiated our fare and showed us the bus to Mashad and told us the departure time. Of course we attributed this to Meher Baba's intervention.

    This was the time that denim clothes were in demand all over Europe and young ppl in the Middle East were frantic to get them. In Tehran and Mashad young men would approach us and rudely offer to literally buy the denim jeans & shirt off our backs. I was apprehensive of washing our clothes and hanging them on the hostel roof for fear that they would be gone but we and our denims made it thru Iran. We were told that Mashad was a holy city to Muslims and we did see the beautiful Goharshad Mosque with blue tiled dome. But we infidels were not allowed inside the mosque or even inside the compound of this mosque.


    We left Mashad by bus and our last remembrance of Iran was of hassles with the abrupt and unfriendly border officials, who seemed to enjoy making our exit slow and difficult. As noted earlier, Jim and I were politically naive and had no sense that Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, whose foto was in every shop all over the country, was resented by the Islamic fundamentalists and that in four years he would be deposed and Iran would become a Muslim theocracy.

    On Nov 3, 1975 we arrived in Afghanistan and were relieved to find ourselves casually walking the tree lined streets of Herat, the first town we stayed at. The hostel we stayed at was an old European style residence, broken into rooms. We thot it had an English appearance as did the crumbling tho elegant neighborhood it was in. As we walked to the center of town, the ppl we met were genuinely friendly. This quaint little town was such a relaxing experience, so different from the harshness of Iran.

    The ppl were also different, a mixture of Caucasian and Asian features, with attire ranging from the Arabic turbans to the more colorful Asian tribal garb. In Herat a street waif sold me a small cast bronze Buddha for the equivalent of 50ยข. I assumed it was recently cast and not that old so I cleaned off the green patina - but now wonder if it could actually be an antique. There was a sense of historic merging here, evidence of Buddhist and Eastern culture, even tho Afghanistan was dominated by Islam. We were also allowed to remove our shoes, wash our feet and enter the mosque as visitors.

    This relaxed and friendly feeling lasted thru-out the week that we traversed Afghanistan, which made it a pleasant stay despite suffering dysentery in Kabul, which I was told every Westerner gets dysentery in Kabul. We noticed that tourism may have may have been a sizeable income for this otherwise struggling economy, Afghanistan being the only country that charged for a tourist visa ($7).


    We saw quite a few young Europeans staying at hostels such as ours. These too were economy class tourists able to ruf it and enjoy the simple pleasures of this exotic country. Such as, the Asian style restaurant with low tables and cushion seating, arranged around the walls, where small local bands would entertain in the center. Hashish was often on the menu, available and cheap; a gram costing about as much as a Coca Cola. This may have been illegal but tolerated, for the proprietor came in one evening to tell everyone to remove their hash from the table. He then came back with two official looking men in Western style suits who looked around, were satisfied and left. At the time, being unaware of any political upheavals, we thot only of narcotics inspections but we never knew who the men were or why they were checking the Westerners in the hostel.

    We stayed a few days in Kabul while I got my stomach in order, eating imported Quaker oatmeal as a comfort food. The hostel bedroom we stayed at had a dirt floor and two wooden frame & rope beds. The toilet was across the patio and the water heater burned wood. We were in the Third World now. Kabul, for being the capital was not that impressive. I do recall in our walks going past the Soviet Embassy. In November 1975,. Afghanistan seemed to be just a haven for young ppl from Europe getting away from the industrialized world to enjoy the cheap economy of this exotic and charming little country. Who knew then that there would be an invasion of this place by the Soviet Union in just four years.

    While traveling thru Turkey, Iran & Afghanistan, we often saw Sikhs, identified by their turbans and beards, going the same way. Most were traveling from Europe, mostly Germany where they were working for the higher wages and returning home to India. They were experienced with the trip and were quite helpful to two inexperienced guys, giving us tips on where to look for the decent cheap hostels. Kabul was where they had to get a flight the rest of the way to India as they were not allowed to travel thru Pakistan. IDK the story but quite frankly, they did not miss much.

    On November 17, 1975 we left Kabul and bussed to Peshawar, Pakistan. I don't remember too much about Pakistan considering we spent eight days there. It was not a good time, kinda dismal looking. Jim was ill during this time, and often in pain which had me really worried about what kind of medical attention we could find on the road. Also, I was still not entirely over the dysentery so we moved from one ugly city to another, Peshawar, Rawalpindi & Lahore (which I wrote "La Whore" in my Travelers Check record). Finally we were both feeling well enuf to travel and on November 25, 1975 arrived in India.

    Our first city that we stayed was Amritsar, a holy place to the Sikhs. We would stay in India for the next two months until January 23, 1976, visiting New Delhi, Agra, Sanchi, Bombay and our final destination Ahmednagar, where we stayed for a month.

    But, that is another story.

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  3. Wizardofodd

    Wizardofodd Senior Member

    Awesome story, Shale! I await the next chapter.
    1 person likes this.
  4. Laci

    Laci Members

    Gosh this was exciting to read!
    1 person likes this.
  5. BlondeSunshine

    BlondeSunshine Members

    I've been to Athens, it's extremely hot but very interesting. I walked all the way to the top of the Acropolis.

    I also watched a sound and light show from the hill at night.
  6. Asmodean

    Asmodean Slo motion rider

    A dream trip!
  7. Spectacles

    Spectacles My life is a tapestry Lifetime Supporter

    Great reading. Thanks.

    I was in Assisi in 1967. We also saw St Clare but missed St Francis. After the fact we were told that we were supposed to walk behind Clare to see him.
  8. Shale

    Shale ~

    Our First Trip to India
    (Didn't have a cam back then - Pix from the Net)

    On November 25, 1975 we arrived in India and our first city that we stayed was Amritsar, a holy place to the Sikhs. We did not explore Amritsar but moved on the next day by bus to New Delhi, where we stayed a couple of days in a cheap hotel room to plot the course of our trip to Ahmednagar. Something we don't often think about in our world of clean-burning fuels like gas or even oil fueled furnaces in the winter is how chokingly smoky wood burning fires can be in a closed, highly populated place. That is what impressed me about New Delhi, the smoke in the air of many ppl cooking on small fires and perhaps some for heat as it was a little cool in the night.

    Our next destination was Agra and we boarded a train for that short trip. We took 2nd class coach, which was quite crowded but we got seats. These trains were quite old - the seats were wooden, like those on the New Orleans street cars. The engines were massive, black, coal-burning steam locomotives. All my life in the U.S. our locomotives were Diesel-electric so these may have been from the turn of the 20th Century.

    We arrived in Agra and got a very cheap room in one of the old outer walls of the Taj Mahal. Just a short walk thru the old arched gateway and we were a courtyard away from the entrance to that beautiful mausoleum.

    When I say cheap room, I am talking five Rupees or 50 cents a night - which was the daily wage of many Indian laborers at the time. The beds were wood frame with a lattice of ropes and no mattress. The Indian travelers have this folding luggage where they tie in all their rolled up clothes and it can be opened and spread out to make a mattress for such beds or the wooden fold down seats on the trains. However, if you are more than 5.5 feet tall this just does not fit. But, we made do with laying our clothes on the ropes for some comfort in sleeping. Our room had no plumbing. We shared a squat toilet in a room off the open balcony and an outside sink on the balcony to wash up..

    There were bars on the open windows, which were as much to keep the monkeys out as the burglars. North India has these mischievous rhesus macaques everywhere. I have seen them nearly get electrocuted on the light poles in a flash of sparks as they touched or pulled on the wires.

    Rhesus Macaque

    Our window overlooked a roof top and there was a monkey on it as I was eating an apple at the table next to the window. I cut a piece of the apple and was handing it to the monkey who came to the window, but before I realized it, he had stuck his arm thru the bars and grabbed the whole apple off the table. Smart little thieves these human-acculturated monkeys. They are a real problem in cities of North India, but what can you do? Ppl feed them in honor of Hanuman the monkey god.

    We stayed a few days at Agra because it was a small city and really our first look at exotic India. I even recall at the time how much more fortunate we were to be backpacking and staying at cheap hotels than those tourists whom we saw arriving by air conditioned busses from the Western hotels about six miles away to see the Taj Mahal. They just did a tour but we lived it. We had our morning chi (tea) in a local chi house among the descendants of the stonecutters who built the Taj Mahal in 1653.

    Taj Mahal

    (Stone cutting and carving are still a prominent industry in Agra and I purchased an Indian Jade Buddha while here)


    We walked the streets at leisure soaking in the essence of India, dust on our sandals, seeing beggars with leprosy missing fingers, human waste on the streets mingled with the smell of sweet incense. All of this striking contrast, observing how the family of man, our family, lived on the other side of the world was as much a part of our pilgrimage as our destination to Meher Baba's Samadhi in Ahmednagar.

    The back of the Taj Mahal is on the banks of the Jumna River and Hindus consider all rivers to be holy. A short walk from the Taj, were the funeral ghats along the banks where Hindu bodies were being cremated and their ashes put into the river. We saw several funeral processions on the streets of Agra while we were there - the body, wrapped in cloth being carried on a stretcher on the shoulders of men going to the ghats.

    One day Jim and I were walking along the banks of the river when we saw a body floating, with a crow perched atop, picking at it. At first we assumed it may have been a dead macaque, but when looking at the fingers and toes realized it was a baby human. In the U.S. such a discovery would be reported to the police, but we noticed an Indian man walk by, unconcerned. We later found out that when a poor family looses a baby and cannot afford a cremation they merely return the body to the river. This river BTW, where ppl wash clothes and bathe.

    My gregarious partner Jim was always meeting new ppl and one day he came across a young Hindu man in the park and we sat and talked a while. When the young man sat down I was impressed with how his legs folded into a full lotus yoga position without use of his hands. Ppl I had seen trying this position, with both soles facing upward from folded legs, had to do some pulling and most opted for the "half" lotus. Anyhow, we were invited to accompany the young man that night to a Hindu Temple. It was a large building with walkways past various icons, where we followed our friend and did a Namaste nod when he did. (Reminded me of going to a Catholic Mass in Latin with a friend in my teens, and kneeling and standing following her lead). At one point there was a man pouring water into our palms from a brass kettle and following our friend we took some and drank it. This was not just some sanitized, chlorinated drinking water from the tap but was from the Ganges River - and untreated in any way. Think how many cremains and dead babies must be in the Ganges, but this Holy River cleans itself. At any rate, neither of us got sick or died from it.

    We also visited the Agra Fort, where the Mughal emperors stayed and where Shah Jahan, who built the Taj Majal for his departed wife Mumtaz, lived his last days.

    Agra Fort

    On the road again toward Bombay, we took a train and on the way spent a day at Sanchi an ancient Buddhist city where we saw the Great Stupa, the oldest stone structure in India. It was built in the third century BCE by emperor Ashoka the Great.

    The Great Stupa - Sanchi

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  9. Shale

    Shale ~

    We then took our final rail trip to Bombay, (Note: Bombay became Mumbai in 1996) the sprawling city that the train slowly wandered thru miles of crowded residential neighborhoods.

    We got a cheap hostel right downtown by the waterfront overlooking the Arabian Sea and the Gateway to India, a very tourist area. I think we spent a couple of days in Bombay because it is very familiar, but that could be a combination of times spent there, both on our return, flying out of Bombay and our second trip in 1977 flying in and out of the city.

    Gateway to India - Bombay

    I know we spent a lot of time wandering around the city checking out parks, the rail station and places to live if we decided to spend a lot of time there. Coming from New Orleans, one of the oldest cities in the U.S. it sort of felt like home, except for all the exotic small brown ppl who lived there. Sometimes, I would awaken before dawn and go for a walk in the downtown area and see hundreds of ppl sleeping on the sidewalks under the large balconies of this city (Like New Orleans, it is built to shelter from lots of rain). There was an intimacy about it, intruding on these ppl as they slept; often whole families together. It felt like I was sneaking thru their bedroom but it was the public sidewalk.

    On our walks during the day we encountered the strange sights on the streets, like Sadhus or other holy men doing mortifications or hitting themselves. I guess it was like any large city, only more bizarre. Once a guy opened a basket in front of me and a cobra reared up eye-to-eye with me as he said "bakshish" (begging money). I was being extorted by a guy with a cobra. Luckily, a large Indian man came along and physically brushed the man aside and I escaped right behind him. IDK if the cobra had fangs or venom but it is a scary prospect since those bites are usually fatal.


    We eventually caught a train to Pune and a bus to Ahmednagar up in the Deccan plains where we stayed in a hotel at first, then a cheaper hostel while visiting Meher Baba's Samadhi (tomb) at Meherabad and his Mandali (disciples) at Meherazad. There were bus trips from the Meher Trust Office in Ahmednagar. In the hostel we had a room off the courtyard with two metal bunk beds with mosquito netting over them. The bathroom, with Asian squat toilet was shared and for bathing we had to order a 3-gallon bucket of hot water, which we used a dipper to wash in a concrete floor area with a drain.

    Life was centered around this pilgrimage and we spent some time at the Meher Retreat in Meherazad in Arangaon, living, sleeping and eating on premises with other pilgrims. We did our morning trips up the hill to the Samadhi, cleaning it with cloths, prostrating ourselves in homage to Baba and receiving prasad from the Mandali. We also had opportunity to talk with Mani, one of the Mandali at tea and to wander the grounds reflecting on our spiritual journey. We also visited the Mandali at Meherazad on the opposite side of Ahmednagar, listening to Eruch tell of the early years traveling with Baba. This is where I met Dr. Goher Irani, who ran a free clinic for the ppl of Pimpalgaon.
    Meher Baba Samadhi - Meherabad (Arangaon) India

    As mentioned earlier, Jim was having health problems in Pakistan that continued intermittently on our trip, so Dr. Goher recommended a doctor Chakravarti at the Booth Hospital in Ahmednagar. Jim had to get a minor surgery, lower abdomen and so he checked in to the hospital. When I say hospital, it is not what we are used to in the States, with food services and modern conditions. While there were nurses who cared for you, family usually brought food for patients.

    Evangeline Booth Hospital - Ahmednagar India

    Also, when Jim was prepped for surgery in the groin area a guy came in with a straight razor. He did alright, tho there were the abrasions of shaving areas that have never been shaved before. I watched as two slightly built orderlies struggled to carry my big friend up a flight of stairs on a stretcher (no elevator) to surgery. Surgery was on the second floor because it was open-air and there was less dust from the roads. Jim survived all of this and got better for future travels.

    Now, what happens when a large chunk of a molar breaks off in a small town in the middle of India? I found a dentist and let's face it, my mouth was full of amalgam fillings that were a lingering product of the 19th century that had been done in the States, so dentistry wasn't some ultra modern technology. However, what I found amusing was the 19th century drill that the dentist used on me. His assistant came in and powered the foot drive while he ground out the surfaces of my tooth just like it would have been done in 1875. We were even set up by the window for better lighting. That filling stayed in until the tooth came out years later.

    19th Century Dentist Drill
  10. Shale

    Shale ~

    Jim and I stayed in Ahmednagar for a month until January 23, 1976 when we flew back to New York by way of Paris, where we spent a night at the airline's hotel downtown when our 707 plane had a mechanical problem and we volunteered to go the next day instead of crowding onto the next 747 leaving Orly. We walked around a bit near our Hotel Meridienne and I saw the Arc de Triomphe but while Jim rode the Metro most of the night I opted to stay in the hotel, taking a long, hot bath and laying in bed watching BBC programs on TV, luxuries missed for the months of travel.

    Arc de Triomphe

    Back in the States we continued our wanderings, living and working in Hialeah and New Orleans, saving for our next trip to India.

    Our Second Trip to India

    We flew from New York on October 10, 1977 to London then Bombay. On the way over we spent a couple of days in London at a bed & breakfast, exploring the city, seeing the Natural History Museum, the Tate Gallery and just wandering around. For evening snacks I bought some Weetabix at a small store and discovered for the first time super pasteurized milk in cartons kept without refrigeration. Europe was so much ahead of US in technology. Altho we found it amusing while having pizza that the Brits were eating it with knife & fork while we barbarians ate it "normally" with our hands. We also discovered many old Brit guys we met in the B&B had been to India - stationed there prior to 1947.

    Tate Gallery

    On this trip Jim and I stayed in a rented bungalow outside of Ahmednagar in Kedgaon. The rent was cheaper than a hotel for our extended stay and we did not realize that we also rented a houseman, Rakma who ended up sleeping on our porch. I suppose he was to cook for us but we preferred going to market and getting our own food and cooking it. (Hot Indian food is good for a while, but sometimes you want comfort food). In fact we gave Rakma food in the evenings and I am sure he hated the bland stews and veggies that we ate. Rakma also hauled our water from a large drop-bucket well across the field at the landowners house. Jim and I saw how he struggled with these two large buckets for us (who likely consumed more of it than the average Indian) so we started making trips to the well, never considering if anyone would still be into that old caste thing and if we were untouchables. No one complained.

    As far as we knew, Rakma or the landlord could have been Muslim. I could not tell the Muslims & Hindus apart - all wore the white Indian garb and were the same ppl, except there were little Mosques in some settlements and brightly colored Hindu temples in others. Going thru the settlements, I often saw these little pigs, which seemed strange as Hindus did not eat meat and Muslims did not eat pigs. I figured it must have been for sanitation as the pigs ate the human waste which was outside on the ground. Also explains why they are considered unclean. When traveling by rail thru the countryside, I often saw a farmer squatting in the field pants down taking a shit. I noticed that covering the face with a hand was the modesty decorum of many. BTW, I learned to clean myself after shitting using water. Toilet paper in Asia was not always available because water was used at the squat toilets. If that sounds repulsive to Westerners, consider that many Indians think they are not clean enuf wiping with paper.

    On this extended stay in the Deccan, I was intrigued by the many wild plants I saw that were also growing in South Florida. Not having a camera, I got some school booklets of newsprint paper and started drawing these plants, eventually recording 62 "Weeds of India." I suppose this could be considered a meditation because while drawing each plant I became immersed in it and time was irrelevant - altho I noticed some plants moved, following the sun while I drew them.

    Weed of India - Mexican Poppy

    I was also doing volunteer work at Dr. Goher's free clinic at Meherazad for the village of Pimpalgaon. It was, I suppose "Right Livlihood" and in the evenings I did cottage work of cutting 2-inch gauze strips from a bolt of cloth and rolling them up. Also I made cotton swabs by spinning Jim's burnt match stick tips into cotton. I biked the seven miles from Ahmednagar (or 14 from our bungalow in Kedgaon) to the clinic and assisted Dr. Goher by cleaning and dressing wounds and giving intramuscular injections as per her orders, usually just vitamin A, which most villagers were lacking but mainly because an injection was an expected part of the treatment. (All of this is covered in my essay "Third World Medicine"). Anyhow, Goher gave me a diagnostic book that I took home and did a physical exam on myself and discovered a lesion which I mentioned to her. She sent me to Dr. Chakravarti who examined me and scheduled me for surgery. On this trip, since we flew direct, I brot some supplies for Goher's clinic like disposable razors for prepping and Betadine scrub for cleaning surgical sites, never considering that I would be using them on myself but from my knowledge of Jim's prep, I was quite glad to have them. And, I walked up the stairs to surgery rather than risk falling off the stretcher. Obviously, I survived the surgery and limped around a while, glad to have our house in the country to recuperate. The Dr. visit, surgery and hospital stay was all under $100 - this was before "medical tourism" became a norm.

    On February 6, 1978, after 3 months in India, it was time for us to leave. Actually, Jim went to Bombay with me but decided he wanted to stay longer so I returned home to New Orleans alone. I spent a couple days layover in London, not because I wanted to but because the New York airports were snowed in. Thus concludes this long delayed account of my travels to India with Jim.
  11. Shale

    Shale ~


    I was getting immersed in India during these 3 months. I was wearing the white pajamas with the undershirts that had unique pockets in the front. I was cycling everywhere, going to market and even haggling over the price of vegetables, forgetting that on the Rupee exchange rate Annas were a fraction of a cent. In town I was like all the other Indians, maneuvering the crowded roads on my bike, dodging cars, lorries, bumblebees (3-wheel, yellow & black motorcycle taxi's) buffalos, cows and herds of goats.

    Busy Street

    Then it hit me - Culture Shock. While enjoying all this exotic difference in the world I discovered an absence of the familiar had quietly gnawed at me. This realization hit me when I rode my bike onto the local military base. It had few ppl on it and was serene and orderly with little color or decoration. There were open lawns and bungalows on base housing. It was familiar to me from my 4 years in the military in my youth a decade past. After that I would often ride my bike thru the base to get away from India for a moment.
  12. Shale

    Shale ~

    My Journal Entry yesterday:

    Reconstructing the Past
    by Shale
    October 17, 2015

    In April of this year, while crossing the Atlantic on a ship, I took the time to write Jim's and my first trip to Europe and the Middle East starting on October 4, 1975. I wanted to complete the gaps I had neglected in the 20th Century portion of my life.

    I had started writing my autobiography in November 1982 at the age of 38 and the memories of those first years seemed quite confident and sharp. Of course I had some reference to assist with dates. As a worker who often changed jobs, I knew that employment applications asked for previous work dates and sometimes previous residences, so methodical as I am I kept a list of both for that purpose. That was the skeleton that my memory could flesh out, along with the occasional fotograf, which if they were mine always had the date on the back (or those for a time that had dates printed on the front margin of the pic).

    I kept that list and kept adding, even transcribing info of my International Travels from my passports as to when I entered and exited each country. With this info skeleton, I started fleshing out my memories of each trip. However, I have found that my memory of 40 years ago has gaps, even when I have the date available. In my recollections of my stays in Bombay, India, I realized that I had gone thru that city four times - twice in 1975 and twice in 1977 and could not differentiate which memory was from which visit. So, I mentioned that and gave a composite of my experiences in Bombay.

    Now, I have discovered another probable error in my travel account. I very clearly remember me and Jim going by bus to Penn Station in NYC, walking around the city for a bit then catching a bus to the airport for our cheap flight to Luxembourg. I attributed this to our first trip to India on October 4, 1975.

    Except, I just found a stamp in my passport that said, "BAHAMAS 4 OCT 75."


    I do remember walking thru the small airport in the Bahamas at one time and going thru their customs. I do not remember if we got a jet from there to Luxembourg or one to New York. I could not find any stamps from when we landed in Luxembourg on that passport - perhaps they gave us a separate visa paper - nor any stamps from France or Italy, which we traversed by rail. The only stamp is exiting Italy at Brindisi on Oct 10.


    So, by the written record Jim and I did not go to Penn Station by bus in October 1975 as I had recalled. We obviously did that trip in October 1977 for our second trip to London & Bombay, India. On both trips we were coming from Hialeah, Florida, so a flight to Nassau would have been a likely connection point. I now have to change that minor discrepancy and reprint several pages so that my reconstruction of the past complies with the reality of it.

    I now regret that I did not keep a Journal in all my travels in the '70s. My bio is now a collection of Journal Entries with dates that absolutely fix the event to time and place.

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