Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Shimla -- The Stairmaster of all cities!

Shimla is beautiful and weather is like Ohio Spring. The buildings are built on STEEP slopes...70% grade at least...don't know how they're built so they don't slide down the hill!... the town is in about 10 or so "levels" descending the slope and connected by hundreds of stairs... it's like a town-sized stairmaster... SO I'm fully expecting my thighs to turn to steel before I leave.

The town has been exhausting... physically (we climb HUNDREDS of BIG steps each day) and mentally (trying to get the "Pani Bachao!" --Save Water!--posters made was a nightmare of inefficiency and annoying overcharging us because we're white).. Anna and I were busy the entire time we were in Shimla working on the water project (after we FINALLY got the posters we plastered them all over walls like they do here and in Mexico and S. and Central Am ... Looked good and got a lot of positive feedback from people and some nice photos)

We're having a "show" called "One Night Stand"... each of is turning our hotel room into a gallery for a night... we've invited some people (but I doubt if many will come...our hotel is far out of town)... but it'll be fun. Anna and I are installing our "Water Conversations" piece in the room (we have a 10' vinyl banner, some laminated 8x10 signs about water, and bigger ones that say "Tell me a story about water?" and "What does water mean to you?".... also have 1000 signs with an image for conserving water that we are going to paste all over the walls of this and other towns ..and our hotel room)... We have also crocheted 15 water bottle holders and are hanging them in the room along with crocheted sea creatures. We just talk to people about water and record the conversations...part of Anna's worldwide project that she started in Africa.

Also filming for Kata... did one cool abstract bare back piece and working on a second one...went to film this morning only to find 6 or so sleeping/snoring/talking on phones/chatting people draped in the area of our filming ... plus a bunch of banging, hammering, shouting people setting up the stage for a fashion show! Well, that ended that! So we'll try again tomorrow...

Anna and I have been working all day trying to get our signs, etc... you'd think it would take a couple hours, but in India it becomes one nightmare of searching, talking, negotiating, having things come out wrong, trying again, being overcharged, talking, walking, climbing, negotiating some more.... it is completely exhausting and frustrating.... unbelievable that this country continues to operate...and Shimla is probably the MOST efficient I've seen.

Thank God for beer! I gave bracelets of all my "brothers" that are waiters at the fancy hotel, so we are treated like royalty... have invitations to stay in their homes next time I come and one (who is a teacher of Hindi) has promised to teach me more of the language (beyond the 20 words I know, I guess!) We drank a couple beers last night...left at 9:30 pm but missed all the buses going to our hotel.... tried to get a cab but they wanted us to pay 300rs (which is OUTRAGEOUS ...altho it's about $6)... We started walking home and the "cab" followed and offered us a ride home for free... turns out it was just a couple (young) guys with nothing better to do... we told them we were Grandmothers and although they said "Age doesn't matter" it might have kept them on their best behaviors... We refused their invite for a drink but invited them to our One Night Stand opening with promises of many cute European girls (Kata...hahaha!) That's about the height of our hoots and giggles here!

Anna and I are plotting some exciting projects for me in's interviewing, photographing, recording, and filming people who have fallen through the cracks of functional society, which I'd love to do and think I'd be great at...she says there's a "Mens Club" in her town that's for all the eldest sons of farmers that inherited nonfunctional farms and are stuck there alone and unmarried while their siblings went off to other places and careers...but it's the duty of the eldest son to be caretaker of the land (even if it's worthless and non-producing)...she says they are an interesting but sad, depressed bunch, many of whom have turned to drink for their consolation .... when I go to Vera's wedding in July, she's going to introduce me to the head of the residency in her hometown and that will, we hope, help get me a residency there.

Leaving on April 1 to Jammu for just three days but staying in "the Princesses palace"?!?! We'll see what THAT means!?!? Then on to Srinagar (on the Pakistan border)...Art Karavan life continues to slide down the steep slopes of Shimla...

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