i’m going to be famous!
hello — greetings from southern india!
After my 26 hour train ride — in which I was the only foreigner and one of a handful of women in my compartment, I reached Chennai. The train ride was actually fine – and everyone was really friendly and helpful. And it was super fun to stand at the end of the compartment and lean out the door to see India speeding by!
I arrived in Chennai and was overwhelmed by being in a city again (and the awful case of bedbugs from the Kolkata hotel) – so I hightailed it out of there to head down to Mamallapuram – which is south of Chennai on the coast – on the Bay of Bengal. Mamallapuram is known for the rock carvings – old ruins from the 8th-6th century AD. pretty amazing! It is a very touristy town — but right on the beach — so that is pretty awesome. and now that I have confidence, I have headed into town for actual indian food — which is way cheaper. And Katherine – thank goodness we learned how to eat with our hands – as most meals are eaten that way!
But besides a beautiful beach and amazing rock carving ruins…. i was in a photo shoot!
Ok — here is the story — it is a good one!
The first night I was here, the owner of the hotel asked me if I would join a group of tourists to be in a movie – we would get paid for the day and go to Chennai. And it turned out that the guy arranging it had been on my bus from Chennai down here – so I said sure! The next morning, our group met – we were:
- and me – the one American!
We arrived at the building where the sets were and were given our costumes — we were all FBI agents – and some of the men were dressed up as FBI SWAT team members (or whatever you would call it with all that gear on). And then we had breakfast on the rooftop of the building (theme of the day was us sitting around a lot). We tried to get some information about the movie — turns out that a famous Tamil actor is the main actor, director and producer and it is about terrorists and apparently, the FBI. There were people running around all over the place – which totally kept me amused since I could not understand them (they were speaking tamil) but it was fun to imagine what they were saying.
Eventually we were called in for our photo shoot (we later learned that we were just there for the advertisements for the movie — so we will not be in it – but on the movie posters…. or something). They took all sorts of various pictures of us posing — the only picture I was in was a group shot while wearing an FBI jacked and pointing a gun at the camera. oh yes, there was a make-up man. and a hair man (can you believe it?! he BRUSHED my hair and then teased it out. Um, hello?! what part of curly hair don’t you understand?!). It was very glamorous (in a very non-glamorous way….)
After all that hard work, we had lunch. And then sat around a whole bunch. and then had tea. Well…. let me correct that — we had chai, milk coffee and lemon tea just about every half hour. It was awesome! And for this day of ‘work’? yep — we got paid! 800 rupees for the day (which works out to be about 16$ or so). Supposedly the actor and actress, who we saw a few times, are quite famous. And there were a couple of americans working on some of the props — they were from LA. I was very curious about how they ended up there, but they had no time to talk while they were painting body parts to look like they had been shredded…..
All is all, it was a pretty amusing day – and fun to talk to the other folks from all over. The Kenyan lectured me on American politics. The italian was all fired up over politics in her own country. The french woman might travel with me this upcoming week. We all had a beer together afterwards (and for the record, indian beer is just as bad as nepali!). all in all — it was a pretty fun day and evening!
In other news…. here are some highlights:
- a large group of 11th grade girls descended on the ruin i was at this morning and swarmed me saying hello (and hello over and over since that was about the extent of their english) – though a few got out that i was a teacher. lots of smiles — i have a great picture of them all!
- fun to walk along the beach – dip my toes in the water — though Tamil is fairly conservative so it is frowned upon to wear a bathing suit or wear minimal clothes
- southern indian food is SO good! one of my favorite parts is that we eat off of a big coconut leaf (or banana leaf?)
- bedbugs f’ing suck and they itch like hell…. and they sure don’t look that good either…. hoping i am done with that and not carrying them with me…. but there aren’t really power washers around here…..
hard to believe that i have just a month left in india…. it is such an amazing country…. there are times i hate it and want it just to be easy (um, that would be when my arms are covered in bites and people are honking and staring and trying to rip me off and …..) and then there are times that I just love this place – for the craziness, for the kindness of strangers, for the smiles. Tomorrow, I will head south to Pondicherry – an old french colony. I will stay there for a few days and then head back to Chennai for an overnight train to Kochi – on the other side of the country! I am not going to the absolute south, but I figure I will get enough beach time between here and the west coast.
hope everyone is well. I of course have tons of great pictures that I look forward to sharing at some point….
much love — aurora