Exploring Jodhpur, The Blue City

Click to enlarge!

The Blue City. Click to enlarge!

It’s time for another travel post! I love sharing these with you because it means I get to go over my photos and reminisce. Hope you guys enjoy them too.

Today I’m revisiting Jodhpur, Rajasthan, India. It’s known as the Blue City…for obvious reasons. (The state of Rajasthan also has a Pink City (Jaipur), a Golden City (Jaisalmer), and unofficially a White City (Udaipur).) And yes, the riding pants are named after the city.

My travelling companion and I took the train from Jaipur, sharing a compartment with an elderly woman, her daughter-in-law, and her young grandson. We were glad to be with them because the stop announcements were nonexistent, even in Hindi. Signs in the stations are generally in both Hindi and English, so you can get on the right train at the right platform, you just can’t necessarily get off at the right stop unless you happen to spot the sign going by.

View from the train

View of rural Rajasthan from the train — looks pretty dry, doesn’t it?

A man from our hotel met us at the train station. We almost walked right past him because we’d gotten so used to ignoring people trying to sell us stuff. (Later, back in New Delhi, we projected such an air of being experienced travellers, or something, that nobody at the station even bothered to approach us.)

We’d been travelling through some very intense places for the past week, so we spent our first day in the Blue City just relaxing at the hotel. Like many hotels in Rajasthan, it had an open-air restaurant on the roof — obviously this is a place that doesn’t get rained on much!

Both our room and the restaurant had nice wicker furniture, but the hotel wifi was stronger in the restaurant, so we spent a lot of time upstairs, hiding in the shade from the intense semi-desert sun.

We did leave the hotel to go to dinner down the street. On the way we found dodgy sidewalks, lots of motorbikes, and the alarming fact that after dark, all the local women disappear off the streets. I didn’t notice at first, but every single person we interacted with in public throughout northern India — at hotels, at restaurants, in stores — was male.

(Rajasthan is known as a backwards state, even for India…and it gets more so the farther in you go. Just as a surface example, we hadn’t seen any women in Western clothing after leaving New Delhi and Agra, larger cities where women have more freedom. In fact, we started seeing women with veils over their faces — not opaque veils but sheer ones that matched their saris. This part of India is heavily Hindu and partly tribal, so it’s not a Muslim thing, but I bet it comes from the same impulses.)

The next day we set out to explore the fort (of course). Jodhpur is dominated by Mehrangargh Fort, dating to the 15th century and every inch a fortress. I mean, just look at this:

Mehrangarh Fort, Jaipur

(Lots more pictures behind the jump!)

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ROW80 Round 2: Off to a Crazy Start

Welcome back to A Round of Words in 80 Days! My goals for Round 2 are here. Here’s how my first week went:

 Writing Updates

This part did not go so well. My goal for this round is 1.5 hours a week of writing or editing, and I only managed half of that. On the good side, it was all in one session, so I met the other part of my writing goal — to do at least one session of half an hour or longer.

And here’s why…

Renovation Updates

We’ve been living in shambles because we’re getting central air-conditioning installed (woohoo!). Every time I come home from work, there’s a new hole in a strange place, or metal pipes, or new drywall “bulkheads” covering the pipes. I don’t mind telling you this has been just slightly stressful. But they’ll be done this week, and then we can start getting the drywall dust out of everything and moving our mess back where it was…I mean, getting stuff organized.

In the meantime, I’m busy trying to figure out how to make the “bulkheads” look like they belong in the rooms, live out of suitcases because the bedroom closet had to be emptied, and sort out the curtains that we’re finally getting around to putting up.

Then there are two new projects that are just getting started. First is setting up a kitchen…today we cleared all the junk out of it, ceremonially turned on the fridge, and ordered the first load of groceries. (Next step is cleaning.) Second is landscaping, or rather, organizing other people to do landscaping — they’ve gotten as far as pulling out some scraggly roses and some rusted metal frames that the roses were tied to. Whew!

Exercise Updates

This week I have:

  • done 1 hour of yoga
  • climbed 9 flights of stairs twice (plus the regular stair-climbing I do during my subway commute and in my 2.5-storey home)
  • done 2 half-hour workout sessions in my exercise room at home (usually a random mix of cardio, stretching, and strengthening)
  • spent Friday evening and all of Saturday dancing

That last bit is not going to become a habit, alas, but I’m hoping the rest of it will, and I’ll add to it gradually.

I expect this coming week to be just as busy on the house front, and we have family coming for Easter weekend. But after that I’m really hoping to be able to focus more on the writing again.

Onward!

Why, Hello, Television — at Turtleduck Press

Just a quick note tonight to let you know that I’m blogging over at Turtleduck Press. Here’s a snippet. My household recently got Netflix and:

We haven’t been binging like most people do — one or two episodes a week is about all we watch. So far, at least. (My media addiction of choice is the Internet.)

So we’re catching up (very very slowly) on Doctor Who, Sherlock, and of all things, Buffy, which I never watched when it was on…and enjoying them all thoroughly.

Oddly enough, all of these series have some things in common, if you squint.

To find out what, and share the common themes in your own viewing, head on over to my post at Turtleduck Press.

I’ll be back on Sunday with a check-in on my ROW80 goals, and next week with some proper content. Miss you all. Enjoy!

 

Divergent, Frozen, Hollywood, and the Strong Girl Character

Divergent film posterSo the film adaptation of Divergent came out a few weeks ago. It’s the latest in a string of movies starring girls. Twilight* kicked off the trend six years ago, and then Hunger Games and Catching Fire blew the box office away. On the animated side, we have Tangled, Brave, and most recently Frozen. And for adult female protagonists last year, we got the Academy Award–winning Gravity, Best Picture nominee Philomena, and a pretty awesome supporting character in Pacific Rim.

* Note: I’m not holding up Bella as an example of a strong girl character. For the purposes of this argument, I’m chiefly interested in her existence as a female lead. But if you want to argue that some of the female leads I’m citing are problematic, I’m happy to listen.

Is this a trend? I sure hope so.

I’m a big SF&F watcher (and reader, and TV viewer). I try to see most of the big genre movies in theatre as they come out. If there’s a well-told story and a good character arc to suck me in, I love explosions and superheroes and aliens and dystopian futures and all that. I’m the target audience.

I can, and do, identify with male heroes in these genres. But it gets tiresome after a while, seeing the girls (or women) as sidekicks or objects to yearn after (*coughHercough*) or nice butts in tight outfits. Even Divergent is guilty of this — check out the poster above and tell me, based on the poses, who looks like the protagonist and who looks like the sexy sidekick / love interest.

Frozen flim posterBut then along comes something like Frozen. Here we have not one but two princesses who stand up for themselves and fight for what they believe in. And they’re not just strong because they kick ass — but that’s another rant.

Better yet (SPOILERS HO)…

…their closest relationship is with each other, and that’s what the whole story revolves around. Sure, there’s a prince, and there’s a commoner love interest, but they’re subplots. The main plot is a love story between two sisters. The climax isn’t a kiss, or a proposal, but the culmination and expression of sisterly love. How cool is that? How much did you not expect that from Disney?

(Another reason to love Frozen is the wonderfully earnest MALE sidekick, Olof. Thinking about him still cracks me up, months after I saw the film. But I digress.)

Films like this give me hope. If even Disney, bastion of heteronormative roles and romances, is getting into the act, surely we’re making headway. And Frozen is the highest-grossing animated film in history. Surely the legions of female film lovers — and their interests — are finally getting noticed.

Now, Divergent didn’t crush the box office like the Hunger Games movies, nor has it received the same level of critical acclaim. But it did finish first on its opening weekend, a good enough showing to ensure the making of sequels…and, if we’re lucky, lots and lots of copycat productions.

Long live the strong girl character!

Your turn! What female-led films have you enjoyed recently? What girl heroes from SF&F books would you love to see onscreen?

If you liked this post, you might also enjoy Strong Girl Characters: YA and MG Classics and The Gothic Novel and the Feminine Touch.

ROW80 Round 2: Goals

Hello again! I’m signing up for another Round of Words in 80 Days. This round is set to run from April 7 to June 26, and I’ll be checking in every Sunday.

This year has turned into the Year of Making My Living Space Better. Not quite what I’d intended, but it’s a good reminder that I am not, in fact, a brain in a jar attached to a keyboard.

The current round falls during an especially busy time. I am (all while working full-time):

  • dealing with the tail end of renovations
  • setting up a kitchen (luckily not a super-urgent project)
  • trying to get my house generally organized and a teeny bit decorated because I’m tired of not paying attention to it and having it look like nobody cares
  • upgrading my front and back yards from “terrible mess” to “kind of pretty and really low-maintenance” — which involves some landscaping help and some gardening effort on my part

Therefore, my focus in this round will be on the above. I’m going to report on my progress every Sunday, mostly to remind myself that I am extremely busy and therefore I am not allowed to beat myself up for not getting other things done (like writing).

And, to go along with that “not a brain in a jar” thing, I am also going to report on my exercising progress. Currently I do an hour of yoga once a week and folk dance for an evening once every two weeks. I just set up an exercise room in my attic, so I’m adding calisthenics and more yoga. And the weather is finally turning to spring, so I’d like to add walking as well (fast walking when possible). No particular goals here — anything will be an improvement.

Finally, there’s writing. I don’t want to put my writing on pause completely, because in my experience, it’s a LOT harder to get started again once I get out of the habit. (I don’t write every day — right now it’s more like 3-5 days a week — but that’s a regular, hard-won habit that I don’t want to let slip.)

So my writing goal for this round is: to write/edit/outline for 1.5 hours a week, including at least one session of half an hour or longer.

Happy writing!

Conclusion of “Still Waters Run Deep” Is Posted

Just a quick post today, because I am so busy it’s ridiculous. Let this be a lesson to the wise: Do not try to juggle furniture and appliance deliveries from two stores, renovations (even if someone else is doing them), interior decorating, landscaping, shopping/errands/discussions to support all of the above, plus the usual life stuff, all at the same time. I feel like I’m doing NaNoWriMo except with Real Life.

Anyway!

I am thrilled to announce that the fifth and final installment of my fantasy serial, “Still Waters Run Deep”, is now available to read for free online at Turtleduck Press.

It’s set in a fantasy version of Thailand, and the whole thing runs about 10,000 words (technically known as a novelette). If you need to catch up on previous installments, you can find links to all of them at the top of this page.

For more about what’s in the works at Turtleduck Press, see here.

I’ll be back to proper blogging soon, I hope. In the meantime, please leave a comment to help beat back the tumbleweeds!

Touring the Forts and Palaces of Jaipur, India

Amber or Amer Fort

Amber or Amer Fort

Picture a city in the dry lands of northwest India, surrounded by arid hills. This was once a land of many warring cities led by rajahs — hence the name of the state, Rajasthan — and they’ve left their mark.

Each city has a fortified palace, sometimes several. Most are in excellent condition, preserved by the dry air. They are empty of furnishings, but they look as if their owners have just moved out and may yet return.

In the meantime, they are a favourite haunt of tourists, both local and international. (Read my post on the best of Rajasthan for more.)

Jaipur, the Pink City, location of The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, is one of the most popular tourist destinations in Rajasthan. For one thing, it’s the closest to New Delhi. For another, the city and its surroundings are host to not one but seven forts and palaces…

(Click through for lots more photos!)

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