Jesse’s Blog

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Artsy Fartsy

I’m going to start posting my photography here… my blog isn’t just about India any more. If I have anything particularly compelling to show I’ll put it on the main page, but otherwise you can always see the latest on the photos page or by checking out the images in the sidebar to the right. Enjoy!

posted by Jesse at 4:45 pm  

Friday, March 14, 2008

Photoblogging


Village market near Noida, where we buy fruit on our way home.


Public restroom. Very public.


The motor pool at the office.


Mad about something…

posted by Jesse at 9:19 pm  

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Varanasi

From Varanasi I

I arrived in Varanasi from Delhi at around 3:15pm last Saturday, but by the time I got my bag and taxied to the city it was almost 5. I met up with my friend Azra in Assi Ghat and dropped my stuff in her room. The first thing we needed to do was find me a place to stay, and as we walked down the river I got my first real dose of Varanasi.

The oldest and holiest city in India, its characteristic stone steps leading down to the Ganges seem to cause everyone and everything to inevitably connect with the river in some way. They bathe, they waste, they wash, they wade, they pray, they live and they die here. The Ganges and Varanasi have such an amazing and intimate connection with the culture and faith of India, that people actually travel here to die and have their bodies burned in the ghats next to the river… 24 hours a day, every day. Many believe this cleanses their spirit and prevents the cycle of reincarnation from continuing.

The entire spectacle of life and death along the river could have easily occupied me for hours on end, but it was getting late and we were getting hungry. After enquiring at a few places along the river I settled on Hotel Sonmony in Harishchandra Ghat, right behind one of the smaller burning areas. I had a Ganges view, balcony and private bath, and at rs 225 per night I was pretty satisfied. The door man was very nice and even concerned when I stayed out too late!

Dinner that first night was probably my favorite, at Hotel Alka further down the river past the Main Ghat. I don’t remember the exact location but it’s pretty easy to find – just look out for the signs. Next time I come to Varanasi I will try to stay at Hotel Alka. It has several great courtyards with outdoor dining that overlook the Ganges. It seems like a great place to meet and mingle with other travelers. The first night ended with me walking along the river all the way back to my hotel from Assi Ghat in the dark. The power was out.

In the morning we met with another friend and headed out to get breakfast in the Old City, which runs parallel with the river. The streets are narrow but teaming with activity as shopkeepers of all kinds cater to the massive amount of foot traffic from tourists and livestock. I bought a few nice t-shirts from a vendor near our breakfast spot, which was incidentally the best breakfast place I tried in Varanasi. I have no idea what it’s called or quite where it’s at, but I can easily find it again. That’s the magic of the city – get lost in the streets and you’ll eventually find what you are looking for (such as a french bakery with a guitar to pass some time)!

Following an afternoon of enjoying the ghats on my own I met back up with Azra and we set out on a boat ride down the river. The boat wallas are so funny because all day long up and down the river they run up to you and say “Sir, boat? Good price. Madame? Boat?” We were quite excited to finally surprise them with a positive response! The weather was perfect, and even though the sun was a little lower than we wanted it to be the view of the ghats from the river was amazing. At one point a young boy paddled up to us in a little canoe. He was very keen to sell us some candles to place in the river, which we eventually bought after a bit of haggling, thereby sending out good karma to our own separate causes. Although we wanted to make it all the way down to the Main Ghat and back, it was getting a bit late and the bugs were starting to come out. By the end we had a nice 75 minute boat ride for 200 rs (about $5).

On to dinner again, at the Lotus Lounge. This is another good place to eat, as our food was generally pretty tasty despite my chicken being a bit on the dry side. They have a nice outdoor balcony with seating that complements mingling and outgoing personalities. It is located down river a bit from Hotel Sonmony, but not quite as far as the Main Ghat. On my way back home, I got to see the ghats in a different light. From late night construction shifts to lumpy sleeping forms and cozy-looking fires, the city along the river seemed to enter into a quiet rhythm of sleep-time activity that would last until it was stirred awake in the morning.

I only had 2 days in Varanasi, and I was extremely sad to leave so soon. It definitely wasn’t enough. I can’t wait to go back and experience a deeper connection with the city. Maybe I’ll learn to play the sitar, or do some yoga. And ride in a few more boats.

From Varanasi I
posted by Jesse at 1:52 am  

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

San Francisco – San Diego – Seattle – Los Angeles

Adam Sessler and I go way back.Whew! That was a trip and a half. The main event was GDC 2008 in San Fran, which was the first Game Developers Conference I have been able to attend in my short but illustrious gaming career. We stayed right at the W Hotel next to the Moscone Conference Center so I had easy access to everything. It was a fun-filled week where I gained valuable knowledge and game development superpowers, and partied like crazy. I love this industry!

From San Fran it was down to San Diego for recovery time and some company strategy meetings. I got to catch up with the entire Wong Clan while I was there!

SeattleNext up was Seattle for a few client studio visits. This was a major work week for me and my time was extremely crunched, but I managed to get everything done and have some fun to boot! Seattle was good to me on the culinary front, Halo Laser Tag!with highlights including an awesome Tat’strami sandwich from Tat’s Deli and a succulent filet mignon cut from the holy cow at 21 Central Steakhouse in Kirkland.

Finally I headed down to L.A. for one more client visit. Richard graciously offered to let me stay at his new place, which is right across from Dale’s house in Playa del Rey. I had two long working days in Culver City but still managed to catch up with my friends in the evenings. On Friday it was Derek’s x0th birthday in Venice Beach and practically the whole crew was there to celebrate. Shelley, Chloe and JesseEveryone is doing so well, and a handful of people are married now, but they’re all still around. I can’t believe I have already been gone for 3 years!! I went to visit Shelley and Chloe after the party – Chloe was SO HAPPY to see me. It was heart-breaking, really. I wanted to take her with me!

I couldn’t sleep much Saturday night and was all packed for the airport and ready to go with plenty of time to spare on Sunday morning. I dropped off my rental car with a full tank of gas and bid the U.S. adieu. I’ll be back in August. Next up: Adventuring!

posted by Jesse at 7:15 am  
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