first off, through no fault of the US govt, the aforementioned friend's family are safely back on us soil, or at least on their way (i'm not sure when she sent the email).
perhaps you've seen movies, or even that windows wallpaper that alludes to a place...a tropical paradise where it's just you and the sand and the lapping sea. a corona ad, perhaps. the end of 'trading places'. that stupid 'kokomo' song. there is always the promise of a place where mangrove trees grow over the ocean with enough low hanging branches to sling a hammock over, where the palm trees gracefully arch out over the sand, straining to get a look at the sea, where the water is blue, or green, or some new color that defies description. and there's no one else around. no one. unless you count the few people staying at the same bamboo hut village you're staying. where the food is unbelievably good and the beer is cold and they don't sell it during the day, but they are willing to give it to you for free. and the weather is perfect. and the rain is a performance not to be missed. and on the other side of this perfect island is another beach. different from the miles of uninhabited, almost flat, shallow waters of the first side. this side has thunderous surf, chrystalline blue waves, and is backed immediately beyond the sand by a jungle. perhaps a nice richshaw driver will take you and those with whom you came on a short walk, where you will see a lagoon that brings tears to your eyes because the color of the water can be captured only by an immensly expensive and rare gemstone, if that. and you will see a bird that glows.
you might, if you're very very lucky, spend three days floating on your back in this paradise of paradises, and continually say or agree with the maj as she says, 'holy fucking shit, this place IS perfect.'
so there was that whole thing. we're in chennai (madras) now. you may not know that indians didn't stop at renaming their cities. a great number of streets were renamed too. this makes it damn near impossible to get anywhere in the cities. it's not like anyone knows where the hell he's going anyway. every taxi, rickshaw or auto rickshaw we've been in has stopped to ask directions, or taken the lonely planet map away from me and made it perfectly clear that he is not at all familiar with his city of residence. i used to think new york cabbies weren't so great compared to london taxi trivers (which is true), but this shit is ridiculous.
good god i've gotten about ten mosquito bites since starting to write this. my feet are on fire.
ok, this ghetto version of IE won't even let me change the font or colour, so we're goin' analog. enjoy.