Folowing are the emails sent by Jessica from India during the summer of 2001. (in the order sent)
From: "Jessica Friedrichs" <jxf243hotmail.com>
To: jwf5psu.edu, wfk104psu.edu, bcc2psu.edu, rjw177psu.edu
Date: Tue, 12 Jun 2001 05:01:56 -0400
well here we are in the over 100 degree heat...what a place!! a little like thailand (scenery-wise) but people speak english and they all
have a "bargain" for you...
our first night was a bit of mayhem...but our cleverness (and the intervention of the delhi police) got us safely to Hotel Blue, a city
paradise with terrace roof. we have been camped out there for the last two days, venturing out into the soup of smells, sounds, and
heatheatheat that is delhi. the colors are beautiful...all the women in gold, orange, pink, and blue dresses. painted faces, streaks of red in
hair. ahh...i like it here. but it is a big city and the swindlers are out in full force so we have decided to flee to the mountains tonight on
an overnight bus. we'll climb up the himalayas and end up in mcleod ganj, the dalai lama's tibet gov't in exile. we hear it should be
cooler there (believe me, it could not be any warmer than what we are stewing in right now).
the most plesant thing for me is that so many people speak english, at least in bits and pieces. this makes for many interesting
conversations. last night we chatted with other hotel guests, one being a seanconneryesque indian man who bought us drinks and quoted
george orwell and oscar wilde. the terrace is peaceful at night and even in the "heart of delhi" - connaught place, the streets fall dead
asleep. the temperature goes down (to the 90s at least) and the moon hangs lanquidly in the sky.
matt and i make lovely travelling compadres. we have been speaking thai to avoid the swindlers (and attempting to learn a few words of
hindi as well). he is amazing at bargaining..who knew?! he also has a grand tolerance for the heat, food, and pushy street people.
so we will be in the mountains for a few days, then we will stop in delhi again before we head down to hyderabad...we already bought
the tickets for an overnight train. i'll keep writing when i get a chance...feel free to send this along to whomever. i love and miss you all.
i was wondering why i wanted to travel again and why to india for pete's sake... but now that i am here i know why. this is like no place
anywhere in the world....
charming, crazy, and hot as hell
From: Jeanne Friedrichs [mailto:jwf5psu.edu]
Sent: Sunday, July 01, 2001 2:24 AM
Subject: Fwd: relatives and riots
I'm sending along Jessica's latest email which followed a few brief mesages
over the last two weeks which talked a bit about her and Mat's trip to the
Himalayas and actually getting to meet the Dali Lama in person, hold his
hand briefly and look in his eye! The following is an account of their two
weeks in the southern part of India which speaks for itself...
>From: "Jessica Friedrichs" <jxf243hotmail.com>
>Subject: relatives and riots
>Date: Sat, 30 Jun 2001 03:24:05 -0400
>i'm here in chennai (madras) and typing from a dimly lit email center
>which is pretending to be closed because people have been advised to stay
>in today...why? possible riots (they already lit some buses on fire) in
>madras due to the arrest of some former chief ministers of the state.
>apparently, the current corrupt gov't is trying to prosecute the previous
>corrupt gov't and someone is bound to get offended (and riot i guess?...)
>but actually, we are quite safe and it seems like everything has been fine
>as far as mass chaos goes. but in my experience so far mass chaos _is_
>india so who knows....
> everything is wonderful with our travels since we arrived in hyderabad
> almost two weeks ago. snigdha and her family are gods. they have saved us
> from the swindlersbeggersheatfoodillness that was our trip for the first
> 10 days. we spent about 5 days in hyderabad..first at her aunt's house
> with marble floors and gourmet meals three times a day. we explored the
> city on public buses (which snigdha had not done before... everyone has a
> driver for their car. everyone has servants. snigdha claims if you do not
> have a servant, you are one) and went to see indian movies (an
> experience! i absolutely love the dance scenes for anyone who is familiar).
> then we went to vijaywada - a more rural area on the coast where she
> has family. that few days was my favorite part of the trip so far. the
> family we stayed with was a riot..i am not kidding that they fed us 25
> hours a day. snacks, sweets, meals, special treats made from the milk of
> the bull just after it gives birth (a rarity), mango pickle mango pickle
> mango pickle. this entire snigdha portion of the trip has provided me
> with the best food i've ever tasted (vegetarian nirvana). we went out to
> a village where her grandma and aunt live and observed the caste system
> in full effect...if you are born a laundry woman, you do laundry etc. we
> also went to many temples as this part of the family is more religious. i
> love that and even woke up at 5 am one morning to go to a sai baba temple
> where i bathed the sai baba statue in milk and honey as the sun came up
> and offered him coconuts and incense.
> we arrived here in chennai yesterday morning and spent the day
> visiting with an HIV/AIDS NGO that Snigdha used to work at. It was
> fascinating and also really sad to see the sick patients. Matt finally
> got struck by the heat and camped out in her cousin's AC(she has amillion
> cousins!) apt while we went out to the beach. stuck my feet in the bay of
> bengal and ate rava dosas til i was about to burst. the NGO friends are
> awesome too and everyone speaks english so it's a lot of fun to hang out
> with them.
> whew...i'm rambling but it's been a while. we are going to another
> temple, thiruputi, on monday which is the most pilgramaged site in the
> world (up to 10,000people/day on auspicious days wait 24 hours in line to
> see the god shiva....we, the elite, have obtained a "letter of
> recommendation" from the mininster of agriculture (who knows?!) and plan
> on paying 100 ruppes, about two dollars, to see him in just a few
> hours). we are also planning on going to auroville, the ashram. then we
> will head to the tip of india in kerala and then take a 40 hours (ahhhhh)
> train to mumbai.
> whew, whirlwind. but it's been really relaxing and amazing for the last
> two weeks so i think we are up to it. i miss everyone, it's so good to
> hear from you guys....keep writing
From: "Jessica Friedrichs" <jxf243hotmail.com>
To: jwf5psu.edu, friedrichsd1TIGER.UOFS.EDU
Date: Thu, 05 Jul 2001 05:45:40 -0400
i just had to check in from bangalore since this is the internet/cyber
hotspot of india. and believe me you can tell....the city is clean, people
are wealthy (and western dressed?), and the auto rickshaws use their
meters! (they usually charge us lots more and we have to bargain but
bangalore is not so...) also the weather is actually cool. breezy and
we came here by chance as we had originally booked tickets from madras
straight to the south (where we are heading on overnight train
tonight...the beach!). but it must have been fated b/c we are again without
snigdha but we are not getting our asses kicked as much. it is giving us
confidence for the rest of our india travels. yesterday we sat in a
gorgeous botantical garden all day reading and playing chess (matt is
teaching me). you would love this town mom.
we also had an amazing experience in thiruputi. basically, it is a city
with a veryvery famous temple on the top. it is the biggest pilgrimage site
in the world...at auspicious times up to 100,000 people travel there a day!
they go there to see the god venkataresh (sp?) who is displayed deep inside
the inner portion of a solid gold roofed temple. people wait 24 hours or
more just in the line to see the god for 30 seconds. they also climb up the
mountain and many of them shave their heads to give their hair in offering
we took the easy route though and rode a bus up the mountain. we also
skipped the free line and paid 100ruppess each (a little over 2 bucks) to
cut the line. i know i know. shady. we were only allowed to do this b/c
snigdha's hooked up family had a "letter of recomendation" from the chief
agriculture minister for us (they go every year and use a letter). but
they say that if you cut the line, you don't actually see the god, you just
see a statue so that made me feel a little better.
so we waited in line about 2 hours and then made it to the temple where
the low chants of the pilgrims began to echo. i can not explain what we
saw in the temple where the god is but it was so beautiful. i saw
diamonds. matt said it looked like it was breathing. it was 30 seconds of
incredible sensual overload.
then we ate some sacred ghee (clarified butter) laden food and i broke a
coconut in offering to the gods before we left the mountain.
now we are heading to kerala for beaches. we have a ticket from kochin to
mumbai (40 hrs on the train!) for july 12. it should be a fun last week.
From: Jessica Friedrichs [mailto:jxf243hotmail.com]
Sent: Monday, July 16, 2001 8:52 AM
Subject: the end of an era
i guess this is my final india email as i'm actually writing it from my
parent's home in clarks summit. but i thought you would all like to hear
about my last week in tropical paradise so i'll just send this out.
we spent the last week of the trip riding trains up the coast of kerala,
the name of the state meaning "coconut land". it was so beautiful. we
started by taking a train from bangalore (the high tech capital in the
middle of the country where we ate pizza and played chess in parks) to
kanyakamuri - the southermost tip of india. you can see three seas (the
arabian, the bay of bengal, and the indian ocean) "meet" here (how you
distinguish b/w the different oceans we were never quite sure!) and watch
the sun rise and set on the horizon. it is sleepy and the hotels are just
starting to crop up along the edges of little beachfront fishing villages
peppered with churchs and communist emblems everywhere (an odd combination -
kerala is both one of the oldest christian and jewish areas in india as well
as the first state to elect a communist state gov't..today it is not the
then we took a train to kovalm which is a popular beach town but since it
was the monsoon (was it ever! pouring rain and 15 foot high waves) the place
was deserted. it was like a dream - we got a place nestled in between palm
trees and tapioca and snaked our way down to ocean on tiny footpaths through
the jungle. magical.
our last official stay was in cochin - a old portuguese/dutch colonized
city which also has the oldest recorded jewish population in india. i was
really interested in this as the jews have been there since the 1300s. we
went to visit an old 1500s synagogue painted cracking blue and yellow and
with a floor full of hand painted chinese tiles that a rabbi brought in
years ago. we met the man who took care of the temple and he told us there
are currently 14 jewish people making up the famous "jews of cochin"! it
seems most have left for isreael in the 1950s. it was a neat town with lots
of old churchs, mosques, and temples so we had fun exploring. we also
watched this old hindu theatre form called kathakali which is characterized
by crazy facial and eye movements and dramatic hand motions. we liked it so
much we went to see it twice.
then we rode a 40 hour train up to mumbai (bombay) and arrived in the
city at 5 am. we splurged for a hotel room for the day so we could sleep a
bit and shower and then boarded our plane at midnight. many hours later,
here i am in pa rested and wondering what the hell happened! it all went by
so fast. but i have plenty of people to see and stuff to do before my job
starts in september in philly.. hopefully, i'll be seeing some of you before
thanks for all the email love you sent along the way..and for putting up
with these endless tales. snigdha's extended family is so close (she is
close with her father's cousin's husbands brother's wife for example). it
was really a striking difference between india and the states and we talked
about how important family is a lot. i realized i am awfully fortunate to
have such a close extended family and to feel like you are all a big part of
keep in touch everyone!