Tuesday, July 17, 2007

The final post

I was in Pamplona for the San Fermin festival last weekend, after being hounded by D to show up. Considering my jobless and broke situation, he offered to pay for everything and made it an easy decision. Took the overnight train to Irun, and then switched trains to reach Pamplona around noon. The San Fermin festival is a big affair, with the running of the bulls as the main event, followed by bull fighting and all night partying on the streets.

I carried my tent and sleeping bag with me, and though I was there for barely a day and a half, it was an intense experience. We started drinking immediately after I reached, passed out in a park to take a siesta, headed out to watch a bullfight with a raucous crowd, and then partied on the streets till late. D had spent the previous night on the grass, so in a drunk state he guided me to a place where we camped, and woke up next to homeless people, who didn't seem like they were there for the fiesta. The music continued all night, but I slept soundly.

It was weird to wake up in a tent in a public park, pack up and then head through the city centre to find a good spot to go running with the bulls. The streets were full of people wearing the same outfit (white clothes and a red scarf), and most of them had been partying all night and looked ready to pass out. The ones who retained some sobriety got ready to go running at 8am. I chickened out but D had been waiting for this moment for years, so he went for a warmup run, scoped out the best spot and then finally lived out his childhood fantasy of running with the bulls.

The festival is surprisingly not very touristy. We heard Spanish almost everywhere, and it was more common to see families celebrating, rather than just backpackers. Most of the locals were very warm and friendly, and even though we could barely communicate, they shared their food and drink with us very easily. The most touching moment was when two old women on a balcony, thrilled that D took their pictures with his fancy camera, lowered us two bottles of beer from their balcony with a piece of rope and a plastic bag.

Somewhere in the middle of all this madness, I went off to check my email, and saw an offer from here. Suddenly, a lot of my problems were solved, and partying on the streets of Pamplona knowing that I won't have to live like a bum much longer made it an amazing trip.

Another month from now, I was supposed to leave Paris, and after getting turned down by every academic job I'd applied for, I'd started to prepare for non-academic jobs. The plan was to head to London around mid-August, sleep on a friend's couch and look for work. But after living out of a backpack for so long, I'd begun to feel very tired and disoriented, and sleeping in a friend's living room with no money and no work permit, looking for a job didn't sound too enticing, especially with an ultra long distance relationship. I was also tired of travelling, and was hoping something would materialise out of nowhere. It did.

So now I'm going to leave Paris a bit earlier, sometime in early August, fly back to Delhi for 2 weeks, apply for a new visa, celebrate my twin's birthday, and then fly out to New York and start my position in Ithaca almost immediately afterwards. A few months later, The Girl from Lapa will visit, and I'll go back to Rio for the winter break.

In about 6-7 weeks, I'll reach the end of a journey which will have spanned 16 months, 4 continents and about 120,000 km. It started sometime in May last year, when I submitted my thesis from a hotel in Las Vegas on the last possible day after a nerve-racking end to my Phd, and then bought a oneway ticket to India with no concrete plans. The rough idea was to spend 2 months in India, find a short term visiting position in Europe and save some money, and then spend 4-6 months watching the world cup in the Caribbean and travelling in South America, and hopefully find a long term job by August 2007. Somehow, it all worked out though almost each time things worked out at the last minute when there didn't seem to be too many options.

The backpack will be retired along with some of the things which have sustained me for all this time. I'll keep uploading pictures and videos (for Pamplona click here.), but I'm done with blogging now. I'll revert to less public ways of keeping in touch now that I'm going to lead a more settled life. Hopefully, I'll see a lot of you soon.