May 2007

NEW DELHI — India’s population of wild tigers, which wildlife experts have long warned is on the decline, is dramatically lower than previously believed, according to initial results from an exhaustive study of tiger habitats released Wednesday.

The initial results of the study, conducted over the past two years by the government-run Wildlife Institute of India, found that the tiger population in some states may be nearly 65 percent less than experts had thought.

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Confronted with the pain of Asia, one cannot look and cannot turn away. In India, human misery seems so pervasive that one takes in only stray details: a warped leg or a dead eye, a sick pariah dog eating withered grass, an ancient woman lifting her sari to move her shrunken bowels by the road. Yet in Varanasi there is hope of life that has been abandoned in such cities as Calcutta, which seems resigned to the dead and dying in its gutters. Shiva dances in the spicy foods, in the exhilarated bells of swarming bicycles, the angry bus horns, the chatter of the temple monkeys, the vermilion tikka dot on the women’s foreheads, even in the scent of charred human flesh that pervades the ghats. The people smile — that is the greatest miracle of all.

— Peter Matthiessen, The Snow Leopard

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MADRID, Spain — More than 20,000 things people left on planes and at airports, including a wedding dress and a pair of rudimentary stilts, were auctioned off Tuesday as Madrid’s airport cleared out its lost-and-found department.

The items were divided up into nine lots, such as clothes and jewelry, and prospective buyers submitted bids over a one-week period that ended Monday. Most were merchants who run secondhand stores, said the national flagship carrier Iberia, which organized the sale.

“The long abuse of power rendered [Constantius] a considerable object in the eyes of his contemporaries; but as personal merit can alone deserve the notice of posterity, the last of the sons of Constantine may be dismissed from the world with the remark that he inherited the defects without the abilities of his father.”

“The generality of princes, if they were stripped of their purple and cast naked into the world, would immediately sink to the lowest rank of society, without a hope of emerging from their obscurity.”

— Gibbon

HUAY NAM KHAO, Thailand — When Lao Teng and his wife, members of Laos’ ethnic Hmong minority, fled their homeland last June, they had hoped that they could leave their fear of persecution behind.

Harsh reality quickly set in when they were arrested for illegal entry into Thailand upon their arrival at Huay Nam Khao, where about 8,000 other Hmong refugees have been living in limbo, wondering if their future holds a forced return to Laos.

Hey folks, we’re in Germany now after four months in Asia, the last two spent in India and Nepal, and we’re loving the change of pace and scenery. We spent the last few days in Mumbai, a great town — the energy, the people, the big city-ness: quite a change from Varanasi, where we’d just been, or Rajasthan, or all of Nepal outside Kathmandu. We expect to return to Bombay in the near future, to see more. Three days is not enough. But now we think Europe feels just right.

We’ve neglected the ole blog a bit recently but that’s partly by design. Maintaining a constant correspondence was difficult in India and Nepal, the land of constant blackouts as Lauren P-N said, and would have detracted significantly from our enjoyment of all the weird and wonderful places into which we wandered, stumbled or were abducted. In short it would have been a chore, an odious, time-consuming chore. Now we’re in the land of sidewalk cafes and strong wireless connections, so expect once again to regularly receive those annoying email alerts. To start with we will have many tales to tell of our adventures in the Subcontinent, replete with the usual colorful descriptions and purple prose.

In a few days we’ll be meeting up with some of you in the Netherlands, and Lisa will be meeting her sister in Athens, and a whole new phase of our Trip begins. We’ve been at it for nine months now, and have four more to go, and already our itinerary for Europe is packed: packed tighter than a backpack full of exotic presents. Special warm thanks to Flora and Uli, in whose lovely home we are crashing here in Trier, near the border of Luxembourg. Trier, if you didn’t know, was once a prominent seat of power for the Roman Empire, the tertiary capital behind Constantinople and Rome itself, and now boasts the most Roman ruins anywhere north of the Alps. Cool huh? We’re going to check some of them out right now!



— overheard in a cantina on the Jomsom Trek, from an out-of-breath Brit

Read more about our exciting Nepali adventures here.

Sunrise at Muktinath

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