Family to Family


This blog entry about the events of Friday, November 12, 2004 was originally posted on November 17, 2004.

DAY 391:  Because of the hole in my leg from the pus drainage operation of the abscess I developed in Nepal, I wasn’t exactly the most beach-worthy traveler in India.  While salt water might have aided in the healing of the skin, the conditions of the beaches of southern India, as scenic as they were, probably weren’t the most sanitary, what with all the foreigners peeing in the ocean and all.  (You know who you are.)  The usual place to go to after Mumbai was the former Portuguese colonial beach city-turned-hippie haven of Goa about twelve hours directly south by bus, and as much as I wanted to see it, I knew I’d just feel like a dunce being at the beach town, not being at the beach.  I wouldn’t be able to even just stroll on the beach in shorts for fear that sand would blow into the hole somehow, or even worse, the eggs of sandworms.  Eww.

No matter, I had another plan of attack for my continuing journey around the world, and that was to go to Chennai (formerly Madras), on the southeast coast of India in the state of Tamil Nadu.  Three days prior, I got word that my friend Chrissy from New York had just arrived there to start a volunteer job at an HIV research clinic, organized by the American Jewish World Services with a stipend from Columbia University.  Going to Chennai was not only a good thing because I’d get to visit an old friend, but I’d be surrounded by doctor-types that could assess the hole in my leg — and the second, possibly-infected insect bite (on the same leg, just about five inches away from the first) I just got the night before that looked like it too might develop into an infected pus-filled abscess.  Two similarly infected insect bites on the same leg?  What the hell?

Insect (thinking like Homer Simpson):  Mmmmm… Erik’s leg.

THE MUMBAI-CHENNAI EXPRESS CONTINUED to cruise across the subcontinent, passed desert regions and tropical ones.  The food served in A/C’d second-class was surprisingly good:  freshly-prepared dal and rice and even chicken masala, which I ate the Indian way, with just my hands.  I started and finished Yann Martel’s Life of Pi, which coincidentally partially takes place in the State of Tamil Nadu where I was headed.

I arrived in Chennai Central by a quarter to five in the late afternoon, and took an auto-rickshaw to the local Air India office to get the correction sticker on my airline ticket — the representative on the phone told me that my request to switch my origin city out of India from Delhi to Chennai went through, and that I simply had to get it put in writing at an office.  However, when I got there the woman at the desk told me that what I heard was a mistake, that I still had to fly out of Delhi.  I rushed around the different airline headquarters in the area to figure out a Plan B, but most offices were closing by that time and I was tired of lugging around my bag (making me a target for touts).  I simply moved my Delhi-Bangkok flight to the end of the week to figure out the rest later, and headed for the guesthouse that Chrissy was staying in.

WHEN CHRISSY TOLD ME SHE WAS STAYING AT A GUESTHOUSE in Chennai, I had this image that it’d be like one of the regular, impersonal guesthouses frequented by backpackers that I’d been to.  It’d be a slap back into the reality of budget travel after comfortably staying in the hospitality of Cuckoo & Co. in Thane.  However, when I arrived at the Akshaya House (picture above) at 47 G.N. Chetty Road, I saw that this guesthouse was very casual; in fact, it felt less like being at a tourist accommodation and more like crashing at a family’s home. 

The building was a big house with a dining room, living room, kitchen, VCD library, book library and plenty of individual bed rooms, run by a modern middle-aged Indian couple, Kenneth and Geeta, parents of a film student daughter named Laika.  They greeted me when I arrived and showed me to the room that Chrissy had reserved for me, even though she wasn’t around just yet.

“Our home is your home,” Kenneth told me as he settled me into my big spacious room with A/C, TV, private bathroom, hot water, a desk and a little coffee table with two chairs.  “You can do whatever.”  Wow, the hospitality here.

“I really just want to take a shower,” I told him. 

“Yeah, you smell like you were on the train,” he said frankly in a joking kind of way.  Maybe I take that back.  I could definitely sense he was a guy of corny old-man sarcasm and humor.

There was a knock on the door after I had showered the smell off me and flipped through the cable TV while tending to the wound in my leg.


“Hey!”  Chrissy had arrived with open arms and it was great to see a familiar face from home — I hadn’t seen one since markyt and wheat met me in Rio de Janiero a whole lifetime ago.  (I hadn’t seen Chrissy since my going away party two lifetimes ago.)  My dynamic with Chrissy was a strange one.  Our families were friends back in the New York/New Jersey area, and we had a sort of cousin dynamic, so much that we’d just introduce ourselves to others as “cousins,” even though we had no blood relation.  Regardless of that, I really welcomed the presence of someone familiar, someone else that could understand certain New York-specific references, like “Page Six” (which is actually on Page 10).  Plus, she was a big Will Ferrell fan.

Meeting up with Chrissy was good in a medical way too because she had some Bacitracin, the cure-all topical ointment for “minor cuts.”  She led me to her new friend Koco in another room, an American from Hawaii who worked in a local hospital.  She told me that the wound looked like it was healed to the point I wouldn’t have to pack it anymore and that I should let it breathe a little and let it start to scab over.

THE HOMEY FEEL OF THE GUESTHOUSE continued at dinner.  Dinner was not at individual tables, but a communal gathering of all the guests at a big dining table, with the lively Kenneth and Geeta.  Food at the guesthouse was comparable, if not better than any Indian restaurant, with home-cooked meals prepared by a cook named Shanti who made a mean roti.  At the table, Chrissy introduced me to Tom, who worked at the hospital where Koco worked, and Ganesh, an Indian engineer.  After an amazing vegetarian dinner, Koco brought up her laptop to show off some pictures of her travels, one of Makalawena in her home state. 

“Ma-ka-la-wena,” Kenneth started to sing to the melody of “Guantanamera.”  Chrissy couldn’t stop laughing; Kenneth was the corny old uncle-type that many people have.

That night I slept in my bedroom like a log since the night before on the train wasn’t that conducive to sleep.  I was happy that after leaving my host family’s home in Thane/Mumbai, I had landed another family-oriented home of home-cooked meals, “cousins” and corny old uncle-types.

Next entry: Return Of The Touts

Previous entry: Hindu For A Day

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Comments for “Family to Family”

  • HOLY LEG UPDATE:  Alexandra, the doctor in the house, said everything was fine…  Since that picture was taken, it looks 5 times better already.  The second possible-abscess was squeezed of its infected pus before it developed, and that one is fine now too…

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  12/31  at  07:00 PM

  • BACK IN CHENNAI… More to come…

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  11/17  at  11:04 AM

  • I haven’t been first for a while!

    All of these famillar faces and family atmospher seems to be a welcome break from “Backpacker Hell!”

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  11/17  at  02:43 PM

  • chrissy is a dork no matter what country she’s in!...

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  11/17  at  06:42 PM

  • are you sure that leg is getting better? it still looks infected and full of pus. poor leg. i think the bugs just like targeting that leg. maybe it tastes better than your other leg. =P

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  11/17  at  07:01 PM

  • def not pus…very clean heal….it’ll scab up and you’ll have a cool scar i’m sure from TGT2!

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  11/17  at  07:07 PM

  • Scars from trips are the best!

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  11/17  at  07:18 PM

  • I think that healthy tissue and I definately see a scar forming around the edges.

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  11/17  at  07:31 PM

  • Well since you’re in India, this link we all should find fitting:

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  11/17  at  08:41 PM

  • hey Erik, I have zero idea of what’s your upcomming itinerary as I am so behing with the blog reading… this is a quick comment to tell you to email me when you are about to come to Kuala Lumpur! We have to go on a Skol hunt.

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  11/18  at  01:04 AM

  • LETS:  The way things are shaping up, I probably won’t be doing the peninsula continental peninsula south of Bangkok until late January…  Will you still be around?

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  11/18  at  05:10 AM

  • GREETINGS FROM THE TRANSIT LOUNGE BACK IN DELHI, INDIA… I’m off to Bangkok tonight…  More stories to come in the next 24 hours…

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  11/18  at  05:17 AM

  • Yeah that pic shows that your leg is mad infected…too bad you didn’t have michriochorme and a good utility knife…

    Word Life.


    Posted by Supreme Moman  on  11/18  at  05:59 AM

  • Erik - I will be in Chiang Mai Dec 18 or 19 for about a week, I think.  Doing a trek, then going to Laos for a couple of days and maybe northern Vietnam (I don’t have much time) Then south to the thai islands (Ko Chang, Ko Tao or Ko Phangnan, not sure where yet) around the first week of Jan thru Jan 9.  I know you’re going to the Philippines for Christmas but if you are in any of those other places before or after, maybe we can meet up!  I’ll buy you a beer!  Or snake wine, or whatever.

    3.5 weeks is an eternity for an American vacation but it’s too short for Asia!  Stupid corporate vacation time….

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  11/18  at  02:49 PM

  • Erik - quick Q about China - is it worth going to Chengdu to see the Pandas?  Short trip, need to pick worthwhile things.  You know how it is. Thanks!

    Posted by Liz  on  11/18  at  04:39 PM

  • She Bang Bang (Kok)....


    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  11/18  at  05:52 PM

  • GREETINGS FROM BANGKOK (again)!  Unlike my first time here, I am off for a night of drinking with Manchester Paul (from the Everest trail, whom I’ve bumped into randomly in the airport in Delhi this morning).  I have some stories on deck for a morning upload…

    SARA:  Looks like I’ll be in the Chang Mai triangle in a couple of days already… Most likely going to do the northern SE loop until I fly to Manila…

    LIZ:  If it’s not out of the way, yeah.  SO much better than seeing them in Chengdu than Beijing anyway…

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  11/18  at  05:58 PM

  • DRINK ON!  TGT2 Goes Bangkok!

    Screw Wild On! (well if E had jules asner or brooke burke with him that would be much hotter).

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  11/18  at  07:09 PM

  • oh yeah cant wait to read bangcock stories!

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  11/18  at  08:08 PM

  • LOL—> bangcock!

    Hey Erik I got my postcard from Nepal today! Thanks man!

    Posted by Anthony  on  11/19  at  02:45 AM

  • Wait - have your Thai plans changed?? I’m contemplating…

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  11/19  at  03:15 PM

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This blog post is one of over 500 travel dispatches from the trip blog, "The Global Trip 2004: Sixteen Months Around The World (Or Until Money Runs Out, Whichever Comes First)," originally hosted by It chronicled a trip around the world from October 2003 to March 2005, which encompassed travel through thirty-seven countries in North America, South America, Africa, Europe, and Asia. It was this blog that "started it all," where Erik evolved and honed his style of travel blogging — it starts to come into focus around the time he arrives in Africa.

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Next entry:
Return Of The Touts

Previous entry:
Hindu For A Day


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