Playing Cards

Posted: September 28, 2014 in ADVENTURE STORIES!, TRAVEL
Tags: ,

I (stupidly) decided to be cheap and forgo the 25$ checked bag fee from Darwin to Singapore- because, hello! I’ll be in the tropics and I don’t need any clothes! Surely I can make my bag weigh less than 10kilos, right?

This is harder than it sounds. Mostly because 10kg had to include all my bags (including my little carry on- with my laptop (1kg), paper journal, kindle, and (most importantly) the 4kg of starburst gummy snakes that one can only find in Australia.

So I set out towards a trash can and began The Purge.

Clothes that I really regret getting rid of- like my quick-dry yoga/running pants that I’ve had since my first day of CrossFit and got a weird hole in them while sledding down a slide in Nicaragua on zombie apocalypse day. (Dec, 21, 2012).

And my paper journal- which I promptly replaced once I got to Vietnam.

And then- my deck of cards that I got from Deadwood, South Dakota.

This was the kicker- because I was going to be traveling with Lauren, an English bird I had met in Peru, through SE Asia and then into India. She was an avid card player- and I knew I needed to replace these cards at some point.

But out they went in attempts to get under weight. The check-in lady was impressed that I managed to purge 4kg worth of crap and waved my 10.5kg bag onto the plane.

For whatever reason- Lauren and I didn’t play cards until we got to India- where it was so hot and exhausting to leave the hostel/do anything outside for 2 reasons:

1) we had to wear full-costumes. Everything had to be covered from our shoulders to our knees. I regretted throwing away my Capri-running pants every day I was there. I ended up getting a pair of black tights and cutting them at the shin and wearing my hoodie all the time.

2) white girls stand out like a burning giraffe in a Wisconsin winter. We might as well have had signs that said “take advantage of us! We’re tourists!”

Getting ripped off was expected. Haggling was expected. Something I mastered. (Note: if they have a half-smile- that’s the micro expression for contempt and you’re getting ripped off. If they smile evenly- they are genuinely happy about the transaction. If they frown and their brow furrows- they are angry about the situation.)

This is important because one afternoon, Lauren and I were just too knackard to do anything and were moaning about the lack of playing cards. I decided to have an adventure and go out to get some.

Now- the streets of Mumbai are…. Crowded. Actually, all of India is crowded. It’s a great place to practice/mentally prepare what the zombie apocalypse is going to be like- because you are just constantly swarmed by people. There is no such thing as “personal space” there. Some people noted the smell- I didn’t smell anything- but the grubby hands that were always reaching to touch my hair/skin- or the states like I was growing lobsters out of my ears got annoying after 30min. Yet it continued for 4 weeks straight.

Because the streets are crowded with people- that means there are hundreds of stalls up and down the sidewalk. Most sold knick-knacks. Lighters, packages of pretzels/peanuts, batteries, mobile airtime, seeing thread, pens, notebooks, car batteries, socks (sometimes as a pair!), you name it! I thought, fersure, I would be able to find a pack of playing cards easily.

So I set out, donning my full-attire, into the blazing 40C “chilly October weather”, to find cards. I was fairly successful in finding them – but purchasing them was a different story. No one wanted to sell them to me!

“Can I buy? Here! 80rupee! (1.25$)” (a great price- as the guest house owner said it would only cost 30rupees.)

Alas, No. Everyone would say “no. Not for sale.”

I went to another stand, ignoring the peddlers screaming “hello lady!”, “hello miss!” And all the whistles for me to get into a taxi.

Another no go. That guy didn’t even take the time to face me to tell me to shoo away. He just waved his hand like I was some fly buzzing around rotting meat.

I was getting frustrated now. I tried to find a woman peddler- only to figure out that there were none. I was in a sea of men- wearing full robes and reading of curry. The situation vaguely reminded me of my dad’s phrase when I was in college where the male-to-female ratio was 9:1: “the odds are good, but the goods are odd.”

More taxi-whistles. I didn’t want a taxi. I wanted a goddamn set of playing cards!

I went to 3 more stands. Most men just ignored me. Some other buyers would shove me out of the way. Some would take selfies with me- but refuse to help/point me in the right direction. One guy spit on me and screamed something in Hindi- which I can only imagine was something along the lines of “fuck off, gringo!”

At least, this is how I felt.

Finally, I was at my wits end. A 10min task had taken over an hour and a half and I’m sure Lauren thought I was dead by now. I went to one last shop and bought a pack of ciggarettes and tried to, on the sly, buy a pack of cards. He gave me a lighter instead. Sigh. Fine.

I almost accepted defeat until I was walking back to the guest house when I saw a bunch of taxi drivers playing cards!

This was my chance!

I mimed “cards for cigarettes? Trade” in the best way possible with grunts and interpretive dance. One guy, in perfect English, said: you want to trade a pack of unopened cigarette for this used deck of cards? Do you have a lighter?”

Well, yes! Yes I did!

So- that’s how I got my deck of cards: The most accomplished purchase I’ve ever made. I still have them and refuse to get rid of them- even though they are paper, bend easily, don’t shuffle properly and are stained with red wine and tomato sauce from late night parties.


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