Gina writes:

Part two of our Puri vacation was better than part one, so I'm glad I get to write about it!

Day 1 - The day started off with a meeting for all 60 volunteers. It was nice to be able to discuss some issues that were common to a lot of the volunteers.

After the meeting, we went checked into our room at the Z Hotel. Our first impression of this "shabby chic" little place was great and the place didn't fail our expectation during our entire stay. Highly recommended!

In the afternoon, we went to Raghurajpur, a tribal artists village about a 25-minute drive from Puri. Corey and purchased two wall hangings and other small pieces.

At dinner, a casually-dressed guy in the restaurant asked if we wanted to try a new vegetable. We said, "um...sure?" and then a guy with a video camera and another with a microphone came out! I think we were being taped for a commercial or TV show or something. The Chinese-style vegetables were okay, nothing special, but we said nice food-critic type things. Now, in addition to being rockstars, we're TV stars!

Day 2 - For our first full day of relaxation, we planned ahead and decided to avoid the hottest part of the day by doing something in the morning and evening and enjoying our non A/C but still sort of cool hotel room in the afternoon. For breakfast, we had real, filtered coffee and chocolate pancakes! Apparently word had gotten out about the awesomeness of the Honey Bee Cafe, because there were about 18 VSO volunteers there, too! After breakfast, we took a walk along the beach. What's amazing about the beach at Puri is how wide and flat it is. The waves roll over the sand for about 30 feet before scurrying back to the sea.

We watched some fishermen bring in their catches, then worked our way back to the hotel to read and rest. That night, we met up with some of the other volunteers for a fantastic dinner of prawns at the Pink House.

Day 3 - We decided to be extra-adventurous and follow the advice of another volunteer to rent scooters to go to the Konark Sun Temple 35 km from Puri. The volunteer, Francesca, said that she'd never ridden a scooter before and felt comfortable and that the road to Konark wasn't that busy. Good thing we took her suggestion, because riding the scooters was the highlight of the trip for me!

The scariest part was the passing trucks and buses coming straight at us or right next to us, forcing us to keep close to the shoulder. We took it easy, didn't go to fast, and made it to Konark in one piece.

The Konark Sun Temple is one of the most popular destinations in Orissa. It was built in the 13th century and is known for its dozens of erotic sculptures inspired by the Karma Sutra. We were cheapskates and didn't want to pay the 500 rupees (10 USD) to explore the temple grounds, especially since we could see enough by walking around the outside.

We didn't spend too much time at the temple, because we were both really looking forward to enjoying the deserted beach that we'd passed on the way to Konark. For the half hour or so that we were at the beach before random Indians just happened to wander past, we felt the most isolated (in a good way) since we've been in India. We played a bit in the sand and water and laid in the sun (me in my kurta and capri pants to be an almost-proper Indian). I'm developing tan lines that any farmer would be jealous of!

We finished the day back at Honey Bee Cafe, enjoying pizza with REAL cheese and a good crust!

Day 4 - We didn't have any plans this day and were wondering if we would be bored. But after a late breakfast at the hotel and an impromptu nap, it was 2 p.m. already! We went out for lunch and shopping for little gifts, then returned an hour later to do a few more hours of relaxing. We met fellow VSO volunteer Lucy for dinner. Her placement is in Puri, which has its benefits (the ocean!) and drawbacks (tourists!).

Day 5 - We had to check out of our room by 9 a.m., so had planned to hop from one place with A/C or fans to another, killing time until our night train back to Koraput. As we were walking along the beach, we were approached by two slightly slimy men who were offering beach massages. We said, "sure, why not?" and negotiated a 30-minute side-by-side couples' massage for 200 rupees (about 4 USD). It wasn't a professional massage by any means, but it was very nice! We also spent a long time at the internet cafe. We eventually ended up on a 3-hour bus ride to Bhubaneswar, caught our train, settled in for the night, got a decent night's sleep, and went straight from the train station to work, stinky and tired!

A pretty good week of fun in the sun, all for about 7,000 rupees (150 USD). No more vacations for a few months now, so back to serious work it is!