Apollo the Great

This week I got to continue my travels in Greece! My parents joined up with me which was very cool. It is so funny the second country you immerse yourself in. I find India being my reference point instead of America, which is surprising. My first night I was marveling at everything: the cleanliness, the waiter turning over our wine glasses, everything being white and glorious. It was a whole new world. That being said, Greece is spectacular. It has been my dream to come here since I was fourteen, and I can’t get over finally being here. Every day in Greece I wake up to the magnificent, indigo ocean surrounding me, which is somehow both isolating and comforting at the same time. I think it might be the brightest blue water in the whole entire world. I’ve never seen anything like it. Petite, white villas scatter the cliffside like confetti, and the golden mountains pose as omniscient beings that keep you from ever feeling lost. It is a peaceful and primitive landscape, bright and dreamy in the summer light.

The people here are wonderful. First of all, they are way too good looking. It should be illegal. I am so distracted when they speak. All of them, even the children (creepy?). They must all be descendants of Helena. More importantly, there’s nothing like the Greek spirit. The enthusiasm and unabandoned love they desire to give to every single person is unreal. Maybe that’s why they’re so attractive, because they are so in love with life.

One morning, I was browsing a small shop on the beach and the shop owner and I got along well. Her name is Dimitra, and she is kind and strong and beautiful. She’s like the Greek, thirty-something year old version of Kate Winslet. We exchanged life stories and met up at a concert and drank wine and I think she might be my Greek soulmate.

The things the people say here are so peculiar. To them they speak in broken english, but in that brokenness they say the most poetically succinct ideas. At the concert I went to take a photo and Dimitra put down my camera and said, “Not now, for this is the magic.” And she was right. Within moments an astonishing piece of music unraveled and the crowd went simultaneously wild and silent. Earlier that night at dinner my dad told the owner, Costas, that he had good people skills and was great at business. Costas replied, “No no, not for business. To give the filling.” With further conversation we realized he meant he’s not trying to just do business, he’s trying to have a business with integrity. They also say things like, “The prime minister say a lots and the politicans eat the money” or “I made a little problem in your house last night, just a very small fire.” These people are great. Amongst them all, I met a woman from Irvine wearing the same earrings as myself that we both got at the Target by the street I used to live on. You just never know.

The history and mythology of this country is amazing. I’m completely geeking out on it all. I hiked the Acropolis ruins, which serves as an exciting invitation to the past by day and a luminous memorial by night. Also hiked an ancient city called Akrotiri with a fascinating story. This city was built around mid-5th millennium BC, and was ruined by earthquake after earthquake. The people’s ruthless tenacity enabled them to rebuild every time, and they were an incredibly sophisticated society. Maritime trade, intricate art & architecture, a systematic sewer system, and highly structured education were all bits of this flourishing city. Then, mid 17th- Century BC during the third rebuilding of the city, the volcano erupted, covering the entire city in molten lava within seconds. The gusto, progress, intelligence..everything was gone instantly. Until 1967 when they began to uncover bits of Akrotiri. Seeing the whole city laid out today felt important, like something so dear to history that was violently and suddenly lost could finally be recognized.

This week I decided to get my scuba diving certification! Because I passed by a sign advertising it so how could I not. It has been so wild. I’ve decided that if I can keep my cool when my oxygen tank is turned off 10M underwater and I have to find an alternate breathing source, I’ll be okay. The hardest part was getting past the mechanics of it all, so many procedures and gadgets and levers to gear up and down in. I usually skim through technicalities, but with so much at stake there was no margin of error here. But after that it was just glorious. I swam a giant fish reef with thousands of fish swarming my face and body. I felt like Ariel. An eel popped out at me! I stayed back from that dude. The last day we got to dive to a ship wreck, swimming through the ladders and decks. I paddled into the ill-fated captains pulpit where fish were feasting on the dynamic aqua life living on the wheel. I went to the ship’s bow and maybe Kate Winslet is just on my mind a lot this week but I couldn’t help screaming into my air mask for Jack. Unfortunately, Leo didn’t show up. On the swim back I saw another ship anchored at the bottom, but floating freely on the top. It made me think of how I was anchored with all the mechanics, but swimming freely through the Mediterranean Sea. Then my metaphorically-bound brain convinced me that if I could stay anchored in my own life’s mechanics, I could float as freely as that ship. When I got home I did my bank accounting and flat search for London. So maybe I’ll feel like I’m floating soon.

One day we had to dive during a storm. As we got in the boat to head out, the captain said, “I know it’s really cold, but at least we’re all in the same BOAT!” These men are fantastic. On the way back from that dive, I remember being under water and looking up to find my eyes in rapture. The water shone every fathomable color, it was like swimming inside a kaleidoscope. As soon as my head was above water, I found myself in a dark, ebony bay with rainwater crashing down. It was the weirdest juxtaposition. The first rule of scuba diving is, “Pressure has no effect on water.” So I’ve been trying to figure out how humans can metaphorically become water. The bay where we dive is one of the heresy locations of Atlantis! Maybe I should have dove further to see if I could find it. The final part was a 4 hour written exam, and I had to say goodbye to all my dear seamen. I plan to bug them all if I ever come back, but already I feel like this is my community. How bizarre. I could stay here forever with these wild and wonderful seamen, scuba diving in the dreamy satiny blue sea, eating vegetable stew on the shore side, drinking hot wine and teasing eels and going all day with wet and salty hair.

In one word, Greece is majestic. India was a beautiful and wild ride, but with it came philosophical fog and an uprooted heart. Greece is the healer. It is light and love and the ability breath. There are also little green olives with every meal and delicious wine..thank you Dionysis. Although the trip has been more about letting in light, so perhaps I should be thanking Apollo. You just never stop marveling at the magnitude of the beauty here. I didn’t much see my beloved Oia cliffside that I had always envisioned myself on, but I did stand on the same grounds, make a community on the black beach, and get certified in scuba diving. It reminds me of India, how I didn’t much work at the hospital, but I did help in a C-section, reconnect with distant family, and work at a couple amazing schools. It’s like with the loss of a particular vision still comes a taste of that goal, a great group of people, and an unexpected experience. It’s funny how travel morphs things.. plans, minds, the clothes in your suitcase. I’m still trying to reconcile the fact that the bare naked infants sleeping on the Indian street curb two weeks ago are still there this very moment. I got to have the light of Greece, but they didn’t get that breath of relief. I have yet to quell that horror.

I am grateful for the time thus far, but I’m very ready to push forward into school, living alone, navigating a new world, and finally making art again. I have missed my art, and became aware of that sooner than I thought I would. India gave me color and greece gave me light..and I think my art needed more color and light. My art needed me to get out. So I did. And now despite being on the other side of the world, I am returning to my art, and I feel like I am finally coming home.

“Leave some room in your heart for the unexpected.”

Farewell India

My last week in India flew by. It started in the most unexpected way. My plan was to transfer from living at my cousin’s and teaching at the schools to living at my aunt’s and working at the hospital. Before coming I found out there was a hospital conference that weekend in Goa (which has optional lectures..but really is an excuse to explore the tropical, magical coastal region of South India). One of the doctor’s dropped out, so I said well okay I guess I could fill the gap. That day my two cousins (who both work at the hospital) and I left, and in the grace of all things good I got 48 hours of the cool, metaphorical night that my soul so needed.

Goa was amazing. The first day we went to 3 different water fronts. We water skied at the first one, swam in the Indian ocean at the second, and drank cup after cup of feni (a sweet, cashew fermented liquor) at the third. I spent the in-between hours at second hand bookstores, eating curry, drinking coffee or more feni, and wandering amongst the street vendors, tinkering with this felt puppet or that sandalwood elephant. I was even able to successfully barter! Also the doctor who skipped out was to have a personal shack on the beach. I said well okay again I guess I can take that as well. When handed the key I found it to be for shack #8- my lucky number. Yet, the gods of travel are oh so tricky. Last week I jived at how splendid it is to give in to the elements. “Get dirty, who cares!” I said. So I did that in Goa. And despite the relief of the weekend, I landed a 3rd degree burn from an allergic reaction to something on a log. That put me in bed rest for my last week, which I somewhat followed. Ain’t nobody got time for sleeping in India! The disappointing part was instead of continuing to help patients, I became the patient. Oh life you conniving little minx you. But I did get to do some other amazing things.

The final days.. I visited the grammar school my dad and uncle went to. It was surreal walking the same halls that they chased each other down as kids. The guards there did not like my photo taking so they sent an affable but not-so-secret chaperone after me. He did not want to follow me and I did not want him to follow me. So we smiled and waved at each other and he left.. allowing me to further explore and find my dad and uncles names on the wall which was wild. I also got to see the temple my family built! It was small and beautiful. I went with my aunt who was delighted to show me every detail. The temple was constructed around a tree growing in the center which was a metaphorical delight. Behind the tree I found 2 kittens and their mother. I died. There’s nothing like finding a cat when you’re looking for God.

I finally had to say goodbye to my kids at the school. That was incredible/awful. They could not understand why I was leaving them. I’m in such awe of their progress. The little girl who could barely read 2 sentences at the top of the month was tutoring others by the end. These kids are astonishing. I also can’t believe I had an effect. It’s terrifying to realize that power. But in truth these kids are so raw and wise, they easily taught me more than I could ever teach them. We took photos and shared lunch and reviewed for they upcoming history test. All I could think was how incredibly grateful I was for them..but also how I could not in my power allow these magnificent spitfires to grow up to become the beggars I encounter every day. Their supreme vivacity is so alive and well right now, but it will be too easy for that to slip away in their current economic conditions. Yet crazy enough being educated could be their ticket out. So I found a way to keep donating to the school, and while everyone needs to put their money where it befits them, if you’re ever looking for a cool charity to give a few dollars to this is a very worthy cause (http://www.sunbeamtrust.org/donate.asp).

Teaching and living with kids has been such a funny look on adulthood. I remember believing the world was my playmate, there solely to entertain and amuse me.. Being frustrated when it was not. I see that expectancy in all of these kids. It’s amazing the child’s lens of existence. But also, being a kid sucked. Having to stop moving, not getting to sip “adult drinks”, not understanding why I had to wait to talk. The world had so many rules and none of them were explained on the basis of my age, I just had to obey them. I hated that. I empathize with these kids. But also in being an adult..how much truth do you give them? Are we protecting them or underestimating them? Last night I stayed up sewing a costume for one of my baby cousins after she went to bed and was just like woah when did adulthood happen. But the funny thing is we’re all still children at heart. I know I’m still that nerdy, curly haired kid in the school yard, wanting to touch what I’m told not to, blushing at compliments, dying to eat chocolate before bed.

One evening I was in the kitchen emptying coconut milk into a bowl, and my baby cousin wanted to do it. My cousin (her mom) told her beforehand she could not as that was the base of our dinner and if she spilled it we would not have dinner. My cousin left with instructions of not letting her pour, and the little munchkin ran in after going to do it anyways. I stopped her and she screamed, “Juuuust oooone drop!!!”. “No”, I said. She begged, not understanding what one drop more would do. She probably wouldn’t have spilled it, and one or even ten drops would not have made a difference to our dinner. The point was the discipline. But the child’s mind goes to the difference, the outcome, the act of doing. What difference does the moral make if the action doesn’t make a difference? Perhaps dangerous territory to ponder too long, but I’ve been thinking about that one drop in all of our lives. I wonder how important it is.

The one thing you never expect while traveling is how your mind reconfigures. You expect ‘getting out’ to clear the mind and spirit. But somehow it scraps up every thought and feeling, allowing you marvel at the world but also become a sort of continuous, internal tangle. It’s like with free physical boundaries you ironically become trapped in a mental matrix. I don’t know how to quell that. Probably I should just eat french fries and watch Futurama and not think about anything other than the next episode once I’m in a country with Netflix.

Everything else said, the most amazing part of India is the generosity. Hands down. They give everything and then everything and then everything else left. To not accept what someone here gives you is deeply offensive, and they never want a thank you to be uttered. I was chided many a-times for expressing gratitude. The only way to retort then is to give back. But even that is not a big deal, it’s just the norm. To help and accept help. It’s deeply engrained. Easily the hardest part has been accepting that help. My last four years were all about independence, learning to cook, bank, travel, be on my own. Yet here, it’s all about letting people cook for me, spend on me, take me places, be there for me. All my self-sufficieny has had to unravel at the drop of a pin. Maybe it should be an enormous relief but it has been very tricky. I have felt the arrows point in for a while now, and after a while inward arrows become thick, self -indulgent heart sludge. I came here to turn them the other way. But I’ve had to learn that accepting help isn’t fighting the inward arrows, it is leaning into the cycle of giving to release the outward arrows. I came here to give, and instead am learning to receive. What a gag-inducing cliche I know, but it’s one I’m honored to learn. I want to come back to give back everything I was given, but that is impossible and I guess therein lies the lesson.

What a ride India has been. I got to have a dear aunt and uncle, wonderful cousins, 3 little sisters, and the most rambunctious puppy. I was taught some hindi, chess, how to make almond milk/ ice cream from scratch, and that silly cup game I’ve been trying to learn for years. I got to teach english, music, and my itty bitty cousin to say “Yo, I love pizza” (important American sayings must be shared). I consumed copious amounts of curry. One Saturday morning my baby cousin and I played all 6 boardgames in a set, and I spent the rest of the day drinking coffee and reading Neil Gaimon’s online journal. I traveled by bus, train, car, and rickshaw. I took a Bollywood dance class which was wonderful, and even though it was just me and women in their 50s it was great. I waltzed in thinking I had finally come into my realm (performing arts yeah!).. but my gosh they were incredibly good and way better than me. Never underestimate an auntie.

Beyond the dancing and festivals and family and learning new things was also the intensity. The poverty and sickness and shock and the lopsided mind that comes with all of that. India is the contained feeling of all moments in the history of the world, and yet the coolest part is appreciating home. I miss home, and I didn’t think I would. I’m surprised to keep thinking of CA as home. And yet right now I’m in a place where I feel every kiss, war, wedding, and death, which is incredible. I wonder how many of my reactions were based on actually being in India vs. how much was this just being the first place of my journey. Most of the time I didn’t know what to think about what I was taking in, or even how to fully take in what I was seeing. But not being present was not being grateful for that moment. It feels like I’ve been here for at least 6 months.. being at home in bed with pizza and my guinea pig feels like a lifetime ago. Yet it also flew by. For now I’m taking India with me, but I know I’ll be back. Until then, here’s to new worlds, gratitude, and the one more drop in all of our lives.

“Trust that life is giving you exactly what you need practice in.”

A Love Affair with the Sun

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Weeks 3 and 4 of India were such a ride. I don’t even know where to begin, there seems no beginning or end just everything that is and isn’t and still is. Time has been such a funny thing here.. Okay. Less philosophy more words.

I arrived in Mumbai at a sensational time. The top of week 3 was the start of the magnificent Ganpathi festival. It is an annual ode to the God of Wisdom to give blessings for the year. India absolutely explodes at this time. Parades right outside your window all throughout the day and night for two weeks. You fall asleep to drums that literally feel like they are rattling your soul. Fireworks go off 24/7. I went to buy coffee and while stepping out of the shop had one go off a foot away from me and shoot into the sky. That night I fell asleep to the drums and the smoke and the smell of spilled coffee and burnt embers in my hair. And never have I seen so many people dance in the street. When cars bumble towards them, when it starts beating down rain, even when police officers tell them to move, they do not budge. They just do their their thing. How could they stop? They are dancing for their God.

Here when it rains you let it rain on you. When someone gives you rice and sweets you accept it. When goats and cows walk past you on the street, you greet them. There’s a transparency between the inside and the outside. The doors and windows are always open. There are probably mosquitoes and cockroaches nearby. You don’t get to be afraid of walking in the street barefoot, swimming in the ocean as it rains, sharing drinks and food and hookah. Everything is everything. I spent the top of my trip here resisting without realizing that’s what I was doing. I seemed to consequently live in a perpetual state of refusal. In the US we spend so much time preventing, editing, protecting. Which is huge and there is a lot to be said for it. We have incredibly clean standards and our health and quality of life definitely speaks for that. However, there’s something to be said for giving in. Letting yourself be muddy and frizzy and wet and sweaty and embracing it all and not trying to remedy it with antibacterial wipes and knowing it’s fine you’ll shower tonight and take your multivitamin and all is well in the world. That being said I’ll blog from the hospital if this revelatory idea ends up biting me in the ass. Which is very possible. But it’s fine I’m only here now.

Continuing work with the kids has been magical. They are so wild. It’s been a hilarious thing to have to implement in them that I’m not just the new American teacher, but that they have to study and work and respect their head teacher and yes I adore them but no we can’t talk about butter biscuits right now and why did they not do their homework and no I will not quiz them because they didn’t do their part. The pride and shame of these kids is astounding on both sides of the spectrum. But most astounding of all is their love. They literally swarm around and hug me in a massive 40 child to one me human ratio when I arrive, and hold my hands and arms until they are in their seats. When I leave, the same, and they chase the car and hold onto it until I’m at least 1/2 a mile away. 40 little humans hanging on to a moving car. I always think they’ll be run over. But they’ve been dodging these streets their whole lives and these sparky kidlets keep running and running. Week 3 was when the love notes began, week 4 when they asked when I would be coming over to meet their families. They were very hard pressed for an answer. Being around them is like having a balloon inserted into your chest cavity until you feel open and light and filled with so much joy. But the best part of all is their progress. I never thought I’d be able to actually affect them. I hoped I could make things make more sense, because education is truly the golden ticket out of poverty here. It’s been such a load knowing how important their progress is because of that. But after the first few days I had no idea of where to begin. I couldn’t even translate much less explain.

But then a funny thing happened. My drama degree came in handy (!) and I found they understood clearly if I acted out what the sentence meant. It’s ironic how much weight we put in words when teaching them. I began to act out “rice cooker” and “train”, and then bigger things like “I eat dinner because of my rice cooker” and “The train transports rice for me!”  The weirdest one was “When I eat, the food forms a moist lump in my mouth”.. I was a bad teacher and skipped acting that out. And yes, incase you’re wondering, most of the sentences entail food. That’s the wonderful Indian culture for you. As these theatrical translations made way, the kids were finally able to remember how to read and write and spell because they knew what they were saying for the first time. Of course with the devastating comprehension gap some knew all along, but in their amazing way they went and took the others and taught them. And of course there were still the insane days where the second I turned around they were spitting on their classmate or copying another’s homework. So, it’s a process. But isn’t that life.

During week 3 I also got to start work teaching music to mentally handicapped adults. They. Are. Amazing. Their enthusiasm, willingness to listen, and desire to learn is incredible. I wish I could have even a tenth of the passion they exude. The best part is how specific they are. It’s not like they just clap their hands and applaud to anything I sing. They have particular requests and well if I don’t know the song I had better start playing along because they have decided to sing it for me and they need accompaniment. They tell me if I need to speed up or slow down to their taste, and always make sure to congratulate me afterwards if I pass. They are spectacular. And what a dynamic group oh my goodness. Their personalities are so varied it’s incredible that we can all even come together over music. But isn’t that the amazing thing about music. While the school and the kids are wild and joyful, this school and the adults are intense and hit you in the heart. The combination of the two is a wonderful yet overwhelming one, but god does the heart leak with the redolence of gratitude more and more every day because of this dynamic.

It’s weird, like you want to do big, amazing things. And then you take part in big, amazing things, and they don’t feel that way. They just feel like a part of your life. You know you tackled a monster, you feel yourself changing in the process. The awe of the tasks at hand become tangible and real and hard and you’re filled with so much gratitude for the opportunities yet marveling at your current life seems so silly, because it’s just you. It’s weird. Maybe I’m doing it all wrong. Maybe I’m too into it and need to take a step back. Or maybe I’m not immersing myself in it enough. But regardless it’s bizarre how quickly other worldly experiences can be absorbed into your mental psyche with ease and practicality.

Something else that continues to always seize my attention here is how different the mechanics of India are. In the US we buy a carton of milk for a week or so. In India, it comes in a pouch every morning and you boil it twice over until you pour it into a tin basin as the day’s milk. Then the family has their coffee, milk rice, etc.This process is repeated every day. (Fun fact: My aunt taught me how to make almond milk from scratch! So I get to peel and grind almonds while my family double boils and prepares their milk.) In US stores we find fruit and merchandise on shelves inside. Yet here it’s mostly all outdoor vendors, with most goods hanging by string from the uppermost plank. There are no dryers here, everything is hung on the clothes line to dry. For any fan, lamp, charger etc plugged into an outlet, there is a separate switch to first turn on the outlet to work.  Big purses or bags are uncommon here, if someone has a large load to hold they will simply wrap it in a cloth and balance it on their head (I always think it will teeter over. I have held my breath watching many a people and have been disappointed every time).

The idea of identity is funny while in a new place too. While traveling, you don’t get to say “that’s not me” or “that’s so me”. It’s all so different, nothing is you. It’s a starkly alien world. You wouldn’t have worn any of these clothes. Or eaten this food. Or heard these sounds. What “is” and “isn’t” me is such a luxury concept. Here, it all is. And all of it isn’t. You just accept everything and keep going. It’s wild. Yet on the counter, this is my identity, my blood, half of my family’s origin. I’ve been really surprised at how culture shocked I have felt. This is the family and culture that I was raised with. I had the coconut curry, the sugar cane sweets, the hindu ceremonies in my living room. I had to take my shoes off at the front of the house and had all my aunts remind me of Indian values my whole life. But there is just nothing like being in the country. It’s shocking and glorious and challenging and makes my family make so much sense.

The last couple weeks have been spectacular, but so intense. It’s like neon red and orange and yellow is blasted at you in every sense in every moment. You never feel the cool down, the blues and aquas and lavenders. Everything feels like day. The poverty doesn’t get at all easier to live around. You’d think you would get used to it but you just don’t. It’s equally appalling every single day. With so much coming at you, and so much left behind, it is a daily mental discipline to stay present. It is far too easy to get lost in the thick fog of my mind. There is no clarity of heart and mind here, but the grace left is to engage with the present. All impulses must be accepted and at the same time rewired. In a few months I’ll probably say this was a really necessary time. It doesn’t often feel amazing and happy, but that’s okay it doesn’t have to. I feel myself cracking open more and more every day, and that’s okay because that is how the light gets in.

“The sun loved the moon so much, he died every night to let her breathe.”

India is Everything


The second week here has been a whirlwind!

It was a funny start. You think with travel that you’ll be the spontaneous, almighty, Lord of All Change, yet you go with all these precise plans. I came with a place of residence, a volunteer position, and knew exactly how I wanted my weeks to be. The travel gods must have thought me hilarious. As travel goes, things changed. The baby got sick, noone slept, I had a fever, everyone tried to do everything and it became very tricky for all parties involved. I decided to move to a different town with my cousin and her family to give everyone some breathing space. I’ll go back to my aunt and working at the hospital later in the trip, but for now I’m here. And it’s okay, a good change!

To continue work here, this week I started teaching reading and english to children from the slums, at a school still here in Mumbai. The school is called Sunbeam, and it’s a wonderful NGO (Non Government Organization) that gives free education to underprivileged children.There are no words. These kids are audacious spitfires. They are so unabashedly themselves.There is no guard– unless you ask how their math test went and they don’t want to talk about it. Socially appropriate? Off putting? Perhaps crossing a line? It doesn’t make a hair of a difference to them. They feel it, therefore it must be said. I wish I could freeze these eager bundles of joy into time and share them with the entire universe. But it’s been a very split experience. On one hand, the NGO is great and the kids are simply a joy. You smile 90% of the time and the other 10% of the time you’re holding back a smile. On the other hand, there is so much frustration with the system. The schooling system in India legally requires students to pass, because years ago the student suicide rate was on a huge influx from students failing. Even the NGOs require students to pass. It is mostly set up by age and not comprehension, so while trying to help an 8 year old read about a king and his land, the poor kid stares up at me blankly because he has no idea how to speak more than his name and say please/thank you. Other students in the same class read the full passage, and then tell me about their favorite Arthurian literature story. The comprehension gap is huge, but at what point do you work with the system and what point do you try and change it? Eternal question of course. And it’s wonderful that NGOs like Sunbeam exist, and there is a new bridge program for one-on-one tutoring. It’s a start, and I know I’ll be spending the rest of my time here trying to keep it on a go.

Meanwhile, I have met some fascinating people! I met a girl my age who is studying mechanical engineering and wants to create robots who paint. Talked to a guy who is going into financial business planning and is also an accomplished musician in an Indian punk-rock band. Saw a village shop keeper who cuddles with his very large, male goat on a bench at the back of the shop when noone is buying anything. Yet the most peculiar human traits I have noticed here are the gender specificities. Men are very physically affectionate with each other. Guys my age hug and walk with their friends like I might on a date. It is so surprising, but entirely the norm. And the women here are so confident. It’s beautiful. Especially the little girls! They’ll just sing. Or dance. Or talk about drunk people or hot boys. I expected them to be strong, but shy. But they’re entirely fearless. It’s amazing to find despite living in a country where murals saying “save girls” are painted and a deeply engrained male preference is instilled, the women still have a luminous confidence.

The hardest part is still the poverty. Nothing can prepare you for the poverty. Nothing makes you feel like more of an asshole than refreshing your FB feed on your iphone5 and then looking up and seeing an armless man outside the car window asking for money. You can’t help but be guilt ridden, and it’s like there’s nothing to do but give back (and even that seems like it could never be enough when the poverty is on such a national scale here). The other night I walked by a bare naked baby asleep on the street, and then another, and then another. And when I leave in a few weeks this is all still here. Walking away with gratitude and perspective seems like such a cop out. I GET to move on with open eyes. These children stay, sleeping night after night on these streets naked. Maybe there’s a better personality type that could better numb itself to it all. Nothing can prepare you for this. It is such a privilege to be able to be grateful.

Something else that I’ve been thinking though, is that to identify a country and an experience of a country by it’s financial standing would be a disgrace to the soul of the nation. Here, there is so much soul in the rich culture, the emphasis on community, the deeply religious mentality, the curry and the milk sweets and the love of the elderly and the joy that runs deep in dancing and singing and praising the Gods. So yes, there is a very rough standard of living and an undeniable wage gap that’s unflinchingly prevalent. But I don’t think that’s what the people here focus on, so I’m trying not to either. On either hand it’s lots of intensity all of the time, the feeling of always being punched in the gut either by horror or magnificence. Mind definitely being stretched and blown. I’ve never been in such a constant headspace before. My brain is always reeling. I’m now consistently writing, yet never articulating exactly what the experience is. I’m still figuring that out.

Regardless of everything, there is one vital thing to be said. THE FOOD. It’s amazing. Yesterday I ate Vadaa, which is like a savory doughnut made of lentils and rice bran. I also had almond milk made fresh from almonds- this was no Silk brand from Target. For breakfast today I had garbanzo bean curry with chile spiced green beans and lemon-rice noodles. It’s been funny realizing how ‘breakfast foods’ is such a western construct, that here healthy, filling food is healthy, filling food and you eat it around the clock. It’s wonderful. In honor of food, I leave with this quote:

“You should be proud of your tummy and always keep it full.”
~My very wise cousin

Welcome to India

On Tuesday, I departed for the world. First stop: Mumbai, India. Right before leaving, I found my mind already being blown a bit by the fact that I just had no idea what to expect. I boarded the plane with my hair in a blue scrunchi from my 90s childhood and my UCI Alumni hoodie, feeling like something in between that terrified child and an enthusiastic graduate ready to take on the entire universe. I had a very cool experience on the plane ride over. I sat by a woman who had uncanny looks and mannerisms of my dear, deceased Indian aunt, who lived with me in high school. I couldn’t get over it. Don’t gawk, I told myself (it seems my mother made it into my head after all). She was at least 90 years old and did not speak any English, but we helped each other. She put down the window shade when I tried to sleep. I taught her how to use the airplane seat belts. She put a towel on the ground when I spilled water. I opened all her food and drink items. We traded salad for bread with every meal. Language barrier, but without any lack of understanding. Basic kindness, a universal language of itself. I will never see her again, I don’t even know her name or origin. But it was the perfect beginning.   
Arriving to India was wild. I held off on social media and contact with people because I had no words to say. I didn’t take photos (I always take photos), didn’t write things down, didn’t do anything but just breathe in order to take it all in. Everything was (is) different. First of all, the driving. THE DRIVING. There are literally zero road rules. Every second feels like the moment you realize you are getting into an accident. So there are 2 choices: Laugh or cry. Of course I giggled the entire way over from the airport. Also, you don’t realize how much you use faucet water until it smells like rotten food and you have to pour half of a bottle of water on your face to brush your teeth. The wardrobe is entirely different. I came with one shirt and one pair of pants that I thought to be initially suiting, and immediately had to get more appropriate clothing (I look Indian now! Kind of).Mosquitoes swarm everywhere. We haven’t got along so well. The switches– All different and so many of them! There was definitely a moment in the shower when I accidentally hit some switch and spent the next 30 mins with soap suds in my hair trying to figure out how to get the water back on. Post shower I looked out the window and saw a small boy washing behind his house with a bucket of soap and water. Skinny, diseased dogs are all over the streets, and chase the fast vehicles. Most striking of all, the poverty. Elderly women laying on the streets, women who should be comfortably in retirement and are instead trying to get comfortable on a pile of soiled trash. People without shoes and pants being a casual pedestrian. Homes held up by sticks and reeds everywhere. Overwhelming. I have found that a mind blown begins with the phrase “Oh my god” in every tone of voice. 
Currently, I am staying with my very sweet, older aunt. She is the shortest, feistiest bundle of joy you will ever meet. Also living here is her husband, son, daughter in law, and their 2 year old. A full house! My first night here, my aunt told me, “I am so thankful to have you in my house. I saw you as a small small child, but I never thought you would come. I never dreamed I would see you here, in my own house. I am so happy.” It was the warmest welcome I could have asked for. 
And finally, the day I started my position as Pediatrician’s Assistant. First thing on the agenda? Assisting a live C-Section. Literally, all of it. Everything. I saw how life begins. I got light headed and I’m not sure if it was because I had not yet had breakfast and it was extremely hot in there, or because I saw a pink and purple alien looking thing pulled out of the bloody, cut stomach of a woman who was awake. Either way my head filled with stars (and not the kind you get from an amazing kiss or your favorite song at full volume). But the weird little thing (rather, human) was alive and well, a baby girl. It was magnificent and unreal and everything in-between. 
I have no idea what will happen today. Every day has brought something entirely unexpected. For now, I’m just drinking coffee. Thank goodness that is one thing that is universal. 
“Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing there is a field. I’ll meet you there. When the soul lies down in that grass, the world is too full to talk about.” ~ Rumi

The First Official Post

Hi! If you are reading this, then you have probably read my “About” section or know me in some sort. If not, I’ll catch you up. In short, I am about to travel the world. That’s probably evident from my blog description, but covering all bases for the technologically-unsavvy like myself.

I’ve never had a blog or much of an online presence, so this is all very new and exciting to me. I guess this is a space that’s somewhere in between a Facebook status and a journal entry. I have both separately, but the marriage of them is a very funny thing to me. Don’t worry, I won’t get too sappy. But I am excited to share things that inspire, challenge, touch, or change me. It’s kind of a miracle really, all of this. The ticket to leave. The plan. The lack of plans. The adventure.

I have loved the idea of recent of everyone being constantly on the verge of a miracle. Even once it is happening.. or has happened. It reminds me of a quote by my favorite author, the almighty Henry David Thoreau. He said, “All change is a miracle to contemplate. But it is a miracle which is taking place every instant.” So, here’s to miracles. And even though I am currently sitting in my living room, eating a burrito and listening to Ingrid Michaelson with my bags half packed, this blog was on my to do list! So there’s a little miracle.

Thank you for visiting my blog and I will be posting updates soon!