Traveling Alone

I think there is something to be said for traveling on your own. I am super excited to have my daddy join me here in India and I practically pee my pants when I think about the Eurotrip that one of my besties and I are planning for next summer but traveling alone is exciting in its own respect.

First off, it allows me to conquer my fears. I cried before I left I was so fearful about leaving for India for 5 months. Yep, right in line for the security check (and you don’t understand, I NEVER cry in public or in front of people) I started crying into my dad’s arms because I felt scared. It all hit me right in that moment and I just had to stop and think, “God…what the heck am I doing? Am I out of my mind?” And maybe I am a bit crazy but as I walked closer to that security scanner and farther from my dad, I could feel my confidence growing. I could accept that I was about to make a huge journey, and I was going to make it all alone.

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“You cannot be lonely if you like the person you’re alone with” – Wayne Dyer

There certainly are benefits to traveling with someone but it is freeing knowing you are alone. First off, you can do whatever you want. If you want to eat Chinese food for dinner, cool because there is no one who wants pizza instead. You need to run to the next flight? Great you can book it without the fear leaving someone behind. Let’s say you need to pee. Well there is no need to make a huge deal out of it and organize a party just to go to the bathroom.

Plus I have a feeling of total responsibility that I really like. I have to make sure I get up and go where I need to be. I don’t have someone to get on my ass to tell me to hurry up or I am going to miss my train to work. I have the ability to plan my days with the things I want to do and if I don’t end up with any plans then it’s all on me. I wish I had taken time off before I went to college to do time abroad. It is valuable to learn how to budget yourself and make rules for how you are going to live, and what better way to do it then while exploring something new that forces you to take charge?

Also, I feel like going to India alone has given me a great experience in learning about myself and what I want from life that I never would have been able to experience with others to distract me. Being here so apart from everything that I have ever known has stripped me down to my essentials. I think that a transformation took place when I finally decided to leave school and I feel like that change has been more pronounced each day. I have done a lot of things in life, some of which I can be a very happy about and others of which I am not proud of what so ever. But you know what? That’s life. Shit Happens. I am bound to make mistakes, unfortunately some of them affect other people in a really negative way but you know what the great thing about making mistakes is? That you can learn from them. I can’t say that I will never make another poor decision, take a wrong turn, have one too many drinks, spill milk, or make someone cry. What I can say is that I have learned a lot from my experiences so far and I continue to grow as a person because of it. Being alone has let me reflect a lot on what I have accomplished in life, good and bad, and I can honestly say that deciding to leave and change my direction has been one of the best things that has ever happened to me. All of a sudden everything that was out of my control seems so far and I can finally let go and focus on what I can control: me. I have a lot to work on, but I also have several things that I can take pride in. Finally, for once in a long time I can feel totally positive about the future and be content. Not everything in my life is perfect, but I have the ability to control who I am, how I handle myself, and my happiness. I can finally love myself and the life I am living and that is all I can ask for.

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Scary Gatecrasher Kitty

Happy India Republic Day everyone! I will post later about my day but first I want to tell a quick story that was not only funny but further strengthened the idea that while a certain thing may be normal in one culture, it may be very different in another.

Today I went to a school building to see the hoisting of the Indian flag and hear speeches about how far the country has come and what a bright future India holds among other things. Well during the speech a little visitor paid a visit to the festivities as well. While one of the teachers was giving a speech, a stray orange tabby cat creeped into the crowd meowing as it wove behind the group of sitting students and under the chairs of seated adults. At first people tried to ignore the incessant meowing but that cat would not let up. Finally everyone in the back began to look around for that pesky cat and the school children began hushed giggling. It didn’t take too long before one woman noticed it was below her chair. Leaping up with a small screech, she quickly backed away. Note all of this happened while there was still a serious speech going on. Finally a man came over grabbed the cat by the scruff and took him around the back of the school building. The speeches could be resumed and the formality of the situation returned. However, not long after that dang cat returned yet again.

This time he wasted no time and went back over to the lady who had shrieked before, this time she jumped up and went all the way to a new row of chairs to get away. This cat meant business. It continued mewing and leisurely strolling down the central aisle, with students staring and laughing from both sides. Finally it decided that it wanted the attention of one girl in particular. With a quiet gasp she jumped up and backed away from the space where she was once sitting. That poor cat just kept looking up at her with nonstop meows loudly cutting into another speech. It wasn’t until the cat started to make its way further down the aisle that a boy scooped it up and went out to the front gate to throw him out. Poor party crashing kitty, it just wanted a piece of the Republic Day celebrations too.

For me, this whole experience was quite funny. Not only was this stubborn cat funny in of its self, but where I am from no one is scared of a stray cat. I would like to think that in the US it would be pitied and sent to a shelter or unfortunately, kicked out of the way. Here people just don’t mess around with animals, and honestly I guess I don’t blame them. Here feral really means feral and that stray dog or cat probably has a number of diseases and doesn’t know how to react around humans. So while the scary kitty wasn’t foaming at the mouth or anything, who knows what that cat was capable of.

I’ll post more on Republic Day and “catching up posts later. For now I’m off to enjoy the last bit of sunshine and see a Bollywood film!

Today it Finally Hit Me.

All the children reaching their dirty hands out and pulling my sleeves for money. All the crippled people who crawl on the ground begging at the feet of people who simply walk over them. All the mothers holding crying infants as they cook food outside their make-shift hut on a road divide. The one thing that I wasn’t prepared for when I came to India was the poverty. I mean, I knew it was here and that it existed but now that I have seen it firsthand it really does tear me up inside. However, it has also made me come to a couple of very important conclusions about poverty in general and how it is seen as a society.

In India, there would seem that poverty is a much bigger problem than in the US, and while I have to say I really can’t accurately comment on the state of poverty in the United States or India as a whole, I don’t really think it is the number that is the case. India just has a very different view on what it means to be poor and how people here see themselves and others. Here, poverty is much more open. There is no shame in begging, or making little tents on road divides, or in living in slums in between massive piles of trash and the constant clatter of the train tracks. Here people are openly poor but seem proud like no one in the US that I have seen. The US hides poverty away because it is embarrassing. Why would you beg when you can work? Why would you live on the streets when you can get a home? Why would you take help from the government when you can be self-made? The truth is, not everyone has the luxury of picking where their food comes from or buying a two bedroom house that has a heater and a king sized bed and a TV. But holdup, that isn’t the American Dream! So these people who are struggling to get by are forgotten about and told to hideaway and to be ashamed for not making it in the land of opportunity. I think this way of going about it is so wrong.

Just because you don’t have a house, a car, and a giant lawn doesn’t mean you aren’t a successful person. The other day I was on the bus and I saw a motorcyclist circle around the back to squeeze through the space left between the bus and the road divide. What he didn’t know was that a crippled beggar had set up that space as his place to ask for money. When the motorcycle came through and just about ran the man over, I could barely hold in my tears as I saw the man try and drag himself away. With arms emaciated by hunger and legs that had long suffered muscle dystrophy from lack of use, you could tell that a hasty evacuation from the space he once occupied was not possible. That’s when another crippled man came up on his makeshift board with wheels and helped pull the man around to a place out of the line of traffic. I wasn’t crying because I felt bad really, mostly just out of the sheer helplessness I felt from sitting up in the moving bus and also for the beauty of one human helping the other out of pure kindness and not from personal gain. And that’s the beauty of India. People will offer you everything even if it is the last biscuit (that’s what they call crackers) in the house. So yes, there is poverty but you don’t have to be ashamed for being poor. As long as you try your best in the life you are given, that is excuse for a sense of pride.

I am glad I get to end my trip volunteering. I know I can’t save every starving woman and man and it will still break my heart to ignore the pleas of hungry children but at least I can make a small difference. India has given me so much and yet, I have been here less than a month. I want to show my thanks by giving back to the country who has given me a better insight into their life as well as my own. People say travel will change you and I can honestly say this will affect me for the rest of my life. I am definitely going to make it a goal to give back no matter where my travels take me, whether it is in my hometown or somewhere across the world. Even if it is just making one person smile one day out of the whole year, at least I did something.

 

 

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Humble Abode

I finally met Pooja, my advisor who set me up with my internship, for lunch. She is so nice and treated me to a lovely meal in a fancy hotel. It was so good. I found it funny that she was shocked I was a vegetarian though. I guess I am the only one she has seen come through the program! I guess that is one of the benefits of being in India though; there are plenty of vegetarian options when it comes to food. Later it was time for move in! I finally got to move into the apartment I am to be living in for the next 2 months and I love it! It is small but honestly it is the perfect size for me and I couldn’t have asked for anything better. Plus it has hot water and a water filter for drinking water (both great plusses to have). I still have a lot to get done in the way of paper work and getting my stay officiated by the police but I am happy to finally have a place I can move into and call my own. Plus my landlady, also named Pooja, is so sweet and even stayed the night in the apartment to make sure I was settled and knew how to use everything and get around in the area. I can tell already that I am really going to like it here.

Little kitchen buddies who whisper yummy Indian recipes to me as I cook. Not really, but I wish.

Little kitchen buddies who whisper yummy Indian recipes to me as I cook. Not really, but I wish.

Can I just rip it off its hinges and take it home with me already? Ugh, I'm in love.

Can I just rip it off its hinges and take it home with me already? Ugh, I’m in love.

More awesome door decorations.

More awesome door decorations.

I also am obsessed with the things hanging next to the doors.

I also am obsessed with the things hanging next to the doors.

Above the door.

Above the door.

Maybe it's weird but this is my favorite part of the whole apartment.

Maybe it’s weird but this is my favorite part of the whole apartment.

Door handle on the inside of the apartment with Asian lucky coins.

Door handle on the inside of the apartment with Asian lucky coins.

My landlady has a small altar right above the fridge.

My landlady has a small altar right above the fridge.

Ganesha wall hanging.

Ganesha wall hanging.

Bird nest hanging in the living room.

Bird nest hanging in the living room.

Hear no, speak no, see no monkeys.

Hear no, speak no, see no monkeys.

Sometimes I turn on the lights around this Krishna and Radha wall hanging for some nice lighting at night.

Sometimes I turn on the lights around this Krishna and Radha wall hanging for some nice lighting at night.

The little bowl of fish, little plants, and a turtle. I only wish they were real!

The little bowl of fish, little plants, and a turtle. I only wish they were real!

There are lots of hanging baubles and planters outside.

There are lots of hanging baubles and planters outside.

I live on the 5th floor so I have a pretty nice view of the area surrounding the building known as Andheri.

I live on the 5th floor so I have a pretty nice view of the area surrounding the building known as Andheri.

There is a little place for plants right outside the window. It is especially nice in the morning when all the birds come there while I am sitting drinking my tea.

There is a little place for plants right outside the window. It is especially nice in the morning when all the birds come there while I am sitting drinking my tea.

The full view once you walk in the door.

The full view once you walk in the door.

The living room and where I eat.

The living room and where I eat.

Stickers to greet you once you walk in the door.

Stickers to greet you once you walk in the door.

A puppet girl who hangs out in the bathroom.

A puppet girl who hangs out in the bathroom.

Sink area with a Finding Nemo sticker.

Sink area with a Finding Nemo sticker.

The bathroom complete with shower and thankfully a water heater (aka the weird cream colored thing up on the wall).

The bathroom complete with shower and thankfully a water heater (aka the weird cream colored thing up on the wall).

The kitchen is little, but hey so am I. It's the perfect size for me to make my breakfast in.

The kitchen is little, but hey so am I. It’s the perfect size for me to make my breakfast in.

These cool little guys are over by the window the the bedroom.

These cool little guys are over by the window of the bedroom.

My sheets are so colorful, it's so nice coming home to a bright and happy room at the end of a long day.

My sheets are so colorful, it’s so nice coming home to a bright and happy room at the end of a long day.

The backdrop above my bed.

The backdrop above my bed.

My little bedroom. I love all the colors and patterns.

My little bedroom. I love all the colors and patterns.

My First Day in Mumbai

My final flight to India is completed! Can I get a Halleluiah? Despite being exhausted from lack of sleep and feeling totally grossed out from sitting in the same clothes for over 24 hours (another negative of my other carry on being sent down below…) I immediately perked up when I saw part of the Mumbai skyline when the plane touched down. When you first see it, Mumbai looks kind of hazy and fades into the skyline under the smog and heat. Much to my dismay, I had to wait in a pretty long line to get through the customs and out to the luggage carousel…one more wait before I started my adventure. Little did I know that this crowd of people was probably more organized and a small crowd than I would experience in Mumbai. Finally after receiving my stamps of approval I went to the luggage carousel and searched for my baggage while silently praying to the travel Gods above that the airplanes didn’t eat my luggage only to be turn up a couple of days later on an incorrect flight. Luckily all of my luggage was safe and sound and I was able to head out to see a man, Sarwar, holding a sign with my name on it. I was finally here. After getting everything in the cab, we started off and I finally got somewhat of an idea of how crazy Mumbai truly is. In the cab, I heard muffled honks, beeps, and a constant hum and drone of motors. I passed small open auto rickshaws, large painted trucks, black cab cars, motorcycles, and an occasional car or two. In Mumbai everyone is moving and there is always somewhere to go. Coming from a small town in California this was a lot to take in. Looking back I think I was a little too overwhelmed to really take it in and realize the scope of the city I was to be living in for two months. After dropping the things off at a hotel, I went to go get a phone before I moved in. Downgrading from my precious iPhone was painful, but sacrifices must be made. I started to settle into my hotel room later that evening and some things really stood out to me.

1.The light switches. Here in India they are completely smooth rectangles that jut out from the wall but flipping them up means off and downwards means up…a little weird for me to get used to.

2. The showers. The showers consist of a sloped ground in the bathroom that has a faucet and shower fixture. No doors separating it from the rest of the bathroom. Everything gets pretty soaked if you aren’t careful.

3. Foot washing stations. In a country that has a significant Muslim population (they pray several times a day which includes washing up beforehand) these can be found in bathrooms in many places. Also, in a place where sandals are the norm and where streets can get dusty and dirty, being able to wash your feet off after a long day or simply walking around the bazaars for a while is nice.

4. The TV is purely in Hindi. I tried my best to follow the storyline based on the emotions and actions of the characters and even though I really didn’t know what was going on it was fun to make up my own stories to go along with everything.

MumbaiHotel1 MumbaiHotel2

Speaking of TV, can I just say that even though I can’t really understand them (except for instances of broken English) I LOVE BOLLYWOOD! I was watching this movie in the hotel room called Krish, I mean at least that’s what I think it was called. I basically gathered that it was about this boy born up in the mountains with no father who has super strength, super smarts, and super artistic abilities. He grows older into a dashing young man who saves a girl from a parachuting accident (it gets more ridiculous, just wait) who after a while of screaming when he invades the camp of her classmates to say hi, finally gives into his charm. She calls him into the city where she lives and he becomes a super hero wearing a matrix like trench coat and a mask that looks half batman half Mardi Gras. Later he has to fight off an evil scientist who wants to see in the future and had apparently long ago stole Krishna’s long lost father. All during this there are super cheesy love scenes, awesome Hindi music, and of course the Bollywood dance scenes. It was so incredibly and awesomely cheesy I couldn’t help but wish that my life was a Bollywood movie, but then again don’t we all?

So it Begins!

This year my New Year celebrations were a little different but I suppose that new beginnings call for a different type of celebration. Instead of going out and having some fun with friends I was visiting with family who I won’t see for about 5 or 6 months. Sounds a bit boring but I actually really enjoyed myself just hanging out and making some rad melted crayon art with my sister and cousin. I woke up on the 1st and packed everything in my suitcase before heading out to the airport. It was really weird because out of all the traveling I have done, this was the hardest journey for me to make. I have traveled alone and flown alone before but something was different this time. As soon as I stood in line waiting to go through security it hit me: “I’m going to India for 5 months.” I would be lying if I didn’t freak out a little on the inside and tear up a little when I said good bye to my dad. Stuff just got real. But I mean there was no way I was going to let some pre journey jitters ruin my adventures.

My Visa, woo hoo!

My Visa, woo hoo!

A couple of things to keep in mind about international travel that I didn’t really know/maybe you would want to know…

1. They start boarding really early. I thought I was on time for my flight but I actually got there right as they were calling for last call.

2. Your carry on has to be a certain weight. Usually I just pack all the heavy stuff in my carry on so my checked bag won’t go over but this time the carry on had to be checked too…oops.

3. Unless you plan on sleeping the entirety of the flight (mine was 15 hours…aka not really possible) I would recommend the aisle seat. I sat by the window like I normally do and just didn’t feel right waking the guy next to me to stretch my legs.

4. If you have the chance to fly Emirates Airlines do it. The flight attendants are extremely polite and there is a bunch of free games, music, movies, and TV shows on your own little television to keep you occupied. Plus a super cool feature is the flight camera which allows you to see your flight pattern or a birds eye view of the horizon or ground. Another cool detail about the airplane are the little light up dots on the ceiling that look like stars and constellations. So cool, right? (Also, a little side note, I am low-key obsessed with the flight attendant outfits, they are by far the cutest ones I have ever seen.)

Anyways, needless to say 15 hours was quite a long time to sit on a plane but fortunately I survived thanks to lots of snacks, stretching, music and a movie or two. Now I’m in Dubai waiting for my connecting flight (another 8 hours of sitting and waiting, oh boy!) to Mumbai and I have to say I wish I was able to visit Dubai in my short time here. It is miserable to be sitting in the Dubai airport and not being able to leave or explore. I can’t complain too much thought because the airport is not only very clean, but is also probably one of the nicer airports I have ever been in. I mean even the clocks on the walls are Rolex. I can’t imagine that a city with an airport like this isn’t just incredible. Maybe my next adventure perhaps?