A Loner and Some Iced Tea

This Sunday I had the day off and I was feeling a little bored so I decided to go back to the last day of the Kala Ghoda festival to kill time and go play tourist. I mean after I got there I felt pretty lame and so out of touch. Where as last time I felt like I belonged in Mumbai, today I just felt so out of it.  I was just another Westerner, just like every other one that passed me. The huge difference in my feelings now as opposed to just a couple of days ago made me feel weird, out of place, and like I could really use some familiarity to get grounded. I just felt really alone and possibly a little homesick. The weird thing is, in that moment I could only think of one thing nearby that could bring me closer to home. As strange as it sounds, I went to Starbucks.

This is the very first Starbucks that opened in Mumbai.

This is the very first Starbucks that opened in Mumbai. It looks a little different now because the seating has changed a little but it really does look this awesome and cozy.

Now I am not a huge coffee lover (love the taste but I really don’t want to get addicted) but I love getting the iced teas and refreshers at Starbucks. While the menu here in Mumbai is a little different than back at home, I can’t deny how familiar it was to say “Grande green tea lemonade light ice light sweetner, please.” Who knew that such a commercialized thing would bring a little piece of home back to me? A lot of people argue that local coffee is better, and I tend to try and go local but sometimes, like in that moment, I just needed my Starbucks fix. It wasn’t as good as sitting down to a family meal, snuggling with my dog, or playing Wii with my sister but I’ll take what I can get. And I was surprised about how much that little piece of something I knew, made me feel better about feeling distanced and alone. So props Starbucks, I owe ya one.

Photo Credit.

Kala Ghoda Arts Festival – See Mumbai in a Colorful Way

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Today after work I joined Apurva, one of my coworkers, for a night out in South Mumbai. We weren’t going just for kicks though, there was a free art festival going on called Kala Ghoda (roughly translating to Black Horse). When you first walked in there were huge pillars created from recycled materials. All around the area were booths showcasing art, jewelry, clothes, and accessories for the home. Plus, the food was pretty bomb too. I tried a new kind of dessert called an ice Gola which is basically a snow cone except the guy shaves the ice right there in front of you and the syrup used has a somewhat salty after taste. Needless to say it was really really good.

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I found it interesting because a lot of the art had a specific point to it. Some talked about recycling, another talked about the harms of big business exploiting slum workers, and a couple that I saw touched upon abortion and rape. It was interesting to see how the people of India interpreted and critiqued the world around them.

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It made me really happy when I got to see a comedy show. Not only was it funny, I was actually able to understand the jokes. It was presented in mainly English, but I guess the part that made me the happiest, was that I was able to relate to a lot of what the comedians were talking about and understood some of the stereotypes used.

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I don’t think I have ever felt as at home in Mumbai as I did in that moment. Full of good food, surrounded with new friends, and being able to laugh along with the people of Mumbai was the best experience I have had thus far. On the train ride home I reflected on my day and I realized something. In this evening and in that moment, I truly felt I had a place among the people of Mumbai and nothing made me happier.

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Remanika Spring/Summer 2013 Shoot

Today there was a photo shoot for the new Spring Summer 2013 line for Remanika, the company I am interning for. It was cool to see all the work that had gone into the preparation finally culminate in some great pictures.

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Ruffles on ruffles on ruffles.

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The rack is filled and ready to go.

It also made me feel crazy short. The model in heels was probably a whole foot taller than me, dang girl! Probably my favorite part was the makeup. It was crazy how different the model looked with each new application of a different color and style.

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The makeup artist making the model look extra spiffy and pretty.

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Lots of makeup, including bright neons like hot pink was used.

Basically I want my own professional makeup artist now to follow me around and make me glamorous 24/7…no big deal right? Maybe I’ll get one as a gift for my 21st birthday in July? Hah, yah right. But I mean a girl can dream.

Ugh, can I just have my own personal makeup artist already?

Ugh, can I just have my own personal makeup artist already?

“My Big Fat Indian Wedding” Experience

Here is the saree I chose! I couldn’t resist the fabric which is blue but is iridescent and turns green and purple in the different light. Sounds cheesy but I totally felt like an Indian princess.

The morning of the wedding I was unbelievably excited. Thankfully my landlady and one of her friends who is a saree draping pro came over and helped me. A little pleating here and tucking in there and I was ready to go! (See my post on saree shopping to get an idea of how difficult it was choosing one!)

Pooja and I before going into the wedding.

I met up with Pooja, my internship coordinator, and we took a car to the location which was on the opposite side of the train tracks in the part of town I live in. Walking up to the entrance was exciting. I didn’t know what to expect.

Here is the man who officiated the wedding service.

Here is the man who officiated the wedding service.

Garlands of flowers hung from the wedding platform.

Here is the bride and groom getting married in front of a fire in the little black box looking thing. The marriage is performed under the witness of the God of fire, so a little fire was kept going the entire time.

Beautiful Mehndi (aka Henna) hand adornment.

When I walked inside the event space I noticed a ton of seating all surrounding a raised platform where a circle of people were sitting.  All around them were draped fabrics dripping with flower garlands.

The gorgeous bide. Seriously, she looked absolutely stunning it was almost like she popped out of an Indian wedding magazine or something.

The gorgeous bide. Seriously, she looked absolutely stunning it was almost like she popped out of an Indian wedding magazine or something.

The happy couple. It made me feel warm and fuzzy inside that they were so joyful.

The happy couple. It made me feel warm and fuzzy inside that they were so joyful.

The groom was smiling almost the entire wedding.

The groom was smiling almost the entire wedding.

According to Pooja, this was a Marwadi wedding which are known to be really extravagant. One of the reasons is that the bride’s family is made to pay for the entire wedding and if the husband’s family doesn’t get a demand for the wedding met, they can call it off at any time. Say what?! I for one am glad I am not from a Marwadi family and I’m sure my parents, who have two daughters, are probably thankful for that fact too!

The swords the bride and groom walked under.

A closeup of the sword with the lemon on the end to ward off evil and negative energy.

For the wedding itself and getting it officiated, there are usually seven vows that the bride and groom each take that are accompanied with seven circles made under upheld swords. The vows signify the promises each one makes to the other as well as the family. One thing that was nice about the wedding is that it involved a lot with family and the vows specifically addressed family needs such as respect for siblings and taking care of inlays like they are your own. This is another reason weddings are so huge in India, it isn’t just a union of two people but the uniting of two big families and there is a lot of emphasis on this fact. The circling under the swords, which is shortened to four times in order to save time, represents the vows. Why under the swords and what are those yellow things at the ends of them you ask? The swords are meant as a protective barrier against evil and negative energy. As long as the bride and groom stay within the circle they are safe. The yellow things at the end are not so everybody is safe from getting their eyes poked out (that’s what I first thought at least until I asked Pooja) but also serve as protection from negativity and evil.

Here the bride and groom take circles under the swords to represent their unity and confirm the vows they just took.

Around they go again.

Around they go again.

Hands of sitting friends.

These women were sitting further from the services on comfy chairs. The service is really long so there is lots of seating where people can take a break, enjoy some juice, and chat.

These women were sitting further from the services on comfy chairs. The service is really long so there is lots of seating where people can take a break, enjoy some juice, and chat.

This little guy was really tired so his mother held him as he tried to sleep. I was really impatient as a kid (who am I kidding, I still am) so I can’t imagine having to sit through a wedding at that age. So tiring!

The really great thing that I loved about the wedding was the roles that the friends and family played. As the family, they were there to represent the seriousness of the situation and although they were happy they were very traditional and focused on the service. Friends, on the other hand, were the life of the party! All throughout the service they would chant, sing songs, start flower wars, and enjoy  hors d’oeuvres. They helped break up a long service and also provided a lot of energy and gaiety to what would have other wise been a serious affair.

Flower fights from the friends were common and spiced up an other wise long service.

Here is the bride and groom getting married in front of a fire in the little black box looking thing. The marriage is performed under the witness of the God of fire, so a little fire was kept going the entire time.

Here is the bride and groom getting married in front of a fire in the little black box looking thing. The marriage is performed under the witness of the God of fire, so a little fire was kept going the entire time.

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My favorite shot of the whole wedding. Everyone is looking away and then there is the bride in the center of it all.

The younger sister wiping the tears of the bride. This really touched my heart because it reminded me of my sister and I.

The younger sister wiping the tears of the bride. This really touched my heart because it reminded me of my sister and I.

The wedding is almost complete.

The bride yet again. I took so many pictures of her partially because I was jealous of her gorgeous wedding attire and wedding.

The bride yet again. I took so many pictures of her partially because I was jealous of her gorgeous wedding attire and wedding.

Details of the wedding were really pretty too such as this coconut with rice.

Details of the wedding were really pretty too such as this coconut with rice.

The sister crying out of sadness and joy. An Indian Wedding also symbolizes the bride's move from her family over to the husband's side so it is a very bittersweet event.

The sister crying out of sadness and joy. An Indian Wedding also symbolizes the bride’s move from her family over to the husband’s side so it is a very bittersweet event.

Feet of a family member.

The family were all crowded around so they could get a peek at the services.

The family were all crowded around so they could get a peek at the services.

Mehndi on a wedding attendee.

Mehndi on a wedding attendee.

The mother of the bride blessing the new couple.

The mother of the bride blessing the new couple.

Point of view for the bride and groom.

Point of view for the bride and groom.

Oh jeez that food was so good. I def chowed down and tried a little bit of basically every dish I could get my hands on.

Speaking of the appetizers, the food was absolutely top notch. Seriously, if you ever get the chance to go to an Indian wedding don’t eat before hand. You may be hungry, but you will be so glad you left room for all the foods offered. As someone who loves Indian food, I was in paradise. I tried so many different dishes and I loved them all.

Give this gal some Indian food and I will be all smiles. I don't know what I am going to do when I go back home and have to live without it.

Give this gal some Indian food and I will be all smiles. I don’t know what I am going to do when I go back home and have to live without it.

During the end of my meal I noticed that there were some strange figures arguing with security. I asked Pooja about them and learned that they are referred to as “sixers.” Apparently they are transgender/crossdressers who come to weddings and ask for money. If they receive money from the families, the wedding is blessed and the marriage is a success but if they are turned away, the marriage is cursed and doomed to fail. I was really interesting to see that along with all the other traditions of an Indian wedding because they are so completely different from what I consider a normal wedding.

Me and the Edulab (program I got my internship through) team!

Overall I am really thankful I got to attend a wedding. It was one of my dreams to go while I was here and it did not disappoint. That being said, it is important if you are participating in an abroad or travel program to do your research. I went through so many websites before I found some right for my trip. I am really happy that I ended up with World Internships and Edulab because they are able to give me so many experiences outside of what I normally would get to participate in as an individual. So shout out to the people at World Internships and Edulab, thanks guys! 🙂

Liebster Blog Award

After some time of being absent from the blog (I know, I’m a horrible person for it) I returned to find a lovely comment from Tasha at Tasha’a Travel Troves nominating me for “The Liebster Blog Award.”

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I clicked on the link and through reading I learned a lot more about Tasha as well as discovered a couple of cool new blogs, win win right? The rules are that come with the territory are as follows:

1. Post 11 random facts about myself and answer 11 questions from the person who nominated you

2. Pass the award onto 11 other blogs who have less than 200 followers and ask them 11 questions

3. You are not allowed to nominate the blog who nominated you

Seems simple enough to me, let’s get crackin!

11 Random Facts About Yours Truly…

*I have dual citizenship with Switzerland

*I am a second degree brown belt in Karate

*I have a giant single dimple on one cheek (seriously its kinda scary people…)

*My family was once a foster family for children in our area

*I have worked on an archeological dig and even dug up a human tooth, it was pretty sweet

*I have a pair of Rainbow flip flops that I have had for almost 6 years now and I refuse to toss them because they have been everywhere and back with me and are completely molded to the contours of my feet

*I am a fan of the San Jose Sharks and I am so sad that the lockout ended right before I left for India…it’s a cruel world

*When I was little I would cry if I was dressed in anything but a dress and now I think I own one that I rarely wear

*I have a scar on my finger of when I was 4 and I tried cutting mini bagels up for my mom to give her a Mother’s Day breakfast in bed. She wasn’t so excited when I handed her the plate and saw I had about a quarter of a roll of toilet paper around a bloody finger. I just felt proud that I didn’t get blood on those cinnamon raisin bagels!

*I am Scuba certified

*I am part unicorn. No joke, my Instagram and Twitter bio confirms it.

My 11 Answers to Tasha’s Questions…

  • What is your most embarrassing moment experienced during travel?

When I was younger I went on a trip with my dad to visit family in Europe. One of the places we stopped was Germany to meet up with a fellow traveling friend and go to the Neuschwanstein (aka new swanstone) Castle. This was a point in my life where I was really into photography. I mean I took pictures where ever I went. Well being the impatient child that I was, I listened to none of the rules about the tour of the castle and missed the part saying no photos. Snap happy and awe struck at such a beautiful castle, I started taking pictures of everything. Pretty soon the tour guide caught me and I got a stern talking to in front of the whole group. At one point I started to cry and my dad asked me what was wrong. I was scared that the castle tour company was going to confiscate my film and camera and kick me out of the country. My dad laughed and assured me I wouldn’t get kicked out. I can remember feeling so scared and so stupid though. I mean I guess the plus side is I got some great illegal photos! Shhhh, don’t tell the Germans though 😉

  • If you could have any travel related job in the world, what would it be?

Well considering I still am puzzled about my life direction there are a couple of options as well as a couple that lie beyond the realm of travel. I would love the be an Anthropologist/Archaeologist. I have worked on a dig before and it was definitely one of my top 10 coolest experiences. I would also love to work for National Geographic because I like writing and magazines and there basically isn’t a more bad ass magazine than Nat Geo. Lastly, it would be amazing to just get paid to travel and write/vlog about all the cool stuff I try and people I meet. I guess like a travel blogger but more in depth/professional than purely blogging for the sake of blogging.

  • What does sexiness mean to you?

*Being intelligent and well spoken *Carrying yourself well *Having a healthy mind, body, and spirit *Being alluring but not overtly available *Happiness *Confidence *Having a sense of adventure

  • What is your favourite recipe of a dish that you have personally cooked (write out the recipe for your readers to enjoy)?

Ok not going to lie, I am a self proclaimed master crepe chef and a sandwich master craftsman. I wish I could share the crepe recipe but it is at my house in this Austrian cookbook with little notes and stuff and I am not home at the moment so I will have to share at a later date. I can however tell you how to make a bomb ass sammich (thats what I call them at least).

Literally Sammiches are one of my favorite foods! Here is one I made a while back that was just incredible.

Literally Sammiches are one of my favorite foods! Here is one I made a while back that was just incredible.

Ok for the perfect sammich you need to get a sub roll and toast it. Put some shredded mexican mix cheese on top after it has gotten golden brown so it can melt a little. While the bread is toasting cut up savory marinated tofu and curry marinated seitan and fry it up in a pan. Once the sub is done toasting pile on some mustard, mayo, and my personal favorite grey poupon dijon mustard. Making sure you keep and eye on the seitan and tofu, layer your sammich with tomato, broccoli sprouts, spinach and a ton of avocado. Layer on the seitan and tofu and enjoy. In case you couldn’t tell I am a vegetarian, and one of my favorite foods is a sammich. Literally you can eat them for every meal and I dare you to try and find a more perfect food.

  • Are you a tea or coffee drinker? Why?

I love the taste of coffee but I am trying to stay away so I don’t become addicted. Plus I love a good iced tea. Nothing (aside from water, no joke, I love the stuff) is more refreshing. Also, I don’t really drink soda so it is my “fancy drink” that I get when I go to restaurants and such.

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C O F F E E

  • Which generation do you belong to and what are some of your distinct characteristics noted?

Well I believe I would belong to the “Generation Y” group but I can’t comment with much accuracy on how I personally align with the definition of this group. Looking into it, I also found there is a lot of discussion around what was originally predicted of my generation and what we actually represent. So I guess I’ll have to get back to you on this one.

  • Have you ever been to a Holloween party or cosplay event? If so care to share your photo?

Yes! I love dressing up and I have been to Halloween parties and some raves where I got to dress up (so much fun!) but one of my goals is to go to the huge comicon in San Diego and dress up for it. I wouldn’t really consider myself to be what you call a full blown “nerd” per say but I do have a bit of a geeky/nerdy side to me. Here is a photo from Halloween this year where I was a Day of the Dead skeleton, I even had a skeleton print dress. Super bad ass.

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Boo

  • What do you do when you need to recharge?

Plug myself into a wall socket for the night, duh.

Ok sorry for the bad pun, I actually really enjoy hikes and going to the beach. Sometimes when I am feeling super stressed or upset I will just strike out on a hike somewhere. If it is too dark or maybe I am already kinda worn out I will go for a walk or drive by the beach. There is something about the outdoors that I just love and it always soothes me. For immediate relief I go to my Ammama (aka grandma) for a good hug and some yummy food. Literally her house is a haven. It smells like roses and happiness and is tucked away behind a lush garden filled with flowers that span the entire rainbow. She always makes the yummiest food and it is always healthy and organic so I don’t have to worry about overindulging. I also just love her hugs and how she still pinches my cheeks. What can I say, I’m  a lucky gal!

I am so lucky to call a place as beautiful as this my home town. Like they say, there's no place like home.

I am so lucky to call a place as beautiful as this my home town. Like they say, there’s no place like home.

  • Can you describe the interior design of your bedroom?

I. LOVE. MY. BEDROOM. I have bamboo flooring and a high ceiling that has several windows and one alcove with ceiling height windows. At night I can see the moon and the stars from my bed when I look out of them. Plus I have a balcony which has basically been my dream since childhood ever since I heard about Romeo and Juliet and the infamous balcony scene on Wishbone (that TV show along with Bill Nye the Science Guy were my childhood). I mean not only are balconies a great place to lay out in the sun and hang with friends, I always secretly wish a prince charming of sorts will serenade me Romeo style from down below. Another great thing about my room? My squishy queen sized bed. Yep, there is a lot to love.

  • Do you have a pet? If yes what are its unique personality traits? If no, why not?

I have had so many pets before and I think at one point my family had like 13 pets including all the birds in the aviary outside. Right now though it is just down to my puppy dog Skippy (aka Skiperlypodle, Podles, and MeerMeer). He is an Aussie mix that we rescued several years back and I love him to pieces. He acts a little dumb, but he is actually super smart and learns very quickly. Often, he thinks he is a tiny lap dog and will jump up on your lap and crush you but I love him all the more for it. One thing I love doing with him is playing tag/chase, it is his favorite game. He can also be super adorable when he isn’t being naughty or rambunctious when he lays down, head between his paws. I will say his name kinda quietly and he will start to wag his tail and as his wagging slows I say it again and again until he gets super excited and runs up and licks me. If you couldn’t tell I miss this guy a ton.

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Skippy can be such a little stinker but he is cute so mostly he gets away with it.

  • Why do you blog?

Good question…I never really truly thought about this before. I guess it has started for a way for friends and family to keep up with my travels but it has turned into a personal diary/reflections as well. Writing is also something that I enjoy doing and lately in my life it has been one of the many things I loved that I let fall to the wayside. I guess this blog is not only a reflection of my travels and life but also to mark the changes I am making in life to rekindle my passions and follow what I truly love. Also, I dislike Facebook so this is my proof to the world that I haven’t completely disappeared off the face of the Earth. (Hi Mom and Dad, I’m still alive, see?)

My 11 Questions to the Nominees…

Why do you blog?

If you were an animal, what one would you be and why?

What is the coolest place you have traveled to?

If you could visit any town in any time period, where/when would that be and why?

What is your favorite sport as a player and as a spectator?

Your life is being made into a movie, who would you have play your part and what is the theme song?

You are allowed one super power, what would you pick and why?

List five words (no extra descriptions) of what describes you.

What is one of your lifelong dreams?

You are allowed to sit down and have coffee/tea with one person for two hours, who would you chose?

Share a cool image (one that you have taken or maybe someone else has) that you really enjoy and describe why it is so meaningful for you.

The 11 Blogs I Think Are Pretty Rad (in no particular order)…

I am new to blogging so some of these are new as well that I think have potential or that I recently stumbled across and want to read more of. So good job guys 🙂

1. NW6 Creative

2. New York Cliche

3. UnspunPics

4. Young On The Road

5. Red Terrain

6. Not All Those Who Wander Are Lost

7. Amasc

8. Merry To Go Around

9. Kickin’ Down the Cobblestones

10. 2 Digital Nomads

11. All Things Go

So thanks again Tasha for the nomination and I look forward to seeing more content for my blog picks!

Saree Shopping!

So much newness to talk about! From saree shopping to a wedding to a fashion photo shoot to an art festival needless to say I have been one busy gal. So I apologize with the lack in updates but life has just been a little too crazy to blog as of late.

Onto the first matter of business: saree shopping. For those of you who don’t know what an Indian saree is, it is a traditional dress worn by women and is composed of three parts; a petticoat, a little cropped top (also known as a choli) and the fabric itself (usually 6 meters in length). Since I was invited to accompany my internship coordinator (the one who set me up with my internship at Remanika) to a wedding this also meant I was to go saree shopping. As you can imagine I just about peed my pants at the prospect. Not only do I get to go to an Indian wedding but I get to wear a saree too?! Stop. My Indian dreams are coming true. Also, I think my secret goal in life of becoming a Bollywood star just became slightly more real…well I mean I guess I get to look the part?

So many choices!

So many choices!

The day that  was set to go shopping went painfully slow. The work hours dragged on but finally I was allowed to leave early and meet up with Pooja, the same internship coordinator who I was attending the wedding with, to go saree shopping. I went to a shop called “Silk Palace” located just one train stop before mine in Ville Parle. Literally the walls of the small store were jammed full of shelves overflowing with every color of fabric one could possibly imagine.

Searching through the saree choices was half the fun.

Searching through the saree choices was half the fun.

Pooja and I discussing color choices. I really liked that purple one with the gold and red trim.

Pooja and I discussing color choices. I really liked that purple one with the gold and red trim.

I couldn't stop smiling. Literally like a kid in a candy store at Christmas.

I couldn’t stop smiling. Literally like a kid in a candy store at Christmas.

Light pink, royal blue, lavender, white, shocking yellow, forest green, mint, red…you want the color? They have it and probably in three different types of fabric with different patterns and beading work to boot. Needless to say, as a self proclaimed indecisive shopper I was completely overwhelmed when bolt after bolt of saree cloth was placed on the counter in front of me. Wanting to stick with the authenticity of a saree I ended up deciding to stick with a traditional silk.

Thought about this one too!

Thought about this one too!

Too many choices!

Too many choices!

Finally after deciding a color I went to get measured for a blouse and of course, shop for bangles and oversized earrings which are a must for Indian wedding outfits. People in India take dressing up very seriously. For festivals and events you will see people dressed in their absolute best sparing no expense. The women take it especially seriously by having everything from head to toe decorated and adorned.

I want to bring some back home with me in every color.

I want to bring some back home with me in every color.

Taking advantage of this fact obviously I got some mehndi (aka henna) done and was completely shocked with how well it turned out, especially because after conversion rates the amount of mehndi I got cost me…wait for it…a mere 6 bucks. Yes, I kid you not. Amazing, no?

One of my hands right after I got mehndi done and when it started to dry and chip off. It got a lot darker the day after!

One of my hands right after I got mehndi done. It got a lot darker the day after!

After having a complete set of bangles, crazy earrings, and mehndi all out of the way I was so excited to get into the saree at the end of the week. Curious as to the color I got? I’ll share in the next post, so you are just going to have to be a little patient 😉

 

*Check out the saree I picked plus a bunch of pictures from the wedding I attended here.*

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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