Wednesday, November 18, 2009

If you're still out there...I'm back

Hello, everyone. Although I doubt there is anyone reading to say hello to. I am thankful for you comments, and advice I received when I got back home. Even though it has been a while, my experiences in India still impact my daily life. But why, you may ask (if there's anyone to ask it), am I writing more now? Well, this morning I received a letter from Dharamsala, India, from the Tibetan Children's Village (TCV) where I volunteered in the library, and collected winter coats for. It was a warm, sincere letter fully typed in bad English, with several paragraphs repeated. As I read it, nostalgic thoughts of India floated through my head. Fears of the travel quickly dissipated, and my heart swelled with forgotten love.
And I do love India. I would go back tomorrow if I could. While I was there, the chaotic streets seemed normal, and the smells, were only slightly disgusting, not vomit inducing. A few months ago, I was required to write a short descriptive essay about a city street, or a favorite place. It doesn't take a brain researcher to guess what I picked. At first, the words flew form my fingers, but for every sentence I wrote, I could have written pages. A smile crept up my lips as I remember the locals following us around, begging for food, money, for us to take their taxi. At the time, it was irritating, and a practice in executive control. Plus a healthy amount of mindfulness, to make sure you weren't getting run over and that you still repeatedly refused the beggars' requests. Quite and experience.
But I digress. So, if there are any of you out there, who maybe, might have wanted just a little more, I will give it to you. And a lot more. Though no one may read this blog, and my posts may be infrequent and irregular, things need to be said. Things that only a person fully recovered from India can say. But most of all, I'm writing more myself. Because I have too many thoughts in my head, and I'm afraid they'll start mushing together and I will have a muddled and half complete memory of my first trip to India. I am writing this for posterity. For others who will come after me, and my later self. So with out further ado,


The sky was a noxious, smoggy grey, even at eleven in the morning. Beads of warm sweat rolled down my burning, DEET covered face. I couldn’t stop gagging. Every corner revealed a new treasure, a dead dog, starving children pleading for a few spare rupees, or maybe a homeless leper begging for food. But the smell beat them all in the horrid competition to overload my senses. It was the reek of people, of filthy, un-bathed bodies shoving into each other. The stench of urine, whether it be in the barley enclosed public urinals or simply on the ground or the side of a building; the exhaust spewing out of motorcycles barely able to carry the weight of whole families. Pealing paper signs on cracked, decaying buildings boasted “color TV, rooms servises” while the parade of emaciated children and barely living forms marched on.

Fully clothed in bright cotton saris, despite the 100° plus heat, groups of women slithered through the throng of bodies like one cohesive organism. Men joked and jostled in their ox-powered carts, transporting eye-stinging spices to the crowded market. Crowded does not describe India. Viscous is a much better word. The cars and carts flowed down the road, like magma slowly rolling down the mouth of an erupting volcano. Yet quick streams branched off as motorcycles roared and snuck through the heavy bodies of oxen like a mouse through a hole. Bicycles squeezed though the fat, sagging bags on carts driven by emaciated human structures.

The polluted air filled my lungs with every wheezing breath, and made my tongue swell and taste of wet dirt. A pack of young, dark haired boys scampered by, playfully kicking a deflated soccer ball with them. The noise was unbearable. A cacophony of honks and screeches was lead by the throbbing beat of a headache pulsing on the outskirts of my consciousness. After every step I took, the soles of my feet screamed in protest, but despite my exhaustion and the pain, I kept walking.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

His Holiness

My family and me with HH the Dali Lama

The entire reason for me going on this trip is my father. He gave a presentation in Dharamsala about how meditation affects the brain and attention, along with several other presenters. His Holiness the Dali Lama is the political and spiritual leader of Tibet, to say the least. He is currently in exile in India and has been for 50 years, along with thousands of other Tibetans. Sitting close to him, it seemed like he emanated peace. There are no words to describe the high I felt that day, holding is hands, and then the lowest low of my entire life that shortly fallowed it. The reason I'm not saying more about His Holiness is simply because I can't describe it. I just can't.

I can describe though, the rest of one of the worst and best days of my life. One thing you must understand bout India is eating. Americans eating in India is nothing like eating in America. First off, you can't drink the water. Bacteria in it makes one drop deadly to anyone not born there. That means only bottled water, and being terrified of getting a drop in your mouth when taking showers. No salad, or uncooked food. Nothing washed in tap water. Even washed hands are just as bad as dirty ones. You have to be paranoid when eating if you don't want to get sick. I was doing very well, until a few days ago. It was one piece of not thoroughly cooked french toast for breakfast that did me in. By lunch after meeting with HH, I had started to feel queasy. A few hours later, after not eating my lunch, I had started to throw up. And throw up, and throw up.

One thing I can say for sure, salmonella sucks. I had gotten salmonella, a severe food poisoning, from eating that one piece of french toast. I have never been so sick in my whole life. That on piece of food resulted in me throwing up every two hours, for 18 hours, even my stomach was completely empty. For four days, no food and dry retching was all I did. After that, I literally didn't eat for four days, except for Gatorade. As a result of that, my body needed protein, so it ate me. My muscles. I now can hardly walk up a flight of stairs. I always need to be leaning on something, and am still not fully recovered. So Im' sorry for not posting, but I could hardly stand up.

This trip has been the best experience of my life. I helped Tibetan children read, I rode in a taxi without seat-belts, I got really sick, I had some of the scariest taxi rides up hill I will ever have, I met HH the Dali Lama, I stayed in a five star hotel, I made friends that will last me a lifetime, I saw monkeys, feral dogs, cats, starving goats and cows, I met the Dali Lama's oracle. I even got the link to my blog on the Mind and Life website.

I truly hope that my blog hasn't been a waste of time, and that you might have found it mildly entertaining, useful, or worth while, in any kind of way.


The lovely little plane we took...

Arriving in Dharamsala was like a dream. I walked through the Delhi airport in a daze, still not believing that I was in India. The whole Mind and Life (the people who were participating in the conference with His Holiness the Dali Lama, which is the whole reason why I'm in India) group boarded a small propeller plane, like ones you see in pictures of World War II aircrafts, and arrived in Dharamsala in about one hour. As I looked out the window, believe it or not, the view looked exactly like I had pictured it so many times. To the left were miles of mountains; small villages nestled in deep valleys or on top of their ridges. To the right was the single handedly most breathtaking sight I have ever seen. The Himalayas. The snow-covered peaks were visible through the airplane windows, and I spent most of the trip with my face pressed up against them. The shear massiveness of them is mind boggling. No picture can do them justice.

Dharamsala is stuck in what the 60's were like in America. Young hippies is long skirts and dreadlocks ride on their motorcycles through the mountain town. Small shops line every street corner. I have been a terrible blogger, due to illness which I will explain later, and that is my main reason for lack of posting. That is why I'm writing about Dharamsala when I've already left. Sorry. It's a small town nestled in the Himalayas with breathtaking views. I wouldn't mind living there myself. Since my return home is approaching in a mere 12 hours, I will save the best detail to be told in person, as they cannot simply be read on a computer.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Baha'i Lotus Temple

A few days ago, I had lunch with an extraordinary women in New Delhi. Her name is Leila Kabir, and Indian woman who's father was Humayun Kabir (check out his wiki page at and is married to a man runngin for president of INdia in the upcoming election. At 70 years old, Leila is still a spunky human rights activist who speaks her mind, and never lets anything get in her way. We had lunch at a country club in New Delhi. With the blazing 100 degree heat, my family and I were all wearing shorts. But unfortunately, at the restaurant where we dined there, there was a dress code stating that, "all adults must where pants!!" We all managed to smuggle my dad in, each of us blocking the view of the pesky workers. We joked an laughed, and enjoyed amazing food, not a dull moment.

Near by is the Baha'i Lotus temple, an amazing temple celebrating the Baha'i religion. As we pulled up to the building in our taxi, myself in the middle between my mom and brother; jumping from my unseat-belted seat at every lump or hole in the road, our jaws dropped at the sight. Thousands of spectacular Indian saris, moving together in a rich flowing river of color. Yellows, pinks, orange and blue. All melded together, seeming to be one cohesive organism, snaking its way towards the entrance. My mom took one look at the breathtaking line and said, "There is no way we are waiting in that line." I mumbled in agreement, thousands of people, all lined up to get into this temple. My brother was persistent though. He insisted that we at least get out of the taxi and investigate. I reluctantly agreed, not having very high expectations for this place. My dad was overenthusiastic, as he leapt out of the small car, a silly grin on his face.

His enthusiasm was contagious and quickly caught on. And by the time we reached the mass, my family and I realized that the whole line was moving at walking pace, hardly a line at all, more of a march. This was the second time that day where our clothes seemed to be our downfall. About half way, we were required to take our shoes off. It was still a good 10 minute walk to go, and I was not looking forward to walking barefoot on the concrete walkway, made burning by the suns heat. My mom would not let us leave our shoes. She was adamant upon that pint, that we must take them with us for we should never see them again if we left them. So we all stuffed our shoes in the day pack, my dad's being just to big to fit, and he had to smuggle them in, holding them behind his back the whole time.

Inside, it was spectacular. Looking up at the ceiling, it seemed that I was being lifted upward. The architecture created the illusion of being pulled toward the sky. The walls were marble along with the floor and the pews. I picture is worth a thousand words, but sorry, no cameras aloud inside.
Baha'i Lotus Temple; the little dots you can barely see on the bottom of the building are people

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Friday, April 3, 2009

Spectacular Sights

A women wokring in the spice market

A woman ironing 
Indian school girls in their "school bus"
man and ox

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Circuit City!!

                                                        A boy posing for the camera 

                                             A man fixing an old radio to be put up for sale
                                             The guts of CD players and computers on sale