Sunday, November 26, 2006

Intentions

So I intended to write, I swore I would write, I promised myself I would write, and for the last week or so, no writing has happened. This is me trying to fulfill my intention and writing to rescue my sanity and keep my self consistent. Being back in America is hard. I mean really hard. Too many things to keep track of here: social norms, traffic lights, cell phones, cell phone laws, calling people back, leaving the house, walmart, grocery stores, overabundance, extravagance, the holiday season, waste, incredible waste, useless waste.

The other night my sister invited me to watch In America with her, a movie about a poor Irish family that moves to America, to NYC, to pursue the dad's dreams as an actor. I couldn't watch. At one point, they go out to Coney Island to try and escape their difficult life for a moment, get roped into a carnie game and blow ALL their money there. They do this b/c the dad is insistent in proving that he can beat America at its own game.

I couldn't watch! ME! Who pushes world tragedy on people to open their eyes, who forces myself to read the news and stay informed b/c being unduly affected by the pain of others is a privilege, a high class problem we have since we live here and aren't going through it ourselves. ME!! Who will watch/read/learn/do anything to prove this pain to myself, to remember how lucky i am not to be the prisoner of war anywhere in Africa; not to be a child growing up in the disfigured reality of American sprayed Agent Orange throughout South Asia; not to be an uneducated girl growing up in India in a family who i only burden with my dowry debt; not to be a young girl running from FGM in any number of countries, or to be perpetually afraid that i will be raped or assaulted and then killed by my own family to avenge the family honor in Iraq. I am American. I am therefore lucky. I must bear witness to the suffering of the world b/c as a citizen of the world's only super power, it is one of the few things i can do, and therefore becomes one of my most important responsibilities. In light of that, watching this character forfeit the safety of his family to prove a point made me sick. having just come from a place where people were living in the street, starving, all bones visible, limbs missing, covered in flies, eyes with no hope, watching some stupid fictionalized version of the struggle to survive almost made me vomit.

Re-adjusting is difficult, that was my initial point. I have mountains of bills and logistics to work out for DAYS, creditors calling my phone every hour on the hour, a father that questions every decision I've ever made, a scholarship i didn't receive, no internship set for next semester, no clear destination to return to in India, no clue where to apply to college and fear that no where will accept me. I have $100 to my name IN LIFE and thousands upon thousands of dollars of debt, both owed to people and companies. But somehow all this is bearable because i have amazing friends and family that are willing to support me. Moments like this i can't help but think India, with all its chaos and uncertainty, makes more sense than this. It seems easier as well.

I miss all my friends, scattered across the East Coast and the rest of America like leaves in the wind. i've heard from most of them. I understand everyone is super busy with the end of the semester looming and the holidays and what not, but the ones i have perpetually not heard from, even after reaching out repeatedly, those ones hurt.
I am frustrated and annoyed that i have made the effort, sent emails, postcards even, and gotten nothing in response. To use the internet in India was no convenient or even easy feat and in my across the world reality i stil found time to write. I guess different people value others and effort and communication differently, but to me, a small email in response saying "hey! i was thinking of you!" or "I got the postcard, thanks!" or even, "here's what has been happening in my life while you've been away" means the world, and shows they care.

i guess i'm complaining now. i'll stop. i miss my group, we check in over email a few times a day. it is heartening to see so many emails from them every time i sign in. i don't check in much, lately i havent had much to say. being back and being able to reconnect with people has been fabulous and worth the time change and the awkwardness of being home. One of my best friends is coming home this weekend, i'll get to see her!!! yay!!! Quick appreciation: I appreciate genuine, authentic people who understand the value of communicating their love and appreciation for life and others. That said, I hope all who read this blog are well, and this random, disjointed entry is not proof of the slipping quality of my posts, it is simply me trying to get back on the bicycle i've fallen off since coming back.

gratitude, love, and sincere dislike for creditors-

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Oh my god i'm back again!!!!

CALIFORNIA LOVE!!! (cue tupac song) It's official folks, I'm back on the continent of north America, back in the arms of the superpower. crazy stuff: our flight left Delhi at 7:30 AM India time on Nov 12 and we arrived in San Fransisco at 12:30 PM Nov 12, after having slept through a night and taking two flights. We literally flew back in time and reclaimed a day. I was getting so giddy in the minutes before landing as the Bay area came into view. the water looked beautiful, the mountains surrounding looked tiny and both the urban settlement and farming divisions on the land made my heart sing. I suddenly remembered the outcome of last week's sweeping elections and that pulled me out of my 14 hour movie popcorn movie induced fog and i started smiling. i couldn't stop. the only weird part of our flight back was this homeland security video that they showed which was like 10 minutes long, all about the new security procedures. it was all directed towards visitors to America. apparently, now each person will be fingerprinted, have digital photos taken of them, quizzed about their intentions and plans during their visit and actively monitored so that they remain in their given visa time. scary and the video really seemed done in the vein of anti-communist propaganda during McCarthyism and the cold war. weird.

it was so amazing to be back in America!! the airport was soooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo clean! there was soap, toilet paper, toilet seat covers, automatically flushing toilets, plenty of light, huge mirrors, and water that was safe to wash up and brush teeth with!!!! AMAZING!!!! it felt great to get out of the plane (which we had been sitting in for some obscene amount of hours) and walk around. I saw Americans all around me, heard English and got smiles in return to my wide eyed adoring looks.
we walked out to the pavement after securing our baggage and Sam & big from LEAP were there to pick us up. we loaded up, piled in and set off. it was amazing to drive along the orderly American roads, no honking, no animals, no chaos. other people in the van with me were freaking out and having severe reverse culture shock as they watched America pass by. i just loved it. in case anyone doesn't know, i adore order and logistical precision. seeing the well planned order of the roads, the traffic, the signs, and the drivers made me so excited. we drove through San Francisco and it was sooo nice to be in an American city. big stopped at some place in north beach and got us the best truffles around. delicious. then we drove along the water front where you can get on boats to visit Alcatraz. there were so many wonderful smelling seafood restaurants along the water- i was salivating. i want seafood!!! i want to just eat the whole world. it was so refesrhing to drive down the street and see 8 million different times of food offered at restaurants that are side by side.
we had a beautiful view of the Golden Gate bridge. someone in the car remarked that this was the 2nd modern world wonder we were seeing in a week. (last week i saw the Taj Mahal, more about that later)
the dinner bell just rang and I'll bet money i wont get this comp again tonight. i have internet till tomorrow afternoon, so email and comment away:)
i want to be in America.....(cue west side story as i walk out)
love peace & gratitude

Friday, November 03, 2006

Catch-up!!!

It has been many days since i have blogged or written anything, and for this i apologize. i antagonize you all to read, to check for updates and leave comments, and for over 10 days i have posted nothing. there has been so much going on, and i have experienced so much in the mean time. i havent had the chance or space to write b/c i have had the stress of impending academic deadlines and departure dates bogging me down. it is nov 3rd today, and i leave india in 9 days. i arrived with my group early the morning of nov 1 in chakkibank at 3 am. It was the closest train station to dharamsala, and we mercifully took taxis from there straight to McLeod Ganj. It was a three huor long drive, where i got to talk about music with mike and watch the sun rise over the himilayas while nikki and alex slept. i dunno if it was because teh trainride from rishikesh was so peaceful and i got sleep, or if i was just excited about traveling to McLeod, but i was hyper and wired. Everythign was exciting and new.

we left Rishikesh on Halloween, but celebrated witht he wonderful children at Ramana's Garden a day earlier. we had a big hallweoen dance party for them where we all dressed up; i was ali baba!! i told the halloween story to the kids, which they seemed to enjoy. hardly anyone in india knows what halloween is, so we had to steer clear of most of the scary stuff. couldnt have a haunted house or be monsters b/c it might really scare the kids. jaime & i carved jackolanterns and then were forced to attempt making a dessert off the cuff with the pumpkin filling. it became a bread like pumpkin cake that wasnt so tasty. But we had fun making it. the kids in the kitchen were a bunch of clowns who we spent the whole afternoon joking with. we made a pinata out of a clay pot and the kids wore the masks they spent the previous afternoons making. we had fun dancing around with the kids; dwaba had warned us that dancing was "not possible" without our involvement as well, otherwise the children would become nuts. we laughed at this, both at the suggestion that we wouldnt dance and the idea that the kids would turn the dome (the geometric space that most large community events happened in) into a mosh pit. i didnt think it was as funny when i spent a chunk of that part of the night pulling kids off of the floor, off of jumping on each other and stopping general hitting, pushing, punching and shoving. the whole night was exhuasting but fulfilling. every night at the orphanage, they have SatSong, when they all come together and sing mostly hindu prayers but also english kids songs (i.e. if you're happy and you know it). i taught them "ride that pony" which is a fun game that i learned in City Year, and they loved it. basically, everyone stands in a big circle and claps and sings "ride ride ride that pony" 3x followed by "this is how we do it" while one person dances/gallops around the circle, riding an imaginary pony, until the next line, which is "front to front to front, my baby, side to side to side, my baby, back to back to back my baby, this is how we do it!" the galloping person in the center then picks someone in the circle to gallop up to and follow the instructions sang by the rest of the group. once they get to the 'this is how we do it!" the people switch places and it continues. it is ehuasting, especially for the adults leading it, but it is a fun game. the kids loved it! i felt all warm and fuzzy inside when the day after the halloween party at recess the older gurls were all playing ride that pony together. they got all the steps right too! the first night i taught it to them at SatSong, they didnt follow the instructions, they all just rubbed their bums together and riggled around laughing. it was hilarious but bemusing.

i was glad that i could share somethign that brought laughter and fun to the chilrdren with them. their stories are heart braeking and suffocating. one boy was found at the bottom of a pile of his family after they had been burned alive. another boy, nicknamed lucky, got the name b/c his family was sleeping by the side of the road and a truck ran over his whole family; he was the only one to survive. pinki, a quiet, shy and adorable little gurl somehere aroung the age of 5 (we have no way of knowing)had been at the orphanage for a little over a month. she almost never spoke and simply smiled in response to being spoken to. she has a lazy eye that on closer inspection is blind. at first, i thoguth she was deaf. i spoke to her in hindi, asking what her name was, how she was doing, telling her she looked beautiful, and there was not a spark or recognition, acknowledgment or understanding in her face. i asked her repeatedly, and much slower, what her name was. eventually she whispered "pinki" so quietly i couldnt be sure what she said. i heard other kids call her pinki though, so thats what we all said too. her name isnt pinki. they have no idea what her name is. she spends most of her time there confused about her surroundings and circumstance. we dont know if she knows much hindi at all, and apparently, her parents are dead b/c they killed each other (or a murder suicide, which makes more sense) and she wandered the streets on her own for some time. her eye is messed up b/c she was beaten by other street children. she was found, beaten, on the steps of some shop. the shop owner took her to the police and the police brought her to ramanas.

the thing that makes these horrific things stand out even more is that when you play or talk with the children, you would never know. they are mischivous handfuls and for the most part seem like normal children, untouched by life's creulty. it is easy to forget or not even know that these kids are getting the opportunity to live, love and learn a new life at ramanas. the outside world is a dangerous place for them, but they never seem afraid, traumatized or even sad. they laugh, smile, play and pull us all into their hugs, arms, and hearts. remembering them makes me sad. none of us wanted to leave there. i felt like i had finally gotten used to the way there was absolutly no schedule at ramanas; i had started to make connections and was building relationships with the children. i want to spend so much more time there in my life. they need the support, and i need to see them again. i am invested and in love. they are beautiful, with their scabbed knees, wide smiles and tattered clothes. at first i held off getting to know them because i thought it would be too much for me. i was afraid the reality of their situation would take over our present and make me unable to deal with them. they were fascinated by me. everywhere i walked, i heard squeals of "Hindi!!! Hindi!!!" followed by "Are you Indian?" it annoyed me quite a bit for some time. i was past the point of thinking it was cute to have to explain myself 50x a day. eventually the kids started remembering the info i told them and that would answer the questions that followed me around the compound. things got easier after that.

last sunday we went to the cinema with the kids and saw my first bollywood movie on the big screen. we saw jaan-e-maan, a love triangle comedy starring salman khan (with muscles so big they kept trying to escape his euro-trash styled shirts), akshay kumar (as the lovable nerd genius turned cool guy) and preity zinta, the object of their affection and competition. it was set in manhattan and made me miss home SOO MUCH. it was hilarious though, b/c while the outside treatments were shot in nyc, the inside shots were done in india (we could tell from the indian 3 prong outlets on the walls on set) and in any scenes featuring white people or non indians, all the extras had australian accents. EVERY SINGLE ONE. lol! We ate Lays spanish tango chips
(delicious tomato flavored, slightly spicy chips that are thankfully not sold in the US, b/c i would become obese) during the whole movie and threw crumbs at mike's head. loads of fun.

this is such a paltry entry, especially when there is so much to cover... but it is late. i must go back through the dark streets to our guest house, sleep, and get ready for a day of no b.s. and just getting my work done. maybe i'll be able to blog during one of my breaks. love you all!