Archive for the ‘Emily in India’ Category


Emily: Growing a bead in Udaipur

October 23, 2011

All anyone talks about over here is food they miss, movies they’ve seen, what every moment before INDIA was like. Not allowed to mention Chipotle, like the place is a dead grandmother or something.  Giving the benefit of the doubt, I think, “maybe the sugar sweet, bad breath words that puff from pink lips are to keep REAL thoughts from forming sentences?”  beat around the bush so much, the bush may as well not exist.  just beating the minutes by.  easier than speaking of UNCERTAINTY – what am I doing here?  easier than the CERTAINTY of REALITY.  white-haired child outside your gated home, but leftovers go to the Cow.  Powerful people see moving pictures of white-haired men holding children with bloated bellies on top of garbage piles, but Harry Potter is more realistic.  more a part of their bubble situation.

Living in my own “intellectual” bubble, how can i pop it?  I’ve got a program to follow, don’t stray from the group.  try to reconcile with my conscience – shopping trips stimulate the economy?  not just a tourist?  can i be anything but?  try to talk to locals – five minutes later you’ve got their number, a marriage proposal, and there’s a couple hundred images of you bouncing between satellites and Indian cell phones.  just another “girl friend” for them from AH-merikka to show off – another notch on their camel skin belt, trousers, collared shirt tucked in.  so much for being vegetarians – not because it’s healthier for the body, the planet – consecrated by Religion, gods forbid it be Cow flesh.  forget trying friends with the girls – dark eyes dart or stare, silent. maybe they’re screaming inside too? a moth landed on my shoulder.  reminds me of home.  he doesn’t stay long.  miss him already, wouldn’t mind a friend close in proximity to be intimate with.  privileged, i don’t need to spend my hours trying to keep my stomach full.  idle time and idle hands, full of thoughts.

got a boyfriend and a beard to keep the creepers off me

first day of “work” tomorrow.  been settled into Jagran Jan Vikas Samiti for a few days now.  great place, has vibes like my grandma Barb’s home.  days move like minutes, i’m thankful. nothing really accomplished in these hours.  dozens of hands in this place, what work is being done?  couldn’t tell you yet.  i have Hope that visiting villages will introduce me to people. to relate with, work with.  issues i can address.  sounds like i’ll be updating websites, collecting data, researching, writing grant proposals.  should get used to not SEEING progress?  expecting little, hoping for much more.  will make the best of it.

enjoy allen ginsberg, Dec. 1962, Varanasi, Uttar Pradesh

What vanity? What possible divine
blessing on all this Politics.
What invocation beyond Millions
of Votes for 1960 Hopes
What rat Curse or Dove vow slipt from my hands
to help this multitude
Smirking at the ballot box, deceived,
sensible, rich, full of onions
voting for W.C. Williams with one
foot in the grave and an eye
in a daisy out the window


Emily: Farewell, Pinky

October 17, 2011

Take this kiss upon the brow!
And, in parting from you now,
Thus much let me avow
You are not wrong, who deem
That my days have been a dream;
Yet if hope has flown away
In a night, or in a day,
In a vision, or in none,
Is it therefore the less gone?
All that we see or seem
Is but a dream within a dream.

I stand amid the roar
Of a surf-tormented shore,
And I hold within my hand
Grains of the golden sand
How few! yet how they creep
Through my fingers to the deep,
While I weep – while I weep!
O God! can I not grasp
Them with a tighter clasp?
O God! can I not save
One from the pitiless wave?
Is all that we see or seem
But a dream within a dream?


and as I am in India  I’ve got to include some Rabindranath Tagore…

“The butterfly counts not months but moments, and has time enough.”

Ahem, & now for a mouthful of my own less beautiful words…

A few bold stars poke their faces through the haze to listen to the spastic base drum and crackle of fireworks, the splash and clank fuss of nighttime chores, and myriad of beepity-beeps and honk-honks answering the crickets’ chorus far below…low and sweet, a bluegrass tune weeps from Mary’s windowsill, softly whispering ”goodbye, old friend.”  Jaipur lends it no ear, not the slightest hesitation to acknowledge these rolling stones singing farewell, collecting their moss as they prepare to disperse…

Seventy seven days well spent, one more in my pocket, waiting to buy up what it can; the final hours of class time, a trip to the post office, one more family dinner, and perhaps a few hours of sleep.  Beyond that?  Nothing is certain.  “Arrangements have been made” – for me that will mean an internship with a relatively well known NGO (Jagran Jan Vikas Samiti) based in Udaipur, southern Rajasthan.  Where will I be staying?  In the city?  In the middle of nowhere? What will I be doing?  Your guess is as good as mine, so I venture forth expecting nothing and hoping for a little more than that – hoping I’ll be of good use to a small part of the world soon.

Mere Parivar (minus Ayush, Taron, Anol, Vlinda, etc.)

Jaipur, you’ve been a real treat.  I shall miss the familiarity of my neighborhood, the crowded streets of Raja Park that I’ve learned to navigate with ease on my quests for snacks and endless sights, and the sanctuary of my host family’s home…coming home to a sitting room filled with the enchanting sitar’s voice, home-cooked meals warm on the table or packed in my Tiffin, the chuckling Moti (our family servant) flip-flopping round the house on hyper-extended stick-like legs, the refuge of my bedroom and the privilege of a private bathroom – all mine for the puking in.  The repetitive, pointless lectures, the ass-grabbing and cat calls…the easily identifiable Piss Wall……these I might not miss so much.

Perhaps in a week or two I’ll venture back…celebrate the lights and spirit of Dewali with my humble hosts…join them for a family wedding in Agra…if time and new authority figures permit.  I wager time will be made and authority figures will be charmed, if necessary.  Two months snapped by, and in retrospective whiplash all I can muster is that “life is short, but long enough.” In six weeks and some odd change the first semester will be over, zip, ho gaya, finito. I’ll be halfway through my Indian pie….er, samosa.  In the words of Ramaji, “wha-teva, wha-teva.” Christmas in Kerala, New Years in Goa?…ancient ruins, crowded cities, white sandy beaches and maybe a couple surf boards?…aw yea, I smile and nod.  Two and half months have gone by and I’m still not entirely sure I’m awake.

If this blog has left you sourly unsatisfied, perhaps this will hit the spot? – a short celebration of the adventure I’m about to embark upon…


Emily: Trainride daydream

October 8, 2011

It was no shock to anyone that Emily had neglected her blog for well over a month.  Always jumping around…quite like a flea.  And in her defense, quite like a flea with a pedigree pup on her plate; too enthralled with wandering through the thicket of fine hair, too busy burrowing beneath the scales of skin to sip on sweet nectar, and often too frazzled by the jarring movements of her host to sit back with pen and paper and reflect…and more often than not, this flea thought…”I am just a simple flea that no one should take interest in, and having no thumbs I can’t begin to imagine how I might use a pen…”  Scholars maintain that the written language of Fleagli has been lost for generations; in fact…however, I digress…

Oct 2nd, 2011. On another sweaty afternoon, Emily found herself on another train.  Sharing a compartment intended for eight passengers with twelve other adults and one baby (rather doped up on opium), she was wedged between a rusty arm rest and a rather plump woman in a sea green sari.  Her arm accumulating the sweat of the lumpy lady, the family opposite her showing no sign of relent in their staring, she attempted to escape.  Out the window, past the plethora of squatters shitting on the side of the tracks, past the bicycles and rickshaws accumulating at the railroad crossing, her mind transported her through time and space…to fresh air…on a mountain side…

Dharamsala.  Waking up to feeling cold was a stark contrast to nearly a month of waking up drenched in sweat.  This couldn’t possibly be India anymore – the humidity of August was absent.  No horns sounded in the distance.  And where was the thick air salted with exhaust and the shouts of early morning vegetable sellers?   Outside the drafty door a pony shuffled around the cement slab trying to shield itself under the eaves of the tin roof.  Pellets of rain pounded, the symphony nearly deafening.  Careful not to disturb the girls sleeping on either side of her, she was silently thankful of her impulse purchases from the misty mountain town of McLeod Ganj just a couple nights before – tugging the wooly green hat around her ears and zipping up her blue rain jacket she simply sat and listened and was.   Three days passed this way – timeless and fleeting all at once.  She scaled giant boulders, ate orange mushrooms gathered from the forest, watched monkeys wrestle under wispy clouds that rolled through the mountains, wandered up the rocky path to Triund’s snowline (absent of snow this time of year), tiptoed past cow pies while spying out her out space to donate to nature, sliced vegetables hauled up the mountain by donkeys, gazed up into the blanket of black and stars as the campfire crackled by her barefoot, mud-caked feet.  The hike down (much easier than the six hour ascent) was made bittersweet by the promise of a possible glimpse at His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama for a mere twenty rupees.  Chance would have it that on the very five days that she happened to be in Dharamsala, he was giving his first public speech that summer.  And luck would have it that as she and her comrades sat amongst the crowd of dreadlocked hippies, red-robed monks, and worldly travelers that she spied him walking by.  His speech, translated from Tibetan to English, Spanish, Portuguese, and Hindi on the fuzzy frequencies of tiny radios was…nothing special.  Or so it seemed at the time.  He spoke of compassion, of asceticism, of meditation and the path to a happy mind.  It wasn’t until she was wandering away that it struck her – his ideas didn’t inspire her to change, because they were thoughts that pervaded her mind for years.  It was a blessing to feel so at home in the company of strangers in a strange land so very far from home.  Simply being was a blessing.

Eyes stinging with exhaustion, head aching, her mind fluttered back to the present.  The compartment reeked of baby poo and the eyeballs ogling her seemed to have multiplied.  Sixteen hours of train ride remained before she would be delivered to the holiest of India’s holies: Varanasi.  Toting the backpack her sister had given her when she left the States a mere two months ago, she climbed to the third tier bunk of the crowded compartment.  Nestling her ukulele against her chest, she drifted off to dreamland to frolic with the friends of yesterday on the plains of nowhere at all.   The jumping flea would reflect on her journeys again soon…maybe on another train ride…in another town…soon.


Emily: Anna Hazaare, face of the Indian revolution?

August 25, 2011

I wanted to note: Invigorating times in the political history of India! I’m quite excited to be here as the struggle for anti-corruption unfolds before my eyes every evening on the television and every morning in the newspapers.  Anna Hazare, a political activist for transparency and consequences for government actions, was arrested this morning in Delhi as he continued his fast for a strong Lokpal Bill (which would put government officials in check). The arrest itself was unconstitutional, putting the democratic right to protest in question, and has stirred massive protests. Moved by the people, thousands of which were arrested across India, the government plans to release Anna this evening, but he will continue his fast until suitable negotiations are made. Just so you can get an idea of how government corruption affects the lives of everyday people…my family’s servant, Moti, has an elder brother who came to help fumigate the kitchen this weekend. Strange, it would seem, that someone who has a undergraduate degree would be working as a servant, yes? Well, upon receiving his baccalaureate he applied for a government position, and his application was well received. Upon interviewing personally for the position, he was viewed as an optimum candidate – upon one condition: to receive the job he would have to pay the government Rs 20,000! That’s roughly $450 USD, but to a poor man who makes Rs 7,500 a month and has mouths to feed, you can see how this meager government position fee (illegally imposed) is preposterous. And that’s just at the ground level, the higher you move up into governmental positions, the thicker the heap of corruption can grow, I’m afraid. Let’s all have India’s people in our hearts and minds as they move through these difficult times; may the voice of the people be heard and may their hopes become the future.  And save a little bit of hope for me, please, (just a tiny drop) as somewhere between the visa agency and the India consulate, my visa came back to her 4 months shorter than it should have been! In all likelihood I should be able to get a three month extension on it, but no more than that…perhaps I will wander off to Nepal if India would only allow me to return for my flight home…


Emily: A fresh perspective

August 18, 2011

The blue city of Jodhpur; purpose in the painting?…cools homes & acts as an effective insect repellant…who knew?

Growing antsy from two weeks of being punctual and polite in the confines of the Kanota Bagh neighborhood of Jaipur, Emily and her six comrades set off for the train station on a drizzly Friday morning.  They hauled their packs with excitement, traipsing down Devi Path to the main road.  There they haggle with hurried rickshaw drivers who honked loudly as they pulled up to the trashed covered curb. Finally settling on an agreeable price, the girls piled into two yellow and green rickshaws with tiny posters of pretty girls plastered to their worn out interiors.  A surprising amount of Jaipur was hustling and bustling for Rakhi, the celebration of brothers and sisters, despite the misty rain which usually kept them inside near a warm cup of chai.  The train station they reached was packed with honking motorists and pushy pedestrians passing through security gates.  Images of terrorists, bombs, and overturned railway carts flashed through Emily’s mind momentarily as the slightly confused but jovial team found their way to the second platform.  Arriving a half hour early for the train, they sat in a circle and feasted their eyes on the colorful sights around them.  Women in shimmering saris mingled with flea-bitten mutts and hormone ridden teenagers who felt no guilt in staring at the mix of North American women.  An hour after their train was scheduled to arrive, the group had grown silent, taking up their Sodoku puzzles and flipping through old magazines from home.  Emily watched with a smile on her face as a tiny toddler toddled around the skirts of his mother in shoes that squeaked with every step.  When his round hazel eyes found hers, he squeaked over to have a babbly conversation and smile at her peek-a-boo faces.  His mother followed his squeaky steps to retrieve him, but when she saw how much they were enjoying each other, she decided it would be best if they parted with a proper goodbye and instructed the wee one to give Emiy a kiss.  The softest, wettest  baby kiss was planted squarely on her cheek and then he squeak, squeak, squeaked out of her life, down the platform to his father and luggage, never to know what a treat she thought her first Indian kiss was.

Not long after, the big blue Marudhar Express screeched to a halt in front of the gathering crowd of passengers, so Emily and friends pushed their way to dirty benches which doubled as sleeping bunks.  “How refreshing to be going!” Emily thought as the breeze came in through the barred windows and she climbed to the top bunk with her ipod and Hindi homework in hand.  From her high position she watched like a house cat as her new found friends jumped to capture the pastoral scenery whizzing by with their cameras, as the whizzers whizzed wherever they pleased in the trash cluttered towns, and as young men crowded the windows of their cart at every stop to see the circus of white women inside.  The pale-skinned lot snacked on chapatis and cookies packed by their humble hosts in Jaipur and gave some of their loot away to the beggars that made sure to spend ample time in their section of the car.

a gaggle of train station boyz “welcomed” them at every stop

where Jodhpur’s water supply had once been, trash and one giant catfish now reside

They arrived in the blue city of Jodhpur without any hiccups, only to be swarmed by more rickshawalas and hungry children. Fearful to fish out any cash here, the girls huddled in the midst of the ever encroaching crowd as Sam tried desperately to contact their hotel driver and Emily gave out the last of her Luna bars to a little girl in dirty clothes.  Food was far better to give out than money anyhow, as the children often worked for some kind of “pimp”, but Emily felt guilty as she stood there with her cell phone, I-pod, and “essentials” of life on her back. What did she do to be so lucky that she didn’t have to spend her childhood begging on a dirty platform of dying dogs and maddened men? Her childhood was filled with inflatable swimming pools, conversations with her favorite trees in her front yard, Cheerio snacks, and bread crumbs fed to ducks on a river. And now, here she was, on vacation from her perpetual vacation. A tourist in a town where the young and old went to bed with their bellies aching. Read the rest of this entry ?


Emily: You make your own rose garden

August 13, 2011

If my life were a garden, it would be full of brilliantly colored flowers, the sweet aromas of my memories, and all my favorite songs and sounds would float through the air.  I gasp sometimes at how awesome life can be – sure I have my low points: times when the garden feels like a maze of dark thoughts which petrify me, but without this the flower petals might become dull in my mind.  Speaking of my mind – it needs to slow down!  I’m like a PC on the fritz…somebody needs to press ctrl-alt-delete and end some of the processes so I can function enough to deliver my messages.

you never know when a peacock may land at your gate…

a manihar man making lakh chuli (special bangles)

one of many bangle shops in a long alley near City Palace

Today I awoke from the loveliest dream, emerging from the depths of a cool turquoise lake into the sparkling sunlight of reality.  I took another bucket shower, (yes, I’ve been sweating up a storm; yes I’ve been disgustingly dirty; no, I don’t mind…I’m on a mission to use as little water as possible) using hot water to warm myself in the early morning.  After breakfast, Mary and I wandered to school. The weather was perfect: cloudy and cool—hardly broke a sweat.  Our lead Hindi teacher (Sheila-ji of France) was absent today, but our native Hindi teacher (Harusch-ji) was a real treat acting as the head instructor, so I was quite pleased.  We cut our Hindi lesson short for a field trip near City Palace, where the old Rajasthani rajas (kings) once lived.  In fact, their descendants still occupy the palace, but their “royalty” is more for decoration than anything else – their main duty being to orchestrate festivals, parades, and the like.  The purpose of our trip was to pick up our passports and registration papers from the Foreigners Registration Office as well as take a visit to see how churi (lakh bangles) are made.  The FRO is located in the former temple of Shiva, the god of destruction – I found it a little ironic/comical that a government office decided to occupy that area.  As a respect to Shiva, the FRO was recognizing this day as a tribute to him, so the office was temporarily shut down and we had to wait outside the gate until the ceremony ended.  Standing around in a circle, we all got to talking and our intermediate level Hindi teacher, Rasheet-ji, brought up a very poignant message…

I’m sure you’ve heard by now of the riots taking place in London. From what I’ve heard (and please correct me if I’m wrong, I’d love for this to be a forum for discussion rather than a monologue) police brutality which resulted in the death of a young man has ignited the fire for revolt in the hearts and minds of the young, the oppressed, the disadvantaged.  All it took was one little spark in this Western world where people felt they lacked opportunity to progress, and the streets were ablaze with violence.  Not necessarily the best way to voice your opinion of injustice, but that’s the way history changes, sometimes it’s the only means for getting a response it seems.

In other places of the world, like in India as Rasheet-ji said, people have lived oppressed lives for centuries, waiting for change, dutiful in their birth-given positions, and hopeful that life would improve with patience and tolerance.  In the last ten years, with the globalization of goods and information increasing at light speed, more social change has occurred here than in the last century altogether.  Meaning those who are able to lift themselves up have been able to seek out better lives.  And they’ve done it with mucho gusto – Indian intellectuals outshine their Western counterparts in mathematics, sciences, and even in the English language (read it for yourself!). My ninth grade host brother, Ayush, looks like a genius compared to me.

Of course, there are still rows of sleeping people lining the streets, poor health conditions and limited opportunities for the poor to become anything else. I’ve been researching NREGA, the National Rural Employment Guarantee Act as part of my quest to find out why things are the way they are; the middle class here in Rajasthan seem to think that the poor beggars who line our streets aren’t truly poor – and perhaps they are correct. I’m sure there are people in much worse conditions as you travel further from the cities. You can read the act here or visit the website. But from what I’ve been reading about the it, there are a lot of loopholes that would keep rural workers from being able to get this menial wage for (only allowed 100 days of the minimum wage set in 1948 per family, regardless of family size) and even if they do, it doesn’t seem like enough for them to gain any kind of social leverage without adequate knowledge on HOW to do so. And many people might not even KNOW about the act if they are not literate, and then of course the act doesn’t even apply to inner city residents…only so many people can afford to send their children to school, and the competition for higher education is very high.  You can certainly feel the tension if you look around, and there are definitely acts of “terrorism” committed by people who feel they are oppressed if you do your research.  The world is a shrinking place, and every person wants a chunk of it to themselves (not everyone of course, there are those who don’t think that way)…but is there enough to go around?  I think there is.  Maybe not in the material sense – not everyone can have a hot shower every day of the week, not everyone can live like a movie star, and it’s simply not sustainable.  But everyone can have enough to survive; food to eat, freedom to be spiritual, to be a healthy human.  Easier said than done of course – I’m speaking ideally (yes…I’m a romantic idealist, I realize this) BUT if everyone practiced tolerance, patience, and planted seeds of kindness, then great trees of good would grow from it and the human race would be fruitful.  I realize I’ve gone off on yet another rant…the point that Rasheet-ji brought up outside the FRO was that for the world to live in harmony, human beings need to find a balance.  Everyone is racing towards the finish line like little kids in the egg-and-spoon race; you may get to the finish line first, but if you drop the egg you’ve lost.  Everyone is trying to get to the top, but without finding harmony with others…

To me, finding that harmony with others starts with finding peace and balance in your own life.  Sure, work, school, family, and friends may stress you out – you may fail sometimes, life may bring you down, and you may feel like no one cares about you, but YOU.  What did you expect though?  No one is going to pick you flowers every day. You have to make your own rose garden.  Cherish all the things you do have (which if you’re reading this is probably a lot) and whenever you can, pick a flower from your garden and give it to someone else.  Imagine what a sight to the see the world would be.

Other than that, I also had a friend from Minnesota visit me today, which was quite nice – Rama-ji insisted he stay for lunch and stuffed him full of curry, chapati, dal, rice, and ice cream before he left to catch his train ride to more adventures. After lunch my classmates and I booked our own train tickets to Jodhpur for this weekend.  YAY!  Our first little adventure outside Jaipur!  We’ve have been excitedly looking for adventurous things to do – camel rides?! Champagne dinners in the desert!?  Sleeping in tents on the rooftop of a hotel?!  Whatever happens, I’m sure it’ll be another fulfilling experience. . . I feel bad sometimes, talking about all the fun things I’m getting to do…but you can do it too!  All you have to do is have a dream and fight for it – that’s how India started for me!


Emily: You may say I’m a dreamer…

August 11, 2011

Last night I dreamt that my good friend Ashley and I were waltzing around a grocery store – and what started as innocent sampling of grapes and cherries evolved into a full-blown rampage of thievery.  We stuffed cookies, cake mix, pickle jars – anything we could find into our mouths and clothing.  From what I’ve read on dream interpretations, dreaming of stealing forewarns fiscal difficulties in the future.  However, getting CAUGHT stealing implies good fortune, which in fact was how our blitz ended; the security guard near the checkout had been watching our antics on camera all along.  I’m not one to buy into superstition and such, but I still hoped the latter was true and good luck is coming.  Strangely, I did decide to pay for a single pomegranate in my dream…haven’t found any meaning in that as of yet.  In other interpretations I’ve read that being a thief in dreams is a sign that the dreamer feels they are lacking something, perhaps freedom of choice or lack of morals, or that you feel you are being closely watched and are fearful of intruding on the personal space of others – which defines how I’ve been feeling quite accurately.  Indian culture is fairly conservative – showing of affection in public is frowned upon (even between mother and child), bare shoulders or knees are frowned upon (mainly by women), the parents watch closely over the actions of their children, premarital relations of any kind are socially uncouth…and if you know me at all, you might say I’m a very liberal person and have been known to say “I do what I want” from time to time.  So, afraid of offending anyone, I’ve been paying close attention  to everything I say and do, noticing all the glancing eyes and all the time feeling somewhat trapped.  Luckily, the longer I’ve been here the more I’ve come to realize that the family I live in is very open, very honest, and has had a lot of experience with foreigners; welcoming students into their home for the last 10 or 12 years.  It has definitely taken some adjusting, but perhaps a bit of taming would be good for me.  I’m starting to settle into a bit of a routine – waking up very early, breakfast at 8:30, school at 9:00, lunch by 2:30, tea time at 6:00, and dinner at 8:30.  I’m more accustomed to living quite impulsively…but the structure has made me value my free time more and become very productive in studying and practicing with my lover, the ukulele.

And today I’ve once again experienced that a total 360 is possible in only hours– this morning I awoke feeling cornered, but as the sun sets I realize there are still outlets for expression, if only I utilize them.  My ladies (fellow classmates) and I took to the streets after lunch to study at a local restaurant/coffee shop, Mr. Beans.  It was nice to get out of the house, get some espresso, and converse about our school, our teachers, and what we’ve been learning – as of yet we’ve been spending a lot of time cooped up at our homestays, studying, reading, and whatnot.  I was a little put off though, I must admit.  Every where we go, there are children on the streets begging for whatever they can get (hopefully money), but as soon as we got to the coffee shop it was like the consumers in us turned on full blast, the comfortable atmosphere and aroma of coffee and cakes were admired and noted, and the children outside didn’t exist.  Imagine living a life where you are completely controlled by circumstance – born into a lower “caste” of people, made to wander the streets, begging tourists and your wealthier countrymen for aid, and more often than not, they leave you empty-handed.  I saw as a man nearly struck a small girl when she didn’t jump to approach us immediately upon seeing us.  What kind of world do these children think they live in?  I can’t wait to start working in my internship with a local NGO that aims to support and guide people who could truly use a helping hand in life.  It’s a lot more developed here than in Tanzania, but there are still many improvements to be made in the quality of life for the majority of people.  Women are sold into marriages (the man who makes the arrangements reaps all the benefits), children are married off, female infanticide due to dowry price is still a very real problem, women are tortured for being “witches”, the government lacks transparency, grain rots due to poor storage practices while thousands go hungry, and racism or residual “caste-ism” prevents people from empowering themselves and improving their own lives. 

I’ve been learning about the Hindu religion and reflecting upon the symbolism of the many gods, goddesses, and epic tales.  Vishnu, one of the supreme Hindu gods considered to be the sustainer of human life and the universe was incarnated (for the seventh time) appearing as Rama.  Rama led a humble life, even though he was a prince, and treated every man with respect.  Quite like Jesus in Christianity, he embodied what the ideal human should be.  Sometimes I think that people have gotten too wrapped up in the material things, the comforts of life, and appearing to be “godlike” when appearance is only an illusion.  The soul is what matters, the souls of others should matter, curing humanity of the darkness that curses our world should matter.  But this is, according to the Hindu time scale, the Kali Yuga, or final period in the cycle of living beings in which humanity has descended from righteousness and awareness of our inner selves.  Money, lust, jealousy, ignorance, opression…it’s all a little too much for a wee little Emily to think about sometimes.  But that’s why I’m here – I’m hoping to find a path in this life where I can bring out the best in others, the best in humanity, because I know it exists.  I know there are so many good souls out there who care, I’ve been so lucky to meet some in my life.

Anywho…enough of my preaching, I digress….Upon returning home for tea time, there was also a lot of time for chatting with Mary, Ramaji (my host mother), and Velinda (my host sister who stops to visit from time to time).  I’m feeling more and more comfortable around them every day as we exchange stories about our cultures, our families, and our experiences.  I’m so pleased with how this day has panned out, how my trip is turning out so far, and beginning to think that my dream may have represented good fortune after all.  Truly, I am so blessed to be here, to have this opportunity, and to have met such wonderful people.  I look forward to every day to come.


Emily: Arrival in India

August 9, 2011

Sorry to keep you all in the dark for the last week. Things move slowly and I just got the internet on my computer yesterday.  I have been writing down my experiences a bit as I go along though…

The Palace in Delhi


After a two hour trip from Minneapolis to Newark and a fourteen hour flight from Newark to Delhi (neither terribly comfortable, but totally manageable) I met up with two other girls who are also staying in India for nine months (Sam & Lauren) in the beautiful New Delhi airport.  We were picked up by a driver, led to a fancy SUV with air conditioning (yay!) and crazily driven to the YWCA Hotel in Delhi where we spent the night.  The drivers here are crazier than in East Africa, with lanes obviously considered “guidelines” for driving than the actual area to drive in. Luckily the pedestrians, bicyclists, rickshaw drivers, motorcyclists, and regular motorists, most of which seem to drive Hondas or Suzikis, have very quick reflexes and somehow manage to stop within millimeters of demolishing each other.  Everyone uses their horn more in one drive than I’ve ever thought to use one in my entire life, but it’s more of a friendly reminder that you are there than it is rude.  I didn’t sleep very well my first night – woke up every hour or so I’d say after another nightmare of something going wrong.  My ukulele snapped in half, I was stalked, beat up by a pack of rough lookin’ hombres, friends were kidnapped never to be seen again, but finally the sun came up and it was all over. 

Lauren and I, who shared a double bed that night, went down for a complimentary breakfast of hard boiled eggs, toast, chips (fried potato wedges), and tea, then met up with the rest of our group for orientation.  All in all, I think there are eight girls, and our guides/professors, Rekyaji and Rasheetji, were extremely welcoming.  We left the hotel for a drive-thru tour of Delhi, cruising past lots of government’s buildings, embassies, parliament, and even the royal palace.  For such a populated city, Delhi is full of trees and gardens, and “going green/reducing your footprint” is advertised everywhere.  You know I was a fan.  From there we took the seven hour trip down National Highway 8 to Jaipur, stopping for lunch at McDonalds for lunch (definitely not my choice, but the McSpicy Paneer was alright & the fries were the same as they in the U.S.) and then for chai at a roadside café.  I rode with most of the girls and Rasheetji in a touristy looking bus, shivering from the air conditioning which was kept at full blast.  Traffic was slow as there is A LOT of construction going on here; the highway being widened to six lanes, housing complexes popping up everywhere, and the traffic of workers that comes with it all.  I saw beggars wandering through the stalled traffic, camels, cows, and skinny dogs, the Top Ramen factory, and the headquarters for Panasonic and Pepsi…quite an interesting mix.  As the sun was going down the road began to curve and the red rock hills became more numerous.  We went through a rocky passage way and turned the corner to see the beautiful lake at the bottom of a hill with a flooded monsoon resort in the middle – the north entry to Jaipur.  The streets were ridiculously colorful, as the festival Teej had just taken place and vendors and customers were wandering everywhere.  We got a little tour of the city as we drove through, Raseetji telling us about the history of Jaipur, the significance of the fort lining the tops of the hills on the north side, and pointing out all the best shops along the way to our new homes. 

Mary Brickle and I were dropped off with our luggage at the rather fancy home of Professor Rama Rani Lall, an English professor who plays sitar in her spare time.  Her eldest son Taron (I think that’s his name, oh geez) who is a doctor and leader in artificial intelligence in Canada, and Rama’s ninth grade grandson, Ayush, from her youngest son are also staying with us.  They welcomed us with the cutest welcome cake I’ve ever seen and showed us to our rooms on the second floor.  Honestly, I would consider this a vast upgrade.  I’ve got my own room, bathroom, tons of cupboard space, and a balcony all to myself (the door to which must remain shut or the monkeys will get in).  After we settled in a bit, we headed down to dinner with the family.  Rama and her servant boy, Moti, brought out dish after dish and I ate more than I wanted despite my telling them I was stuffed.  I love Indian food!  Oh. My. Yum.  We chatted for a while about…a little of everything.  Taron promised to let us observe the trauma ward in the hospital sometime soon, which I’m really looking forward to.  After conversing for some time, we were shooed off to bed, but I sat up for some time, too excited and too hot to sleep.  Blankets really aren’t necessary here.  After waking up all through the night, the sun finally came up again and I enjoyed my first bucket shower.  Already I’m drenched in sweat again, but it was refreshing while it lasted.  Today Taron will drive us to school, overly concerned that we’ll be lost on the five minute walk.  Nothing too special today – another day of orientation to meet our teachers and get a little intro to Hindi.  So far the program seems pretty well structured and my host family is more than I could ask for.  It feels like one gigantic, goofy field trip so far…hopefully as time passes things will become a little more relaxed and I can venture out on my own a bit more.  I’ll be more than safe here as long as a stay hydrated and steer clear of drinking tap water—everything is pretty modern….though we are in the middle of a power outage.  I’m excited to learn Hindi so I can communicate with everyone and feel even more at home here.  

Mary & I separately decided to skip dinner tonight on account of being so catered to all day that there was no desire left to eat.  I have drunk more chai (Hindi word for tea) in the last 72 hours than I have in the last 72 weeks of my life, and never have I been so doted upon and coddled.  Eight million times now I have been told about every monument on JLN road, the main street by my house, every tidbit worth mentioning is still ringing in my ears.  I’ve been driven around essentially everywhere I have gone so far, no chance for exercise besides when I’m alone in my room.  I’m dying to get outside and explore on my own instead of being led around like a toddler, but hopefully that will come all in due time. While being carted around the city I’ve also noticed most of the poor beggars have a darker skin than the richer appearing families.  A residual mark of the caste system perhaps?  This city is so strange.  Today was an especially bad one for traffic, (on account of it being the second day of the Teej festival as well as Wednesday, the god Ganesh’s day whose temple is a few blocks away) but Ramaji’s daughter insisted on taking us for a stroll – which was, in fact, a ride up and down the main road in her car.  Half naked children pressed against my window begging for money and food, but sadly I had nothing to give.  I was told there is an extensive mafia system behind most of the street beggars in which children are forced to earn 10 rupees a day in exchange for…well I don’t really know.  It was rather depressing but I suppose in the future, if people set their minds to it, these won’t be things people see when they travel to India.  Amongst the redundant information I’ve been fed, I have been learning about the history of India, the time of separation from Britain, the time of unification amongst the states, the banning of marriage dowries, the empowerment of women, and the current struggle for subsidized education and farming.  There are lots of problems to be dealt with here, but as always it must be taken bit by bit, one day at a time.  The family I’m staying with is overwhelmingly gracious, Rajasthan is ridiculously humid, the staff members at the American Institute for International Studies where I will be learning are so kind and open hearted, and I’m off to a great start.  Sorry for keeping you all in the dark thus far, it’s been a busy couple of days and I still haven’t found time to get on the internet long enough to do anything but scan for important e-mails.  Within the next few days I should be getting a cell phone and mobile internet card so I can be in contact more often.  I’m exhausted now, so I bid you adieu. 


Emily: The Jumping Flea

July 23, 2011

Namaste, world!  Little ol’ Emily here, howdy do?  I’ve decided to make this little bliggity-blog to share my experiences in India with you and hopefully settle the fretting minds of my loved ones at home…  I’m scheduled to arrive in Dehli on August 1, 2011 and until then I’m afraid I don’t have anything very interesting to tell you all.  Oh, wait!  I DO have something I want to explain ever so briefly: I have titled my blog “thejumpingflea” as it is the Hawaiian word for the ukulele which just so happens to be my traveling companion (courtesy of my mum & her husband, john THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU BOTH!) Also, my energetic disposition as a wee-un earned me the nickname “Flea” from my dear Uncle Jerry (aka The Silver Fox) and it has stuck ever since.  So now ya know. Time to finish packing!

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