Monday, July 28, 2008

journal entry: june 8, 2008

Today we started on  a five day trek into the hills.  We left the farm at 7:00am.  It was pouring down rain, but we left anyway.  I was slightly concerned about mud slides, but Negiji assured us all we would be fine.  As we began on the bus the land and view was more of what we had previously seen coming into Derha Dun from Delhi.  Quickly the topography changed from flat plains to large hill/mountains.  There was no gradual shift.  BAM!  We were in the hills.  It was beautiful.  I was completely mesmerized and awe struck by the sudden new sights and drastic difference of the land.  Since it was so rainy, we did have several rough patches.  Twice we had to get off the bus and walk, through the must and rock for safety reasons (and to make the bus lighter and more manuervable for going over the obstacle).  The second time was quite a production.  There was a large traffic jam on both sides.  We waited for it to be cleared/our turn for about 4 hours.  It really gave us a good sense of what locals deal with on a daily basis.

When it was finally our turn, or should I say when we realized there was no line, the dudes got off the bus and actually picked up a car so the bus could pass through.  I was quite impressed.  Usually displays of physical strength are not that impressive to me, but this was pretty awesome.  I was very much impressed.  I clapped.  This too is yoga (joke for India friends reading this).  They then stood in the way of traffic so our bus could get its turn.  We all cheered, we had sent a collective Om for good luck.  Apparently those things work.  We didn't stop for lunch to try to make up some time.  We mostly snacked for a few hours.  Fun, but still left us hungry.  

The land and view outside my window was astonishing.  The trip didn't even seem all that long because we could watch out the window.  It was like watching a documentary, but with heat, wind, and bouncing included.  During the trip Pavlos pointed out various different plants and told me their families.  I was surprised to see succulents and agave  along the road.  Pavlos also explained about the different crops and agricultural methods used.  It appeared that most were growing potato and rice right now, although the rice fields are supposedly used for millet in the fall/winter.  The layout of the fields were terraced into the side of the hills, and their shape often followed the topography of the land.  The layout and shape were just as organic as the crops themselves.  

About an hour away from where we were to stop for the night, we took a side adventure to a hilltop temple.  The bus had to park at the base of the village and we walked through the town.  The people looked at us with the same wonderment and curiosity that we probably looked at them with.  I greeted most of the women we passed, who seemed delighted and greeted me back.  I smiled and nodded at most of the men and children.  I tend to scared kids here... whatever.  Seriously they get really upset when I try to say hello.  The nod to the men was more of me trying to figure out my place in the culture.  I still feel uncomfortable.  I need to be patient though.  A week is not really to truly become acclimated.  My limited interaction with the women made me feel really wonderful.  Smiles on both party's faces.  Smiles transcend cultural differences.  They transcend time, space, race, class, gender, etc.  In my corner of the universe, smiles make the world go round.  Funny... people used to tell me that was money... how utterly mistaken they were.  Upon reaching the shrine, I was thrilled by all the statues I could interpret and recognize.  The shrine/temple was devoted to Shiva, Pavariti, and Ganesha.  I'm honored to have been in such a beautiful and auspicious place.  Respectfully we didn't take pictures in the shrine, but I did take a ton outside.  Next to the current main site, there stood a large linga amongst some ruins.  Columbia suggested it was probably the original temple.  I went up to the linga and circumvented it out of respect.  Later I found out I did it in the wrong direction... I may be in India, but I'm still me.  Whoops.  I truly did try my best.  

Once we finally reached our guest house for the night, we were all utterly exhausted.  It seems crazy that we began this adventure at the farm the same day.  After about an hour of shooting the shit, we finally got to eat at 10:00pm.  I passed out immediately after.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

journal entry: june 7, 2008

Vandana Shiva just spoke to us about what to expect and things to pay attention to on our trip into the hills.  I must say, I'm still awe struck and amazed at her speaking ability, knowledge, and genuineness.  I was secretly worried that I'd be highly disappointed upon meeting her like I was after hearing/meeting bell hooks.  I was afraid I'd come away with the cheated discouraged, deflated feeling.  But I didn't.  I'm still as inspired and moved as ever by her work and words of wisdom.  I'm so glad such an incredible human being has had such a profound effect on my life.  

During her talk she discussed the two main issues that need to be examined and addressed in terms of the effects of corporate globalization:

1.  It's not about how much you earn, but how much you spend.
She basically redefined poverty basing it on access to resources and community support rather than monetary wealth.  Through traditional knowledge and skill building, people can provided themselves with almost everything they need.  It's not about if you can buy a house, but can you build one.
2.  Keep alive possibilities and options.
This is the most radical approach available against corporate globalization and privatization of the commons.

The take home message was to "grow alternatives from the bottom up."  Many of her examples such as shared meals, resources, knowledge, etc, reminded me of spending time with Erin and friends.  I miss them all right now, I'll try to call later tonight.  I'm more determined than ever before to somehow start a community/collective farm living situation in the US.  Modeled after Navdanya, but adapted for the context, where ever that may be.  Add that to the list of goals and changes I'd like to make upon returning... perhaps I should start such a list.


We started classes yesterday, unfortunately I didn't get a chance to write about it because I volunteered to stay the night with Hanners in the hospital.  She was severely dehydrated and such.  I volunteered for two reasons:
1.   I was genuinely concerned about her and wanted to do something.
2.  I wanted to see and Indian hospital.
While it wasn't as desperate as I had imagined, it was rather basic.  I didn't sleep well at all due to waking up every hour to check on Hanners, chase down a nurse to change the IV, read labels and expiration dates, and observe the opening of new sterile equipment.  She's doing much better as far as I can tell.  She had some color in her face again when I was relieved this morning.  She's really disappointed that she won't be able to go on the excursion tomorrow.  I don't blame her, but I also don't think travel would be a great idea.  Especially since there aren't suppose to be facilities if she relapses.  Aside from her not feeling well, we bonded.  I like Hanners.  She's hilarious, even when she's sick.

Friday, July 25, 2008

for Erin

I was procrastinating working on productive things because that is what I do... and decided to camp out in front of my living room bookshelf.  This was prompted by a very unacademic note in my journal from India saying "Who the fuck is Thomas Hobbes?  Why the hell should I care?"  It seems I was irritated about not know very much about T. Hobbes other than he was an old British dead guy.  After Wikipediaing the political philosopher, I decided he might have had some ok ideas, but was way uncool and Hobbes from Calvin and Hobbes was way cooler.  Maturity and logic never fail me.  So after an hour of reading Calvin and Hobbes on my living room floor, I came across the above and thought of Erin.  My adventure buddy, who I am missing terribly.  I suppose this is what it was like when I was gone.  Luckily she'll be home soon.  We have plans to go to a industrial junk yard (which will be WAY rad) when she gets back.  I'm excited.  I love treasure.  Maybe one day I'll be a pirate like the junk lady.

journal entry: june 5, 2008

Today was our first day of yoga.  After a divine cup of 100% organic lemongrass tea, alas no coffee, we all gathered under the pavilion.  When we finished I felt completely refreshed and ready to take on our first day on the farm.  I've held off writing about the farm so I can let it sink in and see it for what it truly is... beautiful.  Pavlos, the ethnobotanist that joined our merry band at dinner several nights back, gave us a tour of the farm.  The farm and its accommodations are more wonderful than I could have ever imagined, dreamed, or expected.

As Pavlos took us to the seed bank, he periodically stopped to explain techniques and things about different agricultural plots.  Everyone asked very insightful and well worded questions.  I'm continually impressed with the brains we have here.  The seed bank.  Where do I begin?  It was wonderful and fascinating.  I was giddy.  I would love if I could live in such a place.  It clean, well organized, modestly decorated, and meticulous classified.  The number of different rice and wheat varieties astounded me.  All kept here.  The bank is restocked annually, and the excess is sold in local markets.  I could write forever about the bank, but won't, I like that I'm going to keep my magical happiness bottled up and preserved in my heart.  Secret.  Just for me.  Greedy?  yes.  But I don't care.  

We continued on the farm tour and approached the composting facility.  Everyone was surprised that it didn't smell of cow shit.  Take home message of the composting lesson was "decentralize the shit".  Compost is a unique blend.  Organic plant matter, cow pies, concentrated cow urine, and magic fairy dust (just kidding).  It was dark and moist.  Wonderful and in some time perfect for supporting beautiful little seedlings.  I feel like this part of our trip is the compost, getting ready to bloom into the wonderful, enlightened people we're to become in 5 and a half weeks.

The farm was quite beautiful, and farm-like.  In short, I'm positive that the entire farm runs solely on shit.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

press pause

The past two days I've sat down to write about India, and I've found myself staring at the computer screen and feeling a sudden emptiness.  In fact this emptiness has been sneaking up on me ever so often for the past week.  I try to read through and edit my journal and find myself closing my eyes, leaning back, and getting lost in my own head.  I'm trying to work on several papers, which I'm truly excited about, but when I go to work on them or read some of the sources I've gathered for inspiration, I mentally retreat.  I guess what's bothering me is that I keep thinking about how nothing appears to have externally changed with myself.  So much has changed internally.  I feel that I need to have a way to show that change.  Somehow this is digging at me and keeping me up at night.  Thoughts and attempts at comprehending my experiences are overwhelming.  Still.

While many things in my material life are very much the same, same apartment, same car, same bike, same wonderful people, so much is different and I'm having difficulty coming to terms with it all on top of trying to process India.  I don't know what happened, but suddenly a significant number of people I know are either getting married or recently engaged.  When did everyone collectively decided to do this?  I feel happy and excited, but still confused and uncomfortable with the idea.  I'm not ready for this to start.  I can't even consistently date one person for more than a few weeks.  Not that I feel I have to keep up... but I feel confused about my feelings.  Karebear and I are going to a wedding next weekend.  We're dates.  I can't think of a person I'd rather get dressed up and feel beautiful with.  The person who is getting married is this woman, Karebear's old roommate, who I admired and worked with on some feminist projects.  Someone I went to for advice about thoughts and theory questions.  Someone I admired for her spunk, ability to successfully navigate multiple relationships, and determination.  Not that feminists can't get married,  not what I'm meaning to imply at all.  I just wonder how people are going to change even more and negotiate this huge thing into their identity.  A transition from an I to an Us.  Perfectly cool and fine.  But terrifying from a friend perspective.  Will we be able to relate anymore?  What will be different?  How will it be different?  I have married friends... some I knew before they were married, some I didn't.  The ones I did know before their marriage, our relationship has changed.  They talk about children.  They talk about settling down.  They talk about the long term.  I talk about going out.  I talk about not knowing where I'm going to live in 10 months or what I remotely want to do for a career.  I talk about the constant flux and flow that is uncertainty.  Yes I'm young.  But so are they!  I suppose it's that time in the lifeline.  People are choosing to enter that next stage of their lives, and I'm going to have to accept whatever that transition may bring.  Because there is absolutely nothing I can do about any of this, except be happy.  I suppose I'll just be happy.  I'm happy.

I stumbled across this article while grumbling and clicking around on  While the article begins discussing same-sex marriage in California, I think some of Bright's later points on marriage in general really resonate mine.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

journal entry: june 4, 2008

While reading Vandana Shiva's Earth Democracy, well rereading a section, I was struck by her discussion of displacement and disposability.  A few days ago, I was deeply disturbed and bothered by the apparent disposability of the poor population here in Delhi and was grappling with what systems or institutions could possibly be responsible.  Shiva sites the "enclosure of the commons" as the mechanism for creating disposable populations by displacing their role and life style from society.  It is the enclosure and privatization of knowledge, water, food, resources, and services that causes people to be come marginalized.  This marginalization then causes people to resort to extremism and thus the emergence of fundamentalist terrorism appears.  This enclosure induces scarcity for the masses, and only provides these things to those who are able to pay monetarily.  It refuses peoples' right to live.  To have clean water.  To have food and shelter.  When I originally read this, I thought the ideas were interesting and new to me, but upon rereading it, I feel like I get it.  I understand completely what the message is.  Displaced people are no longer abstract people that exist in photographs, on the internet, in some author's well placed words.  They have faces.  They have lives.  They have grabbed my hand and asked for anything.  They smiled at me on the street.  I smiled back, knowing one day... things would be different.


Today we're leaving for Navdanya's farm Bija Vidyapeeth.  The farm is a teaching/learning center and a model organic sustainable farm.  We're all extremely excited to be going there.  Last night everyone came to the conclusion that Delhi was not for us and we were ready to head for the hills.  I think this speaks to the awesomeness that is the group here.  As I was repacking my bag, I thought about all the items I had brought and their significance to this trip.  Many of my fellow travelers brought a ton of stuff.  I realize that I "sacrificed" things for this journey, but at this time, I don't think I'm really forgoing anything.  It's made me think about how spoiled and materialistic I am in my life at home.  How we all are as Americans.  Why do I need 12 different pairs of black shoes?  Why do I have a collection of scarves when it never really gets that cold in Florida?  Right here, in my hiking pack, I have everything I could and will need.  Interesting observation.


The drive to Navdanya was very interesting and enlightening.  So much went by the bus window it was difficult for me to process it all.  There were clear distinctions between varying degrees of socioeconomic classes; of wealth and poverty.  All in the same view.  It reminded me of a less crowded Old Delhi.  It was like that for some time.  After a while of passing other buses, I thought about how we were traveling compared to the other travelers I had seen.  I know it was only this way for our comfort and safety, but the air conditioned luxury bus felt as if it was further reinforcing the cultural differences we were trying so hard to observe and embrace.  If embracing meant no A/C then so be it.  Taking a train would have been logistically too difficult for our large group, but A/C... hm.... (as I'm typing this I'm laughing.  I had no idea how nice A/C really was).  Honestly it felt slightly more like I was sitting in a friend's living room watching the travel channel about poverty and mystery of "Exotic India".  I bet the special would even be called "Exotic India".  

When we stopped for lunch I felt/observed the class difference among the travelers.  People here appeared to be of blossoming Indian middle class and strangely enough did not seem in the least be interested or curious by our presence.  I took this as an indicator of where we stood in this particular social hierarchy. 

Monday, July 21, 2008

note for the scientist in us all

I'm currently working on fixing my camera to post the 500 pictures I took of the trip.  My camera unfortunately gave up early on in my travels.  Luckily, like all other material things in my life during those 6 weeks, we shared cameras.  We did collective photography.  Meaning we're sharing all our pictures from the trip.  Some people are still adventuring through India, so the collection will not be complete for sometime.  Perhaps mid to late August.  I'll post the link when it becomes available.  I know the curious mind wants to know what the things I'm describing look like.  Never fear.  I've got you covered.

Also, birdface says hello.  He's been my faithful assistant overseeing the posting of my journal from atop my laptop screen.  His tail has grown back so he doesn't look so stupid anymore.  I missed him terribly.

journal entry: june 3, 2008

For dinner last night, our first formal meeting as a study abroad class, we went to eat and tour the Imperial Hotel in Delhi.  The height and grand tribute to colonial India.  Every space on the walls was lined with portraits of various raj tyrants and colonial rulers.  I'm sort of having a difficult time processing this.  Like most of my experiences in India so far, it was sensory overload.  I felt oddly more comfortable in that space than I had anywhere else in Delhi, but at the same time still profoundly awkward.  I'd never be able to afford to stay at a five star hotel such as the Imperial in the US.  I felt the other guests (all rather Western in appearance or style) knew we were out of place and were continually glaring at us.  We were foreigners who were alien in a constructed Western oasis.  I felt like an intruder.  I felt dirty.  I was acutely aware of the class differences and constantly thought about the disparity that lay right outside the hotel's walls.  

As we perused the various pieces of art, I noticed one photograph tucked up into a corner at the end of a hallway.  It was highly out of place in terms of the theme of the rest of the hotel.  It was a black and white photograph of an elephant walking into a temple or building and a man in traditional homespun cloth curled up asleep on the steps.  It was the most beautiful and authentic piece in the entire place.  It was completely different than the portraits of distinguished men that occupied the rest of the wall spaces, yet this made it stand out even more to me.  I felt that real India had somehow managed to find its way in past the guards.  It gave me hope that perhaps the culture wouldn't be completely obliterated by Western homogeneity.  

The architecture of the hotel was in Greco-Roman inspired columns and beautiful marble floors.  Imported from Italy of course.  Making no sense since beautiful marble is readily available in parts of Northern India.  In fact the Taj Mahal is built out of such marble.  Still... Italian marble, far superior in the eyes of Imperial British I'm sure.  Reinforcing the British lack of understanding and acceptance of Indian culture or heritage.  The design of the restaurant, The Spice Route, was simply breath taking.  It had been designed to resemble a temple, and pieces of old temples from Thailand, Laos, Vietnam, India, Tibet, and Myamar had been used to depict the journey of life through the several stages.  It was designed to be like a boat, and set up according to very specific prescriptions.  I recognized all the various deities and the stories depicted in every nook and cranny.  The meal was amazing, and I had a lovely time getting to know several people.  Yet through it all, the thought of the Delhi outside the walls lingered in my mind.  I couldn't escape the thoughts of what lie just beyond the crisp marble.  It was as if a small part of me could not be distracted to simply enjoy the moment  (I don't want to give the impression that I didn't love almost every moment in India, these entries are simply my thoughts and processing of events).


Today is the day we do our touristy thing.  We're going to see all the sites of Delhi in typical tourist fashion.  Perhaps we'll fit in well in this role.

We just left Gandhi's tomb.  I was left in awe at the extravagance of his grave.  Columbia asked me why I was so shocked; Gandhi is seen as the father of  independent India.  His image is on every rupee.  He's everywhere.  It was more the plush green turf grass lawn, well paved and manicured that bothered me.  So unsustainable.  Especially for a city that has such water scarcity problems.  I wouldn't see Gandhi approving of it.  I'd think he'd want something more Indian, like fields growing native varieties of rice or millet.  In my opinion, turf grass lawns are colonial western.  Perhaps I'm mistaken.  I'm no turf grass expert.  I wonder how Gandhi would view his own grave and treatment as a deity?


As we toured through Old Delhi, I couldn't help but feel the absolute crush of the endless masses and streams of people.  What would appear to us to be a poor market, is actually the hustling and bustling prosperous business market.  Anything you could possibly want, you could buy along one of the narrow streets or lanes.  We climbed out of the tour bus and were swarmed by peddlers peddling their trinkets.  I felt completely overwhelmed by the condition of the street urchins.  The children buzzing, begging.  I need to get used to this.  I need to figure out a way not to get so bothered!  I seem to manage externally to ignore and push on, but internally I'm dying.  It's killing me to see people like this.  

Kite and I discussed how we felt about taking pictures of people and the setting of Old Delhi.  On one hand, its important to capture and document where we've been and what we've seen, but also strange since we felt like we're oggling people like they are something on display.  Perhaps more on this later.  

There are so many new boundaries to navigate and relationships to negotiate.  I don't always know the right way to carry myself or carry out an interaction in a respectable, culturally aware manner.  I want to be friendly, not too friendly, while not compromising my own beliefs about social interactions, hierarchies, and gender dynamics.  How can I do this in this new space?  I've accepted that I must make compromises, but can I continue to retain my identity?  Who am I in this context?  Can I continue to have my identity and safely experience the encounters with the new people I'm meeting?  Where does one stop being themselves for the sake of cultural sensitivity?  This gray area is confusing.  Can I coexist in this context?  Perhaps I should discuss this with people over dinner tonight.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

journal entry: june 2, 2008

Last night was fun, exciting, depressing, and extremely overwhelming.  Nothing could have prepared me for the poverty and desperation of such a significant portion of the population.  A group of us went out for Fair Flower's birthday to this chic hookah lounge in South Delhi.  We pilled into three cabs and embarked on our journey.  Upon exiting the car, the sharp contrast between the haves and the have-nots finally hit me full on in the face.  I had been noticing it while wandering the city, but had not processed it simply due to sensory overload.  As we walked and laughed towards the bar, I couldn't stop watching people and wondering how they perceived us.  I saw in alleyways people hunkering down on dirty blankets and mats for the night, people cooking, begging, digging through trash, diseased, wretched.  The I saw the event that has haunted me since (even today as I type this from the comfort of my luxurious apartment in the US).  On a dirty, grimy sidewalk a naked, seemingly abandoned child.  An infant.  Unmoving, unattended, completely disposable.  My faith in humanity seemed to deflate entirely as I thought about the possibility of the child being dead on the margins of our society.  On the margins of our carefree, affluent pack.  Two small boys buzzed around us as we walked groping for food, water, or money.  I later was bothered by my treatment of these boys, and our hell-bent manner of going to the bar.  Our luscious playground among the impoverished.  During our bar fun-time, I internally battled with my feelings about our place here in Delhi.  What was our purpose in this setting?  Were we perpetuating the predicament of the people whose lives had so deeply disturbed me?  

We left the bar around 1:00am.  The square was completely deserted.  As we approached the main entrance, people started shuffling towards us.  Like night of the living dead.  People drunk, perhaps not, moaning, aimless, separate.  As we got closer to the cabs the number of displaced people and beggars increased.  They slowly approached our loud drunken group.  Begging in Hindi/English for anything.  We were the living amongst the dead and dying.  The forgotten and unaccounted for.  The invisible people of society.  I had a renewed sense of urgency to get to the cabs.  I felt like we were putting ourselves in a potentially bad situation.  Yet, I'm glad.  Now I know.  Now I've seen.  Realized.  Processed.  The men in our group herded the women towards the taxis.  Also occupying a new role as protector, to the extent they had never been expected to fill before.  

As I sat in the cab, I gazed out the window and noticed things I hadn't before.  The streets were strangely empty.  All along the sidewalks and under overhangs and tarps people slept in piles, on cots, on mats, under trees.  A tent city without tents.  Homelessness isn't a problem here.  It's a way of life.  A subculture.  A class within the social order.  I thought about the baby.  I thought about the displaced peoples.  I thought about the silent city and its secrets I had somehow stumbled across.  Intruded upon the ugly side of reality.  I was the wind.  Mystically observing.  Absorbing Delhi's secrets.  Immediately upon getting back to the hostel, I called Jdawg and told him about everything I'd seen and thought about that night.  I finally understood what he had been trying to tell me before I left.  How could I have understood?  It made sense now.  He urged me not to dwell on these things and try to enjoy the trip.  There would be plenty of time for reflection when I got home.  

I went up to my room and discussed everything with several people.  We discussed what the possible mechanisms had caused what I saw, compared our perceptions of similar events, and talked about the social structure as we had seen it so far.  Exploitation and comodification of people as things, as resources rather than human beings, as capital.  Cheap and replaceable.  How do we fit into all of this?  What do we see ourselves getting and giving from these experiences and interactions?  How do we explain the things we've seen and experienced already?  It's only been two days!  What lies ahead?  How does our presence reinforce the institutions and systems causing the poverty and disposability?  How will I utilize these experiences and apply them to my life?  I wonder how my role within the activist community will change when I return.  It will change.  How can't it?  I'm already changing...  I can't go back to who I was and how I was living.  There is no turning back now.*  

Strangely enough, I didn't cry.  I couldn't cry.

*These are still things I'm trying to answer, even after being home for 5 days.  These things will not completely be answered anywhere in the journal from India.  These are ongoing questions.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

journal entry: june 1, 2008

Welcome to India!  We arrived in Delhi an hour late since we took longer than expected on the tarmac in Newark.  I met a wonderful woman on the plane.  She and her family were from Delhi and had been visiting the United States with a program her 12-year-old son was in through NASA.  Impressive.  She dispelled many of my concerns and fears of safety issues and gave me some recommendations for things to do/read while in Derha Dun:
1. Wise and Otherwise - Subha Murthy
2. Art of Living - Srisriravi Shankar
3. Bakeries in Derha Dun
4. Tailor in Delhi
She was wonderfully nice and pleasant to talk to, but slept most of the flight.  So our conversation pretty much ended after we took off.
The flight itself wasn't too bad, as far as international flights concerned.  Food was actually not too disgusting.  There was also HBO and video on demand.  AWESOME!  I watched Flight of the Concords, and two really awful movies.  I tried for several hours to sleep without success.  I spent most of the flight in this not awake not asleep state.  When we finally got off the plane, we were immediately hit by the smell of humans, dust, and life lingering everywhere.  While waiting in line at immigrations/customs (which truly was a joke) we noticed a series of clocks arranged on the wall telling the time of various international metropolitan cities.  I found it hilarious that the 'London' clock was missing completely.  None of the times were right, since none of the clocks were working.  

We proceeded to gather our bags and do the prepaid taxi thing.  The taxi was all that I had been afraid of, but slightly more chaotic.  We had too much luggage (people didn't follow the instructions to "pack light"), so we had to get three taxis.  We put a woman and man in two of the cabs and three women in the third since we had more women than men.  I was in the cab with Swami K and Kite.  Walking outside to get in the cab was much like walking out to your car after a really ballin' show.  I felt fucked up and overwhelmed, running almost entirely on adrenaline.  People tried to talk to us, sell us things, cheap fares, quick trips, etc, but I couldn't understand most of what was going on due to my pseudohightrashedtired state.
As we got going I had to stop thinking about how the driver was managing not to completely crash and kill us and try to enjoy this new experience.  I felt small waves of anger that Columbia and Berkley hadn't picked us up.  The driver had no idea where our hotel/hostel was (nor did he speak much English), and talked on his mobile phone the entire time.  I have no idea how he did it in an automatic and through the disorderly nail biting traffic.  There were people, bikes, motorcycles, glorified vespas, EVERYWHERE.  Spastically weaving, bobbing in and out of cars trucks and mini-semis.  Our small, 1930s-esque mobster cab floating/flying among it all.  I wish I could described the smell, alas I can't at this time.  Shall attempt later.  It is probably the most distinct scent I've ever experienced.  So many different elements, perhaps longer exposure will reveal what these components might be.

When we finally arrived at the YMCA Guest Hostel, I was comforted and relieved by Berkley's smiling presence in the lobby.  It was wonderful to see her after such a long and stressful cab ride.  Another bunch of the group had arrived our time the day before and were all upstairs sleeping jet lag off.  Berkley chuckled as she told us they were "the adventurers" and had to dissuade them from renting scooters that day.  I didn't find it funny or adventurous.  I found it arrogant and stupid.  After only one exposure to the traffic and roadways of Delhi, I had come to the conclusion that I could probably never drive in India.  I thought it kind of an imperialist conception that these people thought they could navigate let alone drive in the cluster fuck.  I didn't think it was adventurous; it was an irresponsible and down right stupid idea.  I wonder if I'll end up being one of  the "squares" because I won't be willing to take retarded risks.  I'm totally up for an adventure, if I wasn't I wouldn't have come to India, but I'm going to be cautious and rational about the types of adventures I take.  I'm not too keen on ending up in an India jail.  Not a part I'd like to see honestly.  


Breakfast with everyone was great.  Everyone, including myself, was in a much better mood.  Sleep is an amazing thing.  I think we're going to have an awesome group after the interaction of breakfast.  Everyone is excited and here for a somewhat unique reason.  I'm also stoked that everyone is coming from different disciplines.  We have 3 grad students and 17 undergraduates.  Most are entering their final year or semester at UF and have pretty well rounded ideas about global politics and issues.  Today is a free day of sorts... as in the program hasn't officially begun, and we have nothing planned.  I plan on shopping... since I didn't bring any clothes with me, I'm going to need to get some traditional Indian garb.


Immediately upon leaving the hostel, I was struck again by the odor of the city.  Now that I'm back after a day of exploring, I can feel the smell in every pore and fiber of my being; in my hair and behind my tired overwhelmed eyes.  Prudence gave us a quick tour of places she had found the previous day.  I was highly impressed with the confidence with which she carried herself and navigated the hustle and bustle.  I found myself in a new role and new space as I tagged along behind her.  I felt uncomfortable by how people shamelessly stared at me and how I for the first time in my life occupied the role of a minority and outsider.  I felt Exotic.  Mysterious.  Awkward.  Self-conscious.  I attempted, perhaps unsuccessfully, perhaps not, to navigate these new feelings and my new place within the space.  We later chatted about all of this over dinner.  Others had similar experiences and similar feelings.  Slightly comforting.  I'll take what I can get as far as comfort goes right now.  While I'm elated to be here, I've never felt more awkward and clumsy in my entire life.  I wonder where I fall within the hierarchy of this society.  At the same time I feel highly privileged due to my apparent status as a Western white woman, but also slightly lower and less respected by how people have been trying to cheat and manipulate me.  I feel highly privileged because of my seemingly endless resources, yet exploited for the same reason.  I wonder how this was change as I spend more time here.  As a woman, I find Delhi to be an interesting and difficult space.  I'm continually wanting to say or do things that I'd typically not hesitate to do in the US.  I find myself hesitating because I want to be culturally aware and appropriate.  This a challenge for me since I feel as though I'm stifling my identity to remain safe and respectful of the various cultural standards.  Perhaps with practice, I can find some sort of compromise that doesn't make me feel lost and hollow.

Friday, July 18, 2008

journal entry: may 31, 2008

Travel day.  We started out from Gainesville at 7:00am, I'd gotten up at 5:00am after maybe 2 hours of sleep.  Immediately Swami K, Kite and I started chatting about the things we packed and course readings we were suppose to do.  Apparently Columbia changed the syllabus and didn't let any of us know, Swami K found out through Berkley.  Whatever.  I finished everything that had been posted on the class web page, so no matter what was required or recommended, it wall all finished.  We went to pick up the Cameraman, and it was crazy.  Perhaps because I'd had no sleep and no coffee, but I felt awkward and uncomfortable about meeting new people.  Needless to say we could not get everything in Kite's Toyota Camry, which I predicted, and he had to drive separately.  Overall the Cameraman makes me slightly uncomfortable.  It doesn't help that every time I sit down to read or close my eyes in attempts to sleep he's got the camera in my face.  We'll see how this goes.

The first flight from Jacksonville to Newark was on the tiniest plane I've ever been on and was simply awful.  I couldn't do anything because I was so nauseated.  Actually that was the general consensus when we all got off.  We all seemed to feel better once we found some food in the airport.  Vegetarian nachos.  As last hurrah!  We spent the meal talking about how I was probably the most prepared and well packed.  Wonderful compliment.  Go me.  Thank you Erin!  I was dubbed the "mobile pharmacy" or "drug mule".  I personally prefer 'drug mule'.  Quite hilarious.  

I spent our 4 hour layover looking out the window of the Newark airport at the Manhattan skyline.  I found it rather interesting; the pinnacle of what I define as capitalist, Western society.  Interesting it's the last thing in the US that I'd see before beginning the comparative analysis that will be my adventure.  The first of many contrasts between East and West.  A first glimpse of the dichotomies and inequalities which are soon to be blinding.


Plane:  I'm so drunk on lack of sleep that I feel like I'm horribly hung over and there is a small man sitting on my chest.  I can't sleep.  I can't think.  I can't do anything except sit and stare at the screen ahead of me.  I'm not even really watching it, just spacing out.  7 hours left.  Half way through.  I still don't really believe that I'm going to India.  I still feel like I'll end up somewhere else, like Michigan.  India isn't real yet.  I wonder if it will even seem real when I get there.  Just wait and see...

Thursday, July 17, 2008

morning procrastination

"Trust Me" - The Fray

Looking for something I've never seen
Alone and I'm in between
The place that I'm from and the place that I'm in
A city I never been
I found a friend or should I say a foe
Said there's a few things you should know
We don't want you to see we come and we go
Here today, gone tomorrow

We're only taking turns
Holding this world
It's how it's always been
When you're older you will understand

If I say who I know it just goes to show
You need me less than I need you
But take it from me we don't give sympathy
You can trust me trust nobody
But I said you and me we don't have honesty
The things we don't want to speak
I'll try to get out but I never will
This Traffic's perfectly still

We're only taking turns
Holding this world
It's how it's always been
When you're older you will understand

And then again maybe you don't
And then again maybe you won't

We're only taking turns
Holding this world
It's how it's always been
When you're older you will understand

When you're older you might understand
When you're older you might understand


Its very strange being back in this space called my real life.  I don't feel like I belong here.  Not that I felt like I belonged and could forever inhabit India, but I also feel highly awkward and out of place in my own everything.  My apartment is more foreign to me than Delhi.  The abundance of material things I have is astounding.  I feel better that I mostly have books and junk treasures.  It's also an interesting navigation with our currency.  My bank account is sad; but as broke as I am, I still have more monetary wealth than 75% of Indian citizens have in an entire year.  This is also a difficult thing to mentally comprehend.  I'm excited that I'm meeting up with Kite today for coffee to discuss things.  She went on the trip with me.  I'm thinking it's going to be extremely helpful to talk to her about things I'm thinking/feeling.  Probability is high that she is feeling similarly.  I'm also tired and unable to sleep really.  I don't quite understand.  I do however understand my stomach which is not too happy about my food choices the past day and a half since I've been home.

Our group was warned that reverse culture shock is worst than the initial culture shock.  I'm going to have to agree with that statement.  I'm preparing, mentally to be slightly depressed for a little while until I readjust.

I truly had every intention of posting, at least once, from India.  This did not happen since I had internet about once a week and only long enough to check email.  Since this unexpected event happened, I have decided to edit and post my journal entries from my trip to provide insight into my personal transformations and adventures.  I'll be working on that for some time, so stay tuned.  My blog is not the only thing I didn't expect not to be able to do.  There were so many other things (which I will elaborate on later) that I could never have expected.  I don't know what I expected really or where those preconceived notions originated from, but things were more than I could have imagined.  I use 'more' since I don't know how to really describe so much of life there and the things I was immersed in.