Sunday, August 31, 2008

fresh path

The Road Not Taken - Robert Frost

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;

Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps a better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that, the passing there
Had worn them really about the same

And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to the way, 
I doubted if I should ever come back. 

I should be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I - 
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

pisgah hike photos #4

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Friday, August 29, 2008

Thursday, August 28, 2008

happy anniversary

Note:  My Dad had this on video and used to play it for my sister and I as kids.  I love this speech.

pisgah hike photos #1

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

rose colored goggles

Fall semester began Monday and I must say I'm in for a tough next few months.  Since I've entered my final year at UF, I have the complementary heavy course load to 'celebrate' the home stretch.  I have nine hours of lab every week, and usually only a two hour "break" in my 9-5 educational day.  As exhausted as simply being present for the reading of the syllabi has made me the past few days, I'm utterly and completely excited.  I'm taking two botany courses that make me giddy, plant anatomy and plant botany, and a really kick ass women's studies course.  

The botany classes seem self explanatory and promises to make me even slower on future hikes and various other outdoor adventures.  The Women's Studies class, East West Encounters, is described as follows:

Can we imagine a history of the present without referring to and referencing Europe?  Does the "post" in post-colonialism signify a break with colonial history and thought?  Or, do we see structural similarities between colonial pasts and the post-colonial present?  Why does the "trans" in transnational often imply an orientation via the West?  Through a close study of works of history, colonialism, literature, and critical race theory, we will attempt to find models for reconsidering the history of ideas in the modern West - and explore how these ideas - of universalism, liberalism, and freedom - are used to justify racial, sexual, national, and political domination.

On the first day of class I walked in with several of my fellow travelers from India.  We then realized that we made up half the class.  I was then ridiculed for beginning the reading already, having printed out the syllabus, and asking questions about more specifics on the recommended readings.  I don't care.  It's easy to be an overachiever when you're passionate about something.  

I almost pee my pants with excitement over the my new books and the idea of the wonderful things I'll soon learn about plants, society, and the world around me.  Please excuse me whilst I snort laugh and push my glasses further up my nose.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

afternoon procrastination

Blog of the day:  Postcards from Yo Mama

First You Pierce Your Nose, Then You Have Illegitimate Children

Me: I’m piercing my nose

Mom: Fine, I’m not raising your illegitimate children.

Me: What?

Mom: You’ll pierce your nose, get a trashy boyfriend and end up with illegitimate children. You and your trashy boyfriend are not living in my house, and neither are your kids.

Me: Wow mom, thanks for the credit. Clearly that’s the natural progression after piercing your nose


Thankfully this is not the response I received when I pierced my nose.  

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

beach day pictures

Through much encouragement from various sources, I'm working on developing my camera skills.  Below are some of my gems from our Sunday evening/afternoon beach adventure.  It was overcast and dreary, yet strangely blissful.

Monday, August 18, 2008

needle and thread

Dish towel army in the making

I'm taking a small break from editing and posting my journal entries from India.  I need this small break.  I'm still trying to digest my feelings and views, and reading the journal seems to be taking me back to the beginning of this digestive process.  I will finish sharing it, I just need a bit of time to distance myself from the flood of powerful emotions it invokes.

One of my favorite blogs, Alabama Studio Style, discussed the editorial in August/September 08 issue of American Craft titled "Craft and Politics" by Andrew Wagner.  Upon reading the article and exploring the magazine, I realized what has drawn me into craft as an art and activist form lately.  I had been toying with the idea and concept for sometime, as is evident from my consumption patterns both at home and abroad.  All the gifts I brought back from India were a) handmade, b) a handicraft by definition, c) supporting a local community or collective.  I realized how many people in "industrialized" nations can't even sew on a button if they need to, grow their own food, fix a car, repair their home, cook a healthy meal, etc.  I appreciate these crafts and skills from a place deep and close to my heart.  I was taught to sew and knit at a young age by my Nana who has been developing her own skills her entire life.  She is a perpetual student, teacher, and inspirer.  I have no memories of her without her knitting needles handy, or without a handmade quilt or project present.  I've recently realized how lucky I am to have had such a foundation and a person to pass the craft to me.  While Nana has never described herself as an artist, I'd never hesitate to classify her as one.  Many of her quilts are worthy, in my opinion, of display in the Museum of  the American Quilter's Society.  What I also love about Nana is that she does this for herself.  She's only ever been motivated by the enjoyment and love she's gotten from the process and pride of a finished product.

I've been exposed to the community of people in my own locale who also do these beautiful, practical art forms.  I've signed up for a spinning class at Hank's Yarn and Fiber.  I've created a small militia of hand made dishcloths to replace paper towel.  I'm learning more about fibers with Erin.  And I'm thoroughly enjoying all of it.  It's relaxing, exciting and fun.  I love and feel a sense of pride when I finish something.  I appreciate handmade pieces so much more than anything manufactured I've even purchased.  I'm trying to make everything or buy handmade only.  It's difficult, but I appreciate everything so much more.  I appreciate pot holders, casserole dishes, mugs, spoons, quilts, tables, etc.  There is something strangely elegant and beautiful in the simplicity of it all.  

I feel that an article in American Craft sums the above sentiments better than I've been able to articulate them:

American Craft, Vol. 68, No. 4, Aug/Sept 2008, p. 75
Handcraft, the lore of the substances
By George William Eggers

The increase in the average individual's leisure time is now  creating a sort of vacuum, within which the handcrafts may offer a welcome activity.  But this has been looked upon by some of us as only a negative or, at most, a minor argument for the crafts.  A more valid argument for them would undoubtedly be the desirability of putting the handcrafts on a more solid footing of understanding and interest with the public.  However, it may be that there is still more fundamental reason than either of these.  At least equally worthy of consideration is the possibility of the crafts' filling  growing need in human culture.

More and more, the things that the individual used to make or do are now being supplanted by things purchased in the store, by the substitution of the ready-made.  More and more the natural materials and processes of working them are thus being withdrawn from one's direct, common experience.  One now buys things made of plastic, extruded by machinery in a factory.  Time was then dealing with the qualities of wood, the fibers, clays and metals was part of almost everyone's education (much of this education so informal and incidental to his everyday life that he just took it for granted).  Now this informal education in the handling of material stuffs is slipping out of our common experience.  Our senses, no longer involved and challenged by this contact, tend to lose some of their keenness with respect to them and, as lore of the substances decays, the individual loses more than simple knowledge - he loses some of his effectiveness as a human being.

The handcrafts dramatize this "lore of the substances" - of the potentialities of the fibers, of the various grain of woods, of the plasticity of clays, of the malleability of metals.  To emphasize the handcrafts it to restore these living qualities of material to a position of interest in the human scheme of things.  After all, "reading, writing, and arithmetic" are only a fractional part of man's education.  A sense of the stuff of the world around him and a sensitivity to its wonderful ways are an even more venerable part.  Indeed, without some cultivation and discipline of the sense, the symbolism of reading, writing and arithmetic would itself remain inaccessible.  And it is just such cultivation and discipline which the handcrafts point up.  Seen in this light, they would seem to sum up a pretty wide area of the field of essential education, and thus earn a place of importance in a public museum of arts.

Friday, August 15, 2008

new love

Lately I've been exploring design, craft, and art more now that I have free time and made some reevaluations on life and what I value.  I've been thoroughly enjoying knitting, sewing, collaging, creating, collecting, and gathering.  I've also spent many a lovely morning/afternoon exploring others' beautiful pieces on the interweb.  My gem of the day is from Bailey Doesn't Bark.  I was initially draw into her Etsy site through this beautiful tea cup:

And later after visiting her shop I fell hard for these two:

Bottom Line:  I love Etsy.  I love  hand made things.  I love bird images.

journal entry: june 19, 2008

This past trip wasn't nearly as fun as the previous.  I wish I could describe why.  Perhaps its my current mood.  I'm feeling slightly anti-social right now and overall irritated with everyone.  The bus ride was extremely long, cold, and bumpy, which seemed to put everyone in moods similar to my own and feeling rather ill.  I noticed as the day wore on people getting significantly more selfish and rude to down right mean to each other.  I understand not feeling well, but taking frustration out on others only makes them not want to help you.  

I was also highly offended by some comments made during a conversation last night.  To the point were I don't think I want to interact with the particular person anymore.  Disagreements are fine.  I'm perfectly fine talking about our differences of opinion and listening to someone's argument.  But there is no need to personally attack me because I have a different opinion.  That's very childish and not at all discussing something in an academic manner.

I'm just really frustrated right now and honestly all I want to do is breakdown and cry.  I can't though.  I haven't been able to cry.  I can't cry.  I have no idea why.  Since I'm so moody, I'm going to avoid all human interactions for the rest of the evening.  I'm not going to be nice and it wouldn't be fair to take it out on someone else.  I will navigate relationships again tomorrow.  I really do love everyone on the trip, I just need to be away from them right now.


I'm evaluating my mental status and I think everything is starting to take its toll of sorts.  I'm a bit homesick for creature comforts and people.  But this is a good thing right?  This is what I wanted to get out of the trip.  I wanted to be pushed to my breaking point and not break.  I wanted to see all the things I've seen and experienced.  This will all help me in the long run.  Yet, right now I feel down right mean.

I can't be happy right now.  I called Jdawg to try to make myself feel better and it didn't.  I asked things I shouldn't have and now I'm in even more of a negative place.  While it was nice to talk somethings out with him, I was checked back into the harsh reality of our friendship.  I want more.  He doesn't.  Fin.  Why do I keep brooding about this?  Why am I thinking about it?  We're not even on the same planet right now... or so it seems.  I wish I could talk to my mom for an hour or so about everything without causing her to worry about me.  I guess that's why I unloaded on Jdawg.  He doesn't worry about me like everyone else in my life.  It's not going to torture him to hear me so upset and then not be able to contact me to check up later like it would mom.  At least that's how he's made it appear.  Perhaps its part of the bad ass persona.

I'm sitting outside the hut now.  Watching the sky and wondering why no tears are coming out of my eyes.  The full moon is out.  It's beautiful.  I wish Erin was here to see it.  The program is three weeks in.  Three left.  The full moon is hiding behind a cloud.  Not ready to emerge.  A lot like me right now.  I'm not ready to leave.  I've got so much left to do.  India and I have unfinished business.  This is the first time in my life I've been so completely overwhelmed and didn't cry.  Milestone.  Kind of scary though, it's only a matter of time before the levees break.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

pea pod earrings by rachel sudlow

Pea pod earrings by Rachel Sudlow
Available on the Curiousity Shoppe site
Sudlow also does photography.  Her series Cowscapes, is very beautiful and an interesting/creative concept.

journal entry: june 17, 2008

Today we were on somewhat of a pilgrimage.  Sort of.  We visited a Shiva temple in Gupta Kashi, which translates to the "hidden abode of Shiva".  Kashi itself is another name for the very holy city of Varanasi (called Benaras during the colonial era) where Columbia does his research.  I was quite disappointed today since Columbia is not feeling well and did not join us on the journey.  The temple was very interesting and significant since it is where the Ganga and the Yamuna Rivers meet.  Most of us participated in puja, which is the sacred ceremony performed at temples and other auspicious places.  

After our temple experience, we went into a village outside the town and had lunch with a community there.  We were invited to observe their own puja they were performing for bountiful rains and a successful growing season.  It was very interesting to observe the gender dynamics in this setting.  The women were seated on a hill somewhat above the sacrificial fire where the men performed the ceremony.  The children, both male and female, sat with the women.  While the women and children were highly intrigued by us, the men completely ignored us.  I felt strange observing them during the puja.  I usually feel this way when I feel like we're treating something like an attraction, since I've grown to dislike feeling like an attraction.  Yet, this was somewhat different than most other interactions since we had been invited to observe and encouraged to take pictures.  I suppose it balances out though since they did the same thing towards us as we attempted to eat Indian style on constructed banana leaf plates.  They coached us through the experience.  Apparently we're pretty bad at eating with our right hands correctly.  It was very fun actually.  Cultural boundaries and barriers seemed to melt away in our awkward attempts to scoop and shovel the rice and lentils into our mouthes.  


Upon returning to our guest house in Tilawar, we had the rest of the evening to relax, recooperate, and enjoy the facilities.  I went down to the water's edge again to think.  Not only is it significantly cooler down there, but the sound of the water is calming and drowns out all other noise pollution that has been pounding on my brain.  So many different thoughts running through my head right now.  I don't know where to begin, or where to go.  I wonder about how things will be when I get home.  I'll just have to wait and see.

Monday, August 11, 2008

morning procrastination

My sentiments exactly:
double click image to enlarge
August 10th, mr. fish from harper's mag

Sunday, August 10, 2008

journal entry: june 16, 2008

Yesterday was learning packed on Navdanya Farm.  Columbia's class was consumed by an intense discussion of Jnana Yoga.  The philosophical arguments began once we started talking about "what is knowledge?' and 'what is intelligence?'  People went off on tangents over genetics and quantum physics, at which time I got lost and stopped listening.  I don't like when classes incorrectly discuss things outside their realm of knowledge.  I'm all about interdisciplinary dialogue and learning, but I'm not at all pleased when people who have a basic understand of a topic attempt to make it work to support their argument.  While well intentioned, it usually only leads to more questions and makes the justification even more convoluted and complex, often resulting in the comment "Perhaps that was a bad example... or Lets just assume this is so..."  No I won't assume, because I know it isn't so.

Columbia later expounded on what he wanted us to focus on and clarified knowledge's separation from consciousness, as a physical function of the mind, and pure consciousness, an element of the soul.  What?  I'm so lost.  This discussion of consciousness and unconsciousness only made me think of Freud.  When I think of Freud, I giggle.  When I start giggling, its usually a sign that I'm not taking something seriously.  I digress... 

The class itself made me anxious since I had no clue what was being discussed.  I hate that.  I don't mind the occasional mind-fuck experience in classes, but this was no mind-fuck, this was utter and complete confusion.  While I'm excited and interested to hear the concept discussed more and possibly clarified, I still feel overwhelmed.  What exactly was Swami Vivekananda trying to say when he wrote the piece that prompted the class discussion?  Perhaps it'll all boil down to not being the type of yoga for me.  Not all yogas are for everyone, and as Swami V wrote, "if these terms and concepts confuse you, you were not out to be a philosopher." Since jnana yoga is the path of the philosophers, I'm ok shrugging my shoulders and saying "ok, not my thing."  It's simply too abstract for me.  Perhaps Hanners or Goddess G can break things down a bit better for me.  It is after all their passion and area of expertise.


I went down to the water's edge and was overwhelmed by the cool crisp air and overall beauty of the river our guest house was on.  I slipped off my shoes and gently submerged my toes, feet, and ankles into the shockingly cold water.  The river roared, moving water that tantalized and terrified.  Power and beauty all in one.  My favorite of the goddess's manifestations; strong, wild, free.  I glanced to my left and noticed to my horror all the plastic bags and bits that clung to the rocks all along the bank.  What was modernity doing to this sacred, life-providing, river?  I thought about the dams and exploitation of India's watersheds and cringed.  What happened to valuing the sacred?  What happened to valuing nature?  Why was I surprise?  We do the same thing in the States.  

At times I feel overwhelmed with grief of how such a beautiful world is being destroyed and torn apart by humanity.  This seems to be a reoccurring theme for me.  I get overwhelmed, feel insignificant, and wonder what my role in this world, in civilization, currently is and what it will become.  I feel that I'm not growing and maturing at a fast enough pace to help fight the world's problems.  The I try to focus on the changes I've made to my life, my perspective, my ecological footprint, and my consumption habits.  I think about all the things I'd like to do, but can't due to financial limitations.  I keep reminding myself that change takes time.  Even in my personal life, things take time to change.  I must focus on what Dr. Vandana Shiva said on the farm when we first arrived, "change is going to be slow.  Be patient.  Destruction and exploitation are quick, but restoration and a new consciousness will take time."  Be patient Liz.  Don't become complacent; be patient.  Be the change you wish to see.

Thursday, August 7, 2008


Dear University of Florida,

Something new and interesting has presented itself.  While I'm quite pleased with the changes you've made to your virtual library, I even more displeased with modifications made to the physical library.  Typically during finals week(s) you're kind enough to extend library hours past their usual midnight and give us an extra hour.  Yet I was just startled by an announcement that informed me the library will be closing at 11:00pm.  That's not very nice University of Florida.  I thought we were trying to work out our differences?  Are budget constrains such that you must take away an hour from my library time?  I'm not ok with this new turn of events.  I don't like that you didn't inform me.  I'm hurt.  The library is the one place on campus I'm actually giddy to go to.  I prefer to work amongst the great scholars that line the shelves.  It makes finding things easier.  And now that I'm stressed, you take that small luxury away from me.  

Fine.  I now understand that this is how we're going to go into our final year together.  I have just one thing to say:

You're going down bitch.

Love always and forever,

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

afternoon procrastination

Best Cartoon Ever:

This really fits my mood today.  I'm stressed because I have papers to write and zero motivation.  All I'd like to do today is gain all the weight I lost back and drink beers.  All day. 

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

journal entry: june 14, 2008

Today was significantly better than the past two, health wise.  I stayed back yesterday when everyone went to Derha Dun to recover and relax.  At first I was really bummed out, but later ended up happy that I had such a relaxing and chill day.  I did a lot of reading, thinking, and napping.

I quite pleased with how classes are proceeding; they flow very nicely together.  I'm currently feeling slightly confused about the three main schools of Indian thought: dualist, qualified non-dualist, and non-dualist.  Perhaps Hanners can explain things to me more clearly.  I like that she's very matter-o-fact, but not arrogant to the point where she acts like I'm an idiot.  It'll either make sense soon, or not and I'll just not get it.  I don't really even know what exactly I'm finding confusing, I just have this feeling that I'm missing the big picture or main arguments.  Perhaps I'll flush it out in my head later tonight after doing some more of the readings and talking things over with Hanners.

Cameraman asked me for an interview this morning on my first impressions of India and what I thought of our trip into the hills.  Basically he wanted my thoughts on ecotourism.  This is something that has me heavily conflicted internally.  I understand how beneficial tourism as an industry can be economically, and that ecotourism, at least in theory, is tourism's better behaved cousin.  Yet, I still don't know if the net benefit is really all that great.  I find this so conflicting because it is essentially what our trip as a whole is and definitely what our trek into the hills was.  I truly believe that what it really comes down to is not the terms themselves, but the frame of mind and adherence to the philosophy behind the concepts.  Ecotourism, as I understand it, is low environmental impact tourism.  It involves a consciousness, an awareness of the delicate balance of your surroundings and the communities in which you are directly (or indirectly) impacting.  Its thoughts about how you are impacting and trying to understand your setting.  The reason I find it so problematic is that I don't think the majority of people will really take all of the above into consideration when they go on trip.  'Ecotourism' will just become the next 'green' or 'organic' fad, completely depoliticized.  I know it sounds deeply apathetic, but I simply don't think we, at least in Western society, are there yet.  As Americans, we're not yet able to think outside our own individual and look at the overall.  We're slowly heading that way, but I believe much more education and awareness is required and necessary before ecotourism can be an effective and flourishing thing within its above definition.

I say that the West isn't ready based on how I've evaluated our group's ability to internalize my definition of ecotourism.  Some people have been having a very difficult time adapting and not demanding Western standard of toilet accommodations, lodging, power, internet access, etc.  Yes, I've been annoyed by these things from time to time, but not in the same way.  None of us has been perfect.  I've been bitching about wanting a cup of coffee for DAYS, but I've checked myself and tried to constantly remember what is really important and what my goals were for this trip.  Constant coffee access was not on the list.  The point here is, if people in this group of hand picked, intelligent, compassionate people are struggling, how would the average American fare?  I rest my case.

I talked to M & D last night and we agreed that hills don't give people altitude sickness.  That makes it a fucking mountain.  D found it hilarious.  Which I'm happy about.  Perhaps they will worry less and won't be so upset when my credit card bill comes to their house this week.  So glad I'm not going to be around for that.  Perhaps it'll be more humorous than upsetting.  Who knows.  Credit card debt anyone?  Yes please, I'd love some.  In fact, I'll put it in my closet with my 12 pairs of black shoes and many dresses that I really don't have any place to wear to.  Gluttony in material form.  Need to work on that.

Monday, August 4, 2008

journal entry: june 13, 2008

Yesterday I awoke and puked my brains out.  What am I pregnant?!*  Don't you have to have sex to get pregnant?  Spontaneous conception!  Perhaps I'm having a baby Jesus.  Honestly I prefer the baby version of Jesus.  Well if that was even the case I either threw Jesus up or shit him out.  My body had nothing left in it.  I crawled back into bed hoping the feeling would quickly pass, but alas, no such luck.

I started having horrible diarrhea and vomiting uncontrollably.  I tried my hardest to collect myself since we had a long bus ride ahead of us.  I slept briefly with my head in Mr. Michael's lap, but had to sit up because the bouncing made me queezy.  Ganesha threw up out the window.  I was comforted to know I wasn't the only one sick, but felt bad for him and kept my fingers crossed I wouldn't do the same thing.  When we reached Perla, I was feeling really low.  I wasn't the only one.  The bus had made most people sick.  At the guest house where we stopped for lunch I was able to lie down and sleep.  I didn't eat.  I didn't want to give my body more ammo.  I was a machine gun of projectile bodily fluids.  I felt slightly better until we got back on the bus.

Several hours later, I was at my wits end.  I was ready to give up.  I was over India.  I was over the bus.  I wanted to go home.  I wanted someone to tuck me into bed and bring me fluids that would stay in rather than come out.  I wanted to wrap myself around the porcelain god and sleep on the bathroom floor.  I sucked it up.  I almost cried, but Pavlos comforted me and let me sleep with my head in his lap as we descended the final hill from Mussoorie into Derha Dun.  Pavlos is such a wonderful and caring person.  

As we drove through Derha Dun I put my head out the window, not thinking, not seeing.  I was completely spent.  Apparently we were driving through a more wealthy suburban area.  A military center where the higher ups had beautiful, clean, spacious homes.  I was too out of it.  Every part of my body was in terrible pain, which made the small walk to the farm from the bus extremely difficult.  Upon reaching the hut, I took a cold bucket bath.  I sat on the ground because I didn't have enough strength to squat.  I realized I had a fever.  I crawled into bed and awaited death or something like it.  Kite and Goddess G brought me water and drugs of sorts.  I skipped dinner.  Pavlos brought me a magic mint drink.  

In the morning I felt much better and ventured down to get breakfast.  When I walked in I realized how close I had gotten with everyone.  My new family expressed deep concern and joy upon finding out I was doing better.  However I was banned from going to town.  Another week without email or calls... Kite said she'd get me a phone card.  She's so good to me.  The relationships we're building are beautiful and complex.  No matter how much we all irritate each other, there is such a profound love its difficult to describe.  It's a love that comes from trust and effort from all sides.  I don't know, or believe, study abroad experiences in Europe create these sorts of relationships.  We're all dealing with so much and in much more challenging ways.  I hope our relationships continue to grow.  Interesting how the previous day was probably the worst I'd had so far, and it was still wonderful because it made me realize how much everyone meant to me and what a (dis)functional family we'd really become.

*I wasn't/am not pregnant... just really sick.

morning procrastination

This was on Harpers Mag Website yesterday.  I love it.

Sunday, August 3, 2008

secret message - keri smith

Sometimes I need reminders like this one.

I've felt so much lately that my world has been falling apart.  But it's not.  And neither am I.  Love, friendship, compromise, tenderness are the glue that hold me together.  Every once in a while, I think I need to step back and really look at what matters.  The many people that I don't tell enough how important they are to me.  The same ones that pick me up when I fall.  Come over at the drop of a hat to comfort me.  Meet me for coffee just because.  Go to the museum with me when I feel depressed.  Let me rant and bitch about petty things.  Laugh with me on the phone and help me realize how silly I am.  Let me tell them I love them even if it seems a bit strange to say to a friend.  Let me cry over nothing, because they know it just needs to come out finally.  

The world is still very much in one piece.  Things are just look a bit different these days.

journal entry: june 11, 2008

This morning I awoke to the most beautiful place I've ever seen.  It was wonderful.  I wasn't completely awake, so it all still felt like a dream.  I stumbled sleep drunk, happy high, to the tea jug.  After tea, we did some light yoga to stretch out our tired, sore bodies.  If only yoga could always be done in such a setting.  The cows, ponies, and water buffalo gathered around to watch.  It made us all laugh.  Even the animals find us an amusing spectacle.  Breakfast tasted amazing, but immediately after eating it I felt like I was going to vomit.  I didn't want to bother anyone, or gross people still eating out, so I went into the forest to try to reconcile things with my unhappy body.  Body and mind were not one today.  Two shits and several vomits later, I dragged my suddenly wretched body into a tent and laid down.  By that time people had noticed my absence and come to the conclusion that I was getting sick.  I started getting chills.  Kite brought me some Pepto, and Pavlos made me sit by the kitchen fire.  He gave me some root to chew on (which I have to figure out what the hell it was later).  I drank some chai and was feeling better as suddenly as I had felt worse.  It was so intense and sudden.  I have no idea what to make of it.

The hike down was significantly better, for me at least, than the way up aside from feeling like shit on and off.  I spent most of the time chatting with Berkley, Prudence, and WordMaster.  It was overall wonderful.  It got significantly hotter as we got farther down the hill.  Again I'm highly thankful for my boots.  I'd be in awful shape if I didn't have them.  Must somehow repay Erin, Tturtle, and Jdawg when I return.  They got me relatively well prepared for this and really the trip in general.  The pack I got for this is awesome, as is most of the things they recommended I consider bringing.  It really has made my time significantly easier.  I think most of the group also probably owes them a thank you.  People borrow things from me all the time.  I don't have much.  But I always have enough.  Crazy how much material things one really needs.  

The most interesting thing going on right now as I sit in front of the guest house is a government sponsored seminar/workshop going on just down the hill.  I can see it clearly from where I'm sitting, and hear it since they are announcing things over a PA.  Unfortunately I can't understand what's going on because its all in Hindi.  I would be interested to hear what exactly is being presented and in what way.  Alas.  Next trip, I'll know Hindi.  

The weather is beautiful today.  It's warm, clear and sunny, and very breezy.  It's another day of perfection.  Paradise.  And it's only noon.  The entire day is mine to read and relax

Saturday, August 2, 2008

journal entry: june 10, 2008

We just finished a 4km hike up one of the foothills.  Let me elaborate by saying this was no fucking hill.  This was a mountain.  Light hiking my ass.  I've never done anything so physically taxing in my entire life.  Saying a lot since I played basketball on 3 teams at once when I was in high school before messing my ankle up.  We left home base at 9:00am and reached the top about 3 and a half hours later.  It felt like a life time.  I'm also physically sore, I can't even begin to describe what it could be that hurts.  Its a wonderful feeling though.  I'm so freaking out of shape!  I was huffing and puffing all the way up.  It didn't help that the incline was at a 50+ degree angle.  My legs were not prepared.  My ass hurts.  Poor buns-o-fluff.  However, my ankles are doing AWESOME!  Thank you Erin, Tturtle, and Jdawg for convincing me to get these boots.  Totally worth the money.  Best investment ever!  I'm looking forward to the hike down.  I like going down.  My knees can take much more torture than the rest of me.  Must be a mental construction from my basketball days and my perpetually bumped and bruised knees.  

We hiked through several different ecosystems and forests.  I captured each on my camera.  The land was beautiful; I'm still in disbelief that I'm here.  As soon as my body stops trembling I'll evaluate my emotions and metal state.


I'm reading Tagore's Home and the World right now.  Yeah I lugged it up here with me.  I'm actually enjoying it very much, there's really a lot to consider approaching it through a gender lens.  Such as the gender roles, stereotypes, and inside/outside space dynamics.  I don't think I could have completely comprehended it before coming to India.  The culture is so oppressive towards women here.  I have no idea what I was expecting, perhaps I was naive about it and didn't think it really existed.  Easy to understand since I've only ever read about it.  The status of women and difference in treatment is definitely in your face all the time.  We've all been discussing the difference between the male and female travelers.  I believe I've mentioned this before; it really seems to be something that is pressing on my mind.  

Yesterday Pavlos was telling the group about his work and the wonderful relationships he's built through conducting his research.  I've been pondering ever since if I'd ever be able to do something similar.  It occurred to me that it'd probably be significantly more difficult for me than it was for him.  Although most of the knowledge of ethnobotanical functions is kept/maintained by the women, relationships must first be built through the men of the villages.  Would I be able to build such trust and working respect as a woman?  I talked to Pavlos about it extensively, but I don't feel comfortable with the idea.  He said I'd have time to figure it out, he was surprise to find out I was only 21 and an undergraduate.  Prudence, who was also participating in our conversation, was also surprised.  Apparently they both thought I was much older.  Must be the grey hair shining through.  

I suppose the thing to keep in mind is that gender is going to be an issue no matter what field  or what locale I decide to work in.  I'll have to deal with them somewhere down the line.  They're not going to resolve themselves.  I'm just going to have to transcend it and be all that more awesome in whatever I end up doing.  After this trip I have a renewed sense of respect for any woman doing work in highly patriarchal cultures.  I don't think I truly appreciated their dedication and determination until now.  How could I?  I didn't/couldn't completely understand how hard it really is and how much people like Berkley have had to overcome to do what they love and are passionate about.  


I can't help but wonder where I'll be in a year.  I've undergone so much change in such a short period of time, and I must say, I really like the direction I'm heading.  I'm quite happy with the person I'm becoming.  I think I actually like myself for the first time in many many years.  Why have I spent so much time feeling inadequate and incomplete?  Why did I try for so long to fill that internal void that was my lack of self-respect with partners and other people?  How silly.  The answer was here all along.  Funny how I had to travel this far to figure it out.  I wonder if I'm making progress on becoming more patient, compassionate, understanding etc?


I've never really considered myself a spiritual being, but something about this forest makes me feel euphoric and complete.  Clouds and mist has settled in, making me feel that we are in fact in the realm of the gods/goddesses.  One of the Navdanya guides had a radio and was playing some beautiful Indian music.  Prudence and I flowed with it, giggling and feeling blissful.  Soon others joined in and we all danced among the magic of the clouds.  I felt beautiful despite the dirt, sweat, and grime that covered me.  I felt complete.  I felt alive for the first time in years.  I've never felt so alive and one with the world and everything in it, from the mud to the cows, to the moss, to everyone.  Today has been the most beautiful experience of my life thus far.  I'm so glad I climbed here.  Darkness is falling.  I'm not afraid of the night.  I'm not afraid of what lies below at the foot of the hill tomorrow.  I'm not afraid of what awaits me back home.  I'm not afraid anymore.*  

This moment is complete bliss.

*It truly is amazing how simply reading this can bring me back from this funk that I've fallen into here at home.  Things have been falling apart around me and I can only watch and sweep up the pieces.  It's nice to get some reinforcement of why I like who I am and where my life is taking me.  So much changed while I was blissfully ignorant of it on the hilltop.  Dealing with it all has been challenging.  I wonder if it'll be in anyway rewarding in the end.

Friday, August 1, 2008

journal entry: june 9, 2008

We missed out on yoga today due to a down pour.  I woke up to the sound of rain pounding on the tin roof of the guest house.  It wasn't an unpleasant way to wake up, but did make me feel slightly apprehensive about the continuation of the bus journey from yesterday.  We didn't reach our original destination due to the four hour mud slide delay.

Again Pavlos sat with me and told me about the different crops and other indigenous medicinal plants.  As we climbed the mountain, we entered a pine forest.  On the trees I noticed cuts and small collecting bins.  I was so excited to see that the trees were being tapped for resin, and that I actually knew what it was.  The species of pine, which I was able to identify using Pavlos's book which I'm currently reading, was Pinus roxburghii.  I like names with two i's.  The resin collected is used in the production of varnishes, paints, and turpentine much as they are in the US.  Swami K yelled from the back of the bus and asked me if it was rubber tapping.  I was quite honored to have my brain tapped for information.  Oh puns!  How I love thee.

We came around one curve and had to come to a complete stop.  This time a car had fallen from the road slightly up on the hill from us and was on its side.  The men of the bus immediately jumped out and were helping get people out and flip the car over.  The women of the group had to stay on the bus.  I felt helpless and trapped.  While it was terrifying and nerve racking it was a wonderful display of people coming together.  While I understand why Cameraman would want to document the experience, I felt it was inappropriate due to the driver's disorientation and injury, as well as exposure and vulnerability.  I felt he should be helping instead of filming.  He's such a strong person, his muscles could really have been utilized more effectively.  Most of us on the bus were outraged that he was filming.  Columbia ended up asking him to stop.  I guess I'm mostly upset about his lack of sensitivity to personal space and desire for privacy during a moment of vulnerability.  Then again, the spheres of public and private are different here and boundaries of what is personal is rather unclear.  Many times I wonder if there is personal space in the Indian context.  Perhaps I should think more and figure out my exact thoughts and feelings on this issue and discuss it again later.

Luckily no one was terribly hurt and we were able to continue on our adventure.  Cameraman was very quiet the rest of the ride.  Could have also been due to his being sick.  Everyone has been getting sick.  I've been perfectly fine, aside from slight diarrhea which apparently is typical of spending time in India.  Perhaps I'm a freak of nature or something.  Or maybe its from all the sketchy things I've eaten off the floor or licked so my sis didn't get it for years.  I can't wait to gloat to Karebear and Greenie.  They've been trying to break me of my germ embracing habits for quite some time.


We just had a group meeting about awareness of the group within the cultural context.  I don't think I was being personally attacked, but I left feeling extremely guilty and bad about myself.  Not a difficult thing to do... but still, I haven't really felt like this since I've been in country.  I'm trying as hard as I possibly can to be aware and conscious about how my actions, reactions, appearance, and interactions effect the group, Columbia and Berkley, Negiji, Pavlos, and the people from Navdanya we're working with.  I'm personally hurt  they didn't feel they could take us to meet the woman we were suppose to meet today.  Apparently she's an expert on local plant use.  I'm upset I didn't get to hear her speak.  I've been on what I consider my best behavior, and highly bothered that Columbia and Berkley were even questioning such.  Are we that offensive?  I've been personally offended several times, but have tried to let it go and not get to me.  "Pep talks" like tonight's leave me feeling frustrated and self loathing.  I know in some way I've contributed to the overall frustration felt by the leaders towards the entire group, since I am part of the group, but I never imagined I could cause them to doubt being allowed to work with Navdanya in the future.  I'm trying to be as low maintenance as possible, but right this moment I feel like I must seem like a spoiled, snotty, privileged princess.  Silly me.  I thought we were all doing relatively well aside from getting sick, which really can't be helped.  I haven't complained at all about the fact that I haven't been able to call or check my email in over a week.  I miss people.  I miss talking to them, but I'm carrying on without a word.  Right now it's taking all my energy to externally stay calm and rational.  

Slightly more upbeat and positive... I did have a wonderful conversation with Columbia, WordMaster, and Mr. Michael over dinner about GMOs (genetically modified organisms), global food production, and the Navdanya philosophy as I understand it.  Honestly I was quite surprised by the facts and arguments coming out of my own mouth.  It was sort of an out of body experience were I somehow sat next to myself and thought "hot damn! she's so BA (bad ass... I like to abbreviate it B.A.  Dane Cook reference everyone.)!"  As conceited as this may sound, I was really impressed with myself.  These experiences of being impressed with my own intelligence are REALLY refreshing.  I never feel intelligent.  I always feel like I've tricked everyone into thinking I've got a fucking clue.  I believe this is one of my first of many transformations.  I'm trying to focus on that right now to keep from throwing things or saying things I will possibly want to take back later.  

Another positive to focus on, I bonded with Mr. Michael today.  We went on a walk and discussed the gender differences in our travel experiences, where we've previously traveled, and politics as they were when we left.  All I know at this time is that Obama is the Democratic candidate, Gweneth Paltrow is a karaoke star, and Will Smith is king of Hollywood.  All highly newsworthy things from the Western side of planet earth.  Sarcasm.  Truthfully, I'm really jealous of the difference in experiences the men in the group have had.  I wonder what it would be like to travel in India as a man.  It's hard traveling here as a woman, but I think I'm getting a stronger more aware feminist vantage point from this exposure.