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.