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.

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