Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Holy SOUP!

Today I spent a good 2 and a half hours just thinking about soup. Thick, squash soup. And whole wheat bread. With butter. And also a good pear and arugula salad with blue cheese. And maybe a pumpkin pie....
Ok so here I am in India surrounded by beautiful and surprising things and all I want is a bowl of soup. Really I just want to be able to be able to enjoy that bowl of soup, because eating hot soup in 95 degree weather and 85 percent humidity just isn't enjoyable. I think I would end up passed out next to a bowl of half soup half sweat. Ok, sorry, I'm done. It's just that I've begun day dreaming all about the food I miss so much. I can't let myself get too hungry or I start feeling really desperate for salads and Mcmenamins burgers and acorn squash, and rice and dal just don't satisfy anymore. I'll most likely come home from Paris looking like a zeppelin made of prosciutto/camembert/croissant crumbs, so don't be startled. Just pretend I look normal and set me on a treadmill.
Last weekend 6 of us decided to pay the outrageously expensive (for India at least) 750 rupees in order to enjoy an all-you-can-eat buffet at a five-star hotel in town. That translates to about 20 ish American dollars for those of you not following the daily rupee/dollar exchange rates. So we went to the hotel at about 12:30 and were instantly reminded about the wonders of the first world that we had nearly forgotten about. Quiet corners, clean floors, food that even looks safe to eat, nice bathrooms, calm music and respectful, welcoming waitstaff. I just about did my victory dance in the middle of the restaurant floor. Basically my fellow friends decided they were too painfully full to go on at about 2:30 and I kept going until around 3:15. I literally ate everything. I had salad and chicken soup, rolls with butter, smoked salmon, mushrooms, a plate of greek olives and capers, steak with grilled onions and green beans, mushrooms in philo dough, fruit salad, about 40 desserts...oh man. The list goes on. I know that to all of you this may seem like ordinary food that you can hop up and go buy whenever you feel like it, but to me this is the most amazing display of all the things I have given up for three months. It was amazing, and now more than ever the sight of cabbage and canned vegetables at dinner makes me want to blow chunks.
Tomorrow I have been informed that there is a planned full strike of all transportation workers. What does this mean? Basically that the entire city goes crazy, people get beaten and robbed, busses get set on fire and no one goes to work. I've also been told that as a woman I'm better off just staying at home. Ah! How funny it is that that advice perfectly resonates with the entire attitude of Indian culture towards women! Now that's just such a coincidence. So I may be spending my tomorrow hanging around the guesthouse with my fellow missionaries making paper crosses and begging forgiveness for mocking Christianity on a public blog. So it goes.
Speaking of Christianity I met more Americans today who were absolutely floored when they found out that I'm not volunteering with my church, or in order to serve our one and only lord, Sir Jesus Christ.
"Oh that's so great that you're volunteering here, and what church are you with?" One of the two Kathys from Florida I had just met asked me,
"I actually don't belong to a church, I'm here with a volunteer organization called-"
"You're not with a church?" she interrupted me. "Oh. Well that's interesting" She looked immensely confused, as if I has just managed to turn my head around 360 degrees and started speaking Arabic to her. I tried explaining about the organization, and that I in fact am not doing my service for the Lord, that I'm just doing it for these people and for me, but it was like she had turned her brain off and was staring right through me, perhaps silently praying for me to be saved.
It's amazing to me how much of this exact conversation I get here in Calcutta. And to be quite frank it's starting to piss me off. People just do not understand that I am not volunteering for God. It's like they almost want to say "You're not doing this for God? Well then why the hell are you doing it?" and anything I say won't make it clear to them why I am here and what my goal is. It's uncomfortable and occasionally makes me want to hit some people. But I've pretty much ruled that out as a possible solution.
In other news, I'm switching organizations. My last day at Love Calcutta Arts is supposed to be tomorrow, but seeing as the strike is planned and I have a vagina, I'll probably be killed in the mobs if I leave the house. I'm switching to a place called Charisma House, which is a schoolfor street kids. I'll be teaching, playing, being a goof...doing things I'm pretty good at. I visited a few days ago and the kids are amazing. I think it's going to be a much more rewarding experience than glueing books together, and I'm really excited to start.
If I don't get murdered tomorrow I hope to talk to you all soon.
Love, and please eat some soup for me

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Jai Durga

Last weekend, as I'm sure few of you know, was Durga Puja here in West Bengal. Durga Puja basically means "praise Durga", Durga being one of the many idols in Hinduism. For this holiday, literally the entire city of Calcutta goes crazy (or crazier than usual if that's possible) with preparations for the 5-10 day festival. Technically I think Puja lasts 3 days, but if there's one thing I've learned here in India, it's that Indians (or Bengalis) have little sense of exact time. If something is planned, it will probably happen sometime in the future. But it also might not so don't count on it. So although Durga Puja is technically a 3 day celebration, it goes on for 5-10 days depending on who and where you are. Basically the 2 weeks before Puja the entire city is filled with people building ginormous bamboo structures the size of large ballrooms on every other street corner, which eventually become homes to the Durga Puja scene (I described it as a Hindu nativity scene, is that un-PC of me? Probably...). This scene includes a giant Durga, stabbing a demon while flanked by her children Ganesh, Lakshmi, and two others that I can't remember. And then everything's covered in massive amounts of gold paint and glitter and pink powder and every other colorful substance you could imagine. These giant structures are called "Pandals" and for about 4 days everyone in the city takes to the streets to admire the hundreds of pandals in Calcutta. I've heard that some neighborhoods put up to 35 thousand American dollars into building their pandal. Really? And half the people in your city sleep on the sidewalk? Interesting. Anyway, the best way I could think of to describe Puja to someone who's never seen it is that it's a mix of Christmas, Carnivale, and Mardi Gras. Only in India. Basically it's fucking insane.
The only interesting Puja story that I have took place a week ago - on Sunday night, or the "last" night of Puja. Oh, I also forgot to mention that when Puja is over the people take the idols (the nativity scene) out of each pandal, drive them in huge trucks accompanied by a troupe of drummers and dancers down to the bathing ghats where they put them all in the river and let them float down to the Bay of Bengal. This is also really helpful in improving the toxicity of the river that runs through Calcutt, as it happens to be one of the most polluted rivers in the entire world. Way to go, Cal.
SO, last Sunday night a group of us had just finished dinner and were looking for a bar, wandering around with our new friend, "Adam from New York" when two of the trucks with the idols heading for the river turned down our street. They were preceded by about 4 male drummers and 30 men dancing with eachother in the street. Adam from New York pretty much grabbed the four of us girls and dragged us into the middle of the drum-cum-dance party where we danced for a bit, and then decided to just hop on one of the trucks. We just so happened to pick the truck filled with 14 to 18-year-old girls and they snatched us up and immediately doused us in pink powder and forced us to dance. It was so surreal. The girls were so excited to have the one truck in Calcutta with foreigners in it, they taught us their chants in Hindi, sang us songs, taught us Bollywood dance moves (which I am totally the master of now) and were so eager to talk with us. So we spent the next 2 hours in the back of a truck, our sweaty backs pressed against giant glittery idols, our faces covered in pink powder, screaming hindi victory chants until we we laughing too hard to go on. The best though might have been when the girls begged us to sing them an American song and we belted "Sugar Sugar" at the top of our lungs while driving down the busiest city in Calcutta. They definitely got a kick out of that.
We got to the river and were told that women aren;t allowed to watch the idols being put in the river because of what one girl described to me as "Eve teasing" and turned out to be an astounding amount of gang rapes and murders that did indeed make the papers last Monday morning. So we were herded into another truck with the girls, given balloons, and were all driven back to their apartment complex at about 50 km over the speed limit. Upon arrival at the apartment complex the girls begged us to stay, to dance with them, and to stay the night. We agreed to stay for a while, but made it clear that staying the night was not an option. So, we had a dance party. In the middle of their courtyard, with every person who lived in that complex outside, either drumming or dancing like mad. It was so beautiful. And so pink. When it was time to go, everyone gathered around us in a giant half-circle and asked us questions about where we were from and what we were doing in Calcutta. Then they gave us a ride home in their cop car, with 5 of the girls piled on top of our laps, begging us to be back next year for Puja. It was such a refreshing experience to meet people so eager to get to know us, and so willing to share their traditions with us. It was much needed after feeling the alienation that I do every day on the streets. And of course, I didn't have my camera with me. But luckily my scalp is still dyed pink, so I won't be forgetting that night anytime soon.
Jai Durga

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Wes....(numero dos)

Where were we? Oh, right, on top of a mountain waiting for some other mountains. Man that was so long ago...ok. Blah blah blah, so we waited in the cold. The sun came up and was fantastic, and while everyone was staring into the orange and purple sky that was kindly illuminating the sea of cloud below us, I noticed a giant mass of something appearing in the distance. They really appeared like ghosts. Like the biggest, most infamous ghosts in the world, looming only a couple hundred miles away from my face (which let me tell you, considering they are the largest mountains in the world, 200 miles feels like nothing). All I could do was mutter incoherently to myself, and stare. I couldn't form thoughts, or react to people around me, my eyes were just glued to those mountains as they appeared out of the darkness. When the sunlight hit them from the East I just about lost it. I had never truely understood the expression "I didn't believe my eyes" until that moment. The scene in front of me was so incredibly beautiful, so magnificently natural, that I could not grasp the fact that I was seeing it, and that it was real. I just about fell in love with nature all over again. How could something so amazing, so powerful, just have sprung up on it's own? It really was the most beautiful thing I have ever seen. And I have to say, the second I layed eyes on them, I knew I would be back. I knew that in some future time, I would go to them - feel them , know them. And I will. Lordy, it felt like I had come home to a place I'd never been.
Basically I took about 8 gazillion photos, and after a while my friends convinced me that we really did have to go, and that I couldn't just stay here all day. On our way down the mountain, my face was literally smashed against the window the entire time, looking at them through the trees as we wound down the road. I would shoot over to whatever side of the car they appeared on, any smash my face against the glass. If there was a clear view of them I would scream "STOPPPP!!!!!" with such a tone of desperation that the driver would slam on the brakes and look back in urgency to see what apendage I had slammed in the door. Of course, I just wanted to take yet another picture. By the end of the ride my three friends were crammed in the back row to avoid my rocketing from side to side, all the windows were smeared with my hand and face prints, and the driver was enormously thankful to get away from my screeching voice and apparent obbsession with a distant land mass. But it was so great. I floated around the rest of the day, and watched those mountains until they disappeared from my view. I was kind of possessed.
We had a lovely taxi ride out of Darjeeling during which we wound through tea plantations and tiny hill-side villages, and I gawked at the largest bamboo shoots I've ever seen (literally the size of a full-grown Doug Fir). I also saw a TAZO TEA billboard in the middle of the forest on the way down from Darjeeling. I had to scream about that too, but only cause it's from Portland. After the awe-induced stupor I had been wandering around in all day, it was almost too exciting to handle.
Our train ride back was fairly uneventful, except for the gaggle of Japenese teenagers who couldn't figure out how to set the bunks up so decided that it would be a great idea to sit up all night long singing their all time favorite church tunes. And let me tell you, church tunes are way more interesting with a Japanese accent thrown in. Thank the good lord for melatonin.
Ok, dinner time again. Next entry will have to be a Durga Puja update. And if you don't know what Durga Puja is please look it up -- explaining Hindu holidays as a non-Hindu is like trying to explain to an Indian taxi driver that you're not trying to die in his cab today. They just don't get it.
Love and dal

Friday, October 19, 2007

Wes, We Need To Chat (Part I)

I was pretty bummed I couldn't go see Wes Anderson's new film, "The Darjeeling Limited" last Friday night. Unfortunately none of the theaters here in Calcutta were playing it, so I decided that if I couldn't see the movie, I would just go to Darjeeling to console myself over my poor luck and lack of opportunity. And I just have to say, the train to Darjeeling is called the Darjeeling Mail, not the Darjeeling Limited...so if someone could let Mr. Anderson know, I would really appreciate it. Anyway, I spent last weekend (including Friday night) sulking in my hotel room in Darjeeling because everyone in the U.S. got to see the film and I had to sit and actually stare at the Himalayas while all my friends at home got to pay as much as I do for a week of food to sit in a movie theater and watch it on a screen. I was so heart broken. And I often forget that sarcasm is poorly communicated via on-line communication, which is probably the reason I generally avoid it.
So just so we're clear, I think it's pretty cool that I missed The Darjeeling Limited because I was in Darjeeling the day it came out. Not to mention the fact that Darjeeling pretty much made me crap my pants, and not on account of any intestinal difficulties thankyouverymuch.
After a cab ride that literally made me believe I was at the end of my life, (and seemed more like a blind kid playing Tetris than someone consciously driving) we caught the night train from Calcutta to Darjeeling at 10:30pm on Thursday. One could dedicate an entire blog to the experiences of Indian train rides...or any form of Indian transportation for that matter...but I will be fairly brief: I miraculously slept (and managed to avoid the "foreign-pirates-will-steal-all-my-possessions-and-passport" dreams that plague my father to such an extent when travelling in third world countries that he is driven to stealthily shove his money, credit cards and passport into his socks during transportation in hopes of having something left after the pirates steal all of our things) and woke up in New Jalpaiguri with all of my possessions including body parts. From NJP we took a three hour jeep ride (shoved into the trunk area of course!) up pot-holed dirt roads into deep leafy green forested hills. I just pushed my little snout out the window and let my nostrils do all the sight seeing. The air was incredible...after being in one the most polluted cities in the world in which my lungs will not allow me to take a full breath, the air in that forest was perfect. So we got to Darjeeling, and found our guest house pretty quickly. As far as we could tell, we had landed in a tiny town in the middle of the clouds, where the fog pressed in on you so persistently that you could only half guess at the scenery around you. We were surrounded by a landscape that we could only smell, and occasionally catch a glimpse of through a hole in the clouds, but then it would be gone as quickly as it had appeared. It was almost like it was teasing me. I knew the hills and the forest and the Himalayas were there, but trying to look for them was like looking for an image on a blank sheet of white paper -- after a while your eyes start playing tricks on you. Our first day we bummed around, amazed at how the air felt in our lungs and amazed at the people surrounding us. That's another thing worth mentioning - the people of Darjeeling. They are by far the most beautiful, welcoming, kind people I have met in India. There were no stares. Literally, if someone was staring it was to say good morning or to smile. We spent 3 hours just looking at people in the face and not feeling threatened. Just looking, saying hi, introducing ourselves. Being people. It was great. I spent a great amount of time just walking around the Buddhist monastery, weaving in and out of the temples, lighting incense, and being silent and alone. Shit, silence and solitude - two things that I have all but lost here in Calcutta. Two friends that I miss almost as bad as I miss flush toilets. Whew. Anyway, it was glorious. We were attacked by monkeys, we were blessed by monks, we rang prayer bells. Then we slid into an English pub, ate egg sandwiches and drank beer, and put ourselves to sleep back at our guest house. The next morning I got up at 6 and clambered up to the roof-top terrace of our guest house and sat and looked at more cloud-draped hills. And it was silent and cold and peaceful and everything I thought it would be. We spent that day parusing the multiple Nepalese shops and eating chinese food. I walked alone a lot and reveled in not seeing another human being for 25 minutes. But it was still so cloudy and foggy, I pretty much prayed for clear weather for the next morning when we would get up at 3:45 am and take a half hour drive to the top of a hill with hopes of watching the sun rise over the Himalayas. I did everything I could think of to ask for clear skies. And apparently it was enough.
At this point in my writing I feel the need to insert a few lesser-known facts about myself, so that I feel I can continue. Please excuse the following: When I was about 8 years old I bought a book at my school book fair that was an auto-biography of a 16-year-old boy who climbed Mt. Everest. After reading that book about 4 times, I decided that I was officially obsessed with the Himalayan mountains, and Mt. Everest in particular. The root cause of this obsession is unknown to me even now, but it has persisted. I decided at age 8 that I wanted to climb Mt. Everst when I was 16, though for some odd reason that plan fell through so I made it one of my goals to get to the Himalayas in some form or another and get to at least Everest base camp by the time I die. The end.
Ok, so seeing as that same enamoration (word or not word..i don't care) with the Himalayas has plagued me since about age 8, perhaps you can understand how I felt thinking that I might have a chance to glimpse them. At 3:45am on Sunday, my alarm went off. I literally opened my eyes and knew that I would see them. I just knew it. We put on every single article of clothing we brought and were greeted with perfect star-studded skies outside. It took us 45 minutes to get up to Tiger Hill and my face was pressed to the window the entire time, with nothing to see but endless stars and black, black hills. When we got out of the car at the viewing area, there were about 80 other tourists gathered around one railing, facing the lighter skies where the sun was getting close to coming up. I saw the big dipper and made a bee-line for the railing facing it. I knew the Himalayas had to be North, and was not going to move if someone payed me. My friends were concerned that we were in the wrong place because no one else was facing our way, but I told them if they moved from our spot, they'd be sorry. So we stood, cold and quiet against the railing, and we waited.
And now I have to go to dinner....so I will continue...LATER! bahahahaha i feel like im writing a trashy romance novel......TO BE CONTINUED!!!!!!!!!!!

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Shoulder to Shoulder

If only...if only I could explain this! There are no words, no pictures, no anything to describe to you what I am seeing everyday. And it is so frusterating. I wish I could grab you all and hold you in my pocket as I walk down the streets everyday. As I step over the limbless people sleeping on the sidewalks, as I skirt around the mangy dogs who have effectively chewed off all of their skin, as I raise my arms to avoid the street kids clambering onto me and grabbing my bag. It is so hard for me to want to share with all of you what I experience and what I feel here, but it's virtually impossible. I'm stuck in that place right now of not knowing if I'm caring too little or feeling too little, or if that is simply what I must do to survive. Because you have to turn the other cheek here. You have to pretend you don't see, or you will not survive. There is too much wrong, too much bad, too much to fix. So I walk down the street and I step over those limbless people and those mangy dogs. I ignore those kids. I keep walking, because that is how I survive. And I mostly feel ok. But somewhere something in me doesn't feel ok (of course, I'm from Portland - I'm a softy.) I have done well so far turning my cheek, reminding myself that this is how life is here, and that these people aren't unhappy. Because the truth is, they're not. They have families (however broken they may be) and most of them have food (however contaminated it may be), and they have life, so they are happy. But, I must ask myself, am I just telling myself that so that I can keep walking down those streets? So that I can keep living my life and keep waking up in the morning? So that I can do my job and get from point A to point B? I don't know. I don't know.
Today Kathryn and I went to get tickets for Darjeeling this weekend, and it was a mostly successful adventure. We got there after only having to ask about 50 people for directions(hey, in a city of 23 million, that's not bad) and got the tickets with little hassle thanks to the two old adorable men working at the counter. The way back we decided to take a taxi because we didn't really know where we were, which is a remarkably common occurance in this city. So we tried flagging one down, and of course, realized that the taxis are on strike. Meaning that they have turned off their meters and are demanding around 400 Rupees (around 10 dollars) for a taxi ride that sould be around 30 Rupees (around 75 cents). So we said: "Fuck that, we're smart, capable women, we will find our own way home." And guess what. We did! About 3 hours later. Basically we ended up lost out of our minds and in the middle of the busiest streets I have seen in Calcutta. Let me put that into terms you might understand: that means, literally throngs of people, shoulder to shoulder, trying to all walk different directions and shop and beg and get your attention at the same time. Food vendors lining the sidewalks, kerosene stoves pumping out more heat than there is already, someone trying to grab your bag, and horns blaring nonstop from the streets. Busses rumbling by, dodging honking rickshaws and taxis and mangey dogs. And there we were in the dead middle of this all: two white girls with absolutely no idea where they were going and very little knowledge of the Bengali language. I literally couldn't breath. But, long story shorter, we found our way home after walking for about 3 hours. No better way to get to know a city than being helplessly lost.
Lord I can't wait for Darjeeling. We leave Thursday on the night train and return Monday morning. For those of you who don't know what Darjeeling is, it's a small town at the base of the Himalayas (Kanchenjunga is the closest mountain, though Everest is visible) and was built by the British Raj as an escape from the summer heat. It is cold, is it silent, the air is some of the best in the world, and it faces the greatest mountains in the world. And produces some of the best tea in the world. I can't describe to you how amazing that sounds to me right now. It's somewhat hard to reflect on this whole lifestyle when I can't get 2 seconds of silence, so it will be much needed.
Anyway, I love you all and hope you all have roofs to sleep under and clean water to drink. Don't take it for granted. Please.

Friday, October 5, 2007

Call Me Auntie.

So I feel I should fill you all in on a few things that have become serious factors of my daily life here in Calcutta, so that you (assuming you are as caucasian as I am) can somewhat know what to expect when you come here. Although after reading this blog, I don't know that any of you will want to come here. Well, you should. All of you.
First off, the Indian people apparently have a deep curiosity of Westerners (i.e White People). It's supposedly not a threatening or hostile curiosity, although occasionally it may seem so. The first and most obvious manifestation of this curiosity is the staring. And this isn't like seeing a really attractive person on the street and staring as they walk by wondering what they would do if you approached them or asked them to take you home with them...this is like...well...ok. Here: this staring is like what people would do upon seeing a 10 foot tall half naked transexual riding in the back of a little red wagon being pulled by a dwarf. Singing showtunes. In Mandarin. In the Pearl District...let's say...10th and Johnson. Do you get my point? I'll assume you get where I'm headed with this (brilliant) analogy. So yes, walking down the streets of Calcutta, no matter where I am, who I'm with or what I'm wearing, I feel like that giant. That naked, transsexual giant (and yes I'm still a woman. It's an analogy. Some slack please.). Granted I am at least 6 inches taller than everybody, but still. I mean jaw-on-the-ground druel-on-the-lip drop-everything-and-watch-this-whitey-walk-by staring. And it freaks me out. If I see eyeballs, I know theyre on me or someone I'm with. Í feel like a circus act. And the men are the worst (but aren't they always?). The women generally avert their gaze when I look at them, but the men just hold eye contact as you walk by. I'm sure it's not meant to be menacing, but the way they stare, it's...well, it's menacing. Like they're hunting. I know this is not their intention, but it feel that way. It's amusing sometimes, but usually it's just bothersome. Of course my first nature is to stare back and make some standoffish (if not slightly witty) comment at them, but I just don't think that would go well here. So I have yet to try it. I just have to be gawked at whenever I'm in public. So much for blending in.
Ok, article two. Indian people that don't speak English fluently love to shout at you in English. Or at least whatever they consider to be English. This basically means that as soon as they see you, you will hear a chorus of "HELLO MADAM GOOD MORNING MADAM HOW MAY I HEP YOU AUNTIE AUNTIE VERY GOOD YES PLEASE!". It's like they're alerting everyone within earshot that there's a Westerner on this street and she's headed your way! So get ready to stare. Thanks for blowing my cover, guys. Appreciated.
The best line I've gotten so far was yesterday when another (very white) girl and I were walking home from the market and we passed a small hole-in-the-wall shop with about 4 men inside of it and as we passed one of them yelled: ''ARE YOU A FAMILY MEMBER?!!"
I was super impressed. And laughed like an idiot all the way home. Yes my dear friend, I am a member of a family. But not yours I'm sad to say. Kind of.
Oh and they call every white woman ''Auntie''. I'll be expecting that from all of you when I return home.
Ok, the next topic of importance while living in Calcutta is your personal hygiene. Forget everything you know about cleaning yourself. Being clean in Calcutta is a very different thing than being clean in Portland, or most anywhere else in the world for that matter. First of all, you will smell. All the time. As soon as you can accept that fact your time here will be much more pleasureable. I know mine has been. So yes, basically if you can imagine the smell of one of the largest, poorest and dirtiest cities on this planet and then translate that to your own body, you have some idea of what living here is like. The streets smell like urine, you smell like urine. The streets smell like diesel, you smell like diesel. Simple! The streets smell like human feces, rotting food, rotting flesh, cooking food, cooking flesh, heat, oil, B.O, engine, camphor, and curry and you do too! It's quite the medley. I can't remember not smelling all the time. And I shower on average 3 times a day. Lord. I can smell myself now. Brings a tear to my eye. In a very pungent way. But really, smelling like ass isn't so bad, because everyone smells like ass, so you're never really sure if it's you or the 95 year old beggar woman lying on the sidewalk you just walked by. I give myself the benefit of the doubt.
The only other hygienic issue is the sweat (that's such a lie but whatever). Also forget everything you ever learned about sweating being in any way related to physical activity. You sweat when you sleep, when you breathe, when you take a piss. You sweat when you're cold. You just sweat. All the time. I swear to god my fingernails sweat hear. Fucking ridiculous.
Those are pretty much the top things I feel I should tell you about when coming to Calcutta. And that's it's awesome in a very dirty, loud, impoverished, 3rd world, stinking-like-shit sort of way. It is fascinating.
What's more, I started working this week. I actually am more like a factory worker than an overseeer. I work for a handicrafts company and sit in a tiny room with 8 former prostitutes and bind books and pretend to speak Bengali while I sing David Bowie songs in my head. I really can feel my hard work drawing this country out of it's impoverished state. Ha. It's pretty fun actually. If any of you has seen the documentary film "Born Into Brothels", that's where I work. In the red light district of Calcutta. I work about a block away from where it was filmed I think. So that's cool. And I'm learning to bind books.
A group of us are hoping to get to Darjeeling soon, and I'm currently thinking about trying to drop out of the program a week early to do a bit more travelling in December. I've decided I have to get to Rishikesh, the yoga capital of the universe. And to Bhodgaya, where the Bodhi tree that Buddha sat under is. Did I mention I'm a goddamned hippy? Just so we're clear.
Love to all,
Auntie Kate

Monday, October 1, 2007

Thanks Mary!

So, I've undergone somewhat of a mini revelation sionce I last wrote (what, yesterday?). Partially due to some very wise words from a very wise sibling of mine (one of many, I assure you...) I'm feeling much more comfortable knowing how long it will be before I return home, and am loving India more and more. Basically I stopped trying to resist all of my sad or hesitant emotions,and just feel them. Let them feel me. And know that my comfortable life will be waiting for me when I get home. I was also inspired by thinking of my favorite poem: When Death Comes by Mary Oliver. It contains probably my favorite line I've ever read, which is:
"All my life I want to be a bride married to amazement."
It's so simple, but so powerful to me because it reminds me that I do want to be married to amazement, and by god, that's exactly what I am right now! I am so lucky to be out of comfortable, safe, clean home and be able to experience this amazement. Of course this also makes me realize how lucky I am to live where I live, to know the people I know, but it also makes me feel so lucky to be full up with amazement. I mean, of course it does. It's India for god's sake.
So right now I'm feeling level and excited about my time here. I;m sure once a rhythm gets going time will fly by.
I've also found out where I'm working. I'm going to be a quality control type person at a factory where women make handicrafts and sell them. I basically tell them to keep working, talk to them and help decide what will sell and what will not. Sounds like something I can do. I'm also very excited because a group of us are planning on going to Darjeeling within the nest couple of weeks, and I think I might crap my pants when I see the Himalayas. I'll drink some tea for you all.
Have to go in order to make it in time for dinner...love you all...