Friday, April 23, 2010


It's been quite a while since I posted on this blog. In case you were wondering, I made it home safely. I've returned to my normal routine, and developed new goals, and filled my days with other thoughts.
But I miss India so much it hurts.
And for a kid with a lot on her plate, and limited financial resources, it's heartbreaking to think I won't have an experience like that for a while.
There are other things I am preoccupied with now. Preparations for graduate school, mainly. And I know I have a lot to look forward to...
But when I'm stuck here, in this spot, working slowly and steadily toward an exam grade for a subject I couldn't care less for, it depresses me to suddenly smell India, or hear India, or remember India. I ache for that feeling when I wake up in the morning. That feeling that tells me I'm on the "other side" of the world, and just being there is incredible.

The last thing I want is to live in mediocrity, especially after such a beautiful experience.
As lonely as the moments in between can be I know that I found it once, and I can find it again.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Cowardly Lion... There Are No Lions in India...

I was afraid to come to India.
I came anyway.

I am afraid of Tigers.
I'm going to a Wildlife Sanctuary, to go on a hike, to see Tigers.

I am afraid of traveling in a foreign country without someone who knows the language.
Next week is my week of travel, and I sure as hell am not sitting around in the house.

I am afraid to sing in public by myself. My voice is obvious and vulnerable and naked before the scrutiny of others.
I sang in front of a university music class with no preperation.

I am afraid of big bugs.
That's it, I'm just afraid of them.

I am afraid of the homeless people.
Once on a train, a woman begging for money kept touching me in "blessing".
I gave her 10 rupees just to make her go away.
I would have given her 100.

I am afraid that when I go home that my adventures will be over.
So I can't let that happen.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Little Update

Showers are not common here. Our bathrooms are closet-sized little spaces, consisting of a toilet, two faucets (both Cold) protruding from the wall, and a drain on the floor. We have a set of buckets and the method is to fill the large bucket with water and use the minature bucket to scoop water from the larger to rinse and so forth.
I don't do that.
I'm small enough that I can just squat under the faucet to create a sort of makeshift shower.

I absolutely despise the way I am treated by the men here. Trivandrum is a very conservative city with its more old-fashioned paradigms left, by and large, unchallenged. This is not to say that the idea of gender superiority is practiced with brutality, but it is still present.
Some men do possess a more benevolent dispostition, addressing me in such a way that shows that they understand it's not my fault that I'm so simple, I was born a woman. Or worse, they don't bother to listen at all, and just stand there with a serene grin as they wait for me to finish speaking, the way you would with a child whose tantrum amuses you.
What I really cannot stand are the men who treat you as though you're a stray kitten. You're something interesting and cute, maybe even beautiful to watch, they can say anything they like to you because of course you wouldn't understand, and if they like, its perfectly appropriate to try to pet you, or take you home.
Tip: Aggressively attempting to pull a small woman off a dance floor to sit alone with you in a dark corner is not going to be met with a positive reaction.
And while we're on the subject...
Telling a girl that you're a mimicry artist will not impress her.

The area we reside in is recognized as a malaria-free zone. Regardless, the abundance of these little creatures is a constant source of worry among my housemates and myself. For most of us, the concern is limited to the multiple unsightly welts they plant all over our sensitive, milky skin. For me, it is a matter of dozens of little needles, with wings, buzzing in my ears, down my legs, probing the fleshy webbing between my fingers and toes. But Heaven forbid my aim should serve me, and I strike one against the wall. Watching the red, human blood smear with the sweep of my hand fosters an entirely new set of concerns.
Mainly: Whose blood is this?

For some reason, people here don't understand my name.
"What's your name?" (Always asked in the most straight-forward manner, no frills.)
"Samantha." (Said slowly, I promise.)
"Smita?"(Why not?)
Always Smita.
But my dance teacher says Smita means "smile", so I guess it's ok.

On our way to the beach the other day, I scandalized the neighborhood by wearing shorts out in public. I made sure to wear my plaid shorts so that not only would I be shocking, but also, a little funky.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

No Cookies With Tea

Practicing yoga in India is much more disciplined than I initially anticipated.
It focuses not only on excercising the body, but the mind as well.
A true yogi has a clear and focused mind.
In attempts to achieve this, one must allow yoga to become integrated into his life holistically. Not simply for a hour or two each day, but throughout. Yoga must be reflected in our daily courses and in our reactions to obstacles or trials.

To practice self control, I have decided to give up sweets for a week.
I told my guru of my resolution.
He shook my hand.

I'm not sure how, but this is supposed to make me a better person...


I have the most irritating habit of talking too fast.
The worst part of which is my inability to correct it.
It has been magnified throughout my stay in India, by the fact that English is a second language to most of the people I communicate with (or attempt to, anyway) on an every day basis.
For some unholy reason, I find it impossible to slow down, let alone simplify my speech, in an effort to grant my listeners the slightest hope of a fighting chance at understanding the rambling American girl.
They can't even understand my elementary Malayalam, because I often don't pronounce the vocabulary correctly, and once I realize this, I follow it with a frantic English explanation of my meaning (I usually accompany this step in the sequence with wild gestures in attempts to clarify. But this only deepens their fear and confusion.)

It's ok.
People in America don't generally understand me either.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

There was a Big Bug

I'd never been on a train before. Not as a valid means of travel, anyway. It's true enough to say that I had it romanticized in my head, influenced by classic scenes from White Christmas or by the quirky style of Darjeeling Limited, but I don't think it's ridiculous that I was excited.
After our tranquil weekend floating down the backwaters of Kerala, we wandered around Alleppey to wait for our train. (We squatted at a hotel, stretching out our lunch with "We'd like some more coffee" and "Maybe we'll have some ice cream...")
As the sun began to descend, the train pulled up along the platform and we boarded. To find our seats, we had to venture up length of the train, toward the engine. Passing between cars, we began to notice the scenery pick up pace.
We found our seats and sank in.
I pulled out a book, intending to distract myself from the tedious length of time ahead of me, but I was drawn to the views just passed my window.
I leaned my forehead against the metal windowpane and let the sights absorb me.
Each passing second displayed a scene that was seemingly tranquil. The railroad cut through the Kerala country side, allowing its passengers to witness the rustic majesty cloaked within.
Small houses with tin roofs, open doors exhibiting warmly-lit rooms, cows tied to trees, cows drinking from troughs, cows lying in the fields. Kids playing cricket, women balancing jugs of water as they waded through the grass, men lighting sacred flames at the altars of their deities. And the green, green, green of it all. The lush forest floor thick with vegetation, with the tall, swaying palm trees shading it from the setting sun.
And every so often, for a moment lasting no longer than a sway or two of the train car, music. A few notes of a flute, or a lady reciting her evening prayers.
As the sun set and India passed me by, the train rocked me to sleep.

A while later, I awoke. Two inches away from my face, there was a huge beetle, about the size of my palm.
I gasped.
Kristi announced that we had a "Bug Situation".
Jean climbed across the aisle, pulled it off the window and threw it into the black night. Thank God for Jean.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

It's Been A While

In Malayalam class, Dr. Nayar says he won't teach us the negative forms of words because he wants us to be positive.

The ice cream in India is so much better than it is at home. Every scoop I've had is so creamy and so rich... I was discussing this phenomenon with Kristi, when I realize that, relevantly, this probably means the ice cream in India is worse for you than it is at home. I proceeded to scan the packaging of my individual-serving cup and failed to find the nutritional information. Kristi says it's because God just wants us to enjoy it.

A few professors from UW came to review the program. Behind their backs, we called them the Dignitaries.

Kathakali is the Indian equivalent of the opera. It's a highly-esteemed form of art, with classic story lines and techniques. Performers study for years upon years to become worthy of participating in its portrayal on the stage. They practice, practice, practice, and anticipate opening night, hoping that their performance will move their patrons like no other production has before.
But in the end, the audience has no idea what's going on.

Through research on the internet, with the use of various sources, I've come to the realization that my sunburn is actually a massive second-degree burn that happens to be from sun exposure.

Thankamma claims to never have had chocolate before. She says no one has ever offered it to her. I think it's heinous that anyone, let alone a woman, has never had chocolate. So, I'm determined to buy her her very own chocolate bar. It makes me feel like a missionary... for chocolate...

The autodrivers here are not honest. They always claim the meter is broken because they think that we will just give them any fare they request if there is no meter to rat them out. Yesterday, was no different.
As we claimed in, we requested, "Meter. Meter?"
I reached over and flipped it on.
Surprise! It worked!
The driver did not look pleased...

I have to keep my gum in the refridgerator here, because otherwise it sweats.

There are traffic law signs posted all along the roads here. The say things like Obey Traffic Laws and Go Slow. My favorite one says Speed Thrills But Kills.

True Story.