Monthly Archives: January 2014

Old Travels

About two and a half years ago, my family and I embarked upon a trip to various holy places in southern India. We crammed ten people into a van and set off, ready to pray and take in the sights. The journey itself was awful; we had car troubles about halfway through the first segment of our drive, and spent several hours by the side of the road. We got to watch a rather bedraggled group cut down a giant tree with hand saws, and took more pictures than were strictly necessary. We had broken down right next to a household that was in some way associated with agriculture (the exact connection was never made clear to me) so there was also assorted livestock present.

When we finally got back on the road, we had wasted most of the day, and had to adjust our whole itinerary to account for the lost time. Eventually, though, we made it to our cousins’ house, where we would be staying for the night. Over the next couple of days, we proceeded to visit several temples in Southern India – the two that are prominent in my memory are the Annapoorneshwari temple in Horanadu, and Belur Temple.

There is a third temple that I remember – it was high up on a hill, and when I climbed to the top I was surrounded by lush vegetation and stone effigies that made me feel instantly reverent. But unfortunately, the important details – such as the name of the temple, and its location – aren’t coming to mind.

Annapoorneshwari is known as the goddess who feeds the hungry, and there’s a belief that if you pray to her, and offer her what you have, you will never go hungry. To be honest, I’m a fairly irreverent person – but that moment when I was in the temple, and I was watching the priests, and I looked at the idol at the front, I felt a higher power – or a placebo effect – and whatever hit me, I still believe in it. Even our trip down,  wherein I spent eight hours with my three year old cousin sitting squarely atop my bladder and had to take an emergency pee in a weird shed area, couldn’t diminish what I felt at that moment.

Both of the temples were steeped in local history, and it was really great to see a part of my culture and history that I hadn’t seen before. I was born in India, but I’ve lived in the States most of my life. While our house was very much a Hindu household, there is something different about walking to a temple surrounded by other devotees. For some reason, visiting these temples that were in the middle of nature, looking as though they had grown rather than been built, was one of the best experiences of my life.

In fact, the picture at the top of this page – my blog header itself – is from this trip. It’s a subsection of the base of Belur Temple – every inch of the temple has been carved into intricate designs, many of which include animals and ancient Hindu mythology.

It’s there for a couple of different reasons. First, because no matter where I go in the future, I don’t want to forget where I came from, or the trip that meant the most to me – I refuse to forget who I am, because while I want to grow and change with new experiences, there are some things I value about myself I’m not willing to leave quite yet. The other reason is because I want to remember the way I felt on that trip, and how I viewed all those new places; I don’t want to forget the newness, the inspiration, or the sheer awe I felt, looking at a temple that took over a hundred years and three ruling princes to build.

It’s likely that as I continue on my quest to make this the most attractive blog ever, that header will change; I hope the feelings I associate with it never will.

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WWOOF and living light

So this trip is very much in the planning stages. I still need to find a job, book tickets, and plan an itinerary. The first thing on my list has been jobs, and so far my search has turned up some pretty exciting looking opportunities! One of the ones I found that I’m most excited for is WWOOF.

WWOOF stands for World Wide Opportunities in Organic Farming. Basically the idea is that in exchange for food and accommodations, you work on an organic farm for a certain period of time – this time period can last anywhere from two or three weeks to 6 months, and is negotiated entirely between you (the “wwoofer”) and the host site.

As I was looking for options in Europe, this is one that came up again and again. The thing about this trip I want to take is that i have to do it on a budget. While I have some money saved up, I would really rather not spend ALL my money on this trip, leaving me with some rather limited options. I need to either find a job there that pays, or find something that offers some level of compensation. I’ve been looking at summer camps, internships with international organizations, and a ton of other random things. WWOOF, however, keeps coming up again and again – I really think that even if I find a steady job, I would like to spend at least a month on a farm, learning about alternative lifestyles and farming methods.

The next item on my list is figuring out how I want to travel, so that I can budget properly, and start planning my stays! The trip, in my mind, has always included a gigantic backpack. I want to travel light; I want the experience of living out of a very limited pack. Right now, I have tons of stuff, and while I’m very thankful for everything I’ve been given, I’d like to spend a little time trying to get by on as little as possible. With that goal in mind, I’m planning to spend the rest of this year carefully going through my possessions, and giving away all the items I either dislike or don’t use anymore.

I’ve always wanted to try to live minimally, and in many ways I’m viewing next year as my opportunity to do so. What better time to try than when I’m forced to live out of a backpack?

 

 

Dreams Not – so – deferred

When I turned down Teach For America (I KNOW THE HORSE IS DEAD. I will put down my stick soon.) I was at a loss for what to do with my whole entire life. The problem is that I had wanted to do TFA since I was a junior in high school; it was the plan, the grand map I was following. And since I am apparently a crappy cartographer, it just didn’t work out. And when it didn’t, part of me definitely felt lost – but another part of me was really excited, because it meant I got to do something else. Very few people get to make more than one dream come true, and in a very strange way, I had the opportunity to make that happen.

The problem is, most of my dreams involve immediate fame and wealth, and I know that isn’t going to happen. One thing I’ve wanted to do since I was around seven, though, is be a writer. I told everyone that I wanted to be an author; that I had found my passion, and that was that. And I was promptly told that authors don’t make much money. So I switched to journalist. For a brief time, I lost my mind and considered being a doctor (my mother was strongly involved in this decision making process). And then finally, I decided to be a lawyer. I majored in International Relations because I like to write, like learning about the world, and I felt it would provide a good basis for law school.

All of these things are still true about my major; but I realized that I want to give this writing thing a chance. I want to try to be a writer. And I know I want to see more of the world. So one of the things I’m toying with right now is going to Europe for a year and writing about it. Writing about what I see, posting pictures of my travels, and using the blog itself as a sort of portfolio to get myself other writing jobs.

In the interest of full disclosure, I’ve been working on this post for about a week now. I’m not used to being honest about what I want; this dream, to be a writer for a living, is a little too close to a wish for me. I never quite outgrew the superstition that if I told someone what I really, fervently wished for, it wouldn’t come true. So this post was especially hard to write, since basically anyone can now stumble across it. But I imagine other people have dreams they’re scared of too.

I’m terrified it won’t work out – that I’ll waste a year bumbling around Europe, and wind up at home, broke, trying to get a job at our local Target. I’m also scared it’ll work out, because I’ve only dreamed of becoming a writer – I have no dreams for what might happen once I achieve that goal. But I feel like I would live my whole life wanting, and I don’t want to do that.

So, if I can make it happen, I will be going to Europe. And I hope whoever is reading this will be going with me, virtually if not literally.

Strugssss

Have you ever had an awful 24 hours? Things just continuously go wrong, and as you try to move forward, and leave the awfulness behind, it feels as though some unseen and sadistic force persists in pulling you back.

Yesterday morning I woke up sick, and resolved to spend the day in bed. I gargled enough salt water to pickle my uvula, read a book, and watched television for three hours, when I got a call from a friend who had sprained her ankle and needed to get to the emergency room. So I borrow another friend’s car, and I take her to the emergency room, and drop her off so that I can come back for a meeting that my team insisted we have. We spoke for maybe ten minutes before disbanding.

Then, as I’m about to begin running another meeting, my friend calls letting me know she needs a ride home from the ER, and so I convince another friend to take the car and pick her up. And the car won’t start. We get another car and put gas in it, but by that time, my friend was tired of waiting in the ER and had taken a cab home.

I finally get home at 1230 after finishing the meeting, trying to jump start the car, and waiting for the tow truck. I resolve to put the strugs behind me and make myself a cup of hot tea while I read my assignments. I promptly spill hot tea on myself and my bed, and have to get a blow dryer out to dry the sheets until I get a chance to wash them (thank god I hadn’t added honey!) I finish this and go to bed, and resolve to wake up in the morning and do better. I almost do it too! I wake up in a timely manner, do my hair (sort of), get to class, and as I’m leaving class realize that my phone isn’t in the pocket where I had kept it.

It’s been three hours now, and I still cannot locate this phone. Someone somewhere has decided that I need to be the butt of their cosmic joke, and I am not pleased.

The Bell Jar

Have you ever read a book where the whole time you were reading, you kept thinking about how you could have written it? Not because the book was bad, or because it was in any way not worthy of being written by a great writer, but because it felt like someone somewhere unzipped you, peeked into your innermost thoughts, took them out, and splattered them across the page.

As if this person had a deeper understanding of you than you did, and had managed to express you in their book. I don’t get this feeling extremely often. Most of the books I’ve loved fall into a second category, where I know I couldn’t have written them because their authors were clearly possessing of genius I can only aspire towards. The Lovely Bones? Probably could not have written that book. The Harry Potter Series – while some of my favorites of all time, these books are not something I would have dreamed up on my own.

But every time I read The Bell Jar, I feel just a little bit exposed. I feel as though maybe Sylvia Plath wasn’t writing about herself, but was in fact writing about me.

I feel her observations and her apathy and her low-key pride in herself. She’s privately boastful, and non-confrontational. When I finish reading this book, I always feel as though in the process of doing so I have learned a little bit more about myself. It’s uncomfortable, and the only reason I don’t re-read The Bell Jar very often, or all at once.

When I was younger, I thought that reading was easy. Reading was one of those things I didn’t have to think about – I love the characters, the new ties to new situations, and adventuring, all of it. I was the precocious kid who worried her teachers by choosing to read during recess. But as I’ve grown older, reading has gotten harder, as I engage more with everything I’ve read. It’s something I could never stop doing, and I’m so grateful I started.