Archive for the ‘ travel ’ Category

yew.

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this is a yew tree in Wales. It is about 1000 years old.

graduation.

In Baltimore. My good friend is graduating from the University of Maryland. I think these types of accomplishments are underrated these days. Sure, most of us working folk are college graduates but there’s a vast majority out there without degrees. That’s cool too. Whatever your life is, as long as you had a choice or even a chance for higher education, as long as that option was given then I don’t give a shit if you went or not. Sometimes it’s cool to hate on school, or even that you’re better off not having gone. I’m not sure how I can be objective on the matter since I also attended college and graduated with a degree. Overall, it probably doesn’t really matter; after all the great minds didn’t attend college- most even dropped out before high school. That’s cool. Everything is a choice I suppose. I think I’m just unveiling a pet peeve of mine- people who are insecure and make fun of stuff just because they don’t like it or didn’t do it. It’s weird.

My aversion to anything positive was tested. Speeches. I kinda hate em. Have to be honest right? I just think it’s funny and weird that everyone is subject to any one person’s perspective. But I learned something. move. That was the theme of the graduating class of 2012. My good friend’s band was even quoted,

I dare you to move.

I liked the idea of moving forward. Just keep moving. Keep achieving. Keep striving for more cause life doesn’t stop. Pretty basic- anything worth listening to is that simple. Also expressed was the idea behind work and having a job. I have long hated the idea of disliking what I did for a living. I never wanted to be that person depicted as the average American worker- slaving away from dawn to dusk and going home only to sit in front of the television. Yeah. Right. No thank you. Check please.

The most unassuming government official, John Berry, spoke to the class (and all the proud onlookers). The most important thing he said,

If you find yourself working for a bad person – walk away. No matter how much they pay you or how much power they offer. Walk away.

True, nothing is worth that compromise. Yes. I loved that. The man in charge of human resources for our country told eager job seekers to quit under circumstances most deem normal. I respect it because that ought to be considered normal. It’s common sense. When a baby is unhappy (in whatever sense) he/she let’s everyone know. Kids are some of the most honest people I know. They don’t really do something unless they want to. I want adults to behave that way.

I cannot conclude this essay, I’m tired now.

skydive.

the fact that this boggles my mind in the year 2012 when this incident took place in 1960 says a lot…says a lot of how far we’ve come yet not far enough when it concerns space travel for the general public. why is it that after almost 70 years this sort of thing is not yet the norm? Hmmm…All I know is, I want to do this.

apocryphal.

but breathtaking. The M82 galaxy as seen with the help of NASA’s Spitzer, Hubble and Chandra space observatories. This little beauty is about 11.7 million light-years away… Not too far.

Saying Goodbye

mila: An indescribable heaviness settles upon me. Looking into the near future, I see that I am checking my baggage at the Emirates counter, sitting in a steel chair, waiting for a 777 to kidnap me overseas. A sorrow, the thought of leaving this enchantment behind me. For how long my return will be is unknown. What is known is that a part of me has clung to this country. I assume that if India does you right then it traps you. Something about the pulsing heart of this place that is close to an addiction. The streets are littered with garbage and sometimes the stench of human and animal poverty whirls so thickly in your nose you can taste it. Things are a little off. But if you squint, you can see past all of it… Right into the core of what this country is about, which I agree with most, is the love. Love is what keeps beat going around here. The class difference is quit stark here and something has to keep these people running… It’s all about survival, all about family, all about providing… All love. Something that I have become very fond of here is the no complaint policy. There is no real policy and I’m not sure there is even an unspoken rule about complaining… But what I have come across is that people complain very little here. Those that have something to complain about never do… Of course I am talking about the impoverished. The slums are checkered throughout the city, it is inescapable, a reminder wherever you go. The children are usually playing but not always… Sometimes they are sent off into the streets to tap on car windows to beg for change. Homeless families huddle on the sidewalks to make their daily homes from tarps and blankets, sometimes smiling, sometimes with that permanent frown, the kind that reflects a hard lived life. During the day it’s all about getting by but at night when there is a gathering of them on the street, they are deep in conversation whilst building a roadside fire. Just another day in Mumbai. At times of being here has made me so angry… I see these magnificent buildings and only a few meters away is a sprawling mass of slum dwellings and businesses. Everyone has gotten used to it. But I guess it’s the same in America… When I was in New Orleans a throng of people lived under the I-10 bridge, everyone got used to seeing that poverty too. I find that it is very easy to compare and contrast the two countries and they both have their rights and wrongs… Neither is any better than the other, I suppose it’s just what you consider “home”. If “home” is where the heart is, as they say, then wherever your heart goes then you’re always at home. And I guess that India has become a home to me because a part of my heart will be left here… It cannot be expressed what India can do for you but what is certain is that you definitely have to surrender to its ins and outs, pretties and uglies, brightness and shadiness… I surrendered and I’m glad I did because I have an appreciation for my heritage, my ancestry that I never used to pay much mind to in my years past. Although I say bye right now, I know that I will be returning… Soon.

What personal space?

mila: I trudged along a platform, landed, waited- thinking I was in the right spot to take my train. Time in India holds a different meaning. It’s usually off, by a lot… IST must mean something it certainly does not follow any rules of the Earth’s rotation or the positioning of the Sun. After some time I had a feeling that something was off. The guard walked up to us and told us that the platform for our train had changed. Of course… In fact, we had to cross the bridge and be on the other side of the tracks within a few mere minutes. Perfect. I had a lot of luggage, heavy too. I had to climb an, what seemed to be, infinite amount of stairs… Up and down. Finally, destination reached. A while later the train arrived… I had a first-class ticket in the sleeper car but for some reason I knew it wasn’t going to be like my previous train experiences. I clambored onto the train and was stuck on the little area near the open doors… You know, the part that connects between the different cars. The part where the bathroom is, the part where all the foot traffic is. That place. It was a small closet size space to be shared by a ton of people- all pressed up against each other, hot, sweaty, smelling, with luggage as surroundings. I managed to stick myself in a corner in between various pieces of baggage and used my own rolling bag as stool for what was supposed to be a three hour but really five hour, train ride along the southern coast of India. If I thought my previous rides were adventurous then I was gravely mistaken. A pack of friends, male, joined my personal space… My friend stood right in front of my lap, his dad next to him- protecting his luggage and his brother next to him- keeping guard next to the doorway that led to the seats. Then there was a mish-mosh of strangers that all snuggled in, their breath evident on our faces. I stuck my earbuds in, turned on my iPod and let the music set the soundtrack to my windy journey… Soon, I was in a tropical land… Coconut trees lined the dusty orange roads leading the way to an expanse of beach… The waters, turquoise, the sand, a seamless mixture of beige and black iron. Stomachs growling, we wandered to what seemed to be a popular seafood spot. A palm frond-thatched hut fit snugly into the beachside, littered with colorful plastic chairs. A song in some unrecognizable yet failiar language sung pitchedly. A drunken waiter mosely danced his way through the pebbled sand fitted tables and bent over telling me, “This is my favorite kind of music.” and then leaned into my friend next to me, embracing him affectionately as if he’d known him for years. Almost an hour later, grilled fish, caught fresh just a couple hours earlier, arrived to satiate our hungry appetites. I had the pleasure of diving into a red snapper, doused in coconut masala curry… Heavenly. My counterparts tore apart Kerala-special prawns and calamari. Happily… Food drunk, I walked along the surf and settled upon a spot… I lay on an incline, dampened sand packed perfectly for my back’s recline. I took off my tank top, covered my eyes, the gauzey gray creating a smoky quartz glow from the filtering golden sun. The waves crashed quietly, peacefully, the laughter of friends wafting in with each tide. Afterwards, we poked our way through several shops that lined the sand cliffed road that cut through Verkala beach. Every salesmen had some pitch line, something to sell, something so special to show us. We listened, we sat, we watched… Hundred year old silver jewelry pieces were presented, Kashmir pashminas were waved and pushed in our hands to show the lovely material made from a goat’s beard… Uninterested, I left to traipse down the street, and found refuge in the water of a fresh coconut, sliced open with a machete by a sareed woman who handled the blade quite swiftly with grace. When you are done with your drink you hand it back over, where they slice off a “scraper” from the bottom of the fruit and then chop it open where then they proceed to scrape off the “malai” which is the meat of the coconut. It has come to be one of my favorite things here in India and I snap up the opportunity everytime I see a little coconut-selling hut on the corner. Later, we returned to the Taj hotel at which we were staying at… Sitting on the deck outside of our room, the sun was setting… A large flying creature swooped through the sky in front of me into a tree. I squinted, my head to the side, I wondered what kind of bird it could be. Another silhouetted animal followed, then another, expanding their wings across the sapphire sky. The wings were hinged in three places… Bats. The biggest ones I have ever seen in my life… And if you know me and a little bit of my Woodstock background then you’d know I have a little history with bats… These midnight creatures flying to and fro from tree to tree could easily have been mistaken for Batman. The North Star appeared in the sky, a sign that it was dinner time. We were to return to the same luncheon restaurant… The electricity had gone out in the neighborhood, creating a widespread blackout but no panic. The tables at the restaurant glowed with various glass lanterns. Waiting for our food to arrive. The latern suddenly burst, sending flints of burning glass onto my legs. I was on fire. Okay, not really. But it hurt and I knew I was being burned. I sort of yelped, alerting the waiters who hurriedly came to my side- opening their cellphones to be used as lights onto my upper thighs… They asked, “Hospital? Doctor?” I shooed them away and laughed, waved my hands about in a “it’s not a big deal” gesture… The food was sure to make up for such an injury. The softest, most buttery naan, flaky tuna, crimson tandoori chicken, eight inch prawns and coconut rice settled perfectly into our tummies. Enough to put anyone to sleep. The next day, traveling in a shiny white Fiat, our driver with his excellent English drove us up a windy dirt road… He made an impromptu stop at a banana stand and threw a gaggle of yellow fruit into the backseat. We pulled into a lot that housed four elephants: a mommy, a daddy, a baby and an estranged fellow who was parked far off in the distance from the others. The dad was at work, providing, maybe, most likely, unwillingly, trips to tourists. The mother tended after the baby- they both were chained up by the leg and chomping away at leaves. I had the pleasure of encountering a complete nutcase at his best… A Spaniard, who resembled Krusty (of clown infamy via The Simpsons) was lovingly taunting the baby elephant. He reminded me of a brainless Dr. Doolittle, trying to be at one with nature’s beasts. For some reason he thought he was Mr. Animal Planet and the Dog Whisperer all rolled into one, clicking his tongue, smooching his lips, putting out his palm to get a lick from the baby heavyweight. I was on edge, just waiting, that hopefully, just maybe, the elephant would lose his mind and trample him. But to wish such thoughts is wrong (but fun) and I just sat there watching him, whilst the compound owner kept pleading with the guy to back off, to which Zorro refused and kept at it anyway. This became annoyingly amusing and I began calling him funny names in Hindi so that the workers and my driver could laugh with me and nod in agreeance… After some time, the elephant would swing his little trunk all about and eventually gave the guy a good thwack in the face but it didn’t phase him at all. At this point it was time for me to take, what would be my second ride on an elephant since being in India… Mounting the elephant this time around was a lot more difficult cause there was literally no seat to be sat on… It was like riding a horse, bare-back, except that it was an elephant. I grasped his prickly little neck hairs for dear life and we sauntered along the dirt roads… The master leader guiding the way, shouting snippets to the elephant in an unrecognizable dialect every now and then and hitting his bamboo stick on the ground in front of the elephant’s path. Before I knew it, my hand was in the elephant’s mouth and I was swallowed alive. This is untrue. I can’t help but lie, it makes for a good story… When we returned from the ride, we had the exclusivity to feed the elephant the banana treats purchased earlier in the day. This was fantastic, slimy, a little slippery but so fun. He was such a good little guy, he held his trunk up, opened his mouth wide and waited patiently to be fed. Stomach full, he was led to his bathing area… I was given the opportunity to shoot a hose of blasting water into his trunk so that he could spout it behind him and shower himself. What fun. The crazy Spanish man was still lingering around and insisted on helping the daddy elephant eat his food… Cause apparently the foreigner didn’t think the elephant was strong enough to break an entire tree on his own… This last scene was a laugh. After a few hours, I would set sail on a speedboat through the backwaters of India… Lovely, calm… No one was out there but us… The teal waters swooshed as the boat cut through the waters in an unrushed hurry. Amazing eagles soared above, eyeing the waters below for their next meal… There were huts scattered along the banks, where cows served as lawn gnomes, children watching their parents fishing for something, fish perhaps? It was brought to my attention that a group of jellyfish were swimming alongside us. I scruntized the waters until I finally saw one of the mysterious and translucent creatures… I sat back, amazed that in such a short period of time I had the pleasure of witnessing a wide array of animals. These moments are always bittersweet when you know they are coming to an end… After a few short hours, I was in an aiport, dining by myself (thanks Ashley) in the restaurant, chomping away on the best French fries ever. Then on a plane… Heading to Bangalore…

Clean Mumbai, Green Mumbai

(Why does Ashley insist on not writing anymore…)

It has become a running joke between me and Ashley… Then also between us and my cousin Karan… The first time I saw, or at least noticed, this sign was in Delhi… “Clean Delhi, Green Delhi” It doesn’t get more fabulous than that… The fact that “going green” is a world-wide event. Event? Thing? Something… Is kind of awesome. Then in Jaipur, we saw, “Clean Jaipur, Green Jaipur”… No matter what city I’ve traveled to within this country I always see that sign. When finally landing back in Mumbai, I began to see it everywhere. The best part is, I would see this sign right next to someone who was littering out their car window. Or the sign would be glimmering next to a heap of some burning trash. But at least they’re trying… Advertising the cause is half the battle… Maybe? It is just of interest because in general I do believe Indians are conservers to some degree… Take for example the restrooms in public places and bathrooms in homes… You will not find paper goods to be utilized then thrown away. It is the standard to not have toilet paper, paper towels and trashcans in these places. They just don’t use it… Bidet-ish water faucety systems are in place instead. To the westerner this is of discomfort because it is not something one is used to… Perfectly acceptable, so, higher end places of business will indeed accommodate to this need and provide such papery. So here we go, one area where Indians don’t waste unecessarily. Next, electricity. This is a pretty big issue in every household I’ve been invited to… Each light, fan, A/C unit, kitchen appliance and plug has a switch: the normal on and off kind. As in the States, if we want to turn on the light we just click the switch to on, well, that’s how it is here. But in the States when we plug in an appliance, we just pop the cord into the socket, turn on the power button and you’re good to go. Here, you plug in your appliance. turn on the power button… But it is still not on… Until you turn the outlet’s switch to on, it won’t work because electricity is all controlled by plate. This is how they save money on electricity. It is very, very rare to find a light on in a room that is not being occupied. And it is a definite no-no to have the A/C unit running if you are not within the vicinity of the cooled air. As for hot water… You won’t find it in the kitchen or the bathroom sink. If the house is modern, it will have what they call a “gizzer” which is comparable to the U.S version of a water heater. However it is much, much smaller… It holds probably a few gallons… And you have to turn it on a few minutes before you even think about stepping foot into the shower or else it will be cold as all heck. Then of course you have to plan out your shower and use the water wisely or else, after about five minutes you’re basically screwed. I have created a system for myself… I will turn it on, water down, turn it off, soap up, turn it on, water down, turn it off, lather up the hair, turn it on, water down, turn it off, condition, turn it on… Well at this point the gizzer has caught on to my scheme and has stopped producing hot water and instead produces tepid temperatures… Sneaky. So those are a few things… However, when we go back out into the streets, with the exception of the eco-friendly slogan, it seems that the citizens don’t really care much about trashing their neighborhood. It is perfectly normal and usually acceptable for people to throw their trash onto the street… Everyone does it. I look around and see there are no trash cans… Not even in the malls or other places of business… So of course people are going to just litter wherever they please- they have not much alternative really… Solution? Installing public trash cans and a good waste management system couldn’t hurt. In general, the people here do not generate much garbage as it is, so if there were some organized system then it really would be Clean India, Green India…

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