BootsnAll Travel Network



Everything Changes In An Instant

August 4th, 2009

My whole life has changed.

It started about 8 months ago when a little boy walked into a room I was in and I felt something I had never felt.

I did not know what to do with the feeling I had, and seemed hopeless that anything good would come of it all.

It seemed so different for me, as I was person very much attached to my adventurous life and could not imagine having a different kind of life.

What it has boiled down to is this: I’m going to try to adopt this child. Which means alot of things. Reality-check!

It means that I will be so very busy doing everything I have to do that I will have no time for blogging. Not only that, I would have to exercise caution anyway about what I blogged about, which has no interest for me whatsoever. I’d rather not blog at all.

So the beautiful blog I have created about travel has just died in this very instant.

And the beautiful life I am living has just begun.

Thanks to you all for reading along with me. It was a hard decision to let it go but I must.

The stories on this blog will all disappear after I download them….so if you want to reread anything, now is your chance.

If you want to stay in touch, please send me a message and I’ll put you on the email list(I’ll be sending out private group emails about my life from here on out).

Blessings. Wish me luck on this new adventure.

gigi

Bits and Pieces

July 22nd, 2009

Brave new blog… 

I’ve got some bad news–and some good news.

Which do you want first?

Ok, the bad news.

Well, I’d finished the blog this weekend. It looked gorgeous, I loved it.

Then I took it to my class (it was a “final project” for a blog creation class) and so many things were vetoed.

 Or quite simply, could be improved.

I’d signed up for this class because I wanted to learn to use a flash layer in the new blog, have things move around a bit, have photo slideshows, that sort of thing. Quite frankly, I wanted to learn to make one of those blogs/sites you find one day while searching online for this or that and you are blown away by.

What I didn’t count on was that when my instructor looked at the blog I’d created she would have so  many very good suggestions on how to make it better. So, I’ve decided to keep working on it for now. I’ll keep you posted.

The good news is that it’s not just one blog like this one was, but actually three different blogs! I know. Crazy!

There’s one blog devoted only to travel; another devoted to social justice and human rights; and a third devoted to the daya dan orphanage in Calcutta(Kolkata). Each one is entirely different and each one is–seriously–gorgeous, interesting, and you will love them all.

In other news…where am I and who am I?

Coming back home has been challenging.

I’ve been back about four months and quite frankly, although I enjoy being home and all the perks(still can’t quite get over my luck at being able to have hot showers and toilets that flush and salads!) it’s still been so very hard for me. Some days are good, and others, well, they pretty much leave me wishing I was anywhere else but here.

But this has it’s positive side too. I mean, since my trip, my self awareness level is on speed-dial. I’m very aware of who I am and what my goals are.

This leaves me often wondering who in the world I was when I left home originally for my RTW. I’m not sure I’ll ever know, really. I miss her sometimes..her naiveness..her not- knowing-ness, but I’m glad she’s all grown up.

The hard part about coming home has been that I have changed so much that it’s as if I must design a whole new life: new job, new house, new friends, new goals.

And all of my interests are totally different(or maybe just more developed?) and so I find myself spending time with totally different people and going to different places that I would have never dreamed of going to before.

Sometimes I get overwhelmed by all this newness and difference and have moments where I wish things could all go back to they once were two years ago. But then the moment passes, and I realize not only how impossible that would be but how unheathy that would be. There’s nothing quite like world travel to develop one’s personality and sense of self. Who would want to give that up? Not me.

travel plans..what’s next?

Well I’ve been dreaming of going here or there for some time now and have shared snipets of what might be next. But here are the new–concrete!–plans for the coming year. Once back in “reality” it was my job schedule that dictated when and where and for how long…I’m working at a school now, so it’s all about the school year.

India will not happen at Christmas as I originally wanted, as they only gave me two weeks off and it’s simply too rushed for me. So instead I’ve decided to go back to India for 3 months next summer.

3 months? Yeah, I know! Fantastic! So many good things happened to contribute to this decision, including that I got a internship there during that time in Calcutta, so I can work and volunteer at Daya Dan at the same time.Yay! Yet another sign that I am on the right path. Good. More on this later, I’ll I will say about it now is that of course it involves working with kids. Yay!

During that three months–and I’ve been quite torn about this–I’ve decided to tack on a side trip to Bihar, the Indian state I fell in love with this year as well as a trip to Bangladesh. In between these two areas I should manage to see a few other Indian states in the area, but I won’t decide which until just beforehand due to politics and safety issues. But the Indian states of Bihar and West Bengal as well as Bangladesh are on the list. Preferably to the middle of nowhere. If you can be in nowhere in the middle of that many people.

Oh yes…another place I was dying to go to before–but didn’t go last time–was the Sunderbans Tiger Reserve in West Bengal. But I’m definitely going this time.

Also in the coming year will be a very short (not 3 months!) trip to Panama, with the single purpose of working on the women’s clinic for the Ngobe and taking alot of photos, video, etcetra of the project and the other projects I would like to work on there. I need to to raise more money for the clinics and also I would like to brng sme special items to the women there, so you’ll be pleased to know that there is actually a paypal button on the new websites!

And who knows? There are bound to be some pretty cool stopovers for both of those trips, so let’s hope I have some unexpected adventures as well…

I’ve also decided to do the Camino de Santiago again. I know. I said I would rather die than do it again..but in retrospect, if I could redo any part of my journey it would be Spain. I feel like some parts of it must be seen again. I feel like the Camino must be done again at some point , although maybe from a different starting point? Next year is a Jubille year( Pope visits, that sort of thing, millions of people!) and so I’d prefer to skip that year and maybe do it after that. But we’ll see!

At any rate, that’s (most) of the news of interest. I’m hanging in there, trying to put one foot in front of the other and take the next step. (Just like the Camino!)The transition to the culture has not been too hard for me. The transition to who I have become–well, that has been a work in progress.

Please do check back for the links. I will have at least one of the two websites ready soon. Promise.

gigi

Labor of Love

July 17th, 2009

I said here quite awhile ago that I was switching over to a different format and a new site.

Yet I haven’t actually posted the link.

I guess–even though it looks good–I wanted to make sure that it wasn’t something I had to do, but something I wanted to do. I wanted everything on it to be clear and beautiful and bright and inspiring.

I think it’s actually become a real labor of love.

One thing that certainly is true that I have come to see clearly since trying to create a new site, is that I’m so very different than the woman I was when I started my trip. Sometimes I feel ancient. And sometimes I feel like a five year old. The trip just changed me so very much that I wanted to make sure that the new blog fit who I’ve become.

And, it does.

Plus I’ve managed to put up almost all of my travel stories from Bihar, India. And about  500 photos!

I’m just finishing up downloading about 100 more photos onto the blog, and then I’ll post the link. I’ve set aside the entire weekend to do this last bit, so visit here Monday for the new link. Really.

Thanks for checking in.

gg

The New Blog

June 20th, 2009

Is going to be unveiled this weekend!

I’m sorry I haven’t been here. It’s been alot of work to create a new blog and just playing around with all those options and templates has been a bit distracting.

I had so much stuff to put in the blog that I finally gave up beauty for space and content. I decided a more organized layout would suit me better than a flower border or prettiness. The new blog is chock full of content, so I’m working on making sure its simple to navigate.

It’s full of photographs, too! Just amazing ones from India.

I’ve got  more than a few surprises for you all, but I will wait to tell you about it on the new blog.

Hint: I’m going somewhere that I swore up and down that I’d never go to…again!

see you soon..

At any rate, just working out a few glitches over the weekend, and then I will post the new site here with a link.

Cheers, gigi

Home

June 5th, 2009

Today’s News: I Talk to Mongol; I Set Up A New Blog; And, The Adoption Process Begins

June 1st, 2009

 A NEW BLOG IS BORN!

 I’ve been working on a brand new blog!…sorry, everyone..I’ve been a bad blogger lately.. Frankly, I have been very busy and also have been spending alot of time creating a new blog.

The reasons for this are many, mostly that this is supposed to cover only travel and has become a platform for all of my various interests and so forth since my trip. I’ve known I needed to create a new blog for quite a quite, and so finally this past week began the time consuming process of making a beautiful, readable, intersting blog which will cover alot of other topics other than travel.

So while this blog will continue on and focus exclusively on travel only, the new blog will focus on alot of other stuff: charity work in Panama and India; the Daya Dan orphanage in Calcutta; Religion and Vocation; Social Justice; that sort of thing. If you don’t want to read about those things, then I would suggest sticking with this blog only and read about crazy travel adventures!

I’ll be linking the blogs together sometime during this week, and I look forward to hearing your thoughts.

This blog will continue on and focus exclusively on travel journals from my trip; my travels in the coming few years in India ( for example: Dec this year, June next year); and Panama/Columbia (the trip next summer).

ALL YOU EVER WANTED TO KNOW ABOUT THE DAYA DAN ORPHANAGE! 

As far as Daya Dan news, you’ll need to go to the new blog to get that information. At the moment there are about 140 of you reading who volunteered there in the past–and I’ve recieved so much positive encouragement from writing about the kids and so on. But there will be a section in the new blog that will be exclusively about Daya Dan.

I was able to talk to Mongol (the boy whose sister died recently) at length, and I think he is doing alright. It is alot for him to take in in that environment, but I think Sisters are supporting him very well.

THE ADOPTION PROCESS TRULY BEGINS!

And for the BIGGEST news of all:  When I called the Daya Dan orphanage a few days ago, Sister Paula Marie was on her way to taking Mitune(the boy I want to adopt) to Social Services where he was to get a full physical…the new head superior approved me adopting him..these two things are HUGE and now we move into the full on let’s try to go for it!! phase of things. I talked to them about how long we thought it would take and we thought about 3 1/2 years. So, everyone, I’m starting a whole new life as of this very week! There is alot to do and organize and classes to take and so on…I feel a little crazy sometimes! This and working two jobs and getting one’s “house in order” etc.  Ther eis so much to do I must break it down into daily increments or it’s just too much to think about all at once.

Here at home, some people are for it ( I thank you all for believing in me and for your support!); others vocally protest ; while still others are obviously silent (you know who you are.) The find myself gravitating to those who support it(naturally) and avoiding those who don’t understand it . I’ve become tired of explaining the circumstances and the why and how, and now simply say, “I’m going for it.” It’s a faith thing. I just have faith it will work out the way it will, and I accept the outcome. Meanwhile, I’m going to love that boy like mad.

Thinking back (and actually reading back!to those first journal entries on this blog), I have to say that I don’t know who I am anymore. Or maybe I know who I am for the first time in my life. There is no stretching to have an identity, there is no adapting to other’s expectations: for the first time in my life, I am wholly myself. If someone would have told me this trip would lead down this path of trying to adopt a child from India, I would’ve laughed (rather nervously, I might add!) at the statement.

Someone asked me the other day, who was leaving this week to travel extensively RTW, what the biggest blessing and the biggest challenge will be.

I told her:

“You’ll change alot-or at least, you’ll have plenty of opportunity to. If there’s some part of yourself that has been unexpressed, you see it come into full expression. That’s the biggest blessing. That’s also the biggest challenge. Your mind will feel big, expansive, open..you’ll see yourself and your possibilities in a whole new light. The challenge is that so much change is difficult for others to accept sometimes. But if you really embrace your experiences, you will bloom: either by reinventing yourself or emphasizing some part of your character which before was weak.

And the word “No” won’t be part of your vocabulary. Everything will be possible. You’ll feel confident and free enought to follow your dreams–not someone else’s!

How proud I was to say these words to my young friend, all of twenty, taking off to go around the world. How happy I am that she is going to devote that trip to doing volunteer work. How happy I am that she began reading this blog years ago at the start of my own journey and it inspired her to go on a similiar journey! She begins her trip in Guatemala, working for the same organzation I worked for and will be there two months.

Here’s to you, Diana. Good luck on your journey!

 Back on the home front, my latest adventure is that I’ve joined a support group of like minded folks who are either adopting similiar children(with developmental disabilities of some kind) or have already. Hearing their stories really helps and helps prepare me for what is to come.

How happy and amazing life is, how blessed I am, how incredible is this?! I am following a dream I didn’t even know I had two years ago.

That’s all for now. The next time I post  here, not only will this blog have a whole new look, but there will be another blog you can link onto as well that talks about all this non travel stuff!

On to the next adventure.

” I took the road less traveled, and that has made all the difference.”-Richard Bach

gigi

Things I Miss Most About Travel in India, Now That I Am Home–And The Things I Don’t Miss One Bit!

May 23rd, 2009

Yet another “Top Ten List”, or rather, several!

Things I Miss Most About Travel, (in no particular order)

1.  I miss the kids. Not just the kids at the orphanage, but the kids I saw on the streets..I miss their genuine smiles and their playfulness and their delight when they saw me walking up their street. I miss their toothy grins and their street games and the way they held each other’s hands.

2.  I miss the sense of adventure–constantly walking into one weird situation after another, getting lost, not quite knowing what I was doing but having it all, somehow, work out. Being back at home is an adventure, too–but of a different sort.

3.  I miss the routine. Adventure and routine at the same time? yes, it’s possible. Volunteering everyday gave me a destination, a sense of where I was in a foreign land. Coming back home and having the doctor tell me (despite my protests!) to “take it easy for awhile” means I spend alot of time not doing much but thinking and resting. Which isn’t exactly a lifestyle filled with appointments or any sense of routine!

4.  Getting to know perfect strangers who I would never have the chance to meet otherwise. This is something I really really miss. So many people enriched my life so profoundly, so deeply. I made so many friends on my trip that if I ever sign up to participate in couchsurfing my couch may never be empty. Actually, it’sa not just friends who were also travelers, but also locals. For example the extended Muslim family who adopted me in India, and treated me like one of their own. They taught me more about being loved and what that means than I thought I had the capacity to learn.

5. Weird food. Ok, so I’m kind of glad that I’m back at home and can eat familiar things again..but part of me misses that reaction, “You mean, I’m supposed to eat that?!” and going for it. I don’t miss eating bugs and worms and so on, but I miss having the chance to actually do it.

6. Real, honest to goodness, goodness. Realness.This might sound like an odd thing to include, but one thing I really miss is that, for me, travel was so real that it made me and those around me be very real with one another. Working with a bunch of volunteers on a site had it’s tough moments–like when something happened someone couldn’t handle–but what was wonderful was that people built such community based on who we were and what we were trying to do together. When you are in that kind of situation, you just get pretty frank and right to the point. There’s no sense in “beating around the bush.” You are who you are and as long as your heart is in the right place, you are accepted.

7. My sense of place. Coming back home, sometimes I feel like I’m just “treading water” barely able to keep up with societal expectations and so on. On the road, I knew who I was and where I was going. It was simple. Life back home=complex.

8. Not being tied to “stuff”. Living out of a single backpack means..you don’t have alot of stuff. Once coming back home, I already feel that attachement growing and I try my best to tame it but it can be difficult.

9. Feeling deep pain and sorrow. I know it sounds crazy, but being around things that were sad and difficult meant that I grew alot as a person in a very short time. I miss that intensity.

10. The love and warmth of the Bengali people and Indian culture in general–I was part of an extended family. Here at home people don’t even know their own next door neighbors. It’s pretty strange.

Ten things I don’t miss one bit!:

1. Computer keyboards that have all of the letters worn off.

2. Blackouts. Losing an entire blog entry due t the power going off. Traveling across town to email someone and having the power go out on the way there.

3. Lice. Enough said. I wil spare any details except to say it was a constant battle in India and they won alot of the time.

4. Dirty feet. Oh my God. I spent almost two years of my life washing my feet in a bucket . Occassionally I would slosh some disinfectant on them. That’s it.

5. Undrinkable tap water. Most of the world’s water is unpotable. I do not miss filling landfills with my plastic bottles from water I have had to buy. I do not miss being very thirsty and having to divide the water I had left, portioning it out to make it last. I do not miss drinking Fanta as that was all they had where ever I was.

6. A lack of toilets for women. Do third world women ever pee? I guess not. Perhaps they have bladders of steel. Once, I got on a train–a long distance train, one for the lower classes, the cheapie train..and discovered there was no bathroom. After 9 hours I thought I would die. I did not care if I ever made it to my final destination–all I cared about was that I would get to a toilet and get some relief soon! I got of the train and when i finally found a bathroom, it was so disgusting that I was sickened to have to even use it. No wonder some women stay at home. It’s just too much trouble to go anywhere.

7. Not being able to be alone. Women, in particular, visiting off the beaten track places often are encouraged to have a man with them. I would not say this is because people didn’t think they can’t do things are their own–I would say this is because men in the places they are visiting can make it very hard for them. Still, even with a male friends around, so many times I wanted to break out and run free!

8. Danger. I never liked putting myself at risk, but I did do that every once in awhile, usually because I did not know any better.

9. Poop in the streets. Yeah, this is a biggie. Coming home and seeing everything so tidy, with no piles of human excrement in the gutters..wow , it was a huge change. I was used to dodging poop in the streets and carefully looking where I was going at all times in India. Included in this category would be constantly averting my eyes from someone squatting in the streets doing their business, or men urinating willy nilly. Definitely don’t miss it or the assault on my olefactory senses…

10. Dust. Dust and dirt and filth covering everything, everywhere. Dust so bad that it covered all of the plants and leaves of trees making them look gray and dun- colored. Dust so bad that it covered everyhting in the hotel room when I propped a window open. Dust so bad that in the morning, I would wake up coughing black dust and my nose would be black.

And Top Ten Things I love About finally being Home:

1. I am a woman and I get to decide what my life is going to be. I get to live alone, drive a car, vote, talk to the people I want to.

2. Living in a capitalist culture instead of a failed socialist experiment(West Bengal).

3. Having my own computer and being able to be connected to the world in a fundamental way, whenever I want to be.

4. Having a dog and cat as companions. Chubby, happy companions..instead of seeing cats on the edge of starvation or pariah dogs eating trash in the street. It’s a big contrast.

5. Recycling. Um, India desn’t recycle anything. It just gets thrown away. Outside. on the grund. Maybe someone, a trash picker, will come along and collect it, maybe not. But recycling? Nope.

6. Refrigerators. You mean I can buy stuff, like cheese, for more than just today? Amazing.

7. Let’s face it, cheese needs to be on this list. Where would I be without cheese?

8. Public libraries. Anothier biggie. I simply can’t believe what we have available here in terms of media and resources. I have been visiting my local library at least three times a week since I got back. Why buy any books? It’s unbelievable!

9. Coffee. Coffee in India is like..milky colored water with coffee flavoring. I have decided this is why they have to drink so many cups of the stuff–there’s only a miniscule amount of coffee in the cup, so that transates to=no caffiene. Thank God for my local coffee shop, Steady Eddy’s. A great cup of Joe.

10. Solitude. Ah, silence. In India it did not exist except ever so briefly at 3 am. Here, I can wake up in the morning, hear no noises except a few crickets, take the dog for a early morning walk and hear nothing but the crunch of our feet in the gravel. Amazing. Pure bliss.

I guess it all balances out….

gigi

The Neccessary Distraction of Planning the Next Journey

May 20th, 2009

Well, the phone at Daya Dan is out of order still, so I have no more news to tell you all.

Instead, I find myself trying to distract myself fromt the situation and all of my feelings. I simply can’t manage them otherwise. Travel is the only thing that gets me out of myself and on to the next step, sometimes.

Unfortunately I can go no where at the moment, as I am tied (although pleasantly, mind you!) to dog/cat/job/house/bills/car–and , dare I say it, life in the USA.

Oh, I rant and rave about alot of the greed and ridiculousess of all of it, but at the end of the day, let’s face it: the culture that produced me, with all of my good intentions, has done some things right. I think what I love about being here is that I actually feel pretty safe, pretty comfortable. I have no harrowing stories to tell.

Unfortunately, now that I have the taste of travel –in particular, adventure travel–I can’t seem to let it go. This in spite of my sincere effort to do so these last few months. You would think that coming home with amoebas and two kinds of worms would change my mind.

Sigh. It hasn’t.

Of course, I have the tiniest travel budget ever(read=zero.) and I have the least possible amount of time ever(read=less than a week) as I am trying to be a superhero in real life and  must tell all of you, it is very expensive! Not only must I work a million billion jobs (ok, so ust one big one  and then other odds and ends) in this strange economy to make it all happen but I must also go to school fulltime to get all the neccessary slips of paper saying I am a superhero. Busy, busy, busy. Even when I need a break, I must schedule one.

Sometimes I don’t quite feel up to it. I am taking on more in my life in the present and for my future than I over thought was possible. But no one ever accomplished anything great without going to great lengths to do so, right?

One of the main perks to wanting to adopt overseas is that you must go see the child you would like to adopt pretty often. So since I am going to India already in December, I have decided to tag on a short adventure after going to the orphanage, this time, to Bihar.

As you remember I visited Bihar 3 times before and each time it got better and better. So I have decided to make more of a go of it and really , really look at it. There were many places there that were not in any guidebook and where no tourist ever went–exactly the sort of places I want to go before my life changes someday and I won’t be able to.

So other than learning Hindi , I’m tackling a little Urdu and also doing alot of research on Bihar. I went to the Buddha-tree (lovely, but once was enough) but what I really want to see are more, tiny, poor, colorful, vibrant villages. I want to drink chai on a dusty street. I want to be in palce where there is nothing but water buffalo and giggling children.

Everytime my frustration overwhelms me about the phone not working in Daya Dan, I just sit down with a cup of tea and begin plotting out my next journey–overland from Calcutta into Bihar, visiting small villages and making it to the edge of Nepal.

I hope to have some excellent adventures to post, and even though it’s months away, it helps me sleep better at night knowing that..

..my adventures are not over.

gigi

Nothing I Can Do

May 18th, 2009

In the last entry, I wrote that Megha, a young developmentally disabled girl who I met and became close to while working at Daya Dan, had died..leaving behind her brother , who also lives there.

I tried to call  Daya Dan many times, but it turns out the phone line is broken. Who knows when it will be fixed.

Such are the daily frustrations of life in India. People there deal with many problems every day which here would be solved in an hour or two but there take forever to resolve. Efficiency is not a priority and would be impossible.

I hardly slept last night. I spent part of the night talikng to a close friend, telling him that I am continually incredulous how deeply attached I am to the kids there and how sad I am that there is little I can do for them from all the way over here. I just never thought that I would grow so much in love and compassion.

It is very humbling.

I went into my coffeeshop this morning and almost began to cry. The world I am in seems very far away from where my thoughts are this morning.

Later on in the morning, I went to a local newstand and discovered that the owner had been reading my blog for years! And everything she said was so supportive and lovely. It really grounded me in the midst of what sometmes feels like treading water and at other times feels like I’m on the mountaintop.

For those of you I contacted that knew the little girl, I will try to find out thru various other sources what Mongol’s state of mind is. I’ll keep you posted.

In the meantime, pray.

And for Megha, where ever you are, you made a huge difference in my life. Thankyou.

gigi

Megha Dies

May 17th, 2009

This blog seems to have become a source of information for many Daya dan volunteers.

I am very sad to inform all of you who knew her that Megha, Mongol’s sister, died this morning of respiratory problems.

I am saddened but not entirely surprised as children with her condition often die of respiratory illnesses(even in 1st world conditions) and I am content that at the very least, she did not suffer and is in a peaceful place.

I am calling Mongol tonight to see how he is doing and I will write a blog entry afterwards.

gigi