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

Saturday, 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 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 , 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….


The Neccessary Distraction of Planning the Next Journey

Wednesday, 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.. adventures are not over.


Nothing I Can Do

Monday, 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 ... [Continue reading this entry]

Megha Dies

Sunday, 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 ... [Continue reading this entry]

Journal From Calcutta: Just Another Day, Keeping Calm and Carrying On

Saturday, May 16th, 2009
 Look up Daya Dan, the orphanage run by Mother Theresa's Missionaries of Charity nuns in Calcutta, India,  in the media, and you will find a strange mix of reports, some negative .My experience being there was anything but negative.  If you want to ... [Continue reading this entry]

Daya Dan Video

Saturday, May 16th, 2009
Someone asked me the other day where are all the India photos? Well, I haven't quite finished organizing all of them yet. I'm working on it. I've got about 5,000 and I'm going thru them to decide what to keep or ... [Continue reading this entry]

Coming Home Has It’s Moments of Grief

Friday, May 15th, 2009
I was driving home from work was early afternoon and I was Listening to public radio Looking out at the flat landscape that surrounds the area of California where I live Admiring green fields and the blue hills in the distance When I ... [Continue reading this entry]

Get Happy. Really.

Friday, May 8th, 2009
A ton of friends and readers from around the globe sent me links to this song after yesterday's entry. For those of you who don't know it, it's "Oh Happy Day" from the movie, Sister Act Two. Yeah, the movie was corny..but ... [Continue reading this entry]

Oh Happy Day: The Return of Mitune

Wednesday, May 6th, 2009
The last time I blogged, it was about calling Daya Dan and learning that Mitune, the little boy  would like to adopt..had run away from his boarding school and was missing. Here's the happy update... Mitune somehow ended up with some folks ... [Continue reading this entry]