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Tuesday, September 30th, 2008

I am heading to Geneva in the morning, then taking  a train to Zurich.

In Zurich, I’ve got  a few hours to sightsee so I’m going to take in some of the museums and then head to the airport.

First flight:

On Oct 1, 2008 …..Leaves Zurich at 22:15 for Dubai arrives there at 6:25 am . Flight EK 86 EMIRATES

Second flight:

On Oct 2nd, 2008….Leaves Dubai at 13:00 for Calcutta arrives there at 19:15 pm. Flight EK 548 EMIRATES

I haven’t decided what I am doing yet once I reach Calcutta. It will be evening, so depending on safety factors I will decide from there. The current plan is to get a prepaid cab to the Sudder street area and get a inexpensive room for a few days until I find a better place to stay. Don’t expect any email for some time as it may take me awhile to get accustomed to where things are and also I report for work on Monday so will not have much time the first week.

I will be in touch, love you all. Thinking of you.


Pre Calcutta Thoughts..

Tuesday, September 30th, 2008

In less than 24 hours, I’m on my way to hopefully be what will be an experience of a lifetime. As the time for departure has gotten closer, I’ve found myself searching the Internet for stories by people that have been there. They are few and far between, especially by people around my age group (the 40 plus age group!).

Most of the blogs I’ve found haven’t been all that inspiring. I’ve found one or two that were very good and caught the emotive side of working with the Missionaries of Charity on Bootsnall–but other than that, pickings have been sadly slim. I haven’t found any blogs that have gone into any depth about the intellectual richness of the city, either. Volunteers blogs about their time there seem to focus exclusively on the day to day volunteering and the various forms of escape they’ve needed to sustain themselves in what must be a very challenging situation.

Many volunteers only go to help out on their way to another destination, or perhaps go for no more than a month. I haven’t found any blogs by anyone who has been a very long term volunteer like I am planning on being (I am planning on being there for 5 months, with a view short breaks thrown in for my sanity).This is why one of my major goals while there is to write a blog with daily journal entries describing the experience of both volunteering and of being in the city itself– so that future volunteers can read it and get more of a visceral, immediate idea of what it will be like.

I wonder what it will be like to be in this dirty, crazy, and polluted city for so long and how it will impact my state of mind, spiritual life, and health.

I think right now my biggest worry is about health and the risks that I am about to take. Even on the streets of Calcutta, rickshaw-wallahs have the cough of tuberculosis, let alone in some of the homes Mother Theresa established that I will be working in. And that’s just one of the many contagious illnesses that I’m about to expose myself to. I even worry about simple things like food poisoning so on, because I’ve had the luxury to prepare my own food for over a month now and I am no longer accustomed to having to eat whatever is served to me.

I think about my own spiritual life and path, and I wonder how will being in a place with so much suffering day after day  fit in with my beliefs? What will it be like to live for months on end where people practice a caste system and people are doomed to the be the lowest of the low because that was who their fathers and grandfathers were? How will this experience change how I look at humanity as a whole?

I worry about the noise, the lack of privacy, all the people packed together in tight, stifling conditions. I think of the strong smells, the choking fumes of car exhaust, the mud and the human excrement in the streets…I can only imagine what it will be like, and even my imagination fails me now.

I worry about how I will deal with taking care of myself, with validating taking care of myself, when I will be surrounded by people who literally have nothing and are dying on the street. How will I walk by them everyday? How will I look at that child lying in the street with nothing? How will I look at myself?

I think about why I have wanted to go be a longterm volunteer in Calcutta for years and years, and now that I’m actually going to do it, I wonder what put it into my mind as a young girl. How did she think such an experience would impact her young life? Now that I’m actually doing it, how will it impact me and everything I think and believe about who I am–my identity?

I think about the growth ahead, for which I am both excited and nervous. I have the sense that a tremendous amount of self growth will happen in the five months ahead, and I have no idea who I will be when I am done. It’s scary and tremendous all at the same time.

At the same time I am thinking about all of this, I think about the tremendous cultural capital Calcutta is. I think of the challenge of learning Bengali… of meeting writers, artists, and poets … Of watching films and going to book fairs… How can all of this exist next to the other side of Calcutta?

I’m about to find out.


On Being A Resourceful Traveler

Tuesday, September 30th, 2008
Something that has been on my mind lately.. Today I was my last day in France. I celebrated by going into "town"--a tiny village nearby called Syselle. I'm sure many people would miss this sweet little charming place, or think there was ... [Continue reading this entry]

6 Hours In Geneva With 12 dollars

Monday, September 29th, 2008
I was in Geneva, Switzerland a few days ago. I was a little bit nervous about being there, because: a.) I've been spending the last few weeks living rather monastically in an old farmhouse in France with tons of cats and ... [Continue reading this entry]

A Short Rant On Why I Want To Save The World

Saturday, September 27th, 2008
So I've gotten a few emails lately..about the new look of this blog, and it's changeover to a different kind of theme than what it was in the past. It's got a new subtitle, a new blog list, and a ... [Continue reading this entry]

Geneva Part Two: Spending My Morning With Iranians In Front Of The UN

Saturday, September 27th, 2008
Part Two of  a series..NOT appropriate for children under age 13. Please have your parents read first! thanks.. In front of the UN is a big sculpture of a broken chair. The chair was put there in the late 90's to ... [Continue reading this entry]

A Sobering Start To A Day In Geneva

Saturday, September 27th, 2008
Yesterday I got to spend the entire day in Geneva, and the following entries are from notes and journal entries I made through out the day there.. I spent the entire day walking around and riding the free bikes they ... [Continue reading this entry]

Inspiration Comes In Small Packages… Kids, That Is

Friday, September 26th, 2008
Kids. They continue to surprise me and sometimes blow my mind with their amazingly clear perceptions on everything from the environment to politics. One thing I love about kids is that they don't beat around the bush like adults--they tell you ... [Continue reading this entry]

Traveling Gives Me A Crash-Course In Frugality and Voluntary Simplicity

Thursday, September 25th, 2008
One thing sure has changed since the start of this trip..I've become a lot different about the way I value money.... Back in the States, I was never rich. But I spent money on alot of things that, looking back on ... [Continue reading this entry]

True Life Planet Interview No.7: Mea, Illegal Immigrant In Paris

Wednesday, September 24th, 2008
 Not appropriate for readers under the age of 13. Please have your parents read first, thanks. This interview took place in Paris, France on August 30th, 2009, at a hair salon being run out of a kitchen in a sixth ... [Continue reading this entry]