Monday, January 26, 2009

Coherence... well kind of.

What a surprise! I have internet today! Mondays and Wednesdays! Sweet.

So, I skimmed my last few entries and I realize how ignorant some of my comments sound... the problem is that I am still in "America mode"... that is, I think in America terms... so when I ask "how do these people shower in the winter?" or "how do their homes not have windows? Don't they get cold in the winter?"... I am answering them in my head with "they must have come up with some brilliant design for a sweater or socks or a heating system that keeps them warm"... and I haven't trained myself to STOP and realize that the whole concept of body comfort is a "western" thing. Showers are cold. Why? Because it is winter... get over it. (ehhhhh... fortunately the weather has been beautiful here... and even so, i have NOT been showering often). Ok, another example of me thinking in American terms... my friend was born in Bir, but she is Tibetan because her parents fled from Tibet when they were about 15 years old. So, I said " so, you are Indian because you were born in Bir, India" and she looked at me in shock and said "No, I am Tibetan"... so I said that because she was born in India she has an Indian passport .... not so much... I forget that America is the only country in the world that has the natural citizenship if born in the country rule.... So i asked her if she has a passport and she does... she has a refugee passport- and she has to reregister it every year. I forget how easy life is for me!! So, when I tell my friends they should come visit me in New York I don't realize how hard that is, and in some cases that that is impossible.

Ariele asked me what i wear and what I do every day so here is my schedule...
6:15 wake up (brush teeth in the sink that is beautifully placed under a birds nest... so brushing teeth is like a game of dodging shit.. which could be funny but i was shat on in Delhi so its not that funny)
6:30 prayer (they read it too quickly and so I think i am going to stop going until my Tibetan improves... tomorrow i am going to start doing yoga on the roof... watch the sunrise... wooo)
7:00 tea and bread and a 20 minute meditation session
7:30 American breakfast/ pick up an egg so that I don't die of lack of protein
9-10 Tibetan language class
10 tea (the tea is chi with milk and sugar sugar sugar sugar)
10:30- 12 Tibetan culture and civilizations class or Philosophy class... every other day
12:30 lunch (in between class and lunch i have to go to my room to pick up my bowl and spoon) Lunch is usually rice and some soup or bread and a soupy thing...
1:30-2:30 Tibetan language class
5-6 yoga
6:30 dinner
9:30 curfew
10:30 sleep

I wear baggy clothes and my bum is always covered... I sometimes wear a corta (which is the Indian style long shirt ... you know what i am talking about) and I have yet to buy chupas (Tibetan dresses... they are BEAUTIFUL and form fitting... It is amazing how much i actually miss feeling like a woman).

We also went to Mcleod Ganj a few days ago and went to HHDL's temple... i mean my soon to be school... what? I know. IDB is IN the Dalai Lama's temple... so you walk into this gated area and there is a Tibetan History museum, the Dalai Lama's home, his temple, and my school. That is like going to a political science college IN the White House.
While we were waiting outside we saw Palden Gyatso walking!! He is a Tibetan monk who was held as a prisoner and brutally tortured under the Chinese government for 30 years and since he got out he has been touring the world with the tools that he was tortured with (he snuck them out with him) and he goes around the world talking about what happened to him and is trying to show the world the reality of what has happened and does happen to Tibetans in China.

We had tea with our geshe-la... Sorry, I call him our geshe-la because he was with us for the few days in Delhi and we got to know him... but a geshe is ordained as a monk... its like having a PhD in the Dharma... My Geshe-la (Geshe Kelsang Damdul-la) is the director of IBD.. pretty cool.. he blessed my prayer beads which is quite an honor. He studied under the Dalai Lama... so his final debate was WITH HHDL. Ok... I have to talk about debating... I am going to try to film it and put it online... hmmm maybe you can youtube it but basically the debate is a test of one's dharma-knowledge... SO one guy will sit down with his legs crossed with a straight face on and another guy will be standing and clapping his hands at the one sitting (the one sitting is the one who is being tested) and the one standing will ask for example "What is emptiness?" And the guy has to answer is and then another question will come "If that is what emptiness is then how do you define the mind?"... it is absolutely fascinating to watch though because the guy standing is YELLING and clapping and the guy sitting is just chilling.. and answering everything like its obvious. It is amazing to see how chill some of these Tibetans are... they are really just like us but they are always laughing and smiling and even their traditional dances are just chill... Movies will come soon so you know what i am talking about.

I haven't started my philosophy class yet (which will be taught by Ani Kelsang Wangmo-la... 'ani' is a nun and 'la' is what you add to the end of a title to denote respect anyways, next year she will be ordained by HH and will be the FIRST ordained nun!!!!... she will be the first female geshe-la! This is a big deal...she is in her 30s and is from Germany).

My Tibetan culture and civilization class started already and it is brilliant- we will be learning a lot about the history of Tibet and such but they opened the course with a lot of readings that discuss the concept of orientalism and shangri-la ... so the way we subconsciously view "the west" from "the east" and how many westerners (including myself at times) puts Tibet on a pedestal and views it as this flawless magical land... my professors are trying to call us out on all of our biases so that we go into these studies with a clean slate... it will be hard but I am extremely excited.

I will write again soon... i apologize in advance though because i don't think my posts for the next few weeks will be about stories as much as they will be more about what i am learning- but i swear that it is interesting and the few of you that are reading this blog would have to deal with me sharing my thoughts about classes if i were home so at least now you have the choice to read them or not...

Life on this campus is fantastic we really just hang out... drink lots of tea... try to learn Tibetan from our new friends... and read. I keep forgetting some of the rules though and so sometimes i will find myself speaking to a boy alone and that is a major no-no or then people on campus will think we are dating... and i also refer to my guy friends as "friends" which is also a no-no because a "friend" is more than just a friend and so i have to call them my class mates... I will hopefully get used to that before this campus thinks I have one million boyfriends... I also forget that i am not really supposed to look at the monks when they walk by... i am supposed to look down... and also, we have to stand every time a professor or geshe walks into the room and we cannot eat until they do.. I will get used to these things soon.

PS. Emily, when I sit down to write these posts I just read through my journal and then censor my thoughts a bit... you know me too well. ;)
PPS. No one has gotten sick yet... a few kids have gotten colds but we have not yet had any of the "India sickness" that we expected... and... just because I love you I will share that it is almost comical how much Immodium i have in my bag...yet I have no fiber or laxatives which are much needed. Actually, thank god I don't because I wouldn't know how to use the toilet holes for that anyways... ok... awkward... on that note. tashi delek!

Gossip Girl

( sorry, I had to... ;) )

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Ok, so I need to apologize for me not writing because of a lack of internet and then me over writing because i get the internet for a couple minutes...
So, last time i wrote i was in Delhi... then... i left and went to a completely new world. We drove 10 hours to Pragpur... where? Exactly. Pragpur is a TINY TINY TINY village 10 hours north of Delhi. We stayed in the most beautiful estate- long story short this estate has been in the owner's family for 11 generations and he had to turn it into a hotel because he couldnt afford to live in it and repare it at the same time. We were put into pairs and then lived in these beautiful beautiful beautiful rooms for two nights... my room had roof access and so a couple of my friends and i spent the first night talking on the roof looking at EVERY SINGLE STAR IN THE SKY. Not only were the skies clear but we were actually closer to the sky than i usually am in New Jersey or New York... we saw so many shooting stars and we could point out constilations and it was beautiful. The next day we walked to the village and found a tailor who ended up making us each an Indian suite by that evening... he was such a sweetheart and gave everyone tea and delivered the suites to our rooms (sounds like a huge deal... and while it was... the village is literally one square mile.. soo.... not so much but it was still really nice). Oh, and the meals at the estate were fantastic- the name of the hotel is called The Judges Court and i HIGHLY recommend it to anyone who finds him or herself in the middle of Himachal Pradesh...

So, finally we made our way up to Dharmasala and came to IBD's Sarah campus. Oh My God. I LIVE HERE NOW. We chose our roommated (it was awkward... we literally stood in a circle and chose our roommates) and mine is named Tsering (meaning long life in Tibetan) and she is from Lhadak (which is about 2 days north east of here...). She is really sweet and is studying to be a teacher (most people are because HHDL told the Tibetans to educate educate educate). Most of the other roommtes are nuns which is also interesting. The first day was funny- unpacking was hilarious... i am here for 6 months in total and packed what i thought was nothing and my roommate has EVEN LESS!! I have two shelves... one for books... one for clothes... Talk about becoming a minimalist... i am NOT even close. That first day we made our way up to Lower Dharmasala (sounds weird...) we took a public bus there... picture 100 people on a 30 person bus... and when we got there we just ate and walked around and bought our buckets (for showering) and our spoon and bowl (for meals) and we got a mug (for tea) and a towel. I also bought a kitkat and was shocked at how much i missed chocolate after not having it for just one week. While we were in Lower Dharmasala I was sitting with the program leader and we noticed a dog sitting in the middle of the road- so Cynthia told me that the dog is probably waiting to die.... so i said to myself "um... no. not going to happen" so i took her rug and tried to push the dog to the side of the street (needed the rug because the dog definitely was sick and I never got the rabies shot... ok so i finally (after 2 minutes of standing in the middle of an Indian road... not smart at all) and then a shop-keeper started hitting the dog with stick because he didnt want a sick dog in front of his shop... so i yelled at him and then went back and moved the dog to the other side of the road and then a nun took it to the hospital. I dont remember if i wrote about it when i was in Delhi but dogs in India are really suffering... it is interesting because the cows live like kings and the dogs are suffering. I am used to living in a country that skins cows while they are alive so that they can be put on a bun in the nearest McDonalds and dogs wear nicer shoes than i do... I would believe that a medium between the US and India would be best because dogs here are really really sad and I have never been a big dog-lover but my god, my heart actually breaks here. So... when we were leaving the town we were walking to get onto a bus and i saw a dog getting rapped... first of all I should preface this story by saying that all of the female dogs have WAY too many babies and they just look tired and sad all the time... none of the dogs are neutered/spade... and it is really sad. In Delhi most of the female dogs stood with their butts touching so that they could not be attacked by a male dog.... so. This time their technique didnt work so i ran up to the dog to kick it away and i screamed to get it away but the male dog was just attacking the female dog (the scene was an actual copy of the rape scene in the movie Showgirl- really fucking scary). I then got yelled at because again, everyone is scared to get rabies blah blah blah... i am still mad at myself for not being able to stop it. On the bus everyone said that we can't help everyone and everything and I dont really know how i feel about recognizing that... I dont want to admit that that is true.

I have to go in a minute and so i will write my next story quickly...

So, we came back to campus and we had dinner and then a movie night with our roommates... woo exciting! movie night!! cool! right? not so much. We watched the movie Tibet: Cry of the Snow Dragon and all i can say is that that movie would be intense if i were watching it in Short Hills New Jersey... BUT watching that movie in a room of kids who fled Tibet when they were 6 and have not seen their parents for the past 15 years is quite intense in its own right... If you want to understand where i am and what i am doing and who i am being surrounded by and the language i am learning PLEASE watch that movie... it is quite intense.
Sorry my thoughts are all over the place i am late to dinner and that is a big no no here...

so what else am i doing here? i start classes tomorrow- i have about 200 pages of reading due every day this week blahhhh... BUT do not feel bad for me because the weather has been beautiful and i have been sitting on the roof reading / watching over the Himalayas...

Oh, we had campus clean up yesterday and i told my friend i would help her with her task... little did i know that she was on garbage duty this week.. SO what did we do? we took the entire campuses garbage (i think my household of 4 persons has more garbage in a week than they do) and we sorted out all of the paper from plastic to bottles to glass to newspapers and divided it all and then burned whatever cannot be recycled... it was incredible.

What was NOT incredible was KNOWING what we put in the garbage... In India they do not use toilet paper.. you cannot throw it down the hole ( notice i am not saying toilet because there are no toilets... there are holes in the ground... and you have to squat.. and i have bad knees... and yes, it has been quite interesting) so.... while the locals use their left hand to wipe themselves... the Americans still use toilet paper and throw it out in the garbage... and yes, then we have to sort through it on Saturdays.. so guess what? I will be a hell of a lot more careful about what i put in the garbage... gross

one day i will tell you what is done with female products... again, these people take recycling to a whole new level.. it is brilliant. gross. but brilliant.

Ok, ok ok ok i must run i am getting in trouble but i will try to write more cohesively on wednesday.

Jela Jayong (see you soon in Tibetan!)

Sunday, January 18, 2009


(Note: I am writing on a really bad key board and so some of the letters are not coming up- sorry) Ok... so I am going to catch you up on what I have been doing since i wrote last... well, yesterday I had the honor of hearing the Dalai Lama speak! We went to a brilliant conference called "Global Congress on World's Religions After September 11th- An Asian Perspective." We sat 5th row which was amazing, and hearing His Holiness speak was incredible. I agreed with a lot of what he said, had/have MANY questions about some of his other points but to be honest, the most incredible thing to see was a crowed of people in such awe!! I have never seen people SO greatful to hear someone speak; everyone stood, everyone nodded, veryone smiled. Th conference was held at Jamia Milia Islamia, a Muslim university, and the audience was filled with some of the most brilliant professors, philosophers, and academics and then us, 15 students... woo. I sat next to this professor from Concordia in Montreal who came to this conference to talk aobut how he thinks that it is incorect to talk about religions as a foundation to war because people attach themselves to so many identitiess that we cannot jusst blame a problem on one specific identity. It is like that children's book about the guy with the many hats... everyone is wearing many hats and so, thi professor ague that one cannot say that a problem is ebcause of the blue hat when there is a red hat, a green hat, and a yllow hat on top. Interesting. It was hard to hear the man who oppened thee conference say that "the attack on the palestinians by Israel was unprovoked," I agree that it is wrong that innocent Palestinians had to die, but I do not think that that was unprovoked (not saying that becaus it was provoked it was ok...). Anyways, I loved how the Dalai Lama responded to that by restating that every side has a story and a perspective and we have to look at all sides. Well sais HHDL.
Oh oh oh, I forgot to say, so yesterday morning I made a few of my friends come with me to the Sikh temple at 4 am to see the temple without tourists. I thought 4 am was early- but th people "wake up the book" at 2:30 am and "put it to bed" at 10pm... LONG day of prayers and i thought yom kippur wa bad ;) ... anyways, the temple looked beautiful at that hour and it was cool to be ther eand see what h appens when we are usually asleep.
Last night I went out with a few friends- w went to an incredible bar with live music- I felt like i was in Manhattan again, the band was playing the Beatles, Janis Joplin, et cetera and it was brilliant to see all of these people (who look, dress, and drink like me) from th other ssid of the world singing ALL of the words to some of my favorite songs. SMALL WORLD.
Today we woke up and went to see Humayum's Tomb... words will not express how it looks... just think of Aladdin... I am not kidding I actually started to sing "A whole new world"... i will show pictures soon.
THEN we went to the Tibetan quarter and it was the best. Really unbelievabl- we ate Tibetan food (which makes me SO excitd to go to Dharmassala because I don't think i can eat rice and curry anymore sorry ). Wheen we were leaving we tried to get a rickshaw and before i knew it a cop was there yelling and hitting the cabbbies with his stick- I have no idea what happened but the police man was just walking and yelling and hitting the rickshaws- he even intentionally broke some of the mirrors- it was the most brutal thing I have seen here thus far- I forget that I am not in the US and I cannot say something and tell him to back off... so... yeah. That was not fun.
Finally, we got a rickshaw and he took us to the metro station- this man biked with 4 girls in the back and it only cost 20 rs. That is less than 50 cents- to be honest that was the hardest thing I have had to see in the past 3 days... he works SO hard and doesn't get paid anything- don't gt me wrong he probably has a good life but i cannot believe how hard he has to work for such a life.
We went to the New Delhi Train Station where, by the way, if a child is there alone it takes only 20 seconds on average for him/her to get kidnapped. That train station is actually one of the most dangerous places in Delhi. So, we got there and i REALLY had to go to the bathroom and so, i left thr group and ran to the closesst one. Don't be scared- the worst thing that can happen during the day is getting pick pocketed, BUT i cannot say how oevrwhelming it is to be surrounded by sso m any men. Delhi might as well be called Delhim because there are NO women in sight!! They are all at home with the kids and cooking so, when you walk down the street it is you and one million men. A bit much at times.
So, we went to the station to meet Brijesh- our tour guide for a street kids tour of Delhi-the organization that runs it is called Salam Balak (the one who started it was the mother of the woman who directed Salam Bombay or Salam Mumbai I dont remember). This tour was led by Brijesh, a 20 year old guy, who used to be a street boy. He ran away from home at th age of 6 because he thought that it was bullshit that he worked so hard for money but his parents took the money and didnt send him to sschool or anything. So, he left Bihar thinking "fuck it, if i am going to work this hard then i might as well take the mony for myself" so he boarded a train and firsst went to a small university town and thn made his way to Delhi. 60 Percent of the kids that run away are from Bihar.... 20% of those who run away are girls; however, you do not see th girls on the street bcause within seconds (literally, as above stated, 20 seconds in some places) they are picked up by pimps and forced into sex circles. Oh, also insane fact, about 30 run away kids come to Delhi every day. The kids on my trip asked if gang leaders or parents mutilate the kids in order to collect more money and we were told that that does not happen around here- it might in other places but not here. The worst thing that happens to these kids is that they are taken to factories that are hidden in this city and forced to work about 14 hours a day with no pay... the government "cant find these factories"/ are getting paid off by these factories and so, don't do anything about it. Scary. Brijesh told us NOT to give money to th kids because it only encourages them- he said that when he was living on th street he knew where he could go get free food and that there is always somewhere to go get free food- he said that NONE of the kids die of malnutricion ecause there is always food to be eaten. He said that he did/the kids do only spend their mony on movie tickets to go see Bollywood films and on drugs. Salam Balak is an organization that has contact spots around th New Delhi train station to give this kids food, medicine, and an informal education. They help 5000 kids a year on average and they hae temporary 24 hour shelters as well which housses these kids for a year and thn ither sends them home or find a family for them. So, we went to the shelter today. The kids were too cute- they were LOVING our cameras and so, all of the kids in my group just let the kids take pictures and took pictures of the kids yada yada, we couldn't speak to them because none of us speak Hindi but we smiled and played games with them and tried to make them laugh. It was cute but you cant give us a high five for that- it was really hard. These kids were sitting down on rugs that smelled so bad and were dirty and barefoot... BUT this is not because the shelter is bad, the shelter is actually fantastic, this is because this is India. That sounds mean and I am sorry but it is just what it is. It was just the first time i got that close to Indians... like hugging and so on. I was just shocked because this really is a different world. Ah, again, I am sorry because this sounds really pretentious and onoxious but i am not trying to be, it is just hard to see. BUT we can help!! We can either ovlunteer at the shelter or we can support one of the children for a year and it only costs about 500$. 500$ for the year. How much did you spend on your last family meal?? Exactly. Check out the website and pleasse donate OR OR OR send games, clothes, or bedding to the shelter. That is my only promoting for today... i promise.
Speak soon!

Friday, January 16, 2009

And so it begins....

I am in India! How do i know? I know because i can smell it. There is a smell to Delhi that i can proudly say i am now used to... 24 hours in and I am used to it... well kind of used to it. We arrived yesterday and the second I walked outside of the airport I thought i was in a movie taking place in Cuba. I know, i know... Delhi is NOT Cuba but I guess it is what i pictured Cuba to be like. Anyways, I feel like i am in a movie because the air here is SO different from anything i have ever seen or experienced before so, to be honest, i dont really feel like i AM here... i feel like i am just looking at this new world. Speaking of looking at this new world, it was INCREDIBLE to look out of the airplane minutes before we landed. You can actually SEE the giant hotels next to trailor parks which are next to the slums... I have a picture which i'll show you later but it is almost scary. I always told myself that if we SAW thousands of homeless people every day then we would be pushed to do something about it. This city proves me wrong. Really really really wrong- it is also interesting to see how the leaders/ guide books et cetera tell you that this is "just part of the social fabric" or "dont worry they are not REALLY suffering" or "they are not as destitute as they seem".... I guess i will be the one saying that at the end of this epic trip, but not now. It is really heart breaking. That said, the little kids on the street are so fucking cute. I have great pictures of the little mushy mushes that i will show you when I'm back. The cutest is listening to them try to say our names.. Jessica is "jetika" Elinor is "??" (that name never makes sense to little kids) and Tawni is "Conwy". Awww.
I got to see Carrie last night which was incredible- i have not seen her since May and she looks and smells like a true Indian (you know you are REALLY experiencing a country when...) she took me and a couple people from the program to the Manderine hotel prefacing our little trip by saying "This is NOT the India you are going to see but it is a part of India that you should see to understand what India really is." This hotel was beautiful- we went to the bar on the 20th floor which overlooked all of the fields of homeless people. That is India. We took a rickshaw to get there- a three wheeled car with 6 of us in it.. well not REALLY in it.. more like hanging out of it... funny/ not so much.
This morning we had a mini orientation and the leaders (all amazing... two Tibetan men and three American women... one a Barnard graduate uhu... i know) were telling us about things that we need to know... the cardinal rules... the dos and don'ts. Some were obvious and others were DEFINITELY NOT. For instance, here it is rude if you don't check your change after you purchase something- it shows that you don't care about money, or that you do not respect working for money. Also, they told us that it is really hard to find small change. Why? BECAUSE most of the people here are poor and so, if they get 10 rupees (about 20 cents) they will keep it hidden under their bed. So interesting! Cynthia, the program director, then started to talk about how the women should dress yada yada, and most of it was pretty understandable but then she said "don't worry, you (speaking to the women) will just get used to walking with your eyes looking down." Wow.
We went to a Sikh temple today (Carrie joined us) and then we went to a Hindi temple where i got my first blessings! I am sitting here with my red dot/ third eye and flower petals in my hair.
One of the boys on the program, a boy Russel from Emory, is making a documentary about this semester. WOO! That is something i would always want someone to do... someone else to do. So i am excited.
No one has gotten sick yet... I am kind of excited for my first "Indian sickness." I obviously hope that i don't get sick too much but on the other hand I have enough Immodium and Cipro to cure a nation so i feel like i should be using it.
I also have come to terms with the fact that i WILL be dirty for the next 6 months. It feels like the air is painting a new layer on to my skin and it is just lovely. ;)

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

c'est tout


I cannot look at these pictures without laughing.  Really? 

Thoreau would be proud.