Thursday, April 24, 2008

catch up

So here is my last two months in shorthand (in no specific order of importance):

- I lost two bulleted lists of the events that happened in the last two months that I wanted to share with you (and yet I endeavor on).

- A moth flew into my shirt while I was sleeping, providing me with what might be the most terrifying wake of my life.

- I wore shorts to bed WITHOUT socks, I made it through the winter, an achievement that I regularly pat myself on the back for.

- A film crew came to the school to shoot a documentary. Two days of non stop filming from 4am to 11pm, quite possibly the most exhausting days of my life.

Side Story Digression: On top of that my 'friend' from Jodhpur that I met two years ago during my internship with Rupayan Sansthan decided to give me my very first stab in the back by a friend. So I had asked for his help on the film not because I need his expertise (we were going to hire a camera, which in India comes with a camera man) or equipment (I have basic editing equipment on my computer), but because I wanted to spend time with him and his family when we were to edit the film. I thought that he was on the same page until the last day he told me that he wanted the copyrights to the raw footage that we shot. This opened up a pretty ugly fight between him and the ashram placing me firmly in the middle. I calmed things a bit by yelling at him, but he ending up taking the raw footage. Now I had spend the next couple weeks plotting about how I could get the film back and wonder why he would try to take advantage of my friendship and an ashram of selfless individuals.

- Friends Jimmy and Ben reaffirmed my trust in humankind by agreeing to help me edit the film in the US and giving me many nice letters.

- Spent 28 hours on a train from Haridwar to Jodhpur 5 of which was spent in standstill. For those have been to Rajasthan, the scenery gives about as much as if you were to stick a couple branches in your childhood sandbox. But I did see at least 100 beautiful peacocks which was nice. I also saw at least ten gazelle looking things and some wild donkeydeer hybrid things (I'm not much for nomenclature, I apologize). The beauty of Rajasthan truly lies in it's people, with the women's colorful dress and abundant jewelry, to the Rajputs with their large turbans and larger mustaches. It lightened my heart to see my favorite sight in India once again, the Rajput, dhoti and all, carrying milk jugs on his 50's style bicycle. Although the beauty of the mountains is breathtaking, nothing beats an old Rajput on milk duty.

- Spent way to long at my friends house editing. He seemed to care more about his projects than helping me with mine, so I eventually left without editing the film as we intended, but I finished a 7 minute trailer (which I hope to post soon on the website). The whole experience was frustrating, but at least I did get to spend some time with his mother who is an absolute sweetheart, and brush up on my Indian copyright laws.

- Next I went to Jaipur where I gave a presentation about the APV school and my experience in India to the study abroad program I did two years ago, at the Minnesotan Studies in International Development (MSID). Quite interesting that the quietest person in class was the only to come back to give a presentation to date, and no less about Hindi, when I had by far the worst Hindi in the group (my inability to pick up the local language was notorious amongst my peers in the program; they deemed me, quite offensively but nevertheless not without a grain of truth, the 'hindi tard.' jerks). But it went well, it was great to see my old teachers, and the current class seemed enthused about the class and wanted to help me show my film in the US.

- In Jaipur I got an email from a friend who I did the MSID program with and traveled together after the program. In Sarnath we attended a Tibetan Buddhist ceremony where the Karmapa, the second highest Lama in the Tibetan Buddhist tradition (after his holiest, the Dalai Lama) had blessed us and wrapped a red string around our neck. He said that when the string fell off it would signify that auspicious change would come into your life. Hers had just fallen off, which coincided with the possible entrance into a great Med school program after being rejected the first round. Maybe about an hour after responding to this letter, my string fell off while drying off from the shower.

- And what auspicious events followed the parting of my holy thread? No med school, just Delhi belly, depression, and a filthy bout of heat exhaustation. Maybe no one has gotten the message yet that my string is gone, or maybe my life's just been to good to get any better.

- So next Delhi, to run some errands and see my fellow fellow friend, who is also from the good ole Washington State, Naina. I also got an unexpected encounter with a past MSID friend, Carissa, who I hadn't seen, well, exactly since the day I received my acceptance letter from AIF. She just happened to be in Delhi the same time as I, getting a work visa in Thailand. It was very excellent to see both.

But, that aside...

- I got screwed by the rickshaw walas, subji walas, the post wala, for every wala there is, chances are I got screwed by them. Added to this continuous chain of screwage was the intense heat of Delhi that I was running around in.

- The only solace that I found in Delhi was at Rodeo's, my favorite bar in the world. It the only place (or at least that I know of) in India where you can get a pitcher of beer served to you by a Indian in complete country/western gear, including red hankerchief ascot, polished boots, and lean black cowboy hat, WHILE sitting on a horse saddle barstool. I have become a bit famous there for my Hindi and since I stop there whenever I am in town I know most all of the bartenders, a few which are from Uttarakhand.

- But no amount of rodeo's can hide oneself from the muck that is the plains. Promptly after leaving Rodeo's, Naina's purse got stolen by two goons on a motorcycle. Ugg.

- And then I got heat exhaustion, spending the night moaning with a headache and body cramps. Apparently, you need to drink a lot of water in the heat when you are walking around, who knew? My temperate Himalaya abode requires very minimal water intake, and the water intaken is not like the yellowish brown sludge that is filled with critters with an itchin to make your stomach explore, nor like the kind that comes in a bottle and costs about a third of an average Indians daily salary.

But I had to move on a get back to the ashram, 55,390,200 kilometers away from India or the cruel, cruel world for that matter, so I pressed on to catch a bus back. What I didn't anticipate was that it is peak season for holy pilgrimage to the bevy of temples in my state, so all of the buses where packed. This roughly translates into smashing yourself into a seat with two other very sweaty people, and having an pot bellied, even sweatier Indian man's pelvis on your shoulder the whole 9 hour journey. Luckily, I had some entertainment, I read the news that was filled with rapes, about how a rape victim had been beaten to near death by the family of the accused raper, about how a family killed their daughter over an affair she had with a low caste man, etc. (My God!) Too much, I had to go to my book. What is that about? A true account of a motherless child who shifted out of an abusive relationship with her father into an abusive relationship with her new husband at the age of 13, also the year she became pregnant with her first child, while she too was a child (although depressing, it gives an amazing subaltern account of courage and strength amongst the many obstacle in place for India's impoverished females. It offers with great articulation and clarity a voice that unfortunately is left unheard, or articulated for. If you get a chance you should hunt down a copy, A Life Less Ordinary by Baby Halder). I thought of all of the 13 year old girls in our school and how with a twist of fate could be married with children and about cried. All of this with a sweaty dudes pelvis on my shoulder, belly on my ear, and a case of heat exhaustion. More or less, I wanted to die.

But as I approached home, I saw one of my favorite kids, Swati, coming down the other direction in a car, When she shot me a big smile on her face after seeing me all of the shit in the world that had acquired in me the past two weeks just melted off. When I finally got to the ashram and met with everybody, then promptly passed out for two days, waking up to the laughter of my fellow ashram mates in the morning, the playful chirps of the darting swallows, and the smell of the freshly blossomed roses and cherry blossoms. Pure heaven, my friends.

Call me an escapist, call me what you want, but nothing is going to get me to go back to the plains in the next three months only out of extreme necessity.

I like it here just fine.

And I am going to miss it terribly when I am gone.

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