Sunday, December 28, 2008

My Western Point of View

I have been grading a lot of papers lately. I am sure I am not allowed to directly quote some of these students, so I won't, I will just paraphrase. I am a TA for the Anthropology 101 class at BYU. For their final paper they were asked to write a five page essay about three universal aspects common to all human beings and then the second paper is about three differences that societies have. These are anything but exciting. Such a prompt allows some students to make really grandiose statements about the world, such as 'every person is different but some how we are all the same.' or 'Over the span of the entire world, people are constantly asking themselves 'who am i? where am i going?' I think these students are really bright, its just this prompt asked for some grand statement based on their limited knowledge of the world's culture and due to the class readings, mostly isolated tribes in Africa. With this they have to write a paper about 'universals' (I even struggle to answer these questions, mostly the first one).

In these papers, the argument of the west vs. them keeps coming up. It is referred to as 'our western civilization' or 'western culture.' I admit, I make this argument all the time. But is seems post-modernism has gotten a hold of my thought process and I find myself questioning if I even know what "the west" really means? And then I ask myself if I have the authority to put the entire culture of 'the west' in a box like that. When I was in India, I traveled with a girl that had Mexican heritage but was American. People were constantly asking her if she was Indian. Over and over again she would say she was American but some would assert she must have Indian blood, she would then say her parents were American. I remember visiting a school in New Dehli. On a whim, someone asked me to teach a short lesson about America. I got lot of questions about my skin color. I remember saying, like I had so many times before, that America was made up people of all colors and many nationalities, we were not all the same.

And sometimes when I think about the "West" I think of this thing my friend Matt
shared with me

Thursday, December 18, 2008

A Sigh of Relief

Today, I finished my thesis.

No big deal, right? WRONG! I feel like celebrating, like going on some grand adventure, or even better listening to some really great music. I have taken 15 hours worth of classes in preparation for this paper, and when I put it that way, the thesis doesn't seem as grand. Its about 20 pages but it full of the data I collected, not some scholar or historian that sits in his office and reads books, or some quanatitative researchers collecting numbers and finding a pattern. I went out in the 'field' and asked women how they really felt and I put it on paper. Eat that.

To celebrate, I am listening to I'd rather than dance to talk to you. It makes me want to boogie.

In the process of preparing for my thesis I found some treasures, pictures of India

Saturday, November 22, 2008

I got a feeling 21 is gonna be a good year

It was my half-birthday on Wednesday. I am now, officially, 21 going on 22. Yes! Wahoooo!

Today I went to a baby shower for a girl I was good friends with in high school. She sat on the couch next to another common friend who was married and next to her was a friend who had a thirteen month old baby. I sat amongst friends, there were seven highschool friends including me. Five are married, one is almost engaged, two have children and one is pregnant. Did I tell you how old I am? I am only twenty one. I am too young to go to baby showers where I am the only single female.

I just heard Neil Young's full length album from his live concert in 1965, or something, and it was amazing. "You can't be twenty on sugar mountain, though your thinking that your leaving there too soon." Perhaps this baby shower was my way of being escorted off sugar mountain. But am I ready to leave?

This is from an awesome site called

I <3 Music

I have often compared my passion to music to worshiping a false god. I don't, but if I did and if I ever have come close to worshiping any sort of idol it has probably been music.

You know the type of music that you feel instantly. I feel it all. Like "Your Ex Lover is Dead" by Stars. So delicious. Or even better are the songs that take a while to like and then once you like it is like 'in' you. Hook, line and sinker. The song "Jigsaw Falling into Place" by Radiohead is one of those songs for me.

So, if you have any musical suggestions you think I might be interested in, send them my way. I also think that James Mercer is attractive. Done

Friday, October 24, 2008

I like you too much after too little time

Hey Friends
This first picture is me. I colored my hair. It looks pretty rad. I wish you could see in this picture that black that is hidden in the back. My hair is getting super long (comparatively). I am thinking that I will wait until the summer to cut it short again. I did take this picture myself so it does have a 'myspace' feel to it.

In other news, I bought new shoes. My chacos are just not cutting the mustard. Utah is cold and therefore I need shoes that will protect my feet from the cold. The shoes I bought do not fulfill that function. I mean they will be good when it is not raining or snowing, but its utah so there will be snow. But after doing some research, I really wanted these shoes. Have you ever heard of Toms Shoes? Well, for every pair purchased, TOMS will give a pair to a child in need. So... thats cool. Although, it sounds great, is it? Who are they giving these shoes to? Well it said the last shoe drop was in South Africa and Argentina. Is that just relief? And is is justified or is it creating a dependcy on something that can not always be provided. Are they putting local shoe companies out of work? AND, they were made in China and not that China products are faulty but how are they insuring that the laborers are being paid competitive wages and the workings conditions are humane? That is what I spend my days thinking about.

In other news, I may go to Cambridge (that is in england) this summer and then go to India to do an internship. I am unsure about the exact plans.

Last week, I went to a Mountain Goats concert AND a Fleet Foxes concert, AMAZING.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Life in Wonderland

Oh Hey.

I haven't been writing in my blog because
A. I am no longer in India
B. My live does not seem exotic
C. I am busy (when has that not been an excuse)

Here is an update on my life, thus far...

I am living in Provo for my last seven months at BYU. I have enjoyed my time at BYU immensely. It has been quite a journey. I go through phases where I can't decide if I like it or not. But I have come to the consensus that I am a better person because of it and I am different. I finally found a niche in school that seems to suit me. I have finally become involved with my professors. They are not as scary as I always thought. I am co-president of Students for International Development. Here I learn about awesome people and awesome experiences. I am slightly jealous of all the people that will be staying for the next couple of years, there are so many incredible experiences to partake in.

I graduate in April and am trying to find a path. Teach for America is out of the running, they told me I wasn't good enough. I am thinking about doing a teaching fellows with NYC or Chicago, but I am also looking into an internship with a NGO in India. But, there is always the Peace Corps.

On to other news... my FHE group made a massive fort in my living room. There is a picture
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And then these are my favorite cousins that I visited in California

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So I guess my life is going pretty well

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Stepping Off the Plane

I arrived back in the United States on Sunday. I was looking forward to the journey home for some time now. I was sick of living out a backpack and I wanted to feel like a part of a community again. The members of my program definitely fulfilled some of the need to be a part of a community.

I miss them.

The little blonde haired girl in the photo below is Megan Campbell. Her parents brought her to India when she was just 18 months old. They were crazy, and I think they would agree. But she made the whole experience a lot more interesting and often times more fun. In that picture she is downing chocolate. To her, I hope I will forever be remembered as 'baby Sydney' or 'Sydney fingers,' or 'Sydney Color!'

I think I could last in India if I had a bit of space to make a routine. What can I say, I am a creature of habit. While traveling, I felt like I was in a stage of limbo. I was always traveling, 'sightseeing', trying to understand the 'true India,' when most of the time it felt like i was seeing what foreign tourist had altered India to be. In the village, I lived among people and although I still had to fight to be treated as an equal, the people let me live like a member of their community, with some exceptions. Since leaving the village I have had to fight a lot more to be treated like I expect to treated, which is cultural. It is one of those things I can't leave behind.

I hope I have come back slightly altered. I have a different perception of the world. Currently, I compare every thing to India, and I know that can get a bit annoying. I have come back tired. I may even be a little 'traveled out.' I know, me, a Lambson, traveled out, how could it be? Just give me a month or two and I will be itching for the chance to leave again.

So, thanks to everyone for reading my stories of India. It really was a grand adventure. Before I left, a woman told me, after finding out about my trip, "You really are lucky, there is not going to be another time when are able to do something like this." I told her then "I certainly hope that's not true." I have thought about her comment a lot. Listen, this really is the most 'convenient' time of my life, I am young, not married, I don't have a job and no real home, this is prime time. But I'm not about to die, I have my whole life ahead of me. You do too. Getting married, having kids, getting a job, doesn't equal death. If we have dreams, shouldn't we follow them? Within reason, right? Look at my Mom, she is almost fifty and she is traveling to every country and roughing it as if she were twenty. Don't let moderation and disillusionment slow you down. There are things to do, people to meet, languages to learn.

Everyday we got to keep on rockin' in the free world


Tuesday, August 19, 2008

My program has finally finished. I watched all my friends leave for the airport with over stuffed packs, filled with ethnic clothing, Ganesha shrines and memories. They were going home, after a hard three and a half months. I gave each a hug and watched them ride to the airport where a plane would sweep them to their beds, their homes, their lives and their mothers. I choked up with jealousy. Only one more week. What could be the damage? Its not so terrible, not at all really. On Thursday, my mother, in her usual way of doing things, came to spend a week with me in India. In her words, 'who knows when I will have another child in India to come visit.' I have been so excited to see her. The day she came in we spent the day in Dehli but that night we were going to take an overnight bus to Rishikesh. This small Hindu pilgrimage site is set on the banks of the ganga against the foothills of the Himalayas, It is well known for being the world capital of Yoga. I thought this might act as the perfect place for my mother to see a softer side of India besides hard core Dehli and it would be a good place for myself to rest and catch up on some work.
I decided I would try to make this three day trip from Dehli easier than most of my travels in India. For most of my time in India I have arranged my own travel and that travel is mostly local, state run transport. It is very cheap but you pay in other ways, do you all remember my story about the 45 hour train ride? I thought my mom deserved better so I stooped to let a travel agency book my mother and I on a 'luxury' bus, one with a/c and reclining chairs. I think my definition of ‘luxury’ is different than my travel agents.
We arrived at eight sharp, just like my travel agent said because the bus was going to leave at eight-thirty from this location. We sit inside for an hour when finally we are sent on a cycle rick-shaw, with all of our stuff, to the bus stop. I am a little ticked off because he said the bus was coming here and we were already an hour later than planned. So my mother and I pile on this cycle rickshaw. I am embarrassed. Could there be anything more neo-colonyist? My butt is more than half way off the seat and I am keeping my self on by using all my leg muscle to stay on. Our travel agent told the rickshaw peddler where we were going and told us that we were going to go meet the bus. We started down one street but were stopped by the police. The police man turned to us and asked where we were going 'the bus stop, we are going to our bus,' 'Do you know where it is you are going?' 'Yes, the bus, we are going to Rishikesh,' After He had asked my mother twice he turned to me and asked the same and i answered the same. He finally said "oh, do you guys not speak english?' I was shocked. I raised my voice, slightly, 'we are SPEAKING ENGLISH!' 'Ok, where are you going?' 'to the bus.' He told us we needed to know the exact location otherwise the peddler would take us to a foreign place and demand money. Even if we did know the location we wouldn't know what it looked like. The officer would not let us pass until we knew where we were going. Our peddler decided to bypass the government and off-roaded a bit to get the street the government had so loosely guarded. We arrived at our bus stop with no bus and 15 other people waiting for the same bus. They said wait until nine-forty five. Finally around ten-thirty we boarded an alternate bus that would take us to our real bus.
Twenty minutes later we board out actual bus. It is so far from luxury. The seats are crampt and there is definitely no ac. Around eleven we are all seated. A group of Koreans are forced to sit in the front of the bus with the driver where their are benches instead of seats. They are not happy and demand a refund. There is stand-off between the koreans and the bus conductor for an hour. Eventually… eventually, they reach a compromise, and around twelve we begin what we should have started three and a half hours ago. It is supposed to only take eight hours and so eight am was the new ETA. Meanwhile, my mother is in shock. She already thinks i have started to take her on this crazy journey. For me.. so far nothing seems out of place, a bit typical for our situation and our location. India was going to have to throw a curved ball in order to shock me. Bring it. Oh and she did, she certainly did.
Immediately after we left our gas station our bus would stop to pick up people to take to local destination. They would stand for the duration and get off. This practice was not legit. They did to pocket some extra money. It was 2 am and Dehli was glowing with activity. So many people were walking around and shops were open. We were stuck in stand-still traffic at one in the morning. I started to wonder when this city sleeps. I was dreadfully tired, the night before i had stayed up talking to my mother, catching up on months of silence from one another. I sat in my chair awfully tired and jerking every thirty seconds from the bus creeping in the traffic. Around that time the bed bugs appeared. i don't know if that is would really are but you can't see them and they make your exposed skin itch like crazy. I had the same thing happen a couple of time previous. That was awful. As I scratched fervently at my arm, I saw my mother do the same. I meant for it to be easy for her.
Around five we stopped because the radiator had gone. We sat there for about forty minutes. The crew decided to keep going but every thirty minutes we stopped to put two buckets of water in the radiator.
Around six we stop for our half-way point rest. Here, my mother told me I was the craziest out of her children and what sort of journey had i brought her on. I forget how rough India can be on a person.
The last event is the one that topped the beautiful cake made of corruption and greed. An hour outside of the final destination, our bus driver decides that he doesn't want to go so he stops. After four hours of driving on a broken bus he won't go one more hour to go the place we had paid him to go. Luckily, we had a European who spoke fluent English, Hindi and Japanese. The bus driver would not give in. If we wanted to go to Rishikesh we had to pay for our own rickshaw there. NO WAY! We called our travel agents, we pulled out all the stops. We were going down with a fight. The driver had us go into rickshaws. Since there were like sixteen of us, there were like three rickshaws. after we all had put our luggage in the rickshaw, the driver decided he was losing money and asked us all to get on the bus. Fourteen hour later from our starting time we were checking into a hotel.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

I Stand For Tibet

I attended this candlelight march tonight in Dharmsala, a Tibetan settlement of the Dalai Lama. It is a beautiful town set in the foothills of the Himalayas. Among the landscape are prayer flags draped across the mountain ending at monasteries built into the mountains. The streets that curve up the mountain side are lined with tea shops, book stores, and kasmiri goods. With Tibetan refugees outnumbering Indian residents it makes for a completely different feel than any other city I have visited while in India. In this backdrop I joined Tibetan monks, Tibetan refugees and other foreigners. I walked with candle in hand along the one way streets all the way to the temple where earlier that day i had seen the Dalai Lama and heard his teachings. in the temple grounds we sat, segregated. On the far right side sat the monks and the nuns with shaven heads adorned in robes of maroon and gold. They were the face of the tibetan resistance. in the middle were Tibetan families and to the other side were the foreign tourists. I wonder if most of them joined the march for the same reasons i did. I had just come out of dinner and saw there was some sort of rally forming. I went to go see and i was told I could join the march . I took a candle and joined the crowd. In my head I was thinking, this is pretty rad, two days before the Olympics and I am with a bunch of Tibetans protesting and asking for human rights. No one could top this story. I am an advocate for human rights, I'll join. They made the foriegn tourists go behind the monks and then the tibetans could follow. I hated that, I hated having being divided when it would have felt more comfortable to be among the other tibetans, the one's were fighting for. I think the committee was really excited to have international people involved.
But we sat as the youth, mostly young adults, talked with great passion about their homeland, human rights and China. One of the speakers addressed us in English. He told us of the many human rights violations. Time had come, Tibet would not be ignored. Free Tibet! They went on to show an hour long documentary about the uprising that happened in the former Tibet in spring 2008. The documentary was mostly in Tibetan but a man assured us, via the microphone, that he would show the english version for all the non-tibetans. The documentary displayed Chinese guards cracking down day after day on peaceful, or what looked like peaceful, protests that were supported by the Tibetan monks. It was moving and convincing. Where was I when this was happening? How did I not know about it? This candlelight march was in memory for all those that had lost their lives in Spring Uprising of 2008, most of them monks.
At the end of the documentary there were only five tourist left. There were about fifty at the beginning. Which leads me to believe that the tourists weren't very passionate about the cause but maybe thought it would be a cool story. One of the organizers approached me and said it looks as if there are not enough non-Tibetans to show the english version. He invited me to come by his office to get the documentary for free. I am going to come by so that I can talk him more, because I don't know enough. I would love to hear his story, how did he end up displaced from Tibet? Tomorrow there is march to lower Dharmsala, it is to protest the Beijing Olympics, which I am all about, but I think I am going to skip it. I need to rest for a minute, gather thoughts about protesting and write.
First of all, I feel silly being among the white people that protest. The is the Tibetan's cause and I feel I would be most effective supporting them in my own country where their voices are muted. Sometimes I kick myself for my apathy, where are my causes? I don't need to be passionate about everything but don't i need to passionate about something, stand up for something. I think it is a shame to come from a culture that is extremely moderate.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Varanasi, The City of Light

I realize that my thoughts on this city could go on for a long time, so i decided to condense to make it more reader friendly and to take out parts that would scare my mother...

The 45 Hour Train Ride
On Tuesday, the 17th of July, I arrived in Mughal Sarai, after a 45 hours train journey across India. It is not like it was a miserable train ride, it wasn't. The people I sat next to and across from were nice and we had a really great time playing cards with them all day long. And I realize that I was paying 25 dollars to go across the sub-continent and that was pretty amazing. And I realize that I wasn't seeing the sugar coated India I would have seen had I decided to travel via a/c. I did live in a village for the past two months, I know how to 'rough it.' This train itself was dirty. I am so thankful for the clorox wipes my mother sent me. The first thing I did was disinfect my bed, which was also the seat we used doing the daytime. I have been in India for about two and a half months, so I understand how instensely dirty India could be. But before I could control my space. I had the remarkable ability hold my bathroom breaks for nice bathrooms (my definition for 'nice' is used rather loosely here), sometimes I could go all day. I had no choice but to use the train's bathroom. Meanwhile, the baby across the way would just pee and then his parents would wipe it up, over and over again. Sometimes it would take a while for them to realize that their son had peed on the floor. I would watch as the stream on urine got closer and closer to my bag of stuff. Luckily, they caught it every time. Oh, and it was so hot. We went through Chennai during the middle of the day. AHHH! I did see the country side of India change ride before my eyes. I also had a lot of time to think. When we arrived in Varanasi I smelled like urine and felt like crap. An awesome preamble to a crazy city

This segment is called ... India is dirty

One evening I was attending a ceremony on the main ghat (the steps where the ritual bathing occurs). A man next to me was selling camper and flowers in a small cardboard bowl. He told me I could send it out onto the river. It seemed so romantic, so I tried it. While doing this I got a bit of the Mother Ganga on my toes and my hand. With the help of Rebekah and Natalie, I quickly washed and sanitized the affected areas. Oh, the Mother Ganga, said to be the holiest water in the world. The Mother Ganga can cure you, you go into the her with impurities and you will come out clean. Maybe the fact that there are "1.5 million fecal coliform bacteria per 100mL of water," doesn't bother ritual bathers. From my balcony I watch as hindus undress and dip themselves several times Often they will wash their body with the mud found at the bottom of the river. The same river that houses dead bodies in it, thousands of dead bodies, maybe even millions! The bathing appears to be a sacred experience but all i see is foul water infested with body limbs, heavy metal, trash and sewage. Perhaps the Ganga represents a cultural difference that I am not able to embrace. It is like the train ride here, the filthiness made the trip almost unbearable. The heat was ok, the close proximity was no problem, even the persistent starring could be combated with a scowl but no matter how many clorox wipes I used, the train was still dirty and my febreeze spray could not get rid of overpowering smell of urine. How do I live and let live? Different strokes for different folks, right?

Burning Bodies

As we were walking home we got lost. Lost might be the wrong word because this happens every time we walk home. Yes, we don't know where we are but there is no way we can eventually known where we are. The whole way home we depend on other people's finger pointing in the right direction. Our guest house is right next to the burning ghat, the place where they burn bodies after dipping them into the river. We didn't know where we were going and a guy told us to come this way, up here. We walked up a staircase. It was dark and there were a lot of men. No women, in fact. He told us to come stand here. We went over. I look at where I was standing and saw a dead body about six inches from my feet It was a body getting ready to be cremated. We watched as below they dipped the body in the ganga and then brought it up to the burning area. It was so eerie to be caught between this strange man telling me about burning bodies and a body on the ground about to be burned. It was this out of body experience, perhaps. I kept thinking, 'is this really happening?' It was too impersonal, it was too close, it was too informal. From my view I can see at least six different bodies burning. And of course this man wanted us to givehim a tip for showing us these burning bodies. We walked home in a haze, literally smelling like death. Burned into my memory was the looks of those men and the darkness of that area, even the light from the fires couldn't seem to lift the darkness, as we stood, confused by the close proximity of death, watching the tinsel covered bodies being ushered to their fire. The next few days when we would pass this area to go to our hotel there never ceased to be a man asking us to 'come this way to see the burning bodies.' Why was it publicized?

Thursday, July 17, 2008

The SIghts and Souds of Sravanabelagola

I left the village about five days ago. It was a sweet goodbye. We did the health class our last sunday. It turned out so well. We told these village woman some things they knew and some things they didn't know, like letting food get cold and then eating it can make you sick. You need to reheat your food. Afterwards we offered refreshment (because although it wasn't a branch activity we still held it in the church therefore every activity has to have refreshments). We made the woman walk outside and wash their hands with a bar of soap and a bucket of water we had provided. Some of the woman were very timid to do this at first but once they did we had a jolly good time. Before the woman were distant and had stuck together but after the hand washing ordeal they were shaking our hands and speaking to us in the little english they knew. This is a picture of Natalie and Liann assiting the woman wash their hands.

I left the village and headed for Mysore. I only stayed in Mysore for about one day, to pick up train tickets. While in Mysore Rebekah and I looked at this really rad palace. Here is a picture. This is Rebekah and I at the palace.

Mysore was dirty and touristy and so much more abrasive than I was used to. i was used gong home and being greeted by twenty children and Matthew or Jeeva asking about my day. It was a familial sort of feeling. And even when I went to into the city no one bothered me. I in Mysore there were like five men up in my grill trying to get me to go to their hotel. I got offered pot four times and i was there for less than twenty four hours! It was cool though. It was never a temptation to say yes. And twice i resorted to used my middle finger as my answer, which I had never done before.

From Mysore I went to Sravanabelagola, a small village that caters to thousands of Jain pilgrims a year. The village is in between two hill, both of which have a large temple on the top. Most visitors come once to climb the hill. After some tiffin (breakfast) I climbed the hill to find myself some pilgrims.

The first thing I saw was a group of students, possibly high school students. There looked so trashy, wearing tank tops and jeans or shorts. This frustates me. They are not at some freaking Kenny Chesney concert, you are in India. It just goes to show that they came to take pictures and not to learn about the culture. It just gets me really upset. I started walking up the hill, after saying hi to the postcard seller who i had made friends with the day previous. I walked up the hill with the intent to talking to people. I had a smiling face. i was stopped alot for people to ask where I was from. Every Indian I talked to was so nice and had smiling faces, causing me to smile back. I think I was very approachable because a) I was wearing a sawarl b) I was alone and c) I had a smile on my face and looked into the faces i passes by,letting people know that I wanted to interact because I was already doing so by making eye contact. There was one elderly woman who stopped me. She asked me where I was coming from. She herself was from Bangalore, she was with her brother and her children. She was a Jain. Her family was about to go meet with His Holiness Swamaji. I told her that I also was going to meet him later that night and she was very excited. We shook hands and exhanged sincere smiles. I was feeling so good because of the many smiles and heart felt messages that had been transfered verbally and nonverbally. Was it that I was in a really good mood so I saw goodness emanating from every strangers or was it that I was in a sacred spot or was it that other Indians appreciated I was studying their culture and religion? I think it may have been a combination of all three.

I made it into the temple area. i circumanbulated the temple, received my blessing and sat to meditate slash observe. Other visitors were doing the same thing I had done except some were chanting some sort of mantra for a minute. Some would prostrate themselves in front of the statue. And others offered coconuts as a sacrifice. A family sat beside me on the steps. I watched as a woman sat in meditation position and her husband brought his hand over her body, starting at her waist and lifting it over her head. He talked as she breathed in and out. At one point she would take in deep breath, throw her head back and cover her face with her hands. Her husband repeated the hand motion but this time when he got to her neck the woman's breathing became rapid and shallow. He would lift the hand past her head and she would start to breath normally again. They finished their routine and the woman relaxed. He hit his daughter on the leg and she got into mediation pose and they repeated the same process. After this was over with I asked the daughter if she was a Jain and her confirmation marked the beginning of my first interview with a jain.

I sat there for another hour, sitting and meditating. I talked to a couple. I was overcome with a feeling of peace. I loved siting there and watching the people worship. I had asked the woman I just interviewed if there was a God. She looked stunned and repeated what I had just said. 'Yes!' She said emphatically. 'There is a God. He is everywhere.' Indeed, He is. I felt a connection with these people that were profounding religious because I also am profoundly religious.

Later that day our group was able to meet with the head holy guy of Jainism. He was like there Chief, the president, except for Jainism is not a easily defined as that. He got to talk to His Holiness (Insert really long name here) Swamaji and it was really neat. He gave us dinner and a sacred shawl. I will save that story for another time. Here is a picture of the group in our sacred-ness. The picture at the beginning is me with my sacred shawl

Friday, June 27, 2008

Leaving a Mark

My time is Chavadi Pudur is coming to an end. I have like eleven days left in th village. From there I go to Mysore for two days, Svenabellagola, Hyderabad, Bodhygya, Varanasi, Dehli, Armistar, Dharmsala, and Dehli again. Mysore will be the beginning of the religion tour that will last five weeks. The program ends at August 15th. My mother and brother are planning to come and spend a week with me here. Then I will spend a week with my brother and sister-in-law in California. I will be able to see most of your smiling in like two months. Where has the time gone?
As I evaluate my experience in the village I think about how the village was different at the beginning. When I first arrived I was approached by several villagers who had been good friends with members of the field study in years past. There has been a group coming for fifteen years, of course there are going to be people that know other members. And then there are the kids that come and ask you to dance. Sometimes one of the girls will show me how to swing dance. Or some of the children know how to do patty cake and others know 'head, shoulders, knees and toes.' And then you get th people that will ask you for money or sometimes you will get people asking you to take a picture and give you the copy of it afterwards. I have been to at least three homes where they have taken out a picture with Tausha and Courtney. They are everywhere. I realize that creating any sort of human relation will leave a mark on the people involved but what about creating a dependency that can't be filled. It is not like we are giving hand outs of candy and money. What about the idea of leaving a place better than you left it. What if we educated some of the people about proper hygiene and sanitation. This can only have a positive effect, right?
It would only be right to give back to the community because they have given so much to me and i imagine the same goes for my peers who are using this village for academic purposes. But who I am to say that I can leave the village better than when I found it. As always i feel like I have been impacted more from this experience than vis versa.
So the point is... the point I will probably help organize a woman's health class for some of th village woman. I will probably come to the conclusion that leaving a mark was inevidable. I didn't mean to, it wasn't part of the plan.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

An Indian Wedding

Hello Friends, yes, I am in India.
It has gotten really good. I am really loving my stay here in India. Every since I have gotten home from Kochin (see, now I am calling Chavadi Pudur home!) I have felt more comfortable here.
When I arrived back in Coimbatore after having taken a train from Kochin, my translator, Divya, was there to greet me. I separated from my group and went with Divya. Divya's cousin was getting married the next day at six thirty in the morning and I was going to spend the night at her uncle's house. Weddings in India are usually a two day affair, The wedding I had gone to the week before was an overnighter. We came in the evening for the engagement ceremony and then went to sleep on the cement floor for a couple of hours and then got up around five to get ready for the ceremony at six-thirty, That wedding had been at a wedding hall. This wedding of her cousin's was of a much smaller budget. The bride's mother and father had died when she was fifteen and so she had no budget for the wedding expenses just what her uncle was willing to spare. Instead of sleeping at a wedding hall the family gathered at the uncle's house and went to a temple in the morning.
I arrived at the uncle's house rather late, like nine-thirty or something. Her family was extremely nice. They fed me, even though I had already eaten. I am discovering that Indians love to fed their friends. Every time I go to someone's house in the village they ask me to eat something. At first I would refuse because I was uncomfortable with eating Indian food from people's homes, I mean what if they had some unsanitary way of cooking their food. Then I got honest with myself, the places I go to eat along the street cannot be better than these homes. The other night I was eating at one of the regular stalls when i saw, out of the corner of my eye, four rats jumping from the cabinet into a hole that lead to the kitchen. After I got over the sanitation and faced the facts, I was uncomfortable accepting food because I felt bad. I felt I was burdening them and their pocket book. Even though I refused they would insist until I had no choice but to accept. I have since started to ask families why they insist on feeding me. Now I have just accepted it. I am starting to understand Indian families. I think. Anyway the family feed me, it was great.
I met the bride. She was 26 years old. She had only met the groom once, one month ago when they were arranging the marriage. This was a true arranged marriage. It is not so surprising when you have been here awhile. Our definitions and expectations of marriage are different. Although, I am still trying to sort out the differences. And I am still trying to process these differences.
Later in the evening all the woman in the house put bangles on the bride's wrist after accepting the blessing of god. We went to bed around twelve am. There were about fifteen people sleeping in the small three room house. I don't mean three bedroom, I mean three room, kitchen, living room and bedroom. Everyone slept on the floor except they made me sleep on the steel cot. Little did they know that I sleep on a cement floor ever7 night. Within an hour of sleeping everybody was up. There was a wedding to get ready for and everyone needed to take a shower. I laid there for about an hour, feeling slightly uncomfortable because this wasn't my house and I had to figure out what to do with myself for the next four hours. After an hour I went in the front room and watched as they made th bride look like a true Indian bride. Eventually, around four am, the uncle informed me that it was my turn to take a shower. I go into the bathroom and find the water in the bucket had been boiled. I hadn't taken a hot shower in a month and a half. It was the most glorious bucket shower I have ever taken. Just glorious. After the shower, I was wrapped in my sari. With jasmine in my hair and a bindi on my forehead I looked like a real Indian. Or a least that is what people told me.
We got on a privately rented bus that took the whole family to a temple. There at the temple we waited for the groom to show up and more family showed up. Finally, the groom showed up. The groom and bride stood together as a priest gave them things to hold and take blessings from the god. The uncle of the bride put a toe ring on the grooms foot which is the symbol of marriage in tamil nadu. And the groom's mother place the toe ring on the bride's foot. The priest then blesses this gold string, which also indicates a woman is married. The groom places it around his bride's neck. When this happens all those attending throw rice on the couple. Mazaltof.
The pictures featured a from the wedding before. or the pictures that I will post

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

A Jain Temple

I know my blog is more popular when I have pictures to add but it is hard to get my thumb drive to work on the computers. I guess I will just have to try to write well enough so I can paint a picture with my words.
I have been away from my village for about four days. We decided to take a mid-research retreat. Research is taxing and living the life of a local is difficult. We took a train into the tourist town of Fort Cochin in Kerala. First of all, trains in India are so fascinating. I will have to do an entry on just train rides. We stayed at this wicked nice hotel. There were actual beds. And in comparison it wasn't actually very nice but compared to sleeping on a cement floor it was amazing. Fort Cochin is a city that rest on the coast on the Arabian sea. There are huge Chinese finishing nets that rest on the beach catching delicious fish and making for beautiful photos.
I had read about a Jain temple in my handy guide book. With Heidi, I took off for the Jain Temple. It should have been a twenty minute walk but it turned out to be an hour walk. We got there and there a couple of Indian families and some devotees. We took of our shoes and walked around. After five minutes of being there we see a man holding a bucket walk into the courtyard. He sets down his bucket and yells something. Thousands of pigeons fly off of the tops of the temples into the courtyard. I am taken back. I was scared but I was also amazed. This man takes a scoop full of rice from his buckets and starts to pray. At the end of his prayer we are invited to feed the pigeons. I gather a handful and lower myself to the pigeon's eye level. Eventually I have a few pigeons eating from my palm. It was a sweet experience. All the while I had pigeons flying around my head. It was one of those raw experiences that caught me off guard. I can't wait until I can show pictures of my adventures.
Until next time...

Friday, June 6, 2008

Two Coins

Hello Friends,
Ok. I feel I need to clarify. Lately, I have been getting alot of comment consoling me or giving their sympathy. Listen, I don't need your sympathy. I am in freaking India. I don't need anyone to feel sorry for me. I don't mean to use any force. India is a hard country to live in but I don't regret coming, not once. Sometimes, I even love it. How do you like them apples?
The other day Heidi and I were at the bus stop waiting for our bus to arrive. We had been seated. Earlier a little boy had been tugging at my leg asking for money. I gave him a rupee. The little boy returned while I was sitting. He was leaning against my legs waiving his cup in front of my eyes. I began to talk to him in english. Asking him questions, like why is he doing this and why are parents making you do this, don't you have a childhood to live, ya know, just questions. Within less than a minute he had run away. He was screaming 'english,english.' He had gotten his older sister to come and talk to me. Before she reached me some other people told her to leave. Not less than twenty seconds later a man in a blue button up shirt and slacks is presenting a coin in front of my eyes. He says ' for you, ma'am, a rupee.'
I was dumbfounded. 'Why'
'It is a gift.' He then drops the one rupee into my open hand. He turned to Heidi and said the same thing. She refused. He dropped the other rupee in my open hand making two coins in my open hand. I asked again, 'why!'
'A gift.' He walked away.
We were so shocked. I came up with several reasons for this strange happening.
A. He stole the coin from the little boy and the other one was for the interest.
B. He had been starring at me so he thought it would be fit to pay for the time that I sat there as a model for his starring pleasure (not a good option and a gross one)
C. I had dropped two rupees and he didn't know how to say 'you dropped these' so instead he said 'a gift.'
E. I had been in the city all day standing for hours on crowded buses, I truly looked homeless.
I know, I know. all options are not very good. Sorry I am not more creative. It seemed like a crazy juxtaposition to give me two rupees when I have clothes on my back and food to eat and there are starving children at my feet. I don't feel justified in receiving such a gift. I still have the two coins to give to someone who needs more than me.
Speaking of interesting juxtapositions... the other night Liann and I were walking home from dinner. We heard drumming so we followed it. We stumbled upon a Hindu funeral. Eventually we were invited to come in and join the family that was attending. At the time there were several men constructing a piar made bamboo and flowers. Once they finished this construction they were take the body out to be burned. We made friends with a girl that spoke english and for the rest of the night she acted as our cultural informants. Inside the compound many woman and men were sitting in plastic lawn chairs. Inside a room were woman in saris gathered around the dead body. The body was exposed to the air. She said with her head exposed and the rest of her body covered in cloth. When we walked into the room three women came to us crying and sharing with us their great sorrow. All I could do was take their hand and rub their arm. The woman dead was 85 years old and had had nine children. The woman crying on me were her daughters. Soon men came into the room and lifted the body outside and put her on a table. While the body was on the table they performed several rituals. I kept asking my friend for the meaning in these actions, sometimes she knew other times she did not. At one point she told me 'as of these are formalities but I do not believe in them.' I asked if she went to temple and other religious functions. 'I go but I do not believe.' I have run into that several times when talking to young girls that they keep their parents traditions but they have no faith in it. On the other side a man was saying to me that these ceremonies were of the most importance to his family. His nieces words versus his own words. Eventually the youth will be the parents and what will happen to these cultural traditions?
Today I went to a Hindu wedding. I will shared picture of these events soon.

Friday, May 23, 2008

My Village I Call Home

Chavadi Pudur, just a small village one hour outside of Coimbatore in Tamil Nadu. It has a thousand people, maybe. I am constantly surprised at the new faces I continue to see and the wide age variety. There is a little girl that lives at the top of the road leading to Matthew and Jeeva's house, my host family. Everytime I pass (I must pass at least five or six times a day) she comes running out of her compound onto the street with her hand in the air and not wearing any pants or underwear. I think she trying to wave but all she has master is to stick her hand in the air. After two weeks here it has not gotten old.
I wake up at six thirty every morning. Around this time it starts to get warmer, the rooster is testing his vocal strength and the next door neighbor can't stand a waking moment without his radio. All these elements combine to my natural wake up call. It take about an hour and a half to get ready because bucket showers are not as easy as turning the faucet on. I do an assortment of things until about 12:30 in the afternoon, the hottest part of the day, and I talk the twenty minutes walk to lunch. On the right is a picture of the lane I walk down in order to get to the main street. I am usually wearing a sawarl camis, a long tunic with pants and a scarf. T he jerks who thought it was ok to wear a scarf when it is a hundred degrees outside will pay in the afterlife, I am certain. It was probably a man. Most woman here wear sarees. I can't do it. It is to much fabric and it is to complicated.
The landscape here is beautiful. Like this lake you see. One morning I went on the bus and found this lake. I got off the bus to see if I could eat a little breakfast and read a little. I was quickly disappointed. This was the ultimate public bathroom. As I walked down the hill towards the lake I saw it was a field of poo. I saw three people squatting to take a dump. Must be nice, poo with a view. So beautiful yet so disgusting.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Birthday in India

Hello Friends! Today is my birthday. I thought I would share with an excerpt from my journal,
'I am sitting in a temple of the top of a mountain in Coimbatore, Tamil Nadu, India. Heidi, next to me, is frantically writing notes. Besides her, I am the only white person on the mountain. The woman are me are seated on the floor 'indian style.' All are wearing bright fabric with gold on their ears, neck, and nose. Their hairs are pulled into a tight buns or braid wearing a string of jasmine. I sit with short, curly, red, frizzy hair, a stark contrast to the oily smooth black braid that often reaches their waist. I am learning that my own belief that differences are beautiful is not the case. Ina culture where tradition is a rule not a guideline, my differences are not easily accepted. A woman told me last night when talking about my hair, 'it's ok to be different in some things but not all.'
My hair is turning out to be a constant struggle. The humidity is making it curlier than ever and I love it. But woman do not hesitate to ask me why I didn't come my hair this morning. I struggle for words to explain to them that I like my hair. When I tell them that I often get a laughing response. Sometimes I will say I forgot and sometimes I won't answer. But it is my birthday today and I will wear my hair however I want. Even if it is culturally inappropriate.

Friday, May 9, 2008

On sunday night Heidi, Natalie and Caithlin and I decide to find a mosque. We felt this would be sunday appropriate. Women are not allowed into many mosques so we wanted to find one with a ladies' section but struggled to find even one. The mosque we found was very big. It is actually called the Big Mosque, so there you go. Upon entering the grounds we covered our head. To the est of the mosque there was a shrine to a saint. A man on a motorcycle stopped us and said that we could enter the grounds but we could not go in the mosque or the shrine. It seems as if Indians love to tell us what we can and cannot do, we have gotten that alot. Although in most cases it saved us from an embarrassing situation, in other cases, such as this one, it was a guideline and not a rule. When we approached the shrine they invited us to take our shoes and come worship. Eat that motorcycle man. I was very hesitant at first to walk inside because there were these huge ants crawling around, I am talking HUGE. I swallowed by hesitancy and put on my brave face and did it. i flinched, noticeably, a couple of times and was made fun of it for it but oh well.
Along with ants I am learning to get used to a lot of new elements. Yesterday was my first usage of squatter toilet. I have used one before but it was seven years ago. I have relearn somethings. Today I took my first bucket shower. I getting used to sleeping on the cement floor. Surprisingly it is not that bad. I am grateful I brought a pillow. I am also getting used to the aroma produced by the substance on the side of the road on the street Liann calls 'poo lane.' But people are nice. The women always tell me hello as I make a stroll through the village.
I have a wide range of emotions while staying here, and they differ at each time of day. When I am sitting on the veranda with a girl from my group and talking to the little village kids while feeling the wind blow I feel grateful to have the opportunity to experience this side of life.
I using my blog as a forum to tell the people I love what is going on in my life, but I would like to hear about yours. I may not have the time to start and email and send it to everybody but if you send me an email I will reply. I hope to have pictures up next week. Stay tuned.

Sunday, May 4, 2008

Go Touch the Calendar

My blog title is from one of my favorite lines these past two days. I cant believe I am only on my third day here. I am not implying that it goes by fast but rather I have had so many experiences and most have turned out positive or can be seen as a learning expereince. We are in India, not everything is peachy keen, despite what you guys have maybe previously thought about it. My flight to here left on tuesday night at 10pm and I arrived in Chennai on Friday morning at one am. I was so happy to see Liann and Heidi there to get my bags. It is so freaking hot here... so hot, so hot. The internet in this cafe is pricey but it has air con and I can't say the same for my hotel room. After getting a full wiff of the Indian air we took a taxi to the hotel. I tried to sleep but I could not so I chatted with Heidi and Liann about life and love and our new lives here. There have been times when I have said why the h did I come here. Why why why. It is hot and you can even cool down. You guys know I am from Arizona and I like the heat but not like this. It stinks because we are right next to the bay of Bengal but the community pumps waiste into the ocean so there will be no swimming.
But there are good parts and eventually the good will out way the bad and I won't be jet lagged and I will get used to the heat. There is this man with no legs that sit on a pillow and wears a cap. We pass him every day on the way to the train station and he always says good day madam and smiles. He doesnt even have a tin can in front of him. I have learned to appreciate his smile. At the end of the street there is a lady who sells jasmine flowers on a string. Women put flowers in their hair everyday. They usually attach the sting to their pony tail. Heidi buys Jasmine from this lady. My hair is short and cannot handle a pony tail but I really wanted to support this lady so i bought some. Later that day I returned and showed her how I jimmy rigged the thing in there. She said I looked beautiful. We hardly speak the same language!!
Today is sunday and we went to church. It was a crazy and beautiful. The getting was crazy but the being there was beautiful. They had AC! A whole three hours of AC!!
We will be in Chennai until wednesday afternoon and then we will take a train into Coimbatore, spend the night and then head over to our village, Chavadi Pudur, where it won't be as hot.
The quote in the subject line has to do with the crazy man who was checking the rest of the people in. He wanted them to pay for four nights and I said we would only pay for two nights. I dont think I can relate the story in text, you kind of have to know crazy man. Anyway, I'm actual.

Friday, May 2, 2008

Springtime in Chennai

Ok people. you can stop worrying because I made it safely to India. Unfortunately, at this time I am oh so tired and will not be able to tell you about my travels and adventures until I recieve some sleep...
So stay tuned.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

I'm Going to India to Get Married

My brother, Sam, is getting married in a week. It is a very exciting time for my family, but I 've noticed there is not as much attention on me but more on my brother, and as a youngest child this lack of attention is strange. Today, Liz, Sam's fiance, went through the temple and we had a family lunch afterwards and that was the forum I used to make my annoucement. The secret is out, I am getting married in India and now you all know my real reason and can use the comment section to give your advice. I don't plan on meeting my future sweetie until the day of the wedding, so... if you wanted to know about him I can't tell you anything.
This is Liz Rhodes. She is marrying my brother, and soon will be called Liz Lambson. In this picture she is holding a bouquet that I made for her bridals. I am doing all the flower arrangements for the wedding. Who knew I was so talented? It will be the first marriage in my family. My parents always knew that Sam would be the first one, and so did we. First comes loves, then comes marriage and then BABIES. Hopefully sooner rather than later. Their story is like a mini romance novel and if you want to read it click here
On a different note, I am almost done with all my finals! Yeah! Woo hoo! I just have to do a make up final and then my book binding final and I am home free. More like I am free to travel to India. I leave in eleven days! eleven days! I bought linen pants at the savers today, two pairs! I totally thought I was going to bring my jeans for traveling until I bought some clothes to wear but apparently jeans are too form fitting. So I bough linen pants and I am in love with them. For awhile now I have been disenchanted with jeans. i hate almost every single pair of jeans I have. I think the purchase of these linen pants is the begining of my jean strike, I wish it were lint because then I could do a trial run a swear off jeans for lint. In India I will be wearing salwar camises (I have not idea how to spell it, but they are like long tunics with slacks, if you can imagine that) and saris. To the left, Heidi and I are wearing some saris. Heidi will be going with me to india, along with six other kids who I don't really know but will shortly know very well.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

La la la Life

If you haven't checked out Kirsten's Blog yet, you should. As I was reading what she had to say I was wishing I could say things in such a way. I also wished I would keep up my blog. And so I logged on to start my blogging journey. I realized I hated my template. The template I had was the fifth one I have had since I started blogging and I only have three posts! I tried to do some work on it today but I still don't really like it. I am trying to find a style that is me. I can't find it. I really like yellow and purple but I couldn't put those colors in my blog. I tried. Its funny because they are my favorite colors but I can't seem to incorporate them in my life. You would think I would have more of it in my closet, but I don't
I feel like I have so many things to address. what is the purpose of a blog? I guess it has the same function as facebook or myspace, ya know, to keep people connected, but it is probably classier. But who defines 'classy'? I would like to have a well established blog before I go to India because I want to be able to let people that are important to me in on my doings.
Let me first get started with my reasons for going to India. I first thought about the prospect of going to India last April during finals week. I was an art history major and was disenchanted and dissatisfied with the more possible future. I walked in the Kennedy Center one day looking for some way to get me out of this country. I saw a flier for the India field study. I went to the main office and met three people who currently play a significant role in my preparation for India. It was there that they described to me what a field study would be like. it was what I wanted. i didn't want to do a tour of all the european museums, I wanted to be somewhere and I wanted to learn about a people. This is it, this is my chance. I don't mean to have a limited perspective. I could probably try to do this on my own but I am ok with being guided around my someone who already knows the ropes.
The road to India got me to declare my major as Anthropology, which I am in love with. I know, who knew you could be 'in love' with a major. I feel good about where I am going, not just about literally going like going to India but also about where I am going in Life (yes, a capital L). I have a tentative five year plan but lets be honest how long do those last. I feel as if I am finally where I wanted to be my whole college career but I didn't know about it.
I hope you, my friends, continue to read my musings and while I am away I am sure all of you will be avid readers of my 'blog'.