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Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Home is whenever im with you.


Today i went back in time. The past few days have flown by. Yesterday i was supposed to leave at midnight to head to the states but my flight got canceled. I can remember getting that feeling while in the cab that i was on my way home. Saying goodbye to India twice was harder than it should have been. I kept my window down while i was sitting in the back of the cab with my window down getting the last few breaths of Indian air. Fali, the friend of mine that introduced the gap semester to me, had warned me about the smell of India. You get used to the diesel fumes and constant smell of poo but India has a smell that is so distinct i could recognize it anywhere.
I didnt want this semester to end, but now as i am sitting on a plane just a few hours from being home i feel ready to end this chapter and really go home. For the past three months i have called a lot of places home. I considered the Hanifl Centre at Woodstock school home for the time i spent in India, even when people asked me where i was from i sometimes made the mistake and would say Mussorri. The times i caught myself making this simple mistakes are the times i missed home most. Everyone that finds out i am going home after my three months here always ask me three questions. What do i miss most the most, who do i miss the most, and what am i going to do when i get home.  And when people ask me these questions i always try to make up new answers, not for confusion or amusement, but because i have no idea how to answer these questions. But ill try for kicks and giggles.
First off i miss knowing what im doing. In India everyday was another adventure. Which is great and im not dissing on being adventurous but i miss having stability. I know that once im back to my routine i am going to be craving India again but maybe that will drive me to go back. Also I miss not always having eyes on me. One thing about being a foreigner in India is that everyone is concerned about what your doing. Im so tired of explaining myself. I miss being invisible. I want to walk down a street and not have people watching my every move, or trying to sell me something. 
To answer the second question, i miss people that love me. I meet new people everyday in India. Some have become very good friends now, but i cant say that i know they love me. When your with people that really love you their is a feeling that i took for granted until i was really alone. Never have i felt so trapped inside of my own mind until i was climbing to the top of a mountain. Its so quiet that the only noise you hear is the wind blowing freezing wind against your ears and your feet pushing through the piles of knee deep snow. As alone as i felt i never stopped thinking about the people i love and how they love me. It kept me going always and it still keeps me going.
Finally, when i get home, im going to eat a bowl of Honey Nut Bunches of Oats, Just bunches, mixed with Captain crunch just berries. Ive been thinking about this combination for a long time and every time i think about it my mouth waters and my stomach grumbles. Besides the cereal preference i think im just going to try to find where i fit in back in the states. In India i had a purpose an identity that meant something, i was a student in a program hosted by the most prestigious international school in all of India. I built a greenhouse for a monastery that needed vegetables, i climbed a mountain, i stayed in remote villages for days at a time learning a new culture and trying to think of ways to help improve their living conditions, and i think i did some self improvement as well. Ive become more intelligent, stronger, faster, and much more self sufficient. Im still an awful speller but some things will never change.
 Im going to miss India. Im going to miss the general friendliness of people and the chi twice a day and all the Limbca i can drink, but i think a break from it all will be nice as well. Plus i could go for a big steak right about now. My journey through India has been wonderful and getting used to America will be a fun topic to write about so you can expect more posts coming from now on. Case Closed.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

I just cant wait to be king.

Today i came to Rishikesh. (sp?) its basically this really holy city that a ton of Hindus come to to bathe in the Ganges River. I havent been spending my time bathing but i have spent most of my time in the water. Over the past couple days we have been white water rafting down class 3 and 4 rapids. Our guides have been pushing us to do the most extreme trails possible which is great as long as you dont mind swimming in freezing speeding rapids. At the end of everyday my arms are sore and tired but when i get up and the options are kayaking, water polo, white water rafting, white water duckying (which is like an inflatable canoe) or just swimming through the rapids i get pretty excited and usually go all out. Its great here, a very relaxing yet extreme end to the trip. Its hard to believe my trip is almost over, and as much as i want to get home a lot of me is saying im going to miss India. Hopefully enough to come back. Ive finally been accepted into the University of Knoxville which i was pretty excited about so it sounds like once i get home that adventure will begin. Hopefully ill be able to post a couple more times before i leave India, i only have 9 days until i leave ;)

Monday, October 17, 2011

This mountain that i climb, dont even know my name.


Today i have reflected on what i have accomplished in my life. Ive done some things that i am proud of but most the things i have done havent been as hard once i have finished them. Until i came to India. Today as i was walking through the Bazzar (Market) I stopped and bought a butterscotch ice cream cone from a vender. I am lactose intolerant and dairy products usually give me “loose motions” but today i felt like i deserved something that delicious. 
Over the past two months i have survived India, thus far. I have eaten local meals, hiked to the highest villages in the world, lived in a Buddhist temple for three weeks (where i built a greenhouse out of mud), and just in the past two weeks or so i have successfully climbed a 20,000 ft peck.
 The name of the mountain is Draupadi-ka-Dunda, but we call it TKD2 for short. With the help from an NIM (Nehru Institute of Mountaineering) instructor, the other gap semester students and i trained by going rock climbing, hiking around Utterakashi with full backpacks and learned climbing technics that would help us with our assent. We started at the road head of this hike after two cups of chi and a two hour bus ride (that was actually in an old ambulance). We hiked through a beautiful forrest that reminded me too much of the book “The Hobbit”, which i read while on this trek, and i was expecting giant spiders or trolls to walk in front of me at any moment. But that never happened only monkeys and big birds crossed my path. I did hear word of a black bear in the area and i saw some footprints but was not lucky enough to see one, or maybe i was lucky enough not to see one. I hiked though streams and across log bridges, all up hill, for four hours until we came on the first camp. I was exhausted. Keep in mind i had the heaviest pack, besides the porters who supplied the tent and cooking supplies (God bless their souls they carried a lot). I would say my pack weighed about 50 to 60 pounds which isnt bad when im back in Tennessee, with an altitude of 500 ft, but the road head starts at 7,500 ft and the first camp was at about 10,000 ft alt. I was pooped as i got my sleeping bag ready and laid out my mat to sleep on. Thats when i learned how our trek the next day was going to be. Our Instructor Mr. Singh came to Holden and I, we were the first to reach the first camp site, that the next days hike would be twice as long and even more vertical than the hike today. I wanted to turn around then but im not a quitter. I knew why i was on that mountain at that point. 
Mr. Singh was also very correct in how long and vertical the next day’s hike would be. The first three hours were ok, but as soon as we crossed the river we were basically climbing up roots to get to the top of this huge hill. It was pathetic how hard i was breathing but Mr. Singh did a good job of giving us 3 minute breaks as we ascended about 300 feet ever 20 minutes. With a lunch break in between we did make it to the second camp in 8 hours but once we made it there i was ready to lay down. Mr. Singh didnt like us just laying down though. Everyday he would take us on acclimatization hikes to get our bodys used to the mountain. I hated these walks because i acclimatized fast but i guess it was still good for me. The next camp was called base camp. This is about 14,000 ft alt and was where a helicopter would land if we needed to be evacuated off the mountain. Luckily we didnt need those services. We stayed at base camp for 3 days learning ice climbing skills and survival tactics that we could use if an emergency happens on the mountain. From base camp we hiked up to ABC camp, which is the last camp before the glacier in front of the mountain. This camp, while cold became a home base for us, mainly because we build a snowman with the hail and snow that fell and we stayed there for the longest. On the 8th the doctor came and told Alex and Rishi that they couldnt climb the mountain due to a hurt knee and high heart rate. Hearing this disappointed me because i was set on us all summiting but i was just thankful i was healthy enough to go on with the journey. On the ninth, Holden and I, Mr. Singh, Jevoung (an energetic porter who became my brother on the mountain) Geresh (another Instructor) and two others made our way to camp one at about 15500 ft alt. Walking most the way across and up a glacier that was saidto have 300 foot crevasses in it. I was a little scared i guess you could say. We made it up to camp one and had to set up our tent on the top of that glacier and make sure that it was sturdy enough to take on the high winds. The temperature up there was below 0 degrees Celsius and getting in and out of the tent was dreadful but we only had to stay there for a couple hours because we started our packing at 2 in the morning and started the assent at 3:40 Am.
 At this point i still knew why i was on the mountain. The Top was all i could think about, and the Local Native song that was stuck in my head at the time. I would hum as i hopped across frozen rocks and kicked my feet through the snow and ice. As the trek continued and in the frozen pitch black night i started to think more about why i was there. With huge crevasses on either side of me in the middle of the night i was in a different country risking my life to make it to the top of something that doesnt even know i exist. I worked so had to get there and it never even moved. I started to pray, and to sing church songs instead of Local Natives songs. It put me in a better mood. Especially “Lord be there for me”, mainly because as i was ice climbing up this vertical slope kicking my crampons in and driving my Icepick in as deep as i could get it, i thought about the second line of that song. Lord be there for me when i fall be there for me. I wasnt expecting to fall but im sure Jesus had my back. Holden did exceptionally well in making sure he followed all the steps correctly and i respect him more now than i did before the hike. Climbing a mountain makes you see the real side of a person, how far they are willing to push themselves for success. We made it to the top of TKD1 which is the mountain Neighboring TKD2 but we sill had to make it another 2,500 ft to the Summit of TKD2 and the sun was coming out so we only had a few hours. Once the sun starts to melt the snow it can get dangerous due to breaking ice and avalanches. We summited at about 10:15 AM and took plenty of photos on the top. 


Thats when i realized why i was where i was. I was accomplishing something that i have dreamt about for years. I was a true mountaineer and i was proud to say that. Now that mountain knows my name, not only because i left a piece of paper at the top with my name and address, but also because i knew it on a personal level now. The mountain and i had a fight and it didnt break me. 
We descended and nobody ran down that giant hill faster than me. I was falling head over heels trying to get to a warmer place but my weary legs only let me go so far so fast. We made it down to camp one by about one oclock PM and then back down to ABC camp where Rishi and Alex were waiting for us to take our bags and give us some fresh lime tea. It was delicious. and finally sitting down was glorious. 

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Ive been going down, down into the River baby.

Im back for a day, and today was the best.
Over the past 21 days i have been traveling around Northern India on the boarder of Tibet and China. We took a 4 day trek to get into the Spitti Valley going over the 15,000 pass The Baba Pass. The entire hike was picture perfect and once it was done we got hiked to a village named Mud and took a cab to the city of  Kaja (or Kaza) and stayed there for three days. We enjoyed a few good meals at the local restaurants and did some shopping the first few days then went to a monastery and climb above it to this pristine lake that had a huge natural spring in the middle of it. The day after that hike we actually went to go live at a monastery in Key. The Key Monastery is over 900 years old and is still thriving with Monks or "Lamas" and everyone their speaks a mix of Tibetan Hindi. We started making the bricks right away and after four days of constant brick making with rummy games in between we finished 400 and 8 bricks and left to go on a homestay trek to let the bricks dry. Over 3 days we traveled from house to house to house in different Villages along the Spitti Mountains. We went to Langza, Comic, and some village starting with a D. (i cant spell it.) Each village had tons of new things to learn about and i actually got to see how everyday life is in a rural Village. I loved learning how to make Momo's with potatoes inside, its my specialty dish now in front of Mac and Cheese. We returned to The Key Monastery and Finished the greenhouse in a couple days and on the last day the King of Spitti, King NO-NO, came to inaugurate it. The whole ceremony was more extravagant than i thought it would be because Lama's were mumbling prayers and the king cut the ribbon and we planted seeds inside the greenhouse while the little children monks clapped outside the greenhouse. It was pretty awesome. We ate dinner and returned to Kaja where we stayed a night and then at 5 in the morning we started our long trip back. The first day we drove 8 hours across little rocks and big rocks. The roads in northern India are pretty bad but it was alright because my ipod was fully charged and i let myself be taken away by the music until we made it to Manali. Manali is the coolest city ive been to in a while. The tourists are more than i like, mainly because i like being the token wight guy in india, but i couldnt help but fall in love with the city. We left Manali at 6 in the morning and traveled across two states which is about a 16 hour car ride, stopping at Mcdonalds and a vegetarian restaurant on the way back to Woodstock. The Mcdonalds here is pretty funny. There is a sign that says "No beef or pork products sold here." Kinda beats the purpose of a Mcdonalds but whatever. We finally reached the Hanifl Centre by 11 that night and i crashed hard.
This morning i got to wake up at about 8 and talk to Tori and my mom. I knew i would miss them but i didnt think it would be this bad. After about 2 hours of skyping the gap guys and i went to the Rockaby manner for an amazing, well deserved, lunch. I came back down from Landor and took a nap to make the day even better. The Kutty briefed us on our upcoming adventure. Tomorrow we leave for about 19 days to go stay at the NIM, National Institute of Mountaineering, and we will be hiking a peck of about 19 to 20000 feet. Im so ready for this my skin is crawling. This is going to be real backpacking and im so excited. I stayed on the Internet long enough to be on when Tori woke up so i talked to her a little more then went to dinner and staff night before returning back to the Hanifl Centre and talking with Ingrid and Lindsay about our trip to Spitti. Even though ive spent only a short time here i feel like Woodstock school has become a second home, especially now that i have friends here. I walked Ingrid and Lindsay back to their apartment and they gave me some butterscotch ice cream in return. Even though im Lactose intolerant i ate every bite of that ice cream because it might be the best thing ill have in while. India camp food isnt the best but i cant complain. On may way back to the Hanifl Centre an easy 25 min uphill walk a moped came up behind me and it was an employee of the Hanifl Centre that lead us on our first hike. His name is T-2 and he offered to give me a ride up the hill. I was so excited to ride on a moped and not have to walk that i basically jumped at the opportunity and we zoomed around the windings hills with me on the back laughing hysterically with how much fun i was having. Now that ive given you the run down ill tell you guys that i wont be able to post again for almost another 3 weeks so dont bother checking until October 16. Wish me luck.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Im gonna let the blue sky carry me

Today is the last day will get to post until the end of September. Well at least the 26 of September. Ive said it a couple time in previous posts but tomorrow at 6 in the morning i leave for a 21 day trip to a region of India called Spitti to hike, make greenhouses, and live in different villages with locals to taste what real India is all about. Yes, their is a real and fake India. Here at Woodstock school its like a paradise for people not native to these parts. Most everyone speaks a little English and their are always people who i can recognize and see around campus to have conversations with. Everyone around here usually has a lot in common like doing outdoors stuff and traveling and even have the same problems like using the bathroom. Foreigners call their movements the "Indian Norm." We joke about it but all of us at the school are not really getting to feel India in its whole. I know i have mentioned it in every post and im sorry for being redundant but in Shantaram he talks about this very subject. He writes about how to feel the Real India you need to go and actually live in a village. Ive been babied for the past couple weeks here so its going to be a big change living amongst people who may not speak English at all. I dont really know how vast these people's education is but im assuming sense this is kind of a remote location they are not as educated as the people around Woodstock. That still doesnt mean they dont have a ton to teach me. I plan on utilizing every opportunity i have on this trip to learn more about the people, the environment, and especially myself.
I dont like pain or making myself suffer or anything, but i feel that getting away from expedients and luxuries that i have will be a really good thing for me. Really getting my hands dirty and doing things outside of my comfort zone is exactly what i signed up for when i decided to come here. Everything has been a little difficult but to be honest its still not roughing it yet. Pushing myself to my limit and seeing just how far i can take it will be interesting to see. 
Over the past three days i have been involved in a first aid course that has equalled up to about 20 hours of training. Ive learned and am now certified to give medical attention and CPR to any patient i get consent from in the wilderness and in urban environments. I Even have the cards to prove it. The course was difficult just they way i liked it but the instructors did an outstanding job at answering questions and really simplistically showing us the causes and ways to help people that are in danger with their own health. I love now knowing what do do if someone is unresponsive or choking or even has a dislocated shoulder. I have the power to help them and that makes me feel really powerful and confidant. I think everyone should be certified in First Aid at some point in their lives. Actually they should go through the class once every two years according to my card. Hopefully i wont have to use any of the things i learned while im in India but its really helpful to have this knowledge. Plus i take really detailed notes so i have all the extra stuff that some may be questioning in my journal. 
The past two days i have got to talk with Tori a lot more than normally. it may be because i really wanted to cram in as much talking time with her as i can before i leave, but i would want to talk to her as much as i have been anyway. 
She is a lot of things for me. For a couple months she has been my girlfriend and has shown me a lot about what caring for someone really means. For a while now she has been my advisor because she always has advice that i understand and that makes sense. She is always specific to my situation in the advise she gives as well, because she really knows me and makes an effort to get to know me more than most people have tried. Ill be honest with anyone if they ask the right questions in the right setting but she could ask me anything anywhere and i cant help but tell her every detail that goes on in my brain. She has been a solid rock that i can depend on and know that i can trust her for most of the time that i have known her. Most of all i think she has been the best friend i have been  looking for for some time now. Some people dont believe in angels but i can see her wings when she talks to me, or tells me a secret that only im allowed to know, or especially when she looks up at me with her green eyes and starts her contagious laughter because she cant hold eye contact very long without feeling awkward. Its not difficult at all for me to look into her eyes. Its actually the thing i miss most right now. Shes brave, strong determined, smart , beautiful, and i could go on but im already being to corny and cheesy so i better just stop being such a poetic pansy and just say that she is great. "Its a beautiful wonderful marvelous mysterious thing." -Drew Holcomb
Ill be back in 21 days so until them its case closed ;)

Friday, September 2, 2011

painting the town your favorite color

Today is the first full day of First aid training. Yesterday we had a 4 hour class on CPR that involved most of the staff. Its funny to see how people get along so well especially in a classroom setting like this im pretty excited about today though, i dont really know what is planned but the instructors are pretty cool so i know it will be something outstanding. Us Gap students, Rishi, and national rock climbing champion Prashant went to this really nice restaurant at the top of the mountain today. The had so many options of food that reminded us of home that we at breakfast there, then we have an appetizer, and by the time we were done with that we all got lunch and a desert to top it off. It was the best meal ever. Ive havent been that full in a long time...well sense i got to India. I was so happy to be that full i couldn't stop smiling. All the way down to the market i had a grin from ear to ear. After the CPR class yesterday Lindsey, a band teacher at Woodstock, invited us to go check out senior night. Senior night happens occasionally and involves a meal, games, a dance, and a movie. We made it in time for the dance which kind of reminded me of the middle school dances i went to. Except these guys loved being with each other. One thing that is common in India is that guys have no problem showing affection for each other. At first i thought it was strange but its just so common here nobody cares. All the kids in the auditorium had their arms around each other and were in big circles showing off their dance moves, listening to modern music, it was fantastic and i actually had a lot of fun being there.
Recently i have found out that i will be going on a three week trip to Spitti. Ive been really excited to go on this trip, mainly because we will be helping build greenhouses but also because we will be trekking most the way there and we will be staying in multiple villages along the way. From what i am told this is going to be the trip of a lifetime so im so ready to take it on. The only down part is, with all the hiking im doing i will not be able to bring my Laptop. It wouldnt do me any good to have it anyway sense Spitti most likely doest have Wifi at all so i really dont need to bring it but not being able to contact my family or Tori is going to be rough. I already miss them so much that it hurts.
Sometimes at night i will dream im home in Tennessee.  I will be in my kitchen with my mom, or watching a movie with the whole family, or in my truck driving Tori home from a date and i will be so happy that i wake myself up. When i wake up all i see is my watch, that i take off and hang from my bunk bed and a few photos i taped to the side of the wall next to my head. Looking at the photos is nothing compared to how real my dreams felt to ill try to roll over in order to get back into my dream but it never works. Sometimes i get restless when i wake up so i make a quiet exit out of my dorm and head up a trail near the Hanifl Centre. Its so dark that i can close my eyes and see more that i did with my eyes open. Their is a clearing along the way to the top that i stop in and try to write some of my thoughts down in my journal. I write about what i miss most and the things i wish i would have done before i left and the things i would be doing if i was home right now. I put everything down on paper and then read over it making corrections and deletions and slowly i assess my situation. If i was home i wouldnt be on the side of a mountain looking at billions of stars and watching the sun rise across miles of other huge mountains. I have to keep telling myself these things not to miss home to much. India has been my dream for so long i have to keep my head here instead of at home. I miss everyone from home a lot but this is where i need to be now. No pictures today but hopefully some will come of this fist aid class. Wish me luck.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

you'll run and never tier, desire.



Today was nothing compared to yesterday.
Yesterday After four hours of Hindi Rishi picked us up at Landor where my language school is located and  we started on a curvy ride down toward the market. In India all the cars run on Diesel so it was hard to really keep my head out the window like a dog but i suffered through the pain because i just couldnt pull my eyes away from the views. While Holden was getting queasy from the curves i was mesmerized not only by the skills of the taxi driver but by the views of the deep valleys and high peaks. I could see rivers in the crevasses of the mountains flowing down like huge water slides that never ended. We even passed a huge water fall that we basically drove under in order. I just stared in amazement as i watched all the water flow right off this cliff onto these orange rocks that were beaten and rounded down by the water. All the people we passed that were working on the road must have thought my behavior was pretty unusual because they all laughed as we passed. It could have also been that i was grinning ear to ear in amusement of the beauty around me. With my ipod blasting Ryan Adams, in order to hear over the car engine and the wind on my face, i thought about how lucky i am to be here and to be able to experience all this. By the time his album Demolition was 3 quarters of the way through we had arrived at out destination.
A woman in a white kurta was waiting for us on what i thought was the side of the road. Our driver stopped and we all piled out of the car. Earlier that day Rishi had told us we were going to a school and in my mind i thought it to be another school like Woodstock but man was i wrong. The woman introduced herself as Lorey and i could tell by the way she softly shook my hand the she was Very caring and truly happy to see us.
She lead us down to what she called a cowshed of a school and that is basically what it was. Maybe four rooms maybe ten by ten feet with low ceilings and finger paintings all over the walls. We went into every classroom and introduced ourselves and one by one each student introduced themselves very properly in English. Each one said "Hello brothers, my name is..., i am ...years old, i am in...grade and i live in Shanti. It seemed pretty rehearsed but never the less it was adorable and i was truly impressed at their comprehension of the english language. In the oldest class we sat down and they asked us to help them make paper cubes. I was helping a couple 10 year old boys make cubes and while he cut out the shape i helped him draw i drew him a picture of me saying Good Work in bubble letters on a scrap piece of paper. He showed it to all his friends then pocketed it and said thank you three times.
 By the time the cubes were done school was about over and all the kids put on their matching backpacks and headed for the door. Lorey has had this school for about a year and a half now and has been providing these kids with education that the Government Schools in India do not have. Lorey invited us to her house in the village down the road from the school and we happily agreed. I think she could hear my stomach growing before we even showed up. Once we go to her house we ate dal and rice and lady fingers which were surprisingly good. Im not much of a vegetable eater but it was easy to eat when she so graciously prepared it for us. Her nefew was a student at her school. I belive he was 9 or so but it is hard to remember now. He taught me an Indian version of patty cake that was twenty times more difficult, plus i had no clue what he was saying. After we ate Lorey showed us around the village.
This village is known for not only being secluded but also for the corn that they hang along the balconies and from the roofs. Lorey described to us that they hang the corn up as a food storage and when they need it they pull it down crush it up and make it into flour. She says around october the sides of houses are magnificently beautiful with all  the hanging corn. The children did most of the tour guiding all wanting to drag us this way and that and show us there houses. The adults in the village were sort of confused by our presents but still smiled for photos and went along doing there harvesting. They even gave us a couple horse radishes as souvenirs. We learned about the culture of the village and the different methods of cultivation that they used.
By the time our tour was complete it was almost dinner time and if we didn't make it back to Woodstock we would have a long walk to the market and back to pick up some food so we unfortunately had to say goodbye. Before we left all the children wanted to do the extreme version of patty cake with us and they also did an american song/dance about a man named joe who works in a button factory, i had never herd of it but apparently its a widely know song.
Saying goodbye to some of those kids was so hard. They kept asking when we were coming back and i dont think they knew we had just come for a visit. Either way i want to help out somehow. Lorey said anytime i come to India i can volunteer as a teacher and i plan on taking her up on that offer. The desire these kids have to have a higher education than the normal field worker is amazing. Not saying field workers are not smart but that these kids told us they wanted to be engineers and doctors and pilots. I was truly inspired. The ride home i still kept my head out the window, tongue flapping in he wind but i was no longer thinking about the views i was seeing, i was more concentrated on how i was going to contribute to making those kids dreams a reality. So much potential i see in these kids and in a lot of the people i meet in India. Potential and determination that you wont find in the states. I want to be a part of it. The school is very poor and Lorey always is looking for someway to help these children im sure if any of my readers want to donate i will do my best to send it on to her and make sure it goes toward furthering the kids education. Im sure they would appreciate it, and you never know someday they my be YOUR pilot or doctor so wouldn't you want them to have the best education possible?

Sunday, August 28, 2011

With all that power, what would you do?

Today was a really good day to be in India.
 A bill was passed to help stop the corruption, or at least to set up a system that would help stop corruption and Anna has stopped his hunger strike. This morning i had the opportunity to go to church up in Landor and was surprised to see so many familiar faces from the Woodstock school staff. The church was only about thirty deep but it was a beautiful building and very well kept. I got  a ride from wood stock to the church from the preacher who heard that i wanted to attend and was happy to pick me up. Its funny, but he reminded me of my Papal who whistles church hymnals as he drives except this man whistled church songs that i have never herd of... and i know a lot of church hymns.
Once at the church an old man who i normally eat dinner with in the cafeteria was walking up to sit inside. His name is George Roddick and he is the funniest person i have come to know in my time here. Everything he says is the opposite of what you would expect. He is a history teacher for the Woodstock school and as wise as i thought he was he will beg to differ. He said today "I have no idea what is going on, i'm a history teacher i only know what WENT on." I laughed historically. He has a thick Irish Accent and when he laughs, even though sometimes i cant understand him, i have to laugh because his smile is too contagious. His dentures, if he smiles to big, will even drop a little making it seem like he is laughing with his jaw clenched. He is so clever that i think people don't get his sense of humor sometimes. Today i couldn't stop laughing as we ate lunch together and he cracked jokes about every teacher in the school. If i could be like anyone when i am that old it would be Mr. G as he preferred me to call him.
After eating with Mr. G i walked down to the Market to take a look around. Also i heard sense the Bill was passed their would be a huge celebration in the streets and prices on things would be on sale. So me and my cheap self couldn't pass up the opportunity so i headed into the dense crowed of people with my eyes the size of apples. Being in the market by yourself gives you a different experience. Its like being a child again. I couldn't read anything and was to afraid to talk to anyone i tried to keep to myself until a local man i meet in store offered his help. I bought some clothing for my sisters and mom back home and tried out my Hindi by asking the store keep how much it was. We agreed on a price and once i paid him he asked me what i was doing in the city. Once i told him i was from Woodstock his attitude changed a little bit. I guess some of the people in the city below Woodstock admire a lot of people that work there so he treated me like his best friend immediately. He told me all about the festival they were having that day and how i should go get noisemakers and have a good time but that just wasn't me. Before i left though he came out of the back with this black hat that he said would look perfect on me. It looked like a child's cowboy hat so at first i refused but when he said the magic word, Free, i changed my mind and gladly wore the hat out of the store and down the street. Once i noticed that people were laughing at me i had to take it off because i didn't need anymore people staring at me than their already were.
For a brief moment i was lost in the city. I felt like Lin, the character in the book i am ready as i walked along the back road of the dense Indian city, my cowboy hat in hand and the few Rupees i had left crammed into my grey wool vest pocket. My sandals were starting to irritate my feet and in my head i complained about how they hurt but i knew i was living the high life compared to these people. Some i could tell had seldom ever worn shoes, and if they had they didn't last long. I could see children walking barefoot across stones, glass, and trash everywhere. I wanted to take off my shoes because i felt so ashamed to be living so nicely while these people right in front of me were barefoot. The most amazing thing was that once i decided to become unafraid of the people in the city i saw the city for what it was. I saw smiling faces, different senses of humor, and a common nature to love each other. I made it a mission to find my way back to the school and started asking people with the few words i knew in Hindi. I was surprised to find that most the people responded in English, but happy to know that i only had a couple of miles more to walk to the school as long as i took every right street until i reach a long road. My adventure had basically come to a close once i could see Woodstock in the distance but i learned so much today that i think my adventure has just begun. 

Saturday, August 27, 2011

if you wanted honesty thats all you had to say


Today i got hooked on a book. My baby sitter/ guide/ instructor Rishi suggested an interesting book to my roommate, Holden, in Delhi. Its called Shantaram and its a best seller so i figured it would be good but from Holden's description of it i had to check it out for myself. I started started the book two days ago and so far i am completely inthralled with it. So many times ive been sucked into a book and have not been able to take my eyes of the pages, but this is different. Maybe because the book takes place in Bombay India, and being in India i can kind of relate with a lot of the images he describes. Gregory David, the writer, does an outstanding job of really understanding India in a way i could only dream of. I have only seen India for a brief moment, and i have been here for almost two weeks. So much is out there to discover and i have only skimmed the brim of it.
Over the past couple days Hindi classes have become more intense. We are putting together sentences and even putting phrases and sentences into past and future tense. I can feel my comprehension of the language getting stronger everyday. We have 3 more four hour classes that while i dread the walk up the mountain i have come to enjoy the teachers and the amount of knowledge i am obtaining. Everyday i think of a different way i can use my Hindi in everyday life here. The only problem is using the right words at the right time. I still cannot think of phrases i have learned on the spot. Several teachers have told me these things will come with practice and time so i still am practicing and waiting for my chance to show off my new skills. Tomorrow i plan on going to church service up the mountain. The rest of my team is going hiking and as much as i would like to see more of the wilderness side of India i think that the local church will be really good for me. Some encouragement and advice from the big man upstairs is exactly what i need right now.  Im off to bed now but before i go to bed i will leave you with one excerpt from the book i found relevant to my state of mind at the moment.
A dream is a place where a wish and a fear meet. When the wish and fear are exactly the same, we call the dream a nightmare.

Goodnight Readers.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

I gotta have you

Today i missed home. India is a paradise. I have fallen in love with the culture, landscapes, the people, the animals, and even the nonstop raining. All of this has become a second home to me already, but strangely i have come to miss my first home, Murfreesboro Tennessee. I have never gotten home sick before. Not that i can remember at least. I know sometimes im ready to get back home because im tired of being where i am but i could stay here for ever. Yet, something is pulling me far west. I dont miss objects or even expedients that India doesn't have, like escalators so i dont have to walk up a mountain to get to Hindi class. I miss knowing the things i need to know. As in the common language, what kind of food im eating, how to do simple tasks like turn on a light switch (its backwards here), and i especially miss the people closest to me.

I miss my mom washing my clothes, me washing them in the sink with cheap detergent is depressing. I miss my girlfriend who i can tell is missing me as much as i miss her. I miss my sister Jessie and her quirky humor and my sister aubrey's laugh and especially my niece who i know is getting smarter and more beautiful everyday. I miss my Church at Cason Lane who is praying that i am safe and i appreciate that more than they know. I pray for them too. I miss my best friends, i have a lot of them and each one has helped me shape into the man i am today. I even miss when my dad would take me out to lunch or dinner, sometimes it was hard because he had to get on to me but i know its because he loves me. I dont have anyone who loves me here. I think that is what really makes a home what it is. I wanted to get out of Murfreesboro so badly i had to sign up for a program on the opposite side of the world. And now it seems the side of the world i was in was pretty amazing as well.
This experience is good for me. I was taking a lot of things in my life for granted and now that i see that i understand how much each person means to me. India is wonderful. Everyday i have a new story that i cant wait to tell everyone.
Like today i was running to dinner in fear i would be to late to get the warm food and i stopped when i noticed two men walking toward me. They had just come around the curve and were staring in my direction. Once i took my eyes off them and i looked to my left i discovered i was  standing next to a huge monkey on the railing right next to my face. Its eyes were fixated on me and it started showing its teeth (a sign of Dominance) my initial reaction should have been to stay calm, but instead i screamed like a girl covered my face and fell into the fetal position. Embarrassment filled every pour of my body as the monkey nonchalantly crawled away on the railing and the two men that had seen the entire thing laughed harder than necessary. I didnt think it was very funny, until i started writing this post.
Also from being in India i have come to realize its a place that needs to be discovered. It ha so many resources everywhere that have so much potential if utilized. I think in the future i can help a lot of people  as well as the environment. Im doing a lot of learning here as well as observing, and all of this is helping me realize what i am good at and what i would like to pursue in the future. I love and miss all of you back home. Im not as far as it seems.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

everybody sees and everyone agrees


Today i climbed Mt Tiba. Probably the coolest hike i have been on sense I went to Montana. We were dropped of at the trail head a couple miles from The Hanifl Centre where im staying and started our ascent.
We passed houses on the trail and as hard is it is to believe they have to make the hike everyday in order to get to the town. I thought driving 5 minutes was ridiculous to get to Walmart. On the way up the rock climbing instructor and neighbor showed me all kinds of different plants that people use hear for medicine. It seems like every plant has a purpose to be there. The altitude was difficult at first, but i got over it pretty quickly. Controlling the way you breathe is very important while acclimating. Once at the top we ate a packed lunch took pictures and then headed back down.
 Instead of taking the same route down we took a way through the mountains because the car that dropped us off couldnt come pick us up so we walked home. It was totally worth it though. I got to see the real part of India that few get to see. The only negative part of the trip was touching this plant that is called stinging nettle i think. It has really sharp spikes on it that even with the slightest touch give you a jolt of pain and the stinging last for a good while. You know me even after they told me about it i had to touch it for myself. IT Hurts. I got to talk to mom today and apparently my church had a pot luck the other day. I miss pot lucks so bad. As much as i have come to enjoy Indian food their is nothing like home cooking. I miss home alot but at the same time i never want to leave this place. It has so much history and the culture and customs changes every 100 kilometers. We plan on visiting the hunted house down the road in a couple of nights so that should be interesting. Thanks for reading my blog everyone, i have gotten so many hits in the past couple of days i feel like an actual good blogger. Chalo Chale!

Saturday, August 20, 2011

you cant have a second try, because time will pass you by



Today i focused on learning Hindi. For the past two days we have been enrolled in a school about 150 meters above Woodstock School called Landour Language School, were teachers specializing in teaching crash course Hindi classes instruct us for four hours a day. Yesterday we learned some nouns and a few key factors about the Hindi language. All the teachers move really fast so it is hard for me to fully comprehend and retain all the information but they have assured me it just takes practice everyday so that is exactly what i have been doing. Learning a foreign language was so hard in high school, probably because i was also focused on so many other things but over the past two days i have probably learned more Hindi than i ever learned in my entire two years of honors Spanish. Also it helps when almost everyone you talk to only speaks Hindi so you have to conform to them. Luckily Indian people are the nicest people i have ever met so the are patient with my mispronunciations and backwards way of saying things. 
Funny story, i left the window open to our room while one of my roommates, Holden from Boston, was sleeping. Thirty minutes later i came back and my peanut butter Nature valley bars were all eaten and the wrappers were ripped to shreds and there was little pieces of peanut butter on the floor. I didnt know who could have done this but as i thought about it i realized the possibility of a monkey climbing in the window was actually really possible. Monkeys are everywhere and the scavenge for food like nobodies business. Also i found my Limca bottle that i was using to keep water in had a hole bitten into it and it was leaking on the floor. Gotta love the crafty monkeys. 
Last night we had a great opportunity to see a very interesting dance done by young boys that dress like girls. These boys are basically gymnasts that do crazy acrobatic moves to music with bells attached to their ankles. They were very passionate about what they do which was refreshing to see. These boys stayed in our dormitory along with a few of the locals from down the mountain who came to see the show. The local kids were so friendly. They just came right into my room and asked to to hang out with them. We ended up having a lot in common and they new a far amount of english and American culture which was a relief from having to explain everything i do to people. We roamed the dark, wet, street until one in the morning which is unheard of around these parts. Everyone falls asleep very early because once it gets dark it gets to quiet to stay awake, literally. It was almost spooky walking around this late but   They told us they would be back next friday and could not wait to see us again. I am eagerly awaiting their arrival. 
Today was the first day i have gone down into the market of Mussorrii. It was so different than Delhi in that the trash was a fraction of what i saw in Delhi and the people all seemed very friendly and accommodating. I bought a wool vest and some palmagranates. The wool vest was about three dollars american and is the warmest clothing i own now and the palmagranates are about as fresh as you will ever get them. I bought about six of them and it only cost about 2 dollars which is about 100 rupees. 
Tomorrow we go on our first day hike which isn’t going to be too far but it should be beautiful and insightful to what im going to see later on. My legs are defiantly feeling the burn walking up and down these mountains everyday but im sure its good training for the treks i will be completing. Next week we plain on traveling north to Spiti, which is known for uncharted areas and unknown valleys. We will be trekking as well as building small houses for some of the locals in the town. I cant wait to interact with some of these people because ive been reading this book i checked out of the library here about the city and so far it seems like a really interesting place with many temples and religious people. Namaste Ji. 

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Stuck in a moment you cant get out of

Today i witnessed first hand the rural side of India. Nothing could prepare me for the things i got to see today. We woke up at five oclock and the first thing i did was skype my mom for about twenty minutes before she had to go to church and before i had to shower and pack my bags to begin the day. Talking with her is strange because im so used to always being around her i didnt realize how different it would be no seeing her all the time. After i showered and packed my bags we got in a cab and headed for the train station. Men of all ages stand outside in the parking lot hoping to find someone who is willing to pay in order to carry their bags up the stairs into the station. I bought a Limca which is a lime soda that i have come to enjoy, and it only costs 15 rupees which is basically a quarter.
On the train we sat in seats like on an airplane. Three seats on the right and two seats on the left. In front of me was a very adorable Indian girl who allowed me to take her picture in return for a silly band. She had a scar on the right side of her for head but it only made her more beautifully distinguished.
Her sister and i played a peekaboo game almost the entire train ride which was about 6 and a half hours long. We road North from Delhi to Dehra Dun passing through a couple of rural towns and one city that is one of the seven holiest cities in India. The whole ride i was reading a book about the Uttarakhand and the impact the environment and the peasants have on the land and the relationship between the two. It was interesting to read about holy lands that are never touched by humans.
By the time we reached Dehra Dun i was starving so we loaded a taxi with our bags and headed through the scariest traffic of my life. I dont have any pictures of it yet because i was afraid of offending people with my camera in their face because when your in a car people are always all around you. Its soo crowded. We took roughly a thousand cutbacks up the mountain to the school after we ate lunch which made it hard to digest my Indian vegetarian food but the view made everything worth it. I have always liked the height factor of mountains but i have never seen mountains like this. It is so steep that playing frisbee here would result in a 6,000 ft throw to the bottom of the valley. Once at The Woodstock School we made our way to our dormitory where we will be sleeping and the Hanifl  Centre where we will be educated in the ways of the mountain but the sheer beauty of this school is breath taking. Everything about is is phenomenal. So im going to end todays blog with first my view from my window and then some pictures of the dorm and the Hanifl Centre. Tomorrow i have my first Hindi class bright and early.




Wednesday, August 17, 2011

is it still raining everywhere you are?


3:55 PM New Delhi India 
Today my eyes were opened to a whole new world. I ate breakfast with the rest of the guys from woodstock school in the dining room of the YWCA in new delhi. We had eggs vegetables toast and fanta soda to drink. I could tell it rained last night by the puddles that lined the streets. Even in the morning horns were honking constantly. Nonstop horns can get annoying. 

We left the YWCA to check out the city at about 10:40 and our first stop was this temple that was pretty close to where we were staying. I cant remember the precise spelling but it sounded like they were saying it was the Siak Temple. Their religion is different from the common Hinduism beliefs and when we entered the temple we had to remove our shoes and put a headdress over our heads in order to be allowed in. There was loud music playing and people everywhere bowing to this shrine in the middle of the room. We walked around for a minute and admired the architecture of the marble building. One fascinating thing about this religion is that every meal they have free food for everyone. Literally everyone from the poor to travelers no matter what race, gender, occupation, or anything. Volunteers donate food and they give their time to cook it and set it out for anyone to eat. We didn’t stay to eat but it would have been crazy to see the amount of people that probably showed up.  
From there we started walking further into the city and as we got closer to the shops the number of people increased. I was told it was nothing like what i will see tonight. We went into shops that had really different T-shirts with designs that reminded me of my hipster sister. Most of the poor people stayed around these shops looking for change. Kutty, the man that guided us and the man that will be in charge of us at Woodstock, instructed me not to make eye contact with them to avoid their persistent begging. It was almost unbearable not to give them everything i had. I just had to shake my head and keep my head straight. Sometimes they would follow me for a long time just saying please sir and i just had to keep walking. One major difference in being back home and being here is hardly anyone says excuse me or thank you. I assume its implied or something but it was strange when i would bump into people or just pass them and they would look at me strangely for apologizing or saying excuse me. I still have to get used to not being as polite as im used to. 

We took the subway to one of Kutty’s friends hotels. His friends father was the leader of the first Indian expedition to the summit of Mt Everest. In his office pictures lined the walls of his father and important people shaking hands. His hotel was ranked in the top 15 in the area if i can recall correctly. He had lunch prepared for us by his cook who has won awards for his dish’s. The food was delicious ive never had anything like it. For something sweet we had this thing they called a sugar ball. It basically tasted like moist marsh mellow. It is apparently good fried as well. I didnt particularly like it but im pretty picky. We took the train back to our side of town and walked back to the YWCA in order to rest because the crew was still pretty jet lagged. Im wide awake though. I cant get enough of this city. Everything has caught my attention, especially the architecture of all the buildings. They are completely different from any type of building ive ever seen. We plan to go out tonight in order to see get dinner and people watch. This should be fun.
Most the pictures are from tonight. I didnt want to have my camera out while we walked through the city especially because if you dont watch where your going your going to get hit. Tonight we took a bus into a very populated part of the city and we ate dinner at a restaurant Rashi knew of. I dunno if it was just really good or i was really hungry but i was downing some spicy chicken. On the walk back Kutty complemented me by saying i was getting braver for crossing the streets on my own accord. I must have looked like a child today because i wouldnt cross unless i had enough room to walk across the road. Tonight i was hopping between cars and motorcycles trying to look like i knew what i was doing. I didnt. At 5 tomorrow morning we will board a train and make our way North to Mussoori. From what ive heard this is a paradise in India, I cant wait.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Gonna take you on a ride on my big jet plane


 Today im leaving for India.
10:45 AM Nashville Tennessee
As I was walking away from my family and my girlfriend into the airport i was left alone only with my thoughts. Its real now. No more packing, preparing, or learning new things because now is when all those things come into play. Im not big on goodbyes, especially when i have been saying goodbye for the past two weeks. As i walked on the moving sidewalk it kinda hit me that i was alone. I could text my family, but i would only get words back, and if i did text them what am i supposed to say. They know i love them. I just saw them less than ten minutes ago so they know im still as healthy as i was. To assure them i made it through the medal detectors ok i text them and told them i love them, then once i made it to my gate i called my sister and told her to make sure they know im in the right place. I guess im in the right place. Ive decided to spend my free time today blogging so as i travel i will write the location and the local time. 
1:45 PM Nashville Tennessee
Still at the airport. My plane was delayed somewhere and was going to be two hours late. My excitement is still lingering but the freezing cold airport and the old lady that thinks i am edward from twilight is dwindling my once goosebumps. Maybe she wont sit next to me on the plane so i can try to recover from the lack of sleep last night.
So my plane was delayed until 4 45 in Nashville and yes the old lady did sit next to me. She has a son that lives in China that she is going to visit so she talked about that the entire flight as i panicked about if i was going to be able to make  my connecting flight out of Newark to New Delhi India. 
Running through the Newark Airport i felt like an idiot. Mainly because my legs hadn't woken up fully yet so i was tripping all over the place. Eventually i made it to my plane and sat between two other americans that where from New York going to Delhi to write an article on the impact of the mustache on India. I dunno if he was kidding but i want a job like that. 
I now know why comedians make fun of airplane food. Especially Indian Airplane food. My favorite part of the flight was flying over Afghanistan. The mountains  were intense and all i could think about was that i was probably flying over my friend Josh. I pray he is safe. 
The Delhi airport was scary at first but once i found my taxi driver and made it to the car i just wanted to look around. It was hard to concentrate on the scenery as we buzzed around other cars and as we avoided multiple crashs just by him honking his horn. There are set lines you have to stay in while driving and being on the opposite side of the car made me feel like i was in abad dream where i was trying to drive a car with no steering wheel. 
Where i am staying, the YWCA, is actually pretty nice. I have wi-fi so i got to talk with my parents and my girlfriend over skype and i got to get finished with this blog post. right now im about to eat breakfast but today i will be roaming the city with my roommate Alex.  wish me luck!

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Im getting tired and i need somewhere to begin.

Today i decided to accept the fact that i cant fix everything.
Its been on my mind a lot lately, how i over analyze everything in order to create structure in my mind. The  way my mind works everything has a problem, a reason, a consequence, and a defined solution. I come upon a problem, find the reason for the problem, accept the consequence of the reason, and form a defined solution that in my perspective should be bullet proof. So why does it never work out the way i have planned?
I understand that i can never know all the variables that go into a problem but is that my fault? An expression we use is "Im only human." This gives us an excuse not to reach our full potential. I don't rely on excuses to fix what i cant do. We can always make excuses not to do something or to only do the minimum of that task but the minimum isn't helping us. If anything it is holding us back from all that we can achieve. So I am here not making excuses but searching for justifications of my short comings.
I get very frustrated when i cant fix something. Especially when its a problem i know the solution to. For example, when my internet disconnected a couple nights ago and after i ran all the diagnostics and narrowed the problem down to the router i thought i had figured the entire problem out. I had put hard work into finding this solution and all it took was the last step. I could feel my mind go to ease when i finally realized it was a fixable problem, but after i finished that step and restarted my computer, in order to accept the changes made, the problem still remained. What now right? I've done everything right. I had a problem, located the reason for the problem, accepted the consequence of why the internet was not working, and narrowed all the possible solutions for the problem into one defined solution, but i still had no internet. I had no excuse for what was wrong. I had to admit defeat.
Thats a pretty petty example but it can apply to any problem you may have. In my mind the fact that i had to admit defeat and just let the problem settle itself was intolerable. I can fix it, why not right. Why waste time with a problem that can be resolved. What i have come to realize is that all can do for the problems that i cannot fix is wait until it needs me, if it needs me, and then do whatever i can to help. My internet fixed itself randomly and is steady, for now, but maybe next time i will be more tolerant to being patient.
On a different note, things have have been strangely good. Have you ever had the feeling like everything is too good to be true. Like good things don't normally happen this easily? I may just be in the "eye of the storm" but for now everything is calm. The problems i do have i have had a sense of optimism toward. I have a loving family that cares for me. A beautiful niece that can now say my name clearly. A bloody brilliant girlfriend with a love of Harry Potter, one of MANY reasons why i fell for her. Friends who always have my back, and a Father in Heaven who is always looking after me. All of whom give me advice and guidance as i try to make the best of my time here. Thanks guys.
I know the pictures have nothing to do with the topic of the post but i think all these pictures have people i care a lot about in them so i wanted to share them with everyone.