Archive for January, 2007

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Another litre of still water, please?

January 31, 2007

So, I’m crammed into a tiny, packed coffee shop on 65th and 5th trying to tuck my elbows in enough to be able to type withoutpass1.gif assaulting the women on my left and right, while smiling sympathetically at Ivana Trump who is struggling to find room to remove her coat and scarf at a table across from me. (Upon reflection, the sympathetic smile is probably more that she was married to that, well, challenging man. Though, by the looks of things, she’s doing quite well. God love ya, girl.) Today is the fourth time I’ve planned to spend the day in NY applying for a visa at the Indian consulate, with each prior attempt failing for weather, a stomach bug, or an Indian holiday. This one is still clearly up for grabs.

I made it halfway to the city today, all the while forgetting that the dog was in the back of the Jeep; she was scheduled to spend the day playing at the vet while I’m out of town. I was on the phone making, cancelling and rescheduling appointments and plans for the next 9 days and working on wedding stuff with my friend and hit the highways, unthinking. I simply forgot RileyJane was on board. Eek. I’m just so scattered these days. Turning back around meant I reached the tunnel a full hour later than I expected to, and between police barrier redirects, an accident, and construction, it took me another hour to get the 25 blocks to the consulate — 10 minutes before the door is locked against new applicants. Parking garage hell meant beginning the sprint with four minutes to spare. It’s freezing and windy today in New York, and the running set off asthma symptoms that I haven’t had in years. I tore up the marble steps of my destination and wrenched the door open, noting in passing the small brass plaque above the doorbell: Consulate General of Serbia and Montenegro. Shit. Read the rest of this entry ?

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Where would you go?

January 22, 2007

Over the weekend, I received a gorgeous mailer from Cross-Cultural Solutions about theirbaby.gif upcoming summer volunteer opportunities. I haven’t even left for India, and it had me wanting to apply for another program. Ghana? Guatemala? One of their new programs in South Africa or Morocco? I could do them all.

lima_hugging.gifWhen I first started thinking about taking one of these journeys, I found it impossible to narrow it down. Someone on staff wisely counseled me to try this:

1) Look at the list of countries where CCS supports volunteers and if you are unfamiliar with one or more of them, do some really basic poking around online to just get a feel for each place.

2) Make a list of the few countries that truly intrigue you — even if you don’t have much tovolunteer_children_computer.gif back up that feeling up.

3) Review the types of service that CCS volunteers often do and ask yourself if you can see yourself doing any of this type of work. Which match your strengths? Where do you feel a tug? Click through, and read about this work. At the bottom of the page, you’ll see which countries seek volunteers for this type of service.

The simple formula led me to India. Where might it lead you? If you’re seriously considering taking a journey such as this, or even if you’re just curious. Give it a try. Where would you go? What would you do?

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Oh, fun!

January 20, 2007

Received a lovely eMail from an Irishman yesterday, saying his first hellos before heading off to India to begin volunteering with CCS the same day as me. A collection ofsteps1.jpg folk were copied — all scheduled for the February 11th start date, and the exchanges have begun. Lately, I’ve been so caught up with the fundraising, the paperwork, just the piles of administration that go along with leaving your whole world for a month’s time and journeying far, far away. So bogged down in it all, that I almost lost sight of the thing itself– the work, living in India, bunking with 15 or so others, and squeezing in extraordinary bits of travel when time permits.

Today, it’s just a list of names and eMail addresses– in a few weeks, these unfamiliar ganges1.jpgnames will be my flatmates, my colleagues, and hopefully my new friends. We’ll be sharing bunks and baths, meals and malaria talk. Americans, Canadians, Brits, & Irishmen — looking forward to meeting these mystery peeps and learning their stories. So many of them are staying in India for so much longer than I am, but hopefully we’ll still have time to get to know each other and fill up our bits of free time with all the amazing stuff within train-reach from Delhi before I have to leave. Okay. I’m officially excited. /squee

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So full

January 15, 2007

… of gratitude. And Indian bread pudding. Damn.

largesse.JPGIt’s hard to describe the feeling I had yesterday afternoon as friends and family streamed through the door of Passage to India to fill up on spicy curry and contribute to my upcoming journey. Friends from work and friends from childhood. Favorite family members and mourning Eagles fans. Neighbors and people I haven’t seen for years. People who live around the corner, people from other states, and one dear girl who came by plane from Houston. Curry enthusiasts, curry virgins, and those who loathe curry. My contractor-turned-friend and his awesome wife. Moms of friends, and wait for it… people I’ve never met before.

It’s like being the bride or being at your own surprise party; feeling like you barely had thekara_who.JPG time to catch up with everyone properly before it’s over, and the whole thing is a blur. Can’t believe we forgot to take pictures, but what fun to see all those different people in the same room, filling their plates, (or gingerly picking at some naan) and knowing that they ventured out on that icky, rainy day because I asked for their help and support. It makes me feel like I’m not headed to India solo, to follow a solitary dream, but more like I’m a part of this really large team chasing a goal, and I just happen to be the one out in front with the baton this month. Awesome.

currybowl.JPGCan’t say enough about Amit at Passage to India, and all the guys there– they made this possible, and did so joyfully with kind words and enthusiasm. (Not to mention, treating Damon & I to lunch. Thank you!) And speaking of Damon — I would never have had the courage to even think about taking this trip after last year, much less have at it so soon without his support and encouragement. He was such a champ yesterday, saving me from feeling awkward by taking over the accounting that I felt so shy about, and designing the fun stickers for our guests that you see here. All him. Lucky girl.

Lastly, it’s hard to say how thankful I am for the wild generosity of everyone who attended yesterday. (And those who couldn’t make it, but sent along a donation in their place!) Humbled by the turnout, and still reeling from the results; you guys went above and beyond. Still working on the math and such, but it looks like I’ll be taking down the “Make a Donation” page of this site within days. Amazing. Thank you, friends. Thank you.

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People can be so cool

January 7, 2007

1. Sunday’s fundraiser is ON. I met with the nicest man at Passage to India, and heairplane1.jpg couldn’t have been more accomodating or more kind about the upcoming event. Totally open to the idea, and full of helpful suggestions. Seriously — even if they didn’t have the very best tikka masala in the known universe, I’d still <heart> that place.

2. Donation of a plane ticket? I have a dear friend who lives far away, but has been so supportive of this journey of mine. She recently made a connection with an incredibly generous person who, based on this friend’s enthusiastic endorsement of my plans, seems to have decided to support me by contributing round-trip airfare to and from Delhi. That’s right; you heard me. My plane ticket. To have her go to such lengths on my behalf is mind-blowy. To receive such an extraordinary gift from someone I’ve never even met? Well, I’m speechless. And way not worthy. Awaiting confirmation with stunned disbelief…

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Bigger monkeys

January 5, 2007

When Video Games Meet Reality. Delhi, India— In what is obviously a sign of the apocalypse (or a reallymonkey1.jpg rad adventure game), over 5,000 rhesus monkeys have begun overrunning Delhi, India raiding the local police station, homes and even the subway in gangs looking for food.

Previously, the monkeys — considered sacred by most of the Hindu population — have been rounded up and sent to… we kid you not… monkey prison on the outskirts of the city. But locals have found what might be the ultimate and final solution to the gangs of monkeys and their cute, yet terrifying, midnight runs through homes and offices — bigger monkeys.

A number of small businesses have begun employing large, imposing langur monkeys to protect offices. With razor-sharp teeth and amazingly strong tails, the 40-pound primates terrify the smaller monkeys and have forced them to move to other areas.

So we salute you, Delhi, for bringing the video game fantasy of monkey vs. monkey — with man trapped in the middle — to life. -The Wizard Staff

Fantastic. (Thanks to D for finding this little gem late last night. :))