Haiti – Part 2

We went to hear Ram on Thursday night. They play traditional Haitian music. They’re beyond incredible. I was most impressed by the horns. I’m not sure what they’re called, but they’re long cones that only play one note. The horn/shaker/vocalist/metal clave type instrument players (yes, they play them all) know what instrument is needed at the moment and switch before you can realize. It’s so awesome to watch. Equally, if not more so impressive is that they have 3 horns at once that they hold close to their mouths and rotate as the chords in the song call. The music was fantastic. When they first came out they had no electronic instruments at all, only percussion and the horns. They did a walk through of the restaurant/bar and then got ready for their set. The rest of the show included guitars, bass, vocals, and a woman on the side who danced with the music. Later, we found out that the music they play there is associated with Voodoo so many of the words of the song talk about that, sometimes people even become possessed. Unfortunately, the show started rather late so we couldn’t stay for very long.
The next day was long and exciting and was the last day we would have camp programming with the kids. At the end of the day they put on a fantastic talent show complete with acting, dance, singing and spoken word. We were absolutely blown away by their talents and abilities. The child did not author the spoken word piece but she delivered it with such intent. It was about the youth getting ready to take over Haiti as the new leaders so that they can make it a better place to live. One group did a skit about how a father didn’t give children money for transportation to get to clubs. The mother begged and begged and borrowed money from someone else so they could go. It makes me sad to think that this probably reflects a lot of the realities they live in. They also had a small section where they told the father he should stop playing dominos and to stop drinking. This is similar to what happened in India when we gave them time to put on different skits about their lives. In the story, the father ends up coming around, and the kids get to go to their clubs.
In the afternoon we also went to see one club up a huge hill on a dirt road. It took us about a half hour to get there. The road wasn’t paved, but rather had this huge rocks that acted as traction for the SUVs to get up. Most folks don’t have cars, so they walk it, on a daily basis. Without a skilled driver, there is no way we could have gotten up. It was if we were going to a small village. If the road was paved, it probably would have taken maybe 10 minutes. On the way we passed these huge, unfinished houses. Most were behind brick walls. It’s like they’re waiting for the road to be paved so that they can finish the construction. There were also some tents, houses that used old tents as barriers to the road or on the sides of their houses. We met some of the kids, saw a mock club, and then returned down the hill. It was definitely a good experience.
I woke up early to finish writing because last night we passed out very quickly after eating dinner back at the hotel. Today: training, and a festival. I’m excited to see the kids again one last time!
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Back in Action – In Haiti – for a week

            I’m reviving the blog. For travel reasons only; or maybe it’ll be something that I come back to every once in a while when I feel like I have something worthwhile putting on here.

            I’m currently in Port-au-Prince, Haiti for work. For those who I don’t speak with on a regular basis, I work for an international literacy organization. It’s amazing and I love every aspect of it, especially when I get to visit some of the amazing people who run our programs in different parts of the world. This is my first work trip and I’m having an amazing time, learning a lot (including some Haitian Creole), and meeting so many great adults and children. At the bottom of this I will post what I’ve written the first two days I was here. Today is day 4.

            There is a lot that people told me about Haiti before coming here. Some said it’s like no where you’ve been, that living in India will definitely help the shock factor, that I have to be careful all the time, that there are international NGOs everywhere; I even had some people ask my why would I go to Haiti. I’d like to clear some stuff up (from my point of view that is).

            There are a ton of international NGOs here. Every day we see at least two SUVs with the UN, World Vision, IRC, and Mercy Corps. They’re usually white SVUs. The SUV factor isn’t special though; all cars (minus a handful) are SUVs. They have to be SUVs because the roads here can get pretty bad. Most of the time they’re fine, and then there’s an inward speed bump or an entire road that’s just not finished. The hotel we’re staying in is almost all foreigners and very wealthy Haitians. It’s weird. I’ve mentioned to my friends before that I feel a little uncomfortable. As you probably know I’m not the high-class traveler. This hotel isn’t the most luxurious hotel I’ve ever been in by any means, but it’s definitely nicer than the average Haitian can afford, and that reflects in the clientele. It’s not personal travel, it’s work travel, so with that, I get a different experience, which I think is important anyway. At the hotel bar we met a man named Nathan who is doing some work for the CDC and training people on vaccination refrigeration. He’s been here several times and is helping us figure out what restaurants we can go to each night, and giving us a third person to talk to once we get out of the work environment.

            Back to Haiti – It reminds me of India, a lot. The building structures are similar, the roads are similar, the smells are similar, the temperature is similar. I really don’t feel any shock at all from any of it. The only difference is that it’s very, very hilly. It’s been interesting to drive around. I can’t imagine even trying to walk up some of these hills. We often have to use the 2 or L gear of our car. We do have the best driver and the most amazing translator. They’re both lovely men who have been working with us for several years. The driving is similar to India as well. I took a picture the other day of the traffic. It’s like India with SUVs. There are many motorcycles as well, and no one wears helmets here either. On the longer stretches of road along side the edge of the hill there are street vendors who sell metal work, pottery, paintings, and amazing wood furniture. In the city areas there are vendors who sell everything and anything including fruit, vegetables, clothes, gadgets, and pills. I’ve never seen the pill sellers anywhere else. They have a big container that ends up looking like a giant ice cream cone with pills that outline it in pretty pill colors.

The work is great. I love the kids. Yaya and I are running a camp for kids who are in our programs during the year along side the organization we work with and their leaders. We did a few trainings as well. Every day has required full energy, emotionally, physically, and mentally. Today was the best. The kids are now comfortable with us. I can finally understand enough Haitian Creole to know if they’re asking if I’m hungry. I can sing along with most of the songs, and the kids jump, run, and play with us as if they’ve known us for years. It’s lovely.

Tonight we’re going out (rather late and maybe unwisely) to see some Haitian music. It’s good to get some of the culture, I think. It’s great to see that our programs can work in so many cultures. I love skyping with our partner organizations and hearing updates on their work, on the kids, but these are people, up until now, that I’ve never met, and that’s what makes all the difference right now. I’m meeting the people I’ve read about, I’m in the places that I’m told about, and I get to see the kids who participate in our programs up close and personal. I even get to teach them a song or two. I’ll try to put in some photographs later. But here’s one just for now.

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Back…with additions

            Coming back is like coming home. Last night we arrived around 4am to Pune and as we went on the highway from the airport, and approached Pune, I felt like I had never left. I had the same feeling of “the other home” being a little bit of a dream and that I never left this home. It’s such an odd feeling.

            The trip was long. It was my first time taking a direct flight. We got to the airport a few hours early and the kids did a great job hanging and being patient. Once we boarded, we waited again. I had only known them a little over 3 days and already felt a bond and responsibility towards them. It’s funny how fast things like that can happen. I trust them, but then watch over them like a mom. They’re my responsibility. I almost feel like their enjoyment, their first impressions of a country that I’ve learned to love, depend on the way I present certain information. I checked on them a couple times during the flight. Apparently they came to visit me at some point, but I was sleeping. It made me feel nice they came to check on me. I’ve developed a swollen feet flying syndrome, which is a bit crazy and slightly unpleasant. We had to wait for the bus to come once we landed, and they did a good job with that as well.

            After reaching the hotel at 4am, we checked in (my room is pretty sweet) and as much as I tried to sleep, sleep didn’t come. After two hours (almost) some of the kids knocked on my door to ask a question before they went down. I shall be sleeping in 10 minutes. It’s been a long day today. They sat through hours of orientation here and a few meals. I got to take them for a short stroll where they were exposed to some of the less dangerous, less crowded streets of Pune.

            So far, they love it. They love the food too. Besides the food, they love the chai and he colors of the clothes. They can’t get over the toilets, driving on the other side of the road, the decrease in visibility of women, the humidity and smell, and that people tend to stare at them. I say they’re right about on target for all shocking feelings. 

back and back

            It’s been a while, but it’s time to write again. In two days I’ll be flying back to Pune, back to my friends there, back to the city I called home. For the past month and a half I’ve learned to relive in New York, to call here home again and feel I have done so pretty successfully. And now, I’m uprooting myself again to go back for six weeks. This time, I’m working with an international organization that promotes cross cultural exchanges through language immersion. It’s pretty interesting. I’m in charge of seventeen American high school students who will go live in Pune to study Hindi and live with host families. I’ll have to help them with their cultural, emotional, and social transitions as they try to integrate and learn about India. I’m excited to share a bit of my adopted country with some impressionable minds and hope that they love it at least half as much as I did.

            For me, I get to live with Gayatri, enjoy the company of my friends again, be in the rain (not sure if that’s a great thing), and take some more time before settling into another job. This time I want the job to be a career. I’m looking forward to settling into something I know I can stay at for at least as long, and hopefully longer, than I stayed with Akanksha.

This has been a rollercoaster ride for me. I’ve been meaning to write, and have actually started writing about adjusting back, but never seemed to finish or publish my entries. I’ve been listening to Hindi music on the subway, it’s easier than listening to songs or playlists that I listened to in India that were in English. It doesn’t fit. I can’t walk on the right side of the street. I always end up on the left side. On a side note, while driving to my friend’s wedding last weekend, I turned into the left side of the road twice. There was no one around, but it was something I did. It’s weird what goes away and what doesn’t. A friend of mine from India left a message on my voice mail. I had my friend listen to it and she didn’t understand anything. Could it be that my friends’ accents are stronger than I knew?

Something that has been great, and has been reaffirmed twice in the past two weeks, is the strength and quality of some of my friendships. Today I had breakfast with a friend I know from college. Our conversation ended tonight with our texts saying how happy she is that I’m back and how happy I am that we survived distance. My other happy moment was at my friend’s wedding – the fact that I was there was very special. The fact that I’ll be back and be able to be there when we get together for another small reunion (high school friends) is also really nice. Access to certain things has been great. Moving back with my parents is great, staying with my sister is also great. Sleeping, as I’m about to do now, is also priceless, but that’s anywhere.

beginning of week 2

            I want to go back. This isn’t to say that I’m not happy to be here, to be with my family and see friends who I haven’t seen or spent time with in a long time. This is to say that I miss home. Pune, India, my home, is home and I miss it. Since being back here I’ve been so happy to spend time with my parents and family. My sister arranged a little coming home party for me. My uncle, aunt, cousin, and his girlfriend came as well. It was really nice. The day was perfect. I made my uncle let me drive his manual car. It was strange to have the gears shift with my right hand. The car was also a lot more powerful then Manoj’s car or any car that I drove there. We caught up and just spent time together. That was important.

            Since being home I’ve spent a lot of time with my sister, which has been extremely nice. I saw friends from high school who as the years have gone on have become more and more important. I went to two capoeira classes so far and was going to go to a third tonight but I did something funny to my back and decided to come to a café and write instead.

            I stepped into the café and as I was putting my books down I saw an old familiar face. When I was working in an after school program here I became close with a mother and daughter. The daughter would smother me with a huge hug every time she saw me and the mom was connected to a few of my friends outside of the school. They were an awesome pair who I always loved taking some time out to speak with and spend time. The little girl is now taller than me. She made me feel old because she’s going into high school next year. She wants to live in Paris. Her little brother is almost 4 and he was just a baby when I left. We spent the whole time chatting and catching up.

            What’s interesting is I find it strange to talk about India or many of the things I lived through. Not that I don’t want to, it’s just I don’t think my words can do it justice – which is kind of ironic because I’ve been writing and writing all this time and use my words here. At some point, I will stop writing. Things will go back to normal here or I’ll return there and will continue my life there without this blog. I don’t know when that time will come. It might be now for all I know.

            Yesterday I had another skype call with Manoj, Ritesh, and the kids. Only two came but we had a good time. After the kids left Sachin joined the call. They sit in a restaurant and talk to a computer screen. It’s hysterical to think about. They said everyone could hear the conversation and most people probably think that they’re crazy. They are a bit nuts, but that’s besides the point. I can’t remember if I wrote about this in the last post, but the internet has been my saviour. If I were in a time without such facility of communication across countries, I would be in a much worse state. I can (and do) send text messages and emails constantly, every day, to all of my friends. It’s amazing to be able to do that, and I have a whole new appreciation for technology.

coming back…

            It’s taken me three days to get Indian food. It wasn’t my choice actually, I met with Aaron and he was very excited about trying out a place in the East Village called MasalaWala. I was intrigued by the name and by the fact that he told me they had pani puri. It looked fancy from the outside but the prices for everything were totally reasonable (in US price terms). I think of converting the prices, but there’s no way you could get a dish of anything here for less than a dollar and there’s no way anyone in India would pay more than a hundred rupees for a pani puri; we’ll not compare and contrast in that way.

I took pictures of everything, sent it to my friends (via my new phone with internet connection) and gave each a rating. The bhel puri was decent, pani puri had stale puri and the pani was weak, the samosa chaat was yum but wasn’t really samosa chaat, the roll was spiceless, the chai was good. I gave it an overall rating of C+. I’m a harsh critic.  The waiter was from Bangladesh. He was nice but not interested in the fact that I just got back from India.

Returning is rough to say the least. I can easily slip back into the city. You can just be lost in its activity. It was great to spend the day with my mom. She took the day off of work on Tuesday and we roamed here and there in their new neighborhood. It’s weird, because to me it’s still a new neighborhood. They’ve been living here almost two years.

Slowly I’m starting to call people, let them know I’m around. At least there’s no need to stuff everyone into one week or two even and see everyone in a rush. I can take my time. During the day I’m job applying, writing, and trying to figure out next steps. Each day I plan to check out a different café to see where I might be able to call “home base” where I’ll spend the afternoons post lunch. I can’t get over that a tea (water and a bag of leaves) costs Rs100. It’s going to be a new kind of struggle to get acclimated to being here again. I’ve been telling everyone it might take around six months. For my India friends, it feels like everyone here is from Bangalore walking on MG road. Everyone is dressed up…always, or so it seems.

I’m trying to get to capoeira class and find a salsa class where I can retrain myself. In India we dance on1 (LA style), everyone in New York dances on2. It might seem like a small difference, but it’s enough to throw you off significantly. We’ll see what happens. I already went to a social to try to just be around people without having to be with people but I was very disappointed with the results. I have to get used to old men blatantly hitting on younger women and a different dance crowd. It’ll take time. The venue will not see me anymore though. There are some good socials I’ve been to in the past, so I’ll see if I can find one of them again.

Tonight I’ll go for my first capoeira class. I’m excited to train and to share what I learn with my group back home. Tomorrow I’ll go get my butt kicked at another class.

Now, writing and seeing what to do about that. 

Goodbyes…or see you on Skype

            So this is the post dedicated to the most amazing group of people I’ve ever met. I’d love to go into detail about how each person is unique in their own way, how they all have their quirks that make them so unique and special to me. This is the senti posting. They made me give them a speech, they called for it three times and on the third I finally caved. Image This was in Sagar and Ritesh’s house, where I finished packing and my stuff was housed while I was back for the last week. Although a couple people were missing, most were there and it was amazing just to be with them for the day. What I can say, and what I did say, and what I wanted to say I think are a few different things. They are the reason I stayed in India so long, they are my best friends, family, laughter, maasti, guides, teachers, students, yellers, I don’t know what else they could be, but they were and ard my everything that I had there. This is not pushing others down, this is not my intention, but they are the best people I’ve ever met, ever, as a group and individually. I don’t think I’ve ever felt so at ease and comfortable and be able to be me to the fullest with any other group of people, ever.            

It was more difficult than I expected to say bye to the kids. About 6 of us pulled up to the kids’ place. We hung out and spoke with them for a while. Apparently Chapel was doing some not so great things so I yelled at him (with love, and he knew it). Half way through Ishwar started translating my Hindi into Kanada along with my facial expressions. He said, “Didi, tum hindi bat kare aur me kanard bolunghi” so he doubled the yelling while laughing at himself but the undertones were still serious. After that, I started my goodbyes. At a certain point the tears came, for both me and Ishwar. There are tears just thinking about it. “Rona mat,” I heard several times from Ishwar. It was really hard –  really, really hard.            

I have the best friends ever though. Manoj just skyped me with the kids. As long as I don’t have a job I can skype with them every Wednesday just as if I was there with them in the park. Ishwar and Ganesh both passed all of their exams. They sat in Rajput, a restaurant, drank cold drinks (soda) and asked me to guess which ones they’re drinking – 1 Fanta, 1 Sprite, 1 empty bottle (from Ganesh because he already finished his Fanta). It was adorable. They had fun looking at the picture in my house and then saw that I had a tv behind me. I showed them the view from my window of the city outside. Ishwar had to repeat, “rona mat” with me a few times. I just started to loose it and tears flowed.Image

       Back to leaving, the idea was that a few people could come to the airport with me. What ended up happening is that there were 8 of us in total in a car. Again, how am I that lucky that 7 of my friends would come in a car ride for 4 hours, just to drop me at the airport? We stuffed mine and Maitê’s stuff on the rack on top (she was in town for less than a day after traveling and was heading to Mumbai for a day before she flew out too). With seat shifting, laughing, throwing things, sleeping, pretend sleeping, and being silly we arrived in Bombay. It was heart wrenching. We stood outside the entrance with this nervous air looming over us. At times I thought I should just stop delaying the inevitable and just go in. I hurt the whole time. When the time actually came it was even worse. I hugged everyone; Sucuri and Vipin came to meet us there as well. It was so hard. I lost it at one point and the tears just didn’t stop. I walked through and the officers, I think, felt my pain. I checked in with tears in my eyes, but not without an argument with the airline because the price for checking bags was much less than on the internet. I had three huge bags. The arguing was in Hindi. Then I just lost it again as I walked away and walked back to wave at my friends between the security door. It was then obvious that they understood how hard it was and he called me to meet them again. It was awesome, but then like pouring salt on a wound. This second time when he called me back inside, I just walked away and cried.  When going through customs for leaving, when I handed over my A form, the woman asked if I was coming back, I had to say no; I cried again.            

I did have some fun going through security and speaking with the officers in Hindi. They were relaxed (as in sometimes security can just be mean). I had a painted wine bottle in my carry on and didn’t know it (I stuffed it in while checking in because my bag was slightly too heavy). They kept making daru jokes (this was a whiskey bottle, not wine). I showed it to them and they looked confused but they allowed it through. Without thinking that I should eat something or charge my dying phone, I walked to the gate and on to the plane and slept as soon as we took off. I only woke up only food and as we landed. Abu Dhabi has no plug points or charging stations so I went around asking employees and travelers if they had a converter I could borrow and knew where would be a plug point. I found a nice Australian guy who lent me his converter and then disappeared before I could give it back to him. I found a computer with free internet (they have that at least) and messaged my friends. Boarding the second flight was easier and I slept mostly through that one as well. The poor Emirati who sat next to me crawled over me at some point to go to the bathroom I think. I felt so bad but only woke for a half second as he was finishing crawling out.            

And then, I was back in New York. More on that later… As for now, I’m going through not only India withdrawal, but major friend withdrawal. But they know that

Closing out…

            It’s a new old, or a new spin. Nothing’s over, it’s just changed. This past week has been a big huge blur of meetings with friends and spending time with important people. After getting back from Sikkim I went to my office and closed out things there, visited a few centers, sold my bike, bought last minute items, ran around like a mad woman, and then relaxed with friends.

            A fun story – I was at work for maybe two hours and parked my bike in the parking area outside (as opposed to downstairs in the lot). It’s been really hot in Pune so I left my sweater on the bike to protect it from the sun and then went in the office. When I came out it was gone. I asked the guys who were watering plants, they didn’t know. Then I asked security. What followed was a couple of hours of detective work; I think it might have been the first time they were able to use the cameras (which I didn’t even know they had) and the video recording they took. We must have watched it at least 6 times, and that too in slow motion. By the end we could all say that this is where he picks it from my bike, folds it on his bike, walks away and looks back, comes back 3.4 minutes later, picks up the jacket, folds it again, and drives off. They called him, he denied stealing it. They called the person he came to visit to the office to call him. I left for a meeting, came back, and he was there, with my jacket. He apologized, and seemed scared shitless. Our HR head came to yell at him too. I wouldn’t want to be yelled at by her, I’d be scared. I felt bad for him even then.

            Selling my bike was an interesting story as well. When my coworker went with me to ask about how much I could get for it at the showroom, we were quoted 28000. I was happy with that, most folks thought it was a good price. This was before I left for traveling. When I got back we spoke to him again and he said because of market flux that I might not get that much for it anymore. We explored options of selling it to other people but in the end it all fell through. I went by myself to sell it. He gave me the whole spiel about market flux and took a look at my bike (although it was pretty evident he didn’t really know what he was doing). Before stepping back into his office he speaks some more, me nodding my head, and then says, “fir, kitne do? (how much (should he give me)” I explained to him that he said 28 so I want 28. He started rambling again – sometimes it’s good that I don’t understand everything (but I got the gist). Then I said, “fir, kitna?” he said 17. I went for my paper work, laughed at him and started to walk away. He, obviously, called me back and asked me how much. 28 is what he said, 28 is what I wanted. I was nice, and smiled, and he said fine, 27. I felt so cool and bargain savvy.  

It was great to see kids and teachers again, one last time. There was our Annual Performance which was great to watch. It was one of the best yet. I got to meet a couple of kids from centers I wouldn’t be going back to. One group gave me a cook book, another child, one of the most energetic and amazing kids came just to sit with me. It was truly special.

            Most of my time was spent with my friends. There are no words to explain how much they mean and will continue to always mean to me. I can’t get senti now, been too senti (our slang for sentimental) lately. We spent the entire last day together running helter skelter all over Pune trying to buy last minute things, eat my favourite foods for the last time (pani puri, pani puri, mango, spdp), packing and just hanging.

            More to come on that later…

Sikkim Part 3

            Sikkim is on my top three places to visit – other two are Karnataka and Kerala. It was amazing. There’s nothing in Pelling, as in, it’s Gangtok’s opposite. What made it worth it, first and foremost, the half an hour that I spent starting at the third largest mountain in the world, Kanchenjunga, at 5:30am. It was breathtaking. I couldn’t stop staring at the massive beauty of the snow capped mountains and just expansive range of mountains. There isn’t much more to say than it was beyond incredible.

The second thing that is there is a peaceful and nice monastery, the Pemayangtse. Liam went there the day before and said it was a really nice monastery so we joined him in the morning. The rain subsided for a bit, and we walked up to the monastery and ended up spending 4 hours there. We meditated, froze, listened to the chanting, and absorbed everything we could. It was beautiful. There’s something really peaceful about monks chanting and being able to just sit and listen.

            We went there pretty early, and without breakfast so we made it to a small bakery down the road. As it turns out the bakery proceeds go to the neighboring school, from where many of the people who work at the bakery have graduated. The lama runs the school/orphanage. It’s a pretty interesting set up. The Lama wants to preserve Tibetan culture and he sees it fading. He makes sure they learn Tibetan and learn about Buddhism. I think it’s pretty great. We spent some time there, where we met Ben, an English guy who is cyclcing through India. It’s pretty incredible considering the mountains! He had been stuck at the monastery for 10 days because after meeting the Lama, he asked Ben what the purpose of his traveling was, what service was it doing for human kind. Ben didn’t really have a good response for that, so he ended up creating a working manual for the café. This is now his purpose. After a long talk with him, and momos and hot soup we parted ways, Liam to the monastery again, Ben to working on the manual, and Vladimir and I to the town to figure out what to do next.

After getting some tourist info I decided to go back to the monastery myself to do some relaxing. On the way, I checked out the school. It seemed like a typical school that was not in session. Most of the kids were playing and super enthusiastic to see a foreigner walking through. Ben was upstairs in the library working on the manual. We spoke for some time and I headed back to the monastery where I caught the ending chants for the day. There was a huge group from Maharashtra who were also there and made it a bit difficult to just sit in the silence. They also closed the doors of the temple at exactly 5:00. While is wasn’t raining I sat outside and began to write in my notebook. Several people, Monks, people who worked at the monastery, drivers, and the Maharashtrans came to peer over my shoulder. I remembered the first time I was writing in public and how strange it felt, and invasive, that someone should peer over my shoulder. It didn’t bother me. I spoke with some of them and then decided to take leave back down the hill.

Pelling was good for me. It made me stop. I think everyone needs to be in a place where you can’t really do much of anything. I also decided I wanted quality not quantity. There are so many places I’m not going, but the places where I am, those are pretty amazing.

On the way down from the monastery, back in town I ran into Ben again and we ended up having a tea at one place he had been a few times. The owner came and discussed Ben’s bike trip, the rest of my trip, and about Pelling for at least 45 minutes. There was a man sitting at the table across from us and we tried to involve him in the conversation. When he turned to say his English wasn’t so good, I asked what language he spoke, and when he said Italian, and I said I speak Italian and that was the end of it. We didn’t stop talking for hours. He hadn’t been around any Italians in a long time and, as I can totally relate to, it’s tiring speaking another language all the time.

The night went on for a while, I met the rest of the crew he ended up traveling with; like me with Vladimir, he had met them in the jeep. Around 10:00 I headed back to the room.

The next day was big, I was going to trek to Kachuperry Lake. Right before I left Vladimir, who was going to take a jeep, runs after me to join because there were no jeeps going because no one else was there. It was a long trek, 26kilometers. The first hour and a half was straight down. Within the first 15 minutes I had a near death experience where I slipped and had I rolled another foot I would have just rolled down the entire hill. Within the first two hours I got a leech. In the third hour I had another fall that left me with a nice bruise on my bum. The trek was awesome though. We went through little villages and everyone always greeted us with big Namastes. We stopped at a woman’s house who was making something from milk and we laughed together because she spoke in Nepali and kept laughing and I just smiled back. Her son came and laughed because she was making me say that I understood Nepali. We made our way along. The forest was beautiful. After going all the way down, we had to go all the way up and then continue on the road. The road part wasn’t so much fun, but we finally made it. We found the first chai place and sat.

The lake was beautiful. It’s a holy place. Supposedly nothing touches it, not even a leaf. It was absolutely spotless. However beautiful it was, I was getting quite hungry (a piece of bread and a chai before a 26km hike and one chai after doesn’t really filly a belly). I wanted to find the place that Simone (the Italian) and hotel owner were speaking about. This involved another 20 min hike up a forest by the lake. I think Vladimir had it at that point too. Once we found the place he decided to take refuge back down the hill. I stayed.

It was my best day in Sikkim. The trek was awesome and the location was even better. There was one Irish guy staying there. We spoke a lot, but the rest was just being in nature, and being peaceful. It had to be that I finally found the best of Sikkim and I had to leave. I can’t describe how great that homestay experience was, so I wont except to say that it was the most peaceful and perfect way to end Sikkim.

In the morning I got up at 5:30 – as seems to be the trend – had tea and walked (and slid a bit) down the mountain to catch a jeep. The jeep would take me to Geyzing – passing through Pelling to pick up my bag which I left at the hostel – from there I would take a jeep to Jhorthang, and from there another jeep to Darjeeling, where I am now. Unfortunately I didn’t see much of Darjeeling. It was cloudy and rainy the entire time. And, the only reason I came here was to avoid Siliguri, where there is nothing, and it’s hot. I’m going back to Pune where it’s hot. And, if given the choice, I’d love to say that I’ve come to Darjeeling. At least I got some tea.

So there, it’s done, except for getting back to Pune. I’ve been to three corners of India. It’s been beyond awesome and given me a whole new perspective on India as a whole, which is pretty cool – in terms of places, but also in terms of being here as a traveler and just seeing new places. I am excited about going back home to Pune tomorrow though. I miss my friends. I leave you with the shot of Kanchenjunga.Image

Sikkim Part 2

            Today was quite an interesting day. There was sun! It was the first morning that there was blue skies since I’ve been here. I jumped out of bed, and tried to put the shower on. The blanket smelled a little like wet dog, and it was fine for sleeping in, but a shower was a must in the morning. I did all that I could to find the hot water. It’s been cold, super cold, as in I sleep with my jacket and hat on even under the blankets. To no avail, the water turned a little warmer than freezing, I dived in, showered and as I opened the door a man from the hotel was outside my room flicking on a switch. He tells me, “hot water,” and I show him my wet hair, smile, and run to the sun. I hadn’t heard from Karan, my new local friend so I decided, to hell with it, and got a ticket to a bus to Pelling. One friend said I’d hate it, another one said it’s pretty. As of now, it was the only place I knew I didn’t really need a permit to go anywhere. The jeep was leaving at 12: 30, so I went back to my new café and sat down for breakfast. On the way there I met the guy from the Tibetan restaurant. We shook hands, I told him I was leaving, and he said happy travels. It was really nice.

            At the new café, the owner recognized me, the guy who I spoke with the day before walks in with a big hickey on his neck and smiles at me. We have a couple good laughs. He speaks in Hindi faster than I speak in English. I couldn’t understand much of what he was saying, like the night before, but high fives and laugher persisted.

            Between writing and drawing, I took in a bit more of Sikkim. Everything is cleaner here. There was even a man who rinsed of the dust bins. There are dust bins in the first place!

            After a yummy muffin and cappuccino, I walked up to the highest nearest point I could to take in the rest of the view. It was awesome. Not wanting to risk missing my bus, I went back to the hotel, got my bags, and went to the bus stop. I ended up next to Vladimir, a Russian guy who has been traveling for the past seven years. This is his fifth time in India. It was nice to have a travel buddy for the ride. The friend of the girl sitting next to me (who stayed in Gangtok) studied in Pune for a few years. Small world. The ride to Pelling was long, longer than I think it should have been, but it was definitely beautiful. Vladimir had ripped out pages of a Lonely Planet so we kept looking on that to see where we were. The drive was hot when we finally descended a mountain, and then cold once we got back up. The roads were either great or absolutely horrible.

When we got here, finding the cheapest place from the guide book, we plopped in and met Liam, a guy from New Zealand who is traveling around for a while. He’s into Buddhism and will go spend some time in Dharamshala and study Buddhism. He also did vispassana there.

 

            On traveling alone:

            A beginner alone traveler must always remember to keep his/her sanity when things don’t work out. I write this for myself. Two days ago I thought of just booking a flight to go back home. Who wants to spend their last few days alone anyway right? I got past that moment and it came again this morning. I need to be here, and I need to challenge my comfort level. Everyone should do that really. You have to accept the reality in which your living. The other option would be to be miserable, and that would just be stupid.

 

            Planning has been most difficult. I have no one to bounce off ideas – this does not count the numerous amounts of harassing messages and phone calls to Manoj who only allows me to speak and does not provide his full opinion (rightly as he should because then it wouldn’t be my trip). He lets me vent and tell my ideas. Thanks! Every decision is my responsibility. Every plan I make changes a million times. This prevented me from doing anything in Gangtok. It’s frustrating, but a part of the journey. It’s good for me I think. Can’t be bad.