Wednesday, June 23, 2010

A Cosmopolitan Village

One of the big reasons I came back was because I’ve spent the last few months corresponding with and coordinating for various volunteers to come to RDF, but none of them had come yet. To really take on this role and see it through I figured it was probably a good idea to still at RDF when they actually arrived! I am already loving this part of my job and the opportunity it provides me to meet with so many different and interesting people.

Have already met Nick from Austria and Sammy and her mother from California and AP, respectively. They are currently up at Matendla School but I will get a chance to interact with them more when they come to Kalleda in a couple weeks. Then Stuart from England and his two young children Abi and Charlie arrived by train. Spent the five-hour drive to Kalleda chatting with Stuart and hearing stories of their extensive travel including the most recent impressions of India. Upon arriving at Kalleda, I met Marena who arrived a few days earlier but had also volunteered here last summer. She will help by teaching some classes but is here on a research grant and has a very different area of knowledge about this community and India in general. Coming up will be college students from WashU, Will from Australia, Piya from UW, Robert from England, Sophie from Seattle, hopefully two women from Iceland, and many more who have yet to make themselves known!

It’s wonderful to be a part of introducing people to RDF and seeing how enthusiastic they are about the organization and the work that we’re doing. Plus I’m looking forward to a constantly changing flow of volunteers and guests bringing with them different knowledge, stories, and impressions of India. Who would have thought my life in a village could seem so cosmopolitan?!

Friday, June 18, 2010


It seems that as soon as I boarded the plane from Dehli to London, I folded up my Indian life, put it safely away in a box and closed the lid. India, the village, and my work seemed so far away that it felt impossible to miss them. In fact, it was even difficult for me to get excited about them, like by boxing up that experience so completely I cut myself off from accessing the accompanying emotions. I felt unable to adequately convey to inquisitive friends the depth of my experience in India, the joys and challenges, because I couldn’t feel any of it.

Now I’m letting India out of the box. Something about the break at home, the fact that I’m working fulltime for RDF, and that I will be finishing out the year make the experience feel less passing. As Louise said, India will now be more integrated into my life narrative. I hope this means that I will carry the emotions, lessons, stories, and friendships on into the rest of my life, wherever I end up next.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Travels In the Western World

And I’m back . . . in India! Couldn’t have asked for a better six weeks of travels filled with everything I’ve been missing. Starting with London for my dear sister’s university graduation, seeing family, two trips to the countryside for a ten-year overdue visit to family friends, and catching up and reliving Thai memories with Nick and Vicky. Next was Iceland where Catherine and I viewed the still erupting volcano from the plane and crossed through customs to get to the better food court during our layover. I don’t care if I didn’t leave the airport, my passport says I’ve been to Iceland!

I barely touched down in Seattle before Miles and I hopped in my beloved Callie and headed on a road trip with the first stop in San Francisco. Celebrated Drea’s long awaited graduation with her, caught up with Elisabeth, Steve, and Evan, wandered the city for a day, then started the longer trip north. Were welcomed by Gina Marie and Tom to their “humble abode” in the beautiful hills a few hours north of SF. We checked out the olive grove, cooked a delicious dinner, sipped wine and enjoyed the company, and capped the stay with a hike up Jeremy Peak. Then, on to the 101 with its beautiful sea views and stunningly tall redwoods. With a lot of persistence and more than a little luck, we found a trail down to an absolutely deserted beach in Northern California where we set up camp for the night. Last stop was to see Jeremiah and Caroline and explore their beautiful Portland neighborhood.

Back in Seattle for a few days, I spent time in Pike Place visiting old haunts and friends and then quickly got on the road again. This time headed to Emma’s house on Lopez Island for the annual weekend of reunion and revelry with high school friends now scattered across the country. One more week in Seattle that flew by far too fast, a weekend reunion in New York, this time with college friends, and it was time to hop a flight back to the other side of the world. Thank you to all friends and family for making this much-needed holiday so amazing!

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Came the night Tolled the time/ From zone to zone the hours pass/ And I remain –Apollinaire in America by Lawrence Ferlinghetti

Time zones seem entirely arbitrary; they have always baffled me. Flying back to Seattle from Thailand I would leave at 6.30am, travel for about twenty hours and arrive at 9.30am the same day. I then have the chance to live the same day over again. It’s a great way to work around deadlines but I can’t help but wonder if I’m ageing myself in the process. On Sunday I boarded a plane from New York at 8.30pm and fourteen hours later arrived in Dehli “twenty-four hours later” at 8.30pm on Monday. What’s the deal?

A little time zone history courtesy of Wikipedia: in 1675, the Royal Observatory in England established Greenwich Mean Time, which was meant to help mariners at sea determine their longitude. Greenwich is at 0 degrees and the twenty-four official time zones correspond with lines of longitude. For every 15 degrees west of 0 one subtracts an hour and for every 15 degrees east one adds an hour to determine “local time.” But these days, due to geopolitical considerations, it’s rarely that simple.

Apparently there is a smattering of reason to this time zone business. Even so, when massive countries like China live by one time zone alone, India adds a half hour, some countries observe Daylight Savings while others don’t, and I can live the same day twice, I can’t help but question time. It seems irrelevant, inconstant, expanding and contracting, days stretch for weeks and weeks pass in an instant. Yet people tie themselves down with this intangible concept of time, racing the clock, scheduling days down to the minute, and squandering it in all the wrong ways and places.

I’m using this time in India to slow myself down and appreciate every moment of my days. Outside of my work and time spent with friends I practice yoga, meditate, and exercise. I find myself pausing frequently just to enjoy a sound, smell, or sight that I have come across, drinking it in entirely before continuing on my way. Reaching back to the techniques I learned at the meditation retreat in Thailand, I try to perform all my actions with awareness, attempting to avoid those moments when you complete a task and yet can’t seem to remember the details of performing it. As I do all of this, I constantly remind myself of my long time favourite quote, “The moment is the sole reality,” and savour every moment I have here.