Thursday, June 2, 2016

'Dirtbaggin'


“ I am not the same having seen the moon shine on the other side of the world” – Mary Radmacher




I’ve been backpacking around this crazy country for about two months now, and I have more stories than I can or even want to put in one blog post. After hearing travel stories from others and sharing my own, I realized something. The best memories and stories aren’t when everything went well, the train was on time, you got good picture and the food was tasty. The best stories come out of the time when something goes terribly wrong, expectations aren’t met, and the plan is abandoned.  So in this post I could tell you I saw the Taj Mahal at sunrise or the Golden Temple reflected on the holy lake at night, tried Punjabi lassi, and had a generally wonderful time dragging my backpack around the country. But you would be really bored and just scroll to the pictures. So instead I’ll tell about a few experiences that weren’t exactly enjoyable or perfect. These unplanned adventures make me look back and realize why I really travel. Its taught me what I'm capable of. I feel if I can hitch rides through the jungle, navigate the winding alleys of Varanasi while vomiting, or climb a 16,000 pass, I can make a fine dirtbag someday. 





Chicken Bridges 

My first stop on the end of semester whirlwind was the Northeastern state of Meghalaya. This place is famous for its “living root bridges”, matriarchal society (as my host mom says proudly “land of women rule and men work”), and most importantly it has the highest rainfall on the planet. I was done living in a polluted 120 degree city that cooled down to a chilly 105 at night. The pounding rain on the tin roof of our hut was my favorite part of the week there. For a few days, some friends and I stayed in a village surrounded by steep hills and thick jungles, with winding trails that led to waterfalls and the hundreds of root bridges hidden in the valleys. One day we wandered down one such trail for almost an hour. Jokingly, we said we must be walking all the way to Bangledesh. Climbing a tree, I saw two locals heading up the trail. Asking them where the trail went, they responded “Bangladesh! 30 minutes”.

Just part of the back of our jeep/truck
After scrambling down a very steep steamy hill covered in moss and vines, we crossed the border and walked a mile to a waterfall some locals suggested. At this point we were all somewhat tired but I could hike all day. We realized we’d have to hike, actually climb on all fours, back up the slippery hill. I was up for the adventure, but I’m quite often an asshole and forget not everyone considers climbing up a ridiculously steep hill full of mosquitoes an adventure. Disappointed at everyone’s lack of adventuresome spirit, I grudgingly agreed to find an alternate way home. Heading to the border market, we found a truck going back to the village. Piling into the back with about 15 other people and their children, baskets of stinking fish under our feet and on our laps, and bundles of betel leaves, we headed out through the winding hills. Some people even sat on the roof of the truck. India is constantly teaching me not to have expectations, and this was yet another example. It was also a good old lesson in teamwork. If I keep being my usual stubborn self, I’ll miss out on crazy truck rides through the jungle. 


Partway through our week in Meghalya, we set out to another village a few hills over. A friend of the family we stayed with recommended we head there for even more remote waterfalls. I’ll always clearly remember sitting on the phone, trying to understand his directions through the pounding rain and his Nepalese accent I wasn’t used to. The others sat around me watching what I scrawled down on a piece of paper. It looked something like “GO TO CHERAPUNGI- find a jeep” “ask for MR CHARLIE” “Hike past the second root bridge, cross two rivers” “DON’T GO TO THE DOUBLE DECKER”  “cross two chicken bridges”. I was just as confused writing it as the others were reading it. The chicken bridges were the most confusing part- it turns out this is a chicken bridge:





Later we discovered from a local they are “shaken bridges”, not chicken, but I think the name suits because you can’t be a chicken to cross these swaying wires almost 150 above a rushing monsoon swollen river. I was tempted to sing Emperors’ New Groove songs the entire time.

These bridges are made entirely of tree roots trained across the river for hundreds of years and daily maintained by the villagers
























This hike occurred in the dark of the night with a monsoon rain pounding down on us as we picked down the jungle mountainside with phone flashlights. Lost along the way we came across a small group of houses. Banging on their doors for directions soaked from the pounding rain we must have looked hilarious. At first they simply looked at us and said “Nongriat too far. Go in day.” Realizing we were quite stupid and determined, they gave us very nice directions. I don’t know if any travelers have been so happy to see Mr. Charlie in his village as we were. We piled in soaked to our underwear, exhausted from the hike that is strenuous in the daylight, let alone in a rainstorm at night.. The locals discouraged us from making the hike at night and the jeep drivers usually refuse to make the drive past 3pm as it gets too misty and stormy on the winding roads. However, we found a driver who was heading to his village that agreed to take us. Getting left near a patch of jungle at night in the pouring rain with nothing but a vague “Nongriat is down there” was a bit daunting, but mostly thrilling. You never know what is going to happen in India.

Weddings

After Meghalaya, I had a wedding to go to. Excited to see our friends from Bundi and spend some time in their beautiful town, Rebecca and I hoped on the government bus. To put it nicely, the next three days we spent in Bundi gave me a new appreciation for anthropologists. I want to be completely candid about my experience and feelings, but in no way am I trying to say Indian weddings are “wrong “or a bad time. I hold deep respect for Muslim/Rajahstani culture, but I don’t think I will be attending any more weddings. It was another hilarious lesson in expectations for me. In my head there was a grand picture of us dancing with the family, putting henna on our hands and feet with the women, eating delicious food, having some national geographic-esq time in their village. Those things happened, but travel shows make them look fun. The second we arrived, we were ushered into a room already rather full of 20 aunties and cousins. Introductions seemed pretty normal for arriving guests. Then you realize there’s that many people in every room of the house, and hundreds more in the houses next door (which are the relatives houses of course). After introductions went on 24/7 fro three days, I realized we were being paraded in front of guests like they got a zebra to come to the wedding. It makes you feel slightly sick inside because they are doing it because you are a couple white girls and they tell you it’s so cool to have AMERICANS there, like we’re increasing their status. I didn’t want to contribute to this inferiority complex and help solidify this disgusting concept that the west is best. Yet here we were, locked in a room paraded in front of relatives and neighbors as the “special guests”.

It may have gotten to me more because I am an introvert, and we were around at least 30 people at a time at ALL times. We slept on a dirty floor in the house everyone else was trying to stay in. I thought I could sleep anywhere, but I realized I have a limit after cramming into a stuffy hot room with snoring grandmas and sketchy 20 something year old male cousins who have certain ideas about Western women and you know there’s only one bathroom for the 200 people.  Not that we slept much. Dancing went on until about 3am each night. I also felt sick after eating so much meat (they were quite offended by my vegetarianism and made sure I wasn’t a Hindu).

I didn't mind constantly having babies shoved into my arms
On the third day, they announced it was time to go to Kota for the wedding. At this point we were completely lost because we had watched numerous rituals and festivals, thinking each one was “the wedding”.  It would have benefited me greatly to read up on wedding traditions beforehand due to the language barrier. At this point going to Kota in a bus with 200 drunk and insanely loud people sounded like hell. We told them our train was that morning. In some burst of consideration, the father promptly called an auto to take us to the train station, which we realized was about an hour out of town. Obviously we had to keep up the act so we cheerfully hoped in to catch our “morning train”… There is only one train that leaves Bundi and it is at 5pm. To make matters worse, he even paid for our ride. Woops. After hiding out in the train station for a while, we snuck back into town with our faces covered, heading to the first “AC paying guest house” we saw. I took a showered and layed on the bed naked for an unnecessarily long time, reveling in my aloneness. I’m never going to stop immersing myself in new cultures and experiences, but I now know what my introvert self can take, and you can’t change the culture you were born in. No matter how much I value the collectivist culture of India and appreciate the beauty of all the family time, I can’t become comfortable and functional in those settings overnight.  

If you’re sick of my complaining, don’t worry; I have more saved for later. After the wedding from hell, I headed to Darjeeling to visit a classmate. This visit was one lovely surprise after the other and restored my faith in Indian friends and hours spent drinking tea with aunties and meeting relatives. Darjeeling was originally in my plan because I was heading to the Himalayas. A beautiful thing about India is that if you make friends there, you will always have a place to stay. Just upon mentioning I might go to Darjeeling, Anusha insisted I had to stay with her or at least visit for lunch. House guests are joyfully welcomed and even desired, a stark contrast to the US. Darjeeling is an old hill station, cultivated by the British when they realized the region was perfect for growing their tea and a nice green place to sit while they ruled over the hot plains. I hear from older Indians that it used to be a charming place, but has since turned into a noisy tourist trap where I guess white people come to admire what the British did to the hills?? Anusha picked us up on a bridge on the state “highway”(a road switchbacking through the hills suffering from landsides and encroached upon by forest vines). I thought we would be heading to Darjeeling, but was delighted to find we came across a group of about 20 houses in the middle of the jungle and terraced tea fields. In the distance the next morning we could glimpse the Himalayas. I think being with someone I knew personally made all the difference. Meeting relatives was delightful (the whole village was related!) because it was as a friend, not as a showpiece. We wandered through the tea fields and ate apples looking over the rolling hills, talking about everything from grade school to Eminem. No intense adventures, but I wouldn’t have wanted to spend my time any other way before the trek.


The Roof of the World 


I don’t want to give a detailed itinerary of backpacking Gochaela Pass, but an overview. It’s hard to put into words how hiking gets to me. It’s the most addicting, exhilarating, love/hate thing I can find to do. I find myself climbing hills, vowing I will never try this again. But then I tell myself just to that next switchback that rock up there and it becomes an intense competition against myself. Reaching the top I forget all the sweaty curses and vow to never leave. The mountains give the most exciting peace. Something feels so right and pure about untouched nature. Coming from Washington with the Cascades and the Olympics, I thought I had seen mountains. There is nothing that can compare to the Himalayas rising up infornt of the sky. It feels like you’ve run into a wall. What I thought at fist was clouds high above was snowy peaks. It really does make sense why they call it the roof of the world, or the birthplace of the gods. They’re the closest thing to sacred I’ve ever seen. On summit day we woke up at 1am to a full moon in a cloudless sky illuminating mount Pandim and Kachendzonga in the distance, looking impossibly white and large. When we reached the top the peaks glowed golden pink where the sunrise hit them. We stayed until we could watch avalanches in the distance from where the morning sun weakened snow patches. Even from so far away we could hear the massive piles of snow and ice rumbling, heading down to fill the river we hiked up. You can’t think or talk when you see things like this.


Mt. Kachendzonga, the third highest mountain in the world 

The whole trek wasn’t some inspirational, transcendental high of course. There were a lot of leeches when we started in the jungle and our guides were a little scary. A few days into the hike, my stomach was less than happy. The familiar Delhi belly feeling worried me this time because I knew it couldn’t be the food. I asked our guide where they were getting the water, as I had assumed they were purifying it. He responded “the stream! The mountain water is pure!” “what about giardia??” “sorry what is that?” Thinking maybe a language problem, I explained giardia was a water born parasites. He had never even heard of the concept.  I wish I had the immune system to not even need to know what giardia is and drink from any stream I come across. Not a single Indian on the trek fell ill, but the two Americans did.

The guides amazed me almost as much as the snowy peaks. They climbed up muddy, freezing, steep terrain in rainboots and beanies, or converse and snapbacks for the younger ones, without ever breaking a sweat. I was bothered about the fact that a whole crew of locals and yaks carried our food and tents up the mountain. The yaks and intense amount of tourists taken on this trail were quickly destroying the land with their shit and heavy traffic. It felt definitely unethical and environmentally damaging. At one point I was hiking alone by Samtit Lake, a sacred lake high up the pass, near the top. A guide waited for the group, and called me over quietly. “Look at the duck!” A beautiful male duck with colors I had never seen floated on the stream flowing into the lake, flying away as we approached. The guide explained it was flying to the hill, where mates keep their eggs in the rocks. We sat quietly, and he pointed out a pair of white foxes running up a hill some distance away. Later, as we walked, he pointed out a herd of wild sheep with babies that let us get quite close.


Seeing the guide’s knowledge and excitement about his land and the way they moved effortlessly through it made me second-guess my frustrations with tourism. Talking with another Indian traveler, he also expressed frustration at the effect of tourism on the land. He explained that in India, without tourism the land would be deserted. The only other means of income for most of these people is cheap labor in big cities, as farming has moved to larger scale operations with less manpower. Taking people hiking gives the locals a means of income and keeps them connected to their land and ancestral homes. It also keeps them out of worse jobs in crowded living conditions. After spending time in vastly different parts of India and catching just a small glimpse of varying local traditions, it is easy for anyone to see the importance of land to somebody’s culture and identity. I know there is a much more ethical way for tourism in the Himalayas to continue, but I hope it does continue so these people to stay connected with their land.

I have no idea what it is like to be connected to a place like most Indians do, but I am excited to go home. After spending a week in the UK I’ll be done traveling, for now. I’m sad to leave India, but it doesn’t really feel like goodbye. In India, there’s not much saying goodbye to family and friends. It is a perpetual “see you later.” Even if they across the world or in your village, or a 13 hour train ride away, you will make the effort to see each other a few times a year, because that’s what people do. So when I left, my family, India and the road didn’t say goodbye, but “we’ll see you when you come back.”


Monday, April 25, 2016

Went to the Desert to Cool Off



Never. Leaving. I feel I was just writing about homesickness and being halfway through my time in India. The homesickeness has been completely replaced by an overwhelming desire to never leave. If it was starting to feel like home halfway through, I am even closer to my family now.  It frustrates me to leave the people and places I have grown so close to, but I am excited to come home with beautiful, crazy, hilarious stories to tell. The fact that it is unbearably hot here also makes leaving sound okay.




Speaking of heat, a few weeks ago I decided I should go to Rajasthan (a state in North India bordering Pakistan boasting wonders such as “the Pink City” “the Blue City”, camels, ruined palaces with ancient military forts) before their summer starts. Emotionally preparing myself for the blazing hot desert sun beating down on the sand, I headed to Jaipur. A group of three decided to arrive there on Holi, because we heard they party hard for Holi. Our flight arrived at 5:30am, and I wonder what the hostel owner thought when we rolled up. Actually he reprimanded us in a disappointed tone when he realized our total lack of plan. I explained that we were only there for the day, and were headed to another town that night. He stared at us, three white girls with backpacks and absolutely no plan, holding back his laughter and a desire to yell in our faces. He looked at us in our clueless state, laughed; then said “lock your bags in this room, don’t go out on the streets alone, and don’t ask for a towel. Come watch the sunrise. Don’t pay for the night” That is how we met Lokendra. Within ten minutes we were watching the sunrise from his rooftop and chatting about whether Twilight was really filmed in Washington.


After the rest of the overcrowded hostel woke up, we played Holi on the rooftop. It seemed like a cheesy idea to celebrate an Indian holiday in a hostel with a bunch of fellow tourists wearing harem pants and shirts covered in Om symbols or Buddha faces. However, it’s impossible not to enjoy yourself when you’re smearing colors in strangers’ faces and you’re a little bit drunk at 9:30am. Since Holi is celebrated in the morning and everything in the city is shut down for the holiday, we actually had the rest of the day to relax. I always enjoy meeting other travelers and hearing their stories. There’s a certain “type” of person that travels India- skinny European or South American with at least one dreadlock, carrying everything in a well worn backpack and sporting baggy pants covered in elephants, lacking a bra, traipsing around with no job to return to, and of course a fan of yoga and Buddhist philosophy. It’s annoying to meet so many people on their dirtbag eatpraylove journey, but every time I actually listen to someone’s story I’m inspired by their passion and unique experiences. Meeting people backpacking southeast Asia for two years with no plans of leaving (or any plans at all really) makes me think I could do it as well (plus yoga and flowy pants are kinda fun). There are sustainable ways to travel, and there’s something about American culture that tells us it’s not sustainable or acceptable at all. We have to go to university, get a job, get married, have 2.5 kids and a medium sized dog and die in an affordable retirement home. You’ve heard this twenty-something rant before but its time for me to have it. I’ll read this in twenty years to have a laugh when I’m sick of buying juice boxes instead of wine coolers and my minivan breaks down.










THATS A PICTURE OF WES ANDERSON AND THE CAST FROM THE MOVIE 
No plan is the best plan: Along with meeting fellow travelers that inspire me, there’s days sometimes that leave me awestruck and feel like something from a dream. At the end of the week, we were waiting for our flight in the hostel again in Jaipur. We had a taste of Rajahstan after camel riding in the desert, sleeping under the stars, wandering markets in the last inhabited fort in India, exploring Brahmin blue alleyways. I ate the best dosa I’ve ever tasted at a place recommended to us by none other than the guy who’s spice shop is in Darjeeling Limited (nerd second- one of the proudest moments in my life is now meeting Wes Anderson’s spice and tea guy). Rebecca and I were talking with Hank (who is just an ex professional skier who has hitchhiked the united states and traveled half the world at the ripe old age of 20. While he regaled us with tales of getting chased by a bear earlier that week (who are these people that camp in the hostels of India???) we grew increasingly uneager to return to Hyderhell.  

The others left, and we simply never went to the airport and told Loki we’d clean the bathroom if we could stay. A wise Hyderabadi man suggested I travel to Bundi, a small town in Rajahstan relatively untouched by the harem pants crowd. The next morning (after cleaning the bathrooms of course) we headed to the government bus station and found a bus traveling to Bundi. Government bus stations are my new favorite thing, next to the Indian Railway. Instead of expensive tourist AC buses (which are still nice of course) you show up day of, get a dirt cheap seat (or no seat, but if you have money you can get on), and a chance to meet locals. We never know where we are on trains and buses, so we are constantly asking and amazed at how people know exactly how many more stops we have and how they will wake us up at zero dark thirty so we don’t miss our stop. Answers are simple as well. Our bus stopped and we asked, “Where are we? Is this Kota?” “Lunch.” Was our specific location. When asking for directions on the street, it’s a two to thirteen step process, because all you get is a “ahaah, that way” and a wide hand gesture in any direction. So I walk until I think it should be near, then ask again, pointed along vaguely. Why waste the effort to be specific in a place built for detours, beautiful confusion, and enjoying your time?








After reaching Bundi, the friendliness and beauty of the town was shocking. At first we ignored people’s “where are you from??”’s. I’ve learned to ignore “HELLO MADAM WHERE ARE YOU FROM COME LOOK IN MY SHOP” “Auto?! AUTO?” “Looking is free!” “Special price for you only” cries from the side of the road. It’s aggravating being a walking wallet but I know people make a living off of it and my love for colorful pants only continues the cycle. After a few minutes in Bundi, we realized there were no tourist shops, no “cafĂ©’s” selling “pizza burgers”, and people genuinely wanted to know who we were, what our story was. We drank mango juice and learned about someone’s family, bought a scarf and a brass pot with absolutely no pressure and insanely fair prices, and found a lovely home to stay in. The guesthouse was a traditional Rajahstani haveli, which means cement or mudbrick insulated cubes jumbled on top of each other, connected by staircases with not one step the same size, leading to a shady center courtyard. The womblike rooms are insulated and dark and you’d never know the sun was cooking the earth, coming out to the flat rooftops to enjoy watching it set.






We spent our morning exploring the abandoned fort and palaces. I barely want to write about it because it felt like a secret all my own. Unlike Jodhpur, the ruins at Bundi are ill preserved and absent of guided audio tours and designated photo points. Crawling through a hole in the looming spiked door in the stone walls, I felt like one of my favorite professors. He regaled classes with tales of his days of tomb discovery in Egypt. There was a haunting beauty wandering the crumbling corridors and looking out at the forest encroaching upon the fort from the top of an ancient temple. It was a little sad to see, knowing in a few years it will crumble away or be overrun by tourists and then crumble, but it was beautiful to explore unhampered and have the joy of discovering moments for ourselves. It’s not like we were the first people to ever go there, but it was the first time for us and that’s what I love about traveling.












After the fort, we wandered the streets, eating the cheapest samosas I’ve ever had, taking pictures and petting cows like idiots. We met many smiles and made small talk, but after a while wished we could meet some women. Men sat in chai shops and laughed in groups on the sidewalk, but groups of women were nowhere to be found. As we chatted about this, some children greeted us from their doorstep. We played with them for a little and they laughed at our very bad Hindi. Their mother came out from her courtyard, peering from behind her scarf. She beckoned us in, almost looking shocked that we were just standing on the street. Within five minutes, we were surrounded by cousins, daughters, sisters, asking where we were from, us wishing them a happy Holi. We talked over tea and the kids proudly showed us around the house. We sat on the rooftop and talked, realizing it was sunset. We learned the whole family was in town at this Uncle’s house for Holi week. Complementing their festive mehendi, we were promptly given the same beautiful swirling designs on our hands. If we didn’t already feel like we had stumbled across long lost family in the middle of India, they asked if we wanted dinner. Already full from other free snacks, we politely declined. In half an hour, we were sat down on a mat near the kitchen and served the most delicious dinner anyways. The naan kept coming as we sat there talking and laughing. Before we left much later that night, the uncle came in with a smile, saying “My son marriage May 6th, you are coming? And when you come, our house is your house. We’ll see you soon. ”




On the bus ride to Bundi we met two brothers traveling to a wedding in Kota and joked about crashing it, since we hadn’t seen an Indian wedding yet. Here was a real invitation! I’m counting down the days to May 6th when we go back for the wedding. Skipping that plane back to Hyderhell was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.



Thursday, March 3, 2016

Home(sick?)

Last week, my classmates and I started to realize we are halfway through our semester. While it feels like I just arrived, I have also been here long enough for it to start to feel like home. I finally have settled into a "routine" of classes, family dinners, tea, and weekend train rides to explore far away towns and ancient temples. In that routine there has been some extremely non- routine things as well, mainly the birth of a baby.

Kavya gave birth to a healthy baby girl two weeks ago! Life was very busy here, with even more family members coming to visit and everyone caring for baby and mother. Kavya and I became very close in the time that she stayed here, and she told me “Mike, you better be at the hospital the day my baby comes.” Being there waiting anxiously with soon to be grandparents and Kavya’s pacing husband was an intimate glimpse into their lives. It was not a situation I have even been in at home, and I think it will always pop into my head when I meet new babies. The look on everyone’s face when they pulled the curtain aside to give a peek of the clean baby girl is impossible to explain. Listening to Kavya say “Hey, hi!” to her baby through the window (she had to be in the ICU for a day after she was born due to some complications) was the most amazing sound. I never really understood parents when they talk about how it feels to see your baby for the first time, or why the hell Brenna wanted to be a midwife, but being in the hospital that day I got a little glimpse.



The host dad! 
About a week before the baby was born, we had a special religious ceremony to ensure a safe and painless delivery. I thought I would just sit in the corner and watch, but my host dad pulled in me in. As my host aunt put portu on my head, they laughed and said “Mike, you are part of the family now!”  Being part of an Indian family who welcomed a new member was an experience I’ll cherish. First of all, it was amazing to see how my host parents welcomed Kavya and her mother in for almost two months without batting an eye. The baby didn’t seem to even cause a disturbance. Rather than baby proofing the house and stockpiling toys and clothes and god knows what, life went on as they patiently waited. Bringing her home was an ordeal of course, but at the same time, the baby was simply laid in the bed next to Kavya with a blanket and everything continued, the same but so so different. After the pregnancy, Kavya’s mother and mother in law, and whatever aunties were in the house that day kept a constant vigil in the room with mom and baby. My host mom cooked for 7-10 people every night without a worry, relatives came to stay the night with a bag of flour, whiskey, or some oil to offset this cost (I assume). I forgot how tiny babies were, and that stupid wonderful feeling you get when you hold them. They were surprised I knew how to hold a baby “Even I don’t know how to hold her Mike” Kavya whispered to me one day. She seemed to care for her baby so naturally, I was glad to find out even she had moments of cluelessness. Babies terrify me. I’d say I don’t like babies, but I’ve never had a friend who had a baby until now. It was pretty exciting. We were very sad when Kavya left last week, but happy for her because it meant they were both healthy enough to go back to their hometown.

With the quiet house, I started to focus on how I missed a full house and my own family (whether it be five sisters or the house full of guys at PLU). For some reason, I fancied myself as a world traveler, and thought I wouldn’t get homesick. I thought since people go off in the army for years, they immigrate, they live as refugees, so I shouldn’t get homesick. My host family’s daughter, Divya, got married in December and moved to New Jersey. Every night they Skype her to say good morning. Some nights I hear her crying, talking rapidly in Telugu about how she misses them, misses India. My host parents tell me it makes them less lonely to have me here. They make me feel like I have a home. The other weekend, my host mom and some aunts spent two days preparing snacks to mail to her. I’m awaiting my own package of American snacks (mainly peanut butter). Though my homesicknesses isn't permanent and I can't compare it to Divya's, I do miss Washington. 

I find myself getting homesick for weird things like the nasty salty smell when the tide goes out, a rainy walk to class, an oatmeal packet for breakfast. I wish in the evenings I was watching Parks and Rec or Office reruns with my sisters rather than the really awful Telugu series my host family watches. At forst I thought I’d use it as language practice. By now I have developed an unhealthy hatred for all the underdeveloped characters and sad plot line to use this as a learning opportunity. , so I sit and make highly offensive and inappropriate dialouges for what I wish they were saying and incorportate the few Telugu words I can decipher.

My host family makes me feel at home and homesick at the same time. There’s nothing like getting ill to make you miss your mother and sisters. After a trip to Hampi (where I found the real dirtbags, more in next blog post!) I had a little food poisoning, and my host parents ensured I was well taken care of with a highly specific regimen of how to get better. 
“Lay on the couch so we can watch you Mike!!” “Now eat these because vomiting on an empty stomach leads to dehydration" “Now sit for 10 minutes. Drink some water” “Now sleep for  two hours” “Ok now eat some curd rice with salt” me: *vomits* “Ok now eat the rest of the curd rice slowly” “Take this tablet” “Sit for 1 hour, then go to bed.” Curd rice is what it sounds like; a delicious combination of curdled milk and rice, with a little salt sprinkled on top. Try it next time you feel like vomiting.

Hampi sneak peak 








I'm going to miss this food 























It was different than how I would get better at home, but it worked. When I got back from Hampi, walking up to the doorway felt welcoming. It was a relieving feeling, like I was actually home from a trip. While I’m homesick for Washington, I also know in just a few months I will be homesick for afternoon chai, samosas, my host parents, India Time, this bathroom I have to myself, the neighbors’ 11pm music jams, hitching motorbike rides on campus, even curd rice. I know I will miss the family I made here and the amazing friends I can hop on a train with, eat ice cream at all times with (Enrique), and take way too full rickshaws with to unsure addresses. So I will "full enjoy" every day with them as best I can.