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Read some thoughts on issues affecting daily life and life around our world. Read and join in the conversation. What moves you? How do you respond to the issues we face today?

the real india?

i hope you visit india someday. and i hope you love it. and i hope you leave, still loving it. i'm reaching a point where i wonder if my formerly rosy perspective is redeemable. 2+ years in this emerging market has made me cynical.
we were in gulmarg, kashmir this past weekend and it was a respite from the pollution, from the touts, from the traffic, from the deception, from the ad hoc-ness. we returned monday afternoon, descending through a thick blanket of brown. we purchased a pre-paid taxi voucher inside the airport and proceeded to wait outside in the very long line. the taxis were not queuing; instead, they were waiting down the street for permission to queue. when we pushed our way to the front and demanded a taxi assignment, the taxi drivers refused to take us because our proximity to the airport meant they would not earn much money on the trip. my boyfriend stopped one taxi by blocking it with his body while i hopped in and dragged my bag inside. the taxi driver nearly refused to drive until i began shouting at him. once we arrived home, i had cooled off a bit and gave him a 12% tip (tips are still uncustomary). he began arguing that the tip was insufficient. we hauled our bags out and went inside.
that's one example of how india has gotten to me. when we pointed out the inefficiency and unfairness of the taxi system, we were targeted as trouble makers. when i feel moved to be kind (tip), it rarely suffices. when i agree to help out (ballet performance), the other party doesn't honor their word. when i want to stop fake drugs, the government officials deny the problem. when i'm walking down the street, unknown men approach me and consider me rude when i don't respond.
i consider it God's grace that i'll be in the US for awhile. i pray for an attitude of hope and grace.


today i decided to focus, to not get distracted, and to not multi-task. i want to test the theory that multi-tasking is actually LESS efficient. i reason, "i can be DOING something while waiting for this ppt to open," and then i end up on my friend's blog when the ppt opened minutes ago. living a 5S life may not be so pleasant for those around me and i'm not striving to achieve that. i do wonder, however, if the frenetic, multi-tasking lives we have become accustomed to living inform the exorbitantly stressful lives we experience.
i've been thinking about stress a lot lately. i recognize that i've become stressed out. i listened to a podcast from "speaking of faith" defining stress as a natural, beneficial response to danger. prolonged periods of stress, however, weaken our immune system which may result in illness. after trying shorter work days, prayer & meditation, ballet, getting outside, taking quiet evenings for myself, and removing myself from stressful situations, i'm still coming up short. i know Jesus had a way through this. i also think He dealt with it, actually going through and not around it. i'm looking forward to time in the US to explore this more and to "go offline."
and with that, time to return to my ppt (well, maybe after i write a quick FB message).

when i'm bored

i find that, though i have more work to do than i can possibly hope to accomplish, i still get bored with it sometimes. a rich (wo)man's dilemma, i know. i'm not the office assistant sitting in the next room, searching for something to do and awaiting chai serving time so he has something, ANYTHING to do. but today i decided to blog in hopes that it would inspire me to do my real work. so, what to write about?
oh, this just in (well, "in" two weeks ago): yours truly is going to be a professional ballerina next week. what that really means is that i'm getting paid to perform ballet, swan lake (to be exact). this belongs in the lengthy list of things that are possible only in india. i abandoned my professional ballet dreams at the tender age of 14 but now that my age has doubled, it's time to turn dreams into reality.

something that annoyed me, a lot

i was at the grocery store yesterday and the cashier didn't have change. this was the first thing that started the annoyance feeling. she wanted me to buy something else so she wouldn't have to give me so much change. she wondered if i wanted more biscuits or maybe some chocolate. i finally relented and bought raisins. then, before i realized what happened, she swiped the preferred customer card of the woman behind me in line. no, i didn't reap any discount advantages BUT the woman behind me got a significant boost in her customer loyalty points. i asked the woman, "did she just swipe your card?" the woman responded, "well, if she did, that was her mistake. it doesn't make a difference to you." i replied, "no, you GAVE her your card, BEFORE it was your turn. that's dishonest." really, who cares if she got my points? but i was amazed that she tried to blame it on the cashier AND that she didn't even ask if i minded before underhandedly slipping the cashier her card. watch out folks, these seemingly innocent aunties at reliance fresh are NOT so innocent (eww, Britney Spears).

something to blog about

it was friday: the end of a long week for the yuppies gathered around the table at a local watering hole in delhi. as we enjoyed our (turned out afterwards to be falsely advertised) two-for-one drinks, conversation turned to pornography. "how," i queried, "can you consider pornography to empower women? how would you feel if your sister or mother decided to partake in modeling? and how can you say it's fine when all three of the women gathered around the table are not smiling?" did i miss the joke? has playboy suddenly become acceptable? or did i miss the boat? perhaps playboy's always been accepted by the masses as empowering and respectful of women, led by a purely enterprising man. while i was surprised by my passion regarding this issue, the flippancy of at least one male at the table infuriated me. i know there are gray lines everywhere we look and one can argue for many degrees of decency (or indecency). i'm simply blogging about it b/c it still irks me.

Thanks, Diwali

Owing to the Diwali pataka (fireworks), Delhi's current weather is "smoke."

little ol' lady

quick update: that lady I recently wrote about is alive and well. she's at least well enough to walk & hang laundry on the terrace. not sure why she's not sunning herself regularly, though . . .

life of bliss

i wanted to type out something while awaiting the Citibank Rep who's avoiding me these days (i may not be the easiest customer with whom he works). i've been thinking a lot about the emotional highs & lows that humans experience, based upon their outward experiences. For example, I leave for India after four weeks in North America and I have the "post-US blues." Or money's tight, work's slow in coming, and the world feels like it's crumbling. the interesting part is that faith pulls (or drags) us through these experiences but it seems that God fights for us in those moments. i surely didn't feel like a fighter, sobbing while checking FB updates in the middle of the night while missing the folks i'd just left in the US. but somehow God pulled me out of the literal night and into a new day.
i write this because it's important to recognize that you are not the only one who feels like this sometimes. i've felt this and most people reading this have probably experienced low points when it felt like nothing was happening yet everything was falling apart. "this isn't the life i imagined," we exclaim & yet, from outward appearances, it probably IS pretty darn close. india, running a company, amazing boyfriend, supportive family, more than making ends meet, trying to change the world, interacting with like-minded people. wow, it's just about EXACTLY what i imagined!
while i'm @ it, i'll note that i think going through the emotions is imperative. we can't differentiate the highlights of the peaks without the shadows of the valleys. the canvas would be nondescript and uninspiring without challenges. we're not bad or wrong for feeling down and out. these times provide impetus for God to be strong on my behalf & i'm grateful for such grace.

funny old people

Poppi to me: Do you know any posses in India?
Me to Poppi: Hmm, we don't really have those in India.
Poppi: Really, no posses?
Me: No, no posses . . . oh, oh, Parsis. No, I don't know any Parsis in India but I know there are many there.

We went to visit Grandma Supple during the annual family reunion. When we arrived at the old folk's home, Grandma was telling the nurses about some terrible tragedy. We wheeled her into a sitting room and offered to sing her favorite song. We collapsed in hysterics as we sang, "White Christmas." That was her favorite song last time Aunt Amy visited. This time, Grandma was worried about missing the movies and said, "I'm not trying to be rude but I really need to get going," as she tried to rise from her wheelchair.
We opted to wheel her down the hall to the "movies," aka the community room playing a movie conveniently set in the 1950's. Then Grandma wanted to pay for her movie ticket and began pulling her pockets out of her pants, pockets empty. Then Lisa handed Aunt Amy $5 which Aunt Amy deposited in Grandma's pocket. Grandma protested that it was Aunt Amy's money but we convinced her otherwise. Unfortunately, $5 wasn't enough to pay for ALL of us so Lisa passed a $20 to Aunt Amy who again deposited it into Grandma's pocket. Mom joked that this might be a convenient way for Grandma to fleece us of some spending cash. Grandma was unconvinced she had enough but Lisa created a receipt to show Grandma that she had paid for us all.
Grandma began asking where the baby was. After 22-year old Jackie tried crying like a baby (which Grandma didn't buy), Jackie found a toy doll in a bin in the corner. Grandma asked, "where are its clothes?" Jackie found a blanket and wrapped the "baby" in its new found clothes. We were told dinner was being served. Grandma was concerned we were leaving the baby behind so Mom carried it along. Grandma told us to be careful to not get caught; "they don't allow babies here," she said.
Grandma was convinced she had already eaten and grew increasingly concerned that her (long since deceased) husband would worry about where she was. We wheeled her out of the dining hall. She refused to go in her bedroom so we settled around her in the hallway. She began whimpering about Grandpa Supple. All our soothing couldn't calm her, not even telling her "Jesus is coming for you" helped. We began singing Amazing Grace; she continued whimpering. Aunt Amy said she couldn't leave Grandma like this. I said, "she doesn't even know whom we are and she'll be like this whether we're here or not." I'm not known for my compassion. Grandma actually did remember Aunt Amy as we said our goodbyes, though Grandma told Lisa to send greetings to Lisa's mother (who was standing right next to Lisa). Grandma's parting words: "We should do this again sometime."

lost lady

I returned to Delhi after a month's absence and was saddened to not see the little old lady that used to sit on her terrace, head covered, reading through her prayers in the morning sun. She religiously sat there every morning from 7:30 to 9:00 AM. She had a dedicated folding chair that she sat in as her hair dried after her morning bath. Following a time of peaceful rest, she would cover her head with a white cloth and read her book. Perhaps they weren't prayers. Perhaps I imagined that.
She wasn't on the balcony when I returned. A few days later, her folding chair was removed. Life at the home across the alley seems to go on, from all outward appearances. Clothes still dry on the lines, the house helper takes a moment to lean over the balcony railing and sip her tea as she gazes down the alley below. I want to know what happened. Maybe they sent her to another relatives home for the cold winter months. Maybe she was too frail to travel and she is no more.

Why Like This?

It wouldn't have been so bad except that we started around 10,000 ft. Then it rained and forced us to take shelter in a shepherd's lodge, under a rock, and under a piece of plastic. We took care to provide some exhaust outlet for the stove while trying to warm ourselves up during the rain. I fell in the river -- one of those, "God, I might be swept out of sight" falls. Bicky grabbed me, I slipped and went in again. The boots I took off in order to remain dry filled with liters of water. Too bad the boots weren't meant to retain water because they did a great job of that for four days. Then we began camping on ice. We made a flattish site from hacking ice with our mountaineering axes. My Therm-a-rest is too old, it's flat within hours and ice cold temperatures attack my hips. The moraine slipped and slid under our feet as we walked. "Why like this?" In what felt like a God forsaken moment (we huddled under a plastic tarp for two hours, sitting on ice while Tim's feet began to go numb), we prayed for sun. We made a mad dash to set up camp, again on ice, in the rain. We got sun the next morning. Around 2pm, Bicky sank into snow up to his thighs. "Why like this?" We pitched camp, within 200 m of Kang La ("la" means pass). Tim suffered AMS but the swiftest way down was over the pass and not back over the miles (?) of moraine. We slept a bit, avalanches crashing around the valley. I awoke at 3:38 am to "What the f*&%?" from Tim. Apparently the ice was cracking directly beneath him -- he got to feel the tremors first hand. Bicky inspected the camp -- all seemed fine. But there was no way were falling back to sleep. We packed up our ice laden tent & hit the pass by sunrise!

Triumph? Exhaustion? Humility? Yep, they were all present and accounted for. Never have I been so butt kicked in my life. 18,000 ft has a way of taking it out of you. Tim and I laughed when Bicky was explaining how we'll get used to it -- umm, we're not professionals, but thanks for the encouragement, Bhai! Even Bicky Bhai was exhausted but, then again, he picked up our slack by cooking, carrying, pitching, leading, breaking, and preparing endless cups of black coffee. Wow, won't be doing this again for awhile. Good, though ;)

Down the other side of the pass, nine hours later was too early to stop. We kept walking, and walking, and walking -- there was no water on this side of the river far below. "Why like this?" 14 hours later, we wandered into a guest house in Padum, beyond exhaustion. Tim's eyes were closing before his chow mein. My momos were barely making it to my mouth. Somehow, before 8am the next morning, Bicky already had a plan to get to Leh. We left after a satisfying breakfast and ended up camped on the near side of a river crossing with a taxi with a bum wheel (& that was the spare!). "Why like this?" The driver arranged for another taxi to Kargil where we switched taxis, after a taxi driver scuffle, and we arrived in Leh at 9pm. Out at midnight the following night from Leh to Manali and we got stuck in a 2 hour jam at the Rohtang Pass. Wanting to stretch our legs the next day, it began raining just as we headed out to climb. "Why like this?"

But, you know what? We DID get to climb. We DID get back safely. We DIDN'T get kidnapped by terrorists. We DID get the greatest workout of our lives. We DID see places few will ever glimpse. We DID listen to God's still, small voice telling us to persevere and that He IS with us, though we feel forsaken. We DID learn how the best can be yet to come. We DID discuss the metaphor of such journeys applied to relationships where you know the end but can't see the path sometimes -- you just have to trust and obey. We DID make some awesome memories. Yeah, you know what? It was an AWESOME trip!

india: a study in contrasts

today i offer up a couple links that provide some insight to where india stands as a nation. rather than rattle off my personal views, i'd encourage you to read and understand a bit more about this place in which i live.
1st: Economist article on yesterday's overturn of India's law banning sodomy

when i'm mad

When I get mad, I generally like to spew forth the sundry incidents that put me in such a state. Today, for example, lustful, reproachful, confused stares from young men and old women, alike, threaten to undo me. And if the stares don't send me into hysterics, it might very well be two groups of "fresh off the plane" Americans, marveling that we drink the water and eat the vegetables here. I want to scream, "I live here. This is my normal life, just like you live yours in America." But then I hear, "And, oh, aren't those cows darling and wouldn't it be nice to have them in Manhattan?" and I realize screaming would be both uncivilized and misinterpreted, to be sure.
Amazingly, we actually do not live in two different worlds; the stare-ers, fops, and I all live in exactly the same world. They have their angry moments and triggers, just as I have mine.
The real point, however, comes from John Eldredge's recent book, Walking with God, in which Eldredge encourages his readers to observe why we experience strong negative emotions. We have to shepherd our hearts through life's journey. If we allow our hearts to go unshepherded, we quickly become battered and bruised with no understanding of how it happened and how to prevent it from happening again. God loves us. He regenerates our hearts and leads us on life's journey to shepherd our hearts Himself. When we are exposed to negative emotions and spiritual attacks, that junk rubs off on us. What have I been up to, what have I been doing in the past 48 hours that might have caused this anger? Time to shepherd the heart a bit, inviting God to lead this process of understanding. That's it for now -- time to seek some understanding.

in trouble

While talking with Mom the other night I was reminded to post stories like these. I'll tell the tale in reverse. Saturday night, CJ & I ended up at home, watching a movie. Seems rather unlike the two of us but my one request for the evening was that we not do anything that might get us into trouble. That ruled out rappelling into some ruins we discovered.
Now you need to understand the reason behind my request. Two weekends ago, we traveled to Mussoorie, a former British hill station that serves as a nice retreat from Delhi (especially when it's 100+ degrees!). We wanted to trek, too, so we set out on a paved path then quickly descended down a mountainside through nettles on steroids, across a garbage-strewn stream, up a hill/cliff side of shrubbery, to a nice sunset outcropping. After a time of reflection and cloud-watching, we proceeded up the hill, down another paved path, past a local man intent upon us NOT climbing an unmarked path, down the paved path, and up some old stairs into a jungle. We wandered around some gated buildings and found some savage-looking monkeys. Then we were greeted by an alarmed army officer that requested that we immediately follow him out of what was apparently a restricted military area. Our nettle/shrubbery hillsides bore no signs of restricted access but, sure enough, the officer marched us out past a sign that ensured no one would trespass.
Then the weekend before, we went to a goodbye party and began walking through the park to go home. Halfway through the walk, we heard a whistle that turned out to be a very drunken, stick wielding, whistle blowing guard. He beat his stick and stammered about our trespassing. The park gate had been open when we entered but we quickly headed for the exit near home and found that gate closed. We high tailed it down a trail, up a cement block, and through a hole in the fence.
And that's why I didn't want to get in trouble and opted for a movie at home instead.

haircutting in India

Saturday, I came the closest I've come to the traditional male head massage I hear so much about. I hear of how wonderful it is, how people miss it when they leave, how they'll pay just for the massage -- forget the haircut. It all started when I missed my US appointment with the only person to cut my hair (save the rockstar cut exception) in the past 5+ years. I sat down & was promptly told I needed a shampoo because I have dandruff. After the shampoo and conditioning, the hairdresser came back and announced I have grey hair. Only much later did he ask if my hair color was natural and comment that he liked it. Humans can be so vain, can't we?

one more story

My roommate reminded me that I should amend the previous blog to include another event that occurred the day before the pigeon/light incident. I received call from my boyfriend, asking, "up or down?" I answered, "up," to which he replied, "good choice." I wondered what was going on; he explained that he was in my apartment, wearing my climbing harness, attaching a rope in preparation from climbing up off the balcony. The alternative was to rappel to the ground. You must understand that apartment doors in India enable one to be locked inside, unknowingly, until they attempt to leave. My roommate accidentally slid the bolt across the door and padlocked CJ inside. After many attempts to raise a raucous and get someone's attention, he decided to climb onto the roof and walk down the stairs to unlock the door by himself. Thankfully I got a call five minutes later that he survived.

some funny stories

Today I learned how having a boyfriend is viewed in India. Suffice to say, fiancees are preferable to boyfriends by all popular accounts. Since that recent discovery had me downcast, I decided I needed to reflect on some humorous incidents.

Last weekend, the aforementioned boyfriend and I traveled to Gulmarg in Kashmir for a ski weekend. Kashmiri people believe their land is occupied by the 6 lakh (600,000) Indian troops that serve as "protection" against the Pakistanis. This background is necessary to understand why there is such heavy security on every street corner and in the airport. First we passed guards at the door. After showing our snow-soggy flight confirmation, we proceeded to scan our checked baggage. Then on to the check-in counter. After signing out of the occupied territory at the next counter, we grabbed a bite to eat. We then proceeded through security in order to identify our checked luggage out of a line-up before it got loaded on the plane. Before the luggage identification step, we went through the traditional security line with metal detector and private screening pat-down for the ladies. Men don't benefit from the private screen. They get patted down in public. THEN we had another line of female Indian Army officers inspecting the contents of all carry-on luggage that had already been scanned. This is where it gets interesting. I start pulling out my phone then my second phone, then I open my camera case, then I pull out my Bible and it's opened & inspected, then a small bag of unidentifiable thin objects about the length of a pen in paper packaging. Of course, you might recognize them by sight. Or perhaps this will help . . . there were a few with green lettering, a few with yellow lettering, and one or two with purple lettering on the package, all of different thicknesses. Still don't get it? Neither did the female officers. I tried explaining with words such as "period" and "like a sanitary napkin." Still blank stares. Finally, in an act of desperation, I began indicating with my finger how one inserts a tampon during one's period. And finally I cleared the security check.

This past week, a pigeon flew into my bedroom while I was at work. The pigeon perched on top of my cupboard, as pigeons have wont to do in my bedroom when they fly in. In an effort to decontaminate my room, CJ reached in his pocket, found a 1 rupee coin, and threw it at the pigeon. The coin ricocheted into my lamp, shattering the glass lamp. We originally had two of these lamps in my bedroom and two in the living room. CJ broke one in the living room during our house warming party (sorry, just had to throw that in there to explain CJ's desperation during the ensuing escapade). He decided to replace the broken one in the living room with the other one from my bedroom. But he couldn't disconnect the one from my bedroom. Finally he managed to pry it off, pulling down the entire lighting apparatus. He then put it in the living room. But he couldn't mount it on the living room ceiling. He then spent hours trying to find replacement lamps for the two in my bedroom. After three hours and much exasperation, I got a call at the office to explain why the living room lamp was dangling from the ceiling, one bedroom lamp looked like a broken bottle hanging from the ceiling, and the other was on my floor with only wires sticking out of the fixture. The landlord can deal with that.

my life in indiahhh

i've had plenty of REALLY good stuff to blog about lately but i'm finally getting on it tonight. i had an excellent day. it started with quality time with Abba then my first day in our office. at first, i felt like i'd traveled back in time to the days when i lived in cubicle-land. then i realized the value of daily discipline & being with co-workers for immediate feedback, strategizing, and positive peer pressure to get stuff done. for the first time in 1-1/2 years, i returned to a proper ballet class this evening! i sweated, i laughed, i LOVED it. & THEN i got to enjoy Cocoberry -- think Pinkberry in Delhi. And now i'm talking to my boyfriend, reliving the day -- life doesn't get much better than this.