the wonderful world of veena.

30 April 2012

random rambles.

a quick update for today:

1. wedding weekend extravaganza was awesome. and exhausting. pictures will be posted along with highlights once I get my wits about me once again. was so great to see so many fabulous people all in one place.

2. in 10 days, I will be finished with my first year of grad school. it's both too close and yet so far away.

3. in a month and two days, I will be on a plane back to Bangalore. still too far away but slowly inching closer. peanut and third-born, here I come!

4. I'm beginning the process of sending out Capstone emails. thanks to the awesome Dr Singhal, I might have one opportunity, but I'm still keeping my options open. wish me luck!

5. I am also starting to plot my weeks in India. from the looks of it, it will involve visits to Honey Valley and / or Hampi; Coimbatore; Orissa to visit Dorothy; Leh / Ladakh; Bombay [if I can convince my brother]; Surat; Agra; Delhi. in 6 weeks. phew.

busy days and weeks ahead!

29 April 2012

what's ahead.

Now that the high of Catherine and Drew's wedding extravaganza has worn off, reality is beginning to set in. Only ten days remain between me and the end of my first year of graduate school. All that is left in between is:

  • Logistics Portfolio for IPSP - due 01 May. almost completed.
  • Program Evaluation Final Project - due 02 May. in progress.
  • Country Analysis for IPSP - due 05 May. yet to be started.
  • Practicum Integrative Learning Paper - due 08 May. vague outline was written last week.
  • Program Evaluation final exam - due 09 May. yet to be handed out.
  • Social Change group presentation - 10 May. we're in the planning stages.
  • Change Analysis Brief for Social Change - due 10 May. draft submitted week before last. halfway there.
So as you can see, it's doable. Once I catch up on some sleep, that is.
Almost there.

27 April 2012

wedding weekend has officially arrived.

The event we've been waiting for all year, Catherine and Drew's wedding, has finally arrived! It's so nice to have everyone in Little Rock for the celebration, and I am thankful the timing worked out for me to be around for all of the festivities.

Last night we had a wonderful dinner at the Hughes' house in the Heights where we got to catch up with everyone and relax a bit. This afternoon was a lovely luncheon at Brave New Restaurant with a view of the Arkansas River. Tonight is the rehearsal dinner at the Capital Hotel downtown. Tomorrow there is the small item of an actual wedding and reception. And then everything is capped off with a brunch at Capriccio's on Sunday morning.

All the Rhodents are slowly trickling into town, and I am super excited to see and catch up with everyone. I missed so many weddings the past few years, including 5 just last spring, that it's been really nice to be here not only for the wedding itself but for all the showers and parties leading up to it. Drew and I definitely did a great job of working that out incredibly well.

So this weekend I will most likely not be posting any updates, as in between the festivities I also have to do "work". I use the term lightly, because I don't anticipate getting too much accomplished.

Happy weekend, all. See you on the flip-side.

25 April 2012

slowly checking them off.

My bucket list is slowly but surely getting checked off. Below is the list with some updates.

  • Climb Pinnacle Mountain [will be done either this weekend or next]
  • Picture of the Day / more pictures in general [only works if I find my small camera. oops]
  • Cardinals Exhibit at the Library [I'm not so bothered about this, but if there's time, I'd like to see it]
  • Arkansas baseball game in Fayetteville [ran out of weekends, unfortunately]
  • Distillery tour [done!]
  • Thunder Thieves gig in Morrilton [I think I might still have one chance...]
  • Museum of Discovery [next week as a study break]
  • Central High School Museum [going tomorrow!]
  • Picnic by the river [think I might combine it with the trip to the Museum of Discovery]
  • Butler Center [one day soon]
  • Travelers game [they're back in town next week]
  • Braves game in St Louis [mother-daughter trip for Mother's Day weekend!]
  • Redbirds game [the 11th, perhaps, when Nathan Jesson joins me and Dylan on a road trip to Memphis]
  • Graceland
  • Civil Rights Museum in Memphis
So one thing is accomplished: the distillery tour. Here in Little Rock we have our very own distillery, rock town, and Dylan Perry and I strolled on over last Saturday for a little tour. They took us through and showed us the barrels where they age the whiskey and then gave us a crash course in how they make different alcohols from a bit of corn, wheat, and barley.

Our tour wrapped up with a little taste testing, which was definitely the highlight of the whole thing. We tasted vodka, gin, moonshine, boubon, and their new hickory-smoked bourbon, all of which were awesome. I walked out with a t-shirt and a bottle of the hickory-smoked bourbon, and Dylan picked up a bottle of the gin.

Other than one lady who kind of dominated the tour, it was pretty cool. I'm glad we went and I was finally able to start checking things off my list. Can't wait to see how things shape up over the next few weeks.

Here's to distractions and study breaks.

24 April 2012

let's go!

I am linking up once again with laura for take me there tuesday [and this time, I think I've actually figured out how it works! thanks, la, for the helpful hint]. This week we're taking a trip to Istanbul!

In August of 2010, I had the opportunity to spend two awesome weeks as a delegate at the 5th World Youth Congress in Istanbul, Turkey. Although the weeks were jam-packed with workshops and events, we still managed to see quite a bit of the city on our own. Dorothy, Preetam, and I all traveled to Istanbul a day early, and then Bear came at the end, and she and I stayed on for a few additional days, wandering around and seeing the sights.

Istanbul is a beautiful city, and I maintain the hope that I will one day return. My classmate Kellen is marrying a wonderful Turkish girl this summer, and Shonali and I are trying our best to be there for their celebration. Regardless of whether it's this July or some other time down the road, I will definitely be back.

Until then, I'll always have the memories...

[Do and I arrive in Istanbul with no place to stay and steal free wi-fi from a park to locate hostels. everything works out in the end]

[Koudi and Georgie with our lunch platter of meat. it was delicious]

[me and my Gugi, finally reunited]

[4am street kebabs. nothing like it]

[colourful youth march through taksim square]

[love my sweet little brother Ringo]

[ferry to the Prince's Islands]

[Istanbul by night]

[me and my Bear]

[awesome shop in Sultanahmet]
That is just a sample of the hundreds of pictures I took over the course of two weeks.
Can't wait to return.

23 April 2012

book update: the handmaid's tale / the hunger games / bossypants.

Yep, it's been a while since I did a book update. I've been finishing them rather quickly, but I've just not been able to get a chance to get my updates posted. So here is a mega-update for you, since I know you wait with bated breath for my ramblings about my readings. [oh wow, I think I just found a new title for my book update posts. hmm]

The Handmaid's Tale [Margaret Atwood]. I bought this over winter break - or rather, my father bought it for me over winter break. I was almost finished my previous book and was wondering what to read next, when this book came up in conversation at school one day, and Britney mentioned it was one of her favorite books from high school. So down it came from the shelf, only to wallow on my bedside table when school got a bit hectic. I started it just before Spring Break and finished it on the flight from London to Chicago, flying through it and mostly ignoring the reading I had for school. I found the characters intriguing; I liked the bit of mystery that Atwood maintained throughout the book; and I loved the ending. I'll be honest, it frustrated me a bit, but I completely understand why she ended it the way she did, and I loved it. This one comes highly recommended to any of you out there who have not yet read it.

The Hunger Games [Suzanne Collins]. Yes, I read the Hunger Games. When Lindsay and Catherine gushed about it last August, and then I heard so many of my classmates fawning over it last semester, I somehow still never managed to realize it was a book for young adults. In fact, I went to my faithful B&N in Memphis and had to drag Lindsey out of Receiving to help me find it, because I could not locate it in my trusty Fiction section. After giving me a long look, she finally told me that it was in the teen section. What? There was no way. But over I walked, and there it was. I felt like a tool, standing in the Teen Fantasy section and actually considering buying the book. But buy it I did. And I'm glad. It caused me to lose a lot of sleep the week after Spring Break, but that was because I refused to stop reading. It was definitely interesting to read this directly after The Handmaid's Tale, since both are set in post-apocalyptic, constricted societies and revolve around strong female characters. I am not at all ashamed to admit that I enjoyed the book, I enjoyed the movie [as did my brother, for the record], and I have already purchased the remaining two books [Catching Fire & Mockingjay] on my iPad Nook app. Can't wait to see what happens next!

Bossypants [Tina Fey]. I had heard so many good things about this book over the last few months, but I somehow never managed to get my hands on a copy. So one day, when I took Caroline to the B&N to purchase a new workbook for her, I saw this on the bestseller display and decided to pick it up. I enjoyed it thoroughly, mostly because it felt so much like it was just Tina Fey telling me a story. After watching her on SNL and 30 Rock for so many years, I could actually hear her voice while I read it. I liked that she writes the way I imagine she speaks, so it was a very natural progression of stories. If you want a light read that will keep you laughing, this is a great one to go for. I am generally a big fan of Tina Fey's, and this book definitely did not let me down.

And there you have it, you're all caught up to speed. I appear to have made a lot of progress, but that's partly because The Hunger Games and Bossypants were both super fast reads. I just started Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide [Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn] last night, and I think it's going to be a bit of a heavier read. But I am super excited about it.

Happy Reading!

20 April 2012

finding the positive.

This has been one of those weeks. You know the ones I speak of. Those weeks where you're constantly in motion and yet feel as though you're not accomplishing anything. Where you feel like the world's a bit upside down and turned around. Where you can't quite seem to catch your breath long enough to fill your lungs full of air.

Weeks like this make me want to wallow in self-pity and do nothing but complain. Complain about how I need more sleep. Complain about how Thursday was the first day all week I was able to cook myself dinner at eat at home at a normal time. Complain about the number of upcoming assignments I have due. Complain about how, even though we jumped forward an hour and it stays light longer, I still don't manage to make it home before dark. Complain about how I've not had time to run in ages. Complain about all the things I'd rather be doing in Little Rock instead of work.  Complain complain complain.

But then I remember.

I remember that I have so many things to be thankful for. I am in a program at a presidential school, learning skills that will help me in my chosen career path. I have the opportunity this summer to travel to a new country and work with an amazing organization. I have a network of people, both here and abroad, who support me wholeheartedly in the decisions I make. I have a wonderful life; I just need to remember to look around and appreciate it more often.

I remember all the children I've worked with over the years. My kids in Jamaica who are the reason I became passionate about international service in the first place. My boys in Bangalore who kept me laughing, frustrated, and on the verge of insanity, but whom I love dearly, every last one of them. I remember that these kids, and so many more like them around the world, are the reason I am doing what I am doing.

I remember that in the grand scheme of things, my problems are trivial. I know I will get through these next 3 weeks, someway, somehow. I know my classmates and I will make it to the end of the semester, we will all have amazing experiences at our projects this summer, and we will come out as better people at the end of it.

I remember that in 40-odd days, I will be back home, roaming the streets of Bangalore with Shonali, teaching the Peanut funny things that will annoy her mother, and catching up with all of my adopted families.

I remember that things aren't always as bad as they seem, even if complaining seems easier. And that sometimes I need weeks like these, if only to remind me how good I have it.

17 April 2012

honey valley lovin'

My childhood friend laura [gosh, that makes us sound so old! me more so than you] has recently started a new series called take me there tuesday [there's a way to link it up so her fancy logo appears, but I have yet to figure out how all of that works. so just use your imagination for today] where each week she talks about a place she is looking forward to visiting or a dream getaway spot. So today, in order to "link up" with her ["quotation marks" since again, I'm not entirely sure how the whole thing works], I wanted to write about one of my favourite places in the whole wide world: Honey Valley.

I first visited Honey Valley in the summer of 2008 when I took a group of girls from Impington on a trip there. I had no idea what I was in for - all I knew was that there would be coffee, trekking, honey, leeches, and lots of pork. [the people of Coorg are famous for their pork. it's amazing] There was all that, and so much more.

[who wouldn't love to live here?]
Honey Valley is a beautiful homestay nestled into the hillsides of Coorg. Run by a wonderfully sweet family, it remains one of my favourite places to unwind and relax. There are wonderful little nooks where you can sit and read amongst the flowers and trees, there are dogs to keep you company, and there is an endless supply of chai.

[I always say this is going to be where I build my house]

[trusty guide dog. never leaves a man - or woman - behind]

[that waterfall is in Kerala. we practically walk to another state]
And then there's the trekking. If you decide to leave your comfortable reading perch and bottomless chai, you have about 8 different trails from which to choose. Some go up, some go down, some go personal favourite is the one that goes into the jungle and then straight up. Along the way there are some breathtaking views, and none of these pictures manage to do them justice. It's amazing to go in June, because you go from the wet jungle, through the mist, into the sunshine at the top, and then over the side into the pouring rain, all within the span of about half an hour. And then in the afternoon, once you've had lunch and a quick nap, you can wander a few kilometers down from the resort to their private waterfall and take a dip. It's cold, but it's also pretty great.

Honey Valley is such a great place to relax, reflect, eat, stretch your legs a bit, read, meet fascinating people from all over India and the name it, you can do it there. It's my little piece of heaven nestled within a bustling country that never seems to stop..until you arrive here.

Every time I go back, I wonder why I ever left in the first place. When my parents came to visit a few years ago, I took them to Honey Valley; on every return trip after, everyone asked how my parents were and when they would be returning. Every single person there makes you feel like part of their family, no matter how long you stay. I've been there with school groups, I've been with my parents, and I've been with my friends, and each trip carries its own significance for me. It's one of the places I hope to take my brother in June, not only because I think everyone should go there, but because selfishly I want to go back. One of my goals is to go there on my own and stay for a week - I think it would be good for both my soul and my body.

And did I mention it's all sustainable? They use the water from their waterfall and streams to create electricity, they use fires to heat water for bathing, they cultivate their own honey and coffee.

Like I said, little piece of sustainable heaven.

15 April 2012

paris in pictures.

I have been meaning to post these for weeks now and just have not seemed to have time to do so. School has been crazy, preparations for IPSP are well underway, I'm trying to get Capstone stuff sorted's been a whirlwind and is only going to continue being so for the next month.

However, I finally decided it was time to take ten minutes and actually get some pictures of my spring break trip posted. I of course managed to not take any pictures in London, because I'm awesome like that, but I got lots in Paris since I had a lot of time to just wander on my own.

So without further ado, for your viewing pleasure, a visual representation of my 48 hours in Paris [warning: there will be a lot] :

[the view from Rob's flat]

[the boulangerie down the street]

[I like trees]

[jardin des enfants]

[the river]

[I still like trees]

[Notre Dame]

[street-side postcards]

[I also like pictures of water]

[sun through the trees. even better]

[le tour eiffel]

[all shimmery and shiny]

[Rob's street at night]


[musee d'orsay]

[more river. this time with boat]

[in the tullerie gardens]

[river with people walking]

[home of Napoleon's tomb]

[it's a bit dark, but if you look closely, you can see the 3 pillars of french-dom: liberte, egalite, fraternite]
And there you have it, Paris as seen by me and my camera.

06 April 2012

what a week.

Sorry for the radio silence this week - it's been a long one. The earliest I got home on any day was 9pm, and on both Tuesday and Thursday I was in one building for over 12 hours. I'm exhausted.

We had a lot of reading for both IPSP and Social Change, we had our Practicum deliverable to complete, we had the auction at school on Wednesday, and we had our final deliverable presentation for Practicum to prepare for. Which we completed this morning and are d-o-n-e [well, almost] with our project. Huzzah!

There are a lot of things I need to accomplish this weekend, such as washing my sheets and towels; general cleaning of my room [best friend comes next week, and it's been so long since I had a guest that I don't quite remember all the things I need to do]; trip to the grocery for bananas and milk; building some greenhouses with Little Rock Urban Farms; seeing The Wiz; and working on a load of stuff due for IPSP in the coming weeks. Perhaps a head start on my Program Evaluation project? ha! And I definitely need to catch up on some much-needed rest. I was so determined to finish The Hunger Games [Suzanne Collins] that it's also partly my fault that I stayed up so late on Monday and Tuesday. So while there is a lot to be done, there will also be quite a bit of lazing about and reenergizing happening.

Hope all of you have a wonderful weekend. I will try to be a bit more on track next week with more updates.

ps - I added a new one to my bucket list: Arkansas Travelers game.

02 April 2012

usa bucket list.

Now that we are down to my last full month in Little Rock and my last two months in the States [leaving exactly 2 months from today! woo!], I am working on a bucket list of things to do in Little Rock / Arkansas / Memphis / the US. Below is what I have come up with thus far, but it will continue growing even as I check things off; the first group is things for Little Rock, and the bottom group is general other things to do before I leave. If anyone has further suggestions, I would love to hear them.

  • Climb Pinnacle Mountain
  • Picture of the Day / more pictures in general
  • Cardinals Exhibit at the Library
  • Arkansas baseball game in Fayetteville [probably not going to happen, but I'm hopeful]
  • Distillery tour
  • Thunder Thieves gig in Morrilton
  • Museum of Discovery
  • Central High School Museum
  • Picnic by the river
  • Butler Center
  • Braves game in St Louis
  • Graceland
  • Civil Rights Museum in Memphis
  • Walk across the Golden Gate Bridge [I'm going to San Francisco in the middle of May and would love some more suggestions for the city]
So that is the bucket list as it currently stands. As I said, I would love some more ideas. I plan to pack as much as possible into this month to make sure I do as much as I can.

Happy April, happy 1-year since India won the World Cup [in cricket], and happy 2 months until my departure to Bangalore!