the wonderful world of veena.

30 August 2012

30 thursdays: 30 things I bet you didn't know about me.

Welcome to my first 30 thursdays installment! Today, I am going to introduce you all to me. The following is a list of all the little idiosyncrasies that make me, me. Some of you will already know some of these, but only a very select few of you may perhaps know all of them.

30 things I bet you didn't know about me:
  1. I like to put on a good show of being a badass, but deep down I am a hopeless romantic. [I hope this doesn't ruin my street cred]
  2. I really want to be able to cook like my mother, but I have neither the patience nor the discipline in the kitchen to see that desire through to fruition.
  3. This past year I discovered that I don't hate running the way I do other forms of exercise. In fact, I kind of enjoy it. <cue pigs flying over the moon>
  4. I have numerous OCD tendencies. I'll make that a whole other list one of these weeks.
  5. I love cleaning my ears.
  6. I use my phone for a million different purposes - checking email, posting pictures of the Peanut on Instagram, playing games, etc. - except for the actual purpose of making and receiving calls. I'm not much of a phone talker.
  7. After growing up with my brother's friends constantly in and out of our house, I have developed a habit of adopting brothers wherever I go.
  8. I very much enjoy making lists.
  9. I crave personal space.
  10. I like the beach, but I prefer the hills.
  11. My life's motto is "hydration is sexy".
  12. I know all the words to "Baby Got Back".
  13. I am fiercely loyal to restaurants and bars where I get good service and get very upset when others don't love them the way I do.
  14. I have always wanted a pet snake.
  15. I am most comfortable when I'm allowed to dress like a 10-year-old boy.
  16. That being said, I was very much a girly-girl until I was about 10 or 11.
  17. In third grade, I once fainted into a trash can because I got a zero on an oral book report. If you ask any of my classmates from Helena, I'm sure they would happily re-enact the event for you.
  18. I can name every World Series and March Madness champion since 1990.
  19. Even though my patience for watching laboriously long Hindi movies has waned in the past decade, I continue to watch Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge a minimum of three times a year.
  20. Nearly all of my business-casual attire for school was purchased at Old Navy or Target.
  21. I'm pretty sure I was both a Spartan warrior and a pirate in my past lives, and nothing you say will change my mind.
  22. I am super competitive, especially when it comes to board games.
  23. My favourite days are the ones where I get to sit on the couch, watching college football and / or reading a book.
  24. I am a pack rat and will hold on to anything if I can attach some memory or emotion to it.
  25. I'm super cheap. I usually have to consult my brother for moral support if I'm making a purchase over $25.
  26. I will do pretty much anything to avoid shopping. Especially for clothes. And especially at the mall or on Commercial Street.
  27. When I was in middle school, I once slept through our house burglar alarm going off. Luckily it was only my brother and Mike.
  28. In 5th grade, I convinced my classmates there were four ghosts living in my house. I never knew they believed me until, in 8th grade, they were scared to come study at my house at night.
  29. Take me to the fair or to an amusement park, and I turn into a 5-year-old. I love the rides, I love the games, I love the cheap, unhealthy food that inevitably causes a stomachache. I love it all.
  30. I have never lived completely on my own. I've always had roommates or flatmates or housemates. The idea of living on my own both excites and terrifies me, mostly because I'm afraid I'll get bored if I only have myself for company.
And that's me, in a nutshell.
Next week: 30 word - and phrases - my friends use to describe me.
woo pig.

25 August 2012

love my little bangalore.

Bangalore has been in the news too much recently for bad reasons - the garbage dumps overflowing, the exodus of people to the North-Eastern states because of threats made via mass-SMS, the ever-present problem of corruption among the city's bureaucrats - so it is always nice when something good is made to showcase what a great city it can be.

The people of 1st December Films have made a short video titled little BANGALORE that does just that. Take 5 minutes out of your day to watch it, and you also can see why I love this adopted hometown of mine so much.

Feeling just a little bit nostalgic and homesick today.

23 August 2012

30 thursdays: a new series.

Since my 30th birthday is around the corner [ok, so it's about 10-and-a-half-months away. in the grand scheme of things, that's pretty much "around the corner"], I've decided to start a new series called "30 Thursdays". In addition to my ongoing 30 things to do before I turn 30 list, I am going to do a series of lists about various aspects of my life and will post a new one each Thursday. They'll range from the serious [the 30 most inspirational people in my life] to the silly [30 things I bet you didn't know about me] and everything in between [my 30 favourite athletes; 30 books that have changed my life in some way; etc] and will all have - you guessed it - 30 items on the list. I'm going to do them on Thursdays for a few reasons: one is that I very much like alliteration, so that worked out very well for me, and second is because I figure there are roughly 45 Thursdays between now and my birthday, so even if I miss a week here or there, I should still - hopefully - be able to crank out 30 lists between now and next July 1st.

So far I have about 10 ideas for my lists, on a variety of different topics, but I could definitely use some more suggestions or ideas for inspiration. Coming up with 30 things about anything is pretty difficult, but just coming up with 30 different topics is also proving to be a bit of a challenge. I want them to be insightful, entertaining, fun, deep, thought-provoking, amazing, know, all of those things that I think I am :)

I will unveil my first list next Thursday, so you'll have to wait one more week for the first installment. Until then, send some suggestions my way for potential list ideas. And yes, I'm still soliciting ideas for the aforementioned "30 before 30" list. I've added a few more to my list but have yet to post an update since I've not crossed anything else off as yet. But that will come eventually.

Until then, send me ideas!

21 August 2012

how many guys does it take to...?

One of the most amusing - and also infuriating - things about buying anything in India is the sheer number of people working in stores. Anytime I would go to more. [the supermarket near the office], there would never be fewer than 10-12 people on staff. Of those 10-12 people, however, only about 3 would actually be doing any work. The rest would either be sitting around, trying subtly to flirt with workers of the opposite sex, or else following customers around offering their help when none was needed. At Polar Bear, there would sometimes be 6 guys working, and me the only customer in the building for half an hour. I got awesome service, but it kind of seemed like a waste of resources.

I saw this a few times in one of the supermarkets in Thamel in Kathmandu, but never quite on the scale I've seen in India. Until today, when it dawned on me what the equivalent is in Nepal: extra "conductors" / ticket collectors / bouncers on the buses.

In Kathmandu, if you take a mini-bus or a tuk-tuk around the city, you will have one driver, one person legitimately collecting money for tickets, and then anywhere up to 4 other young boys just hanging out and going for a joyride. They occasionally get out to speak to the police, tell people how to adjust so more people can be crammed in, or hand money back and forth between driver and legitimate collector, but for the most part, they are enjoying ditching school and pretending they're adults.

Today, during our various trips on boats and buses to reach one of the schools where Room to Read has just begun working, I noticed it again. In addition to the two guys operating the boats and the one guy in charge of collecting money from passengers, there were an extra 5 guys just there to add to the scenery. On the bus, it was more of the same: this time it was only three extras. That I noticed, anyway.

In India, I have always chalked it up to a population of 1.2 billion people in need of jobs and so try not to get too annoyed when they're following me around a store [I've come up with a great way to get the people at Health & Glow to leave me alone...let me know if you want in on the secre4]. I'm still working out what the situation is in Nepal, but I have a feeling it has a lot to do with lack of a proper government, substandard government schooling, and the fact that it's obviously more fun to spend the day gallivanting around town with your friends as opposed to in an overcrowded school learning how to memorize answers for an exam.

Regardless of what it is, it was amusing to me. But that could also be because I have been up and on the road since 6am.

19 August 2012

linking sports and education.

Finally, two of my favourite things are being linked together.

Apparently Room to Read and the International Cricket Council [ICC] first partnered together last year during the Cricket World Cup, with Shane Watson of Australia and Angelo Mathews of Sri Lanka serving as ambassadors. This year, Virat Kohli of India has joined the team, and all are preparing for the upcoming ICC World Twenty20 tournament to be held in Sri Lanka in September and October of this year.

As part of the lead-up to the tournament, today Angelo Mathews, the ICC, and Room to Read unveiled a new local-language children's book about Mathews as a young child pursuing his dream of playing cricket. The book is aimed at young readers in grades 1 and 2 as a way to increase their interest both in reading as well as in sports.

I will admit, at times it is difficult to defend my love of sports when I see some of the athletes behaving poorly, setting bad examples for youth around the world, and flaunting their money when there are children I love so much whose families struggle to put food on the table each day. But it's days like these, when athletes come together with organizations working so hard around the world to promote the importance of learning and education - and yes, sports also - that I remember why I love both.

Today, I am proud to be a cricket fan.

17 August 2012

color and fire's fun new offering.

I have some extremely talented friends, and one of them, Will, is a fantastic artist and aspiring writer.
He showcases many of his paintings on his Color and Fire website, offering you the opportunity to look through his work and order prints of your own in many different sizes. [side note: he sent me two prints for me to bring to India / Nepal with me, and they turned out beautifully]

He has recently undertaken a new project to help spread the word about his work: printing his paintings on covers for smartphones and tablets. For the very reasonable price of only $20, you can order the cover of your choice and have it delivered to your home [at present, I think this might only be available for customers in the US...]. If you are interested, click here, choose which print you want from the "Prints" tab, and place your order. Remember to click on the "Phone/Tablet Case" option when choosing your size. Once you place your order, Will will [ha! Will will. makes me laugh every time] take care of the printing and shipping, and your brand new cover will be on its way to you.

Please check out his website, order a cover - or 2 or 3 or 12 - today, and be sure to spread the word to your friends who may be interested in supporting and encouraging independent artists.

[I ordered #1515 for myself and am eagerly waiting for my parents to send it to me so I can sport it around India and brag about what talented and awesome friends I have]

14 August 2012

one school down, only 9 more to go...

Today Arpana [my awesome translator] and I completed our interviews in our first school! I think they went pretty well, but it is difficult to know for sure since we don't yet have anything to compare it to. The Social Mobilizers [Room to Read staff who work in the schools] were very nice and extremely helpful in setting up our interviews and preparing the school for our arrival. The interviews themselves went quite well, and we had no problems getting anyone to speak up or answer the questions. If all our interviews go like this, I will be extremely grateful, but I know realistically there are bound to be a few bumps along the way. But this was certainly a great school to get us started.

I was so thankful so many times for my Practicum project, teammates, and partners these last two days. As difficult - and, at times, agonizing - as those last few month were when Stan, Christine, and I were literally spending upwards of 6 hours every day analyzing interview data, I feel so prepared now for this project. I was comfortable leading the interviews and speaking with a variety of different people, and I am already able to see how I can start organizing my data. All those months of hardship and no sleep and working round-the-clock during Spring Break prepared me well.

At first glance, there are many similarities between government schools in Nepal and their counterparts in India. The uniforms are the same, the girls are just as giggly, all of the staff are friendly and welcoming [yesterday they bought us soft drinks, just as the headmaster in Kengeri used to buy me chai], the buildings are similar, the assembly is the same, the students are equally as curious...the list goes on. I felt very much at home in the setting as a result of having spent so much time at government schools in and around Bangalore, and I think my ease helped to put the people we interviewed at ease as well. [or I could just be giving myself a whole lot of credit. whatever, it's my blog, I'm allowed]

The other nice thing about this school was that it was quite close to our hotel - only a 30-minute journey by car. That meant that we did not have to get up super early to hit the road [thank goodness those 6am starts to drive to Highland are behind me], and we were able to come back and have a late lunch at our hotel. Apparently, the farthest school is a 2.5 hour drive, but we'll be able to stay overnight when we visit that school, so it shouldn't be too bad. And the school timings are 10am to 4pm, so the earliest we'd have to leave is probably about 8am. I can handle that.

I think the biggest adjustment for me is the school week. In Nepal, the week begins on Sunday, Friday is the half-day, and Saturday is the holiday. As it stands now, we will be visiting a school on Sunday and Monday, using Tuesday as a data analysis day, visiting a different school on Wednesday and Thursday, and then using Friday as a data analysis day. Saturday is a day off, but as there's not a whole lot to do out here, we'll probably spend part of it working so that we'll have less work at the end. There is a national park in this district, about a 2 hour drive from here, so that might be a good possibility in a few weeks when we might need a slight change of scenery.

I shall go for now and reward myself for a successful, productive few days by spending the remainder of my night reading for pleasure.

12 August 2012

book update: what I've read since I left the usa.

I know, I know, my book updates are long overdue. Or perhaps you're annoyed that I'm bringing them back. Regardless, I am here to let you know what I have been reading since I left the U-S-of-A and to let you know what is next on my list.

Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide [Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn]. One [hyphenated] word: awe-inspiring. I had been wanting to read this for a while and finally got the opportunity to dig into it right before I left for India. There were so many stories of women who have survived against all odds [positive deviants, some might even call them] and have dedicated their lives to making sure other women do not go through the same experiences they did. There were also examples of people from all around the world who have dedicated their lives to providing opportunities for women as well as examples of how small actions can have a lasting impact. If you've not yet read this book, find a copy and get to it. [on a side note, it also had a long list of awesome organizations - particularly in India - whose names I wrote down for potential Capstone / career opportunities]

Perfect Gentleman [Imran Ahmad]. Ahmad spoke at school in late April and was so downright hilarious that I just had to buy his book. The book itself - his memoir about moving from Karachi, Pakistan, to London with his family and subsequently growing up Muslim in London in the 1970s - was pretty entertaining. There were some anecdotes that had me laughing out loud, but there were other that dragged. Overall I enjoyed the book, and it kept me entertained while I was in Coimbatore. It's a light, fast read that covers a bit of what Ahmad's experience was growing up "different" from his peers.

Rafa [Rafael Nadal with John Carlin]. My tennis-playing cousin in Coimbatore loaned me his copy of Rafael Nadal's autobiography since he knows that I am a big fan. When the opening chapter was his recounting of the 2008 Wimbledon final against Roger Federer, I was hooked. Overall I enjoyed reading it, but then again, he is my favourite tennis player. If you're not a fan, it may not interest you. My favourite part was definitely the retelling of that 2008 final; I could picture every shot just as he described it, and when I finished it, I had to watch a highlights video from the match on YouTube. And what a match it was.

An Uncommon Education [Elizabeth Percer]. This was one that I happened to spot near the checkout at B&N one day, and when I was thinking of books to download before my trip, it popped into my head. It was a pretty interesting read, the story of a young girl from Brookline, Massachusetts, who is struggling to find out who she is while growing up in a bit of an untraditional family. I read it quickly, but I was also in Surat and didn't have much else to do. It was a pretty interesting read, not amazing, but also not bad.

The Taliban Cricket Club [Timeri N. Murari]. I saw this one in a bookstore in San Francisco and was intrigued as soon as I saw the words "cricket club". I really enjoyed this one, the story of a young modern woman in Kabul, Afghanistan, an underground journalist and former cricket player who unknowingly draws the attention of a corrupt minister. Her story of trying to avoid him while preparing her younger brother and cousins for Kabul's first-ever cricket tournament and caring for her sick mother had me laughing at times and outraged and wanting to cry at others. Definitely a book that held my interest, although the end was a bit too unbelievable. I tend to shake my head when books are wrapped up a bit too neatly after being full of strife and heartache.

The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest [Stieg Larsson]. Yep, I finally finished the Millennium series. Only took me two years. I had my ups-and-downs with the final book of the series. At times it seemed to be dragging, and then at others it seemed to quickly gloss over parts I thought deserved more time and attention [the trial, for example. the whole book builds up to it, and then it's over in a matter of like 40 pages. weird]. And this was another one that was wrapped up a bit too neatly for my liking. After all the strife and hardships, the end, while not rosy, was slightly too unbelievable for me. On the whole I enjoyed reading the series and am glad I did. Now I am looking forward to seeing the Swedish movie versions. I've heard they're really good, but I wanted to wait until I finished the whole series before I watched them. Now to figure out how to get my hands on them...

I know this makes it look like I've read a lot of books in the two-and-a-half months I've been gone, but in the spirit of full disclosure, I had begun the first two before I left the States. I also partially read I'm a Stranger Here Myself [Bill Bryson] before I left Bangalore, but I didn't have enough space to carry three books so left it behind. Luckily it's a collection rather than a novel, so it won't be a problem to pick it up and continue reading it once I return [that's also dependent on Shonali not losing it while I'm gone].

I am now about halfway through with The Bastard of Istanbul [Elif Shafak] and have just started reading The Great Hunt [Wheel of Time Series #2 by Robert Jordan] on my iPad. I also downloaded The Dragon Reborn [Wheel of Tyme Series #3 by Robert Jordan - they're super long, so I figured they would keep me occupied while I'm in the middle of nowhere], House Rules [Jodi Picoult], and The Shame of the Nation [Jonathan Kozol]. As the two Wheel of Time books are roughly 1,000 pages each, I think those should hold me over until I'm back in Bangalore. What do you think?

Beyond these I don't have any that I am dying to read, so if you have any suggestions, please pass them along.

Happy reading!

11 August 2012

random rambles.

1. After being told to expect only the "basics" during my 6-week stay in Gularia, imagine my surprise when i walked into a spacious hotel room complete with air-conditioning, wireless Internet, and a television. Maybe I need to update my definition of the word "basic".

2. I finally finished the Girl With the Dragon Tattoo series, two years after I read the first book. Which reminds me that I need to do a massive book update post. Hmm. One of these days, surely.

3. Thanks to the public transportation strikes in Kathmandu, I got some much-needed exercise and successfully navigated myself around the city. Unfortunately, it also made for quite an experience getting to the airport this morning. That story will also come in an update one day soon as well.

4. In a funny turn of events, the lady who has accompanied me to Bardiya to translate for me during interviews is the niece of the family that ran the guesthouse where I stayed in Kathmandu. Welcome, once again, to the ever-shrinking world.

5. My charms with waiters in restaurants continue. Many of the people in the cafes on Freak Street were greatly amused by me because I would sing along with the old Hindi songs they played. I'm sure they were all heartbroken to see me go.

And with that, I guess it's time to finally get started on this project of mine.

10 August 2012

delhi days.

I realize my chronology is a bit off, but I wanted to post about my week in Delhi with the mighty M&M [Maggie and Mitchell, for those keeping score at home] before I get so wrapped up in my project that I forget which way is up...

I had the pleasure of spending a week in Delhi with Maggie and Mitchell before heading up to Kathmandu, and it was such a great time. It was so fun to see them so settled in the city, and it was honestly a bit strange to have them be my tour guides. I am so used to guiding the foreigners around south India, that it was a strange kind of role-reversal.

Mitchell was kind enough to take on the role of tour guide during the week while Maggie was at work. He and I spent a few days wandering the city on the HoHo bus and discovering new Metro routes to get around the city. We managed to see the Lotus Temple, Safdarjung's Tomb, the Red Fort, and the India Gate on our adventures, and only once did we almost get duped by a rickshaw driver into going into a shop owned by one of his friends.

[lotus temple]

[safdarjung's tomb]

[mitchell being rowdy and trying to open doors he's clearly not supposed to be opening]

[and now being emo]

[inside the red fort]

[red fort]

[love the trees]

[it's surprisingly not very red inside the red fort]

[steps to the dungeon? I dare you to find out]

[the front door of mitchell's future home]

[party island. it's where all the magic happens]

[india gate]
We also ate lots of yummy food, hung out with Matt as he transitioned out of India and back to the western world, harassed Pranay once he returned from Istanbul, consumed a fair bit of Old Monk, and stayed up late watching New Girl, Masterchef Australia, and the Olympics. One night, I made Maggi [for Maggie!] noodles for dinner, and another night Maggie [of the Italian heritage] was kind enough to make bruschetta and pasta for us.

It was so fun to have a few days with my classmates before jumping in to my project. They were great sounding boards for my nerves, and it was great being able to hear their tales of work and travels and exploring the city. I was sad to say bye to them knowing it will be next spring before we meet again, but I'm so thankful to have had that week.

And now that I know Rob will be in Delhi when I return in October, I have even higher hopes for the next go-round.

07 August 2012

30 before 30: crossing off number 1!

  1. Go bungee jumping.
  2. Go sky-diving.
  3. Spend one week on my own in Honey Valley, cut off from the world and from all of my electronic gadgets.
  4. Do a wine tour [preferably in California, but due to logistical constraints, improvisations may have to be made].
  5. Complete my Master of Public Service degree.
  6. Run a half marathon.
  7. Explore a new part of India.
  8. Be vegetarian for one month.
  9. Go skinny-dipping.
  10. Learn to scuba dive.
When Jack and I found out that we would be in Kathmandu at the same time, for some crazy reason we decided it would be a good idea to go bungee jumping together. We knew that if we had each other for moral support, we'd have to go through with it. So since Jack arrived in Kathmandu before me, he researched a few places and found one called the last resort that offered a bungee jump outside the city could be completed in a day trip from the city.

When I arrived on Saturday, after our viewing of Kumari and a stop for a samosa, we wandered to Thamel and booked our jump for Sunday. And at 5.45am Sunday morning, as the city was still deep in slumber, we climbed aboard a bus for the 3-and-a-half hour journey to the resort's location, near the Tibet border, where we would be jumping.

When we arrived at the resort, we had to walk across the bridge off which we would be jumping shortly. It was a pretty rickety bridge, and I think we both had quite a few butterflies in our stomach on the walk.

[the platform from which we jumped]

[the hills in the distance and the rushing water below. not at all scary, I swear]

[the secret is to focus on the houses in the distance and jump out toward them. or so I was told, so that's what I did]
Once across, our entire group was gathered for a briefing on the procedures for the jump. We were all weighed [guess who put on a few pounds during her months in India? yikes] and put into groups accordingly. Luckily Jack and I were in the same group, so we would be together on the bridge before jumping.

We were in the second group, and we had to wait for quite a while for the first group to complete their jumps. There was a little viewing platform where we could sit and watch, and it was both comforting to see others do it successfully as well as a little nerve-wracking to just have to sit around and wait. While waiting with a Korean guy who was jumping in the third group, we met a nice elderly Dutch couple who had just arrived to spend a few days at the resort, and we discussed with them how we got the crazy idea into our heads to jump off a bridge. They were not up for jumping themselves, but they were really nice to talk to.

Finally the first group was finished, and it was our turn to head out on the bridge. Yong-Ma, our very nice friend from Korea, agreed to take some pictures for us, so you can see for yourselves what our jumps looked like...

[Jack getting ready to jump]

[me getting ready to jump]

[on the way down]

[free falling]
It was a pretty awesome experience. Standing up on that bridge, watching others strap in and go, there were moments when I wasn't sure I would go through with it. Once Jack went, however, I was ok. It was somehow calming to watch him jump, and once he was all the way down, I knew I would be ok. There was a Dutch guy in our group who had done it a few times last year, and he told me to focus on the houses in the distance and jump out toward them, so that is what I concentrated on doing.

When it came time for me to get strapped into my harness, my mind was oddly blank. The videographer stuck the camera in my face and asked me how I was feeling, and I muttered inane statement about how I couldn't believe I was doing this to myself, or some such nonsense. While I was sitting, though, I started talking to him, and it was really calming. Then the guy who would be out on the platform came to strap me in one final time, and I asked what his name was, as I wanted to know who was pushing me off the bridge. His name was Prakash. I found it quite fitting and also a bit relieving. I know it's silly, but it's the truth.

Off we went onto the platform, I waved to the camera and to the people sitting and watching, Prakash said "3-2-1-bungee", and I jumped. I wanted to shout a "wooooo" as I fell, but I was so speechless that no words would come out. And it's not often that I am speechless.

Honestly, the first 160m drop - apparently the 3rd highest free fall in the world - wasn't scary at all. It was over before it even sunk in that I had just voluntarily jumped off a bridge. The first time it bounced me back up was a little unnerving, kind of like when you're on a roller coaster going upside-down, but then even that was over quickly. And then there was just the sight of the rushing water below me, and the guys who had gone before me who were waiting for me to be lowered all the way down.

There was one last guy to go after me, so we waited for him and then began our hike back up to the resort. And it was a hike. So many steps. I definitely had to stop a few times on the way back up. We tried to make it back in time to see Yong-Ma jump, but he jumped before we were able to get back. After he hiked back up, we grabbed some lunch and sat while we waited for the third group to finish their jumps and come back for lunch.

While we waited, Jack and I reflected a bit on the resort itself. As much as I enjoyed the experience and the jump, it was difficult to reconcile that I had, however unknowingly, supported a place that so clearly caters to wealthy western tourists. On the hike back to the resort, we passed through a small village, and by asking one of the workers, we discovered that the village had existed before the resort was built, and we wondered what those villagers thought of the people who visited. The Last Resort claims to support local economies, so maybe it has been a boon for the people who live there, but I can't help but wonder what it must be like to have your normal routine so completely changed when a resort like this crops up. It's certainly something to think about.

But that is another post for another day [how many times have you heard me say that?]. For today, I am celebrating crossing a big one off my 30 before 30 list. Can't wait to see what the next one is!

[I have to give a big shout-out to Jack for being game for this and for joining me on the adventure. it definitely helped having a friend there, and I don't know that I would have done it without him. thank you, Jackalope!]

06 August 2012

grateful to not be a goddess.

When I arrived in Kathmandu on Saturday, Jack was gracious enough to meet me at the airport and accompany me to my guest house. We decided to go for a wander and were cutting through Durbar Square on our way to Thamel when Jack pointed out the house where Kumari, the living goddess, lives. We noticed her chariot was outside, and we stepped inside to see the inner courtyard and for Jack to pass along whatever information he knew of her, including the fun little tidbit that her feet are not allowed to touch the ground. We decided to hang around for a few minutes to see if we could get a glimpse of her up-close, but eventually the police shooed us outside.

We stepped out to see that a large crowd had gathered, everyone attempting to find a spot where they could glimpse this small child who is thought to be the living incarnation of the goddess Durga as a child. By default, we ended up with front-row spots for the spectacle, as there was no way we would be able to make our way through the ever-growing crowd.

As we stood, we discussed what it must be like to be worshipped / gawked at as a young child, only to be told once you get your period or suffer a major injury that you are no longer holy, and that the life you have led thus far is no longer yours but is now someone else's.

It was a bit of a bizarre experience, because we were torn between kind of wanting to see her - she rarely leaves her house - but not wanting to be part of the spectacle. In the end, we stayed, mostly because there was no way we could get out of the crowd. She passed right in front of me, and she looked just like any other lost little child, except she was surrounded by hundreds of people clamoring to get a glimpse of her.

In the end it was over quickly, and Jack and I set off on the rest of our wandering. But it was certainly an interesting way to begin my visit in a new city.