the wonderful world of veena.

27 June 2013

30 thursdays: 30 favourite places.

I have been lucky enough to visit a number of beautiful places around the world, and I'd like to take a little trip down memory lane to share some of them with you. In no particular order,

30 favourite places:

Coorg, Karnataka. My first visit to Coorg - and Honey Valley in particular - was love at first sight. The coffee plantations are spectacular, the food is mouth-wateringly incredible, and the views in all directions are breath-taking. Whether leading groups, visiting with friends, or mending broken hearts, it will always be my peaceful escape from the chaos of urban India.

Istanbul, Turkey. In 2010, I attended the 5th World Youth Congress in Istanbul, and it was a blast. Two weeks of catching up with old friends from around the world, making new ones, attending great workshops, and exploring a vibrant and beautiful city made for an incredible experience. I would love to return one day for another visit, but until then, I will settle for my memories.

Jamaica. Not a day goes by that I don't remember some memory from one of my 7 trips to the beautiful island of Jamaica. The people are beautiful, the scenery is breathtaking, and the children are the children of my heart. I learned so much from my visits there, and each trip changed my life in unexplainable ways. I made so many great friends on those trips - both Baylor students as well as the Jamaican people - and I hope one day I am able to return back to the small island that made such a big imprint on my heart. "Someday, the light will shine like a sun through my skin, and they will say, what have you done with your life? And though there are many moments I think I will remember, in the end, I will be proud to say, I was one of us."

[all from my last trip in 2005. clockwise from top left: me and JJ, me and Junior, and me with my boys Bob and Bobby]
Bangalore. The cloudy, crazy, fat, drunken city that will always hold my heart.

                            little BANGALORE from 1st December Films on Vimeo.

London. The city I will always dream of living and thriving in.

Hampi, Karnataka. Like Coorg, Hampi has long been a peaceful escape for me. I've had the opportunity to lead a number of Peace Child groups on trips there, and I've been lucky enough to make a few friends in the various hotels and restaurants that line the weaving lanes. It's such a beautiful place to spend some time alone in your thoughts. I would love to be able to spend a few days exploring Hampi on my own, both to revisit favourite places and to discover new ones.

Chattanooga, TN. The city where I spent two of the greatest years of my life. I had the amazing opportunity to board at Baylor my junior and senior years of high school, and I cannot imagine a better experience. The city is beautiful, the people are super sweet, the education I received was great, and the opportunities that have opened up to me as a result remind me every day how lucky I am. Chattanooga will always have a special place in my heart as my "home" in the States, and I would love to live there again someday.

Brussels. After my jaunt to the WYC in 2010, Dorothy and I went to Brussels to spend some time with our friends Julie, Aoife, and Meabh, and what a blast we had. Our girls are fantastic hosts and tour guides, and we had a grand time exploring the city, learning the bus and metro routes, and stuffing our faces with frites at sidewalk pubs. My stomach very much enjoyed its time in Brussels.

Amsterdam / Texel Island. While in Brussels, Do and I decided to take a little jaunt up to Amsterdam, and Koudi decided to join us. We lived it up in Amsterdam for 2 days and then decided we needed to detox and recharge our batteries, so we rented a car, drove north, and took a ferry to the first Texel Island. Both places were great in their own ways, and I'm glad I got to share the journey with two wonderful people I'm lucky to call friends.

Puglia, Italy. Bear and Rob's parents have a trullo in southern Italy, and they were kind enough to invite me for a sojourn after my crazy 2 weeks in Istanbul. The region is beautiful, the pizza at Benny's is mouth-watering, and the fig tree in front of their trullo is the perfect place for a relaxing lunch followed by a nice, long afternoon nap. Two days was certainly not enough, and the entire Mann family has been threatened with my eventual return.

Palolem, Goa. I have visited Palolem a number of times over the years with various groups of friends, and each time I find something new I love about it. It's in south Goa, far from the trance clubs and overly touristic bits of central Goa, and it's a nice place to relax, swim, eat, read, drink, and sleep. I've made friends at a few of the cafes and guest houses, and I only wish I could have made it back there on this last India trip, but I know I'll be back again at some point. I love it too much not to return.

San Francisco. I finally made it out to the west coast in May 2012 to visit Miriam and Dave in their new home. I spent one day wandering on my own and loved the energy of the city. And I finally got to try a burger from In-n-Out. And to top it all off, my visit coincided with Bay to Breakers, the 10-mile race that everyone runs either in costume or completely naked. It completely lived up to the hype and was almost enough to convince me to move to California. Almost.

Kathmandu & Pokhara, Nepal. I have waxed poetic enough times on here for most of you to know how much I enjoyed my time in Nepal. It's a beautiful country full of wonderful people, and I'm so grateful for the time that I had there.

Bombay. The city of my childhood dreams that finally became my home for a few months.

New York City. I spent 5 awesome days in NYC in 2010 and had the chance to catch up with so many different friends: Bianca, Tejas, Mindy, Sastri, Paige, and Coach Nate. It's a fantastic city, to be sure, and it's exhausting, but there's never a dull moment. I'm hoping for a return trip this summer if the timing works out - I still need to see a show on Broadway.

Memphis, TN. Oh, Memphis. The city of my birth. The city of Elvis. The city of my undergraduate adventures. And now, the city of my parents' home. Memphis is a wonderful city with great friends, fantastic eateries, awesome music, Graceland, and the Grizzlies. There's not much more I require from life.

The Dominican Republic. I got to visit Haygood in the DR while he was on his Peace Corps placement, and it was so great being able to see him in that element. Even though we've been in vastly different places since he transferred from Rhodes to UVA in fall 2003, we have somehow managed to continue finding each other wherever we might be in the world. And in 2007, that meant plane-hopping down to the DR to spend 4 days visiting his village, seeing a sugarcane factory, and taking his kids to the beach. I'm always thankful for the amazing memories I have of our friendship, and these certainly rank high on the list.

Boston. In 2006 I paid the Mindy a visit for her birthday, and she was kind enough to show me around Boston in return. This trip also marked the beginning of our tradition of going straight from the airport to Qdoba whenever one of us visits. Perhaps the lack of one is why she never came to visit me in India. I should probably work on that. Sorry, Beer, didn't realise that was the sticking point.

Rajasthan. Ever since I was young I wanted to explore more of India than just where our families lived, and in November 2008 I finally had my opportunity. Dimple was taking one of the interns traveling in Rajastan, so Akis and I decided to tag along for the journey. We spent 10 fun-filled days exploring Jaipur, camel safari-ing it up in Jaisalmer, discovering the beauty of Pushkar, seeing the Taj, and drinking in Delhi. It was an experience I'll never forget.

Denver, CO. In early 2008, during one of my holidays in the States, I ventured out to Denver to visit the Mindy. She was working with AmeriCorps and had a long weekend of sorts, so I hopped on over to hang out with her. Denver is a beautiful city, and I had a blast exploring with her. We even managed to take a little road trip out to Boulder to meet Walker and have lunch with her. We originally wanted to go skiing or snowboarding also, but madam Mindy managed to break her arm about a month before I got there, so that didn't get to happen. I guess we'll just have to get there next time.

Kerala. In December 2008 Dimple and I took a group from France traveling to Kerala, spending about a week in Cochin, Allepey, and Munnar. Highlights included seeing a Kathakali dance performance in Cochin, a backwaters boat ride in Allepey, and touring the tea fields in Munnar.

Bristol, UK. During my European and UK tour in 2010 I spent 3 days with Kirsty and Rob in Bristol. To add to the fun, Oda hopped on over from Norway, and we had ourselves a nice little reunion, singing our little karaoke hearts out and brunch-ing it up. I love my Krusty and my cute little Common Name, and having our Odomos around just made it that much better.

Little Rock, AR. In August 2011 I found myself in Little Rock, preparing to begin my first year at the University of Arkansas Clinton School of Public Service. Having not spent a lot of time in Little Rock during my childhood despite growing up in Helena, I really didn't know what to expect from my time there. I definitely did not expect to grow to love the city as much as I do or to have as much fun as I did. Whether playing kickball with my classmates, taking advantage of all-day Happy Hour at the Town Pump, midnight movie adventures, catching up with Helena friends, getting to be around for all of Catherine and Drew's wedding events, or Saturdays spent on the couch with Angela, sipping on mimosas and watching mindless movies, my time in Little Rock is chock-full of wonderful memories, and I will always treasure those days.

[photo courtesy of Jacob Slaton Photography]
Charleston, SC. I discovered the charms of Charleston on yet another visit to Mindy. While there we watched a movie in the park, enjoyed a grilled mac-and-cheese sandwich [it's glorious], had lunch with Ashley, brunched it up with Mindy's friends, and toured Fort Sumter. I'm beginning to realize I've gotten to see a lot of fun places courtesy of Mindy, and I'm intrigued to find out where she goes next so I can begin planning my next adventure.

[thanks, Mindy, for letting me steal your picture]
Gokarna, Karnataka. Gokarna is sort of the hippie paradise south of Goa, the place where you go when you want to go to the beach but want to avoid the crowds and the tourists. It's nice and deserted and empty and calm, and it can be just the place you need to recharge your batteries and prepare yourself for the craziness that is India.

Manipal. I made many a trip to Manipal while Shonali was studying there to check up on her and - in later days - to keep track of my CanOfBliss boys and their exploits. It was a happy place, full of cheap food and fun friends, and there was never a dull moment. In fact, the moments were usually so much fun that I often postponed my tickets to stay extra days. On one trip I decided as my bus pulled up that I was going to stay for one more night. My Manipal kids and I took good care of each other, and I always enjoyed my days pretending I was a college kid again.

Shillong / Cherrapunji, Meghalaya. I recently wrote about my awesome trip to northeast India, so I don't need to get into all of it again. It's a beautiful part of the country, and I'm so glad the timing worked out for me to be able to get up there and see Tet, Wasi, and Sastri all in one place. My favourite part of the trip was definitely our journey to Cherrapunji, where we trekked 3km up and down steps and across living root bridges to Nongriat village. I told Tet I'll be back one day, and I fully intend to keep that promise.

Paris. For Spring Break 2012, I ventured across the pond to hang out with the Mann siblings - Ellie in London and Rob in Paris. I had been to London a few years prior, but this was my first trip to Paris. I was there in the middle of the week, so Rob had work, but he set me up with an awesome map detailing all the arrondisements, told me where to meet him once he finished work, and sent me on my way. I spent my days wandering the city and snapping pictures along the way and then spent the evenings exploring with Rob. We took a nice stroll across most of the city, saw the Eiffel Tower all shiny and shimmery, sipped on wine at sidewalk cafes, explored hidden clubs, stuffed our faces full of awesome food, and cycled our way home at the end of it thanks to the awesome bike sharing program available in Paris. I know some of my friends don't really like Paris, but I very much enjoyed my two days there.

Helena, AR. I couldn't leave this list without mentioning the town where I grew up. I know I can be hard on Helena sometimes, but I'll always cherish my memories of growing up there. I'm thankful that I have been able to reconnect with my childhood friends in the last few years, and I know I can always call on them if I need anything. I love living in cities these days, but deep down, I'll always be a small-town country girl.

the farm. The Devaraj family farm in Banjarpalya village outside Bangalore will forever be one of my most happy places. It's a sanctuary about 20km outside the city, a quick escape from the craziness of my city, and the site of any number of fabulous parties over the years: countless New Year parties; barbecues with various school groups; a few fundraisers; and my unforgettable birthday / farewell party in 2011. I have so many wonderful memories from the farm, and it will always be one of my favourite places.

Writing this post makes me happy to remember all these wonderful places, but it also makes my feet start to itch for all those other places yet to be explored...

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