About Me

My photo
"I would rather be ashes than dust! I would rather my spark burn out in a brilliant blaze than be stifled by dry-rot. I would rather be a meteor, every atom of me in magnificent glow, than a sleepy, permanent planet. The proper function of man is to live, not to exist. I shall not waste my days in trying to prolong them. I shall use my time." ~Jack London

Sunday, March 19, 2006

The Gift Of Awareness

I've been here a little over a week and my journal is already almost completely full. I've been writing in every free moment that I have, and still I feel as though the events of my life here are impossible to keep up with. It's so difficult to even know where to begin when I update this.

Friday night we all went out to an extremely fancy dinner (that cost a total of 10 dollars a person), and then out to an Indian night club for drinks. It was an amazingly good time. There was this huge dance floor that we all took full advantage of, and when "Billie Jean" began to play, I got more excited than any person ever should. Needless to say, I went around and got the entire bar to come dance their hearts out to Michael Jackson. It was fantastic.

As we wandered home around 2am, we turned the corner to find ourselves face to face with a huge elephant roaming the street. The man riding it saw our excitement and had the elephant stop so we could pet him. He offered us a ride, but mama always taught me not to take rides on elephants with strangers (thanks, mom), so we just hung out with him for a while in the street.

Three hours later, four of us crawled out of bed to begin our journey to the Taj Mahal. It's about a three hour car ride away, and I loved every minute of it. We drove through the countryside, through the cities, through the inbetweens. It was all SO beautiful, and just how you'd picture it. There were fields dotted with men and women in bright oranges and blues and greens. There were crowded streets filled with cars and cows and pigs and people. There was immensley saddening poverty and really gorgeous views. It was all so sublimely eye-opening.

I am so aware here, aware of the world, aware of myself. Everything makes me think about life on so many levels. I think about why we're here, why we're so different, why we're so similar. I think about what's beyond it all. It's a constant struggle to compare my life with those impovrished souls I see on a daily basis. I'm always thinking "I could never live that way," as though it were a choice, as though I wouldn't have to learn to if my circumstances had been different. No one should have to learn to live that way, but they do. They learn. They learn to work hard for nothing, to beg, to accept their place in life. They learn to lead a life of poverty.

How much I've wasted - time, money, resources, knowledge. How much I've taken for granted. I know that it's a cliched revelation, but for the rest of my life, I'll remember these people in the fields and on the streets. I'll remember during my comparably insignificant daily struggles, the eyes of the mothers outside our car windows begging us for money, the men on the street with missing limbs trying to get from point A to point B on their own, the abandoned children crying for attention and affection. I'll remember them, always. I'll take them back with me to my world of beers and starbucks coffees and AIM and facebook, back to the world of frivilous dillemas and needless complaints. I'll carry them home with me and share the gift they've given me, this gift of awareness.

I know that it sounds somewhat lame, but for the first time in my life, I feel whole. My friends have always been such a big part of my life, of me, and surely they always will be, but I'm more than that here. I'm more than a collection of my friends. I am me. I am this brave, friendly, independent person out exploring the world. I miss all of you, of course, but I'm also so grateful to have this reminder that I am capable of being separate from you. I'm defined as more than the girl from Chestnut Hill. I'm living my life for me, and it feels wonderful.

I have so much more to write, especially about the children I'm working with, but it will have to wait for now. I'm happy to be able to write here, but can only be here for so long before I hunger to get back outside, back out into this phenomenal and magical place, back out into life. I am so sublimely alive.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Happy Holi!

I am so sorry for my horrendous lack of updates. I do have internet here, but it's insanely slow and not wireless, so uploading all of my pictures is going to have to wait. It's frustrating not to have more time to say all that I'd like to say or have a more suitable place to concentrate on things, but this will have to do for now.

When I do finally get a chance to update my photos, I'm quite sure that your jealousy will consume you. It is so utterly amazing here. Everything is so rich in life and culture and color. Every day is a beautiful adventure. As one of my new friends, Jordan, said over breakfast yesterday, "there's something really so magical about this place. It feels almost enchanted."

Yes, enchanted. If I had to pick one word, it would be enchanted, although even that doesn't begin to do this wonder of a place the justice it deserves. I literally cannot open my eyes without feeling inspired. The whole city seems to resonate with such gorgeous energy. I've never felt so alive.

Today was the Holi festival, the celebration of spring and the victory of good over evil. We wore all white and walked out into the street. Hundreds of children came running over in order to cover us with water and dye. Water balloons hit the street around us. By the time we left to go to the rooftop of our program director for our official celebration, we were already walking masterpieces of blues and pinks and greens. We spent the afternoon dancing and drinking and laughing and coloring one another from head to toe. I took two showers and am still completely covered. My hair is so shockingly bright green and probably will be for the next week or so. I really wish I could put my pictures up. They're extraordinary.

It was so wonderful to bond with everyone that way, to skip the usual awkward conversations (although we've done most of those) and just get to a place where we were comfortable holding each other down and drenching one another with every color of the rainbow. I've never been so dirty and stupendously happy in my life. It really was one of the greatest days I've ever experienced.

We've been seeing so many sights and I'll explain them all in greater detail when I can upload the pictures and think about this a bit more. Please excuse how truly scattered and rough this is, and that most likely all of my updates to follow will be. It's somewhat difficult to wrap my head around anything, especially in the few moments I have to come here and attempt to share some of what I'm seeing and doing and feeling.

I've had more mixed feelings here than I've had in a while, and daily feel like crying with both immense sorrow and joy and utter peace with myself and the world around me. I feel everything here so deeply, as though my soul has been longing for this kind of release throughout my entire existence thus far. I guess in so many ways, it has. I've been here 5 days and already feel like a completely different person - in a good way, in the best way. I can feel myself change from the time I awake to the time I fall asleep. Each day I am one step closer to understanding.

Anyway, out of the millions upon millions of things I have to say, this will have to do for now. India. I'm so very much head over heels in love with this place.


Wednesday, March 08, 2006

A Shamefully Quick Goodbye

This is my last post from home. I'm so sorry, dear blogger friends, that I've had so little time this past week to update and respond to your lovely comments and posts. Just know that they've meant the world to me. I'll be thinking of all of you constantly while I'm gone and will do my best to check in on you as frequently as I can.

Liz, I got your package today. You are an absolutely amazing and kind and generous person. Thank you so, so, so much my dear! Everything in it was so utterly PERFECT. I wish I had time right now to post pictures of it all, but I'm heading out the door to take care of some last minute things as we speak. Just know that this meant the world to me, and I'll send you a better thank you as soon as I get settled in India.

India. Tomorrow!!!

Goodbye for now everyone. I love you all and will miss you tremendously. Please feel free to email often (faz222@aol.com)! I'll do my best to get back to you as soon as I can. I'll be blogging of course, as well.

Off I go, into the infinite abyss. Wish me luck ;)

Monday, March 06, 2006

The Basics

Somnambulist Seeker and Sky asked if I could do a quick explanation of my trip. It couldn’t have come at a more perfect time, as this morning I received my assignment. It’s still a bit vague, but I sort of almost like it better that way. I like that it will all be new and unexpected.

Here’s what I do know for certain. I’ll be volunteering at Mobile crèches, which is a non-profit organization that provides day care facilities to the underprivileged children in the slums and construction sites of Delhi, Mumbai, Pune, Gurgaon & Noida. The centre caters to the holistic development of the child, which includes nutrition, education & basic health care facilities and community outreach. I’ll be working with children from ages 3-6 and teaching them everything from their ABC’s and colors to sharing and working together in groups. I think it will be a really amazing experience.

I’ll be in New Dehli for five weeks and then Dharamsala for seven. I have yet to receive my volunteer assignment for Dharamsala, but am told it will be along the same lines. Because I don’t know very much about either place, I thought I’d just post a brief explanation taken from the Cross Cultural Website, the program through which I’m volunteering.

About Dehli: “Built on the Yamuna River, New Delhi is the capital of India and is both a thriving modern city and home to much of India's great history. For centuries, the area has been a central hub of Indian life, with roads leading to every part of the country. International travelers come to India to see some of the world's most beautiful architecture, from the Great Mosque to the Mughal Palace. Among these grand structures you will find people from all over India. Cross-Cultural Solutions was founded in India and the first Volunteer Abroad program site opened in New Delhi in 1995. Country Director and local community leader, Bela Singh, played an integral role in developing our volunteer program and the organization as a whole. This will come as no surprise to volunteers who have already visited India or know its history; from Ghandi to modern activists, the people of India exude creativity in the face of challenge. In the streets of New Delhi, you are sure to encounter unimaginable poverty, but if you are open to learning, the experience can offer insight to global issues and the resilience evident in the individuals you will encounter will inspire you.”

About Dharamsala: “Located in the northern Indian state of Himachal Pradesh, Dharamsala was founded as an Indian Hill Station during the time of British rule and did not receive much attention until 1959, when the Dalai Lama fled to the area and settled at the former hill station. Dharamsala is set in beautiful cedar and deodar forest with the Himalaya mountain range as its backdrop. The nearby snow line makes the location even more picturesque and is a popular starting point for hiking, while the temples reflect the influence of Tibetan culture that has impacted this region of India, making it a unique meeting place of two ancient traditions. The refugee Tibetan community is rich in culture and welcomes visitors; volunteers in Dharamsala enjoy learning about its customs and history and often visit the area where the Dalai Lama resides.”

They’re just brief explanations really, and don’t even begin to embody what I’m sure to discover there. I’ve already begun to form ideas and visions in my head, but am quite certain they will all be quickly surpassed. Three days. Three days. Oh what a life I lead.

Saturday, March 04, 2006

Anticipatory Angst

I apologize for my truly awful lack of updates. The trouble with returning to my journal is that it begins to take over my life. I’m already a quarter of the way through it, and it’s only been three days. I’m a little worried about having to carry hundreds of journals back from India if I keep going at this rate. Blogging and emailing should be good distractions from it.

I still can’t believe that I’m leaving on Thursday. People keep asking me how I’m feeling, and yes, I am extremely excited and perhaps even a little nervous, but neither of those words seem to fully embody the emotional state I’m in right now. It’s something more. It’s what one of my favorite people calls “anticipatory angst.” It’s knowing that my life will never be the same as it is in this moment. It’s the thrilling prospect of adventure, and the rewarding experience of making peace with my life as it is now. This is it. I’ll never be exactly this same way.

I’m so excited for what I will be, for the kind of person I can already feel myself becoming. I am growing. I am beginning to step into the role of the life long learner I’ve kept tucked away in my head and heart for so long. I am stepping into the world as a writer, an explorer, a lover of life. I am stepping into the world ready to receive whatever it has to offer me. I am opening myself up to possibility.

Thursday afternoon, my best friend’s mom called me to wish me luck on my trip and to far too kindly compliment me on my blog. It was so absolutely lovely of her. It really does mean so very, very, very much to me that people even take the time to read this, let alone talk to me about it. It’s really quite amazing how many conversations this blog has initiated for me, how many relationships it’s strengthened. It’s become a really important part of my life.

It allowed me to spend my time at dinner on Thursday night with my brother and sister-in-law discussing things I’d been really longing to discuss. We talked about Tommy in China and how I felt about his decision to potentially move there. We talked about our families and the dynamics of the relationships within them. We talked about traveling. We talked about politics. We talked about my relationship with my father.

It meant everything to me. Most especially getting to talk about my dad with the one person I felt could really ever understand it fully, my dear, dear brother. I’m sorry that we’ve both had to go through this, he probably much worse than me, but I am grateful that I have someone to talk to, someone to listen, someone who understands. I am grateful that I feel closer to him because of it, and maybe even more like him because of it. I’m grateful to feel that I’m like someone that I admire as much as I do.

Later that night, I made my way up to Villanova to see someone else I greatly admire. I spent the night talking and laughing with him and his friends. It was wonderful, really wonderful. I was so immensely joyful to have that opportunity to say goodbye to him. I was so immensely joyful just to be out doing something different, meeting new people, having my faith in my happiness be renewed and reinforced. It made me so much more excited for my trip.

I’m so excited to meet new people and share new laughter. I’m so excited to experience new things, to expand my knowledge, to revel in the new depths of my soul. I’m so excited to grow into me, into the truest version of myself that I’ve ever been before. The future is waiting and I am stepping into it ready to be amazed.

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Welcome To March

The first day of March. It ended with this beautiful view from my second floor deck. Sometimes I just stand out there gasping at the natural miracle that is our sky. It never ceases to amaze me.

This morning I found myself in a little artsy cafe downtown. It's fascinating the way I feel so at home in those places, the sudden sense of overwhelming peace that grows within me as I ease through the door. Life seems to slow within their walls; the quiet readers and writers sipping on flavored coffee while the aromas dance about their heads, twirling and mixing with the ideas they’ve begun to let loose. It’s always so exhilarating and calming and utterly beautiful. It was a delightful way to begin March.

The minute I sat down, I realized something was missing. Something had been missing for quite a while now. My journal. In all of the time spent blogging and filling books with poems and quotes and just the daily routines of life in general, I neglected my poor journal. I used to sit down and write every day, sometimes multiple times a day, as often as I could, but these past few months have been more sporadic. I had a few pages left in the latest journal and just let them sit blank upon my shelf. I let the routine drop. I forgot how much I needed it.

Today being the first day of a new month, I decided in the coffee shop to go home and begin writing again, to start fresh and never stop, to write on and on forever. I decided it was the perfect time for a new beginning. Imagine my surprise to walk through the front door and find this waiting for me:

A lovely and wonderful and absolutely perfect journal from Michelle. I was beyond ecstatic. I love the way she seemed to know me better than I knew myself, the way she unknowingly anticipated the exact moment I’d need this. Thank you Michelle. Thank you. Thank you. I love this book so dearly and have already begun to fill its pages with thoughts and ideas and hopes for the future.

After only a few sentences, I fell in love with journals again. I fell in love with the feel of the pen moving across an empty page. I fell in love with the smooth manner in which my thoughts glided beneath my fingertips. I fell back in love with writing.

The purest form of writing. The say what you feel, honesty filled, no going back kind of writing. I hadn’t even fully realized how much I’d been missing it. I used to sit outside beneath the trees writing this way for hours. Everything else in the world seemed to melt away around me, and yet, I’d become so intensely aware of the little details. The way the wind sounded through the trees, the birds interactions with one another, the coolness of the creek cascading over my naked feet. I felt so alive.

This evening I took my journal up onto the deck. I sat beneath the sunset of pinks and purples and oranges. I let the curve of each letter written guide me to the next. I allowed myself to feel alive again. Welcome to March, the world seemed to say, it’s going to be a glorious month.