Wednesday, June 5, 2013

The Assimilation Dilemma: Appreciating the Past vs. Living in it

Fighting Assimilation
My body landed in the United States on April 6, 2013, after a year and half in Asia, while my mentality took the slow boat back to the homeland. It's taken two long months for me to finally report: I'm nearly all present (minus the pieces of my heart distributed around Asia.)

The readjustment period has been interesting, frustrating, rewarding and challenging; full of ups and downs, defined by a perpetual state of feeling torn [(adj.) - split, divided, wavering, separated].

Consciously or not, I tried to fight the assimilation. I held on tight to my idealistic perspective developed from traveling. I refused to eat meat from the despicable farm-factory food industry where we are too separate from the source of our food in America. I continued to re-wear my few articles of clothing, turning down my mom's once-in-a-blue moon offer to take me shopping. I'd just lived out of a backpack for six months, where I found profound happiness in a minimalist lifestyle - why attach myself to more, unnecessary material goods?

Thursday, May 9, 2013

"People in America Eat Cow?!?!"

Well okay, maybe the 20-some Indian children staring at me didn't have the vocabulary to actually articulate that. But, if I learned anything from teaching English as a foreign language, it was how to understand people based on expression and tone. Needless to say, the students' reaction suggested they were completely and utterly appalled at the very thought of human beings eating cow, an animal their religion deems as holy.

As I continued babbling about life in America, I noticed that every student in the class was clearly fascinated by me - if not by what I was saying (with their teacher translating as needed in Hindi), then by how different (non-Indian) I looked. They ate up every word that I spoke, full of questions and hungry for more.
Ever wonder where the expression "holy cow!" comes from?

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Reverse Culture Shock is a Real Thing, People

Reverse culture shock is not only a real thing, it's a fascinating phenomenon.

Many people experience varying forms of culture shock and notice different things about their own country after traveling to others. But, not many people (or, at least, Americans) can relate to the type of reverse culture shock that comes from 18 months in completely opposite cultures - we are talking West vs East.

In a bizarre sort of way, I've even been enjoying the experience and trying to take note while I readjust into my home culture. 
My loving aunt welcomed me to Los Angeles with American flags
Allow me to share some of my initial observations (many of these were literally initial, as I jotted down notes in the airport, while others came in the first few days).

Monday, April 8, 2013

Surprise, I'm Home!

By the time this posts, I will be home in America after a year and a half abroad.

Since I made the decision to surprise my family 7 weeks ago when I booked my flight, the thought of  putting words together for this post seemed impossible.

With money enough in the bank and a valid India visa until June, deciding to cut the cord on over half a year of backpacking - 3.5 months of which were in India - was not an easy decision. I had hopes of exploring North India further and trekking in Nepal on this trip. I was still savoring my time in India, not even tired of living out of a backpack and moving around.

It may at times seem my priorities are distorted being so far away for so long. In reality, the distance from my family and friends is my biggest dilemma in choosing to follow my dreams – dreams that often seem to take me everywhere but home.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Happy Holi!

In some places in India, there are more festivals than there are days of the year. In fact, life in India is pretty much one big festival and they certainly know how to celebrate it.

Though I've experienced lots of little festivals in three months, I'd been looking forward to experiencing one of North India's biggest festivals: Holi.
Holi is a Hindu festival celebrated on the full moon day of the Phalgun month (usually February/March). There are so many legends surrounding Holi that is difficult to get a clear grasp on the events. As one legend has it (in a very short summary), someone was thrown into a fire but spared his life because he prayed to Lord Vishnu.

Saturday, March 30, 2013

Varanasi: India on Steroids

Take everything completely over the top and culture shocking about India, times it by 100 - and welcome to Varanasi.

The many ironies of India are further exaggerated and outrageous in Varanasi, one of the holiest yet dirtiest cities in the country. An ancient city even older than Jerusalem, Varanasi is the “beating heart of Hinduism.” Devout Hindus flock here with three typical purposes: to die, cremate a loved one and/or wash away their sins in the holy Ganga river.
This guy is the more decently dressed of some babus who are completely naked and
 hang things from their genitals. Let's just say drugs may play a part in the spirituality of some babus.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Connecting with Other Travelers

With Natalia from Brazil
Another top reason why I love traveling: the connections formed with other travelers. After a year and a half abroad, I feel lucky to have friends (and places to crash!) all over the world.

A common theme throughout my blog has been my many treasured experiences hanging out with locals in nearly every country I've visited. While the insight and adventures local-style remain unparalleled, I often neglect to mention this other monumental aspect of my days as an independent traveler: other travelers!

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Living Like a Local in Pushkar

Everyone in Pushkar is either chanting, meditating, praying or on their way to do so. Most mornings begin with the sound of humming mantras, the days are filled with bathing and making puja in the holy lake and end with spiritual drumming late into the night. As one of the holiest Hindu cities in all of India, what better place to slow down and get comfortable for a while.
When you're traveling long-term, it's necessary to occasionally take time in one location without an agenda. In five months, the longest I've stayed in one place was two weeks in Bangkok. After moving around too much in the past month, I was in need of some serious soul rejuvenation when I arrived.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Camping with Camels and Cacti

Camels are about as exciting to my Israeli friends, native to the middle-east, as cacti are to me growing up in the Sonoran desert of Arizona.

Despite our previous exposure to cacti and camels, we couldn't resist the biggest tourist attraction in Jaisalmer: a camel safari trip in the Thar Desert of northwest India bordering Pakistan.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Bombay in a Day

I'm writing this on a grueling 25-hour train journey from Mumbai to Udaipur (in the northern state of Rajastan).

After a few weeks wandering the south, I met up again with Avia and her new Israeli friend, Ya'ara in Mumbai. Though they weren't keen on sticking around this polluted, overcrowded city long, one day was all I needed to see the city that had yet only existed in my imagination as the setting of countless Indian novels.

A 13-hour sleeper train from Gokarna, where I left a lovely beach, village and friends from all over the world, took me straight to Mumbai. As soon as I stepped onto the streets of Mumbai, a naked toddler who couldn't have been more than two years old, nearly ran into the street. I was alarmed to find her alone, but soon realized the rest of her family was sprawled on blankets just behind the concrete post. Welcome to Bombay.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Employed in India for a Week

Four months on the go now - also the longest period of time that I've been unemployed since before I was even of a legal working age.

From my very first paycheck back in the day, I started saving not knowing what I was saving for. While it's easy to live a backpacker lifestyle at around $10 (USD) a day in India, a lack of income is certainly at the back of my mind. And so the opportunity to “work” couldn't have come at a better time.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Got the India Bug


That's the best I can come up with in a word, yet that adjective barely scrapes the surface in describing the subcontinent.
India is a country of stark contrasts: amazing and frustrating; straightforward and complicated; rancid and fragrant; ornate and poverty-stricken; tame but barbaric; sacred and ungodly; free and suppressed; modern and outdated; civilized yet discourteous; breathtakingly scenic and despicable; delicious yet bacteria-ridden; homogenous and diverse; sneaky but sincere; principled and corrupt;  full of creeps & thieves as well as genuine Indians who rearrange their entire day to make you feel at home.

Monday, January 14, 2013

2012 in Review: A Life Changing Year in Asia

Halfway through the first month of the new year, time has escaped me in India - thus my belated new year reflection.

I thought 2011 was monumental for me, but never did I dream of the things that came in 2012.
Welcome to India - Land of Colors!