Friday, December 31, 2010

Here's to the New Year

Even though I don't blog enough I at least try and make a post on New Year's Eve. It does matter some.

So this is my first New Year's(and Christmas, and Thanksgiving) away from home and family. It's not like we ever do anything for the holidays though, seriously, so I guess I'm just being a pussy about all this. Ok, fine I'll admit it: I do feel homesick, I can't lie. I feel like crap as of now(bad cold and possible ear infection) so my demeanor probably isn't the most positive right now, but I'll still write this the best I can.

2010 has been a pretty interesting year for me.

I went to my first concert.(which I still need to write about, it's been almost a year!)

I got my first electric guitar, got better at the acoustic and was getting better at piano until I had to send it away to storage. I really miss my piano and I really really miss my acoustic guitar. Since I've been over here in India I've forgotten the calming and clearing effect that playing has on me.

I got my first boyfriend(and got a crash course in relationships. Fun. Not.)

My parents finally tore down our old mold and mouse ridden house and built a new house. I'm so happy for them, especially my mom. Our old house stressed her out for so many years because it wasn't big enough for us, it was pretty much always messy. Due to lack of closet and storage space(only 2 closets between 5 people) we pretty much had piles of stuff everywhere for lack of better words(we're not hoarders, I swear!) It was cold and drafty in the winter, hot and sticky in the summer when the A/C was out, and the house pretty much made it's own dust. Trust me, dusting feels very depressing and counter productive when it comes back the next day. It's also not cool to have your own personal Niagra Falls in the basement every time it rains, or to feel like the house is going to blow off the foundation every time the wind blows. I could go on all day long about that house. I left before everything was done but to hear my mom talk about the house, it's like talking to a little kid who just built the most awesome couch cushion fort. She's so happy and it makes me feel a lot better about my mom knowing that she's got one less thing to worry about. It sounds like we may be getting a new puppy soon as well(nothing concrete) so I can't imagine how my mom will act with a new fort and a new puppy.

There is of course, also this trip to India, which will probably remain the highlight of my life. I've learned so much here, but what's funny is that I think I've learned just as much about my life at home as I've learned about stuff in general here. I've learned that in the past I never valued or appreciated my parents as much as I should have, and sometimes I mistreated them, and I'm really sorry for that. I've learned that having and keeping my family in my life is very important, and that I have taken that for granted over the years(damn adolescence). I've learned(and am still learning) what the key to good health is as well(article later when I can think better, I promise!) I've also learned how much I miss and even APPRECIATE doing goat chores. That's probably one of the hugest reasons I can't think properly, I've lost that way that I clear my mind and articulate my thoughts and it SUCKS. I'm not bored* over here(seriously Mukthi, if you're reading this I've never been bored, I don't just say that) but it's just really weird for me to be sitting still all the time and not doing anything. I really miss my goats too. I never realized how sane they keep me. I miss it when I'm having a bad day, I can't just go out to the barn and be with my goats. They always make me smile, they always make me feeling better. It's like they always have just the right thing to say, and they can say it to you without even saying it. I miss my fat little Ducky, the way she always just walks up to you unexcitedly, without a wiggle of her tail, just expecting to be pet. I can't blame her though, she is almost royalty in the barn.

*A note on boredom. Boredom is usually accompanied by impatience, and boredom is pretty much impatience with yourself and everybody else because you just simply can't think of anything to do. The reason why I'm not bored(even though I'm not doing anything) is because if I can't find anything to do I'll just occupy my mind with some course of thought that will usually keep my mind occupied for a while. Conquering boredom is all about patience and not letting your mind get stagnant.

So I'm going to wrap this up with an apology to anybody who reads this blog for the sole purpose of hearing about what I'm doing on this trip. I'm sorry but any time I've tried to write about things it's literally almost impossible for me. The best way I can explain it is like this: First, I've gotten pretty used to what I see over here, and also in a way it's been a sensory overload. There is soooo much information coming into my brain that I can't really process it. Second, if I write about what I'm doing all the time I start to feel like I'm not really here anymore, like I'm looking through a camera and not through my eyes. Ever shoot a video of something really cool and feel like you're not there at the same time? It's like that. Third, as I mentioned above I've found since I'm over here that I've been able to look at things back home(not just my own life, but American society as well) and see them from a totally different perspective since I'm not there anymore. I think it's going to be the same way when I get back home from here. I'll more than likely be able to write about it then.

So to wrap this up, I am going to try and blog a little bit more while I'm over here, but I'm not going to be blogging about India. I think it's time to put these other thoughts in my head into writing before they go away. I'd make it a resolution to blog more in 2011, but I'm pretty sure that I did that for 2010, and as you can see, there's less than a dozen blogs. So, fuck resolutions in my opinion; as soon as you make a resolution you probably won't keep it anyway because you made a point to make it a resolution in the first place. If there's things you want to change in your life, bring the change about when the time is proper(like don't try losing weight in winter, you need extra fat for insulation!) Also don't set goals that you know are unachievable, it's simply just counterproductive. If you're going to set goals, set small goals and when you achieve them set a few more small goals until eventually that big goal actually is accomplished.

Ok before I start sounding like a life coach(too late)............

Happy New Year. May your year be filled with health, love and happiness. If you want have a resolution be sure to have this one and keep it:

Enjoy the little things in life. You'll never realize how important they are until they're gone.


Saturday, December 25, 2010

Merry Christmas

I know I'm late on a post like this but I am after all the queen of procrastinators. So Merry Christmas to all, and all that other sentimental crap.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

My trip to Kerala

So yesterday we traveled to Kerala, a state south of Karnataka(Karnataka is the state that I'm in now) to go see the Ayurvedic doctor. This is the world's first Ayurvedic hospital, and the main doctor there is the #1 Ayurvedic doctor in India and has received India's highest honor(like an Indian Nobel prize) He has done extensive research with cancer and has published a few papers on cancer as well. More on him in a moment.

So we left at 5 in the afternoon, we hired a driver for the trip. The driver had a diesel car, btw :P Diesel cars are pretty popular over here, which sucks because Americans want diesel cars too(Nissan makes a diesel!! for India though) So we had to get past this one check point on the highway before 9:00, since the highway goes through a forest, and the government doesn't want the wildlife to be disturbed at night. It was dark when we were going through the forest, but I did see one elephant.

After the forest stretch of highway, pretty soon we crossed over the Karnataka/Kerala border, and entered the Malabar Hills. In order to get to the bottom of the hill and back to normal highways, we had to go down the side of a mountain. Indian driving may be bad, but Indian driving+darkness+mountain driving=pretty damn scary. Since this was the main way between states, there was a lot of truck traffic, as well as buses. Its scary when the oncoming trucks and buses look like they're going to hit you at every turn, and in addition to many normal turns, there are nine hairpin curves. And these roads were built with minimum funds, since the engineers cut corners and pocketed the extra money, the roads are in poor condition. It reminds me of that episode of the Simpsons when the potholes in town were so big they were swallowing cars. What was cool though is when the car on the side close to the barrier, you could see the town down in the valley; we were really high up so the lights looked really cool.

So when we got down(finally) we went to Calicut, the city where we were planning on spending the night. When we got to Calicut we spent almost an hour asking where this certain hotel was, and we finally found it around midnight. It looked like a nice hotel except for the fact(and we never thought of this) I didn't have my passport. There's a police order in Calicut(and other cities) than foreigners cannot stay in hotels without their passports, since they're trying to track everybody's movements. They wouldn't accept a faxed copy of my passport so we ended up going to a hotel down the street who didn't ask for it. It wasn't as nice as the other hotel but it was tolerable, we had a sheet to put on the bed. We got about 4 hours of sleep before we had to get up and get ready again.

The town we were going to was about 4 hours away from Calicut(I don't remember the name of it) I dozed most of the way, so I don't remember it. I do remember seeing a cattle auction in some suburb of Calicut, they were selling what appeared to be breeding stock for this cow that sort of looked like a mini brown water buffalo. I also learned that auto-rickshaws are very versatile. I saw somebody sitting in the back of one with two goats :P

When we got to the hospital, it was sort of off the beaten path. I didn't take any pictures because Mukthi had my camera(I had given it to her the night before when I had to use a public bathroom) But the hospital was very beautiful. The Malabar region in general is very beautiful, there are soooo many palm trees and its very hilly and rocky. What is cool is in the hospital compound, there was a fenced in area inside where they grew the herbs that they used in all of their medicines, and Mukthi said they have many acres more of herbs that they used in their preparations. Mukthi's father commented that the mosquitoes were huge, probably due to the plentiful super herbs :P

So at the hospital, before you see the doctor you get to consult with a secretary and in short tell him(or her) all of your problems, present and past, which you wish to be addressed to the doctor. These are, of course, written down in a file. Then you had to wait your turn to see the doctor.

They had several doctors at the hospital, there is a different doctor there every day. The doctor that we saw only comes once a week, on Tuesdays, and the rest of the week he spends traveling around the entire country, only spending Sundays at his home. When I went into the room to see the doctor, he sits at a long table with about five or six other people; I'm not sure what they all do but one person reads from the patient file, and another person writes down the doctor's prescriptions. The doctor spoke English, but to be honest, I couldn't understand him that well because his accent was really thick. I got the gist of what he was saying though. He asked me a few questions about what I told the secretary, then prescribed accordingly. Because I didn't understand the doctor as well as I wanted to, I was worried that I didn't give enough information. Mukthi explained to me afterwards though that he is such a good doctor, that just by looking at you he can usually tell you what is the matter with you. Facial features are enough to be able to tell what a person's doshic* constitution is, which I thought was super cool.

*for those of you who don't know, Ayurveda treats according to what a person's doshic constitution. There are three different doshas: kapha, pitta and vata, and each constitution has a list of emotional and physical qualities. Different diseases are also related to specific doshas. Again, its hard to explain in a nutshell!

They have the pharmacy on the front side of the building where consultations are. I got two months supply of medicine(almost a dozen bottles of things) for $30, and the consultation was a few dollars. According to Mukthi, this hospital likes to stay low key, so that it can remain a mainly charitable organization, helping those that want to use the medicine for curative purposes rather than enhancing health. Therefore, they make the medicines and consultations affordable to poorer patients, making very little money in the process.

Another cool thing is that they medicines are made with herbs they grow themselves, using the same methods that were used 5000 years ago. The medicines take months to make, but in the end, they have a product that is unique only to them. You can only buy their medicines if they are prescribed to you, because all of these medicines are unique to each dosha type. You cannot buy extra medicine, only what you need, and you cannot buy medicine for another person(like to refill a prescription) They do this, again, because it is a charitable organization.

So afterwards we ate out; I only ate rice because I wasn't feeling well enough to eat spicy food, and Mukthi advised against eating certain foods out. Then we went home.

Its really hard to try and describe trips from one place to another, because there is so so so much that you see. From awesome houses, to temples, mosques, churches, roadside shops etc you can't describe it all. In the Malabar region though we saw a lot of rice patties and lumber mills. Another thing about traveling through India by car is that the main highways are only two-lanes, so you really feel like you're going on a back road through the forest.

When we got back to Malabar Hills it was dusk, so seeing the sun set over the mountains was a breathtaking sight. I got pictures, they're sort of grainy but its better than nothing. Going up the mountain in the dark was just as scary as going down the mountain in the dark.

I was so tired by the time we got back to Mysore at a quarter after 10. I hadn't slept much, I dozed in the car and that was about it. I slept in until 9 this morning. I start my medicine tomorrow when I can do it when I'm supposed to.

So I have have this bitter ghee to take in the morning at 6 AM, two alcoholic preparations to take after lunch and dinner, and a mixture of honey and herbs to take before I go to bed. Also I have two kinds of oil to apply over my body a couple times a week(according to Mukthi they are for pitta-vata)

So that was my crazy two day trips to Kerala.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010


I'm still really not used to blogging, meaning I still feel like I'm not good at it. Then again how can you really be good or bad at this? I still suck at making titles anyway.

So continuing from where I left off, now I really don't know what to say since there is so much to say.

Walking back to the car after leaving the airport, I had this extremely surreal feeling(which I still have) like I couldn't believe I was really in India, on the OTHER side of the world. The first thing that really caught my attention was in amongst the crowds of people there was a dog, kind of skinny and a bit mangy looking, it wasn't that last one I would see on my journey. So after we got to the car and got all of our luggage loaded up, I got my first taste of Indian driving.

Indian driving is sort of.....crazy. To put it frankly. There are lines on the road but you'll never see a straight line of traffic. People on mopeds will go in between cars with little space to spare. Everybody is cutting everybody else off and everybody has their hand almost glued to the horn. In driving school they teach us defensive driving; in India its mostly offensive driving.

So on the ride home, my intellect was pretty much fried from the jet lag(I don't really remember it) I couldn't really comprehend what I was seeing right away. I always thought that when people referred to "slums" in India, they meant neighborhoods in cities. Along the highway, slums were everywhere. Some were crude shacks made out of corrugated tin, others were made out of old billboards, some where made out of palm branches, and still others were nothing but tarps on a string. It was a sad sight, but what can you do about it?

So another thing that you see a fair amount over here is cows. They pretty much run loose; occasionally you will see cows tied to posts but for the most part they run free. And for those of you wondering if cows are sacred, they are. This is due mostly to the fact that they provide milk for their calves as their mother, and they provide milk for humans as well. Because they provide milk for humans they are seen as mothers to humans as well, which is what makes them sacred.

We had an almost three hour drive from Bangalore to Mysore, and I fell asleep through half of it. Notable things I remember seeing was a flight school which was surrounded by concrete and barbed wire fence, and a riding school. Also, there were many various Hindu temples along the road side, all richly decorated. I also saw a few mosques, including a very large one somewhere near(or in) Bangalore.

When we got to Mysore, I was so tired that everything looked the same, so I can't really describe it. Even now after being around different areas of Mysore a few times I can't describe it, I'm really not used to the city. There are lots of people selling green coconuts on the side of the road; these are for drinking the fresh milk out of them.

So we finally got to Mukthi's parent's house, a very nice little one story abode. All the houses(and most of the houses in the city) are made out of cement and steel and surrounded by a short cement wall on all four sides. They houses are decorated very nicely and are very pretty. Pretty much all of the houses have access to their roof, which they use to dry clothes as well as drying grains in the sunshine. Most houses also have a coconut tree or two either in their enclosure or nearby, which provides them with an ample supply of coconuts throughout the year.

We received a very warm welcome from Mukthi's mother. Lunch was being prepared when we got in, and I was shown around the house and shown the the shower(since that's all I really wanted after going more than 24 hours without one) So they don't really have showers here...or baths. Which is fine with me, they have hot water which is really all I could really ask for. What bathing consists of is filling a bucket with water, and using a good sized cup and pouring water over yourself. Not bad, you get pretty clean actually.

So afterwards I brushed my teeth and since jet-lag effected my judgment, I didn't think anything about using the tap water to brush my teeth instead of water from the reverse osmosis system. I sat down to lunch and I really really did not want to eat; as soon as I sat down I had the biggest wave of homesickness, since in our house we all eat meals together and there's always lively talk. Its like at that moment I finally felt like "wow, this is really real" So before I could start crying, I excused myself saying I was really tired since I didn't sleep at all. So I went to my room and started crying. Then I started to feel sick in my stomach, and I was like oh shit..... Thank goodness for po chai pills, which is pretty much Chinese super pepto bismol. So I took my pills and went to sleep, being woken up three hours later by mosquito attacks. We sleep in mosquito nets at night because the windows don't have screens on them, and they don't have A/C so they keep the windows open all the time for ventilation. Its pretty nice actually.

So ends my current tale, after I woke up I didn't feel any better, ended up crying in front of Mukthi. I hate crying in front of people, I don't know why,I just do. It taken me almost a week to get used to the spicy Indian food, I didn't really eat much at first since I really had no appetite. Once you get used to the spice of Indian food though, spicy food becomes really addicting. More about food later though.


Friday, November 19, 2010

The Flight

So I've only been here for I think three days now, and I have so much to tell. Its hard to know what to say and where to start, so I'll split this up into parts and tell it from the beginning starting with......I guess when I said goodbye.

So, I, as a general rule, suck at goodbyes. For me they've always been awkward. My parents drove me to Dekalb to Mukthi's(my chaperon's) house since they were giving me a ride to O'Hare. So I was already tired since I had been up since 4:30, so tiredness and goodbyes are not a good combination. So of course I cried when I said goodbye to my mom and dad, mostly because they hugged me(yes, mom and dad I know its weird) But yeah whatever.

So we got to O'Hare and we were 3 hours early *fist pump* so we ate supper. Mukthi said goodbye to her husband, and we made our way through security. Maybe I'm just an airhead but I didn't think the security checks were that bad. Our flight was delayed 20 minutes so we still had an hour to wait for our flight. Mukthi's daughter, Safayah, really set the mood for me. She loves planes and was soooo excited. Her son, Shayan, wanted to go home, so Mukthi told him that they were going to their Indian home. His prompt reply was: "India is not home, India is India!" He's such a cutie.

So the first leg of the flight was about 7 hours, from Chicago to London. We rode on a Boeing 777, which despite its size the coach section is super cramped, and I managed to get stuck behind an asshole who put his seat back the moment we took off and refused to put it back up even during dinner. I'm not claustrophobic but that I could not stand. So when dinner was served, we hit turbulence, so I REALLY didn't want to eat. I ate some, but not much. Sleep deprivation was starting to hit me, but there were two movies I really wanted to see playing on the TV screen so I stayed up and watched those instead. I dozed off during The Sorcerer's Apprentice, but I got the gist of the movie, which was pretty good. Then there was an interlude inbetween movies where they played these really trippy, sort of disturbing(well very disturbing) Canadian cartoons. They were adult cartoons and not funny at all. So then after those were over I stayed up and watched Eclipse, because even though I'm over my Twilight faze, I'm still morbidly curious about how bad the movies are. It was ok. That is all. So after the movie it was 2:30 CST, so I tried to catch a few Z's before breakfast was to be served. I dozed, but didn't really sleep since it wasn't that comfortable. Breakfast was served, in accordance with turbulence, and I at a bit of a muffin and that was it. The muffin was sickening sweet and from experience sweet+turbulence=puke. Simple equation, I know.

So we landed in London on schedule but we were stuck on the flight-line for nearly 90 minutes since there was no unloader thingy(technical term) available. We finally got off, took a subway ride to another part of the terminal and went through security. Security was stricter in London than it was at Chicago. Since Mukthi had water bottles for the kids, security confiscated them and were going to give them back after they emptied them out. So we waited and I watched people like I do. I've noticed that British 40-something women dress like 20 year olds in tight, low cut tops(with boob jobs), skinny jeans or tights, and stilettos. I don't know how anybody could travel in stilettos. So we finally got our water bottles back and we went to lunch.

London was very foggy by the way, so I didn't see anything. And I really didn't feel like I was in London, which is part 1 of jet-lag. So just as we finished lunch we realized that we were going to be late for our bus. So we made it to the terminal just as the buses were getting there, which was lucky. We rode the bus through the maze of access roads away from the terminal to our plane, a Boeing 747. For being a smaller plane, it had waaaayyy more leg room. Taking off was kind of scary: looking out the window it would be clear, then you'd go through a big block of fog on the ground, then clear, then fog, until they finally got it up.

Part 2 of the trip from London to Bangalore was almost 10 hours. I didn't have the patience or mental capacity(jet-lag part 2) for movies, so I watched part of several movies. I watched all of the new Robin Hood which although it was very good, I really didn't understand what was going on. I didn't eat much supper again(served with turbulence of course) and didn't sleep much at all. I mostly watched the plane on the map of my TV screen trying to figure out which country we were over.

I will say this: although I've never been on a commercial flight before, British Airways is awesome. All the stewards and stewardesses are super nice and helpful, and they talk in British accents which is a plus. But its also infectious since I had a strong inclination to talk in an accent, but I refrained from doing so. My thoughts are in British though.

It was kind of surreal when we finally got over India. I looked out the window, the morning light of dawn was just starting to touch the land. I couldn't see much through the clouds, but I could see the hills and the some rivers than went through the land. We landed in Bangalore two hours late due to delays in London. It was raining but the weather was sooo nice, about 60 degrees. When I got in the terminal the first thing I noticed was the security guards carry really nice AK-47's. We got our baggage and exchanged our American dollars for Indian rupees. $200 translates to approximately 8000 rupees. We got outside and we were met by Mukthi's father, and one of her childhood friends. I received a very warm welcome. Indian people are so nice, and very welcoming to foreigners.

So ends the account of my flight. My next chapter will be about the two hour drive from Bangalore to Mysore, so stick around.

And pardon my writing style, I haven't been able to get my original back yet, hopefully it will come in time. Then again I suck at relating events.


Wednesday, November 17, 2010

We're not in Kansas anymore Dorothy.....


I'm not going to make this post long, my mind is still extremely foggy from jet lag. Jet lag is a very weird thing.

So anyway, I am in India. I've only been here a day and I already have a slew of stories to tell, but later. I'm not typing anything when I can't think.

I miss everybody so much.


Sunday, November 14, 2010

Look at all those cobwebs......

*cough cough* Damn this place is dusty. I haven't touched it since....January? WTF. Soooo.........

My year has been extremely crazy, fun, sad, thoughtful, the whole nine yards. Its been probably the best year of my life. I snuck out and went to my first concert, yes my first(and probably last) act of rebellion! It was awesome. Flyleaf, Breaking Benjamin and THREE DAYS GRACE! Story coming soon. ;) My parents tore down our old falling down farmhouse and are building a new house and I've fallen in and out of love....and right back in again. But nothing is as epic as the last great event of my 18th year on this earth..........

I'm going to India.

Yep thats right, this little loudmouthed Illinois farm girl is going to the other side of the world. For two months.

Its kind of weird how this all happened(and now its time to learn about a different side of me) We got a new milk customer who is from India who started buying goat milk from us. At the time, my mom, who is the world's biggest health nut, had just discovered Indian cooking, and our customer was giving mom pointers as well as leading her in different directions as far as health and well being goes. That's when she introduced her to Ayurveda, an Indian medicine and way of life that's impossible to put in a nutshell. It's a combination of spirituality, medicine, health, being in tune with nature, and total well-being all in one package.

I've never been the health nut to the extent that my mom is, but I've always been searching for the things that are right in life, the things that belong. Ayurveda belongs. I have been greatly influenced by my mom when it comes to health and thinking outside the box to achieve good health. When I first read about Ayurveda, it all made sense. How spirituality and health are connected.

I've been raised Catholic, and I've been instructed in the Catholic religion quite extensively. And of course, I've been instructed in healthy eating. For whatever reason, separately, neither topic inspired me. Religion has its downfalls and its hard to teach other people about healthy eating when they just don't get it. Because of Ayurveda, I've seen the essential thing that is missing in this society, which is that what I believe to be the all-too-important connection between health and spirituality. In Ayurveda, too be happy in your life, in your body and in your soul brings good health. Many people seem to overlook the importance of keeping your body happy and healthy.

As a Catholic, I've been taught that our bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, and we must not defile these temples by of course sin. Neither are we to defile these temples by bad things such as drugs or alcohol. But what about food? If we eat unhealthily, our bodies suffer. We become obese, we develop heart disease, cancer and diabetes. The more unhealthy and sick we become, the more depressed we get, negative energy spreads throughout the body and makes us sicker.

We live in a society where every desire receives instant gratification. We want a soda? Go grab one out of the fridge. Fried chicken? Pull in the drive thru. Unhealthy foods that years ago were not available are now available at our fingertips. And if these foods were available 50 years ago they were treats. How often have you listened to your grandparents tell you how special it was to go and get a soda? Or a piece of candy?

I'm not saying that its evil to eat unhealthy food, I'm saying that its evil to overeat unhealthy foods. They should be a treat and everything needs to be taken in moderation. Its about balance.

Anyway that's just the tip of the iceberg of whats been going through my head the past couple months. And you don't have to connect this with religion like I am; it should be something that everybody should implement in their lives in some way. Sorry if it doesn't make much sense, I don't have much time to write this.

Anyway to wrap things up and get back on topic, I will be leaving for Mysore, India tomorrow. I will be going for treatments in an Ayurvedic clinic for my allergies and a few other health issues for a month. The other month I will be staying with my chaperon's family on a coconut grove, learning about culture and how to cook. I will try and blog whenever I can get internet, and try to unravel this fascinating topic in a simple form.

Thanks to everybody for the well wishes! I will miss you all very much and I love each and every one of you. I'm sorry I won't be here for Thanksgiving, or Christmas, or my birthday, but I'll be there in spirit. Love you guys, and see you all later.