My Trip Comes to a Close: Thoughts on Sarees, the Caste System, and Things Crawling Up Your Leg.

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I know none of you want to hear a long-winded summary of how amazing, trying, tribulatifyingtasticnessish, and rewarding my trip was. So I’ll make this a fairly short-winded rundown about my adventure-seeking superiority. Duh.

Yes, really, I did have quite the trip. I had some nasty illnesses and have learned to never again smooch so much with water buffalo. Of the 6 countries I was in–India, Nepal, Singapore, Malaysia, Laos, and Thailand–I also can’t stop thinking about 3 countries in particular: Thailand, Nepal, and India. 

India isn’t a terrible country at all; had I been traveling through it and not lived in it, I probably would have liked it a lot more. They just have so many problems there, and as one friend pointed out, they DO have the technology and resources; they’re just unable to spread those resources correctly and have even more corruption than we do here. They’re a country out of control: They believe that their massive population equals massive power. They’re beginning to understand and accept more in terms of marrying outside one’s religion, living with those outside one’s caste, even picking who one can “court.” To me–and this is only my opinion–I almost feel that those in love with India are actually in love with what’s on the surface: Unique and cheap food, beautiful colors, history, kindness, and tradition. I loved that part too. But unlike loving those same things in Thailand—a third-world country that’s happy with that status and has just millions, not billions, of people— India believes it is pushing into the modern world successfully. It’s not. Nothing real can change when the large majority of this billion-plus-member country refuses to even let someone of a lower caste co ok for them. Or how they separate their buses into the female and male sections because men can’t keep their hands to themselves. Or how women aren’t allowed to show skin because of how men may act. And it’s not just me complaining; these issues have real and measurable consequences when that rule means you can’t really exercise, farm, or do things “normal” men do (not that they exercise either). Come now, do you even remember seeing anyone from India in the Olympics? When the population is more than one-sixth of the world? The people were, as I mentioned, some of the most delightful and helpful people ever, and I would quickly rush to try to repay them with the kindness they showed me. But I also know that with a suffering economy, pollution running rampant, and a society that’s never been taught how to deal with strangers, there’s no way they can move forward. It breaks my heart to see such intelligence, corruption, and poverty (not that I even saw near the worst of it) juxtaposed in such a way, and simultaneously makes me feel so afraid and disdainful of what this country is doing to their own people—and to the world. When will it stop?

In other news, I still think about Thailand, Nepal, and India every day. Thailand still has horrible food but incredible scenery and situations as always. Nepal had great food AND incredible scenery. And India was great when I was visiting its people and enjoying the surface instead of working and understanding its many pitfalls. How very hypocritical of me, right?

It shocks me at how easy it is to travel in seemingly foreign and faraway places. To those who have never ventured beyond (your local big city), Paris and Cancun, Bangkok or Kuala Lumpur probably sound scary and full of the unexpected. Well, they are, but too many never get that far. There are always hoards of young adults—many wearing “PUB CRAWL 2012 PHUKET – AN EXPERIENCE I ALREADY FORGOT” wife beaters—who hop from city to city, often in groups, visiting monuments, drinking on the cheap, hooking up with other foreigners, and looking exhausted and hungover at border crossings. Is this travel? Sure it is, though it’s not travel I’m a fan of. It shocks me how I can actually be working with someone in a foreign country who is so ignorant to what’s going on right outside our windows, or how you can live for years in an unfamiliar city and still elect to go to the local Starbucks every day. Is travel about comfort? I guess for most it is. For me, I seem to brag most about the uncomfortable situations.  I will never forget how crazy it was to be yelled at for having the wrong bit of stomach flab show in my saree, feel scared and lost while sick and seemingly alone in the mountains, get assistance while literally stuck in the mud during rice planting, and be judged by Indian neighbors for wearing shorts in my own home. How could YOU not want to experience THAT?! Those experiences are what I’m most curious about, at least, and I think it’s a lot closer to real adventure than tour guides. Why travel halfway around the world to do the same old when you can have be standing on a rubber tree farm, weilding a dangerous tool of sorts, unsure of what’s about to come next because something is biting your leg and no one around you speaks English?                          

I guess that’s enough from me this time around, but I’m always, always happy to share stories. Best of all? I have an amazing adventure coming up…well, in 2 days. You’ll hear about it soon! Until then, over and out. It’s been real, crazy, and absolutely unforgettable.

Coop

 

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[Here are some of my favorite new photos from throughout my trip. Enjoy!] 

1. (Top) My friend’s sister, a nomade living in Nepal’s Himalayas

2. (Above) The wind catches a woman’s saree

3. Crazy, awesome, magnificent bugs in Thailand

4. A student’s family in India, or the guessing game of Who Is Out Of Place In This Photo?

5. Teaching in Thailand, or the most set-up looking photo ever (it wasn’t)

6. Looking out in southern India

7. Showing neighbors my photos in Thailand (my friend translated for them)

8. And then there was that time one of the greasy locals grabbed me, put his arm around me (I was laughing uncomfortably), and proceeded to…BITE ME?! Stay away from this guy.

9. I can dress up. Sort of. Me and my first roommate, Claire, on conference day

 10. Being blessed by the locals

11. Learning to play the sitar

12. My usual posse of men. Kidding, kidding, they’re my students. Oh come on, stop being nasty!

13. Women of the woods

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Photography from Thailand’s Secluded Mountains (Update Part 18)

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My last two weeks in Thailand were rife with incredible caves, rewarding teaching, fascinating hikes, and dreams of chewy, cheesy pizza. So much happened that it’s easier if you look at photos instead of falling asleep reading my endless rants. Just the ride down the mountain could have me blabbing for days on end, involving almost crashing, getting stuck in mud, being laughed at by locals, passing incredible waterfalls, surviving when we rode off the cliff (kidding–we only came close to doing so), marveling at the karst caves and jungle rivers, and so much more. So here, much like my Nepalese episode, are some photos from my last few days spent in the gorgeous mountains of Thailand. [click any photo to enlarge]

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It’s real

 

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Celebrating with my awesome fellow teachers. Well, the real ones who (sort of) work hard every day (of the workweek) and live in the mountains (except on weekends)

 

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That’s my rather large posterior on the right, rice farming. Well, I’m doing the rice farming, not my buttocks.

 

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One of my students–an old soul


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The most beautiful bug I’ve ever seen. Legendary for its good luck and something else I didn’t understand. And no, no editing program ever came into contact with this photo–these are its natural neon-like colors

 

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Another of my young students, happy as could be at 7AM

 

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My last shot taken while standing alone on the moutain road, waiting to be picked up by my friend. Goodbye, mountains

PHOTOS – California-Oregon Camping Road Trip Part 1 (California)

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I decided that I might want to move out back to the west coast one day, so I headed to California (where I was born) and Oregon (where I’m interested in living) for some outdoor fun. I ended up loving both states, but really fell in love with California more than Oregon. The folks of Portland, in particular, were so nice, but a bit…well, stoned all the time. California definitely struck my fancy. I traveled with a Couchsurfer for the first half of the trip and we camped, hiking, climbed, and ate up the coast (while meeting other interesting folks).

Not pictured are other climbs, such as one in Malibu that took place on the ocean amidst pelicans flying by and dolphins cruising by. Or the hummingbirds that flitted around our hiking paths, showing off their rubies and greens. Or the amazingly sketchy (un-kosher) camping spots we picked off the main roads.

Admittedly, we were on a very popular stretch of road that is well-traveled by tourists. Sorry to disappoint! Some spots, however, are worth it, and as a friend said, everyone should drive up rt. 1/101 at some point in his/her lifetime. It’s incredible. And while we did several toursity things (what, we’re not going to drive through the redwoods?), we also did some pretty great things that were told to us by friends, locals, and other knowledgeable folks. It was all wonderful.

I hadn’t been back to the west coast in 20 years, so I had an absolutely fantastic time.

Enjoy!

Photo captions below, by number:

(1) Deena belaying at sunset

(2) Joel climbing. Shirt optional.

(3) If you look closely in the middle of the rock face, you can see a bright green shirt. That’s moi. And while it doesn’t look too steep a climb from here…

(4) …from the bottom it ain’t so easy.

(5) Look ma, no hands!

(6) This is a huge rock that was stunning alone, but the curved fog that came in, along with the bright blue sky, made for a crazy landscape.

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(8) The landscape is a li’l different in these parts.

(9) Julia Pfeiffers State Park, home of the waterfall onto the beach. Just a little bit pretty.

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(11) Before the sunrise at a hidden surfer’s beach.

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(14) Monterey!

(15) We stayed with Kaye in San Fran, and ate sandwiches out of the back of the truck for breakfast. What a trooper.

(16) At a beautiful cemetery overlooking the ocean. These two markers stood out to me.

(17) I’m not sure which is more disturbingly awesome–the fact that this color actually occurs in nature, or the fact that Deena owns a skirt of the same color.

(18) It’s actually one hunk of a plant called Unicorn Kelp. There were two spires on this one. Does that mean I’m extra special?

(19) We did quite a few jump shots up the coast. I think I could do it for a living.

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(21) Another jump shot through the Chandelier Tree!

(22) Redwood National Forest, Avenue of the Giants.

(23) The guys we stayed with had this giant beanbag chair. Giant as in about four times the size of a normal one. So we jumped onto it many, many times.

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(25) Red Bull DOES give me wings, Heather. And I didn’t even spleak!

(26) It looks like a toy, but it’s actually a huge Victorian house in Eureka, CA that only allows members of its secret society in its doors…

(27) Jump in front of Paul Bunyan! Yes, it’s fairly weird. Also, there was a guy on a loudspeaker who creepily watched you when you walked up to this thing. He yelled something offensive as we jumped.

(28) After hunting for agates in a lagoon, we drove through a temperate rain forest and came upon this elk.

PHOTOS – Southeast Asia Part 1

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Baby’s first photo album…yes, this is the first time I’ve put pictures up on here! I got so many requests and honestly, this is the easiest way for everyone to see everything. So here are a few photos from my trip thus far. Comments are welcomed!

Taken in La Oop and Posor, Thailand.

Due to Posterous not letting one caption photos as of yet, I’ve included captions by photo number below:

(1) I don’t think I’ve ever seen one of these in America…

(2) This is where I live. Rather sunny, eh?

(3) This is the kind of house I live in.

(4) Why go any further?

(5) A village shepherd.

(6) This was so amazing in person…a picture doesn’t do it any justice…

(7) I just like this one.

(8) A cabbage farm.

(9) A Lawa (tribal) woman.

(10) The spiders here are HUGE and amazing.

(11) This is me singing and dancing as a guest teacher in a remote village. You should be glad you missed it. The singing and dancing part.

(12) My last class…

(13) 4 of my 5 little brothers and sisters. Government mandate haircuts.

(14) One of my favorite photos.

(15) It’s not so amazing here, but so amazing in person.

(16) Was there mama part of a wedding supper?

(17) The best lookout spot for hundreds of miles.

(18) This thing was HUGE and incredibly beautiful. Lui non?

(19) Cabbage massacre. Several were severely injured, and dozens were killed.

(20) How many get to play fooootball with this kind of backdrop?

(21) This was a nice patch of garbage and bamboo as of two nights ago. A mini landslide after a storm took it all out, and the schoolboys wanted to mug for the camera. I love how this came out, and it helps give a size perspective.

(22) (self-explanatory) It’s one of our pet rhinoceros beetles. Obviously.