Sometimes, when you’re tired or homesick or hungry or hot, it’s easy to overlook the beauty of India. All you notice is what’s different, what’s wrong: You might fixate on the lack of central heating or air, or the garbage everywhere you walk, or the touts and vendors who won’t leave you alone, or how careful you have to be about everything you eat and drink. The sheer press of humanity gets exhausting, and there are moments when nothing seems right, nothing seems enjoyable, nothing seems worth that 17-hour plane ride.
But then something will catch you by surprise: The saffron robes of a sadhu. A little girl sheepishly smiling at you from behind the folds of her mother’s sari. Marigolds placed in offering outside a shop. The smell of fresh naan. The clapping and singing of puja at a local temple. Stacks of red and orange and blue and yellow and green and purple quilts coloring the streetside. Two old men sitting side-by-side, silently reading the paper together. A new friend. The sun warming the back of your neck.
In that moment, what is wrong disappears, and you remember again why you are transfixed by this place. Even the beauty, though–both strange and familiar–can overwhelm. The jostle of a billion people can blind your American eyes to it, but when you see those details that make you gasp with pleasure and surprise, and then you look up from your narrow obsession with personal comfort to this pretty magical place, you remember: There is so much that is beautiful here.
You can never take too many pictures of the Himalayas. You just can’t. In the winter, they finally poke through the fog and haze and rain and whatever else keeps them shrouded, and then they rise on the horizon, towering over the 7000-foot ‘hills’ below. Sunrise, sunset, clouds, clear skies, from the south or the west…they never look the same twice.
We were supposed to land in Delhi around 4 a.m. But somewhere over the ‘stans, intruding into my wine-induced plane sleep, the captain in his thick Turkish accent said something about a storm and circling and a delay. Oh well, more time to nap. And I conked back out.
When I was in Japan, I could while away hours in 100 yen stores. Stationary, t-shirts, socks, bowls, candy bags, food wrappers, you name it–all were covered in ridiculously bad translations of English expressions, and in the 100 yen store, there were seemingly infinite bins of tear-inducing, gut-shakingly-funny mis-translations. In Japan, that made sense, but I guess I never really expected as much from India’s linguistic treasures.
Boy, was I wrong!
Forget all my PhD reading that I schlepped halfway around the world only to leave buried in the bottom of my backpack. In India, signage was the literary masterpiece of the trip.
Life moves a little more slowly in India. As an Indian American living in Dehra Dun reminded us, there is Central Standard Time…and then there is Indian Standard Time. And when you’re hanging out in the quiet towns ofUttarakhand, in winter nonetheless, life seems to whisper along.
Case in point: While in Rishikesh, we’d while away the first hour or so of our day sipping Nescafe in our hotel lobby, watching sensationalist Delhi news accounts and giggling over the matrimonial ads. Time inched along, not bothered by car horns or diesel fumes or much of anything, save a sadhu or two. Glancing up from our almost-coffees and newspapers, we’d spy a cow eating breakfast on our hotel stoop, ladies gathering for an early morning chat, delivery men desperately wishing cars were allowed in this part of town, monkeys making mischief. Life moved slowly (and dare I say: peacefully) on that Rishikesh street, aflutter with life at daybreak.
Ten minutes in the life of a Rishikesh street (including a cow who seemed to be inspired by our dawdling).
While other kids traveled to Washington, DC in middle school and high school or on family vacations—visiting the Air & Space Museum, touring the White House, marveling at the monuments to president-upon-president—I never did. In fact, I did not set foot in our nation’s capital until I was 30, when I spent my one day in the city traipsing around the Mall in gale-force winds, desperately trying to make my way to the FDR Memorial. A snippet of the city: It was beautiful, historical, with some edginess. I liked it. I wanted to go back.
“It’s pretty amazing to see what people have bottled up inside of them."
So Foley astutely observed at our Tuesday night outing to Rock Star Gomeroke. A Madison institution, Rock Star Gomeroke is that most authentic of karaoke experiences: you sing, rock band plays back-up.
I was married in Michigan. But aside from 24 hours once spent in Ann Arbor, a late-night drive through on the way to Canada, and a few annual weeks in August and at Christmas in our little tip of the Keweenaw, it’s a state I have little experience with. So when Fresh and I realized we had a glorious few weeks to kill this summer, I started dreaming up a Michigan road trip—inspired in no small part by those commercials from when I was a kid: “Yes, Michigan! The feeling’s forever…”
Yes! Michigan! And we were off.
When I graduated high school, I wanted nothing more than to escape the Midwest. Maybe it was just that eighteen-year-old itch to strike out on your own, far away from family, and see what happened. But maybe it was the cornfields and the summer humidity and the you-betchas that finally got to me. The way that endless expanse of sky over flatlands can suffocate with its infinity, the way the crickets and cicadas drone through hot and sticky nights, the way thunderstorms and blizzards and tornadoes swoop in with little forewarning to mess up the best-laid plans. Or maybe it was the seeming lack of glamour and excitement and culture, the provincialness and naïve sweetness.
I’ve wanted to go to the Aran Islands since I was a little girl. I think I read a book about them, where the protagonist was a red-haired girl wearing big, fluffy wool sweaters living in a thatch-roofed house on a lonely cliff overlooking the Atlantic Ocean. I don’t remember the title or what the book was even about, but I remember that there were sheep and magical creatures and wave pounded coasts and, well, I was smitten.
It all started with a bottle of sunscreen.
My fair, cancer-prone skin is photosensitive, especially now that even higher levels of UV radiation seep through our increasingly depleted ozone. A painful rash, unfortunately, is the hallmark of any of my sun-baked vacations, thanks to the slow, pharmaceutical-industry-compromised FDA approval process that has yet to approve the necessary UV-blocking ingredients at a high enough SPF. Thank goodness for Canada! Despite the largish carbon footprint of doing so, I now import my sunscreen from Canada, where the ‘socialist’ medical system has made Mexoryl (the UV-ass-kicking ingredient) available at SPF 45 for quite a while now.
Simple enough, right?
We woke up again today to news of Mexico’s raging drug war. Kidnappings, murders, cartels. Some 40,000 troops deployed to the US-Mexico border. International worries about Mexico as a narco-state. Or worse: A failed state. It’s pretty terrifying to listen even to the measured NPR commentary–what is unraveling just south of our border?!
It’s pretty terrifying, except for this: That’s not actually the truth about Mexico.
See, I’m not letting it lie.
I’m at it again. The smart thing, the peace-making thing, would be to shut up about this. I’ve already made our friends uncomfortable enough listening to my rant. But I’m really, really…irked. (To put it mildly.)
If I hear another comment about Michelle Obama’s arms (or her clothes or her style or her looks), I’m going to punch someone.
The world is going to hell in a handbasket.
Or so I hear every time I turn on the TV or radio or pick up any kind of periodical (and for the sake of my sanity, I really ought to re-program my morning alarm away from NPR). Markets are crashing, homes are foreclosing, politicians are arguing (oh wait…that’s normal), jobs are disappearing, we’re all riddled with debt and panicking and Godzilla is storming our cities. The DeathStar is hovering dangerously close to us. Where’s Luke’s trusty light saber when you need it?
L. once told me a story about a friend of hers who, when proposed to, burst into tears. Not out of joy but out of panic and frustration and astonishment. And our musician friend J., when he proposed to his musician ladyfriend in a top-secret, unexpected way, was greeted with silence. And shaking. And then a tentative, “I can’t answer this right now. I need some time. To think. What a surprise.”
I come from a long line of cooks. Cousins, grandfathers, great-grandfathers…restaurant owners, caterers, neighborhood pierogi makers. I grew up in my grandpa’s kitchen, watching him make sausage and peppers, egg foo young, silver dollar pancakes. When I was finally tall enough to reach the kitchen counter, he started giving me jobs. Most often, it was Cheesecake Maker: He’d set out all the ingredients, cut out a recipe, and leave me to it. He’d be over the hot stove while I’d be crushing graham crackers into a crust. Those were our bonding moments.
Apparently, Chicago is Siberia. Or so I hear from a friend who has recently relocated from the East Coast to Chitown. She thinks she has moved to the arctic hinterlands. This makes me laugh.
I’ve recently started playing soccer again after a fourteen-year hiatus. It’s ridiculously hard: My feet don’t always remember the right way to dribble, the right way to pass, or the right way to trap. Sometimes my legs work and my head doesn’t; other times, the head works and the feet don’t. Sometimes neither work…and then it’s time for the bench.
I’ve been thinking a lot lately about student-centered pedagogy. This is a phrase that gets thrown out a lot by progressive educators, a phrase intended to invoke equality, culturally relevant teaching, social justice, funds of knowledge, humanizing pedagogies–you name it. Student-centered pedagogy is a buzzword for all that is ‘good’ in teaching.
I was asked to speak at a panel on Friday about how instructors in our program work with the e-portfolio in their classes. When it was my turn to speak, I started by admitting (1) my initial skepticism about the e-portfolio and whether or not it was actually useful, and (2) the fact that I didn’t know everything about how to best prepare my student teachers and, in fact, that I was still figuring things out. I then went on to talk about some of the technical things that I do in my instruction with the portfolio.
I have an incredibly talented and thoughtful group of friends. Many of them write regularly on their blogs (there’s a whole list of them in the column to the right). Really, my friends–especially those far afield–are responsible for my renewed writing binge here.
I may have become a stalker.
It’s not my fault, though, I swear. See, it all started with a phone number switch.
I’ve recently been asked to work with our career office in the School of Education, doing consultation and professional development around our student teachers’ e-portfolios. This means that I’ve got to confront head-on some of my misgivings about the e-portfolio project and how it relates to preparing student teachers.
In my Chicago family, spring was ushered in by a pilgrimage. On a cold, early spring morning, our mothers called us in sick to school. In early gray hours, we’d bundle up, in red-and-blue caps and layers of hopeful spring clothes, and make our way into the city. The first destination: the McDonald’s parking lot at Clark and Addison, where an extended clan would gather. While the moms sorted through snacks and layers and blankets in the back of someone’s wood-paneled station wagon, the cousins and I skipped around the parking lot, singing, “Take me out to the ball game…,” dreaming of peanuts and malt cups. Then someone would give the orders, and off we were, across the street to where that red sign welcomed us to the Wrigley Field home opener.
While living in Mexico, I joked that speaking Spanish forced me to be far more Zen about life: Since I could only speak in the present tense, I was forced to just live in that present tense.
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