The Long Way Home

Jaipur, India, 2006
The Dali Lama said something to the extent of this: small problems, hardships, or inconveniences should be but mere ripples in the sea, floating just over the surface. If you were to let the small things turn into waves, you’d only be knocked down more often than not. This notion is the key to survival, especially in India. India’s relentless. Just when you think it’s as hot as it could possibly get, it gets hotter. Just when you thought you couldn’t be any dirtier, you get pushed to the side of the road by a rickshaw, or cow, and step into a puddle of water (insert question mark) and look up in frustration just in time for the rickshaw’s exhaust to blow right in your face. The streets alone are relentless. Walking through them requires the same strategy as a video game and produces the same quantity of outcomes. It’s a wonder to me how my toes have escaped being rolled over. They’ve curled themselves under in deep fear of their lives. Horns are honked so often, I’ve come to believe the horn itself must be India’s native musical instrument. The people are also relentless.
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understanding of “no thank you” or the more blunt response of “I don’t like it, I don’t want it” and “please, it’s not expensive, it’s very inexpensive” is suddenly the only english they know. Some will even follow you down the street, dropping the price of the one thing they think you have have glanced at, and the price drops with every step you take until a cow slowly intervenes and passes between you – or it doesn’t – and you have to turn around with attitude and say, “LOOK, I will NEVER come back to India EVER again if you don’t stop following us”. The latter of course being the less desirable of the two.

But it’s all ripples, really. No big waves have dropped on us. The frustrations or inconveniences have only made the colors brighter and the Himalayans bigger and between the two – the good and the bad – there’s no competition, not even a discussion of such nonsense.
And just like that… it’s off to Egypt…

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The Long Way Home

Agra, India, 2006
India’s dirty. There’s no two ways about it. The majority of it stems from the fact there’s no irrigation system. Shit flows in the “canals” linking the streets. It rains and the streets flood and people walk right through it and kids play like ti’s the public swimming pool they never had. Secondly, no matter the direction your eyes turn, you’ll inevitably see some Indian man – either standing or squatting – pissing in the street. In Jaipur, we even saw two boys shitting together on the side of the street like it was something they met up for each say, “Same time, same place tomorrow?”, I imagined one saying to the other. And lastly, everyone litters. Hidden treasures lie all over the place – old matchboxes, candy wrappers, corn husks… J keeps referring to it as “art”. I haven’t gon so far just yet, but it’s probably the rancid smell of piss that’s taking away from the museum feel.
But that’s India and certainly not all India has to offer. It’s a country of extremes, really. Polar opposites. I say this because it’s also one of the most, if not THE most colorful countries. India’s also home to one of merely seven world wonders. The Taj speaks for itself. But Agra, home to the Taj is quite it’s polar opposite. Walking down the polluted road that leads to it is like walking through the gates of hell only to end up before the gates of heaven. It’s hot, for starters. Sweat drips off your body and clings to your clothes and then you pass through the entrance and turn a corner and before you lies this “dream of marble” you yourself had only dreamed of during class, flipping through the history book pages in search of that one picture that could hold your attention and conquer the urge to close your eyes. Part of myself had already been there.
India is also part owner of the great Himalayan mountain range. And once again, you have to tolerate hell to appreciate heaven. Take a 25 hour bus ride with no toilet, dirty seats, dusty floors, no air con, busted fans, dirt and bug infested, baby crying, brakes squeaking on a winding road with cows crossing and Pakistani army men lining the street and one may have a portion of the truth I speak of. Be it what it may, but it’s not about how you get there but rather where you arrive at that’s important. The Himalayas stand in the distance and it’s like God dropped a huge backdrop and made your life his movie. I’d do it again, even if I had to ride a bike there.
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The Long Way Home

Srinagar, Very Northern India, 2006
We’ve been alone on our houseboat, without the arrival of any other travelers, for some time now. Combined with a shortage of money, we’ve become slaves to boredom’s spells. I feel like a six year old, hiding out in my fort, peeking out my box cut window I draped lace over to see who is entering and if they’re earned their entrance
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through testimony of the secret password.

What is there to do with boredom? We’ve fished by means of a hanger and earring, to no avail. We’ve played both charades and ring a bangle around a glass. We’ve finished the list of who would you this and what would you that? We’ve spied on our neighbors and have shared long moments of silence always polished off by immense laughter. I’ve watched Janet’s handstands progress and rolled in laughter when she fell. We’ve picked boyfriends from magazine clippings, we’ve walked laps around our common area and we’ve snuck up on each other unexpectedly, we’ve bitch slapped mosquitoes and flies to their graves and followed mice to their corners. We even jimmied wires together to charge my camera battery.
Boredom. It’s almost nauseating how fast paced our American lives are that it can almost make one crazy when there’s nothing to be done. How we’ve longed for it and we long to leave it all baffles me.

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The Long Way Home

Srinagar, Very Northern India, 2006
Tonight, the truth came to me and it came through the hospitality of a local. Sharing time with another family, in another country, of another religion. They changed the entire vibe surrounding Srinagar. They accepted us, fed us, and proved that indeed, you must get into a book before you draw any conclusions after only reading the introduction. And thus, we decided not to leave Srinagar just yet.

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The Long Way Home

Srinagar, Very Northern India, 2006
After a grungy, loose screws on the wheels, it’ll-make-your-fillings-fall-out bumpy 25 hour bus ride, we’ve been dropped off amongst the beauty, wonder, and awe of the Himalayas in a Muslim town where some look at us with curiosity and others simply look at us like they want to kill us. We are surrounded by a huge military presence, staying on a houseboat where we are being held prisoner by none other than ourselves. The view from the front of the boat is friendly; a beautiful lake I would have considered swimming in had I not recognized the dead duck, the floating condom, or the pipe that connects the lake directly to our toilet. Nonetheless, beautiful to look, not touch. Beautiful reflections, beautiful canoes, beautiful trees, mountains, and air. So we’re dealing with it the same way you ought to deal with every situation – taking the good with the bad, the beauty with the ugly, the high with the low or what have you, and we’re making the best of it. Taking the time to enjoy nothing more than time itself. The sound of oars meeting the water, of cows mooing, of Muslims chanting from seemingly far away places, of birds chirping and ducks paddling, and the sound of footsteps stomping down our wooden hallway bring breakfast, lunch, and dinner… all harmoniously combine to make our “prison” stay not so dreadful after all.

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The Long Way Home

Delhi, India, 2006
We’re different and
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everyone knows it. They stare like we’re something special, they open doors like we’re famous, they observe us like we’re another species, they wave like we’re the first ones of our kind they’ve seen and may ever see again. And we do the same. We stare because we’ve never seen this culture amongst their own and we observe because we’ve never seen cows wander the streets alongside traffic worse than you’d find on the 405 freeway. What’s new to them is old to us and what’s new to us is merely tradition to them. When all is said and done, I think we fancy each other.

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The Long Way Home

Bangkok, Thailand, 2006
Bargaining is an art. Bangkok has taught me that. Love, too – like bargaining – is also an art. I’ve taught myself that. There’s rules to follow and strategy in the planning. First, you have to know what you want. Second, you need to decide where you want to get it from. Third – and perhaps most important – is knowing what you’ll settle for. And lastly comes the decision to take it – even if you’re getting the deal you want, or leave it – because sometimes you get what you pay for.
As far as the sellers are concerned, they too must follow rules and produce strategy. My best advice to them is to let the buyer come to them. People know what they want and they’ll seek it out until they find it. The more you push someone to buy a product, the more the buyer considers the true necessity
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of what they’re being pushed to buy, the more bothered they become and the more motivated they are to walk than take a tuk tuk or taxi and give them money.

It’s business, it’s strategy, it’s love and it’s all the same.

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The Long Way Home

Chiang Mai, Thailand, 2006
The great part about traveling is the memory of
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looking back on it all; returning to your “normal” habitual life and recalling the days you spent on the other side of the world… so free you hardly even recognized it because it just felt so natural — so connected to the Earth.

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The Long Way Home

Hat Yai, Thailand, 2006
This land has
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been touched by a loving hand – I can tell in their smiles.

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The Long Way Home

Kho Pha Ngan, Thailand, 2006
Getting to the very essence of life is more challenging than anything else. Making sense of it. It’s interesting to consider how long we’ve fought and worked for the things we have today; technology (plasma TV’s, cell phones, fast cars) and capitalism (because bigger is better and excess is wealth), yet it seems these things we’ve taken so long to obtain are the very same things we need to rid ourselves of to feed our hungry souls. It’s only when I’m taken away from these things that my soul is fed. It leads me to believe that the bigger challenge is freeing yourself and feeding your soul in the midst of all the chaos we have created.
You can check out other posts in this series by clicking here.

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The Long Way Home

San Fernando Valley, 2006
“Stand on the peak of the mountain and contemplate the long ranges of hills, observe the courses of rivers and all the glories offered to your view, and what feeling seizes you? It is a calm prayer, you lose yourself in unbounded space, your whole being undergoes a clarification and purification, your ego disappears, you are nothing.”
-Carl Gustav Carus
As the future nears the present, and the present grows increasingly closer to the past it becomes clear – again – as to why I’m here… back at my parents, back with my best friend. The journey is peeking it’s head out from around the corner. We’ve been playing a game of hide and seek. It’s chasing me at the moment. Been trying my best to distract myself from
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the one thing I can’t do anymore than wait for — travel. I can feel my senses awakening. I sense my view of the world on the brink of change. I crave it – can’t wait to get away.

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The Long Way Home

I’ve been wanting to share some of my travel tales on here for some time, for a lot of reasons. For one, I want my words to live somewhere other than the bursting-at-the-seams journal I have them in now. More than that though, these tales are the foundation of who I am; they mark a point in my life when I was wild and free and my mind ever-expanding. It all started when I was lost and, by the end, I was found. These tales are my personal journey, before I was a wife, before I was a mother. I’ll be posting these every Monday, I hope you enjoy.
San Francisco, 2006
“…And admit that the waters
Around you have grown
And accept it that soon
You’ll be drenched to the bone
If your time to you
Is worth savin’
Then you better start swimmin’
Or you’ll sink like a stone
For the times they are a-changin’…”
-Bob Dylan
One charge gives birth to another. Now isn’t that the truth and pattern of life? Reproduction. Cycles. It all comes in waves; waves of furry, waves of peace. One wave continuously follows another.
Been giving change some thought. Ready for new challenges and maybe searching for new
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scenery. Been dreaming big dreams of far away places. Ready to break out the box we all trap ourselves in. Been thinking about my future. Ready to close old doors and open new ones.

Yes, indeed, change is in the air.
This year, the tide has changed. I’m smarter and stronger. Amazing who you become when suddenly it seems you’re all you got.

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