Jan 29, 2012

last leg.

We are on the last leg of our journey.

I am officially in mourning.

Please don't make me leave. I have a plane ticket with my name on it for Tuesday - Delhi - Kuala Lumpur - Hong Kong...but I don't want to accept it. ha.

Things in Udaipur have been fabulous. It is a chill place - quiet, not much to do except eat cake, read books, and peruse shops selling sparkly, leathery, or hand chiseled things. There is a woman on the corner who has been chiseling away at marble elephants the past two days. We will visit her street-side shop after this internet cafe where internet is 75 cents an hour.

Yesterday we rode horses through a village, I got an 8 dollar pedicure from a woman named Lissy, and then we saw a native Rajistani dancing show in the evening. A fabulous mix of activity and relaxation. Today we are bumming around until our evening train to Delhi. It is supposed to be 12 hours, but all of our trains have been running hours late because of fog in Delhi. So who knows when we'll get there. But we'll eventually get there. We're in the lowest class on the train - with bars instead of windows, so it'll be an adventure.

Right now in the internet cafe there is a heated discussion happening over whether there are power cut-offs today in town. I really am in a different world.

The boys and I were discussing yesterday that we sometimes have out-of-body experiences. Like, we see what is happening around us, and know our bodies are here, but don't compute that we are here. Does that even make sense?

I've been thinking a lot about the unfairness of life. How easily I could have been born a villager in Udaipur, India. How I could be pumping water from a well and carrying sticks on my head in bundles while draped in a shiny sari. I won the genetic lottery - parents who are still together and lack addictions, Protestant, moral upbringing in upper-middle class suburbia America, easy access to higher education, living debt free, access to clean water and electricity and plenty of food every day of my life. And now I travel places with far less than what I have and take photos.

It's not fair.

But instead of living in guilt for what I do have, I need to look around and ask what can I do? These are rudimentary thoughts, but are thoughts just the same that swirl around as I pass water buffalo, goats, and pant-less, shoe-less children in the streets.

I'll have to form my thoughts better on this before writing about it, but these thoughts have been reigning supreme in my mind as of late. I feel so inspired to use what I have been given. My infinite blessings are equally unfair and a call to service to others. To whom much has been given, much will be asked. I've been day-dreamy with these things the past few days.

I'm also knee-deep in a fabulous book. If you like book recommendations - allow me to recommend The White Tiger. It's fab.

Well, internet time is about up. Thanks for reading my rambles. ha.

See you in Delhi.

walk slow. xoxo.

Jan 26, 2012

Indian People.

I love Indian people.


Traveling this country has been hard. It's dirty, poor, and has given us challenges I have never faced while traveling before (sickness, travel hazards, security checkpoints...) and yet after all the dust has settled one thing remains - the people. And gosh, they are beautiful and interesting.

We have had 80% positive interactions (opposite of what I experience in Chi.naville). One of my favorite things is collecting characters. In Hangzhou I have many - my foot massager, hair dresser, doctors, vegetable seller, etc. And India has introduced many more fabulous souls to my memory.

Let me introduce you to some of our Indian characters:

Mona. Mona is a common Indian name that means, "kid." Mona is also the guest coordinator at the Alka Hotel in Varanasi. He is clever, constantly chews Beetle leaves making his teeth a bright red color, and knows everyone in the back alleys of Varanasi. We swear he's either mafia or the village idiot everyone appeases. He knows how to please foreign tourists, cracking open bottles of wine for rich white people (not us, ha), and offering walking tours. We hired him for a day to take us around the city. He is a devout Hindu who spent 20 minutes telling us over and over again how every morning he, "touches the penis," - a statue that must be touched in one of the temples he took us to. Apparently to Hindus, it is sacred. To us it was hilarious. We saw him for two days after our tour and each day one of the boys asked him, "Mona, did you touch the penis today?" He never responded.

Rahul. Rahul is a tuk tuk driver in Jaipur. He works outside Hotel Kalyan and uses his impeccable English and good humor to attract repeat customers. Women traveling alone trust him, so he can charge a higher price for better service and a trust-factor. We rented him for a day to drive us around after deciding that we liked him and wanted to support him. He waited for us outside a fort for 4 hours. He used to work in a company making 3 dollars a day. The 12 dollars a day he makes as a tuk tuk driver puts him in a higher class. When asked how many girlfriends he has, he responded, "2 - a woman, and my tuk tuk."

Richard. Richard is also a tuk tuk driver. He stopped us while we were walking along the road yesterday to ask us why, "Westerners ignore people." We explained that the constant heckling from touts may cause some tourists to walk by without responsding (we too are guilty of this on occasion). He then went on in great English to tell us that when visiting a place, you must know the people not the buildings. I was only half listening to his rehearsed speech though, because I was busy admiring his clean, sharp suit top and snazzy hairdo. Richard can't read or write, but learns English by stopping foreigners on the street - like us.

Shena. Shena has been an educator for over 18 years. She looks old enough to be my grandmother, but after observing how fast people age here, she is probably no older than my mother. Her skin is leathery and she is clothes in red sari material and golden jewels. Her ankles steps make a clanking sound from her adorned ankles. Mona teaches street girls at the Ladli school. (www.ladli.com). We visited to purchase jewelry the girls make to support themselves. Mona is tough, takes no prisoners, and expects the best from her girls. Mona exhibits qualities I want to have as a woman - strength and gracefulness intertwined. Peace and an internal fire. She held my hands to kiss me goodbye when we exited the compound after our short visit.

Shana. Shana owns the B Villas in Udaipur. When we walked into the doors this morning he appeared from the shadows and cried out, "Jessica!" I had made the reservation and he was waiting for us. He then grabbed each of us and pulled us into a tight bear hug. "Here is not hotel, here is home," he said after guiding us slowly up our never-ending flights of stairs to our guestroom. He wears coke-bottle glasses and a sweater vest. He is old and curious and charming. He is waiting for me to finish this blog on the computer behind the desk so he can show me his friend's blog. We're old pals who have known each other 10 hours - 2 generations and a culture apart and yet able to share tea and life stories.

I love all these people. I am interested in these people. In how they are different from me and how the luck of the draw placed us each in our corners of the world, determining so much about us.

We have arrived in Udaipur after spending 3 relaxing days in Jaipur. These are the nicest cities of our itinerary and we are very happy to have saved them for last. We are all moderately healthy, rested, and happy to relax a bit. The streets are much quieter here, shop owners less pushy, and there is a chill atmosphere, very different than Varanasi, Agra, or Amritsar.

A James Bond movie was filmed here so tonight's plan is to find a roof-top bar and watch the film. Tomorrow we are riding horses to a village. That should be funny.

We have been counting down the days left with sadness. Two nights here, a night on a train, then one night in Delhi and then we fly to Hong Kong. I am so sad to part with India. I am already scheming a way to get back here.

I need more Indian characters in my life.

walk slow. xoxo.

Jan 22, 2012

boy lessons.

10 Things I'm learning while traveling India with two All-American dudes:

1. The 3 morning "s's" shit, shower, shave.
2. Diarrhea does not discriminate.
3. Apparently, shower caps are really funny.
4. I hold manners in high esteem. Really, really high esteem.
5. Penis jokes are still funny when someone is 29 years old.
6. No matter how loud or great my fart/burp is, I will be outdone. And probably soon.
7. Everyone deserves a chance to be weak/scared/anxious sometimes.
8. Chips and soda is a yummy and perfectly decent train breakfast.
9. Two pairs of boxers is an acceptable amount of underwear to bring on a 3 week trip - until you poop in them.
10. I'm a tough broad.

Did I mention, manners? :)

walk slow. xoxo.

Jan 21, 2012

The Taj.

It is a motley conglomeration of people who make their way from corners around the world to view one of the 8 wonders of the world - the Taj Mahal. Foreigners in scarves and silver jewelry, Indians barefoot with sari's skimming the marble floor.

All looking up at a monument of love.

Today I was one of them.

The Taj Mahal was as grand, peaceful, and fabulous as I dreamed it would be. We spent 5 hours today on the grounds, just wandering, taking pictures, and taking it all in. We didn't want to leave her presence. I gazed one last time and said goodbye to her as we exited the gates. I could have stared forever and never lost my sense of wonder.

That a man loved a woman enough to construct such a beautiful monument is an incredible thought. Inlaid stone, slick marble, and two bodies inside. Lovers. Forever enclosed by a testament to extravagant, worldly love.

I can't wait to show you pictures.

I've been to the Taj Mahal. I wasn't sure I'd get here in my travels. It was too far, too expensive, too unknown of a destination. But I dreamed it.

I've been to the prairies of Inner Mongolia, the beaches of colorful Thailand, seen the lights of Korea, and felt the comfort of Europe - but nothing compares to the Taj. I've accomplished a personal travel dream and I'm so proud, thankful, and overwhelmed with blessing. Just feeling very thankful to be here, amongst the motley crew of travelers who walked through those gates today.

12 days to go.

walk slow. xoxo.

Jan 19, 2012

outrageously awesome and fabulously scary.


India continues to amaze and challenge us. The last fews days have been nuts. I and one of the dudes got incredibly sick which resulted in a doctor visit for the dude (not me) and a re-arranging of our entire travel itinerary. We are no longer visiting the Mother Teresa House in Calcutta (I'm so sad), but it is for the best because it saves us 36 hours of trains and hopefully will keep our systems in check with less movement. Everyone is better now, and we are still obsessed with being here.

We are leaving Varanasi tonight for Agra (TAJ MAHAL!). I'm so excited. We have an overnight train, then another train.

My feelings on Varanasi are very complicated. It is a crazy place and slated to be the craziest one of our itinerary. Lonely Planet says this city, "isn't for the faint of heart," and I will agree. But it is fascinating.

Last night Zach and I took a river boat to a hindu ceremony and saw more burnings. Surreal. We watched people light lotus candles and pray over them and place them in the river. All for good kharma for a better next life.

Last night and this morning we have been stringing together poems and raps to desribe what is happening in the moment. I feel so often like I have been plucked out of my life and placed into this crazy environment, that I am in the bustle of the city, but not of it. I feel sometimes like I am watching life happen around me. We are often too afraid to even cross the street in the mess of cows, tuk tuks, and people. It is outrageously awesome and fabulously scary.

Here is an example of our soon-to-be award winning poetry:

There's a lizard in the shower.
There's a monkey on the patio.

There's a cow in the alley.
There's a fart in the air.

There's an Adam at the doctor.
There's a poop in his pants.

There's chanting in the cabin.
There's tea in the pot.

There's kites on the wires.
There's candles in the river.


And our grammy winning raps go something like this:

But some shoes on those feet,
You're getting AIDS, You're getting AIDS!

Someone feed that dog,
Steppin' in poo ain't lucky, Steppin' in poo ain't lucky!

Refrain: That goat's about to die, that goat's about to die...

We might be going nuts. But I'll never regret it.
Next stop: Agra!


Walk slow. xoxo.

Jan 15, 2012

The Ganges River.

There are bodies burning on the Ganges River.

It is so surreal.

This is the place Hindus must come to cremate their dead, so that they may have their sins washed and enter into the next life well (or something like that). It is also an auspicious place to die. If you die here in Varanasi, you get to skip the death/life process. Intense, huh?

We arrived this evening via train and were at once overwhelmed by the craziness of the city. It is the most intense place we will go, according to our handy guidebooks. And the books proved right from the start. After much haggling and frustration and yelling at people in chin.ese just to make them go away, (I'm so good at that), we ended up in a rickshaw. That came inches away from smashing into a cow. And then a motorcycle. And then a family. I closed my eyes.

We were dropped off on a street and proceeded to ask many police where our hotel was. A dude latched onto us and led us through the crowded alleys to our hotel.

We have an incredible view of the Ganges. We put our stuff down, took a deep breath, and went to the terrace for an incredible dinner of curry, naan, and sweet rice.

After an intense first hour, it is really good to be here. It is going to be wonderful. Adrenaline is addicting.

I was thinking today that we are not visiting India, but rather feeling India. I can feel myself being sucked into the magic of this place. It is at once surreal, enlightening, challenging, and beautiful. I care for India. I want to know more, see more, experience more.

And tomorrow, we will.
On the Ganges river.
Next to the burning dead.

And I keep singing to myself..."what caaan wash awaaay my sins?...." you know the rest.

walk slow. xoxo.

Jan 14, 2012

Day 4.

I don't really have words.

But there's 7 minutes left on my internet time, so I came here out of routine.

After 4 days in India, I can safely say I am mesmorized.

Last night we went to the Pakistan/India border closing ceremony. I cried. It was so spirited and beautiful and energetic.

Today we had munch with pilgrims at the Sikh Golden Temple. We ate on the floor with our hands.

Tonight we leave on a 40 hour train.

India, you are changing me.

walk slow. xoxo.

Jan 12, 2012


20 hours travel. 
AK 47's at the airport. 
Pre-paid taxi.
Spinach curry.
lime and soda water. 
dirt road.
Lost finding hostel. 
Oh, because hostel is in the ghetto.
Cows. Lots of cows. Skinny cows. 
Piles of burning trash. 
beautiful women in sari's. 
steamed eggs on the side of the road for 10 cents. 
Purple, red, and deep blue. 
Bollywood music making my shoulders bounce.
deep brown, curious eyes of children. 

I'm in India. And I'm so fascinated. 

Greetings from Delhi. Our train ride across the north begins tomorrow. Today we woke up after 10 hours of sleep (!) and are now waiting our breakfast in the hostel. We are heading to the Red Fort and the site where Gandhi was shot, using the metro to get everywhere. Wish us luck! 

walk slow. xoxo. 

Jan 10, 2012

Here we go...

“Bizarre travel plans are dancing lessons from God.” – Kurt Vonnegut

I'm off to India.

5 hours to Kuala Lumpur, 5 hour layover, 6 hours to New Delhi.

I'm shaking with excitement. See you there.

walk slow. xoxo.

Jan 8, 2012

48 hours out.

Prep for India has hit full force.

I've started my pre-departure rituals, put away my American crap (mostly), and laid out possible outfits on my tiny couch.

Preparing for "travel" is a little different than preparing for a trip home to America. I still take fiber and drink water like a maniac, but there are a few differences when you are going to "rough it" for several weeks. I take off my nail polish, start wearing less make up to help my skin adapt to the air and to help me adapt to showing the world my au natural self, and wean myself off caffeine. Yesterday I had none, this morning it was a cup of instant coffee. I'm sure we will have access to tons of caffeinated delights in India, but I don't want to need anything. When you are not in a familiar environment, it is better to be free from all routines and addictions.

All I have left in the body prep department is a good deep condition of my hair since I don't know how often it is getting washed in the next few weeks and a final shave. (I judge anyone who takes time to shave their legs while trekking India, ha).

I'm also taking a lot of "quiet time" for myself. I want to finish a book I'm reading on my kindle before I leave and I am trying to bank as much rest and solitude as I can since I just came off a trip from America and will not be alone for the next 3 weeks. I want to go into this trip with a decent patience storage and a stable, calm mind, so I am re-charging during this week. It's going well.

Last night we had dinner with an Indian dude who is from outside of Calcutta but lives in Delhi now. He's studying Chin.ese and will work as a Ch.inese expert at the embassy in Delhi when he leaves here. Cool, huh?

We took him to a noodle dinner and bombarded him with ignorant questions like, "how should we transfer money - from RMB or USD?" "should Jessica cover her hair?" "will we get attacked for being American at the Pakistan/India border closing ceremony?" "What food should we definitely eat?" "Where do you barter?" and my personal favorite, "How do I find an Indian sugar daddy?"

He was really helpful, giving us names of people all along our route and telling us some little nuiances like - buy a chain to chain up your luggage on the train, offer a taxi driver 50 rupees over the meter and he won't over charge you too much, and, "no smooching in public." Um, no worries, dude. Ha.

Unless I find that sugar daddy.

Just kidding.

It's so great to take to a native before heading off to a new place. I feel like so much of the travel advice on the internet is over-blown.

Im off to get my hair done and then a massage. Two very important parts of travel prep! ha.

This little guy keeps distracting me from my list of things to do!

I have 2 days to make all this crap fit into a backpack:

I can't believe I'm leaving for the airport in 48 hours. I've been on a lot of trips, but this one might take the cake for pre-trip excitement.

walk slow. xoxo.

Jan 6, 2012

Mu Shu.

Today was great.

Except for when the old ladies at the gym called me fat while I was standing two feet away dressing myself and then decided collectively that I was from Russia, because all Russian women are big. But, that story is not important enough to tell. Let's talk about my great day.

Totally unproductive for what I need to be doing (India???) but great none-the-less.

Coffee with a friend, gym time, salad lunch with friends, a few hours of working my big girl job (emails, inputting grades, responding to student journals), dinner with another friend, and a foot massage.

And a lot of time spent in awe of my cat.

I think I have the coolest cat ever. Mu Shu is just so darn awesome. He's lovable but not clingy, playful but not annoying, clean, friendly, and sweet. He's just the right amount of curious and cute. I really lucked out with this little $30 pet market wonder!

He even sits patiently for my daily photo shoots:

Look at that squeezable furry face!



Buying a cat on a random Sunday afternoon was one of the best choices I ever made. I'm sad my travels take me away from my baby furball (he's off to another friend's house while I'm in India. I have great friends). But I am thankful for every day I get with his little fluffy face.

walk slow. xoxo.

international mess and a non-resolution.

A dear, dear friend of mine once referred to me as an, "international mess," and it kind of stuck.

She was referring to my penchant for just throwing things in a suitcase at the last minute before a big trip and carrying several small bags instead of a large suitcase. I am not a good packer. I always regret my clothing and shoe choices. It's just inevitable.

Unfortunately for this international mess, there is a quick turn around for unpacking my overflowing American suitcase and re-packing my backpacking backpack.

Yesterday was spent with Team India sitting in Z's apartment looking at Google image pictures of the Pakistan/India border closing ceremony and deciding who is bringing what. (chargers, body wash, etc. get divied up so not everyone brings a million things that we all use).

We then bike rode in the freezing cold to a sports store to pick up some last minute items. I got a sleeping bag, a fleece, and a flashlight. Our planning times together are a good prelude to the three weeks of constant togetherness we have coming up. For example, me in the fleece section, "Should I get a purple or blue fleece?" Them: "Jessica, we don't care!"


Anyways, besides the packing debacle I find myelf in, I am enjoying being with baby Mu Shu kitty for a few short days. I missed his furry face...

and the Chine.se New Year decorations are out in full swing! This guy greeted me at the grocery store yesterday...Happy Year of the Dragon!

Schools are just about to let out for their month holiday and most of my friends are about to leave on their own journey's soon. (to go home for Christmas I just peaced out of my life, there is no Christmas break here, break starts now).

Grocery stores are stocking New Year lucky candy and lucky red underwear!

I know I'm a little behind on the whole, "New Year's" thing, but I am still thinking of my golas for 2012. I do not really believe in resolutions, or bucket lists for that matter. I think people should just do what they want whether it is on a list or not.

But I do like the idea of goals.

After some time farting around on Pinterest I found this and tucked it away into my heart...

I'm off to meet a friend for coffee and then yoga. Anything to get away from unpacking and re-packing. :)

walk slow. xoxo.

Jan 5, 2012

let the randomness begin.

One of my "causes" that I like to harp on when I am home in the good ol' USA is to try to convince people that my life in Chi.na is normal.

I get up in the morning and have instant coffee.
I ride a bus to work.
I watch tv on my laptop in the evenings after doing some work online.
I read books while laying in bed on Saturday mornings.
I have a cat and go to the gym 5x a week.
I eat Subway 3x a week (at least).

See, normal...right?

But then things like tonight happen.

And I find myself (not even 24 hours after landing in the country) falling asleep in a red sports car with furry seats. The car got into a fender bender and I was hanging out inside to keep warm while a swarm of Asians worked their fancy cell phones and looked at the slight damage.

This is after I had a late-night sushi dinner with two random, loaded, young Chin.ese men - one of whom I met in a bar a few months ago and never heard from again until tonight. He texted me to hang out and I thought, "Why not? My Ch.inese needs some brushing up!" And twenty minutes later was being chauffered along in a sports car. Two of them, one of me, Kei$ha playing on the speakers.

In a car with furry seats. That got in a fender bender.

In Ch.ina.

I then had to give them directions to drive me home (all we speak is Chi.nese) and I realized to myself, "whoohooo I've still got it!" ("It" being Chine.se.)

I'm not doing very good on aiding my, "my life is normal," case, am I?

I'm back in Ch.inatown. Let the randomness begin.

walk slow. xoxo.

Jan 3, 2012

Sitting in the airport.

I love airports.

I love the emotion and energy in airports. The expectation in the air is wonderful.

My view from my seat at gate 3 waiting on a flight to LA is normal - lots of Asians, a rich businessman on the phone talking about his business in Prague, and 90% of people staring at some electronic device. Left over Christmas decorations dangle above the unmanned check in counter and the beep beep of a people-mover can be heard ever 5 minutes when flights arrive.

I'm back in the airport alone. A place I know, a feeling if adrenaline I'm used to.

This morning was weird. After my shower I had to sit in the carpeted hallway in my towel and take some deep breaths. My heart started racing and I thought I was going to barf. At first I thought I was too hot with inadequate ventilation in the bathroom, but then I realized - anxiety. Rearing it's ugly, rarely experienced, head. Bah.

I'm fine now, sitting in the airport ambivalent about my 24 hour journey. My bags are haphazardly packed, face void of makeup, and a million loose ends left untied. But that's just the way it goes.

We're boarding soon. I guess I should end my one sided chat with the Internet. Ha.

Walk slow. Xoxo.

Jan 2, 2012

Welcome, 2012.


I love home.

Tomorrow I leave home. Again. To go home.

Circling the globe to go home has become commonplace. It's my 15th journey across the ocean.

I am so thankful to have been home for the holidays.



travelling with my family to the Insight Bowl in Arizona, (my sister's a graphic designer for the Fiesta Bowl!)

seeing the Disney Christmas decorations:

hiking in Arizona:

and chicken and waffles:

I couldn't have asked for a better end to 2011.

Spending it at home. The place I'll always return to, and with the people who mean the most to me. And tomorrow I'm off to Chinaville for a week. Flying Scottsdale - LA - Shanghai.

As far as New Year's Resolutions, this is all I got:

One resolution I have made, and try always to keep, is this: To rise above the little things. ~John Burroughs

Happy New Year to you and yours.

walk slow. xoxo.