Friday, April 13, 2012

111, cricket, kids, famousness ...and a bad haircut :)

Today it’s rainy rainy (Friday the 13th!) and I think it’s a great gift to me, an excuse to stay inside and write .....and recuperate!  India is trying it’s darndest to test out my immune system! This last week I’ve been suffering from a cold and scratchy throat, an ear infection, a sore achilles tendon, an infected cut on my toe, and the perpetual stomach acheI I finally went to the doctor for a stool test yesterday... come to find out I not only have E.coli, but some scary ameobas! No wonder Im hurting! I think this rainy day of rest (and yoga) is good!

I find it a little humorous that the week after I turn 30 I have all these issues-- haha! Getting old? Naaa...I suppose it’s balancing out all the amazingness of the week, which was my birthday trip, my first cricket game, a few heartwarming days with the kids of the Charity, and my acting debut! Do they give Oscar nominations for the 'extra' performances? They should ;) 
First, my birthday!  Which, randomly happened to be the 111th day of my travels (If you’ve seen my travel photo albums on facebook, you know I’ve been labeling them by the day).  I find this to be an amazzzzzing omen!!!!  Maybe it’s doesn’t seem so exciting, but it is to me because I love any kind of sign that I can form into something good, and so day 111 (similar to 11:11, a make-a-wish type #) I think is a symbol of fulfilled wishes to come :)  Yesssirrreee! 

How cute is that? Thanks pals :)
This fantastic day started at 5:30am, early morning being my very favorite time of day. 

Good morning April 2, 2012!

It was all facilitated by Santosh (the most pure of genuine kind hearts) who took me for a sunrise bike ride, a sampling of different indian breakfast foods, and a funky drink (orange fanta with milk) that reminded me of my dad (awww- peach italian sodas he used to make for us girls at home), and one of the most powerful meditations I’ve had.  Why so powerful? Because I was sitting on top of a tank (yes, like a war tank). 

Forever I will remember (and draw from) this bday meditation

It sits as a statue in the cricket fields, and Santosh planted this seed in my head of ‘rising above the turmoil’.  So I sat there in lotus position, a symbol of peace, on top of a symbol of war, and squeezed all the advantages out of this 'peace rising over war' metaphor. My life (and yours) will be full of ups and downs for sure, but always rise above it. Top it. Sit on it. Stand your ground on it.  A truly inspiring moment :)

I got to climb a tree too... bday bonus :)
That set the tone for the rest of the day. We met up w/ the rest of the crew and opted for the local route (over renting a car) which consisted of a taxi to a train to a bike wagon to a boat to another bike cart.  It took about 6 hours to get there and could hardly be described as luxury travel, but I loved it.  We sat face to face on the train and all got to know each other (an Austrian, an Isreali and a South Indian were joining us for the first time). We got jiggled to death on the bike wagons, Vkaaz played guitar and we sang and cheered. We enjoyed the greenery scenery, and a glimpse into the rural life. And bless my pals, they brought me a birthday cake! We had to stop and eat it early on (so as not to melt) in the middle of one bridge, and ended with it all over us :). Who doesnt’ love a good cake fight?!   

A scene on the train.  This little girl wasn't feeling good, but the train was packed, so she laid across Kuttush and Maria's legs. Where else does that happen? Loved it :) 

Bike wagon adventure! Transportation method #2

Hhahahha..... love the expressions :) 

Happy Birthday to me :)

Transportation method #3... HOT boat, can you tell??!

Transportation method #4, the bike cart! Celebrating almost being there :)! 

By the time we arrived-- it was heaven just to flop onto the bed!! :) After a nap, we headed down to the river for a sunset mud bath, which attracted a mass crowd of locals wondering who all the crazy folk were throwing mud on each other :).   

Noam and mid-day, completely necessary, nap :) 

Time for a sunset dip!

Mud fight!!!

Literal interpretation of the term "dirty thirty" :) 
Another very special thing for me was making dinner. Almost always it’s the intimate experiences that I love. Santosh brought all this food to make momo’s (dumplings).  There was a very small, hot, natural kitchen with wood fire mud stove and single gas stove on the floor.  I was there helping in the kitchen w/ the hotel cook, Shathi.  She (like most) was so helpful and sweet.  We took turns putting in and flipping the momos, passing plates and utensils and communicating w/ hand signals :).  She says we are “bandhus” -friends :). Connection, connection, connection, I love connection!  

Group effort!

Making fried (we left the steamer on the train!) momo's!
Afterward, we (we as in the musically talented ones, me not included)  played music and sang up on the hotel roof.  I was pretty stoked the Vkaaz knew how to play Garth Brooks'  If Tomorrow Never Comes!  I love that song!   I made it till 11:15 and then had to pass out.   Def a birthday for the books :) 

The next day we went out for our safari.  It was a lot of lazing around the boat, looking out into the trees for the ever-elusive tiger! ... andddd guess what? we saw one!!!!  Everyone had been prepping me it was so rare, don’t get your hopes up, etc. etc. , but I just kept on with my “ we WILL see one”!!!  I suppose I know it was pure luck, but I like to credit it to the power of positive thinking!  After we saw it, we all had license to be relieved of searching, and so full relaxation and enjoying of the boating breeze ensued. At one point we all congregated towards the front, and bilingual speeches began. Toasts to the trip, good friends, and good times were given in Hindi, Nepali, Hebrew, German, Spanish, and English! That was pretty neat, love being shared via the eyes and tone of voice rather than the words. :)  The guitar came out, and intertwined loungin’ seemed the natural thing to do there in the hot sun.  This was another one those wonderful 'clarity moments' for me.  Laying on the bow of the boat with music, friends, satisfaction, sun... what not to be thankful for?  Just soaking it all in and loving the peaceful bliss :)

19, 25, 26, 29, 29, 30, 36, 60- friends and fun at all ages :) 

I was totally blissed out here :) 

My view, with the India flag above. India has done me well :) 

 Back to Kolkata, the end of my last week was a wonderful start to my new decade.

I got to go to my first cricket game ever!  It was supposed to start at 8pm, but a mass downpour (in which we got  completely saturated!!!!!) caused a delay.  56 thousand people there, all waiting to hear if the game will go on. Finally they announced it would be a 10:30 start time.  The game lasted until 12:45am, and all 56k people stayed the course-- WOW! I think I was more impressed with that than the game! What loyalty! I did enjoy the game... it was so fun, everyone stands up and cheers at every hit-- haha so fun :).  Plus the fact that they do it with no gloves makes it kind of more impressive than baseball!   (I have to say kind of as a fast pitch player myself :)

First Cricket game-- totally drenched and loving it!

56 thousand spectators! Wow! Go Kolkata Knight Riders!

India's colors just happen to be UM's! I feel like I'm at the Orange Bowl!!

Do you want my autograph? You should... cuz I’m, like, a famous actress now :) haa. One day I was skirted off with a handful of foreigners to be an extra in a Bollywood movie. They just so happened to need an american voice, so asked me if I could do a voice over for a character. Okaaayyy, if I must! The director and screen writer and assistant (fancy!) took me to another studio.  I sat, very officially, with the headset on, them in another room behind the glass, talking to me via the headset. I was shown “my scenes” where I tried my best to match the lines to the movement of the actress’ lips. My character had a few action scenes, and I had to get up and act it out in order to get my correct scream on... but then they informed me I needed to stay by the mic. hhaaa! So I stayed on my knees and pretended to pretend I was falling :)  The character’s name was Nicky (who was small and petit and I don’t think my voice matched at all, but hey, it’s all good!) and I had about 20 lines to voice over in 7-8 scenes....enough that they said my name will be in the credits! Swweeeet!!! hahah! And since I got paid ($40!) I think that makes it official.... I'm adding movie star to my repertoire :)  Look for Jole Jungole by Nitish Roy in October!!

The set of "Jole Jongole"... supposed to be a bit hit here!

The night club scene in which we were extras!!

My lines as "Nicky"!!!!

Director and screen writer! They said I did great for my first voiceover... I think they didn't have any other option :) 

I also had a traumatic haircut :(.  For my birthday present to myself, I decided to slurge and bought a shampoo, haircut, blowdry, mani-pedi and massage package for $6. Really splurged :)  It was really nice, the girls were wonderful and sweet, we had nice broken conversations, a zillion smiles. I actually tipped them $12 I liked them so much! The haircut was really my own fault. A combination of assumptions (indian women have long hair, they wont cut it short) and mis-communication, and the next thing you know 8” of my hair is on the floor!!! ohhhhhhhh myyyy gossshhh!  I tried to pretend as hard as I could that it was okay, but I’m transparent like glass... they could see I wasn’t happy and apologized profusely.  I felt terrible that I was making them feel terrible. We ate chocolate together to cheer up :). I look like a 30 year old lady... oh wait, I am. hahah.  I suppose I’ll get used to it... the good thing is I only use like 1/10th the amount of conditioner I used to! :)  

Noam's face better describes my haircut opinion!!! 

Pretty much every day I went to yoga.  Loving it. It's quite different than my US experience, in that they push you harder, lower, farther, more more moreeeee (rather than the general relax yoga). One morning I even went to a Yogathon! I didnt know what it was but caught a ride w/ some filmers of the event. Turns out we were supposed to do 108 sun salutations in a row over an hour...that was massively boring! So I snuck out and went to my real yoga class after :). The process in getting to the yoga studio everyday brought out something, reinforcing that I really do like routine and familiarity.  Everyday I walked to the metro, which I know leaves at 7:48am. I know it costs 4 rupees to Kalighat station, enter on the left but the exit is on the right, then I need 25 mins to walk there.  I’ve started to recognize people along the way and have small chat. If I'm late and want to catch a rickshaw, I know it’s only 6 rupees (not the 25 they try to charge me) and if I hand them a ten while we’re driving it means I know I need change and I can avoid the debate. This gives me good hope for future 'settling'. Change and excitement is good, but so is being “where everybody knows your name.”  :)

There were over 12 thousand people there at 6:30am! Whoa!

Another place everybody knows my name? Char number bridge! Its so great when I go there!  I was there everyday my last week except my movie day (cuz if was 12 hours, ugh!). One afternoon I went solo and played around with all the girls. We painted each others fingers and toes, danced, they taught me their little Indian songs/handshakes/dance moves.  :)

Supposed to be a volunteer meeting, but I was distracted :) 

Im seeing a pattern w/ kids in my lap :) 

Wonderful wonderful day w/ the girls :) 

They kept offering me food (and have done so many times) so finally I agreed. I knew this would be the case, them giving me way too much and me trying to say no and still getting more! It was plain white rice, potatoes with a simple (but delish) sauce, and an egg (which was sssccccarrry green color but I had to eat it!).  There were about 7 kids there, and I was wondering how often they eat just this simple meal :(.   Unfortunately, there are too many here to help everyone, and I’m sensitive about playing favorites (although I did use the food excuse to help this family), so I to remember the Charity is doing the deed, and it could be worse. Luckily we had the opportunity to let 38 of them (34 kids and 4 mothers) forget their daily struggles and enjoy a wonderful day at the Waterpark (haa, yup, my third time there!).
 We had told them they had to be ready by ten and they all had to have shoes on.  I was sooooo impacted by how they received this advice. When I arrived, everyone was dressed in their 'sunday’s best', hair cleaned and combed, girls with makeup and jewelry on, asking me to look at this, or look at that.  Earlier I'd had my doubts about spending the money on this rather than some necessities, but when I saw how excited and happy and what it was meaning for them, I realized it would always be a very special day... for me included :)

The little girl on my left was scared of the water, and the one on the right has TB, so very fragile. I carried the two of them quite a bit throughout the day.  Massssssively sore arms the next day! Best workout ever :) 

Smiles not to be forgotten :)

As my time came to an end, I must realllllly give some thanks for what an incredible time I had in Kolkata.  I ended up being there for 26 days when most guide books say a few is all you need. To Hemley Gonzalez, I owe the most.  He was the original reason I planned to go there, the founder of the Responsible Charity with which I got to have such a great experience and develop connections with the families under it’s wings. He fully invited me into his life, sharing all his friends and connections and knowledge with no reserves. He's well loved here, and for good reason, as evidenced by the pictures of him the families have hanging in their homes. I foresee many future collaborations between Hemley and I :). 
Santosh, in just short of a month, managed to do more for me than most people do for their best friends over years. Tours, school volunteering, a wedding, parties, talks, rides, translations, saving my butt, my bday tour..... and because I know some of you are wondering, NO, it wasn’t a physical thing!  His confidence and generosity was certainly attractive, but he’s mass in love w/ his girlfriend (the topic of many of our talks), and I don’t rock those boats :)  Thank you mi bandhu!!  
Kuttush and Mimi (and their momma!) had me over for multiple dinners and socials, they gifted me a birthday dress and a thoughtful going away present, and showed honest interest and inclusion to me. Anu took me to my first night out dancing in India-- and I had a blast! Everyone dances- love that! Priyanka's just a sweetheart and made such an effort to share love. Good people :0).  Many more interactions as well (including Danny coming to visit!) --- oohhhh I loved Kolkata!  That’s the kind of experience you have that makes you end up staying in a place. One where it just feels good and right.  Clean the city up and promise me no more bad food/water and I could live there... and maybe ban the incessant honking! ;) hehe

I love this! Momma Singh not really wanting in the pic :( hahah
Thanks Santosh, Kuttush, Mimi and Hemley!
I had switched hotels my last week (to $3/night!), and made some friends with whom I would sit and chat with each night.  The last night was the best, 2 Israelis' and I sat by the fish tank and talked life.  They can actually remember, from age 2, bombings of their neighborhood!  Wow. We took turns telling our stories, and when I told mine, I couldn’t help but smile on how I’ve been so lucky, so fortunate, so blessed.  What did I do to deserve it? There is surely some hard work and personal choices in there, but wow, we have no control over our sex, our gender, our nationality, our ethnicity, our family.   Our birth situations are given to us, and it’s up to us to make the best of them once we have the ability to do so.  I feel like I was given a fantastic start, and I capitalized on it too boot, so really it would be an injustice for me to not celebrate life and all that is in it with everything I have.  Here in India, it's all about Karma (maybe I was Martin Luther in my previous life) so it reinforces just being as good as you can be and sharing love and happiness. Okay, I can do that ;) 


  1. I once got a TERRIBLE haircut while in Russia, Becky. My way of coping? I just told myself: "This is how Russian Erin looks." After that, it didn't bother me. Enjoy the "Indian Becky", Becky; you look beautiful no matter what :)
    ~Erin R.

    1. Awww.. thank you Erin!! It is better already-- it's much easier to deal with, and my sis and mom both swear it looks good so I'm starting to catch on! I want to see a pic of 'Russian Erin'!

  2. Right now, You are living the exact opposite of my life .... I have been spending all my time at the building department trying to get some shit plans approved ... jim

    1. Jimmmm!!! Uggghhh bummer! bldg Dept so no fun! My fav time to play sudoko on my phone and not feel like i should be doing something else ;) Sending good vibes for quick approvals!

  3. I so enjoy reading your travels..Surely this is to become a book. Your outlook on life is sooo refreshing!!!

    1. I got a little something in the works! Thank youuuuuuu anonymous :) Life is granddd!

  4. wonderful wonderful moments becky!!

    i got mesmerized just by going through your experiences and adventures

    i am going to start my long trips from next month only

    it will be the eastern rage of himalayas and this will be the first time i will cross an international border so i am very much excited about it

    plan is to go footlose in the forests and hills

    thanks to you and hemley i know now what life is all about and how it has to be lived

    that kid halima and all other dwellers of no.4 bridge slum will never forget you in their entire life

    love and best wishes for your adventurous journey ahead

    ~ arnab

    1. Arnab!! Thanks sooo much for your kind words! I'm so glad i had the opportunity to meet you and that you had such a good impression of me! How great you're involvement in the charity and going off on your own adventuresssss!!!! Wooohooooo!!! KIT! :)

  5. The word that hovers over each word I read is, "Transformation." The growth you are experiencing, I (two) can feel. Thank you for sharing the good, the bad, and the ugly...and using your beautiful soul to transform "it" into something better.

  6. I LOVE what you're doing Becky! I'm thinking I could do something like this when my youngest goes to college in two years - You are very inspirational girl - Thanks for sharing! You are a beautiful soul - and funny! Keep at it!

  7. I've just found your pics from Jole Jongole, I don't recognize you but I was also there for three days and also had a lot of fun ;) Here are some my pics from the studio