Thursday, June 28, 2007

My real life fairy tale...

Once upon a time there was a girl who was recently, terribly heartbroken. But instead of staying in Columbus, Ohio at her parents house wallowing in her sorrows, she decided to take a trip. An epic journey of sorts, to various ends of the earth, to learn how others live, meet new people, see new sights and learn more about herself.

She went to Japan, Thailand, and India. She was leaving Delhi and headed to Rome--one of the most romantic cities in the herself.

Or so she thought...

She got up early the morning of her flight, took a taxi to the airport, bid goodbye to India, and slept her way to Qatar, where she had a 2 hour layover. In the airport in Qatar she went into the duty free shop because her friend, Tiffany, has convinced her that an expensive pair of sunglasses is a necessity. While looking at sunglasses she saw 3 men also shopping. The one trying on the glasses was young, well dressed and very nice looking. He was asking the other 2 men for their opinions about the glasses but did not seem satisfied with the responses. They were speaking in Italian so the girl didn't know what was being said. He sees the girl, and says in broken english, "I need the opinion of a woman, which sunglasses do you prefer?" She told him she liked option #1. He thanked her, put the other 2 pair away and purchased option #1. The girl smiled to herself, pleased with the interaction and continued to look at sunglasses, not giving it another thought.

The airport in Qatar was an array of cultures, women completely covered--everything but their eyes, sheiks, travellers, tourists...the girl was fascinated so she waited patiently for her delayed flight watching all that was going on around her. She noticed that the sunglasses boy was sitting nearby, and she wondered if he was on her flight. There were many flights going to various cities in Italy, so the chances were slim. The plane finally arrived and the girl boarded. She walked to her seat, looking forward to 5 hours to sleep. She sat down and looked next to her. It was the older gentleman from the sunglasses shop... and next to him was sunglasses boy. He looked over and smiled, also surprised. He started speaking to the girl over the older man (his father) and the men ended up trading seats. They continued to talk and talk and talk for the entire 5 hour flight. He gave her an Italian lesson, they discussed her trip, his work, Italy, the US, and they watched Happy Feet together in English (because they didn't have it in Italian and they figured it would be the easiest movie for him to understand in English).

Much to the girl's dismay, he was not from Rome, and was headed to his home in the south. When the pilot came over the intercom saying they'd be landing shortly both the girl and boy felt immensely disappointed. They were not ready to part ways. The girl said "I wish you lived in Rome so you could show me around." The boy smiled, leaned over to his father said something in Italian and leaned back and said, "I would like to stay in Rome and show you around. I have a very good friend who lives in Rome, I will call him and tell him I am staying."

The two checked into the same hotel--ironically called "Hotel California" and met his friend for the girls first real Italian dinner--pizza. After dinner they went to a fantastic little bar and had a glass of wine. The day had been long and the girl had been up since 4am so after a glass of wine she was ready for bed.

For the next 4 days the girl and sunglasses boy were inseparable. They saw all of the amazing sights of Rome-- The Colosseum, the Vatican, the Pantheon. They went to see the Pope give mass on Sunday (but arrived a bit late), they took a bus tour, shopped, saw artists on the streets, cooled off in public fountains, ate at all of the cute little outdoor restaurants. The girl could not have imagined a more perfect 4 days if she tried.

They had a connection that neither one of them could put into words (especially since they barely spoke the same language). He could just look at her and know how she was feeling--tired, hot, happy, in awe...and often he was feeling the same way. When they spoke it was as if the language barrier disappeared and they were totally in sync. For them it was effortless, romantic beyond belief, and so, so much fun. They laughed, joked, and sat in stunned silence at the realization of how old their surroundings were.

As the days went on, she learned more and more about him. He is her age, 29, and is a doctor of marine biology. He works now as an electrical engineer/businessman with his family business. He was in Qatar because the business might be expanding into the Middle East. He has a large family, and they are also involved with real estate. He has asked her to come visit, and has offered her a place to stay here:

She has decided after London and Stockholm to skip Paris. Instead, she is going to go down to Southern Italy, to spend more time with this wonderful man. She keeps waiting for the moment she is going to wake up...but for now, she's happy to live in the fairy tale.

Paolo, I know this blog will be hard for you to understand...but when I arrive to Lecce I will explain.

Grazie mia amore. Ti vedrò presto.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Watch out Bollywood, here I come!

Yesterday Tiff and I were sitting at our favorite coffee place, Moonpeak, doing our favorite thing--monk watching--when suddenly, for a brief few minutes I became a famous movie star. We were sitting at a table outside near the road and there was a group of Punjabi Indian men (looked to be in their 20's) sitting on some concrete barriers that stopped cars from careening over a cliff, across the street. They were not at all attempting to be discreet in looking our way. This went on for about a half hour until one of them, after much discussion and prodding, finally had the courage to approach me. "Can you please take a picture for us?" he asks. Ha! Is that all they wanted? Me to take their picture? They shouldn't have been nervous about that, I was more than happy to...

...maybe it was the language barrier, but that wasn't exactly what they were asking.

Instead, they wanted me to have my picture taken--with each one of them--separately. So feeling utterly amused and quite flattered I obliged, and each one of them came to stand next to me for a very un-candid photo. There was no arm over the shoulder action--nothing. Just me standing there, hands at my side, them next to me, hands at their sides, smiling goofily at the camera. After that was done, I smiled politely and started to make my way back to Tiffany. Wait, but no... they weren't done yet. Apparently they had round two planned--the seated photos. They sat me at one of the restaurant tables and then a couple of them at a time would come sit with me--making it appear that we were actually dining together. (Sans any food or drink). By this time a small crowd had gathered also bemused by the impromptu photoshoot. Finally, after the "dinner" photos were finished, I was allowed to make my way back to Tiffany, with many kinds words of gratitude from the men.

I am dying to know what they tell their friends when they get back to Punjab...I can only imagine.

So, for a brief moment, I felt kinda famous. A little flattered, a little weirded-out, a little violated, a lot embarrassed. But, you know, if I had to, I could probably get used to it... :)

I flew out of McLeod Ganj today and I'm back in Delhi-- and its still hot. But this time proved to be much easier, even though I am by myself. Once you have experienced a city and have some sort of familiarity with it, it is so much easier the second time around. I am staying at the same hotel as the first time, and it's made me realize how good we had it up in the mountains. Tiff and I were paying 3 dollars each a night to have a bed with sheets and blankets, and hot running water--and a view worth a million. Here, I am paying twice as much, to have a room where I will not put my head directly on the pillowcase (I cover it with my sarong or a towel), there are no blankets on the bed (although the aren't really needed) the flat sheets (no cover sheet), although I'm pretty sure are clean, have holes in them, and there is no hot water. I miss McLeod Ganj!!!!

Wow. What a fantastic little treasure of a town it is. It is someplace I'd love to visit again. Next time I would set up some classes beforehand because the town is overflowing with educational opportunities. Massage, cooking, dance, Tibetan, Buddhist, Hindu, music, yoga, meditation, trekking--all types of classes and all very affordable.

While I was there I spent most of my time taking it all in. It's a place you probably need to stay longer than 9 days to really get it, but I did my best. We found our favorite places to eat, hang out, use the internet, explore--and since it is so small, by the time I left we knew all of the people that worked at each place and some of the other regular patrons and we were recognized and greeted by many. We had our favorite Lepers ( many of the beggars have leprosy and are missing limbs) but they are absolutely lovely people, and even if you don' give them money they are always ready with a Namaste and a smile. We saw monkeys pretty regularly, we belly-danced, we attended a Sufi (type of Islam) music concert, we saw a sitar (stringed instrument) and tabla (percussion) concert, had Tibetan massages, went to the Dalai Lamas temple, shopped for beautiful Indian and Tibetan clothes, jewelry, decor, watched a young girl walk a tight rope with no net under her in the middle of the street for money, met a fantastic young Aussie named Tiirum, who is bound to change the world, I had my epiphany...and I finally got rid of all of my ailments. So overall, I think it was a successful part of my trip.

After being in Asia for the last 6 weeks, I am looking forward to Europe. It's crazy, the countries I've gone to and have ahead of me are all so different, culturally. But, there are good people all over the world and Tiffany and I have been really lucky to have met so many.

Namaste, India. Buon giorno, Italy.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Can I getta "Oui, Oui?!"

So anyone wanna go to Paris with me???

I am headed to Rome, London and Stockholm BY MYSELF because Tiff is a punk, and just haaaas to see the Dalai Lama. Spirituality-smirituality...

We both had tickets booked to Rome on the 22nd, but only one of us is going. The other has decided to stay to celebrate the birthday of His Holiness and participate in an introduction to Tibetan Buddhism course and listen to the Dalai Lama's teachings while he is at home (here in McLeod Ganj) from July 6-13. So we will meet up again in Rome on July 14th.

That means I'm traveling by myself again. Which I can do just fine, I just prefer to have someone with me. It's not as much fun to see and experience such amazing things without having someone next to you to say "can you believe that?" But, I'm being a brat, because really, it's me by myself for 4 days in Rome (poor baby, I know) then I am flying to London and staying for a week with my friend Tom, from OU. Then I fly to Stockholm and am staying for another week with my friend Micaela and another, Khari, who plays soccer for AIK, a Swedish team that is the arch rival of Micaela's favorite team, Djurgården. He will have 2 home games while I am there, it'll be fun going to those with her...

I was planning on leaving Stockholm on the 9th or 10th. And that leaves 4 or 5 days before I meet Tiff. I am considering going to Paris. My aunt's brother and his wife live in Paris (she is Parisian) so I'd have another place to stay. But Paris definitely seems like a city that would be nice to have a travel partner. Hmmmm...maybe I'll meet one along the way :)

I spent all day yesterday in the internet cafe. No fun, but I finished one of my midterms. WHEW! It was weighing on me; keeping up with school work while traveling is not an easy task. I guess I'm not as disciplined as I should be. I had planned that I'd study for 2 hours every morning so I'd have the whole day to do whatever it is that I wanted to do. But that has yet to happen. Usually I put it off until right before it's due and read the bare minimum. Which is too bad, because the course work is actually quiet interesting. But it can't hold a candle to what I am seeing outside of the internet cafes.

Mom, I can't stop buying you stuff in this little town--you'd love it. You guys should be expecting a very large package. But you aren't allowed to open it until I get home, or at the very least I have to be on the phone with you. And Happy Dad's Day again, Dad. I haven't bought you anything but I don't think you'll be sad when you see what I got mom--not exactly stuff you'd want.

Speaking of buying stuff. Tiff and I saw a guy wearing a shirt the other day that said "My dad is an ATM" I almost offered him all my rupees for it to give to Tiffany. I've already come close to spending my entire budget and I'm not even halfway through the trip. Thank God for tax returns! I have to shop here though because it is so incredibly cheap and beautiful and I know when I am back in the states and see the stuff at half the quality for twice the price I'd kick myself for not having bought it. And I know I can't shop in Europe cause the dollar definitely doesn't go very far there! It's a weird dynamic seeing these ultra poor people and shopping with reckless abandon. It makes me feel extremely grateful and a bit guilty for having the lifestyle that we are accustomed to. I do very little bargaining here--the dollar we'd be fighting over means a lot more to them than to me. As for the beggars, you have to buy them food and actually open it or else they take it back to the store and get the money back. Sneaky lil' beggars...

Alright, speaking of money, Tiff and I have to go to another town to use an ATM because the one and only ATM here does not work and I only have 40 rupees to my name (a little less than a dollar).

So seriously, Paris anyone? July 9-14? Can I getta oui, oui??

Saturday, June 16, 2007


Right before I fell asleep the other night a thought popped into my head. It wasn't like a thought that I came up with on my own, instead it was like someone else telling it to me. The thought was:

"You did the best you could with the tools you had."

I didn't know where it came from, or really what it was about, I just thought, huh, that was strange and quickly fell asleep. The next morning Tiffany and I went to our favorite place for breakfast. We were sitting there quietly and suddenly tears started pouring out of my eyes. I had no control over it and had no idea where they were coming from. I wasn't feeling sad or upset, or even really happy for that matter. Luckily I was with Tiff, and she didn't think it was at all weird, so she allowed me to cry as I tried to figure out where the tears were coming from and why they wouldn't stop.

Then the thought from the night before came back to me. And it all became crystal clear. For so long I have killed myself with questions like "why didn't I do this differently... how could he do that...why did I act that way...why didn't he understand...why couldn't I hear what he was could we hurt each other so badly when we loved each other so much?"

...we did the best we could with the tools we had.

We thought we were loving one another--and we were. The only way we knew how. And the way we knew how to love came with a very self-protective element, because, like I've mentioned before, we are terrified of getting hurt. What is amazing though, is the fear of getting hurt is SO MUCH worse than the actual pain itself. So this whipser of awareness that I recieved in the middle of the night allowed me to see that sometimes even when we have the very best intentions we still can't get it right...because we are not yet equipt with the tools to do so.

I don't feel like "if I only knew then what I know now" or "hindsight is 20/20" instead I feel like my life is playing out the way it is supposed to. This little whisper was a BIG lesson to learn, and apparently a very important one for me because I certainly had to learn it the hard way.

So the tears over breakfast were neither sad nor happy. They were tears of forgiveness. Forgivess for him, and more importantly, forgiveness for myself. We made mistakes, but not maliciously, instead,they were out of ignorance and fear. We did the best we could with the tools we had. And realizing that has allowed me to be able to let go more and more, and feel the freedom of this journey I am on.

And the journey I am referring to has nothing to do with traveling...

Thursday, June 14, 2007

By myself

For the first time in my life, there is absolutely no man in the picture. Sure, some float in and out...and technically I am still married until paperwork is finished (legally, but certainly in no other way) but for the first time in I can't even remember how long, there are not even any prospects.

This is a somewhat scary feeling. But, apparently it's how it is supposed to be right now. Before I left, I was dating a wonderful guy. Unfortunately, there was absolutely no way for it to work out because I was piling all of the leftover, undealt with stuff from my marriage on to him. Not to mention, he had plenty of personal stuff to deal with himself--and he definitely was not ready for me and mine. Then I met Jeremy. Fell head over heels in a day. Talked myself back to reality, but was still pretty blown away by that one. I had maintained casual email contact with both of them but haven't heard from either of them for a while. At first I was thinking, well this sucks. It's nice to have a "potential someone." That person that you can think about while you are on a gross bus ride or before you go to bed.

Obviously, someone is watching over me saying "hellooo, Maggie--you are absolutely not ready for that. Stop it, stop it, stop it. Take care of yourself, let yourself heal and enjoy the freedom of being able to do whatever you want whenever you want (with whoever you want!)"

It is so ingrained in me that I need to have a significant other. But being on this trip, and seeing what I see on a daily basis, causes me to live in the moment, and not think about the future (or the past for that matter). Then when I realize, wow, it's been days, and I haven't been thinking about a man, or what I am going to do when I get home, where I am going to live (although wherever it is, it's going to be decorated so cute!). I hope when I do return, I can continue to do that. Immerse myself in new things, continue to learn about different people, and try to stay out of my head and work through my fears. We place so much emphasis on finding someone, that we miss all of the beautiful things that happen along the way. It's like relationship tunnel vision. And, from meeting each of these men, I've learned that if you are looking, it's not going to happen. When you are living is when it happens.

Tiffany and I got stuck in Bangkok for 2 days before we finally made it to India. Of course, the day before I left I met a really great guy--Dave. He is Welsh and is adorable. We hit it off, hung out my entire last night there. And this time around it was much easier to say "goodbye, it was fantastic to have spent this time with you, and I truly wish you the best." And if our paths cross again great, if not, fine. Back to me and my quest. When the time is right and I am really ready, it'll happen. I just have to not let the societal norms weigh on me and feel unnecessary pressure to have a significant other. I'm not going to try to fit a square peg into a round hole, just to have someone. I know what I want this time around and I think I have the patience to find it. In the meantime, the Jeremys and Daves are great to meet. There is a part of each of them that I hope to find in "him."

But for now, being by myself is just fine. Being by myself feels very different than being alone.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

I fell in love with a monk today

I feel really good. Physically, I am kinda a mess. I had to get some antibiotics today for an infection I have in my toe (blister from scuba diving gone bad) and Tiff and I both still have lingering colds--Delhi didn't help. But this is a different kind of good. A peaceful kind of good, where I know that even though I am tired and a bit of a wreck I feel better than I have for a while. Maybe it's this amazing place we've landed.

We are in a small village in the Himalayas called McLeod Ganj. It is where the Dalai Lama resides and it is a predominantly Tibetan village that the Indian government gave the Tibetan refugees when the Chinese pretty much ran them out of the country. We are staying in a nice room with a beautiful mountain view and a bathroom with hot, running water and a toilet that flushes--posh--and it is costing us each $3 a night.

Getting here was definitely an adventure. After almost falling for a scam in Delhi (we got taken to a travel agency that lied to us told us there were no trains to where we were headed for 6 days and tried instead to ship us off to some place on a houseboat--for a large commission, I'm sure), we luckily had our wits about us enough to see through it. The next day we went to the train station in Delhi--which was complete chaos and so, so HOT (did I mention that?) and guess what? We booked an overnight train ticket for that night. Six days my ass--I wanted to go back and stand outside that travel agency and warn everyone going in that they were lying con artists, but, like many of the Buddhists believe, "karma is a bitch" (sorta Americanized that) and they will get what's coming.

We got an air-conditioned cabin on a first class car of the train. It was Tiff, me, and an older Indian couple. Tiff and I had the top bunks. We slept, rather uncomfortably most of the way--we had to share our little beds with our giant backpacks to be safe, so it was pretty tight. We met a really nice Israeli guy, Ohad, on the train who ended up traveling with us the rest of the way here. After 12 hours on the train, we landed in Pantakot and then got on a public bus for an additional 3 hours to reach McLeod Ganj. The bus was unairconditioned, and very full so it wasn't the most comfortable ride. I did see two monkeys out in the wild, one in a tree and the other just walking down the street--so cool. Cows and goats in the fields and monkeys in the trees. Each time we transferred buses Ohad would have to climb on top of the bus to retrieve our packs. I don't know what we would have done without him--Tiff and I were running on fumes by then, both with sinus infections, feeling so overwhelmed by Delhi that we needed someone to take care of us a little bit and he stepped in and took over--I think he could see the exhaustion written all over us. The good news, the total cost of the trip--train and bus, was $4.50.

When we arrived here, it felt sooooo much better. The sky, although it's not clear, it's not polluted. It's simply cloudy now. We are literally sitting in the clouds. We are at about 5000 ft. above sea level and the mountains are breathtaking. Things are quieter and with all of the monks and Tibetan culture there is a natural calm in the air. We ate dinner at a Japanese (ha!)restaurant with Ohad, found our hotel and totally crashed.

Today we woke up, went to the "chemist" (what we'd call a pharmacist) I got some amoxicillin, and met Ohad for breakfast. We walked through the two main streets, in and out of all of the adorable stores/stands looking at jewelry, clothes, home decor. I keep buying stuff to decorate my apartment when I get home (going to have to find an apartment when I get home...). I got 5 pillow covers for throw pillows on my couch--they are so pretty, hand woven, bold colors--I love them. And they cost me about $8 total. In the US, one would probably cost around $40, if you could even find them. I am going to have to ship the stuff I am buying home because there is no way I can add it to my pack with my books. And I fell in love with a rug--I am thinking about it for 24 hours to see if I still want it tomorrow, but I have a feeling my parents might be getting a large fedex from the Himalayas...

Not only did I fall in love with a rug, I also fell in love with a monk. We walked through the Dalai Lamas' temple today. They were beautiful grounds--paths through the mountains with prayer flags blowing in the wind and these large, round, hand painted and carved cans on sticks that you'd spin and it's believed that each one that you spin prayers that were said into the cans are being floated out into the air for you. Nice, eh? Toward the end of the walk we heard what sounded like a bunch of men yelling at each other--which is exactly what it was. Except, they weren't fighting. It was monks debating one another on their knowledge about the ultimate truths they've learned. And after each point was made, whoever made the point would clap his hands in this certain way, to say he was done. It was fascinating to watch. And the energy was indescribable. I have never really paid attention to the energy of a specific area--I've gotten good feelings or bad feelings about places, but the energy watching these monks was unlike anything I have ever experienced. They are so in touch with themselves and the world that they almost vibrate with awareness. I made eye contact with one of them and it shook me to the core. It was like he could see straight into me, I had to look away. But I wanted to keep staring. I didn't know how to act, I didn't want to be disrespectful, because these monks have taken vows of celibacy, and I didn't want him to think I was staring for "un-pure" reasons, but I wanted more--I wanted to keep taking it in. It is really hard to explain, some feelings you cannot really put into words. The best word I can think to describe it is that I was humbled. Totally and completely humbled.

After that we went inside the temple and saw where the Dahli Lama sits and teaches when he is in town (he's not here now). I was still shaken by the experience with the monks. It's been with me all day. It's gone from stunned, to contemplative, to a very happy and content feeling. This place has a wonderful vibe and I'm very glad we are here.

After the temple we went for our first official Tibetan lunch-- momos. Momos are dumpling-like things filled with veggies, cheese, potatoes, chicken, whatever you want. And the are so good. We split up from Ohad after lunch and went to a coffee shop with our books. Tiff read, but I couldn't. I can't stop watching the people around me. So many different people. Beggars everywhere, often with no hands or legs that don't work and are pushing themselves around on skateboards, many Indians (we are still in India, after all), travellers from all over the place, monks, nuns. Its incredible. So many different kinds of clothes, so many different beliefs, such different histories. I could have sat there all day and just watched. And having learned more about the story of Tibet--knowing that the majority of the Tibetan people we see walking down the street had to flee their country to stay alive, is yet another humbling thought. God willing, I will never understand the hell they have lived through.

Tomorrow we start belly dancing classes which we are super excited for. Tiff and I both love to dance and have had many years of dance training--but nothing official for years, so this is a treat. The teacher is, ironically, a friend of Tiffany's from her yoga school in Thailand (small world). We might also take a Tibetan cooking class so we can make momos when we get home!

Maybe I've fallen in love with this place so much because Delhi was so hard. But I don' think that's it. It really has a feeling about it. We've definitely landed here for a reason. And Tiff and I have had some really good talks lately that I want to get down in writing too, but I don't want to spend all my time in the internet cafes so I hope I can remember them!

I also found out last week that a good friend of mine has cancer. He had surgery the other day and from an email I got today it sounded like it was a success. He is waiting on more test results, but from the beginning I had a feeling that he is going to be just fine--for some reason I never felt scared for him. From what he has written, it sounds like he is also starting to question what's truly important when you can put all of the crap aside. For some it takes life altering events to ask these types of questions, for others it's just inherent, and for many they don't ask, they are content with life as it is and don't wonder why they are here, what it's all about, what their purpose is--I envy those people. It seems like a much easier way to live. For my friend, Matt, I just wanted him to know that when I spun the prayer cans today, I asked that the prayers be sent out for him--a speedy recovery and to keep going down the new path he has begun.

Matty--hurry up and get better, so you really can meet me in the jungle somewhere. You name the time and the place and I'll be there. Lots of love.


Sunday, June 10, 2007


I have to write this before it leaves my brain. I am so hot. And so tired. It is probably 120 degrees here in Delhi. It is the dirtiest place I have ever seen. When I blow my nose it comes out black--great for the cold. The sky is perpetually grey because of the mass amounts of pollution. People live and work and sit and eat and rest on top of trash on top of trash on top of trash-layers and layers. Cars drive in every direction, men stare at us as though they see right through our clothes, we see very few women, but there are cows in the middle of main roads. There is a scam around every corner and you have to be aware of yourself and your belongings at all times.

It is a complete assault an all of the senses. The smell of exhaust, smog, people, animals, food...the unbearable heat. I have never sweated like this in my entire life. I am soaked sitting here in an internet cafe. The cold water in the shower doesn't even really come out cold. We actually had a pretty good day despite the overwhelmingness of it all. We went to the travel place to book our train tickets to the North but it was closed. We had a fantastic rickshaw driver (these are like 3 wheeled open-air mini-car type things that are one of the main ways to get around. They are much cheaper than taxis) and he offered to take us on a driving tour of Delhi, so we sat back, sweated our asses off and spent 2 hours getting an insiders view of important places for a visitor to see. More interesting than any of the places he showed us were the things that he doesn't even see anymore. Like a woman carrying a huge pile of bricks on her head. Or the man asleep on top of his ice-cream cart. Or the mass piles of trash everywhere. I gotta get outta here soon cause its so hot (our room actually has AC), but my point of writing is this:

When I get home, I hope to God that I can remember every second of being in Dehli. There is nothing easy about living here. It is so incredibly crowded, dirty and hot. When I start to get frustrated about Columbus traffic, or pissed that my cell phone lost reception again, or annoyed that "he" (whoever that may be) did not call yet, I'll think of Delhi. Cause in one second my perspective will completely shift. I can say it over and over, but it's like I still haven't digested how true it is--our lives are so easy. Yes, we have problems, but the stuff we let ourselves get worked up about on a daily basis...lord. It's bad.

Tiff and I were talking about how what we have to be careful of when we get home is to not get frustrated with others frustrations. Like, if one of my friends is frustrated because they had to wait a half hour at a restaurant before they were sat for dinner, or Grey's Anatomy is a rerun, or their husband came home from work late and dinner was ruined...we can't be like "what are you worrying about??! You have NO IDEA what its like in other parts of the world. Just be happy you have dinner- period!!!"

We'd be really annoying. And, ultimately that is us thinking we know more or better--when really we just have gained a different perspective. A lot less will bother me when I get home--at least on a smaller scale. I honestly don't know how they do it. I do not know how they live here. I always ask myself, why don't they leave? Move? Go someplace cooler or less crowded? And then I think--is that even an option? Do they perceive that as an option? Where would they go? Is it hard for them to live here? Are they happy? Is it even about that? Or are they just so used to it that this is life from their perspective...and maybe it's not so bad.

I dunno. I think the heat is getting to me. My fingers are going as fast as my head and I don't know what I am writing anymore.

Damn. I am in India. India is hot.

Wednesday, June 6, 2007

Under da Sea

I'm in the internet cafe finishing up my homework before we head to India first thing in the morning and I just re-read my last blog. Uhhhh...sorry for the lack of proofreading and spell check, it's much better now.

Anyway, I'm feeling pretty sunburned and waterlogged but also quite proud. I am officially certified as an Open Water scuba diver. It was a 4 day course culminating in 4 dives over the last 2 days. I absolutely love it. I've always loved the ocean, but seeing it from the fishes perspective makes it all that much cooler. It's a whole different world down there, like swimming in a giant aquarium. I saw grouper that were bigger than me, and some barracuda. But my favorite were the little "Nemo" fish. You think they are so cute and friendly...but watch out! You get near the nest that the mom is floating over and the dad will come charging out and swim directly into your mask. He'll keep banging until you are outside of their safety radius. I saw one today and he was ready to take down my instructor (who is a HUGE, rough, rugged German man).

Tiff didn't make it through the course. The breathing underwater thing was giving her some claustrophobia issues...I'm confident that she will finish, but it'll have to be really slowly. She snorkeled a lot, and getting used to breathing for extended periods of time without coming up is making her more and more comfortable.

Our flight doesn't leave tomorrow till 2:30AM. It's going to be a long day of travel with the heaviest books ever (anyone familiar with the DSM-IV? Think encyclopedia x 2 with a diagnosos for any mental disorder imaginable. Yeah, I'm lugging that beast around). I've got a terrible cold and I stepped on some kind of barnacle thing that punctured my heel--looks like someone hole punched it, but the skin is still in place, hanging in a perfect circle. On the same foot my second-to-baby toenail is going to fall off soon, from the mountain climbing (no laughing, Bret). Right now it's like wiggling a loose tooth--not quite ready yet. I wonder if there is a toenail fairy that'll come and leave $5,000 under my pillow? To add to my attractiveness, I ran into a rusty lock on a bathroom door so my right shoulder has had a gash in it for a while...but its healing. I guess I'm a bit of a klutz, or accident prone. I'm trying to be tough... but I needed to whine for a sec.

Not sure if I am mentally prepared for India yet. I have no idea what to expect. We were originally supposed to go to Rishikesh but instead we are headed to Dharamsala because an Indian friend of Tiff's said it'll be much cooler, less crowded and overall more enjoyable. Each time I go to a new place it's like I haven't given it much thought because I've been trying to stay in the present culture as long as I can and enjoy it.

So on that note, I'm outta this computer lab and off to my final dinner in Thailand. I think I might have mentioned it before--this place is magical.

Tuesday, June 5, 2007

"Seriously. Somebody PUH-LEESE shave my armpits"

This was Tiffany's cry for help. Loudly, and in an internet cafe. And if you know Tiff, for her to acknowledge an overgrowth of body hair it has got to be pretty bad. The reason for the immense desire for a razor was because we went to a place called the Sanctuary with the intention on staying one night. Seven days later we finally left. Tiff had to make a stop at home to get us clean clothes and a razor after about day five. We had been washing our two pair of underwear in the shower and pretty much wearing the same thing everyday (because we only packed for one night). We kept thinking "ok, one more day." I guess that's how it is when you travel, you fall in love with a place and don't want to leave.

So let me back up a bit and tell you how we wound up in the Sanctuary in the first place. I arrived in Koh Phagnan on the 23rd. We were supposed to leave for India on the 30th, but Tiffany had visa issues so we aren't leaving until June 8th. When Tiff was in Thailand for the first time 5 years ago she lived and taught yoga at the Sanctuary and always told me what a magical place it is (I use that word a lot to describe Koh Phagnan, but it's really one of the few that truly fits) so we decided to go there for a night.

Tiffany's house is in the Northwest part of the island in a quiet somewhat secluded area near where she is studying yoga--a place called Seetanu, and her beach area is Haad Joa Phoa ("Haad" means beach, "Koh" means island). The Sanctuary is on the Southeast side of the island close to the crazy beach where the Full Moon Party is each month (more on that in a bit--this might be a lengthy blog...) To get to Haad Tien where the Sanctuary is you must take a water taxi from Hadd Rin (the party section of town). The boat ride is breathtaking...

The Sanctuary is a "resort" of sorts. It has beautiful bungalows on cliffs over looking the beach and ocean. It also has the economy rooms--in our case, a dorm, which we shared with 8 other people. We slept on 1" thick mattresses on the floor, under mosquito nets (which I LOVE) in a hot, un-airconditioned, no fans, room right above a noisy restaurant. Sounds like resort living, eh? But, we paid about 3 dollars a night. The first night I went to get in the shower (community shower) and found a frog hopping around. The frog got into the shower because part of the ceiling opens into the jungle so whatever wildlife creatures are hanging around are free to be little voyeurs and watch you bathe. There is also a large boulder jutting into the bathroom, so it was a perfect place to hang a towel or clothes. There is no hot water, but this is never a problem because it's usually so hot that there is no desire to take a hot shower.

If the thought of a frog in the shower is enough to make you squirm, then Koh Phagnan might not be the place for you. In Tiffany's house there is a spider that occupies the bathroom that we fondly refer to as "Mamacita." She is about an inch in diameter (her body, not her legs) and is brown and furry. These are all over, and they kinda just chill--like big, friendly mosquito traps. But, the spider that hangs outside of her house over the hammock is a different story. It's legs are longer than my fingers, it's a vibrant black and yellow, and from what we understand it's best to steer clear of them--they look like a giant caution sign so I think they are telling you to stay away. Spiders are just the tip of the iceberg--apparently there is a giant (literally) snake living close to Tiffany's house. A Thai friend of ours saw it a few nights ago--they've been referring to it as an "anaconda" but we don't think actual anacondas live in Thailand. Anyway, the thing is like 15 feet long about a foot in diameter and when Pi Pat saw it she said it looked like it had just swallowed a chicken whole by the bulge in it's belly. We haven't seen it yet--which I guess is a good thing, but I'd love to get a picture...(we think it's a constrictor, so as long as we don't allow it to wrap around us and squeeze we should be golden.)

Ha! What a fantastic marketing representative I am for this place...I've made it sound scary as hell, but really, it's one of my favorite places in the world. You do not have to "rough it" and can stay in real resort areas that Westerners are used to. Some of the bugs will still be around but luxury can be found--and at such reasonable prices! There are very few hotels on the island. Instead, there are tons of bungalows usually ranging from 150-2500 baht, so $5-$75 dollars. For 150 baht you get a room with a bed and a mosquito net and you'll have a community bathroom/shower. For $2500 you will have a totally luxurious room with air conditioning, hot water, TV/DVD, a pool, front porch, gorgeous view (which also come with the cheap ones)--reallly nice. And then there is an obvious range in between. Getting to Thailand is the expensive part--once you are here you can vacation relatively cheaply.

Ok, back to what I've been doing...we stayed a Tiffs for a few nights before we took off to the Sanctuary. The yoga season is ending so there was a farewell party at one of her friends houses. This party did not include any alcohol...instead there were raw chocolate aphrodisiac bliss balls being passed out. Wow. Not only did they taste fantastic, the effect they had was like a total natural, euphoric high. Everyone that was there is studying tantric yoga--and if you are anything like me, the only thing I'd ever heard about Tantra before was about how Sting is tantric and he can have sex for days on end. (I know, all my guy friends are like "sign me up!") There is definitely a sexual aspect to Tantra, but from what I've learned, it is really focused on the chakras, or energy centers in the body. It teaches how to use/maximize this energy through yoga--with the ultimate outcome being spiritual enlightenment. It's interesting stuff. A little much for me to digest, but I'm always open to learning more.

So after all the yogis said goodbye, we hopped on Tiff's motorbike (which I've also discovered I love--such a great feeling to be zipping down a deserted island road with the sea to your right and a jungle to your left, only passing a car or other motorbikes every couple of minutes--there is something really freeing about it) and went to Thong Sala, a nearby town where we hopped in a taxi (which is really a pick-up truck with benches in the back) and headed to Haad Rin, the very developed part of the island. We can't take Tiff's bike all the way there because the roads are pretty treacherous and she drives like a grandma. From Hadd Rin we caught the water taxi to Haad Tien and that brings me back to the Sanctuary.

The first 3 days we spent catching up, having lots of "Tiff and Maggie" conversations, kinda living in our own world. We'd get up, eat a great breakfast, swim for a while, lay in some hammocks, nap, eat lunch, maybe swim some more, lay around some more, do yoga, talk, eat dinner and go to bed. It was rough. But, after a few days of this, we got tired of hearing our own voices and decided to start meeting the people staying there. Many of them were doing fasts (3-7 days of no food and lots of colonics...). Others were there for relaxing vacations that include a bunch of yoga and good (vegetarian) food. I am not a vegetarian, but the food there was fantastic. We met two young guys from London who were studying Thai boxing--there was a Thai boxing ring in the jungle right by the Sanctuary so they were staying in our dorm. Jonathan and Ben, great guys who we'll probably see again when we are in London. It wasn't long before we could go down to the restaurant and sit at any table because we had made friends with everyone--that's sort of how it works, you stay there long enough and you build a little community. And the people you meet are all so interesting. I thought my trip was big--4 months. In comparison, I am a complete novice. Some of these people have been traveling for 12-18 months. They often plant themselves someplace for six months at a time and work, sink into the culture, and then move on and do it again. So many cool stories...

And like I said, we thought we were only going for a night. So we were absolutely disgusting when it came to hygiene. We seriously had bathing suits, 2 pair of underwear each, yoga clothes and the clothes we arrived in. Tiff kept telling me that I need to learn how to be dirty cause in India we'll likely be much dirtier, but 5 days in the same clothes, when it's 90 degrees outside gets pretty gross. And when Tiffany is complaining about needing to shave you know the situation has come to drastic measures.

Her revelation came in the middle of us checking our email at the internet cafe. It was like her own body odor overwhelmed her so much that she blurted it out without even thinking about it--and we weren't the only people in there!! I almost fell out of my chair laughing because she said it so loudly and with such disgust, yet the woman at the computer next to her refused to even look up. (She was probably trying to finish whatever she was typing and get out of there ASAP because she was getting ill sitting next to us).

That was just one of the many times I laughed until I cried since I've seen Tiff. I has been SO GOOD to be with her again. We met almost 20 years ago, lived together in college and just know each other inside and out. We travel easily together because we can be completely honest about if we are annoyed, need space, feel weird, scared, etc. And we think we are hilarious, so even when there is no other entertainment around we can easily occupy ourselves. For example, we were sitting on the beach the other night having a typical female over-analyzation type of conversation when Tiffany says "To be completely honest with you, he would have been a perfect boyfriend...if he was just somebody else." I lost it. A quote like this comes out at least once a day. I should start documenting them.

So most nights at the Sanctuary were pretty quiet, but we happened to be there for the Full Moon Party. This is a monthly party, obviously the night of the full moon, on Haad Rin. Thousands and thousands of people come the the beach and party until midmorning the following day. When I was here in January we went and had a blast (It is where I met Marcus, the guy in Japan). So I talked Tiff into going again. Now, you have to prepare yourself because it is like Spring Break Cancun x 10. They serve drinks in buckets called "buckets" (original) that include some bottle of liquor, coke, redbull, and 6 or 7 straws. It's nuts. Tiff and I stuck with beer, because buckets seem a little excessive and scary with the wide open-ness of them...inviting shady people to drop whatever they'd like into them. We were walking through the party and suddenly this Thai guy came up to me and put a baby monkey in my arms. It was so cute, but looked so sad. He then pretty much forced Tiff and I to get our picture taken with it for 200 baht. (like 6 bucks) Tiffany cried. She was sad for the monkey....

There are also these crazy people that twirl fire on ropes/sticks/stilts, whatever. It is so cool, but then you get these dumbass drunk westerners that want to try it but then you see them the next day with bandages on their arms/legs/face from burning themselves. Usually the party ends a few hours after the sun comes up with people passed out all over the beach. Tiff and I took the water taxi back to Haad Tien at about 3:30am. We must be getting old.

Something that I notice about Thai and other SE Asian cultures, is that they place much more focus on resting and relaxing than we do. They recognize the importance of stopping, breathing, being quiet for a while. It is in this time that you remember the important things and regain perspective. We say things like "There aren't enough hours in the day"--because we have that much to do??!? Why??? We never stop to rest. We burn ourselves out. I've felt more alive because I've had this quiet time, this time to think rather than going, going, going and missing out on whats really going on. It's weird, because at first you feel guilty, like "I should be doing something" but, then you realize that always having something to do, always feeling a sense of responsibility isn't really good, it's exhausting. We forget about the things that are really the most important--family, loved ones, laughing, learning, enjoying ourselves and focus so much on money, work, material things. It's cliche, but I think about when I die, what would I more likely say-- "I wish I had spent more time with my family/friends, seen more of the world, had more experiences, been happier" OR "I wish I would have gotten that promotion, had more money, worked harder, etc" and the answer is so simple. We have so much in the US, but in my opinion we have it all backwards--we have so much stuff...but what else? Do we really have our priorities straight?

This has been a haphazard-ish blog. I had so much to write about that it probably came out a little disjointed. Thailand is truly magical. The Sanctuary is fabulous. And doing all of this with one of my best friends in the whole world makes it perfect.

If you are interested in the Sanctuary the website is

Oh, and one more cool thing. I am getting my open water scuba diving certification. I've been in class for the past 3 days. I did my first real dives today and LOVED it. More on that later too!

Till India...