Sunday, April 26, 2009

First impressions

I landed in Delhi around 10:30 pm on an Air France flight out from Paris. That was an adventure in and of itself. I've never been surrounded by a language I didn't speak. For 20 hours, all I heard was French. The Paris airport is small, looking more like a space station than an airport. I had to catch a bus to the correct terminal which put me in a long hallway, one side lined with windows and chairs, the other with shops in which I bought chocolate, caramels in tin that screams "Tourist purchase", and a coffee. I chickened out of ordering the coffee in French, but it was unbelievably hot (burning my fingers through the thin, paper cup sans "be careful this is hot and you can't sue us if you're dumb enough to burn yourself" sleeve you get at Starbucks. Everyone I met in France was nice. Not overtly so, you know, as we Southern Americans tend to be stupidly nice (unless we are driving or waiting in line at Wal-Mart). They get to the point, no round in circle niceties and then give you the coffee (or, cafe) and they call you Madam and smile, and ask if you prefer to speak in French or English. I was amazed at how effortlessly they can switch from one language to the other. I totally fell in love with French and I have vowed to learn it for myself!

The French countryside is a patchwork quilt of yellows and greens. The city is sprawling, but not disconcertingly so. It is laid out as all medieval cities are: in circles and squares. From the plane (which I had to take a bus out on the runway to get on), I saw the Eiffel Tower. It was three inches tall and hazy, but I saw it!

On the flight over, I saw so many places I've dreamed of. The alps pierced through the clouds with pointed peaks covered in snow and the Black Forest looked like a deep green stain pooled at the base of them. I saw the Black Sea, The Caspian Sea and I have a photograph of the line in the sky that divided day from night. I also flew over Pakistan but please, don't tell my mother until I return!

Delhi is huge, and I mean that in every sense of the word. I landed at night so all I could see were the lights, but it was lit up like a thousand constellations. I felt as though I was flying over the milky way, not a city. The airport is small but they are constructing a new terminal and four new runways for the Goodwill Games in two years. It's massive! And the runway is surrounded by a large, wooden, white and red fence with coiled barbed wire along the top. Inside, I went to stand in the left line for foreign passport holders, had mine stamped, finally found my luggage, got my money changed over, and then - poof - I was engulfed into a culture completely foreign and yet strangely comforting.

We are the only white people here: myself and three others in the house in which we stay. And most people here do not speak English. My friend Kristen and I went out to the market on my first day (Saturday), taking a rickshaw through the crowded streets. I can only say this about Indian traffic: it must be experienced to be believed. No amount of explaining could prepare you for it. The only way I could think to possible make it make sense to you is to tell you to drive up GA interstate 285 during 3 o'clock traffic on a Friday afternoon: up the wrong side of the interstate! Honk a lot, dodge everyone within a hair's width of their life, throw in some cows, dogs, about 10,000 pedestrians, motor bikes and scooters, and a random camel or three and there you have it! O, and there has to be potholes and speed bumps every 30 yards or so. And no matter how fast you think you are going, you never go over 50 miles per hour and that's super fast! Needless to say, most people I know (ok..all but 1 perhaps) would either die of fright or swear never to go anywhere again after one ride. I find it exhilarating and want to go again and soon! Not that I would ever drive here. No. Way.

The colors, the smells are breathtaking. Surrounded by dirt and endless trash are some of the most beautiful people in all the world. The markets are five stories tall, places stacked (literally) on top of one another. Everything is overcrowded and you get honked at even if the approaching car is passing 6 feet in the opposite direction (which is very rare. The norm is like, an inch. Or less.) Most everything is bartered for price, and I let Kristen handle that for she speaks a little Hindi. I can manage three words now: Namaste (hello/farewell), Danivad (thank you) and Ti Kay (ok). Other than that, I'm useless!

And it's strangely liberating. I can't understand them. They can't understand me. And yet I feel we communicate. I am not responsible for communication. I just float and take in the wonder which surrounds me. I listen to the lilting voices, the sing-song,high pitched way they say everything, bobbing their head from side to side to say yes or just to punctuate their sentences. Everything is open, the front "doors" are iron barred gates that let in the breeze and the mosquitoes. O, and I think OFF must be Hindi for mosquito crack for they have yet to stop biting me. I've never itched so much in my life and have been contemplating for over an hour to go into the kitchen and use the steel wool in the sink to relieve my skin of the insatiable urge to scratch.

The floors are smooth marble, cool and inviting even when the temperature is over 100 (which is has been since I arrived and will be until after monsoon which is until August). The rooms are like separate compartments and most everything is done on the floor. Meals are prepared and enjoyed on the floors and everything is eaten with the hands. Messy but liberating (and tons of fun!) It's dirty and you constantly feel the need to take a shower, but don't mind it because it's India and secretly, you've always wanted an excuse to be filthy and not take a shower (ok...maybe that's just me).

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Off to see the world...


This blog is brand-spankin' new (as you can see). I'm glad you found your way to my little porthole to creativity and to the world. I was born with an insatiable, incurable wanderlust, an addiction I do everything to indulge and nothing to cure. The world is filled with the beautiful, the strange, the mysterious, the euphoric, the heart-stirring, and the heart-breaking. With open eyes, an open mind, open arms and an open heart I push myself out into it, ready to receive all it has to offer.

Explorer Tenzing Norgay once said, "to travel, to experience and learn, that is to live". I believe there is no better way to make use of our time on this earth than to travel far and wide, to experience all life has to offer, to take risks, to get out of our comfort zones, and to learn all we can about not only the world at large, but also about the vast array of people and cultures which are such an intricate part of it.

My first entry on this blog could not have a better title. It sums up my vision for my life and for my art. An 'onward and upward' slogan that I intend to make a reality every day. It also gives you, dear reader, a little hint as to what I'm up to next!

Tomorrow afternoon I head to exotic India. It has been six years since I last travelled internationally and I've been having severe withdrawal symptoms ever since my feet bid farewell to old Ireland. I will be in India for two weeks, making new friends, loving on some beautiful children at an amazing place called Asha House, and getting to experience life in a different universe. I'm going as a part of an organization called Sixty1 and I highly encourage you to check them out at

I will have access to a computer while I'm there and will be updating this little blog o' mine regularly and I hope you all will check back often and keep in touch. In fact, this little blog is a catalyst for a great many things. Stay tuned! You never know what I may be up to next :)

Clear Skies,