Wednesday, November 2, 2011

No-Coat November

I have been laughing out loud a lot lately.

Praise the Lord for consistently good days, good weather, a good school and teaching job, and wonderful friends; for meals with the people I love; for my shelter and security; for my upcoming trip to Seattle; for walks on nice days and sharing things in common; for Michigan Cherry Chili, red velvet cake balls, and anything with sweet potatoes or pumpkin; for bamboo and its ability to stay alive; and for my family who welcomes me home with open arms, no matter how long I've been away.

As Florence would say, "It's always darkest before the dawn."
Sometimes the night is long, two years long, but the morning always comes, and she comes with a glorious sunrise.

A quick overview of my fall so far:

Sunday, October 9, 2011


Good weekends are hard to end because you get a little taste of what life should be like--all the time.
This weekend, I was able to spend a lot of time with a lot of good friends.

House concert down the street in Grand Rapids. Stationary Travelers played. Some wonderful women were there: Lindsey and her sister, Natalia, and Kaitlin. Wonderful wonderful night.

Grand Rapids Farmers' Market. One of the best I've been to in a while. Bought myself a butternut squash, an onion, and a loaf of bread. MMM. Deep-cleaned my apartment while awaiting the arrival of Sarah Russo and Lauren Gantner! Walked around ArtPrize. Ate at Cinco de Mayo. Had too much Mexican food and some margaritas. Walked around ArtPrize some more. Nap time/Sex and the City time. Woke up. Gertrude and lipstick. Stella's. #hashtags. Mojo's--too many moms dancing everywhere. Best walk home ever. Holding hands with Sarah. GIRLS. HELLO. Mexican food and more movies.

Woke up. Lazy morning. Drove around looking for brunch. Electric Cheetah in the autumn s
unshine. DELICIOUS. Drove to Holland to see Lizzy/Joe/Allison/Paul/lots of other friends. Played board games on the back porch. Impromptu music-playing. Dinner at New Holland with Lizzy and Joe. Now, relaxing on my couch with a movie.

This weekend was truly wonderful. Beautiful weather with beautiful friends. This is how life should be--a little piece of Heaven on Earth.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

another city for a new weekend

While I was driving home from Chicago this afternoon, I thought to myself, "What am I doing still living in West Michigan?" I know there is a reason for my being here. There is a reason I was only offered one teaching position (that just happened to be in Holland). I love my job. I love my school. I love my apartment. I love my landlords. I love my friends that I have here. I love that I am still not too far from home. So...why am I not 100% happy to be living here, then?

The answer to this is simple: this world is HUGE! I have lived in Michigan my entire life, and I am still here. My hungry heart wants to travel and explore this great big world. My soul desires to be in a city that offers exciting opportunities almost every day; a city that holds concerts and street festivals and has parks that run between the city skyline and a beautiful body of water; a city with easy and accessible transportation; a city full of people searching for meaning and enjoyment. This is what my soul longs for.

There is something romantic about musicians. Not that I want to be in a band, nor do I have the talent to do so, but the idea of traveling the country and seeing new cities almost every night, and getting paid to do so, is a wonderful thought to me. At a concert in Chicago last night, I found myself feeling jealous of the men on stage. While I didn't desire to do what they do, I was jealous of the travels they are experiencing and of the people they get to meet.

I am saving my pennies for big adventures. I have a list of places I want to go, and I am tracking flight prices. The world better get ready for me. Who wants to join?

Chicaho, I hope to see you again soon.

Monday, September 26, 2011

extremely loud and incredibly close

My friend, Brett, and I drove out to East Lansing yesterday to see Jonathan Safran Foer speak. How great it was to hear him speak about the writing process for him because he had different views from most writers that I have heard before. Foer said, "Sometimes writing means just what it says. It doesn't always have some deeper meaning" (that is paraphrased). He also said that his characters, to him, are merely tools in telling his stories. They aren't real people to him. This struck me as interesting because most authors tend to let their characters grow inside of them--almost becoming real people--, and they feel a need to continue to tell more of their story.

What I think may have been the most important part of the evening to me, though, was the drive home with Brett. Other than kind of getting lost on the backroads of Lansing in the middle of the night in the rain, we had some great conversation. We talked about Foer and how he said, "Emotions and intuition are muscles that need to be worked." How true this is! We often don't allow ourselves to feel certain emotions (particularly sadness) because it doesn't always feel good to feel that way. Brett said something that I thought was beautiful: "Why should we deny ourselves to feel? Even if it is sadness, I want to feel something real." We talked about the importance of nurturing our emotions--even when that means allowing ourselves to feel sad.

It's nice to know that there are other people that feel the same way: Being on our own is not easy, especially being apart from our best friends. I have been thinking about this a lot lately, but particularly because I heard Foer speak last night, about this deep longing I have to feel connected to people, yet I feel constricted and unable to do so. Foer's book, Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, speaks volumes to this. His book tells the stories of so many people who want to communicate with one another on a deep level but all are unable to do so. My problem lies in the fact that I don't feel connected to that many people in this area. I do have a couple of close friends around, though, and I have hope that the Lord will guide me and help me to nurture those friendships with people.

scent memory

The sense of smell is the biggest recaller of memories. Lately, scents all over the place have reminded me of memories of my past.

On my drive to and from work every day, I pass by these water treatment plants. Sometimes, the smells remind me of India. In a strange way I am comforted by these scents that would normally cause me to bury my nose deep in the folds of my sweater, not because I like them by any means, but because they remind me of the back alleys of Jaipur and the side streets of Mumbai that we discovered while searching for Chimanlal Paper Company.

Every day when I walk into one of the fifth grade classrooms, a familiar scent hits me. Not until today did I realize what the scent reminded me of: Andrew Gehl and David Caplans's room in Wyckoff freshman year.

Many people in Grand Rapids have small bonfires in their backyards. I can smell these often as I bike around, exploring, and the smell always reminds me of Jamaica.

There is a certain scent that breezes by me occasionally that reminds me of the walk to Northway Primary School in Liverpool.

Good memories are a good thing, especially at times like these when you miss everything.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

for my friends

Sometimes, you don't realize how much you miss everyone and value their friendships until you have been away from them for a time and then reunite with them. I have some incredible friends.

The end of the school year was a whirlwind for me. With wrapping up student teaching, graduating, and leaving for India all in four days' time, I did not have time to think about the fact that I was saying goodbye to my best friends for a long period of time. While I have seen a few friends over the course of the few months that I have been back in the States, I have really not seen that many. I have a few friends left in the Grand Rapids area who are only a short bike ride away and a few still in Holland, but a majority of my close friends have moved away from Michigan--they are off in the world doing big and beautiful things. My friends are in places like Chicago, Seattle, Oklahoma, Ohio, Boston, New Zealand, Portland, France, and the list goes on...

This weekend I got to celebrate the marriage of two of my friends, John Rob and Lindsey Rebhan, alongside many of my best friends. What a glorious celebration it was! Not only did we get to celebrate together one of the best reasons to celebrate in this life, but we also got to reunite with one another. I am truly blessed with some of the greatest friends a girl could ask for. This is why it is so difficult to finally have the realization hit me this weekend that most of my close friends are far away. No longer can I walk down the street to my friends' homes, stop by to say hi to someone on my way home from class, or have spontaneous adventures. I now have to plan when I will see the people that I love most. I now have to save my money for plane and train tickets, gasoline, and eating out when I make visits. I have to plan around my full-time teaching position to spend time with my friends. I miss the ease of college life.

BUT...I guess this is growing up. You have to be intentional about keeping in contact with people. You need to make extra effort to see the people you want to see. Through all of this, though, I think you learn who's worth making that effort for; who you really desire to receive life updates on; and who will stick around with you, too. While the day-to-day might seem rough at first, at least we all have bright moments to look forward to. There will come more glorious days that we can all spend with one another.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

a joyous reminder

"My favorite part about school is reading and sitting and hanging up my backpack."
-a kindergarten student

ah, how sweet it is for a child to remind you that the simple things in life are the things to be happy about.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

weekend thoughts

The transition into living alone has been both a great one and a lonely one for me. While I have friends here in Grand Rapids, I only have a few close friends who have stuck around the area since graduation, and a few of my friends are still in school and have classes. I want to find a church community that I can connect with. GR friends: any young adult/church community suggestions?

Also, friends who live alone: any suggestions on how to combat loneliness in your new apartment?

The nice part about living alone is that I am finally finding "me" again. I spent the last two years trying my hardest to please others and be who I thought they needed me to be. That is no way to live! Now, I am forced to focus on myself. I am remembering what I need to be happy. This has been a nice time of restoration and recharging for me. I also love the freedom to come and go as I please.

Many times this week, I have jumped on my bike, and I spent an hour or two riding around GR, just exploring. I have discovered neighborhoods, coffee shops, and little shops that I would love to visit soon. If any of my West Michigan friends would like to join me on these adventures, you are always welcome! I would greatly appreciate the company!


Coming soon:
End-of-Summer updates
More India posts!
Thoughts on love and growing up

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Good Things

Here are some highlights of my life recently:
-Moving into my own apartment. I have been busy, but things are finally beginning to come together. My little space is finally starting to feel like a home!
-I AM A TEACHER! I am the ELL Coordinator at a charter school in Holland. I LOVE IT. It has been a lot of work so far gathering data and inputing it, but everyone that I work with is AWESOME. I have felt so welcomed all week. Today there was an orientation, so I finally got to meet a lot of families and students! I even found out that a student I taught last year is now going to my new school. This is good news!
-Teachers invited me out to lunch today.
-Giant tire swing+swing dancing+the Electric Cheetah with good friends+GR from 28 floors up=one good night.
-My family loves me.
-I have good neighbors.
-I can ride my bike around town. I have not been in my car once except to drive to school. Speaking of driving, I really love my drive to and from school. The drive gives me a chance to wake up in the morning and unwind at the end of the day.
-Celebrated Lindsay's birthday with her and Megan and a bunch of great ladies.
-Spent the day in Holland on Sunday. Lemonjello's, Engedi, and an India Reunion.
-Groovin' in the Grove on Monday.
-Sarah Russo is probably coming to West MI this weekend!

Sunday, August 28, 2011

on living alone

I don't care that it's a TV show. If the ladies of Sex and the City can live alone, then I can do it too! This is going to be good.

Friday, August 26, 2011

in the beginning

I am embarking on a new adventure today. Thanks to my friend Chelsea for reminding me that this IS an adventure, and not merely just a "next step" in life. I am moving into my own apartment this afternoon, and I begin a full-time job (with benefits!) on Monday. I will be TEACHING. Livin' the dream, as Christopher Cox told me. It is amazing how God took me, this girl who four years ago said "I never want to work with kids," and turned me into a woman passionate about children and furthering their education. I LOVE TEACHING! I am ecstatic about this opportunity. Alas, I am also terrified. This position is so new to me, and I don't want to fail these children. I am up for the challenge though! My wonderful friends and family remind me of this constantly. I love you all.

and... I am off! Blasting through my radio on the drive across the state will be a playlist, full of songs with titles like: "The Adventure," "Kids," "Spinning," "In the Beginning," "Girls Just Wanna Have Fun," "Take Me Home Tonight," and "Dog Days Are Over."

Bring it on, life. I am here to love you and live in you fully.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

love wins

These past couple of weeks, between writing cover letters, searching for apartments, and serving my cousin and her children as an au pair, I have been squeezing in time to read Rob Bell's Love Wins. Before reading this book, I heard a lot of controversy surrounding it. The biggest problem that people seemed to have with this book was that Rob Bell apparently says "there is no hell." Either these people never actually read the book or they completely missed the point. I have been pondering the message Bell is trying to convey through this book. In the meantime, I have also begun working on my "worldview" paper as a part of my India trip/senior seminar. The thoughts I have been jotting down as notes for my paper have been influenced a lot lately by what Bell has to say. We all live in our own little hells. We turn away from God daily by choosing to do or think or say little things that go against the beautiful life God has planned for us. We are actually designed to strive for the best; to strive for a world in which everyone lives according to the free love God gives. But we mess up. We go against God. But guess what? God still loves us. He chooses to love us--He loves us through all the hurt and the pain and our disregard of Him. The real kicker is that this is how God calls us to live as well. Forgive and love. No matter what. How do you begin to put the past in the past and begin to love everyone? A friend of mine recently asked me, "Have you tried praying for those that have hurt you over the past couple of years?" I replied, "It's hard. How do you even begin to figure out the right things to say to God about the people who have hurt you most?" This is tricky, but when you finally admit to yourself that you have also caused wrong and hurt to others (and to God); that you are not perfect or even better than those that have hurt you--well, this is the moment when forgiveness can truly begin.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

sweet summertime

I am going to take a break from India posts to update everyone on my life back home so far this summer! Since returning home from India and France, I have been blessed to visit Chicago twice, visit West Michigan twice, spend time with some great friends and family back home, and work a week with SpringHill Day Camps. In between job searching and apartment searching, I have been having a fabulous summer!

My first visit to Chicago began when I landed in the USA, fresh off the plane from foreign lands. I have never been so thankful for everything American! Believe it or not, Chicago felt like a small town to me that first weekend back. I could navigate the streets and the L with my suitcase AND hiking backpack without bumping into anyone on the sidewalks. Everything was fresh and new to me again: trees looked extra green; flowers smelled delicious, and I could smell them from hundreds of yards away; and the clean, empty streets made me giddy every time I went to cross them. Although I loved India and all her glory, I am happy to be home.

Once I navigated the L to Chelsea's apartment (with all of my luggage), we walked around Lakeview over to an ice creamshop, Bobtail, where we met up with Marisa. I ordered a merlot ice cream with dark chocolate chips. It was delicious! There was a customer-designed flavor contest going on. Someone recommended a "PBR" ice cream. That would probably taste horrible, but I hope it wins because I think that would be funny! Marisa, Chelsea, and I shared stories of our summers thus far. It was fun to hear what they have been up to! They both have such exciting lives! Both of those women have such a passion for fun and adventure, and I look up to them for that.

After ice cream, Chelsea and I headed to Millenium Park for the free Monday night concert. We say Phosphorescent and the Campbell Brothers. Apparently, everyone BYOB to the concerts, so Chelsea grabbed her BYO bag that she got in Australia, and we brought some white wine with us to the park. We enjoyed the show until it started to gettoo cold out. We packed up our blanket, jumped on the L, and headed over to Parth's to say hello. He showed us around his new Lakeview apartment, which is so nice! He is a great friend indeed.
Millenium Park with Chels!

The next day, Chelsea had a coffee date with a friend, so I met up with Sarah for lunch! We wanted Mexican food, and to sit outside, so we ended up at a delicious little place on Clark called El Jardin. We split the veggie fajitas and some guac and chips, and we each ordered frozen margaritas to beat the heat. A guy at a table near us told us we should try out a restaurant in Wicker Park sometime called Big Star. They specialize in Mexican and whiskey. Sarah, next time I'm in Chicago--let's go! We then went to Slugger's, where Chelsea and Joel met up with us. We sat and chatted for a bit, and then it was time for me to grab my bags from Chelsea's and catch my Amtrak train back home.
Lunch at El Jardin.

My second trip to Chicago was the following weekend with my friend Emma for our dear friend Sarah's birthday! What a wonderful friend she is! There was no question about me traveling to her. On our first night, we enjoyed beers outside in the beer garden at Duck Fat, and then we spent the night at her dad's place in the city. The next morning, we woke up and headed to Starbucks so that Emma could send emails to families abroad in search of an au pair job! We then went to a vegan restaurant called Karyn's Cooked for Sarah's birthday lunch! Parth met up with us, and we enjoyed GREAT food and company. The three of us girls spent the rest of the afternoon shopping downtown. We then dined in style at the Grand Luxe Cafe, where we went for chocolate cake and drinks to top off Sarah's birthday! Emma and I then stayed at her place in Holland. The next day, I stopped by Megan's new house in Grand Rapids!
In Chicago for Sarah's birthday!!

In between and after my trips to Chicago, I have hung out with great friends from home! I have had many opportunities to see close friends and reunite with girls I ran cross country with in high school. I feel blessed to have all of these hangouts! I also went on a road rally with the college group from church. What a blast that was! Our team won. The reward? Gourmet cupcakes from a new-ish bakery in downtown Plymouth, the Cupcake Station. I also got to celebrate the 4th of July TWICE with my family! Once at my Uncle Ray and Aunt Paulina's home in Manchester and again the next day at my grandma's for our annual fountain fireworks and grill-0ut.
Team Winners [solid rock college group road rally]


I have also traveled to West Michigan twice. My first trip was to see my good friends Tina and Amanda. Amanda is basically my twin in this life, and Tina is an amazing woman whom I have traveled abroad with twice and have grown closer to each time. I love them both! We hung out at Tina's, sunbathed at the beach, and took Tina to Captain Sundae for the first time ever! I also went to the beach with Aaron Martin, hung out with Emma on her rooftop, ran into Jacob and chatted for a while, and got drinks with David. On my way home from Holland, I stopped by Megan's in Grand Rapids. We ended up going out with her roommates and danced the night away. It was so much fun!
at Tunnel Park with Amanda and Tina!

Tina's first-ever Captain Sundae trip!


The following weekend, I traveled to Grand Rapids again to see Harry Potter at midnight with my bff, Megan! We saw the movie, had mixed feelings, and passed out in her bed. The following day, we woke up, watched the Fresh Prince of Bel Air, ate breakfast, went to the John Ball Park Zoo with her roomie Natalie, and then we visited Megan's old roommates, Lindsey and Kelsey, and swam in their pool. This weekend, my family came out to Grand Haven to spend the week here. We are staying in a cozy little condo on the third floor of a building right off the main road, Harbor Road. We have spent a lot of time at the beach; gone boogie-boarding; walked along the pier; gone on bike rides; drank a lot of coffee from Jumpin' Java; went to the Tri-Cities Museums; ate at Snug Harbor, Kirby Grill, Pronto Pups, and Butch's Beach Burritos; and played a lot of Scrabble. We even got to spend an entire day in Holland, and my friend Emma came to visit me! We walked around downtown and down the pier. She's great. We head home tomorrow, and I can post pictures from our trip then! I have enjoyed all of the time I have been able to spend with my family this week. It truly has been wonderful!

In between my trips to the west side, I had the opportunity to work for SpringHill Day Camps in Plymouth. Best week of my summer thus far--hands down. I got to co-counsel a group of fifth graders with Steve, from church, and a girl Ashley, whom I had the pleasure of getting to know throughout the week. I also got to be in my good friend Vinnie's area, which was such a treat! I got to sing camp songs, play camp games, run activities, and love on kids--some of my favorite things in life! I also dug deeper into God's Word this past week--something I have not done in too long. Lately, I have been dwelling more on His Word, and I can really notice a change within myself. God is working on big and beautiful things in my life, and I can't wait to see where He takes me!

(more photos coming soon!)

What's next in my life? Next week, I am heading down to Florida for an unknown amount of time to au pair for my cousin Heather. I get to hang out with her and her beautiful children, Ella, Olivia, and Jonah, full-time! I am pumped.

After that, I plan on moving to Chicago--job or no job. I pray for a classroom of my own, but I will substitute teach until I can find a place of my own if I have to. God is good, and he has provided this wonderful back-up plan for me.

I will continue to post India updates as I have time!

Saturday, July 16, 2011


We flew IndiGo to Mumbai. There were no meals served on the plane, and I was feeling a little sick to my stomach when we took off. I came to find these stomachaches to be a normal occurrence every morning that I was in India. As our plane landed, we had an incredible view of the slums of Mumbai. These are some of the largest slums in the world, yet we did not see them at all while in the city because they are surrounded by a tall cement wall. Supposedly, 60% of Mumbai's population live in slums (about 7 million people). Contrast this against the fact that Mumbai is named as number 7 in the world on the list of "billionaire cities," and you will understand why the cement wall was built: the billionaires don't want to see the slums or the people who live in them.

When we arrived in Mumbai, Chacha found us some taxis that would drive us into the city. As we approached the city, I was in awe of everything. I tried my best to get a glimpse of early-morning life in the slums, but I could hardly see anything. As we got closer to the city center, I could see thick black smoke billowing out from buildings ahead. Talk about pollution problems!

We finally arrived at the Sea Green Hotel, which sits on Marine Drive, right across from the Arabian Sea. Marine Drive reminded me greatly of Lakeshore Drive in Chicago--curving along the coast and lined with skyscrapers. The western feel was comforting. After dropping off our bags in our hotel rooms, we began our day by following Chacha around town. He took us through a British-inspired part of town, where we walked through a large park, in which a cricket tournament was being held! We then went to see the Gateway to India, a huge arch that was built by the British to honor the visit of King George V and Queen Mary in 1911. Directly across from the Gateway is the Taj Mahal Palace Hotel. This hotel was built by Tata in the 1890s to demonstrate the beauty and valor of India. How fitting a location he chose--directly across from the English monument, which demonstrates England's once-dominant presence in India. Because the hotel is such a luxurious symbol of India, Islamist terrorists attacked the hotel in November 2008. The terrorists held hostages, including Indians and foreigners, inside as they attempted to burn the building down. India jumped right back and rebuilt the hotel in less than two years, though! And let me tell is BEAUTIFUL.
Marine Drive (see the resemblance to Chicago?)

Our hotel, the Sea Green Hotel

Cricket Tournament

Gateway to India

Taj Mahal Palace Hotel

Inside the Taj Mahal Palace Hotel

After seeing the Taj Hotel, we went for lunch as a Muslim restaurant. Here, the food was so spicy to me that I began to cry because I was in so much pain. This was not your typical, oh my eyes and nose are watering because of the spice. No, this was, my head is throbbing and I can't feel my throat because the pain from this spice is so intense. I ate a lot of white rice and bread at that meal. Afterwards, we went to the Mani Bhavan Ghandi Museum, where we walked around, looked at many photos, read many stories, and saw many dioramas that told Ghandi's story. Chacha looks like Ghandi, so we had him pose with a statue. We thenclimbed a hill to a temple. From there, we walked to the hanging gardens. When you hear this, you might picture something similar to the hanging gardens of Babylon. Nope. These gardens do not hang over you from above. Rather, the roots of these plants hang down into a huge water basin, where water is stored for the city. They were neat! This is the place where families dress up and visit on Sunday afternoons. We then went to the children's park, where we got a lovely view of the city skyline and the Arabian Sea coast. Two girls approached us with flowers for ourhair and wanted their photo with us. It is nice to feel like a celebrity sometimes.
Chacha with a Ghandi statue.

View of Mumbai and the Arabian Sea from the hanging gardens.

We then walked to another temple, where we sat and chatted for a bit. We then hopped on a bus to Chowpatty Beach. We ran into a slight problem on this bus ride, though. A few of us girls were sitting in the very back row, and the rest of our group was at the front. This was a very crowded bus, and we could not see out group members very well over the heads of the many people sitting and standing throughout the bus. At one stop, we called ahead, "Do we get off here?" One girl immediately called back, "Yea!" So, us girls at the back jumped off. All of a sudden, the bus started to move again, but we realized no one else from our group had gotten off. We heard a man call out from inside the bus, "Oh no!," and we saw our group members looking out at us, obviously thinking the same thing. The four of us girls ran towards the bus, two of us in sarees, and we jumped up, hanging onto the handles, barely standing on the step, being pulled up by men already inside. Thank goodness we made it! We would have been fine though, seeing as our actually stop was only one stop away.

This brings me to the Sunday night beach festival. Every Sunday evening on Chowpatti Beach, a festival occurs! People, including many families, gather on the beach in their Sunday's best to play cricket, ride carnival rides, swim, and eat the world's best grilled corn. We walked along the beach in our punjabis and sarees past peanut and other snack vendors, colorful pinwheels, balloon stands, and kite-flyers until we came across a man selling grilled corn. The first man we met rubbed chili powder on his corn, so a few girls and I headed down to the next corn man, since we were still getting used to the spice (and I still felt like I needed to recover from lunch). This man was younger, very smiley, and could barely speak English. He understood what we wanted though: the best corn ever. He had a small grill (maybe 12-inches tall) on which he grilled his corn to perfection, directly on the coals. He then coated it with sea salt and lime juice. OH MY GOSH YUM! I bought two corn cobs that evening. I wish I could have eaten more! We then walked down the beach towards the carnival rides, where we saw four men manually operating the ferris wheel: they would climb up, grab on, and fly down to the ground, where they jumped off and climbed back up to the top to repeat the process. I was nervous for their lives!
Man grilling corn on the beach. MMM!

Beach festival.

We then headed back to the part of town where our hotel was located. Since Mumbai is a huge financial center of India, there is a lot of Western influence. Right next to our hotel was a pizza parlor called Pizza by the Bay. This is where we had dinner. This was the one and only time I felt uncomfortable in India clothing while in India. First of all, we were the only non-Indians in the restaurant. On top of that, we were the only people wearing Indian dress. Chacha was also very frustrated because he wasn't getting the exact tables that he wanted, so he made a few of us stand over people at their tables, expecting them to leave for us. I did not like this at all. Once we finally got to sit down, though, we ordered delicious pizzas! Laura I and I shared a margherita pizza. mm mm mmm! We sat at tables right along the windows, which let in a nice sea breeze. Laura and I discussed coming back later that evening to do karaoke. That plan failed when we fell asleep immediately upon our return to our hotel room.
Pizza dinner at Pizza by the Bay.

We woke up the following morning and headed into town with our group. One of the first things we saw after getting off the train were the dhobi ghats, a huge outdoor laundry service in Mumbai. There are clothes everywhere and men in underwear standing in small cement baths smacking the clothing against the walls as a way to get the dirt out. The clothing all gets separated by type: jeans, white undershirts, t-shirts, petticoats, plaid shirts, etc. Nothing is labeled, but somehow it all makes it back to the correct households. Amazing.
Dhobi ghats.

We then headed to the racetrack. Here, we saw another huge contrast in wealth. The racetrack is a place where the wealthiest people from all over the world keep horses to race. The wealthiest people are also the ones who visit to see the races. Who works here and takes care of the horses? The poorest people of Mumbai. We walked in through the back entrance, so we were able to see a small shanti village, where homes were haphazardly built and placed. I saw small apartments that seemed to be almost toppling over, homes built in trees, and one small girl sitting in a half-tent that was balanced between a fallen tree and a broken fence. I was able to peek into some of these homes. Each was a small one-room apartment, the walls lined with pots and pans, a small mattress on the floor for the entire family, a lot of clothing piled in the corners, and sometimes a small TV flickering in the corner. At the racetrack, we got to pet the horses, and the worker men brought us carrots and leafy greens to feed to the horses. That was fun!
Girl in a "tent" home outside the racetrack.

Shanty homes by the racetrack.

Prize-winning horse, Daimler.

After the racetrack, we were going to go to a temple out on the Arabian Sea. Unfortunately, when we got there, the path out to it was nearly flooded over, and the tide was still rising, so it would not have been safe for us to walk out there. So...we headed back to the Churchgate neighborhood. We then had a free afternoon. Some of us walked to find a handmade paper company called Chimanlal. We navigated our way through back streets until we finally found it. Here, we found some of the coolest handmade paper creations, such as journals, lamps, gift tags, and more! We then walked back to Churchgate to eat lunch at a very westernized cafe called Mocha. I ordered a soy burger and a chair, and they were both delicious! We sat there for a while chatting and writing letters and postcards. We then headed back to our hotel to catch our taxis to the airport, where we would leave for Bangalore. Once we arrived at the airport, though, we ran into a HUGE problem. We arrived for our 615pm flight, only to find out that the flight was actually at 615am, twelve hours earlier. The entire airport staff stopped what they were doing, and they somehow managed to fit all 14 of us on a full flight at 7pm that same evening. God works great miracles!
Chimanlal Paper Company, Ltd.

Hanging out at Mocha.

In the taxi, on our way to the airport.


Welcome to my favoritecity in all of India (at least out of the twelve that I was able to visit).

A quick background: Jaipur is a city within the desert state of Rajasthan. Jaipur is HOT! The heat you feel is a dry heat, though, so I enjoyed this climate much more than in other cities. Jaipur is painted pink. This is because Queen Victoria supposedly visited the city once in a pink skirt.

Picture this: You arrive at the train station in Delhi two minutes before your train to Jaipur is supposed to take off. There is a line to get through security that stretches for nearly 100 yards, and it will take you forever to get through. You are with a group of twelve other students and a professor. You all have on large hiking backpacks and traditional Indian clothing. Your professor sees that time is running short, so he ushers you all to the front of the line where you quickly toss your bags on the security conveyor belt that you realize no one is watching over anyways. You all grab your bags and RUN; run as fast as you can. This means you run up stairs, shove through groups of dozens of people, jump over a small sleeping toddler whose legs hang over the edge of the bridge that is taking you to the other side of the tracks, and over dozens of more people who are sitting around on the ground, waiting for their trains to arrive. You spot your train, but you realize you do not have time to run all the way down to your car, so, with backpacks on, you jump on the first car you reach, as the train begins to move. Your professor leads your group car by car, squeezing through the small connecting doors, past smelly squatting toilets, and down narrow aisles, trying not to knock anyone out with your travel gear. You finally make it to your seats, where you sit down and await your Hindu Times newspaper and your breakfast of toast, a veg cutlet, three french fries, and mango juice.

This is how we traveled to Jaipur.

Breakfast on the train to Jaipur.

As soon as we stepped out of the train station in Jaipur, I felt the desert heat blast hit me instantly. I could see the wave of heat traveling across the land until it crashed into us just before Chacha took us down the stairs to search for transportation to our hotel. Chacha was immediately swarmed by dozens of rickshaw drivers, who Chacha, then and there, referred to as the "rickshaw mafia." All of the drivers began jokingly yelling out, "Ghandi Chacha, we are not the rickshaw mafia! I am just a driver! I will give you the best deal." We were all eventually led to a large parking lot FULL of rickshaws. Chacha made deals and squeezed us, three by three, into rickshaws. We sat in the small backseats with our backpacks still on. We had an adventurous ride, swerving all over the city roads, making u-turns, and laughing at our driver's jokes until we made it to the Arya Nawas Hotel. Our drivers all wanted photos with us before they left us. Our driver referred to himself as a helicopter driver. His motto? "Drink and drive. Smoke and fly." Not a motto I will ever encourage amongst the children of my future.
Rickshaws squeezed into the parking lot.

Hollee, Rachel, and me crammed into the back of our rickshaw.

Hollee, Tess, and me two of our rickshaw drivers.

Once at our hotel, we checked in, got changed, and met Pawan, a man who has been hanging out with the Hope College group since 2005. He is a tour guide, but for us, he is our friend. Pawan was one of the reasons I loved Jaipur so much. He was able to answer every question I had that Chacha could not. I learned much about the religions, history, traditions, and special stories of India and Jaipur thanks to Pawan. He also taught me many jokes. I can share those with you sometime if you would like.
Our nicest (and cheapest!) hotel in India.

On our first day in Jaipur, we went saree shopping! Pawan led us through the many back alleys of Japiur; back alleys that were filled with people, motorcycles, rickshaws, children, and cows. We hung out at a small tailor's shop for a while while he fitted us all for saree blouses. On our first day in Jaipur, we also went to the Hawa Mahal. This is one of my favorite buildings in all of India! The Hawa Mahal was built for the women of the royal family. The royal women were not supposed to be seen in public, but of course they still wanted to be able to see the parades and festivals that took place in the streets of Jaipur. So...the maharaja had the Hawa Mahal built. This is a building with hundreds of tiny windows. Inside, there are a lot of walkways for the women to walk along and peer out the windows. The women can see out of the windows, but the people in the streets below could not look up and see in. After visiting the Hawa Mahal, we went to see a Ganesh Temple, but it was closed. Along the way, two boys followed us for a few blocks just so they could get a photo with me and give me their "facebook IDs." This happened many many times! Then we went to the City Palace, where we saw the evening puja to Krishna. Within the temple, there was a stage with many curtains, and there were a lot of drums and bells going off. The curtains were opened one-by-one to build up the suspense. Eventually, a statue of the god krishna was revealed, and everyone in the crowd offered gifts to him. Afterwards, everyone sang and dance and praised the god. At the City Palace, I met a young girl named Pooja. Outside of the palace walls, she begged us for money, but once inside, she became a playful young girl! Some of the girls in my group gave her balloons, and I gave her candy. She did this thing with the balloons where she would blow them up, then slowly let the air out so that they made a squeaking noise. She thought it was so funny, so naturally, I kept encouraging her to do it! She was very cute. Once we left the palace walls again, though, she began begging again, and she followed us for nearly a mile, begging us for money. It was nice to see her able to act like a child inside the palace, though. I wrote to my friend, Andrew, in a postcard that it was nice to see that the rough street life of India hadn't completely erased the children of their joyful, playful spirits.

To get back to our hotel, we all had to jump on a city bus. Imagine a city bus. Now, imagine it at full capacity. Now, triple that. That is how many people were on this bus! We all had to squeeze in! We were pushed up against many smelly and sweaty people, and we ourselves were smelly and sweaty too. Chacha had to pay the ticket man, so he handed the money along our group, and we were all yelling, in Hindi, what Chacha had said, having no idea what it meant. "Sindhi Camp! Sindhi Camp!" We were very packed, people kept banging on the sides of the bus when they wanted to get off, and one of our girls ended up falling out at our stop. That was a wild adventure!
Jaipur, the pink city.

Saree shopping.

Pawan and me atop the Hawa Mahal.

A walkway within the Hawa Mahal. Notice the small windows!

The front of the Hawa Mahal, looking up from the street.

Evening puja to krishna at the City Palace.

My friend Pooja.

On our second day in Jaipur, we had to wake up EARLY to head up the mountain to the Amber Fort. Why did we have to awake so early? To ride elephants, of course! We had to get to the elephants early because the government has set in place laws to protect the elephants. The law states that the elephants may only walk up and down the mountain so many times in one day, and they often complete their allotted number of trips early in the morning. We had to get there in time to receive our ride! My roommate in Jaipur, Lindsay, and I were partners for the ride. The ride was rocky and close to the edge, but we had so much fun! All along the way, salesmen were throwing goods up to us, hoping we would throw money back down. We ended up just throwing the goods back, though. We just wanted to enjoy our ride! After the elephant ride, we toured the fort and the adjoining palace. I walked around with Laura H and Pawan. Pawan shared many stories with us! He showed us the main door--when it opened, it made the sound of an elephant first and then the sound of a roaring lion! He showed us a room whose walls were completely covered with mirrors. This room was built for one of the king's wives. She loved to stargaze, but during India's annual monsoon season she could not due to the thick rain clouds covering the skies. Because of this, the king had this room built; a room where a servant could take the one wife into, light a match, and say, "Voila!," and the room would sparkle and twinkle like the stars in the sky. How romantic!

Elephants preparing to give us rides.

The Amber Fort.

Room of mirrors within the palace.

Our group (minus grace and chacha) atop the Amber Fort.

After the fort, we went back into the city by bus. We met a guy named Abhishek. We talked to him for a while, and we are now facebook friends! In the city, we had lunch at a favorite restaurant of Chacha's. Here, we were treated like royalty! We were greeted in the same way that one would greet their in-laws for the first time in India. That is, we were treated with the greatest of respect. We enjoyed a delicious lunch of paneer butter masala, dal makhani, and a couple of our other favorite dishes. After lunch, we split up into groups to enjoy a free afternoon. I stuck with Pawan, Laura H, Rachel, Hollee, and Kyle. We decided to head to the Prince Albert Museum. On our way, we ran into a wedding! The men ran out and invited us in. This was a ceremony for the groom and his family that takes place before the actual ceremony. The family was giving blessings to the groom when we arrived. A couple of minutes of this went by, and then ... they started playing drums and dancing, and all of a sudden someone's hat was being passed around and being placed on each of our heads, and everyone wanted to dance with us! Everyone came up to us, pointed to our cameras, and began dancing! Even the grandmother came up to me, pointed to my camera, then started busting the moves. Of course we got great photos out of this. Then, someone started spraying some sort of soapy substance out of a can all over the place, and then the dancing got really wild. We were all laughing uncontrollably with joy! Pawan saw the rowdiness, though, and pulled us away to continue our walk to the museum. After the museum, Pawan took us to a backstreet that is lined with marble shops. In these shops, men carve, by hand, beautifully intricate marble statues from large marble slabs. During the process, they do not wear eye goggles or face masks, so their eyes and lungs are filled with the dust. At night, back at our hotel, we got to see a folk dancing show!
Lunch - we were greeted with flowers and blessings on our foreheads!

Wedding dancing!

Prince Albert Museum.

Marble slab with sketches that will soon become a beautiful statue.

Folk dancers (with rachel!).

Our third and final day in Jaipur began with an early morning hike up to Galta, where there is a mysterious river flowing out of the side of the mountain into a fresh pool. Because of the combination of the heat, the spicy food, the lack of sleep, and the hiking, I began to feel very sick. Once we got down the back side of the mountain, we began to hike down a desert path that led to a desert Ashram Oasis. It was along this path that I had a very Indian experience--using the side of the road as my toilet...THREE TIMES. On our way back, we hiked up to the Sun Temple, where we had a beautiful view of the city! We then had a free afternoon again, so Pawan took a few of us to the botanical gardens. Those were a little dried up since it was the hot season, but it was still a good time. We then went to Daya Sharma's shop. Daya is a good friend of Chacha's, and he gave us each a beautiful necklace! I got one made out of amethyst. It is beautiful! We then ran into Pawan again, and he took us to a cheap saree shop. We then headed back to our hotel for dinner, where we celebrated Laura I's birthday, and Pawan gave her a birthday hat! She then carried this with her all throughout India, and I am very surprised it survived our travels! We then went to bed to prepare ourselves to head to Mumbai the following morning.
At the top of the mountain, just before my bathroom incident.

View of Jaipur from halfway up the mountain.

Relaxing at the oasis.

Allamanda flowers at the botanical gardens.

7 of us crammed into a rickshaw!