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Archive for June, 2012

Dear Bollywood

It’s ten years down the road.  I’m sitting across from yet another interviewer asking me about my current movie. (Yes, I’m optimistic.)  I answer the many questions that seem quite familiar to me after these long weeks of interviews.  I give my generic answers, not bored, but just in the routine fashion.  That is until he asks something peculiar.  He simply inquires, “What is it that you hate most in the world?”  I sit there puzzled for a few moments: what an odd question.  The boring and expected answers might be ‘death’, ‘hunger’, suffering yadda yadda yadda…  But no.  We’ve all heard these answers before, and as sad and horrible as these things are, I don’t want to sound like a Miss America.  So I think for another moment until it’s there.  It pops up in the front of my mind and the answer becomes quite obvious: ignorance.

Now, I’m not going to tell you my life story, but I will just say this.  I grew up in a town where if ignorance was currency, we’d make the top 400 of the Forbes 400 list.  How does this all connect, I’m sure you’re wondering.  Well, it has to do with the week after returning to the US.  When I got back I expected to be bombarded with questions, but that just didn’t happen.  And, to be honest, I was rather disappointed about that.  My mom and best friend obviously asked me about the trip, but even that didn’t last long.  When I told other people I went to India, the response I got most of the time was, “Good for you, cuz I know I’ll never go there!”  Now this wasn’t said in a way that would make one think these people wanted to go.  Instead, it was in a was as if they were saying that I was crazy to have gone and they would never go because it’s just too different or ‘wrong’.

That made me so sad because everyone who says they’ll never do something doesn’t know what they’re missing.  Just because you are scared doesn’t mean you shouldn’t take that leap.  Go for it.  You may get dirty and you may get a few cuts and bruises, but they go away.  What doesn’t go away is the experience.  India was difficult.  Not being able to easily communicate is hard.  Adjusting to new foods, transportation and really just a whole new way of life is not an easy feat.  But just because it’s difficult doesn’t make it not worth trying.  Being scared just adds to the adventure and sense of satisfaction when it’s over.  I admit I was definitely nervous before the trip and even a few times during, but every second I was there I was happy that I took this opportunity.  If I had had the attitude of many of the people I talked to who said they’d never go, I would’ve missed seeing wild monkeys and elephants, and riding in rickshaws and going to the Taj and meeting some of the best people I know.  So if India has taught me anything, it’s always be willing to try something new, never say never and don’t be afraid to get a little dirty in the process.

Ignorance should be avoided at all costs because you never know what you’re going to miss as a result of it.  Thank you for everything you have done for us TG.  This truly was a trip of dreams.

Love

Lexa Hayes ❤

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Dear Bollywood

I know, I know.  I’m really bad at goodbyes, too.  So that’s why I won’t say one.  I’ll just say see you later.  It’ll probably be a while until we see each other again, but until the time that we do meet, I’ll make sure to keep all the memories you have given me locked inside my mind, but shared with everyone I meet, as well.

I’m so anxious to be home, but I know I’ll think about you all the time.  I can’t wait to brag to everyone that I got to see you.  Usually I am not one to brag, but you are far too cool not to talk about.  I’ll make sure to remember Whistling Woods, and all the fun we had there with Bollywood dancing and Cinema 100.  I’ll remember meeting Nagesh and Onir.  I’ll remember the long conversations I took part in with people I’ll never forget and will miss often.  And the rickshaws, and the heat and the difficulty communicating and the crazy food and the monsoons and, and…   Wow.  This is so overwhelming.  The memories I have gained in a month and stories I am now able to tell will always be a part of me and they are the best souvenirs I got from this trip.

This blog is really mostly a thank you to the people who I feel have become a sort of family to me.  My India family.  So, like I did in my very first blog, I want to mention everyone because I want to thank you all for making this experience one of the most positive in my life.  So thank you Anthony, Danielle, Gautam, Iris, Kelvin, Luis, Shauna, Mina and TG.  Thank you with my whole heart for making me feel a part of the group no matter how many times I was “making a scene”… Haha.  But seriously TG, thank you so much for listening to me that first day of COM 100.  This trip has made my life so much more full and had really made me a more well-rounded individual.  I feel my mind has become much more flexible!  Finally, thank you mom.  I know it wasn’t exactly easy to get me here, so I’ll be forever grateful to you for helping me go on this trip of dreams.  It is truly a unique experience that I’ll have for the rest of my days.  I’m so sad my next blog will be the last one, but who knows?  Hopefully in a few years I’ll be back, and I’ll write again.

Thank you Bollywood, and everyone who was a part of my Indian experience.  I’m not saying goodbye, but hello to all the new friends I’ve made and to all the new experiences to come.

Sincerely

The Most Grateful Girl in the World

My India Family

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Dear Bollywood

I have now gone to the most romantic place on earth.  People say Paris is the city of love, but I bet those people hav never been to the Taj Mahal.  Most people have seen the pictures, seen the Taj in movies or models, but those could never do this masterpiece justice.  The feeling you get when you are standing there, looking at this piece of history, is indescribable.

This is really rather funny, but my friend Iris and I were talking and we both agreed on this.  Three places on earth have made us freeze and taken our breath away: The Eiffel Tower, Hogwarts at Universal and the Taj Mahal.  Okay, I know that sounds absolutely ridiculous, but it’s the truth.  All three, when I first saw them made me want to cry a little.  I was in such disbelief that I finally got to see these places I’ve waited my whole life to see.  However, the Taj is something else, on an entirely different level.  The story attached to it is unmatched to any wonder I’ve ever seen.  After the queen died as a result of having her 14th child, the king wanted to build her heaven.  And that’s just what he did.

You really don’t know how truly majestic it is until you have seen the sun hit it a certain way, or have touched the smooth marble walls, or have looked at the detail up close.  You don’t really understand the love he felt for her until you walk inside and see his tomb beside hers.  I wish I could describe to you the feelings that I had, but it really wouldn’t be worth it.  I think everyone who goes to the Taj feels something different and gets something different out of the experience.

For me, I obviously appreciated the story attached to the building itself, but I appreciated the detailing of the structure just as much.  The intricacy of the design is astonishing for a building erected in the 1600s.  I love how the flowers are not simply painted, but were created from gem stones.  And I love that the people who created these flowers and such passed down their craft so that even today their decendants are doing just what their families have always done.

It’s funny that this is the blog I have been waiting to write, have been the most excited to write about, but am having the most trouble with.  I guess this is just because words, pictures and videos are simply not enough to describe what seeing the Taj does to a person.  I have been changed for the better, and will forever be grateful that I was able to see one of the seven wonders of the modern world.  So, Chichén Itza, Christ the Redeemer Statue, Colosseum, Great Wall of China , Petra and Machu Picchu, here I come.

Sincerely

A World Traveler

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And Beyond…

My Marilyn ❤

Dear Bollywood

Have I ever told you how much I love animals?  Lately, I’ve been thinking about how much I miss my kitty, Marilyn,  and that I’m so excited to see her in a few days.  Here, the amount of animals I see on the street makes me truly appreciate my Mar.  On this trip I’ve been lucky enough to see many animals that, in America, you just don’t see unless in a zoo.  It’s really quite extraordinary how different India is from America, even down to the animals one sees on the streets.

On our very first night in India, the night we all were driven to our new temporary home, one of the very first aspects of the city I noticed was the amount of dogs running wild in the streets.  Street dogs in India are the equivalent to our squirrels at home: they’re everywhere.  It is so tempting to feed them and pet them and steal them away so they don’t have to sleep under rickshaws.  It’s really quite strange that I get so excited when I see dogs on leashes.  That’s really not something to worry about in America.  I mean, obviously stray dogs are a problem, but not anything like the problem it is in India.  The same really goes for cats, as well.  The only difference is that I never saw a pet cat.  I once saw a kitten outside of where I was working and I had no food for it, so I highly debated taking a rickshaw somewhere to get it some food.  Sadly enough, I didn’t have time.  It really is quite upsetting, but then again, there’s Latika.  Latika is the beautiful greyish tan kitty who lives outside our hotel, and she seems just fine.  Sure she may not look as thick and shiny as my cats at home, but she seems happy to be able to do her own thing.

My first experience with a creature that you don’t see in America every day was a praying mantis.  We were touring the sets in Filmcity when we saw these beautiful pink flowers.  I was looking close at one and suddenly screamed because my nose was only inches away from a beautiful praying mantis.  At least I think that’s what it was.  What makes me unsure is that usually these creatures are green, but this guy was a brown color.  Either way, it was so exciting for me because I had never seen one before.

Speaking of excitement…  I don’t think I had ever been as excited as I was on the day I saw an elephant.  Sure I had seen elephants before, but always only in zoos where they are stuck behind fences to be goggled at.  But this beauty, this elephant was on the sidewalk.  On the sidewalk!  How many people do you know who can say they saw an elephant chilling on the sidewalk!?  And she was beautiful, too.  She was huge and grey, as elephants are, but she was stylish, too.  She wore a gorgeous red material on her back which really brought out her eyes. Ha, jk…  Anyway, the funny thing is that I didn’t see her at first.  On of the people I was with had to point her out a couple times because I kept missing her.  Who misses an elephant?  That was really quite funny, but what’s more is that we were passing by her in a rickshaw so we yelled at the driver to stop.  He slammed on his breaks resulting in me flying off the seat a couple inches.  But in the end, we got a picture of her, and Anthony, Luis and I couldn’t have been happier.

On our way to Agra we also saw peacocks monkeys and camels.  I couldn’t believe how many monkeys there were just hanging out on the rooftops!  They would run and climb and jump and play with each other, and this was all in the middle of a city!  I even got to see one somewhat up close.  That was actually rather scary because monkeys are not exactly friendly creatures.  He bared his teeth at me and I immediately ran away.  I was also lucky enough to see a camel up close, as well.  I knew camels were big, but I never knew how towering they actually are.  They’re such odd looking animals, but the are seriously cool.

I never expected to see all the different types of creatures that I did on this trip.  I absolutely hoped very much that I would get to see elephants and monkeys, but never did I dream that that would become a reality.  I feel so lucky and so appreciative that I am able to tell these stories, but also that I am able to take care of my pets.  I don’t know what I’d do without my Marilyn!

Sincerely

A Girl Who Misses Her Cat

P.S.

I forgot to mention the cows.  So in short, there were cows like nobody’s business. Everywhere you looked cows were in the middle of the street, chilling on the sidewalk and doing whatever they pleased.  People honked their horns at cars that couldn’t move if they tried, but if a cow was in the way, people patiently waited for it to move.  It was all very funny.

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When I first started experiencing life back in the US, the first thought that came to my mind was, “wow…everything is so boring here.” It could be that we were constantly busy doing exciting things in India or because there are not tons of busy people doing various things from all day and all night in India, but in the US, everyone was at work. Mostly I believe that the energy in the US is different from that in Mumbai. It’s hard to explain…you can just feel it. There is a certain kind of buzzing vibe in Mumbai, while the US feels much calmer to me.

When I landed in the US, I really wasn’t very excited. The fun was over – back to reality and the complications of everyday life. Back to what I suppose is considered my “home” by its denotative meaning. However if someone asked me if I felt like I was home, I would say no – that I don’t really have a home; that one place where I feel I belong. The only place that comes kind of close would be school. So knowing that I had just left the best thing that has ever happened to me, and headed to somewhere I’m not fond of was pretty depressing. Not to mention I made some incredible, life-long  friends along the way and the idea of not seeing them every day was definitely sad. And the thought of us never being close like we were on the trip, once we get back to our regular lives, is really not something I’m looking forward to. I don’t get attached to people very easily, but after spending a month with some of the most amazing people I’ve ever known, I feel a bit lost without them. Especially Ms. Shauna, my roommate and favorite dancer, who kept me laughing when I needed it – actually whether I needed it or not haha. She was and continues to be an incredible friend. The friendships I made with some individuals definitely ended up being one of the biggest highlights of the trip and I couldn’t be happier about that.

Roomies and friends for life ❤

So many incredible people 🙂

Of course being back isn’t all that bad. I missed driving and was definitely happy to see people from home. I missed some food and above most things, I was glad to sleep! Don’t get me wrong, I cherished every moment of the trip and do not regret doing things instead of getting real sleep, but I was quite happy to curl up in my bed and sleep for a long time when I got back.

Other than adjusting to simple things, the biggest difference I have noticed is that I compare everything in the US to India, or the other way around. Mostly it is just in my head, but I find myself constantly noticing the differences and just really respecting both cultures for their uniqueness. Also, the trip has made me incredibly grateful for everything I have in my life. I have never been one to take things for granted, but going to India is a humbling experience that allowed me to once again step back and appreciate all aspects of my life.

My life has changed because of this trip – in countless ways. I learned so much about people, life, the media industry, India, and of course, myself. This trip opened up so many doors for me. Maybe not literally, but in my mind, I feel like I can do so much more with my life. I had never really thought about traveling before this and now I can’t wait to explore somewhere new. Because I was given this opportunity, I don’t feel like I have any boundaries anymore. I was able to make this happen (with the help of some amazing people), so now I feel like anything, no make that everything, is possible.

Me at the Gateway of India

Much love and thanks to everyone who was on the trip! I miss each of you dearly and am so grateful for the memories we made together. Best wishes in all that you do. ❤

Om shanti shanti shanti—Let there be peace, peace, and peace alone

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Today marks one week since I’ve returned from India to the United States. Overall, I enjoyed my time abroad, but it feels good to be home. As the saying goes: home is where the heart is. Since being back in the States for a week, I’ve realized the myriad of American customs that I missed experiencing on a day-to-day basis.

First off, I never thought I’d write about the fact that I miss the concept of a line. In India, it seems as if people are incapable of lining up anywhere with any semblance of order. In essence, lines in India are organized chaos, bereft of any acknowledgment that someone is next in line. During my time in India, this concept drove me insane. It just seemed so horribly inefficient to randomly serve people in a line by not doing it in an organized manner.

Second, traffic. Much like how lines are not organized, traffic that I witnessed in Mumbai has a very survival of the fittest mentality attached to it. Cars, trucks, rickshaws and motorcycles jockey for position with reckless abandon trying to get to point B from their point of origin. If it’s narrowly missing pedestrians or other motorists, it’s pretty much on the cards for any driver in Mumbai.

Thirdly, I like how I can finally communicate with others without feeling helpless. One of the most frustrating things for me during my time in India was not having a great command of Hindi. I would know basic directional phrases to tell rickshaw drivers, for example, but some drivers would continue to engage me in Hindi despite the fact I did not know any other phrases. Though we did go to places around India where English was spoken, when it came to going to places where English wasn’t predominantly spoken, that’s when it would get a little bit hairy.

Fourthly, I enjoy being able to get from point A to point B on my own volition, rather than relying on taxis or on rickshaws. I consider myself very independent, and I will depend on my car to get from place to place instead of counting on other methods of transportation. It was definitely an adventure each time I would jump into a rickshaw, but, I don’t necessarily miss it.

In sum, I enjoyed my time in India despite the differences in culture between there and America. It was definitely an adventurous journey, one that I will remember and cherish for the rest of my life.

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For my last blog post I’ve decided to provide some advice for those who plan on going to India. I’ve observed a lot of stuff during my month stay and these are all things that I think you should know. Also recommendations so without further ado here we go:

1.) Don’t get in a rickshaw with a shaky looking guy who speaks English and says he’s a tour guide. He’s lying! If you go to Mumbai in run into him please apprehend him and call me immediately. He’s on my most wanted list. If you would like to know the story behind this please read this Getting Mugged: Mumbai Style.

2.) An Indian head bobble gesture will be the answer to all your questions in India. Put this to the test as soon as you get there. I guarantee you if you ask anyone a question that is what your going to get.

3.) Don’t purchase any gifts or better yet anything until you’ve been to Colaba. Chances are they have it for half the price you’ve seen the item for anywhere else.

4.) If your rickshaw driver cranks/winds up a little notch at the bottom of his meter your going to get ripped off.

5.) Use the phrase “Nahi, nahi”, which means no. It will get you anything you want.

6.) If your shopping. Don’t act press to buy an item. (Hood translation for press is don’t act enthused by something or someone. I say this because you turn the store or booth into an instant buyers market. Once a price is offered and you say “Nahi, Nahi”. The counter offer will be very satisfying. Try it!

7.) Hit up Chilis on Wednesday night in Hiranandani for lady’s night! Buy one get one free drinks! Just bring a lady with you and have her purchase your drinks for you. Also have some one who knows the song “Ladies Night” with you. *Cues the Luis video* lol

SU Bollywood’s very own Luis Lopez

8.) Keep something on you that can be converted into a weapon in the event that a hijra approaches your auto and attempts to violate you. Worse experience in India. I won’t go into details

9.) Have all types of bills and change on you. Indians don’t believe in having change for you when you purchase items. Your in the wrong when you don’t have the exact amount for your purchase

10.) You have to try an Alphonso mango! Best Mango I ever had in my life. Words can’t describe how delusions those Mangos we’re. Like I said they’re a must try.

11.) If you have to be somewhere by a certain time leave out 2 hours in advance. Traffic is beyond ridiculous. Sunday’s are the only semi traffic free days.

12.) Last, but not least savor the moment. Enjoy India and embrace the culture except for in terms of using the bathroom. Won’t go into details, but have toilet paper handy. Back to the point! Try the food, take a walk in an Indian neighborhood, have conversations with people and enjoy it. Yolo is retired. It’s Zindagi people! Zindagi!

That’s my list and also all for me and SU Bollywood blog. Thank you to all who read our blogs daily. This was truly an amazing experience that I’ll forever cherish.

Write this down, take a picture or print it out. It’ll come in handy. One thing that I didn’t include that should be a given if your visiting India is going to the Taj Mahal. If your coming to India and not making your way to Agra then your priorities are backwards. It’s an incredible sight and there’s nothing like it. One of the best experiences I have ever had. So much history around its creation. Highly recommend that you pay it a visit.

That is all. Namaste people!

Riding through Agra. Don’t know why Luis is in my picture

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