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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

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.

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

All Good Things…

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.

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

Well, it’s been a week since I returned to the U.S. and what a week it’s been. One of the things I loved about India was how busy I was at all times. If I didn’t have anything to do, I could simply take a walk and absorb some more Indian culture, or catch a rickshaw to any part of the city. Since I’ve been home, I have felt completely useless.

The last week in India, we were all talking about what we missed about the U.S., mainly food. The first day back I had cheeseburgers for dinner, which was amazing. I still haven’t had the Big Mac that I said would be my first meal back. I had spaghetti and meatballs the other day. And yes, I had a BLT my second day back. I missed beef…a lot.

My friends and family are already starting to get annoyed with how much I talk about India. There were just so many experiences that I can connect to so many topics. I think the biggest thing I miss was the chaos and discomfort. Since I have been home, I haven’t really had to go out of my way to do anything. Everything is so neat and outlined.

Horn OK Please sticker on the back of trucks, so rickshaws know to honk their horn continuously and obnoxiously when you pass any and every thing

Another thing I miss is the rickshaws. I know that may come as a shock to anyone who has read my blogs, because of the amount I complain about them. Every rickshaw ride was a new adventure. I actually came close to getting hit in a rickshaw a few times, and had countless bad experiences with hijras and beggars. Going from that to driving within the lines in my parent’s car with A/C is a drastic change. I think that is a good metaphor for India: Where America is driving within the designated lines, India is driving wherever you please as long as you get to your destination in one piece. Chaotic, yet efficient.

Feeling small on the side of the Taj.

I also really miss the group. Going on the trip, I knew everyone through class, but didn’t really know anyone’s true personality. There were a few people on the trip that I actually went in with negative views towards. I loved our group though. Everyone was so different and brought something new to the table. Needless to say, I left India with completely changed viewpoints of every single person on the trip. I am actually pretty upset that since I am going abroad in the Spring, and a few people are going abroad in the Fall, I’ll have to wait a full year to see them.

Roommate Picture: Gautam and I at the Taj

I am so glad I did this trip. Not only was it great work experience (I got to see two major TV shows in production and post) but also it was great life experience. I talked, in my first post, about never before leaving the country. This was an insane trip to have as your first time outside the U.S. I want to see what I’ve been missing out on now. I want to start traveling to exotic places and experiencing different cultures.

I can’t believe it’s over. This trip went by so fast, but I enjoyed every minute of it. I’ve talked about it so much already, and I know I will continue to talk about it for the rest of my life. I also have decided that I am not done with Mumbai. I will return later, be it a few years or a few decades. So for now, namaste India.

Life is journey.

 

A journey to find yourself.

During my first week in India, I was instructed to be a traveler and not a tourist. Don’t get me wrong, I have traveled to four out of the seven continents on this Earth before the age of 21. However, traveling to India was the life experience that helped me transition from a tourist to a traveler.

After being home for almost a week, I have been able to reflect on my varied experiences in India. For me, India represented the first time in my travel journeys that I was ousted out of my comfort zone. I was challenged to try new things, think about things differently and open my mind to a culture that is quite different from my own.

Along the way of venturing off into the unknown, and making each day “epic” in its own right, I developed relationships with a group people who have added depth and breadth to my life experiences. Iris, was the story-teller, with her facts of the day and fanny-pack, she was the little lady who had come to India prepared. Kelvin, was the comedic-relief, there wasn’t a day that went by that he didn’t make me laugh. Gautam, finally succeeded in making me “get weird” and just being an amazing person. Anthony reminded me not to take life so seriously and that its okay to be silly, even though I had to SMH alot. Luis was the trip’s itunes library and on-site singer. Danielle, was more than my roommate, but she became like my sister. I’m having a hard time falling asleep without someone to talk me to sleep. Lexa, was the group’s eager-beaver, she wanted to take Mumbai and India by storm and she definitely succeeded in doing that. And last but certainly not least, was Mina, she became my intern-partner-in-crime and travel comrade, her kindred spirit helped me get through many days.

Although, there is no place like home. India has graced me with many memories that will always make me burst out laughing, shed a few tears and want to change the world.

I’m not sure the next time I’ll be able to jet-set to Mumbai, hop on a rickshaw in Delhi or drift amongst the clouds at the Taj in Agra. Finally, find that elephant to ride or pet a tiger   and chase another monkey. Have my second coconut, haggle for another oil lamp in Bombay or push my way through a crowded train car in Vikhroli. Bust another move in Bollywood dance class, unify my mind, body and spirit in yoga or get overtaken by a Arabian sea wave in Juhu. However, these are all fond memories that I know I will always cherish.

I truly miss SU Bollywood and am sad I won’t be reunited with everyone before I graduate in May 2013. But if my trip to India taught me anything its the motto “Zindagi.”

You only live once guys, make each day memorable, and do something you’ll never regret.

Wishing everyone all the best, and remember om shanti shanti shanti (let there be peace, peace peace).

Namaste!