Wednesday, November 14, 2012

India - day 3 udaipur and day 4 jaipur, rajstan, india 2012.11.13


day 3 Udaipur and day 4 Jaipur



i took a bus last night to Jaipur which is farther north and east of Udaipur, still in the Rajasthan state.  it's way more touristy than any of the previous cities and as such, quite a bit of the town is dedicated to bazaars or open air shopping markets.  just about everything bought and sold in India is from these strip mall storefronts that hang out into the street.  it's a pretty bizarre experience…so many people, so many goods for sale…it's just in your face 24/7.  bikes, scooters, buses, cars, pedestrians, cows, elephants, camels, horses, horse drawn carts, motorcycles…anything and everything is in the street going every which way.  anything and everything is for sale,  i asked my driver in Mumbai about drugs he said yes…they are a problem…they are easy to get and everyone is doing them.  that's not awesome…and some random guy in Udaipur confirmed that by offering to sell me a joint lol.  i suppose that part is pretty much where we're at in Washington and Colorado now…that's a bit breakthrough.  i'm still in disbelief that they'll be selling mary j in liquor stores or whatever to anyone over 21. 

Festive Diwali Colors in Udaipur

so yesterday i was a huge mess. i spent the morning walking around Udaipur….checking out the awesome shops and sampling food on the way up to their famous temples and the grand palace (i'll have to look up the formal name for it later).  it was actually quite a hike through narrow alleys with motorcycles and scooters zooming by all the time.  they are known for their miniature paintings in Udaipur so i went to one of the artist schools and got the full rundown of how they make them, what goes into making each of the colors and the whole bit.  it was pretty interesting…and almost makes me wish i was more into collecting/buying/whatever art.  its just not my thing i guess…  

Delicious Fried Street Food in Udaipur

i really felt like i connected with the people of India in that town.  i can't put my finger on anything specific, but it was nice.  the palace was amazing and huge…the best part was that Udaipur has another smaller palace out in the lake that you can see from the main palace.  it felt like it was just a royal city.  i'm more into looking at the outside of the palaces and capturing the symmetry and beauty of the form so looking from the main palace out a tiny window to see another palace that looks to be floating on the lake was just awesome.  there was even a very Arabian (or at least my personal definition of Arabian) boat out in the lake that i captured.  it was fantastic. lots of great shots, good food and stuff.  the downside of Updaipur on the hill is that i was zonked out after that…around 2 or something which made for an interesting wait for my 9 pm bus to Jaipur. 

Udaipur Palace Entry...Looking Out

after the palace, i went back the to agency where i bought my bus tickets and sat on their bench for a few hours and just zoned out.  i knew i wanted to get some food before my bus and maybe take a taxi up to the palace area to see the area all lit up with the Diwali lights but wasn't sure how much energy i could muster to pull that off.  i ended up grabbing a nice meal (for something like $3), sitting more, reading a bit of my book and just feeling miserably tired.  i was like "i'm in India and all i want to do is shower and sleep but i can't do either."  i considered going to ask a hotel or hostel if i could rent a room for a few hours but figured the awkwardness of that request + the language barrier would have put me over the edge.  and i'm cheap.  

Painting on an interior wall of the Udaipur Palace

i finally boarded the bus at 9 pm and as i was getting settled, this Indian guy came up to me and started making small talk.  where are you from. america. oh, Obama. yeah, that america…and the usual…then he was like "are you Christianese?"  i laughed a bit and said yes, i'm christian.  over the next hour or two, we talked about how he was also a christian, his whole testimony, my whole testimony, how he's working with campus crusade for Christ in India….working with 6 of 30 villages they are working with…his family, my family…what i do at church how long I've been there, denominations, ministry in India (because WTF)…i can't imagine translating what we do as ministry in the us into a functioning ministry in India.  in the US, the only other religions that constitute any significant percentage of the population are different variations of Christianity - Catholicism, Mormons, church of Christ scientist…and on and on…so it's not too much of a stretch to step out and learn about them building tangent knowledge onto a core of christian understanding. 

Udaipur "Floating" Palace with awesome boats :)

in India, there are TONS of religions.  i talked to a Hindu priest today and he said he has been a priest for 20 years and he still doesn't know all the gods in the Hindu religion.  that just doesn't compute for me.  what? you don't know all the gods and you're a priest?  it's not just another religion, it's a TOTALLY different type of religion.  there's also Zoroastrianism, Parsi, Muslim, Buddhitst, Jain and i'm sure many others, on top of the ones we have here.  he said that part of the reason Christianity takes off when someone in a town is converted is that it really pulls together the community…instead of having 4 different religions that nobody in town is fully committed to, they just get on fire for god and it blows up. not sure if that's translating here as well as he shared it in his broken English…but it feels like a huge mission field out here.

Don't forget to Open Your Shoes!!

i also realized how limited i am in my current ministry abilities.  i have a decent idea as to what needs to go into a successful high school ministry but still haven't' put all of the pieces together in a full, working ministry that really does what i know it can do for our youth and leaders. I feel good that we are headed down the right track but don't have any successes under my belt to lean on.  building on that, i don't yet have any ability to translate ministry for high school age youth to an adults ministry.  i think i have enough kid-savvy to translate to children's ministry and that's always been a passion area of mine…but scaling up to adults…whoa.  maybe it's the extra pressure of preaching to peers vs teaching from my experience as an older kid….maybe it's the money bit…dunno for sure.  the bar is definitely higher. 

Stand Selling Diwali Decor

so money.  let's tangent for a bit.  we should not give out of obligation, but in response and as an act of worship.  my personal giving strategy has historically been to give a lower % directly to the church through auto-deduction…then flex the rest to adapt to needs of the moment (united way giving, high school ministry, fundraisers, missions giving, etc) I have never been one to keep tight books but every once in awhile i do go back and mentally add things up and see how i'm doing.  it's worked well for me so far and i like that it gives me the flexibility to respond to God's calling.  it allows me…forces me…to keep the door open to giving in the moment.  we need to be stable givers to our church and i highly encourage people to use the auto-bill pay or whatever function to tithe.  but on top of that…i think it's super important to give as an act of worship.  think about it…pray about it…or just leave the door open in your head to giving when you feel something tugging on your heart.  one of my core interactions with the bible and one of the more powerful is that when i feel something tugging on my heart to respond and i actually do.  as a general rule, i don't give money to panhandlers…which has been a challenge here in India with missing limbs, 6 kids hanging off their arms, medical needs and the like. panhandlers, especially when it's routine, just don't make me feel like i should give.  i don't believe them, i'm just not moved to respond to 99.9% of their "give me money" things.  but every once in a great while, i will.  when it feels right.  whatever…that's me. 

One of the Gates at the Udaipur Palace

i suppose i mention that because the guy i met said he only gets 2500 rupees per month from his mission team.  that's like $50.  he has a wife and a child and was actually going to Jaipur with 4 other guys to a ministry conference.  that tugged on my heart so i get to go look up Suresh in Udaipur with Campus Crusade when i get home.  its not going to be easy…might not even be possible but whatever.  challenge the impossible.  stick it to the man :)
  
Lake Out Front of the Amber Palace, Jaipur, Rajasthan, India

so yeah, another night of pseudo sleep on the bus last night. landed in Jaipur with help from my (yet again) one English speaking guy on the bus :).  they don't call out the stops in English…and i never know exactly which stop i need to get off on…so without them, i would've been hosed. anyway, so it worked out and i landed in jaipur. i just started walking, determined to find out where i was based on the map from my guidebook and i did :)  that felt great.  nothing was open at 7 or whatever am so i went and grabbed a chai and chilled around the main circle in town for a bit.  

Interior Gate of the Amber Palace

i resolved to find out how to take the city bus so asked which bus went to the "amber palace" (the big destination in Jaipur, 12 km outside of town proper). i received a positive response in some other language and hopped on.  the bus would cost 10 rupees or just less than 20 cents.  fantastic.  i rode it out, the bus packed out and the drivers (they have a main driver and another guy that recruits people to ride and collects payment) made fun of me for something that they thought was funny.  they asked for my payment and asked for 20.  i was like no, its 10.  i gave them 10 and they jokingly pressed me for more.  to respond jokingly, i gave them some of the change i was given at the Korean airport.  i was like, there, that's 100. :D  they were fascinated by the money and i showed them a few more coins.  it was fun to break down the language barrier without really verbally communicating.  i gave them 5 more rupees to make light of it and hopped off the bus.

Starting the hike up to the Amber Palace
the amber fort is huge and not what i was expecting.  it reminded me of one of those Tibetan monolithic monasteries up on the hill.  the amber palace has a lake and gardens down below and what looked like the great wall of chine (India?) running out from it in many directions.  I went and toured, and took to humming a deep bass note which resonated differently in each of the rooms…fun.  i had a great time hiking up to (and what a hike!!) and touring the grounds.  one of the big attractions there is to pay for an elephant take you to the top. i think it was only like $18 but the line was seriously a football field long with tourists.  they get bused in an out…living out their packaged experience as happy as can be. it's probably a safer way to consume India as a tourist but seems so fake looking at them in their tourist buses, eating together being ushered around….whatevs.  after running down most of the stairs from the palace, i hit the little town at the bottom, just past the palace. i was shocked that NONE of the tourists were there.  well…at least not outside of their vehicles.  i had some nice friend pea/lentil balls, a samosa and a deep fried, breaded sandwich thing.  tasty :)  while i was ordering, a beefy turbaned guy (i think he was in Indiana Jones) asked me where i was from (america. oh, Obama?) and helped me understand what i was about to eat.  it was great to be on the receiving end of some local insight :)  i sat back and snacked on it, picked up a water and waited for the local bus to come through again.  i went back into town, saw more local sights and shopped a bit. 

Looking out the back of the Amber Palace
i ended up in what turned out to be a fundraising gift shop for one of the local temples.  after viewing some silver and other wares from one of the local vendors, (and complaining all the while how tired and thirsty i was) he took me up to this shop (which was empty at the time) and said here, just relax here and drink your water.  it was fantastic and peaceful.  there were rugs, carvings, pottery, statues and the usual touristy stuff but i just loved the feel of the place.  i loved that he literally said here…make yourself at home, really.  he told the guy running the shop to leave me alone and chastised him multiple times for talking to me.  it was a nice change from the earlier part of the day filled with "hello sir, come here" "look at this" "great deal, just for you" .  i relaxed there for a bit and bought a little Ganesha statue (the Hindu elephant god) and talked with the priest a bit. 

Hallway inside the Amber Palace

i walked (way further than i expected) to the main bus station in town, bought a ticket to Delhi at 4 pm and settled in for 1.5 hrs before it left.  i had some fun discussion with a few local shop owners who, after buying a soda, invited me to sit in their seats behind the counter to enjoy it. i love that hospitality and trust.  it's like immediate friend/family status is granted.  i'm convinced it's not just the customer factor either.  it's genuine…fantastic. India.

Looking out the front of the Amber Palace

capping that off, i'm on the bus to Delhi now.  i should be there ~9 pm where i can go on the hunt for my hostel and see if they actually held my reservation.  but whatever…it's just 1 more night :)  if everything works out, i should be going on a Taj Mahal tour tomorrow from Delhi, all showered and cleaned up, ready to roll.  i even bought a shaving razor and might take a dent out of this beard tonight.  on that…a random guy called out to me today as i walked by "hey ginger beard! i had a ginger beard professor at university" I was like cool and kept walking.  i get sooooo many random hellos and even Hindi words yelled my way…i just smile, keep walking and throw a shakra (hang loose) or thumbs up or whatever.  i'm feeling good about this thing…(probably shouldn't say that…with my luck the bus will crash or hit a camel on the way to Delhi)

The Famous Pink Palace in Jaipur

cheers!

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

India - Day 3, 6 AM


day 3, 6 am - north of mumbai



so the whole train thing didn't exactly work out.  i knew i was wait listed and that the train was the only major piece of my itinerary that wasn't fully baked...and it didn't work out.  I made it up to #7 on the wait list but didn't make the final cut.  the whole train was sold out on all classes.  I was immediately mobbed by a bunch of shady characters who wanted to "help" me get on the train.  at first i was stoked though wary of their eagerness to help (oh this is that friendly Indian attitude people always talk about!!)...only to very quickly realize that they were just scalping tickets.  locals pay ~$45 for the ticket i wanted.  i had put down $78 at the foreigners rate, they were asking $180.  i explored a few other options by train but finally called in a lifeline by calling the driver who had been taking me around Bombay.


as i waited for him to come pick me up, i sat out front of the bus station with the porters, hoping that the scalpers would leave me alone if i did so (they did).  the porters offered me a seat on one of their baggage carts which i gladly accepted.  i had been mulling about the train station with my pack on for the last 2 hrs and was stressed and over it.  

their offer opened the door for conversation, starting with the typical "where are you from" which always leads to a response of "oh...Obama".  it's crazy...but everyone, literally everyone i tell that i'm american responds with that.  my driver actually started quoting off facts about how minorities and women gave Obama the election...how Indians think we're crazy that we spent 6 billion on the election (Indians are not alone in that perspective...i'm still like WTF about it...but anyways).  back to Mumbai central...the porters turned out to be Muslim which only became awkward when their second question/comment was "bin laden laden laden".  I was like...yeah...uh...it's crazy what kind of emotions went through my head.  i was like wow...i'm alone, surrounded by Muslims and you bring up the fact that my country took out, very publicly, one of the leaders of your religion.  that definitely created some tension and fear in me, i'm not gonna lie. they kept moving physically closer to me as the conversation progressed which might have been a cultural thing...but it also invaded my cultural thing but whatever.  one of the guys noticed my "seek justice" bracelet which, immediately following the bin laden bit just felt weird.  i was embarrassed by what we did. it's just incongruent. i mean i get it...but still, how is it ok for us to issue a hit on someone like that.  yeah yeah, sometimes you just "have to" whatever. next, he asked about my pink breast cancer awareness bracelet which at least relieved some of the religious tension...but brought on a whole different kind of awkward.  they were actually friendly and not at all aggressive...but wow. my driver showed up after a few minutes of me staring off into space trying to appear disinterested in more discussion.

I took an Eagle AC Sleeper Bus 14 hrs north to Udaipur
whats not so hot about this particular turn of events is the small fact that the bus company didn't have any buses running to the places i actually wanted to go - Jaipur and Delhi - but got me close (7-8 hr bus ride away from Jaipur)  by putting me on a bus to Udaipur (that was some fun back and forth...i was like Jaipur? he responds Udaipur.  like no, you idiot, it's a diff town LoL).  Udaipur is still a great step in the right direction...something like a 14 hr bus ride north from Bombay (Mumbai)...but i have no idea how i'll get to either Jaipur or Delhi when i get there.

Tuk Tuk from Udaipur Bus Station into Old Town
that combined with the fact that i still haven't showered since arriving in India had me in quite a state.  after boarding the bus, i immediately passed out...around 630 as my body is still adjusting to the massive time difference  we transferred buses once where i kinda freaked out and jumped up quickly from my nap to follow the one guy on the bus who spoke any English as i knew i was going on the same route as he was.  i then fell back asleep for several hours until i woke for the first potty break and let me say...if you think roadside stops in the us are bad...well....yeah, let's just say that they are several orders of magnitude "not better" here.  there are squatty potties and normal urinals but it just smells horrible.  after, i'm torn between not washing my hands (the whole don't drink the water thing) and washing them. i ended up washing them and realized that i had hand sanitizer in my bag :) i'm just glad it was dark because the potty smelled (and it wasn't a porta potty...it was a full blown bathroom) like something died in one of our porta potties minus that blue pseudo clean porta potty smell that at least attempts to cover the horrid smells.  i just tried to get in, do my business and get out without breathing too much of it in.

Old Udaipur Alley

i ran back to the bus and jumped in my bunk, not wanting to be left behind.  it's actually a fairly nice bus.  as we started moving again, i was again overwhelmed by fear and a feeling of total helplessness...that i'm off in some "Arab" country...with dirt roads, trash everywhere, a foreign language and a few Christmas lights strung up here and there to celebrate the festival of lights...and that's all probably very true...but what i realized after several hours of that is that i'm just sitting here living in fear. this is basically what i love t challenge others to do and what I've said i want to challenge in myself - fear.  not just any fear, because we should be afraid of cobras, ninjas and great whites...but unwarranted fear.  fear because we do not understand.  i should not be afraid of "Muslims" i should not be afraid of people with turbans or people who speak a different language and look at me like i'm weird. i am weird. i'm the one who speaks a different language...i'm the outcast, travelling halfway across the world to India.  so i'm challenging my fear and not based on any conscious realization or enlightenment that I've had but more so on the basis of my faith.

Walking under the Festive Udaipur Diwali decorations

one of my favorite verses is 2 Corinthians 12:9-10 "'my grace is all you need. my power works best in weakness' so now i am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me. that's why i take pleasure in my weaknesses, and in the insults, persecutions, hardships and troubles that i suffer for Christ. For when i am weak, then i am strong." this verse resonates deeply with me because it helps me to see that God never had it in his plan for me to be good at everything and very clearly tells me that its on purpose.  i look at this like 2 line graphs, overlaid (cause i'm a dork like that)...when i'm doing something i'm naturally good at...maybe computers...maybe in debate class whatever...i can do that all on my own and i can do it well.  God has given me all the tools that i need to do it well.  i don't need to lean on god in those moments...so lets say that graph is 100% me, 0% God (or maybe 95/5 ;) ).  in those moments, i can glorify god by doing my best and working as hard as i can to glorify the god that built me the way that i am.  on the other end of the graph as my strengths are at or near 0, that's where i don't have a choice but to lean on God.  those are the moments i hate because i'm awkward and to be honest, stubborn in those (these) moments. that's when i don't have a choice but to lean on God and just give it up.  "God, i don't have what it takes to glorify you in this moment, please work through me to glorify yourself through me." those are the moments when God does amazing things and we are humbled.  when we give it to him to take charge "dude, you know i'm lost here/frustrated here/pissed off here/afraid here. please help!"...he is glorified because he gets to work.  we humble ourselves, he is glorified and in return, our faith is built. win...win...win win win.  anyways.  it's in taking that step and acknowledging that he is working...that we want him to work...and need him to work that we are reaching out to him and he loves that.  its like when Asher asks me to help him put his shoes on (because "dad, i can't")...i love it. it just melts my heart.

Udaipur Temple Detail

so yeah...in saying that, in these moments where i'm living and acting out of fear, i'm resisting what God wants to do in me and through me in the moment.  and there have been a lot of those moments on this trip.  I feel pretty dumb that it took me this long to realize what i was doing and how i was reacting...i was out here like "I got this...this is where i show everyone how strong i am and how bold i am" nope buddy, you couldn't be more wrong. this is where i get humbled and get to give it up to god to hold me up, to work through me and to glorify himself.  plant yourself on your fat face Kyle...

Colorful Old Udaipur

 we just stopped at another roadside stop and i realized why the toilets smell so bad...they aren't actually toilets..you pee into them...it drains on the ground under the urinal...and drains to a pipe that just runs onto the ground outside...holy moly batman...not awesome. i'm just glad i haven't been eating more otherwise i would have had to go number 2 and experience a whole different level of pleasant.  this place was a dirt lot with a cement building in the back and the pottys on the side.  the back building had a kitchen where i ordered a "sala dosa" and a tea for a little less than a dollar.  the sala dosa was like a large crispy crepe served with 2 dipping sauces (well...i have no idea what they were for, i dipped :) ). one tastes like a spicy tomato soup, the other was creamy and fresh.  

Bus Station with Awesome Pottys and Food
i ate it quickly so as to not be left behind...and ended up having some time left over to sip my tea and talk with the English speaking guy.  he said we are 2 hrs out from Udaipur.  we have formally entered the state of Rajasthan (pretty sure i totally horked that spelling) and the land has shifted to something much more familiar to me.  the tropics of the south have dried up to something almost completely resembling the familiar Santa Maria landscape of dry, rolling hills with trees resembling oak and eucalyptus.  it's borderline desert with farming communities dotting the hillsides. there are a lot of cows and similar beasts roaming the hillsides as the sun comes over the horizon.

Udaipur Palace

these guys love to use their horns (the cars)...it's effectively the only form of traffic control in existence and simultaneously means "hey i'm passing" "get out of the way" "i'm in front" "seriously, move" and other fun interpretations...no matter what time of day.  i'm excited for this leg of the journey to wrap and see where i land.  it's supposed to be cooler up here which is very interesting.  i think we are headed into some large desert that crosses from India to Pakistan which adds it's own layer of foreboding to the mix.  map it and you'll have a better idea than i as to where i am :) i have a single map with Udaipur on it...so i roughly know where i am and where i need to get...but it feels odd.  anyways...

Sunday, November 11, 2012

India - Day 2 Part 1

day 2 part 1 - mumbai (bombay)



Its midday and I'm back at the hostel.  I have actually been here more times when i didn't have an active reservation than when I did.  I slept way too much last night...from 1 or 2 until 9 then another attempt at 1230 or so...I think i picked up a few more hours of sleep after that but spent the majority awake.  gotta love my body saying that it's 12 pm when it's actually 12 am :) 

Vegetable and Fruit Market
I had my first hostel community experience last night...an Asian guy named kit from the U.K. and a couple from...well, they were white, not sure where they were from...but we all somehow started chatting about this that and the other...kit was out on business (in Pune, where I hope to be in a week) and took 2 extra weeks to travel around.  the couple was coming up on the close of their 5 month (!?!?!) south east Asia trip, hostelling and limping around to different countries.  it was shocking at how similar our stories were..and not at the same time.  i guess a lot more people around the world have the same type of desires to get outside their normal culture/life for a bit.  i find myself desperately clinging to those things that i'm used to...that i love to play with when i'm home.  my Macbook is now my friend...my iPhone, the last holdout of my day to day life in the us with pics of family, the all too familiar Facebook and the like. 

on the next adventure, i'm pretty sure i wont be taking as large of a backpack, nor as many things.  I picked up some detergent, soap and shampoo today which will make tomorrow that much nicer. 

One of many Mumbai Slum markets
 this morning, my driver from yesterday met me out front and we immediately hit the slums.  it was an affront to all my senses as we started out walking through the vegetable and fruit markets.  he must know me as he skipped the fish and meat markets today.  the veg/fruit markets are different as they just throw any bad stuff into the aisles...where customers, cows and the like trample them down into a not so friendly on the nose muck.  the shop owners frequently toss out the few English words they know in my direction in an attempt to sink a hook and get a response.  i awkwardly nod, say hello or wave...but still just feel like i have a glowing sign over my head saying "this guy doesn't belong here and isn't sure what he's doing"


Mumbai Holy Water






We drove around much of northern Mumbai today and I realized how glad i was that i had found this driver.  he took me to an area of holy water...it's a big pool in the middle of some beachfront slums (yeah, i was shocked) where legend has it, one of the Hindu gods shot an arrow into the ground to create a well of water.  it hasn't been dry since...and that was over 3000 years.  it was a fantastic retreat...lots of kids, families and the like just living life.  several kids played cricket, others bathed in the holy water (with the ducks of course) while others took the seeds out of chilis...it felt like a great day where people were just living.  community...vibrant life...ahhhh...

Holy Cricket Game Batman!

i have been living off of bottled water vs using my filter as it's cold when i buy it.  the heat has been off and on...but when it's on, it's oppressing like no other.  i'm a wuss...i don't like heat (and i don't think it likes me).  

i had some great daal and paneer chili for lunch (with cold coke, no ice) which was fantastic.  i'm hoping this train ride will give me a chance to clear my mind and prepare me for my 7 days in Delhi.  assuming i get a seat, i plan to read up on the city, read some of the books i brought and take in the scene.  i don't know...that sounds like i have way more of a plan than i do...i have no idea what i'm doing for 6 of the next 7 days (i reserved my trip to the Taj Mahal as you have to reserve tickets a day in advance and i didn't want to have to worry about it). i really want to find a spot where i can chill and take in the scene...maybe that starts at the hostel...it definitely could have here if i were staying longer.

Mumbai is a city inside of a tropical jungle

not sure what I'm looking for here, not sure how to find it...whatever.

i suppose i'll head back down to the car and see whats up.  it's approaching the warmest part of the day here...yay :)

Saturday, November 10, 2012

India - Day 1

day 1 - mumbai (bombay)




I arrived in Bombay at 2 am and gradually eased out into the city. I really didn't have a plan for what I was going to do with my day (going along with the whole "i'll just feel it out" deal) and that hit me square in the face when a guy came up and asked me where I was going. I was like...ummm...I don't really know. I changed some money and got in line for a prepaid taxi and really wasn't certain where I was going to start my day (at 3 am) as most things would still be closed. I settled on going to my hostel even though I wasn't actually going to check in until 3 pm for the night. The ride out of the airport and through the various districts of the city shattered my preconceived view of the city and left me feeling horrible, naked...raw. Coming out of the airport, the slums were overwhelming, overflowing onto the streets, burning trash here and there with tons of stray dogs wandering around cleaning up after the day, searching for food.
Mumbai Slums
   
The slums are not so much an area of Mumbai, but more of the idea that where ever there is land that nobody else wants to live on for one reason or another, there will be slums. they are packed in around the airport, next to the train tracks, behind businesses...the overflow of human life, finding, creating a home where none was before. Rolling out of that, we hit the freeway and toured through the night. I felt lost in the sprawl of it all. I hadn't done my research on Mumbai and really didn't know if my driver was taking me somewhere to be beaten and mugged or to my hostel. truthfully, i wasn't sure I would know any difference between the two. We exited the freeway and pulled off into the area of the city where my hostel was. I realized that my intention to abandon as much of the western world as possible was a screaming success as I was greeted by more slums and peopled lined up sleeping on the streets. Back in Ventura, we have homeless people...quite a few in fact...sleeping on the streets but this was different. At home, we assume and are mostly correct in doing so, that most are drunks or crazy or druggies...and have come to grips with that.

Here in the "Fort" area of Mumbai, there were families lined up on the streets. there were working dads who live so far away from home, that they sleep on the streets where they will setup their vending stands in the morning, there are moms, dads and babies just crashed right there in front of me. and they have nothing. at home, homeless people have jackets and carts of stuff...here, they are just curled up with a blanket and a simple bag of necessities right on the sidewalk. not tucked in a corner, but lined up as if they had rented that slab of concrete/dirt/asphalt and it was theirs.

After a bit of searching we found my hostel. the guys were asleep and the bars across the door were locked but my driver didn't even hesitate to go ring the bell and wake them. I went in and the only available sitting area in the place was where one of the staff normally slept on the hard floor and actually where I'm typing at this very moment. I felt horrible and only managed a few awkward apologies before sitting down to do who knows what.

It was 5 am and all I had was lots of jet lag, a reservation for a bed later that day and my backpack. I dug through my papers and found some notes that I had brought to hopefully put some sort of shape to my perspective of the trip. I found a map and gladly reviewed that and got my bearings...I realized where my hostel was in relation to the rest of the city and read up on some of the things to do. After applying a liberal amount of bug spray, I finally ventured out into the city and started walking. It was 7 am and nothing was open. a few people were waking up from their sidewalk beds and brushing their teeth, scratching themselves in totally appropriate areas for everyone to see and basically doing exactly what I would do on a normal Saturday morning...in my bedroom.

After walking several blocks, I managed to discern that the direction i thought was north was south and vice-versa and hastily retreated to the home beacon that was my hostel. everyone there was still sleeping so i ventured back out, intent on making a day of this. I hit a few points that reaffirmed the direction i was going was correct and started feeling better about things. I stopped and bought some bottled water, then stopped at another spot for some tea and fried bread things which I later found were filled with a delicious spicy vegetable curry mix. The sun was rising and I had warm food in ma belle...things were improving. I meandered around and found my way to the famous Taj Mahal Hotel where I encountered a gentleman who offered to give me a tour.

The Famous Victoria Terminus

Given that I was running on some hybrid of zombie airplane sleep, jet lag and Chai tea and knowing that the day was only going to continue to get warmer (it was ~70 when I arrived and expected to hit highs in the mid-90's), I gladly negotiated a deal for a 3-4 hr tour of some of the typical tourist sights in Mumbai. We went from place to place seeing some amazing sights...but I felt like I was back in tourist mode, consuming this rich culture just for a photo. I accepted that given that I really wanted to see some of the sights and didn't want to walk to all of them. After a bit of that (I'll post pics and more thoughts later), he took me to one of his favorite food joints and shared a meal for 360 rupees ($6.50) including extra naan, rice and 2 sodas (no ice).

An Elaborate Jain Temple
 
The Mumbai Coastline

He dropped my at my hostel where the friendly staff checked me in and I settled into my bed. The room is a bit of a prison in that they offer a minimalist bed, blanket and have bars on the very small windows. I share a room with 2 other guys and have lockers for our things. I slept for a few hrs and woke at 9 pm...now not sure what mode my body is in or what i'm supposed to do. onward and upward...another adventure is just around the corner...actually, i heard the place on the corner has reasonable rates on cold beverages. :)

Traveller's Inn Dorm 

Saturday, September 01, 2012

poison

Seek Justice Strive to be better today than you were yesterday Dream beyond the possible to achieve the impossible Rise above the storms of today to see the blue skies ahead I may have had some bad mexican food today...my stomach is not feeling very nice at the moment. I realize that I like going to the same places to eat because I know what to expect there...I will even order the same thing once I find "the dish" that I like...over and over again. today kinda solidified the reasoning behind it for me...we went out to eat in santa barbara for lunch and dinner, spending somewhere close to $60 for the two meals. Nothing fancy but lunch was pretty bad and dinner was just ok. Seems like a huge waste of an opportunity to eat some great food. or maybe trying a new place is an opportunity to find a new favorite place. I guess I go with both lines of thought every now and again. today was not an awesome day to try new food. inspiring, right? but good food can inspire. if we have good food at each and every meal, that becomes our new mean...par...average and it takes something extraordinary to make a splash and actually hit our conscious radar. good food becomes the expectation. similar to our health. when we are doing fine, we take it for granted, dont even think about it...until we get food poisoning or the flu...then we just think/dream about those days when we werent sick. which brings me [mentally] back to life. when life is going well overall, we dont even bat an eye. we dont realize how good we have it...how much of a luxury it really is to walk out of our house (that we have equity in and are purchasing, in southern california, where we worry about which variety of palm makes the yard the most tropical), get into our newish hybrid (which connects automatically to our phone/mp3 player and continues playing our favorite music, gets great fuel efficiency and runs without fail 99.99% of the time) and roll down the hill (which boasts fantastic views of our town, the beach, the islands and surrounding mountains - all framed by palm trees) to a local cafe where we buy an over priced drink, sit in air conditioning and browse the web for more overpriced media on free wifi... then when we lose our job, or find out we have cancer, get in a car accident or something, we just want normal again. but that's not what you want. that's definitely not what i want. when we have "normal" we are bored. you simply arent built for normal. truthfully, we are physically built for something totally different than this life that we live...but I'm not going there right now. We are mentally built for something else. you see, we did not craft this idea of normal which we have completely bought into. someone else dreamed it up. the idea of the "american dream" is truly a construct and I think it's pretty darn self-absorbed and boring. I know there are people in the US who dont have many of the things that are outlined in the american dream manifesto...who struggle just to get by each and every day...but that's not the norm. lately people complain that "the 99%" have been ripped off...the media is telling is that there's this other 1% who control everything and use the rest of us to get what they want. there are definitely those out there who are doing just that...but the way it's pitched...it's messing with our minds. it's telling us that we have something coming...and that "they" stole it from us. it's just BS. the vast majority of americans have WAY more than they need. do you have a home? food on the table at night? dont have to worry about getting raped/mugged/robbed when you go to bed? worried more about which phone you're buying next than your retirement? yeah...i know the feeling. what i'm getting at is that the vast majority of US have plenty. dont buy the BS that you dont...because if you dont, it's probably your own fault. dont buy stuff on credit cards that you cant afford...it's just not a good habit to get in to. dont buy $5 caramel machiatos (which isnt even a real drink but whatev) every day then complain about how you can't afford your rent. scale your life to something less than your income and move forward. get over yourself and your entitlements...but it's actually not about you...this is about me. this whole thing is something I put together to help me work through my subconscious crap by putting it down on paper. ok... so we're not built to consume...especially if we're consuming more than we're producing. normal is someone else's construct so we need to consciously realize that and create our own definition of success. special note: king solomon had EVERYTHING...could do ANYTHING...and after trying out everything and exploring everything and all that with all the resources anyone could ever need, he realized that everything was for nothing...that nothing under the sun was new or would really last...it was all vanity. but whatever, he's dead (and you will be too, someday) we have dreams...or maybe we had dreams. i'm not talking about things that happen when you're sleeping...that's totally different. we have things we wanted to do with our life. we wanted to go on safari in africa or work at a national park...skydive naked or get frogs tattood on your feet...or maybe it was something bigger like building housing for the homeless or preventing disease in africa or maybe even working with prostitutes in the big city and helping them get an education so they can get out of a horrible line of work. whatever it was or is...that's your purpose. that's YOUR dream...embrace that...get it tattood on your forearm so you see it every day so you can remember it every day and overcome the BS of the world and this "american dream" that someone else dreamed up and sold you. so YOU can go out and live YOUR dream every day and get one step closer to becoming the person you were meant to you. believe it or not, you are the only version of you that this world gets to see...and I know that YOU (yes you) have something unique inside of you that you are probably terrified to embrace and bring into reality. dye your hair, shave it all off, move to istanbul, go to the gym...nobody else is going to do it for you so dust off your dreams open them up and get started. I'm counting on you to be the best you that you can be because you only get one shot at showing the world how amazing you are and I want to see it :)

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

flowing

not sure where to go with this today but feeling the need to flow for a bit. reading this post: http://inoveryourhead.net/19-thoughts-about-finding-your-purpose/ for some inspiration and while i dont agree with a lot of it, there are a few nuggets that spark for me. I really feel like i'm a pile of kindling at the moment...built up and arranged for...something. and i really dont even know why i feel like things are arranged...most everything around me feels blah and disorganized. I feel like i'm putting the minimum into most everything...and waiting. i may have a co-authored book in the works but I'm not sure if it's going to go anywhere but it would be interesting. i'm working on a trip to india which is probably about the only open ended thing i'm hopeful for at the moment. bored (which mostly translates to lazy, well off fat american) sensing so much inspiration in others...maybe its a sign to encourage and build up others vs focusing so much on me and my purpose successfully getting through life though...fwiw...a day at a time and it never does stop though i feel that i'll regret whatever it is i'm doing or not doing later. nothing seems to scratch my surface...like i'm looking, seeking, burning for something that matters to hit me feeling almost as if I have to do something or I'll just get something meaningful that's negative. it's probably just god kicking me in the head saying hey buddy...i'm right here. go read my word...i'm actually the one yelling at you that you keep refusing to listen to. why am i in such denial. dunno. and why india? i'm not sure. seems to be a place of "spiritual" renewal. so many places here are just dark. plenty of light in so cal...but so much BAD. so much HATE. so much selfish. meh. if I am to be the light, i must be filled with light and that is something that is not within me...that is something external that i can be filled with...but it takes filling. it does not originate from within me...God + Kyle = meaningful...no god =/= not meaningful in any lasting sense. so my motivation to DO something...God's direction, compass, light, love...fills it. so obvious i suppose but so difficult for stonehead kyle to see beyond self. "See Beyond Self" huh...neat. bored being anonymous here at starbucks...leaving to somewhere.

Tuesday, May 08, 2012

Don't Just Drive on Through!!

I was driving through McDonalds the other day – not my healthiest choice of the week, but whatever – and I was a bit bored. I personally don’t think it was in an ADD kinda way…maybe more that I realized that there wasn’t any advertising in the drive thru. On one hand, I’m sure McDonalds is like “He’s already ordered his food and I don’t really want him to get to the first window and change his order so I can’t really sell him anything while he’s waiting.” But I’m sitting there thinking ...they know exactly how long the average customer sits in line…from ordering to paying to picking up food…so they know exactly how much time they have to hit me with targeted advertising …they know exactly what I ordered...so they know what I like and what other food I might like for next time …they know how much food I ordered…so they can guesstimate how many people are probably in the car…so if I order 2 extra value meals and 2 happy meals with a side of dog biscuits…they know I’m probably in a mini van with some kids Basically, they have enough…maybe more than enough…info to target some advertising at me and meet 2 needs – they can entertain me, which give me value and for families, they can entertain the kids which is of immense value…and they can build their brands or the brands of their partners. Think about it…you’re at McDonalds and their drive through can hold 4 cars from the order area up to the window where you get your food. McDonalds knows that it takes them an average of 3 minutes to get your food ready. Break the drive through up into intentional slots for cars – put lines where you want each car to stop – and put 2 flatscreens at each spot – one on either side. Based on their profile of the customer, they can target content at you. For instance – that family that picked up tons of food – show them the trailer for the next Disney movie – you know, the one that has the toy in the happy meal they just bought…co branding. The trailer would play on the screen where they are sitting and increment as they drive forward…using either sensors or timers…or even easier, trigger it to play on the next screen when any order is fulfilled at the order fulfillment window. BAM. That’s easy to do…not super expensive…delivers value to the customers by entertaining them in otherwise unused time, provides value to McD’s partners by advertising and is a win for McD’s because they now have an edge over the competition because their drive through is fun…building their brand as well. It’s probably also cheaper for them to have people go through the drive thru vs come in to the store…so driving traffic through the more profitable drive thru is also a bonus. That’s interesting…and kind of obvious. I think it should be done…and it will make some news which is always good…but it’s not breakthrough. That’s something that any brand manager who has gone through a drive thru has probably realized/pitched. I want more…we are high tech…let’s do this. What if on each TV, there was a Kinect device which is basically a series of high tech web cams that can track body and eye movements to allow users to interact with the video content. Now customers can interact with the content…they can flip through different “applications” – movie trailers – upcoming happy meal toys – angry birds space (a quick round of asteroid smashing anyone?) – feedback (allow customers to record video feedback while in the drive thru “can’t wait to nom on the new doritos taco…aaahhh!!”) – social media (allow customers to take crazy pics that you can post directly to your facebook) etc etc… Then let customers create an account…so when THEY come through the drive through (maybe by registering the vehicle license plate #?) their favorite app comes right up…they are right back in the middle of level 5 of angry birds…they can post immediately to facebook. It’s like a frequent buyer program…but incentivized by social media and apps vs free cheeseburgerz. Mobile Apps would also complement this experience…then when a customer drives through the drive through, you can recognize them as a frequent customer based on the location services on their phone (a la Square Card Case) and say “Hey Kyle, do you want to order another #4 with extra large fries, super size diet coke and a brownie?” They can track loyalty points earned on the mobile app…”check in” at different locations (make it competitive!) register a gift card (like starbucks – btw…their card-on-the-iphone is brilliant!), post updates to social media, play embedded games etc. All of this could be piloted relatively inexpensively by installing a few monitors and associated hardware, developing a quick app or two and really exploring the potential social integration points that build the brand in a desired way. There are many ways this effort could be customized to meet a brand’s specific needs by digging in with probing questions such as… “are we trying to advertise our brand directly in the drive thru?” “are we trying to make McD’s a fun experience and thus increase the frequency of visits by leveraging social?” “are we trying to build our partner’s brands by advertising for them (movies, cartoons, etc)?” “is this a part of a larger rebranding effort for our chain?” “are we trying to shift volume from in-store to drive thru?” etc etc…

Sunday, May 06, 2012

Go Fly a Plane

I was on the way back home after completing my California Motorcycle Safety Basic Rider Course which included the test for my license (I passed!) and I saw several planes flying overhead...presumably on their way to the Camarillo Airport when it hit me (no, not the plane)...that guy/gal flying that plane probably wasn't born knowing how to fly a plane. They learned how to fly it. One day...they said "I want to fly planes" and took steps to make it happen. Sounds basic but it really applies to anything in life. Do you enjoy watching people race cars on TV and think it would be a blast? Go learn how and do it. I'm not saying that you should just drive fast on the freeway and call it a day. I'm saying get off your duff and go be a racer. Maybe you like watching hunting or really get pumped reading about the latest team to win the national paintball league tourney...you can do it! yes you. yes, in this life. Nobody was born knowing how to do much of anything more than how to suck on their mom to get some milk and maybe a few other things. But they sure as heck didn't pop out knowing how to SCUBA dive, I can assure you of that. Just a few minutes ago, I finished reading "Into Thin Air" by John Krakauer which details a tragic Everest Expedition where 5 lives were lost. I realized several years ago that Summits of mountains + my fear of heights = not a fun experience as proved on a Mt Whitney attempt and a Full Day Half Dome hike. I pressed my limits and found that it was just not pleasurable nor did it provide for meaningful personal growth...it's just not my bag and I'm ok with that BUT! Everest and the details of the adventure...where John dug into the minutiae of why people take on the mountain was relevant. I found it interesting to read about how some men save up somewhere around $70k to pay for a spot on a guided trip, then head out there for somewhere around 2 months to take on the beast of a mountain that is Everest. It's a bit nutty. you can die. 1 out of 7 died in '96 which was below average compared to other years. It's not logical...but people do it. I guess what stuck...the lesson that I want to walk away with from the plane flying overhead and this book is that if you want to do something - anything on this earth...just set your mind to it then take actionable steps towards it and keep on doing that and you'll eventually get there. The converse is also true - that if you dont take actionable steps towards your goals...you wont get there. there isnt a magic elevator or even an escalator around the corner that will take you there if you somehow dont do it on your own (how un-american, right?)...you actually have to take steps towards your goals to get there. But I challenge you (and me) to remember your dreams first. Dig up those things you thought you could never do - the "I want to be an astronaut" or the "I want to SCUBA dive the great barrier reef" or maybe the "I want to hitchhike across Europe"...the things you thought you had to grow out of - dust that shit off...then pick one and start taking steps towards it. Start walking towards it...for we must walk before we run and God built you to dream big :D

Wednesday, May 02, 2012

Stay passionate. Stay focused. (Stay foolish)

Such catchy words...so easy to say. What's crazy about life is that it's so easy to just live life. In the great Amurica, it oftentimes feels as though we are alive and living with the sole purpose of getting through life. Like it's one big race and we are all trying to pile on as much "stuff" - whether it be experiences, money, gadgets or otherwise - and just run. Ok, so stop and smell the roses, right? NO. I vehemently disagree.
I personally believe that we are all here for a reason. We go through the thing that we do which help to make us the people that we are for a reason. A purpose-built tool. But we are more than tools in that tools just sit on the tool board or in the tool box until someone else pulls them out. We have identity. We are here to live lives of intention...to make a conscious decision to stay passionate...stay focused...and especially to stay foolish. Those things don't happen by accident. Passion...to me, this is when I'm "playing" and I'm not talking about video games or soccer. I read an article the other day that defined play -
Play is a state of mind. I've heard it described as a visceral form of learning. It really doesn't matter what the activity is, it's the way you approach the activity that makes it play.
Yeah...that's play. That's living a life of passion. It's foreign to us. I often use the word play when talking about work scenarios. Earlier today, I talked about how a 20% contingency budget for a project I'm working on is "money for the project team to play with". I'm misunderstood but I'm ok with that. In fact, I think it actually trips me up when people understand what I'm saying the first time. Passion is being who you are and seeking to find the place in the world/web/whatever where YOU fit. Where you plug in. That's one of the great things about "the valley" to me. It's filled with tons of kids who took something they were passionate about and made it a reality. It started with the apps/sites/tools/devices and carried on all the way through the way they built their teams - "dude, I'm totally going to hire you when I make a million on this!" - to the way they design their offices and on and on.
Living a life of passion is when we don't accept compromise. Staying relentlessly focused on finding the best fit for you in this world means that you may actually get there. It's a tough haul but better than the alternative of accepting what the world has to offer and just grinding it out. Focused...obvious...but not in the traditional sense. When I think focused, I think about drive...about someone who can sort through the BS in this world and find the nuggets that reflect the reality that "should" be. Reading through news articles to find things of worth...sifting through people and finding people who are genuine and truly worth investing in. It goes beyond just a filter though. Focus is to stay sighted in on that ever elusive ideal state and continually seeking to refine it as more data is added to your filter. What? Yeah, so imagine that at age 5, you wanted to be an astronaut. Who didnt, right? As you went to school, you learned that you really weren't so hot at that math thing which as it turns out is pretty darn important for astronauts. So you refine your goal - you want to be a pilot. Still flying up in the air...still need to know math...but more your speed. That works for you until you get into college...when you realize that you are actually more interested in running a skydiving school and flying those planes. So the cone of uncertainty narrows as you continue to refine your goal...staying focused not on "getting a job" or "making lots of money"...but on relentlessly pursuing and focusing on what you are passionate about.
Filter through the junk in life...and in the world to find what you want. To find out where you fit. Foolish...my favorite. Foolish is that element of you that I have trouble putting my finger on. Foolish is doing that thing that you feel is right even though everyone else thinks it's crazy. You have something unique inside that only you can see. You dream things that dont make sense to everyone. Which is where this gets difficult. If it only makes sense to you, it's not going to be popular. Not everyone is going to like it. They may even hate it and laugh at you for spending so much time/money/effort doing it. I have always wanted to fiberglass body panels for a car as a project and just create something from scratch. I have an artistic side that I dont frequently tap but I want to. This urge doesnt make sense to the mere mortals that walk this earth...just to me. I dont have a goal of starting a company creating custom body panels or fixing cars or even making something that I'll eventually be able to drive down the street. This urge doesnt make sense in most ways...but I have decided that it truly is something I'm passionate about so I'm going to do it. Baby steps...starting to research resins and fabrics...trying to reconcile those things with my experiments with fiberglassing in the past...and just doing it. Foolish is being true to yourself in the face of the world laughing. I step back and give the world a big F-U and remind myself that I'm not doing this for them...I'm doing it because this is what I truly feel I'm built for. Why I'm built this way? I'll have to save that for another rant on life...

Tuesday, January 03, 2012

Anti

One of my online gamer names is antiflash. it started out on thanksgiving one year when I was learning to play counterstrike and kept getting flash 'naded. it bugged me to i changed my name to antiflash...yada yada.

I have always considered myself to be an optimistic realist...trying to put a positive spin on the reality of how things are but the more i think about ME and how I really work...i almost come away feeling like quite an introverted antisocial pessimist. i do not really enjoy being around people...maybe its just being in groups of people where there arent any people that i know really well that's tough. i think i'm fine if i have a few people that i can gravitate towards and talk to...which is what i always do at church...but if i dont have those key people, i really tend to just float around. i depend on others to meet new people through. i'm really bad about returning phone calls, texts, emails, facebook messages, whatever. so much of the time i really just want to hide in a corner of a room void of other people and be left alone. i dont feel like i know how to (or maybe i dont care to) hold a normal conversation. yeah, i can talk about the weather...this that and the other...but that's really just following a framework. and even when i do that, i'll be so nervous that i wont remember names of new people, where they work and all that jazz which makes the next time even worse. i dont know if i want to work on it...but i know its there. i dont know if i want to be a more social person.

so anti...antisocial...i know how important community is because i can imagine what it could be if done 'right'. but again, at least for now, i really dont want to spend the time and effort to really get to know people. i dont know why. maybe its because i'm so selfish...and time spent talking with and learning about others is an investment in something i dont deem important? i really have no idea...just that its just not my thing. maybe i'm just picky and i only want to talk with like minded...or similarly closed minded people. whatever...just another awkward social interaction further degrading my self confidence and all that. whiny whiny. i dont know why this thought justifies a post...but i want to let it out. i want to put this crap on 'paper' to help me proces it. to see it and to see what it looks like.

more than this i suppose...i want to find my spot in life...where i feel like i'm actually doing what i was built for. an idea which goes beyond christianity...i'm not saying that i was built specifically to fit into the world in a certain way in a predestination kinda way...but more that i enjoy doing certain things and am good at certain things and it seems kinda obvious to me now that it is very likely that theres a job out there that 'fits' me...that i would love to do and that i would be really good at. screw the money. i just want to do shit that interests me and that i would love to do every day. another whiny topic i suppose. some people in the world worry about what they're going to eat today and are in fact, as i am typing this...starving. someone probably starved to death while i wrote this. on my expensive computer...etc.

i think i could tangent around for hours...but thats not why i'm here. bored at work. bored in marriage. bored at church. not really doing anything with my life. if i had 2 months off, i would likely spend 12hrs per day or more playing video games... so i naturally gravitate towards lazy.

i'm tired...going to bed...on the couch...again.