At the office
After six long days, I was completely exhausted. I was so tired that I could barely sleep on the car ride back, well that and there were 9 of squeezed into the minivan. We all talked dreamily on the 6 hour ride from Kannyakumari to Madurai. Sunday morning at 3:00 a.m. I finally saw the guesthouse where I would be spending the next 6 months. Well really, I didn’t see much, I spilled out of the car, poured myself up the stairs, and collapsed like wet laundry onto my cot. A awoke at 9:00 a.m. and was on the way back to the office. And so began my first week of work.
At home I always felt the like the weird hippie guy at the law office because I hated wearing shoes and like to sit cross-legged on my chair.
Hand full of food, yum!
Come to find, it’s compulsory to remove your shoes upon entering the office, and everyone sits cross-legged at some point during the day, sometimes during lunch, sometimes on the floor, and sometimes on chairs.
So now, I totally fit in.
And, everyone wears lungis at night �" which is like a sarong.
So I totally fit in there too �" although the first time I came down, everyone took a double take, then laughed very hard!
But I think they are getting used to it.
The NGO I work for does amazing work in India, but I'm specifically working on a UN related Torture Project. Right now I'm reviewing incidents of torture and police violence and editing them in preparation for annual reports.
The fact findings are carried out in 10 different states, and an annual report will be published in each state over the next 6 months. Then, each state will hold public hearings.
These tribunals will hear the worst of the torture cases and determine whether national and international human rights laws are being upheld.
They will make a recommendation that goes to the state as well as the UN.
I will be helping prepare the cases for the tribunals and prepare the final "judgment" which will be published.
It’s a lot of work, but I figure, what the hell. I've decided that it is not what "I" can do, but more important to let the universe work through me. It’s a pretty unique opportunity, and I'm lucky to be apart of it. Sometimes I have to stop myself to just remind myself where I am.
Deep in coversation
Its 10:30 tonight, tomorrow, Saturday, is my birthday. 34 years-old. It’s very strange not to be with my family and friends at home. The last time I recall being away was when I turned 21 and was in New Zealand. I think they are going to throw a little party for me, which will be really nice, and is so sweet of them. I’m a bit homesick, I think because I would love to spend this time with my “old” friends, having a nice dinner somewhere in SF. While I really like the people here, and they are so friendly, conversations always seem to drift into Tamil. I sit and listen, but understand very little �"well really nothing at all.
Someone explain to me what everyone is talking about....
I usually don’t mind so much, but sometimes it’s very tiring, and I hate feeling like the outsider.
Another strange development is that I keep forgetting that I am white.
Everyone is Indian (or Sri Lankan) and I’ve
begun to associate myself with their looks and color.
Kind of like “The Ugly Duckling,” I’m surprised when I see myself in the mirror or in photos; by my whiteness and my height.
In that way I am going through my second phase of culture shock �" feeling part of something and alien at the same time.
Last week I purchased a computer and a telephone. So, for the first time in quite a few months, I can finally regularly communicate with people back home or new friends I’m meeting.
So my day….
I attempt to do daily yoga on the rooftop. (It was postponed the last two days due to the accidental consumption of about a liter of street water…I drank from the wrong container…and as they say here, my “back door was open.”) But before that, I woke up in my room. Marble floors, attached bathroom, bed, small desk, fan, mosquito net, mosquito coils, and mosquito repellant. I’ve hung up my clothes, and it feels so good to have stopped living out of a backpack! I sleepily put on my one pair of white pajama pants and white Sivananda shirt (left the other ones behind by accident) and wander up to the roof. It still is cool in the morning, approximately 70 degrees. The sun is just rising.
I place my mat behind the water tank structure for the shade and practice to the sounds of India
, namely horns, cars racing below, and the occasional morning chant blasting from some distant PA speakers.
I have the morning all too myself and I love the time of quiet.
My practice feels strong now, my right knee still is weak, but I can feel the practice deepening.
After I lay in Sivasana and attempt to keep my mind from wandering too much as India
swirls around below.
Then back to my room, where a cup of cold coffee is waiting for me.
Our housemaid prepares one everyday and brings it to me piping hot at 7:00 am.
It’s cold when I’m done practicing.
It’s black and super sweet, and tastes more like coffee candy than coffee; but I love it.
Then I go downstairs and wake Riskhan.
We take the rickshaw to work.
I am in the bad habit of sitting in one place and working.
But I’ve been piping in KFOG, Alice, and Live 105. It’s a piece of home that I’m happy to have.
After work, around, 7:30 to 8:30, we head off to dinner.
Usually 7 of us huddle around a little table eating spicy fried fish, fried mutton, fried chicken, along with a fried dosai, or otherwise fried food.
Then I come home, internet and chat for a bit, and sleep around 12:00 or 1:00. This is now the routine.
Weekends are excursion time. Usually we work Saturday, so we do epic one day tours around Tamil Nadu: Kodai Canal, Menakshee Temple, Hikes. We also cooked a few dinners at the guest house, and sat around eating on the floor. Everyone slips easily into Tamil conversation, but we laugh to tegether...