Fasting

In 2010, I finished Peace Corps and moved to India. I also turned 26, which was a pretty big deal to me at the time. I wasn’t really looking forward to my birthday that year but decided that I needed to step it up and do something to get ready and excited for another year on Mother Earth!

The following are the brief blog posts I wrote at the time! I’ve also added in a few memories and reflections too!

I’m turning 26 this month. This is the first birthday in my whole entire life that I have not looked forward to my birthday with the fervor of an ultimate patriot cheering for his team in the Olympics. I usually spend the 2 months before my birthday reminding people that it is just around the corner. For my 24th birthday, I had a month long celebration that included 3 different countries, a tattoo, and a 111m jump off a bridge. I think that one birthday sums up my love of celebrating the day of my birth.

This year is a different story. I’m turning 26 and not looking forward to it. It will officially mark my downslide to 30. And I’m not ready for that.

I decided I wanted to prepare myself before the big day arrives. To do this, I am fasting for 9 days in celebration of Dessara, a Hindu festival in honor of the Hindu Goddess Durga.

Fasting here doesn’t mean no food. I eat curd (just like plain yogurt), fruit, and potato for lunch and a small meal at night. I will be strictly vegetarian. In addition to this food fasting for 9 days, I’m not drinking any form of caffeine. No coffee, no tea, no chai.

This is the part that I think will prove most difficult for myself. The last time I went one day without coffee, I had malaria. And it was literally only 1 day that I didn’t drink coffee. I made it but was too sick to actually drink it. But I’m ready for the challenge.

Day 1 is done. 8 more days…

I made it! I successfully completed my 9 day fast! And I did not cheat once! No coffee, no soda, no chai. Fruit for 9 breakfasts, fasting food for 9 lunches, and Indian food for 9 dinners.

I can safely say that I can give up coffee anytime I want. I’m actually drinking less than I usually do every day. Which will save me money if nothing else.

Now on to my next challenge. Turning 26.

While I jumped from before I start fasting to the very last day, a lot happened in between! Day 3 was the WORST!!!!!!!!!! That was when the caffeine withdrawal really kicked into over drive. I couldn’t do anything. jen sent me to bed because I was hopeless at being productive or even minimally engaged with whatever we were doing at the time. But after that nap?! I remember feeling like a brand new person and the rest of the fasting went pretty easy.

And I had a great 26th birthday, my first in India! I was working and we went to Alandi and Ishwari with the Tare (Community Programme Particiapants!). And at Ishwari, they made a cake and decorating for me! It was a great start to my ‘downslide to 30!’

join me for…

paragliding…

earlier this year, i went to nepal. we walked, we ate momos AND we went paragliding!

i almost didn’t do it because i kinda have a thing about heights. you sign away your life in case of an accident and then you pile into a van, drive to the top of a mountain and run off the top! so i went to the top of the mountain where you run/walk right off the edge, and it didn’t look that crazy, so i just went for it!

the jumpers match you up with someone about the same size as you and apparently that’s all there is to it! the guy i jumped with, jimmy, was in charge of everyone else. so i got to watch and cheer as the rest of our group took off one by one!

and then it was my turn!

you step in the harness, get attached to another person (in my case jimmy) and then you walk and/or run when they tell you! jimmy patiently watched the wind sox and told me to walk, nope STOP! ok, wait… ok, RUN! nope NOPPEEEE! ok, let’s try this again. wait, wait ok now! run! and we were off!!!!!

it was such an incredible feeling to walk off the side of a mountain!

there were a bit of clouds in the sky, which meant that the thermals were right for going crazy high up before we headed back down towards the lake. (but also the reason for my start/stop take off!) and, because of the amazing weather, we could see the top of Fishtail above the clouds. 

but the best part of the entire thing was to spiral around and down towards the lake. we went so fast it was like being on a roller coaster without a track.

so if you ever get the chance, i recommend giving paragliding a chance!

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best indian snack food

hands down, the best indian snack food is wada pav! if you don’t know what this is, i’ll explain.

wada pav is a spicy potato vegetable mix that is formed into patties. you dip that patty into a chickpea flour batter. then DEEP FRY it until it’s nice and crispy and brown on the outside. this is your ‘wada.’

you then put this in a piece of bread, the ‘pav.’ and enjoy!

wada pav

and the best thing to eat wada pav with? onion bhajia!

onion bhajia, if you don’t know what it is, is cut up onion mixed with spices and chickpea flour batter. you DEEP FRY small spoonfuls and enjoy!

this deep fried combo is my all time favorite indian snack food. i oftentimes eat it as a whole meal. 2 wada pavs and 30 rupees of onion bhajia. it’ll fill you up that is for sure!

in pune, there are 2 spots that are my favorite wada pavs.

the first is the snack shop right next to sangam world centre. they taste great, have amazing fried and salted chillies and are a 5 minute walk away from sangam.

the second best place to buy wada pav in pune is the garden wada pav stand on mg road. what makes these the second best? the green chutney that they add to the pav before they put the wada. plus, it’s a popular place, so the wada pav is always fresh and hot from the fry pan! i’ve stopped on the bike and eaten wada pav. i’ve walked to get them. i’ve even ordered through the car window. it’s a great spot and there are always tons of people around eating wada pav!

if you haven’t tried wada pav before, i highly recommend giving them a try the next time you are in india! you won’t regret it!

but remember, always make sure you are getting them from somewhere that has good preparation practices. you don’t want your wada pav to make you sick. ask a local where the best place is! they’ll always have the hot tips that the lonely planet might not! 😉

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2 years and 2 months

it has been 2 years and 2 months since i was in india. it doesn’t actually seem like it has been that long. but it has actually been 2 years and 2 months. (i looked it up!)

even though i finished working and living at sangam almost 3 years ago now, the flights and airports are still regular. the path from one plane to the next is muscle memory. the flights between sioux falls and mumbai are the same. and the flights usually leave from the same gates.

nothing much has changed in those 2 years and 2 months…

i’m still job searching. still trying to figure out some sort of life direction. but i think this is regular for everyone. no one knows what they are doing really. we are all just faking it until we make it!

i have gone lots of places and done lots of things. kenya (a few times), uganda, australia. i saw mountain gorillas, wombats and SO MANY echidnas. i even had my gall bladder removed.

while i’m at sangam, i’ll do much the same things that i did while i lived and worked there. i’ll swim. eat mangoes. go to the sweet shop every afternoon for wada pav. work in the archives. it will also be regular.

but 1 thing won’t be regular.

jen has finished her time working at sangam! i don’t want to say ‘it’s the end of an era’ even though that is probably the best way to explain it. i can’t wait to share and celebrate all that jen has done!

i’m not sure when i’ll be able to get back to india again, so i’m making the most of this trip for sure! but i can’t wait to see what awaits sangam’s next 2 years and 2 months!

don’t worry! you haven’t missed out!

you can still join my hiking club as a day hiker for us$10! sign up now cause you won’t wanna miss out!

5 weeks…

once again, i’m the proud owner of several airline tickets! a round trip ticket to india and flights to nepal! my countdown has begun: i have 5 weeks left until i depart for india!

this upcoming trip is going to be special for a few different reasons.

i have to go into official trip physical training! i’ve never ever trained for a trip. i barely even pack for trips. and i don’t exercise. so this is going to be a whole new experience! why do i need to train? well, i’m going hiking. in the himalayas! you can read more about my trip to nepal and how you can join me here! it’s going to be an amazing challenge and, as scary as it seems to me now, i can’t wait to experience the himalayas in this unique way!

i’m gonna hang out at sangam! which i haven’t done for SO long. i was last there in january 2017! which is unbelievable. i feel like it was just last year. but it’s been over 2 years! butter chicken, garlic naan, wada pav, pani puri, pulse candy, onion bhajia and the sangam staff are calling my name!!!

while at sangam, we will be celebrating jen’s time as programme manager and world centre manager because she is finishing. ;( but gwen and bron will also be coming to hang out (yea!!!!) and we’ll be doing all of jen’s favorite pune and india things!

it won’t be all fun and games. i’ll be volunteering in sangam’s archives. jen and i need to come up with a plan, along with the current archive ladies, to figure out what to do next and how. there are still SO MANY boxes that need to be sorted. imagine what we will find in there!!!!!!

i’ll be gone for 6 weeks and while that may seem like a long time, i know that it will go SO fast. before i leave, i need to really think about what i would like to accomplish and experience while i’m there. and then when i’m there, make it happen!

let the countdown begin!

you can join me virtually on my himalaya hiking adventure!

You Can Pee in the Shower

I’m sick in bed today so I thought I’d take this time to blog about my last few months at work.

I’ve never owned my own house. Well technically I had a house in the village in Zambia but I didn’t have to deal with any of the modern world consciences like electricity and plumbing. But with my current job I’m quickly learning LOADS of new things about how to deal with and take care of an almost 50 year old building in India.

The story starts about 2 months ago when I kicked a whole through a wall. I only wear flip flops. We discovered water running down the outside of the pipes. We found a contractor to do the waterproofing work and thought that would be the end of it.

Until water kept leaking.

We took bricks off the front of the building and the pipes seemed fine. We started digging down into the ground and found the problem. The pipes weren’t running into the chamber and had holes in them.

Then we had to investigate all of the chambers. Most of them were clogged. We paid for them to be unclogged but we were still having issues. We then found a plumber who was willing to fix all of our chamber issues. So for the last month I have been looking at everyone’s business. I know where the nukes are and I know all the codes.

I also know for a fact that it doesn’t matter if you pee in the shower. It all goes to the same place here.

We will hopefully be finished with the chambers and plumbing very soon. And cross your fingers that we don’t find any other crazy issues!!!

We start an event tomorrow, the first of the year! And you can now follow us on twitter! @sangamwc

India is cold.

I am here to smash this common misconception. India has the Himalayas. It gets cold.

Now I’m nowhere near the actual Himalayas but winter is upon us here in Pune. I’ve been gone from ‘home’ for so long that my body would freeze in a tough South Dakota winter. My winter is sweatshirt, jeans, and (on really cold days) socks with my flip flops. I’m perfectly suited for this arrangement.

Sometimes I do miss those South Dakota winters. I miss staying inside, bundled up, in front of the tv with my hot chocolate and marshmallows. I miss watching Keloland tell me to never leave my car if I get trapped on the side of the road in a snow bank. But now that I think about it, I don’t miss snow. I technically miss blizzards. Any other kind of snow is just annoying really.

I also miss my furry boots and crocheting new scarfs and hats.

But this Christmas I get to eat not one but TWO of my favorite Indian dishes: misal pav and pav bhaji. In my book, this makes up for being away from blizzards (and my family) for the Christmas holidays.

Coping

It has been 6 days since I drank coffee.
David Sedaris talked about quitting smoking in his last book. I remember he wrote that the first transoceanic flight he took after he quit, he didn’t know what to do when he landed. He would always rush out of the airport to smoke. When he didn’t have (or get) to do that, flying was a bit anti-climatic.
Every morning is anti-climatic for me. I don’t know what to do with myself. I wake up and nothing. (Coffee was my reason to get up 7 days ago, and all the days before that.) So I lay in bed, watching a movie, until I really have to get up to get dressed and go to work.
When I was drinking coffee, it never messed with my sleeping patterns. I could drink coffee in the morning, take an afternoon nap, and go to bed at 10pm. Yesterday I went to bed at 9pm and slept solid until 8am. If anything, coffee was keeping my sleeping habits closer to what is deemed socially acceptable.
I’m sure if I looked up symptoms of addiction, my coffee drinking would be classified as one. It is why I don’t look it up AND why I’m fasting from all forms of caffeine for these 9 days. I’m proving that I can quit anytime I want (oh wait…). It isn’t like it is bad for me (Oh no…). It’s not illegal, Starbucks are everywhere (Oh Crap…). I’m going to stop typing now, my excuses are not helping.
So far, the only positive thing about this whole experiment is that my liver and kidneys are probably very happy with me right now. (Did I mention no alcohol as well?) I’ve been drinking water non-stop since I started my fast on Friday.
Coffee keeps me sane. It reminds me of home. It reminds me of the village. It is my coping crutch. Now, let’s see what happens without it…

Noise.

I’ve always considered myself a city girl. I’ve never lived on a farm. I like things being open past 8 pm. I don’t care how much it rains or how the crops are doing. The smallest place that I have ever lived is Sioux Falls, well technically Brookings for college, but I only lasted 3 semesters so I don’t think that counts. I always complained that I was forced to move there when I was ten years old. It was small.

Then I moved to a farm in the middle of the African bush and things changed. Big time.

I now have an unstoppable urge to greet everyone I pass. I need peace and quiet. I have to be by myself way more than the average person requires. I ask about the weather and crops. I am completely comfortable going anywhere by myself with nothing to do; no reading material, no phone, no notebook, no companion.

And after I left Zambia, South Dakota was perfect. I could sit in the backyard and enjoy all the peace and quiet I required.

Then I moved to a city with close to 5 million people, in a country with 1 billion.

I now fall asleep with my ceiling fan and Alicia Keys album on high to the masked sounds of a city teeming with life. Trucks passing by, horns honking and beeping, people yelling, sirens sounding, calls of prayer announced, the night watchman’s whistle. It gets to me. I feel myself going crazy because I can’t get one moment of silence.

I’ve started a hunt for quiet places here but so far they have eluded me. Even the coffee shops are loud. I walk around with my iPod on, not because I don’t want people to talk to me like in Zambia, but because it is the only way I can have a true moment to myself. A moment for my mind to be free, to wander aimlessly through my mind’s eye, to ponder where I want my life to go, to just think.

Zambia gave me plenty of time to think and sleep. I’ve become nostalgic for the 2 years of quiet, peaceful village time I enjoyed. Hours spent reading in my hammock, hours spent coloring and playing Uno with the kids, hours spent sitting in the family kitchen in the dark discussing life, hours sleeping, hours drinking coffee with nothing but the day to enjoy, hours of walking just to walk, hours enjoying the sunset. I yearn for it.

Yes, yearn.

Unfortunately, those village days are behind me and I’m caught between needing the village and wanting the city.

It is time for me to figure things out, with noise.

Oh Zambia!

I left Zambia over 2 months ago and I still think about it all the time. I feel like I should still be going back there. Like I’m just on vacation and I’ll be going back to resume my village life again. But alas, I am done with Peace Corps and on to the next adventure! Which I’ll get to in a minute. I’m also in the process of uploading a few more videos to YouTube so you can check those out soon. The internet is a bit slow here so be patient, they should be up sometime today. You can find them by clicking on the video clips on the left hand side of the page.

Now, on to my next adventure! I’m in India!!!!! (Yes, I know what you are thinking, “Don’t you like being in the States?” And the answer is yes I do, very much, it’s just that it gets boring after a few weeks. Taco Bell isn’t as good if you can have it any time you want.) What am I doing here? Good question. It all started while I was still in Zambia…

I had left the village and was living at the Peace Corps office in Choma finishing paperwork and packing up all of my stuff that I had accumulated over the last 2 years when I got an email from my Mom. It was a link to a job at Sangam World Centre (it is the same place that I was volunteering at before) so I checked it out. Unfortunately, the job application deadline had already passed so I was just cruising around their website and found an internship working with the Community Volunteer Programme. It looked really interesting but then I found out when the deadline was. In 2 days.

Now, 2 days in America is no problem. But 2 days in Zambia? A whole other story.

I had to finish the application, questions, and 3 recommendations. It was the 3 recommendations that had me worried. All of my references were in different time zones. I immediately emailed everyone I could think of who would be willing to complete a reference for me. Long story short, I finished my application and questions and all of my references finished the recommendations!

I traveled home and after being in America for one week, I found out that I got the internship! But then I wasn’t sure if I wanted to take it or not. I mean, I was having a really great time in America-land, and I didn’t really want to leave. My Dad finally said something to me that made my decision very easy.

“If you don’t take this internship, I’m not going to let you lay around the house all summer. You are going to have to get a job.”

Alright. I’ll take the internship!

After a few months of waiting for paperwork for my employment visa, I finally had my visa and was able to buy my plane ticket. A week later, I was out!

Now, I’m in India as Sangam World Centre’s Community Relations Intern. I’m really excited about this opportunity. I’ll be working with the Community Volunteer Programme and will also be working in building the programme to support more volunteers. So for the next year I will be living and working here in India!

I’ll be keeping my blog up to date, so check back! You can also follow me on Facebook or email me if you have any questions! Internet here is more reliable than Zambia but less reliable than America, so keep that in mind.

christa