Tuesday, September 5, 2017

The Simplicity of the Marvelous Interweb - a Moving Fiasco

Because my move-in date would be near Labor Day,  I started working on getting internet and tv services weeks early, thinking to avoid a delay in installation.  After all, how complicated could it be?

I discovered that ATT and Charter both supplied services to my building in Fond Du Lac.  I contacted Charter first.  I was online and saw that I could bundle TV, Internet and a land line phone for $29.99 each.  Although I didn't need a land line phone, I thought this might be a good deal, so I contacted them online and got into a chat box.

I told the lady what I wanted, but she obviously had a script she was not allowed to leave.  So after several frustrating minutes, she got to the end and. . . . . POOF!  She was gone.  Well, these things happen.

I started over and got a different person on chat.  I told him that I'd just been dropped, but, you know. . . . that script.  So even though I answered his questions before he asked them, he continued to ask them.  It was a little funny.  Finally, we approached the end and. . . . . POOF!  He was gone.  It was less funny.

Third time's the charm, right?  Different person, of course.  Went through the script again and made it all the way to the end and the lady told me it would be $124 something per month and it would be September 19 before I could have installation. Huh?  How do you do math?  Isn't there anyway I can just get internet and the most basic TV for less than that?  She began reading from her script, no doubt from the bullet point that said, "Customer complains about price."  The short answer was no.

Although I was very happy to be talking to live people, these people were barely live.  They obviously weren't allowed to vary from the script at all.  How does that help?  A computer would have been just as good.  I was frustrated.

So I went online to ATT.  I explained my situation.  They were very understanding.  They said I could get internet and TV for $80 and the bottom line was actually $80. I could have installation Sept. 5.   I was happy.  I called Charter back and said, no thank you.  I wish to cancel.

The very attentive lady asked why.  I told her.  She said that she'd have to have tell her supervisor, who would call me.  Indeed the supervisor called me and asked what they could do to make me stay with Charter rather than ATT.  I was annoyed.  I told her not a ding dang thing.

Happy with my choice, I continued with my move.

I was actually even happier when ATT contacted me and said the installer would be here September 1.  Wow, early!  Great!  The very nice man arrived and looked around and said, "You know, we'll have to install a satellite dish, right?"  No.  I did not know that.  In fact, that was something I discussed in the chat box weeks earlier.  He explained that Charter and Spectrum used to be two different companies and that there was often miscommunication, blah, blah, blah, and promised to cancel my order for me.  He left.

By now my head was a bit scrambled.  The Marvelous Interweb and TV Fiasco, wasn't the only fiasco this move had presented. I called Charter and explained that I'd just moved here and was comparing ATT and Charter.  I didn't mention my earlier experience with them.  NO WORRIES.  They could be here September 6 and install everything and it would be $99.  Really?  Okay.

September 4, I got a text asking if I wanted to keep my appointment for installation for September 5 at 9 a.m.   I replied yes.  I forgot to read the details.

So this morning, September 5, a very nice young man named Jon came to install my internet, but not my TV.  Huh?  Well, okay.

Then it hit me.  Oh, brother!  This was ATT not Charter.  The first guy hadn't actually cancelled my order.  I should have known better.  Jon had already done a bunch of work.  I explained to him and as I did so, my frustration grew.  I so seldom lose my cool, that I'm not well practiced at it.  But Jon, who had done absolutely NOTHING wrong, heard it all.  He listened to me and actually understood.  He presented an alternative.

He said I could get only ATT internet and use Netflix and Amazon Prime on my TV and if I wished, there was an app I could get to stream tv, blah, blah.   Huh?  Why wouldn't I do that?   I love Jon.

Now that I had internet, I checked my emails for notices from Charter.  There were none.  I will have to call them to cancel my installation appointment, which I THINK is for tomorrow.

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Forrest, Trees, Religion

Recently I've been picking the brain of a friend of mine who is Sikh about his religion.  I'm intrigued with learning about different religions. 

I have a love/hate relationship with religion. One one hand, I'm fairly sure that groups of people tend to get tangled in rules and laws and interpretations until they miss the entire point of their own religion and this causes war and fear and hate. On the other hand, I think it's a good thing to figure out what we believe, and it is lovely to find a group of like-minded people with whom to celebrate life.
There is nothing wrong with building in some reminders of what we believe, because knowing what is right and acting accordingly seem to be separate things. But when we cease questioning our own beliefs, we abdicate a huge responsibility to actually connect with God. It's a paradox, eh?

If we take the big three Abrahamic religions as an example, we can easily see how they have evolved. Abraham had this crazy idea that there was one god, not a bunch of gods. Those nutty, stubborn Jews stood up to well established Egyptians, wandered in the dessert, and overcame all sorts of things. Moses was given supreme laws from God. Actually, the Jews came up with many, many, many laws about how to live. Many of them make sense to me, some do not. Neither Moses nor God asked for my opinion.

Jesus came and was recognized by some Jews as the messiah they'd been awaiting. He taught some very simple truths which were recorded by followers into gospels. He said to love one another, to have faith that this isn't all there is, more is possible than you have been led to believe. In fact, he even invited non-Jews to listen to what he had to say, which was pretty ding dang radical. But some people (who remain Jews) chose to continue to wait and others (who became Christians) built a whole religion around Jesus.  And things began to get confusing.
The Jews split off into various groups depending on which teachings and laws they thought were the most important.
The Christians, who had originally agreed that there were just too dang many rules and they should concentrate on "Love one another," started adding rules about hierarchy of the church, who gets in and who stays out, when people should kneel and when they should stand and pretty soon, people lost sight of the forest for the trees. So they protested! Those protesters said that they were going to interpret the Bible for themselves and that they were going to go straight to the source for forgiveness and stuff like that. Well, that's cool. But it wasn't long before Protestants and Catholics wanted to start killing each other over who was right and who was wrong.  
Gospels were accepted and rejected by groups of people who probably believed they knew what was best, but were quite human and had some personal agendas. Some things were emphasized by some groups and minimized by others. And always the rules and the laws got complicateder and complicateder.
Then Mohammed came and was given insight. He believed in the very same God that Abraham and Moses and Jesus believed. He believed Jesus was right on track and that his mother, Mary, had a very special connection with God And then the rules and the laws and the interpretations. OY! And pretty soon, in terms of the age of the Earth, we've got Muslims, Jews, and Christians all worshiping the same God, declaring themselves peaceful and wanting to murder each other.  
It's enough to turn people completely off religion! And many have turned right off it. Many have become so full of anger about religion and hypocrisy that they are full of hate. I don't even pretend to be someone who knows everything on TV, but I know that hate gets us into trouble.  
So I like to dig into things myself. I like finding out what other people believe and what structure they accept or create in order to remind themselves to do what is right and connect with God. And what I find is that at the very core, people usually believe pretty much the same things.    Feel free to debate with me, because that's how I learn best.  

We tend to believe

        -  There is something bigger than ourselves

        -  We can learn a lot from people who've figured things out

        -  We should love

       -  We should choose well

I guess I think that religion has it's place and that place is to teach us to love.  In psychology, when we're trying to figure out if someone is hallucinating or actually hearing God speak to him, we often ask what they hear God saying.  If God is telling them to crash a car filled with explosives into a hospital, as a psychologist, I'd be pretty sure that this was a mental illness. 

Along the same lines, I'd think if your religion tells you to hate and/or kill people who believe differently or dress differently or love differently; maybe you'd better find a new religion.  Because don't we all really know we're supposed to love one another?  I mean c'mon. .  . don't we all really know that?

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Because I'm an American, Dammit!

     A gorgeous, mocha-colored American friend of mine, whose heritage is Cuban and African, recently repeated a question on her Facebook page, about the appropriateness of people who are ecru wearing dreads.    I responded.
     I said that I'd wear a saree, a fez kofta, and tennis shoes if I wanted.  I'd henna my hands and pierce my nose if I want.  I'll wear an hijab if I want (takes great care of bad hair days and covers that neck problem) because I am an American mutt.   My hair isn't going to dread.  It just won't.  It's too fine and straight, but if it would cooperate and I wanted dreads, you betcha I'd let it dread.
    I don't understand this problem with "appropriating ethnicity."   Isn't imitation a form of flattery?  And unless I give strangers my DNA for analysis, I don't really know what sort of bits I have.
    Je suis une Americane comma dammit!
    Traveling always allows me to appreciate our American stew.  One thing I realize is that we are so not homogenized.  In any American city, one can get any sort of cuisine one might think of and many fusions one would never have suspected.  Why not have sushi for a starter, haggis for an entree and creme brûlée for dessert while wearing salwar kameez?   Well, okay, so we can probably all think of a reason not to group those three foods, but you get my drift.
    We are strong when we allow all the spices to simmer together.  Rock and roll has roots in blues and jazz which has roots in African music, and bluegrass has hints of Celtic music, and guess what?  Real musicians have always sampled because they get it.  If you can use bag pipes with your saxophone and violin, go for it.  Just don't leave out the drums (spoons, wood blocks, cymbals, hip bells. . . . . ) and cut loose the dance.
    You can shoot me if you want to, but you can't scare me.  I'm an American, dammit and I reserve the right to sample all cultures.

Monday, May 22, 2017

You can take it to church!

     India made me think.  I thought about, or noticed, paradox a lot.  Here's a biggie:  I am heavier now than I've ever been in my life.  It's just a fact and a number.  And I've never felt more beautiful than when I was in India.    Now why is that?
     I suppose it could be in part because people flocked to ask to take their picture with me.  I'm fairly sure they'd not seen much like me lately.  Ha.  I was hanging out with people in their twenties - beautiful people by anyone's standards - and they regularly told me I was beautiful.  I guess I just decided to relax and believe them.
     A few decades ago I had a bit of a problem eating.  I needed to closely control how much I weighed and what I ate. I was so good at that!  I thought I looked good.  Now when I see pictures of me, I think about how very sad I was.  I'm sure that Dougie, my internist, will tell me that I absolutely must lose weight to be healthy, but I can't take that skinny boy too seriously.  I mean, really, what the heck.
     I am convinced that beauty actually does (I know, I know, we've heard it all our lives, but I just figured out that it's true!) come from within.  I am of my creator and I know it.  How could I not be beautiful?
     Oh, yeah, and here's another pair of socks (or paradox, if you prefer).  I had 31 hours of airplane time all together so I loaded up my Kindle with some light reading.  I took Gnostic Gospels along with some of the NT to chew on again while I was up in the air.  So I'm going to the ancient land of multi-limbed and colorful gods and goddesses and I'm buffing up on Christianity.  I was about to say that one thing had nothing to do with the other, but I don't believe in coincidence so very much.
    Spending so much time with Hindus, Muslims, and Sikhs gave me the rare opportunity to delve more deeply into comparative religion, which is a huge love of mine.  And get this - all believe in One God.  Sure, the Hindus have that great buffet of manifestations of God, but when it comes right down to it. . . . . just One.  And he Koran talks about Mary, the mother of Jesus more than the NT does.  Everyone seems to agree that Jesus has it together.
    And here's another twisty turny.  I blame religious fundamentalists for the wars and evil that is tearing this planet apart.  I make no excuses for that belief.  However, I don't blame people who strive to be Christ-like, or people who read the Koran as a Book of Peace.  I blame institutions that have much to gain from centuries of twisting and ruling and interpreting holy books to suit their needs.  Yeah, they come in every flavor.
    At one point, I asked a Hindu friend if Krishna died.  Yes, Krishna died.  I was a bit startled.  He's sort of he big dude.  I said something about gods not dying in other religions.  He replied that Jesus died.  And get this.  I found myself explaining the resurrection of Jesus to Hindu.  Yes, I did!
    I'm not eating the meat these days, though I can't say it's because I believe that every Hindu god in on a cow.  I just think it's not a sustainable, and therefore not a responsible way for me to live.  I've tried to be kosher in some sense for a long time, not because I'm Jewish, but because if one thinks about it, it doesn't make sense to eat pigs, which are so similar to humans that we use bits of them in our bodies to repair hearts, etc., or shell fish, which are Nature's garbage disposals.  I don't have a lot of trouble staying away from birds of prey, so there's that. . .
    I believe there are some practical rules in religions and there are some rules that need to be considered within the context of history and culture.  I don't think I should own any slaves, for example, and I'm not in favor of stoning people (with rocks, that is) or making menstruating women live outside the city limits.  I'm not sure why the Sikhs believe that they should never cut their hair, although, they mostly seem to have beautiful hair, but it makes total sense that they believe people should earn their livings honorably and basically be good people.
   I reckon that when it comes to religion, we all have a responsibility to read and think and wonder and question continuously.  So many just blindly accept an entire menu - others are so ding dang angry about religion that they throw the baby out with the bathwater.*
   Anyway, I don't profess to know the answers.  But I'm having such a grand time asking questions.   I'm grateful.

*  Thomas, the doubting disciple of Jesus, and Mary report about many times that the water Mary used to bathe the infant Jesus was used to cure people of various problems.  I hadn't connected that with the phrase until I just now used it in this post?  

Thursday, May 11, 2017


     We spend so much time and energy labeling.  I'm not necessarily talking about the outrageous labels that our society insists exist on all sorts of products, though those have gone right on over the top, too.  I'm talking about how we label each other and ourselves and places and all parts of Earth.
      We got stuck in the evolutionary "Us and Them, I think.  I suppose it was necessary for our ancestors to distinguish between people of their clan and those of another in order to stay safe.  I guess it's important (though I'm not entirely sold on this notion) that different sports teams be able to tell who the other team is.  But really, labels aren't nearly as needed as we tend to believe.
      True, it takes some time and understanding to get beyond labels, but I think it's worth it.  We get an idea that terrorists are Muslim.  Muslim's wear funny head dress.  So people with funny head dress must be terrorists.  In that bit of non-logic many misuses of labelling are evident.

1. Muslim.  What does that mean to you?  What does it mean to my friends Junaid and Zoya?  I can guarantee you, there are three different answers there.
2. Funny head dress?  Sikhs have been attacked in this country because they wear turbans.  Sikhs aren't Muslim, and in fact are about as far from terrorists as one could get.  I wore a hijab around my deep South community and received jeers from some young men in a pick up truck at a traffic light.  (I caught myself.  I was about to label those young men).  Funny head dress, indeed.  I reckon a few generations ago there were people who believed that yamulkes were worn to cover horns.  Maybe it's hats that scare us.
3. Terrorist.  I know there are terrorists because sometimes I feel terrorized.  However, my terror stems largely from my government.

     When we say Black and White and are referring to people, we are throwing gasoline on a pile of burning leaves.  Black and white are opposites AND they don't apply to people.  We are all shades of brown.  Sure, it takes longer to say, "chocolate," or "latte,"  or "ecru"  but it is more accurate.  And God help me if we have to start guessing and saying German-American or Italian-American or African-American all the time.  How accurate is it and so what the heck anyway?  American should be enough.
     I began thinking about "race" again on the plane to India.  The young man sitting next to me was Brazilian.  He looked Indian to me.  Same heavy, shiny black hair and medium brown skin, dark eyes - very handsome.  He told me that I looked European.  I asked him what that meant and he told me I had a long face.  I've never been told that before. Across the aisle was a man who appeared "Asian."  By that, I guess I mean he could have been Chinese or Japanese or Vietnamese.  Mostly his face was covered by a blanket as he attempted to sleep the entire way.  Then I realized that people from India (who look like the Brazilian) are referred to as "Asian."  Oh, I got so confused, that I just gave up.
     Maybe it's because I am an American mutt that I get confused by race labels.  Color labels are complicated enough, but how is Jewish a race?  And Indians, like Americans, come in all shades of brown.
    When I leave the race blank empty on forms (which is something I always do) bureaucrats get ticked.  The lady at the driver license examination station glared at me and put a big W in the space.  I reckon that stood for Whatever.
   It's not only our color that we have an overwhelming urge to label, it's our age.  Are we young, middle-aged, adults or maybe even seniors?  And does it matter?  Does the way you treat me revolve around how many times this body has been around the sun?  Oh, I hope not.
   We label dialects, accents, noses, hair, wealth, and hair spray.  We just love to label.  I don't think we could communicate without using the shorthand of labels, but I think we would all do well to be aware of the labeling we do.
    Try this exercise.  Remember that beauty is in the eye of the beholder and behold all the beautiful people around you while trying not to use labels.  Let me know how that works for you.


Monday, May 8, 2017

Delhi, Indira Ghandi, and Strangers

      How to describe Delhi.  Delhi is an explosion of sight, sound, scent, taste, and touch.  It is chaos.
     Like Hong Kong, Sydney, London, Chicago, and I assume every mega city, Delhi has mega beauty.  Every tiny bit of public land is landscaped.  Nearly fluorescent magenta, orange, and yellow flowers along with soft yellow, pink and white, compete for pride of place against the artificially watered green spaces.  Old temples and monuments compete with modern sculptures.  On the skirts of the city, which expand daily, big cranes and sky-craping apartment buildings testify to the continuous burst of population.  There are also families living under bridges and shady trees.  High end fashion stores and street venders and everything in between.  That’s what Dehli is. 
     It is too much.  Too loud.  Too  hot.  Too bright.  Too spicy, beautiful, strange and familiar.  Delhi is not what I came to India to see, but it is the gate.  One has to go through the gate to get to the meadow, I reckon. When it was time to come home, there was Indira Gandhi International Airport just waiting to swallow me up again in her shimmering neon, spice-dripping jaws.  
    My friends took me in as far as they could, which wasn’t far.  The guard at the first line told me to go to line 3.  The officer at line 3 told me to go to line 8.  Line 8 turned out to be customer service.  There were a couple of problems.  I was very happy that I’d gotten to the airport three hours early.  The entire trip home was a bit confusing.  I’d received the first half of a message - never could open the rest of it - saying my flight had been changed to Friday from Thursday.  Even though I’d gotten international calling on my phone, I had one bugger of a time trying to get through to my airline.  As it turned out, my flight hadn’t been changed, but I didn’t find that out in time.  
  (You see, traveling around in India isn’t quite as straight forward as it is in the US.  Yes, we had a car and a driver, but in order to make that a paying prospect, one must also have roads - and, I might add, rules of the road would be a great start.)
   Anyway, I’d changed my ticket by phone, but had no print out and the guards at the door wanted something in WRITING.  So the nice people in customer service were ready to issue me a paper ticket when the nice people found that my last name was misspelled on the ticket in the marvelous interweb.  Missing a P,  so it didn’t match my passport.   
   My friends hung in there with me and quite frankly looked much more worried than I felt.  I think I was too tired to worry.  Actually, one doesn’t just take off for India alone if she hasn’t already turned everything over to someone much greater than herself.  I sort of figured that God had this one, I had major people watching to do.  
   I made it through those hoops and stood in line.  A very, very long line.  In fact, this line, so crowded with people trying to color inside the lines, following the cue ropes like sheep too confused and tired to cause much trouble, claimed a casualty while I was shuffling along in it.  One man who appeared to be Chinese just couldn’t take it any more.  Being in the middle of a sea of shoulder to shoulder people can get to a person - especially someone who is too short to see the shore.  He took off, under the ropes, through the legs of people.  Poor dude.  
     “While in line I med a Sikh from Punjab.  His name, of course, was Singh.  He had on shoes with curled up toes and a voice like bells that ring”   I actually did meet this young man, who struck up a conversation with me over my camera.  Quite possibly it’s the fact that I was singing “Put On a Happy Face” that made me so approachable.  After that, however, I was singing song with lyrics about Singh the Sikh from Punjab made up on the spot.  I commented on his cool shoes and said I wished I had some like it to take to my grandson.  He offered to give me a pair from his bag.  Seriously.  How nice is that?  He looked to me to be in his twenties, was heading on his first ever flight to Malaysia.  We talked about people and God and travel.  His English was better than mine.  He invited me to return to India soon, and this time to visit “Us, in Punjab.”  It was a priceless interaction.  And that’s what travel is all about.  

     Where is the wisdom in not talking to strangers? Wouldn’t we all be strange if we all followed that rule.  Nearly everyone I talked to during my Indian adventure was a stranger to begin with.  In fact, I had conversations with people without a common language.  That can be uncomfortable or fun, depending on how hurried I allow myself to feel.  I’ve found that for everyone except airport security people, a smile and manners go a very long way.  
     I'm so grateful.

Laundry and Other Luxuries

I'm doing my first laundry after returning from India. While there I did laundry in a bucket and really didn't think much of it, except that I wasn't doing a great job.  

How spoiled I am to have a machine that will wash my clothes, another that will dry them if it's raining or I am to lazy to hang them outside to dry. I have cold, filtered water and ice at the touch of the glass to the fridge. With the touch of other buttons my home gets hotter or cooler. And last night when I woke at 2:30 this morning trying to figure out where and when I was, I notice how incredibly quiet it was. Amazing! Such riches!

We drove home from the airport on such smooth, uncrowded highways, surrounded by clean, green trees and grass. We didn't stop for a single cow. 

I loved visiting India and I will never be the same person I was before I experienced it. One change is that I appreciate how very spoiled I am living in America. Yeah, we've got some major problems here, but dang, it's a pretty place. An easy place.  

As the world continues to shrink, we'll all have to continue to adjust. We need to learn to appreciate not only what we have, but what others have as well. We're not "The Greatest Country on Earth," though we have so very much to be grateful for. There is no greatest. 

I realize now how grateful I am for top sheets on beds and wash clothes, warm water any time, electricity that is constant, traffic rules and lights, police who don't expect bribes, and Western toilets.  I do miss the bidet sprays, ayurvedic soaps, little packets of ???? breath freshener, and freshly squeezed sugar cane juice.  I sort of  miss the cows and goats, but I don't suppose most people would.  

The human population is really just one big family reunion. It's so very good to get to know our cousins.

Chasing the Elephant

One day during my trip to India was set aside for riding an elephant.  Sanjul's father knew someone in a nearby (nearby is relative) village who owned an elephant and Sanjul arranged for us to go ride it.  Of course, this involved the family of the people who owned the elephant hosting us in their home and eating, along with visiting nearby temples, and ancient structures.

Over incredibly bumpy roads that got more and more narrow as we drove, dodging cows, pigs, water buffalo, goats, people, and every sort of vehicle imaginable, we headed off to the village.  There we were hosted by an extremely nice family.  The man told me in his handful of English words (note that this is a handful  more than I have in Hindi) that he retired from his post in 1976 and that he was now 83 years old.  He told me over and over and over again how happy he was that I came to visit them.  Amazing.

We had curry and rice and lots of water!.  This curry is as different from Thai curry as coffee is from coke.  It's very tangy.  Per Sanjul's request no one made "spicy" food for me.  Hmmmmm.  

We inspected an ancient gate - probably part of a fort.  It's difficult to tell as grand stone gates seem to appear out of nowhere.  A lady approached and through sign language asked to have her picture taken.  Very often, people ask to take a "selfie" with me, though this lady had no phone or camera.
This beautiful woman wanted me to take her picture.

We walked up a gazillion very big steps to a temple.  I was happy to sit while someone from our party went back down the steps to the village to get a key to get into the temple once we got there.  That's the way in India.  No hurry (unless you're driving a car).  By the time the man with the key arrived, every child from the village and half the adults were there to see me.  Such beautiful children!

The temple itself was amazing and I received some holy water from a Brahman priest, to drink.  Then after photos and a long goodbye, we went to a different village to find the elephant.  On the way, as the roads got more and more narrow, we had to stop a couple of times to have a bridges built over ditches that crossed the streets.  We had to have people leave the car to maneuver the car around corners that were never intended for automobiles.  During these stops, children came to the window of the car to look at me.

This little beauty was wondering just what I was.
 Inside the temple were paintings of the history of India according to Hindu holy texts.

So on we pushed to get to the village where the elephant was to be.  Alas, when we got there, we found the temple that hosted the elephant, but the elephant had gone on to a different village for an appearance at a different temple.  So we went elephant chasing.

After getting stuck in roads that were two inches wider than the car, one too many times, we gave up on the elephant.

Oh, well.  Can't do everything in one trip, right?  But on our way out of Jhansi, a couple of days later, toward Delhi where I'd catch my flight home, Sushil started yelling, "Get your camera!"  Straight ahead was a wall of gray.  An elephant!

I jumped out of the car with my camera and started clicking at the critter which was as big as a house.  The young man riding the elephant said, "Yes, yes!  You can ride!"

Wow.  So I was going to ride an elephant?  I waited for a ladder.  There was no ladder.  Through interpretation by Sanjul and sign language, I understood that I was first to stand on a nearby wall.  How I was to get on top of the wall was left to me.

Let me just say that back in the day, I was a great tree climber.  I climbed!  Let me also say that I'm 61 and not petite.  But dang it, I climbed that wall.  I'm sure it wasn't pretty, but I climbed that sucker.  So now, atop the wall, I waited for a step stool  or something, since the top of the elephant was at least as far from the top of the wall as the wall was from the ground.  The elephant and I looked eye to eye, and I think we had a moment there.  I'm pretty sure the elephant was laughing at me as he continually slapped me with his ear, which was about my size.

I was told to climb up the elephant.  Climb up the elephant, indeed.  I discussed this with the elephant and we both had a chuckle.  Then Sanjul helped me to jump down off the wall.  When I asked why they didn't have a ladder or something, Sushil explained that Indians just want to take a blessing from the elephant, not sit over it.  Ahhhhh.  I get it.  Well, I got my blessing.

What a trip!
I'm so grateful.

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

The Blessing of Helplessness

     The trip to India has truly been a blessing - so many blessings.  The first that came to mind was practicing letting go and realizing how helpless and out of control I am.
     I didn't think much about it until I landed in Newark from Charlotte - the first leg of my journey.  I had to wait for my carry-on to be delivered from the cargo.  Yes, that's right.  Then I ran to a place where I was told to get onto a bus that would take me to the gate from which I needed to depart.  On the bus, while waiting for the driver to decide it was time to leave, a passenger showed me his watch.  I had 16 minutes until my next flight was to leave and I was sitting in a bus that was not moving.
     Breathe.  Remember that you never are really in control.  Either that or you are always in control.  Either way. . . . . relax.
     Strangers wished me good luck as I ran through the airport waving to the people at the gate who called me by name.  Ahhhhhh. Made it.
     The idea of being helpless came to me rather forcefully while in a large steel vehicle flying 45,000 feet or so above some ocean.  Of course, I really don't know for sure where we were as I couldn't see out any windows and even if I could have, I wouldn't have been able to figure out where we were.  But I had punched in numbers on a plastic keyboard some days earlier, then picked up some slips of paper at an airport.  A stranger patted me down after some scanning machine did something to me.  Then I got on the huge vehicle and took off.  Strangers served me things that I did not shop for nor prepare.  I was completely at the mercy of technology and others who knew how to use it.  I felt fine.
     Landing in Delhi did nothing to help me forget how helpless I was.  People at immigration weren't overly friendly.  I don't think they liked their jobs and this American smile got me no where.  But I got through all that.  While at the luggage carousel, I  pulled out my phone to find that the sucker had nearly NO juice.  Not sure how that happened.  I went to an INFO desk and asked if there was a "usual" spot to meet people.  The unhappy lady pointed to an exit and I went for it.
     Many, many Indian people stood holding up signs with people's names, but not my name.  I waited.  I thought.  I pondered.  I went past that barrier and noticed that outside there were many, many more Indians holding signs with names.  So I dragged my luggage out into the heat that was startling.  But I didn't see my name, nor did I see my friend.  So I turned to go back into the airport and the guard, who carried a big, long gun told me no.  Can't go back in once you are out.  I sighed.  He briefly smiled and motioned for me to go in to the air conditioning.  Bless him!
     I sat.  I waited.  I pondered.  Then the guard was stepping into the building yelling, "Lady!"  I looked up and he motioned for me to come.  Honey, when a uniformed man with a gun motions to me in an airport, I'm obeying.
     Sanjul had seen me through the glass doors and convinced the guard to call me.  I met Sanjul's young cousin and the driver, who spoke no English and drove through mad traffic as only a mad man could.  My knuckles were white.
     Breathe.  Remember that you are never in control. . . . . 
     Before getting off airport property, we were stopped by police, who found some reason to ticket.  I never was sure what.  It would mean a trip back to go to court for Sanjul or. . . . . . a bribe.  Yep.  Police opening asking for - and receiving bribes.
     The car was full of fast paced, multi-toned Hindi conversation, of which I understood ZERO.  They could have been discussing how they were going to divide up the meat once I was butchered.   I trusted that they weren't and I was actually a bit too tired to care.
     But guess what?  We made it to the hotel.  I got a room with a comfy bed and I slept like a sleeper on Sleep Day in Sleepville.  I did not dream.  I just let go.  And in the morning I had the first of wonderful Indian coffee.
    Totally out of control and grateful.

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Just One Room

I've been redecorating my living room for many months now.  The process is nearing the end.  In two days my couch, chair, and ottoman will be delivered and then all the pieces will be here.  Just a matter of putting it all together and a couple of finishing touches. I've put a lot of planning, thought, and dollars into this project and I'm already pleased with it, even though the results are still mostly in my head. I have recurring daydreams of me curling up on my new couch and reading.

Yes, of course, I can read any place else.  And yes, I know that it's only a matter of time before I'll want to redo another room, but it's kind of a big deal for me and it's been a lot of fun.

There are nine other rooms in this house, a deck, a front porch, and a patio in the Garden of Many Groovy Things.  There is an every growing mini-orchard and veggie gardens and sun gardens and shade gardens and herb gardens and many big trees.  There is always tweaking to be done.  Always something that needs paint touched up or pictures rearranged or swept or vacuumed - you get the idea.  But the living room has been the one room that's been taking most of my thought and energy lately.

But it's just one room.   I've lived in several houses including a cabin on a ridge in Appalachia and an apartment on the north side of Chicago and lots of places in between.  Some were grander than others, some were older, one apartment was a very basic studio with the best roof-mate a person could imagine.  It was a tiny apartment and I only lived there for a couple of years, but it was a very big time.

I can imagine life as a room.  You enter it, decorate it, change it up, look out the windows, and eventually leave it.  Maybe you change the color of the walls.  Maybe the ceiling leaks.  Maybe the floor squeaks.  But it's just one room.  There are other rooms in other houses in other cities, states, countries. . . . heck probably even planets.

Sometimes we get all hung up on decorating that one room.  We can get so caught up in draperies that we forget to look out the window.  We get so ambitious about lamps and area rugs that we forget there is at least one door.  So if we knock a lamp over and it breaks or the carpet gets threadbare, we get all weirded out (that's a medical term, by the way) and panicky.  We forget that there are other rooms in the house.

Things happen.  Water flows downhill and shit stinks.  Rust never sleeps, yet the circle just keeps rolling.  There is always another room.  That's why the Universe installed doors.

I'm grateful.