Thursday, 5 November 2009

This semester is just rolling along and the days and weeks are passing in a blur. The only way to mark time is to keep track of the many due dates and xkcd posts (xkcd.com - it's awesome, trust me) that are guiding me towards the end of this semester and the brief two weeks we get off for Christmas. Just a few weeks ago I was holed up in Bridge Street Cafe (our quaint, and only, cafe in Sackville) studying from open to close and pumping myself full of that great drink of champions, peppermint tea. I wrote three midterms in two days, had just enough time to catch up on lost sleep, and I was back with my nose to the grindstone churning out the next set of papers and assignments. I feel like things are falling out of my head as fast as I can force them in and I can barely remember the theory I studied for a test a day after I've written it. And I'm not the only one. This seems to be a problem that plagues most students I've spoken to. I know this is what we're here for, but surely there's a better way?

Luckily I have some semblance of a life outside of school. I was on a softball team for the first part of the semester and we ended up winning the intramurals tournament. I'm now on a volleyball team that looks extremely promising and I look forward to the distraction that our games provide.

Every Thursday my roommate Rhiana and I meet and go over to our friends' place to take their puppy Isabella out for a walk. There is no single greater joy than having a puppy shower unconditional love on you after a long and tiring week and Izzy is by far the biggest ray of sunshine in my life right now.

My roommates and I have redecorated our apartment to make it look like much more of a home. There are plants in the living room, the furniture has been rearranged, and we found paintings and photographs for the walls.We also just signed a lease to stay on in this apartment for next year. For the first time in the three years that I've been at Mt A I feel like I finally have a home. My two rooms in Thornton and even this room so far this year have been fine, and I've definitely made them my own space, but there was always an air of impermanence to the whole thing. Now I know that I'm going to be here in this apartment till April 2011, I can really put roots down. It's a good feeling. I think people sometimes underestimate the bizarre situation that university students are in where they are always in limbo, always waiting for the next thing to come along, never really settling down.

Halloween was last weekend and I finally bit the bullet and let my friends dress me up as Princess Jasmine from Aladdin. Halloween isn't something we do in India and so I've always felt like a bit of an idiot having to dress up for it. The last two years I've put absolutely no effort into it, had awful or non-existent costumes, and managed to get by without too much trouble. This year my roommate Cate is all about costumes and I was almost doing her a favour by letting her work on mine. What I feel about it comes down to the fact that I don't care enough to put time into working on a costume when I have so many other more important things to be doing. But hey, if someone wants to make a costume for me, that's great! And that's exactly what happened. Cate made the perfect hair band, worked out a pretty fantastic hair piece, I put on some voluminous 'hippie' pants and matching top (acquired years apart those two pieces of clothing are made of exactly the same material and the serendipity of it all bewilders me), and got all Jas(min)ed up. Cate dressed as Marie Antoinette;Noah was a panda; Nathan glued a cereal box to his chest, stabbed a knife through it and went as a 'Cereal Killer'; and Rhiana dressed up as Cleopatra. Once we were all decked out I ended up feeling really good about it and I have a feeling the whole incident will make me much less negative about Halloween next year. Yay for cultural assimilation!

In other news, it appears that the plague (the dreaded Swine Flu) has hit Mt A. I'm surprised it's taken so long and I'm sure we'll come through it fine. I was talking to someone today about it and we decided it's good that it has a fancy name because it means that professors are being far more considerate about students having to miss class than usual. One just has to say the words and profs are practically begging students not to come to class and are going out of their way to make sure students don't miss anything. So far, I've seen a few friends go down with the flu and my classes are slowly losing people, but it's not looking too bad. In fact, I had a class canceled today and I'm completely fine with that. I did stay up half the night to write a paper for his class, but class being canceled meant that I took a sweet nap this afternoon which made everything better. And the best part of this whole thing is that I haven't been hit by the plague yet. I have a bit of a cough that bothers me most when I'm out in the cold, but that's about it.

I'm in a strange, nostalgic, homesick sort of mood this evening. I visited a friend who's also down with the flu and we ended up talking about music while he messed around on his guitar. At some point James Taylor and his song 'Carolina in My Mind' came up. I love James Taylor. His songs make me think of my parents and I realised after talking about it that I didn't actually have any James Taylor on my computer. So as soon as I got home, I got to work finding the songs that I liked and downloading a couple of classic albums. I've now listened to all of them a couple of times and put together an 'Oldies' playlist on iTunes. Paul Simon, the Eagles, America, James Taylor, Cat Stevens, Joni Mitchell, Billy Joel, John Denver ... all good stuff. It's definitely taking the edge of this whole homesickness thing. It's not something that happens to me very often since I rather enjoy my life at university, but if I were at home, I'd be listening to this music all the time and listening to it now made me miss it.

It's now 10:00 and I just might - for the first time this semester - curl up in bed with a book and read till I want to go to sleep. I started off the evening with the full intention of getting some reading done and a paper written, but I was feeling way too mellow and distracted. Plus, after the way-more-than-I-bargained-for excitement of Halloween, I think I'm going to have a quiet weekend that shall be spent at Bridge Street with more peppermint tea as I begin to slowly chip away at the massive papers I have due at the end of this semester.

Stay well, good readers. Remember to wash your hands and don't forget the awesome arm-sneeze/cough (as opposed to the hand-sneeze/cough) that Mt A is rocking so hard.

And because it's my feel-good song of the night, here's an awesome live version of James Taylor singing his song, 'Fire and Rain'.

Thursday, 22 October 2009

India Coming Out?

Hi folks! I'm going to cheat a little bit this week and instead of writing something new, I'm going to share something I wrote for the Argosy (our student newspaper) this week, instead. The Argosy is a fantastic publication that I look forward to every week. Sometimes the writing is poor, sometimes the stories are weak, but we at Mt A love it regardless. And this week I get to be part of it. For all of my Mt A readers, chances are you skipped my section and now you can't avoid it. And for all you non-Mt A folk, you get a sweet article! So here it is:

Last week Canada, the US, and a number of European countries celebrated ‘Coming Out Week’. Catalyst – Mt A’s LGBT alliance on campus – invited the university community to participate in the celebrations and discussions surrounding LGBT issues. Having grown up in India – a strongly heteronormative society – the open expression and discussion of LGBT issues is not something I’ve seen often. As a nation India is still wrestling with these issues and only recently have people begun to speak up and speak out against the archaic laws and policies the Indian Penal Code outlines.


The widespread discomfort surrounding these issues is not exclusive to LGBT issues; talking openly about sex and sexuality in any context is enough to mortify the average Indian. This societal awkwardness is apparent at the level of both general society and the government. All of this seems rather ironic given that India is home to the ancient traditions of the Kama Sutra and Tantra, but things are changing for the better.


In 1996, Indian-born Canadian film director and screenwriter Deepa Mehta, released Fire, the first film in her Elements trilogy (the film was not released in India until 1998). Fire is set in India and was the first Indian film to explicitly depict homosexual relations. Its release in India was met with wide-spread and often violent protests by right-wing Hindu groups, though this isn’t to say that conservative Hindus are the only people in India opposed to open expression of (homo)sexuality. Forcing the issue into the public eye, Deepa Mehta spurred a wider debate around homosexuality and freedom of speech in the country.


Barkha Dutt, an award winning journalist for one of India’s leading news channels, NDTV, furthered the LGBT discourse in India by addressing LGBT issues, sexuality, and intolerance on her weekly audience-driven show We the People. Dutt and her colleagues in Indian journalism are finally bringing these issues out into the open and challenging the nation’s outdated societal norms and taboos.


Drafted by Lord Macaulay in 1861, the Indian Penal Cold (IPC) is a powerful piece of legislation, a code to which all subjects of the British Empire in India (those of both Indian and British origin) would be held accountable. Notable within this code is Section 377 – an archaic clause that criminalises sexual activity deemed to be “against the order of nature,” a crime punishable at the very least by a substantial fine or at worst by life imprisonment. Nearly 150 years after its inception, the law has finally been challenged. The issue was first brought to the High Court in 2001 in a public interest litigation demanding the legalisation of consensual homosexual intercourse, and in a surprisingly short eight years, it has made it through the tangle of Indian bureaucracy. In its historic decision on July 2, 2009, the Delhi High Court amended Section 377 of the IPC so as to decriminalise homosexual activity among consenting adults. A transcript of the 105-page judgement is available online via the District Courts of India Judgement Information System. The judgement reads,


“If there is one constitutional tenet that can be said to be underlying theme of the Indian Constitution, it is that of 'inclusiveness' … Those perceived by the majority as “deviants' or 'different' are not on that score excluded or ostracised.

In our view, Indian Constitutional law does not permit the satutory criminal law to be held captive by populat misconceptions of who the LGBTs are. It cannot be forgotten that discrimination is the antithesis of equality and that it is the recognition of equality which will foster the dignity of every individual."


The battle isn’t over yet. The amendment has been passed in the High Court but it will be appealed to Supreme Court and has already met with huge opposition from a range of political groups, including the Ministry of Home Affairs and a far-right political party, the Shiv Sena. The fact that the amendment passed through the High Court at all is a sign, however, that the Indian psyche is moving into an era of enlightenment and freethinking. People of our generation in India will soon begin to establish groups like Catalyst and the thousands of others like it and they will continue to challenge our government and our society to broaden its mind. Sixty-two years after Independence, the decision made by the Delhi High Court was one of many steps signaling the beginning of a new period in India’s growth and it bodes well for India as an emerging force in the global arena.


Monday, 12 October 2009

Getting Back Into It

It's been close to three months since I last blogged. Things started to happen and I just didn't find the time. I'm using this blog as a segue way into blogging regularly again. But here's a bit of a summary of all that's happened since my last post.

When I last wrote my family was soon to head out on a epic trip all across India. We were first in a city called Ahmednagar for a week running a field trip for a group of American high school students. The work was based in an organisation called Snehalaya which works with people affected with AIDS/HIV. This includes sex workers, children of sex workers, and children orphaned by AIDS. The trip was dedicated to learning about AIDS/HIV in a biological context as well as a social context so we had classroom-based discussions about the disease as well as visits to NGOs, brothels, and social workers. The trip was in parts shocking and heartbreaking, but it was also wonderful to see the kind of work that is going into this area and the immense strength that many of the women and children showed despite the huge odds they're up against.

From Ahmednagar we traveled on to New Delhi to meet a second group of students. This trip took us from Delhi to Dhar
amsala. In 1959 when the Tibetan people were forced to flee Tibet at the time of the Chinese invasion, India gave them refuge and allowed them to settle in Dharamsala and establish their Government in Exile there in 1960. Today that is where the Dalai Lama has his residence and is essentially the home of the Tibetan people in exile. Dharamsala is known as "Little Lhasa", after the name of the capital city in Tibet. We spent some days in Dharamsala exploring Tibetan culture, medicine, language, and Tibetan Buddhism. We headed back to Delhi via another town called Dalhousie and ended the academic portion of the trip. We were in Delhi for a short time and then drove to Agra to see the Taj Mahal. We were in Agra for a day and before returning to Delhi. My family stayed in Delhi a few days after the students flew out and then got the train back to Kodai. That took almost an entire month and by the time we were back, it was August 17th and I was leaving for Sackville in two weeks. On the left is map of where my travels took me.

I spent the my last two weeks meeting all the people I needed to say bye to, doing all the last-minute shopping I needed, and organising my things.

I flew out of Chennai on the 5th of September at 1:00 am. I flew Chennai-Frankfurt-Montreal-Halifax and it took me over 24 hours. I arrived in Halifax at 4:00 pm on the 5th. I got a shuttle bus from the airport to the city and checked in at a hostel on Gottigen St - the sketchiest part of Halifax, as far as I'd been told. I had a sleepless night because I was terrified I wasn't going to wake up to get my cab at 6:30 to the bus terminal and that I would miss my bus. It turns out that everything went fine and I was in Sackville at 10:30 am on the 6th morning and Nathan and Victoria were waiting for me with Vic's car. I was thrilled to be back in Sackville. I missed it very much this summer.

Rhiana, Cate and Noah were waiting for me when I got to our apartment with Nathan and from then on, it was just like being home. That was Sunday and school started on Tuesday. I just about managed to get unpacked by Monday night and being back in classes so soon after arriving was a bit of a shock. This semester definitely started at an insane pace and has hardly let up since it started, but I'm generally enjoying the classes I'm taking and most of my profs are great.

Our apartment situation is also going incredibly well. Nathan, Rhiana, Noah, Cate and I are good friends and living together is very easy. It's been everything and more than I hoped it would be and it turns out that my apprehension was completely unwarranted.

I'm part of a number of student groups this semester and they're all keeping me fairly busy. I'm running SAN - the Society of All Nations, and I'm part of EcoAction and Unicef Mt A. It's a really interesting range of activities because they're all very different and I get to work with completely different groups of students on completely different projects. It's going to be a lot of fun, if a bit hectic.

I was on a field trip on the weekend of the 2nd of October to St Andrews, a town right on the border of New Brunswick and Maine in the US. The trip was for my Marine Biology class and we were studying intertidal zones and the plants and invertebrate animals found there. The trip was a lot of fun and great experience in data collection in the field. We were up at 5:00 am one morning so that we could be down on the beach at 6:00. We were out sampling for about two hours and then we headed straight to the lab to begin keying out and identifying our samples and recording all our data. We were on the beach again for the second low tide that evening and again, once we were done, we went straight to the lab to identify our samples and record our data. We ended the night by taking our aquarium of creatures back down to the beach near our lab and releasing them back into the ocean. It was a great experience and I got to see all kinds of neat stuff like starfish, sea urchins, sponges, sea anemones, crabs, mussels, barnacles, limpets, little shrimp-like creatures, a variety of gross worms, and one group saw a nudibranch but I (heartbreakingly) didn't manage to find one myself. It was a great reminder of why I love biology so much.

This weekend is Thanksgiving and Nathan and I drove to PEI with our friend Stephen to spend the weekend with him and his family. It was one of the most relaxing weekends I've had in a long time and it was absolutely lovely. I've been to PEI before but I didn't really get to see much of the island so it was great having Stephen to show us around since he grew up in PEI and gave us an insider's view of Charlottetown. The first night we wandered around the downtown area and looked a all the great old buildings, bought books at a used book store, had dinner at a great placed followed by drinks at this sweet Scotch lounge. We ended the night with a long walk on the boardwalk on the bay. We spent the next day trying to get work done and had a really nice Thanksgiving dinner. Yesterday we drove out to the beach and wandered around and then went back into town. We walked around Province House with Stephen giving us the grand tour, got ice cream at 'Cows' which is famous in PEI, and then drove around the downtown a bit. We left PEI at around 6:00 and we were back in Sackville by 7:30.

Today is Thanksgiving proper and we're having a massive potluck this evening. Nathan's in the process of basting the turkey, Rhiana made pumpkin cheese cake, Cate's making chicken pot pie, and Noah and I'll be doing veggies and mashed potatoes later. We have about 14 people who we're expecting over and we'll probably get a few other people who show up and it's going to be great.

And that's essentially all that's happened to me since I last wrote. I should be writing more often from now on. Happy Thanksgiving, folks! I'll check in again soon.

Wednesday, 22 July 2009

Kodaikanal: PT Road, 3:30 pm, 19th July 2009

I thought I'd try something a little different for the next little while. I'm going to be out of Kodai doing new things and going new places, and maybe I should tell my stories in a new way. For as long as I can keep it up, I'll give you little snap-shots of my life. Glimpses of the places I've been and the things I saw that have in some way moved me. It also gives me a chance to write in a way that "Today I did this and this and this ..." doesn't quite do. Bare with me. I've been writing this blog for two years and I need to try new ways of expressing myself.

Anyway. Here goes:

I can't remember the last time I've been in town on a Sunday. It's not for lack of opportunities but that's just how it goes. Life falls into a rhythm, we get into our comfortable grooves, and interesting things stop happening.

I'm waiting and watching the world go by. From my vantage point I can see up and down the street and, except for an occasional pair of eyes that strays up to look back at me, I remain unnoticed. It's about to rain but the people milling around below me seem oblivious.

A man has arranged the school bags he's selling in a circle. In the middle of the circle is a stick of incense burning slowly down to its base. He's sitting next to the bags occasionally getting up to dust one or adjust another - but like me, he mostly watches.

A man and his wife are selling grapes. When the last bunch has been exchanged for payment, he beings to clear away his things. He sits down and counts the money he has earned that day. Soon an old man appears at his side - I presume it's his father. The family continues to pack away their make-shift stall: they fold the tarp, clean up the boxes and packing paper, and carry away the cot they were using to display the fruit on. In a few minutes' time, they have left nothing but bare ground behind them.

People come to his stall in a steady stream. He digs among the piles of jeans and trousers he has and pulls out just the right item to show his customer. He seems to know where everything is and he never hesitates. But no one buys anything. I wonder what he's thinking.

Occasionally a car drives through the surging mass of people. There's a feeling that the cars are unwelcome and the people move reluctatntly aside as the horns urge them out of the way. They part like water before the prow of a ship and then they slip back into place, showing no sign of the disturbance that had moved them seconds before.

A man is sweeping the ground in front of his stall. When he's finished he walks over to the neighbouring stall and tosses the broom onto a pile of others. The woman selling them shows no indication that she is bothered by him using her broom. She ignores him and continues her conversation with a passer-by.

A man and his wife walk past with their three daughters. There doesn't seem to be more than two years separating each child; the youngest is no older than two. Does the father feel sorry that he has no sons? Does the mother feel guilt?

Across the street a vegetable vendor answers her cell phone. Her display of produce is modest, but neatly arranged. I smile at the apparent irony of India: cell phones in the hands of those who didn't go to school and whose children may never go to school either.

The noise dominates. It is the sound of many voices speaking at once: people chatting with friends, old women haggling over a few rupees, fruit sellers calling attention to their yellow mangoes and foam-packed apples. Soon the noise seems to form more of a background to the sights and smells, colours and movements that make up this moment of pure, unadulterated life.

Sunday, 19 July 2009

I have a funny feeling in my chest today. Maybe it's because of all this traveling that's ahead of me. I feel like it isn't. Part 2 of my summer break is over. There's change in the air ...

This summer has been good for me. It has been full of fairly high highs and some very low lows, but I feel like I've been slowly transformed by it. I've learned things about myself that weren't obvious before. It's interesting how different things become clear depending on the context in which they're placed. It's sort of like when you have a favourite book that you read every few years. Every time you read it, certain phrases will pop out at you in a way they didn't before, you'll learn different things and take away new meanings. Coming back to India this summer was like having to confront an image of the person I was when I left, and having to reconcile it when the person that I am now.

Tonight my parents, my brother and I are leaving town for just under a month. My mum is the director of a company (India Educational Tours) that runs fieldtrips for (often IB) students from all over the world. Between now and when we come back in August, there'll be two fieldtrips - one in Ahmednagar (about 200 km west of Bombay) and one in Dharamsala (about 200 km north east of Lahore, Pakistan and the same distance west of Tibet). Between the two trips, we're going to be out of Kodai for almost a month. It's a tiring thought, and my brother and I made a feeble appeal to be allowed to stay behind, but it's too late for that. A friend told me to imagine that it's an episode of Survivor. I hope it won't be too bad. It's just going to be a lot of buses, trains, unfamilar beds, and living out of a bag. And when we come back, I'll only have two weeks left in India before I head back to Sackville.

My brother ended up coming back to India. We weren't planning on having him back this summer but things changed and it turned out that he was going to be saving a lot of money by coming back, rather than saying in Daytona (Florida). He's probably going to be here a month longer than me.

I'm not sure what my internet access will be like when I'm gone, but I'm going to try and blog if I can. I might have more interesting things to write about when we're traipsing around the country, than here in Kodai. As much as I love being in Kodai, it doesn't provide much material for interesting blogs.

I had another post in mind for tonight but I have to pack still, so I'm going to stop. I'll save it for another day.

Till later ...

Wednesday, 8 July 2009

Pictures

Here's the link I promised. Someone leave a comment if you can't see them. I'm pretty sure it's a public album, but who knows .

http://picasaweb.google.com/ashra.kolhatkar/HomeHousePuppiesKittensAndShades#

Of Elephant Rides and Identity Crises

I just got back from my visit with Noah in Mysore. It was a good trip. We got to catch up on stories of our respective summers, news about our other friends, gossip from Sackville, and we talked a lot about plans for next year when we'll be living together. I'm about half-way through the summer and I don't think this trip could have been timed better. I gave me a break from life at home and Kodai as well as a chance to touch base with the other (probably more than) half of my life in Sackville.

The trip had a perfect mix of going out, sitting around and talking, and doing stuff on our own. I went to most of the classes with Noah and that was nice because I got to sit and listen without any pressure of having to remember what I heard or worry about taking notes or anything. I can't remember the last time I had a classroom experience like that. Some of their professors and guest speakers were extremely impressive I learned a lot. I spent most of the afternoons reading, watching movies, or napping. I spend a lot of my time on my own here in Kodai and I definitely needed that time in Mysore, too. As did Noah, I'm sure. We spent the late afternoons and evenings going out and doing things. We went out with the whole group a few times as well as just Noah and me going out on our own for drinks or walks.

We all went out for dinner on the 1st of July which is Canada Day. I thought it was pretty funny to be back in India, visiting my American friend, with a group of Canadians celebrating Canada Day. Wikipedia says, Canada day is "Canada's national day, a federal statutory holiday celebrating the anniversary of the 1 July 1867 enactment of the British North American Act, which united Canada as a single country, which was in turn composed of four provinces [Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Quebec and Ontario]. Canada Day observances take place throughout Canada as well as internationally." Internationally is right! Thankfully we didn't go so far as to signing 'O Canada' or something like that. I don't even know the words ...

On Sunday we decided to go to the Mysore Palace. Since group is in their last two weeks in Mysore most of them decided to stay at the hostel and write papers and as a result only five of us went to the Palace: Noah, Louisa, and Louisa's parents Dr Strain and Michelle. The entire Palace is covered in light bulbs and on Sundays at 7:00 they light up for an hour. Seeing the Palace illuminated against the darkening sky is quite spectacular. We went around 4:30 to see the Palace during the day as well as to see if we could find an elephant so that Louisa could fulfill one of her biggest "When I'm in India" wishes which was to ride an elephant. We found an elephant, bought four tickets (Noah, Louisa, Michelle and myself; Dr Strain opted out and took pictures and a video of us instead). I asked the Mahut (the guy who 'drives' it) what it's name was and he said that her name was Raji and that she was 18 years old. The guys who run the rides took the cameras that we had and took pictures for us. They also gave each of us a chance to climb onto her neck so that we could get a picture of us 'riding' her. I thought about it and I've concluded that the 15 minutes I spent on top of Raji were about the most touristy 15 minutes of my life. It took me a while to stop feeling silly about being there in the first place but unless I had been with four foreigners in India, I don't think I would have ever ridden an elephant. Two thoughts made me feel less stupid: 1) "None of you know me, so whatever." (Anonymity is an excellent cure for embarrassment) and 2) "Suck it! Have any of you ever ridden an elephant?!" In the end, it was a pretty sweet experience.


Noah and me at the Palace. This is the only picture of us together from the trip and I insisted that we take it so that we had evidence that I was actually in Mysore.


The Palace light up. Under the third arch from the left is a police band playing Western concert music - I thought that was pretty cool.


But, all these things aside, my most prominent experiences in Mysore can be summed up with two words: basically Indian. For Noah and Dr Strain and the rest of the people on the trip, I sort of became the local expert on Indian culture and any time someone had a question about why Indians did something, or what a word meant, or what went into an Indian dish with an unpronounceable name, they asked me. But it soon became very apparent that the way they saw me, and the way other Indians saw me were completely different. For example:

One evening we all got taken out to dinner to a fancy place by their professor Dr Rao. All of us were sitting at one end of the table and whenever anyone had a question about what Aloo Gobi or Saag Gosht or Palak Paneer were, they asked me. When I was telling the waiter what we wanted, he kept telling me what was in each dish after I said the name; it was obvious that he thought that I would have as little idea about what I was ordering as the rest of the group.

When we were at the Palace we bought tickets to go in. The entrance fee is Rs 20 for Indians and Rs 200 for foreigners. I wasn't sure if the ticket seller would believe me if I said I was Indian and since I didn't have any ID on me, I didn't stand in line with Noah and the rest but instead waited a bit and went amongst a group of Indians. The guy at the counter looked at me when I stepped up and asked with mild skepticism, "You're Indian?" When I said yes he made a vague noise and handed me my ticket. Later, when we were getting ready for the elephant ride, the guy asked Noah how many people were going. Noah said, "Three foreigners and one Indian." The guy looked at me, pointed, and asks with a laugh in his voice, "You're Indian?" When I said yes he burst out laughing.

On another day we went to a home for destitute women called Shakti Dhamma. When we first arrived we stood around a bit awkwardly with the woman who runs the home while Dr Strain introduced us and told her where we were from. When we got to me and Dr Strain explained that I'm Indian but I study at Mount A in Canada she woman says, "So you're basically Indian?" I said yes and she says in a somewhat triumphant tone, "I could tell!" I smiled and said nothing but I was thinking, "What tipped you off? Maybe the brown skin?" We spent about two hours there, most of which time we spent sitting on the floor in small groups and talking to the women. I ended up using what little Tamil and Hindi I know to talk to a few of the ladies. When we were leaving a girl who is a law student and is working at Shakti Dhamma as an intern for the summer came over to me and asks, "So ... you're basically Indian?" I was speechless. Her too? Why do people keep saying that?
Basically Indian? What does that even mean?!

So now, people can't understand what I'm saying, they assume I don't know what I'm eating, I get suspicious looks when I say I'm Indian, people think it's hilarious when they find out I am, and I'm - apparently - only basically Indian. I try and make myself feel better by saying that I only got these reactions because I was with a group of foreigners and they just figured I was one of them. I mean, NRIs (Non-Resident Indians) aren't uncommon any more. To an extent that's actually the truth ... but not the full extent. You know how Asian people are sometimes called Twinkies - yellow on the outside and white on the inside? What am I ... a Bounty? Brown on the outside, white on the inside? God. I sincerely hope not. I certainly don't feel white on the inside. Regardless, my crisis continues. Maybe the problem isn't with me but rather with other Indians. Just because I speak English and wear jeans, why does that make me less Indian than a woman who only speaks Hindi or Tamil and only wears saris? What defines Indian?

It's just so bizarre. The bus incident was funny but this is starting to get a bit out of control. I guess I still have a lot of figuring out to do ...

Monday, 15 June 2009

The Bus Incident

I had a funny experience in a bus the other day. I was going to visit a friend who lives bit of a ways out of town and I had to take a bus to get there. I wasn't quite sure which bus to take so I asked someone. The man told me to wait and pointed me in the right direction when my bus arrived. My Tamil isn't fantastic but I get by without too many issues - usually. When the ticket collector got to me I told him that the stop I was going to was 'Nadar Shed' ('Nadar' being the name of a large and wealthy family that owns a lot of land in that area, and 'Shed' because I think there's a large shed across the road from the bus stop that's used to store harvests of produce - like carrots, pears and plums - that come off this family's farms). When I told him that I wanted to go to Nadar Shed, he looked at me completely blankly and then told me that he had no idea what I was saying. So I said it again, "Nadar Shed!" And again he looked nonplussed. So I said it a third time, "Nadar Shed!!" Finally he gave up and called over a more senior man who was the conductor. The conductor came over and asked me in a kindly, sympathetic sort of way where I wanted to go. I was feeling a little bit flustered and embarrassed by this time since the conversation had attracted a fair amount of attention from the other people on the bus, but I said - for the fourth time - "Nadar Shed". The conductor understood me and says to the young ticket collector "Nadar Shed", in what I thought was exactly the same pronunciation in which I had said it. I could see that this time the ticket collector had understood and, while handing over my ticket, he looks at me as if to say, "Well why didn't you say that the first time?!" I giggled to myself about the incident all the way to my infamous stop.

The more I thought about the whole Nadar Shed incident, the more I realized that it's a very clear commentary on my life as it is right now. When I'm in Canada, I have a Canadian accent that my parents tease me about but that also ensures that I'm understood. And even then I find the odd person who simply doesn't have a clue what I'm saying. And now that I'm back in India - which I had thought with absolute certainty is my home - I'm being faced with similarly blank expressions. It seems that I'm as foreign in my own country as I am when I'm abroad. It's a bit strange, to say the least.

My non-Indianness extends further, I suppose. The only language I speak fluently is English. Of the Indian languages open to me, I speak Tamil and Hindi to an extent that allows me to function but does nothing to hide the fact that I am uncomfortable speaking anything but English. I stick out like a sore thumb to hawkers and vendors on Indian streets because I look and sound like someone who lives abroad and has tons of dollars to spend. I guess that for the moment I just don't know whether I'm coming or going ...

Anyway. More on that later, I suppose. In other news: I had a fairly ok time visiting family last week. We were out of Kodai for 10 days and it went by quickly. It's 30 hours by train to Pune (pronounced Pu-nay with a short u sound and is also known as "Poona") and we got in at 1:00 am or there abouts on Sunday morning. We went straight to my grandparents' place, spent the night, and left shortly after breakfast. It was a 2 and a half hour bus ride to Ahmednagar (Ah-mudh-nugurh also with short u sounds; "Nagar" for short) where my mum's sister and her family live. My mum's two elderly aunts are also living there at the moment. So with me, my mum, dad, aunt, uncle, cousin, two grand aunts, a cat, and a dog it was pretty crowded. My parents and I were sleeping on the terrace under mosquito nets and very starry skies and it was lovely. It wasn't too hot in either Poona or Nagar but we were definitely grateful for the cool air outside. My parents left for Delhi on Tuesday morning and I was left in Nagar. I was there till Thursday morning when I got the bus back to Poona and my grandparents. On Sunday afternoon my parents flew back into Poona from Delhi and I was happy to have them back. We took the train on Sunday and were back in Kodai at 11:30ish on Monday night. I was happy to be back and reunited with my puppies and kittens and dog who I worried about and missed when we were away.

We've been back almost a week and I'm heading out again soon. I booked tickets to go to Mysore to visit Noah. For those of you who aren't tuned in, Noah goes to Mt A with me and we're going to be living together next year. He's in India on Mt A's Shastri summer abroad program. I'm leaving Kodai on Tuesday afternoon (30th of June) and I'll be in Mysore on Wednesday (1st of July) morning. I'm going to be there until the following Monday afternoon (6th July) and I'll be back in Kodai on Tuesday morning. I'm looking forward to seeing him. I don't know how often I'll have the chance to have friends from Canada come to India and actually be close enough for me to go and see. I shall update you on how it goes. And Noah probably will too. He writes a blog for Mt A as well; http://noahkowalski.blogspot.com in case you're interested.

Here are pictures of the puppies and kittens that I took today. They are basically the sweetest things I have ever seen.

Puppies eating breakfast.


Max
Lucy

And those are they. My gorgeous puppies and kittens. I'll put up a Picasa album with the rest of them and I'll give you all a link to that. For now, these are just a selection. I got bored of downloading off Facebook and uploading to this so I'm stopping.

I'll write again when I'm back from Mysore and hopefully I'll have pictures from there, too.

Tuesday, 9 June 2009

I've come to add another book to my list. I got through this one more slowly than I was expecting to. 'My Dream of You' by a woman called Nuala O'Faolain. She's Irish, as you might have guessed and the book is, essentially, about Ireland. I'd like to go there some day. It seems like a place with a lot of history and some pretty deep scars. It's a good book. I'd recommend it.

It's been a lovely day here in Kodai. Bursts of scorching sunshine interrupted by brief rain showers that are quickly followed by bright sun again. A typical Kodai day. The monsoon is here. Apparently Cyclone Aila drew a lot of moisture away from the monsoon and so it halted for a while and we had a few sincere summery days, but the rain is back. I have to admit that I'm not so keen on the rain, after the cold and darkness of a Sackville winter. I just want hot sun, but it would be cruel to wish the monsoon away. Too many people are waiting for it, practically on bended knee.

I'm making progress with my guitar. I can now play: 'Horse With No Name' (America), 'Orange Sky' (Alexi Murdoch), and 'Wonderwall' (Oasis). I think 'Yellow' (Coldplay) is next. I'm struggling to get the singing and playing to happen at the same time, though. It's sort of like that thing where you try to pat your head and rub your stomach at the same time. It's hard. It depends on the song and the rhythm of the strumming and what not, but still - it's easier said than done.

Some time a couple of weeks ago, in the middle of a massive thundershower, Shades (our dog) decided that enough was enough and she brought her puppies up to the house. They're a little over two weeks old and they've just opened their eyes and started looking more like puppies and less like furry sausages. We've also got two kittens - a boy and a girl. I've named them Max (after Maxwell Edison whose hammer came down) and Lucy (in the sky with diamonds) and, in keeping with last summer's obsession, they're also names from Across the Universe. I wanted names that were sort of a pair. My dad (a doctor and biology nerd like myself) and I were thinking of amino acid names, but they didn't work very well. I looked at Greek mythology, and cellestial bodies ... and eventually settled on the Beatles for my inspiration. They're the sweetest little things, my kittens. Except when it's 2:30 am and they're playing pouncing games all over me. The last couple of nights I've been kicking them out of my room and only letting them in again early in the morning. I can't begin to describe how nice it is to have pets again. Eight of them, that too! One of the things about being at home that I miss the most is having pets. The boundless, unconditional love is like nothing else. I mean, who else can you kick out of bed at 2:30 in the morning that'll still come running in first thing just bursting with happiness to see you?

I'm going out of town for about 10 days this Friday. My parents have work and so I'm going along to do the necessary visits to my grandparents and general extended family. I'm being left alone with them for a few days which isn't an ideal situation, but it'll be alright. I'm a big girl and I'll probably be fine. It's not guaranteed ... but probably. (Let it suffice to say that my family has issues.) We'll be back on the 22nd. I feel like this trip marks the end of Part 1 of my vacation back in India. I've been back a month today, actually. I'm dreading the trip because we're going off our lovely little mountain and heading back into the Indian summer. It's going to be crazy hot. Especially for me. Kodai's weather has been (aside from the rain) perfect with it's highs of 20-ish and it's lows of 10-ish. But once we get off the mountain, we'll be in 35-ish and higher and I don't know if I can take it. On our trip to Kodai from Chennai when I arrived, I was very, very hot and unhappy though I did try not to complain. Stepping out of the airport was like getting punched in the face. Ah well. I guess it'll make the return to Kodai all the nicer. And yes, I'm being picky about the kind of summer I want. You'd understand if you were in Sackville for the winter and it made you as miserable as it made me.

Kodai's a bit lonely though. I went out the other night with two guys from my class in high school. They were both bumming around in Kodai and so we went out for dinner and a drink. One of the guys has left back to university (India's on a slightly different schedule from the West). I might meet up with the other guy later this week to watch a movie or something. We're both a bit bored and lonely and I'm sure we'll be grateful for the company. I certainly will be. Other than that, there's not much happening.

The main excitement in the last few days has been the French Open. I'm a huge Federer supporter. I've been a fan of his since the day way back in 2001 when he beat Pete Sampras in the quaterfinals of Wimbledon and upset a huge winning streak that Sampras was on. Anyway. His French Open win was a big deal: 1) it's his first French Open title; 2) he tied Sampras' record of 14 Grand Slam titles; 3) he tied Ivan Lendl's record of 19 Grand Slam finals; and 5) with the win, he became the sixth man in history to complete a Career Grand Slam. Apparently he is offically the best player ever now. It's pretty sweet.

Cricket has crept back into my life. It is now the T20 World Cup being hosted by England. There are matches happening every night again. I'm planning to retreat to my room to read and watch movies on my computer. I've had enough cricket. I watched 'Thick as Thieves' last night with Antonio Banderas in the first role of his that I've like and Morgan Freeman who's awesome no matter what.

Anyway. My mum is here, the cricket is on, and I think I'm going to disappear back to my room. It was nice to catch up. I guess you'll hear from me when I'm back in Kodai on the 22nd or the 23rd.

Be well, good readers. Till later ...

Friday, 29 May 2009

Time again for another post.

I've been home for just under three weeks and I guess I'm about as settled as I'm going to get. I've mostly done a whole lot of nothing since I've been back, but that's certainly not a bad thing. I've been sleeping till 9:30 or 10:30, having a slow morning, and lounging all afternoon. My parents nap for a bit and then my dad heads back to work and my mum keeps napping. I've been watching tv, reading, trying not to fall asleep and, recently, playing my guitar.

It's taking a while to get used to being part of a family again. I have become used to the autonomy that comes with university life where I can do whatever I want. It's a bit odd having to choreograph my life so that it fits in with the lives around me. There are a million subtle and some less subtle changes that I have to get used to. I have to admit that I miss the somewhat indifferent comfort that comes with independence and having one's own space.

But don't get the wrong idea. It's great to be home. I don't have to cook, I get to sit around and do nothing all day, I don't have any bills to pay, or a job to go to, and I don't have any homework!

Oh! And as of 5 days ago, I have puppies! Technically. Right now my dog has crawled deep into the hedge between my house and the neighbour, has delivered her puppies in there. And, apart from coming out for meals, she's refused to show her face. My mum is convinced that she'll bring them out on her own, but I have a feeling she might be a bit more reluctant. The other problem is that if she does bring them out on her own, we'll have no idea if she's brought them all or not since we have no idea how many she's had. There must be an instinctive need to deliver babies in secrecy and since Shades (our dog) is allowed to wander, she's taken full advantage of her freedom. This is her second litter and she's getting fixed after this one. She's a good mum though and her last litter of puppies was gorgeous, so I expect this lot will be too.

My guitar playing is coming along well. I've now learned 'Horse With No Name' (America) and 'Orange Sky' (Alexi Murdoch) though I'm having a really hard time putting the singing together with the playing. So far my dad has played only a minimal role in my tutoring. It's good though because if he was more interested, he might nag me more about it, too. For now, the internet is proving an excellent tool and I'm getting along just fine. I'm starting to feel a lot more comfortable with my guitar and learning new things is getting easier. I'm also developing healthy calouses on the tips of my fingers which is an excellent sign.

My reading has not progressed as well as I would like. 'The Brothers Karamazov' (Dostoyevsky), my current project, is proving quite difficult. It's a slow, difficult book and if I tackle it on it's own, it'll be three months before I can start another one. So instead, I'm going to try and read more than one book at a time. I've never done that before, but a lot of people do, so I don't see why I can't either. The book I'm starting today is called 'My Dream of You' by Nuala O'Faolain. It's "a grand achievement of storytelling", according to USA Today. I'll let you know. I'll also start another reading list like I did for last summer. I've already read more since the end of classes than I did the whole of last summer, despite my long break from reading the last three weeks.

Another small joy in my life is that cricket is over for a while. The Indian Cricket Council (ICC) started something called the Indian Premiere League (IPL) which uses a new, short version of cricket that was recently created. Each match takes about 3 hours instead of a whole day (the previous 'short' version) or 5 days (the long version). What it meant, though, was that there were at least two matches on every night. Between the night I arrived in Chennai on the 8th and last Sunday night, there was not a single day that went by when I didn't watch cricket. My only options were to sit alone in my room and entertain myself, or watch cricket with my mum and dad. So I watched cricket. The final was last Sunday and I couldn't be happier that the cricket is over. The World Cup for this short version of the game is starting soon, but I think I'm going to appeal for a ban on all matches other than the ones that India's playing in. I think that's reasonable. I was starting to go cricket crazy.

The French Open (tennis) started a few days ago and I've been keeping an eye on that. I generally only watch Federer and Nadal's matches because they're the most interesting. I'm an absolutely loyal Federer fan but the only person who's allowed to beat him in Nadal (as far as I'm concerned). Luckily Nadal seems to be the only person capable of beating Federer, so all is well in my world of tennis. And I can't wait for Wimbledon; it's the most fantastic of all the Grand Slams.

Um. I think that's all for now. I'm going to make up that reading list, and then I have to meet a friend for coffee.

Till later ...

Tuesday, 12 May 2009

Home!

It's time again for my customary apology for a long silence. I have no excuse other than lethargy and the need to do absolutely nothing for a while. Much has happened since my last post and I'll try and catch everyone up.

I last wrote a few days before my last exam. The whole exam week was stressful and tiring and it was so good to be done! I started packing up my room pretty much right away. I was waiting for my passport to arrive in the mail any time that week (this was the week of the 20th of April) and so I needed to be ready to leave. In case I forgot to tell this story earlier, I had sent my passport away to get my visa renewed. It took absurdly long to get to them Consulate General in Buffalo and so it wasn't back in time for me to leave. Turns out that my passport didn't arrive till a week after I was supposed to leave. On Wednesday afternoon I had to call my airline and get my tickets changed. I was lucky and managed to find tickets for the same cost as my original ones and I only had to pay the fee that they charge to change tickets. So, instead of being home on the 25th of April, I was looking at two more weeks in Sackville and being back in India on the 8th. I was rather bummed for a while, but the thought of being in Sackville for a while longer eventually grew on me.

I moved to a friend's house to camp out till the 1st when the lease on my apartment started. I watched lots and lots of How I Met Your Mother (on DVD), read a fair amount, fiddled around with my guitar and generally appreciated having nothing to do. It was also good to be able to have some down time on my own in Sackville before I made the long trip back to India. If I had left on the 23rd, I would have been an absolute mess when I got home. Sackville was just starting to come alive again when I left. I'm not going to lie - I'll miss the summer in Sackville.

I spent one night on the couch in my apartment (on the 1st). Since I'd sub-letted my room out, I couldn't stay in my room, and all the other rooms were taken, and so I had to crash on the couch. It wasn't particularly uncomfortable, but I did feel like I was in the way since all my stuff was tucked in every corner in the living room. I didn't really like being under everyone's feet when they were all trying to get settled in the house before classes/work started. On the 2nd I moved to Andrew's house. He and his roommate Chris were just getting settled and since there were only two of them in the three-bedroom house, it meant that I didn't have to be on a couch. I helped them find furniture and odds and ends for their place and by the time I left it was starting to look like a functional house. I'm a little jealous that they have a house and we only have an apartment, but each has its own advantages. I was there till the 7th morning.

At 9:30 I got on the bus to Halifax with my one suitcase, my guitar, a backpack, and my sling-bag, and I began what turned out to be a long and very exhausting trip to India. I got to Halifax at 12:30 in the afternoon and had to wait there for 6 hours. At 3:00 I was able to check in and get rid of my suitcase and guitar. I put my guitar through 'special handling' and prayed that they would take good care of it. I watched Hancock while I waited and tried not to get too bored.

At some point I went through security when it was getting close to boarding time. I got called aside because of a pair of scissors in a pencil case that I'd forgotten about. I think they weren't sure what was setting the machine off at first because the guy there took a swab of the inside of my bag and stuck it in a little machine. It freaked me out a bit. Anyway, he found the scissors in the end and sent me on my way. I didn't have to wait too long before they started boarding and I think the flight left right on time.

It was an hour and a half to Montreal. I watched most of 'The Reader' (Cate Winslet and someone else) and got into Montreal at 7:30 pm (Sackville time). I was there long enough to have time to get something to eat and walk what seemed like a whole kilometer to the gate my next flight was leaving from. It was a big flight and they took a long time to board us. The flight left at 9:00 pm Sackville time.

It was 7 hours to Frankfurt. I watched the end of 'The Reader', 'Taken' (Liam Neeson) and most of 'Wendy and Lucy', and tried to sleep. It was 4:00 am (on the 8th) Sackville time when I got to Frankfurt. The flight disembarked at the same gate that my next flight was leaving from so I didn't have to move at all. I grabbed a seat facing out onto the airport, put on 'Concert in Central Park' (Simon and Garfunkel) on my iPod, and sat out the next hour or so that I had to wait.

My flight to Chennai left Frankfurt at 6:00 am Sackville time. It was 9 hours and 15 minutes to Chennai. I had been travelling for over 24 hours with very little (negligible) sleep. It was 3:15 pm Sackville time when I arrived in Chennai. On the flight I watched Slumdog Millionaire again, had a little more success sleeping, chatted with the guy sitting next to me, and read my book. Mostly I wanted to freak out a little bit because I was tired of sitting, my legs were cramped (I can't even to begin to imagine what kind of torture flying is for Nathan at his incredible height of 6'8"), and I just wanted to get home.

The flight arrived on time and it took me about an hour to get through security. They were screening for Swine Flu and so it took a bit longer than I expected. I waited what felt like an age for my luggage. I was certain that someone had goofed and it hadn't come all the way through from Halifax to Chennai. Just when I was starting to get worried my suitcase came out. I was watching the baggage thing and fearing for the safety of my guitar. They had the conveyor belt that goes around, but there was this other conveyor that was literally dumping bags from a height of about three feet onto the conveyor belt below. Thankfully I didn't see my guitar get dumped out because it would have horrified me but it finally came around as well, and wasn't too battered.

It was about 4:15 pm Sackville time when I went out and met my parents. It was great to see them and it wasn't nearly as emotional a reunion as I thought it might have been. We got a cab back to the hotel and stayed up and talked for quite a long while. I wasn't tired and I think they stayed up for my sake. It was 6:30 pm in Sackville when we went to sleep. We were up at 12:00 midnight Sackville time; it was 8:30 am in India. Our train left at 12:20 pm India time which was 3:50 am in Sackville (on the 9th). It was about 7 hours to the stop where our taxi was meeting us. That made it 10:50 am in Sackville. I had been travelling for 48 hours. We made a quick detour to visit family friends who live very close to the train station (they had told my parents that they absolutely HAD to bring me to see them before we drove up the hill to Kodai). We stopped for dinner half way home, and we walked in the front door at about midnight India time. It was 3:30 pm in Sackville.

That was my trip: three flights, five movies, 54 hours of travel, and 12,706 km. I'm finally home. I left 20 months ago.

I haven't left the house since we got here. I've been reading and talking to my parents, and getting used to being back at home and part of a family again. I'm going out to visit family friends this afternoon. I might venture into town tomorrow.

That's all for now. More of my summer plans later.

Thursday, 16 April 2009

Summer? Is it really you?

It's been quite a while since I last posted. I probably should be studying right now, but I'm not. The reason for this impromptu post is this: I have a story.

It was my 21st birthday last week. 21 ... I know. It's pretty sweet. I seem to enjoy getting older. Maybe I'll eat my words someday, but for now, I think I get taken a little more seriously with every passing year, and that's a good thing. The week of my birthday was busy. I had a lab exam on the Monday, and a test on Thursday (the day after my birthday - at 8:30 in the morning, no less). Thankfully the big birthday in Canada is 19 because that's what the legal drinking age is. I'm not sure what Arjun (my twin brother) did in Florida, but being in the US 21 was much more of a big deal for him. But I was grateful for not having any crazy binging tradition to live up to. It turned out to be a (fairly large) group of friends at Ducky's. The same as last year. A few beers, an excuse to all get together, and then some very late-night studying for an early-morning test. Woo hoo ... What made the whole thing better - and the heart of this story - is that since it was my birthday and I was at a point where I could afford it, I bought myself a guitar. I went online and hunted for good deals and good guitars and I finally found one: an Epiphone PR150 Acoustic Guitar. I got a message from the store that it had been shipped on the 8th, and it was here on Tuesday. I could only pick it up yesterday because UPS needed to be paid border-crossing charges before they were willing to drop it off. It took less than a week and now I have my very own guitar!! I think it's sort of middle-of-the-range and I'm sure guitar experts will think that it's fairly mediocre and nothing special ... but in the one day that I've had it, I have grown to love it. I'm sure (and I sincerely hope) that this is the start of something pretty cool and I can't wait.

So that is my story. I've already learned a few chords and my fingers have the satisfying pain that comes with learning guitar that I remember so well from the first time I tried to learn. Why a guitar, you ask? So close to the time that I'm going back to India? Well ... because I tried to learn before, and nothing special came of it. One reason was that I was in high school and I was certain that I had more important things to do. It wasn't my guitar ... and so it always felt a bit like a hobby ... something to do semi-seriously on the side. It stopped pretty quickly and that was the end of it. But now, I have a guitar that I have spent a substantial amount of money on, I'm going to haul it halfway around the world with me when I go home, and then I'm going to love it and learn to play it, and it will be awesome. : )

I was looking for songs this evening that I like that might be easy to learn how to play. I remember my dad started to teach me how to play Horse With No Name (America) the first time I tried to learn, and now I have the chords for that written down again, and I'll figure it out at some point. But my search through my iTunes took me from Horse With No Name through all the oldies that I have and I put in Sister Golden Hair (America) and hit my Genius button, and it brought up basically all my favourite oldies songs. Those of you who use iTunes and the new Genius thing they have will understand how great it is. That's what I'm listening to right now: America, Bread, Simon and Garfunkel, CSNY, the Eagles, Dire Straits ... all the songs that are ingrained in my mind that I was listening to in utero and all through my life. I've realized that nothing makes me want to be at home more than listening to the music that reminds me of home.

It's been a really good day: I wrote an exam this morning that I think went well, I had an awesome nap for a few hours in the afternoon, my friend Graeme taught me some chords and a few fun things to do with my guitar, and now I'm procrastinating, listening to music that makes me happy, and thinking about being at home in the summer.

Sigh. Ok. Well. That was the story that I wanted to tell. I now have to study. Two exams down, two to go. Life sure is a party.

Till later ...

The trouble with trying to find videos of old bands is that they're all crappy recordings from the 70's, but here's the audio anyway. The song of the moment: Sister Golden Hair (America).

Sunday, 29 March 2009

I hate to say it, good readers, but I think I'm using you. I use blogging as an excuse to procrastinate. I only seem to want to blog when I have something more urgent to do. This is the second time this week that I've written a blog instead of doing work. It's a bad sign. There seems to be a pall of apathy that has enveloped my life. It means that I'm not getting anything done, but I'm not feeling panicky about it either. I'm not working and it seems that I'm ok with that. It's a problem.

I have done some work though. The SAN banquet was last night. I spent most of Saturday afternoon running around doing errands like cooking and picking up decorations, money, and unsold tickets. I had to be at Meah Hall (where the banquet was going to happen) at 6:15 to start setting up. It was a bit awkward because I was all dressed up and wandering around sorting stuff out while Meal Hall was mostly-full of people still eating. They started to leave once saw that something was going on. Andrew, Nathan, Rhiana, and Cameron showed up at 6:45ish to help me set up which was good of them. I think there were about 8 or 10 of us in all setting up. We had to clear the tables, putting tablecloths down, and then make sure that every seat had a program, water, and appetizers near by. We were done just after 7:30 at which point we started letting people in. The timing was great and we started just after 8:00. I think the banquet went really well, overall. I was a bit stressed out through the whole thing but it seemed like everyone had a good time. The food was good, the performances were good, and we ended at 10:00 which was perfect. Cleaning up took a lot less time than setting up did, and we were done by 10:30. Nakita, Leah, Sally (the SAN exec) and I and a couple other people hung around till about 11:00 just sitting and talking and de-stressing. I think we were all really pleased with how things went.

I came home and stayed up late talking to my parents and my brother on Skype. I can't believe I'm going to be home in just over three weeks.

And there's so much to do still ...

I also worked on one of my papers a bit today. I wrote an outline and I think I can start writing tomorrow. It's not a very difficult class and the assignment isn't very challening - it just has to be done. And I have another, somewhat more important paper due the day after this one. Technically this is only a draft so I'm going to see what I can get done tomorrow and day-after and then I have to stop and be satisfied with what I have by then. I have a little bit of time to work on it later. It's not due till the 16th. The other paper I have to do, however, is due this Friday and I am nowhere close to finishing it. And by that I mean I've barely started. SIGH.

But, there are good things happening these days too. I saw two crocuses today. The first I've seen this spring. I literally leapt around in joy. I hate the winter. I really, really do. It's not that I'm miserable all winter long, but it's cold and suffocating and it just doesn't compare to the absolute glory of summer. Maybe the spring seems that much more wonderful in comparsion to the winter. Either way, spring is here. I saw a girl celebrating over the same two crocuses that I had seen. She screamed a little. I can certainly share the sentiment.

Anyway. That is the state of life right now. I think I'm going to go to bed now and hope that tomorrow I can get things done.

One of my favourite songs: Such Great Heights by Iron and Wine

Tuesday, 24 March 2009

I wait in 4/4 time ...

It's that time of year again. What time, you ask? The crazy time. You know ... when the days don't seem quite long enough, your agenda is full of lists of things to do and people to meet, you have a vague air of panic about you, and it takes you hours to fall asleep at night because your head is full of plans and worries. And don't you hate it when a week looks a lot longer on a calendar than it actually proves to be in real time? That seems to be happening a lot, too. It's not a particularly fun time, really. And the logical solution to all this chaos? Well, to blog of course.

I feel like I can justify wasting a little time. Firstly, it's a gorgeous day. My window is wide open, I'm wearing short sleeves, and it legitimately feels like spring outside. Secondly, I just came from a meeting with my program advisor and it seems like I'll be able to graduate next year without any problems! I was a bit worried and this stupid school has a bunch of secret degree requirements that they make it really difficult to keep track of and I was worried I was going to have a hard time getting all my credits. The thing about lots of transfer credits is that you don't really get time to goof off and take silly classes. I was forced to do that last term because (yet another annoying thing about this school) scheduling is a nightmare here and I could only take three classes (out of five) that were actually relevant to my degree. But it looks like all will be well. I have to over-load (i.e. take six courses instead of five) in my last term, but that'll be ok. I'm sure it won't kill me. It's quite a relief to have this all sorted out, though.

The SAN banquet is on Saturday. I'm getting a bit stressed out about it. I guess I have to spend all of Saturday running around and tying up loose ends. Hopefully it'll go well. I have to spend the next little while cutting out flags that we printed so that we can make little decorations for the tables. I hope everything falls into place. It'll be nice to see this go off without a hitch.

I also have two papers due next week. I'm starting to get a bit anxious about them. I haven't really made any serious progress on either and time is dribbling away at an uncomfortably rapid pace. I guess I'll just have to get my butt in gear and pull a few all-nighters or something.

And there are only 20 days before I go home! I'm starting to get excited.

The concert last weekend went alright. It turned out to be a bit of a let-down because it started late and I had class the next day, and I ended up leaving before the end of the show. I really wanted to stay but it seemed unreasonable to be up till 2:30 on a Sunday night. Starting the week on a sleep deficit is a terrible idea. And, despite leaving early, I still skipped my first class the next morning at slept till 10:00. I think that's only the 4th class I've skipped all term. I skipped two earlier in the term to study for a midterm, and then two others. No harm done.

I guess that's it for now. I have flags to cut out.

Till later. And here's a song for the road: The Weakerthans (live) - Left and Leaving
The video is pretty bad, the sound isn't fantastic, but that's ok.

And here are the lyrics, in case you can't hear them.

My city's still breathing (but barely it's true)
Through buildings gone missing like teeth.
T
he sidewalks are watching me think about you,
Sparkled with broken glass.
I'm back with scars to show.
Back with the streets I know.
Will never take me anywhere but here.
The stain in the carpet, this drink in my hand,
The strangers whose faces I know.
We meet here for our dress-rehearsal to say "I wanted it this way"
Wait for the year to drown.
Spring forward, fall back down.
I'm trying not to wonder where you are.
All this time lingers, undefined.
Someone choose who's left and who's leaving.
Memory will rust and erode into lists of all that you gave me:
A blanket, some matches, this pain in my chest,
The best parts of Lonely, duct-tape and soldered wires,
New words for old desires,
And every birthday card I threw away.
I wait in 4/4 time.
Count yellow highway lines that you're relying on to lead you home.