The last day of 2015

I’ve always found the writing of New Year’s resolutions so hopeful, exciting. The fact that my birthday is within the first week of the new year adds to the excitement, the determination I feel as I begin a new journey, right from the beginning of (this time) 2016 and my 61st year. So, on this last day of 2015, not only am I thinking of resolutions, I am also thinking of all the events that have occurred as I have entered a new decade: my 60’s.

There were some wonderful things that happened in 2015. I got engaged. My husband was awarded a Fulbright scholarship. I had a beautiful, sweet wedding. I attended my husband’s daughter’s wedding in the South. My son started grad school. My daughter worked her ass off with a 4.0 for every quarter except one. She got a 3.9 that one time. She also made a serious commitment with a totally fantastic guy. I’ve had a chance to get to know him better while they have been here in India-he is even better than I thought. I found a wonderful family to keep my dog for nine months. My boss at work created a position for me when I was very, very sick and she allowed me to put in some hours while working on a wedding, packing everything up and also planning a nine month long trip. I got to go on a Tuke family campout that previously had excluded spouses. A family member was faced with the greatest challenge of his life and he made it to the other side. That is actually the best thing that happened in 2015.

There was a little bad mixed in as well. There was the undiagnosed idiopathic pericarditis back in 2014 which lasted for months and months, resulting, in early 2015, my withdrawal from grad school with only seven months until graduation. That was such a killer for me. To get to that point, I’d been working full time, had begun dating my now husband, and was in grad school as well; a very tough way to try to live. All that work, stress and such, nothing to really show for it, just gone. I had no choice other than to withdraw; at that point, I’d missed too much class. Afterwards, I began to lose my self-esteem. Other things, some small, some large, turned into an avalanche of negativity, fear and more. It was a terrible time for me. Just as I began to get my footing again, the engagement, the Fulbright, the big plans for my husband in India at a time when I felt I had nothing. Fastforward to the fall with the possible ending of a marriage that was only 3-4 months old. More tearing down of an already very lost soul.

So now I am on the last day of the year, having had some great times and some bad. It is pretty easy now to see where the holes are (and were), where things should have been different, where I should have worked my ass off for more support, friendship, and so much more. I guess I am thinking based on the past six months, things can only go up from here. I am very hopeful for 2016.

My kids and Tony here with me now. They have been such a lifeline for me. And some cyberspace friends as well. My husband too.  My plans have switched from what my husband had suggested, what we discussed before I flew off for Delhi. I won’t be going back to the US any time soon. Instead, I will travel the colorful, wonderful, sometimes scary and difficult country of India, as originally planned, will continue to work on my major project here. I’ll work harder to find friends, to find things to do, separate from my husband. A challenge, that’s for sure, but I’m up for it after a huge, hefty dose of love and encouragement from my kids and my husband. Just being in the presence of other English-speaking people has revitalized me in a way I could not have imagined. Guess we really do need human contact, much more than I realized. I’ve already sent out one message today and received an invite for lunch next week. YAAAAAAY!!!!!

The internet is both friend and foe, and mostly the latter. There have been so many more words, so many more photos I’ve wanted to post. Sometimes the darn thing looked like they were posted and they were not. I was looking back through the past few days and wanted to put up just a few for now. The Taj, the intricacy was astounding. Goats in clothes made my kids (Tony to be included in ‘my kids’) and I laugh with glee. More of those beautiful children with the kohl surrounding their eyes. The other burning ghat which I had never seen. Those so very cool water buffalo (we actually had that in a New Dehli restaurant). The bank of the tributary which flows into the Ganga. So much more. I’m planning on going through others later, revisiting some places I’ve just seen. Details to come in a latter blog.

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Things I’ve learned in December-I think there’s too much to write, but I will list a few.

Patience is still needed in very heavy doses. The internet a constant reminder of that.

You cannot count on anyone but yourself but I can count on my kids the most. There are others who can be pretty darn helpful.

Not much is set in stone. Things change.

Living in a third world country is difficult and your tolerance level seems to change depending on how tired you are.

People break confidences; you must learn to live with that.

There are very good people in this world, but there are some that are very bad. It is good if you can figure out who is who.

Selfishness abounds while some people are just the best in the world.

Seeing chained monkeys, sick animals, filth, snotty-nosed children begging for money, is very wearing on the soul.

You cannot let fear rule your life.

You have to decide what you are willing to put up with in life and go from there. A squatters bathroom is worth it if you see some very amazing things. So is rubbing against cows to get to the bathroom in a fantastic pizza place.

Things can change very rapidly; a back up plan is always a good idea.

My daughter took the photo of the dog and her pups. We were in Delhi, had gone down a scary little alley to exchange some money as all the banks were closed. I loved the photo, had to post it, but wanted to credit her for the work. I’ve no idea who took the one of me and her. Obviously, I look a little worn out. I’m using it as a starting point from where I am today, will look back on it in a month, then see the strength and change that’s occurred looking back at me in a mirror wherever I might be.



Shopping and a ride on the river

What a fun day today! The weather warm and sunny. We got a bit of a late start, then went out for shopping and then pizza at our favorite spot. The shopping intense, I knew the shopkeepers so bargaining was a breeze. Decisions, decisions. Lizzy choosing items for friends back home, a little bag for herself. A top and bottom for me ( you get what you pay for in India, so old pants, sadly,  falling apart). Tony had not been feeling well and had stayed at home. Robby bought nada. We had great pizza outdoors. Next, a trip to the restaurant’s bathroom, always a crazy surprise. Walk up the steps, into a small area which houses two cows (like a concrete stall), enter a small courtyard and to the right, a sign that says ‘toilet’. All these things, inside someone’s house.

Tony and my husband met up with us in the late afternoon. A boat ride on the Ganga, we discussed just how afraid we were of getting wet. A black bloated dog floating by. My kids each lit a diya, a perfect plop into the water. Liz had sent good wishes to all the pups in India, my son, his grandparents and a high school Indian friend who had lost his life. A close view of the largest burning ghat.


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Soon Tony was not feeling so well again. He and my husband took a tuk-tuk back home. I stayed and had dinner in the old city with my two kids, ordered what my husband had wanted which we would take home. Vegetable fried rice was all Liz and Robby could do. Seems like they have been talking about American food for days.and I can understand why.

First full day in Varanasi

Internet not working well. I continue to be challenged regarding patience when doing my work. I hope to be able to post photos soon. Right now just thankful I can send out some words.

Our arrival back to Varanasi last night, after a crazy one hour drive, met with luke-warm air. My husband had decorated the flat; balloons, a small clutch of gifts. We beat him to our place, he’d gone out for take out, and ended up behind us near the garage. A beer to help decompress from the ride, my kids saying it was the most crazy one yet. Our driver darting in and out like a mad man. Dinner, then sleep soon overcame us all.

Then this morning, a long talk with my husband. A discussion about future plans. During the past eight days, wonderful input from the people who know me best. A meeting of the minds produced a new direction, new perspective. The thinking, going back to Seattle or Dallas, most likely much more difficult than I’d imagined. The support systems in either place, in my family and Tony’s opinion, not nearly strong enough. Too much work, way too expensive, the purchase of a car, a place to live, distances, all just too much. I should be with my husband, he is my strongest support system, they said. Aha! Currently, a new plan: I will stay in India for the entire nine months, possibly a little solo travel on the side.  I’ll use this new group of people my husband has met, check out an NGO with an American female running it. Other new options as well. Lots of travel in the upcoming months: Thailand, Cambodia, Mumbai, Kolkata, places to the North. Some other new ideas as well. We will try the thought of this plan on for size.

After a breakfast of scrambled eggs and toast, my son and I went down to Assi Ghat. I think he was amazed. I hadn’t been there in a while myself. We saw Sandeep, Arnwal. Introductions made. Walking, then a quick lunch before heading back again. I was grateful for the chance to talk with him, he always has such great perspective on things.

Later, the five of us, out for a long walk along the ghats. My children and Tony getting to see all the amazing things I can see every day. A few of them, ‘horrifying’-my daughter’s words. They saw monkeys in our yard as we started out, then the cows, the water buffalo. Goats. Chickens. The very nasty little tributary that drains into the Ganga. Poor children begging, young men saying hello. The filth, the smells. So many things that just are a regular part of my life now. Watching her took me back to September. Gosh, that seems so long ago.

All was going fairly well until we saw the monkey. He was chained on a ledge at Assi Ghat. My daughter breaking down as she watched this animal, frightened to death of a man who had approached it and poured water on it, water from a can. It took a while before she could gather herself. Watching her brought tears to my eyes. My husband asking if maybe we should just go back home. A gathering of strength, a moving forward.

The aarti, old buildings, goats wearing sweaters, a roof-top dinner. My husband telling us all of his early travels to third-world countries. Comparisons. Berlin. Shanghai, Italy and more. Lizzy and I ordering non-Indian cuisine. Going even further and sharing ice cream for dessert.

Plans for tomorrow. We are all pretty tired. Shopping. A possible walk to the other side of the river, something my husband discovered while I was gone. I just looked over, we forgot to open the presents last night. We have tomorrow, and a few days after that. So thankful for so many things tonight.