Monday, February 28, 2011

. . .


is a hard place to be

when you're nineteen and feeling free

but still unsure of the person who you want to be.

and india

is guaranteed

to create dissonance

between what you believe

and everything you see.

it's a country overcrowded with bodies

but you won't see a single person.

and all those little faces you saw on tv before you came,

housing big, pleading eyes

and hungry mouths,

well they aren't as cute

when they follow you home,

amma, amma

and you have no change,

paisa, paisa

and change won't change much,

and you're sorry.

no, they aren't as cute

when they come from behind

pin your arms to your sides

and their friends, all under ten,

pick your pockets with well-trained hands.


it's a really hard place to be

when you're trying to decide

what school to go to in the fall

or what boy to date back home

and you're still of the conviction that it matters
because you
you're going to do big things.

it's hard,

when nothing reminds you of home

but it's all you can think of anyways.

india is a place you'll want to forget

when you're back in the states

trying to materialize your most basic dreams--

the ones you always felt you deserved--

of a house, a husband, a few kids, & enough to eat.

it's a place that will make you hungrier for that dream

than you've ever been before

but india is a place

that will hide in the back of your mind and whisper,

maybe deserve
isn't a real word
or at least not a word with real meaning.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

it had to be one of us.

those of you who know me, know,

i am not a "girly girl."

evidence. i don't even know how to style my hair.

i wouldn't call myself a tomboy by any means. but come on people. i showered maybe four times last semester. i find random dreadlocks in my hair. i take 3 minutes to get ready in the morning. i abhor all things hannah montanna, twilight, & high school musical. i live barefoot, i save chewed gum in my pockets for later, i can tile a bathroom, i burp on command, & i don't know the first thing about makeup.

and yet i swear i've somehow become that girl of the group here.
the ditz. the girly girl.
i guess it's not such an achievement when you spend every waking hour with only 11 other american kids. it had to be one of us.

but honestly.

so what if i tan on the roof after class everyday? everyone looks better with bronzed skin. and aren't we all going to rush to the nail salon for a manicure & pedicure first thing upon returning home? (i am GRIMY here, & no amount of scrubbing will change that.) who cares if i only drink diet coke? and if no one else is going to stick up for a walk to remember, the notebook, & shamefully enjoyable romantic movies everywhere, well then i will!

i guess alls i'm trying to say is, i love being a girl. i might not take my hygiene as seriously as some people, but i still enjoy leaning back in a comfy chair & having a petite asian woman exfoliate my feet & paint my toes.

and nicholas sparks, i appreciate you & what you're doing.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

common sense will save us.

recently i've become a compulsive water drinker.

at home, i'm a loyal diet coke customer. but i can't count the number of times i've been warned of the dangers of the posion that is ASPARTAME. hence the water kick. or maybe it's because the coke in india tastes weird. and water's free & i'm feeling poor. either way, i thought i was making a positive change for my health. until an innocent google search turned my world upside down.

i figured if i'm gonna do this water thing, i'm gonna do it right. so i asked google, "how much water should i drink each day?" (embarrassing how rusty i am at this h2o thing.) and the first link i clicked on taught me--

the perils of DRINKING WATER

here's what i learned:

1. the recommended water intake is eight 8oz. glasses a day. you all knew this.

2. apparently this 8x8 number was arbitrarily determined, & could actually be harmful to some.

3. we much all be extremely cautious when drinking water, because at any moment we may die from drinking TOO MUCH.

case in point:

a young woman died after drinking 2 gallons of water & holding her pee, in a "hold your wee for a wii" contest.

several ecstasy users have died after drinking copious amounts of water after raves.

the evidence seemed sufficient enough. i started thinking about all of my near death experiences. like 9th grade, when me & rach took a break from writing papers at 1am to have a water bottle chugging competition. or last summer, on the way home from hilton head with the brooks family, when i was so convinced i was going to compromise myself on the way to the gas station that i was researching (via iphone) & implementing strategies to hold one's pee. (spread the legs, elevate the pelvis, repeat aloud ,"i do not have to pee, i do not have to pee...")

and then i thought some more. and then i got mad.

first off, refuting the 8 glasses of water a day rule seems akin to changing the food guide pyramid or robbing the planetary system of pluto. i don't care about the science. it's wrong.

and hearing about a couple kids hopped up on E drinking themselves to death, or a lady desperate enough for a video game system that she was willing to drown her insides, isn't going to scare me away from going through a few bottles of water each day.

and i wish we could stop inventing new fears, like death by drinking water, that an ounce of common sense should guard against. drink when you're thirsty. don't when you're not. case closed. i have enough worries already, like what growths i'm going to have in 30 years after a childhood of standing in front of the microwave.

Saturday, February 19, 2011


Friday, February 18, 2011


i think my eyes are gonna be bored when i leave india.
i've never seen a place with so much color.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011


sorry, this post might be a tad bit morbid. but through my daily scanning of our local newspaper here in vizag, a couple things have come to my attention.

first, indians are incredibly lenient about misspellings & grammatical errors in the presentation of their current events.

and secondly, the world seems to me to be in a far sorrier state than i ever perceived it to be living in the U.S.

seriously, some of this stuff is wack.

in the past couple days, i've read about parents who strangled their daughter because of her choice for a husband; a 104 year-old woman asking the govt. for permission to commit suicide, because of her son's abuse & neglect; a girl whose stalker killed both of her parents; and a teenage boy who robbed & murdered another boy in order to buy a teddy bear & a couple of CDs for his girlfriend on valentines day.

i guess my shock could be attributed to one of two things-- first, i am in india, and a population of over 1 billion people ensures that there's more than a few weirdos among them.

that, or things are just as bad at home, but living on an idyllic island where i don't read the newspaper or watch tv makes me oblivious.

either way, the news can be real depressing. i'm often torn between wanting to pop my fingers in my ears & never hear another word of it, and feeling guilty because i can easily put down the paper, finish my breakfast, & continue on with my day unaffected.

sometimes i think, "as a citizen of the world, amy, you have the responsibility to be informed.." but glancing through another page's worth of headlines makes me lament my belonging to such a world.

i don't know what the right balance is, between being aware & unable to sleep at night, or arguably ignorant & idealistic. but when the pup starts nibbling at my toes, or i walk outside to see bhavana & megana running my way, i know this much--

there is an abundance of goodness in our world.

india, america, brazil, no matter. there is joy to be found in every corner. and that's our task, as citizens of the world; we must create goodness. to counteract all that bad news.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

beep beep.

no i don't know this man. no, ma, i didn't ride anywhere on his bike with him. but when he asked me to pose for a photo on his bike with him, i had to oblige him to satisfy my own sense of humor.

i'm not crazy about motorcycles.

my dad grew up riding bikes, & finally, after much pleading, my ma allowed him to get a new bike a few years back. however comforted i am by the neon orange vest he wears when he rides, i still worry about him sometimes.

i admit, my heart has grown to love mopeds. my lovely roomie catharine made sure of that when she bought a retro light pink one & dubbed it big mama. impossible not to love. and me & big mama had some good times, until she started getting lazy about starting & her tire went flat.

but when i started dating a boy with a bike last semester-- a ninja, mind you, i realized that i do, in fact, dislike motorcycles. but not for the reasons i thought i did; namely, safety. i don't like them for the same reason i don't like sitting in the back of a convertible; they make me cry, they make me eat my hair, & the only thing i can say while i'm on one is, "...what?"

in india, my tolerance for bikes is being tested. at first i thought these people were on to something when i started seeing entire families of 5 on a single bike. (inevitably, some toddler is always seated first, & i double take every time... "is that 3 year old driving that motorcycle!?! what da what!") but my opinions shifted once i started riding with my translator, parm, to the village i work in each day.

evidence: young children in india drive motorcycles. ?

parm is a skinny indian man with glasses who despises walking. i hop on the back of his bike & ride side saddle (all the ladies do it) to the front door of whoever i'm going to talk to that day. nevermind that the streets in the village are literally 3 feet wide. nevermind that every woman & child of peda jalaripeta is sitting in the street husking corn or braiding their hair. nevermind that i've scratched my face on multiple occasions when i've forgotten to duck as parm drives me into low-hanging tree branches. and nevermind that we nearly run over 8 infants each way whenever we go.

the beloved parm, who calls me "hanson" & mocks me for taking photos of plants.

literally EIGHT. i hardly exaggerate in india because there's no need. naked babies stand in the 3-foot-wide streets, & parm beep beeps his horn & passes them with centimeters to spare (i'm all about the metric system these days).

one of these days, parm, we're gonna get your skinny little bum walking, or ima gonna be a crazy lady by the time i get home.

swim in the sea.

Monday, February 14, 2011


happy valentines day guys.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

the jalari.

okay. so the entire purpose of my time in india is to conduct research for a personal project. i am studying the gram panchayat, or local government, of a local fishing village named peda jalaripeta.

the village has around 10,000 members, living in a mix of huts & cement structures. the majority of the jalari caste are fishermen. the men go to sea for a few days at a time. the women bid for the fish at the beach, & then sell them at the market in town.

on most days i go to the jalari & interview members of the panchayat or persons on the village's financial committee. the panchayat is a sort of village court; whenever a wife & husband quarrel, family disputes arise, or a land or property issue comes up, the panchayat members meet with the opposing parties & try to resolve the conflict.
i hear a lot of gnarly stories.
women getting slapped in the face. 30 year-old men abandoning their wives to elope with 16 year-old girls. adopted children being ostracized from their families. alcoholics beating their wives. the other day i heard a case about a murder in the village. the guilty party was sentenced to a year & a half in jail, but the entire case was dropped after some money changed hands.
my research is basically indian jerry springer.
the jalaris are an incredibly humble & genuine people. when i enter a home, no questions asked-- they pull out a lawn chair, order me to sit, yell at one of their kids to grab their guest a soda, & start putting every family photo they own into my lap. the children are always grabbing my hands, fingering through my hair, & beaming.
they are beautiful.
some days i feel far from home. & other days i feel so close.