Thursday, February 28, 2013

Finally home

So I've been complaining a lot lately.

But to be fair, I've been feeling WEEEIRD since I've been home. It wasn't until tonight that I remembered where I always feel at home, always loved, always understood.

It's not the Old Dundee Bar. It's not the Underwood Bar.

Wait for it...

Lower Saint John's.

... pause for the anticipated eye roll from my non-religious/anti-religion friends...

Lower Saint John's is the small chapel underneath Saint John's Church, the heart of Creighton University's campus. It's got all the old furniture no one uses anymore and it's walls are just removable partitions. But each one of those 30 seats is filled with someone who chose to be there. Bluejays t-shirts, scrubs, workout clothes, business suits. Come as you are.

You know, I don't go to church a lot when I'm not home. I tried in Thailand, but there were only two Catholic churches, both of which were a bit too missionary for my tastes. I went to a few Jesuit Masses in India, but as I wrote in my blog, I didn't dig that scene either.

There has to be a level of trust built in for me to really open up and accept the homily and the gospel, and I have turned out to be not very trusting of religious communities I don't know. But I trust all the Creighton Jesuits with my spiritual life one hundred percent.

I was working in Fr Doll's office today when I heard my dad looking for me around the Jesuit house. He walked in and invited me to Mass with him.

And right when I walked in, I breathed a little easier. I listened as well as I could (it's hard for my mind not to wander). And gave the sign of peace to people, hugged my dad. I took the Eucharist and sat, with that familiar taste of wine and wheat on my tongue, closed my eyes and gave thanks.

Thanks Creighton Jesuits, for welcoming home without knowing it.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

America is making me lose my shit

(I understand why square bagels make David Cross lose his shit)

Your breasts don't lift high enough! Your hair isn't long enough, shiny enough, bouncy enough, straight enough, curly enough! You aren't taking the right cocktail of vitamins! Your yoghurt isn't hip enough! Your underarms are discolored (what?!). And by the way, brooms are for pussies; you need the new scented wet-jet, extra cling Swiffer-picker-upper!

I don't know, man. I guess it might be the same everywhere, but I only have access to TV when I'm back home. How do we all not commit suicide after watching an hour of TV? During the commercials, we're reminded of what we don't have and what we need to buy to be fit for society. Then the commercials end and I have Piers Fucking Morgan telling me EVERYTHING I NEED TO KNOW RIGHT NOW. I have news that's too important to miss about the hottest murders of the year.

I really can't fucking take it. 

I know, I know, since I've been back this blog has turned into Molly's maladjusted musings, or something just as annoying and alliterated. 

I just got back from India where the streets are always crowded. People are always invading your space begging for money, asking you to buy their pens or flowers or fruit. Auto rickshaw drivers trying to get 10 more rupees out of you.

But I have felt more bombarded here that in Delhi.

I went to buy a phone charger today at Target. I got so angry at everything I saw for sale. New! Build-a-plane! This-isn't-your-grandpa's-build-a-fucking-plane kit! This is crazy and cool because of our packaging and typography! And I looked at it said, "It's just a cardboard fucking plane! Don't force this down my throat!"

I wanted to burn Target to the ground.

But I still bought the expensive toothpaste that swears to whiten my teeth in like a week, flat.

So who's the chump now?

America 1. Molly 0.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Can we really expect them not to be full of hatred?

My dad and I went out tonight and saw the film "Lincoln". Going to the movies is our favorite father-daughter thing to do, and I always get excited when I'm getting ready to come home to hear about all the movies he wants to see with me.

This one opened with a very real scene from the Civil War–young men in hand-to-hand combat, drowning each other in the mud and impaling one another on bayonets.

For some reason, my mind didn't travel much during the rest of the movie from that first scene of kids killing other kids.

Anyone who knows me well knows I don't like to talk about work much. It's not that I don't love my job, it's just that I don't like boring people blathering on about refugee law or research or fundraising problems.

I say this just to emphasize how strange it was to be coming home from the movie, sitting in the front seat of my dad's car, telling him about a young man I met outside the Sri Lankan refugee camps in Tamil Nadu. He was 17 and smiling. He was telling me about a recent surgery he had to remove shrapnel from his hand and leg. He was in a hospital in Northern Sri Lanka when the government forces bombed it. He was 14 at the time. The shrapnel in his spine is inoperable but he can still work, he says.

scars from his recent surgery

The scene from the movie reminded me of footage I saw on that famous Chanel 4 documentary about the war in Sri Lanka, of the things countrymen do to one another.

I saw the footage of hospitals being bombed. I met a handful of survivors of these attacks, including this young man, in Thailand and India and Indonesia.

What's weird is, I never talked with anyone about that young man. To be honest, I didn't think about him much after I met him.

When I'm in the field, or even just working abroad in that refugee world, none of it usually phases me. I don't give myself time to think about it and process who I am meeting and the atrocities I am hearing about.

It's only now that I am back in Omaha, without anyone talking about international humanitarian crises, that I'm starting to remember faces and stories. And I am feeling shocked in a way I never did at the time.

It's those kids from that Civil War scene of the movie. How did they move on with their lives after doing those things, after seeing those things? How can we expect this young Sri Lankan man to move back to his country and not be angry at what was done to his family? I am angry.

How long did it take for there to be true reconciliation in the United States after our war? Can there be true reconciliation, or do we just have to wait for time to bury all survivors and generations to forget?

Friday, February 8, 2013

What the hell is going on?

I've never experienced reversed culture shock like this. Maybe it's because India was so different from home. Maybe it's because I'm not really home yet. A week traveling in India, a week in Thailand, a few weeks in New Orleans and then home to Omaha. Maybe this is more feeling unsettled than anything.

But still, it is a scary feeling. If I can't feel relaxed and content in my home country, then where can I? What does that make me?

I found myself yesterday, my first day back in the US, driving the wrong way down the street. Not to read into it too much, but that's the way I'm feeling now. Coming back feels like driving in the wrong direction. I felt (or I feel) that my life was India. My friends and my work and my routine. And now I've got to figure out a new routine and pick things back up with my friends here.

And then what? Europe and South Africa and elsewhere. Will I feel at home there or will I get to a place where I feel homeless?

To translate Paul Simon's song "Homeless" from Zulu, one lyric says "My heart! It is in pain; it is giving out!" That may be overemphasizing how I feel, but running on three hours of sleep, unable to eat from the bug I picked up from the Tokyo flight and leaving my heart with a man in New Delhi, I feel like my heart is giving out.

I feel homeless.

As the song continues in Zulu, "tonight we sleep on the cliff." Now I am on a cliff, but I don't know where jumping off will take me.

With a hundred friends and surrounded with love, I feel alone.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Waterfall diving

Suan Plu Waterfall. Koh Chang, Thailand

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Leaving India

My last days in India were everything one could ask for in terms of a farewell. Louis, Andy, Nastasia and I went to Rishikesh for another peak at the ashram where the Beatles wrote the White Album. We swam in the Ganges and relaxed at riverside hippy eateries. Then we went back to Delhi and had one last rooftop party. Andy bought a new Che Guevara banner that billowed in the wind, staring us down while we drank and danced and warmed ourselves over the fire. We danced and rapped and argued East Coast versus West Coast and I got to say goodbye to all my new New Delhi friends.

Then I went downstairs and crawled into bed one last time for who knows how long with the one person I didn't know how to say goodbye to. But we woke up, my heart already in my throat and made our way to the airport. I remained stoic all the way to and kissed him goodbye so it seemed like I didn't care. I don't know why. And then right when I walked in the door, let it all go and started crying. And who was watching me when I looked through the window? … so much for playing it cool.

Now I'm gone. In transit towards home to my parents and my dog and my favorite food and back to all the people who have stopped asking why I do the things I do.

But before I pull my spirit away from India completely, let me write one last blog about what I learned and loved about the country.

You can make a home anywhere with the right people.

 A Christmas tree is a must when spending the holidays abroad.

You can fit more people on a pedal rickshaw than you'd think.

 Walk down the wrong street and you'll probably stumble upon a parade.

Take time for mid-day ice creams and photobooth sessions with coworkers. It makes the day go faster.

Every kid wants his picture taken.

Sometimes, Dunkin' Donuts is a must.

Take time to draw flowers

Anything fits into a taxi.

You can buy anything on the street, including a haircut.

Haggling for an autorickshaw (or for anything) in Delhi is an art

The smog is ridiculous.

It's important to export cultural traditions, like Halloween.

When playing with Indian fireworks...

...expect to blow up your hand.

Some anger can be justified, but only to a point.

Sometimes you wake up and can't face India.
So you say, "Screw it," and order room service.

No matter where you come from or how you feel about America...

Everyone loves Thanksgiving.

People in Goa don't mess around with the Feast of Saint Francis Xavier...

...expect crazy lines just to enter the church.

Like Dunkin' Donuts, sometimes Baskin Robins is a must.

It's hard to photograph Louis without a cigarette.

Sometimes you have to make the most of a bad excursion with champagne and a view...

...or ordering a G&T at a fancy hotel you are not staying at.

Renting a houseboat in Kashmir is a crazy game.

Never rent a houseboat from this man...

Or buy honey from this woman...

Or rent a boat ride from this man...

Don't get to attached to the Eid sheep. They aren't around for long.

Everything is bigger and brighter in Kashmir.

It's better to eat dinner by lamplight, especially when you don't know what you're eating.

Always say hi to Mom and Dad... matter where you are...

...or what condition you are in.

Sitar music rocks, especially when played by Anushka Shankar.

You never know when you'll spot a prime minister.

Always carry an emergency candle for when the power goes out, or you can't figure out how to turn on the light.

Street food is delicious and dangerous.

Swim in the Ganges, no matter how cold. Just try to do it north of the major cities.

It's worth paying the 50 rupee bribe to see something like this...

...and like this.

It's worth it to see the Taj... at any price.

But don't rent a tour from this guy, or anyone who doesn't have any teeth.

Don't pay the 20 rupees to cover your shoes when walking barefoot around the Taj Mahal is free!

Always say hello to the people you love. You don't know when you'll get another chance.