July 31, 2010 § 1 Comment
life is good. i just ate a whole bunch of “glucose biscuits” and am crashing from the sugar high. took the kids to the zoo 2 days ago and they were really happy. they are very affectionate. theres one boy that reminds me of la. today the kids learned about the heart and listened to their heartbeats w/stethoscopes and their faces would transform with a genuine glow of recognition/fascination when they heard their own heartbeat.
one of the doctors at our clinic is a very eccentric cross-eyed man who is really a 5-year old boy stuck in an aging body that happens to hold a medical degree. an obese woman came in the other day and he grabbed her arm and asked, in a thick bengali accent, as affectionate as one can get, ‘is this a thigh or is this an arm??’ multiple times throughout the day he calls the other doctor on his cell phone and then hangs up once he picks up. he blows up rubber gloves to demonstrate arthritis. he pretends the penlight is a camera and flashes it while screaming ‘cheese!’
3 volunteers left yesterday and one is leaving tomorrow. i havent known them long but i feel like the pieces of a complete puzzle are missing.
memorable hedonist moments: riding on the roof of the car on our way to a midnight bonfire; nighttime boat ride on the river jjokkeum intoxicated; mangoes with friends and bare hands; red wine after who knows how long (next in line: coffee); jogging in the monsoon rain during a late night; prolonged eye contact with friends, strangers, students, patients.
July 27, 2010 § 1 Comment
my own:left to right, top to bottom: happy picture of happy friend / jmw turner painting / print of birds flying / lisa simpson, my hero / julay and i //pratit brochure / college roomie family portrait<3 / pensive egon schiele sketch + a wannabe sketch of mine / thai airlines luggage tag (ive become a big fan of this airline lol) / my brobro as a baby / an image that takes me away // akhenaton, who broke out of lines and edges and introduced curves / malibu beach / miami coast / receipts for reimbursements / graduation card from brobro / quotes // card from rayray / more receipts. the end.
July 23, 2010 § 2 Comments
long time no post = im busy or im lazy.
sometimes im conflicted between taking pictures vs. fully experiencing my environment. when im doing one i compromise the other.
quick updates: i like taking blood pressures. education camps are a whirlwind of chaos glitter paper bengali sweat in a low light environment. im handwashing my laundry, korean ajoomah style. im not perceived as an american here. theres a bet that i will/wont fall in love with one of the translators here. inception blew my mind and brought me back to freshman year of college. mosquitoes love me. work hard party hard.
July 18, 2010 § Leave a comment
-two temples. bare feet, no photography, very peaceful. happy babies. deformed beggars.
-dinner @ kolkata chinatown. so hungry. major communication breakdown while ordering. yummy food. good beer, crap vodka.
-a bar called ‘someplace else.’ best place ever. imagine a cozy dark bar full of indians and occasional white ppl banging their heads and screaming falsetto to a screamo-rock-angry-music cover band. loved it. i never really listened to that kind of music before bc i thought it sounded useless but it was surprisingly liberating. i like these kinds of environments bc ppl are primarily there for the music so the creepster level is at a minimum so u can dance freely w/o much interruption. yay. oh but an old man did kiss one of my guy friend’s bellybutton lol
-must work on haggling skills. or work on looking indian. keep on getting ripped off bc im foreign >.<
July 15, 2010 § 1 Comment
a lot has happened.
-met with head honcho councilwoman lady. one of her council members repeatedly cross-checked turja (president of pratit) but he handled it well. a lot of men here like to assert their authority. or maybe thats men in general. id put my money on the latter
had our first medical clinic on Tuesday. we have a lot of kinks to work out in terms of logistics but it was an eye-opening first run. i wish i spoke bengali. taking blood pressure in a noisy environment takes a lot of focus.
-yesterday was also intense. shopping at the local bazaar for supplies. interview/solicit educational administrators and a heavy meeting with our sr. doctor. lots of reality checks + work to do but we’re staying positive. in between the meetings we had a really great time at gadai’s home. gadai is turja’s cousin, our friend, and a translator for this mission. he spent the whole day with us working his tail off to bridge the communication gap in meetings and then welcomed us into his home. his family was extremely hospitable and their home was beautiful. its a nice haven from the everyday craziness/noise on the streets:
whenever you visit someone’s home, they will push food on you every 3 seconds. finishing your dish too quickly is a sign of asking for more and the hosts will immediately put more food on your plate. if you say no, they think youre being shy and will put more food on your plate. if you say or do nothing, they will put more food on your plate. abstaining is just not an option. declining politely is an art im trying to master. yesterday i used the switching-of-plates technique with one of the guys on the mission who likes to eat a lot.
one thing about ‘leading’. for one, im very uncomfortable when any version of ‘songi’ and any version of ‘leading’ are in the same sentence. explicitly being in charge of something and having a title are things i avoid for the most part. for example, at penn i gave up my board position for a major conference because i was scared of the title and level of expectation and responsibility it explicitly suggests. yet i ended up doing the work anyways and i preferred that – start with no expectations so that i dont disappoint anyone, especially myself. if i have a title, in my mind theres this level of grandiose expectation that sets itself up and it overwhelms me, even if i wouldve done the same work had i not had the title. and thats something that is coming into light with this trip. when i was asked to take charge of the on-site implementation of the educational wing, my stomach fell to the floor but i have this personal agenda to do things that scare me so i said yes. and the days before the trip i flipped out at myself wondering why i had taken on such a responsibility. and even now once in a while i have bouts of self-doubt. but im developing a healthier sense of reality. while its good to have grandiose ambitions, i shouldn’t let it scare me. keep the goal in mind, but dont let the big picture scare you. focus on the everyday tasks and do it well and you will move forward, slowly but surely. youre not going to change the world or get anything done for that matter if you think about how far you have to get. just take it step by step. i feel that for now, if ive paved the way at least a lil bit for the next edu team, im happy. maybe this is a fancy way of saying that im curtailing my ambitions, but it brings me back to reality and enables my mind to get to work instead of sitting still and being scared. so yay.
i wish i was this dog:
July 13, 2010 § 2 Comments
cant fall asleep but i really need to since we have an early day tomorrow. my mind keeps on running and its distracting me from falling asleep so i guess ill write it out.
well for one, yesterday (Sunday) was a really tough day. not necessarily because of the humidity or the heat or the physical toll or even the tediously bumpy car rides, but moreso because of a trial of character. we went to the train station to pick up two Pratit peers and because we arrived about forty minutes early, we walked around the station with our friend and translator Chandin. for one, the level of poverty is striking – while i was more or less unsurprised by the slums, the squatters on the train station shook my core. especially the beggars, many of whom had distorted eyes and mouths barely functional to make noise. they were tiny (well under 5 feet) and so fragile-looking that their clothes seemed to burden their bones. as foreigners, we were automatic targets of panhandling and Chandin instructed us not to give out money for fear of drawing more beggars. so as the five of us stood in our circle and beggars went around to catch our attention, we stared forward and continued our conversation like he/she didnt exist. staying still like that was the hardest things ive done here so far. i saw a side of myself that im not comfortable with. can i really be so unresponsive to such a plea from someone clearly in need? and for what – because of the possibility that more people might ask for quarters and dimes? i just wanted to burst. while at the moment i didnt know how else to act, now that im looking back on i feel a bit disappointed with myself.
and when we were just outside the gates of the station a homeless baby was really excited to see us for some reason and she grabbed on to my hand and wouldnt let go, even as i was heading toward the train station. i finally made her let go and then she grabbed onto my shirt. i picked up the pace no make her let go of my shirt but she just grabbed on to my hand again. she was so excited but i felt really uncomfortable and alarmed. but i think thats because im scared of babies in general. >.< she was super cute though. but sometimes the cute ones scare me more than the ones that are not so well endowed. one time my friend in LA showed me a video of the baby she was babysitting and all i could think about was how it reminded me of one of those scary baby dinosaurs from jurassic park -.-;;
another thing that happened at the station – we almost got arrested? so taking pictures with a digital slr is like a street performance here. i was snapping some pictures of a man and i was so into it that i didnt realize that i was drawing a crowd around us, similar to when we crowd around street performers in the states. people circled around us and straight up stare at you. anyways. as collin and i were snapping pictures throughout the station, we entered one area and started snapping away. but when i looked up from my viewfinder i found myself face to face with two angry policemen pointing at our cameras, yelling in Bengali and roughhousing Chandin. as expected, a huge crowd of onlookers immediately formed. i couldnt understand what was going on but i could see that these two men had fire in their eyes. Chandin, who has dealt with the cops before, was playing it cool and tried walking away and that just made them even angrier, leading them to grab him by his shirt collar and yelling louder. thats when Collin firmly explained to them that we were just here to pick up our friends I tried to apologize and they eventually just barked at us to leave the area. chandin was reluctant to tell us what they were yelling at us but he eventually told us this much: they thought that we mightve been taking pictures for a terrorist group and had threatened to seize our cameras and arrest us. i really dont know if these threats had any real weight or not because im still trying to differentiate those with real power or those who want to assert their authority to gain a bribe. just a moment before this incident i had taken a picture of a policeman and he straight up saw me and didnt mind. i just dont understand why the other two handled the situation the way they did – they couldve just asked nicely. but i guess if they really thought that we were terrorists, being nice isnt the first thing on your mind. but if we were terrorists, why would we be so blatant about taking images?
last thing. i promise. ive been feeling really conflicted while im here. sometimes i dont know if im overdoing things or if im simply being realistic. little things like using bug spray or wearing a money belt or constantly using hand sanitizer get me thinking. i dont normally do these things in the states and i sometimes feel like im being insultingly cautious. are the mosquitoes that dangerous? would people really try to pickpocket me? is consistent hand sanitizer use warranted? wheres the line between being idealistic and realistic about your environment? im conflicted by my desire to believe that the world is all rainbows and butterflies where malaria doesnt exist and people don’t need to pickpocket and the flipside red-label warnings that ive grown up with. are my actions a result of american hyper-cautiousness or are they healthy doses of preventative measure? or maybe its because these precautions are new. in the states i always wear a seat belt and i guess that acknowledges the risk of riding a car. but using a seat belt has been so habituated that i dont even think about it. if taking precaution is a sign of acknowledging a risk, i guess its hard for me to acknowledge new risks bc that means admitting that im in unfamiliar territory with different dangers. and maybe im uncomfortable with that because im young and i want to maintain some form of the invincibility complex. i dunno. i dont even know if im making sense. i just want to fall asleep.
i like this whole blogging thing. it reminds me of my middle/high school xanga days. except that i start getting all self conscious about grammar and communicating effectively but i dont want to care bc id like blogging to be a freestyle kind of thing i dont stress about. so dont laugh at my nonsensical grammar and made up words. it happens. a lot.
eek. i hope i wake up in time for breakfast tomorrow!
July 11, 2010 § 3 Comments
this has nothing to do with the india mission, but this is also something im working on so i thought id share. i was given the privilege to shoot one of my closest friend’s cousin’s wedding a week before leaving for kolkata and ive been editing a lot since then. heres a peek:
facial expressions are priceless in this one:congrats s+j. wish you the best and thanks for sharing your day with me.shooting this wedding was a really great experience and im so thankful that i got the chance to do it. i didnt feel like a total noob because i assisted some shoots in philly but i nonetheless felt overwhelmed at times bc i wasnt sure if i was doing things right and there was so much to do! i know i looked pretty legit with over $6000 worth of camera equipment on me but i still felt a bit clumsy. imagine a short asian girl lugging around 2 heavy cameras with giant flash sets and a battery pack. i seriously felt like one of those megatron megabots from transformers with all that bulky machinery strapped on. except that the bride and my dear friend insisted i dress girly/nice/etc…so now imagine a short asian girl with a frilly pink top and pleated beige pants with 50 pounds of clunky black metal strapped on. i was a walking contradiction. i realized this day why wedding photographers usually wear all black. and why they have assistants. whatever i end up doing, i cant wait for the day i have minions running around for me. >:D
on a different note, we ran into some serious trouble at the train station today. >.< details to come when i can write more coherently.