CT took off today, she is en route back to her life after a week of wine-, dine-, and sleep-well-past-nine-ing.

And I am now “home”, alone, in bed.

Did I mention I don’t do post-program well? I’m not going to lie I’m a wee bit nervous about the next 10 days.

“10 days, Melanie” you say. “10 days is nothing! Heck, I would love 10 days with nothing to do!” In fact, I think that’s what the rest of you call vacation. I call it a wee bit scary, but hey, we all have different thresholds. I routinely throw myself at the mercy of masses between the ages of 15 and 23 without batting an eyelash. Different fears, people, different fears. 10 days alone, minus structure, plus time to think? Cccooommmmeee bbbbaaaccckkkk CT!

Yup. Home, alone, in bed…

…trying to create some goals and some sort of schedule. Something to keep from analyzing and “processing” the last four months to death, and/or prevent my inner 16-year-old from winning the motivation battle that ends in movie musicals and crime shows.

It’s unsettling because for the first time in 5 months I am alone. There is no one in the next room or on the other side of the bed. There is no one to wake up to, no schedule to keep, no students to herd, transport to coordinate, colleagues to eat with – no one to share it with. Im really good at sharing. Top that off with having been over programmed and highly regimented and I am literally finding it hard to make simple decisions. With half an hour of thought I gave up deciding and ate oatmeal for dinner.

Its time to rely on tried-and-true methodologies: Lists. When in doubt, make lists. (World, you may have lost Opera but I’m here to fill your “quips of wisdom” void)

Entonces, in the next 10 days I will: Take 5 Spanish classes
Go on 4 bike rides
Finish IHP paper work
Write a blog about transportation justice
Go to a museum
Attend 2 couchsurfing meet ups

And just like that my week filled up! List are magic like that.

Thanks guys, you helped a lot. Go team.

Now that I’m here, alone, in bed (with my list!) I’m going to sleep in the middle and use all the blankets. (’cause she’s got the whole bed to herself, she’s got the whole wide bed, to herself, she’s got the whole…..you get it)

Sweet dreams, kids.

Mels.

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Couldn’t have planned it better.

Two weeks ago I tossed an idea on the table. “Christina, come to BA!”

Two days later I got an email:
Subject:”United Airlines flight confirmation”
Body: Easiest decision ever

After four years of working together on youth programs Christina and I take a week-long pause in Buenos Aires. She, pre-program and I, post-.

It looks a lot like this….

20110527-015100.jpg
Reading about BA with pauses for coffe and Vogue magazine.

And this….

20110527-015243.jpg
Wine tastings and long dinners.

I don’t handle post-program transitions well, but this goes down as the best one yet.

Thanks Christina.

-Mels

One year ago this week I moved out of my apartment into a whole lotta world.

In taking Stock of the last Three Hundred Sixty-Five days, I have counted:

250 Students on Program
50 Colleagues Worked with
15 Modes of Transportation Utilized
7 New Countries Explored
5 Types of Toilets Negotiated
4 Babies Born to Friends or Family
2 Romances Attempted

and my favorite stat of all: over 65 beds slept in.

(That’s averaging a new bed every five days for my maths impaired amigos.)

As I lay in (my current, though changing tomorrow) bed at night counting up the places I’ve slept, in each pillow case is wrapped a place and time. Every foreign bed frame creek and groan tells the story of the day that got me there and the people I’d wake to in the morning.

And thats the beauty of the list, less the numbers and numerics, more the bounty of the bonds created.

Tomorrow marks a new phase of this 15 month trip; a full year has passed, this semester is over and personal travel begins. New stage, new goals, new people, a new list and – lest we forget – a new bed.

Buenos Noches. Lak u noc. Śubha rātri, Bonne Nuit. Iyi geceler.

Good Night.

-Mels

That’s all there really is to say.

It’s been a roller coaster with this group. They  challenged me as a person and educator. I made so many mistakes, fell short and did not live up to them in so many ways. They disappointed and frustrated me, resisting and complaining – moments when I wanted to stand on the table and shout  ” You entitled, spoiled, pain in the ass shits. Look around and understand how lucky you are, how amazing the world is and how much you ARE learning!” Times when it was hard to see the learning, the students who were happy, the successes and joys in a sea of negativity.  A group that looked so easy turned my head (and heart) upside down at times but in the end renewed my faith in process and progress.

This morning in a final group presentation the students encapsulated the learning, the growing, the pushing boundaries and expanding understandings; the struggle with ideas, with us, with each other and with their own (in-)abilities to articulate and contain all that was experienced in the timelapse of four months.

They opened their shell and let us into their stories of love and family, deep thought and deeper connections.  Their love for cities, for each other, for functioning public transportation!

Drawing lines of reflection between the dotted scape of guest lectures, host families and bibliographied ideas they exposed a nuanced, colorful and compassionate portrait of a semester.

Humbled and amazed by a group I doubted.

Quietly, Happily and with much to think about –  It’s over.

In each city there are two faculty apartments.  Melissa and I (the young women) take one, Sally and Joc (the IHP veterans) the other.  After five days in India, Mel and I fell into a morning routine; as we move house to house, country to country our mornings are familiar, comforting…home-like.

* *

She wakes up and starts yoga.

 

I wake up and start coffee.

As sun starts to rise, I sip my cup and watch the city wake.

She finishes – Namaste.

I shower, she cuts the fruit.

She showers, I set the table.

We sit, eat and enjoy a few minutes of calm before the day begins.

– calm –

 

We meet the faculty downstairs….

…and walk to school.

* *

In a vagabond-erous lifestyle I’ve learned to hold on to the consistent moments; the tocks that pace my jigsawed sense of ticking of time.  The shared living and shared caring.  The silent “I understand” and “we can do this together” of my putting milk in her coffee and she honey in my yogurt.

Each morning – for an hour – we walk through minutes that are known, turn through steps that can be counted and do our daily doe-see-doe around an to-small-for-two kitchen.

We have never talked about the routine, never planned or changed it.  We needed “home” and thus one came to be.

 

*   *

What makes your home away from home….or home in our house?

-Mels

But in what language?  Even with minimal vocabulary in anything but English, I can feel my personality change as my language does.

In English I’m me –  Enthusiastic, Loud, Loving and Stubborn.

In Portuguese, I’m Coy.

In Arabic, I’m Subdued.

In French, I’m Polite.

In Wolof, I’m Friendly and Funny.

Who will I be in Spanish?!

Okay. Woah. Hold on.  Universe, I need you to slow your roll.

Somewhere over the Mediterranean (crazy flight pattern because Libya closed it’s airspace) we hit a warp-speed portal and everything since has happened in double-time.

It’s Sunday night, day 8 in country, and its the first time I have had a chance to catch up and slow down.  Time to think about what’s going on, where I am and how I feel about all of it. I’ve had 8 hours of sleep, a good meal and a long walk along the ocean.  My proverbial ducks are in a row…though this is Dakar so they should be goats. My goats are in a row.

MBBaAAAAA!

(That’s what my goats sound like in writing.)

Goats and a haircut - now that's one stop shopping!

That’s not to say I’ve done everything I needed to do this weekend. I still have to:

  • Do my taxes
  • Submit my pre-departure expenses
  • Write encouraging love-notes to each student
  • Make the homestay pairings for Argentina
  • Give a colleague some (not so loving from students) feedback
  • Write the programs “Letter home” form India
  • Buy aloe – for all my students who forgot they were IN AFRICA where, once in a while, you know, sometimes, or EVERYDAY there is a LOT OF SUN!!
  • And sleep.

On that note….HI Guys!!!  I’m in Dakar which is in Senegal which is in Africa! I switched continents while you weren’t looking. Sneaky girl.

This is my Happy Ocean Face! (It’s also my Ohmiggod-that-was-a-really-long-flight-and-I-slept-exactly-zero-hours face)

Dakar is wonderful.  Not only does it have an ocean, it has about 10 million less people then Delhi.  Scale matters.

Dakar is accessible in a way Delhi is not.  First of all, it’s walkable.  Within 48 hours of arriving I had figured out how to navigate the 50 minute walk to school and where the nearest places are to buy fruit, yogurt, veggies and wine. It took me three weeks to do that in Delhi.  Second, people don’t stare at you the way they do in Delhi.  While my white American-ness makes me stand out even more here, there are not the same standards of open stares and vendor harassment.  In Delhi taxis, rickshaws, vendors and street children follow you for blocks. Here you smile – “Salaam Alakuum” or “Bonjor” or “Nangadef” – shake your head gently. They reply – “walakumm salaam” or “Sava?” or “Manga fi rekk”  and that’s it.  Interaction complete.  Human to human.

Lastly, the buses look like this:

Car Rapides - Dakar's public transit.

And how can that not make you happy every time you get on.

Also…We get to eat with our hands.

 

 

 

I can’t put my finger on why, but I like Dakar so much.

Yay-town.

Melanie

Playing in my head all country long: All this Beauty, The Weepeies

Currently reading: Apartment listings for Argentina – I’m broke and trying to stay for two months!  Ahhh!

Still reading: Imagined communities – exactly where I was a week ago.

 

The jump from point-and-shoot to DSLR was is massive.  I’m on a steep learning curve full of blurry pictures and innumerable re-takes.  This is a random smattering of my Delhi experience.  Flickr page to come.

An obsession of giant proportion.

I know, I know.  I fall in love with all my groups.  But they really are so wonderful.  Two days of stomach bug and I went into withdrawl.  It felt like my birthday when I got to see them all again.

 

Class on an ancient rooftop, next to an urban village, over looking deciduous forrest at sunset?  But of course! This is IHP.

 

A portrait of Lily taken by Emma, both students.  They are two sides of the same hand – so different and so alike. Lily a quintessential bohemian, living in group houses and studying stray animals in cites. Emma wears pearls an wants to be a feminist I-Banker. I am trying to learn to take portraits and I love everything about this one.

Everyday there is a festival or wedding somewhere on the streets.  Delhi always looks ready for, or recovering from, a party.

The carrots here are pink and oh so delicious!

My colleague Joc working at an internet cafe because ours is perpetually broken.  She teaches Urban Planning and Sustainable Environments.

This is way bigger than Barbie.

This is my living room and Melissa hard at work.  She is the Politics and Development faculty.

Public. Restroom.  All over India.

Daily Delhi Fog. It’s sunny by 10 am.


(Please tell me if these are too big or too small.  With my 9 inch screen I can’t tell!)

 

Cheers.

-M

This one is going to be necessarily on the lame side.  Just want y’all to know I have not fallen off the face of the earth.

After two days of misery and four days of cautious eating Delhi belly left and my love for street food returned. Go figure.

However, I think my relationship with soft cheese is over.  There was feta with dinner the night I got sick and I can’t even think about it now with out recoiling. Better off without it.

This past weekend Melissa and I took a side trip to Jaipur and we have some wonderful pictures from the weekend.  I will post them soon once the bandwith can handle more than just email.

My goodness  – after 4 weeks in India it has come to feel complelty natural to be here and to be the IHP program.  As in, of course I’m in India, of course this is totally normal, of course we go to class and site visits, of coursethe entirety of my life revolves around 35 college students, of course all my meals are spent discussing neoliberalism and development models.  I don’t understand whats different about this from “regular” life at all.   Maybe its the culmination of doing this for a number of years with the youth programs, albeit in different circumstances, but somehow this program feels copletly normal and natural for me.  Here’s crossing my fingers that it maintains for the next 11 weeks.

Academically, this is better than grad school – but maybe that’s because I get to live with the faculty.  Speaking of faculty – lovefest. They are amazing, and I’m thankful everyday to work with three women who humble and inspire me.  And good god are they smart.

That’s 30 seconds in my world – mostly for the benefit of my Grandfather – Hi Papa Max! Love to you and Grandma!

I promise, pictures, thoughts and stories comming soon.  I’m still percolating on transportation and space.  Went to an exhibit by Anish Kapoor, architect & Sculptor extraordinaire (of the “bean” sculpture in Chicago among others) – so much more fodder for thought.  An aesthetic conceptualizing of space that turned my brain on its head for a while.

Currently reading:

For fun – The Finkler Question, Howard Jacobson. Overly self-indugent on the Jewish introspection analysis front.  Were Jewish, we talk about ourselves a lot, we get it.

For Smarts – Imagined Communities, Benidict Anderson.  It’s taking me forever and a pencil to get through it.  Each sentence is worthy of thought and I’m having great conversation with the margins.

Wanting – A Suitable Boy, Vikram Seth. We keep talking about it, I’m desperate to read it, but its about a million pounds heavy and who has room for that will all the gifts I bought here!

 

Delhi belly has struck the group.

In the last week we have had:

8 students miss class,

5 doctors visits,

3 antiobiotic prescriptions,

1 faculty with a fever,

aaaaand as of last night…

One Melanie Anne Brubaker who can’t get out of bed or eat anything for fear of the consequences.

While I love to travel – my body does not.  Brazil and I had a tenuous relationship, Turkey required some patience, Costa Rice was touch-and-go, and Delhi has got me down for the count.

Stupid stomach.

On a more cheerful note – LOOK HOW BIG THIS DALIA IS!!

 

So Pretty

 

Its as big as my face! (Or my hand...details)

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