Instagramming India

Last time I was in India, I failed to update my blog on a regular basis with updates and pictures about our adventures. I promised this time that I would be better about updating and, well, you know how those … Continue reading

Swanson’s Got Swagger the Size of Big Ben Clock

This past Thursday, I was able to spend ten glorious hours in good ol’ London town. My last flight to India was direct, but this one had a layover in London. And I have to say, I give a big … Continue reading

India, Here I Come!

The countdown is on. I leave for India in 15 days. Actually, the countdown has been on for quite a while, I just haven’t gotten around to sitting down and writing this post. I meant to do it a month … Continue reading

Love 8,000 Miles Apart

I just learned how to make these, so naturally I’m using one here. If you haven’t guessed, or didn’t already know, this is me and Rahul (or Rahul and I?).

A few nights ago, I was hanging out with some of the men who lived in my house this semester and one of them asked me how Rahul and I met.

“At a bar,” is my initial response, because it sounds humorous and I’m always looking for a laugh. But it also leaves the other party wanting to hear more, and I have plenty more to tell from the story.

I’ve shared the story of Rahul and I meeting countless times—even in my dreams—and it never tires me. I love sharing the story of how we met, and each time it reminds me more and more how lucky I am to have him in my life.

I usually get asked how we met after the realization sinks in for the other person that Rahul and I live on different continents. I’ve been asked:

“Did you meet online?”
“Did you meet while one of you was traveling?”
“Did you meet online?”

Nope. We really did meet in a bar.

In July of 2009, I was about to move to Missouri, so my girlfriends and I had one last night “out on the town.” A few of us went to dinner, and then even more of us went to a bar downtown to celebrate the many memories we had created in college and my imminent move to Cape G.

Here’s where it gets pretty amazing. A lot of things had to happen that night for us to meet, which kind of makes me believe in fate.

I told you. I like the collages. These pictures were taken in india.

Rahul was preparing to move to India and decided to meet some of his friends at the same bar on the same night. He has later said that he didn’t initially plan to go out that night, but I know we’re both glad that he did.

Also out that night was one of my sorority sisters, Leslie, who just so happened to be engaged to one of Rahul’s fraternity brothers.
Yes, Rahul and I went to college in the same town and had never met up until now. And my town is not that big!
Naturally, Leslie hung out with my group of girls for part of the night because we had all gone to college together. At some point, she told me there was someone she wanted to meet.

That someone was Rahul.

I later found out they had met for the first time that night as well, so Leslie must have seen something in Rahul that made her think of me. I don’t know what it was, but either way, she nailed it.

So, a few minutes later, she introduced us and we shook hands. When he told me he was about to move to India, my response was “You’re f***ing kidding me” because at the time, I was already fascinated by India.

We ended up not talking for that long—and I don’t really remember everything we talked about, even though I do remember what both of us were wearing—because my friends were ready to leave. As I walked away, Leslie asked me what I thought and if I wanted her to give him my number.

I took a leap and said yes. It turned out to be a good leap, because that same night, he texted me.

Our very first picture together, Fall 2009.

Even though we didn’t see each other again before he moved—I stupidly backed out on the first date we had arranged because I sometimes make stupid decisions when I’m nervous—we started texting each other around a month later. Pretty soon, we were texting each other a lot. It got to the point that I waited, anxiously, for his responses or for him to wake up and text me back for something I had texted him while he was sleeping (our 10½-9½ hour time difference has us sleeping at opposite times of the day). We started sharing a lot: from favorite movies, to humorous things we had encountered that day, to personal favorites, to personal facts.

5K we ran together, Fall 2010. We were apparently feeling really great after the run.

So, when I found out he was visiting America again that October, I made the 2-hour drive home for us to finally go on a date together. It was amazing how we instantly clicked the moment he picked me up; it felt like talking to an old friend. It wasn’t the typical nerve-wracking first date. It was fun, and natural, and right.

We ultimately didn’t start dating until about a year later, when he visited America the next Fall (2010) and we realized, after a few dates, hang-outs, and a 5k I convinced him to run with me, that we were perfect for each other.
Well, I should say I realized. Rahul knew all along, and, like the amazing person that he is, was still there for me when I finally realized it too.

There’s a lot of painful and sad stuff that happened in the year between our first date and when we started dating that I don’t typically like to revisit. I am at fault for this. All I know is that the summer before we started dating, I heard “Fireflies” when I was out one night and instantly missed Rahul. This song had been popular when he had visited the Fall before and always reminded me of him. But, that particular time, it made my heart ache and I knew I needed to talk to him again. So, remembering how successful texting had been in building our relationship the year before, I texted him again.

We started texting a lot.

He visited in late August/early September 2010 and we went on another date, to the same place we had been on our very first date. We then later went to the same bar we had gone to on our first date, which also happens to be where we met.
I think subconsciously I was trying to recreate our first date. But really, this wasn’t needed. After we started talking, it was like that year lapse had never happened.

Rahul’s sister wedding, Fall 2010

We hung out a lot before he flew back to India, and we, for some reason, didn’t clarify our relationship status before he left. But, I already knew (and he did too) that I didn’t want to date anyone else. Plus, he had already invited me to his sister’s wedding in D.C. that coming November, and we were already behaving like a couple. So, pretty soon after he landed in India, I told him we needed to talk.

We talked and we decided that we weren’t going to date anyone else.

A few days later, I texted him and said I wanted him to be my boyfriend. I’ll never forget when he responded and said “Guess what? I have a girlfriend : ).”

That was September 28, 2010.  

The night of our “1st date,” Summer 2011.

Last summer, we actually went on a date to replace the first date that we had never had. We went to a fancy restaurant in our hometown, and I paid. I figured I owed him that, and much more. For all the time I allowed myself to stall on making a decision, or didn’t make the right decision, he was there all along, already ready for me to be his girlfriend.

Our 1 year-(almost) 8 month relationship has been mostly long distance. Our time in India together was the longest we ever spent together. Long distance relationships can work, and do. As long as you are both willing to put in the time and effort to make it work, it will. Rahul and I talk on the phone multiple times a day, watch movies together, eat meals together, and more. Even though we have 8,000 miles separating us—our halfway point used to be Geneva—our relationship continues to grow because we know what we both want out of it, and that’s each other.

One of the most recent pictures of us, Winter 2011.

Missing India, Part Two

So as I said in Missing India, I have been pining for India lately. These posts are more concentrated on pictures than words, as India is a country hard to describe in words. Even when a close description is achieved, it never reaches the desired magnitude.  Even with pictures, only a minimal snapshot of this beautiful place is allotted, but hopefully you will continue to understand through these pictures why I fell in love with this place.

Missing India, Part Two: Ladakh
(Leh, Nubra Valley, Pangong Lake)

Ladakh is a fascinating place. As contested territory, this area of India is also claimed by Pakistan as well. When you look at the Ladakh region on a map, you will often see the area marked by dotted lines instead of solid. Plus, the area takes on a lot of similarities to its surrounding Tibetan, Nepalese, and Chinese landscape. Flying in from Delhi to Leh provides two totally different perspectives and surroundings. In Leh, you’ll find many more tourists, peaceful landscapes, a large Tibetan population, and a quiet lifestyle. Ladakh provides a good break from the busyness of most parts of India, as you are submerged into the Buddhist religion, majestic mountain scenes, and fresh, fresh air.

And it should go without saying, but all these pictures are the property of me or Rahul. Please let them remain here and nowhere else. : ) 

Young monks; Thikse Monastery.

Enjoying the view; Pangong Lake. 

Approach of the camels; Nubra Valley. 

Please remove shoes; Hemis Monastery. 

Large devotion; near Diskit Monastery. 

Young monks spinning prayer wheels; Thikse Monastery. 

Sun reaches down; Nubra Valley. 

Patch of green; near Leh.

Peaceful morning; Nubra Valley. 

Close up; Thikse Monastery. 

Sun shining down on us; Disket Monastery. 

On the move; Thikse Monastery.

Sun rise; Pangong Lake. 

All smiles; Hemis Monastery. 

Built out of the mountainside; Hemis Monastery. 

Prayer flags; Thikse Monastery. 

All hearts for Leh-Ladakh; Shanti Stupa. 

Shades of blue; Pangong Lake.

Running from explosion; Khardung La Pass. (This construction held us up for about an hour. These are some of the guys in our group running away from the falling mountain pieces.) 

All the colors of the wind; a monastery in Nubra Valley.

Please don’t litter; Khardung La Pass.

To end with food/drink: MINT TEA! So delicious. The first thing you are offered upon arriving to help you acclimate to the altitude change. 


Missing India

I miss India. This is partially because I miss Rahul a lot. But I do also miss the country I was able to visit for the first time because of him, and the country that I desperately want to go back to. Because, you see, I don’t feel that India is a country you can visit once and never again. It’s a country you visit once, for a year, or two, and even then, you never see all of it.

So, even though I can’t physically visit the country I yearn for most at this moment, I can, in a way, through some of my favorite pictures.

Missing India, Part One: Jaipur

Jaipur was my first stop on the India trip, and also where Rahul lives. It is the capital of Rajasthan, known as the “Pink City.” It’s a charming, “small” city of 3.1 million people and served as the perfect way to introduce me to the 2nd largest country in the world.

Elephant Crossing; Amber Fort.

“Crazzy” City; near Tiger Fort.

Hand holding; City Palace.

Window view; Tiger Fort. 

Crossing; Lake Palace.

Sunny day; Tiger Fort. 

A fort with a view; Tiger Fort.

Seeking shade 1; Amber Fort. 

Seeking shade 2; Jantar Mantar.

Seeking Shade 3; Amber Fort. 

Seeking Shade 4; Amber Fort. 

Waiting for the bus; Jaipur.

Model Shoot; Amber Fort. 

Tag-a-long; Amber Fort. This little guy followed us for a while. And he poses too. 

Following the straight and arrow; near City Palace.

Tour Guide Pose; Tiger Fort. 

Elephants; Amber Fort. 

Off the beaten path; near Tiger Fort. 

Kabaddi; Amber Fort. Notice how their shoes form the field line. 

Dudes hanging out; near Tiger Fort. 

Door Frame Shot; Amber Fort. 

Doors; Tiger Fort. 

10 Ways I’m Going to Enjoy My Life More

For this post, I looked through my pictures and picked random photos from times when I've really enjoyed my life. So, the time I went to South Africa.

Yesterday, I finally got to do three things I’ve been waiting to do all week: vacuum my apartment, read “Newsweek,” and go to Target.

I know these are all extremely simple things, but they were also things I had been waiting to do since Monday. Why? Because the spring 2012 semester snuck up on me like an trenchcoated villain and demanded all my time before I even had the chance to turn around and see him hiding in the dark shadows.

The time I lived in D.C. in undergrad and learned lots of important life lessons, such as how to enjoy your life.

Okay, so maybe not that dramatic, but something close to it. I got tricked by the long break before the start up of the spring semester, to the point that on my first day of classes, I didn’t even have all my books ordered—which has never happened. This wasn’t aided by the fact that I put in the completely wrong address on my Half.com order. Not just the wrong address, but an address that doesn’t even exist.

So, I just completed my second full week of my second semester of my MFA and something occurred to me—I’ve almost gotten to the point where I don’t let myself enjoy school anymore.

The time I went to Italy with my family and we met lots of fun people and our bus driver, Libario aka Mr. Shiny Pants, dressed like an Italian model.

Let me explain—I love school. I love the program I’m in. I mean, I get to read and write for a degree (and obviously also because it’s what I love to do). I feel like reading and writing are two things people take time off work in movies to do, and I’m in an opportunity where I get to do those things everyday.

But something frightening has been happening to my brain—I’ve let the “Must read this for school” component take over the “This is actually enjoyable” one and now I live in a world where I’m stressed all the time.

The time I lived in Missouri and had some of the most amazing friends I will ever, ever have.

There are other factors that contribute to this too.  But the main point is that I’ve begun to treat my two favorite activities as chores.

The time Rahul and I went to D.C. for his sister's wedding.

Maybe this is because I’ve been in school for nearly 20 years. Maybe it’s because I’m hyper-organized to the degree that sometimes I panic even when I forget something as small as writing “Go to Target “ in my planner. Or maybe it’s simply because I’ve forgotten how to enjoy doing the things I love, letting myself live in a world where I’m “too stressed” or “too busy” to do anything else or enjoy my free time. And those excuses right there are things I hate, hate to hear out of other people’s mouths—so why am I letting myself say them?

The time my grandmother came to visit me in Missouri for the first time and I turned 24 and placed first in a 5k in my age group all in the same weekend.

So, in the spirit of February Resolutions (forget New Year’s), I’m going to try and do all the things in my everyday week that I always think I’m too busy to do. When, in reality, it’s because I’ve made myself too busy. If I want them to happen, I can. So here goes:

1. Write more and enjoy it. Write without a purpose. Just write.

2. Stop fretting over every, tiny, insignificant detail. I have a tendency to over-worry and OVERREACT (think Nicolas Cage, National Treasure 2).

The time we had the Great East Coast Adventure where we visited six cities in under two weeks.

3. Enjoy my class reading. I get to read novels. That shouldn’t be hard, except sometimes I let my “stupid brain” take over—you know, the brain that functions when you’re so focused on soaking up every single word you read you actually do the complete opposite.

The time I went to New Orleans with friends and wondered around on my own why they went to a conference and I had a baller time, even when I got shooed out of an art gallery for taking a picture.

4. In the same strain, talk in class! I usually don’t speak in class because, you know, the stupid brain syndrome (SBS).  I get scared, thinking I don’t have anything of quality to say, which is just silly. Even if I did say something off-based, I doubt my classmates would remember for longer than a day. But side note, the exception to that rule:  the guy I had class with over a year ago that kept referring to the “Llama” in class about a book we had read. Come to find out, he wasn’t talking about the furry animal at all, but, in fact, the Dalai Lama—because, you know, “everyone calls him Lama.”

The time I went to INDIA. I chose this picture because I just wrote a story based there and looked at this picture to remind myself what Old Delhi was like.

5. Live in my current moments, whatever they may be. Stop letting my brain obsess and wonder and thing about all the other things I could be doing. I’m especially bad at doing this when I end up in an unplanned conversation with someone and then I miss the enjoyment of the conversation because I’m thinking of the things I need to do. If I make the choice to have the conversation, then actually have the conversation.

The time Rahul and I went to Pangong Lake and learned how to pronounce the name of the lake and fell lots more in love.

6. Furthermore, listen to people! I’m so bad at this. You know those kids in class that get excited about something they want to say to the class, so they essentially miss everything else because they’re waiting to include their thought. Yep, I was that kid, and still am.

7. Stop making excuses for not exercising.

8. Take time to do the little things that always get pushed to the side. The big things—talking to Rahul, my friends, my parents, watching my current TV obsession (right now How I Met Your Mother), writing this blog, etc.—always happen. But

The time Rahul SURPRISED me for the Christmas holidays.

the other things—reading my magazine subscriptions, buying groceries, keeping in touch with old friends—tend to get pushed to the side and it frustrates me. Thus why, yesterday, I took an hour and read my Newsweek. And now I know stuff about the Mexican drug cartel.

9. Improve my attitude. Not that I have a bad attitude. But sometimes I let it be bad, and I have no one to blame for this but myself—even though it’s easy to blame other things.

The time PSK moved in and our eyes are all nearly closed in every picture because it was so bright outside.

10. Enjoy where I am in life right now! I don’t want to look back on my MFA and think “Oh, yeah, I did that. Stuff happened.” I want to look back and think “Yeah, that DID happen, and it was awesome.” That’s how I look back on my two years in Missouri, and I want to be able to do the same for this time. I mean, when else will I: 1) Be surrounded by such an incredibly supportive writing community that gives me the chance to grow my writing everyday, 2) Live near my FAVORITE American city, 3) Hang out with undergrads all the time as a fraternity House Mom? After the next few years, probably never again (except for the writing community thing).

So, as Barney Stinson says, I need to SUIT UP and enjoy this time in my life before it’s gone.

I Went to Four Airports Yesterday

Yesterday was long and sad. It also included me traveling to four airports. That’s right, four. Four airports in one day, six airports in four days. By the end of this week, 10 airports in two weeks.

Sure, some of them are repeats, but every time a visit to an airport is made, I believe it still counts.

A picture from our Starbucks goodbye over the summer. Chose this picture because I wish it was as warm outside right now.

Rahul and I went to D.C. over the weekend to visit his sister and ring in 2012 (aka the year of the Mayans) together. This was the first year I spent the New Year’s NOT at my parents’ annual party—I’m not lame or anything, my parents just know how to throw a kickass party—and I told him he better show me a good time. And of course, being the wonderful boyfriend he is, he did.

It really worked out great because he was able to visit me in Maryland for the first time. He then said whatever we did on New Year’s Day would set the tone for the rest of our year. And what did we do? Lounge around his sister’s all day watching TV shows, of course. Which, in my mind, is this year’s way of telling us to relax more.

But, back to the subject of this post—four airports. I’ve never had much of a reason to fly before, but living in Maryland has provided more opportunities for going Up in the Air. And I have to say, I’m getting kind of good at it. I even now have one of those suitcases that wheels in all four directions and makes me look like a legit traveler. Sure, I still get anxious when it comes to being at my gate extra early for my departure time, but I don’t look like a fool anymore going through security.

I don't know what this is, but thought it was cool (BWI).

So yesterday I drove Rahul to DCA for his flights back to India (sad sad). We shared a piece of lemon pound cake, which is what we shared at Starbucks the last time he flew back from the states to India, so I’m thinking we now have to make that our official departure food. Anyway, it was really sad to see him go and I did my best not to cry (which was not the case when I flew back from India). One.

I'm telling you. OLD. But still convenient.

I barely had time to pack before jetting off again for BWI only to find out right after my arrival that my first flight had

Charlotte Airport.

been delayed. This gave me plenty of time to get to know BWI and read a ton of pages of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo on my Mom’s old as heck Kindle, as I had essentially arrived three hours early for a flight that was now delayed so much it caused me to miss my connecting flight. Two.

Charlotte Airport. Shout outs to the Wright brothers.

The Charlotte airport is awesome. Definitely didn’t mind having an unexpected longish layover here. There was this beautiful big lobby area with Christmas stuff and planes everywhere. Plus, there was a TEENAGER playing the piano like a freakin’ music expert. I wanted to call out requests, but I didn’t want to throw him off his game. Not only that, but they also had wicker rocking chairs and personal attendants in the bathroom with peppermints available. The South, I tell ya’.

This kid was kicking ass playing the piano.

We know how to be hospitable, even right down to the free wi-fi. Three.

Memphis still gets me with its bathrooms doubling as tornado shelters. I guess safety first. The airport was super depressing at 9 pm at night, but I was happy to see 1) the gate I departed from to Delhi and 2) my parents waiting for me. Four.

So even though I was just traveling within the states, I felt like I had added several notches to my traveling belt by the end of the day, and rightfully so.

It Really is a Wonderful Life

BOYFRIEND.

I have been looking forward to this Christmas break since…I don’t know, the email to my parents where I said “I can’t wait to come home.” This was the first year where I didn’t get to spend a sufficient amount of time home before Christmas Day and, I know that’s a sign of becoming a legit adult or whatever, but this was one of those Christmas seasons where I was ready to be home. Long story short, but the fraternity I have been working for/living with lost their university recognition, and it was simply a painful process leading up to the semester’s end. I really grew to like them, and I’m not a super big fan of instability in my life. Those two combined led to a stressful end of my first MFA semester.

But everything is good in life when you’re home for the holidays. And when your boyfriend SURPRISES YOU in Tennessee when you think he’s still in India. That sneaky, wonderful man got one of my best friends to get me to come down to Memphis for the day only to show up himself with flowers. I had just talked to him on the phone, so I was blown away that he was actually standing in front of me. All in all, both are reasons for a great holiday season:

Some of the Weirdest or Funniest Things I’ve Ever Seen

Juggler!

So sometimes I really think there’s a Big Brother out there. Occasionally Rahul and I will be talking about a certain movie and the next day it will be on TV. I’ll suddenly have a thought about an actor who I haven’t seen in a movie/TV show in a while and then suddenly that person will pop up on whatever program I’m watching. It’s weird.

All that to say, a few days ago I was thinking of writing a blog about the weirdest things I’ve ever seen and a few hours later this crossed my path when I was walking to class:

So I’ve decided I’m going to post some pictures of the weirdest or funniest things I’ve ever seen. I know they may not be as weird as things other people have seen, or maybe they’re far weirder. Either way, they are all things that have made me laugh, or realize how oddly beautiful life can be.

Women and llamas. (#1)

1. Women with llamas at an East Tennessee GAS STATION. Rahul and I stopped for snacks on our drive from Tennessee to D.C. and saw these women I guess walking the llamas for a bathroom break? Either way, they loaded them in a VAN after a few minutes and drove off.

Hello, plastic legs. (#2)

2. Mannequin legs at a bar. I guess the rest of her body was having a drink while the band played. I wonder how she felt about her legs being passed around.

There were even auditions for this. (#3)

3.Anyone need a Rosh Hashanah date? These were plastered around campus for weeks. The best part is I later found out this girl was actually someone who worked on my Homecoming Committee. I never asked her if she did find a date.

I didn't name him. (#4)

4. This donkey really wanted to be my friend. He creeped on me while I was reading waiting for the sun to rise at Pangong Lake. I’d never had a donkey stand so close to me before. He later knocked over my chair and followed me to our tent when I went to wake up Rahul.

Unclear where it attached on... (#5)

5. Part human, part cat? This was spotted at the Iowa Jima Memorial. Coincidentally, a lot of these pictures are taken near or in D.C. I don’t know what that says about the nation’s capital…

That's one way to advertise your need... (#6)

Cre-epy. (#7)

6. Anyone need a lawyer? I saw this car multiple times one day in my hometown.

7. Bendable Sarah Palin. Enough said.

Liff is good. (#8)

8.Road signs in Ladakh get a category all to themselves. Spell check is not a thing of their world, but humor is. Don’t you just love liff?

DAY-UMM (#9)

9. One BIG ASS liquor bottle (Dupont Circle).

Self-expression still exists. (#10)

10. Sometimes it just needs to be said…again, D.C.

AHHHHH! (#11)

11. Seeing the BK King in person is way creepy.

12.Wax Nicolas Cage. Really, wax people in general. It’s just not natural.

So confused. (#14)

13. I don’t think Jesus is supposed to be this creepy….

14. I don’t know where in the South/West this picture is supposedly depicting, but where I come from we don’t ride bunnies…

Again, D.C....(#13)

15. Annnnd the last picture is just for fun. Molly will probably kill me when she sees it. But this is literally one of the best pictures that has ever been known to man.

No. Just...no. (#12)

That’s what I call good timing on behalf of whoever was taking the picture (probably my Dad).

And speaking of my dad, he took this pretty excellent picture in Italy. He also took around 2,000 more pictures. I was surprised his camera card didn’t burst.

One of my favorites. (#15)

I’ll end this with a creepy story of which I wish I had a picture—I was bike riding once in Cape on some Missouri back country roads. It was toward the end of my ride, and I was really tired of the seat poking into my butt, so I guess I was sitting on the bike funny. This man goes by on a motorcycle, looks at me, and then several feet in front of me slows down and pulls to the side of the road. When I passed him stopped, he reached into his console, held out a gatorade, and said all creepy like, “Are you thirsty?” Let’s just say I high-tailed it out of there. It was comparable to seeing a clown take off their mask, or Darth Vader’s real face.

Dad's Italy picture...Caesar with porta-potties. As my dad said, "When you gotta go, you gotta go."