Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Tis the Season to be Holly

I thought that was hilarious when I was 8. I still think it is kind of funny, clever at least.

So my name is Holly. It is Christmas Time. The amount of times I hear my name has grown exponentially.

One day. I believe it was Christmas Eve. A man said "Holly, that is a festive name."
I wanted to say. "I changed it just for the season. normally it is Gertrude."

DISCLAIMER FOR LACK OF CHRISTMAS SPIRIT: I was just in a wreck in Provo and had to wait around for hours when I was flying home to GA that day. I was stressed.

The other day, i thought i heard someone say my name. I turned around just in time to hear "Fa la la la la, la la la la."

This got me thinking. How many Christmas songs am I part of?

Well we have:

"Deck the halls with boughs of Holly." This song always got some interesting comments about how i could be decor. they were always much appreciated. i do like the fa la la la las. though.

I also like the Holly and the Ivy. I think I like it because it is lesser known. A treasure when you hear it if you will.

"Oh by gosh, by golly, it's time for mistletoe and holly" I love this one. it is fun. also kinda implies that someone is wanting me and mistletoe. just saying. I like it best when sung by Frank Sinatra.

"Haul out the holly"..from we need a little Christmas. Not necessarily my favorite. Sounds like i have eaten too many Christmas sweets. Plus who likes to be hauled anywhere?

"You will get a sentimental feeling When you hear voices singing "Let's be jolly; Deck the halls with boughs of holly"...and I do.

"But the prettiest sight to see is the Holly that will be on your own front door. " One of my personal favorites. I took the liberty of capitalizing Holly.

"Pine cones and Holly Berries" from Pine Cones and Holly Berries. I didn't know this song existed.

lastly (well i'm sure there are more but i think this is a little out of control already) is Holly Jolly Christmas.
who honestly can say they don't like this song? maybe the grinch (pre-heart expansion of course, i'm sure he is a fan now.)
Anyway. I think "have a holly jolly Christmas" takes the cake. (my nickname was once holly jolly, and i am on strict orders to marry someone with the last name jolly)

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

America. Land that I Love.

I love the 4th. I love the cook outs and fireworks and laying by the pool. I love wearing red ,white, and blue, and going to baseball games. I love being an American. This 4th of July will be slightly different. There won’t be fireworks or a baseball game or a pool. I will most likely watch the new spiderman movie and make some hamburgers. Luckily, I have an Indian friend who isn’t Hindu so he eats beef. And as for red, white and blue…I have a captain America shirt that can be worn. Putting together my little fourth of july celebration as always makes me as always proud to be American. Loud and Proud. The American way.

This year though more than proud, I am grateful-- grateful that I grew up in a place that allowed me so many opportunities that I didn’t even realize half of them. Things that I didn’t see as blessings but rather givens. Of course, I was allowed to play soccer as a girl. Of course, I had air conditioning. Of course, I knew my birthday and had parties. I think the ‘of courses’ are starting to become an epidemic in America. The feeling of entitlement is overwhelming. Entitlement helped bring about the economic crash by people buying houses they couldn’t afford, and entitlement is in the forefront of the health care battle. I am not trying to start a political debate –that isn’t the point—the point is that everywhere you look in America (right, left, red, blue) everyone thinks they are owed something or deserve something more. I think this 4th there should be more time spent looking at what tremendous blessings Americans have been given as a result of the Home of the Brave. Rather than being proud this year. Maybe we should be humbled by the fact we are American.

Humbled by the thousands of men and women that believed in America so much that they gave their life to have this country.

Humbled that our founding fathers prayed and looked to something bigger than themselves when designing our constitution.

Humbled to know that we can argue and disagree and say what we wish about the government without consequences

Humbled that our judicial system works and doesn’t -years after a case was filed- convict and impose jail sentences on people who are already dead from old age.

Humbled that voting actually means something, and no candidate gets 104 percent of the vote…

Humbled that despite economic hard times, the American dream is still alive and no person is condemned to a certain spot in a social system based on birth.

Humbled that you can choose who to marry and when you want to get married.

Humbled by the amount of education that is available

Humbled the electricity works as does the hot water

Humbled to have an actual bathroom to wash in rather than the street

So while laying by the pool, or donning red, white and blue, remember all the blessings that come with being an American and show a little gratitude to what has been given rather than focusing on what ‘should’ be given. 

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Real life.

So. I am in India.

And the tone of the blog will change-- Mostly because I am living here rather than touring. When touring, it is easy to write and tell of the day’s adventures. When living somewhere adventures become making sure you get on the right bus and that you don’t pass out when walking to work. As a result, I will mostly be writing thoughts and ideas, Lesson learned, humbling experiences (which occur everyday), and yes, funny stories will make their way into the blog as well.

Also, the tone will change because of what I am doing. I’ll give a brief background and explanation- not to show off or because I think I am changing the world- I am not. But I share so that people will be aware of what is going on in the world. To force people out of their daily routine and their daily mindset-  and to share the every growing amount of gratitude I have for my endless blessings.

I am volunteering at New Light, which takes care of children of sex workers- Children that are marked by society as nothing. The daughters are fit for nothing more than the life their mothers have which they were forced into either through trafficking or through poverty. And the boys, well, they will follow in the footsteps of the male ‘role’ models in the area- becoming facilitators of the sex industry or making money by selling alcohol or whatever at a higher price to make quick money which instead of being used for something fruitful like education is squandered on material nothings. What New Light does is provide education, food, a safe place to stay, and a way out.  Once girls are 12 or 13 they are moved to another home away from Kalighat, an old red light district of Kolkata and where New Light operates. It is no longer safe for them to be in that area.

Every morning I walk down a little lane passing women, children, goats, dogs, and men. The lane is lined with little 'houses'- homes of the sex workers. The morning isn’t a big deal. It could be another little lane in India if you didn’t know better –people washing themselves in the spickets, children playing. The evening is different. The women are dressed and put together…and sitting at the end of the lane. Waiting.

For those that worry about me walking in and out of red light district everyday, don’t. I am in no danger of being trafficked. It doesn’t work like that in India. Your family-- an aunt, a grandma, even sometimes a mother—starts you in the industry if you weren’t trafficked in from a village somewhere else. You have to have nothing – no education, no money, no support—that is how women get stuck. Where do they have to go? And now they have children to feed with no father to help support the children. Some mothers abandon their children left to be raised by someone else in the area whether a friend or a relative. New Light takes these children. Sure the mothers have visiting rights. “fathers” have none.

I work with the children in the morning, and by work I mostly mean play. Most speak a little English so we communicate roughly. The older children generally know more and can translate from Bengali to English for me. Then I do research. Research the Trafficking in Persons report, different laws going into place, and whatever else is needed. 

In reality, I learn by just being there. I think sometimes as a law student, you think that you can solve all the injustices in the courtroom – buying too often into the classic John Grisham tale of success. However, one must understand what one is fighting to do any good. I am starting to understand just how big and monstrous the sex trafficking industry is…and it isn’t like I hadn’t researched and studied it before I came to India. I had. I THOUGHT I knew. I didn’t know anything. 

Monday, June 25, 2012

Laughter Thoughts

After writing blog posts, I’d remember something silly or funny that happened that I didn’t include …..

In China and some in Thailand, Mcdonalds would have the actual restaurant and then generally in front, there would be a small McDonalds kiosk dedicated to the desserts of Mc-ie-des…soft serve included. Pretty convenient for those soft serve addicts that just want their fix of ice cream—they don’t have to deal with the crowd inside. In Shanghai there was one such set up; however, the dessert kiosk played music constantly. The same song. It was like a stationary ice cream truck. I think it played it is a small world. Heavens bless the employees. i would die.

One night we were walking back to our hotel from the metro. Generally there are people selling various items, one night a man was selling puppies. Cori and I were severally tempted and decided that we couldn’t get one through customs…like that was our biggest worry… customs… never mind the entire trip to Thailand or you know the month and a half I had in India…or all the logistics involved in having a puppy…those were not legitimate enough…..

China and Thailand love J. Beibs. It is kinda crazy. I never really heard any American music while in china except the beibs. Asia has beiber fever. Unfortunately.

Under the metro in Shanghai there is this mall type thing…except it is Asian. So it is full of neon colors mostly bright pink, tiny animals with big eyes, and all sort of cutesy things. We decided to take a look around, but it soon became a maze of all things Asian. Trying to get out was hard because the exit signs just pointed us to a neon arcade room. We were suck, never to escape the pink Asian world; finally we made it out and back up to street level. Pretty sure we had just visited another dimension that we’d prefer never to go back to…

At breakfast in Chiang Mai, our hotel played an awesome American soft rock cover cd. My personal favorite was the Bangles – Eternal Flame. What a way to start the day.

Lesson Learned- don’t lean against trees in the jungle…there are ants on them.

5 minutes into on our first train in Thailand, a train employee said – look. And then pointed to a train off the tracks out the window. ‘wreck. Happened yesterday…’ oh that is comforting thanks for showing us…

Friday, June 22, 2012

Let’s not say Goodbye

My older sister made me watch some ridiculous Barbara Streisand movie where her character always said ‘let’s not say goodbye but Au revoir”— saying goodbye was too final. Those are my feelings towards Thailand. Despite the craziness, despite the public transportation, despite totally getting ripped off (mostly in Bangkok), I can NOT wait to go back and explore more of Thailand.

In the name of getting the full cultural experience, my last day I got a Thai massage.  It was actually pretty fantastic. Though to be perfectly honest, I got it my last day because it took me the full two weeks to cowboy up enough. Thai massages are not the typical massage. Rather it is almost a massage plus physical therapy or intense stretching. You are pulled all sorts of ways and moved and realigned… after mine was finished not only did I feel relaxed but I also felt like I had just left a very light yoga class. I am slightly upset I was such a coward and did not get one earlier so I could have gotten a couple while in Thailand. Oh well. I guess I’ll have to go back….

After my massage, I packed up my things and got ready to catch the airport bus. My flight to Kolkata left early morning the next day from Bangkok so the train back wasn’t an option (LUCKILY) so I booked a flight back up to Bangkok and then booked a hotel right next to the airport with round trip transport to and from the airport. Oh my heavens. What a difference from the 7 levels of hell.

While I was waiting for the airport bus, the hotel manager brought me water, a banana, and half a pineapple. I love Thai people. So great. I ate my delicious fruit, got on the bus (which actually got there at the right time leaving me with a couple of hours at the airport, I took the earlier bus as a precaution), then boarded the flight. They gave us an actual smaller meal and then we landed 45 minutes later. I was picked up by the hotel and then taken the next morning for my flight to Kolkata...I was off to India.


Monday, June 18, 2012

Smart Cook

The next day I got up and had my banana pancake, then headed to the beach only to discover that the tide was so high that the waves were hitting the stairs leading down to the beach. I should really look into tide cycles. Since there was no beach to lie on, I walked around a bit just wandering. I planned to take a Thai cooking class that day because the weather wasn’t supposed to be fantastic. 

I was picked up at my hotel by ‘Bunny,’ my Thai cooking teacher. Turns outs out low season has its advantages. No one else signed up for cooking that day so I had a private session. The way Smart Cook- Thai cookery school worked, was each person picked out 7 dishes to cook. I chose spring rolls, hot & sour prawn soup, red curry paste which I then used to make red curry, pad thai, papaya salad, and fried bananas in coconut milk. Let me tell you. I am not too shabby of a cook because 1) they all came out without any disaster like setting things on fire or burning anything, and 2) it actually tasted really good. It also helped that Bunny was supervising the whole time. I think she was slightly worried when she saw me chopping. I am not the best. Plus it was a massive knife, and I was chopping with caution. I also was not allowed to put the spring rolls in the oil to fry. “Safety First.” Bunny said they don’t let tourists, I mean students fry them. I have a suspicion it might have been just me. Lol. Really I was ok with it. The less chance of injuring myself, the better.

We made each dish one at a time, starting with the curry paste. Bunny told me said to smile the whole time. If you smile things turn out tastier because you were happier while making it. I am still skeptical but what else is new. To make the curry paste, you basically put all of the ingredients in a stone mortar and smash away. The louder you are at smashing the better cook you are. Bunny says it also means you are better at something else, but I’ll leave it at that. After the curry paste, I was taught how to make spring rolls. We made baby ones. I am pretty awesome at rolling those little suckers. After spring rolls, it was hot & sour soup, and then pad thai. Then I ate that, not all of it clearly because it was a ton, but they bagged the extra so I could take it home. After that I made the red chicken curry, papaya salad, and bananas in coconut milk. For the papaya salad (and really any thai dish) how spicy you want it depends on how many times you hit a chili. If you don’t smash it, it won’t be very spicy at all, one hit, mild, two hits moderate to spicy, 3 +…yikes. The more you hit it the more the seeds and juices come out. I was a two-hit person.

After my cooking class, I decided I need a mortar and a wok. Which would bring my cooking supplies up substantially. Right now I own a George Forman, a tagine, a sushi rolling pad, and some mugs. Oh and an old fashion popcorn popper. Maybe I should invest in dishes before a mortar… eh.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

All by me Onesy

I love that part in pirates of the Caribbean. Where jack tells what a man can do and what a man can’t do. He could let Will drown but he can’t bring the ship into Tortuga all by his onesy. Savvy? Sometimes I wish I were a pirate. Then I could say savvy in everyday language.  Sorry. I’d just thought I’d give the background for my title choice. Moving on. 

Day 2 at the beaches consisted of a 4 island tour. I opted for the 4 island tour rather than the james bond island tour. (golden gun)

For breakfast I had a mango shake. (just mango and ice and awesomeness) and an egg pancake. Basically a crepe with an egg cooked in it. Oh and butter. I think I forgot what real butter tasted like. The day before I had a banana pancake with ‘milk’ on it. And by milk they mean sweetened condensed milk. Best thing of my life. Also only 20 baht. The mango shake was 25 baht. So breakfast for a dollar fifty. I may or may not have had a banana pancake everyday I was there. (oh and just an fyi, watermelon shakes are a bit trickier because they usually don’t seed them well, so you get bits o’watermelon seed shooting up your straw)

After my breakfast of champions, i got picked up for my tour and then waited for the whole group to get there. I befriended an English couple. Wendy and Aaron. They were nice. And about the only English speakers there. We got onto our little boat, and I moved to the back to be closer to my new found English friends. Big mistake. We were right next to motor, which put out a horrid smell of gas and was super bouncy. Normally I do pretty well with boats and don’t get motion sickness. However, the windows were blocked and I couldn’t see out. Yikes. I was not feeling well. To make matters worse, this is where I had the dreaded I’m my mother’s daughter moment.  When we pulled into our first island, I had to get off. HAD TO.  But I was in the back. Behind 22 people, mostly Asians and not a fan of water, so taking forever to get off. I became really claustrophobic and anxious and pretty sure I was going to be sick if I didn’t get off. I needed land and fresh air.  (my mom is terribly claustrophobic and hates being in small spaces. One time on a trip, my sister was suffering from motion sickness so my mom was going to ride in the back of our Toyota sienna and let my sister ride in the front. And by back I mean very back, not the captain seats. We had our doubts but she started back there so I started climbing in after her, she made it two seconds before she literally pushed me out of the car, so she could get out) I felt like shoving people out of the way to get out. Pretty sure I did a bit. Once out and I breathed. I felt much better. Still slightly unnerved that I am getting older and can’t handle certain situations anymore. Oh and am becoming my mother apparently.

The first thing I did on the island is jump into the water. I love water and swimming and would be a beach bum if it were a respectable profession. I then walked around and looked at a cave. Then went and lied in the sun until we had to leave to the next island. Pretty sure this is the best weather I had the entire trip. Blast the wet season.

We loaded back into the boat to head to Chicken Head island. There is a rock formation that looks like a chicken head. Having learned my lesson, I sat in the very front slightly outside the covering. Fresh Air. As we are leaving, the guide says ‘now we go into where the rain is, it will be fun’ I look ahead and there are massive rain clouds. As we got closer to the island it started raining. At first it felt good and a welcomed relief. Until the wind plus the speed of the boat made it so the rain was viciously pelting us. And since I was at the very front, I got quite a beating. I took refuge under a lifejacket and only occasionally looked through the armhole to see where we were. By the time we got to island the rain had passed and it was time for snorkeling!

Everyone was putting on lifejackets so I thought it was mandatory. The lifejacket lasted about 10 minutes before I did what every good lifeguard does… asked if I have to wear this… I didn’t. good thing too. I don’t know how to swim in them and every time I’d look down in the water and come up the life jacket would almost push me down back into the water. It was too big. Once I ditched the life jacket, snorkeling was much more enjoyable. There were lots of nemo fish and dori looking fish.

After snorkeling we had lunch and walked across the sandbar bridge (only possible at low tide) to the next island where we caught the boat to the next island. There we just walked around a bit before we headed back to the main island ready for a warm shower.

I love all things water.