Hello, all! Well, if any of you have been reading my blog you probably know it has been awhile since I last updated. There’s a reason behind that. So, originally I had two blogs. One on tumblr and one on blogspot. I decided I wanted to take my blogging in a different direction and I think blogspot is more suitable for this change than tumblr. So, to sum it up, I won’t be posting on tumblr that often and my posts will be limited to most pictures. Thank you all who have followed me and if you wish to continue reading me, I can be found at Terrifying Tasha Monster. All the best!
Hello, readers! My time in India is slowly winding down. I can honestly say I no longer consider myself a tourist here. I’m somewhat familiar with the city now and have started traveling on my own. Independence! Going through all of this was definitely a journey. I’ve learned a few things about India ( I don’t know if I will ever fully understand all of it) and I would like to past this knowledge onto you all. Perhaps, you’ll decide to travel here one day. :)
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Hello, all my readers. So, if you haven;t hear by now the minor convicted in the Delhi rape case is only getting three years in prison. Actually, wait. It’s not a prison, but a juvenile detention center. Also, its not three years since the time he already served in the center is going to be counted towards the three years. All I can say is wow. I understand that during the time of the crime he was a minor and so according to the law he has to be trialed as such, but what’s that old saying? Rules are meant to be broken. There are always exceptions to the rules. This case is definitely an exception because of its brutality. Despite your age if you decide to go out rape, torture and murder someone shouldn’t you be punished? He barely got a slap on the wrist.
Hello, readers! So, you just started reading this post but you’re probably already wondering why there is an image of a jar of peanut butter. Well…
Right now the exchange rate of the dollar to the rupee sucks. Currently, one US dollar is the equivalent of a little over sixty eight rupees. When I first arrived in June it was around fifty two rupees so in these few months there has been a drastic change. Of course, this doesn’t effect me the way it does my Indian friends since my currency is in dollars and I have to exchange the money to get rupees. Many people here have already said to me, “Well, I guess that’s good for you, then.” Honestly, in a way it is, but that doesn’t mean I enjoy seeing my friends stress over the economy or (and this connects to the title) that I have the right to be cheated.
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Hello, readers! So, the count down has begun. If I didn’t miss any days I should have 49 more days left in India. Wow. Where did the time go and why won’t it go faster? I want to go back to the states and eat cheese (apparently it’s not a big thing here), but I don’t want to leave my friends behind or forget the amazing journey I have had here. Think goodness for friends with digital cameras, but the thing about cameras is that they can’t capture everything. They can’t get every smile, laugh, look of fear, hunger and desperation (they only get a few of those). However, I have 49 more days so I need to make the best of them and I intend to.
So, if you have read this blog before you probably have at least glanced at my bio. It gives a brief summary of my past and what I plan to do with my future. One of my main career goals is to become an investigative journalist with a focus on international issues (foreign correspondent for short). When choosing my study abroad location India seemed like the perfect choice. As bad as this sounds the country is basically brewing with news stories from the corrupt government officials to the high rates of violence against women to the the paid off cricket players. There was also the issue of gendercide, a trend I hope to have some effect in ending.
Hello, readers. So, today, I’m taking a break from posting about traveling in India and writing about something different. I want to talk about the latest big news gang rape case that happened in Mumbai only a day ago. If you haven’t read the news, let me give you a quick summary.
The victim was a photojournalist and was out with a male co worker to take shots of a local mill. She and her co-worker stopped to ask for directions from two of the accused. The men directed them to the mill, disappeared and reappeared with a third men. They then tied the male co worker up, separated the female photojournalist, called two other men over and raped her. Before allowing her to black out, the men threatened her if she told anyone. When she came to the mean were gone. As of right now three of the five men have been found. The other two are believed to be on the run. The victim is stable and recovering. Her co-worker is fine as well.
Now, this case may not be as brutal or violent as the Delhi case, but doesn’t it ring a few bells? A young woman traveling with a male companion, both attacked and abused by strangers pretending to offer assistance. Yes, it is very familiar. However, if you ask me, the sad part is that after seeing the results of the Delhi rape case, men still dare to sexually assault a female. Oh, wait…maybe that’s the issue. There really were no results of the case. What I mean is that the men were not punished by the India judicial system. Right now all the accused in the case who remain living are stuck in what I like to call bull shit law limbo. When this case first came to the public eye, it was basically agreed by global citizens as a whole (if not demanded) that these men get the death penalty. Yet four out of the five still live (one committed suicide). I understand that one is minor and that complicates things, but ultimately he was the worst of them all and all the men deserve to be punished. If they somehow walk free from this then the Indian judicial system and government will need to be called out on its crap.
There is my mini rant about the Delhi rape case, but my main point in reopening this topic is that history has once again repeated itself. This time it just happened to be in Mumbai. When will the violence against women stop? Honestly, it is a world issue but particularly in India because men feel like they can get away with it which in many cases they have. They need to learn that they can’t and that justice will be served to anyone who thinks they have the rights over another person’s body (they don’t). As horrible as these two cases are and as badly as I wish these two girls were unscathed, they have presented an opportunity for India to really make a change. Now under the international spotlight, the world wants to see how India will respond. Do they really care about their women or will they let the guilty and corrupt run the streets? The businesses? The police? Perhaps, even the government itself? Will they allow the belief that India is no country for women to stand? I pray that the answer is no.
I wonder if the government realizes what they are doing to their women. When my room mate and I heard about this new rape case she (born and bred in India) was momentarily silent. She then turned away and said, “I hate to be an Indian. Why should I be proud?” Granted no country is perfect including the US, but I am proud to be an America. My Indian friends here, on the other hand, are not proud to be Indian. Not proud to have the label of a country that allows women to be mistreated in this way. India is losing its people because of its injustice. I suggest they make a turn around before the people chose complete anarchy. Until that times comes, I hope we all will pray for the victim and for all the victims of the world.
I also would like to hear from you all. What do you think about this case? Do you think it will force India to make a change in terms of crimes against women? Or do you think this case is fleeting? Is India doing its women justice? Has justice been served in Delhi rape case? I’d love to hear from you.
P.S. The photo used was taken by Bob Benson and offered through Flickr Creative Commons. You can find his profile here: http://www.flickr.com/photos/bobbenson/
Hello, all! So, it’s been about two weeks since my last update and I felt like I needed to let you guys know what’s been going on. First, I only have six weeks and four days left until I return to the states. How do I feel? Excited, happy, anxious, scared and sad. The positive feelings are there obviously because I can’t wait to return to my home, a place that is the most familiar to me. However, I am sad as well because in a strange way, despite all the mosquitoes, parasites and leering men, India had become my second home. No one ever wants to leave their home right? For me it isn’t so much about a physical place as it is about the feelings I have for a place. I have really good feelings about India and that is why I both pray for and dread returning to the states. Enough about me and my gushy feelings though. On to the topic of this post…
Two weeks ago I got the chance to visit an Indian village. The trip was a amazing! I rode a elephant and went trucking through an Indian forest where I saw wild monkeys swinging in the trees. It was like I was on an Indian safari. However, my safari would not have been a true adventure without the wild man who (if you couldn’t tell) is the main character of this post.
Now if you saw my wild man you would probably actually laugh. He’s not exactly what most would consider wild in appearance. He’s small framed, clean shaven with glasses and a funny caterpillar mustache. Not exactly a Tarzan, but what’s that old saying? Oh, yeah. Don’t judge a book by it’s cover. I guess you could say that I first saw his transformation when we visited one of the nearby forests. He along with his daughter (my friend and the one who invited me) stopped at a river. As we walked down the little trail to the river he turned to me and asked, “Natasha, will you take a bath in the river?” I laughed (Dad’s are silly, right?), but he continued to look at me strangely until I finally said, “No.”
He raised his brow, “Why?” I fumbled for an answer. We reached the river and he began to splash the water on his face and gargled some in his mouth. He turned to me again, “This water is pure. No pollution. You should have some.”
I shook my head. I didn’t mention that seeing him spit the water from his mouth back in the river made me question how clean it was. Once again he raised his brow and looked at me, “Why?” Again I stumbled for an answer. The next forest we visited was even thicker and further from the human contact the village offered. As we drove in his roughed up jeep (it kind of looked like the one from Jurassic Park ) he pointed out all the different trees and plants. He was an expert on nature and I asked him if he was a botanist. He shook his head, “My degree is in mathematics actually, but this is my home, my land, my environment. Shouldn’t I know about it?”
Honestly, by this point I had started to wonder exactly how weird this guy was, but his questions made sense. Shouldn’t he know about the place he lives in? That made sense, right? Actually, when i thought about it I realized a disconnection with nature is one of the problems humanity has (in my opinion at least). I starred at the wild man. He was a little eccentric, but what he said was true. He was a part of nature and so he should know about it. Perhaps, if everyone thought this way people would be more environmentally aware. We wouldn’t go to extreme measures to hide from nature when maybe instead of hiding we should be embracing it. Can you say epiphany?
When we reached the forest we had to be let in by parked rangers. They first checked our ids and then warned us that there were wild elephants running around so we had to be careful. The wild man just smiled and nodded at this comment. I, on the other hand, was considering turning around. I scold myself now as I think of this moment. Where the hell did my adventurous spirit go? Isn’t this what I wanted when I dreamed of India? Isn’t it kind of the whole point of studying abroad? Despite my feelings, I was not the one driving and we entered the forest.
How can I describe it? It was nothing but lines and lines of towering trees. Below the roots would rise and fall like waves in the ground and all around the roots were smaller plants decorating its base. The rainy season has come to an end so all the flowers were full of water and ready to bloom. The different colored plants were sprung up all over the forest. I could hear different birds calling out and hear a river’s rushing water. Of course, there was a surplus of bugs (especially mosquitoes), but I tried to ignore that part. The wild man didn’t even seem to notice their presence. He was much too preoccupied identifying plants and their many medicinal qualties.
Eventually, we drove beyond the forest’s border into new territory. Actually, the wild man continued driving (some how managing the muddy uneven terrain) until we could drive no more. We had stopped at the lower portion of a mountain and had to hike the rest of the way up. Straight through nature. We were out of the elephant territory, but there was still reason to be cautious. Many other wild animals were lurking around.
Now, I’ve been hiking before, but this was so different. I went hiking in Maine in a national park where the trails were clear and marked for the public. This was not a park. Nothing was marked and the path we took damn sure wasn’t clear. The wild man and his daughter actually carried miniature machete looking knives in their hands to cut stray branches and such (or to defend themselves from an animal if it attacked…). I was having an especially hard time because the mosquitoes were gnawing on me like kids on a lollipop. By the time we reached the top I had several mosqutioe bites while the wild man (who had taken his shirt off at the beginning of the hike) had none.You can imagine my disbelief, but he actually he seemed content ( if not happier) out there in the wild, away from people.
He stood on the mountain top and looked all around him with hands on his hips. Then, he turned to me with the biggest smile and said, “Isn’t it wonderful that God made all of this for us?” I just smiled and nodded. The obvious answer was “yes”, but that question really showed his perspective on the world. He really loved nature. He wanted to be one with it. He wanted to learn about it. He didn’t hide from it or fear it because he knew he had his place in it. All humans have a place in nature.
After resting for awhile we eventually started heading back down. It was a quiet hike down since we were all tired from the hike up. As we were walking the group came to a sudden halt. I was walking in the middle and almost crashed into my friend’s back. She began to speak to her father in Malayalam (the language for this Indian state) and looked into the trees. I couldn’t see anything but they did and whatever it was was a cause for alarm. The wild man jumped into a low crouch and banged his knife against a tree. He roared, warning the animal to stay away. It was at this point that I gave him the name wild man. He stood before us shirtless with only a lungi (a clothing piece that men in India wear. Kind of looks like a skirt) on him and his fist wrapped tightly around the knife. Everything was tense and the forest fell silent. He waited warily, frozen in his defensive position. Thankfully, whatever they saw or heard left and we could leave the forest with no problems.
It was nearly dark when we reached the jeep. The wild man had been collecting plants, leaves and branches during our whole trip. As he placed them in the back of his truck I asked why he was collecting them. He turned to me and smiled, no longer feral, but once again calm and friendly with his caterpillar mustache. “For my goats.”
Yes, he had goats. Goats who he talked to as they groaned and moaned outside, hungry. He would groan and moan right back until they quieted down. Needless to say, this guy freaked me out a little but in a good way. I wasn’t expecting to have such an adventure when I agreed to come to my friend’s village. I wasn’t expecting to meet a wild man either, but I guess that’s life isn’t it? It’s chock full of surprises and you just have to know how to embrace all that is going on around you. Wild man style.
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Hey, guys! So, guess what? I only have 9 weeks left in India. Can you believe it? The thought feels me with joy and sadness. Joy because I get to return home and see all my loved ones, sadness because in 9 weeks time I will have to leave behind all my loved ones here. :( I guess that’s life though. Coming and going, gaining and losing. What is a girl to do? Anyway, I looked at my post and my youtube video (http://youtu.be/XPtYm2xrF48) and I noticed that I have been doing a lot of talking about my experiences in India, but I have yet to just lay out some plain facts about this culture vs. American culture. I’ll be posting a video on this as well. I just want you guys to remember that my experience in India could be totally different from someone else’s experience. I’m in South India whose culture is very different than North India. In fact it could be argued that each state has its own unique culture and so just remember that this list is only applicable to the state I am in, Kerala. Okay….
1) African vs. American
So, I actually mentioned this in a blot post before, but I think it deserves to be mentioned again. If you are an African American traveling to India (or a person of African descent from any country) everyone will automatically assume that you are African. They won’t ask, “Where are you from?” Instead they will tell you that you are from Africa. In their minds if your are white your American and if your black your African. Apparently (according to some people I have met here) black people don’t live in America, only white people. I guess the Atlantic Slave Trade and Obama never happened, but whatever.
2)Kinky Curly Hair
To put it simply, to anyone of African descent, if you come to India and your hair is natural, people are going to eye it like its the last steak at dinner. Some will even ask to touch it. This didn’t bother me so much, but I did get tired of trying to explain my hair after a while. I have found that a lot of people here actually like it, but there are a few stereotypes about black hair that you may encounter. Examples, below:
-“Does it grow? It can’t grow right?” Yes, African hair grows. Why wouldn’t it?
- “You can’t comb it.” Yes, yes, I can.
-“Water makes it shrivel up.” Water causes shrinkage, our hair doesn’t die!
3) The Exotic Female
If you are a foreign female traveling in India expect to get hit on a lot. The same way we look at India as this exotic fascinating place is the same way the men here look at foreign females. Also, there area lot of stereotypes about females from the West. They think we all drink, smoke, do drugs and sleep with any and everyone. Most of the men that hit on you will do so thinking that you will let them do the do just because they flashed you a friendly smile. Ugh!
4) Leering vs. Staring
There is a big difference between checking someone out and looking at them like you’re ready to make a move. In the States I have seen guys checking me or my friends out. Sometimes they may stare for a little too long and it will become awkward. Other times they’ll do a quick glance and move on. Here in India, men will do neither of those. No, they prefer to leer which means stare at you like they have malicious intentions. Obviously, in a place like India where rates of violence against women break the roof, this is too common a reality. In this situation the best thing to do is just stare them down to let them kn ow you are not scared. If you look away meekly, they may take it as a sign that you are weak and label you as easy prey. Stand your ground, ladies and always travel with a buddy( for India a male friend would be best).
You know how professors in the US respect you as an adult? Well, don’t expect that in India. In their eyes I am still a child and so they treat me as such which is why students stay in the same class room every day while professors switch. Don’t want us getting too excited walking down the hall. Also, in terms of work load, from my experience I get a much heavier load at my college in the US. Here there are a few assignments every now and again. Here they also live in hostels instead of dorms.
Botany is pronounced like” boatany.” Why is pronounced “v-why.” Adult is pronounced “add-delt.”
In the US we say goodbye. Here they say ta-ta. A little British influence, I suppose.
So, those are just a few quirky thins about India. Hope you all enjoyed. As always don’t hesitate to leave a comment, question or suggestion. Until next time, ta-ta!
I grab my red bucket, red cup, soap and wash cloth. I step into my shower shoes and prepare to enter the battle ground. Stepping into the light blue tiled bathroom, I am immediately surrounded. All around me there are gnats, spiders, ants and other creepy crawlies that I can’t identify (to the other residents these insects go unnoticed). However, this is not the worst part. No, the worst part comes when I have to actually pour the water on my body knowing that it is a breeding ground for worms that would love to us me as a host. There are filters on the faucet but there have been times when smaller worms manage to slip through. The water is cold but there are already chills running down my spine as I prepare to rinse myself off. I am terrified.
I’m sure I have told you all this before, but I have a big fear of parasites. The thought of having something squirming inside me makes me feel violated to the fullest extent. Even in the States this paranoia rests in my mind, but since coming to India, it’s not paranoia so much. It has become a real possibility. I know many of you are probably wondering why I chose (of all places) India to study abroad if I have a fear of parasites? Well, for some reason I thought that the college would be more developed in water sanitation. Then, I realized that in India students live in hostels.
Now, don’t get me wrong. We have clean water to drink and everything, but our bathing water is not clean. In front of the hostel is a big well ( that’s the best way to describe it. Check it out on my youtube video) that collects rain water and is left open for any and everything to crawl in. While washing my clothes I have seen the parasites squirming on the stone slab we use to scrub. Have I seen them climb into the well? No, but I have seen the filters with tape worms in them that were too big to pass through. I also ( and this was scary) caught a small red worm on my leg. I was disgusted, but I am proud to say that I didn’t freak out. Not outwardly at least.
I really hope no one takes offense to this or takes this the wrong way. I have bee having a great time in India. It was hard at first, especially for a clean freak like me but after getting past the dirty water, pollution, dead rats in the street and all the other accessories, India houses a unique culture that stands on it own. However, if you decide to travel here, the reality is most of you will have to deal with what I am currently dealing with unless you stay at a nice hotel. So, prep yourself, but also expect to have many of your beliefs changed. Let me give you an example…
My family is Christian, though they don’t really practice. I was raised believing in Jesus and heard the words “God fearing” fall from the mouths of my grandparents several times. As a kid I took this to heart. I was terrified of going to hell or having demons possess me so I tried my hardest to be “God fearing.” Then, I got older and started developing my own opinions. I realized I didn’t want to fear God. Leaders who ruled with fear did not gain any loyalty from their subjects ( look at British history). When someone stepped up as a leader and was respected by his/her public then they would also have the loyalty of said public. In my mind God was the latter. I wanted to respect him, not fear him, because only through respect could I develop a true loyalty to him. So, I sat out on that path, but along the way I met a lot of “Christians” who gave the religion a bad name. They would only worship Jesus so that they wouldn’t go to hell and would frequently cast “brimstone and hell fire” at different religions. I couldn’t agree that religion included hate so I decided to stray away from Christianity and explore other religions.
What I wanted out of a religion was to essentially feel God. Like really feel him/her moving through me and feel his/her presence all around me, even if it only happened once. I thought I came close to this a few times, but never really got it. So, I continued to explore. When I came to India people would constantly ask about my religious identification (its like asking about the weather here). I found myself stumped by the question and would just answer that I didn’t have a religion. No one understood that and so they would assume I was aethiest which I am not. I would correct them, but they then would ask me for my religion? I still couldn’t answer. I began to question my religious beliefs again.
The city I’m staying in has three main religions: Christianity, Islam and Hinduism and since coming to India I have had experiences with people from each. I noticed two things. First, no one tried to convert anyone else. It was just accepted that different people have different beliefs. This goes for the young and the old. Second, nearly everyone I met has an unyielding faith in their God(s). When they pray it is as if they have gone into a religious trance. I was amazed at seeing this and wanted to have the same devotion, but first I had to figure out what I believed in.
I tried to pick a religion and the more I tried, the more I wondered why I had to pick? Wasn’t it enough that I believed? I could pray to God without giving him an identity like Jesus, Buddha, Allah because in a way, aren’t they all the same? Now, no one slap me for that last comment, but if you think about it what I said is true. They are all these mysterious spirits that rule over us. If we do good we get good back. If we do bad life punches us in the stomach. That’s the way it works for every religion. So, if I just try to be a good person, won’t God love me despite my religious identity? Because it isn’t so much about being the most devout as it is about being the best person you can be to others.
So, I didn’t chose a religion. Instead I chose to simply believe in God and try to do the right thing on a daily basis (my basic beliefs). When I pray, I pray to God without giving him a specific name. India may have blown my germ radar off the charts, but it has also provided me with life lessons that I hope to share. I’ve just shared one with you all.
Fort Kochi&Chinese Fishing Nets (by Tasha Armstrong)
Hey, guys! So, this is the latest video I posted on my youtube channel. I believe I spoke about the channel in a previous post but due to nearly all my technology giving up since coming to India. This video was actually taken with my phone camera so it is not the best quality, but I didn’t want to waste good footage and memory so here it is! Enjoy and don’t hesitate to comment.
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