Must be Hard to Talk With Your Foot So Far in Your Mouth.I don’t typically take offense when people say dumb shit; usually I only think it’s dumb because…View Post

Must be Hard to Talk With Your Foot So Far in Your Mouth.

I don’t typically take offense when people say dumb shit; usually I only think it’s dumb because…

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Where will you be when He reveals Himself to you?Where you will be when He reveals Himself to you?  I didn’t know that was a question I’d ever…View Post

Where will you be when He reveals Himself to you?

Where you will be when He reveals Himself to you?  I didn’t know that was a question I’d ever…

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My mother is a maid in America.My white privilege slaps me in the face every day.  That’s what I love about South Africa.  When it…View Post

My mother is a maid in America.

My white privilege slaps me in the face every day.  That’s what I love about South Africa.  When it…

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We’re Only Hungry if We Want Food.On July 8, The Guardian published a video to YouTube of Yasiin Bey (aka Mos Def) undergoing what…View Post

We’re Only Hungry if We Want Food.

On July 8, The Guardian published a video to YouTube of Yasiin Bey (aka Mos Def) undergoing what…

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The Beast that Keeps on Breathing.

I’m really mad that racism still exists.  Plain and simple.  In a world so full of religions, cultures, and colors that are distinct by themselves and just as unique when interbred, how does an intolerant attitude still have a place?

Case in point: a…

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At least I’ll die over the Himalayas…

Plane rides aren’t associated with relaxation and calming. Plane rides to Kashmir? Even less so.

Our plane connected in Jaipur, a wonderful city. But this connection should have been Red Flag #3: a lot of people got off the plane, nobody got back on.

But on we flew to Kashmir.

Let me tell you, the first time you see the Himalayas, whether it be on land or from the sky, your breath literally leaves your body. When those mountains hit your eyes and you realize that you’re looking at one of the most iconic places in the world, one of the most picturesque, one of the most astounding, the amount of blessing and good fortune you feel upon you is breathtaking.

When we made it to the airport in Jammu, the pilot announced that there was some sort of holdup that prevented us from landing. He assured us it wouldn’t take long, and we’d be able to land soon. It took awhile, but soon I figured out that I had seen the same Himalaya at least fifteen times.

Suddenly, the plane went quiet. Now, I’m no expert, but I’m pretty sure those things need engines that don’t shut off mid-flight. (Recently someone assured me that the pilot was most likely preparing to land. I didn’t have this info at the time, so I stand by my original interpretation.) I decided I wasn’t afraid to die; India kind of takes out fear of the unknown pretty quickly. But I did look around to see who would share this experience. My friend was sound asleep, the people behind me were sleeping. My only companion would be the wide-eyed 4-year-old in front of me. He stayed awake to look at the Himalayas, so I thought this could work out.

Luckily, our plane didn’t crash. I did, however, see something shoot up off the ground waaaaay in the distance. It was a big black rectangular thing with a smoke trail. It shot straight up at first, then quickly changed course and shot straight out to the side. It came from just over the mountains, or on the mountains, I couldn’t quite tell. I assume from the Pakistani side, judging by our position.

Right then and there, I thought that if I did die, at least I would die after seeing the Himalayas, in one of the most beautiful places on Earth.

Send me on another adventure!

We interrupt this programming to bring you my next adventure: South Africa!

Visit www.gofundme.com/sarahtocapetown to donate to my internship fund! I’ll spend this summer in Cape Town working with a psychiatric facility for academic credit and personal fulfillment. Sounds good, right? Now go donate. :)

It all comes to back to the mosquito.

We left for our trip super early in the morning, before the sun was even up.

And before we even got to the airport to fly to Jammu, we already encountered two very bad omens.

The first was completely our fault. A pesky mosquito kept buzzing around our heads in the backseat of our cab. Let’s face it: mosquitos suck when you’re fully awake. When you’ve been up all night packing and finishing papers and preparing for a two-week trip, mosquitos suckass.

So what did we do? We killed that heifer. Smashed it right into the cab window. Where it exploded. Just. Lovely.

My companion and I exchanged looks, wondering if it was our blood that just popped all over the window and feeling that while the mosquito got its due justice, we would pay for this. If I had learned anything about India, it was that this is a country of true karma, and no one is immune to the magic.

When we reached the airport highway, I felt that familiar gnawing in my stomach. That start-of-a-new-adventure feeling that tells you to prepare for the most amazing experience ever, but that also makes you wanna throw up in your mouth.

And then I saw something that really did make me wanna throw up: a dead man lying the road.

I couldn’t help but feel like this was a sign, a warning. I wondered if we should turn back. In retrospect, we would’ve avoided quite a bit of stress and trauma. But we would’ve missed a true test of our courage, and we wouldn’t have nearly as many amazing stories.

All this seem a tad insignificant? Remember it. Remember the Indian magic. It figures in to every single story I’ll tell you, every single place we traveled. It all comes back to the mosquito.

And let the storytelling begin…

So. Slack though I’ve been on Tumblr, I haven’t been slacking on finding adventure. Two days ago, I got back from a two-week trip from northwestern India all the way back down south. And boy, do I have some stories.

We left March 30th, bright and early, to fly to Jammu. From Jammu, we took a shared taxi to Srinagar. (Just for clarification, this is in Kashmir, the place with the second-highest terrorism rate in the world.) We spent three full days in Srinagar, two of these days complete with day trips to Pahalgam and Gulmarg, where you can access the Line of Control separating India from Pakistan. After Srinagar, we took a shared taxi back to Jammu, then a bus to Pathankot, then a bus to Banoi, a small village near Dharamsala and McLeod Ganj, the seat of the Tibetan government in exile. After two days here, we bused it back to Pathankot then to Amritsar to see the Golden Temple and the Wagah border. That same night, we took an overnight train to Delhi. That afternoon, we took a bus to Agra to see the Taj Mahal. The next day, we took a bus to Jaipur. A couple hours later, we took a train to Jaisalmer to spend a few days in the desert on some camels. Then reverse: train to Jaipur. After two days here, we took a train down to Mumbai, spent two hours there, then took a train back to Hyderabad.

Now. Let all of that settle in. 10 cities. 17 total days of travel. At least 118 hours in cars, trains, or buses. For the next few days, I’ll be posting all of the adventures and near-missadventures (get it? near-miss/misadventures?) that we encountered on our trip.

Oh. And by the way. It was just me and one other chick. A blonde one. Running crazy through the bus routes and railroads of India for nearly three weeks. All by our lonesomes. This detail becomes crucial. Remember it.

"So you’re having premarital sex while you’re in India?"

With all the debate back home about birth control and its relationships to womens’ rights and religious freedom, let me tell you a little story about getting birth control in India. Then I’ll tell you how America’s approaching this whole issue in the complete wrong way.

Already fighting an infection and a cold, I waited in 97-degree weather for close to an hour for a bus that never came to go to the health center on campus, only to be criticized and insulted on my decision to use birth control.

The doctor repeatedly asked me what reason I had to use contraceptives. Was my family here with me? I said no. So where were my husband and children? I’m not married. I’m not married, yet I’m using birth control? No response. So I’m in India to sleep with Indian men?

Insert wrath of Sarah here.

The stereotypes Indians hold about American women are both disgusting and untrue. Based on the media they see, it’s commonly believed that we’re sexually openminded and down for whatever with whoever. Most people don’t acknowledge that our society simply operates differently. We exhibit greater tolerance in general. We don’t have a choice; America is not comprised of a homogenous people. Wearing knee-length shorts means we have diverse clothing options, not that we’re sluts. Hugging male friends in public means it’s culturally acceptable to hug our male friends in public, not that we have multiple sexual partners.

But no one has ever overtly said that they believe us to be this way. Their actions more than show it, but they don’t say it. Until I came across this woman.

I have never been outrightly accused of coming to this country for the sole purpose of having sex with multiple Indian men. I told her I was here only for study. Which means I must have sex with multiple American men back home. Otherwise what need is there for birth control?

With the door to her office wide open, with English-speaking patients just outside, she berated me—a fellow woman—for a choice she knows nothing about. I tried to explain that birth control is seen differently in America, that it’s used to make your skin clearer or your periods more regular. But that must be nonsense, because I’m “over-drugging my body” and “birth control should only be used for married couples.”

Humiliated and pissed off, I cut her off, something I rarely do. I asked her point blank: can I get my injection (I’m on the shot) or do I need to go somewhere else? I’m a strong believer in cultural relativism: it’s both stupid and unfair to judge someone else’s cultural practices or beliefs by my own. I pride myself on not backing down on my own moral and ethical opinions, but still recognizing that this is not my homeland and I have no right to push those opinions on a single person here. But that doctor crossed the line in the worst way. She didn’t just insult me, she insulted my country. How dare she assume that we purposefully would come to India with the sole intention of having sex. I would love to have the same liberty to make generalizations of an equal caliber about these men I supposedly came here to seduce. But my country taught me that such behavior is unacceptable, reflects more on the speaker than the subject, and is characteristic of the misinformed. And I strongly believe that.

(I was able to get the shot. After the doctor turned away from me and refused to look at me, she gestured to her right and gave me vague directions as to who might administer the injection. The woman who did was incredibly nice, did not question my purpose, and did not call me a whore. She won cool points. Close to a thousand.)

In the first doctor’s defense, she was older, likely more old-fashioned, and probably hasn’t come across many Americans. Not to mention the “facts” taught to students here aren’t accurate (one student thought America and Canada were one big country). And I can’t blame her for her beliefs on birth control, particularly one licensed by the FDA for use in India but not approved for its own Americans. Maybe it was genuine concern for my health and/or my reputation. Maybe she just caught me on a bad day. It’s not easy to be white here; sometimes it gets to me.

But I don’t feel like that’s a legitimate excuse. Particularly when the double-standard of they can say what they want about Americans, literally whatever they want, but we can neither defend ourselves nor comment on Indian social customs, is so prevalent in Hyderabad.

Moral of the story: There’s a limit to the amount of disrespect and prejudice and stereotyping I can take. Everyone back in the States complaining about the birth control section of Obamacare, you need to stop. On both sides. The choice to use—or not use—birth control is a personal decision that the government needs to leave alone. Those who support forcing people to provide funds for birth control, you live in a country with diverse religious beliefs. Start respecting them. Just because liberals are the most vocal in the media this week, doesn’t mean they are the only ones with valid opinions. Everyone in opposition, fight harder. For most of you, this is a religious question. For the rest, it’s a matter of personal freedom. Giving up on either of those fronts is truly a defeat on your part, one that you may very well have aided.

I’ve never more strongly believed in the need for women to make their own choices about their bodies. But I won’t cave on moral issues. One so personal as ingesting hormones should not be decided upon by an all-male, highly biased panel. If a woman wants birth control, she’ll find a way to get it. It’s free at health departments, and it’s cheap with insurance. If she doesn’t want birth control, she won’t take it. And if her religion tells her birth control is bad and she believes that, it likely tells her that premarital sex is immoral as well, so it’s entirely possible there’s no need for her to be on birth control in the first place.

Bottom line: this debate is rooted in people’s core values, things they should never be asked to compromise. Which means the government should back off. Including birth control at all was a stupid move. Politicians should have known the kind of damage that would do. Do away with requiring employers to pay for birth control entirely. A member of the Senate cited bolstering the economy and encouraging employment as a reason for paying for birth control. Newsflash: asking companies to pay for even more is not going to make it easier for them to hire more people. We don’t need encouragment to accept job offers; we need jobs to accept. You guys are trying to fix something that was never broken, and in doing so, you’re ignoring the real problems. But props to you on being ineffective.

Tirade over. :)