Today, I took a lovely trip to Hangzhou, another nearby city. I originally planned to go with an American friend I met at my hostel but a friend from ECNU kindly connected me with her friends who study in Hangzhou; they offered to be my guides for the day. After much confusion and walking back and forth at the train station at 7am, I was able to pick up the tickets I purchased online. Train stations are some of the most difficult places to figure out for someone who is unfamiliar with the language. The long train ride was as beautiful as I suspected, but probably quite ordinary for all accompanying passengers. I was greeted by four extremely sweet friends but only one speaking conversational English.

Hangzhou is much larger than I suspected and has an extensive metro system. I was first taken to see the West Lake which looked particularly eerie in the light rain; we went up the Leifeng Pagoda which turned out to be a replica of the ruins that were still housed inside. It also had the first system of escalators I have ever seen on a landmark… It certainly prevented my legs from crying. The views from different levels dramatically varied; I got great views of the lake, mountains, smog and dragon boats. Extremely impressive wooden carvings were exhibited inside the pagoda.

I have never rode in so many taxis in one day. Two boys and I made our way back to downtown Hanghzou and met the other two friends who already reserved a table and ordered us food at a restaurant. There were so many meals that were unknown/strange for me; I have never seen chicken feet on a table… I ALMOST tried them. But I did eat lotus root which is now one of my new favorite foods!

Two friends headed back to their campus while I was brought to the Linyin Monastery. It was fiercely pouring at this point, soaking my shoes and flipping my umbrella inside out. It was for the better though…The monastery was spacious with many forested areas and even a river. The rain made the experience so much more eerie and breathtaking, I was in absolute awe watching it hit the river and numerous Buddha statues carved in rocks. For once, I was extremely happy that the sun did not make an appearance. I did not think I would ever see anything greater than what I saw then and there.

Despite the things I saw and the lovely company I had, I felt extremely uncomfortable every time someone refused to let me pay for anything. I always appreciate the hospitality but I do not know how to act when this happens in the cultural context – am I supposed to continuously deny it and insist on paying, or peacefully let them? I settled somewhere in between those two.

Since it was a rainy day, I noticed an interesting norm in which men open and carry umbrellas for women; one of the boys kept opening one above me every time it started sprinkling. I kept telling him not to worry, especially since I had my own umbrella (and I dislike such assumptions of fragility). After the third time of him opening it, I got a feeling that it would be extremely rude of me to pull out my own umbrella from my backpack so I went along with it. It was probably one of the most uncomfortable short walks I have taken… I was also constantly asked whether I want my handbag carried. I have seen this on the street but I previously thought it was strictly a “dating” thing, but it just seems like courtesy.









Being here, my heart feels more open than ever before.

Thugs in a Temple!? WTF!?

Pashupatinath Temple, Kathmandu, Nepal

Interesting experience. I met with a Brahmin priest upon my arrival who informed me of the rules: as a foreigner, I must pay an entrance fee and I am also not allowed in, since I am not Nepali nor am I Hindu. My friend, who is Nepali and Hindu, got in for free, that sucka. Haaha.

Here is a link: http://www.pashupatinathtemple.org/

I went down to the area for a prayer and a puja. I asked for the courage and bravery to continue being fearless and to remain consistently on my path—intellectually and spiritually. Funny, shortly thereafter, the priest bids us good-bye and we started walking towards the cremation area and we were assaulted/almost robbed by two tourists-scammers right in the temple area!? The audacity of these bitches! Because my friend is Nepali, as I previously mentioned, he has an awareness of the landscape and can spot out the good ones from the rotten ones. With intuition and strong-will, we exited with only a small altercation—who expects thugs in a temple?! Ugh, I guess human dignity has left the building. I would chalk it up as the divine just testing my ‘bravery, courage, and fearlessness’ since that was what I channelled during my puja—what do you think? This world keeps me on my toes! The complexity of being at a temple and having such an experience only highlights the absurdity of existence (Camus). What better way to celebrate the sacred and the profane—I think every ethnologists has encountered something of this nature, it is part of the territory I guess. Now back to the puja/prayer/mantra ceremony. It was quite an experience to be there, with this priest and my friend having this moment and being present. He (the Hindu priest) asked if I would like to extend this love and compassion to others like my family and I said yes, obviously. We took a few photos and exchanged e-mail addresses and he said that he will e-mail the photos to me since I am sans a mobile device and a camera (travelling like a gypsy, obvi).

On our way there and back, we stopped to watch a group of males playing cricket! I was so excited because I was my first encounter since being here—not even in India did I have the pleasure to see a full game in action. We return home and planned to hit the swimming pool because it is hot/humid today and we walked for an extended period of time. Instead, we used the water-hoes and had a splash pad/chase in the backyard/garden/side lawn area which was fun and a good form of exercise for the day. It was a nice way to end the day and take our minds of the two dweebs who attempted to ruin our day.

Yesterday, I attended the Darnal Award for Social Justice. I am a Research Associate with ICI and I worked on this event for the past year. Here is a link: http://www.darnalaward.org/event/2015-darnal-award-social-justice-special-event

This is just the beginning of great work to be done—an estimate of five schools will be built to help in the post-earthquake reconstruction. It is such an honour to be in the presence of such great and formative minds, people working passionately to better themselves and the communities they are exposed to/serve.

I am not sure what I will be doing for the rest of the day. I intend to edit my final reflection on Bhopal and have a post within the next few days….I will keep you posted.

Why are all the most beautiful things in nature the most dangerous at times?

Made it to Nepal! The view of the Himalayas flying into Nepal is what dreams of made of. I mean, pure beauty. I was in awe of its magnitude and utter divine beauty. The ice caps reaching beyond the clouds and the vision of whites, blues, greys from the distance is indescribable. You must see it for yourself, I fail to accurately describe it. Funny, I was reading a book and the author mentions one of his treks to the Himalayas (also, I found this book randomly on my last night in India!). As I am reading, I look up, and to my astonishment and serendipitous shock & awe, out my window, this monstrous beauty is staring right at me. I was stop dead in my tracks, well, the plane kept propelling forward but I was suspended in time & space for a second or two. This dangerous beauty causes one to become humble and prideful simultaneously—humble because of its sheer magnitude and prideful to be part of this universe, this cosmic composition we all share. It was a moment of pure magic and ephemeral divinity when I looking out my window—the ice caps, ah, the only word that comes to mind is beauty. The blues of the sky, the whites and greys of the clouds, the white ice caps, the greyness of the mountains, all meshed into one painting, whereby, the start and finish of either entity became embroiled into one being, it all felt like part of the same, no beginning and no end…endless delineations and contours—bliss! Why are all the most beautiful things in nature the most dangerous at times?

I look down and there are greens, browns, and rivers underneath, and to my left, the Himalayas, honestly, it felt like a dream. And there was a moment, when I questioned my sanity, asking myself: “Wait, is this really happening?” Haaha—basically, “IS THIS REAL LIFE?” (youtube video from a few years ago with the little boy David, high from laughing gas from his visit to the dentist). I found the video, priceless.

I made two friends — one Nepali and the other an American from Seattle (Buddhist practitioner). The American will be in the mountain at a village, re-visiting his friends there, locals we met during his extended stay a few years back.

Happy to be in Nepal. Warm greetings upon my arrival and happy to see my friend-soul sister, Sarita, and meet her loving and compassionate family.

Unlike Bhopal, there is no wake-up call of prayer horns, rather, the charming sound of roosters!!! I was instantly reminded of my time in the Caribbean and it brought me comfort and felicity. The food is also shared with the Caribbean and many vegetables, flowers, and spices used here, are also used in the Caribbean—to my pleasant surprise! For example, callaloo and corella bush! Nepal, has pleased me thus far and I am thankful to have this experience.

Gobinda Hari,


Today: rainy, messy but informative + fun

Today was my last day visiting the Minhang Campus and it was off to an interesting start. I think most of my further day trips are off to interesting/unfortunate/scary starts…I like it though.

Not only could I not find a taxi from the metro station in the pouring rain, but I was also already twenty minutes late to my first meeting. I can never notify anyone that I am running late due to my lack of Chinese phone and WiFi/data. When I finally got in a taxi that made its way around the suburbs, I was convinced that the driver once again took me to the wrong campus. It turned out she only came in from another entrance which made it impossible to find the library. I decided to get out of the car near a random building and just ask students for directions. The first student failed to help and ended up bringing me to the student dorms on the complete opposite side of the campus. I am normally fine with walking long distances, but not in a never-ending pouring rain that causes me to slip uncontrollably every other step…..

I finally made it to the library one hour after my scheduled meeting time. Thankfully, my interviewee was very sweet and understanding and was still able to make the time to meet me later. In the meantime, I met with Kiera, a student I became friends with, for the last time. I also squeezed in an interview with a friend of another interviewee, who strongly believed in the established gender roles due to biological and historical differences. She had a unique perspective on gendered beauty norms – she did not think it is unfair that women have to put more emphasis on beauty because it gives way to a spectrum of clothing and beauty choices that men do not have. Because women are physically weaker, beauty can act as a sense of security for them. She believes that the amount of makeup she puts on directly influences her perceived respect towards whoever she is interacting with.

I noticed a lot of assumed fragility in this interview. Elaine kept insisting that jobs requiring higher IQ’s should be reserved strictly for men without a particular explanation. She finally responded that more time-consuming jobs would be too much for women as they need extra time for sleep, beauty routines and shopping each day.

My second interview was with Kelsi and it took nearly two hours, being one of my longest interviews. She had some background knowledge about feminism, sharing that it is often heavily and aggressively criticized by men, particularly online. She notices a lot of dismissive attitudes from men towards women speaking out about workplace discrimination – the accusations that women and other marginalized groups exaggerate are very much present in the Western world as well. Despite her recognition of discrimination, Kelsi does not identify as a feminist because she does not believe that men and women can be truly equal due to biological differences.

She believes that women certainly should not be aggressive and brought up an example of a friend; because her boyfriend accepts her aggressive behavior, he is considered strange and weak by his friends. She explained this in terms of socioeconomic status; the boyfriend is less educated and has a lower position than his partner, therefore he may think he is less of a person than she is. I am told that this is a rare occurrence in China as men usually dislike having a partner that is more educated or has a higher income than them,  which sounds like traditional male role model in the Western world.

Kelsi was open to talking about casual/premarital sex and their surrounding double standards. She believes that approximately half of the men in China would require their future wife to be a virgin while they feel entitled to have multiple casual encounters. She thinks such attitudes are unfair and unjustified but have the power to dictate most women’s behavior, including hers. Personally, she would feel uncomfortable being friends with someone who is promiscuous simply because they do not share her values. However, society would only feel uncomfortable with a promiscuous woman but would show plenty of understanding for men who act the same exact way.

After two long interviews, I met some girls for a goodbye dinner which was absolutely lovely. These people are willing to help me with anything, even when I do not need any help! I mentioned planning a trip to Hanghzou and one immediately called her friend who lives there and asked him to be my guide. I felt quite a bit sad leaving these girls but I do not doubt that I will see them again :)


Kiera and I:


This is ECNU’s *tiny* library…..


Day Seventeen: Sanchi…Buddhalicious

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Oh man, what a trip! Pure beauty. Whoever crated this earth, he or she did a darn magnificent job—because even excrescences are beautiful.

The landscape changed drastically from urban industrious and polluted to green, scenic, peaceful and natural. It was night and day in a matter of miles/minutes, well, kilometres, over here miles is not the mode of calculation when it comes to distance. The city is very populated and everyone is on a motorbike, a moped, or some form of automobile. The air pollution is problematic and one can feel the dirt and fine particles on one’s face, so washing your face is crucial if you don’t want to break out.

Getting to Sanchi after the madness that is the urban area, was what the doctor recommended. Pure and utter peace and serenity, in a lusciously green backdrop. The rice fields and agricultural cultivation can be seen for miles. Sachi is located on top of a hill so the elevation allows for a panoptical view.

We were going to hire a taxi for the day but a staff member at the clinic recommended that we use his son. It worked in our favour because it is someone familiar and the fare stays in the family. He was accompanied by his best friend, and we brought our friend who could speak Hindi in case we needed to translate anything. We all enjoyed the beauty of Sanchi and everyone were in a state of tranquillity.

As an ex-competitive sprinter, I look for moments when I can relive my glory days. There are these ancient stone steps all over Sanchi that looks like hurdles—so, obviously, I suggested we race to the top. And yes, I won! I kicked those younglings…#ageinggracefully, haaha. Sanchi is one of those places that you have to visit once to fully comprehend its history, its intent, and its significance in human progress.

Upon our return, we all had lunch together and decompress from the experience…cool down period. I will now get some work done and then do final gift shopping before I depart on Saturday morning. It is bitter-sweet leaving India. Upon my next arrival, I will ensure to spend more time in the country side rather than the City—however, the City is where I was needed for this trip. The next trip, I will ensure I spend time grazing on the greenery that this sacred and mystical place has to provide.

Do you believe in omens? If you haven’t read The Alchemist, I kindly suggest that you do. It is a life-changer, fo shizzle. Oh, I forgot to mention. If you have not been exposed to Indian pop music, your life is about to change. It gives Korean pop a run for its money. I was first exposed to K-pop whilst in San Francisco, and I fell in love—it’s over the top fun! Think New Year’s Eve spectacle but in a music video, high entertainment.


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Day Sixteen: “How Swift Thy Sword” (Hero, 2002)

I watched Hero, again, and loved every minute of it…hence the title of today’s post.

I visited the mosque today intimidating…different language, different culture, and different religion. What is one to do but to sit in awe at mankind and the varied spaces we co-habit? On the way out, I bought some essential oils, and I am in love! You know that I am a sucker for anything that smells like it came from the Far East—sandalwood, patchouli, musk the list goes on!(https://www.google.co.in/search?q=taj-ul-masajid&espv=2&biw=1920&bih=971&source=lnms&tbm=isch&sa=X&ved=0CAYQ_AUoAWoVChMI4a3Q_MiRxwIV0gSOCh22FgLo#imgrc=_).

The visit to the mosque has me thinking: not religion but irrational and dogmatic interpretations of religion is dangerous—not religion proper. Human beings are the reason for wars and destruction, not religion. It is the misinterpretation of spiritual texts and the bias readings for one’s own gain that is problematic, not the text themselves—it is the same thing as “guns do not kill people, people kill people.” I am thinking through this, so I am thinking as I write…if you have thoughts on this, holler at me via e-mail.

Zam Zam was one of my favourite watering holes in San Francisco and took a few friends there when they visited for cocktails. Here, it is a mom-n-pops/fast food-esque place where you get food. I went there but I was too early and the place was closed, they were prepping. I want to go back but I am not sure if it’ll actualize…trying to stay meat free, keep with my newly acquired Hindu/Indian veggie diet.

Speaking of Vanessa Williams’s Colour of the Wind, it is the first time in my life that I have gone for almost three weeks without seeing another of my kind. In these parts, everyone is either Muslim or Indian (and a handful of workers from Nepal). I have seen five Caucasians, total, three of whom I know). One sometimes forget the beauty of living in a place like NYC where cultures collide and create new spaces of entertainment and life. The monotony here (in Bhopal) is quite noticeable.

The staff meeting today was entertaining – pen/paper is still the mode of note taking here and I love it! I am old school like that. Men all seat on one side and the women on the other, not sure if it is by choice or just the way things operate, I didn’t ask. There was a big feast that followed for lunch, pure joy! I am learning so much and getting a hang of things and getting to know everyone and it’s now time to depart, typical. Sad face.

Day Fifteen: Transitions—time and space…Kant where are you when we need you!?


I spent time at the Bhopal Memorial Hospital yesterday. Oh man. I got to shadow a physician who is specialized in cancer. He was also training a junior physician, so I got to a see a lot – doctor-trainee, trainee-patient, and doctor-patient.

Cancer is a helluva thing – some patients will die and others, are showing signs of recovery. I left with this gem of a mantra, “He is going to die – we all die”. The blunt honesty hit me like a ton of brick but then the reality set in, he is right, and he’s a doctor, and he sees this every day.  For the past year I volunteered at hospice palliative care but I am still not immune to the shock upon hearing the words that “he/she will die and there is nothing, medically, we can do to save them.”

I was instantly reminded of this scene from Hadrian’s Memoirs:

My dear Mark, Today I went to see my physician, Hermogenes, who has just returned to the villa from a rather long journey in Asia … I took off my cloak and tunic and lay down on a couch. I spare you details which would be as disagreeable to you as to me … the description of the body of a man who is growing old, and is about to die of a dropsical heart … It is difficult to remain an emperor in presence of a physician, and difficult even to keep one’s essential quality as a man … This morning it occurred to me that my body, my faithful companion and friend, truer and better known to me than my own soul, may be, after all, a sly beast who will end by devouring his master … ”

Right before I left for the hospital, I was asked to edit a document. The document was for a seventeen year old boy who has a hole in his heart—his parents were both victims of the gas leak and are now survivors who are chronically ill, which their son has inherited. This is common here in Bhopal…heart breaking.

Today, all day staff meeting….I  am planning on visiting a mosque this evening. If I do, you’ll read about it tomorrow.


Day Fourteen: Philosophy as a Way of Life

I went to Old Market and shopped for fruits and veggies. It was raining so my trip was short. It is raining now as I write this post. I am having a cup of Tulsi tea and assorted fruit for breakfast.

Today, I meet with Dr. Pandey at Bhopal Memorial Hospital. I will get the chance to shadow him whilst he works. He treats cancer victims. I am interested in spaces of healing so it will be an honour to meet with these survivors, and sit compassionately with them and hear their stories.

 Still not fully recovered but on the way. I rubbed Vicks vapour rub on my feet and then I put on a pair of socks (thanks for the tip Alexis). 

On Saturday, I fly to Nepal. The project in Nepal will conclude with an event at a primary school which will be a fundraiser and all of the proceeds will go to earthquake relief and wellness of the victims.

Day Thirteen: Kite Runner


It has been years since I flew a kite but I did just that yesterday. It was a moment of nostalgia and utter excitement. I felt like a little boy for that short duration—the eagerness of the kids to show me how it is done Indian style was exhilarating. I wanted to prove to them that though I maybe a tad bit older, ‘I still got it’…I can still do this, haaha, silly man.  I am glad I took the five minutes to simply stop and engage the kite, engage memories of my youth, and of days gone, the freedom entailed in just keeping an eye on your kite—I have not yet read Kite Runner…have you? (I just did a Google search and it sounds intense).

Yesterday, I went to the Indira Gandhi State Museum. First off, the grounds are spectacular! It is located in the hills of Bhopal overlooking the lake, breath-taking views! Now I understand the concept of new and old Bhopal. I will elaborate more on this in my final reflection essay.

This is a cliché…being in a place like India, if you self-reflex, you become aware of the things you take for granted. Simple things like fresh/clean drinking water, healthy and sustainable food, clean clothes, basic medicine, and the ability to have an education. Though things are expensive in a place like New York City, I, at times, take certain luxuries for granted—being here has opened my eyes to new perspectives and ways in which I think I will forever be altered. I would spend superfluously on dinners, drinks, and or cabs in one night, some people here, make less in one month than I would pay for a cab from Union Square to the Lower East Side, how can one return and continue such spending, without a conscientious thought?

One thing is universal, we all seek “the good life” in its assorted forms—what is your idea of a good life and are you living up to it? Today’s food-for-thought.

Do you get as excited as I do at the junction/intersection between the end of a book and the beginning of another—that space where you turn the last page of the present book and reach for the first page of the new book? Ah, bliss.

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