Saturday, February 23, 2013


Hey guys, guess where I am!

I'm baaaaaaaaaaaaaa-aaaaaaaaaaackkkkkkkkkk! Surprise! After the farm,  I intended to head down to South India, but the farm I had chosen didn't have space for another volunteer. When faced with the prospect of donning my pack and starting the "backpacker" life again, I came to the realization that, man, I  was just tired. So, I  booked a ticket to 'Murica, showed up in Palatine one day and asked my (shocked) parents nicely if I could crash ^here^ for awhile.

[Thanks to some clever fibbing on the part of my father, I have retained my old phone number. If you still have that... call me maybe?]

I only saw a small part of India, but I have no regrets about that. It just means I'll have to go back... which I intend to do. For now, though, my adventure continues here in Palatine, Illinois (seatbelts, and smart phones, and clean tap water, oh my!).

I have learned a great deal in the last 3 years. And once again, I find myself faced with the task of summing it all up. But how to sum up, in one nice neat little package, everything I have learned in 3 years and in 9 countries?

Like this:

I have seen a lot, no doubt. And seen some pretty wicked awesome stuff. And though it took me a while to figure this out, I have learned that I don’t like "travelling" all that much. My favorite places on my trip (Dariganga, Ben Tre, Huayxai, Dharamshala) are the ones where I made the most meaningful relationships, the places I lived. And maybe in 10 years, I won’t remember the name of the mountain I climbed in Ha Long Bay, but I will never ever forget my 6 am work-out with all the ladies of Ben Tre. I might not remember which ruin I was in when that damn monkey stole my sunglasses, but I will never forget the birthday party the beautiful people at Project Kajsiab threw for me. And I might forget the Mongolian word for cow dung, but I couldn’t ever forget the moment when my counterpart, Zolaa, after months of dedicated studying, earned herself 5th place on the Olympic exams, up from 25th the year before. This is why you travel. 

Each one of those people and countless others were the ones that made my trip the experience of a lifetime (though I hesitate saying that because another very important lesson I learned from fellow travellers is that you are never too old, too busy, or too broke to travel... my journey is just beginning...). The world is full of beautiful people. 

So, I write now, the last post on this blog (RIP mongolia820), to say that this trip has been amazing. Amazing, challenging, life-changing, frustrating, perfect… impossible to sum up in a handful of adjectives. To EVERYONE I knew on this trip, whether it was for 2 years or 2 minutes, I say,

Thank you!
cám ơn!
terima kasih!

Until we meet again...

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Tibet Will Be Free

To all my Mongolian friends out there, happy Tsaagan Sar!

This Tsaagan Sar, I find myself in McLeod Ganj, India… the home of the exiled Dalai Lama and quite a population of Tibetan refugees. In fact this place feels less like India and more like… well… Mongolia. This past week, Tibetans have been celebrating Losar, a three day celebration of the new year. 

Typically, the holiday is spent at home with your family.


You may visit a religious shrine or two.


You wear your traditional clothing.


And you eat your traditional food.

The links take you pictures of Mongolia. It should come as no surprise that Mongolian and Tibetan culture are near identical (not to mention how similar the Mongolian and Tibetan people look! I keep doing double takes at people as I walk down the street, thinking I see someone I know) since they share a common history, but I am still shocked and delighted every time I see a little piece of Mongolicana. The world is such a small place sometimes.

In other news...

Yesterday, February 13th, marked the 100th year of Tibetan “independence.” I use quotes here because while they have claimed themselves an independent country, and have a treaty with China in which they were granted independence, China hasn’t exactly upheld their end of the deal. 

It’s no secret that Tibet is in a state of crisis and its people displaced, but here in McLeod Ganj, I am meeting people who actually walked through the Himalayan mountains, risking arrest and death, to seek refuge. Over the past few months, Tibetans have seen a huge spike in self-immolations, usually young monks desperate to alert the world of the magnitude of the issue. Yesterday, on the 100th year of Tibetan Independence, the 100th person sacrificed their life by self-immolation. The stories are heart-wrenching and terrible.

But McLeod Ganj serves as more than just a sanctuary. Tibetans gather here in droves, organizing awareness events, resistance groups, doing whatever they can to further their cause. I find myself both horribly depressed at their suffering, yet completely uplifted by their determination.

Tibet will be free.  

No Tension

And I’m on the move again!

I’ve left Niramayam Farm with a whole slew of crazy new ideas in my head and I’m off to learn some more. But before I scoot off to where ever I decide to go next, I’m bumming in McLeod Ganj for a while. It’s hard not to bum around considering there are more cafes than dogs in this town (and there are plenty of dogs). And all the cafes have… coffee! and wifi! and carrot cake! Not joking about the carrot cake. And it’s really really good, too. Oh, the above pic is the view from my hotel balcony. It's not so bad. (But you pay for added little benefits like a stunning view... my room is 110 rupees per night. Do the conversion. I dare you.)

So things to do in Mcleod Ganj. Volunteer. I’ve been helping with various English teaching related things with Tibetan refugees and I hear there’s a soup kitchen in town that I intend to check out. Yoga. I went to a yoga class which was very nice. Hikin. That’s been my primary activity. There are many villages and such to walk to around here where you can get some amazing mountain views and see some village life and if you hike high enough, you can even see some snow (I wanted to hike up that high a few days ago, but the weather was unpermitting… now I have to wait for some of the snow to melt because the path is pretty impassable at the moment). And eating! Heh.

Here you go. Enjoy some pictures.

Now look at this little gem I found in a bookshop here...

Oh, the title of this post refers to the most important lesson I learned on Niramayam Farm: No Tension. The workers had pretty limited English, but among their handful of awesome sayings (“Full Power!” “Chapatti Master!” “Night Duty”) was “No Tension.”

So don’t worry! Relax! No Tension!

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Another boring post!

Same ole Same ol! And since (as you probably could have guessed) my Flickr account has falln by the wayside... here's some various "artsy fartsy" pics I've taken over the past few months. 

hugs and kisses!