It Is Written...

This is the second time this year I have found myself in torrential downpour...when everything feels wet all the time, even when you are in a dry room. The first time was during March in Sarapiqui, Costa Rica doing construction work in knee-deep mud on a community center with the Project Serve team. To be fair, however, Sarapiqui does happen to border a rain forest. Now I find myself with my travel companions in Goa, India by Baga beach (about 12 hours South of Pune and Bombay) underneath the full-blown monsoon. Torrential downpour to say the least. We arrived here this morning after an overnight bus ride on an "air-conditioned sleeper coach"...which turned out to be a single AND double bed sleeper coach, with AC that only sometimes worked and a driver who preferred leaving the lights on in the bus and blasting Hindi music. What can I say? This is India...and it was a great price! Fortuantely, I was able to get some sleep--enough to function today anyway! And it felt like quite the adventure. We are now in Goa for a few days of rest and relaxation before our next destination: to Bombay by train and then Calcutta by plane on Wednesday.

It is the off season here in Goa...I guess the peak season when all the tourists come is during the summer months in November and December. It makes for great prices though! Right now we are staying in our own rooms at a pretty decent hotel and a 5 minute walk from the beach for around $3 a night!! The water is still incredibly warm...even in the rain! And there are a few hours of warmth and a little sun everyday. Enough to enjoy the beach for a little bit anyway. We are still very aware that we are in India. The traffic is still insane--just on a smaller scale. Cows and stray dogs still line the roads. Today at the beach we were instantly surrounded by about 10 beggars and people trying to sell stuff (they didn't leave for about 3o min.- quite persistent!), and right now I am sitting at an "internet cafe" which is in the back of someone's house! But it really is beautiful here. Tons of palm trees, everything looks green and exotic, and beach shacks made of bamboo line the beach. Pretty cool. I think it will be fun and I am grateful to be here.

Leaving AIC and Pune was quite difficult for me. In only two weeks time we had so many amazing experiences there. Life changing experiences. I feel like I could write a book. Perhaps I will someday. The kids there are precious and shared so much with us...impacted our lives so much. It was hard to leave them. The two most memorable experiences that are still fresh in my mind happened on Thursday morning and then Friday afternoon. On Thursday morning Dom, Gared and I caught a rickshaw to an elderly couple's home for breakfast (some people that Dom and I had randomly met during a market/shopping experience). They were so excited to meet Americans in Pune, as their son is currently living in the U.S. working in New Jersey. They desperately wanted us to come to their home so they could cook us breakfast. So we did. And it turned out to be one of the most memorable and culturally rich experiences of my life. Our rickshaw driver got lost on the way to this couple's house and the elderly man had to come looking for us with one of his friends. As it turned out the whole neighborhood was talking about us... "the foreigners" in the rickshaw driving around and around the area asking for directions to his house, and so he was able to track us down fairly easily. He immediately escorted us to his modest home where his wife was eagerly awaiting our arrival with a breakfast rice dish, hot chai tea and tea biscuits. These individuals are both 78 years old and devout Hindus. They were so eager to talk with us and hear about our lives in America and share with us their wisdom and their worldview. Through their broken English we were able to learn from them: the importance of a healthy body, mind, spirit and of balance, their love for India and for Pune, for their family, for their God and their religion, the importance of being a vegetarian (very important for a Hindu!), and the importance of a key idea that is central to India: the concept of destiny...that everything is written before it happens. Yet simultaneously we can choose our destiny and somehow impact it and change it. The man shared with us that he was so blessed by our presence in his home and that our coming to him and his wife was "written in the book." That our lives were meant to somehow intersect and we were meant to share with each other. That because it was written, nothing could keep us from coming to his house--not even getting lost along the way! They were honestly some of the most genuine, giving people I have ever met in my entire life. Before we left his house he blessed each one of us and prayed for success in our lives. Although I am not Hindu, it was one of the most beautiful things I have ever experienced and greatly helped me understand India. Life here seems insane, it seems short at times, there are honestly moments when your life flashes before your eyes (for me this happens mostly when I am crossing the street or when traveling by rickshaw!). But people here enjoy life. They really really do. In a way I can't even explain...you just have to see it. There is a purpose behind everything and everything is written. This concept helps people cope with the way things are to fully live their life somehow. Thus, since we are in India experiencing the inexplicable so often, I have decided to adopt this concept of "It is written." Whatever happens was somehow meant to be :).


Pune, India.

I am tired today. I think the adrenaline of being in India has just started to wear off. The internet cafe nearby has been closed for the past few days and the power outages have been very frequent. I have a lot I want to say, but my brain is a bit fuzzy right now. Still, I don't know when I will be able to access a computer again. :) So here it goes:
We have been in Pune for about a week. While our work with AIC is pretty consistent, every day is so so different. The first few days we were working the morning shift at The Center, doing arts and crafts with the kids and helping teach English. The kids that come in the mornings are all pretty young and know a little bit of English, but most of them are just beginners. Just yesterday we were asked to change times and work with the larger group of kids during the early afternoon shift. There are about 60 or so kids that come from 12-3:30 in the afternoons and they know zero English. Nothing. They speak only Morati and come directly from the slum. They have little to no interaction with foreigners or English-speakers. We have been asked to do art-related activities specifically with these kids as they never get this chance. These kids are very, very eager and in a way more of a handful to work with. We are constantly thinking of new activities for them. Three hours with even a small amount of kids that don't speak even a word of the same language is exhausting. Yet they are also full of so much joy and love and are eager for attention or physical touch from us. It is very humbling to us. And beautiful and wonderful. They are giving us a gift... so much more than anything we could ever give to them.
We continue to spend time with the children who live full-time at the AIC house as often as we can. On Sunday at the kids' request Dom and Gared spent most of the day drawing murals on the walls of the kids' bedrooms of Disney characters (perfect Cinderellas and Snow Whites and Jasmines). Then we spent the afternoon painting them :). It is so interesting spending time at the house where these kids have truly become a family. They speak a mixture of Hindi and English to each other and to the caretakers. They squabble about who won the soccer game in the front yard, they argue and complain about chores and homework, or about which Bollywood movie to watch on a Saturday night. It is so amusing to just watch. I have particularly loved getting to see the dynamics of a Non-profit organization like AIC in action. I very much admire the House director, caretakers, and manager of the Center. Their jobs are 24-7, all-consuming, draining, exhausting. Yet they are each so incredibly dedicated to these kids, to what they do. It is very inspiring to me.
India. It is very hot here. But according to other volunteers, not as hot as it once was. The monsoon should have started weeks ago yet it continues to be dry and hot. We hear that the heat of Pune is nothing compared to Calcutta though--so we are trying to just enjoy it while we can. Everyday we walk down the street to a little restaurant/shop where we have already become regulars. We eat samosas and drink tiny cups of steaming hot chai for breakfast. Breakfast for all three of us costs under a dollar. Maybe a little more if we splurge on something. After our work at the Center we are usually exhausted and pass out for a few hours in our room before getting up again to eat dinner at the AIC house and spend maybe an hour or so with the kids before they scramble off to bed. At night we sometimes cram into a rickshaw and go out for dinner or walk through the crowded streets to get a Pepsi near the market. Sometimes we read in the House...AIC has a huge library...lots of great books about India. Dom has already finished one. I have just recently started The Namesake. I saw the movie on the plane ride over here! SO BEAUTIFUL!! It made me cry. We have made friends with the family living in the apartments across the way from us. We sit out on our balcony at night and yell across to their balcony. They are very amused by us as are many people in this area. Not a lot of Westerners come here we have discovered. There are so many bright colors, so much activity. Nonstop. It makes New York City or anywhere else I have ever been look very mild. I love it here. As exhausting as it can be...there are often moments where I think that I have never felt so alive...as cheezy as that may sound :).
Every experience we have, every person we interact with reminds me of why we are here. We are not here simply to experience or simply to travel...although that is part of it. We are not here simply for adventure. We are not here to spread any kind of faith or religion. We are here simply to love. The people here are so giving, so alive, so full of joy. Everything revolves around community. And we want to be part of that in some way.

Until I find another computer :),


photo of Pune, India from Wikimedia.


Day #2

It is Day 2 for us (Lydia, Dominique, Gared) in India and already I feel as though I could write a book. This is shaping up to be a very intense adventure to say the least. I realized the intensity of this experience for the first time as our plane descended over one of the largest slums of Bombay. Nothing can quite prepare you for India.

Thankfully our travel plans all went very smoothly. After getting off the plane in Mumbai we crammed into the back of a jeep to ride the 4 and 1/2 hours from Bombay to the city of Pune and the Ashraya Initiative for Children (or AIC)--the orphanage and Center where we will be volunteering for the next two weeks. Driving through Bombay was one of the most intense things I have ever experienced...partly because I was jetlagged...but I seriously could not shut my eyes for a moment. Everywhere you look something... shocking (for lack of a better word) is occuring: whether that is men driving oxen and carts down the center of a high-traffic street, or a massive open-air truck piled to the top with logs speeding down the freeway...with people chilling on top of the logs. As Gared put it: there are no rules here. Everything is happening at the speed of light and using your horn isn't an option...it is a necesity. There is so much life and energy here and it is crazy. Overwhelming and crazy. There was not one Westerner or white person in sight. Thoughts were racing through my brain, but the primary one was simply, What are we doing here? We stick out like sore thumbs.

We made it to Pune and AIC safely and in one piece. AIC is located on the outskirts of Pune. Their home houses around 15 or so children who live there full-time. The school program in the slum or "The Center" serves around 100 kids. The Center is where we will be spending the majority of our days volunteering with AIC. This morning our work at the Center was optional as the staff figured we would be recovering from jetlag and wouldn't want to wake up early. As it turned out we were all up anyway due to the blasting Hindi music at 5:45 am this morning coming from the Hindu temple down the street. According to another volunteer, this happens every morning and we will get used to it. Power outages are also common and happen several times a day (I am lucky if I can get through this blog post!). After breakfast, we crammed into an auto rickshaw with other volunteers for the short commute to the Center and we spent the morning with around 10 children of all ages in a classroom doing interactive art and English projects. The children at the Center are just learning English and the language barrier is significant. They are all very eager and enthusiastic about any and all of the activities we have for them, however, and it is a joy to work with them. We will be busy here and I think two weeks will pass us by all too quickly.

After our work with the children this morning the three of us decided to take a rickshaw to a big, commercial road one of the volunteers told us about called MG Road where we could go to an ATM and just walk around. It was more of a shopping area for people who have money to shop. Very crowded streets. Lots of traffic and activity. This is where we encountered intense culture shock. As we were walking down the road peeking in and out of shops, trying to find an ATM, we were bombarded by beggars. All children... many of them carrying babies. I have heard of this happening very often in India, but I was not prepared for it. I was expecting to feel sorry for them--thinking I would want to give them money and that it would be difficult to turn them down. This was not the case. They are aggressive. They pull at you. They hit you if you don't give them money. We could feel their resentment and even anger there on the surface. We are white. We are American. We obviously have money--but we won't give them anything. We can't give them anything--for many reasons. It was weird and hard. It is frustrating and we were tired and hot and just trying to find a rickshaw to take us back--but couldn't get the kids to leave us alone. It is tempting to shove them off, yell at them, or push them back. Indeed if it is really bad sometimes this is the only thing you can do. But they are just children. Just like the ones we are working with at AIC. The only difference is the ones at AIC were pulled off the street and rescued. But for the others, begging is all that they know. This is something I am still processing through. More to come on this I am sure. For now, this is what it is.

It is time to go to the house and eat dinner with the kids. I hate to leave on an intense/depressing note, however, so I will leave with this: the kids at AIC are just a joy! They are welcoming and beautiful and the ones living at the home speak great English, so they are especially fun to interact with. They each have so much energy and are so life-giving. The place we are staying at is wonderful. Simple. But wonderful and we are so blessed and thankful to be here. We are safe, we are healthy, we are in India and I am thankful.

Until next time, Namaste!



Nick & Sheena

Here's my first "engagement shoot" with two of my very dear friends. Nick and Sheena are two of the most giving and loving individuals I have ever met. I have known both of them nearly my entire 4 years at Pepperdine and have been so blessed through their lives and friendship. They are both passionate about the outdoors, God, the open road, going on adventures, loving people and serving with their whole hearts (in no particular order :)). And they are like family to me. Their wedding will be in Ojai, CA, and while I will be unable to make it as I will be in India, I know it will be absolutely beautiful. Nick & Sheena, thank you for sharing your lives with me and letting me use you as guinea pigs while I mess around with my camera and learn :). I love you guys!!

All of these photos were shot by me (Lydia Supplee) in Calabasas, CA. We went out around dusk/sunset. I wanted to play around with the lighting at that time of day. Here are my favorites. Enjoy!

I like both of these too much to cut one. So here's a different one in black and white:

If you have seen the cover from the movie "The Man From Snowy River"...that's what I was trying to achieve :)

Had to try the dip kiss as I have seen it done so often in engagement shoots :).

Haha! I LOVE this! Mostly because Nick has a hole in his shirt :). Wilderness man.

I think this one might be my absolute favorite:

Although this is a bit dark, I love Sheena's face! :)

All photos copyright 2009 Lydia Supplee.


PhotoJournal: Malibu

As I am about to leave the Malibu area permanently in about 10 days: here is my little photo tribute to Malibu and one of my favorite walks of all time: from the lagoon, through surfrider beach to the Pier and back.

This first series of photos I shot at the Adamson House in Malibu. If you live in Malibu and haven't been there, I HIGHLY recommend it!! It's awesome!!
Adamson House gardens.

Mom and son by the Pier.

Surfrider Beach!

The Malibu Pier!! A wonderful place to spend time on a Sunday and just watch the action unfold. Packed mostly with tourists and anglers (people who like to fish).

The lovely trail leading to Malibu Lagoon and the beach!!

All photos copyright 2009 Lydia Supplee.