Come in! Come in!

"If you are a dreamer, come in. If you are a dreamer, a wisher, a liar, a Hope-er, a Pray-er, a Magic Bean buyer; if you're a pretender, come sit by my fire. For we have some flax-golden tales to spin. Come in! Come in!" -- Shel Silverstein

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Kissing Tinfoil Part II

Hey, Momma,

Today was "free" so we explored the City. It's still a very poor and hard city but not as bad as Delhi or Agra. That having been said, the beggars are MUCH more aggressive here--they pull and grab at you. And they all have small children on their hip only the women beg and their teeth are rotten, they are very dirty and have flies all around them.

In general, there are a lot of flies here (more in Delhi and A TON in Agra--where the Taj Mahal is) so that's extremely unsettling. We gave in and decided to take the anti-malaria despite the risk/liklihood of psychotic dreams side effect b/c even though we're in the City and not in the country, there are a lot of flies and bugs and mosquitos and it's just not worth the risk. It's bad and scary b/c they are everywhere. It was 98 today and the only exposed skin I had was my face.

I like that there are more women in Hyderabad and the majority of them are dressed in beautifuly colored and jewled saris. There are also a lot of Muslum women here. I find them so alluring and beautiful and mysterious.

The men here are more so dressed in traditional Indian clothes whereas in Delhi they all wore pants and shirts and sweaters--even though it was 80 degrees! In Delhi and Agra there was 1 women for every 100 men and that 1 woman was working in field whereas here women are same as men in terms of the number and they are in the streets as well.

It's funny--they are just as curious about us as we are them. I've had my picture taken at least 100 times. I don't mind it with women but the men stand very close and want to touch my hair and skin. I don't want to be rude but they are always like 10 of them and they stare hard. It's uncomfortable. B** and A** are there and she is sometimes asked to get in the pict so it's fine but uncomfortable.

The school kids are so cute but they swarm you and want to shake your hand and take pictures and touch you so it's a lot. Constant. But it makes them so happy. I do feel badly though b/c I don't want them to touch me and I am constantly using Purell and baby wipes. I feel AWFUL admitting that but there it is.

We haven't seen another "Western/white person" in days. Weird but I guess true and not touristy so part of the experience.

I'm trying to roll with it. We leave for Bangalore tomorrow and then 2 days later we're in Mumbai/Bombay. Then....HOME :o). I'm so ready. I mean, I'm eager to see more and compare and experience but I will be very happy to be home. I still have many questions keeping me up at night but my brain has slowed down a bit.

I think I've always been aware of the many blessings I have in life--family, friends, job, health, etc., but, it's the basics here that they just don't have--water, electricity, health care, etc., so, I'm still processing. It's a lot.

I attach another pict. I feel badly that the other one may have upset you. I didn't realize that it was obvious how much I was struggling. I'm sorry. This one is far away so you can't see my tears :o). Kidding!

There is less pollution here (it's still very polluted but there aren't as many open fires burning for warmth b/c it's much hotter here) so there is actually color and flowers. Check it out--attached.

I love you so much, Momma.

Hey, Kiddo -

Great picture of you at the Qutb Shahi Tombs and great to hear what you are continuing to experience. Think of what you are seeing as images that are like 'negatives' on film. You'll understand more of what you see after you take them into the 'dark room' of your heart to be 'developed'. That's probably outdated language now, in the age of the digital camera, but I think you understand what I mean.

Begging - no matter who does it or how few or how many people do it - is always deeply upsetting, especially with babes on hips. It's especially so when those who do it do so because it's their life, and their lives depend on it.

This was hard for me to take in, but when I was in Dubai (Saudi Arabia) for a 6 hour layover that got delayed to a 10 hour layover on the way home from Ghana and Nigeria, I went for a walk away from the Market Place where all the tourists are and everything is bright and clean and new. I stumbled onto a pretty rough section of town and was 'rescued' from some swarming beggars by some alert citizens who had seen me wander.

One of them scolded me and said, "Do you not understand that they only beg because they can not kill you? If they had a knife or a gun, they would use that and make their jobs much easier. But, when you are poor, you have to work hard at everything - even begging."

I was thinking about that as I was thinking about you and hearing that a man had been pistol whipped in broad daylight on West 67th Street after he withdrew $100,000 in cash from the walk up CitiBank machine (I didn't know you could withdraw that much at one time) and walked a few hundred feet past the Starbucks. I suppose the man who pistol whipped him would have begged, but hey, he had a weapon, why not use it? Makes it so much easier - and so much more effective.

I know. I sound cynical, right? Well, I guess that's part of what happens when you see that kind of poverty and injustice and you feel helpless to change anything. There are those who rob in NYC and then there are the poor who beg, but I guess I'm wondering who the real 'bad guys' are anymore.

I guess I'm wondering why the hell anyone needs to walk around NYC with $100,000 in cash. Just because he can? Am I resentful and cynical because I can't - never will have that much money in cash to walk around with in NYC much less in my own bedroom? But, if I had it, would I? Would I share it with "the poor"? Which poor? How would it help? And, if I didn't have it and were really, really desperate, would I beg for it? Would I harm someone for it?

Well, there you are, sweetheart. These are the kinds of questions that places in the Global South provoke in us. It's not the poverty, because we see that here. It's the honest brutality of poverty which is so obvious and omnipresent. It's the cultural, social and religious acceptance of poverty as fact of life rather than an impulse to relieve suffering. It's the acknowledgment of poverty as a state of being for which you thank God for having been spared, but God forbid you should pray or work to change it.

I'm not saying that we do it better here in this country by hiding it away. I'm just saying that seeing it in different countries raises a whole host of other questions that go deep into your soul.

And, that's the real journey.

I love you. Mom

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