Wordless

I’ve started to travel 3 hours a day again. Working from home obviously has its enormous perks but there something about being on the road that just thrills me like nothing else.

For one, there’s always something exciting happening on the road -travelling from one corner of Bangalore to another is in itself an adventure. But then there are days like today when instead of rolling your windows up and looking away, you look into the eyes of a homeless old lady and smile, even if you don’t give her any money. There is something about acknowledging the presence of a person that does more to their day than any other financial or material resource.

Homeless Lady Smiling

I know this because the old lady had a smile on her face, tears in her eyes and she blessed me – she held her hands up in a “Namaste”, told me she wishes God would bless me and make me happy as I had made her. She really sounded like she needed it. And it would be a lie to say I wasn’t overwhelmed. I did nothing but smile and yet, someones day was infinitely better for it and my level of energy shot up a 100%

The power of words is often overstated, don’t you think? Today, I’m campaigning for the power of a wordless zing.

Universal Languages – Travel Tuesdays

Amidst the concrete jungle that is the heart of Kuala Lumpur, you often find lush green gardens and parks that you could stroll in for ages. Quite like magic, sometimes you happen upon cool lakes and fountains in which you can rest your sore feet. This is an amazing place to not just get away from the noise and restlessness of corporate Malaysia but to find yourself in the middle of vibrant stories.

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The garden just behind the Petronas Towers

Like of old men who walk slowly but with purpose with their canes and backs bent without a care in the world. They have little bags under their armpits – old, faded, leather. Sitting on one of the benches of the park near a water fountain, I observed how the whole park was dotted with similar looking old men.

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Eventually they made their way to these unique benches and took out their priced treasures from their leather satchels – well used chess pieces and begin some of the most entertaining matches I’ve ever laid eyes on.

Sometimes, there are languages that transcends words – the li’l grunts on frustration or victory, the fist bumps, folding your hand over your chest and the most impressive of all, the toothless grin. These are universal and wherever I go, I keep my eyes peeled for them. They tell the best stories.

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Read more of my adventures abroad here – a story about my first time in Europe and the things I had to teach myself! : )

It’s officially summer

I haven’t blogged in over a month – shocking? Not really. I’m the queen of procrastination when I’m in between travels but then, I have been busy this time. Not really trumping around the woods near Kilimanjaro, but just as exhausting and thrilling.

I was asked to facilitate a summer camp for 10-14 days for 40-50 teens, some of who were first generation learners in their communities, their parents having never been to school. More than that, they had just finished writing the big 10th Standard exam which has been a rarity in the villages from where they were coming. A few years ago, we had just 5-10. The numbers itself show that somehow, something good is being done.

It was the first time the children were getting out of their villages and experiencing this kind of freedom. They didn’t have to study Algebra and Math anymore. They could sleep in. The “lessons” were all activity based so they never had to take notes or try to take a nap subtly behind two other students which meant that apart from all the drama that comes when you put 40 teenagers in a room, there was a LOT of energy and fun to be had. I was given creative liberty so in typical fashion, I really went for it.

The activity was for the kids to draw how they saw themselves - things they loved, hated, what they identified with. Then we made a gallery to show them they're not as alone as they think they are.
The groups were given an egg which would be dropped from the highest terrace. This had the most innovative packaging
Making the longest line possible with the things they had on them at that moment
We opened a study centre in one of the villages. This is the village band celebrating
To celebrate, we treated everyone to ice-candy (for dessert)
The ice-candy man had a busy day
Back at the camp, an evening game of Kabbadi
Group Discussions under my favourite tree

Clay Modelling Day
Love how they used leaves for the keypad
Clay Modelling slowly turned into Zombie wars.
The boys making a vow in front of the girls that they will not take a Dowry.
The highlight of living in a village? Views like these.

What did I learn? That I’m more confused than ever. I love working with children and youth as much as I love writing. So instead of my life being a series of “Harry Potter > Hunger Games > Twilight” sort of equations, it’s “Travel = Writing = Art = Training = Social Work = Family = Mangoes”

Is this the balance they talk about in old Kung Fu movies? Needless to say, I’m in my happy place – instead of me whining about how restless I am to my friends, I get to listen to their problems in a Zen like fashion. It’s also a great opportunity pretend to be this wise old turtle

or this tea-brewing uncle

Or just call them “young grasshopper” . Oh yeah, I live for the cheap thrills

Kilombero

Udzungwa

Exploring the Udzungwa Mountains at Kilombero after helping teach English to children of the workers of the sugar factory.

The Snorkelling Adventure

I mean, snorkeling is a pretty straight forward thing to do. You wear your gear, you jump in, look around and come back. But this, this was a real adventure that I’m surprised I survived.

First, they put us on a boat which is not really a boat. It’s pieces of wood put together in a ‘cast away’ fashion with a plastic rain cover, huge bold white letters claiming it was the Gladiator. Half an hour on rough seas, one guy scooping the water out and one guy running the engine. Trust my luck to be here on the worst possible season to take off to Prison Island.

We reached paradise – white sandy beaches, turquoise blue/green water, and GIANT TORTOISES. When they said giant, I did not expect them to be that huge. I looked tiny in front of them. The oldest was 129 years old and since we were that early (couldn’t contain my excitement so we left very early in the morning) we got to feed them and watch a 100 year old monster tortoise hump the crap out of a 30 year old. By the hump, I mean almost squash to death. (Yes, I did get pictures. Perverts!)

And then they took the boat a bit offshore and made us jump of the plank, true pirate style and once we were in, they said don’t go here or there or there (pointing rapidly) cause there might be sharks.

Great! Sharks!

Then I find out my snorkel isn’t working – there a giant hole that’s been sucking in sea water and my flippers are almost falling off. Then the sealice had their way with me and the wind is so strong, it’s pushing me straight towards those darned sharks. But, the view was fantastic – we saw beautiful corals, zebra fish, electric blue fish and those puffer fish and so many more I lost track of. It was breathtaking – literally.

I came back up for air, back on the gladiator and the sea had gotten rougher, if that was even possible. And on the way back to the mainland, I got drenched more than I was when I was reaching for the coral in sea. We almost tipped over a couple of times and then joined in to help the boat guy scoop water out.

We came back exhausted and sat by the beach with a nice Mojito, trying to wrap our heads around the whole day when this single dolphin jumps out as high as he can and then again and then a back flip. I couldn’t help but grin and think …

WHAT.AN.ADVENTURE!

I can’t wait to do this again.