Saturday, December 30, 2006


Hey everyone! I hope you all had a wonderful Christmas (even though I wasn't there). The internet has been really shoddy here so excuse me for my lack of communication. I've been having a great time here at Railay beach (I think the picture just about sums it up). It's one of the most beautiful places that I've ever had to privelidge to visit. Today I went scuba diving for the first time, it was amazing. Apparently I swam right next to a shark, but I didn't notice. I hear it wasn't too big anyway, though. We're going again tomorrow and I'm super excited. The rock climbing here is also amazing. Just a short walk from our bungalow is Phra Nang beach which has some really nice bouldering. It's too bad that God chose the one winter I'm away from home to make a ton of snow, but since I can't ski here, you all should ski twice as much. I'll be here in the South for a couple days after new years and then I'm heading up to Chieng Mai to go try and be a monk. Happy New Years.
P.S. I hope all you fellow G-LABers our now adjusted well and enjoying being home drinking tap water and eating beef and all that cool stuff you get to do at home. Love you all and I miss you all.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Gil Shohat

Here's that video I was talking about.


So far this city has been great. All the old British taxis and architecture create a feel different than any other Indian city. Today I went with Rosalie and her friend to a hospital that she works with. It's a children's hospital for kids who need orthopedic surgery. It was really fun, all the kids were so happy to see us. We read them a Christmas childrens story (in English, Hindi and Bangali). Then they all dressed up as raindeer, elfs etc. They all got presents from a donor in Holland. It was pretty fun. In Delhi I didn't see a single Christmas decoration, but here it seems as though it is a fairly popular holiday. There are fake trees and snowmen for sale on the street. It's going to be great volunteering at these places, after about a week of shadowing a teacher I'll start taking lessons of my own. Right now I'm just killing time until I have to leave for the airport in about three hours. I've already checked out of my hotel so I'll probably just go find a nice place to read.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Just a Quick Update

I had a great last day in Delhi. Tracy and Namgial (our Ladakhi friend) and I went to a musical show and dinner. The show was of this Israeli composer (I think his name was Gil Shohat) and an Indian tabla player together. Two of my favorite instruments! And two that you don't usually see played together, the result was great. I took a short video that I can hopefully put up was I settle down. I just got off my long train ride this morn and am now with Rosalie, who leads the organisation I will be volunteering with when I return from Thailand (Empower the Children). It looks like it's going to be great fun volunteering here teaching the kids for a month. Tommorow night I get on the plane for Bangkok and arrive very early the next morning. I'm going to spend one day roaming around and then the next day get on a night bus down to Krabi to meat with the McKenzies (23rd)! I'm really excited and it will be fun to spend Christmas with some friends. Love you all and enjoy being together for the season (wish I could be there)!
P.S. I can't believe we had 17 people over for Christmas dinner and no power! That's sounds like it was a really good time. Hello to all the people who were there, I hope to see you all soon!

Saturday, December 16, 2006

End of The Program

Last night the Global Learning program came to an end. We had a little going away party at Amit's (our Delhi coordinator) house. There was great food and we celebrated Tracy's (one of the group leaders) birthday a few days early with an impromptu cake fight. Galen seems to have lost. We went to the airport twice last night to drop everyone off, once at 10:30 PM and again at 3:00 AM. So today I slept in and am having a nice relaxing last day in Delhi before I hop on the train for Kolkata tommorow morning. Right now Tracy is the only one left here as Galen left this morning for Nepal.
I should arrive in Kolkata on the morning of the 19th and go to meet Rosalie Giffonielo at Empower the Children.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006


Camel trekking was great. I felt like some old british chap traveling through the desert. And turbans in the desert are totally the way to go, they keap you cool in the day and warm at night. We spent a night out under the stars, it was really nice, but cold. I could have maybe gone a little farther, but these things are pretty uncomfortable, I don't know how you could do a long journey on them. It was amazing to see the little villages out in the middle of nowhere; all the people in colorful clothing carrying jars of water on their head. I don't have much time right now, though, so I'll update more later. We leave tonight for Jaipur and then the next day for Delhi to conclude this program.

Monday, December 11, 2006

What You Find In Rajasthan

We just rolled into the Western Rajasthan city of Jodhpur last night. It's been a lot of moving around considering we left Varanasi on the eight and this is our first full day in one city. Bodh Gaya was great, though Bihar (the state it is in) was not so nice. It's known as the "lawless land" of India. It's noisy, busy, polluted, and has horrible roads which are honestly more pot-hole than actual road. But despite all that, Bodh Gaya is amazing. Because it's the place where the Buddha gained enlightenment it's a huge pilgramige site. It's amazing to see monks from all different countries there together.
After that we had a long car ride and then a 26 hour train ride to Rajasthan. This morning Galen, Jordan, Andrew and I went out shopping for turbans. As I was trying to use the broken ATM machine Jordan ran in and told me to get outside. He ws possitive he had seen Adrien Brody go by in an auto with a film crew went out and walked down the street for a while and then to my surprise saw not only Adrien Brody, but Owen Wilson and Jason Schwartzman as well. Then I turned around and saw the director Wes Anderson. He's made some awesome movies like The Royal Tenenbaums and Life Aquatic. It was crazy and not at all what I expected to find in a small back street in Jodhpur. The guys were all nice and we talked to them briefly. Jason Schwartzman asked how long we've been in India and when Galen said three months, he replied: doing what, walking around? They were surprised to find we were a student group. Then we spoke to Wes Anderson about the movie briefly. It's called Darjeeling Limited (but is filmed mostly in Rajasthan?). Anyway they seemed like pretty nice guys. They're staying at the Palace where the Maharaja of Jodhpur lives as it is now partly converted into a super pricey hotel. Thankfully Jordan Gaurd had his camera with him. That made for a crazy morning.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

It's All Coming To An End

We're currently wrapping up our stay here in Varanasi and getting ready to move on. Everyone we met said that this was by far the most intense Indian city and maybe not too enjoyable. I really had a great time, though, and didn't find it too hard. I'd love to make it back sometime.
Tommorow we will be leaving for Bodh Gaya, the place of Buddha's enlightenment. After a day there we will be off to Rajasthan. This should be cool, because I haven't been to a desert with full on sand dunes before. We're going to go camel trekking for a couple days and explore the cities in the area. Then it's back to Delhi and the end of the program. It all went by soo fast, but it was a great time. As good as it was, though, I also can't wait to be on my own. I imagine that at home everyone is shopping or buying a Christmas tree or something. Have fun with that. It's too bad I won't be able to see everyone this holiday season, but I will see you all soon enough!


This is a super old photo, but I just saw it and decided it needed to be on the internet. It's of me and my homestay grandfather in Ladakh.


Your Average traffic in Varanasi. Every ride is crazy...


This is a photo from just after when I bathed in the Ganga. It was a beautiful sunrise, great to just to watch and enjoy a cup of chai.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006


Yesterday we went to this village right outside of Varanasi. We left by boat at about 6 AM and arrived in Ramnagar about half an hour later. Ramnagar is famous for its clay cups. In India, when you order a cup of chai on the street, it comes in a little clay cup that you when you're finished you just toss on the ground. So naturally many of these cups need to be made every day. We visited the house of one such potter. He said that he can make up to one thousand cups a day. I took a video of him with my camera. In the video he is spinning a large disc that rests simply on a spike. It continues to spin by sheer momentum. These Clay cups are a great idea because, unlike plastic, they just turn back into mud after use.

Monday, December 04, 2006


Hey All,
Life here in Varanasi is great, but busy. We've all been taking Hindi lessons and North Indian cooking. In addition to this I've been studying Tabla from my new teacher Kailash Nishad. He great, a super nice guy and an amazing musician. He's played classical Indian concerts all over the world and also at festivals such as the Rainbow gathering and Bonnaroo. We've also been going on day trips to surrounding areas and to musical concerts galore. Yesterday, we went to Sarnath, the sight of the Buddha's first teaching. Tomorrow we are going on a 5:30 boat ride in the Ganga. A couple of days ago I bathed in the Ganga. Two other friends and I went down before sunrise and enjoyed a nice dip. It's probably really polluted, but it doesn't seem so bad here. Anyway, I've also been learning
a lot about Hinduism. It has to be the most confusing, complex religion in existance. I was told in school that it could be considered monotheistic because all the gods are really just emanations of one supreme god, but I asked this question to a professor at Benaris Hindu
University and he simply replied that Hinduism is every-istic. That's probably the best description I've heard.

Saturday, November 25, 2006

A Lot

OK, a lot has happened since I last posted. We went to Delhi and three other students and I took part in a day long hunger strike for the Tibetan cause. It was great, I learned how to play a folk song on the Tibetan Guitar. After that we hopped on a train for Haridwar and stayed for a night at an Ashram. There were a bunch of little kids living there so it was really fun. The next day we hopped on yet another night train for Allahabad (18 hours). From the train station we drove straight to the Ganga river and got on a small boat (I'll have pictures up soon). We took a three day boat ride down to Veranasi. It was amazing. The trip was so relaxing and it was great to be on the water. The second night we stopped in a small-ish town that had no foriegners. We were quick to draw a crowd. The only hotel was full, but luckily our boatman had some friends there. The cleared out the first floor of a house currently under construction and brought in some mats for us to sleap on. Now I am writing this from Veranasi. We just went to a puja down by the water full of fire and insense. Also, with only a few hours in town I already witnessed two funeral pires and the river banks. Seems like it's going to be an exciting two weeks! Love you all and happy Thanksgiving!

Saturday, November 18, 2006


This is my homestay brother and sister from Dharamsala. Sonam, on the right, works for the government in conflict resolution and is also an actor. He stars in the Tibetan refugee movie Phun Anu Thanu. It's pretty funny. My sister, Dolma, stays at home and did most all the cooking. I got a sweet chili sauce recipee from her.

Thursday, November 16, 2006


So the Chinese prime minister Hu Jintao is visiting India, this is the first time in ten years that the Indian prime minister and the Chinese prime minister will have talked in ten years. He is coming to talk about boarder disputes and trade relations. It is also, though, a great opportunity for Tibetans to protest the Chinese rule of their country. Right now we are trying to see if we can change our plans a little and make it to Delhi to take part in some peaceful activism.
It has been really eye opening staying here in Dharamsala and living with a family of politcal refugees. Back in the US the Tibet issue seems so far away, but here it is staring at you right in the face. They Chinese have been, and still are, carrying out genocide in Tibet. They are systematically destroying all of the Tibetan culture that they can. And the world is just standing aside and watching. As time goes on the US is becoming more and more dependent on China and it looks unlikely that the government will do anything. The Tibetans, though, are some of the strongest people I have ever met. The Chinese overwhelm them in shere numbers and economic power. The only reason that the issue is still around is the strength of these people.


Yesterday we went to see a concert by my guru, Ashoka, and his sitar playing friend from Punjab. The concert was at Ashoka's house. It was amazing to see someone play like this up close, it was only a small room with about eleven of us. My skills are slowly improving, but now I am even more excited to continure studying in Varanasi. It's amazing how old this culture is. The sitar basically hasn't changed in 350 years and the tabla for even longer. People have been playing sitar for over a thousand years. The culture is just so much older than that of Western Europe...

Sunday, November 12, 2006


Today Galen (in the picture), Jordan and I went on a hike outside of Dharamsala. We went to a waterfall and then climbed up and up and up. We didn't end up where we thought we would, but we got a great view. We also discovered a sweet Shiva shrine and a temporarily abandoned village. All the houses were made completely out of slate, even the roofs. We had a great time finding our way down since it was to steap to go back down the way we came up. It was awesome to excersize again seeing as we weren't allowed to leave the premises of the retreat center.

Meditation Retreat

So we just finished our ten day meditation retreat yesterday. It was at a place called Tushita which is up in the woods above Dharamsala. A really peaceful and quiet place. Basically everyday went as follows:
  • Morning Mindfulness Meditation
  • Breakfast
  • Teaching
  • Yoga
  • Lunch
  • Discussion Group
  • Tea
  • Teaching
  • Analytical Meditation
  • Dinner
  • Analytical Meditation
It was like that until the last two full days in which we meditated seven times of 45 minutes each. I got really good at sitting. It was a Tibetan Buddhist retreat which was cool because up until now I had really only studied Theravadin. It's very different and has a large emphasis of "saving all sentient beings." It's much more of a religion than a philosophy and is full of gods and Buddhas. The evening meditations included elaborate visualizations and cleansing rituals. Our teaher was an Australian monk named Namgyal and was awesome. He cracked jokes the whole time and kept the atmosphere light. It was nice, but now it's back to the noise of the city.

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Happy Halloween!

Hello everyone. We had a great Halloween party last night that consisted of bobbing for apples and watching lord of the rings. It was fun, but I still missed trick or treating. Anyway, tabla has been going great. Ashok, my teacher, lives out in the middle of nowhere, about a half an hour walk. It's a very peaceful place and great for playing tabla. I'm learning slowly, but surely. It's a great feeling to be making music again. We've been talking to a lot of Tibetan refugees: monks, doctors, and revolutionaries. It's been great. I'm learning a lot about the Dalai Lama's middle way approach to peace with China and hearing a lot of people say that it will never work. Many people feel that compromise with the Chinese is not an option and that action needs to be taken now. Tomorrow I'm going into a ten day silent meditation retreat. I'm excited, a lot of time for reading and meditation. I hope all is well at home and I'll talk to you all in a week and a half. (And yes, that is a monkey eating a banana. I saw it on the way to tabla.)

Wednesday, October 25, 2006


Diwali is an Indian Holiday that makes the 4th of July look like Chanukah. Huge firecrackers and fireworks going off left and right. We went to our Delhi coordinator's house to celebrate. The celebration involved a lot of eating a the blowing up of a huge squash. Awesome. After that, we hopped on the train for Amritsar to stay at the Golden Temple. The city was crazy, more crowded than Delhi. The Sikh faith has some amazing traditions, though. We stayed at the temple for free, and also ate meals there for free. We spent one evening helping out in the kitchen. Me and two other guys helped serve food to the masses. It was super busy and loads of fun. Than we hopped on another train and then a bus to make it to Dharamsala, home of the Dalai Lama. We will be spending about three weeks here. After one day I'm already in a homestay. The house is just three rooms so it's nice and cozy. We all start our ISPs (Independent Study Projects) tomorrow and I'm siked. I'm studying Tabla (Indian drums) and Tibetan language. Anyway, I've got to get back to my homestay family or they'll start to worry. Bye bye.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Taj Mahal

The Taj Mahal really is the most amazing building I've ever been in. It just feels really crazy to be in it, no picture can come close to capturing its beauty, but I think this one comes close. We got to Agra (home of the Taj) by train. It was my first train in India and it was awesome. Really cheap and actually pretty comfortable. We rode in sleaper class which means there are three bunks on top of each other to lie on. Chai wallas come around and so do venders selling everything from sandwiches to small toys. I picked up a rubik's cube and so far it's offered hours of entertainment.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006


We had ponies with us on the trek and I figured Amelia'd kill me if I didn't ride them, so this one's for you.

Dinner Tent

Here's a picture of the whole group in the dinner tent on the trek. There was great food the entire time.


Here's me in the Himalaya.


This is my tent in the morning one day on the trek. It was a nice surprise to wake up to snow. This was the day of the 17,300 foot pass. It was beautiful the whole way up.

The Indus

Here's me in front of the Indus.

Man Day

Trekking altogether was an amazing experience, but one day in particular will stand out in my mind: Man Day. We had a hard day out walking and while relaxing in the dinner tent we had no idea what was in store for us. I went to use the bath room and when I returned I found most of the group asleap on the floor whilst Tracy was singing quaint songs. I panicked and looked the other way, is that, why yes that is, the trekking staff is starting to make the beginnings of a huge bonfire. I quickly turn and go offer my help. Galen and I quickly went of the wrestle trees. We worked for hours, maybe days, jopping down the largest trees we could find...with our bare hands. We made the largest pyramid of wood you have ever seen. It was then time for dinner. The usual massive amounts of food were brought to us, and then, just when we thought it was over, a four inch tall pizza came out (no joke). After we feasted on the pizza and usual desert of raw carcass, we went out for the bonfire. We doused it in kerosene and let it go. Thus ended the greatest day to ever come into existence.

My House

This is my homestay house in Phey. My room was on the top left with all the windows. It was really fun getting to be the foriegn exchange student. It made me wish I had one in high school.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

An Update On Various Illnesses

We've all been having a great time in India, despite the fact that at least half the group has been sick more than half the time we've been here. You heard (if you read the blog) about the vomitous cavern that was the Chube Guest House, but living with an actually family adds a whole new twist. So two nights ago I was enjoying a nice sleap in my home stay supposedly fully recovered from my run in with the Chube. Then all of a sudden I wake up at three AM. "Oh man, I think I may have to throw up," I thought, "In fact, yes I do. All right, how the hell do I get out of this damn sleaping bag." Seriously, it's like a chinese finger trap, you can't get out of that thing when you most want to. I finally got out but that bath room was way too far away. My options were limited, but I stand by my decision. I made a dash for the potted plants in my room. I filled one up and then moved to the next. But that wasn't so bad, it's what the next night brought that's the winner. With that throw up came some diareah. Not so bad unless you again find yourself trapped in your sleaping bag in the middle of the night. I made it out and grabbed my roll of TP and my headlamp. I ran as quickly as I could to the Ladakhi toilet, which by the way is a hole in the floor. I whipped down my pants as quickly as I could, just in time. But unfortunately in my hurry my TP slipped from my hand...down the hole. I was left with a dilemma. I seriously don't know how my family wipes, there's not even a bucket of water or some newspaper clippings. With no rocks in sight I made the best of my limited options. I ran bare-assed back to my room and stock of extra TP. I'm pretty sure no one saw me, but one can never possitive when most of the family lives on that floor and windows are not a sparse commodity. Anyway, I hope all is well at home and I look forward to more fun Indian adventures.

Saturday, September 30, 2006

The Oracle

We're still waiting for everyone to recover before we can leave for our trek. People really need to be in peak condition, it's a ten day trek with two passes at about 17,000 feet. I'm siked. We've been going around the surrounding areas and have seen a lot of crazy stuff. A couple days back we went to go see this oracle. The Dalai Lama has visited her twice, so she's pretty respected. We got to see her remove an evil spirit from this Islamic woman. That was ridiculous. She was grabbing her head and wacking it and yelling. She brought out this whip and just started hitting her. Apparently it worked, though, and the spirit was made to leave for one year's time. We've seen a lot of really cool monasteries. The picture is of the group at the Shanti Stupa that we hiked up to. It's not a long walk from where we are in Leh. We just got back from a town called Dah. The Dahrds have been there since about 200 B.C. The place looked straight out of the middle ages. Everything was made of stone, there are no roads, we had to walk up there. The religion they practice is a strange mix of paganism (spiral dances, rock worship etc.) and Tibetan Buddhism. It was a little lower than Leh, maybe 9,000 feet, so it was a little bit warmer and there were grape vines. The people there make they're own wine, unique in India. Seems like all the UW and Western kids should have started school by now so I hope you all are having a great time. Peace.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006


If anyplace is the opposite of Delhi it is Ladakh. It is much quieter and the air tastes much better. We're staying in the city of Leh which is at 11,000 feet. I felt fine the first day, but after that the sickness came. I spent two full days in bed, as did most of the group. It was probably a combonation of altitude sickness and food poisoning. I am feeling good now, though. The people here are very friendly and their favorite word is jullay, which means just about whatever you want it to. You will even see people walking by themselves just muttering it over and over again. We are staying in a guest house (small hotel) just outside the main part of town. It is nice, it has toilets and electricity (sometimes). The town is mainly little shops, restaurants, and trekking offices. This is probably just about the most beautiful place I have ever been. The mountains are magnificent and the scenery is scattered with stupas and prayer flags because most the people here are Tibetan Buddhists. Foriegners didn't really come to Ladakh (which by the way is the region that Ley is in and itself in the state of Jammu & Kashmir) until the seventies when they built the road. So the culture here has been very preserved. It is often called "little Tibet" and is considered to have the purest form of Tibetan Buddhism. It has modernized rappidly, though and there have been a few problems. It is much dirtier now, and people's living conditions have declined. Right now we are waiting for the group to recover so we can start our trek. Until then we are just hanging out enjoying the town, last night we saw a performance of A Midsummer Night's Dream, in Ladakhi. Hope everything is good in the states.

Friday, September 22, 2006

Hello From Delhi

My first day in India was awesome. I threw up in the morning and then at night I ate a pepper so hot it made me cry...and I loved every second of it. Breakfast today, a masala dosa and a couple cups of chai was some of the best food I've ever had, and it came to grand total of 29 rupees, about 65 cents. We went around town all day, learned some Hindi and saw some great buildings. We climbed to the top of the Jama Masjid, the largest Mosque in India. And Colin, if you read this, you would love the Jains, they're a bunch of extremely peaceful nudists. They even have a hospital in their temple for hurt pigeons and other birds. The streets are crowded, as expected, but I was told they drive on the left side of the road here. No. They drive on the left side of the road in London. Here they simply swerve to the left when another car is headed strieght at them. Anyhoo, Delhi has been awesome but I am really excited for Ladakh. (PS I didn't get sick from being in India, it was the maleria meds. I'm switching to Neem which is a local natural drug.)
Alright, well the power just almost went out so I better go. I miss you all.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006


Hey everyone. This is my first try at this blog thing so I hope it works. I'm in Brooklyn living with Amelia, my sister, now. It's awesome. Today she had to go to class so I wandered around, went to the Michel Gondry exhibit. It had a bunch of sets from his new movie The Science of Sleep. Weird, but sweet. Anyhoo, Jonny you would be proud because today I ate a hot dog that was wrapped in bacon, and topped with melted cheese and a fried egg. Plus the place had a Galaga machine.Hooray for Galaga. I'm having a great time, but I'm super excited to get to India.

Friday, August 18, 2006


Hey, this is the current itinerary. You can see a more detailed one for the first three months at

September 10th - Leave For New York
September 17th - Leave For New Delhi
September 22nd-October 19th - Ladakh
October 24th-November 19th - Dharamsala
November 20th-December 15th - Varanasi
December 20th-27th - South Thailand (Railay Beach)
December 28th-January 1st - Bangkok
January 2nd-18th - North Thailand (Chiang Mai)
January 21st-February 21st - Calcutta
February 22nd-May 15th - South of India