Sunday, March 22, 2009


pictures in order are:
1. Jane and I re-enacting a Christmas scene, inspired by a bizarre chair with really long armrests in our hotel room.
2. The view from our hotel in Goa.
3. Our first hotel in Goa...gorgeous flowers!!
4. Jane relaxing on the veranda of her teacher´s riverside mansion after her Indian cooking class.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

A Tibetan Wedding and Past Lives

So I am now in Goa now, a VERY touristy beach town, but first here are some blips I wrote about Dharamsala when I didn't have Internet access.
I really like Dharamsala because anything can happen. For example, one night I come home at about 7 o'clock to find a small boy sprawled out on my bed in our one-room apartment. He is watching TV and looks about eight years old, the same age as the son of my host mom who I have yet to meet.
"Hello," I said.
"Are you Rangdal?"
"I'm Norah, nice to meet you." I mean, what else are you supposed to say? "Hi, I'm Norah, the one who's been sleeping in your bed and using your blankets and living in your house for the past two weeks?" So it was a little awkward. Luckily, his thirteen-year-old sister suddenly bursts through the door and said, "You want dinner?"
Anyone who knows me knows this is a silly question.
"Yes," Rangdal and I reply.
"Come to party!" she exclaims, and, grabbing her jacket, explodes out the door. I barely have time to get my shoes back on before we are all clambering down the steps, of which there are probably several hundred, onto the dirty cold street. Tsering-Tso (thats the older sister) and Rangdal take off down the street, with me huffing and puffing several feet behind. Suddenly they make an abrupt jag to the right and begin flying up another set of infinitely narrow and crumbly steps cut into the hillside. There are no street lamps so I am basically hoping we get there soon and I don't die a narrow and crumbly death. Rangdal is taking like three steps at a time, which makes me feel slow and clumsy. What is he, like four feet tall? I only nearly break my neck and die maybe twice. Finally we get to a street and whoosh, pass a man biting into an orange. I can smell the zest for maybe a second before the kids dart to the left towards a building, and up and up and up the building steps to the third floor, where there are two huge double doors waiting and we burst through them.
And there, in that room, which is probably seating 300 people, is a Tibetan wedding. Everyone pauses mid-chew and turns to see the newcomers, which must be something, because we are red and sweaty and I'm pretty sure my nose is running from the cold. I try to smile. I don't know what to do. Where is my host mom?
"Ama! Ama!" yell Tsering-Tso and Rangdal, looking for their mom. I am tempted to join them but decide to save a bit of dignity if at all possible. Then we see her, all petite and dolled up in her nicest chupa, smiling. She shoves plates into our hands and pushes us into the buffet line, which is stocked with all kinds of chicken and mutton and noodles.
After a good full meal, Rangdal and his friends do a break dance show for me and kick a few tables over in the process. Then we all dance in a circle with the Tibetan bride and groom and their relatives. I feel a little strange, not only because I am wearing sweatpants and a windbreaker to a wedding, but because I don't know the bride and groom at all. I whisper this to Tsering-Tso and she shrugs her shoulders. "Neither do I," she says.
Then I decide to head back home. Rangdal and Tsering-Tso are concerned that I won't know the way by myself, but how hard can it be? I figure as long as I keep going down eventually I will hit the main street.
So I start out, then realize that now it is officially pitch black outside and I am attempting to traverse uneven, crumbly steps the width of a hamburger. I think I just might die. I sort half-walk, half-slide down a couple sets of stairs before landing with a thunk at the bottom of a courtyard, running smack into a young guy who has just opened the door from his apartment. He yelps in surprise and leaps back a couple feet. Then he smiles all gentlemanly and asks me to please go ahead on the path in front of him. He's got his cell phone on in front of him creating a bluish beam of light, so I convince him to go first so I can follow. Finally, we make it down to the street and I casually thank him for saving my life. I'm pretty sure he thinks I'm crazy but hey, I could have broken a leg on that hill.
Later on, Tsering-Tso and Rangdal come home draped in what looks like every single wedding guest's kata. So we have a photo shoot. The end! What a crazy night.

I met a really nice Spanish woman here in Dharamsala whom I'll call "Lisa." Lisa was living in Barcelona. She had a nice job, she lived in a nice house, and every day she could come home to a nice boyfriend and a nice dog. But one day, she realized that she wasn't happy. She wanted to travel and see the world, and she couldn't do that in Barcelona. So, Lisa left everything behind and went to Dharamsala. There she met "Tenzin," a romantic young Tibetan guy who worked at a restaurant and talked to her every day when she passed by. They got married six months later. This is the Lisa I met, a rosy-cheeked, lovely and happy Lisa who playfully swatted her Tibetan husband in between squeezing my arm in delight over funny jokes and exciting stories. I had many an interesting conversation with her, especially about past lives.
Once Lisa had a Tibetan friend, "Dolma," who knew a lot about discovering people's past lives. Dolma told Lisa that she used to be a dolphin. This is why Lisa loved swimming and having fun and being sociable. Dolma, however, had an even more interesting story for why she and Lisa were such close friends.
According to Dolma, there once was a beautiful French woman who came to Rome to study painting. There, she fell in love with a handsome and dashing Italian man. Soon she discovered he was a famous actor and became even more determined to win his affections. When they met, the man instantly fell in love with the woman. They had a tumultuous love affair with its ups and downs, but were generally very happy together. Then one day, the actor left his French lover behind to pursue his career. She was heartbroken and pregnant.
Immediately after the birth of her beautiful baby girl, the French woman died. Soon after, her estranged Italian lover died in an unnatural way. With no family or relatives, the beautiful little girl was sent to an Italian orphanage. There, she was welcomed with open arms by a young nun, Sister Margherita, who brought the girl up as if she were her own child. They became good friends as the girl grew, and remained in touch even after the girl reached adulthood.
"I was the girl and you were the nun," Dolma explained to Lisa. "In our past lives together, you were the reason I had a happy childhood." And that, according to Dolma, was why she and Lisa were such good friends today.

Saturday, February 28, 2009

India Photos!

1. Monks protesting for Tibetan independence on Losar, the day of the Tibetan new year.
2. Jembe, the demon child
3. Dharamsala in the morning.
4. Same.
5. Me at some famous temple or something
6. A Tibetan Buddhist monastery near the one where we stayed. That´s a monk in the bottom right corner.
7. Marlene and a Monk on a Motorcycle.
8. Ancient ruins of Hampi at sunrise.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Tibet, or not Tibet? That is the question..

Hi again! Today I am in Dharamsala, which is sort of the Little Tibet of India. Tucked away in the craggy mountains of Northern India, Dharamsala looks and feels like a cute little ski town minus the skiing but with all the tourists. (¨But Norah, Miss SoCal, you´ve never been skiing..¨ you say.) You´re right. But this is how I imagine a little ski town would look. Do you even call them ski towns..?

Anyway, it is fun here because I am staying with a Tibetan family! I live with a mom and her little boy at the very tip top of a hill of houses (that really is the only way to describe the way these houses are built into the hill..) and you get there by climbing many many twisty narrow steps. At the top is a little patio with an iron balustrade and a couple apartments. Our apartment is one room with two beds covered in rich persian carpets, which are covered with wool blankets at night and made into beds. There is a dinky kitchen and a dinky bathroom for all the residents, and we spent lots of time outside drinking tea. It is basically like camping in a really nice tent with walls!

So, the little boy is adorable BUT is an absolute holy terror and is fed a constant stream of sugar that keeps him energized beyond normal human capacity. It was hard to play with him the first day (lots of screaming), but yesterday was much better because we found games that he likes to play. Such as, Throw The Ping Pong Ball Down The Entire Flight of Stairs and When You Finally Get To The Bottom Kick It Into the Street So Norah Can´t Find It. Another favorite of Jembe´s (that´s his name) is to cover his eyes, at which point I say ¨Where´s Jembe? Where´s Jembe?¨ and then he uncovers his eyes and I say ¨There he is!¨ and I tickle him and he screams in delight. This is a good game because it forces him to be completely silent 50% of the time. On the upside, my grasp of Tibetan has expanded to include the vocabulary of a two year old. So now I can say ¨Come here,¨ ¨Candy,¨ and ¨NOW!!!!!¨

The mom is friends with a Tibetan man named Sonum (Jembe calls him ¨Sally¨) who married a Spanish woman named Elsa. They are so sweet! Elsa speaks terrific English and we had a lot of fun hanging out yesterday. She had a boyfriend, a nice job, a nice dog, and a nice house in Barcelona when one day she decided she wasn´t happy. So, she left everything, went to Dharamsala, met Sonum, and they got married! She is beautiful and looks just like a Spanish princess. She doesn´t understand much Tibetan or Hindi so we bonded last night watching reruns of Tibetan New Year celebrations (the New Year was yesterday). At one point Sonum and his friend Lhamo clapped after a song and said ¨That was so beautiful!¨ and Elsa said what was it about? And Sonum sighed and said, ¨Yak´s milk.¨ Of course Elsa and I erupted in laughter. Sonum and his friend had no idea why we thought this was hilarious. Who gets teary over yak´s milk? Only Tibetans, I guess! Maybe Mongolians, too..

So yesterday was Tibetan New Year but there were no celebrations in honor of the martyrs who died in the March uprisings against China. They hate the Chinese government here...they seem to acknowledge that Chinese people don´t know any better, is mostly just political. I took lots of pictures, but forgot to bring my camera to the wifi coffee shop so I will have to do that tomorrow. Looks like battery is dying so I better sign off...I will do pictures tomorrow, really!!!

Miss you all.

Friday, February 20, 2009


Namaste! In my defense, there were about 5 electricity blackouts a day at the place I was last week so it was not very practical for me to try to go online and risk frying my computer. That being said, I am in the doghouse for not writing more. (slaps own wrist.)

So, India! Well, let me tell you about where I was last week. Last week I was in a Tibetan Buddhist monastery in Mungod, India. The director of our program is married to a old Tibetan man ("Nima") whose friends live at this monastery, so they were super excited to see us. They were even more excited to see 68-year-old Nima, whose Tibetan is apparently much more comprehensible than his English ("now now it is time want to look at rocks" is a typical sentence). But he has become our mascot on this trip and it was fun to see him in his element, with other old Tibetan men who laugh and mumble the exact same way.

Not all the monks were older, however. One monk was about 29 and named Tommy, and he was a Taiwanese-American from--get this-- IRVINE, CA! So he basically sounded like all of my high school friends. He is the antithesis of what I thought a monk would be...young, funny, with So-Cal slang, and a cellphone that plays uncensored versions of top 40 hip hop songs. We got on really well, you can imagine. Basically his mom tricked him when he was a sophomore in high school into spending some time at a monastery, knowing that he would get sucked in and end up being a monk (in a nutshell--that is his explanation). But he really likes it and can't imagine doing anything, all's well that ends well!

The monastery was dusty and under construction, but very beautiful with dirt paths grazed by bouganvillas leading to different buildings. There was a family of cute dogs, the youngest of which would immediately roll onto her back when you approached and wait for a tummy rub. She was young enough to be teething, so she would like to chew on your finger while your other hand rubbed her tummy. She lived quite royally, as we all seemed to be in need of a puppy-petting.

The food was delicious and served by an impossibly skinny Indian man named Suresh, with big glasses and Charlie Chaplin hair. One night we even had spaghetti, which was absolutely DELICIOUS. Oh, I am excited to have American food again....

Sadly we had to leave and go on a four day trek of bus rides and mosque tours...which were beautiful, but when you've been on a bus for 6 hours it's hard to walk around and make sense of your surroundings regardless of where you are. So, luckily we have two days in Delhi to recover!!!

Delhi of course is a madhouse and you can't wait anywhere alone, but fortunately there are usually enough people around to go with you that this hasn't been a problem. We are all excited because we have homestays coming up in Dharamsala, with Tibetan families. Oh, Tibetans! They are so fun. I should have some good stories about that later.

I've been reading the Hobbit, and it is my first time. I love it! To think it took me this long to read it. Better late than never! Can't wait to start on LOTR afterwards.

I hope all is well! I apologize for the brevity, photos will come once I can find Wifi...har har!

Monday, January 12, 2009


Hello again, everybody! Forgive me for being AWOL this past month...what with indulging myself in Vietnamese cuisine, finishing a comparative politics course, and rewriting the lyrics to 12 Days of Christmas PacRim style for a holiday party (12 tons of mutton, 8 billion temples, yada yada yada), I've been a little distracted. But that is no excuse for not blogging! So I will try to update you on the past few weeks.

1. My vacation locale, allegedly "the most beautiful beach in the world," looked remarkably like Huntington Beach. i.e., there was a boardwalk, lots of sunburnt Americans, and you couldn't swim in the water because it was filthy. Buh dum bump. (Oh, and it rained the whole time. So that was more like Tacoma.) haha.. so those of you who thought I was relaxing on a sunny beachside resort, well, you can go ahead and keep that image in your head. It sounds nice.

2. Hey Dad, remember when you were an aging rock star for Halloween? Well, I met a real one! His name is Leroy. We walked past our hostel's bar and a cover band was playing, and we sat down just as they were taking their break. Suddenly, the lead singer walks over and says "Hey, is this seat taken?" and of course we are like nope! This guy had crazy blonde hair and a cowboy hat, with aviator sunglasses. But what really did it was the see-through mesh muscle shirt and leather pants. Apparently, he owns a Thai restaurant on Sunset Blvd. called ''Toi," which is in Thai but lots of French think it means "Us" and so his restaurant is popular with the French. And he has been married five times and kissed Mick Jagger. So he says. It was really great because we saw his band at a different venue the very next night, and when he saw us he ran over to our table and let us all yell GLORRRRIIA into the mic (the band was playing "Gloria¨). FUN!

3. I bought a hammock for $3. It seemed like a fantastic deal until I realized I had no place to hang it and you can´t really sleep wherever you want in third world countries, unless your money is in your sock, but you don´t wear socks because it´s so hot. Why didn´t I come to this conclusion earlier! I would use it as a mosquito net but the mosquitoes here are dangerously small and crafty.

4. I was recently informed that the two main side effects of my malaria pills are:
1. Extremely vivid dreams, and
2. Heightened anxiety.
At least now I have an excuse for being neurotic! Most of us are enjoying the vivid dreams part, though...several of us have already had Obama dreams in which he is saving the world (or interviewing students for a barista job, in one girl´s case). Overall we are quite an imaginative group.

So Cambodia!! Well, we are basically here to see the temples of ancient Angkor, a region in which the Khmer civilization flourished in the 9th-11th centuries (I think?). Looks like it´s straight out of jungle you can see from the pictures. There are also a lot of little kids running around trying to sell you trinkets all the time... i already have bracelets coming out the wazoo so I have taken to giving them granola bars instead of buying their goods. It´s pretty hard sometimes...seeing all the poverty. But there are lots of good programs in place to help kids like these get an education, so that makes me feel a bit better. Still tough though, whew!!

Yesterday this one girl kept following poor Jeff* around and really would not let him get out of buying a postcard.

(*Note: Jeff Pearson is the other Jeff. He has a slouchy swagger, a smoking habit, and a fondness for TinTin.)

This was the exchange:
Girl: Buy postcards!
Jeff: No thanks.
Girl: Why!
Jeff: I have no money.
Girl: Why!
Jeff: Because I don´t!
Girl: Why!
Jeff: Look, I just don´t have any, I´m sorry.
Girl: (suddenly) My name is Obama!
Jeff: Sorry, I still have no money.
Girl: No money, no money! You know why you have no girlfriend? Because you have no money!
Lisa: (interrupts) Who says he doesn´t have a girlfriend? This is his girlfriend. (pointing to me. This is a lie.)
Jeff: If I give my girlfriend a postcard, she´ll break up with me.
Me: Yeah. I hate postcards.

So yeah, I didn´t feel like giving her a granola bar. Although the Obama bit was a nice touch...

I know it sounds terrible but if you were pestered ALL THE TIME by these kids you would get a bit skeptical, too. Anyway, I´m sure she was making bank because she was working at the bottleneck entrance to Angkor Wat, which gets tons of tourists. Plus she was clean and had jewelry on. So, no granola bar. I save them for the tinier kids, anyway.

Augh! I was supposed to be researching for my essay and all I have done is blog. No harm! I guess I will put pictures up and call it a night...I promise to be better about updating. So, here are some temple pics! The boy in the hole, which we found on a hike, is Zen* (*Note: Zen talks like a cowboy, eats like a hyena, and giggles when he gets in trouble, which is often.)

Hm, pictures are having trouble. I will fix that tomorrow. Sorry for the delay! More soon!

Saturday, December 13, 2008


Vietnam is amazing. I ate this bowl of soup called pho (pronounced "fuh," which, as one can imagine, provides endless possibilities of puns in the English language), and it was so good I cried. I'm not kidding. It's a rich broth with cilantro and lime and a hint of chilies, with slippery noodles and juicy shaved pork. *tear* I think I'll go get some when I'm done with this entry.

Hanoi is busy, noisy, beachy, dirty, and happy. People have big eyes and beautiful smiles. Lots of motorcycles! Palm trees are everywhere, but there's a displaced sunlight all the time because of fog/pollution. It makes the atmosphere sort of hazy and sleepy. There are about 4 Vietnamese boys staring over my shoulder while their friends play computer games next to me in this Internet cafe. I've been here for awhile so I should probably wrap it up, even though this probably won't cost me more than about 30 cents. Pho is about 75 cents. This place is crazy. I'm going exploring.

More later!