Yesterday I walked to the Berkeley Farmer’s Market with M&K and the kids.
I’ve been to street markets in the States, lots of times before. I’ve been to this particular market in Berkeley before. But I was astounded by just about everything this time. My many months away and many market experiences in Asia could not be more different from a sensory perspective.
Take for example the two images below. The first is from the (several hundred years) old vegetable market in the city of Madurai. The second is from Berkeley. On the left, I distinctly remember the following features: chaos, shouting, animals milling about, dirt garbage and dung everywhere, a crazy stink, a cool sense of scale, an ad hoc approach to everything. On the right: sterile environment, neatly aligned vendors, lots of perfectly safe to eat samples of cut fruit, an incredible sense of calm and quiet. It all seemed so strange.
This cold has me unable to sleep. I’m all stuffed up and coughing.
So since I am awake, I decided to play around with the look of the blog. There will be several changes over the next few days as I tweak things, try to modernize and in general have a better organized blog. What do you think so far?
The header pic is a detail from a photo I took at a market in Beijing a few months ago by the way.
It was probably inevitable really. But I just caught a nasty cold/flu and I am sitting here stuffed up, drippy nose, itchy eyes and just achy all over. I guess I need to readjust to the American germs. Oh well, it comes, it goes. Anicca, annica.
Perhaps it is the jet lag, and trying to get readjusted to a time zone some 12.5 hours earlier than India. So many “familiar” things seem so not familiar. The incredible width of the sidewalks. The orderly traffic. The salads! The chatter on the street that I understand without trying, like I am some newly minted mind reader. (Then again, the subject matter of the chatter seems odd and is mostly about buying something shiny or making plans to meet someone or being hurt that a partner has cheated on them.) Seeing my friends, so much the same, a little older and a little different. I worry that I sound like some inane Pollyanna discovering the joy of dewdrops on roses or some other sickly sweet BS. Then again, just about everything DOES make me smile with wonder. It is all so strange and wonderful. I am surprised that almost nothing smells of anything. I am surprised that people keep saying how hot it is when it is only 26 (79F) degrees. Everything has an almost eerie quiet here, especially with no car horns honking all the time. And it is so dry here. I never used to think of SF as dry. I took BART yesterday into the city from Berkeley during rush hour. I remember thinking how crowded it used to be, but yesterday it seemed cavernous, with plenty of space. I find it incredible to walk around, just walk around and not be stared at or have random “Yes, my friend!” or “You come!” shouted in my direction. I feel both less special for the lack of a certain kind of attention and more so for my newfound superpower of invisibility.
For now, anyway. The flight really wasn’t so bad at all, I managed to sleep a good deal of it. I would totally take Korean Air again. The food was decent and the service great. And the seats surprisingly comfortable for economy. I was joyfully greeted at the airport by Keith and Marites, then whisked off to an amazing lunch at that San Francisco perennial favorite of restaurants, Zuni. It is pretty amazing to have fresh salad again! I was fairly jet lagged through most of the day yesterday, but am feeling mostly back on track this morning. I am excited by all the possibilities in rediscovering San Francisco.
When else am I going to get to claim that I blogged from South Korea? I am at the airport in Seoul, having completed leg one of my trip. It wasn’t that bad. My next flight leaves in 1 hour. Wow, this is boring stuff. I think I need some more sleep.
Here I sit in the internet cafe at the Mumbai (AKA Chhatrapati Shivaji) International Airport. It is one in the morning and my flight doesn’t leave until 3:30. At least check-in was rather painless. I am not looking forward to the next 23 hours of travel, and I hope to drug myself to sleep for a good portion of it.
So this is it. I am leaving on a flight late tonight. Tomorrow I will be in San Francisco, in another world. If I say “Thank you, India”, do I sound too much like Alanis Morissette? What the hell.
See you on the other side.
As I was going through what few possessions I have here and trying to determine what to take back with me and what to throw or give away, I came across this little item, a gift from my mother before I left the States:
Her point, while humorous, had some validity to it. (Never mind that most of the toilets here are of the squat variety and thus have no seat.) A year ago and more, I was a clean freak of some renown among my friends and family. Am I less so today after a year in Asia and contact with toilets such as these? Like the minimalism and simplicity I try to cultivate in all areas of my life, I enjoy a minimal amount of dirt, that much is true. But I don’t freak out if such is not the case. I note the reality, hold my breath, and concentrate on the task at hand. And sometimes, I take a picture.
I still keep all the lessons of the past year in my head. Especially those about living in the present, not the future or the past. But with my impending departure from India and return to the US, I am finding it extremely difficult.
On the one hand, I am revisiting the events of the past year and spending time where possible with the people I have met. I am frantically trying to tie up any loose ends here in India. But there aren’t any loose ends, really. Just the ones in my head. The memories and the good feelings. The passing through the fears and emerging more comfortable. The heat, the garbage, the noise, the dung. The constant movement. The breathtaking beauty. The unbelievable hospitality. The amazing people. This swirls around in my head and commits a part of my consciousness to the past.
And on the other hand, I am almost giddy with excitement about returning to the US. I can’t wait to see my friends and family. I look forward to being cold and putting on a sweater. I want fresh salad. I wonder what the quiet will be like. I relish the idea of not packing up my bags every 2 days to move on to somewhere else. I have great anticipation about experiencing what I know in a fresh way, stepping always (as we are) into a new river.
And my present? Not much is left except sleeping, eating, meeting friends, talking about the past and future, and writing the post you are now reading.