britt confronts cancer fears and has the best road trip EVER

My life is crazy. Seriously crazy. In the past week and a half, I confronted my fears about cancer, took a road trip from Twin Falls, Idaho to Los Angeles, California, and went to a theatre-nerd prom. Simply existing has been a thrilling yet frightening rollercoaster with all of the best payoffs (although I think I may be getting a little motion sick from it all).

But good news!

I think I can say with moderate certainty, dear friends, that I am out of the woods with all the major life-threatening drama. I swear that sometimes it feels like Portland is trying to dispel all of the toxic shit floating around me before I move to Los Angeles. Fine, I’m down with that, Portland. Let’s do it all now. As long as the pendulum swings the other way in time to bring me a pleasant and successful transition into my new life. Got it? Good. Thanks, Portland.

But yes! Good news! Before I tell you the bottom-line of this saga, let me take you on a journey of my past week or so.

In my last post, I tried to address in a somewhat tactful way that I was going through a bit of a cancer scare and was pretty freaked out about it. It was a tough thing for me to write about. The whole experience and “waiting game” that came with it made for the longest few weeks of my life.

Last Tuesday, I got a biopsy on a class 4a solid cyst was found in my left breast (as I have learned, fluid cyst= good news, solid cyst=reason for concern). My mom drove down from Tacoma to take me to the procedure. I could not have been more thankful to have here there. Thanks, Mom.

I felt pretty strong while we were in the waiting room, but when I put on the patient dress thing and walked into the room where the procedure would be done, I started shaking. I assumed the position on the cold, reclined chair where they have you lie down really still while they poke needles in you and vacuum out of your insides. This is when I started to cry. I cried on that chair in my pathetic apron, feeling stupid and helpless and scared, while my mom held my hand and told me I was being brave. I felt like I was 7 years old. I felt embarrassed and I’m not really sure why.

I got most of my tears out before the radiologist and technician came in, thank goodness. The experts walked me through the procedure (I realize I had no idea what a biopsy entailed exactly, and I’m glad I didn’t know until then) and I nodded calmly in response and they asked me if I had any questions.

“Can I watch the screen while you do it?”

I can’t remember if I actually asked that question or if it remained within the walls of my skull because my voice-box stopped working. But either way, they did shift the screen on the monitor in a way that I could watch the procedure if I wanted to. And I did.

I looked down my apron as they stuck a huge-ass needle in my boob, I watched as they removed the needle that numbed the area, I observed intently down my chest as they inserted a vacuum to extract a biological sample of the cyst. I also watched the monitor.

At this point, I was genuinely academically intrigued. It was pretty incredible. I saw the different instruments puncture through my skin and penetrate the gumball-sized lump in my chest. I watched them poke and prod, I watched the mass change shape slightly in the monitor as in pulsated and moved around, reacting to the foreign attack.

The most unsettling thing about the procedure, however, was the way the vacuum felt as it sucked out parts of my body. I can’t really describe it, it just felt unnatural and horrible. But luckily I had other things to focus on while they were doing that. Like coughing.

Among other things on my mind that day, I was getting over a pretty gnarly cold on the day of the biopsy. I was in the part of the cold process where I would have extreme coughing fits at any time and would need to chug a glass of water to get it to stop. While the procedure was underway, I was concentrating so damn hard on not coughing while the needle was in my chest–such a delicate fucking thing– that I kind of forgot about everything else that was happening. It took every ounce of my concentration, breath control, and will-power to keep that cough at bay while the doctor was at work.

I never warned anyone in the room of this (which, in hindsight, was a mistake), but I told my mom about it afterwards. I think she was half impressed and half alarmed. But whatever, I did it. I am awesome.

The second most unsettling thing about the whole experience was when the doctor told me that he diagnosed a 21-year-old of breast cancer a month ago. I don’t remember why he felt the need to tell me this. I think his point was something along the lines of: “you never know”, and “it’s good to catch things early”. But still. Thanks, Doc. Minor heart-attack happening, here.

But yeah… eye on the prize, people. Eye on the prize! I got through the biopsy just fine. And now I have a rad battle scar (until the bruising fades, at least) and it is a fucking badge of honor. Black and blue and green and yellow and bandaged. This, my friends, I call ZOMBIE BOOB. And I am proud!!

Good job, boob! You did it!!!

And best news, my friends?!

…I got the results from the biopsy back last Thursday… and I am CANCER-FREE!!!!

I heard this news in Twin Falls, Idaho, where I flew out to road trip with my dear friend Suzzane to Los Angeles (she is starting her grad program in social work at USC– you go girl!). The doctor called me when Suz and I were watching episodes of Parks and Recreation on the couch at her mom’s place. My phone rang and I froze and didn’t answer. I hid in the bathroom for a while and had a minor panic attack. Then Suz held my hand and encouraged me to check the voicemail. Bless her heart.

And it was the best news I have ever received. I am so grateful. So happy.

..And to top it all off, we woke up at the ass-crack of dawn the next day to road-trip to our new home (well, my new home in a few months)! 14 hours in a car, 10 pee-breaks, 2 alien-themed jerky tourist-trap stops, and epic fun. It was one of the best days ever. EVER. My little heart was pounding the happiest of beats in my chest every mile of the way.

What a journey. 

Let me take you on a journey. A journey of epic shit I did this WEEK!

My Week:

After the close of “Aloha Say the Pretty Girls” with Theatre Vertigo (my last show as a company member… sniff sniff, cry cry!) last week, I welcomed a much-needed “break” between projects of mine. Well…”break” is such a relative term. ‘Cause let’s be real. I never rest.

So! Last Monday was the annual Drammy Awards, which is the biggest cast party/awards ceremony/reason for theatre people to drink that Portland has to offer. It is the Tonys, Oscars, and nerd- prom all rolled into one. And this year, my amazing friend Nicole Gladwin MC’ed. She is the Baddest-Ass there ever was. And the best stage manager ever. And the best human ever. I love her.

So anyway. Each year the Drammy Committee books out the McMenamins Crystal Ballroom downtown and hundreds of theatre professionals get dressed up in their hottest suits and dresses to celebrate all things theatrical. Pretty rad, right?

This is what a sea of theatre people looks like.

This is what a sea of theatre people looks like.

No, THIS is what a sea of theatre people look like.

No, THIS is what a sea of theatre people look like.

I very was proud to sit at the Theatre Vertigo table this year with my company. Because we kiiiinda TOOK IT HOME. We won Best Sound Design (GO RICHARD MOORE!) for our winter show, The Velvet Sky (which I helped produce as Company Artistic Liaison to the director) and Best Actress in a Supporting Role for our fall show, Mother Courage and Her Children (GO BROOKE CALCAGNO**!). Company Member Kerry Ryan also received the other Best Actress in a Supporting Role award for her work in Post5 Theatre‘s “A Midsummer Night’s Dream (HELL YEAH!).

Brooke and I were joking that night about how our spring show, “Aloha Say the Pretty Girls” was a shoe-in for Best Production (the show was kind of a train-wreck), but HEY. Ya can’t win ’em all, right?

Oh, theatre. You slay me.

But anyway. For the most part, we were kind of a big deal that night.

**Also, for what it’s worth, I was wearing the now Drammy-Award-Winning Brooke Calcagno’s dress to the ceremony that night. So, obviously, that gave me hot and talented points.

See? Hot and talented points. And yes. I did get ready by myself in the dressing room of the theatre. I'm having some separation anxiety issues already, okay?!

See? Hot and talented points. And yes. I did get ready by myself in the dressing room of the theatre. I’m having some separation anxiety issues already, okay?!

In other news.

On Wednesday of last week, I had an audition for a theatre job I reeeally wanted to get at a company I reeeally admire, but alas. I dropped the ball on that one. That Wednesday I gave a vanilla, not-dailed-in, super-distracted audition. Sigh. It happens. I had to remind myself at least eight times to “let it go” as I walked back to my day job after the audition.

To be quite honest, I just couldn’t get my head in the game after the biopsy the day before. I was scared and shakey and was having trouble sitting up straight and moving my left arm without feeling pain or a weird weak sensation. But most of all, I was scared to death of finding out the biopsy results at any given minute.

But whatever. It’s about showing up and doing the work no matter what, and I showed up and did the work. It’s okay if it was not my best, I cannot always deliver my best. I am not a machine. I am HUMAN!

And, as you know, I found out the (terrific!) results that next day, on Thursday. So I was not in limbo for too long. 🙂

…Which is when I began my EPIC TRAVELING ADVENTURE with Miss Suzzane Cawthra to Los Angeles, from Portland, via Boise/Twin Falls Idaho (don’t try to understand it, just go with it). It was beautiful.

Suzventures

#suzventures

That Thursday through Monday was one of the most amazing stretch of days I’ve ever had. There was so much to be thankful for, to be happy about, and even more to look forward to. I feel like I have already received my prize.

You guys, I simply CANNOT WAIT to move down to LA. With each trip I make down there (and clearly, I cannot stay away) I feel more and more at home. During each trip, a couple more tiny pieces fall into place. And some of the most important people in my life, the ones that I have chosen to call family, are there. It feels right. I’m going with it.

I am wanting to talk more and more about this experience, but I will save it for next time. This post is already too long and even I’m starting to get bored reading it (Quick, Britt! Put in more GIFS!!).

Done.

But if there is one thing my life isn’t, though, it’s boring.

I am in a good place. I am so happy to be out of the woods after the BIG LIFE THREE (burnt-down house, hit-and-run on car, cancer scare). I am grateful to be back to the “normal life” stresses of trying to not-perform-shittily at auditions, paying-off massive credit card debt, double-booking myself and worrying about letting people down, breaking my own heart, and being deathly afraid of failure. No, that’s not melodrama people. That is my amazing life. Chock-full of challenges, ups-and-downs, and major successes and payoffs. I feel much stronger today than I did a month ago. And I have so many amazing forces in my life that have carried me through and leveled me up in life.

… Not the least of which were the three tubs of Salt and Straw ice cream (2 pear/blue cheese-my FAVE-, and one strawberry balsamic and pepper!) that found their way to me, like magic, after my biopsy.

Sigh. Amazing.

Sigh. Amazing.

And also, thank you, dear Dani, for your love from afar. Even though you are in India, I feel lucky to have little gems like these to get me through your two-month stateside absence (yup, you knew this was going to end up on our blog somehow… I LOVE YOU!):

(Ladies and gentlemen, that is my soul mate.  So BACK OFF.)

love from the lucky girl born on Friday the 13th,

~britt

dani’s adventures in yoga.

Dani is currently in India on an adventure.  This post was pre-written to entertain you while she’s gone and to pimp out all of the instructors who have shaped her yoga journey so far.   If you are looking for yoga recommendations in Portland, Oregon or Los Angeles, California, you’ve come to right place.  Scroll down and click on the links below. 

I did the calculation, and as of setting foot on the plane to India on May 31st, I had been practicing yoga for exactly 18 months. 

So let me just clarify that, despite the fact that I’m doing yoga in India, I am NOT an expert yogi.  Not even close.  I’m like…level 2.  So what the hell am I doing?

For the first year after I graduated from college  I got a desk job, I lived with awesome friends, I went to happy hour, and I just generally tried to enjoy being a twenty-something-year-old in the fabulous city of Portland.  The only problem was this fire burning inside me like a disease that prevented me from fully enjoying my awesome life.  I was floundering artistically, physically, and spiritually. 

So one cold and rainy Portland afternoon when I was doing my best to pretend to do my job kind of, I bought a Groupon for 30 days of unlimited yoga at Vancouver Bikram Yoga.  I had never done yoga before.  I didn’t know what the hell I was getting myself into.  It just seemed like a good idea and the thought of being in a 105 degree room for 90 minutes sounded amazing in December in Portland.  Maybe the heat would somehow satisfy my inner fire.  

I got to Bikram and I was mediocre at best.  I totally sucked at locking my knees, which they ask you to do like every ten seconds, and I was forced to stare at my lumpy, imperfect body for 90 minutes straight while trying not to pass out.  It brought back flashbacks to my mediocre athletics career, and getting heat stroke during a Middle School track meet after coming in last place in 1600 meters.  

But each day I felt progress in subtle ways as I felt myself getting stronger and more focused.  I took naturally to the breathing and meditation, and felt cleansed and unburdened in the heat of the yoga studio.  I swear I learned more about myself in that first ten days of Bikram than I’d learned in the last two years of college.  It was amazing to look into my own searching eyes and experience compassion for my self in all my flaws and assets, for all my incapabilities and strengths.  

So began an 18-month smorgasbord of yoga, as I tried out as many studios and yoga styles as I could get my paws on!

Let the yoga journey begin!**

**NOTE:  I can’t do any of the things in these pictures.  Except number 7.  I kick ass at number 7.

1.

the crack-monkey

Next I bought a three-month Groupon for YogaNW, so I could see what normal yoga was like without the strict parameters of Bikram.  YogaNW is great, and I would highly recommend it to anyone in Portland looking for a studio.  The instructors are  patient, kind, and great at adjusting your alignment.  At YogaNW, I began to see the wider world of what yoga can be.  From the spiritual focus that Sheila brings to the practice to the personalized vinyasa practice that Jennifer encourages to the deeply restorative practice that Aimee provides.  

2. 

the foot-hat

Then I went back to Sellwood Bikram Yoga for another month of good, hot fun.  This studio features some of the same instructors as Vancouver Bikram, but with the added benefit of Tom Leimert, a physician-turned-yogi whose knowledge of the body is so helpful.  Sellwood Bikram also has a more competitive atmosphere and more sexy men with six-packs.  I don’t know why, but I didn’t question it.  

3. 

the WHY, GOD, WHY?

Next in my yoga journey I met Julie Hunicutt while at a one-month acting workshop in Monterey, California, and because of her incredible expertise and communication, I re-learned some of the standard hatha yoga poses with better alignment.

4.

the pac-woman

She introduced me to Yogavidala in Los Angeles, and it was at Yogavidala that I found a spiritual home in Los Angeles.  Unfortunately, because of a major rent increase, this gem of a studio is shutting down at the end of June, but I met some amazing instructors here who I’ll continue to study with.  Some of the gems are Jennifer Netherby, who made yoga fun and helped me conquer the headstand, Nina Snow, who made my Dad feel welcome in class after a 20+ year hiatus from yoga, and Robyn Bennett, whose deeply spiritual classes always left me on cloud nine.  

5.

God’s teardrop

I try to quit you, Bikram but I just can’t.  I felt compelled to do another month of madness at Bikram Yoga Silverlake.  The Silverlake studio is super super crowded, the floor there is a little weird/uncomfortable, and I like some instructors there more than others… If you go to the super early classes,avoid stepping off your mat onto the hard floor, and choose your instructors wisely, you’ll be fine, but ultimately it’s not my favorite studio.  

6.  

CAPOEIRA!!

Brazilian Yoga and Pilates!  I’ve been studio hopping a little bit in the past few weeks, since I’m trying to find a new yoga home now that Yogavidala is closing.  This studio has a super laid back and hippie vibe, the classes are always super small and personalized, and they sometimes have classes in Capoeira, Samba, and Pilates, as well as host the occasional drum circle.  I went to a Samba class last week and it was an absolute blast.  The best part about this place is that it has the cheapest monthly rate I’ve ever seen–$69 a month!  The class schedule is pretty sparse, but if you tend to be free in the afternoons and/or evenings, you will be able to get your money’s worth.  Unfortunately, in my real life I am in school from the asscrack of dawn to the dead of night, so I probably won’t be going here. :/

7.

Urth Yoga.  This place has $5 “happy hour” classes 3 times a day during the week, and it’s within walking distance of my house.  Because I live in Silverlake and it’s cheap, that can mean only one thing: HIPSTER YOGA!!  

It kind of felt like what would happen if you were in a hipster singles bar and everyone decided to drop into downward dog.  It’s mostly anusara yoga. with is a spiritual/philosophical viewpoint more than anything, but for some reason it was super ass-kicking.  Definitely $5 well spent. 

8. 

INDIA!!!

Ummmmm…. Who the hell knows what this will hold.  I’m in Rishikesh, India right now.  When my friend Tarah invited me to come with her to India this summer I said,

“Hey, did you know that you can study yoga at yoga ashrams in Northern India and live there for very little money and extended periods of time?”  

And she said, “Hell. Yeah.”

So now we’re in Rishikesh–a couple of amateur yogis in India.  

…I’ll get back to you and let you know how it goes. 

🙂

Namaste!

D

britt is not a pathological liar

My house burned down. I’m going through a bit of a cancer scare. There was a hit and run on my car outside of my house a few days ago and I am now carless.

On paper–and in outloud-speech– I sound like a pathological liar. Or, the unluckiest person alive. But I assure you, I am neither.

Let me back up. Some major developments have occurred since we last caught up. For one thing, Dani is having the time of her life on a 2 month adventure in India, and if you haven’t caught up on her incredible experiences so far, you really should. I already miss her like crazy.

Dani sent me an email from Rishikesh the other day asking if I felt compelled to write a post about the scary things that are happening in my life. “Or,” she said, “You could just write a post about how much you love sharks or something.” (I love my D, she always knows how to talk to me.)

Mostly, I’ve been avoiding writing all together (which is always a good indicator that I am running away from something) and have been spending a lot of time sleeping and staring blankly at walls to avoid my fear and all the stress that comes with it. The most hopeful and empowered I have felt in the past couple weeks have been when I am writing music or when I’m on stage. Music and theatre have truly saved my sanity this past while. Which brings me to this–

The point of blog is to hold myself accountable to an unconventional career path as a creative professional, to keep me on track with what I want out of life, to get to know myself better, and to simply be… real. I have no interest in writing about fake shit. When Dani and I teamed up on this blog, we joined forces with the intention of creating a fun yet no-bullshit narrative that intimately follows each of our journeys as young actors and human beings.

And all of this scary stuff I am currently experiencing? This IS my journey. I can’t run away from it. It is mine. I can choose to embrace it and be empowered by it. And writing about what scares me gives me power. So in this post today, I am going to write to you all about what scares me.

Okay. So cancer talk. Here we go.

That shit is scary. How do I begin to describe this nonsense? It’s been overwhelming for me to even think about, so let me give you the bullet points. Because bullet points are manageable.

I found a lump. It is huge and came out of nowhere. I went to a couple of doctors. They were concerned. Got an ulatrasound. Ultrasound was labeled as a Class 4a cystic mass and was flagged it as suspicious. Meaning it needed immediate attention. Radiologist said there would be one of three possible outcomes. One, it’s a benign cyst that they are unfamiliar with and are not used to seeing, and that my body will eventually take care of it and that I am fine. Two, it’s some other kind of benign cyst that will continue to grow and be invasive to my body and I may want to get it surgically removed. Three, it is cancerous and I would need treatment immediately.

My heart stopped after hearing that last one. I have never been so scared. The third outcome is unlikely for someone of my age and health, but I need to be checked out to be sure. The next step is a biopsy. I had no health insurance. Biopsy would cost thousands of dollars and any treatment or follow-up that may come after that would cost much more. I applied for grants, independent health insurance, and various financial aid programs for days. I got accepted into a program called the BCCP (Breast and Cervical Cancer Plan) a couple of days ago, which will fund all of my costs and reimburse me for what I’ve already spent. This was a huge weight lifted off of my shoulders. However. The fact that I got accepted into a program called the “Breast and Cervical Cancer Plan”, when they seldom accept people under 40, frightens me more than I can really articulate.

BUT! The money thing was a huge roadblock to me getting the medical attention I need. So now I am one step closer to finding out that I am A-OK and healthy, or, less healthy than I thought and on the road to treatment and speedy recovery. I scheduled the biopsy for this Tuesday. I was told to expect results anywhere from 3 to 7 days post the procedure. Wow. Alright. I can do this. Let’s do this. Onward.

Okay, now… car. Car, car, CAR. One needs a car to move to and live in Los Angeles. A few nights ago, I had just driven home after performing in my show at Theatre Vertigo. I was talking on my phone in my parked car for 20 minutes outside the house before going in, as I have crappy reception inside the house. I finished my conversation and headed inside to open my mail and chat with my roommate Shane in the dining room. I hadn’t been inside for more than 5 minutes when Shane and I heard what sounded like someone slamming into trash cans with a car. We looked out the window just in time to see a white SUV speed away. And you know what? The drunk fucker smashed the front driver’s-side panel of my car in, thereby screwing up the alignment, knocking out an axel and making the thing unsafe to drive. I filed a police report, but there’s no way that douche is getting tracked down, we didn’t get outside fast enough to catch the license plate.

Ugh. So anyway. Rage-spiral aside–Had I talked on the phone a bit longer in my car before heading inside, I could have been in the vehicle when the collision happened and would have been hurt. With these three incidents in a row (house fire, health, car), you can understand why I am beginning to feel as though I am a character written into Final Destination 6 or something. I mean, COME ON.

So, no, folks… I am not a pathological liar. These events and their alarming proximity to each other are 100% real. And as for being the unluckiest kid in the neighborhood….? That couldn’t be farther from the truth. Read up on the house fire incident. If one little thing had gone differently, my brother and I could have been very hurt or killed. (LUCKY.) If I had been talking on my phone in my car the other night for just five minutes longer, I could have been very hurt. (LUCKY.) When I get the results back from this biopsy and I see how healthy I am, I will be the most grateful girl in the world. (LUCKY.) Or, if the results turn out to be scary, I will have caught it early and will be one step closer to a full recovery. (LUCKY.)

And boy, am I lucky to get to do the thing I love every day. The stuff I get to do for work? Pssh. The BEST. And this past week, despite all of the scary nonsense, was no exception. Check this stuff out.

My Week:

Last weekend I went to the Portland Premiere of Fantini Cinema‘s “Future Perfect“. This is the first feature film I have worked on to be released, and, as evidenced by these sick photos, I was pretty pumped about it:

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Fantini Cinema also discovered this past week that Future Perfect was selected to be shown in-flight on Hawaiian Airlines for 6 months. How cool is that?!

This week also brought about the closing of Theatre Vertigo‘s “Aloha Say the Pretty Girls“. This was my last show as a Vertigo company member before moving LA and was also the last performance by the company in the historic Theater!Theatre! space. So I got a little emotional. But! This week’s shows were a LOT of fun for me (especially on Monday’s industry night)…. once again, as evidenced by these photos:

My last day as Myrna. With one of my favorite props.

My last day as Myrna. With one of my favorite props.

Actor Brooke Calcagno and her striking resemblance to my mummy. Beautiful.

Actor Brooke Calcagno and her striking resemblance to my mummy. Beautiful.

Actors Zoe Rudman and Beth Thompson.

Actors Zoe Rudman and Beth Thompson.

Take 2.

Take 2.

Actor Tom Mousey looking sexy. With laser cats.

Actor Tom Mousey looking sexy. With laser cats.

Actor Tyler Ryan looking fabulous. Okay, so maybe I have a laser cat problem...

Actor Tyler Ryan looking fabulous. Okay, so maybe I have a laser cat problem…

I think that “Aloha” was one of the most challenging plays I have ever worked on. The script was confusing and frustrating as hell, the character I played was a walking enigma, and I struggled through the rehearsal process. When we went into production, however, I began to drop in and felt much more in my element. But, I cannot tell you how difficult it was to truly live the whole “the show must go on” thing in light of recent events. I had to bring myself to the theatre in full-action the day after my house burnt down. I had to find a way to be there when I was scrambling to find a car to use last-minute. I had to show up when I was scared about my health and afraid to talk to anyone about it. I’ve had crying fits and laughing fits in the green room. I danced it out to 80s pop and gangsta rap in the dressing room. I loved hard on my cast and grabbed their asses at any and every moment it seemed appropriate. Or inappropriate. I found myself on stage. I found my little enigmatic character, “Myrna”, on stage. Or rather, she found me.

On stage, things made more sense. Screw what’s happening in the rest of the world outside of those stage doors. All that I could control was on that stage, right where I left it. And what an incredible feeling that is. How lucky I am.

Although many of the reviews did not look favorably on our little play, I was honored to receive good reviews on my own personal performance despite my recent life hardships and my own insecurities about effectively translating my mysterious character onstage. Wow, what an indicator that I am exactly where I need to be, doing exactly what I need to be doing. Check out the reviews here (Portland Mercury) and here (Portland Monthly).

—–

I was joking with my mom that for a girl born on Friday the 13th, at age 26 (13+13) in the year 2013, I’m allowed to look a little unlucky. But let’s be real. We know that’s not true.

I’m a fucking force to be reckoned with.

And I just may be the luckiest girl on this planet.

infinite love to you my friends,

~britt

dani arrives after she’s arrived

It is near the end of day 3 in India, and I just arrived in India today. 

This is the first of many contradictions that comfortably coexist here.  

After an 18 hour layover in London, which we spent in East London with some friends of Tarah’s from undergrad, being exactly as hipster as we normally are in Los Angeles…

someone graffiti'ed this as like, a statement about themselves but like, we don't really care that much or whatever.

someone graffiti’ed this as like, a statement about themselves but like, we don’t really care that much or whatever.

We hopped on our flight to Delhi and arrived 12.5 hours in the future.  Whuuuhhhh???  India is 12.5 hours ahead of Los Angeles, so technically I’m in the future.  But as my Mom said in her last email to me, “But it is right now everywhere on earth!  Oh time!”

As I gazed out the window watching the familiar scene of generic-airport-landing-strip whizzing by, I felt like I was standing on a high dive staring down into a pool I’ve never jumped into.  But after two days of hotel living at The Shanti Home, I feel like I have slowly stepped into a hot tub, an inch at a time.  

Tarah and I decided to ease into India a little bit by treating ourselves to a hotel for the first couple of days.  We got a package through the hotel where on the first day, they drove us around Delhi seeing sites like Humayun’s tomb…

And the Qutub Minar…

Thank you, Vanna!

Thank you, Vanna!

which is the tallest Minaret in India, and is located at the oldest extant mosque in India, which was built in 1198.  We just don’t have stuff that old in America!  Besides, you know, mountains…

photo (4)

How did they get the bricks so flat on top??

There is a palpable power in the stones here, and the old ruins combined with the amazingly beautiful buildings…

check out that engraving!

check out that engraving!

…made this my favorite stop of the day.  

Tarah passed out for a while…

tarah

this is what jet lag looks like.

then I woke her up for our 4 course romantic candlelit dinner, part of the hotel package.  The only other people eating at the hotel restaurant just happened to be from PORTLAND, OREGON!!!  They were professors at Lewis and Clark University, and they were in India for an environmental law thingy-ma-jig.  Maybe because they were liberal-minded Portland ladies, maybe because Tarah and I are adorable together, they thought we were actually on a romantic India trip together.  Precious.  

Speaking of romance, today we got up at the asscrack of dawn to drive 4 hours South to see the Taj Mahal.  The Taj Mahal is a huge mausoleum built by the Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan in memorial of his favorite wife, Mumtaz Mahal.  That’s right, I said favorite.  Imagine how the other wives felt.  The Taj Mahal took 22  years and 20,000 people to complete, and it’s you know, kind of okay I guess.  

…I’m KIDDING people, it’s one of the seven wonders of the world!  It was badass!  I would post pictures, but I’m finishing this post from a sketchy internet cafe thing and it’s not really possible.  But to give you a mental picture, I’m positive that the animators who did Disney’s Aladdin had it in mind when they were drawing Jasmin’s palace, and I totally pretended I was Jasmin chillin’ in the palace with Raja and wishing I could just be a normal person instead of a badass princess.  

Actually, though, the Taj Mahal was kind of a sad experience.  Tarah and I both felt a little overwhelmed at the magnitude of this man’s mourning.  It felt like being inside a big empty heart.  It was reverentially beautiful but it was cold and hard and empty.  I was happy to leave. 

The most amazing thing about today was simply seeing Agra, though.  It was so busy with life, and it felt like I was really seeing India for the first time.  There is no barriers between livestock, construction sites, food preparation, bathing, nap-taking, selling stuff.  There is no distinct difference between roads and sidewalks.  There is especially no rules about transportation.  If you have anything that will move something from point A to point B–a bicycle, a rickshaw, a car, a back-hoe, an ox, a donkey, a horse, anything with wheels–And if you have something to move–propane tanks, watermelons, people, rocks, insulation, cardboard–And if you have the will to make it work, it is fair game.  While I was asleep in the car, Tarah saw a family of five on a motorcycle.  

The coolest thing to me is that people seem to have as many strategies for making a living and living a life as there are people in India.  I know there are plenty of rules and traditions in India that are very conservative, and that women especially have less social freedom, but there seems to be a much broader definition of what “life” is.  Americans can have a very narrow view of the “right” way of living that Indians seem to be freer from.  There’s a greater willingness to improvise and live creatively, to say the least. 

But my God is it fast-paced.  We just arrived in Rishikesh and it is such a relief after the hustle and bustle of Delhi and Agra.  It is still teeming with life (the human to cow ratio in town is about 10:1) and full of shops, food, ashram, ascetics, children, bikes, motorcycles, and COWS but it is much smaller and sweeter.  We are on our way to the Anand Prakash Ashram, and we’re not sure how long we’ll stay there.  Maybe two weeks, maybe two days, maybe a month?  Anyway, I’ve pre-written a little somethin’ somethin’ for next week, and next time you hear from me I will be reporting on my experience at the ashram.  

I love it here.  I may never come back.  😉

Namaste

Dani