I just got off the phone with my very favorite Britt and as usual, I felt instantly inspired to write (and make movies and make art and make fun, but I have this blog to write and so I am going to WRITE).
I have felt somewhat at a loss for the past couple of weeks since being back from India because, as I mentioned, I have been experiencing REVERSE culture shock. As in, you leave your country for a while and go experience another culture and then you come back home and you’re like:
And it’s hard not to go into a downward spiral that goes kind of like…
WTF is wrong with this country?
WHY did I come back?
CAN I just go back to India forever? Is that throwing away all of the opportunities I was given by being born in this country?
HOW SOON can I go back?
WHY do I feel this way?
Except that’s NOT TRUE, Emo-Dani, it’s just NOT TRUE. We live in a global age and bajillions of people have traveled and moved and immigrated and gone through this stuff over and over again and it’s just NOT TRUE!!
So let me rewind a little bit.
INDIA IS AWESOME. It is this incredibly diverse, chaotic, beautiful, crazy UNIVERSE of possibility where there is quite literally a billion different ways of living your life and being in the world. Total FOOD for my actor-brain, and the best kind of nourishment for my soul. For the first month, Tarah and I were traveling around India like the twentysomething backpacking bums that we are:
Dani and Tarah in full backpacker mode
We spent a couple of weeks doing yoga in Rishikesh when intense flash flooding hit the state of Uttarakhand, upriver of where we were staying. Seemingly overnight, the big, beautiful Momma Ganges River turned into a rageful and torrential stream of destruction.
Right as the floods started, our new Canadian friend Kelsy happened to leave for the mountains which would soon become incredibly dangerous, Tarah and I had AMAZING astrology readings with this spiritual guru lady named Amodini, and I got horrendously sick with the flu. We were completely safe in Rishikesh, but there was no electricity or internet anywhere for days, so bad news from upriver trickled in slowly–corpses of wild elephants, cars with bodies still trapped inside, remains of ancient temples… It all flowed by somewhere under the raging river a few hundred yards down the hill. And I was pretty much bedridden with a fever and no voice, the words of Amodini echoing in my head with talk of my birthright, my spiritual relationship with Jesus and Buddha, and god knows what else. It was a surreal time.
Tarah took these one day. See that big white building? The first floor is covered in water.
After a few days, Kelsy came back with some terrifying tales of spending three days and two nights on the road fleeing the floods, and while she was happy to be in the safety of Rishikesh, she needed to get the hell out of the mountains and out of sight of the Ganges, and so we decided to go south to Udaipur:
ISN’T IT FUCKING GORGEOUS??
Wait wait wait I’m getting ahead of myself again. So we decided to flee Rishikesh:
I swear we are not as freaked out as we look.
No really, I swear Kelsy is not ACTUALLY as upset as she looks in this picture. Or maybe she was. But I’m pretty sure we were just messing around. Anyway, here are some of the sights we saw as we left Rishikesh for Delhi, and they really help paint of picture of what I mean when I say India is a place of POSSIBILITY.
Donkeys moving bricks!
Oh sure, GIANT TRUCK you can pass that tourist van on the shoulder of this one lane road next to these stacks of bricks. Just make sure you don’t run over that unsupervised donkey that is in charge of moving all of those bricks.
Typical street scene
Check out that food stall. These food stalls pop up about every ten feet and feature a cooler (or cardboard box) with some cokes in it, and a giant wok. If you own a wok, you can own a restaurant. Can you imagine trying to do that in the US? Also check out the mish mash of Indian and “Western” clothes that people are wearing, and the ratio of men to women in this picture. Both are pretty typical.
On the side of the road…
“Hey guys I think we should start a custom cabinetry business.”
“Yeah man, I think we can set it up between those trees where the pigs hang out.”
Paharganj, New Delhi. Quintessentially chaotic
Amidst all this chaos, Tarah and I managed to stand out; Tarah with her pale skin and me with a mane of blond hair. We made a ton of friends, people openly shared their kindness and hospitality, and we occasionally had to avoid a hustler trying to make a buck off of the “rich white ladies.”
ERMAHGERD I’M RICH
But you know, who can blame them? As you can see, if you have ANY idea of a way to make a living or a way of living your life, then India is your oyster. Being there felt completely liberating. It didn’t matter what we wore or how we acted or what we did because we stood out whether we were quiet as mice or completely ridiculous. I know that we were excused from a lot of social expectations because we were foreign tourists, but I think that in general Indian culture is more accepting of differences; the Indian imagination is much bigger when it comes to humanity…when it comes to the things they think people are capable of.
Imagine going from that to Los Angeles: the judgiest place in the human universe.
Within my own culture, and especially as one of a million blond actors in LA, I am keenly aware of the fact that people I don’t even know (without even thinking about it or without even trying to) are constantly judging and classifying me depending on my weight, on my skin, on my eyebrows, on how expensive my clothes look, on the car I drive, blah blah blah. This Sunday I was at a coffeeshop in Silver Lake watching a parade of hipsters trying so hard to BE something or to NOT be something, and then later in the day I was at a jazz night in a fancy hotel watching a parade of supermodels and wannabe starlets also trying to BE SOMETHING and NOT be a failure or something…
I guess ultimately it’s the same thing…. The people struggling to survive in Delhi are the same people trying to find there place in the world in LA. It’s just difficult. It’s not easy for anyone–from the skinny eighteen-year-old model at the bar in the fancy hotel to the skinny twelve-year-old kid in India with more tattoos than my musician brother. In the end I guess it’s just about accepting that I am another gypsy soul trying to find my place and my purpose in the world. Trying to find meaning in it all.
An ACTUAL gypsy in Rajasthan
Man, people with Emo haircuts are really keeping this blog in check today. Thanks, dude.
So I got sidetracked and only really talked about 1/4 of my trip so far… Let me explain something real quick: For the first week that I was in LA, I was LOSING MY MIND. I felt like sleeping all day (as the nice British man explains) so for some reason I decided to combat this by doing a bunch of crazy shit during the daytime in order to stay awake, but then at nighttime I was wide awake so I just continued doing a bunch of crazy shit and not sleeping. So I have not been on top of my blogging game.
yeah… like that.
Anyway! To round out this edition of Dani-tries-to-figure-out-WTF-country-she’s-in, I’m going to call in the aid of another dude with an Emo haircut to tell you about jet lag. After two minutes he changes the subject, so feel free to go about your day after that.
….Yeah. India. Jet lag. Transitions. Emo-hair.