Saturday, July 03, 2010


To the left is a picture of a group of young children enjoying the sunshine at the National Shrine of St. Thomas Basilica. Their happiness and joy help me get through the hard sites and experiences of India. Today on the streets there was a young woman, begging, holding her young baby. She asked each person individually through sign language to be given money or food. As each person said no, she waited...and waited...and waited. As I sat there with her standing near me, I wondered what am I doing here? What can I give without giving money? How can I express that I care and does ignoring and dismissing show her this? Is there another way of being and acting? Can I show her my heart even if it means going against the grain? How do I sit with and acknowledge all the feelings, all the pain and also all the joy that comes with the differences in our it even possible?


It's 3 AM on Saturday morning and I can't sleep. I woke up with my mind flooded with thoughts about my own culture and how I came to be me, sitting right here, in this exact chair, at this exact moment. Everyone else is sleeping, and I wish I was too because we have a long day ahead of us of sightseeing and walking in this dirty and polluted city. Chennai is only the fourth largest city in India, I can't even begin to imagine how dirty a city like Mumbai is.

We started giving our personal history presentations last night, and I am blown away at how complex, interesting and deeply personal culture is to every single person here. I feel blessed to be able to listen to each person's story of how they became who they are, sitting right there, in that exact chair, at that exact moment. I am thinking about how fluid culture is, and how it never sits still. It may look the same from day to day and have the same physical qualities as it did yesterday, but just like a mountain changes everyday simply because the wind and rain constantly picks up and moves rocks and particles of dirt and is never the same from moment to moment, culture is constantly evolving. We all are constantly evolving- even if we want to stay exactly the same, we can't.

It seems to me that there is no clear line that separates different cultures, and that culture is made up of the collective memories, experiences and rituals of all of our ancestors and all of us living today. As different as India and the U.S. seem on the surface, you can't deny the fact that India has been influenced by the U.S., and vice versa.

Lisa talked about privilege yesterday during our art making ritual, and what it means to be privileged. I am wondering what it means too, and how to make amends with my feelings of guilt associated with it, and whether or not I should even try to make amends with that feeling. Even guilt itself seems to be privileged. Kim had mentioned feeling uncomfortable about the three Indian men that live in our apartments who serve us, clean up after us, and cook for us, all while remaining as silent and as invisible as possible. In fact, one of them is most likely sleeping on the kitchen floor or counter right this moment. Why does he have to sleep on the hard kitchen floor in the humid heat, while I get to sleep in a comfortable bed. A simple answer might be because I happened to be born a U.S. citizen and he was not, but it goes beyond that and I am trying to sort it out. It would probably be easier and more comfortable not to think about it at all, but that seems impossible now.