Friday, July 26, 2013

Family Vacations

So tomorrow we will be going to Yellowstone with our parents, accompanied by my host sister from the Netherlands.

I'm excited, mostly because it's been some time since we've done a bigger trip as a family. I really enjoy the company of my parents, and going to places of natural beauty tends to be awesome no matter what. 
For background: my host sister is from the Netherlands. I stayed with her and her family for a year back in 2006, when I was 15-16. She was around nine at the time--now, she's sixteen, and I'm twenty-two. To be honest, she hasn't changed that much. It's always interesting to see how people mold with time--how they change, and what stays the same. It's much easier to see what's natural to personality and temperament that way. 

It'll be an interesting trip with her addition. The drive is going to be much longer than she is used to, and I'm not sure how much experience she has with vacationing for nature rather than cities. She says she's never camped and has no desire to--we won't be camping, but that might not be a great sign. Furthermore, she is more extroverted and sensory-oriented than my family tends to be--she likes to touch and talk and be stimulated from her senses, whereas we tend to be more subdued and introspective in the way we appreciate things. 
It could go either way. In any case, the balance and routine of our family is going to be necessarily interrupted. 

I also have a lot of stuff that I'm "abandoning" for the vacation. There's a few projects I won't be able to finish, and a few responsibilities that I have to pass along. That's a source of anxiety, though I imagine it'll be easy for me to let that go when I'm gone. It's just that I don't feel like I've done as much as I would like, which is...troublesome. 

So, two weeks. We'll see how it goes. 

Friday, July 5, 2013

The last year condensed into a single post

So, it has been two months short of a year since the last sets of posts I made. 
As I mentioned in my previous post, part of that is because I moved a good deal of my blogging to tumblr, which is more social and better for short, time-efficient quips. 

The time-efficiency portion of that is a big factor because over the past year, I've had some rather challenging schedules. 
My fall schedule looked like this:

And my spring looked like this:
(with the added bonus of an extremely heavy homework load--as in, expected 10-20 hours a week--in at least two of those classes)

So I have not had a lot of time for recreation or long drabbles about thoughts, which is kind of a shame given many of those classes were interesting and engaging. The Psychology of Prejudice and Discrimination and Topics in Science (for Honors) were especially thought-provoking. It's sort of disappointing that I wasn't able to write more about them while I was in the class. 

Other than that, my time was spent on Homestuck and art, SRC, our Phi Kappa Phi chapter, and basically an endless stream of activity and interests. 

A few things stand out:
  • We continued to work on the house. It is still not completely done--there is more basement bullshit to be done yet. When it is done, I'll do the final posts on the basement renovations and stuff like that, or maybe just do a masterpost of the finished products.
  • We went to Boston and New York on Spring Break--I have a bunch of photos from that on my phone, but I haven't uploaded them anywhere. Maybe I will be motivated to do so later in order to document that trip here. I really do like documenting life events--it's just a little difficult to do sometimes. 
  • This summer, I took a few classes as well--Ceramics and Abnormal Psychology, which I LOVED. If it weren't for the outrageous number of life goals I have already, I'd really consider going into clinical or counseling psychology. Maybe I will anyways. Who knows. 
Other than that, it was just work work work work work work and Homestuck

Friday, June 21, 2013

Arising from the Ashes

Like a majestic phoenix

Anyway, I'm hoping to revive this blog somewhat soon, with a few modifications as to its purpose. I've been using tumblr for most of my social blogging needs, and it has served as a better platform for that, as well as for casual and fan art. I find that blogspot is better for serious posting, though, and it's a lot more personal--more like a journal or, you know, an actual blog.

So I would like to re-purpose this for more substantial thoughts and opinions, as well as more in-depth recording of life and whatnot. The hope is that it might remain mostly uncluttered in comparison to tumblr (or facebook or any other platform involving interacting with masses of people).

That probably means continued infrequent or irregular posting, but who really cares. I don't, and I think I'm the only person who looks at this page, so whatever. 

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Life in art

I've been uploading most of my art to dA and tumblr, but I figured I would go ahead a post a collection here anyway. Here's a small taste:

Animation 1 final--model/lighting/texture

Commission detail

Once I unearth it, I'll also post a link to the finished game from the seminar last semester. 

My schedule this semester is going to kick my ass, but hopefully in a more positive than negative way. I should have a lot of art to show for it though...

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Aging, or Post-Travel Time Crises

One of the things about travel, the type that involves extended periods in any one place, is that I've noticed how it makes me reflect on time--or, more specifically, the fleeting nature of it. When you only have so long in one place to get to know and understand it, and then as soon as it comes it's gone, you can't help but feel a little dazed when you look back. 

I guess there's been several things more or less prompting me to be a little more sensitive to the subject lately: returning from India, packing up my stuff to move yet again, looking back on old notebooks and drawings, and (I'm a bit embarrassed to admit) reading some well-written and rather deep fanfiction. It's been a minor onslaught of things that has made me face the temporal nature of aging in a way I haven't in a while. Freaking out about it used to be kind of a hobby of mine, but I had almost come to terms with it. 

But still, the question remains: when do we stop being kids? Everyone makes it sound like one day you'll just be grown up, or you'll just sort of be an adult, but that's never how it really is, is it? It's more like you a rocky forward stumble, meeting new people and having experiences and jumping from one birthday to another without really realizing things are changing, and then all of a sudden you look back, and you're not sixteen anymore, and those five years went by without ever really being there in the first place--a split second of time that should have been something significant. When I was younger, throughout middle school and some of high school, I remember struggling with that--with how fast I was growing up and with the basic concept of permanence, with how once a moment passed you could never get it again...but they're always passing. I would spend weeks at a time feel like I was just slipping, and I couldn't quite place who I was at any given moment, and I was afraid of what I knew I would one day have to leave behind. 

I mostly came to terms with that, I suppose, but part of me suspects I just became too busy and involved to waste energy on that anymore. Another part of me, though, always kind of whispers in the back of my head: what are you doing with your time? Because, you know, you don't exactly have an infinite amount. 

I guess one of the reasons I struggle with it now is that I didn't really feel quite like a kid when I was one--I was told I was more mature than others, and I felt that way too. I was more self-reflective (which stemmed from the fact that I had--have--this horrible dissonance between my mind self and my real self, I think). Now that I'm older, I'm a little surprised because I don't feel quite like an adult now either, compared to my perceived consensus on what an adult should feel like, I guess. I'm an animation major--I watch cartoons and play videogames and am allowed, even encouraged, to cultivate a wonder and passion for something fundamentally more amazing than our own world. I take my responsibilities seriously and try to be mature and steadfast in all things, but I don't feel "tainted" by real world problems, either. 
I almost feel like fundamentally, at my core, I was never really one or the other. Like somehow there's this weird duality where even as I grow, I am not really defined by my age or my youth, that I am both a child and an adult and always will be. I forget how old I am sometimes, completely blank, and when I realize that I'm still getting older, it's strange and kind of disconcerting because I don't really feel any different at all. Just sort of busier, or involved in different things and people, and, most notably, lacking some of the moments that have became distant memories, scents or sounds or motions that once frequented my senses. You hear a song and then suddenly you're fourteen, and all the years in between flashed by in a second, like you were going nice and slow and then you were suddenly running at warp speed, and you're dropping little pieces of yourself but can only look back and realize you'll never get the chance to pick them up again, and you're not really sure if that's ever going to change. Will this still move me to tears when I'm 50? Will I ever really be "grown up?" 

It's not that easy, I guess. I wonder how many other people struggle with this. It's not easy to verbalize, so maybe it's just something that no one talks about (which, frankly, tends to be most things anyway). Anyway, now that I got that off my chest, maybe I won't wake up at 6 in the morning thinking about it, at least for a while. 
Also, I'll get a post-India blog post up sometime. I've been a little swamped with the house and pre-school garbage. But, that's life, I guess. 

Monday, July 16, 2012

Hippie Bootcamp

This past weekend I went to Hampi. 

Hampi is a small-ish ruin town a bit south-west from Hyderabad.

For a little bit of background, Hampi was the seat of the Vijayanagara Empire for quite some time between 1300-1500, before it was abandoned when it was conquered by the Deccan Sultanates. You can read more about the history nuances here:

The big thing that we need to know for our purposes is that Hampi has a ton of old temples lying around. It also had lots of monkeys and motorbikes you could rent. 

So, basically, it's awesome. 

It was just my roommate, Lydia, and I. We took a night bus on Thursday night and rolled into Hospet station around 6am. Neither of us slept well (or at all, for that matter). We quickly grabbed an autorikshaw, and off to Hampi we were.
We were told from one of our elder fellow Tagore-ians that there were some nice hostels on the opposite of the river, so we decided to head that way and seek a good deal. There is no bridge to the other side of the river--only a boat, and fare is about 15 rupees, which is about $.30.

When we get over to the other side, an Indian guy offers to show us his guest house, which has hammocks and costs about 200 rupees a night. It's very usual to have Indian people waiting to persuade you to buy this-or-that, so Lydia and I tell him we'll look around a bit before we decide. It is still early, after all. 
As we're walking away, another guy catches up to us and talks for a bit. We tell him that we're only staying the weekend, and that we're students, so we're looking to stay somewhere for as cheap as possible. 

So, he offers to let us stay in his guest house's restaurant for free, as long as we eat there. 
And we agreed. We figured if it got too weird or had some sort of catch, we could leave. 

There was no catch, though. Everyone there was very nice; all the staff appeared to be young men under the age of twenty-five, and since it was off-season, they really didn't do much. They were friendly, although sometimes a bit flirtatious, and we ended up spending a lot of time playing cards with them over the course of the weekend. A lot of foreigners came in and out, and we met a lot of cool people. 

Also, I should stress again that India tends to have frequent black-outs. Here was no exception--in fact, most of the days were spent with little power. And, because it was the country, little power also meant little water. More on that later.

It was around 9 once we got settled and ate some breakfast. Then, we left to go find ourselves some motorbikes. 
It was pretty easy. We were on our way.

We spent the rest of the morning getting lost in the surrounding areas. It was glorious. Lydia and I had conversations a-plenty while buzzing around on the little bike. We were searching, mostly half-heartedly, for some of the temples on this side of the river. Eventually, we located the monkey temple, which we had passed several times.

The monkey temple was basically on top of a mountain, and there were 600-some steep steps leading to it. 
I noticed that it was hot, and humid, and a higher altitude, and that I hadn't slept on the bus. It was strenuous. 

Everywhere along the path was written राम "Ram" -- reincarnation of Vishnu and hero of the epic of the Ramayana. The significance here was not necessarily Ram himself, but his relation with हनुमान  "Hanuman" -- the monkey god, to whom the temple was dedicated. Hanuman is an example of perfect loyalty to a lord or god, demonstrated also in the Ramayana and his complete devotion to Lord Rama. The temple at the top of the mountain was theorized by some to be his birthplace.

We pieced this together once we got to the top and noticed that there really weren't that many monkeys. There was, however, this sign:

So, that was fun. We went back down to the bike and drove off into the distance once again. And by distance, I mean we returned to the White Elephant because we were hungry and dehydrated. Lunch was delicious. 

After that, we napped briefly, then drove around in a monsoon for a bit. We stopped by a river crossing and watched some cows swim across--we watched cows and water buffalo do lots of things like that. They kind of just do whatever they want. Then, we noticed a sign for some temples pointing into a vacant lot, so we drove into it, and some guy was pointing us where to go, but then there were rocks and we were confused and wet. It was funny. 

We were really wet by the time we got back. The staff yelled at us to change into something dry in room 3--we later convinced them to let us sleep there instead of in the kitchen. We put some mats on the wooden bedframes, and we used things like a skirt and a towel for blankets. There was something of a bathroom, although there was no running water. 
We mostly used the squatty potty. Squatty potties are nice for peeing in--more sanitary. But they can also be quite terrifying when you have to do more than pee.

When in Rome. 

We chilled in the dining room on the floor mats, played cards, and drank rum. The Indians were not very good at taking shots. 

The next day, we crossed back over to the other side where the majority of the temples were. My camera died fairly early, and there was no power to charge it--oh well. Lydia got a lot of good pictures, and I hope she'll let me grab a copy later. 
The big temple was not open yet, so we decided to head to another group of temples. There was a really cool sort of temple campus, and the path continued up a nearby mountain to another mountaintop temple. The path was a lot less maintained, and it was also strenuous. There was a lot of joking, complaining, and hypothetical what-if-I-gave-a-speech-about-the-fleetingness-of-life-then-vaulted-off-the-cliff-face-and-had-you-take-a-picture-of-me-in-mid-freefall-as-a-celebration-for-the-most-awesome-way-to-die (and later would including vaulting from the cliff into a whirlpool). 

The temple at the top was completely abandoned. The rains were moving in the distance, although it didn't hit us that day. It was beautiful. 

We climbed back down and got some coconuts and more water. By this time, the main temple was open.

We hid our shoes because we couldn't for the life of us find the rack, then headed in. A man told us we had to pay 15 rupees for photos, so Lydia didn't take any (my camera was dead already). He then offered to give us a tour (we told him we didn't have any money, but he gave us one anyway...then expected a donation later, which we didn't give). We learned it was a Shiva temple with lots of cool religious (and some erotic) art, as well as an elephant (I touched her trunk) and a cool ancient photo-technology hole in a wall that cast the inverted image of the taller tower onto the opposite wall. 

After that, we headed back over to the guest house. We had dinner, played more cards, talked to other travelers, and played a dice-based drinking game with a very drunk German man. 

The last morning, we took it fairly easy. We ate, then left to the other side again--we walked around for a bit, watched some monkeys, and then sat on a hillside watching the rain roll over the far mountains for a good while. Some lassi and tea later, and it was time to head back (this time on a little local boat that was kind of like a large bowl). We ate a quick dinner and checked out. It cost about 800 rupees at the end, which was just food--that's about 15 dollars. Then, headed back to Hospet to catch our train.

We didn't really want to go back to Hyderabad--Hampi is lovely. It's peaceful and gorgeous. 
But we had not showered for four days. I had only washed my face once. 
After climbing up and down mountains and being in monsoons and trekking through heat and humidity, a shower sounded nice. 

Got back to Tagore at 7 o'clock Monday morning, and we slept on the bus this time--which is good, because we had class at 9:45. 
Worth it.

Some additional photos:


Tuesday, July 3, 2012


Having been here for several weeks now, I feel like I'm beginning to know and understand the city a bit better. I wish I had more time, but I'm trying to work with what I have the best I can manage.

Hyderabad was founded under Mogul rule, so a significant portion of the population is Muslim, but Hindus still make up the majority. The culture has a mix of both, and the food also reflects this. Like I mentioned in my last post, the way of life here is incredibly different--I doubt I will be nearly as pestered by bugs or dirt when I return to the states. 
We've learned in class that poverty rates easily reach or transcend 40% in cities, and you can clearly see it. There are a lot of shanties, a lot of beggars, and the dollar goes a long way. It's interesting to see that in action, though--with that many people below poverty levels, it becomes something of a norm. People make due and adjust their lifestyle around it. That doesn't necessarily make it better, but it markedly effects the culture.
Among the most important differences in Indian culture is the importance of family and the treatment of groups of individuals. Although the government of India has outlawed caste, there are still signs of its presences--which makes perfect sense, of course. You cannot eradicate a system that determined people's economic standing according to birth in two generations, any more than we've cured American "ghettos" by "outlawing" racism. Allowing economic mobility doesn't necessarily ensnare the means to do so.
But, I digress. There are remnants of caste, as well as remnants of sexism...well, more than remnants. It's an interesting dichotomy, since women and female sexuality seems to be more "revered," but the efforts to preserve it also alienate it. For example, when entering buildings, people are often searched. For almost all of these places, men are searched in the open, but women are searched only by other women and behind screens. Women dress modestly and beautifully, and in some ways the taboo created from this causes unwanted and often rather rude attention from men when the expectation of modesty is not adhered to.
Personally, I don't have many problems in that arena because I only brought a few clothes, so I had to buy Indian ones anyway. But it has come as kind of a shock for many of the international girls.

Even so, I like it here. There are a lot of things that cause discomfort, but discomfort is not an evil. It's a part of life. I like chances to embrace it; once you fall from the cocoon of the idea that life should be easy and fair and accessible, you begin to discover what is worth revering. Things seem more real.

Anyways, Hyderabad is interesting. Maggie, a girl in our dorm (Tagore) who has been here for around 6 months now, several of which were spent traveling India and Nepal, talks about in what ways Hyderabad is different from other cities, and how other cities are different from each other.
India's big. 
India's diverse.
India's exciting. 

I'm hoping to travel this weekend. We're going to a temple on an overnight train. I'm excited! Hopefully I'll gather some riveting stories to tell. 

Also, Hindi: मैं दयान हूँ । मैं कलाकार हूँ ।
 It's a start.

And, finally, pictures: