Tag Archives: Darmashala

India – Going Septic

During the entire program it was ironic that Jessica, one of the (supposed) leaders was the one to get really sick. So sick, in fact, that she ended up in the hospital for three days after spending one of the only nights she actually stayed in our room shitting and puking her brains out. It happened at the beginning of the first program, too, which gave me a chance to bond with the kids by default. Something I later on had a sneaking suspicion to be a big part of what turned her into the devil. Still, I’ve always felt bad thinking about how traumatizing the experience in the hospital was for her. Being poked and prodded in so many ways while in intense pain, worried about unsanitary needles making her even more sick, being kept in for money against her wishes… Chris (as usual) took advantage of his position by making excuses as to why I couldn’t go check on her while he did time after with a level of concern noticeably above the norm; especially for him.
Cue my continuing to deny how obvious the favoritism and fact that they were hooking up was. Partly because I celebrated connection, which made me want it to be OK, and partly because I hadn’t figured out anything I could do about it. At least not yet.
In addition to the situation with Jessica, Chris continued to take advantage of his position in multiple ways. One of which was constantly making excuses to leave to meet with Raja for what I saw signs to be a boy’s club of sort that consisted of drinking beers and hatching some kind of competing program that I’m still not fully aware of but have a sneaking suspicion was a direct betrayal to EEK! Besides how he treated me, it was just so crazy how much he took advantage of the company’s trust and resources. I still get pissed on their behalf.

While the times the two of them were around was just about always some kind of horrible, I had plenty of time alone with the kids and my local guys to bond and run the show the way I wanted to. My way appeared to resonate, thank god, and they all seemed to enjoy it. I tried for way too long to find a way to work as a team with Chris and Jessica before finally raising the white flag when constantly trying to back them up, even against my best judgment, and still didn’t get anywhere. Eventually I got the message that I would never be able to do right in their eyes and learned to stay in the shadows as much as I could when they were around.
Back to the good. My favorite experience of the year was when we had a mentor group called Story of Self that Chris had suggested as a success from the year before. The focus was for every kid to tell the story of a challenge currently being faced and one that had been overcome. One of our amazing girls set the foundation by going in raw and exposing the vulnerabilities of her pain by talking about having to take care of her mom with MS. Opening that door for the rest, the room instantly filled with tears and continued on as the kids talked about being torn between cultures (Jewish in a Christian school, one parent French and the other American, etc.), diseases they’d survived, scars and some of the things in their lives that filled my heart with even more love for them as I fought like hell to keep my composure. They were so desperate to be heard and helped, each one looking directly into my eyes as they told their stories. Standing there, I thought about how much of a foundational age they were at and how moments such as those were so desperately need yet come so seldom. Scared of saying or doing the wrong thing, I was humbly grateful for being able to be a part of that for them. To see teenagers let their guards so far was one of the most meaningful moments I’d had in years. Maybe forever. There was just so much love and support in that room. It was one of those magically surreal moments where I knew I was doing something that really mattered.
While our mentor group was amazing, Jessica’s was the opposite. A couple of the girls came to me later upset about how she had made the stories about herself when telling her own relating tales after every kid’s turn and had gone so far as to shut down one of the girls who made a positive comment as an attempt to fix the damage one of the other girls unintentionally did by tuning her heart-breakingly horrific story into a situation that downplayed others as she had pointed out that they hadn’t been through anything compared to her.
Both of those situations looked to cause further damage during a time of emotional vulnerability when they had been reaching out. Though not OK with it, it was one of the times I tried (unsuccessfully) to make Jessica, Chris and I seem like a united team while also making the girls feel heard and validated. Unsurprisingly and despite my well-intentioned efforts, Chris was defensive and slightly hostile (as usual) later on when telling me that I should have brought it to both him and Jessica, not just him (I mentioned that I didn’t want to hurt her feelings unnecessarily) and that I should have shut them down from saying anything at all. It was around then that I reached my breaking point any told myself that I was going to do what I believed to be right by the kids regardless of what they (and what Chris represented EEK!) to instruct. If we were not on the same page, I was just going to have to live with getting fired or worse. What I was seeing was just too far off too often from what I believed to be the right thing for taking care of them and they were what mattered above all else. EEK! had dropped us there all but isolated with little to no check-ins, even when going to HR with a shockingly left-field letter of personal attack from Jessica that Chris and the regional director had blown off, so I was going to have to trust myself. Scroll down to the bottom of the post for that gem.
Feeling like I was the only one there for the kids and loving my time with them so much, I felt guilty when it finally came time for my one day off (as opposed to Jessica’s four) but it was essential as it gave me a little destimulation time. For the first time, I finally had a few hours to make it down to the local bizarre where I was able to have a chiffon Punjabi suit made and then make it to the McLeod Gang market for blissful pizza eating at a spot called Namgyal Cafe while writing away for my last few desperate moments as an outlet in the way I process. Finally a sweet, sweet reprieve from the chaos and the same stock food constantly provided at home. Among other things, it was during that time that I happily realized that I had made it halfway through my time in India on $300 without scrimping. Included in that was all the times of going out with Raja, Chris and Jessica before the kids got there, buying souvenirs, paying for taxis and taking our super homesick little lady out for our day on the town at the beginning of the program.
I wasn’t the only one who loved the McLeod Gang market. The kids did even more than I and we managed a small victory by getting there three times before they left. As their last couple days with me came to a close, I reflected on all the great pictures we had taken around that beautiful town (it was supposed to be a photojournalism program after all) along with the amazing workshop I had put on matching word to those photos (even if no one would see the final product thanks to Chris stealing the content) and fun down time when we were hanging at home. Something that often included the local guys and some of our kids playing chess. A game I used to love but didn’t get to participate in myself given how few moments I had where kids weren’t coming to me for different things.
Minus a lot of the kids being bummed that they hadn’t had traditional clothes made for the group picture at our end-of-program celebration, we had a blast. We watched a Bollywood movie, had henna art drawn on by local ladies and were given a great show with lessons of traditional dance that brought down the house. The dancing was especially highlighted by Ahmad’s amazing skills (check out the video in the previous post) and Ishan’s endearingly awkward moves. I had been surprised that none of us had broken our neck on that beautiful but constantly slippery marble floor of our humid home in the clouds and became even more so as it was absolutely soaked from the body heat of everyone getting down. It was my last night with them. The next morning they left for a whirlwind couple days of travel with a brief stop at the Taj Majal and Golden Temple with Jessica and Chris. I stayed left behind in tears of love and goodbye.
It’s been months and I still miss them. How I wish I could watch them grow and hear a hello with an update from time to time. I would never stop telling them how much they mean to me and what a difference they made in healing the scars of my battered heart.

Tibetian Parliment
Some of our teens telling one of the children’s caregivers that they had set up a fundraiser that would pay for the rest of her schooling. 🥰

Living Like a Traveler at Home – Mucho Video & Picture Edition

Finally home and falling right back into the category of “no rest for the wicked” , I flew into San Francisco and went straight back to putting in a couple hours behind the wheel Lyfting on my way to the casa of Aaron and Brigit, my burner pals, (and a second home of sorts for me) in the Santa Cruz Mountains. San Diego would have to wait, though the excitment of finally being able to check out the idea I’d had for years of flying back and forth every week or two did help to fight off too much homesickness. A new goal achieved that almost instantly proved too exhausting and expensive to keep up with once at it.

Between driving for rideshare and studying for the work I was to do with teens in India over the summer, I didn’t have much free time. Even so, Brigit, Aaron and I managed to find some fun to get into during the small windows I managed to carve out while there. Pedicures, our coveted hottub coctail hour of skinny-dipping under the stars, St. Patty’s Day, a dinner party, my favorite Felton log cabbin bar and Pedelyte to help recover from it all.

Once back in San Diego, I was excited to move into the new place I had found for (what ended up only being) the next month at home in OB. A spot that would end up costing me $450 more than I had budgeted, half-week’s pay (ouch), but worth it in order to avoid the confusion of figuring out an unstable daily back and forth amount. The roomie was also super flexible and chill which was appreciated. Plus she had doggos for me to love on.

Still forever trying to catch up with my writing, I was back in full school mode while still studying for my new gig. Visiting my favorite cafes along with dog and housesitting helped to get some quiet time for those things but my social and family life, along with catching up with that beach town that I loved so much, still (poor me) consumed an ansorbinant amount of my time.
So did falling in love.
Stephane and I were magic. We both swept each other off our feet to a place that brought old black-and-white romance movies to colorful and vibrant life. Our kind of chemistry put those around us in a whimspical state of euphoria. Minus the subpar sex life (but at least he tried), it was as close to perfect as I’d ever had. He not only admired me, the lifestyle I was leading and my dreams/goals but also supported them. He was also just as busy with his multiple companies, tennis and properties as I was with my stuff, which meant that we didn’t have the constant issues I’d in the past of lovers suffocating me.
So yeah. I went from the person who never falls in love to a level teenage girls dream of.
As mentioned, I was exhausted from the commute back and forth between San Diego and San Francisco within a couple trips. I’d imagine that to be, in large part, because of lack of routine and needing to figure out last minute when it made sense to go. A detail that made travel expenses jump from an expected $200 to double that per tri0. Ouch x 2. To triple it, I found out that I needed $1,000 in vaccines that the company I was to be working for would not cover. At least if I wanted to follow the reccommendations of the main immunization and travel clinic of San Francisco. Something my new regional director, concentually, hinted at me to not get in order to avoid overhead. Direction that still bothers me two months later. I’m 40 years old and don’t know my tits from my ass in regard to diseases in India and which vaccines to get in order to protect myself. Sorry dude but I’m trusting the professionals. Extra cash to buy another sari or two ain’t worth risking my health. And I know you mean well but I resent defending high overhead by reccommending otherwise.

Flying back to the old SDizzle again, I headed directly to my homie Bradley’s boat to hang with him and his girlfriend (who so happens to be one of my favorite gals) Juliette. It was fun watching the rideshare driver be surprised at how close it was (the airport is along the water downtown) and that there was a large sailboat pulling up to get me. Score for putting a smile on a random person’s face. Daily goal met.
Back to the Bay once again (head spinning yet?) where I managed to catch a comedy show by one of my favorite comedians (Kathleen Madigan) in Napa and then SD again, Big Red took me out for a Brothel & Bar history crawl in the Gaslamp quarter. I also got the chance to hang for one of Nikki & Brent’s son’s birthday parties and cheer Nik on for a thriathalon she rocked. Something she was to do a repeat performance of a couple weeks later. Kick-ass crazy woman.

Somewhere in there it was May. The month of my parent’s and sister’s birthdays as well as the anniversary of when I had lost my fur-baby in 2015 and four people the year before. Relieved that the losses (that will probably forever haunt me) didn’t take over the celebration, we had a great time at the pool at Harrah’s Resort & Cassino, starting with just Wendy and I so we could get our grown-up time in (AKA: coctails) and then were joined by our parents and my niece’s a few hours later.
One of my weeks in So Cal was consumed completely by an intensive WAFA (Wilderness and First Aid) certification course. It was the first time I met the man who was to become my local director and he instaintly rubbed me wrong. My instincts had me on alert but I told myself that it may just be because I had an aversion to Marines (he was a vet). Reasoning that, based on past experience, I would be able to be tolerant, compassionate and professional regardless of what was to come, I also tried to tell myself that polar-opposites have different strengths to offer which can create a kick-ass team as a whole.
Another flag was how obvious it was when he talked about the other mentor that he, at the very least, had a big crush from when they had crossed paths the summer before. I wouldn’t have been all that surprised to even find out they had even already danced the horizontal hokie pokie, minus the details that he was physically unattractive and socially awkward by traditional standards.
I hoped for the best and even reached out to give him rides along with going out to an awkward dinner with him and one more colleague for the sake of team building. What could I do? I tried and I tried and I tried but holy shit did it turn out to be worse than I ever expected. Just wait until that blog post of horror comes out…
Things with Stephane and I were ramping up. He and two of his closest friends headed down from Orange County (where they lived) to go with me to Brent’s birthday a week or two before leaving for India. A ton of my closest friends from our twenties and also my family (as far as he knew) were going to be there.Thank God they (my family) pulled out thanks to my mother being uptight about his being separated as opposed to divorced and sister not wanting to go after I got upset about her bringing Sean into my safety circle.
Drinking champagne before heading over, one of Stephane’s friends raved about how good we were together and what a good guy he was. A good time and good vibes that were to continue until a couple hours into the party. Drinks kept flowing, friends were made and the laughter amped up. Somewhere soon after, my world crumbled. As the minds of most women work, at least in my experience, I don’t just shrug and let it go if something seems to have even a little stink of fishiness. Instead, walls stay at least a little up while I bide my time, keeping myself in a “we’ll see” mode.
I had been in that “we’ll see” mode about the details of his separation since first finding out about it. His daughter, being an Olympic-hopeful for volleyball (according to him) and the kind of man he was, I could see how he could still be supporting his supposedly-separated-wife as she played manager to their daughter, but also knew that I was giving significant trust and was taking a big risk.
Stephane, once drunk at the party, said something that put me on alert at a time when I saw the door open to get a more honest answer. So I asked straight out in that moment of seeing an opportunity to finally get the whole story. And he responded.
Yes, he was still married.
Instaintly breaking down in alcohol-fueled tears, I refused to let him say anything more as I demanded he gather his friends and leave. Juliette showed up soon after, unknowing to what had happened, but was the one to sweep me off the floor, even without the details. Most of those people who used to be my closest friends didn’t even check on me as it happened to see if I was OK, let alone send me a text the day after. Another harsh reminder about what happens when not around to nurture relationships. C’est la vie.
Wendy had been through a lot with the type of guys she had dated and surrounded herself with. It had hardened her to men and made her defensive toward any sign of risk. Sister-syndrome likely making it worse, she had been against Stephane and my putting myself out on such a long limb since the beginning. With a question the day after the big reveal that was so obviously leading toward the opposite answer, she asked me if I regretted it. No. I did not. I would risk myself over and over again for something so wonderful. Even if only for a moment and even if not totally real. Sometimes, in a world that can be so cruel, it can be easy to forget that the best and most beautiful things are just as big abd worth it all. The look on her face made me think that maybe I had reminded her of that. And that started the strings of my heart to already start pulling back together again.

My mind has always shut out the most traumatic experiences for a few months before having enough distance to process. It gave me those last couple weeks to hang in OB with loved ones (including the mermaid who was up for a few sweet weeks), hiking in La Jolla, cheering Wendy on with billboards I had made of her face while she ran the Rock and Roll Marathon, dinner at Cafe Sevilla with Big Red that was followed by salsa lessons (in which Mom and Kate joined us later), wine tasting and a very satisfying afternoon of organizing my storage unit. The closest thing I had to a stable and constant space of my own, it gave me a great sense of peace and getting my affairs sorted right before leaving again. Even more, when my heart needed sorting as well.
That was it. Once again, it was time for this free Robin to fly.