Saturday, November 26, 2011

Faith. Hope. Love: Chapter Two

As I mentioned before, I have had a love affair with traveling for quite a while...since 1994 when I made my first trip out of the states and visited the breathtaking countries of France, Switzerland, and Italy. As a junior in high school the experience was indescribable...The way the food danced, leapt, and (even at times) practically melted in my mouth (thus beginning my appreciation of prosciutto and olive oil), bread warm and soft inside yet so crispy it crackles on the outside, the architecture, the art (especially at the Louvre Museum and Sistine Chapel), the locations (like Notre Dame Cathedral, the Palace of Versailles, and the Roman Colosseum), the romantic vibe (like along the River Seine in Paris), the hustle and bustle in Paris, the people, the freedom!!! Yes, the independence! Apparently it was noticeable...the change in my attitude after I returned from Europe. I had been bitten by the bug. I was in love! And there was no cure (or anything else for that matter) for it. My only choice was to feed it, cultivate it, tenderly nurture it, and give in to its every whim. Ah love!

I spent the next three years trying to find a means to travel. My sights were set on a job in Japan (for which I applied many times to no avail) but little did I know God (I personally do not believe in fate, coincidence, luck, karma, or magic for that matter) had an alternate plan for me...and it included Singapore, Taiwan, and Australia! Okay, God, you win! I will gladly give up my grand ideas of Japan...for now.

Visiting a country is like opening a book on the subject and hopping into its pages. (I remember studying world geography in second grade (I believe it was) and imagining I could do just that. I walked my fingers across the text we were going over (as though my digits were a tiny version of me) and I "swam" through the pictures...participating in whatever was taking place in each. The two destinations in which we dabbled that stick out in my mind are Vancouver, Canada and Ethiopia.) In real life, I wanted to drink up every ounce of information possible and experience the culture and way of life. I would wander, either alone or with others, to various areas of the city-state to listen to the sounds, breath in the scents, touch what was before me, gaze upon the sights, and (if I was brave enough) taste the delicacies synonymous with that district.

One such quarter was the ethnically authentic Little India. A disorienting whirl wind (in the form of a cab ride) whisked me away and dropped me, dazed and confused, smack dab in another “land”. As I stood reeling with culture shock my eyes and nose were assaulted! This was NOTHING like the other territories of Singapore! Now, I am not going to go into detail about the geography or demographics of Little India. A person can check out that information (along with photos) on the internet or at the local library. As my feelings toward Little India create a chaotic circus in my mind I scarcely know where to begin regarding my experiences that evening!

During this excursion for Diwali (or Deepavali the "festival of lights"), I was not alone, and thankfully so! Had I been I would have stepped right back into the taxi (completely overwhelmed) and said, “Never mind. Take me home.” There were five of us and the guys walked behind the gals so they could “keep an eye on things”. I felt out of place, like a fish out of water if you will.

The first time I ever went scuba diving was with a professional diver who led me and some friends around the ocean bottom for a set period of time (30-60 minutes). As we submerged with oxygen tanks on our backs and regulator mouth piece firmly in place a nearly overpowering sense of claustrophobia crept over my body as though I was in a sinking car in a river and trying to hold on to every breath as if it could be my last. The water lay heavy on top of me…deceivingly inviting. Any wrong move or miscalculated measurement (of remaining air supply) could be life threatening. It was a lot to process…the new environment, the potential dangers, the complete change in everything! These were my feelings in Little India as well. My world had been turned upside down and I was not quite sure what to make of it or how to maneuver through it.

I walked with hesitated step. The sun had gone down before we arrived casting looming, menacing shadows across what might otherwise be cheerful in the day time. Residents stared as if I was a three headed hydra. My dark hair and deep brown eyes blended in with those of everyone else however my olive skin paled in comparison to the rich, chocolate shade of theirs. (Now, my friend who has beautiful blonde hair and sparkling blue eyes with creamy white skin probably stuck out a bit more than I did and our buddy with his radiant African American features mostly likely fit in better than myself.)

Debris littered the sidewalks and streets and men sat gathered, blotting the landscape. They stopped their conversations to watch as we passed. Store windows were filled with merchandise familiar to the culture. We window shopped and stepped in and out of store after boutique touching fabric and admiring the vibrant colors, tassels, and dangling, glittering accents on various outfits. Each concession was nearly whimsical as incense poor out, filled our nostrils, and beckoned us to come in and stay a while. Maybe we would like to purchase something?

The women were stunning in their dresses, sandals, and golden jewelry…the gentle curve of their faces; sun kissed glow to their soft looking skin; contour of nose; perfect size, shape, and spacing of their eyes made them gorgeous---yet the way they kept their bodies covered from neck to ankles struck me as humble, classy, and enchanting.

Faith. Hope. Love: Chapter Two
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