11 March 2012

The Do-Gooder's Battle

Last night being Saturday night (although it could have easily happened on a Thursday, or Friday, or Sunday, for that matter), the typical debaucherous, drunken chaos ensued.  Herds of 18-20something year olds took to the streets to shriek, stumble and smash things in their efforts to drink as much as possible.  My morning runs with my dog almost always involve dodging shattered glass, and often avoiding the carcasses of burned sofas, couches, tvs.  It is EXACTLY like what you see in the movies when a sunny, Californian college party scene is portrayed.  Well, exactly like that except way more real and way more ugly.

As I was going out to my car this morning, I noticed a woman’s purse near the front tire of my truck.  To set the scene a little more:  my car port opens onto one of the main thoroughfares in a place called Isla Vista, aka 'I.V.', aka 'H.I.V.', near the University of California at Santa Barbara.

So, back to the purse.  I poked at it with my foot and felt that it was full, so it obviously wasn’t left on purpose.  As I knelt down to open it and look for some identifier, I paused.  Why had someone been in the far corner of my unlit, off-street car port?  Being the amateur detective that I am, I recalled my evening dog walks during Halloween week, when I had seen more vagina than I ever cared to while girls peed in public, especially in the parks where I take my dog, too drunk to bother finding a dark corner.

I noticed the darkened spot on the ground near the handbag, and found myself surprised that I hadn’t smelled it prior to my little deduction.  Now, getting a stranger’s urine on my hands is high on the list of things I don’t like to have happen to me on a Sunday morning, so I scooted the bag away from the spot with my foot, and gingerly pulled out a wallet.  Oh Djenne, you must be missing your credit cards, driver’s license, student ID, keys, and employee badge.  Probably not missing the half eaten burrito as much, though. 

I must be honest.  I debated whether or not to find way to contact Djenne the driveway-urinator for awhile.  But I’m not without a sense of empathy and my own personal history of peeing in public.  I try to do good regularly, and not just for myself.  However, some things are easier to do than others.  I wasn’t able to find a phone number in the purse, but, once again, those amateur detective skills paid off and I called her workplace, where they passed along my phone number to her.  She called back within 10 minutes, and 15 minutes after that she was happily reunited with her questionably clean purse, very relieved and thankful.  A win for Djenne and a do-gooder’s victory for me.

 Djenne's bag, shortly before she retrieved it.

On the phone when she had called, in a semi-coherent, embarrassed rush, she had said:

“oh man I’m so glad you found it I’ve been looking everywhere dude I don’t even know what happened last night…”

Dude, I wouldn't want to know what happened last night even if I could.

29 December 2011

As recently as three, maybe four years ago, I struggled with my own perceptions of ‘my generation’.  I found abundant ways to criticize my peers, and myself, for our trivialities, our banalities, our bizarre tendencies to interact in abstract ways, our apathy.  I was annoyed by our eagerness to wallow in premature nostalgia for the decade in which we were born.  I was disgusted by our narcissism.  I hated the way we embrace the voyeurism that the internet allows us.  I scoffed at the self-gratifying memoir-writing, blog-posting, accomplishment-announcing, trauma-glorifying proclamations we make.  I sorrowed over the way we fomented jealousy, arrogance and neediness by gorging on each others triumphs, setbacks and compliments.  I felt angry that our parents sheltered us, coddled us, told us that we could do anything we wanted, to the point that we all believe that we were really, truly special.  And, typical of all the aforementioned, I was even sad that we, that my generation, grew up in a time of plenty, unchallenged by any outside forces or events to demand of us, and in doing so, define us.

It wasn’t until very recently, maybe three, four months ago, that I realized how grateful I am for all of this.

Last September, I moved to a new town, something that used to be a regular habit of mine.  I hadn’t done that for several years.  I had a hard time the task of finding a job in a strange place, something that I have also done quite a few times before, albeit not during a recession.  Suddenly all of the stories I’ve heard about the unemployed became a little more real to me.  I have to qualify that statement, because I have a few things that diminish the specter of long term unemployment:  I do not have kids (and the responsibility to provide for them).  I am not middle-aged.  I have no debt (thank you, scholarships).  I have three totally different, viable resumes.  The panics that I felt must have been a mere shadow of the terror that some people are living.    To wake up, and have maybe an hour or two of bright happiness with your family where you don’t think about the rest of your day:  an afternoon tinged with desperation, filled with resume-submitting, phone-call making, and internet-searching.  This is followed by a sleepless night of panicked realizations and absolute, crushing hopelessness.  Every day.  Over and over again.

We are in the middle of a recession, staring at the possibility of years more of it, with even further to fall.  Am I happy that my generation spends a lot of their time waiting for their recognition?  Feeling entitled and disproportionately special compared to the next person?  YES, yes I am.  For the first time, there is something demanded of us.  We have to crawl out of our massive debt, and pay, for the rest of our lives, taxes to take care of our aging parents, without any promise of the same resources to care for us.  We have a fragile environment that we will continue to rely on, and resources to stretch thin.  We are not going to have the life our parents had.  To get through this, we are going to have to be more creative, more resourceful, more forward thinking and more self-sacrificing than we have previously been capable of.  For the first time, we have a chance to prove ourselves and maybe, someday, probably not in our lifetimes, earn the recognition that we are all accustomed to and desire. 

Will my generation be able to do it?  I don’t know, but at least our own greatness is one thing in which we all believe.  Its a start, of sorts.

Here's hoping that we can live up to that.

02 November 2011

Book Club

Last month I had the privilege of attending a book club meeting – wonderful because I was invited by a distant family member that I’d like to get to know, wonderful because I don’t have a lot of human interaction to fill my weekdays, and wonderful because all of the women are in their 70s and 80s and have been friends for many years.  I felt exquisitely lucky to be invited into a circle that familiar and established. 

The book was "The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks" by Rebecca Skloot.  I highly recommend it.   The themes are compelling:  doctor-patient ethics, racism, poverty, cervical cancer, the history of cellular biology (more interesting than you might assume).  Of course, with topics that edgy, in a group of people who were essentially strangers to me, I had no idea what to expect. 

One of the first things mentioned in the discussion was vaginal self-examinations: “Women didn’t palpate their own vaginas in the ‘50s, let alone talk about them.”  It took me a moment to recover from the shock of hearing a graceful 80-year-old woman say ‘vagina’ over coffee and cake.  The next youngest woman in the room had 50 years on me, so it was exciting to hear first hand accounts of growing up in such a different time.  Especially when it was so honest.

At that point I still could not get a feel for their political or social affiliations.  The eldest woman there had studied biology in college in the 1940s.  By that point, she said, they still hadn’t discovered a cell’s nucleus.  The ability to magnify was not far enough along.  She talked about how quickly the science progressed while she was studying, and how far it had advanced today.  She groaned, “And don’t get me started on stem cell research!”

All of the women shook their heads in disgust.  Uh oh.  Obviously this was a point they all agreed on.  She continued, “I have some choice words about those politicians blocking those initiatives, but I don’t want to be rude.”  Whew.  She then related a story she’d recently read, about a boy who had the first stem cell trachea replacement.  It had saved his life. 

That woman not only had a degree in Biology during a time when few women were in college, but she went on for her Master’s in Environmental Biology from UCSB.  Incredible.

We talked about political demonstrations: “We should put our bodies where our mouths are and head to De La Guerra Plaza” (in reference to Occupy Santa Barbara), and about capital punishment:  “I don’t believe in capital punishment.  He is just a young confused man.”  This was said by a woman whose son had been murdered ten years ago, in reference to his killer.  Several of the ladies disagreed, threatening to strangle the perpetrator themselves if they ever met him. 

Who are these ladies?  They were so educated, so progressive, so welcoming.  And honestly, who casually uses the word ‘palpate’ outside of a hospital? What secret bastion of liberalism had I stumbled into?    I must admit that I felt more interested in their personal stories than discussing the book.  I was tickled to be there. I was hooked.

Our next book is T.C. Boyle’s "Tortilla Curtain" (YES!  They invited me back!).  Many of the ladies had already read it, but were more than willing to read it again.  “After all,” one said, “he is a local boy.” 

I knew his name, had I read one of his books?  And he was local?  The exhilarating sensation I’d felt a number of times since moving down here – the feeling of having access, to being so close to people, events, locations, rushed to my head.  I’ve had a hard time describing what it feels like to grow up in Alaska.  There is a sense of disconnect, as though everything that happens in the Lower 48 is abstract and sometimes impersonal.  Events often feel as far away as they physically are, despite the immediacy of news and communication.  The thing is, I don’t actually mind.  Sometimes a little detachment can be refreshing.  But now that I live in California again, in Southern California no less, I am trying to cultivate every experience I can to make it feel familiar, engaging and fulfilling.  This might be a symptom of growing up in a small town, but the fact that the author of the book I am reading lives relatively nearby makes it all the more enjoyable.  It makes the book feel more accessible, and it makes me feel connected, however tenuously.

 That is, in no small part, thanks to those amazing women.

23 March 2009

Alaska Wish List

There are sooo many things I would love to do in Alaska. When I think about them I get that really giddy, excited feeling that happens when I start daydreaming about places I'd like to go. Only this is even better because its in my own state, and therefore, feels more likely that I'll go on some of these trips. When I write about them I want to put it ALL IN CAPS AND USE LOTS OF EXCLAMATION POINTS!!!! but really that just seems like shouting and doesn't accurately represent my enthusiasm. Anyway.

1. Float the Copper River

Oh this one hurts a little, because I've had a couple of opportunities to go on this trip but couldn't because I was working. Put-in next to the fish wheels in Chitina and take out at the bridge outside of Cordova. It would be great to do it over 3-4 days, maybe stop and kite along the way. Hopefully the weather would be glorious and not crazy awful like it can be and hopefully the Alaska Bar in Cordova would happily greet us.

2. Kodiak

I know little, but I've heard there are some good kiting spots here. Plus, its the second biggest island in the US. Plus, I heard there is a King Crab Festival.

3. Yakutat

I could be wrong, but I heard that its the most isolated place in Alaska? I'd love to get there by boat. And even though I don't surf, it would be awesome to see someone else do it there.

4. Take state ferries from Prince Rupert all the way home

and stop in Ketchikan, Craig, SITKA, Juneau, Hoonah, Petersburg, Wrangell, Skagway, Haines.

5. Hike the Chilkoot Trail

6. Float the Talkeetna

Fly-in, enjoy non-coastal Alaskan summer weather, booze cruise.

7. Visit Katmai

Where you can see the bears up close.

8. Visit Nome for the end of the Iditarod

9. Kite Lake Iliamna

10. Drive the Dalton Highway

11. Camp on Kayak Island

12. Flight-see in the Wrangell St. Elias mountains

03 November 2008

Election Day

In 2000, when I was 16 and could not vote, I was fired up about the election. In 2001, after 9/11, it was even harder to keep emotion out of it when I argued with some of my classmates over whether or not the U.S. should turn the Middle East into a sheet of glass. In 2002, when I could finally vote, Fran Ulmer, one of the two most inspiring politicians I've ever witnessed, lost the Alaska gubernatorial race to Republican Frank Murkowski. She was a brilliant woman. She lost by 15%. It was crushing. Then, in 2004, I sent in my absentee ballot while living abroad in England, only to suffer through the shock, devastation and humiliation as George W. was re-elected.

There are so many things that should not even be on the radar of political discussion: 'links' to terrorists, shopping bills, religion, vice presidential candidates from Alaska. And yet, there they are. And here we sit, arguing over them. I feel like I'm beating my head into a wall, and am still torn between either walking away or trying to out-reason them. But I can't just let it go.

I'm an empathetic person, yet I'm still struggling to see the other side in many cases with this election. I really haven't heard anything solid from the opposition that didn't include bogus facts from an email forward or that didn't use catchy scare words like socialism, elitism or terrorism. Honestly though, I haven't really heard many arguments that also included civility and reason, which makes it quite a bit harder to respect someone's choices when they are different than mine. I'm using all my powers of logic and reasoning to try to understand why someone might not see what I am seeing, which is that Barack Obama is, far and away, the stronger, more intelligent, even-handed and capable candidate in this race. Obama is a politician with integrity. I'm saying that without a hint of irony. I'm saying that about a Presidential nominee. I'm saying that about someone running for President in a political climate that has become warped to the point of nonrecognition since 2000. Political monsters puppeteering ruthlessly ambitious figureheads have created a win-at-any-cost style of tactics, and We, the People, allowed this to happen. We have eaten up outright slander; we have forfeited our dignity and many personal freedoms. Its a small wonder that talking politics, which I cannot help but do, makes me feel ill. I've been cognizant of these things almost since the first year I was able to vote, and not only have I failed to do anything seemingly substantial, I have allowed it to nearly cripple me with cynicism. But no longer. I heard an acquaintance yesterday disparage people who felt righteous for voting, and who pointedly planned not to vote. It is a beautiful thing that we are allowed the choice to vote or not, and I find it condescending and ignorant to scoff at someone for reveling in their right to choose. In this instance, it also seems hypocritical, since the person obviously felt righteous in their choice NOT to choose.

Any respect I might have had for McCain, earned by the things he has accomplished during his career as a public servant, has been eroded by the bitter ugliness of his campaign, and by watching the lows to which he has stooped. How is it putting Country First by jeopardizing our safety by putting someone grossly underqualified to run this country one step away from the Presidency? At least the GOP lost their best argument against Obama and his lack of experience.

Part of me wants to pull up points as to why McCain is the wrong candidate, but I'm exhausted and am really just here to vent. I just know that the humiliation I felt in not being able to explain to my British friends and coworkers why Americans voted for Bush in 2004 will be nothing, NOTHING, compared to what I might feel if Obama loses today. Disappointment doesn't even begin to cover it. The mess that we are in, that we have been sliding into for the past 8... well, since Reagan, really... is deeper than it appears, and what our next President does determines so much. Our lives will change whether we desire it or not, not to mention our children's lives. We'll be paying for Bush's mistakes for the duration, no matter whose tax policies are implemented. I'm worried for our armed forces and how they will be treated abroad due to our torture and treatment of detainees. The year is 2008 and torture has been sanctioned! I'm concerned that our personal freedoms will continue to be curtailed.

I don't even like to acknowledge it, but one of the worst things about this election is the way it has revealed some of the ugliest things imaginable in people I had respected. Not only have I felt a blatant lack of civil dialogue, seen a blind pomposity that intentionally disregards anyone in opposition, and heard hateful, impassioned words too powerful to take back, I've found a malignant racism at the stripped down core of many windy arguments. And it breaks my heart. It really, really does.

I can't end this on that note, because I am full of hope. I've heard some extremely intelligent conservatives speak to points that resonate with me, which is more validating than anything I could have hoped to find in a room full of my politically like-minded peers. There are people, the true victims of Bush's cabinet, whose kids were Left Behind, who had to foreclose on their houses, who cannot afford health care, who haven't given up hope, either. There are people who make over $250,000 a year who can define socialism as a political agenda (and don't want it) who are still voting for Obama and who love America enough to acknowledge that this is the best option out there. And I, a socially liberal, fiscally moderate young American, am trying my 'doggone' hardest not to dismiss anyone else for their political beliefs, and it is not easy. At times I've been so filled with disgust I can hardly breathe. Because Obama, who isn't perfect, still believes in those who deride him, still listens to those who criticize him, and doesn't turn his back on those who hate him. And that is something I can believe in.

07 April 2008

150 Rupees

150 rupees roughly equals about $3.75, and for arbitrary reasons, I've decided to compile a list of my favorite purchases we've made for this amount, in no particular order.

1. Becca's Nose Piercing.

Probably the best bang for your rupee of the whole trip. We all talked about getting our noses pierced here since it "enhances your beauty" so much and woman of all ages have theirs pierced. Yet Becca was the only one who actually followed through. She's a bold girl. We randomly walked into a silver souvenir shop in Udaipur and the man pierced it by poking the earring through with his hand. For sanitizing it he used this mysterious liquid called Dettol which, incidentally, is also used as a mouth wash, clothing wash, kitchen cleaner, 1st Aid antiseptic and shaving cream amongst other things. Then he stuck a pair of pliers up her nose to curl the wire end in a half circle. It might sound rough, but it looks great.

Becca and the Dettol

2. Peanut Butter.
Hands down, one of my favorite things about traveling is eating. And Indian cuisine is as diverse as the country is and amazingly delicious, but I've been sicker here than I've ever been anywhere else and, at times, eating the food that Ranjith cooks at the orphanage is a chore. The day after one bout of illness, which involved me throwing up all night, he promised me that he'd cook 'plain rice with vegetables with no oil'. For some reason this included fried cumin, pepper, mustard seed and several other seasonings along with ghee (a buttery substance). I'm not sure how frying vegetables before stirring them into rice follows his 'no oil' rule, but then again, his rules are fairly relative. And yes, 150 rupees is quite a bit to spend on a teeny jar of peanut butter, but after one month of eating nothing but Indian food, it tasted like heaven.

Sumathy and her first taste of peanut butter (on a banana)

3. 30 Cups of Chai.

On the train ride to Delhi we had our first chai experience, since Ranjith and Sumathy don't consume anything with caffeine in it and we never had any while at the orphanage. It was like drinking magic. I have tea all day everyday at home and had some high hopes for Indian chai, and they were fulfilled in every way, and initially, they were fulfilled 30 times by the four of us on our 36 hour train ride. At 5 rupees a cup, we saw no need to hold back.

4. Camel Riding Outfits.
We left on our camel adventure out of Jaisalmer on my birthday, but before we did, Becca, Kate and Ali surprised me with special outfits for the outing. We all wore t-shirts with roaring lions on the front and Aladdin-style pants. I was so excited that we got to look as cool as we felt. And technically I wasn't supposed to know how much they cost but when I started listing items that made the 150 rupee mark, they felt that this should be included.

Signs of an oasis in the desert

Loungin in the coolest pants around

5. Kingfisher Beer.

I never expected to pay $3.75 for a beer here but in Delhi there is a steep alcohol tax that jacked up the price on the 650 ml bottles of Kingfisher. We didn't hesitate to cough it up for our first alcoholic beverage in one month, and had plenty of time to enjoy the 60 rupee ($1.50) Kingfishers in Goa. Even though Indian beer is nothing to write home about, it was pretty heavenly in that moment.

6. A Sunset Boat Ride with Paradise Cruises.

This is probably my favorite 150 rupee purchase. While in the state of Goa we spent some time in their capital city, Panaji, a coastal city that is also bordered by a river. Meandering around we found a boat leaving for a sunset cruise with "traditional Goan dancing and fun for all ages". I was mainly excited for the theater-style popcorn and beer, and was unimpressed with the traditional Goan dances. The real treat of the ride, though, was that between each 'performance' a DJ got up on stage and invited different groups from the audience to dance to song. All the children got up for the children's dance, the couples for their own song, then the gents and finally the ladies. The gents stole the show in the indescribable way that Indian men dance - jumping, twisting, throwing their arms in the air and waving their hands, thrusting their pelvises and kicking their legs (is there anything they don't do?). There is definitely nothing like it at home. This video does not do it justice.

7. New Sunglasses.
My new sunglasses are not impressive in and of themselves, but I needed them in a hurry since we were vacationing on the beach and I lost my sunglasses at a bus station. To be more specific, I lost them in the restroom at a bus station. To be even more specific, they fell off my head and down the hole of the squat toilet I was about to use. Out of reflex I reached for them since I could still see them down the hole, but pulled my hand back. Maybe a thriftier traveler would have toughed it out and gone fishing for them, and I did debate it for a second, but in the end I decided that I would probably never feel fully comfortable putting them on my face no matter how many times I cleaned them. Plus there was no running water at hand to rinse them with.

The new shades

8. Indian Veg Meal in Delhi.

It was all vegetarian dishes, naan, rice and chai and cost less then $4.00 between the 4 of us. By far the cheapest meal we had and it was my favorite during our trip north.

Much more appetizing than it looks

9. My Nightdress.

Its not called a muumuu, its a nightdress. Its damn sexy. And, as they say, 'When in India, dress as the Indian housewives do'.

10. Beach Hut in Goa.
You just can't beat a cheap shack on a beautiful beach.

18 March 2008

Back to Paradise

We got back earlier this week from our two week break, which was so much fun - we traveled to Delhi by train (36 hours) and returned via plane (2.5 hours). I recommend both. In between we saw the Taj Mahal, celebrated my 24th birthday in the desert on a camel safari, met a Guru and shopped way too much amongst other things. Most of our time was spent on a desert 'road trip' through the state of Rajasthan with Jamil, the guide/driver we hired for his amusing taste in music (he has the dance club remixes of every major pop song of the last 10 years). That didn't stop him from trying to strike up an awkward intimacy with us. I guess the futility of any attempts to become buddy-buddy or buddy-boyfriend with four Western girls when 1. you're an Indian man trying to overcome the cultural differences in one week, 2. you're an Indian man who is also temporarily employed by said girls, 3. you're an Indian man employed by said girls and hardly reach higher than the shortest girl's armpit, was completely lost on him. Becca and Kate think he was 5' even, I think he was a little bit below, but either way, he did a good job showing us around and did no harm by us. The two weeks went by way too fast and sadly, Team Ranj is no longer unified as Ali headed to Indonesia to meet up with a friend.

Taj-tastic Team Ranj

My 24th (or the night before). Ok, Jamil might be over 5'.

ROAR! (Team Ranj's mascot is a lion)

Our mighty steeds.

Shopping for carpets in Jaipur.

After the desert, Chennai greeted us like a moist slap in the face - it had been raining for three days even though we are in the midst of the dry/hot season. It has been a hectic first week back with several trips to the hospital, a wedding, a fundraising trip to Sumathy's old company, plus Kate and I were knocked on our asses one after the other by several more of India's gut attacks.
But I have to mention more about the wedding because this one was particularly amusing. It had been a really long day at the orphanage, none of us had any clean outfits and we were not in any mood to go anywhere and smile awkwardly. We trooped up anyway and put on our least dirty salwar kamiz (a long tunic over matching aladdin-ish pants with a scarf worn to obscure the view of your boobs), and some bangles to try and look presentable. Weddings are a HUGE deal in India; families will spend entire fortunes marrying off their daughters and the shame of not doing it properly (with fancy enough food, a big enough wedding venue, new wedding sarees and jewellry for all female members, music, fireworks, etc, etc, etc) or not being able to do it at all is enough to drive people to suicide. It sounds like one of those dramatic phrases but seriously, people will kill themselves over it. I get the impression that that is more common in rural areas, but with the 7 million + people in Chennai's greater area there are always multiple suicide listings everyday in the paper. Weddings with over 1,000 guests are considered standard, 50,000 is not unheard if you're really important. Anyway, we rolled up in our autorickshaw looking pretty unimpressive in front of this towering wedding venue all lit up with Vegas-style blinking lights. Ranjith's good friend was getting married the following morning, and they celebrate the reception before the ceremony, when the bulk of the party occurs. And by party I mean the couple stands on an elaborately decorated stage and greets each guest and takes a photo with them, without smiling. I'm not sure why they don't smile. I guess if I had to hold a grin for four hours of shaking hands my face would get tired, too. I've seen the fruit of these cameramen's work at a few homes now - everyone has mountains of customized photo albums full of these pictures where the bride and groom's heads are floating in clouds with catchy English phrases like 'Great Day' and 'Have a Nice Day' written in fancy fonts on top. Other cameramen walk around and film the audience, who sip juice, watch this slow conga line of well-wishers, and pretend that this hot, blinding camera light is not two feet from their faces. We've been to three weddings now, and have been the freak side show attraction at each circus.
Ranjith ushered us toward some seats, where some people turned their attention away from the procession to eye up the three tall, sweaty and pale foreignors. I was given some delicious fresh-made juice, and tried to lean away from the four balloons the little kids behind me were rubbing into my hair. A couple of performers sang upbeat Tamil songs to a synthesizer turned up to a deafening volume. The lights were blinking, the women looked beautiful in gold-threaded saree's, matching bangles and bindis and their thick hair oiled in perfect braids, and there was a person standing in the doorway dressed up in a Mickey Mouse-like costume, except that the body had a huge belly and a shrunken head with eyes that looked like the masked killer in the movie Scream. Creepy wedding circus.
Then, to perfect the illusion, we were handed a small bag of popcorn and cotton candy. We started giggling uncontrollably at the ridiculous of the situation, Ranjith turned around, laughed and told us that only children are given those snacks. As soon as we had made a proper mess of ourselves with it, the camera guy swooped in and filmed us awkwardly eating it. Then, like the true VIPs we are (?), we got to skip the line and congratulate the bride and groom and have our picture taken. Then we got to cut in line for food, too, where the head of the catering company hovered over our us and our banana leave plates, making sure "are you enjoying it?" and "would you like some more rice, sambar, paysum?" The groom's father, also a good friend of Ranjith's and a ridiculously nice man, came over to meet us and make sure we enjoyed the ice cream. Of course, the camera man was there to film us with our mouths open again, enjoying even more food. Then it was back upstairs for another cut in line and a photo with the groom's father and the happy, but unsmiling, couple.
It is really amazing that we've had the privilege of going to all these weddings. It is also really amazing that everyone has been as kind to us as they've been, what with our faux-pas of smiling for photos, never wearing our scarves correctly, tripping over our sarees, not being able to finish all our food and that first time when I threw the rose petals on the newly-weds with my left hand (the dirty hand, whoops).

Entrance to the venue.

Creepy bowing mannequin out front.

Oh, and we did return the next morning with about 12 of the kids for more photos (too late for the actual brief ceremony) and lunch, wearing the same exact outfits, which were still the cleanest things we had.