It only took me 2 months and 3 weeks to get my houses (mentally, emotionally, & spiritually) and visa in order to finally get on an airplane bound for the place that I think is my third homeland. Sunday, October 23rd is the day that I set foot on India soil. I'm so excited that I was beaming in the mirror as I got ready this morning. I'm finally more excited than scared which is a good sign. I have a tentative plan and low expectations which is another good sign. I expect not to be physically harmed in anyway during my tenure in Bharat. However, everything else is up in the air or in the hands of God, Allah, Buddha, Jah, and Ganesh.
I thank God & Malaysia for my current mental state. I finally got over my fear of actually going to India in paradise which is better known as the Perhentian Islands in northeast Malaysia. The ocean seems to always bring me back to my center. A few weeks ago I spent 4 days laying on a white-sand beach reading a good book called Bliss by hip-hop journalist extraordinaire Ms. Danyel Smith.
Bliss is the story of a Black American woman, Eva Glenn, who is knee-deep in music and the treacherous business of music. The tale begins with Eva finding herself at a crossroads in her life at the worst possible time in terms of her career. Bliss is the story of how Eva deals with one of the hardest decisions a woman has to face in her life and the experiences and reasons which lead her to the ultimate conclusion. Along the way, Ms. Smith tells the tale of Black American music business which is filled with colorful and complex characters such as the sweet and bi-poplar Dart who is also the brother and manager of Eva's best selling artist and a former lover, Sunny the musical artist of the moment (who seems to resemble Erykah Badu in my mind), and Ron, a white man in the hip-hop who Eva has a complex relationship with, plus a host of other interesting and weary players in the mix. Bliss also allows Ms. Smith to display her wide-array of American music knowledge which is breath-taking to us novice music lovers.The novel has hints of Madam Toni Morrison's novel Tar baby.
Bliss is a great read for those interesting in hearing the tale of Black American women in the notoriously rough music business or someone who wants to read a good story.
After I finished Bliss, I went back to the foundation, the Black American literary canon. I was led to Ms. Maya Angelou in Chiang Mai, Thailand. I had been writing a lot but feeling lost like I desperately needed some writing template to guide my own work. I decided that Ms. Angelou would be good reading for an adventurous and wanderlust Black girl like myself. I felt a strong connection to Ms. Angelou because she was traveling Europe and Africa in the 1960s. I also like the fact that Ms. Angelou was leading a life that was strongly shaped by her own thoughts and initiative.
I'm me so I decided to read Ms. Angelou's classics backwards. The first book I read was Heart of a Woman, followed by All God's Children Need Traveling Shoes. I recently brought I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings for my Indian reading pleasure. Ms. Angelou leaves me breathless. She has done a lot, seen a lot, and written about it beautifully. How the hell can I compete with that? And I don't want to get started about Zadie Smith and her latest novel, On Beauty, which I plan to read during my Maharashtra journey.
The Perhentian Islands (I stayed on the backpackers favorite, Long Beach.) were amazing. It had the clearest, bluest, saltiest water I have ever seen and tasted. I went snorkeling and it was just as good as what I experienced on Australia's Great Barrier Reef. I finally got my snorkeling groove on by getting comfortable enough to simply breath in the tube while keeping my head underwater (usually I breathe and panic). I met up with an old Hanoi Backpackers' Hostel mate, Louise and her friend Maura, so I had someone to enjoy meals and have a good chat with. I also chatted and hung out with lots of other cool folks. Life is good mates, when there is nothing for you to do but lie on a lovely beach.
I also made it to the mountains of Malaysia better known as Cameron Highlands. My time in Toyama, Japan has turned me into something of a mountain girl. The air is clean and cool in the highlands. The tea is good, the scones ok, meeting people is easy, and living is cheap. I was overdosing on tea, scones, and Indian food when I decided to check on my Indian tourist visa. The good times in Cameron Highlands ended after talking to the visa authorities at the High Commission of India in Kuala Lumpur (K.L.).
Basically, I needed to get myself to K.L. as soon as possible to finish processing my Indian tourist visa. I won't whine about the process for applying for an Indian tourist visa because I know the U.S. government makes the process 100 times difficult for Indian folks. I'll simply say that I really never understood the visa application process from the very beginning. I went to the High Commission early on a Friday morning and it was breaming with people. I was stunned. Since I was born in America, I have never had to deal with any immigration issues per se and because many countries allow U.S. citizens to enter without a visa or allow them to obtain visas at their border, I haven't been subject to the chaos of a visa/passport queue. I looked so lost there that a Chinese woman and a fellow American took pity on me and told me what to do and how to do it. The Indian representative was also very nice to me probably because I looked like a confused baby deer in the forest.
I left Cameron Highlands and returned to K.L. as soon as possible in order to wake up early and be present at the High Commission of India on the next day. I now have my precious Indian tourist visa which I've checked dozens of times to make sure my passport number wasn't written incorrectly and that I have a signature and stamp (The people at the High Commission told us to do this before we left the premises).
The rest of my time in K.L. has been spent preparing for my Indian arrival by gathering a decent first aid kit, purchasing a padlock and chain for the many cheap hotels and long train journeys in my upcoming future, and buying a small backpack to where on the front of my chest to protect me from possible groping. Yesterday, I had a bout of dehydration and diarrhea but recovered and ate a nice Italian meal with my current hostel dorm mates, Australian Divas Nicole and Carmen. I've been hanging around K.L. long enough that it feels familiar to me. I also figured out its Monorail and train system (finally!). It isn't home but I know a little bit about its streets, so it is close enough.
My current thoughts are filled with the things I should have done more of pre-India travels (writing). The things I need to do now (eat, pray, pack, go to bed early and try not to cry).
My new mantra is "If it don't fit, don't force it." This mantra is all about moving, living, being one with the flow of life. I pray there is someplace else in this world that "fits" me. My gut says it may be India but my insides could be wrong because three years ago that same gut of mine told me I would be awarded a Fulbright Fellowship to India and I ended up going to Japan instead. Of course in hindsight, Japan has been great preparations for my current traveling life. I've also realized that Vietnam was probably preparation for India. Wish Me Luck!