Things that have happened / that I’ve felt / that I’ve noticed since being in the US:

  1. At a stall in the Union Square holiday market, I met Beggy, a total freakin hippie selling handicrafts from all over the world. He had a sign in the corner that read, Need help. Shining happy people who love life.  “Hello!” I said. “I’m a happy shining person who loves life, what kind of help do you need?”  “Ohhhh… yeahhhhh…” said Beggy. “...uhhh....I forgot I put that sign there! I already found someone... But come here.” Beggy then proceeded to hug me, full arms around me, for what seemed like two full minutes. And then he whispered in my ear, “I’m here with you, Allie. I’m here. Peace and love.” This was over the top hippieness even for me but I found it incredibly amusing, said “peace and love” back to him, and took off. When I went to visit Beggy a few days later, he told me he had lost the piece of paper I had given him with my contact info, but that his partner in another stall in USQ was looking for help. I applied for the position and I am waiting for my call back. I would LOVE to work the holiday market this year. Fingers crossed. 

  2. Also while walking through the Union Square holiday market, I noticed some jewelry that I was certain came from south India. I spent a ton of time in markets and shops there, so I honed my eye for the design and craftwork. So I asked, and it turned out all of the jewelry was brought here from Mysore, a city in south India. I was afraid to look at the prices for fear that I’d be sickened by the profit margins (knowing how cheap the stuff sells for in India), but it also turned out that the dude working the stall - though he looked more north-east Asian than Indian - grew up in Kerala. And I know that means he’s sending money back home. He also told me his aunt has a Tibetan shop in the East Village. You really can find everything here in NYC, can’t you.

  3. During my new babysitting gig (the gig that guarantees me cash while I get my new thing up and running), I was asked to take two-year-old *M* (we'll protect her privacy and use this instead of her full name) to music class using her stroller. Sounds easy… except that the stroller was like a freakin spaceship. I had no idea how to work this thing. I didn’t want to admit to the mother that I had never used a stroller before because that wouldn’t make me a very experienced babysitter now would it. So I futzed around with it until I finally managed to unlock the brake, get this diaper-clad toddler into position, and off we…!  Wait, no.  The door. How am I going to hold the door open and push the stroller through at the same time? This was pretty much impossible and I just wanna give a shout out to all the moms and soon-to-be moms out there for making this work on a daily basis. When we got to the address, there were three different doors with the number 48 on them. Which one was music class? So I asked *M*, “Miss *M*, is this your music class?” “Yeah!” So we go inside, but we’re in a tiny vestibule at the top of a flight of steps. How to confirm whether music class is at the bottom?! I can’t get the stroller down the steps and I can’t leave the baby in the stroller at the top of the steps. So I take *M* out, carry her downstairs while the stroller waits alone upstairs, and ask someone behind a desk about music class. They tell me it’s two doors down. (Maybe don’t ask the toddler next time?) Well, music class turned out to be, like, really fun. The kids are in a circle, and Miss Stephanie leads a series of play-along activities. Song and dance combinations using real instruments for each kid. The thing that did freak me out was when it was cello time and each TWO YEAR OLD got their own two-year-old-sized cello. Like, toddlers sitting on step stools with real cellos, not plastic cellos, between their baby-fat-laden legs, unmethodically and completely unrhythmically making contact between bow and strings. I was like umm, is this necessary? Does every child need their own cello? They are TWO. But each time *M* had to go put her instrument back on the shelf at the front of the class, she would come run-waddling back to me in her little toddler outfit with her little diaper butt and big naive smile and that was kind of the best.

  4. To get back to JFK for my best friend Chanel’s wedding in Turks and Caicos this past weekend, I took the 6 to the E to the AirTrain. I had to do this at 3:50AM to get there on time for a 6:59am flight. I felt more spooked by the NYC subway than I ever felt in India or Nepal. I couldn’t put my finger on why.

  5. I have continued to be a pescatarian (vegetarian + fish, but no meat) and have become obsessed with knowing where my food comes from. This is a complete 180 from the way I've been eating my whole life. Never cared at all. Now, partly for control reasons and partly for budget reasons, I have been cooking every meal and it’s been super satisfying. One of the meals I cooked last week was Tomato Fry! Sometimes called Tomato Thakkali. That’s a south Indian tomato curry dish and it actually tasted like such. I cooked rice to go with it and ate it with my hands.

  6. I have continued to not drink alcohol. Alcohol wasn’t a big thing in the villages of India and I really enjoyed life without it. Red wine and tequila will still always be my vices, but… well, there is no but.

  7. My closet has become incredibly overwhelming. I am something of a clothing “collector,” to put it kindly, and I have always enjoyed the creativity that getting dressed brings out in me. Each day is like a blank canvas. But actually, I found it to be even more fun of a challenge to be creative when I only had ten articles of clothing to work with. To keep it from being boring without having the option of just buying more. Now I have four bins of stuff ready to sell. I have already packed and schlepped two suitcases to Buffalo Exchange. Rounds two and three will have to happen over the next couple of weeks. Or I was thinking if any of you out there would be interested, I'd be down to just sell stuff direct. Figured I'd keep the pricing easy: all items are either $5 or $10... or $20 if I bought it for over $100. If you'd be into this, message me?

  8. I have found myself being more empathetic and helpful. I am sure this was brought out by the relationship backpackers have with each other. Most of us were traveling solo. We were always looking out for each other. Always making sure we all made it on the bus okay. Connecting each other to places and people.  Taking care of those around us, with a karmic sensibility and hopefulness that those around us will take care of us in return. Here I have found myself exercising this newfound helpfulness by doing things like taking the time to make sure that old lady can get up the subway stairs okay or even just holding the door for a mom with a stroller (like, ESPECIALLY since that babysitting episode.)

  9. I realized that I didn’t actually miss anything about ‘first world’ living except for air conditioning.

  10. I was a bridesmaid in my best friend Chanel's wedding in Turks and Caicos this past weekend. Chanel was so happy and looked so beautiful. Seeing her so radiant like that was worth being there for and I am so glad I came back to see her glow with my own eyes. There are certain moments in which we have the opportunity to define our friendships -- to prove that we are the 'best friend' we say we are. Chanel's wedding only happens once and I meant it when I said I wouldn't miss it -- literally -- for the world.

  11. I had coffee with Ranjitha, my old co-worker whose mother-in-law is Vallika, my ‘Indian mom.’ Catching up with Ranj was so great - she knows all the places I’ve been. And I’ve slept in her brother-in-law’s bed!  After coffee, she dragged me up to the co: office where I worked for five amazing years before leaving for India. You may not know that I was co:’s first employee. When the founders needed help getting the company up and running, I joined the team and stayed a while. I learned so much about myself both personally and professionally over those years. I wore many hats, held many roles, worked on countless awesome projects and made friends with some of my favorite people. Co: became my home and my family. It was such a big part of who I was and is still a huge part of who I am. When I stepped into the office at 7pm, a few workaholics were still around. It was so weird and awesome to see everyone but later that evening it hit me - like, really hit me - that I don’t work there anymore. That that office wasn’t my office anymore. That there were newbies in the company who knew more about it in that moment than I did. This was kind of a sad feeling, but also oddly a happy feeling. The place I helped build, the place I gave everything to for five years, was still standing, its projects and culture and people still in tact, all without me. You give what you can and you hope that it is meaningful, and if you’re lucky, it is well received and the world goes on. And this got me thinking about another thing that I’m grateful for. I am grateful that I grew up in a country and landed a job where, by working really hard, and keeping my intentions positive, I was able to earn and save enough money to make my lifelong dream of traveling-without-a-plan a reality. The majority of people in this world live in a place, or are in a situation, where no matter how hard they work, no matter how many hours they put in or how much they sweat out, they will never ever have enough money - or the cultural flexibility, or the familial support - to do the things they dream of doing. #Gratitude.

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