Looking on to 2011

Looking on to 2011 December 30, 2010

Sitting in my trusty internet cafe in Bodh Gaya, sipping a complimentary chai in an ever-so-tiny glass, I find myself breathing just a little bit more easily today. We’re done. Well… Almost. The last bits of paperwork are finding their way to the proper places and some physical moving about is yet to be accomplished, but the signs of a semester behind us are growing in number daily: students are long gone, grading is done, reports filed and cross-checked and printed, and departure plans are being discussed.

The whirlwind is slowing, and time to think of what will come ahead is here at last.

To begin, I still have hundreds, nay, thousands, of photos of India to sort out. Many more will come up here. Ideas for a gallery show in Missoula are coming together (lack of time and abundance of laziness may thwart that, but we’ll see). Next is future travels, and, yes, more photos.

My first/next trip is aimed for Burma (Myanmar). I leave… whenever I can. My visa is in limbo now. I gave my passport to a friendly woman who helps Burmese come to India and people around here get to Burma – a kind of informal travel agent – about three weeks ago. She got a bit sick, delaying things a bit. But then she was off, to Kolkata, to secure my visa, a process that is supposed to take 2 days. She returned. No passport, no visa. “Two weeks.” So now I wait. Some time in the next week or so I should have it, or at least by the 10th. And then I’ll be off just as soon as I can.

My tentative plan is to fly into Yangon (Rangoon) for a couple days. I know a Buddhist nun there and might try to take in a short retreat, or at least some meditation lessons, along with the obligatory touristy stuff. Then I’ll fly to Mandalay, where a friend of mine, Anurag, helps run/coordinate an NGO teaching English. If I get there in time, there will be some Americans (teacher trainers) and I can try a bit of volunteer work. After that, my plans get a bit more tourist/pilgrimage/education-y. I’ll take a boat from Mandalay to Bagan (Pagan) to tour the amazing Buddhist historical sites there and then to Inle lake, where I’m told I can find a German-run winery, just a short bike-ride up a hill from the guest house. If there’s still time after all of that, I’ll find a beach and soak up what warmth I can because…

My next stop is in Korea – the city of Seoul (not to be confused with the city with soul in it, my very own Missoula. Anyhow…). I’ll spend two weeks there, touring around with my friend Grace: Seoul, Iksan, ?, and then heading down south a bit to hang with another friend and fellow Montana meditator, Nick, who’s teaching there now. After going it alone in Burma, I’m very much looking forward to seeing them both – and perhaps even more meditation.

Then, at last, home – back to Montana. I don’t miss it too much, except around holidays, and in daydreams about photo-excursions to Glacier or other beautiful areas, or thinking of friends there, or my sister and her adorable Chihuahua, Milo. Okay, so I miss it a lot. But it’s freezing ass cold there now – my mom told me the other day it, “got warm, even up into the 40s…” Ha. Here it’s 75 degrees every day, cooling at night into the 50s. I like. So my big plans for Montana right now include a bit of traveling to see people but a lot of netflix and family-time.

And after that, back to the UK for school again. This time back to beautiful Bristol, where I did my MA. I’ll commute when needed to London. Living in London is for the rich; visiting can be done by poor grad students easily enough. That time is already seeming both near and nearly over – as I might be back here in India next fall, or Indonesia on a fellowship, or… who knows. But in any case, it leaves only four or so months in England, much of that being time I’d love to spend traveling around Europe a bit. That doesn’t bode well for finishing my doctorate in 2011.

Oh well. One more year? Grad student life has a kind of romantic, chaotic, dirt-poor nature to it. Romantic with its possibilities. Chaotic with its possibilities. And dirt-poor? Sort of. Such things are relative to an extent. I’m rich by Bodh Gaya standards; but my earnings have been at or below poverty levels in the US. But neither accounts for student loans, help from family, or the ‘perk’ travel I’ve had here in the last few months. So while things like my own home or car are far out of the picture for now, it’s quite a good life to live.

Just one more day and then “goodbye, 2010, hello and cheers, 2011.”

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