Sunday, February 27, 2011


In the last week, I’ve been fighting somewhat of a chest cold that’s proven to be just as stubborn a thing to kick for me as it is to break the habit of yelling at the tv during a Zag game.  I’m not proud to admit it, but if me watching a Gonzaga game was a movie, it could very well get a rating of R and that's without having any nude scenes.  Take the refs out of the games and I think we could lower the rating to a PG-13 movie, but even still, I think once the credits were rolling you’d end up saying “I can’t believe that movie wasn’t Rated R ” instead of “why was that movie PG-13?"

I woke up Sunday morning and tried to find some clean clothes for the day, but in doing so I realized my clothes have more permanent grease stains on them than the number of three’s Gonzaga gives up to their opponents in any given basketball game—too many to count.  Once I found some decent attire, I used the early portion of my day off to try and get the first few days of my Thailand trip figured out as I’ll be leaving this Friday to meet up with my friend from back home.  Not sure if I’m more excited to jump in the Andaman Sea once I get down there or to jump into John Doan’s arms once I see him—in a very manly manner of course.  If you could package John Doan up into a product, he’d make the iPad obsolete and no doubt everyone would want to get their hands on him. 

After getting a few things figured out for the upcoming trip, it was off to the Mother House so I could tag along on an activity I was told would be somewhat of a Mother Teresa pilgrimage around town.  The pilgrimage started at Mother’s tomb at the Mother House and afterwords we ended up walking to what ended up being 3 other historical places that proved to be a big part of the beginning of Mother’s Missionaries of Charity order.  The first place we visited was where Mother first lived after leaving the Loreto convent and where she started her first dispensary.  The second place was Mother’s first school that she started, which happened to be in a slum that was right outside her window when she was still with the Loreto convent.  The fourth place was the Loreto convent itself, which I had already seen earlier in my stay, but one thing I didn’t get to see on my 1st trip that we got to see this time around was the church that Mother supposedly had intimate conversations with God in, the conversations of which resulted in her writing a book title, "Shine a Light."  In this church, all of us and the Sisters had an hour of silence and prayer.  Actually the time of silence was closer to 59 minutes and 57 seconds as my phone made an attempt to turn a time of meditation into a dance party with the beats of Jiya Se Jiya.  Yes...I was “that guy.”  For what it’s worth, I'd like to think I turned my phone to silence just as fast a group of my friends to finish a Howard's pizza from back home, but I still would have preferred avoiding this situation altogether. 

Saturday, February 26, 2011


So I’m at the Internet cafe in the process of paying for my time spent surfing the web and the kid working the desk asks me in total seriousness, “Are you an NBA basketball player?” I’ll admit, walking around Kolkata, does make me feel about 6” taller than the 6’ I’d like to think that I am, but NBA basketball player? If my height makes me an NBA basketball player around here, I think that would make Shaquille O’neal the Empire State building...forgive me, the Shaqtire State building as I’m sure he’d like to be referred to as. I know I’ll be fine with coming back home in the end of April, but I’m not so sure I can say the same thing about my ego as I could see it calling up American Airlines and paying an extra $300 for an extended stay if it keeps getting compliments like the one at the cafe today.

Although volunteering today was without real event for me, I’m not sure if you could say the same thing for Mike, a.k.a. “my other second half.” In all actuality, Mike’s days are not only full of event, but they’re full of discoveries as he is always finding hidden treasure lying around. I can’t say the treasures that Mike comes across are diamonds, but that won’t keep Mike from thinking that the bracelet, hair comb, key, piece of wire, plastic bag, or food aren’t of the same value and it’s quite fun to watch because it reminds me of when I was a kid. Not the kid stage of when I sprayed WD-40 in my mouth and we had to call poison control, but the times when I too, would let my imagination run wild; transforming the littlest of things into the biggest—rocks to jewels, popsicle sticks to boats, and in my elementary yrs a rubber band, staple, elastic string and a cue tip into a medieval cross bow. If Mike didn’t have as much of an imagination as he already did, I may have let him get an “enhancement” and let him drink the half bottle of cough syrup that he found today like he wanted to, but I figured it wouldn’t be a good idea for him and so I drank it instead.

And Mom, of course I didn’t drink the cough syrup we found so don’t worry.

Friday, February 25, 2011


If you’re a Jeopardy wiz and you have no problem "betting it all" on that final question at the end of the show, come to India as a single person like me and the people here will provide you with a couple more questions that will surely test your wit.  The questions...when are you getting married and when are you coming back to India?  Timer begins now....go!  And by the way, there’s no life lines in this round so don’t even think about calling God on these ones.  If you weren’t able to answer these questions, I have one recommendation for you-- get your life figured out already would ya!  

What’s interesting to me is that if Indians are expecting that I have an answer for the two questions mentioned above, why stop there.  Don’t you want to know how long I’ll live my life too?  Or how many kids I’ll have and what universities they’ll go to?  Or what about who the President of the U.S. will be in 2036? And most importantly, when will Gonzaga win a national championship?  

Last night, I just finished up reading my second to last book out of the six that I’ve brought on my travels and upon finishing it, I think it’s important for me, as everyone’s friend reading this blog, to warn you of the danger in the books you read.  If your reading a romance novel or another fiction book on the shelf, you're safe for the most part so do me a favor and pick your edition of  "The Twilight" back up and let me know if it's Edward or Jacob that wins over Bella's heart because the suspense is killing me.  With respect to fiction, just don’t read “The Alchemist” by Paulo Coelho or you might end up buying 100 copies, wrapping them up in bows, and randomly dropping them off around town during Christmas with the hopes that people will “follow their heart.”  That book is definitely dangerous.  So what are the other books you have to be careful about?  It's the one's like "Strength to Love" by Martin Luther King Jr. and "Lincoln The Unknown" by Dale Carnegie that are the dangerous ones because unlike the “Harry Potter” that gives us an escape from the world, these ones inspire us to stay in the world and change it for the better.   It’s these kind of nonfiction books that make a person quit their job, go volunteer in Kolkata, and start writing CARE MORE this and CARE MORE that.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m not telling you to not read these kinds of books, but I’m just saying to be very, very, very careful if you do because the side effects of these books are much more powerful then drowsiness, headaches, lack of appetite, upset stomach, cramps, blurred vision, and dizziness. 

Last, but by far the least, the Gonzaga Bulldogs won a overtime thriller against their rival St. Mary's last night that gives them the chance of continuing their streak of sharing or winning outright the WCC conference title.  This win also gets them much needed points that can only help their chances of potentially getting an "at large" birth into the Big Dance if they happen to lose in the WCC tournament.  Yet again, I'm sure all of you already knew this though so I'm just preaching to the choir.  

Go Zags! 

Thursday, February 24, 2011


Ask an Indian in Kolkata “how they’re doing” and I’ll bet you 9 out of 10 times they’ll tell you in English “I’m fine." As much as I’d like to think the Indian people are in fact fine all the time and that they’re a “glass if half full” kind of people, I think the “I’m fine” is more like the Indian version of the “muy bien” a lot of us back home respond with when someone throws at us a “como estas.”  It’s really the default response that is more about us trying to get street cred than it is about describing how we really feel.  Como Estas?  Well...actually I’ve been on the toilet for the last 2 days and I have a horrible headache, but “muy bien!”  Como Estas mi amigo?  I’m actually extremely tired and my wife just ran off with Esteban to the discotecha, but “muy bien!” 

On Wednesday, a homeless man that was transported to Kalighat brought to life for me the parable of the boy on a beach throwing starfish back into the ocean.  If you aren’t familiar with this parable, basically it’s a story about a boy who is throwing starfish back into the ocean in an attempt to save their life when he is confronted by a man passing by.  The man, realizing there was no chance for the boy to save the thousands of starfish dying on the beach, remarked to him saying along the lines of “child...there’s thousands of starfish and only one of you so what difference can you really make?”  While grabbing an individual starfish amongst the thousands and tossing it back in the ocean, the boy responded back, “I just made a difference to that one.”  Ever since I’ve been here, I’ve tried to take on the mentality of the boy on the beach, but after having a couple experiences in the last week that made me, like the man in the parable, ask the question “what’s the point,” it was nice to have an experience where we were able to throw a starfish back into the ocean again, even if it was just one out of a thousand.  Despite this experience, I still can’t help but find myself frustrated that it’s just the boy on the beach throwing the starfish back and that he’s not accompanied by a bunch of other people who essentially have beachfront property that look out their window every day and see the dying starfish.  I’d like to think the parable of the boy on the beach is just the beginning of the story though and not the ending.  It can’t end like that can it?  Someday...the world joins the boy don’t they?       

Tuesday, February 22, 2011


As much as I could do without the stares I still get from Indian people every day, I will admit that everyone could use a little bit of Indian curiosity in them.  Not at a level to where you find yourself leaning over someone’s shoulder reading the email their typing; something that happens to me quite frequently here and to me is a kind of curiosity just as inappropriate as it would be for me to randomly ask a girl what color of underwear she was wearing.  No.  The good kind of Indian curiosity I’ve come to discover here is the kind that makes a person walk right up to you and ask you what your name is and where you’re from.  It’s the kind that makes a person offer you tea so you can talk a little bit longer and get to know one another better.  The type of curiosity where a conversation is more about the other person than it is about yourself.  This is a good curiosity indeed and I have the Indian people to thank for reminding me that every great relationship starts with “hello” and that if you wait for someone else to say it to you, you might just miss out on meeting a very special person.  

Although every day is a good day, Monday in Kolkata had an extra dose of “goodness” to it thanks to the cool weather we had.  It’s not like Kolkata is at the 100 degree mark like it will be in May and June, but it’s still pretty hot and so I welcome a cool day here just as much as a warm day back home.  With the nice weather, it was perfect conditions for badminton and so I spent a good portion of the afternoon just playing with the residents and getting a couple more double matches with my nemesis, who by the way, happens to be a very nice kid.  First match we lost 21 to 20, second match we won 21-18 and third match we lost 21-18.  I would have preferred of course to go 3-0 in these matches, but when considering my team was competitive in all the games and we didn’t look like Gonzaga did against Syracuse last year in the NCAA tournament, I walked away encouraged.  I’m still anxious for the “one on one” showdown with “Rafael,” but I think my body isn’t as eager and that was a conversation we had with each other the next morning.  

Below, you’ll find a grocery store chain in the area that I’ve taken a special liking to.   The beauty about not being able to read Bengali is that I can make the words whatever I want them to be and so for me, the name of this store has CARE MORE written all over it.  I think that has a lovely ring to it don’t you?    




With Sunday being my day off from volunteering, a resident by the name of Rajan has tried to use these days as an opportunity for him to show me as he put it “the real Kolkata” and on today’s agenda was experiencing a Chinese breakfast in Chinatown.  Can’t say I had any idea of what exactly a Chinese breakfast consisted of, but with the knock on my door at 5:45 a.m., I suppose I wasn’t gonna have to wait too long to find out.  Once we arrived to the district, which was only about a 15 minute transport from the Salvation Army, it was like walking into a buffet of vendors on the street.  Ideally, I ‘d be able to describe to you all the different types of food I saw on the buffet line, but quite honestly, I had no idea what most of it was.  Some stuff had chicken in it, other fish, and everything grease.  Not sure if I’ve mentioned anything about the grease in Indian food so far, but if Indian food was a fast-food burger back home, it would make the Big Mac taste so healthy to where you could blindfold Jerad from Subway, let him eat one, and he’d think it was a chicken onion teriyaki foot long.  Grease aside, Indian food is quite good though.  How I’ve managed to lose weight on this diet of grease is beyond me, but my diet here isn’t that much different from the Atkin’s so I guess it kind of makes sense in a weird way.   
After breakfast, I got a couple more hours of sleep in before I went to church with Mike, “my other half,” as I told him I’d go with him this week so he could introduce me to a couple girls that took him under their wing awhile back.  Nice girls.  In the interests of your ear drums, I’ll save you the sermon from this week as in this particular instance the message didn’t leave me saying “that really hit home,” but rather, “I want to go home."  Nothing against the preacher.  He delivered a good message and he's a CARE MORE kind of guy when considering he started a organization that takes girls out of the sex trade in India, but when it comes to listening to him preach, I think I'll take the audio tape format.   Once the service was over, I then went back to the Salvation Army to get some more rest and in waking up a couple hours later, I found myself with Reverend Mike at the pulpit again and me in the front pew.  Even though Mike’s sermon was a little longer in length than the morning message, to his credit, his delivery was much easier on the ears.  Nothing against the Assembly of God or Mike’s church in the “Assembly of Tyson,” but after today, I’ve come to the conclusion that I can’t take the “two a days” of sermons on Sunday.  As to what will get cut out of my Sunday routine, it’s a tough decision since each venue has its pros and cons, but I’ve got a week to make a decision so we’ll see. 

Sunday, February 20, 2011


After nearly a month and half of being up here, I decided it was about time I finally checked out the room that Mother Teresa lived in during her life at the Mother House.  Sorry, no pictures allowed to be taken.  As expected, her room was as simple as the words she had written on a piece of tape on her dresser, “my vocation is love.” With nothing more than a writing desk, small table, dresser, single bed, and some love...Mother Teresa changed the world and it makes you wonder what all of us could do as well if our vocation was love.  Can you imagine?  Where when asked the question of “what do you do for a living” the universal response would be something like, “technically speaking, I’m a financial analyst, but in reality, my vocation is love.”  What a world that would be to live in.  Or maybe that’s heaven?  In reflecting on this more, I can’t help but think too, that maybe the reason as to why so many people seem to be dissatisfied with their work and not love what they do is because they took love itself out of what they do.  I know I’ve been guilty of this in the past.  Just seeing work as work instead of as an opportunity to love on people.  Just for peace of mind to everyone with all this love talk I’m on, particularly my parents, I may be hanging out with people like I did last night for a birthday party, but I’m not hanging out with people doing LSD or anything like that so don’t worry.  

Speaking of the birthday party, not sure if I missed the memo on this, but evidently, along with my two King Fisher lagers I packed for the festivities, I was supposed to bring a talent to sing and play the guitar like the other 8 guys at the party.  I have no idea what the percentage is of males worldwide that play the guitar and sing, but as far as international male travelers go, I think the percentage is like 90%.  I say this not only because of my experience last night, but also because of a few other rooftop socials here where people seem to pass the guitar around as if it’s a bag of chips--the kind that everyone can't resist dipping their hands into.  In a desperate attempt to try and find some type of common bond with these guys, I made sure to mention that my Dad loved to play the guitar and that I was a big fan of Eric Clapton, but I don’t think that got me too many points.  After a good jam session, the party trickled over to a local nightclub called, “Venom” and once there, I would have preferred getting bit by an actual snake and dealing with the venom than by the 300 rupee ($6 American dollars) price for a bottle of corona there.  Being a man of principle, I decided to not stay very long at the club and I wouldn't say I was missed much, especially by the girls, since they were all busy with the guitar players.       

Below, you'll find a picture of the entrance to the Mother House.   Mother Teresa to this day is still working here.