August 29, 2006


My horizons have expanded since becoming a scooter girl. The other day I found myself eating skittles in the parking lot of a greasy spoon in the suburbs. It suddenly brought memories back of being in BFE Tennessee. The more I get to know the suburbs of the Twin Cities and even parts of Saint Paul, I see the less perfect side of this metropolis.

In order to continue to ride legally I need a motorcycle license (my paper permit expires eventually) so a friend and I signed up for the state sponsored motorcycle safety course. I saw this as a good opportunity to explore the heavier side of two-wheeled transportation. Recently I have been getting the urge to upgrade to a bit more power but the class squelched that desire.

Although it took me awhile to get used to the dangers of riding a scooter, it is nothing compared to an actual motorcycle. I was surprised at the difference a few hundred pounds can make. Previously I was worried about braking with a foot and a hand and using a clutch and shifting gears with my two other limbs (simultaneously!) but I proved a quick learn on that subject. The area that nearly killed me (don't worry - not literally) was cornering. I just didn't feel comfortable with the whole "lean", "counter balance" and rolling a throttle smoothly through a turn. Even the little 250 cc I was riding was a lot clunkier than my scooter (150 cc). The weight also makes a huge difference when you stop - although the brakes are better if the handles are straight a fast halt will throw your bike on the ground sideways. Balance is much more critical on a bike that isn't easily lifted. It isn't just the weight but also where it is located. My scooter is much more bottom heavy - meaning that it doesn't tip easy. The tires are smaller so the whole package is closer to the ground, making it much more stable.

Not that I didn't enjoy the additional cc's and I suppose I would eventually get used to cornering and stopping. Perhaps someday I'll decide to move from a scooter-girl to a biker-chick. But in the meantime I am happy to have started with my little ride. Now I just need to learn maintenance.

August 07, 2006


Two years, three months, and one week after I return to the States I got my first bout of food poison. Yep - I thought it was a virus but it turned out to be a meat and dairy friendly bacteria. So for those of you worried about Delhi Belly and Montezuma's revenge - I say the states isn't any safer. Here are some fun facts about my new bacteria "friend", Campylobacter.

It takes three to five days for it to incubate in your system. Most people don't associate this food poisoning with food for that reason and it can be impossible to trace where it came from.

It tends to come from chicken. In fact, half of all raw chicken is infected with the campylobacter. This is why you always want to cook chicken really well. This bacteria doesn't survive heat at all. However, one drop of raw chicken juice (eeewwww!!!) can infect a person and make them sick. So this is why people are freakish about washing cutting boards!

Chickens can be infected while alive too but they don't get sick from it (Lucky them). Cows and beef can also be infected, though it is less common. However, a cow can have it and it can get into her milk. This happened once and a class of school kids who visited a dairy farm and drank un-pasteurized milk all got sick. Generally though there are not mass infections of the campylobacter.

Taken early antibiotics can help lessen the symptoms, however, not always, and taken late they can have no affect at all or even help breed antibiotic resistant bacteria.

Generally it takes seven to ten days to recover from the campylobacter.

Seven to ten days!!!!!!!! What a fabulous weight loss program I have stumbled into…

June 10, 2006

Futbol Fanatic

You've probably already heard, but Germany won - 4 to 2 against Costa Rica. It was a loose game and from the first goal (which happened all too quickly) I suspected Germany would come out on top. It wasn't just that they had the home field advantage; the Ticos were playing poorly, perhaps shaken by the fact that no home team has ever lost out in the first round of the World Cup. Despite my past differences with Costa Rica, I was rooting for them, recalling with nostalgia the insane Ticos running through the streets, foaming beer and champagne bottles in hand, after winning against us in the last World Cup.

Ecuador won against Poland as well today, but I didn't find that game as interesting.

Half a year ago I wrote a humorous entry on how to appear worldly when you haven't traveled for an embarrassing amount of time. Well now that I have my butt planted more firmly than ever in Minneapolis, I found yet another item to add to the list:

    • Watch Soccer and follow the World Cup fanatically:

      I have never been much of a sports watcher, always preferring storylines with words, however I cannot resist the international draw of the World Cup. Soccer viewing is like watching dance and theater, with a lot of really cute (fit) guys of all sizes and colors in shorts running around. The steals, the falls, the goals, the blocks, are all there on the big screen and done so gracefully.
      My roommate bet that I won't watch even a quarter of the games (thanks to the miracle of DVR I am recording them all for at least a day) and he may be right. After all, it is spring. The daylight lasts until ten and my social life seems to be more active than a beehive. Yet, watching the games (or at least parts of them) and learning about the players and the countries, has been irresistible so far.

  • December 21, 2005

    Worldly Tips

    It was a little less than a year and a half ago that my grandfather asked me about my plans after graduation. I outlined some grand schemes involving several different countries and possible futures. He chuckled about how small the world is for my generation. Now here it is a little later than a year after he died and I have hardly left the (lovely) state of Minnesota. Despite my homeliness I have a reputation to keep – so how does a girl keep up appearances of worldliness when she hasn't got the time, money, or follow-through to actually visit the world? Well I haven't let my accidental self-grounding go to waste; here are a few tips I have learned:

    Continue reading "Worldly Tips" »

    June 28, 2004

    China's Big Brother

    Continue reading "China's Big Brother" »

    May 13, 2004

    cultural adjustments

    I am thoroughly back in the U.S., though India still haunts my dreams. More disconcerting is the way it haunts my habit patterns. I get a slight thrill from brushing my teeth with tap water (and it feels weird not to be paranoid about accidentally drinking water in the shower) and I still don't feel comfortable eating uncooked green vegetables. I keep thinking that it will be easy to get clothes made, altered, or mended. And life with out cheap trains, auto-rickshaws, and restaurant food (never mind beer!) is a difficult adjustment. It is always a surprise to have hot water available with out having to switch on the hot water heater a half hour in advance and I am still not used to outlets not having switches on them.

    Human relations are other strange cultural differences I keep pondering. I know that many people are frustrated with the way India treats its women (worse than cows) but somehow I never saw this side of the country. I always found people to be friendly and polite. While there were a few whistles or comments, I am so adept at ignoring them I rarely noticed without some one else's commentary. Despite my obliviousness, I still felt that in India I possessed a rock star quality. People were happy to speak with me and I always felt beautiful. Here I am so ordinary it seems only the lonely and the freaks see me. Not that I am crying for attention, so far I enjoy being anonymous. It is just interesting to go from being a novelty to a nobody. However, I worry I will catch the habit and not only judge myself as a nobody but start seeing other people that way too. While I know that dangerous people exist, so it is wise to be cautious, I also know that you can make friends in the strangest places.

    April 27, 2004

    Spinning and crash landing

    Getting back into the country is strange. Actually, returning was surprisingly simple - there were no problems with customs or immigration. However walking into my bedroom and looking at the mass of things I have accumulated over 26 years of life and learned to do with out (and still be happy) for eight months was disconcerting. It is difficult to feel connected to any of these items I once cherished. Many I can still appreciate but there are some things that have got to go (like cheesy books and clothes that either don't fit or have stains).

    Yet there is an urge to pick up right where I left off, as if I hadn't been gone at all. This is a most disturbing fear of mine. Not only did I gain memories while traveling but I also gained happiness and a certain comfortableness with the world. I would hate to lose those in the vacant materialistic world that is the suburbs of the U.S. True, India is materialistic, but it isn't vacant. Being here I can see how much easier it is to place things in my life than people. People (especially friendly ones) are few and far between but there are stores and stores full of lonely things just hoping to find happy homes.

    Perhaps I need to remember that things also require compromises. While with people I cannot always be right, make them happy, or do whatever I want, with things I have to spend lots of time working to support my accumulation habit - never mind finding the space to put all this stuff.

    I am fortunate, keeping this blog has made my life more cohesive, connecting my evolving travel self with the one I left behind. Usually there is a painful collision when my changed self tries to reunite with the character I left behind at home. Though the impact of re-entry is less harsh than last time, like egos, old selves don't die easy and I can feel the shadow of my former self tugging at my sleeve as I try to lighten my life and my load. I only hope the happier self wins.

    April 23, 2004

    Back in the U.S.A.

    I feel like a tourist in my own country. I have a difficult time understanding the accent. My heart raced as the vehicle I was in approached 75 miles per hour (I haven't gone that fast, not counting airplanes, in eight months) and I was at first bemused then bored by the orderly way people drive here. I constantly question in which language to say 'thank you' and 'sorry'. I am amazed by the manicured roadsides and lack of pollution.

    The thirty-hour plane ride here was blissfully uneventful.

    I look forward to being in a large crowd of people again. This time it will be the march for women's right to choose whether to carry a fetus in her body to full term. I think forcing a woman to remain pregnant against her own wishes is a most vile and hateful thing, causing harm to both her and the potential child she is carrying. Usually I don't do marches; usually I have better things to do. However our current president seems determined to take this right I grew up with away so I feel in response that I need to proclaim my pro-choice beliefs extra loud. I know this is a controversial and sensitive subject. I usually avoid this topic because it is the one area of my life where there is no room for discussion or compromise, thinking about either makes me quite upset.

    I prefer to stay calm.

    April 21, 2004

    Leaving Again

    My past few days here have been a haze of business and friends, filled with nostalgic longing for more time in vibrant India. Even as I am eager to see my family and loved ones in the U.S., I am sad to be leaving those I care about here, unsure of when I shall return.

    Who could have guessed that India would steal my heart so thoroughly? Not I, and probably no one else because I didn't get lost in this country the way I hear most people do. I never found God, I was not entranced by all the holy things, and I neither lost nor found myself in this land of contradictions.

    Granted I was entranced by the color and life that most visitors notice. Everything here is alive, from the garbage on the streets to saris and salwar-kameezes worn by women. There is fullness to the air that satisfies my constantly curious sense of smell. And the cows, people, dogs, horses, and lord only knows what else parading through the streets, combined with the green flowering trees and plants certainly keep the eyes entertained. I observed and came to adore these things as the increasingly familiar pattern of streets in Bangalore, Delhi, and Dharamsala, laid grids in my soul that will call me back until the end of time.

    However, while all these things are fabulous, the people I met and the friends I made are the real treasures of time well spent in this maddeningly diverse nation. As well as securing friends all over the U.S., from Maine to California, I came to know Tibetans, Indians, and Arabs from all over the middle east. As I traveled my social circle at times included people from every continent. I am going to miss these perspectives and the people they belong to.

    By tomorrow I shall be in Washington DC, struggling to adjust to a new time zone and a different culture. On Sunday I will be joining many others in the struggle to keep women's right to choose in the U.S. as we march in the capital. On Monday I will be returning to Dayton, Ohio and the familiar home of my 92 year-old grandmother.

    March 24, 2004


    We have already established that my taste in music is not to be trusted (I blame my father for this but that is another story), however I still must say that I love traditional Tibetan music. I still haven't gotten a handle on all their intstruments but there are banjo/guitar liked stringed ones, a viola/bass guitar one that I am not so crazy about, mandolins, and a lot of it is done with a quirky emphasis on the second beat which makes it surprisingly similar to reggae.

    As much as I love the traditional stuff, I am trying to trace the evolution of culture so I set out to figure out how this delightful music has changed in the past fifty years. What I have discovered so far is surprisingly predictable. It has been electricfied, some people have started mixing it into techno-dance numbers, others pick up the pace or add distortion to make it more grungy or rock-like, while others emphasize the twang in a way that, due to my revulsion to U.S. country music, turns my stomach a bit.

    However, despite the predictability of this evolution, the results are still unique - Tibetan rock does not sound like the rock that grew out of the U.S., which doesn't sound like some of my favorite rock bands from other countries. Thinking about this, it occurred to me that music is perhaps one of the few areas where blending is good, especially as long as there remains interest in the old areas. I suspect food is similar but a little bit more difficult to import and export. It seems that even as we complain that cultures all over the world are dying to homogenization resulting from globalization music is just getting more diverse and more interesting. Also, as the blending of cultures creates new musical genres, it also creates a wider audience for the traditional styles. Most people's music collections only grow as they get older. Discovering positive aspects to the way we are evolving as humans is always a joy.

    March 23, 2004

    Red China in Tibet

    I saw Kundun (the story of the Dalai Lama) for the second time in five years last night. It almost made me cry. My Tibetan friend, who arrived her from Amdo about ten years ago did cry. He has seen the movie at least five times.

    There are no easy answers or summaries to this conflict, no time line, no idea how or when it is going to end. And of course due to time and language limitations I could only get the briefest view of how life is in Tibet today, under the Chinese.

    Continue reading "Red China in Tibet" »

    March 21, 2004

    Rollin Holy

    I sort of kind of went to church today. I mean it wasn't Christian and I wasn't inside but it was Sunday, there was prayer and meditation and lots and lots of people.

    Continue reading "Rollin Holy" »

    March 17, 2004

    Back in Delightful Delhi

    There were problems.

    But the important thing is I arrived safely back in Delhi, only two hours later than planned. It is nice to be back.

    It is dirtier, hotter, smellier, noisier, and more crowded than I recall but I still love it. My skin loves the humidity but the rest of the jury is out on that one.

    Not only did I arrive last night, as planned, but I aready have an overnight bus ticket to McCleod Ganj, where I will be able to finally start pounding out some papers. I only hope the ones I have been writing in my head for the past month show up for the computer.


    Continue reading "Ganesha" »

    March 15, 2004

    Coming down the mountain

    Continue reading "Coming down the mountain" »

    March 14, 2004

    Over the pass and through the valley

    Continue reading "Over the pass and through the valley" »

    March 08, 2004

    a climatizing

    Continue reading "a climatizing" »

    March 07, 2004

    Dancing the night away

    Continue reading "Dancing the night away" »

    March 05, 2004

    Land of Eternal Sunshine

    Continue reading "Land of Eternal Sunshine" »

    March 04, 2004


    Continue reading "Xenophopia" »

    March 02, 2004


    Continue reading "Indulge" »

    March 01, 2004

    Pandas and the rain

    Continue reading "Pandas and the rain" »

    February 28, 2004


    Continue reading "Tourism" »

    February 26, 2004


    Continue reading "Thailand" »

    February 24, 2004

    Loving Losar

    Have any of you heard complaints about how there is no "rite of passage" for young folks in the U.S. these days? Sure we graduate from high school and if we are lucky maybe even from college, and there is always our first paycheck, but none of those are a solid, confidence boosters. In many cultures when a person is ready to enter adulthood he or she faces a test that may be more difficult than most of what an adult actually faces, thus after passing, they know themselves better and feel able to deal with what ever lies ahead, with out resorting to drugs or other escape measures.

    Continue reading "Loving Losar" »

    February 16, 2004

    Student Life!

    Continue reading "Student Life!" »

    Truly Tibetan

    Continue reading "Truly Tibetan" »

    February 15, 2004

    Picture Perfect

    Continue reading "Picture Perfect" »

    February 14, 2004

    Mcleod Ganj a.k.a. Upper Dharamsala

    Continue reading "Mcleod Ganj a.k.a. Upper Dharamsala" »

    February 12, 2004


    Continue reading "Conclusion" »

    February 10, 2004


    Let me tell you all about Bryan.
    I feel the need to do this partially because I will be traveling with him for the next several weeks so those of you who aren't acquainted with this fellow might wonder who he is, and partially because interesting things happen to him. I am a reporter, although I like excitement now and then, I prefer for the excitement to happen to other folks and then I can write about it.

    Continue reading "Bryan" »

    Wearing Down

    Continue reading "Wearing Down" »

    February 07, 2004

    Still In Delhi

    Continue reading "Still In Delhi" »

    February 04, 2004


    Continue reading "DDDeli" »

    February 02, 2004

    Smells Like Cold

    Continue reading "Smells Like Cold" »

    February 01, 2004


    Continue reading "surviving" »

    January 30, 2004


    Continue reading "packed" »

    January 25, 2004

    clubbing Indians

    I went to a club last night.
    It was good to stay out late and dance, shaking off the last vestiges of my cold.
    Furthermore, none of my companions got embarrassingly drunk and the guest we invited seemed to have a good time.
    Packed in like sardines, moving to fast techno accompanied by polyrhythmic drums, I knew I wasn't in Kansas. Most of the faces around me were darker than mine but otherwise it was a typical pleasant experience - only a few lecherous men singled me out. Moving to the music enabled me to lose myself, my whiteness, in a way that is safe and rare.

    Continue reading "clubbing Indians" »

    January 23, 2004

    Let's talk about sex

    Continue reading "Let's talk about sex" »

    January 16, 2004

    Dressing Up

    There are so many holidays here it makes my head spin. Yesterday was the Hindu new year and Tuesday was an inpromptu holiday when a former cheif minister died. He was quite popular, especially with the lower classes, thus our teachers were worried for our safety. Police were out in mass, just in case the grief stricken decided to riot.

    As instructed we stayed in all day. Diya, my host sister came over bringing goodies to play dress up with. It was Ann's first Sari, my second. We barely convinced John to play along and he will surely clobber me when he realizes I've posted this picture. I'll probably never get him into a lungi and kurta again.

    January 12, 2004


    The longer I am here the more I enjoy it. My friend Edurne,who studied at the SAC a few years ago, warned me about this effect. It takes awhile to get settled in. I got so settled in the my host family all but legally adopted me. They took me to two weddings and did countless other things to make me feel part of the family. Diya, the eldest sister, is an artist and did Mehndi on my hands in preparation for the first wedding. This is the ancient art of henna drawing on skin. The bride gets done up to her elbows. Her feet and ankles, sometimes up to her knees, are also decorated. My left hand has the traditional pattern; the center shape is of a mango leaf. My right hand is as original as can be though, all Diya's own creation.

    Posted by miriam holsinger on 1/12/04; 1:25:38 PM
    Bangalore, India

    January 02, 2004

    Midnight Coffee Run

    Just when you think you know people!
    Last night I was invited with my host sisters to go for a midnight coffee run. It was suppose to be an eleven o clock coffee run but somehow things took more time than anticipated. So here I was squooshed in a car the size of a geo metro with six Indians - at least I think they were all Indian. One may be a NRI (Non Resident Indian) as he had a funny accent and talked a bit about Hong Kong or some place in that vicinity.

    We fit in somehow, us four girls in the back and three boys in the front. The coffee run turned into an ice cream run, we went to Cornerhouse where my hosts insisted I order something called "Death by Chocolate." If chocolate could kill this would be its atom bomb.

    Luckily everyone helped me eat it. And this is another funny thing - these guys were all going against every Indian precept I had learned. They were going out late (my host sisters were quite surprised their dad let them go out like this on the spur of the moment), only one boy was known in common to all, and despite our relative strangeness we all swapped spit by sharing ice cream and spoons. It wasn't anything serious but previously I learned how to drink out of a bottle with out using my mouth because I had heard of the Indian taboo against possibilities of back wash and germs. Yet all this goes out the window. And of course everybody was dressed in jeans or slacks and shirts. We had fun - they teased each other a lot, it seems one boy had a desperate crush on a girl not there that everyone knew and had a low opinion of. He was told he would be destined to die unmarried and a virgin. It was fun to hang out with the gang and ice cream at midnight is always a deliciously naughty idea.

    Posted by miriam holsinger on 1/2/04; 6:39:53 PM
    Bangalore, India

    January 01, 2004

    Happy New Year

    Out with the old, in with the new.

    New Years was a bang, the best in years. Don't ask why, I can only imagine it had something to do with friends. Being such an arbitrary day I don't usually celebrate it with gusto. After all, in my heritage we also have Yom Kippur, the Jewish new year (celebrated a few months ago) and Losar, the Tibetan new year (to be celebrated in February). So who is to say when a year ends and begins?

    This year it was just a good excuse to dance, drink too much caffeine, and have a blast. I hope every body else had a wonderful time too. In India they did - I don't think I have ever seen so many smiles on the streets. I could do with out the fire crackers though.

    Posted by miriam holsinger on 1/1/04; 6:29:42 PM
    Bangalore India

    December 25, 2003

    Happy Birthday

    Posted From Bangalore, India

    Please do not keel over from shock,
    but I went to midnight mass last night.

    My host sister, Diya, is dating a Christian and has befriended all of his friends so a bunch of us went with them to celebrate this holiday.

    Continue reading "Happy Birthday" »