Thursday, 27 February 2014

The Travel Productivity Log

You are bound to change as a person when you travel, for good or for bad. You constantly learn, meet new people, learn about the kind of lives they lead, so different from yours, exchange perspectives, cultures, philosophy, experience things you never had.... and even if you are not making an effort to learn you are still constantly learning! You return feeling different, rich with all these experiences which shape you as a person. Reminds me of this quote from the movie Motorcycle Diaries which is about two friends biking through South America.

"Yo ya no soy yo. Por lo menos, no soy el mismo yo interior."
 "I am no longer who I was. At least, I’m no longer who I was inside." 
So apt huh? For me the 4 months in Colombia and a month in Ecuador were the most productive in a while.

Things I learnt in my four months in Colombia:

1. Spanish!
Yes! I learnt more than just basic Spanish in four month and no it was not as easy as I make it sound. When I first arrived to Colombia I did not know a word beyond Hola! I had only heard before about how living a language is the best way of learning a language; now I couldn't agree more. My first one month went by signing frantically to my host mother in the kitchen while towards the end I managed to write her a good bye note in Spanish which made her weep. I spent a big chunk of my time reading all three PDF volumes of Spanish for dummies on my phone initially, which did not help me at all! The key to learning a language is practicing it not studying it. And unknowingly my Frisbee team was the biggest help, since I spent 3 hours a day every day training with them for a month and none of them speak any English! I think I did not too bad compared to BENNY THE IRISH POLYGLOT  , doing just a month more. :)

Mi primera cancion en espanol:

2. Cooking Indian Food:
Yes I learnt how to cook Indian food outside India. I never really bothered to learn how to cook, while I was at home because cooking was never really my thing. So you can imagine the shock associated with an Indian girl at a marriageable age- not knowing how to cook! :O But when it came to representing my culture out side of India I had to step up. I was eating all this amazing food that my host family made for me all the time, so it came naturally to me to want them to have a taste of my cuisine. The biggest problem being the spices, was solved by my grandmother and aunt who sent all the basic Indian spices (and some goodies) all the way from Estados Unidos (the US) to Colombia! And thus began the saga of endless Skype calls to my mom in India at odd hours, with her directing me to cook, step by step, at times for 3 hours straight; coz Indian food can be quite a drag just like Hindi movies and Hindu weddings. My first time was fine, with my Parathas a little fatter and little harder than they were suppose to be, but soon I got really good and eventually I could just read a recipe of the net and make it perfectly. I don't know how I got so good at cooking Indian food but I was like a natural at it. And then I figured it was because my mom is an excellent cook! It came from the memory of watching her cook a zillion times and the way the house smelt of all the spices every time she cooked.
Anyway, by the end of the trip I learnt how to make Bngan ka Bharta, Chole Batura, Gajar ka halwa, Chicken Tikka Masala, Palo, Chaat, Kher, Rajma Chaaval, Saahi tukada, Gulaab Jaamun and my first attempt of Chicken Biryani and Butter chicken was as good at Pradise(This very famous iconic food chain in my city). If you have had enough of my boasting and don't believe me, maybe the pictures will help! :)

3. Salsa:
Man do Latinos know how to fiesta! I was never awesome at dancing. Especially pair dancing. After attending a couple of initial family gatherings and friends parties I understood what a big deal SALSA was down here. First of all, men don't dance in India. If you are out dancing in India, it is probably a girls night out and it usually involves men lecherously staring at you from the bar while you dance. Here in Colombia it is the men who lead in pair dance and its like everyone is born with the dancing gene! My initial embarrassment of having two left feet was soon overcome by personal dance lessons by a friend of my mine who is a pro dancer. By the end of a month's session's I gotta say I move like a natural when ever I hear the music!

4. Skateboarding: 
I always always always wanted a skateboard growing up but its not really a popular Indian kid sport. The first time I ever tried a skate board was in my first trip to the western world. I am a fast learner and have a knack of picking up things fast especially things involving physical activity. I believe if you are good at one sport you can pick up any other other sport much faster than an average person since you already have better developed hand eye coordination, fine motor skills and have a better understanding of the physics that goes into it. In my time in Colombia, I realized how big Skateboarding was since so many of my students were all over the place with the skate board and I thought it was the perfect time for me to pick it up again. After like a week's practice with a 15 year old sweetest kid teaching me how to do an Ollie; I FINALLY learn it!! (after don't ask how many falls!) So at 23 I finally satisfied my inner child. :) Your never too old to learn anything!

Skating boarding on a London sidewalk. 

5. Xbox - FIFA 2014: 
You can't be in south america an not follow football. Even if you are least interested in it, you can't help but be updated on who is playing against whom and whose match is it next, since there is no conversation in a day that goes without a mention of football. Living with a a host family with two boys has its own pluses. Not only do you get to accompany them to the foot ball field for a game occasionally when they are short of players; you also get to up your  Xbox skills because that's they do all day!! You know you are getting better when from 11-0 you finally manage to score a point against your host brother one fine day! That's when you should retire!

My host brother and I with the must-have Colombian football Jersey's 

6. Ultimate:
Colombia is world number #4 in ultimate ranking and I was lucky enough to get to play one tournament while I was there.  Right from training for it till actually playing at the tournament you get to see an exceptional level of the game! You are surrounded by such amazing players and for me it was all the more exciting to see all women teams! (Its hard to find female players playing ultimate in India) You see a phenomenal improvement in your own game level when you play with people better than you. Handling in an all girls team gave me the confidence that I much needed.

My first all girls Frisbee team

Things I learnt in Ecuador: 

7. Metal Smithing and Hand bands:
I've always been good with my hands an a fast learner. And being an eager learner makes me wanna learn everything! (Like literally everything I see!! which is not always a good thing) So I picked up metal smithing from a french man who was an excellent teacher. It basically involved turning thin wire into accessories using a cutting pliers. I believe its a wonderful way to express creativity, make personalized gifts for people and make use  of your time while travelling.

Hand bands are the next best way to make use of your time travelling and better still you get to sell them an make easy money. I think Ecuador has got to be my first connect with the hippie way of life with all the kind of people I met and the kind of things they did. My mom is a skeptic to see me embracing the hippie way of life but I feel its nice how in this digitized and mechanized world people still have the patience, time and energy to make hand made things and there are people who appreciate hand made things enough to buy it.  

Remember how I told you I am a fast learner? Theory proved. I learnt how to stand on a surf board on my very first session, on day one, the very first time I tried how to surf! :) So that's something right?

9. Guitar: 
Its impossible how amazing these guys are with the guitar in south america. Almost all of them know how to play one instrument or another. We would just break into live music sessions in the dining room while others cooked or group singing after dinner session. You do pick up an instrument faster with  friends than at any music classes. I definitely bettered my Guitar skills in just a month's time more than the whole time I've been playing the guitar in my life.

10. Working in Spanish: 
From reading an entire case study in Spanish about sustainable travel to doing door to door marketing of Eco tourism, my voluntary experience in Ecuador made me exercise my newly learnt Spanish skills. Not just that, I believe I learnt a great deal about marketing and understanding the Latin market.

So, I believe every kind of travel is productive whether you are an active learner or not. You always learn something, sometimes its measurable and others immeasurable. It has a profound effect on your life; mostly in a good way.  

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