Yellowstone National Park

I have a thing for National Parks. I can’t explain it other than by suggesting that my fondness for them comes from spending almost every other weekend hiking and camping with my father in my youth.

To be honest we probably didn’t go hiking and camping as much as I remember us doing so, but a chunk of my childhood was spent sleeping on the ground, in a tent, my body temperature hovering in that strange cold-but-sweating zone and laughing at my sister pee on herself during a hike*.

While we were usually sequestered to the handful of State Parks Indiana boasts my family would generally stop at any National Parks while we were traveling. Thanks to parents who were willing to ensure their children saw as much of the world as they could and my living in the Middle-of-Nowhere, Idaho I’ve seen a lot of National Parks, Forests and Monuments.

My mother would always make us take a picture with the National Park sign at the beginning of every park. She told us over and over again that “everyone did it and it was a tradition” and my sisters and I would just comply to stop her from going on about it. Oddly enough, when I started my own road trips with Jas we always found ourselves begging other groups to take our picture with the sign. Pictures with Park Name signs must be some sort of primal need bred into every American. If we left a park without a sign picture, we had to return and take one. Not to do so just felt so wrong**.


While I was living in Idaho I happened to be no more than an hour away from Yellowstone National Park. I lived in Idaho for three years and almost left it without ever going to visit it. I was insane. Not to visit the first national park in the world would have been a regrettable and frivolous mistake while I was so close to it! I finally managed to go when driving out for my penultimate semester in September 2009. My mother, our German Exchange Student and I road tripped to my school so that the German could see some of the vast and inspiring geography of the Western United States… or, you know, get her out of a week of school. (Probably the latter).


We saw just a tiny, tiny part of the park, and to have seen the entire park would have required staying at least a week. What we did see was stunningly beautiful. Since it was fall and winter was coming in just under a week (Intermountain Winter starts the third week of September, trust me) most of the foliage was scrubby and brown, but it contrasted beautifully with the color that held fast.


I remember being so amazed by all the greens, blues, reds, golds, pinks, turquoises and copper colors that all I wanted to do was sit on the ground and stare at them for the length of a day—to se how they changed and developed from sunrise to sunset.


Call me terribly Romantic but my views on nature are such that I cannot help but to be touched by the beauty and perfection in all that surrounds us. It is a joy more restoring and healing to be in nature than any other provided by books or TV or Twitter or music.


Besides, I also have a terrible weakness for bison. They’re so cute!


Though we only saw a few parts of the park: some small hot springs, Yellowstone Lake, Old Faithful, an Elk, a couple bears and The Grand Canyon (of Yellowstone) and its miraculous waterfall, it was sufficent for the one day we had set aside to explore it.


Apparently I was so in awe of Old Faithful that I didn’t take any pictures of it… while I’m not really surprised by this behavior (I tend to be a terrible photographic recorder) I will admit that it was quite stunning and very, very fun to watch… even if it was freezing.


Naturally I did happen to get a picture of myself, watching Old Faithful.

Yellowstone is a park I think often of returning to to explore more of its beauties and wonders… I’ll just have to think about breaking that vow I made never to cross the Mississippi River ever again***.


*I’m a terrible sister. :)
**I know I have a sign picture of myself, my mother and our German exchange student at the time at the Yellowstone Park sign, but I can’t seem to find it. This upsets me in a weird way.
***On my last drive from Idaho to Indiana after completing my time at University I swore, as I drove over it, that i would never, ever, ever cross the Mississippi River ever again and that I was confined, forever to the Eastern half of the United States. That might have been a dumb vow to make.


Bear Licking, Kid Discipline 101

I lived in Idaho for 3 years.

Besides being the most tragic era of my life, due to sheer Deserted Desert Syndrome, it also provided multiple chances for road trips with my best friend, Jas.

Before and after every semester Jas would join me in driving from Idaho to Indiana or from Indiana to Idaho. Each time we planned a different route, going through Arizona, South Dakota, and even detouring enough to hit Washington and Canada.

For all my grudging of its sparse population and limited entertainment and “glamour value” the West is a beautiful, wild, and special place. From the limitless horizon to the towering trees, winding rivers, red rocks, shrubby deserts and awe-inspiring, snow capped mountains it is a place that, once seen, never leaves you.

During our trip that canvassed Washington Jas and I stopped at a gas station to refuel, grab energy providing snacks (sour cream and onion chips and chocolate milk) and use the bathroom (we’re girls). We were waiting in line to pay for our provisions when we were distracted by a comotion coming from the “restaurant” side of the gas station. (It was one of those stores that had a generic Subway or whatsit attached. Basically the ONLY place in a remote town in Washington where you could get a footlong.)

There was a mother and her three children sitting around a table. Well, two of the children were at the table and the third, a baby, was strapped into its carseat on the floor.

Can we please, for a minute appreciate my horror at seeing a baby (carseat or no) on the floor?

For some reason I vividly remember the son having a lollipop in hand and a baseball hat on. The kids had that unwashed and slightly malnourished look that I learned to attribute to mountain people.**

The mother was missing a fair amount of teeth.

Frustrated with her son’s behavor in what she called a “fine dining establishment” the mother wrenched him down onto his seat, looked him straight in the eyes and said “If you don’t stop this second I’m going to tie you to a tree and let a bear lick you!”

Just like that.

Jas and I looked at each other in stunned silence for about half a second before collapsing into convulsive giggles. Hardly able to support ourselves we attempted to pay for our foodstuffs and gas before walking out into the very sunny afternoon and proceed to lose ourselves to an attack of mad giggling that caused stomach spasms and, quite possibly, drooling.

Only in the mountains of Washington would a mother threaten her child with a bear licking; I’ll never get to say anything that fabulous to any misbehaving child of mine and it is an acute regret that I’m prepared to feel.

**Yeah I know, I judge people. It’ll all come back on me. Blah blah.

Holi Hai! 2010

   Even my car was colored!

My darling beauties, I have returned from Holi, happy, exhausted, coughing up purple goo like a Verismo Romantic lead, and of course, toting a bazillion pictures!

I love accidentally amazing pictures, like this one. 

I thought I would share them with you, so you too can experience the joy… but you won’t have to scrub yourself silly afterwards. Lucky devils.

I went to this festival last year when I was a awkward, rather ill-informed watcher of Bollywood. A year later I’ve fully embraced my pyaar for my adopted culture and of course had to go attend again!

Katie and I drove down to the Sri Sri Radha Krishna Templein Spanish Fork, Utah early in the day so that we could get good parking and buy all of our colors before they ran out (and they did run out, one-million bags later).

The temple is home to an interesting mix of “Hare Krishnas” and local Hindus.  The festival brings crowds from my school and its sister school in Provo and other local universities around the Salt Lake City area, Desis from all over, simple natured farmers and people of all ages. For the day we forget ourselves, get a little touchy-feely and chant the Maha Mantra so often that I could do it this very second, and read it in Devanagarifor you if you asked me to.

Due to the increasing popularity of the event over the years they had two times for color throwing; noon and 5 p.m.  We decided to stick it out and go to both, simply because we could.  Before both “throwings” they provided entertainment. Classical Indian dancers from Boise, Idaho who were just so beautiful and graceful that I almost melted. I also firmly decided while watching the little 5 year olds dance Kuchipudithat somehow, someway, I shall be having beautiful, half-brown babies. The end. Non-negotiable. Fact.

For the first throwing I lead Katie into the center of the action. “You must experience this” I said, “but you won’t be able to see or breathe for 3 minutes. But I don’t care, you’re doing this”. After a countdown, and a torching of Holikathe throwing began. True to my words we were lost in a cloud of orangish dust. All of the powder mixing together, thrown in the air at the same time made for a surreal experience. The sun was blocked out first, next you feel it falling, but for 30 seconds or so you don’t really notice until without warning the cloud falls all around you; the only senses you retain in that moment are taste and hearing. Your mouth and nose are clogged with thick, disgusting tasting chalk, powder turns everything orange seconds before you can’t see more than a few inches in front of you, and then lands by the bucketfuls into your eyes. You scream and yell and get trampled and have people body surf on you and laugh hysterically; all the while choking on more dust, and throwing more of your own in retaliation.

You have to fight your way out of the center, which morphs into a Woodstock class orgy almost as instantly as the colors fly into the air. It’s all cool, under the guise of a painted face you can get away with anything (well, except for groping… but that happened the second time around). On the edge Katie and I danced to the band, threw more colors and laughed at our lightness of heart.

The dear bands that were playing, well… they weren’t terrible, but I could have used more variety than the Maha Mantra as lyrics and a skinny, dopey Jay Sean wannabe; but it worked. The best part was some gori behind me who kept trying to explain to his friend that it was bhangra, and it was so rocking. The music couldn’t even dream of being classified as bhangra! It was acoustic, folksy, sometimes country rockish, but bhangra wasn’t even close. After a while this girl could have used some ghaatiness in the music, but I found much better things to spend my time on.

Like food. Veggy curry, little naans, mango-lemon juice? YES PLEASE! (It was some testement to how caught up in Holi I was that I was able to eat sitting on the ground, covered in dirt and color, consuming food prepared by people covered in colors themselves. The mysophobia was clearly on a vacation!)

The second go-around Katie and I opted to stay towards the back, where we could get more distinct pigmentation and watch the colors go into the air. I want to say it was more fun that way, it was more personal at least. You threw color on someone, they smeared it on your neck and so on and so forth until you were all blue, or all pink, or all green. It can also cause an entire bag of pink to be dumped down the front of your shirt, but it’s best that things like that are forgotten. Up at the top you also start your major throwing about 10 minutes too early (by accident) , so that Katie and I were done and walking towards our car when we heard the countdown for the second one. I tried to get a video of it on my phone, but there are much better ones online and on the temple’s website.

The only thing this is good for is hearing my VERY Valley-Girlesque voice.

Covered in chalk, a little sunburned and a really dirty we climbed in the car and went back to Katie’s house where we promptly showered (very colorfully I might add) and hunkered down with some Bollywood, Holi was over.

When I leave Idaho in a few weeks, this is going to be one of the few things that I really, really miss. I know there are other festivals in other cities, but this is the biggest one in North America, and totally worth the mini-sinus infection I have now.

This stuff is ALL over my car. 
Everywhere you can imagine it, it is.

Mumbai Monday, Got a Mandolin?


Today my thoughts are filled with mandolins, chubby Shah Rukh, and yellow mustard fields! It’s DDLJ to the max!

As of February DDLJ has been playing in theaters for 750 weeks at the Maratha Mandir Cinema in Mumbai.
Can you guess where I will be on one of my weekends? If you guessed going to ever screening that I can shove into my schedule, you’re absolutely correct!

Actually, in my mind, the experience goes something akin to this daydream I had about the same time I found out I had the internship…

I’m working as KJo’s personal assistant, and he shoves me in a rickshaw (oooer) and sends me to the theater saying he’ll meet me there with a “surprise”. True, I think it’s an odd situation, but I’m KJo’s assistant, I’m bound to run across something wacky sooner or later. Anywhoots there I am in the lobby of the theater, kind of miffed that he’s late. I hear a faint, “Erin!” shouted and I turn dramatically, my hair fanning out and gently slapping my face in a very seductive manner. As I raise my eyes (because everyone looks at the floor while they’re spinning. Duh) the wind machines start and my hair billows about me. I lock eyes with Shah Rukh, staring at me in his very Shah Rukhy, irresistible manner…and we weep at each other.

The daydream ends somewhere with me falling on my face and chipping my teeth on the floor. Although, Shah Rukh is so distraught at my pain that he spends the entire film whispering his lines in my ear.

1. I obviously have a very over-active imagination.
2. 70% of me thinks this will actually happen.
3. There are filmi wind machines all over the place in India, right?

Regardless of my absurd fantasies, I will be seeing DDLJ in theatres, and I will probably cry from excitement.

You know what I just thought of? It won’t be subtitled! O well, as it’s one of my top 5 films, I think I know most of the lines by heart anyway.

(p.s. 35 days until I land in Delhi and head off for my Camel adventure!)