Last fall, Tocha and I got to go to Italy for the first time, purely for vacation. It was amazing. This was our view out the window where we stayed at Terre di Nano. I loved watching how the view changed with the light during the course of a day.
We ended the trip with an excursion to the city of Cochin in tropical Kerala, a southern seaside state, where the highlight was encountering a magical musical procession with elephants (scroll down for the video clip I took on my phone, if you like!). Cochin is a melange of cultures, as befits an old port city. The oldest living Jewish woman resides there, and is taken care of by a Muslim man and a Catholic cook! Beautiful, no? See if you can identify her below.
Lastly we got a taste of vibrant Bombay, which was amazing. I would have loved to spend more time there. I'll simply have to return! Don't miss my first post for the full story.
People said, you will be overwhelmed, you will get sick, and you will love it. I didn't get sick, and I wasn't overwhelmed, but the last part turned out to be true. I did love it! In fact, India felt like love itself.
It's a place where the spiritual IS the everyday. What a wonderful experience, like getting a warm and chaotic hug, so different than where I live in the U.S., where the sacred exists but is somehow separate, to be pursued or not, depending on where you fall and how you bend. I haven't digested it. It's only the beginning. All I know is, I could feel my heart opening. I'll post more next week. (happy, thank you, more please).
I was there because the good people at AJWS invited me once again to document their study tour, this time in southern India: Hyderabad, Bangalore, and the country side of Telangana. Please read my previous post on Guatemala to get a sense of who AJWS is and my admiration for their work and the human rights activists (especially women) they work with. I met so many bad ass women (I'm talking about you Praneeta, Rama, Devrashi, and Shumona!) whose playfulness and warmth belie their fierceness and diligence in fighting for women and girls, for LGBTQI rights, and for access to land and resources among many other things.
In January, I had the privilege of traveling to Guatemala with my favorite human rights group, AJWS, and 13 rabbis. They are committed to advancing social justice and ending poverty in 19 different countries around the world. It seems trite to say that I'm inspired by the activists I meet on these trips, but I am. Most of the time, I work in the commercial world and it is so good to step into a different one, where ordinary people have dedicated their lives to service. It's marvelous to see that it doesn't take special circumstances to be courageous. It's simply something you do, a choice you make everyday, sometimes in the most mundane ways. Everywhere I go, I'm humbled and I'm in love. People are kind, brave, generous, warm, and of course, flawed. They're just like you, they're just like me. We are all beautiful humans.
I am especially moved by women, not only by the incredible work they do for their communities and on behalf of the marginalized, but on a personal level, how they dare to take up space. I didn't learn this growing up, and I had everything I needed while many of them didn't. I'm called to be courageous, powerful, and whip smart.
My official job was to document the experience of the wonderful rabbis in AJWS's social justice fellowship program as well as the grassroots organizers whom AJWS works with. I loved every minute, and if you've never traveled with rabbis, well, I can say that they're very good at making you feel seen and listened to. Fun!
I loved Guatemala so so much and would like to return for a longer stay to study Spanish (love Guatemalan Spanish!) in Antigua. Thank you, AJWS, for the work you do, for being a great client, and for exposing me to a better world. Best job ever.