Moving URLs

Same stuff, new place: https://medium.com/@serenagupta

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The John Muir Trail

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Here are my tips:

+ LOTS OF SALTY CHIPS. There is no such thing as too many fridos. But seriously, make sure you bring a mix of sweet and salty snacks.

+ Don’t take full zero days (days where you spend zero percent of the day hiking). Take half days. It’s more satisfying (food always tastes better after you’ve hiked 6-8 miles). And more importantly, it also helps keep you in the zen mindset.

+ If solo, bring audiobooks. If with another person, bring audiobooks (it’s an excuse not to talk, a new conversation topic, …).

+ Bring a camera. I brought my iPhone and I wish I had brought a nicer one (annoying to admit since my dad kept offering his high-quality low-weight one). Photos remember what happened so when you forgot, you can unforget. And moreover, photos allow you to reflect and research has shown that reflection of difficult, impressive times in your life gives you a sense of pride and happiness.

+ Do side trips. I did half dome and clouds rest. I understand not everyone has the time, but if you do, take your time. I only regret not doing more. Side trips are usually beautiful and make for great conversation with other packers.

+ Camp in isolation a couple times. When you are alone at a campsite, there are many fun things afforded to you like meditating without the fear of interruption, singing so loudly you know you must be off tune, and running around camp naked (to name a few).

+ Be friendly. Be willing to adjust your itinerary when you meet brilliant people…you don’t ever regret it. Even if it’s something that feels unnatural to you and you think you’ll come across as creepy and/or awkward, know people on nature hikes tend to be warm and unassuming. Lines like “Where are you from?” or “How are you doing?” or “Do you know where we are right now?” are easy ways to start a conversation. Be curious and don’t prematurely judge boasters or complainers or people-with-that-pet-peeve-of-yours. I guarantee you’ll find some human gems. I met teachers and 80 year olds and cameramen and similarly idealistic college grads and a man who wouldn’t let chemotherapy dictate his life.

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This is why I’m voting for Donald Trump

 

It’s 2 days till election day. We’ve both heard from both candidates and I’d like to share an opinion about the race.  I’m not a great writer but I know what I have to say is worth saying.

To start, I’m not actually voting for Donald Trump. Don’t worry and don’t yell at me. I just wanted to see what you reaction would be and if you’d read past the title.

It seems like for living in such a progressive area, no one in my generation is comfortable voicing that they will vote for Trump or even feel comfortable saying just something they think he is doing right (sans Thiel).

Maybe nobody I know has anything positive to say about him. But historically looking at how people vote (even taking into account we have a unique candidate), it seems unlikely that that no one I or you know is going to vote for him. What seems likely very bad is creating an atmosphere where people say they will shun you if you say you would vote for Trump or say really anything in his favor.

I don’t care what your political beliefs are or who you are going to vote for, but your roommates and coworkers and dinner dates and the people who make your day a little better every day deserve to be listened to and not attacked by you.

Skyline to the Sea

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Draped in a young vine, a taut silver branch bows down over the trail forming an archway for our processional. White light plasters the sky, hunting for the artist to paint its canvas. The Nebraskan flowers, Marina and the golden rod, smile adoringly up, not bothered by the blinding luminosity. Along with some other relaxed shrubs, the perennial Nebraskan opens up to some spotted critters and leaping bugs. A sunken trunk, rouged with reds last spotted in the cosmetics aisle, sinks into the ground near the plant brothel and drips pitter-pattering rain drops.

Skyline to the Sea is a 32 mile gift. (It’s mostly downhill and only 3 days.) Although the trail is very well marked, it isn’t difficult to accidentally loop, which joyfully lengthens the time you get to spend in nature with a friend. And I’d recommend going with a friend. It’s not that the trail is physically exhausting: it’s just more fun to laugh in the rain, instead of being sad about it getting into your peanut butter and jelly sandwich.

You’ll have to book your campsites in advance, we stayed at Watermon Gap the first night and Sunset Camp the second. Typically people stay at Jay Camp the second night.  But I wouldn’t.  Sunset doesn’t have water but it does give you an extra hiking stretch peppered with waterfalls as well as it providing a cozy, tucked away spot to camp (Jay’s location is near headquarters and piping with people).

Here are the links we used to plan:
http://www.redwoodhikes.com/BigBasin/S-to-S.html
http://www.everytrail.com/guide/skyline-to-the-sea-trail

There isn’t any cell service after the first day (at least for AT&T) so plan in advance when you will be picked up from Waddell Beach. Also, I’d recommend mosquito repellent and some water purification mechanism.  The latter is more of necessity rather than a recommendation if you are planning on staying at Sunset Camp.

Lastly, if you go, look up!  Unless you are superman, you will get tired, cold, hungry, an ache in your lower back from where your backpack rests…but you just got to look up! You have the opportunity to see the wildest things. The skeletons of cars vomited from highway 1. Newts snuggling up next to your feet.  Your best friend silently laughing really hard at your ridiculous getup.

Wat Mongkolratanaram

It’s Sunday brunch at the Thai Buddhist Temple, where the air smells of sugary sauces and lemongrass.

As you walk in, a sign tells you suggested donations for food items, which aren’t suggestions at all as you learn if you order too many items with too few tokens and are scolded by the pre-school teacher clergy member.

I haven’t been to Buddhist centers in the US, and, after coming here, using Buddhist countries as a comparison point seemed akin to comparing tacos in the US to that in Latin America.  What I mean is, here, there were no red robed monks, no chanting, no chilly air, no incense, no scabrous dogs, no sister chasing after scabrous dogs…It’s not to say the place was not Buddhist, just a different type that I was used to.

The atmosphere actually dredged up memories of St. Joseph, my elementary school where donation bins and temple members peppered the premise, not always together, but always casual and always looking their holiest. And much like church after Sunday mass, the backyard contained long plastic tables propped up for maximal space efficiency, minimal effort, and, perhaps, the want for group conversations.  However, conversation isn’t quite as easy since at church you are united under your faith in god where is here you are united under a love of thai food.

People move and mix but no one talks much to one another, like the spices mingling in your mouth but remaining distinctly separate flavors.

The high turnover at tables and numerous lines produce temporal conversations ideal for practicing talking to strangers without the stress of knowing if you screw up, you’re stuck with these people for the duration of your meal.

I’m sure I’ll go back. The feeling you get standing in line with your tokens for food is the same childhood thrill as waiting at the arcade, after pooling all your money together with your friends, to acquire that sushi shaped eraser.

Thai up your next Sunday at Wat Mongkolratanaram. I think you’ll have fun.

Alvin Ailey’s Caught

A spot light funnels a musty yellow light onto the center of the stage where a man, with ivory pants, stares at his hands. He never looks at the audience as he slings an arm, shoots a leg, raises a toe. It’s hypnosis with every step, surrendering your thoughts to the artist’s whim.  Caught between two of his movements, you bounce back and forth from the real world to dream land in cerebral play.

Intense flashing sears the auditorium and you are left with a glimpse every couple seconds, eternity in a world where a touch connects you to everything. In the absence of light, he takes the chance to jump up so that in the light he is flying. Oozing with strength, he leaps a hundred times in the course of five minutes. The illusion has the ladies in back swooning over his walking “like Jesus” in the air. The darkness dulcifies the light. You sweat from the sweet anxiety of not knowing whether he’ll be able to keep the act up and the pride of knowing humans are capable of such a delicious feat over the constraining human body.

This isn’t even the first piece or last piece or main piece. This is just a piece betwixt the other Ailey gems, the avocado to a veggie sandwich.

With regards to the 7.8 Earthquake in Nepal

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You should care because as a human, you are connected to every other human just by virtue of being human. You know what it’s like to find something funny or to be tired or to be upset by how unfair something feels. You also know what’s it’s like to focus on differences but I want to suggest we have similarities and a lot of them.

I know I’m biased. I found the most beautiful people when I was 18 who loved me and put up with my silliness and gave me countless chances to grow. I one time refused to wash my hair for two weeks since I was too cold and really just didn’t want to, and nobody said a word besides always offering me kettle of hot water if I ended up changing my mind. I was given the opportunity to teach math in a school and wasn’t a great teacher but discovered how much I loved math. I learned that joking about how excruciatingly warm it was outside when it was so cold you had to sit in your bed for 3 hours in order for it to be warm enough for sleeping actually helps and is pretty fun. I adventured and laughed and had lots of fun. I was, well am, pretty lucky.

For the last 4 days, I’ve prayed every time I opened facebook, gmail, and my phone that today would be the day I heard from my family.  It’s stupidly easy to see Deepika’s rosy sandals or to hear the sweet melody of Habia Una Vez Un Barco Chiquito from Pramila.

Two hours ago I finally received word that everyone is alive.  It hurts to tell you how little they have right now to survive on and how worried I am they’ll run out of something basic.  Right now, their camping in their garden and it’s the monsoon, which is cold and horrible. There are a lot of aftershocks, more than two hundred, and everyone is still pretty terrified.

With this in mind, I don’t want what I say or anything else you read to make you feel guilty.  In fact in Tibetan (Nepal’s sister country), there isn’t a word for “guilt”, which they retrospectively justify by citing how useless it is as an emotion.

But you can help.

What can you do to help?

1. Skip coffee/dessert/spend 5 dollars less on that graduation present and instead donate the money you would have spent.  In a place where lodging is usually 2 dollars a night and a full meal is 1 dollar, rest assured the marginal value of a dollar spent is high.  This is the link to my honest and hardworking friend’s farm:

http://www.youcaring.com/pramila-parajuli-364747

2. If you have 15 minutes when you’re eating dinner tonight, stop by the the Vigil on Sproul from 7-8:30 pm.

3. I urge you to learn from Nepali and engage with other humans around you, ask people genuine questions, smile, and look for beauty.  Also give someone a hug, hugs are great.