Tag Archives: yoga

Ego Goes Both Ways

Normally when I travel, yoga is a daily occurrence or more.  It calms me down, helps me sleep better and often attracts friends.  This past week, however, I did a few stealthy backbends and that was about it.  And man, was I suffering because of it.

In yoga, one of the internal (eternal) quests is to shed the ego, something I have a lot of trouble with.  This means no mini victory dances when I get twistier than the tiny chick in lululemon pants.  In fact, I’m not even supposed to compare myself to lulu. Generally, not wearing my glasses and closing my eyes helps, but there’s still that little voice that makes me keep going when my flat feet are killing me, because I don’t want people to think I’m too terrible to hold a warrior I.

This past week, I saw the harm of my ego cutting the other way.  I was uncomfortable joining in the small ragtag group doing yoga in the middle of breakfast.  This is totally unlike me, as there are pictures of me doing yoga pretty much everywhere: airports, bars, hotel rooms, parties, restaurants, the Sahara dessert.  I laughed, gave some superior advice from afar, and watched the group of newbies look confused and redfaced. Meanwhile, my back was aching for a good chataranga.  Given how easy it was to be “one of them” (gooba-gabba!) once I allowed myself to do it, I wonder how much of that otherness I was feeling was self-induced.

By one of them, I mean a part of this new segment of NU’s population.  For them, I am (or was) an unknown quality.  All week people told me they thought I was a freshmen, they didn’t know my name, or they thought I was 19.  This is not the perception I am used to.  I am used to being a leader, intimidating, respected.  Even among new groups, I tend to emerge as a talker and a an asset early on.  Not so in this shark pit.  Do they make shark pits?  Whatever, this group is so weird and intimidating it needs its own expressions.

I have no problem looking dumb/silly/whatever.  I do, however, have a problem having people think I care about looking dumb.  Key distinction, of course.

Presumably, they no longer think I’m dumb or a non-factor.  Actually, it didn’t take long for the people I spent time with to start making the same friendly jokes I always hear about my vocabulary.  And once I had the chance for some good one-on-ones I could feel my words becoming more important to my audience.  I learned a whole lot from everyone else of course–there was never any question about that.  I was all brandy-new to the school of business, this professor, these field studies and this social group, so I was constantly learning and reevaluating.  I think I just missed feeling like my presence created learning for others as well.  I guess SEI is like a really big family–you have to be very loud or very patient.  And in a loud family, even the quiet ones are raucous.

So next time you see people dancing or doing yoga or laughing or really any little thing you love to do, don’t  hide yourself  away.  Put your ego aside and join them.  Somebody may even learn something.

I Like Me So Much Better When I Travel!

Travel Delia is way cooler than home Delia–sorry for those of you who only see home delia!  When I’m away, I think critically, but I’m also more laid back about obstacles and delays.  I’m thrilled to sit in a crowded train station on a hot Egyptian night, people watching, reading and soaking it all in.  At home?  I look like one of those Bostonians your mom told you about, the Massholes you shouldn’t bother. 

But every day you can litterally wake up and be someone new.  Every person you meet is the opportunity to make the changes you’ve been thinking about, or maybe even implementing, the ones your old friends don’t notice because their image of you is trapped in resin like a mosquito.  Who Says I can’t be Travel Delia every day?

When I’m away I…

  • read or look out the window on pretty much every form of transportation, instead of always listening to my ipod
  • write way more
  • don’t worry about hygeine
  • am far more likely to talk to a stranger
  • am barefoot!
  • am open to hearing new opinions
  • am more of a listener (but, let’s face it, still a pretty big talker…)
  • randomly help strangers and travelling companions alike
  • am more mindful of how often I speak, when I interupt, and how loud I am
  • wander
  • practice yoga most days
  • wake up early
  • fly solo
  • arrive on time almost everywhere, unless it really is beyond my control (see: Benin)
  • go to all kinds of cultural festivals and museums
  • take notes.  All the time.  And I love it. 
  • am thankful every time I have AC, halfway-decent food and a bed without bedbugs (regular bugs don’t bother me)
  • am not at all scared of bugs
  • dance more; smile more; hum to myself
  • take lots of pictures of my friends
  • play sports
  • don’t worry so much about what I’m wearing, since my choices are limited
  • pay more attention
  • take better care of myself
  • challenge myself
  • let myself fail
  • write thank you notes
  • walk everywhere
  • play with children and strangers
  • talk to every kid I meet

This year I’m doing something different: I’m staying home, and I’m loving it.  And I’ve been inspired by my travels and by Thoreau to apply my travel mindset to home–the local, the domestic, the unnoticed and the seemingly-banal.  Because that’s what the point of this blog is: to think critically, live happily, examine everything and go forth with equal parts whimsy and thoughtful care.  After all, the people, language, culture and politics of Massachusetts and America at large are no less interesting or worthy than those on all the other continents, in all the other states. 

Are you different when you get into a new environment?  How and why?  Does it have to be far away, or is it just the presence of new people?

Tax Man

Trash on the side of the (unpaved) road in Porto-Novo, Benin. This is a relatively small amount of trash, for Benin.

My Friend Across the Aisle Mike pointed out something we often forget about: the benefit of taxes. Love ’em or Hate ’em, they aren’t going away.  The following are some examples of the things we have because of our taxes, things that we assume are basic, things that many other countries have never had.

  • Paved roads
  • Traffic lights
  • Cops who do things
  • The National Guard
  • Firemen, Policemen, Coast Guard et al
  • Stop signs
  • Roads with minimal potholes
  • 911, EMTs and ambulances
  • Free public education through 12th grade
  • A civil code that is updated
  • Public servants and bureaucrats who do their jobs without taking kickbacks
  • A government with a low enough rate of corruption that we’re actually still surprised and outraged when it does happen
  • Prisons with guards on the INSIDE, as well as separate prisons for men, women and children
  • A fully-functioning legal system

Some housekeeping:

I’ll be updating more on this later, but I’m taking part in the 21.5.800 project, which combines self-discipline, writing and yoga!  I figure what else am I doing until co-op starts?  So you’ll see a lot of that product on the site, as well as a better explanation of the project itself.

Most of my posts do not appear on the day they are written, especially when it comes to days of travel, and when I’m in places with poor internet, or when I just have my game together.  As a result, you’ll read about things like Jose Marti airport on the day I’m actually passing through Cotonou Airport in Benin.  And of course, I keep writing about the places I’ve been, long after I come home.  So don’t run away from the blog, there’ll be some changes around here soon!

Things That I Love About Benin

Here is a list of things I love about Benin–both the program I’m on and the country.  I hate to give you all such a skewed idea of my life over here, and I also don’t want to focus too much on the NU specifics, but I’m a creature crafted for analysis, so that’s usually where my brain wanders.  In the interest of fairness, levity and a more well-rounded picture, here are some things I love.

  • Everyone is so friendly. Even moreso than in the American south, everyone we meet says “bon soir!” and is excited to see us.  Children wave and flash the peace sign, and women in the market are patient with our burgeoning Parisian French.
  • The Beninois students. We did a three day exchange with students form Universite d’Abomey,
  • Vodoun and the Cuba connection. I haven’t learned a ton more about vodoun here that i didn’t already learn in Cuba, but I love seeing how it is woven in to their clture, and talking to the university students about it.  Also, I miss Cuba and my Cuba aseres terribly, so its nice o have a little reminder of home
  • French! I love languages, and speaking French makes me happy.  I like helping other people with it, and getting a better understanding of the people I meet because of my language skills.  It’s also great to see what the francophone world outside of Paris looks like.
  • The weather.  I know it’s hot and sticky and furstrating, but it’s great to be back in a warm, comfy climate.  This coming New England winter may be harder for me than the ever were before…
  • The way of life. I love dirt and messiness and wearing the same gross clothes everyday, with worn-in french braids
  • The group. We spend a lot of time telling each other how smart, kind and adorable we all are, which is just refreshing and enjoyable
  • Our leaders. It’s nice to spend a little time being warm, fuzzy and non-competetive.  For those unaware, this trip is a Human Services excursion, whcih is not my major, but is a related field.  I am one of the few political science people here, but there are many international affairs majors as well as psych, journalism, art, sociology and a few others.  I miss the fiery polisci discussions, and I tease the Human Services kids about drum circles, peace signs and the high number of piercings and tattoos on this trip, but it is acutally kinda nice.  We haven’t met Prof. Luongho yet, but Rebecca is a lawyer in human rights law (!) and Lori has a great cross between sarcasm and being a mom.
  • Julie! Our TA, Julie Miller, is great.  We’ve been doing sunset rooftop yoga led by her, and I really think yoga should never be done anywhere BUT a rooftop in Africa at sunset.  She’s a great help both socially and academically, and I think we’ll all miss her when she goes to UC Berkeley for grad school in the fall.
  • The geography.  Palm trees, red earth, lizards running around everywhere, and adorable goats that act like puppies.  This place is great.  Did I mention we went to the beach?  And Obama Beach at that.  More to come!
  • The Songhai Center. More about this later, but it’s up there with the Grameen Bank and bacon on the list of things that rock my socks.