Eating Stuff in South Asia. And West Africa.

Unlike my illustrious colleague Sarah Berry, I don’t have a series of blogs that I follow daily, but there is one that I regularly check – my sister’s. Ever since graduating college in 2008 with a degree in political science, my sister Katie has spent her time interning in Washington D.C., working at farmers’ markets in Seattle, learning about organic farming and yoga in India, and monitoring elections in Sri Lanka.

Last farm lunch. Typical farm lunch.

This is her typical lunch at the farm in India.

Have you been to summer camp before? Cool, then you already know exactly what an ashram is like. There is the same waking up early to a bell and singing songs together and then eating group meals in a rackety dining hall and doing some physical activity during which someone inevitably cries and then using your one free hour a day to run around your communal living area like a complete maniac and scream and yell and get up to crazy hijinks and all with no alcohol. Some of specifics are different. Instead of singing fight songs about wagon riding you are chanting Hindu stuff in Sanskrit while a bunch of hippies around you get extremely emotionally absorbed in drum beating and head nodding. (Tamara: Do you ever have moments here where you feel like you’re in a cult? Jo: You mean like last night when I looked down at my hands and saw I was banging a tambourine to Jaya Ganesha?) The food is less grilled cheese and bug juice and more Keralan classics reinterpreted to be “purely vegetarian” which means garlic/onion/spice-less to avoid any heating of the blood that could lead to impure behavior. And I don’t even know what people were crying about during yoga class although I’m pretty sure it wasn’t because they were afraid of being eaten by an orca whale (true story from my camp counselor days). But, the crazy time—that is pretty much the same as summer camp. Our last night there was a talent show (seriously) so we spent our free hour prepping our skit that was one you have definitely seen before and might have felt a little bit stale back in the States, but we totally killed it because that is a easy thing to do when your competition is Indian teenagers singing devotional songs. The winning was only in our impure hearts though, because I’m pretty sure Swami Sivanada doesn’t believe in that kind of competition. (That’s my bunk in that picture up there.)

 Here is her bed at the ashram, where she did yoga.

I decided just to leave that “spiritual name” portion blank.

This is some paperwork she had to fill out at the ashram – it asks for her spiritual name, which she decided to leave blank. Our parents didn’t provide either of us with spiritual names.

Anyway, if this doesn’t sound eclectic enough, Katie is now traveling through Senegal and is about to start working for Tostan, an NGO in the Gambia. Tostan’s mission is “to empower African communities to bring about sustainable development and positive social transformation based on respect for human rights.” She will be there for the next six months.

While this outfit may not be the most flattering, it was NO ACCIDENT that I wore sailor pants and nautical stripes the same day I took a ferry. Themed dressing—get with it, guys. Île de Gorée, Senegal

This is her in Senegal.

Since Katie is usually at least 2,000 miles away from where I am, her blog is essentially the only way for me to know what she’s doing. It’s called “Eating Stuff in South Asia. And West Africa.,” with its name arising from a somewhat humerous conversation that her first blog details: 

One time I was at a party with old people and one of them decided to corner me and ask me about my Plans For My Future (as old people love to do) which of course led us to me going abroad and then to how when he’s abroad he really likes bird watching. Just is super into it—lots of books, binoculars, the whole deal. Cool. That’s great for him. We should all be so lucky as to have something we’re that passionate about. But then the conversation took an awkward turn.

“And what kind of activities do you like doing when overseas?”

“Uhhh mostly just wander around and eat things.”

That being said, the blog documents her time in India, Sri Lanka, and now Africa. It’s mainly comprised of photos and short tidbits about what she’s up to – often with a focus on food, obviously.

I may have to write a Venture Grant to go visit her during winter break…