Thursday, December 29, 2005

Dharamsala Posts by sirensongs

For another take on Dharamsala, you may want to follow this link. Sirensongs is a blogger with a good sense of humor and a genuine interest in all things India. This is just one post but will lead you to more about Dharamsala and Mcleod Ganj. She and dancer were both in the same cybercafé (in McLeod Ganj, I think) last night while I emailed back and forth with the latter of the two.

Going Public - Adding Myself to Search Engines

In an effort to make Indiana to India more accessible, I've spent the past few minutes adding it to a number of blog search engines. I've been encouraged by my experience so far communicating with those interested in Dharamsala, and I hope this will help me build that sense of community. Check around blog search engines in the next couple of days to see if we're listed there - I think I hit most of the major ones! If you don't find the blog, please let me know either with a comment here or via email.

Adding a New Link - Dharamsala Diary

You'll see on the left that I've added a link to a wonderfully written diary by 'dancer', a very kind woman who's in Dharamsala now. The link will be a permanent one. I've found in our short communcations and in reading her entries that she has a pleasant style and friendly personality. I think you'll agree. Enjoy!

I hope to add a few more here as I find time. I've seen a number of good blogs and diaries out there already!

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Some Obstacles to Overcome

I say obstacles. I don't really think I mean things standing in the way of doing the Dharamsala field study, but possibly in the way of even more important things. It looks like I've got some major challenges to face if I'm going to do grad work in visual anthropology.

Today BYU released this semester's grades, and for the third straight term I'm barely finding a way to claw my way above a 2.0. At the end of the past two terms I understood what was happening: at the time I was taking a full undergraduate class load and teaching a daily section of French 101. That meant that there were no "off days"; before each night's homework could begin I simply had to have a spot-on lesson prepared. I was responsible for 25-30 students' educations, and I forgot that I should have first been responsible for my own. I would come into the Student Instructor office just defeated. I was at the point of wondering if higher education was really for me, why I was jumping through all these hoops just to receive a piece of paper that meant nothing more than my success at jumping through those hoops. Eventually I arrived at the point of discovering
Camus's absurd, of taking down the façades around me and seeing the nothingness behind it all.

The beauty - and irony - of this desperate period is that I started reading lots of Camus. I took him with me to
Denver where my roommates and I saw U2 on April 21. I brought him home and kept reading him over the summer. As I became more caught up in how closely my experience with the absurd matched Camus's description, I ironically found a very real meaning behind the "façade" of academia: I was getting into these texts because they meant something! These were not boring ideas to memorize because of school or tests or requirements; they were important to people and their worldview.

This sincere interest in education - in real education - slowly grew over the summer. Working during that time on the
Education in Zion Project, the initiative to create a standing exhibition for BYU's new Joseph F. Smith Building, I learned what education really meant, and my worldview continued to grow. My critical-thinking skills became stronger. I was thirsty to get back into the classroom, not hesitant. Moreover, I was happy to live principles that I believed in like thrift and diligent work, rather than forcing myself to live those ways because I felt I had to.
When the semester finally came, I considered it an experiment to see if this new attitude could actually last, and I was surprised to find that by the end I approached books and thought with almost the same vigor and thirst as when the term began. I considered this a good sign. If I had indeed been overhauling my ways of thinking, as I thought was the goal of our educational system, then the educational system would certainly reward me with its highest honors - a whole mess of great grades. What's more, it seemed like I was busy the entire semester. I can't remember a single night that found me just slacking off. But when grades were finally released today, I found my overall GPA not recovering as I had hoped, but falling just as steadily. Once again I was treading water just barely keeping my head above a 2.0. Once again I was left trying to find a solution to my problems.

Except this time my problems seem bigger. Now I have direction and purpose in my life, and try as I might I'm not finding the ways to make progress toward that purpose. If I'm to get into a first-rate graduate school, do top-notch research, put out important work because I've been well trained, then I need to recover from this series of academic blows. Moreover, I'm worried that cutting back on work so I can focus on school will wipe out my opportunities for funding my India trip, since my GPA may now be so low that I'm ineligible for awards the University and other organizations may offer. On top of that, I feel a need to take some serious media equipment with me - a digital SLR still camera like a
Canon 20D, or a digital video camera like an XL1 or XL2 for example. I had been working enough to afford these items, items that could have served to really move me closer to admission into a visual anthropology program. Instead I may be faced to forego luxuries like these, and possibly even the India trip.

I can only work to resolve all this, and (as my dad reminds me) pray.

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

The Inaugural Entry (Does Anyone Have a Champagne Bottle to Break?)

Welcome to Indiana to India.

I'm really sorry you have to type so much to get here - really! This blog's URL,, is too long. I agree! I tried to come up with a shorter URL to use here, but all the cool URLs (there are two: and were taken. "Eye to eye" is such a common phrase, I should have realized anything like it would be unavailable. I probably could have claimed one of those for myself had I done this earlier; I guess this is what I get for waiting so long to jump on the blog wagon.

That brings us to the topic of the blog. I might have jumped at the chance to spend hours at a keyboard, waste away my eyesight, and risk carpal tunnel syndrome, all in the interest of self-expression to what would probably end up being an empty audience. And enticing and motivating as all that was, I resisted. For the life of me I couldn't come up with any topic that would mean anything to anyone. I started to register at Blogger a number of times, but I got scared off every time by the fact that I didn't have a title, and I decided I wouldn't have a title until I had a topic.

Fortunately, tonight I happened upon Kangpa Tshapo's excellent weblog, my thoughts and activities in dharamsala, located at My life has recently come largely into focus, and it looks like I'll soon be working for a graduate degree in visual anthropology. I'm still an undergraduate at Brigham Young University in Provo, UT, majoring in French, but some recent experiences (perhaps the most significant, working on the Education in Zion project at BYU) have left me wanting to do anthropology at the graduate level, eventually leading to a visual anthropology program. BYU offers an International Field Study program to India, where it looks like I'll be spending four months (May through August 2006) in and around Dharamsala, India. So Kagpa Tshapo's blog mentioned above has become my inspiration. Thanks to you, if you do happen to read this!

I have a few objectives here:

- To let you know about how I'm gearing up for my time in India

- To keep a pretty good journal of my personal experience (as opposed to my field notes - though I imagine there'll be a good amount of overlap)

- And to solicit your advice on traveling to, in, and from India, especially northern India

I hope you'll take the time to drop me a line. If you speak Spanish, French, or Portuguese, I speak, read, and write in all three, so feel free to go that route if you're uncomfortable with English.

Thanks and happy reading!