Tag Archives: materialism

(Co/a)mputation

I know I have been getting some quiet chastisment from everyone for not updating in a while, but I should explain that my hard drive crashed the second day I arrived here. I have been wandering around a bit lost, reading books, attempting to write out full descriptions in my journal but failing, scribbling “blog post?” next to certain incomplete phrases, for later times. I am thinking of you, just unable to type.

My laptop feels nearly like an organ. I am used to the warm drone on my legs as I sit ankle-crossed or Indian-style on my bed, writing. Peeling its slightly sticky bottom from my legs always signals the end of time spent typing a paper or an e-mail or looking at things other than the papers and e-mails I should be typing. My thoughts didn’t flow succinctly from my brain to the clunky hostel computers I have been using;  my neurons have fettered my thoughts to the synapses of my fingers and my keyboard. This organic disruption troubles me some, but I am also a fast typer and I like to watching Arrested Development online too much to give the idea much weight.

The thing is as disposable as a kidney but retains all my inherent flaws. My folder files are disorganized, my keyboard lacks two keys I never bothered to replace, and the hinge of the screen wobbles. I failed to love it in the way I fail to love everything with any working order. By all means I had this coming, but the separation disoriented me even more than expected. I have spent most of the last two weeks biking into main campus to use the phone, which allows me to interact with call center employees who are well-intentioned but unable to understand me when I say, “I don’t know the service tag. Doesn’t the thing run on fairy dust?” My abhorrent lack of knowledge about this machine that I rely on for everything isn’t new or unrealized before, but now an added level of mistranslation. In some ways my computer couldn’t have crashed in a better location. It’s a homecoming, really, as I am sure many of these parts were manufactured here. I just don’t want it to become a buriel.

In yoga I am learning about muscles I didn’t even know my body had, and when the Dell repair man came he unscrewed and etherized parts of my computer that I weren’t aware unscrewed and separated in less time than it took me to say hello to him. Within five minutes, I had a new hard drive and he was gone.

But my computer was still by all means a corpse, which is how I ended up sitting the tiny windowless room of the campus IT office all afternoon yesterday. The place had a total of three outlets and above me, a fan spun with such devotion that I feared it would unbridle itself from the ceiling at any moment. I listened as three busybodies around me chat in Hindi or maybe Telegu. Their lilt of language was wired with some generic, technical terms that I recognized by ear but were just as meaningless – ram,driver, cd.

They had given me a harsh once-over when I burst into the room asking if they could upload Windows XP to my brand new hard drive, sweating and exasperated from my bike ride there and the situation in general. But tenacity and a sheer doe-eyed look of desperation does pay off. “You will have to wait three hours” turned into “Come back in an hour” and then “we can do it now that you sat across the hall and  realized we were done eating lunch but not telling you that.”  And within the two hours comprising the uploading process, “Find internet drivers yourself” transformed into “Come back tomorrow when we have finished downloading this for you!”

So now I am sitting in the familiar position on my bed, trying to regraft this cold metal device back to my life, but something is askance. The screen resolution isn’t just so. I don’t have any music or photos identifying this hunk of wires and boards as my own web of needs.  I need to re-invent it, re-format it to the circumstances, and decide how much of my old self I am willing to include in this blank, foreign existence.

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Explication

There is a sketch from the old Nickelodeon show All That in which Kenan Thompson plays a character named Baggin’ Saggin’ Barry, who wears circus-tent sized pants. Throughout the scene, BSB reveals that his pants, in addition to having flair, serve as a superstorage device.  The items start small, such as bottled water, and become more and more preposterous. Inevitably, BSB pulls out a dining set or an airplane or something else that would have caused major chaffing.

My packing strategy followed a similar drama.  Everyone, even my own family as they watched me stuff my life’s belongings into a 3500 cu backpack, inquired as to what, exactly, I would take with me to survive for two months. Here are the basics, and we will see if prudence translates to practicality over the next few weeks:

tp, kleenex, body lotion, parade of wet wipes

tp, kleenex, body lotion, parade of wet wipes

I hide this body lotion in a random compartment for myself to find as a pleasant surprise, because it smells so nice. It’s definitely a guilty pleasure, which I justified by its minute size. The rest is absolutely necessary for travel in India, where running water and attached bathrooms aren’t necessarily guaranteed in accommodations. I guess I will be abiding by Sheryl Crow’s “one-ply” rule judiciously.

marine first aid kit, sunscreen, mosquito repellant, poncho, umbrella, travel towel, mosquito net, backpack rain cover

marine first aid kit, sunscreen, mosquito repellent, poncho, umbrella, travel towel, mosquito net, backpack rain cover

I have dedicated at least 1/3 of my backpack to bug and rain deterrence tools. At least the cool rain will feel good on all those mosquito bites?

Allergy, typhoid, malaria, stomacheache, and general pain medication, itch relief stick, neosporin for everything, bandaids, pocketknife

Allergy, typhoid, malaria, stomachache, and general pain medication, itch relief stick, neosporin for everything, bandaids, pocketknife

I sound like I am packing a rattlesnake in my carry-on, but the added airport security check sure beats going to the nearest hospital with my spleen hanging out of the rickshaw.

Eye care, glasses case, make-up bag, shampoo + conditioner

Eye care, glasses case, make-up bag, shampoo + conditioner

This L.L. bean bag works wonders for travel. I managed to fit my make-up, multiple toothbrushes and toothpaste, a sewing kit, nail clippers, hair accessories, earplugs, and the ubiquitous wet wipes into its small frame.

wallet, passport, change purse, card case, safety pouch, satchel

wallet, passport, change purse, card case, safety pouch, satchel

This is the bare minimum amount of material that will transport me from one end of the globe to the other. Notice the House of Representatives throwback on the card case. I have to pull my weight somehow, since I will miss 4th of July.

computer, video camera, digital voice recorder, webcam, CReSIS promotional material, still camera (not pictured), what do all those cords go to anyway?

computer, video camera, digital voice recorder, webcam, CReSIS promotional material, still camera (not pictured - I didn't even intend this pun, Nicole!), what do all those cords go to anyway?

Because I will be working for CReSIS for two weeks of my trip, I needed to be well-connected and able to record a variety of information. I think I could probably send out radar signals with all the equipment I am loaded up on. I am not thrilled about lugging around my large notebook for the duration, but I need it for work and school.

underwear, clothing, shoes

underwear, clothing, shoes

I ended up taking two skirts, one pair of jeans, five shirt, some tights, and one pair of shoes, which still feels excessive given the amount I plan to buy. I bought a pair of Keen Newports, which should survive the torrential rains with good sole support.

iPod, books, sleeping mask, notebook

iPod, books, sleeping mask, notebook

I would like to sleep for the 24 hours of my transit, but even my sloth can’t meet the challenge. It was so difficult to decide which books to bring, but I will surely finish both of these before even landing in Delhi. I also brought a few letters from friends and family with me, too, which I will certainly keep close and look at often for comfort.

All of these things inevitably must fit into my backpack, although I have forfeited some space in it for a duffel bag to use as a carry-on. Even at this bare minimum, I feel like a packhorse, and will be looking to shed any bulk I can whenever possible.  Although, unlike BSB, I cannot fit an airplane in it, I feel as if I could as I prepare to board one in KC at this very moment.

backpack backpack 2

It was difficult to hand over my backpack to the counter employee at check-in, trusting that somehow, like me, it will be circulating a bit dazed at baggage claim, all the way in Delhi.

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whoops

no iPod juice

phone charged to one bar

6:11 a.m

2 hrs sleep

too much stuff

but who thought it was a good idea to not bring a hair dryer?

bye America!

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In Between Spaces

“Why do you always get sick when you come home?” An old friend whom I had arranged to meet a few days ago asked.

I hadn’t realized the pattern until he said it. My times at home are now parentheses scything off moments between stressful semesters or vacations. Home and family have their own obligations too and sometimes the weaving of all these realms suffocates me to the point that I just have to watch six episodes of Flip That House! in a row. My body catches up with my schedule here, and home becomes a junkyard for both my material possessions and physical malfunctions. I had already canceled on Justin twice before to recuperate; TiVo and green tea seemed to be the natural remedy for a speedy recovery.

Wichita always makes for a bizarre platform on which to depart, especially for the other side of the world. Growing up here was directed towards escape. I told myself engaging possibilities were elsewhere.  Success meant leaving the 316.  When my family first moved here, our neighborhood included one subdivision, a 7-11 gas station, a gymnastic center, and miles of countryside. Now, with urban sprawl, one can subsist entirely within a five-mile radius of my house.

Every time I return, even just to visit, I still have a small fear that I won’t ever leave again. The months away seem to erase entirely in lifestyle and memory. I miss my friends and my autonomy, but I regress too easily into my slippered shuffling through the house and eating food in as many pounds as hours I nap. So, I am not entirely surprised that whatever energy that kept me operating at bizarre levels of productively and sleep for the past four months has deflated into complete lassitude over the course of a few hours. I feel fossilized in the amber cast of my house with little motivation to go anywhere. I find forward projection difficult. After a few cloistered days, I wonder, is my default human setting really compulsively eating pudding cups while watching re-runs of America’s Next Top Model? Compared to the 8 am bus rides and ten-minute lunches during the school year, I can’t decide which mode is the bigger façade.

This time, however, planning for departure truncates relaxation. My preparations find an appropriate analog in the Game of Perfection in every sense of the reference. I am scrambling in these last days to find all the finest pieces for my trip: strongest antacids and padlocks, most effective rain cover for my huge backpack, highest-resolution webcam, etc. I do this all the while knowing that none of it exactly matters. As soon as my Keen-clad feet hit the cracked pavements of Delhi, I imagine all of my best-laid plans will come popping up with culture shock and potential scams and beggars and the torrential rains and everything else I know of but cannot begin to internalize.

I am committing mistakes already, the first occurring when I bit into my malaria pills. They looked a lot like a Tylenol tablet, and I failed to swallow them upon first try, so I thought maybe they were chew-friendly and the white color could indicate a “vanilla” flavor. I may as well have poured an entire jar of margarita salt down my throat. Only fifteen more to go.

My search for appropriate clothing repulsed just as well. I need lighter, less restricting t-shirts and blouses than I currently own to combat the inevitable waves of heat and Eve-teasing. Right now, about 0.0005 % of my wardrobe fits this criteria, with my pajamas comprising 0.00025%. The hunt did not lead me far. Near my neighborhood, a Super Walmart sits shoulder to shoulder with a SuperTarget, which is across the street from a Dillons Superstore, which salutes a soon-to-be Jumbo Best Buy. By fitting such huge spaces into such limited geography, the city planners complicate my decision. For multifaceted errands I usually settle for Target, because it abuts an open field that somehow hasn’t been developed into a neighborhood with a throwback name to the pastoral scene its sewer system now roots through. Also, the Starbucks next to the “Fresh Produce” is a big win.

After meandering around the hygiene section for some time, I found my way to women’s clothing. Basic tees: $7. Bullseye.

I grabbed one in every color, and then I came across a flowery, more detailed and embroidered blue top. Thinking it perfect for my needs, I pulled out the tag to find the right size. Small, okay. But I didn’t even get to the price. In slightly larger print: Made in India.

My hand recoiled, and I wasn’t sure why. I owned plenty of products made in India. Shirts. Shoes. Probably some bits of the computer on which I am typing this. But the current convenience in buying a shirt in a chain store with the intention to diminish the future inconveniences of the home country of someone who, probably in derisory conditions, made the shirt was a gross juxtaposition. I was sick, indeed.

The moment electrified me into recognition. My encounters in superstores and street market stalls will supplant what I buy in them. I know my life is about to change with dramatic moments and sweeping actions, but also in the tiniest of observations. How can I even begin to prepare?

Well, I am still taking Pepto-Bismol, just in case.

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