Kolkata Diary. The Flower Market

February 16th, 2017

We went to the Kolkata Flower Market this morning.  This video is a little bit of what that was like.

Kolkata Diary. The Dogs Of Kolkata

February 15th, 2017

Last night I heard the dogs barking and howling outside my hotel room.  I’m used to the coyotes at home, but I didn’t expect it from the dogs I saw all day, laying and walking around the streets of Kolkata.  Living comfortably among the people, the streets that seem to belong to them as much as anyone else.


Kolkata Diary. Love And Freedom, Puresa Humanitarian Tote Bags

February 15th, 2017

Giselle and the new totes

Giselle was very excited to have the new tote bags that she and the girls at Puresa Humanitian designed and are now making.

The bags are hand sewn by some of the girls and then they silk screen them with the words Love and Freedom, which is what Puresa Humanitarian is all about.   On the back of the bag is the pink heart,  Puresa Humanitarian’s  logo.

Giselle was proud of the bags and the good work the girls did in making the.   She was pleased to hear that I thought them beautifully made and sturdy too.

Giselle designed the bags after her needs.    She said she takes the same  canvas bag  into the slums of Kolkata when she is educating and rescuing girls as she takes on the plane when she travels.  She knows just the size and space she needs.

The bags are still in production but in a couple of weeks they’ll be up for sale.  When that happens I’ll be sure to let you all know.

Giselle told me how the girls are getting a great sense of accomplishment and confidence making the bags.

Sometimes, because of their trauma,  the girls who are just learning to sew get overwhelmed and panic.  When that happens Giselle tells them to stop sewing for a few days, and get back to it when the feel better.  Then the more experienced sewers take over.

I loved Giselle’s enthusiasm over the new totes.  And I enjoyed talking to her about them, a subject I know pretty well.

I told her about my potholders and we talked about the  importance of having  an inexpensive and  useful product that the girls can easily make.  I also loved the way  Giselle goes about working with the girls in producing them.   Giving the time and space they need.

The patience, love and freedom, of  Puresa Humanitarian  is sewn right into those new tote bags.


Kolkata Diary. Visiting Puresa Humanitarian

February 15th, 2017

Having lunch at Puresa Humanitarian

An hour after being picked up at the airport me and the group of women I’m traveling with were in our small bus riding the bumpy roads to Puresa Humanitarian.

Puresa Humanitarian was created by Giselle Meza ( you can read more about her and it here).

The organization rescues girls who are victims of sex trafficking.  It helps them recover, physically, psychologically and emotionally. It  gives them a place to live and if they are old enough, a place to work.

It also goes into neighboring communities educating families about sex trafficking to try to prevent it.

We climbed the stairs to the roof which was set up with blankets on the floor and a pink and yellow canopy over our heads.  We were given marigold head wreaths and the children stuck bindi’s on our third eye. Then the  children greeted us with songs and dancing.

Then we sat on the ground, soft with blankets, and the children came to us with handfuls of glitter and sprinkled it over us.  We all  laughed as they threw the glitter in our hair.  It stuck to our bare arms, legs, and faces.  (I’m still finding traces of it in my hair,  on my bed and the floor of  my hotel room as I write this.)

Before eating a homemade lunch, Giselle told us her story of how she was stalked as a 14 year old in Oregon where her mother and she had just moved from South America.  The woman lured her to New York the brought her to London where she was imprisoned and forced into the sex trade.

Giselle miraculously escaped and came back to the United States.  For years she never told anyone about what happened to her.  Because of her trauma she just barely finishing high school.  But when she graduated  a modeling agent approached her and she  became a model, traveling around the world with her work.

It was during that time that  she found girls who were experiencing the same thing she had.  That’s when she started Puresa Humanitarian.

After lunch someone brought out the nail polish and we sat around painting each others nails. (for the first time in my life I have my toe nails painted) We planted some tomatoes and peppers in the box gardens and then had our hands and feet decorated with henna.

I couldn’t get over how loving the girls were after the experiences they’d had.  Some of them, who grew up in the brothels had watched their mothers die.  Others were sold into the sex trade at very young ages.  Often by their own parents.

One girl came up to me, took my hand and kissed it.  I kissed her hand back and we sat holding each others hands for a while.  Another girls approached me shyly then scraped some of the glitter from the blanket where I sat and tossed it over me giggling.  These were girls who the year before, when the first came to Puresa were too afraid and withdrawn to be around other people.

Giselle said that they give the children the necessary physical and psychological help they need but also give them lots of love.  And that love shines through.

There was nothing institutional about our visit to Puresa.  It felt like we were being welcomed in the home of the children and women who care for them.   It was warm and inviting.  And there was an ease about the  children that comes with feeling safe.   The affection between them is visible,   holding each others hands, dancing and hugging each other like the closest of families.

As much as I hear the stories, it’s hard for me to grasp that the girls who were sitting next to me and tossing glitter in my hair experienced the horrific things that happened to them.  I cried when Giselle told us her story, but there was so much love and good will  at Puresa, I found it as hopeful as it is awful.

Dahn having her foot decorated with henna. I had my hand done.  You can see all the glitter everywhere.

The box gardens we helped the girls plant with tomatoes and peppers.









Kolkata Diary. Driving In Kolkata II

February 15th, 2017

I took this video on the way home from Puresa Humanitarian.  This is what I saw looking out the window as we drove back to the hotel.

I meant for the title to be Driving In Kolkata II, but my iphone auto “corrected” it to lol.  I can’t figure out how to edit the title, so it is what it is.  Just like the rest of my trip.

Kolkata Diary. Driving Through Kolkata

February 15th, 2017

I could hardly believe it when the plane landed in Kolkata Airport.  I was finally in India!

It took me another hour and a half to get through immigration and the visa line, but when I left the airport Stephen was waiting for me, holding a piece of card board with my name on it.

Don’t worry about the crazy driving Dahn texted me, you’ll be scared shitless, but you’ll be safe.  

I was actually silently cheering the driver on.  The group was  scheduled to leave for Puresa Humanitarian at 10:00 and we were stuck in rush hour traffic a half hour from the hotel.

Dahn told me later they would have waited for me or would have had the driver of our little bus take me there whenever I got in.    But it all added to the excitement.

At the hotel, Dahn was waiting for me in the lobby with a big hug.  I checked into my room and 20 minutes later we were on the road.

I took a couple of videos of what the ride was like.  This one is from the trip to Puresa Humanitarian.

Kolkata Diary. My Layover In Dubai

February 14th, 2017

The view out my hotel window in Dubai

The rerouting of my flight took me to Dubai for  a 14 hour layover.  So the airline put me up in a hotel for the day, with meals.

I landed at Dubai airport this morning.   It was  vast and quiet at 11am, but easy to navigate and the people there very helpful. I’ve heard a lot about the airport, but didn’t get to spend much time there.  My original flight had me there for six hours and  I was planning on spending that time in the Zen Garden.

Instead I took a shuttle bus to the hotel and took a much needed shower.

My 12 hour flight from Boston was as smooth as I imagine possible.  I had no one sitting next to me, there were plenty of movies and TV to choose from  and they gave us bag with the essentials.  Earplugs, eyemask, toothbush, toothpaste and socks.  The food was good and too much for me to eat considering I was just sitting there for all those hours.

I blogged through the turbulence, stared out the window, started reading Sarah Waters “The Little Stranger”, watched Florence Foster Jenkins and slept.

I dreamed about the pain in my lower back, (that came from sleeping in a strange position) something about cabinets painted different colors. (no idea what that’s about, sometimes a dream is just a dream).

With a few differences, (no outlets, and using my room key card inserted in a slot to turn on the electricity) my hotel room looks like any other I’ve been in.

I haven’t gotten to see much of the city. At the hotel, there’s grass trees, flowers.  But where  the hotel is located,  which is just 10 minutes from the airport,  it’s mostly building after building rising up from dry tan earth.

it felt strange landing here and not having anyone to talk to.  No one to tell where I was.  It took me a while to figure out the wifi and it was 2am back home,  so even when a text got through to Jon it took him  while to get back to me.

I was definitely feeling homesick.  I’m so used to having Jon there to talk to.  I had this feeling of not being sure if what I was experiencing was real.  Like I needed a witness.

Talking to Jon is grounding.   So is writing and drawing.  I’m finding that these are the things I go to when I  feel like I’m all alone.

After a three hour blissful nap, I’m wide awake and feeling pretty good.  Tomorrow morning, if all goes as planned, (haha)  I land in Kolkata.  Finally.




A Mountain Range Of Clouds

February 13th, 2017

I’m looking out over a mountain range of clouds, eating my dinner of Paneer Makhani, on my way to Dubai.  And glad I’m not sitting next to the guy who’s snoring.

Kolkata Diary. Freud’s Barber Chair

February 13th, 2017

A drawing I did in the airport

I had two dreams last night. I wrote about the first one in my last blog post.  The second one has a title.  It’s called  Freud’s Barber Chair.

In the dream I was sitting in one of those old-fashioned brown leather barber chairs.  First my legs became weightless then started to float up in the air.  Then my whole body levitated out of the chair.  Soon I was flying all over the room.   When I woke up  I was repeating the words Freud’s Barber Chair over and over in my mind.

Flying dreams are usually about freedom for me.  And since Freud plays a significant role in this dream, I imagine it has some psychological meaning to it.  I’m guessing that with yesterdays Initiation Ritual I let go of something. But I’m not sure what it is.

I’m intrigued by the words though.  After all, it’s not Freud’s Couch, but his Barber Chair….

Kolkata Diary. Snow Storm and Cancelled Flight

February 13th, 2017

The Framingham Sheridan, made to look like a castle, (for some strange reason) and laced with snow,  loomed over me, like Shirley Jackson’s Hill House when I pulled into the parking lot.  But unlike Hill House, it’s a familiar and comfortable place to me.  Jon and I spent  more than a few nights there during his book tours over the years.

I got back to the hotel at 11pm.  My brain fuzzy and my body exhausted.  I had spent the past five hours driving back and forth to the Logan Express, taking the bus to the airport, checking in and going through security then finding out my flight was canceled, due to mechanical problems.  I guess because of the snow storm I anticipated the possibility of  a cancellation and wasn’t that surprised.

Luckily, even though I had checked out of the hotel, I was still able to get back into my room.  I didn’t intend to spend the night in the hotel.  I got the room to have someplace to spend the day.  I left home early that morning to avoid driving in the snow storm, and once in Framingham  had about 10 hours before my flight that night.

It turns out, my getting the hotel room was a better decision than I thought,  because the hotels around the airport were all  booked by the time my flight was cancelled.  Now I was able to get a good nights sleep before getting the rescheduled flight to Dubai the next day.

With all the trials of the day, (or as I choose to see it, initiation rituals) every problem seemed to be balanced with some luck on my part or an act of kindness towards me by someone else.

The most tense moments were driving to the Logan Express that evening.  It was still snowing hard and the roads weren’t clear, making for some white knuckle driving.  Then, when I was leaving the garage and  took too long getting  a protein bar, my dinner, from my bag  the gate closed so I couldn’t get out.  It didn’t take long for someone to come when I press the button for help, but by that  time I was hungry and tired and just worn out.

Because of cell phones, Jon and I were in touch throughout the day, so I never felt really alone.

But that night I had two dreams.

In one, I woke up in the hotel room and someone was lying next to me holding my hand.   It was just like the scene in The Haunting Of Hill House, where Eleanor thinks she’s holding Theo’s hand, but when the light comes back on, sees that Theo is on the other side of the room.  My dream was almost as spooky and when I woke up I wasn’t so sure it was just a dream.

But when I told Jon about it this morning, he immediately said it sounded like whoever was holding my hand was trying to comfort me.  That it sounded more like a spirit guide than a ghost.

I like that, it was kind of like how my day had been.  Not getting upset about what seems at the time to be a bad thing.  Turning it around, so it works out, even if it’s not exactly what I would have chosen.