18 July 2011

Stylistic Imitations Cont.

You can read my first four here.

5. The best to come to India is in January. When you visit in July you've come in the middle of monsoon. The Tibetans and Indians are on their guard, and one of them will warn you, shaking his head, eyes weary, "The streets turn into rivers of dirty water. If you think you can walk to the TCV in the heavy rain, you should think again." What you must do is walk down the road, keeping your umbrella over your head and your backpack on your front, pretending you can't hear the obnoxious squeak your wet sandals make.

6. One summer, in 2011, I went to a hill station in India with a group of six other students for three months. We all got sick from the water and had to take pills twice or three times per day and one girl got locked on a roof; but besides that the field study was a success and all of us thought there was nothing in the world quite like that hill station in India.

7. The research process is now as firmly established in academia as the professor's lecture or the essay exam. First you decide on a topic of inquiry, conduct the research, and then publish the results. This is capable of expression by the formula inquiry > research > publish, or IRP. Last year, when I started my research blog, I began an inverse procedure: PRI, for publish > research > inquiry. Fortunately, the results of publishing my early thoughts included in-field contacts, good rapport, and a several  pre-field interviews, which resulted in a more developed project proposal than my vague preliminary idea for my fieldwork--a classroom experiment in which students used facebook for homework. In light of the process I made from so simple a change as documenting my thoughts and experiences on a public blog, it's too bad that I am just an undergraduate researcher. A full-blown professor, with impressive credentials, years of education, research experience, extensive knowledge, and the wisdom of age would surely produce something extraordinary.

8. As far as I could guess no white girl had set foot in this tiny Chinese restaurant before I came. I was told before we arrived that we were going to dinner with friends. I took this to mean that we were going to eat at someone's home, perhaps Tashi since he had come to dinner twice before. I didn't think that we'd be joining a group of about thirty Tibetans for an ironically Chinese feast.

9. Sacrament meeting again. We're sitting on a green painted bench at the Dalai Lama's temple, as we do every Sunday, trying to avoid being a photo op for large groups of Hindu and Sikh tourists, which is always impossible. We are that group that encompasses everyone at one time or another: religious minority.

10. TCV? It's a 45 minute walk from McLeod, a beautiful trip that takes you along a Himalayan trail, and if you are someone escaping Westernized McLeod or just seeking Tibetan culture, then by all means come here. Nestled in the hills, overlooking the hot Indian plains, and behaving like its own city, it is a Tibetan boarding school with heavy monsoon rains for a quarter of the year, roughly June to October. There are adorable children, really extraordinary hydrangea bushes and calla lilies, and if you have permission from the headmasters, the classes, though difficult to navigate, are excellent, which, when you consider that many of the students are orphans and refugees, is a very good thing. Almost everything in the TCV is pleasant, though, so before coming here you should do two things: befriend an administrator and buy an umbrella. Following this advice will allow you to access the libraries, classrooms, and staff lunchroom without getting your hair wet, though the same cannot be said for your shoes. The TCV is a city of students, a school where teachers are also parents, an unconventionally family. This is somewhat like the community in McLeod, where many people have left their families behind in Tibet and therefore recreate those relationships in India; for that matter, McLeod and its TCV have another common denominator: self-containment. The average Tibetan, for instance, thinks Christianity and the Pope are the same thing, whatever that may be--in any event, he doesn't care; and some Westerners, captivated by maroon robes and low-voiced chanting, come to agree.

Imitation of Models (reversing number 7)

He might have written a masterpiece, had he eaten a Long Island duck, a pair of lobsters, a thin sword-fish of steak of generous area, a few ears of fresh-picked corn, three sauteed soft-shelled crabs, some bay scallops, a peck of steamers, a bowl of clam chowder, and a dozen Gardiners Island oysters. It's a pity that Proust forewent this hearty appetite in favor of such mild a stimulus as "a light cake made with sugar, flour, lemon juice, brandy, and eggs," the madeleine. My significantly more robust taste--travel, Cote Rotie, stuffed tripe, stewed rabbit, and small birds--was happily recreated when I once read The Food of France. My experience could be expressed in the formula BMT, for Book > Memory > Taste. The inverse, TMB for Taste > Memory > Book, occurred when a man ate a biscuit, the taste evoked memories, and he wrote a book. This process is now as firmly established in folklore as Newton's apple or Watt's steam kettle. It's the Proust madeleine phenomenon.

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