Travel in India – A Journey Called Life

To travel is to willfully leap into the unknown – to give up the secured confines of home and wander into the exigencies of the world. This is true whether one journeys from home to a nearby town to see an event, or lose oneself in the sights and smells of a ‘Mela’ (fair), or to another continent in search of work. Over time, the world and its moralities seep into our lives and into our hearts. In doing so we come closer, howsoever marginally; to becoming – as the Greek philosopher Diogenes first called himself – a “citizen of the world”.

Predictably, travel arouses a swirl of responses in us. The world can either repel or inspire us in its reflections. But for a majority of travelers, travel forces their minds to think, to adapt, to reevaluate the prejudices and to gauge the responses in ways far removed from what they have been perceived to view. Travel in short is learning while on the move.

For many like me, the journey is always the destination – the essence of the short trip or the long journey always lies in the million ‘Chai’ (Tea) stops, the smiles or gurgling laughter of a baby, those impromptu romances between co-teen travelers, a lazy cow lying in the middle of the road and refusing to move, or a sudden downpour that hits the window panes and reduces the visibility to just a thin streak of light of a vehicle in the distance, in watching the green canopy of trees that welcomes every thoroughfarer with their arch, in washing my face and feet at a small gushing stream, in watching the outline of a small hillock from the distance, and sometimes, in just doing and thinking nothing at all…

Predictably, the idea of India as a traveler’s paradise – whether as a geographical or cultural space – is increasingly distorted in the minds of many. Many perceive travelling as the kind they see in Bollywood movies while the more privileged know more about Dubai or Venice than they do say about Bhubaneshwar or Shillong. Many parts of India are virtually foreign to many young minds, though no real fault of theirs. Who wants to ‘think’ about a Nizamabad when there is a jet plane taking off to Singapore? Our collective consciousness is slowly getting fragmented along the comfortable lines of global travel than the rustic feel of one’s soil.

Should this matter? Yes.

In a heterogeneous democracy like ours, where resources and geographies are vastly varied, where peoples, cultures, food, language change with every district – it is paramount that we see past our immediate environs. Our collective challenge is then — how do we offer, to the generations of Indians to recognize our collective destiny? Our soil and its manifold beauties. Lester Pearson, the late Canadian Prime Minister, said in his Nobel Peace Prize Lecture: “How can there be peace without people understanding each other, and how can this be if they don’t know each other?” To him, and to all of us, knowledge of the other was to simplify, to get past the banal and to learn to treat each individual according to their character. And the best way to do this is to travel. To explicitly encourage personal explorations within India and make India more accessible.

Green Mama by Tracey Bianchi – Greening Your Travel and Worship and Planting a Tree, Eco Book Review

Tracey Bianchi is a married mother of three young children, living in Chicago. Her environmental concerns for both her family and future generations inspired her to write Green Mama: The Guilt-Free Guide to Helping You and Your Children Save the Planet.

Bianchi earned a master of divinity degree and is a frequent speaker and writer on topics of Christianity. Regardless of your religious beliefs or denomination, and whether or not you have children, Green Mama will enlighten you to the earth’s dwindling natural resources; and how you can make a positive impact. Here, the topics of greening your travel and worship, along with advocacy for planting a tree are discussed.

Greening Your Travel
Before traveling, ask yourself if you really need to get there at all. Monitoring your travel can reduce fuel consumption, carbon emissions and consumerism. U.S. residents are responsible for approximately 25 percent of the world’s carbon emissions even though we have only 5 percent of the population.

Before jumping in the car, ask these potentially life-changing questions:

  • Have I chosen a green place to live? Answers vary according to circumstances. For you, that might mean multiple acres in a rural area or easy access to public transportation.
  • Do I live close enough to the amenities I need or the places I frequently visit? Next time you move, consider not only housing costs and school district quality. Think too about the commute time to routine travel, including the grocery store, church and library.
  • Do I really need to do this today or can I do it another time as part of another errand?
  • Can I walk or bike there instead?
  • Who else can I bring with me (i.e. a neighbor who needs to go grocery shopping a the same time)?
  • Can I combine the trip with another errand?
  • Am I shopping locally? Are all of my errands as close to home as possible?

Air Travel

The World Wide Institute states that one plane crossing the Atlantic Ocean uses16, 000 gallons of fuel. That’s enough to power one car for fifty years.

Before flying, ask yourself if you can travel by car or train. Take public transportation to and from the airport whenever it’s possible. Bring your own snacks and decline drinks, napkins and plastic cups offered on the plane.

Realize that you might be skiing at a resort that doesn’t monitor its carbon emissions. Long-term, the very commodity they’re selling (snowfall) could diminish with climate change. Eating at certain seafood restaurants, while enjoyable, may be purchasing their food from overfished waters. “Be an educated traveler and make a difference when you can,” says Bianchi.

Green Your Hotel and Resort Stays.

Bring home half-used bottles of shampoo and lotions. Use them up and recycle the containers. Look for water-saving tips from your hotel. Now, many offer water conservation programs that ask you to reuse your towels and bed linens the next day.

Vacation with a Purpose.

“Purposeful vacations take into account the social imprint of your vacation as well as the ecological practices of the places you visit,” says Bianchi.

Consider an Eco-Vacation, a Mission Project or a Conservation Trip.

Your local church or park district may offer trips and ecotourism vacations to destinations where you and your family can stay together. Cleaning up trails, helping to create a habitat for endangered wildlife and serving needy families worldwide are among the many vacation opportunities.

Buy a Hybrid Car; They Make a Difference.

The smaller and slower the car, the better the fuel efficiency.

Greening Your Worship

Your place of worship (or any other community setting you experience, including work) may ignore promoting an eco-friendly atmosphere. “Turns out the very buildings that were designed to proclaim the wonders of the God of the universe are some of the least green places in the country,” says Bianchi.

Styrofoam cups, individualized creamer packets and sugars, stir sticks, multi-page bulletins, and company newsletters printed with petroleum-based ink (instead of eco-friendly soy-based inks) are among the eco-savvy detractors.

“Greening up the church is not a fad or some hippie luxury; it is good stewardship and it is our future,” she says. Bianchi suggests two levels to start greening your worship:

1. Begin with your senior pastor, minister, rabbi, etc. A simple meeting with him or her can initiate the dialogue. Further talks can convene with committees, elders, trustees, and others leaders. Tap into your congregation’s professional talents, including architects, engineers and HVAC experts.

Discuss who will lead the greening efforts. It may or may not be you. The green team will need to research recycling options, reasonable tweaks in lighting and energy and other common sense, eco-friendly adaptations.

2. Use personal, covert greening efforts if you meet congregational resistance. This includes turning off lights in classrooms, and collecting and recycling church bulletins and newsletters on your own.

A universal response from churches, nonprofits and other organizations that resist going green is cost. Today, many establishments are working with limited funds.

Greening a place can appear to be pricey. Waste haulers may charge additional fees to remove recyclables. Recycling bins can be costly and purchasing fair-trade coffee and teas may sell for more, but, once done, long-term savings often result.

In the church, some will question if a greener life is theologically supported. Going green will have its detractors in any setting.

Planting a Tree

None of us can save the world on our own, but we can each make a difference. Bianchi mentions Wangari Maathai, a Kenyan activist who, in 2004, won the Nobel Peace Prize. Maathai says one thing we can do to fight environmental injustice, is plant a tree. It’s something we can all manage. Plant something green whether you live in a high rise, farm or anywhere else. Plunge your hands into the dirt and bring forth life.

Greening your travel and worship offer a variety of ways to reduce your carbon footprint on earth. Consider planting a tree to promote perpetual life among nature.

Green Mama offers a gallimaufry of websites to help you live more consciously and reduce consumerism. One of the best is the Center For A New American Dream. Visit them here: http://www.newdream.org/.

San Francisco Travel – Discover the Mission District’s Colorful Murals

With over 600 murals, San Francisco streets are a parade of vibrant and radiant
murals that are painted on building walls and facades, fences, garage doors and
more. The colorful Mission District is the epicenter of San Francisco murals with the
greatest concentration of murals in San Francisco. Discovering
the murals of the San Francisco Mission District is discovering the hopes and
passions, joys and tribulations of the people.

The San Francisco Mission neighborhood’s love affair with murals stems from the
Mexican roots of the Mission District community. The Latino community began to
move into in the Mission neighborhood in the 1950s and 60s. Early in the 1970s,
resident muralists started following the traditions of the great muralists of the
1920s and 30s, perhaps the most famous of which was Diego Rivera.

The Precita Eyes Mural Arts and Visitors Center (located at 2981 24th Street) is a
great place to begin your exploration of the murals in the San Francisco Mission
neighborhood. The Precita Eyes visitors center offers three guided mural tours on
Saturday and Sunday for between $10 and $12 for an adult. You can arrange private
group mural tours in advance. In addition, the Precita Eyes Visitors Center has a
Mission mural map of nearly 90 murals that you can use to explore the
neighborhood on your own.

At Precita Eyes, you can purchase mural-themed items, such as post cards, candles,
posters and books. Precita Eyes also sells mural arts supplies in case your are
inspired to paint your own personal mural on your living room wall. For more
information, contact Precita Eyes at http://www.precitaeyes.org/ or (415)
285-2287.

Located a block from Precita Eyes between Treat Avenue and Harrison Street, Balmy
Alley has a concentration of more than 30 vivid murals painted on fences, building
walls and garage doors. In the neighborhood densely packed with murals, Balmy
Alley is at the center of it all. Muralists began working in San Francisco’s Balmy Alley
as early as 1971. Many of the original murals are still there as well as many murals
that have been painted over the intervening years.

The Balmy Alley murals are very diverse both stylistically and in the subject matter.
Some of the murals feature cartoon-like illustrations that playful and juvenile. Other
murals along Balmy Alley grapple with difficult subjects, such as a memorial to
people who have died from AIDS or depictions of political strife and war in Latin
America. Another mural honors the great muralist Diego Rivera and his wife, the
painter Frida Kahlo. And another is a tribute to women muralists of the Mission
District. One colorless mural, depicts two men and a woman jumping through a
barbed-wire fence lined with keys. The woman has her hand held high, making the
peace sign.

Elsewhere in the Mission District on Harrison at 19th Street, mixed among blocks of
warehouses and running along a wall for nearly a block in San Francisco’s Mission
neighborhood is a mural titled “Carnaval.” As the name implies, the Carnaval mural
is a representation of the Carnaval celebration, a multicultural dance and music
festival that has its roots in Latin America and the Caribbean. The San Francisco
Mission District has been hosting a Carnaval Festival since 1978. Created in 1994 by
Joshua Sarantitis, Emmanuel Montoya, Carlos Loarca and others, the radiant
Carnaval mural is as dynamic and colorful as the festival that it portrays.

The Women’s Building (located at 3543 18th Street) boasts two walls of a dramatic
mural that pays homage to women. Created by a team of seven women muralists,
the “Maestrapeace” mural portrays women and feminine archetypes of multiple
world origins. The Goddess of Light and Creativity adorns the top of the 18th Street
facade with the waters of life flowing beneath her and transforming into fabric
designs from around the world.

The mural features such notable women as Georgia O’Keefe (an innovative American
artist) and Rigoberta Menchu (a Guatemalan of Mayan decent and Nobel prize-
winning activist). The names of many more famous women are inscribed in the
mural’s colorful patterns. The mural is meant to be inspiration and educational,
illustrating the contributions women have made to human history and society.

The Women’s Building provides resources and services to organizations that support
women and girls from multi-ethnic and multi-cultural backgrounds. For an
informational key to the mural, step inside the Women’s Building or contact them at
http://
http://www.womensbuilding.org/ or (415) 431-1180.