I am trying my best to once again write /blog due to so much demand by my young friends back home in Manipur ( a remote part of north east India ) & elsewhere.They all feel i should write down so that they can read about my travels.I never thought it would be of any interest to anyone anywhere since i am always called the “Travelling fool”, crazy woman”, the un ” sit still ” wall….!!! & many other names!!! lol!!! which I don’t mind !!! So here I am doing it for you all…!!!
I don’t even know where to start out as I have so much travel stories to share. Jo bhi ho dekha jayega ( whatever it is, lets all see it )…..Last week I went on my spontaneous solo road trip to Iowa a good 7-8 hours drive from my city of Tulsa in Oklahoma to meet up with my fellow Manipuri brethren Sahadev Waikhom & his family who had flown down from Pune for their summer vacation.I made a plan to stop by in Kansas city to say hello to the other Manipuris who are studying there…..i.e .Shunghring Hrangbung ( of Sugnu ) & Dhaneswari (of Thoubal ).I messaged them and one of them was busy with their classes & the other one was getting ready to have fun with skydiving !!!! Well, I didn’t want them to say later that I didn’t inform them and not meet them… You know what, I do my best on all such trips….to meet friends along my route of travel…….”Saap bhi mare laathi bhi na toote ( a saying in Hindi ) – kill 2 birds with a stone “…lol!!
Its much fun to meet and share stories or just about catch up with them !!! We are very few Manipuris here and there in the States and so its very comforting to have some one to talk to and create some kind of a homely atmosphere even though we are thousands of miles away from home !!!These young people all call & address me as ‘ECHE ” elder sister ..Its a form of respect for a person elder to you. Its a common thing for Asian culture.We never call out anyone by their names unless you are their age group or close friends.Its considered disrespect to do so.
Well, mine’s a leisure kind of travel.I like to stop by places along the way and check it out and spend time trying small talk with the locals wherever I go.Some are friendly and some not so !!! Its much more enriching when you take such trips across the small towns in the USA .Thats where the heart of America is in reality & not the tall buildings we see on tv or newspapers !! People are very simple and like to share their love of their countryside products and what not!!!
My drive to Iowa was very relaxed.I filled up my gas tank.It was $1.99/galon that day . I took the state highway 169 North from Tulsa.It runs through the state of Kansas.Its a very rural area.I enjoy seeing & looking @ all the cornfields along the highway.The small little towns on this route is very rustic kind.You can see some funny signs too.I saw one which had ‘KISSING & CO”….at a tractor farm or something.It could have been a family run /own farm.I wish I had taken a picture of that funny sign.I promise i ‘ll do that the next time.
I had been working some long hours that week before and needed to de-stress so this trip was very much a needed escape.I stopped on the way few times for a rest room break and stretching out.At other times, I drove around some empty fields to just enjoy listening to the sounds of birds chirping in the distance.I feel very blessed to be able to take in such beauty of nature anywhere I go.This is very relaxing and I do feel very refreshed.People always ask me if I am never ever tired .I tell them no & they all think I am crazy or some sort of an alien creature who never sit still !!! lol!!!
It was a beautiful bright day as i crossed into MIssouri .I always envy the incredible roads and bridges being bult here & cant help comparing the ones in my native place Manipur !!! ” kaha Manipur roads “- too much corruption in the system has made it so backward…..all the $$$ grant from the Indian central govt goes into the pockets of all the big wigs & the roads/bridges never get built ..even if built, its with low quality materials which wouldn’t even last one monsoon season !!!Well, its very sad & SORRY state of affairs in my home state of Manipur !! I cant help mentioning it as I am born and raised there.!! I sure would like to see it develop into a good tourist spot of the NE India like Sikkim which thrives mostly on tourism even though it became a state only only some 40 years ago.
Now back to my road trip to Iowa, I had been to this place 2-3 times now for meet ups with my fellow Manipuris there either working or studying. I have had so many invitations from all over the States to visit them.I can only do so much.I have to schedule my work and pay my bills too.I just cant be road tripping 24/7 as some always like to think I do !!! Sorry, folks, I work my behind off to survive in the US.I work @ 2 jobs as part time and pick up shifts/schedules. I had recently gone for a 3 month India visit to be with my son, mom & siblings so I had to quit my weekend job and stayed on as a part time employee.But I have no regrets whatsoever ….!!! I am not the type to do so!!!
I continued my driving leisurely and sunset was drawing near.I stopped by the nearest exit to watch it.This was so beautiful .I couldn’t take off my eyes that beautiful sunset in Missouri state.I said a little prayer to the Almighty for such little mercies i could be blessed along my drive unto Iowa.I surely and slowly reached Des Moines west just a little before 10pm.Its hard to see road signs at night.My Manipuri brethren were so happy to see me.I had visited the wife and their 2 daughters in Pune city during my visit to India.I am so blessed to meet and have great fellowship with them.They cooked so tasty chicken curry and steamed rice and “Chutney”-MOROK AMETPA—-a hot & spicy condiment of sorts.I don’t know how to name it.We North east Indians love to eat Ghost peppers- ” UMOROK, BHOOT JOLOKIA/RAJA CHILLY “.We all grew up eating them so it doesn’t affect us.Its a great appetizer.tBelieve you all me, you will not have any constipation if you eat this hot pepper !!THERE IS ALWAYS GREAT BONHOMIE WHEREVER THERE IS THIS chutney i!!!We cant do without it, period !!! lol!!!
We chit chatted well til late into the night.We had lot of stories and others to share and laugh about till 2am .We all watched a funny mimicry video by another friend .Huh !! all are asleep and we three are still yakking away in our native Manipuri language and laughing so much.
The next morning we all got up and Chisa Pfoze ( the wife is a Mao naga from Mao district ) made yummy rotis ( round indian bread ) & green pea sabzi ( dish ) for brunch.I ate too much as its as so good.The children were just wondering what we were all talking and laughing about late into the night.I admire the mother for enforcing her children to speak her mother tongue and they are so fluent with it as well as English.They even know and understand their father’s meiteilon language too.This is real cool.I would like to emphasize to all my Manipuri brethren everywhere the importance of teaching your children your mother tongue !!! This is a really wonderful gift for them.Imagine, when they visit their grandparents, or aunts,uncles or any one in Manipur & if they don’t know the language, how awkward or odd one out they would feel !!! I know many of our brethren would not like to admit it but they all seem to think teaching the mother tongue is not useful and below their dignity !! This is a very wrong notion, I should say…The love and bond would be much stronger if the children know their mother tongue even if they are born outside of the parents’ home state.!! I have met and seen many of them only speak in English to their children and yet they profess to love their motherland “MANIPUR “….!!! Only few parents ( you can count on your finger tips their numbers ) have done the most amazing teaching and speaking to their children in meiteilon ….!!! My tears welled up when one of these sweet boy in Miami asked me on the phone ” aunty chaak charabro??” -aunty have you eaten food??in Manipuri….How nice and sweet it was to hear this american born boy asking me this question in Meiteilon!!! Good parenting to his mom & dad !!! Their advantage was that they had their grand parents stay with them for 6 months each during a year…Just sharing an experience !! with no malice towards none !!
Well, this family took me out for a 3 D movie “Superman Vs Batman ” in a Cinemark movie theater in Des Moines city….it was a cool deal.I had never been to one before !!! I must thank this wonderful family for this movie treat !!!!We came back from the movie around 12 midnight and the children were hungry .The father searched for a nearby McDonalds for some burger to feed his two daughters who were hungry and sleepy too. We reached their place and the couple got into cooking some thing for us !! I was not hungry as I had eaten good food before we left for the movie.I cant eat heavy at night before sleeping !!!
I slept in my sleeping back and felt so cozy and comfy.I had to leave early the next morning so I excused myself to got o bed straight.I got up around 9am next day & chis a was already making yummy potato stuffed PARATHAs for breakfast,.She made green tea to go with it.I ate 3 of them and was pretty full. Her husband g=had to go to work and the two daughters were still sleeping.
I had bid farewell to them and start driving back to Tulsa.It was a nice meet up . i drove out of their apartment complex to fill up my gas tank ( petrol ).I couldn’t meet the other two folks there.Maybe they were either super extra busy with their work and studies !! I understand the work culture here in the States !!! So no hard feelings to anyone !! Chalta hai !!! (Life goes on ) !!!
I wanted to drive to downtown Des Moines city and just explore a little bit @ their Capitol building.I love it.Its so fascinating to see the beautiful inside decor and its architecture designs .I carried with me several of my NE scarves /mufflers to pose and take pics with it !!! which I always love to do when on road trips !!! Its just a happy thing for me to do it!!! I may look or sound crazy but some of you have liked the pictures I posted on the social media…I know no one would want to do what i do as they feel ashamed or doesn’t have the guts or just feel hesitant or ashamed or just about anything !!! But hey !!! all our nE Indian attires are so colorful and uniquely beautiful !! I thank all my young friends who gifted me these precious scarves !!!
Anyway, I tried my hand at taking short videos on my iPhone.I had great fun as it was just me who as wearing /posing with these NE Indian scarves in front this State Capitol building in this american city of Des Moines in Iowa…Some people were watching me what I was doing from their cars .I am sure their heads were full of spinning stars and with questions !!!! he he he !!! But I was just a random visitor to their state and loved to take pictures …..thats all !!! Thats the greatest gift of being in a free country !!!
I enjoyed going inside this beautiful building and made small talk with some volunteers.This is the election year in the US so its mostly politics but its great fun to know about its political history of this city.There were tv and other media persons who were covering the local goings on inside their Capitol building !!!
i soon left the city after taking whatever pictures I wanted .There was the beautiful tree outside in full spring bloom.I enjoyed the beauty of the surroundings.
I took the exit to get onto the Interstate highway 35- South. It was a smooth ride all along.I turned on the FM radio for classic rock music.I love it as it keeps me awake and feeling all agog !!! After some time, I stopped by St.Charles town to see the covered bridges of Madison County and take pictures or videos.It was an exhilarating feeling to see such places and read their history.
I spent a good 2 hours at this place.It was week day so there were less visitors.It was good for me so that I could take pictures in peace without any distractions.I was done by 3pm.Just then , Shunghring texted me wanting to know when would i be arriving in Kansas city.I told him to carry on with whatever plans/programs he has for the day and not to be bothered as I would arrive @ my leisure time just to say hello to him on my return trip.Thats what I always do when I take such trips up north to Iowa.he is such a hard working guy and i really admire such folks.!!! He grew up in a remote village of Toupokpi in Sugnu.He was a very studious and hard working young man brought up by his elder sisters and is the main source of income for them.I have met them during my visit back home and are so warm family and so loving.They had cooked simple chicken dish and with “AN PHUI – ametpa” – hot & spicy salad with a local herbs & ghost peppers ” which I loved it so much….!!! His sisters packed a big bundle for me to take back home to Imphal.I distributed some to my other neighbors.They loved it too.
Anyway, I took the exit for 39th street onto the Southwest Trafficway .I reached his place almost around 9pm, I think he got anxious as he had to get up early the next morning to go to work.I was aware of that too.At last I got into the drive way and I saw him starting to make tea for us to drink.I think its special as I have never seen him make tea before!! Could be a change in his status !!! A woman in his life !!!! ha ha ha !!! just assuming !!! This young man is very simple and honest & humble.From the far flung village of Toupokpi in Sugnu to Kansas city is a great stride for him…He came to do his theological studies and completed it but went onto do nursing course which he is pursuing it with all his heart and he’d be a great success too.A bright star for his ANAL tribe !!! He is an inspiration to his community back home !!! He is very appreciative of people helping him !!! It will go a long way …his humility !!!
We both drank the tea he made.I gave him some ghost peppers & bay leaves i had brought from Manipur.It tastes better the ones from back home.I always use them in tea, or any dishes that I cook.We had a short sweet time to catch up.He told me of his experiences working in the hospital and how much thankful he was for the many blessings God had given him….!!! It was a really nice meeting !! I took my leave and set out on my night driving back to Tulsa.It was almost 10 pm …
I took the road across his place to catch onto the Interstate highway 35 South and then onto the state highway 169 South.It was a lonely road , dark and no street lights but I was already on this highway before and nothing to be scared of.I drove on quietly for another 2 hours till about midnight.I drove into the parking lot of a Super 8 motel and slept inside my car for the night!!! I was too exhausted to drive any further.I had carried my sleeping bag and my blanket.So it was fun night sleeping !!! Many of you would dare not do it !!! due to FEAR !!! I do understand your FEAR but I don’t let it consume me either !!! i don’t let anyone know I am sleeping inside my car at the motel parking lot !!! I do my research /look out for the place before i decide to stay the night inside my car !!!I leave an inch of my window open for air & lock the doors !!! You have to be vigilant and be aware of your surroundings !!! I take care of my rest room breaks & all that before my night halt at such parking lots !!! For me in my experience , its much safer than Walmart parking lots !!!
I had a good night’s rest and work up the next mooring around 7am.Many of the vehicles parked nearby me were all gone.I think they were all workers for the farms or truckers or maybe families traveling together or whatever….!!
Well, I started driving out towards Tulsa which was a good 2 hours away from this place where i spent the night.I was in no hurry.I leisurely drove under the speed limits and reached Tulsa around 9.30am.I went to the Tulsa Tech Outreach program office and got my Taxes done.So sad I did not get any tax returns this year as I had to pay the govt /healthcare dues.It sure was a deflating feeling for me after having worked so hard at 2-3 jobs to keep me surviving in this country !!! But I cant complain as done is done !!! I am just thankful for the great blessings the almighty father has given me !!!
All in all I had a great and fun trip !!! now back to work and pick up more shifts/schedules !!! no time to waste !!! Stay tuned for more stories & bear with me.I would appreciate your views & comments !!!