Time Has Been Going For a Very Long…Time (alternative name: Kirby visits Hampi)

Months ago after I had decided to begin my close of service (COS) trip in India, several people echoed similar advice. “Don’t drink the water; take it easy on the food; prepare for high stimulation of all senses”. While I have kept those tidbits in mind, another suggestion continued to be mentioned by different people rather sporadically. “Be sure to visit Hampi.” Even after arriving in India, an array of people have suggested that I go to Hampi. Others were excited when I mentioned that I was planning to go. One traveler I met remarked that I had to go to Hampi because it was “like something out of the Flintstones”. I only vaguely understood the reference.

Last week, I made it to Hampi. As others warned me, it’s a stark contrast to the India that many tourists/travelers/backpackers see. It’s not the booming metropolis that it was centuries ago, but it’s known for being an ancient kingdom with numerous temples. It’s also much more quiet than the larger cities around India.

As I went out for a bike ride and hike one morning, I couldn’t help but to think of Petra, the ancient kingdom in Jordan. The ancient architecture. The massiveness. The history. The large rock formations gave me thoughts of the Grand Canyon. I’m not a history buff. Not even close. However, I can appreciate things of historical significance. It also amazes me how the story of these places passes down throughout generations.

If you ever find yourself in close or even close-ish proximity to Hampi, check it out. It’s also less expensive than visiting Petra. Of course, if you find yourself in close or close-ish proximity to Wadi Musa, check out Petra. The feel is different in the cities, as well. This may be because Petra is a massive, self-contained historical site whereas Hampi is a city with a vast array of historical sites spread throughout it. I should note that Hampi is still of importance to Hindus, as Virupaksha Temple still functions as a temple.

In case you missed the photos on the @whatisKirbydoing instagram (due to technical difficulties), they are here!

By contrast, here are some photos from my visit to Petra in 2014.

Be kind to yourself.
Onward.

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Getting naked in Cape Town (SFW)

It was Sunday evening. I had returned to Swaziland to attend training. I was on cloud nine after having the most amazing weekend in Cape Town. I had started the weekend with two goals. Eat great food and ride bikes while naked. Cape Town is known for some exquisite cuisine. The World Naked Bike Ride happened to be on the same weekend. Both of my goals were exceedingly accomplished! I ate amazing Thai food and sushi. Other PCVs at the training commented on how refreshed I looked as I shared highlights of the weekend. I smiled. I was extremely rejuvenated. 

One PCV friend asked when I would be writing about this experience on my blog. I responded that I wouldn’t be writing about the naked bike ride weekend. I had reasoned that the weekend was not related to my Peace Corps service, and that this blog was singularly about my service. I had reasoned that I wanted to be a “good” volunteer, and not attract bad publicity or attention to the Peace Corps. 

The World Naked Bike Ride (WNBR) is a clothing optional bike ride that takes place in more than 70 cities around the world. People from all walks of life join in to celebrate people powered transportation. Most ride bikes. Some ride longboards. Some participate in roller skates. Others choose to run. 

The reasons that people choose to participate, like the participants themselves, are diverse. Some people want to bring attention to our global dependence on non-renewable energy. Others want to highlight the vulnerability of cyclists and remind motorists to share the road. There are naturists, and naturism activists, who use the ride to promote a clothes-free lifestyle and remind the world that nakedness does not equal sex or lewd behavior. 

My first WNBR was 2012 in Philadelphia. A big reason for my participation, at the time, was to be part of an exciting counter-culture. It was thrilling to be around 2500 people in various states of undress. 

To date, I have done the WNBR in six cities on three continents. While it’s still exciting to be naked and ride bikes through the city, I have added to the reasons that I ride. Having struggled with body image issues at various points in my life, I try to fully embrace body positivity, both in practice and thinking. People with all kinds of body types participate in the ride, and all are welcomed and embraced by fellow ride participants and most onlookers. Cape Town was no different. As we rode through the city, people lined the streets to cheer for us. The smiles were plenty. The weather was perfect. I was even gifted some delicious pizza after the 7.5 km ride. I even posed for pictures, and completed some interviews (one of which ended up on Japanese news). Body shaming has been normalized and is commonplace in far too many places. Simply stated, I ride because I refuse to embrace a culture of shame. 

After much internal debate on whether or not I should write about my experience at the Cape Town WNBR, I decided that it was necessary. Yes, this is a blog about my Peace Corps experience. However, that experience isn’t limited to teaching classes, building gardens, and writing grants. Also, I believe in the importance of fully representing the great expanse known as the US of A. Some day, someone will read this while wondering if there is space in Peace Corps for them with all of their unique intricacies. Let this post be a resounding yes! 

Be kind to yourself. 
Onward. 

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​Monday in a Picture – New Bike Day 

Merry Christmas from sunny Swaziland! In addition to Christmas, I recently celebrated another holiday: New Bike Day! Santa made an early stop to drop off a new bike in the Manzini region. I’m beyond elated. Peace Corps Swaziland approved me for reimbursement to get a bike just over a week ago. 

I knew that I wanted something that I would enjoy riding in my rural community. I wanted something that I could use for transport, recreation, and commuting. After speaking with a fellow PCV and a local Swazi about their respective bike buying experiences in Swaziland, I decided that I would check out Adventure Cycles in Manzini. 

I also decided that I would be purchasing a hardtail mountain bike. The shop had many options for mountain bikes. There were a few full suspension bikes that stole my attention for a while, but I regained focus. I wanted to have something that I would be comfortable fixing myself.  There were also some road bikes that caught my attention. However, I live in a community with gravel/dirt roads, so a road bike was out of the question. Again, I regained focus. As I perused the selection of hardtails, I settled on a beauty. 

This Scott Aspect 680 came home with me last week, and it is amazing! On its maiden voyage, it performed very well. It took everything I could throw at it. It handled like a dream while riding the gravel roads. It’s much more speedy than I was expecting. The suspension was phenomenal, and the ride wasn’t nearly as jolting as I thought it would be on the bumpy road. Of course, my legs reminded me that I should never be away from cycling this long. I’m confident to say that this bike was the right decision. 

For those of you who may be wondering, I have not named this bike (yet). Feel free to leave any name suggestions in the comments. 

Be kind to yourself. 
Onward. 

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Monday in a Picture – Uyatsandza kugijima

Happy Halloween! 

Prior to joining the Peace Corps, I would have considered myself a fairly active person. I maneuvered the streets of DC on bike. Twice a week, I would join the greatest November Project tribe in the world for an early morning (running-oriented) workout. Although I ran with those wonderful folks, I never really considered myself a runner. A cyclist? Sure. But a runner? Not I. 

There is major opportunity here to be sedentary, which is tempting with many movies and television shows on my hard drive that I haven’t seen yet. There have been glimmers of hope as I have seen others riding bikes in my community. The thing is that I currently don’t have a bike. While I’m hoping that this changes soon, I have a desire and the energy to be active now.

Enter community runs. I’m not particularly fast or good at it, but I try to go out at least once a week for a run. I’ve found that this does a few things. First, it gets out all of that built up energy. Strangely, the more that I run, the more that want to run. Second, it allows me to explore new parts of my community and make maps of it (with my GPS watch). It helps that the watch tells me to move and posts my efforts to Strava. Lastly, it gives me the opportunity to meet and see various community members while they meet and see me. Some people have even commented when they see me, “Uyatsandza kugijima!“, or “you like to run!” I smile and laugh. I don’t know if I would classify running as something that I like, but I don’t hate anymore. I’ve even thought about signing up for one of those races. A 10K or half marathon, maybe? Because why not? 

Be kind to yourself. 
Onward. 

P.S. – I just want to say #GoBlue and #HowBoutThemCowboys! It was a sweet rivalry weekend.