How To Avoid Pickpockets in Paris

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I bet you thought I was done with blog posts about Paris. I thought I was too! But a friend who is leaving for Paris this month reached out to me for advice and I realized there was one last thing I needed to share with all of you- how to avoid pickpockets.

Let me tell you, I was petrified of pickpockets abroad. I had heard of two co-workers who has been pickpocketed and became almost paranoid that it would happen to me. Here are my recommendations for avoiding losing your very valuable belongings while traveling abroad. I’d also like to preface this by saying that after a few days in Paris, I felt extremely safe. However, I’d like to acknowledge that I do say this as someone who currently lives in NYC.

Photocopy Your Passport

It is always better to be safe than sorry. Photocopy your passport and leave one copy back at home and carry one with you in case you lose your passport or have to stolen.

Lock Up Your Passport

The idea of carrying my passport around Paris made me feel very uneasy. If you’re staying at a hotel with a safe, this is a great option. Otherwise, we just kept our passports locked inside our suitcases at our airbnb and our passports were completely safe.

If you’re worried about someone breaking into your airbnb and stealing your passports, a money belt is a great option. I bought one but didn’t end up using it. But you can keep it at your waist and leave your passport there so that is always with you when you’re out and about. That way it’s always on you but in a place that pickpockets can’t readily reach.

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For most of the trip I carried this crossbody and opted to hold it on my arm so that it was always in front of me.

Wear a Crossbody/Money Belt

Something unique that I noticed about Paris was the fact that everyone wore a crossbody bag or carried a backpack with a fanny pack. This was weird to me because I never saw anything like this in NYC. I think that wearing something to the front of you that you can see is the best way to make sure your belongings are safe. And if you’re carrying a lot a backpack is fine as long as you have a fanny pack to your front with your most important belongings.

Carry a Card-case

I once had my wallet stolen a few years ago at work and wish I had thought of this idea before losing my wallet. I can’t take credit for it by the way, it was advised to me on one of the many blogs I read before traveling to Paris.

Don’t put all your important cards in your wallet. Keep some cards at home. When I lost my wallet I had to cancel all my cards. When you’re abroad, maybe just bring your debit card and one credit card without a foreign transaction fee. Limit how much cash you take out or carry so that even if something is stolen, you’ll be okay.

Don’t be Dumb

I caught myself a few times during the trip panicked because I left my bag unzipped in front of me and worried if something got stolen. Watch your belongings. Always zip it. Don’t leave things unattended. Don’t be dumb and I’m sure you’ll avoid the pick pockets.

I hope you enjoy your time abroad and as long as you’re careful, there’s absolutely no reason to worry.

Now That It’s Cool To Be Indian

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Something odd that has been brought to the surface recently is how things taken from Indian culture that once evoked responses of disgust are now “cool”. I read a post on the Facebook group #SubtleCurryTraits about how the stereotypical “white girl” who years earlier considered turmeric disgusting in “yellow rice”, now adds tumeric to their chai teas for the “health benefits”.

Well, the tide has turned. The teenage heart throb of my youth, Nick Jonas, chose to marry the stunning, Priyanka Chopra. But despite this change in heart by America as a nation, I’d argue that things really aren’t better. You must be thinking- isn’t this sudden love of all things Indian supposed to be great news? Indian culture may now be “in” but the truth is that I still know too many Indians who are ashamed of their culture, petrified of being labeled a FOB and are unable to erase the years of shame that we’ve associated with being Indian because of pop culture’s previous narrative. A message in which the worth or lack thereof, of an India in media was communicated by the void of people who looked like me on television shows, ads or magazines
and honestly, even within India’s own media that continues to refuse to include women of medium or darker shades on media platforms.

We still live in the same country in which I heard the white kid next door telling me that my people should get out of his white neighborhood. There are still people who are told that they smell like “curry”, presumably from people actually knowing what curry smells like. Or you still find the white guys on dating apps who only like Indian girls and treat an entire people group as a fetish. This leads to whole groups of desi people who refuse to engage in anything that associates them with their culture. Forbidden activities include but are not limited to: eating with their hands, being caught speaking their mother tongue or even spending a week in India.

The truth of the matter is that it’s not actually cool to be Indian. It’s only cool in the same way that people like dressing up on Halloween or decorating their Christian tree once a year, it’s exoticized. But even when this fad changes, I’ll still wearing my lengha blouses mixed and matched with American gowns. I’ll still try to rock my lengha skirt with a button down and my salwars pants with American tops. Because just as much as I identify as an American as my nationality, I am still and will always be Indian and that doesn’t need to be cool to you. It’s me.

Thoughts on Keeping Up with The Joneses

 

To this day, I am shamed by my brother because of a letter I wrote back in high school. My Sunday School teacher at the time had challenged our class to write letters to God asking for things we really want. Sit back and watch how God provides.

I wrote a letter to God asking for Ugg boots and I got them.  But that isn’t the point. My middle/high-school self really struggled with keeping up the Joneses, a concept to read more about here. As an adult I need to remind myself that there is beauty to living in God’s unique provisions for our lives and living our lives for ourself, not impressing others.

There will never be enough “stuff” 

You would think that after my mom surprised me with Ugg boots that I would be thrilled and stop asking for such expensive items, and I was excited but just for some time. What kinda makes me laugh today is the fact that before seeing those boots on practically every girl at my school, I never thought they were pretty. I have my own adult version of that with Louis Vuitton bags. I used to cringe when I saw them but now look to them was adoration.

The ugg boots were great for a moment but then I wanted so low pants and a Juicy couture suit and an Ed Hardy shirt and the list goes on. I would drag my mom to the mall and try to find the cheapest shirt with Aeropostale written across the chest. I kept wanting and asking for things hoping these items would somehow buy me social acceptance. Luckily my mom never indulged any of my other requests. I couldn’t understand why other people could afford these things that I so badly wanted and didn’t understand that my parents were investing in other things that I couldn’t see. They gave money to our church, family members in need and visiting ministers. They could see that  the things I wanted weren’t necessary but I couldn’t at the time.

We can miss out on what’s better 

There is nothing wrong with material belongings but we can miss out on God’s unique provisions for our lives. If we stretch our budgets so thin to buy that purse that make us look a certain way- are we happy? I’m all for spending money on quality items but that decisions should be motivated by other reasons. Like buying from companies that are ethical or present high quality goods. Or because we like to express our own unique style, not because we want to present a certain image.

So if you’re like me and struggle with the need to keep with the Joneses, I challenge you and myself to look at our unique desires and ask ourselves why we really want an item. Is it self expression or is it self promotion? With that being said, I still have a pretty long Pinterest Wishlist board! But I hope that overtime it becomes more and more of what I personally desire.

She Gets It From Her Mama

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In honor of Mother’s Day I thought I would share six of the best things I have inherited from my mama. Not everything we learn from our parents is good and there is lots of room for growth in reflecting and changing, but I believe we are placed in certain homes for a reason and I feel so grateful for my mother. Whether we realize it or not, our parents have a huge influence on us and these are some of the ways my mom has impacted me for the better.

1.Don’t let others label you 

I was recounting a story to my mother about a friend’s birthday. Three of my friends attended together and didn’t know the rest of the people at the party. We left the dinner as a group and in passing I commented that it so surprising that all of the people at our friend’s party were so darn good looking. To which my friend replied, “yeah- what were we doing there?” It was a passing joke but it unearthed an insecurity I didn’t realize I had. I tried not think much about it and told my mom the story during one of our usual phone calls. In that moment she told me, “No, don’t let her label you.” And that’s something she has always taught me. Others may want to decide I’m “less than” for whatever reason but my mom has always made me feel like I am worth something.

Years ago in high school, my mom provided the same guidance to a friend of mine. This friend was heavier and we were talking about senior photos and she said something along the lines of how she didn’t want to take too many pictures and take up too much time and seemed insecure because of her weight. My mom told her that she should never be afraid to take up time. She should go there, dress up and take as many photos and she wanted to. My mom refused to think that something like weight should be the reason why she didn’t enjoy her senior photos.

2. Your opinion matters

For as long as I was able to speak, my mother has always asked me what I thought. Granted, she doesn’t always want to hear my opinion and has told me to shut it but whether she likes it or not 😉  she has fostered a natural desire in me to share my ideas. I have learned to speak up at church if something didn’t feel right. I have never entered a conversation feeling like I don’t have something of worth to contribute. In fact, I was so surprised to learn that many people don’t feel like they have something to share in groups settings. I have always learned the value of my thoughts. My mom has taught me that my ideas are worthwhile and often asks me for advice. I think because I was raised to believe I knew something, somewhere along the way I began to share ideas of worth. (Or at least I think they’re important!)

3.  Love those who love you 

Growing up, I naturally wanted to always be friends to with the popular people. My mom always stopped me and said- love those who love you. From that advice I have found the most loyal friends and never found myself trying to be friends with someone who didn’t care for me. I’ve never chased after friendships but instead look to the people who watch out for me.

4. Slow down. 

I am so impulsive. If I decide I’m angry at someone, I throw a fit. I want to thrown in the towel on something I’ve worked hard for. Again and again I’ve learned to wait before my big grand decisions and think through my decisions. I’ve learned the 24 hour rule before sending an angry letter. I am reminded again and again to be patient and slow down.

5. Never leave the house without a good lip color and some mascara 

Everyday, my mom wakes up at 5am. She does her makeup, put on her clothes that she has ironed and planned out a week in advance. She takes time slowly in the morning, enjoys breakfast and shows up early to work. I’m more of the type of person to wake up with 30 minutes to get ready when I really need an hour and rush out the door, making it to work with a minute to spare.

But regardless of our differing morning routines, one thing I’ve always learned from her is presenting myself well. I don’t always succeed and there are days I get lazy but I’ve never seen my momma out in public like a mess. She never let me go out without perfectly groomed hair and a cute outfit. Things went awry when I started dressing myself… But I still learned the basics of good style from her.

6. Trust in God 

I am a natural worry wart. I constantly share my concerns, to which my mom has always responded, trust in God. Will I be able to pay for _____? Trust in God. Will I get this job? Trust in God. Will everything work out? Trust in God. It’s hard to understand fully but this advice offers my natural worrying nature a feeling of peace. I can always trust in God.

I am so grateful for my mom! What lessons have you learned over the years? Comment down below. I hope you had an amazing mother’s day.

 

Being a Brown Girl in Nude Heels

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I started writing this blog post nearly two years ago. I’m continuing it now. Almost two years ago in June,  I took my first ever teaching course with the first professor to tell me to call him by his first name. After four years of undergraduate study I took the best class I had ever taken my first month of graduate school. My teaching cohort spent that month huddled in circles, crumpling up life stories, paired against each other defending our sides on various issues and growing close to one another as a teaching cohort. Of everything that teaching has given me, one of the biggest gifts was that summer with that cohort.

Of the lessons I learned in that classroom management class, the first that hit was: Privilege is having band aids match your skin.

Or in my case, my lack of privilege is wearing nude heels that stick out against my dark skin. It’s always feeling like you don’t just quite fit in and worrying that you never will. I first grew up in a predominately black and hispanic neighborhood. I was generally accepted by my peers and felt proud of being an Indian. I was surprised to find that when I moved to a high-school that was made of 99% whites students, it wasn’t as cool to be “Indian”. In fact, many people didn’t even know what it meant to be an Indian.

I spend a lot of time completely unaware of issues of race and class. It was always underlying every event and circumstance but I never knew what to call that feeling of knowing that my peers looked and grew up differently than me, despite the fact that we attended the same school.

Learning that bandaids didn’t match the skin was at first upsetting. But that summer opened me up to a whole new world in which I learned that when we become aware of a problem, we can do something about it.

I eventually found “nude” heels that matched my skin color. But I first needed to be aware that the shoes I had on before weren’t quite right.

 

Should Christian Women Dress Modestly?

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I first found out about Girl Defined‘s ministry because a guy friend of mine shared a video that they made on Christian modesty. He wrote something along the lines of how as a man, he appreciated when his Christian sisters dressed modestly for their Christian brothers. At the time, I replied that it wasn’t a woman’s responsibility to dress modestly for men, that they made their own decisions and such a mentality leads to victim blaming and other unhealthy patterns of thinking.

We later spoke and clarified what we each meant, a lot of which was misunderstood, but the topic of modesty and whether Christian women should dress modestly has always left me feeling confused and became something I really struggled to understand. I now follow and value Girl Defined’s ministry but I initially found their video and view on modesty unsettling. Ultimately, modesty is an issue of the heart and we should be careful to make “black and white” rules regarding how women and/or men should dress. 

I’ve mentioned my conservative Christian upbringing before on this blog. I’m grateful for how I was raised but I believe one mistake of the church as a whole was stressing modesty without explaining why because the reason why we do something can be just as important as what we choose to do.

Modesty begins at the heart 

I remember going clothing shopping with my mother and just hoping she would be okay with a cute pencil skirt that went just above the knee. I knew that any tank top purchased would require a cardigan. I spent summers in sweltering heat in capris because shorts were seen as way too revealing.

But because I learned that certain things were not allowed without much rationale as for why, I went into college kinda reckless in terms of what I thought was appropriate attire. I use the word reckless loosely. Not only did I show a lot of skin at times, but I didn’t even dress for the weather. I wore spaghetti strap dresses in the winter if it was the fastest thing I could find before heading to class. I didn’t think or care much about what I wore and later on in life enjoyed receiving attention for stylish outfits. I reveled in the freedom of wearing whatever I wanted but wasn’t all too modest in the sense of not drawing attention to myself.

We are quick to recite 1 Timothy 2:9, “I also want the women to dress modestly, with decency and propriety, adorning themselves, not with elaborate hairstyles or gold or pearls or expensive clothes,”, forgetting the other plea to not draw attention to ourselves with “luxurious” items. The heart of modesty directs us in vs. 10 to instead, “but with good deeds, appropriate for women who profess to worship God.” Meaning, we shouldn’t be known but we do, not how we look. 

There are no hard and fast “rules” 

It can feel natural to make rules. Growing up, not wearing sleeves was considered scandalous. I always needed to cover my knees. But beyond that, it didn’t really matter what I wore. It took me a long time to realize that I could be completely covered but possibly revealing too much if my clothing was too tight and losing the entire point of “covering up”.

If you look at Genesis 2 & 3, you are shown the story of Adam and Eve. Genesis 2:25 reveals that, “Adam and his wife were both naked, and they felt no shame.” It was only after sinning that they desired to cover themselves in Genesis 3:7,  “Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they realized they were naked; so they sewed fig leaves together and made coverings for themselves.”

Adam and Eve in their sinlessness, were naked. It can be tempting to assign certain rules for how to dress for ourselves and others- but ultimately we must individually weigh our decisions.
 
How we dress is just one part of who we are, an important for me as someone who enjoys dressing up and expressing myself through fashion. But how we dress can also be a way of showing our honor and respect to God while also drawing others to look at who we are rather than what we look like.

 

Do we give up too easily? | Being a Woman in the Indian Church

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I was watching a video of Aimee Mullens’ Ted Talk, for maybe the eighth time. I had already watched her talk several times before deciding to teach my students about about her speech or more so the power of her passion and how that elevated her speaking. She was poised, put together, passionate and was standing on prosthetic legs. She challenged society’s notion of what a “disabled” person should be and I looked at her and thought that if I were her, I wouldn’t have dared to stand on that stage. I wouldn’t have become a runner like her. But she, with her disability, was doing things I could only dream of accomplishing. 

Watching Aimee Mullens made me think- she trusts her legs. She trusts her prosthetics, probably more than I trust my flesh and bones. If she doesn’t give up, why do I? There are many times in life when we may face seemingly insurmountable challenges. Some of these hurdles have presented themselves in my experiences as a woman in the Indian church. In the moment we believe that things cannot and will not get better, that we are limited in some way. But looking at Mullens I am reminded that our definitions and perceptions of situations can be challenged and that maybe- we give up too easily. 

There are two ways people can respond to set backs. There are the Cains of the world and the Davids.

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Characteristics of Cains 

  • Jealous
  • Cynical

Cain and Abel are the children of Adam and Eve. Cain grew jealous of Abel’s sacrifice to God and this ultimately led to his demise:

…Cain brought an offering of the fruit of the ground to the Lord. Abel also brought of the firstborn of his flock and of their fat. And the Lord respected Abel and his offering, but He did not respect Cain and his offering. Genesis 4:3-5

Cain’s jealousy of what his brother had and what he lacked led him to ultimately killing his brother. Instead of trying to offer something better to God, to be something more- he turned to sin. How many times do we feel like we just cannot do or be more? I believe we all know that feeling all too well. We fail in some way or form and instead of trying again, we give up. A friend of mine told me that before getting the job he now has at a big financial company, he applied to 99 jobs at the same firm. He now worked in hiring and can see all applications that come in for the company and noted how most people apply maybe once or twice. While hearing his story, most of my friends admitted that we would do the same. If a company rejected us after a couple of applications, that was it for us. But my friend didn’t give up on the company he wanted to work at until he finally got a position.

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Characteristics of Davids 

  • Resourceful
  • Hopeful

David was the youngest of his brothers and naturally passed by for opportunities. But David didn’t let his background hold him back. In fact, David leveraged the very qualities that would make others think he was weak. In the classic bible story of David and Goliath, David used the unusual tool of a slingshot to defeat a giant.

 49 Reaching into his bag and taking out a stone, he slung it and struck the Philistine on the forehead. The stone sank into his forehead, and he fell facedown on the ground.

50 So David triumphed over the Philistine with a sling and a stone; without a sword in his hand he struck down the Philistine and killed him.(1 Samuel 17:49-50)

In a situation in which others would have given up, David remained hopeful. He trusted in everything that God had provided and in the end was triumph. Growing up as a female in the Indian church, it was hard to have an older brother in some ways.

Being a Woman in the Indian Church

I frequently spoke at church and was very open about how I loved public speaking but no speech I ever gave seemed to measure up to the sermons my brother spoke. He rarely spoke publicly and didn’t care for it, but the few times he spoke were admittedly spectacular. There were many times I wanted to give up on my love of speaking. Why try to have a voice in a society that would rather hear from a man, especially when others could speak better? There were many times when I felt as though the opportunities given to me in the Indian church would be so much grander if I were a man. How could I not think that way when even in one of our most prominent organization, Pentecostal Youth Fellowship of America (PYFA), I have only once seen a female leader in an organization founded in 1981.

My parents and grandparents would pray every night for my brother to be a minister of God, but I never once heard them pray for me to minister God’s word. My grandfather was a prominent pastor and my brother was the only grandson born with the last name “Thomas”, the default heir. My mom recounted that a prophesying preacher once spoke to my parents and told them that they had prayed and hoped for ministry to come from their family from their son, but it would come from their daughter. My mom shared what was said to me but reminded me that she still hoped for my brother to one day minister.

If Aimee Mullens doesn’t give up even when she was prosthetic legs, why would I give up because I’m a woman? Everyday we choose whether we give up or keep going. Giving up can happen in small ways. We stop working towards that goal we really had set in our heart. Or maybe we stop moving forward in acquiring a new skill we long to have. It could even mean underestimating ourselves because of whatever our “disability” may be. There are days that can feel so dark and times in which all hope is lost but I pray that if you cling to hope, you too can do the seemingly impossible.