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House of Arya

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An unsettling atmosphere in the summer of 2016 hung heavy, painting the streets unease. As a keen-eyed UX researcher, I couldn't shake the discomfort that settled upon me like a shroud, witnessing men trailing behind young girls, their presence casting a shadow of suspicion. And the girls themselves, their hollow eyes and weary expressions spoke volumes, hinting at a life marred by addiction and hardship.

It was amidst this disconcerting backdrop that a peculiar decision stirred within me. Despite the palpable tension and foreboding, an inexplicable urge beckoned me towards Puerta Vallarta for my anniversary. The irony wasn't lost on me - the trip was a gift from someone who harbored a deep disdain for me. Yet, something within me yearned for the solace of distant shores, away from the suffocating weight of familiarity.

With a resolve born from defiance, I made the unconventional choice to utilize my medical insurance money to purchase a flight ticket with Aeromexico. It was a decision steeped in contradiction, a rebellion against the expectations that sought to confine me.

As the journey unfolded, so did my experiences' surreal nature. A cryptic message delivered by a musician led me to a clandestine rendezvous atop a rooftop, where the crude words of a stranger shattered the illusion of safety. His unwelcome assessment of my body left me feeling exposed and vulnerable, a victim of his callous judgment.

The stress and pressure mounted with each passing moment, threatening to consume me in its suffocating embrace. But still, I pressed on, driven by a stubborn determination to reclaim my agency in the face of adversity.

And so, as the plane soared through the sky towards an uncertain destination, I was caught in a literal and metaphorical journey. It was a voyage marked by discomfort and discord yet imbued with a sense of defiance and resilience. In the face of adversity, I remained steadfast in pursuing freedom, determined to carve my path amidst the chaos of circumstance.

As the wheels of the Aeromexico flight lifted off the tarmac, carrying me away from the turmoil of my past and towards the unknown expanse of Puerta Vallarta, I found myself drawn into a curious world unfolding within the confines of the aircraft.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Seated beside me were young children, their eyes wide with wonder and innocence. Yet, their pupils caught my attention, dilated in an unusual manner that sparked a flicker of curiosity. They seemed fascinated by my husband; their friendly demeanor starkly contrasted with the suspicion that clouded my mind.

Amidst the hum of conversation and the steady drone of the engines, fate intervened peculiarly. A magazine selection, seemingly arbitrary yet laden with significance, presented me with a choice: to be portrayed as either American or Mexican. Without hesitation, I reached for the Spanish magazine, a subtle act of defiance that seemed to disappoint the lady beside me.

As the flight progressed, I couldn't shake the feeling of being watched, of unseen eyes tracing the path of my journey. Then, I noticed him - a man resembling an NGC journalist or Edgar- an enigmatic presence that seemed to echo my trajectory. There was a familiarity in his gaze, a shared sense of purpose that transcended mere coincidence.

Yet, as swiftly as he had appeared, he vanished into the recesses of the aircraft, leaving behind only the lingering sense of unease that had come to define my journey. It was the last time our paths would intersect, a fleeting encounter in the tapestry of our shared existence.

And so, as the plane hurtled towards its destination, I found myself enveloped in a world of uncertainty and intrigue, and each moment brought with it new revelations and unexpected twists, a testament to the unpredictable nature of life's journey. But amidst the chaos, one thing remained constant: the unwavering resolve to confront the challenges ahead with courage and resilience.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

As I stepped off the plane, a cryptic message echoed in my mind, warning me to steer clear of rooftops. It sent a shiver down my spine, but I brushed it off as mere paranoia. Little did I know that message would haunt me throughout my journey.

Navigating through the bustling airport, I was told by none other than the man who harbored a deep dislike for me to meet a group of individuals peddling entertainment packages just beyond the airport walls. Reluctantly, I followed his instructions, feeling a sense of unease settle within me.

Approaching the ticket seller, I was drawn to an enticing offer: a show on a remote island. I purchased the tickets without much thought, only to receive a peculiar request in return. The seller insisted I attend a timeshare presentation and utilize his vehicle for transportation to the boat awaiting me.

Embarking on the journey towards the secluded resort, I encountered various characters. Each encounter seemed to add to the ominous atmosphere surrounding me. As instructed, I tipped generously, feeling like every action was a puzzle piece leading me toward an unknown destination.

Amidst the flurry of activity, my attention was drawn to a figure in the distance – a woman draped in black with a distinct tattoo adorning her leg. It felt as though she was a harbinger of fate, her presence signaling a path I was meant to follow.

With each passing moment, the sense of foreboding grew more robust, as if the road ahead held secrets waiting to be uncovered. Little did I know, the journey towards the island would be just the beginning of an adventure fraught with mystery and danger.

 

 

As I settled into the luxurious confines of the resort, everything appeared to be in order. The grandeur of the surroundings did little to quell the nagging feeling of unease that lingered within me. Despite the warnings to avoid rooftops, curiosity got the better of me that night.

Under the cloak of darkness, I ventured to the rooftop to enjoy the cool night air. To my surprise, a familiar painting adorned the wall – delicate flowers reminiscent of one I had seen before. It struck me as odd as if someone had meticulously researched my tastes and preferences.

As I sipped on my cosmopolitan, I couldn't shake the feeling of being watched. The waitstaff moved about with an eerie anticipation, their gazes fixed upon me as though they had been expecting my arrival. A strange drowsiness clouded my senses, threatening to pull me into its grasp.

Fighting against the overwhelming urge to succumb to sleep, I found myself gazing up at the moon, its silver glow casting an ethereal light upon the scene below. In my half-conscious state, I couldn't help but wonder where they could have gathered such detailed information about me. Was it through my social media presence, particularly Facebook? The thought sent a chill down my spine.

Refusing to surrender to the creeping lethargy, I mustered every ounce of willpower and returned to the sanctuary of my room. Despite the allure of sleep, I remained vigilant, the events of the evening stirring a newfound sense of suspicion and paranoia within me.

Throughout the long, arduous night, I felt the weight of unseen pressure bearing down on me, as if an invisible force from the silent lights of Vegas was trying to infiltrate my mind. Determination became my shield as I battled against the relentless mental assault, holding out until the first light of dawn graced the horizon.

Just as I regained a semblance of composure, a sudden interruption shattered the tranquility – a call inquiring if I desired honey bread. This temptation clashed with my addiction to quesadillas. With a conflicted mind, I set out to attend the timeshare presentation at a nearby hotel.

As I traversed the winding path, a stranger adorned with an orange bracelet halted my progress, questioning my destination and imparting cryptic warnings about safety. Despite the unnerving encounter, I pressed on, guided by an inexplicable sense of determination.

Arriving at the hotel, my senses were immediately heightened as an African lady's scrutinizing gaze followed my every move. The salespeople descended upon me like vultures, relentlessly pushing their timeshare offer, but I refused.

Touring the rooms, a sudden wave of dizziness washed over me, a stark reminder of my precarious sugar levels. The African lady's annoyance at my rejection manifested in an unsettling offer to "sleep on the bed," leaving me uneasy and suspicious.

Eager to escape the suffocating atmosphere, I hastily departed the hotel after a tense breakfast. However, my discomfort intensified as the host casually mentioned the book "Shantaram," sparking suspicions that they possessed intimate knowledge of my life.

Outside, the tension seemed to boil as car drivers argued over who would ferry me back to the resort. Amidst the chaos, the sight of Disney catalogs provided a small measure of solace. However, my apprehension only deepened upon noticing the presence of dreamcatchers, their mystical allure tinged with an air of foreboding.

Perched on the balcony, I was ensnared in a restless state, unable to find solace amidst the cacophony of blinding lights and pulsating music that permeated the night air. The incessant reminders of Facebook and the uncanny resemblance of a nearby house to those I had seen in India only exacerbated my unease.

As the night wore on, my mind became a battleground for intrusive thoughts, the discordant voices of arguing couples echoing relentlessly within my skull. With each passing moment, I seemed to amplify my sense of disquiet, amplifying the feeling of being trapped in a nightmarish loop.

Amidst the turmoil of my thoughts, a suspicious van prowled the perimeter of the hotel, its presence adding a sinister layer to the already oppressive atmosphere. With each passing moment, the tendrils of depression tightened their grip around my psyche, pulling me deeper into a state of despair.

Hope seemed distant as I yearned for the first light of dawn to break through the darkness, offering a glimmer of respite from the relentless onslaught of anxiety and apprehension. It was a long and arduous wait, fraught with uncertainty and fear, as I clung desperately to the promise of a new day dawning.

 

As I ventured down to the beach, the tantalizing aroma of spicy shrimp filled the air, enticing me to indulge in a culinary delight. However, my enjoyment was short-lived as the restaurant owner approached, casually mentioning the idea of giving me milk. This remark left me feeling distinctly uneasy.

Seeking to shake off the discomfort, I went to the port to embark on the boat journey. The driver of the vehicle that transported me sported plush dice, an odd adornment that added to the surreal nature of the experience.

As I waited for the boat to arrive, I was allowed to interact with exotic animals. A colorful parrot perched on me, its feathers vibrant against the backdrop of the ocean. Nearby, a seal, seemingly part of a group mimicking Disney's pirates, awaited attention. The choice between the two left me momentarily torn, each option carrying its sense of intrigue and mystery.

Amidst the bustling activity of the port, a watchman emerged, his demeanor strangely reminiscent of former President Obama. With a broad smile, he unabashedly declared his love loudly to someone nearby, the unexpected display of affection adding another layer of peculiarity to the surreal scene unfolding before me.

As the boat set sail, laughter and merriment filled the air, starkly contrasting the despair that threatened to consume me. Despite the jovial atmosphere surrounding me, I clung desperately to my waning strength, determined to weather the storm raging within.

Amidst the sea of smiling faces, familiar celebrity doppelgangers appeared, their presence intended to provide comfort and distraction from the tumultuous thoughts swirling in my mind. Yet, their efforts fell short, overshadowed by the weight of my inner turmoil.

Arriving at the island, I was greeted by a scene straight out of a dream – music floating on the breeze, candlelit dinners, and roses adorning every corner. The staff, dressed as Tita from "Like Water for Chocolate," exuded an aura of strange familiarity, further adding to the surreal atmosphere enveloping me.

As the evening unfolded, I felt transported back in time, made to feel like a young girl again. A sense of unease crept over me as I lost touch with my independent personality, succumbing to the whims of the romantic atmosphere around me.

Under the watchful gaze of the moon, I felt myself spiraling further into the depths of despair, my heart shrinking in age as if under its penetrating stare. With each passing moment, the moon loomed more extensive in the night sky, bearing witness to my unraveling soul amidst the enchanting facade of the island paradise.

As the boat began its journey back, a stark contrast unfolded before me. The crew danced and sang with infectious joy, their laughter filling the air, while a lone photographer stood apart, his somber demeanor a stark contrast to the jovial atmosphere.

Amidst the lively banter, crew members teased a young crew fellow, playfully urging him to partake in a game involving limes, injecting a hint of mischief into the scene. Despite their good-natured antics, I couldn't shake my unease.

The captain, with a striking resemblance to a friend from my past, commanded the vessel with an air of familiarity, his presence forcing me to navigate the strange atmosphere with forced friendliness.

As the journey continued, I found myself caught between the contrasting energies swirling around me, grappling with the dissonance between the carefree revelry of the crew and the subdued melancholy of the photographer. Each passing moment reminded me of the intricate dance between light and shadow that permeated the fabric of the world around me.

 

 

 

 

 

The night I had cast a shadow over everything. As I grappled with the weight of my mental health, I sought solace in the gentle lull of the waves the next day, escorted by the resort driver, who had become an unexpectedly strange pillar of safety and dependence. His invitation to join him and his girlfriend at the nightclub offered a brief respite from the turmoil. However, I declined. 

Joined by a woman resembling the Smith family, the evening unfolded with camaraderie and unease. The once-friendly restaurant owner's glare spoke volumes, his demeanor shifting from warmth to cold hostility instantly.

A coconut seller approached me at the beach amidst the hustle and bustle, offering refreshments. Yet, as I indulged, a familiar wave of dizziness washed over me, signaling another dip in my sugar levels. Whispers about my demeanor being "too good" floated through the air, leaving me exposed and vulnerable.

Seeking refuge in the familiar sights and sounds of the bustling streets, I was drawn into the rhythm of Mumbai's vibrant atmosphere. A chance encounter with a man extolling the virtues of affordable healthcare in Mexico momentarily diverted my thoughts. Yet, the reaction of the resort driver hinted at the fragility of the safety net I had come to rely on. I couldn't trust both of them. 

Returning to the hotel, I found myself drawn again to the rooftop, where the waiter's subtle manipulation of my choices through the click of a pen left me feeling unnerved. Succumbing to the strange compulsion, I selected a pink drink, feeling an inexplicable happiness wash over me as though unseen forces were orchestrating my emotions.

Despite the flirtatious invitation to join in the hot tub, thoughts of my distant lover anchored me to reality, prompting a polite decline. Yet, even as the music of my youth failed to resonate, I found myself swept up in a whirlwind of flirtation and joy, only to retreat to the solitude of my room, where tears flowed freely under the cover of darkness.

The following day brought a semblance of comfort in the form of majestic eagles soaring overhead, a reminder that even in the depths of despair, there remained a glimmer of hope. Yet, as night fell again, a visit to the restaurant brought an unexpected twist, as the waiter's eerie gaze and a risotto adorned with an unsettling octopus served as a stark reminder of the darkness lurking beneath the surface.

At that moment, as music played and memories of a friend's tragic loss to human trafficking resurfaced, empathy washed over me, and I found myself longing to ease the pain of others, to become a beacon of light in the darkness, if only for a fleeting moment.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

As I returned to the airport, a sense of unease settled over me like a heavy cloak. The sight of a suspicious hotel and the feeling of being followed sent shivers down my spine, fueling my growing discomfort.

The people trailing behind me seemed to have sinister intentions, their whispers and insinuations planting seeds of doubt and confusion in my mind. They spun a web of psychological manipulation, suggesting that I had engaged in illicit activities with unseen figures who purportedly guarded me.

Seeking refuge in the bustling streets of Mexico City downtown, I found myself surrounded by a surreal collage of images – Star Wars, Disney characters, and the likeness of former President Obama adorned the walls, adding to the disorienting atmosphere.

As I sought solace in a quiet corner, a young boy accosted me in a yellow shirt. His attempts to scare me only served to heighten my paranoia. A man with a mole on his face appeared, his menacing presence further exacerbating my sense of dread.

On the bus, the feeling of being watched persisted as two men trailed behind me, their intent unclear yet unmistakably malevolent. A monk-like figure attempted to manipulate my perceptions, weaving tales of ghosts and hauntings to unsettle me further.

Amidst the chaos, a man resembling Bill Gates and adorned in a Microsoft shirt offered a semblance of comfort, his presence momentarily easing my troubled mind. Yet, as my senses heightened, the blaring horns of the city seemed to echo endlessly, driving me to the brink of madness.

Children wearing slogan shirts added to the cacophony, their innocent faces starkly contrasted with the sinister undertones that pervaded their actions. Their attempts to pressure me into sleep only served to deepen my sense of isolation and paranoia, leaving me adrift in a sea of uncertainty and fear.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

As I boarded the flight back home, the eerie encounters of my journey lingered like a haunting melody, refusing to fade into the background. A lady seated beside me, with a subtle air of sophistication, casually presented me with a series of photographs, insinuating the possibility of liaisons with influential figures. Her suggestive gaze left me feeling unsettled as if I were being lured into a dangerous game.

Across the aisle, a seemingly innocent man engaged me in conversation, his words laden with subtle manipulation as he attempted to convince me that I was his girlfriend. His persistence bordered on obsession, adding another layer of discomfort to an already fraught situation.

As the flight progressed, another stranger approached, weaving a web of deceit and doubt around the person I trusted most. His insidious whispers planted seeds of mistrust, casting doubt upon the intentions of those closest to me.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

With each encounter, I found myself grappling with the sinister machinations of human traffickers, their tactics becoming more apparent with each passing moment. It was a harrowing realization, a stark reminder that knowledge, though powerful, often comes at a steep cost.

Despite the mental toll exacted by my ordeal, I returned to the safety of the United States, the echoes of my experiences reverberating in my mind. Today, as I observe efforts to combat human trafficking at places like In-N-Out Burger, I am reminded of the insidious nature of the trade and the importance of vigilance in the face of such atrocities.

Young individuals, seemingly innocuous yet undoubtedly complicit, are deployed to engage in unsettling interactions, a tactic designed to ensnare unsuspecting victims. I hope that the insights gleaned from my UX research journey, coupled with the power of UX design, can be harnessed to track and ultimately save those ensnared by the horrors of human trafficking, starting with establishments like In-N-Out Burger in the heart of Vegas.


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