Thursday, April 17, 2008
HOW TO SIT INDIAN STYLE:
1st: Take your shoes off
2nd: Abandon all sense of time
3rd: Forget about comfort
4th: Don't worry - pain is part of the process!
5th: Make small adjustments
Don't worry, even if you lose all feeling in your lower extremities, it will return!
These instructions extend far beyond sitting. In fact, they are good tips for traveling to India from any angle (except you'll probably want to keep your shoes on in the streets) and for life in general!
I'm back in North Carolina today and WHAT A BEAUTIFUL SPRING IT IS IN SOUTHERN PINES!!! It's unbelievable. I'm sitting here in the kitchen overlooking the green grass and the blooming dogwoods and the clear reflection of the pinetrees in the lake right now... There's a red cardinal in the bird feeder... and mom made fudge brownie cupcakes. :)
It's so good to be home. Seeing my family again is such a blessing. I feel so fortunate and want to thank you all for your love and support. I can't wait to see you soon.
Most sincere, and thanks for keeping up with me here,
Monday, April 14, 2008
The Ajanta Caves comprise a world heritage site located about an hour and a half south of Jalgaon by bus, carved out of a smooth rock face that towers above a horseshoe bend in a now dry river. I woke up around 5:30 last Saturday morning in order to catch the 6am bus thinking that I would outsmart the sun and the weekend crowds by getting there early. It turns out that the caves didn't open until 9, but I was right there ticket in hand as soon as they did. From the first moment that I stepped inside the cool door of the first cave I felt as though I had just stumbled into a long lost inner sanctum. I thought of the wonders of Tulum and Chichen Itza and felt equally if not more inspired, because those are just memories to me now, and these caves were living, breathing rock still vibrating with the intensity of their impressions.
None of the caves were naturally existing- each one was carved from the ceiling to the floor from the rock mountain to create the vast halls and sacred spaces. Some of them were supported by as many as 40 internal columns and were adjoined by as many as 25 meditation cells. The caves comprised an ancient monastery, and to house the monks there were dorm-like accommodations, with 2 stone "beds" and a shelf to a 5x6 cell. Some even had the luxury of stone pillows.
In August, lush green foliage pervades the canyon, monsoon rains fill the river below and waterfalls run between the caves filling carved reservoirs. In April, however, 100+ temperatures outside berate the brittle landscape and the determined tourists (such as myself of course) forcing us to take refuge inside the caves where the temperature is impossibly cool and the dim light is easy on the eyes. Inside, some of the walls are covered with beautiful painted murals depicting the past lives of the Buddha in the form of the Jataka Tales. It's hard to understand where the light came from to allow such paintings to be born, but I quickly learned, thanks to a trusty guide who was disappointed with my 10 RS tip, that the wide open floors that you step down into when you enter the cave were filled and maintained with several inches of water to create a giant mirror-like surface to illuminate to caves. That must have been a sight to behold.
I can only imagine.
Thursday, April 3, 2008
Wednesday, April 2, 2008
Thanks Chuck for sending me this letter!
Dear Mr. President:
The situation in Tibet is deeply disturbing, and requires that all of us, regardless of party, do what we can to try to influence it for the better. I understand that you discussed the subject on Wednesday with President Hu Jintao. The United States has many issues for which China's cooperation is important, including denuclearization of North Korea, ending Iran's nuclear program, stopping the genocide in Darfur, confronting repression in Burma, and combating global warming. However, it is important that we give high priority to the plight of Tibetans and make clear to President Hu that the way in which China treats all Chinese citizens, including Tibetans, profoundly affects how China is viewed in the United States and throughout the international community.
Resolution of differences between the Chinese Government and the Dalai Lama is the key to progress in Tibet. The Dalai Lama, as you have said, is "a good man." He is revered by virtually all Tibetans, and his absence from his homeland creates an incurable wound in the heart of Tibetan Buddhism. Tibet's unique cultural and religious heritage cannot be preserved if he is demonized and kept at arm's length. He has accepted Beijing's precondition for a solution, namely recognition that Tibet is part of China, and has clearly stated that he is seeking religious, cultural and linguistic protection and autonomy for the Tibetan people, not independence. More recently, he indicated his belief that despite recent events, the Chinese people deserve to host the Olympics this summer.
I hope you made clear to President Hu the American view about the importance of the following: a negotiation with the Dalai Lama about his return to Tibet; guarantees of religious freedom for the Tibetan people; protection of Tibetan culture and language; and the exercise of genuine autonomy for Tibet. That is the path to the stability and harmony that the Chinese leaders say they are seeking in Tibet.
In addition to your personal intervention with President Hu, there are other steps I hope you will take to highlight our concern. I support your call for the foreign press and diplomatic personnel to have free access to Lhasa and other Tibetan cities and villages to ensure that repression and human rights violations cannot escape the world's notice. Beijing has committed to the International Olympic Committee to allow foreign journalists free access to cover stories throughout China, including Tibet. We should hold them to that commitment. The U.S. and our democratic allies and friends should also urge the UN Human Rights Council to send an investigatory team to Tibet. China should be encouraged to allow the International Committee for the Red Cross to visit prisons in Tibet to ensure that detainees are not held under inhumane conditions, tortured, or mistreated.
Like you, I want to take steps that increase the chance of a negotiated solution between Beijing and the Dalai Lama, and that have the best chance of improving the lives of ordinary Tibetans. Therefore, I support your effort to aggressively use your relationship with President Hu to achieve these goals. Should it appear, however, that the Chinese are taking private diplomacy as a license for inaction or continued repression, I would urge you to speak out forcefully and publicly to disabuse them of the notion that they can thus escape international censure.
Despite the high emotions of the present time, I hope you can persuade the Chinese leadership that in this the year of the Beijing Olympics they have a unique opportunity to make dramatic progress in resolving the Tibet issue. Chinese leaders have it within their power to achieve that worthy goal if they take steps to change the situation in Tibet for the better and by reaching an accommodation with the Dalai Lama. Progress in Tibet would profoundly affect the world's perception of China as it prepares to host the Olympic Games in August.
United States Senator
Tuesday, April 1, 2008
Monday, March 31, 2008
Sunday, March 30, 2008
Well last night I was about to walk out of the internet cafe when lo'and'behold, I looked up and saw Mary, my friend from college sitting a few computers away. Here. All the way in India. Ok, let me first explain that for the first two years that I lived on the west coast I used to daydream and ache to see someone I knew. I would get lonely in crowds of people, especially music events, scanning the crowd for faces I could recognize. It took me a long time to get over that.... and now.... HERE.... in India sits Mary Snow and her friend Apryl Blakeney, another UNCA grad. The three of us spent the day hitting all the good spots in town and interviewing the locals for newspaper articles that they are both writing for papers back home. I will be sure to post their features here when they are finished and ready for the public! Aye, life can be so surprising!
email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org,
email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, VEM@beijing2008.cn, firstname.lastname@example.org, Transport@beijing2008.cn, email@example.com,
OTR@beijing2008.cn, firstname.lastname@example.org, OCC@beijing2008.cn, email@example.com
If you believe in freedom, and if you are thankful for your own, please participate. If you have love in your heart for others and if you believe that violent oppression is bad, please participate. If you believe in God, please participate. If you believe in helping others, please participate. If you have sympathy for those who suffer both psychological and physical torture, please participate. If you have children of your own, and would not want them to suffer as these Tibetan children do, please participate. If you believe in non-violent solutions, please participate.
Please understand that you can make a difference on this day, just by holding up a piece of paper and smiling.
This is real, and this is ongoing.
Saturday, March 29, 2008
Through my friend Dolma at Thosamling, I met her Tibetan language partner, Rabgyal, a super friendly and talented young man who is in the sculpture department at the Norbulinga Institute for Tibetan Arts, just down the footpath, to your right past the two cows, over the stream, up the steps, past the Tibetan handicapped school, and into the little town that surrounds the institute. I spent all day Wednesday watching the entire casting process, from the shaping and stamping of a clay mold to the eventual emergence of a sculpture from the fire of red hot liquid copper! It was really quite amazing. To make an entire statue takes about 15 8-hr work days and the craftsman can make about 2 a month.
I promised Rabgyal that I would try to find him a nice western girl to marry. Feel free to email me if you are interested. :) He is the one doing all the hard work in the pictures.
Thursday, March 20, 2008
I am leaving Dharamsala today. Here is one last Tibet link that I wanted to pass on before I go:
Click here to Contact you member of Congress and ask that they call on China to release all detainees, and allow international media access to Lhasa.
Much Love! -Jaye
Tuesday, March 18, 2008
14C. Penalty for abetment.-Whoever abets any offence punishable under section 14 or section 14A or section 14B shall, if the act abetted is committed in consequence of the abetment, be punished with the punishment provided for the offence. (i) an act or offence is said to be committed in consequence of the abetment, when it is committed in consequence of the instigation, or in pursuance of the conspiracy, or with the aid which constitutes the offence;
? So regardless, I won't be abeting, instigating, conspiring, or offending by sitting quietly on a cushion with the Tibetans! I wouldn't want to be "punished with the punishment!"
What a day it's been. I woke up this morning to the sounds of protests and they have continued all day long. I've been trying to think of what I can do to help. I think I might stay here a while longer after all. This is the first time in 50 years that demonstrations of this size and strength have been allowed to take place in Dharamsala. The air is simply electric. No shops or restaurants are open or have been for the last week- it's a ghost town compared to the shopping bustle that was taking place the week before my retreat, except now the streets are full of marchers and flags.
I went around to all of the various government and NGO offices today trying to find out what I could do to help. I didn't get many answers, so I'm trying to brainstorm on my own now. maybe a 24-hr vigil to keep the prayer wheels in the middle of town spinning for a day? I think I might also sit in a shift on the hunger strike tomorrow. Mom and Dad, rest assured that I would not be involved if the atmosphere did not feel safe. It is important to know that the Tibetan people in general are very non-violent people, and also that here in Dharamsala there is no direct threat to anyone's security (the threat lies across the border in China/Tibet).
This afternoon I joined the march down to the temple amidst hundreds of flags, painted faces, and cries of "LONG LIVE" "DALAI LAMA!", "what we want?!" "We want freedom!", "Release, Release!" "Panchen Lama!", "China, China, China!" "Out, Out, Out!"... once we got to the bottom the energy really picked up, and then just like that, the whole crowd sat down and was quiet. A few people collapsed from over-exertion, several women around me were crying, and I couldn't understand anything because some sort of directions were being yelled by the organizers of the Tibetan Woman's Association in Tibetan and no one around me spoke english. This went on for an hour or so- I couldn't move it was so packed with people around me, but the atmosphere was calm amidst high emotions. There was an incredibly strong sense of solidarity in the air- we were all sitting close together with no room to move our knees and the Tibetan woman behind me had both her hands on my waist the whole time. I haven't had any sort of real physical contact in the past two months, so I have to admit that I kind of enjoyed that feeling of togetherness. Eventually things started to move again and I found a seat on top of a pillar where I could watch things from the side. The protest picked back up and the shouts carried on for another hour.
This all took place outside the temple gate. As the sun was going down we filed inside and took seats in front of several large flat screen tv's (the Tibetans really have some nice technology when it comes to flat screen tv's in the temple- there are a lot of them) packed so tight that it was literally impossible to move. I felt bad because my knee was crammed up into the guy's back in front of me and even though I've gotten much better at sitting cross legged after an hour or so it's hard to keep from squirming. We watched a press release (probably a thousand or so people were there) that the Dalai Lama gave either earlier today or last night, i'm not sure. He delivered it in English, addressed to the global community, so every 15 seconds or so it was paused and translated into Tibetan. All in all, I think it lasted almost 4 hours, the press conference followed by prayers and then updates of the conditions in Lhasa. After it was all over everyone walked home up the hill very quietly.
What impressed me most today was how peaceful the whole crowd could turn at the drop of a hat. All it took at the height of emotion was one girl shouting from atop a little side wall to tell everyone to be quiet and sit down. And everyone did. If someone bumped into you while walking, they apologized. There was no mob mentality, it was a safe environment. I walked home with a girl my age who told me that her friend's entire family had been killed in Tibet in the last week. She said that in the last two days that many of the men and boys in Lhasa have been rounded up and imprisoned by the Chinese military. Tonight at midnight there is apparently an ultimatum for the demonstrations in Tibet to come to an end- The Chinese have said that their patience is up. If patience led them to kill so many people already, I fear what actions their lack of patience will inspire.
So I'm tired. It's late. I'm in an internet cafe now that's packed with other tourists updating their blogs and uploading pictures that they took during the demonstration. I am optimistic about the way that information seems to be spreading throughout the world. There are many news reporters around and I hope that the coverage of events here will remain strong. An NGO organizer told me tonight that the demonstrations are supposed to go on until the violence stops in Tibet. That could be a long time unless the global pressure on china is heavy enough.
So everyone, keep talking about Tibet! And thank you for your interest! Being interested can go a long way, awareness is what's important here!
Monday, March 17, 2008
The Chinese government has made the following accusations against His Holiness the Dalai Lama:
- Dalai Lama seeks genuine autonomy for Tibet, but China accuses him of trying to split China.
- Dalai Lama advocates democracy, but China accuses him of trying to restore Tibet's old social order.
- Dalai Lama supports the Beijing Olympics, but China accuses him of opposing it.
If you are uncertain as to what the Dalai Lama's official beliefs and opinions are, please visit his website: www.dalailama.com
Saturday, March 15, 2008
101 participants in the March to Tibet that I mentioned in my last entry have been imprisoned by the Indian government and will be detained for 14 days. The march, although peaceful, is being prohibited. Please go to http://www.tibetanuprising.org/ for details and updates. The above photos are of the arrest of the marchers.
Over 100 monks and peaceful demonstrators have been killed in Lhasa over the last five days. The roads are all closed, the media has been shut down, and the streets are on fire. Countless protestors have been beaten and imprisoned.
VIOLENT SUPPRESSION IS TAKING PLACE.
HUMAN RIGHTS ARE BEING BLATANTLY VIOLATED.
PEOPLE ARE BEING KILLED, BEATEN, TORTURED.
What can we do? Honestly, what can you, as an individual do? We are so LUCKY to live in a country where we have a voice, please think to yourself right now, what can I do? And then do it. Tell everyone you know. Please go to these websites, read about the situation, Call your friends, get them to call their friends, call your local newspaper or television station, have a candlelight vigil. Or just ask them if they are covering the event. Urge them to. You can make a difference.
Mom, Dad, Lindsay, Liz, you can help. Lee, Chuck, Katie, Kevin, Tyler, Susanna, Russ, Polly, you can help. Rachel, Clara, Evan, Cam, Ashton, Zack, Garland, You can help. Tom, Bonnie, Gabby, you can help! Anyone and everyone reading this, you can help. Really you can, world awareness is what we need. China cannot act this way and expect to be a part of OUR global community and we are not powerless to watch and let it happen!
Go to these sites. Look at the pictures. Read about it. Talk about it. Find the right people to talk to. And don't worry, I'm safe, not getting actively involved. This is my effort.
Statement of the Dalai Lama on the 49th Tibetan National Uprising day, March 10th:
Thursday, March 6, 2008
Tuesday, March 4, 2008
“This is the worst period in the 2000 year history of
In 1949, under the guise of a “peaceful liberation”, Communist China invaded
In an effort to wipe out Tibetan culture, Tibetan woman are subjected to enforced sterilization, contraception, and abortion procedures. Enforced disappearances (where a person is taken into custody and the details of their detention are not disclosed) continue to occur and Tibetans are subject to random and arbitrary arrest and detention. Torture still prevails in Chinese detention centers. Due to the increasing poverty rate (>70%), poor facilities, and blatant discrimination such as disproportionate fees based on race, Tibetan children are denied adequate health care and schooling. Failure to denounce the Dalai Lama,
In essence, the peaceful non-violent culture of
What is Happening Today?
What Can You Do?
- CLICK HERE FOR 6 WAYS YOU CAN HELP
- Express support for the Tibetan people’s right to freedom and justice by writing to newspapers and magazines, especially in light of the upcoming 2008 Olympic Games.
- Set up a Tibet Support Group in your place and inform the local people about
and the Tibetan people. Tibet
- Donate money to help Tibetans in Need or to support the March to Tibet organized by the Tibetan People’s Uprising Movement (websites listed below).
- Write to your elected officials about
and ask them to raise the issue of Tibet in the government. Tibet
- Ask your government to support the Dalai Lama’s peace initiatives for
- Urge the Indian Government to facilitate a meaningful dialogue between the Government of the People’s Republic of
and the Tibetan Government-In-Exile. China
For more information or to find out what you can do to help, please visit the following websites:
- Race for Tibet! a great website concerning the 2008 Beijing Olympics and what you can do to help: http://www.racefortibet.org/ Watch the film! Sign the Petition! Order a free sticker! Spread the word!
- The official website of the Central Tibetan Administration (specifically the tab entitled “About
”): http://www.tibet.net/ Tibet
- The official website of H.H. the 13th Dalai Lama: www.dalailama.com
- The official website of the Tibetan Centre for Human Rights and Democracy: http://www.tchrd.org/ ( BEST SITE FOR CURRENT INFORMATION)
- The official website of the Tibetan People’s Uprising Movement, with information on the upcoming March to
and to the 2008 Olympic Games. DONATIONS WELCOME: http://www.tibetanuprising.org/ Tibet
- YouTube: The Dalai Lama’s speech upon receiving the Congressional Gold Medal: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kcXmB0U_DCQ
The Dalai Lama has championed relentlessly for a meaningful autonomy within the People’s Republic of
I have written this, piecing it together from various books and pamphlets I’ve accumulated over the last couple of weeks, because when I came to Dharamsala I knew very little about Tibetan history and the current situation in
Wednesday, February 20, 2008
Tomorrow the Dalai Lama will begin his teachings. The vibration of travelers is increasing, as more and more people come to Mcleod Ganj. I'm not sure, but you might be able to listen to the teachings online- It's worth looking into! I think I might not put much effort into maintaining this blog while I am here (then again, I might if I get the urge)... but, I am quite safe, comfortable in accomadation and food, and very happy. I extend my love and best to you all, and hope you are well also!
Wednesday, February 13, 2008
- Thursday, Feb 14th: Mysore-Bangalore, Train No 2008 Dep: 14:20 (3 hrs) class:2AC
- Thursday, Feb 14th: Bangalore-Delhi, Train No 2429, Rajdhani Express, Dep: 20:20 (35 hrs) 2AC
- Saturday, Feb 16th: Delhi- Pathankot, Train No 4033, Jammu Mail, Dep 21:20 (12 hrs) 2AC
- Sunday, Feb 17th: Arrive in Pathankot, 7 am IST, 8:30 pm Saturday EST (Will try to call home sometime thereafter!)
svashti prajaa bhayha parii palaa yantam
nayaa yenaa margenaa maahii mahishha
lokaa samasthaa sukhino bhavanhtu
om shaanti shaanti shaanti
May all be well with mankind.
May the leaders of the earth protect in every way by keeping to the right path.
May there be goodness for all those who know the earth to be sacred.
May the people of the world be happy and prosperous.
Om, Peace, Peace, Peace.
Me and Guruji, Sri K. Pattabhi Jois
Me and Saraswati
Sunday, February 10, 2008
Yesterday I went to Bylakuppe, a Tibetan settlement about 45km from Mysore that houses more than 10,000 refugees. The settlement is surrounded by agriculture- lots of coconuts and cows- and radiates a slower friendly pace of life. We visited several monasteries, but did not see nearly as many monks as you might normally expect due to the celebration of Losar, the Tibetan New Year. The temples were filled with the chirping songs of birds instead of the prayers of monks, and since they were relatively empty we were able to spend as much time as we liked immersed in the incredible art work and sculptures without feeling like we were bothering anyone. I am really looking forward to visiting Dharmsala and seeing a Tibetan monastery in action now that I've seen one on holiday. Here are a few of my favorite pictures!
Oh yes, and yesterday was my birthday. I woke up and hadn't thought about it until Hannah wished me well on my way out the door for yoga. I guess it wasn't technically my birthday yet at that hour though because I was born in EST. So I've been celebrating all morning today too. I had a beautiful gulab jamoon for dessert last night instead of a cake. That is, a fried doughball floating in sugar syrup........ sounds horrid, but is really so wonderful that Hannah and I took almost 10 minutes to eat them as we traded a spoon back and forth in the dark -power failure- taking tiny savory bites and murmuring with delight.
Thanks for the good-wishes!
What you are looking at here is the final product of a full day's hard-wrought glory, my sweat and tears (well, tears might be an exaggeration) in box form. How this shining parcel came into being is another story, full of adventure and misadventure, rickshaw rides and head-wobble responses. I am proud of this box, and look forward to seeing it again in 3 months.
Here is a stack of 10 or so books that I purchased from the Bihar School of Yoga for 1,000 RS or $25 USD. I checked on amazon.com and found the same titles for $15-20 each... so YES, it was a steal, and even more so for the wonderful Indian adventure that I had to endure (am I contradicting myself?) to get them packaged and ready to send home. Even with the cost of multiple rickshaw rides, tailor-made packaging, international shipping, and the ice cream sundae that I had to buy to boost my blood sugar levels just in order to persevere (a purely medical motivation, I assure you).... I STILL got a deal, and assuming that they arrive at their destination, I look forward to this stack of books. I will share them with you, if you think you might enjoy them too. They range in topics from the Hatha Yoga Pradipika, Asana Pranayama, the Moola Bandha, Tantra Meditation, the Upanishads....etc etc. Books in India are a good deal, but they aren't so good for back packing.
Hannah had some mailing to do too and we thought it would be nice to do it together. We located packing supplies and then headed to the post office. After waiting in line and musing over the associated rules of orderliness (which no one seemed to learn as a child here) we finally made it to the window where our questions were not answered and we were turned back out into the blazing afternoon. We found a tailor down the street and around the corner and asked if they prepared packages for shipping. All outgoing packages must be wrapped and sewn in a white linen cloth and to get the discounted book rate, this must be done while leaving a window to expose the contents for inspection. Try explaining that to a deaf/mute tailor in a shop where no one speaks English anyways. Many hand gestures and doodles later (I drew a house and pointed repeatedly to the window and to the windows in the shop, making a square with my hands, insisting on some foreign sounding word "window, window!" and pointing at the end of the package... and finally grabbed a piece of cardboard and the seamstress' scissors, cut one out myself, held it to the side of the package, and wrapped my fingers around my eyes in spectacle fashion again pointing to the end of the box).... "Ahhhhhhh, window!" "YES, WINDOW!!!" hey, smiles all around, thumbs up, A-OK's, YES, we have communication! And what a nice man he was! For the next 10 minutes as he worked away I got smiles and thumbs up's one after another from him and from everyone else in the shop. He was quite proud of his work. He charged me too much 120 RS or $3, but "Sure," I said, "because I like you!" This comment led me to much embarrassment as I now had to explain to everyone in the room and especially to his wife (pictured in red) that no, I don't mean I like him, I understand that they're married, I just mean he's a nice man! I appreciate his efforts! Thank you for the work and I'll be leaving now!
So, we took our boxes and set off for the post office once again. I was worried that my package would never make it around the world with a big hole in the side, so I ducked into a supermarket (1 of 2 that I've seen in India) and bought a roll of packing tape to secure my window! Back to the post office, and wouldn't you know that they close each day at 2:30. I don't blame them, it was hot in there, in fact the sweat was dripping off me when I'd waited before, kind of like the way it was dripping off me again as I stood there with my shining parcel squinting up at the big padlocks on the iron door.
So now the box sits patiently next to my door in my room, waiting for me to summon up my patience and errand-running gusto once again. All in all, it was a great experience, and one that I am lucky to relive in sometimes small, and sometimes grand ways, each and every day. Today I will return to the train station to try to exchange a train ticket, no small feat, I am sure. WISH ME LUCK. (!)
Sunday, February 3, 2008
I am starting to get used to life here in Mysore. The city is starting to feel smaller and less intimidating, as I've gotten used to getting around by rickshaw and started to understand the orientation of the markets and such. This week I toured the Mysore Palace, ambling along slowly in order to take in the architecture, royal portraits, sculpture, crystal thrones, vaulted painted and stained glass ceilings, temples, and gardens. There are some exterior pictures to the right- no cameras allowed inside. Nicole and I also went to the temple on the top of Chamundi Hill (1000 stone steps above the city!) overlooking all of Mysore where I ate my first street food, Vada masala, and had to stamp my feet to chase away monkeys that wanted my snack for themselves. In order to go into the temples you have to check your shoes outside and then skirt around the cow pies between you and the gate. I scarcely missed one.
I think about my mom and my sisters a lot throughout the day as I find joy in things that I sometimes think would appall them. It's funny, I remember reading before I came here that if you visited India for a week or less, you'd likely find it very unappealing, but if you stayed for any length of time you'd develop a tricky love affair. I think there's a lot a truth to that. I relish in personal satisfaction as I sit cross-legged at my meals shoveling rice into my mouth with my fingers knowing that there are no napkins available to put in my lap. I laugh as I throw all my previous manners (that I never adhered to very well in the first place) out the window, wipe the sweat from my brow with the back of my hand, and ask for more samba (spicy!) curry and chutney please. Here in India it seems fairly obvious that we are not very far from the dirt we came from. There's only so much distance you can put between yourself and that dirt- most of the time you just have to embrace it, appreciate the beauty rising out of the mire, and for the necessary moments, carry your own soap with you.
Highlights from the week: The peacock painted ceiling and temples at the Mysore Palace, the Nandi Bull statue below the main temple on Chamundi Hill, Lunch at the Indian Song House (see the plate-licking picture below), strolling around the university lake, watching Rambo II in the theater, kirtan singing, and a birthday party for the kids that live across the street.
Thursday, January 24, 2008
As a group of girls we got the run-around more times that you can possibly imagine. We'd arrange a taxi bus for 8 which would end up being a taxi for 6, so we'd conveniently need to pay for two. The same goes for elephants. I didn't want to ride one anyway. We were literally smuggled over the border from one state to another in two separate jeeps in a maneuver that I still don't fully understand, but think had to do with the number of passengers in a vehicle, because we were then promptly crammed into one vehicle for the rest of the 2 hour journey. Here, a yes nod can mean no we don't have any or no I don't understand and a side to side head wobble means something like... "I can hear and acknowledge the strange language that you speak". Drivers will say that they know where they are going even if they don't so it's best to provide very clear written instructions that they can hand off to bystanders to interpret at stoplights.
But yes, the mountain trek! We climbed to a beautiful overlook of the national park and I enjoyed watching the sun come up over the jungle mist. We saw evidence of sloth bears, elephants, and bison, but had no big animal sightings that day. The scenery and food were the highlights- an all you could eat buffet of Indian specialties 3 times a day. I have a new love for fried stuffed chilies and curd. My sweat has taken on a new masala aroma, but no one seems to notice but me.
Here are some of the latest pictures: Spot, Elephants, Bandipur National Park, and my harmonyogis in practice. It's been a good week. More to come soon!
Saturday, January 19, 2008
All this talk about food! Can I please tell you how superior the Indian style of toilet seems to be for digestion! I really think they have something there! Good posture, alignment- it really gets things moving!! Maybe you should consider that for your bathroom remodel mom and dad... :)
Wednesday, January 16, 2008
Monday, January 14, 2008
OOooooo what a sweet little shady spot I've gotten myself into. I have ESCAPED the hustle and bustle of Mysore (Lonely planet was lying when they said that Mysore was a lovely city that rewards a slower pace- It does seem to be a tourist spot for Indians, but it is crowded, loud, littered, and has street after street after street of little shops containing every trinket you can imagine except the ones you're looking for) and now I find myself in pleasant Gokulam, about 4 km west of the city. Here there are very nice houses, big trees lending shady streets, quaint neighborhood shops, and tons of yoga people from 'round the world. Which is why I've here too, as yesterday I signed up for a month of instruction at the Ashtanga Yoga Research Institute (http://ayri.org). I've found a wonderful room to stay in on the upper level of a family home, and the women who live there were thrilled that I wanted to cook with them, so I'm headed home soon to learn some dish I'd never heard of. I'm sure it will be delicious though. If not delicious, at least spicy.
Today was my first day of class, we started with the first three parts of the Ashtanga sequence. I was a bit intimidated- the shala is a large room that fits 50+ students at a time and many of the students are quite advanced. In my "beginner" group there are several yoga instructors (does that make me a double beginner?). I'll try to explain the scene a bit better in a day or so when I've got a better grasp on it.
I'm in a wonderful spot though. Right now I'm sipping on a papaya mint lemon honey smoothie in the most incredible email garage joint you can imagine. Supposedly the banana chocolate peanut butter smoothies are where it's at, but unfortunately I'll have to miss out on those. This is definitely the social hub of the yogalites with a full restaurant, cooking classes, juice bar, wifi, and at this time of day 5 people outside waiting for me to finish this blog so they can have a turn. Poochie the Daschund is keeping them company though.
To my family that worries, have no fear! I have arrived! I'll send some pictures soon. Things couldn't be better, I am loose with the big smiles... and the funny thing is, everyone smiles back.
LOVE to you all.
Saturday, January 12, 2008
The landscape gradually began to change, taking on a look similar to parts of Southern California. Instead of big oaks though, the trees were massive mimosas. A giant rock plateau to the west formed a solid wall with colorful bands of soil and rock and later gave way to rolling hills with occassional settlements. Unbuilt cities of brick were laid out by women and children to dry in the sun, while the kilns that they fired them in were tended by men. Goats, roosters, cows, and peacocks roamed free. Train station platforms would fly by in bursts of color (the women!) and then greys and whites (the men) as if segregated by color instead of sex. Mountains gave way to plains, gave way to hills, gave way to the starry night, and I tucked into my sleeper berth for the night. Oh but not before lunch and dinner! Egg biryani twice for me, because I like hard boiled eggs a lot. Breakfast, lunch, and dinner cost me a total of 90 rupees, or about $2.15... plus 3 chai's and some cookies and some fruit... maybe $3 for the day.
I arrived into Bangalore this morning and hopped another train to Mysore. That train had better food than the first, fruit and nut biryani with raita and curd rice and pickled chilies. The landscape here is much more agricultural- coconuts and a seedling that I forget the name of used to make Roti. Mysore is bustling around me now. I've got a quaint hotel in town, and I'm headed out to do some exploring now.
Thursday, January 10, 2008
Yesterday and this morning I woke early and attended a Satsang held in Ramesh S. Balsekar's apartment. Tom Thompson in Southern Pines referred me there and I found myself in a small apartment with 30 or so other travelers and Indians, many of whom have been in attendance on and off for many years, listening to this 84+ year old man's concept of God's will or cosmic law and our connection with it. It is heavily based in the idea that we are in essence non-doers (though our egos incline us to believe otherwise), incapable of altering God's will that lives and acts through us. We can act, but we have no control over the outcome, whether it means success, failure, or is beyond our expectations. so the answer is simply to do what you feel like you should do in each moment, trusting in God's will, and attributing your own free will to your genes and past conditioning, neither of which you can alter (though conditioning is always evolving). By accepting that you are incapable of doing anything on your own (since the ego as a seperate entity is illusory) you absolve yourself from guilt and blame, and can have harmonious relationships with the other instead of one based in rivalry, fear, distrust, jealousy, etc. It was very interesting stuff. Very interesting dialogue, with old Ramesh driving his concept home. After question and answer everyone goes to a nearby cafe for chai and lunch. That's how I came to find the private guest house I'm staying in. The little old couple who owns the flat is very sweet and the place feels very safe.
Today I went to the train station and booked a ticket to Bangalore in the morning. it's a 24 hr trip, so you won't hear from me for a day mom and dad. I leave tomorrow morning, 9:30 PM thursday night for you. I will likely stay there for at least a night and then plan to go to Mysore in the mountains to escape the heat (supposedly it's not even hot yet). I'll let you know when I change cities.
This afternoon I went to the Mahalaxmi temple on the shore, dedicated to the Goddess of wealth. I checked my shoes outside and waited in line with hundreds of women heavy laden with fresh flower garlands, coconuts, and lotus flower offerings. The men's line was significantly shorter. I pressed a rupee coin to the back of the temple wall with my thumb and it stuck (apparently a sign of imminent wealth- good, I need it) and got dabbed on the forehead with orange powder at the Hanuman temple. It was really a beautiful and colorful ritual to observe. VIBRANCY!
will write again in a few days.
Sunday, January 6, 2008
My family is very worried about my safety. To them I extend: Thank you for your love and support! I will take it with me and keep it close and will make decisions that protect my health and honor your concerns. I love you. I'll miss you. I will stay in touch via skype (thanks dad!) and email, and you can check this page to see what I am up to.
I am grateful to my friends and family who have supported me and shown me so much love in the past year. Pam, Rick, Chuck, Katie, Kevin, Tyler, Kurt, Jan, Pat, Gail, Mom, Dad, Linds, Liz, Rachel, Breigh, Evan, Clara, and last but certainly not least, Lee. Thank you. This has been a time of constant change and I feel truly blessed to have you all in my life.
I'm very optimistic about what the next few months hold! Stay posted for updates here if you are interested!