Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Sweetest Goodbye

Today is officially my last day here in India.  I have mixed feelings about leaving and it saddens me to think that this special place is far away from home.  When I was walking to the shala this morning, I took my time and looked around to absorb all of things that I will be missing.  There were a few times during practice that I was overwhelmed with the fact that I am leaving.  Being in Mysore and practicing at the shala is something that I'm incapable of describing.  There is a certain energy that lives in the shala and someone would need to experience it to know it.  I joke and tease that the things that happen in the shala is "magic" and as hokey as that might sound, it's the truth.  During our opening prayer with Saraswathi, I couldn't help but think how fortunate of a person I must be to be standing in front of my mat chanting with this amazing lady.  My practice has changed so much in the short amount of time I've been in India.  I was counting the new asanas I have been given since I've been here and I counted 7, without modifications.  Traditional Mysore practice is not an easy thing; at least for me it isn't.  It's a self motivating practice and requires a lot of focus.  Two things that I lack and need a lot of work on. 

My main purpose for coming to India was to practice at the shala and learn Ashtanga from the source.  What I got out was so much more than just the practice.  For the first time in years, I felt whole and happy.  All of the dysfunction in my life had been stripped away and I was left with nothing, but me.  I spent the last 5 years of my life with someone that had me questioning my self worth and my integrity as a person.  I played a huge part in that dysfunction and made a choice everyday to stay.  Whether it was fear or low self-esteem, I was unhappy for a very long time and stayed.  The irony of this situation is that I am happy here and quite content.  Yet, I am leaving.  Must be another one of life's mysteries that I don't need to figure out right now. 

A. Morissette wrote this song "Thank U" after her pilgrimage to India.  When the song first came out, I thought it was rather silly.  Going through this journey and being able to experience everything I've seen, felt, heard or tasted in the last 2 months, the song makes more sense to me now than it ever did.  So if I could say something to summarize my journey, it would be "thank you Mother India!  I will be back".

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Blue Mind

Coming down to the last few days of my journey and I'm still very sad about leaving.  Jonah is going home today and that leaves me with a few days to myself.  I started this journey alone and I will end it alone.  Since it has been decided that I will be going home as scheduled, I'm not looking forward to having to spend an extra day in Singapore.  I would rather do without the stop and go home directly.  I've set myself up that when I arrive LAX I will be among people that I can emotionally breakdown and be okay.  I'm not saying this will happen, but I need to be prepared.  When I went on vacation to New Zealand, I remember coming home and as I opened my front door, I started to cry.  This was about the time my dad had his stroke and the reality I was going home to then was much harsher then the situation now.  My situation now is that I will be homeless for about a week and unemployed.  I know I will be in the right hands soon as I land. 

Practice the past few days has been rough.  India has decided to bless me with two last gifts before I depart: stomach issues and a cold/sinus issues.  The stomach issues are easier to deal with since I have been going through them for the duration of my stay.  The cold is another story.  Every time I leave Mysore I always end up sick.  The neat thing is getting medication here is much easier than home.  I can walk up to any pharmacy and tell them exactly what I want and a packet of pills cost less than $0.25.  This place is every pill head's paradise or nightmare.

Yesterday in class, I was practicing next to someone breathing like they had a smurf up their nose.  I know that sounds mean, but I think it is unfair.  I guess my reaction wouldn't  be as harsh if this person didn't arrive late.  I admit that I was slightly annoyed that I had to move my mat to make room, but the smurf breathing - well that is unforgivable.  For all I know this person could have a sinus problem, but still.  I'm not the best practitioner and every one knows when I enter the room as I have a difficult time being quiet and not tripping over things.  The smurf breathing defies all of my rules of remaining unnoticed. 

As my departure gets closer and closer, I'm noticing that I'm more cranky and a bit aggro.  Aggro only when I am driving the scooter though.  Yesterday while riding the scooter in the city, I had the "right of way" and this guy was going around the round-about and clearly saw me.  I was heading straight, but instead of going around the circle he literally tried to clip my scooter with his motorcycle to run me off the road.  Then this morning I was crossing the intersection and this car sped through the speed bumps to cross before me.  Same thing happens when I am standing in line at the grocery store or post office.  Some people literally come up and stand in front of me so they don't have to wait.  I don't know what it is, but it's rude and the rudeness is getting to me.  People can come up with as many excuses that it's part of the culture, but as a human, culture or no culture, they are still being an ass.  I'm just too nice or too stupid for that matter to speak up and say something.  Every time I run into a situation like this, I always think of one of my closest friends.  She is very nice and sweet, but she is feisty when she needs to be and doesn't back down or puts up with any one's crap.  Sometimes I wish I could carry her in my pocket and take her out when I have to deal with a confrontation.  My goal this week is to not get arrested and burn any bridges.  Since Jonah is leaving tonight, it is probably best if I return the scooter early.  I could just imagine getting the wrath from my sister if something bad happened.

To clarify the statement above because I know my sister will be reading this.  When I was growing up and even now, my sister had to play mom and dad to my brother and I.  It's a daunting task for any person to handle and she has handled it very well.  Not always graceful, but what can you expect from someone that lost her teenage years taking care of a rebellious, smart ass sister and a brother that thinks he can move to Canada and live off of $50.  As I got older, my sister's role has changed more into an actual sister and a friend.  I'm well aware that I can make my own decisions and the consequences will always be mine to handle, but since she is important to me and her opinion does (sometimes) matters, I try not to do stupid things.  With that being said, my niece and nephew look up to me and ending up in an Indian prison would not be good.  Plus hard labor would be detrimental to my delicate hands.        

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Ooty, Ooot, Ooot

After Friday morning's practice, Tim, Mitch, Jonah and I took an overnight trip to the town of Ooty.  Ooty was once occupied by the British, just like everything else in India and the town has areas preserved from the British colonial days.  The British used Ooty as a weekend/summer getaway and the town is known for tea and chocolate.    What I didn't know was that the town is a popular hill station and lies 7500 feet above sea level.  We left around 10:30 am and arrived Ooty after 6:00 pm.  I was told it was a 3 hour drive and it was the longest 3 hour drive I've ever been on.  We had to travel through Bandipur National Park and had a few animal sightings so it wasn't all that bad.  I slept the majority of the ride and the 3 boys chatted in the back. 

We arrived Ooty after dark and it was freezing.  No one told me that it was going to be cold and I didn't pack properly.  We find our hotel and the place looked a little creepy.  Not as in our lives were in danger, but more in a sense that we were being watched.  This could just be my imagination or India is turning me into a schizo, but Jonah also made a comment about the hotel being haunted.  The hotel is over a 100 years old and sits above a hill with a magnificent view.  It was decided earlier on that Jonah and I would be sharing rooms.  That would leave Tim and Mitch together.  We go into our designated rooms and as cool as our room was, I felt uncomfortable.  I was trying to hide my paranoia from Jonah and luckily he didn't say anything when I was following him around and had to use the bathroom with the door open.  As luck would have it, Tim and Mitch weren't happy with their room.  The both of them weren't comfortable sleeping in the same bed and our room happened to have two twin beds.  We ended up with their room which was less creepy.

Our plan for the next morning was to take the train to a nearby town on the way to Mysore.  We would then meet the driver at the station, which was close to the bottom of the mountain and head to Mysore from there.  The train ride was great, but when we met the driver he tells us that we have to go back up the windy road back to Ooty.  The train was traveling the opposite direction of Mysore and there was only one road.  I wasn't very happy about this as I got car sick on our way up the mountain the day before.  I couldn't wait to get back to Mysore and we had another 7+ hours in the car.  That was just too much time for me to sit still and think.  My only other option was to sleep, but that was impossible sitting next to two men loaded on caffeine. 

For the amount of time I spent thinking, I came to the conclusion that I've been a bit of a pill the past few days in anticipation of returning home.  People are easily getting on my nerves and I don't have the patience to deal with people trying to sell me things.  What exactly I mean by being a pill is that I stop communicating and would prefer to spend more time alone than usual.  I'm heading back to the territory of the unknown and it is a bit unnerving.  One thing I do have to point out is that this journey that I have embarked on the last two months has been one of the best experiences of my life.  I will never experience anything like this and even if I do come back, the experience will be different.  This trip happened when I needed it most in my life.  I lost so much in the past year and if that is what it took to lead me here, then it was worth it.  If I were to ever go missing, the first place to look would be Mysore.  Home will always be home, but there will always be a huge part of me here.      

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Ligers At The Zoo

Yesterday afternoon on your way home from the zoo, Jonah and I took a detour to the other side of town to check out a store that had some possible gifts ideas. I've been to the store once at the beginning of my trip and couldn't quite remember how to get there. On one of the streets we turned on, there was a police barricade and everyone on a motorcycle or scooter was ordered to stop. I had my helmet on this time, so I knew I wasn't being stopped for that. I parked the scooter and figure out that the police were checking for insurance. When we rented the scooter, Jyoti, the scooter owner, said that a copy of the insurance policy would be under the seat. She also said to make a copy of my license and never carry the original because once the police take it away, I might not get it back or will be charged a huge fee. I hand a copy of my license and the insurance policy to the officer and after reading it for a few seconds, he asks for my name as if he couldn't read it on the license. He then proceeds to tell me that the insurance is invalid and that I will need to pay. There were about 20 other people standing around pleading with the officers. Since I was a foreigner and anything I say would be invalid, they expedited my paperwork and took my money. The ticket cost me Rs 500 which is equivalent to about $10. When we rode off, I was livid and couldn't think straight. I was swerving and had problems coordinating with the brake and the accelerator. I was so angry and felt taken advantaged of. The money didn't bother me. It was the fact that the cops here are jerks and there wasn't a damn thing I could do about it. Unless I want to end up like that guy we saw get caned, the best thing for me to do was to shut my mouth. We ended up finding the store, but at that point, I wasn't in any mood to shop and didn't buy anything.

After the store, we went straight to Jyothi's house. She has valid insurance on the scooter, but forgot to switch out the copy when it expired. Yesterday was the first time in a week and a half that I didn't call United to change my ticket. As annoying as the merchants and beggars can be, at least they are tolerable. The police on the other hand, they are a lost cause. I have a few friends that are in law enforcement and it makes me appreciate them even more. I know that they abide by certain rules and are honest people. Later that evening, Jonah wanted to go grocery shopping and I refused to ride the scooter anywhere in town.

Although my afternoon was ruined, I did have a great time at the zoo. I'm not usually a fan of zoos, but I figured since the animals are treated better than the humans here, it would be worth checking out. The zoo was well kept and the animals, well they were animals. The best part of my experience at the zoo are the signs posted throughout. The signs were so ridiculous that I spent my time taking photos of all the signs I found amusing. I maybe took 5 or 6 photos of animals, but each animal station had some ridiculous sign posted that was much more photo worthy. My favorite one was a warning to not sit or lean on the barricades. If it happens that you fall in, and the animal eats you, it will make the animal sick. If being eaten doesn't kill you, you will be arrested - bleeding and all. Teaching by way of fear must be a cultural thing. None of this stuff flies back home and it may be the reason why I laugh instead of taking the warning seriously. I also wouldn't stick my hand through a cage to pet the pretty tiger; regardless if Siegfried and Roy sleep with them at night.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Beavis & Butthead Do India

Today is another moon day so the shala is closed.  I use to dislike our moon days and thought they were a waste and there was no reason for us not to practice.  These days, I actually look forward to Saturdays and moon days when we have days off.  Practicing 6 days a week has taken a toll on my body.  I can see improvements in my daily practice, but there are days where I want to stay in bed and sleep all day.  India being the lively country that it is, there is no way I would be able to do that.

For our day off yesterday, Jonah, Tim, Mitch and I rented a car and went to the Hassan District.  The Hassan District was once ruled by the Hoysala Empire and was also part of the Mayuran empire.  I don't have a lot of knowledge on the subject, but the significance of the town today, is it's architecture.  We arrived at the capital city of Belur and the city was absolute chaos.  I'm not sure if it was due to the Diwali celebration or if the city is normally in that state.  Belur is a city that I would not be comfortable driving on the scooter.  On two separate occasions, our driver almost hit a car and a guy on a motorcycle.  The main attraction of the city is the Chennakeshava Temple.  I must say that this was one of the nicest temples I've been in and we got there early enough to witness the puja.  The architecture and detail of the temple was amazing.  Inside the temple was a statue of one of the gods.  I would be a bit more descriptive, but I had no idea who it was or the religion that was practiced there.  The statue was over 10 feet tall and during the puja, a priest was standing on a scaffold pouring milk, curd, tumeric and water as part of the ceremony.  I've never witnessed anything like that before and seeing the people have so much adoration for this god was a great experience.  During the puja though, I couldn't help but think how sticky the floors were near the statue. 

After Belur, we had lunch at one of the hotels in the city and decided it was best to skip our second destination.  It was too hot and everyone was tired from the long car ride.  We instead went to Sravanabelagola, which was the town I visited on my birthday.  Walking up the 650 steps to the temple wasn't has hard as I remembered.  Maybe I was just feeling old and crusty on my birthday and any physical activity was going to be trying.  The naked statue wasn't as impressive as the first time, but I was glad that I was in good company and the boys enjoyed the temple.  By the time we made it back down to the car, the sun was beginning to set and we headed home.  In the car, the 3 boys were in the back and I was sitting in the front.  These 3 boys are the chattiest men I have ever been with, which was great for me.  Sometimes, I prefer not to talk and didn't feel any pressure to engage in the conversation.  I slept for the majority of the car ride to Hassan and was drifting in and out of sleep and they would still be talking.  Our ride back, I couldn't sleep and they talked the whole 3 hours back home.  It's funny to think that there is this stereotype of women being more chatty than men, but in this situation, it was the exact opposite.    

When we finally made it back to Mysore, the city sounded like it was being bombed.  The Indians take a lot of pride celebrating their holidays and every other household in Gokulam was experimenting with fireworks.  As a kid the sound of fireworks use to scare me and even as an adult, I prefer to not hear them.  I enjoy the visual aspect, but can do without the sound.  I also had a bad experience playing with fireworks that has not left me.  When I was in middle school, my dad and the step monster moved us to Palmdale.  Palmdale is nothing, but tumbleweeds and crackheads and a place that one could easily find trouble.  Our neighbors at the time were from Mexico and had smuggled fireworks across the border.  They were getting ready to test one of the rocket launchers they had bought and asked if I wanted to help.  We couldn't find anything stable to put the rocket in so we set the rocket in a bottle.  One of the sisters lit the rocket and as she lit the rocket, the bottle fell over.  The rocket was pointing in the direction of a car up the street.  I saw the rocket go off and I was so afraid that it was going to damage the neighbors car, I turned around to run home and ran into their basketball pole.  Needless to say, I didn't get very far and had to stay to deal with the consequences.  So when we got home last night and Jonah wanted to walk around the block, I was a bit hesitant.  We walked past the school and noticed that people were walking in and out of the school yard with bags in their hands.  The local elementary school was selling fireworks in the auditorium.  We saw this and ran home to get some money.  The auditorium was every pyromaniacs dream.  Everything from sparklers to your professional grade was being sold.  We were so excited and bought a few boxes that we deemed were "safe" for us to play with.  I think I've found the solution to the days that I'm feeling blue.  Jonah and I had the best time lighting stuff on fire and it was the best Rs 400 we've spent to date.  This was our way of participating with the culture.  Happy Diwali!!

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Only In India

Only in India......

do the cows have the right of way

will you see a camel wearing bell anklets used as entertainment for a birthday party

mannequins are put in dressing rooms to be dressed

are road lanes mere suggestions

honking every 50 feet while driving is a requirement

when a guy asks you if you want to see his snake, it's really a snake

the word 'cum' is used regularly in the vocabulary

are moon days a holiday

pedestrians do not have the right of way and are in more danger of getting run over than the animals

is it polite to belch as loud as possible

are cows and sheep put on leashes and dogs are roaming the streets leash free

is it considered an honor to practice yoga at 4:30 am

can a subtle head shake mean so many different things

is it considered disgusting to use our left hand to pick up food, but it's okay to eat with your dirty right hand

people either drive with no lights or with their brights

do they require you to hike without shoes

are fireworks sold at the local school auditorium

Thursday, October 15, 2009


Not much going on the past few days.  Earlier this week, Jonah and I got a scooter and I named it "Chloe".  I usually don't name my vehicles, but found it appropriate with this one.  Our first adventure on Chloe was to downtown.  Most of the yoga students here avoid the downtown area.  The downtown area is the worst area to be in.  The chaos that happens downtown is undescribable.  There are people everywhere, cars, buses and scooters all trying to one up each other and the pollution is heavy.  As part of my initiation, we went there first.  I figured that if I can ride through downtown, I can ride anywhere.  We made it through unscathed.  Jonah was surprised with my aggressive driving skills and I also surprised myself.  After riding on the back of the scooter with Christian, I picked up on the temperament of the drivers.  Cutting someone off is part of the driving culture here.  As long as you drive defensively and slightly aggressive, no one messes with you.  Jonah and I do get a lot of funny looks though.  It is weird for the people here to see a male westerner as a passenger and the woman as the driver.  It also doesn't help that we gloat about the situation.

As of today, I have 16 days left.  I still can't decide whether I want to travel further or go home.  I have to make a decision this week and for some reason I'm a bit torn about the whole thing.  Right now, feeling irresponsible is my only reason for wanting to go home.  At some point, I need to get back on track and do something about my life and earn a living.  My dilemma is that once I start my life back up again, when will I have the opportunity to travel extensively as this opportunity now.  My rational is that it will be the holidays and most companies will not be hiring.  For my own sanity purposes, I cannot be home and be unemployed for very long.  In a sense, by staying here I'm avoiding the inevitable or stalling.  I wish the decision was easy as coming here.  By the end of the week, if I don't have a decision, I'm going to flip on-it and let a coin decide.

Practice today was a disaster.  I was tired and was unable to get into the rhythm (my light bulb just turned on: I just noticed that there are no vowels in the word 'rhythm'.  huh!).  I was exhausting every ounce of energy I had trying to get into the asanas.  My five count today was more like a 3 breath count.  When it came time to the finishing asanas, I knew I would be in trouble with Sirshasana (headstand).  Before I was in the asana, I projected that I was going to fall over today.  I got up once and was fine.  Didn't feel like I held it long enough, so I tried again.  Going up, I knew my head and shoulders (not the shampoo) weren't balanced and I went up anyway.  To avoid smashing my fingers, I fell to the side.  By this time, the majority of the class had left and I had a lot of room on all sides.  No one was hurt in the process, but I did have a witness that saw the whole thing.  One of my friends in class was in Sirshasana and facing my direction.  She has seen me fall before, but after I fell I had no energy to roll myself over.  I laid on the carpet sideways laughing.  If I were my friend and I witnessed something like my acrobatic performance, I would have probably fallen over laughing.  


Monday, October 12, 2009

Flightless Bird

Last night I couldn't sleep thinking about the amount of time I have remaining here.  I have exactly 3 weeks left or at least that is what my ticket is booked for.  I don't feel ready to leave and it bums me out thinking about it.  There is no question that I miss my friends and family, but there isn't really something I am going home to.  I have so much fear revolved about my lack of employment and my future after Mysore.

Had a great practice today.  It didn't start out well, but ended well.  Yesterday, I told Jonah that this week, I want supta kurmasana added to my practice.  There are a few people in class that go beyond their actual capabilities, but every time I see them, I'm left with envy.  I'm where I am in my practice because that is where my teacher has told me I need to be.  My goal this week is ambitious and a bit ego driven. We are not suppose to practice in the afternoon, but I can't help and work on the asanas that I have trouble with.  A week ago, I couldn't lift my head off the ground in bhujapadasana and the other day in LED practice it just happened.  In today's practice Sarawasthi was close by when I was attempting bhujapadasana and she saw me try the asana a few times being able to lift my head off the ground.  When I was able to get up, she told me to try kurmasana.  I couldn't help and cheer to myself and a little "yes" came out of me.  I tried kurmasana and was fine, but then Saraswathi bound me in supta kurmasana and I was not ready for that.  My eye started to water when she was locking my ankles and pulling my arms together to bind.  Goes back again to my theory of be careful what you wish for.  Sometimes you want something really bad and it's very possible that it is not the best for you.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Wherever You Go, There You Are

Today is our day off from the practice.  Instead of sleeping in I went up to Chamundi Hill with Michael, who I met yesterday and Jim who also practices at the shala.  Michael is a friend of a friend's from back home.  Christian and I drove up to Chamundi Hill when I first got here, but just like most of our trips, we didn't see everything.  Instead of driving to the top, the rickshaw driver drove us to the bottom and we had to walk up over 1500 steps.  My legs were sore from climbing the steps to see the naked statue on Thursday and also from yesterday's excursion to the top of the temple in Melkote.  There were sections of the climb that I was sucking wind and I was overexerting myself. 

As we were walking towards the temple, I kept thinking about the whole walking barefoot thing.  I considered not going into the temple since I've seen it before, but Michael bought an offering and suggested that I should bring it into the temple.  I reluctantly give my shoes to the shoe valet and pretended that I was okay with the situation.  I didn't know my two companions very well and I figured I should spare them the Type A, OCD madness.  At the entrance of the temple, there are metal barriers used for crowd control.  I noticed two monkeys sitting on the barriers eyeing the offering in my hand.  The offering consists of coconuts, flowers, bananas and the red stuff that people put on their forehead.  I later found out that the red stuff is made with cow dung and I'm glad I was told this after the priests put it on my forehead.  I'm tried to walk in between the barriers and the monkeys were blocking me from getting in.  It was rough enough having to walk and dodge cow poop, but the monkeys were going to send me over the edge.  I ran past and was able to get through.  It's no lie that I'm slightly afraid of animals.  I think they are unpredictable and will attack at anytime.  Michael is ahead of me and as I'm trying to catch up to him, this other monkey runs at me from the side, steals the banana and knocks the plate out of my hand.  Jim, who is behind me, helps me pick up the remainders of the offering.  I compose myself and start walking and another monkey comes up trying to attack me.  At this point, I lose it and shove the offering into Jim's hands and take off.

While I was waiting to enter the main part of the temple, I spot a little person.  This was the second one I've seen in the last two days.  A few minutes later, another one walks out, but this one had a mullet.  Nothing makes up for being attacked by monkeys, but seeing a 'lil person with a mullet makes everything better. 

We go through the temple and present our offering.  Before we enter, Michael warned Jim and I that the priests will give us water to drink, but if we wanted to see tomorrow, we should pretend to drink the water and then put it over our head.  I have no idea what any of this stuff means, but I'll explain process.  You give your offering to the priests, he walks back to the statue, the next priest is holding a plate with fire in the center and you touch that.  The next priest is water boy and the last one puts the red dot on your forehead.  If you present an offering, you wait for a priest to come back out with it.  I'm not sure if it is exactly the same offering you presented, but they give you something back.  The priest hands Michael back the offering and we walk outside and sit near the exit.  Michael puts the plate between us and when he wasn't looking I pushed the plate more towards him.  There were monkeys all over the roof tops and I didn't want to deal with another attack.  Luckily none of the monkeys came near us.  The three of us were in a middle of a conversation and a few school kids exiting the temple sit next to me.  Next thing I knew, I was surrounded by a classroom full of students.  The girls closest to me were a bit shy to talk to me so I said hello first.  The ones surrounding me give me their names and everything was calm until I pulled out my camera.  Most people here love to have their photograph taken.  The instant gratification of a digital camera is even more exciting for them.  I snap a few photos and chaos ensues.  The kids start pushing to get into the photo and their teacher and chaperons are trying to restrain them from trampling me.  The teacher is profusely apologizing to me and calls the class to order.  As they were leaving they formed a single line to thank me and shake my hand.  With a group of that size, there is always one that perhaps is a bit special.  While the majority of the students were falling in line, this special one was in my face staring at me.  She has me take a picture and after I showed it to her, she also wanted to shake my hand.  I extended out my hand to her and once she had it , she wouldn't let go.  The teacher finally got her away from me and I was able to say goodbye to the other kids.  Usually when I am around a crazy, my initial reaction is to flee the scene.  In this case, I was on the ground and at the mercy of a non-blinking child.

On our way out of the temple, Jim noticed that I was walking funny and was being very careful about where I was stepping.  I've only know this guy for about 2 hours and he had me figured out.  His comment to me was "c'mon Mary, it's okay.  Your feet won't melt".  Well he is wrong!  My feet will melt and if I step on something disgusting, I will be able to wash it off, but it will leave an invisible imprint and I will still feel that it is there.      

In Spite of Me

Yesterday as part of my birthday celebration, a group of us took the bus to the town of Melkote.  Christian and I went up there a few weeks ago, but since he wasn't interested in the town I didn't get to see very much.  Being with people interested in the culture makes a huge difference visiting places.  When we arrived, we hired this rickshaw driver that had one of the nicest interiors I've seen.  The driver drove us to the very end of town and we walked back to the other end to enjoy the sights.  The first stop we made was this temple.  I've seen so many temples now that I'm starting to lose interest.  Some of them are very similar to each other, but all of them tell a different story.  The temple we entered was having a puja that we were able to sit in on.  Hearing the Brahmins chant was something else.  I'm not sure what the puja was for, but it didn't seem like it was for a celebration. 

We walked up to the main temple and since I have been there before I sat and waited for the group to finish.  While I was waiting, this little girl sees me and gets really excited.  Why she was excited, who knows, but I was really struck with her beauty.  She was wearing a bright orange dress and her green eyes were amazing.  She and her twin sister both had shaved heads so their features really stood out.  When I walked out of the temple, the little girl was yelling at the monkey and when she saw me, she pointed me out to her family.  Her parents were a bit embarrassed so I acknowledged them to let them know it was okay.  I asked her dad if I could take pictures and he was very proud I would ask such a thing.  The two girls were thrilled to be photographed and they were even more excited that I sat down and tried to talk to them.  By the end of our interaction, they were calling me "auntie" and it was really sweet.  I think I've been away from my niece, nephew and my friends kids for too long that when I see children my heart melts. 

On our way back to catch the bus back home to Mysore, we saw a police officer holding a guy by the collar with his stick raised to strike him.  A van pulled in front of them and they next thing we see is the guy on the ground unconscious.  He had blood coming out from the side of his head and ear and began convulsing.  There were about half a dozen cops there and a large group of people surrounding this guy and no one was helping him as he was going into a seizure.  This one guy finally tries to get the guy up, but he was completely out.  We didn't stay to find out what exactly happened, but there was enough evidence there to know we shouldn't get involved.  We found the closest rickshaw driver available and at this point the mob was heading towards our way.  For a second I thought the cops were going to hold us up since we were the only Western witnesses.  We all jump in the rickshaw and this guy that had a uni-dread down to his ankles tries to jump in the rickshaw with us.  The whole scene was bizarre.  We caught the bus in the main area of town and I couldn't have been more relieved to get on a smelly bus.

Later that evening was my birthday dinner with some of the new friends I've made here in Mysore.  I was a bit apprehensive to go because I am just weird that way and ended up having a great evening.  J #1 set the whole thing up and we had a nice group that came out to celebrate.  I only met these people a few weeks ago and it is really special that they would spend their one free night of the week to celebrate my birthday.  This trip has shown me how fortunate I really am.  I've done plenty of things that is undeserving for the amount of love and support I receive. 
This was the salad

One of the students had a little too much to drink so I got to play the designated driver.  I was so excited to drive the scooter and at the same time afraid for this girl's (J #3) life.  For the past month and a half, I've been riding in rickshaws and the bus and driving here is different from anywhere else.  It has been a very, very long time since I've driven a scooter  and couldn't even figure out how to turn it on.  J #3, who I was driving for, had to help me.  I didn't tell her till we were moving that I've never driven in India.  The ride went well and everyone got home with all their limbs attached.  Being able to drive the scooter was icing on the cake for me.  Speaking of cake; J #1 ordered a cake for me that was served after dinner.  I was surprised that she ordered a cake, but what made it even better was the inscription on the cake.  The inscription on the cake read "Happy Baby Mary" or Joseph's interpretation was "Happy Boby Mary".  I will never forget this year's birthday...

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Red Letter Year

Today is my second 27th birthday.  I have mixed emotions with my birthday this year and a lot of it has to do that I'm away from home and I'm still trying to figure my life out.  I'm due home at the end of this month and I'm not sure if I want to go home.  I miss my family and friends, but aside from that I feel there is nothing for me to go back to or look towards. 

To celebrate Jonah and I rented a car/driver to go on a day trip to Shravanabelagola, but he was up all night sick with food poisoning and was out for the day.  Flying solo today was not what I had in mind, but I didn't want the day to go to waste.  Before practice I ran into one of the girls that I met a week ago through Joseph and asked if she was interested in going.  She was up for the trip and another girl that stayed at Joseph's was also joining us. I got about 4 hours sleep and slept most of the car ride.  I don't know these two girls very well and in a way, it was ironic to spend the day with them.  I usually spend my birthday with the people closest to me.  So to spend the day with two people that I barely knew was a bit weird, but good in so many ways.  I didn't tell them that it was my birthday and I don't know if that is considered lying through omission.  One of the girls is from Germany and the other one from Lufthansa.  Actually I think that is the name of an airline.  Well where ever the home base of that airline is, that is where she is from.  Both of them are very nice and feel bad not being able to understand the one from Lufthansa very well.  I try to be polite and answer when I can, but at the same time I also feel bad saying that I don't understand her.  Her accent is very heavy and she mumbles a bit.  There was this girl at the rock gym who use to always talk to me and I couldn't understand a word she said.  Her accent was so heavy and every time we would converse I would always say "yes" and nod.  There were a few times that the question she was asking me wasn't a yes or no answer.  She would bust me and I would have to walk away and ignore the conversation ever happened.  I learned that the best way to communicate with her was through email and text.  In this situation, how do I tell someone to email or text me when they are sitting in front of me.  I kept to myself the majority of the day to avoid any awkward conversations. 

Shravanabelagola is Jain pilgrimage about 2.5 hours away from Mysore.  The town is famous for the naked statue of Gommateshwara , which is 58 feet high, 26 feet wide and has 10 feet long feet.  Gommateshwara was a King who renounced his kingdom and spent the rest of his life meditating till he attained Nirvana.  I don't know much about the Jains or the reason for the naked, uncircumcised statue.  Anyhow, it makes for a memorable birthday. When I got home to show Jonah the pictures his comment was "it's just not polite and why is it hairless".  There was more to our conversation that I don't need to share.  He still wasn't feeling well when I got home, but I think the pictures of the statue cheered him up a little bit.

My dinner request for this evening was pizza.  Jonah was a good sport and he let me drag him out to Pizza Hut again.  The pizza was so gross and so good.  With the food poisoning episode, I don't think we will be eating Indian food anytime soon.  Tomorrow night, I'm having dinner with a group of people from the shala.  J #1 organized this dinner for me which I'm very grateful for.  It is nice that these people are coming out to celebrate with me even though I don't know any of them very well.  I've met so many nice people on this trip and couldn't have asked for anything more.     

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Too Old To Be This Immature

Jonah and I went to Devaraja Market today.  The market is separated into 3-4 sections that I know of.  You have your fruit & veggies, meat, fish and flowers.  Today I was feeling brave and had my first meat market adventure.  Knowing how disgusting it would be, I've been wanting to go for the past week.  I lasted about 3.3 seconds and had to walk out.  Lots of dead things hanging and the repugnant smell was unbearable.  Walking through pools of blood made me want to vomit, so we left.  I'll eventually try again and see more of the market.  I'm determined to walk through and experience the whole meat section. 

Today's practice was wonderful for those who got out of bed and actually practiced.  Last night I went to bed around 6:30 pm and didn't wake up till after 8 this morning.  India hates me!  My immune system hasn't been able to catch a break and I've been sick a lot.  J #1 says that I need to think more positive and I will be well in 2 days.  What she doesn't know is that "Wally" is more powerful than wishful thinking.  Regardless, I will try anyway.  I am determined to have a great day tomorrow. 

Tomorrow is my second 27th birthday.  I'm bummed to be spending my birthday away from home, but being able to spend my birthday in India is something to remember.  Jonah and I are taking a day trip to Sravanabelgola to see Gomateshavara, an eighteen-meter high monolithic naked male statue.  There are Jain temples in the area worth visiting, but for immaturity reasons I want to see the statue.

**This is really sad and I hate to admit I'm happy about this, but I just broke 100k on Bejeweled. I feel like my life is complete. 

Monday, October 5, 2009

Cure for Pain

These past few days, I have been thinking about my stay here in India.  Several times I've asked myself if I have served my purpose here.  For some reason I now have these expectations from myself that I never had coming here.  Jonah and I were having coffee yesterday and he brought up a good point.  My purpose for this trip was to take the opportunity to practice and to enjoy the experience -  nothing more.  So the fact that I expect some sort of epiphany as a result of this trip is ridiculous.  One thing I do know is that being away for as long as I have, it has given me the opportunity to get to know myself a little bit more. I've developed a high tolerance for certain things being away from home.  I'm also learning about my needs to be a happy, functioning person.  Being here and not having a sort of security blanket gave me the opportunity to create the type of environment I want to be in.  Some of these things I already know, but since I tend to ignore them, the learning experience reincarnates itself. 

Practice the past two days has been rough.  The break threw me off schedule and again, I'm not feeling well.  My sister might get her wish and I may go home as originally planned on my itinerary.  Right now I feel like I have to bust my butt in practice since I have a short amount of time left.  My knees have been bothering me and I'm trying really hard not to cause too much damage.  With all the new people at the shala, I have to admit I'm a bit distracted.  There are more beginners that require more attention and I can't help but look to see who is constantly getting yelled at.  My first 2 weeks were like that, so I feel for those people. 

I almost forgot to mention this and I'm glad that I remembered.  On Sunday, Jonah and I had a long day exploring and we were both really hungry.  I asked him if he wanted to get pizza and I was stoked he was up for it.  There is a Pizza Hut restaurant and a Domino's Pizza directly across from each other a few kilometers from here.  I pass by it all the time and often wondered if the pizza is the "American" version or the India version.  India version meaning it contains masala.  The French put jambon in everything and in India, everything has masala.  Pizza Hut had a full menu and was more of a sit-down place, so we decided to go there.  At first I was a bit weary, but I was so hungry I would of eaten curry pizza if that was the only thing on the menu.  As luck would have it, there was a "normal" pizza on the menu and I was happy. 

I'm afraid to say that eating at Pizza Hut was one of the best meals I've had on this trip. Can't say that will be the last time I eat there. The food was simple and everything I needed to taste to feel a bit of home.  At home, Pizza Hut is not even an option, but here it's my oasis in the middle of the desert.

Friday, October 2, 2009

I Missed the Bus

The past two days have been fun tourist days.  Yesterday Jonah and I took the bus to tour Mysore Palace.  This was my first bus ride and it wasn't all that bad.  It is cheaper than the rickshaw, has cleaner air, but also much smellier.  There are two things I would suggest to people traveling to India or even any where for that matter.  I suggest to take the bus and also the train.  Most people cannot afford cars or motorcycles and the locals use public transportation.  It is a great way to get involved with and smell the culture.

Since I woke up feeling somewhat okay today, we decided to go on another bus adventure.  Our destination for today was SrirangapatanaSrirangapatna is a historical island town 19 kms from Mysore and also was the scene of the last and decisive battle fought between Tippu Sultan and the British forces.  The temples we visited today were predominantly Muslim.  I wish I could write more about the history of the places, but I coudn't understand a single thing our rickshaw driver said.  From what I read, Tippu Sultan lost the battle in 1799 and I didn't know this then, but one of the places we visited was his and his parent's mausoleum.  I wasn't that oblivious that I missed the 3 tombs in the center of the room.  I just didn't know who they belonged to and didn't bother to ask. 

One of the other places we visited was the Daria Daulat Bagh aka the summer palace.  The summer palace isn't as fancy as the Maharaja's Palace in Mysore, but I enjoyed this palace more.  The interior is superbly preserved, with tiger-striped columns and hand painted decoration on every inch of the walls and ceiling.  Inside the palace I was distracted with taking my "illegal" pictures and almost didn't notice this guy staring at me.  I took a few more pictures and could see from the corner of my eye that he was still staring.  He finally said "hello" or it is more like a "hah low".  I walked over, said hello back and asked him how he was doing.  He then gestured that he didn't know any English.  I smiled and told him "well..  you can't pick up on girls if you can't speak English".  I ran into him at a few more other places and the situation just got more uncomfortable.  He would stare and I would ignore.   

Everywhere Jonah and I would go, people are always staring or trying to sell us something.  Jonah is your stereotype of a California blond hair, blue/green eyed surfer and sticks out like a sore thumb.  People are always asking us to take pictures with them which isn't a big deal.  At times, we are followed and haggled more than our fair share.  One of the last places we visited today, I think I must of had my fill of the badgering.  When we visit any holy site, shoes are not allowed and we usually leave them with a shoe valet.  Our rickshaw driver was trying to save a few rupees so he suggested we leave our footwear in the rickshaw and walk over to the temple barefoot.  At first I wasn't so keen on the idea and would have preferred to take my shoes off closer to the entrance and put my sandals in my backpack.  Whether your shoes are in your hand or in your bag, they are not allowed inside period.  I begrudgingly walk over barefoot and this was not a short distance.  This was the longest I've walked in India without footwear.  When we finally arrived at the entrance of the temple, the glass eyed shoe valet starts yelling at me to leave my shoes.  I pointed at my feet and told him I didn't have any shoes.  He shakes his head and points at my bag and precedes to tell me that this is a Muslim holy site and shoes aren't allowed inside.  I tried to tell him again and he starts raising his voice and making a scene about my shoes in my bag.  I was so frustrated that I raised my voice at him and said "my shoes aren't in my bag, they are in the car"!  Jonah finally stepped in and opened his bag to show him.  I did the same thing and the guy kept apologizing. 

After the lake incident I haven't been too patient with the badgering and harassment.  I can't even fathom the amount of grief if I had fair skin and light hair.  I understand that even being unemployed, I'm probably well off then most of the people here.  Raising my voice at the shoe valet through me a bit off guard.  Not because he hit my last nerve and I lashed out at him.  It was more of what I said that made me laugh.  My shoes weren't really in the a car.  They were in a rickshaw.  Since I've been here I've been in a car 3 times and haven't driven one since mid August.  The fact that I referred to a rickshaw as a car concludes that I have been here long enough to adjust to the way of life.  Yesterday I locked myself out from my online credit card account and had to call customer support for assistance.  The customer service rep was going through the regular protocol to verify my identity.  He came to the question about my zip code and I completely drew a blank.  I started saying numbers that came into my head and if I lived in Northern California it would of worked.  I had to place the rep on hold and dig for my driver's license.  I've never been more lost than I am now.  Maybe it is a good thing and being lost is the only way I can find where it is I need to go.