Monday, August 3, 2009
I am doing really well here in London. I sometimes can't believe that I actually picked myself up and made such a huge change, but then again it doesn't really feel like such a massive change as I feel really at home here in the UK. Martin was been the most supportive, hospitable, and accepting host here to me and I feel so lucky. He has been working nights for the past 10 days so we have been a bit like ships passing in the night but I managed to stay very active with dance classes. We have been here in London now for 3 weeks and I've managed to secure 2 jobs, dance a little bit, and network with lots of other dancers. I'm enjoying taking classes and I'm learning alot from Anne White. I have also met this male dancer named Shafeek who was a principle dancer in Mahmoud Reda's dance company back in Egypt. Shafeek is married to one of London's top dancers, and together they have an Arabian dance company. Shafeek said that he would like to audition me for the company, which I would be absolutely thrilled about. I really want to dance in a professional capacity and it seems a bit like this is the premise of what Ninawa was supposed to be, except Ninawa just wasn't ever going to get there. Shafeek warned me that although he is a gentleman, in rehearsal he is very strict and I assured him that I had PLENTY of experience in that field...dancing with Moh and Moh was probably the most abuse I've ever received and I've probably taken enough of it to last my next few lifetimes!
I've secured a Saturday night job working at the Proud Camden club/lounge/bar. I'm the VIP guest list girl, and I'm working 7 pm - 1 am. I just had my 3rd weekend, and it went pretty smooth. It's good for the most part, and I actually really enjoy it. It gets a bit hectic at 11:30pm when everyone shows up to come inside and we have to regulate but it's fun talking to people from all over. Seeing how absolutely drunk people gets is a real turn off though, and it puts me off drink. I have seen so many little wisps of girls go into the club and emerge being dragged out by the friends, so drunk that they can't walk or are being carried. I can't ever fathom being so drunk that I can't function, and at this stage in my life that novelty has more than worn off. I enjoy a few glasses of wine, but then I'm off to bed and ready to start the new day with a clear head.
I've also secured a job in Brixton (south London) at a cafe called Rosie's Cafe. Rosie is a friend of Sarah's boyfriend Toby and is a very successful 30 year woman who owns this amazing cafe. Roise put out a cookbook last year and its been selling like hot cakes so she has had more people coming into the cafe as a result. The cafe is really kitchy with mismatched plates, homemade grub and gorgeous coffees. Its a tiny little shop but I really like it alot. Its definitely the kind of cafe that I envision myself to have! But for now I'll just work there. I'm there 3 days a week doing the closing shift. Its a quick tube ride from where I'm at to there and I'm happy working as a barista again...making a good coffee is very satisfying.
My life here is quite full and I'm focused on getting out and networking as well as making new friends. I've started doing yoga 2 - 3 days a week with Martin and it has been very beneficial. I managed my first headstand the other days and was completely elated for 2 days about it. I can't wait for my next class!!
The summer weather though has been a real sore point with me and the rest of England...it just doesn't exist. TO be fair I have been in hot weather for most of the year but this is summer and I'm done with the chill!!! Its been hovering around 18 degrees for most of July and its been raining like crazy. I didn't pack for this weather, so I've been layering up and wishing for my cozzies back at home. I keep hearing that summer is on its way...but we are also now into August and all I can smell is the sneaking in of autumn. Boo!
The sun is actually shining right now and is beckoning me to get myself sorted and go outside so I think I'll get moving here.
I hope you are all well and email me sometime!
Sunday, July 12, 2009
I have just returned to London after a blissful month basking in 40+ heat in the mountains in the tiny Spanish village of Daimuz. Being back in London is a bit of an assault on all senses, the biggest one being the 22 degree weather that greeted us in a rainy torrent the second we emerged from the plane and descended onto the tarmack. Martin and I were definitely overdressed while standing at the Granada airport in our jeans, sweaters, and hats amongst all the burned- to- a- crisp sundress short wearing tourists groaning about heading back to the UK. But we were better off when we stepped out into the rain, protected by our hats and jumpers!!
Stanstead airport was a NIGHTMARE upon arrival...we think that too many planes arrived around the same time so the corridors leading to Immigration were chockful of people. There were security guards allowing only a certain number of people through at one time, so every few minutes the crowd stopped and we had to wait up to 5 minutes before moving forward again. This happened several times, and we were stuck in a stuffy wet corridor full of crying babies and tired people slugging forward complaining. Once we finally hit Immigration, Martin and I separated as he got to queue in the EU line up and I went to the non-EU passport holders line. The lineups for both were enormous, but I thought that I would clear before Martin...except I was wrong! Martin cleared in about 45 minutes, and it took me about 1 hr and 15 minutes. The immigration officer grilled me about why I was coming back into the UK, and finally let me go after asking me 3 times how long I was comng into the UK for. I could see Martin waiting for me, and I thought that he had collected our bags so that we could head to our cabbie who had been waiting for us for ages. Except our baggage hadn't come through due to a staffing issue...we didn't even have a carousel number! Finally one appeared so we raced over to carousel #2. Then the carousel stopped...and we were again waiting. People were losing their tempers and a pregnant woman had a go with one of the airport staff- which were very scarce to locate! Finally we got our bags and rushed out to meet our cabbie, who was patiently waiting. We got into his car and off we went on the M-11. Things were going great until we saw a sign "Accident Ahead" and then the trafiic stopped to a standstill. I passed out at this point, and awoke when we were in London. We got in a half 3, and crawled our way up the stairs at Ricky and Nicki's and passedout in bed.
We spent Sunday with Ricky and Nicki looking at their new home and passing an hour in the pub. I was reunited with a delicious halloumi cheese kabab that Martin had introduced to me when I was here in June and washed it down with a spicy ginger beer. Ahh blisssss.
Today (being Monday) Martin headed off with Ricky to his first day of work as a rigger working on a blockbuster movie (200 million dollar budget) starring Leo Di Caprio. I got up at 8:30am and spent basically the whole day applying for jobs on Gumtree (a Craigslist type website). The only response back was for a phone position working 11am - 10pm at an escort agency...this was listed as a receptionist at a dating service. A bit disheartening but I just have to keep positive and keep trying. I'm missing my friends and family a bit and really want to get myself into a routine. I am starting a bellydance class tomorrow night with Anne White so that is great, and I will attend the flamenco class with Jackie at the Greenwich Dance Art Academy on Wednesday. I'm missing dance so much right now, and I think that I will be set right after that. I do have my first booked show with BellyWorld on July 26th, its only paying 10 pounds but at least I can get some exposure and land some work for the future. Anne White has also asked me to perform in her next show, although I think that the July line up for the show is full so I may have to wait till August to dance.
I'd love to hear from you, I'm a bit homesick and lonely so email or call me if you have a chance. If you are dialing from Canada: 011447506552011. try using YAK 1015945 before the 01144 to save some money. Or find me on SKYPE: ashleygreeneyes and call me for free!
Thinking of you all.....
Wednesday, June 17, 2009
I've caught up on some sleep, which feels great and I went for a run in Greenwich park this morning. The weather is variable but warm. There was a massive thunder and lightning storm on Monday night which caused flash floods all over London, the sky was really dark grey with swirling clouds. It was quite ominous at best! I made a tasty ginger carrot butternut squash and sweet potato soup as it seemed fitting with the weather. Yum!!
I rested most of yesterday and did some much needed cleaning in Mandy's (Sarah's mom) room where I have been sleeping. The room is much better now and got a good vacuum so the dustmites have fled thankfully.
I did go to my first bellydance class with Anne White last night in Islington. Anne had asked me to perform for her beginner class, and I stayed on for her intermediate class. Anne was a pivotal dancer in London in the 80s and 90s, but doesn't really dance that much anymore aside from her monthly Planet Egypt events that are held at Darbouka club. Anne knows everyone in the UK and knows many dancers abroad (Raqia Hassan, Leila, Dina, Amani) so she is a good person for me to stay in touch with. She is going to put me in touch with some higher level working dancers here in London, as well as with her first teacher Suraya Hilal (!!!!) when she returns from abroad in August. I also met a young Turkish drummer Tash who was drumming for the class and expressed much interest in working with me when I get back from Spain. Tash is very talented and is also on the cusp of being signed to a record label! All in all it was a very good experience, and I feel that I have much to learn from Anne. Anne is a very large vivacious blonde with a huge personality and a bigger laugh. She is very relaxed in her style and also very Egyptian. I had a blast in her intermediate class and I have so much to learn from her. She talked to me afterwards about me contributing some of my personal style to the class so that the students learn something different. I was hugely flattered. Anne and Tash gave me some info on where to go for dancing work, and Tash is gonna help me crack into the Turkish scene, primarily weddings. I'm excited to come back from Spain and get my dance career started here! I am also very excited to study dance here and get inspired again. I have been stumbling along in Vancouver being completely flat and too busy in my dance life aside from flamenco, and London has so much to offer me creatively. This to me is one of the biggest reasons that I am here.
Anne's classes are very interesting. She told me that she teaches 6 - 7 classes a week and that she has many men students as well. A Chinese man in a business suit showed up with a scarf around his neck, and proceeded to remove the scarf from his neck and tie it around his hips! He is a professor of Chinese medicine and attends Anne's 2 Tuesday night classes with his wife! Most of the other women came to class in skirts and fancy work tops, Anne taught in skintight jeans! I was equipped in my usual Lululemon combo, so I felt really out of place! The beginner class started late as we were all having coffee together before all sauntering upstairs to have our "medicine" (as Anne calls it). The beginner class was super duper easy but it was good for me to have a look at Anne's teaching and style methods. In the end the beginner class ran for 45 minutes, and then I performed at the end. The intermediate class was bigger and we covered more ground. Anne absolutely sparkles with the dance energy and it was wonderful stepping back to watch her sail around the floor with her dynamic dance personality. I left feeling happy and excited.
Well I must be off, got so much to do before I head out...keep in touch. I won't have daily internet access but will try to get on every few days or so. I will also get a Spanish SIM card for my phone so I'll post it when I get it so that you can call me!
Lots of love,
Monday, June 15, 2009
I’m sitting at YVR waiting for my call to board the plane. For the most part I am feeling relatively calm, except for a few fleeting moments of panic that keep slipping by… “What the HELL am I doing???!!!”. My kept mother asking me several times today over and over “Are you sure that you really want to do this??” Simone’s constant questioning about this trip and pointing out that my Vancouver life is indeed very full- why do I need to run away?? (I love you girl!!) have both tested my personal resolve. But I am trusting in the higher purpose of my life that I need a change and that I am open to receiving this change. I am known to be a free spirited girl with slightly flighty intentions (as well as a having firm grasp on living life to the fullest) but never have I ever surrendered to the unknown. I am usually very calculated, slightly fearful and self- deprecating when it comes to my future. And here I am now standing in a line up stepping into the most bold and brave move I have ever done. Moving away.
Its amazing to me how in the final remaining days before a major change the very things that you want to change/leave suddenly become illuminated and bearable. I have been so weary of Vancouver and have a constant unfilled desire to high- tail away from here...yet when I sat last night surrounded by friends and deeply loved ones I realized how lucky I really am. Moving away to start fresh started to feel like a bad idea. But in order for me to get this out of my system, I need to try.
So I am on a plane to London. I am going with no job, work permit, home, or family. I am indeed alone. I do have friends there and I will make new friends of course, but nothing will ever be able to replace the ones I am leaving behind. I have left a job that I have really come to adore, unconditional love and security from vigilant friends and family, left a wonderful cozy home full of memories, and contracted out my dance gigs. In a lot of ways I am crazy. But I am also crazy for adventure.
Many things have started to line up for me when I decided this trip was more than a holiday. Situations started to appear that made me think that I am really being supported externally. Moving out of my home was a really hard thing to do, and I couldn’t even think about it before. But as things played out I realized that this was one of the ways I needed to free myself and just let go. I looked at it more as a gift in the end, and was thankful for the 3 years that I was able to live there. Sometimes we need a bigger push to allow ourselves to let go. In the end I don’t want to have 1 foot here in Vancouver, and another foot in London.
I had a poster hanging on the back of my door at my apartment. It was the Dahlai Lama’s 20 famous quotes. One of them said “Great love takes great risk”. This has become my personal mantra over the past few weeks when I suddenly have a seizing panic. I am not moving to the UK for Martin, but see him as a catalyst for my decision. For years I have talked about doing this and it’s finally come down to the wire to just go and do it. I needed to find myself a nice man who inspires me to do things…not just all stick to all talk and no action. I am standing in a position where many other women have stood before. I guess this is a part of the sacrifice that women in love make for men!
I realize how hard things will be for me, and I hope that I will be able to see the bigger picture when I am feeling down. I look forward to hearing from you and keeping in touch…the feeling of love is truly overwhelming and I thank everyone who is in my life. I also thank all of you who turned to out help me move and give lots of emotional support. And to my wonderful parents who now have my entire life in their living room…I’m so sorry!
With much love and hope,
Saturday, April 11, 2009
Saturday, April 4, 2009
Daniel and Tiggy are both avid swimmers and Tiggy knew of a really great 50m pool out of the core of Chiang Mai so Daniel rented a scooter and fit himself, and us two ladies on it and off we went to the pool! It was so fun zooming around the city, and a great way to catch some cool air...it's getting really really hot!
We spent a couple hours in the pool and lounging on the side...the pool is marvelous and we were the only ones there! It was situated in a jungle like setting with rows of beautiful fanjipany flowers lining the side of the pool. It was really relaxing and again another good way to cool off.
I had a plan to meet up with Leanna and Mike for lunch, so Tiggy and I headed back to "A Taste..." (of course) where we met up with them and had a nice lunch. Mike and Leanna are in Chiang Mai for a few days before heading off to Laos. Tiggy works as a tour leader through Laos, Cambodia, and Vietnam so she had lots of good advice to give them. I was sad to say goodbye to Leanna and Mike as they are so much fun, and have such great travel stories. Leanna and Mike have been travelling now for 6 months and have just returned from spending 48 days in Africa. Leanna is a psych nurse, and has landed a job in Sidney, Oz so Biggie (who is living there now...) will have a chance to reconnect with them when they end up there at the end of May.
Tiggy and I went to NAMO yoga for our last yoga class together :( . Daniel showed up, so the three of us sweated it out in the back row. It was an intense 2 hr class, and I was thankful that there was a shower there so that I could freshen up before my trip to BKK. I hated saying goodbye to Daniel and Tiggy...especially Tiggy as her and I have been inseparable since we met and she's such a lovely woman! I look forward to staying in touch with her and hope to join her on her Yoga Vacation tour that she plans to start soon that will tour SE Asia.
I headed off to BKK and had a smooth flight. Upon landing, I caught a private taxi to head to RamButtri road to book a guesthouse, change my clothes, and head out to meet up with Jordi (one of Martin's best friends) and his mates. The driver was really old and slow, and ended up taking me through the middle of a massive night market...it took almost 1 hr to go 15 blocks, and both him and I were swearing at each other and groaning about the crawl! I ended up getting dressed in the back of the cab...very discreetly although he probably couldn't see much anyway!
I made to to RamButtri Road after 10:30pm. The guest house I was hoping to stay in was closed. I went to a guest house next door and took a room there, for a whopping 300B. The room smelled terribly like drains, and didn't even have a sink! But I was desperate as Jordi was waiting for me at a club. I finally made it to the club and met up with Jordi, and a few of his crew. We were watching his friends' band play- two super powered rocky chicks making the most danceable and wicked-est music that I have heard in a while. After grooving for a bit, his crew wanted to go to a club in the entertainment district of Bangkok. One of Jordi's friends, a guy called Woody called "his" car and "driver" to come pick us up...suddenly I found myself in a souped up SUV that had leather interior, a glass window separating us from the driver, and blacked out windows. Turns out that Woody is the Jay Leno of Thailand...a very famous guy! Woody was awesome and really funny. It was good fun hanging out with him. We ended up going to this cheesy bar with lots of tourists and danced to old skool Madonna, Britney Spears (yeah I know!!) and other mixed tunes. It was fun though as there were loads of lady boys standing on podiums doing the most synchronized and stylistic dancing ever! I was also getting tipsy as I haven't drunk hardly a thing in all these months, (and I don't really drink) so the club was really amusing. After a while there, Jordi's friends wanted to leave. Jordi, however, had other plans for us so we stumbled into a cab and went to this gay club called "Hollywood" where his room mates were. The club was AMAZING and Jordi and I were the only white people there. The boys were all gorgeous, and so sweet. They all wanted to dance with me so I got to groove with really beautiful men and not have them expect anything from me! Jordi's roommates were an absolute riot and man could they MOVE! Jordi told me that at home they will watch music videos and memorize the dance moves so when they all go out together they can all do a show when the song comes on. I danced my heart out, and admittedly got really tipsy as the bartenders were really heavy handed with my drinks! The woman's bathroom was also very interesting...I couldn't tell who was a woman and who wasn't! We stayed until 4 am and then I went back to Jordi's to crash for a bit. I didn't get much sleep though as I was really focused on getting up early and getting back to Ram Buttri Road to get my bags, go do last minute shopping, get my hair and nails done...and eat my small hangover off. Jordi was quite shocked when I woke him up at 9 am told him that I was leaving...he had set his alarm for 11:30! But I had so much to do and time was slipping away, so I had to go.
I got all my errands done and ate loads of mango sticky rice...it's such a delicious dish and I have to thank Tiggy for turning me onto it! YUM!
I'm at Hong Kong airport now and am getting ready for the looong leg to Heathrow...13 hours. But I'm really excited about going to London. I am looking forward to breathing in fresh-ish air. Bangkok was muggy today and it made me feel a bit ill (hangover perhaps?...). Spring air is definitely what my body needs, and maybe it will get rid of this ever present Varanasi cough that refuses to leave...
I'll still be blogging although it may not be as exciting as I'll be back in a Western Country...but I'm so used to writing that I just don't want to stop!
***Thank you to all of you who have reached out to email me about my blog...it means so much that you are reading and more importantly LIKING what you are reading. This is something that I want to continue with so stay posted!***
Love from HK International Airport...
on high speed ziplines. It was really exciting amd extremely nerve racking as we were extremely high up, zooming through trees, and going over rivers. I am also scared of heights but it was really fun nevertheless...I thought it was time to start working on conquering my fear!! We were on the tour with 3 other couples: a couple from Munich, a Polish couple, and a really dysfunctional couple on their honeymoon...a 43 year old English bulldog type man and his blushing 19 year old Thai bride. I had a chance to chat with her while her husband was kicking up a fuss about something, and she told me that he was her first boyfriend. She also said that she wants to start working, as he owns a holiday resort in Kho Samui and wants to make some money of her own. But he won't let her...at lunch he freaked out on her for making a mistake when giving her email address to Tiggy and it escalated to the point of him screaming at her telling her to "F*** OFF!!" and embarrassing her in front of everyone. My heart broke for this poor girl who no doubt will be living a very miserable and potentially abusive life.
After our trek, we went to this lovely waterfall and hiked up the side to the top. The mountains remind me so much of BC, and it was lovely to breathe in the silky rich air. It was worth every penny and I'm so glad that I did something that challenged my fears in such an extreme way! he German girl on our tour started to cry when we got to the first platform and had to have the guide zip with her for the first hour!
Back in town I ran into Daniel (the London hairdresser from Kho Phangan who cut my hair) so him and I had a lovely lunch and as we were parting I ran into Mike and Leanna who had just arrived in Chian Mai and were actually walking around looking for me! I invited them to join Tiggy, James, and I to go to the temple for dinner but Leanna was really sick so only Mike joined us. We all headed over to the temple, but it looked like it was shut down for the night so there was no food for us! So we went back to "A Taste..." and feasted on pad thai, fresh spring rolls, massaman curry, rice, and mushroom cakes. It was sad to say goodbye to James, he is very comical and always has a wise crack on the edge of his tongue. Tigs, Mike, and I went to the night market to meet up with Daniel, and we headed out for a drink at the Rasta Bar where we sat on the dicey and slightly rotted rooftop patio. It was a lovely evening...especially as it is my last night in Chiang Mai! I am going to London on Sunday, so I am flying back to BKK on Saturday night where I will hook up with Jordi and go out and sample some of Bangkok's fantastic nightlife. The London trip was obviously very unexpected, but I am very excited and happy to go there. I'm gonna freeze though, so I'm gonna have stock up on long sleeved shirts in BKK at the market so that I am prepared! I'll be coming home now on the 16th....so I stil have some holiday time left. Yipee!!!
So I'll see you soonish....xoxox
Recipe from "A Taste From Heaven" Restaurant in Chiang Mai... www.tastefromheaven.com
2 cups Brown Rice, cooked
2 cloves crushed and minced garlic
One Tbsp butter
1/2 Cup Pineapple
small bunch of Spring Onions
4-5 pieces of Baby Corn, chopped into rounds
1/2 tbsp Indian curry or ginger powder
1/2 tbsp mushroom powder (or soup mix)
dark or "black" soy sauce
Fry garlic with butter until golden. Add in all the veggies and pineapple until cooked. Add rice and spring onions and mix all together. Add ginger/curry powder, mushroom powder, 1 sugar and 5 "shots" of dark soy sauce. Cook until brown.
This was one of my favorite dishes that I made...let me know if you've attempted it and how it turned out. The measurements are not precise...so use your own discretion and taste buds!
Thursday, April 2, 2009
Mumbai: Bentley's Hotel 17 Oliver Rd, Colaba +9122871846 firstname.lastname@example.org http://www.bentleyshotel.com/
Arambol, GOA: Hotel Ave Maria H.No 22 Modlo Vaddo +918322242974
Kochi, KERALA: Maple Regency Hotel and Residence XL/1511 Cannon Shed Road +914842371711 email@example.com
Kumili, KERALA: Hotel Ambadi Junction Thekkady Bypass Road +91 4869224617, 211015 firstname.lastname@example.org
Trivandrum, KERALA: Greenland Lodge Thampanoor +912328114, +912323485
Delhi: (close to airport) Hotel Eurostar A-27/1 Road No. 1 Mahipalpur Extn. http://www.hoteleurostar.in/ email@example.com
Varanasi, UTTER PRADESH: Alka Hotel/Teerth Guest House D.8/9 Kalika Gali (find them through the Alka at Meer Ghat)
Jaisalmer, RAJASTHAN: Hotel Haveli +919982098489, +912992252552 firstname.lastname@example.org
Pushkar, RAJASTHAN: Hotel Marudhar Kapaleshwas Road (near camel fairground) +911452772415
Jaipur, RAJASTHAN: Umaid Mahal C-20B/2 Bihari Marg, Bani Park +911412201952 http://www.umaidmahal.com/ email@example.com
Bangkok: At Home Guest House 117 Tanao Road, Phanakorn +6622814056 firstname.lastname@example.org
Big Blue, Kho Phangan: Haad Yuan beach, +66(086) 470 2625
Chiang Mai: VIP Guesthouse
Sivanada Yoga Ashram, Neyyar Dam (Trivandrum) India http://www.sivananda.org/ndam/
Wild Rose Yoga and Sauna, Chiang Mai, Thailand http://www.wildrosesauna.com/
Namo Yoga Centre, Chiang Mai, Thailand http://www.namochiangmai.com/
Blooming Lotus Yoga, Ko Phangan, Thailand http://www.bloominglotus.ca/
Ethos Vegetarian Restaurant, Bangkok http://www.ethosnet.biz/
Omelet Shop Near clock Tower, Jodphur, India (yummmmmy...the cook goes through 8000 eggs a day!)
Babaji Shivanada: YOUTUBE http://www.youtube.com/watchv=Ta1cZYXMShl
Swami Naganath: YOUTUBE http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Kzm3hsKD11k
Water Valley Tour (Keralan Tourism) +914842371761/2369811 email@example.com
"A Taste from Heaven" Veggie Restaurant + Ecotours, Chiang Mai, Thailand 237-239 Thapae Rd. Tel: +6653208803 http://www.taste4heaven.com/
Tuesday, March 31, 2009
I met a really lovely woman Tiggy in the class who reminded me alot of my friend Kim whom I met at the Sivanada Ashram. Tiggy and I came back to my hangout - a beautiful vegetarian restaurant called "A Taste of Heaven" and had a luscious feast and talked for hours about life and yoga. I'm doing a cooking class at "A Taste.." tomorrow where I will cook 6 dishes so I invited her to come and sample my inexperienced Thai cooking! We are also planning on going on a Zip Line Trek perhaps on Friday so that should be exciting! Zooming through the jungle at 60km an hour...YIPEE!
I spent yesterday with Diego who took me to a hotel down yet another nondescript residential street (with Thai prostitutes hanging out the door having a leisure afternoon) to go for a swim in a beautiful pool. It was so nice to sit away from the world with water lapping at my feet. I spent 4 hours there reading and swimming and was grateful for the serenity. I went back afterward to "A Taste..." for lunch and ended up meeting this really nice man James from South Cali who lives here in Chiang Mai. We shared the remnants of my spring rolls and I tried a few dishes that he had while we talked about India, the differences btwn Hinduism and Buddhism, and other thought provoking subjects. It was a very stimulating conversation, and James was picking my brain alot about India. I was very happy to share my stories with him, and he encouraged me to be a writer and share all that I experienced! The owner of the restaurant (Roy) came and sat with us and brought us some Gin and tonics (he's a proper english man!!) so I had a nice stiff drink before stumbling off to my yoga class. LOL.
James, Roy, Tiggy, and I are going to go to a nearby Sikh temple on Friday night for free vegetarian food so that should be fun. I may go a bit early and check out the temple.
I'm feeling a bit better and clearer, and ready to come home and sort myself out. I'm looking forward to getting back to work, making some much needed money and closing down my life there. I've got big dreams and plans and I think that it will all work out. I just have to believe and trust. Its a stuggle for a Type A personality like me who loves to control every aspect of my life down to the T but maybe I need to start taking a leap of faith. And just believe, baby, believe.
Anyway I'm off to cook some fabulous dishes...I'll post the recipes!
Monday, March 30, 2009
Thursday, March 26, 2009
I'm here on Haad Yuen beach on Kho Phangan and I'm having an alright time. Thailand is not what I expected it to be. I'm still missing India like mad and having a hard time just chilling on the beach. I'm not really a "relaxer" per se so that may be part of the problem, but I also feel like I am spinning my wheels here and just burning time. I am having anxiety about coming home...I'm really nervous about leaving this trip behind and getting back to life. I have realized so many things about my life back in Vancouver and I am honestly more confused about where I am in my life now that I have been away. I've been feeling awfully lonely and down here, and even started crying in yoga class this morning. The teacher played a track from this album "Sacred Chants of Devi" that had Reena played for me the night before I left to come on my adventure. The song is a beautiful and haunting track regardless but it brought back the excitement and wonder of going away and I felt like I hit a wall. I broke down and started crying, secretly of course...it's hot and muggy enough for me to disguise my tears as beads of sweat. I'm really got to put my nose to the grindstone and figure out a way for me to get to London. I'm just putting it out there, and I have faith it will all work out. I need a change so bad.So the crazy thing is about this beach is that it is full of Vancouvites! The yoga teacher knows me from Beats Without Borders events (she has seen me dance a few times) and in the class I ran into 2 girls I used to party with waaaay back in the day when I was young and crazy (I'm still crazy but not that kind of crazy). The girls are Stacy and Shania (Tezra- Kirsten's friend Stacy). There was another girl in the class from the Drive so that was really funny to see her as well. Turns out that Haad Yuen is the beach to go to! I'm happy to have found Stacy and Shania. We are having a nice time eating loads of yummy food, drinking lots of shakes (pineapple & mint, coconut, and watermelon are my favorites) and of course our daily yoga class. It's been a nice distraction for my overactive mind. They are both moving home to Vancouver after 4 years of being away living in Japan. Stacy has been travelling for one and a half years now and I had just missed her at the Sivanada yoga ashram when I was there by 1 week. Strange.
I've been spending my days pretty much the same...getting up for yoga, eating with the class afterwards at the Bamboo restaurant, going for a swim, reading, watching movies at my bungalow and eating and reading some more. I'm not used to being this chill and I think that is one of the reasons that I am losing my mind! I'm struggling to keep my mood uplifted- I know I sound so melodramatic- but I am having alot of conflicting and confusing thoughts. It's hard being here in paradise and not being able to totally appreciate this beauty. I'm trying to stay present but my mind is a million miles away. Thailand is a good place to get away to but it's not really an experience nor an adventure...and that's the way I like to travel. I have run into more tourists here on this beach than I have in all my travels in India...and I go to sleep listening to banging house music. I miss the jangle of the temples of India in the morning, and the singsong intonation of Hindi.
I had my hair cut by this London hairdresser as my hair was in a dire need to get sorted out. He cut my hair really punky and I suddenly have baby bangs again ("Sweet ones darling") so I am coping with how to style my hair! Especially in this humidity....my hair has gone huge and corkscrewy! I hope the bangs grow out before I return...I look like I am 19 years old again (but with 10 yrs experience lol).
I'm gonna stay here till Sunday- till the end of my yoga pass- and I think that I'll fly to the north to go to Chiang Mai. A couple I met in Munnar (Leeanne and Mike) will be going north on the 1st of April and want to meet me there so I think I will. It'll be nice to have some company and they are hilarious Brits who will keep me laughing for sure. They are coming from spending 2 months in Africa so it will be great to hear their experience.
So I'm off to bed...good night. xoxoxox
Monday, March 23, 2009
I have arrived on Kho Phangan today after a fairly easy journey from Bangkok. I caught the night bus and managed to get a little bit of rest on the bus...I had 2 seats to myself so I twisted myself up sideways and caught some shut eye. We stopped at 24 hour Thai food extravaganza...it was brillantly lighted with hot pink and mint green fluroscent lights. a shrill woman barking orders over the super loud speaker system, and the craziest assortment of food I have ever seen. I was right out of it so I didn't take any pictures...but if I stop at a place like this on my way back believe me I will!
I caught a high powered catamaran to Kho Phangan which took about 3 hours. I passed out for most of the trip, but awoke when we arrived on Kho Tao to see the chunky island dressed in emerald palm trees and white sand. I arrived on Kho Phangan and immediately was addressed by a Hare Krishna spreading his love of Krishna...I must have something written all over my soul or something! I gave him 50 B for his book on Karma-Yoga and caught a minibus to Haad Rin (the infamous Full Moon Party beach) so that I could catch a boat to Haad Yuen. I met a girl named Lucy on the bus who lives here on Kho Phangan -actually at the yoga centre The Sanctuary. Lucy convinced me to go right to The Sanctuary and check out the beach there. So I went to that beach and checked into a dorm room at the Sanctuary. As I was getting out of the boat I ran into a Vancouver Yoga Teacher at the Sanctuary doing a teachers training course! It really is a small world isn't it!
The Sanctuary is a really beautiful spot but it was a bit too high-end hippy resort-y for my liking. The restaurant had gorgeous (but expensive) food, so I splashed out on a lentil burger which was music to my lips. I ended up walking the steep pathway through the jungle to Haad Yuan- the beach that Sarah had recommended inititally and found it was much more to my liking. So I booked a room at the Big Blue Bungalow, trekked back to the Sanctuary, packed up all my stuff, and trekked back to the Big Blue. This was all done between 2:30 & 3:30 in 37C heat. and I forgot to reapply my sunscreen after my post- meal swim. I have very burned shoulders and a rather Rudolph looking nose...alas my quick dosing of SPF 40 didn't help much.
I met a really strange Israeli fellow (who I think was gay) who took a real liking to me, so much so that he tried to climb into my hammock with me. I felt rather uncomfortable OBVIOUSLY so I fled as soon as I could claiming that I was being bitten by mossies (which I was...they are as big as birds here). This fellow is named Asher, and I'm hoping to avoid him at all costs...he seems like a real wierdo! But this beach is TINY and very unpopulated so unless I hide out in my bungalow all day or leave the beach I'm sure I'll be seeing lots of him. He seems like the real man about town...I hope he's just extra gay and friendly, not creepy and lecherous! LOL
I'm starting yoga tomorrow morning so I'm quite excited. I'm not really one to sit and relax much on the beach so I need some activity besides shopping (which there isn't much of here thankfully) and eating (yikes...I really need the yoga to stop me from eating so much!). Staring at the endless sea is lovely and all but I cannot spent 10 days doing that. I may head into town Haad Rin in a few days to check out the scene there, but I'll wait till after the Black Moon party to do so.
I had a fab dinner at my bungalow and watched the movie "Old School" there. The Big Blue shows 2 movies a night, so that will be a good way to ease into bedtime..seeing as I lost my beloved book "A New Earth" somewhere between Bangkok and here. Oh Ashley. Typical!
The rain has now eased off so I guess I will mosey back to my bunglaow and hunker down for the night. I'm going to get up early and wander the beach a bit before all the rest of the other people get their yoga grooves on.
Mom and dad- so sorry to hear about Alf :( but hopefully he's in peace now. Send gramma my love.
Sunday, March 22, 2009
I got up pretty early yesterday and checked out of my hotel and into another one that is off Khao San Road in a much quieter area. The veggie restaurant that I have been living (Ethos) is next door to me, so that is quite a treat!! I ended up shipping home another box yesterday...I ended up buying a Rajasthani bedspread in Benaras from Prem's shop that I had been coveting for the past month and a half. I may be late in getting some gifts distributed as the SAL mail service will take a minimum 4 weeks to get to Canada...so please be patient!
I went to Wat Phrew Kao (The Emerald Buddha temple) and City Gate Palace yesterday as well as I popped into Wat Po (The Reclining Buddha Temple). Wat Po was amazing, and holds the largest gold reclining Buddha in the country. On the wall along his backside you can make a nominal donation and get a little bowl full of tiny coins that you drop into buckets that line the wall. I said a little prayer for every coin I dropped...I'm not sure exactly what this routine was for so I thought that I should make the most of what I was doing!
After visiting the temple, Sarah recommended that I go and get a Thai Massage as Wat Po has an excellent school there for massage. I booked an hour long massage and was worked over beyond belief. I'm not sure why everything was so painful- I haven't been very active so maybe that's why but it still felt good. I had every part of my body worked over, and the tiny Thai woman put my body into positions and then used her body to stretch me further. It felt amazing and kinda like I had a workout...Lazywoman's yoga I guess I could say!
I went to the Weekend Market (CHACHEW) today and shopped like crazy. I'm now regretting sending over that package as I could have filled it with so much more stuff! My backpack is back to being as heavy as it was when I had the bedspread in it. Damn! The market was insane...had absolutely everything available...from handicrafts, tons and tons of clothes and thelike, sheets, Thai silk, home furnishings to pets like dogs, rabbits and turtles and much much more. It was so hot though and the humidity is really stifling. But it's better than being cold and wet back at home (sorry for the jab...;)).
It's been amazingly difficult to get vegetarian food here. I had some pad Thai yesterday that was pretty good but to be honest I'm not such a fan of Pad Thai to begin with. It tasted better than the Pad Thai back at home though as ketchup isn't used. I'm looking forward to getting to the beach and getting a little routine place to hang and eat at.
I got an email from Adrian today who is studying esoteric tantra yoga for 6 months in Kho Phanang. The yoga itself doesn't call out to me but running into an old friend does so I'm gonna make sure to call him when I arrive. I'm going a little batty talking to myself...although as long as I don't answer everything is alright...right? LOL
I'm off to Kho Phanang tonight and I am excited to get some R & R and do lots of yoga. Sarah sent me some really good recommendations so thank you my streudal!
I'll check in with more deets later.
Friday, March 20, 2009
I've arrived in Disneyland..aka Bangkok. I am not feeling it at all at the moment and have had quite a few wobbly moments as I just miss India so much! I am also suffering from MAJOR culture shock, and it doesn't help that I was dropped off in backpacker hell...Khao San Road. The area is loaded with half naked tourists, (well that's not really the case but it sure seems like it!) everyone is around 20 years of age and all getting wasted on Thai Buckets. Top 40 music is pumping from the cafes and 7/11, Pizza Hut, Starbucks, and Subway dot my corner. I'm feeling one step closer to home. Yikes.
I got about 3 hours sleep last night and was awoken by the reception at my hotel at 2:15am. I struggled to get going but made it in plenty of time to Bombay International. The whole morning (shall I say mourning?...) seemed like a dream. I was quite emotional at the airport and I longed to stay on in India. But I boarded my plane and had a really nice flight to Bangkok.
I arrived in Bangkok and caught a cab into town. I was trying to figure out what the noise was that I WASN'T hearing...silence!!! No one was honking, everyone was driving sanely...it was almost too much to take! Ahh how I long for the craziness of good ole Indian highways...wait I must be really homesick to wish that upon myself!
I got to Khao San Road iat 12 noon and took the first hotel I came across. I was knackered and needed a place to drop my bags to chill. It is a nice hotel but quite expensive so I will move on tomorrow once I have had a decent sleep.
I did a bit of shopping and had lunch at this really lovely veggie restaurant. The street is so overloaded with tourists that I cannot hardly stand it. In all of India the only places that I saw this many tourists was Arambol and Pushkar. But there they had the whole city to spread themselves out...here its only a few blocks. I decided that I needed to unwind so I went and got a mani, pedi and reflexology treatment to calm and treat myself...my feet are looking gorgeous and I fell asleep during the reflexology treatment. The Thai really know their beauty stuff for sure.
I'm gonna stick around in Bangkok at least till Monday and then I think I will head to Kho Phanang to go to a yoga retreat centre there. Flashes of white sand and turquoise seas may be the thing to soothe my soul. If you have any recommendations please let me know as I am travelling by the seat of my pants!
Thailand just seems to be the land of excess..whether its the Thai prostitutes hanging off every middle aged white mans' arm, the massively indulgent Thai bucket, cheap and oily street food, cheap prescription drugs, and 7/11's on each and every corner. Everything is available ALL the time here in Thailand, and it's not something I'm into.
Starting to face the reality of returning to reality back home..it's amazing how fast these months have gone really. But I have my UK trip to tide me over in June...and hopefully I'll land a job (and a visa EEK!!) over there so that gives me something to look forward to. Keep your fingers crossed for me...I really need a fresh start in my life!
Lots of love from BKK...
Thursday, March 19, 2009
I came to Puri to meet up with Martin. Martin has come to Puri to look at a school that has been successfully running for 5 years. The children who attend the school are either orphaned, live far away, or are too poor to go to public school in the city. The school is run and funded by a Spanish woman from Galicia named Neneta. Neneta is a regular here in India, and has been coming to India every year since 1984. Martin has also spent alot of time here in India. Martin has been wanting to help out in some way to give back to a country that has given him so much. Under the guidance of Babaji (Shivanada) Martin was directed to contact Neneta, who was also guided previously by Babaji to open the school.
Neneta originally helped to reopen a school in Juanga, Orissa that was destroyed by a cyclone in 1999. The cyclone killed 100,000 people, and destroyed many of the small surrounding villages. Many of the survivors survived only by huddling together in large groups that made them too heavy to be carried away by the winds. Neneta singlehandedly raised enough money through raffle sales and donations back in Spain to rebuild the school. She then created an NGO called Shanga that helped generate more funds for the project.
Neneta decided to let the project go in 2005 when an American NGO stepped in and wanted to take over the project. Neneta again started looking for a way to help the children of Orissa. Orissa is one of the poorest states in India, and the people of Orissa are heavily trodden with troubled times. The annual monsoon wipes out much of the agriculture, and villages often get flooded and washed away.
One day Neneta was talking to Babaji who suggested that she go to Puri and see how she could help in the villages around there. Once in Puri, Neneta then met a wonderful man named Umesh who owns a local travel agency. He also wanted to help his people and agreed to assist Neneta in her vision of building a school. The two of them then found a plot of land in the jungle in Pubai ( 1.25 hours from Puri) which they purchased and started building a school.
The journey to the school was a beautiful drive- we drove through tiny villages alongside emerald rice paddy fields and watched the sky get framed by palm tree groves. Many villagers looked at us with curiosity as we bumped along the dirt path in the white Ambassador. Once we arrived at the gates of the school, a flood of children came down to meet us. They greeted Umesh and Neneta first, and then came to greet Martin, Dina, Mano, and myself. Many of the children bent down to touch our feet and then touch their foreheads in a sign of great respect. Hands searched for clearance to greet us with "Namaste! Como estas? What's your good name??" It was very touching and tears quickly sprung to my eyes.
We spent the evening touring the school and trying to get comfortable in the 40 degrees heat. In the evening, the children run 1 km to a nearby lake where they take a bath. Every evening after the bath the kids have a yoga class, and man are they ever flexible! From standing upright to bending backwards into bridge, getting legs behind heads, twisting themselves into a pretzel...they do it all! I watched the session with extremely wide eyes, gave an occasional gasp, and tried to mask a whole lot of envy.
The children finish the yoga session with chanting. Two young girls led the opening bhajan which was then sung by the rest of the group. It was a beautiful experience listening to the tiny voices lilt and sing, and then echoed back in response by the rest of the group. The children sit straight backed in half lotus position with closed eyes and their hands folded gracefully into namaste at their hearts. On this evening after the chanting the children were then sprung into their music class. Normally the music class falls on the weekend, but because it was a special evening (as we were all there visiting), the teacher decided to showcase his workings with the students. The music teacher is a man from a nearby village who comes on the weekends. He plays the tabla, harmonium, and other traditional instruments. He also had a rich melodious voice, and sang us a haunting traditional Orissa folksong that made my heart ache. The children sang many songs for us, in both Oriya and in Spanish. Neneta then brought our talents to the table- we had an impromptu talent show! I bellydanced 2 songs for the kids, Martin played a song on his guitar, and Patri (a Spanish girl who was also at the school visiting with her boyfriend Arthuro who painted a vibrant mural in one of the classrooms) sang a Orissa song that she had learned over the previous days. The kids then volunteered to get up and perform...some of the shy girls sang sweet love songs with Filmi style dancing, some of the boys did outragous Bollywood disco, and one even dramatically told a joke which made us all laugh even though we didn't speak Oriya! The children are rife with talent and eager to learn. I taught them how to zaghreet (a Middle Eastern ululation that is made by chirping La-la-la really fast) which I am sure will drive the teachers all wild!
The kids love being in school and seem to all work hard. 97 children sleep at the school full time, while the other 150 go home in the evenings. The children that stay at the school sleep together on the classroom floor on palm mats.
The next day we had another impromptu talent show where I was again asked to perform and this time got a few of the young girls up to dance. Their ability to move was astounding and I was suprised to see such natural ability. Neneta asked me to teach a dance class for the girls later on in the afternoon which I did in the hot, hot heat. I had about 30 girls in the class and had alot of fun teaching them. Many of them danced very naturally and often added their own bit of expression and flair. I was exhausted after teaching for only 30 minutes, but they just wanted to keep on dancing!
The school is doing well but donations are always needed to keep the project moving. There is currently no running water nor electricity at this point, but Neneta hopes that in the near future the funds will be there to bring these vital things to the school. Neneta is also looking to hire an english teacher for the school.
I am personally involved in helping this school reach its highest potential. Neneta and Umesh have worked so hard to establish a solid foundation for Maria Solina. Presently there is no way to donate internationally, but there are established Spanish and Indian bank accounts. I talked to Neneta about setting up a PayPal account, so hopefully when she goes back home to Spain she will get it going.
The current website for the NGO Shanga is http://www.shangaindia.org/ but I believe that it is in Spanish.
In terms of donating, it only takes a few dollars a month to make a difference. For example, the cost to feed 1 child is a mere 0.10 Euro cents per day. As I said earlier, Neneta's current wish list items are to provide running water and electricity, an english teacher for the school, and to bank some money for the Stage 2 and 3 buildings that will serve as dorms for the students and teachers. Neneta has funded the school solely on money that she has made back from donations from friends and family. She also receives nominal donations in a collection box placed on the wickets from clients at the bank where she currently works. She is going to be retiring at the end of this year, so she is a bit nervous about the loss of funds from the bank donantions.
I will list Neneta and Umesh's details in case you want to contact them to help out in anyway.
***For you dancers- any old dvds or cds that you have lying around would be greatly appreciated as Neneta wants to get a CD, tv and dvd player in the future so that the girls can watch dance videos to learn moves as there just isn't any funding available at this time for a dance teacher. I wanted to sponsor a teacher to come to the school and teach dance but the teacher Umesh talked to charges 3000Rs/ a month which is quite steep. I will be sending over some videos so if you want to get them to me I will post them all when I get home. They LOVED bellydance, but would take any videos as long as its some form of classical dance.
Neneta Herrero firstname.lastname@example.org
Umesh "Travel Fair" email@example.com
Check out Babaji in the movie Baraka...he looks SOOOO YOUNG!!!
I am sitting in a little cyber cafe in the industrial part of Bombay close to the international airport. The temperature is 32C and the air is dirty, hot, and sticky. I am writing with a much leaden heart as today is my last day here in this amazing country and I am truly very sad to see this portion of my life end. I had a really tearful goodbye with Martin this morning in Benaras, and have been feeling wobbly ever since. I did, however, perk up on the Indian Airways flight from Benaras to here as they were playing non-stop Janet Jackson videos from the late 80's and early 90's....only here in India!
I have spent the last few days in Benaras just chilling and getting last minute stuff done. Martin is heading to Bombay tomorrow as he is going back to London on Saturday, and sadly couldn't accompany me here as he has loads of stuff to do for his last night in Benaras. We spent the whole day yesterday running all over the place trying to tie up loose ends, and since this is INDIA it always takes much longer than anticipated. I had to try and figure out how to get all the stuff I accumulated over the last few days either in my bag or shipped back home. Sadly I had to leave a few things at Martin's friends' home (like my carpet :( and some clothes) but that only means that I will have to go back. And go back I will. Definitely next winter. My bag which was feeling pretty empty after I shipped stuff back home in Jaipur is completely and utterly filled to the brim and is weighing over 20 kgs. Once I get to Thailand I'll have to send another shipment home methinks.
I am off to Thailand tomorrow at 5:45 am. I have to be at the airport for 3:30am which means I should be up by half 2. I was awake almost the whole night last night because there was a crazy house party next door and I was also feeling laden with sadness so I spent the whole night tossing and turning. Not even the bottle of Veuve Clicquot champagne that we drank made me pass out. So I'm feeling sleep deprived, sad as hell, hot and bothered, and happy. Quite the range of emotions. I have absolutely no idea about what I am doing in Thailand- I left my travel guide at home and my guest house that I had previously booked and paid for for my early March 3 night accomodation has not returned any of my emails re-confirming my booking. I don't know where I am going to go, where I will stay, even how much money I have at this point!!! But it's all a part of the adventure, even though I am sure that my parents are really unhappy with me at this moment after reading this! I am not feeling Thailand at all and I think I may see if I can come home early. I may try to get to Ko Samui and try to head to a yoga ashram there. I'm not into the big beach scene and since I have been spending alot of time thinking, being, and talking about spirituality...the whole beach scene makes me feel a bit sick. So I think yoga may be a good option, and I can also get some exercise!
I went to the temple last night at Manikarnika (burning ghat). It was a really special evening, not only because it was my last night in Benaras but also that the Baba Naganath (who I wrote about in my Kashivashi blog) had returned from a few weeks stay in hospital and was there to lead the evening AArti. He is still on his hunger strike for the Ganga, and is on day 240 of fasting. Naganath is obviously as skinny as a rake but he seems like he is doing alright and was moving around like anyone of us. It is really amazing to see the human body functioning under such deprivation. I think Naganath will take this to the very end...he is really commanding alot of attention for this cause. The biggest polluters of the mother Ganga are the US and Europe owned chemical plants that are dumping huge amount of toxic chemicals in the Ganga and rewarding the municipalities richly with lots of money to turn a blind eye. Never mind the fact that the Ganga is the holiest river in the world, and that the Hindu faith revolves around it. Martin shot a 10 minute video of Naganath in hospital talking about his hunger strike and the problem with the Ganges and it will be posted it on Youtube with English Subtitles. I will post the link when that happens.
I have so much to thank India for. This experience has been some of the wildest adventures that I could never have dreamed nor expected, and I can't believe that I ever had reluctance about actually coming to India. I have personally experienced some of the deepest sense of peace and happiness I have ever had here in India. On the flip side I have also confronted much negativity and darkness. I am grateful that I came back to Benaras in the end as I left with a bad taste in my mouth and my week back there has erased alot of those bad memories. I am leaving India with a major chai and biscuit addiction, an automatic head wiggle when talking, having Namaste burned into my vocabulary, a possible tuberculosis cough, and accepting that India really is the most chaotic, stressful, aggressive, beautiful, giving, hilarious, and maddening place in the universe! The land of organized chaos time and time again.
This country is a land of extremes- from the street child pulling burning plastic out of a midroad fire to the fancy SUV's that cruise the back lanes, from the dirty and matted hair of a tribal woman to the proud way she carries water back to the village. This country is technicolour at best and almost like an acid trip at times. The biggest gift I have received in this trip is the closeness I have come to accepting a level of faith and trust- I have never really thought much about faith in the past beyond the ordinary but here in India it is prevalent everywhere. Cars with dashboards Durgas screaming for a safe journey, the shopkeeper that won't make a sale until he finishes his opening Puja, the family kept shrines that dot most corners in Varanasi and represent almost every Hindu deity. Flashing fingers sparkling with astrology derived stones to increase wealth, shift dodgy planetary alignments, pearls to keep calm and full of self-assurance. Necks heavy with charged malas and charms. Babies with heavily kajaled eyes and red protection bracelets. From laughing Babaji's drinking 17 cups of chai to the heroin ridden ones shooting up in dark corners...this country is again rife with contradictions but is always governed by some level of faith.
I have had the immense opportunity of getting past the snide money maker Babas and meeting some of the real deal ones here in the temples. I have had alot of help from Martin who has undergone quite the spiritual transformation on this trip especially and I feel very lucky to have had such experiences. Being at the evening Aarti as the only woman in a dark corner of the Manikarnika temple is an experience that I will never forget. The acceptance I have been given has been most humbling and affirming. I didn't come here to find a Guru but instead came to realize that the real Guru is truly yourself.
This land is truly Incredible. Go and see it for yourself.
Monday, March 16, 2009
Wednesday, March 4, 2009
I went down to mommas and Anu's room and waited while they got ready. Momma had made some purchases in Ajmer the day before and was very excited to show me what she had bought. She was especially excited about this satin pink and red bedspread she had bought for Shazia's impending nuptials. It wasn't quite my taste, but I oohed and aahed anyway. Shazia and Sabah showed up about 20 minutes later and then we were off! Our driver was waiting outside for us, and the sky started to change colour as the sun came up. I felt a surge of excitement and felt again very honoured to be able to join this family on the trip to the Taj. We had a really nice drive- we were all very much awake with excitement and they were all dying to find out information about me and my life in Canada. I told them all the Hindi I had learned to date (not very much really!!) and they were keen to teach me more. I managed to learn numbers 11 - 20 on the trip, so I can now count to 20 in Hindi! Momma asked me to sing a song for them so I croaked out "O Canada" and then she sang some lovely traditional Hindi songs. The driver swerved sharply at one point and swore loudly. Shazia asked him what was wrong, and he pulled over on the shoulder, turned the car around and then drove back in the direction that we had just come from (and driving on the WRONG side of the highway. *sigh*). He once again pulled over on the shoulder and we saw a massive brown snake lying on the already heated pavement. It was HUGE!!! We all gotoutto take pictures...and then we realized that it was a 2 headed snake! It had a head on both ends of the body!! So WIERD! Some men working nearby came to over to see what we were all looking at and picked up the snake in the middle of its body. We all screamed ( I think I screamed the loudest...don't know why as I am not afraid of snakes) and they all started to laugh. We got back in the car and started driving again. We made it to Agra in about 4 hours. The second that we parked and gotoutof the car, the hassling began. Shazia handled it really well and arranged for us to get a rickshaw up to the main gate. Sabah was dying to ride a camel up to the gate, but the prices were very inflated and we all wanted to get going. I paid 750 rupees ($20) to get in while as a foreigner, but the girls all got in for 20 rupees. We made our way to the entrance, and then we saw the gleaming white marble. I got realy excited and a bit emotional as I have always wanted to see the Taj and here I finally was. We all walked through the gate in silence and then stood in wonder once we got through. The Taj is everything that you have ever pictured it to be. It stands on a pedestal so that the background is only sky. 4 red gates flank its sides, each one as regal as the next. It was very busy for a Tuesday so we had to move away from the gate quickly so thatothers could have a moment capturing the beauty. We took loads and loads of pictures, and momma kept on getting in trouble from the impatient girls who wanted to go inside. The heat was searing at midday and I was suddenly glad that Ileft my salwar kamis at home and opted for my short sleeved and cotton dress. As were were walking up the steps to go inside, Shazia pulled me back and said that she wanted to speak with me. She told me that she has a boyfriend in America who is Indian and that they wanted to marry each other. The problem was that he is a Christian, and Shazia's family are very strict Muslims. Shazia approached her family 1 year ago to try to convince them, and her parents both refused and forbade her to ever speak to him again. They had met in India when she was doing her MBA and they quickly became friends. He would come o the house and hang out withthe whole family, and momma actually really liked him. But once Shazia talked to her about marying him, he was quickly denied and forgotten. Shazia is panicking as her family has found her a husband who is also from Bangalore but is living in Quatar and the family wants the wedding to happen later this year. Shazia had been accepted to work in the US but with the global economic crisis, the job was taken away and given to a US citizen. She told me that the plan was for her to go to the US, they would marry, and then they would tell her family. But now that she has lost that opportunity there was diminishing hope. She asked me for advice which I really could not give as I come from such a different world and in my life I can marry anyone from anyplace that I choose. I felt really sad forher, and I got quite choked up while talking to her about this. Shazia said that this reason was why she came to Ajmer as she wanted to go to the Mosque and pray.
We held hands for a moment and I told her that I would pray for her that her family will change their minds..so if anyone of you need someone else to pray for PLEASE pray for Shazia!
We spent about an hour roaming around the Taj and taking turns relaxing in the shade. The gleaming white marble stayed refreshingly cool in the blinding sunshine. On our way back to the car, we stopped at one of the shops and drank endless cups of chai while momma shopped for carpets, more bedspreads and jewelery for Shazia's wedding. I was convinced to buy a carpet as it was only 2500 rupees so now I have got to carry a carpet around for the rest of my journey (I may give it to Martin to putin his Spanish house..I really can't fathom carrying this around for another month and I just sent off a parcel home). We got back in the car and most of us fell asleep. I was absolutely fried from the sun and felt exhausted. We then drove for about 1/2 hour to this other must see in Agra- the Itmad-ud-Daulah. This was a better experience for me as it was not very busy, we reached it just before sunset, and the environment was very peaceful. The Itmad-ud-Daluah Tomb is a Mughal mausoleum in the city of Agra in the Indian state of Uttar Pradesh. Often described as 'jewel box', sometimes called the Baby Taj, the tomb of Itmad-Ud-Daulah is often regarded as a "draft" of the Taj Mahal. It was absolutely breathtaking at sunset as the suns fading rays litup the red stone and turned it a burned scarlet colour. I got many photrographs which I will post once I get onto a better computer later on. the girls all went inside the mosque while I sat and enjoyed some men singing and playing tabla.
We stayed until dark and then we had an episode with our rickshaw driver (no surprises really) aboutpayment. I couldn't understand what was happening as it was all done in flying Hindi but Shazia was really really mad and upset. That was a very unfortunate way to end the day. But we allpiled back into the car and made the long journey home. We gothome by 10:30 pm and I wentoff to bed after saying a sad goodbye to new family in Bangalore. They left early the next morning, as did Penny so I am all alone in Jaipur! I'm off though to Delhi on Thursday where I willspent 1 night at my friend Charlot's flat before catching a flight to Bhubanshwar to meet up with Martin in Puri.
Hope all is well with you, I'll post the pics once I get to Puri!
Monday, March 2, 2009
I am definitely paying for it now, although I actually craved and held down real food (aside from curd which has been my staple over the last fewdays) today so that is a good sign. Indeed.
So to sum up the last few days...I spent my last day in Pushkar hangingout at the Savitri temple and I met a really lovely and funny American couple at the top. We all headed down the mountain and went to visit Sundeep at his herbal tea cafe. We enjoyed a lovely glass of chai and then decided to get scooters and headout on a bit of a roadtrip. Sunny ended up taking us to the otherside of the desert to this other Shiva temple which was nestled in a valley between 2 masse mountains. Sunny took me on his bike which was great as the road was really sandy and rocky, and Amanda and Brian rented a scooter. The ride was amazing- we sailed past lush gardens growing marigolds, roses, and herbs which lit up my olfactory glands in the dusty heat. Children came out to whack our hands as we sailed past. We spent about 4 hoursout in the desert, and sat in this Shiva cave in meditation for about 20 minutes. It was so cool and dark inside the cave...we had to climb down stairs that were carved into rock to get to the main lingam.
I left Pushkar the next day with a ready and sound mind. I enjoyed my time there but was definitely ready to move on. I had my bus ticket and a lovely hotle courtesy of my loving father. I was feeling really il though so I was a bit worried about how I was going to fare on the journey. Well India has a way of messing with yourplans in the only way that it can- by turning everything upside down. I ran into a Baba that I had met on my first venture out to the desert, a realy sweet and young man who spoke fairly good English. I told him that I was ill (it was fairly noticable as I was a particularshade of green) and he blessed me with some mala beads and some other gifts. I invited him out to get somethingto eat (curd for me) and we sat and chatted for a while. He sudenly asked me to move closer to him and he then showed me a very infected testicle after telling me that he was in great pain. I had noticed him limping butdidn't want to ask any questions. I wasn't sure what to do, and an alarm bell went offinside me. I did want to help the guy- he had walked for 2 hours from the middle of the desert to Pushkar and was on his way to Rishikesh...so I gave him some money for medicine. He blessed me yet again, and I just really hope that he actually spends the money on meds...he does have a fairly significant chillum habit. I did checkw ith Martin though about this as he knows the Baba's way and he said that it was fairly standard to be so open with such a private partof the body..the naga babas wear no clothes and Babas are supposed to be above any sort of modesty. So I guess it was in order from his side toshow me this, although in my western way I was really shocked!
I made it down to the bus stop for 2:30- 30min before my scheduled bus departure. And waited...and waited...and waited....The men who sold me my ticket seemed totally uninterested in the fact that the bus was meant to be there for 3 and that I was geting picked up in Jaipur at 7 pm by my hotel. They also told me suddenly that the bus was going to stop in Ajmer for 45 minutes so that I would be arriving later than 7:30pm. I asked to call my hotel to let them know that I would be late on arival, but the men wouldn't let me "Madame they know this bus is always late". Well I sure wish I had known as I would have taken another mode of transit!! The bus finally showed up, and on I went only to discover that I was joining a tour group and that the stop in Ajmer was actually going to be for 1 hr and a half...enough time for everyone to go to the mosque in Ajmer! The driver took one of my bags, dropped it in the trunk and then asked for 20 rupees "Luggage charge madam" which I didn't pay for. In Ajmer I didn't get off the bus, and sat fuming on the side of the highway with an aching tummy. To top it off the bus driver and his sidekick took a liking to me and came to sit with me asking me all sorts of questions. Luckily there was an equally frustrated Japanese guy who took pity on me and asked me in broken english if I would like to get off the bus and split a taxi with him to Jaipur. I gotoff the bus and together we headed off to find a taxi driver who would takeus for a good price. We found someone to take us for 1350 rupees after bargaining for about 15 minutes and off we went. It was a fairly relaxing journey aside from the fact that we were almost killed a dozen of times by huge trucks carrying massive loads on their ends driving in our lane trying to pass the other trucks carying massive loads, and the fact that we listened to the same track the entire time to Jaipur. But we reached Jaipur in one piece (with me whispering the occasional OM NAMAH SHIVAYA) and were dropped off at the bus station at 6 pm. The driver wouldn't call my hotel to let them know that I arrived early so I headed to the nearest phone booth to call my hotel. I was surrounded by touts immediately and no amount of me telling them that I already 1) Had a hotel 2) Was going to be picked up momentarily would get them away from me. "Please madam good price I take you good hotel" "Madame why you like this? My hotel so nice, you first business for me today" "Madame I give you good ride for good price in rickshaw, ok please come". I walked out of the station with 5 men following me and more men joining the group "Madam you need rickshaw? I take you good price". I started to get very annoyed and angry and told them all to leave me alone, which none ofthem did. I'm starting to think that they just cannot hear nor understand the word "NO". I think the word "NO" means to ask again! I asked someone where the Traffic Jam Cafe (where my hotel driver was going to meet me) was, "Madam so far 10 minutes this way. I take you in rickshaw. Good price". This continued with many people jumping in to tell which way the cafe was "NO madam this way good restaurant cheap price" when in all actuality it was behind me the whole time! I finally found it after getting really frustrated and settled in momentarily before my driver came and swept me into his car. Pnce I arrived at the hotel Umaid Mahal, I was in heaven! The elaborate paintings on the outside as well as the gleaming gold front doors assured me that I had indeed found a litlle piece of paradise in the polluted and soiled capital of Rajasthan! Thanks DADDY! My bedroom is amazing and I have a lovely bathroom with 24 hr hot water and a proper shower..it's been weeks since I have had a proper shower...it's been bucket baths for ages!! I settled in nicely and slept very well. I spent most of Sunday in bed watching bad Indian tv (the dance shows are the WORST! And ALWAYS on!!) and sitting on my terrace having a read. I met a really lovely Indian family from Bangalore (3 daughters and 1 mama) who have now adopted me and are taking me with them to Agra on Tuesday to see the majestic Taj Mahal. I'm very excited to spend the whole day with them and get to know them, and they are excited to show me their country and one of the ancient 7th wonders of this world. I was taken out though by a rickshaw driver though and managed to spend a pretty penny on a strand of rubies- my present to myself for making it through one of the worst periods of my life- so I felt really indulgent but satisfied. It's a small strand but the necklace is gorgeous and I can finally say that I am done shopping here in India!
I made it outtoday with the rickshaw driver and saw a goodportion of this pink city. I have to say that I'm really noit very impressed- if I had come here first then I may have a different view but after being in the smaller Rajasthani cities I find this one a bit much. It's very loud, noisy, polluted, the people are very harrassing, and hot. I have been grabbed by street people begging while sitting in the rickshaw and everyone expects money everywhere I turn. I am finding it really exhausting especially in my sick state and my hotel has become my sanctuary from it all. I managed to see the City Palace, the minaret over looking Jaipur, the Maharaja gardens and "lake" (dust bowl with empty fountain", the monkey temple of the Sun God, and my favorite place the Maharaja Masoleum underneath the forts. It was absolutely stillthere with intricately carved crypts and tombs. Ispent about 45 minutes walking around escapingthe heat and admiring the carvings. I also found an eagle feather and loads of peacock feathers so that made for a nice scavenger hunt. My driver was really nice although I may have ruined his plans of taking me to "his friend's shop" as my visa card stopped working so suddenly I was whisked back to the hotel (with no complaints from me...I was DONE). I did manage to catch a preview of the impending Holi festival though on the Jaipur streets…a massive procession of people, decorated elephants, coloured camels, marching bands, flying marigolds, blasting music, and sailing colours came down the Jaipur streets. I was very excited to see the procession, and hope that the Holi festival will be as colourful in Puri as it will be here in Rajasthan!
I’m still feeling very ill though and have started to take antibiotics unfortunately. Hopefully I’ll be able to eat something other than curd in the next fewdays…and I don’t want to feel like this when I am viewing the Taj!