Saturday, January 31, 2009
Delhi is a cool 22 degrees which was a bit of a shock to my tropically adjusted body. Kochin was 30C when I left at 10:30am!! I hear Rajastan is really chilly at the moment so I'm pretty much out of luck with my Kashmir trousers and short sleeved tops. Thank god for my Lululemon trousers and my 1 pair of leggings. Oh yes and my one hoody. Damn. I'll have to get some shopping down in Varanasi when I arrive tomorrow so that I don't freeze. Yikes.
I just spoke to Martin and he is on his way to Varanasi. There has been really bad fog in the mornings so his flight was cancelled so he's on a train from Delhi. I'm praying that my flight makes it out tomorrow morning...cross your fingers and toes (but not your eyes!!) for me.
Friday, January 30, 2009
Bigs, Aggy, and I went to the Indian Coffee House for brekkie and I ran into 2 women whom I shared the dorm with at the ashram! It was so lovely to see them and I felt again a bit emotional. I left Bigs and Aggy and caught the train from Triv to Cochin where I am now. It's still smoking hot at 10:30 pm. I"m flying to Delhi tomorrow and will spend the night there before heading up to Benares on Sunday. I spoke to Martin a few hours ago and he is flying there tomorrow so I'll definitely meet him there. I'm relieved and excited to have a few laughs. I hear that the north is quite cold....and I'm sure i will really miss the heated south when I'm up there. Especially when I am having a freeeezing cold shower. Brrr. I have really enjoyed my time here in the south and when you have such amazing travelling partners like Bigs and Aggy it makes for wonderful memories. xxoxoxoxox
Tuesday, January 27, 2009
On my final day here at the Sivanada Yoga Ashram and I am feeling very sad!! I've had such an amazing time here and have developed some good friendships as well. I would love to stay on for another week or so, but I'm flying to Varanasi on Sunday so I gotta make the trek back to Triv so that I can get to Kochi on Friday to fly out on Saturday to Mumbai, then Delhi, then finally to Varanasi. The yoga has been really good and challenging as I've moved up to the intermediate level. I've managed a headstand but it only happened once and I've got a nasty bruise on my shoulder that bears witness to my other attempts!! I like the intermediate class as it moves faster and gets into more challenging positions for longer. I'm already pretty flexible so it pushes me deeper into the poses. Its been amazing for my body and I feel taller, stronger, and happier after each class. We had a massive tropical rainstorm yesterday with thunder and lightning, so that was pretty exciting. I was listening to a lecture at the Siva hall for the Teachers Training students and ended up falling asleep...the warm breeze and the fragrant wind combined with the Swami's deep voice lulled me to sleep...wole up just in time for my asana class though.
Last night was a really special evening, we had a puja dedicated to the Divine Mother. It was a really interesting event and very endearing. We sat in rows singing our usual chants and then for about 1/2 hr we threw kumkum (the bright red powder you dot on your forehead afterwards) and flowers onto a banana leaf that held a ghee candle that represented the Divine MOther and recited the following mantra: OM SHREE PURA SHAKTIA NAMAH (or something like this...Usha maybe you can help me out!!!). It was really moving and was a bit funny too...Johanna was making me laugh a bit! Afterwards we all lined up and met the swamis who marked our foreheads with the traditional markings of worship: The three lines on the forehead representing the ash (for Siva), a dot of sandalwood paste, and on top of the sandalwood a scarlet kumkum mark. We were also given a blessed flower and then sticky rice pudding on a banana leaf for prasad. We were all very enxited and giddy afterwards, and Johanna and Kim didn't want to go to bed! I had a good sleep afterwards but awoke at 4:30am to the nearby temple playing its annoying chanting cd over the loud speaker. I was awake by the time our bell went at 5:20am and actually made it on time for satsang, unlike yesterday when my entire dorm slept in till the final bell at 5:50 and had to creep in for the meditation! I'm gonna be meeting up with Biggie and Aggy tomorrow in Triv as well as Migs and his wife so that will be great to see them all. Then off to my bigger adventures!
Namaste...OM NAMAH SIVAYAH
Saturday, January 24, 2009
Welcome to Sivanada Yoga Ashram!
So I am on my 4th day here and I am loving it. It is really challenging and we are kept extremely busy the whole time we are awake (5:20 am - 10:30 pm) but strangely I am not tired. It takes me a few minutes to get going in the when the gong goes off but once I get into the main hall (Siva Hall) with all of the other people and the sky is still dark I feel totally energized. The day is set up like this:
5:20 am: Wake up bell
6-7:30 am: Satsang (meditation, chanting, lecture)
7:30am: TEA TIME!!! (most awaited moment of the day!!)
8 - 10 am: Yoga Class
11am: Karma Yoga (Picked up leaves from the lawn yesterday...today toilets!!)
12:30pm: Coaching class (optional...but really necessary if you have any questions or need assitance with asanas)
1:30: Tea time with fruit
3:30 - 5:30pm: Yoga
I'm def. feeling all the activity and the yoga is quite intense. 4+ hours a day really works the body, and as much as I am feeling sore I am also getting stronger. The Ashram is a very interesting place, and is full of international men and women. There is a group from Iran of Muslin (fully in hijab!!) women who don't speak any English, loads of Indians, Japanese and Chinese studenst, a bunch of Christians from Europe and all the other usuals: Ozzies, Israelies, and other Westerners. There is a Teachers Training course happening right now, and man they are getting WORKED! They did a series of 108 Sun Salutations yesterday...we just did 6 and I was sweating! The first night I arrived I felt very strange and a bit lonely. I walked in to the dining hall to the Swami singing Hare Krishna and everyone sitting on the floor clapping their hands with MUCHO GUSTO and tried desperately not to think of my father's parting words to me: " Don't join a crazy cult in the ashram!!". LOL. It's not like that at all, and many of the chants and bhajans we sing include Buddha, Mohammad, Allah, and Jesus. It's non-deominational for the most part, but does have Hindu overtones. The Siva hall, where we take our satsang is a huge open air hall with a massive golden OM at the end above the statues of Swami Sivanada and Swami Vishnu-Devandaaya. Candles are placed around the statues of the swamis and also on the Dancing Shiva, Ganesh, (and another one that I can't tell). The walls have a massive painting of each main deity and goddess (Siva, Ganesh, Vishnu, Durga, Laksmi, Kali etc) and I often look at them during the Kirtan as they are so beautifully painted. I'm OM-ing and OM NAMAH SIVAYA-ing more than i ever have in my whole life- everything opens with a triple OM and closes with a OM. If you want to greet someone or excuse yourself, you do it with a quick OM. It took me a while to get into it...instead of saying "Hi" its "OM". I felt a bit silly at first but now its all part of the routine.
The ashram is located in a tiny area of Trivandrum called Neyyar Dam and sits above a lake, where there are crocodiles!! Across from us is a lion sanctuary and you can always hear them roaring...especially now as they are in heat and are really randy. The Swami explained that all the roaring is them "communicating" with each other...but we all know differently!
The people here are really nice and I've become close with 2 girls, one 19 year old beauty from Holland called Suze and another wonderful lassie from Scotland called Kim. I share a dorm with Suze (and 17 other girls...) and I met Kim on her first day in the afternoon yoga class. It's been really nice spending time and getting to know them.
The food is alright...the brunch is better than the dinner and there is usually more of it. There is no sugar, garlic, or onions on site though so the food tends to taste a bit bland. We all sit on the floor in rows and eat off tiffin trays with our right hand. Food is quite plentiful though so you can get really full. We only have 2 meals a day, and I'm really not that hungry (which is a surprise to you I'm sure as you know how much I can eat!!). There is a Health Hut on site but it is open funny hours. Kim, Suze, and I have escaped today to "town" for internet, chocolate, and crisps purposes! Have a lecture this afternoon on Aryuvedic Eating so I'm really excited about that.
We had an amazing walk this morning with the Ashram...a walking silent meditation. We got up at 5 and at 5:30am headed up this mountain (treacherous at parts...eeek) to sit and meditate as the sun came up over the surrounding mountains. I mainly just sat and took in the incredible view. I felt really happy and at peace. Got some photos of the sun coming up and will post them soon. हद अ ग्रेट निघत
Last night at Satsang we had a special performance from a local Kalaripayattu martial arts troupe. It has been said that Kalaripayattu is the first martial art ever and that all other forms performed when India was under British Rule. But since the Independence of India it has made a strong comeback. The warriors train from 5 - 7 am and 5:30 - 9 pm everyday and demonstrate amazing flexibility, precision, strength, mental control, and courage. I took some video footage and hope to upload it onto Youtube so stay tuned for the link. The guys were quite fit and handsome (a nice sight for our hungry eyes!!) but dangerous. Would not want to get into a fight with one of them!!!
I'm here till the 29th then I'm going back to Trivandrum to see Bigs and Aggie and hopefully meet up with my former mental health OT Migs and his wife Sarah. They were supposed to also be at the Sivanada Ashram right now but Migs had to stay for a bit longer in the Philipines. It'll be nice to see him and meet his wife Sarah. I'm going back up to Kochin on the 30th where will fly to Delhi and then to VARANASI!! Just got an email from Martin so it looks like he will be meeting me up there which will be great!!! I'll get a goood inside look at Varanasi and also get some good laughs in as well...he is wickedly witty.
Ahh I guess thats its for now...
Wednesday, January 21, 2009
We arrived in heatsoaked Trivandrum yesterday after a lovely but winding bus ride and then a 3 hr hot train ride. We were sad to leave Kumili and the coolness of the hills but the bus ride was so much fun! We even saw an elephant!! Arrivingi n Triv was like opening an oven door in the face...hot and sticky. It took us a while to adjust as the hills were so refreshing. Wandered around Triv to the market and then to the 260 yr old Sri Padmanabhaswamy (what a mouthful) temple. It was beautiful from the outside (and from what we could see of the inside) but we couldn't go in as we are not Hindu. But the Sadhu at the gate let us poke our heads in. We also got accosted by a group of elderly men who wanted our pictures taken with them...we said no at first but then relented..they were just so cute! We really don't understand all this business of people taking our picture. I guess we are really an oddity here. Haven't seen that many travellers here. Had a delicious fish curry dinner last nght...coconut creamy and sweet but hot. I love the food here. Seriously. I got flashed yesterday (intentionally?...I think so) by a middle aged man "fixing" his lungi. I was really shocked and surprized as it was mid day on the busy street!! Didn't know what to do so I just looked away and pulled Aggy and Biggie along with me. Ewww. Hope that's the last time that happens...although Lee was telling us of some stories about the north. *sigh*
Keep those emails coming...I loved opening up my mailbox today to see all 52 of them LOL!!!
I'll do my best to update when I'm not getting up at 5:20 am to meditate or when I'm not in my 5 hrs of yoga class. Or cleaning toilets..part of my sevi service!! Love to you all...namaskar.
Tuesday, January 20, 2009
Kumili is a beautiful little jungle town!!! I haven't got around to much today...my intention in coming here was to go to the Periyyad Wildlife Sanctuary and check out some of the wild elephants and such but it is really expensive to get in and to be honest the packages that are constantly being pushed at us look really tacky.
One of the packages we could buy:
Jungle Patrol: Only recommended for physically/mentally strong persons develops/sharpens their power of observation to sense the unseen animals and birds during dark nights. So exactly what am I gonna see?? LOL
So we have been wandering the town of spices and sampling more local Keralan delicacies...man the food gets better and better! Its pretty hot here although the morning was overcast and cool...quite refreshing after the oppressive mugginess of Cochin. Had an interesting bed fellow last night...a little lizard! I felt something scuttling around the sheets last night but was too tired to look and prayed that it wasn't a super spider like the one from the night before. When i drew back my sheets this morning, a little gecko popped out...he was sooo cute! We are going to see a Kathakali dance performance this afternoon and then Biggie and Aggy will cook a Keralan meal for me tonight...yum yum yum!
The air here is thick with spices and the nights are scented with jasmine. Its such an olfactory explosion!
Tons and tons of HOLY cows here...quite sad really as there are no bins for rubbish and the cows graze in plastic fields. Makes me sad.
Going to Trivandrum tomorrow with Bigs and Aggy...will have our last day and night together before I head off to S T R E T C H my body and my mind. It will be such a sad parting, Biggie and I have had so much fun together! :(
Other than that, I am on the mend and am feeling good. Also had another HOT shower this morning to set me right. Makes me appreciate so much about my life back at home. This trip has really opened my eyes to many things that I take for granted.
Monday, January 19, 2009
Friday, January 16, 2009
Just finished a delicious masala dosa with Antonia and her friends (who are all staying in this incredible mansion on top of one of the biggest buildings in Kochi...it even comes with a pool AND its' free as they are Couch Surfing it!!..we're going there tomorrow) and I am getting ready for my Aryuvedic treatment tomorrow. Biggie's friend Aggy is coming tomorrow from London so there will be 3 of us for the next few days. We are leaving Cochi on Sunday on another tour through our hotel that will take us up into Munnar which is tea land! We'll visit plantations, check out the rolling green hills, visit an elephant rehab centre, and sleep in a tree house. Should be quite the trip. Then I am off to Periyyar Wildlife Sanctuary for a few days before heading down to Trivandrum for my ashram stay...which is looking a bit tricky at this time. Amma isn't actually in Amritapuri at the moment, so that leaves a major hole in the ashram. Sivanada Yoga centre hasn't returned my emails...so I'm not sure what is happening! BUt I do have my ticket to Varanasi (yes yes yes!) for Feb 1 so at least I have that. Hope to hear from Martin soon about meeting up in Varanasi as I could really use some familiar company and he knows Benares like the back of his hand. So hopefully that will manifest.
Off to bed...will post pics later. These computers here are terrible! xoxoxox
Thursday, January 15, 2009
am!!) but we made it safe and sound to our clean hotel. Caught the jetty into Fort Cochin and spent the day wandering around eating fresh fruit, ice cream and watching the fishermen work the ancient and massive chinese fishing nets. Very very hot and muggy and no plac eto swim! Going on a backwater cruise tomorrow and I'm gonna get an aryuvedic massage and steam on Saturday...hope to clear this lasting cough outta me! xoxox
Monday, January 12, 2009
Sunday, January 11, 2009
Wednesday, January 7, 2009
Visited Elephanta Isle on Tuesday which was really amazing. Checked out the caves of Shiva and watched the antics of the wild and impish monkeys as they stole food from people and basically ran amok everywhere. It was really fun and we had a lovely time. What wasn't so lovely though was that we found out that we had been duped by Sandy our vicious lipped "aide" in Mumbai. Ahhh well it was a good lesson learned and this will only prepare me for the rest of my journey.
Arambol is really interesting little spot- really smoky and dusty full of hippies and Goan locals. I had a lovely salad at one of the restaurants here and just finished a gorgeous beetroot and carrot juice with a kick ass fruit salad full of papaya, mango, coconut shivers, chickoo, and pearly grapes. My tummy is feeling a bit off though so I must take a bit of care today.
We ran into some of Biggie's friends from London last night so we are going to spent the next few days with them. They are really nice and funny guys so I am sure they will keep us entertained with their London attitudes and dry sense of humour. One of the guy's (Joseph) mom (Fiz)has a house here just outside of Arambol so we are going to hang there for a while and see if we can see the dolphins. I went for a run on the empty beach this morning and came across a wild boar forgaging in the bushes. That got me up and running pretty fast!!
Loving the chill vibe and the chance to decompress from the madness of Mumbai. We were quite desperate last night as we did not have a booked room and every place was full but we managed to find a place for a whooping Rs. 800 (about $20.00) that provided us with a bed that was literally a wooden plank with a sheet on top (I did a vicious round of situps on it in the morning tho...one bonus) and a dirty little bathroom with no mirror. The upside was that it had a balcony so that was grand. We managed to get a new spot AVE MARIA in the morning right up the lane which is amazing and cheap.
The guys are hilarious and I have been laughing my butt off so much...I don't think that I have laughed this much in ages. They are quite a talented, and intellectual group- Jo is an actor, Alex is a model, Martin was in fashion but is now an architect who is currently building a 6 bedroom home just outside Granada in Spain (he spent years in Varanasi and also speaks Hindi fluently...I hope to hook up with him in Varanasi when I'm there), and Dave is a London dj who is also a Eng Lit student. These guys have been super refreshing to hang with and its been loads and loads of fun. Fiz is also most hilarious and wonderful, and makes the most gorgeous masala chai and porridge. The days are spent on the most incredible beach hanging out, swimming in wild waves, drinking loads of fresh lime sodas and watching the boys take the piss out of each other. Quite blissful and I actually think that I am able to relax!! Not sure when we are going to leave...as I was previously warned its a hard place to leave and I am now tending to agree. Its a super healthy place...physically, spiritually, and mentally and with 30+ degree weather, a good crew of people, wonderful healthy food and loads of exercise...I may get trapped!!!
Hope you are all well....lots of love xoxoxox
Monday, January 5, 2009
Had such a busy whirlwind of a day here in Mumbai...we met this woman yesterday (Sandy) at the train station (Victoria Terimus station) who works for the Indian Tourist Commission who said that she would give us a tour of the best sites in Mumbai. What a saucy lady she turned out to be. At first sight she seems like a sweet and demure Indian woman dressed up in a beautiful sari, but spend some time with her and she swears like a truck driver, owns a very dangerous long look and could scare any man away with her body language!! She was a BLESSING as she took such care of us all day today. We got to drive all over Mumbai in all its glory...from the poverty stricken red light district to the mansions up in the hills...we saw it all. Visited the Dobhi Ghats where all of the washing sent from launderias go...what an incredible and colourful sight. Spent some time in Gandi's memorial museum which was absolutly inspiring and humbling. Bowed to heavenly gods at a colourful Jain temple and fought off beautiful and impish gyspy children. Witnessed the most intense variations of life ever possible and chuckled at painted bulls and cows meandering around the streets. I am thankful for our taxi driver who Sandy hired for us...she referred to him as "Her fighter". I have no idea how anyone drives here...the biggest case of organized chaos if I have ever seen it. We put our lives in his hands and he delivered us safe and sound all over town. I feel a bit battered by the sounds...the drivers honk their horns here so much that it becomes a symphony. I think other drivers feel left so they then join the chorus! This city literally PULSES with life, tragedy and beauty colliding in a vicious whirlwind. Incense and sewer waste mixing together and smothering you as you pass by. So many paradoxes here that it almost becomes comical.
Went back to the leather shop today and met Mustan who was very excited to see me and receive the gift that my parents sent along for him. He will take me out for a meal tomorrow so that will be good. Off to Elephant Isle on the 9 am boat in the morning to see Shiva and laugh at the antics of the monkeys.
Sunday, January 4, 2009
But I made it! Biggie made it in this morning a bit late as she was waiting for ages at the airport for her backpack which sadly didn't make it from Helsinki. It was so good to see her and we are quite excited to be travelling in India together. I'm feeling super positive and excited about being here for the next few months although I am definitely fighting a cold or something that I picked up from some friends back at home.
Landed at 2:20 am and the air was smoky, hazy, thick and boasted a tempid 25 degrees. I was thinking of my lot back at home with all the snow...seems so far away now. Biggie and I sepnt the day getting out into Colaba (which is the area that we are staying in close to the water). Saw the remnants (and there is much left) of the bombed Taj hotel which is a sight to behold. Meandered through the throng of people at the plaza to see the underconstruction Gateway to India (and fought off many eager tourguides wanting to seperate us and our money for a quick tour of Mumbai). We had a lovely breakfast at Leopold's Cafe which is a tourist epicentre for all travellers to go and be seen (and also much talked about in the book "Shantaram"which I am aching for right now) and I visited a leather shop that my parents went to when they were here. We then wandered all over the rest of Colbaba and up to the Grand Train Station "Victoria Terminus" which is one ofthe most beautiful buildings that I have ever seen. Bought a few pairs of harem trousers with aggressive haggling and then sat to watch a massive free for all cricket game that showcased at least 12 different games. Back to our hotel area were we discovered this amazing food stall selling incredible roti with veg ingredients (sooo good...I swear that I am going to eat my way over the whole menu) and I had an amazingly refreshing drink made from sugar cane juie, lime, and mint leaves. I'm sooo hooked. Tonight it's off to Chowpatty beach to people watch and nibble on many delictable treats served up from the street vendors. I feel quite at home here and not really minding the chaos, although I did manage to get myself nicked by a motorbike today which gave both me and Sarah quite a start! And I hope that a red light means go in this city as this is a rule that all the drivers seem to follow. EEEK!
Thinking so much about my friends and family back home, and hope to hear from some of you soon. I had a wonderful gathering the night before I came here and the night has let me with a warm heart indeed. Lots of love.....xoxoxox