Monday, June 14, 2004

and now the end is near...

so this is my last real day in india... tomorrow i'll be up up early to get a bus back to trivandrum and get myself to the airport. i fly from trivandrum to mumbai. then i'll spend the night at some airport hotel. and bright at early wednesday morning i'll begin my trek back to the US. i'm excited.

i had an ayurvedic oil massage today. it was quite nice and now i smell good. kind of like coconut or some sort of dessert. i couldn't get the woman to tell me what the scent of the oil was. she just kept saying it was ayurvedic oil. i finally got her to say that it was a blend of some kind.

had a minor annoyance with a money exchange man today. at the place i had been doing my e-mail everyday (until today - he pissed me off and lost my business). i knew that they had a not so good rate, because last night susie realized that she had no money and needed to exchange a tiny bit of cash. so i knew i would be getting 42 rupees to the dollar instead of the going rate of 44. he asked me how much i wanted to change, i said 20 dollars (some random cash i had left over from when i originally bought yen in detroit on the way to japan). so he had his little calculator and showed me that it would be 840 rupees. fine. so i hand him my cash, which happened to be 2 fives and 10 ones. then he's plucking away at his calculator again and he tells me i can get 820 for it. so i was a confused, i said 42 rupees, right? and he says there's a different rate for 1 dollar bills. well- i told him that was crap and give me back the ones. so he did, but then some jabbering ensued with the other guy in the shop, and he changed his mind. so i snapped at him and said fine, stop trying to rip me off. so it's really time for me to go, since i'm now yelling at people.

i'm feeling a little nervous about my re-entry into society. first of all the kind of reverse culture shock. and in a social sense, i feel like i've been gone for so long that people are just used to me not being around! so next time i speak/write to you i'll be back on american soil!


Friday, June 11, 2004

the right hand as "the clean hand"

so i've had a terribly relaxing morning. slept until 7:30, stayed in bed until 9:30. haven't done any yoga - but i do plan to. i want to keep with my practice. in the past 2 weeks i've done about 18 yoga classes - an incredible record for me as far as exercise is concerned (well, since my ballet days). i'm feeling really strong now and pretty healthy despite my slide into eating bad foods again (had french fries and paneer masala last night, poached eggs on toast this morning).

so i have been trying to re-train my hands to use silverware once again. and the funny thing, you're only meant to use your right hand when eating. this is "the clean hand". you always give or take things with the right hand. the left hand is your toilet hand, and therefore unclean. but let's be honest.... i use my right hand....

anyhow. it's a sunny day here. we had rain last night, so it's a little muddy now. there's not much in the way of beaches... the water is very high right now. but i may go down later anyway and try to find some rocks to sit on. there are only a few shops and a few restaurants open now. we've got one restaurant which is going to make brownies at our request. v. exciting.

i did have a good time at the ashram, there were some very cool people there. and most of them had the same thoughts as me about the whole ashram experience. we liked the yoga, the controlled feedings had their benefit, but the chanting and lectures were bit much. on friday when susie and i left there were also 3 other people leaving. and many of the others were planning to leave the next day, since there would be only a few people left. (there was about 10 of us doing the yoga vacation)

so i'm de-compressing a little, relaxing my schedule and weaning myself back onto eating animal products. i think today i'll have a beer at dinner. and more french fries. :)

elvis has left the building

and i have left the ashram. i was skipping most of the lectures, because they were so boring, and i skipped the satsang (meditation, chanting and "talk" - only the head chick talking) quite a few times... plus i was getting tired of the food.

so i'm at varkala beach now, staying at a fabulous cliff top hotel for 80 rupees a night. i'll write a little more tomorrow, right now there's the pressing matter of eating something fabulous tasting!

Wednesday, June 02, 2004

i've been assaulted by a mango

seriously. i was on my way to the lecture and it just fell out of the tree and landed square on my right shoulder. hurt like hell. i screamed like a girl (but what did you expect). i'll probably have a bruise. my shoulder stands might suffer (and they have been fabulous lately).

so i've just waited 15 minutes to load this page and log in - so needless to say i probably won't be doing it again real soon. i actually wrote a really long post on monday, just before i came to the ashram, but when i tried to post it the browser crashed. i saved the text to a file and re-booted, i ran norton anti-virus (which found hundreds of infected files that it could not fix), i tried saving the text in an e-mail, but i couldn't send e-mail. suffice to say i'm a little fed up with computers right now. computers are stupid.

anyhow- i'm here, at the ashram. the first day i was feeling really lost and confused most of the time. today i'm just tired. it's pretty scheduled, we don't have much free time. which has it's good points and bad points... our daily schedule is generally:

5:30 wake up bell
6:00 satsang (group meditation, chanting, and talk)
7:30 tea
8:00 yoga class
10:00 lunch
11:00 karma yoga (ashram code for chores)
12:00 lecture
1:30 tea
2:00 coaching class (optional- if you're having trouble with a pose)
3:30 yoga class
6:00 dinner
8:00 satsang
10:30 lights out

so the early morning wasn't so bad the first day, but i'd had a good night's rest the night before. this morning i was quite tired. the satsang is an experience... probably my least favorite part of the whole thing. i have a lot of trouble with meditation. i like the idea of it, but mine is a mind that wanders... constantly, randomly, quickly. i tried just sitting there thinking (we meditate for 1/2 an hour) but that makes the time go slower, i think.

the chanting is kind of like singing in church. only i have no idea what the words are. there's lots of clapping and tambourines... classic new-agey stuff. then is a little talk from the head chick (i always think about "the leader" from the simpson's - look! another leader bean!) about whatever. sometimes interesting, sometimes she just rambles on and on.

the best part by far is the yoga class. it's challenging and interesting and we do the class near this beautiful lake. i'm feeling a little sore, but in a good way. we're starting kind of slow, and adding new poses everyday.

though we only eat 2 times a day there is loads of food - they come around like 5 times to see if you want more of this or that (the food is all vegetarian and mysterious - i mostly don't know what things are - but it usually tastes good). and so i eat plenty at every meal (with only my bare hand, i'll have lost all table manners by the time i come home). but i am still hungry later... i think i require more frequent feedings. i'll manage, i'm sure.

the lecture is just more of the "leader bean" talking about random things. i spend most of the time trying to be comfortable sitting on a stone floor. the karma yoga is no big deal. so far i've had to sweep the meditation room and clean the toilets.

so really, i like the yoga. the rest is bit too new age for me. i read that there would be an ayervedic doctor here, but apparently not at this time (it is low season). however, they have a library here. so i'm reading some books about ayerveda and yoga.

well, i've got another hour before yoga, and have barely had time to write in my journal, we are very busy mostly and the "leader bean" is long winded and often runs over. tonight we are going to some sort of local festival in the town, should be interesting. i may post again before i leave, but definitely not this week.


Saturday, May 29, 2004

lane driving is sane driving

so i went to meet the old english chicks at the travel agent place to book the elephant thingy and to ask some questions about the backwater cruise i want to do tomorrow. but they didn't show, so i ran off to pick up my sari - which is super cool, by the way - and waited for them again. *still* they didn't show. but the guy told me there was also 3 young english chicks who were going to do the elephant thing and i could share a car with them (basically what you pay for is a car with a driver to take you to this place).

while sitting and waiting at the travel agent i ran into a canadian guy i had met the day before. he told me he was off to see the kathakali dance performance tonight, so we agreed to go together. well the old chicks never showed, so i told the guy i would stop by after the performance or he could leave a message for me at my hotel.

so brook (the canadian guy) and i went to the show. it was quite groovy. they talked to us about the make-up and the costumes and what the colors signify. then they showed us some of the mudras or hand/face/body gestures that are used in kathakali. then they performed a scene from one full length play (the full length jobby is performed on holidays and lasts for about 8 hours). very cool.

after the show brook wanted to eat and i can always eat something. so we ate at this place near the water. i had a cheese and tomato sandwich. we shared a "special tea". very amusing thing about cochin - many places don't have a lisence to serve beer, but they sometimes will. so last night the guy brought us out some coffee mugs and a tea pot filled with beer. on our bill it said "special tea".

when i got back to the guesthouse the guy there told me the elephant thing was canceled. which i was quite sad about, i had really gotten quite excited about it. so brook and i sat and chatted a bit since i no longer had to be up at 5:45am. then the phone rang and it was for me (i was so confused). it was the travel guy. he said i could go with the young english chicks for the elephant thing. i would be picked up outside my guesthouse at 6:30am. so i was off to bed.

very early this morning i got up, got dressed, and sat outside to wait for my car to arrive. i got in and introduced myself to the girls (cat, hannah, and liz, though i don't think i could tell you which one was which) and we mostly spaced out on the way there. far too early for chat.

a bit of an eventful drive. we nearly killed a man.... we were driving on a divided highway with a median in the center. there were buses stopped on both sides of our side of the road (which in itself seems wrong) so our driver goes plowing through the middle of the buses - and surely hit, but i don't think injured, a man stepping off one of the buses. we didn't stop, he touched the crucifix on his dash and kept going.

the next horrible thing we didn't witness, only saw the aftermath. there was a dog in the middle of the road that looked as though it's head had been run over. and another dog that looked like it might have had it's leg broken. it was so awful. but no one seemed to care.

anyhow. we arrived and they brought the elephants down to the river. 3 big ones and a baby one. so after they all took giant dumps in the water and lay down we started to wash them. basically you just kind of get them wet and scrub with part of a coconut shell. mostly we took a lot of pictures, but i did manage to work up a sweat. but of course we were fully clothed, the elephant guys were wearing their breifs with their little tea towels wrapped around their waists.

after the washing we went for a ride. this was a little more "au naturel" than i expected. there was, thankfully, a big staircase to mount the beast (the guys just made the elephants bend a leg so they could climb up). but there was no saddle or what-have-you. we basically just sat with our legs around the elephants neck, nothing really to hold on to. i couldn't help thinking there is no way this would ever be allowed in america - someone would fall off and sue.

nearly fell asleep on the ride back to cochin... nearly, because we often slammed on the breaks and beeped at other drivers. oh yes - there are some amusing signs posted along the state highway here in cochin, some of which i copied into my little notebook:

lane driving is sane driving
hurry causes worry
dim and bright: do it right
follow line discipline
rash causes crash (or it might have been "rush")
don't zig zag

anyway, this is a super long post today. tomorrow i'm leaving cochin and hopefully doing an all day backwater cruise. so my next post may not be until monday, just before i head to the ashram.


Friday, May 28, 2004

i'm sari i didn't write sooner...

so a pretty action packed day today. met the old english girls for breakfast again. two of them wanted to do this elephant thing tomorrow, and i've agreed to go with them. from what i understand we go in the morning and we get to play with some baby elephants, wash and feed them, then go for an actual elephant ride. sounds pretty groovy, i'm pretty excited. so i'm meeting them in a couple hours to actually book it.

after breakfast i went to a shop to look at saris. and i found a shop with a woman salesclerk (buying a sari from a man just seems wrong - what does he know? and i'm not having some random indian guy show me how to put it on) *and* the most lovely sari i've seen so far. it's - can you guess? - blue. silk. so beautiful. i'm very happy. but i needed to get an underskirt (this is essential to the sari staying put - it's basically just a cotton skirt with a tie waist) and a short blouse. so the woman from the shop actually took me to the bazaar and helped me get both things for good prices. so all together i paid about $43 for my sari. which sounds exhorbinant when you think about most hotels cost about $5 a night, but as far as beautiful clothes go, pretty good.

so my blouse is being made, and i'll go back to the shop around 5 and the lovely saleslady will help me put it on. then i'm going to see a kathakali dance performance, all glammed up indian style. so pretty exciting day for me. and best of all i have a pile of clean, laundered clothes in my room. :)

Thursday, May 27, 2004

the clever ann is on a chai break....

not feeling terribly clever today.... had thought of an amusing subject for todays post before i left the guest house, but now it's gone... anyhow.

went for dinner last night at this rooftop restaurant, which amusingly enough was a french and indian type place. so i had gratin de pommes de terre (it really said this on the menu) and a green salad (which turned out to be a plate of tomato, cucumber and red onion slices, not really a "salad" salad, but whatever). also an indian guy who was with this english chick that i chatted to a little bit spoke to me in french. it took me a minute to realize why i wasn't sure what he said... but then i was actually able to reply in french once i figured it out.

back at the guesthouse i sat around with these 3 irish cats - maeve, babo, and lolly. they were quite amusing and had some interesting stories about their travels, sneaking eggs into some muslim run hotel in rajastan, going to sketchy hospitals for heat stroke and vaccinations... much better than the book i'm reading at the moment (called "random winds", i found it in my hotel in mysore and needed a book...). we went out for food - they hadn't eaten. i, of course can always eat, so i had a chai and some fries.

this morning i met up with the english chick i met at dinner last night for breakfast with these 2 other chicks. older ladies, v. amusing, going on and on about sexy footballers... one of them told me about this woman above her guesthouse who gives cooking lessons. so that could be fun.

i've no big plans for today.... in fact i'm kind of taking my time at the internet cafe today, for 40 rupees an hour, it's quite cheap entertainment. OH! i've remembered my amusing subject:

"haven't you got anything smaller?"

one of the hassles about buying anything here is the money. no one ever seems to have change for anything. if you don't have exact change, they're a little put out. and the thing is it's not huge amounts we want in change. so for example yesterday at this very internet cafe i spent a half an hour here, so i owed only 20 rupees. well, i only had a 100 note, so i used that. and of course i got "do you have change?" and i did, but i lied and said no because if i spend all my change then i don't have change and certain types of places such as internet cafes and flipping restaurants should be able to give out a little bit of change. to put it in perspective, my example is like buying a candy bar with a $5 bill. (though even that's exaggerating a bit - 100 rupees is about $2.50)

so major relaxation today, in fact all days from here on out. lots of reading, web surfing, and eating.

Wednesday, May 26, 2004

hooray for hassle-free!

so yesterday was quite a long day of travel for me. i took a train from mysore to bangalore - 3 hours. then arsed about at the bangalore train station for about 2 hours. and i was only hassled by beggars, not sleazy men, not annoying kids, it was quite refreshing. then my train journey. i was happy to see there was a list posted outside the train car with the names of people with reservations, so there was no confusion this time on which bunk was whose. and through the whole journey no one hassled me. i could barely believe it!

but now i'm done with long, uncomfortable (well, not compared to a bus - that is the ultimate in discomfort) train rides. from here on out my train journeys will all be under 2 hours. then of course is that fabulous 18 hour flight on june 16...

so today i arrived in cochin, and managed to get to the jet airways office to book my flight back to mumbai (with some trouble, the rickshaw driver was a little lost - luckily it was a set rate based on my destination, not how long/far it was). money well spent, i think, when you compare to the agony of a 48 hour train ride from the ashram back to mumbai.

so i'm settling in here, figuring things out, finding places to eat, and internet cafes to surf at. (this is the second one, the first one with the appealing "broadband" sign out front was having some difficulty).

so no big plans for my time here in cochin. some wandering. will probably go see a kathakali dance performance (this is traditional keralan dance). some shopping. and chill. :)