Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Home

Wow, I have already been home for two weeks. I have kept myself busy getting ready for Christmas which is fast approaching. It is the perfect time to come home. Driving into Waterloo felt like a "coming home for Christmas" movie with the lights and little bit of snow. All my best friends met me in the Vancouver airport. It was so exciting!
Last night was my first shift back at work. I've had many people ask how my trip was. I never know how to answer. There is no short way to explain it. It was huge and intense and awful and wonderful. I am struggling to figure out how to capture that in a way that people might understand. My next step is to get a slideshow of pictures to show people. I has been difficult to focus on finishing my course work from India. I feel so far removed from it and from the group. I did get a surprise visit from Devon! She was on her way to the Vancouver airport and stopped at my house! It was crazy to have someone who has heard so much about my life at home to actually come here. I talked a lot about my family and friends on the trip. Now I find myself wanting to talk about India every time I am reminded of something. I just find it weird to think about what my life was like two months ago and how it is so different now. I was living out of a backpack and never slept in a room by myself, travelling all over and missing home. I miss my India family terribly but I am so happy to be home with my family and boyfriend and friends and pony and dog and rabbits. I have had time to rest and enjoy the comforts of home and am now gearing up for the next semester. I am so thankful for Dr J and the opportunity she gave me to explore and grow. And thank you to the group for being amazing friends. Thanks to my loved ones who supported me the whole time and to everyone that read the blog! I hope to post more pictures soon. I'd love to personally tell everyone some stories about my adventures!
Merry Christmas and all the best in the New Year!
Love Kirsti

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Last day in India

I can not believe that I am flying to Canada tonight! I will be in Ontario for the weekend then flying home. The while group has been anxious all day, packing and repacking all the treasures we have picked up along the way. We spent the last four nights at a resort in Malappuram.  We have spent time relaxing and reflecting on our experiences. There is a beach and a small market area near where we are staying. I walked around he beach once but it was very dirty and the salespeople seemed very aggressive. So I spent most of the past few days catching up on school work and taking long naps. It has been raining at least every other day for the past two weeks. It is very odd. In Madurai we stayed at Lady Doak Collage. They had a great guest house and unlimited free Internet access. It was such a treat. We visited a village that one of the professors at the collage has. Her family owns a granite quarry. We visited their village and the quarry. I loved walking around the village with all the children following us. I got some great pictures of their smiling faces and the vivid colors of the village. Canadian winter is going to seem so dull without the bright green fields and the women's colorful saris. I have lots more to write about but it is already dinner time and then we are off to the airport for our 1 am flight. My next post will be from Canada!

Saturday, November 20, 2010

On The Road Again

Goa seems like a long time ago. Since then we have been hopping from place to place starting with an overnight train last Friday. We got to the station at 8pm. Then after waiting around for a while we were on the train from 10pm to 2pm the next day. It was a brutal ride. We were in third class AC which means there are three bunks on top of each other. I was content to just be in my own space with my ipod and books for the entire ride. We arrived in Cochin at a home stay. Cochin was really neat. It reminded me of a little European town with the buildings and the narrow streets. I went with Amberlee to a great little art cafe for chocolate cream and banana cream pie. After a great home-made meal of fish and fish curry, we retired to our rooms. All the girls were rather excited to know that Titanic was playing on HBO that night. It was nice to escape from India for a little while. The next day we had some lectures at one of the many universities in Chochin. They were interesting but I realized how difficult it will be to go back to learning in a classroom after all this amazing experiential learning. Before lunch we stopped by a Synagogue. There were a lot of rules as to where we could and could not go inside. I thought this inside was beautiful with all these colorful lanterns hanging from the ceiling. In the evening we went to a Katakali dance show. They explained the traditional dances of India and particularly Kerala. It was very colorful. The dancers used eye move movements and particular hand gestures to tell stories from the Indian epics, Ramayana and Mahabharata.
We had to leave already the next morning. We went to stay on houseboats for a night. It was so relaxing and beautiful to float around through canals and around a huge lake. We ate fish and juicy pineapples and drank out of coconuts. We had two boats with five people on each. It was really strange to be in a group with only five people for the afternoon. We all felt a bit lost without our huge group. It reminded me of how hard it will be to come home and not have my 'India family' around 24/7.
After the houseboats we went to Ammas ashram. The west calls her the hugging saint. She was not at the ashram but it was still an amazing experience. The first two encounters with people in the ashram were not great. They were rude. But as we got to know the people there it got much better. The ashram sits on a peninsula that was completely washed out in the tsunami. Amma did so much work to restore the city. the wave came as high as the palm trees there. She brought the people into the high rises of the ashram and her cows and elephants took refuge in the temple. I can not imagine what it would have been like. We experienced many amazing things there in only one night. It is one of the places that I would have to come back to in India. You will have to ask me more about it when I get home because there is just too much to be able to type it in here. One of the best parts for me was to see someone walking around in a Storm shirt from Tofino. I yelled across the room "hey I like your shirt!' and he came over to talk to us and ended up giving us a tour of the elephants and the beach. It felt great for someone staying in India to recognize my JRFM sticker that is on my notebook. He told me about where he can sometimes surf near the ashram. Interestingly enough, locals do not go into the water. They have been fishermen for generations but many can not swim. They are especially terrified of the sea after the tsunami.
We left the ashram and stayed in a hotel somewhere for a night. I do not remember what the city was. We got to go to a seminary and talk to a priest there. It was one of the most interesting discussions that we have had in India. He wanted us to just keep asking questions and it was so easy to ask about his life and Christianity in India.
The next day we had a very difficult bus ride up a mountain to Thekkady. I forgot to mention that most of the group was really sick at this point. We must have some in contact with a bacteria because we were sick to our stomaches and it was coming out of both ends. It was a very long and uncomfortable bus ride. The elevation did not help the situation. Luckily we were in Thekaddy for more than one night. We spent 5 nights there. It is the land of spices. We drove through tea plantations to get there. The whole city smelled like fresh spices. We had so much fun going in all the stores and trying to remember that we only have backpacks to carry all our stuff around in. I defiantly caught up on my shopping there and I am trying not to think about what I will do with all this extra stuff when I have to get on a plane. In Thekaddy we had some time to relax and recuperate. We did go to martial arts demonstration, another Katakali dance show and a spice pantation. I saw the biggest spiders I have ever seen. On our last night there we were out for dinner and it started raining. We thought we would wait out the rain. By the time we finished dinner it was still pouring so we finally got some auto-rickshaws to take us back to the home-stay. That was the most eventful five minute ride I have ever taken. First off, an auto-rickshaw is like a small dirt bike engine on 3 wheels. They go fast but they are very small. We were putting along and suddenly the road turned into a river. I now know how flash floods occur. There were three of us in the rickshaw and we were all screaming at the guy to drive faster up this hill while half a food of water was rushing down hill. It was crazy. We were all soaked when we got back. It was exciting and no one was hurt. India is having weird rains this year. It rains every two or three days in Thekaddy for the last ten months. This does not happen. Usually when monsoon is over, there is no more rain all year. It has definatly made this trip interesting because we were not expecting any rain at all.
So now we are in Maduri for 6 nights. We are staying at a women collage till Sunday. It is the last week of the actual course and next week we will have some time to relax before coming home. I can not believe how fast it is coming to an end.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Beach days

We have been in Goa for 5 nights now and it has been amazing. We spend the days on the beach, swimming for hours in the sea and eating. We have also been continuing our yoga practice. I can not explain how awesome it is for the 12 of us to stand in a row facing the sea and doing our sun salutations together. We have come such a long way in the past 2 1/2 months. We are staying at Colva beach. The shopping looks great but the prices are outrageous. After being in India for a little while now we are all proud that we do not allow ourselves to be sucked into buying anything for triple the price it should be. I will describe what we did yesterday so you can imagine a typical day for us here. We wake up and do yoga around 9 am while it is not too hot yet. Then I eat a breakfast of fresh fruit, coffee and musili with yogurt. This morning I had fresh pineapple juice instead of coffee and it was heavenly. It was so sweet and creamy and full of flavor. I've also been drinking at least one coconut a day. They grab a big green one and chop off the top so I can drink the water out with a straw and use a spoon to dig out all the meat. For lunch we have anything from noodle dishes to waffles. I have a sweet spot for sugar pancakes. We also eat alot of seafood for lunch and dinner. Lots of calamari, king fish, red snapper, prawns and mackerel. Last night we were up till the wee hours of the morning playing cards and having a few beers. There is a massage center where we are staying. I have not had a massage yet but many of the group members have been going there almost everyday. It still blows my mind that we are having this tropical getaway in the middle of India. We are reminded of that when people still come up to us on the beach to take pictures or videos of us swimming. There was a funny incident when we were swimming but ran screaming through the water because a cow was rooting through our clothes on the beach. It was hilarious. The only thing that would make this week better is if the waves were big enough to surf on but I'm not complaining. I'm not even sure where we go from here. I am just spending time with the group. It is really difficult but rewarding to spend 24/7 with the same group of people for months. It has been an interesting experience and amazing to see all the love and support that we have for each other.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Finally on the BEACH!

Today is the first day that we are in Goa! We just came from Hampi where we stayed for 5 nights. Hampi was not my favorite place. We stayed in a clean hotel and it had a/c so that was good. The food was terrible though. Nothing was fresh, everything was friend and we all felt nasty. Especially since we did not have a space to practice yoga. We had 2 half day tours of the ruins. Hampi is ancient and there are many temples and remains of the city when it was ruled by emperors and kings. The landscape is very unique and beautiful. There are mountains of boulders and the city is built into them. We explored a temple that had stone pillars that made music. You can tap on them very lightly and each pillar has a different sound. No one knows how they did it because they are all the same size and they are solid, not hollow. There was a small market place in Hampi. I only went there for a few hours. I am pretty tired of having to bargain everywhere I shop though I am getting pretty good at it. I am tired of the shop keepers taking advantage of us. I bought some headbands that a guy wanted 60 rupees for. I just told him I was only paying 20, gave him the money and walked out. The main reason I did not go into the town often was the monkeys. They were MASSIVE with huge long tails. They would sit on the roofs and just wait to pounce on unsuspecting tourists and steal anything. They would run along the tin roofs and it sounded like thunder right over my head. Twice they ran and jumped near me so I ran into a random store screaming. It was terrifying. The best part about Hampi was a restaurant called The Mango Tree. We had to walk on a small dirt path though a banana tree grove to get there. The food was not the best but they had fresh vegttables and we sat overlooking a valley and a river. It was beautiful. We also got to go on a boat ride up the river. The boats were round and made of woven bamboo and tar. It was so relaxing.
From Hampi we had a 10 hour bus ride to Goa. We arrived in the dark and had a ten minute walk along the beach to our hotel. I woke up really early this morning and sat on the beach for an hour before the sun got too hot. It is so beautiful. White sand, the Arabian Sea and palm trees. We have all week to relax, read, swim and have drinks brought to us. I am very excited to have our yoga on the beach too. I could get used to this kind of school work :P As soon as I am done in this wonderfully air conditioned internet cafe I am going to pick up a sundress and head back to the hotel for a swim in the ocean. I did not realize how much I miss the ocean. As soon as I heard the waves last nice I had an explosion of homesickness. Unfortunately the waves are too small to do any surfing. I guess I will have to wait till I get home for that.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Hassan to Sirigiri

We are really enjoying South India. It is much slower paced and has a calmer energy than the north. We had alot of downtime too. It has been a great time to get school work done and just relax. We stayed in a super nice hotel for 3 nights and I will admit that I literally sat in bed and watched movies for 2 days straight. I just needed a break from India. The trip is two-thirds over but there is still a month to go. It feels like a really long time to be away from home. I know I will feel differently when we get to the beach in Goa. We are all excited about getting to the sand and the ocean. Yesterday we had a six hour bus ride from Hassan to Sirigiri. It was super bumpy. I swear I got half a foot of air at one point when I was lying down in the back. India is so weird with their roads. There will be random streches of pavement and I start thinking "this is nice" then a minute later it ubruptly turns to gravel and potholes again. At one point we drove through a washed out part of the road. We were in this huge bus and literally driving over a river. It was kind of crazy. Sirigiri is a very rural area. The place we are staying in is not even in a village, nevermind a city. I managaed to get a ride into the village today to check emails and get out of my room for a few hours. Our rooms are full of bugs and the power is out more often than not but the food is great and there's a really nice space to practice yoga. We are staying in the residence of the Swami of the Lingiate community. I'm not sure if I spelt that correctly but I will try and find a link sometime later. The coolest part is that the Swami has an elephant! And, yesterday evening we got to ride it! It was awesome! I had been thinking all day about how much I miss my pony and going riding but I guess riding an elephant is the next best thing. It was really warm and prickly and wrinkly. It was such a great experience to be hugged by an elephants trunk. She was huge and beautiful. We fed her little bananas and she just swallowed them whole. Then we gave her coconuts and ran back before she threw them to the ground, smashing them into pieces before expertly scraping the meat out of the shells. I hope I will be able to see her again while we are here. We will be on the road again on Sunday. In the South we are not staying in one place for as long as we did in the North. I think 5 days is the longest we stay anywhere from here on out so time is going to fly by.