Thursday, September 23, 2010


I am now at the Swami Rama Sadhka Grama ashram in the foothills of the Himalayas. It is beautiful and peaceful. I can see why westerners have been coming to Rishikesh since the Beatles came about 50 years ago. Our journey here from Amritsar was anything but peaceful. I'm sure everyone at home has heard about the devastating floods in Pakistan. This has been the longest and wettest monsoon season in many years for India. So the plan was to take the train to Hardiwar then a bus from there to Rishikesh. The train would not go to Hardiwar because of flooding so we were dropped off in some other city that I still do not know the name of. The vibe in this city was very different from Amritsar. We immediately caught the attention of the locals. One pick-pocket-er followed us for the entire hour that we were outside the train station. We had to stand and wait to figure out transportation and crowds started swarming. It was really frightening because the people we so hostile. One lady that was sending her children to beg from us just would not leave. They were mocking us when we said no. It felt like the crowd was just waiting for us to do something wrong so they could pounce. It was defiantly a test of patience. The worst part was watching the cart horses struggle with loads of 15 people. The ponies were about 13 hands high and some walked on tip toes because they were so overloaded and lame. It was really terrible. Most of the cows in India are sleek and fat but not the horses.
So we finally piled into overpriced taxis for the 3 hour drive to Rishikesh. We were squished and hot. It is so muggy here. The rain has made to many potholes in the road that it was really an uncomfortable drive. At one point on the highway our driver did not want to go over a pothole so he just swerved to the other side of the road and weaved his way through oncoming traffic for a while. It was quite the experience. We made it to the ashram for dinner. I have to talk about the food. It is all so fresh and delicious here. We get warm milk! It is the first place we've had milk in the past weeks. We find ourselves talking about food everyday, often more than once. The only downside to mealtimes is that we must eat in silence. We are all in different cabins and eat in silence so I really miss socializing with the group. We all feel disconnected. So yesterday we took a break from the intense yoga and meditation classes and went into Rishikesh. It was a rather touristy area but the markets were fabulous and the prices were good. Sometimes I realize that it is rather silly of me to be haggling over 50 cents off an item but we get caught up in the moment and really do not like the feeling of being ripped off. Over all I think Rishikesh has been good for me. I'm hoping to take some of the habits and disapline home with me.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Golden Temple!

The other day we visited the Golden Temple! It was really amazing – like, a gold temple at the end of a bridge over a huge pool of water. We went with another group of Indian students from the tourism department of a collage in Amritsar. It turned out they weren’t the greatest tour guides but it was still neat to interact with people our own age. It was really difficult to be in a group that large in a busy place. It just took forever for us to just walk around because the professors would stop every ten steps and try to get us all to listen to something or another. It was a bit useless for me because none of the information sunk in. It was also super hot and being barefoot on hot marble all day was stressful in itself. One of the best parts of the day was Langa. It is the free lunch that is given to anyone that visits a Sikh temple. At the Golden Temple they feed 300000 people a day! That’s 1000 people every 15 minutes! It was quite the experience. We had to wait to get in then there was a mad rush to find a spot on the floor. We sat in long lines and had food dumped on our plates. It was way too much food for me. It was all over very fast so the next rush could come. I’ve really gotten better with the food here. It’s actually gotten more appitising as the trip goes on. I’m still craving north American food though.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010


We have moved on from Delhi to Amritsar and we're loving it. We're staying at the Guru Nannak Dev University in the guest house. The rooms are huge!! Everything has been going great. I'm even adjusting to the food. The campus is huge like a park. I walked from the on-campus internet cafe to the guest house (about 5 minutes) by myself and had no problems. The people everywhere here seem generally nicer. A few of us girls went to some convenience stores and didn't get pestered or swarmed or filmed. We had some free time in the evening after the 8 hour train ride. It gave me just a little too much time to think so I got quite homesick. I can't believe how fast the time is flying by. We have a ton of school work done in the next few days so I'd better get back to work.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Taj Mahal!

Sunday was a very long day. We left the YMCA at 6 in the morning and had a 5 hour bus ride to Agra. We started the day at some old Mogul ruins. It was a terrifying experience. There were big tourist groups of young Indian men and they had nothing better to do but follow us around. We were constantly filmed and had pictures taken. If we stood in one place for more than a minute we were surrounded by at least 30 people and they just stood and stared. It was terrible. I don't even remember the name of the ruins because we were so stressed about not getting seperated and individualy swarmed.
We then went to the Taj Mahal! It was soo exciting! We got to go inside. The inside was really beautiful but alot smaller than I imagined. The outside was huge. All the marble has precious stones inlayed to make the patterns on the walls. It was great but we had the same problem again; everywhere we went there were men taking videos and just staring. We all got a little more aggresive by the end.Dealing with the vendors outside the gates was another problem. We were swarmed. If you make eye contact they just latch on and follow you down the street. It was really an unenjoyable experience. We were so tired by the time we got home. It was almost 2 am. We had the next morning off to sleep in. On monday afternoon we were at the Canadian Embassy! It was really neat. We met with Rick Westhead, a reporter from the Toronto Star who has been living in India for 2 years. It was really cool. We all wished we could of talked to him all evening because he had so many stories and has been places that I couldn't dream of going. We also had a presentation from the Canadian High Commissioner. They are making a facebook page and will be adding our group blog to it! In the evening we went to some shrines and a private Qawwal concert. Here is a link to the group we saw. It was really magical to be in India, in a shrine, having a private concert from one of the most famous singers of Qawwal music. Then we went for beer and a pizza and that was amazing. I am really craving some american food.
This morning we caught an early train to Amritsar. We are staying at Guru Nannak Dev University. The rooms are huge and clean. It's great. We'll have alot more free time here to recover from our busy stay in Delhi.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Into the Jungle Book

This morning we went on a tour of some old Mogul ruins. There were tombs and mosques from the 12th century. Walking in was exactly like stepping into the Jungle Book. I half expected a bunch of monkeys to jump out and start singing. The stone carvings were amazing. At one of them, the emperor tore down Hindu and Jain temples and used the pillars to build his Mosque. The Hindu pillars are very plain looking while the Jain ones have so much detail carved in. It was so nice to be away from the hussle and bussel of Delhi. We were still in the city but could pretend that we were not. There were huge palm trees all over the grounds and parrots and thousands of dragon flies. It was nice to have a day to just be tourists. It gave my mind a bit of a break.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Old Delhi Adventure

On the first full day that we were in Delhi we relaxed and took time to settle in at the YMCA. It's really clean and nice with breakfast and dinner included. That night we took the subway to old Delhi to walk around. It was an unforgettable experience. We experienced the subway at rush hour. About 9 of us made it on the first train and 3 on the next. I have never been so squished in my life. I had all the breath squished out of me. We linked arms and my arms fell asleep. My feet were not even touching the ground at some points because there were so many people. Getting out of the subway was a miracle in itself.
Walking up the subway stairs to old Delhi at night was surreal. There was so much smog and so many people. People attach wire to power pole to steal electricity. I saw power poles that were literally bending over from the weight of hundreds of live wires. There were dogs and people all over the streets. There is no lanes for driving or "right-of-way." Crossing the street anywhere is an art. People are crazy drivers and always have their hand on the horn but there is no road rage. It's actually pretty neat. I have not seen a car accident yet either. We went to a famous restaurant that served the Mogul emperors since the 12th century and stayed in the family ever since. The food was great.
I must say i'm already sick of having indian food every day, every meal. It's really taking a toll on my body on top of the stress. For the first couple days I was really sick and throwing up because of the Malaria pills we have to take. Thankfully I've figured out a schedule that does not make me sick. Though I have not experienced bad jet-lag, my digestive system is defiantly out-of-wack. Hopefully once we get out of Delhi everything will settle and be less stressful. We've been soooo busy everyday. Up to this point we have visited an ancient mosque (which I forget the name of), the place where Gandhi was assassinated, a HUGE and new Hindu temple, gone to a few lectures at Delhi University, gone to a Jain temple and a a really cool interfaith ashram. I don't have time to explain my experiences at all these amazing places so you'll have to ask me after the trip :) Now i'm off to do some yoga and head to bed. Good night!

First Time Yoga

This morning we had our first yoga class while staying at the YMCA. It was my first time doing yoga. It was an amazing experience. I feel so relaxed. I did not realize how stressed and tense I was until I was told to relax certain areas of my body. I felt like I was letting go of so much and soaking in so much energy at the same time. When we closed our eyes to relax and focus on breathing, I could feel my eyes and cheekbones going crazy. It was like the stress I was holding in was shooting out those areas. It really reminding me of horseback riding. In riding the goal is to use the energy of the horse and rider together to create balance. I have to be relaxed and strong, guiding but not pushing. When everything balances together it is like a meditative state and my horse can feel every movement and change in my energy. I got the same feeling doing yoga. I can not wait to continue the sessions.

Monday, September 6, 2010

I'm here!

I've arrived in Delhi safe and sound. it's been intesting. I have very little time on the internet today so I will provide a full account of the adventure thus far ASAP
I already miss everyone so bad.
I'm finally here!

Friday, September 3, 2010

Almost Gone

I am finally leaving for India tomorrow. All the last minute packing is coming together and i'm not too stressed. I had a minor breakdown when I thought I forgot my wall charger for the ipod, but I found it under my piles of toiletries. It seems like I have more facewash and medication than clothes. Having a week in Ontario was a good chance to finalize packing, collect my thoughts and enjoy American food. Though it has been difficult to be away from home, I know it will be differnt in India. I will be so busy and overwhelmed that the time will fly by.
I bought a pair of cute shoes the other day. It feels wierd that I will not be able to wear them for 3 months.