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.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

South India

We have passed the half way mark of the trip. We left the north and after two days of traveling we arrived in Bangalore. We took a two hour plane to get here. It was kind of nice to have a break form India while we were in the airport and on the plane. It was weird to be on a plane going somewhere new instead of home. I think most of the group members got homesick for a bit. I did. So far the south is much easier to be in than the north. I'm not sure if it is because we are over the culture shock or if there really are fewer people living on the streets, car horns, and less garbage. We are staying in a huge building but I am not exactly sure what it is usually used for. They serve great food though. It is taking us some time to get used to the fact that they serve rice last. It's like we get 2 meals. It's very different from the north but delicious. We have more time off in Bangalore to catch up on schoolwork and hopefully enjoy the shopping.

Saturday, October 16, 2010


We have been busy in Dharmsala. On Thursday we visited 2 nunneries. At the first we met nuns from all over the world and got a teaching about the basics of Buddhism. It was a great overview. We also had pasta and cheese for lunch which was quite the treat. In the afternoon we had an audience with Jetsuma Tenzen Palmo. She is a British woman who was drawn to Buddhism when she was in her late teens. She came to India when she was 20 and became a nun. Nuns had very limited access to Buddhist teachings at the time and she has worked to make them available for women. She went into the Himalayas and meditated in a cave for 12 years alone. I cannot imagine what that was like. When we talked to her she did not want any questions about the cave. What stood out the most was when she talked about her mom. I asked how her family responded to her going to India at 20 years old. She said that her mom was basically the only family she had that mattered. She never held her back or complained because she was left in Britain. Her mother prayed that when she is reborn she comes back as Tenzen's mom again. She realized that Tenzen will need special parents to let her continue on her path. It was really beautiful and half of us including Tenzen, teared up. She is really down to earth. Not caught up in a celebrity whirlwind. I am so grateful for the chance to meet all these remarkable people in India.
We are now half way done the trip. We had an overnight train to Delhi and will fly to south India tonight. It is hard to believe it's been 6 weeks. It seems like it went by so fast yet so very slow.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Himalayan Adventure... Fog and Goats and Chai oh my

I had an amazing experience in the Himalayas this week. First I'd like to mention that I REALLY dislike hiking. I've tried, it just is not my idea of fun. It look us 5 1/2 hours to climb up. It was really hard. At one point I was so grouchy that I forced myself to smile. It actually worked and I felt better afterwards. When we got to the top it was so cold and foggy. A few of us were all ready to turn around and go right back down. We were miserable and just huddled together in blankets for a while. The house we stayed in was a few rooms made of stone with 2 single beds pushed together in each. We turned on an iPod and danced around for a while to lift our spirits. The fog slowly lifted and we could finally see the mountains around us. It was amazing. We were so high up and isolated on this peak but closed in by the even taller mountains around us. We were in the clouds so the weather was constantly changing. You could look at one mountain then it would look completely different a minute later. Just before sundown a few of us went for a walk to the chai shop 10 min away from where we stayed. We ran into a flock of goats and sheep. There were some baby lambs and they were sooo cute. One ran over to me. He was black with a white ring around his body so he looked like an Oreo. I crouched down and he came and cuddled with me in my shawl. It was adorable. When we tried to leave he chased after so I let the others go ahead so carried him behind a rock. I put him down and ran but he still chased after. Then the Shepard came around the corner and started yelling so we took off. It got too dark to go to the shop but it was a really amazing sunset. It was a pretty rough night. I don't think anyone got enough sleep with 4 people in each bed. At one point there was a storm and the wind was so bad. We had to help take down 2 tents and I thought the wind would blow us right off the mountain. In the morning there were hardly any clouds. The sunrise and the view was beautiful again. After a glass of chai we started back down the mountain. Going down was alot faster but alot harder on my knees. At one point a hail storm came over us but we got down ok. We walked through another herd of sheep and goats. I found one baby goat with a jacket on! If you've ever seen the movie Cold Mountain you might remember at the end where a lamb dies and she makes the coat into a jacket for another lamb. So I found a white goat with a black coat on. I thought that was really cool. The whole experience was pretty unexplainable. We have some pictures that will probably be on facebook though they will not do the view justice. I am super proud that I did it but I think that's enough hiking for me for a while.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Nothing tops today

So we have left the farm in Dheradune. one bus ride, followed by a train ride, and another OVERNIGHT bus ride, and 2 hour taxi up the mountains, we are in Dharmashala. It was a really long night on the trian. Another train had broken down so for a while there were double the amount of people on it and it was almost frightening. It was also really cold and I had no way to turn off the air-conditioning that was blasting in my face. But it was all so worth it. Dharmashala is by far my favorite place so far. The Dali Lama was actually just finishing up some teachings today. A small group of us dropped our bags in the hotel room and went out to see what was going on at the main temple. We got there about 20 minutes before he finished speaking. We were sitting with a couple hundred others, outside the main temple area and watched on a small tv screen. We couldn't understand what he was saying and did not have a radio to translate it. We consitered just going back. Then we were shuffled to the side because they were making a lane for a car to come through. So we were sitting at the edge of the empty space and the car comes in a backs to a set of stairs. We saw some monks coming down the stairs then we saw some other monks helping someone come down. It was the Dali Lama. I saw him. He paused on each step to look around at all of us. It was nothing like it would of been in North America. Everyone was respectful and just sat and was quiet. He cam around the car and we were right there... 10 feet away from him, and he saw us. It was unexplainable to have the darsan of the Dali Lama. I did start crying as soon as I saw him. After he got in the car and drove past, everyone started moving about and leaving but our group couldn't even moved. Half of us were crying and we all just stood and had a group hug... 2 of them. It was really a bonding moment.
We just relaxed and reflected for the rest of the afternoon. The whole group went for dinner at a chill little place near the hotel. It was really great to just have a beer together and dance around. I'm sure everyone else in the place thought we were crazy but it was really fun. overall, awesome day. But I am very tired.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Dr. Vanadana Shiva's Organic Utopia

I am staying on a organic farm in Dehradun. No access to internet unless we drive an hour into town so I will update this on a later date. We have amazing fresh, wholesome vegetarian food. Here is the link...