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.