A Travellerspoint blog

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In Just One Month...


In just one month, I will be at the mercy of the world. I suppose we are at the mercy of the world at all times, but it never quite feels that way when you are someplace familiar. At a place called home, there is some deeper sense of safety, perhaps called ignorance.

But in just one month I will call a new place home, a place I can't yet imagine- although I have tried. It is never as you imagine it to be. I fancy myself a good traveler, for I itch for an "in" wherever I go. I want the local experience, the day to day-- knowing it will never be my day to day. One of the greatest rewards of traveling is to be able to experience everyday things as if for the first time, to be in a position in which nothing is so familiar that it is taken for granted. How dull it is to take things for granted, I say. But to embrace a change, the unfamiliar, that's where growth happens, a knowledge you can't get from a text book.

India is said to be the one place on the face of earth where all the dreams of living men have found a home, dating back to the dream of existence. It is the motherland of language, history, tradition, and spirituality. It is the birthplace of yoga and the most vibrant of colors. It seems there are such few places in the world that can claim such significant, valuable, and timeless creations, and India in all its glory does so with humility. A humility I hope to learn from during my time there.

I am going to India primarily to study and practice Yoga. Ever since I decided to take this trip, people have asked me, "Why India?" A perfectly valid question. In my opinion, it is essential to study something from it's place of creation, from it's natural existence point and not your own. Studying yoga in California, to me, seems as much a learning experience as being an oceanographer in Nebraska. Your information would be second-hand at best. Passion requires sacrifice, time, and often travel. Things that seem too expensive to fore-go for just anything but when it's something grounded by passion, you don't consider it costing at all. All things are gained, even the set backs. It's one of the things I will have the privilege of learning from with the ability to harm none. A large check on the old bucket list. As Mark Twain has said, “Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines, sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.”

And that I shall... in just one month.

Posted by WorldbyRen 17:16 Archived in USA Tagged india mark yoga twain Comments (0)

Arriving in India

30 °C

Well, that was enough to make me want to forget how I got here. Once I was able to stop crying at the airport, sad to leave such wonderful people (I truly do have the greatest friends in the world), I made it to Hong Kong with little issues. Only complaint: longest flight everrrrr. A solid 14 hours or so. When I walked onto the airplane in San Francisco, I was seated right next to the only woman on the plane with an infant. Great. I may need to slide into my drug-induced coma sooner than expected. Turns out the mother was from Sri Lanka but was living in SF with her husband who was studying for his master’s in Physics of all things, and the kid was great. The mother tried to explain that this girl was the only good traveler out of her 15 children. And she was! She hardly cried at all, I think I cried more than her. I mean, seriously that flight was really long.

Once I arrived in Hong Kong I bought the only food I could pronounce and there I sat eating my chocolate muffin and talking to my friends on Gchat. It was like I never left. Oh yeah, except I was by myself on the other side of the planet. We left within a couple hours and I was on my way to Bangkok. I had an 8 hour layover there and had learned beforehand that I could purchase a “Visa on Arrival” to spend some time in Thailand. How amazing! Well, not quite. The visa was going to cost an outrageous amount plus there would be an “exit fee” upon returning to the airport, and oh yeah, I had ZERO idea of where to go or what to do. Take the Metro, right? Yeah, but to where? I kept asking the poor clerk at the currency exchange window all these questions and his poor broken English managed to inform me it would could about $400 to spend the next few hours in this city, which was in political unrest, and had been victim to an attack only hours before. On top of that, it was midnight back home and I didn’t quite feel up for carrying my 50lb backpack all over an unsafe and unfamiliar city where I couldn’t understand the language.

So, as an exciting alternative, I napped. Like, all day. I fell asleep at a charging station before I even plugged my computer into the wall. So by the time I woke up, my computer was still dead and it was time to find my gate to actually get to Delhi. Oh yeah, Delhi. I had completely lost track of my intention here. What day was it? Saturday-ish? Sheesh I hope I’m getting my jet lag out of the way now. I was groggy getting onto the plane in Bangkok and heard the Captain announce in a delicious South African accent that he was expecting a smooth flight all the way. Great. More nap time. Although no matter how hard I try or how many Xanax I pop, I can never fall asleep before takeoff. It’s just too darn nerve-racking in good and bad ways. And then there it was, the roar of the engines, everyone grasping their arm rests and being forced against the back of their seats as the plane begins its violent acceleration. As I was nervously attempting to stare out the window, the plane begins to steadily slow down. Hmm I don’t remember this being part of the routine and there had been no weird noises or bumps. We come to a dead stop and everyone looks around with comments bouncing between “why aren’t we leaving?” and “are we there yet?”

A few moments later the Captain comes on again and says, “Ladies and gentlemen, if you are you wondering what happened…” with a pause assuming we are all replying something along the lines of, “Um, yeah, what the f?”
“… you see, when they built this airport, they built it over a large swampy marsh land.”

Okay… and?

“Well, it seems to have gotten the best of us. You see, we are stuck in the marsh.” A vehicle should be along shortly to tow us out.”
Uhhh, I’m sorry, what?! Our AIRPLANE is stuck in a SWAMP?! Can’t you just put it into reverse and take a mulligan without letting us know that your drunk ass can’t steer the damn aircraft? Ugh. Fuck it. Where is my Xanax?!

Once we were finally airborne, the only thing that could put a smile on my face was the chubby Indian man sitting next to me who had chosen (out of 50 movie options, mind you) to watch Sex and the City 2 and was giggling really loud every time Samantha said anything. Like, really loud. Everyone within viewing distance was looking as us, as if to say, “shut up, nothing is that funny.” To which I had to reassure myself that watching an Indian man laugh at Sex in the City was really that funny. It really was.

So that got me through to Delhi where magically my bag was the first one on the conveyor belt and my pre-arranged taxi driver was waiting for me at customs! Okay, that never happens! He even greeted me with a beautiful orange lei, which would have made me feel right at home… if I had come from Hawai’i.

So, nevermind the driving in this damn place. Can you call it driving? Whatever it is, I find it rather offensive in every sense of the word. Nevermind the concept of lanes, signals, or predictability. None of that exists here. I think all these cars come equipped with are horns and accelerators. You drive where there is an opening. That is the only rule. And everyone, absolutely everyone on the road is really horn-y. (you know what I mean) So after half an hour of cutting off TATAs and wiping out pedestrians and mopeds (you would think the government pays taxi driver to kill them, I swear) we finally arrived at Wood Castle. What a relief this place was! Before I could even sign in, the staff handed be a 40 of light beer—don’t mind if I do—and was shoving some curry drenched French fries down my throat. Yum! The only thing was, I am the only one here by myself. Apparently NO ONE travels alone to India. Yeah, what a stupid decision that would be. I think that lei maybe had to with the fact that they thought I was widowed! Pity flowers? Really? I told them, “I’m not widowed, I’m just ambitious,” getting a little defensive, to which they felt it necessary to reply, “Ahh, yees, vetty vetty white.” Hrrm, not quite what I meant but, thanks, I get it. I haven’t seen the sun since July in 2009. In any fashion, I’m going to bed. Namaste.

Posted by WorldbyRen 05:41 Archived in India Comments (0)

A Couple Days in Agra

Leaving the hostel in Delhi was harder than I thought. I had found a diamond in the rough and knew I wouldn’t likely get so lucky with my trip South to Agra in Uttar Pradesh. I have developed a good friendship with one of the attendants at this place who made me feel safe in this crazy, crazy land. I am sad to leave him because he is yet to lead me wrong. He has been very helpful at getting me around town carefully and at fair prices (for a white girl). I doubt I will have such luck elsewhere. Fortunately, I had also met this lovely Irish couple and the three of us were off to the train station together to see the sights of Agra.

Paddy and Karen were absolute lifesavers. I would have been lost, cheated, robbed, and probably dead without their help. But thankfully we made it to our hostels safely with few complications. The following morning after setting our alarms from 5am, we went to see the Taj Mahal at sunrise. Oh my.

The Taj Mahal exists today as one of the most famous structures ever created and stands in brilliance as a symbol of eternal love. It took 20,000 people over 22 years to complete and is positively indescribable. Its construction was completed in 1653 by Emperor Shah Jahan for his third—yes, third—wife. That must have been some kind of woman. She died after giving birth to her fourteenth child. Holy crap, someone better build that woman a damn castle!

It is devastatingly unfortunate how the haze that seems to sit over the entire country completely wipes out the marble of this astounding creation, it is nearly impossible to get a photograph that portrays the brilliance of this monument. But I saw the Taj, in all its glory. It’s real—the greatest testament to love ever built and I was lucky enough to have walked into it. I highly recommend it to all who have yet to go, it is worth every ounce of the hype.

Posted by WorldbyRen 23:09 Archived in India Tagged mahal taj agra Comments (0)

A Rough Start

WARNING: this entry contains graphic content and is not to be read by all who are following this blog (mom—this includes you).

Today was one of those days where you find yourself saying things like, “I didn’t see myself being here.” And “Seriously, did that just happen?” A situation you play over and over again in your head hoping it didn't end as bad as you remember. Rest assured, it did. I was up before the sun again to catch the train at Agra Cantt. Upon arriving, I learned my train had been delayed for an hour and I didn’t even have a guaranteed seat on it. I was pacing up and down the platform to avoid any temptation to sit down anywhere when suddenly something falls in the corner of my eye. It was a man. A very old Indian man, the kind that you would think had lived on the mountain top for the last 350 years, and he weighed no more than a whopping 80 pounds—my left thigh, essentially.

For a moment I thought of the situation as I do when homeless men in San Francisco start making scenes. I ignored it, tried not to look at it, and desperately grabbed for my stomach to ensure that I still had my money belt in its entirety. I did. But in my ill attempt at self-control, I looked back to find that he was moving in violent convulsions with blood spewing from his mouth and falling down his cheeks while he lay on his back.

A young boy ran past me and placed his shoe over the man’s mouth. I couldn’t for the life of me, figure out why. It was at this moment that I approached, with hardly thinking about it (obviously) I asked the boy what he was doing and why. He stares blankly. The language barrier is my fault being in a foreign land and not knowing any Hindi other than “Namaste” and “shukriya.” (I have since learned that it is Indian superstition that doing this is supposed to stop the seizure). The man’s eyes were rolled into the back of his head, he was seizing… violently. I immediately tried to recall everything I knew about epilepsy (which is embarrassingly limited) and tried to gesture to boy to roll the man onto his side to prevent him from choking on his tongue and place something in his mouth to prevent him from biting it. Another person who had heard me and understood some English approached with something to place in the man’s mouth as the boy was rolling him over. As they bent down to position it, (discontinue reading now) his tongue fell out… of his mouth… unattached.

No one else in the entire station even seemed to notice that something was wrong. I guess that’s what happens in a country with over a billion people, none of which I am convinced have ever had a solid bowel movement. I was furious, and nauseated, and completely out of ideas. The blood was rapidly covering the ground and I had to move away for several reasons, most importantly so as not to touch it. I felt extremely dizzy as though I might lose consciousness or at least lose the mango juice I had had for breakfast. I had to leave. I ran through the station and told an attendant about what had happened, since no one else had! He seemed rather calm, as if he would get around to it when he had some time, although it’s likely he did not understand English. I can only assume the man died there today. I really wish I could have helped. I didn't feel right staying or leaving, but I knew one of those would help more than the other. Needless to say, tomorrow shall be a better day.

Posted by WorldbyRen 23:22 Archived in India Comments (0)

Returning to the Real World

Shalom India, Shalooooom Bali!

As I sit oceanside of the sand dunes looking out across the Arabian Sea to the sun sinking beyond the horizon, I can not help but reflect back on the past 5 weeks I have spent in India. I would like to think they have changed me completely, in all the right ways, but alas I find myself wondering if I will return to same old habits once I return to a world devoid of constant yogic practices, a world of flurrying minds and motives stemming from monetary gains. Ahh, yes the world we know. I will miss the silence, I will miss the people, and I really hope I don’t begin to miss myself. I have worked really hard and sat very very still for way too fucking long to receive the opportunity to meet myself. The self that doesn’t thrive on company and conversation, rather it observes presence and can love unconditionally without giving materially. I have too many times been accused of Eat, Pray, Love with this trip. And it’s not accurate, although I will admit, I have learned how to love in India (no easy feat, mind you) and no, it does not come in some hot Brazilian form, or any form for that matter, but it’s there. Even though I still can’t pray for shit.

But enough of my hippie crap, it’s time to party! On the way to Bali, both Winni (from yoga in India) and I shared a nearly ten-hour layover in Mumbai. He is lovely company but I was so tired. When he found me in the airport at our preset “meeting spot” I was passed out on the floor and drooling on my backpack. Hot. Regardless, he did not hesitate to wake me and forget about any opportunity to spare me the embarrassment.

My flight was delayed for over an hour, which was only a problem because my next layover in Malaysia was only an hour long. Didn’t look hopeful. But towards the end of the flight, I snuck up to one of the front rows of the plane and was the first one off (except for the poor bastards in first class who have to wear suits on airplanes instead of my well-chosen linen pajama pants—their loss). When I exited the plane, I had 6 minutes until my other plane was due to take off, likely it was not even at the gate anymore but when I checked the departure board, there it was! Final boarding call! If I ran, I could make it but it wouldn’t look pretty.

And it did not, I had to take my flip-flops off after my third slip, trip, or stumble and simply sprinted like it was the 400-meter dash, only it was more like the 800. I probably looked like Phoebe in that episode of Friends where she ran through Central Park flailing every limb of her body in different directions. Weezing, gagging, and sweating, I made it as the last one to board the airplane and it was off to Bali!

Posted by WorldbyRen 03:26 Archived in India Comments (0)

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