Lola Bites Back: And Other Inspirational Tidbits

Location: Bissingen an der Teck, Baden Wuerttemberg, Germany

Laughing all the way...

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Another Wacky Morning at the FRRO

I knew it was going to be an exciting day when a fistfight broke out in front of the FRRO building this morning. Something about who was first in the queue. It’s the first time I ever saw Indians arguing about proper queue order.

I was fortunate enough to be the first person "served" at counter number 1. The woman "serving" me took her sweet time (making a phone call, getting tea, chatting with the neighbor…) while a line of anxious souls gathered behind me.

She seemed to enjoy telling me that they could only give me an exit visa, and by the way, when would I like to leave the country? A bit shaken, but aware that this is a common occurrence at the FRRO, I joined another queue for a second (fourteenth?) opinion.

Later on, the man at the inquiry counter told me I could get a replacement visa, but not until March. I asked him to promise me, which he did, twice. He also gave me permission to leave Delhi. Then, before I left for yet another queue at yet another counter, he slipped me his name and mobile number! What does it mean??

Now when I meet people at the FRRO my first question is "how long have you been coming here?" It’s impossible to describe how hopeless and frustrating this office is. The Indian bureaucrats are powerful and they know it. And they looooove to make you sweat. Next time I have to do this I will be sure to wear a suit and heels with my sweet smile…

This evening I participated in my first street theatre workshop…but I’ve got to get off this computer now so I’ll have to tell you all about it later.

As always, BIG love for everyone!

PS Did you notice how I become a prolific writer when the going gets rough?

Monday, October 29, 2007

That giant sucking sound you hear... the sound of me getting sucked into Delhi life! The NGO where I am working is called Pravah, and their mission is to educate youth to get them socially active. I am 1000% supportive of this noble mission and find it a pleasure to work with the highly educated and interesting people here. Today we have discussed my possible future in this organization as a coordinator for the youth collective program. Aaaakkkk! I sound like a cheesy social worker! Wait a minute...I am a cheesy social worker.

And in a sweet gesture, the office bought a chocolate cake in honor of my birthday. So much for my Monday fast!

In three weeks time a dear friend from DC will meet me in Bangalore for some fun and frolicking in the south of India. I only hope the FRRO office can make some progress on my visa before it's time to go. Otherwise, I may just board the two days' train to Bangalore without it. But really, what's the worst that could happen?...hee hee hee

In the meantime I am making new (Indian!) friends here at work and still vascillating wildly over whether or not to replace my mobile. The people at work seem to assume I will (otherwise how will I stay in touch?). Seems logical enough, so why is it so hard?!?

One nice thought I had last night: I'm having a difficult time right now – maybe the most difficult since I arrived in India – and yet, I haven't plunged into the dark hole of depression that has characterized so much of my life. For some reason I'm still hanging on! For now I'll credit my friend Maria, who constantly tells me how beautiful I am and by her example, teaches me to be more moderate and to accept and be easier on myself. Thank you, Maria for your inspiration. And thank you, God, for sending me Maria...

the eternally hopeful and irrationally exuberant,

PS: Palm reading is a common thing here in India. The latest palm reader to have a look at my hand has predicted my death at 85 years old. Whoo hoo!

Sunday, October 28, 2007

A Sign from God?

Thank you to everyone who sent me happy birthday wishes!! I woke up to wonderful messages from my mama, Vince, Ita (You’re finally online!!!), Dana #1 (a.k.a. CB), The Swiss Contingent and Maltman (who delivered the words “gosh, you’re old” with his usual charm and grace)…and then more messages from Dad and Lis and a handful of friends scattered around the globe (Canada, Israel, Japan, Germany)…how is it possible that I am so blessed?!

Since last year, I have had visions of celebrating a triumphant 30th birthday while camping on a remote island. With the full moon and warm water, my environment would personify my bright future…
Yesterday I was not on my island, but in Pahar Ganj (a.k.a. the main bazaar, a.k.a. the western tourist nightmare in the center of Delhi) where Maria has a guesthouse. We spent the day consoling and distracting ourselves with street munchies and the many clothing and jewellery shops in the bazaar. I distinctly dislike the overwhelming whirling madness of Delhi’s main bazaar, so I can't explain why I spent much of the day there.

Then, we had a brilliant idea...we had both wanted one for a long time and now was suddenly the right moment. The jewellery walla pulled out some rusty-looking pliers and clippers and Maria offered for me to go first. I laughed nervously as he straightened the pin with the pliers and clipped the end to resemble a nail. Then, after approving the spot he marked on my nose, he simply pushed it right through, like a nail puncturing a bicycle tire. It was all over in a second.

Delhi isn’t the dirtiest city in India and I’m well stocked with betadine and q-tips (thanks Lis!), so there’s hope. I’ll keep the pin as long as it doesn’t infect…this is my third attempt and I'm quite sure this time will be successful...heh heh.

Not long after puncturing ourselves, I discovered my mobile had disappeared. Insert big sigh here. I have been cherishing the text messages from my brother and mama during the last weeks, reading them over and over in moments of loneliness. A quick message home can be a real boost, too. Besides all that, it’s useful to be connected in a major city like Delhi. As soon as I realized it was gone I remembered Swamiji’s words about lost items of value; this is your past karma getting worked out, so just accept it and move on. I thought to myself that I may have to lose many more things in my life, so why not just get good at it now?

I am sad to be off the radar again, but maybe this is a sign from God that I shouldn't consider a western-style city life, even if it is in India? I was addicted to the mobile. It's like crack, and this is generally not good. Tomorrow I will check again on the progress of my new visa. If it is ready, inshallah, does it mean I should move?

For the moment at least, there is nothing triumphant about my situation. My birthday comes this year amidst a cloud of uncertaintly and a series of difficult lessons. Lessons that I am struggling to understand and incorporate into my life. It seems to me that my spiritual progress is on pause while I live in this western dream world known as Delhi. I am torn between the old patterns of greed and materialism I honed in my shallow past and my great desire to flee to the ashram I have promised myself since first left Rishikesh back in June...

But for whatever reason, God and the FRRO office want me to stay in Delhi, a place where my best qualities do not flourish. As usual I cannot comprehend why, but these things take time to become clear. As I understand very well by now, plans are a western fabrication of the mind. There is no such thing as “plans,” only dreams. And my dreams are not gone, only postponed.

In the meantime, thank you everyone for sending me your love. It sustains me through these periods of confusion and uncertainty. This birthday will be a memorable one, if not the moment of triumph I had hoped for. Doubtless there will be triumphant moments in my future, as well as the losses. It matters little. Whatever ups and downs life brings, I am ready for them all.

Biggest hugs ever,

Thursday, October 25, 2007

I am a lover of the ambiguous, the ridiculous, the unintelligible and the awkward...

Just sitting here, wondering if “irreality” should be a word as I sip coffees brought to me on a tray by the office kitchen servant and search for the British spellings of words like “learnt.”

I have always been predisposed to various British conventions. Some will remember my habit of pronouncing “schedule” with a “shh.” I've even got a few foreign peoples convinced that Americans say “gee-tar.” For all I know they the south.

I've always had a perverse fascination with words. I can keep myself entertained with a dictionary for hours. I keep detailed slips of paper covered with strange vocabulary, like “gesticulate” (that one almost sounds a little nasty...). These papers live in a file cabinet at my father's house, in a large file called “miscellaneous,” another useful word, if not a useful file.

Is the Delhi pollution getting to me, you ask? Maybe it's the shock of sitting in front of a computer for six hours straight, editing documents in British English so that they are “Indianised” enough to be understood by an Indian audience. Apparently, as I am not Indian, this is a skill that I will need to develop over time...alas, the difficulty of editing is a challenge I can thoroughly savour (quick learner, no?)...

...and I am lonely, so I send my ramblings into space to feel more connected to my loved ones. My loved ones who are, inshallah, not getting burnt to bits in our annual So Cal firestorm...

the struggle continues,
with love always,

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

How many kilos of grain does it take to produce one fat, delicious cow?

I happened upon a fascinating book about the major world religions’ perspectives on what is proper diet (Diet for Transcendence, S. Rosen). Using quotes from scriptures and other texts, the author makes a clear case for vegetarianism. Teachings from all the major religions agree that universal compassion toward all creatures and non-killing are essential elements for the spiritual path. This strikes me as basically intuitive.

But what really shocked me was the simple revelation I happened upon in the introduction: the eating of meat is directly related to world hunger! ??

So the title is an actual question: How many kilos is it? Thousands? And how many children are starving all over the world? And how many children do 1,000 kilos of grain feed, anyway? And then it dawns on me: it's chicken karma.

I first became a vegetarian as a young girl at the behest of my dear mother, who, it should be known, is a vastly wise woman of great power and beauty. I was quite content to adopt the lifestyle and always just told others I didn’t eat meat because "the animals are my friends." Or, for the less flexible: "It’s for health." But I never really felt the need to consider it much.

Then, the chicken thing happened in Nepal, and something about it was so very wrong...but what? If it’s a common and accepted practice around the world and I had so many well-reasoned explanations for why it was justified, why was it so difficult to carry out? Why did my body shake and my voice quaver for nearly an hour after the fact?

Because killing is against the law of God, pure and simple. The fact that it is a "normal" occurrence around the world does not, at least for me, make it one bit less brutal and violent. I understand now that meat-eating limits me in my spiritual progress, directly deprives others of food, and makes animals afraid of me. In other words, it’s a lose-lose-lose situation.

After maybe fifteen years of unquestioned vegetarianism, I recently relaxed my standards enough that it is now possible for me to eat meat at regular intervals. But the purpose of the chicken incident is becoming clear; I need more awareness about and commitment to being vegetarian because the consequences of meat-eating are so devastating to humanity. Imagine how many more people could eat if we simply gave up our thirst for blood?

In other news...

..this morning I went to a nearby building where I heard there was an NGO operating from the second floor. Indeed there it was, and several of the women seemed very pleased to have me wander in from the street. It seemed a charmed moment as they talked about the mission of the organization: to educate inner-city youth and encourage them to become socially active.

I had already personally arrived at the conclusion that if we care about the future and want to affect anything in this world of ours, it starts right now with proper education of our youth. So I was quite pleased to hear about the workshops and projects about big ideas, like global development, organized for high school and college students here in Delhi. Tomorrow I will participate in my first one!

In the meantime I have already begun editing a few manuscripts for publication. The all-Indian staff is warm and welcoming and seems excited to have me there, so it seems natural to be volunteering there while I wait for the visa people to consider replacing my visa. It’s an exciting development, though risky because if I wasn’t waiting for a visa I would never consider settling myself into New Delhi! Aaaaakkkkk! Why me? Why Delhi? Why, why, why???

And the adventure continues…goodbye disco-dancing Muslim boys, hello Indian social workers!

Until next time,
Love and light to all,

PS I have some awareness about some fires in So Cal: is anyone in real danger??!

Monday, October 22, 2007

Charmingly Incongruent

It comes as a surprise even to myself, but I believe I'm beginning to develop an appreciation for this city. It seems to be a hotspot, east-meets-west kind of “melting pot” that seems representative of the huge changes taking place in many parts of India right now. Of course, not everything is exactly melting…just riding the metro escalator the other night was a bit of a shock. Underneath the melee of vehicles and horns in the traffic circle that is Connaught Place lies the cool, clean, regulated environment of Delhi’s sleek new metro system.

The metro is everything that India is not: clean, organized and efficient. It’s something you would expect to see only in major world-class cities. Eight rupees, three stops, finish. For me it’s a perfect symbol of India’s vast potential. I think explosive new developments are on the horizon, but how or what is anybody’s guess...

Of course the Indian hoards push, shove, and cram their way around each other in the metro station, but people are people whether they live in Delhi or DC, right? In fact, some other things here remind me of DC, like the high-cost living and the extremes of wealth and poverty. It’s a capital city so it also has its share of posh neighborhoods, exclusive hotels, clubs and restaurants to indulge the elite peoples. I suppose the stink of corruption is the same everywhere, but Delhi is exciting, too. It seems to be latching onto western ideas and conventions faster than it can properly assimilate them, creating the quintessential Indian experience of Complete Incongruity.

Where Strange is the Status Quo

As I often say, travelling around India is like living in a video game: anything can and will happen at any moment and you should be ready to expect nothing and accept everything. Circumstances from every inch of the pain-pleasure spectrum are bound to arise, so arm yourself in advance with a sunny disposition.

Because some things will happen that cannot be changed or reversed. Good examples include stepping past my ankles into that pool of Indian street sludge in Haridwar (near Rishikesh). Also, losses can be difficult to appreciate, whether it’s my cherished and irreplaceable rose-coloured Serengeti sunglasses (Madras, January 2003) or my passport and visa. Many people suffer needlessly at the discovery of a loss, but in this game you get more points for adapting. “Easy come, easy go” is the mantra. Difficult circumstances are just karmas getting worked out. Besides, nothing is permanent as good times are always just around the next corner...

Whether it’s haggling with a rickshaw walla or begging foreign service officers for mercy, whatever you do here will require your full attention. And remember to be chill (shantih), because it’s going to take time. And communication will be challenging, because one, two, or three little head bobbles will mean “yes,” “no,” “maybe,” and “I don’t know,” all at the same time. Ambiguity is the rule. Answer someone with a head bobble and sometimes it is definitive.

It’s also helpful to learn how to effectively shield yourself from the general insanity, especially if you are a woman. Dark glasses and a tightly wrapped headscarf in the Arabic style are my current foundation for “the wall.” These items help me maintain the expressionless look that is my first protection: no smiles, no glances, no fiddling around in my bag, no nothing. Maybe this seems simple or straightforward, but for me it is a struggle. My nature is one of laughter and frivolity. I like to make jokes. And I think I may dig awkwardly in my bag for the rest of my life…

YES, I am from Punjab!!!

Sometimes when I’m feeling a little down, a little bloated, or a little frustrated by circumstances I cannot control, I suddenly notice that all my clothes have stains or don’t fit right, that my upper arms resemble jell-o, or that my chin is getting furry. Perhaps these things exist only in my imagination, but when moments like these arrive I know exactly what remedy to apply: shopping and grooming. For better or worse, this is my culture and training.

So when my dear friend Maria was having a hair crisis, we headed directly to a posh salon for some treatments. While M had a cut, I took advantage of the threading, a painful but fascinating method of facial hair removal that I first discovered here in India. No less than three people pulled my face in all directions while they removed hairs using only a thread. The process took more than half an hour and came with free coffee, all for just 30 rupees (75 cents)!

But I didn’t stop there…I decided it was time to buy a proper Punjabi suit, the traditional dress for Indian women second only to the saree (which I am not yet ready to adopt). I found a decent one for 400 rupees (10 USD) and had it tailored in half an hour. Then, to complete the transformation, I bought Punjabi-style leather slippers for 300 rupees (7.50 USD). It was a splurge, but it did the trick. Today I am feeling better, walking around like a Punjabi girl and getting smiles from every direction. They really do love it.

And I really do love it, too..

Enough rambling for now. All my best to you people in the established world. Anytime you’re ready for some video game-style living you know where to go…

And thank you, thank you, thank you everyone!

Love always,

Monday, October 15, 2007

Swamiji Says...

The evening before I left Rishikesh I went to speak with Swamiji in his office. We chatted for almost an hour, mostly about the transfer of power currently taking place at the ashram, but also about the various things I've been up to since I'd seen him last.

I'll admit I was hoping to have more to show for myself, or at least something to show for myself, but Swamiji made all my worries disappear with his comment that at 30 years old, most "normal" people are getting married and settling down into life with no problem. But spiritual people - at 30 years of age - are a complete mess!

In other words, I shouldn't feel badly about my confusion because I am in the appropriate place for me. He reminded me to be patient and not to worry about "doing something," something I was reminding myself of less than a week ago. The truth is, Swamiji doesn't tell me anything I don't already know, but hearing it from him makes all the difference...

Thank you, Swamiji,

with greatest appreciation,
a remarkably well-cared for LMA

Health is Okay
Money is Tight
Stuck in Delhi With No Visa in Sight

Is it deja vu all over again? I spent the afternoon at the Foreigner's Regional Registration Office watching people from all over the world get yelled at by the charming staff. I wasn't yelled at, but simply told I have no visa. And they don't know when I will.

So...check back in one week? Two weeks? Three? I wanted to cry but I'm even too tired for that now. All the options are running through my mind...leave Delhi again? Find a place to rent for a month? Find some work? Check email? Yes, that's it!

Then, a note from my dear sweet Maria (of chicken assasination fame): she's coming to Delhi! Thank you God for throwing me a bone at my lowest moments! I may not have a plan or a clue, but at least I have Maria!

stay tuned,

PS: Thank you to everyone who puts comments on my blahg...I feel uplifted just knowing that there are people out there who are aware of my silly trials and tribulations. After all, I'm doing this for all of us!

Saturday, October 13, 2007

A Random Rishikesh Encounter

Rishikesh, and specifically Ram Jhulla, is a spiritual city that pulses with the vibrations of only the strangest people. The other night, as I walked home in the relative peace of the deserted streets, there suddenly appeared a petite woman dressed only in flowing white robes. We walked together and she told me she was originally from South Africa but living in the mountain for many years. She spoke about various things in a rambling manner until it was time to part. Then she stopped to face me, closed her eyes and, after some minutes, began to speak. She told me she felt very strongly that "a being" was trying to "snatch your heart." She told me also that I should never, ever curl up in the fetal position, that I should breathe softly and always keep my stomach and chest open. But the two comments that really stuck in my mind, and kept me up for most of that night went like this; She said that I do not need another spiritual being to provide me with answers (i.e. a guru, a swami, a more evolved person...), that the day will come when I will understand everything very clearly on my own. And the last thing she said to me was that I should be gentle with myself. She assured me that we would meet again and then, as quickly as she appeared, she was gone.

All I can say is, this is the stuff of Rishikesh. Whatever is special about this place, it cannot be quantified. All I know for sure is that in Rishikesh I am closer to God. I feel the divine nature of all things as clearly as I feel the rain. If you are the sort of person with even one iota of self-perception, please consider a trip to this place. It changes the lives of all who come...

Random thought: How is it possible for me to be here almost two weeks and only now, on my last day, I am finally visiting Swamiji? I went to his lecture today and the first thing he told me was that my face was shining. He then asked whether there were any "idiots" in my life (by idiots, he refers to men). I replied "too many," and he told me to "chuck them out."

Speaking of "chucking them out," my (ex) prospective groom requested a final meeting with me last night in order to fully ascertain that I was not available for marriage. I assured him it was not in the cards, he paid me some remarkable compliments, and the next day he was on a train to Lucknow to interview the next prospect. Now we can all breathe a collective sigh of relief...

Tomorrow I'm off to Delhi for more waiting and more confusion. Expect regular updates about nothing, as I hope only to continue my daily yoga practice and perhaps learn some Hindi with the maidservant. Oh and I've been handed a rather entertaining book called "The Monk Who Sold His Ferrari" in case anyone is interested in an easy and uplifting read.

Biggest hugs ever,


Friday, October 12, 2007

On The Road Again

Nine days in Rishikesh have flown by. Today I found myself chanting Sanscrit mantra at the Parmarth Niketan Ashram and feeling good to be "home." The westerners that come here may be slightly more confused than most, but I truly appreciate the many opportunities here for learning. Mother Ganga, mantra chanting, yoga asana, strange diet experiments...I am enthralled. I can't help but think that next time I come back I will spend some real time here.

Alas, yet another train ride awaits me on Sunday morning. It's time to go back to Delhi.
In Delhi I will have more than enough time to find a nice internet cafe and upload pictures to my heart's content. Stay tuned..

All my love,

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

In spite of the frustrations, we shared some good times in Delhi. From my experience I can surmise that the Iraqi culture is one of generosity, love, respect and loyalty. By the time I left, I really felt that I was leaving a dear family. I'm sure I will never forget the generosity and care these boys showed me as long as I live.

The youngest boy, Schemz, arrived only weeks ago with zero English and I was more than happy to become his personal English tutor during my stay. Meanwhile our program was a bit hedonistic, with one night spent at a posh lounge called "Mastrabiya" where we smoked shisha and sat mezmerized by a Russian woman covered in shimmering beads and shaking her hips in the traditional Arabic style. (I was so entranced I determined once again that dancing is a priority on the list of things I absolutely must learn!) Another night we went to a disco, something I have never actually experienced in my life, whereupon I spent the first twenty minutes fixated on the bass vibrating throughout my body, unable to move, speak, and certainly unable to dance. But after a couple of drinks I got into the groove of the Hindi beats and suddenly it was 4am and time to chelo. I was especially thrilled to hear "Gasolina" - the ubiquitous reggaton song I first came to appreciate in Mexico and a song that instantly transports me home.

Most nights we took iftar (the food we eat to break the daylight fast) at home, with the boys preparing Iraqi-style rice (a welcome break from plain white Indian rice), dehi (yogurt, curd), tomato soup with chicken parts, pita-style bread, and some kind of meat thing. Rarely did I see a vegetable, but it was so nice to have home-cooked food, and I was so hungry after a day of drinking only water, that I found myself thoroughly enjoying a simple mix of rice and dehi. Mmmmmm. One night we made Iraqi-style kabob: ground meat mixed with onion, spices, and a bit of flour and formed into patties which we then fried. They didn't resemble what I personally think of as kabob, but proved to be fairly delicious (from a former vegetarian's perspective, at least).

Just like gremlins, the boys came alive late at night with unpredictable results. Whether it was a shaving cream fight, an impromtu dance party, or "the ring game" (a tradition found only in Iraq where two teams take turns predicting who has the ring and erupting into chaos when it is finally discovered. I didn't fully appreciate the strategy involved, but it was clearly very exciting nonetheless), I really came to appreciate this close group of friends. I said my goodbyes with genuine sadness, as I had really grown attached to all of them, and finally boarded my train to Rishikesh.

What is Going ON Here!!??!

My reception in Rishikesh was surreal...after two weeks of floating haplessly around Delhi, I was greeted at the railway station in Haridwar by a turbaned driver with an air-conditioned SUV. I was taken to Ganga Vatika, the residential colony where my friend Sanjay lives, and promptly shown to "the guest house" flat. Needless to say I was shocked and amazed. Back in my beloved Rishikesh, I am still a world away from the creature-infested cage where I discovered God just across the river...

All of these luxuries are courtesy of my friend Sanjay and his wife Ranju, a couple I met back in March. Sanjay is Indian by birth but lived a fast and loose lifestyle in the states for twenty years until a near-death-by-car accident snapped him out of his insanity and led him back to India. He was married last year to Ranju in an arranged marriage, and now he lives a comfortable life in Rishikesh surrounded by his extended family. Altogether his family must occupy six or seven of the flats at Ganga Vatika.

Sanjay's mother and aunties were thrilled to meet me and have not stopped feeding me loads of delicious, home cooked Indian food since I arrived. At first I thought they were just very excited to have a visitor, but I quickly discovered their true motive; Sanjay's brother Vijay has just arrived from the states to begin the search for a bride, and it just so happens that I am the "ideal" prospect...the women folk chatter excitedly in Hindi about how beautiful I am (!) and how Indian I look (!) as they collectively eyeball my every move. "Just what he wants," they say over and over..."tall, slim, and fair."

Sanjay and I, being American at heart, had a good laugh about first. After all, it's entirely not an option, right? We're just making a funny joke, right?! Ha ha ha! Right?!!?...

The night Vijay arrived, the women lured me into the bedroom and picked out a saree for me to wear. I knew what their aim was, but for selfish reasons I went right along. To wear a saree is to be instantly transformed into an elegant goddess, and I've been longing to wear one since I first arrived back in March! Three women armed with safety pins went to work and within a half hour the transformation was complete, with elegant Indian jewelry, gold bangles, chapal (sandals) and even a bindi (the red dot they wear on the forehead). I was giddy with excitement and most happily posed for pictures (forthcoming).

After we feasted on an array of Indian delicacies - including lemons that had been preserved for 20 years - mom, dad, and aunties conveniently disappeared and I found myself walking along the Ganga with Sanjay, Ranju, and my prospective groom as he sang Hindi songs to me. Do I need to say that it was completely unreal? I'll admit I am intensely curious about the meetings held between prospective couples, and I was really hoping to be a fly on the wall for a couple of them, but never, ever, did I imagine I would be interviewed myself!!!! Thankfully, in a day or two the other prospects will begin to arrive and Vijay's entourage will be busy interviewing them while I escape back to Delhi. In the meanwhile I've decided to simply add the experience to the list of things I can permanently check off "the list" (along with experiencing the monsoon, killing a chicken, and losing my passport).

After the last days I realize that I am still walking around in a cloud of confusion. With only a week or so more to stay in Rishikesh, it is simply not an option to delve back into ashram life. But more than ever I am feeling the need to settle into one spot and have some work. I figure that by January I should finally be ready to choose a spot and settle in.

In the meantime Rishikesh is just as powerful as ever and I'm starting to understand that if a soul happens to find himself here, chances are he will return for the rest of his life. It's just that kind of place. A place where the air reverberates with life and literally anything can happen. It's just not possible to convey the experience in words...

I've had two days of yoga now with my teacher Surinder - a kind Sikkh man who constantly encourages me to become a teacher myself - and already the muscles are coming back. After one week it will be time to go back to Delhi, but this time I will be staying with Sanjay's auntie Veena, a sweet woman who speaks little English but who has generously opened her home to me and even promised me my very own maidservant who will cook, clean, and - get this - massage!

Once again, I am forced to ask, Does It Get Any Better Than This???????

Thank you God for keeping me healthy and safe. Thank you mom for your generous understanding and support. Thank you dad for always being ready to move mountains for me.

I finally understand how much you both sacrificed to take good care of us and I know how difficult it had to be. More than ever I feel awash in your gives me the courage to face my demons, one day at a time, with the conviction and determination to see it to the finish, however long that takes and wherever it may lead.

I may be confused and uncertain about my path, but there is nothing uncertain about your love. Words can never express how much this means for me and my journey. Without it I could be nothing. I am unspeakably proud and blessed to call you my parents. If you were here right now I might wrap my arms around you and never let go.

all my love and light,

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Happy Birthday Gandhiji!!!

Today is Mahatma Gandhi's birthday, and the entire country is shut down for celebration..!

After I made my last blahg entry, I returned to the girls' hostel on campus to discover that I had been thrown out by the warden for failing to follow the rules. It was really the last straw for me. I felt tired and helpless and stuck, and the tears finally began to flow.

It had been months since I'd last spoken to mom, but now it was time. I found a place to sit and started dialing - ignoring the fact that it was the middle of the night back in California - and, when she didn't answer, I left a sobbing, incoherent message. Just what every mother loves to get, right? But once it was finally time for all my pent up frustrations to come out, there was simply no stopping myself. I cried non-stop for nearly an hour and a half, until my eyes bulged like a bullfrog.

As soon as the guys discovered I was crying, they jumped into action and within a few hours more I had a new place to stay in a nice flat in a safe area near the central market. I also had a new plan; Ignoring the advice of the Foreigner's Registration office, I've decided to go back to Rishikesh for a week or so while my visa is being processed. I can see my yoga teacher again, get some nice books, and generally unwind a bit before I have to face Delhi again...

So, I am feeling much better these days. My train leaves tomorrow afternoon and in the meantime my stess factor has gone way down. And this morning, while the guys all sleep on the floor in the next room, I even have a moment to finally post some pictures from the last month (I'll try to add captions as soon as possible, but for now this is all I can manage) go in reverse order, from Delhi to Varanasi to Chitwan (Nepal) and finally back to Bandipur (Nepal). Enjoy!!!

still hanging in,

big hugs,

Gazala is the sweetest Indian girl I've ever met...I stayed in her hostel for almost a week.

It's been ages since I had a good, old-fashioned shaving cream fight...or since I've laughed so hard!

An excellent stress buster, I recommend you bring a can to the office (Specifically, the DA's office).

I rarely take photos of dying or dead things, but this one I took because I blahgged about it in Varanasi.

I never get tired of cow-standing-in-garbage pictures, and this Varanasi bull was frighteningly HUGE.

Bath time in Chitwan!

This one needs no explanation for those who know about my lifelong preocupation..

Jalebis are super sticky Indian sweets that are served with...hornets! (no charge)

A rare smile from a Nepali vendor as I sat on the roof of the bus.

Maria plays lightheartedly with the chicken before she realizes that we're going to eat it...

Nepali-style cooking means squatting on the floor in the Eduardo is making chapatis!

...and Maria chops vegetables. These two weeks in Bandipur were truly memorable.

I am obsessed with cheap, fresh, beautiful vegetables.

A local gang of adorable Nepali village boys.

Nepal is so picturesque that it's impossible to go anywhere without feeling like you're in a painting. (This is in Bandipur)