Lola Bites Back: And Other Inspirational Tidbits

Location: Bissingen an der Teck, Baden Wuerttemberg, Germany

Laughing all the way...

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Rajasthani snake charmers make a concert for us at the chai shop
(look closely to see the cobra!!)

Rajasthani women want to know how many babies I have.

Fresh fruits are the reason I know God exists.

Holy mango cart near holy Ganga.

On The Road Again..

Well, so much for settling down! ha ha haa hah hah haah haaaaaa!

Tomorrow morning I will board a creaky Indian bus to Delhi where I will collect my young cousin-sister, Cristina, from the airport. We'll spend one steamy, polluted night in Delhi before heading back to Rishikesh. I was hoping to ease her in with a semi-humane train ride, but as it's the height of the tourist season, it looks like she might have her first Bus Ride From Hell a bit sooner than planned. I guess it makes sense not to waste time, since she only stays for 25 days.

We'll spend a few days here in The Kesh so I can pack and store all my things before we head up the mountain. We have a nice company coming together for our first Yatra (holy pilgrimage); two Indian men and one famous Japanese guitar player. First it's the bus to Uttarkashi (6 hours) and from there we walk to Gangotri, approximately 150 km. From what I hear, we should clock about 30 km each day...but only God knows for sure.

From there it's only another 15 km to Gomukh, the origin of Ganga Ma!! Yatra mangalme ho!

. . .

Temperatures here in The Kesh are currently hovering around 40 C (100 F). Just yesterday I stepped out of the internet shop to discover the monsoon had arrived; lightning, thunder and sheets of falling rain had flooded the streets in a matter of minutes. Unprepared for flash flooding, I carried my shoes in a plastic bag and gritted my teeth as I waded through the murky waters. Taking cover under a plastic sheet, I made my way to the chai shop where I found a cow crumpled into a lifeless heap on the corner, flies crawling on it's huge black eyes.

Just ten minutes before, the power line above the corner had snapped and fallen, electrocuting the cow. Luckily, the cow had absorbed most of the current and no people were hurt. God works in mysterious ways, no?

An hour later I stood silent while six Indian men hoisted the cow's body up onto the back of a cart, pulling on its hind legs and using a thick bamboo stick for leverage. I gasped when the cow's head swung into the back of the cart with a heavy thud. Then, all in a day's work, they wheeled the body away to Ganga.

I looked up at the sky to see the sun peeking though the clouds. And I understood it was a bad idea to walk around in the pouring rain.

. . .

Back home I am nothing special, but here I am a magnet for the Indian men. Even the babas are making overtures. In the last weeks the "problem" has ballooned, and swamiji is fed up with my antics. Consensus is that I must retire to an ashram in the mountains for the solitude that is so necessary to fulfill my purpose here. So I will pack my things and say goodbye to The Kesh - a.k.a. Spiritual Disneyland. First it's a month of travelling/yatra adventure and from there it's anybody's guess..

Hari Om,


Come gather around people, wherever you roam
and admit that the waters around you have grown
and accept it that soon, you'll be drenched to the bone
if your time to you is worth saving...
then you better start swimming or you'll sink like a stone

-B. Dylan

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Monkeys chillin' on my balcony.

Mama and bald baby monkey, chillin' on my neighbor's balcony.

Many many monkeys, chillin' on everyone's balcony.

I never tire of monkeys.

My second scorpion this year...they are maybe the scariest thing there is!!!!!

The Magical Saraswati River in Mana Gaon, near Tibetan border.

Maha Saraswati!!

Nepali-style transport.

India's Last Tea Shop! (L to R: Usha, Omar, Madukhar)

It's God! No, it's a mountain! No, it's God!

Lola likes Mana.

Rooftop view of Badrinath town and holy Alaknanda River.

God is Everywhere.

More Badrinath

Simply Magic.

Yatra Mangalme Ho!

Early Monday morning I awoke just before 4am to prepare myself for the 12 hours car ride to Badrinath, one of the four major pilgrimage sites in the mountains around Hrishikesh.

I woke up nautious and with a bloated stomach. Seems my bronchitis had subsided just in time for my first bout (this year) with traveller's diahrrea. Undeterred, I packed all the warm clothes I could find and crossed the bridge to meet
Omar and Usha, the Indian couple who so graciously invited me to accompany them on their journey.

Omar is a spiritual man (who isn't spiritual in Hrishikesh?!) who became a speedracer with a vendetta once we hit the road. Usha and I held our collective breath as he sped around the steep mountain corners at 70 km/h, honking incessantly and passing everything and anything that dared to take up space. Two hours into the journey I began vomiting.

These narrow mountain roads aren't for the faint of heart; several times I watched other passengers vomiting unceremoniously from car and truck windows, grateful at least that Omar stopped the car for me when it was my turn..

In my delirium, I found time to worry about Buddha. Buddha was in the trunk, tucked away in a box with some chapati (Indian tortillas).

The Buddha situation was finally remedied with a simple solution; a mouse box! I bought one (chuadan) in Rishikesh for 35 rupees and made some chapati for bait. It sat empty for almost two days before Buddha succumbed to temptation. Once I had him, I took him to the chai shop for one last evening of barjan (devotional singing) before we set off for the mountains.

My original plan was to liberate him in Badrinath, but I don't know much about mice and wasn't sure how the ride was affecting him, so in the end I released him early, in the mountain town of Joshimath. I thanked him for his company over the last month and he scurried off, a free mouse, to forge a new home in the holy mountains.

We reached the holy mountain town of Badrinath, elevation 3,000+ meters, shortly before 5pm. Omar and Usha told me to keep quiet and presented me as their niece, but guest house owners eyed me suspiciously - tall, fair, dressed in western clothes and doesn't speak Hindi? - and refused us lodging.

Then we met Madhukar, the young Brahmin owner of a cozy guest house who was more than happy to accommodate us all. Madhukar was charming, rich, and came from a "respectable" Brahmin family (the caste of priests); Omar and Usha were duly impressed and the three of them became fast friends. They spent the entire evening jabbering away in Hindi while I lay on the bed, drifting in and out of consciousness.

The following day Madhukar offered to take us to Mana Gaon, the last Indian village before the Tibetan border.

Mana was the undisputed highlight of the trip for me. Pristine snow-capped mountain peaks, the surreal colour of the Saraswati River, charming local peoples who astound with their physical and mental strength... I was reminded of Nepal and I felt the urge to storm the Tibetan border and disappear into the stark mountain landscape. The pictures, as usual, do no justice whatsoever.

Again we spent the evening with Madhukar, who I had begun to suspect. I am much less naive these days - ever since one baba came to my room to catch Buddha and instead tried to catch me - and I don't take Indian men at face value anymore, especially when they are too nice. Madhukar wanted to take me to Delhi, to Agra, to Thailand, to the ends of the was too much, and I began to imagine he was saying all the right things to my "auntie and uncle" in an elaborate ploy to get to me. But then, my thinking may have been compromised by the altitude.

The next morning we packed our things and loaded up the car. Madhukar made us breakfast and promised to come to Rishikesh the following week. We thanked him for his generosity (he did not accept payment for our room, insisting that we were his guests) and said goodbye.
The ride home was much like the ride up; eleven hours of mad mountain roads, of which I was nautious for the last six. Now I understand what they mean when they say it's a "difficult journey."

Home again, I have thoroughly scoured my kitchen and settled comfortably back into my newly mouse poop-free home. My dear friend Atsushi arrived yesterday with miso soup and guitar in tow (!!!), and in two weeks time I will travel to Delhi to meet my cousin sister Cristina at the airport...also I have finally started meditating again and yesterday I even went to one yoga class! Seems things are going to be okay after all...

Hari Om, and
a la prochaine!

Friday, May 15, 2009

Lola Mantra

Inch by inch it's a cinch. Yard by yard it's hard.
Inch by inch it's a cinch. Yard by yard it's hard.
Inch by inch it's a cinch. Yard by yard it's hard.
Inch by inch it's a cinch. Yard by yard it's hard.
Inch by inch it's a cinch. Yard by yard it's hard.
Inch by inch it's a cinch. Yard by yard it's hard.
Inch by inch it's a cinch. Yard by yard it's hard.
Inch by inch it's a cinch. Yard by yard it's hard.

(repeat 100 more times)

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

About That Inspirational Tidbit I Promised...

It seems that no matter how bad things get, I always harbor some irrational hope for the future. A glance at blague entries from the summer of 2005 - easily one of my darkest times - confirms it. Some innate force of hope, as well as plenty of laughter, have kept me alive these last thirty years.

Eleven days ago I woke up wondering if my time had come. Apparently, God decided that I needed to appreciate my health, so he took it away. The upshot is that I've spent much of the last ten days devoid of the strength or will to move from my bed, sitting upright only to hack up gobs of green slime.

To be perfectly honest, I shun consultation with doctors in general and place them near the bottom of society's totem pole, frequently lambasting them as greedy, conniving demi-gods. But my symptoms - including an aching pain throughout my body - were worrisome enough that I did not hesitate to forsake my long-held principles.

As soon as I felt reasonably confident to remain upright for at least some hours, I dragged myself to Dr. Loomba, the resident homeopath at a neighboring ashram.

Dr. Loomba checked my temperature and tongue, asked me some relevant questions and gave me a special tincture to drink. The tincture was similar in appearance and taste to a shot of alcohol. He sent me home with two more special tinctures to alternate every four hours. As far as doctor visits go, I'd say this one was rather agreeable.

Back home, I collapsed once again in pain. Every few minutes, as I hacked up yet another remarkably unattractive chunk of green slime, my confidence in Dr. Loomba and his special tinctures waned.

Early the next morning I dressed myself, crossed the bridge, hailed a rickshaw into town and wandered the streets for half an hour asking "Nir-mal Hos-pi-tal kidhar hai?" fifty times before arriving at my destination just before 8am.

Dr. Aishwariya was very happy to see me, his first patient of the day. He asked all the standard questions about my condition, including whether I was married and whether I was alone or had any friends. As he took my temperature and blood pressure, he repeated over and over that I looked "same like Indian." As he pressed a stethoscope into my left breast, he mentioned how much he wanted to have foreigner friends. As he wrote my prescription, he advised me to "avoid dust and smoke."

Upon which I immediately burst into a painfully congested, hacking laughter; The forests above Rishikesh had been burning for at least five days and the entire region was saturated with smoke. And the dust is a permanent factor, with strong winds along Ganga's beaches keeping everything in range - including me and everything in my room - coated in layers upon layers of fine Ganga dust.

As I laughed away, spurred by the irony and pointlessness of it all, Dr. Aishwariya gave me his mobile number in case I needed to call him for any reason.

The next five days saw all of my previous activities replaced with one continuous hacking cough. And with plenty of disgusting things around to give perspective, I found that my own sputum bowl was, by far, the most revolting thing I have ever had to deal with. In my life.

Sometime during the week my friend Sanjay called to check in and say hello (score one for my guardian angels!!!). Upon discovering my sorry state, he did what any caring, concerned and conscientious American would do; he brought me sleeping pills.

He also drove me the next morning to see his doctor in Rishikesh - Dr. Sethi - who immediately ordered a chest x-ray and some bloodwork. Dr. Sethi was calm, professional and thorough. He diagnosed a chest infection (bronchitis), anemia and some other thing I can't spell, suggesting rather reasonably that first we treat the infection and deal with the funky bloodwork after. For the first time in a long time, I felt some confidence in a doctor's care..

Greatly relieved, I went home, cooked lunch and swallowed my antibiotics with hope for a prosperous future yet. I'm going to live, everyone!! You didn't know I was dying, but now you know that I am going to live!!!! It's the best of both worlds, no?

Sickness in a foreign country is always something of an adventure. And while it is one I absolutely prefer not to have, I'd rather have it here than in, for example, Mexico or Nepal.

. . .

If I was complaining before about the difficulty of keeping up my simple meditation routine, well, I guess it wasn't that difficult. At least it was possible. Anyone out there who has successfully meditated with bronchitis is welcome to share his secrets...this morning I lasted a mere 15 minutes before exploding into another hacking cough.

Many times throughout my life I've noticed that when I think I am in some kind of "bad situation," I am duly humbled when the "bad situation" evolves into something much, much worse.

Two examples leap immediately to mind; first, I recall the Executive Director at Scripps where I worked during university. I remember how we all hated him, criticizing his character flaws and mocking his incompetence. When his replacement arrived, we understood what we had lost.

And many times I criticized Southern California for being superficial. Then I moved to Washington, D.C., where I discovered urban warfare. At least we have a gorgeous coastline! Ha ha ha haaaaaa!

Time and time again I am forced to recognize that all things are relative, and reminded to appreciate every moment, because it can always get worse..

Ha ha ha haaaa haaa haa haaaaah ah ahhahahahahaa ha! Life is beautiful, folks, so live it up while you can.

. . .

I can tell I'm feeling better 'cause I'm feelin' a bit cheeky and this morning I was up and ready to bounce at 5am, just like old times. Damn it's good to be alive!

A few things that can't bring me down;

-flies in my tea

-Buddha eating a hole in my panties (or maybe that hole was already there..?)

-angry Russians in Kazakhstan

-swine flu

-6,754 staring Indians

signing out with love, hugs, and a new lease on life..