Saturday, April 24, 2010


I know it's been two weeks since I've returned, and blogging now after such a long time is like procrastinating on writing a thank you note. It's lost a little of its emotional punch. It's on the brink of growing a little mold, and has definitely lost some of it's nutritional value. But nobody's perfect.

Returning from India was LITERALLY a breath of fresh air. The air I breathe here on Vashon Island amongst the swaying fir trees and deep greenery is reviving me like Prince Charming would a Disney princess. Not that I was dead or sick, just...away. Away in my tower, away in my glass coffin, away in my head and my sweaty, carb-loaded body. Away on a pilgrimage that was successful. Yes. That is how I feel about it. My trip to India was a complete and utter success. I succeeded in stripping myself of possessions, whereabouts, and predispositions. I stripped myself of my privilege bubble, even if it was only for a few hours here and there on a pervert-filled train, or for a few hours or moments, even, when it just didn't matter. I succeeded in not needing the things I thought I needed. I succeeded in finding something akin to the religion I had always wished I could believe in. Little did I know when I was young, kissing the tiny cross next to my best friend's bed at night, wondering would I ever believe?, that I would be praying my guts out in India and believing in every minute of it.

I succeeded in finding what I didn't know I was looking for: faith and love. I now know that I've always had those things, I just couldn't see them in the way I can now. I had to go halfway around the world to find out that I love my life, I love my family and friends, and I am dearly loved by them, and what more do I need? I had to go halfway around the world to find the goddess that has always been inside of me. I had to bring my lover halfway around the world for the ultimate test of our compatibility, only to realize that my testing was doubting and my doubting is my not loving. If that makes any sense. I had to almost completely ruin my relationship with an incredibly important and amazing person in my life to realize that: life is not a test. It is an opportunity. An opportunity not to be taken for granted, and neither are its gifts...or its challenges.

I have spent the past two weeks taking in as much Western pop culture as I can stand...everything from Lady Gaga to outrageous shoe shopping to Martha Stewart magazines. I have been helping my parents as much as possible. I have been paying attention to the animals. I have been seeing all of my friends and life has been a blessing. Everything has shifted but underneath it all, no one has changed. It brings me comfort to see that though a person can change circumstances and shift and think and feel different things over time, they can still be the friend I knew them to be, and we can pick up our conversation where we left off as though a day hadn't passed. Poni comes home to Seattle (and me) in a couple of weeks. While our plans together aren't solidified, we are solid in each others' hearts, and that is all that matters.

Thank you India. Thank you Sri BNS. Thank you Deities. Thank you Universe.

Stay tuned for my next adventure...!!!

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Final Days in India

It has become clear to me that leaving India will be like squeezing dramatically and painfully through a birth canal. In a hilarious India way. The past couple of days have been, well... "Hellish" is the word that comes to mind and clouds all other possible words. I am finding it hard to believe that the majority of our travelling has been so easy in comparison.

We tried to leave Kalpetta. Seemed easy enough. Just go to the bus stand, ask someone how to get to our next destination, and be on our way! No. The thing about Indian people is that they will give you a made up answer if they don't actually have a clue. So we ended up trying to catch a bus in a nearby town, Mapeddy. We had been led to believe that many buses left this town every day to get to our next destination. But instead there was only one, at four PM. And nobody out of the ten or so people we asked had bothered to mention that it stops at a completely different bus stand in town! After sitting in the bus station eating all of our snacks and watching the town buses pass through the station again and again, the bus boys becoming more and more amused by our presence, a gaggle of males finally plodded up to us and laughingly informed us we had missed our bus and would have to catch the one at six thirty the next day. Frustrated, sweaty, bogged down with luggage, and a bit disheartened, Poni and I tried failingly to find a taxi driver to give us a fair price. But to no avail. This tiny little ghost town had become saturated with the knowledge of our touristy presence. Being unhelpful and watching us flounder about not knowing what to do with ourselves was more interesting than helping us leave. Having waited all day for a bus at that point, we decided to give it a try the following day, and commenced to find another hotel room. But lo! It's suddenly the Indian holiday season and every hotel in every tiny po-dunk town in these mountains is full. We finally end up back at the hotel we were at before, our tail between our legs, regretting all of the incessant and failed arguing we had done with them over the additional "taxes" they had snaked onto our bill when we had checked out earlier that day. We got the last room in town. Infested with ants, but the toilet and sink both worked...bonus!

The next morning we cheerily hopped on another bus to another town we'd been to before, but knew it promised us travel options. It was lovely barrelling down the mountain, roaring past tea plantations and monkey families sunbathing and fraternizing with Indian tourists. We had seats this time, which was a plus, but the girl in front of me couldn't hold onto her breakfast so she politely asked the isles behind her to close their windows so she could calmly vomit out the window. No big deal, apparently. Happens all the time when you're spinning wildly around hairpin turn after hairpin turn.

The man at the train station information desk was actually helpful! He gave us times and places that were actually accurate. We were to take two trains to get to Bangalore from there (Calicut). Perfect. We battled our way onto the train, knocking through the vicious crowd with our bags. I got into a particularly close race with a tiny old man. No fair that he had a cane to whack his way through! Only two hours on that train. Lunch at the train station was lovely! We cheerily enjoyed our one-millionth thali meal and agreed that THIS day was much better than the previous. The Gods were smiling on us. Train number two began peacefully. Fairly empty train. Seemed to be emptying enough for us to lay ourselves down over some seats eventually. Just as we were getting into nap position, the Gods decided to have a laugh, and began filling the train with Indian men. They crushed us into the corners of our seats and began flopping on us and the other boys around them kitten-pile-style. Thinking it was strange that they had the gall to be physical with us, we wondered if this was some new Kerala train etiquette, perhaps. Six hours in, our butts sore beyond sore, and the breath of the boys all around us becoming more and more noticeable, we inquired as to when we might be reaching Bangalore. We could use a shower. Oh. Eight hours from then! We would be there all night! Poni and I looked at each other with crestfallen faces, then burst into laughter. Of course India wouldn't let us get off that easy. At first we were sitting opposite each other, each of us with a huge oaf grumbling and rolling around next to us. Then the guy next to me decided to try to massage my boobs with his elbow. I elbowed him out of my bubble. Being relentless is a thing in this country, so of course he kept trying and trying to use his elbow as a grope-tool. Then he started...ugh. Men. Why must they be SO FILLED WITH TESTOSTERONE to the point of being completely and utterly repulsive?! I had to have Poni switch places with him. All through the night feet snaked their way into my bubble. I would finally start to nod off, and then there was yet another toe poking my shirt, my ankles, my everything. By the time we heaved ourselves out of that train, I was disturbed to the core. Shaken, tired, sleepless, VIOLATED.

I must admit, I am tired of the man-snakes here. I am tired of their eyes undressing me, their smiles that are more of a sneer than a kind expression, their handshakes and other unnecessary physical gestures that make me feel queasy. The fact that they are EVERYWHERE. I miss my male friends at home. I miss my home where the "ladies" and "gents" and whatevers can actually BE friends. I have a much greater appreciation for the advancement of gender equality in my own country after having been here long enough.

On a nicer note, Kalpeta was lovely just prior to our attempts to leave. We neutralized any relationship woes we had been stewing in, patching ourselves back together as the magical, special people we are to each other. We are more of a team now than we have ever been. We visited some amazing caves with ancient Sanskrit written on the walls, waded through a river to get to a lovely and peaceful island, visited a quaint little lake with paddle boats and young Muslim newlywed couples. We discovered the best restaurant ("hotels"...why do they call them that?! Why do they call the barber shops "saloons"?!) in India, perhaps. Hotel Delux, it's called. With the tiniest little man in flowery lunghis offering the most amazing sambar, banana-coconut cakes, parota, and service this country has offered us yet.

We are now in Bangalore. Nice hotel. Hot shower, comfy bed. HBO. Anxieties melting into trustfully clean sheets. The joys...oh, the Joys!...of toilet paper. My impending departure from this country is looming ominously in the very distant future. I am feeling a mixture of ecstatic happiness and anticipation, sheer nervousness, and utter, utter sadness.

I don't care what you do to me, India. I love you anyway.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Houseboat, Allepy, Calicut, And Now Kalpeta

We floated from Kollam to Allepy after Varkala on a David-the-Gnome style houseboat. Three particularly interesting Indian men steered the rig, brought us food, then made friends with us and took us to visit their teensy village. Our chef introduced us to his friends (one of whom is an impeccable Michael Jackson-impersonating dancer) and family. The town and home we visited were not extremely humble compared to some I've seen in India so far, but they were definitely extreme compared to Western standards. Two small rooms house a family of...well, it's hard to tell how many people lived there amongst all the mothers and grannys and bouncing toddlers and children, but they were a bustling, healthy family. Glittering with contentment. Nothing but each other and who needs much else? The landscape of rice fields, fruit trees, and the calm Keralan backwaters shroud their village in peace and quiet.

Allepy is an awesome little town. We were quickly fitted with a small beach-front hut with hammocks out front, two bikes, and a bunch of friends. People like to talk to us a lot where ever we go, but these peeps buzzed around us like flies and even peered in our window at night (and then later stealing our treats by sticking their hand through the window bars) making it quite hard to relax. But despite the mildly annoying clinging behavior of the locals, that town was a breeze to enjoy. Good food, friendly, funny folks, an abundance of Indian culture, etc. We made a couple of traveling buddies as well.

From there we took the advice of a friend and headed for the mountains, though we had to train to Calicut first, a smallish town further north up the coast. There we found ourselves unable to stay anywhere for less than 1700 rupees/night (we are used to under 500/night). We saw the entire town from our rickshaw as we searched and searched for a cheap place to stay to no avail. Apparently there have been some new legal restrictions placed on business for dealing with foreigners, some extra paperwork and the like, due to terrorist activities that have happened recently in India. No one wanted to do the paperwork, apparently. But the place we did end up staying was like going to heaven. A hot shower, comfortable bed, legitimately-sized pillows. Cable television. Amazing. Poni and I promptly turned into slugs and spent much more time there than we intended, drunk with amenities and luxury. We did almost nothing in Calicut, actually, except see part of a movie in the local theater, and go to a bar by the beach. It was the first bar I've been to in weeks, and we stuck out like cute little sore thumbs in a sea of beer-guzzling Indian men.

Well, we did actually do a lot in Calicut if you count emotional and circumstantial processing. Our relationship status has changed from "couple" to "friendship", which is a bit on the heavy side for ye olde hearts to weather, but has lightened the mood considerably in many ways. Something about India makes coupling difficult for many a pair, or so I have heard. I think both of us have faith in the universe no matter our relationship label. If anything, India provides one with the ability to have faith in abundance, despite the colorfully grimy and predictable intensity permeating our experiences.

We peeled ourselves out of our king-sized fancy land of a hotel room and stuffed ourselves onto a bus to Kalpeta. Standing the whole way, surrounded with our baggage and screaming children and sweating bodies while a bus flew at maddening speeds up a mountain, whirring around deathly sharp corners and nearly flying off cliffs at every turn. I paused to feel a little frightened from time to time, but mostly gasped at the fabulous landscapes filled with greenery, misty mountains and tea plantations.

I sat on the balcony of our budget hotel room this morning, started my fourth journal of this trip, and noted the crisply cool weather nipping at my toes. I thought of it as an omen, considering the weather I expect to return to in little over a week. I cannot believe how the time has flown, and am again noting the subtle and completely obvious ways India has rearranged me.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Kanyakumari and Varkala

A few sardine-tin packed trains took Poni and I to Kanyakumari, the very southern-most point in India. We watched the sunset. That's what we went there to do. Afterwards we headed for some darshan in a thousand-year-old Shiva temple. It was just a little pin-prick of a town. Eeerily free of mosquitoes, allowing me to lounge outside at twilight on the balcony of our hotel room, watching the Indian men smoke, drink tiny chais, tie their lungis up and down. If I must be reborn after this life, I wish to be born as an Indian man. (follow that link down to the entry posted Sunday, Feb 7th...I was there btw!) I could go on and on about their impeccable taste in fashion. They have perfected the art of "chilling out". They always look like complete BAD-ASSES.

Yet another train with people stuffed and hanging out the doorways took us to Varkala. We found a hotel room big enough to be our mini yoga shala. Cheap and run by very pleasantly and adorably stoned lads. Everywhere there are adorably stoned Indian men, many who claim, strangely enough, to be from Jamaica. White people are all over this place, trotting around with their thighs and shoulders and cleavage glowing in the blazing tropical sun. It seems a bit rude to me that Western people should dress in such a way in sacred India, but the tourist market seems to have expanded significantly, and all the shops along "the Cliff" overlooking the beach sell all kinds of tiny clothing for the pale and wealthy. I can't wait to make clothes.

Speaking of clothes, I am obsessed with Lady Gaga. I think about her for hours on end. Then I think maybe it will be good for me to have a job soon.

We got massages. Amazing massages. I have had fish. Amazing fish. And we have been to the beach, and played in the waves. Poni and I have splashed in our own waves. Waves of nausea, waves of sleeplessness, waves of social interaction, waves of awkward miscommunication, waves of emotion spurred by the awkwardness. We seem to know how to ride waves really well, actually. Or we are getting better.

Tomorrow we rise early to go to Kollam for our houseboat tour of the backwaters of Kerala. This is our "splurge" for the trip, though we tend to do a lot of splurging. Just us, our cook, our driver, and the jungle floating by...

Tuesday, March 9, 2010


O.M.G. Salad greens! Kombucha! Tuna salad sandwich on wheat bread! Glorious foods I have consumed here in Auroville, the first stop for Poni and I on our brief tour of southern India after months in Mysore. Auroville is a self-described "Divine anarchy" where people from all over the world have worked to create a sustainable community that is not based on religion, but rather a unifying consciousness of the divine. Based on the ideas of two people, Sri Aurobindo and someone known as "the Mother", and founded in 1968, this community seems to be a visionary success, if not a bit angsty and cultish. Indian people make up about forty percent of the population, the rest mostly white or Western. People wear miniskirts here and get all touchy-feely in public. They eat at a giant solar kitchen and meditate in a bulbous temple dubbed the Matri Mandir, a structure straight out of the heart of what I imagine the late sixties to have been like.

Not only have Poni and I had amazing raw, vegan, organic, and completely non-Indian Western hippie foods in abundance, but we have also seen the BEACH, and a beautiful ashram in the city of Pondicherry, a quaint and very French-influenced town about ten miles outside of Auroville. Our guide, and Poni's longtime friend, Ethan, has been showing us around when he has time outside of his busy schedule at the Youth Camp he teaches environmental science at. The "youths" are spirited American college students with idealism glittering in their eyes. They and their camp (and subsequently Poni and I as well for the past few days) are kept clean and extremely well fed by the Tamil Indian folks working here. Much of the grunt work in Auroville, it seems, is done by Indian hands, which is no doubt a subject of constant moral debate for the rest of the community. I am feeling quite at home here, gobbling herbal energy ladus and fruit keifer drinks, Poni and I debating the debatability of the term "anarchy" as it has been applied here, and being constantly reminded of my glorious days at Fairhaven College in Bellingham, where I too once had idyllic glittering eyes and a fierce passion for unity, knowledge, progressive thinking, and what have you. Not that I don't still feel that way now, I just feel a whole bunch of other things as well.

It has been a lovely stay for the most part, but the time has inevitably flown, and we are preparing to leave tomorrow, much to the chagrin of Poni, who has fallen digestively ill again, and will be missing his friend Ethan, who has been a refreshing figure in our travel adventures.

As the moon wanes yet again, I find myself dreaming of family and of babies I might have one day, and missing my friends harder than ever. I have dreams congealing in my heart for the chapter of my life which will directly follow India. All plans of the past have been weeded thoroughly and all new ones have begun to flourish in their place. I have been sleeping and sleeping and sleeping, and meditating and meditating and meditating. I taught some more yoga to a few folks the other day as well, which may have been my first experience teaching anything at all to a group of folks. It was really fun and taught me a lot about...teaching.

Next we head to the state of Kerala and the very tip of India (which is still in Tamil Nadu) to see some amazing sunsets/rises. We plan to spend most of our time on the beach, and possibly on houseboats in the backwaters, and most certainly eating more amazing food, though perhaps not quite as hippie fresh as the foods of the past few days.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Dear Mysore...

Thank you.

Thank you for the yoga, my Guruji Iyengar, travel buddies and Ukulele time. Thank you for all of the Gods in the air, in the cows, in the smiles, under my nails. Thank you for the songs you've inspired, the tears, the blood, the sweating in excess. Thank you for the pranayama, the mudras, the philosophy that has changed my life. Thank you for Lungis, and Idlis, and scooting around. Thank you for the romance, and the enforced time alone/ coupled. Thank you for all the lessons I have to learn every day, for the street boys I battle, for the crazy full and new moons. Thank you for all the weird yogis from all over the world I have met, and for the oddly boring parties that have served as awesome performance opportunities. Thank you for the pool, for all my sunburns that have almost evenly tanned my hide, for the romance and the magic. Thank you for the digestive problems that have thoroughly cleaned out my emotional, mental, physical, and spiritual systems. Thank you for breaking both of my Ipods for no apparent reason, and forcing me to play more music. Thank you for the beautiful garbage and the coconut men and the constant holiday celebrations. Thank you for the market, and Indra Cafe, and Joe and Dave and Nok and Ness and Nigel and Annie and Mark and...Thank you for Poni and power outages and dancing and sleeping and walking and laughing and crying. Thank you for making things clear to me. Clear-er at least. Thank you for the yoga teaching certificate and for the meditating. Thank you for all of the droning days that go so quickly and slowly. Thank you for making me feel at home here, finally. Thank you for giving me a break. Thank you for being awesome and horrible and amazing and boring and accomidating and supportive and for kicking my ass.

See you next year, maybe.

Sunday, February 21, 2010


There is an older lady who lives at the household who so kindly let me park my scooter in their driveway. She is so sweet and toddling and smiles so warmly at me when Poni and I retrieve the scooter every morning. The other day she was at the pool and fell and fractured her leg so badly she couldn't even sit in a seat to be flown to another hospital outside of Mysore for an operation. When I heard this news from her family I said I would be praying for her. So that's what I did.

I sat on the front stoop of our apt. complex folded my hands in a prayer position at my forhead and prayed for her healing. It felt so good I kept praying for things. I went to bed praying, and awoke praying. I prayed through my practice and at breakfast before I ate my food. Poni and I took a trip to the local Ganesh temple a day or two before and I think that's where I got my inspiration. I've thus far appreciated the immensity of the payer vibes in the temples here, but now I've started to participate. It feels amazing to actually believe something. To feel a connection. To relax and enjoy. To find a piece of God...yes, my heart.