The past couple of days have been a complete whirlwind. Where do I start? I feel swallowed whole by this country...swimming around in its digestive juices...
I have only been here four days. And I'm already planning to extend my trip! Ha! Take that India!
The day before yesterday I visited the "Bull Temple" in Bangalore, which was a huge bull statue covered in Jasmine flowers housed in a crazy-beautiful temple. The priest traded a few jasmine flowers for a few rupees and then I sat in the surrounding gardens watching the monkeys and bats in the trees. My whole body was covered in ants at one point and I felt like I had come a long way from my days of having panic attacks over insects and the like.
Yesterday I made my way to the train station from the hotel, and after a confusing bit of bumbling around with my backpack, figured out how to buy a train ticket. For a little over a dollar, I would be heading to Mysore in about four hours from then. I reluctantly handed my backpack to the coatroom man, and swished through the piles of people lying all over the train station floor to the bustling city streets of Bangalore once again. After about fifteen minutes, I felt as if I had smoked a pack and a half of cigarettes from all of the pollution, so stepped inside a tea house for a second...and there I met my first friend. His name is Selvan, he is Indian born, but I could tell right away he was a foreigner because he was eating with both of his hands. We got to chatting and I realized he was the Indian (residing in Belgium for most of his life) doppleganger of my good friend Ezra (I have photos!). He and I were both incredibly excited to have someone who wasn't Indian to talk to so he spent the next four hours at my side, both of us buzzing and laughing noisily, taking almost no notice of the surrounding insanity for a while. He waited for my train with me, and it was there that we met Pradeep, my next friend! Pradeep is studying mechanical engineering in Mysore, and likes movies such as Terminator and The Fast and the Furious. He wouldn't let me lift my bag, pay for my chai or any of the other tasty snacks I couldn't resist. "It's India, Man!" he told me, taking the food wrappers I was trying to tuck into my purse and throwing them out the train window into the filth.
The view from the train made me want to weep so badly...it was so beautiful and so devastating. Children playing in garbage, a couple of giraffes nibbling at a tree (who needs the Zoo when the whole Zoo is in your backyard?), rivers filled to the brim with grime surrounded by the most beautiful landscape you can possibly imagine. I don't think you can imagine India. It must be witnessed.
Pradeep helped me bypass all of the approaching rickshaw drivers, leading me to one he trusted who then helped me find my (~$5) hotel room, which smells of cigarettes and has pillows made of concrete but has proven quite comfortable and safe. Then it started raining golf balls and I sat inside my room watching Indian television letting the sound of the storm lull me to sleep.
In the morning the hotel manager had arranged for a rickshaw driver to "show me the markets," and I accepted the arrangement, having been inspired by Selvan the day before when he told me he had spent the entire day with a rickshaw driver and had felt more in touch with Indian culture that he ever had on his own...which was so true! After my driver and I had breakfast together, he took me to several yoga shalas, to get an ayurvedic massage (two adorable Indian women rubbing insane amounts of oil all over my body and then sticking me in a steam box), and to buy things. I ended up spending way too much money today, and had a freak out about it a minute ago til I realized I was freaking out while eating a gigantic meal which would cost about a dollar. I ended up with two new friends (the sandalwood oil man, who will be showing me the Mysore Palace on another day, perhaps), my rickshaw driver (who has invited me to his house for Diwali), some amazing oils, and two traditional Indian outfits which will be finished tomorrow morning.
I don't trust a soul here, but everyone is completely wonderful, which is a ridiculous concept for my brain to wrap itself around.