> Hello from another world!
. I am in India and I love it! After three airplane rides, two of which were terrifying, we arrived at the Sri Ram Ashram, which houses an orphanage. The children range in age from 3 to early 20’s. They have a busy schedule with morning exercises, school, study hall, and evening prayers. There is some time to hang out with them every day, especially on school holidays. They are so welcoming, friendly, curious and funny. I am so embarrassed because they all remember my name (60 children), and I still have to ask most of them their names time and time again. Note to self… brush up on brain exercises before it’s too late.
. Friends alerted me to the driving in India. I thought I would be used to driving in foreign countries after spending so much time in Bali. It’s the same-same but different. Both places pretend there are lanes and directions but only when it’s convenient. India is worse because they drive much faster, the roads are shared with cows, pigs, dogs, pedestrians, bicycles, horse and cart, auto rickshaw (tuk-tuk), bicycle rickshaw, buses, huge trucks and motorbikes, and the drivers really like to play chicken. It’s kind of scary when the driver of a very old car (ie. lacking power) tries to pass two trucks on a blind curve and a big truck is barreling down the street the opposite way and our driver has to squeeze between the trucks he is trying to pass. Sometimes I think the tuk-tuk we ride to town is going to tip over because there are 10-16 people in it. (This 3-wheeled vehicle seems built for five at the most but I guess that would be considered empty). Indians LOVE their horns and keep their hands on it most of the time. My hearing is not going to be the same when I leave next week. Between the horns blowing all the time and the explosives and whistles going all night long (to keep the monkeys, elephants and thieves away, I’m told) my ears are taking a beating.
. Gotta love this village life though. Today when we were returning to the ashram after a short walk to the local village for some supplies, we noticed nine big cows heading down the narrow dirt path we were walking on. They were running! I was in flip-flops because I have an infected toe and shoes hurt, so I was not keen on stepping aside in the high grass next to us. Luckily they were not as wild as they looked (eyes wide open, drool falling from their mouths as they charged forward) and the young boy who was taking them to the river to drink had it under control.
. The children we meet in the village always say “One photo” when passing us. They love to look at it and are so polite, thanking us for taking their photo. It is me who is thankful for the poses they are willing to do.
. I have learned I can live without the comforts I’ve grown used to… like washing machines, showers, heaters and a real mattress. My hips and thighs are a little bruised from sleeping on this flat material covering the plywood bed, and I’m counting the nights left needing to sleep on it with fewer blankets than I really want, but I can do it and I actually sleep well most nights. We wash our clothes in buckets and hang them on the roof, hoping that the monkeys that live all over do not steal them. We take sticks up to the roof with us just in case we need to scare them away. I have grown accustomed to bathing myself with a bucket (filled with hot water brought in from the sink across the hall) and a cup. I love the non-western toilets and have already asked Steve to replace our toilet in Santa Cruz when we return. I miss fresh veggies and fruits but don’t really mind eating dal for breakfast and dinner… day after day after day.
. There will be a wedding here in a couple of days. Everyone is so excited. The girls are so happy that most of the western women will be wearing saris. They are talking about all the jewelry we need, the make-up, the hair styles. There will be a mehendi and dance party for all the girls and women the day before the wedding. It is a Sikh wedding, which is a little different than a Hindu wedding. The groom will ride in on a horse, accompanied by a band and his family. All sorts of rituals will be performed, including hiding the grooms shoes (demanding a ransom for them) and wailing when the bride leaves with her new family. We are fortunate to be here for this exciting event.
. Besides life at the ashram, we’ve visited Rishikesh (shopping, eating and visiting holy sites) and areas around Haridwar. One of the highlights was the Ma Anandamayee ashram, where we were able to meditate and sing with her devotees.
. There is so much of India to visit. We already know we must return soon. We have grown attached to the children here at the ashram. The people in the village and town who are so amused and bewildered by these funny white people are really very nice to us, as weird as we must seem to them. (Sometimes we are buying 100 bags of chips to bring back to the children in the ashram which garners the strangest looks.)
. I guess this was not the quick check in I thought it would be since I’m typing this on an iPod which has a very small keyboard. And yet I’ve barely told the story of visiting beautiful India.
. I am going to try to sleep now, with the loud music from a party going on in the field outside the ashram, which only gets louder as the night goes on. At least this has deterred the night watchman from his explosions and whistles. Guess the elephants don’t appreciate the music ad much as I do.
> Much love to you all, and after 6 more flights we will be back in Santa Cruz. Looking forward to seeing our friends and family when we return!
(11- 16- 2013)
ALL RIGHTS RESERVED