Dec 3, 2006
We are *hiding out for the day* in *Majnu-ka-tilla*, the Tibetan Colony in Delhi. I think we reached a saturation point with people trying to sell us things, ask us for things, and with dirt and cow poop….so Mostly we’re staying in and sorting our stuff to leave some of it behind before we head south tommorrow. Well before we _hopefully_ head south, it appears our flight has been cancelled (which is somewhat common) so we’ll have to call and find out what’s up with that! (cross your fingers for us!)
If all goes well, we’ll be on the beach tommorrow evening, in “Kovalam”:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kovalam
Dec 1, 2006
Really, it’s fantastic here. I would come back for sure and learn lots and lots about Indian music. It is sort of intense, but not as much as everyone’d warned, and the old town is actually mellow in a way (once you’ve been here a day or two the hasslers recognize you and give up on you–not completely of course, but it’s mroe manageable). Since the streets are narrow there is less noisy motorized traffic, it’s somewhat peaceful (and poopy). All the activity along the river is intriguing, and we have been enjoying great concerts everynight. Alas! We are leaving tommorrow, on a train back to Delhi (not a delightful place but we will try staying at the Tibetan colony nearby this time) and then on Monday we fly to the very bottom tip if India, in Kerala, to the city of Trivandrum. Hopefully the ocean air (and less pollution?) will cure my cold. Sean finally found the gopichand instrument he was looking for. I found a tailor for my shiatsu cushion covers. And we are finding many, many observations of the life in Varanasi. (which I don’t feel like expounding upon now). Both Mcleod and Varanasi I am leaving reluctantly. So maybe India really _does_ grow on you. Tonite we should reunite with a few friends from the ashram who are coming thru town. :) And tommorrow morning a sunrise boatride along the Ganga.
Nov 29, 2006
*We made it to “Varanassi!*”:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Varanasi (aka Banaras)
*We arrived in the dark, because the train was 3 hrs. late. We had a really funny train ride with a group of 60-something Sikh men farmers* on their way to a wedding in Calcutta. They were brothers and friends, and most of their wives had gone ahead of them, so they were having a good ol’ time and trying to get Sean to drink their cheap whiskey! They were a funny group of characters!
The train station here was crowded with people, though it wasn’t too crazy, or at least it was similar to the numbers of families sleeping on the hard floors of the Beijing train station, so it didn’t feel to unusual. We decided to have someone from the guest house meet us with an auto-rickshaw, because it was dark, and the auto-rickshaws can only go so far, then you have to wind your way thru narrow (like elbows-distance apart) streets–really like small alleys, and it’s very twisty and complicated, so it was great to just follow the tall skinny Indian guy who came to get us! I kicked over *several piles of cow poop* in the dark. Ick!….
We had a delicious dinner at the Ganga Fuji Restaurant, a below ground place that has classical music performance in the evenings. The man who owns it said his parents named it Ganga Fuji because the Ganga is a very holy river, and Mt. Fuji is a very holy mountain, and mountains and water together are a very good thing. Unfortunately, he helped a friend open a hotel up the street, but then the friend stole his hotel name and opened a restaurant there, too, which isn’t so nice, and so that has caused some confusion for guidebooks and travellers. So keep that in mind when you visit!
How it works in the old part of Varanasi is that there is a series of *ghats* along the river for a stretch,and many of the guest houses are along here. “Ghat”:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ghats , I’m not certain, but I think means a place with steps down to the river where people can pray and bathe in the ganges. Also at these ghats in particular is where people bring their loved ones who have died to be cremated, and they receive instant *moksha*, or liberation from the cycle of life-death (reincarnation.) Sometimes I think, why would you want to be liberated from it, it’s pretty interesting, but that of course would not be the honorable thing to decide for your family member here! We passed the “burning ghat” last night and this morning, where there are huge piles of wood. Nothing was happening as far as we could tell, just the people working on the wood piles. If you’d like to know more about the ghats here, there is a good documentary: _Ganges: River to Heaven._ I think that’s the right name. As I recall from the movie, the people “allowed” to work at the ghats are only the lowest caste people, because “higher” people would not deal with the dead bodies, etc. So all-in-all, Varanasi should be an intense place.
So far today we found the *”International Music Centre Ashram”* and luckily there is a series of Indian Classical music concerts this week, so we will go every night we are here. They guy there, Sudeep, also said he will help Sean track down and ancient instrument he is hoping to find (gopichand or ektala, I think, but I may be recalling it incorrectly). We met two Spanish ladies on the way who are taking a chanting class which we may go to tommorrow…..at any rate we are very excited about the concerts! We missed a super big concert/festival that was here 10 days ago. Alas! But we did see the Dali Lama so….all is not lost. ;)
Nov 27, 2006
we are now in amritsar! home of the golden temple.
we arrived yesterday around 11:30 am, after taking a bus at 4 am from mcleod. we were up late trying to get all our tibetan items into our backpacks, and winding yarn into small balls so I can crochet on the train later. . it was freezing on the bus and the attendant would not shut the door for some reason. melinda had her ipod so listening to music was a nice distraction. i am still surprised how many travellers have ipods with them! i am so behind the technology on that one….
we arrived in amritsar and were dumped on the side of a noisy road surrounded by hopeful auto-rickshaw wallahs. the one we chose took us about half way to the golden temple, but no further. i don’t know why. we hiked and finally figured out where to go to check in.
so we covered our heads and removed our shoes and checked out the golden temple scene, including getting a room there, where you can stay for free (though there is a donation box, but they don’t say anything to you about it). it’s pretty amazing–they provide rooms for families and westerners, and any indian travelers can get a mattress and blankets and sleep in the courtyard area of the guest building for free. there is also a gigantic kitchen building with a chapati-making machine and a million silver trays and giant kettles of food and many people (i think volunteers) cutting vegetables, and all day long and maybe all night long you can go into the dining hall and get a free meal! (green dal, and some smooshy sweet rice thing and chapati is what we had yesterday). it’s pretty amazing because it is such a large scale operation, and just simply that THERE IS SUCH A THING AS A FREE LUNCH! just ask the sikhs!
remember to look at a picture of the golden temple by going to my fun links entry. it’s brilliant.
the sikhs are the people who wear turbans–the men i mean (and some of whom were wrongfully targeted in the U.S. after 9/11 with violence). they are super nice and peaceful and all about serving others and working hard. Guru Nanak was the founder, and he had felt fed up with the rules and dietary restrictions of Hinduism and Islam, and also with the fact that the religious life of those two often meant leaving ones family. So he started Sikhism. There is a long history after that, some of which involves the Sikhs having to defend themselves against leaders in the now Pakistan/India area trying to eradicate them, so in addition to being peaceful and service-oriented, they also have a strong warrior history. Their official outfit includes the turban, a special sort of boxer shorts, a wooden comb, an iron bracelet, and some sort of knife or sword on their belt (though I feel like I haven’t seen so many of those, but an American I met last night whose traveled here for 30 years says that most of them do, so I’m still looking). There are many organizations around Punjab that help orphans and people with disabilities and people in need that the Sikhs started. It’s pretty cool. Plus, the old skinny sikhs praying around the temple are pretty fascinating to watch. And the young Sikh boys don’t have long hair under their turbans yet, so they just have this little top knot thing and they are super cute and smiley and curious about foreigners.
Outside the temple compound, however, we are back in a city with all the crazy scooters and pollution (and my sinuses are so unhappy) so that is jarring after the peacefulness of Mcleod Ganj, which really only has 3 roads in the town. We wandered around last night, dodging scooters and peeking into sparkly fabric shops and stands selling clay pots and flowers for putting at shrines.
Also, our friend Melinda left us this morning at 4a.m.! :( But we may see her again in Goa at the end of the trip. :) She was a fun travelling companion, a sunny CA girl with CA chipperness, and she bought me ice cream and bangley bracelets. What a friend! ;)
This afternoon we get on the 22-hour train ride to Varanasi, possibly the oldest still-existing city in the world, and then, maybe, Sean will take a shower. ;)
I hope this all makes sense…….
lots of love,
just one last note about how nice the tibetans were in the mcleod ganj area. they are wonderful people, very kind and relaxed and enjoyable to be near.
Nov 25, 2006
Melinda & I took the Tibetan Universal Massage course from “Magic” Dondoup this week.
At first it was hard to get excited about going to class, esp. as the daylight hours get shorter, but in the end I enjoyed it. It’s unlike other types of massage I’m familiar with. It’s a blend of maybe P.T., Chiropractic, energy work, Asian medicine, and Swedish massage. I also recieved two sessions this week, from Magic and from his wife, who is also a practitioner, so that helped me learn more about the form. It’s really great. It uses oil, but also some crazy stretches & resistance exercises and big strap they use to create traction and lengthen your back. He also used little cloth pouches with medicine in them (I think some sort of dried plant, not sure) that he’d heat on the electric heater and place on the body. Good stuff! And our hand-outs had good diagrams, so hopefully I’ll remember most of it by the time I return home. ;)
We were supposed to leave this morning (Sat.) but stayed and extra day. (Many people here have this story and stay for weeks and weeks!) We however, will leave Sunday morning around 4 am head to Amritsar and the Golden Temple! :) (you can see the temple by going back to the entry with fun links). Our extra day included a trip to this delicious Korean restaurant we learned about yesterday fro the beebimbab, which really is the funnest food to say ever.