Category Archives: Travel

Work

Last night I dreamt that I accidentally left Mysore without re-packing my trunk and storing it. I got home and realized that I had left the sheets on the bed, the dishes in the kitchen, and frantically tried to get in touch with friends who were still in Mysore to ask them to take care of it for me but no one could, so I had to spend another $1500 on a plane ticket back, so I could do it myself. So… am I that concerned about my Winnie the Pooh coffee cup or was this dream about something else? I was so relieved when I woke up. My first thoughts: I am still here. I have work to do.

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From Mysore: Second week, thoughts.

Five quick thoughts. Also, unrelated pictures.

1. It’s very easy to feel, when you’re engaged in a daily practice, that progress is nonexistent, simply because it is very slow. I’m realizing now that I have to start living in a world where that thing that was sooooo hard last trip is actually fairly drama-free this trip. So, neat. But that also means that whatever the Big Struggle version 20.14 has not yet revealed itself. Bring it on, meestru.

2. I’m taking a Kannada class. (Kannada is the language spoken in Karnataka, the state where Mysore is. It’s the third oldest language in India, after Sanskrit and Tamil.) Ten days in a row, at the end of which I will– according to the class description– not be able to write epic poetry, but converse with the locals. So far my favorite expressions are “What’s up, teacher?” (Eenu, meestre), and “Too much!” (thumba jasti).

3. My next-door neighbor likes having bhangra dance parties. I don’t hate it.

4. The smile that Sharath gives me when I stand in the doorway after practice waiting to catch his eye and thank him with a little bow (this is a common thing to do) is simply magical. Despite his long teaching hours and so much physical strain, he clearly loves sharing this practice with students. I’m so lucky to be here.

5. I have a little cold, something I seem to recall happening early on in my other trips too. My system’s adjusting to the climate, perhaps. Sharath told a story in conference of a student who missed class with Guruji for a few days, and when she told him she had a cold, he made her come to the shala and do sutra neti (like using a neti pot, except instead of water you’re pulling thread or string through the nasal passageway). Sounds like fun! In any case, the moon day tomorrow couldn’t have come at a better time.

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The Monkey Burglar

From my little apartment at the end of Old Post Office Road, monkeys can be heard screaming at most times of the day, but until yesterday I didn’t know where their screams were coming from. As I walked home after led class, though, I saw it; a little park on the left, completely overrun with monkeys; I counted at least twelve. I took out my phone and began snapping pictures, like you do when you see a monkey park. One of them, sitting just outside the gate, remained still and seemingly undisturbed as I came up to him for a close-up (not too close). I thanked him and continued home, about half a block. Once inside my apartment, I left the door open for a nice breeze and set about reading my book.

Not half an hour later, this very same monkey whose portrait I had snapped walked unceremoniously through my open door, hopped up onto the refrigerator, and looked at me. Sort of pointedly, it seemed. After a couple of seconds of stunned silence, I got up and started telling him to get out. Felt kind of silly yelling at a monkey, “Get out! Get out of here!” because what, does he speak English? In any case, he seemed to get the point; he picked up a packet of face wash towelettes, and scampered out the door. So I think either he wanted some compensation for having his picture taken, or he wanted to prepare for his next close-up with a fresh clean face.

Oh, India.

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Samastithi

Day four, 6:00am. Hearing call to prayer outside, and a few hoarse roosters crowing.

Oh it feels so normal to be here. First couple practices, easy primary with a seemingly completely different body than my last creaky practice in MN. It’s astounding what living in an 80 degree world does to your body when coming from a -10 degree world. As the polar vortex rages in the Midwest, I’ve somehow adjusted to thinking that 60 degrees at night is cold. I bought a blanket on Wednesday! (which will probably be decorative come the end of the month.)

Yesterday I discovered the best mat spot in the house, hands down. In the corner by Sharath’s office, directly under the portrait of Amma, Guruji’s wife, which is hung at an angle such that my urdhva dristi is right into her eyes. A very sweet gazing point.

A reliable internet connection is the stuff of legends here, and mine is worse than usual. No connection at all for the last day, which is both frustrating (when I’d very much like some facetime with my husband) and freeing (at least I’m not whittling away time on facebook). I have been reading quite a bit, something I’ve missed at home for the past few months, with Murakami as my drug of choice for now. I’ve finished his collection of short stories After the Quake, and am a good chunk of the way into 1Q84.

Now, bucket bath before my first led primary. I’m in the late class (7:30). I’ve heard this group is not too elbow-y to get into the shala. Here’s hoping.

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Uploaded from Vivian’s Cafe, 10am

First

Paris, Monday morning, fresh off an eight-hour flight from Minneapolis.

I took eight years of French, and yet I clam up when I have to order coffee, of all things. Pour vous madame? Un cafe. What kind of cafe? She’s on to me. They immediately switch to English when they smell fear. Black coffee. Filter coffee. Drip coffee? She’s not having it. Cafe americano? Well, um, sure, let’s go with that. Something sans lait. That’ll be two euros fifty, enjoy your half-filled Dixie cup of nescafe.

Bangalore, ten-ish hours later.

It strikes me as odd how familiar this place is. Even just the airport, even making my way from the plane through a long glass-walled walkway and down an escalator to the customs line. People around me are confused, which line is which? An airport employee makes the head bobble and says “Any line, sir.” I remember my first trip, anticipating being questioned about the reason for my visit, practicing my “I’m on vacation!” response to justify my tourist visa over the much more complicated student visas that they were sort of requiring for a time in 2011. This time, not so worried. I left the “address in India” line blank on my customs form, and the officer questions me. What hotel are you staying? No hotel, I’m staying with a friend. What is this friend’s address? He hasn’t told me. He’s picking me up. What is your friend’s name? I give him the name of the man who arranged my housing. This seems to satisfy him; my next step would have been to make up an address. None of it matters, really.

Gokulam, Mysore, 9:30am.

I’ve made it. Got in at 5:30ish, checked out the temporary digs– Indian toilet, check. Wall lizard, check. Tried to take a nap. I’ll have to get used to the dogs barking all over again, and the calls to prayer. Made myself sleep– or at least stay in bed– until eight so I could get to a cafe, have some proper coffee and breakfast, and do a little internet chatting with the husband. Check, check, check. Jet lag is here, taking the form of a fog of melancholy that I’m sure will wear off once I’ve hugged some old friends and heard “one more!” once more.

5pm, Anu’s Cafe.

First-day melancholy has subsided a little faster than I thought it would. I have a new (second) apartment, next door to where I’ll be moving in four days. Cleaner, quieter, smaller, brighter. It’s amazing how big a difference this makes. I’ve run into friends both accidentally and on purpose, and I’m registered for practice tomorrow. My start time is a sort of ridiculous mid-afternoon 11am, which I’m sure will change soon. Even with all the running around today, and the lack of any substantial sleep for the last 48 hours, I’m not feeling terribly tired– if I make it until 9pm tonight I’ll call that a win. Just a few post-smoothie errands to run and it’ll be like I never left.

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