Saturday, January 30, 2010

Just Feeling Guut

I’m smiling a lot here, in Fort Cochin. It is quiet and comfortable with a strong emphasis on Ayurvedic practise and healing and Yoga.

Today, I had a session with an Ayurvedic doctor to see if I can get some relief from pain that I have in my hands and feet. The pain is not new, and I have tried many alternatives for remediation. The concept of Ayurveda makes sense to me. It is the attempt to attain balance between the five basic elements of cosmic consciousness…air, fire, water, earth and ether. These are, similarly, the basic five elements I have studied in Yoga. I get the sense that since I keep hearing about these five elements in different ways, it is somewhat serendipitous.

The appointment began with a quick assessment by an Ayurvedic Doctor. She explained to me the importance of understanding each person’s character. Am I mostly Pitta (fire)? Or maybe I am Vatta (air and ether). Or Kapha (water and earth)? The ultimate quest is to determine which element is most dominant in ones’ nature so the action becomes an attempt to balance the three. We are all born with all 3 doshas and one usually represents a dominant constitution. With Ayurvedic support, we can maintain balance between the three to avoid disease.

I have been reading about Ayurvedic healing and it makes so much sense to me. There is inclusiveness about the approach that comforts me. Yoga, meditation, massage, aromatherapy, essential oils, and natural medicines can all lead to healing. I loved the massage, rich in natural oils. At times, I felt like a squirmy fish sliding on the massage table. Tomorrow I go back for more!!!!

Paul also had a massage, less therapeutic and more focussed on relaxation and calm. It figures…he’s asleep now while I’m wide-awake listening to the sounds of late afternoon. (Do you think that maybe I’m just a little bit Pitta?)

We met a fabulous Indian man yesterday who picked us up today and took us all around his city. He was born and raised here and obviously loves to show tourists around. I liked him a lot! One major stop today was the Jain Temple.

Inside the Jain temple we shared prayer with groups of barefooted men and women. The process for them begins with the ringing of a large bell that hangs from the ceiling. The meaning for the ring says, “I am coming”, and is followed by a walk around the back of the alter and moments in prayer. The final act is another ringing of the bell.

The main concept of Jainist philosophy is “Life is dear to every living being. Therefore, harm no living being.” Jainists eat no living animal. Some Jainists even wear facemasks to avoid the accidental swallowing of insects. It reminds me of some Orthodox Jews who would never eat romaine lettuce because insects sometimes hide close to the core. Janism is one of the most peaceful, life loving, and respectful religions I know.

I experienced another episode of emotion today similar to the one I had in the Hindu Temple in Hampi and also in the Hare Krishna Temple in Juhu. As I sit amongst others involved in prayer, practising unique procedures and chanting in their own language to their own God, I get this overwhelming feeling of spiritual community. It is similar to the feelings I experience when I am in my own synagogue and I hear my community around me praying together, vibrant in song and powerful in joint energy. There is an overwhelming surge of warmth through my body that actually causes me to cry. I’m unaware of the actual reason for it. It is just the reaction to the energy I experienced. Sometimes I even get it during my regular Yoga practise. And I have recently had that same feeling here in India several times in various Temples.

The rooftop of the Jain temple is usually forbidden to visitors, but for some reason, the Shri there today let Paul and me go up. To me it was really special. Masses of birds were flying around the rooftop as I watched the goings on below. It reinforced the Janist belief in life energy and in the equal energetic relevance of all living things. I felt totally exhilarated by the birds flying from the rooftops.

Monticherry is the other significant section of Cochin and lies just over a bridge from Fort Cochin. It is a hub for spice trade from the 15th century to the present. Portuguese ships used to come to the port of Cochin to buy and trade spices. Today we saw sackbuts of ginger, mustard, cardamom, black and white pepper, anise, and so many other spices…some I never heard of before. The smells were natural, vibrant and varied.

Essential oils and aromatic incense shops were abundant too. I wish I could describe the smells that make India so unique and special. Every few steps offering new smells and a new olfactory experience. For me, the smells offer a unique experience in how I relate to what I see. I’m not giving up my patchouli so fast, (probably a disappointment to my children) but maybe Paul will investigate a smell that suits him best.

We bought some cool and colourful clothes today too! And a great new patchouli dispenser for my friend, Maalaa! What a perfect day!

Arriving in Cochin, Kerela

I’m lying in my bed in Fort Cochin. It is a clean bed with clean sheets. We have a full bathroom and shower. The fan is on. It is still hot. The crows are squawking outside the window. The village is waking up. I hear the mats being beaten by tired women in the streets. The ritual morning bath is taking place right on the streets outside my window. This is India!

Fort Cochin is a lovely town. As we drove here, over the bridge, aluminium decorations covered the over pass welcoming us into a place that felt open and proud. Our rickshaw driver stopped along the way to help us find a place to say. “What’s your budget?” he asked. Immediately there was another man in our rickshaw, a native of the town, helping us find the appropriate place.

After a somewhat gruelling overnight train ride, we decided to pamper ourselves in a homestay room for a little less than $20.00 a night. It’s perfect!

In some ways Fort Cochin reminds me of Jerusalem. There are actual cement homes here, and though there are no street names or organized division of homes, there is a sense of residential existence. There are several schools run by various religious groups. There is a Catholic Basilica and a very old synagogue that is closed on Friday night and Saturday. Nuns wearing Catholic crosses over their Saris live in a convent close by. It is a comfortable mix of various religions….Hindu, Moslem, Janist, Buddhist, even Jews, all living together within the five square miles of the town.

Several parks and playgrounds around the town are active with young boys playing cricket. There is a general feeling of family around. And it is so comforting to receive a smile from men, women. The children smile too, and are playful as they practise their English with, “Goot moorning. What eez your name?” I love the joy, the easiness and the openness of the residents. I feel really comfortable here.

Getting off the train yesterday offered an immediate welcome. Paul and I, conspicuously western, were approached several times. Ordinarily we are cautious about this, suspicious that people want something from us because we’re tourists. In this case, however, people were curious about us and excited to have us in their home. Of course there are those who do want something, and we’re careful. But, for the most part the people here are happy to have us, proud of their village, excited to share their very special culture, and eager to make our stay pleasant. In fact, one of the drivers is spending the day with us today and acting as a guide to take us around.

Last night we watched a Kathakali performance. Kathakali is an important source of art culture in Kerela. Similar to old Shakespearean theatre, Kathakali is performed only by males. The female roles are taken on by males too, which, to me, lends a bit to the absurd. It is an art form that is a story telling format focussing on make up, costume, music and mime. There are no words; just a traditional sign language that, we learned, is being lost to the new generation. Performances in traditional Kathakali run 6 – 7 hours.

The performance that we saw started with the application of makeup. That can take up to 2 hours so usually the performer on whom the make up is being applied, is in a yogic state. There are some teachings around the language used in Kathakali; a specific sign language reminding me of American Sign Language. I’m wondering if our daughter in law, Vanessa would have understood the acting out of the story better than we did, because of her fluency in ASL. Exaggerated eye movements, also characteristic of the art form, reminded me of eye gymnastics. The actual presentation of the story ran about one hour. That was enough considering we really didn’t understand the language. The music, mostly percussion, was excellent, and for me, a bit unusual. Harmonium, hand cymbals, an unusual two sided hand drum played with taped fingers, and one man’s chanting voice were the only sounds for the entire hour.

I have to say; “I love it here in Fort Cochin.” I feel completely welcomed by everyone. It is easy to make eye contact with people on the street and it is similarly typical to receive smiles in response to mine. Between the Yoga, Ayurvedic Healing practise, access to bicycles, great food, and the friendliness of the people, I could make this home for a while.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Om Beach

Life is good! I think Paul and I are really made for this kind of life. We’re living on about $30.00 a day and that includes our accommodations and the occasional gift or personal purchase. We live simply. A luxury room is one with our own toilet. Real deluxe is a shower spout usually on the wall opposite the toilet. When you use the shower you have to close the toilet seat so the shower water sprinkles on the lid.

Occasionally we feel really extravagant so we ask the proprietor to heat up some water, which we use with a small pitcher with the running cold water. Honestly, the sun beats down so strongly during the day, that the cold water is usually room temperature anyway. And, anyway, our lives on Gabriola have conditioned us to shower less frequently!

We have been finding coffee everywhere we’ve travelled so far and the chai is wonderful too. Avoiding raw vegetables hasn’t been too difficult. I just order lots of cooked ones. Everywhere we go there are many ethnic choices.

Last night we had a fabulous grilled fish feast with our new Israeli friends Adar and Ella. Ella is a Yoga Teacher in Israel. They are going back to Israel to make another attempt to live in the Kibbutz where Adar grew up. Adar turned 30 yesterday, January 25th. Another Aquarian! The significant thing about Adar for me is this…..Adar’s mother came to Israel in the 70’s from the United States. There she met Adar’s father. Her name is Amy. She has lived in Israel all her adult life. When I look at Adar, I think, “He could be anyone of my kids!” We will definitely meet up with them again. Next time in Jerusalem!!!!

There is a community that is created when we travel. Sometimes we’ll meet someone in one city and meet up with him or her in a small village or town many days later. Familiar faces are always welcome and the greetings are usually shared with big hugs. There is always the possibility that we will meet again soon.

We arrived in Gokarna early yesterday morning after a relatively uneventful overnight sleeper bus ride. With several beautiful beaches in the area we chose one called he one Om Beach. It’s called that because the shoreline actually forms the shape of an Om.

Our last overnight bus experience was such a disaster, I’m really glad it didn’t scare us off from bus rides. I know Paul wrote about it in his blog ( Just briefly though, it was an overnight trip that was supposed to be 10 hours long and it took 25 hours! The truth is, it wasn’t that bad and it also reinforced for us something that many people have been telling us, “In India, expect nothing. Anything can happen!”

“Holy cows!” That’s actually the way cows are regarded in India. The cows in India are like dogs and cats in Toronto. They walk down roads and wander in to restaurants and cafes. It is common to find cows on the sides of city streets. They are in homes all over the country. On Om beach Paul and I watch the sunset. The cows want to play with me. I think it probably just wants my pineapple and bananas. But I’m not sharing with her….that’s for sure!

Yesterday I was reminded that we are approaching the end of January. The weather in Southern India is perfect. The mornings are chipper and I throw a shawl over my shoulders as I walk on the beach. Afternoons are hot and sunny. Evenings, as we watch the sunset cools down the air. For the first time, I thought about our friends in North America having to deal with sub zero temperatures and snowy, blizzardy, windy days and nights. It’s so hard for me to fathom the difference. I am sending you all warm vibes and sunny thoughts. With love….

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Happy in Hampi

The morning started almost before the night ended. I hardly slept. There were many sounds during the night. I revelled in them all.

Voices from outside our door; quests having fun, talking, smoking, laughing, and engaged in deep meaningful conversations.

Loud shouting from men down by the river sounded like a raucous party and friendly gathering. Music, gently beating, sounded from the tent of the restaurant near by.

Dogs growled while playing aggressively with each other, sometimes finding a monkey to taunt and chase.

At about 4:00 in the morning I hear the chatter of children and their families bathing in the River. The sounds travel clearly over the short distance of river. Large crowds of men and separate crowds of women, each including the children from both genders. Bathing in the river becomes the start to their day.

Even at 4 I wanted to walk down to the river but I am warned regularly about walking alone, so I waited for Paul to wake up. At 7 we walked down to the river, found a comfortable rock, and sat to watch the sun rise.

I was eager to get over to the other side of Hampi this morning. The motorboat ride takes less than a minute in a packed boat. There is one boat that shuttles back and forth from 6:00 am until 6:00 pm.

The Hampi Bazaar is complete with ruins and remnants of ancient temples and monuments. Many of the structures are carved out of rock. Others are built from a pile up of various sizes and shapes of broken rocks. The entire area feels sacred. I felt energy deeply and a strong connection with others gathering there.

Here are 3 major experiences that enriched my day:

  • One of the temples carved out of stone had layers of entranceways. By the forth cave I could feel the vibration of the sounds within. Sounds were crisp and clear. Leita, Paul and I began a progressive chant that resounded through the cave walls. Our voices sounded perfect. I didn’t want to leave. I stayed behind for several minutes, seated comfortably, hidden in the darkness of the caves remembering the vibrations.
  • In the main temple Hindus were welcomed to receive a blessing. I observed from the background as others received a blessing. I felt comfortable as the Sadhu rang a bell, offered each person a spoonful of holy water which they passed over their heads and sipped from their palms. Each person cupped their hands over the burning candle and brought the light closer with their hands. It is the same gesture that I use when I light the Shabbat candles. The Hindu blessing ritual is completed with a gentle application of a pindi, a dot on one’s forehead right at the place of the third eye.
As I observed the routine, I felt overwhelmed by a feeling of community. Our separate language often creates boundaries for verbal conversation. Our clothing is noticeably different. The colour of our skin is different too. And yet, I felt a strong sense of sisterhood. We all pray. We all pray to God. Maybe we call the God by another name. Perhaps we even say different prayers in different ways, but the intent is the same. We are really the same. The thought made me cry.
The Sadhu noticed me there and gestured for me to be blessed. I felt a bit humbled. I told him that I had no rupees. He insisted it didn’t matter. He blessed me. I felt honoured. Holy water, burning candles, a touch of spice on the forehead.
  • On our way back we met a little girl named Nayha. Turns out she is 3 years old and is born exactly on the same day as our grandson, Oscar. I taught Nayha how to hug a tree. That’s a lesson every child all over the world can learn in the same way. It’s a lesson I try to share with my grandchildren. All trees speak the same language if we learn how to listen with our hearts.
  • Finally, I met Vishnu Laxmi. That’s the elephant we met as soon as we came to Hampi 3 days ago. She was having a bath then in the river. She is a really special elephant. She takes rupees from people and blesses them by touching their head. Both activities are done with her trunk. She and I became friends! It was funny. I just happened to be there when her master wasn’t, so Laxmi passed the rupees on to me instead. Laxmi is very much loved by her trainer. They have been together for 17 years!

Leita took off today and Paul and I are on our own again! Tomorrow we leave for Gokarna. A beach experience again! Yay!!!! I need to find a beautiful place to work!

Friday, January 22, 2010

Happy Birthday Leita!!!

Today is Leita’s birthday! It was

one of those days when periodically, I would say “Whooeee!! Life is

amazing!” I saw things today that I have never seen in my whole life and had experiences that are completely new and special and powerful.

We rented motorbikes to give us flexibility to go without having to hold back! I must admit I was a bit nervous in the beginning. I suggested to Leita that perhaps she would rather sit on the back of Paul’s bike instead of mine. I told her what our children used to say about my motorcycling riding. “No thanks, mom. Not until you

learn to stay off the sidewalks.” This is India though….come on!

The exhilaration I feel while riding a motorcycle with no one on the back makes me sing loudly. I do just that as I ride through the narrow roads of Hampi. As I pass people along the way, it is easy to smile broadly and shout, “Namaste”. I am reminded about my friend Margot calling me one day many years ago. She drove past me as I was jogging up a steep hill at Finch and Dufferin in Toronto. “You had the greatest smile on your face.” She said.”You look so happy when you’re running.” I am happy when I’m moving through space like that!

Our first stop on the bikes was the Hanuman Temple… The Monkey Temple named in honour of the Monkey God, a God of power.

We parked our bikes and trekked to the top of the mountain. The temple was beautiful in it’s simplicity and natural design. The views as we walked up were ‘breathtaki

ng’….literally, at times, causing me to gasp. Rice paddies, neatly organized in the fields, shared with small ponds and intermittent squares of soil. Occasionally a a building emerged, remnants from an old temple or a simple monument of ancient civilization.

The Indian people we met along the way greeted us with “Jhi Siri Ram”, a greeting that honours the name of a Hindu diety. Monkeys played all along the way. We bought bananas to attract their attention and to feed them. I spent quite a bit of time conversing with a whole family, taking pictures and talking to them all.

The motorcycle provided me with a way to interact with some of the village residents. One woman, walking along the path accepted a ride from me. As she climbed on to the back of the motorcycle, she asked gently, “Gentle?” I answered, “Sure, gentle. Come on. Let’s go! Whooeeee! I couldn’t believe how long she would have walked had I not picked her up. I was happy that she got home to her family way earlier than they expected to see her! And she was so much less exhausted than she would have been.

Another rider brave enough to get on the back of my bike was a young boy of about 8 years old. He accepted a ride from one ‘camp’ to the next. I was a bit worried that he was going somewhere that he shouldn’t be going. I kept asking him, “Where’s your mother? Is she there?” as I pointed back. “Or there?”, looking forward.

“There”, he assured me, with his finger pointing right past my shoulder. I was relieved when he asked me to drop him off. I made sure his mother was there before I rode on.

Our next stop was a visit with Kalli. Kalli is an old looking man living in one of the villages on our route. Leita said that she had stopped at his hut last year for tea. We were thrilled to be invited in. It is truly a hovel into which we were welcomed. We sat on the floor as we smoked bibbis (very small, thin cigarettes) and eating sweets that he had baked himself. We talked about the chanting necklaces he made from local kamal flower seeds. Each of us got a chanting necklace as we rode away on our motorcycles. “Om Na Ma La Shivayes” is a chant that I have heard many times in my Yoga practise. Now I have a personal, very dear experience

to relate to. Kalli is 50 years old. He is wise and only looks old.Our adventures then took us to the lake. We parked our bikes and made our way up. There we found a crowd of people on the top of the cliffs. People were jumping off the rocks into the lake, an approximate 8 meter jump. The waters looked beautiful. The challenge was tempting. I remembered Josh’s favourite place in the whole world, a River in Nanaimo where he takes us. There we fearlessly jump off cliffs (about 5 meters high).

I felt confident as I talked to the young people who were gathered around. I knew I could do this. Molly, a young woman part of the party hanging out wasn’t so sure. I was happy to spend some time convincing her how possible it would be…how gratifying. We agreed that I would go first.

I remember that breathing is everything. Just like when I used to go on the roller coasters with my children. “Breathe!” I would remind myself. “Breath deep.” I breathed…. and jumped! And once in the waters, I was there cheering as Molly did the same.

Sunset was phenomenal. Someone was playing a hammer dulcimer in the background. We watched from the temple as the sun, orange in it’s splendour, descended behind the temple mountain. Steven Spielberg would have been inspired! The brown and green background of the scene was highlighted by a bright orange-pink sun falling behind it’s vista.

Several times during the day I said, “I never want to leave India”. Hampi is a very trippy place. The day was completely magical! Happy Birthday Leita!

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Leaving Arombol

Sometimes the best way to sense the pulse of a village is to just stop. That was a realization on Saturday night when Paul, Leita and our new friends Katia and Sana decided to venture out of Arombol to a city about 50 kilometres away called Aupora. A huge market place on Saturday nights, it attracts many westerners. We decided to check it out and at the same time grab some dinner.

Together, the taxi jeep would cost $1000 rupees. That was for the return fare as well as waiting for us while we played at the market. Once we walked out to the main road, we stood off to one side to wait for our ride. I chose a large rock to sit on as I watched the town in action. That was when I realized how very special Arombol was!

There were motorcycles, motor rickshaws, and bicycles. There were cows and dogs, and roosters and even groups of wild boar. Men were carrying baskets full of fruit on their heads. And elderly women, bowlegged and bent, holding sticks wide enough to fit in their palms and just long enough to avoid any extra weight.

Horns are everywhere. In fact many bumpers in India read, “Please honk” or “Horn please”. The traffic in a small village like Arombol, is restricted to a one land dirt road. That’s for everyone! Horns honk proactively, not just in response possible danger.

My favourite time to be on the road is early in the morning on my way to Yoga. It has given me the chance to see the bustling streets in its dawn. As the shops begin to open, whole families participate in preparing their shops for the influx of possible buyers.

Water is being splashed in the entranceways to prevent the dirt from blowing on to the merchandise and inside the booth. Hundreds of items that have been carefully removed from tables and shelves are being replaced, each in their appropriate place. Long poles with hooks allow the children to re-hang the colourful dresses and blouses that have been taken down the night before. The bare hooks, become re-adorned with hand made sequined handbags and embroidered pouches. And the walls become hidden again with patterned cotton blankets and beautifully sewn Yoga shawls.

The smell of incense that comes from the doorways seems cleaner when the day is fresh. The morning coolness allows the smoke to stream longer and the air has had the night time to clear away the compressed odour of heated bodies from the previous day. The patchouli smell makes me feel at home.

I smile broadly as I walk to my Yoga class. I say good morning to each person I pass. I’m confident that they know I am not interested in buying anything at that time. They don’t harass me to purchase. Instead they respond with a “Good morning” and a welcoming smile.

Even the cows on the road seem to say good morning. I suppose if I stayed here long enough I would get to know them better too. If I lived here longer, I could even bring them the compost from the previous night’s meal. The cows here are very healthy, and friendly too!

We leave Arombol tomorrow. And though we love it here, it is time to move on. There is a free spirited mentality here created by (or maybe resulting from) Yoga, meditation, and regular chanting circles, lots of music, great food, beaches, sunshine and friendly people.

Tomorrow we are packing up. Leita will be coming with us too for three days. We are making the 5:30 sleeper bus to Hampy! It’s a 12-hour ride, and apparently, it’s not easy. I wonder if it will be my like my overnight Megabus rides to New York. And I thought $42.00 to New York was cheap! This trip is only costing us $15! And we even get a bed!!!!

Out into the world of India……

Friday, January 15, 2010

Finding Leita

We found Leita early today! Leita used to have a house on Gabriola and Paul and I often stayed with her before we bought our property in the early 2000’s. When we built our outhouse, Leita donated two glass doors from her her guesthouse that was being demolished. So whenever anyone comes to Gabriola, you will have the joy of sitting on the outside toilet and looking out into the woods through those windows!

Leita lives in Goa during the Winter months and studies Tai Chi. She’s been waiting for us and was so excited to hear me calling her name through the streets near her villa. We spent the day wandering, drinking delicious coffee with Raj (aka Dylan) and talking on the beach.

Paul and I met with Bretzlov Jews who invited us for Kabbalat Shabbat and breaking bread for dinner. Ordinarily we would have helped to prepare the supper but…hey! We were really busy today! Yoga was at 4:00 and went to a breezy 5:45. It was actually a perfect transition into evening for me followed by chanting and dancing on the beach.

Our son, Jonathan, who spent time in India during his travelling days, says Goa is not really India, and in many ways he’s right. Most of the people who hang out here in Arombol are from other parts of the world. The Lonely Planet says that Arombol is a place where many of today’s hippies come to play and at the end of a fortnight they “shave off their beards and take off their tye dye once they’re back to the nine to five.”. It’s a beach. It’s Yoga practise. It’s music and lots of grown up fun. I’m feeling more and more like a grown up. I am feeling good…beginning to unwind.

There’s a scene on the beach at sunset. The sun is the guest of the party and everyone gathers to greet her and send her off for the evening. There’s drumming and chanting and dancing. The sun sets as the party continues into the darkness.

Right now life feels perfect. People are friendly, happy and engaging. The food is plentiful and delicious and very, very cheap. The 3 of us had a full 4 course Indian dinner tonight with lots of beer and it cost us $10.00.

The evening ended in a musical jam where Paul got to display his energy and talent. Many of the musicians were actually very good and we had a great time. I now, suppose jet lag is with me. Paul is asleep and I am energetic and raring to go.

I spoke briefly to Philip tonight in Toronto. I’m having a hard time getting my head around the idea of talking and seeing people more than half way around the world. And the 10½-hour time difference is mind-boggling. It reminds me about the incredible changes in our world and how it is getting harder and harder for me to keep up!


The Iskcon Guest House is a Hare Krishna Ashram. If you’re a lifetime member, accommodations are ridiculously cheap. We aren’t lifetime members so we had to pay full price (about $55.00). The sounds of bells clapping and continuous chanting of Hare Krishna, Hare Krishna reminded me of the streets of New York in the 70’s. I think they were wearing the same gowns. Certainly they were chanting the same tunes. “Hare Krishna, Hare Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Ruma.”
This morning I wandered into the temple. One man approached me as soon as I walked in and handed me a set of beads and a card on which was the Hare Krishna chant in several languages. He instructed me how to chant Hare Krishna by rubbing each bead as I chanted. I appreciated his instruction. I’ve never really known how to be a Hare Krishna follower. I decided I’d benefit more just by being myself. I sat cross-legged, facing the alter with my eyes closed. Holding the beads in both hands, I took some time to be quiet, close my eyes and meditate. The music from the harmonium and the beautiful voice of the leader and of the Krishna community embraced me.
In Hare Krishna land people greet each other by saying, “Hare Krishna”. I suppose it’s a little like saying “Shabbat Shalom”, or “Chag Samaech” while entering or leaving the shul. Paul was relieved I didn’t say either of those. But I did respond with a smile and a simple "Good morning”.
India is a barrage of sensory input. Taking pictures is one way of capturing the experience. The sounds and smells are as important if you really want to have a feel of what is happening. I can’t photograph smells and sounds. You’ll just have to imagine and I’ll just have to try to remember.
We flew yesterday south of Mumbai on Spicejet Airlines. Goa is a very large area of India. We took a taxi north, from Goa’s airport, to Arambol. A good friend of ours from Gabriola is living in Arombol and we wanted our first stop in India to be meeting up with her.
There are stoplights in India, and I’m sure that some people use them as suggestions. Most, however, don’t bother with laneways or any traffic laws that might make highway driving less frightening. Some signs along the road read, “Lane driving is Sane driving” or “Don’t be a hell mate, wear a helmet”, both humourous reminders for various vehicle users along the highway.
The place we are staying in has a mirror, a small unit with 3 shelves, a stool, a sink (with cold water only) and several nails hammered in around the walls. There is one naked bulb on the wall that sheds all the light for the room. Some of you might remember William Burrows’ dark and intense novel, the The Naked Lunch. I always wanted to sleep in a wild place with a naked light bulb. It makes perfect sense that it would happen in India.
I feel good tonight. There’s music playing outside. The breeze is coming through the open window. We are sleeping in our MEC sheets that Paul bought in case the sheets were not as clean as we might like them. I’m sleeping in mine tonight!

Monday, January 11, 2010


We leave tonight. Paul and I know we are going on an adventure. Many of our friends say we're lucky! Many think we're absolutely crazy! Some tell us that they're jealous. "I wish I could do that" they say. I think we're just doing what we want and making it work in our lives. Our children are living on their own, away at school or creating their own journeys through travel. We feel confident in their abilities to make good in the world. Our dog, Charlie, passed away last year, and my mother moved back to the States. Paul and I both have work that can take us anywhere. In fact, we both have work that is coming with us to India. We are off today!

The last few days have been packed with good-byes and well wishes. We feel blessed to have so many people in our lives who love us and genuinely care.

Being in synagogue this past Shabbat was a reminder that I am protected and supported in my life no matter where I am. My community there embraces me and I feel the presence of God through that embrace. I have a sense that I am part of a larger universe. I am not alone. I am guided in my path and loved through the process.

I never really wanted to go to India. In fact, it was just a year ago, about the time when "Slum Dog Millionaire" came out, and I was also reading The White Tiger by Aravind Adiga. Having also read all of Rohinton Mistry's novels and heard from friends how crazy and hectic and corrupt India was, I thought, "Who would ever want to go to India?"

Then I saw a movie called The Pool at the Carlton Movie Theatre. It portrayed India as a lovely, peaceful place, and rich in landscape beauty and culture. I began to read more about the India of today. I read that the real India is mostly Hindu and Buddhists influences. Yoga, Ayruveda and meditation, form the basic foundation of the culture. Most of the people are calm, loving, and generous of spirit. I began to think of the Indian born people I know in Toronto, and I thought, "Yes...this makes more sense."

It reminds me of the Aboriginal communities in Canada and throughout North America. They too were doing just fine... thank you very much, until the Europeans came with the intention of changing the culture and making them more European. The uniqueness and beauty of Native culture was ignored as settlers tried to force the Native population to comply to ways that were unfamiliar and foreign to their life style. The change was forceful, hurtful, ultimately resulting in an angry, untrusting and confused people. The British did the same in India. The corruption, and misguided behaviours of many of the people, I think, is the result of that forceful intervention.

When Paul and I decided that we would no longer spend our Winters in Toronto, we began the process of working out how to manage enough work in Toronto and, also create work where ever we would travel.

This summer we played with the possibilities of Guatemala (Paul has a bit of history there and we also sponsor a child who lives there) , Mexico (our friends Sandy and Audrey are there this year), California (mostly to be with Jonathan, Vanessa, Stella and Oscar), Israel (another second home for us) or India (to go deeper into our Yoga practise and investigate a completely different culture) . While we were on Gabriola this summer, I met a man who runs several ESL Schools all over the world. It made me think! Thinking is good in this case. It turns out the school isn't doing as well as his other schools throughout the world. He needs help! So India it is!

We are certainly off for an adventure. Over the last 4 months we have created a plan of sorts. Our intention is to work, learn and volunteer in various parts of the country. We are connected with various organizations, friends, and communities both in the Buddhist and in the Jewish worlds. Paul will undoubtedly find musical opportunities in various places and I will participate by focussing on how Indian drumming differs technically from African, (which I've been practising for the last two years). We have work that goes with us, and we have friends waiting for us in cities, villages, ashrams and towns. We know where we will sleep the first night we arrive in Mumbai. And we know we'll be flying to Goa as our first step into India. Past that, we know nothing for certain.

We are excited for us, as I know many of you are too. We feel strongly connected to all of you. We feel safe and loved and protected. Please continue to stay in touch......