Thursday, September 21, 2006

Yay!!! Internet!!!!

I talked to my little sister yesterday, the one who just had a birthday. it was wonderful. it was for 7 minutes on skype, but it was a very fulfilling 7 minutes. We were both so overwhelmed to finally be talking that we didn't have a lot to say. but she asked me what the best and worst things about being here are, and I answered that being in India is the best thing about being here, and the worst thing is not feeling 100%. I amend that now. I can deal with the perpetual uncomfortable-ness that I feel but not having access to reliable, fast internet is the worst thing; it is the thing that I miss most. it makes it hard to blog, email or even just check the news when every two minutes the server is dying/crashing/overloading/not working. I think in Varanasi it will be different, but who knows. I'm not holding my breath.

On the topic of things I appreciate, I would also like to thank whatever guardian angel/good Samaritan/saint/yogi transferred $$ into my bank acct so that it is in fact no longer overdrawn and is still open!!! yay!!! You have taken a great worry off my shoulders. I would also like to thank (since I’m getting into Oscars acceptance speech mode here)all the family who is constantly supporting me and sending me love and positivity from across the time zones, miles and oceans. I feel loved and supported in a way that I haven’t ever before, and I think it is helping my experience a great deal to know that all the people that I love love me back and are behind me 110%. It means I don’t have to worry about how to spin anything, how to frame anything, how to rationalize or excuse anything so that it will be accepted. It is a lot of pressure and stress off me.

And now onto the news....... lol. So you know those crazy Opus Dei people from the Da Vinci Code that Mel Gibson's dad is a big supporter of? They do this daily self mortification thing to demonstrate their devotion where they hurt themselves. I think it also serves as a form of penance. And you know those stories you hear overreaching old folks telling about how they walked up hills to school both ways through the snow? Well a combination of those two things is my daily existence here. Every morning, I walk what has to be about a mile form the hotel to the language school, which is at the top of the mountain. It is a steep and grueling trek that every morning threatens to steal what little lung capacity I have left. It is not my daily worship, but it is certainly proof of my devotion to learn Hindi! Every day I trudge through increasingly familiar streets full of poop of all kinds (monkey, dog, donkey, horse, chicken, and often unidentifiable), freshly spat phlegm, trash, dirty water, old chai, fruit & vegetable peels from the fruit stands, leering men, overfriendly children eager to practice their public school English, honking scooters, motorcycles with entire families perched precariously upon them, on their way to school, delivery trucks with the loudest, most obnoxious horns that blare at you EVEN IF YOU ARE ALREADY CLINGING TO THE NEAREST WALL TO LET THEM BY, bicycles, dogs, monkeys, roosters, other tourists and the smell of very public urinals that are rather strangely located by the gurdwara (Sikh temple), the Jain temple and the Hindu temple. The incline of these streets becomes steeper than 45 degrees and just keep going. I often imagine my lungs and heart imploding from the incredible effort as all I can think of is the next step each foot needs to take. It is the most meditative, living-in-the-present- moment exercise I can do. The minutes seem to melt away, the seconds stop, all time and other people cease to exist. They people my periphery view as shadows, either witnesses to my daily quest to make it up the hills or distractions/demons sent to knock the last morsel of motivation out of me. When I inevitably make it up the hill, I am astonished to discover that a mere 20-30 minute chunk of time has passed and I am in fact, on time for class. The first class passes in front of me with very little participation or even awareness, it normally takes me about an hour to recover from the incredible physical exertion.
Basically what I’m saying here is that I’ve got all those bragging old people beat.

I’ve never walked this much in my life, and Yousuf bhai says that I am wasting away whenever I see him (granted, most of the time I am out of breath and trying to rest after I’ve made it up the hill). To add insult to injury, we hiked to Happy Valley yesterday. It is the Tibetan corner of Mussoorie where many refugees live and is covered in monkeys and Tibetan prayer flags. It is beautiful, but an hour and a half downhill hike. Sound easy? Imagine being pulled downwards by gravity with such alarming force that your only weapon, your knees, almost splinter from the effort. This is the trek to Happy Valley. It is also followed by an hour and a half hike back uphill. We visited the loudest Buddhist temple I have ever been to- there was a pair of monks who were doing pooja using cymbals and other marching band drums consistently for the better part of an hour while we were there. The temple was beautiful in a homey, loved and appreciated sort of way. It was so colorful! There were many prayer wheels along the entrance which are colorful, foot and a half long, foot wide cylinders that you turn in a clockwise motion before entering the temple to ensure a long and happy life for yourself.

The walls, eaves and ceiling were covered in paintings of the incarnations of Buddha. Every inch of space was bright, clean and colorful. There was a large cardboard cutout of His Holiness the Dalai Lama at the front of the temple next to the main alter/where the Buddha sits. At a quick glance, it looked as though HH was sitting at the head of the temple, waiting to greet and bless us. It wasn’t as enriching as an experience as I had hoped since there weren’t any English speaking monks and the Hindi speaking ones were old and somehow not engaging with us. It was still peaceful and incredibly refreshing to sit down after the constant fight against gravity we had to endure to make it to the temple. The view around the temple was spectacular. It was the first clear day in Mussoorie since we’ve been here, so we could see all the surrounding hills. The sun was shining, the breeze was gently blowing and two girls from the other group sat with me on the steps opposite the temple as we talked about he nature of love and anger and how our lives have been influenced by each. Then the group suddenly separated; one group left to go back to Landour Bazaar while another went to see hill tops full of Tibetan prayer flags. Erica and I stopped to find a toilet and never found that hilltop nirvana. We became permanently separated from our group and after a semi frantic search for the group aided by our friendly neighborhood Tibetans, we gave up and started back at a snail’s pace.

I have no idea how long it took us to walk back, but I do know that it was mid afternoon when we left, the sun still fairly high in the sky. As we walked, the sun began to descend, dusk set in, and by the time we made it back to Landour Bazaar, it was full on night. Turns out everyone was worried about us while we just figured we had been abandoned and headed back. It was quite the adventure. We had to walk through a small area surrounded by white bodied black faced langoor monkeys and while I prayed to make it through, Erica was determined to get a picture of them. I walked ahead holding my breath, convinced I would turn around and find families of langoors attacking her. When I turned around, she had a panicked look on her face as she rushed to get away from them. She got the picture though. We started out the adventure looking for a taxi or any vehicle on wheels to return us to Landour without us having to walk. The longer we walked, and the more we talked, it became easier. We talked about the lives of trees, Ents, Madeline L’engle, Tolkien, metaphysics, and the nature of life. We then talked about principles, racism, patriarchy and societal connectedness vs. disconnectedness. It was a great talk. It’s quite late now, I have to grab dinner and make it back to the hotel in time for a Spirit team meeting. Love you all.


mujtabag said...

as salamu'alaikum,

I loved your post, and am glad you're feeling better.

re: climbing up/down a hill. A steep climb really gets you into that whole "Be Here Now" frame of mind. It's better than weeks of meditation. Maybe that's why so many spiritual retreats are in the monutains? The Prophet (pbuh) climbed to the cave of Hira to meditate, and in Medina he used to climb Mount Uhud every month, I think.

Now that you've become used to climbing 45 degree slopes, you're invited to hike up some of our modest mountains in California, inshallah. We don't have views of the Himalayas, but we don't have monkeys either :-)

Anonymous said...

hello my love!
thank u for the guest appearance in your blog, talking to u was just as special for me :) i read "little sister" as being chip and then realized i was the birthday girl and that moment of clarity was exciting :) this weekend chippy came to visit me and im so sorry we missed ur call !! mussourie sounds AMAZING, im so sorry your lungs are hurting so much, inshallah they'll endure the adventures well :) I MISS YOU!!!! my birthday was good, and i recieved ur post card the nite before so it was *almost* like u were here with me to have proof of your love on paper :) thank u so much for taking the time on that hectic day in hong kong to send a postcard, you're the best! I miss your guidance and your logistics and your company, TWO MONTHS TIL I SEE U THANKSGIVING MORNING !!! It's gona b a fight for who can come pick u up, i will prepare my 'guns' :P today is the first day of ramadan and i'm excited to wake up in 3 hours to stuff my face, scream LA MUJER ARANA! pray and fall bac asleep :) i drop chippy off in a few hours at the bus stop as well, vamoose is no longer in tenley! im sorry i should b commenting on your stuff but its 2 am and i dont hav enof energy to address all of the emotion and amazement i am of your stories! YOU ARE AMAZING ! i love you so much mera dil se tokra! hehe ok my darling, i must go, another whirlwind weekend comes to a close as 2maro is a homework day.. LOVE U !!!!!!!! <3 shugu