Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Sitting in the foothills of the Himilayas with my flashdrive...

FYI: my health is better, no dengue fever so far. i've noticed that everytime we have to undertake a big travelling transition, i fall ill. my body doesn't do the change very well unfortunately.

Ok so i'll bet no one even gets the twisted reference i just made to a powerful song lyric, but it's sorta how i'm feeling now. the original is by rage aginst the machine " now i'm rolling down rodeo with my shotgun, these people aint seen a brown skjinned man since their grandparents bought one!" and my poor comparison to it was the title of this blog. I'm in Rishikesh now, done with Swami Rama's ashram a day early. My leader mixed up the date that we would begin our trek so we checked out of the ashram, got all packed up and waited for a ride that never came. We ended up taking autorickshaws down to a more central, and tourist packed, area of rishikesh. the views here are beautiful.

i'm sitting in an internet cafe that is really the booking office of the trekking company, enjoying the fan and western set up of the office. i'm isitting directly in front of a set of large windows that look out onto hazy outlines of hills and mountains. I only have to stand up to i see the majestic blue monsoon swollen rapids of the Ganga beneath us. The Ganga here is completely different than the dirty, scary mess of Varansi, and the timid, hydro dam altered river by the ashram. here there are vicious looking rapids that seem unreal. there are small buildings scattered along the edges and a small suspension foot (scooter/cows/monkey/motorcylce) bridge uniting the two sides. there are colorful mundirs (hindu temples)nestled in the lush green of the hill side that attract pilgrims from all over india. this is Shiva's country, and you cant take two steps down the street without hearing devotional songs about Shiva and Ganga-ma (Ganga is supposed to be another incarnation of the mother goddess, Durga)wafting around the holy cows and burning incense in front of all the temples that line the main one lane throroughfare that serves as a street.

there are tourists everywhere. stupid, loud, crass tourists. apparently tons of dirty, dreaded tourists come from all over the world to bum around here, "find themselves", go on a "spritiual pilgrimage" (which amazingly doesnt seem to have much to do with Indians, India, or learning a word of hindi) and act incredibly out of place. the trekking company is very professional and caters to the best paying clientele in the area. unfortuantely, that means alot of entitled, stupid americans/europeans. while sitting in the cafe at various intervals today i have witnessed: a middle aged woman in shorts that ended mid thigh and a cotton tank top that didnt fit well, a loud demanding american young woman trying to squeeze an empty computer out of the 5 available and occupied ones here, and many subtly belly baring tops/exposed skin and tattooes. people who run little shops here all speak some english and in no way expect us to know any hindi at all. they look at me like the dog spoke if i try and speak in hindi b/c they automatically assume i couldnt possibly and wouldnt make the efort. you can really tell they are used to foreigners here: no one stares at us as we walk by. we had to take a staircase down the hill to the ganga and a guy blatanly held up his camera to get pictures of us. i held my hand in front of my face and tried not to smack him with it.

i was eating a bannana as a snack when i noticed there were monkeys around. (how perfect right? the setup was complete. yaz walking with a bannana and crazed, angry monkeys clamoring around, waiting) i tried to hide the bannana as we walked down the stairs against the flow of people climbing up. the monkeys knew i had the bannana. they ran over to the (narrow!!!!) sides of the staircase and paused, glaring at me, getting ready to buond onto my head/body/face. i tried not to friek out as alex said over and over "give them the bannana, give em the bannana!" i dropped the bannana practically into the monkey's hands and then did my best to step around them as they eyed me for more. it was like getting mugged, but worse. monkeys, in their ever present evolutionary proximity, are aggressive, know us well enough to tell our moods, fears and weaknesses but have no reason not to be as brutal as they like. as close as we might be, with our similar hands, ability for expression and brain structure, we are not kin. they understand this. humans get caught up in how cute they are and the novelty of them. they see us as victims to be exploited for their material gain and personal (monkey-al?) amusement. i hate them.

after this terryfying encounter with my distant cousin the bundur, we attempted to walk across the suspension bridge in search of a airconditioned bookstore. all i noticed were the bundurs moving lightening fast up and down and across the suspension wires. i also had to watch my bag, not get run over by the two wheeled vehicles (one motorcycle was being operated by an older sikh man with large metal milk canisters on the side; everywhere i turned, he was there, honking his horn at me to get out of death's way), say no to the postcard hawkers and not step on any yougn children. we made it halfway before a young sikh man, smartly dressed and in a red turban, held up his cell phone as we walked next to his family and demanded a picture. it was alex, me, his mother and grandmother and his child. great. my first instinct is always to say no, but alex agreed and it was harmless. i didnt smile. it was more like a grimace. but the aunties were so pleased, i didnt feel totally bad. i have to remember i take pictures of people(them!!)here too, but normally dont ask. after we made it across the bridge, alex almost got gored by a stampeding bull in the street and we eventually found a bookstore.

it is hot here; the time and my energy melted in the sun's relentless rays. after buying some afternoon snacks, we returned to the trusty red chilli (i'm not kidding, that's what it's called) to enjoying climate control and internet. we ended up with a free day to just kick around in rishikesh because of the trek date mixup, which i shuold be using to complete my first paper, due at the beginnign of november. i'll get to it... i started it. my problem with free days is that i have no motivation to go find the world in front of me. it's hot. i'm tired, i hardly slept last nite. i'm trying not to contract dengue fever, malaria, and a million other bug born illnesses. i also spent the last few days at an ashram so my motivation and sense of urgency has chilled out more than usual. i have now dubbed the ashram hotel california. the whole place is done in a spanish mission style, with red tile roofs, lawns, landscaped gardens, no shady trees, and primarily american staff and participants. these folks come here to "get away" without ever actually being in india. as i think i mentioned in my last post, the ashram has 5 star accomodations, western toilets and is secluded (obviously) from the rest of rishikesh. dont get me wrong, there are indians there as well, but many more foreigners. we had been warned that this would be the most conservative place we were visiting, and that we had to be dilligent about covering up and conscious of our behavior. tell me why we get there and there are middle aged white american women with thier noses pierced wearing HIGH WAISTED (why highwaisted anyway? ur body isnt designed for all that extra fabric being hiked up around ur middle. u end up looking like a fashion victim with excess skin left over after your gastric bypass in fabric form!) "Workout" capris and sleeveless shirts? one of the main teachers, a californian who is a physical therapist and a resident there has lived at the ashram for fuor years and can only count from 1-5 in hindi. that's it. yeah.

i dunno. the american-ism of the place made me really homesick at times; i would spontaneously burst into tears when i thought of something from home. it was intense and strange, and i didnt like it one bit. i'm glad to be away from it in that respect. at the same time, i didn't feel like i got much out of the ashram experience (except daily showers and delicious simple food) in the short time we were there. i really want to learn more about meditation and hatha yoga and i had looked forward to the ashram as my chance. i want to go back and spend a solid amount of time there, at least 2 weeks, probably a month, to get to learn and build on what i am learning over a period of time.

i can't believe we're going on a trek tomorrow. apparently we'll be driving most of the day to get up to our starting point, and i am not looking forward to that all day drive. it will be up on windy barely there mountain roads and definitely be vomit inducing. another pukemobile ride is not really what i'm in the mood for after my recent foray into the world of vomit. we'll hike straight up about 6 miles the first day i believe, and around that much up and then down in the next 2 days. crazy. just gotta do it i guess. i'm excited though, what a challenge! after the trek is the week at the orphanage, a week at a mountain retreat center that belongs to the orphanage and then a week in Dharamsala wehere we'll learn about some buddhism, maybe run into HH Dalai Lama and finish up our assignments before our 3 days of free travel. after that, when we will hopefully visit agra to see the taj mahal and amritsar to see the golden temple, it's delhi and then cali. final retreat, then home. nutz. we're smack dab in the middle of the trip, with only a little more left than we have already completed. it is flying by....
love and miss you all
comment, email and overall just pray for me that i dont fall off the mountain.


mujtabag said...

wow, being mugged by monkeys by the banks of the Ganges! Sounds like one of those desi-American (Ludi-Krishna) rap songs ("Welcome to India, where cows eat hay, and we ride auto-rickshaws every day")

Anyway, I'm glad you're better and
hope you *love* trekking in the Himalayas. Remember, there are no monkeys in the Sierra Nevada, so any time you'd like a beh-bundur trek, you know where to come! :-)

Mariko said...

hahaha. i love that you got mugged by monkey's. that's one for the books. Classic, really? forget the pickpockets and small children - look out for monkeys. When I was in Barbados the monkeys kept stealing the mangoes from our trees.. but i guess that's a bit different.

Can't believe the things you are seeing! <3

Frick said...

Sounds very exciting! I'm glad you feel better :) The rest of the trip sounds amazing, of course I'm following your itinerary :-P Hope you take pictures and stay safe.