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April 2009 Archives

April 15, 2009

Incredible India - part 0

I had this entire post written but then the Vienna Airport wireless connection ate it. So here we go, again.

Sorry all for the lack of updates but I was in India (or as I may now say, "You know, when I was bathing at the source of the Ganges ...")

So the loml and I spent about 2 weeks in northern india. We briefly passed through Delhi, Agra, and spent the rest of our time in rishikesh, haridwar, and vrindarvan. We saw the taj mahal, the foothills of the Himalayas, bathed in the cleaner bits of the Ganges (twice!), stayed in an ashram run by hare krishnas, did a lot of yoga, and took lots of photos (which will be posted as soon as I get home, shower, sleep, pet the cats, etc....)

India is big. And I'll write more about the parts I saw soon.

Hare Krishna!

April 17, 2009

Incredible India - Pt 1: Delhi and Agra

We took Austrian Airlines to get to Delhi, because they were the cheapest tickets we could get, and boy.. did we pay for it. For anyone who cares, I now think of Austrian Airlines as the clown car of the skies. Not only is their internal decor insane (red and green for economy, purple and green for business class), but people tended to not buy extra seats for their kids. The cherry on this cake is the fact that the majority of the seats did not recline, which was only good if the guy in front of you also had a busted seat.

but enough of that. We got to Delhi's airport (Indira Ghandi Int'l) about 2am, and here is where the madness began. After getting through immigration and grabbing our luggage, we headed for the exit where we not only met the masses of taxi drivers but our first smell of india. Before this trip, I actually had people tell me that Delhi smelled like a "latrine on fire". I am glad to report that this is not actually true. Yes, there is a smell. But you get used to it.

We went to India as part of a larger group and luckily had no problems finding our guide in the pickup area. For some reason, there are huge warnings about how you should never just pick up a random cab driver. We spent the first two nights at a local economy hotel called 'the ginger hotel'. It was clean, functional, and had hot water and air conditioning. What more could anyone want?

We didn't really see much of Delhi and I was perfectly ok with that. The drivers were typically crazy (for south-east asia) and the roads were a mess due to the metro line construction for the upcoming 2010 Commonwealth games. We spent our waking hours on an outing to Agra to see the Taj Mahal.

We rode a first-class A/C train there, which is about what I would recommend for any visitor. You get an assigned seat and food service. 2nd class A/C is about the same but without the complimentary food and drink.

So the Taj. Yes, it is one of the wonders of world.. but its not terrifically interesting once you've seen it. Its very big and impressive until some one tells you a story about how the Emperor had all of the craftsmen's hands chopped off afterwards so that no one could recreate it. Then, you're kind of like... this isn't as cool as I thought it would be.

The other thing we learned about on this trip is how overwhelming the beggers and peddlers can be to tourists. Everyone will tell you to never give any money to these people. but its really hard when you are surrounded by little kids carrying babies and projecting this look of starvation. So eventually, someone might give them some money at which point the whole situation degenerates into a chaotic mess. I can't really convey the situation, but take it from me. If you want to help people, this is not the way to do it.

So I know this doesn't seem like much of a vacation yet, but its was only our first day and half of india and we were kind of jetlagged. I'll talk about the smaller places we stayed at in the next post, which i swear, are much more fun.

April 18, 2009

Incredible India - Pt 2: Rishikesh

We spent several days in Rishikesh, in the foothills of the Himalayas.

While we were there, we did some ritual dunking in the Ganges (Ganga Puja -> Ganges worship) as well as some recreational splashing around.

The water is really clean there and frickin' cold as its coming straight from the Himalayas. We were watching a pretty formal Ganga Puja at this temple and all of a sudden someone drives a bulldozer through the water, right behind Shiva. It was a little odd.

We also did a lot of yoga! Again, I have to thank our teacher, the amazing Gopi Kinnicutt for the incredible modifications. It may have been painful, but my hips now touch the ground in pigeon!

Our trip also included some great recreational activities! The shopping was plentiful ( I did buy a couple of new travel outfits that I wore the entire time)

and we all got some henna done.

We also went white water rafting on the Ganges. The funny thing is that the rafting wasn't near as scary/terrifying as the driving was. To get uphill/upstream for the rafting, our driver took us on what felt like 30 minutes of speed-demon turns on a one lane road in the mountains. The only consolation was that I had heard if you died in the Ganges, that you could skip the constant reincarnation and go straight to Nirvana. Lucky us!

We went on a safari through a wildlife preserve, where we got to see elephants in the wild. The ones we saw had babies so our driver zoomed past really fast in case they got aggressive.

We had a really great time in Rishikesh until the loml ingested water from the Ganges. At which point, we were in for a 103 degree fever overnight, followed by a couple of days of 'Delhi Belly'. But, he's a strong man, and soon recovered. And to be fair to the Ganges, it could have been something else that got him sick.

April 19, 2009

Incredible India - Pt 3: Haridwar

We spent a couple of days in Haridwar next. Haridwar means 'gateway to god' and the place is supposed to be rather holy.

Our group traveled there by car and then took rickshaws to the hotel. And we definitely needed rickshaws because those streets were tiny! We stayed in this amazing hotel right on the banks of the Ganges.

This place had a private ghat for bathing and the rooms were great. I think it used to be a home to a rich family.

We didn't do a whole lot while in Haridwar since the loml was still sick, but it was nice to take a break. India can be pretty hard on a person. Its dirtier, smellier, and busier than anything you expect.

April 24, 2009

Incredible India - Pt 4: Vrindavan

So the thing is, by the time we made it to Vrindavan.. we were pretty tired. We'd been in India well over a week. We'd seen and done and eaten and traveled by plane, train, car, bus, auto-rickshaw and regular rickshaw.

So by the time we reached Vrindavan, I'm afraid we didn't take that many pictures. Which is too bad, because the place we stayed at was an ashram run by ISKCON (the international society for krishna consciousness - which is a sneaky way of saying we stayed with hare krishnas).. and it was beautiful inside.

Vrindavan is holy because when Krishna first materialized on earth, he first walked there. It was also super dusty there. Several people, including myself, wound up with some wicked congestion/lung issues.

While we were there, we visited the Food for Life Vrindavan school. This school provides education, basic medical services, food, and sometimes housing to poor area children. And I have to tell you, after seeing all the kids begging on the street, it was a relief to see this place.

The loml let them get a hold of the camera and they took some pics.

We spent a few days there. We did more yoga, and some shopping, and relaxing during the midday heat.

While in India it was really common to see cows and pigs in the streets, eating trash. These were cleanest nicest ones we saw.

There were also a lot of monkeys in Vrindavan but we didn't get any pics of them. They were pretty bold and the only thing that made them back off was when the loml got a stick and acted authoritative (I just know there is some kind of joke in here somewhere).

So after three or four days, we got in a car and rode back to the Delhi airport, where we flew home (after a pit stop in Vienna). I can't really summarize my trip to India. Its spiritually beautiful but materially horrifying in some respects, and it was definitely an adventure.

April 26, 2009

i'm melting... melting...

As a rule, I do not partake of the fear-mongering ritual that we call 'the news'. I figure if its really important, then somehow I'll find out about it. and that isn't to say that I don't read news.. I just prefer to read about other kinds of news, especially from these guys:

  • http://boingboing.net - they call themselves "a directory of wonderful things". I think of them as more of a consolidation of the weird and wacky. Either way, this site rocks.
  • http://consumerist.com - if you need to fuel your indignation at corporate america, this site is for you. A great place to keep up on interesting consumer stories, though it does get a bit repetitive after several months.
  • http://jezebel.com - "Celebrity, Sex, Fashion for Women" yes, yes, YES! I love this site for all things truly girly - feminism, occasional book chats, social commentary, and of course, fashion reviews. The loml has had an unreasonable dislike of this site ever since they published this article about men growing facial hair, but hey.. that's just how they roll..
  • http://io9.com - this is my guilty geeky secret. No matter how socialized I like to think I am, at some point I'm just relieved to be able to get to one website where all they talk about is comic books, bad sci-fi movies, and the spoilers to last week's episodes of Dollhouse, True Blood, and make fun of all the other shows I refuse to watch ('heroes'). This is the site that will tell you about Gillian Anderson being on Dr.Who. If you dig that, you must start reading this site.

Now I realize some of you may be thinking, "weird and wacky is all fine and well, but none of these sites come close to news, not like CNN". Yes, that is true. but I will point out, there is a lot of trash on CNN (do we really need to see another item about how someone killed themselves and/or their entire family because the economy?). and this whole pig/swine flu thing still hit two of the four sites on my list... so you see, if its really important, I'm sure I'll read about it.

April 28, 2009

ayurveda and me

So one thing I did in India, was go see an Ayurvedic doctor. Ayurveda is the traditional system of indian holistic medicine. In the United States, its kind of pricey, especially as it becomes more trendy. but in India, the exchange rate was on my side. so i went.

The doctor and I went through a discussion of my medical history and current issues. He also took my blood pressure and performed a pulse test. This allowed him to diagnose the status of my doshas (Ayurveda says that your internal elements have to be in balance to be healthy) and prescribe some treatments.

The first thing he recommended was shirodhara, which is a massage followed by the pouring of oil on my forehead. It seemed a little weird, but I was actually pretty excited about it because I LOVE massages and this one was going to be done by two people, at once, on me! The second treatment he prescribed was a "hot application" of herbs. This one sounded a little confusing to me, but I figured it was some kind of cleansing steam thing which was fine by me. So I set my appointment times and was happily anticipating my massage.

So I showed up for my two-person massage on time and was shown to a small room where two women were waiting. Now, the funny thing about all this, is that I was still thinking in an american-type spa massage relaxation paradigm. Which is just wrong. In India (or at least in Rishikesh), ayurveda is medical science, and I was getting a medical treatment. Which was evident when I stepped in the room, and the two women just looked at me. and I looked at them. and finally, one of them pointed at me and said, "Shirt off." I then realized that I wasn't getting any of this whole "we're going to leave the room now so you and your delicate sensibilities can disrobe and then hide under a modesty blanket on the massage table". Nope. which was ok with me; I don't have any issues being naked for a massage. So I took all my clothes off and hopped on the table. At which point I was subjected to a 30 minute amazingly theraputic oil-filled rub down/massage by two rather intent women. Just when i thought that I could not get any oilier, the massage stopped and they indicated that I should re-position my self at the head of the table, facing up. When I did that, one of them placed cotton pads over my eyes, so I couldn't see anything. I did get rather nervous at this point, because there were some odd noises occurring. but soon they started pouring warm oil over my head, using a large metal container with a spout. That went on for another 30 minutes. It was eerie, strange, and oddly relaxing.

So when that was over, I got a brisk rubdown by the women, was instructed not to shower for at least an hour (the longer the better), and set off back for my room, smelling like herbal mineral oil. Incidentally, I still haven't been able to get the smell completely out of my clothes.

A couple of days later, I returned for my second treatment. The "hot application". This actually turned out to not be what I thought it was. I headed back into the room, with one of the same women from before. I was already with the program in terms of getting ready, but as I lay on the table, waiting for the treatment to begin, I heard a strange noise.

The woman had lit a small propane burner. ooo-kay.. and then, she put a wok on top of it. but, i didn't get nervous until she poured oil in the wok and it started to sizzle. Now, this is when I started freaking out a bit. I mean, I didn't really think they were going to burn me, but what was going on with the frying oil then??!

as it turns out, the woman did not fry me in oil, prepared though she was.

She had a set of fist-sized bags filled with herbs which she would use to mop up the hot oil. And after it had cooled down (a little), she would then pummel and massage my body with the bag. It sounds crazy, but this was even more relaxing than the previous 2 person massage I had gotten. The hot oil herb bag felt really good (if you have ever had a hot stone massage, you understand), and the massaging action was like being scrubbed down with a soft loofah. So after the initial scare, it was turning out to be an awesome treatment. but all too soon, she was done, and was motioning me to reposition my self face up on the table. and it turned out I was getting Shirodhara again (more oil poured on my forehead).

Now, I'd already had oil poured on my forehead for thirty minutes in the previous treatment. At this point, the feeling was just getting really freaky though. Its very hard to describe, but I was relieved when it was over. The doctor had mentioned that its not uncommon for people to feel uncomfortable or emotional after shirodhara because it can sometimes cause people to release emotional blockages... I'm not sure about that, but I did get to spend yet another evening covered in and smelling like herbed mineral oil.

So that was my experience with Ayurveda. and I have to say, having seen what massage is like from a medical treatment perspective, I'm having a hard time taking our 'sensibilities' very seriously. Those Indian women were there to do their job, and I doubt they cared if I was nervous about getting naked, being touched accidentally (and you can bet that happened), or needing reassurances that they were not going to burn the heck out of me.

About April 2009

This page contains all entries posted to daisyblahg in April 2009. They are listed from oldest to newest.

March 2009 is the previous archive.

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