Thursday, October 30, 2008

Goodbye Manali, Hello McLeod Ganj!

So my alst few days in Manali were spent doing pretty much nothing. It was quite stupendous. I mapped out the next couple months of travelling in utter serenity around me. It felt more like I lived there, than I was visiting. I finished my book Eat. Pray. Love. pretty much in one day. I couldnt put it down and was devastated that it was over to be honest. I love books because I fall in love with the charecters, their triumphs become my own, their sorrows become my own, and so on. Such a wonderful and inspiring book.

So the bus to Dharamsala was full the past few days, but nonetheless I am here. Well actually a few miles north in a town called McLeod Ganj. Another backpacker friendly place surrounded by foreigners, yoga centers, and monasteries. I can get used to this!

However, I miss the serenity of Manali. Dont get me wrong, McLeod Ganj is just as beautiful but Manali holds special meaning to me. My last few days there, I could see substantial change in the foliage turning into the glorious colors of my favorite season. Autumn. The green leaves when I arrived were now a beautiful bright yellow and then yellow leaves were now a golden amber. Every so often, I spotted a bright red tree in the midst of these wonderful colors. Combined with the beautiful colorful scenary, was the cool crisp mountain air. Oh how I loved that town. As I left my guest house with my backpack on my back, walking a few miles to the bus station I passed by all the stores where I passed by multiple times a day and made small talk with the owners there. These people are so desperate for business its crushing. Around this time most of the shops close due to the cold weather arriving and less tourists as a result. My heart crumbles for these people who dont get business for days and are so happy to have someone to talk to. Saying goodbye to each of these warm hearted people was so difficult. I was unable to say goodbye to tibetan wife to be. I was seriously bummed about this. We could have been happily married. But for some reason her shop was closed that day. I didnt get to have one last meal and one last exchange of words. Her hospitality among everyone elses will be sincerely missed the most. I loved that Cafe.

Strangely I have developed a bond with them that was hard to let go of. Travelling alone really makes lonliness set in to where you become best friends with sometimes inanimate objects as a book, journal, or animate objects like strangers or animals. As I was leaving yesterday I passed by a shop where I stopped by to say goodbye to a young man named Hari whom I met on my first day I was in Manali. I went into his parents shop, sat down, we shared a cup of Chai, and listened to the glorious music of Ray Charles.
"Ah! You have IPod!? My CD player broken, play something!"
"Like what?...What kind of music do you like?"
"Anything, please put on anything you like."
Ray Charles it was. Hari had never heard of Ray Charles.
"What is this?"
"Ray Charles, you like it?"
He closes his eyes slowly, tilts his head back slightly, wiggles his head to the beat, puts out a happily smile and says, "Oh yes...I never heard this before"
There we sat, drinking a hot cup of chai, jamming out to Ray Charles. My fondest memories of India always involve a warm cup of Chai. I love it.
"You travel alone?"
"No girlfriend?"
"Why? You like girls?"
Not this again...
"Yes Hari, but its a long sad story...How long have you been with your girlfriend"
"2 years. I think next year marriage. Here, I give you my number, I want you to come."
We then exchange info, give a warm handshake and I am off to catch my bus.

I was early by an hour. It was pitch dark by then. No lights except for the ones each bus produced. I found a nice spot where I lay down listening to Jimi Hendrix looking up at the clearest sky I have ever seen. The only thing to make this moment perfect would be a cup of Chai. I reminisce on Manali and I will miss the hospitality I recieved there. From the guest house, to my beautiful tibetan cook, to the store merchants, to the people on the street. I am thinking of returning in June where it will be perfect for backpacking.

Then I loaded into the bus, the first bus Ive been on that wasnt packed every seat. I had two seats to myself. I found this quite the blessing. The ride was not nearly as crazy as the others. I arrived in McLeod Ganj at 4 am, found a cheap guest house nearby and went to sleep.

This morning I went in search of food. I stumbled upon a coffee place called, First Cup. Very americanized. The shop was small but there I had the best Iced Mocha I have ever tasted. Made me instantly wish Shawn was with me to taste it, it was delightful. I know he loves Iced Mochas.

Halloween is near and to be quite honest I am not too stoked on it. Its more of a reason to get drunk or high out here more than the holiday. Id rather spend my time seated in meditation in a monastary with some monks.

Today I goto different monastaries, meditation centers, etc to try and find a place where I can stay and study for a few weeks. Ive wanted to do this for quite some time now and will be stoked if I am blessed with the opportunity to. Just a note in advance, if I do find a place, I doubt I will have internet access or will be able to leave to access a computer.

I love you all.
Many blessings and peace to you all.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Manali: My Hippie Mountain Village

So after my last post I was on a mission to find an outlet adapter to use to charge my camera and Ipod. I ask someone where an electronic store is and he walks me over to one about 20 feet away and I find my adapter. I make sure it works before I buy and it does so Im stoked. No more conserving my battery life!
"You like chai?" the man asks
"Yes. Very much."
"Come with me. My brother owns Chai Shop, you can get food if you are hungry."
"That would be wonderful, thank you."
He takes me to a shop in a bazaar and there was only jewelry for sale. Shortly after a man brings in two cups of Chai.
"You hungry?"
I nodd and say "Yes"
He then tells the boy my order in Hindi.
Then the man busts out the Kashmir photobooks and I start laughing so hard I think I am going to choke. Just when I thought I was out of the hustling, I get it shoved up my rear here. I kindly listen and look drinking my Chai. My food then arrives in a plastic bag. Inside the plastic bag, were other plastic bags with my food and my naan wrapped in newspaper. There I ate in the store cold indian food off a newspaper. Delightful! He kept swinging me going to Kashmir with him and friends to stay on his houseboat. He even had me talk on the phone with another american to make sure he was "a good man". He wanted more money than the tour agencies! I took his info and got out of his shop asap. I go to give him money for Chai and he says
"No..Money comes, and money goes."

Getting to Manali was a blast. I love the situations bus rides provide me with.

So I arrive early to catch the taxi to my bus about 3:30 and my bus leaves at 4:00. I dont get picked up until 4:35, and we walk through shady alleys to finally reach where my bus will be arriving. Everything in India is late, Ive came to realize. There are alot of foreigners, I feel alot more comfortable about this now. I park myself by a young japanese man and we immediately start talking and share some snacks together. He is going to a town called Kullu which is about an hour and half before Manali. His main focus is pot. Apparently in this area it grows wild and as a result it is very accesible for those who take an interest in that sort of thing.

So then we board the bus. It came at 5:30, Ive came to the realization that everything is late in India. But rest assured it will come and you will arrive. So I get placed next to a young man who looks like a blend between Naploean Dynamite and Robert Plant. Tall lanky body with a head full of curly brown hair.
"Hello" (I go to shake his hand)
"I dont speak..uhhh...good english"
So I have a 16 hour bus ride with someone I cannot talk to?! This will be interesting. So getting out of Delhi at the time we were leaving was horrible in terms of the traffic. It made L.A.'s rush hour traffic look like a breeze. I was placed in the very last row before the uncomfortable bench seat. I put some music on and doze off. I am woken up by guess what? Yes, being lpunged out of my seat! I think it is being put in the back maybe? But this was nothing like the last bus ride. The insanity of this ride was 100 times more severe. It was dark out at this time so it was hard to see, but all I knew is that we were not on a paved road. We were literally offroading in a bus. Every bump we hit lifted me off my seat and caused the windows to shake so hard that I thought they would break. The ride was so bumpy and loud the WHOLE time (literally) all I could do everytime was bust out into a roaring laughter looking at Napolean where we exchange laughs. We stop for food and Napolean sits by me and through sign language I figure out he is hungry, but doesnt know what to order. I give him a bite of my food, he likes it, so I order him some. Whenever we stopped we were together eating or drinking Chai. No words exchanged, and none needing to be. The driver stopped around 3am to take a nap, the bus was so quite inside. I am awoken by a man behind me snoring. But not any normal snoring. I can handle snoring and sleep through it most of the time. But not this time. This mans snoring was slow, drawn out snoring that sounded like someone was farting(Anything that resembles farting I cannot help but laugh). Here I am in this calm bus, doing everything I can to hold back my laughter not to wake anyone up, but that makes it that much harder not to laugh. I wonder if anyone else can here this man, but doubt they find it as humourous as I do. I eventually put on my Ipod to drown him out, the bus starts driving shortly after. So I doze off for a bit again and notice we are driving around a lake because I saw the stars reflection in the water. I cant wait for the sun to rise to see whats around us. Slowly over the next 2 hours the sun slowly creeps up to light my beautiful view of lush forrests, thick fog crawling down the mountainside slowly pouring downward, and a glassy water lake below us. At times we were above the fog, through the fog, and below the fog. It didnt feel like I was in India anymore. This felt more like forrests of Big Bear back home. However, seeing random houses, shops, shrines, and temples on the mountainside brought me back to reality that I am in India. I doze off again to awaken to Napolean sleeping on my shoulder. I keep trying to push him off but he comes right back. Too tired to care I fall back asleep. Its now like 8am, I have no idea how long I slept or if I did at all really. Napolean is on his side now. He wakes up enough to pick his nose, but falls asleep too fast for him to dispose of his girant green treasure. It remains on his finger. This ride has been such a lovely comical expierience. I loved it. A few hours later people start leaving. Napolean leaves and we both issue a silent farewell to each other.

I reach Manali, and I am engulfed in huge towering trees, snow capped mountains and powerful roaring rivers. I get out of the bus and breathe clean crisp air. No awful smells. Just lovely. I then get taken to a guest house to stay at, very cheap. $4 a night. Staff is very friendly. The driver says he will wait for me to change then take me back down to town. I change and walk down to the courtyard where he said he would be and he is no where to be found. I wonder around for 15 mins, he is no where to be found. So I walk myself into town and ask about arranging a multi day trek. They tell me trekking season is pretty much over now, its starting to snow and some of the parts are closed as a result. He tells me to check back in a few days, gives me a route to a nearby town and sends me on my way. I find an awesome little cafe, which is where I have the rest of my meals during my stay here. A beautiful elderly lady cooks here. (Over the course of the next few days I developed quite the crush on her) Her food is amazing. Anything from chocolate pancakes to pizza to Thali. After dinner I go back to my room, close the blinds for bed and a spider the size of my fist (no joke) creeps out from the side. I hate spiders, espiecally huge brown ones that could eat me alive. After panicing like a little girl, I center myself, grab my sandal and repeat "Im sorry, Im sorry,Im sorry..." as I deliver the spiders impending doom.

Next morning I wake up, do my morning practices, go get breakfast (an awesome omlette and chai) at my little cafe. Then I walk down to where I saw a sign that said free yoga, however it was closed. Alot of places are closed around here because it is going to start to get cold and snow. So I walk down to the main town and buy a towel so I can shower. Go back to room, take freezing cold shower, get dressed then head to a local temple. It is called the Hadimba Temple located in a beautiful forrest, it was built in the 1500's. I sit down to wit for the line to go in to slim down and within 30 seconds I am swarmed with 10 children.
"Where you from?"
"HAHAHA, Americ-uh HAHA"
"Whats your name?"
"HAHAH...Poo-tee...Hi my name is Poo-tee HAHAH"
One child flips me off, and I explain to him that is bad in America. This fuels the fire of mockery of the children. Now they are all doing it screaming my new name "Poo-tee". I suddenly feel like I was sent back to elemetrey school. I keep silent and they leave, flipping me off. The line is alot shorter, I go take off my shoes and ring the bells outside. The shrine was below ground level and was barely big enough to fit a midget. I place my offering, bow, pray, get up, give money and leave. Walking around different group of kids swarm me wanting me to take a picture with them. Indians do not smile in their photos. Interesting. On way back I found a spot to sit at that overlooks the whole town. Lovely. Then I went and got some more food at the cafe (delicious indian thali) went back and sat so long in meditation I thought my leg was broken when I got up in a hurry (bad idea, need to let the blood flow before putting wieght on your legs) because I heard MASSIVE thunder outside, I thought my window was going to shatter. Filled with excitement I rush out of my meditation pose, put all my warm clothes on to sit on my balcony to listen to the thunder and watch the lightning. Nothing like in California. This was intense and beautiful. HUGE lightning bolts crash down and roaring thunder follows. God told each lighting bolt where to go and he placed this beautiful array of nature before me. After it was done I went inside and went to sleep.

My dreams have been quite lucid since Ive been in India, and they all involve my ex girlfriend in some way. Interesting. Shes been on my mind alot here, theres alot of damage , its like an open wound thats been lingering around and just now surfacing. I wake up, do my morning practices, get breakfast (omlette, pancakes, and chai) then I am off to my 14 mile trek to a nearby town. My favorite part of Manali is sitting in that cafe in the cold morning, drinking a hot cup of chai by my window seat of the river and forrest. So I got my map the trekking company drew for me and I am on my way. I left at 9 and didnt get into the town util 1. It was alot longer than 14 miles because one of the roads was closed so I had to take the long way which felt like it was double the length. Ofcourse, today it decided to be hot outside, good thing I layered.
I keep asking locals "Solong?" and point ahead
They nodd and give some head wiggles
"Thank you, namaste." (wth head wiggles)
Its strange, a smile and a head nodd do not give a smile back. But, a smile and a head wiggle, give a smile and a head wiggle back.
I find many rivers along the way to revive me with its cold water against my sweaty hot face. The villages I passed through were very culture-rich. Small hut like houses made of brick or clay. Everyone was at work to either benefit the community of their household. Women of all ages carrying huge loads on their backs of straw into town. After being redirected a few times I am almost there, walking up my last 3 miles a gentleman pulls off and asks where I am going. I tell him Solong, he tells me to hop on the back of his motorcycle and I do. What a blessing, I was exhausted. Hes a paragliding instructor. He takes me to a grass field where there are many people paragliding off. I goto a stall to get some water and something to eat. I get some delicious crackers and sit down. I am greeted by a hungry stray dog. He wants some of my crackers. So here I sit, sharing my food and water with this dog. Once he realizes I have nothing else to give hes on his way. So I then go sit in the field and watch the paragliders. I am swarmed by teenage girls who want to take a picture with me, but only with their camera not mine. Are they thinking they will print out the picture, show their friends, and be like this is my friend fom America!? I have no idea... After like 6 pictures they leave. Then I swarmed with a group of 5 teenage boys. All very friendly. They take me to get me food. They poay for me and tell me I am their guest.
"you drink?"
I point to my water, and say "Yes, water"
They show me a bottle of liquor they hide in a backpack. They pour me a cup and I kindly decline. They ask, "How come you no drink?"
I reply with because, "Its not good for me to."
We then go back to the field where they buy me cotton candy
"Have you had before?"
"Yes, but I dont want. Please you eat."
"No, you are our guest. Please."
So I eat a bit then offer it to any of the kids and each one says the same thing.
"No, you are our guest! Welcome to India friend."
We take pictures and then they go. Such kind hospitality. I give many thanks, hand shakes and ofcourse, head wiggles.

Then I had to catch a bus at 3 to head back to Manali, there was no way I am walking back. The bus ended up being a truck with a campershell on it which everyone, except me piled into every square inch within 15 seconds. They tell me no room and drive off. So I ask a local where I can get a taxi.
"Taxi?...No not here" then points to one that is stopped nearby. I run up to the window and say
"I missed the bus to Manali, can you please take me there?"
then an english accent says,
"you should ask me, this is my taxi....Hop in"
"thank you so much, here" I hand him some money and he declines.
His name is Phillip and he is from England. He looks like a young Ewan McGregor. He was rock climbing nearby. He started climbing when he was 46. He is now 52. He has been fortunate to travel around the whole world. He used to live in Inda infact. We get to Manali, I offer him money again he declines, so I give it to the driver. It was quite a healthy tip.
I love this about travelling. The unexpected. Your plans get shot and then God places another opportunity for you like "Plop. Here you go!'

I find a different place to eat. Asian cuisine. Had some delightful veggie chow mein. I walk back up and notice infact, pot does grow wild out here. Now I cant notice it. Its everywhere. Whats funny is that if you are caught buying or smoking it, it apparently is a big crime, but yet it grows naturally here.

This trip is already teaching me to embrace things I do not neccesarily want to do. I tend to avoid things that are uncomfortable, challenging, etc. and doing things daily that are uncomfortable, challenging, etc. are helping me build my charecter. I have alot of time for personal growth here, it is very needed. I have alot to work on and alot to heal. This town with its beautiful surroundings and lots of down time has provided refuge for me to do a bit of self analysis and to see in what aspects I still need to work on to better myself. However, I feel like its time for a new place. That place is Dharamsala. It is home to Tenzin Gyatso (The current Dalai Lama) and there are buddhist monastaries around the area. I would absolutely love to be given the chance to stay at one. Keep your fingers crossed for me :)

I miss you all.
Many blessings and peace.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Get me out of Delhi!!!

I am so tired of the scams in Delhi. From the rickshaw drivers to the tour agencies to hotel companies to "friends" you talk to on the street. Note: There is only one legit tour agency in Delhi which is run by the government. Somehow I got taken to two false agencies who claimed they were the right one, the 'official one'. One salesman, the last one I spoke to, when he found out I denied his offer and told him I will plan this on my own, started angrily popping off about America and how Americans 'feel everyone will rip them off'. I quickly turned my back to him mid sentence and went on my way. I love America and dont take kindly to people who badmouth my country. Yes I am worried to get ripped off because we do here. Alot. People here know that they can squeeze alittle bit more money out of us because its nothing to us but alot to them. Im done with it. Take me away so my trip can finally begin. :)

On a brighter note, not much has happened within the last few days. Just very relaxed and needed. Yesterday I spent the day getting my indian cell phone to work and walking around the bazaars shopping and eating. I bought a beautiful black and orange shawl for when I go north and bought another beautiful mala. I had a great breakfast yesterday. I had an HUGE omlette, french toast, and toast with strawberry jam. Very tasty. Went to sleep early, it was my first night of mild nasuea. Slept for 13 hours.

Today I take a bus to Manali (16 hours) helping me work my way north. Supposedly it is going to be raining there but this is coming from tour agencies who just want to take my money and book me with one of their commission paying tours. Honestly I don't care either way, rain or shine. I will deal with it on my own when I get there. Thats why I bought and brought my rain gear. Plus, it never rains in California. I absolutely love the rain and wouldn't mind one bit if it paid me a visit.

I have no idea how my internet situation is going to be out there. It is not a main town like Delhi, so expect a response when I return or can find a computer.

Many blessings and peace to you all.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Catching up!

I apologize in advance for this lengthly post. :)

So to catch up, my last day in NY my flight was scheduled to leave around 7pm. I figured I had enough time to goto Statue of Liberty. Had to see atleast one main tourist spot before I left. Woke up, cleansed myself, and did my post of the previous day. Then it was time to call the airlines, make sure my flight was still at 7pm. Good thing I called, it got pushed back 2 hours and now was at 5pm. My time is very limited. Keep in mind, Citibank is sending my card to NY so I have to pick that up at some point. All of this was not possible in one day. Statue of liberty, pickup card and get to airlines earlier. Sightseeing can wait, I need to stay local for my card. Well it gets closer and closer to me having to be at the airport. Abbey did not meet me, so I had to allow for extra travel time because I have no idea (even reading the metro maps) how to get around. Bank still hasnt recieved card, screw it, they are going to have to send it to my hotel in India I cannot wait and miss flight. Very stressful.

So I leave hostel, grab breakfast, a tasty bagel and some delicious fruit, then headed for the metro. After reading the metro map and still having no idea where to go, I ask people how to get to the airport. No help. Finally I ask an old Brazilian lady no bigger than a New York minute, and she says "Come, I show you." "No just tell me, I can write it down and go myself." "No, I show you. Come." Fearing that I am going to get scammed, I act like I am following here. She turns the corner I bolt the other direction and am going to go the way I think I know. Shit I am on the wrong side, so I hurry down stairs and there she is. "Where you go? I show you. Come." Ok ok ok...I follow here and realize this is the kind of expieriences I yearned to have. Not knowing what is going to happen. Yes, she might scam me, or she might try to rob me, but I will handle all that when it comes. God has set me up perfectly with my intentions, and I trust it will continue to do the same here. So we walk a few blocks, get on a bus, drive a few more blocks, get on a metro, get off, walk a few more blocks, get on different metro, walk more, get on another metro where she goes to a couple who has luggage asks them "You go to aiport" "Yes" "Ok here you go. Bye." This kind old Brazilian lady went out of her way to ensure I got to where I needed to go. Her generosity and compassion were gratefully appreciated. I pray for her happiness.

The couple I was introduced was from Holand. Very nice couple. The man reminded me of my german friend Lief. Looked very similar. They were in NY for a week on vacation. We talked the whole way about Holand, America, India, Europe, Germany. Very nice people. Together we found the airport, said goodbye and went our seperate ways.

Travelling has shown me that when I meet people, I sincerely appreciate the time I have with them because I know at any minute it could be gone. They get off the metro. They get on a plane. You go your seperate ways.

I found the place to check in for Air India. It is about 2 oclock and about 10 people in line. The very last person is an American, stoked! I get someone to talk to :) Her name was Susan. Probably mid 40's. Married with two kids. Going to Dharhamsala to volunteer at a detox clinic teaching yoga. Amazing! Shes travelled to Japan, Africa, and Italy. First time to India as well. Very nice lady. Check in luggage, then its time for me to call Citibank and deal with Murphys Law.

Let me update you on that crazy mess of a bank.

I opened my account with them about 5 days before I left. I got my ATM card the day I left. Before we goto Airport I had to run a few last errands one of them being make sure the card works. "The card cannot be recognized, please call CitiPhone" You have got to be joking...I am supposed to leave for the airport in 30 mins...I see there are two bankers inside, it is after hours so I knock on the door. One gentleman which looked like the supervisor, taps his watch and shrugs saying to come back tomarrow. Then goes back to carry on conversation. I knock on the window again in desperation "This is an emergency, please!" The other employee walks over and talks to me to me through the glass. I tell him, I leave for India in 30 mins and my card isnt working. Please help me." He does. He is on the phone with some customer support for 45 mins after trial and error with different solutions. End result? Nothing. He cant tell me why it isnt working, hes tried everything. So he suggests sending me new card to NY. I have no other choice. Thats the update with Citibank. Horrible expierience.

So I talk to the banker, he says they can send it to India, I give address he advises it could take til next week because today is Friday, it might not get submitted til tomarrow and it will be sent out on Monday where it could take up to 4 days. Not the service I was sold on, where he said if you loose your card it will be overnighted to you (because thats what happened to him in Italy). Now I realize its bullshit. But, I have no other option, send it to hotel. I am not happy about it because I booked a nice hotel in Delhi for 2 nights just to stay somewhere nice. This is costing me about $80 us dollars. EXPENSIVE. If I have to stay until thurs of next week thats like $560 just in lodging! Typically hotels should cost about $10-15, granted these are shit holes but its a bed and a toilet. Thats all I need. Fine it is what is it is, Ill deal with it I just want to get my card, then I can go to Northern India and begin the trekking.

So we board the plane and it is a beautiful plane. Susan said it was a brand new plane. I could tell. Every seat had headrest t.v's carpet looked new everything very nice. I was impressed because I thought it was going to be a shitty airline. Complete opposite. I sat next to a man who looked like an Indian Albert Einstein. Crazy old gray hair and very very soft spoken. We ended up talking about Quantum Physics, Spirituality, Buddhism, he even helped me plan a route to take when I trek. Very good. The airline food was so good oh man. I love Indian food. Such a great change from American greasy fattening food. On the plane I slept most of the time, talked to Einstein or watched a movie. I watched Juno. Good times.

Plane lands, meet Susan, we go get luggage (very happy mine didnt get lost) say our goodbyes then I am off to currency transfer. Now that I have lost of money I go into restroom, put the large bills in my safe spot, little bills in wallet, now its time to get a cab. As soon as I step outside I am swarmed with people, all wanting to take me wherever I want. I bargain with a man to take me to my hotel and we are off. My first driving experience, how crazy people drive here! Horns blare every second, you come within CENTIMETERS of hitting stray cows, stray dogs, people, cars and more honking. I have heard more horns honk in my time in India so far, than I have heard in my lifetime in America. People are not offended by this. You come 2 centimeters away from hitting them or their car, its normal. In america people would be flipping out. Anyhow, I was having the time of my life in his car. Indias ar pollution is so heavy. The smog here makes L.A's smog look like campfire smoke. The best way I can describe the smell is a mixture of bodily waste, dirt, exhaust, and sewage. You get used to it. He tries taking me to different spot than what we agreed on (notorious indian scam) I tell him I have to goto Jukaso Inn, I have reservation. I dunno if he will take me there or not, we will see. Sure enough he did, paid him, now on to hotel. I got hounded by 15 people atleast within a 100 foot walk about being sold something. Indians hustle you my God. I check in, and settle myself in the room. I go downstairs order some food and while I ate, I felt very very dizzy. Almost intoxicated. I did not know what was the cause, maybe the food, maybe the lack of sleep for many days, maybe the vicious assualt on the senses india has or the combination of all of this. I hurry up eating, then goto room and passout within 30 seconds.

I wake up at 3am in the morning, ready to go. I do my morning prayers, then I go on the hotel balcony to read. It was light enough out strangely. So quite at night, it was lovely. Slowly as the sun came up, so did the noise. I went down for breafast, it was a buffet. No like american buffet, only 3 dishes. I had cereal, some sort of soup that tasted like spicy sausage with potatoes, and Noddles (spelled Nudal) with carrots and jalapenos with a sweet sauce. All very tasty. Then it was time to goto temples I had planned. I walk outside and got hustled by drivers but one stood out, he was actually nice. I went with him. He told me his name but I have no idea what he said. Just told him mine and wiggled my head. (Lots of head wiggles with indians like Kris said) So we went to Lotus Temple, huge building to resemble a Lotus flower. Absolutely stunning. I wait in line with 100's of hindus, jains, sikhs, muslims, and me. This is where I first noticed Indians dont understand the concept of personal space. In America, we have space. Its just common courtesy. Not here. Waiting in line people were so close to me, I thought I should charging money for cuddle time. Go inside temple, pray/meditate then leave. Most people this process is about 1 minute. We wait about 45 mins to get inside for people to send 1 minute in here? I offer my prayers and leave when I feel comfortable. Then driver takes me to Tour agency trying to solicite business to them because he will get money if I buy package there, they wanted way too much money so I left. Major scam. Ill plan it myself and save like $250. We then get lunch at a whole in the wall places where we had to walk up 10 flights of stairs. Good food. We shared the entree Palak Paneer, and he kept dishing the food on my plate overflowing it with food. After that we went to pay homage to the Ghandi Smirti. This is where Ghandi spent his last days to where he was assassinated (1/30/1948). It reinacts his last actual footprints outside. Inside it shows his room with his glasses, walking stick and other items on display. Then throughout the hosue there is plaques giving information about Ghandi. I liked the quote "If I am to die by the bullet of a mad man, I must do so smiling. There msut be no anger within me. God must be in my heart and on my lips." And so it was, his last words were Hey Ram. (Oh God) Beautiful site, it was even free :)

"You have girlfriend?"
"No!?! You like girls??"
"How much you pay for Boom-Boom in America??"
"Hopefully nothing."
"How much if you pay?"
"I dont know...$1000 if it is good?"
"whaaa?!?! In Delhi pay $100 for boom-boom. Why no girlfriend?"
"Because its not the right time in my life"
"Whaa? Why?!"
"Id rather not talk about it, please just take me to Temple"
"yes sir"

Then he took me to a Jain temple in Old Delhi. We had to walk through many Bazaars (street markets) where the scents of urine and shit were overwhelming. People selling flowers, statues and food. We finally get to temple, and there are hosues that he said were over 2,000 years old. Walk in temple, take off shoes, wash hands, then go upstairs into the temple grounds. Stunning. Many beautiful paintings, and statues. I see an old man performing puja so I sit and watch. He notices me and stops immediately, walks over to me looks at me and gives me the most sincere happiest smile I have ever seen. He grabs my hand and shows me around his temple. I can understand anything he is saying but just seeing how happy he is to tell me whatever it is he is telling me made it worth it. I could listen to him for hours. He puts sandalwood on my third eye, splashes holy water on my head, then demands money. I give him money then go downstairs. They ask for money. I told them I gave to preist, they point to sign that says "Only donate here, not in temple" so I let out a huge chuckle, gave them moneya s well and left.

Then my friend take me to another travel agency to book Agra tour to see Taj Mahal. Reasonable price, I make deal. I tell him, now I want to go back to Jukaso. "You look very tired sir" he says. I was. It was 3pm, I crashed instantly until 3am the next morning. So once again I do morning prayer/meditation/reading and must be ready by 6am for Agra tour. I was told it would be a bus picking me up, but to my suprise it was a man on a scooter to take mt to the bus. STOKED! This was a blast! Riding around with no one on the road on the back of the scooter was the most fun I have had in a while. All I had to hold on to was a bar on the back no thicker than a coathanger. It did the job. The picture I took of my face riding the scooter is priceless. We get to bus, I am sat down at a window seat, then kicked out to be put in the back where I share very limited space with 5 other indian people. Picture me in the middle of it all, crammed, with nowhere to move. I was like this for the whole drive. 5 1/2 hour drive. The ride was more chaotic than the taxi drivers. Our bus driver was a lunatic, there were times I would try to sleep and would be woken up by me and the fellow next to me lunging out of our seats. It was like we were offroading in a bus. Stuff falls from the ceiling because of how sharp his turns are. There are two couples on the tour, that are not indian. They dont look american, turns out 1 couple from Holand other couple from Germany. The Holand couple reminded me of Marcella from high school, and the blonde haired comedian guy from A Knights Tale. The german couple reminded me of Sisters boyfriend David and Demi Moore. The german man reminded me alot of david, he acted jsut like him and all he kept talking about was haggling people, boasting about how cheap he can get things. Were talking about fractions of a dollar, but to him its like he is saving thousands. Demi did not speak too much. Mercella very kind woman. Holand man, very nice good sense of humor, he is also a doctor back in Holand.

So I thought the tour was just Taj Mahal. Nope. Before Taj we went to Agra Fort. A huge fort from medieval times, still standing to show. Very impressive. Then we went to the drivers friends shop, to try to get us to buy shit (the notorious scam), I went searching for a bathroom or "toilet" as they are noted here. There are just random structures in betwen shops, on the side of the roads, etc. for people to do their business. I found on inbetween the shop and the overwhelming stench made me gag. I hurried and got out of there ASAP. Then we went and got food, then to Taj. The Taj Mahal was even more beautfiful than the pictures I have seen. It is a monument of love. It was made in memory of the rulers dead wife. The tombs are actually inside the Taj. Glorious sunset to take pictures. Then on way home we stop at Krishna Temple, where I buy a mala (prayer beads) and a beautiful picture of Krishna. I had my first cup of Chai here. Indians national drink. Amazing. Drinking the Chai outside watching a Bollywood movie on a 5inch tv monitor, Ive never felt so relaxed. We go into the temple they talkin in Hindu, we just sit and watch, then we are excused. On our way out, a priest pulls me to the side to one of the altars, I place my forehead n the altar bowing and he hits me on the back with a stick three times telling me its a blessing! I give money to the altar and leave. Then its bus ride home. I am exhauseted Ive been up for over 24 hours, and cant sleep on this bus. My whole body aches so badly from being couped up like this, but at the same time I am overwhelmed with joy. Granted I dont particularly enhoy the experience, but where else can a crazy bus expierience like this happen? This is the kind of expierience I hoped to have in India.

So now we are on current day ( I am so sorry for the length), I woke up, did morning prayer/meditation, checked out, saw my friend told him the tour was bullshit overly priced for what I was given. He apologized said I would be refunded, but I needed to get around so I asked him to take me to buy cell phone. We goto 10 different spots. I haggle I haggle to finally get one in the price range I want. Then we goto Pahar Ganj, an area by Delhi much cheaper, much more crowded, but much more cheaper. That is very good, and it is by the train station where when I need to go up north. We find a good budget hotel, an atm that accepted by temp citibank card (which I am stoked it worked) and this internet cafe. Now that I know my card will work for ATM's other than Citibank I emailed my banker telling him to send it to my home address because I found out it wasnt even sent yet...Great service huh?...Been a nightmare...

Anyhow, right now I am going to grab some food then see about buying train ticket. I am going to a town called Amritsar. Its in Northern India.

I will keep you all updated whenever I can, its not as easy as I thought it would be. Dont be alarmed if you dont hear from me within a week at a time.

Hope all is well with all of you and much love to you all.
Many blessings and peace.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

New Delhi, India

I arrived safetly and dont have time to give much detail.

It is 5:30am and I am waiting for my bus to pick me up to goto Agra to see the glorious Taj Mahal.

I have had plenty of some fun adventures some not so fun which I will write all about tomarrow.

Much love to you all, check back tomarrow!

Friday, October 17, 2008

I landed yesterday in JFK Airport in New York around 11:30 am. It was interesting, I was meeting my friend Abby here who doesnt have a cell phone...So, if I cant find her, Im on my own...

So, I get my luggage (which was a relief it didnt get lost), then I had to take an Airtrain over to Queens and she said she would be around the Airtrain waiting for me. She said she would be there around 11:45, which is perfect because I would be getting there like 12:30. So I get on the Airtrain get to Queens, exit off and realize there is no one around...So I wander, maybe shes somewhere else? I walk around for a good 15 mins and figure I went to the wrong place and went 'oh well' and was going outside to get a taxi or ask for directions to my hostel. But on my way outside I see her outside smoking a cigarette, crazy how things work out.

From there we took the Airtrain all the way from JFK to Manhattan which is where my hostel was. Took quite some time. By this time the sleep deprivation from my flights were catching up with me along with my hunger to match. But, I wanted to get this 30lb backpack off my back and then get food. So we finally get to the hostel and I went to lock my stuff away with one of their confusing automated lockers. Something seemed wrong about the lockers but I didnt think too much of it or about it, I was so hungry! I want NY pizza!!! Abbey then took me to get huge pizza slices for a buck a piece! NY pizza is different than pizza back home, its everything I hoped it would be. It was very tasty, so im stoked I finally got some NY pizza. I can check that off the list (yes it was on my list to do)

Then we walked around times square and in central park. There was a HUGE Toys R Us, which had an indoor ferris(spelling?) wheel, and had massive lego statues which my buddy Vinne would love. Lots of Star Wars shit too that Vinnie would love too.

Have I mentioned I love New York? Not like those dumb tshirts that say I <3 NY, but I could seriously live here. Its everything I thought it would be like. Its almost like a mixture of LA and San Francisco. So many different smells, sights, and well the sounds are pretty much the same as in LA but I love walking everywhere, the atmosphere and the food is amazing.

After walking around it was time to see Iced Earth at the Nokia Theater in Times Square. First off let me tell you this was truly a blessing that I was able to see one of my favorite bands the one night I am in NY, and for that I am extremely grateful. The venue was HUGE. It had like 5 bars, and lots of hallways, TV's and a plethora of seating. Doors opened at 6, I arrived at 645, first band didnt come on til 7:30. I didnt catch their name, they were from California ironically, and sounded like poor inactments of slayer. Not impressed. I went outside. Heard the second band come on, Into Eternity. Ive heard very little of this group but everyone was stoked they were playing so I figured they must be good right? Wrong again. If I could sum it up in one word it would be awkward. The group didnt have a style, they had many and couldnt pull off mixing them all together. They sounded like Job For A Cowboy and Dream Theater mixed...Interesting...I found myself outside again....It was really weird being at a show by myself. Im normally with Ryan or Brandon, never alone. Then Iced Earth came on with the reunited Matt Barlow. Iced Earth's ledgendary voice. Ive had the privilage of seeing Iced Earth live twice, once with Barlow and once without. It was breathtaking. They played about a 2 hour set of soo many good songs. Burning Times, The Coming Curse, Melancholy, Watching Over Me, My Own Savior, Vengence Is Mine, Stormrider, Dracula, Ten Thousand Strong, Pure Evil, Seitan Massacre, Gettysburg...It was everything I expected and then some. Barlow rocked it. I didnt miss one word. I can barely talk or move my neck right now. I havnt rocked that hard since Dying Fetus played with Nile over a year ago. I found myself running to a drinking fountain during the new songs I did not know for the fear of choking because my throat was so parched. I just wished my buddies were there to singalong with, especially to Melancholy. Shawn could sign it. (Which he did when we saw them live before) Very good show. I am so grateful I was able to see them live again. So grateful.

But then I am on my way back to the hostel and I see some guy selling comedy tickets, and I was like I wanna go! Its only $10! But then you got to two things. Drinks or food. Its ok, Im only here one night. So I walked a few blocks and went in, got seated, ordered and laughed my ass off. There were like 7 comedians. All were hysterical with the exception of 2. Good times. Got me some motzerella sticks and a water and was having such a good time. I love standup comedy. One of the comics said the word Putz, made me think of my dad, thats our word to each other.

Then I came back to the hostel, checked back on my bags and my locker was open...I knew I didnt trust that locker! Nothing was missing thank god but I made sure it locked this time staying in the room for like 15 mins to make sure it wouldnt just open again. Then I brushed my teeth and went to sleep. I shared a room with 3 other people, it was bunk beds. I think they all knew each other, they were talking in german to each other throughout the night and were gone when I woke up at 7:30. I showered and got all my stuff together and deicded to write an update.

On todays agenda, I have to goto Citibank in Brooklyn (which is not close) to get my bank card that isnt working...Thats a whole mess of a story in itself..Hopefully I will be also able to include seeing the Statue of Liberty. In anycase, my flight to India leaves at 7:40 pm.

Time goes so much slower when you are alone. I feel like I have been gone for weeks and its only been like alittle over 24 hours.

I miss everyone and hope they are all doing well.

Many blessings and peace to you all.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Today Is THE Day.


I woke up this morning and a voice whispered in my ear, your are starting your trip today. I instantly started sobbing because I have never wanted and never have felt so passionate about anything in my entire life. Today is THE day Ive been waiting for, worked diligently for, dreamed about, and now about to embrace.

I am so grateful for the endless amount of support and love I have been graciously given from both my friends and family. They both have made the past few weeks, the best weeks of my life and I have never felt so loved.

I promise not a day will go by where I dont pray for each and every single persons happiness.

Todays blog will be short due to last minute packing and preparing.

Many blessings and peace.