Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Diu: Being A Bum

Diu is an ex-portugese island not too far off from India. Maybe a mile or two away. Nature here is just exquisite. Bright green plantation everywhere, lots and lots of palm trees, clean air (for India), and not alot of pollution. Its just alittle run down island that makes me never want to live or an ideal place to seek out retirement in the future. The weather is warm, even when the sun is behind the clouds. When the sun is out, it gets quite hot. The weather combined with the beaches reminds me of home, I love it. Besdies the beaches, there are alot of churches here which has became my second favorite sight to see here in Diu (other than the beach). The churches along with alot of the buildings here, look like they havnt changed since the island was under portugese rule. The paint is peeling, faded, dirt is caked on the walls, and the any fixtures are cracked and broken, all contributing to the look of immense history behind each building.

I am staying at the cheapest place I could find in Diu, and its a 3 minute walk to the shore. If you listen closely you can hear the waves crashing on the shore from my atrium area. The room is decent, for India that is. Im stoked I have my own squat toilet, it might not be the cleanest but Im stoked on it. Ive grown to prefer these toilets than western toilets. I am paying peanuts here, and it helps me stay on my daily budget. It has a great location, so this place a diamond in the ruff to me. Each morning after breakfast, I go use the internet (at the fastest and reliable computer in India so far!) and I think part of the reason I kept coming here was the food for my eyes on the way. I have to walk about 5 to 10 minutes through a neighborhood where the alleys are filled with old beautiful houses. Beautiful in the sense that they, like the churches, and other buildings here, havnt changed for years. Everything is run down, but not in a eerie deserted horror movie kinda way. Women sit on their stoops and smile at me as I walk by. Children play in the street and swarm me with smiles and questions. Children even at nearby houses on balconies, will scream down to me, "Hello" waving their hands like I was the president.

Every other night there is a all you can eat BBQ at a nearby hotel. Its quite costly but for how many plates I am gorging my face with, I surely make it worth every rupee. Its a great place to meet other travellers too which make it a plus. The food here in Diu is interesting. Being a island, naturally there is alot of seafood. Practicly in the every dish. So much for not eating meat in India...Everything has some sort of seafood in it which is interesting because they have indian dishes but instead of a tomato, and potato curry dish, you have tomato, potato cury dish with prawns.

Everyday I found myself being a bum at the local beaches. Here is where I took my daily shower which consisted of stripping to my underwear and swiming around in the ocean and wind drying. I literally smell like a bum and at times look like one. I often would walk a few miles into town, buy a bunch of fresh fruit, and walk a few miles back to one of the beaches and pig out on fresh fruit. So good on a hot day. I love fruit, being in India eating dishes with ALOT of spices, I have craved certain foods more and more. One being sweets, the other being fruit. I spent the majority of my days here in Diu on the beaches, devouring the islands fresh fruit, reading, and swimming in my underwear. I love it. I get to the shore, set off my backpack on the ground, take off my clothes, and run and jump in the water. So refreshing. Which brings me to my next point, there is NO bookstore here. That is blasphemous! As a result I have re-read the books I just read and cant wait til I am in Delhi so I can buy a few new books.

Ive met alot of different travellers here. I met a older couple probably in their mid fifies from Germany. We took the bus here together, and they are staying at the same hotel as I am. On my whole time here, I never saw them together. They were always seperate when I was out and about. Thats so interesting, and not at all in a bad way. One afternoon I was eating lunch and I ran into the German man ( I cant remember his name) and we started talking small talk about our trips and where we have been and where we would head to next.
"I dont know if you are into any spiritual stuff but there are quite a few sights you should check out in the south while you are there"
"Yeah thats the main reason I came to India.."
"Oh well in that case, get out your guide book!"
He showed me some of this favorite, not so well known parts that he took a liking to. We ended up ordering some chai and talking for a few hours. Hes a pretty intense traveller and person. He and his wife at some points walk hundreds of miles to their next destination, finding a place to pich a tent off ther road, being entirely independent. That is so rad.

Also, thanks to the BBQ I met some cool people. I met Issac from London, and two girls from England, Nikki and Liz. Issac speaks with an awesome accent and owns his own photography business in London and carries around with him a camera that costs almost as much as some automobiles in America. He has quite the talent for capturing moments in a photograph, I must say. Nikki and Liz are from England and speak with thick English accents that make me smile. We all hit it off immediately and instantly became friends. At the end of the BBQ, I suggested that tomarrow night we go and have a bonfire at a place I saw along the beach that looked like a good area to have a fire. We set a meeting point and time for the next day and said Goodbye.

The next day I spent the whole day at the beach, again...It was supposed to be my sightseeing day but it turned into another beach bum day because it was a beautifully hot, sunny day. I saw the german man from the hotel I am staying at and we ended up talking again for a few hours. Hes a riot and full of knowledge. When it got time, I left the beach and headed towards our meeting spot. I was a bit early and Issac was sitting outside so we talked until the girls arrived. We started talking about why I dont drink and he asked,
"Are you straight edge?"
"YES! Wow, you are the first person in India to know what that means and let alone guess I was edge right off the bat...Very impressive..."
"Yeah well I grew up in the hardcore scene in London. Straight Edge was quite big at that time, as I am assuming it was in LA, but overtime, sadly all the edge kids I hung out with arent edge anymore..."
"Yeah, sounds alot like how it was here. When the kids I hung out with were edge I was the opposite and when I became edge, they all broke edge. The scene is sadly not as strong as it used to be, especially with people like the Courage Crew, who go around beating up people who drink or smoke. They fail to grasp the essence of straight edge, which has been to me and will always be about giving you a positive scene to goto to get away from the negativity of drugs and drinking"
We talked for a good 40 minutes about straight edge, hardcore music, what shows weve attended and the great essence of the positive hardcore scene. So rad, I never thought in India I would be talking about the hardcore movement, and some great hardcore music it has and is producing. So rad. So rad.

Shortly after the women arrived and we were off. We all went and got a bite to eat and on our way walking to the restaurant, we passed by an old church that whenever I passed by it in the 4 previous days of staying here, has always been closed. I always thought that it was abandoned and as a result of always being closed up. However, the doors were open this time and upon seeing this, I ran up the stairs to get a view inside. It wasnt abandonded at all. It was so full of life in that church with no one inside, and full of history as well. Pigeons flew out from one side of the ceiling to the other side upon my entrance, just like you see in some of the movies, and it echoed throughout the whole church. A silent, "whoa" came out from my exhale. There were pews (sp?) in the center and then all around your sides were different christian pictures in frames. In the center altar, it had a glowing orange hue to it. When I took a picture of the center altar, the nearby pillars and walls that appeared a faded white with black dirt to your ete, turned into a beautiful turquoise in the picture. Hands down, this was the most beautiful church I have set foot in. No T.V.s, no sound systems, or any new age advancement like how all the churches are back home. Everything was just as old as the building itself, even the paint with caked on dirt. All contributing to the incredible aura of this place. I feel this is how a church should be, not like how I find them back home. Its focus was clearly on one thing, the divine. Not how state of the art it is. I was so grateful to be given a peak inside.

Then it was time to eat, and after dinner time to collect the firewood for the sunset and the rest of the night. So, I went diggign in local bushes violently yanking out branches and twigs of all sizes and diameters. My hands got so cut up by the end of it because the majority of the branches had thorns, and would constantly be pricking my hands. We get to our bonfire spot and its such a majestic looking area. Its up on top of a little hill with a shrine right next to the outside bonfire area. The hill has a few caves where they are also little shrines. The bonfire area is roofted with palm tree branches and has a great view of the ocean in all directions around you. Immediately upon arriving, we set down the wood and start breaking them up for the fire. I seperate the tinder from kindling and after more cuts, and bruised knees from breaking the wood, the fire was ready to get set up. So I set up my fire with a teepee and then light the tinder. I get a little light and with my breath I fuel the fire. It takes a couple minutes to get going after going out several times, but then, smokes starts pouring out more and more so I keep blowing and blowing, more smoke more smoke and then poof! we have fire. Immediately I start piling on a little larger branches to get the fire roaring enough to put on the big logs. Within 10 minutes we have a roaring , hot fire. I am hear to tell you, there is nothing, nothing, more that I get more satisfaction out of than building a fire. Nothing. Issac took amazing pictures of the fire building process,
"Cody look at this picture of you. You look almost tribal!"
The picture was too beautiful for words to portray. I am building the fire and in the background its just the dim blue sky right before dusk, and fire glowing a firey orange upon my face. I have to have that picture!
We kept that fire roaring for 5 hours. 5 hours we sat up there, talking, playing cards and being in a trance to this fire. At points, locals would come from the road to sit and join the fire, being completely silent, and helping contribute to the fire when we got low on firewood. Continuing to get the fire going put me in a trance I swear. I was hypnotized by this fire. Constantly fueling the fire with my own breath, cutting the bigger pieces of wood with my knie, breaking them with my hands, I even at one point used dried up cow poop because we didnt have anymore wood. So I found some dried poop and threw that on there. Got to use ALL of what mother earth gives you right? Issac asks,
"what was that you just threw on there"
"....Dried up cow shit"
"I never thought a guy from L.A. could have such good firebuilding skills!"
That fire was exactly what my spirit needed. I am so thankful for having that expierience, I will surely never forget that bonfire.

On the last night Liz and Nikki were hear, Issac and I and the girls all got together for one last hoorah. We went to initally get food at a place called Bon Apetit, which was a bit a ways away from where we were staying. I hopped on the back of Issacs scooter and we were off. I saw alot of the island I never saw and could never accomplish by foot. This place had a great theme to it. All the buildings were made out of wood logs and palm branches gicing it that island getaway retreat look. It even had a tree house you could eat in. Rad! The best part was that the restaurant had a book exchange there were you give one book of your own and take on of theirs. I found a great book to read. Treasure Island. How perfect, for I am on an island? :) This restaurant recieved the perfect island theme for a restaurant. After we all waited around for the staff to appear we decided to leave and catch the sunset. That restaruant might be a bit TOO relaxed. No one was there for like 30 minutes. No one.So we went to catch the sunset. We ended up getting a frontrow seat. We pulled up to a small cliff that you could climb down and then its about 50 feet of level rock that walks you to the edge of the water, and nothing is blocking your view of the ocean swallowing the sun and contact with the ocean here. The sky started as a deep orange against the light blue sky and as time progressed, went into a deep red and bright purple at the end. The setting of wathcing the sunset, being so isolated with just yourself and, the ocean, and the sky combined with the glorious colors of the sunset, made this one of my favorite sunset viewing expieriences. Then it was time to eat. We went to a restaurant we all knew of that is right next to the beach water. The restaurant expierience here was full of laughs. Trying to get an explanation on any dish from our waiter (because there were no descriptions) was quite the obstacle, but was quite hilarious at the same time. Our poor waiter was so patient through it all and bless him, heeded to our every call with a smile on his face. The entrees were quite the suprise for me atleast. The most exspensive and smallest cup of chai I had here, my vegetable fried rice was orange noodles cut up to look like rice, and the BIG cup of strawberry ice cream could fit in my shirt pocket. My verbal reactions to each of these dishes were greeted by my waiters understanding of "yeah I know, but Im just the waiter". Towards the end of our stay at the restaurant, a large indian group of people sat near us and immedately a man came over and started talking to us. Shortly after he says,
"my son wants a picture with you, is that ok?"
After agreeing, he brings over his son who had to be no older than 1 and 1/2 years old and sets him right in the middle of me and Nikki. Issac who sat across from us is now videoing this and Liz had her hand on her forehead trying to hide her giggle. Then the kid starts crying, so here me and Nikki got a picture taken with a crying indian baby. After looking at the picture we start talking about how random it was,
"So he comes over and just plops his baby on the table in between us two?"
"Yeah looks like we have an indian baby"
"I just met you two days ago and already we have a baby!"
Out of all the times I have gotten asked by indians for a photo, this by far was the most random and couldnt figure out why...

After dinner, I went and got a cup of chai twice as big for a third of the cost nd 2x as better. Then we walked to one of the forts here in Diu, and it was still open at 11pm. Quite eerie being in the fort all dart, and seeing the jail cells at night. Shortly after we walked back, said goodbyes and called it a night.

On my last two days, I rented a scooter to see the parts of the island I neglected while being a bum. One of the nights Issac and I met up to goto a night ferry that takes you out into the ocean and then back to shore where it includes music and snacks. However, when we arrived for the ferry it was not going that night. So I suggested to Issac,
"Wanna go shake our booties at one of the nightclubs here instead?"
"Yeah...Thats an excellent idea."
After our dinner at the awesome restaurant Bon-Appetit, we asked the owner if he knew of any good dance clubs in Diu. He said there is only one called the Footloose Disco, and said we wouldnt like going there. We still insisted upon it, he told us the way and we were off. We arrived alittle before nine and are told to park our scooter at a different entrance than the one we came in. A guard met us, opened the padlock into the waiting room of the place, which was a small room no bigger than my bedroom that was lit up by one string of christmas lights, and he opens to door into the dance room. There is NO ONE in here and its blasting electro music. There are figures painted on the wall that glow under the dance floors blacklights. The paintings were of cheesy musicians with sunglasses on where they were standing on a flying meteor, and the singer was on fire. Awesome. Issac said,
"Feels like I should be at a laser star or something!"
After seeing the place, we ask the guard about the cover charge to get in. He hold out his hand and says,
"500 rupees"
"500 rupees?!?!?!"
"Yes Entrance Fee"
BWAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA Issac and I laugh in his face, while his hand is still held out expecting 2 500 rupee notes. Once we get the laughter out of our system, we turn around, walk straight into the club and ask the bartender,
"How much is it to get in?"
"50 rupees"
So there we paid to get in. Not the guard. After seeing we were early, we drove back to the hotel, dropped off our bags and came back. Now there was about 20 people on the dance floor that could hold about 50 MAX. Issac gets a beer, I get a Coke or (Thumbs up as they call it here) and within a couple of minutes we were out on the dance floor. Right when we go on the dance floor and start dancing, the floor gets cleared. EVERYONE leaves the dance floor and it is just Issac and I...Talk about makeing your self esteem hit rock bottom! So we went back and ordered another drink...There were a few indian men that were on the dance floor the whole night who made out expierience. We dance with them, mimic'ing their dance moves, and taking pictures with them. I took a video of them to show you all back home. Lets just say, I got some new sweet moves to bring back home. The rest of the night, Issac and I just danced the night away. We meet some 18 year old indian guys from our hotel that met us there and we all never left the dance floor until it ended at 11pm. Thats just when it gets started in Hollywood! ahah Seriously, that was the best dance night I have ever had. The music the DJ was playing, the atmosphere of being able to totally dance how ever you wanted, the ambiance of the "disco", and the guard trying to pull some shifty business on us, made that night unforgetable.

On the other days of being here, I finally was able to attend a Church sermon. Issac and I woke up early one Sunday morning and cruised down to a nearby church. It was a huge church very similar to the one I mentioned earlier. It was a faded, rustic, chipped, white on the outside. Inside it had very high ceilings, white in color with blue trim and designs. The paint fell from the ceiling during the whole sermon. Blue flakes and dust were in my hair and on my clothes. All around the sides of the church were pictures of christ in different situations. Candles up at the front, and the priest was in the center podium. The sermon was about making a change in you to accept God in your life. After the sermon, we walked out into the courtyard and Issac and I were talking to the priest fora few minutes until we went back inside to take pictures now that it was clear of people.

For sunset one evening, Issac and I went to a nearby desolate beach and on our way there was a cricket game going on with the local kids and adults. Issac and I jumped off our bikes and joined the game. Soon after, it was time for a new batter. I was chosen. I have very limited knowledge about the rules of the game let alone, HOW to play. All I know is, hit the ball that is thrown to me and run back and forth to earn runs. I take the cricket bat, and wait for the ball to be thrown. The pitcher runs, throws the ball, I swing and hit one of the wickets behind me completely missing the ball and because I touched the wicket, I am out. I swung, missed, and managed to get myself out. All the players were instantly in an uproar of laughter and after I was told by Issac what happened, I joined them. Issac got it on video for you all to enjoy as well. When Issac was a batter, he scored about 10 runs. He did alot better than me :)

One of another attractions of DIU, was a Sea Shell Museum that was closed almost everyday I was here. One day when it wasnt Issac and I went inside. Two floors full of hundred and hundreds of different shells, sea urchents and creatures in jars for display. Alot of them had magnifiying glasses on top of their containers so you could see in detail what the naked I could not. The owner and collecter was a captain of a ship and collected all of these himself while sailing all over the world. Each shell or group of shells listed its name and where he got in the world he got it from. Awesome! This totally inspired me to go looking on the beach later that day for my own treasure and I am sure glad I did! I found so many little shells, that were nothing like what was on display but to me they were of equal value. As I am walking back from the water onto the shore, I see a yellowish white shell buried under some sand, I go to pick it up and it is a BEAUTIFUL conch shell! All in tact! I found a beautiful conch shell! I was so stoked, so stoked.

On my last day here, I woke up early in the morning to go see the nearby fishing village. Issac and I went here the night before to grab some food and we checked out the dock at night. Lights from the boats were seen as far as the eye could see. Issac went around takling pictures which got us on a few boats. Some we had to climb up ladders to get on a MASSIVE boat. What an experience and sight nonetheless. So the next morning, I hop on my scooter and cruise into the town. Here is where boats get worked on, drop off their catches, and retire for the night. Hundreds upon hundreds of boats here. Every boat had a flag on it of a color of their choice. No pirate flags :( The boats also had their fishing hanging from poles and also each boat had a single light ontop of a pole in their boat, which was aweomsome at night. The village is about 15 miles from town and I am suprised I couldnt smell its stench from my hotel. It smelled of fish mainly, secondly poop. Fish and poop, in very very strong incriments. Oh man at times it was quite overwhelming, but that didnt stop me from my morning cup of chai!

I am sad to be leaving this little kicked back island. Being a bum on this beautiful and relaxed island was exatly what I needed to charge my backpacking spirit for my full forced next month of sight seeing in the south. But before that, I have a long journey on buses and trains to get to Delhi for my first Indian wedding.

Much love to you all.
Be Happy!

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Junagadh: Steps of oblivion

The caves yesterday were the highlight of my day but before I get to that I will talk about the events leading up to it.

Barely anyone here speaks any English so getting to the caves was quite the expierience. The caves are right next to a fort so once I realize maybe they,
"know the fort?"
"ha (yes) fort"
"chelo" (lets go)"
So I go check out the fort and it was quite the site. It was run down but still in tact but the part that was awesome was that all the trees have been growing around the fort so it had the ancient abandonded feel with a dash of immense history behind it. Gujarat has a interesting scenary behind it. At timesyou feel as if you are in a tropical green forrest at other times it feels as if you are in a dead dessert and sometimes its a mix of both. At the fort, it felt like a jungle, it was out of this world. There was a large courtyard in the center and all around there was spots for guns and cannons (even had a few bolted down!)
After seeing the fort I go to the court yard and read a million little pieces. Im within the last 175 pages and I dont want to put it down, but I must in order to see the caves and get back in time. (This whole limiting myself to one book at a time isnt going to work, I get involved in a book but have to pace myself so I dont read it in a day and have nothing to read for the next week)

So I exit the fort and walk down the road to the caves and along the way there was an ancient muslim mosque. Absolutely stunning architecture.The inside of the mosque was open but massive pillars every few feet and up on the roof was just open. The muslims feel that they gain merit by building mosques which explains their vast quanity and beauty. After mosque it was the caves. It cost a foreigner 100 rupees and a indian 5 rupees (a common thing at sights, over charge the foreigner atleast 10x)The caves had three stories. The upper level was all open with random crater like holes in the ground and steps leading to the lower levels. The second level was quite open, dimmly lit and had figures carved on parts of the walls. Lots of the figures were broken, missing legs, arms, or parts of the face. The main attraction was the bottom floor. When I entered no one was there (which was quite a blessing because it must have been "annoying group of kids day" because there was seriously 1385733 kids there all screaming) Upon entering I encountered the most serene silence before me. When I entered I let out a silent "whoa" just cause the silent presence there was unlike anything I have ever felt before. I felt even my breathing was a disturbance to the serenity in this place. It was dark in this level except in the very middle where it was open to the second and ground level. But even all that sunlight beaming down the center kept the rest of the place nice and dim. I felt extremely comfortable here. Here the carvings were alot more in number and more in tact, but still broken nonetheless. Immediately kids start pouring in screaming, pounding on the pillars, and defliing the ambience of this place. I take a seat in the corner and patiently wait for it to be silent again. Even when it was silent, I couldnt move, I didnt want to move to disturb even the dust under my feet. So I didnt. Kids kept pouring in and out so I made my way towards the door to leave. Kids were still pouring in, so I waited by the enterance til the flow stopped. A group of women peak their head in, see me and scream bloody murder and run back up the stairs away from me. I immediately had a flash of an episode of friends where monica and rachel get scarred by their new big bearded neighbor in the darkness of their apartments basement and upon realizing this, I charge towards the group growling and waving my hands in the air, and the kids bolt as if I was the boogyeman going to eat their brains from their nostrils! It was hilarious. It was all for laughs and laugh I did. I had a smile on my face the whole rest of the day.

After the caves it was time to go back to the hotel and on my way back I saw my first and only tourist other than myself on the way. Out of 4 days being here Ive only seen 1 tourist. When I got back, I went to a nearby restaurant across the street from my hotel and ordered a thali and got more immersed in the book. It started getting even more interesting so I went up to my room and couldnt put it down. I knew I had to pace myself but I couldnt, I kept reading until the last 20 pages but stopped because I wanted some to read today. By this time it was getting towards night time and I had an early day ahead of me today so I crashed early and got even more eaten alive by these mosquitoes while alseep! Even on my face! Aghhhhh!!! Sleep here isnt the best, I constantly get woken up by not only the 100000x mosquitoes but the stray dogs. Its as if right outisde the hotel is where they all meet and have their fighting matches because each night and multiple times a night I am woken up by dogs growling, attacking, yelping, crying, and howling in large numbers and very very loud.

So I woke up late so I hurried and rushed out to get to the hill climb on time. I wanted to get some pictures of the sunrise climbing so I hurried as fast as I could to get there. Turns out I got there at 6, it was still dark out. Yes, I could still get some pictures in time, I thought to myself. I would say honestly I was walking with 1000 indians, they all kept staring at me and laughing (the typical reaction to tourists) and I just kept to myself and kept walking with my head towards the ground and music blaring in my ears. It started to get light out and the sun was rising, but it was rising behind the mountain I was climbing so as a result, no pictures of the sunrise. Oh well. I keep walking, and climbing, and 6 hours later I reach the end after many, many breaks breaks. They were not 10,000 steps consecutively one after another. They would be grouped in anything from 1 to 10 at a time with somtimes5 to 30 feet to the next group of stairs. It wasnt straight either, it would zig zag, and for the most part it was uphill the whole way there and downhill the whole way back.And the whole way I kept getting attention as if I was Angelina Jolie. I could never be famous. I hate attention and being put on the spot. So to keep all of the annoying questions away temporarily each time I was asked which country I was from, I would put on my best spanish accent and say "Spain". The next question would be what is your name and I would say "Carlos". Yep, my name is Carlos and I am from Spain. Any other questions, I would respond with that I dont speak good english and reiterate it over in spanish. I remember alot of my spanish from high school especially talking with people I meet here in India that are really from Spain. In all reality, I did not want to be bothered with questions or given special attention. I am uncomfortably hot, dehydrated, trying to ignore the fact that each article of clothing I had on felt like I got pushed in a swimming pool, and still have so much more to climb, I just wanted to be left alone to listen to music so I could forget about these steps of oblivion.

At one point I take a break almost half way and walk off the trail toget some alone time and find a great excellent view point away from everyone. I had good tunes on and was trying to rest and center myself so I could make it up alittle farther. Then two minutes later someone walks where I am at, and two feet away from me and just a step below me, decides to add to my serene moment by deficating right next to me. Thanks buddy. Initially I start to get pissed. Here I am trying to relax and some guy decides to pop a squat right next to me, and after hearing me say this to myself I immediately see how hilarious this is actually is and immediately the anger is gone and replaced by an uncontrollable laughter. Im ready to keep climbing now.

About half way I meet a sincere young indian boy named Keyur. Hes 19 and I didnt mind talking to him because he was sincere and not all laughy, giggly and immature like 99% of indian boys and sadly, young men. I felt bad telling him I am from Spain and all that and mad a vow not to do this again, however it was fun being from Spain momentarily. He told me alot about this hill, that lions live in the hills as do naked yogis who take drugs to get close to god. Seems to me that would being you away from God but hey, what ever works for you I guess. There was also a race up the hill, some crazy indian made it up to the half way point (5000 stairs all uphill in 56 minutes) it took me 4 hours! ahahah The temples on the way were absoltely stunning. The most intricate carvings I have ever seen in person. Ive seen stuff like this on the internet but never in person. This is the kind of stuff I expected to see in the south from what Ive researched. Absolutely stunning. Near the half way point there were these two temples, one a faded black almost gray and the other a beige color. Both had intricately carved out gods and goddesses all along the border and precisely cut patterns below and around them. Every square centimeter was carved with precision, it was just lovely.

The last temple was no bigger than my room and to be quite honest was a bit of a disappointment being the last you would think it was the grand finale, what you climed 10,000 steps for. But it wasnt. No carvings, no crazy architecture. Just a small white room with some guy collecting money next to a worn down statue (So worn down i couldnt even make out who it was) and on your way out you rung a bell. The bell was the highlight of the finale.

On my way back I start to get the business card for the hotel I am staying at and its not in my pocket, the other pocket, back pocket, chest pocket, or in my backpack. Neither is my phone. I left them BOTH at the hotel being rushed this morning. "Getting back will be interesting", I thought to myself.
I dont know the name of my hotel, what street its on, or how to even speak enough hindi to tell my driver my dilemma. I know ill get there, and keep positive. Let it go, deal with it when the time comes. Shortly after realizing this, I see a man walking infront of me with a shirt on that has pot leaves all around it and a big joint at the bottom that says "legalize it" I have to take a picture of this, so I do. He turns around and starts talking to me. He too was a nice sincere man, actually from Diu, where I am going tomarrow and when I told him about my predicament, he replied with
"i will talk to the rickshaw driver and make sure you get there ok? dont worry, be happy my friend"

On the walk back my legs were shaking with each step from being worked way too hard and shooting pains were going up my left knee. 20,000 steps in one day is just too many, too many...Each 100 steps seemed like an eternity to get back. There were porters that would carry people up and or down the mountain and would charge a HEFTY amount based on your weight, which for valid reason. That is a tough job, jesus! Its just a huge wooden pole and rope that holds a bench in the center for the person to sit on, while being carried by a man in the front and man at the back, pole on their shoulders. I take my hat off to these workers, now that is hard labor. But I tell you, the relief I felt when I saw I was done was in describable. Would I do it over again...Yes, definately....But not any time soon!

The pot man tells me to go with him on a rickshaw where he talks to the rickshaw driver and me,
"do you rememeber the name of the hotel"
"Do you remember any names of the buildings by the hotel?"
"do you remember anything?..."
"there is a petrol pump by my hotel near a roundabout and the hotels name is like maha...maha..vanti?"
he talks to the driver and after 5 minutes the rickshaw driver looks at me and says
"yes! thats it"
"ok he knows where it is"

I am on my way I dont know how but thanks to the kindness of this man, and the loving grace of god, I am getting back to my hotel. To be honest, im flabbergasted that I was able to get back, espeically so quickly. I accepted the fact long ago that I would be wondering on foot til around midnight and was cool with that, but it all worked out in the best way possible. When I get dropped of, I thank the man with the uppmost gratitude within my heart and go to give him money and he walks away upon seeing that. He turns back and I put my hands in a prayer at the center of my chest, put the largest smile on my face, and tell him thank you, thank you so much, thank you.

Now it was time to feast. All Ive had all day was 2 bottles of water and peanuts. So there is no doubt it was time to catch up. I go to my little restaurant across the way order my thali and devour every bit. After finsihing that meal, I go next story and buy 2 things of cookies walk back to my hotel and finish a million little pieces. Oh how I related to the man who wrote that book. His attitude and mine are very similar. He believes in taking personal responsibility for your actions and not placing it in the hands of a support group, higher power, or 12 steps. Everyone thinks he will fail at sobriety because they all say "AA is the only thing to guarantee continued sobritey". I spit in the face of people who say you cannot remain sober without AA. Yes, it has worked for thousands maybe even millions of people, but it is in no way, THE ONLY WAY. Me and james frey (the author) are just two examples of the thousands of people who stay sober without AA, support groups, or higher powers. I have ALWAYS disagreed with that concept. I dont need AA and have been sober for almost 4 years, on my own, without support groups or 12 steps, just me.I dont know how much of the story is actually true but it was a blast to read. After finishing the book it was time to take a lovely ice cold shower. Its funny now I look forward to them after scorching in the baking sun all day. After that, I went and bought 2 chais, 2 mangoes (junagadh is famous for its fruit, especially mangoes) and a coconut where the seller made it into a beverage and when you were done drinking the coconut milk through a straw he took a hatchet and violently hit it twice to break it open for you to eat the inside. I am beyond full and it feels great.

Tomarrow I get on a bus to Diu and will hang out there for about a week or so, I dont have to be in Delhi til the 30th for the wedding so I got alot of time to be a beach bum. Stoked!!!!

Much love to you all.
Be happy!

Friday, January 16, 2009

Jaipur: Kite Festival

The kite festival was exactly how I imagined it to be. Absoltely magnificent. I could not have asked for a better festival. Honestly.

On my overnight train to Jaipur, I read half of the Kite Runner and finished it the next day. The book is 100x better than the movie.While and after reading that book, I got extremely excited for the festival coming up. Even though the book takes place in Afganistan, its almost identical to how it is in India. The book fulfilled its purpose, I could hardly sit still and sleeping was a bit of a challenge knowing I was so close to expierience this.

I arrived a few days before the festival and spend the first two sleeping, eating, and reading. The hotel I stay at in Jaipur feels like a second home, I know everyone there and they take good care of me. Varun met me the day before the mini kite festival and he showed me how to string my own kite and how to fly.
My phone rings, I pick it up, its Varun.
"Cody I am here"
"Ok Ill be right down"
I go and meet Varun outside the hotel and he goes,
"Here I have a present for you." He pulls out a box of sweets, one of my favorite indian sweets I have no idea what they are called but they are orange balls and taste like heaven.
"Varun, these are my favorite sweets!"
"I know that why I got them for you."
"Thank you so much Varun, but you know this will be the death of me..." as I start eating them out of the box, Varun pulls out my second gift. Kites.
"Now lets teach you how to fly Cody, you ready?"
"I am more than ready, lets go!"
After flying kites on the roof of the hotel for about 4 hours he helped me find some clothes for a wedding I got invited to in Delhi by Dhiren. Dhiren was my neighbor at the ashram in Rishikesh. Dhirens brother is getting married and invited me and Rory. Stoked! Thats another thing I wanted to do in India, but was highly skeptical about crossing it off the list because I thought "I dont know any indian people, especially ones thay live in India!"
"So Cody what are you going to wear for the wedding in Delhi?"
"I was just going to wear what I have on.."
"Cody...No...we need to get you some nice clothes to wear, you are also going to need to get some shoes."
"These are not allowed?" pointing to my flip flops
"Are you kidding me?..No Cody..."
I thought indians lived and died by their flip flops, Ive never seen them without them on unless they are bathing or in a temple.
So I hop on the back of Varuns motorbike and were off. I find a nice shirt, pants, and tie for less than $20. What an expierience, I shopped in what woud amount to Target in America but it was in India. Huge departmental store with three stories selling anything from clothes to toys to toiletries. Varun didnt understand why I was so excited to be there, but I was. I got excited to try on clothes in an Indian dressing room (same as american but it was in india!) and look around (same crap, but I was in India!) because it was like doing these things for the first time because I was in India doing it, not america. I bought what looks like what I would wear to work. Black pants, black shirt and a red, and silver tie. It feels like an unneccesary buy because I have a million shirts like this and a million ties, and Im just going to mail it back home to me, but its going to be worth it to goto a Indian wedding. After we went shopping I bought another book, "A million little pieces" its a memoir about a drug addict who gets checkecd into rehab and is about his struggles and triumphs being there. Ive heard many mixed opinions about the book so I will find out from myself about it. Ive also heard its true and Ive also heard alot of it is lies. ALOT of mixed opinions so Ill find out for myself. I also bought a deck of cards, because after playing them in Rishikesh and with everyone in Jaipur, its a good buy for whereever I go, i can play with someone. We spent the rest of the night up on the roof of the hotel with the hotel staff playing different card games and having a blast doing it.

The next day was the mini kite festival, the day before the main kite festival. Varun picks me up from the hotel in the morning and after playing cards (I got Varun addicted to blackjack) we went to his friends house. On opur way there I notice someone stumbing in the middle of the road with just a shirt on. I immediately thought that kid should get out of the street, and within 20 feet from him, I realize it is a grown man stumbling with just a shirt on and his body goes limp and his face goes straight into the ground. I hope no one hit him...So we arrive at his friends house and went to the rooftop and there was already music blaring and food ready with 4 of his closest friends. They all immediately befriend me, and take an intrest in my life in america and ask me lots of questions. Within minutes we join the 30 kites in the air and start battling. I lost lots of kites ahah but I had so much fun doing it. Several hours later, we needed food, we are all hungry, so we go to a local market and order a bunch of food to take back and eat. They wouldnt let me pay for a cent of it. Even when I tried sneaking away to buy something to contribute they would follow me and wouldnt let me buy anything.
"What are you doing Cody???"
"I wanted some fruit..."
"No you dont buy. What do you want I will buy it."
"No its ok, I changed my mind..."
fighting with them is useless, I gave up.
"Bananas and papaya......Thank you..."
"Its my pleasure Cody, but please, stop trying to buy things. If you want something just tell us and we will get it for you. This is Indian hospitality." I am forever in debt to them, their kindness I will never be able to repay.

We get back to the house and the food that they ordered was delicicous! One of the best indian dishes Ive ate. I devoured that food so quickly and kept eating and eating, they all looked at me and I look up with my hands full of food, mouth full, and I see everyone has stopped talking and are all staring at me with their eyes wide open and jaws dropped,
"You are a savage Cody...Where does all that food go?!?!"
"Its the 9th wonder of the world, I have no idea..."
I stop talking and keep eating, it is soooooo good.
After lunch, its more kite flying until dark. So much fun, but it wasnt anything like how it is going to be the next day everyone tells me. We fly til nightfall than we head back inside and take a group photo then its back to the hotel.
"Cody you know what I would really like to do right now?"
"Let me guess...Does it involve cards and the number 21?"
"Yes Cody, a few games yeah?"
"Im dealer, your goin down!"
We played cards for a bit then it was time for bed for the big day the next day. Rory and Tara are coming in tomarrow morning for the festival as well, so we will have our own little party going on!
I get a call at 530 in the morning,
"gettaday mate!"
I mumble
"Whats the name of your hotel, I just got to Jaipur"
"Haardik Palace"
"....Hard dicks please?..."
"Nooo...(We both chuckle) Haaaardik PALACE...H.A.A.R.D.I.K. PALACE"
"ooooooh ok, see you in a bit mate"
A bout 30 minutes later I hear Rory's and Tara's voice asking what room I am in. I get up, walk to their voices with my blankets wrapped around me and say with a smile on my face, sleep still in my eyes and mumbling,
"come on people are trying to sleep around here"
"Hey!!" Rory and Tara shout out and we immediately start catching up from the past few days of not being around each other. They talk to me about the sexual tension between certain people in our ashram group, whos getting on their nerves and funny stories of funny expieriences theyve been in with other people from our ashram group. We talk until Varun calls and tells us we are meeting at the same place around 12. We start to get ready go have breakfast at the rooftop and Varun comes to the hotel. He meets everyone and what do we do. Ill give you a hint, it involves the number 21... After blackjack we end up talking to a lday that arrived last night and was up on the roof with us. Her name was Sohpie and she too, was from Australia. She was a blonde short woman in her mid 30s who works as a film editor. Awesome job! She was just gonna sit up on the roof all day, so we say screw that! Come with us! And she does. More the merrier.

After that we went to his friends house. There were 4 times as many kites as yesterday. So many!!! Kites were stuck in telephone poles, telephone lines, scattered on the streets, in the trees, ontop of cars, on rooftops, they were everywhere. Pinks, blues, greens, blacks, all colors of kites everywhere in the sky and scattered about. Everyone was ontop of their rooftop with food and music blaring. I literally mean everyone. Every rooftop had friends and/or family on top and atleast 50% of the people were flying a kite, eating, or dancing. Amazing. It didnt matter if you were 3 years old or 70. Everyone flew kits. I really felt like being a local being in a indian neighborhood on their roof.

This time when we were hungry Rory and i were sneaking out to get food to suprise them that we bought the food but they caught us and we all went out together. We all hopped on the back of bikes and me and Sophie get on the back of the craziest driver of them all. Once again by the grace of God I lived to tell you, that was the fastest craziest ride I have ever been on. Tears were streaming from my face we were blaring so fast through the streets. Sohpie was holding on to me, I was holding on to her and we were both screaming to the top of our lungs the whole way there. When I got off the bike my legs were like jelly. I could barely walk. We went to the same market and bought 4x as much food. On our way back everyone stopped to buy beer. I thought they were taking them back to the rooftop but they went to a nearby park and drank them. I walked away, bought bananas and a Thumbs up (its like coke but way tastier) and I sat alone in the corner while they all drank, which was fine despite their remarks of me being anti-social, but I just enjoyed my company alone and sober than with them. Once they were done, they get on their bikes and I ask,
"How far is your house from here?"
"Its a few kilometers, why?"
"I think I am going to walk there, how do I get there?"
"Are you mad? That will take you over 30 mins"
"Its early, I have time. I dont mind."
"Just get in the car or on a bike lets go, the food is getting cold"
"Then let me be late and eat cold food, I am not getting behind the wheel with any of you, you just drank"
"Dude it was only this much (measures with his finers), thats nothing. What is your problem"
"My problem is whether if is this little or that much, it makes a difference to me. I would much rather walk please."
After going back in forth with everyone I had no choice but to get in the car, they wouldnt let me walk, and it was starting to blow up into something that was compltetly unneccesary. Drink if you want, ill tell you not to drive, but ultimately the only person who I can have control over is myself. But here, I lost my battle. I sat in the shotgun seat, put on my sunglasses and fastened my seat belt. I lost my cool under my sunglasses, but they hid my tears well. For years I was like them, its just alittle bit, theres no harm, get in the car. But I think the part that hit me the hardest was now the tables have changed. I know now what situation I put people in was exactly the same. Now I am the other person and it sucks. If I remembered who I put in these situations, I would forever be asking for their forgiveness. Up until recently, I have ALWAYS the designated driver for my friends so they would not be subject to this bullshit and endangerment. If people drink thats fine, thats your choice, its when you get irresponsible and your choices determine the outcome of other innocent peoples choices where I get pissed. Also,i respect that they want to drink, no harm no foul. But be smart about it. Also, when I practicly get alcohol shoved up my ass when I am trying to remain sober I get pissed. Even more so when I get scolded for looking out for myself because I know they wont. Here I am, doing what I can to stay sober and I get to where I need to go safely, but I couldnt. The one person I could count on to get me out of situatuons like this, was backed into a corner by 8 people telling me to get behind the wheel with them. If I was back home, I could easly just walk to whereever I needed to go but I dont know where I am, I had no other option. If I cant depend on someone to get me somewhere, I will get there on my own, but I couldnt, and realizing this I lost my cool. Good thing for my sunglasses.

I regroup myself in about 15 minutes and just let it go. Fighting the situation just creates an inner termoil that I cannot let be inside me. Just let it be. Just let it be.

We get back to the house and its time to eat. We sit the food down on the ground and gathered in a circle we eat like ravenous pigs! We were all tearing at the chaptis, drenching them with paneer, and scooping up rice like its a race to get the most in your stomach in the least amount of time. Im not even sure we chewed the food that we gorged carelessly in our faces. The food was like yesterday, very similar. But it was one of the best meals Ive had in India (how many times do I say that? But it WAS) There was paneer sauce on my clothes and in my beard, rice in my hair, and a huge smile on my face. After eating the indian dishes, we had fruit. Bananas and papaya. Then after that we had dessert, chocolate biscuits (cookies) and chai. Oh man, I was so full and so content. Once I was ready to move, it was time for some kite flying! I tied up my kite, got it in the air, and challeneged a nearby blue kite to fight. I had no idea what I was doing, but one of Varuns friends was instructing me what to do.
"Just so you know a 12 year old girl is flying that blue kite, you dont want to loose to a little girl Cody"
"Ill do my best"
I lost to a 12 year old little girl. Within 30 seconds she cut my kite out of no where I scream,
"What happened?!" as I pull viciously on the string noticing that my kite isnt going anywhere...
"That girl kicked your ass, thats what happened."
"Oh man..."
Once nightfall hit, fireworks were going off all around us. People were setting them off near and far away on their rooftops. Huge fireworks that boomed in your chest like on 4th of july back home. This went on for about 30 minutes. Our host brought up fresh chai and we sat talking amongst each other, watching the fireworks and drinking hot chai. Excellent. Then it was time to go back to the hotel, and I pack my bags and get ready for my bus that leaves for the state below Rajasthan called Gujarat. I arrive in a town called Ahmdebad, the capital. I had an overnight bus and got a decent nights rest.

I arrive in Ahmdebad, and there are no signs in english and no tourist around ANYWHERE. The weather here is alot warmer than north, and there are ALOT of mosquitoes. I am getting eaten alive here. My feet are so swollen from the many bites on each. Hardly anyone speaks english, but there really isnt anything to do i this city so I get on a local bus to another town called Jamnagar. I spent like 21 hours almost straight on a bus, my butt was aching to say the least...I arrive in the night and getting a hotel is a challenge. Especially a hotel that is within budget, after walking around for an hour I settle for an overly priced room just so I can have a cold shower and sleep. I didnt really eat anything that day, I was still full from the night before and everything was wayyyy overpriced.

The next day I check out, and goto the main attraction of Jamnagar. The only reason why I came to this city. I checked out this temple where they have been keeping the same chant going for 45 years straight. 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. They hold a pace in the guniess world book of records. I bought bananas on the way to the temple and arriving to the temple I am swarmed with kids without pants or underwear on asking for money, I give them the rest of my bananas and they fight over the bananas.

In any case, at the temple they obviously have people in rotation but when I was in the temple, I looked at the person working the harmonium and the leader of the chant and he looked like he hadnt slept in a very very long time...He looked drained and even sounded drained. Inside the temple was a few shrines to different gods, LOTS of flowers, incense, and pictures of some bearded man who I am assuming was the founder of the temple? I dunno, everything was in Hindi around the temple and no one spoke english to answer my questions. There were a few trees outside the temple grounds and people would touch the trees and pray next to them. I wish things were written in English, I wanted to know so much more about this place. After being there for about an hour it was time to get a bus to another city. That was the main attraction, and I didnt want to spend another night in this OVERLY priced town, so I hop on yet another bus to a town called Junagadh.

Here I found a cheap clean room with internet not too far away. Once again no tourists, no signs in english, and no one to speak it. In a way it is quite nice, I feel like this is how India should be.

Today I am going to go check out some ancient buddhist caves and tomarrow I go check out some muslim mosques where I have to walk up 10,000 steps to get to them. Yes, 10,000 steps. I am very excited about this. I plan to start it at 4am so I will be just about finished or close to when the sunrises. I am very, very stoked about that.

After two more days here I head to a island nearby called, Diu. The main atttraction there other than the loungy beach life, is fishing. I wanna hop on a boat, take my shirt off, and sit back with my fishing pole drinking a chai with the sun upon on face and the wind in my hair.

I hope you are all doing well. You all are always in my thoughts and prayers.
Be Happy!

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Rishikesh: Yo Baby, Yoo Baaby, Yoooo BAAAABY!!

Ive started to wear out my stay here in Rishikesh the past week. If I stay in one place too long I get antsy, I need a change. That time has came to leave Rishikesh (atleast temporarily)and head to Jaipur for the much anticipated Kite Festival.

The whole ashram expieriences have been a bit of a let down to tell you the truth. They seem more like a social gathering of people who know very little about yoga (including the teachers) just so when they go back home they can tell people they stayed in an ashram in India. I feel the sincerity I was hoping to find, is non existant. But im not done searching for it, there are plenty of other ashrams in Rishikesh which I will check out at another time.

Ive been focusing my energy on other activities since focusing on the yoga here wasnt really an option once I joined the 2nd ashram.

One of the activities, and probably the most rewarding was that I have been taking Hindi lessons. The best part is that I actually remember bits and pieces of it and am using it! My studying is paynig off! I was taking lessons from the same place Rory was taking tabla lessons and on my first day I had the same teacher he had. A guy around the age of 28 named Kamul. He wrote down about 2 pages of phrases for me to use. Didnt teach me grammer or anything (I suppose you couldnt in a weeks teaching anyhow) But I did not find this too useful, because he wrote it down in English of how he thought I should pronounce it. But, the next day I had a new teacher. A stunningly beautiful young indian woman...Oh how it was hard to concentrate, but she made me work diligently so I had no time to get distracted! Instead of two pages (like how it was on my first day) we ended up writing down about 10 pages of Hindi in a hour sitting! She would constantly giggle at my pronunciation and she got the biggest kick out soe of the phrases I wanted to learn,
"How do you say in Hindi, I like the monkeys?"
So in my total of 4 1-hour lessons, I have enough hindi (once it is all memorized) to carry on conversations. Whats so great about learning hindi, is that as soon as I step out the door of my lesson, I can start using it and thats precisely what I did. I was asking people their age, how they were doing, how many kids they had, what their name was, and am able now to count pass 10! Now walking down the streets I am able to pick up words here and there, its like when you hear a sentence and you here gibberish then you hear "cocacola" then the gibberish continues. Its a blast talking to people here because they get so excited when they ask you a question in english and you answer them in Hindi. Their faces light up with excitement and they say,
"Do you know Hindi?!?!?!"
It never fails, I love it. Learning their language shows them my sincerity about being here in India and as a result anyone is more than willing to help me with my Hindi at any time of day or night, its great.

One day after our lessons Kamul was mentioning that he runs a free yoga class in the evening, so Rory and I decided to go because the one at our ashram is absolutely horrible. We walk in and it is a room of Kids with the maximum age of 12. Oh how they put Rory and I in our place!!!...These kids were natural yogis, ill tell ya. They put their legs behind their heads with no problem at all as an example. At one point Rory and I were asked to go up on the platform and demonstrate a pose (probably how not to do it) and afterwards we got an applause. Getting an appluase feom these kids attempting to do a pose that they could do in their sleep felt very rewarding. After the yoga class, they did Kriya yoga which pertains to the cleansing of the body. Watching these teqniques felt like I should have purchased a ticket to see this freak show! I will spare you the details because most people reading this would thank me...But yeah, I take my hat off to those kids.

The other activity was that on the first day of the new year a bunch of us (Camie, Colin, Nicole, Rory, Tara, and I) decided to go white water rafting. Start the New Year off with a punch right?! We hop on a jeep 20 kilometers up a windy hill to get dropped at our site where we gear up with helmets and life-vests and get instructions on our commands while rafting. The instructor appoints me and Colin as the leaders which means we are at the VERY front of the raft and have to coordinate rowing together. Let me also remind you we are probably the lightest in weight out of the group, which makes us the most liable to being launched out of the raft, so needless to say, my adrenaline was starting to pour through my body like a heroin addict before we even stepped on the raft.

We all get in the raft and he gives us test to make sure we all can opperate as a unit before hitting our first out of nine rapids through 18 kilometers of rafting. He was at the back of the raft and would scream and shout commands like General Lee of Gettysburg,
So after we got everything down, it was time for the first rapid which was about 50 feet away from our starting point. It was a level 3 out of 5. What a great way to start of the rafting expierience, just throw us in at a level 3 for our first rapid...

As we apprach our first rapid, our general screams out,
I looked over at Colin, he looked at me, and all together armed with our paddles, our platoon rowed with all our might, screaming like soldiers charging their first battle line.

We soared down that rapid getting jolted in every which way possible while getting ordered to still paddle,
Our platoon made it out alive and all together. We successfully tackled our first rapid as a single operative unit. The high that I felt being a leader and conquering my first rapid with my new friends was indescriable. I let out my battle cry as I looked back at the enemy we just defeated. I wouldnt be suprised if you all back home heard us celebrating. I was soaring on the clouds, we all were, together. Once I saw we all got through our first rapid we all gained the confidence and was sure we would get through all of them.

After going through each rapid, we had to scream as loud as possible together,
"Yoooooo Baaaaby, Yooooooo Baaaabbby, Yooooooooooo BAAAAAAABBBY!!!!!"
On the second yo baby we would all put our paddles together in the center of the raft and then when we screamed the last "baby" we would bring those paddles overhead and smack them on the raft. This made the rafting expierience, us all rejoicing in our victories.

After the roaring rapids, the river was as calm as can be and we would slowly paddle to our next rapid talking and encouraging each other that we could do this. The next few rapids were only levels 1, 2 or 3. We handled it like champs. Then was the rapid named, "Roller-coaster" our biggest rapid on the run. Level 4 out of 5. This thing.....was massive. All that talk of making it out alive and together was slowly being doubted the closer we got and saw its magnitude...We all brased ourselves, paddled with all our might and met our beast mouths wide open, vocal cords blaring and for that moment meeting our toughest opponent, each one of us were ready for anything at that moment, no fear. I have never expierienced something so intense in my 22 years of life. The waves that came crashing down on us were so powerful, I am so suprised no one got flung out 200 feet. At the big waves our general screamed,
"GET DOOOOOOWN!!!!!!!!!"
at which point you have to have your outside hand grab the rope that goes along the side of the raft and push your body inside the raft, to help cushion the HUGE impact with the raft and oncoming waves. With each wave we hit, ICE COLD ganga water would go up my nose, in my mouth (so much for not drinking the ganga water), and would drench my body more than a 20 minute shower with my clothes on. Being at the front compunded this tenfold. That truly was the best rollercoaster I have been on. During that rapid which seemed a lifetime, there was not one point of the intensity slowing down, you had to listen to the commands given to you or you would forsure be out of the raft, and being in that rapid not on our raft all together WAS NOT an option. By the loving grace of God, and our impeccable determination together, we all got out safely and everyone on board. Yo Baby, Yoo Baaby, Yoooo BAAAABY!!

After the level 4 all the rapids seemed futile, they were nothing. Our team, felt invincible and on top of the world after the rolldercoaster. Nothing could stop us. Except for maybe that none of us could feel our toes...We all were so cold I am suprised no one got hypothermia, seriously. But we all made it through like warriors, and the comradery that was felt, will forever be with me. Magnificient.

Rory and I walked back to the ashram not able to feel our feet and got dressed as fast as possible to try and get some warmth. We all decided to meet up at a place called, "Pyramid Cafe" where in the tee-pee style huts you eat in, there is a bonfire. This sounded perfect. The only person that showed up (other than Rory and myself) was Tara. Nicole, Colin, and Camie did not show. Apparently they were too tired to make it, which is understandable..But we later found out they all went somewhere else just as far...Interesting...

Ever since we moved out of the 1st ashram, rory and I have been overloading on food.Ive made second homes at a few of the restaurants here. One was The Little Buddha which I talked about last post, and the other was this Pyramid Cafe. This was the best food I have had in India so far. It has become the death of my budget the past week. They have THE BEST veggie burger I have ever had. Trust me, I have had ALOT of veggie burgers in my time, but nothing like this, oh man... it was made out of fresh veggies and potatoes with spices I have never tasted before. IT also came eith french fries! Goooooood french fries too, no animal fat! Oh man...Their pastas and tofu sizzlers were to die for as well..

We are close to one of the main market streets where good food is at every food stand. Aside from the many amazing restaurants which are a bit of a walk away, we both went through about a jar of peanut butter and a loaf of bread every other day. Its cheap and never gets boring, especially when we remember to get bananas. Rory asked me,
"How many peanut butter, banana sanwhiches do you think weve ate this past week?"
"Too many to count, or maybe I just dont want to know..." I replied.

One place was called The Office that had the best samosas in India because they were not your typical potato filled somosas. They had pineapple, apple (the best), and banana chocolate samosas made fresh. OH how sweet those samosas were, the apple samosa was like fresh out of the oven warm apple pie. Bravo! Aside from the samosas, for breafast they had a very tasty fruit bowl with yogurt, oats, nuts, honey, and loads and loads of fresh fruit. Soooo good. Being a vegetarian here is so easy its such a blessing.

Aside from the easy going life of us foreigners here, the life is hard for the local people here not to mention the animals...
Every other day, I grew to have a bond with the cows here in Rishikesh. Since Rory and I ate soooooo many bananas, every other morning I would gather all the banana peels and on my walk into town I would hand feed the cows I passed by on the way. Somtimes their ears would flutter when seeing the food, seeing this I would pet the tops of their heads which would make their ears flutter faster. I got great joy from this, after seeing that cows here will eat anything. I truly mean anything. I saw them eating brooms, paper with fecal matter on it, trash, anything...
But its not always so happy for the animals here unfortunately...I was sitting at the footsteps of the ganga reading and I expierienced the saddest story of my life which I will tell you now...There was a dogpile of about 6 puppies, no older than a month or 2 at the very most(so precious). A older dog came over and was sniffing them, the puppies woke up and all started barking (barely barking but with all their might) and the big dog ended up leaving ahortly after. I close my eyes to meditate and about 15 minutes later I hear a blood-kertaling scream and I look up and the big dog has one of the puppies by its throat and by the time I realize they are not playing, I jump up, take off my shoe, and throw it at the dog. The dog scooted off quickly. I swear I would have killed that dog...The little puppy had a HUGE gash on its neck, whimpering, struggled to get back to the dogpile to get warmth and comfort and here is the saddest part, the dogs wouldnt let him in the pile. He nearly just died and isnt even allowed in the dog pile to atleast get some warmth and comfort. The look on this puppies face and in its eyes will be something I will never forget once it realized it couldnt get in the dog pile after nearly dying. I wish I could have just taken him away and cared for him myself and given this puppy a happy and loving upbringing. But this happens in India so much, there is so much hunger or fights for territorial means. I wish I could help but there is soooooo many people, not to mention sooooo many animals that are in need. One man cannot even begin to scratch the surface.

Rishikesh showed me how much I really value my alone time. Its not a depressing thing. I think western society portray people who like to be alone as depressed, closed people, but I feel it is neccessary to live a happy healthy life to enjoy your own company and to make sure you devote part of your day to be alone. If you cannot enjoy and appreciate time with just yourself how can you value that time with others? When I left the 1st ashram, Rory and I had to share a room because there was no single rooms available, so alot of my alone time was gone as a result. I saw how this affected my state of mind, there needs to be a balance and I lost my balance here. Its funny, towards the begining of my travels I met very few people and had loads of alone time but there wasnt a balance so I felt lonely. Now in Rishikesh there are so many foreigners that you meet that its hard to give yourself your alone time. There needs to be a balance. I also realized this is (one of the many) things that ruined my last relationship. There was no balance, I had no alone time to enjoy my own company. There is so much beauty and vitality to gain in enjoying your time alone (and same for being with friends and/or family) but as soon as there is no balance, you loose the balance of your mind and jeopardize either yourself or your friends/family etc.

On my 14 hour train ride to Jaipur I was so relieved to be alone and to finally focus one of the things I love. Books. Im reading "Kite Runner" (which is based off one of my favorite movies) to get me in the kite flying mood and I read half the book on train.

Today Im in Jaipur and am really looking forward to some refuge in my alone time. The kite festival starts in 4 days, and couldnt be happier about it. Tara and Rory will be meeting me here on the morning of the 14th so for the next few days I am going to enjoy the essence of alone time to regain some vitality.