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,
"FORWARD TEAM! FORWARD!....STOP!!!!!....RIGHT SIDE FORWARD!!! LEFT SIDE BACK!!!!...ALL TOGETHER FORWARD TEAM LETS GO!!!!!....
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,
"FORWARD TEAM!!!!ALL TOGETHER FAST TEAM FAST!!!!!!!!!"
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,
"FORWARD TEAM! FAST FAST TEAM!"
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,
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.