Saturday, November 27, 2010

Honey Valley


As you may know, I’ve been traveling around South India for three weeks and have had little access to the outside world.  
The first place we went was Honey Valley, which is in the mountainous area Coorg.  It was so beautiful and green there - it was hard to remember we were in India! The area is mostly known for growing coffee, which we made sure to drink every day.
The main purpose of our trip was the sacred solo, which was in the middle of our week long stay.  The first couple of days, we spent our time swimming in a waterfall, hiking, and exploring the area for our solo.  I went on one hike with two of the guys in our group, and we ended up climbing straight up the mountain, holding on to the sharp lemon grass for dear life. It wasn’t that dramatic, but I did cut my hands quite a bit on the grass, and my feet completely covered in leeches.  Oh yeah, the LEECHES! Who knew they could live out of water? Well they can, and they like dark damp areas. Good thing it was misting on that hike.

checking for leeches
We hiked up to the mountain where we were doing our solo twice to explore and find our spots. It was about a 45 minute hike up, with an amazing view at the top. We finally chose our spot and spent some time there getting to know it.  We were within shouting distance (or sometimes much closer) but out of sight. Finally, it was time for the solo. We ate breakfast and then hiked up in silence with all our stuff.  We were given:
a tarp
sleeping mat
lighter and candles
salt to keep the leeches away
3 pieces of paper and a pen
nuts and dried fruit
3 liters of water
After a parting ceremony, we went to our spots and set up camp.  And then we spent 48 hours there by ourselves.  Everybody chose to fast, but most of us ended up eating the dates from our fruit and nut mix. They were super good. It was so cool to be on the mountain and watch the clouds change.  In the middle of the day, they would move so fast over my head making so many different shapes - I spent a lot of time just lying on my back and watching. In the late afternoon, the bigger, lower clouds would move in and we’d get a bit of rain. Sometimes they passed through us too. It would stay foggy and misty all night, and in the morning the valley was completely covered in a sea of white.  Then, the sun would come out and it would clear up, and then it started all over again.  We were allowed to make a little fire, which was nice to have at night.  It was a really great experience and I’m so glad I did it.

look at the clouds!
The last two days, we took advantage of the sun and hand-washed some of our clothes. We did more hiking and swimming, and we also ate the delicious but not so healthy food. Unfortunately, that didn’t work out too well for me.  The fried breads (poori, chappati, parotha - they are all amazing!) didn’t agree with me after fasting, and the night after the solo I threw up. It was an uncomfortable night. I felt nauseous until we left for our next destination, so I took it easy and used the time to read my required books. 

I really enjoyed Honey Valley. I love that this is school!

Thursday, November 4, 2010

popping popcorn (Deepavali/Diwali)

Indians love their fireworks. I don't think there's been a day yet since I've been here that I haven't heard fireworks go off. But today is special. It's Deepavali, or Diwali (the contraction), the festival of lights. They've been celebrating all week! And fireworks have been going off constantly since last night. I'm counting the time in between each BOOM, and I haven't gotten more than 10 seconds. It sounds like I'm in a war! Or in a pan of popping popcorn. or a bag if you like the microwave.

There's different stories behind this day, but the most basic is the victory of good over evil. Another popular one is that Lord Rama went to Sri Lanka to rescue his wife, Sita, from the demon Ravana. The people loved him so much that when he got back they all lit lamps and danced and celebrated throughout the night.  It's typical to give sweets and new clothes as gifts to everybody. Employers also give a 2 week bonus with which to purchase new things, but unfortunately many people (well, the men) spend it on alcohol. Apparently it gets pretty crazy!

This is probably my last post for a while, because we leave to go travelling in two days and I won't have much internet access for three weeks. I'm very excited!!

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

"Everything's possible in India... just takes time". True story.

Recent happenings in my life:
  • I got to see a friend from high school on Thursday. He’s doing a study abroad program around the world, and stopped for 1 night in Pondicherry. It was great to see him, but a little weird to have two completely separate worlds collide!  

  • Friday I was invited to my very first Indian wedding - beautiful invitation and all! The actual wedding took place at 6am that morning, but I went to the reception with some other people from my internship. One of the Tamil women who works in the after school program (this was the first time I had met her) kept grabbing my hand and saying, “come, come!” and dragging me around - to give a gift and get our picture taken with the couple, to talk to other guests, to go eat dinner. We sat in rows and were given banana leaves, and then multiple foods were dumped onto our plate. As usual, way more than I could eat. There was chapatti, rice, what is basically a curried doughnut without the glaze, many different curries and sauces, a soup, 3 different desserts, and a banana. On our way out, we got the typical party favor of a coconut and a bitter leaf. Still not really sure what they’re for.

a random google couple, but exactly like every wedding here! the newlyweds are on a stage, and people line up to give them gifts and get their picture taken
This is what the meal looked like!
my wedding clothes, minus the shawl

  • I discovered a wonderful little ice cream shop/cafe in my own little Kuilapalayam! I’ve ridden past it every day and never even noticed this little gem! I also discovered that their cold coffee is the best I’ve had yet. Every time I try one at a new place, they just get better and better (aka worse and worse for me). First, it was just cold coffee with milk and sugar. Then came the iceberg coffee with a scoop of ice cream. Now my favorite is the place that blends the ice cream with the coffee, but it is still essentially coffee. But at Richy Rich (it’s a franchise, but doesn’t seem like it because it’s in a village), it’s a coffee milkshake, there’s no denying. Oh, cold coffee will be the downfall of me.

  • We did a workshop yesterday called awareness through the body. One of the things we did was walk around with our eyes closed, using our awareness to avoid other people/walls. After a while, we had to reach out and find somebody else’s hand. We explored everything about their hand, until we were sure we could “pick it out of a thousand hands”.  We then walked around some more, and then had to start feeling hands again until we found our partner’s.  I had my friend Julian’s. His hand is about 3 times as big as mine! We only have 3 guys in our group, so it wasn’t too difficult to find.  I’ve never really given much though to peoples’ hands before! We did some other breathing exercises as well. It was really relaxing and nice to experience how we felt without so much stimulus, and without relying on our vision and our mind, just our awareness.

  • We’re halfway through our last week before traveling! I will miss the people at my internship, but I am SUPER EXCITED to change up life a bit and see some new places! Not to mention our sacred solo, where we are alone in the woods for two days on a spiritual quest.