Sunday, March 11, 2012

Holi Raft Dance!

Phew, what a week!  I guess it's true that time flies when you're having fun though.  I'm happy to report, I'm starting to recover.  My shoulders are no longer killing me, I'm able to sleep through the night, and my stomach has finally found a happy medium.  Even my hips are starting to loosen up a little and allowing me to do more than I've been able to in weeks.  Things are definitely looking up.

So this week started off with a trip to the ashram they're building in the nearby mountains.  The idea was to give us an opportunity to do some karma yoga (service) by moving some small rocks.  Most of me really just wanted to stay in bed that whole day and give my body a break, but because of this little voice that kept reminding me how important service is, I decided to go.  Being the first Sunday of the month, I had decided to fast, and since moving small rocks hardly sounded difficult (and it wasn't), I decided not to break my fast early.  When they mentioned it involved a short hike to reach the site, I thought they meant a 10 min walk from the main road.  Haha I don't think I could have been more wrong.  That 'short hike' was 45 minutes of walking straight up a mountain.  That was rough.  Luckily, Klara was very considerate of my fasting state and kept reminding me to just go slowly.  Though my heart felt like it was going to pound it's way out of my chest the whole time, we did make it, and I even got to move rocks (much easier than the hike for sure).  On the way back, we visited this waterfall.  I will always be a sucker for water in all of it's beautiful forms, but waterfalls have and will always be a particular soft spot.  So this was a particularly welcomed reprieve after such an intense afternoon.  You can see why.

So after this refreshing break, we headed back to the taxis.  They actually only let the proper amount of people into them this time, so everybody had a seat.  While climbing in, one of the drivers walks up to my friend Chandra, and asks for her shoes.  His English was not so good, and she was incredibly confused by the whole interaction - so much so that she actually took them off and gave them to him.  He takes off his sandals, puts her shoes on, jumps in the drivers seat, and we're off.  The whole ride she's just flabbergasted that this guy had her shoes on.  And since Chandra is a hilarious black woman from Tennessee, you can imagine how entertaining she was about it.

It's wasn't until we were stopped and were inspected by some traffic cops at a check point (didn't even know Rishikesh had cops or checkpoints until this moment) that it clicked why they didn't overfill the vehicle as well as why this guy had to borrow her shoes.  Apparently the driver caught wind of this 'surprise' check point and since it's illegal to drive with flip flops or have more people in the vehicle than seats, he was trying to avoid a ticket.  Good laws I dare say, but within 200 ft of clearing the checkpoint, the driver stops the car, gives Chandra her shoes back, and stuffs 3 more people into the vehicle.  Haha how's that for effective law enforcement?  But hey, that's driving in India.  It's always a good reminder to me of what happens when people have no internal respect or regard for laws - traffic or otherwise.  So as much as I'm a "spirit of the law" kind of a girl, I must admit the letter definitely has it's place. 

Anyway, classes started Monday, and since I haven't posted similarities in a while, here are some things I've 'learned in class' this week. 
1.) We all have an astral body, separate from our physical body, and spiritual in nature.
2.) When we die, our astral bodies are still under the power of whatever energy influenced us in life.  Those that lived negatively are trapped in a sort of spiritual prison created by whatever ignorance kept them from attaining enlightenment during their physical life.
3.) Oh, and my favorite!  The following was given as the answer to "What is the purpose of life?"
      • To learn wisdom, have peace and happiness (joy), and to realize your existence as an eternal being.  All this, combined, is the way to become one with the greater consciousness (God). 
Awesome right?  I don't know if I've mentioned this here before or not, but considering how old Hinduism is, it's a great testimony to me of how old the gospel is, even if the church itself is still quite young.  In a round about way, it has also strengthened my testimony of something I've struggled with for a long time -- Joseph Smith.  Because what are the chances that an ignorant boy from rural Bible saturated New York state would be able to 'make up' a system of beliefs that has existed on the opposite side of the world for several millenia?  He was either divinely appointed or at least heavily inspired.  And, though I can't say I've had some sort of spiritual transformation while I'm here, I do feel a LOT more clear about my relationship with God, the eternities, and all that that entails.  It has truly been an amazing experience.
So besides teaching and dealing with my endless questions, Roshan also brought in a new teacher to teach us how to teach this week.  His name is Shankara (aka Lou).  He's a old French guy who has been teaching yoga for 40+ years.  He's incredibly blunt and rather intimidating at first, but great guy if you ask me.  The first day of class, he called me up to demonstrate a pose, studies my face a bit and asks "You're Michelle's sister aren't you?"  I had to laugh a bit because everybody who remembers Michelle always asks me that.  Ever since I told Roshan the first day that I'm Michelle's sister, at least one person a week asks me that very same question.  "So you're Michelle's sister huh?"  Apparently my big sis made such an impression that everybody remembers her, and since we look so much alike, everybody knows I'm her sister even if they don't know my name.  The other students have picked up on this and keep asking me how she made such a strong impression.  Haha if they only knew her - they'd know why.

Wow, I just realized how long this post has gotten, and I haven't even gotten to the best part!  (sorry for the rambling - this is going to be a long one). 

This week we got to celebrate Holi!  Now those in Provo are probably familiar with the Holi festival in Spanish fork every year.  It's roughly the same idea, but vastly different in execution.  Instead of the concert, cloud of color, and dancing, it's more like a stealthy, deranged, but friendly paintball war.

I started Holi at my favorite restaurant for breakfast.  The guy who runs the place is named Deeno and because it's my favorite restaurant, he and I have become very tight.  I don't know what it is, but I seem to form emotional attachments to anybody who feeds me regularly.  I guess it's the foodie in me.  Anyway, I get to breakfast and realized all the other shops are closed and I don't have a way of purchasing any colors.  So what does Dino do?  He hands me one of his bags of color, a few water balloons, and says "Happy Holi, Cherie."  I respond with a "Happy Holi, Dino" and proceed to chuck some of the color on him.  Mwahahahaha....

Before it turned into an all out war, my friend Heather shows up with some locals and invites us out with them to a celebration.  Well, of course I go with them, but not before expending one of the balloons on one of the guys while he was wishing me a happy Holi and giving me a hug.  I'm telling you, this is my kind of holiday!  So we set off for the celebration, and the journey involved walking down one of the foot paths lined with buildings.  It was eerily quiet except for one of the guys phone blasting some Punjabi music.  Then I look up and see a small head dodge and disappear.  I look down the narrow foot path, blocked in on both sides by buildings, and realize how trapped we are.  Then, the air assault begins.  Buckets of water, bottles of paint, and powder guns are being dumped on us from above.  The balconies are lined with small children, armed and ready.  The guy I attacked with the balloon earlier just yells "RUN!" and we book it down the gauntlet at full speed.      

Somehow, we made it out alive and arrived at the celebration with only minor 'injuries'.  We eat some sweet form of a pancake, dance a little bit, and pose for some pictures.  But before long, the balcony children have found us, and the assault begins again.  Ill prepared, I chuck some powder at them, and run again - this time, in the direction of home.  By the time I get back to Krishna Cottage (where I'm staying), I'm already a mess of color, but of course, everyone keeps adding to it.  They start playing music, dancing in the courtyard, and throwing water everywhere.  This turns the dirt courtyard into a muddy dance floor, and the mess that ensued was epic.  In order to cope with said mess and "wash everybody off," the staff takes us white water rafting.  To do so, we have to walk across town, and by the time we arrived at the shuttles, I was completely covered.  As you can see...(ps..this picture was taken AFTER swimming in the Ganges and white water rafting, so you'll just have to imagine how bad it was before)

But anyway, white water rafting ROCKED!  The Ganges is truly an amazing river and I can easily see why it is such an integral part of Indian culture.  It is a strange mix of calm, serene, and dangerously chaotic (haha kind of like Indians).  The rapids that day were HUGE because it rained, but as most people know, rafting down a cold river on a cold day can be awful.  We were already wet from that mornings festivities and about half way through the trip I was so cold I actually thought it would be warmer to swim along side the boat for a bit rather than continue to be subjected to the evaporation and the wind.  Haha oh boy was I wrong.  I've only swam in colder waters one other time - and that was in a glacial lake in Alaska. Brrrrr.

But in spite of the cold, those in my raft maintained high spirits.  I was with a group of very tough, warrior-like women and every single one took on the waves like paddling was the only way to get to tomorrow.  Like I said, the rapids were AMAZING, and every time we went through one it felt like we had just cheated death.  Turns out, adrenaline is a great mood booster.  Combine that with classic hits from the 80's and 90's being belted out at the top of our lungs, and we were having one rocking good time.  I think we frustrated our guide in the process because he had to keep yelling to be heard over our combined voice.  Oh well, it was worth it. :)

That night Klara and I went to Little Buddha cafe.  It's an adorable restaurant with a great view of the valley.  We sat there for hours and just chatted about life.  I think talking to people and getting to ask them questions about themselves, their views, and their lives is probably my #1 favorite activity to do (possibly tied with dancing and right above singing in my car).  And when you travel you find the most interesting people with the best stories, so I often ask a lot of questions.  We also met a lovely gentleman from Belgium that evening.  He was well spoken, funny, and quite handsome (a small, but welcomed perk).  I dare say, that was a great night.  It was all very chill and intimate, but full of good laughs and positive vibes. 

The next night was another great one, though the conversation was with my friend Karen this time and vastly different in subject matter from the previous night.  Little background, Karen is an Irish lass in her early 30's with a sharp mind and a heart of gold.  She's has a great understanding of people and politics (enhanced by her EXTENSIVE travel experience), and I find her to be incredibly objective, interesting, engaging, funny, sassy, and sweet.  Any time we start discussing broad concepts like people, cultures, religions, or politics I find myself completely enthralled for hours.  She's witty, calm, intellectually curious, and incredibly deep.  And because we have such vastly different perspectives (politically, religiously, culturally, etc), our conversations always morph and evolve into these verbal explorations of the universe and all it's ambiguous beauty. 

It's a ton of fun for me, and she's a great sport about it.  Random as this may sound, I really hope she comes to visit me in the States and gets the chance to meet my family some day.  I know it's a bit strange, but those of you who know my family will totally understand why I would LOVE to have her meet them.  Not only do I think she'd be vastly entertained, but I also think she'd be a fantastic edition to our family discussions.  In fact, if I ever got her around a dinner table with my mom and all of my sisters (by birth and law), I'm pretty sure the conversation would never end. 

Anyway, last night was our last class (sort of), and marked the end of the first 5 weeks.  Our last week will be filled with students teaching students.  (My night to teach is Thursday night -- I'm kind of excited for it.)  So to mark this transition, we held a talent show.  I thought about what kind of talent I could do, and as usual, came up with nothing.  I thought about dancing, but I didn't really feel confident enough to choreograph something.  Then it hit me.  My talent is not dancing, but my lack of inhibition when I do it.  It may be the one talent I'm secure enough to display. So I put a bunch of songs in a playlist, had Karen hit 'next' every 30 seconds or so.....and here is what came out. 

I know you can't really hear the music too well, but the order goes like this. 
1.) Gonna Make you Sweat
2.) Bad Romance
3.) Lose Control
4.) Hips Don't Lie
5.) Can't touch this

As you can kind of see, the reaction to this was - a little over the top.  Apparently, nobody saw that coming.  One girl told me it completely blew up her previous perception of me.  Another actually said it humbled her to see what I was capable of because even while announcing my talent, she didn't think I could really do it.  But Chandra's response was, by far, my favorite reaction.  She was actually speechless - and that's a big deal for Chandra.  Later she walks up and is telling me how shocked she was that "this sister can move!"  Good to know I've retained my Uh-Oh Oreo status.

But amongst all the compliments and shock, I'm actually just puzzled, because these people have seen me dance before.  They saw me dance at Holi and they've seen me dance at parties we've had.  I was no less uninhibited at these times, though there were more people around me.  It wasn't until this afternoon that I managed to make sense of it.  I'm an introvert in an extroverted world here, and I'm beginning to see how extroverts don't really invest their attention in introverts unless they have to.  Don't get me wrong, I love the extroverts.  They allow introverts like myself to just sit back, listen, watch, and enjoy.  Often, I'm surrounded by introverts, and in that setting, I do become more extroverted to help maintain balance.  However, I definitely lose energy in the process and always require some alone time after to recover.  I guess I don't mind attention, but it is draining and I'd rather just be paying attention to someone else.  So the fact that there are so many extroverts here has basically nudged me further into my comfy introverted spot without me even realizing it.  And while I've spent weeks getting to know and trying to understand several of these extroverts, few have really invested in getting to know me.  That's not a complaint at all.  I'm the one directing those conversations by asking them so many questions, and I'm completely satisfied with all of the conversations I've had.  I just didn't realize how many of them were rather clueless as to who I really am.

That was until after the talent show.  Apparently, even though they've seen me dance before, everyone's perception of me was a basically a curious and religious nerd.  I'm not saying that perception is wrong (especially since that's half of the subtitle of my blog lol).  It's just...narrow.  And I'm pretty sure that entire perception was created because of the questions I ask (in class and to people personally).  Coincidentally, asking questions is about the only time I'm being more extroverted and calling attention to myself.  And I guess I should specify, it was only the extroverts who were really that shocked by my dancing.  The introverts I've gotten to know were impressed, but not nearly as surprised.  I admit, I find this pattern very interesting, and it has helped me better understand some of those psychological concepts I've spent so much time with my sisters discussing.

I'm beginning to see how introverted people are better at picking up a broader understanding of others.  It's because they see the subtle.  They watch for the subtle.  I bet that's why they form such intimate friendships.  They perceive more than could ever be said.  Whereas extroverts are better at gathering the attention of others because it's from that external viewpoint that they are able to understand others and their environment.  Based on my experience being the extrovert, it is more difficult to pick up on subtle when you're busy gathering attention.  But likewise, as an introvert, it's difficult to effectively gather attention when you're busy paying so much attention to subtle.  I can easily see the importance of both on a personal, professional, political, and even spiritual level.  And personally, I think the goal should be a happy, highly adaptable, medium.  At least, that's my goal.  Based on my time here I obviously still have a preference for introversion, but the more I learn, experience, and grow, the more comfortable I am being the extrovert.  Yay. :)

Oh, and one more thing.  I've often joked with Olya about how I only get dates with guys after they've seen me dance.  Well the trend still holds.  After the show I was starving because I skipped dinner.  I talked to Deepa and her boyfriend and they offered to go get food with me and a friend of theirs.  Haha well this 'friend' of theirs was on staff and therefore at the talent show.  On the way to find food, he kept expressing how amazing my dancing was, and proceeded to try and hold my hand, several times.  lol weird.  Oh, and just an interesting tidbit.  While getting food, they made me wear this guys hoodie because apparently it's illegal for foreigners to be out with locals late at night.  Funny that they didn't tell me that until they tried to make me go incognito.  Can't say my glowing white skin and blonde eyebrows were very helpful to the endeavor, but oh well.  Namaste!

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