Monthly Archives: February 2012

Beach Days and Free Classes – Arambol, India

 I have been here for more than a month now and am feeling really comfortable. It is a well known fact that people come to Arambol and have a very hard time leaving. If you haven’t left after three days, well, there is a good chance you are stuck. It’s something of a joke when people say they are leaving tomorrow. Inevitably another “lifer” chimes in reminding them that they said that last week. And the month before. I guess my excuse is that I am actually making progress here. Why would I leave if I am feeling happy and getting the book done? I have one week left until my self-imposed deadline. I am pretty well on track but the last few days have been a bit too lax. I will have to knuckle down now as I see that distractions are coming steadily and strongly.

 Now that it’s getting warmer, I have been making it a point to get into the sea almost every day and have also developed a bit of color. The mornings are better for me since the waves are more gentle. By afternoon, the wind has picked up and it’s challenging to keep my head dry when the surf does it’s best to topple me. There is always that random wave that comes out of nowhere and is two feet too big for me to manage. Anyway, I like the peace of the mornings when the day is still fresh and the possibilities are endless.

The only thing I don’t like about the beach are the hordes of touts bothering every two and a half minutes, forcing me to be rude. If they detect even an ounce of softness, they will persist ruthlessly. One lady really got my goat when she employed a very intrusive technique of casually smashing her heavy bag of jewelry against everyone’s feet as she sauntered by the sunbeds. She jarred me out of a deep rest and I snapped loudly at the disregard for boundaries and personal space. She just smirked arrogantly and held up her wares, continuing with her spiel. I groaned and flipped over, only to discover an unkempt Indian male hovering over my head.

“Massage? You want foot massage, back massage Madam? Madam?”

“Noooooooooooo!” I wailed as I buried my face into my towel. Less than a minute later, two more tried their luck. There really is nothing you can do about them. I really wish I had a music player and could just stick in my headphones.

I am really enjoying going to the free classes at Woodstock community school (on Facebook “Woodstock Free School”). This is a place near the center close to the beach where anyone with a talent can offer to teach their skills. Every day there are language lessons, several kinds of yoga, dance, crafting, meditation, and other useful skills to be learned. I have taken part in the yoga and self-defense so far but would like to get into the clay or woodworking as well. I was asked to teach yoga one day when the teacher couldn’t make it but luckily I was saved by someone more qualified. I love the family atmosphere and adore the kitten who tromps around the site. I snuggle and love her up every time I get a chance.

 I am doing so much better with my health now except for a few chocolate hiccups. I guess there are worse temptations and the occasional indulgence keeps me real. I have been having sleep trouble though since the nights are getting so much more hot and humid. It even rained the other day for the first time since I’ve been here. The day after, everything green started shooting up like wildfire in the sweltering sun and I got a tiny taste of what monsoon is like.

 Grateful for sharing skills.

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Trance, Dance, and Pyrotechnics – Arambol, India

Many bars and clubs are getting around the no-noise-at-night law by hosting day parties from ten till ten. I haven’t attended any since I generally find it too hot in the midday sun. Would you believe after five months away, I still don’t have a tan? I guess that’s what you get from traveling in countries where women are expected to cover up. Indian ladies here go in the sea fully clothed while the men wear skimpy underwear. There seems to be a serious shortage of swimsuits because I have yet to see an Indian man wearing them. The worst is when they wear tighty whiteys…no, strike that…worse is the teeny bikini type worn by those men who have indulged in a few too many gulab jamen. There is such a gross dichotomy between the timid covered women’s modesty and the men strutting around exposing themselves shamelessly.

The other day, there was a party a couple beach shacks up from where I stay and I rallied the troops. I knew it wouldn’t go on late so we started dinner early then made it to the party at around 8pm. We had two hours of phenomenal psy-trance laced with glitch hop and a bit of dub step thrown in for good measure. I was moved by the bassline and couldn’t help but get down and dirty on the vibrating sand dance floor. We all kicked off our flip flops and let the beat take over stomping around barefoot on the beach.

It was a hell of a party and I was completely sober.  Just when I didn’t think I could get any higher, the fireworks exploded directly above us. This went on for about a half hour and brought the energy through the roof…well, if there were a roof…we were dancing under the stars. I passed on the celebratory chocolate cake that was being served since I am off sugar for the time being. It’s a good thing too, because we found out later it was a really potent space cake. Unfortunately, a couple of my crew had given in to their sweet tooth and had gone for seconds. They were out of commission for the next two days.

Grateful for dance therapy.

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Pay it Forward – Arambol, India

This morning I woke up at 5am again. This has been something of a trend lately but I am not too concerned. The other day it was because I heard someone getting beaten in the fruit and vegetable store just down the way. It was an awful sound but that is what they do here to people who steal. I was sad for the man if he was just hungry and needed food. There are lots of beggars on the street hanging around food establishments so many foreigners end up buying them meals. I have a couple packets of soup I won’t be using so I aim to give those out in the next few days.

I was looking at earrings at just one of the many shops that sell imports from Nepal and Indonesia. I haven’t worn earrings for more than a decade because my body seems to reject metal. I decided to try out some of the more natural types like bone, horn, or wood. Guess what? It works! I have no irritation at all and I barely know they are there. So I picked out an exotic pair of dark horn spirals ending with what looks like a dolphin tail. When I tried to buy them the man at the shop quoted a price higher than all the money I had on me. He must have seen the disappointment on my face because his face softened and he told me to take them.

“Take them? For free?” I repeated incredulously.  Surprise quickly dissolved into suspicion and my inner skeptic challenged “What’s the catch?”

The small thin shopkeeper cocked his head to the side thoughtfully and proposed me a deal. “You can have them as long as you promise to pay it forward.” He explained that I was to double what the earrings were worth and spend that amount on food for hungry people anywhere in the world. I sat there stunned, unsure if this guy was for real. After probing a bit deeper, I learned that he was most definitely the genuine article and there were no strings attached. I agreed whole heartedly, so honored to be a part of his movement towards relieving world hunger. I tried to applaud his efforts but he wouldn’t have any of it. He cut me off mid-sentence, thanked me, then modestly disappeared back into his workshop. I wondered how many starving tummies had received relief as a result of this noble man’s initiative. Needless to say, these earrings are very special to me.

There have been no real parties here due to the upcoming election. For the past month or two, there is no music past 10pm. I admit that I am really enjoying the tame environment and early nights. I have heard that Arambol can get pretty obnoxious in high season under normal circumstances with crazy parties almost every night. Since I have arrived, it’s been peaceful and chill with the only excitement being the nightly fireworks on the beach. Every night someone or other sets off anywhere from 5 minutes to a solid half hour light show. Try as I might, I can never resist. Wherever I am, I drop everything and run to the beach to watch…just like a kid. The only exception is when I am already in bed. That’s sacred space.

Grateful for ingenuity.

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Working hard – Arambol, India

Today the others rented scooters and went off to explore some beaches in the area. I opted to stay home and work on the book. It looks like I am not going to hit my target to publish it as I would have liked. My funding on Indie-Go-Go is still lagging far behind, only a month left and am not quite at a quarter of my target. However, I am so encouraged by those who have donated, I feel inspired to produce something. I have already got the ISBN for the book and somehow, that makes it feel really official.

To cut down on costs, I have decided to edit the book myself. I have my neighbor Raminta to thank for generously lending her netbook to finish this project. If there is anyone who knows a graphic artist who would be willing to work with me on the book cover, please let me know. Re-reading my travels been quite an enlightening process and I am happy to report I am more than half done. I haven’t gotten rid of anything because I want stay true to the authenticity of what was written. I am even leaving some of the grammatical errors and words I “invented” that are not in the dictionary. It was how I thought so I don’t see the need to “fix” it. I am nowhere near perfect and the book is a reflection of me. It’s been somewhat dreamlike to relive these moments and I find myself being transported back to these countries, as if it were yesterday. The best part is that I have remembered a cluster of stories that for some reason or another I didn’t put in the blog. Some are actually quite juicy and now that I have some time and distance, I feel more comfortable revealing them. I am producing something special here and I am feeling proud of what I am going to be putting out.

I have been staying really committed to my health over the past month. I have discovered some affordable sources of organic wheatgrass, spirulina, and stevia. It’s made my candida detox (a must after a round of those nasty antibiotics) that much easier to be able to sweeten my Tulsi Ginger tea with cinnamon and stevia. Besides copious amounts of tea, my diet of late consists of a lot of coconut milk yogurt, eggs, spinach soup, garlic veggies, tandoori chicken, and surprisingly tasty spinach/cucumber/mint/lemon juice. Oh and I can’t forget my beloved Lemonana. This is my new favorite drink. It’s a blend of fresh mint and lemons. I sweeten it with the Stevia powder and it is extremely refreshing. I am known to drink two or three a day while doing internet at the beach shack where I get free internet while overlooking the ocean.

Grateful for support.

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CocoLocals – Arambol, India

I have been waking earlier than the sun lately. It seems like I am doing well running on 4-5 hours sleep as I am not getting tired in the day. I lay in my bed listening to the animals and birds start their morning sing song. The melodic chirps, hoots, and chatters seem to harmonize into a sort of orchestra of nature in the seconds before the sun breaks. Then magnificently she splays her yellow lasers through the green palms gradually transforming the village into day. My room gets lit up only for the first hour of the day which is a real blessing as it stays cool. I have a ceiling fan but only used it once when the room got too smoky from burning incense.

After some yoga on the roof of our building, Minta and I had breakfast together. She ran next door to the store and picked up a small bag of curd ( aka. yogurt) for twelve rupees.  It’s a good idea when traveling in India to populate your stomach with friendly bacteria by eating some locally made yogurt every day. I made some oatmeal and cut up some papaya, mini banana, and orange for sweetness. We added my freshly sprouted baby mung beans to give it a crunchy nuttiness while boosting our nutritional intake. We sat on her floor munching away while we discussed the healthy habits she was learning about in her Ayurvedic course. 

I was reading my book (A Thousand Splendid Suns) when I heard some loud cracking thumps just outside my second floor window. One, two, then four or five in quick succession. I roused from my loungy reading space and peered out the window to see what the hullabaloo was all about. At first I was puzzled as  I couldn’t see anything strange and there was no one around. Then all at once, about a dozen young green coconuts rained from the sky like bullets pelting the earth in angry thuds. Ah, it is coconut day, I thought to myself as I watched the downpour of the sweet fruit hail from the trees overhead.

My window limited my view so I couldn’t actually see the men high up in the trees but I did hear them yelling once or twice something in Hindi. Apparently it wasn’t enough to warn the young European couple walking past on the path below. I watched in horror as three football sized nuts missed their unsuspecting noggins landing in a triangle around them. They covered their heads and jumped back reflexes quicker than lightening. Eyes pie wide they looked at each other in terrified disbelief realizing they had just narrowly cheated death by no more than five centimeters. What a way to go? I wonder how many people die each year from falling fruit. When considering the dangers of India, I certainly had not factored in this downfall.

I certainly do have my share of coconuts here as its only eighty rupees (less than two dollars) for a liter of coconut water. The man at the stall asks if they are for eating or drinking before selecting the appropriate nuts. When I answer “both”, he digs around for one that he thinks has sweet juice as well as a jellolike flesh inside. Then he whacks his razor sharp giant machete over the top slicing it like a hot knife through butter. He pours the nectar into a funnel over a recycled water bottle and then does it two more times. In the end, it usually takes three to fill a bottle and at least two have enough creamy flesh for a satisfying snack. He chops off a small shard to and sticks the homemade spoon/scraper into the nut handing it over with a smile. He loves his job.

The other day we were dining at our favorite thali place which happens to be right beside coconut man. British Rich who is a wealth of fascinating information, informed us matter of factly that one can hallucinate and go crazy from eating too many coconuts. I thought it sounded like an interesting experiment but lawyer-to-be Amber disagreed. She is still sore from the humbling realization that coconut juice is more like water than the thick sweet cream she expected.

 I am really enjoying my two British friends who I met at the dread place. The three of us now sport completely new looks and sympathize supportively when one of us gets the infuriating head itchies. We are not allowed to wash our hair for a month or it may all come undone. They moved into the room right above me and were meant to stay for only a couple days. It’s almost been a week and they seem to be pretty comfortable. They have even brought another friend, Aussie Jen, who has moved in next door. Slowly slowly, we are taking over this compound.

The massages have been happening every day and now we are onto face. I was amused yesterday when Shine (the teacher) innocently complimented me saying I was a fantastic “dummy”. I chuckled to myself and agreed that I do my best. I have fooled them into thinking I am not ticklish with my superhuman focus and powers of concentration thanks to my Vipassana training. All I have to do is lay there like a cadaver but sometimes it’s hard not to giggle when I pay attention to the conversation between him and Minta. And it’s all I can do not to correct his English. I have to bite my tongue every time he proclaims triumphantly “That IS” when I think he means “That’s right”. But at this point, I find it cute and have even caught myself saying “that is” a couple times. I did have to explain that he really couldn’t use the term “eye shadow” to refer to the area under the eye unless he really wanted to confuse his students and possibly offend his models. The vain part of me did look for dark circles under my eyes last night while I was brushing my teeth. Nope, no shadows or bags to be found. I am certainly de-stressed and well rested according to my complexion.

Grateful for coconuts.

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Happy Friday’s – Arambol, India

This morning I am feeling so positive. I woke to some man next door making the most god awful puking noises. It was so intrusive that I could hear him crystal clearly even through my ear plugs. After feeling annoyed for a short time, I began feeling compassion for him as he hacked up a lung. I thanked the Universe for my good health and sent some healing energy his way. And I thanked this poor man for helping reinforce my commitment to health by reminding me the consequences of smoking and drinking in excess.

I got up and decided today was a good day to clean my room. I changed the sheets and swept before I settled in for a fruitful yoga session. Isa gave me her old mat and it fits perfectly in front of my bed. Now fully awake and in my body, I had a shower to rinse off any of yesterdays residual sand or oil. I get another massage today so I want to be fresh for it. I have already drunk and entire thermos of Tulsi ginger tea. I had better stop imbibing liquids now or I will be on and off the table like a jack-in-the-box.

Dinner last night was edible but I don’t think I will ever go back to the Mexican place Bee’s Knees again. The food was only subpar and the service was atrocious. I tried to hail the server at one point and he just waved back cheekily ignoring my call. Plus we had to wait almost two hours for our food but we knew going in that their timing was exceptionally bad. Also never under any circumstances try a coffee lassie. I have no idea what I was thinking but after adding heaps of chocolate and sugar, I was able to choke it down.

Oh I just realized it’s Friday! Another reason to be happy. I have always loved Fridays. I used to so look forward to them when I worked in an office. All the fun things happened on Fridays and we were allowed to dress casual. The anticipatory energy about the upcoming weekend builds all the day and people are usually in high spirits. Even though I don’t work the nine to five anymore, I still feel the excitement in the air.

Grateful for experiencing higher energy levels.

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Best Job Ever: Massage Model – Arambol, India

This morning I lazed in bed for a while since I had a bit of a broken sleep last night. Even though I went to bed early, I had a hard time finding a comfortable place for my head. These hard pillows are no longer tolerable with my new do. I had a sensitive scalp to begin with so it has been trying but I imagine these dreads will toughen it up a bit. Plus there was a cockroach the size of a small dog that jumped on me when I went to the bathroom in the night. I trapped it under the trash bin and in the morning the houseman took it out using my pink flip flops as makeshift tweezers. This thing was massive!

 I went to my favorite juice place and ordered my usual. I get a glass of thick papaya (30 rupees) and a glass of refreshing healthy carrot (25 rupees), no ice no sugar, and then I dump them both into my thermos which has ice in it already. Sometimes I go crazy and get mango or pineapple but it always tastes amazing. I know the produce is always fresh because I see them run across the lane to buy it from the fruit guy right after I order. It can take up to an hour to finally get my sweet nectar but honestly, it’s the best deal in town. I feel like I am getting healthier by the minute.

Minta (my Lithuanian neighbor) has started a month long Ayurvedic course which includes massage. She needs a model to work on and I happily obliged. Oh the things I do for my friends 😉 So almost every day I get a couple hours of very slippery massage, sometimes four hands working on me at once. The room temperature is just right and I am so glad they don’t have a fan. All I get to wear is this very primitive brown paper g-string which believe me, is not very sexy. A part of me wonders why we even bother with the paper underwear as the young male teacher is always having to adjust it. I dealt with my shyness today when they did front massage. There is nothing covering my girls but honestly, it wasn’t really sensual so I didn’t feel weird at all. They use more than a cup of oil on me a day so you can imagine how soft my skin is getting.

I am feeling almost completely over my respiratory infection and am just about finished my meds. I will be glad to be over them because I hate taking pills. I am so protective of my health now that I will leave a place if it is too smoky and am quite particular whose hand I will shake. If I don’t have my health, I have nothing. Another reason I have decided to dread my hair is the commitment it takes. It’s a reminder of the high level of self care that I am working towards. It is important for me to stay clean inside and out or my dreads will hold the memory, if not show it outwardly. Everyone has seen someone with nasty stinky dreadhead adding more credence to the term “dirty hippy”. Well that will never be me.

Tonight we go for Isa’s going away dinner then I will join the Brit couple and Vicky for a thankyou dinner. Better space out my eating. I think I will go for a walk on the beach beforehand to work up a bit of an appetite. I am feeling a little down about the Burning Man ticket lottery and want to process these feelings I have about the direction this affair seems to be going. A lot of hardcore more than decade longer Burners I know did not get “chosen” and I have to question if I even want to go if all my favorite people won’t be there. It’s beginning to feel like an elitist event and that goes against my morals and values. I am all for change and evolution but something feels off so I need to explore whether I want to contribute my energy to what it is becoming.

Grateful for being a massage model.

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