Sunday, November 27, 2011

In Situ

 **This title is from an amazing art exhibit I saw today; Besty Cain's 'In Situ'    

     The Rover has indeed returned, although I sense the adventure is far from over so I will be continuing to blog from Georgia. We must start though with my last day in London. As I mentioned, immediately after clicking the ‘Publish This Post’ button I headed straight for the Gerhard Richter exhibit at the Tate Modern. Although I was completely prepared to either be Daniel Cortez, (saying they obviously misspelled Danielle) or say that he was my boyfriend, Danny was right…they do not even look at the card. This was without a shadow of a doubt one of the top five greatest art exhibits I have ever seen! (Ron Mueck, Robert Mapplethorpe, the Degas from earlier in the week, and Anthony Goicolea) My prior Richter knowledge was slight, knowing only his abstract ‘squeegee” paintings. His work is absolutely stunning though and so varied. He is not a one note artist by any stretch. For most of it, I had to keep rereading ‘Oil on Canvas’ to truly believe they were NOT photographs. There is one in particular of his daughter, Betty, her head turned away and wearing a red and white flowered jumper. Not only does it look like a photo but you can actually feel the texture of her sweatshirt….unbelievable! Thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you Danny for the use of your member card! I coasted out of there on big fluffy clouds of happy and inspired. I then made my way to the Natural History Museum where I saw the Wildlife Photographer of the Year exhibit…..more fluffy clouds of happy. That happy slowly started to turn sad however as the evening set in and Eddie and I went to Raj’s for my farewell dinner. Milo was there, and I was definitely not the Nepalese surprise he would ever have expected. We shocked the hell out of him when I walked in, he almost didn’t recognize me out of context for a brief second. Raj’s dinner of Duck Delicioso (my term not his) was heavenly, spicy and full of heart. Later, he even did himself one better as he laid a black plastic bag in front of me. Inside was a huge bag of peanut M&Ms and several photos of him in wooden masks, a fur trimmed hood, and a butcher knife….super creepy! He remembered a conversation we’d had back at Halloween. I made a comment about being sad to miss it, and he made several somewhat disparaging comments about not understanding it. As tends to happen with me, my face gave away my feelings and he felt he had offended me by scoffing at one of my favorite holidays. Once he got back to London, he went on to read the Halloween blog where I made the request of someone saving me some of my favorite candy. I should say here that Raj is not ‘online’ at all. Yes, he has a computer but he never uses it. He does not even have email. Yet he took the time to get on and read the ramblings of lil’ ol’ me! In my book, that is a huge compliment!!! He not only willingly ventured into those virtually uncharted waters of cyberspace, but he took the time to dress up, have photos taken and actually have them developed…..AND buy my favorite candy. I was completely blown away. While it may sound simple, it truly is one of the most thoughtful gestures I’ve ever received. Raj, if you’re still reading these…. THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU!!!!! I was not able to say to either Raj or Eddie everything that I wanted to because I was so overwhelmed that last night. There was almost too much to say, and I knew I wasn’t able to properly articulate my heart. I wasn’t even able to fully express to Riccardo back in September the depth of my gratitude and appreciation. My cup runneth over…..
     I left Ed’s flat at 8:30 Thursday morning, and arrived at Gary’s house, our Modern Family Thanksgiving dinner 8:30 that evening. My mom met me at the airport with hugs of pride, relief and unconditional love. My niece Kathryn, 10 going on 16, 6” taller, sassy and beautiful practically knocked me down with the force of her hug. I barely made it out of the car. Once inside the house, my 12yr old nephew Nathan immediately followed suit and soon I had acquired two new appendages, preteens coming out of either hip. My brilliant and beautiful big sister cried and held me tight. Then when we finally made it back to Wendy's house, I walked into the kitchen to find the most elaborate Welcome Home sign expertly designed, colored and glitterized by Katie Bug herself and signed by the whole family, complete with 4 balloons.  My most favorite part of the sign was the fact that both Katie and Nathan signed their first AND last name….you know, just in case I forgot or needed clear distinction from all the other Kathryns and Nathans in my life. They turned the TV room upstairs into my very own guestroom complete with another giant bag of peanut M&Ms, a brand new fluffy robe, and a basket full of fantastically girly toiletries. Chest tight, heart bursting….The love fest continued the next day as my niece, in order to settle once and for all our dispute over which of us loves the other more, made me a Keynote (think Power Point PC peeps) presentation on her iPad on why nieces naturally and historically love their aunts the most-iostest…… Hello!???? Effin’ adorable!!! It was my Facebook status for the day as I was a sloppy puddle of heart melted goo. Even my nephew has not tired of hugging me yet which I am completely soaking up because sooner than I would like he will be 13 and embarrassed by the very thought of us.

    But how am I doing with being back you ask? Wwwwweeeeellllll, it’s going to be a process… I am certainly happy to be with my family, be back on familiar soil, and make it back to L.A at the end of December. That being said, the last three months was probably the happiest I’ve ever been. Sure I had ups and down, moments of desperate homesickness, etc but I loved every minute of it!! I felt safe, alive, creative, confident, beautiful, LOVED, and magical. My dream job would be to be paid to travel and write, and then dance/perform when I’m home…. or better yet, be paid to travel and write AND travel and dance!! If Rina will still have me, I have the dance part covered. Now I just need to get the paid writing/travel part squared away…… Manifestation skills…..ON! The uncertainty of my life back in L.A makes being back a little more challenging as well. I’m not panicking or dwelling on it unneccesarily, but still…..There’s obviously the sad state of my financial affairs, current lack of job, and recently a little bird who has it on good authority told me that my landlords may give me notice upon my return. Yes, that would be notice to vacate. Apparently, they feel like they don’t know me well enough, that I seem too quiet and aloof. Ummmm, excuse me for a second while I say, ‘”Fuck that!” Oh gawd forbid I be a tenant that pays her rent 3 days early, in cash usually but is too quiet and keeps to herself! How terrible! What’s wrong with me?! Also since when do tenants and landlords need to be best friends? I DO talk to them when I run into them around the house. I'm more upset because I am soooo tired of hearing this, and equally tired of apologizing for it. In fact, I'm done apologizing. I can't please everyone all the time and I don't care to try. Yes, I am naturally a quiet and introverted individual but just talk to me and you'd see that I'm really quite lovely! DO NOT MAKE ASSUMPTIONS people! 
Anywho, nothing is for sure but that makes coming back to my home, what is supposed to be a safe haven, a little less inviting. Like I said, I’m not panicking because if I’m not meant to stay in that apartment then something better will show up. This whole trip was meant to shake up my life and shift things and this could be all part of that plan. Surrender and trust..... surrender and trust, and breathe!

    In the meantime, I've quenched my craving for the Southern staple 'Low Country Boil',  watched a great game between Ohio State and Michigan (even though OSU lost), started a new poetography book, saw 2 amazing art exhibits at the Jepson Center today with mom; Betsy Cain and Anthony Giacolea and baked the kids my famously delicious vegan chocolate chip cookies. Today's other highlight was getting to Skype with Eddie, not only because I miss him and miss talking about our days, but also because it was a minor sort of miracle. He's someone very resistant to technology shall we say, but today I took his Skype virginity, a direct quote :-) The day before I left we converted him from an old and very slow desktop to a newer and faster laptop....then he actually went out ON HIS OWN to get a webcam for the very purpose of Skyping! It was so fantastic to see him and the flat I know so well in the background. It made me feel a little less far away from my London home. While asking about how it felt to be back, he reminded me to not lose my 'fire' or the 'magic'... to fight to keep it alive. Talking to him really 'fed' me and gave me a boost for the rest of my day. Thank you Ed! 

    Tomorrow the kids return to school and Mom, Wendy and Bob are all back to work. While I will start looking for my own work back in L.A shortly, this week I plan on rereading all these blogs and making some headway on compiling them into this book fantasy I've been carrying around for 3 months.  

A very big shout out goes to 'Chelle because
TODAY IS HER BIRTHDAY!!!!!
Happy Birthday my luff!!

"Love is, is too weak a word for what I feel - I lurve you, you know, I loave you, I luff you, two F's, yes I have to invent...." Woody Allen -Annie Hall


Also, I have a temporary cell# while in Savannah: 
912-358-9211
XOXOXOXOXOXOXOX

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Homeward Bound...The Rover Returns



       Today is my last day in London, at least for a little while. Yesterday, Eddie and I spent the day meandering the halls of the National Gallery, the Portrait Gallery, and watching the last day of the Australia/South Africa cricket match. This sport fascinates me for several reasons; it's soooo civilized, I mean they actually break for tea!, it requires ALOT of patience to watch as it can last 5 days, and it upsets my American pastime mentality. 
We had a great time and were totally on the same page at the galleries as to when to linger and when to cruise past yet another room of religious art. It took me a whole week to crack that English exterior, but this American finally broke him down, haha! When you're still getting to know someone, you naturally spend a lot of time reading each other and negotiating boundaries. It's easy to end up following one another's lead and being too polite instead of just having a conversation where you put all the cards out on the table. It was nice to clear the air so to speak, even if it came at the end of the trip....better late than never! The National Gallery was really superb, especially their Impressionist collection, and more than made up for the bad taste the Tate Modern left in my mouth. The Modern's permanent collection really left something to be desired. It felt too contained. I like my modern art to be bold, loud, passionate, even if it's "ugly" I want to hear its voice. And unfortunately, I couldn't rationalize the 16 quid to see the Gehard Richter exhibit. However, Danny (one of the Kathmandu crew) came over to Ed's last night to hang out and lent me his member card.... winning! As soon as I publish this post, I'm headed back that direction. This evening, at least as of right now, we are headed over to Raj's for my farewell dinner. Raj is a brilliant chef!!!! We ate dinner there Monday night after the 3 of us went to see Snowtown (the movie about the Australian murders...damn!), and he randomly whipped up an off the cuff creation of deliciousness! I think Milo will join us, he doesn't even know I'm here because he's been out of town but Raj informed him he had a Nepalese surprise for him.....

     Then tomorrow at 9am I will be headed to Heathrow, as I am finally making my way back home....It's amazing actually, that I've been away from the States since Aug 29. All my experiences at the same time feel like ages ago and 5 minutes ago. It will be bittersweet to leave London. Bitter, not only because of who I'm leaving but also because it means the international part of this adventure has come to its end. And who knows when I will get to journey back out...hopefully 'same time next year.' There are people and places that I'm already desperately missing. I have olive trees to tend to and an Italian knight's company to bask in, in Mompeo. I have Nepali festivals and family to enjoy in Kathmandu. 
Sweet, because more love than I can comprehend is awaiting me not only in Savannah but back home in L.A. I should say though, that I have experienced nothing but love these past 3 months. It has renewed my faith in humanity certainly. There will be more to say about all this once I'm back on home turf and have time to process everything. 
Hopefully I don't have the same sort of flight fiasco that I did in trying to leave Kathmandu. If all goes according to plan, I will land in Savannah, GA at 7:07pm EST and 4:07pm Pacific. 

       I just received the Thanksgiving Day plan from my mom, and we have apparently become a very modern family. My mom, my sister, my brother in law, my nephew and niece, my sister’s father and stepmom, her 2 brothers and their wives and kids. Phew! Confused? Here’s some brief backstory and family history for those who do not know; my sister (Wendy) and I are 11 years apart and have different fathers. Our mother, Amy, and Wendy’s dad, Gary, divorced when she was still very young, 5 or 6. Gary remarried Elizabeth and they had 2 sons who are my age, Michael and William. Gary and Elizabeth recently left Atlanta and moved to Savannah to be closer to their kids and grandkids. My mom left Arizona in June and also has moved back to Savannah. I say ‘back’ because she and Gary were living in Savannah just prior to their split. While Michael and William have always been lovely and welcoming toward my mother, in the past my sister unfortunately has had to split her time between her parents. Now though it sounds like there has also been a lot of ‘healing’ between my mom and Gary, and they’ve all hung out together on various occasions…. which I think is brilliant! See… we can all get along! So from the airport I'm headed over to Gary and Elizabeth’s for the big dinner. Obviously, the only person missing from this bizarrely fantastic scenario will be MY father, Bruce. Love you Dad!!! I will call you tomorrow!

      For my Cali constituents, we're making progress in the time difference, only 3 hours :-) Since I will still be without my cell, I am going to look into a super simple 'pay as you go' so we can talk and text like civilized folk, LOL! Enough of this Skype crap, I miss my peeps and want to be able to talk to you normally AND whenever I feel like it! :-) In the meantime, I can give those who want it my sister's home number. Let me know.

HAPPY THANKSGIVING EVERYONE!
I am thankful for each and every one of you!!!

XOXOXOXO


Dirty South....here I come! :-)

Monday, November 21, 2011

"Look kids; Big Ben, Parliament"

       I managed to see and do quite a lot so far in the short time I've been in London. I saw two fantastic plays, (Jumpy and Shalom Baby! Shalom Baby! being my favorite) saw Twilight on opening day because I am as one friend aptly remarked a “Nherd” but will make up for that by seeing a film about serial murder, Snowtown, I've fallen in love with the Underground, enjoyed a bit of steeple chase horse racing at Royal Ascot, saw a brilliant Degas exhibit and am off to the Tate Modern today. And above all I've gotten to spend some quality time with Eddie and Raj. For me, a very basic but honest test of the ease and rapport of a relationship is if you can sit in silence comfortably for at least 30 minutes....and one of my favorite days was spent on the couch yesterday with Ed before lunch with friends watching cricket and then after both silently enduring the likes of Antique Roadshow and Garrow's Law before happily settling on American Dad and Family Guy. It was so simple but felt so deliciously comfortable, like I'd known this person for years and not just a mere 4 weeks. 

    However, I don’t know if there will be a word for my time in London, I don’t think I'm here long enough for one to surface. London seems to be a very short Chapter 1 in Part III, or more of an introduction really. There's been no romance, which was a scenario many of you (including me to a certain degree) had in the back of your minds, ahem… you know who you are as do I....girls :-) since according to Elizabeth's journey, Part III was LOVE. And I was too limited financially to really throw myself into the London scene as I would’ve really liked, i.e reestablish my reputation as a concert whore and dance critic.  
    What I've noticed the most or rather was reminded of is the decorum shall we say of the English, their reserve. (And I mean absolutely no disrespect by saying that)  I do realize that in most big cities people seem to keep to themselves more, but the energetic feels very different here. It’s so palpable that it makes me want to go on a hugging spree. Early on, I made it my mission to smile at as many people as I could without looking like an insane clown. I can see why it’s said that London can be a very lonely city. You can be shoulder to shoulder on the Underground, but still feel completely separate and removed. In the States, people would at least catch your eye and nod in acknowledgment. I've suddenly become starved for hugs. Thankfully, Raj always hugs me when he sees me otherwise I’d go completely crazy. And actually even Ed broke down and gave me a hug last night. It's made me realize and truly appreciate the amount of effusiveness I am accustomed to back home. I have occasion several times a day to give and receive hugs and tell my family and my friends I love them... and vice versa. I’ve been blessed to be surrounded by the most incredible, generous and fascinating people these past 3 months but there was always a definite line of personal space (physical and emotional) which I absolutely understand and respect, and did not want to prematurely cross. But I realize now how open my heart has become; I've become someone that needs hugs and to proclaim my “love”.  I really do love each and every one of the people that have been brought into my life since Aug 29. Ok, maybe not Marco and Caterina from the first farm or the asshole at Heathrow Immigration, but everyone else. This realization and visceral reaction is no small thing, but a sign of major progress for me, because for a long time I was the uber reserved one. I was very cut off and held everyone at a safe distance physically and emotionally with the help of my self-imposed ‘bar flaps’. As I'm writing and processing all this,  maybe my time in London is about LOVE after all. Unfortunately though for my family that means I’m probably going to smother them that first week of being home. I can hear my niece and nephew now, “Ugh! Aunt Cooooouuuurtnnneeeey….not another hug!” and “Yeaaaaa, we knoooow…you love us…we got it, geeeez!"

     And let me say it here in the safety of the written word (in the order that I met you) that:
I LOVE YOU
Riccardo
Kylie
Prajunna
Usha
Prasana
Shanta
Prem
Raj
Eddie
Milo
The General
Sunita
Shiva
Sashi
Miss Margarita
Passang
Roger

….and now let me warn you that the next time we meet you will just have to endure a regular shower of my affection ;-) ... there are worse things I suppose, hahaha




...Also, it is official that I am returning to the States ON Thanksgiving. I will be in Savannah, GA 7:07pm (EST) on the 24th, just in time for dinner :-)
-------------------------------------------------------------------------



Trafalgar Square








"Look kids, Big Ben"




Strolling in St. James Park




Buckingham Palace














The Royal Academy of Arts where I saw 2 brilliant exhibits; 
Degas and one about Soviet architecture




Saturday at the races; Royal Ascot








I didn't bet but my pick for the first race WON....and in each subsequent race my pick placed in the top 3 :-)

Valid Reason

Friday, November 18, 2011

Changing course.....again

     I said a very difficult but temporary goodbye to the Singh family on Sunday the 13th. I cried as we were all standing at the car, it took us all by surprise but I couldn’t help it and whether they liked it or not, I pulled them each into a big hug. It was the best decision in the history of decisions to leave the Vipassana early and spend the rest of my time with them….really getting to know them, realizing we have more in common than either side probably ever expected, and sharing a lot of laughter!! Please visit Shivapuri Village if you are ever in Kathmandu for a truly rejuvenating and infinitely rewarding experience: http://www.shivapuri.com.np/nationalpark.php

Cut to the airport:
     While in the ridiculously long and painfully slow immigration line, I met Roger, who would end up being the greatest travel companion ever. Seeing how the line was not moving, I asked him for the time. We ended up talking about our reasons for being in Nepal. Turns out he’d been on a reconnaissance trip of sorts as he is in the process of organizing a trip up Everest for 25 people in April that will end up supporting Nepali charities. He’s good friends with Kenton Cool, a guy who’s done Everest numerous times, and is being trained by his trainer. He was so lovely and funny that we just kept chatting all the way into the waiting lounge. He bought me coffee, water and shared his Toblerone. The day then took a very unexpected turn, due to ‘fog’ apparently all flights were delayed. I say it with quotes because flights were still landing and some taking off, so to us it felt like a totally bullshit excuse. Our flight was delayed 4 ½ hours, meaning we’d already missed the Doha to London connection. They served lunch for everyone, so we split a beer and continued to chat away the hours. He told me all about the upcoming expedition, his job, his 16yr old daughter, and his girlfriend who’s spent a month in Africa at a lion sanctuary. Please visit their website to learn more the trek: www.sjp.co.uk/everest2012 Like everyone else I’ve met on this trip, there was such a sense of ease and familiarity that we became fast friends. I enjoyed his company and laughed so much that what ended up being a 14 hour delay was not only no big deal, but a real pleasure. Thank you Roger Owen for such brilliant company!!

    I finally made it to London at 12pm on Nov 14, where I was greeted at Immigration by a Grade A asshole. He responded to my friendly hello and charming smile with a quizzical brow, a shake of the head, and the kind of smirk characteristic of a bona fide dick. I have a sneaking suspicion my American accent did not help my case. Immediately he latched on to my listed occupation as an artist; Dancer/Writer ( I should’ve remembered to just put Massage Therapist) and began grilling me about what I was doing here, the amount of money in my account, how could I prove it, who I was staying with, how long I'd known them, what they did for a living, and when I was leaving. Each answer I gave he seemed not to believe, and gave me such glowering looks of suspicion and distaste that I thought I was about to escorted to a separate room for a session of proper water-boarding. I did not like his snarky, superior attitude and copped one to match, "I see your piss poor condescending attitude and raise you one." ....which I realize was not the wisest move, but look, I can be sweet as pie or you can risk opening a serious can of Bitchy McFierce. Your choice. He ended up writing a novel of notes about me on the back of my form while seriously considering whether or not to let me in the country. Dude, really?!
         Luckily, Raj and Eddie were awaiting me on the other side with generous smiles, hugs, an Oyster card for the Underground, and a spare ticket to a play that evening.  Ah, Love!  The play that night, called Jumpy, was fantastic and in a super rad theater space…. made me really want to be up on the stage. :-) The next day, the three of us plus their friend Bernie did a bit of bus hopping and sight-seeing. That night, we went out for burgers (Thank Gawd!) where I got to meet Danny, one of the other Shivapuri regulars I’d heard so much about and a super sweet guy.

     While I physically arrived on Monday, it took me till Wednesday to arrive mentally and emotionally as well. I had Wednesday (and Thursday) all to myself to find my feet, master the Underground, and really get my bearings. I’ve realized my pattern is that it takes me 3-4 days to react to my new surroundings and settle in. But since I’ve been gone from the States for almost 3 months now and have lived through several different chapters of this journey, frankly I’m running out of steam. This became clear on Wednesday, and I began to wonder about being here for an entire 18 days. It felt daunting in a way. There are almost too many options of things to see and do in this city; their Time Out magazine (like L.A Weekly) sent me spinning. I've flipped through it 4 or 5 times and still can't seem to absorb any of it. London is a very expensive city and because I was initially supposed to be farming and not spending any money, I’m more than a bit limited. 
Also it takes a certain kind and amount of energy to continually be a guest, and live out of a backpack.  That’s in no way saying that I haven’t felt more than welcome in all my various homes on this trip, because I have. (Eddie has told me several times to really make myself at home and leave my mark) but it’s still someone else’s space that they are generously allowing me to inhabit. Then seeing all the holiday decorations, I became quite sad at the thought that I would soon be missing Thanksgiving. I walked around with all these feelings and thoughts on Wednesday without over analyzing any of them, just acknowledging them and allowing my truth to surface. Then upon checking my email Thursday morning, I learned that for various reasons I would not be receiving the money I was expecting from my sub letters for December. That seemed to seal the deal.  It’s not that I was allowing finances to make my decision, but the truth is that without that cushion I really can’t afford to stay the 18 days.  It was the extra nudge I needed I suppose. I’m fairly certain this is the first of many visits either here, in Nepal or even possibly in L.A. which is the only thing that makes foreshortening the time with Eddie and Raj a smidge easier.... because it will certainly be hard to say goodbye next week.

     There's a part of me that thinks I must be crazy for going back to the States to spend a month with my family in Georgia. There's a bigger part though that says it will be quite nourishing because the reality of my 'real life' will be waiting for me as soon as I step off that plane in Savannah; the bleakness of my bank account, the fact that my rent will be due 3 days after returning to L.A, and my lack of a job... so having their support and unconditional love as I reacclimate will be a gawd-send. If I'm being 100% honest, going back scares me a bit....ok, quite a bit. I'm scared that the magic that has been with me throughout this whole journey may not follow me home. What if it was just some kind of 'International Magic' plan that doesn't have coverage in the United States?!  *sigh* 
I realize that I have no choice really but to just surrender and trust that it will, because so far that's the formula that seems to get the best signal :-)

     In other news, I'm writing this in a Costa Coffee (because apparently I drink coffee now, or at least while travelling... go figure) after just having seen Twilight; Breaking Dawn Part 1.....very exciting! And tonight Eddie, Raj and I are headed to see another play with 2 of their friends which is equally exciting.

So that's where I'm at ...... 

XOXOXOXO


Saturday, November 12, 2011

Ok, I was wrong....THIS is the last Nepal entry :-)

     I had a fantastic last day of sightseeing!! I headed to the Buddhist disctrict to see Boudhanath (pronounced Bo-da), one of the holiest Buddhist stupas in Nepal, and it’s ginormous! While walking around, I recognized a woman from the Vipassana meditation, Susanna from Germany.  She and I were actually had been the first ones to arrive the first day for registration, and got to talking while we waited. She was glad to see me because she obviously noticed I had left, and I was curious to know what her experience had been. She actually really enjoyed it. I'm not surprised though, I remember seeing her sit in the next row and a few seats up, she never moved. Gawd bless her! It was both of our last days to sight-see and she was headed to Pashupatinath after the stupa and invited me to join her. 
"Pashupatinath Temple is regarded as the most sacred temple of Hindu Lord Shiva in the world, Pashupatinath Temple's existence dates back to 400 A.D. Thousands of pilgrims from all over the world come to pay homage to this temple, that is also known as 'The Temple of Living Beings."

     But the most interesting part is that it's located on the Bagmati River and is where they perform their cremations.... which you can actually sit and watch from the opposite bank. We saw 4 of them. It was amazing! (No, it did not smell like anything other than a giant bonfire) I took pictures which I've included, but if you're squeamish if may wanna bypass them. I however, found it truly beautiful and emotionally rich. I personally prefer the idea of cremation to burial. It was especially powerful to see it done outside, and see the smoke carry the spirit on to their next life as it's believed. If I had not run into Susanna I never would have known to go there.... love it!


Boudhanath





You walk around a stupa clockwise
and spin the prayer wheels





Pashupatinath









People chillin' with some sacred cows














By 10:oopm tomorrow I will be in London thus beginning Part III :-)


Till next time, XOXOXO

Friday, November 11, 2011

   I've had a very fun, relaxing and productive last few days. Prajunna's good friend came to visit from Darjeeling, and he was delightful! The three of us went out one night for a bit of window shopping, beers, snacks, good conversation and lots of laughing. 
Since I am the queen of bartering, I managed to do a wee bit o Christmas shopping for the fam as well as ship all my shorts and tank tops back to the States (since it's only in the 40s and 50s in London) all for under $100... probably only about $85! Score! Totally winning! 


    Today is only Saturday, I don’t leave for London till 12:55p on Sunday. However, today is 11/11/11 and is in my mind a very auspicious day.
( http://www.numerology.com/numerology-news/11-11-11-meaning-numerology
I, like probably many of you, make a wish whenever the time reads 11:11. I keep wishing for the whole minute, and today we get 1440 minutes of wishes!! AND 1440 adds up to 9, a very powerful number in numerology. In my pranayama sessions, all the number combinations of the breath cycles added up to 9….no coincidence there :-)  I won’t bore you with all the woo-woo details, so look it up if you’re truly curious. I’m choosing to write my last Nepal entry today because this trip (so far) has been one continuous string of wishes come true,  most of which I did not even think to make. It has morphed and evolved into something beyond what I could have ever imagined in the beginning.


     I think the word for Part II is Community…. because Family almost feels too immediate, too limited. Community is more accurate because it’s more expansive, all encompassing.  There were of course elements of Pray and Retreat, but the wisdom and beauty of my Italian experience clung to me tightly as this Nepali group of people completely adopted me. …. and I let them!
     Having a sister 11 years older, I was more or less like an only child. And being quite a serious kid, I have always erred on the side of quiet and solitary. Being alone has never bothered me, often times I prefer it but if one is not careful it’s becomes like a coat of armor….at least it did for me.  I also have had an issue of trust since childhood; trusting others, the universe, sometimes even myself. Until recently, within the last year or so, I rarely, if ever, asked for help of any kind. I commended myself for my ability to suffer in silence, tough it out, and go it alone.  In Italy, in order to leave that unfavorable situation of the first farm, I had no choice but to ask for help. I had to swallow any sort of stupid pride and email a man I barely knew and ask him to rescue me, plain and simple.  And he did! Riccardo is not only a gentleman and a scholar, he is a true Italian knight in shining armor accompanied by the equally regal sidekick Baldo. To know that I could return to Mompeo at any time and be welcomed with open arms is a gift of which I almost feel unworthy. Riccardo (and his animal menagerie) are the first members of this new family I seem to be creating.
     The same goes for my time here. I have seen next to nothing of this country or even Kathmandu itself because my time was either spent in Shivapuri, at the meditation center or here at Prem’s house…. but I have fallen in love with Nepal because of the people I’ve met.  These people just tucked me into their lives without a second thought, thus tucking themselves deep into my heart. We all laugh now because at first they all thought I was very aloof (the story of my life) and wanted to be left alone because I was practicing yoga, etc and writing all the time.  Both sides have hilarious versions of one another’s first impression.  We’ve come a long way since that first week; Prassana and I discussing culture, religion and politics, Prajunna and I watching episodes of True Blood, hanging with The General, and drinking Johnnie Walker Black while watching Prem and Co. play cards.  The Singh family motto seems to be all about making friends over money, creating network and lifelong relationships. I have no doubt this was my first trip of many, and September is my return date goal. I see now why Raj, Eddie and all the rest of their friends have been coming back for so many years. Yep, Nepal’s word is definitely Community.
    And in a day and a half, that community is taking me to London to once again knock on the doors of people I would certainly call friends, but who I still hardly know.  This is so surreal! I have no idea why South Africa fell apart and/or why diverting to London was so easy that it was literally served on a silver platter. I am excited, but honestly at the same time equal parts nervous because this is sooooo out of left field and so not a part of the original plan. That being said, I’m shutting down all the ‘What if’ scenarios as soon as they surface because learning to just ride the wave has clearly served me quite well so far.

     Now here's an interesting kicker, as I was thinking about all these amazing people, it suddenly occurred to me that they are all men .... Riccardo, Prajunna, Prassana, Prem, Prem's friends (Sashi, Sheeva (sp?)) The General, Raj, and Eddie. Some of them are married and the women are lovely and equally kind, especially Prajunna's wife Usha, but I just did not develop the same sort of connection. On the whole, I've had less interaction with women on this trip, save my frequent check-ins with Mom and Rochelle, and my fabulous Roman weekend with Muriel! (for which I am still enjoying the memories and am humbly grateful!!)
I guess I really should not be surprised. I have a very small handful of women in my life as is, and those friendships have really only come into the forefront and become my mainstays in recent years. Almost as a rule I always had more guy friends... I'm lucky to know some really great guys back home!! 
On Raj and Milo's last night, several of Prem's friends came over and we were all sitting around drinking and shooting the shit and one of them asked me if I felt uncomfortable being the only female. He seemed impressed I could hold my own and hang with the boys. 
    Allora, It was just an interesting 'Aha' moment that I thought I'd share because unfortunately in Western society (or maybe it's just America) men get such a bad rap....they're selfish pigs, etc. The truth is though that men are incredibly generous people, happy to give and share if really given the opportunity and space to do so! Riccardo is one of the most thoughtful men I've ever met and a true animal whisperer that would probably take in every stray he found. The Singh men have such sweet and deep connection to their wives and are 100% hands on with their kids. I will learn more about Eddie and Raj soon, but I already know they have hearts of gold. We women need to let down our guard a bit more sometimes and let them in. Remember my realization of there being strength in vulnerability? Now sure there are men that are selfish pigs, assholes, liars, etc....I've even met a few, but I've met a few of those women too! 
I don't know why I'm surrounded by such amazing men on this trip, but who cares I'm just grateful because I've never felt so safe and taken care of in my life.



http://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.10150435723368474.418666.770763473&type=1&l=7370d99e85

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

London Calling

     As I mentioned in my last post, the South African horse ranch could no longer host me, and the 2nd farm previously said he did not need me till December. Right away my heart said, " Go to London!" But I emailed Brett at Mountainview Organics anyway seeing if he would be willing or able to take me early and for the 3 weeks I would be there. Then while talking to Rochelle, the truth came out. I was really hoping that he didn't need me, and if he did the only reason I would even go at that point is because of the money....the ticket was already paid for, and with the work exchange everything else would be taken care of. As soon as the words came out of my mouth, we both laughed and she said, "Yeeeeaaaa you're going to London..... and so it is" 


   Yada, yada, yada... a day of online research and a phone call to Cheap Tickets, I was not able to change my existing ticket since it was a partially used one way. (Rome to Kathmandu and then Kathmandu to Cape Town) I would have to buy a brand new ticket... not only to London but back to the States.....ouch! But my heart still kept saying, " London, London, London". I double and triple-checked with Eddie that it would be okay to do a bit of couch surfing and reassured him (and Raj) that I would be the world's best guest. He sent back, "Don't worry bout a thing....cause every thing is gonna be alright" ..... and that sealed the deal. I let go of the financial fear factor completely. Prajunna and Prassana immediately started making calls to their travel agency connections to get me the very best deal. I went to bed that night with a smiling heart.


   This morning I woke up to send another email to Brett amending my previous request and a response from him was already there saying that he currently had 3 WWOOFers, and while he felt terrible my plans had fallen through he could not afford to host anyone else...at least not till the middle of December. I just laughed. I then called Cheap Tickets again to cancel my one way from CPT back to the States...and as it turned out I was able to get a FULL refund! I couldn't believe it. I was convinced that at most I would get a credit with Turkish Airlines to be able to use within the year, I never in a million years expected to get my money back! Talk about validation! The guy even said that if I call back the next morning to cancel the leg of the trip to CapeTown from here that he was fairly sure I would be refunded that amount as well. Are you kidding me?! Fan-fucking-tastic!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
THEEEENNNNNN after breakfast, Prajunna found me a ticket from Kathmandu to London to Savannah for almost $300 less than the total of my refund! I just got back from the travel agency, E ticket to Heathrow burning a hole in my pocket! I haven't stopped smiling all day! 


    From Day 1 of planning this trip, South Africa for various reasons has been sketchy. You may remember in most of those early posts, when all the Italian and Nepal plans fell right into place I was always saying that South Africa was still up in the air. I had to keep pushing at it, and yet I wasn't able to let it go. While I wasn't able to let it go, at the same time the closer I got I really couldn't see myself there. I was supposed to start taking my Malaria antibiotics on Nov 1st, but I didn't because I just had this feeling I wasn't going. 


   This is the most perfect way for me to start Part III, the 'LOVE' part of my adventure. A few of you may know how much I love England, the UK in general, but especially England. The first time I stepped off the plane I felt I had come home (except of course for my stupid American accent that makes me feel like a country bumpkin) There is an old and deep resonance there for me....I can feel the energy of past lives. I remember sitting on the plane with my mother after my first trip and crying like a child because I had to leave.... But now I want to cry tears of joy because I get to return....
I have no idea why this is all working out as it is...... but I don't care because I am soooo happy and so grateful! 



     I arrive in London this Sunday the 13th and will depart for the States on Dec 2.... I did not want to outstay my welcome right off the bat and 2 weeks felt appropriate...... but who knows? If I've learned nothing else from this whole trip, I've learned to STAY OPEN! 




XOXOXOXOXOXOXO

Monday, November 7, 2011

Rebel, Rebel....

Disclaimers:
  • I am in no way judging the technique of Vipassana and it is not my intention to be disrespectful, but you know me I gotta tell it like it is.
  • There are parts that may be T.M.I … sorry, but crucial for the full effect.
  • For my international readers, note the American reference re: McRuff the crime dog... cartoon and mascot used to teach kids safety, etc




Vipassana Drop-Out
Dropped Out & Black-Listed 


    This is an idea of the T-shirt I'm planning on designing and wearing with pride! As most of you have either heard directly from me or via my Facebook post, I lasted 4 1/2 days at what was supposed to be my 10 day Vipassana silent meditation retreat...ha!
I got there on Tues the 1st and left halfway through the 5th full day on Sunday the 6th. I could try and walk you through every step of the experience starting from the registration process to the moment I signed the release form, but this is a case when the real minutiae needs to be relayed in person for you to fully appreciate the ridiculousness and hilarity. Just ask my mom and Rochelle, I had them both in stitches. I do a mean Vipassana guru impersonation.... or as I like to call him, The Smoking Caterpillar. 
Instead, I'm just gonna hit the "highlights" ... let's start shall we?

The Conditions

   Immediately upon arrival the cows were separated from the bulls and our respective pen was a loop around the dormitories that could be covered in 2 minutes, 5 if you walked reeeaaaally slowly. The bathroom was outside and consisted of 8 squat toilets (thank gawd with doors), and yes they are exactly what they sound like, a porcelain hole in the ground and 2 side plates for your feet. There was a small spicket and a bucket in each. How strange though, they must have run out of toilet paper. Yes?.... NO! I guess we were supposed to know to bring our own or make a second use of that little spicket. There's a reason you do NOT eat or pass anything with your left hand, you catch my drift. Luckily, I had brought along 2 pages of the course schedule which conveniently tore into 12 small pieces, one for each day. In the end, that is exactly what I thought of their schedule, fit to wipe my ass with. After the second day of that fun, I guess enough people, and by people I mean Westerners, complained to the staff and they sent someone into town for a T.P run. While my name was one of the first on the sign up list for a couple rolls, the paper wasn't even half ply. I was almost better off using my little scraps of paper. 
As for the showers, they were also outside and COLD! I didn't truly expect hot showers, but a cold shower, a heart stopping cold shower outside when it's only 40 some degrees (F) is just retarded. When you're never wearing less than 3 layers, the idea of taking your clothes off outside is unfathomable and takes a lot of psychological preparation and Lamaze breathing. In addition to the shower-head  there was a regular faucet so it was a whore's bath all the way for me and washing my hair upside down. In such cold weather, why would I even need to shower every single day you ask... because in addition to the raging head cold that manifested on the first day I also got my period. Awesome! The dormitories were fine, just frickin' freezing! I never changed into my normal pjs once. I wore 2 pairs of yoga pants, 2 pairs of socks, a long sleeve t-shirt, a regular t-shirt, a zip up hoodie, my fleece jacket, wrapped my scarf around my neck and head and pulled my hood on tight. Again, I was so happy and grateful to have Raj's sheet sack and Eddie's sleeping bag.

The Course Schedule


      While I had read the course schedule several times, my brain obviously didn’t fully grasp the intensity I was about to endure. We were awake 17 hours, and sitting on a concrete floor covered by a paper thin carpet and a lumpy pillow that had been wore down to a mere inch or two for 12 of those 17 hours!  The dhamma hall was of course cold like everywhere else and everyone came wrapped in their comforters and sleeping bags. Here’s the breakdown:

4am – wakeup bell
4:30-6:30 2 hr meditation

6:30-8 breakfast, shower and/or rest

8-11: 3 hr meditation with ONE five min break

11-1: lunch, shower and/or rest

1-5: 4 hr meditation with only two 5 min breaks

5-6: tea break (no dinner)

6-9: another 3 hr meditation

    Now that’s some bullshit! I was quickly reminded in that first 2 hour sitting on our first full day (Wed, 2nd)  of the asymmetry in my pelvis. My body was not built to just sit like that. It was excruciating, and I’m not exaggerating. Being a dancer, I’m quite flexible but I can’t sit cross legged for more than 20 min before my right leg falls asleep. I changed my position so many times I began inventing new ones.  As I already told Eddie, his sleeping bag was a god-send or better yet, an Ed-send, and it felt like I was wrapped in a hug.  Twas my only true comfort.  Pointing the bottom of your feet toward anyone here is a major sign of disrespect, therefore you weren’t allowed to straighten your legs. The sound of that first breakfast bell was like the sound of heaven opening, but all I could think was “Fuck, I’ve got 10 more hours to go!”  Look, this wasn’t my first rodeo. I’ve done lots of meditation in the past, but usually in 30-45min sessions, at most an hour, and I was able to straighten my legs. This is UNNATURAL.  And this is the schedule for NEW students? The center volunteers even walked up and down the aisles making sure you weren’t falling asleep ( I was in so much pain I couldn’t even dream of falling asleep), or unnecessarily moving too much. The women especially were like gestapos. I had forgotten to take my glasses off once, gawd forbid, and suddenly a girl was pulling at my pillow and pointing at my face. Another time I was desperately needed to straighten my legs and got myself into pigeon pose with one leg straightened BEHIND me, not pointed at anyone, but because I was stretching a girl rushed over to wag her finger in my face. I about lost it, and wanted to say,” Look here *McRuff, stop sniffing up and down our aisles. Worry less about our group, go give Eenie, Meenie, Meinie and Mo up there a good shake and figure out who Sleepy McSnore is over in the men’s section!”  By the end of each day, the muscles around my knees and hips were contracted, inflamed, and just plain pissed off. As I just mentioned any kind of stretching or yoga or Advil was not allowed, you were only allowed to walk inside the 2 minute loop during the mealtime blocks. Helloooo? Don’t you people realize that I am a dahn-cer?! (the power of this statement comes only from this particular pronunciation) I must be free to move!

The Smoking Caterpillar 
& the Vipassana Technique
& its Teachers

    We were sitting in our assigned seats (I was G-8) for our first meditation session while 4 assistant teachers (2 male, 2 female) sat at the head of the hall on these super fluffy white couches and overstuffed chairs. I expected one of them to begin speaking when suddenly what sounded like a huge belch came over the loud speaker….several loud, impressively long guttural indigestive sounds. What the?! These horrific noises then slowly morphed into what I pictured was an old drunken sailor singing sea shanty songs, in Hindi of course, while falling in and out of consciousness. Seriously, what the…?! This voice then begins speaking and telling us “focus on the area at the entrance of the nostrils, (looooooong pause) the area inside the nostrils….(another ridiculously long pause like he’s fallen asleep again) focus on the incoming breath and the outgoing breath. Be bery avere (very aware), bery attentive, bery avere and bery attentive.” He said this probably 3 more times slightly changing the order or adjectives. Dude, we got it! Breath in and out of our nose… done! already there. And he spoke so slowly that all I could think was, “Who is this stoner? This sounds like some dude baked out of his mind chillin in a Lazy Boy and talking into a voice recorder between tokes.” Then all I could see was the smoking Caterpillar from Alice in Wonderland…the Disney version…and I had to bite my tongue, hard, to stop the inappropriate snickering that I knew once started would be a runaway train.
*This is where the next time you see me and you need a good laugh, all you have to do is say Smoking Caterpillar and I will channel an old Indian man like you wouldn’t believe.

    For our first 37 hours of meditation, all he told us to do was focus on our nostrils. The assistant teachers said and did virtually nothing, except doze off on their cushy white thrones. One guy told us when our pee breaks were, and 2 days they called us up 5 at a time to ask us if we understood the instructions. Are you kidding me?! Bloddy hell, yes… focus on my breathing, I got it! Is that it, really? I’m not gonna learn anything that I didn’t already know?
The short answer there is a resounding NO. It wasn’t until the 4th day that we even started the actual technique and even then it was about scanning your body from head to feet and feeling for sensation. I realize that many people maybe have never done that, but that’s actually part of my dance training…. It’s called Nia White Belt. Did we really need 12 hours a day to practice this? Can we say overkill? Not only that, but they then added a fun extra element. Three of those 12 hours, morning, afternoon, and evening we were told not to move…. at all… pick one position and stick….no adjustments, no movement period.  Actually our first shot at this was a 2 hour session, a true baptism by fire. I had myself propped up and supported with a folded blanket and my bunched up sleeping bag and made it almost 45 minutes indian style before my muscles in my back and hips began to cease, and I almost cried. With such restrictions and rigidity how this is supposed to purify my mind. I’m creating NEW tension in my body, and having some seriously negative and angry thoughts. This is bullshit! Ignoring the rushing of quiet feet and wagging fingers, I changed my position.  I’m in Nepal!!!! I have one week left and I’m gonna spend it pissed off and miserable? That’s just stupid!” Prajunna's sincere invitation to come back if I wanted to leave kept replaying in my mind. I also remembered a conversation I'd had with Prem about his prescription for a happy life....everything in moderation. Simple, brilliant, and true. It was like my Colle Paradiso experience all over again just in a slightly different form. I wanted to go home, my Nepali home, with my new family and friends. I didn't feel the need to stay to prove anything to myself and especially not to anyone else. The truth is that I know I could have stayed and gutted through it, but why? I realize now that many times in the past I have quote unquote tortured myself to prove that if I made it through, I was strong. Physically, I've pushed my body to the brink in dance and ended up seriously injured in the middle of a performance. Mentally and emotionally, I've stayed too long in a relationship and lost myself in the process. It is no longer a question of IF I can do something because I know I can, the question now is do I WANT to....

    The next morning after breakfast I pulled one of the volunteers aside and said, "Who do I need to speak to about getting my passport back, I'm leaving today." She was appalled and clearly flustered. They do not let you go easily, that's for sure. I had to sit through 3 more hours of meditation before the teacher could be available for 'counsel'. *Again, this is another conversation best reinacted in person :-) but it started out like this...
Meenie: How can I help you?
Me: I respect your institution and the technique however, I need to get my passport, because I intend to leave... today.
Meenie: Ooooooh, noooooo, noo. You can't. 
Me: Uhhh, well I'm really not asking your persmission, I'm telling you..... I'm leaving.
Meenie: Today is a bery hard day for eberyone. The days go bery fast after today.
Me: I doubt that and no offense, but I don't care about everyone. I want to leave. Soooo, my passport?
Meenie: Noooooo, you have committed to the ten days.
Me: Technically yes, but now I've changed my mind. You cannot make me stay or hold my passport, so who do I need to speak to?
Meenie: I must warn you that it's bery dangerous to leave early.
Me: Yea? Well I'll take my chances, I like to live dangerously. Passport?
Meenie: Well, if you have made your decision then you are right we cannot hold you here. A volunteer will come to get you after the 1pm meditation bell.
Me: Great! Thanks. Namaste. 


    After signing a release form assuming any physical or mental harm that may come from having been there and/or from leaving early, I clutched my passport tight swearing never to surrender it again and practically ran out the gate.
A lovely walk and short taxi ride later I arrived at Prem's gate and felt a tidal wave of love and relief....sensations from head to feet.



------------------------------------------------------------------------
Since being back:

    I was welcomed back with open arms at Hotel Family Singh, and The General picked me up yesterday for a bit of sightseeing with 2 of his German friends. 

    The only hitch to the giddy-up was the email I received from the horse ranch saying that she could no longer host me...... Well huh! Thank gawd I didn't stay the whole time at the retreat... just imagine if I'd received that email on the 12th, the day before I'm set to leave!! The other farm recently told me that December was when he needed me to come...... buuuut I've already changed my ticket to go to Georgia on Dec 9th. I have emailed him and said that if he wanted my help, I was available from Nov 14- Dec 8...if not, I would not be able to come. But I am still set to leave here Sunday morning.... 
I am awaiting eagerly his reply. 

   In another philosophical conversation with Prem, we both agreed that it may not be my 'destiny' to go to South Africa this time around.  So WHERE is my destiny? The crazy thought of seeing if I could change my ticket and go to London keeps cropping up. I have a sleeping bag and 3 couches I'm pretty sure I can crash on. Winter is in full effect there, and I am without sufficient or appropriate attire...but that's easily remedied.
**R.E.M.... I will be the easiest and quietest couch surfer EVER! I'm very low maintenance. And seeing as how this trip has been about work exchange, I will happily clean your flat, run your errands, and bake you my famous chocolate chip cookies. 

OPEN POLL: 
I'm taking any and all suggestions...

Where is Part III meant to play out?
Cast your votes NOW!