A Travellerspoint blog

ELEPHANTASTIC

My Date with an Elephant in Jaipur, Rajasthan

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Someone, who shall NOT remain nameless - The Michael David - said I need less writing and more pictures in order for him to read my Blog.
So here you go TMD! The photos say more than I could anyway.

THE DAY I MET RANI

Meeting Rani for first time

Meeting Rani for first time

We had a thing!

We had a thing!

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DAY 2 - I was so enamored I returned. Couldn't bear the thought of riding her. Seems inhumane to be a Westerner parading around on an elephant that may or may not have been a part of an illegal elephant trafficking scheme (as many of them are). So instead I requested to just hang out with her and her keeper, wash her, drink Chai, low key chill.

Day 2 - Rani and I get intimate

Day 2 - Rani and I get intimate

Bath Time

Bath Time

Hard Work

Hard Work

She really liked this part

She really liked this part

Then they said I could paint her!!! Unfortunately, my artistic juices were running dry that morning. All I could come up with were these wack ballons!
Sorry Rani. Not my best work.

Makeup Artist to the Elephants

Makeup Artist to the Elephants

RANI

RANI

RANI

RANI

These 3 were icing on the cake!!!!! They were children of the families who take care of the elephants. We played. They asked me constantly for candy and chocolate! I refused them of course. The dental situation in India is problematic. Couldn't be a part of that for these beautiful girls.

Not having it

Not having it

Ok, maybe...

Ok, maybe...

The smoky eye was everything!!

The smoky eye was everything!!

Sisters from Another Mister

Sisters from Another Mister

Posted by Ivoriejenkins 00:46 Archived in India Comments (2)

BENIHANA's?

How One Might End Up at a BENIHANA in India

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If there was a perfect candidate for the inevitable evolution of the cell phone to become some sort of chip installed in your wrist where phone calls are made with a swipe on your forearm, I would be the one on whom to spend the advertising dollars. I habitually lose, break or misplace most handheld electronic devices. Tovah, don't worry! I'm still holding strong to your camera! But if I know my sister, I'm sure as she handed me her camera, she knew their was a solid chance she may never see it again.

I don't know what my problem is! Too much responsibility maybe? I do know the cell phone has become this crutch that you always need at your fingertips and digging to the bottom of a purse to find it every 10 minutes becomes so annoying. So I hold it... but then I forget I'm holding it and set it down somewhere..."Oh shit. Where did I put my cell phone?". This happens numerous times and then comes that idiot- am I even in my own body- moment when I realize I am actually holding the Damn thing.

Or, if your outfit allows, you put it in your front pocket because it seems like a convenient place; only to bend over and watch it fall in sllllllooooowww M O T I O N onto a marble floor. This is what happened to me one fateful day in India the morning I shattered my beautiful retina display Android cell phone screen. Apologies to all who have Skyped, What's Apped, or SnapChatted. I haven't received any for the last 2 weeks.

Woe is Me!

Woe is Me!

But what does any of this have to do with Benihana's? Is there even a Benihana's in India? And who goes to India and eats at Benihana's for Krishna's sake?! Especially a girl who despises giving money to corporate chains when there are Mom and Pop restaurants making the most delicious food at half the price and all the profits going to their pockets as opposed to corporate lobbyists or making the Aoki family any richer.

Well, there is a Benihana's in India and it is located in Delhi. I had to make a side trip to Delhi from Rishikesh before moving on to see the rest of Rajasthan because I was so desperate to get my phone fixed. Anything can be fixed in Delhi and there was an LG Service Center that specifically told me over the phone that they could repair my phone no problem for the bargain price of 4,730rupees (about $80). Of course when I arrived they gave me the Indian Head Wobble and said "not possible" "part not here" "tomorrow."

I proceeded to bitch and moan.

They raised the priced a few dollars and told me it would take at least 2 hours.

Hands on hips...I will wait.

No exaggeration in 20 minutes it was fixed!

Friends, travel can offer you some interesting situations in which choices have to be made. Studying these said choices gives you a lot of information about your tendencies, preferences, your bottom lines, how far you will and will not go, and where you draw the line.

The situation offered to me: a 6am train from Rishikesh which meant departing my Ashram at 4:30am. My colon was not ready to go that early. By the time I arrived in Delhi at noon.... it whispered gently to me. By the time I left the LG Service Center at 2pm ecstatic with a new screen... it was Screaming my head off!

The first choice offered to me: a bathroom at the service center with a 7 ft wooden ladder in front of a toilet with no toilet seat. So I guess the men just go from the side?? Only one woman working there. Not sure what choice she makes. It was filthy (what's new?) and there was a stench albeit not the most horrific stench I've smelled. If it was #1 we were talking about, I'd go for it. No big deal. But this was #2. Heeeeelll nooo! I drew my line. Rather hold it.

So squeezing my Mulha Bhanda tightly, I walk across the street because I spot a Subway sign in the distance and hope they might have a facility. No such luck. Food court with all-American KFC, Subway, Starbucks, etc.

But then, like a beacon of light across a dark choppy ocean, I saw the red and black letters spelling BENIHANA!
In case it seems I'm beating around the bush....Folks, the real reason I ended up at Benhinan's....I had to take a poo!

What I learned about myself today?
My bottom line: I need a clean pot to shit in.
Worth the overpriced cost of a stir fry and a glass of Indian Chenin Blanc any day.

BENIHANA's????

BENIHANA's????

Posted by Ivoriejenkins 05:09 Archived in India Comments (6)

A Bid Farewell

India Round 1 Complete

A 32 year-old, unmarried woman (Indians are so worried when they find out I'm not married) takes her first trip on the infamous Indian Railway. Not to be worried; she was sensible enough to book First Class (3AC as it is locally known) for the first adventure. Can't shock the system with too big a dose of third world realness straight out the gate. Gotta ease into it.

I've booked 5 consecutive train trips over the next 10 days. Two of them happening today. First Rishikesh to Delhi @ 6am then Delhi to Jaipur, the "Pink City" at 5:30 pm where I will stay the next four days. Both 3AC train rides. AC meaning just as it does in the States...AIR CONDITIONED. By the last 2 train trips however, I'll be 'slumming it' in 3rd Class known as the SLEEPER class. Three births stacked like bunk beds, one a top another. Please don't be too impressed with my willingess to go Third Class/SLEEPER. I tried to book First Class but it was SOLD OUT! The trains book up fast. I thought I was ahead of schedule booking 2 weeks out only to find that many of my dates and preferred classes were not available.

My journey to the train began before the sun was even thinking about rising. I took a taxi from Rishikesh to Haridwar where the train to Delhi departs. Only a 35 minute drive at 4:30 am; an hour + drive any other time. To get to the taxi, I had to walk about 1/2 mile to cross the Ganges bridge because cars are not allowed over. Most of the city was still sleeping save those who were already up chanting the morning mantras. The cows laid nestled against one another, monkeys hidden high up in the trees and the dogs...those poor unfortunate souls who were reincarnated as dogs in India as opposed to a city like Dallas, Texas where the dogs are free from rabies and have backyards to run in and play dates with other rabie free dogs at specifically designated dog parks...those dogs were the only ones wide awake making a raucus and barking empty threats as I walked past.

  • *****TIME OUT - I am writing this on the first train ride and I just saw a roach crawl under a suitcase!...not mine thankfully. And they call this Frist Class!!! I will pretend as if I didn't see it otherwise my mind will make it worse than it is, my skin will start crawling and I will become unnecessarily irritated. Ignorance shall be my bliss.

Like I was saying.... The moon shined bright over the bridge. The Ganges almost invisible against the night sky. The winds blew strong enough to feel the bridge gently sway. I crossed and the memory of coming across it for the first time in the opposite direction just 3 weeks ago jostled by cows and people while trying to keep up with Vimal rushed back. It is always something viewing things in hindsight. One experience over in the blink of an eye, the next one is uncertain but your confidence level is much higher after completing Round 1 of the journey.

I wasn't even supposed to take the train back from Rishikesh. I promised my Aunt Jan that I would let my Indian bodyguards who originally drove me here drive me to my next cities. She, being a loving Aunt, was worried about my safety. I will be okay Aunt Jan. Other than a mild stench and that one roach it's not so bad.

As I walked across the bridge I felt no sadness in leaving. My weeks in Rishikesh were so full. The days of the week lost meaning because no day was any more impressive than the last. Usually Monday has a certain feeling about it as does Thursday or TGIFriday. But because everyday here here was so special I could never be bothered looking forward to Sunday or next Wednesday. Right now was always so satisfying.

I spent my 32nd birthday here. A day filled doing all things I love: a 4 hour Yoga practice, a Satsang with an enlightened Jamaican called Mooji, a delicious lunch at a restaurant run by and for children from an onsite orphanage, got my nose pierced and enjoyed the sunset over the Ganges with the Aarti in the background. Then, the best part....Skyping my family! My heart smiles when Mom & Dad sing me Happy birthday, the Stevie Wonder remix!

Overall, I absolutely adored this town. I made friends with shop owners and some even know my name. Well, I exaggerate. Only one knows my name and that is because I go see him every other day to get my YOGI BREAD. Whole wheat, dairy-free, banana, chocolate or apple bread made and blessed by Himalayan Yogis. Delivered fresh everyday and still HOT if you pick it up before noon. I also made friends with many travellers and seekers -as I like to call those who quit their jobs and leave their significant others and trek all the way to India off a "feeling." They are no different than I.

One special friend I met is a beautiful Brit named Maria. We ended up being roomies after the Festival and became quick friends which happens easily when you stay up way past the 10pm self imposed bed time discussing Osho, Eckhart, Patanjali, third worlds and spiritual paths. We were each others barometers. A safe space to come back to and compare centers or check that center was still center. Maria wherever I am you are welcome! Sunny California awaits you!

Sister our hostel is turning international! Get the rooms ready. I'm making lots of new friends!

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My Dear Rishikesh,

Where Yoga studios are like Starbucks.
Where wise sages can be mistaken for homeless men
And homeless men for wise sages.
Where Euro hippies find refuge and soy Chais.
Where the Beatles found Transcendental Meditation.
Where seekers come for truth or a version of it.
Thank you Rishikesh.
Until Next Time...Namaste
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Posted by Ivoriejenkins 08:34 Archived in India Comments (4)

INDIA'S HOLI FESTIVAL OF COLORS

HAPPY HOLI!!!!!!

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HAPPY HOLI!

HAPPY HOLI!

Today was Holi in India. A festival to celebrate the Harvest and the arrival of Spring and it's colors . Also an excuse for locals to drink, smoke, dance and feel up foreign girls. Northern India is very dry...NO MEAT, NO ALCOHOL, NO DRUGS. So you can imagine how a day like this will bring out India's best!

COLORS FOR SALE

COLORS FOR SALE

To "PLAY HOLI" means to chase anyone in sight with dry powder, colored water, water balloons, water guns. And if none of that is available, some of the meaner kids will use mud and cow shit to make their marks. I definitely got hit with the mud by these little girls who I thought were soooo cute. Then as I walked away, I realized that what I thought was a deep, rich purple color was actually MUD! Perfect example folks of The Banana in the Tailpipe.

The worst was when a group of teenage little shits put the color in my mouth!!!! To avoid swallowing it my natural reaction was to inhale what didn't land in my mouth. Into my left nostril it went. I felt it float up to my left brain where I am sure I sizzled 100 brain cells easy! Who knows what the powder is made of?! Immediately, bright, neon green colored snot started shooting from my nose! I ran to the side of the road where there was a water fountain to wash it out my mouth and nose, all the while the little shits laughing and still trying to paint me with color...sing "Happy Holi, Happy Holi!!" Praying that tomorrow I don't wake up with Indian Water Disease. Pray for me please!

Other than that I had an AMAZING Holi ;-)

It all began with these guys

It all began with these guys

Started with a sensible amount of color...

Started with a sensible amount of color...

...ended with this mess

...ended with this mess

Maria in her HOLI glory

Maria in her HOLI glory

The ritual of the COLOR!

The ritual of the COLOR!

Over it!!

Over it!!

HAPPY HOLI!

HAPPY HOLI!

Posted by Ivoriejenkins 08:01 Archived in India Comments (1)

International Yoga Festival 2014

A DAY IN THE LIFE

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The alarm goes off at either 3:35 AM or 6:05 AM depending on whether or not I do the early morning Sadhana (spiritual practice). If I don't talk myself out of Sadhana, I embark on a 2.5 hour Kundalini practice that uses chanting, meditation and repetitive heat building movements known as Kriyas.

Kundalini, briefly and probably inadequately described, is a Tantric sect of Yoga that aims at awakening dormant energy. You have probably noticed Kundalini Yogis wearing all white with white turbans on their heads Sikh style. You stared awkwardly, wondered why, then went about your day.

Well, Kundalini is described as a fire or a sleeping serpent that sits at the base of your 1st Chakra waiting for you to realize the full potential which has always lived within you, so it may rise to your 7th and tip-top Chakra. This is known as the "Kundalini Rising", "sleeping serpent awakened" or when Shakti reunites with Shiva. If you were to peek into one of the morning classes, you might think you stumbled on some sort of seance with all the chanting and odd movements repeated over and over again. Or maybe it will just remind you of a rave around 7am. Anyway, I don't think my Shakti reached Shiva but there was fire and bliss, love and hate, and dormant energy definitely alivened. About 30 minutes in, I wanted to escape via sleep but I hung in there and allowed the songs to transport my mind away from the negative chatter that keeping saying "this is stupid." Then, just as dawn is beginning to break and you are feeling that bliss that comes when you've accomplished something you thought you wouldn't but hoped you would, they play the sweetest song:

May the longtime Sun shine upon you
All love surround you
And may your light within you guide your way on
....guide your way on.

There are over 20 classes offered everyday from 4 am til 5pm. Classes from Pranayama (breath work) to Meditation, to Reiki, to Laughing Yoga with a 105 year old Yogi, to Yoga philosophy, to an Indian spices cooking class. Every type of Yoga Asana (Yoga as it's known in the West) imaginable is offered including Kundalini, Hatha, Ashtanga, Yoga Nidra, Jivamukti, Iyengar and even some new forms of Yoga Asana that have joined forces with Tai Chi and Qi Gong to create a Yoga hybrid.

The aim here- although it is not an aim as much as it just happens authentically- is to observe Yoga as a whole not just the Asana Yoga we practice in the West. Short sermon begins now: Yoga is NOT nor has never been just a bunch of postures used to get more flexibilty or a cutter butt. But in the West, we manage to borrow from other cultures and strip all the meaning and ritual off it until it is suitable for whatever self serving need we have - which in this case is fitness. Okay done ;-)

I took one class from a most beautiful specimen named Yogi Cameron. A supermodel turned Yogi. Half Iranian, half English, all the way gorg. He taught 2 classes on creating your own home practice including all the limbs of Yoga as explained in Patanjali's Yoga Sutras. I really tried to play it cool in his class. You know, keep it Yogic. Besides I see beautiful people all day long in L.A. No biggie! But then he went and took his shirt off to show a type of abdominal lock called Uddiyanda Bahnda. You could sense a slight hesitation in taking his shirt off as I am sure he is used garnering unwanted attention at this part of class. You could also tell that all the ladies (shocking that mostly women in his seminar right?) - myself SURELY included - were a having A MOMENT...several. We kept it together though. Definitely went back to his class the next day though...in the name of Yoga of course ;-)

Just in case you're interested...http://www.yogicameron.com/

To end the day, there is Aarti. At around 5:30pm everyday, the whole town of Rishikesh and my Ashram in particular celebrates Happy Hour. Not a cocktail in sight of course! Trade the martini glass for a Dias (oil lamp). For an hour there is the most beautiful ceremony on the banks of Maha Ganga called Aarti. The ceremony first begins with Havan, a purifying ritual where you gather around a fire and offer impurities- your anger, jealousy, lust, etc - to the fire. The whole time their is singing of chants and mantras which I do not know the words to but it never matters. The energy is electric, the sun is setting, birds fly in unison above, and the Himalayas gently roar from above. It is a perfect setting that would make the most mundane feel like a holy experience! Then you go the the Ganga and rinse your face, rinse your pains. You can place a flower dedication if you like and watch it float down the river with your wish...your prayer. I have sent many down the river as a token of thanks for many of you who sit reading these words. Deep Gratitude.

I can come again and again and it always feels like new. I always feel refreshed. Grateful.

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Posted by Ivoriejenkins 08:44 Archived in India Tagged internationalyogafestival Comments (1)

ASHRAM LIFE

AND WHAT EXACTLY IS AN ASHRAM?

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The word ashram comes from the Sanskrit root srama which means giving the meaning or making an effort towards liberation (moksha), which is the central aim of a spiritual life

I imagine that some of you reading my Blog may have wondered what the hell an ASHRAM actually is (Mom this is for you especially!!) Here is my understanding....
It is similar to a monastery and lead by what is called a Swami - a Yogi or monk initiated into the monastic order and devotes their full time effort to spiritual realization and to the service of others. Stereotypically, Swamis have long beards and dress in bright sherbet orange cloths that look like maxi dresses with a fierce shawl over the shoulder. The grounds are peaceful and it's run like a commune whose members all share a similar spiritual practice. These days, some Ashrams have evolved into a place a step and a half above a hostel inviting travelers and pilgrims from all over the world to come to India's holy regions.

COST: The cost to stay is cheap! One room with a roommate, 3 meals included is 300Rupees = $5 per night!!
Without a roommate 800Rupees = $13 per night

ACCOMMODATIONS: Accommodations are B A S I C!!!. Reeeeal basic. Like...most of you, are NOT about this life! I keep plopping my ass on the bed to the unpleasant feeling of my spine jamming up into my neck because I could have sworn that every bed has a pillow top these days! In trying to describe my room the word that keeps coming to mind is A U S T E R E. Austere as in simple. No extra sauce. Easy on the Mayo. Without luxury. Hold the bacon. Dairy free and gluten free. Plain! Here's a pic for your mind's eye.

BASIC accomodations

BASIC accomodations

PROS AND CONS OF AN ASHRAM ROOM

CON: Mattress about 2 inches thick -------- PRO: A bed
CON: Drafty windows -------- PRO: Lots of warm blankets
CON: No toilet paper -------- PRO: Western toilet
CON: Shower, sink, toilet in same 4x4ft box -------- PRO: Hot water
CON: No roomie --------- PRO: No roomie

SHOWER: I should explain the shower...so think of a tiny NYC sized half bathroom (not the penthouse NYC bathroom but the Lower East Side, AC unit in the window, 5th floor walk up half bath). There is a toilet and a sink right? Well imagine that your Super decided to make it a full bath by installing a floor drain and a shower head right next to the sink . This is my bathroom. I turn on the water and I shower immediately in front of the toilet, water spraying all over the toilet seat. I suppose it could be convenient...shower and shit at the same time? Tried it...awful idea! But the water is hot and so I am happy. And my favorite part....there's a SQUEEGEE so you can clear the floor of all the water from the shower/bathroom!

FOOD: The food is amazing although, take that with a grain of salt because I have not had a proper meal since my Air Emirates flight!. Thankful for the ThinkThin Chocolate Brownie energy bars I packed.
It is served buffet style - a mix of rices basmati, brown, white and a sort of rice curry, lentils, rice patties, steamed veggies (usually cauliflower, red carrots and green beans) rice pudding, sometimes soup, Chopati (kind of like Naan), chutneys, and more rice. Did I mention they serve rice?
Unfortunately this grande offering is not the usual Ashram meal. When the Festival comes to an end so will all of this and it will be back to AUSTERITY...as in hold the curry! Easy on the pudding! No mo' Masala. From now on it's Basmati rice, Dal (lentils), a simple potato curry and Chopati. All to be eaten on the floor of a small dinning room, flooded with fluorescent light, atop a small rectangular tray, in encouraged silence.

FOOD!

FOOD!

Tea is on deck all hours of the day. Masala Chai with milk and a boat load of sugar (so good!) And ginger water for post dinner digestion. They even have a dedicated tea time at 5pm after the final Yoga class where they serve popcorn, tea, and cookies.

TEA TIME

TEA TIME

Overall the grounds of the Ashram are lovely. Quiet, clean, filled with statues telling the Hindu stories everywhere. Alot of visitors stopping by because the gates are open to the public. The river Ganges is the front lawn of the Ashram and the Himilayas the backyard.

FRIST DAY OF SCHOOL

FRIST DAY OF SCHOOL

PARMARTH NIKETAN ASHRAM

PARMARTH NIKETAN ASHRAM

LORD KRISHNA

LORD KRISHNA

Posted by Ivoriejenkins 08:09 Archived in India Tagged ashram rishikesh Comments (4)

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