Love, love, love it here

Seriously, I am so happy to be here. People seem even more friendly this year than last, eager to include others in plans for meals or excursions. Part of it is the way cafes are set up, with low tables and pillows strewn about, and everyone just sitting together with strangers. Kind of how the lunch tables at middle and high school should have worked, but never seemed to.

This morning was my first practice in the shala. My start time is 9:30, so of course I woke up at 4. Nervous. Luckily, Brandi and Susan (from work) were online, so we did a little discussing of some new products (because eLearnings about mergers and acquisitions don’t just make themselves!), and a little personal chatting. Then we all told each other to quit working since it’s supposed to be a day off.

I did some writing (poetry) and reading (also poetry), which is a little sketchy, since writing tends to make me rather vata (spacey and agitated) — so if I’d been more cautious, I’d have skipped the writing before practice, but I was exceptionally inspired so went with it.

Anyhow, practice time finally rolled around. And I had an excellent first practice. At first I was very shaky and nervous and the heat was astonishing — I had to counter my worried thought (“I’m going to faint!”) with a brave thought: “You’ll be fine.” I counted the length of my inhalations and exhalations to make sure they were long enough to sustain me. I thought about a quote I’d been struck by in my morning reading: “The locus appears later,” and set my personal feelings about what was happening aside. By the time I got to sitting poses, I was dialed in.

Backbends were awesome — last year I was very anxious about my ability to do drop backs and come back up. It’s nice to see the progress since then: I have no anxiety about either dropping back or coming up any more. The work with David Garrigues got me to quit lifting my heels, and my duck foot problem is much improved. On the last drop back, I walked in to my heels but couldn’t seem to grasp them. When I came up, though, Sharath smiled and said “Very good.” Most awesome compliment in the Ashtanga world.

Then Susan, Kristen and I went to breakfast at my favorite breakfast place, Santosha. Totally hippie environment, with folks lounging on pillows and drinking chai. I had a huge slice of toast slathered with peanut butter and two cups of chai with jaggery.

Later on today I’ll go back out to purchase a book for chanting class (Cheryl, I’ll share it with you when I get back!), pick up my Indian phone, have a coconut, and meet up with some folks for early dinner.

It really is heavenly to be here.

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Arrived!

Yes, India smells like spices. As soon as I got off the plane, I was greeted by the smell of India, and it made me so happy. Before going to customs, we all had to file through a security screening. But not the kind you’re used to. No taking shoes off, no putting liquids in a plastic bag, no plastic bins for belongings, no taking your computer out of its case. Indeed, there was a sign posted to leave your computer in its case, but a double negative kind of command: “Do not not leave your computer in its case.” Two women started to take off their jackets before going through the metal detector, but the attendant waved at them impatiently — no taking jackets off! Do not not leave your jacket on. Everyone just strolled through the detector, which rang pretty continuously, but no one got stopped. Apparently it is security for only the most egregious kind of lapse.

Out the door and there was the line of drivers with their signs. I went up and down the line a couple of times, but didn’t spot my name. Hmmmm. I took a minute to look for Ganesh’s contact info, since he said to call him if his driver didn’t show. A little further down the way, I saw another crowd of people.

“Is this all the drivers?” I asked one of the men.

“Yes,” he said.

“None over there?” I asked, pointing over at the other crowd.

“No,” he said.

Just then, the fellow next to him unfolded a beat up piece of paper with my name printed on it in bazillion point font. “Karen Kelley?” he asked.

Yes!!

I tried to stay awake for the whole ride to Mysore. It was so good to see everything. The driver stopped almost immediately for chai. This was no chai stall, though. What it was was a fellow with a bicycle on the side of the highway. He had two canvas shopping bags slung over the frame of the bike: one held a huge thermos of steaming chai, and the other held small cups. The driver asked me if I wanted any and seemed surprised when I said no thanks. He got his cup of tea and also bought a single cigarette from the chai man. Several other drivers pulled up, and the men stood around and drank their tea and smoked cigarettes.

When he was done, the driver came back to the car and told me that I should use the pillow in the back to go to sleep. He seemed a bit worried, and told me it wasn’t healthy to sleep sitting up. I explained that I wanted to look around a bit before I went to sleep, and he just kind of laughed bemusedly. I imagine the Mysore highway holds little interest for him.

We arrived at Urban Oasis at 4:30 AM. The night watchman opened the door for me and roused the supervisor, who had me fill out a form and then brought me the keys to my room. I’ll get some pictures of the room when the light is better. It’s a studio space, so has a separate sleeping area, and a work area with refrigerator. Best of all is a desk that hinges off the wall and has one leg that it stands on. I’ve already got all of my work folders out and arranged & I think it will be quite satisfactory. It is not nearly as quaint as Anokhi Gardens, where Anna and I stayed last year, but it is a sturdy and utilitarian space, and the internet connection seems quite robust.

Projects for today: go have the complimentary Urban Oasis breakfast up on the roof between 8 and 10 AM, then see if I can exchange some cash with Shiva, get my Indian phone activated, and maybe head over to the store to get a couple more electrical adapters and some hangers. Oh, and blow up the Swiss ball I brought along for recreational back bending.

* A note about pictures. I’ve set this blog up to show my flickr photo feed in the left margin. That way I can share photos via flickr and then just write on the blog. You can look at the pics more closely by clicking on individual flickr images. I tested the set up on a few computers and it seemed to be working well. If you can’t see the photo feed on the left, will you drop me a comment and mention what kind of device you’re using?

Halfway there

Latte at Charles de Gaulle

Charles de Gaulle airport. Arrived at 6 AM, Paris time (10 PM, Phoenix time). We board for Bangalore at 9:50. Then it’s 9.5 hours to Bangalore, and 4 more to get to Mysore. I left the house at 5:30 AM, so it’s been 18 hours so far. I am not tired at all. Perhaps something to do with the latte in the picture.

Charles de Gaulle airport is really beautiful. A *far* cry from JFK’s international terminal. It didn’t occur to me, until I was flying towards New York, that I’d dressed for Phoenix and India. Light cotton clothes, and a light shawl. I also am already doing “India color matching” — which means I can wear all kinds of colors at once, which I love, but which I refrain from doing around Dion and Anna because it hurts their sensibilities. Red cotton hammer pants with mirror spangles and a teal shawl. Go, me! Crossing the street between the domestic and international terminals in New York, I was both cold and probably pretty insane looking. I don’t care, though — I’m dressed for India!

I watched two movies already: Five Year Engagement (horrible!) and Pride & Prejudice (awesome!). Hopefully I’ll sleep away a good bit of the next leg of the journey. I remember it taking a LONG time to fly over Iran last year.