Last Few Days

Missed it by that much – did our best to get everything sent off via air shipment, but no luck. We had too much stuff, and so when we found out we were over the limit (six cubic meters) we did the only sane thing – added more furniture to what has now become the sea shipment. The guy says it will get to Canada within 5 – 6 weeks. Now that would be fabulous but I won’t hold my breath.

The movers seemed to do a really good job – about ten guys swooped in at 10:00am, packed everything really well and the truck was gone by 4:00pm. They had a mere 45 min. break to eat their tiffin lunches in our garage and another hour waiting for a truck so they could actually load it up, but all in all it went very smoothly.

The kids had their final exam on Friday, Michael had his last day of work, we are moved out and officially on vacation! Holed up in a hotel for the final days and I really don’t feel like leaving the hotel until we have to go to the airport. It is so quiet and clean, there’s always a cool breeze, – it’s not really India at all here in the hotel! We can tell the newbies with their sunburns and glazed over looks on their faces. I remember feeling like them two years ago.

Two years ago! It’s hard to believe – we knew it would go by fast…and it did. Charity meetings and Rangoli meetings are a thing of the past. I had my last yoga class on Tuesday; my last OWC coffee morning and lunch with the girls on Thurs., my last haircut with Arlene today (she is so good and fast and I didn’t have to leave the hotel).

We aren’t much for drinking hard liquour but we did buy some gin at duty free when we arrived. After our Kabini trip we started drinking the odd gin and tonic – didn’t want the gin to go to waste (that’s a Ukranian and a Scot for ya). So here we are in the hotel, drinking G &T’s, going to the pool everyday and eating at the buffet – finally acting like typical expats! 

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Moving Day

Well it is moving day today. It’s 7:00am, have to get the kids off to school and then Michael and I will continue to organize our stuff. Still hoping to get everything into an air shipment but we have our doubts – amazing how much we have accumulated over two years. Not big things but lots of smaller items.The problem is they all add up.

Giving as much stuff away as possible. Most of it goes to our maid who is a single Mom of two boys. A few things like a TV, water purifier and all our potted plants and trees will go to one of the OWC charities, Bangalore Hospice Trust, a palliative care center for cancer patients. They make it easy and have even arranged transportation for the goods at a reasonable fee of about 500 rp ($10).

One last coffee and cinnamon bun on the patio before the movers come at 10:00am.

One Last Walk Around the Block

This is our last weekend in the house and we have been busy spring cleaning. It is amazing how much stuff one can accumulate in two years. And since we want to fit everything into a tiny air shipment we are busy giving stuff away.

But this weekend our priority was to go out for one last walk around the neighbourhood. We will always have great memories of our walks around the block. Here’s a look:

The Shiva Temple

The Friendly Children

Always Interesting Streets

The Coconut Stand
Fresh Chicken
The Corner Store where we stop for a drink and a snack

The Traffic

Buses Making U-Turns on Busy Streets

The Boys on the Garbage Truck

Laundry

Stray Dogs and Rangoli

"What’s in the News" and "Life This Week"

What’s in the news? A full page ad in the Bangalore newspaper, DNA, about beautiful British Columbia, Canada, that’s what!

Imagine my surprise to see a huge travel article and photos on my home town and province, “Cosmopolitan and hip Vancouver…Charming and quaint Victoria with its British heritage. The wilderness of the Canadian Rockies. Whistler, one of the world’s premier ski destinations…From hiking to skiing to scenic train rides and gastronomic delights, British Columbia offers amazing diversity.”

Color photos included those of Burrard Inlet, the Parliament Buildings and Empress Hotel in Victoria, the Sea to Sky highway, Whistler and Capilano Suspension Bridge. Wow it looks beautiful and BC is diverse isn’t it – it looks like a pretty nice place to go back too!

Well, you are probably wondering about those ants? I’m happy to say (knock on wood) that the ant problem seems to be solved. Looks like we cemented up all the entry points to the house and we seem to be ant free.

The list of things going wrong continued this week though when our washing machine broke down. Appeared to be a clogged filter and thought I could fix it myself – looked simple enough. Michael read the instructions outloud and I pulled out the little tube to drain the water into a pan (the machine was full). No water came out so we proceeded to the next step: “turn and remove the plug and then remove filter and clean.” The plug came out nicely and as I looked in to find the filter an enormous gush of water erupted! The pan couldn’t hold it all and I scrambled to plug the hole, but not before the kitchen floor was full of water. Michael had backed away to avoid getting wet and calmly asked, “Should I phone the repair guy now?”

Oh What a Week!

Wouldn’t you know everything would start to fall apart now? It’s like the house knows we only have 5 weeks to go  – maybe it’s trying to get rid of us early. Let’s see – Craig’s geyser blew up, our main electrical switch in our bedroom blew up (smoke and fire was involved), the sliding shower door won’t slide (again), 20 litres of water from the water cooler leaked all over the dining room,and lastly (hopefully), an army of ants have invaded the house.

First, a geyser is not to be confused with a geezer (we have no old men getting blown up in Craig’s bathroom), nor is it a spring coming up from the ground with lots of vapour. A geyser is a water heater found in bathrooms and kitchens. Much to my delight who should come to the rescue but my favorite Handiman in his trademark red jumpsuit!

The geyser and electrical switch got fixed, the wheels for the sliding door are (supposedly) on their way. The 20 litres of water found all over the dining room floor was annoying but fairly easy to clean up. But I can’t say the same for the tiny flying ants.

We noticed the ants when we got back from Kabini – in the living room and dining room at night, attracted to the warmth and the lights. We sprayed the rooms with no results – they just kept coming. So we had pest control come in – twice. The second time the guy found a hole outside under the living room window. He sprayed it like crazy and ants poured out. We thought that would be the end of it but the thing about ants is they come in seemingly unlimited numbers and are small and smart.

They obviously had more than one entry. Every night we turn on the lights and in they march. So yesterday I had the holes patched up – all the cracks inside and outside the window. Then we noticed some ants coming out a crack in the tile outside so we patched that too, wiped our hands clean, sure that we had outwitted and outplayed those little insects.

But evening came, the lights went on and suddenly they appeared inside again. We sprayed but couldn’t even tell where they were coming from. Nauseated from the smell and just plain frustrated, we turned off all the lights, went out for dinner, came back and spent the rest of the night in our rooms. The ants were clearly winning.

Today noticed another crack in the upper corner of the inside wall, sprayed and out poured the ants. Cleaned them up and filled those cracks in. Waiting patiently now for evening to come…and the lights to come on…

Updates and Winding Down

First the Updates:

  • The Bangalore Restaurant Guide and Book Reccommendations have been updated.
  • Remember little Anand, the 2 year old who Smile Train operated on in October to repair his hair lip (see Jan. 11, 2011 “This Will Make You Smile”)? A very sad update to report that little Anand died recently in hospital from pneumonia. Our OWC charity member who arranged the operation saw Anand ten days before and he was fine, he had put on weight and was walking. Such a sad ending but we know he was well loved and well taken care in his short life at one of the OWC charities.

Things are Winding Down:

With just under two months left in India things are winding down. We’ve booked our flights out of here on the same day our visas expire and the moving process has begun; we’ve had two companies come through to estimate how much stuff we have to send back to Canada. We are going back with little more than what we came with but both companies estimated five times the amount.  That’s a huge difference and means the difference between shipping by air (2-3 weeks) and sea (2-3 months). Something fishy going on there.

My charity work is almost done and I’ve handed off my four charities to other committee members. It was another productive year with a big increase in funds raised over the year which meant that we had a lot more to distribute to our 25 charities. After many meetings and emails we have distributed the funds to many, many worthy projects.

I have written my last article for the Rangoli also. I think I managed to write an article in almost all but three issues since I joined. Really enjoyed writing for the magazine.

Yoga – I’ve cut back to just taking the Iyengar class 2-3 times/week. I still love it and the other days I’m doing yoga at home. I definitely want to focus on Iyengar when I get back to Canada and looking forward to finding a good studio or teacher. Definitely one of the best things I have learned in India!

The Art of Living Ashram: What’s It All About, Part 2

The next three days were spent with a group of 40 people participating in the Introductory Course – people from all over India and some foreigners as well. The Art of Living operates in over 150 countries including an ashram in Montreal, Canada and a local center in Vancouver. Sri Sri Ravi Shankar’s goal is to spread peace by teaching people how to lead a stress-free life and by getting involved in humanitarian projects.The three-day course was a snapshot of what the ashram is all about. We learned pranayama (breathing techniques), meditation, yoga, and discussed all sorts of questions about one’s self. We learned about each other and did some amazing activities that really bonded the group in only three days.

The grounds were nice with lots of trees and each evening at 6:30pm everyone in the ashram gathered at the amphitheatre for Satsang. People sang songs (bhajans) and Sri Sri Ravi Shankar would come on stage. People were thrilled to see him and extremely reverent. On the second night the stage was filled with about 40 religious leaders from all over India – Sikh, Muslim, Jain, Buddhist etc. They had all gathered at the ashram that day for a religious/peace conference.

At satsang Guruji led a short meditation session and everyone would participate. He also answered questions from the audience. His voice was unique and calming. He was not one of those charismatic, cult type leaders trying to sway everyone to follow him. But he seemed genuinely concerned about teaching and spreading peace. As he said – India has so much knowledge. So many people wanted him to stay in India and just teach the Indian people but he said no, he felt it was his responsibility to share knowledge with the entire world.

As far as the course went it was pretty good, somewhat thought-provoking and I would be curious to know what the second course is all about. But it was so hot at this time of year and the hall we were in was a sweat box even with fans. Plus there were no chairs and we had to sit on the floor all day. For the breathing and meditation we had to sit cross-legged (sukhasana) or on the knees, sitting on the ankles (vajrasana). I do both of these in yoga and vajrasana we do until our feet turn blue (5-10 min. and it’s supposed to be good for you) – but to be in these positions for 1/2 hr – 1 1/2 hrs is a killer. Add the heat and I couldn’t stand it.

So the heat and sitting was a problem and then there was the food at the dining hall. I like Indian food, but it was mush – no texture at all. One day of it and then I had to opt out and go to the little cafeteria where I could buy fresh fruit juice, fruit salad, and grilled veg sandwiches. But I didn’t really look forward to standing in line for that food either because people were always butting in and you had to fight your way to the front of the line. It just boggled my mind that in a place like this where everyone is learning about peace and giving, people could still butt in front of others and think only of themselves.

Oh, and then there was the shower. There is no actual shower stall, the water just goes onto the floor in the bathroom and the drain is on the same wall as the shower head but on the other side of the toilet. There is a squeegee which you use to guide the water on the floor to the drain. Ummm, I didn’t really get it so didn’t really shower. Heat, no shower, no food, no sleep, no chairs = no fun.

A couple other things they could do is get a better lock system on the doors – they use locks like ones used in high school. Also, please give everyone a map – it’s a big place and it was too hot to be walking around aimlessly trying to find the hall, the dining hall, and accommodation without a map.

The Art of Living definitely has its positives and its negatives. Michael had a very positive experience and he will most likely do the second course. I am very curious about it but I’m not sure that I’m ready to go “inside the gates” again just yet. Many, many people all over the world follow Sri Sri’s teaching and I’m sure they are better people for it. If you are thinking of doing it – just do it, give 100% and see what you can learn in just three days.

The Art of Living Ashram: Getting There, Part 1

Last week I decided to stay at an ashram. I wasn’t planning to do it, I didn’t feel like I was searching for anything or really wanted to go to an ashram – I didn’t really need that “Eat, Pray, Love” experience. But Michael and another person I know had gone for the three-day introductory course and said it was “life changing,” and “one of the best things to do in India.”

The Art of Living is an international NGO, just outside of Bangalore. Sri Sri Ravi Shankar is the ashram Guru and he happened to be at the ashram while I was there which was a bonus. Everyone simply calls him Guruji, meaning “one who has great knowledge or wisdom.”

My course started Friday morning so I had to be there Thursday night. Michael had warned me that the food and rooms were very basic. Our driver was in the hospital and the temporary driver assured me he knew where the ashram was. I left home at 6:45pm expecting a 1 1/2 hr drive and wasn’t too worried when he stopped to ask directions after one hour. He did a u-turn and said he had missed the turn off – no problem. But after a while he did another u-turn and then another u-turn at the same place as the first time. Of course it was dark and the road was busy, and there we were going around in circles.

I told him to pull over – I phoned Michael to get directions and the driver phoned my regular driver who was in the hospital. After a few phone calls and a short lecture “don’t tell me you know where it is when you don’t…” we got on our way and finally found the right exit. Between phone calls to Michael and the driver in hospital we arrived at 9:30pm.

The place was packed with people checking in. It turned out there was a teachers refresher course going on that weekend too – there were hundreds of them. I got to go to the foreigner check in (no line up), I also got to pay the foreigner price of $200 U.S. for the 3 days (not bad) but nationals probably paid a fraction of that.

Got checked in at 10:00pm and then onto a shuttle bus to the accommodation. I was the only one who got off at the “Nandhi” building and went to look for #14. The lower ones were all in the 100’s, so I went upstairs but they were the 200’s. Finally saw a girl and asked her and she said “Nandhi building – you have premium accommodation” and she pointed across the street.

So off I went to a tall round building, up the spiral staircase lugging my luggage and sweating all the way to the top floor to #14. There I found three guys standing with towels and sheets, which I thought was weird – I just assumed the building would be all female. They informed me that they were there to make up my bed but there was someone inside who had locked the door and they couldn’t wake her up (it’s a triple room). So I knock, they knock, we call out…and every other door on the floor opened and people came to see what the commotion was. But we couldn’t wake this person up.

Finally I suggested they phone reception and get me another room, which they did. Down we all went – it’s now 10:30pm – and we walked to the furthest building where once again the door was locked and we knocked, but luckily the woman inside woke up and opened the door – I’m sure she was not impressed, but then again – neither was I.

The room was very basic with two single beds, bedside tables, a small bathroom, an outdoor sink and a fan that was whirling as loud and as fast as helicopter blades. Quick introductions and then into bed. I couldn’t help but wonder about that “premium room.” Even though it was a triple – was it better?

My class didn’t start til 9:30am Friday morning so I set my alarm for 8:00am and slept restlessly. At six one of the lights went on – my roommate was up. I closed my eyes and turned over. Then I heard her doing breathing exercises, similar to what I do in yoga. Then it went quiet but the light was still on. I rolled over and opened one eye – she was sitting cross-legged on her bed facing me, eyes closed, with both arms straight up in the air – welcome to the Art of Living!

Indian Wedding Part 2 – The Wedding

Sunday morning we arrived at the same hall just as the groom was arriving. A band was playing and the groom was seated outside being blessed by the priest – surrounded by family and friends.

Everyone went inside, the the groom went onstage with a white sheet held up in front of him while the bride entered. They stood on either side of the white sheet until it was taken away and they faced each other sitting down after that.

Many rituals and blessings occurred. At one point rice was passed around to all the guests and everyone stood up at the same time and threw it towards them.

They sat holding hands, a coconut on top of their hands and coconut milk poured over their hands. Many family members were on stage with them. This went on for some time and unlike a western wedding the guests got up,walked around and talked while this was going on.

Eventually the grooms sister came to say hello to us and took Michael and I onstage to get a better view and take some photos of the ceremony. Then she said we should go upstairs and eat and come back down afterwards. Up we all went and the upper hall was full  of tables and chairs with banana leaves laid out. It was full of guests being served food. Very tasty Indian food and lots of different dishes.

Once we finished eating we went downstairs near the stage where different blessings were still going on. The four of us were brought up onstage to give our wishes and have a photo taken with the bride and groom.

Then more blessings and rituals. Finally they walked around the stage several times and then down the aisle and outside where the band played while they continued with more blessings.

The coconut is obviously a very important part of the ceremony. At the beginning when the groom was outside they smashed two coconuts, next the pouring of coconut milk over the hands as the couple held a coconut. As the couple walked around the stage they followed his sister who was carrying fruit on a plate, including (I think) coconut. And just like the night before, we each received a wedding favor of…a coconut.