Friday, March 27, 2009

another day in paradise

We ate dinner at Sadhana Forest last night and none of us are sick today! Yay!!

I found out about Sadhana Forest, a reforestation project here in Auroville, last year. The people are super great. Four of us from College (our guest house) went to the forest for a tour, a movie, and dinner last night. I had been for a brief visit, in search of Sugar, who went straight there from Pondy after our permaculture and natural build course earlier this year. Sugar was out, so Saraswati and I hung around and chatted and then helped out fixing dinner that day...the kitchen was a miserable, fly-ridden mess. Really gross. Sorry guys, but it's true. We still ate dinner that day and were okay, but had been beseached by several people to please wash our hands and especially under our nails vigorously and thoroughly. Then we proceded to be covered in flies and to touch non organic produce and peel peels and touch all the freshly peeled stuff. And the volunteers made a huge pot of very bland soup.

Last year when I was researching Sadhana Forest, I came across a blog post or two that mentioned the folks in the Forest being sick from some virulent bug or another. And I've heard other counts of folks falling ill there too. Gah.

Anyway....Conan, who I met at another Auroville venue, has since taken over the kitchen at Sadhana. They served us an amazingly tasty and flavorful Indonesian dish, goupa gouba something like that, crisp and al dente veggies with coconut and a sauce, mmmm. The tour was really interesting, and I ran into another guy, Raj, who was helping his friend, Raj, deliver the bicycle that I rented before buying that Ladybird that I sold to Sugar (following along now?). So Raj and Raj deliver bicycles together: Raj drives, and Raj sits on the back of the motor bike with the bicycle sandwiched sideways between them.

Raj and I were happy to meet one another! He's a compact, virile, friendly, sunny sort of young Indian. He's also from North India, and he decided to go to Sadhana and volunteer for awhile. I had showed him my artwork, since most folks ask you: where are you from, how long have you been here, how long you stay, are you married, kids, did you vote for Obama, and what kind of work you do. So after fielding questions from the young Raj's, I showed them some of my sketches. Immediately, Raj (we're at Sadhana forest again now) said, "Yeah! The artist!! Super drawings!" and I think he really means it; it's not the well-oiled line I've heard from other males.

So, we start talking and talking and he says he really wants to be a painter, not a musician. There is some redirection of conversation and interruption, I wonder what he means, and I find him again in the common room where Shubada is playing the organ and Raj is pumping the small bellows. I ask him some questions and find out that he helps Raj, and he knows College guest house because he teaches L'aura (our matron, a very young matron, who doesn't mingle much with the guests, but is available nonetheless..a nice hands-off approach) - he teaches L'aura Hindi. And then I find out that he teaches tabla.

A couple of days ago I was talking with Clemens and said I really want to learn tabla. We also went to an amazing concert with two very famous and talented Indian musicians - a sitar player, and a tabla player.


So, Raj will come on monday afternoon to teach us tabla. And I will ask for a private lesson or two. Oh come on now.

Pics from Sadhana Forest, with pics of our dear Raj to soon follow:

Aviram tells us about the five-year-old project, in the common room, a keet house, which is used for gatherings, the library, some offices, the dining area, a kids area. It's multi-level, and a really nice space. Cooling breezes wandered in and out all afternoon.

Aviram and one of two daughters. Awwww! yeah!

An oven!

A keet house, dormitory.

Kathy, from England (it's still a novelty to me, to be around folks that aren't's nice! Not that I don't love Americans!) She's saying that there are floaty things in the water, despite how it's been filtered and 'dynamised'...some sort of blessing way on water to make it better.

And here is Clemens, laughing in his usual manner, looking on the bright side of it all:

I don't know what this structure is, and I forgot to ask, but I like it:

And here, at sunset, in the Forest:

Here are a couple of shots from walks the last two days:

The back way home, trees trunks entwined...can trees have two trunks? I think in India, it is possible, as are all things!

Leaf patterns thrown on to the hot dusty red brown soil:

My dad just popped in to say hi in an email, a response to The Lezzies. Here's a picture of The Original Lezzies, Daphne and Betsy. Betsy was with our mom, and then Chris took her in. When Chris died, Dad found a good home for the girls, with folks who love golden retrievers. I think they're pictured here somewhere in Arizona, where Chris lived before moving back to Ogden with Dad. Sweet girls!

Okay, I need to slouch off to the market, it's Saturday and there is organic produce being sold outside the Solar Kitchen (which I have decided to not patron again...besides being an institution, the food gives me gas) and I want to pick up a load of greens for dinner tomorrow night before they're all sold out. Ta!

Thursday, March 26, 2009

all roads lead to Goupi

hey there hi there, a spongy hello from matter how many times I wring myself dry, I sweat more buckets! Woo! I should be pencil-thin by now, but nooooo no no, I have actually put on some pounds since leaving the States. In India, of all places! Too rich.

Yesterday I visited the resident massage guru, Goupi. He doesn't require payment, but he will accept donations, which you can place inside his appointment book along with a bookmark picturing the Mother's pair of eyes (yes really); in turn, the Mother bequeaths the money to Goupi. Niiiice!

Unfortunately I do not have a picture of Goupi himself, but I will present you with a short clip - walking into the waiting area, where it's shaded and cool, and there are pujas (bowls of flowers, offerings) and a table with all sorts of books and magazines and puzzles. The birds were going OFF, so I needed to capture that - hope you can hear the crazy chorus. It was great.

I didn't feel like stripping down to my nothings for a massage yesterday, so instead Goupi offered to teach me a series of Feldenkreis (I botched the spelling, I know it) exercises. Goupi firmly believes that the body is a companion with a mind and everything of its own and we need but develop a good relationship with it and it will speak to us, share with us.

Actually, he did not refer to my body as 'it', he said, 'he'. I begged his pardon and asked if when he said He, he was referring to my body, which is a She. Goupi said yes, better to call it not It, because Body has a persona, so call it he or she, sure...and he continued to call my body He, in third person. Iiiiinteresting! Weird. But, okay.

Did he keep looking at my boobs?

I got no malicious vibe from the guy at all, he's a playful sort of gent...dude. With quite a reputation. But I don't think that David, who was ahead of me in queue for a massage, took off HIS shorts for the treatment!

Did he?

Doesn't matter. I didn't feel comfortable in a variety of ways, so we did exercises, and Goupi said Ommm a lot, he does that when he talks, ends a sentence with Ommm, and interjects Italian and Tamil and French here and there, and I totally understand what he's saying.

We concluded the session an hour and a half later, me in a looser more relaxed body (She really like it!) and crossing the Mother's Eyes with a couple hundred rupees. I aim to continue these exercises.

The other day I was walking along a red-earthed, dusty baked road and saw a trio of dung bugs doing what dung bugs do:

Matt showed up today! This morning, he came sauntering in to the GuestHouse grounds. He was one of three who taught the intro to permaculture in (rural) Vellore earlier this year, where I began all this India living. The one who reminds me so much of my brother Christopher - they share the same birthday. Was so great to see him - he's tripping out, all the people, the tiles, the cleanliness! He's been out in the boondocks for three months. We met Sugar (another permy teacher) at Ganesh Bakery, they ate Dosa and we sipped chai.

Matt bought incense and since the proprietor didn't have a rupee change, offered to sell Matt a roll of mints, or 'pepp on mints', as the label proclaimed. Matt offered in turn to share them with us but I couldn't partake. He asked why and I said, "I read the ingredients". Here I should interject that Matt is a staunch vegetarian and prefers purity in all things (even his tobacco...hee hee, love ya dude).

Ingredients included: approved synthetic flavoring and coloring, and a list of other multi-syllabic dubious unpronouncables.

"Well, that's it for the pepp on mints!"

(a candid shot, done blindly and from underneath the table, of Matt)

Here are some more shots of the joint, taken blind point-and-shoot style....this first is over my shoulder. Everything looks so western! ha ha! That's because, to a large is!!

That's half a Sugar face on the left:

So then we disbanded. I sold Sugar that Ladybird bike you know? Did I blog about that? Well it has a flat. So we walked back towards Solar Kitchen from my guest house after I showed her the place and we saw:

I loved her curly horns. A bit further on:
I love the curly leaves! And the colors. I have no idea what this plant is.

Straight on to Surrender:

I guess the signage isn't too clear from where I'm standing....they're building a new road here, so not as many trees nestled up along here.

Almost to the internet cafe, a man on a bicycle passes me:

This afternoon I think I'll hop into a taxi with a few other College Guest Housians and go to Sadhana Forest. This is where I thought I would originally be in Auroville, doing some reforestation. But, after visiting briefly one sunday afternoon and seeing the place, I decided against it. REALLY super awesome people, and a great vibe, but I'm not into cramped dorm living conditions and I've either read about or heard of people being sick there. I mean, violently ill; in fact, Sugar was sick when she first arrived, for a week. And I helped out in the kitchen, cooking the evening meal, on that Sunday afternoon and the place was thick with flies. I mean I've never seen anything like it, not even in the villages, not even at the school where we did the natural build and permaculture, and they chopped food on the floor.

I'm skipping the meal at Sadhana, but I want to be a part of the official tour, to better understand and appreciate what they're doing, because I hear so many wonderful things and experiences of Sadhana Forest as well. And the movie sounds interesting, it's always something good.

I'm going to stay in Auroville for a little while longer yet, as part of my Be Here Now Plan, Phase Three Hundred and Two. Then I hope to fly over to England and help out a woman who is purchasing a home, as part of a HelpExchange (sort of like WWOOF'ing, but can include non-organic farms, and a variety of other helper outer stuff). She'll be living in Bristol. There are so many opportunities for wwoof'ing and whatnot in England, I think I shall be keeping myself occupied and enthralled for months, and then maybe on to Europe (Italy, Spain, France) for the autumnal harvest. Sounds good? I think so!

My tummy growls, I must go and feed my sweaty self.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

the lezzies

My brother Christopher had a couple of female golden retrievers he called The Lezzies. That always cracked me up, and confirmed the fact that my brother really did have a sense of humor. It had dried up a lot. Sometimes I wonder if he died in part because of a lack of direction or sense of humor in life. Here's to you, bro, a fun-loving yin/yang couple of Lezzies who live at the Guest House and pretty much have fun all day long.

Here's Sugar

And here's Coco. She likes hanging around people more, but they're both pretty gregarious.

Hey! Check out the banyan! I was walking along with a new guest, Kathy, and she offered to take my picture. She's been traveling a lot and like many people I've met since landing in India, is also going through some major transitions in her life. Oooh sorry, no picture of Kathy.

Wow, that's crazy, I just checked my gmail email account and heard from an old acquaintance who could be a great good friend whose name is Chris. Hey Chris, if you stop by! Hi and it's great to hear from you, I'm writing you a note.

I miss friends at home, and home is still Eugene, even though I feel a great sense of general rootlessness, restlesness, aimlessness.....gah. Part of me wants to just book a flight back, but I don't think it's really the time yet.

And nothing really makes much sense, which could, I think, be a premium source of and springboard for freedom. Damn, that was nearly a Sri Aurobindo sentence. He's a guy, we'd call a sort of terrorist (freedom fighter), Indian, educated in Great Britain, famous yogi, friend of The Mother who founded the city of Auroville. He wrote this big-ass book (well a few of them) called The Synthesis of Yoga, which I read aloud for that german fellow a couple weeks ago - read to tape, so he could play it back and listen to the great words of wisdom and also learn how to speak better english since I know how to pronounce rather obscure 'oxford english' words. Well ANYway, Sir Sri Aurobindo's sentences are circuitous, litanic, intellectual, and LONG. Like, a paragraph's worth of length, with lots of asides and subtangents and couched phrases...gah.

People here, in India and in Auroville, keep saying that anything is possible. There is this sense of great seriousness but also this playfulness that I see, catch glimpses of. That seem to encourage one to ask for what one wants, and it will be produced magically in some glancing way. I've seen it. I've experienced it. You really can and do create your reality but here, now, it seems much more palpable. I'm not sure why.

Last night Angela showed up at the kitchen area with these rad Audrey Hepburn type sunglasses on. I told her I love the sunglasses! She said, They're not sunglasses, they're (*)&daasd;fl something Italy. I thought, okay, I still need to polish my english language skills. I asked her to explain. The glasses are made of plastic, and the dark 'lenses' are actually punctuated with small holes at very regular intervals. They're pinhole glasses, and she found them on the shelf for really cheap in Italy. What?!

Well, at the ashram in Pondy you can go for these eye classes - they give you exercises to help you regain your eyesight. This is not a load of shit. I tried the glasses on and I'll be damned, I could see better. Like, Clemens' expression across the kitchen area, and reading the whiteboard....what?!

You'd need to de-graduate your spectacle prescription as your eyesight grows stronger, but if you do this while in India, you can just go buy lenses right off the shelf too, really inexpensively.

Anything. Is. Possible.

I read a couple of things recently that I really recognize, from travelers and also traveling to India -- that unfamiliar surroundings make a body awkward and forgetting how to do simple things, and coming here makes you learn english all over again. I felt comforted, knowing I'm not alone in my fumbling around all the time.

Here's a short video, one that I tried posting yesterday, some birds singing in the morning. I'm not sure how well the sound carries through, so try turning it up.

Stopped at our grocery store, Pour Tous, for a few nibbly things and bananas for breakfast. Someone had written with a blue ballpoint pen, 'for special people' underneath Pour Tous, which is French meaning 'For All'. Yeah. I feel weird being a white person here with what is a gross amount of money to most indigenous people. You can shop at Pour Tous if you have a guest account (or are a full-on Aurovillian) through Auroville -- since it's supposed to be a 'cashless system'. You still put cash in your account though. It's just debited from each place you do business, instead of you handing each business the cash. Hmm. Sometimes I buy at Pour Tous, for the nostalgia of shopping in places like The Kiva and Sundance at home (natural food stores with crowded aisles where everyone knows your name); sometimes I buy direct from the villagers, which I enjoy.

However, I did buy a bottle of cold fizzy kombucha and rose petal (for cooling the body), for about fifty cents, which I just can't wrap my head around. It's nice, don't get me wrong! And a little thing of spirulina that would be about six bucks in the States is about a sixth of the price here. I stopped off at a local snackery for some samosas (yeah, the place we camped out at the other day, talking all sorts of philosophical shit about was good shit! don't get me wrong! it's all valid! heh heh)....they ran a bit on the spendy side, at Rs12 for two. Funny how things shift, yeah? I just about bought a kilo of lemons at Pour Tous, but they wanted about thirty rupees. I said No way, man, I can buy them for less in the village. And I did - two rupees a piece (which is still expensive! because in the village at the workshop near Vellore, we bought them for a rupee each, and our cooks said that we should have been charged a half rupee - fifty paise - each! hee hoo!).

Went for a bike ride around the 'hood this afternoon, here are some signs on places:

This outside a cashew orchard. What?!

And this on the gate to a....brain gym! What??!! Huuzzah!

Holy crap I'm stinky. I've never lived in such humidity. I need to get off this hotbox and go shower. Laters!

Sunday, March 22, 2009

kodaikanal and nirvana

oy! I'm trying to upload some videos but it's taking an eon and a half, so I don't know if I'll meet with success on that front today. In the meanwhile, some pictures of KodaiKanal, College Guest House Style, and courtesy of our resident Austrian, Thomas (who I don't have a picture of, harumph).

Yesterday I parked my sweaty carcass in a neighboring city/hammock, The City That Has Yet To Be Named, since KodaiKanal was occupied by our resident male Swiss (who lives in Spain), Clemens. Here he is, yesterday, while we all enjoyed talking about Perfection and Community and whatnot.

Along with his wife, who is still in Barcelona, he runs a sort of shelter/home for dogs and is involved with the care of animals. They've also visited Tamera community in Spain, which I've heard about. He said that in the harvest season they're always looking for help. Sounds really nice, harvest and community in Spain! I think my former house mate Blanche told me about Tamara (not sure on the spelling). It bears investigation!

Yael and Ajit sitting opposite, while we drank a (very cold! yeah!) non-alcoholic beer, and ate samosas:

(Yael abstained from the beer and instead took a spot of tea which she said was really tasty)

Yael says, regarding Perfection, that it's more about Good-Enough. I love that. Clemens remark leans towards Perfection being an attitude: if you love (embrace) what Is, whatever IS, is perfect. I love that too. I am inclined to lean both ways. I asked how do you define perfection? Is it static? A pinnacle? If so, isn't it likely to die, if no new information is being integrated? Diverse and open systems are ultimately more stable, in the long run, and can continue evolving. A state of health? Balance? Evolution? Yael commented that Enlightenment (when conversation inevitably wandered in that direction) includes Non Duality. And we all agreed that while we may not yet be that, we can appreciate its virtue :)

Ah! A video has uploaded. I was walking along a path that leads away from Arka, the internet cafe, and a line of cows were ambling along the main road. A woman drove by on her TVS (motorbike), in a sari. Wonderful.

Clemens, incidentally, almost shares my father's middle name (Clement) and we almost share a birthday, although I am one year his senior. Clemens' birthday is February 28th. I said me too, and then felt compelled to add that actually, I was born at just past midday on February 27th, in America (mountain standard time). I celebrated my birthday here in India on February 27th, but woke up on the 28th to realize that actually, at the time-point of my birth on the 27th, it would've been 12:30am the next day here. Same time, different date. I try to explain this to people and immediately they say, "Oh, so you're cheating." Nooooo, it's the same time, but in America, it's called one day, and in India, they've already begun another. So really, in India, I was born on the 28th.

Anyway. Wrap your head around it, or don't, we have a 12 or 13 hour time difference, and I celebrated twice.

Yael has left for Delhi, she'll go to a Vipassana retreat, and I'm wishing her well. I really like Yael and we both wish there was more time to hang out and talk and everything. I miss her already.

Here, another video has uploaded! Walking further along the path, two trees leaning into one another creak and sigh with the help of a constant breeze. Along comes a man on a bicycle with a light load (really):

He saw that I had a camera so gestured for his photo to be taken: Here's a recording of the grounds, with some birdsounds and landcape views from the room I'm staying in. Loads of birds in the early morning - there are a few who aren't singing at this particular time. They're more active later in the day and even at night.
okay, well, I've been busying myself here for about twenty minutes trying to upload and it's not complete yet, so I'm trashing the effort and I'll try again some other time. I need to move out into the world of sun and heat and people now. a plus tard!

Thursday, March 19, 2009

tra la la


okay I just uploaded some pictures to the flickr photo album and my bum is tired of sitting in the chair, so I'll just load a couple of sketches here and say...what to say...well, it's hot here :)

And that I've been on this jag with drawing -- no head, off with it, don't think so much. You can go to my flickr page, click on the jigsaw thing at the left, for all the stuff I've sketched lately.

I bought a lovely little leather-bound book a couple weeks ago and a palette of super cheap watercolors and painted this inside. I'm sure that some people here would appreciate it, and some...would not :)

Putting all your heads in one basket is risky business, and yet, liberating!

Drop it!

Last night we ate dinner at Kodaikanal. Massive cooking by Yael and then me, and some folks joined us.

Ah, here's Yael now, she just dropped into the iCafe - I really like Yael. (hey you can see pictures of The Mother and Sri Aurobindo on the wall, at the right...the pictures always kind of weird me out, to be honest, and may the Mother strike me down, but that's how it is and She Is Everywhere...her eyes are always upon you! ahhhhh......!!!)

So, Thomas (who is still probably sleeping in his hammock at the GH) has been chatting profusely about Kodaikanal. It's a hill station in the area (relatively's in the south anyways), and folks like to go there about this time of year when things start to really heat up. He talks a lot about it, apparently. The other day Sara said that she observed he talks a lot about it, but he's still here. So Thomas made a sign beside his hammock, Kodaikanal Resting Spot. And last night there were candles and a tablecloth with our dinner even.
This morning, folks headed over to Kodai for breakfast, and Thomas' frame was still filling the hammock.

I love how plainly people speak here. At the guest house, I have to add. It's great, and refreshing. A good number of folk are leaving soon though, I will truly miss them. It'll make room for more energy though, that's what I'm thinking towards - and also, I can join the stream of traveling too, any time.

Question I want to do that in India, or elsewhere? Hmmm........I'm willing to hang out another week and chill in the hot humidity and let my brain empty a bit more.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Well good morning to all and to all a good morning! It's nearing the ten o'clock hour here, I'm sitting comfortably under some fans and the birdsongs are abating after a very active sun salutation all around the city. I aim to record some of those sounds soon, now that I know it's possible to upload video here.

Speaking of phrase I hear over and over, from natives and non-natives alike, is that anything is possible. I've heard it more in India than at any other time in my life though. It's weird, but cool, and I believe it. The last time I heard this was from the receptionist at the dental clinic. She said that to be bold is good too.

I found the clinic after stopping to chat with Peter and two folks he'd just met at the Aurolec cafe - Heidi (a longtime aurovillian, with none of the facade or pretentiousness...she's a tour guide and actually spends a fair amount of time outside of Auroville!) and Wolfgang, from Crete. We sat at a table under a huge jackfruit tree with HUGE JACKFRUIT:

I was wondering why the bags of water hanging from trees (there are no goldfish in them, why are they hanging bags of water from trees??). Heidi said, umprompted, that flies eyes are confused by the reflection and refraction of the water and light when it's bagged in plastic like that. Amazing! There were still flies, but maybe not so many as if there weren't any goldfishless bags of plastic water.

So back to the dentists' office! Heidi peels off and then Wolfgang, after some nice conversation (I've been in good conversation lately, it's, um...really nice) and I chart some territory around the cafe, which includes some health services and I don't know what else. I go inside and ask about the dental lab and he says that if you want teeth cleaned and such, go outside turn left.

Many Indians will give you directions and the most helpful are when they say 'opposite'. I can grasp this, I understand it means on the other side of, usually the other side of the street. But most of the time they gesture a lot and say 'straight' and 'left' and 'right', but it's all still very vague. Most of the time when I ask for directions, even for an item in a store, they wave vaguely, in a general direction, with a half-bobble of the head.

Well I went outside and turned left, but I didn't see an orange gate for a clinic. So I hopped on my bicycle and went OUTSIDE the compound, turned left, and eventually found an orange gate with a placard for a dental clinic! All the while, I must add that I've been smiled at and not humored or treated like a dumb American (which can also happen with regularity..hee hee).

So back to the dentist's office! yeah! The receptionist was really friendly, and very astute. I expressed how amazingly easy this was, to walk in and make an appointment, I had been fretting over how to keep my teeth clean while I can go in and for about fifteen dollars, they'll clean my teeth and give me a consultation, see if I have any cavities. Wow. "Anything is possible," she says, earnestly.

My appointment is for tomorrow. When I gave her my name, and where I'm staying, she laughed and said with some astonishment that a Victoire from the same guest house had just been in! Here's Victoire (see my flickr photostream for more uploads today), outside Fertile Windmill:
(Poor of her back teeth has broken and she's grappling with the fact that it really needs to be extracted. I can relate. Same thing happened to me, and I have issues about my teeth - they're supposed to be permanent, so psychologically it's somewhat horrifying when something breaks, especially teeth)

We still don't know what that fruit is called.

Here's the sign that greets us at Fertile Windmill, a community in Auroville that makes jewelry from precious and semi-precious stones. As we approached the sign, Victoire burst out in peels of laughter and so did I....PARK HERE!!!
thank you
(please) in very small letters, almost as an afterthought
Really it's so funny, speaks to an attitude that we've both encountered here in Auroville.

We went on the field trip day before yesterday to Fertile Windmill. Victoire looooves jewels, so she bought a nice necklace. I liked the cheap figure of Shiva with his foot in his mouth, but I didn't buy it :)

Yesterday I went into Pondy with Damien, who left last night for Australia. He needed to do some last-minute gift shopping and he volunteered me to go along (I agreed to the volunteer position). It was a lot of fun, and very exhausting. I posted pics on the flickr stream, and here's a short video from the bazaar. It's a warren of stalls you could get lost in easily and rather happily, if you were mentally fortified to enjoy the cacophony of smells, voices, and wares shouting at you. It was great.

Here's the woman I bought some coconuts from, she was sweet

Beatiful colors, and friendly faces too

Okay my bladder is full and I have to finish uploading pics to flickr, so I can go and eat some breakfast. I'm drinking more water today, I mean it! I really do! I'm still feeling spacey and headachey this morning so maybe I didn't drink enough yesterday. I've also been fixing myself coffee every morning and I woke up feeling soo groggy, I think I should lay off the coffee. Maybe. Argh, it tastes so good though! I love waking up and sipping coffee. Who is this talking? I'm not a regular coffee drinker!!

catch y'all later...wish you were here