Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Farewell, faraway land!

Whoa...where did it all go?

Just I minute ago I had freshly returned to Mysore, and now it's my last day here.

It's been a normal day here so far: Started out with early rising. Making myself a wee cup of coffee with just a little sugar that I drink out of a small metal chai cup. (Helps get me going for all the asanas!) It's primary series and second series in class with guruji. Sweating all over the place. Trying to push and pull and lift my body into the new, challenging asanas I've been practicing. After practice, I put my super sweaty clothes with the other dirties in a plastic bucket, fill it up with water, and proceed to scrub them with my blue detergent bar, squatting on the floor of the bathroom. Singing little songs to myself. It's still reaaally early in the morning. A shower to wash off all the sweat and the more sweat, hanging my clothes on the line up on the rooftop (from which I look down and see the little temple across the small street, and the early stirrings of the day on the main road that is just a jaunt from the shala), and then I'm fresh and so ready to go out! I hopped on my scooter and drove to Shivaprasad, one of my favorite restaurants here. And there I ordered some delicious foods you've probably never even heard of unless you've spent time in south India. And then to the internet cafe, arriving just as soon as it opens, like usual! Oh, I'm a sucker for my e-correspondence and social networking! It's actually been really amazing to be able to keep that up here. Makes me feel a little less detached from everything in my life.

Today I'm feeling good and full of happy energy. Maybe it's my impending departure. Maybe that, combined with the excitement of an upcoming adventure in San Francisco on my way back to Seattle. Maybe it was the really good practice I did this morning. Maybe I'm just happy. (Yes, yes I am!) And maybe all of this feels extra great because it's one million times better than how I felt the other day...

Day before yesterday I woke feeling funky, so I skipped practice and went back to sleep for a while. A little bit after waking, the trouble began. Yes, you guessed it: trouble of the intestinal variety. Trouble, oh trouble, that persisted every 5 minutes or so for hours and hours. So frequently that I was scared to go to the doctor, because of the time in between one toilet and another. Oh man. I've been sick a couple times here, but this was the most extreme. I was between bed and toilet all day. In the early evening, a friend came and got me in a rickshaw and we went to the hospital together. I waited for a painfully long time, and finally talked to a doctor who thought I was fine, I just needed to drink a lot of fluids. And he prescribed antibiotics to take just in case it didn't stop. And after that night it did stop. Thank the lord! But while I was at the hospital I left a "sample" so they could check to make sure I won't be taking any parasites home with me in my guts. And wow. Filling that little plastic cup with my special 'stuff' was a nasty little adventure. Heheh. Gross!

Well, the time has come for me to pack up and get ready to leave! I can't believe it! I'm pretty much thrilled to go. I don't think I'll miss it here for a while. But I'm grateful for every moment of my experiences. For serious!

This is a place that is easy to love and hate simultaneously. This is a place of extremes. This is a place of contradictions that make you laugh and cry and stand agape in wonder. This place, with beauty juxtaposed with utter filth everywhere. This place, where magic is real and reality is more brutal than you could have imagined. This place! I will miss it someday. I will come back to it someday.

Yes, I can say lots of things that sound cliche about my experiences here. Eye-opening. Life-changing. Etc. And it's all true. And I'm sure I'll have even more insightful things to say after I've been away and 'digested' it all for a while. This place gives you so much to digest - physically, mentally, and emotionally. I can't keep up! But I'm working on it!

And this place has a way of dredging up those things that you need to face, and probably don't want to. It reaches its slippery hands inside your gut and pulls out what it finds there - maybe something you don't want to see - and throws it right in your face. For everyone else to stare at, while you figure out how to deal with it and, hopefully, wipe it all away. You know the work you need to do. Baby steps or big steps. India teaches you lessons AND gives you homework.

I've had plenty more special genderqueer moments. Lots of questions, and staring and sometimes laughing. It doesn't really phase me, though it can be exhausting after a while. I have a friend here from Iceland who is an amputee (and a power-yogi! Yes!) and wears a prosthetic leg below one knee. People stare and point and laugh and talk to her about it constantly. They don't let differences go unnoticed or unremarked or undiscussed here. But to them, that doesn't seem to be disrespectful. Cultural differences. It's been on my mind lately. I think it's because privacy hardly exists here. For starters, there are so many people in this country. There really isn't space to have the 'space' that we Westerners value so greatly. With poverty so great and nearly everyone reproducing, personal space is severely limited, and seems to be nonexistent for many people here. People are together all the time - the women working at home together, with little kids running around in packs, the men out on the streets in grimy clusters. Young and old alike - rarely alone, in public or home. There's a system here. A social order, chaotic as it seems, that keeps it all (keeps them all) in place. And they seem to keep each other in it quite well. Anything that strays from the norm is immediately noticed, scrutinized, criticized, gawked at, etc.
Have you read "The White Tiger?" I read it since I've been here in Mysore. It's a great book, and it talks about the "rooster coop" being India's best (and possibly only) innovative contribution to the world. Not just the metal cage that holds the chickens in, but the invisible societal cage that holds everyone in their places. And each guards the others, from the inside, so that no one can get out.

I feel sooooooo privileged.

Yes, I could go on and on about all the ways in which this travel experience has reminded me of my many privileges in this life. But I don't have all day! (and, well, I've already spent hours of my day at this computer, to be honest!) India throws another thing in your face that I neglected to mention before: all your blessings in this life. Yes, mine were apparent to me before, but it's all so much clearer now. My life is amazing! And the gratitude I feel...whoa. I can't even begin to tell you. Instead of telling you, I'll make it my goal to express it in every action I perform in this world. To you, to strangers, to no one in particular. Through the grace of the god inside. God (whatever you call that, however you see or understand it) is truly in everyone of us. And "this place" throws that right in your face too, with everything else. Hang on to that one.

Mysore, let's spend one last amazing, hilarious day together! (For now...)

India, it's been REAL. Thanks for...everything.

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