Tuesday, December 31, 2013

So much India in less than 24 hours!

It is almost next year, and probably will be by the time I finish this entry.  This first day has been so filled with new things that I really want to write some of it down quickly before I forget.

The journey here was long but problem-free.  We got in at 1 AM.  The lines were long, but not too terribly  bad.  We got through immigration then waited a long time for our luggage, but went through customs without any problem.  We saw Ravi waving at us as we walked out of the airport.  The ride to his house was a little wild, but at 2:30 AM the traffic was not anything compared to what we experienced today!

Our beautiful and gracious hosts, Ravi and Sheela.

Here are a few of the many things that I've experienced on this first amazing day.

+ I drank traditional Indian coffee in the traditional Indian way.  Love at first sip!
+ I learned to eat wonderful Vegetarian fare the traditional Indian way, with my fingers.  Yes, with my fingers!
+ I zapped mosquitoes with a really cool electronic zapper!  My apologies to my Buddhist friends, but eliminating mosquitoes is a basic health practice here.
+ I learned how to get hot water and how to operate the shower.  Important skills.
+ I relaxed on the patio and enjoyed the wonderful tropical weather and lush tropical vegetation.
+ I went to a traditional Indian dance concert.
+ I survived a ride through REAL Indian traffic.  No words can describe it.  Really, it is more challenging than everything you've heard and read.  
+ I walked through a bustling open market and saw vegetables I've never seen before.
+ I saw a traditional kolam, made by our cook Indrani, outside the front door.  This is a traditional Indian drawing made fresh each morning with rice flower.
+ I participated in an after lunch discussion, which ranged from plans for tomorrow to politics to food to religion to history to philosophy.  Because, especially in India, it's all related.

And it's the new year!  Although back home you still have to wait another 10 1/2 hours.

                                    HAPPY NEW YEAR!!!!!

The sweaters and blankets many of you gave me to bring for the people of the Himalyas.  Thanks!

             The traditional kolam.  I wonder what it will look like tomorrow.

             Kelley knows how to relax.

                                     And Google really knows how to relax.

Eating with my fingers was more difficult than I'd thought it would be.  And messy!

The Bharatanatayam dance concert was amazing.  They used every part of their bodies to tell the story, including fingers, eyebrows, toes and eyes.  Very elegant, very beautiful.  It is the classical South Indian dance.

                       Sheela is an expert mosquito zapper!

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Leaving on a jet plane. Don't know when I'll be back again.

Well, the "reconnect tour" is over and I'm on my way. 

I am in the Charlotte NC airport right now.  I fly to Miami, where I have a 5 hour layover.  Time enough to make last minute calls to friends and family, and to finish this blog.  Then I fly 8 1/2 hours to London Heathrow where I have a three hour layover and meet up with Dasa and Kelley.  Then the 10 hour flight to Chennai, where Ravi will be waiting for us when we arrive at 1:00 AM December 31.  Hopefully enough time to take a nap before we see the New Year arrive.  I don't usually stay up for the celebrations, but I'm going to try this year! 

In the meantime, I am, as always, reflecting on the year past and setting intentions for the year to come.  Those of you who know me know that it has been a challenging year for me: health scares, moving out of my beloved Weeping Cherry estates after 22 years, seeing my aspirations for the future kind of fall apart.  But the year is ending on an upward trend, and I look forward to 2014 with gratitude for another precious year of life.  Through it all, I've had the loving support of friends and family.  And when one door has slammed shut, another door has opened!  Finally, the teachings of Thich Nhat Hanh have helped me to water the seeds of love and gratitude, and not those of bitterness.

I spent the last two days packing, and managed to bring quite a few blankets and sweaters for the people of the Himalayas in my two free bags.  I cut it close - one weighed 48.5 lbs. and the other 45.5 lbs.  I'm sure I have more stuff than I need, even though I'll be there over four months.  (Four months - I still can't believe it!)

In the Miami Airport now.  Time to make those phone calls.  The next blog will come to you all from India!  I will miss you all, and it's good to know you are keeping me company by following the blog.  Do keep in touch!  I won't have phone service, but I will have access to email most of the time, once I get settled.

I managed to get stuck in the mud at the goat farm, and Donna and Deann had to pull me out!  Hilda was smart enough to stay inside, out of the rain.  It was a very nice visit, in spite of all the rain.

It stopped raining for a while when I visited my brother Dean and his wife Mary Ann on their lovely mini-farm in Ranger Georgia.  They are a happy couple!

Shelia and B. G. love to cuddle.  The good news is that B. G. cuddled with me too!  And Shelia helped me out with lots of things I needed.

Alan was my ride to the airport, and he helped me lug my heavy luggage up the stairs.  (What a time for the escalators to be out!). Check in went smoothly.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Preparations for India

I am continuing my "reconnect tour."  Right now I am in the House of Joy at Grailville in Loveland OH, one of my favorite places.

      The House of Joy is quite dignified even in the pouring rain.

My preparations for India began way back in August.  I made my flight reservations early.  When I decided to extend my stay, I had to change them, which ended up costing almost $600!  Oh well.  Being out of the country for four months takes a lot of planning, even when one doesn't have a house or apartment to worry about.  I have been making lists for months now, and waking up in the middle of the night thinking of things to add. 

Getting a visa. India requires a visa, and this was one of the most nerve racking things that had to be done.  The Indian government has recently outsourced the visa process to a new company.  (I have friends who have found some humor in the fact that India is outsourcing this.)  Anyway, the process is a real test of whether one really wants to visit India!  There are multiple very confusing forms to fill out.  There are numbers to call with questions, but the 800 number was not in service and the local number always went to a voice mailbox that was full!  The timing was tricky for me.  I was applying for a 6 month visa, and the clock starts ticking on the day it is issued, NOT the day one enters the  country.  Since I am staying a little over four months, I didn't want to apply too early.  The process should take less than a month, but sometimes takes a lot longer.  And you have to send your passport off with your application, which requires faith in an organization that has a flaky reputation.  It was a real relief when the visa arrived!

Health issues need to be considered.  A trip to a travel doc is a necessity to make sure you have all the immunizations you need.  You need to make sure you have any prescription medications you need.  Any regular check-ups that are due need to be taken care of.  Additional insurance coverage must be checked into.  I decided to also purchase vitamins and OTC medications that I might need.

Income tax will require an extension, since I won't be back in the country until May.

Bills will need to be paid.  I don't have a lot of these now, just a few, like insurance.

Stuff needs to be left with someone who will take care of it.  Mine is mostly in storage, but I had it in a POD and needed to move it to less expensive storage.  My bicycles are with a friend who will take care of them.  I am leaving my car with my brother.

What to take requires planning.  I am allowed two checked bags.  One of them will be filled with sweaters and blankets I am collecting for people in the Himalayas who have lost everything due to flooding.  I am taking very few clothes, since Ravi said it is better to buy them there for many reasons.  They are inexpensive, will be appropriate for India, and mean room in my luggage for other things.  I am still deciding what those other things will include.

Money, how much will be needed and how much cash to take.  Also letting my bank and credit card company know I will be using my debit and credit cards in India.

   The Licking County Bicycle Club Holiday party provided great food and fellowship.

       I remembered how to shovel snow!

      I will meet up with Kelley and Dasa in London Heathrow for the flight to Chennai.

       My granddaughters Shelly and Kaya holding their nieces, Makenna and Mariah.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Two Weeks and One Day To Go!

More than a week since my last entry here!  Hard to believe time is going by so quickly.  I've been busy visiting friends and family in Indiana and Ohio, and working on my "To Do" list.  It seems like I'm adding two things for each thing I check off, so I'm feeling a little anxious.

As always, unexpected complications arise.  Here is one that I am dealing with:

We went to Panera's for lunch.
My baguette had a strange crunch.
"Oh no!" I said,
As I spit out my bread.
Bits of tooth confirmed my hunch.

Fortunately I have a good dentist here in Columbus and he was able to see me right away.  I'll have a new crown before I leave!

I'll include pictures below of some of my visits, but here is a quick laundry list.  Sandy, Danny and Izzie in Jamestown IN; Don and Becky in Carmel IN; Pat in Springfield OH; Beth, Patrick and Gwen in Columbus OH; Shirley, Karin, Sarah, Sandy, Ken, Carol, and Donna in Newark/Granville OH.  It has been a delight to visit with old friends and family.

I've also been working on preparations.  I'll be taking my iPhone and iPad with me, but I won't be using my AT&T services there. I'll be putting my service on reduced rate suspension.  I spent quite a bit of time in the Apple store, trying to figure out the best way to make sure all my pictures are safely backed up and getting all the latest software so I'm ready to go.  I'll say more about preparations in a future blog.

Ravi has been busy preparing for our visit and has lots of things planned for us, including a cycling tour of some of the heritage sites in Tamil Nadu, the state where he lives.  I love cycling, so this is really exciting!

I promised to explain how my one month stay in India turned into four.  Earlier this year, I had my life carefully planned out.  I was going to rent a house in Albuquerque and settle down there. And someday I still hope to do that.  But one day in early September things fell apart.  The rental house fell through.  That same day I realized that a relationship I was in was stuck, going nowhere, and so was I.  It was time to let go.  I was contemplating my alternatives when Ravi sent an email suggesting I extend my stay in India.  It seemed like a great idea.

So I did!

Izzie loves to spoil people with her cuddling.

Sandy and I spent time reminiscing about good times when our kids were growing up together.

My brother Don and his wife Becky have a beautiful home!

Patrick said I couldn't take his picture, so I did!

Beth said the same thing!

Shirley, Donna and I spent an afternoon planning our bike tour of France next September.  Not only are these two women beautiful, they are also fun and adventurous.  I feel fortunate to have such good friends!

Denison has an excellent Bluegrass Music degree program, and I was lucky enough to be here for their winter concert.  What a treat!

Friday, December 6, 2013

How I Met Ravi and Sheela

I am currently snowed in in Springfield MO, on my way East of course.  I left my new home state, New Mexico, to head for my old home state, Ohio, on Wednesday morning.  I made it here yesterday, Thursday, afternoon and the last 50 miles were really NASTY!  Today promised to be more of the same, so I decided to stay put.  Captive in a motel room - a good time to blog!

I will be visiting, staying with and studying with Ravi and Sheela in Chennai. I met them when they came to Denison University for the 2008-2009 academic year.  
Sheela and Ravi at my house in May 200
Ravi taught Yoga classes that were free and open to the community.  I had just retired and was open to new activities when I saw the Yoga class on a list posted at my local library.  Looks interesting, I thought.  I ought to check it out.

So I did.  And I became a regular, every Monday through Friday morning at 8 AM in Swasey chapel.  Ravi taught a different kind of Yoga than I'd been used to.  He taught the Yoga Sutras and breathing as well as asanas, and Sheela taught us Vedic chanting.  She has the most beautiful chanting voice!!!  You can hear her at their website - http://www.yoganidhi.net/.  A whole community of Yogis grew up around Ravi and Sheela.  They are just that kind of people.  As my friend Carol says, they are surrounded by love wherever they go.  

Kaya, Shelly, Shruti and Shraddha
They came with their twin daughters, Shraddha and Shruti, who found many good friends here as well, including my two granddaughters, Shelly and Kaya.  We not only did Yoga together.  We also shared meals, outings, picnics - many good times together. There were lots of tears when it came time for them to go back home, and there were promises to visit.  We have stayed in touch, and finally this spring I sold my house, which freed me up to travel.  About the time my house sold, I found out that Denison was organizing a visit to India, but only for a couple weeks.  I mentioned the trip to a couple friends, Kelley and Dasa, and they were interested in going and staying for a whole month.  Tune in to the next blog to find out how a month turned into four months for me.

By the way, it is 77 degrees in Chennai right now.  Tomorrow morning they are predicting a wind chill factor of around minus 15 degrees in Springfield MO. 

Sunday, December 1, 2013

East to Seattle

I have begun my journey East and am now in Seattle.

This is a beautiful city, surrounded by wonderful opportunities for enjoying outdoor activities.  Looking westward over Puget Sound, one can enjoy ocean views with the Olympic Mountains in the distance.  

Mount Rainer often reveals herself in the southeast, and looks so close it's hard to believe she is about 100 miles away.  Mount Baker rises up in the northeast, and the Cascades trail off to her south.  And although you can't see them from Seattle, the San Juan islands and Vancouver island are just a ferry ride away.  And the city itself is filled with cultural diversity, museums and entertainment, and the sights, smells and sounds of a city of the world.  No wonder Erik loves it here, in spite of the gray skies.

Judy is another reason Erik loves it here.  And me too.

Judy is an amazing young woman from Uganda, and Erik and I both love her.  There are many stories to tell about the wonderful things Judy has done.  My favorite is about the well.  She went to South Sudan last year to visit her grandmother who raised her.  When she came back to Seattle, she couldn't stop thinking about the people in the village who had to walk miles to get water.  She decided she should save up her money and have a well dug.  SO SHE DID!  Here it is, and the village no longer has to walk far to get water.  What a woman!