The day before I headed out, I stopped by Pictureline - the camera shop I do a lot of stuff at. My digital SLR has been acting up lately. They take a look at it and as they are going to charge me for cleaning it, they end up saying, "Um... your camera is on its way out. And... don't worry about the cleaning charge. It's free."
So, I didn't bring a digital with me. So funny. And ironic. I have my old trusty Canon AE-1. Film. Going to do this whole thing in film. So, that is why there is no photos. What fun is a blog w/o photos?! I know!
But, I'm here. Pleasantly sweating. Listening to hundreds of car horns as they zoom by the internet cafe. I have come into town today, to visit a bank, buy some water, and do a little internetting. My fellow student, Sanja, is working on a paper she has to have done before she leaves for Chennai in the morning, so we made the rickshaw ride here for a few hrs.
Speaking of rickshaws: you all need to try one! Just get two wheels, a few planks, some handles from some poles or something and then get your kids out in front and have them pull you around! What a great cultural teaching experience! I was reading how India was introduced to the rickshaw from the Chinese, in the later 1800s. They are auto rickshaws here and I can come into town for about .75 cents.
India is colorful. Dirty. Sacred. Mystical. Warm. Wet. Load. Quiet. And by the sea.
I am doing a physical training here, for 6 wks. It's called KALARIPPAYAT. It's an ancient martial art where you do sequences and postures taught to you by your guru and it is a beautiufl thing to watch!
Everyday I wake up at 7:00a. By 7:15a, Ramesh (our teacher) honks the horn and we run out and pile into a tiny van. We drive for about 15 minutes to the Kalari ... or "the pit." It is a clay rectangle pit, dug straight into the earth, in the jungle. It has a thatched roof and clay walls and a clay floor. There is incense burning on all four walls as you descend into the pit a few steps.
I pull off my towl and I'm wearing a tiny, white loin-cloth! So funny! Then, we put oil all over our bodies. This oil helps our muscles heat up for practice, so we can be flexible and limber. The oiling takes about 10 minutes. We put it EVERYWHERE and we look very shiny when we're done.
Ramesh (our teacher) then starts commanding us to do certain forms and sequences - stuff I've been practicing for a number of months. But b/c of the climate and the oil and the plain rigors of the practice, I IMMEDIATELY begin sweating. It is a joke now, but I literally leave a trail of wet behind me b/c my body is perspiring so much. Just yesterday, my teachers were laughing b/c my body was emitting so much steam. They said, "You are FIRE!"
We kick. We lunge. We hold squatting postures. We fling about. All the while, in bare feet and bare everything else. You would see it and think this is something from the ancient days of India. Our teacher, Ramesh, is shorter than I am but has been doing this his entire life. In fact, that is all he does: teaches Kalari. He is very strong, very disciplined, but you get him out of the pit and he is like a smiling school boy: very nice and charismatic.
There are 4 students here, right now. Me and Aubri (a friend of mine from SLC) and Sam and Sanja. Sam is from Britain but hasn't been there in 3 years. He's been living in Singapore, Thailand, and Malaysia. Sanja is Yugoslavian by birth but lives in Austria. She and Sam are really fun, interesting people and we all get along very well.
Yesterday I started Long Stick. Which is exactly what it sounds like. I'm starting to use a big long stick and cracking it against my teacher. Its hard trying to remember the hand positioning, the movement of the feet, keeping your body at the right angle, etc, but they seem to think we are doing well. In fact, after the first day of training, our guru - Sherifka - said we had really good teaching. They are throwing lots at me and Aubri. And we are picking it up as fast as we can.
Practice goes until about 9:30a and then we go back home. I walk directly to the beach, which is about 50 yds away. It is the Indian Ocean, but more directly the Arabian Sea. The water is deliciously cool - and not too cold. Just right! I soak for awhile and then walk back to the cottage.
As you walk into the cottage, Lakshmi (our cook) has prepared a home-made Indian breakfast! There is always more than we can all eat. I especially like it when she makes watermelon juice, grape juice, or a banana shake. All the ingredients she uses are very much from here. Nothing we have or are eating is anything like home. Except the pancakes... they are like Swedish pancakes mom fixes. We drink hot Kumen water or Chai and get tired, real fast.
We get up and shower, tape our feet, and either snooze for a while or pull out a book. We have the rest of the afternoon to our leave with another meal around 2:30p. I have been doing lots of reading. Some recommendations:
1. Gilead, by Marilynne Robison
2. A New Earth, by Echart Tolle
3. Alice in Wonderland, by Lewis Carroll
4. The City of Joy, by Dominique Lapierre
At 4:00p, Ramesh is honking the horn again and we repeat the drill over, all suited up in new, fresh loin-cloths (except the girls, of course, they are very much covered!). We do an hour practice as eventing approaches and then peel back home around 5:30p. Jump in the Sea. Shower. Sit down and eat.
The evening is VERY chill as we sometimes play cards, Sam strums his guitar on the porch, Sanja meticulously goes at her Sudoku book and Aubri kinda flitters around doing all sorts of things. I have been working on my new bird-design idea/company: Red Fred Bodoni and his Fine Feathered Fonts. I'm happy to say I have some great things planned, made, designed that I hope to launch after the first of the year. I'm so glad I have my lap-top, even though the power goes out nightly at a certain time, and we go about lighting the candles as if nothing has happened.
I usually hit the hay around 9:00p. Pretty tired. We repeat this. Over and over and over.
There is a lot of time to think. To listen. To try and understand myself more and better. To think about suffering and sanctity. What would you do if you had nothing around you that reminded you of your home or the people you came from? Where does your mind drift when you realize you are just a little piece of sand on vast coast of millions of other sand particles? The waves seem to be hypnotic as they caress my thoughts at night.
I find myself grateful. Happy. And at times, longing for the companionship of those I hold close to my heart. I would love for them - you - all to be here, just b/c it's beautiful and like nothing we know back home.
Yesterday, I was fed by a stranger. There seems to be nothing more kingly than to be provided for by somebody that has no other intention than to simply give. It made me think of my parents, of all parents, of the nature of love towards others. I was walking by a coconut grove and a man had some young boys scamper up a tree and drop me a coconut. I drank the fresh milk straight from the coconut and just sat with the 3 of them for a spell. Hardly a lick of English escaped our lips, but we understood the connection of sharing and caring.
I decided to write this lengthy post b/c I am not in frequent contact at all, but wanted to give you an idea of what life is like for me right now. Very simple. Very basic. Very sweaty! :)
I love you all. Love reading about the Elders, the kiddos, and seeing Doug and Angie's heads on those AMAZING bodies! Please know I think about all of you and pray for you. Thanks for your prayers. They do my body good!
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