September 3, 2010 § 4 Comments
ive been in mumbai at the yoga institute since last Saturday and here’s what i’ve generally been doing each day:
7:00-8:00 – asanas: this is what most people (including me) think when they see the word ‘yoga’ – the whole downward-dog, flexibility-increasing exercises done by women in spandex and self-counsciously fit men made popular by the likes of Madonna and Sting. I primarily came here to expand my knowledge and practice of asanas but apparently this is only one aspect of yoga. very basic asanas are covered in this weeklong course. Its nice because the instructors break each pose down to its roots so I feel like I’m building a good foundation and I’m starting to memorize the Sanskrit labels and sound all cool with the fancy sounding words rolling off my tongue (e.g., compare ‘vakrasana’ to ‘crocodile pose’). However, as enlightening and refining as these methods are, I’m itching to do more advanced + flow practices.
starting the day off with an asana session.
8:00-8:15 – “brisk walk:” we literally briskly walk around the campus where little profound-ish quotes like these:
8:15-8:30 – breakfast: students adopt a ‘satvic’ diet which basically means no processed foods, garlic/onion/harsh spices, unfiltered oils, meats, caffeine, refined carbs, etc. this also means no chocolate. But I sneak in a cough drop or two sometimes (lol I sound so pathetic. I promise im enjoying my meals here).
today was a special sweetened breakfast treat because it was an Indian holiday (Krishna’s bday)
8:30-9:30 – karma yoga: basically an hour of ‘menial tasks’ to help us focus our minds towards the work in front of us. Things ive learned through this: 1. I really like cutting vegetables 2. I like coming up with efficient ways to cut vegetables 3. I cant wait to take cooking classes.
9:30-10:30 – lecture or video (e.g., yogic diet, yogic hygiene, yogic philosophy, etc). I find my Penn-instilled scientific intellectualism scoffing a bit at their questionable research methods and claims but I appreciate the basic messages.
10:30-11:30 – experiential asanas: lectures on the purposes and proper mindsets/implications of the physical asanas. these are actually pretty enlightening but i wont go into detail.
11:30-12:00 – conversation with headmasters or conceptual games
12:00-12:30 – lunch:
typical lunch, clockwise from top: some sort of veg dish, cold buttermilk (dislike), beet salad, rice (dislike), chapati/roti, daal/soup
12:30-12:45 – break
12:45-1:30 – relaxation/guided meditation: basically, 45 minutes of conscious naptime in different poses.
1:30-2:30 – jalneti/facial massages/kriyas. Jalneti = sniff warm saline water up your nasal cavity to rinse it out for physical/mental clarity. And then massage our faces to increase stimulation. Kriyas = eye exercises + candle gazing to help focus/maintain calmness/inner peace/etc. I like the jalneti (it actually does clear up your senses and wakes you up) but the kriyas are a bit fluffy for me. The eye exercises just look a tad ridiculous because you have a classroom full of people trying to make themselves cross-eyed.
Jalneti: we cup the water and sniff it into our nostrils and then blow it out. Yum.
2:30-3:00 – conceptual games: we get to become kids again and play games that capture life lessons but is a great excuse to be blindfolded and throw balls at each other and sing/dance along with cheesy kindergarten tunes
3:00-3:30 – lecture…basically a lot of wisdom-y anecdotes and quotes about principles to help you navigate life. some of the lectures are profoundly simple and confidence-building. Interestingly enough, many of the messages being communicated here are very similar to the Christian Sunday service sermons of my childhood/adolescence but its refreshing to hear it from a non-Christian perspective. its liberating to know that people can live a principles-based life peacefully and maintain faith without the paternalistic version of God.
3:30-4:00 – pranayamas: various breathing techniques. People get really creative ways to take in air.
4:00-4:30 – snack & tea time! We have this home-brewed tea every breakfast, snack, and dinner. If theres anything ive noticed about india is that tea is serious business and delicious no matter where you are. Bengal had great masala chai and this institute has an amazing herbal concoction. I’ll learn how to make them both so when I settle down or something like that and have visitors like you I can make you some fine dime Indian tea. i also bought the institute cookbook so maybe ill be a pro satvic cook someday and feed you delicious spiceless veggies.
Puffed rice w/etc. First had this in Kolkata (see post #06)
deliciousness. steaming blend of milk, water, ginger, mint, lemongrass, and liquid jaggeri.
4:30-5:15 – bhajans aka singing hindi songs from a songbook led by an old lady with chronic arthritis…at first I disliked this session for three reasons: 1. English translated hindi is really hard to read (e.g., the word “hai” is pronounced ‘heh’…wtf) and I had no idea what I was singing about 2. The melodies are in a ridiculously unfamiliar and unpredictable high-pitched scale and 3. I just didn’t see the point. I used this time to sit in the back and have little side chats or write in my journal or daydream but then after the first couple of days it started getting fun for some reason. And we’d have sessions where everyone comes up to share a song and I flipped out bc I was one of the first ones targeted bc im foreign and I really don’t sing (give me a piano and ill def play for you but uh singing no. unless your name is Jason Bill Julie or Su, I don’t readily sing in front of you). But then everyone is so supportive and the instructor wants us to conquer our shyness/fears so today I decided to sing this one Korean pop song from the 90s (for those of you who may know, I sang ‘candy’ by HOT…its basically the Korean equivalent of *NSYNC’s ‘Bye Bye Bye’). I didn’t know all the lyrics so I just made up some Korean jibberish at times. So now ive sung. Alone. With a mic. In front of a group of international strangers. Wasn’t as bad as I thought. Doesn’t mean ill do it again.
5:15-5:30 – break!
5:30-7:00 – asanas: my fave. Great way to end a 12-hour day.
7:00-7:30 – dinner: this whole scheduled meals thing is very new to me. I usually eat whenever I want and am a very particular eater. My relationship with food is a bit complicated but doing this program shed a lot of insight about my capabilities/limitations with food. Oh and meals are supposed to be eaten in complete silence. Sometimes this doesn’t work out so well but I’ve been trying and it does help to be mindful of my physical/mental responses to food and why/how I eat.
Miscellaneous: I’m realizing I make friends really slowly, both here and in everyday life. Maybe its because I know we’ll all be separated soon but I’m really not that social here unless I’m spoken to first and then I find out all this cool stuff about people. I really need to expand my people skills because I do enjoy people and listening to their stories but I don’t really know how to reciprocate (aside from analyzing them, which is not the same as befriending them).
Now that’s been said, here are some brief bios of people I’ve become friendly with: 1. Sumeta, one of the volunteers who was a finalist for Miss India a couple years back and a former model but is very down to earth and liberal for an Indian woman 2. Hari, a Mumbai native with a back injury who is really quiet but we eat in silence next to each other and sometimes exchange words 3. Sajini, one of my roommates. shes 43 and has no real sense of ‘home’ and wants to stand happily on her own two feet now that her daughters all grown up…shes kind of who my mom would be if it weren’t for her physical ailments. and oddly enough she also made me want to be married someday and have kids and all that junk uh oh -.-;; 4. Martine, a Hungarian native who recently finished her masters’ program in corporate anthropology (this is something I want to look into) and will be working in merger consultancy this fall 5. Helen, a Chinese girl with a British-Chinese accent because she grew up in China but is studying English in London and is super girly and giddy and graceful and her face and eyebrows remind me of Yoonji (a good high school friend of mine)
You know, as cliché as this is im really coming to terms with my national identity through this trip. People ask me all the time where im from and I say USA but they usually mean where is my face from so then I have to say Korea. So to save my breath I thought about just saying Korea every time someone asks but it just doesn’t feel right because I hardly know Korea and the States is where I was raised but I know im not completely American either (this trip has made it glaringly clear that I embody lot of eastern philosophy/tradition) so im just like wtf I have no simple answer to where im from. But I guess that’s the point. There is no simple answer to where im from and what my past is and who I am and lalala.
One last thing. The yoga institute is right next to the airport. Literally. Its like, the airport and the institute are neighborhood pals. They can have nice little block parties together. Why is this so important? Do you know how often airplanes leave an airport? A lot. I can tell you this from personal experience because we at the institute can hear the engine of EVERY SINGLE PLANE that takes off from Mumbai International. Did you know that these engines are really really loud? Instructors pause every other word to let the planes go by before finishing their sentence and I literally cannot hear the person next to me when a plane lies by. Oh and its monsoon season here and sometimes the rain is just as loud as the planes.
No dog of the day bc I don’t get out much but I do have a picture of a packet of corn that I bought that is tied shut with its own stalk:
A nice touch of impromptu design no? I thought that was pretty awesome. And a bit morbid too. Can you imagine what the corn is saying if it could talk? I imagine it’d be something like “I’ve been stripped of my stalk and my kernels picked from my ear and now you wrap me up in my own skin to be sold to some foreigner? Woe is I woe is I!” as a single tear drops its naked stalk. ………wow okay I think ive let my mind run for long enough. Aschee! (Bengali farewell, literal translation = ‘I’m coming,’ as in ‘I’ll be back,’ as in, this is not a final goodbye so yay)
just in case you didn’t see enough cross-legged figures in this post.
August 30, 2010 § Leave a comment
in mumbai now. weeklong yoga institute session started saturday. already missing: bengali hospitality // masala cha // the bagbazar kids // rooftops // feeling like i deserved to rest at the end of each day // debu+debus fam+chandan+the cousins
entry from the day i left kolkata: im used to airports. im used to saying goodbye to places people and things and ive never felt sadness when it comes time to move on to the next phase. i figure theres always time to come back and revisit and id always get so confused when my mom or my friends teared up when saying goodbye. these farewells arent final so why cry? today i think i got a little taste. the kolkata airport is separated into passenger sections and guest sections. we had ~2.5 hours until my flight and i figured id check my bags in and receive my boarding pass before spending some time with chandan debu and rita (friends ive created close bonds with in kolkata). little did i know that passengers aren’t allowed to leave their designated section once they have their boarding passes. my heart skipped a beat when the guard told me that and we had to say our goodbyes with a steel barrier between us. i just got really sad and that hour that we couldve spent together seemed like such a loss. this was all very new to me bc im always the one to get moving and devaluing time when it comes to people. regretting lost time was a bittersweet experience because im starting to value it more but it just made me so wistful. watching the backs of chadan debu and rita as they headed towards the exit created a tug inside me that ive never felt before. it was uncomfortable but it was nice to know that ive allowed people and places to enter my life enough to stir such feelings.
rando theme: pimp my bengali ride. not a big fan of these photos but they get the job done. enjoy!
the mumbai yoga is interesting. ill write about it when i have time im not supposed to be online right now
August 22, 2010 § 2 Comments
only 1 week left to go. finally bought my ticket to mumbai where ill be staying at a yoga center for a week. still need to book a flight back to korea. i kinda dont want to leave kolkata but im also kinda ready for some familiarity (though korea isnt the first thing that comes to mind when i think ‘home.’ but then again, nothing really does).
lots been happening. medical clinics going strong, provided several surgical procedures and we’re all forging relationships with our doctors. edu camps are also going great, though i got really sad when turja and i were talking about handing over teaching responsibilities when we leave. all i could think was ‘what?! someone else is going to teach my kids!??!?!’ its really weird bc i remember the first couple of times when i was preparing lesson plans id feel super overwhelmed bc i felt like i didnt know what i was doing but now i actually look forward to spending time with the kids and i get so excited when they retain knowledge and are eager to learn. im really glad this transformation happened and i hope i can apply this to other areas in my life in which i feel frozen by fear/insecurities.
thereve been days where there was so much water that the whole city just floods. pictured below is debu, our driver and good friend who admittedly looks a bit creepy in the image but he is a giant teddy bear. he has bulging eyes and a slight lisp and blasts ‘boom boom pow’ on repeat 24/7 and sucks at reading body language but tries real hard to learn english and loves chandan:
ive also experienced a fair share of tension/yelling/etc. 1. during a meeting with a headmaster of a school…all was going well until he read my letter in which i used the words “children of the streets of Baghbazar (a neighborhood)” because the children’s squatter homes are literally built on the streets and the headmaster but he flipped a shit (raised voice, bulging eyes, pointing fingers) about how i was deceiving him bc his students are not street children and he is not affiliated with street children and how street children are ‘born as street children, raised as street children, and die as street children’ (oh so poetic) and went on a rampage about how NGOs are deceitful and wouldn’t let me explain what I meant by the wording and then he insulted the translator i was with (though unknown to me at the time bc he was yelling in Bengali at him) etc etc etc and although i was taken aback at first i think ive seen enough macho-power-flaunting enough here to realize that this wasnt even about the issue at hand its more about letting him show whos boss and i found it all kind of funny. nevertheless, it ended well. 2. at a club when the doorman wouldn’t let two of our friends in. dont feel like explaining details. all i can say is i kinda ended up yelling at people which doesnt happen quite often (or at all..esp to strangers) so it was a first. and then we went to the popo to file a complaint of discrimination 3. and another incident that i again do not feel like explaining. when it comes down to it: cultural differences + miscommunication + misreading of intentions + friends + family = giant mess. but all is peaceful once again and it was an eye opening example of cross-cultural tension.
went to a championship soccer game to support turja’s cousin who plays on the state team for west bengal (they won). in pure american fashion, we wrote his name on our bellies which is a bit riskay but we’re ‘foreigners’ so we get away with a lot. also there were no other females in the stadium.
im also understanding my Korean heritage a lot better during my 2 months in India than I ever have during my multiple visits to Korea.
hokay thats it for now.
[updated]…dog of the day!
August 8, 2010 § 1 Comment
midnight deliciousness: indian birthday tradition: american birthday tradition: ghettofab ‘poma’ sandals: dinner @ vedic village: delicious fruit/chip concoction: pratit international, saving the world, one stretch (?) at a time: raita+chicken biriyani: my ‘dinner:’ bday toast:
you know whats nice about living here? the fact that your dependency on material goods decreases significantly and you realize that you can thrive as long as your mind is in a good place and you have loving people around you. you start building this sense of confidence that relies not on the car you drive or the brands you wear or even what school you went to but on the fact that youre a human being capable of giving and receiving sympathy, care, and momentum for change. thats not to say nice things arent nice and that possessions arent necessary. of course they are. but at the end of the day, stuff is just stuff and while it can complement a sense of self, it doesnt define the self.
people stare here. a lot. i like to have staring contests with strangers but i usually lose.
i have the parachute song stuck in my head.
my wardrobe is becoming insane. i never used to wear bright colors but its starting to look like a rainbow threw up on me.
great moment: after a medical clinic, the slumdwellers blasted hindi music and we had a dance-off with the community. nighttime with green lighting, hundreds of indians, a handful of foreigners, clapping jumping hair thrashing. so many kids. so excited.
July 31, 2010 § 1 Comment
life is good. i just ate a whole bunch of “glucose biscuits” and am crashing from the sugar high. took the kids to the zoo 2 days ago and they were really happy. they are very affectionate. theres one boy that reminds me of la. today the kids learned about the heart and listened to their heartbeats w/stethoscopes and their faces would transform with a genuine glow of recognition/fascination when they heard their own heartbeat.
one of the doctors at our clinic is a very eccentric cross-eyed man who is really a 5-year old boy stuck in an aging body that happens to hold a medical degree. an obese woman came in the other day and he grabbed her arm and asked, in a thick bengali accent, as affectionate as one can get, ‘is this a thigh or is this an arm??’ multiple times throughout the day he calls the other doctor on his cell phone and then hangs up once he picks up. he blows up rubber gloves to demonstrate arthritis. he pretends the penlight is a camera and flashes it while screaming ‘cheese!’
3 volunteers left yesterday and one is leaving tomorrow. i havent known them long but i feel like the pieces of a complete puzzle are missing.
memorable hedonist moments: riding on the roof of the car on our way to a midnight bonfire; nighttime boat ride on the river jjokkeum intoxicated; mangoes with friends and bare hands; red wine after who knows how long (next in line: coffee); jogging in the monsoon rain during a late night; prolonged eye contact with friends, strangers, students, patients.