Arrivederci, Varanasi! Saturday December 8, 2018

The retreat has finished; at least for me. The two other lovely human beings who were also there will be there until the end of December.

Student-Teacher Bonding

I’m now at an airport restaurant with plenty of time before my flight. After a wonderful cappuccino, pizza and chocolate shake (I was hungry damnit! I was being starved at the retreat with a vegan menu), I can finally begin the task of retrospection.

Driving from Lucknow to Varanasi, I drove passed this same airport. Now that I’m actually sitting here, it makes this adventure feel like it’s come full circle; poetic closure.

Likewise, my impression of Varanasi.

So much happened that I’ll bullet SOME of the highlights:

  • Got super sick from the hotel food and water @ the retreat. Started things off on the wrong foot!
    • Quick recovery, antibiotics rock.
  • Yes: the touristy part of Varanasi by the river Ganges and along all the famous Ghat’s and temples is jam-packed with pedestrians, beggars, pilgrims, vendors of all sorts of things, tourists, cows, dogs, bicyclists, rickshaws, honking cars, honking motorbikes…have I forgotten someone… or something?
    Pretty cow in Varanasi
    • It’s very loud for what seemed all day and night. Don’t be surprised.
    • Yes: the streets are dirty, thrash is everywhere and watch out for the poopoo. Don’t be surprised
    • Yes: the Ganges River is gross and polluted. They put human ashes in there and some people bath there. Oh, some also do their laundry and drink the water! Don’t come to judge, come to observe, reflect and enjoy your life all the more if you like it so much.
    • If this is too much for you, consider visiting a different city ?
  • For those willing to endure some unpleasantness, the rewards are even greater than what your nose will have to endure.
  • The architecture along the Ghats is India pure; magical. Knowing that the city is thousands of years old, your mind is blown.
    Boat ride on the Ganges gives you a perspective on the essence of time itself

    Boat ride to the other side of the river

    • In ancient times it was believed to be world’s end. As a result, nothing was constructed there. The quiet is almost unearthly.
    • Until someone comes up and offers you a horse ride; very persistent those guys.

      Yoga in Davy Jones’ Locker. Any Pirates of the Caribbean fans?
    • And then some people might want selfies. Why not? We are at the outermost limit of the world, might as well capture the moment.

The yoga retreat was awesome

  • I made some good gains in such a short time and learned about what it means to be a true yogi (not saying that I’m there). Actually, the more I learned, the more I realized I didn’t have the slightest iota about yoga at all.
  • What do you mean there are superhuman guru-yoga-monks who live in the Himalayas? How can they hold postures for hours, days and weeks? When do they go potty?
    • I can barely sit cross-legged for 2 minutes without thinking my legs need to be amputated.
    • Last day of class, the yoga teacher sat on my back during a certain pose. It forced me to bring my forehead to rest upon my knees, “slowly slowly” as she would say. Contrary to what she said, this “quickly quickly” approach demonstrated the improvements I made and also left me very sore.
  • Yoga has enough lore in its universe to constitute a religion; some yogis dedicate their entire life to its beliefs and practices.
  • Paid $15 for a one-hour private Sitar & Tabla performance. For me, totally worth it and I’ll do it again.
    • The same guy let me borrow a guitar for $5 for 2 days. We now have a strange friendship of sorts. I got to meet his wife and child and we had tea a couple of times. Foolishly, I promised to visit when I return to Varanasi, not IF I return.

OM and Mantra Chanting

  • Surprisingly not that bad. It felt appropriate in the setting and powerful. The sound reverberated in the colors I saw when I shut my eyes for meditation. Maybe there is something to this meditation stuff?

I need a second trip to Varanasi! There’s still way too much on my list of things to see. Looking forward to it 🙂

Dec. 1st: The Road to Varanasi

Dec. 1st

Holy cow! It’s already December and it neither feels like it or looks like it!

The Road to Varanasi

It was long and very bumpy.

The road went from highways as we know them quickly on down to rural country roads that passes through neighborhoods that has houses into which you can peer into their kitchens and living rooms as you drive by. I went from buying a coffee at a very regular looking gas station near Lucknow to getting a refill directly from someone’s kitchen as we got stuck in traffic in a random village. Cows…sheep…lots of them.

Once finally in town, the traffic was crazy and the route we needed to take was closed off by police barricades. The driver parked his car in an jam-packed underground parking. There were so many cars and motorbikes in there, I’m not sure how the oxygen we breath had room to circulate!

“Yada, yada, yada…Bas!” Those were the sounds I heard from the staff attempting to guide our driver into his spot.

Having found the hotel, I freshened up and unpack my backpack and packed it again so it’s city-walking ready. In retrospect, bad idea.

For a short walk, it may be better to just take a stroll without a bag, backpack or anything you fear could be pick-pocketed. The crowds were so think that every time my backpack rubbed against something or someone, I hoped that I wasn’t voluntary donating to the community…

Back to the hotel, a quick nap and dinner then off to the ghats to see the ceremonies.

I liked the enthusiasm of several Western tourists during the clapping and singing along. I’d participate but I’d much rather like to know what’s being said first; what does all this mean? Pesky little questions the mind asks…

I did, however, see Jesus.

Truly, I saw him so many times. Always with tattoos and the man-bun; clearly I didn’t get the memo that male tourists have to don their best Jesus Halloween-costume. What’s with not showering either?

Anyways, I did my best to pay attention during the ceremonies but my attention kept being diverted by a million things; all of which deduct from any sense of holiness. After growing fed up with swatting mosquitos and simultaneously firmly shutting down street vendor, I thought I’d go back to my room see if and how dinner had destroyed my insides.

All good, I’m writing down these thoughts here and others and prepping the plan for tomorrow. Then, a stroll thru alley ways at night in search of trouble will be the best way to end the night.

…I’ve researched and have given up on finding a bar near the hotel. Hence, ice cream will do. Don’t you dare deny me this, Benares!