Mexicanos en la India

¿Cómo nos va?

La gente, la comida, el clima, el ritmo de sus ciudades me parecen como si fuera de un sueno maravilloso. A veces hasta me parece que las cuidades tienen un aspecto latino, a veces ciertas cosas me parecen muy mexicanos.

Pero a mis compañeros de la embajada estadunidense dicen que la India es un país muy difícil. ¿Apoco?

Dicen que los indios son muy amigables, pero no los aceptan. Cuentan que los indios tienen un sentido de nacionalismo demasiado fuerte, que los extranjeros son interesantes pero los mantienen a distancia.

De hecho, me he dado cuenta que los indios se toman un montón de fotos con la gente güera, o sea con los güeros de ojos azules. Sin embargo, mi experiencia ha sido que los indios se encantan de conocer a un mexicano. Mis compañeros de USA hasta se ponen celosos. Cuando me cuentan de sus experiencias, ni sé qué decir. Me parecen tan extrañas.

¿Hablas español? ¿Qué dicen en la canción Despacito?

Cuando les digo que crecí en California, aun así, les interesa más que soy mexicano. Ah bueno, les cuento de mis experiencias buenas y malas de ser mexicano en el país mas rico y avanzado del mundo. ¿Ah sí?

En las próximas semanas que vienen, me esperan unos acontecimientos tan especiales: una boda, un viaje a pueblitos rurales, y los templos de Khajuraho.

¡Muy pronto les traeré el reporte de cómo me va!

Movie Review of Bohemian Rhapsody from New Delhi, India

My first movie outing in India

Saturday night, for the first time in India, I went to a cinema here in Delhi at the DLF Promenade mall. It was super nice and looked much fancier than the humble $3 cinema I’d go to in Ventura, California. I don’t trust a cinema that doesn’t have sticky floors and diseases on the bathroom floor. Anybody know which one I’m talking about?

Anyway, I was super eager to watch the Queen…ahem…Freddie biopic. Late train, I know. This movie came out a while ago but yeah…

Too Damn High!

Movie tickets in Delhi, like in the US, are ‘too damn high!’ For a Westerner, it’s reasonable. For many local Indians, it’s a formidable expense. Hence, the people in the cinema were of a comfortable social class. And conservative, if you ask me.

Yes, i was The most interesting thing about the movie was watching the reaction of the audience. I’d like to say the crowd loved it. It seemed like a mixed review. On the one hand, people got excited when Freddie’s family mentioned or did anything Hindi related. They laughed when they saw what the family was eating or when Freddie’s white band mates came to his house and met the family. On the other hand, during the gay moments of the movie, people either looked away, scoffed or looked on in dread. There was no singing along to the rocking stadium-anthems we love from Queen. Also, every time someone smoked in the movie, a health advisory notice appeared at the bottom of the screen. Is this new? Well, it was new to me!

And if anybody cares…

My personal review of the movie: I didn’t really care for it. The acting and recreating of the performances was awesome, no doubt. But I was hoping to get a better insight into the lives of the band mates and certainly a better insight into their creative process. Overall, it seemed superficial and Freddie-centric, which makes sense to a point.

Some of the other reviews I’ve read say the movie wasn’t gay enough. But that’s by US standards. It was certainly queer enough for the New Delhi crowd in attendance. I could only imagine how the movie was received in more conservative nations around the globe.

Anand Yoga Village Review

Today’s yoga adventure yielded a delightful find. Tucked away at the Southern part of the beach, you’ll find Anand Village.

Location, location, location

The location itself is perfect. I did one yoga class there and I didn’t hear any traffic, construction noises, people, etc. If you’ve don’t yoga throughout India, you’ll know that you’re always in for a surprise somewhere along the way!

The huts and cabins there looked very clean, well-made and comfortable. They are not over the top fancy like at Kranti Yoga (the Mercedes-Benz of yoga schools) but the accommodations at Anand are decently nice!

The guys chilling in the reception were a little weird and I felt like I was bothering them but whatever, I was there for the yoga.

Onwards to the yoga shala itself, see the pics. What a relief to finally find a yoga shala with clean and flat floors. Mosquitoes weren’t an issue but then again it was 11am. If I do an evening class here, I’ll let you know if the mosquitoes suck me dry. There were quite a few huge ants and other annoying flying bugs but they didn’t really get in the way. A super cute dog decided to visit each participant during the yoga class. He was quite the charmer! Clearly, he feels like the owner of the shala.

The yoga itself was mediocre. 400 Rupees and the class was taught by a very nice young gal, who I think recently must have completed her teacher training. I was hoping for a true, Indian guru or Swami sort of person. The instructor this day was still using her notes and seemed nervous. She did offer good adjustments when I was struggling with one of the twisting-pretzel poses.

It all depends what you want out of your yoga experience.

Anand seems to target the young, cute girlie yogis. It’s a trendy, hip ambience perfect for the young millennial crowd. I’m pretty sure the yogi-gals who go here probably feel safe and at home at Anand. I’ve heard some horror stories about other yoga schools that are run by creepy employees and owners. That’s for another blog post, however.

I’ve never been sexually harassed by a instructor or ogled like a piece of meat so I don’t really care. I’ll go yoga anywhere. Since I’m older than the average at Anand and just a normal dude, I’m going to keep on looking for a more authentically Indian yoga-experience.

Anand does offer quite the variety of styles including a Tibetan sound bath. On account of this, I’ll give Anand one more try.

Namaste, y’all!

How to overcome Travelers’ Sensory Overload in 2 easy steps

Some travel destinations can overwhelm the senses.  Yet, sensory overload can be unhealthy, here’s what you can do.

Close your eyes. Imagine you are in a traffic jam in your own town. Is it orderly? Imagine it otherwise; one huge free for all. Cars going in either direction in either lane, incessant honking, drivers making impossible U-turns.

 Now add the following: monkeys. Street dogs and cows calmly interweaving with the traffic. No one really seems bothered. Kids perform tricks to collect tips from drivers and persistent vendors go from car to car to in hopes of making a sale.

The streets are lined with what seems like endless vendors and their shanty shops; all sorts of products, colors, smells, and foods of all kinds. Don’t forget the incessant honking; it’s always there. The air is also thick with pollution. Sometimes you’ll smell raw sewage, trash heaps, decaying animals, feces, incense from shop keepers, food being cooked, spices for sell.

You just imagine, you can probably find it available for the smelling!

This (and so much more) is everyday life in many of the mega-cities of India and the rest of the world. I grew up in a small farming-town in California. So, coming to New Delhi took me completely by surprise.

Here, the food is packed with spices. All the colors are bold and plentiful. The people are very expressive. Markets and festivals explode with life.

After a few months here, I now understand that many travelers’ share the same challenges with sensory overload.

  • Difficulty focusing
  • Fatigue, long periods of malaise
  • Anxiety, Fear, Stress and Depression
  • Irritability
  • Restlessness, difficulty sleeping

If you already have some issues with anxiety, PTSD or ADHD, the environment of a mega-tropolis may aggravate your condition. So what can be done to minimize the effects of travelers’ sensory overload? Remember, try the easy and smallest solutions first:

First, reduce the external stimuli:

Noise

  • Wear ear plugs as you walk around town. Alternatively,wear your music ear buds but don’t play any music (but watch for traffic)! This is my favorite technique
  • You could try playing some music of your choice or download a White-Noise app and listen to something tranquil as you walk around the hustle-and-bustle.

Visual

  • When riding an Uber or a Taxi, throw your shades on and close your eyes. Breathe. Relax.
  • Combine errands to maximize your outings. Only go outdoors when you have to
  • Focus on few items as you go about your day; don’t try to soak it all in, all the time

Take Breaks

  • Know your limits and before you get there, take a little break. Sneak away into a quiet café, a fancy hotel lobby, to the bathroom, a location at school/work where you can be alone.

How to make it better once you got it

  • Find a balance and set your limits
    • If you got a long commute and then work, don’t fill your after work hours with pesky errands, at least not every day. Try taking a few hours off here and there to get errands done.
    • Pay for convenience: there are so many pick-up and delivery services! Use them. Laundry, dry cleaning, groceries, food delivery are some of my favorites.
  • Take time to recover and develop coping techniques
    • Know how much time you need to recover and know what helps you best to recover: is it hitting the gym, doing yoga, meditation, dancing,reading in bed, practicing a sport….? Know yourself and do what it takes to make you happy and healthy.
  • Take a longer break: bathroom, vacation, go home
    • Need a small escape when it’s all starting to feel too much…. escape to the bathroom, and hopefully it’s clean enough to practice deep breathing…. chill…
    • Plan a vacation to places that are different than your given mega-city; somewhere tranquil.
    • In the worst case, plan a trip home. Marvel your family and friends with your strange tales of distant places. Maybe their amazement will help you to appreciate your adventure for what it is: an amazing opportunity that few people get to experience. Hopefully, you’ll return to your adventure and ready to boldly move on!

I’d love to hear from you! Have you ever dealt with sensory overload? What was your experience like and what worked or didn’t work?

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 🙂

Nov. 28th: The Residency in Lucknow, Varanasi around the corner

Finally feeling better. I’d say 80%.
Good enough for me, let’s hit the road, Jack!
Booked the hotel and transportation to Varanasi. Considering all the factors, turns out that a private cab is the best way to go. And it’s only $50 bucks! I’ll have to sit in a car for 7 hours but no worries: I got some books and work I can always do, but I’ll probably just end up sleeping for half of the trip.
Currently, I’m in an uber ride on the way to “The Residency “which is an important site here in Lucknow. I’ll upload this later when I reconnect on the Internets, as I like to say in remembrance of our dear former president GWB. Miss him yet?
Back to the Varanasi trip coming up, I’m super stoked. What intrigues me is the belief amongst Hindu’s that if you die in this city, your soul will achieve liberation from the constant birth and rebirth cycle. This makes the ancient city of Benares an important religious city for those seeking their life’s end.
Anyways…
We are fast approaching our destination, I’m sure the uber driver would like to get paid. So, I gotta go for now but be back muy pero muy pronto! Beto 😊

Thanksgiving in Lucknow: Little Luck Now, Please Try Your Luck Again Later

Nov. 22

It’s been almost two months here in India, and boy, did I hit the ground running. More like a crash landing. It’s been go-go-go since I got here: saw the Taj, tried some Yoga, eaten everything, one month of intensive Hindi Lessons, visited a bunch of temples, Goa, Pushkar, random villages, gave an impromptu Ukulele concert for some disadvantaged youth… It’s been a crazy ride so far, but even happier, bought a Sitar and had some lessons. (One life goal: check!)

Finally though, the body has put its foot down with a firm hand.

Very firm hand

I was visiting a Sikh temple in Old Delhi at about 5:30 am, perfect time to go– Zero tourists, only the most devoted believers praying earnestly. Above all, easy parking.

It’s a great time to think about Life’s Big Questions, ponder the meaning of life, well, mostly wondering what the hell am I doing with mine. Also asking is there a decent place to grab a burger anywhere in India? You know, all the deep matters of human existence.

Strolling through the temple, relishing all the bright vivid colors of the decorations, feeling the music and chanting reverberate in my chest, and stepping on the occasional peanut with my bare feet ( I hope that was a peanut, let’s not look back to check)…I make my way from the interior of the temple to the bustling outside.

Time for tea!

Most people were heading towards the outside to go for some tea and sit down on the floor in a small courtyard; quietly but intensely chatting with one another. I grabbed a cup of chai, which is wonderfully warm and well spiced, sweet.

It felt good in the tummy. Mostly because it was so early and was still rather chilly out. Of course, I didn’t bring a sweater or jacket. Who does that? Frankly at that ungodly hour, I’m surprised I was even up.

After I finished the warm tea, placed the clay cup back in a huge bin with soapy water in it, and proceeded to follow the flock to see what was next in this religious experience.

Off from the center of the main courtyard, there’s a huge stone with holy scripture engraved onto it, and it seems that the thing to do is to approach it, place your forehead on it slightly, then walk around the stone and touch it again with your forehead. Lastly, a few words in prayer.

I gave it a try. Maybe… just maybe there’s hope for my soul yet.

Doubtful but it’s worth a try

At the next station, there was an earnest fellow with a great beard pouring water out from a shiny silver vase into the cupped hands of believers. They drank from their hands, said a few words in prayer, and then proceeded on.

My homie Sanjeev told me it was temple water that would purify and cure you inside. My soul could definitely use a rinsing or maybe three. Lord knows, so I lined up to take the purifying water, and when it was my turn, I cupped my hands and watched the water rise in my hands.

When the water level was up high enough, I bowed towards my hands and drank. The morning, still without a sun in the sky, kept on its darkness. Hard to see but, the water in my hands seemed cloudy as if mixed with milk. In any case, it was sweet…

It was sweet. Until it wasn’t.

When I got back to my room, I felt a rumble in my tummy. By the time evening rolled in, I knew I had to visit the doctor to get some bomb meds for the Code-Red situation, which had laid waste to my stomach. Code-Red, you know?

It’s quite easy to see a physician here. You walk in, pay about 5 bucks, tell them your problem, and they send you to the appropriate doctor. He basically knew what was up already. It was the infamous “Delhi Belly”, a catch-all phrase for stomach issues in India. He smiled while he wrote the prescription, and I paid 3 bones for 6 different meds that I would have to take for the next 10 days, y ya! Eso fue todo.

No pasa nada, these things come and go; not gonna kill ya, probably won’t make you stronger though.

Walked back to the pad to eat the blandest dinner I could make: corn flakes and milk. Popped my pills and hit the sack. A well-deserved rest.

Nov. 23 Thanksgiving

I knew I’d get sick eventually in India, given the stuff that I eat anyways and also with my insane notion that my Mexican stomach could handle whatever India could dish out. Took two months to get sick; I think I did alright. Especially since my American doctor warned me that I had a 25% chance of not getting sick.

Tbh, I was looking forward to getting sick because of my other insane notion that once I do get sick, I’d be invincible and could really tear into the amazing street food that continue to taunt me with their smells and visual appeal. With so many crazy notions in my head that I actually seem to believe in, the only logical conclusion is that I’m loco, homie. Watch it, homes.

With a strong and positive mind, we can accomplish so much. So I knew this would only get me down a little. I’d get some much needed rest, and then Superman would rise again.

Next morning, I woke up and turned up the cumbia. Always! Nice and loud to put some pep in my step and start the day off right. Already I was feeling better.

Showered, did the whole morning routine, music still bumping; now it was playing Bronco. That probably annoyed the hell out of my American neighbors.

(Wall. Huge. Huge Wall)

They were probably hoping to come to India to be far away from those crazy Mexicans, lo & behold! Who did they get as a neighbor? Arriba! Arre, kaybronies!

On the road again…

Packing bags for a trip to Lucknow and Varanasi.

Uber to Delhi International (which I’ve seen a whole lot of and know my way around like I know LAX), a  quick one hour flight to Lucknow, which I slept through soundly. Afterwards, I got to the hotel still feeling like a human.

The eager young fellow working at the hotel was dead-set on booking a car for me to see the touristy spots in town. I was rather looking forward to dipping in the pool and chilling somewhere very close to a toilet of my fancy.

Since my internal batteries still had some juice, I was like orale, pues. Sign me up! I could knock out the list of things one “must” see and use next week for researching the things for my list for Beto’s World and other sites.

Lucknow

Lucknow was teeming with life from every nook and cranny of the city. As evening took over the skies, a different face of the city appeared. Majestic, ancient Arab-style  buildings and proud statues of former leaders all nicely decked out. Crowds moved through the dusty cobble stone streets of the old city lined with vendors while kids played in the park. And don’t forget the random cows, monkeys and dogs going about and doing their own thing. That’s the thing about India – somethings always happening.

Get used to it in India. Vendors will try to hustle you always and everywhere you go when you look like a foreigner. The driver, who doesn’t speak a lick of English. Sad to say my Hindi is as good as his English. He took me to a shopping district even after I told him and the concierge vato that I hate shopping.

Take me eating, not shopping; I need to take advantage of my nuked out insides and these bomb $3 pills I got.

Of course, they don’t listen and I wouldn’t expect otherwise. Just roll with it; the motto for surviving India.

So off we go into a shop that sells the famous Chickan embroidery that Lucknow is renowned for. A lady, elegantly dressed in sunset colors, sits on a large wide mattress with piles of fabrics up to the ceiling behind her. She knows my size instantly and rapidly throws out options for shirts at me that I have to dodge like the Matrix. Literally throws them; mannerisms are a bit different here.

Again. You just gotta roll with it.

Typical dude that I am, I don’t care for shopping. My stomach begins to tremble slightly like California before the Big One.

Nonetheless, the prices aren’t bad, 20 to 30 bucks for a hand made shirt with intricate embroidery.

Then it dawns on me, …the sooner I buy a shirt, the faster I can get the hell out of here…

Jumped back in the car and Vamonos! Hágale mijo, let’s go eat. With my new red Kurta decorated with stunning beige hand-made embroidery chilling in a carry-bag beside me and we rolled through downtown Lucknow.

The Walking Dead, Season India

It was about this time that it finally hit me.

I ordered the famous kebabs of Lucknow and smooshed them into my pie-hole, letting gravity do the work to bring it down into my belly like a lazy elevator as I was so tired from the day. Each savory meat bomb filled with spices slowly unloaded into my trembling belly while calming and warming my insides.

At this point, I was done….exhausted from head to toe. I felt like the “Walking Dead”. But props to zombies, at least they are walking. I could have just as easily laid down on the restaurant floor and like your drunk uncle at your prima’s Quinceañera, pass the F*** out!

Forgot my hat there too, btw. My fav one that I got in Fort Worth, Texas.  Cry me a rio grande, boo-hoo.

Like a drunk sorority girl, I don’t recall how I got home but was magically transported there nonetheless. As soon as my head hit the pillow, I passed out so fast and so hard, oh yeah baby…for like 5 minutes! I swear my naps usually last longer.

Nov. 24

5 am. Haven’t slept more than 5 minutes. Mmmm qué la fregada!

  1. My elbow still hurts from the ‘tennis elbow’ I’ve been nursing
  2. Heat rashes or some other allergic reaction appearing all over my chest and arms
  3. My stomach feels like Mike Tyson’s punching bag…
  4. …So does my head
  5. Head to toe: so heavy. Can’t even get up to pee
  6. Fine. I’ll go pee. Why is the world spinning? I didn’t even drink!

The breakfast buffet was a magical moment: it was a cloudy trance; a series of blurred, colorful, incoherent, delicious images. What the hell sort of drugs did the doctor prescribe? I’m weary as I paid only $3… so God only knows what the hell I just put in my body. I’m not gonna do a damn thing today, I’ve decided. Actually, my body decided for me.

I slept. Got a massage. Slept again. Went to the the pool and the spa. Self-love sort of day. Didn’t open the laptop and avoided my phone. Drank lots of water to put out the fire in my bowels and slept again because apparently lifting a bottle of water to my lips is quite the task.

Dinner time

A cheesy lamb burger and two tequila shots; man, I’m a happy camper. Finally found my burger or as close as it’s gonna get. See the length of this post? Yes, I’m feeling better. It’s now 2 am and time to go night night. Buenas noches and have a beautiful day/night/morning…as you want.

Beto 🙂