LESSONS OF INDIA

What did I learn from my travels to India?  

This is the burning question (along with “where next, Pamela?”) I have been asked since my return from India. Less than a week has passed and I am still trying to process.

With luck I will continue to process for the rest of my exciting life. I feel somehow that I am living a dream … The dream I once had to travel to exotic places and to improve the status of women around the world.  

Lessons from great friends and from travel buddies … From tour guides and spiritual leaders. Lessons from extraordinary folk, living their day to day existence. Lessons from books and articles I have read and am inspired to read, even now. Lessons from living in Easy World as well as the challenges that I have tried to face with grace.  

Lessons, added together, offer a change in perspective so great that even now, how can I remember what once was my thought?? Now, already, my thoughts have changed.

I have read, and have come to believe, that with travel comes the extra bonus “value added” belief that world peace is possible. The more we / I step out of my comfort zone and my old set of pre conceived notions, the more open I am to seeing what is, with acceptance and grace. The more I witness every day living in other parts of the world, the more I see WE are all the same.  

LESSON: There is no “us and them”. There is only “me” as part of a “we”.

This alone is the prime motivator for me to travel. This is the foundation of my contribution to the Women’s Travel Club Meetup group. This is the reason I blog at http://www.PamelaTravelBlog.com. This is why I post my pics and stories on Facebook. This is why I am a travel consultant with passion. This is the legacy and learning that I lead with. This is my vision and my purpose.  

Before India I had many preconceived, researched notions of what I would find there. For that reason I found myself asking, “why India? Why now?”. I never would have known the answer without taking the steps into the unknowable.

I would never have guessed that I would walk barefoot where Ghandi walked. I would not have believed I could sit in a shop for two hours not buying, just chatting with a local person about life in their world. I would not have met the spiritual gurus that brought tears to my eyes and opening of my soul. I would not have witnessed a people who are truly peaceful. I would not have truly understood the lessons of family, respect and kindness from Lalu, the guide. I would not have seen the incredible pride and respectful skill from Luv, the tour guide.  

I would not have been to the early morning market with Sanjay to see the daily comings and goings of fish auctioning for survival of so many in Kerala. I would not have spent a day in the backwaters on that amazing houseboat or the amazing night in the home stay with outside shower. I would not have had a warm swim, fully clothed like the locals, in the Arabian Sea.  

I would not have heard the bird song and felt the beliefs I thought I had inside me shift.  

I believe meditation and a belief in Karma make people kinder. I believe that eye contact with everyone makes everyone feel more joined at the soul. I believe children learn from those who show them by example. I believe that we in Canada have much to learn from a people who live many lifetimes, generation after generation in a two room family home in one place, at the end of their world, in rural desert India.  

I believe family is truly the most important connection we make to the world and the most precious thing we will ever experience. I believe in golden soft sand dunes, the real ones … Where desert camels take us to see the orange ball sun as it sets below the sky. I believe that a person can spend their whole life in service to their animal or their family and be a better person for this experience and have much to teach the rest of the planet about happiness, self acceptance, pride and fulfillment.  

All of my ancestors and future generations that are connected to me have been blessed in a sacred ceremony and their lives, like mine, are enriched because of this experience. I believe the more I meditate and practice kindness to others, with special care for my own family, the better person I will become and those who watch me and follow my lead will also be happier people.  

What did I learn? About life of the people’s on earth and what makes them take steps everyday in the direction of their dreams and their life purpose. I learned small steps in how I can live my life in a more fulfilled way. And most importantly, I practiced daily, how I want to live more fully.  

Being exposed to this foreign and exotic country gave me more space to break old habits and biases, and to practice those actions that lead me to a more fulfilled existence, with greater leadership skills to enhance world peace for everyone in my world.

Wow! Can I say that about every trip I have ever taken? Absolutely not. It is the way I wish to travel always in future.

I want to be more awake, more centred, more accepting, more grateful, more in awe, more kind and more spiritual than ever before. I want to live in a more peaceful world and loving family. It all starts with me and each daily action and decision I make matters.

I want to keep travelling and encouraging others to travel in this way so they too, can be more of what they value most.

I went on a silent retreat just a few days before this trip to India and I listened to a few chapters in a few books on the long flights … Always on mindfulness, openness, acceptance and grace. Not to push the river, but to notice it flowing by.  

I notice and accept and allow the spirit to move through me, as much as I can from this place and at this time in my life. Further practice is welcome and on that note …. Where next???

I am open to your suggestions ๐Ÿ™‚

Namaste, 

Pamela 

Old Delhi, still assaults my memory

Old Delhi, an explosion and assault on all the senses.  
Breathe. Loud and smelly, fast paced, hard working labour of men carrying heavy loads down narrow alleys in the wholesale market, animals including dogs sleeping, piglets rooting through refuse between car tires, and cows with right of way and holding their ground, colourful fruits and produce, grey and dirty roadways littered with debris and years of garbage left to sit… Spices, rice, nuts, flowers on display in burlap bags in small doorways.  
Breathe. Beep beep sounds of tuktuks and small cars, motorcycles passing each other on left and right. Bicycles jutting in and out. Large trucks squeezing in to small spaces, taking time to unload and reload wares. Smoggy grey air, toxic to breathe, many people with masks and or scarves tied around their mouths to filter the smells in the thick air.  
Breathe. Trying not to touch anything .. The walls look sticky and dirty, cracked and old … The walking surface makes you glad of closed toed shoes …. Puddles of unimaginable liquids to step over, and feces piles. Uneven surfaces of stone and curbs, and people. 
Breathe. People, people … Poor homeless faces, disfigured bodies, women clutching babies and begging for food, young children not shy about asking for money, trying to take our hands. We have been cautioned to hold tight to our bags, not give to beggars as people who do get swarmed by unlimited number of needy ones. So hard on the heart. 

 Breathe again.  
Enormous Indian flag can sometimes be seen from the hotel through the thick smog in Delhi. The struggle of India!

Namaste, 
Breathe, 
Pamela

Highlights of India north and south, part two

Chinese fishing nets only in the south in Kerala. Spectacular sites. An ancient fishing practice still used today for business and feeding the people from nature.
Textures of luxurious and lustrous silks, pashmina, linen, yak, camel, cotton, and Kashmir and the mixes and blends. Oh and the colours … Paisley and pattern, simple and complex, hand woven and needle work embellishment, .. Khadi, unique one of a kind, or mass produced. Billowing outside shops, worn on ladies in grand fashion, folded in flat plastic bags and stacked on shelves, hundreds deep.
Shiny black cormorants perched solo on top of stick or bamboo poles in water lakes and rivers. Snowy white egrets in green rice paddy fields or perched on lily pads. Great herons soaring over. Small exotic birds flitting in the trees, branch to branch, flower to flower. Owls, bats, crows, vultures, Eagles flying, sitting, hunting, watching. Tweeting, twirping, chirping, squalking, hooting, cawing and howling. Waking us to early morning echoes in the jungle trees.  
Men’s long and short skirts out of white cotton with coloured woven trims and tied at the waist. Sometimes in plaids and colours. Perhaps cooler in the heat in the south. Riding bicycles. Walking along roadways. Working in the fields, tending flocks and fishing in boats. Bathing in the river.  
Two wheeled bicycles and motorcycles on roadways, no room for a road shoulder here! TukTuk weaving in and out of traffic and giving way to 4 wheeled vehicles. Cars give way to trucks. Trucks to large buses. The constant honk honk indicating a pass, left or right side, look out on busy roads .. No traffic lights, or not many … Pedestrians give way to vehicles. No rules of the road for drivers. Have your wits about you. Driving is a skill and we appreciate our driver.
Authentic spicy, delicious, gluten free, dairy free, vegetarian tasty delights. Dosa, biryanis, garlic chutney, pappadams, curries, tandoor roasted vegetables. Menus with interesting name of drinks and foods, exotic and fun. Sometimes the language translation makes me chuckle. Spices we ate … masala, biryani, saffron, vindaloo.  
Merely a counter and window on the street for wine and beer purchases. Sometimes down an alley, no place to park .. 

Pharmacy, the same, with inexpensive cures for sale . 
Camel shoes, curly toes and bright colours, at local markets. Vendors will bargain for “best price”, “special price for you”! The women on our northern trip sitting on the floor in a doorway at a fabulous Trident hotel … Trying on and purchasing many bangles of colour and sparkle. 
 The silk scarf extravaganza in a hotel store where the vendor sat cross legged in a sea of silken colour and soft texture pulling more and more scarves from somewhere and all of us clutching to our chests our favourite one, two, three …. Lol. Some 70 scarves bought that night, all silk multicolour with contrasting cotton thread design.
Walking by countless, endless small fires on the sidewalks in Delhi .. For keeping warm and cooking, some for homeless, some for business purposes. Filling the air with scent. Other smells in Delhi, I can still recall the burning in my nostrils even from weeks ago. My clothes in my suitcase have a strong smell of India as I pack to come home.  
Men peeing against wall, on side of roads, our front of homes and businesses … At first it seems so odd. We get used to the sight. Strong odour of urine reaches our noses as we walk through old Delhi. I spy a sign indicating “no urinating on this wall”.  
Palm and coconut tree leaves are just so big and bright!  
Children treated us like deity, and famous, …they want their pictures taken with us…. Even adults often asked if we would pose for pictures with one or more of the members of a couple or group.  They took keen interest in our story, where we are from …. Etc.
Camels are enormous animals up close, and when we had a ride on the sand dunes, it seemed to take forever to get up… Very difficult to maintain balance.  

I would say that was true of all of the India experience … Maintaining a sense of balance and presence was important and required mindfulness, breathing and acceptance.  
Namaste to family and friends, 

Pamela on route home from India, the first time.
Xoxox

Highlights of India, part oneย 

Good morning, Namaste on the last day of Indian vacation
Today as I pack and repack my suitcase, I am reflecting on the past 27 days of my vacation in India.  
My number one highlight of this month is:  
Sarees, bright and cheery, colours colours everywhere breaking up the grey landscape of the countryside and smoggy skies of big cities.  
Women working alone in the fields or walking along roadways with heavy loads, or holding hands of dear children … Or riding side saddle on back of motorcycles.  
Women everywhere in beautiful outfits. With bangles and decorations, jewels, painted colour on their forehead.  
Women in house dresses can be seen on our walks through neighbourhoods and they always dress sharply and in matching or contrasting bright colours and flowy fabrics when out and about. No matter if working in an upscale hotel resort or sweeping dust at the temple, tending gardens or getting groceries, women in India are beautiful and dress attracting attention.
Arches, unique and everywhere in northern India, architecture reveals art and history. Pillars, minarets, doorway arches, steps, furniture, and walls carved with stories of times and glories past. Bricks and columns, carved and intricate. The Jain temple, the fortresses and palaces of Royals.  
Little short trucks putt putting along the roadways with often heavy loads of people and or cargo. Looking like they will topple over or bend with the weight of their load. Friendly faces of workers catching a ride, waving to us, foreigners. Do they think we are celebrities? Are we? 
Four to seven canoes hitching a ride with one that has a motor, saving and sharing in costs of fuel, economy of connection to community.
Fresh colourful fruit and veggie trucks and carts, bright and tasty foods to sell. Wagons loaded and either pushed or pulled by people or livestock. Or standing in rest and waiting to sell. I purchased easy to peel juicy oranges and varieties of bananas … many times .. First time was old Delhi on day two, with assistance, to push through my comfort zone. More easily thereafter. Always with joy to leave my money with the vendor.
Welcoming drinks (rose water, fresh coconut, mango juice, Mountain Dew), flowers (roses, jasmine, marigold) and bindis in exotic hotels and sacred places. Colourful marks on my forehead, reds, yellows, gold, silver, pink. Large cooking bowls, now filled with water and floating flower petals, water lilies, and lotus flowers.  
Meditation and mindfulness practice, prayer and chanting, feeling blessed … Moved to tears in the pooja ceremony in the north. Breathe. I still have the red and yellow thread tied to my left wrist… As I am a married woman. If never married, then the right wrist was the place to see the coloured string. The flower petals, white rice, salt / sugar crystals, vermillion and yellow powder, whole coconut … The offering to the river after repeating the mantra / chant. While sitting on the ghat on that memorable day. Forever changed.  
Namaste, stay tuned for more highlights!,
Pamela of India, today at airport in Paris France on way home ๐Ÿ™‚
Happy Valentines Day

Sights and sounds of the south

Sights and sounds of the south
This morning, in the jungles of south India, Kerala, I am awake and listening to the sweet songs of nature. Soft whistles of birds, tweets, and squawks … Twitters and calls. Hoots, strong and solid. Almost giggles and whistle words. Distant and close up. Rhythmic, playful and repeated, I hear communications of the wild.  
The trees surrounding this cabin in the jungle are teeming with sounds, stories and songs of the birds that live here. Outside in the fantastic bathroom area, open roof over the shower I can see many varieties of these song birds. One is very tiny, maybe 1.5 inches long, iridescent turquoise blue wings and face on black breast with medium long beak also black. It shines in the early morning light and stands out against the tree branch it rests upon. Nervous like a hummingbird, short abrupt movements, skittish.
Off to breakfast, two days and nights left till I begin my trek home. The adventure has been amazing. I highly recommend all of the places I have stayed and the sights I have seen… It is an unbelievable and exquisite trip ….
Namaste
Pamela

Fish market and Emerald Isle: south India, Kerala dreaming

It’s fish market day! Everyday …like Wall St trading!  
A few of us accepted the offer to meet at 645 am to walk to the town for the fish auction. We take the large canoe boat ferry over to the mainland from our private island resort. Walking along quietly through the village on a walk pathway, enjoying the busy sights of women with large metal containers on their heads, on the way to market to get the best fish … A few bicycles with young children also riding to market.  
I am reminded about the story of Jack and the Beanstalk as I see a young boy, maybe 8-10 years old pitching rocks and doddling along the path. Did his mom send him with some change to buy fish for supper? I wonder …..
Fishermen are out early 5 or 6 am to catch fresh fish for the auction / market. Of course all day there is fishing activity as well, but this daily auction is truly a community event.  
In to the central market area we walk .. … Fish still flopping. Some laying on tarps, many just in piles on the ground. Hundreds of piles! This is truly a big event! I am so surprised and delighted by the sense of community. It sounds like Wall Street must, bidders and auctioneers at every pile and mostly women purchasing, turning away when they don’t like the price, leaning in when they are pleased. She acknowledges when the price is right, a sale is made.  
I offered to pay 500 rupees to purchase some fish, give to woman for her and her family. Never been offered before, I am told. The tour leader and guide understand my offer but can not figure out how to make it work. They explain how this system and process is self sufficient. I keep my rupees. ๐Ÿ™‚
On the far side of the market, there is the same woman, re-selling her fish at a slight profit for lesser amounts, wrapped now in newspaper for individuals for their homes. Also for sale, spices for fish curries, vegetables, fruits and tapioca from the back of a cart or TukTuk. The whole town is here! It was truly a sight to behold!
On the walk back we stop at a coconut tree. Every stage of coconut on one tree. Every 45 days – different portion is ready to harvest. 
Our next adventure is to ride a houseboat all afternoon, 4.5 hours! We see and ask questions of different things ….
From shells of mussels the locals make white powder used for cement … And white paint. Decorate with it … They sell it at the market. People come to your house and collect the shells, and take it to central area where the powder is manufactured. Money exchange is complete.  
Simple, self sufficient are words that come to mind to describe the economy of this area.  
People do their laundry on rocks in the evening, hang their sarees and miles of fabric on a clothes line. House dresses worn at home, dress in saree for day time activities away from home.  
On road again. Alleppy also known as Alappuzha, which means land between sea and river that flows in to it. Famous boat race on huge dragon boat type vessels with 100 rowers per boat. Famous also for fluffy rice. Allepy Is below sea level. Wet lands. Rice bowl of Kerala. Black, red, white … Rice. 25 percent of rice of Kerala grown here in Allepy. 

Ninety percent of backwater islands are man made from muds of the river bed and imported bricks. Much of the land is below sea level and the locals have to rebuild their houses when monsoon season happens.  
No overweight men are seen so far in India, likely due to the manual labour we see in rural areas and even in the cities. Men wearing short and long versions of wraps, and are seen to wash in river, still in their wraps. Women have no head cover here. Some carry umbrellas to keep off the hot sun. Still dressed in colourful sarees during daytime and while at work in the fields.  
“Indian people have less toilets than mobile phones in this country..” our guide, Sanjay informs us. Lol. We see satellite dishes on top of very basic homes … Thatched roofs, palm leaves to keep out the rain in monsoon season.
We travel over 30 kms today in a straw thatched roof houseboat. Laying on a mattress in the front, watching the fabulous green jungle life float by. Looking up to the huge palm leaves of the coconut tree. Huge herons, snowy white egrets and black shiny cormorants. Heads of men fishing in the waters, dropping down and popping up with their catch of the day. Women washing clothes, the slap slap slap of fabric on the smooth rocks. Still other women washing dishes and pots on the river bank, standing on rock shelves. Rice patty fields as far as the eye can see on the other side of homes, and coconut palm trees.  
Peaceful and slow, we meander up stream further and further from our vehicle and luggage. We have day packs and overnight clothes with us for an exotic cooking demonstration, meal and home stay.  
Cremations do take place for Hindu families, along this river, using holy ghats in front of church and temple lands. Other people prefer to be buried. 
The youngest son gets the house and has to look after parents. This homestead been in the family for 150 years. 15 years as guest house, before, rice patty farming was source of income.  
We enjoy a drink from the outside flower of nutmeg and sugar boiled to a tea mixture and served cold and frothy as we hear about his home and the history. Then outside for a walk about to see and photograph the orchids, black pepper, nutmeg and allspice plants among many more. Then a cooking demonstration of a few vegetarian Indian dishes.  
We are then shown to our rooms. It takes my breath away… Golden pillows and bedding, an outdoor covered bathroom and shower and separate outdoor patio area. We have a spacious living area and the air conditioning is on and the place is cool. Heavenly. We have an hour and a half till dinner made special by the home stay hosts.  
I love the red silk woven carpet on the floor, the heavy dark wood doors, elephants and peacock brass decorations and lotus flower adorning our front door. A gracious welcome and an extraordinary experience. Thank you, thank you, thank you.  
Namaste.  
Ps. If I could I would have an outdoor bathroom like the one in our suite, and live in a place where that was practical! It is pure decadence! Www.emeraldislekerala.com. Check it out! Extraordinary!  

Wow. South Indiaย 

INTERESTING INDIA: impressions of the South
Green, lush, floral, hot, sticky, fragrant colourful flowers, coconuts. Flowers, huge umbrella trees. Beautiful colourful sarees, men in wrap skirts- some short, some long … Not as many turbans here… Due to heat?  
I see fresh fruits and veggies on corner market portable stands along side of the roadways … Colourful and tasty, red round pomegranate, green and yellow, big and small bananas, oranges, apples, mango and so many more. Grapes, cucumbers, tomatoes, ginger ….
Jungle sounds can be heard whenever I stop to listen. Foliage large and green, with blossoms and fruit hanging …. Abundance!  
Palm trees. Brilliant coloured sarees even in city. Men and women driving motorcycles. Woman riding sidesaddle if on the back. Yesterday I saw for the first time, a woman driving a motorcycle in her saree with scarf bellowing behind and a man on the back, side saddle. Often I see man driving, woman on back and up to three children squeezed between them:). 
Along the drive I see a vibrant river out the window … A spectacular view, with houseboats, and jungle greenery … Small fishing vessels … Exquisite to see. I absolutely love this extreme … 
We stopped for beer and bananas .. Two stops. First we had to stop several times for directions to a store that sells beer. It is not often found in Kerala region apparently. This is the richest area of all India and it is trying to be alcohol free. Interesting process to watch.  
Three large beers purchased for the three people on the bus wanting a cool beverage this evening. One each.  
Then a fruit stand along the side of the road for bananas right off the branch. Omg. Soft and green and lovely tasting, sweet and firm inside. Some picked up oranges from the next stand. Large water 30 rupees, 60 cents is about the exchange. Fun adventure in the jungle!  
Along the way I also spy a snowy white egret and some interesting birds. Flocks of baby ducks being herded along the road … Must have been more than thirty tiny ducks in a puddle, man who is herding them with a plastic bag on end of a stick brushing them along. Cute!
We arrived at the end of a road, a stop sign. We park and all our luggage is moved to a power boat .. And we are boarded on to a lovely long boat with padded seats, open to the air and with a grass cover overhead for in rainy times. We will adventure to our resort and arrive by this vessel.
About a half hour boat ride and we arrive on a private island on the largest lake in Kerala. Amazing, spectacular … Unbelievable! An Ayurvedic spa retreat center also a hotel … Made up of cabins and buildings, restaurant, swimming pool … Wow. We are greeted with leis of scented jasmine flowers and roses .. And a fresh coconut drink, still in the coconut! Little umbrella on top, and straw to drink the refreshing beverage. Not sweetened, not iced, non alcohol … Just the milk from the coconut.  
We are shown to our rooms, and take many photos of the one person ferry canoes shuttling people around from this resort to their homes on the network of tributaries and side rivers.  
A spa treatment is arranged, overall body massage in medicated oils, including face massage and head, neck, shoulders … Lovely. Then treated to the highlight of the day, an hour ride down the tributaries to the local community, in four long and locally made and one man paddled, canoes.
I am speechless. The sounds and sights I will remember always. Exotic, colourful, happy, jungle homes, people smiling and waving … 
I think people in India must think we are good luck? All day we have been welcomed and greeted by locals in especially friendly ways.
We even see a game of cricket being played by some young men along the river on a flat piece of cleared land in the jungle.  
Then a wonderful flavourful buffet of curries, vegetable delights, rices, pappadams and more … The beverage of choice here is lemon or lime ginger soda. My he fresh sneezed juice arrives in a few small pitchers and added to the glass … Honey is also available to sweeten the mix for those who want it … And a full big bottle of cold cold sparkling soda water to mix to the solution. We have been drinking them for several weeks now as a change from plain bottled mineral water.  
Bed time … Tomorrow morning up early to see the fish market for the locals … A walk in the jungle! Then breakfast, a houseboat ride and a home stay and local meal tomorrow night.  
The south trip has been amazing already!  
Namaste
Pamela