“Being” On the train

On the train. Outside the window is India. The north, the history, the dry earth, the pollution. The sunshine, motorcycles, dry brush, stunted trees looking very bare and sparsely speckled on the brown and grey countryside. Some huts, some women sitting solitary on the ground, maybe taking a rest from her work in the fields.  
Tall grasses on sandy patches. A shrine grabs my attention, small, colourful. Gone. Sometimes we are beside another track, sometimes nothing between us and the ground.  
A family of goats, maybe 8 in a group foraging in a field.  
Young families or older children working to gather up recyclable bottles left behind in heaps at the train stations that we pass through. More women working in back bending labour, dressed still in colourful silky fabrics, with bracelets gleaming in the sun as her arms swing gently and her body carries the burden of the work at hand. Random cows eating what they find, standing on a road, engaged in the simple act of being.
“My need to be sociable is more great than my need for comfort and personal space.” The phrase pops out of my mouth without the forethought that might precede that kind of statement. An insight for me. A knowing deep in my heart. I wanted this journey. I may have asked for it in a previous life. Perhaps just new to my awareness.  
Silly emotions come and go with stories wanting to attach and attract my awakened attention. The purpose of the day is to try to let those stories stay unspoken. Can I be with this? Can I stay in this moment? Just this, only this, always this.  

I say a peaceful mantra with my hand over my heart. I wish peace for myself, for my friends, for those I care about, for those I don’t know on this trip and for those others out there who I neither know nor will meet.  
Can I be OK with my heart feeling wounded? Can I sit still in this moment. This one too …. and the next and the next. 12 hours of rail trip. Say it again. Be it.
Namaste, 

Leaving Jaipur 

Before the peacefulness, there was the train culture shock.
Unprepared, once again, for what I might find today as we leave the comfort and luxury of our stay in Jaipur, I discovered more about India.  
As we say good bye and gather our bags. We enter the busy streets of Jaipur. Not as frantic it seems, as yesterday. There is activity plenty on the streets. Some people walking, tuk tuks beeping and swerving in and out, roundabouts that seem to take us in circles, store fronts open for business and the streets humming. Cows grazing and people moving.  
A thought comes to me. As I see a virtually enter “store” with chairs inside and men sitting on them. It occurs to me and I spontaneously utter “the Men are at the ready.” For what? Sitting next to and across from same other man as yesterday and tomorrow. Is that a job? What are they talking about? Colleen says maybe they are talking about the next tourist van, ours, and wondering what are they doing? Same bus, same women, sitting across from each other, talking about what??? Ha Ha.  

Jaipur magic

In the darkness, it is the wee hours of the morning and a call to prayer chant can be heard above the sweet bird song in this magical oasis. It’s like a moment of spiritual awakening and fellowship for all souls. The call to India, as my friend, Colleen states, is about the spiritual connection. There is magic in this place, in the people and the very sounds that make us one.

When the chanting stops, as I lay in the darkened room I hold on to the promise of staying present. I hear the echoes of the voice and they melt into the flutter warble and cheep of morning birds, nested in trees outside my window in the open courtyard at this magnificent Haveli Alsisair in Jaipur. Although the busy city is outside the walls, in my room painted and decorated by a true genius, I feel so connected in this place.

Jaipur is chaotic. Traffic bumping along in almost Delhi style … constant beeping and jostling for position on the unmarked roadways and roundabouts. Pedestrians milling and walking through, holding hands with little children, places to go.

A gentle man, squatting by the side of the road. his two grandsons squatting in the very same physical configuration. Together, in synchronicity and obvious genetic similarities. Mirrors of each other, generations together. They hold their hands in the same way … like in prayer. Looking to one side, the same side so we can see the lines of ancient ones in their faces. I have only the pictures in my mind, so present was I with them on the sidewalk. Mindful moment and highlight.

My room in the Alsisar Haveli. Primary colours painted and stain glass, not black and white but classic colours of nature. Sharp red, glowing golds and yellows, deep blues. A prism of light outlining true Indian design. I step back, I take a photo or two, to hold on to it.

My dear friend Christa and I share time together this morning as we awaken in India. Our first morning together on this trip. We talk.

Processing our process for play instead of pressure. When shopping yesterday we were investigating textiles and carpets. We are looking for a taste of what is available in the store. My purchase power is my politics. Honouring the meaning of connections within community of support. I am supporting a family and they are supporting me. I think that is what we are hungry for as a people. I want to be responsible for the way in the which I exchange with the lives of another.

My friend Lalu defines this for us in India. I support his lifestyle by arranging our travel experiences through him. He honours me by his honesty and sensitivity to heart. I get to share this richness of experience with dear friends and travel companions. I feel happy, content and somehow precious and important in my roll and my friendships.

Namaste,

Pamela

The flight to India

Great morning and Namaste,

About 1500 kms left of our 12488 km journey in the air, from Vancouver airport to Delhi India, I am awake and inspired. It will be 20 February 2017 local date and time when I arrive in Delhi.

This flight is really restful, with Premium Economy seating for extra leg room, close to the facilities, only two seats across, window location one back from bulkhead. Many children and large families on this flight. I have to give credit and extend patience to the wonderful mothers and fathers who attempt this 14 hour flight with their darling small daughters and sons. Even though sleep comes easily with exhaustion and not too many interruptions, it can’t be an easy trek with tiny lives to care for. Brava!!

My words for this trip included Patience, Process, Positivity and staying patient. So far with less than the size of this small space allotted to my seat and me, I have had plenty of opportunity to practice and witness my state of mind.

I have a friend beside me, my water bottle for refreshment and a beautiful new plane surrounding us as we careen through space. Temperatures outside ranging from -50 to -61 degrees that I have seen. Up over the pole, starting in northern BC and then down through Scandinavian countries, and now I see Kabul and Kandahar on my screen as I track the journey on my screen. Almost two hours to go, at 968 km an hour.

What will we expect? What delights greet us? What will I see that I did not in my journey a year ago to this location half way around the world from my home?

One More Sleep … India

Preparing for the next great adventure.

“One more sleep” is the mantra as I awaken on this fresh Friday. With my head full of thoughts of ‘what have I forgotten to pack’? I see items hanging in my closet wanting to audition for this trip in the small carry on bag …. heading back to India.

This time last year I was just returning from a month, my first time ever, in India. There were parts of that journey that deeply inspired me to return.

The contagion of sharing my blog and photos and excitement with travel buddies and friends, lead me to put together this 10 day local living type of vacation to that massive and beautiful country half way around the world. The focus for me this time is to practice patience, process and staying present. It is what it is …. can I be with it just as it is? Breathe.

13 and half hours ahead of me in time and a 14 hour direct flight from Vancouver to Delhi, in space. It is a long way from home, in every sense of that meaning.

The culture, the spirit of the place, the history, timing and cuisine, the method of dress, the climate, the modes of transportation, language and accent …..

So much of what is India is so different from what is Canada. For those who have been, you know what I mean. For those still undecided about the destination, I offer you my words, photos (on Facebook) and my stories to tell, if you want to know more.

The vast extremes of chaotic noise and spiritual silence, cluttered spots and vacant spaciousness, harsh and soft, kindness and cruelty, penetrating eye contact and complete oblivion to another’s existence / anonymity, the smells of sweet fragrance and that of decay from generations of neglect mixed with curries and spices – exotic and pungent.

Wildlife: cows in the street, elephants and camels on the roadways, monkeys on the high wires, bats in the trees, pig and goat families rooting in the refuse.

The desert of sand and sun set. The monuments of time and stone with unique doorway shapes and intricate designs. The textiles woven with love from skills passed down from ancient traditional ancestors.

Railways, tuk tuks, motorcycles, small three wheeled trucks hauling massive loads with “muffin top” bulges, old busses with people on the roof and in doorways, all honking to indicate their presence.

Here I come, India, with my small group of friends, to enjoy your bounty and brilliance once again. I will reconnect with the hearts and souls of those mentors and guides who so moved me last year to call this place more friendly than foreign.

Here I come. One more sleep.

I so wish you were with me!

Namaste

Please follow my travels on my blog: http://www.PamelaTravelBlog.com
http://www.facebook.com/pmacdonaldtravel

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Off the Grid:  Wild Renfrew, BC

Weekend off the grid: Wild Renfrew Seaside Cottages, BC
It is the second morning of waking to the lovely meditative sound of the sea coming home. A large yet delicate exposed root system of a once mighty tree greets the eye as it lays out on the rocks, caught in a previous wild storm. Ripped from its place solid in the ground, it seems to define for the viewer, how life must be like for the ancient ones growing on this rugged coastline of British Columbia Canada.
Wild Renfrew, the name of the resort cabins: Port Renfrew, the town providing context and community.
Heading home to Victoria today, I am taking with me memories of this place and precious time spent with my family. Board games were played, satisfying meals and snacks were shared, wine was consumed, laughter and meaningful conversations still linger in the air.  
Cocooned inside I watch through the large picture window and sliding glass doors at natures gifts. Scanning the grey and undefinable horizon I witness sea otters frolicking and bobbing together; seals poking their heads through the wavy surface; sea gulls and shore birds picking and pecking, foraging quietly for tasty morsels; glistening rock surfaces sometimes there and sometimes completely covered by natures blanket hiding them from view as the tides rock gently. 
The weather can only be described as wet. Mist and fog define the air between the tiny yet constant sheets of water droplets falling to the soaked ground and leaving all surfaces slippery and soggy.  
I am surrounded by sturdy wood furnishings, a gentle warmth emanating from the fireplace insert and I inhale the faint scent of comfort from a cup of vanilla rooibus tea. With portable keyboard on my lap and my ipad standing on the table in full view of the window to the view, I am reminded that I have modern technology keeping me in touch with my regular busy lifestyle. I am off the grid, with no cell phone service and twisty windy roads that brought me here, but I am also connected to a sense of peace and tranquility that can’t be found in the city limits where I live.  
Gratitude for the opportunity, the safe and sheltered cottage that seems part of the wilderness here. Feeling appreciative of time spent with loved ones and how fleeting and soul feeding the rich experience is. Thank you, thank you, thank you.  

INDIA …. plans to return

India, 
Best Exotic Marigold Hotel,, the movies …supposedly taking place in Jaipur India. Fantastic actors… fabulous lines of description of India.   
“The challenge is to not only cope, but to thrive.” “All the street kids smile at me”. “Why would you not go out? There is so much to see. All life is here”. “I got a job. A kind of cultural advisor”. 

“She wants to thank you for your kindness …. 

But, I haven’t been kind”. 

“How can you bare this country?” “What do you see that I don’t”? “Light. Colors. Smiles. The way they see Life as a privilege and not a right.”

The hug …. the two men who see each other after 40 years. It brings tears to my eyes. The flight of the snowy white egret. “The top of the mountain.” The body being consumed in Udaipur. 

“Most things don’t work out as we hope. Sometimes the things we don’t plan … are the good stuff.”

“The person who risks nothing does nothing, has nothing.”

I long to return, even now and I left there only earlier this year in February.  

The head bob. Calling respected persons “uncle” or “auntie”. 
Movie Number two. “If not now, when? If not us, who?”

I am preparing my return to India. Still Rajasthani province but not the bus tour repeat from earlier this year. 
 In February 2017 I am planning to fly to Delhi with traveling friends (you are invited!!) on a direct flight out of Vancouver. Upon arrival to be met by a wonderful tour guide who will escort us by rail to Jaisalmer, in the desert. We will stay a week in a local living scenario, MAGIC time. We will enjoy activities, such as dining, spa, walking, shopping, talking and exchanging cultural experiences with locals.

We will return changed. I hope you consider this trip for you. Contact me for more details, dates, costs and to place your name on the list.

And read back in this blog for my descriptions of India ….

Namaste,
Pamela

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More of India, some weeks later ….
I was prepared for difficulty, dirt and disease.

I found love and the soft spot of human existence.  I found acceptance and desire. I was not prepared for luxury and ease.
As with most of what I saw and photographed, India is surreal for the foreigner.  It’s as if it floats, almost disconnected … Like in a cloud in heaven.  Yet … It’s all part of and interconnected with the rest of the universe.  Spiritually, it may be the center of the the globe, beating with the blood of the worlds people’s.

I did not expect to be blessed, accepted and especially not celebrated, just for being me and showing up.  I believe this is how humans should feel, every day.  In familiar or unfamiliar lands, we ought to feel privileged and among friends and family every moment of our lives, in every place we venture.

Standing on a ghat along side a body of water, I felt akin to the people everywhere.  It is not in the water itself, this life’s blood is just one of the ways in which the pulsing energy is transported to connect the creatures that share the bounty.  A great conductor of life, the water assists me to feel the connection to nature and all that is live.

I did not expect the simplicity of life.  Almost free of longing or striving to be “other” than what is.  I found a land of healing, magic and mystery .. For and from all the senses, emotions, spirit and the precious body.

How did this gal from the ocean waves calling deep from the extreme high and low tides of Bay of Fundy in Nova Scotia Canada, fall in love with a desert in Jaisalmer, Rajasthan, India?

With my antennae tuned to receive the negative, I found only love and joy.  I found colour and life.  I found a simplicity previously unimagined.

I found it all on a short camel trek to see the large orange sun ball slip gently behind the massive glorious sugar soft sand dunes on the other side of the planet Earth.

I fell enchanted with the women of this country who dress in spectacular colours and flowy silky fabrics.  Women who carry heavy loads of history along with bundles of sticks or large containers for water, carefully and with seeming ease upon their beautiful heads.  Their tasks are simple, important and immediate.  No question or resistance can be seen on their faces.  Life is what it is.
 

Excerpts from a blog: Song of India, Tales of Travel and Transformation. By Mariellen Ward: “I don’t entirely know why this is true, but India is much more than
a travel destination. I wrote recently in a magazine article that: “People don’t go to India to experience India; they go to experience themselves in India. They go to pit themselves against the crowds, chaos and poverty. They go to experience the open and unabashed spirituality. They go to test their egos, which India alternately builds up and smashes apart in the blink of a street child’s eye. People go to India knowing they will be forever changed … and not knowing how. But India is a master, a guru, who takes people where they need to go, and teaches them what they need to learn.” ”
***********

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