Burgundy river adventure, on route!

Bonjour blog followers, 
Today is the first day of summer, 21 June 2017 and I am at the Victoria airport (YYJ). The sun is beaming in the large windows overlooking our little international airport. Ready and excited about the upcoming journey.
This river barge adventure has been a while in the planning. Myself and three local travel buddy women are flying into Geneva Switzerland Europe and then taking a local rail system to Dijon France. A few overnights and then off to join the barge river cruise on a small, 22 passenger, ambling barge, the Daniele. We board the high water itinerary in Saint Leger sur Dheune. Then on to Chalon sur

Up the Saone river and through Burgundy wine country on a relaxing and scenic tour of some of the most beautiful landscape maybe in the world. Cycling through vineyards, wine tasting and visits in boutique little villages. Soaking up sunshine, forests, canals and vineyards, in quintessential Burgundy wine district.  
Stay tuned…..

Pamela, of France :). 

Pictures posted on Facebook http://www.facebook.com/pmacdonaldtravel

Today’s Sparkle

The sparkle from within 

In the day to day routine of my ordinary life, I am happy almost all the time. I am living the dream of probably 80-95 percent of the world. I live in happy upper middle class style with little or no responsibilities that can result in life or death scenarios …. any more.


I had a career where life and death were daily conversations, where abuse and victimization in its most brutal form was my daily reading and interactions. However, I retired from this a few years ago. I no longer need to do risk assessments to see someone in my office, or to brace myself for another tragic tale of early life demise and stress for the very young. 


My ordinary daily life now consists of a post retirement job doing some clerical and liaison communications, bridging my job and my experience in a place that values my every contribution. I no longer have client engagements or conflicts. Now, I sit at a computer, I read, I go to Court and I enjoy the routine nature of my 8 hour work day.


Fortunately I learned some skills along the way and one of them is meditation, mindfulness practice. About 12 years ago it came into my life and I manage to keep engaged and increasing my practice more and more as the years pass. The fact is, the more I practice, the more I want to practice, and then the more I practice …..


There is a power inside me that I can only tap into when in my practice state of being still and noticing. I suppose it is always present, just not in my awareness as much. When I sit still and have the strong intention on retreat, I can feel a sense of peacefulness that exists only in that place.


When I first went to India I had taken part in a two day non residential vipassana retreat just a few days prior to my flight. I had the intention to try to stay in my own “pool”, to keep watching what arose for me to notice in my awareness and to not bite the hook of my own judgements as much as possible. A month is a long time and I was in the company of 17 women, two drivers and at least one tour guide for the better part of the first two weeks as we explored India on a phenomenal bus tour. I would say I was about 10 percent successful on a few very good days in that time. Not huge, however, much more than I would have enjoyed without the intention and pre planning and reminders, mantras and bus motion sickness that kept me facing forward, front seat, eyes open to the new world I was seeing and mostly listening to my own thoughts rattling around in my head and taking over my body.


The second trip to India, smaller group, only 6 ladies and one tour guide, no bus and much less shock to my system. I had some idea of what to expect, I had walked through my small comfort zone a full year ago and would never look back through those eyes again. Now I could find familiarity in the awareness of the foreign. I could see more clearly what was going on inside of me as I looked out at the world going by. I could hear the words the other’s spoke, I could sit more still and notice how I was not biting the hook of their judgements and shock at what they were experiencing.


I felt more confident and committed to my intentions to remain positive, to hold the present as much as possible, to be patient with the process. I wrote, recited and remembered these words daily. I enjoyed the sounds and sensory explosions of each new experience, unique colours, textures, tastes, and feelings that arise and fall as I experience India. I fall in love when I am there ….


Totally away from my ordinary life I could stay present so much more of the time. Fragile as I felt, tearful at times, and elated at others, I was truly in my own vibrations and feelings, trying to notice thoughts as they passed through me, nowhere to attach.


One of my friends and travel companions has been giving me feedback on the trip and my contribution to the experience she had in India. She tells me I sparkled! She was in awe of my sparkle ….


I would never have known myself in that light. I would not have been able to see in stark contrast and vivid technicolor how I could show up in the world.


“We are blind to our blind spots and blind to our blindness” – I read this somewhere a long time ago. I was blind to my sparkle. I did not know that being in my bliss could show up visibly and make me a lighthouse for others, potentially lost at sea. 


I know this now.


I am certain I will go again to India to offer my beacon of light for whatever it may be worth to anyone. For me, it is fuel for my extraordinary life. I am speechless with delight at the possibilities and promise of the next time, and the next ….. wandering around the deserts of India in full sparkle!!! 

Insights, after one day home from India


Still in jet lag mode, arrived back in my life in Canada, I am trying to stay present with what bubbles up in my awareness from my recent trip in India.


The benefits of having time in one place, on a trip, are huge. Life changing, compelling, prejudice challenging, friendship / relationship building, increasing understanding between peoples, culturally enriching.


In as much as I am reviewing how this trip impacted me, I believe I left an impact in my wake from being there. When I show up in my truth, I offer my words from a place of love and kindness, I allow myself to practice being present to what is …. I influence the world around me. 


The more immediate and intimate the interactions, the more deeply felt impressions I leave in my footprints. The light that I shine is my part. The intention is to be significant in all interactions and leave people richer for knowing me. 


We all have “viruses” or prejudices, pre conceived notions of how things are. Often these stay buried or part of our pattern of thinking for all time – never challenged. I have these present as well. They are not universal “truths” about others. They are prejudicial and hurtful potentially and they cause me to speak and think in unskillful ways. They cause me to believe that which is not true. It never was true. It never will be true. These prejudicial thoughts are not kind or helpful. It does not matter where they came from, it matters that they are set free and no longer influence my life or impact those around me.


As I was describing this to my colleague at the office today, he suggested that people all over the world have the same virus and prejudicial thinking – about me: As a tourist, as a woman, as a Canadian, as a privileged white person with money and resources. Does it mean I am untrustworthy or silly? Do the people I interacted with on this trip have a view of me? And now, has that impression significantly changed because I showed up on this trip, in their homes and communities? Did I perpetuate the misconceptions and beliefs about the North American white woman? Was the way in which I spoke, spent my money, engaged with others, the questions I asked and the way I showed up – was this true to my way of being? Was it positive and helpful? Spreading peace, empowerment and understanding?


My practice for this trip was to be more present. I wanted to represent kindness and positivity, to respect process and to stay as much as I could in what was, without thinking about why it was that I believed what I saw or experienced. Personal growth happens when I set out to be more open to another way of being in the world and then I practice the skills that can make me a better person. 


My travel guide friend sent me this quote, from M.K. Gandhi and it seems to fit here, “For my material needs my village is my world. But for my spiritual needs, the whole world is my village.”

Pamela MacDonald

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


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Delhi Day!

Delhi. After the long overnight first class train ride from Jaisalmer to Delhi, we arrive. We are transported to the Good times hotel (not really a recommended accommodation) and we wait. We wait for our passports to be scanned, our rooms to be prepared and for our arrival to this city. We make plans for the day, we have a driver, our friend Lalu and off we go.
We stop for a week bit of lunch at a fabulous strip mall of restaurants and the meal is tasty and excellent, plenty of food arrives.
We want to see the place where Gandhi spent his last days and was assassinated, shot outside his home. It is powerful, moving and quietly. Quotes from his heart are scattered on signs. 
Then to the beginning of the Salt walk with Gandhi as he began the walk to Kerala region. Photos taken.
Finally to the place where he was cremated – the large park surrounding this sacred place. Moving.
Out for dinner to share our last few hours together, to thank Lalu and to have some words to summarize our thoughts and affections.  
An early morning flight for three of the six of us as we are heading back to Victoria. Our trip has needed. Three stay on for a visit to the famed Taj Mahal. This will be powerful for them.
I am on the plane almost home now and catching up on my blog posts and sentimental emails. No wifi for a few days, no time to make posts. My heart is still trying to stay present and respect the process of this journey. I remain positive and I hope to do this trip again, maybe two weeks next time. Maybe Kerala in the south? We shall see.
One thing seems certain to me now, my journey with India is not yet complete. I still feel warm and welcome in its arms and heart. I love the people I have met and I look forward to supporting them in our next tomorrows when we see each other again.
Namaste and thanks for following along ……

Highlights from the group travel in India

HIGHLIGHTS from the collection of 6 women. We gather on the train back to Delhi and ultimately we will return home to Canada. A long overnight and first class accommodations on the train begins. We get together to talk about our experiences and our views, shared with our guide and supported as always by each other.  

Night sky with stars touching the ground, deep sharp contrast. Big sky – I have never seen such a big sky. So big and so dark. Bright stars. From the earth they appear on every horizon as far as we can see and the sky is black with speckled stars and lights. It is magnificent and every one of us is in awe of this night and the sights.  
Meeting with the dancer, exchange and learning a little bit about her. Her husband at home watching the baby. She had been able to move to her passion to be dancer (passed on for generations) but been working as a snake charmer and is now able to do this. She has two sons so she won’t be passing on the dance to them. Hearing her story. Where she learned to dance. Human connection — generations of passing on the dancing. Appreciate Lalu being there to communicate with the dancer. Her face, body language … respect and grace with us. She calmly and intense, sharp, watching … with grace in answering questions
Dinner on top of the Fort …. the way we were served, the fabulous food, the attention of Lalu’s friends, the view, fireworks – as if it was all in place just for us. Invited to the family monthly gathering to celebrate the life of Lalu’s father – such a generosity to open his home to us. May have been the most beautiful place, how they took care of us. His friends looking after us. Flat terrace overlooking city. Tony’s coffee.  
That evening, seeing the family – we got the idea, flashlight, uncle, kids running up and down the roadways in fort. Seeing family attachments. In awe of the family attachment. I have never been around this type of family. Intellectual fellow – past life regression. Recorded video clip. Hypnotic state??? Spreading fresh breath into other … he lost a son and then a wife. Newly married again – the pain he went through. Mentoring other people – we all have to move on.  
Cooking Indian cuisine experience, that lady opening up her home to us. Pakoras, involvement, learning new skill, mastering masala chai, instructions on video, people in the house were so gracious – the men, women, kids. How they function in their kitchen space, in their home. Felt like “I could do this”. Learning with the language barrier. Chapati. Too heavy, add more oil, little water. Our hands are in it so we can feel what it will feel like when we do it again. That is how they learn and teach and so to be part of that process. Out of my comfort zone with new foods, numb lips (I can take a little heat). Did not “not” try a food because it was unfamiliar. Texture, they were impressed on how Christa was able to do it. Feel the texture – a lot of fun. We felt welcomed in to the family. The woman – judge’s day. The young girl.  
Tuk tuk ride on back from the fort that night. With Pam and Donna, lights. Generations of family sharing information and just chatting. Being part of it … Sense of a big family. Very special to be able to see that.  
Sterilize that! The train on the way to Jaisalmer … coming up against contrast to what we would experience in day to day life. Finding our comfort and connectedness. Sense of supporting one another. Bonding as a group. Special. Enjoyed as it gave us an opportunity to see the landscapes of the country and get a little snippet of the life of the outside community – the local … untainted by the world. Their simple life. Water jugs on the heads of women as they daily serve their families and communities to basic necessities. The sparse trees, the meager accommodations, the satellite dishes, the colorful sarees, the hard physical labor of the peoples of this country in the rural areas.  
Porters carrying our luggage at the train station. On their heads. Lalu told how he negotiated … asked for a lot. Maybe 3 times more what he should. Lalu told him he would lose his food. In the end he was paid what he was wanting. Touching hand at end. Showing picture to the porter that we had witnessed his hard work, and shared in the knowing that it was difficult and yet, his job, to serve these tourists.  
The intense feeling of Solitude on sand dunes. Felt small and insignificant on the dune. Me and the dung beetle. Peaceful. Silent, nothing to do and no where to be, Just here, just this space. Just now, We all Enjoyed the camel ride quiet and personal, each on our own, some tethered together, walking out in to the wild adventure that is a desert in India. This is truly a fantastic experience. Camel ride is very special.
Animals we saw. Bumping into goats, pigs, cows, dogs, horses, sheeps, deer, monkeys, elephants, men riding horses on the streets. Hearing the Howling of dogs.
The children, smiles and openness. Joy. Wonderful, intensity. Little girl touching Heather hands at the train station. We all felt it, perhaps Heather is forever changed by the bridging of our cultures. We truly are one on this globe. Magic.
The Lake and life line water source for Jaisalmer, the sunrise and golden light in the morning. We met Krishna. We hear her story and see the age on her hands and face. She tells the story of her sons, and her losses, her experience as an “untouchable” in this India. She is beautifully adorned in gold jewels and has retired from her government service as a sweeper. She has worn the same sweater now 5 years … coral colored. She will go on the train today to see family. We learn of her thoughts and impressions as Lalu asks questions that have arisen in his mind from our time together the previous night. He is learning about violence against women and so he searches to understand the meaning even on this day, this interaction, and this community. The conversation matters.
Donna and Pam went to see Luv. He was our tour guide last year for two weeks on the Indus Royal India tour with 17 women through Rajasthan. Wonderful guy, really liked him. Taught us so much. He was there and Lalu could make that connection. Donna and I – no Id no money, flying through streets in a Tuk tuk! Took us to hotel we went to last year … after a bit of exploring we know we are in the wrong place, but fun to see our old hotel. We get in with driver – to next hotel … Luv just arriving with group from Medicine Hat and Calgary. Warm and Fun. Hugs, appreciation and gratitude. Lalu is with us again and we head back to the Fort.

Jaipur. Our hotel. Alsisair Haveli, Beautiful place inside the gate. And away from the beep beeps and chaos outside the door and isn’t he streets, An oasis. Older woman at the pool. Greeted, questions, lovely. Tired and stunned …Beautiful place, someones’ home. We are always welcomed wherever we go and we feel cared for. The hospitality in India seems so gracious while not necessarily luxurious. Caring is in small details and personal reception.  
Sunrise at the lake. Chaotic and swirling Catfish in the lake. Someone throwing bread. Fish, cows, dogs, birds, monkeys. All sacred in India. To feed them is good karma. Life is precious here, animals and human. Dinner in Jaipur that we had together was lovely. 
Putting the gifts together for Lalu’s family. We were in the Jasmin Haveli hotel room. See where they live. Mom shed tears over simple gifts. Great honor. Felt like we lived there. Connected. I hope they know that we appreciate Lalu and for his time with us.  
Jain temples. Energy from the east – and the story about the tunnel. 1200 page catalogue from so long ago. Translated by a guy who knows 17 languages of the world. Born blind, guru. 1940s or so … he went to school University in Varanasi (4 million students). Masters degree. Mrs Gandhi was Prime Minister … gave award, medallion for his work. Won two awards …. won third award. She was wanting to know what is happening out here?? 3 more awards …. different subjects. She came down from stage and went to him. How come? I can see from heart … 
Lalu lemon – we think we might like to help him brand this in India, ha ha.
Deb’s wine and No Jet Lag – her generosity and keeping to her own needs and desires to make this a comfortable trip for her. She speaks her mind, she holds her own, she enjoys her space and she shares the wine!  
Shopping, taking me, back to the Coop … with my shopping list and getting it done. Power shopped. We went with intention. We had the pallet from the day before. 4 of those, one of these.  
Watching Colleen buying her carpet and supporting her. Now I need to go away and digest the information. I kept getting more and more information. Overload and overwhelming.  
Conversations with Lalu and Jitu about the business, the spa, the empowerment of women in a culture that has long ignored this half of the population. We get to some critical points and I know I am here for a reason. My presence today and in future will change India. I know this somehow deep in my core. I feel the resonance with the mama and the women we have met, and the men I have challenged to be be better men. I feel the empowerment and the love I have shared and the change I have implemented. I am so grateful for this week and the opportunity to grow. These wonderful 6 women who shared and supported each other openly. The men who are held to account and who we know are up to the challenge of implementing change in their community.

Mysteries and Masala in India

A warm bamboo scarf hug after the collective intimate silent sunrise on the desert sand dunes our last morning in Jaisalmer. The moment was magic, “golden”. Donna sings a line. Tears slide down my face, falling to the thirsty sand. I feel oneness that transcends any discomfort.  

Waiting for our warm masala chai delivery we spoke about how to make the foods we have learned about yesterday. We had been welcomed into a local family home and taught to cook, hands on experience with local ladies/. Masala Chai tea, rice, pakoras, aloo gobi. It was magical. It was experience of India and shared with locals in their kitchen, in their space, with careful watchful eye of other men and women in their family and community.  
The tea arrives. We are talking now about our experience of night sounds, while sipping …. camel snorting, dogs barking, motorcycle engine sounds cutting through the absolute silence that exists in the desert far from the city activity.
We talked about last night with dancing with a local gypsy woman, having a chance to talk with her. Hearing her story, dancing with her on the stage, drums keeping rhythm with her movements and an ancient and deeply moving movement of grace, beauty, and skill, bringing forth her ancestors to dance with us.  
We talk more, about our interpretation of the Mysteries of India. Desolate. Is it beauty? It’s not the surroundings. It’s the passion in people. Their family ties and how passionate they are about it. We want to be adopted into the family, sense of belonging is so strong and we crave that. Communal eating. Beaming love. Look what they have! They don’t have the longing of the western world. We reflect on the two family activities we have been so generously invited to with our guide Lalu.  
The first, was a celebration of life for his father. In the past year the father in this lovely family has passed on. Once a month or so they all get together in a small family home, they have a communal space within the fort and they eat together, talk together, and spend a few days wrapped in the love for each other. We, the 6 women of Canada, are part of that family now. We shared this evening. Under the stars, in the fort on the top patio overlooking the city, we are entertained and cared for, fed by and so generously welcomed by Lalu’s friends. Many of these men we have met earlier in the week – now they come out at his request to meet with us, serve us and include us in their festivities. I will forever be moved by what fun that was to be treated like royalty and celebrities on that roof top terrace. Fireworks can be heard behind us. Activities in the street below, we are wrapped in the love of this community. So very gracious.
The second was the following day after. Touring the fort, the exquisite Jain temples, the tunnel that saved the lives of the fort’s peoples so long ago while under siege, the shop keepers, the roof top restaurant / cafe where we are now regulars and we enjoy wine, and some tasty foods, a clean WC and the attention of the lovely men that work and own this establishment. They urge us to return again, anytime. After all this we go to Lalu’s home for a proper introduction with his intimate family, his wife, his two lovely children, Dev and Sri and his mama, the madame, the matriarch in this home. We share our gifts that we had gathered and brought to India. Backpacks full of fun treasures for the kids, games for the family to share, purses and contents, scarves, hats and gloves for the ladies, and winter hats and scarves, gloves and more for Lalu. We thank them for letting us have his attention for this week tour that is so precious to us. It is so fantastic to be part of this day and this interaction. I think for me, as I hug the women and children, and we share a group photo, that this is is why I came to India. I feel one with this family now. Namaste.
Reflections of the day spent at the Fort in Jaisalmer. Door to the east. Sit in the square, how the energy works. Jain temple. Pride in Dev’s young face as he brought us to the sacred place in the neighbourhood. Ensuring we were all together and arrived. Announcing to the attendant that we were Lalu’s friends – that Lalu was our guide.  
We talked about our family of origin experiences. Comparing our stories, and feeling the love and connection of this place. Sibling order and constellation matters. Gentle caring questions that bring out our stories. It’s safe within this circle. We resonate with the family. We are creating our sense of connectedness here in this small intimate tour group, by choice. Here in the desert dunes of India, here in February 2017. We mingle our stories with those of the ancestors in this place.  
Masala omelet arrived. Masala tea refills. The feast of India continues.

Intense emotional presence

Great morning. Emotional hangover from intense feeling and sensations from the days events yesterday.  
On the train since about 5 pm yesterday and we will be until about 11 am or noon today when we are scheduled to arrive in Delhi.
As I continue to practice patience, both with myself and my environment and interactions, with observing my process, with intention of positivity and staying present to what is. It has been an intense week in that regard.  

There is haze on the horizon. I watched the sky wake up this morning from my train window .. hazy. Powerful intense feelings arise, tears fall. Again. Again.
I woke up weeping in my sleeper cabin. I feel I must be present with my heart today. Gently I offer loving kindness to myself and then I can share it with the world. Christa arrives to bring me some goodies for the morning. She has been a very warm and loving roommate and tremendously supportive friend throughout the trip. Sometimes she notices my state before I have settled in.