My friends and classmates, Cathy and Simone, and I departed LAX at 6:55 am on Thursday, January 5th. We landed comfortably three and a half hours later in Chicago, where we found some lunch and waited to board our very full plain to take us straight to Delhi. This was my first flight overseas and I was nervous, to say the least. Even though I’ve flown since I was a little girl, I often have panic attacks on plains, especially the landings. I think my panic comes from being a little girl in my dad’s plane. We were somewhere over Wisconsin, flying above a thick layer of clouds, when Dad decided to get underneath the clouds to get a better look. He said, “hold on,” and dove the plane underneath the clouds. I was four years old and had just opened a new toy from my mother. As the plane dove, I lost my lunch and vomited all over my new toy. It was terrible, and I remember feeling so vulnerable and that I had no control over the contents of my stomach. So, needless to say, I don’t like being in small, cramped places that have a tendency to bounce up and down when you’re least expecting it.
So as we waited to board the plane, I was almost crying in anticipation. I was also nervous for this trip — a third world country, lots of expectations, fear in general of the unknown….I was freaking out. But like the good girl that I am, I boarded the plane and shut up, opened a new book, and kept my mind focused on the present moment. Which made me realize that I was just fine. This was my first flight over 6 hours, and I spent the 14 hour flight to start and finish “The Hunger Games,” finish knitting a scarf, start knitting some mitts, watch two movies, and sleep all of 45 minutes. I also got up to walk around and do lunges and squats and heel raises. We flew over Greenland, Iceland and Russia, which was cool.
We arrived in Delhi at about 5:30 pm Delhi time. India is 13 1/2 hours ahead of California, so it was like landing at dawn. Luckily, our luggage arrived and as we walked out of the airport, Dr. Gupta was there waiting for us. I recognized him from pictures. He led us to his driver and we loaded in what looked like a very old version of a Jeep Cherokee. I now realize that being afraid to fly was ridiculous, because driving in India is the Scariest Thing Ever. There are lanes, but no one pays attention to the lines. Bikes, motorcycles, and cars of all shapes and sizes elbow for position, honking and flashing their lights as if they represent some secret code of road conduct. There are no rules as far as I can tell. Luckily, I was so tired from being up for 24 hours straight that I fell asleep for a good portion of the 2 1/2 hour ride.
We are staying at the MVT or Iskon Guesthouse which is next door to a Hari Krishna temple. Apparently, the town of Vrndavan was the birthplace and playground of Krishna. The greeting here is “Hari Krishna,” and most people who live here follow that tradition. We were greeted at the gate of the Ashram by a cow wandering the ally and some really nice people who run the house. I am staying in a room with Cathy, and our room is nice — two twin beds, a bathroom with shower and toilet, and a small room off to the side with cabinets. We cook in an apartment across the grounds. I slept through the night, woke and showered, and explored the grounds. The grounds are meticulously tended to, and have many trees and plants and quiet spots to sit and meditate. We were amazed to find monkeys climbing all over the buildings, which is why the rooms come with a padlock — to keep the monkeys out. They’ll steal your glasses and your hat, so I’ve learned to watch my head as I walk around. Of all the questions I’ve asked Dr. Gupta, the only one he could not answer was “What type of monkeys are those?” He replied, “Huh, I’ve never been asked that question. We do not pay attention to what type they are. They are just monkeys!” Fair enough.
It’s foggy and fairly cool, so we’ve been taking classes inside the apartments here at the Ashram, rather than at Dr. Gupta’s Ayurvedic Center in town. Yesterday, I was so jet-lagged my brain wouldn’t quite work and I felt like I had forgotten everything I’d learned. Luckily, today I feel much more awake and able to answer questions.
Dr. G is taking good care of us, and insisting that we stick to bottled, not filtered, water and just eat lightly of rice, dahl, and vegetables for the first several days so that we give our systems time to adjust. I think he is right and I’m following that protocol.
I better go, off to class now, but will fill in more as life becomes more interesting here in India. As Dr. G said, be ready for both “shock and bliss.”