Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Entranced by brown angels of love!

Hello all! Well some of you know that I have changed my plans about 3 times since my arrival here to Sri Ram Ashram!!!! I was originally planning to stay a week and then head to Bir near Dharamsala to do another meditation work retreat and meet up with a friend of a friend that runs homeopathic clinics in near by mountain villages. Which, would have likely been an amazing experience, except that I couldn't tear myself away from these beautiful little beings here at the orphanage. So, I have now been here for a little over 3 weeks and if it weren't for the intensifying heat, I would likely stay longer! That, and I need to leave the country shortly because you can only stay in India for 6 consecutive months and then you have to leave for 2 months. So I am heading to Dharamsala now briefly before flying to Nepal.

Here at the orphanage I have enjoyed staying in a cozy room with a balcony overlooking the courtyard of the ashram, taking walks on the 16 acres of land with some of the kiddos that like to circle the property and chit chat, spending endless hours pushing youngsters on the swings, watching the older boys play bocce ball, life guarding kids in 2 feet of water and still almost having a heart attack seeing one or 2 slip up and go under. I have almost gotten used to the man who blows a whistle all night long to keep the monkeys and the elephants off the property and the 6 AM very loud wake up bell!

I have seen a lot of monkey business (literally)... Once, a big ole monkey jumped through the window of our parked bus, sat on the seat behind and across from me and went through a bag, only to find out it was a diaper bag before he sped off empty-handed. The same day one came and stole a piece of poori (fried dough) from a small child's hand knocking her over in the process during an outing we were on! I also had one charge me and my friends in order to get the bananas I had in a bag! It was a total reflex to throw the bag his way! He won hands down!!!!!! It is quite amazing to watch how agile, dexterous, and mischievous they can be!

As well, I love meandering through the local villages to pass fields of wheat, mustard, and parsley while bantering with the locals with my continued 2 sentences in Hindi that I know!!!Things are changing rapidly here... they have just built a 5 star hotel that costs over $200/night in the near by village! Trippy to see!

I think you will understand my vacillation about leaving when you see the photos! Enjoy!

The village walk to the diverted section of the Ganga. During Monsoon season the water is much higher due to overflow from the main Ganga. This woman is drying cow poop to be used for fuel.

Kids playing in a parked Vikram, a common mode of 3 wheeled transportation in India.It is not uncommon to fit 14+ passengers in this at a time... they may be sitting on your lap or on the floor or standing on the edges and holding on for dear life as they pass other vehicles with less than an inch to spare!

A few of the brown angels of love that I was talkingabout! (as my friend Mangala likes to refer to them as...)

This is Simmi, she had to get 8 stitches above her eye while I was here. Later that day (and not by much) she was dangerously climbing all over the monkey bars. We literally had to tie her to her to a stroller at one point while the other children were swimming to prevent her from diving in with her stitches.

This is my friend Andrea's daughter Isha. Andrea came when she was 18, went home to finish her nursing degree and immediately returned and hasn't left for 17 years!!!!

Are you with me yet?




The older youth are pretty amazing too!!!!!!!!

Our trip to Chilla National Park where we didn't even enter the park, just going to the entrance gate where the worker elephants reside was enough of an outing with 35 children ages 1 1/2 through 15 (and then we had a delicious meal at one of the caregivers homes!)

Pretty captivated in that water bottle!

Cooking class with Kavita

Andrea's other daughter Ayushi

One of the "mommies" being funny. She would kill me if she knew I posted this photo!

These are pretty famous artists in India and Europe that we got to visit because they were friends of Andrea's. Peter illustrated the book The Birth of the Ganga which I saw a copy going for over $200 on Amazon, which is either a mistake or because the author, his teacher who is a renown artist, has died and the book is out of print

Some of the youth doing a pujah ceremony in their room for Navratri, the 9 night celebration of a female deity which happens to be Durga at this time.

These 2 kid's (above) parents work and live at the ashram.

Mangala and I getting some snuggles in

When you visit a temple in India, you usually get herded through a line like cattle to the main altar which people receive a blessing from (in this case, Hindu) priest. At this temple it meant blessing you with a tika, or mark on the forehead (typical) and a pretty solid whack on the back with their hand or small bat like object! That was a first for me! (Note the guy reading the newspaper inside the temple at the holy altar in the backdrop!!!! 

Ok! Well I really might have over done it this time with the photos, but it was difficult to choose which ones to include! Hope you made it this far! Much love to you all!

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Happy Holi!

Hi folks! Some of you know that I am back at Sri Ram Ashram. Baba Hari Dass's ashram outside of Haridwar, in which they have built an orphanage, clinic and school that offers education to 500 village children. I spent 2 months here 6 years ago and am thrilled to be reunited with the kids and staff again! The children have amazing memories and identified me by saying, "you made us a backgammon game and you love frisbee!!!" Some of the youth have married and have left for college and work, but lucky for me all but one have returned for the holiday Holi.

Those of you that followed my previous trip may remember that Holi is a festive holiday of colors. The day and night before Holi is called Holika or little Holi where people dress up and paint their faces and prepare for Holi by soaking each other with water.  At night they go around for candy similar to Halloween and build a big bonfire, tie ribbons on it to represent things that they want to be rid of and then they circle around the fire and watch the ribons burn. Then the dance party begins. The actual day of Holi people douse each other with water and colors. It can be really intense for foreigners in the "outside" world, as you make a perfect target and people tend to get rough especially if they are intoxicated. So most foreigners learn quick to witness the action from afar.

Here at the orphanage a camera is like being in a safe zone... so it is a perfect way to "play!" Still, it is good to find an even safer place when the big boys come out to play!

Sometimes you get lucky and get a one in a million shot like this! Adorable!

Another beauty!

This is the youngest child at Sri Ram right now.

This little guy had just arrived as a baby when I was here last.

Pujah in the hat has married since my last visit.

Preparing for action!

Enticing the visitors to come out of their safe zone! Color in the main building is not allowed!

Trying to get psyched up for the attack!

A perfect canvas!

This is Rashmi, an amazing woman originally from CA who runs this place. Of course, always a favored target... and she is a great sport about it! 

This is Dyadar and Joyce. Friends of mine from Oregon that I originally met in India 6 years ago. He was the Naturopathic doctor that helped me during my crazy ear infection with intense vertigo.

They have 2 small pools here. It's a great way to start to get the color off! 

This is Vijay Raj. He has become a cross fit trainer. I took a class with him with a few other folks yesterday and can barely squat and get up from an Indian toilet today!

And this was applied gently!