Thursday, September 24, 2009

"My friends, I want to talk for a few minutes with the people of the United States..."

Things that have happened since our last fireside chat:

1. Caught a virus, ie developed a 103 degree fever and a rash. Our program aides Maggie and Danny had to practically carry my diseased body to the local hospital, where I received in the butt a shot of dubious qualities and was also told to take three other pills. Then I threw up and didn't have to take the pills anymore. Am better now.

2. Went to Kerala, the state next to Tamil Nadu where I'm living. State is also known as "God's Own Country" because it is possibly one of the greenest, wettest, floweriest, most beautiful places in the world.
A. Rode an elephant with friends Rachael, aka Sister MC, and Scott-kku. (Both are nicknames I may or may not explain later.) Have never felt guiltier in my life. Worst part: when the elephant trainer hit the feet of the elephant with a stick and it uttered a mournful little moan and shuddered. Will never go on animal safaris again. To Kathryne: please don't hate me. I hated me enough for the both of us.

B. Went hiking at dawn through the Periyar Tiger Reserve. Did not see tiger, but did see elephant bones, wild boar, deer, wild dogs, wild elephants, and somehow admitted a leech right onto my underwear line. Only discovered it when I took my clothes off for a shower and it fell, fat and full and flailing, from my stomach onto the floor. Threw it, screaming, into the boys' room. If women have to give birth, men can handle squiggly things that suck your blood.

C. Stayed in Kochin, the best city ever. Ate Italian food, flirted with Kashmiri men, and watched Sister MC and Scott-kku vomit it all back up in a truck graveyard in the dark while I waited in the rickshaw trying to convince the driver they weren't drunk. First assumption of all South Indians: if you're vomiting at night and you also have pale skin, you have consumed too much alcohol. Also met a really cool Anglo-Iranian chick named Camilla who spent two months building eco septic tanks in a village outside Mysore. We'll always have Cochin.

D. Took a night train. Was not sketchy. Did start to hate Snoring Man, who snored the same way tigers snarl to mate. Also started to hate Snacking Man, who decided 4 am was a good time to turn on the light and eat some chips. Loved the rocking motion of the train while sleeping in the top bunk. Listened to a This American Life podcast saved on my iPod about a marine boat in the Arabian Sea and all the people who live on it.

3. Found out my host dad, Rajesh Kukreja, loves to listen to Death Cab For Cutie, INXS, Steely Dan, and certain ditties by Kylie Minogue. Bonded over the Transatlanticism for an hour while driving around Madurai. Felt a deep sense of contentment with the world.

Stay tuned, citizens. I'll report again soon.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

On yoga without Kimberly going, "Center your chi..."

I'm gonna be completely honest: I hate yoga in the States. Everyone's always more concerned about what clothing they wear than what we're actually doing, and they're all crowing, "I can't wait to lose a few inches off my waist!" And then this super skinny twit - often named Kimberly or Jada, depending on their hippie factor - walks into the mirrored, stuffy room where everyone's congregated and says in a floaty voice, "Hi, I'm Kimberly, and welcome to yoga. First we're going to start by sitting on the floor and centering ourselves." Her hand invariably presses the play button on the CD player, starting the New Age CD that will carry you through Child Pose and Dog Pose and Kissing Your Own Ass Pose. I frequently build up such a resentment for everything around me that instead of feeling peaceful, I feel like I want to shank a bitch and cut out early.

Yoga in India, friends, is not Kimberly's watered-down do-what-feels-good crap. I started going last week with a couple of people from my abroad program. I haven't been able to touch my toes since I started playing soccer, and I figured now would be a great time to start. First, the harrowing bike ride on a bike literally falling apart through harrowing Indian traffic (which I will describe at a later point). Nothing gets your heart rate up like being cut off by a bus tipping over with the amount of people hanging out of its doors. We finally arrived at the ashram (where yoga is studied and perfected by disciples of a guru; I feel like ours is named Je, because we're always chanting Je, but it could also mean, "Jesus help me to walk again because I have bent myself in unnatural ways today"). We paid our 700 rupees for a month of classes, which for those of you counting at home is equal to $14. A steal! Score! Then we climbed into the grass-roofed hut standing on stilts and waited for our teacher.

This dude is a human pretzel. He is also a drill sergeant. There's none of Kimberly's "Center yourself" here. Instead of gently incurring us to bend and twist, he yells, "Put your elbows up! Why are your elbows not up! DO IT!" On the second day he made us do a headstand. I actually thought my neck was going to snap. Goodbye world, I thought grimly. After I dropped my legs, he nodded satisfactorily and said, "Tomorrow, you do it on your own."

Bring it on, yogi.