Wednesday, February 17, 2010


Well the "back end" held on nicely for the flight to Mumbai!

My Stomach needed a little more time to settle though and over the next few days I ate vegetarian dishes, cautiously. I shared a taxi from the airport with a French women who was in the process of setting up a zoo/animal rescue farm in Goa. She knew Mumbai like the back of her hand and offered to have me not only join her for dinner, but to accompany her to the heart of the city for an all day shopping expedition the next morning.

I was actually excited to be lead around the city and we exchanged phone numbers and made some plans. Unfortunately, what she termed in the taxi to be her "serious lack of short term memory" put an end to any made plans. The first time I called her to meet up about an hour after our ride together it took a good long minute for her to remember who I was. After a similar experience on the second call I figured I would be better off on my own rather than being left in the depths of Mumbai in a moment of forgetfulness. It was for the best.

Mumbai is an awesome city. It has all the goings on of Delhi but without the complete insanity. 99% of cars on the road are taxis: really cool old ones with funky colored inner decors. No Rickshaws allowed within the city limits and you're hard pressed to find a cow on the main roads. It's much cleaner too, although I'm not sure how... finding a garbage bin anywhere is impossible... well I shouldn't say that because as any Indian will tell you: "No Problem! Anything Possible!"

The people here are hard core sellers, and walking through the Fashion street market: Stalls lined with jeans and shoes and anything else that goes on the body is an interesting experience... especially for a women. It took me a couple of minutes to figure out that the sound to signal everyone that you are within buying limits is made from a tight pursing of the lips and sucking inwards... as if they are wanting to attract the attention of a dog...a rich, doting, western dog, straight from the groomers. (Which I am obviously not)

"Come look my shirts! Come here!"


"You like my Jeans! Just look one! Many types for you!"

are the consistent lines, accompanied by a forward lunge of clothes straight at you and a nice Bomday: "You know you want my clothes" as you keep walking. Actually I wanted to buy some things but the intensity of it all kept me at bay and you are expected to buy without being able to really try things on. The Indian women seem to have no problem with this, as I watch them hold clothes over their bodies with precision and negotiate like professional auctioneers.

I jumped in a cab ($2.50 to go about 10kms) and went to the mall to try my luck. The clothes are very cheap! I pair of jeans will set you back around $2o and guys shirts (I bought some for Sean) go for about $6. All the men in Indian are very skinny so as I'm asking a couple of guys to be my models I realize they are wearing XL shirts but appear to be no bigger than me. It's a little confusing and in the end you just have to "eye it and hope for the best".

It was also Valentines day and couples were lined up at the movie theatre to watch one of 3 films. (2 indian, 1 English)
What a great idea! I'd not seen a movie in 6 weeks and was missing my honey so off to see "Valentines Day" (Garry Marshall) I went. It was the funniest experience! A massive theatre with only popcorn and ice cream on offer, $2 to get in, and a sound system that was seriously over loaded to the point that I had to focus hard to understand what Ashton Kutcher was saying. (Or was it just Ashton Kutcher?).hmmm...

Suddenly, about half way through, in the middle of a crucial Julia Robert's line, the film stopped and the intermission sign came on. I was the only person laughing my ass off. Then 5 minutes later when everyone was back from the bathroom it started exactly where it left off. I don't recommend the movie, but the experience was great fun.

I was staying in a Hotel right near the water where a sea wall ran for miles in each direction. Every night people walked for hours if they wished, with the breeze melting away the heat of the day. It was so beautiful. I would take deep, relaxing breaths of appreciation and contemplate the amazing 5 weeks that had blinked by. I felt so lucky.

For all the "Shantaram" Fans:

For my last night in Mumbai, I headed down to Colaba to walk the street lined markets and get a look at the famous "Leopold's Cafe": The setting for part of the Gregory David Roberts true story that was bombed in recent years and you can still see the bullet holes in the walls. Actually you can do the "Shantaram" Tour through the city, taking you through the slums, and even to the building where Madame Zous notorious high class brothel used to be.

I poked my head in the door of the bustling restaurant/bar manned by 2 policemen with riffles. The book was set in the 80's so the place seemed way cooler than I thought. Before I knew it I was whisked inside to sit at a table with an older Canadian couple from Vancouver. They were fantastic people on a 6 week tour themselves and I couldn't have thought of a better way to spend my last few hours in India. We felt like such rebels, and all agreed that the risk of another bombing at that moment was minimal and totally worth it!

I blew my last RS2000 ($50) on books and art and belts and shirts in the market and went back to the hotel to shower and pack the last of my things for my 3am flight.

The taxi to the airport went through the very poor parts of town, skirting the slums for some of the way. I remembered flying over the slums coming in to Mumbai and being overcome with this strange feeling that even my eyes were an intrusion to that world. There is such a discrepancy between the rich and poor in this country. I don't think you ever get over it, or ever truly know what it's like to live in those conditions.

It's the iron clad thread of love, heart and happiness despite it all that makes me so sad to leave, and excited at the prospect of coming back to experience more. The fact is that if you haven't been, you have zero idea of what it's truly like there. The face of India in Western countries is so far removed from what is, that I encourage all to go see it for yourself. It will crack your heart in two and remake it in ways you cannot imagine.

For this I am forever grateful,
forever changed ,
and forever in love,
with india.

Thank you to all who read and followed this blog. It was amazing to feel your support along the way.
Much love and best wishes to everyone.

And to my new friends in India...

... I'll be seeing you again very soon!!!


Saturday, February 13, 2010

It's India... Anything is possible!

Flying in India is the best!
Super cheap (Hour long flights cost about $50-and that's booking the day before).
Exactly on time (It's the only instance where this happens in India)
And great food and service(Am I doing a commercial here? No but I could be)


First things first,
It was my own fault but I got ripped off with my airport taxi to Arambol Beach. I was sharing with someone but agreed to a charge in a hurry laid down by the taxi buddy. I realised it half way there and proceeded to bring it up with the driver who wanted to turn the car around and take me back to the airport if i didn't pay. I was in the car with a German women and her daughter...lovely I swallowed the venom back down like the good back-washer that I am and made peace. It wasn't the driver's fault but after a while here you kick yourself for falling for the same old tricks.

I digress...

I let it slide also because the first attempt to get to the beach was unsuccessful...our initial driver realised he had the wrong car and turned around on the highway into oncoming traffic to get back to the airport...something I am quite comfortable with now, but the German lady obviously needed more time to get with the program. Poor Women. In the end I thought:

"I don't care, lets just Bloody get there!"

I arrive with no planned accommodations, though it's all guest houses and beach huts for no more than $10 a night so it's no big deal. I call my friend Oda, my Reiki Master from 8 years ago in Thailand, and she meets me at the chai bar. She looks amazing and has shaved her head like the good yogi she is. It's incredible to see her and all the wonderful memories of back then come flooding in. She offered me a room next to where she lives for a couple of nights to settle in before looking for my own place.

Ahhhh, the beach. Nothing feels like home to me more than the beach. I was raised on one. The water here is just the perfect temperature and very clean, no seaweed or jellyfish this time of year. The weather is 28-30 in the day, but not humid and a lovely cool breeze sweeps the village at night. I know...I'm making you all sick!

I feel restless...

Oda lives in an Ashram type situation with a Guru and other Yogi's who are strongly commited to learning and practicing Darma. The focus and intention is obvious, and although she has invited me to spend as much time as possible with them in the 9 days I'm there I feel like a real fish out of water. They are on a very different path than anyone I've ever met and while I feel an attraction and a want to be enlightened about it all, feeling worthy of being there is another thing.

I went with them to meditate on the beach most nights as the sun was going down though
I spent my days questioning myself...
Am I interrupting...
Do they want me there...
...and the millions of thoughts that go through your mind when you are around people who don't need anything from you, and don't care one bit for the ego.

For days I resisted and flipped through the pages of my travel book to look for other beaches to go to....all the while finding my way back to their home. It was strange, but when I was there and managed to let go of my needs and listen to the mind-bending conversations everyone was having it really hit me...

"The George in me was a little more than curious"

I learned some very important lessons in the week, about needing to please and needing to be accepted. As soon as I gave up and accepted myself and dropped the false "Hi I'm here and please like me thing"... a whole new world opened up. (hello acting!!)

Besides all the gems of inspiration that passed my way over those days and the beautiful soul that is my friend Oda, I am so grateful for that lesson. Feels like a chain cut lose from my neck.
Oh and I have booked myself and am waiting for confirmation to attend a Vipassanna retreat in T.O. at the end of April. No talking and 10 days of meditation. Yes!

Hair count :6

I might also add that I had a 4 hour massage from a British x-pat named Nick. This was no ordinary massage...don't be dirty people...

He moved stuck energy, stuck emotions, stuck muscles, stuck past name it, he moved it. 4 hours later I was throwing up and buckets of water were coming out of the other end yes it was the :

"Which end do I put on the toilet game!"

Now the actual cause of this episode is a little iffy:
-I had been eating salads at the ashram but they were very careful with their food and no one had ever been sick there
-I had a few sips of some bottled water that I thought had not tasted right so i ditched it.
-I had gotten a little cocky and eaten a small salad at the local health bar/restaurant a couple of days before.

General consensus was the massage was the catylist atleast and I later found out that some aryuvedic massage is done with that intention in make your body eliminate toxins through vomiting and the other unpleasantry. God I must have been toxic!!!

Unfortunately both my family and Sean called me right at the worst of it and then my phone ran out of time and I was too sick to put some more juice on it. They were worried silly. It's been a few days since and I'm still getting back to normal and have less than 24 hours before I start the long journey back to Canada. So wish me luck...with the butt end of things.

Mumbai is my last port of call...

Friday, February 5, 2010


As I walked through the security check and into Sai Baba's Ashram I was hit with an instant feeling of:

"Why am I here?".

I'd walked into a kind of insanity it seemed with hoards of people scurrying about, just as many aimlessly wandering and the rest were enthusiastically engaged in a ritual of of some sort. It dawned on me very quickly that this was not a place where a warm welcome, a neat set of instructions, and a Hawaiian Lei are placed around your neck on arrival. I approached what looked like a nice German fellow who could see my confusion and he thankfully gave me some quick tips.

Did I want to stay in a bare concrete dorm room with 50 other women? because unless I was with 3 others I couldn't get a room in the Ashram. It didn't take me long to head back out of the gates to a hotel to ease my anxiety and get some rest.

The next morning I woke at 6am for the morning Darshan (A very long prayer/ chant/meditation time) followed by Bhajans (Music that everyone sings to and claps without moving). This happens twice a day and at Night Sai baba himself usually joins the proceedings, arriving in his bright orange wheel chair with a 4-5 man entourage.

The line up's for these sessions start about 2 hours before. The women are separated from the men in all aspects of the Ashram. When I joined my first line up I had no idea of what was happening...I turned up blind.

"Is this it?"

I noticed very quickly that I was the only person without a pillow to sit on, and my ass was already screaming obsenities at me. It was too late to go and come back .
Also, you cannot take water into the temple or food or anything but a small purse with your passport and maybe your money and your keys. They give out water in cups for the women, not the men, but everybody drinks from the same cups. I never drank from them. I just told myself:

"You are not thirsty! You are over-Hydrated!"

It seemed to me that this place was also very trendy, a place to be seen and involved in, a place where people who want to be saved come, but they don't necessarily want to give anything in return. The women were fighting over seats and their places in the lines. Some were never happy. All just wanted to see Baba, and would do anything to be close to him. I saw obession all around me, and greed...and a lot of drama!

After about 1 hour to the hatred of the women around me I got up and went to the back to sit in a chair ment for older people or the injured/disabled, and then I left shortly after that.
I wandered around the Ashram for a bit (This place is like a small city with everything you need...Bookstore, supermarket, 3 food canteens, accomodations..the list goes on) and then I got lost. Finding help was challening, one women turning up her nose saying "NO ENGLISH!" and waved me off.

Lets just say when I found my way out, I went to the nearest Internet cafe to book my flight out of there.

Then I started hearing voices...


I was shocked! It was an old friend "Rhet" who I worked with at the Boathouse Restaurant in Horseshoe Bay, Vancouver, about 9 years ago. He had arrived 5 days before me and was staying at the Ashram for a month or so. A warm happy face was just the elixer I needed! And in the conversation to follow I realised that everyone goes through the same thing when they arrive. It's all about taking care of yourself and being able to focus amidst the mania. Seeing Rhet made me hold off on the flight and give it another try.

I bought a pillow and went to the night Darshan with my expectations flattened on the road behind me and managed to find an appreciation for where I was. Every morning at 5am Rhet and I would go to the Tree that Sai Baba planted outside the Ashram for meditation and quiet, and we would talk about our experiences which was so helpful. I came to feel the power that comes from a mass common focus, no matter what the motivation. After 5 days and some enlightening experiences and a new understanding of how much ego plays a hindering role in everything and how resitance keeps us from walking forward, loving life...I left...with my own driver..

...Another awesome man named Rudy gave me his riveting life story within the 2 hour journey...I'll save that for the book :)...

...and caught a plane to Goa.

Sunday, January 31, 2010

Warrior unleashed.

I had decided to skip Varanasi and go straight to Puttaparthy to see Sai Baba. I felt the need to stop looking at things and start looking at me.

The flight was great and Three people Sunny had befriended in his Textile Shop were told to look out for me as we were all headed to Bangalore. New Zealanders: very nice. They spotted me right away.

Departing the plane and entering the airport, was the first time I hadn't had some help with my bags. The shoulders were in for a rude awakening. You can't leave your stuff anywhere and try going to the the toilet with that bag on your back. It's a circus act, cause you don't want that thing touching the ground!

I inquired as to how much it might cost to extend my flight back to T.O. a week later
Maybe not then. Sigh.

The Princess in me caught the airport taxi to the train station, an hour into Bangalore.
RS600, about $15 CN, as apposed to the shuttle bus (Super cheap).
Then once at the train station it was time to unleash Warrior Mckenzi.

Yes I should have booked the train in advance but I thought...
"How hard can this really be"
Darrin's voice in my head saying:
"You never want to book a ticket at the train staion, always book it in advance"

I line up with all my stuff for a good while and for some reason I am invisible to the locals, getting pushed and shoved and cut infront of. I can feel the pot boiling. I get to the counter and the advance bookings for the next two trains are closed. The women tells me to go next door to the current reservations counter and see if anything is available. So on goes the pack again (I need a chair or someone to hold it up in order to put it on without falling over like a straw needle in a faint breeze) and I walk over to the station.

Firstly, it can't have been legal for that many people to have been in that building, at that time. Secondly, the current reservations counter was closed
Thirdly, the line up for the inquiries was like a betting counter at the race track 30 seconds before a sure win was about to leave the gate.
Finally I get to the counter and the guy says:

"Go around corner and get ticket for train 3254: Puttaparthy"
Finally something...

and... nope.

5 lines all about 20 mins long. Now we are really at the horse races.
Get to the counter and it's all general seating which means that you may not get a seat and may even have to stand for 3 hours in the swelting heat!!!! AHHHHHH!

The back pack is not my friend, and by now I hate Bangalore and India just because I can. I go back to the women next door to see if there is a later train avaliable and start checking out my options for staying in Bangalore for the night. She tells me the Current reservations counter will open in Half an hour and to go back there and wait. By this time my bladder is starting to behave like a bratty 2 year old, and I'm speaking to myself like no other would ever dare.

Back to the current reservations counter and I throw my bag on the dirty floor and park my butt on it, right in front of the window. There are lots of other people sitting on the floor near by and I am the main attraction...not because of my skin, but because of the fire of rage radiating off my body in this already overheated station.

Half an hour later, woohoo!!! A women with a cash register appears. She is very interesting to watch as she methodically sets up her counter, ignoring the rush of people suddenly shouting her way. It was a good lession in focus for me and it snapped me into another place.

Just then, a women out of nowhere completely dressed in black with only her eyes showing, elbowed me in the ribs and jumped infront with her arms flailing about like tree branches in an Aussie cyclone.

Women I'm sorry but you just unleashed the beast!
Anyone who's seen my boney elbows will agree that they are weapons of mass destruction.
My retaliation was cheetah like: Precise and with no mercy. Hip and elbow check to the body accompanied with the dirty version of:

"Step away from the counter"

She gathered herself and looked me straight in the eye...A death stare...but the force was with me...

R.I.P Obi-WanKenobi.

Lets just say I got the ticket, almost sprained a thigh muscle peeing with my back pack on and managed to eat a good meal before getting on the train an hour later in 2nd class AC.

The train:
1) stinking hot, even in AC
2) They crammed 10 people in to a 6 seater section, 3 of which were overactive kids
3)The food wreaks of 5 days in Hospital, and ...
4) The blankets are carrying ancient eco-systems worthy of Papal studies.

3 hours later I'm at my destination, a very short ride considering my co-cabiners were doing 30 hours on that train.

More Lunacy:

I'm practically Jumped by a ricksaw driver to take me to Sai Baba's Ashram, but the Travel Guide says there are free shuttle busses... The Ricksaw drivers tells me this is not the case at all. "No Free Shuttles!"
"Yes" I say..."Sorry but I don't need a Ricksaw".
"You need Free shuttles!!!"

Back and forth...I love this game.
I'm tired and hungry...

He walks almost on top of me and as I leave the station and then it's a Mckenzi Onslaught!!!
6 Ricksaw drivers yelling at me for their service.
That's it...I yell,

"Everybody Back away!!! Go Away!!!"

They all laugh and mock me

"Ohhhhhhh....go awayyyyy.....ohhhhhh"

It seems there is a conspiracy happening because everyone I ask says I have to take a Ricksaw...even the women at the ticket counter. Then when I find the bus, the Ricksaw drivers run up to him and convince him to tell me I can't get on the shuttle. So He denies me.

"Why are you doing this?"

I say and then I see another shuttle with 2 old people in it. The driver motions to me and I run to get in....It's actually RS10..about .25c CN...ok so it's not free!! Ahhhh!

Safely in the shuttle, I look back to the Ricksaw drivers all in a line shooting daggers my way, and I give a little "Thanks for everything " wave goodbye.

The old women in the shuttle grabs my hand and says:

"Don't worry you are safe with us. I show you Ashram."
Where had she been all day was my thought. Lucky me! Big sigh of relief.

This safari style truck is meant for 8 people and by the time we get to the Asram 7 mins later there are 16people inside and that amount of bags and veggies and textiles. Now that's efficient!
I had to laugh.

So what has Sai Baba in stall for me... it have a feeling that it's only the beginning.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Good bye Mr Singh.

Mr Singh drove so quickly from Pushkar to Jaipur That I couldn't help have the thought

"Can he be this much in a hurry to see me leave?"

I was a sad parting actually. Yes I cried, and he laughed and squeezed me tightly like his new White Gora Daughter. He sad he would call me in 5 days to see how I was. I gave him a very good tip, and he came back the next morning to give me his address for any possible future visits. We'll miss you Mister Singh!

Next stop Amer, with my new friends Sunny and Tarun and their families. Amazing few days in this little fort town to say the least. This family welcomed me as their own. Sunny's mother thought I was very "Puttilli", which ofcourse means "Skinny" so it was her mission to make me "Muta"...Fat. Her cooking was like no other.

Sunny and Tarun doubled me everywhere on their motorbikes and organised a room in the nearby hotel for practically nothing since sunny's father had done the owners a previous favour. I had photo's taken with everyone several times and there were fun night walks and talks and kite flying on the roof of the house with views you couldn't buy anywhere else.

Tarun took me to 2 temples, one of which, a shiva temple, housed a nearby Guru just visiting from Varanasi. We walked across the road and behind a building into an open space where the Guru was sitting calmly in the sun. He was a lovely man, beaming with a smile from ear to ear and radiating light and love. we briefly communicated through Tarun after which point he asked me to go back to the Temple to pick up a special bead necklace as a gift from him and to have some Chai.
Back at the temple I was getting some strange looks as locals and foreigners usually have to pay $40 CN and up for this bead. On taking it back to the guru he then put it together and blessed it while I fed the birds and then told me it was to wear it around my neck to calm my mind. Just what I'd been looking for!!! He also confirmed some info given to me by the gem store guy about my family!!! The plot thickens!!!

Tarun said that this was like a magical event for me. I believe him. A string of dreams have come since wearing the bead and I'm sure much more will unfold as this journey continues. Riding back to the family I had never felt so connected to life, so happy.

That night Sunny's father, a man of many talents...politician, astrologer, astronomer, social worker and much more read my palm for me. The one thing of many that stood out in the reading was the focus on expression and creativity, and that although my career has been "on and off", the next five years were very good. I was glad to hear that.

Another sad departure and at 3am Sunny and Tarun put me into a taxi bound for the airport.
I was on my way to Bangalore.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

I had bird crap pushed into my face with a vibrating object!

Pushkar is a pretty cool little hang around a dried up lake and a fun maze of markets to say no thank you in. Actually I do like it here.

Mr Singh and I Meditated at the only Brahma Temple in India today and also in the Sihk Temple. We wandered the ghats in bare feet as no shoes are allowed. There is bird crap, cow poo and Krishna only knows what else everywhere and dodging it all was creating furrows in my newly relaxed brow. I finally put my shoes on at the last turn only to be reprimanded by a local. Fine!

At lunch I decided to get a Reiki session for $6 CN, but the Reiki Master said I would be better off with refexology for the same price. He was recommended in Lonely Planet with the description "Toe Challenging". Understatement!!!!

Lets just say if I'd had a chain saw I would have used it! The pain was insane. Not only that but he didn't wash my feet and after he was done torturing them he took the same vibrating machine he used and put it right on my face where I have a patch of zitz right now. "This will move the problem" He says, and I'm thinking if this doesn't then the flesh eating disease bacteria now on my face will surely get rid of it!

Funny I feel great now. 1/2 hour shower and a bottle of disinfectant and I'm ready to go eat again!
Last day with Mr singh tomorrow...

Dining with a monkey

This is for all my acting friends and anyone who wants to experience instant fame. I stopped at a fort in Chittorgarh. I was the only white person there I'm sure. I was approached to have my picture taken several times and dragged off into a market by a very young girl to meet and eat with her family. She spoke no english and I may not have been the first, but her family was quite amused. I used the old rub of the stomach with accompanying uncomfortable look on my face that every Indian understands to get out of eating.

Next a young women approached for yet another photo and asked that I join her family with their guide for the day. She talked of her family and her passion to be an actress despite their lack of belief in her. She was currently studying to be a doctor. She asked me to come and stay with her family in the middle of India and just about fainted when I told her that I was an actress. Unfotunately we got separated from eachother between temples and drivers. I had hoped to see her in the next luck. She was a lovely soul.

4 hours later

Bundi was recommended to me by a couple of french travellers and I can see why. It's quiet, very small and beautifully decorated with one sprawling ruin of a palace melting down the mountain side.

That night I wandered through the skinny streets and lanes and stumbled across the most magnificent wall/door/mural combo and asked the 2 ladies near by if I could take a picture. Lets just say there is no picture to share with anyone cause she freaked out about my presence and whisked me quickly away like a maingy Koota! (Dog) Sigh.

When in doubt feed the belly.

Up on a gorgeous roof top again...
Minding my own bussiness when a monkey jumps off the nearby wall and into my bowl of rice. He took the bowl and savoured it's contents right infront of me. Cheeky bugger! Bundi may be small and not so familiar with the ways of the lone white female but it now knows the intricacies of a white womens scream!

Mr Singh bought me a bottle of water the next morning off the street. It was "Fosters" water. Yes like the Aussie beer water with the same label as the can. I laughed about it and thanked him but emptied the whole thing down the sink in my room. "Don't call me stupid!"

Pushkar is next:
"Don't buy gold here! Everything Fake, all painted on. Understand??!!"
More sound advice from Mr Singh.