February 18th, 2007

India -- Difficult, But Possible!

Hello all,
It has been just over a week in India and I am adjusting nicely.  I am very, very happy to say I think I've 'found my traveling shoes'.   The first few days were really hard.  I didn't know the routines of the community I am staying at, and when I left the farm it was total and complete sensory overload.  But Sadhana Forest is a really welcoming place, so I quickly felt a part of things.  Here is the inital email that I sent to some, but not all!  Love you, Kelly

Well, I have arrived in India. I'm sitting at an
internet shop in the local village near where I'm
staying. My flight was very long, but not so
The inflight movies (I watched Bollywood
films, The Simpsons, and a few teen comedies) and the
decent food helped. Plus they put me up in a hotel
for my layover in Malaysia, so I was able to shower,
eat at the buffet, and catch a few hours sleep. I
started the flight really excited, but by landing I
was nervous. I am so glad that I had arranged
transportation and went straight to Auroville. The
idea of trying to get a taxi or find a hotel would
have been insane. When I landed, my first impression
(besides no toilet paper in the dingy airport
bathroom, and the crowd outside that I walked past
like a movie star or a convict does) was the roads.
Holy shit, the roads. Imagine a four lane highway
with no real lanes. Sometimes there are white dashes
to mark the lanes, but the only consistent mark was
between the north and south bound roads. Imagine
bicycles, motor scooters, cars, trucks, buses all
coming together and coming apart like a moving
puzzle--and everyone trying to get ahead. Sometimes
we would be in the middle of my imagined lane,
squeezed between two cars. More than once I thought
we would be squished. To navigate this chaos, people
honk to make their presence known. No cows in the
road--YET--but they did look really cute eating trash
or whatever on the side of the highway. My mantra
became "He is a professional driver. He knows what
he's doing," but eventually I decided it was better to
look to my left or right than straight ahead. I
stared at the neon and the shops and all the people
sitting outside. Eventually we arrived (after
midnight) at the guesthouse I was staying at in
Auroville. I was glad for my own space and listened
to some music and did some yoga. The next day
(yesterday) was the task of finding Sadhana Forest,
where I intended to stay. Auroville has a more
low-key feel compared to the villages and definitely
the cities. I am so glad I came here first. The task
of "mastering" travel in India is confined to this one
place, still vast but at least there is an
infrastructure that I can grasp. Particularly,
Sadhana Forest is a group of 50 or so people, some
volunteers and some residents. It is also pretty far
from the center of Auroville, much closer to the
surrounding Tamil villages outside Auroville limits.
But it is quiet and I think I will like it. The
couple who started the reforestation work at Sadhana
Forest are Isaeli, and many of the folks visiting are
also Israeli. But I've also talked with folks from
Ireland, Turkey, England, Germany. The weekends are
free, so I haven't actually learned much about the
work yet. The lifestyle there is extremely simple
(even compared to other settlements in Auroville); I'm
sleeping on a simple mattress, under a mosquito net
and in an open air hut. There is yoga every morning
at 6. A lot more that I could say but I need to go
for now. Internet access is not a problem, just a
medium length bicycle ride or a short motorbike ride
(which I'm scared of). There is a phone at Sadhana
Forest and I will get the number. I love you and
promise to send more personal emails soon. Also, pass
this along to others because there are a lot of
addresses that I'm forgetting. Write to me!!!