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Kovalam Beach Part 4-More Traditions

Kovalam Beach Part 4 - More Traditions
This entry is a collection of random thoughts and only has 3 photos. More photos coming in the next entry!

Kovalam Beach is more traditional and relaxed than Mysore. Men usually wear pants in Mysore, but in Kerala, and especially in Kovalam Beach, loonghi are more common. This is a piece of cloth about the size of a small bathtowel wrapped around the waist like a skirt. To make it easier to walk, the bottom part of the loonghi is usually pulled up and tucked into the waist, folding it in half.

Here the hotel owner is showing me how to correctly wear my new purple loonghi folded to half length.

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There are many good reasons to visit Kovalam Beach, the ocean, the food and Lino's workshop. Another good reason is traditional ayurvedic massage. There are many ayurvedic clinics and ayurvedic massage centers in the area. I have only one clinic, and I'll tell you about it below.

Kerala style foot massage is wonderful. If you have a chance, you should definitely try it. No, it is not only a massage of your feet. Here in Kerala, foot massage means that the masseur uses his or her feet to massage your whole body.

Here is what it looks like:

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(Incidentally, since we are talking about loonghis, the orange shorts worn by the masseur, VIjay's former assistant, are not really shorts. It is a loonghi wrapped around the thighs and tied down with a sash around the waist. This provides a good fit, and good motion of the legs.)

The masseur stands on the table and holds a rope hung overhead for balance. He applies a lot of oil, and goes over your whole body with his feet. He can easily go from your head to your toes in one continuous stroke; this makes the massage feel very smooth.

I was lucky enough to first have a massage from Mr. Vijay in the Moonlight Hotel 2 years ago. I would not hesitate to say that he gives some of the best massages I have experienced. His massages are powerful, deep and strong; through his years of practice he has developed amazing sensitivity and agility in his feet, rivaling many people's hands! Those who prefer soft or superficial massage may find massages too strong! Here is a photo from 2 years ago.

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Mr. Vijay told me that he comes from a very old family of Ayurvedic doctors with a lineage going back about 1200 years, and he is 61st generation. To someone born in America, such continuity is hard to imagine. He told me that traditionally, the head of the family did not marry because there were too many responsibilities, including running the family clinic and teaching younger generations, so the eldest nephew was taught the family's ayurvedic art, including foot massage. Vijay's grandfather changed this tradition (perhaps he did not have any nephews); he married and passed the art on to his eldest son, who was Vijay's father and teacher.

Vijay recently moved to a new clinic in the nearby city of Trivandrum, and he is so busy that I was not able to get an appointment this time. Instead, I got a massage from Vijay's former assistant at Vijay's old clinic at the Moonlight Hotel; he gave me a good massage, but he has still not fully developed the smoothness, precision and sensitivity that Vijay has acquired with long years of practice.
[PR]
by dcaplan | 2006-01-20 15:01 | Kovalam 4-Traditions

Kovalam Beach Part 3 - Fishermen

Kovalam Beach Part 3 - Fishermen

The local fishermen in Kerala have a very interesting way of working; to be honest, it seems very inefficient, and has apparently been handed down from generation to generation, like so many other things in India. I read in the Lonely Planet guidebook that the fish catches used to be much bigger, but have become smaller due to large-scale commercial fishing offshore. Perhaps in the past this style of fishing provided a much better income for the fishermen; and even if the catches are smaller nowadays, it is undeniably hard work.

The fishermen go out in boats like this.

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The boats are loaded with big, heavy nets and ropes. They leave quite early in the morning, one fisherman told me that he starts his day at about 4:00 am, and that they lay a total of about 4 km of nets and ropes. They carry the nets away from shore, and drop them. These nets are attached to very long sturdy ropes, which are brought back to shore by the boats while the nets remain in the water.

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Then, men on the shore begin to slowly pull in the nets; this part certainly seems quite hard, and my guess is that 50 or more men help; it is a slow and labor intensive process.

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There are ropes at each end of the net, so as the net is pulled into shore, it forms a very large U shape with the open end facing the shore.

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Young and old all work together.

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In the meantime, some men are in the ocean swimming in front of the open side of the net, splashing as much as possible with their arms, my guess is that they do this to scare the fish and drive them into the net, where they are trapped. This also looks like hard work, since they remain in the water for a long time, and the waves can sometimes get big.

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Eventually, the net is pulled into shore.

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The net is folded up to trap the fish, and pulled onto the sand.

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Some wait expectantly for the catch.

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But the catches are usually small.

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This man approached me as I was taking photos and asked for money, saying that he has a hard time making a living, so I should pay a little for the photo opportunities.

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I did not give him any, but we spoke for a short time. His name is Aran, if I understood him correctly. He told me that the catch is usually less than 200 fish, often under 100, and they usually get about 20 rupees per fish; so this is about 4,000 rupees on a good day. However, there are about 50 or more people working on the catch, if the money is divided evenly, this means about 80 rupees (about 200 yen) per day or less. This is certainly low by US, European or Japanese standards, but to put things in perspective, you can buy a good lunch in a local (non-tourist) restaurant in India for about 20 rupees. Aran also told me that there is only one catch per day, which lasts from about 4 am to 10:30 am, and after this they seem to spend some time maintaining the nets and ropes, so it is a long day.

I have also seem fishermen using smaller boats. These boats look very primitive and cumbersome, but they get the job done and seemed quite rugged.

The following photos were taken the last time I was in Kovalam in February of 2003 for Petri's workshop; I usually post only current photos on this blog, but this boat is interesting, so here are some old photos.

A local fisherman had a sign advertising snorkeling trips. My friend Junko Nakazono is an avid snorkeler, so we decided to give it a try. The price turned out to be 300 rupees per person for a two hour trip, which seemed quite expensive; in Thailand, we went on a 5 hour trip which included a good lunch, and the cost was the same. However the fisherman refused to lower his price, saying that it was too much work to set up the boat. At first, I thought this was merely an excuse to overcharge, but after watching the setup and helping to paddle to boat I felt more sympathetic!

The boat basically consists of 4 long, slightly curved and very heavy pieces of wood tied together by rope. There is space between the 4 pieces of wood so water comes in through the bottom of the boat; this boat does not float by trapping air inside, it floats only because the wood floats!

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It is so heavy that the fisherman and his assistant have to carry each piece right to the water and assemble it there. otherwise the assembled boat is too heavy to move.

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Once the 4 main pieces are lined up, a small piece of wood is held at either end, it is used to align the 4 main pieces and to provide a place to wrap the rope.

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It took about 20 or 30 minutes to assemble the boat. With 4 passengers (me, Junko, the fisherman and his assistant), it was quite full and low in the water, some of the waves near the shore washed right over the boat.

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The oars were also very simple: only a piece of bamboo cut in half along its length; there was no flat portion at the end, they seemed inefficient. Paddling was hard work!

The fisherman and his assistant handled the boat expertly, but it seemed difficult. The boat did seem very inefficient, but it must have some practical advantages, otherwise, the design would probably have been abandoned long ago.

If you can think of any advantages to this boat design, please leave a comment!

Thanks!
[PR]
by dcaplan | 2006-01-20 14:51 | Kovalam 3-Fishermen

Kovalam Beach, Kerala, Part 2

Kovalam Beach, Kerala, Part 2

On the way to Kovalam we saw that there are more christians in Kerala than around Mysore. Many houses, and even businesses such as banks, stores and hospitals, were decorated for Christmas. Many of the hotels here in Kovalam Beach also had christmas decorations, but maybe this is because of western tourism.

The most common form of decoration is colorful paper stars illuminated from inside; these look very pretty at night:

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The hotel next to ours also had Chirstmas lights, and several hotels and restaurants also had nativity scenes.

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Our hotel is the "Silent Valley" hotel, a little far from the beach, but very quiet and the the owners are very friendly. The rooms are small, but mosquito-free and comfortable, the beach and the yoga shala are only a short walk away, so I'm happy here. My room is on the top left.

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There are two very distinct areas here; one is the beachside, there is a good beach for swimming, but especially at high tide, the waves can be big and the undercurrents can be strong.

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The beach front is lined with larger hotels, shops and restaurants aimed mainly at western tourists.

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Just walk a little inland from the beach, and the scene changes; there are many small paths winding through dense vegetation.

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Here, the hotels, restaurants and shops are smaller; several of these restaurants and shops cater mainly to locals, and have much lower prices. Unfortunately, with the increase in tourism, these shops are slowly being replaced by more fancy expensive places that westerners like.

Many of the paths are also lined with tailor shops that make good and very cheap clothes to order; I had a shirt made for 200 rupees (about 500 yen). The shops are often very colorful.

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One shop was owned by a Tibetan, Mr. Dawa, who claims to have the best selection of CD's in Kovalam. Mikko and I bought some from him.

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Mikko and I sometime had breakfast at a restaurant which attracts mainly local customers. This man cooks parathas, indian bread fried on a skillet with oil. In the background, his wife works on the sambar.

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Here is a local man enjoying his breakfast inside.

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It is very good, but a little oily.

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The cost of a breakfast for two (myself and Mikko), consisting of two plates of parathas with sambar and one chai for Mikko, was 21 rupees (about 50 yen)

I was suprised at how spicy the sambar was. This man, sitting next to me, laughed and said: "India food spicy, but Kerala food BIG spicy!".

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Mikko was very enthusiastic about the food, and equally enthusiastic about his supplements!

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Another alternative for breakfast was a seaside fruit salad, there are several women who make a living by preparing them. I had one made by this lady.

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It tasted very good!

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There are also several more expensive retaurants right by the seaside which are visited mainly by tourists; the local people cannot afford them, even though they are cheap by Japanese, US or European standards; a very good breakfast will cost about 100 rupees (about 250 yen).

For the first few days, we often hung out by the German Bakery, which has very good Indian and European food, and excellent cakes, and a fabulous view of the Arabian Sea.

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This wall, with its ventailation holes, made an interesting background for a photo.

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Unforturnately, both Mikko and I had problems with being overcharged at the German Bakery, and the staff were not too cooperative about fixing the mistakes, so towards the end of our stay, we stopping going there, and hung out at Swiss Cafe, which had excellent Indian and western food and cakes, or Suprabatham or Lonely Planet for Kerela style food.

How about Ashtanga practice? One of the reasons for coming to Kovalam, in addition to the sunshine, ocean, and good food, is that Lino Miele, a very senior Ashtanga teacher, is currently doing a workshop here. Lino is an excellent teacher, and like Sharath, has the ability to keep track of a large number of students at once and remember what everyone's levels and problem poses are. He teaching style is a mixture of strictness and good humor; he likes to challenge students to go beyond what we usually do, and make us work hard, but he is always cheerful and careful.

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I respect Lino a lot as a teacher. Like Sharath and Guruji, he does not try to make asana practice too intellectual, philosophical or theoretical; instead, he emphasizes the flow of the practice. Just this morning, when I was having trouble with Mayurasana, he told me: "Daniel, you have to stop thinking about the pose, and just DO the pose!" This is my third time to study with Lino, the fist was in April of 2003 in Helsinki, and the second was in July of 2004 in Houskar, Finland, and every time we meet he seems to remember my practice quite well.

I hope that by practicing under such good teachers, I will become a better teacher myself!
[PR]
by dcaplan | 2006-01-18 19:42 | Kovalam Beach 2

Christmas in Kovalam

How I Spent Christmas - Kovalam Beach, Kerala, Part 1.

In Mysore, there were rumors that the shala would be closed for a few days around Christmas... unforturnately, there was no clear information about the exact dates... several people asked Guruji and we all got different answers, but it became clear that the shala would close for at least 3 days right after Christmas, so I made plans to head out to Kovalam Beach, Kerala with a few friends.

The first problem was how to get there. Travel in India can be slow and tiring. The planes were all full with people returning home for new year, and we had no luck getting a train reservation either, so we ended up renting a car with a driver for one week to take us there and back. Fortunately, prices in India are quite reasonable, the total cost of the car and driver for one week was about 12,000 rupees (about 30,000 yen, or 280 US dollars); dividing this by the 5 people in our group was not so bad.

On Sunday morning, Christmas Day, after Guruji's led class, we boarded the car. Our driver was Chendru, the same person who took us to Talakadhu and Somnathpur. He arrived a few minutes late, but we were soon underway. Our vehicle was a large 4 wheel drive Tata "Sumo", quite comfortable.

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It was generally in good shape, but some of the rear lights needed work-Mikko doesn't look too worried, so it's probably OK!

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We all fit in quite comfortably.

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Driving in India can be scary... actually quite terrifying at times, but our driver was generally very safe and did an excellent job. We did have a good scare when we were overtaking a large truck labeled "Highly Inflammable"; another truck suddenly appeared around a turn but we just missed it, otherwise "Highly Inflammable" might have been the last thing we ever saw!

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At one point we passed a group of people walking along the road with what looked like pillows tied to their heads. Chendru explained that they were pilgrims on the way to a nearby temple dedicated to the god brother of Ganesh, and the pillows were actually offerings of honey and coconuts wrapped in towels.

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Soon we were driving through the hills in Bandipur National Park, where there are a variety of wild animals including elephants and tigers. The air was very cool and pleasant, and there were large bamboo forests. We stopped for lunch here. Fortunately, no tigers! Just bamboo, tall trees, shade and fresh air...

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After lunch, before leaving the mountains and heading towards the flat costal areas of Kerala state, we had to pass through some scary mountain roads with lots of hairpin turns and some spectacularly steep drops; but everything went smoothly.

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The above two photos were taken from here, see the red arrows:

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The only setback we had came at about 5:00, we decided to stop at Danu's Bakery for an ice cream. As we parked, one of the rear tires suddenly went completely flat. The flat was no match for our ever friendly and efficient driver, Mr. Chenru, who had replaced the flat with our spare before we even finished our break. Luckily, there was a tire repair shop just down the road, so we pulled in.

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This man quickly went to work; removing our wheel, finding the leak, and patching the tube.

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This nail caused our flat tire.

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In the meantime, Antonia kept herself entertained.

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When the work on our tire was nearly done, a local man pulled in to have his scooter tire repaired.

No one knows why, but he suddenly decided to start demonstrating his Uddiyana Banda and Nauli to us.

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His nauli was quite impressive; in Yoga, nauli is usually done side to side, but he was doing it with and up and down motion.

I asked whether he practiced Yoga, but it was very difficult to communicate; as far as I could tell, he said what he practiced was not Yoga or Kalaripayat (a martial art from Kerala); he tried to explain what he practiced, but we could not understand him.

He tried to get Mikko V. to imitate him, but without much success; Mikko S. seemed unimpressed with Mikko V's efforts:

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We set off again at about 5:00 pm with a repaired tire and a new appreciation of Nauli; but we were shocked to discover that after about 6 hours of travel, we had covered less than half the distance from Mysore to Kovalam.

Wait! The travel agent had told us that this would be a 9 or 10 hour trip! How could this be? Apparently, our travel agent calculated the time based only on the distance, but did not consider the relatively slow roads we had to use; our average speed was probably only about 30 km/h. We had no choice but to resign ourselves to many more hours in the car. Fortunately, our driver still seemed OK, so we went on.

By about 10:00 pm, a little past halfway there, we yogis were totally exhausted; we had been up since about 4:00 am for morning practice. Far more troubling was that our driver also seemed to be tiring: he said he was fine to continue all the way to Kovalam but we decided to stop at the first clean looking hotel. A gas station attendant told us about a good hotel about 20 km down the road, which turned out to be the "Prince Hotel". No, not the luxurious Japanese chain, but a local hotel which was quite nice, with A/C, running hot water etc. We were delighted! The mattress was the best I have used in several months, and we all got a good night's rest!

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The next morning, Dec. 26, we left the Prince Hotel at about 7:00 and finally reached Kovalam Beach at about 1:00 pm. The trip was relatively easy, since the roads in Kerala state are definitely better than those in Karnataka.
At Kovalam beach, we checked into our rooms, and went straight to the shala for a light practice. After spening about 16 hours in a car, we were happy to be moving again! I intended to do a light practice, perhaps standing poses only, because I did not know how much my body could handle after that car ride, but before I knew it, I had done the entire primary series, and it felt good!

After practice, eating lunch at a restaurant with a great view of the ocean, it truly felt like we had finally reached our destination!

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To be Continued
[PR]
by dcaplan | 2006-01-18 19:16 | Kovalam Beach 1

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

I have just returned from a few days in Kovalam Beach, Kerala state, near the southernmost tip of India. I'll be posting some updates soon.

There have not been new postings recently for a few reasons: (1) I got sick with the flu and spent a few days in bed recovering, (2) I was busy setting up the home page for my Koh Mak Retreat, and (3) I was too busy relaxing by the seaside in Kovalam!

Please stay tuned, more is coming soon!

In the meantime, enjoy what's left of 2005, and best wishes for 2006!
[PR]
by dcaplan | 2006-01-18 19:14 | Merry Christmas

日本語-Japanese

Japanese Translation

My friend Koichiro has suggested a good way to get a Japanese translation of this blog.

Simply go to 

http://www.excite.co.jp/world/english/web/

and enter the URL of this blog:

http://mysoredan.exblog.jp/

and you will automatically get a computer translation of this site. Starting today, I will automatically add a Japanese computer translation of all blog entries.

Here is a sample translation:
[PR]
by dcaplan | 2006-01-18 19:12 | 日本語-Japanese

Palace and Countryside

Palace and Countryside

Wednesday, Nov. 30

Today was Mein's birthday. Mein and her husband Francis practice Ashtanga in Tokyo; they are now here with their lovely daughter Sophia Ashley to practice with Guruji. To celebrate Mein's birthday, Francis arranged a lunch party at the Lalita Mahal hotel, a grand building originally built as a palace for the Maharaj of Mysore.

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The hotel's elegant dining room, which used to be a ballroom, was a perfect setting for an excellent lunch.

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All the food, Indian and western, was superb. By the way, the apple pie with vanilla ice cream and chocolate sauce was excellent! Francis ordered it; but it was too big for him and Mein and Sophia to finish, so I shared the work of eating it!

After the lunch, we walked around the hotel and enjoyed the elegant atmosphere and the beautiful views from the rooftop.

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Later, I went on a motorbike ride with my friend Antonia

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to see the countryside around the hotel. It was a warm, sunny afternoon, with a good breeze blowing, and the backcountry road was buisier than I have seen it before, with some people working, while others appeared to be going for a stroll to enjoy the wonderful afternoon weather.

Antonia is a film producer, and like me, she enjoys taking photos, so we stopped many times to photograph scenery and the local people; some of the photos posted here were taken by her.

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Here is a shot from the back of my motorbike:

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First we saw a few cows; this man was hurrying to catch up with them:

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Then a family with a flock of sheep:

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The lady had an interesting assortment of branches and a plastic bottle balanced on her head:

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Then this older man, who had a very charming smile, he sells plastic items from his bicycle:

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This young man was carrying a container of gas, used for stoves, on the back of his bicycle.

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Another man passing by on his bicycle was curious about us and wanted to have his photo taken; Antonia took it and showed it to him:

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Then another man with a herd of oxen:

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And more oxen:

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and then some more sheep passing my motorbike:

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After about 20 minutes, we got back on my bike, and went further, we reached a small village where people were getting water from the well:

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We took a few photos; and suddenly people became interested in us; the size of the group increased rapidly. the children were especially eager to have thieir photos taken:

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As it got darker, and the scene became more and more crowded, we decided to get back on our bike, and return to Mysore.

Two more thoughts about the countryside. First, I was impressed by how open, friendly and happy everyone seemed. There were clearly not rich people, and they probably have to work very hard just to eat and survive, yet they all had a welcoming attitute, and a ready smile.

Second, I'm a little dissatisfied with most of these photos, after returning home it became clear that I really know almost nothing about the lives or stories of the people I photographed. Of course, there is a language barrier, since most of them spoke almost no English; but I'm thinking that rather than just having pretty photos, it would be more meaningful and satisfying to also learn about the lives of those photographed. What do you think?
[PR]
by dcaplan | 2006-01-18 19:06 | Palace & Country

A Birthday and a Moon Day, Nov. 16, 2005

Wednesday, Nov. 16

A Birthday and a Moon Day

Today was the first day of practice at the shala after a 4 day break. Practice felt good and light; I started to work on second series and got as far as supta vajrasana. Sharath and Guruji both appeared to be very happy and enthusiastic despite their 6 hour trips to and from Mangalore, where Guruji was a special guest for the inauguration of a Yoga research center at the University.

I ended up staying in Mysore for the 4 day break. I had considered traveling to Kovalam beach or Bandipur natonal park, but having just arrived in Mysore, it seemed better to take it easy and get some rest.

Although the shala was closed on Sunday and Monday for Guruji's trip to Mangalore, these were not rest days, I practiced at home before breakfast. During practice, the early morning sunlight coming through my living room windows made beautiful patterns.

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Two things stood over the long break: a friend's birthday and the moon day.

A Birthday

On Monday, several people from Japan helped Yasuko celebrate her birthday by starting off the day with an ayurvedic massage at the very luxurious Indus Valley Ayurvedic Center... her birthday was a good excuse to pamper ourselves! The center is about 20 minutes from downtown Mysore, in a very quiet and scenic area, the motorbike ride there was pleasant. The staff were very professional; two masseurs gave me a "synchronous" full body massage, meaning that one did the right side at the same time as the other did the left. Their synchronization of timing and pressure was almost perfect-when I thought about this later, I was very impressed, but during the massage I was too relaxed to notice! The massasge was followed by shiodara, pouring a fine stream of warm oil on the forehead, it felt wonderful, and left me even more realxed. Then came a steam bath, and a shower using herbal preparations instead of soap and shampoo. I left feeling refreshed, relaxed, and satisfied.

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That night, we had a birthday party for Yasuko, which included chocolate cake and apple pie from the Southern Star Hotel, and lots of good conversation and laughter. Overall, it was one of the most fun and full days I've had in Mysore.

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A Moon Day

Tuesday was a full moon day, there was a splendid veiw of the full moon, and most of Mysore, from the roof of Ayuco and Yasuko's house.

The sky was mostly clear, and the light from the full moon was surprisingly bright. There was a cool breeze blowing. Yasuko sang songs about the moon, and her beautiful singing took the chill out of the evening air.
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[PR]
by dcaplan | 2006-01-18 18:56 | Birthday & Moonday

A Birthday and a Moon

Wednesday, Nov. 16

A Birthday and a Moon Day

Today was the first day of practice at the shala after a 4 day break. Practice felt good and light; I started to work on second series and got as far as supta vajrasana. Sharath and Guruji both appeared to be very happy and enthusiastic despite their 6 hour trips to and from Mangalore, where Guruji was a special guest for the inauguration of a Yoga research center at the University.

I ended up staying in Mysore for the 4 day break. I had considered traveling to Kovalam beach or Bandipur natonal park, but having just arrived in Mysore, it seemed better to take it easy and get some rest.

Although the shala was closed on Sunday and Monday for Guruji's trip to Mangalore, these were not rest days, I practiced at home before breakfast. During practice, the early morning sunlight coming through my living room windows made beautiful patterns.

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Two things stood over the long break: a friend's birthday and the moon day.

A Birthday

On Monday, several people from Japan helped Yasuko celebrate her birthday by starting off the day with an ayurvedic massage at the very luxurious Indus Valley Ayurvedic Center... her birthday was a good excuse to pamper ourselves! The center is about 20 minutes from downtown Mysore, in a very quiet and scenic area, the motorbike ride there was pleasant. The staff were very professional; two masseurs gave me a "synchronous" full body massage, meaning that one did the right side at the same time as the other did the left. Their synchronization of timing and pressure was almost perfect-when I thought about this later, I was very impressed, but during the massage I was too relaxed to notice! The massasge was followed by shiodara, pouring a fine stream of warm oil on the forehead, it felt wonderful, and left me even more realxed. Then came a steam bath, and a shower using herbal preparations instead of soap and shampoo. I left feeling refreshed, relaxed, and satisfied.

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That night, we had a birthday party for Yasuko, which included chocolate cake and apple pie from the Southern Star Hotel, and lots of good conversation and laughter. Overall, it was one of the most fun and full days I've had in Mysore.

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A Moon Day

Tuesday was a full moon day, there was a splendid veiw of the full moon, and most of Mysore, from the roof of Ayuco and Yasuko's house.

The sky was mostly clear, and the light from the full moon was surprisingly bright. There was a cool breeze blowing. Yasuko sang songs about the moon, and her beautiful singing took the chill out of the evening air.
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[PR]
by dcaplan | 2006-01-18 18:56 | Birthday & Moonday

Lost Cities 1

Friday, November 18

Lost Cities

Today after practice, several friends and I went on a day trip to visit two historic sites: Talakadu and Somnathpur.

Our car seated 7 of us comfortably; our driver spoke little English but was cheerful and helpful, and pointed out interesting sights along the way.

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The road to Talakadu was rough, often unpaved and with many large potholes, but we were treated to beautiful scenery and a glimpse of Indian country life not seen in downtown Mysore.

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At one point, we were driving behind an overloaded three-wheeled truck.

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Shortly after this photo was taken, one of the boxes fell off as it hit a bump. The truck driver didn't realize his loss, but our driver collected the box, caught up with the truck and returned it, much to everyone's amusement. After nearly two hours of bouncing in our car, we reached Talakadu.

The first impression was a little disappointing... a fairly ordinary looking temple next to a hill.

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Inside the temple, as we were looking around, several people offered to guide us, we eventually hired a very helpful local man.

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He told us that the temple, which was about 1500 years old and dedicated to Vishnu,

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one of the 3 main Hindu gods, was buried under a giant sand dune about 500 years ago-the hill next to the temple was actually this sand dune! He explained that this city had once been the capital of the Ganga and Chola kings who ruled this area, but after one of these kings tried to force himself on the wife of another man, she cursed the king; he was left without a successor and his city was buried under the sands.

Other temples are still being uncovered by the Archaeological Survey of India, and as our guide led us to the top of the 50 foot (about 15 meter) high sand dune, he explained that an entire city was buried underneath our feet!

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Here, Ayuco stands on the roof of one temple that has not yet been excavated.

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Here is another small temple. From the top of the sand dune, we walked down a steep flight of stairs to reach the entrance.

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The entrance must have been above the original ground level-here we can see the top of a column, and our guide says that this column extends another 10 feet (about 3 meters) down into the sand.

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At the temple entrance, we bought supplies for a puja (blessing/purification ceremony). Inside the temple, the priest placed the offerings in front of the god, burned incense and prayed.

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Our guide showed us another much larger temple that is currently being excavated; the stones have all been removed from the temple grounds and will eventually be reassembled. The stones were expertly cut by the ancient builders, and carefully fit together without using cement.

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After an interesting but hard day of climbing sand dunes under the splendid Indian sunshine, we were ready for some refreshment, and fortunately, there was a coconut seller nearby, operating from his bicycle. The coconuts here were some the of sweetest and tastiest I have ever had! We enjoyed them under the shade of a large tree, next to the shadow of a sand dune which conceals a buried city.

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To be continued
[PR]
by dcaplan | 2006-01-18 18:53 | Lost Cities 1