I need to stop saying "Hello from _______". I've just run out of ideas of what to label my posts. I think it helps me take a step back and remember where in the world I am in too. HAHAHA!
ANYWAYS... I MADE IT!! I'M IN GOKULAM!!!! This is FUCKING SURREAL. Pardon the language, I really just can't believe it.
After a 4-hour flight from Singapore to Bangalore, I got picked up at the airport by my driver to continue another 4-hour car ride from Bangalore to Mysore. And then he goes and tells me that there's a domestic terminal in Mysore and you can get flights from Bangalore to Mysore. PFFFTTT! Note to self: Next time check out the Kingfisher domestic flights.
Practically all the cars on the roads here are tiny little 1-litre or 1.2-litre tin cans of cars. Imagine my nervousness when stepping into the car - errrr... We're driving FOUR HOURS in something that's essentially a little bigger than a Smart-Car?! I hopped in the front seat and buckled up. I think Chandra was a little taken aback as he's probably used to people only getting in the back seat (at least I think his name is Chandra). I hate that. If we're making a mini-road trip, we might as well make conversation and it's weird if I'm sat in the back. (Plus, there were no seatbelts in the back, I checked this later. HAHA!)
There's something magical about being in third-world Asia. Everything from the heat and humidity, to the roadside stalls, to the general pandemonium in the city streets heightens the feeling of "This is so foreign and AWESOME!" Haha. Sitting up front, I had the in-your-face experience of swerving through trucks, buses, motorbikes... And it is FUCKING CHAOS. People toot their horns all the time. It's more like a warning of "TOOT! I'm here behind you! TOOT! Now I'm in your blind spot! TOOT! Now I'm beside you! TOOT! I'm diagonally in front of you! TOOT! Now I'm in front of you!" ...Y'know, just in case you forgot where the other cars/ bikes/ trucks were in relation to you on the road. So it's a cacophony of TOOT! TOOT! TOOT! TOOT! (Even now that I'm settled in this residential area, you get bikes that go past you and there's NOBODY ELSE around for miles, and they'll TOOT! as they go past you, just to make sure you know there's a bike around. It's fucking bizarre. I'll just get used to it.)
Chandra started off with just a Ganesh statue in the front of his car for protection (and practically all cars here have some form of deity protecting their journey), but along the way, he bought this other solar-powered flower pot from a street-seller. The sun powers its leaves to move up and down. I don't think this flower pot has any other magical powers than this. HAHAHA!
About 3 hours into the journey, Chandra asks "You want some Chai?" ...Oo er, of course I was thirsty by this time, but at the same time I've also heard EVERYBODY'S warnings of "ONLY DRINK BOTTLED WATER!! NEVER FROM THE TAP!!" ...And who knows where the water from this Chai comes from, right? So being the Urban Bumpkin I am, I said "let's stop for a break, I'll get some bottled water." (HAHAHA)
We pulled up by a restaurant by the road, and instead of going inside to sit down, the waiter comes out and serves you in your car. DRIVE-THROUGH CHAI WALLA!! While waiting for my 1-litre bottle of water, the waiter comes out with an Onion Pancake. "Verrrry nice this. For you", he says. And Chandra says this place is famous for its onion pancakes "Try it. Verrrrrry nice."
I had visions of me holding onto my belly while being doubled over in pain on the loo.
BUT... These people were so lovely, how could I be the rude twat foreigner rejecting everything they put before me? I'd already rejected multiple offers of Chai Tea from both the waiter and Chandra.
So... I said a little prayer of gratitude to the Universe for putting this Onion Pancake before me then said to myself "Here goes nothing. Bombs away!!" ;p
EFFING DELICIOUS!! So glad I tried it. And survived to tell the tale. HAHAHA.
Along the way, Chandra was asking me about yoga and whether I knew so-and-so and so-and-so... He was basically referring to all the famous ashtanga teachers by their first names. "You know David? David and Shelly were here on the 18th. Now they're in Goa." (Oh! Wow, he's talking about the Swensons... hehe) And he talked about how so-and-so is very nice and how so-and-so was also just here... And then he gets talking about Pattabhi Jois and has only great things to say about him. It made me smile when he said Guruji was a very kind man and got along well with his students. He seemed a bit more reserved in his praise for Sharath, which I found kind of interesting. It felt like he wanted to say something else but held back coz he didn't know me from Jack. Maybe I'm misinterpreting this, but hmm... ...!
It was nightfall when we arrived in Gokulam, and he drove me past the shala before dropping me off at my house. The shala's HUGE! It was dark so I couldn't quite see, but it looks like it's nestled in a residential area and is about 3 or 4 floors high. I'm going there to register later today, so will have more pictures to show.
In the meantime, I'm sharing the top floor of my landlord's house with another lady, and have my own room and bathroom. It's all very basic but the most important thing is: It's CLEAN!! And secondly, I have INTERNET CONNECTION!! (See, I haven't even unpacked and my laptop's already out.)
I was a little taken aback (and still am) when the landlord told me that I can't throw ANY toilet paper down the loo or it'll get clogged. It all has to go in a bin next to the loo "and tie up the bag and leave it outside by the gate in the morning". EEEEEEEEEK! *Mental shift from First World to Third World*. I can do this.
The one thing that's missing here: 3G connection. Which means: my iPhone is pretty much useless. I can't access Google Maps, Twitter, Foursquare, nor get push emails. And actually, that's not necessarily a bad thing either... Life just becomes a little simpler, no? (I'm still getting my head around this a bit. Feel a little naked without access to the internet on my mobile!)
This morning, I had a little wander around my neighbourhood. At the local friendly supermarket, I was delighted to find STACKS of incense. I mean... Only in India, right? An entire aisle dedicated to incense sticks.
And then I found the most unappetizing-looking neon cakes.
A random pothole house. Super random architecture.
My landlord drew me a little map of my neighbourhood and recommended different places to go to. I had me my first Indian breakfast this morning: Masala Dosai! YUMMY!
And then I thought "FUCK IT" and also had my first Chai Tea. After all, my landlord says this place is "safe for foreigners to eat at". Plus, with a signboard that says "Great Taste & Hygiene" (HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!) how could I have any doubts. It's been 2 hours since breakfast and no rumble in my belly. Think I'm all clear. What was weirder for me was tasting the milk in the Chai. I haven't had milk in super ages since being vegan, but kinda feel like since I'm in India, how can I not have some Chai?! Milk now tastes super pungent and nasty and that was what kinda turned me off the Chai (not the alleged parasites in the water. HAHAHA.)
On my way home, I got ambushed by 2 bright, little boys who kept asking me "Do you have your country coin?" They're allegedly doing a school project and need foreign currency. So they say. I remember reading something similar on my good friend's blog, but they were both so chatty and spritely, one even said "You can come to my house for breakfast and I'll show you my whole collection." Bless them. I told them if they could wait for me, I'd go home and bring some for them. When they found out I was staying at _____'s house, they were like "Oh, we'll wait outside for you. _____ won't like it if we come in with you." HAHAHA! Good to know my landlord can pull rank in this neighbourhood. Hehe. What's even funnier is these boys took all my Euro coins, and gave me back my Singaporean coins. HAHAHAHA! They're pretty sharp little kids.
So that's about it for now. I'm headed over to the shala in a couple of hours to register for classes. I start tomorrow. And then Tuesday's a moon day break so maybe that will help me get over my nerves a bit.
I can't believe I'm in Mysore!!